Let us first of all deconstruct the myth of "scientific method" as this is currently understood: a set of rational procedures guaranteed to eliminate mere dogma from "true" scientific knowledge, distinguish empirical fact from mere belief or hypothesis. So what exactly is the modern scientific "method" - that veritable barricade of investigative procedures designed to defend institutionalized science from empty supposition or pseudo-science. Modern scientific method understands itself as a five-stage process involving:
1. Observation and description of a phenomenon.
2. Formulation of a hypothesis that explains the phenomenon.
3. Use of the hypothesis to predict other phenomena.
4. Controlled experiments designed to test these predictions.
5. Validation of their results by independent researchers.
The first and most important questions raised by this self-definition are those it notably fails to address. The questions are:
1. what counts as a phenomenon in the first place
2. what account is given of the phenomenon itself.
3. in what ways can the phenomenon be accounted for?
These questions are of fundamental methodological significance, for as Heidegger points out.
"All explanation reaches only so far as the explication of that which is to be explained."
Heidegger himself gives several examples of phenomena to which the questions apply, amongst them grief and tears. Before we can formulate and confirm a 'scientific' hypothesis to explain the phenomenon of 'tears' for example, we must first ask ourselves what the phenomenon itself essentially is. Within the modern scientific method however, what counts as a phenomena is above all that which is countable - measurable. To which Heidegger counters:
"In reality you can never measure tears; rather when you measure, it is at best a fluid and its drops that you measure, but not tears."
Are tears a somatic phenomenon, a psychical phenomenon or a 'psychosomatic' phenomenon - the somatic effect of a psychical phenomena such as 'grief'? If so, does that mean that the somatic fluid drops produced by an irritated and watering eye are just as much tears as those produced by a person weeping in grief, i.e. essentially the same phenomenon except with a different 'cause'. The fact that 'scientifically' speaking, we refer to 'tear ducts' as physiological givens, implies as much. The physiological designation sets aside the fundamental methodological question of what constitutes the phenomenon of tears as such - in distinction from other phenomena such as over-watering eyes. Before any possible hypotheses can be vouched or experiments ventured, therefore, the modern scientific method has already given its own dogmatic answers to the three fundamental methodological questions:
• What counts as a phenomenon is only that which we can observe outwardly - measurable fluid drops produced by the eyes.
• Our account of what tears are as a phenomenon will make no distinction between weeping in grief and watering eyes.
• We can account for tears only by suggesting mechanisms of either physiological or 'psychosomatic' causation.
What possible experiment however, could be devised that would provide 'reliable' quantitative evidence of a causal relation between a psychic state such as grief and its somatic expression in tears? We would first of all have to be in a position to 'measure' grief. Heidegger again:
"How does one measure grief? One obviously can't measure it at all. Why not? Were one to apply a method of measurement to grief we would offend against the meaning of grief and would have already ruled out in advance the grief as grief. The very attempt to measure would offend against the phenomenon as phenomenon."
Heidegger goes on to emphasise that the fact that we speak of someone grieving less or more intensely, does not mean we are speaking of a measurable quantity of grief, but rather of its quality. We are referring to qualitative depth and intensity. As for the tears that can supposedly be accounted for as something 'caused' by grief, we are once again offending against the phenomenon as phenomenon. Tears as tears - as expressions of sadness or unhappiness, pain or grief are not a physical phenomenon that we first observe and then account for, scientifically or otherwise. We do first see drops of water in a person's eyes, then conclude, from the circumstance, that they are grieving and therefore understand them to be weeping in grief. The immediately observed phenomenon is not fluid drops in a person's eyes but a person weeping - not an isolated physical perception but a perceptual whole or gestalt. It is only through abstraction from this gestalt - from the phenomenon as a phenomenon - that we arrive at an account of what 'tears' are that reduce them to something 'psychical' or 'somatic'. An account of the phenomenon that then demands explanatory accounting for in terms of some 'mechanism' of psychosomatic 'causation'.
Heidegger goes on to question how things stand with the phenomenon of pain, comparing for example the pain of grief with bodily pain of some sort.
"How do things stand regarding both these 'pains'? Are both somatic or both psychical, or is only the one somatic and the other psychical, or are both pains neither one nor the other?"
