My Disclaimer: I am not a philosopher and have not studied philosophy. My interest in phenomenology is practical -- to move in the world with acceptance, gratitude, and as an observer of myself. The philosophy I read and practice is oriented to my concerns. I am not interested in finding "The Truth", but in Being-in-the-World with Others.
How Did I Get Involved in This?
I was extremely lucky to have been part of a Service Design Consulting Company in Berkeley, CA called BABDI. It was a small company with a unique but powerful methodology based on of the work of Fernando Flores and his interpretations of J.L. Austin, Francisco Varela and Humberto Maturana, Hubert Dreyfus, and Martin Heidegger. The partners of the company brought phenomenological observers to the companies they worked with, and they trained me in this methodology. In every process I worked on in the company, with every "task", I was to learn and practice phenomenology, to be an observer of the world as a set of patterns based in language.
Some Phenomenological Distinctions in My World
- Biology and Language: We are biological organisms, a set of cells connected by another network of cells, our nervous system. Our cells are triggered in interactions with other organisms and our environment. We learn from these interactions, changing our own practices in response. As biological organisms our bodies notice and react to patterns. This is the same with language. It is not separate from our bodies. We have no "mind". Language is the process of noticing patterns in the world and creating distinctions about those patterns, and it is just our biological body at work. I am working to have these distinctions in my body in order to have an observer of the world and others that is more tolerant and accepting, that marks myself as one node in a larger social and biological network.
- Commitments: My notion of commitments comes from an interpretation of J.L. Austin's work. Austin, a philosopher of language, observed a set of verbs in language which he called performative. When used, these verbs produce statements that are neither true or false, but perform an action in the moment of utterance with a particular illocutionary force. Take, "I meet my client at 5pm," versus, "I promise to meet you at 8pm." In the moment I say, "I promise," I perform the action of promising; I make a commitment. I could make this commitment with another force, such as "I guess," "I swear," or "I doubt," producing different certainty and consequences for our futures. I use the following six categories to distinguish commitments: Requests, Promises, Offers, Assessments, Assertions, and Declarations.
- Breakdowns: When I was first introduced to the notion of breakdown, I was taught the pattern in a very structured way, making it easier for me to observe and hopefully declare myself. A breakdown is a moment in which the transparent world in which you are operating disappears. After having lived with this distinction for several years, I sat in on Hubert Dreyfus' Heidegger class at Berkeley.