Friday, January 12, 2007

The Givenness of the I

The equivalence between showing itself and giving itself is not a mere opinion according to Marion, but a "theoretical necessity" (p. 119). However, there is something that may be said to be given without appearing which Marion is not thinking at this point: the I. If one were to accept whole hog the argument in Reduction and Givenness that nothingness, which may stand in for the nonbeing of the I, appears in the existential mood of profound boredom, would this nullify the argument that I is given without appearing? In my mind this is far from settled.

Following Husserl ("Individual Being of every sort is, quite universally speaking, 'contingent' [zulfällig]," Ideas, § 2, translation modified by Marion's translator, Kosky), Marion elaborates three modes of the contigency of the phenomenon. Is is possible that the I appears in any of these modalities? First it will be useful to clarify what Marion means by contingency. He says:

Before meaning the mere opposite of the necessary, contingent says what touches me, what reaches me and therefore arrives to me (according to the Latin) or (according to the German) what "falls like that," therefore "falls upon me from above." The phenomenon appears to the degree to which first it goes, pushes, and extends as far as me (it becomes contiguous with me; it enters into contact with me) so as to then affect me (act on me, modify me). No phenomenon can appear without coming upon me, arriving to me, affecting me as an event that modifies my field (of vision, of knowledge, of life, it matters little here).

(Being Given, p. 125)

It seems that I (at least as me) will have to be a necessity rather than a contingency, notwithstanding Marion's objections to this kind of argument. Nevertheless, I will review Marion's three modes of contingency to see whether the I might be able to slip in as a contingency. Of the three modes of contingency, Marion says, "These three characteristics (arriving, for the known and subsistent object; coming upon me, for manipulable equipment; imposing itself on me, for habitual phenomena) define, schematically at least, the contingency of what appears insofar as it touches me" (p. 130). It's possible, I think, for the I to appear in any of these modes, but at the same time the I must already be there, as far as me, so to speak. It must be first given.

Still, might the I be essentially given in any of these modes of contingency? Of the three, the mode that pertains to habitual phenomena seems like the most interesting possibility. This can't really be consistent with Marion's analysis. Speaking of habitual phenomena, phenomena that impose themsleves upon me, Marion says:

These phenomena... share one exceptional property: I no longer remain simply outside them, as if faced with what is an object to me, at the distance of intentionality and manipulation; rather, they happen to me or arrive over me like what successively shelters me, embraces me, and distracts me–in short, imposes on me. I can enter and yield to them or withdraw and exit them; but in all cases I must inhabit them or (what amounts to the same thing) be exiled. On principle, I must habituate myself to them. I call these phenomena habitual phenomena. Habit does not mean that they function longer than the others (some of them are signalled by their brevity and incessant changing), but essentially that we must habituate ourselves to them. Habituating ourselves to them sometimes implies taking the time to accustom ourselves to them (thus renouncing having ourselves make them) and always finding the right attitude, the correct disposition, the hexis or the habitus that helps resist them, behave in relation to them, use them, eventually understand them.

(p. 130, emphasis Marion's)

If the I is not something already given prior to its being able to be given as phenomenon, is it then not precisely something that we come to inhabit (or, alternatively, come to be exiled from)? To be clear, this is not the reading Marion suggests. (I will keep you posted on how he finally comes to talk about the givenness of the I.) It's problematical because it's hard to think how the I could happen to me without my having already been there to begin with. The other alternative, however, is to admit that the I is not given as a phenomenon, and therefore Marion is incorrect to claim that giving itself and showing itself are equivalent. It's difficult, therefore, not to read Marion against Marion on this point.

Update. Marion does come out and say, following Husserl, that "Only the consciousness-region of the I makes an exception to contingency" (pp. 137-138). It must be concluded therefore, without doubt, that in Marion's analysis the I neither shows itself nor gives itself. Yet Marion will ask, "What would become of the subject if he were determined only according to givenness?" (p. 188). Hmm.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 1:42 PM.


Anonymous John said...

Please check out these essays on the presumption of being a separate "I".

January 17, 2007 7:39 PM  

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