Monday, June 04, 2007

Lived Experience as Given in the Epoché

I must be pretty jaded because it doesn't startle me at all that Barbaras would accuse Husserl of getting phenomenology all wrong. His critique of transcendental phenomenology, though, has the distinction of being quite enjoyable. Barbaras' main thrust is against the idea of a thing in itself, but by the same token he calls into question the meaning of lived experience. (I wonder if the idea of experience won't be a problem for him as the work unfolds. He won't, I think, argue that perception is given prior to experience.) Anyway, to join Barbaras' argument midstream, he says of Husserl:

[I]n supporting the appearance itself over an originary appearing (the lived experience) Husserl betrays the radicality of the phenomenological reduction. The fact that this appearing is not given by profiles but is instead characterized by the identity of its being and its manifestation does not change the fact that the autonomy of the phenomenal is entirely compromised. Appearance as appearance of things is completely dependent on a specific manifestation and therefore on the positing of an appearing being, the lived experience. In determining the appearance on the basis of the lived experience, Husserl abides by the phenomenological requirement that prescribes regressing from the appearing, whatever it might be, to its appearance; he remains therefore, in regard to the lived experience, on the level of the natural attitude. Indeed, as Patočka writes, "There is a phenomenal field, a being of the phenomenon as such, that cannot be reduced to any being which appears at its center and which it is therefore impossible to explain from being, whether the latter be a naturally objective species or egologically subjective."

In this context, there is a lack of unitarian concept of the phenomenal that would include the natural reality and the lived experience and that would thus allow one to bridge the eidetic abyss that Husserl regards as separating consciousness and reality. But such a concept assumes a more radical époché, one that permits devitalization of the positing of the lived experience as self-evident and therefore finished with the pseudoevidence of consciousness.

(Desire and Distance, pp.33-34, emphasis Barbaras')

Barbaras rejects the notion that there are two types of lived experience: the sensuous hylé which is the "pure experiencing of what is grasped without distance" and the noematic moment, the kind of lived experience that "animates the hyletic data by apprehending them in accordance with a sense that confers upon them an ostensive function–that constitutes them as manifestations of something" (p. 22). Barbaras is certain that appearance is given by adumbrations but he is suspicious of noesis, "a mysterious concept whose specific function is to allow the hyletic datum to rejoin the objectivity from which was originally severed, accounting for the movement of adumbrating; this is a concept that bears the burden of intentionality" (p. 30). (My sense is that Barbaras considers the idea of the intentionality of consciousness to be a distorting bias that Husserl brought to his phenomenology.) The essential problem here, though, is that Husserl defines lived experience as what can be given in reflection, as what can become the object of internal perception (pp. 30-31).

Barbaras says that unquestionably the world is experienced in that appears to someone, and that this is a "subjective" reality. But, he says, "the recognition of this fact in no way prejudices what we must understand exactly by lived experience and the sense of being of the subjective. It could very well be that the subjective being of the world does not contradict its transcendence; indeed, that the appearance of the subjective–the cogito–is originally dependent on the manifestation of the world" (p.31). According to Barbaras, perception reveals an absolutely original mode of givenness, one that is partial (given in adumbrations), "that calls into question the rationalist requirement of exhaustive givenness" (p. 41). It is by clinging to this experience of the event of appearance that we can extricate ourselves from the quandry of Husserlian transcendental phenomenology (p.43).

So, finally, if Barbaras is justified in seeing Husserlian lived experience as colored by the natural attitude, what then characterizes lived experience as seen from within the époché? What can or cannot be said about it? Barbaras says that "the partiality of givenness is its very condition" (p.36).. Is this the way we really encounter things, or is this a presupposition?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 9:03 AM.


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