Transcendence and Meaning

I will try to clear-up my position on some of the questions that came up in connection to my last post, and Peter’s post over at “On Philosophy

1.When talking about intra-subjective transcendence of intentional matter it is about the possibility that one person can intend the same intentional matter in numerically and qualitatively different intentional acts, and the inter-subjective transcendence is about the possibility that it is intended additionally by multiple subjects. This shouldn’t be understood as some kind of division of intentional matter to separate types, specifically intra-subjective transcendence shouldn’t be understood as saying that intentional matter is in the subject vs. inter-subjective transcendence which wouldn’t be. Actually it is the one and the same intentional matter for which possibilities of intra-subjective and inter-subjective transcendence appear, which allows us to think many times about the issue or thing, and then to talk with somebody else about the same thing.

2.The issue of transcendence isn’t same with the issue of meaning (although connected). As argued in last post and other posts (see here for example), meaning is always meaning of something, be it written or spoken word or sentence, or different signs like nod with the head and so on, and implicitly assumes communication. Because of that, “meaning” can’t be used to refer to intentional matter, although what appears as intentional matter might be meaning of some word.
So, I might observe certain person, where the person is intentional matter of my act of observing, but while the person is intentional matter of my intentional acts, the person is not any kind of meaning, though while that person might have a name, which name would mean that person.
So, when talking about meaning we are talking about meaning of sign, and it is always connected to communication between multiple people. Even when I invent new word for something for which there is no word in the language community, it is hard to say that the word has some meaning, until I announce what I will mean by the word (by pointing or by explaining using other words). Also, when we have two persons, and one of them uses the word to mean one thing, and the other some other thing, still both people will assume that they are using the word with the meaning accepted in the language community. Hence, I think it is confusing to use “meaning” to refer to the intentional-matter, or to the inter-subjective or intra-subjective transcendence of intentional matter.
The further example which show that “meaning” isn’t used to refer to intentional acts or to the intentional matter per se, is for example, that we don’t use people who are thinking of something – “What meaning you are thinking of?”; we ask “What do you think of?”, also if somebody claims that he has just remembered something, we don’t ask “What meaning you have remembered?” , instead we ask “What did you remember?”.

3.As for relation of intentional matter and meaning, it seems to me that the later is dependent on the possibility for the former to be inter-transcendental. That’s a point I wanted to make with the story Given in the Woods. When two persons see some strange animal, for which they don’t have words, the first one can ask “What is that?”, only because he assumes that the intentional matter of his observation (namely that animal), is also intentional matter of that other persons observation, so that the intentional matter is inter-subjectively transcendent. If not, he would not ask “What is that?”
And the other way around, I argue that it is not true that inter-subjective transcendence is dependent on concept of meaning or communication (that there can’t be inter-subjective transcendence if there is no language). For example a person can hand me an apple, without her saying anything to me.  I can then take the apple she gives me. And it is the same apple, hence the apple appears as intentional matter in both of us, without there be a need for any language, in which inter-subjective transcendence would be grounded.

Intra-Subjective vs. Inter-Subjective Transcendence

Few notes on the terms used

The “intentional matter” is transcendent (objective) in that that it transcends (keeps its identity) across different varying  properties of the intentional acts, e.g. numerically different acts (i.e. you can think about same thing more then once), qualitatively different acts (you can wish, need, hate, love, or think about the same thing); Also transcends the subjects in that that multiple subjects can think (or have other intentional act) about same intentional matter, which in turn opens possibility for communication about the same intentional matter (if two people can’t think of/about same intentional matter it is hard to see how they will communicate about it). This later transcendence I will call inter-subjective transcendence of intentional matter (transcends the thinking-of of multiple subjects), and the other one intra-subjective transcendence of intentional matter (transcends the different intentional acts of single person). If I also mention objectivity, or objectivity of intentional matter, I would mean same thing as transcendence of intentional matter. Also I might leave out the words “of intentional matter”, and use only transcendence or objectivity to mean transcendence of intentional matter. Both transcendence and objectivity point to the same thing – the disconnectedness  between the  identity of whatever is intentional matter, and the other varying properties of intentional acts, including the identity of the subjects intending.

