Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Eternal Return

As per Deleuze's advice I'm beginning Difference and Repetition with the conclusion. His exposition of the eternal return (pp. 297 ff.) confounds me because the idea conflicts with some of my basic beliefs, and yet if I examine my beliefs they appear to be contradictory, and perhaps not well suited to the problem of repetition.

In the first place I believe in mortality. Everything that lives also dies, everything that appears also vanishes, everything that goes also stops. I believe this is the way of all things. Everything is finite. I understand that some people don't believe that everything is finite, but as long as a person believes that some things are finite they will be in pretty much the same boat as I am, or at the very least have some way of understanding my predicament. The belief in mortality is hardly exceptional.

I wouldn't necessarily want to believe in eternity; however, my belief in the finality of death entails a notion of eternity. To be dead is to be dead for all time. Preliminarily, there are two ways in which my thinking about eternity diverges from Nietzsche's. Firstly, I don't believe the past is eternal. The Universe and time as we know it has a beginning (about 13.7 billion years ago), and every event that can be verifiably described as an event has taken place within this finite stretch of time since the event of the Universe's inception. Secondly, I am not sure about whether anything like eternity converges in the present moment. The notion of eternity that I must have to have in order to believe in the finality of death is not the kind of thing that can be experienced or that pertains to experience directly. There is no real merger of the present moment into the eternal, but rather a sharp division between two different kinds of temporality: one that is of experience, the other that is purely an abstraction.

Perhaps I jumped to quickly from finality to eternity. When I consider the ultimate fate of the Universe, and ponder that heat death is the most likely hypothesis (be sure to see Dylan Trigg's The Duration of Twilight), it occurs to me that the future too, time as we know it, is finite. What sense does it make then to say that time will cease to exist for all eternity? And yet isn't this exactly what the heat death of the Universe means? It seems as if I want to hold onto a notion of time that exceeds time itself. This can't be completely rational.

Surely there must be a way of thinking mortality that doesn't involve irrational thinking about time. Once I open the door to doubting the eternity of death, however, eternal recurrence, among others, is allowed to slip in. I simply don't know how long death lasts, if it lasts at all. Against these doubts, I could cling to the finitude of existence, relegating infinitude to nonexistence, but I wonder whether this wouldn't represent a failure to think about what I really believe about mortality.

Finally, given my belief in the finitude of all things, I wonder how repetition is possible. Here I am hoping that Deleuze is wrong in suggesting that the conclusions make reading the rest of his book unnecessary (p. xv). I am looking to this book to get some purchase on the possibility of repetition, and also the problem of how to think repetition as such.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 11:06 AM. 9 comments

Sunday, January 28, 2007

What it's like to Echolocate

Eric Schwitzgebel has been posting about human echolocation (here and here). I'm not sure I agree with his conclusions, but it's a fascinating topic.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 12:03 PM. 9 comments

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Voiceless Saying

Cavarero criticizes Levinas' analysis of saying:

If I may be picky for a moment, it seems to me that the move Levinas makes in founding the uniqueness of the interlocutor in the showing of his face is rather illogical. After all, the face of the other is, by definition, unique and therefore it does not matter if the one who shows his face engages in interlocution or not. In interlocution it is instead precisely the voice that transcends the plane of speech and manifests the uniqueness of the other.

(For More than One Voice, p. 27).

Cavarero is wrong here, though it doesn't follow that Levinas is necessarily right. People can engage in conversation without use of the voice. In American Sign Language the verb "to say" refers either to a vocal utterance or to a gestural signing. So the possibility of saying without the voice is not merely fanciful. Naturally, the blind can engage in conversation without visual awareness of the face of the other. Therefore, the uniqueness of the other in interlocution is not founded in any single sensory modality.

Despite these objections, both Levinas and Cavarero following him are on the right track with regard to the privileging of the saying over the said. The proximity of those who speak does carry a meaning that goes beyond the verbal. In Cavarero's words, "As a radical sign of communicability, the significance announced by the who of saying precedes, generates and exceeds verbal communication" (pp. 29-30).

