Monday, October 15, 2007

Silence

















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posted by Fido the Yak at 8:59 AM.

13 Comments:

Anonymous Yusef said...

I can be very dense, so if your intention here and in some of your other comments on the theme of "silence" are mainly for humor, please just overlook what I am saying: I find this a tad disturbing. I see it as perhaps a symptom of a growing discouragement. I have enjoyed your blog, and would like to see it continue. I feel, though, as if I may be seeing the first signs of fluff and snow and distortion on my screens - the signs my TV is about to go on the blink and be over and out.

October 15, 2007 6:13 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Think of it as an open thread with some silliness.

I do get discouraged but I don't intend to quit blogging. There are many, many books for me to read and comment about. I'm held back by time and to a lesser extent finances. For my own sanity I'd like to refrain from posting one day a week.

Now why do I need an open thread when I have so few readers? Wildly Paranthetical was musing about commenting on one of our discussions about repetition. Since I don't habitually check for comments on older posts, I thought it would be useful to offer a blank post for follow ups, and for people who might have something to say but don't want to post off topic.

October 15, 2007 7:49 PM  
Anonymous WildlyParenthetical said...

Ah, look at that! Now I'll have to come up with something profound before this silent space moves off the front page. But I'm very sleepy right now, so forgive... tomorrow, I promise :-) But thanks for the space; you're very generous to your slow and behind readers!!

October 16, 2007 7:14 AM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

It wasn't a profound silence so don't sweat it. We can talk about sedimentation or whatever whenever you feel like it.

October 16, 2007 8:12 AM  
Blogger Dylan Trigg said...

An open thread for posts in the past, those that have been swept from the page, is a nice idea. I wonder, though, would that mark the creation of an awkward silence, a silence determined by, if I can put it in all too familiar terms, a presence? For example, Merleau-Ponty writes of silence as being "alive with words." Can silence be a desire?

At any rate, I'm glad to hear you're not harbouring any thoughts of quitting (not that I was suspecting you to do so).

October 16, 2007 9:02 AM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

I didn't realize you felt a compulsion to post every day of the week. I only knew you were posting far more than I could keep up with. So the silence theme is really a way to ease and cushion the compulsion? : "The White Album".

October 16, 2007 10:07 AM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

A cushion is a good word for it, Yusef.

Dylan, I'll read your questions backwards. I recognize a desiring silence. The desire is twofold: a desire for silence, and a desire for words. I want to accomodate the other person through silence as well as make room for my own thoughts, and I want to be surprised by words, the words of others and my own words.

(BTW, have you been reading The Visible and the Invisible?) In Consciousness and the Acquisition of Language Merleau-Ponty says that listening never takes place in silence, because one is always anticipating and formulating responses. When I looked at that idea (here) I noted a contrary view of Max Picard's that speech is the resonance of silence. That view kind of resonates with Corradi Fiumara's ideas--both are after the turn Heideggerian, for what that's worth.

A silence determined by a presence? I think so. Is that so awkward? I thought it was kind of silly to announce a silence, so maybe that speaks to awkwardness.

October 16, 2007 11:33 AM  
Blogger Dylan Trigg said...

I have been reading "The Visible and the Invisible." Is it that obvious ;-)

"Consciousness and the Acquisition of Language" I have not yet read. But the thought about anticipation is familiar. I think Philip Glass would probably agree. The Max Picard book, incidentally, I have been trying to get a hold since Juhani Pallasmaa mentioned him in a lecture some months ago. I am very sympathetic to the notion of silence as a “resonance.” In both cases, there seems to be an emergence of silence as either a retroactive or pre-emptive gesture, which is interesting.

Well, I don’t necessarily mean awkward as the awkwardness of obligation and waiting. More the kind of awkwardness that always pushes silence beyond its immediate context. Perhaps there is a sense of responsibility in that. I wonder if silence without awkwardness can only ever be accidental, even imposed upon the listener?

