Saturday, September 29, 2007

New Meaning

Kristeva says, regarding a shift from Levitical to Christic abjection, "What is happening is that a new arrangement of differences is being set up, an arrangement whose economy will regulate a wholly different system of meaning, hence a wholly different speaking subject" (Powers of Horror, p. 113). I would say that where a new meaning emerges, a new subject emerges. Well, perhaps the subject isn't very interesting anymore. Kristeva is really talking about a type of subject. Hmm. I am interested in the economy that would regulate a system of meaning. Perhaps it isn't enough for me to specify the heterogeneity of such an economy. I'm interested in the imperfections of its regulation, its slippages and drifts. Maybe for me then the question is not so much of a nomos as a logos, i.e. a heterogeneous ecology of relations.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 10:18 AM. 5 comments

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Pleasures of Auscultation

Gemma Corradi Fiumara reminds us that the "auscultation" of written texts has been limited to inhabitants of the Gutenberg Galaxy (The Other Side of Listening, p. 30). Given the number of books published annually, does it make sense any longer to speak of inhabiting the galaxy of books? In my corner of the galaxy there are hundreds of books, and tens of thousands in the nearest institutional library. I'm hard pressed to make it through one book a week, though I may consult many more. Nowadays an avid reader with a high book life number could make a dent in Project Gutenberg, but just a dent.


Can we still then speak of communities of readers? That may be a dishonest way to characterize academic intellectual spheres. Professors, translators, editors (one can hope), publishers, reviewers, librarians, students, bursars, airline attendants, code monkeys, authors: all their specialized, unequally valued skills and more are required to make up a contemporary intellectual community, or a minor bookish form of life. Perhaps the practioners of a particular bookish form of life agree upon a language, as Wittgenstein might say (Philosophische Untersuchungen I, No. 241). Are there more and more reading lists that don't contain within their pages all the language one needs to thrive in a bookish form of life? Do contemporary bookish forms of life accept more and more slippage in their languages? Along with every "These are the books you should read!" comes a "Those are books you should not read!" If I sit down to read The Libidinal Economy it will not be because anybody has recommended it to me but because I intend to enjoy it, which is another point I mean to get at. Can "These are some books you might enjoy" institute an agreement on a form of life sufficiently sophisticated for academic culture?


If listening involves an openness more fundamental than the openness of the question, as Gadamer suggests, then Corradi Fiumara's question of why this has this not been a topic of philosophical discussion acquires a certain probity (pp.28-29, citing Truth and Method, pp. 324-325). (I'll note that the if might excuse her from engaging in a pensiero forte.) Corradi Fiumara's philosophy of listening celebrates anomalies (p. 49). The anomaly of the openness of listening appears as anomaly from within a paradigm of hermeneutics; I'm not sure if she means to abandon the hermeneutic paradigm altogether, or, if so, whether there is a name for the paradigm that thinks listening. It may be consistent with a kind of pensiero debole. Corradi Fiumara notably makes frequent references to Lyotard's The Postmodern Condition as well as the works of Gianni Vattimo, and Priogine and Stengers. I'm unsure of whether she has a deep commitment to postmodernism; I'll wait to read her more recent books before probing that question further.


Corradi Fiumara draws our attention to the pleasures of auscultation with an argument that reminds of Kuhn's idea that discoveries cannot unequivocably be attributed to particular individuals at particular moments (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, p. 55). She says:


In an open organization of knowledge, even the experiences of pleasure and displeasure might become intsruments of philosophical research as they no longer function as ends in themselves but are amenable to be used as intermediate passages towards a more complex equilibrium. An experience of pleasure may not be confined to the status of an occasion of enjoyment but may be transformed into the announcement or uncovering of unapparent features in the complexity of interactions. Similarly the notion of pain may no longer be relegated to the noncognitive level of frustration but may enhance an awareness of features and factors which cause disturbance. The less pleasure and displeasure are regarded as mere fluctuations of one's inner life the more they can be introduced and used in the enrichment of our philosophical concerns.


(p. 46)


Kuhn and Corradi Fiumara, in their critique of the individual and of the occasion, are operating under a shared ethos of late Twentieth-Century thought. Beyond that, I think Corradi Fiumara has appropriated Kuhn's critique into a metaparadigmatic thinking of her problem (which also speaks to a kind of ethos). There are, nonetheless, elements of a paradigm in her thinking: "complex equilibrium," "complexity of interactions," and elsewhere, a deterritorialization of knowledge (p. 51 and passim). Are these in harmony? That is, if we begin to think a deterritorialized pleasure of auscultation, are we still interested in equilibria, or are we interested in disturbance? Do the pleasures of reading precisely disturb the complex bookish forms of life even as these forms of life celebrate more and more fluid bodies of texts? Is pleasure intrinsically a more unsettling basis of agreement than vocabulary or "the texts themselves"?

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Karaniya Metta Sutta

Here is the Karaniya Metta Sutta as translated by the Amaravati Sangha:



This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech,
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied,
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm and wise and skillful,
Not proud or demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.
Wishing: In gladness and in safety,
May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born —
May all beings be at ease!



Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world:
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.
Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
Free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.
By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world.

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Faithless Metaphor

Kristeva writes about "processes that underpin symbolicity":


Contrary to what enters the mouth and nourishes, what goes out of the body, out of its pores and openings, points to the infinitude of the body proper and gives rise to abjection. Fecal matter signifies, as it were, what never ceases to separate from a body in a state of permanent loss in order to become autonomous, distinct from the mixtures, alterations, and decay that run through it. That is the price the body must pay if it is to become clean and proper. Psychoanalysis has indeed seen that anal dejections constitute the first material separation that is controllable by the human being. It has also deciphered, in that very rejection, the mastered repetition of a more archaic separation (from the maternal body) as well as the condition of division (high-low), of discretion, of difference, of recurrence, in short the condition of the processes that underpin symbolicity


(The Powers of Horror, p. 108)


From my vantage point, which is rather removed, this is a case of the psychologist believing too strongly in her metaphors. I'd prefer not to doubt Kristeva's idea of an archaic separation, yet our separations from our mothers are many and complex. Here I question the belief in repetition not in order to supplant it with an idea of the ongoing, but rather to clear a space to question what it means to have faith in a metaphor. To be faithful to metaphor, what beliefs are required? Must we believe in source (mouth) and target (anus)? Must we believe that boundaries may be crossed, and if so, must we believe in boundaries? If we take seriously the defense of the psychoanalytic position, according to which the metaphor belongs to and is perhaps bodied forth by the in-fant, then must we also believe in conditions of processes that underpin symbolicity? Must we beleive in meaning? To use another metaphor, does metaphor ask us to become monotheistic or polytheistic in our beliefs? Possibly metaphor doesn't ask us to believe anything. Being faithful to metaphor expresses a commitment to expressivity or even a commitment to meaning, but such commitments do not require a foundation of belief. They require a sending with, but who can say what the truth of the sending is.


Since I don't believe in the clean and proper body (corps propre) its infinitude doesn't impress me. But I'll play along. Is infinitude an entailment of metaphor itself? Faithfulness to metaphor situates itself within the disorientation of metaphor, betwixt widdershins and deasil flows of sense. Neither difference of flows nor senses across boundaries hit me over the head with infinity, though disorientation does appear to carry beyond finite points. It's a mystery to me how finite ever got to be infinite, unless it was by a short cut–metaphor is the long way home.


The paradox of infinite becoming, i.e., the paradox of infinite identity, has not yet become a real problem for me (Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense, "First Series of Paradoxes of Pure Becoming"). By the same token, I neither believe nor disbelieve in the pause. Possibly the pause is relative to the speed of metaphor, although the speed of metaphor is not constant. Metaphor is an upper mantle beneath a subterranean dualism of the hard and the soft, of that which receives and that which eludes the kneading of Dough. Metaphor can just as easily be a Tree. Metaphor disorients without asking that we be sent to infinity. Is this a paradox? Metaphor is a parable, a circumlocution. Would the infinity that metaphor would carry over to–were we prepared to believe it–be a meaninglessness? That might contain a genuine paradox, though I might still hestitate to call it a problem. The destruction of meanings is de rigueur in metaphor; it happens most casually. Does the destruction of meanings require a faith in meaninglessness or a faithlessness in meanings or neither. Perhaps a commitment to the destruction of meanings is concomitant to a commitment to expressivity. If only to clear a path. I remain agnostic about metaphor, though I follow its path.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Metaphor as Praxis

Nancy argues in favor of the transcendence of freedom:


The freedom of existence to exist is existence itself in its "essence," insofar as existence is itself essence. This "essence" consists in being brought directly to this limit where the existent is only what it is in its transcendence. "Transcendence" itself is nothing other than the passage to the limit, not its attainment: it is the being-exposed at, on, and as the limit. Here the limit does not signify the arrested circumspection of a domain or figure, but signifies rather that the essence of existence consists in this being-taken-to-the-edge resulting from what has no "essence" that is enclosed and reserved in any immanence present to the interior of the border. That existsence is its own essence means that it has not "interiority," without, however, being "entirely in exteriority" (for example, in the way that Hegel's inorganic thing is). Existence keeps itself, "through its essence," on the undecidable limit of its own decision to exist. In this way, freedom belongs to existence not as a property, but as its fact, its factum rationis which can also be understood as "the fact of its reason for existing," which is similarly "the reason for the fact of its existence." Freedom is the transcendence of the self toward the self, or from the self to the self–which in no way excludes, but on the contrary requires, as we can henceforth clearly see, that the "self" not be understood as subjectivity, if subjectivity designates the relation of a substance to itself; and which requires at the same time, as we will show later, that this "self" only takes place according to a being-in-common of singularities.


