Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Neutrality Modifcation; Ideas I Part 7

Heaven. Hell. How come there's no love for Purgatory?

As we continue on Ideas I in the noetic-noematic description of phenomena, we come across what I think to be one of the most interesting ideas of Husserl's, and that's his description of mental phenomena under the heading "neutrality modification." From the past post, we saw the different levels that consciousness can happen under the mode of reflection. We saw that these levels could happen ad infinitum. We also discovered eidetic truths such as hierarchization and the "pure" sense of causality that was established when one remembering would refer back to a previous one and spawn a remembering there after. In all the characterizations we made, we were always positers. We were always operating in "doxic" (belief) forms of consciousness in which an act of consciousness is always grounded in a primal-belief (proto-doxa); simply put, our intentions were getting to new levels even if that new level was a reference back to a past level. We found many different ways in which consciousness could happen, and how it was always making sense by the noemata of conscious acts. But what if the inherent belief act in every positing (on it's way to reason) was neutralized? What would the sense of a mental phenomena be if it was neutralized in it's own possibility of being anything in general? What would the perceived as perceived "look like" if a perception wasn't happening as a perception? Husserl addresses this in this most substantial part of the book. I could see this as a part of the book that's overlooked if a reader is trying to get to reason too quickly. It's for this reason that I wanted to address this topic. The hope is that phenomenology can explain something that is not yet at reason, a place where there's no belief in whatever is happening in one's mind, but something is still happening. What is a happening in a mind independent of the idea that anything is always grounded in a shift (belief) towards something else? What is a mind without this shift? Lets try to find how Husserl addresses the neutrality modification to see what consciousness would look like when it isn't always and already positing (primal-belief) something.