Levinas' pneumatism, the proximity of the other in breathing, doesn't require that one have a voice, but merely that interlocutors share the same immediate atmosphere. Cavarero sees in this idea a "risk of the human regression toward the animal" (p. 36). It does represent, I think, a regression away from technology. Were it possible for me to blog in the flesh, so to speak, I don't know that I'd prefer it. Is my preference a symptom of anxiety about direct confrontation with the uniqueness of others? An evasion of responsibility? Perhaps. I see plenty of uniqueness in the blogosphere and that calls for a certain responsibility. Most of the time I would rather say nothing than comment irresponsibly. I use the distance that blogging allows instrumentally to craft a persona that is more attuned to what I feel the uniqueness of others demands. On the other hand, this distance allows me to forget more easily the reality of the other person behind the keyboard. Bloggers as a class are not known for their sensitivity to others. So as I wonder about whether bloggers actually deserve a reputation for being insensitive, I also wonder about whether the discovery of face-to-face communication isn't a bit nostalgic.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 1:11 PM. 3 comments

Friday, January 26, 2007

Thinking Uniqueness

Adriana Cavarero directly challenges logocentrism: "Meaning–or, better, the relationality and the uniqueness of each voice that constitutes the nucleus of this meaning–passes from the acuoustic sphere to speech" (For More than One Voice: Toward a Philosophy of Vocal Expression, p. 13). She argues that philosophy has ignored not only the uniqueness of the voice, but "uniqueness as such, in whatever mode it manifests itself" (p. 9). Is the inability to think uniqueness a consequence of logocentrism, as Cavarero suggests? Or might there be some other difficulty entailed in coming to terms with uniqueness? To give Cavarero the benefit of the doubt we will have to demand that she demonstate an ability to think uniqueness.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 9:24 AM. 6 comments

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I feel and I think

Marion argues that the I feel is more originary than the I think (Being Given, pp. 249-251) and in this way his idea of the witness to the paradox will explain the givenness of the subject–not the I think, but rather the givenness of the me, the I feel, for this splitting of the subject brings Marion to say that "what exercizes the transcendental function can never and should never give itself" (p. 256). Marion's reasoning on this point is not perfectly clear to me. It is clear to me that for Marion the problem with the I think is that it forces the subject to appear in the same mode as objects. For me the problem with Marion's solution is to imagine a subject whose givenness flows from phenomenality without there already having been given a subject capable of experience.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 10:56 AM. 5 comments

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Marion's Paradox

Marion says:

The musical offering offers first the very movement of its coming forward–it offers the effect of its very offering, without or beyond the sounds that it produces. Let me name this phenomenological extremity where the coming forward exceeds what comes forward a paradox

(Being Given, p. 216, emphasis Marion's).

For the moment let's overlook what is obviously paradoxical here (music without sounds) and see what Marion has to say about the paradox. I quote him at length because this very long paragraph sums up his thinking and touches on (without resolving) what I feel are the central problems in Marion's account of givenness.

