Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Imaginary Question

Who poses the imaginary question? The imaginary question cannot be posed by the imagination without thereby becoming a "real" question, a realized question, a question that in an important respect no longer qualifies as imaginary. (I'm assuming that a question posed by one's inner voice is actually posed to oneself–though this self may also be imaginary, the imaginary addressee of imaginary questions. Perhaps this assumption, if we stick with it for a second, already mistakes the imaginary for the actual; however, there would still be a problem to think about with respect to the posing of an imaginary inner question.) The imaginary question would have to be posed by a consciousness capable of setting apart its imagination from its questioning. This merely states the obvious, yet we should wonder why should it be that we seem to body forth both the imaginary and the question with our entire existence, at least for a performative moment.

Let's ponder this moment. Is there some essential relation between the present moment and the question? Is the question tied to something like an event? The arousal of a curiosity, for instance. Is there any aesthetic moment of the curiosity prior to its being a curiosity about something? Might a curiosity about something be at once an aesthetic moment? In speaking of the event of the question, if we could completely erase an active consciousness from the equation, we should then be able to easily imagine the imaginary question. We could imagine the event of the question as easily as we can imagine a birthday party. Wait a second. Do we actually imagine a birthday party or do we imagine something like scenes from a birthday party, or do we merely imagine images from scenes from a birthday party which we piece together–quicker than emergency surgery–with operations of memory or cognition? How exactly do we live an event in our imaginations?

I imagine asking questions. I make gestures. My forearm turns, my palm facing up, my fingers spread as if holding a ball. The word, the body of the question is turned around, as if it had a behind. Is there revealed in this gesture an appresentation of the question, a behind of the question that would intimate, following Kojima after a fashion, the coexistence of another intention within the intentionality of the question? (We incidentally see why it so important to make a study of composition; the composition of the questioner is to be questioned.) Kojima's analysis, however, would place the appresentation of the question, if such indeed occurs, prior to any movement of the body. That is not my claim here. In fact, if we could easily separate movements of the body from acts of consciousness we should be able to easily pose the imaginary question.

If we live questions, images or events of consciousness, insofar as such exist, in the moment, how then do we sustain an inquiry? Surely it is not completely nonsensical to say that we can sustain an inquiry. Perhaps we shouldn't take the moment for granted, as if it already existed as some measurable unit of time ready to fit to acts of consciousness–we don't yet know how to clearly demarcate acts from activities, particular questions from sustained inquiries. "Sustained inquiry" answers in part how a question arises, though of course it can only address part of the question of the manner of the question's arising, and is only the rudest beginning of an account of the cultivation of a questioning disposition. Do we need to assume that the moment is destroyed with the advent of a new question, or could moments possibly be expandable or repeatable in a way that would still allow them to be moments, to define the temporal boundedness of a conscious engagement?

Is the imaginary question spontaneous? Do we see it emerge from an engagement with the world or does it completely take us by surprise? These alternatives may not in fact be mutually exclusive but it may be helpful to begin to think of spontaneity by viewing it as a complete and instantaneous surprise, so as to appreciate spontaneity for itself, and then to wonder about its history of engagement with the world. Casey draws a distinction between controlled imagining and spontaneous imagining, and says that an image can either be exclusively controlled or spontaneous. Yet what is spontaneity? Casey says that "a truly spontaneous phenomenon initiates itself rather than being initiated by other phenomena: it is autogenous" (Imagining, p. 68). I wonder though about a possible heterogeneity of the imaginary question, perhaps involving a heterogeneity of the imaginary questioner. And still I wonder whether a spontaneous image must be imagined to be real. In what manner is "to be imagined" an engagement with the world?

