The Excess of Immediate Experience

Experience is a finicky beast to pin down and examine. Understanding is through analogy but what in experience is like experience besides immediate experience itself? Nothing can be like immediate experience, for if it were, it would simply be experience. We are thus in a loop, so to speak. When attending to the “things themselves”, how then to understand it? What metaphors can we employ to tame experience into intelligibility? Phenomenology is, of course, an attendance to the things themselves, and thus a reflection on what is given immediately. Or is it? Some time ago Janicaud accused some Frenchmen of going beyond this immediacy and into what is excessive: the theological. But is this the end of the story? To hold onto our phenomenologist card must we maintain our attention wholly on what is given in an instant or can we conceptualize beyond this and into the excess? How could experience be excessive if it is a continuous succession of “bumps” against the given? Does not the bumping happen continuously in the now?

I think not. It was Husserl afterall who maintained that experience is not purely in the now, for otherwise, we could not enjoy a melody. We would not even be able to comprehend a spoken sentence if it were not for the “bunching” effect of memory inherent to all perception! For do we not retain onto what was in the past in order to make sense of the present? Does not the expection of the future influence how we retain and hold onto the now? The art of defensive driving is in fact a steady adherence to the future in anticipation of idiocy. Most of our life is in a similar way. The now is a myth suitable only for the zen masters; the common man has loftier goals which stretch into the excess, towards the not-yet but soon-to-be. It is in relation to memory that perception sees the spinning fan as a circular blur. But this should be obvious. All perception is a perception of the past because the speed of light is finite. This was Bergson’s insight. We do not perceive reality but an image of reality for what we perceive is light reflected. This is the ambient optic array of Gibson as well. A structured reflection but a reflection nonetheless. A reflection which contains much significance for it is only through the reflection of my lover that I can see her face.

But see it I do. With more meaning than meets the eye! Within that perception, in addition to the past, I see the future. I see how I will love her tomorrow and the next. The perception is excessive in that I can see her as the mother of my child. I look at the given phenomena of my lover playing with other children and I can see beyond the given and into the future, our future. For perception is not just related to expectations but interpretations, self-interpretations. What I see is excessive beyond the given because I shape the given and respond to it reflexively. My mood orients me towards the world and structures my interpretation. A christian looks at a cross in an altogether different manner than does an atheist! I see wood and misery; they see blood and salvation. It is in accordance with our history that we see the present and the future. And thus we go beyond the immediate, into the excess. The now is a myth. A useful myth, but a myth nonetheless. It defies our immediate experience for what we experience immediately is not just the present but the past and future. The excess is not theological but immanent. Immanent in a different fashion but immanent nonetheless. God is not to be found in our experience but history and possibility should suffice.


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Filed under Philosophy, Psychology

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