UFO Conjectures

Monday, April 13, 2015

Phenomenology and UFOs

No, I'm not going to subject you to a discussion of phenomenology, as such.

(I find, as some of you know, that philosophy, quantum mechanics, and other academic or scientific disciplines are, virtually always, presented in abstruse terms with arcane logic and thought to leave the impression that the topics are rarefied and only accessible to adepts -- the priests of the disciplines.)

But there are elements within the thought of phenomenology as presented by its notable "originator" Husserl and his acolytes Heidegger, Sartre, et al. that might help define what happens when one sees or reports a UFO.

Past and present UFO sightings might be explained by the vicissitudes of phenomenology.

I'll highlight, in the segments below (pulled from the internet sites, linked) that which might be helpful when one is trying to decipher classic or contemporary UFO accounts and sightings....

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phenomenology_%28philosophy%29

Phenomenology, in Husserl's conception, is primarily concerned with the systematic reflection on and study of the structures of consciousness and the phenomena that appear in acts of consciousness. This ontology (study of reality) can be clearly differentiated from the Cartesian method of analysis which sees the world as objects, sets of objects, and objects acting and reacting upon one another.

Whether this something that consciousness is about is in direct perception or in fantasy is inconsequential to the concept of intentionality itself; whatever consciousness is directed at, that is what consciousness is conscious of. This means that the object of consciousness doesn't have to be a physical object apprehended in perception: it can just as well be a fantasy or a memory. Consequently, these "structures" of consciousness, i.e., perception, memory, fantasy, etc., are called intentionalities.

According to Heidegger, philosophy was not at all a scientific discipline, but more fundamental than science itself. According to him science is only one way of knowing the world with no special access to truth. Furthermore, the scientific mindset itself is built on a much more "primordial" foundation of practical, everyday knowledge. Husserl was skeptical of this approach, which he regarded as quasi-mystical, and it contributed to the divergence in their thinking.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/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.

Conscious experiences have a unique feature: we experience them, we live through them or perform them. Other things in the world we may observe and engage. But we do not experience them, in the sense of living through or performing them. This experiential or first-person feature — that of being experienced — is an essential part of the nature or structure of conscious experience: as we say, “I see / think / desire / do …” This feature is both a phenomenological and an ontological feature of each experience: it is part of what it is for the experience to be experienced (phenomenological) and part of what it is for the experience to be (ontological).

As we interpret the phenomenological description further, we may assess the relevance of the context of experience. And we may turn to wider conditions of the possibility of that type of experience. In this way, in the practice of phenomenology, we classify, describe, interpret, and analyze structures of experiences in ways that answer to our own experience.

In its root meaning, then, phenomenology is the study of phenomena: literally, appearances as opposed to reality. 

Originally, in the 18th century, “phenomenology” meant the theory of appearances fundamental to empirical knowledge, especially sensory appearances.

Phenomenology studies phenomena: what appears to us — and its appearing

In Franz Brentano's Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint (1874), phenomena are what occur in the mind: mental phenomena are acts of consciousness (or their contents), and physical phenomena are objects of external perception starting with colors and shapes. For Brentano, physical phenomena exist “intentionally” in acts of consciousness.

Phenomena are whatever we are conscious of: objects and events around us, other people, ourselves, even (in reflection) our own conscious experiences, as we experience these. In a certain technical sense, phenomena are things as they are given to our consciousness, whether in perception or imagination or thought or volition. This conception of phenomena would soon inform the new discipline of phenomenology.

Realistic phenomenology studies the structure of consciousness and intentionality, assuming it occurs in a real world that is largely external to consciousness and not somehow brought into being by consciousness.

How I see or conceptualize or understand the object I am dealing with defines the meaning of that object in my current experience.

Consciousness is a consciousness of objects, as Husserl had stressed. In Sartre's model of intentionality, the central player in consciousness is a phenomenon, and the occurrence of a phenomenon just is a consciousness-of-an-object.

Neuroscience studies the neural activities that serve as biological substrate to the various types of mental activity, including conscious experience. Neuroscience will be framed by evolutionary biology (explaining how neural phenomena evolved) and ultimately by basic physics (explaining how biological phenomena are grounded in physical phenomena). Here lie the intricacies of the natural sciences. Part of what the sciences are accountable for is the structure of experience, analyzed by phenomenology.

“Phenomena”, in the Kantian idiom, are precisely things as they appear in consciousness, so of course their appearance has a phenomenal character.

Intentionality is a crucial property of consciousness, according to Brentano, Husserl, et al., the character of intentionality itself would count as phenomenal, as part of what-it-is-like to experience a given type of intentional experience.

http://www.iep.utm.edu/phenom/

Kant endorsed "transcendental idealism," distinguishing between phenomena (things as they appear) and noumena (things as they are in themselves), claiming that we can only know about the former 
phenomena are things as they appear. They are not mental states but worldly things considered in a certain way. 

Phenomenology, then, is the study of things as they appear (phenomena). It is also often said to be descriptive rather than explanatory: a central task of phenomenology is to provide a clear, undistorted description of the ways things appear.

In ordinary waking experience we take it for granted that the world around us exists independently of both us and our consciousness of it. This might be put by saying that we share an implicit belief in the independent existence of the world, and that this belief permeates and informs our everyday experience. Husserl refers to this positing of the world and entities within it as things which transcend our experience of them as "the natural attitude."

The subject matter of phenomenology is not held hostage to skepticism about the reality of the "external" world. 

It is possible that the implicit belief in the independent existence of the world will affect what we are likely to accept as an accurate description of the ways in which worldly things are given in experience. We may find ourselves describing things as "we know they must be" rather than how they are actually given.

It is vital that we are able to look beyond the prejudices of common sense realism, and accept things as actually given. It is in this context that Husserl presents his Principle of All Principles which states that, "every originary presentive intuition is a legitimizing source of cognition, that everything originally (so to speak, in its 'personal' actuality) offered to us in 'intuition' is to be accepted simply as what it is presented as being, but also only within the limits in which it is presented there." 

RR