Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My Response to Larval Subjects on Realist Phenomenology

Levi is late in allowing my moderated comments on his Derrida thread.  He challenged me to give an argument for what I claimed. I began to do so, although I figured that he already knew the answer since he claims knowledge of Whitehead.  I just assumed I was being pedantic, but apparently I was not.  My post is still not posted after several days.



This fact [that I am using a different definition of "phenomenology"] is clear to me, and I stress it to help bridge some OOO vs. SR-PR divides.  If nothing else, I hope this point helps, because Leon, Adam, Matt, probably Shaviro, etc. are coming from (or including) a tradition that uses some of the same words as the Husserlian tradition.  This is an exercise in cross-tradition communication.

"The" phenomenological tradition is bigger than Husserl et al; recall that Husserl cites William James, who was part of the pragmatist tradition that was already doing a "phenomenology" that C.S. Peirce called "phaneroscopy."  Whitehead comes out of that tradition, and trying to read him from the Husserlian tradition will lead to terrible misunderstandings.

I'm not talking about intentionality as understood in the Husserlian tradition, and the corresponding concept is not correlationist.  Since there is not strict "intentionality" in this view, I have nothing to defend from your critique; you presume a concept that I do not hold.

As for your last point, I prefer Peirce's response in his encyclopedia article on Berkeley.  In short, do we take phenomenal qualities to be real or "just names" as nominalists would insist?  If we treat "green" as an arbitrary "product," then we accept nominalism: there is no unity in what generates sense experience that leads to the conception of "green."  I insist that's an arbitrary decision [that does not advance beyond Locke].  Following Peirce, if we agree that there is a existent independent of thought, something real, then "green" means that element of the existent [(a potency)] that tends to constrain thought to the [phenomenal] qualia "green," which it is capable of doing regardless whether there is anyone there to experience green.  As before, "green" as an actualized potency is an event of the interaction of the thing and entities capable of experiencing the qualia "green."  Otherwise, strictly speaking, "green" would be a "general" and not a "universal."  This view also shuns any notion of a "thing in itself."  There is something like withdrawal, but its an characteristic of temporality.  I could go on, but I should defer to proper Peirce scholars; Whiteheads notion is derivative of this and I leave his scholars to explain further.

[In addition, please see other posts on this site to see what a "potency" or power is; it's not anything obvious or like Aristotle.

I would add a counter-argument to Levi's green example.  If we define "green" as the product of properties of the object, e.g., green leaves of a plant, then we just re-inscribe the question.  So, how do we know those properties?  We leave ourselves right back where we began, only now we're talking about "Chlorophyll"--what is that a product of?  Ad infinitum  Is there anything real at the bottom of that?  Why set ourselves up to ask that correlationist question?  We cannot we say that green is real and not a product?  Why--because the nominalist majority does not like talking about phenomenal qualities being real, i.e., there being whiteness in addition to white things.  At worse, the view is on par with nominalism as arbitrariness goes.]


  1. Knowledge is not a binary relation, especially of correspondence. It does not ask, does the idea correlate with the object. It is a productive triadic relation. It does ask, does the idea-act lead to the production of the anticipated outcome? If yes, then it is true. Reality is not a measure or delimiter of correspondence; it is what constrains the anticipated outcome.

  2. If we are realists about phenomenal qualities, at least in the Peircean (derived) sense that I mean it, then we say that conscious phenomena are constrained by the real, and the real is univocal. That is, the real entity will not constrain us one way one minute and a different way the next minute. Hence Peirce's definition of truth as the *convergent* ideal limit of scientific inquiry.

    Hence, my comments about the phenomenal quality "green" do not posit "greenness" in the thing itself. They do presume that a certain range of environment-bodily interactions will produce the quality "green," although they do not presume that we can know all the relevant factors at any given moment. That is why Peirce's definition of truth must be an ideal and not a futurally distant actuality.

  3. A further thought about power.

    Strictly speaking, the "power to produce greenness" is created through the interaction of the environment and the human organism. Strictly speaking, the power does not inhere in anything. Contrast this with Aristotle, for whom the power inheres in substance.

    Note that the conditions under which we experience a phenomenon need not be the same conditions under which we can experience it as known.


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