Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The 1st Phenomenological Example; Ideas 1 Part 4

This shorty's really into me staring at me like this...Damn, it was a mannequin

After a good 175 pages of method bashing and abstraction supplying, Husserl finally gets to his first phenomenological example. After all this time, the skepticism of empiricism, the naivete of idealism, and the identity of ones psychological self all have been sublimated under the what was to come next; Phenomenology as a descriptive science. Husserl was always at a loss for examples relative to how "modern" reading occurs with mounds of examples supplemented to a text in order to understand a theory. Husserl however operated like a philosopher, meaning he thought that his readers should just know what he was talking about without giving specific examples along the way. When you do find the examples, they are a big deal because they certainly illuminate all the theory that will come before and after. If there ever was an example of phenomenological temporality, it would be in what Husserl calls "the pure tone" (an issue which we will go into in another post; temporality). The payoff usually comes in the middle of one his works after he does these big setups, which to be fair, seemed very necessary to Husserl. Before getting into the concrete example he gives, we have to first see what consciousness is first able to do so that he can provide his example. This primary function of consciousness is reflection. "Among the most universal essential peculiarities of the sphere of pure mental processes we shall deal with reflection first. We shall do so because of its universal methodological function: the phenomenological method operates exclusively in acts of reflection". The method of Phenomenology revolves around reflection. Anything we can understand about experience will be because of the capacity of reflection. Without the possibility of looking-back (even an unaware looking-back) there can be no theory of experience. Without the possibility of an object being regarded independent from a "pure" regard, there can be no theory of experience in any field. Any theory of experience operates teleologically, I.E. trying to understand something called "experience" (It's here where linguistic deconstruction has so much to say regarding the subject of Phenomenology, not to mention the idea of "Speculative Realism" as starting from a non-philosophical point. Both these discussions we can't go into now but will have to be addressed in further posts). Husserl will give a description of the mental process of reflection. We are not yet at the specific example though that this post will address.
"When the mental process which, at any particular time, is actually being lived comes into reflective regard it becomes given as actually being lived, as existing 'Now'. But not only that: it becomes given as having just now been and, in so far as it was unregarded, precisely as having been unregarded, as not having been reflected on. In the natural attitude, without our thinking about it, we take for granted that mental processes do not exist only when we advert to them and seize upon them in an experience of something immanent; and we also take it for granted that they actually existed and, indeed, were actually lived by us if they are still, in reflection on something immanent, within retention ("primary" memory) as having been 'just now,' still intended to.'"
Here we have a phenomenological description of reflection as the primary method of phenomenological method. To truly understand this thought process though, we will have to elaborate on what Husserl is saying in his emphasis on the reflective act. At any time, one can be reflective. One can operate outside of the "pure" spectrum of perception which Husserl simply calls "the lived". This "lived" can come into your reflective regard meaning that what ever has happened to you can be reflected on. This reflection though is not some mere abstraction away from "the lived" though, but is a way of living itself. As much as a "pure perception" independent of reflection lives in subjectivity, reflection lives in subjectivity in its own way. They both live. The reflection lives in the "Now" as much as what is called a "primal impression" (which can be described because its primal non-understood nature) lives in the "Now". An idealist hypothesis would privilege a "Nowness" independent of reflection, but both are living. For better terms, both are happening. Beyond this though, this reflection on an object can be regarded itself as just-having-been. Not only does an object and a reflection live, but a reflection on the reflection lives too. The original object of reflection, in this case a mental process, was also unregarded at one point. The mental process happened without any reflection on it. This was an aspect to consciousness; to let something happen to it without conscious regard for its happening, until a possibility of it being reflected upon. We take this for granted. As an empiricist, we take for granted the mental processes happening in the "Natural Attitude". Let's be more clear. What do we take for granted? We take for granted the fact that when we say "There was nothing happening when I wasn't thinking of anything", that we are positing something happening as nothing; a nothing that's obviously still something, in this case, a conjecture about a past time-happening in its most empty form. We make a skeptical conjecture that at the same time affirms the existence of what was at once at the idea of the skepticism (the general criticism of Empiricism's skepticism of immanency). This nothingness that we conjecture was actually lived by us, IF, we ask about it, or think about it (again, a question is raised within the new field of "Speculative Realism" which ostensibly doesn't ask ontological questions or think about them. Instead these are seen as specifically "philosophical gestures", meaning the idea of questioning itself is relative to something called "philosophy", in which outside of it, there is no question to ask about these ideas). We can reflect on this immanency (I.E. a mental process), and if we know about the immanency it is because of reflection. We take for granted that this at-once primary-now happened even if we reflect on it because of the biased theoretical nature of the naive attitude, the Natural Attitude. But if we don't take it for granted, we see that something was given to us in which we were able to reflect upon it. This given was retention; the grasping of something in "pure" experience which may or may not be the object for being remembered. It's important to distinguish retention from remembering here. A remembering takes something that's already been retained and makes a theme out of it, no doubt that it's a difference from the "primal impression" of a "Now", but derivation or not, is still a taking into something else (a metaphor for reflection which bears some semblance to what it at first took, but is logically not the same because of the difference of space.) Retention is the act of primary memory. Without this act of primary memory, (the act that retains a primary), reflection would not be possible because it would be working with no data, specifically, no data of sensation.
