Hermeneutic and Phenomenological Tradition (dr. casey, part III)

Heidegger allows us to move from a hermeneutics of human existence to a full grown topology of relevance to other fields. There are three levels: the hermeneutic/existential analysis of dasein; from that we get a second level which is called philosophical anthropology, which is the way Europeans talk about the conception of the human being and not anthropology in the American sense. It means the most generous adequate conception of a human being that you can get, like a portrait of human beings and what their deep structures are. Only then can you move to application. In terms of tonights exercise to take a structure from the first level and move it towards fieldwork through philosophical anthropology towards the specific fieldwork that you will be doing.

The phrase “existential hermeneutical” is unique to Heidegger. We started the discussion this morning with the idea of ontology or being. And then we said only through phenomenology is ontology possible. Thus far, we have had a phenomenological ontology of the human being. To that we add the word existential because dasein turns out to be a projective being which lives its own future and understands itself in terms of that future. Understanding our potential for being, but to that we have to add another term: the hermeneutical factor. Because we don’t just project our future we also interpret our future to ourselves. I am here to interpret my own future. I cannot leave it to others. In the course of the day, and I admit this is not consecutive, we have moved from phenomenology to ontology to existentialism to hermeneutics. But actually it is very internal exfoliating, and makes sense not like a bunch of leaves but when you get into it you can see that these things fall one from another. That is the point. For example, you interpret that you cannot let your future be a pure possibility, but you actually have to already begin to interpret how that future would begin to ingress into your present project and plans. So you have to make it specific. That is why we add the fourth factor to the previous three. That is the sequence that we have been doing today.

Now structurally, we have a different picture than the thematic picture we have just been discussing. We have circles of dasein, in which dasein draws its world together as a whole. The world is disruptive but then dasein re-invents itself to make it coherent again. The second level of wholeness is to care, which we touched upon briefly, and which is very pervasive. Our caring is not by any means just about other human beings. Our care includes other species and the whole world. Heidegger says that how dasein makes sense of its life at any given moment is how a being cares. That is really the most specific way that we are able to totalize our world…as caring creatures. The whole thematics of care is contrasted with mere concern that has to do with finite helping others out. But authentically caring can be generalized to include other species, plants, rocks, and animals and I don’t see why they would not be part (although Heidegger does not specifically say this).

There is a borderline between caring and being towards death. The transition is through anxiety. I will give a brief account of the fear and anxiety that appears in these pages so that we can get into being for death which in turn takes us into the deep structures of time since our death makes our life a temporal whole, having gone from birth through various stages to death. Death has this power of making us more acutely aware of our finite temporality on earth, and therefore the way we live time out. This analysis comes after the analysis of being toward death. And then, it turns out on the last page of the book, that once you live through temporality you can see it as the horizon of being. This is the horizon from which you can see being emerging from your life from the edge of time. So the title of the book has a point, that from the edge of time you can see your being. You experience being from the outer edge of time, and that is what he was going to go on to discuss, On Time and Being, which he did finally 30 years later. (See Herm004 Appendix).

Meanwhile, anxiety is a very powerful pervasive mood that is not dependent on any given circumstance and is different from the other mood we were discussing earlier. It is utterly pervasive if only we are honest enough to admit it. It is unlike fear which has a detrimental object coming from somewhere to afflict me, because there is always an object of fear or always something to fear whereas in anxiety we cannot say there is a single object we are anxious about. We can say a person, place, or thing precipitated it but it is not itself about them. So Heidegger goes into a highly original analysis of anxiety. It is two-fold. First we flee in the face of ourself. We have an apprehension that we know not where we are going. Instead of endorsing or affirming our forward motion, there is a preconscious layer that is questioning if I really know where I am headed. Even though I have chosen this project, I flee in the face of my own project, says Heidegger. The second is that I flee from the way my life has come to take on a certain structure or character, which is anxious making, even if I am successful and have a totally satisfying life. In my authenticity,  if I am facing up to this, I have to admit that the world I have established for myself, or my being in the world, has a voids and abysses that I cannot understand and I don’t know where they are coming from.

Sartre riffs on this in a very nice way by saying that we flee in the face of our own anxiety into bad faith in which most of us reside most of the time. Bad faith is the pretense that everything is ok, we are a certain kind of person, we know what we are doing, we tell ourselves a story about it to tempt down and derail the anxiety we otherwise would feel if we faced up to our own nothingness, as Sartre would put it, our freedom.

Jeff asks if fear could be an escape from anxiety. Yes, says Casey. We turn it into an object and pretend that it is one thing or another is bothering you. We rejoin here the theme of yesterday about the instrinsic vagueness of certain phenomenon that we need to keep in our awareness and not convert it into various structures. In this case, we would turn our anxiety into a fear about an exam or whatever and that is not anxiety. At a deeper level we are not only fleeing, but we are actually at the deepest level, have the sense that we are not at home in this world at all. We don’t belong here. There is something about being human that is deeply alienating. Uncanny means not at home, the uncanniness of deep anxiety means that human beings are misfits on earth, that it is really not home. And there opens the abyss of the nothing. I have a terrifying vision of the nothing that opens to me everything that otherwise gives me security, safety or objectivity. It is like the floor is dropping out and it is really a trap door into the void beneath us. So for him, anxiety is a deeply ontological state, not just psychological. It actually says something about our being in the world being based on nothing. It is a deep statement about feeling uprooted and never quite fully able to connect securely with this world which we attempt to make into a home. This analysis introduces a flaw into any project that we claim it could be, because approximately for the most part we flee into the security of average everydayness and follow this in all the various forms it takes. That then becomes a defense against the apprehension of not not being or not belonging. That is why he puts it on the edge of going towards death which is the ultimate nothingness of our lives. So anxiety is a promonotory sign of our own being toward death, and shows how being toward death occurs concretely in our everyday lives through anxiety states.

Our nightmares are about being toward death, regardless of the detailed content. The reason we are really terrified and wake up from nightmares in a way that is gripping us is that we are actually beginning to confront a nothingness that in ordinary life we cannot think about. Dreams are important but only through this extreme state of nightmare or panic where they rejoin the daily awareness of anxiety. Fiona asks about falling dreams and verticality. Casey said you fall and fall and there is no safety net or you reach a very hostile bottom. Heidegger does not want to say we all dream the same way, but this is a significant theme in dreams that says a lot about human existence.

In later writings, Heidegger re-christens verticality as the dimension, which means the dimension which stretches between the earth and human beings and the gods. He just calls it “the dimension” and along it our faith is played out. Speaking of verticality, look at the Strauss essay on the upright posture.

Becker’s work on Denial of Death takes off from Heidegger. Death is uncanny and we don’t know what it is like or what is on the other side. It is a strange kind of limit, unlike other horizons which we can glimpse. It is another form of nothingness but not only at the end of life because we are always living through our being towards death at every moment, albeit in complicated ways. Becker claims that the problem with people is that they are not dealing well with death and that therapy should address this. Most of the time, we know it will happen to us eventually but is usually something that happens to somebody else. Those are forms of defense or displacement. So, how to authentically affirm death in daily life and not morbidly (this is not a dark prospect, but he is allowing it to be recognized as a certain limit or finitude) and not when we are facing it but also in better times. It is exactly part of the work of becoming authentic to move away from the average everyday attitude “the others die, I don’t die”…me? even though we don’t say it. If Heidegger is right, then every circumstance is one where we are dealing with death massively and pervasively, even in fieldwork, all the way through but how to see that and get a hold of it? Most of us cannot face up to it.

Jung’s descent during the 1913 – 1914 period into his unconscious was really into this bottomless pit that is very close to the nothingness of anxiety, out of which many strange presences emerged. You can interpret this as psychotic, but that is just an easy way of dismissing it, when actually he was really facing up to the depths of his own anxiety. He applied some names because to deal with it at all, that helps. This would de-mobilize most of us forever. It is a Dantian descent into the underworld. Binswanger, in his essay Dream and Existence, points out that dreams are always about falling into the underworld…even a happy dream. Hillman’s Dream and the Underworld, carries that forward. The Nothing will happen. It may be that dreams are privileged moments of descent which our civilized lives won’t let us admit or feel. They are sheer fallenness as our body goes way under our civilized and domesticated everyday habits. I guess you could say that was the first depth psychological take on Heidegger that actually moved it towards archetypal psychology. Its’ an amazing essay, it could have been written by James Hillman. It was taking a combination of Heideggerian fallennes and Nothingness and saying we may not be able to cope with this in everyday life but we are always feeling this in dreams, as the scene where it is enacted. Heidegger himself could not go there. He is dream deaf in his otherwise massive philosophical anthropology but dreams seem off the edge.

We are going to move to Merleau Ponty, so any last remarks? Holly asks about Heidegger’s anxiety and what we know about it. Casey responded that undoubtedly he experienced a great deal of it from WWI when death was all around. Husserl’s son died in the trenches, and many of Heidegger’s friends did as well. IN term of sheer carnage and bloodshed and up close suffering in trenches in that sense He lived through the descent into the underworld in those trenches. Being in Time can be seen as a delayed but creative response to that experience. He carried around a copy of Spinoza’s Ethics and a copy of one of Kierkegaard’s.