The paradox not only suspends the phenomenon's subjection to the I; it inverts it. For, far from being able to constitute this phenomenon, the I experiences itself as constituted by it. To the constituting subject, there succeeds the witnes–the constituted witness. Constituted witness, the subject is still the worker of truth, but he cannot claim to be its producer. With the name witness, we must understand a subjectivity stripped of the characteristics that give it transcendental rank. (i) Constituted and no longer constituting, the witness no longer enacts synthesis or constitution. Or rather, synthesis becomes passive and is imposed on it. As with constitution, the giving of meaning (Sinngebung) is inverted. The I can no longer provide its meaning to lived experiences and intuition; rather the latter give themselves and therefore give it their meaning (a meaning that is for that matter partial and no longer all-encompassing). (ii) That is, in the case of a saturated phenomenon, intuition by definition passes beyond what meaning a hermeneutic of the concept can provide, a fortiori a hermeneutic practiced by the finite I, which will always have less givable meaning (concept, intentionality, signification, noesis, etc.) than the intuitive given calls for. (iii) The inversion of the gaze, and therefore of the guard it mounts over the object, places the I, become witness, under the guard of the paradox (saturated phenomenon) that controls it and stands vigilant over it. For the witness cannot avail himself of a viewpoint that dominates the intuition which submerges him. In space, the saturated phenomenon swallows him with its intuitive deluge; in time, it precedes him with an always already there interpretation. The I loses its anteriority as egoic pole (polar I) and cannot yet identify itself, except by admitting the precedence of such an unconstitutable phenomenon. This reveresal leaves him stupefied and taken aback, essentially surprised by the more original event, which takes him away from himself. (iv) The witness is therefore opposed to the I in that he no longer has the initiative in manifestation (by facticity), does not see the given phenomenon in its totality (by excess of intuition), cannot read or interpret the intuitive excess (by shortage of concept), and finally lets himself be judged (said, determined) by what he himself cannot say or think adequately. In this way, the phenomenon is no longer reduced to the I who would gaze at it. Irregardable, he confesses himself irreducible. The event that comes up can no longer be constituted into an object; in contrast, it leaves the durable trace of its enclosure only in the I/me, witness constituted despite itself by what it receives. In short, the witness succeeds the I by renouncing the first person, or rather the nominative of this first role. In this witness, we should hear less the eloquent or heroic testator to an event that he reports, conveys, and defends–assuming again therefore a (re-)production of the phenomenon–and more the simple, luminous witness: he lights up as on a control panel at the very instant when and each time the information he should render phenomenal (in this case, the visible) arrives to him from a transistor by electric impulse without initiative or delay. Here the witness himself is not invested in the phenomenon, nor does he invest with it . . .; rather, he finds himself so invested, submerged, that he can only register it immediately

(pp. 216-218, emphasis Marion's).

Marion's paradox adds a wrinkle to the problem of the givenness of the I: it might not be prior to the givenness of the phenomenon, or prior to the me in the case of the paradox, the excessive phenomenon. I don't think this really solves the problem of the I's non appearance, which is a problem to the extent that Marion equates giving and showing. And it's not nearly a complete reckoning of the givenness of the I. Allowing these doubts to sit off to the side for a second, I'm still not sure that Marion's witness resembles anybody I know.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 2:15 PM. 2 comments

Monday, January 15, 2007

Anteriority of the Effect

Marion elaborates his position against causality and for the effect:

[T]he temporal privelege of the effect does not stem from its presence in the present (persistence, subsistence); it stems from the fact that the effect uses this present in presence to arise, to appear, in short to give itself to and in the present. For the effect, it is not a matter of making its debut in persistence in presence, but of showing its advent there for the first time. The effect alone is in effect in the present, for it alone makes an event therein, while the cause, at best, persists in presence. Consequently, the effect, as event, belongs with phenomenality, but the cause, like persistence in presence, belongs to (metaphysical) ontology.

(Being Given, pp. 164-165, emphasis Marion's)

Clear enough. However, my mind doesn't work that way. As soon as Marion identifies the event of the phenomenon with the effect, I wonder about the cause. If the cause can't be seen in the realm of phenomenality, I would look for it in the region of the I, and failing that, in the relation between the I and the phenomenon, and if that fails, I would seriously question the designation "effect," for anything that deserves to be called an effect deserves to have its cause.

Update. A chiasmus:

The temporal privilege of the effect–it alone arises to and in the present, gives itself–implies that all knowledge begins by the event of the effect; for without the effect, there would be neither meaning nor necessity to inquiring after any cause whatsoever. But this search also supposes that the event, having once come forward without any condition other than its own unpredictable landing [arrivage], is after the fact reread in the figure of an effect–the result being that only this interpretation of the event as an effect establishes its relation to a supposed cause.

