Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Can language carry the burden of Phenomenology?; Ideas I Conclusion

Is this what Phenomenology would "look like" independent of language?

These entire series of posts dealing with Husserl's Ideas I took for granted the use of language in being able to describe an experience that happens before language. I eluded to the fact that this would have to be addressed. It's something I instinctively wanted to stay away from because I wanted to be faithful to the authorship of Husserl here in one of his most elaborate texts pertaining to the work of phenomenology and because the problem of language for phenomenology is so obvious that I just didn't want to go after the obvious. In Ideas I the work of Phenomenology is all encompassing. There's certain things that we were able to say in regards to Phenomenology; for example, the lack of freedom in having harmonious experiences, and the imperfection of being able to see an "object" in its totality and how this imperfection is a satisfied constitution independent of phenomenological explanation. At the end of Ideas I, Husserl goes deeper into the problem of how these problems could look and herein lies the problem of how language can do the work that Phenomenology wants it do (more specifically the work that Husserl wants it to do). The question is in how much language is going to be able to carry the burden of Phenomenology. As we learned from Kant in earlier posts, we are always applying our own concepts to a non-conceptual experience if we are interested in understanding what a non-conceptual experience is, and by this he means we are applying a concept to a prior experience, an ostensible prior experience. Husserl honestly asks these questions himself and he starts to gain a sense of what phenomenology can look like in it's descriptive mode. He doesn't say "sound like" or "read like," but "look like" in order to stay consistent with his theme later developed in Experience and Judgment where language is a "mere mode of sense" in comparison to sense-happening that happens independent of language. We learned about this through Husserl's concept of the noema by trying to think about all the different way sense happens without having to talk about. Thinking about the tree as a tree put us in a place where we were intentional beings without linguistically having to account for this (even though we did in the description "intentional beings"). This post will try to flesh out not only the problem of language as it pertains to Phenomenology, but what Phenomenology could look like with or without language. Lets first though go into Husserl as he tries to understand what a descriptive phenomenology would look like.

Husserl asks "How are we to describe systematically the noeses and noemas belonging to the unity of the intuitively objectivating consciousness of the physical thing"? As beings, we are a consciousness that objectivates into a physical thing. We end up with a material at the end of all phenomenological processes; this is certain for Husserl. How are we to describe the sense process though that was touched upon in the levels of the noemas and it's correlate noeses that were the mental processes without saying they were the mental processes? What would this pure description look like? "How do the multiple posited intuitions, the 'intuitional posita,' look in which an 'actual' physical thing becomes given and, in the manner peculiar to intuition, shows its actuality in originaliter 'experience'",? Lets take a closer look at this statement. First we have the idea of "originality experience," meaning an experience that ostensibly happens "originally." When an experience happens originally, how does it look? We are given an actual physical thing, say for example a tree. When we first glance at the tree, how does this look? How does it look when I look at the tree? At first glance, we look like we are in some higher altitude where we are looking down at ourselves looking at something but this isn't what Husserl is interested in. He's interested in something called "multiple posited intuitions." In other words, he's interested in the way in which consciousness would "look" in its inner-happenings. How can we look inside consciousness to see what is happening? As an open question, if Husserl were still alive would he defer the authority of phenomenology to cognitive science and neurophysiology? To be more direct, would he find a pet scan interesting for phenomenological description? Modern brain-scan technology is able to tell when someone is in an "active" state of mind and when they are feeling or thinking a certain way. Even in biofeedback cognitive behavioral therapy, a patient is connected to electrodes that show a physical relationship between consciousness and it's outer activity in the subject. In biofeedback therapy, a patient is shown their states of mental activity and likewise, their states of non-active mental activity. The purpose many times is to have more control over themselves by recognizing how their body feels relative to a brain pattern action. Is this brain picture what "intuited posita" would look like? If I'm attached to electrodes and I intend a tree in fantasy, a part of a lobe in the brain will "light up." This certainly seems to me what a posited intuition would "look like." Of course I also have the option of simply describing it using language. I can say to myself that I posited this or that physical thing (in the region "physical thing") or I can do it on my own without saying it while being attached to electrodes and see a picture of my brain in which a certain part is lighting up. These are two different "looks" to what an "intentional posita" would look like. One "look" is language, the other is a picture of my brain. Husserl doesn't make himself clear on what he means by "look." He wants to see sense-happening in its independence but as a descriptive science we