Chapter 4: Philosophy and Conceptual Mapping
“a ground‑map of the province of criticism, establishing base lines to be employed in more intricate triangulations"
(Dewey, Experience and Nature)
"To note, register and define the constituent structure of nature is not then an affair neutral to the office of criticism. It is a preliminary outline of the field of criticism, whose chief import is to afford understanding of the necessity and nature of the office of intelligence.
(Dewey, Experience and Nature)
''Philosophy is criticism... of the influential beliefs that underlie culture. Such an examination terminates, whether so intended or not, in a projection of them into a new perspective which leads to a new survey of possibilities. This phase [is] reconstruction through criticism. . . "
(Dewey, "Context and Thought")
"The situation as such is not and cannot be stated or made explicit. It is taken for granted, I understood, ' or implicit in all propositional symbolization. It forms the universe of discourse of whatever is expressly stated or of what appears as a term in a proposition."
(Dewey, ''Qualitative Thought'')
“(Problematic) stands for the existence of something questionable, and hence provocative of investigation, examination, discussion -– in short, inquiry.... From the standpoint of conduct of inquiry it directly follows that the nature of the problem as well as of the solution to be reached is UNDER inquiry; failure in solution is sure to result if the problem has not been properly located and described.''
(Dewey, "In Defense of the Theory of Inquiry")
1. Maps and Conceptual Eye-glasses: the System of Ideas
A tool is a specific organization of the material resources of a civilization in order to do a specific set of defined tasks. Some tools can be employed by one person acting alone, others require the joint labors of many. But individual and social tools are both dependent for their design, production, and use upon the living patterns of a culture. They are part of the cultural drama; they are embedded in its processes and projects, and follow the norms of its institutional arrangements in accordance with its developed habits of action and belief. As we insisted at the end of Chapter 2, a tool is a tool only for an individual (or group) who conceives of it as such. When Kohler did his famous experiment with apes in which he showed that apes can use a short stick to reach a larger stick, and then use the larger stick to reach a distant banana, Kohler was demonstrating that apes had the capacity to use tools by first making the complex conceptual relationship of instrumentality between means and ends. In short they are capable of intelligence. And when Jane Goodall showed that Chimpanzees could even fabricate sticks that they then used to reach down into holes to fetch termites, which seem to be a gourmet's delicacy for them, she showed an even greater degree of intelligence in the chimps than had been suspected beforehand. It is obvious, of course, that the presence of intelligence in the apes and chimps is a far cry from that available to humans, but that is not the point at issue here. We simply wish to point out that the sticks in question only became tools for those animals when they were able to make the ''mental" connection between the available means and their end or purpose. The available resources became practical instruments only in the presence of purposes that linked them as instrumental resources. The process by which the chimps fabricated the practical instrument out of the available material resources and then used that fabricated object as a tool obviously constitutes a remarkable development beyond the level revealed by Kohler's apes, but it does not change the nature of intelligence. It does, however, reveal more clearly the concrete interpenetration in practical living between conceptual and material tools. It thus underscores the dependence of material technology upon the level of theoretical sophistication achieved by a culture.
Our present concern is to clarify the theoretical problems involved in the development of those systems of ideas in terms of which an individual and a culture organize their life and envision the possibilities available to them. It is clearly upon such a sophisticated development of our conceptual tools that our present advanced level of material technology is dependent. And yet the dependence of our present technology ‑‑ and its accompanying standard of living ‑‑ upon the specific conceptual mapping of the Real is far too rarely appreciated. Ideas, even such simple ones as seem to be involved in the production and use of modern can‑openers, are dependent upon a nexus of highly complex and sophisticated theories which purport to map the domain of the Real. As we noted in Chapter II, ideas, even more than tools, do not ‑‑ cannot ‑‑ exist in isolation from the system of ideas by which a culture lives. They exist and become meaningful to those who entertain them, only within the framework of a more or less integrated system of conceptual mappings, a mindscape, that structures a specific cultural drama, This is as true with respect to seemingly simple and directly perceptible phenomena ‑‑ so called "facts'' ‑‑ like "There is a tree over there" or "The boy is tall" as it is true of such more refined products of speculation as found in advanced scientific theories.
The point is that the existence of ''facts'' is similar to that of "tools'' as discussed above. They exist only as facts for a mind which perceptively organizes them into meaningful segments of experience. The potential facts of the universe are infinite: How many molecules are there in this room ? What did Caesar cat at breakfast two days before his death? How many leaves are there on the trees in your yard? How warm is it today? and so on to infinity. Once one grants the existence of a reality independent of our mental activity, one is then confronted with the herculean task of ''making sense'' out of that reality in some manner, which may harmonize with and hopefully support the enriching development of human living. And it is only in and through transactions between these two dimensions ‑‑ the objectively existing environing world and the purposes of the human inquirer, within the cultural drama of which he is a part ‑‑ that meanings emerge. The environment thus becomes organized into meaningful assemblages of facts, laws, propensities, and possibilities, and our purposes can become ‘informed’ and capable of realistic and fruitful issue.
In short, the facts we choose are the facts we choose, as is the organization which we give to them. It must be granted that we are not totally free with respect to our choices ‑‑ unless, that is, we are unconcerned about the results of any action predicated upon those choices. If our selection and organization of the ''facts'' of the world are to serve well in the concrete realization of purposes there must be some reliable relationship between those ''facts" and this ''world'' But since the selection is precisely that, a selection, it is by nature partial and perspectival. Different perspectives or different purposes will give rise to different selections, different ''facts” located in differing contexts, with differing meanings for us.
Thus the meaning which the world takes for us (or which we give to it), and hence the "facts'' of the world which exist for us, as they exist for us, is determined as much by our unexamined conceptual mapping of the world, our‑ mindscape, as it is determined by the objective structure of that existing world itself. Perhaps the best way to clearly grasp the essential point about our knowledge of the external world is with the use of the metaphor of conceptual eye‑glasses. Eye glasses are instruments which people usually wear so that they may see the world more clearly. They bring into focus objects which are but vaguely seen. They give definition to our perceptual world. When those whose natural vision is poor remove the glasses, the world slips into a hazy, mist‑like, blurred confusion. Objects and facts evaporate, except as they remain fixed in a remembrance that itself tends to fade in time into indistinction. Save, that is, for those perceptions that have stuck deep into the core of our concerned and interested self.