With reflection being described, what is the 1st phenomenological example that Husserl gives that will establish the field of Phenomenology as the descriptive discipline of essences (eidetic truths)? His example is that of rejoicing. "For example, in a living intuition (which even may be imaginary) we put ourselves into the effecting of some act or other, perhaps into a rejoicing at a course of theoretical thought which goes on freely and fruitfully). At our disposal is the liberty of being able to enjoy ourselves, and for Husserl (funnily enough), it's the rejoicing at a theoretical thought. Yes, theoretical thoughts make some men happy. By all the reductions we came to through the past posts and readings on Husserl we can elaborate on what happens with rejoicing based on the primary method of phenomenology; reflection. We can reflect on what is essentially happening in rejoicing. In a reflection, we are first brought to the idea that we are rejoicing. This is essential. We can say for ourselves, "We are rejoicing". While we are undergoing a "pleasing course of thoughts", a reflective regard becomes adverted (attention-turned-t0) to the rejoicing. "The latter becomes a mental process regarded and perceived as something immanent, fluctuating and fading away thus and so as it is regarded reflectively". Rejoicing becomes the object of our reflection. No longer is the immediate rejoicing what it was in its "pure" immediacy, but is now the object of reflection; a thought on what was at once immediate. It is a derivation, a duplication, a supplement in the most logical sense possible (There's no need for us now, or maybe ever, to make an existential matter out of this which would always be on its way towards defining oneself as not being a duplicate by phenomenologically explaining derivation and difference. We are limited to a logic of space here, not to personal answers that rejoice in telling others). The rejoicing as remembered rejoicing has a process whereby it's immanent, meaning it's happening in our heads (after all, we are reflecting), fluctuating, meaning it's taking on a different signification every second it's being thought about, and fading away, meaning that as time goes by the reflection on the rejoicing fades away to not be the object of an active remembrance anymore. This reflected rejoicing then is in our head, changing it's significations every second, and will slowly fade away to the point where it's no longer on our minds. Now, the case for rejoicing was a prime example for Husserl in being able to establish phenomenology. This pertains to the picture at the top of this post which so far has been unexplained, the picture of the mannequin (further established in Experience and Judgment). As somewhat of a dense post this already is, and as dense as Husserl's example of rejoicing as the phenomenological example (of reflection) is, I thought it would be fun to go into the anecdotal example of Husserl's actual encounter with a mannequin rather than his theoretical reflection on it. As the story goes (according to his students. Gadamer among one of them), Husserl was teaching a class in his solipsistic style when he went on to elaborate on the misperception of something outside oneself. Husserl told the story of how he was once going up the stairs of a museum when he saw a beautiful woman at the top of the stairs who was ready to greet him (in more-than a greeting way. Oh la la!). Husserl became happy as he awaited this unexpected stranger. At last he got to the top of the stairs ready to greet this beautiful woman when it became apparent to him that it was not a person, but a "mere wax figure" in which he sighed when he said "mere wax figure". Poor Husserl (Was he married before or after this incident?). His perception had misled him, which eventually would turn into one of his primary examples of misperception. Rejoicing here had took it's course in a ton of mental processes. There was expectation, a logically infinite amount of "Now's" between his expectation and his let down, and the let down itself. And then, there was the reflection of the experience itself which was not the mental processes as they were happening in the "Now's" of experience but the reflective regard of the ego toward the ostensible mental processes. What at once was rejoiceful and dejecting in it's most "pure" state to Husserl had now become modified by reflection. "The freedom of the course of thought suffers; we are now conscious of it in a modified manner; the pleasingness belonging to its continuance is also affected essentially-that too we can observe by adverting our reflective regard in yet other directions". The freedom which accompanied the mental processes that weren't thoughts (reflections) takes on a suffering, a