Monday, June 11, 2007

Desire and Nothingness

How can we experience nothingness? Or, better, perhaps, in what way is nothingness available to experience? Marion says that profound boredom is a way to experience nothingness. Trigg points to silence as a way nothingness can be experienced. Both Marion and Trigg, each in their own way, are reacting to Heidegger. Barbaras' discussion of nothingness confronts Husserl directly, drawing on Merleau-Ponty, Patoĉka, Granel, and Bergson (informed by Deleuze). Now, Barbaras says that "to desire is to focus on reality as absent, and it is therefore to refer to nonbeing as such" (Desire and Distance, p. 55); yet it is not altogether clear to me that Barbaras is saying that desire is a way to experience nothingness. He may be saying that nothingness can be felt and thought in ordinary perception, but not directly experienced. Or he may be saying something altogether different. Before I unpack this, I want to look at Barbaras' critique of Husserl.

Barbaras argues that Husserl's idea of the époché is undermined by a principle of sufficient reason, which, following Bergson, he views as a false problem. Asking why something exists rather than nothing, Barbaras says, presupposes "that nothingness can precede something, that being can emerge on the basis of nothingness, which is tantamount . . . to reversing purely and simply the respective ontological status of being and nothingness" (p. 48). This, according to Barbaras, is the root of essentialist thinking, which he regards as non-phenomenological.

The natural attitude is situated on a deeper level that Husserl himself understood it to be; it consists not in the thesis of "unique spatio-temporal reality" so much as in the implicit positing of a positive nothingness that leads one inevitably to conceive of this unique reality as an ensemble of objects. Therefore the époché, whose function is to clarify the status of the thesis of existence characteristic of the natural attitude, to elucidate the true meaning of the being of this unique reality, can consist only in a suspension of this naïve idea, which is to say, the positive thesis of nothingness. Otherwise stated, what makes the thesis of existence problematic is not the thesis of the existence of a world so much as the determination of this world as an object. The naïveté does not reside in one thinking that there is a world there, but rather in admitting that it is governed by a principle of absolute determinability and that it can therefore be attained as it is in itself. It is in the objectivist characterization of the world that the naïve opposition between the in-itself and for-itself, between being and appearance, is rooted. Furthermore, the purpose of the époché is to rejoin the thesis of the world in its purity, precisely as a thesis of existence; it is meant to grasp spontaneously the event of appearance before it is concealed by the appearing, to capture the the pure burst of "there is." This is why it must suspend what gives rise tot he degradation of this "there is" in in-self (or in object), namely the thesis of positive nothingness; it does not consist in suspension of thesis of existence but in suspension of what compromises the access to the meaning of this thesis of existence

(pp. 56-57, emphases Barbaras')

The nothingness of sufficient reason, Barbaras argues, "can in no way proceed from an experience" (p. 51). Again, he says that the idea of nothingness "can in no way be based on an experience, because there is always something, the flux of things, because fullness always follows upon fullness" (p. 52). And furthermore, "all experiences are experiences of something; the essence of experience implies the meeting with something real, however simple or indeterminate it may be, so that an experience that could refer to something other than what there is (to nonbeing) would not be an experience (it would unquestionably be something like a thought)" (p. 52). This isn't altogether unqeustionable in my mind. It's possible that thought is a subset of experience, rather than being something completely distinct. (And I note in passing that intentionality is indeed an aspect of Barbaras' phenomenology, though he is talking about experience instead of consciousness).

Citing Bergson, Barbaras breaks the idea of nothingness into two parts: an idea of substitution, and a feeling of desire or regret (p. 52). But, he says, "[n]othingness is in reality a mirage, in triparite sense that it assumes the horizon of perception, represents a reverse image of the real, and is the expression of a desire at the heart of reality that does not lend itself to it. It vanishes therefore when consciousness seeks to approach and thematize it" (p. 53). So far, he seems to be saying that desire refers to nonbeing as such, but that nonbeing cannot be thematized, and cannot be directly experienced. Does this make sense? Barbaras says, further, that "[i]f desire can indeed be reduced immediately to the confrontation between a positive feeling and a full reality, then taking into consideration desire's meaning reveals precisely a mode of negativity within things that does not provide an alternative to their presence" (p. 56). This brings us back to the idea of perception being given in adumbrations.

In Husserl's phenomenology, "givenness by adumbrations is like the arrested image of the very emergence of being against the backdrop of nothingness, the threat to being by nothingness. Adumbrations are located in an extremely rigorous way between being and nothingness" (p. 58, emphasis Barbaras'). Barabaras, however, gives a different reading to givenness by adumbrations. "In reality, the fact the adumbrations are situated between being and nothingness can be interpreted in an entirely different way: the adumbrations would reveal an original mode of being, one more profound than the crude distinction between positive being and negative nothingness, a being-at-a-distance" (p. 58).

So then, I'm unclear. Does desire point to nonbeing as such, an idea that comes from Barbaras' reading of Bergson, of does desire point to being-at-a-distance?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 9:42 AM.


Anonymous John said...

Hi, Its John again.

The only real way to say truly understand desire and no-thingness is to transcend the desiring/craving mind that creates "thingness" (separation) out of the Indivisible Unity of Conscious Light.

Once separation is presumed, desire ALWAYS seeks to close the gap between the seeming separate subject (or really objectified "self")and the never ending multitude of seemingly objective "things". You can study and philosophize about phenomenology until you are yawning with boredom or until your last death bed gasp---and none of will make the slightest difference to your always chronic act of separation and separative-ness.

All of philosophy is an attempt to understand, and bridge, this seeming gap, and to enter into the always already prior state of Radiant Consciousness.
None of it has ever worked or ever will work. The necessary price to pay for such to occur is a radical letting go of everything you presume or all the hedges between "you" and infinite being.

That can only occur via Divine Grace and your Heart response to that Grace

Please check out these two related references by and about Adi Da Samraj which very much relate to Desire and No-thingness.


The Image "The Pastimes of Narcissus" on the Biennale site sums up the inherent futility of all of the posible searches and "solutions" of Humankind.

June 12, 2007 2:43 AM  

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