I was hungover today. I’m at a cognitive linguistics conference. I just came to have a wee look. I’m not from this territory. But they put on a bit of a show, with George Lakoff and Lera Boroditsky and Michael Tomasello, and that seemed to be worthwhile, and I had funding and Jack is away in Portugal, so I came.
Last night was the banquet, and true to form I got drunk. Had a swim on the way home, talked too loudly at dinner about drugs. The usual. This morning, I intended going to talks. Its the last day of the conference, and there was a big session on Gesture, and my grad student, Tom, was there and under some obligation to attend. I skipped the first big talk, and made a leisurely entrance about 11 o’clock. The first speaker got up and managed to alienate me within about 3 sentences. She talked about language. Ok. I’m down with language. She talked about embodiment. I’m well down with embodiment, so that’s cool. Then she talked about mental representation and the propositional vs imagistic debate. I couldn’t even stay in the room. I left. Sent Tom a text telling him that cognitive science is fucked. and left.
I walked today. I walked and walked. East three miles, back, west three miles, back, inland, up and down. Mainly looking at pretty girls. Sun shining. Bikinis at the beach. Brain wasted. Very much enjoying living in the moment, attending to experience. And wondering what that was, attending to experience. If there is no subject and no object in experience, there is no one to attend. But not taking it too seriously, and looking for nice women to look at.
Then I kicked a limpet. One of the ubiquitous slipper limpets. The sex changers. I heard the sound. I was trying to see the experience as it is, without the subject/object split. I was, briefly the experience. Which is fine. But where was the experience? It was out there. About a metre in front of my toe. The experience was out in the world. There is confusion about experience. This brought it home. I almost puked. I knew experience. It was nowhere near my head. My head, at most, provided the origin of a coordinate system. Other than that, there was only brains, wet brains, in my head, and I had no perception of them. The sound, or the experience of the sound, was a metre in front of my toe.
Then I started trying to distinguish between the sounds, all the sounds, around me, and the experience of those sounds. I failed completely. In every attempt. The sounds, and the experience of the sounds, were indistinguishable. And lovely. I relished the experience, and the experience was a distance away from me. I tried it with vision. I nearly fell over. I looked at a car. I can see the car. Easy. The experience of the car was in the location of the car. Nowhere near my head. You can talk about the car I was seeing, but all I had available to me was the seeing of the car. It was well off in the distance.
It was the most worthwhile hangover I have ever had. I own my own P-world. I feel it. The “where” question is just funny. I want to scream it. Look. Here. Now.
Addendum, a year later:
I came across Wolfgang Göethe’s notion of “Gegenständliches Denken”, and recognized it as being about the same relationship to the phenomenal:
Hat tip to Bill Sharpe for pointing out the account of Göethe’s scientific method. Here’s the whole document: Goethe’s Delicate Empiricism