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  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn

A Fidelity to Things

van den Bergian Phenomenology

In 1900, Husserl conceived of Transcendental or Pure Phenomenology, a way of researching in which Husserl sought to bracket out preconceptions in order to reveal the essence of things. Husserl’s maxim was “to the things themselves” (zu den sachen) (Slater, 2002, lecture). Phenomenology, at heart, is a fidelity to things, to the presence of things as they appear. But what exactly are things? Romanyshyn (1992, cassette) traces “thing” back etymologically, which refers to “the way the world is gathered”: “It is a gathering that holds together the tension of heaven/ earth, man/woman, and time/history.”

According to Romanyshyn (1992, cassette), phenomenology asks that we have a different relation to our knowledge, that we hold our knowledge playfully. “Phenomenology is an invitation to play with the things of the world, or better, to play the things of the world.” Artists know how to do this. Romanyshyn points out that our knowledge, the way we see things, colors our experience, and while it helps us to understand experience, it also gets in the way and conceals experience: “Everything that we know is always an allusion to a world that remains elusive.” Interestingly enough, allusion and elusive both are rooted in the Latin ludere, to play.

Phenomenology, in its faithfulness to the experience of things, is a love affair with the world, a bond first between experience and the things of the world where meaning comes later. In phenomenology we are asked to become spokespersons for what things need and want to say, to give voice to what otherwise would remain silent. Romanyshyn (1992, cassette) reminds us that phenomenology “understands the profundity of surface, the depth of the surface—in the appearances that shines through the depths.” The depth shines through and is not hidden behind the surface of things.


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