Relation between intra-subjective and inter-subjective transcendence

First let me put forward the note that it seems obvious to me  that there is no way that inter-subjective transcendence can appear, if we don’t have intra-subjective transcendence, i.e. if I can’t think of same intentional matter multiple times, there is no way that me and somebody else can talk about that certain intentional matter. For even if the person in his answer to my question about X does talk about the same X, if I can’t understand it as being about same X (as it would be a separate intentional act then the one in which I asked about X), there would be no possibility of communication.
Or take a case of learning words in one simple language game – ostensive teaching/training (as in Wittgenstein Philosophical Investigations), where…

teacher’s pointing to the objects, directing the child’s attention to them, and at the same time uttering a word; for instance, the word “slab” as he points to that shape.

And then the teacher can request the child itself to point to the objects when he pronounces some of the words, or alternatively:

…the learner names the objects; that is,he utters the word when the teacher points to the stone

But for this second part to be possible (ignoring the inter-subjective dimension for now), the intra-subjective transcendence has to be there, it must be possible for the child to think of the same intentional matter, be it the stone (reference) or the act of pointing to specific stone (use), when it again hears the teacher utter the same word (of course even the word itself needs to be recognized as the same word).

So to give account of inter-subjective transcendence, we need first to have account of intra-subjective transcendence.

But the reverse doesn’t seem necessary. There is no need to have inter-subjective transcendence, in order to have intra-subjective transcendence. Pythagoras could’ve wondered about the relations of the sides of the right triangles one day, and comprehend the necessity of the relation which we know today as a Pythagorean theorem the next day. And while there being intra-subjective transcendence of intentional matter (namely the relation between the sides of right triangle) he could have failed to communicate it to anyone. In same way I could notice and observe a thing, which I don’t have a word about, nor someone hinted me about existence of such a thing. Of course, in our thought the inter-subjective transcendence is also necessary, but this is not a question if it is or not necessary, but if it is necessary for the intra-subjective transcendence.

Sometimes this asymmetric relation between inter-subjective and intra-subjective transcendence/objectivity is unnecessarily complicated by talking about meanings; and by talking about meanings implicitly the inter-subjective dimension is added, as meaning is something which is meant by something else. Only a sign – word spoken, written, a nod or shaking the head, pointing with the finger, laughing and so on… can mean something; but what those mean is not because of that meaning per se – it doesn’t fall into some realm of meanings. That which is meant (which is signified) is the other thing (other then the sign), which happens to be in relation of meaning. So for example, “tree” can mean tree, but tree is not because of that a meaning per se. It is intentional matter.

Anyhow, it seems to me that this asymmetric relation hints that inter-subjective transcendence is grounded in the intra-subjective transcendence.

My objectivity

On the start of this post, let me try to remove one possibility of misunderstanding of what I mean by term “my objectivity”. Objectivity (or transcendence of intentional matter) here is used to refer to the possibility for same intentional matter, to be intended by multiple subjects in multiple intentional acts,with possibly different intentional quality. So, here I speak about the possibility me (yes – me, right here), to be intentional matter of multiple intentional acts of different people (subjects), whatever the intentional quality is (love, hate, listening to, observing, and so on). Of course, there is nothing special about me, but as I’m myself, “me” will refer to me; however I take this to be general analysis that can be done and understood by anyone.

Specifically “my objectivity” isn’t meant to refer to any my property of being objective in my stances towards some issues (that I’m unaffected by emotions, prejudices and so on), i.e. the way it it is used in the sentences “I can’t be objective about her flaws, I love her.”, or “He doesn’t have any reason not to be objective about this”, and so on…

It is possible for me to communicate to other people about me. For example one might observe me, think that I don’t look well, ask me “How do you feel?”, and I can check how I feel and answer “I am not feeling very well today. I have a headache.”. In most cases this is not confusing at all, but what makes it interesting, is that this says:

I am to my self, what I am to others.

