The Phenomenal World As A Real World

I’m not sure how clear is the background of my posts here. If they make sense or not. So,in risk of repeating myself, here is another attempt to communicate this background more clearly…

Simple picture:

The phenomenal world is a physical world.
They are in relation of subject and predicate. The relation between subject and predicate, is where the subject contains the predicate, but also something more.

Like in “Cow is an animal”. Notion ‘cow’ contains all determinations of ‘animal’, and plus something else. To be a cow is to be an animal, and still to be determined differently.  If by “abstraction” we mean focusing on some part of the thing or notion, and leaving outside others, then ‘animal’ is abstraction from ‘cow’. By ignoring some specifics of what makes a cow, you are left with just a general ‘animal’.

That is what we do in phenomenal world. We put attention on some characteristics and ignore others. We look at the phenomena, and take some of the properties to be dependent on us as observers. Colors, sounds – “they have more to do with our sensory apparatus and our brain, then with the world – remove them from our analysis of the world. We will loose nothing.”. But, in doing that, we are not analyzing any other world then the phenomenal world. We are approaching things in the phenomenal world in order to measure them, put them in furnace, etc… So, the physical world is abstraction of phenomenal world.-  The phenomenal world is a physical world.

Complicated picture:
Usually there is that one assumption which comes along with the analysis of the world in terms of physics, and which can be connected back to Locke and his division to primary/secondary properties. “What we have ignored or abstracted from in the physical world are secondary properties… they are not in the world at all, properly speaking. The world is what our analysis has left.”, says such view, “The physical world, stripped down to its simple multiplicity of particles which behave so and so when they are in some field, is what there is. That world affects our senses, and what we have abstracted from appears only in the mental life.”

In this view, what we call “phenomenal world” is mere construct of our minds. It might be not properly named “phenomenal world” any more, but more likely – “phenomenal experience”.  The first approach to this picture is usually the simple one, where the information from sensory organs is mapped to some kind of sense-data, and everything else in the phenomenal experience we hope to get from mental processes like association. And then it is seen that it won’t do… What is called “Phenomenal experience” is too complex to reduce to that. Now we find in this “phenomenal experience” those things which we abstracted from. But we don’t want to retrace and recheck the assumptions from which we start. We are left in this psychological view of the “phenomenal experience”, in which we now want to put not just simple things that are named “qualia”, but also intentionality, language, other people and their minds – everything that we abstracted. And all that we need to construct on base of brain. And look… there is a gap!

Of course there is a gap! How can there not be a gap, where the phenomenal world is stripped down to its basics and called physical world, and now from its simple notions, which are really a few quantified notions, we need to get to how it was from the start. It is as if we abstracted from two dimensions in three dimensional space as “secondary properties”, and now try to reconstruct them, using just one dimension.

And dualists acknowledging this gap, don’t retrace and check the steps already done, but want to “add” the missing things to the picture. But I think there are two problems.

  • Dualists are trying to “glue” those missing things in the wrong place. They still work in the “phenomenal experience” paradigm. “The real world” is left as it is, cleaned-up to the abstract simplicity of few simple notions.
  • The “gluing” doesn’t quite work anyway. If you can abstract B and C from A, that doesn’t mean that you can just “glue” B and C and get A.

I hope that I succeeded here to communicate at least in part my feel about the weirdness of the picture in which the physical world is not taken for what really is – an abstraction, but as self-subsistent, and indeed is taken as a ground of the phenomenal world from which it was abstracted.

Return to the simple picture:
In my thinking then, we need to give up the paradigm of “phenomenal experience” as a psychological phenomenon. I think that picture is turning everything on its head. We need to give up the picture where this our living in the world falls in the realm of psychology. Instead, I think, we should accept our phenomenal being-in-the-world as a genuine being in the world. A real being, real existence in a real world. A move towards naive realism, if you like.
So, having done this move I guess it makes it clear how phenomenological analysis in this picture should not be seen as psychological analysis, and how we can look in this our being in the world for basis not just of our experiences, but also for base of intentionality, concepts and even physics.