We are, of course, thinking only of eye glasses which are truly ground ‑‑and hence which bring no distortion into our perception. Such lenses only serve to bring into greater clarity the already existing world. We might, however, consider the possibility of distortions in eye glasses, similar to what takes place in ''funny" mirrors at amusement parks. We might further consider‑ that such distortions could be the result of some intention to show the world so that it might be more easily "seen'' to accord with the producer's purpose ‑‑ whatever that may be. Or the distortion could simply be the unintentional result of a faulty technology or of a defective science of optics. While I think we have pretty good reasons to believe that our present science of optics, the technology developed in accordance therewith, and consequently the glasses which are presently in use, do a pretty good job of bringing the objective world to us with a minimum of perceptual distortions, the point I wish to emphasize here is the way in which such glasses mediate our "perception" of the objective world, thus effecting the meaning of that world for us who wear them.
Glasses, however, may be put on and taken off at will. Further, there are still, fortunately, a large, though perhaps decreasing, number of individuals whose perception of the world is not and need not be mediated by such lenses. We thus have at least two pretty reliable checks upon the adequacy of our perceptions as seen through such lenses. But imagine, perhaps, a world in which everyone wore lenses, in which such lenses could not be removed ‑‑ or at least not without the extinguishing of vision itself. Further imagine a world in which vision was the only means of access to the objective world. Could we then be quite so sure that our lenses did not ''distort" our perceptions of that world? How would we be able to know that they didn't?
These remarks are clearly and fortunately purely speculative. But they are not irrelevant to our present concern. Our perception of the objective world ‑‑ and even more our conceptions of it ‑‑ are inescapably mediated by our mindscapes in ways not at all unsimilar to this hypothetical example. I am thinking, of course, of our ideas ‑‑ namely those ideas which map the world we encounter. In fact, the world we encounter is precisely a world structured for us by our conceptual mappings. And this mapping functions in a manner quite similar to those fanciful irremovable eye‑glasses. The problem of meaning, including the meaning of truth, is at its core a question of the essential structure of the conceptual lenses in terms of which we focus upon the objective world, organize it into facts, develop theories, and entertain purposes. Let us take a closer look at the phenomenological rooting of this process.
2. The Taken Meaning of Given Facts
As was noted above, the natural world does not come ready‑made. Its meaning for us is not written on its face. Rather we must continually interrogate it. In that process of continually transacting with the objective world which is the solid substance of our lives, we develop purposes conjointly with our emerging understanding of the structure and potentialities of that world. Our life moves between the poles of understanding and purpose, each being modified by the other as the consequences of action seem to necessitate. But there is no possibility for us ‑‑ as finite, embodied beings to remove ourselves totally from the content of such on‑going transactions in order to view the process without the biases of perspective, interest, and selective attention. We cannot achieve the Spinozistic ideal of viewing the world "sub specie aeternitatus” -- "under the aspect of eternity" ‑‑ as we might imagine a God to be able to do. We can, of course, and I think with some evident justification drawn from the developing history of civilization, maintain a reasonable faith that experience can be illuminating and illuminated, leading to a progressive disclosure of essential dimensions of the objective world. In short, we may have some justified hope in the possibility of progress in knowledge. But the quest for certainty has rightly been called vain and delusional by John Dewey. Even in the development o‑I' a progressing empirical science, the cultural problem. s and historical delay involved in its appearance upon the human scene reveals clearly the extent to which such science is itself the complex product of cultural development. Embedded as it is in the human world, it is dependent upon cultural forces which transcend it. Such forces have conditioned the emergence of new meaning systems ‑- or conceptual lenses ‑‑ and were at least as much responsible for the emergence of modern science, as were the “demands" upon thought made by objective reality itself.
Thus, meaning is the dominant and pervasive theme of our experience. Consider a tree standing in a forest. What is its meaning for us? That will surely depend upon who we are ‑‑ individually or socially considered. For the boy playing in the woods., the tree may be an object to climb on, to hide behind, to make his path by, or simply to ponder in reverie; for the botanist it may be an example of a rare species, or a type of vegetation with a unique life history; for the poet, it may evoke thoughts of beauty and natural harmony; for the ecologist, it may be valued as an organism with an essential role to play in the balanced cycles of nature; for the land surveyor or engineer, it may be an obstacle standing in the path of development; and for the religious devotee, it may be an expression of the wisdom of God's creation. From each perspective that "simple" fact of a tree in a forest becomes concretized as a congeries of diverse impressions and ideas which lead to distinctive feelings and actions. In short, its lived meaning is different in each case. What is the "real tree? Does this seemingly obvious question ever make sense? If asked without reference to the purposefully oriented experiential world of the inquirer,. the answer would seem to have to be "no."
But the point might be pushed further. Is there no common meaning upon which all of the diverse perspectives will agree? Perhaps, yes, and perhaps, no. (The likelihood of a positive response is enhanced if they are all participants in the same cultural drama.) Even if the answer is yes, however, the agreement may be trivial or highly abstract. When the Ancient Egyptians saw the sun, they saw a god; should Australian bushmen see an American flag, they might only see the "fact" of a strangely colored object. They might not even know that it was made of cloth, with a specific chemical constitution. Perhaps they might be able to be brought to "understand" the flag as we do (and who is that "we" here ‑‑ an American Legionnaire? a member of SDS? a Chinese peasant? or a French Gaullist?); but what does that prove?
Of course, one might argue ‑‑ as adherents of modern western science usually do ‑‑ that some understandings are "truer" than others. And in certain contexts that is most likely correct. But that again depends upon the concerns and the conceptual framework of the inquirers. How can one “replace" the boy's, the poet's, or the religious devotee's with the tree of the physicist and still have the same tree? Can one be called truer than the other in the abstract? Certainly, once one specifies the context and the purpose of inquiry, then one may speak of "truer" perceptions and theories. But now we are in another ballgame, which itself remains subject to those limits of selective perception already considered. Objective constraints clearly DO operate in such concrete applications.
The point at which I am presently aiming concerns the lived meaning and concrete significance of our perceptions, as well as of our conceptions and theories. These meanings, which are directly experienced by us as Givens of the natural and social world, are better understood logically as Takens, individually and culturally. We TAKE the world to be of a specific nature. We structure its meaning for us ‑‑ most of the time in a pre‑reflective, taken-for‑granted manner. We TAKE the world, its objects and events, in a specific way, as if it were unalterably so given to us. This mode of taking is as much determined by the "mental' lenses that we "wear'', that we most deeply "are, " as it is determined by the material constitution of the environing world itself.
