Friday, May 17, 2013

James and Scheler Comparative Paper Introduction

The following is the beginning of an essay I am writing. I thought I would share it here. 

           Phenomenology is a name for a variety of approaches that take experience seriously. In these approaches, the common desideratum is to describe concretely the constituting subject acts in relation to the constituted object. The core of phenomenology is the systematic description of this co-relational act-object structure in which neither act nor object is privileged more than the other. If descriptions are not concrete enough, then the phenomenologist has either privileged one-side of the relation or neglected a dimension of lived-experience that should remain explored in her descriptions of that co-relational structure. I argue that Scheler’s description of intentional feeling loses sight of the concrete lived-body and this encounter with Scheler through pragmatism opens up the deeply felt dimension of reality that underlies both James and Scheler’s philosophy. In trading the relevance of the lived-body for enduring psychic and spiritual feeling, Scheler reveals how feeling intends the values of the Holy and culture. In these feelings, the values acquire a sense, but no mention is made of how those values manifest in the experiencer involve the lived-body.
            With the dearth of the lived-body, one could insist that Scheler is neglecting a crucial aspect of overall phenomenological experience. Thus, there is a crisis to be faced. On the one hand, Scheler gives a description of intentional feeling and the value correlates that constitute experience. In saying that, Scheler’s values involve our world. They appear on the back of deeds, persons and things. They illuminate aspects of our lived-experience in this world, and yet by denying the relevance of the lived-body in the experience of values in feeling, the disembodied nature of the higher feelings calls into question exactly how concrete Scheler’s phenomenology is beyond its articulation in vital feeling. By revealing the embodied relevance of the lived-body in psychic and spiritual feeling, we no longer must face a crisis of concretion in Scheler’s thought. The crisis is dissipated once we start to read Scheler’s thought pragmatically, even when we move beyond the lived-body.
            However, I do not stop with the crisis of making Scheler’s notion of the lived-body more concrete. This is only an opening. Instead, meditating on Scheler’s lived-body opens up a common pragmatic ground revealed by James. Both Scheler and James regard feeling as constitutive of experience before we can articulate anything about experience. Experience is shot through with feeling. Moving from the relevance of the lived-body and feeling, I start to open up the basic insight that James not only saves Scheler from his own irrelevance, but the commonalities on the very relation to reality can open up a powerful pragmatic interpretation of Scheler’s later metaphysics. Let me describe how I see this paper unfolding.
            First, I outline the problem of disembodied feeling in the four value-rankings that appear in the Formalismus. In the second section, I introduce William James’s pragmatic thought as a way to conceive of feeling situated in a body. Working from James’s Principles of Psychology, I argue that the James-Lange hypothesis can remedy the observed defect of Scheler’s intentional feeling. In the third section, I defend three points of agreement between Scheler and James and what I take to be a Jamesian reading of how the divine is felt in James’s The Varieties of Religious Experience. In the fourth section, an analogy is made from James’s Varieties as a way to regard Scheler’s later metaphysics. Since Scheler’s later metaphysics articulates life’s energy as an impulsion (Drang), and Scheler works from the bottom-up tracing impulsion in the lived-body, I interpret this transition as Scheler coming to grips with flaw I observed in his disembodied intentional-feeling in its higher forms. Regarded pragmatically, the activity of intentional feeling described on the side of impulsion and its relation to spirit (Geist) is shown to have the pragmatic consequence of putting embodied-ness back into feeling. While I confess that one could read Scheler’s metaphysics as an internal solution to the problem I point out, a pragmatic reading avoids the charge of metaphysical dualism, and illuminates Scheler’s pragmatic appeal to a larger world that may benefit from it. 

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