(The Experience of Freedom, pp. 29-30, Nancy's emphasis)


Nancy's reconceptualization of transcendence would be interesting enough, but he adds a wrinkle.


[T]he very factuality of freedom is the very factuality of what is not done [fait], but which will be done–not in the sense of a project or plan that remains to be executed, but in the sense of that which in its very reality does not yet have the presence of its reality, and which must–but infinitely–deliver itself for reality. In this way existence is actually in the world. What remains "to be done" is not situated on the register of a poiesis, like a work whose schema would be given, but on the register of praxis, which "produces" only its own agent or actor and which would therefore more closely resemble the action of a schematization considered for itself.


(p. 31, Nancy's emphasis, my bold)


I am skeptical of the idea that freedom delivers itself infinitely for reality. This skepticism is related to doubts I have about Nancy's ideal understanding of praxis, and therefore also the distinction he draws between praxis and poiesis. Nancy cites as a source Book 1 of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, an august source, but perhaps not the best way to start to think the problem of praxis. The observation that praxis "produces" its own agent is a keen one; however, I feel that actual practices also produce "goods," and I feel that there is a surplus of production (of goods and of agency) that should be considered. It seems that praxis needs to be rescued from its friends, but I'm not sure that it's my feelings that aren't putting it in danger. In any event, the view that goods are more highly valued than than the practice which produces goods reflects an unexamined judgement rather than a deep appreciation of praxis. This is evident if we look at poiesis as a kind of praxis. There is a view according to which the poem is more valuable than the making of poetry, and yet there are contrary views according to which making poetry–and therefore making poets–and also reading poetry (aloud and/or in silence) are more highly valued than the poems themselves. Metaphor, the emblem of poetry in Western languages, is a passage to the bournes of meaning. As Ernesto Grassi would remind us, metaphor is a passionate journey. It is a way that language actually exists in the world, neither infinitely nor finitely, neither in isolation nor in exile, but at the bournes. The question I would raise, then, is whether the self that is reached towards but never grasped in the practice of metaphor–having some relation to the agency that metaphor engenders–exists passionately, and, if so, whether we can think its passions apart from a subjectivity or a process of subjectification. How can we think its freedom, the freedom appropriate to metaphor?

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Remainder

Is Kristeva's jouissance an enjoyment of the remainder?


[T]he remainder appears to be coextensive with the entire architecture of non-totalizing thought. In its view there is nothing that is everything; nothing is exhaustive, there is a residue in every system–in cosmogony, food ritual, and even sacrifice, which deposits, through ashes for instance, ambivalent remains. A challenge to our mono-theistic and mono-logical universes such a mode of thinking apparently needs the ambivalence of remainder if it is not to become enclosed within One single-level symbolics, and thus always posit a non-object as polluting as it is reviving–defilement and genesis.


(Powers of Horror, p. 76)


Our eyes can remain open provided we recognize ourselves as always already altered by the symbolic–by language. Provided we hear in language–and not in the other, not in the other sex–the gouged-out-eye, the wound, the basic incompleteness that conditions the indefinite quest of signifying concatenations. That amounts to joying in the truth of self-division (abjection/sacred)


(pp. 88-89)


I am resistant, though not impervious, to the idea that non-totalizing thought has an architecture. I rather imagine that it makes a place amidst diverse architectures that are not its own. What is the real difference, though, between a habitation and an architecture?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 11:07 AM. 8 comments

Shepherds of Being

I don't want to be an administrator of concepts, so it is always with some sense of relief that I find an attempt to administer a concept has failed. Neither do I want to sink into trepidation. How then should I share with you Corradi Fiumara's concept of listening?

There are two voices to Corradi Fiumara's thinking about listening: resistence to a logocentric cultural system, and "generative listening," a capability of response and questioning that is not dictated by the said, and does not conform to the style of a deaf logos (The Other Side of Language, p. 22). The two voices are a madrigal. An attitude of genuine listening does not discount attitudes stemming from divergent Weltanschuungen; it occupies no space but "in a paradoxical sense creates ever new spaces in the very 'place' in which it is carried out" (p. 19). Modern rationalism, Corradi Fiumara argues, is "sustained by an unknowing frenzy in the sense that it is not limited to the pursuit of new ways of its thinking but also tends to deny that earlier, minor or unsuccessful traditions ever existed. And, in order to avoid the labor of listening–a labour comparable to the germination of any real dialogue–a single tradition is recognized in which everything alien is considered irrelevant: the product of intellectual blindness or of an unwillingness to evolve" (p. 26). I'd like to say that no Italian humanist is alien to me without putting Corradi Fiumara in such neat little boxes. I feel that her philosophy of listening is speaking to me even though I don't concern myself much with stridently rationalist discourses.


An aversion–almost–towards listening to the rich multiplicity of 'reality' seems to be linked with a background of profound fears and to the resulting defensive postures that express themselves in a tendency to reduce knowledge in general to a set of principles from which nothing can escape. A relentless battle is waged as an attempt is made to organize everything in the light, or shadow, or the 'best' principles of knowledge: a chronic struggle of territorial conquest where the 'territory' is the set of notions and principles for constructing reality. Listening thus comes to be an essential function in the attempt to indentify and monitor possible predatory aspects of our knowledge, no longer even capable of rememorizing or imagining the Parmenidean function of the 'shepherds of being'.


(p. 21)


It was of course Heidegger who said that the human being is the shephard of being (Letter on Humanism). On reflection, Corradi Fiumara is deeply indebted to Heidegger for her ecological thinking and perhaps her ideas of the spaces opened up by listening. This is not without irony when one considers the many voices that were silenced and the many voices that were sent into exile by Heidegger's National Socialism.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Cupiditas est ipsa hominis essentia

Should we speak of desire in the singular or the plural? Tengelyi may be able to shed some light on this problem, but first let's take a look at the Ethics of Spinoza (the latin is here), which is a starting point for some of the ideas Tengelyi considers. Part III, Proposition VII, reads, "The endeavour, wherewith everything endeavours to persist in its own being, is nothing else but the actual essence of the thing in question" (Conatus, quo unaquaeque res in suo esse perseverare conatur, nihil est praeter ipsius rei actualem essentiam). In the note to Proposition IX, Spinoza explains that conatus when refered to the mind alone may be called will, and when it is refered to the mind and body together it may be called appetite. Appetite is essentially the same as desire (cupiditas) except that in desire there is a consciousness of appetite, and it is therefore the correct term to apply to humans. Spinoza says, in the beginning of his discussion of the emotions, "Desire is the essence of humans themselves, insofar as it is conceptualized as determined to some agendum by howsoever given affection of itself" (C u p i d i t a s est ipsa hominis essentia, quatenus ex data quacumque eius affectione determinata concipitur ad aliquid agendum). Elwes has translated affectione as "modification," which captures one meaning of the word, but obscures some others. The Lewis and Short entry for affectio offers two main definitions: (1) "the relation to or disposition toward a thing produced in a person by some influence," and (2) "a change in the state or condition of body or mind, a state or frame of mind, feeling (only transient, while habitus is lasting)." They note under the second definiton that affectio can especially mean "a favorable disposition toward any one, love, affection, good-will." Is the conative desire to persevere in one's own being equivalent to desire determined to some agendum by some affection of itself? Is perseverance in ones own being an agendum one must take a (temporary or permanent?) disposition towards? Is one affected towards one's own perseverance the same way one is affected towards objects?


In Tengelyi's discussion of conatus, chiefly covering the works of Paul Ricoeur and Jean Nabert, the conative desire is shortened to a "desire to be." In the words of Ricouer, "I posit myself as already posited in my desire to be" (De l'interprétation: Essai sur Freud, p. 443, IN The Wild Region, p. 146). This is the basis for speaking of "wounded" cogito. This shortening of the conatus, however, cuts off the question of what it means to abide by one's own being. When we pull desire out of the realm of the subject, which is where Tengelyi is leading us, the affection of and towards one's own perseverance is more intriguing than a simple desire to be. Let me put it this way: must we imagine the endeavor to abide by one's own being as a persistence of the same? Is there not also a sense of the be-coming of being implied by the endeavor to persevere in one's own being? And isn't self-preservation, especially in the case of humans, a matter of assuefaction? In our endeavor to persevere "our" affections are precisely a problem for us.


Tengelyi makes a partial appropriation of Lacan. He takes up the idea that the law of discourse creates a split in desire (p. 152). "The shift in meaning that necessarily occurs in a diactritical system of the demand's signifiers [Lacanian metonymy] results, at the same time, in the continuous transformation of the object of the desire as well. Desire wanders from one object to the other" (p. 154, Tengelyi's emphasis). I'm tempted to say that the conative desire also wanders. However, if we allow that the object of desire has never never actually been lost, is our desire to persevere in our own being likewise a search to find what has never been lost? Is there a Wiederholungszwang ("compulsion to repeat," Tengelyi renders this as "constraint of repetition") expressed in the desire to find again the lost object? I feel that this would be misleading conceptualization of what it means to desire to abide by one's own being, but I'm throwing it out there. Would it be desire itself that wanders in our endeavor to persevere or would it be the consciousness of an appetite to persevere that wanders? It will take a minute to work through that last question.


