12/5 Phenomenology Debate: Pema Pera and Gilles Kuhn - The Kira Institute
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12/5 Phenomenology Debate: Pema Pera and Gilles Kuhn

This Debate took place on December 5th at 2pm SLT.  The below is an abstract of the discussion sent out beforehand

Phenomenology: is there any interest left in implementing it in actuality?
A debate between Pema Pera (astrophysicist) and Gilles Kuhn (epistemologist).

Phenomenology is a philosophical school of thought established by Husserl in the early 20th century. Major philosophers like Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau Ponty, and Emanuel Levinas were phenomenologists and direct successors of Husserl. Husserl's project aimed refounding knowledge in a radical manner, based on an apodictic basis in the same vein as René Descartes, but without falling into the problems arising from the Cartesian methodology that gave birth to modern empirical/deductive science. Husserl criticized modern science and searched for a refoundation of rationality, and in this process created phenomenology. To summarize: phenomenology assumes that there is no subject nor object but only phenomena. A central feature of the phenomenology methodology is the “epoche”, which involves a suspension of judgment of the world, in order to attain a direct grasp of transcendental phenomena. In other words phenomenology, unlike modern science, claims to be able to concentrate on the space between subject and object, on the very phenomenological perception, without posing an absolute epistemic subject (the “experimentator”) looking to an object (the “experiment”). Some critics consider phenomenology to be a total failure. In this debate Pema Pera will defend the phenomenological method, which has considerable overlap with the approach in the Play as Being group (http://playasbeing.wik.is/). Gilles thinks that the approach taken in Play as Being seems to be directly in the phenomenological tradition and thus subject to the critics against this movement, critics which he endorses.

The debate format was 30 or so minutes of debate and then opening to the floor for comments and questions:

