Friday, March 30, 2012

A Glossary of Pragmatic Phenomenology

This is a glossary of terms for my research program in pragmatic phenomenology/phenomenological pragmatism.    My project is a contemporary derivation of John Dewey's work as read through Thomas Alexander, Jim Garrison, James Gouinlock, Victor Kestenbaum, and others.  The glossary will be helpful for those interested in peering into the depths of Deweys thought, which is often omitted by contemporary commentaries, and into my own development of it.

For everyone who is curious, I can provide far, far more citations, reference, etc. with little trouble.  The "MW" and such citations are to Dewey's collected works using the standard critical edition notation.  A warning: the technical terms in this glossary reference each other, and thus the glossary must be read as a whole.  Terms that are entirely my own and not Dewey's are marked.


There is no faculty of the will.
Choice is a release of energy due to sufficient reintegration of disrupted habit (MW 14:134).
Choice implicates "character," not conscious choice or cognition.

(body of habits/habitual body)
Character is the total interpenetration of habit.
(See Dewey's Ethics)

Reasonableness is the effective immanent organization of desire per "emotional sensitiveness" (MW 14:137-138).  The organization is a "quality of effective relationships among desires" (MW 14:135).  Reasonableness is habituated from the environment; the individual is reasonable only if the environment is so (cf Dewey's The Public and Its Problems).

Agency is the immanent determination of the object of desire (or so-ordered activity).  Agency is primarily attributed to the situation and secondarily to the human being.  Agency within the scope of conscious experience implies a unity and integrity of character such that choice is conscious rather than autonomous.
(see also Gouinlock, Dewey's Philosophy of Value, 282-286)

Desire is the organic ordered and telic activity of the human organism.  It is a process from which characteristic events emerge, e.g.,  paradigmatic case is "conscious desire."  "Desire" is a synonymous for the human process of valuation.
        event--"felt emotion"/"conscious desire"/"desire"        
(see also Gouinlock, Dewey's Philosophy of Value and Dewey's Theory of Valuation)

Conscious Desire
Conscious desire occurs when ongoing activity meets environmental/habitual resistence; conscious desire emerges as an affective response to signal a problematic situation.  "Conscious desire" connotes a  telos while "affect" and "felt emotion" do not.

Feeling (Dewey)
Feeling is a realization of a potentiality, by definition (LW 1:204, 227).
(See Dewey, Experience and Nature)

Feeling (Hills--derivative of Dewey and Alexander)
Feeling is the prereflective sensitivity to the structure of a situation that presents tacit environmental involvement as felt quality.  Feeling is a continual and persistent process, and presents sufficiently tensive relationships.    Feeling is intentional (anticipative) and its predominate quality is affect/mood.   
        event--"felt quality"
(see also Alexander, Horizons of Feeling; Rosenthal, Speculative Pragmatism)

Felt Quality
(quality in its phenomenological denotation)
Felt quality is a distinct event in which the relatively passive sensitivity of feeling meets sufficient resistance to become felt quality.  Felt quality is also a First of a Second in Peircean terminology (cf Dewey's article on Peirce).  The particular quality is determined by the characteristic differentiae of the disrupted habitual coordination (cf Dewey's "Emotion," Garrison's "Emotion," or Hills' Immanent Transcendence).
(see also Dewey, "Qualitative Thought"; Experience and Nature)

(conscious experience)
Feeling comprises the lowest level of conscious awareness, as consciousness is "on the psycho-physical level … the totality of actualized immediate qualitative differences, or 'feelings’" (LW 1:229).

(linguistic and/or cognitive consciousness, reflective experience)
"Mind" is the "actualized apprehensions of meanings, that is, ideas," and therefore "consciousness" is not identical to "mind," since the latter is discursive and beyond the scope of the present analysis (LW 1:229). 