As I said, Tengelyi only partially appropriates Lacan. In addition to, or in contradisctinction to, desire as lack, Tengelyi offers Bernhard Waldenfels' idea of the responsive desire. Here we are speaking of the Levinisian desire of the appeal: "an alien appeal, which has its origins precisely in desire, will not restrict my desire but will–almost literally–appeal to it: the appeal will turn to and count on it. Thus the response we may give as a reaction to an alien appeal grows necessarily out of desire" (p. 160, Tengelyi's emphasis). Thus for Levinas there is a split in desire, but it is the split between all of the self's desires and the desire of the other. "Desire, it might be claimed, gets multiplied because it does not 'arise purely by itself' but as a result of appeals coming from alien desires, or to put it more simply, it arrives as a response to the desire of the other" (p. 161). There is then a sense in which responsive desire involves a desire for the undesirable: "our desires, constantly marking out the lack of complete satisfaction, keep shifting and transforming along the lines of associations of linguistic origin, but also . . . here desire bumps into something which is nondesirable" (p. 162, Tengelyi's emphasis). Now I'd like to think this split or any split in desire in terms of a Levinisian fissibility of the self. Tengelyi writes:


Indeed, where no orginal unity can be taken for granted, there can be no question of an orginal scission, either. However, it is not difficult to see that the idea of an original unity of consciousness does not apply to the relationship between appeal and response. This relationship may rightly be characterized as an intertwinement, an entrelacs, that is, as a connection which, precisely, does not take away the heterogeneity of its elements. In addition, here the connection of the elements is made by reply and correspondence rather than by a synthesis. It is only afterward that appeal and response can be united in a single consciousness; at the moment when they arise they are separated from each other by an unbridgeable gap.


(p. 181, Tengelyi's emphasis)


If there is no orginal unity of consciousness, does it make sense to speak of an original unity of desire in Spinozist terms, even of the desire to persevere in one's own being? We can also question the orginal unity of an appetite for living. Certainly our affections testify to a certain mutability of our desires, probably including our desire to persevere. My feelings about abiding by my own being differ from day to day. Why would I think of my endeavor to persevere as a constant desire, or as testifying to a constancy? Spinoza rightly says (Part III, Proposition VIII) that the conatus involves an indefinite time. Being open to this indefiniteness implies a desire other than the desire to conserve one's own being, if that's what the conatus amounts to. The difficulty here is to think the fissibility of desire without obliterating the heterogeneity of its elements.


At this point I think we are past the notion that desire resides exclusively in the self. I don't know whether that helps us decide whether desire should be spoken of in the singular or in the plural. My inclination is to want to think desire in the plural, but the idea of scission in desire, and thus the postulation of an orginal desire is not something I can rule out entirely. All I have are questions.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Listening as Disobedience

How has it come to pass that I should be able to regard listening as a kind of civil disobedience? Our intellectual culture suffers from a one-sided misapprehension of the logos, an emphasis on the saying to the exclusion of the hearing. So says Gemma Corradi Fiumara (The Other Side of Language: A Philosophy of Listening, trans. Charles Lambert, Routledge, 1990). She begins, relying on Heidegger, with a rehabilitation of legein, a gathering at the root of logos from which hearing is not excluded but implied. Hers is a "tentative pursuit which keeps us linked with the complexity of humans; an effort to retrieve subordinate, minor dimensions and to explore those areas which provoke indifference or even repugnance in the clear logic of 'normal,' established thinking" (p. 3).


"The wearisome logomachies of our culture testify to a way of reasoning that is not sufficiently interested in 'heeding', and manages to express itself most of all in the deployment of controversies and invectives, often unaware that it is even trying to stir up contrasts" (p. 8). Corradi Fiumara isn't limiting her critique to modern communications. It's an awfully big apple cart she means to upset: "The world-view that encompasses our logico-metaphysical tradition has been 'transformed' at the historical beginning of western rationalism. The characteristics of that transformation can be seen in the propensity to render concepts increasingly abstract, thus leading to the disappearance of the multiplicity of relationships which had previously tied them to particular circumstances, and to their substitution with generalized relationships" (p. 12). I hear in this statement not a repudiation of rationality but a claim to a forgotten rationality. Would such a rationality also include the irrational, that which is repugnant to the clear logic of established thinking? In any case, Corradi Fiumara's rationality is also the rationality of an announcement. She sees the multiplicity of relationships tied to particular circumstances as an integration, and says this is linked to "a general idea of coexistence which is more ecological than logical in that it requires 'belonging' to our logos; it is concerned with domestic issues because there are no more foreign affairs" (p. 16). Is this general idea of coexistence too abstract? I'll be looking to see what particular circumstances she brings to the discussion.

.

At this point a number of contrasts between Corradi Fiumara and Kristeva are evident. Kristeva is analytic while Corradi Fiumara is synthetic. Kristeva sees in langauge, if I'm not mistaken, reenactments of a primal division. Corradi Fiumara sees in language a coming together. Whereas Kristeva sees the foreign as within, and advises us to acknowledge and live with our strangeness, Corradi Fiumara's ecology announces the obsolescence of the foreign. There are reasons to be skeptical of Corradi Fiumara's project. Nevertheless I intend to give her a full hearing. Such a hearing may require disobedience to a divided logos, as difficult to practice as that may be. It may also require silence. "'Rigour' and, conversely, misunderstanding are deeply rooted in the exclusion of listenening, in a trend which brooks no argument, where everyone obeys without too much fuss. These interwoven kinds of 'reasoning' lead us into a vicious circle, as powerful as it is elusive, a circle that can only be evaded with a force of silence that does not arise from astonished dumbfoundedness, but from serious, unyielding attention" (p. 11).


A parting thought: "There is a whole world yet to be discovered, not of unsolved issues but of relationships among things we know, of ways in which they might fit together" (p. 17).

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Being Without

Some quotes about language from Kristeva's Powers of Horror:


But is not exactly language our ultimate and inseperable fetish? And language, precisely, is based on fetishist denial ("I know that, but just the same," "the sign is not the thing, but just the same," etc.) and defines us in our essence as speaking beings.


(p. 37)


Through the mouth that I fill with my words instead of my mother whom I miss from now on more than ever, I elaborate that want, and the aggressivity that accompanies it, by saying. . . .Language learning takes place as an attempt to appropriate an oral "object" that slips away and whose hallucination, necessarily deformed, threatens us from the outside.


(p. 41)


In abjection, revolt is completely within being. Within the being of language. Contrary to hysteria, which brings about, ignores, or seduces the symbolic but does not produce it, the subject of abjection is eminently productive of culture. Its symptom is the rejection and reconstruction of languages.


(p. 45)


Is there anything without being? Is being a container? A Russian doll? A colander? I can't decide whether being contains anything. I can imagine that saying is without being when I'm in the mood to misrecognize being. Being is not what I mean by saying "Being" (fetishist denial, but its "with-out" that I mean to problematize). Saying is plural and heterogeneous–plurality is my concern, heterogeneity is Kristeva's. When Kristeva refers to the "heterogeneous economy (body and discourse) of the speaking being" (p. 52) I take her to mean that such heterogeneity operates within the being of language. She has already argued that significance is inherent in the human body (p. 10). In Revolution in Poetic Language Kristeva makes clear that the both the semiotic and the symbolic are modalities of signification, and she holds that significance becomes a practice "if and only if it enters into the code of linguistic and social communication" (Revolution, p. 17). Thus there seems to be an unmistakable within to Kristeva's thinking about being (and perhaps another within in the case of the subject who can be threatened from the "outside"). There is nonetheless a plurality to Kristeva's within that distinguishes it from other withins, a plurality that is not the same as the heterogeneous economy, but is included in it. Yet is a contained plurality a genuine plurality? Could withoutness be our essence as speaking beings?

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Friday, September 21, 2007

The Perils of Reading

I want to be able to practice a free reading of Nancy's Experience of Freedom, a free reading that will depart from my habit of close misreading. The factuality of existence finds its opposite not in fiction but in the undone. The undone is neither possibility nor impossibility, though it may be implied in a chiasmus of actual possibility and impossible dynamism. Nancy equates the fact of existence with freedom. Does existence undo itself in the renunciation of its freedom, a possibility that freedom must give if it is to be free? Perhaps it outdoes itself–is that outdoing then a path to the undone? The undone, if it is anything, is the very thing that prevents itself from being found. In the huddled blackness of the undone all yaks are black, their ruminations vanished in an unthinkable foldless immanence–not a sound is heard from the fold of the black yaks, the kind of undun. We'd rather our ruminations be abandoned.


Only a finite reading can be free, for the undone reading encloses the necessity of its freedom, yokes it to its reading. Reading is perhaps not so much that which unfolds and yokes, in the period of a hermeneutics, as that which surprises itself. The world of yaks attests to the free and resolute renunciation of free reading–wicked yaks. I freely and resolutely renounce my freedom to "the opening of existence to its own essentiality as well as to this scansion, or singular rhythm, according to which the existent precedes and succeeds itself in a time to which it is not 'present,' but in which its freedom surprises it–like the spacing (which is also a rhythm, perhaps at the heart of the former rhythm) in which the existent is singularized, that is to say, exists, according to the free and common space of its inessentiality" (p. 16). I struggle to find the singularity in the rhythm of peregrinations. Perhaps it was always already unfound.