3. The Perceptional Mapping of the World: The Problem of Phenomenology
a. The Locus of Inquiry
The origin of all inquiry is the world IN which we live AS we live in it. It is the world in its lived meaning for us, and it is we ourselves, as we (reflexively) experience ourselves in that world. This world of ours is constituted by our personal response to, and "interiorization" of, the unfolding drama of our culture.
This drama comes to us by way of the significant others with whom we enter into face‑to‑face contact. We ARE the historically developed result of our responses to those character‑shaping culturally structured encounters. When we come to reflective awareness, at first during adolescence and usually only clearly, if at all, in early adulthood, we find ourselves to be AS those pre‑reflective ‑‑ and one might say, rhythmically inter‑coordinated ‑‑ responses have made us. It is not surprising that there is such similarity among peoples within a culture. And while philosophy proper only begins with the stage of reflection, its concerns emerge from within the “givens” of that pre‑reflective world in which we are daily immersed. Therein lies the ''locus of inquiry'' as well as its ultimate goal. This point will be clarified further on. Here we only wish to suggest a bit more clearly the essential outlines of that pre‑reflectively ''given" world of ordinary experience.
That world can well be called "given" from the perspective of philosophical reflection. Such reflection always begins within a context already delineated by such a pre‑reflectively constituted mindscape. It may well be one of the most crucial tasks of philosophy to reveal the logically ''taken" nature of our personal structure of meanings, as well as to subject that personal and cultural world to a systematic and enlightening critique; but such reflection can only take place upon the terrain initially charted out by that given world. This is even more true if the inquiry is self‑ reflective.
Philosophical reflection thus involves a kind of methodological distancing from an ongoing subject matter. One cannot, of course, achieve complete freedom from the constraints of the subject matter in which one is, however, so deeply immersed. Hence the essentially dialectic nature of philosophy, as of all self‑critical inquiries ‑‑ of which also more later. (cf. Chapter V)
The locus of philosophical inquiry is, therefore, in the ''givens" of the "taken‑ for‑granted" personal world of ordinary experience. It is for that reason that we began this study, in Chapter I, precisely there. It cannot be our concern here to investigate the developmental processes involved in the emergence of the personal self or of the cultural drama, however important such social‑scientific problematics clearly are. Rather, we must seek to sketch out the seemingly universal structures of experience that underlie most all of the various cultural and personal forms which such development has and may take. (We skip over the many suggestive insights presently emerging from within the extended fields of biology concerning the possible neurological roots and evolutionary significance of these "universals" of our mindscapes.) A few important crucial distinctions are thus called for if we are to locate the central place of philosophy in human experience. We must clearly distinguish levels of reflection, and then clarify some essential aspects of the structure of human awareness. Out of that analysis we may draw guidelines for the investigation of the structure of an individual's orientation to the world. In this way we may sum up several lines of thought so far suggested and left hanging.
b. Levels of Reflection
We have already noted on several occasions that our experience takes place for the most part on the level of a pre‑reflective or direct awareness of the world and of ourselves. We encounter a world that we "take" as “Given” in its essential meanings. In that world objects, events, and persons emerge in the process of our active doings with them. They have more or less clearly defined shapes, sizes, resistances, histories, and purposes. Their meanings are thus "fixed." We do not experience them either as the result of our construction or as existentially questionable. They are simply there, and progressively revealed in the process of our practical activity. ''There" also is a more or less explicit hierarchy of values; a normal and normalizing structure of taken‑for‑granted values and beliefs. We have them, or perhaps better, are them. And we know that others share them with us with certain, usually minor variations. This frame of meanings is funded in the experience of a culture and of an individual. And it is on the basis of this structure of funded meanings that we go about our ''business" ‑‑ our ''daily rounds'' ‑‑ as active participants in on‑going social dramas,
We also "encounter" a self that we feel ourselves to be, the reflexive “sense of self'” that seems to emerge in very early infancy sustains and guides our developing thought and actions, as it is itself reflexively modified by them. All this is well prior to any explicit self‑questioning, as with, for example, what am I to do? who am I? where did I come from? What shall become of me?
We learn to operate, to think, feel, and act, within the qualitative frame set out by that pervasive, yet hidden, sense of ourselves. The notions of mood, temperament, and pre‑reflective "self‑image'' all point to this underlying quality of our experience. What is essential to note here, however, is that the emergence of this ''sense of self' I involves a pre‑reflective experience of the reflexivity of our ''being‑ in‑the‑world, " to borrow a Heideggerian phrase. This means that our daily living is always pervaded and modified by a sense of our self. It is in the very nature of being human, for my self to be implicated in all that I do. And implicated in a way which at least implicitly always puts the being of that self in question. In short, what we are and do, is always pervaded by a pre‑reflective sense of what we are and are to become, that is by a sense of our freedom with respect to a future that is in a crucial sense open to us. Thus this pre‑reflective "sense of self" may generate the experience of anxiety ‑‑ that objectless apprehension of our "ownmost" possibilities ‑‑ because it always calls for some form of self‑determining choices, the experience of which is the pre‑reflective locus of philosophical reflection. It would not be too much to say therefore, that the human being, by its very nature, is THE philosophical animal par excellence, and that philosophical activity in the widest sense of a reflective concern for one's destiny is an essential dimension of being human. This is simply another ‑‑ and perhaps more experientially accurate ‑‑ way of reiterating Socrates' statement that the unexamined life is not worth living. It is not worth living because it is not FULLY human.
Questioning is thus an essential mode of being human, while practical problems calling for specific choices are ever arising within the confines laid‑out in advance by our way of being. Snags are met. The ''daily round" may be impeded by unexpected interferences, by expected but still challenging resistances, or simply by the wondering wanderings of the mind. On such occasions the natural flow of our practical activities is brought up short. We are forced or we seek to restrain our habitual activity ‑‑ at least for a moment. We reflect. We may seek to locate the problem, the impediment. To define it ‑‑ to grasp it ‑‑ to understand it ‑‑ and then to develop strategies for surmounting it. The more complex or significant the problem, and the more intellectually sophisticated the inquirer, the more refined is deliberation upon the impediment likely to be. And similarly with the result of the deliberation, the plan of action aims to surmount the difficulty and to return activity to its pre‑appointed direction. To the extent that our deliberation points out an adequate response, our action will tend to heal the breach of our "daily round,” to "solve the problem'' We will be able to recommence on our life's way, with an experience reconstructed.
