Information on the Series: Phenomenology and the Positivist Intellect

In the Fall of 2021, the American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly publishes three essays on phenomenology.  Each author asks, “Why does phenomenology exclude other philosophical traditions, such as Thomism, when they share similar concerns?”  The essays are not only remarkable for what they say, they are also remarkable for what they do not say.  None mention natural science.

Of course, this lacunae demands exploration.  Edmund Husserl (1856-1938 AD) lives in the heyday of modern science.  He calls for a “return to the noumenon”.  He names his method, “phenomenological reduction”.  So, phenomenology concerns the noumenon and its phenomena.

The series on empirio-schematics serves as a resource.  The noumenon and its phenomena appear in the Positivist’s judgment, initially derived in Comments on Jacques Maritain’s Book (1935) Natural Philosophy.

Contributions to this series are listed below, in order of production.  Most are available at smashwords and other electronic book vendors.  Those that appear on the blog at www.raziemah.com are noted, along with dates.

Reverie on Mark Spencer’s Essay (2021) “The Many Phenomenological Reductions”    (e-article, note on blog September 2021)

Comments on Joseph Trabbic’s Essay (2021) “Jean-Luc Marion and … First Philosophy”   (e-article, note on blog October 2021 

Comments on Richard Colledge’s Essay (2021) “Thomism and Contemporary Phenomenology”   (e-article, note on blog October 2021)

Comments on Jack Reynolds’ Book (2018) “Phenomenology, Naturalism and Science”.    (e-article, note on blog March 2022)

Looking at John Perez Vargas, Johan Nieto Bravo and Juan Santamaria Rodriguez’s Essay (2020) “Hermeneutics and Phenomenology in… Social Sciences Research”      (blog only, www.raziemah.com, April 2022)


Fantasia in G minor: A Speech Written for Gunnar Beck MEP

0001 Gunnnar Beck of the Alternative Fur Deutschland Party, a member of the European Parliament, schedules a speech for the current session.  A few members mill about an almost empty chamber.  The speech lasts for around fifteen minutes.  In that brief span, this statesman provides a true alternative for Germany, as well as all of Eurasia.

He reads the following text.

0002 “Today, I want to address a topic that has recently come to my attention.  The topic concerns the start of our current Lebenswelt.  The topic should be of interest to all Europeans.

Remember the stories of Adam and Eve?  

(laughter by the few in attendance)

We know that they are myths.  But, we cannot imagine what the myths are about.

So I ask: Can we imagine that these myths point to a scientific project that calls all the nations in Eurasia to contribute?

0003 During the past dozen years, a literary figure, Razie Mah, has published a dramatically new approach to human evolution.  He offers three works: The Human NicheAn Archaeology of the Fall and How to Define the Word “Religion”The Human Niche covers the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.  An Archaeology of the Fall introduces the first singularity.  How To Define the Word “Religion” explores our current Lebenswelt.

0004 I will briefly elaborate the proposals of this scholar.

Here is the first hypothesis.  Our current Lebenswelt is not the same as the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.  The transition from the latter to the former occurs in recent prehistory and is called ‘the first singularity’.

0005 The second hypothesis concerns the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.

We are all familiar with the biological principle that natural selection brings adaptations into relation with a niche.

0006 I ask, ‘What is a niche?’

A niche is the potential of something independent of the adapting species.  Typically, the niche is a material condition, say, the presence of a predator or an environmental influence.  For humans, the niche is not a material condition.  The human niche is the potential of triadic relations.

The philosopher Charles Peirce initiates the study of triadic relations in the modern era.  Examples includes signs, mediations, judgments and category-based nested forms.  Triadic relations encompass mechanical cause and effect, even as they transcend it.  Triadic relations are immaterial, yet they entangle the material.

0007 Consequently, triadic relations offer a new avenue for investigating the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.  The book, The Human Niche, plus its attending commentary, starts the inquiry.

0008 The third hypothesis concerns our current Lebenswelt.

Consider the spoken word, “religion”.  This spoken word belongs to a system of differences.  “Religion” is not the same as “spirituality”.  “Spirituality” is definitely not the same as a “church”.   A “church” is not the same as “a popular belief that there is more to reality than material being”.  In short, the word, “religion”, is purely symbolic and symbols belong to systems of differences.

