Thursday, September 13, 2007

Really Strange/Strangely Real

Tengelyi, following Marc Richir, speaks of vibrations of sense exhibiting a constant surplus of meaning, a boundless multitude that can be referred to as apeiron (The Wild Sense, pp. 80-81). Presumably then Tengelyi would translate apeiron as "infinite." However, he says that the most significant characteristic of newly emerging shards of sense is their undecidedness (p. 85). What sort of temporality does the indefiniteness of sense in the making imply? Tengelyi reviews Husserl's idea of the primal impression as presented in the Vorlesungen zur Phänomenologie des inneren Zeitbewußtseins, and as interpreted by Emanuel Levinas and Michel Henry. (See Dylan Trigg's post here for a quick visualization of Husserl's analysis). Tengelyi is concerned with the primal impression's strangeness to consciousness, and its quality of initiality. In his interpretation of Husserl's analysis of temporality the quality of initiality is evident in the primal impression's disruption of "the order of time organized by intentionalities" (p. 59).

The time of the reality which becomes available as a destinal event gets unfolded along the lines of the conflict between. . . the retrospective and the progessive temporalization. Consequently, this reality appears as present which has never been future, since only after this reality has commenced and has thwarted the previous expectations do the expectations start to take any shape at all–those expectations which are able to harmonize with it.

(p. 84, Tengelyi's emphases)

In a similar vein, he argues that if time is determined by intertwinement of the exigency of the past and the promise of the future, Marc Richir's chiasmus of retention and protention, then a third thread must be added: the belief that reality may at any time rip up the texture of intentional time, creating a space for a present that has never been future because it conforms to neither exigency nor promise, but precisely thwarts. This belief is an "empty horizon" that, when a destinal event takes place, "will be rich in premonitions which can be grasped in their reminiscences" (p. 88).

So what does Tengelyi mean by "destinal event"? He also describes this as a radical turn in life history. I wonder if "critical event" wouldn't capture his meaning, but he means to understand the destinal event in terms of a process of sense formation and its temporality. The "radical turn" or "destinal event" in life history "designates a sense formation which starts by itself, takes place without any control, as if it happened "underground," creating, simultaneously, a new beginning in life-history" (p. 81, my lack of emphasis). Sense formation creates a new beginning in life history by shaking or shattering "the dominant sense fixations which carry our self-identity, thereby giving rise to a split in the self, while, simultaneously, it makes a new sense available, which in turn will make it possible to anchor self-identity anew" (p. 82, Tengelyi's emphases). Not every event of sense is capable of shattering a dominant sense fixation. To become a destinal event a new sense must cross a certain threshold of difference (p. 88). It must be not merely strange, but really strange.

I had begun to think, clumsily, that possibility was contained in practice. Another way of approaching the problem is to say that possibility is contained within the real, or, perhaps, that the real exceeds its possibility. Following Levinas, we can ask whether a reality that precedes every protention (a present that was never future) also precedes its possibility. Reality here is meant in a special sense. We might call it the strangely real.

The "real" (le réel): it is by no means accidental that this word is put between quotation marks. The "real" is not talked about in the sense of an ordinary realism. Primal impression proves to be "primal source," "primal generation," or "primal creation" insofar as it gains significance and prevails in opposition to the "spontaneity" of the intentionality of consciousness constituting time. This "in opposition" does not only express a kind of contrast but a belonging together as well. What is real for us is real in consciousness. Husserl is right: the idea of a reality independent of consciousness is the product of a mere abstraction, or even of our forgetting about ourselves. Yet he is still not right: consciousness reveals a reality which prevails in opposition to the interplay of the intentions of consciousness, thwarting all expectations, countering all designs, "preceding and surprising the possible"; in consciousness–to put it in another way–such a reality gets organized whcih declares its independence from consciousness in this very consciousness itself.

(p. 72, Tengelyi's emphases)

When Tengelyi speaks of the initiality and the undecideness of the really strange sense (my words) being submerged, buried or pushed aside, I can't help but think of the traumatic experience and the psychological strategies for coping with trauma. Tengelyi means, however, to emphasize the other side, as it were, of the newly emerged sense, the side that is met with initiative, undertaking and adventure. The to be open to the really strange in experience is to be ready for adventure, to be open to allowing one's fixations of sense to be shattered. Why not go the distance and claim that reality is strange, staking out an extraordinary realism of the undecided?

Husserl says that "where there is a new experience a new science must arise." Perhaps the really strange–I hesitate to say the impossibly strange–rather calls for a poetics; however, the estrangement of the real from the subject of sense formation suggests yet another approach may be necessary. We'll see whether Tengelyi's diacritical method of phenomenology sheds any light on the strangely real when we tackle his thinking on the experience of alterity.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 8:17 AM.


Blogger Dylan Trigg said...

Reading through your Tengelyi commentaries with much interest. Looking forward to the book arriving, so I can engage somewhat dialogically.

September 13, 2007 12:37 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Maybe I'll slow down a bit before posting about the next two chapters. If Kristeva's Powers of Horror arrives soon I may be engaging you on abjection.

September 13, 2007 1:00 PM  
Blogger Dylan Trigg said...

Well, I need to finally get going on this section on Marion, trauma, and givenness (currently moving house, so somewhat beind), otherwise I'll lose the thread. So don't slow down on my account, but Tengelyi is a priority.

September 13, 2007 2:12 PM  

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