Any account we might give in such terms of pain as a phenomenon, or any typology of pain phenomena we might construct - distinguishing somatic and emotional pain, real and imaginary pain etc. would both immediately foreclose the question of what the phenomenon itself - pain as such - essentially is. But the question of what pain itself essentially is and how it can be accounted for is not the object of any possible experiment. It is first and foremost a question of what it means to us to 'be in pain' i.e. the different ways (mental, emotional and physical) in which we are aware of being in pain, and the different ways in which we interpret, emotionalise and embody pain as a state of being.
The modern scientific method rules out in advance as possible objects of scientific investigation all phenomena that cannot be reduced to observable and measurable sensory 'phenomena' such as 'tear' drops or electrical 'pain' signals. In doing so it rules out any genuinely empirical approach to phenomena as such - any exploration of the way we actually experience those phenomenon. But that is precisely the task of any genuinely empirical, genuinely phenomenological science.
Whilst science is itself a human activity which assumes the existence of aware human beings capable of creating hypotheses and testing them through experimental observations and measurements, the modern scientific method cannot so much as prove the existence of single human being - as opposed to a talking body-object. Nor can it provide evidence for a single state of being such as love or fear, grief or pain, joy or sadness, or for the scientist's own taken-for-granted awareness of the world - the condition for their observation and measurement of any phenomenon whatsoever. After all, from a physical-scientific viewpoint, instruments can be used to measure and observe things, without us assuming any awareness on their part - so the same applies to the scientists using those instruments. From a modern scientific point of view, as Heidegger put it quite simply:
"One cannot prove that one exists."
What we are left with then, is a 'method' which seeks 'scientific' explanations for phenomena but at the same time:
• Cannot even prove the very existence of the human beings who apply it.
• ignores the fundamental truth that awareness is the condition for our observation and measurement of any phenomena whatsoever.
• either takes our awareness of the universe for granted or seeks to reduce this awareness to one phenomenon amongst others.
• rules out the possibility of investigating phenomena as phenomena -exploring our own modes of awareness of them.
• is based on totally unverifiable postulations of physical energies and entities inaccessible to direct awareness.
• assumes our own awareness of a universe, but recognises it as a specific mode of awareness that may be limited.
• is unable, in principle to provide any scientific evidence for the scientist's own awareness of the universe, or of the existence of a single aware being or state of being.
• is unable, in principle, to explain how awareness can arise within a fundamentally unaware universe of matter and energy, yet can posit the very existence of such a universe only on the basis of an awareness of it.
One might ask how such a blatantly self-contradictory concept of scientific 'truth' and scientific 'method' managed to ever justify itself. It has done so by maintaining the myth that awareness or subjectively is essentially private property. Because of this, subjective experience and subjective phenomena are seen as unverifiable, whereas what science deals with is an 'outer' world of objective, publicly verifiable phenomena, one independent of subjectivity and our own private 'inner' world of subjective experience.
The philosopher Husserl, founder of phenomenological science, was the first modern thinker to question this dualistic world outlook - pointing out that subjectivity or awareness is not a separate domain, a sealed and private inner world, but that which first makes it possible to experience an 'outer' world at all. What we experience 'out there' in the world consists just as much of phenomena we experience and interpret subjectively as anything we might experience in the inner world of our dreams.
Conversely, that which science regards as 'purely' subjective phenomena of the sort not amenable to direct 'empirical' investigation - dreams and desires, love and hate, pain and pleasure, grief and joy - are (at least for the great mass of mankind unschooled in the modern scientific method) not sealed off private experiences but shared and public realities. In this shared and public world what we see is not fluid drops exuded from tear ducts under certain conditions - we see people crying or holding back tears. We see the as yet invisible and immeasurable tears they hold back no less than the visible and potentially measurable tears they shed. In other words we see tears, the empirical phenomena as such and not some scientific abstraction from it.
