A Phenomenological and Process Approach to Pattern

“Merely conceiving of and talking about reality and experience at all presuppose notions of pattern, meaning and consciousness. This position recognises the immanence of an existing objective reality, which nevertheless is in any way accessible and meaningful to us only though our subjective apprehension of it. Reciprocally it also recognises that consciousness is always consciousness of the real world – a response to the meanings of the world, to the world’s own consciousness as it were. The pattern of being is deeply relational, originating in between ‘subject’ and ‘object’, prior to their separation.”

Monia Brizzi is a London based Chartered Psychologist, Registered Psychotherapist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society.

‘The world is my idea…Among the many things that make the world so enigmatic and thought-provoking, the closest and most immediate thing is this: however immeasurable and massive the world may be, yet its existence hangs by one single thin thread: and that is the given individual consciousness in which it is constituted.’

Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Idea, Chapter One, Volume Two, (1818)

 

Merely conceiving of and talking about reality and experience at all presuppose notions of pattern, meaning and consciousness. This position recognises the immanence of an existing objective reality, which nevertheless is in any way accessible and meaningful to us only though our subjective apprehension of it. Reciprocally it also recognises that consciousness is always consciousness of the real world – a response to the meanings of the world, to the world’s own consciousness as it were. The pattern of being is deeply relational, originating in between ‘subject’ and ‘object’, prior to their separation. Yet this pattern can still be reflectively divided at the conscious level through an unfortunate use of abstraction which allows only bits and pieces to stand out and count and where ‘the whole is lost in one of its parts’ (Whitehead, 1925: 197).

This attitude of consciousness is not without serious and problematic consequences, indeed the result of its separatist patterning is the bifurcation of nature into mind and matter (as well value and fact) and the corollary fallacy of misplaced concreteness (Whitehead, ibid) into selected and selective parts abstracted from a whole to which no further reference is given, the metaphysics of mere presence divorced from value. Such doctrine of irrelevance amounts not only to settlements of Descartian and Newtonian positivism, but also the commonsense, everyday interpretation of things, which constitutes what in Phenomenology, is known as the ‘natural attitude’. It patterns subject and object as division and opposition. Hence, since they are liminal, interrelational phenomena, to truly understand pattern and consciousness we need to illuminate what is at stake in this separation, ‘for what is more obvious than a ‘subject’ is related to an ‘Object’ and vice versa? This ‘subject-Object relationship’ must be presupposed. But while this presupposition is unimpeachable in its facticity, this makes it indeed a baleful one, if its ontological necessity and especially its ontological meaning are to be left in the dark’ (Heidegger 1927: 86). This task requires nothing short of recognising consciousness’ ontological status in the pattern of nature, as well as defining the foundational function that pattern has in the consciousness (being) of nature.

The word ‘idea’ derives from the Greek ‘eido’, ‘which means to see, face, meet, be face-to-face’ (Heidegger, 1954: 41). An adequate understanding of Schopenhauer’s emphasis on world and on consciousness as the two unified poles of experience recognises relatedness as the originating middle for the inception of life and of meaning. To say that things are meaningful through our subjective consciousness is not to say that they are otherwise meaningless, for all things and all beings have both intrinsic and relational importance. What is missed here is the interaction, the very encounter between organism and environment, and relationality itself. It is not that things are meaningless to start with and acquire activity and significance only after they are infused with pattern by a sovereign conscious subject, master of the universe, that has experienced them first separately and then projected meaning onto them. Conversely, nature is not made up of separate, self-enclosed bits of matter whose pattern is already finalised and complete to be arranged and re-arranged afterward by us. Rather than finished products with the property of ‘simple location’ (Whitehead, 1925) all things are diffused patio-temporal activities of realisation and processes of creation whereby both subject and object shift from existing as solicitous predispositions, tendencies or potentials prior to their encounter to acquiring actual determination through the other. Experience is the selective realisation of potential in a concrete pattern beyond itself – this new unity is the becoming of the many (the whole) into one (the parts). In the mode of subject, experience is the associative pattern of the many into one, in the mode of object it is the assembly of plurality, diversity and otherness – this is the dipolar (and non-hierarchical) pattern of reality, not only of human beings but also of all beings and things. Subject and object are united in a primordial unity by the incarnate feeling of the care-relation. This view is compatible with William James’ notion of the multiverse as well as with newest discoveries at the forefront of science where emotion is the energy that fuels quantum state reductions (Hameroff, 2003; Pagliaro, 2016). Consciousness is hence a property of nature itself, not only of high-grade human experience.

At any given point in time and space, reality is grounded upon and displays a dipolar pattern in that it is always formed by a noematic (the directional foci and environmental data concerned with constituting variety factors – the what) and noetic (the originating apprehending focus concerned with meaning and unity – the how) fields (Spinelli, 1989). For Husserl, the pioneer of the field of phenomenology, this unity constitutes the most primary and primal ground of life, the basic structure upon which all acts of experience and perception are founded. Consciousness is always intentional and about meeting and diversity – about something other, beyond itself, and our meaning making is our emotional response to the environmental data of our everyday experience in the world, our gift to and our way of concerning and caring for the world. Later, Heidegger described this pattern as ‘being-in-the-world’, and Whitehead as ‘event’ or ‘actual occasion of experience’. It is essential to note that the two modalities of the fundamental dipolar pattern aren’t separated or separable but always equiprimordial in the selective temporal and spatial patterning of care and concern (value) which grants openness and plasticity to the noetic and noematic aspect of the whole life field: ‘An organism is the realisation of a definite shape of value’ (Whitehead, 1925: 194).

