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fas.harvard.edu/~sdkelly/Papers/Closing%20the%20Gap.pdf © 2011 Andrew Glynn Kelly’s aim in his paper is to ostensibly marry the philosophical work of Searle and Dreyfus. His own training in analytic philosophy, however, fails him in this task, and in doing so points to some fundamental incompatibilities between any phenomenological stance and an analytic one. In the reduction that accompanies the type of analysis done within analytic method, the experience gets isolated in a manner that makes it difficult to see what’s obviously missing in the account from a phenomenological perspective:
For surely, one might think, what counts as the content of a perceptual experience ought to be tied in some close way to its phenomenology. If that is right, then we need to ask ourselves this question: Is it a part of the phenomenology of seeing things—is it, in other words, either what I am or what I could be conscious of when I have a perceptual experience of an object—that the thing I seem to see is causing me to have my experience of it? In their debate with Searle over this issue Dreyfus and Dagfinn Føllesdal argued that it was not. After all, what would it be like, experientially, to see something to be causing the experience I am having of it?
The question above is easily answerable if the experience isn’t already isolated to an ideal visual experience separated from the factical context of any actual visual experience. When we are experiencing of a real thing, our experience of it is both never static, nor is it only visual. When shown the paintings of ultra realists, nobody confuses the content of the painting with the real thing it depicts, instead the immediate comparison is with a photograph, which only shows a static view that does not change when we move in relation to it in the same manner as real thing depicted would. As we experience a phenomenal part of reality, however, our eyes and most often our bodies as well are constantly moving, viewing the thing from multiple perspectives. We also may physically bump into something real, whereas something imaginary doesn’t have the tangibility we experience through our other senses. If we take the simple example of a mirage, we come to know it is illusory by moving towards it, during which movement its look changes and finally disappears, demonstrating its illusory nature. By contrast real water in the landscape remains what it is as we move towards and around it, and we have the potential of experiencing its wetness by dipping our feet in it. Even when our bodies are not in motion, our eyes are constantly moving, which reframes any perceived thing in different ways relative to other things that are always part of the perceptual experience. If we simply stare without moving our eyes very quickly we don’t see anything whatsoever.
Namely, it is part of the imagination, though not part of the visual experience, that I am causing this visual experience. The imaginary experience, in other words, lacks the causal self-referentiality. Since ex hypothesi this is the only difference between the two experiences, it shows that causal self-referentiality must be part of the phenomenology of normal visual experience.
I believe this is an ingenious, but flawed, attempt to save the causal self-referentiality clause. It is flawed because it does not give us any reason to believe that causal self-referentiality as Searle understands it is part of the content of visual experience. To see this, think again about the phenomenology of vivid imagination. Let us accept, at least for the purposes of argument, that imagined scenes feel as though they are caused by me. And let us even accept that visual experiences are such that they feel like they are not imaginings. Even giving Searle all this, the most one is justified in putting into the content of the visual experience is that the thing seen is not caused by me.
Put simply, the notion that the cause of the experience is the only difference is flawed, due to the inability in a real situation to separate the static visual experience postulated from the multiplicity of other experiences of the same real thing. Since this separation occurs only in the analytic imagination, it’s no surprise that it’s indistinguishable from a posited imaginative projection, because indeed it is nothing more than an imaginative projection itself, a projection only possible as a result of a flawed notion of causality.
In short, if visual experiences feel like they are not imaginings, and imagined scenes feel like they are caused by me, then visual experiences feel like they are not caused by me. But to say that the visual experience I am having is not caused by me is substantially weaker than to say that the visual experience I am having is caused by the object it is an experience of. the imagination case only justifies the weaker of these two claims. Instead of arguing that causal self-referentiality is a part of the phenomenology of visual experience, therefore, Searle sometimes seems to accept that it is not. 4 When pursuing this line of thought, however, he does not conclude that causal self-referentiality is excluded from the content of experience, but rather that phenomenology is impoverished. He argues that since causal self referentiality is a part of the conditions of satisfaction of perceptual experience, and since this causal self-referentiality condition is beyond the reach of phenomenology, phenomenology is not sufficient for logical analysis.
