, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 307-330
Date: 22 Jul 2010

Ordinary experience and the epoché: Husserl and Heidegger versus Rosen (and Cavell)

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In various publications, Stanley Cavell and Stanley Rosen have emphasized the philosophical importance of what they both call “the ordinary.” They both contrast their recovery of “the ordinary” with traditional philosophy, including the phenomenological philosophy of Edmund Husserl. In this paper, I address Rosen’s claims in particular. I argue that Rosen turns the real situation on its head. Contra Rosen, it is not the case that the employment of Husserl’s epoché distorts the authentic voice of “the” ordinary—a voice that is clearly audible only from within everyday life. For (pace both Cavell and Rosen) there is no single “voice” of the ordinary: There are many such “voices,” not all of which are to be relied upon. Therefore, if we want to achieve an adequate grasp of ordinary experience, and Rosen does want this, we precisely need the epoché to curtail the misleading messages of certain other “voices of the ordinary.” Moreover, and somewhat surprisingly, this positive evaluation of the Husserlian epoché finds support in Heidegger’s writings from the twenties. I argue that Heidegger, too, believed that the epoché was an indispensable tool for the philosophical attempt to capture ordinary experience.