What is known in academic philosophy as 'phenomenology' - that intimidating, and for many almost unpronounceable, mouthful of a word, is not some marker or footnote in the history of philosophy. Nor is it merely one approach amongst others vaunted within academic disciplines called 'philosophy' or 'philosophy of science'. The term phenomenology designates the fundamental essence of science and scientific method as such - the essence of any genuinely fundamental science. The 'phenomenological method' is scientific method properly understood. By contrast, what passes as 'method' today in the physical sciences is, as Heidegger put it "through and through dogmatic; dealing with un-thought-through conceptions and preconceptions". Indeed, its stands on a par with fundamentalist religious dogmas. The latter are used as a standard for determining the credibility and religious acceptability of other beliefs, religious and scientific. The modern scientific method is also a set of beliefs used to determine the credibility and 'scientific' acceptability of other beliefs. The phenomenological method is not a body of beliefs. It is based on the suspension or 'bracketing' of all beliefs and preconceptions. Therefore its starting point is not and cannot be a preconceived division of phenomena into two domains of experience: 'objective' and 'subjective', 'outer' and 'inner', 'public' and 'private'. Nor does it begin by 'bracketing off' the entire realm of 'inner experience', treating it as something purely 'private' and therefore not capable of methodical scientific research.
The unquestioned assumptions that lie at the basis of Western science and find expression in the five-stage procedure previously outlined stand in contrast to the phenomenological approach adopted within Eastern spiritual traditions. Here disciplined meditational procedures were employed as methodically as modern experimental procedures - not simply in order to come up with models of observed relationships between experienced phenomena, but in order to alter the researcher's customary relationship to those phenomena and thereby deepen and enrich their direct experience of them. Neither the meditational knowledge-seeker nor the modern experimental researcher starts out with a Cartesian attitude of doubting everything. Instead their training requires them to accept 'on faith' an institutionalized body of knowledge. The latter which already determines what 'counts' as significant phenomena, already provides an account of the essential nature of these phenomena, and of the underlying 'laws' they conform to.
The idea that meditational research deals with a realm of private psychic experience about which no communal scientific consensus can be established is given the lie by the sheer sophistication of the bodies of knowledge that have grown up around the spiritual traditions of the East - albeit a knowledge couched in terms radically different from the theoretical jargons of the modern sciences. These evolving bodies of 'spiritual' knowledge have also gone through their own major 'paradigm shifts' - and remain no less in need of continuous refinement and reinterpretation than do the models and terminologies of modern science.
The modern scientific method has replaced meditative enquiry and meditational research with mathematics. This is a paradox in itself, for despite the dominant role played by mathematics in physical scientific explanations of phenomena, the truth of mathematical reasoning is not itself anything for which evidence can be found in those phenomena. As McFarlane points out: "The Pythagorean theorem, for example, is and will always be true regardless of any sensory experiences." Experimental data may confirm or invalidate a particular mathematical model. But the internal coherence of the model and of mathematical reasoning in general is founded, like logical reasoning is founded, on 'subjective' intuition not objective fact. This is a type of intuition that is lent great precision by mathematical training in the formal methods of mathematic reasoning. Similarly, meditative intuition can be lent great precision by training in both methods of meditation and of meditative thinking as such.
Fundamental Research, as phenomenological research, is not mathematical but is essentially methodical and meditative in nature. For Husserl the essence of the phenomenological method lay in 'bracketing' the whole idea of a world of pre-given phenomena whose inter-relationships can be studied independently of our own aware relationship to them - the modes of relatedness and modes of awareness in which they first come to presence as phenomena. For Heidegger what was decisive in the phenomenological method was the principle, already quoted, that all explanation of a phenomenon reaches only so far as our explication of the phenomena - our understanding of what it is we are seeking an explanation for. Phenomenological science does not begin by formulating explanatory hypotheses, for this is to assume, without further ado, that we already know what the phenomenon under investigation essentially is. Heidegger himself uses the now highly pertinent and topical example of the phenomenon of illness and its genetic 'explanation':
"The significance, indeed the necessity of the genetic approach is clear to everyone. It seems self-evident. But it suffers from a deficit, which is all too easily and therefore all too often overlooked. To be in a position to explain an illness genetically, we need first of all to explain what the illness in itself is. It can be that a true understanding of the essence of an illness…prohibits all causal-genetic explanation….Those who wish to stick rigidly to genetic explanation, without first of all clarifying the essence of that which they wish to explain, can be compared to people who wish to reach a goal, without first of all bringing this goal in view."
