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Gendlin, E.T. (1993). Words can say how they work. In R.P. Crease (Ed.), Proceedings, Heidegger Conference, pp. 29-35. Stony Brook: State University of New York. From

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Eugene T. Gendlin, University of Chicago

Heidegger knew he had changed the philosophical terrain. He didn't think he could go on from that change. "A philosopher cannot jump over his own shadow," he said. [1] He wrote to Frings, pleading with us not to call it "Heidegger Circle," rather "Circle for the Question of Being." He wanted his work deeply considered, but above all he wanted people to go on, to think freshly.

The purpose of this paper is to save and carry forward some of Heidegger's crucial insights, especially about the openness that is not a form nor a formed thing. But to go on as he did not, some points may have to shift. I will state two such shifts, but I am not concerned with the exact line of difference. Rather, please ask: Is this a good and viable way to go on?

The loss of the openness

My objective is to think with more than conceptual structures, forms, distinctions, with more than cut and presented things. What is more than form is not just a far-away outer edge. We can find it and let it play a vital role in our own thinking.

Through its role in our thinking we will be able to re-establish the great openness, what Heidegger called the "source" that is not itself formed, but conceals itself in every form and formed thing. That is what he was most concerned about at the end. Currently it seems impossible to think or speak about what is more than form, because of a great current error: What is not clear and distinct is said to be simply indeterminate, a limbo, merely a negation of determined form. Now Heidegger's great openness seems mere indeterminacy.

Derrida can lop off this great openness. He says honestly that he just does not find it. We can conclude that it could be important to find it, rather than leaving it as something lovely and freeing that we merely posit. Should it not be findable? I will show how we can find the openness everywhere in anything.

I will introduce two shifts:

1) I argue that Being and Time could open an avenue for philosophical thinking to go on within what Heidegger called "being-in." I develop a kind of thinking philosophy can employ what he calls "mood or situatedness. I will show that such a thinking is more than form, and can think and speak about more than form. It can think and speak about itself.

2) I include the body within Dasein.

With these two shifts, we will re-establish the openness.

The Problem:

It seems we cannot talk or think about more-than-form—at all. How could Heidegger have talked about more than form, when all talking involves conceptual and linguistic forms? How could he escape the schemes inherent in the language? He struggled with that question for more than thirty years in his middle period.

One the one hand, the conceptual patterns are doubtful in various ways: They come in a mutually exclusive variety. They change in history. Each breaks down if pursued. Clean logical patterns cannot even define what clean logical patterns are or would be. They do not work only logically. Thinking is always situated (affected by mood, experience, bias, interest, practice, the body, events, situations, one's place in the world .....).

On the other hand, we cannot avoid forms and concepts; we cannot think only what is more than cuts and presentations. If we talk about what is more, we cut and present that. We talk about what is more than concepts, but how? In concepts.

Suppose I lecture on the discussion method of teaching. I want my class to learn how one learns more through active discussion, so I lecture about it. You notice something wrong.

Similarly, my word "more" brings the conceptual pattern of the quantitative more and less. Am I not ridiculous? I say "more than conceptual patterns," but "more than" is a conceptual pattern. That is the problem I will attempt to resolve.

Even to state the problem, we use various distinctions. We assert that the same statement can have different implicit meanings in different contexts. In saying this we distinguish statement from context, and "explicit" from "implicit." But then we still have only what we said explicitly, it seems. Or we say that language does more than it says. This distinction renders the more as a doing (not saying), but it seems we still have only what we say, not what our saying does. Therefore Wittgenstein rejected all explanations of what language does. Therefore Heidegger said he could not say; he could only "point." (Dialogue with the Japanese Scholar.) But can we defend him in saying even that? "Pointing" brings the scheme of a thing in space to which we can point.

The conceptual patterns are doubtful and always exceeded, but the excess seems unable to think itself. It seems to become patterns when we try to think it. This has been the problem of twentieth century philosophy. In one version or another, philosophy led to this problem and then stood still before it.

