Tag Archives: Heidegger

Heidegger and Bricolage Part 2⤴

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Fortune Teller
Fortune Teller” flickr photo by NomadWarMachine shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

In my earlier post I suggested that Heidegger thought of understanding as being an uncovering of meaning, and I further suggested that this is one of the things that we bricoleurs do when we mix and remix. In this post I want to continue with my interpretation of bricolage through a Heideggerian lens.

In his discussion of constructionism, Seymour Papert contrasts two type of problem solving – the analytical, which take a theoretical approach and the practical, which he calls bricolage. Simon Critchley makes a similar distinction in his book Continental Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction, sketching a brief history of philosophy and distinguishing between two types of Western traditions in philosophy: the Anglo-American and the Continental. The difference between these two schools of thought is not a geographical one, it is a difference in approach. The Anglo-American school of philosophy proceeds by logical analysis; the Continental school uses hermeneutics (interpretation) as its method (I am oversimplifying here of course). One way of drawing this distinction would be to think about it in terms of a scientific and a literary approach to understanding (human) nature; another would be to look at in terms of being theoretical on the one hand, and experiential on the other. This latter is the type of approach that I am characterising as bricolage.

My first two degrees in philosophy were taught in the Anglo-American (analytic) tradition, and I think it is fair to say that there was a mistrust of Continental Philosophy as lacking in rigour. However, this is based on a misunderstanding of the phenomenological approach. Phenomenology does not deny the scientific approach (or, it need not), but it does not believe that this is the only, or the best, way to understand the human experience. The analytic approach is theoretical; the phenomenological approach is grounded in the concrete. Critchley suggests that the former approach is looking for knowledge, while the latter hopes to find wisdom.   In Being and Time Heidegger suggests that what we need is an existential understanding of science, and suggests that scientific explanation alone cannot explain our practices.1 Papert agrees, and suggests that we can find meaning by playing with concrete objects without the need to move beyond them to abstract truths. Both show ways of being in the world as bricoleur.

1 Merleau-Ponty describes phenomenology as ‘unveiling the pre-theoretical layer’ of human experience on which the theoretical conception of the world is based (in Critchley, p 113). It is something that people have to do, not to theorise about.

Heidegger and Bricolage, Part 1⤴

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Lines of Thought

I’ve been thinking about Heidegger recently. I know that some people find him problematic because of his links with the Nazi party, but I think that it is possible to bracket this off (phenomenological reference intended) and talk about his philosophy without reference to that side of his thought. In any case, I  can’t unlearn the influence that thought has had on my own philosophy, and it would be academically wrong for me to try to ignore it.

While recovering from my PhD I’ve been digging deeper into the practices that are called remix, and that I’ve suggested we might call bricolage. Recently Wendy flagged up a Futurelearn MOOC Introduction to Phenomenology and its Application in Qualitative Research, and as I skipped through it I realised that using a Heideggerian lens could help me to make sense of what I was feeling my way towards.

It was Heidegger who introduced me to the concept of aletheia – the Greek word for truth, or disclosure. He also gives us (somewhere – probably in Sein und Zeit, it’s been a while since I read that properly) a description of a person pushing through the woods and coming to a clearing. So I understand his theory of knowledge as saying that understanding is something that happens in a space where there is a clearing, or an openness – as a type of opening one’s eyes and coming to an understanding. This reminds me of the stanza that someone wrote in our collaborative DS106 poem:

Take this hammer, take this chisel

Take some time to work alone

Shatter the surface of intentions

Surface this collaborative poem

And this, I think, is one of the things that we do when we mix and remix – we chip away at concepts and uncover different senses of meaning (of truth?).