Sunday, August 22, 2010
Figure/Ground Communications interviews Andrew Feenberg.
I found your anecdote about Marcuse asking you to make a phenomenological reduction of a sunset very amusing. You write: “Phenomenology seemed to collapse in the face of Marcuse’s stunning koan, but sudden enlightenment did not follow. It could not possibly have occurred to me then that the rejection of a phenomenological reduction that late afternoon confirmed yet again Marcuse’s decision to abandon Heidegger’s mentorship in 1933. He had found another way to understand beauty and its promise of happiness.” Now, isn’t the phenomenological reduction a feature of transcendental phenomenology à la Husserl? I mean, wasn’t Marcuse’s critique the exact same critique Heidegger laid down on Husserl in order to “existentialize” his transcendental phenomenology, namely, that one can’t possibly reduce lived-through world experience? Is Heidegger “just” a phenomenologist in your view?

This is a very complicated question. Marcuse was probably criticizing me for my then-Husserlian bias against Heidegger. So perhaps he was indulging in a Heideggerian critique of his student Feenberg. I don’t actually know. He was also undoubtedly thinking about the aesthetic in the terms of his own theory. I do think Heidegger was a kind of phenomenologist, at least until the 1930s. This is clear from his courses and from Being and Time. But I don’t get the “just” a phenomenologist remark. There is a tendency to construct an idealist straw man out of Husserl in order to make Heidegger seem more original than he was. I don’t buy that.
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