Saturday, January 31, 2009

Philosophy 118: 23 January 2009

These notes were taken from my class with Dr. Reyes for Philosophy 118 last 23 January

.:An Introduction To Husserl (1859-1938):.

Compared to Nietzsche and Marx, Husserl and Wittgenstein are more technical than experiential. As such, we have a hard time finding an insight into the matter at hand since there isn't a ready jumping point for us to organize our thoughts from.

Husserl was born in Czechoslovakia, as part of the Austrian Empire. As a mathematician, he ended up philosophizing about the question: if we say 1 + 1 is 2, whose authority dictates it to be necessarily 2?

Before Husserl, the traditional philosophical method is metaphysical or ontological. There was a certain hierarchical structure of minerals, plants, animals, and man for Aristotle. Aquinas added the elements of angels and God beyond man. You start from observation of being, and then through metaphysical inference, you can conclude about the very nature or essence of the matter.

Each of the first four elements, for Aristotle, is composed of “matter”. The kind of “stuff” that can be organized in a more or less complex manner. The organization allows it to support a lower or a higher form. Minerals support only those that tend to go down (earth and water) and those that tend to go up (fire and air). Plants can support nourishment, growth, and reproduction. Animals, on the other hand, have all these, as well as sense perception. Man, would have all the previous in possession, but because of his form, he would also possess reason, language, and humor.

All four segments of being can degrade or upgrade, depending on the situation. When man dies, he erodes into minerals. Yet when man eats a salad, the plant becomes incorporated into the man as well.

For Aquinas, the extension to angels is that they are pure form. As such, each angel is a form in itself. God, on the other hand, is pure Existence. All Being is a combination of form and matter (essence) with existence. As such, God is not with essence, but pure Existence.

But is this the study of reality itself? Is a metaphysical inference of a particular being truly an analysis of reality? Do we know anything about a cow when we say that its reality is its “cowness”? Or is this not merely pedantic wordplay?

For the scientists, the study of reality is, if not taxonomic, purely atomistic. You know the reality of a cow not by metaphysical inferences, but precisely what a cow is made up of: atoms, particles, waves, molecules, and so forth.

At the onset of Nazism, Husserl understood that this is not what the reality ought to be. He is calling for a return to consciousness. What distinguishes man from other beings is consciousness.

For Husserl, at the center is consciousness, and everything else is from the point of consciousness. After all, man is consciousness seeking meaning, an absolute. The metaphysicians were alarmed by the seeming anthropocentric tendencies of this approach, yet Husserl merely pointed out that has this not always been the case?

But what of being in itself? Is it not the case that someone always has to acknowledge what this being manifests itself to be? When a metaphysician says that they access the viewpoint of absolute consciousness of being in itself, how did they access such an absolute consciousness in the first place? Is this not dangerous? We cannot access God's point of view. Any aspirations to this is an act of self-delusion.

When a phenomenologist says there is “no being as such”, it is an acknowledgement of the human consciousness' limitations. Let God worry about *His* own consciousness, let man worry about his.

.:Quotable Quotes:.

“If I give a class a slew of F's, I end up asking, 'is this class really that stupid?'”

- Dr. Reyes

“You know, man, you, I, are made up of some of these chemicals (points to Periodic Table). Given the opportunity, I can break up your body and analyze it into chemicals, and if we sold the chemical components of man, it would be worth about two hundred pesos of chemicals...”

- Dr. Reyes's Late Chemistry Professor Colleague

“But man embraces woman! Why do we need to change the subject name?”

- A Dutch Jesuit protesting the change from Philosophy of Man to Philosophy of the Human Person in the Wake of the Feminist Movement

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