Conscious Phenomenology and the Possibility of Unconsciousness Studies

Social Sciences in China (Chinese Edition)

No.3, 2021


Conscious Phenomenology and the Possibility of Unconsciousness Studies



Ni Liangkang


Brentano’s distinction between inner consciousness and unconsciousness opened up two research directions in modern psychology, clarifying the problems of unconsciousness and the possibilities of unconsciousness theory in general. Husserl and Freud’s later research on consciousness and unconsciousness dealt with the two components of human mind separately. They can be categorized into manifested conscious phenomena (consciousness) and non-manifested conscious functions (unconsciousness). Before Husserl and Freud, Ebbinghaus’s research on the psychology of memory had begun to use a method of actively interrogating spirit and psychology to obtain knowledge about conscious functions, enabling research on unconsciousness to become a self-experiment rather than a speculative meta-psychological method. Overall, although Husserl and Freud did not have overlapping concerns, the boundaries of genetic phenomenology in Husserl’s later period are close to Freud’s meta-psychology. They respectively put forward the theory of the structure of consciousness and the genesis of the tripartite self, and each took a circuitous path to explaining unconsciousness by means of the interpretation of dreams and so on. The task of phenomenology/psychology remains focused on two aspects: first, studying the relationship between manifested conscious activities and non-manifested conscious functions; and second, clarifying the essence of the two conscious surfaces and the unconscious deep layers. The significance of research on consciousness and unconsciousness in the artificial intelligence era is that they determine whether artificial consciousness and even artificial minds will be possible in the future.