Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Of Principles and Phenomena

"...that every originary presentive intuition is a legitimizing source of cognition, that everything originarily (so to speak, in its "personal" actuality) offered to us in 'intuition' is to be accepted simply as what it is presented as being, but also only within the limits in which it is presented there" (E. Husserl,  Ideas I, 44).

Another anthem for phenomenology might be "back to Husserl himself." His 'principle of principles' (as he described above) marks the points of departure for the deployment of the phenomenological method. Anyone wishing to comment coherently on the movements within phenomenology, especially within the 'new' phenomenology, does well to begin in Husserl's governing principle as it opens upon putting experience at hand. One does even better if one states one's own understanding of the principle, and restates it as an interpretation of it.

If I may restate and interpret, the 'principle' admonishes the excursions of method to have faith in the knowledge that what presents itself within the intuition 'writes' itself into consciousness with its 'own hand,' as it were, without or at least prior to any conceptual framework: nothing intercedes for phenomena as they enter consciousness. What is there is the thing itself, unencumbered by a traversal through an extraneous conceptual space that imprints a signature of its having been there before its arrival in the consciousness. Consciousness therefore only needs to traverse itself to lead itself back to the thing itself.

Having a handle on the principle assists in determining if an application of the method has violated it, as, for example,  Dominique Janicaud charges Jean-Luc Marion and others of doing (see his Phenomenology and the "Theological Turn"). I am uncertain if Janicaud is a maximalist Husserlian, as perhaps Eugen Fink seems to be; but if there is something worth protecting in Husserl's thought, something worth keeping from a contamination, it must be the principle itself. Fink himself protects Husserl's project from misunderstanding and at the same time suggests that what awaits the effective phenomenologist (one who deploys the method successfully) is nothing short of phenomenal (as in, 'he played a phenomenal game,' or 'the performance was phenomenal,' or 'it was a phenomenal film'). Nothing short of conversion or transformation awaits over the Husserlian rainbow (see Ronald Bruzina's Edmund Husserl and Eugen Fink: Beginnings and Ends in Phenomenology, 1928-1938, Yale, 2004; and, of course, Eugen Fink's own Sixth Cartesian Meditation: the Idea of a Transcendental Theory of Method, trans. R. Bruzina, Indiana, 1995).

How ironic then is Marion's work, work accused of violating the principle of principles and lacking 'rigor', which proves the method (a special case of the exception[al] proving the rule), demonstrates how the method really can get at the very possibility of conversion and transformation. What should trouble us more is the principle's not-so-subtle post-Cartesian appeal to certainty, or at least confidence; Marion has rehabilitated both the principle and Descartes in this regard. In any event, nothing in Marion's work, especially The Erotic Phenomenon and In the Self's Place, eludes 'rigor;' in fact, the former work can be viewed as overwrought, and both viewed certainly as vigorous and exhaustive (if not exhausting).

The principle, nonetheless, provides a basis for moving into this new phenomenology of givenness. I have described the maneuver of this graduated method as the phenomenological moment in part to remind me that the method defies causality---the moment is a moment of simultaneity---and in part to remind me to resist the temptation to think the reduction as the result of a sequential process of 'epoche' followed by the 'reduction proper.' Despite Husserlian 'givenness' rooting itself in the mathematical, in the given of geometrical proof, Marion's givenness leads back to the fecundity of such 'originary' givenness and deconstructs it, leading the way to his third reduction.   

Hence, the phenomenological moment is a busy place, whether sonorous or cacophonous. The horizonal element of the principle which sets the limits at which the thing presents itself also sets the tone (the stage?) for the moment itself, where the thing, consciousness, and the horizon intersect upon the 'ground' of the moment, which is none other than a shape-shifting 'self,' or better, shape-shifting 'selves.' At the risk of participating in the seemingly endless talk sometimes construed as a meta-discourse of 'phenomenology', let me remind myself of why the method tends to work in productive and fascinating ways. While phenomenology 'proves' nothing and only points to possibility, its effects can have profound critical implications, especially for the critical approach generally employed in this blog.

The stakes are high: reality itself. The moment of method recreates the world. So long as we dot our "I's" and cross our "gazes" we should be OK and live to commit phenomenology another day. We should also bear in mind that temporal and spatial markers [I underline some of these below] are merely a convention in phenomenology, much like the trope of its presenting itself in the first person singular---all convention, all Darstellung, all stage-craft. All the world's a stage.

The enactment of the method begins as the thing surprises consciousness into a consciousness of 'something.' That consciousness is a consciousness of a self, and that self is a self in the flesh, and that flesh rests in its finitude and immanence. The very boredom (how's that for an electrified term in this business) of the natural attitude, the attitude that accepts the science of reality as, for example, a clockwork (choose a metaphor for the scientific worldview), an acceptance of the clockwork in all its magnificence and awe, breaks off---boredom experiences a disturbance, even astonishment, at a thing presenting itself, appearing in view, within a gaze. What gaze? When did consciousness get a gaze? The thing awakens the gaze resting dormant---waiting to be born---in consciousness---the intention born of the thing.

What next? What happens next is boredom already collapsed upon consciousness's [t]race leading back through itself to the thing that comes into view. The world of the self has just gotten a bit bigger, stretched out by the space cut by the thing itself; the thing births an enlarged self, a self become through a becoming, a turning toward, a conversion to the thing by the thing. The collapse of the natural attitude, boring as such, comprises the epoche which brings into relief what has just collapsed it: the reduction proper and the thing itself. To separate the two into sequential occurrences would be tantamout to tweezing out rhythm and time from pitch and tonality in music. Let's not do it.

Cacophony or symphony? If experience forms the self, then the epistemological problem presents fully formed. "We are our experiences." "We learn through experience." Certainly these are not difficult notions. Truth is, phenomenology, when its not masquerading as its own meta-discourse, happens every day to everybody. We are 'everyday' phenomenologists, just as we are everyday mystics (as Karl Rahner would have it, referring to Christians who otherwise would be nothing at all), who experience something.

It's a place to start, a place for me to remember that I said this and was going someplace with it. Perhaps it is a place to start again, restart, from where I viewed this through a parallax view, or through the Lacanian registers and the role of 'lack.' In a modified version here, Lack constitutes the self in the flesh and its opening upon the immediacy of the thing fulfilling the intuition. The loss/lack within the self experiencing itself (as itself) and the world through the epoche, points to a fall into the reduction, a 'leading back,' which inheres in the growth of consciousness, and therefore recreates it. In the play of the Real (the condition of the absence of intercession for the thing, its immediacy of presentation), the method enacts, in the Imaginary order, something actually going on in the ineffable Real.  Lack is loss, but loss as a space for something to enter, not merely consciousness, but of becoming.

No comments:

Post a Comment