Manual The Elusiveness of the Ordinary: Studies in the Possibility of Philosophy

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What seems mysterious is how experience could have a phenomenal character at all. The fact that we can also deliberately attend to this character is a secondary matter. This is why I said that the modern notion of consciousness is subtly different from the older one. At this point you may be feeling a bit confused. Surely, even non-introspective consciousness must involve inner awareness of some sort? How could a mental state feel like something if one isn't aware of its feel?

Some philosophers would agree with this, arguing that even non-introspective consciousness involves inner awareness of some sort. But we should not prejudge the issue here. Many writers insist that the phenomenal character of an experience is not an object of awareness at all, but something that accompanies our awareness of other things. When we gaze at a beautiful sunset, they claim, we are aware only of the sunset, but our awareness of it has a certain phenomenal character. As Mark Rowlands puts it, what it is like to undergo an experience is not something of which we are aware, but something with which we are aware Rowlands, , Here is an exercise to help you check your grasp of the distinctions mentioned above.

Unless otherwise indicated, the quotations are taken from the Oxford English Dictionary entry on consciousness. It is only to the consciousness of these evils that knowledge and reflection awaken him F. We class sensations along with emotions, and volitions, and thoughts, under the common head of states of consciousness Thomas Huxley.

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A state is conscious if it has experiential properties. Consciousness is a word used by Philosophers, to signify that immediate knowledge which we have of our present thoughts and purposes, and, in general, of all the present operations of our minds Thomas Reid. When the fever left him, and consciousness returned, he awoke to find himself rich and free Dickens. Content is conscious in virtue of… reaching the Executive system, the system in charge of rational control of action and speech adapted from Block, , These are the only distinctions I shall mention for now. As I explained, our focus in this course will be on state consciousness of the ordinary non-introspective variety — phenomenal consciousness, in Block's terminology.

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About this free course 20 hours study. Level 3: Advanced. Course rewards. Free statement of participation on completion of these courses. Course content Course content. Introducing consciousness This free course is available to start right now. Free course Introducing consciousness. Activity 2 Here is an exercise to help you check your grasp of the distinctions mentioned above. State consciousness phenomenal, non-introspective?

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Introspective consciousness. Creature consciousness. Phenomenal consciousness. Previous 2. Next 3 The elusiveness of consciousness. Print page. Take your learning further Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. Request an Open University prospectus.

OpenLearn Search website Back to top. It is time that we had uncommon schools, that we did not leave off our education when we begin to be men and women. It is time that villages were universities. Shall the world be confined to one Paris or one Oxford forever? Cannot students be boarded here and get a liberal education under the skies of Concord?

Thoreau , ch. It is not a matter of discovering an authentic and original meaning of words, a myth that Wittgenstein unravels in the first lines of The Blue Book. And thus of all the words employed by Thoreau, to which he gives a new sense: morning morning is when I am awakening and there is the dawn in me , the bottom of the pond we do not know what the base is, or the foundation, so long as we have not probed, like Thoreau, the bottom of Walden Pond , the sun a morning star. It is not a matter of discovering an authentic or hidden meaning of words.

Everything is already in front of us, displayed before our eyes: stay to see the visible. Thoreau thus announces, like Emerson, the anthropological project of the Investigations : to see the ordinary, which escaped us because it is near to us, beneath our eyes. What we are supplying are really remarks on the natural history of human beings; we are not contributing curiosities, however, but observations which no one has doubted, but which have escaped remark only because they are always before our eyes.

We have long known that the role of philosophy is not to discover what is hidden, but to render visible what precisely is visible — which is to say, to make appear what is so close, so immediate, so intimately linked to ourselves that, as a consequence, we do not perceive it. Foucault []: It is always an object of investigation — this will be the approach of pragmatism — and an object of interrogation; it is never given. The low always has to be reached, in an inversion of the sublime. The main enterprise of the world for splendor, for extent, is the upbuilding of man.

Here are the materials strewn along the ground Emerson To imagine categories of the ordinary alters the very idea of category. The idea of domestication of culture, of the ordinary as next, as neighbor, is not the idea of mastery of reality — because the ordinary is neither conceptualized nor grasped: it is an understanding of the connection to the world, not as knowledge but as proximity and access to things, as attention to them.

