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Husserl Cartesian Mediations, Meditation II, § 2 , pg. 52, note #1

“The first procedure in Meditations I-IV is to awaken the guiding thought: The world is a meaning, an accepted sense. When we go back to the ego, we can explicate the founding and founded strata with which that sense is built [u]p [den Fundierungs- aufbau], we can reach the absolute being and process in which the being of the world shows its ultimate truth and in which the ultimate problems of being reveal themselves bringing into the thematic field all the disguises that unphilosophical naiveté cannot penetrate.”
This is a response to the Partially Examined Life's discussion of Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy.

The Facebook jocularity has been stripped out.

An aphorism in Beyond Good and Evil sums up the relevance of Nietzsche's thoughts on tragedy to his view of God and of the world.

 #150:  "Around the hero, everything turns into tragedy; around the demi-god, into a satyr-play; and around God -- what? -- perhaps into 'world'?"

N.'s ability to pack so much rhetorical punch in an aphorism is really impressive. There is this three stage scheme, with two terms in each stage. The terms have a relationship with each other, & with later developments of those terms. The first two stages set up parallel trajectories of changes in value. Taking the movement of the aphorism as a whole, it effects a transition from commentary on a literary form to a questioning of the world-picture in which Nietzsche finds himself. The leap in scale from consideration of very specific literary forms to a consideration of the performance that contains everything is vertiginous. It serves, also, to reduces a boundless totality of everything to something temporary, limited, and aesthetic.

There is a transvaluation of values in this passage. It begins with the pairing of a kind of character and a surrounding fiction. There is a singular mortal and the everything around that mortal is tragedy (highly valued in Nietzsche's aesthetics). In the next pairing, a semi-divine human (killable, but capable of apotheosis) is surrounded by a chorus of satyrs on a humorous, wild adventure. The next pairing surrounds a (the?) ultimate divinity with a setting that is a not normally classed among the genres of performance.  "Everything" is the place wherein a performance takes place and where spectator and performer take up their positions. The everything of metaphysics encompasses the undifferentiated mass of physical processes, enduring laws and a transcendent dimension (hopefully). But the totality of physical stuff, possesses none of the grandeur and profundity of tragedy or the spirit and energy of a satyr-play.

Nietzche sets up an ascending sequence that culminates in divinity. Parallel to that he has a descending sequence dissolving into mere world. The more divinity, the less profound the spectacle. He leads the reader think of the ultimate divinity as just one more in a sequence of fictional protagonists. And to think of the world that both contains me and which I apprehend, as one more genre of performance, and a dubious scare-quoted one at that. The sequence appears first as a story of decline. But then it ends with me, the reader, outside of the world looking at it as one more performance. I've gone from considering the intense main event, the pleasant after piece, and then this questionable diversion named the 'world.' God is just one more fictional character in one more type of performance. Other protagonists and other performances are possible.

What I first took as a dismal spectacle of a hypertrophy of abstraction simultaneous with a decline in dramatic intensity actually opened the possibility of stepping outside of the framework in which I had conceived things.
Antigone and Creon are, for Hegel, restricted to citing and repeating the pronouncements of the powers who structrure their ethical world. Neither can say where they begin or if they will end. They are unable to take up a position from which to regard their situation, they are immersed in it.

Their perspective (or lack of same) is utterly different from the subject-centred thinking of modernity. Consider this passage from Husserl's Cartesian Meditations.

"The Ego can be concrete only in the flowing multiformity of his intentional life, along with the objects meant and in some cases constituted as existent for him in that life. Manifestly, in the case of an object so constituted, its abiding existence and being-thus are a correlate of the habituality constituted in the Ego-pole himself by virtue of his position-taking. (68)"

Here, the subject "means" and "constitutes" objects and in doing so, builds up a "habituality" in itself. The Ego and its objects are correlated thanks to the enduring habituality of the subject. The enduring substance in Husserl's theory is a habituality particular to each subject. For Hegel, pre-philosopical subjects are embedded in an objective ethical substance or Sittlichkeit.

Ethical action is more than inter-subjective: it is trans-subjective or a-subjective. And it isn't to be confused with the constitution of objects of perception and thought. It is this figure of enduring substance that co-relates that I wish to investigate further. And employ. The relationship between things, not their opposition or alterity.

Listening to Tragedy 1)

Can texts "speak" to their readers?

That is what Gadamer and other hermeneutic philosophers ask us to do.

I have ears to hear, but perhaps not the understading.

I can pick out a few names, recognize a few verbs. But the rest is Greek to me when I try to comprehend it. Secondary sources and lexicons help. I sense that something is calling to me but I cannot make out even with these aids.

