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Consciousness and the Paranormal — Part 10

Discussion in 'General Freewheeling Chit-Chat' started by Gene Steinberg, Jun 12, 2017.



  1. smcder

    smcder Paranormal Adept

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    Parmenides | Prospect Magazine

    "What significance might this have for the present? It is arguable that the revolution in thought started by the Parmenidean vision—belief in an unchanging underlying reality that defies the senses—has run its course. Over the last century, there has been a growing feeling that in crucial areas of knowledge, we have reached an impasse.

    For instance, the endeavour to turn the scientific gaze on our own consciousness has run into a brick wall. Although you wouldn’t know it from the excitement surrounding brain science, we have made no progress in understanding how it is that we are conscious and are aware of being located in a world that we in part construct and in part encounter as a given. Nor shall we. The Parmenidean dismissal of sense experience, which has licensed the notion that reality is the no-person physical or material world, and that the qualities we perceive in it are merely secondary, has made a neuroscience of consciousness impossible."
     
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  2. smcder

    smcder Paranormal Adept

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    From The Philosopher's Gaze

    "This light of reason, once, long ago, a manifestation of the joy attending an indwelling sense of divinity and imaged as the aura or aureole that surrounds the head, but now too reduced, too secular, too subjective, too disenchanted, to be experienced and rendered in this way, now takes nothing for granted—unless this be the event of the gift of light itself, that light by grace of which a field of visibility is first opened up for the projective activity of vision. Today, having repudiated the light of this wondrous event as mythic nonsense and extinguished the inner light of reason in the brightness of mere metaphor, vision must now pass through a medium it can only understand in the languages of physics, optics, and biochemistry, focusing on the objects made visible by the event of a gift it ignores."
     
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  3. smcder

    smcder Paranormal Adept

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    The Philosopher's Gaze
    pp. 14-15

    "In his Ethics , Spinoza formulated as a proposition of some importance the thought that "the more capable the body is of being affected in many ways, and affecting external bodies in many ways, the more capable of thinking is the mind."[9] All the commentaries by philosophers have ignored the implicitly radical significance of this proposition: the necessary implication of the body in the transformations that would constitute the "improvement" or enlightenment of the mind. All the commentaries have

    ― 15 ―
    concentrated their attention on the capability and enlargement of the mind. But the strict parallelism that obtains between intellect and body means that, for every alteration of the mind, there must be a corresponding alteration of the body. And there is no reason to suppose that alterations of the body must be conceptualized only from the standpoint of the mind. Suppose, then, the possibility of a more enlightened, more ethically capable embodiment. What would this involve? What would it be like? How, for example, might we conceive a vision more capable of being affected in many ways, and affecting external bodies in many ways? How might a gaze with an historically different character be brought into being, preparing, perhaps, for the advent of a new epoch, a new beginning for humanity, and for the entire world of our beholding?"
     
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  4. smcder

    smcder Paranormal Adept

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    [​IMG]


    Pooh and Piglet are walking by in the Hundred-Acre Wood … and stop for just a bit of something to eat and a little philosophical discussion … (and that means Owl can’t be far behind!)


    Pooh, being a bear of very-little-brain says:


    What the various views we've looked at lately have in common is a desire to avoid the hard problem by saying consciousness is there from the start. The main critiques are:


    1. how do you build a world, this world starting from consciousness?


    Piglet Perception and physics give us external access to reality. Perception and physics inform us that reality is dynamic and self-interacting.


    But what is it, in itself, that is dynamic and self-interacting?


    Pooh that's the very question, Piglet! The very-est question of all!


    Mmm mmm Pooh stops for just a bit of honey from a nearby tree - his voice, when it comes next, is just a bit muffled - being inside the tree … he wonders, a bit, where the bees might be, but quickly forgets to wonder as another thought occurs to him:

    telesis unbound is a name for it, but not an explanation - we can't access experience from it - why we can only access experience from experience!

    2. experience has to be there from the start - and is experience the stuff that a substrate can be made of?


    Piglet It is hard to see how experience could emerge from dynamism and self-interaction.

    Pooh yes! but ... hard to see how "dynamism and self-interaction" could emerge from experience ...

    Piglet (in a rush of excitement now) We cannot seem to access experience via perception and physics. But we know experience exists! Where is it? What is it? What is it? What is it that is dynamic and self-interacting?


    [​IMG]


    What, indeed ….


    Pooh Saying the substrate has everything you need seems to me no more elegant than the various physical solutions.

    Piglet 1) there are no physical solutions

    Pooh but you’ve said yourself: Other than by perhaps brute, strong emergentism, feeling cannot emerge from non-feeling, physical processes. (Pooh might be a bear of very little brain, but he is a bear of very great memory)


    Pooh so that's one, eliminativism is another, integrated information is a third ... and Strawson is a thorough-going materialist, his panpsychism can be considered a physical solution, I think ... but I could be wrong. It’s a … ah, sticky problem.


