Friday, December 29, 2006

Encounter with Being

Marion asks, "Would the displacement of phenomenology from beings to (the) Being (of beings) coincide with its displacement from the 'mere phenomena' to their phenomenality?" (Reduction and Givenness, p. 46). Marion puts off answering the question immediately, but already it seems he has tipped the scales by asking whether ontology is about being (Husserl) or the Being of being and its mode of encounter (Heidegger). I'm not totally following Marion on this point. Supposing ontology could be about the mode of encounter with being, does it then necessarily follow that one must speak of the Being of beings? Is the ontological difference at all warranted by phenomenology? I myself have already spoken against the ontological difference so the scales here are not perfectly balanced; nonetheless my prejudice could be poorly grounded, so I'd like to set it aside while I look into what kind of ontology if any is called for by the phenomenological reduction.

From the outset phenomelogy sets aside the problem of being. Instead of questioning whether phenomena really exist in some way other than phenomenally, phenomenology focuses on their manner of appearing. Surely there is a kind of existence claim being made for phenomena, but it is not clear that phenomena merit the name of being. If we were to call objects that appear to conciousness from within the epoché "beings," it would have to be understood in a special sense, as a specifically phenomenological ontology. The claim of phenomenological ontology in this sense would be weaker than the claim made by ontology proper because it is only to or for consciousness that phenomenology posits the existence of something.

Phenomenology also entails another kind of existence claim: the transcendental ego must necessarily exist. The transendental ego is not apparent in the same way that the objects of consciousness are apparent. Therefore, if one wishes to speak phenomenologically of the being of the transcendental ego and one has already spoken of the being of phenomena, another designation, "Being," seems to be warranted. Furthermore, the expression "Being of beings" captures the essence of the relationship between the two designations of being.

Against this line of reasoning I wonder whether it was necessary to identify phenomena with being in the first place. That leaves open the question of the mode of encounter with being. Can this be pursued phenomologically without introducing an ontological difference? I'm not sure. What do we make of the existence of the transcendental ego, and how we do begin to describe the encounter with being?

Labels: , , , , ,

posted by Fido the Yak at 11:21 AM.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can you really have an encounter with being??
The question is absurd!!

December 30, 2006 3:02 AM  
Anonymous John said...

Hi, Im from Melbourne. Marion has some interesting things to say but he is inherently limited by his Christian presumptions about what is True, Real & Possible. Presumptions which PREVENT him from actually REALIZING what he is talking about. He is just very clever at playing the left brained word games of western philosophy and theology.
By contrast these essays etc are written by a being who has REALIZED everything what he is talking about. Please check out:

December 30, 2006 3:10 AM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

John, Reduction and Givenness is one of Marion's philosophical works. Its limits are primarily those of phenomenology and Marion's readings of Husserl and Heidegger. There is some brief mention of Christian theology in a later chapter, but as far as I've read the questions Marion poses are purely philosophical and don't require any set of religious beliefs in order to be engaged. I think you've intimated as much by saying that he doesn't realize what he's talking about. If I draw conclusions from Marion's work that differ from the conclusions he draws, I would consider that an acceptable way of reading philosophy.

Anonymous, by setting aside the question of what really exists you open yourself up to a new possibility of encountering what really exists, i.e. being. How does that really work? Has such an encounter actually been described? I think you would be well served to remain skeptical, though I disagree that the proposition is absurd.

December 30, 2006 10:34 AM  
Blogger Dylan Trigg said...

Unfortunately, these mystical-spam sites John points us to are concentrated pulp. A shame. Better to return to Husserl, possibly. I like the questions in this post, not least because I’m working with them myself. Though I have not read much Marion, yet. I think you’re right, if I’m reading you correctly, to question the first foothold of the phenomenology reduction as presupposing an existence claim. This would also seem to be the case where the articulation of phenomenology through language is concerned: does Husserl’s failure to attend to language establish a pre-formed position? This problem of language is evident in that you then approach this appearance by suspending the term “being.” How would a “special sense” ontologically differ, though? Your answer seems to be a provisional ontology, which I’m not sure is wholly tenable.

The presence, or remoteness of, of the transcendental ego is even more troubling. Transcendental ego as the Being of being: this certainly seems to be Husserl’s strategy. Can we do without the transcendental ego? Does the transcendental ego undermine or make possible a pure phenomenology? For Husserl, the epistemic coherence of phenomenology, including the notions of evidence and truth, seem to rely on the unifying hold of the transcendental ego. Also important to think of Husserl’s empirical ego as standing without its transcendental counterpart. The implications, at least for Husserl, would be a Humean concept of the self: a mere collection of parts, devoid of unity.

