This paper is a slightly revised version of a paper given, I think, at a staff seminar of the Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts, University of Sydney, on May 11th., 2007.
Heidegger and the Hermeneutic ‘As’
In § 33 of Sein und Zeit, Heidegger writes,
It … cannot be denied that the assertion arises ontologically out of explication, which is inherently understanding of what it lays out. We call the original ‘as’ of circumspectly understanding explication (ε̉ρμηνεία) the existentially hermeneutic ‘as’ in contrast to the apophantic ‘as’ of assertion. (Sein und Zeit, § 33, H 158; my translation)1
Heidegger clearly intends this as a distinction between types of predication. For this remark is immediately followed by a brief discussion, first, of Aristotle’s account of judgement as binding-and-separating in one, and then of the copula. So according to Heidegger there is a distinctively hermeneutic kind of predication in addition to the standard assertoric, judgemental or doxastic kind. Unfortunately, Heidegger never clearly elaborates this distinction between a non-assertoric and an assertoric type of predication, nor indeed the claim that the latter is grounded in the former. In this paper, I wish to remedy this deficit both in the sense of making the distinction clear; and in the sense of providing some justification for it.
§ 1: Preparing the Ground
Section 33 is entitled “The Assertion as a Derivative Mode of Explication”. This title as well as numerous quasi-Husserlian turns of phrase to be found in §§ 32 and 33, suggests that across both sections Heidegger is responding to that genealogy of judgement and logic which, after several decades of reflection, Husserl set out most accessibly in the late work Experience and Judgement. Heidegger’s concern with Husserl is evident precisely at that point in Sein und Zeit at which he introduces “the structure of something as something”2 (Etwas als Etwas)—precisely that which, a section later, he differentiates into two species, the hermeneutic and the apophantic. Heidegger says, “The held-apart as such in the circumspect laying out of something with regard to its around-for [Um-zu],3 the explicitly understood, has the structure of something as something.”4 (Sein und Zeit, § 32, H 149; my translation) The expression “(t)he … held-apart as such” (Das … Auseinandergelegte als solches) is an idiosyncratic application of the Husserlian convention that to speak of the believed as such, the perceived as such, the desired as such, and so on, is to refer to the content of belief, perception, desire, and the like. So by this expression Heidegger does not primarily mean an object, i.e., something an intentional state or experience is about. Rather, he means a feature inherent to an intentional state or experience which gives it its directedness at an object: its intentional content, more or less what Frege called sense.
Five sentences later, Heidegger indicates a little more clearly what he means:
Circumspectly explicative engagement with what is ready to hand in the context of engagement [das umweltlich Zuhandene] …‘sees’ the same as table, door, car, bridge, [but it] does not necessarily also need to lay out what is circumspectly explicated in a determining assertion. (Sein und Zeit, § 32, H 149; my translation)
So Heidegger is talking about the kind of perceptual experience one has when practically engaged with everyday items of the everyday world, in which these items show themselves as ready-to-hand, that is, in a certain serviceability or positive relevance for what one is doing. Such perceptual experience, he says, displays the ‘as’-structure, but it does not possess this ‘as’-structure apophantically, that is to say, in the truth-claiming manner of assertion5 or what Husserl calls predicative judgement. Heidegger is therefore saying that the ‘as’-structure displayed by perceptual experience of the kind one has when practically engaged is not a form of truth-claiming that such and such is the case at all. To use the Aristotelian neologism borrowed by Heidegger himself,6 perceptual experience is not a form of apophansis. And if it is not a form of apophansis, then neither is it a form of doxa, i.e., belief.
This might suggest that in his distinction between the hermeneutic and apophantic ‘as’ Heidegger is simply recycling Husserl’s distinction between predicative and pre-predicative forms of intentionality. Predicative forms of intentionality have intentional contents whose linguistic articulation requires a full sentence. According to Husserl, perceptual experience of the most basic kind—what he calls simple, sensuous perception [die schlichte, sinnliche Wahrnehmung]—is not predicative. Indeed, it is pre-predicative because its non-predicative character is essential to the way it serves as a basis for perceptual and thus higher forms of empirical judgement. Put in more contemporary terms, the pre-predicative character of perceptual experience in the most basic sense consists in two claims: perceptual experience of the most basic kind, although it involves concepts, is not propositionally contentful. That is, it does not conform to the schema ‘that p’. Secondly, it is non-propositional because this is what enables it to provide a basis for truth-claiming, hence propositional forms of intentionality. One may therefore say that perception of the most basic kind is not just non-propositional, it is pre-propositional. Note that there is an assumption implicit in Husserl’s choice of the terms ‘pre-predicative’ and ‘predicative’ as his means of distinguishing perceptual experience from judgement: from the outset, Husserl assumes that whatever is predicative is propositional, i.e., is contentful in a way which conforms to the schema ‘that p’. Underlying this assumption is the even deeper assumption that that the only kind of epistemic or cognitive predication is predication in judgement, i.e., truth-claiming.
But let us return to Heidegger, for now he says something very strange:
All pre-predicative, simple seeing of the ready to hand [Alles vorprädikative schlichte Sehen des Zuhandenen] is in and through itself already understandingly-explicative. But does not the absence of this “as” constitute the simplicity [Schlichtheit] of a pure perceiving of something?
No, says Heidegger,
In assertion the ‘as’ does not appear for the first time; rather, it merely gets enunciated [ausgesprochen], which is only possible if the ‘as’ occurs prior to the assertion as something able to be enunciated by it. That in one’s directly looking at something the explicitness of assertion can be absent does not entitle one to deny to such simple seeing every kind of articulating explication, hence the as-structure. (Sein und Zeit, § 32, H 149; my translation)
The target of this critical remark is Husserl.7 According to Heidegger, Husserl wrongly believes that simple, sensuous perception, precisely because it is pre-predicative, is not a matter of perceiving something as something.