This deliberative process in which problems confronted or questions entertained ‑‑ occasion a reflective reconstruction of our experiential paths is a daily occurrence in most people's lives. Problems occasion reflection; reflection notes their nature and marks out potential responses, action follows reflection, and if successful reconstitutes experience so that it may return to its habitual patterns with minimal interruptions. All of this is, of course, in the usual flow of daily life, "no big deal.'' Reflection upon such problems is a normal part of our life ‑‑ itself almost “taken‑for-granted." And yet from the perspective of evolution, it is a "big deal."
Few animals can engage in such simple reflection ‑‑ and probably none to any great extent. Instinct and impulse tend to be the rule of the day in the animal kingdom, with certain minor, albeit significant exceptions, for example, with Kohler's apes and Goodall's chimps. But such problem‑solving thinking is routine for humans. We call a momentary halt to our impulsive or habitual movement. We stop our activity so that we may "reflect" upon what is taking place "in the world." And then, when we recommence, we do it in a different way. How remarkable! We are momentarily placing an aspect of the world in question -- or finding it in question for us. We then seek through deliberation to address the question, perhaps to resolve the problematic situation in our minds before attempting to do so in practice.
Of course, the reflection usually does not take us very far. The pen fails to write. Our attention is redirected from pad to pen. We sort of say to ourselves: "What is wrong?" We may try extra hard to make it write by scribbling upon another piece of paper. Nothing comes but scratches without ink. We may wonder: "How long have I had this pen?'' ''Can it be out of ink already?'' We conclude it can, and find that it is. We throw it into the basket and reach for another. And then we return to our writing ‑‑ with perhaps a passing question as to where we were. We return where we left off. Nothing monumental has transpired. Our world remains essentially the same world as it was before, and we, the same person we were before. Simply an impediment to the smooth flow of our experience has been removed. Such is the “normal" course of reflection: a momentary break in the taken‑for‑granted flow of experience which has been "patched up."
But, of course, there are impediments of greater consequence which on occasion do emerge. A death in the family; a juncture in the experienced routine which calls for deep reflection and a life‑determining choice, as upon the completion of high school, or college; a question of marriage; of buying a house or moving to a new area; of changing jobs; or of having children. Here it is clearly not a matter of little importance. Decisions must be made which will significantly affect the future course of one's life. We are anxious; we feel that the self we are is being placed fundamentally in question. These are occasions which call for a more profound reflection upon one's values and goals, upon the kind of world one wants to live in as well as upon the kind of world one believes one does in fact live in. Ultimately it all involves a decision about the kind of person one wants to be. It is a matter of fact that most of the time, for most people, such reflection does not go very far into raising such questions. Most of the time we decide in accordance with precedent, habit, and the pressure of the views of our significant others ‑‑ our "authorities." This is quite similar to the way we "solve" the more "trivial" problems of every‑day life. Yet such occasions do cry out for much deeper reflection than they usually receive. They are potentially yawning gaps in the very structure of our "taken‑for‑granted, " habitual world. They demand analytical penetration of the encrusted structure of that world in which we are immersed and into the self which we are and are to be. By placing our entire personal world in question at least for the moment, they call for an existential confrontation with the meanings of our life and its place in our cultural drama. They call for self‑reflection in the most profound sense.
It is here, in the emergence of concrete reflection upon self and world in their basic meanings for us, that the place of philosophy in human experience is most crucially to be found. It is, of course, possible to engage in such reflection occasioned by far less than such "world‑ shaking'' confrontations. The more sensitive and philosophically inclined individuals will no doubt often engage in such profound self‑reflective activity with far less if provocation." They may even develop the continued ''habit'' of such reflection, perhaps as a "natural" continuation of the joyous inquisitiveness of infancy. In any case, it is clear that a new dimension of reflective experience emerges when one is led to question the structures of that world within which daily problems emerge, and the structures of that personal self whose world and hence whose self, is in question.
The levels here suggested, from pre‑reflective, to reflective, to self‑(world) reflective, are obviously matters of degree. There are no clear and distinct lines which separate them. Reflection upon problems emerging in daily living occurs so routinely that often it can hardly be distinguished from the normal pre‑reflective course of daily life ‑‑ and little thought is ever occasioned ABOUT it. Such clearly would be the case of the pen which runs out of ink. It is, in general, expected ‑‑ and we have developed habits to deal, with it. The failure of your car to start is perhaps less habitually expected ‑‑ and yet nonetheless, in general, an expected event in the normal course of daily life – even though not usually expected to happen "just then.'' But it is quite unlikely that the failure of the car to start would begin a chain of reflection leading to consideration of the purposes involved in using the car, such as: Why am I going to work? or school? Should I move to a place where l' could avoid using private autos? Why am I dependent upon cars at all ? Could it be otherwise?
Profound philosophical reflection upon the structure of meanings at stake in one's world MAY emerge however out of such ''ordinary'' occurrences like the failure of a car to start. But that is likely only if it is linked to a series of other related minor inconveniences, such as repeated car failures, the need for many repairs, continual problems in transportation, recurrent problems with the job, inconveniences in parking, problems of time, of getting up early, and of returning home late; in short, a felt dissatisfaction with one's style of life. Slowly emerging from such a pattern, occasioned perhaps by the car’s refusal to start one day, might be the deeper self‑reflection to which we have referred. The role of others in initiating or sustaining such a quest must not be underplayed either. In general, there is no clear‑cut definitive line to be drawn between simple reflection upon a problem ''in the world, " in my "daily round, " or in my personal life, and the more systematic, world‑questioning investigation which can most properly be called philosophical. We have simply tried to locate philosophical reflection as a possible emergent from within the problems of daily living when these become raised to the level of a systematic inquiry into the essential assumptions which underlie the meaning of that world for us.
c. Aspects of Awareness: Focus and Fringe
Reflection upon the dialectical polarities of self and world which is the essence of philosophy is therefore at best an occasional emergent from the ordinary course of daily events. It is certainly not a pervasive trait of experience. Ordinary conscious human experience is more adequately identified as a pre‑reflective orientation to the world qualitatively pervaded by a mood and reflexively sustained by a "sense of self." It is within this normal experiential matrix that problems arise calling for technical solution. Such solutions require a reflective focusing which locates and defines the problems in question, thus reconstituting the immediate quality of that pre‑reflectively given experience. To reflect is to change the immediate quality of our experience, regardless of whether or not the reflection leads to a satisfactory reconstruction of that experience. The same is true with "philosophical'' reflection. It too constitutes a qualitative transformation of the lived experience of' the individual regardless of the practical "success" of the reflection itself. In short, that "primary" pre‑reflective experience of the individual is always qualitatively transformed by reflection. To understand the nature and the limits of that qualitative transformation it is necessary to consider briefly certain pervasive traits of all conscious experience, that is the ft dialogue" between focus and fringe.