So far it has been understood only as a problem. I will turn it to advantage. What seemed like a problem becomes a power. We need not deplore the fact that concepts are never only clear patterns, nor that the more is inseparable from patterns. It is a good thing that the more is always there as well. Since we always think with both, we can do so deliberately. We can employ their inseparable togetherness by letting the concepts mean how they work within and about the situatedness. Let me show how that is possible.

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Heidegger on mood and understanding:

The late Heidegger tells of a kind of thinking he calls "dwelling," ("wohnen"). He says it is his new term for what was called Befindlichkeit in Being and Time. [2]. "Befindlichkeit" is translated both as "situatedness" and as "mood." (Also rather badly as "state of mind.")

In german "Wie befinden Sie sich" is ordinary language meaning "How are you?" This "are" fits what Heidegger says of humans: We have the kind of being that is involved in situations, projects and worries. Befindlichkeit is how you are, how you find yourself just now, how you are situated, and it is therefore also your "mood." It is one of three parameters with which he defines the human mode of being. The other two are understanding and speech.

Heidegger said that our mood (our how-we-are) always contains an implicit understanding, and that this understanding is always moody. Let me put these together and speak of "moody understanding."

Your mood knows what you have been trying to do and why, what you are trying to avoid and why, how you have perhaps not avoided it and why. You might not know all that explicitly, but the mood contains an understanding of how you came into this situation and therefore into this mood.

Heidegger says that even if you don't know what to say about it, your moody understanding inherently involves speech. He did not say just how it does, only that it is already articulated in a way that can make speaking from it possible. I will say more.

Heidegger insisted that these notions ("understanding" and Befindlichkeit — "situatedness" and "mood" — are not concepts or categories. But how not? Are they not gatherings, kinds? Categories separate. Perhaps he was emphasizing that these three are implied in each other. But many ordinary concepts are implicit in each other, (for example Kant's "autonomy" and "freedom").

Since there is no common definition of "concept," and since in some sense these surely are concepts, let us more modestly ask: How are they not just concepts? If we cannot answer, does it mean Heidegger told about what is not just concepts — in concepts?

Heidegger said that the mood's understanding reaches "further than concepts can reach." It "far exceeds cognition."

In Being and Time, how could we understand these terms? How could we agree that the mood's understanding far exceeds cognition?

An immediate answer is possible. We understand these terms with a moody understanding. Thereby what we understand far exceeds what cognition can reach.

Without a moody understanding of these terms, we would have only their conceptual patterns and the role he gives them in his argument. We could still read how the mood is from having acted in the past toward a future we want. We could read that Heidegger posits some sort of more-than-cognitive understanding, but it would be a black box. We could grasp only the conceptual pattern of something supposedly more than conceptual. Here is the problem of twentieth Century philosophy.

But if we understand with a moody understanding, we use what the two terms are about, in order to understand them. They are not just concepts because they involve what they are about.

Of course this succeeds only insofar as we actually have a moody understanding of those terms. We must have a mood and also that it contains an understanding of what we have been trying to do or avoid in some situation, that we do not know all of that and yet it is somehow understood in our mood. Such a mood is familiar but what Heidegger says about it is not. He says that in the mood we understand more than we know. How can we "understand" what we don't even know? With the usual understanding we cannot understand what the word says here. What the word says must actually happen in how we understand the word.

We think such terms not only with conceptual patterns, but also with that which exceeds the pattern. Such concepts are about how their pattern is exceeded. If they make sense about that, then they no longer say what they would mean alone. Now their meaning is what they say in and about what exceeds them as patterns.

Now let us expand this so that we can take all concepts this way. All concepts bring more than their patterns. Rather than wishing it were not so, we can deliberately allow the pattern to work in and about the more. The more is always available whenever we think or speak. We can enter it and let our phrases make sense in it, if they will.

For example, now we can take my word "more" in both ways: It says the quantitative pattern more and less, but also how the moody understanding is more than the pattern. Without the moody understanding we would have only the conceptual pattern of "more" but not more. But if both are in play, then the pattern "more" is said in and about what is more than the pattern.

I have long argued [3] that we can think in this way, not only about these two terms, but about anything. If moody understanding reaches further than cognition, wouldn't we want philosophy to reach further than cognition from now on?