It might sound weird, but think about it… if I for me, was not the same thing that you are referring to when in talking to me you use “you“, then there couldn’t be possibility to communicate.

This isn’t specific just for communication though. There is also possibility for another person to look at me, or merely be aware of me. Two persons need to be aware of each other and this awareness of other in most cases is established before there is any communication.

Again to avoid misunderstanding, let me say two things:
First, I want to accentuate the word “possibility” in previous sentences. As it doesn’t mean that the communication has to be, or is necessary ‘happy’ (to use J.L.Austin word), but that it is possible to be. The possibility here is acknowledged through negating the necessity of the miscommunication, i.e. that never in principle there can be communication between me and other people about me.
And second this issue is separate for the issues of knowledge/accessibility to myself – if it is in principle possible for you to know if there is me (for example this could be written by unconscious computer, or you might just be dreaming this), or how and if our access to how I feel today, or if my hair is messed up (first person for me, and third person to you) differ.

My objectivity is of course unconnected to my existence, as  objectivity/transcendence is unconnected to existence in general. When I die, my close ones might think or refer to me, even I ceased to exist. And when do, they will think or refer to this same me.

Are things and states of affairs ruled by laws of logic?

I posted a comment at Postmodernism and Reality post at
As I what said there connects nicely to previous post Existence and Transcendence, I will also post the comment here:

If we imagine reality as a state of affairs (or even “dynamics of affairs”), really one can’t see what it would mean for the rules of logic to be applied to it. State of affairs is merely that – state of affairs.
Laws of logic on other side are something that is connected to propositions, and propositions consist of objective meanings which while might be about the real world, are made possible only for a conscious being which first abstracts – breaks apart the state of affairs to some entities (which of course are not real – the entities can’t exist as abstract entities), and then tries to synthesize back the “situation” by putting those abstractions in some kind of objective relations or assigns objective properties to those entities.

So, it is not that the state of affairs somehow is “ruled” by the rules of logic. It is that if we imagine (factual) state (or dynamics) of affairs, it can’t be that both proposition A, and its negation for example can be true about it.

–end of what I commented there–

The rules and propositions are always about abstractions. The abstractions are based on the existing/concrete, but existing/concrete doesn’t exist qua abstraction. And because abstractions are based on existing/concrete, their truth comes from the existing/concrete they cover (actually or potentially). For more discussion of how abstractions can be related actually or potentially, and still be based on concrete, see the posts on the Post Threads page, under “Abstraction and Given” column.

This post talks about logical laws, but I believe that it is the same with all laws which can be based on abstractions – like mathematical laws. For example there might be state of affairs, and we abstract from it that it is “three apples”. But on the same state of affairs we can abstract two apples and one other apple. But that doesn’t mean that things and states (dynamic) of affairs are ruled by laws of math (e.g If you add one apple to two apples you will get three apples).

I would go as far as to say that I believe that physical laws (as necessary and transcendental) to be of same nature, but I won’t :)

Distinguishing Transcendence and Existence in Frege/Husserl

As addition to what I’ve argued  in previous post (also see the connected thread on Abstraction and Given), here are quotes by but Frege and Husserl  arguing that objectivity doesn’t entail existence/actuality.

From The Frege Reader, Michael Beaney (ed.), p96 (about The Foundations of Arithmetic)

Frege distinguishes what is objective (objectiv) from what is actual (wirklich), the later being the handleable (handgreflich), or spatial (räumlich), such that what is actual is only part of what is objective. Both the axis of the Earth and the centre of mass of the solar system are objective, but they are not actual like the Earth itself.

And Husserl explains that just because we think of something, it doesn’t mean that we should think that what we think of, has some intra-mental existence.

To assume that the intentional object is act-immanent, that is actually contained in the intention and therefore in possession of the same mode of being as the experience itself, leads to a rejection of the categorical distinction between act and object. That such a distinction does exist is easy to illustrate. (Hua 19/385)…  (From Husserl’s Phenomenology, Dan Zahavi, p.15)

For what he means by “easy to illustrate”, see this post.

