For days now I have been trying to comprehend the meaning of Hurssel’s ‘epoché’. I still don’t have a confident grasp of the process, and do not even know if my understanding in any way matches what he intended. But a sense, useful to a searcher, coalesced this morning into breathtaking focus.
Starting from his notion of ‘bracketing’ or suspending our ‘presuppositions’ surrounding sensory data I am reminded that:
- Sense experiences are simple and immediate;
- The five senses are separate and distinct;
- Sensory data is fundamental to our notion of time, as time is essential to the interpretation of sense data.
The implications of these rather obvious premises intrigue me. Even before following through with them, I can see they place me on the threshold of a paradigm shift. Things get even more delightfully precarious when I cross reference the reality of my version of epoché with my previously adopted schemata of the four aspects of human consciousness – the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual.
This combined perspective on being reveals a rich, meaningful, exciting philosophical framework, which will be a background element of my literary development and exploration from now on.
I am planning a series of posts on craigspencewriter.ca to be titled Epoché #01 and so on, beginning with Floral Arrangement. Although my first attempt won’t cover all the ground described below, I hope it will offer a suggestive glimpse at the phenomenological spectrum as I imagine it.
Our first visual perception of flowers is simply their colours. Eventually we begin to recognize boundaries and edges between swatches of colour, and the shapes those boundaries define. Even though the shapes differ one from another in subsequent exposures, we come to recognize the form of a flower or bunch of flowers over time.
Then we become aware of the fragrance of flowers, and because our visual and olfactory exposures overlap, we associate the scent with the image and conclude they are part-in-parcel. Also over time – and the overlap here is facilitated by memory – we come to appreciate the life-cycle of flowers from germination, to blossoming, to decay.
A stream of simple, distinct impressions has been melded into the idea of a flower. But I have to remember that what manifests for an insect, or a hummingbird, or another human being for that matter, might be considerably different from my perceptions.
So far, we have touched on the ‘primary’ impressions of this thing called a flower. But it’s not long before we humans are exposed to what I would call ‘secondary’ impressions, which still arrive through the senses, but as representations coming from other conscious entities communicating to me in various modes – by words, images, and gestures – their emotional, intellectual and even spiritual comprehensions about flowers.
My mother repeats the word ‘flower’ every time she sees me looking at one. Not only do I learn to associate the sound pattern ‘flower’ with this particular form of sense data, I also learn by my mother’s tone – and as I grow older, her explicit commentary – what beautiful things flowers are. I also see them given as bouquets on special occasions, and am beginning to experience emotional and cultural triggers when flowers are seen or even mentioned, aside from the pure physical delight I take in their colour and fragrance.
Then at school and perhaps even university, I study the biology of flowers; or perhaps I become a landscape artist and study the formal artistry of floral elements in the garden. Now I am well into the intellectual appreciation of flowers that encompasses or can encompass anything from molecular and chemical structure to the power of symbolism and metaphor.
Finally, when I am able to appreciate my complex notion of a singular entity like a flower, and incorporate it into the amazing tapestry of everything I know, have experienced and can anticipate, I will perhaps achieve a spiritual perspective of this thing I first knew as pure patterns in streams of light!