Anticipatory resoluteness is the authentic attitude of Being Towards Death. So we are resolute, we are totally open to its happening, we are completely able to be accepting of it, and by anticipation we are running ahead of ourselves in the currently demanding present towards death. So part of us needs to be running ahead to our own death even as we are engaged in our own life. What we call a full life is not being pre-occupied and taken up with the present but taking complete account of this event, and it also involves the past not as recollection, but a bringing forward of the past. IT is that whole deep way of being on the earth, owning up to our pastness without reducing it to a set of slick memories thereby only making life easy to sustain. But even unhappy memories are not the whole of the past. The being of the past, not past events, is what it is all about. At every moment he manages to find a way to ontologize what otherwise we tend to psychologize. This makes him extremely interesting to us. So the final word is Being, it has to be.

OK. So now we are moving toward another book. This book was published on the day of liberation in Paris. The far side of the war and here we have the 30ish Merleau Ponty living alone with his mother in an unheated flat with no warm water during the occupation in Paris. Wartime Paris was very, very hard. Life was not pleasant for Parisians living through the war, the Germans made sure of that. Instead of regretting it and complaining, he just got to work and created something that would not have happened otherwise. It is a testament to suffering and courageous sublimation. There is not a glimmer of complaint in this book. He was able to move beyond it even as he suffered. This is a fact about the book that needs to be known as you read it.

He had just one great project and that was to re-write Being in Time with dasein and existential structures no longer the subject. He was going to re-write it from the standpoint of being a body. (Strauss wrote The Upright Body after Merleau Ponty). Let me read a single passage that amazes me. It expresses in one sentence what he is up to and how it modifies Heidegger on page 192 of Chapter 5. Bodily existence lives through us but independently of us at the same time, by that he means it is not the same as my personal being. Sometimes he called it the shadow of my life, like a silent sentinel at the edge of life in the world, as a witness of what is happening. It is only the barest raw material of presence in the world but provided the possibility of our first consonance with the world. We are into the structure that we called being with in Heidegger. MLP is trying to tease out not just being with others but with anything in the world through our bodies.  You may very well take yourself away from the world and satisfy personal existence, as in being a monastic, but you will only rediscover in your body in retreat the same power, this time unnamed by which you am condemned to be.

This phrase about being condemned to be free because I have no choice but to be free, this is a take on Sartre. Sartre was his friend who had published Being and Nothingness two years before/. Pretending that I am not free is just bad faith. Merleau Ponty gives two critiques of that. I am not condemned to be free but I am condemned to meaning as I have no choice but to have a meaningful life even if it is miserable. He is parroting both Sartre and Heidegger. This is one of those revelatory pages. It may be said that the body is the hidden form of being oneself, on the other hand that personal existence is the taking up of being in a particular situation. If we say that the body expresses existence at every moment, this is the sense in that the word expresses thought. Speaking brings my thinking into an accomplished form, so my body brings my being into an existent form through that body, at that moment and in the way that body is feeling itself being in the world. This is deeply parallel to the discussion of mood in Heidegger. There we said we are delivered over to the world, and Merleau Ponty said there is more at stake, it is our whole embodiment of which mood is a dimension. So he is looking for a more adequate vehicle, carrier or vessel of being in the world than Heidegger was able to find. Heidegger fled from consciousness into existence but didn’t ground existence in the body. So we have an ungrounded freedom of projective possibility in Heidegger and this is inspiring and interesting but there is a curious way in which dasein is unballasted, it has no weight. Literally, it has no height and has no physical being. As you read more of Heidegger in Being and Time there is a strange way in which for all of the concreteness of the individual structures of dasein, still it is not really the anxiety of any  being that has any heft, thickness, density or texture such as our body gives to us. So the body is the consummate chord by which the world play itself out through us. It takes up the world, resonates with the world, gives itself back to the world, modulates it in various ways, etc. Here is a crucial addition to the Heideggerian project. In this way the body expresses total existence not because it is an external accompaniment but because existence realizes itself in the body. And he means existence precisely in the way that Heidegger meant a projection of possibility, my freedom, my openness. MLP said yes that is true but it actualizes itself in the body. The incarnate significance is the central phenomenon in which body and mid, sign and significance, are abstract moments. Body and mind become abstract epicenters of the lived body.

Be careful here. This is not just our physical body, or our medical body but our lived body. The lived body is this carrier, vessel, matrix, whatever term you prefer of which we call body and mind are abstract moments and it is very characteristic of western thought that it singles out these two poles and acts as if these were the primary realities, most notably in Descartes, thus bracketing and neglecting the lived body with the existential basis of that very abstraction itself. This is what Whitehead calls misplaced concreteness. You take the concreteness that belongs to the lived body and you import it into these terms that have taken on an artificial life of their own, like pure objective body and pure mental life.

Neither body nor existence can be regarded as the original of the human being since they presuppose each other and the body is solidified and generalized existence and existence is a perpetual incarnation. It goes under our ego and personal life and is generalized. Our pursuit of possibility occurs only as a perpetual incarnation in the way our very body tries to take up those possibilities and realize them in our lives. It does no good to project them from the armchair. We get out of the chair and into the world to bring them into existence. The body is the ultimate perfmative agent. We perform with our body, through our body. See Edith Piaf, La Vie En Rose, is a powerful film about what it is to sing from a weak, addicted, sick, failing, dying body. Through the difficulty of doing this the achievement can be seen. The struggle to sing through that body, despite it, is what the film is all about. It is saying there was no way by which she could neglect or ignore that body but she had to bring that body to the stage whether it collapsed or not. Any accomplishment of expressivity is going to have to happen through the state fo the momentary body that we present to ourselves and others at any given moment.

The body presents to us a mass of generality which reaches a certain detail or structure on any given occasion but bears us through many occasions. It is peculiar we don’t think about it in this way. We have lost track of this lived body that underlies all of those ways of interpreting it. How to get down to the pre-reflective body that is with us as a constant accompaniment at all times, our best friend, and do psychological and philosophical justice. In all the ways the body has been unplaced or etherealized, etc. It was Nietsche at first who first struck this chord of how we deny body. Doing science, writing books, being in love with god, whatever we do that neglects body. Nietsche does this fragmentarily in various texts but he broke open the seal and certainly discovered the unconscious and repression and the importance of the lived body. He opened up a whole century or more of thinking, knowing that he would not be appreciated until a full hundred years after his death. He is not part of our course but I don’t want to overlook him. You know, Jung was deeply indebted to Nietsche as the first depth psychologist on the planet. I want to pay homage to this shadow figure behind everything. He was beyond labels and was not a phenomenologist, etc. but was completely unique as a thinker,

MLP is studying the bodily being of the pre-conscious. The pre-conscious exists bodily. This is how I first got the thought because I was aware MLP is insistent of the way our body is there for us always preconsciously hovering in the field at all times. When we are not sick, it has a phenomenal presence although peripheral. It comes forward in illness. It has strange implications for fieldwork. Part of the fieldwork has to be the bodily awareness of the researcher, not just cognitive awareness, and also how to capture the bodily awareness of the subjects. That becomes a task of fieldwork. How to sense how those bodies and my body are feeling in the field of perception. That is another way of thinking about fieldwork that has little to do with statistics, etc.

I suspect children have it quite vividly and are much more attuned to the sense of the lived body, which for the most part has been marginalized by adulthood. Our body always speaks and we have to trust it at every moment. Now I want to back up to a more preliminary stage of MLP thought, and we will return to the body tomorrow morning.

“The Primacy of Perception” is a piece he is most famous for. He believes that in western thought too much emphasis has been put upon sheer intellect, theorizing, abstracting, all of this and this intellectualizastion fails to recognize the lived body and, in particular our perceptual experience, as the deep sanction for what we think about. He wants to enlarge and enrich the perceptual world beyond anything that can be atomistically reduced to a set of sensations or impressions of that world. He wants to open up perception as a deep sense of connection with the surrounding world, and sometimes he calls it the median[TB1] .  He argues that what is happening perceptually through out body will give us the deepest indication of what is happening in that world at that moment. So pay close attention to the phenomenal field. In the phenomenal field I am attuned to the perceptual gestalt as they rise and present themselves to awareness. He proposes there is a perceptual faith required in which we can trust what is happening even though we distrust theories about how sensations enter our bodies through simulation which he deconstructs brilliantly as second order constructs.