    Piglet 2) by saying "the substrate has everything you need" I am say reality = reality


    Pooh ha! Ha! That is a very good one. I must tell Owl, as it’s the sort of thing he’d say … I think.


    Pooh (grown suddenly serious) - and avoiding emergence seems to come at a very high cost - as high or higher than emergence itself


    Piglet I disagree! I see no logical argument that consciousness must strongly emerge from the brain!


    It certainly seems that way, but I haven't seen a strong argument that it must. Importantly, there are no models approaching an explanation of how it could.


    Pooh I don’t say it must! - but read the review by Fodor above … there are also nomological arguments.


    We leave our little friends for now in the Hundred Acre Woods to their adventures and their philosophy and … their honey. But we’ll check in on them again soon … and perhaps Owl will be with them.


    [​IMG]

    Randowl
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2017
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  5. smcder

    smcder Paranormal Adept

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    owl.jpg

    The serenity of the Hundred Acre Wood is broken by a loud flapping and calling "Who Who??"

    Randowl Who? What? Ah, er - ahem! yes, who indeed! Now to my thesis. First, we must define our terms objectively in as non-prejudiced a manner as owly possible!

    Panpsychism - a bit of mystical non-sense, easily shown to be false by a bit of basic logic.

    Premise A is a B Let A be the brain and B ... no, no let B be the brain and A is for apple. Now, to compare apples, which are really brains to oranges, which stand for matter - we simply set them equal to one another and look for a contradiction:

    A = C apples (brains) are oranges

    but if apples are oranges, we know by axiom 817.1 that we can't compare apples to oranges, so therefore apples cannot equal oranges, so brains don't matter!

    QED

    Pooh Piglet (in unison) but! but!

    Owl OK, ok - I know this is too high level for a bear of very little brain and a very small animal like a Piglet. So we shall endeavor to ponticulate, er artificate, I mean instigate - well, er here we go anyway:

    A is a B ( The brain is material ... )
    Premise A is also a C (c is an orange and c is also conscious ... )
    Conclusion Therefore, all Bs are Cs ( Therefore all brains are oranges. )

    QED

    Piglet but that's not what you said!
    Pooh not at all!

    Owl (whooing in exasperation) who? who cannot understand this! perhaps you both have apples for brains! Well, I will try yet a fourth way ...

    Piglet fourth??

    upload_2017-8-10_9-19-18.jpeg

    Owl fourth indeed! Remember, dear Piglet, we are using binary ... and two times two = four, it's very simple!

    Now, we all know that panpsychism is a strawman and we know the strawman only wanted a brain. Correct? Correct! So ...

    Let S = strawman
    Let B = the brain that he wants

    If we just perform the disjunctive correlative on the intersectional conjugation of the conjuctivitis involved in the preliminary fascia of the lacunae - we soon realize that only by taking the suare root of S can we begin to approximate the tangential function which inter-splices the non-conjungal elimination. And therefore ... taking a deep breath ... it's rather obvious that

    S is either greater than B or less than C and by transitivity B is therefore roughly non-equal to C

    QED

    Piglet and Pooh stare, mouths open.

    Owl stands by waiting for applause. After a few moments, he gives up a mighty WHO in disgust.

    Owl Who! Who! Well, I see you two cannot be taught. As I always say a waist is a terrible thing to mind - Owl pokes Pooh in his overfull belly and Pooh laughs heartily

    Pooh I see your point!

    Piglet laughs heartily as Owl flies away in disgust

    Owl who who who ???
     
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  6. Burnt State

    Burnt State Paranormal Adept

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    Well I took some of Stephen's advice and been doing a lot of reading lately but still not enough. It's a heavy go. But I do complement you all as the material in this last version of your discussion is quite exceptional and highly informative. It has guided a lot of my thinking still so thank you all. I haven't seen this man in your Panpsychist discussion yet but you may find his ideas of interest as he tries to connect the drive to interact across the macro and micro levels.

    Btw the hundred acre wood narratives deserve to be their own book - witty and insightful plus great visuals.
     
  7. Christopher O'Brien

    Christopher O'Brien Informed Anomalist Staff Member

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  8. smcder

    smcder Paranormal Adept

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    Yes sir, Theise has been here often.
     
  9. Soupie

    Soupie Paranormal Adept

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    But Piglet is not saying this.

    This still frames the relationship as a duality. Dynamism and self-interaction don't "emerge" from Being, they are (innate?) properties of Being. (On my view.)

    What I am trying to capture (and you are clearly helping determine whether it's coherent or not) is the idea that "feeling" is not something extra, derivative, or emergent. It is the substrate that is intrinsically dynamic and self-interacting.

    By way of this dynamism and self-interaction, increasingly complex spatiotemporal patterns form which from the human perspective we know as environments and organisms.

    Feeling, Being, the "Actual" is not something that emerges along the way... it is always already there and is the substrate from within which the world and organisms form.

    The pooh-piglets stories are great.

    Edit: we know feeling as emotions, thiughts, colors, but that is feeling as we know it, as humans.
     