Unfortunately, Heidegger is wrong. Husserl most definitely does believe that such perception, for all its pre-predicativeness, is a matter of perceiving something as something. Phenomenological reflection shows us, thinks Husserl, that there can be, in the shape of our basic perceptual contact with the world, a synthesis of concepts into an intentionally directed whole which is not predicative, which indeed is presupposed by all forms of intentionality in which concepts are predicatively synthesised. Speaking precisely of simple, sensuous perception, Husserl writes, “The object stands from the outset there in a character of familiarity [Bekanntheit]; it is apprehended as an object of an already familiar type, albeit one which is determined in a vague generality.”8 (Experience and Judgement, § 22, p.114; my translation and emphasis added)
But perhaps Heidegger is putting his point badly. Perhaps the real issue is this: Husserl is not entitled to believe that simple, sensuous perception contains the ‘as’-structure precisely because he regards it as pre-predicative, or rather non-predicative. Clearly, in order to demonstrate that this is the real issue, we must first determine how Husserl construes the intentional content of simple, sensuous perception and what problems might there be in this construal. This is undertaken in § 2. We must then (in § 3) ascertain what it would take to overcome these problems. And finally we must (in § 4) find evidence in Sein und Zeit that Heidegger has glimpsed this solution and is at least inchoately articulating it in his notion of the hermeneutic ‘as’.
§ 2: The Problem of Pre-Predicative Experience
Against all forms of neo-Kantian assimilation of perception in the epistemically relevant sense to perceptual judgement, Husserl insists on a strict, truly Kantian distinction between experience and judgement. In particular, he maintains that to perceive in that most original sense which acquaints us with the referents of our empirical beliefs and judgements (as such referents) is not to claim truth for any proposition.9 Such perception is thus not a form of predicative judgement or apophansis. Now Husserl always assumes that to predicate, at least in any distinctively cognitive sense, is to predicate judgementally or, as Heidegger would put it, to assert. Perception of the most original kind is therefore non-predicative; the linguistic articulation of its intentional content requires no use of a full sentence. Consequently, perception of this kind is not propositionally contentful. Its content does not conform to the schema ‘that p’.10
In what way, then, is it contentful? Throughout his life Husserl held that such perception is of objects. In other words, it is object-directed. Husserl’s position displays both superficial general similarity to, and substantial specific difference from, that of Wilfrid Sellars. Following Kant, Sellars calls the most basic kind of perception intuition (Anschauung). Intuition is the perceiving of a this-such, as in seeing this red ball, that tall man, etc. Precisely because it is contentful in this adjectivally demonstrative way, intuition cannot stand alone; it must always be embedded in a wider act of judging that one’s this-such is thus and so. Such judging, in which perception in the most basic sense is contained, is perceptual experience in the Kantian sense of Erfahrung. Perceptual experience in the epistemically relevant sense is thus perceptual judgement that this F here or that G there, is thus and so. So for Sellars the intentional content of the most basic form of perception is captured by an adjectivally demonstrative noun phrase of the form ‘this F (here)’ or ‘that F (there)’
Husserl agrees with Sellars’ assumption that one can understand the intentional directedness of the most basic form of perception by appeal to the model of sub-sentential or sub-propositional singular reference. Thus, in the First Edition of the Logical Investigations, Husserl characterises such perception as a form of nominal representation (nominale Vorstellung). Yet he differs from Sellars as to how precisely the model is to be understood and indeed as to how precisely it constitutes a model. According to Husserl, I perceive such things as a red ball, a tall man, the horse, the postman passing by, a house which is made of sandstone, and so on. So for Husserl, the linguistic model is restricted neither to adjectivally demonstrative nor to pronominally demonstrative noun phrases; it also includes definite and indeed indefinite descriptions.
Furthermore, Husserl has a more sophisticated conception of the relation between perception of this kind and singular reference. When in the First Edition of the Logical Investigations Husserl describes simple, sensuous perception as a form of nominal representation, he does not mean that it simply replicates psychologically what the utterance accomplishes linguistically, as if he wanted thought that this kind of perception refers to or names its object in just the same way as utterances of expressions articulating its content. Husserl calls such perception nominal representation because, on the one hand, it plays an essential role in enabling linguistic singular reference yet on the other this role cannot be philosophically characterised without appeal to the notion of linguistic singular reference.
According to Husserl simple sensuous perception is defined in its status as our most basic or original form of perceptual experience by its having the function of ‘fulfilling’ the linguistic utterance of a singular term. To say that simple, sensuous perception fulfils an act of singular reference is to say that it occurs as part of an act of identification in which an entity perceived is identified, in a judgement of identity, as such and such an individual. When, for example, on the basis of a perception of a certain individual, I say or think, “That man standing over there is Ned Kelly”, I am having a simple, sensuous perception which fulfils my act of singular reference—provided, of course, that I not only perceive this individual as Ned Kelly, but also do so veridically. Evidently, fulfilment of an act of singular reference is perceptual acquaintance with something as the referent of the singular term uttered in the act. Clearly, without such perceptual acquaintance we could not claim to know of anything that it is what we are talking or thinking about. So the character of simple, sensuous perception as fulfilling acts of singular reference is a condition of the possibility of self-conscious, rationally self-evaluating language use. Yet precisely because it has this defining functional role of fulfilling linguistic singular reference, it cannot itself be philosophically explicated without reference to such reference. For this reason, Husserl describes such perceptual experience as a form of nominal representation—although at this point it has become clear that it is such representation only in an extended sense:11 Evidently, on Husserl’s account of it, the philosophical explication of nominal representation in the extended sense (simple, sensuous perception) is not separate from that of explicating nominal representation in the strict sense (linguistic singular reference). There are not two tasks here, but merely two sides of the one task.
This conception of perceptual experience as having, so to speak by definition, the function of fulfilling acts of linguistic singular reference entails that certain kinds of perceptual intentional content have a privileged status. These privileged contents are those whose linguistic articulation requires use of indefinite descriptions of the form “an F there” (or “an F here”), which involve demonstrative adverbs of place. Perceptual experience with such indefinitely descriptive, merely adverbially demonstrative content involves no prior acquaintance with the object. Or, to put what is in reality just the same point in another way, simple, sensuous perceptions with this kind of content are not acts in which an object is re-identified. Consequently, they can serve as the basis for the initial identification of something. When I cognise, i.e., identify someone for the first time as, say, the man who shot Lonigan, I say or think, “The man who shot Lonigan is that man standing over there” on the basis of perceiving simply a man standing there. By contrast, when I re-cognise or re-identify him as the man who shot Lonigan, I make my judgement of identity on the basis of perceiving the man who shot Lonigan standing there.12
Husserl’s more sophisticated explanation of why he regards perception of the most basic kind as nominal representation enables him to avoid the misdescription inherent in construing the most basic kind of perception as either adjectivally or even pronominally demonstrative. Let us assume that I have just entered an unfamiliar room full of objects all unfamiliar to me. The perceptual experiences I initially have of these unfamiliar items would not typically be reported either as a matter of perceiving this red ball, that tall man, etc., or even of perceiving that this red ball is large, that that tall man is swarthy. Rather, I would typically be described as perceiving a red ball lying here (i.e., near the door of the room), or again, as perceiving a tall man standing there (i.e., in the corner of the room), and so on. This suggests that, pace Sellars and many others, our most original perception of things is adverbially demonstrative rather than adjectivally or even pronominally so.
