What is subjective experience? (Exploring Phenomenology)

We will be discussing the question of “What is subjective experience?”.

More precisely, we’ll be exploring Phenomenology, or the study of consciousness and the objects of direct experience.

Our previous discussion explored the question “What is meaning?”, and divided the topic into two parts:
1.) The linguistic and social construction of meaning, and non-linguistic, phenomenal/ internal interpretation of meaning.
2.) The existential/ meaning of life.

We had a fruitful and enjoyable discussion that ended with more questions about the nature of the subjective or “phenomenal” experience, so we decided this would be a good topic for the next discussion.

Phenomenology is a broad, multifaceted subject with far ranging implications not only in philosophy, but psychology, religion, and science. While there is not a singular, agreed upon, definition of Phenomenology, we can divide the subject into two parts:

1.) The phenomenological method or style of thinking (first posited by Hegel and expanded by Husserl), which utilizes reflection to study the structures of the mind, subjective experience, consciousness, etc.
2.) The historical canon of thinkers that sought to clarify the contents of these investigations, which will take us through 20th century continental philosophy to psychology and the modern day study of consciousness and philosophy of mind.

Phenomenology studies the “acts of consciousness”. This differs from Ontology which studies the “essences of being”, or what is. In addition, Phenomenology approaches the world in which there is only mind, and all experiences are an act of mind. As a result, there is no such thing as “objective research”. This differs from Substance Dualism (Descartes) which conceives a world in which there is a mind and a body, and studies the world as a collection of objects external to the mind.

Many of the questions about consciousness being pursued by current neuroscience research borrow heavily from philosophers of mind influenced by the studies of phenomenology.

Some questions we will explore:
Why is it important to study subjective experience?
What is the nature of subjective experience?
What are the properties/qualities of a phenomenal experience?
What are some structures of subjective experience?
What role do the following play in subjective experience: intention, intuition, evidence, judging (noesis), empathy, lifeworld.

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