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.


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