Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Hell is the Epoché

An interesting thought hit me a little while ago. When studying different Philosophers, even ones which are contained within the same label, it is interesting how different they seem to be. Seem being a key word.

Take for example Edmund Husserl and Jean-Paul Sartre. Both are Existentialists but both say quite different things.

Husserl came first and tried to tackle the concept of how we understand ourselves. When we describe things in the world we tend to describe them as distinct from us, entirely separate. We describe objects as objects and ourselves as subjects. But we can also perceive ourselves as objects. So which are we? Subjects, objects, or some blend of both? And what about other things, what are they, really?
In order for us to find out he proposed a mental exercise, a sort of meditation. Don't deny that the world exists, that you exist, that everything else accepts as you perceive, but don't accept it either. Be agnostic. Detach your mind, somehow, reflect and you will perceive or experience (he was very bad at explaining his concepts) the "Transcendental Ego", the method by which we perceive and understand the world.

Now, as for Sartre, he wrote a lot of plays. One of which was called "No Exit", wherein a group of people found themselves in hell, in a room and with no eyelids. The crux of it was the saying "Hell is other people" - we judge ourselves by how others react to us, how others perceive us. This was a more ethics focussed take on matters, but it seems to me that these ideas are not too dissimilar. In fact, I would perhaps go so far as to say that the transcendental ego is encompassed within how other people react to us.
To further develop this idea, perhaps we can expand the concept of us understanding ourselves by how other things react to us so that it also includes physical reactions. We perceive ourselves as objects because we can push the glass off the table.

It is at this point that I realise somewhat that Heidegger acts as the required bridge between these concepts - Heidegger said that the way we normally describe the world is as "Zuhanden" ("To hand") but the way we tend to perceive the world is as the "Vorhanden" ("For hand")
Though we describe the world as subjects and objects, we perceive it as tools. Rather than seeing the glass as an object completely separate from ourselves, we see it as a container we can pick up and interact with.

I've now lost most if not all capability of describing this any further, but what I've described is hopefully enough to get my random point across.

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