In this way Husserl shows that also we shouldn’t use the word “existence” for the objects of intention in some
different mode, e.g. “exist as thought”. That is… The thought about something exists, but the object of intention is not part of the thought.

Existence and Transcendence

This post was inspired by the post over at Philosophy, et cetera discussing the question of what is that “fundamental existence” of which philosophers speak when they are arguing if chairs fundamentally exist or not. Thinking of what that existence might be, I ended up writing my thoughts on existence, which I think might clear up the issue, while I’m not sure if it has any value in the discussion opened there.

First, to raise the issue of existence, we necesseraly need to talk about some thing to start with. We always talk about existence of something.
When we say that “Santa doesn’t exist”, that doesn’t mean that there is such thing as Santa just because we mention Santa, and because we talk about Santa. But it is also true that Santa has to have objective meaning, it has to refer to something objective, as if it doesn’t the proposition “Santa doesn’t exist” can’t have truth value. So “objectivity” and “existence” should be distinguished. By objectivity I mean the kind of objectivity of the terms which is established through critiques of psychologism by Frege and Husserl. (In short the issue of objectivity, is issue of transcendence, and even intersubjective transcendence… i.e. – how come it is possible to think about same thing in different times, and even multiple people to think and talk about same thing?)

So, we can agree for example that numbers are objective/transcendental (and not psychological events of some kind) entities. Because numbers are objective, there are objective truths about numbers. “1+1=2” is objective truth, “there is no biggest integer” is objective truth, and so on…

But if we are raising the issue of existence, or non existence of the objective thing, it means that the existence doesn’t belong to that objective something of which we talk. Or, to say it differently, if there was some property of existence which would belong to those things, then their existence wouldn’t be issue. This is what I think Kant’s “existence isn’t predicate” refers to.

So, the objective/transcendental can’t exist qua objective. What exist is concrete, and when wondering about the existence of the objective, that is the issue at hand, if there is concrete such that it can be further determined as that objective.
So we could say that numbers don’t exist qua numbers, 9 don’t exist as 9, there is no concrete 9 qua 9, but there exist concrete number of planets in the Solar system, which can be determined to be 9. Blue doesn’t exist as blue, there is no concrete blue out there, but there exist concrete color of my shirt, which can be determined to be blue, etc…
So, while we can agree that numbers don’t exist as numbers (e.g. there is no number 9 that exists as number 9), that colors don’t exist qua colors (there is no blue color that exists as blue color); we can ask if there is such things which can be determined as certain number (number of planets in Solar system), and if there exist things which are blue.

This of course is more problematic to accept in case of names. Isn’t it weird to accept that “Nothing exist qua Earth, but there might be a concrete thing which can be determined as Earth”?. Doesn’t “Earth” mean that concrete thing? It does… it means that concrete thing which is determined as “Earth” ,and which we happen to believe that exist. But doesn’t mean the concrete thing exists qua Earth.
It is possible to say “Earth doesn’t exist”, and even imagine it to be true. Example would be the case in which Vogon spaceship destroyed the Earth to build a hyper-space bypass. Earth wouldn’t exist in such case, but proposition “Earth doesn’t exist” will be true. For the proposition to have truth value, “Earth” would still need to have objective meaning, and it is for sure the same meaning it had while the Earth existed. So meaning of “Earth” is not at all changed by the fact that some concrete object is destroyed.
If you think that this is merely temporal issue, we could imagine The Matrix scenario, placed on the planet Kagiroino-Oka. Within the Matrix we might live on planet Earth, however it would be true that Earth doesn’t exist. There is just virtual-Earth in the matrix. But if that scenario is the case, “Earth” would mean same thing that it means now. “Earth doesn’t exist” would refer to same Earth. So meaning of Earth is “untouched” by the issue of existence of thing which can be determined as Earth.

Additional argument that the concrete thing doesn’t exist qua Earth, even if we put aside the argument that existence doesn’t enter the meaning of Earth, is that there are much more truth about whatever is concrete thing which is Earth, then its being Earth. We can investigate Earth, we can measure it, and in general we can learn facts about it – about the concrete thing which is determined as Earth. If we learn new things, we can’t say that the meaning of Earth changes. So again, we see that the concrete thing, and what Earth means are separate.