There are more and more people today who do indeed question the medical-scientific assumption that illness is a purely biological phenomenon with an 'organic' or 'genetic' basis. Instead they see illness as something that does not merely have a specific cause in the human body but a specific meaning for the human being. They understand that the felt experience of illness and its felt meaning for the individual is no mere symptomatic or social by-product of physiological processes or 'disorders' but rather belongs to its very essence as a phenomenon. A phenomenological investigation of illness would explore the close relation between illness and identity, the felt body and our felt sense of self, our immune system and its defenses and the mental defenses we erect to preserve a singular stable sense of identity.
It may seem unfair to use medicine and psychology rather than physics to focus on the contrast between physical science and its methods on the one hand, and the phenomenological method on the other. But throughout his critical analysis of the modern scientific method, Heidegger emphasized the intimate relation between modern conceptions of method and modern conceptions of bodyhood. Tracing the modern scientific method back to its first formulation in the philosophy of Descartes, Heidegger sees its foundation in the Cartesian concept of a disembodied subject or 'ego', separate and independent of its objects, which makes the self-certainty of its own independent reality ("I think therefore I am") and its own mathematical reasoning into the measure of all things. That this disembodied ego happens to be mysteriously located in some physical body object only confirms its own separation from those other bodies that are the objects of physical-scientific investigation. Out of this concept comes a 'scientific' definition of truth which rules out in advance all that cannot be quantitatively measured and calculatively predicted with the highest degree of mathematical certainty or probability. The root meaning of the word phenomenon is phainesthai - to shine forth or come to light. The purpose of the modern scientific method is not, as in Greek to let phenomena show themselves or come to light in their essential nature, but rather to secure with maximum calculative certainty the reckonability, predictability and controllability of both nature and man.
Modern scientific method' is in this sense the credo of what today has been termed the 'control freak'. Calculation and control however, are themselves a specific mode of relatedness to the world. But this mode of relatedness to the world that governs the methodical scientific procedures of the physicist, chemist or biologist is not itself anything physical, chemical or biological, nor is it the object of any possible experiment. It is a way of being in the world in which the researcher's mental attitude is all important but in which the scientist's felt bodily relation to space and time, things and people, has no place. For the human body itself is seen as a physical body-object no different in essence from any other.
The scientist takes the standpoint that their own "I" is here, whilst the object, whether thing or person, is 'over there' or 'out there', to be viewed at a distance through the lens of some body organ or instrument. Phenomenologically understood, things are quite different however. Our "being-in-the-world" is not a composite of three discrete elements: an ego or "I", a body-object, and the world understood as a set of other body-objects. For our being 'here' is at the same time a being 'there' with, and as I will suggest within those other body objects.
"When I direct someone towards a windowsill with a gesture of my right hand, my bodily existence as a human being does not end at the tip of my index finger. While perceiving the windowsill….I extend myself bodily far beyond this fingertip to that windowsill. In fact, bodily I reach out even further than this to touch all the phenomena, present or merely visualized, represented ones."
What appears as the physical phenomenon of space is the space of our own bodily awareness of the world. The space of our body's sensory awareness of the world has a non-local or field character - it is not bounded by the spatial dimensions of our own bodies viewed as localized objects within that space. What I call Fundamental Science is field-phenomenological science, dispensing with the notion that subjectivity or awareness is something localized within objects in physical space (the human brain for example) and recognizing instead its own intrinsic spatiality, its non-local or field character.
The second major principle of the phenomenological method as Heidegger presents it, is awareness of our own mode of relatedness to things, our way of "being-in-the world". But there is no way of being in the world, not even that of the model modern scientist, that is not grounded in a particular relation to our own bodies, and to our own felt, bodily relation to the world. The question, for Heidegger is only whether we fully let ourselves into this felt bodily relation to the world, whether we become aware of it or whether we reduce our own bodyhood to a mere object for a disembodied subject or "I", an object that is in 'space' in the manner of a physical object. Heidegger challenges the whole idea that our own bodies stand 'in' space in the same way that a glass of water stands on a table, that they are seated on chairs in the same way that a cushion might be, or that they move in essentially the same manner as billiard balls. It is not my body that rests on the chair upon which I sit. I rest on the seat in a bodily way. My seatedness, like my potential movements in space, and like my perception of other objects in space, are not states, action or perceptions of an independent body-object. They are different ways in which I body my own being in the world. But as Heidegger points out:
"We know by now a great deal - almost more than we can encompass - about what we call the body, without having seriously thought about what bodying is. It is something more and different from merely 'carrying a body around with one'."
