2018-2020: Continental Philosophy as a Rigorous Science.

Elements of Empirical Research in Early Phenomenology and Critical Theory.

Project Development

SCIENTIFIC REPORTS

January — April 2020

In the final four months of the research project, the PI’s investigations focused mostly on the use of imaginative procedures in phenomenology. In this regard, he finished a research article titled “The Phenomenologist as a Method Actor”, which was invited for publication in a collective volume edited by T. Breyer, M. Cavallaro and R. Sandoval under the title “Phenomenology of Fantasy and Emotion”. The book is supposed to appear at the WBG publishing house in Darmstadt later this year. The article engages several recent papers discussing the question of fictional emotions, in noting that they ultimately fail to convincingly settles issues like: whether or not there are essential differences, between real and fictional emotions; of whether or not fictional emotions can be voluntarily reproduced; of whether or not they necessarily feed on prior experience. While my paper does not attempt to directly respond to these questions, it shows that there are central methodological reasons why a phenomenological approach necessarily leads to an ambiguous treatment of these issues. This is the case because of the role played in phenomenology by imaginative procedures, as the paper shows. The most relevant results of the project are currently being assembled by the PI into a monograph, which will be submitted for publication by the end of 2020 at a reputed international publishing house. The volume should appear early 2021.

Researchers Alex. Cistelecan, Amalia Trepca, Alex Vasile Sava completed writing their final research papers, which were submitted for publication at respected international journals and are currently under review.

Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, several of the planned research events were cancelled or postponed for later this year. This was the case for the PI’s invited conferences as a keynote speaker for two conferences in Santiago de Chile: Coloquio Internacional Husserl: Conciencia de imagen y fantasia at the Universidad Alberto Hurdado, planned for 2-3 April this year and VII International Congress of Phenomenology and Hermeneutics at the Universidad Andrés Bello, scheduled for 6-8 April. Both conferences were rescheduled for December this year. His two presentations were titled “Image Consciousness in the Age of Advertising. Contemporary Challenges to a Husserlian Framework” and “The Unimaginable. Reassessing a Methodological Critique of Phenomenology” and they both should have dealt extensively with the question of imaginative procedures in phenomenology and their contrast to empirical research. The PI was also accepted with a presentation at this years Conference of the Nordic Society of Phenomenology, to be held in Helsinki on 23-25 April. The PI’s presentation proposal was titled “Materialist Eidetics: Phenomenology in View of a Metacritique of Neopositivism” and should have engaged the criticism of neopositivism in both phenomenology and early critical theory. The presentation will be included as a chapter in the upcoming book project at Springer. Researcher Alexandru Vasile was also accepted to give the presentation titled “Towards a time-oriented ontology of class: applications of Deleuze-Guattarian political theory to peripheral middle classes” at the international conference Territorialities, Exterritorialities, Non-Territorialities: 13th Deleuze & Guattari Studies Conference in Prague. The conference is currently being rescheduled.

January — December 2019 

The research conducted during this stage further developed the three core issues of the project: 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”, which continued throughout 2019. 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. In 2019, we primarily discussed recent works in French Phenomenology and their reflection of the complex relationship between philosophy and empirical science.

b.) The second topic was central for the investigations of both the project director and Amalia Trepca. The project director addressed the issue in two papers, which were published or accepted for publication in major philosophical journals. The first paper is titled „Eidetic Intuition as Physiognomics. Rethinking Adorno’s Phenomenological Heritage” and it was published in Continental Philosophy Review 52/4 2019, pp. 361-380: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11007-019-09477-6. The paper deals with Adorno’s criticism of phenomenology, focusing especially on his treatment of eidetic intuition (Wesensschau), which is opposed to the traditional theories of abstraction and induction, and to the later developments of the phenomenological method in genetic phenomenology. Adorno’s key procedure of physiognomic analysis is shown to have an important connection to this criticism. The second paper is titled: „Zur Funktion des Vortheoretischen bei Adorno. Der Erfahrungsbegriff der Kritischen Theorie und die Phänomenologie” (https://doi.org/10.1515/dzph-2019-0068) and it was accepted for publication in Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie 67/6 2019, pp. 930-951. The paper contrasts the phenomenological treatment of pre-theoretic experience to its treatment in critical theory and especially in Adorno. This leads to a detailed discussion of Adorno’s conception of “unregimented experience”.

c.) The third topic of interest was pursued mostly in the research of Alex. Cistelecan and Alexandru Vasile Sava. Starting october 2018, both participated 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 international conference organized by the research team.

Together with the entire research team, the project director participated in organizing the international conference of the Central and Eastern European Society for Phenomenology: „Shifting Roles. The Manifold Identities of Phenomenology” (26-28 September): https://phenomenology.ro/cfp-shifting-roles/. The conference aimed to address the variety of disciplinary functions assumed by phenomenology throughout its history. It drew over 70 participants from numerous countries in Europe and abroad. All members of the research project have participated with presentations at the conference. The project director presented the paper titled: „Adorno’s Genetic Phenomenology”. Alex. Cistelecan presented the paper titled: „Late Adorno’s Materialism. A Critical Evaluation. Drd. Amalia Trepca presented the paper „Figuring out essence. Ideation and Language în Husserl and Adorno”. Drd. Alexandru Vasile Sava presented the paper titled „Phenomenology after Deleuze”.

One of the major objectives finalized in this stage of the project is the Romanian translation of Th.W. Adorno’s Negative Dialectics, one of the major works in contemporary continental philosophy, a book that constitutes one of the most consistent episodes in Adorno’s criticism of phenomenology and existentialism, as well as a key page in the history of western Marxism. The book was translated by the project director and appeared at the Tact publishing house, Cluj-Napoca: https://edituratact.ro/colectii/angelus-novus/theodor-adorno-dialectica-negativa/. The translation was accompanied by a consistent introductory study by the project director titled „Filozofia ex negativo”, and a substantial Afterword by Alex. Cistelecan, titled „Adorno cu Marx”. All members of the research team are currently finalizing research papers which will be submitted for publication until the end of the year.

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].