Thursday, October 25, 2007

Called to Chaos

At the edge of phenomenological visibility, Patočka finds, there is a "dialectical visibility," a relation between clarity and obscurity that is not one of abstract negation (Introduction, p. 133). Patočka's riff on obscurity leads him in a Heideggerian direction.

Still, this dependence [on facticity] and incompleteness of that uncovering of the world, unfolding in time in us in a historical social aggregate, need not be understood as something purely negative. That neither the world nor our I can be rendered perfectly transparent has also the positive side that both the world and humans belong to each other so inseparably that a separation of these beings or even of some of their aspects–for instance, of the subjectivity of the human subject–is unthinkable. If the subjectivity of the subject is expressed as a nunc stans, as I in a constant, stable moment, then the subject must constantly objectify itself, transforming itself into an object, if it is to exist as a subject, and that ultimately means, if we look at all the implications of internal time consciousness, that it must become incarnate, that it must be the subjectivity of a corporeal subject.

(pp. 134-135)

Barbaras, I recall, says, "It is not because one is incarnated that one has a point of view on the world; rather, it is because the essence of phenomenality implies that the subject to whom the world appears be inscribed in it that one is incarnated. One's inscription in the world, which is realized as a body, is merely the consequence of the structure of any manifestation's constitutive belonging" (Desire and Distance, pp. 70-71). The inspiration for the idea may have been Patočka, but Patočka's argument has in it an extra step, the expression of the subject's subjectivity in the standing present. It's a curious argument about embodiment in either case, but if we can separate the subject from the body analytically then perhaps we can just as easily put them back together in this way, with the subject being called to embodiment by the world, or perhaps called to the world through its embodiment. Patočka continues:

This necessity, however, is twofold. It means on the one hand that only that being can be a subject which in a precisely definite, phenomenologically describable mode functions in a corporeity which it governs and animates. On the other hand, however, this fact of functioning in a body and in a world, without which subjectivity itself is impossible, means something more–it means that subjectivity is called to the world. Subjectivity depends on the world, it itself demands the world. We know, however, that subjectivity is in its eidetic nature the clarity, the uncoveredness of the world. The calling of subjectivity to the world may imply the incompleteness of that clarity, but also the "call of the world" to subjectivity, call to clarity. The order of the world is not a mere objectival order, it is not in things and in the way they present themselves to us, as simply given, rather, this order reveals itself, appears and is extended and deepened in its uncovering. The order of the world is not just a unidirectional mirroring but rather a dependence on mutual encounter, on a deeper appropriation in the context of what was originally uncovered inauthentically, as well as an authentic encounter with what there is.

Thus human incarnation and worldliness are accompanied by a call to what is not given but must be uncovered, discovered, revealed in a deeper mode. The uncovering and the revealing of the world and of things in the world remains irreducible to the objective aspect of the world. This means that incarnate being is free with respect to the world, that it is not forced to accept it as finished, as it presents itself, but can also become aware how immensely it transcends everything given in that extreme distance which Husserl elaborated in the epoché. For the epoché is nothing other than discovery of the freedom of the subject which is manifested in all transcendence, most of all in temporal, presentational transcendence–in our living in principle in horizons which first bestow full meaning on the present and that, in the words of the thinker, we are beings of the far reaches.

(p. 135)

Would a chaosmos be capable of yielding a dialectic of clarity and obscurity, or any kind of dialectic? Chaos may be too abstract a way of thinking about the chaotic, but it may be a necessary step in the critique of the ordered world. It hasn't escaped me that Patočka approaches the obscure from the Visible, and the pursuit of clarity defines the exploration's mission and its horizons. It's horizons don't spring out of chaos. But what if they did? What if, for example, freedom freely partakes of the chaotic?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 3:26 PM.


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