Post-Hermeneutics: Realism After Criticism

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Hermeneutics has the value of going beyond the substantialism of consciousness and its trascendental a priori ego  - which has representations in it - by showing human behaviour as a communication having sense between a person and the world.

            The arising of this kind of human life's conception was in accordance with the  superseding of the previous philosophical  paradigm - substancialistic ontology. In this paradigm, everything was regarded as isolated, self-based entities having the possibility of making further relations with one another (causality).

            The new paradigm regards everything as emergent stuctures of communicational systems, as can be seen in physics (Prigogine), biology (Maturana, Jonas), sociology (Luhmann), logic (Spencer-Brown), etc. "There are not things, but processes" (Whitehead).

            Since the beginning, phenomenology has shown any human relationship as sense intentionality (Husserl). In subsequent hermeneutical anthropology the concept of reality dissapeared, in accordance with the prevalence of sense structures in comprehension (Heidegger).

            For the last three decades realism has been re-introduced into philosophy (Deutsch), epistemology (Niiniluoto) and anthropology (Gehlen). In the same way, it is necesary to re-introduce realism into psychopathology –not everyday ingenuous realism usual in today's objective psychopathology–  but a new critical realism emerging from a certain communicational constructivism, which demands a new insight into human intelligence, as Zubiri did.

            To human beings, everything shows up as being real, without which it is impossible to understand both the actual effect of all that appears in a patient's symptoms and the unfulfillment / de-personalisation experience.

The hermeneutic phenomenology has the value of going beyond the substantialism of consciousness and its transcendental, a priori ego and its inner objects of consciousness. These correspond to the philosophy and anthropology of subjectivity, as opposed to pragmatic-positivistic objectivism.

Hermeneutic phenomenology has overcome gnoseologic dualisms, with their insuperable abyss, seeing human existence as a meaningful, a sense full communication between the person and the world.

The arising of this human life´s conception was in accordance with the superseding of the previous philosophical paradigm, substantiality ontology.

In the new paradigm everything is viewed as structures emerging from communicational systems, due to a differential communicational process which distinguishes a local region (a subsystem) from the general surroundings (the general system) by means of a frontier. This is the vision of the General System Theory, as we can see in the topology of René Thom, the physics of complexity of Prigogine, the “autopoietic” biology of Maturana and Jonas, the sociology of Niklas Luhmann and the logic of Spencer-Brown.

“There are processes, not things” told us, in the early twentieth century, Whitehead, a philosopher with a deep knowledge of sciences.

From the beginning with Husserl, phenomenology has shown human relationships with beings as intentionality structures of sense. At first, intentionality was assigned to consciousness, which implies both poles, subject and object, even in Husserl; but in Heidegger’s phenomenology, the sense intentionality between the being-there (Dasein) and the world eliminated both previous poles of relation (subject and object) as  substantiality entities.

The latter (the object) disappeared in early Heideggerian philosophy as a conscious object as well as an object being in front of the subject´s eyes (Vorhanden ). Now there is only a phenomenon, which is a presence of comprehensible meaning in the Dasein´s existence, its being-in-the-world.

In accordance with the prevalence of sense structures in comprehension, the concept of reality disappeared in subsequent hermeneutical anthropology. However, I think it is impossible to eliminate in psychopathology the concept of reality as a transcendent category, not only a transcendental one, beyond the meaningful presentation. Without the experience of reality it is difficult to understand the de-realization mode of experience and the strangeness or alienation experience. Moreover, to human beings, everything shows up as being real, a dimension without which it is impossible to understand both the actual effect of all that appears in a patient´s symptoms and the unfulfilling de-personalization experience.

If a patient had the certainty of unreality of the contents of his symptom, it would not affect him and the symptom would tend to disappear. This is just what occurs sometimes in psychotherapy.

Realism has been reintroduced into philosophy during the last three decades, as it is possible to see in the “critical realism” by Hans Albert or in the “Discussion on the Philosophical Situation” by Niznik and Sanders. In phenomenological sociology realism is sustained in today's world of life as is possible to see in the work of Berger and Lukmann or in that of Shutz and Lukmann.