The modern scientific method is itself the embodiment of a particular way of being in the world, and of a particular mode of relatedness, not only to the world, but to our own bodies. It was in the course of the nineteenth century that this method firmly established itself. But as Nietzsche already recognized at the time: "It is not the victory of science that characterizes our 19th century, but the victory of scientific method over science." Quoting this statement of Nietzsche's, Heidegger adds, that for this method, what is primary is "not nature, as it addresses itself to mankind…but how mankind, with the intention of conquering nature should represent nature to itself." It is "the most monstrous assault of mankind on nature". The conclusion from these remarks is a simple one. Science is not something to be abandoned to superstition, substituted for with the symbols of archaic spiritual traditions, or sacrificed to the demands of corporate profit-making. Nor, however, is it something that can any more be left to those scientists, who, as disciples of the modern scientific method, remain in bondage to their own dogmas. In doing so they have reduced themselves to the status of corporate servants, paid to dish up an endless supply of new technologies with which not only nature but our own human nature - our bodies themselves - can be psychologically, chemically and genetically assaulted, all in the holy name of 'science'.
Nowhere is this subservient role of the modern scientific method better illustrated than in the use of so-called "Controlled Clinical Studies" to test new medical and psychiatric drugs or treatments. Even before they have begun, the 'scientific method' behind these studies has already reduced the individual patient to a 'case' of some pre-defined generic disease, has reduced their felt dis-ease or discomfort to a checklist of pre-defined symptoms which can be ticked off for the purposes of computerized statistical analysis. A drug or treatment is deemed 'effective' or even a 'breakthrough' if an arbitrary and quite absurdly small degree of statistical 'improvement' in these pre-defined symptoms is registered. The disorders treated are thought of as 'things in themselves' - disease entities present within the human body or brain of the patient but bearing no specific meaning for the individual human being. The very selection of groups of suitable test patients for such studies involves taking a wide range of individuals living in quite different circumstances and, through medical or psychiatric categorizations fitting them to the parameters of the method rather than the other way round. What is ignored in the name of science are all human life factors and feelings which are not subject to quantitative analysis within these parameters.
Paradoxically, despite a relative dearth of controlled clinical studies of its efficacy, much the same situation prevails in alternative medicine. For here, no attempt whatsoever is made to distinguish improvements in the patient resulting from a specific mode of physical therapy from (a) the suggestive influences of its remedies and ritualized treatment procedures it utilizes, and (b) the therapeutic benefits of the healer-patient relationship itself - the healing that comes simply from being fully heard and received as a human being. Nor is there any recognition of the crucial role that might be played by cyclical fluctuations in the severity of a patient's symptoms. For as Freireich showed, many 'alternative' treatments may appear to be effective only because the practitioners are mostly consulted at specific points in a cyclical pattern - either just before or shortly after the patient's symptoms reach a peak or a plateau of severity. If, having commenced treatment at this point, the patient's goes into a remission or stabilisation phase of their cycle, it is easy for both practitioner and patient to interpret this remission or stabilization as a positive 'result' of the treatment or remedy - which will then immediately take on a deep symbolic and suggestive significance for the patient. If, on the other hand, a practitioner is consulted at the end of a stabilization phase or before a cyclical upturn or peak in the severity of symptoms, the worsening of symptoms following treatment can be interpreted by the practitioner as a necessary part in the healing process initated by the treatment itself (for example as a phase of 'detoxification'). As if to confirm this hypothesis, the temporary aggravation of the patient's symptoms will indeed be followed by a cyclical phase of stabilization or remission - one which the practitioner can put down as the treatment finally achieving its desired results. The question is for how long, both in absolute terms and in relation to the overall duration of the course of treatment itself.
