Tarjej Larsen – Husserl’s Circularity Argument for the Epoché

Here is the latest of our recordings from The British Society for Phenomenology’s 2018 Annual Conference ‘The Theory and Practice of Phenomenology’. Tarjej Larsen is from the University of Stavanger, Norway, and the paper is titled ‘Husserl's Circularity Argument for the Epoché’.

 

Abstract: “According to Husserl, epistemology is possible only as phenomenology. In my paper, I assess one of his arguments for a crucial part of the considerations he offers in support of this claim.  

Husserl takes the central problem of epistemology to be “the problem of transcendence”, or the problem of the possibility of transcendent cognition – very roughly, justified judgements about objects that do not form part of the judging subject’s consciousness. And he argues that any form of cognition by means of which this problem – and, by extension, any other genuine epistemological problem – can be solved must satisfy a number of methodological requirements, which, he maintains, only phenomenological cognition satisfies.  

 

Chief among these is that any attempt to solve the problem of transcendence must involve the performance of an “epistemological epoché”, by which Husserl means a general refraining from making cognitive use of transcendent cognition. He offers different arguments for this requirement, the arguably most important of which is that attempting to solve the problem of the possibility of transcendent cognition by means of transcendent cognition would be viciously circular.  

 

Despite its significance for Husserlian metaepistemology, this argument has not really been assessed by commentators, who, to the extent that they have considered it, have tended merely to reiterate it. Seeking to remedy this, I claim that there is strong reason to believe that the argument fails.  

Acknowledging that employing transcendent cognition to solve the problem of transcendence would be circular, I argue that it’s far from clear that it would be viciously so, if account is taken of the fact that, as Husserl insists, the problem at issue is how transcendent cognition is possible, not whether it is possible. I end by briefly considering the consequences that the failure of the circularity argument would hold for Husserl’s conception of epistemology.”

 

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:

https://www.britishphenomenology.org.uk/conference-2018/

 

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:

https://www.britishphenomenology.org.uk/about/

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