Psychology has brought questions of consciousness, pattern and meaning to bear on the understanding of human beings and their worlds. Associated with the systematisation of the nature and functioning of human beings within these concerns was also their objectification. With the continual process of specialisation in the scientification of the discipline of psychology, the psychological (which originally was everywhere) became restricted to ‘Psychology’, and with this a narrowing of focus took place that reduced psyche first to the soul and then the mind of mankind, omitting and de-souling the rest of the world so that, devoid of animating being, it was to be seen as brute inert matter. So whether consciousness was originally a relational term that implicated the whole of being (Physis) as soul of the world in the cosmos from the infinitesimal to the infinite and from the quantum to the cosmic, the Cartesian and then Newtonian outlook exiled the world turning it into inert lumps of meaningless matter while consciousness became squeezed into the inflated mind and enclosed by the outer layer of skin of the body of the heroic subject operating from above. We can see the professionalisation of psychology as a patterning by separation and hierarchy or ‘enframing’ (Heidegger, 1953). Within this framework, consciousness is mere correspondence and representational ideas (objective positivist empiricism) of a pre-given external reality or mere psychological and social construction and projection (subjectivist rationalism), rather than actual relation (Stenner, 1998). Both positions are superficial because they withdraw consciousness, subjectivity and meaning from nature and isolate it in the sense perception and projections of the human knower, thus displacing the more fundamental pattern of the subject-object relation, not knowledge but care (Heidegger, 1927), as well as the whole relation itself: ‘Thus…the word “concern”…is more fitted to suggest this fundamental structure. The occasion as subject has a “concern” for the object. And the “concern” at once places the object as a component in the experience of the subject, with an affective tone drawn from this object and directed towards it. With this interpretation, the subject-object relation is the fundamental structure of experience.’ (Whitehead, 1933).

Whilst ‘neither subject nor object play the role of first term or primary substance’ nor exist as they are prior to their relation, and ‘the first term is always…a fusion of subject and object in the unified event of experience’ (Stenner, 2008: 94), it is also important to highlight that it is the patterns of the object to have ontological priority in that they summon the subject to a relation of concern and solicitude by responding to its presenting patterns and meanings in a particular, selective way whereby many things are apprehended into a new unity from disjunctive diversity to conjunctive unity – the patterning of the many into one and the coherence of freedom and causation. In the fortunate use of abstractions which belongs to the essence of upward civilisation the relevance of the parts to the totality and vice versa is not lost, but rather maintained and enhanced in an incessant creative tension or balancing act. Both Whitehead (1933) and Heidegger (1935 and 1954, 1971) illustrate this relational dialectic through the example of sculpture, the art form which they consider capable par excellence of both achieving this task and also of illuminating its truth directly, at the level of encounter and immediate lived experience. Heidegger called the ‘illusion’ and the ‘danger’ (1953) the ever-present perils of misapprehending things by leveling them down to nothing more than an ontic understanding of being, of parts. Here abstractions are separated from their relevance to the totality. Abstractions that instead enhance the vividness and depth of the whole experience (Whitehead, 1938: 123) belong to the essence of upward evolution, such as art. In art a different type of consciousness is operational, one that eschews dualism and that contextualises its interest interalia, a Latin word that literally means ‘amongst other things’. As Heidegger reminds us in What Is Called Thinking? the word interest itself means to remain inter – in between things, in the interrelational reality of the encounter.

 

References

Hameroff, S. (2003). Consciousness, Whitehead and quantum computation in the brain: Panprotopsychism meets the physics of fundamental space-time geometry. In Riffert, F. G. and Weber, M. (Eds.) Searching for New Contrasts. Whiteheadian Contributions to Contemporary Challenges in Neurophysiology, Psychology, Psychotherapy and the Philosophy of Mind. Frankfurt: Peter Lang

Heidegger, M.  Being and Time. Oxford: Blackwell (1927)

Heidegger, M. What Is Called Thinking? New York: Harper & Row (1954)

Heidegger, M. The origin of the work of art. In Poetry, Language, Thought. New York: Harper Collins (1971)

Heidegger, M.  The question concerning technology. In Basic Writings. London: Routledge (1953)

Pagliaro, G. (2016). La Rivelazione dei Bio-Fotoni ed il Ruolo dell’ Intenzionalità Consapevole nella Guarigione Quantica. www.youtube.com/watch?v=YaxylLPwKxQ (Accessed December 2006)

Spinelli, E. The Interpreted World. An introduction to Phenomenological Psychology. London: Sage (1989)

Stenner, P. Heidegger and the Subject. Questioning Concerning Psychology. Theory & Psychology 8 (1): 59-77  (1998)

Stenner, P.  A. N. Whitehead and Subjectivity. Subjectivity 22: 90-109 (2008)

Whitehead, A.  Science and the Modern World. New York: The Free Press (1925)

Whitehead, A.  Adventures of Ideas. New York: The Free Press (1933)

Whitehead, A. Modes of Thought. New York: The Free Press (1938)

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