are always using a metaphor for what would be an "original positing experience." We are using something else to describe something that doesn't need to be described with this something else. Husserl is certainly able to elaborate for example on the noematic levels of consciousness in which a memory takes place. He can let language do the explanation but is this language that is doing the explanation what the phenomena "looks like." If we take "phenomena" in its classically understood concept as letting anything appear then we would need a more strict definition for "appearance." For Husserl, Phenomenology as descriptive science seems to carry this load. As descriptive science, we're certainly describing, meaning using language whether or not Husserl thinks we gain a privileged place in our description when we undergo his Cartesian Epoch where we gain insights for example that skepticism becomes a refuted in the fact that it posits its own position. This attempt for neutral consciousness in phenomenology is still using language though as descriptive science. The language may be more neutral so its still language, and that's fine if that's the way Husserl wants Phenomenology to look which we really never understand from him. Husserl will say "each physical thing-appearance necessarily includes in itself a stratum which we call the physical thing-schema: it is the spatial shape merely filled with 'sensuous' qualities--without any determinateness of 'substantiality' and 'causality.' The physical theme has its own "schema" that is a spatial shape that is filled with sensuous qualities. We note now that he parenthesizes sensuous in order to understand its noematic sense. But "seeing" a pure space with "sensual" qualities is a determination. Is it not? The parenthesized word doesn't do it's job. Certainly, we don't have to linguistically say anything when "seeing" something, but in this seeing, are we not already determining something? Even in neutral-consciousness whereby we have something in us that's not being posited, we don't have the freedom (as was stated in the last post) to not have a harmonious "unconscious" experience. This harmonious "unconscious experience" is already a determination. It's harmony is already on its way to reason. The schema of the spatial shape is already determined. The spatial shape itself is already determined. Husserl quickly gives us a clue to his thinking though that needs to be elaborated on. I think at this point in this Husserlian study, a psychoanalysis of the thinker becomes inevitable. If we are to understand what he means by the look of phenomena we need to understand how he's trying to use certain words. He opens himself up when he states "to 'us humans' a spatial thing always appears in a certain 'orientation,' e.g., oriented in the visual field of sight with respect to above and below, left and right, near and far; that we can see a physical thing only at a certain 'depth,; ;distance;'" The schema here then for Husserl is perceptive. We see things "above and below" for example. But he just spent his whole work eluding to something called the noema in which there were different levels of posita that didn't have a certain outward-appearance look to it. Husserl does make sure to say that this is relative to "us humans," meaning that there is sense independent of "us." For "us humans" we understand things in a sort of phenomenology of perception, but as phenomenologists we are concerned with the noetic/noematic structure of consciousness. This is the difference; essentially that phenomenologists aren't human beings. Regarding the human understanding of phenomena though, the problem comes down to the problem of space. Geometrical space is what constitutes any experience whatever it may be. Space is the region that underlies all regions like "Physical Thing" for example. We see things in space by a certain depth and in certain directions. How are we to describe space purely then? What is the origin of the idea of space? Husserl asks us this but the origin of the idea of space isn't space. It's the possibility of being able to have an idea in the first place. Certainly, the idea of space constitutes our visual perception of what we see in space, but space first needs to be ideal, meaning we imagine things to ourselves in a certain way. This certain way is ideal; a process of getting towards a satisfied "zone." What is the essence of space? Husserl asks us what is the "essence of all noematic and noetic phenomena in which space is intuitively presented and is 'constituted' as the unity of appearances, of descriptive modes of presentations of something spatial.'" How do we gain "space." The simple answer is that we open our eyes. When we open our eyes, we are always intuiting space. We are always feeling around this region of space and gaining more intuitions. We are always seeing a unity of appearances in the region of space. The questions has to be posed on why the idea of space has to be "constituted?" When I open my eyes and unconsciously see something why does whatever happens here have to be constituted in its own schema? Why does space have to have its own life whereby its given its own schema to be understood? Couldn't it just be the case that it's immediately understood as space without constitution? Certainly it's the case that I can show somebody a geometrical proof by way of axioms but this is after the fact that I have intuited space orginaliter. But if the problem of space is the problem of constitution as a "unity of what appears" then I am firstly a determinate being who's putting together a series of appearances, and then afterwords saying that it "happened in space." The problem is when Husserl asks us to "seize upon this theoretically." How can this possibly be understood theoretically? At most I can see a series of appearances as a series of appearances in the most general way possible meaning I don't see anything specific but something