  10. smcder

    smcder Paranormal Adept

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    soupie This still frames the relationship as a duality. Dynamism and self-interaction don't "emerge" from Being, they are (innate?) properties of Being. (On my view.)

    smcder Yes - because duality has to be dealt with - if it's apparent, that has to be shown not simply declared. You can't just say "oh, you just think there's a duality". There's nothing wrong with taking the view you take and it might be the world is that way, but it's not a theory. It can't be shown not to be true and it doesn't explain anything new about the world, make predictions. That's why I call it "philosophy by proclamation". Emergence isn't much/any better off. And don't say the hard problem, therefore conscious realism. Just ... don't. ;-)

    And again, Feeling, Being is already there means Feeling, Being for some subject - which means a subject is also part of the substrate ... and then you have combination or individuation problems ... so, getting the apparently/physical from the mental is no easier than vice versa.

    etc etc

    QED

    ;-)
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2017
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  11. Constance

    Constance Paranormal Adept

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    I think there is indeed a tension between the claims Strawson opposes in his first sentence above, a recognizable tension for those of us who reflect more openly and attentively on the complexity of consciousness as we experience it as adults and as we have experienced it differently in childhood. The section on Merleau-Ponty I quoted above from The Philosopher's Gaze helps us to conceive of this difference and what it means -- should mean -- for philosophy of mind in its continuing struggle to comprehend the complex interactive layers and levels of consciousness [the collective unconscious, subconscious mentation, the nature of protoconsciousness, the preconscious gropings toward fuller awareness of the situated nature of being -- the 'self's' be-ing within experience]. We need to explore, as the phenomenologists post-Husserl have recognized, the qualitative nature of prereflective/nonthetic consciousness as grounding that which we come to recognize and reflect on in reflective consciousness -- and which reflective consciousness can never completely recover and categorize.
     
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  12. Constance

    Constance Paranormal Adept

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    First heard I believe in his essential, grounding, contributions to the Miles Davis group's recording of "Blue in Green", and indeed in that whole album:

     
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  13. Constance

    Constance Paranormal Adept

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  14. Constance

    Constance Paranormal Adept

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  15. Usual Suspect

    Usual Suspect USI Calgary

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    There's some good points and not so good points. Like the quantization of consciousness, which I tried to introduce here a number of posts ago and that also generated almost no interest. The idea that math and science can lead us to incorrect conclusions is also something I've been saying for about as long as I've been posting here; and that same claim in the video is in itself somewhat ironic in the sense that some of the seemingly misunderstood aspects of quantum theory have been used to substantiate the idea of biocentrism, which can only be given credence when viewed from an entirely subjective perspective that ultimately leads us into the same nonsensical philosophy we've been past several times already, which is the idea of subjective idealism.
     
  16. Usual Suspect

    Usual Suspect USI Calgary

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    This is what you get when you combine a lot of really valid observations and accurately conveyed information with just the right amount of confirmation bias and disconnected logic. It's not easy for the average person who is unfamiliar with these sorts of hypotheses to make sense of it in the first place, let alone identify the weak spots, but one thing it most certainly does is make a person think.
     
  17. Usual Suspect

    Usual Suspect USI Calgary

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    Fabulous musical picks, but what I was really wondering about is why you think "we need to explore" the ideas you mention, or explore anything at all really? Is the mental exploration of ideas part of our innate programming; the same kind of programming that seems to drive us to explore what's over the other side of the ridge, lake, ocean, planet; a sort of existential tropism? Why is it that we bother? There's little practical application to exploring our own prereflective experience other than perhaps writing a book or paper that might make other people think about it, and along the way expended some energy doing that that has to be accounted for. But other than that sort of thing, what is the practical benefit of the end result? We already know we're conscious beings. We can't prove anyone else or anything else is.

    Scene From Star Trek - Measure Of A Man

     
  18. smcder

    smcder Paranormal Adept

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    @Constance

    Killing the straw man: Dennett and Phenomenology

    http://cfs.ku.dk/staff/zahavi-publications/dennett.pdf

    page 5

    But to repeat the question, is it really true that classical phenomenology is based on introspection?
    I've been wa/ondering this morning from the starting point of "nonthetic consciousness" and ended up here:

    Killing the straw man: Dennett and Phenomenology
    http://cfs.ku.dk/staff/zahavi-publications/dennett.pdf

    "Let me anticipate a critical objection. Even if it is conceded that classical phenomenology doesn’t employ an introspective methodology, this in itself will hardly redeem phenomenology, since the butt of the criticism is that this philosophical tradition is incapable of contributing significantly to the current science of consciousness, and in order to refute that criticism much more needs to be said. To some extent I agree. The proof of the pudding is indeed in the eating, and the only way to prove the contemporary relevance of the highly differentiated analyses of conscious experience found in phenomenology is by showing so in concreto. I have tried to do so elsewhere, however, and so have numerous other people. 8 Let me here merely point to a debate that in recent years has raged in a number of journals concerning how best to integrate phenomenology and empirical science – whether it be in the form of a neurophenomenology, a front-loaded phenomenology, or an indirect phenomenology (cf. Gallagher 2003). I find this ongoing debate encouraging. It is a clear sign that the phenomenological approach is currently being pursued in both theoretical discussions and experimental research by a growing number of younger philosophers and scientists who are thereby continuing the work of the classical phenomenologists."

