© 2007 The Author
3/1 (2008): 30–50, 10.1111/j.1747-9991.2007.00113.xJournal Compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
What is Phenomenology?31
atmosphere’ that ‘inevitably’ attends the early days of a ‘movement’ on its wayto ‘becoming a doctrine or philosophical system’ (xxi). On the contrary, itis properly internal to its philosophical character, internal to its affirmationof philosophy as an ‘ever-renewed experiment in making its ownbeginning’ (xiv), internal to what Jacques Derrida calls its prolificopenness to ‘self-interruption’ (81).For this reason I see no advantage in attempting to configure thedevelopment that the emergence of phenomenology has broughtabout in contemporary philosophy in terms of a movement on its wayto becoming a doctrine. However, and for the same reason, I see noadvantage in attempting to limit something like ‘phenomenologyproper’ to the work from the European mainland standardly included inthe ‘phenomenological movement’ either. On the contrary, and thescope of the opening suggestion of central significance anticipates thispoint, we can and should make room for variations that greatly increaserather than decrease the diversity within this development. I amthinking here not only of the work of a ‘radical phenomenologist’ likeDerrida,
but also of some of the very best and most influential writingsin twentieth century analytic philosophy beyond the European mainland.Indeed, what one might call phenomenology at large patently includesfigures unarguably
to key philosophical developments in theEnglish-speaking world. Ludwig Wittgenstein,
J. L. Austin
are the three clearest cases here, but if we allow ourselves to lookbeyond thinkers who have explicitly taken phenomenology as a title for their own work and include thinkers with clear methodological affinitiesto those who reach for the title themselves, it is relatively easy toidentify other important Anglo-American contributors too: StanleyCavell, Cora Diamond, John McDowell, Hilary Putnam, David Wiggins,indeed most of the English-language inheritors of Wittgenstein areobvious candidates.
What we have in view here, then, is a widespread proliferation of initiatives which have found in phenomenology ‘the most convincingexpression of a philosopher’s claim on people’s attention’ (Williams 27).
I think we should conceive the significance of phenomenology as aphilosophical inheritance in terms of the ongoing elaboration of phenome-nology at large. This article will concern itself with the question of
what phenomenology is
in such a way as to warrant the fundamentally catholicview I want to embrace.The article has two parts. In the first part I will draw attention to twosalient features of phenomenological philosophy in general. The first isthat it is thinking for which questions concerning how one should, in our time, inherit the subject we call ‘philosophy’ has itself become aphilosophical issue. There is an abiding sense in phenomenologicalphilosophy that a distinctive and (let’s say) spiritually crucial dimension of the philosophical heritage has been lost or left behind by what one might call