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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 
Epoché: The Suspended Attitude
Notes taken on May 18, 2016 by Edward Tanguay
we make assumptions all the time to make our way through a complex world
usually these assumptions are operating in the background
they shape things if we think about them or not
sometimes our assumptions are wrong
what we expect to experience and what we do experience can diverge
phenomenology lurks in illusions, jokes, riddles, and many other forms of art and inquiry
the phenomenological attitude is one of inquisitiveness and imagination
it begins with the suspicion that things might not be as they seem
maybe the first, most obvious impression is not the only possibility
that playful outlook makes us reach for the weird
in doing phenomenology, we deliberately provoke the double-take
we undermine every assumption and thereby illuminate the dimensions of consciousness that normally unfold beneath notice
this is the rich meaning of observation, of seeing more
the active creation of variations in consciousness
in these ways we learn to increasingly see more
the phenomenologist has two toolboxes
1. what else?
question the first interpretation of what you hear, see, or think
spin out every conceivable alternative
the tool of observation
tools to get behind observation, considering the semi-sensory (parts of e.g. 3D objects that you don't actually see) and the super-sensory (abstract terms that don't refer directly to objects, e.g. love)
2. what if?
here we are invited to change our situation
either physically altering it
or envisioning an alternative scenario
the tool of experimental variation
change the situation in reality or in imagination and watch what happens
this reveals contrasts among states of consciousness
if nothing else, with these toolboxes, you will never be at a loss for conversation
before we began to practice phenomenology, we engaged the world with a natural attitude
it just is what it is
after doing some phenomenology, we still believe in ordinary reality
but perhaps our attitude toward the world shifts
from the ordinary, natural, unreflective take on the world
we become circumspect
we acknowledge that it might be otherwise
that the way we see the world is contingent
we don't need to take it for granted
the world, in short, is suspended in parentheses
we believe in its reality but we recognize that we constitute that reality
our own perceptual activity, the doing of seeing, posit objects around us
and we become aware that this is something we do rather than something that is just sitting there
phenomenologies have a term for this questioning attitude: epoché
a Greek word meaning suspension
we're used to the suspension of disbelieve, pretending that fictional characters are real
epoché is the opposite
the suspension of belief
we regard the real as if it were fiction
the world is still there right in front of us, but it is a world that consciousness makes, not the world of physics