Perhaps it is movement itself that imagines, to wrest an idea from Barbaras. It occurred to me (out walking the other day) that only a being who could move could imagine spontaneity, and, extending the idea with a twist back on itself, only a being who could imagine itself stepping free of causality could enact causality. On reflection, though, perhaps it is not a being nor even a hermeneutic extentiality but actually a living movement who imagines spontaneity, an existential hermeneutic living movement–a questioner? An existence capable of grasping the appresented, of turning the question around, making it a question? Who would be capable of the impossible, of asking the imaginary question–but is the impossibility of the imaginary question an established fact? We can imagine that it can be posed, and we can begin to imagine how it can be posed, by an existence who could so to speak keep itself hidden from itself for the duration of the posing of a question, who could realize and irrealize at once, as just one possible avenue. How do we imagine posing questions at all? Do we want to say that that's impossible? I can imagine posing an empty question, a question without content. The gesture is here. How close am I then to posing an imaginary question? I always seem to be at the limit of the imaginary question itself. Could I be held back by a belief in the question itself, the question as such? Is it possible that someday, in a moment when the question itself slips my mind, the imaginary question will emerge spontaneously? How can I be sure that this isn't possible? Why would I assume that the things I can learn about my imagination, my questioning or my consciousness at the present moment will always obtain, that a possible other consciousness cannot ever be real? What is the meaning of an other consciousness? Certainly not simply what I imagine it to be, what I put in there–but what about a spontaneous imagination, the other imagination? Must that be imagined? Must spontaneity be embodied, and wouldn't that then be a kind of other consciousness that would be second in importance to a singular other to whom we have an ethical responsibility and whose otherness must not be conflated with the imaginary otherness of a spontaneity?

I didn't quite intend to end up here brushing up against ethics in pursuit of the imaginary question. However, let me add a thought. Why do we ask questions? Do we ask questions merely to feed our own curiosities, or might we be practicing a style of engagement with others, a way of turning a problem around to let curiosities be generated from multiple facets of a fascination–okay, there's a danger of going in circles here; we are still thinking about feeding a curiosity, by way of a fascination, which would have some relation to movement by being other than a movement though it might be generated by a living movement, but we are adding to curiosity the idea of other facets. Does the other facet arrest movement? Does it transfix? Does it transfigure? (And with transfiguration we are back to thinking of spontaneity as an other figure, another animal form (we may have twisted ourselves around: only an ethical being could imagine spontaneity, only a being who could respond to others could see itself as ex-isting outside of causality). How do we conceptualize the transfixation on the facet of the question? Does the fascination of the question only have this facet, this turning of a face, and never touch on a question itself, which would kill all curiosity once and for all, and might a fascination's impossible existence only in facets be a reason for the difficulty in conceiving the real possibility of an imaginary question? No, but there would still be the turning of the facets in place of the "itself," and that would have to be an itself of sorts, or at the minimum it would qualify as real–or would it? Can we both irrealize and realize the turning of a facet for (another) consciousness? Can we or can we not ask an imaginary question?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 10:10 AM. 13 comments

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Le Monde est Rempli de Résonances

Language for me is a repository of other people's thoughts. How do we understand a relation between thoughts and inquiries? "Le monde est rempli de résonances." You should sense a question in the repetition of the phrase. Is a resonance not a question–or does that exaggerate the question, make it more totalizing than it possibly could be? To be sure a question resonates. We think about questions, and that is another kind of resonance, perhaps a sign of response. I doubt the resonance of the question happens only because the question would be already of the world, as if its resonance weren't somehow enacted or engaged, though in one aspect the question always becomes a question of the world; it is always engaged, and the resonance of the question, or alternatively its displacement, also reaches laterally– a scope for coexistence, a purpose arrived at indirectly, roundly.

I survey the map room as an assemblage of incalculable imagined journeys, an impossible sum. The purpose of the map has not been lost on me. "Has it gone on vacation?" the question arises. Where does certitude about the ultimate purposes of things have a place? In which room shall we find it? Do we ultimately discover the map room on the map?

