The Phenomenological Fallacy and the Illusion of Immanence: Analytic Philosophy of Mind and Phenomenology Against Mental Reification

Simon Gusman

About author

Simon Gusman
Radboud Universiteit
Comeniuslaan 4
6525 HP Nijmegen
(024) 361 61 61
The Netherlands

Simon Gusman is a PhD candidate at the chair of Fundamental Philosophy, Faculty of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies, Radboud University Nijmegen.


Throughout the history of analytic philosophy the notion of the ‘phenomenological fallacy’ originally formulated by Place, has been used to criticize reification of the mental. Although this fallacy was originally not used to criticize the phenomenological tradition, it has popped up recently in debates between analytic philosophers and phenomenologists. However, a study of the history of both traditions reveals that a polemical notion similar, if not identical, to the phenomenological fallacy can be found within the phenomenological tradition, namely Sartre’s ‘illusion of immanence’. In this article, I will explicate these two polemical notions and place them in the context of their respective traditions. This will reveal that both notions must be understood as a criticism of a certain form of representationalism I will call ‘dual-world representationalism’. This deep-rooted similarity between the analytic philosophy of mind and phenomenology, in turn, sheds a new light on current discussions between the two traditions.

Full Text:



  1. P. Blosser, “The status of mental images in Sartre's theory of consciousness,” Southern Journal of Philosophy (24/2) 1986, pp. 163-172.
  2. M. Bobro, “Hume’s Image Problem,” Philosophy Now (83) 2011, p. 13–15.
  3. R.D. Cumming, Phenomenology and Deconstruction, Volume Two: Method and Imagination, University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1992.
  4. D. Føllesdal, “Husserl's Notion of Noema,” The Journal of Philosophy (66/20) 1969, p. 680–687.
  5. D. Føllesdal, “Brentano and Husserl on Intentional Objects and Perception,” Grazer Philosophische Studien (5) 1978, p. 83–94.
  6. S. Gallagher, D. Zahavi, The Phenomenological Mind: An Introduction to Philosophy of Mind and Cognitive Science, Routledge, London 2008.
  7. R. Hickerson, The History of Intentionality: Theories of Consciousness from Brentano to Husserl, Bloomsbury, London 2007.
  8. D. Hume, A Treatise on Human Nature, Oxford University Press, Oxford 1978.
  9. E. Husserl, “Intentional Objects”, trans. D. Willard [in:] Collected Works V: Early Writings in the Philosophy of Logic and Mathematics, Kluwer Academic Pu-blishers, Dordrecht 1994, p. 345–248.
  10. E. Husserl, Logical Investigations Vol. I, trans. J. N. Findlay, Routledge, London 2001.
  11. E. Husserl, Logical Investigations Vol. II, trans. J. N. Findlay, Routledge, London 2001.
  12. T. Metzinger, “The subjectivity of subjective experience: A representationalist analysis of the first-person perspective,” Neural correlates of consciousness: Emprical and conceptual questions, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA 2000, p. 285–306.
  13. T. Metzinger, Being no one: The self-model theory of subjectivity, MIT Press, Cambridge 2003.
  14. T. Metzinger, “Reply to Zahavi: The Value of Historical Scholarship,” Psyche (12/4) 2006, p. 1–4.
  15. T. Metzinger, The Ego Tunnel: The science of the soul and the myth of the self, Basic Books, New York 2009.
  16. U.T. Place, “The concept of heed,” British Journal of Psychology (45/4) 1954, p. 243–255.
  17. U.T. Place, “Is consciousness a brain process?,” British Journal of Psychology, (47/1) 1956, p. 44–50.
  18. P. Ricoeur, “Sartre and Ryle on Imagination”, trans. R. Bradley DeFord, [in:] The Philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre, P.A. Schilpp (ed.), Open Court Publishing, La Salle, IL 1981, p. 167–178.
  19. S. Rinofner-Kreidl, “Representationalism and Beyond: A Phenomenological Critique of Thomas Metzinger's Self-Model Theory,” Journal of Consciousness Studies (11/10–11) 2004, pp. 88-108.
  20. G. Ryle, The Concept of Mind, Routledge, London 2009.
  21. J.P. Sartre, L’imaginaire: psychologie phénoménologique de l’imagination, Gallimard, Paris 1940.
  22. J.P. Sartre, “Intentionality: A fundamental idea of Husserl's phenomenology,” trans. J.P. Fell, Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology (1/2) 1970, p. 4–5.
  23. J.P. Sartre, War Diaries: Notebooks from a Phoney War, November 1939-March 1940, trans. Q. Hoare, Verso, London 1984.
  24. J.P. Sartre, Being and Nothingness, trans. H. Barnes, Routledge, London 2003.
  25. J.P. Sartre, The Imaginary: A Phenomenological Psychology of the Imagination, trans. J. Webber, Routledge, London 2004.
  26. J.P. Sartre, The Transcendence of the Ego: A sketch for a phenomenological description, trans. A. Brown, Routledge, London 2004.
  27. J.P. Sartre, The Imagination, trans. K. Williford & D. Rudrauf, Routledge, London 2012.
  28. W. Seager and D. Bourget, “Representationalism about consciousness” [in:] The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness, S. Schneider and M. Velmans (eds.), Wiley, New York 2007, p. 261–276.
  29. R. Turner, “Sartre and Ryle on the Imagination,” South African Journal of Philosophy (April) 1968, p. 20–28.
  30. L. Wittgenstein, Last Writings on the Philosophy of Psychology, Volume II, trans. C.G. Luckhardt and M.A.E. Aue, Blackwell, Oxford 1993.
  31. L. Wittgenstein, Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology, Volume I, trans. G.E.M. Anscombe, Blackwell, Oxford 1998.
  32. D. Zahavi, “Being someone,” Psyche (11/5) 2005, p. 1–20.
  33. D. Zahavi, Self and Other: Exploring Subjectivity, Empathy, and Shame, Oxford University Press, Oxford 2014.


Article links:

Default URL:
English abstract URL:


All works are licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) License.