Monday, July 23, 2007

Panta Rhei?

I have been reading against Kojima's account of time consciousness (Monad and Thou, Chapter 3) with the question in mind, What if time exists prior to any constitution of time? Is it possible, I wonder, for anything to escape the flux? As Heraclitus said, "everything gives way and nothing stays put" (panta chôrei kai ouden menei). Kojima's analysis, however, is extremely delicate. It will not be possible to get around it by simply disavowing idealism. In human terms, the issue is to imagine how it is possible for a person to endure over the course of a life; if we answer that it isn't possible, we are left with the uncomfortable fact that the various moments of my life all seem to belong to me, despite any changes that I may have undergone. So what's going on here?

Kojima asks us to acknowledge the existence of a "somatic ego," which (perhaps not yet "who") is not given "solely through self-reflection but also through the reflective-nonreflective mode of the self-consciousness of life" (p. 22).

Sartre introduced the concept of être-pour-soi or conscience non-positionelle de soi in connection with this probelematic, but he failed to connect it structurally to any reflective mode of self-consciousness. The nonreflective and reflective modes of self-consciousness are dialectically or circularly connected to each other, and no one can grasp either one of them without refering to the other. Indeed, self-reflection has as its necessary premise the nonreflective cognition of self, while the latter cognition progressively assimilates reflective recognition in the flow of time and thus builds itself up.

(p. 22)

I'll note in passing that Kojima may be asking us to accept a broadened concept of cognition. A key point, however, is that in linking the two modes of self-consciousness, Kojima is presenting us with an anthropological philosophy of life. Philodendrons need not apply.

Kojima then considers, following Husserl, two ways of understanding the present: (1) as the flowing now, a series of now moments that flow one after the other, and (2), as the standing present, "that which remains still at the origin of the flow and never flows itself" (p. 22). Before we jump to a critique of the standing present, let's see where Kojima is heading with this idea. Although he regards the flowing now and the standing present as analytically separable, he also sees a dialectical relation between them. Just as the non-reflective mode of life precedes and makes possible the reflective mode of life, the standing present, it is argued, precedes and makes possible the flowing now. This correspondence is no accident, in Kojima's view, "for the standing present is nothing other than the temporal form of presencing proper to the nonreflective mode of consciousness, and the flowing now is the form of presencing proper to the reflective mode of that consciousness" (p. 23).

Kojima's insistence on the stillness of the standing present leads him to discount the notion that the standing present is a dividing point between the future and the past, with time flowing in one direction from the future to the past. In his view the standing present is absolutely still. Yet, like the absolute Hereness of the ego, it "cannot be grasped thematically from any reflective standpoint because it is the dimension of the absolute encounter between consciousness and transcendent objects as well as the absolute encounter between consciousness and its own Being-in-the-world, namely the kinesthetic living body (Leib-Körper)(p. 23). Now, Kojima seems to argue that the fact that the standing now and the flowing nows exist on different levels can lead us to conclude that it is meaningless to describe the proper length of the standing present without reference to the flowing nows (p. 24). I'm not quite following how that argument that leads to that conclusion, but he wants to draw our attention to the "deep structure" of the standing present, so we can try to follow him there. He argues that "what connects the different nows to each other is the effect of a vertical intentionality that accumulates past moments into momentary simultaneity" (p. 24). I would like to question how stillness pertains to vertical intentionality, but we can go a little deeper yet into Kojima's analysis.

The conscious flow of passing nows and the standing present as its origin have a common immobile bottom ground called life (or the Lieb-layer of the somatic ego). This life never flows (contrary to many current interpretations of it) but stays still as a kind of nunc stans extending in indefinite continuity from the immediate present in the direction of the past. For example, my "I," as a time-object, is always changing in the flow of time. My I of five years ago and my I of now are quite different as time objects. For the sake of the continuity of life itself, however, both I's are always perceived to be exactly the same (except, perhaps, in a psychiatric case). This is to say that my identity as "I" has its ground in the standing present of life or of the somatic ego in its nonreflective stance. My somatic ego is always presented to itself as the same ego. The Leib-layer of the somatic ego underlying the I of five years ago persists in the standing present in the broadest sense, even though my I is passing away and thus varying as a time-object. Therefore I can ascertain that my I of five years ago and my I now belong to the same standing present, as the somatic ego in its nonreflective stance. This is what I do each time that I recognize my identity. The duration of time objects, for example, of a melody or of sensory data, is achieved through a reflex of the identity of my somatic ego. When the flowing nows with their contents are grasped in a quasi-direct relation to the continuity of my life-ego, that is, of their immobile ground, they appear under the phase of duration (That the duration given through noematic sense is also a modification of this type of duration will be indicated later.) Each flowing now is not connected to next through the retained memory of other nows mirrored into itself, but only through its continuous ground, namely, through life and the somatic ego. Only such duration causes the retention of the flowing now, because it flows away from the original present while nevertheless remaining still in the same present in a wider sense (with relation to life).

(pp. 25-26)

Before lauching into a critique there's just one more idea I want to get out there. "Vertical intentionality shows that time never ceases to flow, while time consciousness itself does not flow," Kojima says (p. 27). This precisely indicates what we're up against if we take up the argument that life never stands still.

Clearly Kojima has considered the possibility that life itself in flux. Why does he reject this idea? Let's ask three related questions: (1) In what sense can the ground of time consciousness be said to be immobile; (2) In what sense can it be said to be continuous; and (3), In what sense can it be said to be a ground?

The identity of my somatic ego appears to be nontransferable. Reproduction is a biological fact, and this would seem to have some connection to my body, and yet it doesn't seem possible for me to swap identities with my offspring. There's a fixity in the question of identity from this perspective, and if we associate this kind of self-awareness with a level of the somatic ego, or the fact of embodiment, we seem to saying that having a body cannot be understood solely from an objective viewpoint, that it contains an element, a reflexive if nonreflective awareness, that is purely subjective. However, does this really speak to the stillness of the standing present? Could there be such a thing as a walking present, a present in which successive I points are taken as belonging together, yet as not being exactly identical, just as one step is not exactly identical to the next step when we go for a walk?

How then would we explain the continuity of the standing present? Can we be certain that it is continuous? Possibly in dreams we can change our identity, become somebody who is not continuous with our waking self. If all of the characters who populate our dreams are in fact avatars of the self, we may still question the continuity of self-identity. Its continuity could be maintained by passing through, for instance, the unconscious, or through the body. In the latter case would we have to understand the body as something different from Kojima's Leib-layer of the somatic ego, even to pose the question of whether there is in fact a continuity? In other words, are we dealing with a presumption here rather than something that is self-evident. I'm not sure, because the continuity of the waking self does seem to be in evidence. The problem is how to explain that in light of what's possible in dreams.

