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We tend to judge the quality of our lives from the experiences we have in it. From listening to music to laying on a beach soaking up the sun, we all are composites of our own unique sets of experiences. Although no-one could discount the importance of having quality experiences, one cannot help but ask if they have implications for the world around us.

  The Philosophical study analyzing our experiences and linking them to our understanding of the world is known as Phenomenology.

"Phenomenology is the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view. The central structure of an experience is its intentionality, its being directed toward something, as it is an experience of or about some object. An experience is directed toward an object by virtue of its content or meaning (which represents the object) together with appropriate enabling conditions."  (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

The term intentionality plays a key role in most phenomenological discussions and it appears prohibitively technical. However, one may appreciate its relevance to our daily lives by noticing how frequently it applies to even the most mundane of our activities. For example, an "appropriate enabling" condition emerges when we as a society apply intentionality to institutions such as the government, tax codes and marriage. Indeed, none of these things would exist if we did not have a consensus that the government has the authority to enact laws, that taxes can serve the public good ( at least in principle they should) and that marriage imposes moral obligations upon people.

To borrow John Searle's terminology, one may refer to the acts by which institutions are created as "collective intentionality". That is, we as a society ascribe meaning to our experiences that endows them with "appropriate enabling conditions".  Thus, far from being subjective and arbitrary; our personal experiences play a pivotal role in shaping the world around us.

As important as intentionality is for our understanding of the philosophical implications of our personal experiences, it is only one example why the study of phenomenology is interesting and important.

First and foremost, phenomenology can be defined as an analysis of our experiences and that takes place from a first -person perspective. Thus, we will focus on the first-person perspective in this meetup and examine how that impacts our worldview or changes the world around us.

To gain a deeper background understanding of our upcoming topic, we invite you to review the following links and any other comparably reputable resources you may find on your own.

Although these citations can serve as our guidelines, our scope is not by any means limited to them. Above all, we'll convene to discuss our experiences and how they enhance one's understanding of the world.

We look forward to hearing your creative contributions to our discussion.

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  • Steven

    I feel an apology is appropriate on my part because when I entered the discussion yesterday I was of the opinion, by general observation of the manifestations of things in our lives attempting to give us experience, that people general might not be experiencing the joy of experience that I strive toward. In reflection, this appears not be the case with the group to which I am delighted and we may well have spent our time more fruitfully in an analytic discussion of Phenomenology. I am gratified this group has not suffered the plight of the ravages of the instant gratification nature of our society so removed are we philosophers from it. My apologies I will assume the higher enlightened nature of those that attend in the future.

    April 21, 2014

  • TEHandKTW


    April 20, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    We discussed a broad range of ideas and everyone made valuable contributions.

    1 · April 20, 2014

  • Paul

    This article will also be illuminating, as perception is the first instance of that which we call "experience."­

    The philosopher John McDowell theorizes that we regard the world passively, but conceptualize it actively. Is this the case, or is it the other way around? Analyze your own experience, and this will tell you a great deal about how you see philosophy. If conceptualization is active, does this mean that you have volition over what you conceptualize? Or are you consigned to passive conceptualization ("human nature", perhaps?). Each perspective has consequences for one's philosophical "attitude," as Husserl might put it.

    April 19, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    As Steve explained, one way to address phenomenological questions is to discuss them from the first person perspective.

    However, to illustrate the essence of such an inquiry, we'd be well-advised to contrast it with the third person perspective. Without inviting us to wallow in outrageous pedantry, I'll recommend that we focus on ideas that bring this contrast to light. While thinkers such as Husserl, Merelau-Ponty, Heidegger and Sartre made relevant contributions to this discussion, they are known to be obscure in their exposition and amorphous in their construction of ideas.

    By contrast, Tom Nagel's writing is lucid and he purged his theoretical framework of all unnecessary complexities. Many of his essays center on the distinction between first and third person perspective. My personal favorite is "what is it like to be a bat".

    1 · April 7, 2014

    • Steven

      I would like to emphasize this short illuminating much acclaimed essay by Nagel. I like it because it does give a frame of reference for experience that we might imagine but could never truly experience. Certainly a nuance of this is the experience of each of us versus Hendrix.

      1 · April 15, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    At the risk of staging a needless polemic, I'll go so far as to say that Nagel conveyed more meaningful insights in his nine page essay than Heidegger or Husserl did in their typical 50 page publication.

    April 7, 2014

  • Nathalie R.

    Looking forward to it.

    1 · April 6, 2014

  • Steven

    I just checked and the Museum calendar shows it will be open so this discussion will be held as scheduled although I may now bring some jelly beans and Peeps.

    April 6, 2014

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