Sunday, October 07, 2007

An Other Thought

I want to follow up on one of Nancy's ideas in a sober voice. He says that in the experience of freedom that is thinking as freedom, we know that in every thought there is an other thought, which is the burst of freedom (The Experience of Freedom, p. 59). This reminds me of Tengelyi's discussion of the wild sense, the spontaneously emerging shard of sense that appears as other than belonging to one's life history determined according to a retroactive fixation of sense. Dylan, who has begun reading Tengelyi's The Wild Sense, notes a difficulty in the distinction Tengelyi has drawn between singularity and self-identity. Nancy, of course, has had a few words to say about singularity, but so far his thinking is a little opaque to me. It's fair to say that his thinking about singularity is existential. Ex-istence, he says, "signifies simply the freedom of being, that is, the infinite inessentiality of its being-finite, which delivers it to the singularity wherein it is 'itself'" (p. 14, Nancy's emphasis). If we put these two ideas together, the argument would seem to be that singularity is given by that which is other in thought, an other that is not thought but that thinks thought itself. (This strikes me as a thinkerly way of approaching existential singularity) Nancy speaks of a hither side of difference: "a difference of being in itself, which would not simply convert being into difference and difference into being (since precisely this type of conversion between pure substances would become impossible), but which would be the difference of its existence, and in this existence, inasmuch as it is its own essence, the difference and division of its singularity" (ibidem). Nancy's singularity is tied to essence, and even though essence is understood existentially, it appears to be a markedly different approach than Tengelyi's. And yet Nancy speaks of the division of the singularity of existence. So far in this work he has not thematized plurality, but the idea seems to be nascent, presaging a dominant theme of Being Singular Plural. This idea of a division or a difference in singularity does not seem far from what Tengelyi means by the positionality of singularity, despite the noticable differences between their two approaches.

In the last decade or so the problem of singularity has been noticed in many corners, but the thoughts around it still appear to be inchoate. The later Nancy (along with Adriana Cavarero) insightfully conjoin the problem of uniqueness with the problem of plurality, and I believe this conjuncture is an implication of Tengelyi's approach as well. Of course Luce Irigaray deserves credit for treating plurality as an ontological problem, though her works are not cited by these other authors. (I mean to take up To Be Two again before too long). The question of finitude seems to be a problem for plurality; can a world consist of as many nows as it takes to make a world? I'm sure I'll be rereading Being Singular Plural again too.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 6:45 AM.


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