0009 Do systems of differences have anything to do with language?

Yes, according to Ferdinand de Saussure, language consists of two related systems of differences: parole (or talk) and langue (or thought).

When parole is speech-alone talk, its relation to langue is arbitrary.

If speech is arbitrarily related to thought and if words compose systems of differences, then how do we know what a spoken word refers to?

0010 This is a difficult question.

Razie Mah proposes that we project meanings, presences and messages into spoken words.  Then, we construct artifacts that validate our projections.

In How to Define the Word “Religion”, Razie Mah projects purely relational structures into the meaning, presence and message of the word, “religion”, creating artifacts that validate the term.  But, the artifacts do not quite match what most of us think when we say the word, “religion”.

0011 Remember Eve in the Garden of Eden?

She performs the identical operations.  She sees the fruit.  She names the fruit with a spoken word.  She projects meaning, presence and message into its name.  Then, the fruit becomes an artifact that validates her projection.  Until, of course, the moment that she bites into it.

Then, her eyes are opened.

This story should be familiar to all Europeans, because, right now, the eyes of many citizens are being opened, as our artifacts fail to live up to our projections.  Indeed, we find that our artifacts are not at all what we think they are.  We have tasted the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  And, we realize that we are naked and exposed.

0012 There is a foundational problem with our current Lebenswelt.

This problem does not operate in the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.

So, what is the difference between our current Lebenswelt and the Lebenswelt that we evolved in?

0013 This brings me back to Razie Mah’s first hypothesis.

What is the nature of the first singularity?

Let me start with this.  The evolution of talk is not the same as the evolution of language.

Hand talk is practiced in the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.  Speech is added to hand talk at the start of our species, over two-hundred thousand years ago.

The semiotics of hand talk is crucial.  Manual-brachial word-gestures image and point to their referents.  So, the referent stands before the gestural word.  Hominins cannot project meaning, presence and message into their gesture-words.  Such projections require symbols.  Manual-brachial gestures are icons and indexes.

0014 Consequently, our distant ancestors cannot perform explicit abstraction.  Rather, abstractions are implicit.  Implicit abstractions build our bodies and our minds.  Implicit abstractions build our social circles.  This is the way that we evolved to be.

Language consists of symbolic operations.  Symbolic operations start to function beneath the icons and indexes of hand talk.  Consequently, language evolves in the milieu of hand talk, as symbolic operations become more and more routine.  General grammar appears after the domestication of fire.  Hominins prosper with fire and linguistic hand-talk.  When humans evolve, speech gets added to hand talk.

Anatomically modern humans practice hand-speech talk for two-hundred thousand years.  Humans settle all habitable continents.  Then, around seven-thousand eight-hundred years ago, something strange happens.  A new culture appears on the edge of the Persian Gulf.  That culture practices speech-alone talk.  That culture is the Ubaid of southern Mesopotamia.

0015 At the beginning of the first singularity, the Ubaid is the only culture practicing speech-alone talk.  All surrounding cultures practice hand-speech talk.

Today, all civilizations practice speech-alone talk.

0016 Obviously, speech-alone talk expands from the Ubaid to all the world.  It does so, through mimesis.

The transition is easy.  All that a hand-speech talking culture needs to do is drop the hand-talk component of its hand-speech talk.

The motivation?

Speech-alone talk increases labor and social specialization.

Speech-alone talk makes people wealthy and powerful.

Speech-alone talk allows explicit abstraction.  Speech-alone talk permits people to project meanings, presences and messages into purely symbolic words.  Speech-alone talk encourages people to construct artifacts that validate those projections.  Consequently, speech-alone talk places no constraints on social complexity.  Speech-alone talk potentiates civilization.

 0017 The hypothesis of the first singularity explains why our current Lebenswelt is not the same as the Lebenswelt that we evolved.

If the hypothesis of the first singularity is plausible, then our appreciation of ourselves will never be the same. 