    Gallagher 2003 can be found at Academia.edu

    Gallagher. 2003. Phenomenology and experimental design: Towards a phenomenologially enlightened experimental science

    "How can phenomenology contribute to the cognitive sciences? A number of authors have recently raised this question and have proposed diverse answers(see, for example, the essays in Petitot et al ., 1999 and Varela and Shear, 1999). Iwill outline three different responses to this question, with specific reference to the issue of how phenomenology might contribute to experimental design."
     
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  19. Constance

    Constance Paranormal Adept

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    I'm herewith c&p-ing sections 3 and 4 of that Zahavi paper because they provide in a few pages an understanding of how and where Dennett, Metzinger and other reductivist/objectivist 'cognitive scientists' completely misunderstand -- and accordingly misrepresent -- the phenomenological movement in philosophy, affective neuroscience, and neurophenomenology.

    "3. Phenomenology and Introspection

    Let us start with the issue of introspection. Is phenomenology a kind of introspectionism? Dennett is not alone in making this claim. In his book Being No One Metzinger has recently argued in a similar fashion and has concluded that “phenomenology is impossible” (Metzinger 2003, 83). What kind of argument does Metzinger provide? The basic argument seems to concern the epistemological difficulties connected to any first-person approach to data generation. If inconsistencies in two individual data sets should appear there is no way to settle the conflict. More specifically, Metzinger takes data to be things that are extracted from the physical world by technical measuring devices. This data-extraction involves a well-defined intersubjective 5 procedure, it takes place within a scientific community, it is open to criticism, and it constantly seeks independent means of verification. The problem with phenomenology is that first-person access to the phenomenal content of one’s own mental state does not fulfill these defining criteria for the concept of data. In fact, the very notion of first-personal data is a contradiction in terms (Metzinger 2003, 591).

    But to repeat the question, is it really true that classical phenomenology is based on introspection? To answer this question, let us for once make use of the phenomenological dictum and return to the things themselves, which in this case are the actual writings of the phenomenologists. Husserl’s Logische Untersuchungen is a recognized milestone in 20th century philosophy and indisputably a work in phenomenological philosophy. In fact, it constituted what Husserl himself took to be his “breakthrough” to phenomenology. What kind of analyses does one find in this book? One finds Husserl’s famous attack on and rejection of psychologism; a defense of the irreducibility of logic and the ideality of meaning; an analysis of pictorial representations; a theory of the part-whole relation; a sophisticated account of intentionality; and an epistemological clarification of the relation between concepts and intuitions, to mention just a few of the many topics treated in the book. Is the method at work introspection, and is this a work in introspective psychology? I think it should be pretty obvious to anybody who has actually read the book that the answer is no. Should we then conclude that the book is after all not a work in phenomenology or should we rather reconsider our hasty identification of phenomenology and introspective psychology? Again, I think the answer should be obvious.

    Although it would be an exaggeration to claim that Husserl’s analyses in Logische Untersuchungen found universal approval among the subsequent generations of phenomenologists, I don’t know of any instance at all where Husserl’s position was rejected on the basis of an appeal to “better” introspective evidence. On the contrary, Husserl’s analyses gave rise to an intense discussion among phenomenological philosophers, and many of the analyses were subsequently improved and refined by thinkers like Sartre, Heidegger, Lévinas and Derrida (cf. Zahavi & Stjernfelt 2002). Compare this to Metzinger’s claim that the phenomenological method cannot provide a method for generating any growth of knowledge since there is no way one can reach intersubjective consensus on claims like “this is the purest blue anyone can perceive” vs. “no it isn’t, it has a slight green hue” (Metzinger 2003, 591). But these claims are simply not the type of claims that are to be found in works by phenomenological philosophers and to suggest so is to reveal one’s lack of familiarity with the tradition in question.