It is also possible to see a new realism in today’s philosophy of science, as is clear in the book “The Factory of Reality” by Deutsch or in the transformative realism of Hacking, who tells us “to experience is not to state or inform, but to do, or rather, to do with something different from words”. That means human experience is concerned not only with meanings and senses. Human behaviour does happen in a meaningful territory, but it is truly performed with the (factualness) factive real things. It is clear that the Heideggerian hammer comes up into human existence as having sense, making sense, but the fulfilment of the hammer’s sense - to hammer the nail into the wall, without which the hammer is not an actual hammer - gets real with the mass energy of the hammer in motion, not merely with its sense or meaning.

This new realism is coming back as a relative constructivism, like the progressive realism of Niiniluoto, which is possible to be put in accordance with the “childhood construction of reality” pointed out by Piaget. I reject any extreme constructivism, like that of Varela and Maturana as being an idealistic one, while I support a critical progressive relational realism, being at a time ontological  and epistemological, as is the case in Zubiri´s philosophy and anthropology.

In recent anthropology realism clearly appears in Gehlen's thought as well as in that of Ferry and Vincent. The latter is accurate relative constructivist realism.         In the same way, I think it is necessary to introduce this new realism into psychopathology, replacing the ingenuous realism of today's objective psychopathology, which is untenable after the criticism of Kant, Heidegger, Popper and Zubiri.

The fulfilment of the love and sexual act pursued by a fetishist fails not only because of the de-personalized, distorted sense intentionality but mainly because of the absence of the real structures necessary for the accomplishment of the act, real structures which are of necessity implied in the fulfilment of any realistic intention.

In my opinion some kind of realism is unavoidable in psychopathology. Husserl himself used to talk about the real character of everything present  in the naturalized world of life. It is just the concept of the lived experience of reality introduced by Jaspers into his General Psychopathology under the name of ‘familiar world’.

According to this opinion of Husserl and also of William James and others, I sustain that everything we are aware of is presented to us with the character of being real. Another problem, a big one, is whether there are different kinds of realities, as William James postulated. Likewise, I think there are different domains of reality, in which real things are presented with different kinds of structures, as different ontologies, each one with its own space, time and causality. It is the case of, for instance, the mythical, the scientific, the artistic and the religious systems. Each of these different realms of reality appears as a specific world in relation with its coherent mentality.

Without a classification of different structures of the worlds, where the things have different modes of being and different kinds of behaviour, it is impossible to understand the different psychopathological structures. How to understand the physical threat produced by the picture of a dog in a phobic situation out of a world where the mere physiognomies have an actual operational causality? Or how to understand the intense affection produced by the mere thought about the sheer possibility of an action in an obsessive patient, out of the pseudo-magical world described by von Gebsattel in this kind of patients?

It is necessary to differentiate the structures of each kind of world in accordance with their corresponding mentality in order to understand the different psychopathological structures and their own typical ontological paradigms. But in any case it is also necessary to underline the real character of everything actualized by the patient in his psychopathological structures. Without this character of reality the presence of something could not produce a real effect on the patient. This character of reality is a transcendental character of everything when man becomes aware of it. This is just what the English phrase “to realize something” means and also the verb “to actualize”, that is, to make reality present as being real in an awareness relation. The thing actualized remains in this act something “in its own right”, a real thing. This is a merely formal character of reality, actualized in the intelligent relation with the human being, as Zubiri has pointed out. This formality of being “in its own right” implies some kind of proper structure of each reality, some essence that makes this thing be that particular thing. What it is, what the precise structure of each reality is, is the question implied the history of human knowledge, which has elicited different answers, which in turn have built up different worlds with different kinds of essential structures, even in experimental science with its different paradigms.

In today's still developing paradigm, each structure of reality is seen as a regional structure emerging from a general relationship system. This emergence is made by a differential communicational process, which makes a boundary between both the regional structure and that of the surroundings. Both structures are communicative systems, and also the differentiation between themes is a communicative structure.

This is how Xavier Zubiri  explains the character of human intelligence - an act that actualizes his surrounding as real, which is implied by the verb actualizar in Spanish: to make something present  by means of an action. For this thinker, the animal life system implies the differentiation between two poles: the organism and its ecological niche, a process which is known “autopoiesis” nowadays. This differentiation implies the arising of sensitivity as a specific animal communication, where the surroundings appear into life as stimuli and the living organism becomes present as a stimulated body.