To give proper account, we need to analyze this distinction of objective and existing, we need to see what constitutes objectivity (transcendence), and what is its relation to concrete, i.e. how is it possible for concrete to be objective – because while objective can’t exist qua objective, concrete can exist as being something objective (as rabbit, chair, Earth and so on).  Threads of posts in which I try to discuss those issues on this blog can be found here.

What I take to be the grounds of Philosophy

If one needs to point to a central issue in philosophy, if one needs to use just one word to say what philosophy is about, it has to be – comprehension. As, if one removes comprehension, the philosophical questions and philosophical answers, philosophical discussions and everything philosophical looses sense… The questions make sense just if comprehended, the answers are good only if comprehended, the philosophical method or inquiry also need to be understood and comprehended. (BTW, the way I use “comprehend” here is roughly synonymous with “understand”. No fancy theoretical accounts or meanings.)

The comprehension is important on two levels. First the comprehension of Other, comprehension of what are people, asking, saying or wondering. But that comprehension is seen just as a way to the overall-comprehension, some ideal of comprehending everything that needs to be comprehended by philosophy.

Having put the central issue of philosophy as comprehension, we can put limits on what philosophy can allow, and what should be marked as inappropriate to it.

As one, for something to be comprehended, it must be brought clearly in front of the awareness. In such way philosophy is intimately bounded to consciousness and to awareness, and to the issue of what we can be aware of.

Because of this, I think critical stance towards our mental powers of awareness is needed, questions like ‘what are types of things we can be aware of?’, ‘how do we become aware of things?’ need to be asked. Those issues should be first explored, so that we are sure that the tower which is built has stable basis.

I’m repeating I think the words of Kant, who was saying that the powers of the mind has to be critically assessed before any metaphysics is built, but in my own opinion Kant failed to be critical enough. He took the terms such as “mind”, “objects”, “reality” in their common-sense usage in the society in which he was raised, and worked with them, without getting into inquiry into what he means by those words.

Or to put it another away, so it connects to the start of this post, one must get to this question…

    -What is that which I’m aware of, and to which those words I use relate?

That is the stance the philosophy must make. I have to become aware of what each of the words I use (to speak about philosophy) refers to, and there has to be this possibility of comprehension, as otherwise (if the meanings of the words are something which can’t be comprehended), the proper critique of the grounds of philosophy can’t be made. Even if what one says ostensibly makes sense, if such critique is not done first, the sense will be there limited by the society, in which one is born, or by the paradigm through which one have learned things.

Does this mean that we should avoid the words as they are connected to the paradigms/society? No! Philosophers can’t accept that. If one takes the meanings of the words to be based in the unconscious otherness, one gives up the philosophical work from very start.

We must assume that what the words relate to, what the words mean, is accessible to the consciousness, and even if the meaning is connected to the society or paradigm, it is the work of the philosopher to comprehend those meanings as such.

Such philosophy, as a comprehension, is in that way possible only under such conditions. Not accepting those conditions is not philosophy, it is giving up.

Red Riding Hood in-the-world

Usually imagination is considered as ultimately subjective thing, that what is imagined doesn’t belong to the world, but exists just as some purely mental-thing.
But on other side imagination as the other mental acts shows as being towards transcendental objects – We can imagine same thing multiple times, or we can talk with other person about the same imaginary thing.

So what is imagined can’t be fully subjective.

To figure out how this can be, we might think of situations where the children are encountering (their) imagination, and in which might notice it as specific mental act (of imagination). I can think of few such scenarios possible in early years. Of course the list is not in any way systematic…

Expectation… this is the earliest type of imagination I can imagine (no pun intended)…
I see it in really early ages of kids, and makes it possible to
make them laugh doing silly things, like crouching behind the couch
hiding from their view, and then jumping. I guess they laugh at my
stupidity doing such meaningless acts. Expectation doesn’t require language. Of course, sometimes they want you to repeat the act, so they make some sounds… until you do it again… And again… And again… They are never satisfied. In the expectation, they see more in the situation then there is “physically“. E.g. they expect the jump – they wait for it. There in front of them, in the world.