    All the major figures in the phenomenological tradition have openly and unequivocally denied that they are engaged in some kind of introspective psychology and that the method they employ is a method of introspection (cf. Gurwitsch 1966, 89-106, Husserl 1984b, 201-216, Heidegger 1993, 11-17, Merleau-Ponty 1945, 70). To provide a fully exhaustive account of their reasons for this denial would necessitate a positive account of what classical phenomenology actually amounts to, and to do so in extenso falls outside the scope of this paper. However, let me try to briefly list some of the main reasons. 2

    To start with, it is important to realize that classical phenomenology is not just another name for a kind of psychological self-observation; rather it must be appreciated as a special form of transcendental philosophy that seeks to reflect on the conditions of possibility of experience and cognition. 3 Phenomenology is a philosophical enterprise; it is not an empirical discipline. This doesn’t rule out, of course, that its analyses might have ramifications for and be of pertinence to an empirical study of consciousness, but this is not its primary aim. In a manuscript entitled Phänomenologie und Psychologie from 1917, Husserl raised the following question: Why introduce a new science entitled phenomenology when there is already a well established explanatory science dealing with the psychic life of humans and animals, namely psychology. More specifically, psychology is a science of naturalized consciousness. And could it not be argued that a mere description of experience – which is supposedly all that phenomenology can offer – does not constitute a viable scientific alternative to psychology, but merely a – perhaps indispensable – descriptive preliminary to a truly scientific study of the mind (Husserl 1987, 102). As Husserl remarks, this line of thought has been so convincing that the term “phenomenological” is being used in all kinds of philosophical and psychological writings to describe a direct description of consciousness based on introspection (Husserl 1987, 103); a development that Husserl goes on to lament, since it entails a fundamental misunderstanding of the phenomenological enterprise. Thus, Husserl categorically rejects the attempt to equate the notion of phenomenological intuition with a type of inner experience or introspection (Husserl 1987, 36), and he even argues that the very suggestion that phenomenology is attempting to restitute the method of introspection (innerer Beobachtung) is preposterous and perverse (Husserl 1952, 38).

    Husserl’s stance on this issue is fully shared by the other phenomenologists. Not only does Heidegger, to take one example, deny that his own analysis of the existential structures of Dasein is a psychological analysis (Heidegger 1986, 45-50), he also writes that the attempt to interpret Husserl’s 6 investigations as a kind of descriptive psychology completely fails to do justice to their transcendental character. In fact, as Heidegger adds, phenomenology will remain a book sealed with seven or more seals to any such psychological approach (Heidegger 1993, 15-16).

    What is behind this categorical dismissal? There are many different reasons. One is that phenomenology is concerned with disclosing what it takes to be a non-psychological dimension of consciousness. As Husserl writes in the early lecture course Einleitung in die Logik und Erkenntnistheorie from 1906-7: “If consciousness ceases to be a human or some other empirical consciousness, then the word loses all psychological meaning, and ultimately one is led back to something absolute that is neither physical nor psychical being in a natural scientific sense. However, in the phenomenological perspective this is the case throughout the field of givenness. It is precisely the apparently so obvious thought, that everything given is either physical or psychical that must be abandoned” (Husserl 1984b, 242. Cf. Husserl 1966, 338). Phenomenology is certainly interested in the phenomena and in their conditions of possibility, but phenomenologists would typically argue that it would be a metaphysical fallacy to locate the phenomenal realm within the mind, and to suggest that the way to access and describe it is by turning the gaze inwards (introspicio). As Husserl already pointed out in the Logische Untersuchungen the entire facile divide between inside and outside has its origin in a naïve commonsensical metaphysics and is phenomenologically suspect and inappropriate when it comes to understanding the nature of intentionality (Husserl 1984a, 673, 708). But this divide is precisely something that the term “introspection” buys into and accepts. To speak of introspection is to (tacitly) endorse the idea that consciousness is inside the head and the world outside. The same criticism can also be found in Merleau-Ponty, who writes that “Inside and outside are inseparable. The world is wholly inside and I am wholly outside myself” (Merleau-Ponty 1945, 467 [1962, 407]), and in Heidegger, who denies that the relation between Dasein and world can be grasped with the help of the concepts “inner” and “outer”. As he writes in Sein und Zeit:

    'In directing itself toward...and in grasping something, Dasein does not first go outside of the inner sphere in which it is initially encapsulated, but, rather, in its primary kind of being, it is always already ‘outside’ together with some being encountered in the world already discovered. Nor is any inner sphere abandoned when Dasein dwells together with a being to be known and determines its character. Rather, even in this ‘being outside’ together with its object, Dasein is ‘inside’ correctly understood; that is, it itself exists as the being-in-the-world which knows (Heidegger 1986, 62, cf. Heidegger 1999, 75).

    Let us briefly return to the issue of the phenomenological method. It has frequently been argued that the whole thrust of Husserlian phenomenology – the specific aim of the so-called epoché and reduction – is to exclude the world from consideration and bracket or suspend all questions concerning the being of reality in order to allow for a narrow focus on the internal life of the mind. This is also the way Dennett interprets Husserl, but this interpretation is mistaken. The purpose of the epoché and the reduction is not to doubt, neglect, abandon, or exclude reality from consideration, rather their aim, as Husserl repeatedly emphasizes, is to suspend or neutralize a certain dogmatic attitude towards reality, thereby allowing us to focus more narrowly and directly on reality just as it is given. In short, the epoché entails a change of attitude towards reality, and not an exclusion of reality. As Husserl makes clear, the only thing that is excluded as a result of the epoché is a certain naivety, the naivety of simply taking the world for granted, thereby ignoring the contribution of consciousness (Husserl 1989, 173). To put it differently, the epoché and the reduction do not involve an exclusive turn inward. On the contrary, they permit us to investigate reality from a new reflective attitude, namely in its significance and manifestation for consciousness (Husserl 1989, 178). Although this reflective investigation differs from a straightforward exploration of the world, it remains an investigation of reality; it is not an investigation of some otherworldly, mental, realm. Only a mistaken view of the nature of meaning and appearance would lead to such a misunderstanding. We should consequently not commit the mistake of interpreting the notion of givenness mentalistically, as if it were part of the mental inventory. “Phenomenology ain’t in the head” as Tye would say (Tye 1995, 151).

