Phenomenology, Ontology, Metaphysics (2018)

BPC 2018_flyer (higher quality)



friday, april 13 (@BC)

12:00 – 12:10  Opening remarks – Vicente Muñoz-Reja & Zach Joachim

12:10 – 1:30  David Woodruff-Smith (UC Irvine) – Where am “I”? The Phenomenology and Ontology of Self – Response  Andrea Staiti (Parma)

1:40 – 3:00  John Drummond (Fordham) – Phenomenology, Ontology, and Metaphysics – Response  Vicente Muñoz-Reja (Boston College)

3:00 – 3:30  Coffee break

3:30 – 4:50  Dermot Moran (Boston College) – Husserl and Heidegger on Phenomenology and Ontology: Similarities and Differences – Response  George Heffernan (Merrimack)

5:00 – 6:20  Steven Crowell (Rice) – Heidegger’s Phenomenological Metaphysics – Response  Gregory Fried (Suffolk)

6:20 – 8:20  Reception


saturday, april 14 (@BU)

9:00-10:20 Barry Smith (SUNY Buffalo) – The Ontology of Emotions – Response  Kuei-Chen Chen (Boston University)

10:30-11:50 Amie Thomasson (Dartmouth) – Phenomenology, Methodology and Metaphysics – Response  Juliet Floyd (Boston University)

11:50 – 1:30 Lunch break

1:30 – 2:50  Bettina Bergo (Montréal) – Levinas and the Limit Set on Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity Response  Jennifer McWeeny (WPI)

3:00 – 4:20  Deborah Goldgaber (LSU) – ‘Dark’ Phenomenology and Speculative Metaphysics Response  Sarah Horton (Boston College)

4:20 – 4:40  Coffee break

4:40 – 6:00  Leonard Lawlor (Penn State) – The Noumenon Closest to the Phenomenon: The Being of the Sensible in Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition – Response  John Bagby (Boston College)

If you plan to attend, please register above.


David Woodruff-Smith (UC Irvine)
Where am “I”? The Phenomenology and Ontology of Self

What am I? Where do we find “I”? As an object in the world? Or as a structural feature of consciousness? Or both? Distributed over the course of Ideas I and II is Husserl’s nuanced account of “the I”. While “I” have a “physical” body (Körper), animated (“beseelend”) as a “human being” (Mensch) with a “lived” or “living” body (Leib), and while “I” participate as a “person” (Person) in various communities (my family, my city, etc.), “I” experience the world in particular “acts” of consciousness. In such acts, “I” see or think or act volitionally, in various ways. When we focus on “the pure I”, in phenomenological reflection, we abstract that role of subject from the complex being that I am: with these different features or “moments”. The role of subject as “pure I” takes shape over the course of Ideas I, within the practice of epoché. “The pure I” emerges in the formal structure of the cogito, wherein:
< I think that Husserl was Moravian >,
< I see this circling raven >,
< I will to jump over this stream >.
Each act of consciousness is thus directed toward its intended object and by the same stroke from its intending subject “I”. And still, there remains a loose end in Husserl’s phenomenology. For the structure < I think/see/will X > appears in phenomenological reflection upon an act with that structure. But how exactly does “the I” appear phenomenally within the act itself, that is, prior to stepping back via epoché in reflection? Following what I call the “modal model” of (self-) consciousness, we may articulate the phenomenological or noematic content of a typical visual experience as follows:
< phenomenally in this very experience I now here see this circling raven >.
Within the structure of “inner awareness” we then find the “I” in the role of subject: a node in the structure of phenomenal intentional experience.

John Drummond (Fordham)
Phenomenology, Ontology, and Metaphysics

This talk shall reflect on four interconnected theses regarding the relations among phenomenology, ontology, and metaphysics that are motivated by Husserl’s phenomenology: (1) Phenomenology reinscribes ontology within phenomenology; (2) Husserl’s ontology is limited by his logic; (3) A fuller understanding of a phenomenological ontology requires that Husserl’s formal and regional ontologies be supplemented; and (4) Husserl’s own supplementation is found in his transcendental account of subjectivity, although in his late, ethical thought it takes an unjustified turn toward metaphysics.

Dermot Moran (Boston College)
Husserl and Heidegger on Phenomenology and Ontology: Similarities and Differences

Steven Crowell (Rice)
Heidegger’s Phenomenological Metaphysics

In this talk, I will consider Heidegger’s attempt to construct a phenomenological metaphysics between the years 1927-1934. I begin with some reflections on the relation between transcendental phenomenology and metaphysics in order to clarify Heidegger’s definition of metaphysics as “metontology” in contrast to then-current philosophical anthropology. Reflection on the concept of world, at issue in both, shows the stress fractures in Heidegger’s understanding of metaphysics. The chapter considers Heidegger’s Leibnizian way of negotiating these fractures, which provides the basis for his understanding of the Volk. This, I suggest, is the target toward which his attempt at a phenomenological metaphysics aims. The collapse of Heidegger’s intervention in German politics and the collapse of his metaphysical project are thus intimately related.

Barry Smith (SUNY Buffalo)
The Ontology of Emotions

The term ‘ontology’ is nowadays employed in the information-driven sciences to refer to a controlled structured vocabulary of terms used to describe the entities in a given domain of study. Ontologies of this sort are being successfully employed especially within the biomedical sciences, where they are used to annotate or tag experimental results deriving from multiple heterogeneous sources to enable searching, integration and analysis of data within a single  framework.

We will describe the Emotion Ontology, which has been developed to support interdisciplinary research into emotions and other affective phenomena in fields such as cognitive neuroscience, behavioral psychology, psychiatry, literary analysis, and artificial intelligence. Problems arise because each of these disciplines has its own separate terminology and systems of codes. The ontology provides a common language in which results gathered separately can be brought together into a single whole.