0018 Here, I get down to business.

The hypothesis of the first singularity mandates an intercivilizational research project.  Can we visualize the spread of speech-alone talk, from the Ubaid to all the world, in recent prehistory?  We are looking for signs of increasing social complexity, eventually leading to civilization in various regions of the world.  But, that is not all.  The adoption of speech-alone talk leads to many other trends that appear in recent prehistory, such as the Indo-European and the Austronesian language expansions.  The question opens wide vistas.  Archaeologists of the world, hear our plea.  Nations of the Eurasia, hear our voice.

We look to Iraq, the site of the Ubaid, the Halaf, and the Hassuna cultures.  History begins in Sumer.  We look to Iran, the site of the Susa culture, showing signs of social complexity, then, collapsing in the face of a Uruk expansion.  We look to Egypt.  Could speech-alone talk have spread to Egypt from Mesopotamia, potentiating civilization along the Nile?  We look to the nations of the Aegean.  Could the adoption of speech-alone talk contribute to the rise of Bronze Age civilizations.  We look to Europe.  Could the secondary farming expansion have spread speech-alone talk?

We look to Russia, as the site where the Proto-Indo-European culture coalesces.  What is the prehistory of the Kurgan culture?  We look to Pakistan and India, asking them to explore the prehistoric cultures giving rise to the planned cities of the Harappan culture.  We look to China, for signs of increasing social complexity, leading to the Longshan culture, among others.  We look to Japan, for the emergence of social complexity during the Jomon period.

We look to China, Taiwan, Philippines, New Guinea, and other nations of the eastern Pacific, asking them to investigate the nature and the timing of the Austronesian language expansion.  We look to Peru and Ecuador, site of the oldest civilizations in the Americas.  We look to Mexico and central America for signs leading to Mesoamerican civilizations.  We look to North America, for the archaeology of the mound-building cultures.

0019 We propose that The First Intercivilizational Conference on the First Singularity be held, in the year 2025, in Berlin.  Within two years, archaeologists can collate existing information with the hypothesis in mind.  The intent of this conference will be to establish collaborative intercivilizational research programs.  Seven years later, a second conference should give the world an indication as to the credibility of the hypothesis of the first singularity.

0020 Razie Mah offers three works, The Human NicheAn Archaeology of the Fall and How to Define the Word “Religion”.  These three works transform our vision of human evolution.

First, our current Lebenswelt is not the same as the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.  The transition from the latter to the former is called “the first singularity”.  The first singularity involves a change in the way humans talk.

Second, the human niche is the potential of triadic relations.

Third, the semiotics of speech-alone talk potentiates unconstrained social complexity.  Unconstrained social complexity defines our current Lebenswelt.

0021 These three hypotheses should be of interest to all Europeans.  They address issues of intellectual concern throughout Western civilization.  What if the stories of Adam and Eve are fairy tales about social developments in the Ubaid of southern Mesopotamia?  What if our ancestors adapt to a niche that is unlike any other mammal’s niche?  How do we accept the claim that our spoken words encourage us to construct artifacts that then validate our spoken words? The implications are profound.

0022 Most of all, the hypothesis of the first singularity should inspire this body, the European Parliament, to address the continent of Eurasia, and ask, “Will you help us investigate?”

Archaeologists from all parts of Eurasia are called to participate in an intercivilizational research project. Can archaeological investigations of our local prehistories allow us to imagine the adoption of speech-alone talk as the historical condition that potentiates unconstrained social complexity?  This is a huge question.  This question extends beyond Eurasia.  However, the question applies first to Eurasia.

Further details of this proposal will be forthcoming.

0023 I thank you for the privilege of addressing this chamber.”


Looking at John Perez Vargas, Johan Nieto Bravo and Juan Santamaria Rodriguez’s Essay (2020) “Hermeneutics and Phenomenology in… Social Sciences Research” (Part 1 of 18)

0001 Three faculty at the Universidad Santo Tomas, Columbia, publish an article with the title, “Hermeneutics and Phenomenology in Human and Social Sciences Research”, in the journal, Civilizar: Cienceas Sociales y Humanas(volume 20(38), 2020, 137 to 146, DOI: https//doi.org/10.22518/jour.ccsh./2020.1a10).  I thank the authors for presenting in English.

