Monday, October 01, 2007

Pensiero Fortissimo

Corradi Fiumara sides with pensiero debole ("weak thought") without acknowledging its weakness. She says that "the qualities of attention, tenacity, patience, respect, resilience, rigour and farsightedness that contribute to the development of 'weak' thinking constitute a way of relating that is based upon strength" (The Other Side of Language, p. 71). The real target of criticism, she contends, is not "strong" thinking but power, and she holds that the body of knowledge associated with power and violence is in fact quite fragile (pp. 68-69). So what would it mean to recover the "strength of the listening word" (p. 64)?

Logomachical culture chains us to dilemmas, enchantments and perversions that we can't cut loose from by means of alternative disourses. It would be utopian, Corradi Fiumara argues, to expect those who wield discursive power to disarm themselves and listen to those who yearn for a different kind of "noetic coexistence"; the best that can be hoped for in the culture of the deaf logos is a political turn-taking (p. 53). And yet she does hold out hope that proper hearing "might perhaps induce an evolutionary transformation in the coexistence of philosophical schools" (p. 54). On the one hand Corradi Fiumara says that the logos is speaking and hearing together, and on the other hand she is not proposing a discursive formation that would supplant other discursive formations. She says quite clearly, "No tradition of listening could be identified that draws upon or belongs within a specific institutionalized community" (p. 67). It's as if she were proposing an accomodation with discourses that didn't fall prey to their enchantements and their violence. She says that a force is released in listening that cannot be converted to a power without disappearing (p. 61).

"A listening atmosphere is not improvised," Corradi Fiumara says. "It is, on the contrary, the product of a strenuous process of conception, growth and devoted attention" (p. 60). When I say "improvisation" I mean a strenuous process of conception, development and devoted attention, but I take her point. She means that we need to cultivate a thinking that can sustain "the innovative concreteness of experience. Some of the myths that sustain culture can only be disenchanted by a way of thinking that may draw upon the source of its own strength, not so much in the form of an introspective isolation as in a solidarity of reciprocities that will allow for authentic listening" (ibidem, Corradi Fiumara's emphasis). She wants us to do away with the myth that the listener is stupid, unable to wield discourse and therefore unworthy of reciprocity. We have an ethical obligation not only to those who say something to us, but to those who listen (pp. 61-62). The figure of the unenchanted listener appears rather heroic in Corradi Fiumara's critique, and yet the unenchanted listener is not a solitary hero. The listener "is not isolated in the sense that he is connected once again to a network of vivid, moving and complex dynamics" (p. 61).

So I am back to the question of Corradi Fiumara's utopianism, such as it is. She doesn't offer an alternative discursive formation, or an ideal intellectual community. She does though hint at an alternative to Western culture, one that doesn't confuse strength and power, and recovers, in listening, "the primal vicissitudes of thinking" (p. 64). Since this is not a question of the introspective individual, how then do we cultivate a common attitude of listening outside of any cultural institution? Do we throw every new thinker back on the primal vicissitudes of thinking without calling therefore for an exclusion of the thinker or the vicissitudinous? Can we have a culture without institutions? I'm not sure that's what Corradi Fiumara is suggesting, but the question arises.

Labels: , ,

posted by Fido the Yak at 10:43 AM.


Post a Comment

Fido the Yak front page