called "appearances in general." I can think of a series in the abstract but this thinking doesn't happen originally in experience. The problem with what Husserl wants us to do is in being able to think that theoretical thought can seize upon what he thinks of as an original experience. Theoretical thought will always happen after an original experience, or, original experience never actually "happens" and we simply have theoretical thought. Whatever way an intuition happens to us, we can describe it afterwords theoretically like in the case of understanding consciousness in it's specific noematic component(s). We can show this tree is "actually" being perceived, but this "actuality" is not what would be called "original." By giving us Eidetic truths which do happen to hold a ton of weight (which we went into in the past posts) , this doesn't mean we can elaborate on an original experience as if this experience happened by way of "rigorous descriptive science." At most, what we can say is that Husserl and language (Husserl's language) provides us with a way in which we can understand consciousness theoretically and we can ever gain a ton of insights into how consciousness happens, but in the end, every description is theoretical. This takes nothing away from the discipline but does limit it to the theoretical-determinate consciousness and seeing consciousness any other way is impossible. Husserl will even state this himself. "Law-conforming production of perfect correlation between what determinately appears as unity and the determinately infinite multiplicities of appearances can become fully seen intellectually and thus all enigmas can be removed." We see what Husserl wants us to see intellectually (theoretically) and Husserl admits this to us but are enigmas really removed? In understanding conscious experience "intellectually," is the enigma of what really happens originally in experience removed? Things still happen a priori and I can describe them "intellectually." But what is a priori experience "in itself" independent of my intellectual understanding of it? As a thinking being, no matter how much I operate independent of myself, I'm still the thinking being who's determining an a priori experience after the fact of the experience happening. No description, no matter how rigorous, can take away from the enigma of what we would call "original experience." We can say (as thinking beings/intellectually) that we do the things we do. For example, "One can effect such syntheses 'actually,' 'properly,; i.e., in synthetical orignarity; then, in accord with its synthetical form, the synthesized objectivity has the characteristic of being originarily given." The example Husserl gives when speaking of effective syntheses is collection, subsumption, and relation. We can "collect" and if I was given the command to "collect" something, I would be in some process of doing it originally that would be open to metaphor, i.e. would be open to being described independent of the act itself whereby the description could try its best to account for what was actually "happening" in the experience (in this case the experience of "collecting something"). The parentheses signify (as stated in a post before) the fact that "collecting something" as said linguistically is not "actually" happening in the experience and by that fact tries to show the sense of the statement by negating its signification that we nonetheless need to give a theoretical account of an original experience. And herein lies the real enigma, that as phenomenologists, we have a desire to describe experience knowing we are using a metaphor that serves its own purpose; to describe experience. How satisfied are we as phenomenologists knowing that we rely upon a metaphor to understand an absolute presence? Husserl tries to find our way out of metaphor by saying that at anytime we can effect the syntheses of collecting for example by actually collecting something and in this collecting of something there is a certain characteristic to it, a certain sense to it. We can eternally always collect and relate things. This last statement is not meant to be an eidetic truth even though it is one for Phenomenology. It's meant to show that at any time I can "effect" synthetic originality by doing the exact thing that I happen to be talking about. But when I'm doing this, how do I know that this collecting for example has the "characteristic of originality?" If I said to myself before hand that I want to collect something in order to show myself the original experience of collecting, is this really the characteristic of a collecting experience? There would be a difference between collecting without telling myself before hand that I want to show myself what collecting "looks like" and "actually" collecting without recognizing that this is what I'm doing, and without this recognition I don't know what I'm doing. After the fact I can place an ontological description upon the experience and say that I'm doing something and can even give an analytical account of this ontology of doing something, but of course this ontological account already presupposes a being, hence making the analysis not phenomenological. I can't go into the temporal and spatial phenomenological explanation during something I don't recognize because I'm not acting "intellectually." Phenomenology is an intellectual pursuit that is trying to give a description of how the mind works. It already answers its own question by asking about a working mind. Phenomenology, without knowing it, is always asking something. It always happens after the fact of what it wants to "know about", even knowing fully well that we know it "intellectually." In this sense there is no enigma when we delimit ourselves to understanding experience as an intellectual/theoretical pursuit. We can even be fulfilled knowing that experience has never been described this rigorously in the metaphor, in the symbolic realm.

