Tuesday, July 29, 2008
The synkairotic moment is not carved out of time by logos. If any carving is done it is with the synkairos, in the sense that one can accomplish something with an opportunity, a coming towards port. Said another way, it is synkairos which gives us the "not ever" in never allowing us to forget that the logos is an ongoing work. In one sense synkairos appears to be parachronic, which might, in a paroxysm of sloppiness, be taken as a substitute for achronia; however, this appearance can be explained as an artefact of mismeasurement, i.e., only by misapplying the methods we would use to measure chronos, were we to grant that such an entity exists that would adequately correspond to the concept, could we be led to the conclusion that synkairos is achronic.
So what is accomplished by saying synkairos? Well, the word springs from a dissatisfaction with synchrony, and it must in some sense be associated with all that the synchronic would stand for. That can't be denied. I'd like to make it mean something a little less, though, this little twist on the kairotic. The synkairotic captures the sense of the kairotic utterance being ensconced in response. The synkairotic utterance, by which I mean any utterance, is from and towards response, a discursion in the sense of being to and fro response. It is for response. Saying "synkairotic" makes its ensconcings explicit. (Perhaps you can see from another angle why I have such anxiety about thinking repetition?) In the language of opportunity the synchronic is the discourse of the passerelle, the concourse of embarkings and disembarkings that bracket a passage even if we cannot say what that passage means. Any fast distinction between the real and the symbolic may be jettisoned as need arises. The passerelle teaches us that opportunity.
Synkairos is not fictive, then, though it is fictile. The reason one cannot answer a question like "what is the duration of the synkairotic?" is not because the synkairotic is totally made upagain, it is with the synkairotic that made-up things are made upbut rather because if we mean for "duration" or its cousin "durée" to be of any use as a concept we should want to affix it to something permanently whereas properly synkairotic fixings are opportunistic, transiting towards port for reasons that are essentially transitory. They are neither fixatory nor nonfixatory, neither fixional nor nonfixional in any enduring sense. We might precisely say then that synkairos is not presumptively fictive, though fictions may surely be worked out synkairotically. This of course reiterates our initial proposition.
Perhaps I have missed the boat on duration. (I don't ask your forgiveness for showing my mistakes, but perhaps some forbearance.) It is important, if one seeks to understand the synkairotic, that duration be fixable, which also implies, perhaps, that it be unfixable. It seems that there is not a fixed or unfixed state that would be allowed to endure prior to duration. The same logic would apply to ephemerality, or the ephemerus, I think. That is, it may be assumed that duration and ephemerality are mutually exclusive or conceptual opposites while in fact here and now we can apply them to each other freely. This freedom of movement suggests to me that, as with something like affirmative negation, perhaps, the difference between duration and ephemerality, which seems to be carried on in the heart of duration, is not really a matter of dialectics or opposition, but rather it's a matter of two or more concepts inhabiting the same conceptual form, or making the same conceptual passage. Can you say "duration" of things that were thought to have no duration? We come to the concept of duration with other concepts in tow. Fixity, for instance. Yet we can reverse course. We can think duration otherwise than we have been given to think it. We can decouple it even from habit itself, which would keep duration forever in its hold.
If the synkairotic seems to decouple duration from fixity it is not on behalf of a prior (enduring) ephemerality, but only for the sake of allowing other couplings. The synkairotic then allows for the coupling of duration to fixity by allowing for the decoupling of duration from fixity.
I feel I'm in danger of disneyfying duration, but there are a few more words that need to be said about the question "what is the duration of the synkairotic?" The poetic function teaches us that the opposition between the axletree of the synchronic and the axletree of the diachronic cannot be permanently fixed, that the opposition admits of transposition. Well, we haven't even begun to think the diakairotic because we aren't prepared yet to think through passage. Perhaps thinking through the synkairotic will prepare us to think through passage, or perhaps we are avoiding a necessary step. In any case, evidently a doubt can be sustained. An aporia can be sustained. This is an important discovery which may help us address the question about the duration of the synkairotic. Unlike the synchronic, the synkairotic should not be expected to unfold all at once.
