“He who understands the limit of life knows how easy it is to procure enough to remove the pain of want and make the whole of life complete and perfect.”(Epicurus, Principal Doctrines, #21)
An idea struck me as I was reading Epicurus. This quote from Epicurus’ Principal Doctrines, “He who understands the limit of life knows how easy it is to procure enough to remove the pain of want and make the whole of life complete and perfect,” wonderfully encapsulates Wendell Berry’s thought. To understand the quote, and how it is an expression of the whole of Epicurus’s philosophy, is at once to understand Berry’s thought. This seems to me a strange notion. But when I came upon it, it seemed perfectly sensible. All the pieces in Berry’s thought fit together with this, Epicurus’s, leading idea. Here’s my first attempt to outline how the pieces in Berry’s thinking fit together. I would suggest, these aren’t just any pieces (themes). These are principal themes in Berry’s essays. All of his essays speak of these themes.
This is of course a contentious claim. It is complex. Not merely I do I have the ambition here laying out the principal themes from which all of Berry’s idea find root. I want to claim also that quote #21 from the Principal Doctrine expresses the whole of Epicurus’s philosophy. The inference, of course, is that Berry’s ideas are radically Epicurean. Of the two premises, I am not yet prepared to defend the second claim. This will be accomplished in work to come. But the former claim of finding the root of Berry’s thought in these elements expressed is this quote is one I’d like to make now.
Unfortunately, this is my blog. So I don’t have the finished product. However, here are the pieces that fit together:
- The limit of life
- Procuring enough
- Life of satisfaction vs life of pleasure
- The complete and perfect life (virtue)
The Limit of Life
Critique of industrial agriculture, the critique of modernity – the specialist. Cf. heart attack: treating the symptons of the illness versus the whole life (nurse, male – female).
Consumption. The household. The biotic community.
Life of Satisfaction
The Complete and Perfect Life
Virtues are already known insofar as they are lived. Natural aristoi, influence of the Jeffersonian ideal.
(I don’t know if this way of laying out these themes make sense to you, if you know Berry’s thought. My aim is to flesh out this which is only in outline now. To be clear, I’m suggesting these themes – under these headings – are the ground from which all of Berry’s thought grows. Future posts will take up the task of making the case for this claim, step by step, i.e, by theme or by heading.)
I’ve begun working on revisions to The Husserl Page (http://www.husserlpage.com). It’s a Sisyphusian task, but you must imagine me happy at it. Normally, I won’t comment on these changes. But I’ve recently found a treasure trove of links to Husserl’s works online in the original German. In my experience, these sorts of things have a limited shelf-life. So I want to post these links here for maximum effect. All of these documents can be found on the Freiburg document server:
|Erfahrung und Urteil. Untersuchungend zur Genealogie der Logik. Ausgearb. und hrsg. v. Ludwig Landgrebe. Prag: Academia/Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1939.
|Formale und transzendentale Logik. Versuch einer Kritik der logischen Vernunft. Halle: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1929.
|Ideen zu einer reinen Phänomenologie und phänomenologischen Philosophie. Erstes Buch: Allgemeine Einführung in die reine Phänomenologie. In Jahrbuch für Philosophie und phänomenologische Forschung. Halle: Max Niemeyer Verlage, 1913, 1-323.
|Erster Theil. Prolegomena zur reinen Logik. Halle: Max Niemeyer Verlage, 1910.
|Erster Band. Prolegomena zur reinen Logik. Zweite, umgearb. Aufl., Halle: Max Niemeyer Verlage, 1913.
|Zweiter Theil. Untersuchungen zur Phänomenologie und Theorie der Erkenntnis. Halle: Max Niemeyer Verlage, 1901.
|Zweiter Band. Untersuchungen zur Phänomenologie und Theorie der Erkenntnis. Erster Teil. Zweite, umgearb. Aufl., Halle: Max Niemeyer Verlage, 1913.
|Zweiter Band. Untersuchungen zur Phänomenologie und Theorie der Erkenntnis. Zweiter Teil. Zweite, teilweise umgearb. Aufl., Halle: Max Niemeyer Verlage, 1921.
|Philosophie der Arithmetik. Psychologishe und logische Untersuchungen, erster Band. Halle-Saale: C.E.M. Pfeffer (Robert Stricker) Verlage, 1891.
|Über den Begriff der Zahl, psychologische Analysen. [Habilitationsschrift.] Halle: Heynemann’sche Buchdruckerei (F. Beyer), 1887.
|Vorlesungen zur Phänomenologie des inneren Zeitbewußtseins. Hrsg. v. Martin Heidegger. Halle: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1928.
Husserl raises in paragraph 42, the lead section of the Fifth Cartesian Meditation, the objection that the method of phenomenological epoché reduces the meditating I to a solus ipse. We have to admit, he reminds us, that “the transcendental reduction restricts me to the stream of my pure conscious experiences and the unities constituted by their actualities and potentialities” (91f – Meiner edition) The other has, for this reason, precisely the being-sense as other constituted in the pure immanence of my experiences.
We can ask, though, and Husserl himself asks at this juncture, whether it really is the case – or more precisely, in what sense my transcendental field of knowledge extends only so far as my transcendental sphere of experience? To put it crassly, does the other qua living being have no being in itself, i.e., no being other than as a mere component of my own experience? Clearly Husserl does not accept this sort of restriction, which is to say, he rejects an interpretation of the phenomenological epoché as a method of curtailing being to that which is inherent to consciousness as such. The method of reduction is a restorative act. Its desideratum is the clarification of the problem of knowledge as such. Consequently, the phenomenological method of reduction does not entail the restriction of any experiential phenomena to the status of my own experiencing qua experiencing. Indeed, earlier in paragraph 8 he had already made clear that “the environmental existence of all other I’s “claim being” (they are for us Seinsanspruch, or later in the paragraph 8 Wirklichkeitsanspruch). “Other humans and the animals are for me givens in experience by virtue of the sensible experience of their corporeal living-bodies…” (20) The epoché qua reduction is thus the clarification of transcendent being-sense of the experienced as experienced. This is perhaps the most common misunderstanding of Husserl’s method.
At a key juncture in paragraph 42, Husserl cautions us that much phenomenological work needs to be done if we are to gain proper clarification of the being-sense of the other as other ego. “We must cultivate for ourselves insight into the explicit and implicit intentionality in which the alter ego announces and evinces itself on the basis of our transcendental ego, such as, in which intentionalities, in which syntheses, in which motivations of sense an “alter ego” forms itself in me and evinces as being and in what manner actually as itself-there under the title, concordant experience of the stranger [Frenderfahrung]” (92f) I’d just like to pause here to point out two things: one explicitly acknowledged by Husserl, the other only implicitly.
First, it is clear from Husserl’s language here that the experience of the other qua alter ego (as given in Frenderfahrung) is the other qua me-not-me. What do I mean by me-not-me? The other is other transcendental ego that stands before in a relationship of identity. Thus the other could be me insofar as it is a constituting subjectivity of the same eidos as mine. I would submit this is the very meaning of the other as “alter ego.” This is implicitly acknowledged by Husserl in paragraph 42.
Second, the givenness of the other is neither punctual nor superficial. The sense of the other as other is evince in my experiencing both actual (aktuelle) and sedimented. Thus clarification of the being-sense of the other resolves itself – as does every constitutional clarification – to the temporalization under which the other may announce itself as such. Transcendental facts exhibit themselves temporally, and clarification of these facts is the explication of this specific structure of concordant experiencing. This is explicitly acknowledged by Husserl in the key juncture cited above.