    How do we go about describing the experiential difference between tasting wine and tasting water, between hearing a foghorn and seeing the full moon, or between affirming and denying that the Eiffel Tower is taller than the Empire State Building? Do we do so by severing our intentional link with the world and by turning some spectral gaze inwards? No, of course not. We discover these differences, and we analyze them descriptively by paying attention to how worldly objects and state of affairs appear to us. The phenomenological descriptions take their point of departure in the world we live in. 4

    Ultimately, we should see the field of givenness, the phenomena, as something that questions the very subject-object split, as something that stresses the co-emergence of self and world. This outlook is for 7 instance clearly articulated in the writings of Merleau-Ponty. He insists that a phenomenological description, rather than disclosing subjectivities that are inaccessible and self-sufficient, reveals continuity between intersubjective life and the world. The subject realizes itself in its presence to the world and to others – not in spite of, but precisely by way of its corporeality and historicity (Merleau-Ponty 1945, 515).

    By adopting the phenomenological attitude we pay attention to the givenness of public objects (trees, planets, paintings, symphonies, numbers, states of affairs, social relations, etc.). But we do not simply focus on the objects precisely as they are given; we also focus on the subjective side of consciousness, thereby becoming aware of our subjective accomplishments and of the intentionality that is at play in order for the objects to appear as they do. When we investigate appearing objects, we also disclose ourselves as datives of manifestation, as those to whom objects appear. The topic of the phenomenological analyses is consequently not a worldless subject, and phenomenology does not ignore the world in favor of consciousness. On the contrary, phenomenology is interested in consciousness because it is world-disclosing. Phenomenology should therefore be understood as a philosophical analysis of the different types of givenness (perceptual, imaginative, recollective etc.), and in connection with this as a reflective investigation of those structures of experience and understanding that permit different types of beings to show themselves as what they are. 5

    Phenomenology is not concerned with establishing what a given individual might currently be experiencing. Phenomenology is not interested in qualia in the sense of purely individual data that are incorrigible, ineffable, and incomparable. Phenomenology is not interested in psychological processes (in contrast to behavioral processes or physical processes). Phenomenology is interested in the very dimension of givenness or appearance and seeks to explore its essential structures and conditions of possibility. Such an investigation of the field of presence is beyond any divide between psychical interiority and physical exteriority, since it is an investigation of the dimension in which any object – be it external or internal – manifests itself (cf. Heidegger 1986, 419, Waldenfels 2000, 217). Phenomenology aims to disclose structures that are intersubjectively accessible, and its analyses are consequently open for corrections and control by any (phenomenologically tuned) subject.

    It should by now be clear that phenomenology has quite different aims and concerns than introspective psychology. Couldn’t it be argued, however, that the difference in question, rather than being a difference in whether or not introspection is employed, is merely a difference in the use that the introspective results are being put to? To put it differently, couldn’t it be argued that since introspection is a method used to investigate consciousness from the first-person perspective, and given phenomenology’s renowned emphasis on such a first-person approach to consciousness, it is simply ridiculous to deny that phenomenology makes use of introspection? But this argument simply begs the question by defining introspection in such general terms that it covers all investigations of consciousness that take the first-person perspective seriously.


    4. Phenomenology and solipsism

    Let me make the transition to the issue of solipsism by briefly commenting on a section from the chapter “The Phenomenal Field” in Merleau-Ponty’s Phénoménologie de la perception. Not only does Merleau-Ponty in this chapter confirm our preceding analysis, by adding a couple of additional reasons for not conflating phenomenological analyses with introspective observations, but he also broaches an issue that is crucial to the next step of our argument, the issue concerning the relation between conscious experience and bodily behavior and its relevance for our understanding of the similarities and differences between self-experience and other-experience.

    Merleau-Ponty starts out by saying that it for a long time has been customary to define the object of psychology by claiming that it is accessible to one person only, namely the bearer of the mental state in question, and that the only way to grasp this object is by means of a special kind of internal perception or introspection. However, this return to the “immediate data of consciousness” quickly turned out to face quite some challenges. Not only did it prove difficult to communicate any insights concerning this private realm to others, but the investigator himself could never be really sure about what exactly this immediate and pure experiential life amounted to, since it by definition eluded every attempt to express, grasp or describe it by means of public language and concepts (Merleau-Ponty 1945, 70).