(p. 165, emphasis Marion's)

There's no doubt that Marion can think around my objections. Is this thinking coherent? Has he communicated to me the essence of his argument? Well, I'm pretty stubborn at times. If we allow that the "cause remains an effect of meaning" (p. 166) which seems to meet my objection in part, on what grounds do we then say that the cause does not belong to phenomenality? We have with Marion already defined constitution as giving-a-meaning, opening the door to phenomenology as hermeneutics. Why close the door on the question of the cause? This little aporia makes me wonder, once again, whether the cause that would make sense of Marion's effect doesn't lie in some area that Marion is overlooking, for example in the region of the I, or within some relation between the I and the phenomenal, like constitution. And if I can't find the cause that would make sense of the effect, I would question whether calling it an effect was right in the first place. Score one for stubbornness.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 12:05 PM. 0 comments

Other than Postmodern

Trigg's scathing critique of postmodernism (The Aesthetics of Decay, Chapter 7, "The Decline of Postmodernism?") led me to wonder about what kind of text The Aesthetics of Decay really is. It is partly a narrative of intellectual history. Amid the rapid transition from Maximilien Robespierre to the landscape gardener William Chambers (pp. 80-81), the thought occured to me that Trigg's opposition to postmodernism might not be without irony. Trigg says of this narrative:

The preceding account of concepts does not claim to be a genealogical analysis that situates intellectual history in causal terms. Instead, my intention has been to show, by way of historical examples, how rationality has informed modes of artistic and intellectual engagement. My account remains deliberately partial and incomplete: firstly, because intellectual concepts are viewed from a temporal perspective, and secondly, because I have sought to draw an idea rather than a system from these concepts. From the perspective of rationality alone, we see how the process to confront the failure of reason has been a struggle that has often reverted to claims of certainty and permanence.

(pp. 83-84).

This emphasis on the partial account appears to be at least consistent with postmodernism; however, Trigg claims for himself a temporal grounding which he finds unacknowledged in postmodernism.

By subverting the metanarrative and the Enlightenment conception of rationality, postmodernism involves a mode of nostalgia that depends on what was annihilated to affirm itself in the temporal present. Because of this negative identity, postmodernism remains locked in the past despite its attempt to evade temporal determinism. The incompletion of the present is reinforced as postmodernism withdraws from a committed stance into a conceptual impasse.

(p. 74).

Ultimately I am not reading The Aesthetics of Decay as a postmodern text, though it self-consciously does come after the decline of postmodernism. I am seeing in this exposition, the way Trigg sees in the ruin, the possibility of a "critical resistance against the enforcement of spatial rationality" (p. 150). Why does there need to be such a critical resistance if not for the sake of rationality? Is this not an essentially an argument about proportionality, about seeing decay as clearly as we see growth? I'm not really sure about that. (I haven't quite finished with the book though it is deeply engaging.)

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posted by Fido the Yak at 10:40 AM. 3 comments

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Givenness of the I

The equivalence between showing itself and giving itself is not a mere opinion according to Marion, but a "theoretical necessity" (p. 119). However, there is something that may be said to be given without appearing which Marion is not thinking at this point: the I. If one were to accept whole hog the argument in Reduction and Givenness that nothingness, which may stand in for the nonbeing of the I, appears in the existential mood of profound boredom, would this nullify the argument that I is given without appearing? In my mind this is far from settled.

Following Husserl ("Individual Being of every sort is, quite universally speaking, 'contingent' [zulfällig]," Ideas, § 2, translation modified by Marion's translator, Kosky), Marion elaborates three modes of the contigency of the phenomenon. Is is possible that the I appears in any of these modalities? First it will be useful to clarify what Marion means by contingency. He says:

Before meaning the mere opposite of the necessary, contingent says what touches me, what reaches me and therefore arrives to me (according to the Latin) or (according to the German) what "falls like that," therefore "falls upon me from above." The phenomenon appears to the degree to which first it goes, pushes, and extends as far as me (it becomes contiguous with me; it enters into contact with me) so as to then affect me (act on me, modify me). No phenomenon can appear without coming upon me, arriving to me, affecting me as an event that modifies my field (of vision, of knowledge, of life, it matters little here).

(Being Given, p. 125)

It seems that I (at least as me) will have to be a necessity rather than a contingency, notwithstanding Marion's objections to this kind of argument. Nevertheless, I will review Marion's three modes of contingency to see whether the I might be able to slip in as a contingency. Of the three modes of contingency, Marion says, "These three characteristics (arriving, for the known and subsistent object; coming upon me, for manipulable equipment; imposing itself on me, for habitual phenomena) define, schematically at least, the contingency of what appears insofar as it touches me" (p. 130). It's possible, I think, for the I to appear in any of these modes, but at the same time the I must already be there, as far as me, so to speak. It must be first given.

