Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Positing existence independent of yourself; Ideas 1 Part 1

Blue background, white text, this shit's serious.

Every time you finish a book, you feel guilty for not having read another book which makes you read eternally. In this case, I'm guilty of having not read Husserl's Ideas I when I claim to come from the school of Husserl's thought. I really don't claim this for myself, by I talk about him incessantly and reference him in just about every piece of writing that I do. Nonetheless, the most "formal" work I've done is on Husserl and because of this I have recently been castigated by 2 professors for not reading his Ideas I while giving myself the liberties of being able to reference Husserl in sometimes over-generalized ways. I admit this myself. The only defense I have is that I have closely read every other of his published works which has given me a strong sense of the thought of Husserl. It's never an "official" understanding though until you've read every published piece of work by the author. I can take this a step further and say that one never really reads an author because it's easily possible to have 1 bad reading of a text, making one's reading of an author forever "unofficial". Regardless of my caustic response in defending my readings, I always knew that I was going to read Ideas I. I just haven't gotten to it yet! Tout le monde se détendre!

I am in the great position of "having a lot of Husserl on my side" when reading this text, which is considered one of his most important texts. I'm fairly certain that most of the themes expressed in this text I've come across through one of his other texts. If anything, this will be a good reminder of a primary text from Husserl which I haven't visited for about 7 months now. Let us now throw ourselves into the peculiar world of Husserlian Phenomenology done by the man himself.

