Is Perception Essentially Perspectival?

Modality in Husserlian Phenomenology

In: History of Philosophy & Logical Analysis
Michael Wallner Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Humanities, University of Graz Graz Austria

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Husserl famously argues that it is essential to perception to present the perceived object in perspectives. Hence, there is no – and there cannot be – perception without perspectival givenness. Yet, it seems that there are counterexamples to this essentialist claim, for we seem to be able to imagine beings that do not perceive in perspectives. Recently, there have been some accounts in the literature that critically discuss those counterexamples and assess to what extent they succeed in challenging Husserl’s essentialist claim. In this paper I discuss three different answers to these counterexamples, all of them are found wanting. I offer a novel solution, taking into account some crucial findings of the contemporary debate about imagination and modality. I argue that this new solution is capable of fully vindicating Husserl’s essentialist claim. Finally, I reconstruct Husserl’s own way to treat such counterexamples, in order to showcase the notion of modality Husserlian phenomenology relies on. I argue for the hitherto widely underappreciated point that Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology cannot appeal to strictly absolute modality but that the kind of modality in Husserlian phenomenology is conditional on the facticity that we have the transcendental structure we do in fact have.

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