Still, might the I be essentially given in any of these modes of contingency? Of the three, the mode that pertains to habitual phenomena seems like the most interesting possibility. This can't really be consistent with Marion's analysis. Speaking of habitual phenomena, phenomena that impose themsleves upon me, Marion says:

These phenomena... share one exceptional property: I no longer remain simply outside them, as if faced with what is an object to me, at the distance of intentionality and manipulation; rather, they happen to me or arrive over me like what successively shelters me, embraces me, and distracts me–in short, imposes on me. I can enter and yield to them or withdraw and exit them; but in all cases I must inhabit them or (what amounts to the same thing) be exiled. On principle, I must habituate myself to them. I call these phenomena habitual phenomena. Habit does not mean that they function longer than the others (some of them are signalled by their brevity and incessant changing), but essentially that we must habituate ourselves to them. Habituating ourselves to them sometimes implies taking the time to accustom ourselves to them (thus renouncing having ourselves make them) and always finding the right attitude, the correct disposition, the hexis or the habitus that helps resist them, behave in relation to them, use them, eventually understand them.

(p. 130, emphasis Marion's)

If the I is not something already given prior to its being able to be given as phenomenon, is it then not precisely something that we come to inhabit (or, alternatively, come to be exiled from)? To be clear, this is not the reading Marion suggests. (I will keep you posted on how he finally comes to talk about the givenness of the I.) It's problematical because it's hard to think how the I could happen to me without my having already been there to begin with. The other alternative, however, is to admit that the I is not given as a phenomenon, and therefore Marion is incorrect to claim that giving itself and showing itself are equivalent. It's difficult, therefore, not to read Marion against Marion on this point.

Update. Marion does come out and say, following Husserl, that "Only the consciousness-region of the I makes an exception to contingency" (pp. 137-138). It must be concluded therefore, without doubt, that in Marion's analysis the I neither shows itself nor gives itself. Yet Marion will ask, "What would become of the subject if he were determined only according to givenness?" (p. 188). Hmm.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 1:42 PM. 1 comments

Thursday, January 11, 2007

To: All/From: Santa

Marion asks, "Why not suppose that the gift–therefore exchange, the circulation of the given between giver and givee, return and response, loss and gain–can, once purified of its empirical blossoming, provide at least the outline of a noncausal, nonefficient, and finally nonmetaphysical model of givenness?" (p. 74). This seems like an interesting path to follow (without forgetting, although Marion appears not to recognize it, that it was Marion himself who saw in givenness an effect and therefore introduced the problem of causality in the first place).

Marion's purification of the gift is quite radical. He brackets out the giver, the givee, and the object given. Only this latter bracketing appears to be pretty straightforward. The bracketing of the giver takes place from the perspective of the givee, while the bracketing of the givee takes place from the perspective of the giver. It doesn't seem possible to me that both could be bracketed at once. I would conclude therefore that reciprocity is an issue for the phenomenology of the gift. Marion, however, sees this view as reflecting the natural attitude. Because he has bracketed out both the giver and the givee, he believes that reciprocity does not belong to the essence of the gift. "The gift is twice opposed to exchange," he writes (p. 113). "It excludes the reciprocity that the other demands. It is accomplished perfectly with the disappearance of one of its extremes (giver or givee), without which the other would become obsolete." I will leave it for other readers to decide how perfectly the gift is accomplished in the absence of either the giver or the givee. The problem is that Marion cannot accomplish both of his reductions without a certain reciprocity of viewpoints.

