Sunday, June 11, 2017

Objectifying the lifeworld

Continuing the last post,  later on he makes the point of how science can only be explored within the horizon of our lifeworld. Which reminded me of the following quotes making the same point:

“The lifeworld reveals only a portion of itself in any dialogue because it exists as a phenomenological ‘background’ of pre-theoretical, pre-interpreted contexts of meaning and relevance….the vast proportion of lifeworld convictions always remain in the background during any discussion…. The lifeworld itself cannot be the proper them of communicative utterances, for as a totality it provides the space in or ground upon which such utterances occur, even those that name it explicitly….it remains indeterminate.... Speaking for the lifeworld as if one could step outside of it and know it directly inevitably leads one to 'invoke a cosmology,' a 'metaphysics of the thing-in-itself'"(235-9).

Morris, Martin (2006) “Between deliberation and deconstruction” in The Derrida-Habermas Reader, U of Chicago Press, 231-53.

Science has been based on bracketing the lifeworld in an attempt to get outside of it in complete objectivity. But in so doing it has shunned its ethical responsibility that must arise in our lived experience of the lifeworld. Hence contemplative practice, which focuses on that lived experience, can ground science within that ethical background.

However there are two obstacles within the Buddhist contemplative traditions. One is exceptionalism, that of being a kind of mind science different from and superior to all other religious expression. Another is neuro-centrism, the idea that the mind is in the brain. These obstructions reinforce the neoliberal capitalist worldview by "objectifying the mind as the brain and making meditation about individual well-being in a consumerist culture" (33:20). 

Buddhism is most certainly a religion in the sense of creating meaning and ethics through ritual and shared practices, so not exceptional in that regard. Also the mind is not located in the individual brain but rather is a relation  of embodiment within a culture and natural environment. So in overcoming both of these obstructions meditative states must be situated in a shared, global lifeworld.

What he didn't talk about is how Buddhist contemplative traditions, like science, objectify meditative states by claiming they too are outside of a lifeworld by providing direct access to reality as it is. He did situate meditative states within a lifeworld but didn't critique their penchant for claiming privileged access to reality as such. Recall Morris' comment above on stepping outside of the lifeworld, thereby invoking a metaphysics of the thing in itself. Buddhism is just as guilty of this as science.

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