The Liberation of Psyche From the Constraints of Polite Society, Political Correctness, Science, Religion, et al.
PSYCHIC REVOLT: Resting Calmly in Perplexity
By Chapter IX, titled The Scientific Basis of Pessimism (B) The Pessimist’s Interpretation of Mind, beginning on p.206 of the 477 paged work, Pessimism: A History and A Criticism (circa 1877), James Sully admits that his main goal and purpose is to show that “there is no scientific evidence for the existence of will as a moving principle in physical nature.” Sully is determined to comfort humanity by undermining and destroying the principle of the Will-to-live, the “unhappy principle” – as Sully calls it. It’s as though he were protecting children (the students of life) from the bogeyman, that mean old grouchy all-too-melancholy sour kraut, Arthur Schopenhauer, sent from the nether regions to upset mankind’s belief that life is alright, that being alive is inherently good, an absolute miracle, in fact.
First our protective Sully claims there is NO EVIDENCE for the existence of WILL as a “moving principle in physical nature.” Then he concedes, “At most it has a limited existence.”
Is Sully suggesting that the Will-to-live is some kind of OCCULT ESSENCE? He is using the term, “science,” to invalidate the intuitive understanding of what Schopenhauer calls the Will-to-live. Actually , he uses three magic words: the modern science of psychology.
Franz Brentano and his pupil, Edmund Husserl, maintained that the natural sciences could only yield hypotheses and never absolute truths. Brentano attempted to develop an exact science of psychic phenomena. Husserl, his student, attempted to develop a “Science of the Mind” in Phenomenology. The basis for these sciences? INNER PERCEPTION.
This was exactly the point that Sully bases his so-called fatal attack: “The manner in which Schopenhauer assumes, without the least investigation into the matter, that by simple introspection we may reach a sub-phenomenal reality in the shape of the will.”
And yet we experience our animal bodies as manifestations of this very Will! We are the manifestation of orgasm. Our teeth and stomachs are the objectification of hunger, appetite. When instinctive impulses are not immediately satisfied, this is a state of unrest and craving … dis-ease. We are anthropomorphicized Will.
One of the many obscure texts I had abandoned when I went out West was Dermot Moran’s Introduction to Phenomenology, circa 2000. This is where I first learned about Franz Brentano. At the time of this typing, there is a pdf version of the text available online:
Phenomenology as initially understood by Husserl meant DESCRIPTIVE PSYCHOLOGY and had its origins in Brentano.
Philosophy consists in description and not causal explanation. Philosophy is the description of what is given in direct self-evidence (Evidenz).
Franz Brentano attempted to rethink psychology as a science. He proposed concentrating on illuminating the nature of inner “self-awares” acts of cognition without appealing to genetic explanation. Brentano was proposing a kind of philosophical psychology, or a philosophy of mind. In his lectures on Descriptive Psychology (1889, hence a contemporary of James Sully), Brentano employed the phrase “descriptive psychology or descriptive phenomenology.”
This is an a priori science of the laws of THE MENTAL, identifying universal laws on the basis of insight into individual instances. Brentano denies the possibility of purely UNCONSCIOUS MENTAL ACTS.
Right from the outset, Husserl laid great stress on phenomenology’s Principle of Presuppositionlessness; that is, the claim to have discarded philosophical theorizing in favor of careful description of phenomena themselves, to be ATTENTIVE only to what is given in INTUITION. (Moran 2000)
Every act of knowledge is legitimized by “originary presentive intuition” – originar gebende Anschauung. This concept of ORIGINARY PRESENTIVE INTUITION is at the core of Husserl’s philosophy.
Now, the word intuition comes form the Latin intuir, which means “knowledge from within.” Isn’t this at the very root of James Sully’s so-called undermining of Schopenhauer’s quasi-mystical elaboration of the WILL-TO-LIVE as the hypostasis of reality? Today, in 2014, Cognitive Scientists think of intuition as a set of NONCONSCIOUS COGNITIVE PROCESSES.
What is the difference between “unconscious mental acts” and “nonconscious cognitive processes”?
Isn’t this just contemporary technical jargon for the deus de machina, the Unconscious? (UNCONSCIOUS WILL)
Every living creature behaves exactly in conformity with Schopenhauer’s philosophy. Whatever we call it, the Will, anima mundi, the World Soul, physiological or psychological processes (nonconscious cognitive processes), Nature, etc., organisms are compelled by an occult master force to survive and reproduce, no different than science-fictional phenomena such as The Thing or The Body Snatchers.
The real source of life’s misery would be this essentially unconscious longing (and consequently dissatisfaction) inherent in self-preservation. Life is nasty. We don’t need labs, priests, or universities to validate life’s nastiness. We feel it in our intestines.