    Echoing (or rather foreshadowing) Dennett’s criticism, Merleau-Ponty then points out that phenomenology has demonstrated how hopelessly mistaken this view is. According to the findings of phenomenology, the world of experience, the phenomenal field, is not some “inner world”, nor is the phenomenon a “state of consciousness” or a “mental fact” the experience of which requires a special act of 8 introspection. Rather, we should realize that consciousness is not something that is visible to one person only, and invisible to everybody else. Consciousness is not something exclusively inner, something cut off from the body and the surrounding world, as if the life of the mind could remain precisely the same even if it had no bodily and linguistic expressions. Gestures, expressions, and actions are more than brute external data whose psychological meaning is to be sought elsewhere, namely in some superimposed inner experience; rather the intentional behavior constitutes a whole charged with meaning. It is this meaning that is immediately given, and my own “psyche” is given to me in the same way as the “psyche” of others, namely in the form of an articulated and melodic unity of behavior (Merleau-Ponty 1945, 70-71). 6

    Merleau-Ponty ends up declaring that phenomenology is distinguished in all its characteristics from introspective psychology and that the difference in question is a difference in principle. Whereas the introspective psychologist considers consciousness as a mere sector of being, and tries to investigate this sector in the same way the physicist tries to investigate his, the phenomenologist realizes that consciousness ultimately calls for a transcendental clarification that goes beyond common sense postulates and brings us face to face with the problem concerning the constitution of the world (Merleau-Ponty 1945, 72). In other writings, Merleau-Ponty has argued that unless self-experience is embodied and embedded, intersubjectivity will be neither possible nor comprehensible. Had subjectivity and selfhood been an exclusive first-person phenomenon, only present in the form of an immediate and unique inwardness, I would know of only one case—my own—and would never get to know any other. Not only would I lack the means of ever recognizing other bodies as embodied subjects, I would also lack the ability to recognize myself in the mirror, and more generally, I would be unable to grasp a certain intersubjectively describable body as myself. But according to Merleau-Ponty, subjectivity is not hermetically sealed up within itself, remote from the world and inaccessible to the other. It is, above all, a relation to the world, and Merleau-Ponty accordingly writes that access to others is secured the moment that I define both others and myself as co-existing relations to the world (Merleau-Ponty 1964, 114). It is because I am not a pure disembodied interiority, but an embodied being in the world, that I am capable of encountering and understanding others who exist in the same way (Merleau-Ponty 1960, 215, 1964, 74). Thus, the standard question, “How do I find an access to the other” is mistaken. It signals that I am enclosed in my own interiority, and that I must then employ specific methods to reach the other who is outside. Such a way of framing the problem fails to recognize the nature of embodiment. To exist embodied is to exist in such a way that one exists under the gaze of the other, accessible to the other; my bodily behavior always has a public side to it. This is not to say that a focus on embodiment will eradicate the difference between self-ascription and other-ascription, between a first-person perspective and a second-person perspective. We should respect this difference, but we should also conceive of it in a manner that avoids giving rise to the mistaken view that only my own experiences are given to me and that the behavior of the other shields his experiences from me and makes their very existence hypothetical (cf. Avramides 2001, 187).

    One can find a comparable view in Scheler, who has argued that we should not ignore what can be directly perceived about others and fail to acknowledge the embodied and embedded nature of self-experience. Thus, Scheler denies that our initial self-acquaintance is of a purely mental nature and that it takes place in isolation from others. But he also denies that our basic acquaintance with others is inferential in nature. In his view, there is something highly problematic about claiming that intersubjective understanding is a two-stage process of which the first stage is the perception of meaningless behavior and the second an intellectually based attribution of psychological meaning. On the contrary, in the face-to-face encounter, we are neither confronted with a mere body, nor with a hidden psyche, but with a unified whole. It is in this context that Scheler speaks of an “expressive unity” (Ausdruckseinheit). It is only subsequently, through a process of abstraction, that this unity can be divided and our interest then proceed “inwards” or “outwards” (Scheler 1973, 255).

    Both Scheler and Merleau-Ponty would reject the view that our encounter with others is, first and foremost, an encounter with bodily and behavioral exteriorities devoid of any psychological properties. According to such a view, defended by behaviorists and Cartesians alike, behavior, considered in itself, is neither expressive nor meaningful. All that is given are physical qualities and their changes. Seeing a radiant expression means seeing certain characteristic distortions of the facial muscles. According to both phenomenologists, such a view fails not only to recognize the true nature of behavior, but it also presents us with a misleading perspective on the mind, suggesting, as it does, that the mind is a purely internal happening located and hidden in the head. For both Scheler and Merleau-Ponty, affective and emotional states are not simply qualities of subjective experience, rather, they are given in expressive phenomena, i.e., they are expressed in bodily gestures and actions and they, thereby, become visible to others. As Scheler writes, 9

    'For we certainly believe ourselves to be directly acquainted with another person's joy in his laughter, with his sorrow and pain in his tears, with his shame in his blushing, with his entreaty in his outstretched hands, with his love in his look of affection, with his rage in the gnashing of his teeth, with his threats in the clenching of his fist, and with the tenor of his thoughts in the sound of his words. If anyone tells me that this is not 'perception', for it cannot be so, in view of the fact that a perception is simply a 'complex of physical sensations', and that there is certainly no sensation of another person's mind nor any stimulus from such a source, I would beg him to turn aside from such questionable theories and address himself to the phenomenological facts (Scheler 1973, 254 [1954, 260]. Cf. Gurwitsch 1979, 56).'