The synkairotic moment is multiple, complex. This is not so difficult to wrap our brains around, a complex moment, yet I would find it difficult to specify exactly how such a moment would relate to duration, or to temporality, ontologically conceived. (I won't say "synkairotic instant" because the instant is both overdetermined and etymologically all wrongthe moment does not stand still.) I suspect that there is some temporality at play in the synkairotic. I am playing with it. Yet if I were asked to define it with reference to what, I might rather think it were defined with reference to a complication of whats and whos. This is our synkairotic moment, and who we refers to, dear readers, is never definitively pinned down.
Labels: kairos, temporality
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Ellen Dissanayake brings a wealth of knowledge and a sharp intellect to bear on the question of the origins of music ("Antecedents of the Temporal Arts in Early Mother-Infant Interaction," The Origins of Music, Wallin et al. (eds.), Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000, pp. 389-410). The Abstract:
Speculations about the biological origins of music, like other human social behaviors, typically assume that competition affecting reproductive success was and is the ultimate evolutionary driving force. A different approach maintains that human music originated in perceptual, behavioral, cognitive and emotional competencies and sensitivities that developed from primate precursors in survival-enhancing, affiliative interactions (using ritualized packages of sequential vocal, facial and kinesthetic behaviors) between mothers and infants under six months of age. Thus music in its origins is viewed as a multimedially presented and multimodally processed activity of temporally and spatially patternedexaggerated and regularizedvocal, bodily, and even facial movements. It is held that because of increasing infant altriciality during hominization, the primate propensity for relationship or emotional communion, not simply sociability, became so crucial that special affiliative mechanisms evolved to enhance and ensure it. These mechanisms in turn could be further developed (as in the temporal arts, including music) to serve affiliative bonding among adults in a species where close cooperation also became unprecedentedly critical for individual survival. That musical ability (like any variable attribute) can be and is used competitively in particular instances is not denied. However, the hypothesis offered here is able to address and account for music's specific and widely attested power to coordinate and conjoin individuals both physically and psychologically.
Any evolutionary argument about Homo sapiens that notices extreme altriciality is probably on the path to some sort of knowledge. Here I only mean to comment on a few of Dissanayake's observations rather than continue her argument against predominant conjectures in the field of sociobiology. However, we should be clear as to the kind of activity she means for us to attend to, and it's helpful in that regard to clearly understand her argument:
The trend towards increasingly helpless infants surely created intense selective pressure for proximate physiological and cognitive mechanisms to ensure longer and better maternal care. I suggest that the solution to this problem was accomplished by coevolution in infants and mothers of rhythmic, temporally patterned, jointly maintained communicative interactions that produced and sustained positive affectpsychobiological brain states of interest and joyby displaying and imitating emotions and motivations of affiliation, and thereby sharing, communicating, and reinforcing them.
Dissanayake would direct our attention in the first place not to maternal singing but rather to rhythmic interactions between infants and primary care givers prior even to the onset of babble.
I do not refer to lullabies or to maternal singing but to early interactions, ritualized packages of sequential behaviors, vocal, facial, and kinesic, between mothers and infants under six months of age. I thus view music in its origin more broadly than as vocalizations, rather, as a multimodal or multimedia activity of temporally patterned movements. I also emphasize its capacity not only to attract and charm individuals, but to coordinate the emotions of participants and thus promote conjoinment.
(ibid., Dissanayake's emphases)
Dissanayake is saying that music and movement are originally one. This perspective leads her to be critical of various theoretical assumptions about music, language and cognition. "As theorists tended to neglect the importance of gesture to language and thought and the importance of prosody to spoken language, so the integral importance of bodily movement in musical behavior has been overlooked," she says (p. 397). It is silent and motionless listening which would need to be explained (making one point of agreement with James H. Johnson). Further, she asks us to be critical of the established science of mother-infant interactions, arguing that an "overemphasis on vocal behavior in mother-infant studies also distorted and confused theoretical debate and conjecture" (ibid.). She clearly asserts that "[d]espite the research emphasis on highly vocal, dramatic, American middle-class interactions of mothers and infants, kinesics is the dominant interactive modality at four months" (p. 398, my bold).
