On the horror of phenomenology: Lovecraft and Husserl

On the horror of phenomenology: Lovecraft and Husserl



Philosophy Department


In a dismissive review of a recent anthology on Schelling, Andrew Bowie accuses two authors of a style he ‘increasingly’ thinks of as ‘continental science fiction’. There is room for further increase in Bowie’s thinking. With his implication that science fiction belongs to the juvenile or the unhinged, Bowie enforces a sad limitation on mental experiment. For nothing resembles science fiction more than philosophy does — unless it be science itself. From its dawning in ancient Greece, philosophy has been the asylum of strange notions: a cosmic justice fusing opposites into a restored whole; a series of emanations from fixed stars to the moon to the prophets; divine intervention in the movement of human hands and legs; trees and diamonds with infinite parallel attributes, only two of them known; insular monads sparkling like mirrors and attached to tiny bodies built from chains of other monads; and the eternal recurrence of every least event. While the dismal consensus that such speculation belongs to the past is bolstered by the poor imagination of some philosophers, it finds no support among working scientists, who grow increasingly wild in their visions. Even a cursory glance at the physics literature reveals a discipline bewitched by strange attractors, degenerate topologies, black holes filled with alternate worlds, holograms generating an illusory third dimension, and matter composed of vibrant ten-dimensional strings. Mathematics, unconstrained by empirical data, has long been still bolder in its gambles. Nor can it be said that science fiction is a marginal feature of literature itself. Long before the mighty crabs and squids of Lovecraft and the tribunals of Kafka, we had Shakespeare’s witches and ghosts, Mt. Purgatory in the Pacific, the Cyclops in the Mediterranean, and the Sphinx tormenting the north of Greece.

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Book Chapter

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Collapse IV: Philosophical Research and Development


Robin Mackay







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On the horror of phenomenology: Lovecraft and Husserl