Free reading must know itself to be astray, cut itself loose from all discourse to expose itself as passion, a passion that implies a life of freedom without being such a life. A dilemma of passionate reading, to be cut loose from discourse and yet to read.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 1:07 PM. 0 comments

Living with Boredom

"It is our duty," claims Lars Svendsen, "to live a life that torments us" (A Philosophy of Boredom, p. 146, Svendsen's emphasis). He recommends living with the problem of boredom rather than trying to escape it, overcome it, or solve it. To appreciate what he is saying we have to recognize that in life as this Norwegian academic knows it such things as living with malaria, for example, are simply not on the table.


Boredom would seem to force us to contend with a loss of meaning in life. However, Svendsen questions whether anything has really been lost in boredom. "An awareness of loss does not guarantee that anything has actually been lost, and therefore does not guarantee either that there is something–a time, meaning or experience–that has to be won back" (p. 136). So where does the sense of loss come from if it doesn't come from actually having lost something? Svendsen's explanation begins with the proposition that "I am the sum of all transgressions of myself, i.e., of all that I do" (p. 133). Boredom commences when these transgressions no longer function satisfactorily, and, in a gesture of self doubt or crisis, reflection turns upon the self in search of reasons, or a reason that could explain who one is. The search is in vain, and what one discovers as a reason for one's transgressions is an abyss, a foundation more contingent than what has been founded. This is both an awareness and a feeling. "What I then find is not a reason of any sort but an imprecise feeling that appears to be something that has always been with me. It is as if this feeling is me" (p. 134, Svendsen's emphasis). Svendsen's cultural insights–linking, for example, the emergence of boredom to the emergence of childhood (p. 149)–don't lead him away from taking a philosophical stance towards the problem of boredom. Boredom may be felt, but there is a sense in which he regards thinking as key to its genesis, and also key to the accomodation one should reach with boredom.


Svendsen recommends that we embrace loneliness, not self-centeredness, but loneliness (p. 144). His suggested accomodation with boredom, his tempered amor fati, is not completely grim. "In boredom an emptying takes place, and an emptiness can be a receptiveness, although it does not have to be it" (p. 142). Allowing the emptiness of boredom to become a receptiveness may be a matter of allowing oneself time to accumulate experience (p. 45).


The problem, first and foremost, lies in accepting that all that is given are small moments and that life offers a great deal of boredom between these moments. For life does not consist of moments but of time. The absence of the great Meaning does not, however, result in all meaning in life evaporating. A one-sided focusing on the absence of Meaning can overshadow all other meaning–and then the world really looks as if it has been reduced to rubble. A source of profound boredom is that we demand capital letters where we are obliged to make do with small ones.


(p. 154)


It was important for me to point out that living with malaria is not a concern for Svendsen because he offers a stark critique of utopianism that must be appreciated in the context of what he is not talking about, if it is be appreciated at all. He says, "A utopia cannot, by definition, include boredom, but the 'utopia' we are living in is boring" (p. 137). Further, he states that "all utopias seem to be deadly boring, because only that which is imperfect is interesting" (p. 138). I see a connection between imperfection and doing, or satisfactorily doing. What does it mean after all to do what has already been done? I have the impression that for Svendsen pre-Romantic cultures would have been satisfied to do what has already been done, taking meaning from tradition. I don't quite see it that way. I think meaning can be taken from doing what needs to be done, and it's more the superabundance of late capitalist production than a break with tradition that marks this particular problematization of doing. I question, then, whether doing should be equated with transgression. Many transgressions don't amount to doing, and perhaps under certain circumstances many activities don't amount to acting. Only by blinding oneself to this alienation–which is more than a thought of alienation but rather a broader set of conditions–can one begin to decouple boredom from idleness, as Svendsen has done. Svendsen opines that alienation is no longer an issue for intellectuals, either because alienation has ceased to exist, or because we are already so alienated that we cannot contrast alienation with anything. And he says that one cannot be alienated from a society that lacks social substance (p. 136). He doesn't then really explore the idea that we might be alienated from our own actions. The indifference of existential boredom, and also the sense of living in a "perfect," perfectly boring world suggest to me an alienated condition. But I'm not completely sure of that. I can't deny that Svendsen's skepticism of utopias resonates with me, and yet I think there is an enormous difference between living with imperfections and living with genuine torments. It would be more judicious to say that we have a duty to lead a life that troubles us from time to time, an obligation to jump off the raft of affective flatness and swim in the crowded waters. That we should accomodate some boredom may be sage advice, but a community of the chronically bored could surely do with some stirring up.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 8:29 AM. 0 comments

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Alien Sense

Tengelyi's discussion of the experience of alterity is a little thin (The Wild Region, chapter 3). I would have liked to have read some description of how alterity is experienced, and what connection this has to the aleatory, to the surprising. (I note in passing that it's easy to profess an openness to the aleatory, but hard to practice.) Nevertheless Tengelyi presents a few ideas about the experience of alterity that are worth going over.


Can experience be owned? Taking direction from Merleau-Ponty, Tengelyi forgoes the Husserlian ownness reduction (which we have encountered before). He says flat out that no experience can be owned in its entirety (p. 100). He says that "one's own experience involves an otherness which is neither proper nor alien but is characterized by a 'strange encroachment,' 'reversibility,' or 'intertwining' of what is one's own and what remains foreign" (p. 102, Tengelyi's emphasis). This wild alterity of Tengelyi's presents a dilemma. If one's own experience involves an alterity, it is still one's own experience. How can we talk about its deconstruction (I mean this loosely) without talking it into existence?


Let's follow Tengelyi a little further into his argument. Still interpreting Merleau-Ponty, he says:


[T]he immediate experience one gains of the other in his or her bodily appearance presupposes an "intercorporeity" which, far from belonging to any "primordial sphere of ownness" is rather characterized by a "primordial anonymity" and is to be considered, therefore, as an entirely disowned, or dispossessed, "intermonde," an "intermundane space," a no-man's-land. Merleau-Ponty describes this intermonde as a "wild world" which–"behind or beneath the cleavage of our acquired culture"–is inhabited by a "wild Being."


(p. 103)


Do we own any experiences in common? Do we have a primordial sphere of our own own? On what basis is this not a question for phenomenology? I'm not happy with the thought that my own ownness and anonymity exhaust all the possibilities of owning experience, including possibilities of not owning experience. I wonder if the insight that we cannot experience the other person in her entirety hasn't led to a misconstrual of the experience of being with others.


Returning to the problem of how we interpret the appearance of other body's, Tengelyi endorses Levinas' idea that we see in the gestures of other bodies the expression of an alien sense "which proves to be irreducible to any sense bestowal based upon one's own experiences" (p. 110). Is the alien sense, however, reducible to a sense in the making? Perhaps. Tengelyi says that "the relationship between oneself and the other is embedded in the process of the emergence of sense rather than in the process of the unfolding of being" (p. 112). I would have expected at this point for Tengelyi to elaborate on his thinking of singularity. Although he does make a brief nod to the idea of positionality (p. 115), he doesn't develop the idea of singularity that was promised in the preface. We may conclude that for Tengelyi singularity is not an issue of the unfolding of being. Regarding the relationship between singularity and experience, however, I find it provocative that Tengelyi cannot avoid saying "one's own experience." The association of a sphere of anonymity with the disowned is problematical, because the disowned suggests a prior ownership. There may be a sense in which taking up a positional singularity requires a disowning of experience and the acknowledgement of an alien sense as well as a wild alterity within one's own experience. This is a problem that could be further explored.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 9:06 AM. 0 comments

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Rhythm of Loss

"Deprived of world," "weary of fruitless attempts to identify with something on the outside," "death infecting life," "the outside-of-meaning," "engulfed" in a loss "for want of the ability to name an object of desire": these are not the words of Lars Svendsen describing existential boredom, but rather Julia Kristeva describing abjection (Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, trans. Leon S. Roudiez, Columbia University Press, 1982). There are some notable differences between the two. "Essentially different from 'uncaniness,' more violent too, abjection is elaborated through a failure to recognize its kin; nothing is familiar, not even the shadow of a memory" (p. 5). If abjection differs from Unheimlichkeit, it nonetheless involves a rupture with the sense of place. "[T]he space that engrosses the deject [the one by whom the abject exists], the excluded, is never one, nor homogeneous, nor totalizable, but essentially divisible, foldable, and catastrophic" (p. 8). The deject is a stray whose existential question is not "Who am I?" but "Where am I?"


"The abject is the violence of mourning for an 'object' that always already been lost" (p. 15, my emphasis). We might think of boredom as a kind of violence, something for which we would rather substitute dialogue, but boredom doesn't feel quite like a violence, not the way abjection does. The deject has swallowed up, instead of maternal love, "an emptiness, or rather a maternal hatred" (p. 6). "The 'unconscious' contents remain here excluded but in strange fashion: not radically enough for a secure differentiation between subject and object, and yet clearly enough for a defensive position to be established" (p. 7, Kristeva's emphasis). There is material here for an existential essay on the mood, the disposition, of dejection. Kristeva, however, draws us into the psychology of a condition and its literary and cultural elaborations, an essay on abjection.


