2016 | 3 | 6-10
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Introduction. Human Nature Beyond Naturalism. Phenomenological, Anthropological and Psychoanalytical Perspectives

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Studies of the human being and the structure of human experience are nowa-days carried out mainly in the naturalistic paradigm. This concerns the empirical sciences as well as the cognitively oriented philosophy supported by the positiv-istic and linguistic pragmatic epistemologies. The human subject is treated here essentially as a particular natural fact, while nature itself is understood as a complexity of cause-determined phenomena which can be observed from out-side. Thereby, neurosciences play a leading role, significantly affecting the per-ception of ourselves and of the world around us. In their view, subjectivity is reduced to the ways of functioning of the brain. This is understood as a causally determined system directed to information processing. Despite such a determin-istic thesis, naturalism also assumes that the brain should be able to interact. Furthermore, it is considered able to generate random processes. These interrup-tions of the natural causal chain are labelled as autopoesis and are considered as an evolutionary factor. Thus, our shared world appears as a construct of the neuronal structure mi-raculously converting the matter into spirit. Modern medicine, contemporary neurological brain research as well as other neurosciences strive to identify the biological, chemical or physical conditions of the human organism and its cere-bral activities as that which determines our experience, either in the practical or theoretical, aesthetical or axiological realm. The present collection of essays consciously distances itself from these trends, maintaining that research conducted in the reductive-naturalistic ap-proach does not give the answer to the question about the meaning and sense of human activity as actions of personal subjects in the lifeworld. What is more, the authors emphasize that this kind of research neglects the immanent teleolo-gy of human subjects as persons motivated in their actions, therefore persons who are free and able to make free decisions. All the here presented articles refer, explicitly or implicitly, to the phenomenological tradition and emphasise the significance of the lifeworld as the intuitive fundament of every cognition. They seek to formulate a positive alternative to the interpretation of human na-ture comprehending it on the one hand as a bodily specified structure of experience, on the other hand as an intentional and therefore sense-performing devel-opmental structure. In this context it is mainly the classical (even if currently somewhat margin-alized) phenomenology of Edmund Husserl that shows its up-to-date face. After all, it is he who, in the footsteps of Wilhelm Dilthey, argued in the first half of the twentieth century that the naturalistic position was nothing else than a logi-cal consequence of a particular idealizing cognitive attitude formed in the mod-ern era and grounded in the development and expansion of the natural sciences. According to Husserl, this attitude is burdened with fateful assumptions regard-ing the concepts of nature and the laws governing it, first of all the assumption of the universal law of causality. However, human consciousness, even if we recognize its bodily determination, cannot be explained by reference to the facts of physical nature and the laws governing them. Husserl shows that the universal law of causality is no less but also no more than an effective hypothesis about the subjects of physics. By no means it is adequate for interpreting human nature, either in its individual and bodily di-mension, or in its social dimension. Husserl requires us to critically reflect on the assumptions which impose experience. His own reflection results among others in descriptions of alternative attitudes, especially of the so-called per-sonalistic attitude, which reveals experience to us before it becomes naturalisti-cally deformed. Within the personalistic attitude experience is not burdened with these assumptions. If we observe it exactly, if we let it speak, it turns out that even the oppositions of body and spirit, of interior and exterior, lose their legitimacy. Within the personalistic attitude experience is experience in the lifeworld, in our shared world, which is defined by affective and volitional ref-erence, by intersubjective and evaluative relations, in a world which is guided by understandable motivation, and not by blind but necessary causality. The body—the Trojan horse of naturalism—represents here not just a fact of nature, not only animated matter as an object in time and space defined by a succession of physiological processes. In the personalistic attitude corporeality signifies a dynamic sphere of subjectivity as the sphere which defines our here and now. However, at the same time it generates the original sense of experience. These issues are mentioned and further developed by the post-Husserlian phenome-nology in existential as well as in ethical or aesthetical reflection and by philo-sophical anthropology. In this way phenomenology reveals its closeness to psychology and, last but not least, to psychoanalytical thought. The authors of the presented collection deal with these threads and motives, both in terms of systematic as well as historical research. The cycle starts with systematic analyses of selected issues concerning human nature—like freedom, drives and memory, conflict or bodily perception—which cannot be adequately grasped from the naturalistic point of view. Consequently, discussed are some historical positions in philosophical anthropology (Max Scheler, Johann Gott-fried Herder, Arnold Gehlen, Gernot Böhme) as well as in aesthetics (Vasily Sesemann). These are considered bearers of a still unexhausted antinaturalistic potential with regard to the interpretation of human nature and its achievements. Dieter Lohmar deals with the topic of human freedom. The author discusses the different meanings of our daily claim that we are free in our actions and decisions on the grounds of phenomenology. He rejects deterministic theories in the naturalistic approach using Husserl’s argument that the subsumption of hu-man decisions under the causal paradigm is simply an unjustified extension of methodical idealization in the framework of naturalization. Then, he argues for Husserl’s understanding that humans are generally subjects under manifold effective influences but they are nevertheless free. In the end some aspects of