Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Another Day, Another Plurality

Patočka's phenomenology of the lifeworld is among the richest I've encountered, though in the present volume he doesn't use that specific term. In these passages Patočka draws heavily from Merleau-Ponty, obviously. The problem itself is of course first outlined by Husserl. I'm especially taken with Patočka's approach to plurality, which recalls my previous reading of Arendt's The Human Condition, esp. vis-a-vis de Laguna's idea of an existential analysis of the natural world. His understanding of plurality somehow seems more factual than Arendt's–though that may simply be becuase his work is closer to me at the moment. Anyway, here are a couple of paragraphs on the lifeworld:

An animal lives in an unceasing immediately relevant relation to its context, in the present, related to something that interests it immediately, affecting it. Humans, by the attitudes they assume, are constantly placing themselves into situations other than the directly present ones, into the past, into the future, with all their quasi-structures–quasi-present, quasi-past, etc. (remembering going into the horizon of the past where a course of life that once had been present is repeated in tokens; we move in the past as if it were present, hence quasi-present), going into imaginary worlds, into the world of reading, of thought sequences, of tasks not met, of duties that place us into a special space which is and yet is not. At the same time we must be always actively localized where we are, integrating ourselves into the now. For us humans, what is immediately present in each moment is also a focus of other possibilities, of partial worlds and so on. What is characteristic of us is our variety of possibilities, a freedom from the present, from the immediately given. Human orientation, that is, is not an orientation in a context. Rather, given the plurality of possibilities thanks to which we are not rooted in only one context like the animal but free with respect to it in virtue of our tangential worlds and half-realities, our living with respect to what we are not is a living in a world, not simply in a context. The animal, by contrast, depends on its context. For that reason, in the case of humans the present is distinct from the immediately given; what is present, directly present, exceeds what is originarily, immediately given. For humans, the directly relevant and the immediately given grow far apart. If the objective pole of lived experience (what we are not) is excessively differntiated, exceeding the immediately given, then the subjective pole–the I–must accordingly have the character of something capable of transcending immediate givenness in its differentiation. It must be that which, in spite of its unity and simplicity, bears variety within it, a variety of possibilities, of modes of diverse relating.

(Body, Community, Language, World, pp 32-33.)

And further, on the topic of horizons:

Horizons are not mere possibilities but are already in part realized. To live in horizons means to broaden actuality immensely, to live amid possibilities as if they were realities. That is so banal that we tend in advance to consider such possibilities as realities. To live in horizons is typically human. We are wholly unconcious of the perspectivity of things; in our awareness they are as primitives paint them, without perspective, in themselves, so to speak, though still given in perspectives, in aspects from which we cull a self-identical core, transforming a horizon into a massive existent. We leap from one implication to another, flitting about amid the possibility of realizing these implications. We move about in the sphere of the virtual as if it were a sphere of realities. It is not, yet our experience petrifies possibilities as realities. That is why we can never fully explicate them. This transference of actuality is the significant, far-reaching motif of our experience. Imaginary supplements, that about things that cannot be actually presented, are real for us in a certain way, even when only be anticipated, adumbrated, precisely because they are continuous with things which are given themselves. The self-given is what presents itself in our experience as the thing itself, in contrast with mere imagination. There is a difference between imagining Vesuvius and standing before it. There are cases in which things themselves stand before us. This table is there before me in visual experience, it is not a representation of the table. We live, though, in relations which transcend such self-givenness. With the help of the transference of actuality, far more is present to me as real that what is actually given; whatever stands in some relation to the self-given is also actual. Things beyond our senses are present to us. Even what can never be given in the original, like the experience of others, becomes actual. We live by relating constantly to the experience of others in the world as to something actually given. Living in horizons, the transference of actuality, points to a powerful centrifugal stream that governs our life–out of ourselves, to the world. We lived turned away from ourselves, we have always already transcended ourselves in the direction of the world, of its ever more remote regions. Here, in this world, we put down our roots and return to ourselves.

(Ibid., pp 32-33.)

I'm not sure how hard and fast the line between humans and animals really is based upon this analysis. Patočka does, however, begin to do justice to the human reality of being in the world.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 12:23 PM.


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