Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Metaphor as Praxis

Nancy argues in favor of the transcendence of freedom:

The freedom of existence to exist is existence itself in its "essence," insofar as existence is itself essence. This "essence" consists in being brought directly to this limit where the existent is only what it is in its transcendence. "Transcendence" itself is nothing other than the passage to the limit, not its attainment: it is the being-exposed at, on, and as the limit. Here the limit does not signify the arrested circumspection of a domain or figure, but signifies rather that the essence of existence consists in this being-taken-to-the-edge resulting from what has no "essence" that is enclosed and reserved in any immanence present to the interior of the border. That existsence is its own essence means that it has not "interiority," without, however, being "entirely in exteriority" (for example, in the way that Hegel's inorganic thing is). Existence keeps itself, "through its essence," on the undecidable limit of its own decision to exist. In this way, freedom belongs to existence not as a property, but as its fact, its factum rationis which can also be understood as "the fact of its reason for existing," which is similarly "the reason for the fact of its existence." Freedom is the transcendence of the self toward the self, or from the self to the self–which in no way excludes, but on the contrary requires, as we can henceforth clearly see, that the "self" not be understood as subjectivity, if subjectivity designates the relation of a substance to itself; and which requires at the same time, as we will show later, that this "self" only takes place according to a being-in-common of singularities.

(The Experience of Freedom, pp. 29-30, Nancy's emphasis)

Nancy's reconceptualization of transcendence would be interesting enough, but he adds a wrinkle.

[T]he very factuality of freedom is the very factuality of what is not done [fait], but which will be done–not in the sense of a project or plan that remains to be executed, but in the sense of that which in its very reality does not yet have the presence of its reality, and which must–but infinitely–deliver itself for reality. In this way existence is actually in the world. What remains "to be done" is not situated on the register of a poiesis, like a work whose schema would be given, but on the register of praxis, which "produces" only its own agent or actor and which would therefore more closely resemble the action of a schematization considered for itself.

(p. 31, Nancy's emphasis, my bold)

I am skeptical of the idea that freedom delivers itself infinitely for reality. This skepticism is related to doubts I have about Nancy's ideal understanding of praxis, and therefore also the distinction he draws between praxis and poiesis. Nancy cites as a source Book 1 of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, an august source, but perhaps not the best way to start to think the problem of praxis. The observation that praxis "produces" its own agent is a keen one; however, I feel that actual practices also produce "goods," and I feel that there is a surplus of production (of goods and of agency) that should be considered. It seems that praxis needs to be rescued from its friends, but I'm not sure that it's my feelings that aren't putting it in danger. In any event, the view that goods are more highly valued than than the practice which produces goods reflects an unexamined judgement rather than a deep appreciation of praxis. This is evident if we look at poiesis as a kind of praxis. There is a view according to which the poem is more valuable than the making of poetry, and yet there are contrary views according to which making poetry–and therefore making poets–and also reading poetry (aloud and/or in silence) are more highly valued than the poems themselves. Metaphor, the emblem of poetry in Western languages, is a passage to the bournes of meaning. As Ernesto Grassi would remind us, metaphor is a passionate journey. It is a way that language actually exists in the world, neither infinitely nor finitely, neither in isolation nor in exile, but at the bournes. The question I would raise, then, is whether the self that is reached towards but never grasped in the practice of metaphor–having some relation to the agency that metaphor engenders–exists passionately, and, if so, whether we can think its passions apart from a subjectivity or a process of subjectification. How can we think its freedom, the freedom appropriate to metaphor?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 10:26 AM.


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