Ideas for a Hermeneutic Phenomenology of the Natural Sciences

Review of Metaphysics 48 (4):904-906 (1995)


Kockelmans' contribution to the philosophy of science stems from ideas in this second chapter, developments and applications of ideas found in Husserl's phenomenology, Heidegger's existential analytic, and Gadamer's hermeneutics. Kockelmans makes the now familiar claim that, as ever placed within the world, human thinking starts from the world, presupposing it, its things, structures, values, and meanings; there is no radically detached cogito. To be done, natural science and its ontology, presupposes human being-in-the-world and the life-world ontology constituted through everyday human interpretive activity. These sciences, in turn, help us discover real things about that world of which our ordinary life-world philosophies may have never dreamt. Philosophy, and in particular philosophy of science, is essentially an ex post facto critical reflection on the lifeworld, its sciences, arts, and meaning-making activities in general. This is a role, Kockelmans argues, that cannot be abridged by the sciences, any more than the sciences can be supplanted by philosophical reflection. In some very nice lines reminiscent of Hegel, Kockelmans writes: "Experience wants to be reason without knowing this explicitly". "Philosophy, therefore, is the reflection of reason on itself". And, "as reason's consciousness of itself, philosophy becomes an element of man's total experience; afterwards it tries to withdraw from this experience in order to give direction in all realms of experience to the processes of rationalization which always are already on their way". Philosophy, then, in Kockelmans' view, resurrects, restores, refines, and maintains the meaning of human endeavor and consequence; further, it can thereby, within limits, articulate future possibilities for these endeavors.

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