This object, though, sets in human consciousness in many divergent ways -- perception, memory, retention, etc. Depending on the manner in which the idea is intentional, the object may be identical but interpreted different and thus a divergent sense of reality for individuals. Opposite of Descartes and Kant, there is no one finite way of describing this object and it is entirely dependent upon the method of reduction and interpretation in which we find meaning. When we reference a thing, this object, then, we are closer to representing a Platonian version of forms or ideas in that thing -- the thing's essence or idea. Some say that when we describe an identical thing as what we really "see" or measure, it does not mean that this is the entirety of the thing. The ultimate goal of phenomenology, then, is to understand how these different aspects are merged into the actual object perceived and/or experienced by the individual (Moran and Embree, eds., 2004).
Essentially, this is Husserl's epoche' (bracketing) of ideas. By its very nature, the examples given above are from a first person point-of-view. We cannot, as humans, describe from any other point-of-view, but can learn and interpret other views. The limitation, though, of the first-person point-of-view means that our own act of perception enters into the nature of the definition of the idea or object. It is possible the object is not real, it is possible we hallucinate or imagine, and it is equally possible that our interpretation is flawed. For that reason, a phenomenological description must be bracketed. For Husserl, this means that the phenomenological description of any given act or content must not rely upon the truth of any existence assumption concerning that idea or object. The epoche' asks us to reformat our thinking and focus on those aspects of our intentional acts that are not dependent upon the existence of a represented form or object (Zahavi, 2008).
This is quite important because it forms the basis of the study of phenomenology in that how and why (even where and when) we experience things has a great deal to do with our interpretation of those things. Our cognitive selves, then, experience, but how we know the validity of sensory things, of the hierarchy of knowledge, morality, meaning, and experience all juxtaposes together to try to make sense of the significant of objects, events, the flow of time, ourselves, our relations with others and the universe, and what constitutes reality (Phenomenology, 2008).
Martin Heidegger, in his exploration of being, claims that Western philosophy has misunderstood the concept of being by focusing too much on substance rather than understanding that being is about overcoming negativity -- of relating to modernity and culture by moving through despair in the direction of happiness, the process of living (really interpreting the universe) is not static, but has multiple meanings. Freedom, for instance, as a concept can be a noun, a verb, an expression of being, an ideal, or a notion -- all depending on the relationship between the individual and the concept (McGrath, 2008).
For Heidegger, the concept of phenomenology centers around the notion that in the course of thousands of years of history, philosophical thought as focused on all the ways "being" exists, but forgot to ask what "being" actually is for the individual. What is in that unifies humanity, to itself and to the universe? and, based on the ideations of Husserl arguing that philosophy could and should be a description of experience, to Heidegger this mean understanding that experience is always already there in the world -- situated in the universe as a way of being. Husserl's view of consciousness as intentional, in that there remains always that seminal intention towards something and about something becomes slightly different for Heidegger in that it is the thought that is the intention and grounded in purpose rather than the act of cognition. Thus, to describe experience properly, Heidegger says we must find the individual for whom the description matters, and only then can it be true (Heidegger, 2008).
There are a number of sub-disciplines of modern phenomenology; however, looking at the method and interpretation of cognition, the individual, and the individual's interpretation of the universe is a template that more aptly describes phenomenology. Phenomenology offers us a way to describe mental phenomena in a way different than neuroscience or biology, in which the focus is more on what causes or gives rise to the mental or cognitive side of humans. The idea of phenomenology, however, takes these notions from the Ancients to the 21st century and seeks to format a theory about the mind and how we observe and reason. Since we have intentionality in our thought, then the heart of meaning and our interaction with what that meaning becomes, remains central to phenomenology.
Phenomenology. (2008). The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford University. Retrieved from: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/phenomenology/
Annas, J. (2003). Plato: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press.
Audi, R., ed. (1999). The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Cooper, C. (January 12, 2008). Remarks on Simone Weil's Mysticism. Retrieved from:
Zahavi, D. (2008). Husserl's Phenomenology. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Forward, the terms stoic rationalism and rationalism will be interchangeable, at least for this argument. While some my take the concept of Stoicism to be more empirical, the idea of empiricism using the epistemological priority to sense-perception as opposed to rationalism giving priority to reason and logic places rational thought more squarely within the stoic camp -- as a natural and "logical" inner definition. See, for example R. Todd, "The Stoic Common Notions: A Re-examination and Reinterpretation," Symbolae Osloenses. 48 (1973): 47-75 and D. Sedley, "The Stoic Theory of Universals," Southern Journal of…