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 a research project couched in terms of 5 assertions.
Assertion 1: Science cannot explain the whole world, individual 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 or to consciousness. 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 particularity of experience 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, articulated in language. Experience is the crystallisation of an aesthetic form (aisthesis) as a concrete event. Aesthetic forms have gestalt qualities and modes of articulation (affordance and possibility). 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. Experience and Language are not separable. (Readings: Heidegger, Gestalt theorists, Frege, Merleau-Ponty, Kant’s 3rdCritique, JJ Gibson, Embodied consciousness theorists, Wittgenstein, Gadamer, Derrida)
Assertion 4: Aesthetic forms convey meaning through the complex arrays and hierarchies of properties that constitute gestalt and other 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)
Assertion 5: In photographs we recognise aesthetic forms. These give rise to experiences in particular ways. Imagination links past known experiences with possible new unknown experiences through a process of affordance. (Readings: Kant)