Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The How of Givenness

Renaud Barbaras' Desire and Distance affords me the opportunity to re-explore the problem of givenness that I first encountered through Marion's works. Barbaras points to the section in Husserl's The Crisis of European Sciences that falls under the heading "the universal a priori of correlation between the object of experience and its modes of givenness" (Crisis, § 46). Barbaras draws a conclusion from Husserl: "Every being is the index of a subjective system of correlation, which signifies that any person imaginable can access being as such only through subjective data; the absolute character of being, in the sense that it is what relies on itself, does not from an alternative with the fact that its modes of access are relative to a finite subject" (Desire and Distance, p. 4). The key to following Barbaras' interpretation here is the idea of the finite subject. Husserl's meaning in this section is not entirely clear to me. He seems to be saying that givenness is tied to presence, and that this can only have meaning for a being of some temporal depth. He says:

Perception is related only to the present. But this present is always meant as having an endless past behind it and an open future before it. We soon see that we need the intentional analysis of recollection as the orginal manner of being conscious of the past; but we also see that such an analysis presupposes in principle that of perception, since memory, curiously enough, implies having-perceived. If we consider perception abstractly, by itself, we find its intentional accomplishment to be presentation, making something present: the object gives itself as "there," originally there, present. But in this presence, as that of an extended and enduring object, lies a continuity of what I am still conscious of, what has flowed away and is no longer intuited at all, a continuity of "retentions"–and, in the other direction, a continuity of "protentions." Yet this is not, like memory in the usual sense of intuitive "recollection," a phenomenon which openly, so to speak, plays a part in object- and world-apperception. And thus the different modes of presentification in general enter into the universal investigation we are undertaking here, namely, that of inquiring consistently and exclusively after the how of the world's manner of givenness, its open or implicit "intentionalities."

(Crisis, p. 160, emphases Husserl's)

If Barbaras is justified in regarding the problem of the hermeneutic circle as secondary to the problem of the reality of perception, he still leaves open a problem of how givenness is interepreted, and what kind of being is subject to givenness. Is a temporal being, a finite subject, necessarily a being who interprets? Do we need to understand interpretation as something multilayered? Is the finding of meaning limited to subject-object relations, or can we see in our experience a kind of raw givenness that we interpret in a way other than the way we interpret objects?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 10:55 AM.


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