I have to admit a soft spot for anybody who would trace the idea the temporal arts are about the transmission of emotional dispositions from one generation to the next back to The Andaman Islanders. I'm going to have to raise a quibble though, for what it's worth. Dissanayake says that it's not enough to look at rhythmicity alone in mother-infant interactions. She argues that instead we need to look at how violations of expectation structure experience; we need to look at how anticipations are created, manipulated, delayed and satisfied (or not, I reckon). This is an argument about affect and sharing affect. Theorists of affect, she tells us, regard affect in general as "a response to some changeto novelty, strangeness, or uncertainty"(p. 395). She cites Beatrice Beebe and Frank Lachmann's "Representation and internalization in infancy: Three principles of salience," to tell us that infants' expectations in dyadic interactions are organized according to (1) regulation, (2) disruption and repair, and (3) heightened affective moments. Dissanayake says that "[e]xperience is organized by contrast, disjunction, and difference" but perhaps she means only to describe experience in one phase of disruption and repair on the way to heightened affective moments. In talking about music and its antecedents should we be talking about experiences organized by contrast, disjunction and difference, as well as the emotional response to such strangeness? If so, then a question arises in my mind. Although we may grant that our emotional responses to music are difficult to describe, they should in principle be empirically knowable. I would propose that the agent of musical experience and the agent of knowing a musical experience should both be called "consciousness," though I am not unaware of the problematic nature of talking about consciousness and agency in such a way. So we're coming up to my quibble. Dissanayake reports that "[t]ogether, mother and baby practice and perfect their attunement by engaging in mutually improvised (jointly constructed) dyadic interactions in which each partner tracks the durations of movements and holds in emotionally expressive behaviors of face and body, or vocal phrases and pauses (sounds and silences), of the other." She then concludes that "[t]he rapidity with which these sequences are performed suggests that they occur partly or fully out of conscious control"(p. 391). Well, nothing of the kind has been suggested to me. On the contrary learning about the emotional capabilities of infants leads me to believe that consciousness is not as slow as some theories, folk and scientific, would have us believe. If we're going to accept Dissanayake's invitation to look beyond rhythmicity to coordinations of expectation and surprise, and I presume, conjoinments of emotional responses to the unexpected, i.e. conjoinments of surprise, wouldn't we have to be talking about conscious experiences even if we meant, for some reason, to talk about the conscious mind's encounters with the unconscious, that is, irruptions of the uncanny or some such? Just a quibble, and one I've left in the form of a question because I'd like to be open to a variety of ways of talking about consciousness.
Labels: Dissanayake, dyad, infancy, motility, music, passions, rhythm, surprise
Monday, July 21, 2008
Whether because I've internalized censures of my own persnicketiness, or because I've overzealously sought to identify and counteract prejudices in my worldview, or because of envy, I have allowed myself to hate elitists. ¡Basta! From here on out I vow not to hate elitists. Reasonably aware of the subtleties of abjection, I feel that I'm announcing a serious psychic commitment. I should hesitate to even designate a taste or opinion as elite for fear of suggesting that its champions ought to be despised.
On November Third, 2004, I vowed not to spend the next four years hating George Bush. That vow, which I have mostly kept, has opened my eyes to a wide variety of political hatreds. That said, I don't mean to refrain from hating elitists for the sake of acquiring any kind of political perspective. I open myself to learning any lesson that might be learned from refusing to hate elitists.
Tonight we're having shrimp curry with naan for two. Here is the recipe, starting with the naan, which takes a while to rise.