"It is a matter, now, of a modification which, in a certain way, completely annuls, completely renders powerless every doxic modality to which it is related-but is a modification in a totally different sense than that of a negation which, moreover, as we saw, its positive effect in the negatum: a non-being which is itself again a being." Let's start off with this statement from Husserl to begin an elaboration on neutral consciousness. We here have a state of consciousness that "renders powerless" every act of positing. The act of positing as the fundamental mode (intentionality) of consciousness gets "parenthesized" here. What is happening immanently, is not happening to us whereby happening for us means an intentionality structure between noetic and noematic consciousness, between "pure" mental processes, and their meaning, their sense. What's most important about this statement though is how this neutrality modification is not negation. We understand negation as the opposition to a position (positing, positivism). It's a judgment against something for example. But we learned from Husserl's criticism of empiricism that any negation, any skepticism towards conscious understanding independent of "experience" is grounded in a position, this position being negation. When I negate, I affirm, I affirm something that's not. This distinction is crucial for what neutrality consciousness is. What the sense of something is isn't being negated as something "not happening" itself (which is a position), but is "existing" independent of any position whatsoever. The positing consciousness gets bracketed out here. Instead of denying something, I'm denying my denial (because it is a position), and in essence am denying doxic (belief-positing) consciousness. To be sure, consciousness is still happening independent of belief, or is it? We will have to read further. For now though we see that negation is a positing in the form of non-being which is a position. All negation is a position, an affirmation in the most primal sense of what believing in anything in general is; to posit without recognizing that positing is happening (proto-doxa). Lets try to "characterize" this further by way of Husserl insistence's. "It is included in every abstaining-from-producing something, putting-something-out-of-action, 'parenthesizing-' it, 'leaving-something-undecided' and then having an-'undecided'- something, being-'immersed'-in-the-producing, or 'merely conceiving' the something producing without 'doing anything with it'". This is a load of inverted commas and compound verbs by way of hyphens. Lets analyze what's going on here. Understanding this phrase is a key to understanding the idea of neutrality modification. When I abstain from producing, this is because of consciousness being able to abstain from a judgment (predication, positing) . This being-able-to of consciousness is the neutrality modification just as much as consciousness is able to posit something independent of it's own mode of positing for sense. When we put something out of action, we parenthesize the sense of a conscious act, we learned that the texture of the sense doesn't become negated. We are still very aware of it. For writing purposes, if we are to establish sense linguistically and by way of graphematic writing, we can cross out, bracket, and parenthesize any sense-intention. This doesn't mean that the sense still doesn't exist. It means that the sense exists in a modified matter, a neutrality modification. We look at the sense of this "tree." By our inverted commas we signify that the tree is not to be understood directly but as sort of hovering over us as the pure sense of the intentionality. Still the "tree" isn't negated. It's just modified into seeing it's sense independent of that fact that a "tree" was posited in the first place. We leave this sense undecided in the inverted commas (quotations). We can see that the word "tree" is written down and we may even have an image of it, but what the quotation does is not make a theme out the image of it, the emphasis on it as logos or the written word. The inverted commas, the quotation emphasizes the fact that there is something. It's not posited, it's not doxic (it's not a belief). Husserl further elaborates that we leave something undecided and have an undecided-something with it. This leaving something undecided and still having something with it is the neutrality modification. I'm personally tempted to use the adjective "ambivalent" here but warn against using it in fear of readers grabbing onto the idea of ambivalence as a personal idealization for their own being. The thrust of Husserl's emphasis here has nothing to do with a persons personal being, but with how it's possible that consciousness can have something in it where nothing is to be posited. He's not trying to idealize ambivalence as some sort of psuedo-spiritual stance. He's working purely within phenomenology here; not ontology nor existentialism. The tricky part of the above quotation is his final sentence; "'merely conceiving' the something producing without 'doing anything with it'". This is where is takes extra effort of mental creativity and work to understand what's being said. What is it to 'merely conceive' something without "doing anything with it". Well lets sort of psychoanalyze this statement. Husserl has very much in mind the fact that there's a possibility that what is conceived can have something done with it, hence the "doing anything with it", and for our purposes we can understand that this "doing" is the expression and predication of what is always and already making sense in consciousness; i.e. an ascent to reason which Husserl is ultimately trying to justify which I think is at the disservice to phenomenology if it want's to operate independent of any teleological presuppositions, these teleological presuppositions that Husserl so carefully marked out as not pertaining to the method of phenomenology or task of phenomenology ("Task" understood as not getting to something called "enlightenment" or "reason". Really a pure descriptive science). We "merely conceive" without it getting to reason or any of the other correlates of productive consciousness. We have a conception and we are doing nothing with it. Lets be honest, how close is this to the modern concept of "zoning-out"? To merely conceive without doing anything with it. I can wake up in the morning and just happen to be zoning off staring into the clock. In this sense I'm "merely conceiving" without doing anything with it. I'm not saying, "that's a clock", nor am I thinking "that's a clock". I'm attentively regarded to something that has an authoritarian rule over my perception. As someone who wakes up, I'm not thinking conceptually, but in more of a zoning out consciousness. Is this what Husserl means by the neutrality modification? The possibility of being able to zone out? Lets test this idea of "zoning out" again with what Husserl will say later on. "It is a 'neutralized' believing, deeming likely, negating, or the like, the correlates of which repeat those of the unmodified mental processes but in a radically modified way: the being simplicity, the being possible, the being probably, likewise the non-being and each of the other negata and affrimata- all that is consciously there although not in the manner of something 'actually' thought of but instead as something 'merely thought of.' as 'mere thought.' Perhaps our example of zoning out was somewhat haphazard. We were dealing specifically with perception of a clock. We didn't go into the neutrality modification pertaining to "believing, deeming like, and negating for example". The correlate of a neutralized believing consciousness is an unmodified mental processes. This is key. As a believer in something, if I neutralize my belief, the correlate of it is an unmodified mental processes. What the neutrality modification does is say that nothing is actually being believed as if what I were to believe in were to give sense to my pure intention of belief. This would be a noematic modification whereby my judgment would be given sense in the belief of "that dog running towards me" as "that dog running towards me". I would be given the sense of something like a dog running towards me. Afterwords (after the experience) I can say "that dog was running towards me". But in neutralized consciousness there is no sense that has the mode of "asing" the judgement,perception,judging (noesis). There is no sense to those pure mental processes, hence I'm brought back to unmodified consciousness. But the idea of "unmodified consciousness" takes up a different determination in the sense that belief returns back to unmodified consciousness. Lets take the example of "being-possible" and "being-probable". In neutralized consciousness I'm not simply refereed back to whatever is unmodified consciousness (which is a great description serving as an index for neutralization modification). Within unmodified consciousness, I "have" being-possible and being-probable for example. I "have" something in unmodified consciousness, and for Husserl, we are going to have to say that unmodified consciousness is able to have something which is different from modification. Having something is not modification. This is the essence to the idea of the neutralized consciousness. This being-possible and being-probable is not "actually" thought about and here is the key. It's "merely thought of" as "mere thought". Ok, what is the distinction here between an "actual" thought and a "mere thought. An actual thought is something that exists. It's a doxic thought. It exists for us. We think to ourselves "It is possible I can sell my computer for $600.00?" This is an actual thought. What is a "merely thought of"? What's the distinction between "actual" thought and "mere" thought? An actual thought exists for me. It takes on existential significance. A "mere thought" is something that's not existentially significant, hence without the "actuality" of existence, it's just a thought that hovers inside of oneself without ever finding it's "existence." For example, I can look at my computer I want to sell and something can come across my mind that has the texture of selling it. But nothing happens after it. It was just a mere thought without existence. It was something that happened to me immanently without me necessarily being aware of it. In this sense the idea of zoning out (based on perception) has a parallel to the being-possible as a mere thought. While I perceptively zone out at the clock, I'm in a mere thought that's not actual. When I am thinking in the "being-possible" I'm in a certain sense zoning out by the fact that the thought never comes to fruition. There's no commitment in that thought being towards something beyond itself. In a certain sense my "mere thought" is idle. It simply hovers there. Consciousness is being modified into a neutralization here. One can imagine that this happens often. Things come to mind in which one isn't aware and they will never be aware. A glimpse of something can bring up thoughts that are never recognized, are never actual, but are nonetheless thoughts. These thoughts are neutral because they don't posit existence, they don't posit anything. They simply happen to me immanently and this is all I can possible say of them. All in all, what we have is the being simpliciter by which we mean something that could never be expressed. We conjectured into experiences where thoughts and perceptions happened without ever being posited and certified that these things happen to human consciousness regardless of our phenomenological description of them.