our freedom are delineated. Mariannina Failla dedicates her contribution to the phenomenological conception of bodily perception (leibliche Wahrnehmung) as a possible therapeutic model for treating melancholic depression. Starting with a few key concepts of Freudian psychoanalysis (instinct (Trieb), memory, per-ception, narcissism and melancholia), she develops a comparison of the Freudi-an theory of melancholia and the studies of phenomenological psychopathology (Otto Binswanger). The article finally focuses on the question of the extent to which the structure of perception and its constitutive openness towards the fu-ture represent a theoretical model for therapeutic practices designed to treat melancholic depression. Jagna Brudzińska goes further on the path of connect-ing phenomenological research with the psychoanalytical approach, focusing on the issue of conflict as the crucial dimension of human nature and its developing dynamics. On this basis, it becomes clear that human nature cannot be explained through a strict causal schema. She stresses that conflict is not a mere additional and accidental characteristic of experience that can be somehow eliminated. Conflict rather affects the fundamental structure of personal experience and should be therefore understood as a constitutive moment of human nature. Thereby, her radical claim is that both self-experience and the development of community can only be understood in the light of motivational conflicts. The following cluster of essays examines some particular philosophical–anthropological positions which from our point of view still deserve deeper consideration. Stanisław Czerniak discusses Böhme’s approach, pointing out that Böhme’s philosophical anthropology emphasises the differences between the “historical models of man” and its author can be considered a follower of descriptive historicism, although his doctrinal ties to critical theory also make him open to normative positions. Böhme seeks the normative standards for his social critique in his axiological “sovereign man” project. Czerniak investigates this two types of philosophical narrative and concludes that there are categorial and argumentative inconsistencies at their meeting-point which could have prompted Böhme to partial withdrawal from the sovereign man idea in favour of another “reference to history,” though no longer in the descriptive but in the “relief” (Entlastung) mode. Here the German philosopher takes the same path as thinkers like Jürgen Habermas, who referred to the “relief” category in their critical polemic with supporters of eugenic genetic engineering. Rafał Michalski analyses Gehlen’s anthropological approach, which he confronts with Herder’s. His essay is an attempt to present Gehlen’s concept of language in the context of his self-expounded “elementary anthropology.” Emphasis is put on the role of language in the formation of motoric and sensory imagination, the crystalli-zation of human drives and, finally, the development of cognitive competencies. Michalski shows that Gehlen refers in his project directly to the thoughts of Herder. The related anthropological position of Helmuth Plessner is displayed by Alice Pugliese. She discusses criticism against naturalism based on the irre-ducibility of first-person-perspective facts. This critique considers naturalism as insufficient, since it proposes the view of reality as a centreless dimension. Against this view, she refers to Plessner’s notions of positionality and aspectivi-ty as characteristics of all natural forms of life, thus suggesting the possibility of a more encompassing critique to naturalism on the basis of the philosophical-anthropological research. From a psychological standpoint, Flávio Vieira Curvello explores Franz Brentano’s approach in the lectures Descriptive Psy-chology and how it leads to a new way of introducing and reframing his funda-mental psychological theses. Even though many problems of the Descriptive Psychology, as well as their solutions, are already to be found in the Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint, the argumentative turn is clear. And it contrib-utes to set the purely descriptive overtones of the latter aside and emphasizes the relevance of the development of descriptive psychology as an ontology of the soul. Finally, Saulius Geniusas takes into consideration the rather forgotten approach to aesthetics of the Lithuanian Vasily Sesemann, and shows its great potential for the modern debate, also by confronting it with the renowned posi-tion of Merleau-Ponty. He thus offers an account of the overall structures of perceptual acts and contends that the distinctive nature of aesthetic perception lies in the unique disposition of the aesthetic attitude. The last three essays shed light on the problem of the body as a crucial issue in the debate on naturalism and antinaturalism. With reference to the phenome-nological understanding of the living body, Andrzej Gniazdowski analyses the antinaturalistic theory of race developed by Ludwig Ferdinand Clauss. The critical conclusion of the article is that in spite of the claim to work out a clear, rigorous and “presuppositionless” theory of race, Ludwig Ferdinand Clauss’ race psychology remains a form of racism that contradicts the solidarity of mankind and the principles of tolerance. From the transcendental phenome-nological point of view, also Mansooreh Khalilizand underscores the question of the body and contrasts the naturalistic meaning of instincts with the transcen-dental phenomenological one. In her analysis she strives to explicate Husserl’s specific description of instinctive processes and the experienced teleology of instincts and to reconstruct the body- and nature-relatedness within the instinc-tual structures. Finally, Karel Novotný addresses the question of the subjective and embodied character of appearance, and shows that it can play its central role for human experience only by means of its connection with subjectivity of the body. Through its corporeality, experience is given immediately; it is self-given in a non-intentional way, in the immediate auto-affection of experience. This compilation certainly does not exhaust the question of human nature. We only hope to formulate some arguments for an adequate and differentiate understanding of the human and its experience as well as to contribute to further discussion.
  • Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, ul. Nowy Świat 72, 00-330 Warsaw, Poland
  • Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, ul. Nowy Świat 72, 00-330 Warsaw, Poland
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