Practically all conscious experience is focalized experience. As William James long ago pointed out, consciousness is an active, selecting agency. It is constituted by interests and is ever choosing its objects from without an indefinite field of potential meanings. It is somewhat like a searchlight shining in the dark, first on this and then on that object. It selects its objects for attention in accord with the dual laws of its own interests (its projects, in Sartrean language) and the insistent demands of the recalcitrant objective world. These interests are, of course, rooted in and shaped by the personal mindscape in question. In fact, the very necessities of survival constantly force upon us concern for those insistent demands of the objective world. A consciousness which could not focus upon resistances posed by the objective world, is a consciousness which would not long be with us. Focalization makes possible an instrumental and problem‑solving orientation which from the point of evolutionary survival is a necessity of the first order. (Freud's problem‑solving ego fits here.) To focalize is to locate and define a specific problem ‑‑ usually within the contours of time and space ‑‑ as the source of a felt disturbance of prior organic equilibrium within what John Dewey calls the organism‑environment transaction. Such problem‑location is a precondition of the analysis of the nature and cause of the disturbance. That analysis is itself quite usually an important pre‑condition of the development of an adequate response on the part of the conscious organism. Non‑conscious organisms may solve such problems by way of instinct; but this method works well only so long as the problems continue to emerge in the same configurations for which evolution has fitted those instincts. Instincts are by nature inflexible. They cannot handle new situations. Conscious, essentially instinct‑free, organisms who can in general determine their own problematic focalizations, are thus clearly endowed with far greater response flexibility. It seems reasonable to assume that greater survival value attaches to beings with such capacities, at least, that is, if they are highly complex organisms whose vast range of sensitivity makes them especially vulnerable to environmental disequilibriums.
The point being emphasized here, however, is a less hypothetical one. We are concerned only to note the central ‑‑ and nearly pervasive ‑- character of focalization in the conscious experience of human beings. There are human experiences however in which focalization seems to be absent. The transition from waking to sleeping, for example, seems to be a case in which the mind gives up attachment to a specific meaning‑object. Also, in the report of mystical experiences something similar seems to take place. Oriental meditation exercises, such as the concentration upon the flame of a candle, or the monotonous repetition of the same phrase, or mantra, seem to be carefully designed procedures for the eradication of focalized attention. They proceed, however, by a strange kind of reverse logic. By excessive concentration upon one focalized object, the person slowly loses contact with the fringed qualities of that awareness ‑- and with the loss of the fringe which alone contextualized awareness, making it meaningful for us in the ordinary sense, the focalized object itself is rendered meaningless and tends to disappear. One is left with a state of objectless awareness which is at least quasi‑mystical. This phenomena should tell us something very important about the essential role of the fringe in ordinary human experience.
Actually, focalization is so pervasively a trait of conscious experience, that historically most observers (Hume is a classic case) have taken it as identical with consciousness itself. This is an aspect of what William James so insightfully called the psychological fallacy: confusing the object of thought with the thought of the object. The object of thought is that object of focalized attention. We look at the world "out there''. We see trees, grass, bushes, squirrels, and cars. We may first focus on one of them, then on another. We ''look at" the tree, and don't ''see" the squirrel; or we look at the car whose passing noise has drawn our (focalized) attention, and lose the tree. The act of focusing attention makes the object 11 out there it exist for us "AS an object out there." That is central to its meaning for us. We might even pass off into reverie, and focus upon a person absent, an action to be done, or simply a pleasing fantasy. Thus the objects ''out there'' would momentarily fade from our immediate awareness. It is important to emphasize that as we talk of object of focalized awareness we are not limited to a consideration of physical objects in the natural world. We can and often do concentrate our attention upon objects which are not immediately "present'' except to our awareness. The object of thought is not always a physical object. And even when it is such an object, it is only such for us in the manner and way that we focus upon it. THAT is its meaning for us. It is a meaning object for conscious experience. (John Dewey and William James along with the Phenomenologists have so well and insistently pointed this out.) The practical usefulness of this power of consciousness to focalize should thus be obvious. A non‑focalized consciousness is usually of little practical use.
But the ''object of thought" which emerges in the act of focusing attention is not to be identified with the "thought of the object.'' There is always far more in the "thought of the object" than is in the "object of thought" itself. The "object of thought" is the result of an act of selective attention. It usually results from the organism's incessant needs and interests. In the example of the car above, in order to have one's attention directed to the passing car whose sounds interfered with the tranquility of our perception of the tree in the yard, our "at‑one‑ness ' with the tree, those sounds had to enter into our awareness, at some level prior to our act of focusing upon them. We had first to have a ‑pre‑focalized awareness of them before we could focus our attention upon them. It is, of course, possible for the sounds to have occurred, for us to have "heard I ' them, and yet never to have turned our attention toward them, never to have "listened to" them. Think of the mother sewing in a room with trains rumbling by. She is seemingly oblivious to all sounds. But let her baby in the next room give out the slightest peep and she is immediately mobilized into action. Certainly, the peep of the baby could not compete with the sounds of the trains in sheer decibel level. And certainly, if someone asked her whether she heard the trains going by, she would respond that she did; but her interest was not there. The noise of those trains was “taken‑for‑granted," part of the non-focalized background which fringed her awareness.
In fact, it is probably the case, in this hypothetical example, that the sudden absence of all noise would have been more remarkable than the noises themselves. It is more likely that the mother's attention would turn to the world outside of her apartment if the trains and the companion noises of the city streets were suddenly to cease, than it would attend to the street's ordinary sounds. But the cry of the baby, that is another matter entirely.