0002 In this series of blogs, the above article serves as a testing ground for four commentaries on phenomenology, contemporary Thomism and science.  The commentaries, available at smashwords and other electronic e-book vendors, follow.

Reverie on Mark Spencer’s Essay (2021) “The Many Phenomenological Reductions”

Comments on Joseph Trabbic’s Essay (2021) “Jean-Luc Marion and … First Philosophy”

Comments on Richard Colledge’s Essay (2021) “Thomism and Contemporary Phenomenology”

Comments on Jack Reynolds’ Book (2018) “Phenomenology, Naturalism and Science”

0003 Testing ground?

These commentaries contain particular category-based nested forms, interscopes and judgments, constructed from (or in reverie to) the essay and book under consideration.  These synthetic structures are abductions, constructed on Peircean frames.

So, what to do with a guess?

Test it.


Looking at John Perez Vargas, Johan Nieto Bravo and Juan Santamaria Rodriguez’s Essay (2020) “Hermeneutics and Phenomenology in… Social Sciences Research” (Part 3 of 18)

0006 Test one.

In the conclusion (Part 5), the unspoken agenda of the authors becomes apparent.

Why are hermeneutics neglected in phenomenological inquiry?

0007 The authors offer several good reasons for why hermeneutics should be employed.

First, in history, Husserl’s project differentiates out of nineteenth century hermeneutic traditions.  Both refuse to accept the triumph of positivism.  So, if these two traditions have common ancestry, then why are they apparently not compatible?

Second, hermeneutics situates texts, in the same way that a reader situates an author’s writing.  So, hermeneutics situate the same phenomena as phenomenology.

Third, hermeneutic practices arise out of the potential of interpretation.  Phenomenological reductions arise out of the potential of identifying what the noumenon must be.  Why are these not complementary processes?

0008 An answer starts with the Positivist’s judgment, initially diagrammed in Comments on Jacques Maritain’s Book (1935) Natural Philosophy.  Judgment has a triadic structure consisting of three elements: relationwhat is and what ought to be.  When these elements are assigned to Peirce’s categories, the judgment becomes actionable.

0009 The relation is a positivist intellect, who has a rule, saying, “Metaphysics is not allowed.”  This relation belongs to thirdness, the realm of normal contexts.

What ought to be is an empirio-schematic judgment, consisting of a disciplinary language (relation), mathematical and mechanical models (what ought to be) and observations and measurements (what is).  What ought to be belongs to secondness, the realm of actuality.

What is is a dyad, consisting of two contiguous elements.  The elements are a noumenon, the thing itself, and its phenomena, its observable and measurable facets.  The contiguity expresses a logical necessity.  In natural science, a noumenon cannot be reduced to its phenomena.  No arrangements of phenomena fully objectify their noumenon.  I place the contiguity in brackets.  A noumenon [cannot be objectified as] its phenomena.

0010 Here is a picture of the Positivist’s judgment.

Figure 01

This figure does not answer test one completely.  But, it is a start.


Looking at John Perez Vargas, Johan Nieto Bravo and Juan Santamaria Rodriguez’s Essay (2020) “Hermeneutics and Phenomenology in… Social Sciences Research” (Part 4 of 18)

0011 The first test posed by the authors concerns the apparent lack of compatibility between hermeneutics and phenomenology.

The lack is explained by the rule of the positivist intellect, saying, “No metaphysics.”

0012 Both phenomenology and hermeneutics are capable of situating the Positivist’s judgment.

However, hermeneutics arises from interpretation, which is necessarily metaphysical.  Interpretation is not physics.

0013 Can the same be said for phenomenology?

Phenomenological reduction self-identifies as not metaphysical, even as it elucidates what the noumenon ought to be.

0014 The positivist intellect’s rule gives permission to phenomenology, but not to hermeneutics.

Phenomenology, not hermeneutics, situates the Positivist’s judgment.

This answer is portrayed in Reverie on Mark Spencer’s Essay (2021) “The Many Phenomenological Reductions”.


Looking at John Perez Vargas, Johan Nieto Bravo and Juan Santamaria Rodriguez’s Essay (2020) “Hermeneutics and Phenomenology in… Social Sciences Research” (Part 5 of 18)

0015 Test two.

What is the latent dilemma between phenomenology and hermeneutics?