The fact that in contrast to many complementary therapies, 'placebo-controlled' studies are central to the testing of orthodox medical treatments should not deceive us however. For the majority of such studies, even where the test results are deemed positive enough for the commercial exploitation of a new drug for example, generally show quite minor differences between patients who received the drug and those on placebo. Above all they completely discount the 'placebo effect' of the drug itself rather than a placebo - the suggestive significance of the felt physiological effects it induces, however subtle. At the same time, they generally fail to adequately research adverse reactions of a sort which often more than vitiate a drug's positive results. Short-term no matter how acute or distressing, are seen as ignorable if they effect only a small minority of patients, and long-term ones rarely even fall within the scope of the research, which is motivated primarily by short- and medium-term commercial prospects. The question why a more or less small minority of specific patients suffer side-effects or even die as a result of their treatment or medication, is not only of no intrinsic commercial interest. It is of intrinsically less 'scientific' interest within the parameters of a method in which the individuality of the patient as a human being has already been eclipsed by some general model of the human body - one in which the felt body and embodied self of the patient have no place.
On the other hand, notwithstanding all the commercial marketing that goes on for 'natural healing' and 'natural' health products, truly natural therapies - rest, sleep and dreams, sensitive and contactful touch massage, and meditative exploration of one's own felt dis-ease - receive virtually no scientific interest or medical respect at all. This is because, if a therapy is to be genuinely natural, it cannot, by its very nature, become either a branded product or the professional and intellectual property of a group of practitioners. Anything worthy of the name natural healing is a property, not of a commercially marketed herb, vitamin or therapy but a capacity for self-healing shared by all human beings and endowed by their body's own knowing - a knowing that requires no medical theory.
The sincere belief on the part of physicians and medical researchers that they know the patient's body better than the patients themselves - that they know better than the human being and better than nature, constitutes a type of scientific hubris that has already resulted in what Illich aptly describes as medical nemesis: a veritable epidemic medically induced or 'iatrogenic' illness and death on a scale unparalleled in human history - the barbarism of 'unscientific' and 'pre-modern' medical treatments notwithstanding. Adverse reactions from legally-prescribed medical drugs, for example, are reported to be the 4th major cause of death in the United States. The problem may be even larger however - for the symptoms of iatrogenic illnesses may not be distinguished by either patient or physician from those of non-iatrogenic disorders.
Medicine is not merely one example amongst others of the application of the modern scientific method. It is itself the paradigm of a rigid scientific world outlook, which seeks causal explanations and technological fixes for every human problem, individual or social, economic or political. Which takes for granted its own 'objects' of research, and does everything to avoid having to explore and explicate more deeply the nature of the phenomena that it seeks to explain.
Commenting on Galileo, Heidegger notes that "in the case of the falling apple, Galileo's interest was neither in the apple, nor in the tree from which it fell, but only in the measurable distance of the fall. He therefore supposed a homogeneous space in which a point of mass moves and falls in conformity to law." Such a supposition is the theoretical projection on nature of an unquestioned concept of space, which, in treating all bodies as essentially alike also treats the human being as a body in space like any other. Questioning the whole relation of theory and experiment in the modern scientific method, Heidegger argues that "the only thing demonstrated is the correspondence of the experimental results to the theory". What is not demonstrated is that this correspondence constitutes genuine knowledge of nature in the way nature itself shows itself outside the framework of our own theoretical representations of it. Instead "the experiment and the result of the experiment do not extend beyond the framework of the theory." That theories are refuted or refined by experiment should not lead us to forget that experiment still remains within the area delimited by theory, and that "what is posited by the theory is the projection of nature according to scientific representations, for instance, those of Galileo". What is decisive in the modern scientific method, and what its experiments seek to refine or refute is "how nature is represented, and not what nature is".
According to Heidegger this method is no mere 'procedure'. It is "the way and manner in which being, in this case 'nature'… is represented as something standing over and against us, as an object. Neither the ancients nor the medievals represented being as an ob-ject. The…objectification of nature is motivated by the idea of representing the processes of nature in such a way that they can be predicted, and therefore controlled." The idea of science as unmotivated enquiry into truth is surrendered within the modern scientific method, to a definition of scientific truth as "predictability under controlled conditions" which is entirely motivated by the purposes of technological control - but which also gives expression to an abiding fear of Nature in the face of the mystery of Being.
In the modern scientific method the goals of predictability and control go hand in hand with the principle of causal explanation. The search for the causes of an event or phenomenon becomes a universal substitute for understanding its meaning within a larger pattern of significance. Medical science is not merely one application of the causal paradigm. It is the paradigm of a general scientific culture which seeks to locate causes and find 'final solutions' for all human problems rather than exploring their meaning within a larger context. A shy secretary with a bullying and abusive boss restrains her anger but develops instead an 'angry' red skin rash. Going to her GP, the latter seeks its 'causes' in some disorder, whose own 'causes' may or may not be known and form part of a theoretically unlimited chain of causes. What the GP does not see is the significance of the patient's symptoms in the larger context of her life and relationships, her way of being in the world and relating to others.