To go on, it is not enough to think and write in a moody or poetic way. Yes, the concepts bring more than a pattern, but they can also be about how the more functions, how it exceeds the pattern. Thereby the concepts can tell how they themselves work — in and about what exceeds their patterns. If they make sense about it, they say how they work — they are language that can say how language works.

This type of conceptual precision lets us enter a realm that was closed until now: The realm of what functions implicitly.


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The kind of concepts I have been describing can be made directly from situations — instances. Let me cite an instance:

You see someone you know coming down the other side of the street, but you don't remember who it is. This is totally different than seeing a stranger. The person gives you a very familiar feeling. You cannot place the person, but in your body there is a gnawing feeling. That gnawing feeling does know. Your body knows who it is. It is ....., a whole sense in your body.

Your body also knows how you feel about the person. Although you don't remember who it is, your ..... has a very distinct quality. If you had to describe it, you might say, for example: "It is sense of something messy. I feel a little as if I'd rather not have much to do with that person, but there is also mixed in with it some odd curiosity that doesn't feel too sound, and uh ......" If you went on further into it, you could find more and more, both about the person and about yourself. But the whole felt sense cannot be put into words. However well you express it, there is always more left in it than you said. Even to say some of it, you have to make up new phrases because it does not fit into the usual phrases and categories. It is uniquely your sense of that person. Any other person would give you a different body-sense.

By focusing your attention on the ....., you may suddenly remember who the person is. Now you might be surprised. You might say "I didn't know that I felt that way about the person!"

But how can we understand this? Does your body have its own opinions of the people you know? And if it has, why does it keep its opinions to itself, instead of telling them to you right along?

Here is an instance I have given before: Consider a poet, stuck in midst of writing an unfinished poem. How to go on? The already written lines want something more, but what?

The poet re-reads the written lines. The poem goes on, there, where the lines end. The poet senses what that edge there needs (wants, demands, projects, entwirft, implies .....). But there are no words for that. It is ah, uh, ...... The poet's hand rotates in the air. The gesture says that.

Many good lines offer themselves; they try to say, but do not say — that. The blank still hangs there, still implying something more precise. Or worse, the proposed line makes the ..... shrivel and nearly disappear. Quick, get that line out of the way. The poet re-reads the written lines and ah ....., there it is again. Rather than that line, the poet prefers to stay stuck.

The ..... seems to lack words, but no. It knows the language, since it understands — and rejects — the lines that came. So it is not pre-verbal; Rather, it knows what must be said, and knows that these lines don't say that.

Heidegger was right: speech is inherent even without words. The implicit implies speech. When we cannot find words, we poignantly feel that we cannot find words. Language is implicitly working in the ...... Language is — ..... — in pain in it. And to describe it so would be a case in point. In the ..... the language is reworking, re-arranging, re-creating itself.

The ..... knows with a gnawing, like something forgotten, but what it knows may be new in the history of the world.

How could our words here say what we said?

Now I need to intrude on your privacy in a personal way. Although I don't know some of you, I do know one of your secrets. I know you have written poetry. So I can ask you: Isn't that how it is? Isn't it so, that in order to go on with a poem we must ..... use, directly refer to, focus on, feel, experience, physically sense, have, be ..... a ..... where the lines stop and the poem continues?

As you check my assertion, you refer directly to this direct referring. It is not just a theoretical term. You have it, you are being it, there. Right?

Certainly the word "refer" brings an old scheme that seems to make the ..... a thing in space to which we point. But "directly refer" is not merely a scheme. This kind of concept deliberately includes your referring. Thereby you understood implicitly that "referring" speaks of what you are doing, which exceeds the scheme. Now the scheme of referring says how it is exceeded — by your referring.

Now we can defend Heidegger's pointing. We can answer that something similar had to happen to that word when he said he could only "point" to the openness. Otherwise he could not have said even that, since the scheme of the thing in space would have hidden the openness to which he pointed.

But since the scheme in "refer" or "point" is exceeded by what you actually do, need it be a referring? I did not use the word "refer" alone. It came with a string of other words. I said we "must use (directly refer to, focus on, let a role be played by, feel, experience, physically sense, have, be .....) the ...... The different schemes in those words would boggle and cancel each other, if taken as just schemes. But they are not just schemes. Each is exceeded by — and now says something in — the ...... There the words all work. After them all, the ..... implies and shapes a next step of thought more finely than a scheme can.

