I've read in Langer's book on Mindfulness that very few people know what the imperative "pay attention" is really asking of them. And, in fact, attempting to focus our attention on one things with some sort of laser-like precision is really remarkably counter-productive.
I'm working on trying to figure out what sorts of responsibilities, if any, students have in the learning process and I've hit a snag. I don't know what it means to 'try.' I mean I get that if I'm sitting and looking at at hammer and nail that I am not actually tryng to hammer in the nail. But if I get the hammer, do something in the direction of the nail and someone says to me "you aren't trying" or "try harder," what does that mean? Seriously, if you told someone to 'try harder' and then responded with 'what does that mean?' How would you answer?
So, I, who have never, ever thought of myself as a phenomenologist find myself for the second time in the last few months trying to hunt down the "phenomenology of...." This time it's the "phenomenology of effort" and last time the "phenomenology of learning" but, seriously, I'm an analytically trained philosopher. Of course, one of my students who has taken classes with a faculty member who self-identifies as a phenomenologist (the faculty member, not the student) assures me that what I mean by "phenomenology" is not what phenomenologists mean by it. And, then I'm just, well, baffled.
It's possible that what I'm referring to as "phenomenology" (and I'd argue in a way that is a correct use of the word, even if not historically accurate) is what my analytic brethren call 'qualia' and I have no idea how phenomenologists use the term.
But, it turns out that there's a little (teensy - 8 citations via scholar.google) body of literature on this and it's typically involves the discussion of 'moral phenomenology.'
Anyway, back to figuring out what it means to try.
Well, I'm trying to learn from one of my idols, John Rawls, and instead of solving the problem try to avoid it. I think that what I've discussed above is interesting and worth discussing, but for my current purposes, I think I've figured out how to avoid the issue altogether. Phew.