We are on the edge of a profound truth that artists are aware of but we tend to ignore in our working and personal lives, for example Cezanne paints the world as seen even if it doesn’t fit standard notions of what it is to be a painted object, but rather he paints it the way it feels, the way it is perceived by the body in the field. In the 1880’s Cezanne[TB2]  argued that the painter has to take his body and move it into the field and get saturated with the phenomenal presence and through art bring back the felt equivalent (an image, not an icon). This joins up with Hillman’s sense of image that is more than mere icon. MLP proposes that Cezanne was a philosopher who as a painter led the way to a renewed sense of the primacy of perception. Whereas poetry was the paradigm for Heidegger, painting becomes the great paradigm for MLP. L’Œil et l’esprit (Paris: Gallimard, 1961) is an essay on painting written in 1961[TB3] . It is the difference between thinking the world with the mind, and perceiving the world with a lived eye. The painter takes his body with him into the world he paints. He does not stand back nor create distance. He takes himself into the field itself, and any artist should do this, and by implication, us as well. I mention this because it helps us to understand the original vision of fieldwork. We need to take our body into the field, meet people, talk with them, and get engaged directly. With or without consciousness of MLP, it is a Merleau Pontian project and from that immersion we get insights which might otherwise not have been available to us.  We do see the profound truth in this. If he is right, we should do this in all of our undertakings. We should never become esconced in some cabinet of perfection which reinforces and discourages breaking out of the box. That means, risking your body in certain circumstances by moving out into the field. That field is the equivalent of Heidegger’s open clearing, but according to MLP we don’t need Being to appear to justify this. It is tailored down to a more finite dimension where all that matters is going into the field and seeing what happens in your body and the field. That is already its own reward. If you just do that you will have accomplished a lot. You don’t need to find another dimension like Being. The immersion is worth it for its own sake. And this is the moment at which I think it works to help us knit some things together.

Victoria asked a question about where the place of becoming is as all of this arises and how to clarify the differences between these thinkers. If Heidegger feels that we can go out of ourselves into the opening in order to find Being, however interesting that is, it is something that seems to leave out the dynamism of difference, of becoming, of movement, of change, in a word. Merleau Ponty never quite puts it this way, but he is representing the importance of the Becomingness of your life rather than the Beingness of your life. The body is nothing but becoming. There is a very basic thing that human beings do, and I guess animals do too, they initiate their own movements. Like

something as simple as getting up out of a chair and moving on. How do we do this?  It is deeper than movement. We don’t ponder the mystery of this often enough.

 End of 006

Herm 007

So we have an exciting day coming up with diversity of theme and topic but first let’s sketch out the structure of the day. This morning we will work on Merleau Ponty more intentionally than yesterday which was dense but delightful, and we are going to take all the time up until the break at 10:30 and the rest is up to you. If it intrigues you, I encourage you to continue reading Merleau Ponty on language, art, philosophical ideas. This is the basic book we are discussing. For those with a twist of the numinous ready his last book, The Visible and Invisible, and would have been one of the great books if he hadn’t died in the middle of it. It is so rich you can have a lifetime of thoughts. MLP says phenomenology is a matter of style. It was a way fo acting and thinking long before it became a philosophical movement and links it to late 19th C painting, Proust, and poetry where he says a spontaneous phenomenology was forming.

The French say that style is the person herself, and MLP is a person of style. Couldn’t be a greater contrast than between him and the early Heidegger. Heidegger is not interested in being pleasant or interesting whereas MLP is moving towards a poetic work of art that is also philosophical. The third voice we shall entertain this day is Gadamer who is in=between them stylewise, lucid and yet not poetic. I lieft him until last deliberately. The long march through the Arabian desert of Being and Time was necessary but Gadamer give us many more points of access or point in and also gives us many ways out and shows how his work is applied. Husserl is more like Gadamer, he tells us which method we can take away to use if we wish, so we will come full cycle. The whole progress of our course can be seen in terms of a set of three diads so here is a little schema.

The first dyad is phenomenology and ontology from Husserl to Heidegger. They require each other in many respects. With MLP he picks up the notion of existential dasein and takes it into the realm of the body so we have the notion of existential – bodily paradigm as reciprocal expressions of each other. The two are co-implicates that way. Today, we are going to move from body into  interpretation , and from there to language. We are going to find all of this already happening in MLP and thematically specified in Gadamer. I recommend the book Hermenuetics and the Human Sciences by Ricouer (after Gadamer) which matches the early work by Freud on philosophy. Great stuff. Ricouer speaks for himself, and writes in such a way that he might as well be in this room, with the right clarity of language. We will find the day’s path will be towards how language ha a special place in human and non-human experience. Each of the authors will be showing that language is something quite extraordinary, short of being divine, somewhere in between divine logos…maybe Jeff can take us there, I cannot articulate it. We are between the muteness of perceptual experience, immersed in the world, not yet speaking and MLP says “in the moment of being born perceptually which we are everyday and every moment” we are not yet into language and our bodies are awakening into the perceptual world. And each body is a knowing body.  So knowing is not in the mind, nor high intelligence nor even text, but it is really my body as the primary knower or the agent of knowing.

A first knowing underlies all subsequent knowing and we need to trust our body. So this is a deep thing that has really struck a chord at Pacifica. We talked about how somatics in general is not part of the curriculum and it is a curious maculae or blind spot which I hope can be remedied one of these days because I think there is a connection between somatic thought and depth psychology. I am just learning it myself. There is a deep connection with body work and body consciousness. Pacifica and Esalen Institute should join forces and I will propose to them to develop formal ties. Depth Psychology and body have a common destiny and MLP is the thinker. The somatic body people have said no one else has gotten so far. The body is the source of pre-reflective awareness, knowing, and feeling. We need to recognize it is its own remarkable being.

I can say a few things about these folks. I went to Paris to study with Merleau Ponty and he died the May before my boat, the Queen Elizabeth arrived, two months after he died. It was a philosophical death. He was in his study and literally reading, of all people, Renee Descartes. He is the greatest critic of Descartes ever, and his powerful criticism is forceful and Descartes has the last word.  His wife reports, she is a psychoanalyst in Paris, he had a massive heart attack and died instantly and slumped over onto the text. She found him in the study, dead over the text. He died at 52, much too early. A very heavy smoker obviously contributed. I used to borrow houses of French philosophers who were on vacation. One of my mentors, Michael Dufresne, and in his study the smoke was so pervacisve even though he was gone for two weeks. The smoke was clinging to the walls and you could not walk into the room without choking. There was a lot of unnecessary early mortality going on. Dufresne died of emphysema.

Smoking did them in. All that brilliance was tied up with that smoking. Sartre says smoking creates a whole world which dims down the rest of the world and you can think in that smoky world in the way that you can’t do in the clear world. Sartre argues that it is good for philosophy. It is pretty interesting. When I first met Derrida we were both very young, but he gave up smoking. Maybe he retained some smokiness inside of him that allowed him to be useful. I like the late night because of the obscurity of the darkness which is not unlike what Sartre describes. 

MLP says “Obscurity spreads to the perceived world in its entirety” which is the philosophy of ambiguity. He moves from being based in bodily experience, which has a genius for ambiguity, for instance you can’t tell at any given time what is natural and what is cultural. They are so co-evil, for example, a gesture which seems spontaneous has deep cultural determinants and even family styles. The body is not wishing to be vague or obscure, but is has a genius for mixing the antagonistic in principle between nature and culture, or mind and body itself. These traditional binary oppositions are mixed up in the body. It has little to do with survival and adaptation and he leaves that to the scientists. He is interested in the body at the moment, which represents the conflux of the literal body that we bring from our lived through past which is not to be confused with the routinized body. It is not that we just bring skills, but we bring this rich set of habitual learning that allows us to learn evermore and build upon the bodily habitudes into every new circumstance. He gives the example of the organist who had always practiced at one type of organ fore 20 years. He was then asked to play at another church with a different organ, and without any practice he could step in and play it although strictly speaking it required different bodily movements which readjusted quickly on the spot like adapting your swimming strokes to different currents. Your habitual body creatively changes its dynamism to suit the new circumstance. So MLP thinks the body has this incredible power to alter course based upon a rich past. What we call corporeal intentionality is not just that we can direct our body, but it can creatively change its direction to meet new circumstances moreso than our minds, moreso than our conscious volition would allow us to.

Now the traumatized body is going to be short-circuited but that only goes to show that the healthy body has been taken off course. So here I am striking on the theme that I want to work out today. Unlike Heidegger, Merleau Ponty and Gadamer will give us a lively sense of pastness that is completely crucial to understanding body and interpretation. They will resurrect a different sense of the past than Heidegger, who argues for the primacy of the future, which fits all too well with what we have been learning about Heidegger, which is tends towards how I eclipse myself in my immediate and future. But Merleau Ponty and Gadamer are brothers under the flesh although they never met, and are saying to wait a minute because there is stuff that you are bringing into this lively future present and part of it is body and part is tradition all of which are rooted in pastness, that is, not to be reduced to past events or recollections which are secondary but a massive past which infuses the present, enlightens the present. It is especially true in America where our frontier mentality is so alive to us that we need to hear this.  In other words, honor your pre-reflective bodily past which is your personal tradition. Merleau Ponty is arguing that we are just on the other side and that we have a little pocket of freedom, sometimes he calls it leakage, like porous moment through which pours just enough freedom to alter the course of our lives. It is a doctrine of freedom at the edge of the determining conditions which of course do massively impact us. Merleau Ponty knew what he was talking about since he studied biology carefully, because he wanted to find those states that were not completely determined but were massively conditioning. He suspected the problem of freedom lay there not in mind or consciousness or choice but lay there where the body had a moment of leeway to move differently than it would have had it been merely programmed by the past. Part of the doctrine of ambiguity is to find this unpredictable moment, which is different for each person. Each of us would have to map out exactly how and where our bodies found themselves free and I suspect this would be different for each person. This is the root of individuation and he is searching there for whatever modicum of freedom that we have. It is a very serious search that requires close somatic analysis, so techmiques like rolfing are efforts to get down into muscle memories and complexes and loosen them up to create a little bit of space within which we can move more freely in our lives than we could have otherwise. Husserl talks about how a little end bit of the world is often where meaning is, not in the dramatic events and public demonstrations but these little pockets or end points. MLP carries out this phrase in his work by saying go down into the body and look there. Find some elbow room which is not complete latitude but just enough room to move a few ways that are still free, as I am not determined to move in specific ways. We are looking for freedom and choice at different levels and for re-locating subjectivity down into the body. I have to shake my own body because I lose sight of this, such are the pressures of everyday domestic life, I really have to realize this is a significant type of freedom we more or less deny. There is freedom down there folks and we can find it. This is part of his message, and somatic practices just help us to get there although you don’t have to use them. Merleau Ponty found a way to do this short of somatics, and each of us can find out own way to do these things. Some of us are interested in theater and drama which has a lot to do with how your body can be taken into different situations that can be extended and modified which teaches us about our everyday body. I think teaching is closely related since it is a form of drama and performance. I feel I learn a lot about my body when I teach, not that I can get very weary which I can but more about how I speak, which is a bodily action, how my lips and hands move, how my body tends forward, how my head moves and none of this is necessary as I could be more German-like and stilted and talk without moving a single muscle but I am not going to do it because I am an Irishmen. But still, the point is this is the leeway of freedom which affects our everyday lives whatever we are doing. Merleau Ponty takes us there in an effort to unfreeze being. There is an idea that we freeze bodily, social and political being down, that means the great passion for objectivity which means the wish to have everything frozen in one display, in one package, to put it all into one vision, to one look, to one insight, to one science. It is all related to Merleau Ponty’s way of putting this and when we do this we forget the phenomenon in favor of objects so that distinction comes back here, see page 67 which speaks to this need to phenomenolize the otherwise static objects of our experience.

