Class on October 4th… Sorry y’all for the delay on this post. Yesterday in class we began with another overview of the sense of the word Transcendental in Husserl’s philosophy. Remember: transcendental philosophy does not concern itself with what is transcendent, that is, with objects that transcend our consciousness. In this way, transcendental as a modifier does not indicate the content of this philosophy so much as it describes the method. Transcendental philosophy is concerned with consciousness, and its method is reflecting on the essential aspects of this consciousness. Rather than concern ourself solely with particular experiences, Facts, we reflect upon the conditions of possibility of those very facts. Husserl doesn’t find these conditions in other things, other particular experiences, but as essentially belonging to the Pure Ego, to pure consciousness. Transcendental philosophy unfolds the concatenations of consciousness by intentional reflection, and in this process we are pulled “away from” the Facts and push ourselves toward the essence of the Transcendental Ego. Don’t hear this the wrong way, phenomenology isn’t the attempt to rid ourselves of Fact, or to reveal a world of the Mind previously unavailable to consciousness; these concatenations reflected upon by the phenomenologist are always-already there, but simply passed over in the naive Natural Attitude.
So, Husserl’s phenomenology is concerned with the essence of consciousness, and in the last class we talked about the core of this consciousness being the Transcendental Ego. It is this that is responsible for “sense-bestowal,” or, as we discussed, the most fundamental and essentially important aspect of consciousness. All possible experience, viz. The World, is dependent upon this act of consciousness. Implicit in this concept is an idealism, or the notion that we give sense upon the world, and not the other way around. However, Husserl criticizes the “subjective idealism” of Berkeley which dictates that the individual subject is responsible for the existence of entities. Husserl avoids such solipsism by emphasizing, as we did in class, that his project is basically concerned with essences, not facts. This means that my consciousness qua mine is not what is being studied, but the essential aspects of consciousness itself. Mineness is important in so far as it is essential to consciousness; we all possess mineness. Stopping with the individual subject is to stop at facts, which is unacceptable.
What about this sense-bestowal? How does it function? On this subject we introduced the Husserlian terms noesis and noema. These roughly correspond to the two poles of intentional consciousness: the thinking and the thought. In this case noesis is the -ing, and noema is the object that is in that thinking, i.e. the thought. The noesis is the thinking that bestows sense upon an object. John spoke about one of the miracles of consciousness: the ability to think about one thing in many different ways. I may look at this glass of scotch as caramel colored, as lying on a table, as an extended object, as cylindrical, as something delicious, or as a glass of scotch. Each one of these thoughts is a noetic ray of regard that reveals different aspects of the object. Yet in order to speak about a number of rays of regard toward an object, we must have in mind an object that persists amidst our noetic changes. This is the noema, or, as we called in it class, and as Husserl calls it in our readings, determinable x. This name contains in it ambiguity. It is not determined, but determinable. This aspect of possibility is necessarily part of the noema. If this glass of scotch persists across my different rays of regard, viz. my different bestowals of sense, it cannot be any one of these senses, and it cannot be merely “all” of them. It is their possibility.
I hope this noema makes sense, and I hope by now transcendental philosophy is getting clearer. We are saying goodbye to Husserl, which is sad but necessary. I hope everyone enjoyed the reading. Husserl is almost always very dry, and I think Heidegger will be a refreshing stylistic change, but what Husserl lacks in poetic capability he makes up for in conceptual intensity. To leave Husserl, I wanted to find a short, phenomenological poem. I couldn’t think of one off-hand, other than the following very famous poem by William Carlos Williams. If you don’t know it, it is called The Red Wheelbarrow. I’ll see you all next week, and have a good break.
- so much depends
- a red wheel
- glazed with rain
- beside the white