Robinson 1 The Reconcilability of Phenomenology and Marxism The word reconcile is defined by the following quote “to make

two (apparently conflicting things) compatible or consistent with one another.”1 This quote is basically stating that to reconcile is to show that any two given objects that appear to have nothing in common are conformable with each other at some level. In the case of this essay the two things that are to be compared and contrasted to see if they are reconcilable are phenomenology and Marxism. One can see, based on an analysis and comparison of the two philosophical concepts, that the schools of thought of Marxism and phenomenology are reconcilable. In order to properly compare and contrast and by extension therefore properly determine whether or not the school of thought called Marxism and the school of thought called phenomenology are reconcilable, one must first define the two terms and explain the major aspects of them. Phenomenology is the study of how phenomena are perceived from a first person point of view (Smith, 2011, 2). The definition of the word phenomena is how things appear to us in our conscious experiences (Smith, 2011, 2). This discipline is a separate field of study from the other four major core fields of philosophy: epistemology, logic, ethics and ontology, as its focus is not reducible to that of the others (Smith, 2011, 23). This can be seen by examining the focus of each of the other fields. Ontology is the study of the nature of being (Smith, 2011, 24). Epistemology is the study of how we know what we know (Smith, 2011, 24). Logic is the study of how to reason. Ethics is the study of determining the morally correct way to act (Smith, 2011, 24).


Collins Essential English Dictionary, Third ed., s.v “reconcile”

In the case of recent philosophy of mind phenomena is defined as strictly being sensory data derived from seeing. 2010. memory. 2011. 2011. hearing. others. 3). 2-3). 2). the word phenomena is defined in much broader terms as being the experience of things that have meaning in our lives such as the self. The analysis of the intentional structure of consciousness has led to the subdivision of experiences into various categories (Smith. spatial awareness (notably in perception). 1). Regardless of exactly how the word phenomena is defined it is the goal of all phenomenologists to study the structure of the different types of experiences such as desire. 3). embodied action. smelling and tasting things (Smith. In the case of continental philosophy. 3). imagination . 2011. 3). and social activity.emotion. awareness of one's own . 2011. The thing that the intentionality of the experience is focused on is called the noema (Smith. tools. events and the flow of time (Smith. perception. 2011. 2). This is the perspective of the school of thought called the Analytic branch of contemporary philosophy (Smith. The types of experiences that are explored in the school of thought called phenomenology are listed in the quote: Thus. 2011. including linguistic activity (Smith. 2011. properties or states of affairs (Jacob. 9). This intentionality is what makes up the content or meaning of any of our given experiences and is a separate entity from the thing that it is directed towards (Smith. 2011.Robinson 2 There are two ways to define the scope of things that qualify as being phenomena (Smith. Intentionality is the directedness of mental acts towards things in the world. The structure of these types of experience usually involves what Husserl called “intentionality” (Smith. thought. 2011. touching. 2). attention (distinguishing focal and marginal or “horizonal” awareness). phenomenology develops a complex account of temporal awareness (within the stream of consciousness). volition to bodily awareness. objects.

4). These methods are seen in the quote: . awareness of other persons (in empathy. 4). (Smith. 6). bodily skills. purpose or intention in action (more or less explicit). 4). The continental branch of phenomenology focuses on the practical. self awareness (awareness-of-oneself). 3-4) Another area of study within the scope of the school of thought called phenomenology is the conditions that enable intentionality (Smith. 2011. in one sense). This grounding of intentionality in the brain is known as the neural substrate of experience (Smith.). social background. linguistic activity (involving meaning. embodiment.Robinson 3 experience (self-consciousness. 2011. The recent philosophy of mind branch focuses especially on how conscious experience and mental representation or intentionality are grounded in brain activity (Smith. 2011. and contextual aspects of intentional activities (Smith. etc. inter subjectivity. The analytic philosophical and continental philosophical branches of the school of thought called phenomenology differ in the types of enabling factors that they put emphasis on (Smith. communication. 2011. cultural context. These are the conditions that aid in giving an experience its intentionality (Smith.The list of things that count as enabling conditions are language and other social practices. understanding others). 4). the self in different roles (as thinking. collectivity). and everyday activity in our surrounding life-world (in a particular culture). It is important to note that the methodology that all of the practitioners of the phenomenological school of thought have in common are three methods that were established by the classical phenomenological school of thought (Smith. subjective. 2011. 2011. and social conditions of experience (Smith. 2011. 2011. 4). embodied action (including kinesthetic awareness of one's movement). 4). 4). 2011. acting. social interaction (including collective action).