What we discover by going beyond the prejudice of the objective world, is not an occult inner world that was the danger of Cartesian thinking which is a false choice, instead I go into a rich matrix of experience that lies somewhere between objects and thought, we have to find our way in that middle realm. Nothing is more difficult than to know precisely what we see because what we see is not an object but a phenomenon, and now we know after Husserl and Heidegger that this is something that exceeds its own definition and bristles with possibility and meaning, none of which can be reduced to its literal definition. The body is the paradigm of that itself. To reduce the lived body to an object as we must do in medical science is to lose something quite essential about that body, which is always exceeding its own definition. Seeing the body as mechanical, adaptive, or efficient is the freezing of being that he is here concerned about. So we need to find what he calls the pre-scientific life of consciousness. In other words, the pre-conscious, OK?

Consciousness can forget phenomenon only because they can be recalled and neglects phenomenon only because they are the cradle of objects (he says things). So how to get to the phenomenal field, this rich open terrain in which we no longer objectify and instead connect through our body with things as phenomenon? Phenomenology then becomes the effort to rediscover a corporeal intentionality that is always already connected with the phenomenal field that surrounds us. It is like not a field of things that presents itself to us as separate from us as we would think if the natural world were nothing but a collection of objects, and I were just another clever object, but each factor is predetermined, its true phenomenological reality is somewhere else, it is in its felt character and the body is the feeler. So I am always already down to another level of objective noticing, literal perception, whatever you want to call that. So how to do justice to this idea is important. MLP thinks the clue is always going to be taking account of a horizontal structure of a given scene or perception because it is the one thing that cannot be objectified. It always eludes objectification or the medical gaze (see Foucalt). That objectification has to happen, but the horizon is by its very nature indeterminate, receding, and changing in relation to our bodily position. Think how the profiles of hills change ever so gradually as you walk through them. Your body is moving through that wilderness and your horizon is change aspect as you move through it. That is what Snyder meant by referring to Dogen’s claim that the blue mountains were walking. They are felt to be moving as I move, so that is an example of how the phenomenal field properly respected presents to us a different order of things, which is different when we respect our bodily immersion in the midst of those things. It is not a matter of leaving this world for another world. It is not a matter of going over the horizon into another scene, but it is a matter of staying in this world but seeing it differently or experiencing it under different aspects. That is the trick of MLP as opposed to being obsessed with Being, in other words, turning Being into little beings. That is another way of looking at the same point.  Capital B Being is something like a phenomenal field or horizon, small b being is like objects or entitites that populate a field (can be separated from each other and us, can be named, etc.)  The upright posture contributes to the objectification of the field. When I stand up before the world it encourages the world to be imagined as a spectacle in front of me displaying its goods. With the position of the eyes in front the head gives us the position of being straight forward in our progress. So the upright posture has contributed to the objectification of the world. The upright posture by Strauss becomes an essential supplement to MLP who didn’t really think about how that particular organic position was important. But Straus shows it well 2/3 of the way through his piece.

Before we go to erotic intentionality and language in Merleau Ponty let me ask if there are any thoughts or questions so far. What can I clarify better? Husserl says the normal body is the rigid body in contrast to a sheer body (our destiny). In western science and thought we tend to think that unless it is under glass, or under the ground dead, then it has not become a sheer body. It reaches its destiny when it becomes rigid. The tacit premise is that if bodies don’t move and they can just be laid out then it is not yet…then only in death, or rigor mortis, do we reach ideal body (the body has become an object). Read Foucalt…or read chapter one of part on of MLP where he discusses the patient called Snyder, who became a famous figure in psychiatric circles. He had schrapnel in his brain and he was a rigid, robotic, uncreative person, so I recommend, Holly, your taking a look at that. MLP thinks this is always a possibility for anybody even short of death we can all get ourselves into rigidified circumstances and Reich refers to this. In our ego’s search to find character or identity, will rigidify bodily postures and attitudes into character armor which produces a body that is no longer dynamic in the sense that MLP believes it can be once the character armor can be put on the ground. This gives us a bridge to chapter 5 which is body and sexuality. He starts with the same guy, Snyder.

Snyder can only get sexually excited if someone else literally lays a hand on his sexual organ. That is, he can’t get excited by thinking about someone he cares about deeply, and it means nothing to him to have a memory. He has no capacity to get into an erotic mood by walking on a nice spring day, which might move any of us into erotic sensibility. Instead he needs to be directly stimulated. So Merleau Ponty shows that this is the complete parody of the scientific understanding of sexuality. So the classical theory of two epidermis’ in contact being the French definition of love in the 18th century meets its reality but only in a person whose life is deeply damaged. So from that beginning, Merleau Ponty develops the idea of erotic intentionality which may have nothing to do with being directly stimulated, and capable of a life of its own even though no other person is a part of that life at the moment or maybe ever. So he attempts to de-objectify and argue that it is not an issue that I need to find myself in the right place, at the right time, and next to that body in order to feel erotic. The erotic exists as one of those ambiguous settings, as another example of the body’s deep ambiguity, which we can trust and which is always with us thought not always recognized. He is expanding the notion of Eros as Plato first did and Freud did in his later writers. These things get forgotten as we move towards a delimited sensuality, or sexuality limited to sexual conduct. The whole idea of corporeal intentionality, which is his favorite phrase, as in “it is always already the case” that I am in the midst of an erotic life even if I don’t recognize it as such.  And my behavior has nothing to do with it overtly, but I have to recognize that to be in the world as a human being is to be erotic. 

“Approximately for the most part” means I am nothing but a day self, I am fallen and in the anonymous mass. Any day and any way I have to accept my “fallenness” for example I had to come to class in my old beat up Honda, I had to take the freeway, I had to enter the everyday world, there is no way around it, this “approximately and for the most part” and we should not regret it. We should affirm it. The only issue for Heidegger becomes how to modify that towards authenticity, if ever so slightly. That is his ploy and his ethical force…you don’t have to follow ethical precepts that are given by some separate source as in superego, moral law, principles. This is like saying my own modification, my own life, will help me become more ethically honest.

From Merleau Ponty we have a different lesson, that is, to what is tu jour de ja la and respect what is already there and respect it, not to modify it but to see it as coming from a richer past that we can live up to and carry it forward in new directions. These phrases seem innocuous but they are symptomatic expressions. They express a whole world of thought. To take up ‘what is already there’ we can enter into that world of thought and respect it, and then to change it. It is not a matter of simply leaving it as such, but changing it only if we respect it and understand it. You see the similarity of these various traditions and how they belong together. None of them has recourse to categorical imperatives, sociological laws, statistical averages which are all external compared to the work they are asking the existing individual to do. With Merleau Ponty we have to work with the body next. With Gadamer we have to work with language. There is a commonality through these philosophers no matter how different they are.

A few words here about erotic intentionality. It is important because it dramatizes what Merleau Ponty wants to put into another formula, that is, the way that the different parts of our lives are reciprocal expressions of each other. They are not separate parts and we have to be able to see the things that are very un-alike and seem to be distant are actually in a reciprocal relationship with the other parts of our lives.  He calls this co-implication. His primary example is the way by which all of the senses are co-operating continuously and very subtlety with each other to create a rich synthetic sensory field. The level of awareness is pre-conscious, too. So, right now, our way of sensing this present situation is happening through hearing, seeing, temperature, you name it, the kinesthetic sense of being in our seat, all of that is co-contributing and colluding spontaneously and not organized by anyone other than the body. And, similarly, even in more far-ranging parts of our lives that seem totally unrelated, well, they are very deeply related.

