Did you catch this story a few days ago? No…? While you can listen to the original, longer set of stories, listen to the brief weekend report:
The moral of the story?
Well, if you can look past the, shall we say, somewhat ironic fact that the authoritative brands of “NPR” and “TED” are telling you that the authority of brands is a figment of your cognitive processes, it seems to be confirming what a variety of scholars have long been arguing: experience (as in the experience of a fine wine or, say, the experience of the sacred) is not a private, pristine disposition that is only secondarily expressed or pushed outward into the world. Instead, the thing we call experience is a production, created through social interactions and sets of expectations.
Reports of experience are thus the tips of large, usually unspoken, unnoticed icebergs.
Well, if you take a news report like this seriously (and do you? Do you trust NPR? TED? Now that’s the question!), then reports of having had an experience — any sort of experience — are not passive descriptions of stable states of affairs in the world but are, instead, both evidence of a prior set of factors that made it possible to see the world in this or that way as well as one among many of the further factors that allow others to continue to see the world in this or that way.
The thing we call experience is therefore constituted and constitutive.
Either way, reports of experience turn out to be data in need of analysis rather than the starting point for action.