Both phenomenology and hermeneutics are able to situate the Positivist’s judgment.  However, since the rule of the positivist intellect disallows metaphysics, only phenomenology is allowed to situate scientific discourse.  Hermeneutics is programmatically excluded.

0016 How am I to diagram this answer?

First, the Positivist’s judgment unfolds into a content-level nested form, according to the categorical assignments of the elements.  Here is a picture.

Figure 02

0017 According to Comments on Jack Reynolds’ Book (2018) “Phenomenology, Naturalism and Science”, another latent problem stands between science and phenomenology.  Practicing scientists are perfectly happy to work within this content level, as the mechanical philosophers of the 17th century intend.  Hands-on natural scientists3a build models2a of observations2a of phenomena1a.  They take the noumenon1a for granted.

But, by the 20th century, visionary scientists lobby to situate the Positivist’s judgment with a glorified unfolding of the empirio-schematic judgment.

Edward Husserl (1859-1938) counters visionary scientists with phenomenology.  Husserl’s project3b brings the actuality of phenomenological reduction2b into relation of the possibilities inherent in a return to the noumenon1b.

0018 Here is a diagram of the resulting two-level interscope.  The situation-level nested form virtually situates (and emerges from) the content-level nested form.

Figure 03

Looking at John Perez Vargas, Johan Nieto Bravo and Juan Santamaria Rodriguez’s Essay (2020) “Hermeneutics and Phenomenology in… Social Sciences Research” (Part 6 of 18)

0019 Before continuing, I note that the relational structures in the prior blogs are presented in A Primer on the Category-Based Nested Form and A Primer on Sensible and Social Construction.  A two-level interscope characterizes sensible construction.  Sensible construction presumes a functioning perspective level, even though that perspective level may not be articulated.

0020 Now, I move on to test two, the latent exclusion of hermeneutics by Husserl’s paradigm.

What would a situation-level hermeneutic look like?

0021 Here is my guess, based on the essay.

A hermeneutic paradigm3b brings metaphysical realism2b into relation with the possibilities inherent in interpretation1b.

Figure 04

0022 This arrangement is not permitted.

Obviously, the actuality2 of this situation levelbmetaphysical realism2b, grates against the positivist intellect3a, because it2b defies its3a rule against metaphysics.  Less obviously, a difficulty originates from the reality that hermeneutics3b does not share the same perspective as the positivist intellect3a.  

Where is the perspective level?  

It is latent.

The term, “latent”, qualifies, because the perspective level of the Positivist’s judgment is not articulated.  It2c is just there.

It2c is simply given.

0023 What does this further imply?

Perceptive phenomenologists, such as the Catholic Jean-Luc Marion, note this lack of perspective and wonder what to do with it.  Could hermeneutics apply?  If so, then a normal context of hermeneutics3c could virtually contextualize Husserl’s paradigm3b, as Husserl’s project3b virtually situates the positivist intellect3a.

Would a perspective-level hermeneutics3c condone the rule of the positivist intellect3a?

I do not think so.


Looking at John Perez Vargas, Johan Nieto Bravo and Juan Santamaria Rodriguez’s Essay (2020) “Hermeneutics and Phenomenology in… Social Sciences Research” (Part 7 of 18

0024 So, hermeneutics3c does not put Husserl’s project3b into perspectivec.

What does this imply?

Perhaps, the perspective level does not want to be articulated.  Perhaps, it flourishes on the basis of some trickery.  Take a close look at the two-level interscope and guess what that trickery may involve.

0025 At this juncture, I have answered test two.

The latent difficulty between phenomenology and hermeneutics concerns the perspective level, which is not articulated.  Who knows what is in the perspective level?  Many may guess.  But, two points are certain.  Husserl’s project3b and the positivist intellect3a align with an unspoken perspective.  A situation-level hermeneutics3b and the positivist intellect3a do not.

0026 This answer raises the third test, asking, “What is the subject matter of phenomenology3b?”


Looking at John Perez Vargas, Johan Nieto Bravo and Juan Santamaria Rodriguez’s Essay (2020) “Hermeneutics and Phenomenology in… Social Sciences Research” (Part 8 of 18)

0027 Test three.

What does phenomenology3b do?