For all his attachment to the modern scientific world outlook, Freud would not even have dreamt of searching for the 'causes' of a particular dream event or phenomenon in some other event or phenomena occurring in the same dream - seeking to explain for example, how a dream monster was 'caused' by a dream thunderstorm. And yet we do something similar whenever we look for the causes of a given phenomenon or event in some other phenomena or event occurring within the same field or context of emergence.
The basic 'law' of phenomenological science runs directly counter to the law of causality. It is the understanding that no phenomenon or event can be reduced to or explained by other phenomena occurring in the same field or context of emergence. Even in everday, waking life, we do not isolate a phenomenon such as 'wetness', identify a 'cause' for it, and think to ourselves "the rain caused me to get wet". Rather what we immediately experience is not an isolated phenomenon such as wetness but a larger holistic event of "getting wet in the rain", or "forgetting my umbrella and getting wet in the rain" or "waking up late, leaving the house in an anxious rush, forgetting my umbrella and getting wet in the rain on the way to an important meeting with my bank manager." In doing so we are not positing an 'initial' cause of our wetness in a hypothetically unending temporal chain of causes and effects. On the contrary, we experience our wetness in a larger temporal context that includes not only significant past events (getting up late) but futural ones - that anxiously anticipated meeting with the bank manager. Our immediate experience of the phenomenon of wetness is the immediate experience of an event that is essentially constituted by its own larger context of emergence.
Heidegger's basic phenomenological rule - that our "explanation" of a phenomenon can reach only so far as our "explication" of the phenomena to be explained - has a direct bearing on the principle of causal explanation. Our explication of a phenomenon is determined by the way we first of all isolate it within a field or context of appearance. Thus we can isolate the observed production of tear drops, regard this as a phenomenon and then erect the 'scientific' hypothesis that this is the causal result of a person's emotional state. Alternatively, however, instead of reducing the observed phenomenon to a purely physical one occurring in the here and now, we can say that what we immediately observe as a phenomenon is not the production of tear drops but a person crying. Rather than attempting to identify the 'causes' of this crying we will then attempt to understand the crying within a larger context. Doing so does not merely allow us to better 'explain' some now already established phenomenon. It allows us to experience the phenomenon itself in a new way - not simply as "a person crying" but as this person crying in this particular situation and in those particular circumstances that surround it.
For technical purposes it may seem self-evident to claim that a machine breakdown had some localisable 'cause' - a faulty component for example. Then again, it may not - for the company using the machine may well have a powerful interest in finding out why the component failed. Eventually the attempt to trace back a linear chain of causes and effects to some primary causal agent - a worker at the component factory for example - will break down. Why this worker happened to be 'slovenly' in this way on this day is not something reducible to a set of objective causes. For here we are not speaking of objective agency but of subjective agency. The Greek concept of arche (from which the Latin concept of causa was derived) meant precisely this - not an objective causal agents but localised subjective agents in the form of archons - the divine or mortal 'powers-that-be'. But is subjective agency itself a localisable phenomena? A pilot presses a button that 'causes' a bomb to be released over Hiroshima. The relation of causality appears self-evident. But what 'caused' the bomb to be released - the pilot as independent subjective agent, his finger or brain, the miliary superior who gave the order, supreme commander Truman, the many possible factors affecting Truman's decision, the overall geopolitical situation he had in view? What, indeed, was the object or 'effect' of the bomb being released? A nuclear explosion, a wave of unimaginable human suffering spreading over time as well as space, a change in the geopolitical situation? The concept of linear causality is based on the assumption that both the causal agent or 'subject', the causal 'object' and the 'effect' produced can be reduced to a localised phenomenon - rather than being the expression of a larger field-pattern of interrelatedness.
