KleinGeld Phenomenology: Presence and Absence.

Berlin Bear. Copyright 2009: Knut Skjærven

Berlin Bear. Copyright 2009: Knut Skjærven

Imagine I was to travel  to Berlin for the 20th anniversary celebration of the fall of the Wall on  9 November 2009.  I have been considering it and have even looked on the internet  earlier today for an inexpensive fare.

Coming from Copenhagen, I can go by bus, train, car or  plane. It takes me 7 hours by bus and about the same time going by train. I prefer one of these options since you  need more than just  your camera with you. You also need to bring your soul. Slow travel works  for me!

The landscape is beautiful even at this time of the year, and you get to get off at the ferry connecting the bottom of Denmark to the top of Germany. I greatly enjoy this trip since  discovering about 2 years ago that Berlin was part of the world . I arranged an international photo session there:- The Contax G Summit. I later  became President of that forum with the privilege to do all the work. It is all great fun.

I don’t know why but I am more impressed by Berlin  than I would ever have thought I would have been for any part of Germany.  I live in the same modern hotel every time, and know my way around pretty well, by now.  I am particularly impressed that the Germans want to rebuild the Berlin Castle, Berlin Schloss, in the middle of town in its  old location.. Every time I visit I see progress.. There is something Carl Zeiss Glass about this ambition. Impressive.

This time I will be joined by Hilary Clinton, Anders Fogh Rasmussen (Head of Nato) and many more celebrities flown in from all over the world to celebrate the wall that is no more. “Tear that wall down”, Ronald Reagan said to his fiend Mr. Gorbachev. A few years later it came down.

I arrive by bus. Or by train.

Barenboim will be there to conduct the Berlin Symphony Orchestra. The French and the Russian Presidents will both be there, and of course the grand old man Mikhail Gorbachev.  Gordon Brown will be there too.

However, for the moment I am still sitting behind my Imac. It is darker outside now so I have lit the desk lamp.

Why this story?

All the incidents mentioned: seeing my iMac, visualizing Berlin Schloss, speculating about if, when and how to go there have one thing in common: They are modes of intentionality. Remember the statement that consciousness is always consciousness of something, and intentionality as the barest bone of all the barebones? If you have forgotten then go look it up.

Here is the point: within the general frame of intentionality there are different sorts of special intentionalities. No doubt that my Imac is present for me, and no doubt that the Berlin Schloss and Mr. Gorbachev both are absent. So too are the recollections of my  earlier visits to Berlin present.

It is here that one start talking about presence and absence. This is one of phenomenology’s most important contributions. With phenomenology absence get presence in science and in philosophy. And by implication in communication as well. The last thing is of interest for barebones.

It is necessary that you distinguish between filled and empty intentions. I have a filled intention in what I am doing right now. I am writing on my Mac. Visual attention is shifting from the keyboard to the screen in front of me. When, while writing, I am thinking of the train for Berlin I deal with an empty intention. When I, hopefully, mount the train in two weeks from now and show my ticket to the train staff, the train staff will be my filled intention, and my Mac back at home will be the empty intention. Or one of them.

If I go to see the progress of the construction of The Berliner Schloss, that site will be my filled intention at that moment, other things will have moved into emptiness.

Having an empty intention does not mean that that intention is gone. Not so at all. It only means that it is not in the first focus of my attention. Obviously, while I am writing these words, the empty intentions of the train and the schloss are very important to me, since if I do not plan the next steps towards traveling to Berlin, how on earth will I ever get around to the very practical job of ordering the tickets?

The movement from empty intention to filled intention is one of fulfillment. There are two ways to fulfillment. There is graded or cumulative fulfillment, and there is additive fulfillment. Robert Sokolowski on graded or cumulative fulfillment: “The one leads through many intermediaries, of different kinds, and finally reaches intuition”. On additive fulfillment: “It is simply additive, providing more and more profiles on the thing in question”.

What’s in it for communication?

To be continued …


Quotations from Robert Sokolowski: Introduction to Phenomenology”, Cambridge University Press 2000, New York.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s