- 1 cup of flour
- ⅜ cup of plain yogurt
- 1 tablespoon yogurt butter
- Sprinkle of water
- 1 teaspoon yeast
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Cooking spray or a teaspoon of oil
- Another tablespoon of yogurt butter or cooking spray (optional)
Start several hours before you want to eat. Get out a mixing bowl. Melt one tablespoon of yogurt butter just enough so it's soft, using the microwave or a pan. Put the flour, salt, yogurt, softened yogurt butter and yeast in the bowl. Mix it with a rubber spatula to start, or just use your hand. (Your kneading hand is going to get messy.) Sprinkle some water in if it's too dry. Add more flour if it's too moist. Knead it for about twelve minutes. Ball it up and put the ball of kneaded dough in an oiled bowl (use cooking spray if you have a heavy hand). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or with a towel. Wash your hands if you haven't already. Clean up, but leave the flour out if you want. Wait at least 90 minutes, or better about two hours. About 25 minutes before eating heat the oven to 475°. Take the dough and put it on a large wooden cutting board or similar surface. Cut it in half and roll each half into a ball. Put a towel over the two balls and let sit for another 15 minutes. Take out a rolling pin and dust it with flour. Roll out the balls of dough so they're roughly 12 inches in diameter, ⅜ inches thick. Thereabouts. Completely melt a tablespoon of yogurt butter unless you're using cooking spray. Turn a large cookie sheet upside down and place the flattened dough on the cookie sheet. If they won't both fit on one cookie sheet, use two smaller upsidedown cookie sheets. Brush the tops of the uncooked naan with yogurt butter or spray with cooking spray. Place them in the oven on the top rack for between six and nine minutes. (It helps to know your oven, of course.) You want them crisp and brown on top but not burnt. Serve on a plate or whatever.
- 1 lb. of large shrimp
- ½ cup of plain yogurt
- About 3 tablespoons yogurt butter
- 1 smallish onion
- 3 cloves of garlic
- Several tablespoons of curry powder
Thaw your shrimp if you bought frozen shrimp. Peel and devein them. Even if a machine already deveined them get out your knife and make sure. (You don't need to waste the tail segment if you do this yourself.) Wash the shrimp thoroughly and drain. Put the shrimp in a mixing bowl and add curry powder. We've been using sweet curry from Penzy's. Mix it up with your fingers, coating all of the shrimp. Wash your hands (and your knife too, if you're using a single chef's knife.) Finely chop the onion. White onion is good. Yellow is good too, but if it's too large only use half. If you haven't already prepared chopped garlic, peel the garlic cloves, chop the ends off, and either put them through a garlic press or mince them with your knife. Melt the yogurt butter in a saute pan. This step should be started about 15 to 20 minutes before you want to eat. Yogurt butter needs a little less heat than you would give to regular butter. Put the onion and garlic in the pan on a medium high burner. Saute. You can use a wooden spoon to stir it up. After the onions are sauted add the shrimp. You can tell when a shrimp is cooked by a change in color (you may still see that under the curry powder) and by its firmness. If you poke a shrimp with a wooden spoon and it's squishy that means you need to cook it some more. When the shrimp are cooked add the yogurt and turn down the heat. Stir. This can simmer for a few minutes, but not too long.
Tear the stems of the spinach and place the leaves in a colander. If the leaves are large you can tear them. Rinse the leaves thoroughly. About 12 minutes before you want to eat put the spinach in a steamer with some water (of course) and turn on high. Keep an eye on this because overcooked spinach is icky. If you don't have a steamer (ours is just like a strainer thingy you put in a sauce pan) then don't eat steamed spinach.
- 1 knuckle (or cup) of rice
- 2 knuckles (or cups) of water
- 1 dash of salt (optional)
If you're using white rice or jasmine rice start by rinsing the rice about 30 minutes before you want to eat. If you're using brown rice give yourself at least an hour. You can rinse the rice in the pan you use to cook it, hopefully a small sauce pan or the like. When you're done rinsing, leave in enough water to come up to your second knuckle. Add a dash of salt if you want to. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat to low. You can quickly stir it with a wooden spoon to make sure there aren't big clumps sticking to the bottom of the pan. Keep covered until it's done. Jasmine rice usually takes at least 25 minutes to cook.
