Phenomenology

(Sample Syllabus)

Dr. Harry P. Reeder



I. Objectives: The primary goal of this course is to introduce the student to the theory and to the practice of phenomenology. Phenomenology is a major Twentieth-Century movement in philosophy, which focuses upon the careful and critical (and in that sense "scientific") description of lived human experience, as uncovered through intersubjectively controlled introspection. Phenomenology originated in the insights and researches of Edmund Husserl, a German philosopher who died in 1936. Stemming from a dissatisfaction with the traditional metaphysical schools of the 17th and 18th Century rationalists and empiricists, Husserl built upon Kant's distinction between the world-as-we-experience-it and the world-as-it-is-in-itself, in order to achieve greater clarity concerning the nature and scope of human knowledge, belief, and action. Husserl's "breakthrough" to the phenomenological method, which is historically associated with the methodologies of Descartes, Hume, and Kant, was achieved at the end of the 19th Century, as Husserl attempted to found arithmetic in descriptive psychology (a long-sought ideal of the empiricists from Hume to Mill and the turn-of-century views of Franz Brentano and Karl Stumpf). Many contemporary philosophers continue to exhibit the influence of Husserl's thought, some of them rather indirectly, through the influence of later phenomenological thinkers such as Martin Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Alfred Schütz, and Paul Ricoeur. Unfortunately, one cannot fully appreciate the philosophies of such later thinkers without a careful reading of Husserl, which is presupposed in the works of such figures. This course will trace their thought through its Husserlian origins to their critiques, emendations, and additions to phenomenological method.

II. Format: Phenomenology cannot be learned merely by reading books or listening to lectures. To understand the methods and results of phenomenology, one must actually do phenomenology. Therefore, this course will supplement the usual format of lecture-discussions with the actual practice of phenomenological description. This means that after suitable instruction students will be asked to undertake in-class and at-home exercises in the method of phenomenological description. Classroom discussion will be extremely important throughout the course, since philosophy is essentially a dialectical procedure where one learns by probing and asking questions about the views of others. Because of the nature of philosophy, it is essential for students to attend every class, and to come prepared to discuss the assigned readings; if you must miss a class it is your responsibility to get notes from someone else. Because the exams will include material from the lectures it is also essential for students to TAKE NOTES in class (pen and paper!); I have noticed an alarming trend of students failing to take notes, and it has adversely affected their grades. Philosophy is not a spectator sport!


III. Texts: 

The following texts will be available from the bookstore: 

Edmund Husserl, Cartesian Meditations, An Introduction to Phenomenology. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1970 ISBN-90-247-0068-X.

Harry P. Reeder, The Theory and Practice of Husserl's Phenomenology, Second Edition, Zeta Books, 2010, ISBN-978-973-1997-20-9.

IV. Assignments: The student's mark will be determined on the basis of one take-home exam, two essays, and three short exercises. (Graduate assignment lengths differ.) See tentative course calendar for due dates. READING ASSIGNMENTS are due at the start of each week (see Tentative Calendar, below).

WRITTEN ASSIGNMENTS:

  1. Take-home exam (25%)
  2. Exercise 1 (5%): 1-2 pages (grad students 2 pages); a phenomenological description
  3. Exercise 2 (5%): 1-2 pages (grad students 2 pages); a phenomenological description
  4. Exercise 3 (5%): 1-2 pages (grad students 2 pages); a phenomenological description
  5. Term Paper (60%): 4 pages (grad students ca. 6 pages)

Students are encouraged to work early on their essays, and to consult the instructor with drafts of them.
LATE ASSIGNMENTS will not be accepted, except in extraordinary (and documented) circumstances. While students are encouraged to ask questions by e-mail, all assignments must be turned in in hard copy, double-spaced, with page numbers on each page.

V. Attendance and Drop Policy: Attendance of EVERY class is a minimum requirement of this course. The work done in class in mostly NOT repeated in the text. Each student is responsible for getting notes and announcements from class that he/she has missed. The instructor cannot drop students from the class. To drop, a student must fill out a drop slip (and then in accordance with university rules).

VI. Academic Dishonesty: It is the philosophy of the University of Texas at Arlington that academic dishonesty is a completely unacceptable mode of conduct and will not be tolerated in any form. All persons involved in academic dishonesty will be disciplined in accordance with University regulations and procedures. Discipline may include suspension or expulsion from the University.

"Scholastic dishonesty includes but is not limited to cheating, plagiarism, collusion, the submission for credit of any work or materials that are attributable in whole or in part to another person, any act designed to give unfair advantage to a student or to the attempt to commit such acts." (Regents' Rules and Regulations, Part One, Chapter VI, Section 3.2, Subdivision 3.22)

VII. Americans With Disabilities Act: The University of Texas at Arlington is on record as being committed to both the spirit and letter of federal equal opportunity legislation; reference Public Law 9311—The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended. With the passage of new federal legislation entitled Americans with Disabilities Act—(ADA), pursuant to section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, there is a renewed focus on providing this population with the same opportunities enjoyed by all citizens.

As a faculty member, In am required by law to provide "reasonable accommodation" to students with disabilities, so as not to discriminate on the basis of that disability. Student responsibility primarily rests with informing faculty at the beginning of the semester and in providing authorized documentation through designated administrative channels.

VIII. Aid for Students: The University of Texas at Arlington supports a variety of student success programs to help you connect with the University and achieve academic success. They include learning assistance, developmental education, advising and mentoring, admission and transition, and federally funded programs. Students requiring assistance academically, personally, or socially should contact the Office of Student Success Programs at 817-272-6107 for more information and appropriate referrals.

IX. Tentative Course Calendar:

Term Paper

Week

Reading Assignment

Written Assignment

Topic

1

Reeder, Ch. 1; Husserl §§1-9;


The historical background of phenomenology in modern philosophy.

2

Reeder, Ch. 2-3; Husserl, §§10-22


The historical background of phenomenology in modern philosophy.

3

Reeder, Ch. 4; Husserl, §§23-29, §42


Husserl's rejection of psychologistic metaphysics, and the phenomenological reduction.

4

Reeder, Ch.3, 5; Husserl, §§30-36


The phenomenological reduction: theory

5

Reeder, Ch. 3, 6; Husserl, §§37-41


The phenomenological reduction: theory

6

Reeder, Ch. 7 and Appendix; Husserl, §13


The phenomenological reduction: theory

7

Reeder, Ch. 8; Husserl, Husserl, §§42-50


The phenomenological reduction: practice

8

Husserl, §§51-end

Exercise 1

The phenomenological reduction: practice

9

Re-read as necessary


The phenomenological reduction: practice

10

Re-read as necessary

Exercise 2

The phenomenological reduction: practice


11

Re-read as necessary


The phenomenological reduction: practice


12

Re-read as necessary

Exercise 3

Phenomenology after Husserl

13

Re-read Reeder, Appendix; Huserl, §13


Hermeneutic phenomenology

14

Re-read Reeder, Appendix; Huserl, §13


Hermeneutic phenomenology

15

Summary and Review

Term Paper

Summary and review


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