[Casey goes on to talk about the businessman Rupert Murdoch and his very young Chinese wife.  He wasn’t thinking about the fact that they are different ages[TB4]  \ but who Murdoch, although an incredible robber baron, one of the most ruthless people of our day, who has no scruples at all, he just wants to get richer and richer, and Casey frankly despises him, however, even this man who spends all of his time calculating and coercing the next deal. And if Merleau Ponty is right, his real sexuality is in his driving wish to dominate others, that is where his sexuality is, I doubt if it is in bed with his wife. Merleau Ponty is trying to get us to see that sexuality is really in many different activities and by means confined to traditional sexual practices.]

The will to power is coordinate with Being, which wants power. To be is to be in power of some kind, whereas becoming is affiliated with the eternal recurrence of the same. It is Neitsche’s idea that we are always cycling back to an earlier life, an earlier experience that we never get beyond. We come back to a deep pattern that is always already there. So that is becoming and being on two axis, the will to power and being are linked on the vertical axis and becoming and eternal recurrence are linked on the horizontal axis. Here is a way of thinking of our lives. Rupert Murdoch is living on that vertical asix excessively. Most of the rest of us are probably arranged on the horizontal axis of dealing with our own differential recurrent destinies with the way that we circle back to experiences that we pick up again and carry forward, enriched and modified. We are actually being re-educated here at Pacific, we are into recurrence of something of the same order. That is where Neitsche carefully chooses the word same, not exactly the same, but the same in a general way. That is the way you become, to become other than you are, although not completely because that is an impossible myth. We have two options, we can become more powerful and we can be powerful. I just single out Murdoch as a contemporary example in our society. And then there is this other way to be, which is in the midst of becoming and struggling with recurrent patterns and our own past, struggling to get just a little to the other side of our own past and that is what we call leeway.

Those are called negative and positive freedoms. Isaiah Berlin, Two Concepts of Liberty, and positive freedom is the freedom to choose, to change. Negative freedom is freedom from certain constraining influences on my life. I am free as I remove myself from those overarching, hurtful, and maybe somatic influences that are negative freedom. Haas, the great political philosopher in the States, says the most significant form of freedom is the freedom of domination by others in order to become free to be a good citizen, once you have freed yourself from those negative influences. These are the two great kinds of freedom. Let me read one more sentence at the end of chapter five.

On page 196, ambiguity is the essence of human existence and everything has more than one meaning. Our existence is the act of taking up and making explicit a sexual situation and in this way there is a double sense. There is interfusion between sexuality and existence which means that existence permeates sexuality and vice versa, so that it is impossible to determine in a given decision or action the proportion of sexual to other motivations (and here we diverge from Freud)[TB5] . It is impossible to label a decision or act sexual or non-sexual. Thus there is a principle of indeterminancy, not only for us is not an imperfection, but existence is indeterminate in itself. Now we really reach a deep conclusion. In an earlier chapter I cited from Merleau Ponty that the indeterminate is a positive phenomenon and here it is far from being something lacking or lagging behind some scientific ideal or calibration, but here we reach the notion that we need to find the indeterminant and respect it for what it means in our lives.

OK. There is in human existence no unconditioned possession and yet no fortuitous attribute (or, holy haphazard event). Human existence forces us to revise our usual notion of necessity and contingency because that existence is the transformation of contingency into necessity by the act of taking your life in hand or taking responsibility. So what is all too easy is to give over to contingencies, but once you take them up into your life they become internalized as things that you have to be because you have chosen them as ways that you wish yourself to be in the future. You convert contingency into necessity by the very act of affirming, noticing, holding, carrying forward a situation that you are in. All that we are, we are on the basis of a de facto situation which we appropriate to ourselves and which we ceaselessly transform by a sort of escape which is never an unconditioned freedom. By affirming it we can find modest ways in which we can move ever so slightly on the other side of it. This is a very special sense of freedom.

So, by a sort of escape, which is never an unconditioned freedom, there is no explanation of sexuality which reduces itself to something other than instinct for it is already something other than itself. It is always already our whole being. I like that phrase about sexuality. That means it refuses to be limited or defined. Sexuality, I am just reading these lines because they are really incredible, is dramatic because we commit our whole personal life to it, but why? What an impertinent question. Let’s face up to it, our lives are really searching for the right sensual being in our lives and why do we do this? Why is our body the mirror of our being unless it is a natural self, a current of given existence with the result that we never know if the forces that bear upon us are its or ours, for they are never entirely its or ours. So sexuality is important because it is an area of our lives where we cannot distinguish between our contribution and the other’s presence as the two are so deeply merged in ambiguity and at that moment we have to take responsibility for it, and own up to it.  So the reason that sexuality becomes such a very particular passion has nothing to do with actual physical passion, but because it is an arena in which we turn contingencies into necessities and it dramatizes itself, specifies itself here better than in other situations. It is not the only situation, but one in which delimited freedom is conspicuously present. There is no outstripping of sexuality any more than there is any sexuality enclosed within itself. No limit to it, no end to it, but also, it never exists in some enclosed vessel or object. No one is saved and no one is totally lost.

The hermeneutical circle is where I am investigating something that I already understand in advance. That sounds circular at first glance. Well, then, why all the trouble if you have this fore-structure of thought (that allows you to understand something ahead of the given experience)? Heidegger says this is a positive, hermeneutical circle and we all need to enter into it at the right place. This has important connotations. Where do I enter into my own pre-understanding as I begin to investigate a given experience? As I enter the circle where free understanding reaches out and a detailed investigation completes the circle, I need to be sure that the investigation is in touch with the things themselves. He uses Husserl’s famous “shibboleth” to the things themselves. The anthropologists or psychologists must be able to bring the fore-conception in touch with the phenomenon itself (not just the objects, but the way things appear as patterns or their gestalt as Merleau Ponty would like to put it…the deep rich patterns of meaning). So you have to bring pre-understandings into that which you are investigating. This is where Gadamer says all hermeneutics must begin. Hermes, the messenger of the gods, is one who comes down to the earth at the crossroads and intervenes into human affairs in a circular fashion and then returns into the realm of the gods. The hermeneutical circle had the classical reference in mind, and Gadamer makes more use of the hermetic origin in his work.

Gadamer reformulates this slightly and takes it into his own work which blossoms into a whole way of thinking. He would rather say that when you are undertaking an enterprise of investigation or research hermeneutically, you must foreground and appropriate your own fore-meanings and prejudices when you enter into the research. The more you can do that, the more the phenomenon you are investigating (i.e., a text or work of art) will present itself in all of its otherness. .Because its otherness can rise up more fully if your own prejudicial blinders have been at least partially removed to allow that phenomenal field to come forth. Here Gadamer goes into a discussion on the prejudice against prejudice. The legacy of enlightenment in the west which would like to have believed humans could empty their minds of beliefs before the phenomenon and become tabula rasa. Gadamer says this is nonsense and that it cannot and should not ever happen. The only issue is how to suspend the detrimental and distorting hurtful prejudices that are indeed thorns in the hermeneutical flesh. The issue is not to get rid of all pre-judicial understanding (to judge in advance), that is, not taking it inside in our usual perjorative sense even though he would agree we are not going to go in with a bias, and he even evokes Husserl’s method of bracketing for the purposes of the investigation and later we can analyze it out of our lives, but for now trying not to let it intrude unduly into your perception.

We are in the field to perceive, not just to observe, and so the roots of participatory observation are laid by Merleau Ponty because the body is, by its very nature, participatory. Passages we did not get to show this. There is no neutral or indifferent body. This is what body intentionality means, that some part of me is already invested in that very thing I am describing and not just bodily part, but Gadamer adds a part of my past over which I do not have control which he calls tradition, which means various things like the school of research I am trained in. Or maybe other traditions, the traditions of my people, gender, ethnicity, education…all that is under the heading of literal pre-judice. These will affect my judgement inelectable. It would be a mistake to deny it, to debate it, to pretend that I can become a perfect mirror of what I see. There are legitimate prejudices, and those traditions limit my freedom. The body imposes certain limits on freedom, allowing a modicum to survive, and Gadamer says traditions delimit freedom but do not eliminate freedom. I can find myself free within my tradition but only if I honor that tradition and allow myself to be an actor within it. The movement of re-enactment means I am doing it freely. One of Gadamer’s remarkable statements is that we reproduce tradition by participating in its evolution. There is the core concept. I don’t just replicate tradition I actually bring it into being in a new configuration to meet the new circumstances that I am investigating. In the freedom of re-enactment, we are not being asked to merely re-state our tradition but to creatively modify it so that the new experience can be more deeply seen into through our traditions. Sort these traditions out and own up to them but do not disown them in some modernist ideal to be wholly passive and receptive and letting the world flood in like a void to receive data. Instead, the tradition through the fore-structure of understanding reaches from its pastness into the present-ness and illuminates it in a special way. In the same way, another researcher will illuminate differently.

