At Play in the Field of Possibles. An Essay on the Foundation of Self and Free-Fantasy Variational Method

ZANER, Richard M.


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At Play in the Field of Possibles. An Essay on the Foundation of Self and Free-Fantasy Variational Method


This study is a phenomenological inquiry into several relatively unexplored phenomena, including certain key methodological issues. It seeks to elicit and explicate the grounds of free-fantasy variation, which Husserl insists contains his “fundamental methodological insight” since it articulates “the fundamental form of all particular transcendental methods…” In the course of pursuing the full sense of this method and its grounds, the essay also uncovers the origins and eventual presence of “self” and explores the multiple connections among self, mental life, embodiment and the surrounding world. To that end, it is necessary to take seriously Husserl’s otherwise odd declaration that “‘feigning’ [‘Fiktion’] makes up the vital element of phenomenology as of every other eidetic science…”, and thus that every philosopher must “fertilize” his or her “fantasy” through works of art and history as well as other areas and practices of human life. The essay offers an in-depth probing of several striking but largely unexplored phenomena: exemplifying and possibilizing, and concludes with an exploration of one of the most pervasive themes in phenomenological inquiry: intersubjectivity.


Prof. Zaner returns to a number of themes that have been focal points throughout the body of his publications. If one thought however that, having read his past work, one could afford to skip this one since nothing new would be forthcoming in it, that person would be very mistaken. Topics discussed here include the structure and constitution of phenomenological method, as well as that of philosophy generally, along with free fantasy variation and eidetic intuition, the social world, the contextual and reflexive self, and an intriguing assessment of certain of Alfred Schutz’s claims regarding the nature of intersubjectivity. What is perhaps most noteworthy is how Zaner intertwines these topics and the remarkable argument he presents for the nature of their interconnectedness. The heart of the work is his analysis of free phantasy variation and, from that, his development of how human beings become aware of possibilities and the role that has in consciousness, from the most fundamental levels to that of ideation and conceptualization. That analysis is then put to work in furthering the understanding of the nature and emergence of self and the self’s social milieu. Zaner never fails to provide arresting examples and thought provoking new perspectives on whatever he writes about, as this volume attests. He constantly challenges the reader to adopt new conceptual perspectives and to reconceive old ones. / Ronald R. Cox (San Antonio College), author of Schutz’s Theory of Relevance:  a Phenomenological Critique (Phaenomenologica 77, Martinus Nijhoff, 1978)

At Play in the Field of Possibles is beautiful in its lucidity, representing the late style of Zaner’s extraordinary career in philosophy and bioethics. Zaner sets us straight about what makes phenomenology distinct and necessary, leading us from Husserl’s method of reduction to the often neglected but crucially valuable idea about free-fantasy variation or as Zaner calls it “possibilizing.” This book is at once technical and practical. It deserves to be read by social scientists and clinicians as well as philosophers, because Zaner shows us that phenomenology truly is a philosophy of everyday life. Anyone interested in how human consciousness makes sense of its world and the other people in that world will find this book to be an essential guide. / Arthur W. Frank (University of Calgary), author of The Wounded Storyteller and Letting Stories Breathe (University of Chicago Press, 2010).

Zaner’s rigorous analysis uncovers the presuppositions underlying various acts of consciousness that make thought possible through dealing with what might be otherwise, such as exemplification and feigning awareness. At Play in the Field of Possibles demonstrates how free-fantasy variation merits to stand, along with the phenomenological reduction and the epoché, as one of Husserl’s fundamental phenomenological concepts. Having been written over many decades this study of free-fantasy variation also provides the conceptual clue linking Zaner’s philosophical reflections with his self-reflexions in the context of medicine. / Hillel Braude (McGill University), author of “Between and Beyond…” (in: Clinical Ethics and the Necessity of Stories, Springer 2011)


ISBN: 978-606-8266-43-5 (paperback)
ISBN: 978-606-8266-44-2 (ebook)

Weight 0.3 kg
Dimensions 20 × 13 × 2 cm
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