Phenomenology, in its Husserlian inspiration, is an attempt to constitute a scientifically valid methodology for the human sciences through a radical inquiry into the basis of the meaningfulness of human existence. Phenomenology discovers these roots in the world constituting subject. As such, phenomenology is historically the most sustained and most successful challenge to positivism, the naïve belief in the reality and knowability of an independently existing world. The world today, academia as well as in society at large, is garbed in various forms of positivism, from the logicism of analytic philosophy to the historicism of the social sciences and humanities to the naturalism of the hard sciences. The positivist search for “objective knowledge” has lost touch with its own origins in the human, and in so doing has become profoundly inhumane. In its emphasis on transcendental subjectivity and intersubjectivity, i.e. the human, as the starting point of all philosophical investigation, the Phenomenology Roundtable stands as an intervention in this positivist landscape.
The Phenomenology Roundtable was founded at a meeting of the Radical Philosophy Assocation in November 2000, at Loyola University, Chicago. There, over coffee, several of us* gathered and discussed the lack of a space for doing phenomenology. We experienced the antagonistic and confrontational attitude of the dominant philosophical organizations; we bemoaned the lack of collegiality and constructivity in their meetings; and, most significantly, we noted the lack of a Husserlian starting point in most of the work of these groups. We decided we would form our own group aimed at a creative and supportive atmosphere in which we and other phenomenologists could discuss our work and interact with one another. In our meetings, we combine the most radical critique with the respect and support indicative of a true intersubjective community — two ideals that, we believe, entail one another; we remain committed to collaborative and highly engaged discussion; and we welcome and encourage participation by all those doing phenomenology, students and professors, academics and activists alike. In all of this, we recognize the importance of our work as part of the shared goal of human knowledge and liberation, which is, after all, the goal of phenomenology itself. We hope in this way to make a contribution to the continuing role of philosophy as essential to the future of human life.
*Carolyn Cusick, David Fryer, Erik Garrett, Lewis Gordon**, Michael Michau, Michael Monahan, and Marilyn Nissim-Sabat.
**The Phenomenology Roundtable would like to give recognition to the work of Lewis R. Gordon as one of its most important sources of inspiration. In his work, Gordon, a founding member and enthusiastic supporter of the Roundtable, has constituted, for the first time, a phenomenological critical race theory, which stands as a model for the kind of committed phenomenological liberatory theory that the Roundtable seeks to create.
Click here for the published mission statement.