Thursday, September 20, 2007

Alien Sense

Tengelyi's discussion of the experience of alterity is a little thin (The Wild Region, chapter 3). I would have liked to have read some description of how alterity is experienced, and what connection this has to the aleatory, to the surprising. (I note in passing that it's easy to profess an openness to the aleatory, but hard to practice.) Nevertheless Tengelyi presents a few ideas about the experience of alterity that are worth going over.

Can experience be owned? Taking direction from Merleau-Ponty, Tengelyi forgoes the Husserlian ownness reduction (which we have encountered before). He says flat out that no experience can be owned in its entirety (p. 100). He says that "one's own experience involves an otherness which is neither proper nor alien but is characterized by a 'strange encroachment,' 'reversibility,' or 'intertwining' of what is one's own and what remains foreign" (p. 102, Tengelyi's emphasis). This wild alterity of Tengelyi's presents a dilemma. If one's own experience involves an alterity, it is still one's own experience. How can we talk about its deconstruction (I mean this loosely) without talking it into existence?

Let's follow Tengelyi a little further into his argument. Still interpreting Merleau-Ponty, he says:

[T]he immediate experience one gains of the other in his or her bodily appearance presupposes an "intercorporeity" which, far from belonging to any "primordial sphere of ownness" is rather characterized by a "primordial anonymity" and is to be considered, therefore, as an entirely disowned, or dispossessed, "intermonde," an "intermundane space," a no-man's-land. Merleau-Ponty describes this intermonde as a "wild world" which–"behind or beneath the cleavage of our acquired culture"–is inhabited by a "wild Being."

(p. 103)

Do we own any experiences in common? Do we have a primordial sphere of our own own? On what basis is this not a question for phenomenology? I'm not happy with the thought that my own ownness and anonymity exhaust all the possibilities of owning experience, including possibilities of not owning experience. I wonder if the insight that we cannot experience the other person in her entirety hasn't led to a misconstrual of the experience of being with others.

Returning to the problem of how we interpret the appearance of other body's, Tengelyi endorses Levinas' idea that we see in the gestures of other bodies the expression of an alien sense "which proves to be irreducible to any sense bestowal based upon one's own experiences" (p. 110). Is the alien sense, however, reducible to a sense in the making? Perhaps. Tengelyi says that "the relationship between oneself and the other is embedded in the process of the emergence of sense rather than in the process of the unfolding of being" (p. 112). I would have expected at this point for Tengelyi to elaborate on his thinking of singularity. Although he does make a brief nod to the idea of positionality (p. 115), he doesn't develop the idea of singularity that was promised in the preface. We may conclude that for Tengelyi singularity is not an issue of the unfolding of being. Regarding the relationship between singularity and experience, however, I find it provocative that Tengelyi cannot avoid saying "one's own experience." The association of a sphere of anonymity with the disowned is problematical, because the disowned suggests a prior ownership. There may be a sense in which taking up a positional singularity requires a disowning of experience and the acknowledgement of an alien sense as well as a wild alterity within one's own experience. This is a problem that could be further explored.

Labels: , , , ,

posted by Fido the Yak at 9:06 AM.


Post a Comment

Fido the Yak front page