Friday, May 11, 2007

Is Lived Experience a Given?

In my reading of Jean-Luc Marion's books on givenness I got caught up in the difference between the being of the transcendental ego and the being of transcendental objects. I felt that if givenness were to be regarded as foundational, it should then be said equally of transcendental beings and the transcendental ego. A similar set of issues now arises from my reading of Renaud Barbaras, who, like Marion, is concerned with phenomenality as such (though unlike Marion he does not turn to Heidegger, relying solely on his reading of Husserl on this point). Barbaras says that "the characteristic of lived experiences is not given by adumbrations. Nothing in it exceeds its manifestation; it is nothing more than it appears, an absolute identity between appearing and manifestation" (Desire and Distance, p. 21). Does this mean that in phenomenological analysis there is a bifurcation between "lived experience" and plain experience, paralleling the bifurcation between the givenness of consciousness and the givenness of phenomena, and between the being of consciousness and the being of transcendental objects? Is this characterization of lived experience true to experience? If we set aside the natural attitude, is it true to experience as given through the époché? Let's see where Barbaras is leading us:

On the basis of [the] opposition between the absolute being of consciousness and contingent being of of the transcendent, Husserl is then able to take the step of constituting the transcendent within transcendental consciousness.

It is therefore not surprising that Husserl neither sticks to his description of perception as givenness by adumbrations nor attempts to conceive of appearance on the basis of manifestations insofar as they are the manifestations of things. On the contrary, he reinvests in a concept of appearance that lies at the heart of Ideas I and that alone can sustain the manifestation of a transcendence; to say of a reality that it appears is to say that is apprehended in and by a consciousness and therefore that it is constituted by means of lived experiences. The appearance of the worldly appearing necessarily refers to a more originary sense of phenomonality, namely the manifestation of the lived experience to itself; to appear is either to be lived or to be constituted by means of lived experiences.

(p. 22, emphases Barbaras')

So is lived experience is a given? How? Is it only by means of the phenomenological reduction that one can access lived experience? If that is the case, then what else must be given prior to the discovery of lived experience?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 11:32 AM. 2 comments

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The How of Givenness

Renaud Barbaras' Desire and Distance affords me the opportunity to re-explore the problem of givenness that I first encountered through Marion's works. Barbaras points to the section in Husserl's The Crisis of European Sciences that falls under the heading "the universal a priori of correlation between the object of experience and its modes of givenness" (Crisis, § 46). Barbaras draws a conclusion from Husserl: "Every being is the index of a subjective system of correlation, which signifies that any person imaginable can access being as such only through subjective data; the absolute character of being, in the sense that it is what relies on itself, does not from an alternative with the fact that its modes of access are relative to a finite subject" (Desire and Distance, p. 4). The key to following Barbaras' interpretation here is the idea of the finite subject. Husserl's meaning in this section is not entirely clear to me. He seems to be saying that givenness is tied to presence, and that this can only have meaning for a being of some temporal depth. He says:

Perception is related only to the present. But this present is always meant as having an endless past behind it and an open future before it. We soon see that we need the intentional analysis of recollection as the orginal manner of being conscious of the past; but we also see that such an analysis presupposes in principle that of perception, since memory, curiously enough, implies having-perceived. If we consider perception abstractly, by itself, we find its intentional accomplishment to be presentation, making something present: the object gives itself as "there," originally there, present. But in this presence, as that of an extended and enduring object, lies a continuity of what I am still conscious of, what has flowed away and is no longer intuited at all, a continuity of "retentions"–and, in the other direction, a continuity of "protentions." Yet this is not, like memory in the usual sense of intuitive "recollection," a phenomenon which openly, so to speak, plays a part in object- and world-apperception. And thus the different modes of presentification in general enter into the universal investigation we are undertaking here, namely, that of inquiring consistently and exclusively after the how of the world's manner of givenness, its open or implicit "intentionalities."

(Crisis, p. 160, emphases Husserl's)

If Barbaras is justified in regarding the problem of the hermeneutic circle as secondary to the problem of the reality of perception, he still leaves open a problem of how givenness is interepreted, and what kind of being is subject to givenness. Is a temporal being, a finite subject, necessarily a being who interprets? Do we need to understand interpretation as something multilayered? Is the finding of meaning limited to subject-object relations, or can we see in our experience a kind of raw givenness that we interpret in a way other than the way we interpret objects?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 10:55 AM. 0 comments

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Battlefield Ethics

The results of the United States military's latest mental health assessment of soldiers in Iraq are rather demoralizing. Reading the full report, I was especially troubled by the section on battlefield ethics. The causes of lapses in battlefield ethics, as explained in the report, are understandable. There are steps that can be taken by the military to improve the situation. However, I doubt that the core problem of emotional reactions to violence can be solved by better training and better leadership.

I often see that war is contemplated as if the people involved were more or less than human. That is folly. It bothers me to see such views, and it makes me sad.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 9:39 AM. 0 comments