Axel Schmitzberger, Paul Vu, Kayla Tange

Identical vs. Eidetic and the Conscious Accident

(A framework fragment)


Photographs of performance in ELL residence designed by Axel Schmitzberger, Chris Lowe (Domaen)

Photographed by Paul Vu

Husserl inaugurated the project of phenomenology as a science of intentionality; he also re- introduced an attitude toward philosophy, in general, as a descriptive task of opening up the possibilities for phenomena to manifest themselves as intelligible and meaningful conscious experiences. “Intentionality” was emphasized as the primary model of this conscious experience [1]. Description’s thematic investigation of this model was fundamental to analyzing the phenomena that revealed itself within this intentional conscious experience. After his Logical Investigations, Husserl’s later work was concerned with reducing the subjective relation of consciousness and objects to its formal components by isolating this conscious experience and “bracketing” off all other epistemological and scientific presuppositions. This was the chief significance of his eidetic reduction (from “eidos”)[2]

Heidegger’s notion of eidos was quite different. Heidegger’s conception of “formal causality” in his essay, “The Question Concerning Technology” [3] is where he expresses a rather unique interpretation of eidos. Instead of traditionally reading Aristotle’s four causes (i.e. efficient, material, formal, and final) as that which “produce” something, Heidegger argues the four causes should be understood as “ways of being responsible for something” (314). He goes on to argue that the eidos of an object is the aspect in which it presents itself by its appearance. Yet, as we cannot understand the four causes apart from each other, we cannot understand eidos apart from telos (traditionally understood as “final causality”). It is even more important to note that this way of bringing something forth (“presencing”) is not excluded to “manufacturing” or “craft.” It is integral to the way we approach any and every object of inquiry through our discourse about it (315, 317).

One might say that the four Aristotelian causes are hermeneutic lenses. Instead of simply “producing something,” they are anthropomorphic tools for humans to investigate objects intelligibly and meaningfully. They allow us to responsibly investigate the meaning of our objective concerns by relating objects to us. Eidetic form does not have a timeless or transcendental structure in this way, not even the eidetic form of consciousness. Rather, eidos denotes the way we hermeneutically investigate our experience in the world, and it cannot be torn from the way we circumscribe it by its relation to perceived ends. Yet, our understanding of perception is not and cannot be complete. This does not mean that we cannot understand anything about it, however. It simply re-situates the stance of the scientist as a finite observer. Thus, the scientist does not stand over objects with any

sort of privileged access to truth about them, as if she was capable of making a transcendental judgment about her investigation. All understanding is in a “hermeneutic circle.” It is, simply, one of the ways of Being-in-the-world. No one is capable of stepping outside of it, as no one is capable of stepping outside of language.

Heidegger acknowledged the need for an ontological (ontos in relation to “being”) basis for conscious experience. Heidegger argued that Being was the most self-evident and universal concept [4] to reference beginning points in philosophical and phenomenological investigations.

In this same manner, one cannot isolate “accidents” from the conscious act as we cannot not “isolate” consciousness as some sort of transcendental subjectivity that had epistemic priority over its world. Conscious experience was already “ontically”[5] engaged in and informed by the life-world.

What Husserl should have recognized from his own theory of intentionality (i.e. consciousness as always about something) was that consciousness only understands itself as consciousness by its perceptual engagement in the life-world. This was the significance of Heidegger’s concept of Being-in-the-world, often translated as Dasein.

[1] The Phenomenology Reader. Ed. Dermot Moran and Timothy Mooney (London: Routledge, 2002), pg. 278-287. Hereafter, “PR.” [2] PR, pg. 78-108.

[2] Introduction to Phenomenology. Ed. Dermot Moran (London: Routledge, 2000). Hereafter, “IP.”

[3] Heidegger, Martin. Basic Writings, ed. Krell, David Farrell (New York, NY: Harper Collins, 1993, pg. 311-341.

[4] Basic Writings, pg., 42-44.

[5] As David Krell has noted, it is not easy to distinguish between “ontic” and “ontological” in Heidegger’s philosophy. However, one can say that ontic “refers to any way of dealing with beings that does not raise the ontological question.” Hence, when one speaks of “ontic” one is talking about the way we most often are primordially engaged with other beings. “Ontological” entails an investigation of this engagement. See Krell’s footnote in Basic Writings, pg. 53. 

Using Format