There is a crowd going into the field and it is a matter of celebration, according to Gadamer. The many tongued heritage of our tradition needs to be respected, and be clear about what they are contributing to your understanding. Our historicity (active, living history) needs to be brought in and validated. Sometimes, Gadamer uses the word ‘applied’ or the notion of application technically meaning to apply traditions to the phenomenon like a pair of glasses through which you perceive what is happening in the field. What is happening in the field itself is a function of the tradition through the lens I am taking the activity in through. I will see what my tradition allows me to see, and some things I won’t see.

What do you do once you are in the field and something appears as alien and you can honestly say that you still don’t know what is going on? It happens all the time. You can feel the same thing by picking up a book by Heidegger! The sentences are syntactical but what is going on there? This is why Gadamer goes back and forth between the experience of the text and the fieldwork because they are deeply parallel. Text becomes a model just as meaningful actions are considered to be textual. You have to be able to imagine actions in the social world as text. You have to not only see them but disambiguate them to get down to what you cannot understand in them and work on that. So, Gadamer says, whether in the field or in the text you can come upon a moment of alienation or otherness …something other than anything your tradition has been able to figure out. For example, in understanding western ways of healing only then other forms of healing seem to be magical because they are acasual and events appear to jump across phenomenon instead of connecting phenomenon and in cause and effect. It is a special kind of causality because people do get healed. Gadamer says we should welcome this. If there were nothing alien, it would already belong to your tradition. Then you are just dealing with things that you know. The alien is a crucial factor in this experience and his way to talk about it is to call it the “fusions of horizons”. I have to find a way whereby the horizons that I bring from my tradition (traditions are just sets of events or practices, they always come from horizons…the horizon of western medicine, for example) and then here I am in this other culture or other text and it has its horizons (called folk healing) so the task is to achieve the fusion of horizons, melt them down as best you can, admitting that sometimes you fail but at least the effort is to make your set of horizons continuous with and in communication with the horizons of this alien phenomenon that you are investigating to at least a point where some light (complete illumination is not possible) can come in and the hard edge has softened, and I can find inroads into the alien that I wouldn’t do if I didn’t bring the two sets of horizons into proximity. The task here is not purely imaginary. The way that the horizons get fused is only through language, either conversations with the people in the field, or a quasi conversation that I have with the text. If I can’t put it into words the alien will remain forever. I prefer the word inter-fusion. So the importance of language arises here to resolve the problem of the limit of hermeneutical horizon fusions and is really where language can come into play as an indispensable tool. So now we are into the verbal domain, and not just taking notes but trying to understand it by writing it out. This is not trivial. Or you could be talking to a colleague, but language is essential. At Pacifica, the advisor and other students are your colleagues which will help you to animate the text or discourse with about the experience.


Here is the plan for this afternoon. My own proclivity is to complete the discussion of Gadamer which we began but did not finish. We will see how long that takes and what questions you have. Then I have some notes that are just for this group that have arisen out of the last three days. In all of that, I want to allow some serious time for some of you to talk more about your fieldwork and how the insights and practices we have been discussing might be relevant.  I would like to hear your reflections before we part today on the fate of discourse. Would this type of course work better if it was spaced out over three months? And then I would appreciate your feedback on the syllabus, structure, and reading. How would you do this better the next time? This is a moment of reflection on the course itself.

The actual locutions of an author, the way that person writes, albeit in translation, is so much more important than how anyone can stream it down or tamper it down. A good translation has to be accurate but also has to be clearer and duller than the original text because it can never rise to the excitement of an original formulation. You cannot capture the brilliance in another language. I tend to go back to primary sources. Secondary sources are good summations, clearer but duller. Maybe I am wrong, or maybe there is a place in this course for secondary sources. I am aware of the difficulty of the readings. I am appreciative of you all having hung in there for an arduous long days’ journey into night.

Gadamer was really the most scholarly of all the books we have read. He was trained as a classicist and would often correct Heidegger in his Greek and his understanding of the Greeks. Gadamer, Heidegger’s own student, would write reviews of Heidegger’s essays to H.’s chagrin saying he wrote a really good essay but he doesn’t really understand the text. Heidegger had really skated over stuff and Gadamer showed it.  So he was a first class scholar who would have gone into classical literature had he not come into the ambience of Heidegger who converted him to a philosophical life like Husserl and Freud meeting Brentano. Heidegger’s lectures were stunning, just incredible statements and brilliant oral discourse and Gadamer was transported. For the rest of his life he labored quietly in the trenches, he managed to stay out of WWII because of his childhood polio, but despite it he became the number one tennis player in Germany. He was the German champion in 1920-1922. When I visited him when he was 92 he would have the bicycle on his porch and he lived to 104 and died only recently. He did not smoke!

He was so resolute and his character was so strong that he would have lived long no matter what. He was accessible, the people in Heidelberg loved him and the entire town showed up on his birthday. He was a warm person who was kind to young people like me, one of the streams of thousands who came to visit him. He, too, only published one book in his lifetime like his master, so it is a big book, Truth and Method. The thing that is unusual is that he worked on it for 40 years and published it when he was 60 years old in 1960. Gadamer was a hedgehog writer. In 1965 the German system forced him to retire, so at age 65 he came to America and mastered English in 2 years and became a professor at Boston College and taught until 95 years of age and had great success. It did not phase him to get on in years, he was up for it. His bout with polio probably had prepared him for this…to be hale and hearty until the end. He went to a meeting in Italy with a very young woman when I last saw him, but her identity was ambiguous. I ran into the two of them in front of a magnificent cathedral as Gadamer was looking up. That was my last look at him (maybe around 92) and then he turned to me (hoping not to be noticed) and said, Casey you are just like all those Irish people…you are quick-witted on the one hand, and yet on the other hand you have a scholarly side (which is the other side of the Irish character, he said). That was the last time I saw him. I think he had me pegged. He had a slight limp in his later years and lost a little hearing, that’s all. So that’s a true story about Gadamer.

Here is another way of putting things. Traditions are a part of us. They form our whole way of understanding contemporary and new worlds, but Gadamer insists that they belong to us as much as we belong to them. They are participating in my current activities and understandings but I can be active in understanding them and promoting and carrying forward that tradition anew at every moment. I am doing that when I am teaching here in using my own way of talking about these various philosophical traditions. At the same time, I belong to it and I shouldn’t get too much credit. I am not the voice of the tradition. I would not have a voice at all unless I already came out of that tradition. It does not mean being stuck in past history. These are living histories that I bring forward, but modify.  Gadamer is someone who wants to capture that sense of pastness that he felt Heidegger failed to bring forward and that many of us miss in the modern age. We are encouraged to be free from traditions, to be “our own thinkers”, to “live our own lives” and all this talk is easy to say but Gadamer says this is impossible to realize because traditions are too informative of everything we do and think including our bodies. The reason for discussing Gadamer right on top of Merleau Ponty (who brings in the antecedent of bodily life) is to add a layer on top of it. Merleau Ponty’s model is that culture or tradition in infused in bodily gesture and movement. They are actually philosophical brothers although they seem to be talking about completely different things. You couldn’t have a full emergence of the past into the present unless it was also bodily. Together I am it, meaning several traditions, that move toward the future but only so far as I bare this past into the future.

He says we produce tradition by participating in its evolution. We are active participants even if we are not thinking about it. We are just sitting here in our chairs at Pacifica, but actually by doing this, we are carrying on in the modification of whatever traditions we bring in. Gadamer wished to say that this is the anti-thesis of method which is the converse of Husserl’s goal. Husserl wanted to find the “method of all methods” to figure things out once and for all, to mirror scientific traditions. Gadamer says quite explicitly that there is no method for this, so the title of this masterpeiece, Truth and Method, means the truth that method will never reach. There is no hermeneutical method as far as he is concerned. The circle of understanding is not a methodological circle but describes an element of the ontological structure of understanding. We are talking about hermeneutical understanding that we so deeply participate in that we don’t need a method to participate in to use it. The issue is only how we express that and bring it into our lives, what we write about, what we think about. This is a very different moment. So this is a very different school of thought. It has really turned around upon itself and given up the last ghost of scientism. It is almost as if it had to be. It is like MLP’s point. If you take contingencies and then understand them you can see they were something internally necessary but only at the end of the process. So someone like Gadamer had to come along.

You need to be able to look back on your life and say whatever the traumas it had to be that way. It is just accepting the way it unfolded. Tragic, pathetic. Maybe. That doesn’t matter. The issue is can you accept it and say it really had to unfold in that pattern. This is the greater wisdom and is hard to achied. When younger you think if only I had gone to France, but I never got that fellowship and got married. We all engage in these games of regret at missed opportunity but this is another level of our lives that we can come to. These writing help us even as individuals to understand these larger issues.

Now a couple of other things are relevant here. History is not just a string of events, one after another. History begins by the beaconing of effects that enter into other effects and so like an accumulating wave in the ocean which bursts forth with expanded energy as the effects pile up so that we can never trace them out quantitatively. But that is the way historical understanding is. It moves in effective history. History occurs not be stringing together successive, episodic events but happens by very subtle effects that weaves a canvas together. Some of those are out of perception and we may never put our finger upon them. Effective history is history from within. The tissue of history is dense.

