Intentionality II: the three phenomenological strands of ‘self’ identity

In this post, as promised, I outline my preliminary thinking regarding the three phenomenological strands of my enquiry which, in combination, provide a tripartite explanatory description of the structuring of the questioning being’s sense of unified ‘self’-identity. This itemised introduction will be developed further in due course.

Identity-sense is an experience of one’s singularly embodied intentional presence  in every aspect of one’s embodiment.

Identity-sense is an experience of one’s singularly embodied intentional presence in every aspect of one’s embodiment.

1.      The experience of Identity in identity-sense

In this thesis I contend firstly that one’s identity-sense is an experience of one’s singularly embodied intentional presence; experienced not merely in mental ‘self’-reflection, but in every aspect of one’s embodiment.

Registered in one's being holistically is the meaning that accrues to one's life.

Registered in one’s being holistically is the meaning that accrues to one’s life.

One’s comparative height for example will be registered in one’s reach or one’s gait, in one’s proprioception and the relative height and shape of things, one’s literal perspective through windows, in the speech of others and in one’s aptitude and preference for tasks. Also contributory to one’s identity-sense certainly will be the way these percepts are subjected to ‘self’-reflection and subsequent rationale. This identity-sense is recursively acquired through one’s conscious and habitual interaction with others and the world; though one conceptualises its significance mentally, one’s identity-sense is not solely a mental phenomenon nor is it only registered as such.

I might wonder for example, whether one’s defining aversion to cauliflower or taste for chocolate is situated in the taste buds, the brain or the mind. I might be attracted to another person because of the lilt in their voice; where is my attraction and their attractiveness sited? One’s identity is both sensed and presenced throughout one’s being.

2.      The essential structure of identity-sense

Secondly I argue that one’s identity-sense is in essence an existential measurement of success, constantly updated, regarding the explicit and tacit harmonising one inevitably attempts holistically. One’s identity-sense is an audit, sometimes tacit, of one’s meaningful exchange between a primordial desire for significance – capacity for purpose and the Lifeworld.

One's identity sense is an audit of the meaning that accrues to one's identity.

One’s identity sense is an audit of the meaning that accrues to one’s identity.

This primordial desire I define in an essentialist way, and the Lifeworld I hold to be that interpreted foreground which transcends one’s constitution of meaning, of which the empirical world is the background. In this intersubjectively negotiable form one’s identity-sense is of a singularly embodied harmonising presence in the world.

Each questioning being owns a singularly embodied harmonising presence in the world.

Each questioning being owns a singularly embodied harmonising presence in the world.

This is perhaps harder to concede regarding those less momentous aspects of one’s identity. Consider the examples above. When I am offered cauliflower and can avoid it, my identity-sense and the Lifeworld are harmonised; when perhaps as a child however I am obliged to eat cauliflower because an adult insists, I must audit my sense of autonomy.

Am I the sort of person who eats cauliflower when asked to do so?

Am I the sort of person who eats cauliflower when asked to do so?

The meaning of my life finds unwanted significance in this reminder of my subservience to the will of another and maybe meal-time battles ensue. More seriously perhaps, were I to choose a partner on the basis of my attraction to them and find my attraction unrequited, or forbidden by society even, again this aspect of my identity has stepped out from the background of the world and acquired a disharmonious significance I must audit and resolve.

3.      The ontological basis of identity

Finally I have argued that, that which in each instance constitutes and motivates the singularity of each questioning being as such, and which lies beneath all its diverse ontic possibilities and manifestations and their discernible eidetic texture, is a desire for significance –capacity for purpose. This ontological drive or desire is essential to, or ontologically descriptive of, identity. Identity in the questioning being is, I argue, an appropriated accretion of meaning deriving from one’s desire for significance and purposive capacity.

One's health depends on managing the uncomfortable tension between one’s primordial desire for significance and one’s capacity for purpose.

One’s health depends on managing the uncomfortable tension between one’s primordial desire for significance and one’s capacity for purpose.

My contention is furthermore that there is phenomenologically disclosed in lived experience an uncomfortable tension between one’s primordial desire for significance and one’s capacity for purpose. Let me illustrate this tension further. It occurs to me as I drive to visit my elderly mother, whose health is now quite poor, that my love for her is of a special kind; it represents the special significance she has for me, founded of course, on the significance that I have for her. As I reflect on this I am touched by the special significance I have for her and want her to go on regarding me in this way. I also wish to be useful to her; aiding her with things that need doing and channeling my purposiveness in a manner that benefits her.

One's identity-sense must balance significance and purpose.

One’s identity-sense must balance significance and purpose.

Both my desire for significance and my capacity for purpose are intentionally directed towards my mother. The tension arises in that I do not want to be merely a son she dotes on, for that would seem unfruitful, selfish, or both. Equally I do not want to be merely a son who is of use to her for that would seem demeaning or impoverished, or both. I do not wish to exploit her love nor do I want her to exploit mine. As I attempt to  harmonise these aspects of my Lifeworld, my identity-sense reflects the extent to which this tension is resolved in the life I identify as mine[1].


[1] I will explore in due course the way that this two-part drive gives rise to the phenomenologically variant descriptions found in Hegel, Sartre and Buber, particularly Heidegger and perhaps in Derrida, regarding the presence of the subject and the objectifying purpose the other may attempt to reduce them to.

 

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One thought on “Intentionality II: the three phenomenological strands of ‘self’ identity

  1. After going back to the start and working my way forward, I am still tracking (even if in a minimal, average Joanne way). In this segment I made a connection from your language to mine. What you are calling the tension between desire for significance and capacity for purpose, I would describe as the tension (or maybe contrast) I recognize between being and doing. I know your words and mine are not an exact parallel, and I will have to keep reading to find whether the connection is at all accurate or useful. But it was nice to trip across a bit of something inside myself that resonates with your material.

    Like

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