This sense came back to me after contributing a post to The Partially Examined Life blog. Rereading Hegel on Antigone made me alert to the role that the proclamations of the gods play in that tragedy. in the "ethical substance" in which the antagonists are embedded. Who are the gods whose pronouncements they must obey but whose origin they cannot see, and whose abeaynce they cannot imagine? There is one passage in Antigone that Hegel returns to repeatedly in pursuit of varied philosophic ends. It is a passage that Hegel presents as symptomatic of life lived in a without philosophy. The actors in PEL's reading of Antigone deliver the lines in ways that support Hegel's characterization of that passage. But I had the sense that Antigone was invoking deities whose names were not being articulated.

Paul Provenza and Lucy Lawless speak the passage around twenty minutes into PEL's reading:

CREON: And yet you dared defy the law.

I dared.
It was not God’s proclamation.That final Justice
That rules the world below makes no such laws.

Your edict, King, was strong,
But all your strength is weakness itself against
The immortal unrecorded laws of God.
They are not merely now: they were, and shall be,
Operative for ever, beyond man utterly. (Fitts and Fitzgerald [translation used for the podcast])

Provenza delivers Creon's statement with a downward inflection and increasing volume, signalling a firm conclusion to his statement, indicating an increasing seriousness, and implying that Antigone must now justify her defiance. After a brief intake of breath, Lawless speaks in a determined, measured voice, one that does not waver, but also does not rush to deliver Antigone's justification for her actions. Provenza returns with a rough, sarcastic voice as he enacts Creon's derision of Antigone in front of the chorus. Creon's words deride the person who has dared to defy his edicts and who steps out of her place, and Provenza supports this derision by emphasizing "slave" and "girl" with a derisive vocal tone. But Creon does not dispute that there are eternal god-dictated principles operating above all human power to alter them. Both characters are situated in an objective moral substance. They accept its laws and do not give the faintest hint of a position from which they could begin to question them. Such is the condition of those who do not have the benefit of philosophy.

Hegel's lectures draw attention to the words exchanged between characters who are actual for each other, who interact with each other before the gaze of the spectators. But he does not ask his readers to imagine the unseen personae whose proclamations structure the lives of the personae on the stage. He reads the mimetic action taking place on the stage as a symbol of ethical substance, but does not situate that mimesis in relationship to the offstage personae addressed in apostrophe [1] or posited in digesis [2].

So I need to hear the names that could provide the essential directions of the world in which the ethical substance described by Hegel could be situated.

I can't say that Antigone has really spoken until I can hear those names.

[1] For an indication of the subtelties of address to absent personae in Sophocles' plays, see Anne Mahoney's review of Sarah Nooter's When Heroes Sing: Sophocles and the Shifting Soundscape of Tragedy.
[2] Aaron Golish claims that digesis was as important a part of Greek tragedy as the imitation of action: "Local Mimesis and Plateaic Diegesis: Distinguishing the Selfreferential from the Metatheatrical in Greek Tragedy"
Teaching English composition should be more than a training in following models. It should create reflexive connections between ways of perceiving and ways of recording events. The texts in which events are recorded can then be spurs to the recreation of those events.  Take the example of describing a sequence of events: the description made by those who witness the event can then be turned into a script for the re-enactment of the event. Those who are adept at re-enacting gestures and speech are often good at perceiving them. But even those who are not as adept at mimesis of action can learn to see and to write in a way that captures what plays out when people are engaged in actions.

The interrelatedness of modes of perception and writing is crystallized in a Emerson, Fretz, and Shaw's guide to writing ethnographic field notes. The authors draw attention to what is involved in the act of making jottings prior to writing up polished field notes:

“Ethnographers learn to experience through the senses in anticipation of writing: to recall observed scenes and interactions like a reporter; to remember dialogue and movement like an actor: to see colors, shapes, textures, and spatial relations as a painter or photographer; and to sense moods, rhythms, and tone of voice like a poet.” (34)

We teachers are encouraged to find connections between what goes on in our classrooms and other disciplines. This passage connects the act of descriptive writing to qualitative social science, journalism, drama, the visual arts, and creative writing. My enforcing this connection in the English classroom, I can make it a little easier for the teachers in the arts studios and the social studies classrooms to get good writing out of students.

The passage also alerted me to the need to differentiate “note taking” from “brainstorming” and other pre-writing activities. A steady eye is needed to perceive like a painter or photographer. Mimicking gestures like an actor can isolate elements of an action before transcribing onto paper.  Bracketing the external scene and trying to recall arrange details into a scene, like a police detective or a reporter, provides a structure to the experience and that structure can be set down on paper as an aid for securing the manifold of sensations in memory and recalling them later with the aid of the notes on the page.  Feeling the vocalizations in the throat or retaining the pulses of emphasis and repetition like a beat, doing the work of a poet, is an act of mimesis that enables better annotation of heard voices.


  • What kinds of pre-writing activities could I construct that could take advantage of the full ensemble of perceptive capacities in my students?

  • How could engaging in ethnographic jotting improve those perceptive capacities?

  • How could employing those capacities lead to better descriptive writing?

  • How could that improved descriptive writing be fed back into the perceptive and mimetic abilities of the students?

  • To what extend could a revision of modes of short note taking improve the finished products of writing?

