Sunday, August 12, 2007

Immanent-Transcendent to the Continuum

Kojima has gone Zen on me, which compels me to say that I'm as agnostic about Buddhisms as I am about theistic beliefs. However, I wouldn't want my agnosticism to get in the way of my enlightenment. I'll see if Kojima can't shed some light.

"[R]eligiousness," says Kojima, "means, in a specific sense, the immanent transcendence of the ego and of the world, but once these both have lost their common Being, religiousness is necessarily robbed of its ground, for the transcendence of religious intentions occurs only on the firm ground of this common Being" (Monad and Thou, p. 68). Kojima calls this common Being a "potential dimension of religiousness" (ibidem), implying that one can explore this ground philosophically without making a religious commitment.

It might be fair to say that for Kojima the lesson of Husserlian phenomenology is the discovery of life as the being of the ego. This focus on life is not without its problems, as Derrida has indicated. Kojima notes that in the Cartesian Meditations Husserl calls the stream of consciousness the "stream of life," and he notes further the many locutions about life ("original life," "transcendental life," "intentional life," "reflecting life") that Husserl employs; however, in his view Husserl never thematized life but rather treated it as self-evident (p. 72). Based on a quotation from an unpublished manuscript (EIII5), Kojima concludes that what Husserl means by life is a kind of will, something that founds the intentionality of consciousness. That is to say, according to Kojima's interpretation, Husserl grasps life in connection with objective recognition or perception. At the same time, Kojima argues, the life of the ego as such is not mediated by objective recognition or perception, but is an "immediate, nonreflective, living life" (p. 74). He wonders how this life can be thought, and he says that "life as ego can, in my opinion, be grasped only in its own space and time. That is to say, this ego can be grasped only in its original correlation with the world" (ibidem). The problem then becomes one of describing the spatiotemporality of the life of the ego which is irreducible to objective space and time. Kojima asks us to follow Husserl in mapping out a self-essential region to which belong "not only the immanent temporality of the stream of my experiences, but also the kinesthetic habituality of the ego and the spatial objects constituted by the ego," a region called the "monad" (ibidem).

"The spatial objects in my monad are correlated," Kojima summarizes Husserl's view, "not only through sensory perception but also through kinesthetic apperception of the incarnated ego, not unidirectionally but reciprocally, to my body as its only center" (p. 75). Husserlian temporality involves a now that, Kojima corrcetly notes, is not a punctual now, but a thick now with horizons of protention and retention, its thickness "originally constituted by the practical interest of the functioning ego" (ibidem). Kojima finds that in Husserl's "theory of space-constitution there is no argument concerning the temporal (self-accumulating) componets of the inner relating forces of the monad, while in his theory of time there is no argument that addresses the teleological manner of self-presencing of the monad," so he must therefore pursue this problem on his own (p. 76).

In spatiality Kojima discovers a phenomenon of depth. If three-dimensional space is constituted intersubjectively, that is, if the back of thing is understood as being the front of the thing for another (anonymous) person, we still do not know the being of the back, which can be grasped only from the inside of a thing. We intuit the being of a thing's back not by turning it around, but by going deeper into the core of thing.. The back designates the depth of a thing. "Everything present to the genuine individual ego as will has such a Being, namely, its depth" (p. 78). What does this mean for the life, for the being of the ego?

The Being of the ego is never to be grasped from outside, namely in objective space. The Being of the ego, which is to be grasped only from the inside, is nothing other than the will or life. However, we could also call it the (bodily) flesh (Leib), insofar as it is grasped as the nonobjectifiable starting point of praxis. The nonobjectifiable flesh as the practical starting point is my Being, which stands before and in the middle of the Being of things in the monad. My Being as flesh and the Being of things correlate with each other inseparably (I believe that the "inseparable" correlation of the ego and the constituted object in the Husserlian monad has its original source here). When I intuit one, the other is intuited at the same time. Therefore, we can say that both constitute a kind of ontological pairing. All the pairing has a common pole in my (bodily) flesh.

(p. 79)

Kojima's idea of ontological coupling raises, I think, rather than solves a problem of ontological difference. Of course he doesn't see the problem quite this way. He would have us attend to an "infinite" depth of being, a solitary being at home in vast spatial continuum, and he calls this space the genuine monad, the authentically "most primordial region in the Husserlian sense" (ibidem). My reading of this is that continuum may indeed be deep, but its depth is not infinite. That may be because my understanding of existence is naive. But let's proceed with Kojima's argument.

