19 January, 2009

The World of Perception

. 19 January, 2009

After I finished reading the massive volume of Phenomenology of Perception, I became more interested in reading other books on similar topics written by the same author. The World of Perception is another book I chose to read presuming this topic closely related to the Phenomenology of Perception. This book cannot be found at any bookstore in Medan, neither in Bandung. I could order the book from online book store like amazon.com, but the shipment cost is much more expensive than the book itself, so I asked my younger sister Erna who lives abroad to buy one for me.

Unlike Phenomenology of Perception which is of 539 pages, The World of Perception is much briefer – only 125 pages including index. This is a collection of seven lectures for a series of radio broadcast which were delivered by him in 1948. Those seven lectures are: 1. The World of Perception and the World of Science, 2. Exploring the World of Perception: Space 3. Exploring the World of Perception: Sensory Objects, 4. Exploring the World of Perception: Animal Life, 5. Man Seen from the Outside, 6. Art and the World of Perception, 7. Classical Modern World.

In this book, Merleau Ponti suggests us to ‘rediscover’ the perceived world with the help of modern art and philosophy. In relation to Science, he seeks to reverse application of the reality distinction to the relationship between the perceived world and the world of science. He views the world of science as just an ‘approximation expressions’ of physical events i.e. an appearance, unlike realists views that the perceived world is the real world. In the second part about the perceived world and discussion of space, a basic concept is a contrast between the classical conception of space and that which actually informs the world as we perceive it. The classical conception of space is that of Newtonian physics which relies on a conception of ‘absolute’ space within physical objects have an absolute time and can move without any alteration of their physical properties. Merleau Ponti associates this conception of space with that found in classical art, the kind of painting whereby objects are depicted in accordance with the perspective they would present when viewed under a gaze directed at a point of the horizon, which remain at a distance and do not involve the viewer. His general point is the space of the perceived world is not the unique space of a ‘disembodied intellect’, but, like physical space, has different regions which are structured by our expectations concerning the things which we find in them.

I enjoy reading this book because the way he discuss each theme is much more simply and systematically so it is much easier for me to get the points, compared to the Phenomenology of Perception in which his discussion comprise a lot psychological and philosophical argumentation. I was just a bit confused in reading part three which is about sensory objects. It is not quite easy for me to figure out the idea behind how he relates the sensory object with this perceived world. In the two lasts chapter of the book it is deeply discussed that the world of perception consists not just of all natural objects but also paintings, pieces of music, books and all the ‘world of culture’. He brings readers to rediscover a way of looking at works of arts, language and culture, with respect to their autonomy and their original richness.
For the one like me, with limited philosophical background knowledge (which is merely about philosophy of science), this phenomenological philosophy is interesting. It is a matter of seeing the world from another point of view, which includes art, painting and psychology. For those with no philosophical background but interested to read this book, I would recommend to read the book about French Philosophy and German Philosophy beforehand. It is better to know the author’s biography and background knowledge prior to reading his/her articles so we could follow the authors’ way of thinking. This is helpful to easily get what points the author wants the readers to get.

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15 January, 2009

Phenomenology of Perception

. 15 January, 2009

The word “perception” has simply been known as something related to someone’s view, judgment and assessment on something. The view may be influenced by one’s experience, culture, belief or knowledge. It is clear that ‘perception’ may change due to age, since the longer we live the more experience and wisdom we get. However, perception is not simply the above matter. It can also be viewed from many different angles. I have been interested in knowing more about perception and how this world is perceived from the spectacle of phenomenologist. To get that, I read the book titled Phenomenology of Perception written by French philosopher, Maurice Merleau Ponti who introduced phenomenological thought to France.

In this book, Merleau-Ponty shows how basic features of human experience, such as the perception of objects as independent of us, space and time, and rationality are all inseparable from the structure of the human body. Beginning with things as they show themselves in perception, he discovers that things do not simply impose themselves on consciousness as atomistic sense impressions, nor do we construct things in our minds. Rather, things as we experience them are discovered through a subject-object dialogue. He combined a new way of thinking about the basic structure of human life with reflections on art, literature and politics. In order to understand how Merleau-Ponty understands this subject-object dialogue, we first need to understand a new idea, something which Merleau-Ponty brought to phenomenology: the idea of the lived body. This is a central theme of Phenomenology of Perception.

