We know there was a time when no form of subjectivity existed, and we know there was a subsequent time in which subjectivity did exist. The question is, how can we describe the gap between these two times? How, and on what basis, can we think the time of the emergence of subjectivity? The Scylla any answer to this question faces is that any description of pre-subjective time is always thought from within subjectivity, or from within what I will call a correlational form. This problem would indict any such description as either dogmatically metaphysical or as a performative contradiction (i.e. to think where one is not). The Charybdis is the possibility of a positivist neurological or eliminative reductionism, in which subjectivity is eliminated altogether. With the elimination of subjectivity comes the elimination of phenomenal appearance and any kind of normative structure, which would produce its own form of performative contradiction (i.e. to insist on the truth of eliminativism after having eliminated truth and falsity).
In order to think the time of the emergence of correlational forms, we have the necessities to think where one is not and to maintain a distinction between truth and falsity. The project is an attempt to describe a correlational form that can fulfill both requirements.
Maurice Merleau-Ponty argues for three broad theses. First, perception depends on a unity of form and content, or in other words, that the essence of a thing is inseparable from the appearance of the thing. Second, perception, rather than being a transcendental act of synthesizing disparate qualities into a single whole, is based on our bodily interaction with the world. Finally, it is our experience of art (broadly construed) that teaches us to acknowledge this embodied perception of unified form and content.
This is the reading for Saturday, June 15th’s meeting. As usual, we will meet at 4:00 in the Dunkin Donuts meeting room outside exit 6 of Gangnam Station.
Sellars argues that there are two competing images humans have of themselves and the world. The manifest image tell us that the world really is the way it appears; the world is explainable as a series of empirically perceivable, manifest objects. Humans are explainable through perceivable psychological objects such as thoughts, desires and beliefs. The scientific image, on the other hand, insists that the world is not the way it appears. Rather than the world being a series of basically perceivable objects like tables, the real truth of the world is that these perceivable, manifest objects are underlaid by unperceived objects that we theoretically postulate: atoms, or super strings, or something else. As for the human, rather than being fundamentally explainable via perceptible thoughts and intentions, it is actually a neurophysiological system. Sellars believes that these two competing images can actually be brought together in a synoptic image.
Wilfred Sellars says that philosophy has been used for two different purposes in its history. In his time and place, it was largely used for the analysis of what has already been given – for example, the dissection of language and experience. However, philosophy has a more important job: synthesis. Philosophy’s aim is to understand how things – from numbers and kings to duties and death – hang together. What is characteristic of philosophy is not a special subject matter, but a knowing one’s way around with respect to all the special disciplines such as biology and chemistry. It is the “eye on the whole” which distinguishes the philosophical enterprise. The search for unity is not about unifying various fields such as aesthetics and ethics, but rather of two complete images of how humans view themselves: the manifest image (MI) and the scientific image (SI).