Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Problem of the Lifeworld's Legitimacy as a Philosophical Problem

I am interested in the origins of phenomenology as a way into explicating irreducible structures of our social and historical experience, what we might call the field of the lifeworld. The tendency of the Neo-Kantians to link science with Kant was, as far as I can tell, a similar situation with contemporary philosophy today. Analytically-trained naturalists are skeptical of a philosophy that seeks to explain all fields of experience. What counts as worth talking about is only those categories supported by the natural sciences, or in a way, at least plausible within a narrow scientifically informed window of plausible speculation. In their view, science should not seek to integrate in explanation of our experience sources of artistic, cultural or historical domains. These features are more for the phenomenologist that accepts these features of human existence as irreducible in the sense that the analytically-trained naturalist could not provide a suitable space for them in the first place. We just tend to ignore this refusal to talk. Thus, there is a disagreement between whether or not to treat irreducible features of human existence as real. Instead, our philosophy should only be engaged with what the sciences directly or indirectly support as real.

More specific to the German situation was the relationship of science to culture. To explain this relationship, it is important to first mention something of the term for science since it is peculiar to the German language. The word for 'science' is Wissenschaft. Wissenshaft includes both the natural sciences and humanities under its rubric. Thus, to strive for unity in science in general is to explain how physics or history may relate to each other. This striving-for unity engages in a dialogue with how science relates to culture at large. As far as I can tell, a philosopher that wants to integrate cultural life into science would be forced to equate forms of culture, like art, with the value of science. However, since much of ontology for the analytically-trained naturalist drives the machine of what we should even begin to philosophize about, I wonder if the Divide between Analtyic/Continental should be recast as a problem of legitimacy of the lifeworld.

I find this problematic attractive since I entertain the thought that objects of culture like historical works, literature and art contribute and express insights about humanity. To consider them sources of knowledge would mean that analytic philosophers would have to abandon the professional insight that we can only talk about things that science can support and that are clearly expressed in logical argumentation. We would have to embrace other forms of communicating insights about the human condition in ways other than logical argumentation. For me, this makes legitimate more literary or poetic styles of communicating even philosophical ideas.

1 comment:

Khadimir said...

You express the problematic well.