The Phenomenological Critique of Representationalism: Husserl's and Heidegger's Arguments for a Qualified Realism

Abstract

This paper begins by tracing the Hobbesian roots of `representationalism:' the thesis that reality is accessible to mind only through representations, images, signs or appearances that indicate a reality lying `behind' them (e.g. as unperceived causes of perceptions). This is linked to two kinds of absolute realism: the `naive' scientific realism of British empiricism, which provoked Berkeley's idealist reaction, and the noumenal realism of Kant. I argue that Husserl defined his position against both Berkeleyian idealism and these forms of absolute realism by way of two arguments: a pragmatic argument against skepticism about the external world (as described by Karl Ameriks) and a distinctively phenomenological argument against the representationalism implied by absolute realism.

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John J. Davenport
Fordham University

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