2011. This is known as the logico-semantic model of phenomenology (Smith. The art of correctly interpreting anything based on its context is known as Hermeneutics (Gjesdal. 2011. Ramberg. 6). (3) We analyze the form of a type of experience. 4) The first method that is stated by this quote is the description of a given class of experiences just as it would be found in our past experience. The third method that is mentioned in the quote is the examination of the species of a given class of experience. especially social and linguistic context. 6). 6). In this vein. (2) We interpret a type of experience by relating it to relevant features of context. it focuses on the practical. social and subjective aspects of intentionality. 1). Husserl and Merleau-Ponty spoke of pure description of lived experience. The experimental paradigm of neuroscience is the other method that can be added to the classical methods (Smith. Thus. This is logically a manifestation of the Continental branch of phenomenology as. 6). (Smith. This method can logically be seen as being derived from the recent . 6). Heidegger and his followers spoke of hermeneutics. This method is the use of experimentation on the brain to support or debunk assumptions of the brain (Smith.Robinson 4 (1) We describe a type of experience just as we find it in our own (past) experience. 2011. 2011. like the preceding cases of continental phenomenology. One example of an additional method is the specification of the truth conditions of a type of thinking or the conditions that are necessary for the satisfaction of a type of intention (Smith. 2009. 2011. There are additional methods that have been used to ramify those of the classical phenomenological school of thought (Smith. The second method that is stated by this quote is the interpretation of a type of experience on the basis of its context. the art of interpretation in context. 2011.

2007. Marxism. 1). named after its founder Karl Marx. The Marxist school of thought predicts that capitalism will eventually be replaced with communism (Wolff. This is the primary definition it had when the word was first used in the 1880s but by 1895 had expanded to the point of being called a world view by Georgii Plekhanov (Walker. and wage labor and competitive markets (Walker. is the revolutionary. Marx defines capitalism as being the ownership of capital or the means of production by private individuals. 2007. an end to alienation and exploitation. like the preceding cases of analytic phenomenology. an end to the division of labor. Phenomenalism is the idea that the material world is composed of minds and their ideas and no object exists outside of a mind perceiving of them (BonJour. but at no point did Marx describe in detail what the future communist society would look like. the word communism was used by Marx from the 1844 Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts right through to Capital III. 2007. it is possible to discern a number of features: common ownership of the means of production. post-revolutionary society. . There is no clearly established definition of the word communism but the basic definition of the term is described in the quote: In terms of a future. from various scattered comments. class-based. the creation and sale of services or goods for profit. Gray. Nevertheless.Robinson 5 philosophy of mind branch of phenomenology as. 212). 212). Gray. Gray. 1). it focuses on a scientific approach to intentionality. It is important to note that phenomenology shouldn’t be confused with phenomenalism. 2011. This essay will only be exploring the basic aspects of Marxist theory. anticapitalist economic theory that is based on a materialist perception of history (Walker. 45). 2011.

1991. 155). Gray. The assumption that capitalism will be replaced by communism is based on the claim by Marx that the system of capitalism is exploitative and therefore unsustainable (Baradat. This is the case according to him as the wealth being generated from the production of goods and services by the proletariat (working class) was being concentrated in the hands of the bourgeoisie (dominant capitalist class) instead of being distributed evenly. Gray 2007. moneyless and stateless socialist society that is built upon the means of production being held by a common ownership. no scarcity. The logical foundation of the theory of economic determinism is the philosophical school of thought called materialism (Walker. This quote is basically defining communism as being the political. classless. 212). 214). 155). 149). 1991. 1991. no state. 155).This is the view that the primary motivating factor of human behavior is their economic conditions (Baradat. The Marxist school of thought is grounded in a deterministic perspective of the nature of human beings (Walker. and transformed human beings able to achieve true self-realization.Robinson 6 no classes. Gray 2007. social and economic ideology that proposes the establishment of a revolutionary. Determinism is the philosophical claim that everything that happens is determined by natural laws and antecedent conditions (Vihvelin. 149) . transformed conditions of production. 2007. 2011. 154). 1991. 1). thus depriving the proletariat of the value of his labor (Baradat. (Walker. The type of deterministic perspective that Marxism is grounded in is known as economic determinism (Baradat. .This theoretically should cause the proletariat to eventually rise up and overthrow the bourgeoisie in favor of establishing communism (Baradat. 1991.

