On the Possibility of a Phenomenology of Light

PhaenEx 5 (1):41-58 (2010)

Abstract

The phenomenological tradition has always had a peculiar preoccupation with light. This paper will attempt to determine how and why light appears as it does, and what this can tell us about the phenomenological understanding of light and its relevance. This will be carried out through a systematic analysis covering Husserl's study of light as "circumstance of apperception," Heidegger's interpretation of Plato's use of light as "symbol for the unsayable," and Levinas' interest in light as "rival to the 'there is'." This survey will allow us to see how light has been treated by phenomenology as a concept of central importance in the realms of perception, epistemology, and ontology. It is this multiform use that has allowed for the distinction between the concepts of "light" and "lighting" to become blurred, and has thus problematized any attempt at something like a phenomenology of light.

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Nolen Gertz
University of Twente

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