Hi gang! A request for assistance/advice. I have been asked to consider giving a course at The Naropa Institute in Boulder, Co., on PHENOMENOLOGICAL SCIENCE. I am trying to figure out what that means! I have gone to the net, dictionary, encyclopedia, etc., and still haven't got much of a clue.
I did scribble some notes for conversation. My suspicion is that they are off the mark. I'll enclose them below, just to prove to all that I have no pride. Any thoughts? Feeling stuck.
PHENOMENOLOGICAL SCIENCE: DANCING WITH THE UNIVERSE
Scientific research is but one expression of our deep connections with the outside universe. We see, imagine, record, distort, guess, and simply wonder. How is it that we perceive the world, and then try to understand our perceptions? More deeply, how is it that we connect to the world beyond our own minds, then use this connection to understand a world as if it is independent of us? Can we even do this? Should we even try? If not, how do we develop a deeper "phenomenological science"?
Phenomenological science begins with phenomenology. That much is obvious. What is less obvious is how we decide upon real versus unreal phenomena, or how we even decide what (if anything) that distinction means. The metaphor of dance can help us begin, for through this metaphor we become partners with the world, not opponents. We incorporate what we can, and also look inside at what we are doing (including the limits of what we are doing). Phenomenology itself can come in layers, some very superficial and others deep. I think its phenomenologies of ourselves IN RELATION TO nature that offer the biggest challenges and promises. This suggests diversity.
As we move towards explanation there are many frameworks, some scientific and some that are not. How are these frameworks related? How do the arts and sciences reveal common and different themes. What is causation, or function, or explanation itself? I do not believe anyone can answer these questions. We can, however, explore them as a common human community. [To state the old confession: I am a scientist. Some of my best friends are artists (philosophers, etc.). I learn from them.]
There are two broad issues, each bordering on the level of paradox, that help us start. First, how is it that the universe has separable properties that are also connected? Second, how are events both stable and dynamically ordered? From these initial questions (perhaps without answers) we can then ask how levels of order in nature are related, such as molecules-organisms-environments. We can then ask what we mean by order, and co-order. We can explore the idea of pattern as a way to open pursuit of these questions. Perhaps its through fluid and multilayered patterns that we can find the "real" phenomenology of our worlds, and our relations to these worlds. The adventure, with its risks, is worth taking.
Is there another handle we can seek? I think so. Think of the idea of BOUNDARY. Our lives have an inside and an outside. Our actions have multiple forms. We divide plants from animals, and then divide trees and animals. We divide friends from non-friends. We make distinctions. But to understand we then seek connections that cross these distinctions. Distinctions and connections can came in many flavors. Some seem "better" than others. It is not always clear why. We can start with the phenomena of boundaries and connections in a nature that include ourselves in our worlds. This allows us to look inside as well as outside. It's the inside WITH outside that offers a good place for us to start our mutual explorations. Nature also has an inside as well as an outside, and nature has roots. Roots are the quest of science and the humanities, but these roots must be attached to the diverse phenomenologies of form and expression. Can we join with the flow of nature while also admitting our own diverse roots?