Friday, September 07, 2007

Merleau-Ponty started in this direction with his discussion of the body, but we need to go even further

One Response to “Conference on After Postmodernism” Open Integral
Edward Berge Says: September 6th, 2007 at 1:13 pm
A common dichotomy repeatedly brought up here is between direct experience and intellectual concepts. Here are a few comments on the topic from the above website in an article called “Beyond postmodernism: From concepts through experiencing” at
What and where is this experiencing to which we have direct access? Merleau-Ponty (1945) started in this direction with his discussion of the body, but we need to go even further.
First, psychologists and their public have discovered experience, but do not sufficiently recognize the role of culture, history, and language that informs our experience. Sophisticated intellectuals know this but go to the other, postmodern extreme, and argue that everything comes from culture, history, and language. Philosophically I think there needs to be a further step. The step forward would be to recognize what is with and after language. The body is always in a fresh situational interaction that exceeds culture, history and language.
Second, currently some thinkers are searching for “emergent” con¬cepts and knowledge. To find this requires finding the direct access to ongoing bodily experiencing. The direct access exceeds the common phrases. But language is inherent in all human experiencing. New facets of experiencing rearrange the implicit language and can generate new sentences. These do not copy; rather they carry experiencing forward. Naive observers believe they can “match” experience with something they say. Many postmodernists know that it is impossible to “represent,” capture, or copy experience, but they take this to mean that everything is up to arbitrary interpretation. A philosophical advance is provided if we notice that we can speak-from direct access to experiencing. We can recognize the difference when we are speaking-from our direct access, and when we are not.
Third, to speak-from direct access to experience leads to a zig-zag process between speaking and access, in which experience changes, but not arbitrarily. This occurs in a sequence of small bodily sensed shifts.
Fourth, living bodies have a holistic life-forward direction that is usu¬ally called “adaptive” as if they only fit themselves to external require¬ments. But in fact the living systems create new and more intricate meanings and actions.
The experiencing process I have described has its own coherence. It took me a long time to affirm that the ongoing bodily experiencing has its own inherent life-forwarding implying. The little steps that arise at the edge are creative, imaginative, and always in some positive direction.
The life process is self-organizing, but much more intricately than we can conceptualize. A great undivided multiplicity is always at work. The higher animals live quite complex lives without culture. Culture does not create; it elaborates. Then we live creatively much further with and after culture. To think that we are the creation of culture is not a view one can maintain if one senses ongoing bodily experiencing directly. Culture is crude and inhuman in comparison with what we find directly. The intri¬cacy you are now living vastly exceeds what cultural forms have con¬tributed to you. With focusing we discover that we are much more organized from the inside out. Direct access to this intricacy enables us to think-from much more than the usual concepts and assumptions.

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