The World Explored, the World Suffered Education Issue Nr. 6 May 2018 - Page 2

6 th Issue Editorial 24 th April 2018 Michael R D James Journal site: The first lecture is entitled “Third Centrepiece lecture on Philosophical Psychology” and it is given by the fictitious lecturer Harry Middleton, a character from a recently published philosophical/educational novel “The World Explored, the World Suffered: The Exeter lectures.” The lecture opens with the claim that the body and the soul possess a unity which is difficult to articulate. Part of the story of that unity will inevitably involve the concept of consiousness which is related to the external world in a complex way. Middleton takes up the issue of the origin of negation in relation to a situation in which Sartre is looking for his friend in a café and sees “that he is not there”. The power of negating a reality is for Sartre part of the very definition of consciousness. “Only a conscious being can know that Pierre is not in the café” is the conclusion drawn and this is then used to motivate the claim that without the absence of events in the present time History would not exist, i.e. History is related to negation and consciousness. Merleau-Ponty a phenomenologist and a contemporary of the existentialist Sartre contested what he thought to be Sartre’s dualism and replaced it with a monism which centred itself upon a conception of a lived body as an agent with various powers. Included among these powers is the power of language which also relates to absence and negation in complex ways which Merleau-Ponty discusses. This body is not, however, a scientific entity, a meeting point of various causal powers, but rather resembles a synthetic unity for which the term “meaning” would be the most appropriate description. There is a prior question to ask of the scientist intent upon collecting all the facts and that is “What is the meaning of these facts?” The language also has a meaning which can be investigated phenomenologically, not as a set of ideas representing reality but rather as a power which is manifested in a set of gestures which together via their differences constitute what is called the linguistic field: “Language forms a field of action or gestures endowed with a certain style around me as a consequence of the linguistic powers of the body. The Word is an instrumentality in a field of instrumentalities.” The expression “I am conscious” for Merleau-Ponty is a claim for which there is no meaningful negation. It is, in Kantian language a proposition from Transcendental Logic. The criticism of this phenomenological account may turn on whether Merleau-Ponty intends his term “the body” to be identical with that of the person. This is an important criticism because only people and not bodies can be said to understand a proposition of Transcendental logic.