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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Phenomenology: Let 'er Rip

I had a recent conversation which brought me back to a level of thought about reality that I had not re-focused on in some time. I remember from my youthful days as a college student arguing the finer points of Phenomenology. It is beyond dispute that there are saints, like Teresia Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) who subscribed to this way of looking at knowledge and the world around us. The influences on Pope John Paul II are undeniable, though Thomists rightfully claim him as their own as well.

I've lost much of my knowledge on the subject over the years. More basic arguments of the day have taken them over. But I want to honestly revisit this.

So here's what I'd like in the comments section -- What do you think Phenomenology is, and do you view it as a complement to the Thomistic approach? Are the two compatible? Should Thomists feel threatened by an approach that, in part, argues that what we think we know about the world around us may have quite a lot more to do with our own internal views, biases, and associations than the objective essence of the thing itself? Can one teach in an objective way if we are really to "question everything," at least as it comes to how we may have come to know our perception of the things about which we are teaching?

I think phenomenology argues that getting to really know things (including our own views and judgments) as they are is harder than it first appears, requiring a tremendous amount of work to separate the thing being known from the knower. That's simplistic, but let me know if you disagree.

This should be a fun discussion, if anybody knows what the heck I am talking about. Have at it!