We may question whether time-consciousness is grounded in the somatic ego. Is there any sense in which time-consciousness might be grounded in time itself? If that were the case, would we have to admit that time itself does not have a purely objective meaning, but rather it is also manifested subjectively? That's a hard one. The alternative would seem to be acknowledging a disconnect between time and time-consciousness. Or, on the other hand, we could question the idea of grounding. Perhaps there is no true grounding, but a relative positioning in timespace. Or a pure groundlessness. On that note, I'd like to summon up Ernesto Grassi, and his conclusion to his consideration of Proust's Remembrance of Things Past.

Can it be that the only valid thing left is the appeal of the abyss, wherein we exist as characters playing our assigned parts in a quick succession of scenes and acts? Will we ever overcome the cruelty of the appeal of existence, which reveals itself as indifference for the individual, as the relentless demand on the individual to play an everchanging succession of roles? And as a result, will we never cease to wonder whether passions pertain to human beings at all, or whether they are solely the expression of the magical essence of life?

(The Primordial Metaphor, p. 94)

Finally, then, Kojima is fully aware that he arguing against a doctrine of panta rhei. He rejects the idea that life is in flux, despite the observable fact that the body undergoes changes in the course of a life, because the evidence from his own consciousness tells him that his previous identities are continuous with and, indeed, exactly the same as his current identity. I think Kojima's way of thinking may lead to an impasse. Nevertheless, I'm not sure if there is a way to think the problem of time-consciousness without coming to an impasse, so I think at the very least Kojima offers us an interesting way to begin to think about the problem.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 3:43 PM. 19 comments

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Mixotricha paradoxa

Hoffmeyer asks, "Where does endosymbiosis end and individuality begin" (Signs of Meaning in the Universe, p. 31)? An example he considers is Mixotricha paradoxa, an archeazoan organism that lives in the gut of the termite Mastotermes darwiniensis. The curious fact about Mixotricha is that it moves around by means of ectosymbiont spirochete bacteria. Evolutionary biologists have put forward the hypothesis that "eukaryotic locomotory organelles such as flagella and cilia originated from spirochetes," while eukaryotic cytoplasm is presumed to be of archeal origin (König et al., p. 195). Wikipedia presents the idea of symbiogenesis as controversial because the evidence for anything in the eukaryotic cell besides mitochondria and chloroplasts is unclear. Nevertheless, it appears that evidence is accumulating to support the idea of symbiogenesis, and the clear evidence that we do have is enough to raise questions about what exactly an organism is, about how organisms orginate, behave, and evolve over time.

Some of the philosophy I've been reading has left me with the idea that an organism is the totality of relations between a living body and its environment. This would be an adequate description of a bacterium, from a certain point of view, so in a sense it's a good place to start. The eukaryotic organism, however, is much more complex than that. In the case of eukaryotes we must consider relations in the internal environement of the cell.

There seems to be a chasm between what we can learn from an investigation of consciousness and what we can learn from persistent observation of living organisms. We can think of consciousness as "intersubjective," but it's much harder to think of consciousness as bacterial. In The Conscious Cell (the whole article is not freely available online), Lynn Margulis has begun to think, from the perspective of an objective science, the vesitiges of the bacterial in consciousness. Her approach is not without problems. She asks to imagine that the "the components that fused in symbiogenesis [to form the nervous system of animals] are already 'conscious'" (p. 57). In her view the spirochetes that attach to Mixotricha paradoxa are analogous to "sense organs" (p. 68). It is difficult to reconcile this view of consciousness with the sense that you or I have of being conscious.

I'm sympathetic to a Deleuzean approach to individuation. However, the rigors of objective science on the one hand and phenomenology on the other remain productive for all their philosophical blemishes. I want to know how individuation can be thought, and it seems that the conditions of possibility for thinking individuation are various and sundry. My expectation is less for reconciliation in a grand narrative than for edifications.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 6:52 AM. 3 comments

Friday, July 20, 2007

Is Life Transparent?

Kojima argues that because phenomenology cannot prove that the transcendental ego persists when the psychological ego falls asleep, it is dogmatic to presume "even a relative independence of the transcendental ego from the psychological ego" (Monad and Thou, p. 19). We might provisionally say yes in answer to my earlier question, Does the cogito sleep?. Kojima goes on to say:

We can now reinterpet the genetic self-realization of the transcendental ego in Husserl's account in the opposite direction such that it becomes the special reflective-nonreflective mode of the psychological ego or of life itself.* Life does not need a transcendental master directing and dominating it from above. It has within itself the light that enables it to reflect upon itself and to enrich its own content. Is this not what Husserl wanted to convey with the expression "the transcendental life"? The task of phenomenology should not be to establish the predominance of the so-called transcendental ego, but rather to secure the light inherited from life itself and to develop the wisdom gained by it to illuminate the opacity of the life-world.

(p. 20)

I'm inclined to imagine that if the lifeworld appears opaque, it is life as much as the world that contributes to its opacity. If we believe that life inherently has the means of self-reflection, must we also believe that life is transparent? I'm just not sure.

* Kojima says in a footnote (p. 229, No. 21), "It seems clear that if the agent of phenomenological relfection (reduction) is not the transcendental ego but life itself, this reflection should necessarily return to the nonreflective mode of life."

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posted by Fido the Yak at 9:20 AM. 0 comments

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Against Repetition: Orbits

In Signs of Meaning in the Universe (about which I will have more to say in coming days), Jesper Hoffmeyer devotes a chapter to the idea of repetition. He says:

Life itself exemplifies Nature's tendency to acquire habits. With the emergence of an arrangement of matter and energy as unique as that found in a living cell, so too a new and intricate pattern was established in the world–a pattern that could be repeated ad infinitum. And repetition is of course the epitome of habituation: the key to predictability, law and order.

(p. 28)

I can disavow infinity and repetition in the same breath, but I'll confine my remarks to the problem of repetition. It would seem that the idea that repetition isn't truly possible–an idea that I've entertained without adopting–needs to be defended, lest it be confused with an expression of abject nihilism or rabid anti-intellectualism. Therefore I will now take up the position that repetition is at best a virtuality of questionable virtue– indeed it might be bad to think–and I will face up to the cosmic implications of thinking a universe without repetition. In the end I may not fully come around to the view that repetition is impossible, but I hope to resolve, in my mind at least, whether or not it is wise to leave open the question of its possibility.

