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Friday, November 1, 2013

Phenomenology Kitten—Kantian Turns (6)

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On this day in Round and Square History
1 November 2012—Rural Religion in China (32)
1 November 2011—Middles: Gendered Confucian
[a] Appearing to consciousness RF
Our attaintment of enlightenment is something like the reflection of the
moon in water. The moon does not get wet, nor is the water cleft apart...
The whole moon and the whole sky find room enough in a single dewdrop...
                             —Dōgen, Conversations

We continue today with one of the best explanations I have ever read of Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. It is embedded in Brian Magee's superb autobiography Confessions of a Philosopher. As we head toward the Husserlian Swirl, let's continue to unpack the Kantian underpinnings of phenomenology.
[b] Let sleeping bears lie RF

And, as before, we'll consider it our Prolegomena to Any Future Phenomenology. Yesterday we considered the proposition that objects conform to our knowledge. Let's continue to pack this phenomenal statement.

What is actually happening is that what appear to us as the objects of our experience are being produced for us by our experiencing apparatus in the same sort of way as a photograph is produced in a camera and a sound recording in a piece of sound-recording equipment. Things in themselves are not that way, any more than things in themselves are photographs or sound recordings, but all the ways we have of representing things are inevitably ways of representing, and are not the things in themselves.

In responding to this sort of epistemology empiricists have tended to make—and persist in making—one huge mistake in particular. They represent Kant as saying that we ourselves synthesize reality, that we put it all together in our head, that we make it up. He is specifically not saying that. On the contrary, he is always insistent that reality exists independently of us.
[c] Wholly water RF

What he is saying is something altogether different and incompatible with it, something about the nature of experience—namely that it has to be mediated by apparatus that is not itself the object of experience, and furthermore that it must inescapably take the forms determined by the nature of the apparatus, with the result that the representations it yields are categorically different from their objects.

To be sure, objects of experience are "like" experience, but that is because they are experience, they are what we mean by the word "experience." But they are not the independently existing objects that constitute reality as it is in itself, just as the photograph is not the object photographed, and the sound recording is not the sound recorded.

Ponder that. We'll keep plugging away for one or two more days with the frameworks established by Kant, the accidental founder of phenomenology.

[1] Brian Magee, The Confessions of a Philosopher (New York: Random House, 1997),148-149.

Magee, Brian. The Confessions of a Philosopher. New York: Random House, 1997. 
[d] Experience RF
[Originally posted on September 13, 2014]

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