At the beginning of this behemoth of a text is Husserl's perennial task at creating a method where the "subject" is able to have a sense of existence independent of the subject actually positing anything about it; the extension of Descartes Meditations and/or The Phenomenological Epoche. Always trying to avoid a psychological interpretation of consciousness (pyschologism), Husserl takes great pains to bracket out his existence along with the readers existence during his texts. One of the first Ideas conveyed in Ideas I is the differentiation between "Matters of Fact" and "Eidetic Intuition" which we will go into later in a much more precise manner (specifically, what an "Eidetic Intuition" actually is; What an "Eidetic Science" would be). To be able to do this though, one has to distinguish themselves from themselves which means operate without anything external to them but "purely" within the cogito, the thinking substance that is without ego, the ego that is need of being bracketed out that will always and already want to posit an "objective" existence. "The unrestricted universality of natural laws must not be mistaken for eidetic universality. To be sure, the proposition, 'All bodies are heavy,' posits no definite physical affair as factually existing within the totality of Nature. Still it does not have the unconditional universality of eidetically universal propositions because, according to its sense as a law of Nature, it carries with it a positing of factual existence, that is to say, of Nature itself, of spatiotemporal actuality". The proposition "All bodies are heavy" is a statement of fact. It includes "All bodies". We already have a conception of what a "body" is and are giving it an attribute of heaviness. As a "Law of Nature" for Husserl, it is in the "region" of a "fact". We are attributing bodies to nature. We are attributing a fact. This proposition being stated and belonging to nature make it positing of an attribute. It's something an ego would say based on the fact that there is a totality to nature and things can be said about it. What then is the distinction that will be so crucial for Husserl when he speaks of "eidetic" validity (In Greek, Eidetic means "form". Husserl want's to use the term as a sort of Genus for a fact, meaning he wants to privilege the form of validity over any specific instance of validity in existence. In other words he wants to show the logic of validity independent of humans even existing at all). The answer may be surprising at first because of how similar the look of this statement is in comparison to the "matter of fact" statement. "The proposition, 'All material things are extended,' has eidetic validity and can be understood as a purely eidetic proposition provided that the positing of factual existence, carried out on the side of the subject is suspended. It states something that is grounded purely in the essence of a material thing and in the essence of extension and that we can make evident as having 'unconditional' universal validity'. So the statement "All material things are extended" has a privileged sense over "All bodies are heavy". The former being an eidetic truth and the later being a matter of fact. But a proposition is still being made by a subject. If this is the case, then the grasping of an eidetic will fail. This is where positing on behalf of a subject will be suspended. So we have to think of not stating a proposition while at the same time reading graphematic writing that was posited by Husserl himself. This is not very easy to understand and Husserl never found it necessary to explain some of these complications. The complication is in how he read each statement. If the reader doesn't read the statements like he read them, then you would see both as simply being matters of fact. Lets think about these two propositions for a moment. "All bodies are heavy" is qualified by measuring "weight". "A body" is qualified by the fact that there is a structure of things that make up a whole (set theory overlaps big time here. Pun!). In this proposition about nature, that we want to attribute to nature, we are given the facts of "Body" and "Weight" that are able to make this fact, a fact. On the contrary, "All materials are extended" has a different sense to it for Husserl, an eidetic sense to it. A "material" isn't a fact. It can be "anything whatsoever" for Husserl including anything that one imagines. In this sense, it doesn't have to operate in "real-time". A material is literally anything. On the same line we have the concept of "extension". For Husserl, this would be the case independent of an ego being able to make the statement of extensionality. Anything, whatsoever, are extensions. Anything, can't be nothing. It has to be extended somewhere. It doesn't have to be weight though, nor does it have to be what we call a body. Still, the differentiation is hard to make. Extension is still a property of material, and a material is still a positing by a subject. For Husserl though, he can imagine in his head the idea of an extended material, but he can't imagine a heavy body as fact. He knows for sure that something takes up space and that something, is something. He doesn't know if that something (anything whatsoever) is a "body" nor if that body has some type of quality called "heaviness". The heart of all this is Husserl's idealism or imagination that is able to think of these invariant possibilities that for him show eidetic essences. "We do this by making the essence of the material thing something given originarily (perhaps on the basis of a free phantasying of a material thing) in order, then, in this presentive consciousness, to perform the steps of thinking which the 'insight,' the originary giveness of the predicatively formed eidetic affair-complex explicitly set down by that proposition." A couple things happen here. Firstly, "the material thing is given originarily". Husserl will privilege "material" over the concept of "bodies" because "materials" come to a "subject" (who's not yet a "subject) by "insight", not by a predicated statement regardless of the fact that the subject only knows about this "insight" after the fact of the subject stating it. Husserl gives himself the luxury of being able to use a term that is used as a completely random variable that comes by way of insight and so earns a status of being eidetic. Husserl even says "We do this by making..". We have the option to make something "original". We can do this by freely fantasizing (imagining) about the material thing, rather than seeing it in "real existence". Materials "present" themselves to consciousness, and then we gain an "insight" during this presentation. What is this insight? That we have something that was from somewhere. And here is an eidetic necessity, that something came from somewhere. Husserl though slightly oversteps the tight boundaries he wants