0028 In section three, the authors propose that Husserl’s phenomenology3b approaches reality1a by transcending the explanatory intentionality2a of the exact sciences3a.  Reality1a is a noumenon1a and its phenomena1a.  The explanatory intentionality2a of the exact sciences is the empirio-schematic judgment2a.   Phenomenology3b approaches reality1athrough phenomenological reduction2b.

In sum, phenomenology virtually situates hands-on first-order science.

Figure 05

0029 The authors continue, saying (more or less), “Consciousness (trained in the methods of phenomenological reduction2b) unveils the face of subjectivity (the noumenon1a) that has been eclipsed by positive objectivism (the positivist intellect3a).”

This quote fits the picture of Husserl’s project3b virtually situating hands-on natural science3a.

This quote fits the idea that phenomenological reduction2b elucidates what the noumenon1a must be1b.

0030 Notably, a return to the noumenon1b renders a subjectivity that can be shared by others in the same situation.  Phenomenological reduction2b elucidates an intersubjective being1b in the category of firstness, the realm of possibility.

According to the authors, Husserl’s project3b has been criticized for reducing intersubjectivity to the field of consciousness.  However, consciousness has already been narrowed by hands-on science to a cogito (the essence of the positivist intellect3a, including the rule of no metaphysics).  

So, the terminus of phenomenological reduction2bwhat the noumenon1a must be1b (that is, a noumenon1b), is a mind-dependent being, capable of being treated as a mind independent being.  I would go as far as to conjecture that this capacity directly correlates to the intersubjectivity of the noumenon1b.


Looking at John Perez Vargas, Johan Nieto Bravo and Juan Santamaria Rodriguez’s Essay (2020) “Hermeneutics and Phenomenology in… Social Sciences Research” (Part 9 of 18)

0031 German philosopher and phenomenologist, Alfred Schutz (1899-1959), proposes that the noumenon1b is an intersubjective being1b that opens up a potential for dialogue with others.  In other words, one consciousness asks for a consensus from other consciousnesses, on the question of whether this intersubjective being1b is… well… worthy of consideration.

By whom?

The positivist intellect3a?

0032 What does this dialogue among consciousnesses resolve?

The authors posit several options.

One, the qualitative researcher consolidates an inclusive knowledge mediated by the experience of intersubjectivity.  To the extent that a consensus is achieved, the noumenon1b may overwrite the noumenon1a.  Then, the slot for the noumenon1a is occupied by what the noumenon1a must be1b, the noumenon1a(1b).

Two, contemporary knowledge integrates daily life (that is, routine modern life), science and technical reflexivity.  In effect, the revolution of phenomenology applies to life in the Laboratory (the union of all laboratories).   A consensus on the noumenon1b offers the opportunity for a novel empirio-schematic discipline2a (a novel hands-on science).

Three, the noumenon1a(1b) elucidated by phenomenologists3b, is objectified by its phenomena1a.  These phenomena1a are situated directly by the empirio-schematic judgment2a of hands-on researchers3a.  The intersubjective nature of the noumenon1a(1b) attracts a community of inquirers.

0033 Here is a picture of this consolidation.

Figure 06

0034 Four, phenomenology is a radical self-foundation of complete intellectual clarity.  In effect, once a noumenon1boverwrites a noumenon1a, a novel scientific inquiry opens, where the noumenon1a(1b) [can be objectified as] its phenomena1a.  As the novel empirio-schematic judgment2a consolidates, a consensus that the mind-dependent noumenon1a(1b) can be treated as an intersubjective mind-independent being, gains credibility.

Moreover, the shared experience of intersubjectivity brackets out common sense, natural scientific knowledge and metaphysical insights.  Consolidation converts social actors and their subjective realities into laboratory specimens.  Phenomenology3b is not interested in explanation.  Rather, it3b is interested in manifesting an intersubjective noumenon1a(1b) that can be objectified by its phenomena1a.  Then, an empirio-schematic inquiry2a, situating the objectifying phenomena1a, brings the intersubjective being1a(1b) to life, through subjective experiences within the research community3a.