Jacky Bowring asks, perspicaciously, whether loss has a form. I will ask, rather boringly by now, whether loss has a rhythm, and whether its rhythm could other than a brutal pulsative function. "The time of abjection is double: a time of oblivion and thunder, of veiled infinity and the moment when revelation bursts forth" (p. 9). So abjection has a pulse. It also becomes rhythm. Kristeva tells us that the abject is repeated. (I'll leave aside for the moment the problems of Kristeva's eternal return and of repetition;) One can bring abjection "into being a second time, and different from the original impurity. It is a repetition through rhythm and song, therefore through what is not yet, or no longer is 'meaning,' but arranges, defers, differntiates and organizes, harmonizes pathos, bile, warmth and enthusiasm" (p. 28).


Kristeva adopts a Freudian stance to the problem of abjection. She believes it causes a "sad analytic silence to hover above a strange, foreign discourse, which, strictly speaking, shatters verbal communication (made up of a knowledge and a truth that are nevertheless heard) by means of a device that mimics terror, enthusiasm, or orgy, and is more closely related to rhythm and song that it is to the World" (p. 30). The approach leads me outside, or rather off, my ambit, but I will let Kristeva call the tune because I am curious about this strange discourse more related to rhythm than to the world.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 9:00 AM. 2 comments

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Vividness

Cezanne: Apples


Is there a vividness prior to a vivo? The question arises from Gilles Deleuze's discussion of vividness in the conclusion to Empricism and Subjectivity We could put it another way: is there a vividness prior to the constitution of any entity that would be able to say vivo, that is, prior to any ego? Students of Deleuze's theory of subjectification might respond that clearly vividness is prior to the ego; however, in Empiricism and Subjectivity Deleuze introduces an idea of a self that is not a subject. He says that "we are not only a subject, we are something else as well; we are also a self, which is always a slave to its origin" (pp. 128-129). I think he means here to regard the fancy as an origin of the self. He says, "An entire polemic between the subject and the fancy is thus carried out inside the self, or rather inside the subject itself. An entire polemic is carried out between the principles of human nature and the vividness of the imagination" (p. 128). Deleuze insists that vividness is not a product of the principles of association or the passions. Perhaps then vividness then come first. He says, "Vividness, in fact, is not the product of principles; impressions of sensations are the product of principles; impressions of sensations are the origin of the mind and the property of the fancy. As soon as relations are established, these impressions tend to communicate their vividness to all ideas tied to them" (ibidem). Vividness itself, however, is "a characteristic of impressions, it is the property and the fact of fancy–its irreducible and immediate datum, to the extent that it is the origin of the mind" (ibidem). I say perhaps, then, because it's not absolutely clear to me whether impressions of sensation are the origin of the mind, whether the fancy is the origin of the mind, or whether vividness is the origin of the mind. The latter seems unlikely, but it suggests a creative way to imagine the problem of an empirical logic of practice, which concerns me lately.


"The principles," Deleuze says, "establish relations between ideas, and these relations are also, in the case of impressions, the rules for the communication of their vividness. It is still necessary, however, that vividness conforms without exception to these rules" (p. 129). Do we therefore never encounter vividness in the raw, a vividness free from conformity to rules? Or is it only the communication of vividness that is regulated? Do poetic expressions of vividness– understanding "poetic" in a praxiological sense of poiesis–adhere to rules?


Deleuze says that "the activity of the mind is grounded, in the case of the passions as well as in the case of knowledge, in the fancy" (p. 130). He deliberately says "the activity of the mind" rather than the mind itself, for he means for philosophy to be a theory of doing rather than a theory of what there is. "We should not ask what principles are, but rather what they do. They are not entities; they are functions. They are defined by their effects. These effects amount to this: the principles constitute, within the given, a subject who invents and believes" (pp. 132-133). He adds, "What we do has principles; and being can only be grasped as the object of a synthetic relation with the very principles of what we do" (p. 133). A Deleuzean praxiology must then be seen as a first philosophy, yet I see two limitations here that can be questioned: the slavishness to principles, and the commitment to "theory," i.e., the attempt to ground being. I'm not totally uncomfortable with grounding, however; sometimes it's a useful way of working through philosophical problems. What kind of grounding then is the quality of vividness? What kind of grounding does it have?


We have tried to show how the two aspects of the subject are actually one and the same: the subject is the product of the principles within the mind, but is is also the mind that transcends itself. The mind becomes subject by means of its principles, so that the subject is at once constituted by the principles and grounded in the fancy. How so? In itself, the mind is not subject: it is a given collection of impressions and separate ideas. Impressions are defined by their vividness, and ideas, as reproductions of impressions. This means that, in itself, the mind has two fundamental characteristics: resonance and vividness. Recall the metaphor that likens the mind to a percussion instrument. When does it become subject? It become subject when its vividness is mobilized in such a way that the part characterized by vividness (impression) communicates it to another part (idea), and also, when all the parts taken together resonate in the act of producing something new.


(p. 132, Deleuze's emphases)


I think the onus is on the Deleuzeans to establish that vividus is conceptually prior to vivere (and I think Michel Henry's vivo would have to establish its priority to vivere as well, if that's his intent), but I won't discount the inventiveness of a philosophy that prioritizes vividness.

posted by Fido the Yak at 6:36 AM. 2 comments

Monday, September 17, 2007

Surprise!

Nancy writes, "The thinking of freedom can only be seized, surprised, and taken from elsewhere by the very thing it thinks" (The Experience of Freedom, p. 8, available from influxus). I am most interested in how Nancy will think the surprise of freedom, a thinking that deliberately sets aside subjective ontology, and calls into question the notion of grounding. On what grounds do we think freedom? I am prepared to be surprised, if that's possible.


If there were not something like "freedom," we would not speak of it. For even when it is deprived of a referent or empty of all assingable signification, this word still caries, even to the point of indecision, or rather in the impasse of its meanings, the very meaning of logos in which philosophy recognizes itself: the opening of a free space of meaning. Thus philosophy has always already given itself over to the thinking of what it can neither master nor examine: and this is also what we understand, simply, by "being-free." We are therefore not free to think freedom or not to think it, but thinking (that is, the human being) is free for freedom: it is given over to and delivered for what from the beginning exceeded it, outran it, and overflowed it. But it is in this way that thinking definitively keeps its place in the world of our most concrete and living relations, of our most urgent and serious decisions.


(Ibidem, Nancy's emphases)


If Nancy's statement about meaning in this passage is to be harmonized with his other statements, the root of the chord would be "concrete and living relations." Nancy's thinking, though, is a rootless enterprise, a harmolodics. I am prepared to be surprised.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 8:30 AM. 8 comments

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Against Repetition: Meaning

Boredom is mainly . . . characterized by the present, or rather: boredom knows neither past nor future, whereas melancholy is characterized by a longing for a time that once existed (or possibly a future that is hoped for). Using Kierkegaard's terminology, we can see that the melancholic is someone who lives in the memory, i.e., someone who repeats backwards, while true repetition takes place forwards. Neither repetition backwards nor forwards is applicable to boredom, whose very nature is recurrence and not true repetition. Boredom is pure immanence, whereas genuine repetition is transcendence. This transcendence leads to happiness, Kierkegaard claims. And he even says, acutely, that if the repetition is not possible, human life dissolves into empty, meaningless noise.


(Lars Svendsen, A Philosophy of Boredom, pp. 92-93)


Kierkegaard has misled Svendsen. True repetition does not present a path out of the meaningless of boredom because repetition can only be false. Existential boredom reveals the falseness of repetition but it obscures repetition's lack of meaning within a general indifference. Meaning, according to Nancy, is an alterity (Sharing Voices). More insightfully, I think, in Being Singular Plural, he argues that meaning "is the exhibition of the foundation without foundation, which is not an abyss but simply the with of things that are, insofar as they are." The meaninglessness of boredom is precisely a withlessness. Its temporality is a withless temporality, one long, drawn moment of indifference.


Svendsen understands that moods can be shared and sees that in a certain sense a community can be defined by its shared moods. Some moods, however, like boredom, tend towards loneliness (p. 112). He says, "When one is in a mood, the world seems to be a particular field of possibilities; boredom differs from most other moods by the fact that the possibilities withdraw" (p. 113). It would be difficult for an existential phenomenology–such is Svendsen's bent–to acknowledge a mood that. rather than coloring the world, simply withdrew from the world. Phenomenology weakly grasps the withness of worlds.


Svendsen, however, does say that boredom is characterized by a loss of world (p. 128). And he says, "Boredom is mood which is reminiscent of an absence of moods. Since the mood is essential for our relation to objects, and boredom is a kind of non-mood, our relation to things also becomes a kind of non-relation" (p. 129). Does the recognition of this paradox of the mood that isn't a mood lead beyond an existential phenomenology? I'm not sure. Svendsen's critique of Heidegger, which basically amounts to substituting the concrete life for Being while acknowledging the shallowness of existential boredom, is firmly attached to the pursuit of phenomena of existential boredom. It is nevertheless, a difficulty.