We eat the rice, the spinach and the shrimp curry all on one plate. The rice goes in the middle of the plate, flattened out some, the spinach goes around the edges, the shrimp curry goes on top. The naan is served on the side. If we had more plates maybe I'd serve each dish separately. I don't know. I guess we're pretty homey. We drink lemon water with this dish.
If you're using Weight Watchers, my wife says this is about 13 points.
Labels: abjection, cooking, elitism
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Verbal sequencing may be broken by an impulseperhaps an impulse belonging to somebodyto think otherwise. Would such an impulse then be pathological?
Panecastic translation, to be communicative, would have to consist of something other than brute transpositions.
An idea of distributive meanings might be helpful, a distributive idea of distributive meanings. Disambiguate.
If one does not feel the impulse of a meaning, one is without that very meaning. That's a transposition. Does it leave room for questioning? Can we question that which has not been lost? In what sense is something lost when only its verity appears to be lost? Is there ever anything we can find by losing its verity? Does our transposition leave room for true ambiguity? Can we be true to ambiguity on anything like an equal footing?
The breach, when it's at home, means the impromptu thought. It means, among other things, thinking on the spot rather than on the basis of first principles. It is not a call for the destruction or negation of principles. It does call upon a capacity to step away from first principles, and an ability to think otherwise which may lead to a practical negation of first principles, were practice dialectical, a fact which would have to be posed and decided in practice, or, perhaps it might be said, in the breach. Just as the breach brings us to think urgency or exigencyand also a certain kind of indigence that would pull us back from the boundaries of thoughtso it brings us to think the impulse. Do we give in to the impulse? A distributive idea of pulsation.
How do we let the impromptu be?
I say in a thousand ways that the aleatory encounter is a high ideal that few reach in practice, but when will I learn?
For what reason do we say that misunderstandings are pathological, abnormal, accidental, or, in the jargon of the sociologist, dysfunctional? When I call academic disciplines "curiosities" I am playing with the professor's mYrror. However, if things like discursive formations exist, we might rather wish to not represent a professorial self at all. On the other hand, perhaps we have evidentiary reasons to inquire after connections between distributive misunderstandings and professorial selves.
Who is the self we know through misunderstandings? How does meeting this person impact our habits of feeling?
My interest in the misunderstanding is not merely descriptive but rather therapeutic. I would like to alleviate the suffering that comesperhaps indirectly, belatedly for surefrom having understood too much, even while knowing that I feel compelled to reach for further understanding. I should be careful of taking that feeling with me into any effort to understand. A compulsion to disappear.
Why wouldn't a distributive misunderstanding be therapeutic? Under what circumstances should we want to make an effort towards misunderstanding?
My problem with placing the iter-able before the iteration, which is generally a problem with intellectualism, amounts to this: I won't assume that the things I have made essential to my life are also essential to your life, because if I were wrong it would feel as if something essential between us had died. My world has more than enough grief as it is.
Labels: dialectics, improvisation, Kristeva, meaning, misunderstanding, panecastics, paths, pulsative function, repetition
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Isabelle Pantin writes about divergent conceptual universes revealed by an episode in the history of optics ("Simulachrum, species, forma, image: What Was Transported by Light into the Camera Obscura? Divergent Conceptions of Realism Revealed by Lexical Ambiguities at the Beginning of the Seventeenth Century," Early Science and Medicine 13(2008), 245-269. The abstract:
At the end of the Renaissance, the complete understanding of the experiment of the camera obscura required dealing with the physical problem of the relationship between light and images. According to Kepler, this experiment demonstrated that the geometry and physics of light were one and the same thing and that there was no need for the luminous rays to transport any form of species. The Jesuits Fransiscus Auguilonius and Cristoph Scheiner were conscious of the superiority of Kepler's analysis of the camera obscura, but remained attached to the old theory of species. Scheiner's attitude was particularly significant. Although he had almost entirely assimilated the new Keplerian method of demonstration, he retained the traditional conception of realism. He still believed that the mediation of species was indispensable for making certain that what was seen was a real object.