Playing with toys… Seeing in the toys more then there is (physically). Pushing toy cars around, also hitting the ball. Those things are seen as part of the potential of the thing, the ball is hittable, the toy-car is pushable, etc.. This possibilities are there in the toys for the kid. This also doesn’t require language.

Stories… about what has happened, really or not. To me, to Little Red Riding Hood,  or to Harry Potter. This is as much about imagination as about language. Hard to divide. Language is not possible without imagination it seems, and stories without language. But in any case, the person who tells the story is in the world, and the words are in the world, the Little Red Riding Hood is also imagined in the world… noticing, moving, talking. Where can she watch, move, talk if not while (imagined as) being-in-the-world.

Promises… about what will happen.  To the kid if he does his homework. Or that he can play on the computer tomorrow. Again, not possible without language. Surely connected to expectations. They are also about the world. They happen or don’t in the world.

Frege’ and Husserl’s attack on psychologism

Here are few Husserl’s quotes where he attacks the idea that meanings of sentences, or other intentional experiences like thinking or knowing something can be explained through psycho-physical processes…

The fundamental mistake of pscyhologism is that it does not distinguish correctly between the object of knowledge and the act of knowing. Whereas the act is a psychical process that elapses in time and that has a beginning and an end, this does not hold true for the logical principles or mathematical truths that are known (Hua 24/141).
When one speaks of a law of logic or refers to mathematical truths, to theories, principles, sentences, and proofs, one does not refer to a subjective experience with a temporal duration, but to something atemporal, objective and eternally valid. Although the principles of logic are grasped and known by consciousness, we remain conscious of something ideal that is irreducible to and utterly different from the real psychical acts of knowing…

And further…

Regardless of how frequently one repeats the theorem of Pythagoras, regardless of whom it is that thinks it, or where and when it happens, it will remain identically the same, although the concrete act of meaning will change in each case (Hua 19/49,97-98)

But this is not true just in case of the abstract objects. It shouldn’t be thought that is true just for the case of the abstract (or purely logical, depends who you ask) entities like in mathematics…

The very possibility of repeating the same meaning in numerically different acts is in itself a sufficient argument to refute psychologism as a confusion of ideality and reality.
If ideality were really reducible to or susceptible to the influence of the temporal, real, and subjective nature of the psychical act, it would be impossible to repeat or share meaning, just as it is impossible to repeat a concrete psychical act the moment it has occurred, not to speak of sharing it with others. But if this really were the case, scientific knowledge as well as ordinary communication and understanding would be impossible. (Hua 18/194)

The quotes are taken from the Dan Zahavi’s book “Husserl’s Phenomenology” 2003, p9,10. Hua means Husserliana, and the numbers are: volume number/page(s).

Of course Husserl was not alone in attacking psychologism. Frege did similar attacks, and even attacked Husserl of relying on psychologism in his “Philosophie der Arithmetik”. There are some doubts if that attack was in place, or if it really was the critique which turned Husserl away from psychologism,  but what is important is that both philosophers came to consider psychologism as wrong.

Here is one example of Frege’ attack the idea that math can be reduced to psychology:

…arithmetics has nothing to do with sensations. Just as little has it to do with mental images, compounded from the traces of earlier sense impressions. The fluctuating and indeterminate nature of these forms stands in stark contrast to the determinate and fixed nature of mathematical concepts and objects…psychology should not suppose that it can contribute anything at all to the foundation of arithmetic…
The description of the origin of an idea should not be taken for a definition, nor should the account of the mental and physical conditions for becoming aware of a proposition be taken for a proof… otherwise we would end up finding it necessary to take account of the phosphorous content of our brain in proving Pythagoras’ theorem, and astronomers would shy away from extending their conclusions to the distant past, for fear of the objection ‘You reckon that 2 x 2 = 4 held then; but the idea of number has a development, a history! One can doubt whether it had reached that stage by then.. Might not the creatures living at that time have held the proposition 2 x 2 =5?…’ (The foundations of Arithmetic, Frege Reader, Michael Beaney (Ed.), 1997, p87,88)

Link to a page which tells much more then this post

Connected posts:
Mont Blanc is too high to fit in my head
What “meaning” means?

