Naturalizing Phenomenology, Phenomenologizing Nature

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Ben Schewel


The purpose of this paper is to inquire into the idea of naturalizing phenomenology.  The question of naturalizing phenomenology is important for contemporary philosophy, cognitive science, and biology, as it seeks to mitigate the gaps separating nature from mind and life by using phenomenological reflection as an aid to understanding nature.  My aim in this paper is to ask what kind of nature phenomenology itself ultimately suggests us to live within.  I proceed by exhibiting the dialectical connections between a number of contemporary approaches to nature, illustrating and critically examining how phenomenology is explained and utilized within each approach.   In an initial deployment of titles, I name these approaches geometrical materialism, vague materialism, emergent materialism, vague emergentism, and emergent spiritualism.  My conclusion is that the approach of emergent spiritualism, which I find exemplified in the work of Alfred North Whitehead, Charles Sanders Peirce, and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, among others, is most adequate to phenomenology’s rejection of material foundations for conscious life.  For the emergent spiritualists likewise reject such material foundations for nature, offering instead accounts in which nature, life, and mind take shape as crystallizations of spiritual energy.

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Author Biography

Ben Schewel, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

Institute of Philosophy, Ph.D. Candidate