In short, the act of focalized attention takes place within the context of a much wider "fringed" awareness, which focalization never exhausts. The "thought of the object" focused upon always includes a fringed awareness which is the locus of that qualitative feel which is the ever‑present matrix of our experience. Our experiential ''feel" is far more subtly complex than is the grasp of our focalized awareness. Problems occasioning reflection usually arise first as simply felt, non‑focalized, disturbances in the qualitative fringe of our ordinary experience. It is then that the reflective act of focusing takes over, seeking to raise to the level of attention the hidden dimensions of that disturbance as a pre‑condition of the development of an effective response.
But the act of reflective awareness is not identical with focalization. Focalization is clearly a pervasive trait of direct awareness. As we drive an automobile we may be thinking about numerous things other than driving. If we have learned to drive a car well, the one thing we are most likely NOT thinking about is how to drive the car. THAT is not problematic for us. We may be thinking of the road, of the other cars, of our destination, of what we are going to do, or, perhaps, regretting something we have done. We may not even be "paying attention" to the road and the traffic at all. Yet we are certainly not “unaware” of the road, the traffic, and our driving. If we were actually unaware, we would not be driving for very long. We would soon be off the road in a ditch, or out of our lane, or into another car. There is a complete difference between driving unconsciously and driving without ''paying attention." In short, there is far more ''in'' our awareness at any time than that upon which we focus our attention. The awkwardness of learning how to drive a car results precisely from the fact that we have to pay attention to the processes of driving. We can not take these for granted because we have yet to master their essentials. Still being highly problematic for us, they require explicit, concentrated acts of focalized attention.
Finally, the linguistic difficulties involved in expressing these important point's about the polarities of awareness suggest how far ordinary experience is from a clear reflective grasp of these pervasive characteristics.
An adequate analysis of conscious experience, therefore, must include far more than simply a consideration of the focus of awareness. It must include a sophisticated phenomenology of the fringe, of the context of felt meanings within which objects of focalized attention emerge and are understood. (This is what William James had in mind when he called for returning the vague and inarticulate to its proper place in mental life; also what John Dewey had in mind when he emphasized the centrality of "pervasive quality" in the analysis of human inquiry.) Such a descriptive analysis would have to consider not simply the "spatial" fringes of perceptual awareness, as with the above examples of the car, or the stand on which the Yogi's candle is sitting, but temporal and emotional fringes also.
Further, that pervasive quality of reflexivity which indelibly marks the experience of "socialized" humans with a pre‑reflective sense of themselves must philosophically be given its central place. Our experience of the moment is conditioned by our hopes, expectations, anticipations, memories, fears, and anxieties; in short, by the structure of our concerns, as well as by the mindscape which they invoke and the reflexive sense of self which pervades them. These guide our explicit thinking. The meaning of any object of thought for an individual is interfused with the qualities drawn from those personal projects through which we give expression to that self we wish to be. The ''thought of the object" is precisely such a personally unique organization of the life experience of the individual in the face of the ''object of thought.'' It is this encounter which defines our "situation" ‑‑ the world in, by, and through which we live.
d. The Self‑World of the Person
We have been struggling to say that the lived meaning of an object of thought for us is the conclusion of a long process in the personal history of the experiencer who as a participant in an ongoing cultural drama continually encounters and responds to a resistant natural and social world. Resistant is not here meant in the sense of antagonistic, but, rather as independent of the demands and wishes of the individual. ''Resistant" means that the object encountered tends to follow a course determined by the laws of ITS being, not those of the being of the experiencer. This is what is meant by the recalcitrance of fact ‑‑ its obdurate, hard, inescapable quality. (What C. S. Peirce had in mind with his phenomenological category of secondness.)
But whatever may be the recalcitrance of facts, their meaning for us is at least in part always a product of the orientation we bring to our encounter with them. This concretely contours what Sartre and Dewey have called our "situation. '' Our mode of focusing upon them is always a function of our personal interests or concerns, our mode of thinking, and our developed organic behavioral repertoire of skills and capacities. These interests and capacities have emerged historically through our dramatic involvement in the concerns of our culture. They have become ours through their rooting in that personal mindscape and attendant "sense of self" which in the deepest sense we are. The culture itself is an historically developed structured network of avaiIable meanings and technical capacities from which we draw and upon which we depend.
We are directly immersed in such a cultural drama. We have responded to and made our own the essentials of our culture's meaningful response to the objective world. Our meanings are essentially cultural products. Chairs and tables, people and events, even our very ''sense of self, tend to take for us the configurations with which our culture has endowed them. the meaning of a person in western civilization tends to be significantly different from what it is in the eastern world. This difference may be even more pronounced with respect to tribal or primitive societies.
In sum, the "world" in which we live is essentially a culturally determined world, not only as a result of the historically developed shape of its material setting, both natural and technical, but also in respect to its organized patterns of meanings. The meaning of our world for us is our personalized and perhaps idiosyncratic version of this culturally developed mindscape. That is, the world as it exists within the matrix of the cultural drama which is ours. Thus meanings are social as well as personal. And the self which we are is simply that intimately felt totality ‑that reflexive sense of self with its own personal way of thinking ‑‑ with which we confront that "socially constructed" mindscape which is the world of our culture. Our self on a pre‑reflective level is therefore nothing else than the qualitatively fringed meaning‑ patterns of the focalized objects in our world. As our focus changes, our world is "peopled" with different objects and events. But the objective structure of that pre-reflectively given world as well as of that self which is its condition of appearance, remains essentially unaffected. We may, of course, reflect upon that self which we feel ourselves to be. We may focus upon ourselves, our hopes, aspirations, anxieties, expectations, anticipations, memories, fears, longings, or on our ideas, beliefs, and values. By so doing we begin explicitly to raise basic questions about the essentials of that world in which we have been essentially pre-reflectively immersed. But there is no reason to assume either: 1. ) that the self upon which we reflectively focus is the same one which we pre‑reflectively were and are; or 2.) that when we reflect upon our self we stop at that moment from being a self which is still in some sense pre‑reflectively engaged in a world. Even such reflective experience is fringed in the manner already discussed ‑‑ and reflection is at best a selective attempt to raise to the level of focalized object certain dimensions of our lived experience in order to be able to reconstitute them. Certainly any such reflection involves a transformation of the immediate felt quantity of that lived experience which is ours; but its logical warrant is to be found in its ability to function as a useful conceptual tool for the progressive reconstitution of that experience. Besides the obvious fact that we may be wrong in our reflective appreciations of who we are and what our world is for us, we must always realize that such reflection upon self and world is itself a part of a dramatically unfolding personal experience. This encompassing personal dimension always contextualizes the act of reflection. This observation is a necessary caution for all attempts to identify the object of self‑reflection with the lived subject of that reflection. Here too the "object of thought" is not identical with the "thought of the object." We always escape, at least in part, from our own self‑reflective grasp, no matter how penetrating that grasp may be. This is not meant to suggest, however, that such self‑world reflection may not be a very important stage in the practical lived reconstruction of both. It may be, and often is, sometimes crucially so, as in successful cases of psychotherapy.
