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Applebaum (2013) interrelationship of phenomenological philosophy & psychology


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In The Primacy of Perception Merleau-Ponty (1964) remarked, “psychology and philosophy are nourished by the same phenomena; it is only that the problems become more formalized at the philosophical level” (p. 24). Phenomenological philosophy, as much as psychology, is concerned with the study of consciousness and the life of psyche. What is the relationship between the two, for phenomenologists? I explore the interrelationship of the two through the lens of Aristotle's reflection on sofia (wisdom) and phronesis (praxis-understanding).

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Applebaum (2013) interrelationship of phenomenological philosophy & psychology

  1. 1. Grasping the Psychical Phenomenologically: philosophy and psychology Marc Applebaum, PhD Saybrook Graduate School
  2. 2. For phenomenology, what is the relationship between philosophy and psychology, as ways of inquiring into the psychical? Point of departure
  3. 3. An indication from Merleau- Ponty “Psychology and philosophy are nourished by the same phenomena; it is only that the problems become more formalized at the philosophical level.” The Primacy of Perception, 1964, p. 24
  4. 4. Philosophia and Phronesis I will reflect on the relationship between phenomenological philosophy and psychology through two terms from Aristotle‟s Ethics-- Φιλοσοφία love of wisdom or knowledge Φρόνησις praxis-understanding Proposition: the guiding aim of phenomenological philosophers is sophia, whereas for psychologists it is phronesis
  5. 5. Theoria in Phenomenology “What is interesting about phenomenology has always been the attempt at a sophisticated analysis of the embeddedness of theoria in the lifeworld.” Dodd, 2012, p. 435 This embeddedness has important implications for both philosophy and psychological phenomenologies…
  6. 6. Three claims Philosophy pursues the sophia of psyche, whereas psychology seeks a more phronetic relationship to psychical life Philosophical phenomenology prizes the formal beauty of reasoned arguments; phenomenological psychology prizes fidelity to the messiness of lived- subjectivity, with an aim to work with the way that subjectivity can be lived differently Both are refreshed by repeatedly returning “to the things themselves”
  7. 7. Phronesis in Aristotle Does phronêsis rule all the other things in the soul, as some think…? Surely it doesn‟t. For one cannot think it to rule better things [than it], such as sophia…presumably, though, it has control the way a steward has in a household. For he is in control of everything and manages everything. Still, it doesn‟t yet follow that he rules everything; instead, he provides leisure for his master, so that he, unhindered by daily necessities, may not be prevented from doing any noble actions that are befitting. So likewise phronêsis is a sort of steward of sophia, procuring leisure for it… Aristotle, Ethics (Reeve, 2013, p. 25)
  8. 8. Philosophical versus phronetic phenomenologizing Φιλοσοφία goal: universal knowledge for its own sake Φρόνησις goal: guiding practical actions in the world Rational analysis of the structures of consciousness as such; yields insight Knowledge of subjectivity as para- rational, para-logical*, and lived; yields intervention *Giorgi (1993)
  9. 9. A continuum Aim: knowledge for the sake of insight Content: formal, idealized representations Aim: provisional understanding to inform acting in the world Content: messier, more contextual representations Sophia Phronesis
  10. 10. Two kinds of engagement The pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, even for the joy of knowing Intervention based on understanding, where inter + venire = “coming between” or “interrupting” Sophia Phronesis
  11. 11. Standards for phenomenological praxis The standard is phronetic: can understanding of lived- experience, thus living itself, be moved forward? The standard is theoretic: is there enough insight to move knowledge forward? PsychologyPhilosophy
  12. 12. “pathologies” Embodied life is subordinated to idealizations about it; purely general and formal Reluctance to engage in the messiness of lived- Only practical questions count—fundamental ones are neglected; purely individualistic Reluctance to engage in rigorous theoretical debate PsychologyPhilosophy
  13. 13. Interplay of philosophy and psychology Phenomenological psychology relies upon philosophy for its epistemology…so its praxis is dependent upon philosophy It‟s not clear why philosophy as an academic discipline would need psychology? Therefore the reciprocal interrelationship I‟m interested in is not necessarily required by the natures of the inquires as academic disciplines
  14. 14. Interplay relative to praxis Can dialogue with philosophy to clarify the meanings of inchoate lived- experiences as they emerge into consciousness Can dialogue with psychology to clarify the applications of its formal insights in the lived- world PsychologyPhilosophy
  15. 15. The „primacy of perception‟ “…we mean that the experience of perception is our presence at the moment when things, truths, values are constituted for us; that perception is a nascent logos; that it teaches us, outside all dogmatism, the true conditions of objectivity itself…it is not a question of reducing human knowledge to sensation, but of assisting at the birth of this knowledge….” Merleau-Ponty, 1964.The Primacy of Perception, p. 25 Psychology focuses on facilitating at the birth of this knowledge, close to the lived-experiences within which it is imminent. Philosophy is focused on perfecting the articulation of the truths and values embodied in this logos.
  16. 16. References Dodd, J. (2012). Political philosophy 429-438 The Routledge companion to phenomenology (S. Luft and S. Overgaard, Eds.). New York: Routledge. Giorgi, A. (1993). Psychology as the science of the paralogical. Journal of Phenomenological Psychology, 24 (1), 64-77. Merleau-Ponty, M. (1964). The Primacy of Perception. Evanston: Northwestern University Press. Reeve, C. D. C. (2013). Aristotle on practical wisdom: Nichomachean ethics VI (C. D. C. Reeve, Trans.). Cambridge: Harvard University Press.