This is just the beginning of the neutrality modification. I suspect that I will have to spend another post elaborating on this modification within consciousness in regards to its connection with reason, its relation to fantasy consciousness, its relation to a foreground theme in distinction to a background theme whereby the foreground theme received the attentive ray of the Ego while the background theme is a neutralized consciousness since it's hovering before us without it being expressed, predicated, focused on, basically not having any meaning at all but nonetheless still existing in unmodified consciousness, an unmodified consciousness which has these "noemata" which are nonetheless without their sense and are not "actual" but "mere thoughts" in which we basically described as being simpliciter. A question will come up whether even this neutralized consciousness is grounded in the proto-doxa, meaning a "mere thought" is a belief itself. For example my unrecognized glance at a clock in which nothing is happening consciously, in which this unmodified consciousness characteristic will fade away in which I will never have a regard for it. My ego will never run an attentive ray to the thought that I never knew when something grabbed my attention. Is this thought in unmodified consciousness a correlate of primal belief? The fact that I'm caught by anything (even if I don't formally recognize it), does this not constitute a primal belief in general, a belief though that is under the guidance of pure mental processes; essentially mental processes that is analogous to belief, not simply belief as a causality of pure mental processes, but the idea of pure mental processes being analogous to what is called "belief." These are important questions for understanding a coherent theory of consciousness under the auspices of Phenomenology. We are not there yet. It will take some more time. The more we invest into the project though, the more we gain clarity on issues and also confusions which bring up new questions. The process though is giving credence and clarity to something that was never accounted for; the going without saying of consciousness. The idea alone of the neutrality modification gives an understanding to something that happens to all consciousness no matter how unrecognized it is. These experiences happen to us regardless of the fact that as phenomenologists, we describe these happenings. Phenomenologists are just there to say "Hey, this is happening to you whether you know it or not. Even if we have to use language to tell you this, these things are happening to you regardless of us telling you about it." Eventually the question will be posed psychoanalytically on where the desire comes from to give an account to everything that goes without saying in consciousness.

I leave for Nova Scotia tomorrow. No post(s) for next week. Maybe some pictures on the picture page when I come back. Until then, I'm open to comments and emails regarding what Husserl could possibly be talking about to his daughter in this video. I think he's explaining what the consciousness of a video recorder is. I'm sure she's interested.

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