Let us conclude these remarks with a few observations on the relation of this dialogue between focus and fringe ‑‑ this preliminary outline of a phenomenology of lived experience ‑‑ to the problem of conceptual mapping with which we began this chapter. The nature of our reflective investigations into our self and the essentials of that world in which we are immersed will be strongly influenced by the felt structure of those pre‑reflective mappings, our personal mindscapes, in terms of which we have been living our life. Our lived world is simply the felt structure of meanings which our pre‑reflectively assumed conceptual mappings have given to our encountered objective resistances. The self which we are is that intimate sense pervaded by differential concerns (and implicit hierarchies of value) which is the pervasive felt meaning of that world. Clearly, our self and our world are intimately connected. And that mindscape ‑‑ pre‑reflective conceptual mapping of our world ‑‑ is the inescapable context of any reflective investigation of our self. The adequacy of such self‑reflection cannot, therefore, be evaluated in isolation from a consideration of the essential adequacy of our mindscape, of the essential structure of our world for us. The reflective grasp of our world is, in short, a matter of the highest philosophical importance. In fact an individual's commitment to his ''world, " to his culturally developed orientation to existence, is clearly a matter of significant philosophical concern ‑‑ involving as it does crucial (pre‑reflective) choices as to the essential meanings involved in human living. Any act of self‑ reflection, of necessity, will have to concern itself most crucially, if it is to claim theoretical adequacy ‑‑ and probably, if it is to aspire to long‑term practical efficacy ‑- with the structure of its pre‑reflective conceptual mapping of the nature of the Real.
One point of crucial logical significance bears special mention here. This concerns the relation between the experience of a situation as problematic and the inquiry into that situation in the search for a satisfactory resolution. Problems emerge out of problematic situations when we reflectively focus upon a felt disturbance in order to locate its sources. If we are to address the disturbance intelligently with the aim of resolving its problematic character, we must first seek to locate its source, that is to define "the problem.'' The reflective definition of the problem itself constitutes a crucial movement in the direction of the progressive amelioration of the situation precisely because such definition predefines the range of possible solutions. In short, problems and solutions are dialectically bound together within the context of an inquiry generated by the pre‑reflective experience of a situation as problematic. In the words of John Dewey, "the nature of the problem as well as of the solution to be reached is under inquiry; failure in solution is sure to result if the problem has not been properly located and described." (Bernstein, p. 137).
4. The Problem of Paradigms
Our pre‑reflective conceptual mapping of the world structures the situation within which all reflective inquiries logically begin. This much has certainly been made clear so far. This mapping provides us with our conceptual eyeglasses through which the meaning of our experience is inescapably filtered. The structure of our most simple and immediate perceptions of "fact" is heavily contoured and qualified by the prismatic lenses of our mindscape. It is not possible to escape from this reality, however sophisticated we may become about its role in shaping our thought. We may, however, subject such conditions of experience to a self‑reflective investigation which places them in question. Such investigation hopefully may yield a progressive disclosure of the latent assumptions influencing our experience. One of the crucial tasks of philosophy should be obvious now: namely the continued self‑reflective investigation of the essential conceptual assumptions, that is of the horizon of those mindscapes, which underlay human experience. Before we discuss this problem in greater detail we should briefly consider the relevance of these remarks to the problems of sophisticated empirical inquiry, that is, of Science.
Science in its most ideal form as the method of intelligence is a systematic inquiry into the nature of the Real. Its classical goal is the development of a ''true'' conceptual mapping of the world. By "true" is meant a mapping which correctly describes the essential "facts" of the world and correctly displays their essential connections. With such conceptual mappings scientists hope to be able, often, if not always, to predict future events as well as to retrodict past ones. (By "retrodict'' is meant the ability to use a developed theoretical framework so that past events "could have been predicted" with an adequate knowledge of the facts extant prior to the occurrence of the event (s) in question.) Many scientists even hold out the promise of a total unification of the sciences so that all events, past and future, would be capable of such explanatory prediction‑ retrodiction. (It should be clear that such a scientific vision considers the question of time to be ultimately irrelevant except in so far as it refers to the sequence in which events take place)
If the result of an adequate conceptual mapping is the ability to predict, then the test of the adequacy of such a mapping will be found to lie in the investigation and evaluation of the success of its predictions, not to speak of the practical control which such correct predictions would afford. This is the way in which such scientific claims are validated. And since technology may be viewed as the practical application of theoretical science to human purposes, a complex technology clearly presupposes the development of such a sophisticated scientific mapping. Clearly, then, technology is dependent upon the development of "pure" science.
The actual relationship between science and technology is, however, far more complex than these brief remarks might suggest. Quite often the development of science actually follows upon the emergence of practical cultural needs which call for the creation of new technologies. The meeting of these needs may require the quasi‑ independent elaboration of scientific theories, leading to the emergence of new conceptual frameworks. It is well. beyond the scope of this book to consider further these complex matters except to underscore the historical point that ''pure" science has rarely, ever been ''pure" or free from the concerns, pressures, needs, and interests of the culture of its time. Important here are the cultural biases which are inevitably built into the essentially selective process of scientific theory construction. This occurs without regard to the specific motives behind any particular investigative act. While the "truth" of the scientific theory is “objective” in very important senses ‑‑ that is, it is to be evaluated independently of the interests and concerns of its proponents ‑‑ it is never without such “glasses." For our present concern it is essential to underscore the fact that such theories are always, of necessity, products of reflection which take place within the context of a culturally shaped and personally developed pre‑reflective mindscape which structures the meanings available for the inquirer as well as the results which "feel right."
