Phenoscopy 4

The object of study in phenoscopy is any phenomenon (appearing), or all phenomena, or the phenomenon (as Peirce often put it), or the phaneron (the term coined by Peirce when he became dissatisfied with all of the above). What we are looking for is ‘the elements that are always or very often present in, or along with, whatever is before the mind in any way.’ Studying the phenomenon in this way, we can dismiss from our attention those aspects of the phenomenon which are unique to it; but uniqueness itself is more ‘elementary,’ being present in all unique phenomena – in every phenomenon which differs from every other in some way. (This difference or otherness, this being not something else, is the Secondness of the object, which may be more or less ‘genuine’ relative to other objects.)

This phenoscopic practice of dismissing some aspects of an object from our attention in order to focus on others is called prescinding: in the case above, we prescind uniqueness from the unique phenomenon because it is more elementary, being present in any and every unique phenomenon – and anything appearing as a phenomenon must be unique in some way. This practice may also be called ‘prescissive abstraction,’ or even simply ‘abstraction,’ except that the latter word has other uses, so that we must rely on the context to clarify exactly what practice we are referring to.

Phenoscopy being analytical and prescissive in this way, there are some common distinctions we can dismiss from our attention in order to focus on the more universal elements of the phenomenon. For example, we can dismiss the usual distinction between “appearance” and “reality.” We are accustomed to thinking that things are not always what they appear to be; but here we are attending only to the appearance itself, not asking whether it is the mere appearance or representation of “something” other than itself. We also drop the typical distinction between a “thing” and our experience of it. The phenomenon simply appears, or ‘is before the mind’: those expressions are two ways of saying the same thing. If the expression ‘before the mind’ is too suggestive of difference between the mind and the thing ‘before’ it, we can say instead ‘in the mind,’ or not mention “mind” at all; but no verbal expression is quite free of irrelevant suggestions, so we must be ready to improvise with language if we are to talk about phenoscopy at all.

2 thoughts on “Phenoscopy 4”

  1. “. . . no verbal expression is quite free of irrelevant suggestions, so we must be ready to improvise with language if we are to talk about phenoscopy at all.” Very well said. I’m not sure, however, that “phenoscopy” will ever become a term generally used. My sense is, just as we have to distinguish Peirce’s “semeiotic” (however one spells it) from other ‘schools’ of semiotic (e.g. Saussure’s), we ought distinguish Peirce’s brand of “phenomenology” from others (e.g. Husserl’s). See J. Ransdell’s “Is Peirce a Phenomenologist?”

    1. Gary, thanks for the link to the Ransdell article. And you’re probably right that the term “phenoscopy” will never be widely used. That’s one reason i chose it for this series: it’s probably “safe from kidnappers” who would use it in some other sense! I also chose it as a technical term because i wanted something different from Peirce’s terms “phenomenology” (which he dropped because it had other uses) and “phaneroscopy” (which is uniquely Peirce’s). I am following Peirce’s lead in many respects but i expect my investigations to come to their own conclusions, which may be different from Peirce’s, so i don’t want to present my ideas as his. I’ve already tried to give an account of Peircean phenomenology at various places in Turning Signs, so in this series i’m trying something different, and that’s what i’m calling “phenoscopy.” (Of course when i do steal terms and ideas from Peirce, i’ll try to make it clear that i’m doing that, as i did with the definition of “phenoscopy”.)

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