If I don't accept the idea that repetition is possible am I necessarily acquiescing to a universe without laws, a permanent state of disorder and chaos? This would be the implication of Hoffmeyer's statement, but I don't know that it's true. Let's take for example a simple natural phenomenon, the orbit of a planetary body around a star. I believe I can question the possibility of repetition while believing that laws of gravitation and Kepler's laws of planetary motion still apply.

The eccentricity of Earth's orbit is not constant, but changes over time (see this graph). In fact the eccentricities of all of the planets in the Solar System vary due to mutual gravitational perturbations. We can imagine a perfect solar system of exactly one planet that does not vary in its eccentricity, just as we can imagine a universe where matter is evenly distributed; however, that's not a suitable description of the solar system we live in, and the probability of finding such a system may be exceedingly low (for all I know, which in the case of astronomy is only what I read online). Suffice it so say that in the case of Earth's orbit around the Sun, no orbital period is exactly the same as the next. In orbiting the Sun, the Earth never exactly repeats itself.

Do I need to say that gravity doesn't repeat itself every time the Earth orbits the Sun? That might seem to be a strawman, but I hope it opens up onto an illuminating point. The event of gravitation happened once and is still ongoing. If we accept the idea of heat death, which is based on the Second Law of Thermodynamics, then we must conclude that gravitation is far more likely to cease to be (after 10150 years) than it is to repeat itself. We could say the same thing about time, though it may turn out that time and gravitation are not coextensive, raising the question then of whether they are discrete cosmic events rather than being aspects of the same event, namely, the existence of the universe. If we accept that gravitation is an event–I do realize this sounds odd, although as I see it it's not altogether unreasonable–what do we call the occurrences that take place within its reach; how do we describe the relation between cosmic events of long duration and occurrences of shorter duration like astrogenesis or biogenesis? If we call them all events equally, are we using "event" in different senses? If this is the case, the sense of a relationship between gravitation and astrogenesis would be lost; it would require some other kind of explanation. Alternatively, in calling all cosmic occurrences "events" we might in effect be saying that an event can be subdivided, that there are events within events. Is the relationship between the subdivisions of an event, which are also events, and the event as a whole a relationship of parts to the whole?

Philosophy has already sketched out a position called mereological nihilism which isn't a proper nihilism, but rather a denial of the existence of part/whole relations. Short of fully endorsing merelogical nihilism, I'd like to suggest that part/whole relations are in question when we examine the relation between an single orbital period and the whole business of planets orbiting a star. The Earth may be considered a part of the Solar System; if its orbital period is therefore also part of the solar system, is that because it is part of Earth's orbit, because it is part of the Earth, or, rather, is its relationship to the whole of the Solar System simply not that of a part to a whole? If the relationship between orbital periods themselves does appear to have a meristic character, must we then accept repetition as a fact of the cosmos?

Imagine if you will having a very large interplanetary hammer and being able to summon enough force to knock the Earth out of its orbit. Its orbital period would come to an end coterminously with the demise of its orbit. It would seem to be physically impossible to decouple the Earth's orbital period from its orbit around the Sun. If we maintain that the Earth's orbital period is part of its orbit, then we must allow for some kind of relation of identity between a part and its whole. I'm not sure that this sort of mereological relation is kosher.

If we take a common sense view that the Earth's orbit around the Sun is neither one big event nor a series of discrete events (orbital periods) but rather a recurring event, we must then allow for some fuzziness in our concept of recurrence, because the orbital period is not just related to the orbit of a single planet, but to all the planets that perturb its orbit. The Earth's orbital period belongs to a larger whole of the Solar System, and in this System there is never exactly a repetition of orbits. The meristic character of the orbital period is deceptive if we believe it only relates to the orbit of a single planet. There may in fact be no true repetition in the universe.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 1:12 PM. 0 comments

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Behind of Sound

The époché, properly performed, has the potential to liberate space from mere objectivity. This is a strong claim put forward by Hiroshi Kojima in Monad and Thou: Phenomenological Ontology of Human Being. He says that "[s]pace as the schema of interintentionality is neither mere subjectivity nor mere objectivity" (p. 9). Well, a lot of philosophy claims to be neither subjective nor objective. The problem seems to be that in working out such a perspective, philosophers make assumptions that tacitly require the a priori existence of either a subjective or an objective reality. Let's look at how Kojima proposes to work the problem out, and see if he manages to avoid any obvious pitfalls.

Husserl failed, in Kojima's view, to recognize the originary plurality of the transcendental consciousness (pp. 4-5). Consequently his view of intersubjectivity is narrowly egological. Other egos are not only discovered after an empathic introjection of one's own consciousness into other bodies; rather, they are present from the gitgo in the fabric of consciousness. "The intentionalities of other egos are not," Kojima insists, "noemata of my intentionality; rather they are co-noeses with mine" (p. 5). How could we know that our noetic faculty wasn't purely or merely our own, that there exists something like a conoesis in every moment of consciousness? Kojima thinks we can answer this question by reexamining the problem of "appresentation," as outlined by Husserl in the Fifth Cartesian Meditation. The key question here is, How do we know that things have a behind? How do we know that there is a rear aspect to things we perceive? Kojima doubts that it's my intentionality that appresents the behind of things. Neither can the appresentation of a behind of things be explained as an "empty" intention. Here Kojima presents a logical objection (and draws a rather startling conclusion):

In order even to turn a thing over, I must know in advance that it has another side! Thus the back of a thing cannot be defined by my empty intention, to be fulfilled in turning the thing around. Rather my intention directed toward the reverse side is empty, or imperfect, because it is not originally my intention.

(p. 6)

It's instructive at this point to contrast Kojima's take on the imperfectness of perception with Barbaras' riff on adumbrations. Barbaras thinks that Husserl's insight into perception points to a new kind of being, being-at-a-distance, and the inexhaustibility of perception ultimately points to the impossibility of satisfying desire, which is the heart of the living subject. For Kojima, on the other hand, it seems that the same set of ideas about perception would lead to a questioning of the intentionality of consciousness, concluding that the ownness of an intention towards an object of perception can not be taken for granted.

So how does this tie into the idea of a spatial schema that is neither objective nor subjective? Kojima directs his critique of Husserlian intersubjectivity towards the analysis of Here and There in the Cartesian Meditations.