I'll abstain from applying any lesson against relying on heterogeneous orders of knowledge in scientific endeavors, or against clinging to habits of thought that have been shown to be useless, because I have a few reservations about Pantin's conclusions. In the first place, and this might be worth glossing over if not for its irony, the evidence of exactly lexical ambiguity is weak and since, as Pantin points out, simulachrum, species, forma and imago are treated as synonymous by her sources, the question is really one of, in her words, "conceptual uncertainty." Perhaps an ambiguity in Kepler's restricted use of the word species allowed the basic concept of species to go unchallenged, for a brief moment in history, but what is most interesting in this case is the conceptual uncertainty. One might speak of cognitive dissonance if that term weren't so terribly abusedbesides, one really has the sense of the passage of a whole order of knowledge rather than a simple belief. (How could it have been thought that people might have become inured to the passages of whole orders of knowledge?)
To be truthful it's not clear to me that any hard and fast demarcation between "lexical ambiguity" and "conceptual uncertainty" can be maintained, though it seems handy enough as a provisional gesture, and so with a due sense of humility I object to the following claim: Pantin says that the camera obscura "showed that light could create images independently of sensation" (256). I venture that this claim does not represent anthropomorphismnot in the way a speculative misanthropy would require us to think anthropomorphically, for instancebut I will also say that as far as I know light does not create anything and as far as I know only psychic, animate existentialities create images. Further, I don't know if can has anything at all to do with light. On the other hand, Pantin's conception of realism possibly does fall among those that resemble a (cryptodeistic) Mechanism or an enfeebled animism, that is, an animism that can't summon the strength to declare itself as a faith. Thus I must for the moment maintain an ambivalence as to whether to assign my dispute with Pantin's realism to lexical ambiguity or to conceptual uncertainty. Perhaps you have some clearer thought on the matter?
Labels: ambiguity, anthropomorphism, Auguilonius, camera obscura, irreality, Kepler, reality, Scheiner
Monday, July 14, 2008
, is, it will be recalled
, as Kathryn Linn Geurts
tells us, the Anlo-Ewe term for the vestibular sense, also known as a sense of balance or equilibrioception (Culture and the Senses: Bodily Ways of Knowing in an African Community
). Now I've started reading some of the laboratory research into the sense of rhythm being done by people such as Laurel Trainor
, Sandra Trehub
, Geoff Luck
and Neil Todd
. Initially I was drawn in by the question of the development of a sense of rhythm in infancy (or the rhythm of development), but when I saw evidence pointing to the vestibular system I found it remarkable that the Anlo would distinguish agbagbaɖoɖo
(a sense of walking, movement) and from nusese
I don't know if we're each born with what Carolyn Drake calls an oscillator, that is, "a periodic regularity in the temporal distribution of attentional energy," or a "subjective tempo" (Drake et al., "The development of rhythmic attending in auditory sequences: attunement, referent period, focal attending"); I do suspect there's a connection between the vestibular system and an experience of rhythm, but I can't be sure that there aren't different kinds of experiences of rhythm that merit scrutiny. Perhaps people have multiple oscillators, as has been theorized. Perhaps having multiple oscillators wouldn't even begin to describe a natural heterogeneity of rhythmic feelings.
Phillips-Silver and Trainor, on the basis of their recent study (pdf) of how movement shapes what we hear, say that "because movements of the head alone affected auditory encoding whereas movement of the legs alone did not, we propose that vestibular input may play a key role in the effect of movement on auditory rhythm processing." Is this enough to say that music and dance not connected primarily through azɔlizɔzɔ but through agbagbaɖoɖo? I'm not sure. Phillips-Silver and Trainor conclude that "vestibular and auditory information are integrated in perception." (In what sense is a signal "information"?) Perception is a crucial issue here. Is it perception itself that is observed in these experiments allowing one to conclude that the vestibular and the auditory are integrated, or, rather, are we observing the recollections of perceptions, or the recollections of processings, which one might expect to show evidence of integration for reasons related to recollection rather than being directly related to perception? Is the integration of music and movement a fait accompli or must it be accomplished? Have you already decided how you will listen to music that you have not yet heard?