Kojima holds that the thickness of the present, like the size of the monad, is infinite. Furthermore:

[T]he definitive size of the monad and the definitive thickness of the present correspond to each other through the mediation of the kinesthesis of my life. However, it is also the case that without any practical teleology and without kinesthesis, the infinite size of the monad and the infinite thickness of the standing-present correspond to each other through the mediation of my Being as will. Here space and time are not separated from each other. Rather, they are two sides of one and the same matter. We have reached at last the original unity of the ego and the world, or that of space and time. We will call this unity the continuum of life, or the monad in the genuine sense.

(p. 80, Kojima's emphasis)

Well, we have here genuine monad said of two slightly different things, but perhaps that is a trifle. The key idea is that we identify life as being a continuum, and that we then identify this continuum with the monad. Kojima does not appear to be afraid of solipsism at this juncture; indeed, it's as if he thought the problem of solipsism were one of false beliefs rather than one of isolation, for he insists on the solitary nature of existence and the truth of the continuum (p. 81).

Now, here comes the Zen (which one might see impacting all of Kojima's thinking up to this point). Kojima says that Zen Buddhism "is not only transcendent to the continuum but is from the beginning also immanent to it. Zen is immanent-transcendent to the continuum" (p. 82). Immanence, it seems, has to do with the interpenetration of absolute, eternal present moments: the beings of the entire world, following Dogen, "are connected continuously and always live in an absolute present" (p 83). By transcendence, Kojima means transcendence towards the continuum of life. (I don't believe he's even minutely troubled by the circularity of a transcendence of where you are towards where you are, if that in fact is his meaning.) And yet, citing Suzuki's interpretation of the Kegon Sutra, he presents the idea that "infinite time is a moment, and a moment is infinite time; likewise a point is infinite space and infinite space is a point," or, more concretely, the universe is included in the tip of a paintbrush, or when we lift a finger we can cover the whole universe. He concludes from this:

Here we can see that immanence to the monadic continuum and transcendence of it onto the objective world are united. In other words, here the monadic ego identifies itself with a thing in thing and at the same time a monad. I am a corporeal thing and at the same time a monad. We must still pay attention to the fact that all things in the world are also granted their own monads. Absolute individuality is guaranteed to all things, not only to the human being.

(Ibidem, my emphasis)

This is a little unclear to me because Kojima really does say "transcence toward the continuum of life" and "transcendence of it [the monadic continuum] onto the objective world" all on the same page. I would like to question whether the former possibility presumes more harmony of wills than is evident in daily life. If I were to cover your universe with the tip of my finger I might expect you to protest.

I find it comforting to think that my philodendron has its own monad, but I don't think the rock can have a monad by Kojima's definition because I don't believe it has a continuum of life. I'm not sure that the rock has being like a living being, much less depth of being, and I think granting it monad status raises a problem of other monads (monad as other) that bleeds into Kojima's entire monadology. Can the depth (the continuum) of the other monad be transcended? Again, if I were to transcend your depth you might protest more vociferously than a rock. Kojima doesn't intend for us to question the transcendence of depth in this way, but I think the question arises from his approach. Of course it's possible that in raising such questions I am grossly misunderstanding what Kojima is getting at.

Zen Buddhism appears to be helpful if the problem is to find one's place in the universe, and yet if the real problems of living are narrower, such as how to live with others, I'm not sure Zen is very useful. Kojima himself does seem aware of this problem, but his formulation of it is awkward. He asks, "What would a religiousness be like that transcends the immanence of the continuum not onto the thing in general but onto the human, who, unlike the things, casts a free gaze out of itself" (p. 84)? I call this awkward in part because I don't believe the free gaze adequately sums up the problem of the other monad.

So if I reject Zen with its insight into rocks, what am I left with? I have a question of the "immanent transcendence of the ego and of the world," where these entities are considered cojoined in the monad, the continuum of life, and I have the possibility of considering this as a kind of bodily praxis. It follows, I think, that the body does not place limits on my transcendce, but rather enables it. So again I am led to question whether this continuum of life is truly infinite or whether it is in fact limited in any way, even if its depth might be unspecifiable as it is lived. (Is there a mathematical concept of infinity at play here? How can such a concept be squared with existence?)

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posted by Fido the Yak at 9:54 AM.


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