Modernism and Postmodernism

It is my firm belief that Husserl opened the door to the postmodern movement, although he himself did not step through. Husserl’s work, especially in Ideas I, provides descriptions and arguments that sustain both the groundedness of essential structures and the multiplicity and relativity of appearances.  On the one hand, the object of our perception is always given—and taken—as the same thing. On the other hand, though, Husserl’s very description of the noema gives us the radical philosophical insight that this object is also consistently and necessarily given in varying modes of givenness. Thus we have, in the same object, both a stable core and a necessarily fleeting nature. Likewise, the essential structures of consciousness—Husserl’s primary goal of investigation in Ideas I, the details of which, however, are laid out in his On the Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time—maintain a similar tension:  The forms of temporalizing consciousness, i.e., the living present with its primordial impression, retention, and protention, are essential structures of consciousness that remain ever constant. Meanwhile, however, the contents of conscious experience (which, in a way, are the conditions of possibility for these structures’ existence—although this could be debated, as Husserl himself made problematic claims in this regard), are by definition continually passing away. Consciousness itself, therefore, is necessarily both a stable force and a flowing away, a standing and streaming. These fundamental definitions for phenomenology, therefore, exhibit both the essentialism of modern philosophy and the relativism of postmodernism. And not only that, but they require that these two philosophical paradigms, which seem anathema to one another, work together to describe our existence phenomenologically.


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