Philosophical Currents

This work focuses on two dominant brands of philosophy.

The philosophies of experience, the subject, meaning, and consciousness – existentialism and phenomenology.


The work of existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-80) asks what it is to exist as a human being, how individuals experience their existence, how they make choices and deal with freedom and authenticity.

Any meaning in the world not prior or innate, it derives from existence. It’s a philosophy based on the subject.

Martin Heldegger (1889-1976) emphasized Being rather than existence…

I reject the usual distinction between a thinking subject and an objective, exterior world. We are beings-in-the-world.

Therefore, human beings inhabit life – we pick up things, ask things, discuss things.


Phenomenology is the investigation of the way that things – objects, images, ideas, emotions – appear or are present in our consciousness.

Phenomenology does this without reference to the status of objects outside our consciousness of them. It suspends the object “in itself”, and only looks at our experiencing of it.

Some versions of pure phenomenology, such as that of Edmund Husserl (1859-1938), seek the grounds of human knowledge.

We must exclude all assumptions and theories about the contents of consciousness in order to discover innate structures or forms of consciousness which constitute all possibilities of mental experience.

The phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty attempts to describe the perceptions of individuals as they experience space,colour and light.

Phenomenologists have no interest in explanations. They want the immediate experience!

Science and its Epistemology

Epistemology is the theory of knowledge. The discipline examines what is knowable, what should count as knowledge and whether knowledge is certain in fields including science.

Gaston Bachelard (1884-1962) and Alexandre Koyre (1892-1964), philosophers and historians of science, stressed the role of concept, system and structure rather than lived consciousness or consciousness reflected in the world.

We concern ourselves with the problem of how a scientific object, concept and theory was constituted.

Our questions: “What is the history of science? What role does error have in the search of truth?”

Truth as Activity

They considered science and knowledge not as objective or constant truths, but more as discontinuous “community” activities which constructed truth. While Bachelard stressed the problems of scientific practice, Koyre dismissed the idea that theories were objectively valid.

Even the most convincing “truths” are not automatically accepted by the scientific community.

Thomas Kuhn (b. 1922) stressed the petty malices and rivalries which partly constitute supposed scientific truth.

Their work threw the rationalist and objective claims of science into question, although they still sought to “explain” science according to its rules, structures or psychology.

The History of Experience

Foucault made the link. No longer would history be opposed to experience.

I wondered whether it would not be possible to consider the very historicity of forms of experience.

The history of experience brings together Foucault the historian and Foucault the philosopher. Philosophy was not an inquiry into itself, but an application of philosophy to the human sciences: linguistics, psychology, sociology.

How was it that knowledge and experience were incorporated into an apparently objective view of man as object? If we cannot take experience as a given truth, perhaps the questioning of scientific method can force us to ask: under which circumstances should we see any knowledge (of self and world) as tenable? What other factors apply?


An episteme is the “underground” gridor network which allows thought to organizeitself.Each historical period has its own episteme. It limits the totality of experience, knowledge and truth, an one period.

Foucault has re-jigged Thomas Kuhn’s idea of the paradigm.

A science becomes normal when scientists agree that thier work has identified and solved scientific problems. This agreed-upon achievement model, I call a paradigm of exemplar.

The problem with tis model, though, is to account for the way in which one scientific episteme shifted to another – or how they overlapped. It was never fully solved.

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