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Subject to Error: Rethinking Husserl's Phenomenology of Misperception

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This paper is concerned with the implications of Husserl's phenomenological reformulation of the problem of error. Following Husserl, I argue that the phenomenon of error should not be understood as the accidental failure of a fully constituted cogito, but that it is itself constitutive of the cogito's formation. I thus show that the phenomenon of error plays a crucial role in our self-understanding as unified subjects of experience. In order to unpack this 'hermeneutical function' of error, I focus on three inter-related notions which are recurrently used by Husserl to refer to the central aspects of error apprehension: explosion (Explosion), replacement (Ersatz), and cancellation (Durchstreichung). My discussion, however, does not remain committed to the Husserlian framework as such. This is not only because Husserl's notion of explosion proves itself untenable, but because the Husserlian paradigm does not make room for a linguistic dimension intrinsic, in my view, to the realization of error. Hence, I proceed by reconstructing the Husserlian terms as tropes of realization, as narratological devices in the 'language game' of error. I argue that these hermeneutical devices are necessary for maintaining what Nietzsche would call the self's 'semblance of unity'. The assumption of one single subject is perhaps unnecessary; perhaps it is just as permissible to assume a multiplicity of subjects, whose interaction and struggle is the basis for our thought and our consciousness in general? (Nietzsche, The Will to Power #490)
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1999-03-01

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