Phenomenology without Correlationism: Husserl's Hyletic Material
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The thrust of the argument presented in this paper is that phenomenological ontology survives the criticism of “correlationism” as advanced by speculative realism, a movement that has evolved in continental philosophy over the past decade. Correlationism is the position, allegedly occupied by phenomenology, that presupposes the ontological primacy of the human subject. Phenomenology survives this criticism not because the criticism misses its mark, but because phenomenology occupies a position that is broader than that of correlationism. With its critique of correlationism, speculative realism rightly identifies a battle that no longer needs to be fought: the battle against 19th century brands of mechanical realism. Free from the impatient and defensive posturing against the mechanization of the human, phenomenology is also free to explore the world beyond its emphasis on human experience. Doing so requires a return to Husserl’s discussion of hylé and the “twofold bed” of phenomenology. Phenomenology may emphasize hylé – that is, material; or it may emphasize nous – the world as it appears to or is transformed by consciousness. By returning to Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception, a case is made for hyletic phenomenology. Hyletic phenomenology allows for ontological reversibility and recognizes the “unhuman” elements in things. It is hyletic phenomenology that grounds phenomenological ontology after the critique of correlationism has been assessed.