Friday, 30 October 2009

Fred's Trip to Leuven

Husserlian Phenomenology Conference, 2009

In April 2009 I travelled to Leuven, Belgium for the annual Phenomenology conference at the Husserl Archives (part of the Catholic University of Leuven). The event is a opportunity for people to go and listen to world class academics give lectures on Edmund Husserl and his particular philosophy of Phenomenology.
Following an introduction on Husserl and his continuing influence, the renowned lecturer Robert Sokolowski gave a lecture entitled ‘Husserl on First Philosophy.’ Sokolowski stood, rather pertinently, in front of a large portrait of Thomas Acquinas in a room covered in Catholic imagery. One could see (and due to the University’s Catholic status, understand) the religious emphasis placed on Husserl’s writings from the start. The lecture was thoroughly interesting, if a little difficult to follow in parts; I would discover that most of the lectures would be equally interesting and yet very challenging. After attending lectures entitled ‘Method or Metaphysics, the Transcendental project’ and ‘Self Responsibility and Eudaimonia’ I realised that I was the only undergraduate in attendance. The rest were all professors or at least post grad students. I now understood why I had so much difficulty following the lectures. They simply were not designed for anyone with a lesser experience in Husserl than Phd level. This was very intimidating and I attended no more lectures.
I would, however, that the content that I was able to follow was very interesting and enlightening. I was introduced to themes involved in Husserl’s works that one simply cannot cover in short, undergraduate lectures and they certainly served to improve my understanding of one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century. The moral and aesthetic implications of Husserl’s works are often overlooked in favour of epistemology and, arguably, metaphysics (though I believe that Husserl took a negative, Kantian
view of ontology).
I would, due to the nature of the audience, not recommend a trip to the next conference for anyone who is not incredibly interested in Husserl and with a level of understanding to match. Though I would sincerely recommend the beautiful city of Leuven and its awe inspiring university library (it has over 3,000 titles on philosophy alone).
Fred Aspbury

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