So why then, finally, does Marion view the gift as antithetical to the economy of exchange? Is it really in the nature of the gift not to be subject to reciprocities, which would render the gift impossible in Marion's reading? Or is it a question of prejudice against the economy of exchange that, however well buttressed by rational arguments, doesn't pertain to the phenomenon of the gift itself?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 11:48 AM. 0 comments

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Experience in the Past Tense

If we admit that memory is a structure of consciousness must we also admit that our lives are experienced in the past tense? To what extent? Dylan Trigg says, "Admitting that the real is absent, that our lives can only be experienced in the past tense, and that the foundation of home is disrupted by the opposing fluctuation between the desire of the present and the perishing of the past, exile emerges as the grounding mode of consciousness" (The Aesthetics of Decay, p. 40, emphasis mine). By way of clarification, he has earlier said that "[b]ecause concsciousness operates between opposing modes of memory and temporal divisions, it finds itself in an impasse whereby it is only able to fully experience itself through the act of recollection" (p. 36).

I don't agree with this, but it's not terribly easy to justify my disbelief. I don't want to adopt the position that the fullest experiences are those that take place without any intervention of memory, nor would I want to deny the fullness of the experience of an act of recollection. I might say that experience gets its fullness from its being enacted, but I'm not sure that experience that is passively undergone isn't also full, and besides, I don't really want to duck the issue of memory. Can there be a grounding mode of consciousness that doesn't involve memory? I wouldn't suspect that were likely. Can I take the view that there is no grounding mode of consciousness without defaulting to some preconcieved notion of what consciousness is actually like? This is a constant challenge for me. I don't really have any answers.

NB. Be sure to check out Dylan's blog. He's already responded to my previous posts about his book, and his posts are generally illuminating, elegant and lucid.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 1:45 PM. 1 comments

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Painting is Invisible

So says Jean-Luc Marion. Actually he's not quite that audacious. What he says is, "The painting is invisible; it makes visible. It makes visible in a gesture that remains by definition invisible–the effect, the upsurge, the advance of givenness" (Being Given, p. 52). For Marion the painting is an example of a phenomenon that can be reduced to neither its objectness nor its beingness, but to its givenness. He says, "appearing always has the rank and function not of a representation submitted to the imperial initiative of the gaze of consciousness, but of an event whose happening stems not so much from a form or from real (therefore imitable) colors as from an upsurging, a coming-up, an arising–in short, an effect" (p. 49). Further:

In Cartesian terms, one would say that the visible of the painting has for its effect neither a perception (used in reference to physical things) nor an emotion (used in reference to my body), but a passion (used in reference to the soul). The effect makes the soul vibrate with vibrations that evidently represent neither an object nor a being and which cannot themselves be described or represented in the mode of objects or beings. And yet, only this "effect" in the end allows us to define the phenomenality of the painting and therefore, with it, the phenomenality of what shows itself in itself and starting from itself.

(pp. 50-51)

Two questions: (1) Where is pathos when it's not at home? and (2) Where is the cause in Marion's phenomenology?

Update. Marion later says that "givenness is never defined as a principle or ground precisely because it delivers the given from any demand for a cause by letting it deliver itself, give itself" (p. 73). This almost confirms my suspicion that Marion sees in givenness an effect with no cause. Can there be effects without causes? This is a question that arises from Marion's portrayal of givenness.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 1:01 PM. 1 comments


Here's a dilemma. Trigg says "the dynamic stasis that conceived silence presupposed the act of remembrance bewteen what is now and what was then" (The Aesthetics of Decay, p. 21). He later says, "the disruption of memory derives from the imprint of silence upon consciousness, already determined by violence" (p. 28). A bit of clarification will help to dissolve the apparent contradiction, but it will come with the danger of exposing a deeper dilemma.

By "disruption of memory" Trigg means the disruption of "historic consciousness" by what Proust calls the "involuntary memory." He also speaks, following Bergson, of the disruption of the equilibrium between "habit memory" and "spontanenous recollection," a disruption of "everyday consciousness" that the spontaneous recollection engenders (pp. 22-23). At this point we could say that the act of rememberance presupposed by the dynamic stasis that conceived silence is a matter of habit memory, but I'm not sure it's that easy.