I said "experience, physically sense, have, be .....) the ...... We could pursue how the famous word "be" changes here, if it made sense to you in this spot, if you moodily understood it. Here it says (at least) that being is not only this or that form but it is (and we are) rather as the ..... is at the edge of an unfinished poem — or at the end of a string of alternative words.

What happens to "referring" and "pointing" can happen to all words about how language works. Such words work in what exceeds them. They say how they work, how their pattern is exceeded by what functions implicitly. A philosophy of language is possible since words can say how they work.

Isn't it surprising that throughout our century words have not been permitted to say how they work? The need has certainly been recognized. It was painful that philosophers could not say what they were doing.

From long history it seemed that if language could say what it does, it would involve the claim that the explication equals what is implicit. No, those are never equal. It is precisely because the implicit continues implicit, that it enables words to say [Page 32] some of (only some of) what they do. They can say something about the implicit only because the implicit is part of their saying. The implicit always plays crucial roles in how words work, and with its roles they can say how they work. That words can say how they work is the most important message of this paper.

A third instance:

A ..... comes not only in forgetting and in poetry, also at the edge of all writing — yes writing — and all fresh thinking. Heidegger said poets and thinkers draw from the same openness.

We think not only formulated thoughts, just this and just that and just that other. Cumulatively our steps of thought arrive; they make a point. At the end you say "See .....?" You expect me to see (feel, have, understand, grasp, be .....) not just this and that and that other, but ...... What makes the difference between getting the point, as against not getting it? It is the ..... which performs that role.

And if I don't get it, then you have to say your point another way. You pause; you recollect your point, and new phrases come to lead to it. So your point is not the first set of phrases, nor the second. Your point is what you focus on to try for new phrases. The fact that you can try to rephrase it shows that what we call the point — is not a formulation; it is a ......

And of course, when we think, we don't just arrive. Quite often something continues where the words stop. We reach an edge where we sense more, but we cannot yet say that. We know not to pass by there. Of course we could move on in familiar ways, but no; we prefer to stay stuck at that edge. We even glory in it — we say "I'm on to something! Something new can come here!"

Functions of the implicit:

My three instances showed some crucial functions that only something implicit can perform. Just from what we said, I can list the following:

  • 1. Something implicit lets us know that we forgot something.
  • 2. It also lets us know when we have remembered.
  • 3. It lets us know when a new step of thought is implied.
  • 4. It functions to reject otherwise good proposals if they leave the ..... hanging there, still implying something more precise.
  • 5. Something implicit can understand a situation directly.
  • 6. What we want to say forms implicitly, and also
  • 7. implicitly rearranges the language, so that
  • 8. quite new phrases form implicitly, and come.
  • 9. It lets us know when "the right" phrases have come.
  • 10. The cumulative effect of a chain of thought is implicit.
  • 11. To understand — to grasp — anything is an implicit function. We say "Oh ....., yes, I see what you mean."
  • 12. Having a point is a ......
  • 13. Even just to try to put differently something we have already said (as when someone doesn't get it) requires us to refer to the ..... — the implicit sense of what we wanted to say.
  • 14. Something implicit lets a new use of a word make new sense.
  • 15. Words say how the implicit functions, if we take how the words make sense in and about that.
  • 16. Taking the same word or sentence in various ways is made possible by the implicit. How do we know which way we took it? The difference does not lie in the sentence; only the implicit lets us take the sentence this way rather than that way, and lets us think on from having taken it this way, rather than going on from it, taken that way.

These functions are so ubiquitous, and each is so specific, why did people ever think of them as some sort of fuzzy exceptions to an otherwise form-distinguished universe? How could one think that what is not cut out and presented before us is indeterminate?

A new kind of concept:

In stating implicit functions, the conceptual patterns are exceeded and altered by some of those functions. But they still sound the same. Can we go further? Can we change the conceptual patterns as well?

If the usual patterns were right, these instances and functions would be quite impossible. Since they don't instance the usual concepts, what changed concepts do they instance?