This point is illustrated all the more forcefully by perception of things familiar to us. Let us assume once again that the red ball I perceive is known to me as the ball I bought yesterday. Then the perceptual experience I have upon entering the room would be described as my perceiving the red ball I bought yesterday lying here. Here, too, the only demonstrativeness is adverbially demonstrative. Of course, because the red ball is now one familiar to me, I perceive it as satisfying a certain definite rather than indefinite description. Even so, it still follows that not all forms of singular reference are models for perceptual intentionality of the most basic kind. Such intentionality requires for its linguistic articulation either a definite or indefinite description with an element of purely adverbial demonstrativeness.
So if one wants to admit either adjectivally demonstrative intuitions, as Sellars does, or even pronominally demonstrative ones, one must simultaneously distinguish both kinds of intuition from the kind of adverbially demonstrative perception just illustrated. Furthermore, one must acknowledge that neither kind of intuition is as basic or fundamental as adverbially demonstrative perception. Consider how we actually use adjectivally demonstrative noun phrases and demonstrative pronouns in perceptual contexts: I perceive a red ball lying here, whereupon I say or think some such thing as, “This is a red ball”, “This red ball is large”, etc. Alternatively, I perceive the red ball I bought yesterday lying here, whereupon I say or think some such thing as, “This is the red ball I bought yesterday”, “This red ball, which I bought yesterday, is large,”, etc. Either way, my saying or thinking these things is not identical with what we would ordinarily describe as my perception, indeed as my perceptual experience. Rather, my saying or thinking these things presupposes perception in this adverbially demonstrative, hence non-Sellarsian sense.
At this point, intuitions in Sellars’ or anyone else’s sense, which are neither merely adverbially demonstrative nor capable of standing alone, are starting to look redundant. In fact, a more accurate description of what is going on here would be to say that I am making certain adjectivally or pronominally demonstrative perceptual judgements on the basis of perception which is (a) only ever adverbially demonstrative; (b) is conceptually contentful; and (c) can occur independently of these perceptual judgements. Precisely for these reasons, in particular, the third, it is both natural and legitimate to describe such perception, not as intuition, but as a form of experience in its own right. Indeed, it is both natural and legitimate to describe it as the most basic form of experience since what Sellars regards as the only possible form of perceptual experience, viz., perceptual judgement, is in some sense founded in it.
Thus far, these anti-Sellarsian points are all grist to Husserl’s mill since he wants to distinguish between experience and judgement. But there is a problem for Husserl lurking in them. If perceptual experience of the most original kind is only adverbially demonstrative, then we should expect the linguistic articulation of its intentional content to require some form of verb. Thus, in the first of the examples considered, I would ordinarily be described as perceiving a red ball lying here, or again, a tall man standing there. It seems, then, that a full sentence must be involved in the linguistic expression of the content of my perceptual experience, namely, the sentence “a red ball is lying here”, or again “a tall man is standing there.” If, however, this is so, then this kind of experience is predicative. But Husserl always assumes that to predicate, at least in any cognitive sense, is to predicate in judgement of something. So if he were to take our ordinary ways of describing this kind of experience at their word, he would be assimilating experience to judgement, aisthesis to apophansis. He would be renouncing a truly Kantian distinction between concept and intuition in favour of Sellars’ more neo-Kantian account of intuition as a dependent part of the currency wielded in the space of reasons, viz., propositional truth-claimings.
At first blush, there appears to be a way out of this bind. This appearance explains Husserl’s early talk of nominal representation and the conviction underlying it that singular reference provides the model for understanding the most basic kind of perceptual intentionality. In English, the present participle can be used as an alternative to a relative clause. So perhaps my perceiving a red ball lying here does not require one to resort to a full sentence in order to express its content perspicuously. Perhaps my perceptual experience is perspicuously described as my perceiving a red ball which is lying here.
This possibility must occur all the more readily to a German speaker like Husserl because in German one can more readily convert a relative clause into an adjectival attribution: “ein roter Ball, der da liegt”13 becomes “ein da liegender roter Ball”. It is thus this possibility which initially encourages Husserl to construe the intentionality of the most basic kind of perceptual experience on the model of singular reference. But this way-out is illusory. Consider my perceiving the red ball I bought yesterday lying here. If the participial phrase “lying here” is construed as a tacit relative clause, then I am perspicuously described as perceiving the red ball which I bought yesterday and which is lying here. But then one is committed to saying that the participial phrase is performing exactly the same function as the relative clause “which I bought yesterday”. But this would misrepresent the perceptual experience whose logical form one is seeking to specify. The participial phrase is in no way just an extra part of a definite description, subordinate to the same occurrence of the definite article as the relative clause “which I bought yesterday”. It is not at all contributing in the very same way to the very same definite description as the relative clause.
So it is wrong to read the participial phrase “… lying here” as equivalent to the relative clause “which is lying here”. Naturally, this point applies generally: it is also not functioning as a tacit relative clause in the description of me as perceiving simply a red ball lying here. Singular reference cannot in fact serve as one’s model for understanding the intentionality of our most basic perceptual contact with the world. One must construe the intentional content possessed by perception of the most basic kind as in some way requiring a full sentence for its linguistic articulation.
Now initially, Husserl does not see this. But in the preface to the Second Edition of the Logical Investigations, which appeared in 1913, he writes, “I was perhaps all too conservative only in this respect, that I retained the quite unsuitable term “nominal representation”, just as in general I was reluctant to tamper with the old terminology of the work.” (H 15) Clearly, he has become aware of serious problems with his assumption that perception of the most basic kind is akin to singular reference. Yet he fails to do anything more than express dissatisfaction. He provides no alternative account of the logical form of simple, sensuous perception. Instead of addressing this issue, Husserl goes on to develop, on the basis of his notion of perceptual horizon, an account of how such perception constitutes entitlement to take as reasons for belief certain perceptual judgements derivable from perceptual intentional content neither by analysis nor by inference, but by a hermeneutic process of explication. Yet he continues to assume that to predicate in any cognitive sense is to predicate in a judgement. So he continues to have no way of construing simple sensuous perception predicatively which would not assimilate it, in neo-Kantian fashion, to judgement. Heidegger’s notion of the hermeneutic ‘as’ is, I maintain, an inchoate attempt to find such a way.
