Sunday, December 17, 2006

Spontaneity and Habit

Henry's phenomenological body is both spontaneity and habit: spontaneity insofar as it is absolute subjectivity, and habit insofar as is it a power of repetition. It is also memory, but memory of a peculiar kind: "it is because the body is memory, a memory, it is true, where the idea of the past does not yet arise, that it can also be a memory which remembers the past by making it the theme of its thought. The original memory of our body is habit, our body is, as we have said, the totality of our habits" (Philosophy and Phenomenology of the Body, p. 101). For Henry, habit means the "real and concrete being of the ontological possibility." He says, "With regard to the world, it is the terminus of all our habits, and it is in this sense that we are truly its inhabitants. To inhabit, to frequent the world, such is the fact of human reality" (p. 96). (NB: I think "terminus" here has a specifically Biranian meaning.)

To frequent the world. Hmm. Here's a thesis that may clarify exacly where Henry is coming from: "Things are never present to the body in an experience which would bear within it the characteristic of having to be unique; rather they are always given to us as something which we will see again" (pp. 95-96). Always? That seems a little iffy. It does seem, though, to be the nature of the habitual.

One consequence of Henry's radical present, the realm of pure possibility, is that the faculty of assuefaction, to use Grassi's language, does not appear to be a problem for him. Habit is only ontological possibility, and the question of the acquisition of habits is neither here nor there.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 10:56 AM.


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