214). 11). Gray. 153). the thesis. There are two forms of materialism that underpin the Marxist philosophy: dialectical materialism and historical materialism (Walker. 1991. Petrus. 235). 153). Dialectic materialism is the combination of philosophical materialism with Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s view of the dialectic process. 1991. The dialectic approach (or the dialectic. According to this theory the resulting thesis that will arise from this conflict will be a synthesis of the good aspects of the old thesis and the antithesis (Baradat. . every aspect of reality is interconnected and that every aspect of reality contains and is advanced by internal contradictions (Walker. Petrus. Materialism is a branch of monism (Bächli. 1991. 2003. 1991. the dialectic philosophy or dialectics) is the philosophical position that characterizes reality as being composed of three features: change. 2007. Gray. 214). Monism is the school of thought that states that everything in reality is composed of one substance whether physical or spiritual (Bächli. and the new idea that challenges it.Robinson 7 The most important central philosophical basis of Marxism is materialism (Walker. the dialectic approach as a means of achieving historical human progress via struggle (Baradat. 2007. 235). Gray 2007. This process is the conflict between the present state of affairs. 2003. The dialectic process is the way in which the dialectic approach is theorized to be advancing the course of historical progress (Baradat. This therefore means that only natural laws exist. 2003. connection and contradiction (Walker. Materialism is the theory that the world is composed entirely of matter and therefore that no spiritual realm exists (Bächli. Petrus. This means that reality is always in a state of fluctuation. 2007. Gray. 152). 154). the antithesis (Baradat. 87). 87).

153). properties or states of affairs). The first premise of the first argument premise is that intentionality. that will finally culminate in the overthrow of capitalism in favor of communism (Baradat. each characterized by a distinct mode of production. 1994. 1994. This argument can be refuted by arguing that Marxism and phenomenology are reconcilable despite the obvious differences between the two fields of study as the Marxist theory is underpinned by a phenomenological theory. is the directedness of mental acts towards noema (things in the world. This school of thought is the basis of historical materialism (Baradat. 1991. 2007. The second premise is that economic determinism can be defined as the mental states of human .Robinson 8 The materialistic aspect of this ideology is that the dialectic process is that of a conflict of worldly interests (Baradat. 1991. This claim is based on three arguments. Gray. 3). This theory of history led Marx to see the historical process of the evolution of society as necessarily proceeding through a series of historical eras. This theory is economic determinism. 154). The school of thought of Marxism on the other hand focuses on human social relations (Donals. Historical materialism is the theory of human history that states that social change is based on the development of productive activity and the mechanism by which this change occurs is that of a dialectic materialistic struggle between opposing social classes (Walker. 154). It is possible to argue that Marxism and phenomenology are irreconcilable as phenomenology and Marxism have nothing in common. as said earlier. 3). 1991. This is allegedly due to the fact that the two schools of thought do not have the same focus. 136). In the case of the school of thought of phenomenology the focus is on the construction and nature of human consciousness (Donals.

The first premise of the second argument is that the study of intentionality is a field of phenomenological study. that the school of thought called Marxism and the philosophical school of thought called phenomenology are reconcilable schools of thought. The second premise of the second argument is that economic determinism is a theory of intentionality. based on a logical analysis of the evidence that has been presented in this essay. The second premise of the third argument is that economic determinism is a phenomenological theory. The conclusion therefore is that the foundation of the Marxist school of thought is phenomenological in nature. In conclusion one can see. The conclusion therefore is that economic determinism is a theory of intentionality.Robinson 9 beings as being predetermined to be primarily directed on their economic state of affairs. The conclusion therefore is that economic determinism is a phenomenological theory. The first premise of the third argument is that economic determinism is the foundational assumption of the Marxist school of thought. .