§ 3: Pre-Predicative Predication?
When English speakers describe the most basic kind of perceptual experience, they typically say such things as “I see a red ball lying here, i.e., near the door”, or again, “I saw a tall man standing there, i.e., in the corner.” This suggests a sententially rather than nominally articulable content. So the most basic kind of perceptual experience is predicative. How, then, could it not be apophantic? How could anything be cognitively predicative yet not a judgement?
(i) Perceiving-How rather than -That
German contains forms for describing such perceptual experience which are roughly analogous to the English ones just illustrated. But it also contains a rather more colloquial alternative: German speakers might say, “Ich sehe, wie ein roter Ball da liegt, nämlich, an der Tür”, or again, “Ich sehe, wie ein großer Mann dort steht, nämlich, in der Ecke.” Might this not suggest that in perception of the kind which truly acquaints us with items within the world, one perceives not that such and such is the case, not that such and such a sentence applies here or there14 now, but rather how such and such is the case, how such and such a sentence applies here or there now? Such perceptual experience would still be predicative, but it would also be non-propositional, hence non-judgemental.
Elaborating a point first made by Gareth Evans, Christopher Peacocke has argued as follows:
(A)n experience can have a finer-grained content than can be formulated by using concepts possessed by the experiencer. If you are looking at a range of mountains, it may be correct to say that you see some as rounded, some as jagged. But the content of your visual experience in respect of the shape of the mountains is far more specific than that description indicates. The description involving the concepts round and jagged would cover many different fine-grained contents that your experience could have, contents that are discriminably different from one another.15
Thus, having seen a jagged mountain range stretching out left and right before you, you would typically be able to answer, on the basis of your perceptual experience, the question as to whether the range was acutely or obtusely jagged.
You are able to answer this question because you recollect your original experience—recollect it not in the sense in which you might remember that the Battle of Hastings took place in 1066, but in the vivid sense of re-living it. Now a surely accurate description of such vivid recollection is that you are determining how more specifically the mountain range presented itself to you as jagged. It seems, then, that your perceptual experience did more than just present the mountain range as thus and so; in so doing, it also showed you how more specifically it was thus and so—say, obtusely jagged rather than acutely so. Because it presented something as something, specifically, the mountain range as jagged, your perception possessed a conceptually articulated dimension of informativeness. In this sense, it possessed conceptual content. At the same time, it possessed a further dimension of informativeness, one which consisted in revealing to you how the conceptual dimension was more specifically instantiated there. So this further dimension of informativeness presupposed the character of your perceptual experience as conceptually articulated. It cannot, therefore, be itself conceptually articulated. It is a dimension of non-conceptual contentfulness.
In fact, precisely because it is non-conceptual content, you could only recognise this non-conceptual dimension and spell it out in explicitly conceptual terms by looking back on your perceptual experience and recognising it to be the showing of how a certain conceptual content applies there.16 So the conceptual and non-conceptual kinds or dimensions of content do not sit indifferently alongside one another.17 Rather, they are unified with one another, as not even notionally separable moments of the one total, distinctively perceptual intentional content. As we have already seen, the dimension of non-conceptual content presupposes that of conceptual content because it just is the “how, more specifically” your perception shows its object as satisfying a certain conceptual content.
But of course the converse also applies: conceptual content presupposes non-conceptual content. For your experience is only informative18 if its conceptual content is presented as applying to the object in such a way that it can inform you, that is, enable you to respond behaviourally to the object, not the least to uncover retrospectively how, more specifically, the object is what it is. If your perceptual experience of a piece of jagged glass lying there in front of you did not tell you something about how more specifically the glass was jagged, you could not pick it up without cutting yourself. In fact, you could not pick it up at all because your experience would simply fail to tell you how precisely to pick the jagged piece of glass up.
Note how these considerations suggest a two-fold differentiation in the ‘how’ which binds perceptual content into perceptual experience. Your perceptual experience of the mountain range as jagged showed you how, more specifically, but quite objectively, it was jagged because and only because it also showed you how the mountain range there sensually appeared to you here as objectively jagged. In other words, your experience showed you how, more specifically, the mountain range was jagged only to the extent that it also made available to you information about how the mountain range subjectively affected you in virtue of the objective properties and relations you perceived it to have, as well as certain distinctive features of the one spatial context of perception to which both you and the mountain range belong. The ‘how’ thus does indeed differentiate itself into two aspects: on the one hand, there is how, more specifically, the mountain range is jagged, indeed how, more specifically it stretches out there before you—in short, how it is the particular mountain range that it is.19 This first aspect is perfectly objective. But on the other hand, there is how the mountain range there sensually appears to you here as jagged, indeed as stretching out right and left before you—how it sensually appears to you as the particular mountain range that it is. This second aspect is determined in part by what, objectively speaking, the object of perception is, by what the subject of perception is, and of course also by various features of the one spatiotemporal context to which they both belong.20
Interestingly, although his insistence on the ostensibly pre-predicative character of simple, sensuous perception prevents him from ever getting really clear about its internal intentional structure and unity, Husserl does nascently recognise these twin aspects of ‘how’ in which entities show themselves perceptually as being. Thus, with regard to what is in effect the character of perceptual experience as a showing how, more specifically but perfectly objectively, entities are what they are perceived as being, he speaks of “the How of [the object’s] determinations.”21 A little later, with regard to what is in effect the character of perceptual experience as a showing how the object there appears to a subject here as thus and so, he speaks of “the How of [the object’s] modes of givenness”.22
In summary, then, we may describe the kind of perception which Peacocke has in mind here as an interplay in which how the object objectively is and how the object in its context affects the subject mutually reveal one another. Precisely because it is or involves this interplay, perceptual experience of the most basic kind enables its subject to position itself vis-à-vis entities within a common world. So the unity of these two senses of ‘how’, or rather, these two aspects of the one ‘how’, is a functional one: they belong inseparably together because each makes an indispensable contribution towards enabling perceptual experience to play its defining role in initiating and guiding intentional behaviour in an ever-changing empirical reality.
