A Philosophical Research Programme
As someone who has spent 40 years pursuing a career in Industry and Commerce and now occupy my time as a photographer and print maker, I find myself with little remaining time to properly investigate what it is to take a philosophical stance with respect to the world. However, unaffiliated as I am to an institution and free from the straight jacket of the peer-reviewed ‘philosophical paper’, there is a sense of liberation in just being able to follow one’s nose. Or so it seems to me.
So, here is an inquiry that I hope to explore, couched in terms of 5 assertions.
- Assertion 1: Science cannot explain the whole world , experience in particular– Wilfred Sellars said that ‘in the dimensions of describing and explaining the world, science is the measure of all things, of what is that it is and of what is not that it is not’ (EPM para 41). However, although Science is particularly good at understanding some features of the world from within a particular conceptual system (causation, space, time, force, mass and so on) that can be generalised in such terms, it does not have much to say about those features that relate to the particularity of experiences. Science is grounded in a commitment to generalisation. Some questions are only meaningful in the context of the particularity of an event (for example, ‘what it is like’ questions). I am a scientific realist but only in relation to that part of the world for which science is a paradigm of knowledge-acquisition through generalisation. (Readings: Aristotle, Sellars, Popper, Feyerabend, Husserl, Gadamer, Derrida)
- Assertion 2: Experience is the correlation between a subjective consciousness and the structure of objects presenting themselves. An understanding of the world must therefore embrace a phenomenological attitude. Subject and Object are tied to each other in such a way as to make meaningless any attempt to assert a separate existence to ‘Mind’ or ‘Object’, to posit the structure of experience as one where a Subject and Object act independently or to look for ‘things in themselves’. (Readings: Kant, Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, McDowell)
- Assertion 3: Experience is given in an aesthetic form. Experience is the crystallisation of an aesthetic form (aisthesis) as a concrete event. Aesthetic forms have a gestalt quality and a mode of articulation (affordance and possibility). (Readings: Heidegger, Gestalt theorists, Kant’s 3rdCritique, JJ Gibson, Embodied consciousness theorists)
- Assertion 4: Experience is articulated through language. Language is not to be seen in terms of a Fregean subject/predicate, concept/object type or solely in referential terms, as in Semiotics. Language is lived as an aesthetic form and has gestalt qualities. (Readings: Frege, Heidegger, Jakobson, Merleau-Ponty, Wittgenstein, Gadamer, Derrida)
- Assertion 5: Aesthetic forms convey meaning through the complex arrays and hierarchies of properties that constitute gestalt phenomena. Meaning has little to do with representation and more to do with positional information. Representation is subordinate to the primacy of aesthetic forms. Mereological principles underpin meaning-constituting aesthetic forms. (Readings: Husserl, Jakobson)