Pema Pera: If anyone would like to know more about our Kira organization please contact Genesis Zhangsun here, or later
Gilles Kuhn: well pema so we wanted to speak about pheno may i suggest we use pheno for phenomenology for the debate for commodity
Wol Euler: ty prospero
Pema Pera: Thanks, Pros!!!
Pema Pera: fine with me, Gilles
Pema Pera: Okay, shall we start?
Gilles Kuhn: yes !
Ryster Lemon: yes
Pema Pera: Well, Gilles, you suggested that phenomenology has been a failure, and I disagree. Very clear and clean starting point! Can you explain why you suggest it was a failure?
Gilles Kuhn: shall we start about the problematic of epoche that is central to pheno method pema?
Pema Pera: fine!
Gilles Kuhn: failure i would say in his ultimate result the project of an apodictic rationality of husserl gave in fact no solution to any kind of problems in philosophy or in science but that is probably not the principal problem
Pema Pera: (nothing I can answer to that, Gilles :-)
Gilles Kuhn: i thinki that the method proponed by husserl method that want to root knowledge in an apodictic (+- absolute way) was perhaps a jump BACKk in time
Pema Pera: (please tell me when you like me to respond -- I'll wait till then)
Gilles Kuhn: the idea that a methodology can encompass all reality seem to me as medieval as Descartes was if you see my allusion pema
Gilles Kuhn: so please could you defend this sheer ossibility ?
Pema Pera: First of all, there are three places where I could start
Pema Pera: I could try to defend phenomenology as I think Husserl saw it
Pema Pera: or as I think his followers saw it
Pema Pera: or as I see it
Pema Pera: the three starting points would be distinct, and I prefer to take the third approach
Gilles Kuhn cheers
Pema Pera: so if at any point you see disagreements and distinctions between what I am saying and what you think Husserl and/or his followers say, and when you think that is important, let me know, and we can explicitly address that
Pema Pera: So I see phenomenology as a way to be truly empirical
Gilles Kuhn: let work with your postition then
Pema Pera: science is considered empirical, based on experiment, on experience of the experimenter
Pema Pera: but experience has a tripartite structure
Gilles Kuhn: yes and i agree with the fact that science root are definitely the pheno experience
Pema Pera: In every experience, normally at least, there is a subject, an interaction, and an object
Pema Pera: I see a table
Pema Pera: I as subject, see as interaction, table as object
Pema Pera: and similar for all our waking experience, the whole day long, almost always
Pema Pera: What science has done, in the last 400 years
Pema Pera: is to focus on the object pole of experience
Pema Pera: neglecting the subject pole or the interaction connecting both
Gilles Kuhn: well my view of experience in a intuitive phenomenal way is likewise BUT science lie on a reduction of the encompassing experience of phenomena
Edwound Wisent: : flips to mouseview:
Pema Pera: and it is truly remarkable how much milieage science has gotten out of that approach
Gilles Kuhn: agreed
Pema Pera: but I see many signs that we are now moving to an equally detailed study of the other two elements: subject and interaction, on an equally primordial footing
Pema Pera: do we agree so far, Gilles?
Gilles Kuhn: but the concept of a subject pole as different for an object is problematic to me
Pema Pera: how so?
Gilles Kuhn: if we speak about science empirical classic science not the science that wanted husserl, its all about reduction about models
Gilles Kuhn: models that are part and created on the basis of our pheno experience but that are voluntary a reduction a siplification of it
Pema Pera: yes
Gilles Kuhn: this simplification has severalk advantage (and default too but one moment)
Gilles Kuhn: the advantage that saw galileo and descartes i.a. is the hability of quantification of our experience and thus of the veryy successfull mathematisation of a big part of science
Edwound Wisent: we talkin' akham's razor there, Gilles? : sorry.. about to be off.. just trying to see where eWE're headed:
Gilles Kuhn: other advantage of it is that as the models are simplified the difference between personnal sensibility cultural bias eetc are lowered and so modern rationnality pretended (exageraation ) to be universal
Pema Pera: (Ed, let's wait for general questions till later)
Gilles Kuhn: and thus science was successful in what we now qualify as the material world
Pema Pera: Gilles, that is all very interesting, but let's go slow and start at the basics. The main question I think is: is the subject truly different from the object -- the question you asked, can we focus on that, for a bit?
Gilles Kuhn: for me first these two notions are just that notions concept
Gilles Kuhn: i agree with husserl that we can see us as pheno subject that constitue object even our own conscience as such
Gilles Kuhn: but the problem for me when we accept the radical epche of pheno is that if we want not to filter not to reduce then we have less power to modify our pheno perception in order to have more apodictism we sarifice technology hability to modify the intersubjective worl
Gilles Kuhn: d
Pema Pera: Gilles, let's go back to square one
Pema Pera: and keep it *really* simple
Pema Pera: rather than trying to address everything all at once, especially aspects that almost anyone here isn't familiar with
Pema Pera: let us try whether we understand Husserl well enough to talk about his ideas in words that avoid technical terms
Pema Pera: so I suggest to start with subject and object
Pema Pera: If I sit in a room, and see a table, there are two subjects and one object -- you could say, roughly
itsme Frederix: Pena 3, the observer
Pema Pera: me the subject in the world, assciated with my body, the table in the world, and then the funny kind of witness-subject that is aware of it all
Pema Pera: do you agree?
Gilles Kuhn: yes its a manner a conceptualisation possible of that
Gilles Kuhn: but aware of it all ?
Pema Pera: The point of phenomenology is that natural science tends to ignore the subject that is aware of a situation, and only focuses on the subject and object in the room
Pema Pera: in that way objectifying the subject
Pema Pera: and then indeed the body and brain can be studies just like the table
Pema Pera: all molecules
Gilles Kuhn: yes i agree i will even more say negating it
Pema Pera: but that leaves out the third element the subject that is aware
Gilles Kuhn: (the subject)
Pema Pera: yes
Pema Pera: Recently this has been called the "hard problem of consciousness"
Pema Pera: even if you knew everything there is to know about the wiring diagram of the brain,
Edwound Wisent: caugh caugh.. pema?.. are you sugesting that the table "KNOWS" it's ..being WATCHED?!
Pema Pera: why would such a complicated information processing device give rise to consciousness
You decline Elon's "Bad Astronomy" Events 2008 from A group member named Chaac Amarula.
Pema Pera: Who ordered "awareness"?
Pema Pera: this mysterious third element in the game
Pema Pera: how do you see that, Gilles?
Gilles Kuhn: ah hhh ok well the problematic of qualia is and of the harfd hard problem are i agree LIMIT case for "classical science"
Gilles Kuhn: because for my part :
