Husserl, known as the father of the Phenomenology movement, sought to describe human experiences and Kantian “things in themselves” without making metaphysical assumptions. That is, he attempts to describe phenomenon in terms of how they appear in his own consciousness without conflating with the naturalistic and other scientific attitudes of his times. In contrast with scientific naturalism that use induction and general theories to organize large collections of data, phenomenology investigates particular examples of one’s own consciousness to discern what is essential to such experiences.  i.e. to construct a theory of science that would ground all other sciences (much like psychology).

Husserl (Phenomenology)

To systematize human experience into a theory of science, Husserl begins with language (propositional systems) as units of consciousness; the consciousness that gives voice to language are so-called “intentional acts” or “intentional experiences” that representing something as something. Such acts may be about non-existing (imagined, phantasy content) objects which includes forms of mental imagery (pictoral and kinesthetic representations). These acts differ from non-intentional units such as affects, moods, senses (pain) that are non-representational (not about anything).

The structure of consciousness could be partitioned into the act of consciousness and the phenomenon that it is being directed at. To arrive at knowledge of essences or “objects in themselves that appear in consciousness”  he introduces a method called “bracketing” (Epoche) which culls away assumptions of how we normally think of objects as separate, external things. What we are left with are the invariant features that are perceived which constitute our understanding of the object. For example, my understanding of a rectangle can be bracketed to yield a four-sided shape with four right-angles. Abstract species such as rectangles of same area can be eidetically reduced to shapes of rectangles whose product of lengths and widths are the same. Such common features are said to have consistent meanings that are fulfilled by a “unified intuition” which can be read-off.


For indexical or context-sensitive experiences, Husserl characterizes them by their “singularity”, i.e. the object or set of intentional objects that are relevant in all possible worlds. The indexical experience is thought of as one of many worlds on a manifold that pertain to future courses of experiences with the indexical case as its root. These potential experiences constitute the “intentional horizon” conditioned on the indexical event. e.g. the anticipation of a moving car. Experiences on such a horizon share a common identity labeled as “determinable” X which is a higher-order (moment) belief/judgment.

For inter-subjectivity, we undergo acts of empathic experience where conscious acts are attributed to other subjects. The existence of other subjects follows from an egocentric view that others who act in ways similar to my own will perceive things in ways similar to my own; one puts himself in the other’s shoes. Such a belief allows one to ascribe intentional acts to others without inference (self-evident) and is a part of the intentional background or “lifeworld” or foundation of sense-making that is built into language and culture a priori. Lifeworld is thus a “world-horizon” of all potential experiences. e.g. prescientific qualities such as spatial shape, motion, body, and spatiotemporality. These qualities ground the more objective sciences when they employ any propositional content or appeal to intuitive acceptance (self-evident truths).



Pragmatism is a school of philosophy that directs thought towards the service of practical uses rather than a function representation of phenomena. That is, holding thoughts and beliefs led to actions on the sensible world that may or may not have been efficacious; the veracity of such beliefs corresponds to a “cash value” or use value in the sensible world for the believer. Two major proponents of this school of thought are William James and John Dewey who the former is more concerned with the justification of moral beliefs and the latter with the justification of scientific knowledge.


In William James’s “Will to Believe”, he defends the belief in faith (religion) without evidence on the grounds that all moral beliefs entail a degree of trust prior to sensible evidence. A situation may arise where one is unable to not make a choice (non-action is also a choice) before evidence abounds. The very consequence of holding a belief may influence the outcome as in the case of “confidence”. That is, evidence may not be realized unless a prior faith is constituted. Extending this to the religious sphere, one’s may never encounter proof of God unless one has placed in  God prior faith. Curiously enough, the scientific method is not so different in the sense that it makes hypotheses (albeit more verifiable) that begs/challenges forth an answer (evidence). This is typical of the “radical empiricism” of the modern age when neither observer nor observation can be frozen in time and separated; both facts and theories condition one another.

His ontology presupposes experience from which mater and thought enter into relations with. Pure experience is  “the immediate flux of life which furnishes the material to our later reflection with its conceptual categories”. That is, experience isn’t reduced to the objects of experience (Hume, Locke) which is wholly scientific but rather is imbued with both meaning and intentionality structured by human thought. Such a view also treats trans-empirical entities as superfluous as naturalistic accounts of meaning/intentions are sufficient explanations in practical terms.


John Dewey applies pragmatism to scientific inquiry where theories are judged accordingly to how well they predict phenomena in their respected domains; theories are instruments of prediction (instrumentalism) rather than laws that uncover truths about nature and thus relegated to approximations of truth. However, such a notion of truth is not absolute and appears at times appear probabilistic via statistical certainties. Instead, true/false can be viewed as a mutual adjustment between an organism (more on this side) and its environment; a satisfactory adjustment promotes a belief that has significance in the way that it induces behavior. The logic of belief follows inquiry which seeks to transform an undetermined situation into  a determined set of relations or a unified whole (Hegel’s influence). In the sphere of facts, this creates complications where the external consequences in a future are used to constitute facts; for example, one believes that they woke up this morning by virtue of not sleeping at the current moment rather than by looking at regularities of sleep cycles in the past. Such is the empowering yet dangerous element in Dewey’s philosophy where man, who has become unchained from the past, is able to make greater leaps forward in his own invention whilst being blinded by his own hubris.