October 16, 2007 1:47 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

I think I see the path from alive with words to a silence without awkwardness can only be accidental or even imposed. You should develop that.

I can't recall having read Picard's book all the way through, though strangely enough I found time to index a few ideas. I pick it up from time and tell myself I should read it. Someday. It's anything but edgy, but you will probably find something to enjoy in it.

October 16, 2007 3:43 PM  
Anonymous WildlyParenthetical said...

Okay, let me have a go at explaining what this post (sorry, bad at html) http://fidotheyak.blogspot.com/2007/08/against-repetition-habit.html prompted for me. I'm not really that familiar with Deleuze, but my interest is more around Merleau-Ponty, and particularly the feminist appropriations of his work.

Whilst he doesn't dwell on it too much in 'Phenomenology of Perception,' a bit of a glance at how Merleau-Ponty's work has been used demonstrates that the non-essentialist/non-biologically-determinist ways that he's been taken up have relied quite heavily on his idea of 'sedimentation.' He uses this word without (as far as I can remember) really defining what he means by it in POP, but it seems key to explaining why ways of being in the world are not simply in flux. In some sense, then, sedimentation becomes an entirely immanent, non-essentialist way of getting at how and why bodies tend to persist in the same way that they have. (To gesture towards the political import of this, the final chapter of POP demonstrates how and why particular 'bodily tolerances' are produced, and the key role they play in the maintenance of the status quo as well as the possibility of 'revolution,' because bodies that tolerate change are those that can be, in his rather existentialist terms, 'free').

Now a fair bit of my work is with critical disability studies, and this has provoked a sincere distrust of the incredibly diffuse deployment of the 'norm,' and the 'normative'. This made me wonder a bit about Merleau-Ponty's theorising of embodiment: I suspect that 'sedimentation' is reliant upon a conception of the norm. To be specific: in order to recognise experiences as sedimentary (as productive, we might say, of *habits* of being in the world), we must recognise certain experiences as the *same* in some way. My concern about this basically arose because I was discussing the ways that we embody (our relation to) norms of 'ability', when abruptly I thought that perhaps Merleau-Ponty constructs embodiment as *already* fundamentally premised on norms because sedimentation seems to be about taking a variety of experiences and 'averaging them out' in order to produce a habit. I imagine it sort of like a Venn diagram, with each new experience providing a new circle, yet the only bit that really matters for embodiment is the part that's sedimented: where all the circles intersect. *That* is the part that 'matters' because it creates habituation in my styles of being in the world.

Forgive me if this is unformed (if it was a post I'd be thinking 'yes, that one can sit as a draft for a while, marinating!') In relation to the parts of Deleuze you cite in the above post, he suggests that 'probability' (obviously related to the kind of statistical conception of the norm I'm working with(/against?)), although I'm not that great on my Deleuze-comprehension, it would seem that he would have a similar concern; the bit of each experience that matters is that which is, in some sense, recognised as 'the same,' the bits that make this second experience a repetition of the first. Yet as Deleuze would want to point out (I think?), no repetition is *merely* repetition; there's always a difference.

And so I'm wondering why it is that embodiment, at least as theorised by Merleau-Ponty (in the thoroughly constructionist sense I understand him in, which I know is not other people's reading, necessarily), *requires* a sense of 'sameness,' one which depends upon excising difference (at least to some degree; I'd say it's impossible to excise it absolutely). Why is embodiment, and embodied subjectivity, primarily premised upon seeing sameness, and upon producing norms and experiences/perceptions of the normal?

Is the norm not merely *content* embodied, but the *form* of that embodiment (not that these two can be entirely separated)? And if I'm right about this, does this mean that challenges to norms and normative, probabilistic experience are almost impossible? (This concerns me because it would seem to shape our ability to be ethical in relation to those who are different to us; more about that and disability stuff over at mine sometime soon). Or is there, alternatively, a way of understanding embodiment that gives weight to difference?

