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Chapter IV: Chapter IV: Phenomenological Quest for the Inter-subjective Dimensions of Transcendental Subjectivity

3.3. Husserlian Methods for Phenomenology

3.3.1. The Transcendental or Phenomenological Reduction Bracketing or Epoché

Husserl developed the methods for his phenomenology four years after the discovery of epoché and reduction. Epoché or in German, Einklammerung is that which removes all kinds of presuppositions and reduction is that which uncovers the ego and transforms the world into mere phenomena. It is reduction because; it leads us back toward the experience of the things themselves. According to Zahavi,

...The epoché is the term for our abrupt suspension of a naïve metaphysical attitude, and it can consequently be likened to a philosophical gate of entry (Cited in Zahavi, 2003 p. 46) in contrast, the reduction is the term for our thematization of the correlation between subjectivity and world (ibid).

The intention of both is to lead toward the transcendental level and to remove the naturalistic distortions. In this regard it could be mentioned that the concept of bracketing reflects more the mathematical training that Husserl has undergone in his psychological associations. Therefore, it can be regarded as an outcome of Husserl's mathematical training.

He believes that in order to reach to the level of pure ego the natural and usual presuppositions must be suspended. Therefore, Husserl tries to bracket the natural attitude in order to turn the attention from empirical objects of the natural world to the phenomena as it is.

55 According to Smith & McIntyre (1982),

...Husserl believes, it is self-evident to the experiencing subject that he undergoes experiences, experiences that at least purport to be of or about external objects, and that he himself exists as the subject, or ego, having these experiences. Setting aside his ordinary concern with the natural world, the subject can explicitly direct his attention to these experiences, and to himself as their subject, in what Husserl calls acts of ―reflection‖ (p. 95).

Husserl says,

...The epoché can also be said to be the radical and universal method by which I apprehend myself purely: as Ego, and with my own pure conscious life, in and by which the entire Objective world exists for me and is precisely as it is for me. Anything belonging to the world, any spatiotemporal being, exists for me that is to say, is accepted by me in that I experience it, perceive it, remember it, think of it somehow, judge about it, value it, desire it, or the like (Husserl, 1982, p. 21).

Thus a shift is made from one‘s natural attitude to phenomenological attitude which is different from both the Sceptical and Cartesian attitude that doubts the real existence of things. Husserl is not concerned about the fact whether things, matters, facts etc. exist or not but the sole concern is upon the left over part received after the parenthesis. The point to be noted here is that though Husserl‘s reduction suspends natural attitude this bracketing activity cannot be compared with Descartes‘ method of doubt. While Descartes‘ method of doubt gives emphasis upon the absolute ego by suspending the world at the same time epoché or reduction provides a very different picture (Husserl, 1982). Unlike Descartes, Husserl‘s epoché never tries to negate or nullify the existing world; rather it tries to concentrate on the unbracketed part by putting the presuppositions out of play for a short while (ibid). Thus, it can be stated that Husserlian epoché or reduction can never be compared with Descartean method of doubt at any ground. Moreover, Husserl regarded this bracketing as a kind of


freedom where one can act freely without any prior involvement though later he regarded this aspect of freedom as problematic (Luft, 2004)

Husserl says;

...this ―phenomenological epoché‖ and ―parenthesizing‖ of the Objective world therefore does not leave us confronting nothing. On the contrary we gain possession of something by it; and what we (or, to speak more precisely, what I, the one who is meditating) acquire by it is my pure living, with all the pure subjective processes making this up, and everything meant in them, purely as meant in them: the universe of ―phenomena‖ in the (particular and also the wider) phenomenological sense (Husserl, 1982, p. 20-21).

Now, after the performance of the first reduction we are left out with the ego with the pure experiences as the constituting factor of all experiences. But, Husserl did not stop here and unlike in Kant we find in him a further continuation of his search for a transcendental realm of meaning that will not completely dichotomise the realms of phenomena and noumena as unbridgeable and separate. Husserl now believes that both the universal essence of facts and the facticity of life can somehow co-inside together, that, ― this region of the Transcendental Ego is as a result of the phenomenological epoché not yet the region of universal essences, it is still a region of individual being, that is of individual experiences‖ (Brauner, 2005, p. 8).

Husserl in his Cartesian Meditations regarded the ―Transcendental ego‖ as the concrete ego attained after the performance of the Transcendental Reduction (O‘dwyer, 1983). But, Husserl very quickly realized that the intention will not be fulfilled if the present reduction would not be complemented with Eidetic Reduction. Husserl was continuously looking for an improvement in his methodologies and therefore, he soon realized the fact that only Phenomenological Reduction cannot lead us toward the knowledge of pure consciousness.

According to Husserl, the ego as the source of pure transcendental universality could only be grasped after the performance of Eidetic Reduction. Husserl thus developed another method for phenomenology which he regarded as Eidetic Reduction.

57 3.3.2. Eidetic Reduction:

In eidetic reduction the individual object of question is bracketed in order to reach the essences. According to Husserl, an essence is that which is shared by many objects.

Husserl was not at all concerned with the individual essence of each and every object (Føllesdal, 2006). So, according to Husserl, ―When we turn from observing a concrete physical object to studying one of these general features, we perform what he called the eidetic reduction‖ (Nellickappilly, n.b. p. 106). Here the focus is not on the empirical object but on the essences which the object possesses. The science of essence does not deal with the actual existence but it is concerned only with mere possibilities. While eidetic science do not have any factual science about them, in contrary, factual science depends on eidetic science.

In eidetic reduction it is not possible to conceive any particular as such but can be arrived at a general idea. The similar kind of notion can be found in Plato‘s theory of Ideas or Forms following which many writers have looked up Husserl as the Modern Plato (Hopkins, 2010).

Hopkins in his writing tries to explain Husserl‘s position as the modern Plato by saying that while Husserl talks about eidos or essences Plato talks about the Ideas or Forms. So, like Hopkins many others tried to compare this aspect of Husserl with the world of Ideas or Forms of Plato, which is universal. But, in Husserlian phenomenology the essences, unlike Platonic Ideas, are worldly yet transcendental. But, Plato goes far beyond from this world and placed his Ideas in some other world.

On the other hand Husserl‘s move can be regarded as a move from the particular to universal where universal can be seen in the individual. But this seeing is different from normal seeing as Husserl regarded it as intuitive seeing (Kyung, 2007). In this regard one most important concept has to be mentioned here is that in order to grasp the essences more clearly one can focus on the concept of ‗imaginative free variation‘, which helps to open up certain new aspects of experience in a very clear way. Descartes also discusses about ‗imaginative free variation‘ in his Meditation Two while he gives his famous example of ‗wax‘. As according to Descartes, the wax may not be the same after it got heated but still the essence of the wax will remain the same. As per Descartes the wax is judged as wax grasped by the mind but not by the senses. Husserl also talks about this essence but in a far distinct way. Here the imaginative variation can be connected with the notion of reduction. Thus, Moran points out ―Imaginative free variation plays a helpful role in allowing


the eidos or essence of the phenomenon to manifest itself as the structure of its essential possibilities‖ (Moran, 2000, p. 155). Thus, it can be stated that the eidetic reduction can be achieved by eidetic variation (Drummond, 2007). Finally, after the performance of Phenomenological reduction with the help of eidetic reduction the intentional co-relation of the consciousness and the world can be understood (ibid). This intentional co-relation which Husserl identified as noema-noesis co-relation defines what phenomenology is. In Husserlian phenomenology there could be found various stages of developments of this co-relation between noema and noesis. In order to get a clearer picture before exploring the transcendental subjectivity, now it is necessary to investigate this co-relation first.