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Part of the book series: Contributions to Phenomenology ((CTPH,volume 100))

Abstract

We survey the development of “California Phenomenology”, both as a philosophical movement originating with Dagfinn Føllesdal’s formulation of a Fregean, analytic reading of Husserl in the late 1950s and 1960s, and as an evolving network of philosophers working throughout California, who have met under the auspices of several groups in a more or less continuous way since that time. We trace the history of these groups in detail, provide an overview of debates that occurred between “West Coast” approaches to Husserlian phenomenology and other approaches, and survey the broad panorama of more recent work.

To the memory of Richard Tieszen (1951–2017)

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Royce (who was arguably a precursor to phenomenology) was born in Grass Valley in the North San Joaquin Valley in 1855, got his BA in philosophy at Berkeley, and studied Lotze at Göttingen in the 1870s. In 1933 Husserl received an appointment offer at the University of Southern California, to replace the deceased Croce/Bergson scholar H. Wildon Carr, and to help populate the newly-created philosophy program (Spiegelberg 1973). Husserl declined, since the department could not support his assistants Dorion Cairns and Eugen Fink. Members of the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory who ended up in California included Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer in the Pacific Palisades near Los Angeles (along with Brecht, Schoenberg, and Mann), and Heidegger’s student Herbert Marcuse at UCSD.

  2. 2.

    Earlier characterizations of this school are in Silverman (1980), Smith (1983, 2013), Drummond (1990), Smith and Smith (1995), and Welton (2000). Also see Livingston (The Analytic Reception of Husserlian Phenomenology in the United States: History, Problems, and Prospects).

  3. 3.

    Føllesdal’s work on these issues is in Husserl und Frege (1958; Eng. translation in 1994). He has noted that many people mistakenly cite that book as though it contained his Fregean reading of Husserl, when in fact it contains his review of the psychologism debate in relation to Husserl and Frege.

  4. 4.

    Robert Tragesser remembers later seeing a Malick film with some of the original Harvard group: “[In] the summer of 1975, in a large seminar at Stanford on the Husserlian ‘reductions’ led by Føllesdal and Dreyfus, I became aware of the Harvard group [Føllesdal, Parsons, Dreyfus, Todes, all of whom Tragesser had read or met separately] and the conflicts among them over the soundness of core Husserlian theses. Interestingly, Terrence Malick’s film Badlands was showing in Palo Alto, and the seminar went to watch and then discuss it”.

  5. 5.

    Critical discussion of this idea is in McIntyre (1986) and Yoshimi (2009).

  6. 6.

    At the Asilomar Conference Grounds in Monterrey (sometimes referred to informally as the “Asilomor meetings”). This group is now known as the International Society for Phenomenological Studies. See https://sites.google.com/site/ispsphenomenology/. Participants in this group, some of whom are also mentioned in this paper, include Sean Kelly, Mark Wrathall, Taylor Carman, David Cerbone, Wayne Martin, and Iain Thompson.

  7. 7.

    Tragesser has described the background of his graduate work and how he was eventually led towards Stanford: “By the fall of 1963, I was seeking a graduate school where I could pursue developing my understanding of Husserlian phenomenology and applying it to the solution of problems I was finding in the philosophy of mathematics and logic. All the signs were that Marvin Farber – the author of Foundations of Phenomenology (Farber 1943) who had befriended Ernst Zermelo, [and] attended Husserl’s lectures with Zermelo – was the person to work with. But I learned from him that he was no longer working in these areas. He suggested that I approach James Street Fulton, who had a masters degree in mathematics and was a serious thinker about Husserl’s philosophy. Hence my ending up at Rice University. As helpful as Fulton was in developing my understanding of Husserl (he for example gave me tutorials where we read Formal und Transzendentale Logik, Erfahrung und Urteil, etc. together) I did not have much help in the foundations of logic and mathematics. I’d heard from a number of people who had talked with Gödel, that he had been recommending that they read Husserl, the ‘they’ being such celestial, somewhat philosophically minded, mathematical logicians as Robert Solovay, John Myhill, W.W. Tait, Solomon Feferman, … Speaking with Gödel in any sense was out of the question. A number of people mentioned Georg Kreisel as someone having extensive discussions and correspondence with Gödel and whose ideas about foundations had influenced and been pursued by Kreisel. Kreisel was at Stanford and Fulton was supportive of me spending summers at Stanford to take advantage of Kreisel, for he was staying at Stanford and, indeed, there were quite advanced seminars in mathematical logic going on in the summers. Dana Scott and Solomon Feferman were also around. It was the heyday of West-Coast genuinely avant garde mathematical logic; it was a very special time and place (e.g., Jon Barwise was a graduate student)”.