The implicit functions more intricately than patterns do. If we enter and say (some of) how it functions, we arrive at new conceptual patterns. Of course those don't replace — they still require — the implicit functions, but they set out some characteristics of how something functions when it is implicit.

"Carrying forward":

The usual concept of "implying" means something folded under but already there. But when we say a ..... implies a next step, we know implicitly that the word does not say that. Neither is the next step simply not there. But the word says more than [Page 33] mere paradox, since implicitly it says however the ..... does it.

Now let us go on. The implicit functions more intricately than patterns, more intricately than there or not there. When the right phrases come, they don't copy the blank. A set of words looks different — it cannot be the copy of a blank. The right new phrases come only in the explicating, but to say that they "were implied" does rightly asserts a special relation between the phrases and the blank. If we keep this implicit relation and enter it, we can devise new patterns to say some of it.

With the special phrases, the blank is not lost, altered, or left hanging. These special phrases carry the blank along. But now that they have come, the phrases say more. They are a kind of continuation of it. They carry it forward into more. "Not left hanging," "continuation," "carry with them," and "forward into more," those are schemes of course. But if we keep what the ..... does with us, the new schemes in "carrying forward" carry this implying forward.

"Crossed multiplicity":

What about when there is no ....., when the next moves come smoothly in ordinarily speech? A great deal functions implicitly also when there is no pause and no ...... We can see some of it if we do pause, but of course not quite as it functioned without pause. We want neither to read a ..... in where there isn't one, nor deny that a great deal functions implicitly also without a ...... Our concept "carrying forward" can say this: The very formation of a ..... is a kind of carrying forward, and then our lifting out (differentiating, synthesizing .....) this or that is a further carrying forward.

When we know we forget something, there is a ...... When you remember the person on the street, your ..... suddenly opens. All about the person floods back. You don't need to take time to enter and lift out this and that. But if you do, you find that the ..... implicitly contained your whole history with that person, also what you hope for and worry about with the person, what that person rouses in you, some of your own unresolved troubles. It contains the intricate way you do and don't like the person, and much more. All that functions together. You can lift out four or eight things, but there are far too many to think each one. Most of them remain an implicit many that have never been separate. How they all function changes the scheme in the words "they." and "all."

The phrase "too many to think each one" says the implicit kind of plural, a never-yet-separated multiplicity. Let us enter this intricacy and formulate a new pattern.

This kind of multiplicity is not just a merger. It functions more intricately than separated things. It is neither an enclosure by logical form, nor just rupture and limbo, but a more intricate way of shaping the next move.

Now that you remember the person, you go over and say an appropriate hello, not too warm, not cold, not long but not too short, your slight smile fittingly governed by all that multiplicity. It won't come out that way if you say to yourself "Now smile, smile."

As formed determinants, one of these factors would make you smile broadly, another frown, and another hit the person. But when they function implicitly, they are always already crossed. Each opens the would-be determining of each of the others.

"Restored implicit governing:"

For example, in a sport, say golf, an instructor tells you to keep your right arm stiff. You didn't know whether it was loose or stiff. Now you realize that it was loose. Your arm becomes salient for a while. Your game is thrown off, which shows that there was an implicit governing that is now disturbed.

After some time the stiff arm becomes "natural." The implicit governing of the arm is restored. It rejoins all the other factors that mutually modify each other and together shape the next move. Then your score is better than before.

In explicating we first separate something, but then we must also restore it to the implicit governing. That makes it available both as explicit and as implicitly crossed.

For example, it helps to explicate the metaphysical forms that trap us — but not if we end by having nothing but those. We gain the advantage of explicating only if we don't lose the implicit, if we rejoin its implicit governing of our further moves.

The concepts I propose make sense only in and with how the implicit functions. So they explicate and also restore themselves to its functions. They are concepts about how the implicit functions — more intricately than patterns.

There is a way to say — we have been saying — how the implicit functions. The attempt to say is not foolish.

How the word "body" works in the .....:

We have been speaking of the implicit, (mood, understanding, situatedness, experience, bias, interest, practice, events, situations, the body .....). We could pursue how the conceptual patterns in each of these words change here. We could enter the implicit intricacy and arrive at better concepts. Let us do that with one of them, the word "body."