Am I making any sense? Don't feel, by the way, everyone, that I'm asking you to answer my questions; however much I wish someone would write my thesis for me some days ;-) these are just ideas I'm kicking round, and reading your stuff, Fido, on Deleuze, really made me catch my breath. Maybe Deleuze has given me the frame for my critique already! Any thoughts?

October 16, 2007 9:41 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

A lot of thoughts here.

Do you know Carol Bigwood's work? Her appropriation of Merleau-Ponty might be exactly the opposite of what you are talking about, but it would cover difference and embodiment. Does Iris Young (Throwing Like a Girl) deal with Merleau-Ponty? Sure she does. I recently bought Elizabeth Grosz's Volatile Bodies. Do you know that work? I'm interested in what feminist appropriations of Merleau-Ponty you have been reading. I think they should indicate whether embodiment can thought in a way that gives weight to difference.

When I first delved into the problems of sedimentation and habit many years ago I was also looking at Pierre Bourdieu's logic of practice. The problem of freedom then seemed to me a matter of acquiring (new) habits, and I still speak of assuefaction as if this were a good thing. My thinking has changed, and right now everything seems up in the air, including sedimentation, which I thought I understood. One inspiration of Merleau-Ponty's thinking about sedimentation may be Husserl's "Origins of Geometry" which was published in English in Crisis. Merleau-Ponty's lecture notes for that text have been published in Husserl at the Limits of Phenomenology which I have not yet read. I intend to follow this route in the year(s) ahead, which I expect will take me into the world of Ideas and Forms. I don't exactly recommend this path, but it might help explain why embodiment according to Merleau-Ponty might seem to be premised on seeing sameness and might be related to a production of the normal. (The other side of that would be something like factual freedom, I guess). In my opinion, it's not the body but the phenomenology that makes it hard to focus on difference. I see the various phenomenologies of the body as offering vital critiques of an older way of doing phenomenology. The thematization of difference is a whole nother ball of wax.

The later Deleuze of Difference and Repitition would argue that genuine repetition is not the naked repetition of the same but the clothed repetition of difference. In the early text of Epiricism and Subjectivity I believe that the germ of this idea is present when he says, "Repetition becomes a progression, or even a production, when we no longer see it in relation to the objects repeated, because, if we do, it changes, discovers and produces nothing." He is heading towards two concepts of repetition, and an appreciation of difference, but it will take some time to get there. At the very least Difference and Repetition might inspire directions for critique, so you should look into it.

I take it you are interested in the social construction of disability. I'll tell you why that looks like an interesting problem for a phenomenology of the body. In Phenomenology Merleau-Ponty is looking at consciousness as an "I can." The body becomes critical to understanding this recentering of the problem of consciousness. Is the norm the form of embodiment? There's something very comfortable in having one's body conform to norms, and thus the liberty of deciding on forms of embodiment disguises real inequalities. I do think some things are deeply ingrained, but as long as we live we have a capability of doing things differently, of changing our habits. This is why I think there is some truth to the expression "differently abled." There is also some truth to the word "disabled." I can imagine that there's some trauma associated with being forced to change one's routines due to a loss of abilites one formerly had, and a sense of the horizons of possibility closing in. This feeling is different than the feeling of being outside the normal, which can be oppressive and may or may not feed into a sense of being traumatized or simply hurt.

Now we can see that an expansive realm of our Western culture seems to be constructed (or sedimented) around ideal body types and this is a source of inequality and oppression. Not only are there ineqaulites between the recognizable types of bodies, but we experience our bodies differently in relation to types. A philosophy that sees in the body any kind of universal experience may thus appear irrelevant. There is therefore a challenge to make it relevant, for instance by reexamining ability, construction, sedimentation, difference, or the relation to objectifications, because there is also some critical value to saying, "I am a real, sensuous body." I think in the Phenomenology there is already a sense that one's body is different from the objectification of the body and this can be a starting point for a critical engagement with forms of oppression. But you surely know the text much better than I do at this point. I plan to reread it soon, so hopefully I will be able to rethink the problem of sedimentation and keep up with your work.

