Martin Bressani: You have written that “philosophers have so far only interpreted the world, in various ways, and that now the point is to ‘perceive’ it.” You then go on to say that “to describe
human experience atmospherically is not grasping ‘sense data’ and, only afterward or accidently, states of things, but it is instead being involved by things, or, even better, situations.” Do you mean to say that our perception of atmosphere precedes any moment of objectification or that it
replaces objectification altogether?
Tonino Griffero: In my “ecological” account of perception, I am deeply influenced by the neophenomenological externalization of affect (i.e., by a vigorous campaign against the epistemologically and commonsensically dominant introjectionist paradigm). According to the ordinary (i.e., objectifying, dualistic, introjective) paradigm, the human subject puts the five senses “on parole,” reducing them to suspect descriptors that cognition only ever allows to testify about external phenomena when the mind judges the world as an object. Conversely, the neophenomenological externalization of affect subjects us to a deep reconsideration of our explicit and implicit ontological background, thus making the “lived” space an acting subject.
A perceiver is not at first surrounded by things and situations that are devoid of meaning. Rather,
a perceiver is surrounded by things, and especially “quasi-things” (a genus that includes atmosphere as its emblematic species) and situations, always already affectively connoted.
This so-called demand or invitation character of our environment, understood as a lived space suggesting felt bodily tensions and expressive orientations, is based on a set of affordances (I extend here James Gibson’s concept in a more aesthetic than pragmatic sense) that don’t
completely change according to an actor’s need or intention. Spatialized feeling—what I call the “prototypic” atmosphere—is sometimes fully refractory to a more or less conscious attempt at a projective reinterpretation or reflective reductionism, thus generating an almost unavoidable felt bodily involvement in the perceiver and completely reorienting their mood, such as when, entering a building or coming to a group of people, their tense atmosphere can really challenge my inner calmness and undermine my mood. […]
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