Experimental Phenomenology

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  • State University of New York Presswww.sunypress.edu


    Since the initial publication of Experimental Phenomenology in 1977, Don Ihdes groundbreaking career has developed from his contributions to the philosophyof technology and technoscience to his own postphenomenology. This new and expanded edition of Experimental Phenomenology resituates the text in the succeeding currents of Ihdes work with a new preface and two new sections, one devoted to pragmatism and phenomenology and the other to technologies and material culture. Now, in the case of tools, instruments, and media, Ihdes active and experimental style of phenomenology is taken into cyberspace, science and media technologies, computer games, display screens, and more.


    the unencumbered style of the book and prolific use of concrete examples makes the content accessible both to the beginning student of philosophy and to the intelligent layman.

    Review of Metaphysics

    An important and much-needed contribution to the field of phenomenological philosophy.


    Don Ihde is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Stony Brook University, State University of New York. He is the author of several books, includingPostphenomenology and Technoscience: The Peking University Lectures and Listening and Voice: Phenomenologies of Sound, Second Edition, both also published by SUNY Press.

    Don Ihde is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Stony Brook University, State University of New York. He is the author of several books, including Postphenomenology and Technoscience: The Peking University Lectures and Listening and Voice: Phenomenologies of Sound, Second Edition, both also published by SUNY Press.



    Don Ihde




    Second Edition

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  • Experimental Phenomenology

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  • Experimental Phenomenology


    Second Edition


  • Self-portrait / green by Don Ihde.

    Published by State University of New York Press, Albany

    2012 State University of New York

    All rights reserved

    Printed in the United States of America

    No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoeverwithout written permission. No part of this book may be stored in a retrieval systemor transmitted in any form or by any means including electronic, electrostatic,magnetic tape, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior permission in writing of the publisher.

    For information, contact State University of New York Press, Albany, NYwww.sunypress.edu

    Production by Ryan MorrisMarketing by Michael Campochiaro

    Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Ihde, Don, 1934 Experimental phenomenology : multistabilities / Don Ihde. 2nd ed. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. ) and indexes. ISBN 978-1-4384-4286-0 (pbk. : alk. paper) ISBN 978-1-4384-4285-3 (hardcover : alk. paper) 1. Phenomenology. I. Title.

    B829.5.I33 2012 142'.7dc23 2011038328

    10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

  • For all my international advisees and their dissertations

    From which I have learned much.

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  • Contents

    List of Illustrations ixPreface to the Second Edition xiPreface to the First Edition xviiAcknowledgments xix

    PART I Experimental Phenomenonology: An Introduction

    Chapter One Introduction: Doing Phenomenology 3

    Chapter Two Indians and the Elephant: Phenomena and the Phenomenological Reductions 15

    Chapter Three The Visual Field: First Phenomenological Excursus 35

    Chapter Four Illusions and Multistable Phenomena: A Phenomenological Deconstruction 45