Trigg says, "The experience of consciousness is founded in [the] act of selective rememberance. In experiencing my context, I do so with orientation to the memories that have preceded me" (p. 22). If experience is esemplastically "my experience," it is so because of memory. And yet, Trigg writes that in his analyis of "memory as haunted," the unity of historic consciousness is no longer certain. "In its place, an awareness of the fragmented, incomplete and ruined structure of consciousness materializes" (p. 29). Again, we could say that habit memory renders experience esemplastic while spontaneous recollection leads to fragmentation. However, Trigg does not explicitly make this equation, and even if he did, there is the question of why these two types of memory should represent gradients of a single faculty. So finally, how is it possible that my experience could be uncanny, and yet how could it be otherwise? How do we allow for silences?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 10:39 AM. 1 comments

Sunday, January 07, 2007


How can nothingness be described phenomenologically? For Heidegger, nothingness is revealed by anxiety. For Marion, taking a cue from Heidegger, nothingness is revealed by profound boredom. We can inquire into these existential moods, but it is unclear (to me at least) whether we can see nothingness phenomenologically by way of such an existential detour. Dylan Trigg (The Aesthetics of Decay: Nothingness, Nostalgia and the Absence of Reason), on the other hand, proposes that nothingness is revealed in the phenomonon of silence which we can directly experience in a way that lends itself to phenomenological description. In his words, "The presensce of silence, when sufficiently forceful to recall its origin, is, I will seek to prove, the interceding agent between pure experience and pure nothingness" (p. 12).

How is Trigg imagining silence? "For silence to be rendered visible," he writes (p. 13), "it must rely upon a dynamic stasis between violence and the deserted space that violence leaves." Is this a more spectacular way of talking about attack and decay? I reckon Trigg is describing a second order of dynamics, but I point to attack and decay because I wonder if Trigg's description isn't consistent with the way we experience auditory phenomena–albeit silence is something we usually think of hearing rather than seeing.

Trigg's emphasis on "the ontological value of aesthetics" (p. 19) reminds me of Lyotard (I have in mind the essays collected in The Inhuman, and also the essay "Anima Minima" in Postmodern Fables). The turn towards aesthetics appeals to me because and insofar as it feels concrete, rooted in experience. If that's my yardstick, I should be able to see the value in existential approaches. In fact I do. However, on the question of nothingness, the existential approaches of Heidegger and his followers risk being lost in lifeless abstractions. It's far better I think to explore nothingness concretely as far as possible.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 9:48 AM. 0 comments

Friday, January 05, 2007

What is Constitution?

Marion says, "Constituting does not equal constructing or synthesizing, but rather the giving-a-meaning, or more exactly, recognizing the meaning that the phenomenon itself gives from itself and to itself" (Being Given, p. 9). This has the makings of an interesting problem. I'll put it this way: Is reading the exercise of a passivity?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 5:44 PM. 0 comments

The Depths of Boredom

Reduction and Givenness never establishes why a second, existential reduction is needed or, much less, why such a reduction needs to be Heideggerian. Nonetheless, I followed Marion through to his third reduction, the reduction to the interloqué which is also Heideggerian in that it responds to the "call." The most surprising moment came from his (Heideggerian) analysis of boredom (pp. 186ff.). To mean what he wants it to mean, I think there would have to be (beyond a general acceptance of Heideggerian philosophy) an equivalence between the "other than being" of the transcendental ego and the metaphysical "nothing" of Heidegger's Was ist Metaphysik?. I didn't quite follow Marion on that point, though I found it interesting to think that boredom deprives the I of being, that it hates what is and makes the I abandon itself.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 5:39 PM. 0 comments

Thursday, January 04, 2007

All Aboard

When I said that for phenomenology the transcendental ego must necessarily exist I was being hasty. Marion, after a hundred pages of regaling his readers with his fastidious exegeses of Heidegger, takes up the task of thinking the transcendental ego's status as something other than being (Reduction and Givenness, pp. 161ff.). Can we say that the transcendental ego is a phenomenological horizon and not also be saying that it is? Speaking for myself, I'm not sure how that would work. In Marion's words:

Could not the indetermination in which Husserl–indisputably–leaves it also indicate that I does not have first nor especially to be determined according to Being? And, just as there are with the reduction more and better things to say of the I than to reestablish in it the Cartesian inconcussum quid, so with the transcendence of the I could there not be more and better things to think than to consecrate that transcendence without remainder to the Being of beings. Placed outside of Being (in the sense that a ship placed out of water is protected from water damage, even though it remains exposed, or that a liquor that is "beyond age" [hors d'age] is not rescued from the years but accumulates them to the point of transmuting them into its spiriit), the I can offer itself through other transcendences, or even offer itself to other transcendences which the reduction, ceaselessly radicalized, like a new apophantics, will free up for it.

