Husserl and Gurwitsch on Horizonal Intentionality: The Gurwitch Memorial Lecture 2018

In Memory of Lester E. Embree

In: Journal of Phenomenological Psychology
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  • 1 Boston College

Abstract

Gurwitsch is the philosopher of consciousness par excellence. This paper presents a systematic exposition of Aron Gurwitsch’s main contribution to phenomenology, namely his theory of the ‘field of consciousness’ with its a priori structure of theme, thematic field, margin (halo and horizon). I present Gurwitsch as an orthodox defender of Husserlian descriptive phenomenology, albeit one who rejected Husserl’s reduction to the transcendental ego and Husserl’s overt idealism. He maintained with Husserl the priority of consciousness as the source of all meaning and validity but he rejected Husserl’s transcendental idealism in favour of a ‘levels of existence’ approach. Gurwitsch’s project was to show the continuity between Gestalt psychology (stripped of its naturalism) and Husserlian eidetics. I explain his concepts of theme, thematic field, margin and horizon as a consistent development of Husserlian thought. I conclude by claiming that neither Gurwitsch nor Husserl fully appreciate how the horizons of an entity can support radical novelty and the application of entirely new contexts.

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