Trehub says (pdf), "Infants’ interest in maternal speech, while considerable, does not match their interest in maternal singing. Indeed, the music in speech seems to underlie its attractiveness to prelinguistic infants." Saying "prelinguistic" is even more prejudicial than saying "infant." How do we appreciate rhythmicity for what it is? At what point in the development of the young person do we recognize his sense of rhythm? Does it form? Does it ever cease to form? If we suspend judgments about form and language we see an unwarranted bias in thinking about brain activity as the transmission of "information." We should attend to the rather obvious fact that infants are more interested in song than in speech, as if rhythm were a path they intended to follow in life. Do they know something science has somehow forgotten? What does the central nervous systema more communitarian localization of synchronicities, if such they be, will be the topic of an upcoming postnot have to do with agbagbaɖoɖo?
Labels: agbagbaɖoɖo, development, Drake, Geurts, infancy, Luck, perception, Phillips-Silver, rhythm, Terpsichore, Todd, Trainor, Trehub
Friday, July 11, 2008
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 narrativeand 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 storytellinga move towards particular human understandings rather than the be all and end all of understandingby 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.
Labels: Anaximander, Calcagno, Claude Hagège, gift, givenness, Henry, Husserl, ontological difference, Stein, Thales
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
A memory of taking the blue bowl down from the kidaka. A secret object enclosed in a pouch will have been placed behind the bowl. Or in the bowl. It will come back to me, but it won't all come back to me. In the center of the room a bowl of oranges. Come sit. We may be on Lamu, or we may be on Unguja. We may be in Malindi. My thoughts return to the mountains, as always.
Sean M. Kelly (not to be confused with the Sean Kelly of Seeing Things), in an essay (pdf) for the latest Integral Review, quotes part of a passage from Sri Aurobindo's The Synthesis of Yoga concerning a capacity for having a memory of the future. Kelly's quotation leaves off just before Aurobindo says, "But this capacity works at first sporadically and uncertainly and not in an organised manner" (Part 4, Chapter 26). This sentence of Aurobindo's vitally qualifies the idea of a memory of the future. It invites us to examine experiences of imagination, or specifically imagined events (and thus also our understanding of time) in such a way as to not obliterate the vicissitude or otherwise completely level out experienceit should be clear that here I am not pursuing a perfection of consciousness but rather attempting to gain some insight on a phenomenon of experience. How would a memory of the future be experienced? Would we say that the future is remembered, or might it be memorized? What can't we commit to memory?
What is the relation between memory and thought? If it seems that the cogito remembers, that it exists temporally, is it also apparent that memory thinks?
What is the relation between memory and imagination? If we view a relation to the future through memory as paradoxical or nonsensical does it follow that we are viewing memory as something other than a mode of the imagination? Must there be in memory an unquestioned relation to the past? I ask again, what is passage? If we reject memories of the future on the grounds that memory must concern the past, are we in danger of being baffled by passage? Are transcendental consciousness and the passage of time ideas equally about passage? (It is not my place to deny extension to consciousness, and I have not yet assigned any such meanings to interiority.)
We may be lead to believe that the dream takes place in the loneliest of lonelinesses. If we stay true to the path of the dream, however, the loneliest of lonelinesses is shown to be a place reserved for the appearance of demons who offer demonic choices as to how we are to respond to their riddlesdemons only ever offer demonic choices. They are after all not sphinges but demons. Let's ask whether the oneiric temporality properly takes place, or whether it represents a passage out of place. Have I just presented you with a demonic choice? To answer dreaming with dreaming. The residue of a contour.
What would oneiric translucency say to us about passage? I follow the aporetic ways of anamnesis; aporetically is how I begin to see through to the meaning of passage.