to make for an eidetic science by saying that this material will come "originally" rather just from "somewhere". If he wanted to establish the idea of an eidetic science, he would have been better off not to posit an ostensibly "original" place in time. The variable concept of "somewhere" can belong to an eidetic science, but the absolute concept of "originality" only belongs in one place, making it very much a fact. Still we can imagine a material, a random variable coming to something called "consciousness" in which we then are "enlightened" (insight) by the material that comes to us. For any proposition to occur, there must be somewhere that throws something to something called consciousness. As a note, there is a big problem with using the word "consciousness" here. We don't know what he's talking about. We can only infer that it's a machine that takes something from somewhere, much like Freud's psychic apparatus. We aren't giving a metaphor like Freud will give his readers in his writing/psyche analogy. For Husserl, these are things that have to happen for anything to happen in the first place. These are eidetic necessities. Certainly the proposition had to be made for us to realize this eidetic necessity, but an eidetic necessity doesn't require an "us", a subject, an ego, for the necessity of its happen. It's always and already the case that this insight will come to something at one time not understood or called a "subject" before the subject is able to make a proposition based on this eidetic necessity, that the subject will call an eidetic necessity. Basically, Husserl is saying that just because we have words and expression in general to elaborate on what at one time wasn't expressed, doesn't mean that this invalidates the phenomenology. We can borrow words from Being and put it to Nothingness, but this doesn't taking away from the operation of nothing. For Husserl, if we are only subjects independent of ourselves can we understand this. This is the Husserlian leap of faith; to be able to believe that you are nothing in order to do phenomenological science. It is no doubt a leap of faith to borrow signifiers from being in the presence of language and attribute them to a place where there was no signifiers. It's something that Merleau-Ponty elaborated on at the end of the The Visible and The Invisible; the intertwining effect of each which essentially would make any "pure" phenomenology impossible. However, we know this at the very least, that something happens to us, and then somewhere we gain an insight and have a compulsion to represent this empty variable of something happening in loaded heavy-handed concepts (a sure amount of irony here). These are eidetic necessities though independent of expression for Husserl. "That something actual in space corresponds to truths of that sort is not a mere fact; instead, it is an eidetic necessity as a particularization of eidetic laws. Only the actual thing itself, to which the application is made, is matter of fact here". Something Actual is an eidetic necessity, not a matter of fact. It's a fact that there is "something actual". Something Actual is what eidetically grounds a matter of fact. Of course, another eidetic necessity is space and here again, like "materials" and "extension" (which to be fair is basically synonymous with "space") "space" is given a privileged from as an eidetic necessity, as long as the "subject is suspended", in other words, as long as you suspend yourself in making the assertion. It's a law, not a fact, that "Something Actual" has to first be the case for a fact to be established. We can conceive this surely. For me the problems lies in using concepts beyond the concepts that earn their emptiness-status like "anything", "something" "whatsoever" and so on. In this sense, the heart of Heidegger's Being and Time is somewhat more faithful to eidetic necessities because it never allows itself to go beyond ontological categories into a geometrical space, a geometrical space that Husserl to be sure privileged since his first work on the Philosophy of Arithmetic. There was always "pure" Euclidean geometrical space for Husserl. I'm not going to make a criticism of it here because Derrida already did it in his Introduction to Husserl's Origin's of Geometry which I do an analysis of in prior posts in this writing space. Still if we ignore the fact of Husserl equating geometry with ontology, we gain the insight needed into what an eidetic insight is by the deconstructed subject operating only within the ontological category of "something actual" for example. What is a matter of fact is the actual thing itself. The actual thing in space that corresponds to a truth, for example, a ball, a tone, a "cultural fact", are matters of fact. The eidetic necessity that there is "something actual" first for a subject before the subject realizes itself as a subject is privlidged over the signified object temporally, hence the imposed "originality" placed on eidetic necessity. If anything, eidetic necessity is a temporal concept; A first in the line of a series that will end up getting to a matter of fact. I suspect that this will come up later in Ideas I as all of Husserl's text's always end up addressing temporality as the function of the ideality that he is searching out, in this case in the name of "eidetic necessities". But to which this "something actual" is applied, where this application is made, is where a matter of fact happens. Eidetic necessities makes matters of facts then. It's operation is an application to a fact. A transcription from one place to another. Sound familiar to the prior posts on Freud's picture of the Mystic Writing Machine where the psyche was first thought of as being in a place in waiting to be written on? The key to this post though and the beginning of this text by Husserl though is the fact that we are able to use language and expression to posit existence "independent" of the fact that we are using language and expression to posit existence. We can imagine to ourselves by Husserl's "free imaginative variation technique" that something like we just described by the proposition of "material things being extended" happened independent of us having to express it. We can imagine it. Was it the same thing in this type of a-priori consciousness? I doubt it. But can we imagine something being presented to something called "consciousness" that will then "perform the steps of thinking" that will lead to the "insight" which in turn gives us the desire to set it down by proposition? Certainly. For all this to happen, there has to be a place where something is able to happen; something actual. A place where something is able to happen: an eidetic necessity. What we propose as something that has to happen for us to be able to say that this very exact thing has happened.

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