Currently Reading: Jeff Mitscherling’s “Aesthetic Genesis: The Origin of Consciousness in the Intentional Being of Nature”

Only on chapter 2 but enjoying the book so far. Introduced me to the philosopher Roman Ingarden, who it looks like, I’ll have to read more. Mitscherling’s book dovetails nicely with some of my current concerns. His eight “…statements of the central Concept-Terms” followed by an interesting discussion of each item separately has been really good so far. The eight theses are: [quoted from Kindle ]:

(1) Intentionality is not “of consciousness”. (2) Being is not merely some abstract concept. (3) Substance is not “stuff”. (4) Essence is not some “thing” that an entity “possesses”. (5) Form is not “shape”. (6) The soul is not some supernatural “thing” that an animal “possesses”. (7) The mind is not reducible either to material being or to ideal being. (8) A concept is not a “mental thing” that we “possess”. (9) A habit is not some “thing” that an organism “possesses”.

(1) is pretty radical, I think. As the blurb says, “This book describes not only the origin, or ‘genesis,’ of human cognition in sensation, but also the genesis of sensation from intentional structures belonging to nature itself.” Mitscherling will be trying to demonstrate that there is such a ‘thing’ as “the Intentional Being of Nature” that is real yet not some thing we should just think of as ‘stuff.’ I find this intriguing, especially, because he proposes to show that the notion of intentional being overcomes the bifurcation between mind and nature. In effect, this study seems to be trying to do the exact opposite of what I critiqued in my last post. I will have more to say as make it through the book.

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5 Responses to Currently Reading: Jeff Mitscherling’s “Aesthetic Genesis: The Origin of Consciousness in the Intentional Being of Nature”

  1. This looks great! I’ve been thinking a lot about phenomenology’s missing ontology, specifically in the context of the bio-phenomenological approach of Evan Thompson’s enactivism. Developing a processual or genetic aesthetic ontology is exactly what I’m working through in my dissertation…

    thanks for the lead!

  2. skholiast says:

    Ingarden is under-translated in English but Mitscherling I believe did do a book entirely on Ingarden’s ontology and his dispute with Husserl. I had not heard of this book, however. Thanks v much.

  3. Only 32 pages in… an exciting and relevant enough project that I will finish the book ASAP. However, his several statements about Whitehead’s philosophy of organism strike me as misleading at best, if not plain wrong. On pages 26-28, Mitscherling suggests that Whitehead is some kind of monistic substance=”stuff” thinker. It is pretty uncontroversial as far as I can tell that Whitehead’s is a pluralist ontology of processes, not a monist ontology of substantialist “stuff.” It is a strange misreading on Mitscherling’s part, since he adds a long footnote excerpting Hans Jonas’ description of Whitehead’s ontology, which very clearly explains his pluralism and process-relational approach. Hmmf. Maybe he gets Whitehead wrong because he was a bit too concerned to make his intentional ontology seem new and different?

  4. Chen says:

    Yes, being familiar with your work specifically and others on Whitehead, I was also a bit puzzled by the remark and even the way in which he links Hans Jonas ( who I am more familiar with) and Whitehead. There are other characterizations here and there that have given me pause. I’m hoping they simply function as foils for the ideas he’s developing, a sort of reference point for him to distinguish himself. Pressing on, he seems to be making some nice points ( about the cogito, for example ) that I hope is developed further. Mitscherling seems, initially, to be staking some ground so I’ll grant him these hiccups for now.

    Definitely a readable book.

  5. Chen says:

    Two preliminary criticisms/comments. (1) Unfortunately ( or fortunately), I think the reader will have to unpack a lot of what Mitscherling says for himself. The book is too short for the breadth of ideas it covers. (2) Not sure Mitscherling achieves a good conception either of “Aesthetic Genesis” or “Intentional Being.” This may require more familiarity with his sources along with his other books. Which I will definitely do. However, the details are too sparse especially when it comes to intentional and ideal being – I think these deserve a more thorough consideration, phenomenological and philosophical. But I’m assuming they are more developed in the prior work and in Ingarden’s Philosophy. Basically, before reading through again to work on the ideas themselves, I worry that Mitstcherling has made some neat distinctions but not really grounded them ontologically like he desires .

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