Of course the meaning of the word changes, if I say that the body provides the functions I listed? Now the body senses itself from inside, and that provides the new sense of the word (and the new sense of any newly used word.)

When I say that the implicit functions are bodily, the new sense of the word can explain what a ..... is, how the bodily ..... can know so much, how it can be more precise than we can say, and how it can perform the functions I listed. But then how "body" works here will also explain the word "explain" in a new way.

I have a long work on this topic. [4] I can send it on request. Here I will only sketch four concepts of such a body:

1. If moodily knowing the forgotten person is a bodily quality, then the body knows people and situations directly. Usually we [Page 34] don't say the body knows the situation; we say that we know it, and our bodies only react to what we know. Of course they do react to what we think, but not only to that. Our bodies know (feel, project, entwerfen, are, imply .....) our situations directly.

This implicit function can change our concept of the simpler organisms. How shall we re-think all living bodies, so that one of those could be ours? Can we think that animal and plant-bodies know their situations?

Yes, we can. A plant lives in and with soil, air, and water, and it also makes itself of soil, air, and water. Now the word "is" also changes if we say: A living body is its environment. Similarly, the word "knows" changes if we say a living body "knows" its environment by being it.

Of course its environment is not just something lying there waiting to be photographed. Living bodies have the intentionality that Heidegger worked out between Dasein and world. As Dasein knows the world, the plant-body knows the air, soil, and water implied and crossed in its life process.

Now we can know and understand how it is possible to know and understand by being the moody understanding. The ..... knows by being our living-in our situation.

Let us set up this concept: We have situational bodies.

2. The body's being-knowing is not something spread out before the body. It is not a percept. This knowing is not perception. If a plant-body could sense itself, it would sense its environment in sensing itself, quite without the five senses. It would sense itself expanding as water came in, and it would sense itself implying water when it is lacking. It would sense itself using the light in the photosynthesis that the plant-body is.

I speak of a plant because it doesn't have the five external senses. Those only elaborate how a living body is environmental interaction. The body is not behind a wall as if it could know the environment only through five peep holes.

Another concept: We humans have plant-bodies.

3. In Western science everything is passive, organized by externally imposed relations. A formalized "observer" connects and interrelates it all. But if we want to study the actual observers, we cannot attribute the interrelating to still another observer. Somewhere there is a self-organizing process. Let us say that a living body is a self-organizing processes.

With how a ..... implies we can say that all living body do their own implying of their next bit of life-process. A plant or animal body projects (entwirft, structures, organizes, enacts, expects, is ready to go into, implies .....) its own next step. The concept: A living body implies its own next step.

4. The next move of living that the human body implies is often something that we want to say. Speaking is a special case of further bodily living.

If we think of speaking that way, then the subtleties of language and situations do not float. Humans expedite their food-search partly by speaking. The plant absorbs from the ground; animals interpose food search between hunger and feeding. Behavior is a special case of body-process: Each bit of food-search is a special version of hunger implying the eventual consummation of feeding. But in animals the plant-body has been elaborated so that now it needs far more than food. Animals need each other, groom each other, pick each other's flees — and not only because the flees bite, but to comfort each other. Animal bodies imply many more bodily consummations than plants do, and we humans even more. Our interposed behavior no less than the animal's, carries a bodily implying forward. The body implies what we want to say and do.

Therefore the most sophisticated details of a linguistic situation can make our bodies uncomfortable. From such a discomfort the body can project (imply .....) new steps to deal with such a situation. Such a ..... can exceed and re-arrange the common phrases until we can speak from it. The body is not just an inferred pre-condition as Merleau-Ponty had it. Rather, our bodies perform the implicit functions essential to language.

That is why our next words just "come" from a body-sense of a situation which we need to change by speaking, just as hunger, orgasm, and sleep come in a bodily way, and just as food-search comes in an animal.

Let us set up this concept: Our bodies imply our linguistic and situational meanings, and can carry them forward.

Do these concepts explain the .....? But it is from and with the functions of the implicit that we have restructured the concepts. These functions continue to exceed these concepts.