  8. 8.

    Tragesser notes that Føllesdal read through a late draft of Phenomenology and Logic (Tragesser 1977) and urged him to put his discussion of Gödel first. In fact, that book may have been the first to make a connection between Gödel and Husserl. Tragesser recalls that “at the time it was treated with much skepticism, in contrast to the sudden burst [of interest in the topic] in the late 1980s”.

  9. 9.

    Ron McIntyre adds an important qualification here: “we do not claim that Husserl adopted Frege’s semantics and generalized it to apply to all intentional acts. The connection is conceptual rather than historical. Husserl developed his own semantics, which had important similarities to and differences from Frege’s, and he generalized his notion of meaning and its role in reference to intentionality in general”.

  10. 10.

    This is reflected in the early social network associated with this group. Indeed, the list of people personally associated with the meetings and projects of the early California school comprise a veritable who’s-who of twentieth century analytic philosophy: Quine, Hintikka, Lewis, Davidson, Sellars, Rorty, Armstrong, Searle, Donnellan, and Dretske, among others.

  11. 11.

    An overview of analytic approaches to phenomenology outside of California – which extends at least back to the 1950s, if not earlier – is in Smith (2013, pp. 395ff). Important figures include Jitendra Mohanty, Kevin Mulligan, Peter Simons, Barry Smith, Jeff Bell, A.D. Smith, and Richard Cobb-Stevens, among many others, especially more recently.

  12. 12.

    There is also the issue of Husserl vs. Gurwitsch on hyletic data, which Føllesdal reports as a live question between them. Though both discuss hyletic data in print (Gurwitsch 1964, pp. 265ff; Føllesdal 1982), there has been little or no published discussion of their differences on the issue.

  13. 13.

    Jitendra Nath Mohanty received his Ph.D. at Göttingen and is one of the best-known Husserl scholars today. Karl Schuhmann is well-known for his work at the Husserl archives and for editing some of the most important primary texts relating to Husserl, including Husserl’s ten-volume correspondence.

  14. 14.

    Volume 1: review of Smith and McIntyre (Drummond 1984). Volume 2: Drummond on Frege’s influence on Husserl (Drummond 1985) and reviews of Miller (McKenna 1985) and Dreyfus’ edited volume (Langsdorf 1985). Volume 3: “Husserl’s Phenomenology and Possible Worlds Semantics: A Reexamination” (Harvey 1986). Volume 5: review of Tragesser (Willard 1988). Volume 6: review of an edited volume containing contributions by McIntyre, Smith, and others in the California school, as well as philosophers of mind and cognitive science (Tieszen 1989).

  15. 15.

    Smith, following Dreyfus, associates this reading with Cairns, Schutz, Boehm, and Fink.

  16. 16.

    Yoshimi asked Smith, McIntyre, and Føllesdal about this event via email, and received the following responses. David Woodruff Smith: “As I recall, Dagfinn presented his seminal ‘Husserl’s Notion of Noema’ paper at the APA Eastern, perhaps in New York, shortly then published in Journal of Philosophy (Føllesdal 1969). Gurwitsch was in the audience. Someone asked Gurwitsch how he saw things, and Gurwitsch said he agreed with Dagfinn’s interpretation. Dagfinn told us, later, that although he thought there were differences, that was not the time to say so. And the rest is history!” Ron McIntyre: “Here’s how I remember it, much as Dave does. It was the APA in NY. Topic was Dagfinn’s ‘Husserl’s Notion of Noema’, with Dreyfus as either co-speaker or commentator. Bert took up each of Dagfinn’s theses, one by one, arguing that each was ambiguous between two readings. One reading gives Dagfinn’s account; the other gives Gurwitsch’s (Bert claimed). At the very start of the question period, the moderator noted that Gurwitsch was in the audience and called on him to say a few words. I don’t remember what else he said, but I do recall his saying, “I agree with everything Professor Føllesdal has said!” … Later Dave and I asked Dagfinn what he thought of that. Dagfinn, smiling, said something like, ‘I don’t think there’s nearly as much agreement as Gurwitsch does, but I didn’t think that was the time to say so.’ Later I asked Bert the same question. He said, ‘That Dagfinn—he’s too damn nice!’” Dagfinn Føllesdal: “The noema paper was presented at an Eastern Division meeting and I think that Ron’s report from this meeting is probably right, especially since he is able to remember so many details. I cannot recall Gurwitsch from that meeting. Bert knew him well and he brought us together. I remember that at these small meetings we discussed Gurwitsch’s interpretation of hyle. Gurwitsch argued that hyle can be re-identified from act to act, so that acts with different noemata can have the same hyle. I argued against his view, appealing both to passages from Husserl and to systematic considerations. However, given that Ron seems to have a much better memory than I have, I am sure that he is right in what he says about the APA meeting”.