Rather than “closing the gap” between analytic methodology and phenomenology, or demonstrating any inherent weakness in phenomenology for logical analysis, Kelly demonstrates amply where the gap arises, which is in the inherent inability of analytic method and simplistic logic to grasp the experience of reality, equivalent to its inability to grasp reality itself. There is a significant difference between perception and perceptual experience. In order to experience anything at all, self referentiality must be an inherent potential of the experiencing system. It is not the experience itself that is self referential, the one experiencing is already self referential through its conscious reference to itself as the one perceiving, and here perception becomes perceptual experience. There is no intrinsic causality within the content of the experience of the real that is different from the imaginary or the illusory other than the dynamic movement and resulting multiplicity of perceptions originating from the movement of the perceiving system, that are intrinsically part of any actual perceptual experience.
Searle commonly invokes the Fregean terminology of “modes of presentation” or the related phrase “aspectual shape” when he is discussing the Connection Principle, as he does in the interview on p. 121. Contrast with this, however, the motivations for the claim that logical analysis extends beyond phenomenology. When Searle is defending a claim like this, the third-person approach of Russell is his model. As he says in the interview on p. 118, “What does the phenomenologist say about the utterance „The King of France is bald?‟ The Russellian analysis is simply beyond the reach of Husserl, Heidegger, or Merleau-Ponty, because the conditions of satisfaction (in this case truth conditions) are not phenomenologically realized in the consciousness of the speaking agent. But why should they be?. If conditions of
satisfaction are the same as intentional content, though, then Searle‟s own Connection Principle seems to provide the relevant reason.9
This is the kind of pseudo problem analytic method is constantly falling prey to. That there is intentionality in perceptual experience is in no way challenged by Russell’s statement, not because it is a third person perspective (another robe draped on the old fiction of objective experience), but because it is (at least) a second hand experience. The perceptual experience the statement refers to is the speaker’s experience of someone else’s statement. This is a crucial element of the ambiguity of publicness discussed in detail by Heidegger. Within the statement it is ambiguous whether the statement maker experienced the statement of someone who themselves had a first person experience of the real pointed to in the statement, or themselves only experienced another’s statement. The main thing challenged by Russell’s statement is any ability to take Russell seriously as a thinker, or any ability to take analytic method as analyzing anything other than imaginative fictions. Russell was never able to critique his anglo, upper middle class, Oxbridge enforced assumptions.
WHEN IT COMES To their respective conceptions of social reality, and I agree with Searle that he differences here are distinct from and perhaps deeper than those in the case of intentional content. Searle’s central question in this domain, he says, is this: “How do human minds impose institutional status functions on objects and people in the world? For example, how do we get from the bits of paper to dollar bills?” (p. 106). Now, this really is a question about ontology—about what it is for something to be money, not just about what the intentional content of our mental states is when we interact with or have thoughts about or use money. So it might seem obvious, as Searle suggests, that the phenomenologists have no way of grappling with or even understanding this question. This apparently obvious suggestion, however, becomes less obvious when we notice that social reality has an important and peculiar feature, one that distinguishes it from, for instance, physical reality. At a first pass, we can formulate this feature by saying that if there were no human beings there would be no social reality; social reality, in other words, depends on human beings in some essential respect. Searle’s way of describing this is to say that social reality is observer dependent or observer relative. For Searle this does not only mean that social institutions like money depend on us because we create or invent them. This is true of course, but it is merely a contingent fact about the causal history of money. Social reality is dependent on human beings in a deeper way as well, according to Searle. For in addition to having created the institution of money in the first place, money is and continues to be the kind of thing it is precisely because we collectively impose its function on it.
This succeeds in demonstrating quite clearly the false assumptions analytic method is itself based on. Phenomenologists have no way of grappling with the question because the question itself is phenomenologically invalid. It is not the case that factical human beings exist a priori and then go about inventing social institutions and clothing them with meaning. Rather a human being, insofar as that refers to the being whose structure phenomenology has well described, can only come to be in the specific manner it is, i.e. a factical manner, from out of an already existing society. In other words, there would be no factical human beings if there were no social reality. In the claim that “social reality is observer dependent or observer relative” we see the fiction that physical reality is any less observer dependent or observer relative rear its head as the continuation of the pretense of an impossible objectivity. Kelly’s essay drives home the distance of the gap between phenomenology and analytic method, and places precisely what that gap consists of. It is the gap between observable experiences of reality and imaginative projections of reality. Analytic method is based on an inherently fictional model of reality and can never get behind that basis, which results in its analyses always being only analyses of the fictional projection that justifies the simplistic logic it employs.
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