Emotion is a modification of feeling that is a focusing, affective response to disruptively tensive relationships.  As a distinct event, it is paradigmatically an assertive, affective summons to  reconstructed, focal experience.  Phenomenologically, it is in a foreground/background relationship with feeling.
        event--"felt emotion"
(see also Alexander, Horizons of Feeling; Rosenthal, Speculative Pragmatism; Kestenbaum, Phenomenological Sense of John Dewey)

Felt Emotion
(affect, desire, felt difficulty, etc)
Felt emotion is an event in which the activity of emotion registers in focal attention as felt.
Has a genus-species relationship with felt tension (species).

Triadic Model of Consciousness (Hills)
Conscious experience occurs through a continual triadic event of activity, resistance, and presentation.  In short, resistance to ongoing activity constitutes conscious presentation of the environment.  Resistance and thereby presentation occur through a dynamic transaction of the organism and the environment, the whole of which is a situation.  Resistance is first felt and becomes sense, object, and thought depending on the situational conditions. 

Existential environmental condition that resists ongoing habitual activity.
(See also Dewey, Logic)

The feeling of resistance.  Tension is existential, while tension is qualitative.
(See also Dewey, Logic)

Consciously experiencing a quality/phenomenon.

Associative Structure (Hills)
anticipatory pre-objective "horizon" of the habitual body.  is given in feeling. founds imaginative horizon.
(see also Dewey, "Qualitative Thought" and Kestenbaum, Phenomenological Sense)

Imagination (Alexander)
1.  extension of activity
2.  temporally complex event
3.  projected possibilities of action
extends activity into the possible
(Alexander, “Pragmatic Imagination,” “Moral Imagination,” Horizons of Feeling)

Imagination (Hills—Alexander derivative)
Imagination is the activity of giving meaning to conscious experience.  This is primarily the activity of habitual projection in conscious experience.  Imagination projects an imaginative horizon that includes the momentary comprehensive meaning of an immediate object or situation.
“the persistent operation of a prior object which has been incorporated in effective habit” (MW 14:40). 
(Hills, “Limited Horizons,” Immanent Transcendence)

Horizon (Hills-Alexander derivative)
(imaginative horizon)
The imaginative horizon is the anticipatory limit (horizon) of conscious experience.  is the complete, momentary habitual possibilities for action given momentary possibilities of (mediated) stimuli.
from “Limited Horizons,”
“Since the meaning of an object is the range of anticipated consequences of its enaction, the horizon includes the momentary comprehensive meaning of an immediate object.”
(see also Alexander, Horizons of Feeling and various articles)

An object is a localized field of foiled anticipation that has recoiled as (consciousness of) some disruptively tensive region of experience.  It's qualitative character is given per past habituations (experiences), present situation (e.g., perception)/context, anticipation (future).  An object need not be attended to.
        process--"objection," or "objective experience"
"An object, in other terms, is a series of qualities treated as potentialities of specific existential consequences." (Deledalle, Histoire de la philosophie americaine, 158)
(see also MW 14, Kestenbaum, Phenomenological Sense; Rosenthal, Specualtive Pragmatism)

Immediate Object
An object that is immediately experienced in primary experience.

An idea is an attentively apprehended possibility for action thematized as meaningful.  An attentively apprehended object becomes an idea.  The process of converting an object into an idea is idealization.

creative projection of past experience.
taken as a kind of end-in-view.
(see also Dewey, 1932 Ethics)

Ideal Object
presented (ideal) unification of disrupted habit.  is a sign for the presentation of relatively unified habit that is not present.
sign for anticipated reintegration of underlying disrupted habit
 (see also Dewey, "Desire and Intelligence," in Human Nature and Conduct)

the process of a feeling/emotive thematic unification of disrupted habit "prior" to cognitive control.

Phenomenology (pragmatic)
the study of the logic of conscious phenomena.  Pragmatic phenomenology is the study how habit informs experience, e.g., how the pre-objective phase informs the objective phase of experience.  This phenomenology, per Dewey's theory of continuity that implicates process metaphysics, connects conscious phenomena to the prior phases of the organic process that are not experienced as phenomena, not given, and therefore illegitimate in Husserlian phenomenology.  