Finally, let us provide a concrete illustration of the second sense of ‘how’, that is, the character of perceptual experience as showing how things there appear as thus and so as perceived from here. For this permits us to identify an important respect in which the phenomenological tradition of Husserl and Heidegger is more explicitly, or at least more easily, anti-Cartesian than either neo-Kantianism or its more recent pragmatist relatives. Let us imagine that the individual mountains of the mountain range you perceived were elliptically shaped along the axis defined by the mountain range itself. Let us also imagine that you were looking at the range at an acute rather than a right angle. Now in answer to the question, “How did the mountain range appear to you when you perceived it?” you could respond in any number of ways. But the most effective way would be to draw a row of acutely angled intersecting lines. In doing this, you are not suggesting that the mountain range appeared to you as acutely jagged—as if your experience inclined you to form the belief that the mountains were acutely jagged. No, when you reflected on your experience, you recognised that while the mountain range was objectively obtusely angled, it showed itself from such an angle, under such and such contextual conditions, that this obtuseness appeared acutely. That is, it appeared in such a way that in order to exhibit how its obtuse jaggedness appeared to you, you must represent it in a two dimensional drawing by means of acutely angled lines.
Two interrelated things follow from this. Firstly, it is no accident that our word ‘aesthetic’ evolved out of the Greek word for perception, namely, aisthesis. At least for self-conscious beings such as we are, there is an intrinsic connection between perceptual capacity and aesthetic ability. In particular, there is no self-conscious experience of the world without those various mimetic or in some other sense aesthetic bodily abilities by actualising which one shows how things look from here. But this latter point suggests, secondly, that there is no capacity for self-conscious awareness of an objective, independent world unless one had perceptual capacity, aesthetic ability and indeed a certain productive imagination. For if one is to be able self-consciously distinguish oneself and one’s perceptual experiences from the object to which one is related by these experiences, then the fact that a defining feature of these experiences is primarily showable rather than sayable surely entails that, pace Descartes, the discursive intellect cannot exist apart from perception and imagination. Insofar as we may legitimately describe the account of simple, sensuous perception given here as implicit in the phenomenological tradition, we may also say that Husserl and Heidegger can more easily make this anti-Cartesian point that the neo-Kantians, Wittgenstein and most importantly their contemporary descendants and appropriators.
(ii) Why how rather than that?
Thus far, the claim that perceptual experience of the kind Peacocke has in mind has the structure of how rather than that such and such is the case has merely been elaborated. In order to justify it, however, one must demonstrate its necessity. Two considerations suggest themselves in this regard.
The first has already been intimated, in the example of the jagged piece of glass: perception of how things are what they are is a condition of the possibility of intelligent, context-sensitive intentional behaviour vis-à-vis entities within the world. Imagine that you were standing outside of a certain lecture theatre and that you wanted to retrieve a certain blackboard duster from the theatre. Imagine, too, that you already knew that the blackboard duster was lying on the bench at the front of the theatre, and indeed possibly a whole lot more about it. Would this knowing-that, however extensive, suffice to guide you to the duster and then your arm in picking it up?
I think not. You need to set yourself up for the process of tracking the duster with your eyes as you first move towards it, then stretch your arm out and down to pick it up. In other words, you need to orientate yourself in the environment containing you and the duster. But what is this orientation? It is surely not a matter of perceiving simply that the duster is lying there on the bench at front. In order to walk towards and pick the duster up, you need to see how the duster is lying on the bench at front, for example, 10 centimetres from the right hand corner of the bench, 5 centimetres from the top edge, next to a box of chalk, diagonally relative to your line of sight, etc.
There are, after all, infinitely many ways in which the sentence “the duster I seek is lying there on the bench at the front” could be instantiated by the relevant kinds of item. This is true for any set of such sentences, not matter how extensive. So no descriptive statement that such and such is the case, no matter how long, can in principle capture the intentional structure of the perceptual experience you have upon entering the theatre which sets you up to retrieve the duster. Having entered the theatre, you do not need to learn that the duster you seek is lying there on the bench at the front, or indeed to acquire any other belief that such and such is the case. For indeed you may already possess these beliefs. You do not need any more knowledge of what the relevant items things are, but rather the experience of how, given their more specific nature, things are what they are, and thereby how, given your perceptual perspective on these entities, they appear to you as what they are.
Secondly, perceptual experience of how things are the case is a condition of the possibility of self-conscious, rationally self-evaluating intentional behaviour vis-à-vis entities within the world. To know in the sense in which self-conscious beings capable of wielding the concept of a reason can be said to know requires that one know of certain entities that they are the referents of the beliefs and judgements one makes about them. But just what is this acquaintance with certain entities as the referents of one’s belief and judgements? Imagine indefinitely many photographs all instantiating the one complex description, say, of a house in a certain garden and street setting. Clearly, all these photographs could be qualitatively different in all sorts of ways. Imagine now that one of the photographs captures a house you have actually seen. In principle, you could recognise this fact, thereby picking out this house from all the other ones in the other photographs. But your ability in this regard cannot be due solely to your possessing descriptive knowledge of the house since any description can be exemplified, and perceived as exemplified, by qualitatively different, hence numerically distinct entities. Yet there is no mystery as soon as one recognises just what the photograph in question is doing: it is capturing in two dimensions not just what one sees—the house in its particular garden and street setting—but also how one sees it. Although all photographs show houses which equally satisfy the same purely descriptive, purely conceptual content, only one of them shows an entity in that manner which coincides with how such and such an particular house and garden showed themselves as such to you at such and such a point of time and, for that matter, space in the past. The distinctively demonstrative character of perceptual experience as a showing how things are what they are is a condition of the possibility of acquaintance with these things in their capacity as the referents of one’s beliefs and judgements. It is in this sense that perceptual experience in the most basic sense puts us in touch with the world. Indeed, its being the basis upon which we are genuinely acquainted with entities within the world is precisely what makes it most basic and original.
Clearly, if perceptual experience of the kind Peacocke has in mind is a matter of perceiving how rather than that p, then it is not a form of judgement; it is not a truth-claiming. Yet perceptual experience clearly has an intimate relation to judgement and belief which any account of perceptual experience must make intelligible. In particular, any account of perceptual experience must explain the intrinsic credibility of perceptual experience, that is, the fact that one’s merely not having a good reason for doubting the veridicality of a perceptual experience is itself a reason for accepting as true the judgement it inclines one to make—so much so, indeed, that precisely when one has no reason for doubting its veridicality, one is inclined to accept this judgement as true.
