Aim of the Conference
The conference aims (1) to reconsider the question of naturalizing phenomenology, and (2) to focus on the ongoing exchange between contemporary phenomenology and the experimental sciences in the field of social cognition research. The event is intended primarily as a platform to discuss and comment on the keynote speeches, which are distributed with the Call for Papers.
Central Research Questions
(1) Husserl viewed phenomenology as a transcendental discipline that provides non-empirical access to consciousness as a field of study, and he was careful about distinguishing it from a naturalistic enterprise. Some current phenomenologists maintain a strong distinction between phenomenology as a transcendental study, and psychology or neuroscience as a natural science. From this point of view, to naturalize phenomenology seems to be absurd. Others in the phenomenological tradition, such as Merleau-Ponty, Sarte, and Gurwtisch, however integrated the natural sciences of consciousness and behavior into their philosophical considerations, and stressed a convergence of phenomenology and psychology and neuroscience as empirical sciences. Merleau-Ponty even spoke of the "truth of naturalism", and he claimed that "it would be necessary to define transcendental philosophy anew in such a way as to integrate with it the very phenomenon of the real".
Is a naturalized phenomenology a desideratum or a category mistake? What notion of phenomenology and what notion of naturalization do we have in mind when we talk about the naturalization of phenomenology? Can phenomenology engage in a fruitful exchange and collaboration with empirical science, without engaging in naturalistic reductionism? Is it possible to integrate phenomenological data, methods, and insights into natural scientific experiments in cognitive science, without denaturing the consciousness phenomenology studies?
(2) Nowadays, we can encounter a remarkable example of a convergence of phenomenological and empirical studies in the field of social cognition research. Current phenomenological approaches to intersubjectivity, which emphasize the importance of embodied and embedded interactions, seem to offer a consistent interpretation of recent discoveries in social neuroscience, developmental studies, and behavioral sciences. Some theorists even defend the idea that phenomenology "helps to bring the insights from these various sciences together into a coherent research program that is compelling by overall coherence and parsimony" (Gallagher).
What, if any, relevance might have phenomenological data and methods for the interdisciplinary debate on social cognition? To what extent are current approaches to intersubjectivity consistent with the available science on social cognition, and to what extent they can add explanatory power to the science?