Ihde (Instrumental) – Praxis-percepção, um modelo fenomenológico de interpretação

The primary progenitor of the phenomenological movement was Edmund Husserl, whose published works appeared from the early 1900s through 1936. A French reader of his, particularly with [17] regard to the later works, was Maurice Merleau-Ponty, who died in 1961. Both turned their attention to the role of perception in science, and both utilized a version of the lifeworld as an interpretative idea.

Husserl’s Crisis was published in 1936, and in it one can find a considerable parallelism with what was to become the new philosophy of science. Admittedly, in now rereading the Crisis, après-Kuhn, one cannot help but discern contrasts as well. First, Husserl continued the German tendency to view science as Wissenschaften — although his examples indeed surrounded the rise of Modern physics in Galileo and Descartes — rather than take the narrower focus upon natural science as exemplary science. Then too, his aim was in part to discern a unique rationality in Western thought; this colors his interpretation and gives it the appearance of a normative, if not “linear,” development. And while, as I shall illustrate, he clearly develops an idea of something like paradigm shifts, he also regards each change as necessarily both a gain and a loss; thus, the question of progress becomes enigmatic (this in spite of Husserl’s own hope for philosophical progress).

What I wish to concentrate upon, however, is the beginning of a praxis-perception model of interpretation. In Husserl, this notion takes its place within the structure of the lifeworld. Scholars have long acknowledged that there is a fundamental ambiguity within the idea of the lifeworld which will set the stage for the exposition of phenomenology to follow. On the explicit level, Husserl remains a foundationalist. This is to say that some stratum — in this case, of human activity — is a founding stratum, while others are founded, are dependent, upon the founding fundament. In Husserl’s case, what is fundamental is a kind of ordinary human praxis and perception, the world of the human interaction among material things and others. Its openness toward the other is sensory, and this relation is focally perceptual.

This foundation in ordinary perception and praxis is, however, not usually critically examined; it is simply taken for granted. This ordinary context is what is both basic and shared throughout the human community.

Consciously we always live in the lifeworld; normally there is no reason for making it explicitly thematic for ourselves universally as world. Conscious of the world as a horizon, we live for our particular ends, whether as momentary and change ones or as an enduring goal that we have elected for ourselves as a life vocation, to be the dominant one in our active life. … Thus as men with a vocation we may permit ourselves to be indifferent to everything else, and we may have an eye only for this horizon as our world and for its own actualities and possibilities — those that exist in this “world” — i.e. we have an eye only to what is in “reality” here. …

[18] Within this basic and universal domain of perception and praxis there may occur special forms of activity with particular selectivities which may become “sciences.” Science in this concept will both be related to, but, in specific ways, distinguishable from, the lifeworld foundation in ordinary experience. The lifeworld may contain various “worlds.” “The goal-directed life which is that of the scientist’s life-vocation clearly falls under the generality of the characterization just made, together with the ‘world’ that is awakened therein in the communalization of scientists… as the horizon of scientific works.”

Here Husserl retains his usual lofty perspective but also anticipates the awareness that embodies science in its community and activity. It is clear that experience within the horizon of the world and the different “worlds” which can be constituted within the lifeworld is the framework by which development in science can occur. Returning again to “The Origin of Geometry,” we find one slightly more specific hint of how such an analysis might take shape:

Geometry and the sciences most closely related to it have to do with space-time and the shapes, figures, also shapes of motion, alterations of deformation, etc., that are possible within space-time, particularly the measurable magnitudes. It is now clear that even if we know almost nothing about the historical surrounding world of the first geometers, this much is certain as an invariant, essential structure that it was a world of “things” (including the human beings themselves as subjects of this world); that all things necessarily had to have a bodily character… and [these] can be secured at least in [their] essential nucleus through a careful a priori explication, [in that] these pure bodies had spatio-temporal shapes and “material” qualities …. Further, it is clear that in the life of practical needs certain particularizations of shape stood out and that a technical praxis always [aimed at] the production of particular shapes and the improvement of them according to certain directions of gradualhess.

To this point one may contrast several aspects of the lifeworld with the “worlds” of sciences. First, ordinary perception and action is primary and universal and is simply presupposed by the actual scientist. Second, the lifeworld may be said to include the “world” of science, but not vice versa. And third, there is a marked contrast between the “perceptions of the sciences and perception in the lifeworld.” Here we continue to take account of the first sense of lifeworld as founding fundament.

The ordinary perception, examined critically and reflectively, is shown to be different from scientific perception. In his case studies on the origins of geometrical method, Husserl notes that:

In the intuitively given surrounding world, by abstractively directing our view to the mere spatio-temporal shapes, we experience “bodies”not [19] geometrically-ideal bodies but precisely those bodies that we actually experience, with the content which is the actual content of experience.

This perception is what I call microperception; it is more narrowly sensory in its original understanding. The base stratum of the Husserlian lifeworld continues to be this domain of human interaction with a material-surrounding world.

Geometry, when it does arise, does so from a particularization within the perceptual field: Certain shapes are noticed, preferred, perfected, etc., and by a gradual process of abstraction and variation, move from that base toward the imaginatively ideal. Geometry originates from a certain kind of perception and praxis:

The geometrical methodology of operatively determining some and finally all ideal shapes, beginning with basic shapes as elementary means of determination, points back to the methodology of determination and measuring in general, practices first primitively and then as an art in the prescientific, intuitively given surrounding world.

As these shapes are selected, chosen, and perfected, new interests and praxes arise with a trajectory toward idealization. “Out of the praxis of perfecting, of freely pressing toward the horizons of conceivable perfecting ‘again and again’ limit-shapes emerge toward which the particular series of perfectings end.” In short, one begins to get a special geometrical praxis.

In this new type of praxis, perceptions also change. A new praxis is an acquisition, which once acquired may become familiar; its origins and the means by which it was attained are forgotten. That which becomes familiar becomes transparent and taken-for-true. It becomes a kind of “perception,” but now, while intuitive, something beginning to approximate a macroperception, a “cultural” perception. It is precisely this movement which characterizes Husserl’s interpretation of the rise of Modern Science in the figures of Galileo and Descartes.

I shall not sketch out the whole of this interpretation. But what Husserl asks is: What constitutes the realm of the taken-for-granted which would have been part of Galileo’s perspective upon geometry? And with some subtlety he traces not only what Galileo could take for granted but, in a reconstruction, makes us aware of what we take for granted. This level actually arises much later, after the paradigm shift Galileo instigated was solidified.