Conceiving perceptual experience of the kind to which Peacocke is alluding in his example as a matter of perceiving how rather than that p enables one to fulfil this condition of adequacy. For to perceive how rather than that such and such is the case is to presuppose the truth of the relevant judgement and proposition. Moreover, it is to presuppose as positively answered the question of truth in order to accomplish something which, from the point of view of a subject practically interested rather than rather than theoretically inquiring, is more important than the provision of well-founded truth-claims. Someone currently engaged in ongoing activity, such as hammering a nail or riding a bike, presupposes the veridicality of its perceptual experience and the truth of the beliefs thereby engendered in order to home in on what is really important for such ongoing engagement: how these truths are true in the particular context. To conceive perceptual experience of the most basic kind as a matter of perceiving how rather than that p is therefore to conceive it as so inherently in touch with and part of the world perceived that a capacity to engender, as a rule, true perceptual judgements is constitutive of its identity. In this sense, perceptual experience is intrinsically credible.
§ 4: Have we found the Hermeneutic ‘As’?
Perceptual experience in the sense intended by Peacocke is simple, sensuous perception as Husserl understands it. Husserl23 sees that perception in this sense is not a form of predicative judgement. But he wrongly concludes from this that it is not predicative at all. It has been argued that such perception is a matter of perceiving how p rather than that p. If so, then it is a non-apophantic, indeed distinctively aesthetic form of predicative synthesis. But is this what Heidegger is getting at when he speaks of the hermeneutic ‘as’?
Showing that it is requires us to demonstrate two things. Firstly, we must show that when simple sensuous perception is construed in this way, it may be fairly described as ‘hermeneutic’. Secondly, we must show that the predicative character which such perception displays when construed along these lines puts a distinctively Heideggerian spin on its hermeneutic character. For in § 32 of Sein und Zeit Heidegger claims that such perception is a matter of understanding (Verstehen), hence is always already explication (Auslegung). This is most intelligibly interpreted as articulating a condition of adequacy on a philosophical account of the most basic form of perceptual experience: no account will be adequate if it fails to show how self-ascription of such experience eo ipso involves explication of its content. The claim is clearly targeted against Husserl. As Heidegger reads him, Husserl wrongly thinks one can ascribe to oneself such experience without engaging in the unpacking of its content. Since the ascription of any intentional state or experience to oneself requires identification of its content, this is in effect to say that Husserl wrongly regards perceptual intentional content as identifiable independently of its explication.
Let us then consider, firstly, whether there is something essentially hermeneutic in the idea of perceiving how things are what they are. In reflecting back on your experience of how a jagged mountain range stretches out left and right there before you, you make explicit something implicit in how the conceptual content expressed by the relevant sentence is made true here and now. That distinctively perceptual intentional content permits this entitles one to describe it as “having consequences.” These should not, however, be described as inferential consequences, as least not if one understands by inference the extracting of one thing from another according to rule. For the process of explication is neither a process of applying rules nor a process which one could retrospectively legitimate by appeal to rules. Rather, it is a process of extracting the consequences of content through understanding what this content is. But neither is it a process of extracting consequences merely analytically contained in content. The kind of content at issue here is total perceptual content,24 which integrates a sensuous, qualitative, hence non-conceptual dimension of contentfulness into itself. So it does not have analytic consequences, at least not solely.
That this is so is shown by your explication of your perceptual experience of the mountain range and its jaggedness. You proceeded from perceiving how a jagged mountain range stretches out left and right there before you to recognising through reflection on your experience that it was obtusely jagged. So explication typically proceeds in the opposite direction to analysis. It proceeds from the more general to the more specific. More plastically put, it brings you closer to the particularity25 of what you have perceived rather than drawing you away from it, as analysis does. In explication, one so to speaks spells out how a certain linguistic meaning—the sentence which one would use to articulate the experience’s conceptual content—applies on this particular occasion. It is thus analogous to interpretation and so the non-analytic consequences of perceptual content it uncovers may be fairly described as hermeneutic consequences.
We turn now to the second issue. Is it possible to identify the perceptual intentional content of simple, sensuous perception without engaging in such explication? One cannot claim to know what content is expressed by a sentence containing demonstratives unless one knows what the demonstratives refer to. So when I reflect on the perceptual experience I have just had of how a tall man is standing there, I can only claim to know what the content of my experience is, hence know what the experience itself is, if I know what place counts as there. But the identity of a place, at least of the kind we indicate by means of demonstrative adverbs of place in everyday discourse, is fixed by a larger spatiotemporally structured environment of entities: the tall man I have just seen is standing there, i.e., in the corner of the room I have just entered. So I cannot identify the intentional content of my perceptual experience, hence the perceptual experience itself, without unpacking at least its demonstrative character at least to some sufficient degree. In particular, I cannot so much as reflect on the perceptual experience I have just had without looking, at least to some degree, through that window on the world which the demonstrative adverb constitutes.26 We have put the requisite Heideggerian spin on the sense in which perceptual experience of the most basic kind is hermeneutic.
It is crucial to note that Husserl cannot put this spin on the hermeneutic character of perception. Because he always assumes that predication in any cognitive sense is always predication in a judgement, he construes the internal intentional structure of simple, sensuous perception on the model of complex definite or indefinite descriptions. So when I perceive a red ball lying here, or a tall man standing there, the aspects of perceptual content marked by the participial phrases “… lying here” and “… standing there” must be construed attributively. This, however, puts these aspects of content on the same footing as the aspects of content marked by the attributive adjectives ‘red’ and ‘tall’, and indeed the aspects of content marked by the nouns ‘ball’ and ‘man’. And while I certainly can and often do explicate these latter aspects of content, I do not have to explicate them in order to grasp the content of which they are aspects. Similarly, you do not have to explicate the aspect of content marked by the adjective ‘jagged’ in order to grasp the content of your experience of the mountain range. In general, in order to grasp it, one does not have to penetrate into any part of the conceptual content of perceptual experience insofar as this part is attributive or nominal.27 But in order to grasp the spatially demonstrative part of such content one does have to unpack it at least to some degree, that is, with regard to the larger spatiotemporal context from out of which what is perceived shows itself. So this aspect of the conceptual content of simple sensuous perception cannot be attributive or nominal. Thus, pace Husserl, such perceptual experience is not pre-predicative; a full adverbially demonstrative sentence is required for the linguistic articulation of its conceptual content.