(p. 165)

So the transcendental ego is like a ship out of water. You don't need to worry about whether it's seaworthy because it's not really going anywhere.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 5:10 PM. 0 comments

A New Science of Being

Marion (Reduction and Givenness, p. 143) points to the following passage from Husserl's Cartesian Meditations:

But perhaps, with the Cartesian discovery of the transcendental ego, a new idea of the grounding of knowledge also becomes disclosed: the idea of it as a transcendental grounding. And indeed, instead of attempting to use the ego cogito as an apodictically evident premise for arguments supposedly implying a transcendental subjectivity, we shall direct our attention to the fact that phenomenological epoché lays open (to me, the mediating philosopher) an infinite realm of being of a new kind, as the sphere of a new kind of experience: transcendental experience.

(Cartesian Meditations,§ 12, p. 27, emphasis Husserl's)

Husserl notes in the margins here "And where there is a new experience, a new science must arise." Say the door is open here to a new science of being (being as lived experience). Does this new science radically democratize the ability to question experience, or does the mediating philosopher retain a privilege over and above the ordinary subject of experience? What ethos guides the conduct of research within the sphere of transcendental experience?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 10:37 AM. 0 comments

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Dasein vs. Ego Cogito

Marion sums up Heidegger's critique of the ego cogito:

There where the ego gives to be thought, or rather to make itself be thought (or even to make itself simple thought) without ever giving Being in a determinate and determining sense, Dasein gives Being by determining the way of Being of the other beings, because it itself, in advance and according to its privilege, determines itself to be according to its own way of Being. To be sure, the ego is, but it is without thinking about it, since it thinks only about thinking its thinkable things, whose respective ways of Being it does not establish any more than it is itself determinied in its own way of Being; in thinking itself as being only through and for the exercise of the cogitatio, it masks, through the epistemic evidence of its nevertheless ontologically loose existence, and then through the certitude of the other subsistent truths, the total absence of decision concerning the Being of beings, which are reduced to the level of pure and simple cogitata.

(Reduction and Givenness, p. 93)

Marion says "the total absence of decision concerning the Being of beings" like that's a bad thing. I'm yet to be convinced. The real crux of the issue is how or whether the ego cogito thinks about its own existence. It's obviously not unthinkable fullstop. How is it unthinkable then for the ego cogito? Or why would the thinking of its existence not be a cogitatum?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 12:10 PM. 0 comments

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Phenomemon as Lived Experience

Marion writes:

[T]he duality of the term "phenomenon" constitutes, paradoxically, the fundamental achievement of Husserlian phenomenology: the term "phenomenon" does not apply first, nor only, to the object that appears, but indeed to the lived experience in which and according to which it appears; this duality alone will allow one to think of absolute givenness, intentionality, and the couple of noesis/noema. Even and especially if one takes intentionality into account, Erscheinung is approached on the basis of the immanence of Erlebnis–and therefore, inevitably, never on the basis of the appearing of the object itself, which is by definition conditioned.

(Reduction and Givenness, p. 53)

This puts into a new light the question of whether being is encountered as a phenomenon, though I reckon there was in the question already a glimmer of the problem of intentionality. I wonder, does this notion of the phenomenon as lived experience entail an opaqueness that is not evident when one considers the appearing of an object? Marion, however, doesn't read Husserl this way. For him the lived experience of the phenomenon is a kind of flattening, a flattening into the present. I see this notion of phenomenon as lived experience as inherently enigmatic regardless of what Marion (or Husserl for that matter) says about it. I'm not seeing Marion's case for having to pass through Heidegger in order to deeply question phenomenality as such.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 3:09 PM. 0 comments