[Smt-talk] Phenomenology, tangent from Classical Form and Recursion

Brian Kane brian.kane at yale.edu
Mon Mar 30 12:13:56 PDT 2009

Dear Ildar,

> I admire your interest in phenomenology. However, this seems to be a  
> much more complicated field than we can presently handle.

Why is this more complicated than we can handle? I'm sorry but I don't  
think that one can wipe away the discussion with the wave of a hand.

More to the point, I'll address your three bullet points:

> 1) Your quote from Scruton indicate that you both missed one  
> important problem:
> What we understand, in understanding music, is not the material  
> world, but the intentional object: the organization that can be  
> heard in the experience (Scruton, The Aesthetics of Music, 221)
> This is exactly the mistake which Roman Ingarden made and that  
> caused him the relationship with Husserl. Music is not an  
> intentional object.

I think that you are confusing my position with Roger Scruton's (or  
Ingarden's). Nowhere did I say that I agree with Scruton's claim-- 
hence I don't know how "you both" (i.e. Scruton and I) have made a  
mistake. My point was simply that an appeal to the acousmatic  
situation does not, of its own accord, efface real and virtual  
spatiality. If you possess a theory of the senses that can demonstrate  
how closing one's eyes can efface real and virtual space (and the  
Other), then with all earnestness I'd love to hear about it.

> 2) Your presentation on intersubjectivity as an earlier topic and  
> "reduction" as the later does not make any sense.

I'm not sure why you find this confusing and worthy of dismissal.  
Perhaps you misunderstood my sentence, "The path that Husserl takes in  
the later work always moves via intersubjectivity towards reduction,  
as opposed to the Cartesian approach of the Ideas I, which was often  
accused of being solipsistic. Iso Kern has a nice essay on this..."

I'll make it clearer. Look, we both know that reduction gets its  
classic treatement in the writings that lead up to Ideas I,  
culminating in §32 (on the epoche) of that work. Naturally, the  
question of intersubjectivity is involved in Husserl early work, but  
it is hardly controversial to say that it gets a fuller treatment in  
the later works as the concept of the Lebenswelt is being developed in  
response to Heidegger. When I said that the later work moves via  
intersubjectivity towards reduction I was merely echoing a point that  
the Husserl scholar Iso Kern makes in "The Three Ways to the  
Transcendental Phenomenological Reduction in the Philosophy of Edmund  
Husserl," in Husserl: Expositions and Appraisals, ed. McCormick and  
Elliston: 126-149. In that essay, Kern describes three different  
strategies that Husserl used over his career to introduce the concept  
of the "reduction": The Cartesian way, presented in Ideas I; the way  
through "intentional psychology" from the "Erste Philosophie" lecture  
of 1923-4; and finally, the way thorough the ontology of the  
Lebenswelf, as presented in the Krisis. (Let me know if you, or anyone  
else, want a .pdf!)

Now that that's clear, perhaps there could be a real response to my  
old point 2. I found it strange that you invoked Husserl's Lebenswelt  
and Merleau-Ponty to argue for the erasure of the other in the intra- 
uterine experience of the fetus in the Mutterleib. Even Derrida and  
company wouldn't support this claim--in fact, this motif of the  
"sonorous envelope" or the mother's womb is something of a trope in  
that body of literature. It is typically used to support the claim  
that all listening is originally intersubjective, in that before we  
are even ourselves we are always already "rhythmed" by the mother's  
voice and heartbeat.

For example, here's Lacoue-Labarthe from the "Echo of the Subject" in  
Typography, ed. Fynsk, p. 205-6:

"...perhaps it is impossible to get beyond the maternal closure. Of  
what else, other than the mother, could there in fact be reminiscence?  
What other voice could come back to us? What else could echo, resonate  
in us, seem familiar to us?"

Before we turn ourselves into subjects via auto-affection, we are  
always hetero-affected...

Lastly, your comment:

> 3) As a result, it happened so that both Husserl and Merleau-Ponty  
> do not belong in this discussion, while Dr. Lewin has become the  
> only phenomenologist worthy of discussion. This is quite strange.

I said nothing of the sort. I think Husserl and Merleau-Ponty are  
central to the discussion, not only discussion of recursion but  
absolutely central to theories of the sensorium, listening,  
"acousmatic" sound, subjectivity, etc. etc. etc. That's precisely why  
I don't think it is legitimate to say that it is a "more complicated  
field than we can presently handle." If not now, when? Furthermore, it  
isn't an either/or between Lewin and Phenomenologists.


Brian Kane
Assistant Professor
Department of Music
Yale University
206 Stoeckel Hall

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