The Normative Turn of Perceptual Intentionality and its Metaphysical Consequences

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Par Maxime Doyon – LIEN SUR ACADEMIA

Résumé: Since its first formulation in the 1980’s, the disjunctivist theory has slowly but steadily changed the way philosophers think about perception. Fundamentally, the disjunctivist view is a negative metaphysical thesis about the nature of perceptual experience: it is based on a refutation of the so-called ‘common kind claim’, that is to say, the claim – held by conjunctivists– that perceptions, illusions and hallucinations are conscious experiences of the same fundamental kind. Given the importance granted to perceptual experience in the phenomenological tradition, a few commentators have, in recent years, attempted to situate the phenomenological point of view vis-à-vis these two positions. While Romano (2012) and Bower (forthcoming) have argued that Husserl’s conception of illusions and hallucinations entails a form of conjunctive analysis, Smith (2008), Hopp (2011) and Overgaard (2018) attempted to show that Husserl’s theory of perception amounts to a kind of disjunctivism avant la lettre. In this paper, I side with Staiti (2015) and Zahavi (2017) and argue that the very opposition between conjunctivism and disjunctivism is hardly thinkable on Husserlian grounds. After brushing in very rough strokes Husserl’s normative theory of perception, I defend this claim with two arguments. The first – dubbed the metaphysical argument – targets one core metaphysical commitment of both conjunctivism and disjunctivism, namely their defense of metaphysical realism. In short, I argue that this commitment is incompatible with Husserl’s phenomenology, whether before or after the transcendental turn, for which reason I suggest that Husserl cannot reasonably be held to defend either position. The second argument – called the phenomenological argument – targets another presupposition shared by both parties, namely the idea that ‘perfect hallucinations’ are possible. I lay out a series of reasons as to why this idea should be resisted, and then explain how this impacts the discussion between disjunctivism and conjunctivism.

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