Sunday, October 30, 2011


A colleague of mine has a new paper coming out in Transactions and has given some brief description about it here. He combines insights from Heidegger and Dewey in much of what he does. I'm looking forward to reading it.

I also apologize for not blogging in a while. I have done some more work on editing Chapter 1 and have been very busy trying to internalize Scheler. Part of my attention has been to see what phenomenological method means for both Heidegger and Scheler--a point you might have thought made its appearance before introducing the problem in Chapter 1. However, I found it more logically conducive to establish what the problem is I find in Heidegger's writings before elucidating differences between Heidegger and Scheler. Chapter 2 is an expository chapter about Scheler's thought---mostly from the Formalism about his phenomenological ethics. I will draw conclusions and more comparisons in Chapter 3. It is a very simple plan. Right?

I have found that writing this montrosity is an organic process. It is a process of developing and going back, and revising what you have done. There are loopholes in my writing and Scheler's thinking, places where Scheler simply asserts his thinking and I find myself picking up the pieces from what he has done. For instance, there is a good a section where Scheler starts meditating on the nature of moral facts. It is familiar. Like an old friend, I feel like I am in the presence of Ross and Moore.

I have found that the most challenging part of dissertation writing is attempting to assume who is your target audience. Certainly, my committee is filled with a whole bunch of people knowledgeable about phenomenology. They know the differences between hermeneutic and Scheler's phenomenology of essences. However, the general reader would not, and so I am writing the dissertation to a target audience between my committee and the general reader.

Sometimes, I feel shorn philosophically. I am entering debates that are much older than myself, and sometimes I am not too sure they need retrieved. I am fascinated with the limits of phenomenology, conducting a phenomenological description about lived-experience and engaging texts primarily without the mediation of secondary literature. To write on Heidegger and ethics is so 1990s. We'll see where the dissertation writing takes me.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Seminar Question: Phenomenological Immortality and the Lived-Body

I should say that I am having a blast in the Husserl seminar I'm auditing. With that said, today's seminar conversation really got me thinking.

Today, we read Section 24 in Analysis Concerning Passive and Active Synthesis, and Appendix 8. Husserl concludes that the self-becoming of self-consitutions appears in experience without beginning or end. This can be called phenomenological immortality, and so it is not a conclusion about immortality as a property of the soul or endorsing anything metaphysical. It is simply a thesis about how the self is given before the self. I am given eternally as self-giving. I took issue with the fact that self-constitution is given in this way as phenomenologically immortal and consequently, I went the other direction of the whole seminar.

For me, to talk of self-givenness in this way reifies the process as it appears. There is no lived-body here. As I walked with the Professor of the seminar, I repeated my frustration and urged that the self-temporalization of becoming may appear to us as given as phenomenologically immortal fashion, but that doesn't remove the fact that self-temporalization takes place in a lived-body. It is the lived-body that also impinges and makes me aware of how I am given before myself. In this way, I urged that the constraints of the lived-body imply a phenomenological mortality.

The seminar ended with me conceding that I understood what Husserl had meant, but there is still a lingering suspicion that, like Descartes, we have reified the process of self-temporalization and implied the manner of givenness we think reveals itself as phenomenologically immortal. The Professor urged me that even if we conducted the same level of description at the level of the lived-body, we would arrive at the same conclusion. This leaves us with the question I wanted to quickly write it down here: Would phenomenological immortality of the givenness of self-constitution remain immortal if the same analysis described self-constitution of the lived-body?

Paper Proposal for Reasons and Rationality Conference

Title: TBA

To act on a reason is to accept a propositional formulation to what a reason is. However, I find this type of talk limiting for two reasons. First, the fact that language constructs its syntax in certain ways might be misleading to what it is to act on a reason, and secondly, when we engage in “propositionalizing” reason, we abstract the intention, maxim or reason for acting from its worldly concrete context. An agent is someone that can give oneself a reason, and the reasons are separated from the context that inspire them when we talk in such a fashion. These two problems stem largely from Kantian conceptions of agency and rationality that still persist to this day.
In this paper, it is not enough simply to put out the “obvious” flaws in Kantian conceptions of rationality and agency. A difference must be posed, and a substitute for reasons must be found. Therefore, I briefly sketch out my conception of agency and reasons based in part by rethinking Heidegger’s existential analysis as a substitute for what the Kantian position defends and reviving the affective intentionality of Scheler’s moral philosophy. This has two advantages, and one flaw.
First, reasons are not possibilities given to oneself by oneself. There is more depth in this experience than Kant permits. For Kant, self-legislation stems from the noumenal character of rationality. This puts the practical agent outside the concrete world, and this really cannot stand. There is a question as to how that possibility arose in the first place. It arises in the “historicity” and the world we are “thrown” into which we have no control. The historicity of self-understanding implies that there are limits to practical rationality.
Secondly, the noumenal character of the practical standpoint, the claim of impartiality of practical reason, cannot stand. This can be seen by defending the existential analysis of moods that both Scheler and Heidegger open up in their analysis and its consequences it would have for agency. An agent cannot maintain absolute neutrality with regard to the reasons it comes to possess.
However, Heidegger’s analysis of affectivity is blind to values that feature in experience, and this is the flaw that while Heidegger possesses the fact that our reasons are always “mooded.”[1] Heidegger does not see that emotions are the place where values can be found. For my point here, values are evaluative reasons for actions, and I intend the term in that respect.
Let me take stock of this paper proposal, and what has been exactly claimed so far. First, the Kantian articulation of reasons as “propositionalized” and self-legislated is misleading and causes two confusions. It promotes the falsely noumenal character of what it is to give oneself a reason such that rationality and agency stand outside history and context in which true action is exercised. Therefore, I propose two theses about rationality and agency that attempt to return agency and rationality to the concrete world of experience.

  1. The Hermeneutic Limit of Reasons: For any reason R, R is a possibility that comes to an agent A through historical mediation to such an extent that A’s identification with the possibility cannot be extricated from A’s situated understanding.
  2. The Affective Intentionality Condition: For any reason R, R is always based in a existential mood M such that R can never stand outside M.
The first thesis comes out of Heidegger’s analysis in Being and Time and is less problematic than the second. Thesis (2) comes in two varieties Heidegger’s and Scheler’s respective varieties. First, Heidegger does not associate affective intentionality with having a value correlate. Scheler’s position does construe value in this way, and so it is to him that we must turn on this point to reject Heidegger altogether for the second thesis. Taken together, these two insights are corrective measures against what the Kantian positions fails to articulate. The Kantian position fails to articulate a worldly concrete conception of rational agency.
            Now, the reviewer of this proposal will note two things. First, this paper exhibits no ambiguous language concerning what Heidegger’s position is (nor Scheler’s position for that matter), and secondly, I am arguing against the Kantian position itself, not any particular Kantian. Therefore, I am engaged in a logical dialectic with a commonly held position and some thematization of that position is made on my part here. My thematization is based on a severe dissatisfaction with many Kantians to sneak unrealistic powers of autonomy into their conception of what rational agency is to such an extent that they ignore the historical source of that bias in Kant—the noumenal character of the practical standpoint.
            The paper is organized into three parts. First, I will outline the exact nature and character of the noumenal conception of rational agency in Kant and the problems generated from that conception. In the second section, I will propose thesis (1) and defend it. In the third section, I will propose thesis (2) and show why Scheler’s conception of affective intentionality takes precedence over Heidegger’s conception.

[1] This insight is the thesis of my dissertation on Heidegger and Scheler.