Because it is dense and so thick and often alien and we don’t understand all of it, the first thing we need to do is locate the horizon out of which it happens so as not to be overwhelmed by the efficacy of history, we need to locate the horizontal structures that allows us to think about epochs or eras. “Periodization” is not strict, it is a moving set of markers that Gadamer calls horizons.  And so always the effort is to find these structural  horizons of the development of history and then to bring out internal horizons (those we have assimilated) into contact with the others horizons until what is otherwise disconnected meets and forms one great horizon. So now my horizons have merged with the horizons of my subject matter so that I can say I and it are enclosed in one circle of understanding. So the fusion of horizons actually has reached its limit in the sense that I am now circled around with a much greater arena of understanding that was not there before. Before there was just me in my isolated chamber, and events around me and outside me and now these have actually formed a community (See Truth and Method on page 306). In the process of understanding a real fusing of horizons occurs. To bring about this fusion in a regulated way is to bring about historically effective consciousness. And once we do it, he says, we can at least interpret the alien even if we cannot fully understand him. We are finding the position where at least we have the authenticity and authority to be able to articulate our interpretation of what is happening.

The alien remains alien and it would be grandiosity to claim you had completely understood it that you found a way to articulate it in your native language. So that allows the otherness of the subject matter to remain respected, but nevertheless, to bring its structure into language. Now we have to see these as acts of interpretation. That term of Heidegger reaches a practical application in Gadamer. Every time you are writing up your experiences you are really interpreting them, you are not just describing them. The great goal of Husserl gives way to interpretive discourse. It is only rarely that you could be said to giving a pure description. What you take to be a  pure description is your interpretation of the alien. This is nothing to worry about if you are aware of what you are doing, owning up to it, taking responsibility for it. It was the false ideal of objective description that misled many scientists. In the human sciences, says Gadamer, you could never really get away with it because everyone knew there was something phony about describing historical facts. What distinguishes the human from the natural sciences is that they are ultimately trying to discover the core essence of an object that is independent of their own evolution as scientists. So their object has a valid place but in human and social sciences the factor of a history of the science is completely intrinsic to the progress of the discipline. The issue of the object of the discipline diminishes. This is very much in keeping with the critique of the object that Merleau Ponty worked out to be fair to the phenomenon which now becomes to be fair to your whole tradition. Depth psychology would be a part of the human sciences. It would be a false ideal to think that we could achieve anything like neutrality. This is the difference between quantitative and qualitative analysis. This approach is clearly qualitative research. We are in the search for the quality of things when we proceed hermeneutically. It is indeed the discipline that helps to savor and put into the language the qualitative aspect of things.

It is not surprising then that Gadamer would single out qualitative trends, movements, configurations and not the idea of gestalt[TB6] , which is meant to capture the qualitative aspect of human experience. Someday, someone should trace out the relationship between gestalt psychology[TB7]  and the importance of gestalt as a paradigm in hermeneutical, phenomenological philosophy. They have parallel careers and a rich interaction. Some of you know that history and have studied Gestalt psychology which is one of the more original and viable concepts that we have in psychology.

There could be no universalism if we were all composed of discreet and differential traditions it would be absurd to claim there were one right way of understanding any part of the world. If understanding itself is composed of diverse traditions then there is not going to be anything that can claim to be common to all those traditions forever always the same. So it is actually a powerful critique of universalism from within historicity of understanding, but it is an effective undermining of the pretense that we humans can achieve some kind of universalism of understanding. Would he, Holly asks, deconstruct that side of archetypal thought that would claim to be universal? Casey responds that he doesn’t think the universal aspect is a necessary part of archetype, although some people do. He believes it is an excessive claim that archetypes are universal. Holly thinks of it more in the bodily sense, that universalism doesn’t necessarily have to be carried through the generations in our DNA but is a way of being. Even in a genomic sense there is so much change going on it is hard to talk about universal structures there, Casey goes on. Biological becoming is biological mutation constantly occurring, so you can really question if there is, at that level, strict universalism present. It is rhetorically tempting but unnecessary. You cannot really blame Freud for calling them universal, because he wanted to claim the most that he could for archetypes, so the temptation to call them universal was strong. It was a function of the first phase of archetypal psychology but we are not there anymore. The claims were never necessary although rhetorically they were necessary to make it sound as if it were an ultimate take on things. But in this stage of Jungian thought, I myself believe we can have local universals whose character is determined by the region in which they are specified and expressed. In some of my writings I talk about archetypology. Archetypes appear in places, including history and traditions.

Do we not share any common heritage? We don’t have to go that far either, says Casey. We have to move deftly between formal universalism and sheer relativism. That is really the task. Lateral universal by MLP is his intriguing suggestion as something that fits between the two extremes. Although the cultures have local universals, they can connect at the edges. Remember congruencies in Husserl? It is very much like that. The parts of regions overlap and are congruent. The overlapping areas would provide lateral universals which would connect horizontally in contrast with a verticalizing universal that superintends everything at once. Here is an effort to pluralize while not denying there can be threads of continuity. How do we make the local absolute? How to see that it is all here? It is written about in “Thousand Plateaus” and means how to find in our immediate ambience, virtually not actually, all that we need to understand the rest of the world as in “how to see the world in a grain of sand” so to speak. You can, from that, extract incredible insight that would have formally been denied as parochialism. The effort here is to mine the local for the lateral.

Hermeneutics offers a middle path that does justice to both but is neither at the end and the best to discuss this is Gadamer. During the last 7 minutes this morning we discussed the paradigm of understanding conversation. I need to clear it up. First of all, conversation is not just talking heads, chattering away. That is designated as gossip, if I may, or empty headed passing the word along, you don’t think about it, you don’t change it, just gossip. But in a real conversation nothing moves on but you focus ever more deeply on a common topic that you are sharing with a conversation partner than you could just thinking about it by yourself. The thing we are talking about, the thing we want to understand despite all of our differences holds the conversation together.  This is the common focus of the talk which allows us to understand more deeply as we listen to each others approaches. Gadamer opened up this view and other writers since him like Richard Rorty[TB8]  carry it further.

The second point is where Gadamer talks of the conversation that we ourselves are. It is not that I just enter a conversation as if the other was outside of me, because I am already in conversation with my tradition. There is no end to it, and I go into the conversation already conversing and now I have a partner and then move on to another and there is never a moment when we are not in deep talk that is getting us somewhere. It is a curious idea where my identity (not ego or false self or me or mirror self which are all constructs that are britlle and may collapse the next moment, like persona) instead my personal identity is conversational. It means I am not the sole author of my identity, which is the great danger of imperialist ways of thinking and acting. To say that I am the author of my fate is Napoleonic. Sartre replaces it with pure consciousness…a wholly anonymous impersonal flow of freedom is his solution. But I prefer Gadamer in that I am a product of the conversations that I have had with my parents, siblings, teachers, lovers, and which goes on and which never ends. We can see sociopathy and psychopathy as closing off these conversations, foreclosing them, preventing them, denying them, choking them off, or pathology. They are the failure to converse often, sometimes for deep reasons which can be understood but, nevertheless, the conversations are getting closed off.

We take conversation for granted as just plain talk. I am conversational through and through and the converse is to turn aside with the other, and not for my own benefit but in a social circumstance that others share in. And they are turning with me. There is a whole world here to be thought about. It is well worth pondering. Instead of being intimidated by it in fieldwork, me and the field, it might be more helpful to think I am really going out to have a conversation with the subjects of my fieldwork to reduce anxiety and get better results. This has practical value besides being an interesting theoretical paradigm of self that is ‘intersubjectvity through language’. The power of language meets us again and again in the subjects we have been reading.[TB9] 

What responses do you have? We need more conversation and I have been talking too much. Thou field is the conversation versus the It field…Buber’s thought, from his religious life, actually fits! He got to the same place as these philosophers we have been studying. The very word “participation” comes up quite often in these thinkers. What about authorship then, in its classical form? It is single-minded and self-affirming. Monological authorship is deeply in question nowadays. There is an argument for a multi-plural model of authorship. You don’t have to sign the manuscript unless you want to collect royalties and have it published under your name, well, OK but the real question is “who is the real author of that work” when your research includes other voices? Are you transcribing what the experts (your subjects) are saying? It is nice that we are coming around to this. It is much too tempting to think that it is just the proper name on the cover is the author. The acknowledgements themselves could go on for pages! A lot of our lives are taken up with these conversations and in some sense your body is condensing all of that. But it is not entirely yours, it is like a legal fiction to claim that I authored my own text.[TB10]  We are never a single voice.

Here are some brief parting thoughts, the first being the importance of questioning. There was a course here once on questions in depth psychology (appreciative inquiry), and I am not going to quiz you but I want to add something to it. We are not just asking one question.

Heidegger has said some wonderful things in his introduction, that is, there are 3 basic questions that researchers are always asking. First, what is asked about, that is, what is the topic? What is the concern here? In Heidegger’s case he was asking about Being.

Secondly, what is being interrogated means through what beings (subjects) do you pursuing this research?  He calls that which is interrogated “dasein”. Subjects are not to be confused with the topic. Thirdly, what do you find out by the asking? What is the discovery or the result? First, what are you asking about; then, what you interrogate to get to what you are asking about, and third, what you find out. These are three levels of questioning in research. It may help structure some fieldwork design for you.

