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The bounds of naturalism: experimental constraints and phenomenological requiredness

Thematic issue of Philosophia Scientiæ 19/3 (to appear in November 2015)

Guest Editors:
Charles-Edouard Niveleau (Paris 1, Archives Husserl, Otto-Selz Institut, Universität Mannheim)
Alexandre Métraux (Otto-Selz Institute, University of Mannheim)

Submission deadline: October 1, 2014

Notification date: January 1, 2015

Final version due: May 1, 2015

There is a general acceptance that naturalism can be understood and defended in many ways. But it is also true that this state of fact mainly results from the slippery slope which leads philosophy to satisfy its own tendency for speculation. Being massively endorsed by scientists, naturalism seems to be now a mere conceptual issue - even though one of the most important for the contemporary philosophers of mind - whose significance on experimental investigations is none. However, what is really at stake in naturalism if such significance does not exist at all? Indeed, we are struck by scientists as Lotze, Fechner, Hering or Mach, among others, whose ontological hypothesis guided their own experimental works, thus demonstrating the existence of co-operative relationships between philosophy of mind and experimentation. To the contrary, in taking up a position from above the contemporary philosophy of mind develops ontology of mental states in a quite disconnected way, while the unilateralism of the mainstream of current scientific research in cognition tacitly enriches a naturalistic prejudice. Taken together, these two facts contribute to a contradictory situation compared with what happened during the 19th century when naturalism appeared to be the new Weltanschauung. At that time, we might be tempted to believe that natural sciences endorsed the mission that philosophy lacked to perform since a long time, so that defenders of a raw materialism predicted the next disappearance of philosophy itself. Nevertheless, it suffices to have a quick look to notice that many issues immediately appeared in this area of research, especially on the nature and bounds of naturalism. Every Naturforscher didn’t systematically agree each other on the scope of the experimental methodology, neither on the explanatory value of the inductive methods, nor on the exact criteria which is supposed to found its scientific nature. The discussions focused particularly in the area of the emerging scientific psychology on the following questions: can we properly conceive psychology as a natural science without contradicting oneself? Otherwise, can psychology claim to be a science? Theses controversies, dealing with the scientific nature of explanation, as well as the physicalist assumption, allowed the emergence of a descriptivist or phenomenological trend in natural sciences which appeared to be fruitful and influent in psychology. After a long silence, we have witnessed, over the last few years, a real comeback of this phenomenological approach which emerged on the ground of experimental psychology, psychophysics and neurosciences. We actually don’t refer to the trends which try to naturalize Husserl’s phenomenology but to this so-called phenomenological requiredness emerging from the ground of the scientific practice itself, from its constraints, rather than from the attempt to put two opposite paradigms in the same box. What we have in mind refers to this literature on perceptual organization: quantification of grouping principles, configural superiority, multistability, figure-ground segregation, microgenesis, formation, permanence and constancy of shapes and objects phenomena and so on.

In this volume, you are invited to submit a contribution which addresses (but is not limited to) one of the following questions:

  • How did phenomenology appear in the context of the foundational crisis of psychology during the second-half of the 19th century?

  • How did the descriptivist or phenomenological movement in psychology dominate the field in Germany from the 1890s to the 1930s and did it refer to a single understanding of phenomenology?

  • Do we have to introduce a first-person perspective to elucidate the phenomenology of experience or is it reducible to a third-person perspective?

  • Does psychology has to be physicalist in order to be scientific?

  • How can we conciliate quantitative and qualitative approaches in psychology?

  • How can we explain the rebirth of phenomenology in the current field of experimental psychology and psychophysics?

Contributions can adopt a strictly historical perspective in dealing with one or set of authors. As examples, we can mention: the school of Brentano, the school of Göttingen (G. E. Müller, D. Katz, E. Rubin, E. Jaensch), the school of Berlin (C. Stumpf, F. Schumann, H. Rupp, A. Gelb, E. von Hornsbostel…), the schools of Gestalt and Ganzheit (Berlin, Graz, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Padova…) the husserlian open-minded phenomenologists (P. F. Linke, H. Hoffmann, W. Schapp…), the school of Vienna (Bühler, Brunswik, Kardos), the school of Innsbrück (F. Hillebrand, I. Kohler), the school of Louvain (Michotte, Crabbé, Thinès) and so on.

Contributors can also focus on more epistemological and experimental aspects of the current literature in experimental psychology and psychophysics which try to elucidate the phenomenology of experience in integrating or rejecting the first-person perspective. We can report, for example, to the following list of scientists: F. Atteave, T. Oyama, J. Hochberg, J. Beck, I. Rock B. Gillam, E. Leeuwenberg, B. Julesz, J. Pomerantz, M. Kubovy, J. Koenderinck, V. Sarris, L. Spillmann, S. Palmer, P. van der Helm, R. van Lier, M. Peterson, J. Wagemans, S. Gepshtein, C. van Leuwen, R. Kimchi, B. Pinna, P. Kellman, M. Shiffrar, P. Tse, R. Hess, W. S. Geisler, D. Sagi, M. Herzog, and so on.

Submitted manuscripts should:

be written in English, German or French

contain an abstract of 10 to 20 lines in English and French

not exceed 50.000 characters (including spaces and footnotes)

be ready for blind reviewing to be sent to: niveleau.charles@gmail.com

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