Is there a phatics of boredom? ("I'm bored." "Me too.") Would saying "Let's be bored together" promise to put an end to the suffering of boredom? Would it put a dint in its indifference? I'm keen to read Svendsen's final chapter on the ethics of boredom, because I started reading from the beginning with the question in mind of how, if at all, boredom might be shared. In the mean time, I will not look towards repetition for a solution to the problem of boredom.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 11:00 AM. 7 comments

Saturday, September 15, 2007

You are a Pupa, You are a Butterfly

Kojima's critical Buberism (Monad and Thou, Section IV) fails to consider an obvious counterpoint. If I am unable to encounter you immediately in your entirety, as Kojima maintains, it isn't because there must be some structure or mechanism of mediation between us; rather, the problem lies with believing that entirety has anything to do with you or me. If you are not given in your entirety because entirety doesn't pertain to you, then neither are you given partially. The idea of partial givenness, by which Buber characterizes relations to the third person, cannot characterize your giveness in any mode if you are not a whole that can be parceled out. This is a slightly different question than whether you can be given indirectly.


Are you given to me–or is it us to whom you are given–in adumbrations? There is a problem here in the tendency to think that there must be a you yourself behind your givenness. We don't need to make that leap. We can say instead that you are your adumbrating, and we can recognize your being your adumbrating because your givenness is structured according to a horizon. You are in fact given to me in a unique horizon of our encounter, in which we acts as a so to speak invisible dimension. A strict Buberism would dismiss this approach as thinking my relation to you as being of the same kind as my relation to things that appear. I don't think this is quite true, because our horizon makes all the difference.


Now Kojima and I both agree, I think, that you don't become it, and it doesn't become you. Buber's formula, "'It' is a pupa, Thou is a butterfly," is a little off. You become you, just as I become me, we become us, he becomes him and so on. When I considered Deleuze's metaphor of the larval subject, I suggested marking a difference between endless becoming and perpetual becoming. I'm not sure I would stand by that, but if I do for the sake of argument, then it might follow that you are given to me in one of your many becomings, and once again there might be a temptation to think of "one of many" as partial. I'm not sure of that. Do you ever actually become a butterfly? Perhaps the metaphor is a little misplaced, because it implies that the butterfly is the realization of a becoming, a being that no longer becomes. You don't need to be realized because you are already real. You are always already a butterfly. You are a thousand butterflies. You are given to me as precisely as many butterflies as it takes to make our world.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 11:04 AM. 0 comments

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Primacy of the Passions

A discussion with Nick about his thesis got me thinking about a connection between Deleuzean ontology and praxiology. In chapter six of Empiricism and Subjectivity Deleuze develops an argument that would lend itself to a praxiological understanding of the relation between possibility and reality.


A couple of preliminary remarks are in order. Deleuze wants to establish what empiricism really means. He says, "the question 'how does the subject constitute itself within the given?' means 'how does the imagination become a faculty?' According to Hume, the imagination becomes a faculty insofar as a law of the reproduction of representations or a synthesis of reproduction is constituted as the result of first principles" (p. 110). The principles are of course the principles of association and the principles of the passions. The human mind, according to Hume, with respect to the principles of the passions, can be likened it to a string instrument that reverbates after the string has been struck, rather than a wind instrument that exhausts itself with the exhaustion of the breath. "The imagination is extreme quick and agile, but the passions are slow and restive." Now I'm going to rush by Deleuze's analysis, and skip right to the argument for the primacy of the passions.


[T]he relations find their direction and their sense in the passion; association presupposes projects, goals, intentions, occasions, an entire practical life and affectivity. Given particular circumstances and the needs of the moment, the passions are capable of replacing the principles of association in their primary role, and of assuming their selective role. They are capable because the principles do not select impressions of sensation without having already been submitted by themselves to the necessities of practical life, and to the most general and most constant needs. In brief, the principles of the passions are absolutely primary. Between association and the passions we find the same relation that we also find between the possible and the real, once we admit that the real precedes the possible. Association gives the subject a possible structure, but only the passions can give it being and existence. In its relation to the passions, the association finds its sense and its destiny. . . .Hume often talks about a critique of relations; he presents in fact a theory of of the understanding as a critique of relations. Actually, it is not the relation which is subject to the critique, but rather representation. Hume shows that representation cannot be a criterion for the relations. Relations are not the object of a representation, but the means of an activity. The same critique, which takes the relation away from representation, gives it back to practice.


(p. 120, Deleuze's emphasis, my bold)


The analysis of the passions in terms of first principles is problematic for me. Quite possibly passions are raw and unprincipled. And if the principles presuppose an "entire practical life," I want to ask "Whose life?" I want to regard the practical life–I am uncertain about its entirety– as prior to any principles. It looks like we have competing claims for primacy: life, practice, passions, principles, the real, and, my concern, the person (which is not to be conflated with the subject, though we can try to imagine a subject more or less in keeping with the person). This is my niggling question about Deleuze's empiricism. I always want to ask "Whose faculty?" "Whose passions?" "Whose principles?" and "Whose Mind?" and in each case it seems the question is more or less appropriate. A personalistic philosophy may be compatable with a praxiology in many ways. I am still undecided about Deleuzean ontology and how this can be reconciled with my sense of being a person, or my sense of living a practical life.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 8:38 AM. 0 comments

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Iapetus

Cassini has been beaming back images of Iapetus, the third largest moon of Saturn. So far no signs of any monoliths (scroll down a bit).

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posted by Fido the Yak at 11:58 AM. 0 comments

Really Strange/Strangely Real

Tengelyi, following Marc Richir, speaks of vibrations of sense exhibiting a constant surplus of meaning, a boundless multitude that can be referred to as apeiron (The Wild Sense, pp. 80-81). Presumably then Tengelyi would translate apeiron as "infinite." However, he says that the most significant characteristic of newly emerging shards of sense is their undecidedness (p. 85). What sort of temporality does the indefiniteness of sense in the making imply? Tengelyi reviews Husserl's idea of the primal impression as presented in the Vorlesungen zur Phänomenologie des inneren Zeitbewußtseins, and as interpreted by Emanuel Levinas and Michel Henry. (See Dylan Trigg's post here for a quick visualization of Husserl's analysis). Tengelyi is concerned with the primal impression's strangeness to consciousness, and its quality of initiality. In his interpretation of Husserl's analysis of temporality the quality of initiality is evident in the primal impression's disruption of "the order of time organized by intentionalities" (p. 59).


The time of the reality which becomes available as a destinal event gets unfolded along the lines of the conflict between. . . the retrospective and the progessive temporalization. Consequently, this reality appears as present which has never been future, since only after this reality has commenced and has thwarted the previous expectations do the expectations start to take any shape at all–those expectations which are able to harmonize with it.


(p. 84, Tengelyi's emphases)


In a similar vein, he argues that if time is determined by intertwinement of the exigency of the past and the promise of the future, Marc Richir's chiasmus of retention and protention, then a third thread must be added: the belief that reality may at any time rip up the texture of intentional time, creating a space for a present that has never been future because it conforms to neither exigency nor promise, but precisely thwarts. This belief is an "empty horizon" that, when a destinal event takes place, "will be rich in premonitions which can be grasped in their reminiscences" (p. 88).


So what does Tengelyi mean by "destinal event"? He also describes this as a radical turn in life history. I wonder if "critical event" wouldn't capture his meaning, but he means to understand the destinal event in terms of a process of sense formation and its temporality. The "radical turn" or "destinal event" in life history "designates a sense formation which starts by itself, takes place without any control, as if it happened "underground," creating, simultaneously, a new beginning in life-history" (p. 81, my lack of emphasis). Sense formation creates a new beginning in life history by shaking or shattering "the dominant sense fixations which carry our self-identity, thereby giving rise to a split in the self, while, simultaneously, it makes a new sense available, which in turn will make it possible to anchor self-identity anew" (p. 82, Tengelyi's emphases). Not every event of sense is capable of shattering a dominant sense fixation. To become a destinal event a new sense must cross a certain threshold of difference (p. 88). It must be not merely strange, but really strange.


I had begun to think, clumsily, that possibility was contained in practice. Another way of approaching the problem is to say that possibility is contained within the real, or, perhaps, that the real exceeds its possibility. Following Levinas, we can ask whether a reality that precedes every protention (a present that was never future) also precedes its possibility. Reality here is meant in a special sense. We might call it the strangely real.


The "real" (le réel): it is by no means accidental that this word is put between quotation marks. The "real" is not talked about in the sense of an ordinary realism. Primal impression proves to be "primal source," "primal generation," or "primal creation" insofar as it gains significance and prevails in opposition to the "spontaneity" of the intentionality of consciousness constituting time. This "in opposition" does not only express a kind of contrast but a belonging together as well. What is real for us is real in consciousness. Husserl is right: the idea of a reality independent of consciousness is the product of a mere abstraction, or even of our forgetting about ourselves. Yet he is still not right: consciousness reveals a reality which prevails in opposition to the interplay of the intentions of consciousness, thwarting all expectations, countering all designs, "preceding and surprising the possible"; in consciousness–to put it in another way–such a reality gets organized whcih declares its independence from consciousness in this very consciousness itself.


(p. 72, Tengelyi's emphases)


When Tengelyi speaks of the initiality and the undecideness of the really strange sense (my words) being submerged, buried or pushed aside, I can't help but think of the traumatic experience and the psychological strategies for coping with trauma. Tengelyi means, however, to emphasize the other side, as it were, of the newly emerged sense, the side that is met with initiative, undertaking and adventure. The to be open to the really strange in experience is to be ready for adventure, to be open to allowing one's fixations of sense to be shattered. Why not go the distance and claim that reality is strange, staking out an extraordinary realism of the undecided?


