Thursday, December 14, 2006

Other than Being?

Some snippets from Henry's reading of Maine de Biran:

The determination of the being of the ego by the internal structure of a mode of manifestation truly has an ontological meaning; the positing which it accomplishes is not of "some thing," of a "being" in the sense that common or philosophical thought undestands it, viz. the positing of a being, because this "some thing" is rather constituted by its "how" and by the internal structure of its mode of manifestation.

Thus the designation of the being of the ego as identical to that of subjectivity signifies that, for Maine de Biran, the ego is not a being.

(Philosophy and Phenomenology of the Body, p. 37.)

Henry will go further to say that the ego is not actually constituted. This is to be understood as a reading against Kant:

The category is identified in its original being with the very being of the ego; it is no longer possible for the latter to be a sort of object known by means of the category or constituted by it in any way whatever. The deduction has this primary consequence of tearing the being of the ego away from the sphere of transcendent being in general, which is always the product of a constitution. The ego, on the other hand, is not constituted, it cannot be so long as it is one in its being with the category, i.e. with the power of constitution in general, as long as it is itself such a power.

(p. 38.)

So the ego is not being, but it has ontological meaning, and Henry speaks of its "very being." Clearly Henry wants us to think of being in two different senses, one pertaining to the sphere of transcendence, the other pertaining to the sphere of absolute immanence. What about the question of the constitution of being? Is "constituted" to be taken in two different senses, or is this simply a contradiction?

One more passage:

The belonging of the categories to the sphere of the absolute immanence of subjectivity, which is also the sphere of the ego, leads us to the understanding of the fundamental relationship between the ego and ontological knowledge. Experience presupposes a condition of possibility which is ontological knowledge itself; the analysis of the categories is the bringing to light of the structure of this ontological knowledge. Philosophy begins with the questioning of such knowledge without which there would be nothing for us. But philosophy does not merit being called a first philosophy unless it takes this problematic as far as it can, and unless it deliberately takes up the task of determining in rigorous fashion the very being of ontological knowledge


(pp. 40-41.)

Recalling that Henry has already claimed that "experience is its own source," I now wonder whether Henry isn't talking about an inflected form of experience. Call it "experience on trial." Or maybe he simply contradicts himself. Or maybe I'm too oafish to appreciate his subtleties. In any case, it's going to be difficult for me to draw conclusions from his work.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 11:33 AM.


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