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At Play in the Field of Possibles

An Essay on the Foundation of Self and Free-Fantasy Variational Method

Richard M. Zaner

This study is a phenomenological inquiry into several relatively unexplored phenomena, including certain key methodological issues. It seeks to elicit and explicate the grounds of free-fantasy variation, which Husserl insists contains his “fundamental methodological insight” since it articulates “the fundamental form of all particular transcendental methods…” In the course of pursuing the full sense of this method and its grounds, the essay also uncovers the origins and eventual presence of “self” and explores the multiple connections among self, mental life, embodiment and the surrounding world. To that end, it is necessary to take seriously Husserl’s otherwise odd declaration that “‘feigning’ [‘Fiktion’] makes up the vital element of phenomenology as of every other eidetic science…”, and thus that every philosopher must “fertilize” his or her “fantasy” through works of art and history as well as other areas and practices of human life.

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  • The essay explores several striking but largely unexplored phenomena in depth: exemplifying and possibilizing. It concludes with an exploration of one of the most pervasive themes in phenomenological inquiry: intersubjectivity.

    Richard M. Zaner is Professor of Medicine (Medical Ethics), Emeritus at Vanderbilt University.


    • "At Play in the Field of Possibles is beautiful in its lucidity, representing the late style of Zaner's extraordinary career in philosophy and bioethics. Zaner sets us straight about what makes phenomenology distinct and necessary, leading us from Husserl's method of reduction to the often neglected but crucially valuable idea about free-fantasy variation or as Zaner calls it "possibilizing." This book is at once technical and practical. It deserves to be read by social scientists and clinicians as well as philosophers, because Zaner shows us that phenomenology truly is a philosophy of everyday life. Anyone interested in how human consciousness makes sense of its world and the other people in that world will find this book to be an essential guide."
      -- Arthur W. Frank, University of Calgary


    • "Zaner’s rigorous analysis uncovers the presuppositions underlying various acts of consciousness that make thought possible through dealing with what might be otherwise, such as exemplification and feigning awareness. At Play in the Field of Possibles demonstrates how free-fantasy variation merits to stand, along with the phenomenological reduction and the epoché, as one of Husserl’s fundamental phenomenological concepts. Having been written over many decades this study of free-fantasy variation also provides the conceptual clue linking Zaner’s philosophical reflections with his self-reflexions in the context of medicine."
      -- Hillel Braude, McGill University


    · ISBN: 978-606-8266-44-2 (ebook) · Online access on this site · Published November 2012 ·
    · ISBN: 978-606-8266-43-5 (paperback) · Print and eBook options available from Zeta Books ·


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