December 29, 2017

Sartre (Part 1)

In the coming months I'd like to finally read Jean-Paul Sartre's Being and Nothingness. My plan for doing so is to use Professor Paul Vincent Spade's class lecture notes as a guide, and in keeping with Professor Spade's advice to first read Edmund Husserl's The Idea of Phenomenology, as well as Sartre's The Transcendence of the Ego and Existentialism is a Humanism.

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Spade's Introduction  to Husserl

Descartes believed that we can avoid epistemic error if we only affirm what appears to us clearly and distinctly (Principle #1). And what things can we clearly and distinctly perceive? My own existence, and the way things appear to me, the appearances, the phenomena.

Descartes believed that all phenomena are mental events, mind-dependent (Principle #2). Spade: It's like we're watching a movie; the phenomena are the pictures we see, representations of the external world. So how can we know what's really happening in the world? If we can't find an answer, we left with solipsism. Descartes tried to avoid solipsism by arguing for God's existence, but most subsequent philosophers rejected this answer.

If Husserl wants to avoid Descartes' solipsism, he must reject one of his two principles.

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Kant. Noumena, the thing in itself = the realities behind the appearances (phenomena, the thing as it appears).

Kant, unlike Descartes, holds that the mind contributes something to the phenomena. The mind organizes perceptual data in certain ways. In other words, "c'ness is not altogether a passive observer of phenomena. It is active. It imposes a certain organization, a certain order on the raw data of sensation." Phenomena is a product of (a) "the raw data of sensation" and (b) "the interpretation imposed on those data by the mind." This is constitution. An ego that imposes this order is a Transcendental Ego.

Kant believes there humans put imposes certain categories on sense data -- e.g., causality, existence, substance/property. Kant does not believe that the categories apply to the noumena.

Kant believed we could be sure that our phenomena of reality were not accurate representations of the phenomena.

Kant noted that every thought we have, every perception we make, is from our own point of view. This is important b/c it means that "all our concepts, and so too all phenomena, which those concepts describe, carry with them an implicit reference to ourselves and to our point of view." Consequently, phenomena are not accurate representations of things-in-themselves. "Things-in-themselves are whatever they are with no special reference to us; phenomena, on the other hand, necessarily involve a reference (even if only an implicit one) to ourselves."

Note: Kant is not saying: My point of view might correspond with reality, but it might not, and I'll never know for sure. Rather, Kant is saying that the mind constitutes reality. (Which maybe means that c'ness totally shapes the way I see reality, so much so that maybe we couldn't even fathom what relaity would look like apart from our c'ness????)

But now we're back at solipsism. This is idealism, "the view that all reality is in some sense mental." It's hard to see how idealism differs from solipsism.

Kant of course can never know if there really is a thing-in-itself, and so it makes no sense to talk about noumena, just phenomena.

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Husserl initially promised a way out of this idealism/solipsism.

Husserl's natural standpoint assumes that cognition is possible, in other words, it assumes that there is correspondence b/t our thoughts and what we are thinking about.

The phenomenological reduction = our judgments are confined, reduced, to the phenomena; we're not inferring from the phenomena something else.

H believes that my ego (or perspective) is not part of the phenomena, but I must take account of my perspective in any complete description of the phenomena.

First sense of immanence and transcendence = inside (the mind) and outside (the mind). If I think about Mars for ten minutes, then that thought is immanent in my act of thinking, while Mars itself is transcendent to my thinking about it. // Second sense of Immanence and transcendence = something is transcendent, not immanent, if an inference is required before I can make a clam about that thing.

H wants to find something that is transcendent in the first sense and immanent in the second sense -- in other words, something that is (a) outside the mind and (b) directly present to the mind (not present as result of inference).

The eidetic reduction. Universals are things that are directly given to use (redness is example; it is here now, and it is there later). Universals are objects of c'ness and they transcend c'ness.

The theory of intentionality: every act of c'ness is always c'ness of something. Thus, every act of c'ness transcends itself.

Intentionality makes transcendence possible! The ego is a passive observer. But in his later works, H abandoned intentionality in favor of the doctrine of constitution -- the transcendental ego organizes the raw data of experiencing, organizing, unifying, individualizing.

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