  17. 17.

    These topics were discussed at an Eastern APA symposium in 1987 on “Husserl and Frege”, which Drummond attended, and which focused on competing conceptions of the noema.

  18. 18.

    Silverman later moved to SUNY Stony Brook and is well known today for his many contributions to Continental philosophy in America, having served for example in the leadership of the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy (SPEP) in the 1980s.

  19. 19.

    As noted in the opening, USC has a history with Husserl, including a correspondence between a graduate student (E. Parl Welch) and Husserl in the early 1930s, and a subsequent job offer (Spiegelberg 1973).

  20. 20.

    This approach is shared by Barry Smith, Kevin Mulligan, Walter Hopp and, according to Hopp, “probably the majority of the Göttingen and Munich phenomenologists”.

  21. 21.

    “Before going to Columbia I got an M.A., (1978) in philosophy at the New School, Graduate Faculty. This perhaps would have put me in the ‘New School’ or ‘East Coast’ lineage, except I was already reading Føllesdal and the work of David Smith, Ron McIntyre, Izchak Miller, and John Ladd. At the New School I studied Husserl with Mohanty and then, the next year, with Izchak Miller (Izchak’s time book). I moved to Columbia to work with Parsons because I could not get enough logic and foundations of math at the New School. Parsons was open to working on Husserl. He gave a seminar on Husserl’s Logical Investigations my first term at Columbia, which made me feel right at home. Parsons’s main teachers were all at Harvard: Quine, Dreben, and Wang. So I have a bit of a mixed lineage because I wanted to do phenomenology and logic/phil. of math. Incidentally, I later learned that Dagfinn and Charles were friends from their earlier years together at Harvard”.

  22. 22.

    Not all meetings were in Southern California in this period. Tieszen, Smith, McIntyre, and others continued to meet in the Bay Area periodically. Other notable collaborations also occurred in the Bay area. In the mid-1990s Christian Beyer spent time at Stanford, working with Føllesdal on phenomenology and philosophy of language. He later worked with Føllesdal at Oslo and is now professor in Göttingen, where Husserl had also been professor and where Føllesdal had first been introduced to Husserl’s ideas. His ideas are informed by his work with Føllesdal and communications with Smith and others. He has done work on Husserl in relation to Bolzano (Beyer 2013), Russell (Beyer 1998), Searle (Beyer 1997), and philosophy of language (Beyer 2000, 2001), and is author of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Husserl (Beyer 2015). Beyer (1997) is also notable for being perhaps the first to refer in print to passages where Husserl suggests a twin-Earth type of thought experiment, decades before Putnam had. In addition to Beyer, Føllesdal also notes: “Another philosopher who spent some time at Stanford working on Husserl is Denis Fisette, now Professor of Philosophy at Université du Québec à Montréal and founder and for many years editor of the journal Philosophiques”.

  23. 23.

    The APA symposium was held in 2003, chaired by David Woodruff Smith and titled, “The Role of Phenomenology in Philosophy of Mind”; Speakers were John Searle, Hubert Dreyfus, Ronald McIntyre, and Amie Thomasson.

  24. 24.

    A list of talks and abstracts is available here: http://philosophyfaculty.ucsd.edu/faculty/ctolley/cpc/abstracts.html.

  25. 25.

    Compare (Tolley forthcoming) for a treatment of Brentano and the early Husserl’s views on truth as developing in key ways out of the context of Kant and Bolzano’s analyses; and see (Tolley 2017) for an exploration of the continuity of Husserl’s later developments with post-Kantian developments in German Idealism.