It is not a matter of rewriting the list of categories, but of redefining their use: not as conceptual grasping of reality, but, instead, as neighboring things.

Stanley Rosen the Elusiveness of the Ordinary Studies in the Possibility of Philosophy 2

It is the recognition [of reality] as next to me, near or close, but also separated from me, next door. The revolution achieved by Emerson consists less in a re-definition or redistribution of categories than in a remodeling of what experience is, which continues from James, to Dewey and Goffman. Illusion, Temperament, Succession, Surface, Surprise, Reality, Subjectiveness — these are threads on the loom of time, these are the lords of life. I dare not assume to give their order, but I name them as I find them in my way.

Such is the intellectual revolution brought about by transcendentalism. The transcendental question is no longer: How do we know to start from experience? A question which, since Hume, one knows leads to the response: one knows nothing at all — and thus leads to skepticism. But rather: How do we approach the world? How do we have an experience? Skepticism is found there, in the inability to have an experience. We are not as much ignorant, as inexperienced. William James will follow this thread of Emersonian thought for example in The Will to Believe , Dewey will follow it as well by proposing his own categories, and Wittgenstein probably uses it in his later writings.

Our attempts to master the world and things, in order to grasp them in all senses of the term materially and conceptually distance us from them. It is our desire to grasp reality that causes us to lose it, our craving to know as theoretical appropriation and synthesis that keeps us from ordinary proximity with things, and cancels their availability or their attractiveness the fact that they are at hand, handsome.

Emerson transforms the Kantian synthesis, not by going the transcendental way but the opposite, non romantic way, towards immanence. This surpassing of the synthesis by the low, and not by the high, is characteristic of Emerson and Thoreau. Emerson launches into an ironic recapitulation of Cartesian and Kantian themes from the European theory of knowledge:.

It is very unhappy, but too late to be helped, the discovery we have made, that we exist. That discovery is called the Fall of Man. Ever afterwards, we suspect our instruments. We have learned that we do not see directly, but mediately. The attention to the particular that Wittgenstein demands goes against our tendency toward a thorough grasp. We remind ourselves, that is to say, of the kind of statement that we make about phenomena. The difference with Kant is that, in Wittgenstein and Emerson, each word of ordinary language, each bit of ordinary experience, each aspect of the features of the ordinary, they each require a deduction to know its use: each one must be retraced in its application to the world, by the criteria of its application.

The radical empiricism of Emerson consists in saying that speaking of the given is still too much. This insistence on the accidental, the contingent, situates the ambiguity of Emerson. My perceptions are more reliable than my thoughts; they are fatal, escaping my desire to grasp the world.

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So it is from perception, conceived as attraction and as receptivity, that one will be able to imagine a framework for ordinary experience. Every man discriminates between the voluntary acts of his mind, and his involuntary perceptions, and knows that to his involuntary perceptions a perfect faith is due. The new America is here, in front of me. And it is only in this ordinary world that I can change. Why not realize your world? But far be from me the despair which prejudges the law by a paltry empiricism — […] There is victory yet for justice; and the true romance which the world exists to realize, will be the transformation of genius into practical power.

There are no longer two worlds but only one, which always and ordinarily remains for us to discover and to describe. Starting off is what counts, being always ready to go, not attachment or rootedness, which are synonymous with being stationed, or with clutching, with clenching the nation or oneself. But in truth all is now to be begun, and every new mind ought to take the attitude of Columbus, launch out from the gaping loiterers on the shore, and sail west for a new world. The Senses and the Soul , in Emerson One could explore the political implications of this trust with the question of civil disobedience.

Cavell has applied it in the first place to film and what it teaches us. To be interested in film as works of thought means to be interested in our experience of film. Here is a new reversal of the Kantian inheritance: not to go beyond experience via theory, but to go in reverse from what is, in philosophy, the very movement of knowledge; to go beyond theory via experience.

This is also the definition of ordinary experience for Wittgenstein, and what for Freud, one expects from psychoanalysis to gather and remind, re-allocate — re-member — the scattered scraps and memories of words and uses. Dewey What interests Cavell in film is the way our experience makes what counts emerge, be seen.