Noticing the people notice things we notice

When grown up person puts his attention to philosophical problems, he starts from a developed theoretical view of the world. Also that person puts his attention to problems which are metaphysical or epistemological, ignoring the whole from which he starts his philosophical discourse.

The philosophy soon figures out that it needs some kind of base, a sure beginning, a set of concepts and/or facts that will serve as a  ground of the philosophy.

In last few post, I was presenting the case that being in-the-world, and noticing of things in that world, present a necessary base for philosophical discourse… I’m arguing that the history of anything that “goes on in our head” can be traced back to the noticing of things in the world around us. For sure noticing things in the world, don’t cover the whole issue of epistemology, probably not even just a bit. But this phenomenological base, seems to me, must be accepted. I guess, I need to make additional notice, that when I speak of being in-the-world, I’m talking of phenomenal world, of the world as it is there around us, not any imagined principles of how the world really is.

It might seem at first, that the being in-the-world, and noticing things present not complex enough ground to account for all abstract thought that is obviously possible, be it logic, mathematics, metaphysics even epistemology itself. But let me try to explain why do I think that it is…

As first, we notice things around us. It is not important for now, what makes them objects, nor what makes us notice them. What is important that they must be noticed in order to enter our thought process.
But we notice people too, and we notice that those people can

  • notice us
  • notice other objects we notice
  • interact with us, and those other objects

In this way we notice being together-in-the-world, with other people. They can notice things we notice, and we can notice each other too, and we can notice what others do in the world. Further we don’t notice people as objects, they are active subjects, and further we notice their mental states. The recognition of those mental states in others might be even primarily connected to our own emotions, be it fear, happiness, in direct relation to others, or jealousy for example, when the connection includes the others and also objects. Those are things which can be analyzed in the phenomenology.

However, what is important, is that being in-the-world and noticing things in that world can present base of transcendental inter-subjectivity. What is enough is that notice that other people notice things we notice… (to be continued)

Things that are easy to miss

There are things in our perception which attract our attention, and there are also things on which we can end-up being focused on through some kind of willful action (putting our attention to something).

All those things are things that we notice.

We can involuntarily fall into a specific stance towards the things we notice (even we don’t recognize them from before). Children can be attracted toward a thing (e.g. want to look at it, or want to touch it, etc…), or can be afraid of the thing, or interested about the thing, and so on. The stance/feeling toward a thing can provoke reaction on our part and so on… This is simplest case of intentionality/aboutness.

In last post I said that the things which attract our attention and their recognition present a ground for the base level instances and categories. However in general everything that we can notice enriches that same base level of instances and categories we are aware of.

So while a rabbit can attract our attention, we can notice rabbit’s ears too, also its fur. We can notice also such things as a distance between the rabbit and the carrot. We can notice also the number of rabbits (e.g. one, two or three) ,and we can notice the color of the rabbit, and so on… All those things enrich the base level of instances and categories. (as said in last post, for there to be categories, additional capacity of recognition should be present too)

Notice 1: Important question here is how come we notice things that don’t attract our attention.

Notice 2:For thing to attract our attention, it doesn’t need to have mental powers over us :). It is when one starts from representationalist/conceptualist point of view, that “X can attract my attention” will sound like “X have powers to dangle with what is going on in my head”

The given in the woods

A picture that contains two greens circles can obviously contain difference, one that we don’t have ready abstractions for, i.e. we can’t say how are two greens different. But this is not something unique in cognition. Imagine following…

Michael and Ethan were going through the woods. While they talked, suddenly something moved on the path in front of them, and attracted their attention. They had brief glance at it, before it disappeared between the trees.

    –What was that?

Michael raised his shoulders, and continued with his discontinued sentence.
Later he told his kid about the encounter in the woods.

    –What kind of animal was it?
    -I don’t know.
-said him. –But it was this high, it had brown skin, and big eyes.