We are now in a better position to understand what Heidegger means by the terms "explication" and "explanation", and to suggest what meaning they hold, not just in the context of the physical sciences and their methodology but in the framework of phenomenological science and the phenomenological method. From a phenomenological perspective "explication" refers to the "reach" of our initial experience of a phenomenon as an event - the extent to which our experience of this event already embraces its own larger spatio-temporal context of occurrence. It makes a difference, for example, whether we reduce both our experience and our explication of an event to an isolated phenomenon such as 'wetness', or instead experience this phenomenon as part of a larger experiential event of "getting wet in the rain", "forgetting my umbrella and getting wet in the rain" etc.
"Explanation", from a phenomenological perspective, does not mean seeking or finding 'causes', let alone arbitrarily posited 'initial causes' for an arbitrarily isolated phenomenon. It means giving expression to our experience of the phenomenon as part of a larger event constituted by its own field or context of occurrence. It must be emphasized that understanding phenomena contextually rather than causally is by no means the same as hypothesising the existence of multiple causes or causal 'factors'. For though an event may involve multiple phenomena, separated in both time and space, what constitutes the event as an event is that these disparate phenomena form part of a larger pattern of meaning or significance. One phenomenon is not the cause of several others nor are these others multiple causes of the one. Instead all the identifiable physical phenomena that make up the event are the common expression of a larger field of emergence - 'emergence' being the root meaning of the Greek 'phusis' from which the terms physics and physical are derived.
Fundamental Science, understood as field-phenomenological science, begins with the recognition that not all phenomena arise as events (Ereignisse) constituted by their own field or context of emergence and in this way constituting self-manifestation (Er-eignis) of this field. Any phenomenon arising within a field of emergence is not merely an isolated event or phenomenon occurring within that field. Events of emergence whereby phenomena arise within a field are by nature field-events. But field-phenomenological science, like the physics of energetic fields, also admits the reality of multiple fields of emergence. With this goes the recognition that any given phenomenon might be the expression of two or more interrelated or overlapping fields (for example spatial and temporal fields) or constitute a part of two or more field-events. A phenomenon occurring within the overlap region of two or more interrelated or interacting fields of emergence cannot be said to be 'caused' by other phenomena occurring in these fields, or parallel phenomena occurring as part of the same field-event. Indeed, just as physics now recognizes the existence of 'virtual' phenomena such as 'virtual' particles, so does field-phenomenological science acknowledge the reality of field-events and interactions which do not take the form of physically observable phenomena - but which can nevertheless be experienced. A change in the 'atmosphere' of a social gathering or the 'aura' of a person do not constitute physical observable or measurable phenomena. They nevertheless have reality as field-events.
The aim of field-phenomenological research is to broaden any given 'field' of research in the most literal way possible - by expanding our understanding and very experience of phenomena to embrace the broader fields of emergence within which they manifest as field-events. It recognizes that whilst all physical phenomena form part of field-events, not all field-events take the form of observable physical phenomena. This does not mean, however, that such events are inaccessible to direct experience and can only be postulated theoretically or mathematically. For such 'intangible' or 'non-physical' events constitute the very fabric of our everyday subjective experience of the world. That is because 'subjectivity', from a field-phenomenological perspective, is the non-local or field dimension of experience as such - essentially irreducible to any locally experienced phenomena, any localised 'subject' or 'object'.
Field events are accessible to consciousness not as locally observed phenomena but as felt events - changes occurring in our own non-local field of awareness, and affecting our own felt body. The felt body itself has a field character whose volume and dimensions cannot be reduced to those of the physical body. Through it, however, we are linked with all those field-events that constitute the invisible fabric of the physical universe itself. It is meditative feeling cognition, grounded in the felt body, that constitutes the foundation of phenomenological research - not physical observation or mathematical projection alone. The modern scientific method rests on the unfounded assumption that feeling cognition and felt events cannot be subject to processes of mutual experiential confirmation and validation in the same way as observed physical phenomena or logico-mathematical deductions - even though both empirical observation and the intuitive logic of mathematical reasoning also rest ultimately on consensual 'subjective' validation. This is a method that has no place for the felt body and for feeling cognition - reducing feeling as such to individual 'feelings', seeing the latter only as the private property of localised atomic subjects, and identifying all 'cognitive' functions with the mind or brain alone. In this way, physical science fails to extend its own field models of the physical universe to include an understanding of the field character of our own awareness of that universe, and of our intimately felt bodily connection to the very fields of emergence that are its source.
© Peter Wilberg 2002