quen Oh whispers (qualia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qualia)
Gilles Kuhn: science is indded ultimately based on the perceivving subject your friend bas van fraassen call that "empirical underdetermination" all science theories etc are ultimately ooted in our perception are perceiving subject
Gilles Kuhn: and the big problem with consciousness is that has JUSTLY husserl and Descartes put it : is that it is a immedciate all encompassing experience
Gilles Kuhn: a total full experience
Pema Pera: yes
Pema Pera: so very very different from body and brain as objects
Gilles Kuhn: so classical science who act on REDUCTION has a BIG problem with it
Isen Enzo is Offline
Gilles Kuhn: BUT all noumenal qualities are in themselves like that
Pema Pera: (btw, we've talked for half an hour now, shall we open the floor, so that everyone can join in?)
Wol Euler: (but you will continue?!)
Gilles Kuhn: so at my opinion as science work on models not on truth ///////; well why not but we just started ;-)
TR Amat: You talk about the table, but isn't the table created as an object by the perceiver abstracting it from the environment?
TR Amat: Chhosing a set of perceptions to be identified as "table"?
Pema Pera: (Gilles, we can keep developing ideas, while talking with others -- we don't want to exclude them for an hour)
Gilles Kuhn: (agreed pema)
Threedee Shepherd: Pema, are you saying that Phemo recognizes the reality that underlies the "hard problem" in a way that reductionism does not? If so, what does that add to our artttempts to deawith the hard problem?
Prospero Frobozz: I guess I want to throw Quantum Mechanics into the mix. AT some level the Copenhagen interpretation is described as "shut up and calculate", and at some level we don't worry about the Measurement problem, but ultimately QM, with its collase of wavefunctions and such, shows us that when "I see the table", the table and I become entangled, and cannot be cleanly separated
quen Oh loves big crowds...
Gilles Kuhn take cover ;-)
Pema Pera: hehehe
Vic Michalak: Actually the table here is abstracted by a LL server into a form that we as viewers find convincing enought to be a table...
itsme Frederix: Giles " science work on models not on truth " does that mean you narrow the scope to science and neglect "truth" ??
Pema Pera: Yes, Threedee and TR, I think phenomenology can start at least dealing with how experiences appear -- science is completely silent about that . . . .
You decline Elon's "Bad Astronomy" Events 2008 from A group member named Rocket Sellers.
Gilles Kuhn: yes itme
Gilles Kuhn: istme
TR Amat: The LL server is just doing convenient sensory preprocessing. :)
Gilles Kuhn: for me science is not about truth but about techncal possibilities
itsme Frederix: oke, what is the new base for science then - leaving truth
Threedee Shepherd: Well, it started that about 100 years ago. Has it gotten anywhere ;D
Pema Pera: yes, Froboz, qm is a crack in the wall of object-only reductionism
itsme Frederix: Giles I agree
Gilles Kuhn: efficiency at our level of perception istme in fact iwas Francis bacon program science = tool for human to use nature
Pema Pera: there are two questions, Threedee: about the potential of phenomenology and the historical quirks, like Heidegger betraying Husserl, sicne Heidegger was a Nazi and Husserl a Jew)
itsme Frederix: Yep Giles. But I read Husserl and he created an enormous pile of 'observations" and paperwork - so why Husserls & science
Gilles Kuhn: i dont agree pema QM for me is only the extreme consequence of science as pure technicity which began with newton and his gravitationnal action at a distance
Moon Fargis is Online
Gilles Kuhn: why husserl and science istme what do you mean ,
Gilles Kuhn: ?
TR Amat: Science is "natural philosophy", it's convenient how its descriptions seem to match how the world works?
Pema Pera: I see the difficulty of interpreting qm as a reflection/consequence of the fac that the subject pole of experience has been left out in classical science
itsme Frederix: Pema that is adhominum, I think Heidegger said some interresting thing about technics * technical world
Pema Pera: oh sure, people who betray others can still say very interesting things about other topics, for sure!
Threedee Shepherd: Pema, you said " phenomenology can start at least dealing with how experiences appear" and I think this is a key point, independent of the twisting history of the term itself. What have we learned, other than the truth of the existance of subjective experience?
itsme Frederix: Giles Husserl describes, as science - a model
Gilles Kuhn: well pema if you take QM as technical onlky there are NO interpretation problem is only a model
Pema Pera: What we can learn, Threedee, is that we may have to enlarge science
Pema Pera: beyond the Galileo starting point
Gilles Kuhn: istme Husserl go farther tan that he said that is foundation is certain he justly dont accept the model model limitation
Pema Pera: in which we leave out the subject pole and only study object poles
Pema Pera: I think qm tells us to include both
itsme Frederix: thats Heisenberg
Threedee Shepherd: OK, (I am not being stubborn), then what?
Pema Pera: if it is true that science has limited itself, studying only 1 or the 3 aspects of empirical approach
Gilles Kuhn: i disagree pema qm is problematic in measurement but that s an internal limitation of the model
Pema Pera: then what? then it is high time to enlarge the scientific method!
Pema Pera: hahaha, so many discussions here!
Pema Pera: all of them interesting
Threedee Shepherd: OK, where should I start, right now?
TR Amat: My point about abstraction is that the subject pole could be said to create the object pole.
Gilles Kuhn: pema to enlarge why not as say feyerabend anything goes but i ass anything WORKING goes !
Pema Pera: perhaps we need a moderator, next time??
Prospero Frobozz: So, I hate to bring this up, since I've heard it used (horribly, incorrectly) as a defense of Intelligent Design, but what about Godel's Incompleteness Theorem, together with the notion that there can be a single framework to describe all of reality?
Gilles Kuhn: ass=add*
itsme Frederix: science is a (one of) the ways to experience the world, so enlarge isone option, shift your view another
Pema Pera: fascinating, Pros, and totally relevant, yes!
Pema Pera: points to limits of reasoning, logic
Alfred Kelberry: pema, that would help :)
Pema Pera: and the need to "see" what a situation is
Gilles Kuhn: Godel theorem is only about internal limitation of formalism
Pema Pera: may I make a suggestion?
Gilles Kuhn: and as we have to use formalism to express ourselves godel point give an ultimate an horizon of absolute limitation
Pema Pera: How about Gilles and I continuing one week from now, same time, and then with a moderator who kicks in after half an hour? ANyone can IM to moderator, moderator chooses questions in useful order
Wol Euler: good idea!
Prospero Frobozz: Good idea
TR Amat: Rennis referee...
Prospero Frobozz: Actually, what would be great would be if we had three channels -- I've seen this done where voice is used
Gilles Kuhn: nice !
Prospero Frobozz: Voice for the main conversation
TR Amat: Tennis*
Pema Pera: I very much enjoy the energy and interest here -- thank you all so much!!

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