When the human being emerges, by the evolutionary hyper-complexification, mere sensitivity turns into sentient intelligence, which actualizes the surroundings as stimulating realities not only as stimuli. The mere stimulus turns into a real thing and the mere body turns into a real somebody.

Human communication, as sentient intelligence, co-actualizes the thing as real “in its own right” and the organism as somebody “in his own right”, as being a real somebody. Human intelligence transforms life differentiation into aware experience of the two distinguished realities of communication - the other reality and my own reality.

Since the intelligent communication is sentient, the actualization is not a mere communication of meaning or sense; it is not only a symbolic but also a physical communication, which determines an imprinting of reality by which the force of everything imposes itself when actualized. This process is in relation with the concept of the so called phenomenon of “reification”.

The mentioned realism is at the same time ontological and epistemological because sentient intelligence is actually nothing but one of the ontological levels of the communicational relationship of the structuring processes of realities which produce differenciated structures.

Besides, formal character of reality which may appear to human intelligence as being merely epistemological is only the relational construction of differentiated ontological structures made evident in sentient intelligence. It is just somebody's awareness of something. Sentient intelligence shows the own reality structure as also having a real transcendental character.

At a time, in spontaneous natural life in the world of life, the formality of reality of everything is usually also assigned to its concrete structural content, as in the case of images, symbols and concepts as well as perceptions. When every morning I am shaving myself in front of the mirror, I usually take my image in it as being actually myself, but it is not truth, it is only myself actualized in image, which is a real image of myself but not myself in reality. As a real structure I am not there, behind the mirror, I am always here, in front of the mirror. It does not contradict the phenomenon that I am being there through my intentionality. But it is necessary to distinguish “lived experience” (erlebnis in German) versus “operative experience” (erfahrung in German). There are different kind of respectiveness in each one of them; in the farther there is a mere passive intentional communication of meaning, in the latter one there is also an active physical communication behind the presence of meaning, due to I am actively going through the other reality into its structure. This is the etymological meaning of experience in English and experiencia in Spanish, and also of Erfahrung in German.

The intentional dimension of the things of world of life are present to human being as  an understood meaning and like a felt sense in lived experience, determining the presence of possibilities (positive or negative) for each person in each moment of his everyday life. This phenomenon sustain personal mood -or way of being- in the world or in the actual situation, but due to the things are actualized physically as imprinted experience of reality with its own structure, human being is pushed by this imprinting to explore operatively the real structure where it is, in the physical thing behind the mere actualized meaning or sense - this is just what “to make an experience” -as opposed to “have a lived experience”- means. This is the simple case when somebody is aware of a table lamp which has not an obviously switch to turn it on and then he begins to explore the physical structure to get the switch.

If the intelligent actualization of reality were not be physical, instead of being actually physical, transcendent to their meaningful presence, it  would be impossible to check its structure, to verify its reality. This is the way of the experimental scientific method, exploring a naturalistic world. But not every world is possible to be explored in this way. The animistic one is not a world that could be operatively realized. It is the world where phobias come up. The phobic never realize, never prove the real structure of phobic object or situation, not only due to his panic but also because the world where he is having his phobic lived experience is an animistic world, where even the lifeless objects have a menacing proposition against himself. When the phobic becomes to be able to put the object into his operative space as a resource for the fulfilment of his own practical behaviour, the phobic lived experience disappears. It is one way for its cure.

It is indispensable for healthy existence to be able in life to distinguish the form of being actualized the different things of the world in order to be able to discriminate between realistic and non-realistic structures in order to do the principal task of a person, to really achieve personal fulfilment. When it is not materialized, psychopathological structures come up. To give just an example, it is very important in life not confuse the imaginary object of a mere desire with a real object of willingness (to really want something), as it is frequent in neurosis.

I will finish by saying the task -even if a hard one- for the twenty-first century psychopathology could be much enriched if we tried to illuminate new critical constructivist realism in relation with hermeneutics.