Thursday, January 11, 2007

To: All/From: Santa

Marion asks, "Why not suppose that the gift–therefore exchange, the circulation of the given between giver and givee, return and response, loss and gain–can, once purified of its empirical blossoming, provide at least the outline of a noncausal, nonefficient, and finally nonmetaphysical model of givenness?" (p. 74). This seems like an interesting path to follow (without forgetting, although Marion appears not to recognize it, that it was Marion himself who saw in givenness an effect and therefore introduced the problem of causality in the first place).

Marion's purification of the gift is quite radical. He brackets out the giver, the givee, and the object given. Only this latter bracketing appears to be pretty straightforward. The bracketing of the giver takes place from the perspective of the givee, while the bracketing of the givee takes place from the perspective of the giver. It doesn't seem possible to me that both could be bracketed at once. I would conclude therefore that reciprocity is an issue for the phenomenology of the gift. Marion, however, sees this view as reflecting the natural attitude. Because he has bracketed out both the giver and the givee, he believes that reciprocity does not belong to the essence of the gift. "The gift is twice opposed to exchange," he writes (p. 113). "It excludes the reciprocity that the other demands. It is accomplished perfectly with the disappearance of one of its extremes (giver or givee), without which the other would become obsolete." I will leave it for other readers to decide how perfectly the gift is accomplished in the absence of either the giver or the givee. The problem is that Marion cannot accomplish both of his reductions without a certain reciprocity of viewpoints.

So why then, finally, does Marion view the gift as antithetical to the economy of exchange? Is it really in the nature of the gift not to be subject to reciprocities, which would render the gift impossible in Marion's reading? Or is it a question of prejudice against the economy of exchange that, however well buttressed by rational arguments, doesn't pertain to the phenomenon of the gift itself?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 11:48 AM.


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