Saturday, June 2, 2007


Dennett sees people as having propositional attitudes only as a useful fiction. It is a pragmatic move to suggest that other people have subjective experience of beliefs and desires. The subject is in no way constitutive of what is really going on inside our consciousness. Instead, we cannot even really talk of a genuinely existing inner mind, subjectivity or interiority---to do so commits one to the ontological absurdity of thinking of the first-person perspective as actually truly existing. The push to naturalize and ground consciousness in a way compatible with the physical sciences is where our philosophical commitment should lie.
I want to suggest a new, or perhaps older appropriation of Husserl's talk of the first-personal. Strictly speaking, I want to construct a theory of agency that centrally treats intentionality as a focal point from which all standpoints when facing the world are related through. Heidegger said famously "we are already under way." We are borne in a world set in motion from our own point of view. There is no other way to view the world except through our subjective experience. It is within phenomenology by turning to the immanent structures revealed in intentional experience that one can begin to see what is truly constitutive of the world. My knowledge is a product only because I am conscious of the world. It is this impulse I want to articulate somehow in Husserl that reverses the push to naturalize.
When viewed scientifically, everything about our human condition becomes easily reduced to parts without taking into consideration the immanently given in subjectivity. Reasons for this are many. First, talk of subjectivity as abstracted from the concrete experience of the world is seen as an aberration and leftover from the German Idealists. Subjectivity is metaphysical aloof and an impractical concept to hold in any contemp0rary metaphysics. Husserl connects up our transcendental reflection with the immanent, that is, with the concrete presentation of the world thrust upon us by its only forceful presence. There is nothing metaphysically aloof when concrete experience is joined to the transcendental.
Looking at the problem of agency, one finds it difficult, if not impossible, to sweep away the subjective. This is my main intuition. I am against calling the use of our language referring to beliefs and desires, as well as other areas of phenomenology, as useless fictions in the Dennettian sense. Instead, we do have feelings; we do have sensations, feelings, impressions, beliefs, attitudes and faculties. To ignore how we experience ourselves as a subjectivity fundamentally is absurd.