  26. 26.

    In an email to Yoshimi he recalls: “My Ph.D. was awarded by UCSD in 2003 for my dissertation: ‘The Breakthrough to Phenomenology: Three Theories of Mental Content in the Brentano School.’ My doctoral advisor was Wayne Martin. So I suppose that puts me in ‘intellectual lineage’, through Wayne, to various people at Berkeley (where he got his degree), but also through you given those several years we worked out of the Inquiry Office together at UCSD [Hickerson and Yoshimi shared office space with the journal Inquiry when Martin was editor]! Another Berkeley influence on me was Iain Thomson, who was several years ahead of me in the program at UCSD. While at UCSD I took lots of seminars from Wayne and from Fred Olafson. I spent a significant amount of time up in Irvine attending events that included David Smith. As you might recall, we took many trips up I-5 to Irvine in the early ‘00s to attend various meetings of the CPC and its affiliated groups. My active membership in that group, as a graduate student, really stretched from about 2000–2005 (when I took the job up here in Oregon).”

  27. 27.

    There is, of course, other work on phenomenological philosophy and Continental philosophy in California, including (to take just one example), the long-running colloquium series at CSU Stanislaus.

  28. 28.

    Topics have included philosophy of art (Casebier 1991; Thomasson 1996, 2005), art history and criticism (Martin 2011); mind (Smith and Thomasson 2005; Thomasson 2005; Shim 2011; Kidd 2011; Livingston 2005, 2013; Walsh and Yoshimi 2018); philosophy of perception (Shim 2005); cognitive phenomenology (Pitt 2004; Siewert 2011; Bayne and Montague 2011); philosophy of logic (Tieszen 1992, 2005; Martin 2005, 2006); collective intentionality, empathy, and social and cultural objects (Mathiesen 2005; McIntyre 2012; Walsh 2014); epistemology (Kasmier 2003; Hopp 2007, 2008), psychology and cognitive science (McIntyre 1986; Ford and Smith 2006; Ford 2008; Yoshimi 2011, 2012), psychiatry (Martin and Hickerson 2011); psychoanalysis (Stolorow 2015), and historical-comparative studies of Rosseau (Westmoreland 2010), Kant (Hopkins 2013), German Idealism (Tolley 2017), Bolzano (Tolley 2012a, b), Brentano (Thomasson 2002; Hickerson 2007), Twardowski (Hickerson 2008), Derrida (Schwab 1986), and Schlick (Livingston 2002). Phenomenologists and continental philosophers besides Husserl have also been discussed at length, including Heidegger (Livingston 2003; Yoshimi 2009; Hickerson 2009; Thomson 2011; Wrathall 2010), Merleau-Ponty (Siewert 2005; Schear 2013), and Deleuze (Schwab 2000). Many of the publications just cited originate with CPC or SPAP events. A recent issue of Grazer Philosophische Studien—Volume 94, No. 3, 2017, “Special Issue: Themes from David Woodruff Smith”—includes articles arising from discussions in California phenomenology: (Livingston 2017) on presentation and possible-worlds ontology; (Yoshimi 2017) on the phenomenology of problem-solving; (Walsh 2017) on motivation; (Thomasson 2017) on essence, and (Tolley 2017) on categories and German idealism. Other articles in the volume pursue closely related themes: (Fiocco 2017) on acquaintance and Brentano; (Montague 2017) on awareness-of-awareness and Brentano; and (Simons 2017) on computer pointers and intentionality.

  29. 29.

    The data for this paper are based on first-person recollections by the authors, and email correspondence with past participants. The longest exchanges were with Dagfinn Føllesdal, Ron McIntyre, Allan Casebier, Richard Tieszen, Wayne Martin, and Robert Tragesser. Saraching Chao and Pamela Her provided helpful editorial support. We would also like to note the recent passing of Dallas Willard (2013), Jaakko Hintikka (2015), Bert Dreyfus (2017), and Rick Tieszen (2017), to whom this article is dedicated.

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Yoshimi, J., Tolley, C., Smith, D.W. (2019). California Phenomenology. In: Ferri, M.B. (eds) The Reception of Husserlian Phenomenology in North America. Contributions to Phenomenology, vol 100. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-99185-6_22

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