TA112  (Müller)


Commentary 11 (further to C9)




by Richard W Moodey

2 April 2009, posted 11 April 2009




RWM (old):  Here we have a conflict between an “either-or” perspective and a “both-and” perspective.  I take a both-and perspective when I say that some objects are subjects.  I am sitting before my computer, and it is an object for me because I make the judgment: “I am not this computer.”  My son is in the next room, and he is an object for me because I make a similar judgment: “I am not this young man.”  For me, people are objects because I can perceive them, and I do not judge them to be me.  Unlike my computer, however, I also judge my son to be a human subject.  That is, I attribute to my son the same kinds of mental powers I attribute to myself.  This does not make him a non-object, but an object who is also a subject.  I read Buber as focusing on morality rather than ontology.  It is immoral to treat other persons as if they did not have the same powers and the same rights as myself.??


[HFJM:]  I agree, but that does not exclude the epistemological meaning.   0-D implies ‘both-and’, in the sense that objectivity is a specialized method within phenomenology (experience).


RWM:  It does not exclude either your epistemological meaning, or my epistemological meaning.  We mean different things.  I recognize that by “objectivity” you mean “a specialized method within phenomenology.”  That is not what I mean by “objectivity,” in an epistemological sense.  What I mean by “objectivity” does not stem from your 0-D assumptions, but from my assumption of MIR.  It involves a pattern of judgments:  “That is a person.”  “I am not that person.”  “As a person, he has the same human powers I claim for myself.”  This last assertion is what I mean by judging another to be a human subject, as well as an object.




HFJM: My point is that in contrast to bodies and brains the subjective-experience aspect cannot become an object; but that impossibility is often neglected, as one can see in works that try to deal with the mind-brain puzzle.


RWM:  One source of my thinking is George Herbert Mead.  He distinguishes between the “I” and the “me.”  When I reflect upon my subjective experience, it becomes and object (of reflection) for me.  But by thus objectifying my experience, I transform it.  The “I” that does the reflecting can never be reduced to the “me” upon which I reflect.  I think this is similar to what you are saying, but it isn’t exactly the same. 




HFJM: . . .  The question is how phenomenology and physiology fit together.    I suggest that physiology, like all objective knowledge, can and should be seen as a specialization within phenomenology.   The objective method does not have to be subject-exclusive;   its purpose is to minimize subjective bias, not to eliminate subjects.


RWM:  I disagree that physiology either can or should be seen as a specialization within phenomenology.  We probably disagree seriously about the status of phenomenology.  I regard it as a method of describing subjective experience, but I see it as but one method among others.  You seem to see it as the “master method,” “all encompassing,” within which other modes of inquiry are specializations. 




HFJM: For instance visual gestalt-formations prompt the assumption that there are visual MIR-objects.   My position  -  the result of elimination of other possibilities rather than of a leap of faith  -  is that structures, like visual gestalt-formations for instance, are formed with subject-participation in an otherwise unstructured matrix.  


RWM: I agree that knowing subjects participate in the structuring of perceptions, but also contend that the structures of the objects of perception also contribute.  On my desk in front of me is my computer, my printer, several sheets of paper, a book, and a box of facial tissues (aka Kleenex).  They all look different to me, and I am not going to give up my belief that the differences my perceptions of these objects are partially the result of real differences in the structures of these objects.  Those differences are aspects of MIR. 




HFJM:  If you make the leap of faith to MIR, can you explain how you know something that is not in your mind ?    Or to put it the opposite way :  what you know or believe is in your mind and thus is not MIR.


RWM:  You know how we explain this – different wave lengths of light reflected by objects and received by the rods and cones in my eyes, conveyed via optic nerve to the brain, where neural impulses contribute to my structuring of a visual perception.  I affirm both the structured input from the objects and the (tacit or unconscious) structuring that I do.


RWM (old):   You ask if I can explain how I know something that is not in my mind.   By making reasonable judgments.  I don’t think it is reasonable to think that my son, whom I know, is just in my mind.  I don’t think it is reasonable to think that you, whom I know only through electronically mediated strings of words, are just in my mind.  I judge both my son and you to be subjects (and objects), active centers of knowing, choosing, and acting.  


RWM: (new): I also don’t think it is reasonable to think that the different wavelengths of light are inside my eyes, optic nerve, and brain.  My visual apparatus is stimulated by light, and transforms information about my environment into information that allows me to know things about my environment.




[HFJM:]  A problem here is the pre-supposition of an ontological subject-object split.   If we follow Jaspers’ view that the mind encompasses all mental structures, there can be no primary ‘ontic’ differences between inside and outside the mind, only pragmatic ones.    For instance my clothes are a part of me when I wear them but not (or at least less so) when they are stored away.     You are not me  but right now you are in my mind nevertheless.    That does not imply that you are ‘just’ in my mind, which would be solipsism (with an implicit ontological basis).


RWM: If Jaspers’ view necessarily implies the denial of differences between person and environment, then I cannot follow Jaspers’ view.   




HFJM:  0-D structuring means an explicit return to an unstructured origin  (structuring in an unstructured background,  which is similar to  apeiron, tao, nirvana, etc., some of which have a long history of continuous use).   That  makes it clear that we are the ones who produce the structures,  and not some postulated outside authority.   


RWM:  I have two questions about the above argument:  (1) Who are “we?”  You and I were not around at the dawn of the universe to impose structure on the “unstructured origin.”  (2)  Did we (whoever “we” are) also produce the “unstructured origin?” 




Richard W Moodey
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