It seems that Woolf is concerned with the perceptions of things, and not so much the things in themselves. Her views seem to coincide with phenomenological views, starting with Husserl, who attacks a popular psychologism of his time. Husserl does not think that logic can be reduced to mere psychology (which seems to be the attack that Woolf makes on Freud at the beginning of the novel); rather, the novel seems to be a phenomenological account meditating on experience and “meaning.”

Woolf seems to be concerned more with the way things appear and not in what things really are. This is seen throughout the novel as different characters contemplate “meaning”- especially the meaning of words, some examples are:
“Mrs. Ramsay did not quite catch the meaning, only the words” (12); “And to those words, what meaning attached” (24), and also pages 30, 38, 54,55, and about 11 other times (I didn’t keep a consistent count); Furthermore, this is seen in contemplating the table when no one is there to contemplate the table, and also in the way that Mrs. Ramsay’s art, as Lily realizes in the “Lighthouse” section of the book, is the ability to see the “…little daily miracles” (161) in everyday life.

It is this ability (as well as many others, such as Mrs. Ramsay’s contemplation on life and love, Lily’s reduction of Mrs. Ramsay to just that triangle, etc) that is the concern of Husserlian phenomenology. As we go along our everyday lives, we take for granted ‘the little miracles’ all around us. Husserl gives his method to seeing the world as it is given us, stating that all consciousness is consciousness of an object, and in order to see the object phenomenologically, “We put out of action the general positing which belongs to the essence of the natural attitude; we parenthesize everything which that positing encompasses with respect to being” (Husserl 1982, sec. 32). This bracketing is literally seen in the accounts of the Ramsay deaths. The idea, I believe, is to look at death phenomenologically. We are to bracket out any of our preconceived sentimental notions of death and contemplate them in and of themselves, alone.

This is the novel’s underlying concern– a bracketing away of preconceived notion in order to get to the object itself without any preconceived notions. The characters bracket out all of there thoughts on an object or experience of an emotions until it is left without meaning, which is why there are so many references in the novel to “what does it mean?” Mr. Ramsay in his work is concerned with this idea of subject and object, and for Husserl, there is always a perceiving subject. The novel itself is set up in a dialectic where the reader sees the subjective thoughts of the characters in part one, and then see the objective passing of time in part two, and then we get the synthesis of subject and object in part three.

Lily is seen struggling with these ideas as she is finishing her painting: “One wanted, she thought, dipping her brush deliberately, to be on the level with ordinary experience, to feel simply that’s a chair, that’s a table, and yet at the same time, It’s a miracle, it’s an ecstasy” (202). And, through phenomenology, the chair, simply, can be both, just a chair and a miracle.

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