THE PRESENTATIVE ACT

images

Concepts are not mere supplements attached to our perception of the world. We perceive the world through a particular conceptuality that is intrinsically part of our perceptions. The world is disclosed to us in an act of interpretation that involves conceptuality, an act that, under normal circumstances, goes unnoticed. In other words, what presents itself to us is partly constituted by and through basic human concepts. In particular, we interpret the world through a three-pronged fore-structure:

Fore-having, fore-sight, fore-grasp constitute the interpretedness of being-there, which pervades the particular being-there, being-with-one-another, and which directs interpretedness in an average way [i.e., under normal circumstances]. Conceptuality is initially there as this interpretedness. The fore = already there from the outset, i.e., in relation to being there… [B]eing-in means to be determined by this fore-character of having, sight, and grasp. Being-there: to be in interpretedness that already prevails (Heidegger, in notes published as Basic Concepts of Aristotelian Philosophy, p. 242).

Along with — that is, as an intrinsic part of — our perceptions of it, the world is given to us through this three-fold, a priori structure of fore-having, fore-sight, and fore-grasp. We shall delve into this threefold structure more deeply in a subsequent post. For now, we want to focus on the presentative act itself, and particularly how the phenomenal presentation differs from the empirically conceived act of perceiving.

Just as the world is presented through interpretedness, it is also presented through our attuned moods. The perceived world is not something that is set apart from our feelings; rather, the world is basically disclosed (presented, made present) by and through our perceptions of it, and these perceptions are “tinged” by emotion, even if it is only the pallid, everyday mood that on first sight seems like a lack of mood, but which itself must be classified as a mood. Here we have in mind the world conceived of as “a presented object” (to use Husserlian — that is, decidedly non-Heideggerian — terminology). It is important to keep in mind that we are not dealing with the world as object, but as presented object.

[W]e do not merely have a presentation, with an added feeling associatively tacked on to it and not intrinsically related to it, but pleasure or distaste direct themselves to the presented object, and could not exist without such a direction (Husserl, Logical Investigations, Volume II, p. 570).

If we form a judgment, there is something we judge; in imagination there is always something imagined, and so on. In general, if we are conscious, there is something of which we are conscious and which is initially inseparable from the conscious act. Consciousness of nothing is no consciousness at all. If we have a presentation, something must be presented. The world is given in this act of presentation. It is not as if the presentation and what it presents are separate things:

[P]leasure without anything pleasant is unthinkable [even if it is only life, existence, or the world in general that we find pleasant]. And it is unthinkable, not because we are here dealing with correlative expressions, as when we say, e.g. that a cause without an effect, or a father without a child, is unthinkable, but because the specific essence of pleasure demands a relation to something pleasing. Just so the feature known as conviction is unthinkable apart from something of which we are convinced…no agreement of approval without something agreed on or approved etc. etc. These are all intentions…They all ‘owe’ their intentional relation to certain underlying presentations. But it is part of what we mean by such ‘owing’ that they themselves really now have what they owe to something else (571).

We want to focus on this “having.” How are things presented to us? Certainly not as objects would be given to an omniscient entity who sees all things as they “really are in themselves.” It is not the case that we simply and without further ado sense the objects around us. Rather, the world, and the things in it, are presented in a certain way. It is not that the world, or a particular thing in it, is merely given from a particular perspective, although the fact that we cannot see something from all sides is one of the things that inform the way we “have” the world. Individual objects are also always given as parts of relational wholes, wholes that are themselves parts of greater wholes, although what we perceive as the whole sense-field is usually in flux. The way an intention “has” its object makes plain that “the relation between founding (underlying) presentation and founded act cannot be correctly described by saying that the former produces the latter” (ibid.). The founding intention is what presents the object; the founded intention gives us the felt object. But here it is not the case that the founding intention gives us the object and only subsequently, in a separate intention, attaches a feeling to what has previously been neutrally presented. The bare object does not cause a feeling in us, as if the feeling were merely the effect of an object that has stimulated us in a certain way. That would be an empirical explanation (a correct one, as far as it goes). Phenomenally things are quite different. It is, Husserl writes,

absurd in principle, here or in like cases, to treat an intentional as a causal relation, to give it the sense of an empirical, substantial-causal case of necessary connection. For the intentional object, here thought of as ‘provocative,’ is only in question as an intentional, not as an external reality (572).

The intentional object is not an external reality. That is the key point, the fundamental difference between empiricism and phenomenologyWe are not conceiving of the world as something outside us that, through sensory stimulation, causes certain feelings or emotions in us. We are not even dealing with the sensory stimulation itself, which is not at all the object we are initially consciously given.

Pleasantness or pleasure do not belong as effect to this landscape considered as a physical reality, but only to it as appearing in this or that manner, perhaps as thus and thus judged of or as reminding us of this or that, in the conscious act here in question: it is as such that the landscape ‘demands,’ ‘arouses’ such feelings (ibid.).

In other words, the landscape is given along with the feeling, and this means that it is given in a certain way. Depending as we appreciate, judge, or survey it, the landscape is disclosed as a thing of beauty, or something about which we form an opinion, or as something we measure, or assess in some other way. It is given as a single phenomenon in which two moments (founding presentation of the object and the feeling founded upon the founding presentation of the object) can be distinguished only afterwards, in theoretical reflection. The feeling of pleasure presents the landscape in its own way, and it is to this presentation, not the external thing, which phenomenology refers. We do not have a sensation of pleasure on the one hand and a landscape untouched by emotion (or other acts of consciousness) on the other; rather, what we apprehend is a pleasant landscape, a whole in which both the presentation and the object presented are inextricably bound (given together). Here we are concerned with how consciousness discloses what it discerns. The landscape can also be disclosed through boredom, in which case we are dealing not with a pleasant landscape but a boring one. The same landscape can turn into difficult terrain or be given in memory, etc.

To say that we are conscious of the world and, further, to stipulate that the world and our consciousness of it are two different phenomena belies the fact that disclosure is intrinsic to the world-phenomenon. The world is only given to consciousness, presented together with it initially as a single phenomenon. This phenomenon can subsequently be dismantled into founding (landscape, object) and founded (feeling, subjective experience) aspects, but only as a posteriori knowledge. It is not how they are initially revealed. Initially, they are revealed as a whole.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s