As reflexively related to itself, my animate bodily organism (in my primordial sphere) has the central "Here" as its mode of givenness; every other body, and accordingly the "other's" body, has the mode "There." This orientation, "There", can be freely changed by virtue of kinesthesias. Thus, in my primordial sphere, the one spatial "Nature" is constituted throughout the change in orientations, and constituted moreover with an intentional relatedness to my animate organism as functioning perceptually. Now the fact that my bodily organism can be (and is) apprehended as a natural body existing and movable in space like any other is manifestly connected with the possibility expressed in the words: By free modification of my kinesthesias, particularily those of locomotion, I can change my position in such a manner that I convert any There into a Here–that is to say, I could occupy any spatial locus with my organism.

(Cartesian Meditations, § 53, Husserl's emphases)

For Husserl it seems that the core experience of other people rests on an imaginative possibility (as if) of Here becoming There (§ 54). Kojima comments that "the essence of Husserl's theory of intersubjectivity lies not in pairing-association nor in appresentative empathy, but rather in the possibility of removing the center from Here to There" (p. 8). Kojima objects to this analysis because in order for it to hold water one would have to imagine "a kind of 'objective,' homogeneous space quite independent of the position of the center," a space in which everything can be seen from a plurality of perspectives "prior to any movement of the body" (p. 8, emphasis mine). The joining of every presentation of There to an appresentation of Here, egologically, means that Husserl's intersubjectivity, according to Kojima, presupposes the existence of other consciousnesses before it thematizes the bodies of others (p. 9). Thus Kojima's critique is twofold.

It's difficult to evaluate Kojima's critique at this point because he has not yet presented his idea of the somatic ego, nor has he elaborated his analysis of the Here, the absolute, immovable center of experience. If he thinks that we can arrive at a spatial schema of interintenionality without presuming other consciousnesses before thematizing other bodies, then he might mean to say that the ability to apperceive the behind of things is a bodily knowledge, and, perhaps, that it is interintentional because it is embodied. We'll see.

Finally, I have to ask whether sounds have a behind. If the answer is no, then I think Kojima's project of philosophizing a space that is neither objective nor subjective might be in jeopardy, because it would appear that acoustic space and visual are constituted differently and quite possibly subjectively–that is, we could imagine a space in which vibrations occured without concern for whether they were heard or seen, but this space would not be consistent with our experience of space. On the other hand, we might answer yes, it is possible to apperceive the rear aspect of a sound. If that's the case, we might wonder about the position of silence in space, whether it can ever be absolute, and whether it is constituted conoetically.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 9:03 AM. 4 comments

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Esemplasticity of the Living Subject

It's time to take another gander at the ontological difference in light of Barbaras' philosophy of living movement. We begin with Husserl.

As Husserl affirms forcefully in The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology, phenomenology brings to the fore the correlation between the transcendent being and its subjective modes of given[ness]. This means that there is an irreducible distance or tear, constitutive of phenomenality, between appearing and the being on which manifestations rest, so that the search for a univocal sense of being that would embrace the appearing being and the "locus" of constitution is not pertinent. The difficulty is rather to think of the difference of the being conditioning the manifestation in such a way that its "beingness," its intraworldliness, is not compromised by this difference.

(Desire and Distance, p. 149, emphases Barbaras')

Patoĉka's philosophy of movement, to which Barbaras is deeply indebted, leads to the following conundrum:

Determining Dasein's ultimate sense of being as movement of realization compromises its unicity at the very moment when its singularity is fully revealed, as if a rigorous determination of the subject of the manifestation's sense of being had as its counterpart a questioning of the tear inherent in the correlation–as if, therefore, we abandoned phenomenology at the very moment in which we succeeded in establishing its possibility.

(p. 150, Barbaras'emphasis)

Barbaras is exactly right that the Patoĉkan idea of being as movement compromises the unicity of Dasein, which I will refer to as the "existential subject" while adopting the term "living subject" for the compromised entity whose basis is living movement. If the living subject's singularity remains intact while its unicity is compromised, is it possible then that it retains an esemplasticity, a capability or even a tendency towards unification? Or does the ontology of living movement also forcefully compromise this capacity? If the latter is the case, can this really be an acceptable rendering of who we are? A phenomenological cogito, for all of its brittleness, would then seem to have its advantages. Perhaps, however, the living subject truly is esemplastic, even while, or precisely because, its unicity is in doubt.

These are Barbaras' concluding thoughts:

These, then are the ultimate questions that I have invited my readers to consider: Is it possible (and on what conditions) to account for the difference between the appearing and the subject of manifestations on the basis of the monistic cosmology envisaged by this philosophy of movement? Does the concept of movement as realization allow us to maintain the originary difference between the movement of existence and the beings that it makes appear? How can the univocality of the ontologico-cosmological concept of movement be reconciled with the correlation and therefore with the difference of phenomenology's constitutive sense of being? In short, does the cosmological monism outlined by Patoĉka by means of an unprecedented deeping of the human subject's sense of being threaten the phenomenological undertaking, or does it constitute its most radical accomplishment.

(p. 150)

I can't help but feeling, as I've indicated before, that the ontological difference is intolerable. If I am to go beyond phenomenology towards a cosmo-ontology, however, I don't want to sacrifice the test of experience. Does this ontology make sense in terms of what I can know based on my own experience? I am unsure of my fundamental unicity, yet I don't doubt the esemplastic character of my experience, the fact that it seems to belong to me. How do we think uniqueness? I just don't know.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 12:05 PM. 0 comments

Is Listening Silent?

To pose the question more exactly, Is listening to another person speak something we do silently? Merleau-Ponty takes from Daniel Lagoche the idea that listening does not take place in silence because (a) the listener anticipates spoken words and formulates a response, and (b), inversely, the speaker has an implicit belief in the listener's comprehension (Consciousness and the Acquisition of Language, p. 67). To regard these phenomena as being other than silent one must have a sense of language as a whole as being something performed out loud, such that even reading, because it engages with language, must be understood at its core as a phenomenon of the out loud.

Atlernatively, we could adopt the position of Max Picard, for whom "[r]eal speech is in fact nothing but the resonance of silence" (The World of Silence, p. 27). Faced with these two extremes, we might be inclined to negotiate a middle ground. But first let's examine how Merleau-Ponty is in fact defining language to see what sense it makes to regard listening to another speak as also being a phenomenon of articulated speech.

[L]anguage is a surpassing (operated by the subject on the signification at his disposal) which is stimulated by the usage made of words in his environment. Language is an act of transcending. One cannot consider it simply as a container for thought; it is necessary to see language as an instrument for conquest of self by contact with others.