Can we re-establish the openness?

It will always be a vital human power to take patterns as patterns, purely logically. Then the role of the implicit is not attended to. But the logical taking is an implicit function.

We cannot think only with conceptual patterns, nor without them. It is not a calamity that thinking does not enclose and is always situated. It is not the end of philosophy. Nor is it cultural-historical relativism. What is implicitly crossed does not confine. Neither implicit concepts nor history, social class and our personal ways, no implicitly functioning determinants confine our next move to remain consistent with them. Nor, when they fail to enclose, do they leave us in limbo, or in a paradox of enclosing and not enclosing. The openness is not indeterminacy. It is more determinative than explicit forms.

What functions implicitly shapes the next move but in a way that can imply something quite new and more intricate than could follow consistently from any of the crossed determinants. Such a next move is anything but arbitrary; it may be so demandingly and precisely implied and so difficult to devise that it may not come at all. Still we prefer the pregnant openness to the easy moves.

Situatedness does differ individually and historically, but that does not mean there is no human nature. People who differ [Page 35] from us can make us understand them. Goethe said: One travels, then one brings home what is valuable from other cultures.

Dilthey said it more exactly than Goethe: "Anything human is in principle understandable." When we read, we understand authors better than they understood themselves, he said. Let us understand this better. Let us explicate it further than Dilthey did:

Cultural forms do not enclose. They are implicitly governed in the vastly more intricate crossing of bodily living.

Of course one can misunderstand a culture. But the "marginal" person who has lived in two cultures can accurately explicate each in ways that cannot be done from one culture alone.

To understand is not a mix or merger that partly distorts. If one does not understand a culture, statement, or text exactly, one misunderstands. No, we understand exactly. But to understand is an implicit function. Our own experience (history, events, situations .....) crosses with the text; they implicitly govern each other. With all that functioning implicitly, of course we can explicate in ways the author could not. But we also understand ourselves better than before, and in new ways.

When our personal experiences and historical determinants function implicitly, they do not confine. They do not limit our next steps to remain consistent with them, as explicit logical forms seem to do. What functions implicitly together is always already crossed.

In crossing each of the many is not just itself, and has never been just itself. As just itself each determinant would constrain everything subsequent to be consistent with itself. In crossing each is not itself but crossed and governed by the others. This explains the openness in spite of so many determinants. Indeed, since each undoes the enclosure of the others, the more determinants the more openness. [3]

Each of the many has already opened the enclosure of each of the others. The result is open for further crossing. This crossed openness for further crossing is a universal human nature. Human nature is beyond both rationalism and culturalism.

Now the word "nature" has changed to include the role of the implicit. We could pursue how this has changed the concepts that the word usually brings. To do it we would use more words whose schemes change. Each would say something new in and about how the implicit functions. There is no end to this.


[1] Heidegger, M. What is a Thing? (Die Frage Nach dem Ding)

[2] –––––Being and Time, Part 1, Chapter 5.

[3] Gendlin, E. T. Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning. New York: Free Press, Macmillan, 1962.

–––––"Thinking Beyond Patterns: Body, Language, and Situations." In The Presence of Feeling in Thought. Eds: B. den Ouden and M. Moen, New York: Peter Lang, 1992.

[4] –––––A Process Model. Unpublished manuscript.

ŠEugene T. Gendlin

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  • Biographic Note: Eugene T. Gendlin is a seminal American philosopher and psychologist. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Chicago and taught there from 1963 to 1995. His philosophical work is concerned especially with the relationship between logic and implicit intricacy. Philosophy books include Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning, Language Beyond Post-Modernism: Saying and Thinking in Gendlin's Philosophy edited by David Michael Levin, (fourteen commentaries and Gendlin’s replies), and A Process Model. There is a world wide network of applications and practices ( stemming from this philosophy. Gendlin has been honored three times by the American Psychological Association for his development of Experiential Psychotherapy. He was a founder and editor for many years of the Association’s Clinical Division Journal, Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice. His book Focusing has sold over half a million copies and has appeared in seventeen languages. His psychology-related books are Let Your Body Interpret Your Dreams and Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy.
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