Heath Williams / Speculations on the future of Empirical and Phenomenological Psychologies

blog foto“A presupposition of the empirical and philosophical ‘problem of other minds’ is what’s come to be termed the ‘unobservability thesis’—the thesis that the other’s mind is fundamentally unobservable. In contradiction to this, at times throughout Husserl’s corpus he seems to suggest that in Einfühlung (empathy) we can observe the other’s mind directly and immediately. In my work I’ve tried to unravel precisely what Husserl might have meant behind this rather enigmatic claim, and if it is justified. One can also wonder, if it is the case that we can actually and literally see the others mind reliably, what flow on effects does this have for psychological science?

In my presentation at the 2016 Centre for Subjectivity Research Summer School I made some speculative comments concerning the flow on effects of Husserl’s theory of empathy. I pointed out that the unobservability principle is a methodological presupposition of most strains of contemporary empirical psychology. Furthermore, a phenomenological psychology which presupposes the success of empathic understanding would look very different. This speculation tied into a general concern which was sometimes looming in the background, and sometimes in the foreground, of the summer school—namely, how will the current trend of cooperation between empirical naturalistic psychologies and phenomenological psychologies continue to develop? There seems to be a new impulse to reassess the mutual constraint and enlightenment approach, and I think this issue will continue to be increasingly important over the next few years.”

Heath Williams, University of Western Australia, Australia

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