His discussion of the intentionality of consciousness - especially of the ways in which things are presented in perception – and of the role of the body in perception are recognized as important contribution to the understanding of this topics.
“…. one of the great achievements of modern art and philosophy … has been to allow us to rediscover the world in which we live, yet which we are always prone to forget “.
This world which we are to rediscover is ‘the world of perception’, which is the world as we perceive it, ‘the perceived world’ as it is often called. This book is to explore this perceived world, in order to enable readers to ‘rediscover’ it for themselves.

I have been slowly re-reading every chapter of this book over the past 2 months, even though on some subchapter I just picked up part that I like. It took ages for me to finish reading this massive volume book because I often had to re-read many part carefully to get the points. The language is not quite simple as I found some single words which I could not find in the common dictionary neither in thesaurus, though I eventually found the words in ‘Illustrated Dictionary of Psychology’ compiled and edited by Louis Smith, that I fortunately own. A tough book to get through but one of the most important in philosophy. Even if you just read the preface and introduction, the massive volume of this book will blow your mind. I got many new knowledge about other philosophers of various ‘ism’ i.e. positivism, rationalism, existentialism, idealism, skepticism etc. since he always discuss comparison between his view and other philosophers’ view on the same objects, followed by dense analysis from his sight. At least I got the better idea of the basic different conceptual philosophy between German philosophers and French philosophers in general. I may re read this book some other time. To me this book is a brain food that is worthwhile.

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10 January, 2009

Flood in Tebing Tinggi

. 10 January, 2009

On the way back to Medan, about 1 hour left before we reached Medan, we passed by Tebingtinggi, a small city where the majority of residents is Melayu. Almost all building is painted in green and yellow, traditional colors of Melayu. The street was so deserted until we were trapped by traffic jam in Tebingtinggi.

We curiously wondered about what is happening since as many times we have passed by this street, we have never ever faced such traffic jam before. As we moved straight ahead we saw the street was wet and the water seemed to become higher covering the street. It not raining when we passed by the flood, but it was very heavy rain last night.

I was a bit anxious to get trapped in the flood and we could not continue back to Medan. Luckily we were on a big high wheeled car Grand Vitara so the car could pass the flood without being stuck and the water did not get into the machine. We pass the flood street for 30 minutes. What a distressed trip passing by the flood street.

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06 January, 2009

Blocked by Landslide

. 06 January, 2009

The first visit to Tampahan in 2009. We went to Tampahan, my late parents in law's home village in 4 January 2009. We spent only one night there, just to see the house, visit the cemetery of my parents in law and to greet the elder who take care of the house and the cemetery. In the morning of 5 January we were ready for going back to Medan. Before departing, as usual we crossed the road off to say goodbye to ompungboru, a younger sister of my husband’s late grand mother. Somebody told that there has been a landslide between Parapat and Siantar in the midnight, but the street was completely cleared already last night by the authority according to them to ensure us to not worry about the trip back to Medan.

It is the last day of long vacation, and so many people spent their holiday in Parapat will be back to Medan at least after breakfast. Avoiding traffic jam, we decided to depart early in the morning. The street was so deserted, so my husband drove the car slowly and relaxed. I tried to call the police at Parapat to make sure about the landslide, but the phone was always engaged. So we stopped by at Singgalang restaurant for a while to asked somebody there. A restaurant owner who is so kind told us that the street is cleaned already. We went off continue heading to Medan. Only 20 minutes from Parapat we were stopped by police men and we saw tractors pulling some rocks lying on the middle of the street. There were still rocks remain on the street. The rocks fell down from the street side hill.

The location where it happened is called Batuloting, means fire rocks. The rocks' friction will make fire. I saw the workers burning the rocks whenever the rocks are too heavy to be tilted up and to pull away. There are 3 cars prior to our car and many cars made a long queue behind us. The street is only passable for one car, so the policemen organized the cars to pass by the street in turn. The cars headed to Parapat were the first turn to pass by, and then after around 30 minutes waiting it’s our turn to head for Medan.

That was the very first time for me to see from a short distance how big rocks from the hill lying on the street. I can’t imagine what will happen when this rock falling down on the passing cars underneath. Luckily we only had to wait for around 30 minutes for the tractors to remove the rocks.

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