Is Phenomenology Philosophically Unproductive?


Recently, AskPhilosophers received the following question:

Why is so little phenomenology taught and researched in North American philosophy departments? Because it studies the essence of consciousness is it too continental for your analytic minds? Why must philosophy be categorized so strictly?

Jonathan Westphal (Hampshire College) responded:

I think the answer may be that phenomenology has produced so disappointingly little. In a non-philosophical sense phenomenology is defined as the preliminary classification of phenomena in an enquiry. So one might for example regard it as a piece of phenomenology in this non-philosophical sense to say that a white surface seen through a light blue filter looks stone-cold white, and not blue at all, as per the philosophical folklore. The question the analytic philosophers ask themselves, I suspect, or at least this one does, is whether there is something as solid and productive that can be gleaned from phenomenology in the philosophical sense, in addition to its methodological meanderings.

My sense is that phenomenology is enjoying a bit of a resurgence as the professional significance of the Analytic-Continental distinction  continues to erode. I also wonder what “productiveness” is supposed to mean in this context (such that the explanation couldn’t be run in reverse). But I would be glad to hear from others more knowledgeable than I am on these matters.

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