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phenomenality (again)
october 23, 2011

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Anything, something, “the thing about us,” one says; or “the thing about the [issue, topic, contention,...]” is an object of attention, but also a subject of attention—subject to my attention or to our attention. It’s both object and subject: point, phenomenon.

Terms are often vague denoters.

“What’s the matter?” Something “matters.” This year, one of professional philosophy’s most esteemed voices, Derek Parfit (now elderly), published his eagerly anticipated (by others, not by me) magnum opus in two volumes—more than a thousand pages—titled simply On What Matters, vol. 1 and vol. 2. (It’s very important work. But it’s also a compendium of what matters to Derek Parfit: every new view belonging to Derek Parfit that clearly matters enough to Derek Parfit—or matters clearly enough to Parfit—to release into publication.)

Something may be trivially “phenomenal” because the stature of an ambiguous thing—whatever it is—is at least a phenomenon (real? merely apparent? Anyway: there). But its ambiguity may imply a potential beyond its appearance—a reality of the thing that’s possibly “phenomenal” in the sense of being possibly remarkable or possibly extraordinary because a phenomenon may be resonant with inner or hidden implicature (including implicitly begging a question of what being there is—which is at least a general matter of mind that a phenomenon may inform).

Whatever it is, it’s [T]Here as something with us or between us.

Is it art? The object, subject to my appreciability, might be art because it matters that way, at least as subject to the question. Is the art in the working that led to the thing, which the thing emblemizes (as with abstract expressionism and other movements that beg questions of process that led to the thing)? What is the thing called “the work of art”?

Yet, mattering of the thing may be partial: a matter about the thing that’s not the whole matter. The matter of what matters is a matter amid possible matterings of the thing. A matter, in its singularity, thereby implicates the plurality of matters with which it may participate for attention.

Something grows to be so appealing it might be called art as is—or at least worthy of a still life. Yet, all its appeal doesn’t annul that it’s a variably-interpretable life, like anything merely living: Whatever you say, it’s still life (I hear when a painting is called a “still life”). Something is at least a phenomenon we can read differently. Questioning the thingness of a thing in Art is by now ordinary. Sartre’s nausea in the fingers when a pebble is picked up on a beach is no longer important. (Was it about theocentric presumptiveness?) But questions of being never go away, due to there being new lives, new kinds “of” things. Why are there so many kinds to minds? What is a kind? (What is a type or a genre that a token or work may instance?)

I don’t call myself a phenomenologist, but I clearly enjoy the topic. So, I write of things as phenomena interchangeably (not things primarily as objects, nor phenomena as impersonal), now writing relative to very recent discussion (not having reread my earlier improvisations about phenomenality, the past year or two: “love of the day,” “a note on phenomenology,” “phenomenality,” and “indwelling”).

What matters is at least a phenomenon, and anything can be a subject of attention (or of attentionality, i.e., a mind), then of appreciability. Obviously. (But what’s the background, backstage, or innerworldliness of something being obvious? I won’t press the matter, but it’s [t]here.)


Next: section 2 of “feeling for the ‘thing’.”

 

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