Classical phenomenology is largely concerned with experience as such—or, in its existential variant, human experience as such. However, throughout the twentieth century, phenomenology has been taken up and applied to the study of particular kinds of human subjects. In the 1940s, Simone de Beauvoir applied phenomenology to the study of women’s experience—or, more specifically, the experience of women in mid-twentieth century patriarchal societies. And, in the 1950s, Frantz Fanon applied phenomenology to the study of black experience—specifically, the experience of black colonized subjects in the French Antilles, including his home island, Martinique. These thinkers were careful to specify their restricted domain of inquiry, clarifying that their phenomenological insights may apply only to the experience of some human beings. In this paper, I ask how phenomenology has been able to transition from a concern with a universal structure of experience to a concern with particular experiences. I argue that, while contemporary phenomenologists have designed new approaches to facilitate this transition, these approaches do not provide an adequate foundation for the study of at least some kinds of human subjects, including those in early stages of child development and those living with severe mental illness.
Post-Kantian European Philosophy Seminar Convenors: Dr Joseph Schear, Dr Manuel Dries, and Prof Mark Wrathall