To be effective, the terms and relations in an ontology must be provided with logical definitions which enable reasoning with the data, and it is at this point that philosophical  issues play a role. We summarize the philosophical background of contemporary ontology research, pointing above all to the work of Husserl. We then outline how emotions are defined in the ontological framework, setting forth their relations to acts of appraisal, subjective feelings, emotional action tendencies, and physiological responses. We also sketch how ontology-tagged data is being used for purposes of what is called ‘sentiment mining’ for example in identifying subjects with high risk of suicide. We conclude with an application of the Emotion Ontology to aproblems in aesthetics relating to the pleasure people experience when watching horror films while undergoing the normally unpleasurable subjective feelings associated with fear.

Amie Thomasson (Dartmouth)
Phenomenology, Methodology and Metaphysics

What is ontology, and how did those in the phenomenological tradition differ from those in the recent analytic tradition in their understanding of ontology, and how to conduct it? In this talk, I will try to identify the different ways in which the phenomenological tradition and the analytic metaphysics tradition understood ‘ontology’. I will also try to show that those differences are not accidental, nor do they reflect a mere ‘verbal dispute’. Instead, they reflect deeper differences in their views about what the proper role and methods for philosophy are. I aim to show that, from a phenomenological perspective, questions about what exists can be answered ‘easily’, in ways that provide a healthy alternative to the quagmire the neo-Quinean approach has left us in. As a result, the phenomenological approach can help put certain ontological debates to rest, by making questions of existence ‘easy’ to answer, whether through trivial inferences (in the case of ideal abstracta) or (always tentatively, of course) by ordinary empirical means—seeing how our observations hang together. As a result, it can get us away from the obscurities, epistemological mysteries, and skepticism that the neo-Quinean approach to ontology has left us in, and provide a clearer and less problematic approach to questions of ontology.

Bettina Bergo (Montréal)
Levinas and the Limit Set on Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity

Deborah Goldgaber (LSU)
‘Dark’ Phenomenology and Speculative Metaphysics

An influential reading of Derrida’s critique of Husserl characterizes it, in Sellarsian terms, as contesting the myth of the given.  If this reading were right, we would not expect to find Derrida appealing to lived experience, phenomenological givenness, as evidence for his claims. Yet, Derrida’s positive arguments with respect to the pertinence of différance and trace to the category of lived experience depend upon the very phenomenological givenness he is supposed to be contesting.  We should therefore reject the Sellarsian interpretation, and explain how Derrida’s critique of Husserl’s doctrine of evidence still leave him with a phenomenological leg to stand on.

As I shall argue, Derrida offers a powerful immanent critique of Husserl’s identification of intentionality, transcendental experience and apodictic evidence.  According to Derrida, despite Husserl’s radical critique of traditional metaphysics, which ends by distinguishing thing from appearance, reality from perception, and object from meaning, Husserl resurrects its essential principle by identifying transcendental experience, the phenomenologically clarified notion of evidence, with present consciousness, (the correlation of subject and object in the now).  As a result, for Husserl, “lived experience” and “apodictic” evidence are interchangeable.  It is sufficient for experience/evidence to be lived through for it to be epistemically adequate (apodictic or given)—or, as Thomas Seebohm writes, reflecting on the how of its givenness will reveal the nature of what is in question (Seebohm, 1995).

Derrida’s strategy in his reading of Husserl is not to reject or eliminate the possibility of referring to givenness, but rather to drive a wedge between experience and evidence, between the apodicticity of evidence and the givenness of the phenomena. In Speech and Phenomena he does so by demonstrating that some aspects of phenomenological “experience” are un-intuitable, or—as David Roden has put it—“phenomenologically dark” (Roden, 2013).  Reflecting on the mode of givenness of such phenomenally dark elements reveals (almost) nothing about their underlying nature or structure but it does, arguably, provide apodictic evidence for the non-coincidence of subject and object in transcendental experience.

Contesting Husserl’s epistemological interpretation of phenomenological experience allows Derrida to do two things:  The first is to reactivate phenomenology’s founding questions related to the nature of evidence (in the broadest possible sense)–questions that Husserl decided, Derrida claims, in uncritical metaphysical terms–and the second (more positively) is to revise our understanding of transcendental evidence (“experience”) in terms of what he calls the trace, différance and spacing.  This revision, as intimated above, entails that transcendental evidence will no longer be correlated to consciousness or first-personal experience.

Leonard Lawlor (Penn State)
The Noumenon Closest to the Phenomenon: The Being of the Sensible in Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition

Here, I attempt to explain this phrase as we find it Difference and Repetition. The purpose of this explanation lies in trying to understand better Deleuze’s relation to phenomenology. The essay therefore examines Deleuze’s discussion of intensity in Chapter Five. This analysis of intensity leads up to Deleuze’s discussion of alterity at the end of Chapter Five. The other as an expression of a possible world is the noumenon closest to the phenomenon. In particular, the essay shows that the phenomenological idea of analogizing apperception of the other is, for Deleuze, a violation of the other. It treats the other as a developed quality instead of a disparate source of intensity. However, insofar as Deleuze claims that something about the other always remains hidden (the implicated), his description of the experience of others is consistent with the phenomenological insight that the experience of others is always mediated.



Boston College (BC) / McGuinn Hall, Room 521 / 140 Beacon Street, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
Boston University (BU) / School of Theology Building, Room 325 / 745 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215



Vicente Muñoz-Reja (
Zach Joachim (



Dictinio De Castillo-Elejabeytia Gómez