3/5 Nathan Phillips presents on Husserl


The period extending from the Autumn of 1906 to the “Five Lectures” of the Spring Semester 1907 marks a turning point in Husserl’s development. With the lectures on logic and theory of knowledge in the Winter Semester of 1906/07 we find a first breakthrough to and analysis of phenomenological reduction. While the “Five Lectures” from the Spring Semester of 1907 are generally identified with the first elaboration and analysis of phenomenological reduction, we see that Husserl’s struggle with the temptations of dogmatism (Scylla) and skepticism (Charybdis) lead here to a sketch of reduction as a passage through ‘logicizing structuralism’ on the one hand and ‘psychologistic genetism’ on the other hand (J. Derrida). This essay will pursue a close reading of the 1906/07 lectures to examine the issues of (1) the relationship between dogmatism (objectivism, idealism) and skepticism (empiricism, psychologism, historicism); (2) differences between dogmatic and critical skepticism; (3) the decisive emergence of epoché and reduction; and (4) the status of the phenomenon between psychology and phenomenology. In the course of the analysis, the essay will point toward the “Five Lectures” of the Spring Semester of 1907, specifically on the problem of two kinds of transcendence and immanence.

2/20 Andy Werner presents on Agamben and McDowell


 Giorgio Agamben’s writings are difficult to understand. They are particularly difficult for those, like myself, who approach them with a desire to be able to communicate what they say to philosophers of a more analytic stripe. Coming at his writings from that angle, I have found it illuminating to compare his position to that of John McDowell’s. I will argue that a serious consideration of Agamben’s position on ethics reveals that McDowell’s opposition to highest-common factor views of our cognitive faculties does not suffice to vindicate his view of our cognitive faculties. McDowell argues that an understanding of our cognitive faculties as the faculties of one who is both rational and an animal can only make sense if we understand our rationality to be “transformative” of our animality. Agamben agrees. Agamben (but not McDowell) claims that a proper understanding of this transformation requires that what it is to be human is to be contingently rational – that is, Agamben denies that there is a conceptual priority to being actually rational relative to being potentially rational. I do not know how to vindicate Agamben’s position on this issue; nor do I know how to vindicate the claim (which is plausibly McDowell’s) that being actually rational has conceptual priority.