Husserl says that "where there is a new experience a new science must arise." Perhaps the really strange–I hesitate to say the impossibly strange–rather calls for a poetics; however, the estrangement of the real from the subject of sense formation suggests yet another approach may be necessary. We'll see whether Tengelyi's diacritical method of phenomenology sheds any light on the strangely real when we tackle his thinking on the experience of alterity.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 8:17 AM. 3 comments

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Existential Boredom

Should I feel sympathy for those who are indifferent, for the existentially bored? I can't deny feeling an empathy with the profoundly bored, but should I sympathize with them? Lars Svendsen (A Philosophy of Boredom, trans. John Irons, London: Reaktion Books, 2005) asks us to think of boredom as woven into the fabric of the modern condition. He is especially concerned with a type of boredom he calls existential boredom, which is not a question of idleness but rather of a loss of meaning (p. 34). Provocatively, Svendsen identifies indifference rather than alienation as the condition that enables boredom (p. 36). If I were to sympathize with the bored because they have interiorized an awful indifference of modernity, because they have made a loss of meaning their own, I would not only risk disrespecting the existential freedom of the bored, I would risk not seeing boredom for what it is. My sympathies then would in effect be meaningless. "It is impossible," Svendsen tells us, "to make any clear distinction between the respective contributions made by the subject and object to boredom, because the emptiness of the subject and object is so interwoven" (p. 44). Svendsen says, "One feels bored, for boredom does not have any content that would make it mine" (p. 41, Svendsen's emphases). Is there a person whose feeling of loss I can sympathize with, that I should sympathize with?


Boredom, according to Svendsen, is "a death within life, a non-life" (pp. 40-41). I don't extend to my sympathies to the dead, but to those who live with death, to those who feel the loss of others. Does one live with boredom, or is boredom a way of not living? How can one feel and not be living? How can I not sympathize with one who feels?


"Boredom is connected to reflection, and in all reflection there is a tendency towards a loss of world" (p. 33). Again, I empathize with those who reflect, but I am not sure whether I should sympathize with them. Does the thinker who fights to the tendency towards loss, and fails, succumbing to indifference, deserve my sympathies? What of the thinker who succumbs without a struggle?


What is the relationship between boredom and the experience of an uncertain subject? Existential boredom, Svendsen argues, "must fundamentally be understood on the basis of a dearth of accumulated experience. The problem is that we try to get beyond this boredom by piling on increasingly new and more potent sensations and impressions, instead of allowing ourselves time to accumulate experience" (p. 45, Svendsen's emphasis). Let's say I value rumination. It allows me time to accumulate an experience of thinking. Yet I have ample ground for empathizing with those who do not ruminate, for the glib, and I can't easily assign a responsibility for rumination. One of the characteristics of modern individualism is that it places a burden on the individual person to create or discover meaning for her own life, and the more life is focused on the individual, the "stronger the insistence on [finding] meaning amongst the trivialities of everyday life will become" (p. 27). Can I blame somebody for not finding meaning amongst trivialities? Can I be sure that boredom isn't such a triviality, that it truly is a big philosophical problem that Svendsen makes of it? "Only a problematic self feels the need for realization," Svendsen tells us (p. 32). I wouldn't want to make a further problem of somebody's self by suggesting that they shouldn't feel bored, that they should find their own meaning for their life. Yet I am not sure that finding one's own meaning in life doesn't alleviate the suffering of boredom. The "person" who suffers boredom has been bequeathed a problematic self. The suffering of boredom may be a price paid for the resistence to the problematic self. Certainly then I wouldn't pity the bored. It is difficult, though, to find common cause with the existentially bored, so long and insofar as they have succumbed to indifference.


I think there's a lot to be said for accumulating experience together. Sympathy for the bored may not foster togetherness. I don't know that it's a bad thing to sympathize with the bored. Perhaps, though, it misses the point (or pointlessness) of boredom.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 10:21 AM. 14 comments

Monday, September 10, 2007

Interior Intimo Meo

Reflecting on a heart transplant, Jean-Luc Nancy questions whether life resides in "his" body.


The intrus is no other than me, my self; none other than man himself. No other than the one, the same, always identical to itself and yet that is never done with altering itself. At the same time sharp and spent, stripped bare and over-equipped, intruding upon the world and upon itself: a disquieting upsurge of the strange, conatus of an infinite excrescence.


("L'Intrus," p. 13, available at influxus)


Is it a modern preoccupation that leads from the excessive to the infinite? Anyway, Nancy's essay is feeding my doubts about Merleau-Ponty's body. Am I really a sensuous being?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 4:45 PM. 2 comments

Heteronymous Being

"Genuine ontology," says Hiroshi Kojima, "stands on the ground of praxis and the contradiction of life" (Monad and Thou, p. 168). The first part of this statement is easiest to think, though Kojima complicates his ontology by introducing an ontological difference between the being of the world and the being of things, the latter of which is included in the former. It is a resolutely anthropological ontology, applying only to a lifeform that uses tools–in Kojima's opinion only humans use tools (p. 161). He explains the difference between the two beings as the difference between a teleological life force in the case of the being of the world, and causal being in the case of the being of things. Acknowledging the contribution of Maine de Biran, while disagreeing with the characterization of life force as hyperorganic, Kojima describes the relation between the two kinds of being in terms of resistence (p. 163). He compares the being of objects in general to the il y a:


The Being (il y a) of Emmanuel Levinas, a Being that is distinguished from any concrete being, is very close to our sense of the Being in general of things. It is anonymous and impersonal. It is regarded as the object of the never-sleeping "insomniac" consciousness. It is impossible for this Being to die, perhaps because it is already dead. It signifies a Being that is intolerably and violently objectified in space by the primal transcendental subjectivity, which is originally impersonal and anonymous and is beyond any particular ego.


(p. 162)


He also draws a comparison with Sartre's "practico-inert," though Kojima sees this phenomenon clearly in terms of a struggle of life.


If the being of things is anonymous, so too is there an anonymous quality to the being of the world. Kojima says that "a Being that an epistemological consciousness never expects springs out from the depths of the world in the practical dimension, a prerational teleological force of life, so-to-speak, and consciousness can only control the outcome of this power. Consciousness does not know what this power is and where it comes from. Indeed, it is my power on the one hand, but on the other it is a Being that is completely other than mine" (p. 160, Kojima's emphais). Again, he says, "the power of life is not always mine, and the telos of life is not always I myself. In a sense, indeed, life belongs to me and is entrusted to me, but I nevertheless do know what life is and where it comes from. I also don't know when it will depart from me. In this sense, life is precisely other than mine and has a telos beyond me. The power of life must thus be regarded as something contradictory: as mine and other than mine at the same time" (p. 165, Kojima's emphasis). Kojima will seek the telos of life in the Thou (p. 166).


Without committing to Kojima's analysis of the telos of life, I'd like to take a second to think about the contradiction he sees in life. He contrasts his view with Nietzsche's idea of the will to power, because whereas Nietzsche sees a power that wills to be itself, Kojima sees a force in contradiction to its identity (pp. 165-166).. (Whether this is a fair reading of Nietzsche I leave for others to determine; Kojima's idea interests me in itself.) Kojima says that his "ring of eternal return would everywhere be cut by the inner contradiction of life" (p. 166). If I acknowledge my own life force as being in one sense other than mine, how then should I live? Does the question even pertain to me any longer once I have recognized this contradiction inherent in my life? It feels like a terrible blow to my freedom, like the best I can hope for is to enjoy life in a thousand petty acts of resistence. There is of course the option of suicide, but I hardly think that is the best response to a curtailment of freedom. Is it so painful just to be alive?


Whenever I encounter an idea of alienation I have to wonder whether it is a manifestation of modern bourgeois life. Surely modern bourgeois life accentuates feelings of personal alienation–but why should I be a part of it? Why should I lend my own style to the accentuation of personal alienation? On the one hand I have the way I live, which is not uncomfortable from day to day. I read philosophy at my leisure. On the other hand, I have questions about how I should live. Do these questions too spring from my leisure? Or is it only the style of questioning, the accentuation of this or that, that provides a testament to my social situation? If the telos of "my" life is other than mine, I can't help but think that it's proper owner might be a demonic force more horrible than Thou, a demonic force with many frightening names. And yet I address myself to you as if you weren't so horrible after all. Hmm.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 7:01 AM. 2 comments

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sense without Signs

As we've seen, László Tengelyi favors Sinnbildung over Sinngebung, and Erfahrung over Erlebnis. His discussion of an experiential sense in The Wild Region of Life-History touches on a few more ideas I'd like to consider. The first of these is a broadened concept of sense.


Tengelyi draws a distinction between linguistic meaning and extralinguistic sense, and he claims that "all lived experience is related to the spontaneous emergence of a dispossessed sense, whereas the conceptual and linguistic expression of this sense is necessarily based on a retroactive fixation of sense" (p. 3). This is a little confusing, because Erlebnis is often rendered into English as "lived experience," yet Tegnelyi seems to want to talk about Erfahrung. He regards Erlebnis as the product of a static analysis, whereas Erfahrung refers to "the emergence of a new insight" (pp. 18-19). The conclusion I draw is that Tengelyi also means to investigate Erfahrung as it is lived. He departs from Husserl by intending to provide a phenomenology of experience that includes what takes place "behind the back of consciousness," which Tengelyi equates with the interintentional and the spontaneous.