(p. 63)


The function of language is only a particular case of the general relation between self and others, which is the relation between two consciousnesses, of which each one projects itself in the other.

(p. 68)

Again, picking up on an argument from Kurt Goldstein's Language and Language Disturbances:

We must place the accent on the productivity of language: language is a totality of instruments for our relationships with people. It reflects to what degree we are capable of inventions. It is a manifestation of the link that we have with other people and with ourselves.

(p. 73)

And finally:

All language is mind. It is a verbal melody which presupposes an intellectual vigilance. But the mind that governs language is not mind for itself; it is paradoxically a mind that possesses itself only by losing itself in language.

(p. 77)

Is it clear from Merleau-Ponty's thinking about language here that language is, to use Cavarero's phrase, destined for speech? Does he see that that the relationality of language is fundamentally acoustic, or that language possesses a resonance of the body, the body who speaks? In this text, to address the totality of language Merleau-Ponty does not point directly to its embodiment, but rather, borrowing an idea from von Humboldt, to its innere Sprachform, the "totality of processes and expressions that are produced when we are at the point of expressing our thought or of understanding the thought of other people" (p. 76). The body is notably not excluded from consideration as part of the totality. However, Merleau-Ponty's overarching concern here appears to be with consciousness as such. I won't ask which perspective is truer to the phenomenon of language; I will ask, however, whether it makes sense to think of listening as other than silent if the primary fact of language is not its embodiment in speech. What exactly is our primary mode of contact with others? How we answer this question will determine whether we can make sense of the argument that listening to another person speak does not take place in silence, though even if we do comprehend the argument as Merleau-Ponty intends, we still may find room for disagreement, for instance, a possibility of valuing silence as such. That is, if we choose to view listening as an "instrumentality of speech" aren't we also implicitly encroaching upon silence, allowing language to cover everything.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 10:07 AM. 0 comments

Friday, July 13, 2007


Renaud Barbaras argues that "if phenomenology opens onto a cosmology, the latter can only have the meaning of a cosmobiology" (Desire and Distance, p. 134). To get where Barbaras is coming from it is necessary to define at least three terms: cosmology, life, and knowledge.

Barbaras quotes Ricœur's definition of a cosmology as "a universe of discourse that would be 'neutral' with respect to objectivity and subjectivity," offering the possibility of a "material ontology common to the region of nature–known by external perception and objective natural sciences–and to the region of consciousness known by reflection and by phenomenology of the subject" (Freedom and Nature: The Voluntary and the Involuntary, p. 423, IN Desire and Distance, p. 132). Barbaras' material ontology purports to radicalize an Aristotlean theory of act and potency by suspending the question of the primacy of substance (ouisa), thereby avoiding an anthropologization of being, "the projection of the structures of life and action onto natural reality" (p. 133).

In making this argument Barbaras may be relying upon two senses of what life is. In speaking of an eternal "explosion of being" (following Merleau-Ponty), of a primordial movement (following Patoĉka) that doesn't distinguish clearly between the movement of manifestation and the movement of desire, Barbaras points to "an originary life short of the distinction between living and appearing" (p. 133). Since I've come to the view that life should be a univocal concept (though I'm not fully committed to asserting it), the notion of an originary life is a bit of a (not insurmountable) problem for me.

Anyway, by anchoring perception in vital activity, a question is raised about the problem of knowledge.

Finally, at the conclusion of this study, one question is essential: How can knowledge be accounted for? In a more general way, How can we account for the order of meanings on the basis of this analysis of perception? Perception has been separated from the reference to a positive object in order to inscribe it in life itself; however, in doing so, an insurmountable gulf may have been introduced between the order of living and that of knowledge. Ther alternative would be between a philosophy of perception (which does not lose sight of the possibility of understanding and which is therefore forced to define it teleologically from this posssibility) and a philosophy that, by clarifying the rootedness of perceiving in vital activity and consequently in separating out a nucleus common to the human person and to animals, abandons the attempt to account for the rational order and thus adopts a sort of displaced Platonism. In reality, this objection is unfounded because it presupposes a certain idea of knowledge, and above all life. Thus it is not because we regrasp perception on the basis of living that we compromise the possibility of accounting for the continuity of perceiving and knowing; rather, it is to the degree that we conceive of living in a reductionist way as a subjugation to needs.

(p. 134, Barbaras' emphasis)

Barbaras insists that desire is not need because whereas needs can be fulfilled, desire is never satisfied. He also holds that "[a]ll desire is desire of a world," indicating that his cosmology has been accessed phenomenologically. Desire is negative not in the sense of negating something that would have to be assumed to exist positively in order to satisfy it, as if it were a need; but rather desire is thoroughly and always negative with respect to its own being. The living subject, in Barbaras' view, is fully capable of negativity, that is, of desire. The negativity of desire is "by no means the attribute of the human person and of its anguish; instead it emerges from the vital level" (p. 136). (Incidentally, this idea could serve to distinguish Barbaras' cosmobiology from an existentialism.)

Because living is always already desire, we can say that life is always in the mode of exploration, always reaching out. From that point of view there is a continuity between living and knowing, so long as we understand knowledge not as "the apprehension of positive meanings," but rather as interrogation (pp. 136-137). The movement of questioning and the movement of desire are fundamentally the same movement, inscribed in life.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 12:15 PM. 3 comments

Suicide Bombers in Iraq

I've just finished reading Suicide Bombers in Iraq: The Strategy and Ideology of Martyrdom by Mohammed Hafez. Some of his writings can be read online. Hafez' analysis is remarkably dispassionate, though he does, in his conclusion, refer to the ideology of jihadi Salafism as "pernicious" (p. 231), and he offers some informed opinions about United States policy directions, past, present and in the offing. All told it's a sobering, pessimistic account of the social movement of jihadi Salafism and its embrace of suicide bombing in Iraq. I have to say that I'm a little depressed having read it, though it did satisfy some of my curiousity about the topic.


posted by Fido the Yak at 9:34 AM. 0 comments

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Repetition as Automimesis

Is repetition possible as an imitation of oneself? The question springs from an aside by Merleau-Ponty. Under the heading of "The Phenomenon of Imitation" Merleau-Ponty discusses the problem of the consciousness of other people, and relates this to certain facts of language acquisition (Consciousness and the Acquisition of Language, pp. 31-53. Early on he says that "imitation of oneself (repetition) or of others is founded on something besides the representation of movements" (p. 33). If we assume that Merleau-Ponty is on track about the consciousness of others, as I intend to do for the nonce, though the problem may ultimately be intractable, then the problem of repetition may not be easily disentangled from the problem of other people. That is, even if it is assumed that repetition is possible as an automimesis, the question of the self's relation to self in repetition may remain rather opaque, which isn't to say that nothing at all can be said about it.