    In short, we should realize that the bodies of others differ radically from inanimate objects, and that our perception of these minded bodies is unlike our ordinary perception of objects. As Sartre has pointed out, it would be a decisive mistake to think that my ordinary encounter with the body of another is an encounter with the kind of body described by physiology. The body of another is always given to me in a situation or meaningful context that is supported by that very body (Sartre 1943, 395). The relation between self and other is not established by way of a theoretical inference; on the contrary, we should recognize the existence of a distinctive mode of consciousness, frequently called empathy, that allows us to experience behavior as expressive of mind, that is, which allows us to access the feelings, desires, and beliefs of others in their expressive behavior.

    Most phenomenologists have argued that it makes no sense to speak of an other unless the other is in some way given and accessible. That I have an actual experience of the other and do not have to do with a mere inference does not imply, however, that I can experience the other in the same way as she herself does, nor that the other’s consciousness is accessible to me in the same way as my own is. The second- (and third-) person access to psychological states differ from the first-person access, but this difference is not an imperfection or a shortcoming; rather, it is constitutional. It makes the experience in question an experience of an other, rather than a self-experience. As Husserl wrote: Had I had the same access to the consciousness of the other as I have to my own, the other would cease being an other and instead become a part of myself (Husserl 1950, 139). To put it differently, the first-personal givenness of the mind of the other is inaccessible to me, but it is exactly this inaccessibility, this limit, which I can experience, and which makes the experience in question, an experience of an other (Husserl 1950, 144). We experience the behavior of others as expressive of the mental states that transcend the behavior that expresses them.

    Our experience and understanding of others are fallible. This should not cause us to conclude that we cannot understand others and that empathy is to be distrusted. Other people can certainly fake or conceal their experiences. There is, however, a decisive difference between our everyday uncertainty about exactly what others might be thinking about and the nightmare vision of the solipsist. Although we may be uncertain about the specific beliefs or intentions of others, this uncertainty does not make us question their very existence. In fact, as Merleau-Ponty pointed out, our relation to others is deeper than any specific uncertainty we might have regarding them (Merleau-Ponty 1945, 415).

    Are the issue of phenomenological methodology and the issue of intersubjectivity related in any way? They certainly are, as Husserl was quick to point out. Thus, Husserl has consistently argued that my perceptual experience is an experience of intersubjectively accessible being which does not exist for me alone, but for everybody. I experience objects, events and actions as public, not as private. It is against this background that Husserl introduced his concept of transcendental intersubjectivity His idea was that objectivity is intersubjectively constituted and that a clarification of its constitution, accordingly, calls for an examination of my experience of other subjects. (Husserl 1973, 110, 378).

    When it comes to the constitution of objectivity, we are faced with an issue that transcends the horizon of the individual and calls for the contribution of other subjects. Objectivity is constitutively related to a plurality of subjects and according to Husserl, the constitution of this objectivity takes place within the framework of a certain normality. For this reason, the phenomenological discussion of subjectivity, which is a discussion of the transcendental, i.e., meaning-bestowing and world-disclosing subject, turns out to be a discussion not simply of the I, but of the we. This is why, Husserl ultimately argued that the transcendental subject is only what it is within intersubjectivity and that intersubjectivity must be taken into consideration if we wish to understand what it means to be a transcendental subject (Husserl 1973, 74-5, 1950, 69, 1954, 275, 472, 1959, 129, 1962, 245- 46). Thus, it is no coincidence that Husserl at times describes his own project as a sociological transcendental philosophy (Husserl 1962, 539) and even writes that the development of phenomenology necessarily implies the step from an “‘egological’ … phenomenology into a transcendental sociological phenomenology having reference to a manifest multiplicity of conscious subjects communicating with one another” (Husserl 1981, 68). Husserl would consequently have had no problem accepting the following 10 statement by Davidson: “A community of minds is the basis of knowledge; it provides the measure of all things. It makes no sense to question the adequacy of this measure, or to seek a more ultimate standard” (Davidson 2001, 218).

    There is much more to be said both about the issue of phenomenological methodology, but also about the phenomenological approach to intersubjectivity, but I hope it should by now be clear that the phenomenological take on both issues differs considerably from Dennett’s reading. . . . ."

    http://cfs.ku.dk/staff/zahavi-publications/dennett.pdf
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2017
  20. Michael Allen

    Michael Allen Paranormal Adept

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