Naive Experience

It seems to be true that we naively experience most of life’s activities, this fact is made strikingly evident in the lives of young children. A child’s struggle with the most menial tasks: sitting, rolling, grabbing something off a table in front of her, are all reminders of how much of life the average adult takes for granted. Adults for example, generally do not stop to examine the mechanics at work behind a hand movement, they generally do not even consider the fact that their movements stem from an intention. When things go wrong, when we develop arthritis for instance, all the mechanisms that make hand movements possible become a concern. Much of philosophy is devoted to considering the non reflective and often invisible aspects of life.

Some philosophers start this trail of inquiry at the most basic point, prying into the conditions of experience itself. Such projects, although they address what can be described as everyday experience, often become extremely complex. Considering and speaking of naive experience is difficult and complex for a number of reasons, one being that it is quite possible such experiences have never been made explicit. Many philosophers invent vocabulary to help describe aspects of life that may have never been considered. Beyond diction, philosophers adopt or invent rhetorical techniques meant to disorientate or shake their audience. Such shaking, whether gentle or not, wakes an audience from naive experience, revealing something that may have always been present but left unacknowledged.

At its best, philosophical projects that awaken a new awareness prompt behavioural changes that improve everyday life. Naming gender biases, for example, can liberate by equipping us with the ability to dismantle oppressive relationships. Although theoretical and complex, philosophical projects that examine naive experience can be productive if and when theory ignites the imagination and encourages change.

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