What is automimesis founded upon? At the outset we can reject the idea that the mimetic subject forms a representation of his own bodily movements and then recreates these in accordance with that representation. The critique is twofold: on the one hand the awareness of one's own corporeal abilities is nonrepresentative, if you will, precognitive; on the other hand it seems that what is aimed for in imitation is a goal or object of movement. Following Paul Guillaume's argument in Imitation in Children, Merleau-Ponty says that "imitation is founded on a community of goals, of objects" (p. 35). Yet this view of imitation is incomplete. From the analysis of affective imitiation, which is putatively just as precocious as the imitation of gestures, Merleau-Ponty concludes that imitation must also involve a "human component" besides an interest in the object alone (p. 39). In imitation the person is regarded as neither body nor mind, but as behavior (p. 35), which is interpreted as expression, as style. Style, Merleau-Ponty insists, is not an idea, but a manner that is apprehended in imitation (p. 43). We might say that what is grasped in imitation is a "melodic totality" (p. 40) of gesture and ability. Automimesis, we can say, is founded on the development of one's own style.

Is automimesis an accomplishment of the cogito, either in its inception, its process, or its conclusion? If automimesis were a capability of the cogito we would have to question at some point the originality of the cogito. It's doubtful whether the cogito can sustain such doubts. Yet if we take the view that automimesis begins with an apperceptive act that, following Husserl (Cartesian Meditations, § 50), is not a cognition, and that is enacted by a more primordial self, a tacit cogito perhaps, we still face the problem of the self's orginality. To phrase the problem in other terms, is there such an animal as an intersubjective self? What would its mineness mean?

It is precisely the sense of mineness that is unsettled in automimesis. I won't yet make the leap to say that repetition is possible only as difference because there is still something to be said about the unsettling of mineness. If repetition is possible on the basis of an intentional transgression, could it be that the mineness of experience is routinely, practically transgressed? Is there any sense of mineness that attaches to transgression, just to carry it through? Merleau-Ponty argues that the expression of what is most personal in experience is constantly being perfected, not just in children but in adults (p. 53). Can we separate the expression of mineness from mineness? Could it be that mineness is constantly under revision? Can we designate a basis upon which repetetion as automimesis is possible as the unsettled, or is that one step beyond transgression, a step we need to be cautious about taking? Say it exists as such. Is the unsettled situational, or is it more deeply personal? I don't really know how to answer that.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 11:03 AM. 0 comments

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Pulses of Emotion

I've been reading Steven Shaviro's Pulses of Emotion: Whitehead's "Critique of Pure Feeling" (pdf, ht larval subjects). One of the more disconcerting ideas presented–quite apart from the notion that I might want to attend to the Zambezi's feelings–is the suggestion that repetition is not only possible, but impossible to avoid. "To establish a particular spacetime location is always, first of all, to affirm repetition, and thereby establish a difference, by referring to elsewhere and elsewhen, to other stretches of space and other periods of time" (p. 12). So if I still hold that repetition is impossible, which I might, though I haven't committed to the position yet, and I accept that Whitehead's argument is sound, must I therefore hold that spacetime locations are illusory? In which case, would illusions be the more interesting realities than possibilities? Hmm.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 9:49 AM. 3 comments

Monday, July 09, 2007

Putting my Philodendron on the Couch

My philodendron doesn't rest comfortably on the couch, but Barbaras has induced me to put it there momentarily while I pretend to psychoanalysize it. I don't quite believe that the psyche is a modality of being that the philodendron is capable of, naturally, so what I'm really doing is interrogating its mode of being using Barbaras as a guide, and if it resembles psychoanalysis, this is because Barbaras' phenomenological ontology claims some territory traditionally inhabited by psychoanalysis.

Barbaras begins his chapter on "Desire as the Essence of Subjectivity" with the idea that subjectivity equates to movement. By movement here Barbaras does not apparently mean motility as it is commonly understood, but a movement that coincides with life itself (pp. 108-109). The thinking here seems very similar to what Jonas discusses under the rubric of metabolism, but Barbaras doesn't quite say as much, and he has other sources. One source is Erwin Straus, from whom he borrows the idea of the approach: "It is not the physiological functions of sensory organs that make a being a sensing being, but rather this possibility of approaching, and the latter belongs neither to perception by itself, nor to movement by itself" (Straus, IN Desire and Distance, p. 162, note 20). As I am reading Barbaras, he is not just talking about sensing beings, but living beings, and he means to point to a more originary movement than either motility or perception, an intraworldly movement of surpasssing, that is common to all living beings (pp. 121 ff.). "The living subject," Barbaras writes, "does not have sensations with whose aid it would relate to the world; it is originarily a relation to the world, and sensing is a modality of this relationship" (p. 118, emphasis Barbaras'). Thus it becomes germaine to ask whether my philodendron has this possibility of approach, and whether it, as a living being, has desire as its mode of existence.

Desire for Barbaras is not a psychological concept, but rather an ontological one. He claims that "desire has no other reality than that of the movements to which it gives rise" but at the same time he argues that desire is not a property of the body (p. 126). The mind and the body are in Barbaras' view not entities but moments of an organic totality, "generic ways of conserving a coherence with the environment" (p.117). Here he draws on Kurt Goldstein's Der Aufbau des Organismus, a line of thinking that leads to the treatment of the human sciences as an offshoot of the life sciences, with a strong rejection of common ways of approaching the problem of human intelligence:

Human behaviors cannot be qualified as such by the fact that they issure from a consciousness, that is, from lived experiences; but on the contrary, their conscious being refers to their humanity as the mode of the specific behavior of a living totality.

(p. 117)

If conscious being cannot refer to the philodendronality of my philodendron's vital activites, presumably then my philodendron should have nothing to do with the unconscious. (That is to say, the enigma of consciousness has been displaced, but remains enigmatic.) Yet this isn't quite clear from Barbaras' analysis of the unconscious, which he regards as being of ontological rather than psychological significance. He means to put forward an understanding of the unconscious that is totally free from the order of representation, an unconscious rooted in desire that has as its content the world itself. This understanding forces a reconception of repression as not a psychological mechanism, but rather something that is intrinsic to desire as a way of relating to the world. "Since the desired, the world, is its own withdrawal behind the manifestations of experience, repression is inherent in desire and no longer due to a process that would be exterior to it" (p. 127).

