Natural Point of View (Husserl)


It’s was about time I threw myself into Edmund Husserl, given my interests in images, the imagination as forms of consciousness as they impact upon the phenomena of religion and Jewish philosophy. There is not a lot of general expertise that I can hope to provide. All I can hope to share are my own glancing notes, after having read Ideas, perhaps a little too quickly. I got bogged down deep in chapter 10. But there’s a lot in here I like a lot, and a lot here to use. These concern the streaming modes of consciousness formed around percepts, memory, and fantasy, other related matters, including Impressionism and God. I was always given to understand that Husserlian phenomenology was stuck on immobile essential structuring. I’m pretty sure that’s not quite right. He reminds me a lot of Georg Simmel, which makes perfect sense given their common milieu. Over the next week, I’m going to post these varied notes as individual posts.

The first thing I’ll comment upon is the power of Husserl’s understanding of the natural point of view, the natural point of view bracketed by phenomenology. There’s this awareness of the world before which he stands over against and which stands over against him, the spatial distribution of sensory perception and corporeal things, and the way they are “there” for me. I’m especially drawn to how he describes the way in which attention wanders, and the way things take shape within and beyond the fringes of consciousness, and the way attention extends beyond “the continuous ring around the actual field of perception,” these dimly apprehended depth of fringe of indeterminate reality.” I like too the way it is understood how the shifts in consciousness vis-a-vis fields of attention, from one type or view of the world to another, this way and that, the way the world around me shifts this way and that. (91- 3)

From Derrida and Levinas, I was expecting to find the discourse of presence in Husserl. What I wasn’t expecting to find was precisely the way Husserl understood the presence to hand of that which is not present to hand in any determinate manner, the way the noetic act “animates” the noematic consciousness. Far from representing anything fixed or stable, Husserlian consciousness stems out as streaming consciousness. There’s this too, the notion that reality, or rather individual being, is fundamentally accidental, that it appears to “be” this way, but it could just as well have been that way (47). While the focus for Husserl is on what is “given” (e.g. “the gift of meaning”), there is nevertheless this awareness as to what is not given, to what lies just beyond the glance or cone of light, and the way those “things” can enter into or recede from consciousness. Husserl is very sensitive to modalities, to the actual and the non-actual, and to possibility. To put it very tongue in cheek, I’m not sure why one would ever want to leave the “natural viewpoint,” or if one ever does.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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2 Responses to Natural Point of View (Husserl)

  1. dmfant says:

    I can see why people want to have a more g_d’seye view but why anyone believes that we ever actually escape the sphere of our all too human (“mere” anthropology as Heidegger sneered) grasping at things is beyond me, as Rorty noted we are always already manipulating, and being manipulated by, our environs.

  2. dmfant says:

    We have got onto slippery ice where there is no friction and so in a certain sense the conditions are ideal, but also, just because of that, we are unable to walk. We want to walk so we need friction. Back to the rough ground!
    -Ludwig Wittgenstein

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