Science is thus clearly a highly sophisticated mode of reflective experience. Nevertheless, the theoretical scientist must also be located within a, specific tradition of thought. The mindscape within which his inquiry takes place is constituted both in general by the developed thought of a culture as well as by the specific past history of the sciences themselves. He has been educated into a certain scientifically accepted world view. He has learned certain more or less definite methodological procedures which stand in close theoretical and practical relationship to the available and accepted conceptual mappings. His orientation to the world, no matter how sophisticated, is a highly selective one. It has, no doubt, proved itself quite adequate to the purposes of most scientific initiates for a solid period of time, its adequacy will certainly rest in part upon: 1. ) its ability to service the technological needs of its time; 2. ) its theoretical coherence and its ability to yield reflective satisfaction to its supporters; and 3) it ability to "explain'' (and perhaps predict) significant events. There will probably be both objective and subjective reasons why it is accepted as adequate. But all of this is also a bit beyond the scope of our immediate concern. What does concern us here is simply to locate even this highly refined product of reflective inquiry within the context laid out in our previous remarks on the nature and limits of conceptual mappings. And here, science, however sophisticated it may be, does not stand out as fundamentally different.
What we are saying is that science as science, at any moment in the history of its development, is an act of reflective experience which operates within the confines of a pre-reflectively taken‑for‑granted meaning‑world which pre‑structures the horizon of the real and the possible for its devotees. There is a set of taken‑for‑granted paradigms (or "disciplinary matrices, in the phrase of Thomas Kuhn) by which is constituted the scientist's mindscape. Thus is determined in outline for him what is Real, what is important, where the problems are believed to arise, where the possible solutions are to be looked for, and what is the appropriate range of acceptable investigatory procedures. Although the problematic context is far more highly refined than is usually the case in ordinary practical inquiries -- and may even be partially activated by the very sophisticated probing concerns of the scientific inquirer himself ‑‑ the dynamics of inquiry remain essentially the same as those outlines above. We still have the limitations imposed by problem‑selectivity, employed methods, and paradigmatic reference‑frame. We are simply dealing with a situation in which much of the conceptual mapping is highly sophisticated and carefully articulated. Yet the confines of the pre-reflective orientation still remain as crucial limits to the inquiry. Still required is the same self‑critical reflection which the products of ordinary experience and reflection call for; though clearly such reflection must be sufficiently sophisticated to appreciate the demands of the theories in question. Once again, the role of philosophy as critic of the assumed mindscape becomes central.
5. The Dialectic of Philosophical Inquiry
The self-critical nature of philosophical reflection is that which makes it unique. Ordinary thinking tends to take the "world" and the "self" for granted. It seeks to solve practical problems "in" the world. And it tends to treat the self as simply another object "in" the world whose problems are to be solved in the same way. Scientific reflection generally seeks to subject that "world" and that "self" to sustained and highly sophisticated investigation. Both modes of reflection, however, tend to employ non-self-critically the available conceptual machinery in the solution of their diverse problems. They do not generally make that machinery itself the major subject of their investigations. On occasion they may be forced to clarify a term, or develop a set of meanings, but within the context of the established paradigms. Essentially they use the conceptual tools and mappings which have been handed down to them. It is only at the level of very advanced scientific research that such uncritical applications of paradigms may be questioned. This occurs, I suspect, far less frequently than it should. At such a point science would merge with philosophy, as, for example, with an Einstein, a Heisenberg, an Eddington, a Freud, or a Marx. For it is the peculiar task of philosophy to engage in systematic and sustained reflection into the nature of the conceptual tools that are operative in a culture, and, by so doing, explicitly to place those tools and that culture in question. It should be the task of philosophy therefore, to become the critic of assumptions and of procedures, and even more, of the mode of living which sustains them. In short, it is called upon to become the intellectual conscience of a civilization. The complexity of this philosophical task, however, only begins to become clear when one realizes that the only "tools" available with which to carry out this self-critical inquiry are precisely the conceptual tools under investigation. There is no Archimedean standpoint from which philosophy can engage in its task. This has been the major reason that philosophers have for so long sought some indubitable truths which might serve as an unquestionable standpoint from which they could launch their critical investigation. They felt that if they could only get to that position beyond question, they would have sure footing and perfect leverage to move the conceptual world. But there is no such standpoint. Even the greatest of philosophers, like all of us, is a person historically situated within the confines of a culture, thinking from within the horizon opened up by his personal mindscape. He employs the ideas bequeathed to him by its traditions, especially those of philosophy itself. There is no standpoint from which he can view the human scene, like a god, under "the aspect of eternity." He can never be totally above the fray. lie is inescapably in it. Thus philosophical thinking is, and ought self-consciously to be, an involved participating in the unfolding drama of a civilization. It ought continually to strive to subject the assumptions, the conceptual tools, the prevailing mindscapes, and the sustained hierarchies of value, to critical scrutiny, with the aim of clarifying human purposes and serving "the liberation and expansion of the meanings of which experience is capable." Such self-reflective activity must be of necessity open-ended. As experience undergoes transformation, the ideas extant will take on changed significance. New ideas will emerge and new human needs will develop requiring progressive clarification. This clarification always takes place from within the ongoing movement of human experience. Our pre-reflective conceptual mapping structures the world for us within the problems arise. It is here that reflection takes place. We investigate our assumptions while we are, of necessity, pre-reflectively subject to them. We use and seek to refine our conceptual tools by using those very tools. It is at this point that the analogy of philosophy with a tool-making, appraising, and redesigning industry most clearly breaks down. For the latter uses some tools to shape others. It is always others relating to others. But in this essentially self-critical activity which is central to philosophy, the tools being shaped are the same tools being used. The shaping is the using, and the using is the shaping. It has been rightly said that philosophy is the only investigation whose very nature is ever to be questioning itself. In its activity, as it places in question the being of the questioner, it inevitably finds its very being similarly placed in question. There is no escape, save for the end of reflection.
Certainly there are dimensions of philosophy which are not primarily self-critical in this circular manner. There is, for example, philosophy of science, of education, and of art. But those separate endeavors, when theoretically pushed, return to the core: philosophy of philosophy: the self-critical, circular, and hopefully progressive, evaluation and development of the meanings of human experience, both actual and potential. As we subject our conceptual tools to critical evaluation, we sharpen them to do the jobs for which they were designed. In the process, we clarify and subject to critical scrutiny the mindscape in which they were rooted as well as the values and purposes which underlie our commitment to these jobs. As the tools are sharpened and our mindscape reflectively clarified, so our analyses of the purposes can be improved. As tools become clarified new purposes emerge, with new meanings. And the contours of our experience, both lived and projected, are continually transformed. So long as human experience remains open-ended and changing, so long may philosophy be needed to enlighten and guide that experience.