negation. The negation is the thought on what was called an "original experience" here. Literally, the idealization of the experience; the transcription from "originary excitations" (Freud) to the written word of these excitations is a suffering. In a more logical manner it's a modification, and it's somewhat peculiar that Husserl would use the past tense verb of "suffering" here (I would think this belongs more to the existential analytical proclivities of Heidegger's ontology). We are conscious in a modified manner. We are no longer in "pure" being but in reflective being. When one is reflecting, they are in a modification from an originality. The one time pleasingness is affected by reflection. Reflection can go off in many directions. It can reflect on the reflection itself. It can reflect on the immediate perception of the mannequin. It can also reflect on how the original pleasingness was affected not just because of the reflection of the woman being seen as a mannequin, but because of reflection itself on the situation which modifies even the pleasingness that was originally pleasing into a modified pleasingness, essentially what "pleasing" would be when we are in the process of reflecting on this pleasingness. One can imagine that there is more "pure" thought in the reflection than pleasingness. Further along in the phenomenological reflection of this experience, is the reflection on not reflecting on the rejoicing. We can "seize upon the lack of regard adverted to it in the phenomenon that has run its course". We can see how unlimited and in how many directions reflection can go. We can reflect on any "moment" of experience, and even reflect on there being no reflection in the course of the mental processes accompanying an experience. Even this non-reflection though is a reflection. All this points to "all the possibilities of mental-process moments" that phenomenology would like to elaborate on in "systematic completeness". Phenomenology for Husserl can elaborate on the "mode of consciousness as not modified reflectionally" (meaning pure mental processes) and also all the ways in which consciousness can reflect on these pure mental processes. Reflection though can show us these pure mental processes such as the "was-perceived" and the "will-be-perceived", in name only (always the problem and criticism of Phenomenology). We will continue to learn more about how reflection can gain insights into these eidetic (essential) moments of mental processes by always slightly modifying reflection as a method. For example, using the reflective method to give vague references to mental processes rather than specific aspects that ostensibly were happening in mental processes. In a strong sense, the more vague the insights of reflection, the more close to a "pure" mental processes we will be. It will be less idealized, and somewhat more confusing which we saw is not a problem for phenomenology in the past post. I don't think it would be incorrect to say that a phenomenological elaboration on a mental process will be more "impressionistic". Broadly speaking, it's not Phenomenology's problem if it creates a new language on it's own when understanding eidetic experience. But the more closely "references to mental processes" are addressed, the more these one-time-obscurities (confusions) will become more clear, and will become somewhat of a new language. This clarity will be addressed in the next posts.
This much is clear, reflection will be our (first) method for understanding what is happening within consciousness (mental processes), and what one can reflect on is immense. Reflection opens up a seemingly infinite field on what had happened prior to reflection. Imagination and reflection have their analogies here for better or worse. In the same token, it will be important to distinguish between reflection and imagination so the method of reflection doesn't fall into the hazards of idealism written about in a prior post; basically making things up about something that never happened. This is a tricky tight-rope walk. The phenomenologist will have to be scrupulous and meticulous in their description of consciousness. If this rigor is followed through, Phenomenology will be at worst a hypothesis of experience. At best, Phenomenology will be a good hypothesis of experience, in other words, it will always be a metaphor. The question is whether it will be a good metaphor or a bad metaphor for an experience that happened independent of metaphorization (transcription). And whenever this question is "decided", if it's ever something that could be "decided", a question will then arise regarding the status of the metaphor. In other words, a "pure" phenomenology of transcription.

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