Volume 12, 2007
Philosophical Trends in the XXth Century
A Question of Method
Reflective vs. Hermeneutical Phenomenology
In his Allgemeine Psychologie of 1912, Natorp formulates a by now classical criticism of phenomenology. 1. Phenomenology claims to describe and analyze lived subjectivity itself. In order to do so it employs a reflective methodology. But reflection is a kind of internal perception; it is a theoretical attitude; it involves an objectification. And as Natorp then asks, how is this objectifying procedure ever going to provide us with access to lived subjectivity itself? 2. Phenomenology aims at describing the experiential structures in their pretheoretical immediacy. But every description involves the use of language, involves the use of generalizing and subsuming concepts. For the very same reason, every description and expression involves a mediation and objectification that necessarily estranges us from subjectivity itself.
In his early lecture course Die Idee der Philosophie und das Weltanschauungsproblem of 1919 Heidegger responds to Natorp's challenge and attempts to show that the criticism is based on some questionable assumptions. More specifically, Heidegger argues that Natorp's criticism might be pertinent when it comes to a phenomenology based on a reflective methodology, i.e. when it comes to a Husserlian phenomenology, but it is wide of the mark when it comes to Heidegger's own hermeneutical phenomenology.
In this paper I wish to present both Natorp's criticism and Heidegger's response in detail. One of the aims will be to articulate the criticism that Heidegger himself—via his discussion with Natorp—directs against a reflective phenomenology. In the final part of the paper I will then evaluate the pertinence of this criticism. Is it at all justified?