Now indisputably Heidegger claims that in order to grasp the spatially demonstrative part of perceptual conceptual content, hence this conceptual content itself, one must unpack it, at least to some degree, with regard to the larger spatiotemporal context from out of which what is perceived shows itself. It is not so evident, however, that he draws from this the conclusion that perceptual experience with this conceptual content is not in fact pre-predicative as Husserl maintains. Nonetheless, Heidegger would seem to be committed to it. Moreover, by attributing to Heidegger this second claim, thereby construing perception of the most basic kind as a non-judgemental, hence non-propositional yet still predicative form of intentionality, we have been able to make clear sense of his first claim. In addition, we have been able to demonstrate the hermeneutic character of the explication which identification of content initiates. So the two desiderata outlined at the beginning of this section have been fulfilled. We have not only found a hermeneutic ‘as’, we have found it in Heidegger.
“So kann die Aussage ihre ontologische Herkunft aus der verstehenden Auslegung nicht verleugnen. Das ursprüngliche »Als« der umsichtig verstehenden Auslegung (ε̉ρμηνεία) nennen wir das existenzial-hermeneutische »Als« im Unterschied vom apophantischen »Als« der Aussage.“ (Sein und Zeit, § 33, H 158) ↩
Sein und Zeit, § 32, H 149. ↩
I diverge here from the standard translation “in-order-to” because, roughly speaking, the Um-zu is only ever also the in-order-to of something artefactual. For Heidegger, the most original and basic form of perceiving is the perceiving of entities in their character as playing such and such a functional role in such and such typical spatial environments in order to realise such and such typical (average!) ends—see my article “What are the Categories in Sein und Zeit? Brandom on Heidegger on Zuhandenheit,” in European Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 15, 2007, pp.159-185. This divergence in translation is not, however, directly relevant to anything asserted here. ↩
This sentence is very hard to translate because there is no natural way of rendering precisely Heidegger’s German in English without distorting what Heidegger is getting at. The crucial German phrase here is the highly complex, nominalised adjective “Das umsichtig auf sein Um-zu Auseinandergelegte als solches”. The phrase ‘as such’, which qualifies the whole expression, is essential because it shows that Heidegger is appropriating and adapting the way in which Husserl speaks about the intentional content of an intentional act, its cogitatum or (in Fregean terms) its sense—what Heidegger elsewhere calls the intentum of the act; see Heidegger, Prolegomena zur Geschichte des Zeitbegriffs, § 5 c) γ., H 61. ↩
See, e.g., § 33, H 157, where Heidegger says, “In concernful circumspection there are ‘in the first instance’ no such assertions [of the theoretical kind he has just indicated]. Yet such circumspection has its own specific ways of explication [Auslegung], which, in relation to the “theoretical judgement” just mentioned, could take the form: “The hammer is too heavy” or rather: “Too heavy”, “the other hammer!”. Explicated is most originally accomplished not in a theoretical assertoric sentence [einem theoretischen Aussagesatz], but rather in the circumspectly concernful laying to one side, or again, the changing of the unsuitable tool “without losing a word in the process.” From the absence of words one must not conclude to the absence of explication.” (Sein und Zeit, § 33, H 157; my translation)
That by assertion [Aussage] Heidegger means more than just the explicit speech act is shown by the fact that throughout §§ 32-33 he uses this term to cover the range of phenomena dealt with by a theory of judgement [Urteilstheorie] in the traditional sense. And by judgement [Urteil] the tradition typically meant either the speech act or the unspoken ‘mental’ judgement. ↩
And indeed Husserl. ↩
As the noun phrase “All pre-predicative, direct seeing” clearly indicates. ↩
See also Experience and Judgement, § 8, p.35, where Husserl writes, “Our pre-given immediately surrounding world [Umwelt] is already “pre-given” as diversely formed, formed according to its regional categories, and typified according to many distinctive species, kinds, etc. This means that what … is grasped in a first, active appropriation of it is familiar in a much further reaching sense, that it is already passively apprehended in the background not just as an “object”, as something experienceable and explicable, but also as a thing, a human being, a work made by man, and the like, in ever further reaching particularities.” Elsewhere he writes, “Es soll gar nicht behauptet sein, daß von dieser passiven Vorgegebenheit des Seienden jederzeit und zunächst zu einer Erkenntnisaktivität übergegangen werden muß; vielmehr kann das Affizierende sogleich den Anreiz zu einem Handeln bieten. Freilich eine primitive Erkenntnisaktivität, ein Erfassen als so und so bestimmtes Seiendes, ein Stück Explikation ist dafür immer schon vorausgesetzt.” (Experience and Judgement, § 12, 53; emphasis added) The reference here to passive pre-givenness might suggest that Heidegger is perhaps confusing pre-predicative experience as Husserl understands it (which constitutes a unity of passivity and activity, of receptivity and spontaneity, and of the sensuously non-conceptual and non-sensuously conceptual) and that which according to Husserl is implicit in and presupposed by this conceptually first level of conceptual activity. Husserl characterises this passive pre-givenness as follows: this, he says, is the concept of a “rein affektiven Vorgegebenheit, des passiven Seinsglaubens, in dem noch nichts von Erkenntnisleistung ist: der bloße „Reiz“, der von einem umweltlich Seienden ausgeht, wie z.B. das Hundegebell, „das eben an unser Ohr dringt“, ohne daß wir ihm bereits Aufmerksamkeit geschenkt und uns ihm als thematischem Gegenstand zugewendet haben. Wo immer von Aufmerksamkeit die Rede ist, liegt schon eine solche Aktivität unterster Stufe vor.” (Experience and Judgement, § 13, 61-62)
In short, perhaps Heidegger is merely a little confused and not simply wrong. For perhaps what he really wants to challenge is the existence of such a passive background against which individual entities stand out in a first active appropriation of them—what Husserl calls objectual evidence (gegenständliche Evidenz). Certainly, this might seem to be implicit in some of the things Heidegger claims in the course of charging Husserl with construing our most basic perceptual contact with the world as ‘as’-free. But it does not take much to see that this, too, would be a misunderstanding: Husserl is adamant that awareness of this background, out of which an individual entity affects one and prompt (reizen) one to pre-predicative experience of it, is only ever a dependent part of such a genuinely intentional act. So while Husserl does think that we can get at this awareness philosophically, by reflecting on our full, conceptually structured experience of entities from the disinterested perspective enabled by epoché, he never thinks of it as a genetically basic encounter with the world upon which all other forms of contact are subsequently built up.