Cavell is interested in the development of a capacity to see the importance, the appearance, and the significance of things places, people, motifs :. The moral I draw is this: the question what becomes of objects when they are filmed and screened — like the question what becomes of particular people, and specific locales, and subjects and motifs when they are filmed by individual makers of film — has only one source of data for its answer, namely the appearance and significance of just those objects and people that are in fact to be found in the succession of films, or passages of films, that matter to us.

Cavell, b : If it is part of the grain of film to magnify the feeling and meaning of a moment, it is equally part of it to counter this tendency, and instead to acknowledge the fateful fact of a human life that the significance of its moments is ordinarily not given with the moments as they are lived, so that to determine the significant crossroads of a life may be the work of a lifetime. Cavell, b: To recognize restores, manners, habits, turns of speech, turns of thought, styles of face as morally expressive — of an individual or of a people.

The intelligent description of life, of what matters, makes differences, in human lives. Diamond What is perceived are not objects, but expressions, which is only possible against the background of the form of life. Literature is the privileged place of this perception, through the creation of a background that reveals the important differences between the expressions. Film also for Cavell is the medium of moral expression.

The novel shapes our capacity to read moral expression — the capacity to make use of words to describe moral experience of the particular.

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Therefore the thing is, all beautifully, a matter of interpretation and of the particular conditions; without a view of which latter some of the most prodigious adventures, as one has often had occasion to say, may vulgarly show for nothing. James, Lack of attention to experience, the failure to perceive its importance, causes one to miss out, to miss what happens. The stipulation found in the ethnomethodology will combine the heritage of Wittgenstein, Emerson, and pragmatism: Do not miss out, do not miss the thing for lack of comprehension and sensitivity to the fluctuations of the circumstances of action when it happens.

In experience, there is no separating thought spontaneity and receptivity vulnerability , comprehension and perception. The power to guess the unseen from the seen, to trace the implication of things, to judge the whole piece by the pattern, the condition of feeling life, in general, so completely that you are well on your way to knowing any particular corner of it — this cluster of gifts may almost be said to constitute experience. How are we to know what is important without being focused on only the pertinent? To realize what one wants to say, to be precisely expressed, would be to manage to put the phrase into context.

But in the ordinary there is nothing to recover. I am no longer here where one expects me. The experience of film becomes experience itself as Kant says, there is only one experience , and it belongs to our ordinary existence, without constituting a separate world. Cinematographic projection proves to be the answer, through its mimesis of ordinary conversation, to skeptical questioning, to the philosophical search for adequacy in the world.

The moments of adequacy between an expression and a world that film offers us exist only through the natural expressivity of the ordinary human body. It returns to Cavell to disclose the transatlantic connection hidden between ordinary life, language, and natural expressivity. Conversation in film is bodily expression: Cavell notes that the dialogues of a film cannot be reproduced, and do not give anything when they are spoken except if one speaks about it with somebody who saw the film, returning to a shared experience of the vision of the dialogue.

The conversation is intended to be viewed. So that the difficulty of assessing them is the same as the difficulty of assessing everyday experience, the difficulty of expressing oneself satisfactorily. It is a matter of saying not only what we say, a theme of the common, of agreement, of consent within language; cf. The language of description is then a tool for focusing, associated with agreement and with the perception of the important detail. To say is to perceive.

The enigma of speaking the same language — the uncanniness of the use of ordinary language — is the possibility for me of speaking in the name of others, and vice versa. It is not enough to invoke commonness; it remains to be known what authorizes me to speak, what is the real strength of the agreement. It is what human beings say that is true and false; and they agree in the language they use. That is not agreement in opinions but in form of life.

That means we are not actors of the agreement, that language precedes this agreement as much as it is produced by the latter, and that this same circularity makes the assertion of a primacy of agreement or of human coordination joint attention or common absorption impossible:. We learn and teach words in certain contexts, and then we are expected, and expect others, to be able to project them into further contexts.

Nothing insures that this projection will take place in particular, not the grasping of universals nor the grasping of books of rules […]. It is a vision as simple as it is difficult, and as difficult as it is and because it is terrifying. This attention, centered on failure as much, and even more, than on success, is characteristic of Austin, who will allow the theme of the ordinary to return to America, this time in sociological description.