Saturday, January 29, 2011
George Pattison on how things, intentional objects, begin to get past the subject.
We should not begin with the classical scenario of an inner psychic event on one side and a physical object out there on the other. No matter how hallowed by convention this picture may be, the question it suggests is only a derivative, or secondary, issue. More basic than the question of perception, couched in such terms, is that of what Heidegger calls comportment (Verhalten). What does this mean? Let us take Heidegger’s own example. I come into a room and see a chair. Now, the chair that I thus see is not in the first instance the object of detached empirical perception. It is simply the chair I have to push out of the way, or walk round, or sit on, or on which the cat is already sitting. In such ways I live out an intentional comportment toward the chair long before I ever isolate it as a distinct object of perception. Clearly, the comportment in which I encounter the chair doesn’t just involve what I subsequently isolate as ‘the chair’, but embraces the whole complex of lived experience in which I encounter the chair itself: everything that has to do with my going into this particular room.

Intentional comportment is not, however, introduced by Heidegger as a
step in an argument that would culminate in my being able to say with
confidence that the chair ‘really’ exists as a physical object in three-dimensional space. The concern that is revealed in intentional comportment is not the perceived entity, but the perceivedness of the entity, the entity ‘as it is perceived, as it shows itself in concrete perception’, ‘the way and manner of its being-perceived’, ‘the how of its being-perceived ... the how of its being-intended’.

This may still fall short of providing an adequate response to the charge of subjectivism. Nevertheless it does show us what Heidegger thinks is being aimed at in phenomenological investigation, namely, the uncovering of this ‘as’, ‘way and manner’, or ‘how’ of the perceivedness of the object. To go back to our example, the chair is disclosed to me in the first instance ‘as’ the chair I want to sit on, or from which I have to shoo off the cat.

Pp. 89-90
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