Emerson, Robert M., Rachel I Fretz, and Linda L. Shaw. Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes. 2nd. ed. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2011.

* Get the book
* Explore new practices of field note making
Husserl says that relational complexes, contradictions, non-identities, or what I have labeled Absurdities, may be constituted “syntactically.”

Syntax enables articulation of things and situations, according to Fisette

Perception is where syntax and logic play themselves out. It is also their foundation.

Perception grasps vaguely a part-whole relationship. [Somehow] this part-whole relationship can be detached from a particular perceptual situation and applied to others.

Perceptual situations [the noesis-noema pair?] are the origin of the categories that are used to articulate “ordinary perceptual situations”

Key axes of articulation: "is," "not," "same," "other," "one," "many," "and," "or"

While Meditations details synthetic processes involved in intentional acts, the kind of articulations and modifications that operate “syntactically” are as present in perception [intentional acts?] as the unification and identification brought about by synthesis.

Perhaps syntactic articulation would allow an understaning of literature and other art-experiences in a way that differ's from Roman Ingarden's view of the organic unities or polyphonic harmonies in the literary work.

The constitution of things and situations in the experience of spectators and performers, their articulation before and after the performance event, can be looked as syntactical operations on relational complexes rather than syntheses.

This would enable employment of post-structuralist and deconstructive themes into a discussion of audience responses that often over-emphasizes synthesis and unity. 
Fisette, Denis. Husserl's Logical Investigations Reconsidered.


Looks Like Syntax Got Away This Time

But I have some tracks and a few feathers and spoor samples.

I'll get you next time, syntax.

But the armature of logic and language developed by Husserl and his followers provides ways for investigating the experience of artistic objects outside of considerations of "true" or "false," "realistic" or "non-realistic." The forms of logic and the modes of transformation are employed in experience without necessarily drawing on the principles for formulating logical statements. A logic of sense is at work in the experiencer even if logical deliberation is not.

The spectre of Nonsense always threatens merely multistable Representation or the contradictory Absurdity. But phenomenology can deal with all of them.

Future reads:

  • Woodruff Smith, David. Husserl: Edition 2

  • Bernet, Rudolf, Donn Welton, Gina Zavota. Edmund Husserl: Critical Assessments of Leading Philosophers.

  • Mohanty, J.N. Readings on Edmund Husserl's Logical Investigations.

The brief mention of syntax in Mediations suggests a bridge between inentional experience and logic, a kind of phenomenology of contradictions and of sense.

Later developments of Husserl's ideas provide a context for unfolding the implications of his notions of syntax and grammar.

Ortiz Hill, Claire and Guillermo E. Rosado Haddock. Husserl or Frege?: Meaning, Objectivity and Mathematics

Carnap develops "formation rules" and "syntax" out of Husserl's Formal and Transcendental Logic. (203)
* Husserl provides for a basic "morphology of propositions" and a secondary syntaxtical layer governing the formation of propositions (203)
* He later proposes a sematic aspect to logic (203)
* Husserl anticipates distinctions drawn more sharply by Carnap and Tarski (203)

Logic can encompass absurd propostitions that are both contradictory and sense-rich. The semantic aspects of reference to truth or falsity are one way to investigate the non-literal, non-sensical, or absurd. But not the only way. The constitution of absurdities in experience need not depend on the truth value or any existential predication . Meditations hints at operations of consciousness in which absurdities become constituted as intentional objects and become part of internal temporality. Following these hints could permit turning investigations of language, metaphor, and poetry as relational objects, non-identical, non-unified rather than as the wholes sought by aesthetics and by some phenomeologies. The retention of an absurdity does not require the resolution of that absurdity or the solving of a logical contradiction. The relational-complex persists unresolved and self-contradictory in internal temporality regardless of any transformations wrought on it in its objective temporality.

* What is the phenomenology of Unsinn or nonsense?
* How would it differ from the phenomenology of Widersinn or absurdity?
Vrahimis, Andreas. "Nonsense and Absurdity: Carnap's Use of Husserl's Theory of Meaning"

* contradictory statements may be non-meaningful but not without sense
* an absurd statement when taken as a whole may be non-meaningful but its parts were brought together so as to "not break the rules of logical syntax"
[IIRC: For Husserl, the logical whole of a proposition takes precedence over the parts when construing meaning]
* absurdities occur because of "contingent linguistic habits" but the universal logical grammar is observed
* an absurdity is "mere contradiction" and not nonsense
* nonsense violates that universal grammar
* Widersinn (absurdity)

≠ Unsinn (nonsense)
* Deleuze is not the only one who suggests that the logic of sense is a fruitful area of investigation for those interested in poetic and metaphorical language use [that's me]
* Vrahimis' point: Carnap being polemical against Heidegger is a clash between two interpreters of Husserl.
* both Carnap and Heidegger, Logical Positivist and Existentialist are trying to overcome metaphysics in the wake of Husserl's logical and phenomenological investigations

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