This article is about the introduction chapter of 'Saving the Appearances' by Owen Barfield, which you can find here below;
I am writing about this chapter, because we used it in our landscape perception workshop (July 2010) and in the discussion that followed the idea soon arose that our way of viewing the world was partly our construction, but then some of us went so far as to think, that even our pure sense-impressions were also our - or better said our - bodily constitution's construction.
However some of us felt that this was going to far. The world, which we perceive (colours, smells, resistance etc.) are also there independent of us (and not only atoms, or whatever they are = the unpresentable).
After reading the chapter again and again and then with the help of the excellent article by Stephen Talbott, called Evolution of Consciousness and then the two other excellent articles by Jason Peters Owen Barfield on the Metaphysics of Modern Science and Owen Barfield on Inspiration and Revelation and the one by Caryl Johnston called Thoughts and Things: Reviving Liber Naturalis, I came to the following;
Owen Barfield states in his foreword that the book was not written for discussing metaphysics.
So he does want not point out (as I thought too!) to the problem of the primary and secondary qualities of sense-perceptions that is e.a. touch (matter) and resp. sight (colour), or describe in what form atoms, energy etc. exists.
He only wants to point out that what we see (and only see and not think) is a vast area of colours (in the case of sight) without any connection or patterns in between.
But in our daily life we automatically think 'rainbow' or 'chair' etc.
However, to come to that, we have to think 'chair'; that is;
1) it is physical ( we, with our body can sit on it)
2) it has a reasonable flat surface, which is not to low neither to high.
3) it has a support for our back or at least for a part of it.
4) or any other thoughts we have with it.
In case of the rainbow; it is an arc, in the form of half a circle, it has rained and the sun shines and it has a variety of colours in a specific order etc. etc.
So a lot of thinking has gone on before we unify the concepts chair, rainbow with what we see.
This is what Owen Barfield calls figuration and we are not often, I might as well say, seldom aware of it .
However if we can't figure (!) it out, then we need to do some alfa thinking.
For example when we see things we have never seen before or have not a clue about.
The intention to use the article for my workshop was to stress or bring over;
1) That the sense-perceptible world (pure sense-perception) is a reality, but not the full reality!
2) And that the way we interpret it (figuration) depends on our way of thinking about it (and mostly how we have thought about it the past (habit) or worse; what we were told about it)
During the session we also talked about that the way we see the world (as pure sense-impression) indeed depends on our constitution (our eyes for example) and we know that some animals perceive the world only in black and white or some primitive animals only by the lower senses (touch, movement, balance).
But this does not mean that we (or perhaps better said; our constitution) fabricates or creates the colours etc.
Later during the week when we started to realise that the landscape contains the interplay between natural and cultural factors and when we viewed the landscape in all its glory, we realised it is only given to us, as human beings, to see the world in its full glory. Even the Gods can not see it like that!
Is this helpful or am I still not understanding it?
I hope you understand what I meant to say, that is, get my speaker's meaning.
I wrote this also because I read a few articles where Owen Barfield is totally misunderstood and this is not very good for the reputation of Owen Barfield's work.
In one article I read that Owen Bafield means that only atoms and energy exists and the rest we make up, to say it bluntly and in another one somebody said that Owen Barfield says that words are idols and both comments came from people who were very much in favour of Owen Barfield.
However this is understandable if one reads quickly and read what one wants to read.
And that is easily done.
Landscape perceptions and experiences
The aims of this blog is
1) to gather material which helps us to view 'Landscape' from many different perspectives (Science, Phenomenology, Aesthetics, Ethics etc)
2) and secondly to record 'Landscape experiences' from our workshops (Reports) and my own experiences (Diary).
For our workshops see our website