Friday, July 11, 2008

B-reach (}∅{ as a nonnarrative of gifting)

Antonio Calcagno's critique of Henry's phenomenology would be a must-read if only for his position that life "must be understood as an a posteriori abstraction drawn from my natural experiences of myself dwelling in the world" ("Michel Henry's Non-Intentionality Thesis and Husserlian Phenomenology," Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology, Vol. 39, No. 2, May 2008, p. 125). Should we question the attitude that tells us which experiences are natural and which might possibly not be? Anyway, as part of my ongoing struggle with the idea of transcendence, I admit I am unsure about what to make of a parcelling out of ideas into transcendence on the one side and experience (the empirical) on the other. More abstractly my concern may well be with priority (which I am thoroughly comfortable calling it into question) or, even more abstractly, narrativity. Why should the truth of experience be anything like a narrative–and by "truth of experience" I probably mean anything I should want to say about it? Surely there is more to saying than narrative, and, without denying narration its due, I object to all attempts to limit the saying of experience to narration. Well, Calcagno apparently has Henry's number, and his passing of the question of life through subjectivity and intersubjectivity as an ethical matter (he sometimes reads Husserl through Stein, as might be expected) merits our admiration, but I'm going to set all that aside for a moment to think about givenness, with Calcagno's guidance, and what may or may not be an ontological difference prior, perhaps, to any phenomenology.

Husserl does give an account of what is prior and what is conditional for phenomenology to operate successfully by admitting that there is a givenness not only about things as they appear to consciousness but also a givenness about consciousness itself. Edith Stein describes the givenness of consciousness as a Komplexbildung that consists of continually given lived-experiences. Husserl does not give a complete and systematic phenomenology of givenness not because his project is incomplete, but more because he realizes that there are certain realities that cannot be accounted for. In this way, Husserlian givenness must be understood as a first principle that admits a gap. We start there, but as with any principle, we cannot give a full account of its status without undermining its foundational properties. Givenness is a starting point, and the limits of human understanding cannot speculate as to why or how it comes to be operates. Any attempt to give an account of givenness other than as first principle is to lapse into a realm that transcends human understanding, namely, speculative metaphysics or theology.

(p. 118, my bold)

Would it be possible to lapse into an empirically reachable reality from the breach (while remaining ambivalent about the precise timing of the admittance of ἀρχαί)? Does the breach elapse? I don't see why we shouldn't continue to investigate its extensivity, which might perhaps be the substrate of a lapse.

A question about the fictility of existence: does a Komplexbildung have a narrative beginning, or anything like a narrative structure?

Oh, if we say Komplexbildung floats on indeterminacy what have we added to the discussion? In one aspect indeterminacy is the soul of gifting, but I would be wary of making of it a first principle.

For Hagège the word is the ἀρχή of exchange. Is he wrong? Not only is he not wrong in any absolute sense (we could never rule it out), he could almost be talking about the breach. Exchange, or gifting, is the manner of the breach's lapse into the reachable.

We offer the breach up for exchange. Have we ever expected so much of extension? Enough to surprise?

What first principle would a Bildung admit and still remain something like a formation; what happens to Bildung im Bildungsgang without which it would never happen at all? Habitation?

Does sequence describe anything real? Perhaps, or perhaps it aids in our descriptions, but we should be wary of thinking gifting can be adequately described without attending to its rhythms, and, while temporally patterned (in other words amenable to descriptions in terms of sequences), rhythms, as patterns, may yet disrupt the idea of firstness, or mosdef firstness as foundational. A Komplexbildung of polysequentialities, one consistent with the burst of the synkairotic, though it may indeed be a fact of life, has yet to be imagined.

A difference between the breach and the ἀρχή: the ἀρχή opens by closure; the breach is perpetually open to disruption; it can't properly be undermined because the habitation it inaugurates (as if every month were August) is not founded but rather found, a habitation amid and betwixt the open.

At the risk of becoming tiresome, my position is that we lapse into storytelling–a move towards particular human understandings rather than the be all and end all of understanding–by starting with the ἀρχή. Once we identify that lapse, it becomes difficult to say that the lapse and (or on account of) its logic, namely narrative, didn't in fact precede the ἀρχή, which is of course a contradiction of any claim to firstness, or at best a paradox of priority (that it would pose there being a division into priority and posteriority prior to any emergence of the prior). So in posing the breach as an alternative to the ἀρχή we open narration to questioning by setting aside priority. We want to know if the breach lapses into anything knowable. We want to know if the breach elapses at all. My sense is that it does, but we limit ourselves by allowing narrative or priority as a narrative trope to dominate our apprehensions of its elapsing. We may then have been mistaken in equating the logic of the lapse with narrative generally, although in particular lapses from ἀρχαί may occur according to a logic of narration. When I call a step "preliminary" or "inaugurating" I don't mean to embark on a foundational discourse. (The step is another way of saying lapse, what is admitted to by the breach.) If this commits me in some measure to narrative, it doesn't prevent me, I think, from lapsing. Instead of telling the story of a givenness (e.g. ontological difference), we might rather be in touch with a gifting. The breach is that being in touch.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 12:25 PM.


Blogger pensum said...

Hey Fido i wonder if narrative itself isn't the granting of transcendence, however illusory that transcendence might be. And perhaps i have misunderstood, not read enough texts by Henry, or simply superimposed my own viewpoints on him, but that was always my attraction to him. For as i read him Henry writes and critiques from an awareness of the fundamental quality of life where all experience (sensory, linguistic, whatever...) is but a manifestation of life unto itself, very much like waves in water.

Isn't Henry's basic perspective inherently nondualistic? And perhaps one could say that, jsut like language, duality never transcends its own singular ground and transcendence itself is immanence.

Just throwing my hat into the ring there, and most likely just grasping at straws, but no matter as mostly i just wanted to thank you for the link and the kind words in your earlier post.

Michael Tweed

July 13, 2008 12:06 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Hi, Michael. I'm glad you stopped by.

My impression, which is still in the making, is that Henry's phenomenology of life does indeed make a gesture towards nondualism. I might be attracted to his thinking for that reason. However, in my own mind I cannot reconcile some of his ideas with a consistent nondualism. From the essay "The Phenomenology of Life," here is a statement that seems to promise an end to dualistic thinking: "the opposition between that which appears and pure appearing, which had already been present in classical thought and which was then brought to the fore by phenomenology, disappears in the case of life" (p. 103). But what did he do to the world in order to arrive at this disappearance? He robbed the world of life in order to give it back through autorevelatory transcendence. His first thesis he said was that "no life can appear in the appearing of the world" (p. 101). So there is then a duality of appearance on the one side and pure phenomenality on the other. It is resolved, but on whose terms? Of life, he says that it is "a radically different mode of appearing" than sensation or being or any mode of being (p. 102). Here is another example: "this body which is seen, touched, heard, etc. presupposes a second body, a transcendental body which feels it, which touches it, which hears it, etc." (p. 107). I don't know. It just seems to me that dualism is inherent in this project, though I don't have any firm convictions and am happy to rethink it and besides, Henry's rather edifying as far as I've read.

You said you wonder "if narrative itself isn't the granting of transcendence, however illusory that transcendence might be." That's a beautiful thought. It makes think of some of the things Cavarero was saying in Relating Narratives. You know, I'd probably be inclined to think of an acknowledgment of transcendence before I'd think of a granting, but the word "granting" has got me thinking. Would you grant people incredibility?

July 13, 2008 4:26 PM  

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