To sum up, can we ask what consciousness "looks like" independent of its index at the "physical thing" object region, the symbolic region? As we learned before, we use "physical thing" as a region not to understand the object in an already constituted region, but to try to understand the "what it's like" of consciousness. This is phenomenological description; to ask what it's like to be itself. I can say "I see it." then I can say "I see dog." The object-sense gets substituted (metaphorized) by a more precise object sense, the direct object of "dog." The "as" in the proposition supplements the ambiguity with a constitution; a structure towards a further defined category or class. "Constitution" implies "getting-somewhere." What's it like to get somewhere? We can give a temporal analysis of this process and Husserl will do this in his internal-time-consciousness work. He will elaborate on the possibilities (including non-possibilities) of time in a subject. He will do this in the name of phenomenology as a descriptive science. We will be shown eidetic truths about experience. We will be shown things that we think have to be the case regardless of whether we existed or not. We will be shown these things by the only way we can be shown things by way of descriptive science, by an act of the intellect. Will we ever be able to say that these things "happened" independent of our intellectual analysis? Does a primal pure experience happen as a linguistic description? I think I can say this is absurd. Phenomenology falters in its very essence; in making experience into a descriptive science. In thinking that a "description" is what happens in experience, it eludes its own sense, if there can even be called a "sense" to experience. Phenomenology provides us with an abundance of fruitful intellectual discoveries on space and time in relation to the subjective mind, and these are intellectual pursuits. If we as phenomenologists are satisfied in giving rigorous intellectual descriptions of experience then we will be phenomenologists. If we find though that description is at the service to a differentiation of "presence" into a metaphor (any metaphor for that matter; pictorial or linguistic) then we may not be satisfied as phenomenologists anymore. We may see the limits of phenomenology in a metaphoronic operation. We may enjoy the insights intellectually given to us by phenomenology. We may enjoy seeing how limited we are by what our intellect shows us about something called "experience." We may even get to know the limits of what the "intellect" can do in regards to its temporal structure for example. But we won't know how or why we had a desire in the first place to make an issue out of experience by way of "rigorous descriptive science." This initial impulse, this desire, is a place that classical phenomenology in the Husserlian sense can't reach because it's not necessarily an "intellectual pursuit" understood in the classical sense of what an "intellectual pursuit" is. We may ask at the end of Ideas I; Why do we desire to know about experience? What do we mean when we say we want to know about experience? Why do we want to know about anything in general? For better or worse, phenomenology is surrounded by an impulse to "be in the know," and the desire to "be in the know" is a desire. If Phenomenology wants to understand what it thinks it knows it's talking about in addressing "experience," it needs to be more open than its deferral to what's is classically called "science," into observing the non-systematic "happening" of an impulse, or desire. Afterall, desire grounds Husserl's work, a desire to "be in the know." A desire for knowledge about the self. Why does a self want to come to know itself? How does it come to know itself? These are speculative questions that Husserl would criticize as not pertaining to rigorous science. We can say that Husserl explores the limits of knowledge. The limits of the self however are not in Husserl's domain because they're speculative and not the work of the rigorous scientist. Husserl believes in science as the foundation for how anything can be known and from it we will gain immense insights, just not all the insights one can possibly have. We are always at a distance from the ultimate insight being a grasp of every insight that could ever possibly be grasped. Husserl knows this and so defers to science as the best possible method for insight into us. He calls his explorations and insight into us, Phenomenology.

I think I've just surrendered to the teleological presupposition of desire.

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