Erin Plunkett – Patočka’s asubjective phenomenology

Here is the latest of our recordings from The British Society for Phenomenology’s 2018 Annual Conference ‘The Theory and Practice of Phenomenology’. Erin Plunkett is from the University of Chichester, and the paper is titled ‘Patočka’s asubjective phenomenology’.


Abstract: “The return to the ‘object’ or ‘thing’ in contemporary Continental Philosophy is in part a reaction to the past sins of what Husserl calls Cartesian philosophy—a philosophy in which truth hinges on subjective consciousness and in which the res cogitans and res extensa are thought as radically separate. The environmentally disastrous consequences of such a position are hard to deny and are diagnosed by Husserl himself in his Crisis. Yet, today Phenomenology is often lumped together with this tradition (in part because of Husserl’s own emphasis on consciousness) and, so, implicated in these consequences.


Czech phenomenologist Jan Patočka, one of Husserl’s last students, was already thinking through the problem of subjectivism in phenomenology in the 1930s, and in 1971 wrote the essay ‘Husserl’s Subjectivism and the Call for an Asubjective Philosophy’, in which he argues that phenomena are not the mere ‘correlate of subjective processes’, nor the ‘accomplishment of subjective constitution’; rather, phenomena as such are primary. As for the subject, it is itself a phenomenon allowed by things, rather than the basis for the appearance of things. It is ‘not we but phenomenal being itself that indicates for us what possibilities there are for our own being’.


This conception, I argue, is an advance on Husserl on the one hand and contemporary philosophies of the object on the other. It avoids the consequences of Cartesianism while providing a more coherent account of subjectivity (as a no-thing) and retaining the idea of Being over against beings or things. With these considerations in the background, I present Patočka’s asubjective phenomenology as a viable and relevant philosophical methodology.”


The British Society for Phenomenology’s Annual Conference took place at the University of Kent, in Canterbury, UK during July, 2018. It gathered together philosophers, literary scholars, phenomenologists, and practitioners exploring phenomenological theory and its practical application. It covered a broad range of areas and issues including the arts, ethics, medical humanities, mental health, education, technology, feminism, politics and political governance, with contributions throwing a new light on both traditional phenomenological thinkers and the themes associated with classical phenomenology. More information about the conference can be found at:


The British Society for Phenomenology is a not-for-profit organisation set up with the intention of promoting research and awareness in the field of Phenomenology and other cognate arms of philosophical thought. Currently, the society accomplishes these aims through its journal, conferences and other events, and its podcast. You can support the society by becoming a member, for which you will receive a subscription to our journal:

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