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Chapter One1.0 INTRODUCTION1.1 Background of the Study

As a young philosophy student, I came face to face with an accident scene involving a bus driver and a passer-by. When the police inquired from them the true story of what happened, I was amazed to hear each party giving different versions of the story with each claiming ‘the truth’ depending on the interest at stake, that is one who assumes the culpability. I asked myself how will the police officer arrive at an objectively valid knowledge about the accident scene since each party claims true knowledge? Since the testimonies of both parties are relative, how will the police officer arrive at objective truth? The question of relativity of truth or situational truth has always posed epistemological problem with regards to the search for an objectively valid knowledge and the means of attaining it. The world in which we are is infected with the pursuit of a certain interest which circumscribes situation. For instance, a market woman’s interest is in selling her produce; this interest determines her situational truth. The same thing applies to an artist and a real estate agent who pursues their own interest. These multiplicities of interests create specific situations thus making objective knowledge almost impossible. This ‘life of interest’ is what constitutes our natural attitude. Relativism denies the possibility of grounding of human knowledge. In other words, it denies that there are essential truths about all domains of human experience. Proponents of relativism argue that there is no absolute truth or validity, but only relative subjective values according to difference in perception and consideration. However, we know that one of the major defects of relativism is that it is inherently contradictory and as such it does not give room for proper knowledge. Relativism can only lead to subjective validity which is the product of biased opinion.2 Therefore for one to enter the domain of philosophy and assume a philosophical point of view, one needs to shed off or relinquish the natural attitude. It is this natural attitude that blocks our way towards the attainment of objectively valid knowledge. To show how we can attain objective knowledge and what objective knowledge consists of, Descartes anticipates a transcendental turn. The turn to the subject, the ‘reduction’ to the ego cogito, is the principle of certainty. Descartes believes that knowledge is identical with absolute certainty. Accordingly, to provide a foundation for science implies nothing other than to extend the certainty of immediately evident first principles of all scientific principles and results.1 With Kant the problem of knowledge took a new interest. Its interest is not so much to establish certainty but make comprehensible how experience directed towards objects is possible at all. This new interest arises from the post – Cartesian question: “given that all we ever have are our subjective representations, how is it nonetheless possible to have an experience of something objective, something which is (experienced as) independent of these representations?”2 Kant responds to this question by arguing that the subjective manifolds of apprehension are able to take on the character of representing objects, existing apart from consciousness, only because these manifolds are subordinated by the subjective faculties of cognition of certain fixed rules or rules forms, thereby ordering the contents of these manifolds in objective space and time. For him, these rules constitute a priori conditions for the possibility of the experience of objects, and therefore for the being of objects themselves. With this, Kant establishes a foundation for knowledge that will serve to clarify the very nature and limits of knowledge.Husserl’s response to the post – Cartesian question saw him seek for an absolute, nonrelative, grounding of human knowledge. Husserl’s phenomenological epoché focuses on the inner perception as a source of absolute insight and absolutely reliable knowledge, and so as the most suitable foundation of other knowledge. The word Epoché (πoxη) is an ancient3 Greek term which when applied in philosophy describes the theoretical moment where all judgements about the existence of the external worlds, and consequently all action in the world are suspended. It subjects ones consciousness to immanent critique so that when such belief is recovered, it will have a former grounding in consciousness. Husserl employed this term in his phenomenology to indicate a process of suspension of biases, or bracketing in order to examine how the phenomenon presents itself in the world of the participant.3 In other words, it concerns itself with explaining a phenomenon in its own original giveness to consciousness. Husserl believes that the method of phenomenological epoché is a necessary step that must be taken in order to attain an objectively valid knowledge that will be the foundation or basis for other sciences.

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