EDITS:  Edited almost every entry.  Added "idea," "imagination (Alexander), "imagination (Hills)," "consciousness," "mind."  This glossary is 2 years old; I am updating it and changes will be ongoing.


  1. I updated it. Actually, since I first wrote this over 3 years ago and haven't revised it in over a year, I need to do so. I wrote this after my dissertation but before I wrote 8 articles on the subject. I have much more to include here.

  2. Dmf,

    The definition for imagination is still not good. "Imagination" here should best be compared to Kant's in the First Critique, e.g., synthesis of the sensible manifold under the forms of unity or categories of the understanding. The analogue of the categories of the understanding are habits, though in this case "habit" in the physiological and neurological denotation of the term. However, these habits are not different in kind from the habits of nature that produce gravity, and thus human understanding is not different in kind from non-human natural processes. The difference? Human consciousness makes the semiotic process explicit and reflexive.

    One would also be mislead to read "possibility" in its logical rather than mathematical connotation in this glossary. Many philosophers read the former but not the latter.

  3. well you're working towards something more substantial than Fesmire managed, see what you think of:

  4. My only substantial criticism of Fesmire is that he is in danger of doing what I warn pragmatists against; adopting a thinker like Mark Johnson because the power his thought adds is so alluring, but not reconciling Johnson's thought with traditional pragmatism. The result is the introduction of numerous paradoxes and contradictions. The theoretical criticism amounts to "more work needs to be done," although the practical criticism is that "pragmatists frequently over-promise what imagination can do." Since aesthetics is often first philosophy for pragmatists, which is true regardless of the many who say that ethics is, in practice pragmatists are always in danger of claiming "what I like" to be moral. These last comments are general and not meant to reflect on Fesmire, but rather speak to the dangers, as a handful of commentators also note.

    I'm fairly confident that Fesmire was one of the reviewers for my article. We have met, and he does seem like a good guy, which is more important than being a good philosopher--not that I'm judging the latter either way.

  5. The student that you linked appears to be one of the Euro-pragmatists that have sprung up in Italy. European pragmatism is growing, especially Peirceans.

  6. Fesmire is a very generous person and working with good intentions, the Deweyan honorific of "intelligent" runs the same risk you mention in relation to "what I like", which is why more is required than was provided by Dewey. M.Johnson fits in well with my rortyian radical behavioralism but than I'm also a contented nominalist so I can see where this strays far from the roots of the family tree but perhaps better suited to thinking life in the "ruins" as Lach's and Hodges would say.

  7. As far as any pragmatist should be concerned, that is and should be the highest praise, and I concur.

    One of the highlights of my dissertation defense years ago was when I noted that Dewey thought that nature itself was "rational" and that a person was a rational as the situation. This under-girded his analysis in The Public and Its Problems. Hence, if the times are irrational, likely so are the people. But that is not sufficiently appreciated in the literature, because as you imply, we are always motivated by "what I like" and the question is how far can we mediate "what I like" into "what is good for me and us" given intelligent, often scientific, analysis of the situation? But we inquirers never step outside of "what I like" when doing that, else a person completely misunderstands Dewey's theory of valuation and agency. I agree with Kestenbaum, Gouinlock, Boisvert, Pratt, etc. on this point. I also noted that I think Dewey's idealist moments show at those points.

    I think Johnson is coming ever more into the neoclassical fold, as that is the trajectory of his work.

    Yes, classical pragmatism and many--maybe not most--neoclassical pragmatists are realists and probably scholastic realists (sorry, Rorty). Do you mean "John Lachs?"

  8. yep;John Lachs (with Michael Hodges):
    Thinking in the Ruins: Wittgenstein and Santayana on Contingency,
    Vanderbilt University Press, 2000


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