Husserl on Reason, Reflection, and Attention

in Research in Phenomenology
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This paper spells out Husserl’s account of the exercise of rationality and shows how it is tied to the capacity for critical reflection. I first discuss Husserl’s views on what rationally constrains our intentionality (section 1). Then I localize the exercise of rationality in the positing that characterizes attentive forms of intentionality and argue that, on Husserl’s account, when we are attentive to something we are also pre-reflectively aware of what speaks for and against our taking something to be a certain way (section 2). After discussing the conditions under which this pre-reflective awareness gives way to reflective deliberation (section 3), I contrast this account to a compelling Kantian-inspired account of the activity of reason that has recently been developed by Matthew Boyle (section 4). In particular, I argue that Husserl delimits the scope of the exercise of rationality differently than Boyle, and I show how this implies different accounts of the self.

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  • 1

    See for example Korsgaard (1996 89; 2009a3032; 2009b 116). While McDowell (2009 129 141) also underlines the importance of reflection he has emphasized that it is not as much actually reflecting as the capacity to reflect that matters which is more in line with Boyle’s (2011a and 2011b) account that I engage with below.

  • 10

    See Husserl (1939 32 35; 1950§21; 1976 330). These ontological constraints are partially but not entirely correlative to constraints that are formulated in a pure logic. See Drummond (2009) for the relation between logic and ontology. In what follows I use “object” (Gegenstand) in the broad sense to refer to anything that can be the intentional correlate of an intentional experience.

  • 11

    See Husserl (1939 99; 19663459).

  • 12

    See Husserl (1950 §23; 1976321330–31).

  • 19

    See Husserl (1976 246–47 and 1984b568–59). See also Drummond (2010 448–49).

  • 26

    Husserl (1966 85 and 1976§36 §92 §113 and §115).

  • 35

    See Husserl (1939 109–10; 19663853; 1976 244).

  • 36

    See Husserl (1966 52–55 361; 1976243–44).

  • 45

    Rinofner-Kreidl (2011) has developed a detailed phenomenological account of self-deception in a social and moral context that addresses one form of such limitation.

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