Friday, January 23, 2015

Workshop in Noncorrelationist Phenomenology

"Noncorrelationist Phenomenology"

Leon Niemoczynski
Immaculata University

Workshop Proposal for Pragmatism and Phenomenology: A Two Day Workshop at the Kings University College at Western University, Ontario, Canada

A traditional link between pragmatism and phenomenology is each position's appeal to the immediate and qualitative stream of subjective personal experience in effort to discern either a.) intersubjective features of that experience which are common to other subjective streams of experience or b.) simply to discern aesthetic qualities that are present for the subject experiencing them and to report those experiences for what they are while bracketing further levels of meta-reflection.  In the first case Husserlian phenomenology seems to be a prime example, and in the second case I think the phenomenological pragmatism of William James could be an example.

This workshop seeks to understand yet another and quite different relationship between pragmatism and phenomenology, one that is necessarily non-correlational; that is, one that does not claim that the nature of being or reality and thought always must come as a pair – hence limiting phenomenological inquiry to the realm of a mere descriptive reportage had by the observing subject.  In the pragmatism (and phenomenology) of C.S. Peirce for example, the categories of experience (presumably revealed in Husserl's phenomenological approach and more organically revealed in James' phenomenological approach) are said to be isomorphic to reality itself and thus are claimed not only to transcendentally constitute human experience but any experience whatsoever, for the categories "are" reality's modes of self-constitution.  Thus any categorial description, or better, for Peirce, any categorial exhibition, is not bound to the stream of personal subjective experience for it is in fact reality's self-presentation of its objective modes, whether phenomenological or cosmological.  Thus there is a self-exhibitive display of the real whether there is a human observer or not.  This point is further clarified in Charles Hartshorne's own version of Peirce's non-correlational phenomenology where Hartshorne acknowledges how his own approach to phenomenology is non-Husserlian and thus "eclectic," while he does draw on logic and mathematics (like the early Husserl) in order to make observer-independent claims (something Husserl never acceded to).

In short, then, Peirce's and Hartshorne's ontological categories (there are only three) seem to be able to reach cosmological conclusions.  And because Peirce and Hartshorne both saw phenomenology to be a branch of mathematics - as they thought any branch of philosophy, if it is to reach the real, must draw upon in some way mathematics - it becomes apparent that a mathematical and logical understanding of the phenomenological categories seems to be required.

In order to elucidate these themes we shall explore how Peirce's pragmatism ("pragmaticism" in order to distinguish it from James' version of the outlook) is phenomenologically mathematical and logical in its orientation.  To that end we will read Ketner's "Hartshorne and the Basis of Peirce's Categories."  In order to more concretely draw out the difference of Peirce's outlook from both Husserl's and James' outlooks we consider Hartshorne's extension and revision of Peirce's phenomenology in his "A Revision of Peirce's Categories."  In looking at both of these readings the basis of a "non-correlationist" phenomenology, one that uses ontological (logical and mathematical) categories in order to reach cosmological (metaphysically realist and observer-independent) conclusions should become visible.  As it turns out, the continuity of the personally immediate subjective stream of experience (present in Husserl, James, and also Bergson, for example) yields to a mathematical-logical temporal triad that is the "moding" of reality itself.  I believe that this has important consequences for how we see pragmatism generally.