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C O U R S E 
Phenomenology and the Conscious Mind
Dan Lloyd, Trinity College
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
The Principle of Interpretive Exclusivity
Notes taken on June 17, 2016 by Edward Tanguay
phenomenology emerged near the turn of the 20th century
one main goal of phenomenology is to enrich your perception and reflection as your live your life from day to day
emerged from 20th century European philosophy
founder was Edmund Husserl (1859-1938)
was a professor at Göttingen and Freiburg Universities
began his academic career studying mathematics
Latin, "I think"
philosophers use it because of Descartes famous statement "cogito ergo sum"
Descartes uses cogito to cover every mental act, even acts like doubting
cogito becomes short-hand for all the activity of consciousness
cogitare = to think
cogitarum = what thought is about
the world is constituted by acts of awareness
there is considerable flexibility in the constituted world
the concept epoché [ἐποχή] is the suspension of belief in the real, we regard the real as if it were fiction, we get behind it, and thus experience it as malleable, the world is still there right in front of us, but it is a world that consciousness makes, not the world of physics
one often may find that the concept of epoché begins to shake one's confidences in the outside world
there is a limit to this game of questioning
Descartes: Meditations on First Philosophy
wonders if one can one trust one's senses
yet one can be tricked by thoughts
there is no reliable way to distinguish whether one is awake or asleep
many of our dreams are mundane experiences of ordinary situations, at least in sections, and this could be one of those
epoché provokes the question what is reality
this is a cliché for the discipline of philosophy
if the world could be a dream, then our confidence in reality is reduced
how to move from taking the convincing evidence that this is true from the duck/rabbit examples
and give convincing evidence that much of what we know is indeed who it seems to be
example: six-sided figure
did you notice that it is a playground merry-go-round seen from above?
did you also notice that it is a representation of London or of Purple Haze or the square root of -1, Hillary Clinton?
yes, but only in a stretched metaphor of interpretation
there are an infinite number of interpretations but not every interpretation is as accurate as the next based on other experiences that we have
example: two rectangles, one on top of the other
it could be an abstract representation of a beach below a sky, or a receding floor below a curtain
yet it is a poor map of Indian and an unlikely banana, and it fails as a bust of Voltaire
we can make a list of referents which are successes and fails
in all the successes, the lines and planes have a consistent interpretation across the entire image
sky and beach: it's true for the whole image
example: vase / faces
we can see either interpretation easily but we can't see both at once
multiple interpretations are possible but we make them sequentially one at a time
a feature of experience that does not change despite differing interpretations
after a long session of what-if and what-else, we hit an inescapable wall of essential features of the objects of visual perception
the essential and unalterable features of different types of conscious experience
we achieve phenomenological fact
the invariants are invariable for me, for you, and for every human
these facts are generalizations with the possibility of public and inter-subjective verification
Principle of Interpretive Exclusivity
visual experience can only posit or constitute one interpretation at any one time
this is an invariant
everything we see comprises both sensory and non-sensory features
being away of hidden sides of three-dimensional objects
consciousness is wily creative in its capacity for constituting alternate variations of reality, but not everything goes
at the edge of all of our what-ifs and what-elses we encounter invariants and these seem common among all humans
this comprises the structure of consciousness
phenomenology seeks the foundations of consciousness itself