Of course, this position, which Husserl certainly does not endorse, is to be distinguished from one that he does hold, namely, that the conceptually most basic form of direct perceptual experience is of individual material entities in their capacity as mere things, without any appeal to their identity of kind, whether natural (‘dog’) or functional (‘hammer’), or indeed to the contextually determined relevance which they might, from occasion to occasion, be perceived as bearing—see, e.g, Experience and Judgement, § 12, 53-54. (It seems, indeed, that what Husserl says here is explicitly directed against Heidegger.) Crucially, this is not a genetic claim, but rather the claim that this is the kind of experience we must be capable of if any kind of experience, and any kind of judgement based on experience, is to be capable of having its intrinsic claim to objectivity cashed. We tend towards this most basic level of experience in any recourse to what, in general, our experiences and judgements are about, thereby transcending the conceptual determinations which have arisen through prior experience and the influence of culture and tradition. But this most basic level is still a form of objectual evidence (gegenständliche Evidenz), hence involves activity and spontaneity, that is to say, concepts; it is still a matter of perceiving something as something. ↩
This is not to deny that there is a form of perceptual experience which is a matter of claiming truth for some proposition, as in perceptual judgement. ↩
The relevant premisses here are (i) if something is propositional contentful, then it is predicative; (ii) if something is predicative (in any cognitive or epistemic sense), then it is a judgement; and (iii) perceptual experience of the most basic kind is not a judgement. ↩
See Logical Investigations V, § 34, H 483. ↩
Whether I use the definite article or a demonstrative adjective in my perceptual judgement of identity will depend on context. ↩
Note that the German adverb of place ‘da’ is ambiguous as between ‘here’ and ‘there’. Heidegger exploits this ambiguity in his notion of the Da of Dasein—see Sein und Zeit, § 29, H 132. ↩
Note that in German one would not have to say “here or there” because the German adverb of place da is ambiguous between ‘here’ and ‘there’—see in this connection Sein und Zeit, § 29, H 132. ↩
Peacocke 1992, pp.67-68. Evans thought that this kind of example show that the content of perceptual experience was non-conceptual. But this is, as Peacocke and others have pointed out, a non sequitur: the example only shows that the intentional content of the relevant kind of perceptual experience is not completely conceptual. Peacocke and others have to be careful, however, not to commit a non sequitur of their own. For this example certainly does not show that what such perceptual experience makes non-conceptually available are details for which the subject of perceptual experience does not possess the relevant concepts. Rather, it merely shows that such perceptual experience makes certain details non-conceptually available, whether or not the subject has the relevant concepts. The example in question makes the point here quite evident: it is highly unlikely that you lack the concepts of obtuseness and acuteness, it is just that your mastery of these concepts has not been actualised in this particular perceptual experience. ↩
The dependence for its recognisability of non-conceptual content upon conceptual content indicates what is wrong with a temptation which often emerges at this point, the temptation, namely, to say that non-conceptual content is ‘really’ conceptual content of which one is not self-consciously aware. If this further, finer grained informational content were conceptual in any sense stronger than that it is retrospectively unpackable in conceptual terms, it would become impossible to say just what one saw the mountain range as. But then one could not say what the perceptual experience you had was; its very identity would collapse. And then, as we have already intimated, it would not be possible to articulate the content of perceptual experience at all. This further, finer-grained content is thus indeed not conceptual content; it is not what the mountain range is presented as satisfying, but rather something which becomes available for conceptual articulation only because of the distinctively perceptual way in which your experience is a presenting of the mountain as satisfying a certain conceptual content. ↩
As they do in Peacocke, who has recognised that perceptual experience is both conceptually and non-conceptually contentful. ↩
This indicates that informativeness is understood as the capacity either to guide behaviour or to permit you to know what it is that such and such a conceptual content applies to. ↩
How it is both in its Besonderheit (qualitative identity) and in its Einzelheit (numerical identity). ↩
An example which better illustrates the double-barrelled character of the perceptual ‘how’ than the example of the jagged mountain range derived from Peacocke is the following, which Husserl has adapted from Locke’s example of the “round globe of any uniform colour, v.g., gold, alabaster, or jet … .” (Essay on Human Understanding, Book II, Ch. ix, 8) Speaking of a red sphere which is illuminated on one side only, Husserl writes, “It suffices here to mention the readily comprehensible difference between the red of this sphere, which is seen as objectively evenly distributed [across the visible surface of the sphere] and adumbrations [i.e., shadings] of the subjective colour sensations, which precisely then undoubtedly and indeed necessarily occur in the perception itself—a difference which recurs in relation to all kinds of objective features and the complexes of sensation corresponding to them.” (Logical Investigations V, § 2, H 359) ↩
Ideen I, § 131, H 303. In his inaugural lecture of 1907, The Idea of Phenomenology Husserl speaks of “the givenness of the appearing and the givenness of the object … .” (H 11) ↩
Ideen I, § 132, H 304. We see here that by Gegebenheitsweise Husserl means something quite different from Frege. ↩
Unlike Peacocke, incidentally. ↩
One could describe total perceptual intentional content as the look of things: how such and such is the case and appears as the case as perceived from here. ↩
That is, the Besonderheit rather than Einzelheit of what you have perceived. (The Einzelheit of what one perceives lies in the outer horizon of perceptual experience.) ↩
Such explication, which unpacks that aspect of conceptual content in virtue of which it is predicative—the aspect of content marked by the verbal phrase “… is lying here”—is explication of what Husserl aptly calls the outer horizon of perceptual experience. ↩
Such explication is explication of what Husserl equally aptly calls the inner horizon of perceptual experience. One corollary of the argument presented here is that Husserl needs to regard simple, sensuous perception as predicative in order to secure a real distinction between inner and outer horizons. In general, Husserl fails to see the priority and distinctive significance of the outer horizon, which fixes identity of place and thereby the singularity (numerical identity, Einzelheit) of what is perceived. The inner horizon is that into which one must penetrate in order to know the particularity (qualitative identity, Besonderheit) of what is perceived—how the universality (Allgemeinheit) of what is perceived comes to application (Anwendung) in this particular perceptual experience. ↩