Friday, 15 June 2012


I am seated outside my front door in the sunlight, reading.
"Our most immediate experience of things... is necessarily an experience of reciprocal encounter - of tension, communication and commingling". (1)
I glance up suddenly, aware of being observed. A grey squirrel is draped along the ridge of the roof, warming itself in the sun, watching me. I give a low whistle; its head is quizzically raised for a moment.

Awareness is aware of me.

"Only by affirming the animateness of perceived things do we allow our words to emerge directly from the depths of our ongoing reciprocity with the world" (ibid). 
David Abram suggests we must decentre our perception from seeing things in subject-object terms, and recentre them in the primordial connection we have with the life-world, and our symbiosis with it.
But what about the subject-object dichotomy? Isn't it central to perceiving and knowing things factually? Where would Science and the Enlightenment project be, since Galileo and Bacon, without objectivity?

Abram and the phenomenologists recognise that by trying to represent the world we inevitably forfeit its direct presence.
"It was Husserl's genius to realise that the assumption of objectivity had led to an almost total eclipse of the life-world in the modern era, to a nearly complete forgetting of this living dimension... In their striving to attain a finished blueprint for the world, the sciences had become frightfully estranged from our direct human experience." (2).
However the objective way of seeing the world, and the achievements of science, are rooted in subjectivity.
"The striving for objectivity is understood, phenomenologically, as a striving to achieve greater consensus among a plurality of subjects... The pure 'objective reality' commonly assumed by modern science, far from being the concrete basis underlying all experience was, according to Husserl, a theoretical construction, an unwarranted idealisation of intersubjective experience". (3)
Science is thus an intersubjective project, the product of competition and consensus-building between scientists as subjectivities. This is a radical position, which gathers both subjective and objective modes of experiencing reality into its orbit.

For Mythic Geography, writing about the meaning of 'place' inevitably brings into play our wealth of subjective and intersubjective experience, ranging from personal memories and perceptions through folklore to scientific information. This is the myth in the 'Mythic': the fiction we create to explain our place in the world - and no less real for being fiction.


(1) David Abram: 'The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World' (Vintage; 1997; ISBN 0679776397; p56). 
(2) Ibid, p41.
(3) Ibid, p38.

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