Gadamer jumps into the ring late in his book when he calls it the horizon of the question, which is different than the hermeneutical horizon. It is the text or phenomenon that you are approaching as an answer to a previous question that was put at the source or origin of that phenomenon. One level is ‘what is the question that this cultural practice or text is an answer to’. And then, says Gadamer, at a second level we have to ask what the phenomenon is asking me or what question does it put to me? I may be inadequate to answer fully the question of what is going on here. It brings to bear the humility that you have to have as the researcher. So, that is the second level. What question is being asked of me by the culture, text, or other? I wanted to put that out there, especially the second one because it is helpful to deflating the arrogance of the questioner. What is the culture asking me? It turns the tables on the western mind that thinks it has all the right questions or answers.

In response to a question by Susan, Casey says that a dissertation is always a situation where you are always trying to reach further than your current draft, and that allows the edge of your creativity and novelty and insight that is not possible if you just re-arrange the pieces that you know, which is much more secure. Strauss’ phenomenology of the upright posture is useful here. The arm, for example, extends into the lateral spaces in our lives and similarly in writing you have to find the same lateral arm reach. Now you have to reach beyond as if there were a phantom limb in a larger arc. How do we get there? Read Strauss. He shows that by being upright we enter into a new drama in life. On the one hand we have to face the world and move forward resolutely and also develop new forms of freedom in lateral spheres with our arms. The walking opens a different world of movement and looking, since we are no wholly sedentary or recumbent beings. It is a strange paradox to allow this to be intentional and straightforward, not in military fashion, but with looseness. We are moving into somatics. So what seems to be a simple question of evolution and survival, Strauss is going beyond species and differentiation. He ends with this remarkable statement, all the other psychiatrists are Freudian and Strauss says it is just as important that we have upright posture as that we have drives in terms of human destiny and our psychology. It is a simple fact that we have to think through. I am the world in which I walk. So the implication is that I have to be able to walk somewhere to get acquainted with the edges of the world. It is the simple ambulatory action that is fraught with phenomenological and existential consequences. Phenomenology tries to go somewhere other than the fact itself. All these things are efforts to complicate and deepen a mere evolutionary fact. We will think about it if we are recovering from physical injury, but most of the time we can walk preconsciously. Think of it as poets do.[TB1] 


 [TB1]Posture and evolution…what about posture and enlightenment A First Zen Reader by Trevor Legget. An interesting analogy, the two of these phenomenological experiences is something that I can write about. http://www.questia.com/read/51932293?title=A%20First%20Zen%20Reader#

 A First Zen Reader

Book by Trevor Leggett, Trevor Leggett; Charles E. Tuttle, 1960

 [TB1] Ecophenomenology can be described as the pursuit of the relationalities of worldly engagement, both human and those of other creatures (Brown & Toadvine 2003).

This engagement is situated in a kind of middle ground of relationality, a space that is neither purely objective, since it is reciprocally constituted by a diversity of lived experiences motivating the movements of countless organisms, nor purely subjective, since it is nonetheless a field of material relationships between bodies. It is governed exclusively neither by causality, nor by intentionality. In this space of in-betweenness phenomenology can overcome its inaugural opposition to naturalism.

 [TB2]In his essay “Cézanne’s Doubt”, in which he identifies Cézanne’s impressionistic theory of painting as analogous to his own concept of radical reflection, the attempt to return to, and reflect on, prereflective consciousness, Merleau-Ponty identifies science as the opposite of art. In Merleau-Ponty’s account, while art is an attempt to capture an individual’s perception, science is anti-individualistic. In the preface to his Phenomenology of Perception, Merleau-Ponty presents a phenomenological objection to positivism: that it can tell us nothing about human subjectivity. All that a scientific text can explain is the particular individual experience of that scientist, which cannot be transcended. For Merleau-Ponty, science neglects the depth and profundity of the phenomena that it endeavors to explain.

Merleau-Ponty understood science to be an ex post facto abstraction. Causal and physiological accounts of perception, for example, explain perception in terms that are only arrived at after abstracting from the phenomenon itself. Merleau-Ponty chastized science for taking itself to be the area in which a complete account of nature may be given. The subjective depth of phenomena cannot be given in science as it is. Thus characterizes Merleau-Ponty’s attempt to ground science in phenomenological objectivity and, in essence, institute a “return to the phenomena”.(Wikipedia)

 [TB3]‘Eye and Mind’ trans. by Carleton Dallery in The Primacy of Perception ed. by James Edie (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1964), 159-190. Revised translation by Michael Smith in The Merleau-Ponty Aesthetics Reader (1993), 121-149.

 [TB4] It’s uncertain whether Murdoch would win a corporate battle for control of one of the top two or three newspapers in American publishing, along with the New York Times and the Washington Post. The idea of a takeover by Murdoch, whose publishing interests generally run far down-market, has sent seismic shudders through the Journal staff.

Although no one is saying whether the Australian-born Murdoch, chief executive officer of News Corp., played an active role in killing the Ellis profile, there is little doubt that his control of an estimated 75 percent of Australia’s media and ownership of 7.5 percent of Fairfax Media itself made him a feared enough figure to result in the death of the story.

Although Fairfax controls, among other publications, the Age in Melbourne and the Sydney Morning Herald, Murdoch’s stranglehold on the Australian press includes widespread television interests as well as newspapers, including the Australian, the Daily Telegraph and a flock of local tabloids.

After acquiring papers in England, Murdoch turned his attention to the United States with a combination of conservative political journalism and box-office sleaze. He became a naturalized US citizen, moved News Corp to New York so that he could get around a requirement that only US citizens could own television networks, and launched the Fox Network, a tits-and-titillation diet of sitcoms, and Fox News, which soon overtook CNN to become the most widely watched cable channel, in particular beating the drums for the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

As controversial a figure as he was in the business world, the gossip mills churned when Murdoch, born in 1931, met Deng, born in 1968, in 1997 when she was an intern at Star TV in Hong Kong, which is also controlled by News Corp.  Shortly after, Murdoch divorced Anna Torv, to whom he had been married for 31 years, and married Deng the same year.

 [TB5] Why do we diverge from Freud? This is exactly how I understand him.

 [TB6] Main Entry: ge·stalt Pronunciation: \gə-ˈstält, -ˈshtält, -ˈstȯlt, -ˈshtȯlt\   Function: noun

Inflected Form(s): plural ge·stalts also ge·stalt·en \-ˈstäl-tən, -ˈshtäl-, -ˈstȯl-, -ˈshtȯl-\

Etymology: German, literally, shape, form 

Date: 1922

: a structure, configuration, or pattern of physical, biological, or psychological phenomena so integrated as to constitute a functional unit with properties not derivable by summation of its parts

 [TB7] Main Entry: Gestalt psychology. Function: noun  Date:1924: the study of perception and behavior from the standpoint of an individual’s response to configurational wholes with stress on the uniformity of psychological and physiological events and rejection of analysis into discrete events of stimulus, percept, and response

 [TB8] Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979) is a famous and controversial work by American philosopher Richard Rorty. In this book, Rorty attempts to dissolve so-called philosophical problems instead of solving them by showing that they are in fact pseudo-problems that only exist in the language-game of Analytic philosophy. In a pragmatist gesture, Rorty claims that philosophy must get past these pseudo-problems if it is to be productive.

Rorty’s central thesis is that philosophy has unduly relied on a representational theory of perception and a correspondence theory of truth, hoping our experience or language might mirror the way reality actually is. In this he continues a certain controversial Anglophone tradition, continuing the work of philosophers like Quine, Sellars, and Davidson. Rorty opts out of the traditional objective/subjective dialogue in favor of a communal version of truth. For him, “true” is simply an honorific knowers bestow on claims, asserting them as what “we” want to say about a particular matter.

Rorty spends much of the book explaining how philosophical paradigm shifts and their associated philosophical “problems” can be considered the result of the new metaphors, vocabularies, and mistaken linguistic associations which are necessarily a part of those new paradigms

 [TB10]What happens when we glance around a room? How do we trust what we see in fleeting moments? In The World at a Glance, Edward S. Casey describes how glancing counts for more of human perception than previously imagined. An entire universe is perceived in a glance, but our quick and uncommitted attention prevents examination of these rapid acts and processes. While breaking down this paradox, Casey surveys the glance as an essential way by which we acquaint ourselves with the world. This experiential tour-de-force reveals what happens in a blink of an eye. It will become a landmark study in phenomenology, philosophy, environmental philosophy, and the philosophy of mind.

The World at a Glance by

Edward S. Casey


Prologue: Regaining the Glance
Introduction: Taking in the World at a Glance
Part One: Approximating to the Glance
1. Getting into the Glance
2. Coming Closer to the Glance
3. Becoming and Being Oriented by the Glance
4. The Hegemony of the Gaze
Part Two: Glancing Earlier and Farther Afield
5. The Glance in Ancient Athens
6. The Sudden, the Surprising, and the Wondrous: With Walter Benjamin on the Streets of Paris
Part Three: Getting Inside the Glance
7. The Singularity of the Glance
8. Glancing Time
9. Attending and Glancing
Part Four: Praxis of the Glance
10. The Ethics of the Glance
11. The Natural Environment in a Glance
12. Glancing at the Image in Photography and Painting
Concluding Thoughts: Catching Sight of Surprise
Afterword: Families of the Glance and the Gaze