So what does my philodendron desire? The world? A whole of being that it can never completely attain so long as it remains existentially autonomous? Is repression a problem for my philodendron? I.e., does Barbaras' analysis explain why repression is a problem for the organic totality that is human? I'm not sure.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 9:49 AM. 4 comments

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Infant Pointing

Chris points to the latest from Michael Tomasello et al., A New Look at Infant Pointing (pdf). The nub of the claim being made is this:

Pointing is a special gesture functionally in that directing someone's attention to something does not convey a specific meaning in the manner of most conventionalized, symbolic gestures. Rather, pointing can convey an almost infinite variety of meanings by saying, in effect, "If you look over there, you'll know what I mean". To recover the intended meaning of a pointing gesture, therefore, requires some fairly serious "mindreading".

(p. 3)

Tomasello et al. call their perspective the cognitively rich interpretation of infant pointing, in contrast to the cognitively lean interpretation which they criticize. I haven't yet decided whether they make the case.

One idea that jumps out at me is the notion that infant pointing is "prelinguistic." Is infant pointing prelinguistic in the same way that babble is prelinguistic? Perhaps that depends on one's interpretation of babble. Is babble destined toward speech? Is pointing? Yet surely infancy has some meaning, i.e. an inability to speak. In either case, there is some evidence that social awareness and noesis are displayed in human infancy prior to the acquisition of language.

Maybe I'm jumping the gun. What can we really know about the noetic faculty of infants? And so how clear then is the idea of social awareness? Does it involve something like mindreading? For Tomasello et al. we need to know why somebody is pointing to something in order to genuinely communicate with the pointer (p. 7). Assuming this is true, how do we gain this knowledge? Is it simply by looking and suddenly realizing what is meant? Do we need something like a "theory" of other minds, a theory of mental agency, or is it enough to have an understanding of a person, an agency? The question here is whether mind-body dualism is a natural aspect of communication, or whether it is a bias introduced by investigators. Would a nondualistic interpretation of infant pointing resemble a cognitively lean interpretation, or is it really neither here nor there? (Am I missing the point?) In any event I think it's fascinating that we can know something about the cognitive abilities of infants, even if it's not settled in my mind how exactly we can interpret the facts of infant pointing.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 10:17 AM. 0 comments

Friday, July 06, 2007

The Ontology of Species

Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon wrote in De la Nature:

An individual is nothing in the universe, a hundred or a thousand individuals are still nothing. Species are the only beings in Nature; perpetual beings, as ancient and as permanent as Nature herself; each may be considered as whole, independent of the world, a whole that was counted as one in the works of creation and that, consequently, is but one unit in Nature.

(IN François Jacob, The Logic of Living Systems, p. 52)

Biology has made substantial advancements since Buffon wrote these words. Do these advances represent advances in ontology? Possibly natural scientists have given up discussing ontology. Does that answer the question?

What does an ontology require in order to be credible? Does an ontology have to account for reproduction? Does mimesis count, or is that more like the philosophical equivalent of spontaneous generation? Does gender count, or must there be sex? Does an ontology have to reckon with repetition, or can it be uncertain about whether repetition is possible at all? Does an ontology have to be worldly? Does an ontology have to explain the origin of beings? The demise of beings?

Is the life cycle a mechanistic concept or a zoomorphic concept? How do we understand origin and demise?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 8:36 AM. 0 comments

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Tacit Cogito

Professor Hung Wai-Shun's contribution to the Hong Kong PEACE conference is titled Perception and Self-Awareness in Merleau-Ponty: The Problem of the Tacit Cogito in the Phenomenology of Perception (pdf). Here is the absract:

If the legacy of Descartes is his idea of consciousness as a realm of interiority, the contributions of many twentieth-century philosophers consist precisely in their efforts to criticize this Cartesian notion of self. Among these efforts, Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception occupies an ambiguous position. While its analysis of being-in-the-world as bodily insertion, of expression as incarnation of sense, and of the opaqueness of our inner life challenges the idea of consciousness as a realm of transparency and self-presence, its notion of a tacit cogito seems to remain a notion of self-presence. This essay attempts to understand Merleau-Ponty's concerns behind the notion of tacit cogito, and suggests that the notion is required in order to account for the self-awareness of every experience. Referring to Merleau-Ponty's self-criticism in The Visible and the Invisible, this essay suggests that the difficulties surrounding this notion come from both its conception of the pre-reflective relation of the self to itself as a kind of "proto-reflection" and its conception of the relation between reflection and the pre-reflective in terms of negativity. However, in the analysis of bodily self-awareness of the Phenomenology we can already find the gems of a notion of self-awareness that could avoid the pitfalls of the tacit cogito, and the essay concludes with a brief discussion of how this line of thought is picked up and developed in Merleau-Ponty's later work.

Though I would urge you to read Hung's paper in its entirity, I will say off the bat that I don't believe that the later train of Merleau-Ponty's thought as presented by Hung actually does avoid the pitfalls of the tacit cogito. I think this has to do with Merleau-Ponty's conviction that consciousness essentially has to do with language. So what is the tacit cogito? The tacit cogito is from the gitgo an impossibility. Starting with the notion that "[a]ll thought of something is at the same time self-consciousness" (Phenomenology of Percepetion, p. 371), Merleau-Ponty designates one's conscious presence to oneself as the tacit cogito, which he says is "no less than existence." But, he says, "[t]he tacit cogito is a cogito only when it has found expression for itself" (p. 404). Does this mean that the cogito is destined for language? I think that is what Merleau-Ponty is getting at, and, thus, I think this but makes his existential phenomenology a humanism. When Merleau-Ponty says "existence" or "life," as in "this ambiguous life" of the truly transcendental (pp. 364-365), he is talking about human existence, about human life. That self-awareness has been observed in dolphins, chimpanzees and elephants, or that semovience might point to a kind of self-awareness broadly shared within the Kingdom Animalia, these facts have nothing to do with the tacit cogito, nor with any kind of bodily awareness that the later Merleau-Ponty riffs on, because these instances of self-awareness are in no way tied to language. We could of course broaden our understanding of language to account for the reflective attitudes of our fellow animals. We might then need another idea of language or signification to account for what humans do. Or, if we want to insist on a single definition of language and a single definition of life, we could say that what Merleau-Ponty identifies as the tacit cogito really does point to something originary, and isn't necessarily destined for language.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 10:16 AM. 0 comments

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Living Color

The Phenomenology for East Asian CirclE has convened twice, once in Hong Kong, and once in Tokyo, each time harvesting a bumper crop of papers on phenomenology. Junichi Murata's contribution to the Hong Kong conference is called The Multi-Dimensionality of Colors (pdf). Murata favors a broad, pluralistic understanding of color that encompasses many types of visual recognition across diverse species of organism. Color vision uses a wavelength difference of light to gather information about the environment "in order to live in it" (p. 19, my emphasis). The ways to live in an environment are various. Therefore, Murata concludes that a wide variety of properties may be possibly considered as color, and a wide variety of ways of visually recognizing color may be considered as color vision (pp. 19-20).