Your term “ontological difference” becomes pertinent here. Is this in relation to Husserl? Are we faced with a duality in Husserl (one perhaps similar to Schopenhauer’s discussion of the “better consciousness”?) Isn’t it rather that the empirical ego and the transcendental ego are a unity, forming what Husserl would term a parallelism? How could we evade phenomena-being relationship without the transcendental ego? And finally: I wonder if this provisional ontology which encounters the initial formation of appearances correlates with what remains after the phenomenological reduction is undertaken?

Happy New Year, incidentally.


December 31, 2006 12:28 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Dylan, on the subject of language, you may be interested in Marion's first chapter where he takes up Derrida's critique ("Speech and Phenomena") of Husserl's Logical Investigations. According to Marion, Derrida is right about a metaphysics of presence in Husserl but he is not radical enough in his critique. Marion says that in the Investigations "[p]resence is nevertheless not reduced to intuition, to the detriment of autonomous signification; presence triumphs as much in signification as in intuition" (p.34). Marion is a meticulous reader of Husserl and he makes sense to me, but I can't really vouch for him on this point since I haven't actually read the Logical Investigations. (It will be on my reading list sometime in 2007).

I'm not sure my provisional ontology is wholly tenable either. Neither am I sure whether an ontology is appropriate at all. Marion represents Husserl as opposed to phenomenological ontology, but he faults Husserl for failing to question givenness. This is the door Marion will use to explore being phenomonologically.

The "ontological difference" comes from a Heideggerian reading of Husserl. The duality in phenomenology I'm seeing concerns the difference between the phenomenal and the transcendental ego. I think you are right to point to another split between the transcendental ego and the empirical ego. Does this call for another designation from an ontology? Existence, perhaps? I'm not at a point of believing any of this is necessary, but neither am I sure that phenomenology doesn't really have to be about being. Sometime after I've done my homework I'll form an opinion about it.

Happy New Year to you, too.

December 31, 2006 2:49 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

I spoke too soon on the ontological difference. It's an idea I associate with Heidegger, but Marion in a footnote points to Husserl's Ideen §43, §42 in which Husserl talks about a principal difference of modes of givenness, §49, and §76 which talks about "this most radical of ontological differences [Seinsuntershciedungen]--being as Consciousness and being as it manifests itself in consciousness, transcendental being" (my English).

January 01, 2007 11:37 AM  
Blogger Dylan Trigg said...

Fido, thanks for the pointers. The Marion has been ordered. One note on your duality: is there a difference between the phenomenal and the empirical ego? The difference between the transcendental ego and the phenomenal ego is ontological, certainly. Husserl would insist on this.

Your subsequent reading of ontological difference is helpful in this respect. What is the relationship between givenness and Being? At one point in Ideas II (25), Husserl talks of the transcendental ego as involved in a “pole of identity” with the givenness of appearances. The transcendental ego brings together phenomena. The bringing together is parallel with givenness, where givenness refers to the apprehension of appearances.

In relation to the transcendental ego’s role of cohering, does the question of meaning therefore intercede in the difference between “being as Consciousness and being as it manifests itself in consciousness”? Otherwise, what is the relationship between the two modes?

I am rather puzzled over this, but working through it – slowly.

January 02, 2007 2:12 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Can I enter into the reduction with just a part of me, or must I necessarily drag my whole me into it? What becomes of my left foot once I step into the reduction? Does it just hang there, lifeless for all phenomenological intents and purposes? This is a problem I had with Henry's phenomenology of the body, because he insisted on this difference between the "absolute" ego and the transcendental ego, and I rather thought the point of the exercise should have been to make the transcendental ego less like a fiction and more like the real thing of being a thinker. This is my simplemindedness talking. I read the Cartesian Meditations and it made sense to me that Husserl should draw such a distinction, but I also came away with the sense that a problem of lived experience (called "intersubjectivity" in those lectures) had been unresolved, and this was the same problem in the Crisis, and I'm not sure whether Husserl ever precisely nailed it.

The relationship between Being and givenness? I'm still working on that one. Marion's answer is complicated, and goes through Heidegger--and I've yet to open his Being Given.

If the question of meaning does intercede, which seems reasonable to me, then perhaps Nancy is right. This is a problem of the "with."

January 02, 2007 3:09 PM  

Post a Comment

Fido the Yak front page