Tengelyi makes a keen observation about intentionality. He says that it has the structure of "the consciousness of something as something" (p. 13, Tengelyi's emphasis). He notes that the German Etwas als Etwas ("something as something") is often translated into French, for instance by Levinas, as ceci en tant que cela ("this as that"), pointing to the concept of difference that is inherent in the idea (p. 5). One could easily become entangled in conceptual paradoxes of the indentical and the different, of sameness and alterity. Tengelyi sees this as a deceptive shortcut to grasping experiential sense. The task for phenomenology, which he regards as true for Hegel as well as for Husserl, is not to conceive experience dialectically, but to conceive dialectics in terms of experience (p. 6).


Taking a cue from Gadamer, Tengelyi imagines experience in its poignancy.


[E]xperience always touches a sore point; it cuts to the quick, it strikes home; it has, in other words, its characteristic poignancy. That is why experience, in its original form–as the experience one gains–is one's own lived experience, which belongs to one's own life-history and is properly expressed in the first-person singular.


(p. 7, Tengelyi's emphases)


I want to clarify a distinction Tengelyi makes between primary and secondary notions of experience before offering a criticism. According to Tengelyi, shared experience is a secondary notion of experience, a dispositional and sedimented kind of experience, whereas experience in its primary sense of an event of poignancy is always singular. I'm unhappy with this distinction. There are examples of shared experience that are not in the third-person, but the first-person plural. Erotic experiences would be the example par excellence (though of course there are phenomena of autoeroticism). If you've read this far, I assume we are sharing some kind of experience, an experience that goes beyond my solitary act of writing and enters into conversation. There is a possibility of discovering poignancies together, of furthering a discussion into poignancies that are not mine alone. My commentary may surprise you, and it may surprise me as well; I expect the same is true of your commentary, should you choose to offer any. If the event of poignancy is a sense without signs, it by no means follows that we can't experience a poignancy together. Even silences, heavy with poignancy, may be shared. The move from Sinngebung to Sinnbildung suggests this possibility, yet in emphasizing the spontanteous generation of sense, Tengelyi seems to foreclose on the reality of the plural interior of experience. We are exposed to the bite of the world, capable of sharing events of poignancy, a fact I am sure of because of the way I experience my body. Is empathy spontaneously generated? Is that the word?


Now I have to clarify what Tengelyi means by "interintentional," because his meaning is not the same as Kojima's interintentionality. For Kojima, interintentionality points to an orginal plurality of the transcendental consciousness. For Tengelyi, on the other hand, interintentionality refers to "shreds of sense on a path running from one intentional experience to another. We may describe these shreds as interintentional moments of a spontaneous sense formation, adding that the phenomenon of 'interintentionality' gives its precise meaning to the expression 'behind the back of consciousness'" (p. 19, Tengelyi's emphasis). Now, there is a sense in which Kojima's interintentionality also occurs, so to speak, behind the back of consciousness. Which of these approaches offers more insight into the everyday experience of empathy? We'll see how Tengelyi deals with these problems when he turns his attention to the experience and ethics of alterity.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 10:55 AM. 0 comments

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Meme 123-5

Via Metastable Equilibrium

- Grab the nearest book.

- Open the book to page 123.

- Find the fifth sentence.

- Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

- Don’t search around and look for the “coolest” book you can find. Do what’s actually next to you.

"It is at the very basis of such a generation that, in Levinas's approach, the third party enters into the sphere of the elementary relationship between oneself and another" (László Tengelyi, The Wild Region in Life-History, Northwestern University Press, 2004, p. 123).

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posted by Fido the Yak at 4:25 PM. 0 comments

The Speaking Subject

Like Hung Wai-Shen, László Tengelyi argues that the tacit cogito of the Phenomenology of Perception was superseded by Merleau-Ponty's later phenomenology (The Wild Region in Life-History, p. 33; I will unpack Tengelyi's discussion more fully in a later post). Tengelyi alerts us to the following passage in The Prose of the World:


In the "I speak" psychology rediscovers for us an operation, a dimension, and relations which do not belong to thought in the ordinary sense. "I think" means there is a certain locus called "I" where action and awareness of action are not different, where being confounds itself with its own awareness of itself, and thus where no intrusion from outside is even conceivable. Such an "I" could not speak. He who speaks enters into a system of relations which presuppose his presence and at the same time make him open and vulnerable.


(p. 17)


Having begun to reread The Prose of the World, I now feel that my previous objections to Hung were not well thought through, and my understanding of Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology of language was inadequate. However, I still feel that the obliteration of the tacit cogito is not complete. I will explore Merleau-Ponty's thinking about the speaking subject, language and expression with an eye to how his thinking might overcome the limitations of the Cartesianism of the tacit cogito, such as it is.


"We now regard language as the reverberation of my relations with myself and with others" Merleau-Ponty announces (p. 20, my emphasis). Tengelyi argues that Merleau-Ponty approaches language as a diacritical system, a system in which the "I speak" is included. This is true as far is it goes; however, Merleau-Ponty's descriptions of this system frequently make use of musical metaphors, metaphors of gesture suggestive of dance, and of course the analogy with painting. Modern structural linguistics is only one model he uses to investigate the phenomenon of language. Language is embodied. Language is expressive. The expressive "system of harmony," operating through the locution that touches on sedimented significations to make them yield strange sounds (p. 13) belongs to another interior system of the relation between self and other:


[S]peech and understanding are moments in the unified system of self-other. The substratum of this system is not a pure "I". . . but rather an "I" endowed with a body which reveals its thoughts sometimes to attribute them to itself and at other times to impute them to someone else. I accommodate the other person through my language and my body. Even the distance which the normal subject puts between himself and others, as well as the clear distinction between speaking and listening, are modalities of the system of embodied subjects. . . . As an embodied subject, I am exposed to the other person, just as he is to me, and I identify myself with the person speaking before me.


(p. 18, Merleau-Ponty's emphasis)


Although Merleau-Ponty here talks of the other "before" me, he is in fact inclined to regard the essential relation between speaking subjects as lateral. He claims that "the other is never present face-to-face" (p. 133). The other is, instead, "always on the margin of what I see and hear, he is this side of me, he is beside or behind me, but he is not in that place which my look flattens and empties of any 'interior'" (p. 134). The other is decentered because the self is decentered; the embodiment of the speaking subject means that it is open and vulnerable, and that, counterintuitively perhaps, it can be generalized. "From the first time I relied on my body to explore the world, I knew that this corporeal relation to the world could be generalized" (p. 136). For Merleau-Ponty, the world has a bite, and we empathize with everybody exposed to its bite as we are. "As long as it adheres to my body like the tunic of Nessus, the world exists not only for me but for everyone in it who makes gestures toward it" (p. 137). In a footnote, Merleau-Ponty discusses style in terms of a "nonconstituted rationality of the thing-axis" and he says that "a nonconstituted rationality is possible only if the thing is nonfrontal, ob-ject, but what bites into me, and what I bite into through my body; if the thing is, itself too, given through an indirect grasp, lateral like the other person–such a rationality has decentering as the ground of meaning" (p. 45, Merleau-Ponty's emphasis). When Merleau-Ponty says that "[t]he signification of signs derives initially from their configuration in current usage, from the style of human relations that emanate from them" (p. 36), I take this to mean that its meaning is grounded in a decentering. "There can speech (and in the end personality) only for an "I" which contains the germ of a depersonalization" (p. 19). In a footnote he explains that this depersonalization is founded on an originary fusion of the embodied subject and her world, and he notes that "[t]his foundation does not prevent language from coming back dialectically over what preceded it and transforming the purely carnal and vital coexistence with the world and bodies inot a coexistence of language" (p. 20).


In the Phenomenology of Perception Merleau-Ponty defines the tacit cogito as "the presence of oneself to oneself, being no less than existence" (p. 404). In The Prose of the World he is concerned with this same relation of self to self. He asks, "How can the cogito emigrate beyond me, since it is me" (p. 134)? His answer is that "there is a myself which is other, which dwells elsewhere and deprives me of my central location" (p. 135, Merleau-Ponty's emphasis). Thus the tacit cogito is in one sense superseded by a decentered self, by a bodily coexistence. Yet nobody who has read Phenomenology of Perception would be utterly surprised to find bodily coexistence inhabiting the decentered self.


"The tacit cogito is a cogito only when it has found expression for itself," Merleau-Ponty says (Phenomenology, ibidem). By arguing, in The Prose of the World, that the cogito does not speak (and I find its lack of personality most interesting), it appears that Merleau-Ponty has left behind the tacit cogito as well. On the other hand, there is a tacit dimension to the speaking subject, the "strange expressive organism" (p. 14) for whom speaking and listening are but two modalities of the same expressive life. And, Merleau-Ponty says that speech "never quite pierces the 'eternal silence' of private subjectivity" (p. 43). "[W]e should consider speech before it has been pronounced, against the ground of the silence which precedes it, which never ceases to accompany it, and without which it would say nothing. Moreover, we should be sensitive to the thread of silence from which the tissue of speech is woven" (pp. 45-46). Thus it seems that the only thing Merleau-Ponty has left by the wayside is the cogito itself. The relation of oneself to oneself, and the silence of the speaking subject are intact. Does Merleau-Ponty thereby free himself from a problem of Cartesian subjectivity? I'm not sure. It would be fair to say, I think, that the problem has been decentered.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 4:11 PM. 0 comments