    Chapter Five Variations upon Deconstruction: Possibilities and Topography 55

    Chapter SixExpanded Variations and Phenomenological Reconstruction 63

    Chapter Seven Horizons: Adequacy and Invariance 77

  • viii Contents

    Chapter Eight Projection: Expanding Phenomenology 87

    Chapter Nine Interdisciplinary Phenomenology 97

    PART II Pragmatism and Postphenomenology

    Chapter Ten Pragmatism and Phenomenology 115

    PART III Material Multistabilities

    Chapter Eleven Simulation and Embodiment 131

    Chapter Twelve Multistability and Cyberspace 145

    Chapter Thirteen Variations on the Camera Obscura 155

    Chapter FourteenThe Seventh Machine: Bow-under-Tension 171

    Epilogue 185

    Notes 187

    References 191

    Index 193

  • List of Illustrations

    Figure 10.1 Egyptian Rope Stretching 125

    Figure 10.2 Egyptian Rope Style Numbers 126

    Figure 10.3 Rope Stretching Ritual 126

    Figure 10.4 Pictograph to Lettering 127

    Figure 11.1 Computer Game POVs 138

    Figure 11.2 Telescopic Apparent Distance 139

    Figure 11.3 Electromagnetic Spectrum 140

    Figure 12.1 Multistable Figure 146

    Figure 13.1 Cardboard Box Pinhole Camera 155

    Figure 13.2 Isomorphic Camera Obscura 157

    Figure 13.3 Newtons Prism Camera 159

    Figure 13.4 Youngs Twin Slit Camera 162

    Figure 13.5 Laser-Diffraction Grate Camera 165

    Figure 14.1 English Longbow 174

    Figure 14.2 Mongolian Horsebow 175

    Figure 14.3 Xian Warrior, Bow Holding 176

    Figure 14.4 Contemporary Compound Bow 178

    Figure 14.5 Trois Frere Cave Shaman with Bow 181

    Figure 14.6 Bushman Cliff Drawings with Bows 182

    Figure 14.7 Fire Making Bow 183

    Figure 14.8 Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century Bowsaws 184


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  • Preface to the Second Edition

    It was over a publishers lunch, doing drawings of Necker cubes on napkins, enticing for the hosting editor, five perceptual variations on the various cubes, that Experimental Phenomenology got its launch into an already long publishing history. It was first with G. P. Putnams (1977), later SUNY Press (1986) and now it becomes this enlarged second edition, again SUNY Press, 2012. With a more than three decade run, the new edition can be fitted into a somewhat broader context.

    The mid-70s were my own mid-career, when three formative books saw print: Listening and Voice: A Phenomenology of Sound (Ohio, 1976), Experimental Phenomenology: An Introduction (Putnams, 1977), and Technics and Praxis: A Philosophy of Technology (Reidel, 1979). Each reflected quite self-conscious decisions about what I wanted to do philosophically. In retrospect, I see that I have always been somewhat contrarian. In the case of Listening and Voice, one of my aims was to do a phenomenology, contrary to talking about past phenomenologists or others doing or talking about phenomenology. And, also in some respects, in contrast to the dominant philosophical interests in the visual, I chose auditory experience as the base for practicing phenomenology. Then, very shortly after, I did return to visual experience, but again with a twist by looking at ambiguous visual drawings. Here the contrarian direction was to show how much empirical visual psychology was reductionist with a high emphasis upon bi-stability, at most tri-stability, as in the standard inter-pretations of perceiving Necker cubes and other illusions. I had worked out a series of perceptual variations that yielded a much larger number of perspectival results and which showed how a phenomenological deconstruction leads to much greater multistability. But I did not then recognize that this search would lead to my own radical antiessentialism, which would later lead to an equally radical transformation of phenomenology itself. Then came Technics and Praxis, frequently cited as the first American philosophy of technology book. In that book, I developed an interrelational ontology of human-technology relations,


  • xii Preface to the Second Edition

    clearly patterned upon phenomenology. This was to be my material turn, which to the present remains another signature issue for me. In effect, I had taken intentionality to include an extended materiality within our relations with the world. (With this second edition of Experimental Phenomenology, two of these three books are now available through our own SUNY system Press.) Indeed, the move to Stony Brook University in 1969, a genuine research university, marked the beginning of a now long books list.

    A second retrospective glance back at the first edition can help show what and why the additional material enriches the second edition with its new emphasis upon material multistability: While publishers like to have authors identify who their likely readers will be, I have found this to be a virtually impossible task since my audiences have usually surprised me. Yes, the first edition was primarily designed to introduce, better, show how to do phenomenology as a praxis. The mid-70s were the times when continental philosophies not only were a minoritarian strand within North American philosophy, but often were deliberately dismissed by the dominant strands of analytic or Anglo-American philosophy. Yet, it was also clear that there was strong and rising interest among students precisely interested in continental approaches to philosophy, so here a fulfilled designed intent was part of the early positive reception to the first edition. Initial responses from reviewers and others communicating about Experimental Phenomenology was that it was clear, filled with concrete and understandable examples, and that it demonstrated a style of phenomenological rigor that was quite philosophically respectable. So far, so good.

    The readers I did not expect, turned out to come from a