Affiliation: Budapest Business School
Title: “What is it like to be a jellyfish?” – Husserl on the origins of consciousness in the animal world
Abstract: In my presentation I would like to treat Husserl’s theory of the lowest level of animal consciousness, and his attempts to distinguish beings with and without consciousness. We can read relatively lot about higher level animals in Husserl – such as domestic animals, pets, etc. They are parts (so-subjects) of man’s home-world (cf. Ferencz-Flatz 2017), they are a kind of co-subjects (cf. Depraz 1995). But the farther we go from human beings, the lower we go on the steps of the ladder of biological complexity, the more difficult it is to attribute consciousness in a grounded way to living beings. The border between conscious and non-conscious beings became more and more blurry. Which living beings are conscious? Husserl had basically two answers to this question: 1) in some manuscripts he attributed a sort of consciousness to every living being whatsoever, 2) in other manuscripts and texts he attributed consciousness (or “consciousness in the strict sense” [cf. Husserl 1968: 103]) only to animals with a nervous system (“down to the level of a jellyfish [Qualle]”, Manuscript: B IV 6: 44). In this presentation I will keep in mind – first of all – the second answer, which seems to be also more compatible with contemporary natural scientific researches. So: I will rely – in the first place – on such texts, in which Husserl – in a way or another – attributes constitutive role to the nervous system in the emergence of consciousness – or, at least, “consciousness” in the proper sense of the word. The nervous system, according to Husserl, so to say “channels” the subject, the soul into the causal network of the nature, (cf. Husserl 1952: 138-139). It (the nervous system) contributes to the constitution of a full, concrete, bodily subject as being-in-the-world. But from a phenomenological point of view how can we avoid bare naturalism in speaking about the constitutive role of nervous system in the emergence of consciousness? The answer in brief: we are always speaking from the view-point of constitutional analysis; that is to say: all we have are phenomena and unities of meaning. In this presentation we will have a closer look at how Husserl tries to reconstruct the lowest levels of animal subjectivity, (such as the experience of a jellyfish; e.g. Husserl 1973: 112-119) and how he treats the problem of nervous system in the constitution of another, bodily subject, and trying to avoid naturalistic failures in these descriptions at the same time. In my view, Husserl’s analyses could contribute to contemporary scientific researches concerning the origins of consciousness. Literature: Depraz, Natalie (1995): “Qu’est ce que l'animalité transcendantale?”. In Alter 1995/3 : 81-114. Ferencz-Flatz, Christian (2017): “Humanizing the Animal, Animalizing the Human: Husserl on Pets”. In Human Studies 40: 217-232. Husserl, Edmund (1952): Ideen zur einer reinen Phänomenologie und phänomenologischen Philosophie. Zweites Buch: Phänomenologische Untersuchungen zur Konstitution. The Hague, Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff. Husserl, Edmund (1968): Phänomenologische Psychologie. Vorlesungen Sommersemester. 1925. The Hague, Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff. Husserl, Edmund (1973): Zur Phänomenologie der Intersubjektivität. Texte aus dem Nachlass. Zweiter Teil. 1921-28. The Hague, Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff.