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Introduction to Phenomenology

Moran (2000:146-148) – reduction (Reduktion)

The epoche and the reductions

quarta-feira 7 de junho de 2023, por Cardoso de Castro

Husserl   has in mind the specific bracketing of a psychological interpretation   of what is given in the acts of knowing.

Given the difficulty of doing philosophy (i.e. escaping from the natural attitude which constantly seeks to reassert itself), it is necessary to employ a set of procedures which Husserl   generally labels as the ‘reduction’ (from the Latin reducere, ‘to lead back’). Husserl’s so-called discovery of the reduction took place in the summer of 1905,17 but, in subsequent years, Husserl wrote many programmatic accounts concerning its nature and purpose.18

Husserl had a number of different theoretical reasons for introducing the notion of reduction. First it allowed him to detach from all forms of conventional opinion  , including our commonsense psychology, our accrued scientific consensus on issues, and all philosophical and metaphysical theorising regarding the nature of the intentional  . We must put aside our beliefs about our beliefs, as it were. Secondly, it allowed him to return to and isolate the central structures of subjectivity. By putting aside psychological, cultural, religious, and scientific assumptions, and by getting behind or to one side of the meaning-positing or thetic acts normally dominant in conscious acts, new features of those acts come to the fore. Most of all, the reduction is meant to prevent what we have won by insight being transformed or deformed into an experience of another kind, a change from one kind to another, a ‘metabasis in alio geno’ (Ideas I § 61). There is an almost inevitable tendency to ‘psychologise the eidetic’. Husserl thought there would be no need for the reduction were there a smooth transition from the factual to the eidetic, as there is in geometry, when the geometer moves from contemplating a factual shape to its idealisation (Ideas I § 61, p. 139; Hua III/l 116). [146] In other areas, however, especially in grasping consciousness, the move to the eidetic is difficult to achieve—hence the need for the vigilance of the epoche  .

In his earliest public discussion of reduction, the 1907 lectures series delivered in Göttingen, entitled The Idea   of Phenomenology, Husserl introduces a ‘phenomenological reduction’ (IP, p. 4; Hua II 5) to exclude everything posited as transcendently existing, but he goes on to speak of an ‘epistemological reduction’ (erkenntnis  -theoretische Reduktion  ) as necessary in order to focus on the pure phenomena of conscious acts as cogitationes, and to avoid misleading assumptions about the nature and existence of the sum cogitans   (IP, p. 33; Hua II 43). Husserl has in mind the specific bracketing of a psychological interpretation   of what is given in the acts of knowing. In so far as it relates to the nature of psychic states Husserl refers to a “psychological reduction”.19 In general, however, it is not   clear how to distinguish the different stages and grades of reduction. He distinguishes at various times between different kinds of reduction: indeed in Ideas I he speaks of phenomenological reductions; that is, in the plural (Ideas I § 56). Husserl often speaks indifferently of phenomenological and transcendental   reductions. In the Cartesian Meditations, Husserl runs these together into a ‘transcendental-phenomenological reduction’ (CM § 8, 21; Hua I 61). In the Crisis, as many as eight different forms of reduction have been catalogued.20 Iso Kern has argued that Husserl had different models of the reduction—a Cartesian way, a way from intentionality, a way through critique of the natural sciences, and through ontology (i.e. through questioning the grounds of pure logic as in the Formal   and Transcendental Logic, or through searching for the pregiven elements of the life-world in the Crisis).21 However, Husserl is not so well organised. Although he did talk about the need for a “systematic theory of phenomenological reductions” (Ideas I § 61, 139; Hua III/1 115), in practice he was quite lax about distinguishing between the different ways of approaching the one domain.

Husserl characterised the practice of epoche in many different ways: ‘abstention’ (Enthaltung), ‘dislocation’ from, or ‘unplugging’ or ‘exclusion’ (Ausschaltung) of the positing of the world and our normal unquestioning faith in the reality of what we experience. He speaks of ‘withholding’, ‘disregarding’, ‘abandoning’, ‘parenthesising’ (Einklammerung), ‘putting out of action’ (außer Aktion zu setzen), and ‘putting out of play’ (außer Spiel   zu setzen) all judgements which posit a world in any way as actual (wirklich  ) or as ‘there’, ‘present at hand  ’ (vorhanden). But the essential feature is always to effect an alteration or ‘change of attitude’ (Einstellunganderung), to move away from naturalistic assumptions about the world, assumptions both deeply embedded in our everyday behaviour towards objects and also at work in our most sophisticated natural science. The change of orientation brings about a ‘return’ (Rückgang) to a transcendental standpoint, to uncover a new transcendental domain of experience. The epoche then is part of the [147] reduction. Above all else, the transcendental must not be thought to be simply a dimension of my own mind, reached through psychological reflection. Husserl always regarded his formulation of the reductions as the real discovery of his philosophy and as necessary in order to reveal non-psychologically the essence of intentional consciousness and of subjectivity as such. To experience the reduction is to experience an enrichment of one’s subjective life—it opens infinitely before one.

Husserl is always insistent that reduction provides the only genuine access to the infinite subjective domain of inner experience, and that he who misunderstands reduction is lost:

But in the final analysis everything depends on the initial moment of the method, the phenomenological reduction. The reduction is the means of access to this new realm, so when one gets the meaning of the reduction wrong, then everything else also goes wrong. The temptation to misunderstandings here is simply overwhelming. For instance, it seems all too obvious to say to oneself: “I, this human being, am the one who is practicing the method of a transcendental alteration of attitude whereby one withdraws back into the pure Ego  ; so can this Ego be anything other than just a mere abstract stratum of this concrete human being, its purely mental being, abstracted from the body?” But clearly those who talk this way have fallen   back into the naive natural attitude. Their thinking is grounded in the pregiven world rather than moving within the sphere of the epoche. (“Phenomenology and Anthropology”, Trans. Phen., p. 493; Hua XXVII 173)

The reduction leads to the domain of the transcendental ego which must be kept distinct from the psychological domain of the empirical self. The transcendental ego is at work constituting the world for me, in consciousness, though not in a manner graspable by naive reflection. For Husserl, one must put the thumbscrews not on nature, as Francis Bacon had said, but on transcendental consciousness itself, to get it to yield up its secrets as to how the world and its meanings are constituted (Trans. Phen., p. 497; Hua XXVII177).

Ver online : Dermot Moran