At this juncture I cautiously suggest that sedimentation relies upon the "and so on," which involves sameness but more along the lines of an Idea than a norm. You might look at Derrida's Speech and Phenomena because he notices the importance of repetition in Husserl's thinking, and he takes it up into his own thinking. (My comment is (here, skip the first paragraph, it's silly.) In my opinion Derrida does not radically think repetition. Look to Deleuze for starting down that road.

October 17, 2007 12:05 PM  
Anonymous WildlyParenthetical said...

Interesting response, thanks, Fido :-) Actually, Liz Grosz is an Aussie export, and kinda the poster-girl of 'corporeal feminism' which seemed to be strongly influenced by Australian feminist thinkers. The intriguing thing is that when I'm talking about certain thinkers relying upon sedimentation as a kind of reasonably static but still changeable state, without demonstrating much awareness of the conception of the norm that might be sneaking in the back door in relation to it, it's appropriations like hers that I'm thinking of. It's been a good long while since I've gone back to 'Volatile Bodies,' but nonetheless, I'm not sure that Grosz's focus on difference means that she is aware of this question... which is precisely what I find troubling; but I should take another look.

The reason I'm interested in this particularly in relation to disability is because the norm is so strictly and, I think, increasingly narrowly defined, and informs so much of what we already do in the world. My concern is that, although many scholars use Merleau-Ponty to demonstrate the contingency of embodiment in relation to norms, if what I'm thinking is right, then the conservation of the structural influence of the norm is occurring in and through the conceptualisation of the processes of embodiment, even when there are folks arguing that we could embody differently. That is, they suggest we could embody different relations, for example, but always understand that as occurring *within* the context of an embodiment reliant upon the norm. So my concern is that if we need to deconstruct the norm in order to trouble the constitution of ability/disability, normal/abnormal etc, and think that embodying different relations to difference, this is good and fine and something I'd be interested in. But if we reiterate the norm in the *processes* we think produce embodiment, then that, too, needs deconstructing. Yes; the norm sneaking back in the backdoor after it's just been kicked out the front...

Could you say a little more about the Idea, maybe? I'm intrigued by this, for all that I'm also a bit distrustful of capitalised letters ;-) But of course, this is your silence, so if you wish to remain silent, far be it from me to require otherwise of you! (In the other words, don't feel like you have to respond!)

October 17, 2007 8:24 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

About the Idea. First I will give the proper link to the post about Derrida's argument in Speech and Phenomena because it is about the relationship between repetition and "ideality." Here is the gist. Derrida says:

"being is determined by Husserl as ideality, that is, as repetition. For Husserl, historical progress always has as its essential form the constitution of idealities whose repetition, and thus tradition, would be assured ad infinitum, where repetition and tradition are the transmission and reactivation of origins."

I think this is a keen insight into Husserl even if it's a little rough.

Merleau-Ponty appears not to be doing transcendental idealism, but he inherits some of its problems in the notion of sedimentation.

Deleuze capitalizes "Idea" with some humor, but I think there's also a meaningful agreement between his "reverse Platonism" and Platonism, so I capitalize it too when talking about these ideas. I capitalize "Idea" when talking about Husserl for similar reasons, with hopefully some humor as well.

I say "Idea" instead of "norm" because not all ideas are normative, not even all sedimented ideas are normative, though one finds norms in the realm of sedimented ideas. It may be that all processes of sedimentation are structuring, and in this way the norm sneaks in the back door as you say. But is this a fair interpretation of Merleau-Ponty? I don't know. It certainly looks like a fair argument on its own.

If you wanted to push it you might say that the phenomenological Idea, with its universality and its constituting power, is a normative conceptualization of ideas. But I'm really just getting started on the topic of phenomenological idealism so you will have to look elsewhere for a mature discussion.

Free variation. Kick sedimentation to the curb. Does Merleau-Ponty still have something useful to say about embodiment?

I'm wondering what you mean by the processes that produce embodiment.

October 18, 2007 10:39 AM  

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