In Memory of Lester Embree (1938-2017)
After months of struggle with a spinal injury and complications, Lester Embree, Ph.D., passed away on January 19, 2017. He was Professor of Philosophy at Florida Atlantic University and received his Ph.D. from the New School for Social Research in 1972. He did his
postdoctoral work with Aron Gurwitsch and had taken classes with Dorion Cairns. He was instrumental in setting up the archives for the papers and files of, among others, Alfred Schutz, Aron Gurwitsch, and Dorion Cairns. He was a prolific scholar, having published 5 book-length investigations, 94 book chapters, 89 interpretive essays, 46 edited books, and 31 edited works of other authors. Many of his works have been published in several languages. He also gave 200 presentations in various conferences and academic settings. He served on the boards of 35 phenomenological societies and belonged to 20 philosophical societies. One of his great services was to foster the growth of phenomenological organizations worldwide, and he was frequently involved in the beginnings of such organizations, such as the Center for Advanced Research in Phenomenology, the Organization of Phenomenological Organizations, the Husserl Circle, the Círculo LatinoAmericano de Fenomenología, the Central and European Conference in Phenomenology, the Nordic Society for Phenomenology, Phenomenology for the East Asia Circle, Réseau Euro-Méditerranéen de phénoménologie pour le dialogue interculturel, the Society for Phenomenology and the Human Sciences, and the International Alfred Schutz Circle for Phenomenology and Interpretive Social Science. He was instrumental in establishing two book series, Contributions to Phenomenology (Springer Press) and the Series in Continental Thought (Ohio State University Press).
He was a great entrepreneur for phenomenology, always imagining and realizing new phenomenological projects and setting up new organizations. His service to phenomenology included encouraging the practice of phenomenological method, fostering multidisciplinary engagement, mentoring a generation of younger phenomenology scholars, and helping the tradition of phenomenology to flourish across cultures. In the many scholarly conferences he attended, he could be counted on to provide regular illuminating comments based on the views of authoritative phenomenologists, particularly those of the New School; to offer encouraging compliments and insightful criticisms; and to occasionally indulge in instances of corny humor. With Lester's death, phenomenology has lost one of its great animating spirits.
“The Symbolic Construction of Reality”
III. Conference of The International Alfred Schutz Circle for Phenomenology and Interpretive Social Science
Tokyo, May 6-8, 2016, Waseda University
The concept of “symbol” is without doubt in the core of the theoretical framework of the human sciences. In order to highlight the significance of symbols for the constitution of human life, Ernst Cassirer defined the human being as “animal symbolicum,” because he considered the concept of rationality as inadequate to describe human cultural forms and realities. Its relevance is beyond question and a great variety of differing notions of the symbol were developed by social behaviorists, pragmatists, cultural anthropologists, psychoanalysts, literary theorists, philosophers of life, semioticians and many more. Yet, it remains unclear how these theoretical positions are connected to each other and to what extent they can be combined with each other. Furthermore, a concise and systematic theoretical examination of the concept of symbol is rather underrepresented.
An utmost important symbol conception was developed by Alfred Schutz at the interface of phenomenology and the social sciences, which offers the particular potential to influence and enrich diverse disciplinary perspectives. He parts from the idea that symbols as elements of our life-world allow us to communicate everyday transcendent experiences. They allow us to mutually and collectively experience religious and aesthetic ideas, political ideologies, scientific thoughts, etc. They make it possible to share with othersthe variety of the multiple realities we live in. Furthermore and specifically important for the social sciences, the functioning of symbols is the basis for establishing constructed social entities such as society, community (the nation), social groups, or personal relationships such as love, friendship, etc. On the other hand, symbols are also struggled for as demonstrated by terrorism which focuses on targets with a strong symbolic relevance such as the World Trade Center. The strong impact of the Schutzian concept of symbol becomes recognizable in the modern sociology of knowledge (Berger/Luckmann), ethnomethodology, symbolic interactionism, social scientific hermeneutics, and as well in the reception theory of the literary sciences.
For its third conference The International Alfred Schutz Circle for Phenomenology and Interpretive Social Science calls for papers with a focus on “The Symbolic Construction of Reality.” Both empirical and theoretical papers will be acceptable. Different kinds of academic perspectives from the social sciences, philosophy, history, art theory, etc., are in the same way welcome as concrete analyses of symbolic forms. Inter- and transdisciplinary perspectives are also encouraged as well as critical approaches. Besides the general focus on “The Symbolic Construction of Reality,” there will be sessions in addition that are principally open to other topics within the Schutzian paradigm. Paper proposals are not necessarily bound to the main topic of the conference. Session proposals are also welcome.
Local Organizer: Hisashi Nasu, Waseda University (Tokyo)
Organizers / Executive Committee: Jochen Dreher (Chair), Michael D. Barber, Hermílio Santos, Andreas Göttlich