Modern Philosophy III

Modern Philosophy III

Berkeley begins the modern idealist tradition with his complete rejection of material as metaphysical substance. Working from Locke, Berkeley’s immaterialism does not deny the existence of objects per-se, but that existence has become contingent on perceptions (of ideas or state-of-mind) by a subject. The subject, referred to as spirit, is analogous to the mind and “active” in the sense of possessing will/judgment and the aperception of ideas.  This is to say that there are no mind-independent things which leads to a fully subjective and restricted world-view; the existence of other spirits can only be known through the ideas that they incite in our minds. His moral philosophy is also contrarian to that of Locke; passive-obedience is a negative moral duty to the government without exceptions.


Hume both extended and finalized many of the issues that were contained in Locke and Hume’s empiricism. He’s most known for formulating the problem of induction or the inference of the unknown from known events. Underlying all of the induction is the assumption of uniformity or the regularity in nature; the observations that one makes thus far persists in both time and space outside that window. Such an assumption cannot be demonstrated as one can easily conceive of a world that is non-uniform. Neither can a probable argument towards its validity be meaningful as this is the very question that induction seeks to answer; logic/reason cannot be used to justify this hypothesis.

Hume’s notion of causality relates his conception of induction to man’s psychology. Here, causality is always preceded by the impressions of two conjoined events serialized in time. With repeated apprehensions, ideas or mental states of these impressions are formed such that the latter idea becomes associated with the former impression. The mind, by its necessity to determine relations, cannot help by make the leap to causation from its conditioning (Pavlov later demonstrates this in the 19th century). Related is his conception of the self as a mere bundle of perceptions; we have difficulty experiencing impressions of our self but instead have chains of perceptions that follow by necessity.

Hume’s ethics make an important distinction between reason/passion, is-ought, and moral responsibility in a compatibility view of free-will. Reason is always a slave (to serve) to passion in the sense that knowledge does not compel the will as does feelings/sentiments do. This follows from the formulation of the “is-ought” problem where no amount of descriptive statements can ever deduce a prescriptive statement. His compatablist’s free-will holds that while necessity binds actions to motives, it is the will that must have choice for otherwise the actions would be judged as only given to chance which non-regular.

hume1 hume2

Modern Philosophy III

Modern Philosophy (Interlude)

Modern Philosophy 1 (Interlude)

The enlightenment era marks the beginning of the end for the scholastic philosophy from which much of the Western church doctrines and humanity’s knowledge of the world is derived. From a political standpoint, the authority of the Western church and its papal orders were severely undermined in reaction to its gross abuses of powers; the selling of both indulgences and simony violated the spirit of the original gospels. The protestant reformation, spearheaded by Luther and Calvin, resulted in another schism of the Church, particularly in the northern European nations where Papal authority was distant; subsequent power shifted away from the church and back to the state. Political theorists such as Machiavelli and Hobbes produced new commentaries as to how states are both won and maintained. Renewed interests in the classical Greek works led to a revival of a humanistic tradition (life on Earth as opposed to the heavens) and scientific inquiry not seen since the pre-Socratic philosophers.


The protestant reformation rejected many of the Catholic church practices in favor of salvation by faith alone. Catholic doctrines on the purgatory (one’s sentence can be reduced through indulgences) were in clear violation of the protestant beliefs. Merits by good works no longer altered one’s passage to the after-life; it is only through God’s grace that one is pre-destined to enter either heaven or hell. Last, confessions of sins to a priest (middle man) were no longer required as one’s relationship with God has moved onto one’s individual faith alone.

political theory

The power shift from Church to individual (and thus state) gave rise to new commentaries on how societies emerge and are held in check. Machiavellian power-dynamics are a form of instrumentality that exchanges stability for moral corruption; such is the sharp departure from previous incarnations of Utopias idealized by Plato and More. Hobbes approached state-crafting from the perspective of self-preservation (rather than from a “will to power”) where men are equal in the state of nature (where the only right he can claim is his self-preservation) but live short and brutish lives unless engaged in social contracts with each other. However, a society (sovereign entity, state) built upon social-contracts would devolve back to anarchy unless leadership was provided; absolute monarchy was argued as the best leadership as it had fewer conflicts of interest.


The rise of scientific discourse, as a criterion of knowledge, placed hypotheses verified by observation above axiom/priors favored by the Platonic ideals. Francis Bacon’s induction finds similarities amongst accumulated data to build hypotheses. Copernicus placed the sun back into center of the universe; Kepler hypothesized that the orbits of planetary masses were ellipsoidal rather than circle ideals. Galileo developed the dynamics of acceleration and the law of inertia. Newton unified all these models in the universal theory of gravity; a mechanistic description of the universe is formed.

Modern Philosophy (Interlude)