A trailing off into the dew. It's still like being inside the brool. The bedroom window. Waking up from a heart attack into a heart attack. Adrenaline. They dragged the lion off for questioning, the police. They broke his throat. Two or three blows and he went silent, limp. They dragged him away while we lay dreaming. For anamnesis.
When I hand you an orange the surprise of your laughter has been no less dreamy for having been remembered as a surprise. To live with our vicissitudes means to allow for surprise. Does memory concern those things which may be repressed, things which may be disallowed? What would make surprise irrepressible? That surprise would be irrepression itself?
Labels: aporia, dreaming, imagination, memory, Sean M. Kelly, Sri Aurobindo, surprise, temporality, transcendence
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Having finished Johnson's Listening in Paris I now feel that any apposite critique of Romanticism must come from a posture of having, if not embraced Romanticism, gone hand in hand with Romanticism for some way. Perhaps I wouldn't want to defend Romanticism except for the existence of anti-Romanticism, which leans towards pulling the shade down on what it's really like to have an experience. Our first anomaly evinces itself in recognizing an experience that one would rather not have taken for an experience in any Romantic sense. It points to a shortcoming in vision of *language as a giver of experience, for even though Johnson is a historian who specializes in musicology, the key to his thinking is the idea that "music is a language," and by "language" he means something that, unconsciously and from the outside, constructs experience. (We may wish to credit Johsnon with giving us something more subtle than a simple critique of Romanticism; he means to criticize the conditions of possibility of Romanticism. I would still turn the critique around to investigate the conditions of possibility of an "anti-Romantic" experience.) The specific problem Johnson's discourse raises is this: given an expectation of silent listening, how does one adequately and appropriately communicate one's boredom at the opera without being mistaken for either having a profound experience or for genuinely being polite? At this point I'd like to register my sympathies with elite audiences who feel that their responsivity, their very capacity for formulating and communicating responses to music, which must in only one respect happen both spontaneously and at once if they are to be responses, has been truncated, repressed, or otherwise mired in stupidities and awkward, if all too easy, niceties. Do such listeners suffer from too much Romanticism or, as may be evident were we to take our feelings into account, too little? Bear with me a second. I'm not going to argue that boredom represents a deep experience or an experience any less constructed or more interior than any other kind of experience. I will say that boredom is felt, and, most germaine to our critique, an urge to communicate this feeling arises even when approved codes of expressing such a feeling are not readily at hand. To think this through we must return to the question of response, which now must be thought with a new understanding of readiness, for it is only in one respect that responses are formulated and communicated spontaneously and at once, and that is in respect to the synkairotic and the spasmoreality that pertains to its breach. The synkairotic differs from synchronic in that its at onces are not in binary opposition to the diachronic, and may be stretched and bent in response to exigencies of moment. What we call one respect of response may be better conceptualized as one moment of response. The fact that response has other moments is not obscured or obliterated by the breach of the synkairotic. In actuality the inculcation of stillness (of which silence is but one mode) into the body of the elite listener reveals itself as an extreme kind of violence not because it denies an expressionthis would the Romantic conceit of the anti-Romanticbut because it misplaces readiness. This may also stand as a metaphor for zombification, this stillness. We should not think of this zombification, however, in the sense of there being a Difference between Life and Death which may be suspended, but only in the sense of a readiness having been misplaced or even misappropriated. Readiness belongs with the response and with experience at once. Of course in embracing the momentary we must depart from the instant and the infinite experience it has been made to represent. So be it. We cannot listen well while allowing readiness to be restricted to the instantaneous.
Our second anomaly is a straightforward critique of the Boasian linguistic unconscious by Claude Hagège: On the Part Played by Human Conscious Choice in Language Structure and Language Evolution (pdf). (This may appear to be an ordered catalogue of anomalies; I take the existence of linguistic consciousness to be a single fact which any adequate thinking about language would have to account for, so I count it as one anomaly, without ruling out any finer analyses.)
Labels: boredom, Claude Hagège, James H. Johnson, kairos, language, listening, Romaticism, the unconscious