Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-768ffcd9cc-mqrwx Total loading time: 0.447 Render date: 2022-12-03T12:04:46.534Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

6 - The phenomenological illusion

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

John R. Searle
University of California, Berkeley
Get access


I was asked to lecture at the Wittgenstein conference in Kirchberg in 2004 on the subject of phenomenology. This request surprised me somewhat because I am certainly not a scholar on the writings of phenomenological philosophers, nor have I done much work that I consider phenomenological in any strict sense. However, I was glad to accept the invitation because I have had some peculiar experiences with phenomenology. Also, it seemed worth discussing this issue at a Wittgenstein conference because the recent revival of interest in consciousness among analytic philosophers has lead to a renewed interest in phenomenological authors, since, of course, phenomenology is in large part concerned with consciousness.

I presented a lecture on the subject, the general thesis of which was that there is a type of idealism present in some of the leading phenomenologists, specifically later Husserl, Heidegger, and Merleau-Ponty. It is idealism of a specific kind that I tried to define semantically – somewhat different from the traditional idealism of Berkeley, which is defined metaphysically, but close enough in family resemblance to the traditional conceptions of idealism to merit the term. The definition I used was this: A view is idealist in this semantic sense if it does not allow for irreducibly de re references to objects. All references to objects are interpreted as being within the scope of some phenomenological operator, such as Dasein or transcendental consciousness.

Philosophy in a New Century
Selected Essays
, pp. 107 - 136
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2008

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Blattner, William D. (1999), Heidegger's Temporal Idealism (New York: Cambridge University Press).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Carman, Taylor (2003), Heidegger's Analytic (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chisholm, Roderick (ed.) (1960), Realism and the Background of Phenomenology (Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press).
Chisholm, Roderick and Sellars, W. (1958), “Chisholm–Sellers correspondence on intentionality,” in Feigl, Herbert, Scriven, Michael and, Maxwell, Grover (eds.), Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science: Concepts, Theories and the Mind-Body Problem (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press), 2: 521–539.Google Scholar
Dreyfus, Hubert L. (1991), Being-in-the-World: A Commentary on Heidegger's Being and Time, Division 1 (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press).Google Scholar
Dreyfus, Hubert L. (1993), “Heidegger's critique of the Husserl/Searle account of intentionality,” Social Research 60: 17–38.Google Scholar
Dreyfus, Hubert L. (1999), “The primacy of phenomenology over logical analysis,” Philosophical Topics 27, 2: 3–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dreyfus, Hubert L. (2001), “Phenomenological description versus rational reconstruction,” La Revue Internationale de Philosophie 55, 217: 181–196.Google Scholar
Dreyfus, Hubert L. and Wakefield, Jerome (1991), “Intentionality and the phenomenology of action,” in Lepore, Ernest and Robert, Gulick (eds.), Searle and his Critics (Cambridge, Mass.: Basil Blackwell).Google Scholar
Grice, H.P. (1989), “The Causal Theory of Perception,” reprinted in Grice, H.P., Studies in the Way of Words (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press), 224–247.Google Scholar
Heidegger, Martin (1962), Being and Time (New York: Harper and Row).Google Scholar
Heidegger, Martin (1982), The Basic Problems of Phenomenology (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press).Google Scholar
Husserl, Edmund (1960), Cartesian Meditations (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Husserl, Edmund (1970a), Logical Investigations, 2 vols. (New York: Humanities Press).Google Scholar
Husserl, Edmund (1970b), The Crisis of the European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology (Evanston: Northwestern University Press).Google Scholar
Kuhn, Thomas. (1962), The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).Google Scholar
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice (1962), Phenomenology of Perception (London: Routledge).Google Scholar
Milner, A.D. and Goodale, M.A. (1995), The Visual Brain in Action (Oxford: Oxford University Press).Google Scholar
Moran, Dermot (2000), Introduction to Phenomenology (London and New York: Routledge).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Penfield, Wilder (1975), The Mystery of the Mind: A Critical Study of Consciousness and the Human Brain (Princeton: Princeton University Press).Google Scholar
Polt, Richard (1999), Heidegger: An Introduction (Ithaca: Cornell University Press).Google Scholar
Russell, Bertrand (1905), “On Denoting,” Mind.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Searle, John R. (1983), Intentionality: An Essay in the Philosophy of Mind (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cited by

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats