“The world is there prior to every analysis I could give of it, and it would be artificial to derive it from a series of synthesis that would first link sensations and then perspectival appearances of the object together, whereas both of these are in fact products of the analysis and must not have existed prior to it. Reflective analysis believes it moves in the reverse direction along the path of a previous constitution and meets up with – in the “inner man,” as Saint Augustine says – a constituting power that it itself has always been. Thus, reflection carries itself along and places itself back within an invulnerable subjectivity, prior to being and time. Yet this is a naïveté, or, if one prefers, an incomplete reflection that loses an awareness of its own beginning.” (Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception)
100 years ago, Rudolf Otto’s influential study The idea of the holy was published. It may be worthwhile to revisit some of his ideas.
It is often said that the achievements of the phenomenologist Rudolf Otto prove more sustainable than those of the Kantian theologian that he also was. In this perspective, the most interesting part of The idea of the holy is probably constituted by Otto’s detailed descriptions of ‘the numinous’. By this he means the peculiar affective quality of religious life without which the various ‘rational’ meanings and doctrines related to it could not be properly understood.
Some three months have passed since I left beautiful Copenhagen and the lively research atmosphere at the Center for Subjectivity Research. In the meanwhile a couple of newsletters indirectly reminded me of my promise and my wish to write a short contribution for the blog. Today might finally be the right day, not only because I have some more time between one seminar and the next, but also because, after some reworking, I have finally labeled the paper I wrote during my stay at the Center as ‘final version’. While revising it, I became more and more aware of how much I profited from the discussions and exchanges I had with colleagues at the Center.
My main question in this paper (entitled Experiencing Reality and Fiction: Discontinuity and Permeability) concerns our participation in the experience of fiction. I understand ‘fiction’ here in a rather large sense, including playing a game of make-believe, being the spectator of a theatre pièce, reading a novel, etc. As I hope to make clear in the paper, what all these experiences have in common is that they are grounded in a specific kind of imaginative experience, which Husserl called ‘perceptual’ or ‘bound’ phantasy.
In his effort to keep a “Diary of a Body”, Daniel Pennac defined this peculiar description as «(…) not a treatise on physiology, but my secret garden, which is in many ways our most shared territory» (Pennac 2012, 13). A shared territory continuously exposed to the gaze of others, and at the same time a performative dimension that allows us to pay attention to the world, while becoming almost transparent in experience. How do I move in the environment without explicit attention to my movements? How do I get to catch the joy in your smile? And how is it possible for us even to interact prior to any linguistic communication? Thanks to a pre-reflective embodied dimension, our experience tells us that “mind-reading” is in most cases not needed. However, if our body is the very source of empathic grasping of basic emotions and intentions through expressions and movements, we need first of all to investigate the terms of embodiment. In order to ground my PhD thesis about empathy on a solid basis, I decided to focus on the phenomenological concept of Leib and on the debate concerning the body schema and body image. The Center for Subjectivity Research has been the perfect place to learn more about the topic and to discuss it in an international and open-minded environment.
It is a commonplace in the philosophical literature of the XX century to consider that the phenomenological method of reflection is a kind of internalism or introspection. This is so partially due to the fact that reflection is the process whereby consciousness directs its intentional aim at itself, thereby taking itself as its own object. In this regard, reflection appears to be a higher-order act that reifies a state into a sort of mental item. Or to phrase it differently: reflection — as King Midas’ golden touch — turns all that which it reflects upon into an object, and thus subjectivity into a form of self-objectification. As a consequence, reflection paradoxically leads to an infinite regress.
However things are not as simple as they seem at first glance: neither the phenomenological method of transcendental reflection is a sort of psychological introspection, nor the self-objectification is its major problem. What is really at stake here is the very possibility of phenomenology according to Husserl’s principle of principles. As is well known, this principle stated that phenomenology is supposed to base its considerations on that which is given intuitively in the phenomenological reflection. The crucial question is therefore whether intuition and reflection manage to apprehend the self-manifestation of subjectivity as such.
I will soon publish a book in Spanish entitled “Dación y reflexión. Una investigación fenomenológica” (Giveness and reflection. A phenomenological investigation). The book engages with the idea that there is dichotomy between a reflective and a hermeneutical understanding of phenomenology, the former founded and represented by Husserl and the latter by the young Heidegger.
The view that these two ways of understanding phenomenology are incompatible has been considerably influential for many years. It was suggested by Heidegger in several places of his early work, and has been elegantly articulated by Friedrich-Wilhelm von Herrmann in his book Hermeneutik und Reflexion. Der Begriff der Phänomenologie bei Heidegger und Husserl (translated into English in 2013). Heidegger’s and von Herrman’s incompatibilist position has not remained unchallenged, though. Steven Crowell, Dan Zahavi and Wenjing Cai, among others, have argued against it.
Even before the publication of his Logical Investigations, Husserl had begun to analyze intentional consciousness as a matter-form complex: Perceptual intentionality, for instance, comes about when immanent non-intentional sensations are animated by an intentional apprehension.
Some praised this ‘matter-form model’ as a ‘Copernican revolution’ in the theory of perception, since natural attitude tend to take the external object as the cause of our sensations, whereas phenomenology takes the immanent sensations as a constitutive presupposition for a perceptual object. Like a stuffed dumpling, sensations ‘coated’ with meaning becomes the unperceivable ‘hard-core’ of what is perceived.
On December 1-2, the Center for Subjectivity Research organizes a conference to mark the culmination of its research project The disrupted “we”: Shared intentionality and its psychopathological distortions.
To what extent does we-intentionality and we-identity presuppose self-consciousness, second-person engagement and empathy? The aim of the conference is to explore these questions and elucidate the nature of the we, through a focused study of its psychopathological disruptions.
Speakers include Thomas Fuchs, Vittorio Gallese, Josef Parnas, and Louis Sass.
The conference is free and open to all. No registration is needed.
For the full program please visit: http://cfs.ku.dk/calendar-main/2016/we/
Not many people would deny that they experience a sense of selfhood: that they are who they are, that they are the thinker of their thoughts, the subject of their experiences, the agent of their actions. That they are the body that they move and that they are the one who is speaking the words that come out of their mouth.
Apart from this subjective sense of selfhood, we also have what we can call an objective sense of selfhood. This is how we describe ourselves when someone would ask us who we are. We say our name, where we are from and depending on the context others things about our lives. We ascribe qualities to ourselves as if it were an object. This apple is green, this person is born in The Netherlands. We view ourselves as if it were through the eyes of someone else, and how we describe ourselves in this objective way does not differ from how we would describe other people.
Philosophical writing on what it is for several agents to act together—in other words, what it is for them to engage in “joint intentional action”—often start off by a short list of some paradigm cases of the phenomenon in question, such as two people walking together, two people painting a house together or carrying a sofa together. Another recurring alledged paradigm example, mentioned by Michael Bratman, Margaret Gilbert and Christopher Kutz for example, is that of two (or more) people having a conversation. Philosophers working on joint action rarely elaborate on this particular example though, it from reading this literature, it is unclear in what sense having a conversation is a joint intentional action.