In addition to hue, saturation and volume, Murata recognizes an affective dimension of colors, and, taking a cue from Michel Henry, he claims this dimension of color belongs to the world of life, which for Murata has a biological as well as existential meaning (pp. 12-13). (Murata refers to Michel Henry's Voir l’invisible, sur Kandinsky, though it is not listed in his bibliography.) Drawing on David Katz's The World of Colour, Murata says that the visual space in which color appears is intrinsically a kinesthetic space in which the movement of the body is realized (p. 14). He argues that the affective and behavioural dimensions of color are not independent of the spatiality of color, but rather that "how we are affected and motivated to a particular behavior is essentially connected with how the color appears" (p. 14).

So what can we say about the color vision of bees, one of Murata's examples? We don't quite know what it's like to ultraviolet light at the same time we see red, green and blue. Perhaps we know what it's like to be attracted or repelled by a color, and on this basis we can have understanding of what the bee sees. Possibly, however, human feelings of attraction and repulsion represent a quantum leap in feeling beyond what a bee experiences.

It's becoming clear to me that I will be having trouble with the phenomenological linkage between motility and perception on a number of different levels. Thinking about the evolution of color vision in primates, as I understand it there is an anatomical separation between the parvocellular system which processes colors and the magnocellular system which processes motion (see this post). The feeling that color happens in kinesthetic space could well be the product of a combination of several distinct neurological processes that could, in different circumstances, be arranged in other ways. More broadly, I am concerned with the reliability of our feelings. What do we know about the world on the basis of attending to our feelings? Well, I think there are some things we know surely becuase we feel them, and the validity of our feelings is not in doubt in my mind. Yet I'm not sure how this knowledge can be integrated with propositional knowledge. The lesson of feelings is probably one of inconclusiveness.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 8:54 AM. 0 comments

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Everyday Ichspaltung

László Tengelyi, whose The Wild Region in Life History I have yet to read (see this review by Daniel Dahlstrom), has kindly put some of his papers online, including Experience, Action, and Narration (pdf). Here are his conclusions:

We may sum up the considerations presented in this paper by formulating some theses. First, it may be held that it is solely experience which is grasped by, and expressed in, narratives. However, it must be added, secondly, that experience can never be exhausted by stories expressly narrated; it always involves some shreds of sense that may be said to wait for being recounted without exhibiting, or even fitting in well with, the explicit structure of narratives. The perception of these inchoative sense-moments may encourage us to embrace Ricoeur's idea of a pre-narrative structure of experience. But it is with caution that this notion is to be made use of. For nothing prevents discarded, or even repressed, sense-arousals from transcending the narratives which are, in each case, designed to capture them. That is precisely why, thirdly, they may be supposed to prepare unprecedented actions which put into question the stories accepted as characteristic of one's life and of one's self. Such a conflict between actions and narratives may, fourthly, be said to lead to a crisis in which an unavoidable split of the self comes to the fore and becomes manifest. It must, fifthly, be emphasized, however, that this split of the self does not inevitably degenerate into a pathological phenomenon because it is normally counter-balanced by a dynamic equilibrium inhering in experience, which, from time to time, re-arranges and re-organizes the relationship between acting and recounting. Thus, it is experience that mediates between the two attitudes the self is divided into.

(p. 16)

Tengelyi's conclusions rest on a certain notion of experience, and some interesting thinking about the relationship between experience and reality. To begin with, Tengelyi challenges a Husserlian conviction that experience is the product of a consciousness that bestows sense upon the objects of experience. If we are not going to adopt the naive empiricist position that objects identify themselves as real, how then are we to understand the connection between experience and reality? There is room here for a radical phenomenology of perception such as Barbaras has embarked upon; however, that's not the path that Tengelyi follows. Though he seeks to break the bond between transcendental idealism and phenomenology, Tengelyi retains the idea that the relationship between experience and reality can only be conceived from the perspective of one's own consciousness. He borrows from Fichte, Hegel and Schelling a notion that something in experience occurs behind the back of consciousness, so to speak, which is designated as the in itself. He sees an insight here that can be applied without the "mythology" of an unconscious. His claim is that "all experience is the experience of the in itself. It is sufficient for this claim to conceive of experience as of an event that thwarts previous expectations, frustrates conceptual identifications and calls for modifying conceptual schemes. Thus interpreted, experience makes it evident that sense-bestowal by consciousness is from time to time shattered, put into question and urged to renew itself by impulses coming, so to speak, from outside the conscious life" (p. 4). Sense, in Tengelyi's view, is not so much bestowed by consciousness as it is processed by experience. The whole idea of reality has to do with the fact that refutation and confirmation go hand in hand in experience . All experience is an encounter with a mind-independent reality, though, it must be said, the lessons of this encounter are necessarily interpreted from the perspective of a consciousness. (p. 5).

Is it time to go "hmm"? Well, there's one more idea to explore. If we're not talking about a dubious notion of the unconcsious, how do we account for the behind the back of consciousness quality of the in itself? Tengelyi proposes a genetic analysis of experience as opposed to a static analysis, an approach that would acknowledge, if I read him correctly, Erfarhungen rather than Erlebnisse ("lived experiences") (p. 6). What he notices is that in moving from one intentional experience to another, there are shreds of sense left in the wake, in the transition between experiences. He calls these shreds of sense "inter-intentional moments of spontaneous sense-formation," and these moments correspond to a behind the back of consciousness (p. 7). Now I will go "hmm."

My readings in European philosophy have taught me that idealism is deeply unpopular, and that consciousness is regarded with suspicion. I'm not sure why I, as a reader, should adopt these same beliefs and attitudes. I think there is an opinion that consciousness does not account for everything that thinking ought to account for, and this leads to a search for other concepts, and a broadening of concepts like meaning (which we see in Husserl, btw), or experience. The notion that consciousness should be broadened looks like a dead end to many European thinkers. So that's why I go "hmm."

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posted by Fido the Yak at 12:39 PM. 0 comments