Few days after, Michael took his kid for a walk, and while they were walking, something attracted their attention.

    –Is that the animal you saw the other day?
    –No, that is something different.
    -But you said it was that big, brown and had big eyes.
    -Right, but that is not the same animal. It was different

Just as Michael said that, something else attracted their attention…

    –That’s the one we saw! – he announced to his child.


So in this case, we have a situation where

  • something was given to Michael and Ethan (it attracted their attention)
  • Michael recognized difference between what he saw, and what he later saw, based not on abstract things (all the things he could specify about the animal1 were same with that other animal2)

Note:What (I think) is important in this example is that the whole noticing/recognizing of the thing (animal) is done without need for some theoretical understanding of the world. But that will be subject of another post.

Inter-subjectivity in 3 pictures

I’m having hard-time understanding transcendental inter-subjectivity. I take it for granted that the phenomena/noumena distinction is unreasonable, mostly on the base that if everything that we think of (that can be given to us) must be given through receptivity (hence through phenomenal a priori forms of space and time), and further understood by concepts which fall under phenomenal a priori categories, the noumena becomes empty word, something that doesn’t refer to anything. And of course if there is no noumena, there is not mush sense to have any distinction of noumena/phenomena, neither to have concept of phenomena if its value is to be just what it is against the noumena.

So in yet another attempt to understand it, I invited two models to my studio… Meet Madison and Abigail.

Madison is to the left. She likes drawing, has green dress and red hair; Abigail is to the right, she likes playing a piano, has blue dress and blond hair.

In the Kantian picture, when those two models look at each other (as they do in the above picture), there are in fact two minds with their own and separate from each others phenomenal worlds.

Picture 1:
Madison looks at Abigail in the toy-world              
Picture 2:
Abigail looks at Madison in the toy-world

In this kind of view, everything is duplicated… There is one table in the phenomenal world of Madison, and one separate table in the phenomenal world of Abigail. There is one Madison (self) in the phenomenal world of Madison, and yet another separate Madison in the phenomenal world of Abigail.

But neither Madison, nor Abigail (nor me looking at them) experience the world in such way. In fact, they have experience of being in the same world with each-other. When Madison looks at Abigail, it is THAT Abigail within her experience, that is looking back to her. But in Kantian picture, that isn’t so, in fact Abigail has separate phenomenal world, and she is looking just at Madison.
So, the world as it is given to us, and on which we build our language and semantics, does not agree with Kantian theory. To accept that theory we must throw away the world as it is given in our experience, but if we throw away that, there is nothing left that Kantian theory is supposed to explain. Further then that this kind of Kantian picture goes against the arguments as the one given here and here.

So this transcendental inter-subjectivity, this being in the world with others, seems to be reasonable ground for our experiences, and indeed unavoidable one. But then… don’t we loose the fabulous explanations from Kant for our intuitive knowledge, don’t we loose the ground for approaching the reality with our reason?

Intersubjectivity and Direct Reference

Perception makes sense only as, and is a subjective view of the world from given point of view. Implicitly it posits the possibility of subjects which have different perspectives of the same world.

As such we have situation that in subjective perception there are posited things which transcend the subjective points of view, and transcend the points of view of all possible subjects, (including the possibility of such subjects). Of course that should maybe not be surprising, as anything transcendental, including math, geometry, logic, and so on, as presented by Kant, will be such only as going over the limits of the subjective.

This situation opens the possibility for communication of multiple subjects about the world and about their ideas, in the way we experience it every day… as talking about the same things. That is, it opens the possibility for direct reference through language.

But this doesn’t mean that we can abstract from everything that contributes to this possibility, and think that there is nothing but the language and the reference. Ignoring the base which makes this kind of referencing possible, will create problems when one will try to consider deeper problems of metaphysical or epistemological nature.

Note 1:Of course possibility of illusion is still there, so what looks like another subject to us might not be having perception, might not be “proper” subject, but just behave like one. For example, it might be unconscious AI, as in the Turing Test. But as noted in previous post, possibility of illusion is included in the semantics of perception.