2018-2020: Continental Philosophy as a Rigorous Science.

Elements of Empirical Research in Early Phenomenology and Critical Theory.

Project Development

SCIENTIFIC REPORT May – December 2018

Three topics were addressed extensively during these first months: a) the elements of empirical research in phenomenology and b) the relationship between phenomenology and critical theory and c) the materialist-historicist criticism of critical theory with a special emphasis on their respective relationship to empirical research.

a.) The first topic was at the core of a research seminar, convened by the project director starting october 2018, titled: „The Permanent Seminar on Recent Phenomenology”. The seminar, aims to address recent programmatic works in the field of phenomenology as attempts to rethink phenomenological practices in the context of contemporary empirical research. Some aspects relevant to this topic were presented extensively in a research paper written by the project director: „Das Experiment bei Husserl. Zum Verhältnis von Empirie und Eidetik in der Phänomenologie”, in: Philosophisches Jahrbuch, 2018 (ISI). The paper concerns the use of experimental procedures in classical phenomenology and reconstructs Husserl’s understanding of „phenomenological experiments” in contrast to the experiments of contemporary empirical psychology. A similar issue was also addressed in the work of the project director for editing the special issue of the journal Studia Phaenomenologica on „The Promise of Genetic Phenomenology” (co-edited with Andrea Staiti). The issue is devoted to exploring the potential of genetic phenomenology in the contemporary scientific landscape, while offering extensive discussions of the question of the relationship between genetic phenomenological reflections and psychological or historic genesis proper.

b.) The second topic was central for the investigations of both the project director and Amalia Trepca. It was also at the core of a research seminar convened by the project director during the first months of the project on Adorno’s work for Paul Lazarsfeld Princeton Radio Project. The seminar was focused mostly on Adorno’s criticism and revaluation of phenomenology, in the context of his confrontation with empirical sociology. A central topic in our further confrontation with the relationship between phenomenology and critical theory concerned the practices of scientific generalisation and the criticism of plain induction in both disciplines. This was the object of a research paper written by the project director titled: „Edmund Husserl. Das Wesen der Phänomenologie”, in: Entwendungen. Walter Benjamin und seine Quellen, editat de J. Nitsche și N. Werner, Fink: München, 2018 (forthcoming). The paper particularly adressed the way in which Walter Benjamin picked up and transformed the phenomenological procedure of eidetic intuition. The same topic of interest was then pursued in relation to Adorno as well. Drawing from an extended research stay at the Adorno Archives in Berlin, the project director tried to outline the importance of both Adorno’s phenomenological heritage and the relationship of his method to empirical research in two papers presented at international conferences. The first paper, titled: „Media Physiognomics. Learning from Adorno’s Tactical Revaluation of Phenomenology”, was presented at the international conference NECS 2018: Media Tactics and Engagement (Amsterdam, 27-29 June 2018). It specifically concerns Adorno’s work for Paul Lazarsfeld’s Princeton Radio Research Project in addressing the importance of phenomenology for retracing the traditional dichotomy between critical and administrative research, and showing how a modified concept of phenomenology could serve as a useful tool against administrative tendencies in contemporary media studies. The second paper, titled „Eidetic Intuition as Physiognomy. Rethinking Adorno’s Phenomenological Heritage” was presented at the international conference Phenomenology of Emotions. The 4th Conference on Traditions and Perspectives of the Phenomenological Movement in Central and Eastern Europe (Kaunas, 12-13 Octombre 2018), and it addresses Adorno’s methodological concept of physiognomy, which can be shown to critically repurpose a fundamental device of phenomenological research, namely eidetic intuition.

c.) The third topic of interest was pursued mostly in the research of Alex. Cistelecan and Alexandru Vasile Sava. Starting october 2018, both participate in a research seminar convened by Alex. Cistelecan in Cluj. The seminar is titled „Historical Materialism and Critical Theory” and it has a central point of focus in the differences between the two with regard to their relationship to science. Both presented papers drawn from their research at the national conference of the Romanian Society of Phenomenology.

Together with Alex. Cistelecan, the project director organized the national conference of the Romanian Society for Phenomenology: „Fenomenologie, teorie critică et. al. Noi practici ale teoriei în filosofia continentală” [Phenomenology, Critical Theory et.al. New Practices of Theory in Continental Philosophy] (University of Bucharest, 16-17 Novembre), which aimed to explore the way in which both phenomenology and critical theory have attempted to articulate a form of philosophical knowledge, which would no longer have to absolutely separate itself from empirical knwoledge, nor be made obsolete by it. All members of the research project have participated with presentations at the conference. The project director presented the paper titled: „Funcția preteoreticului în teoria critică” [The Function of the Pretheoretical in Critical Theory]. Alex. Cistelecan presented the paper titled: „Critica materialist-istorică la teoria critică” [The Criticism of Critical Theory in Materialist Historicism]. Drd. Amalia Trepca presented the paper „Între monadă şi montaj. Conceptul de constelaţie la Benjamin şi Adorno” [Between the Monad and Montage. The Concept of “Constellation” in Benjamin and Adorno]. Drd. Alexandru Vasile Sava presented the paper titled „Trei (sau patru) moduri de a privi obiectele” [Three (or Four) Ways to Grasp Objects].