An attention to reposition may be followed through in such a way as to not pay the composition of thoughts its proper respect, as if the composition were instantly decomposed for the sake of repositional exfoliation, the reawakening of reposited questions whose intensities have been muffled as if buried in snow. Yet we shouldn't be quick to judge whether an interpretation is proceeding properly or improperly. An interpretation should be allowed to resonate, if we are to appreciate it for its flowering. Composition may also be repository. It can indeed be engaged through a repositional exfoliation, particularly a latitudinarian repositonal exfoliation. Perhaps it is especially apparent in composition that thoughts are shared, or even that they must be shared for thought to resemble thought. At the moment I cannot imagine feeling the resonance of a question that has not been composed.

Might thought eventually shed its repositionality? Imagine then that all thoughts could evacuate the repository of thoughts, that this would be a possibility of thinking. Would such an evacuation ever be communicated? I'm curious about the possible existence of noncommunicative thoughts. Can I be told such a thought itself? How can I think it? Could I nevertheless be ready to hear its resonance?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 10:21 AM. 0 comments

Monday, October 27, 2008

To Love the Tout Autre

John Caputo offers defense of deconstruction as an act of love. I'd like to accentuate a relation Caputo makes apparent between the transcendence of the other–if it's okay to use terms I don't yet fully understand–and the ongoing nature of conversation, which I'll venture to say is constitutive of philosophy. The latter:

To love the tout autre, which phenomenology calls "transcendence," is to love and respect its inaccessibility. Let us return to this phenomenological point for a moment. Our access to what is transcendent is always limited, not because of the limits of our faculties, but because of the transcendence of the other, because of the recessiveness or structural withdrawal from us of the transcendent. The transcendence of the tout autre is not a function of our limitations; rather, our access to the tout autre is limited because it transcends us. It is the absence or non-givenness in what is given that bears testimony to its transcendence, which is why the thing itself always slips away.

Now, I respect your inaccessibility, but I wouldn't say I love you for your inaccessibility. In any case, let's move from the former to the latter consideration. Here Caputo, having previously identified speaking with response, talks about the ongoing nature of interpretation, taking the idea of the secret as a launching point.

This is not to say that the secret refers to an uninterpreted fact of the matter, like a Kantian noumenon, an unknowable Ding an sich, whereas all knowledge would have to do with appearances. The inaccessibility of the secret for Derrida refers rather to the inescapability and inextinguishability of interpretation, to the ongoing and incessant need to interpret anew. There is no “end” of interpretation, neither a telos nor a terminus, in which we would sink into the arms of the Ding an sich and fall fast asleep, all our limited perspectives having melted away in the presence of the thing itself. On the contrary, the effect of the secret is to multiply interpretations, to interpret without end, so that the end is without end, and this for love of the things themselves which always slip away. In the place of the idea of some uninterpreted fact of the matter, the inescapable necessity of interpretation, which is what I have also called a radical hermeneutics, thinks in terms of the sum total of all possible interpretations, what the classical tradition calls a potential infinity, which means it does not end and you cannot in principle get there from here. All you can do is to try to go where you cannot go, to go on multiplying interpretations, which must shift with the shifting sands of the situation, and cope with the swift and choppy currents of changing historical circumstance.

Actually I'm a little uncomfortable agreeing that it's the secret that multiplies interpretations, or the secret that defers. Rather, I'd suspect that it's the engagement which also means the withdrawal of the tout autre that creates différance, meaning, I suppose, that we can more or less hold others responsible for their adventures in dialogue. And we have our own motives for engaging and disengaging anew, for responding in particular ways to the call of the tout autre, which can be scrutinized if we'd rather they not be shrouded in secrecy. Of course I'm not trying to interpret Derrida here. I appreciate Caputo's work and I recommend this brief essay to you.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 6:49 AM. 0 comments

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Eccentricity, Buoyancy, Flexure

"Genuine questioning always involves a laying open and holding open of possibilities that suspend the presumed finality of both the text's and the reader's current opinions" (David E. Linge, "Editors Introduction," Hans Georg Gadamer, Philosophical Hermeneutics, Berekely: University of California Press 1976, p. xxi, cited by Andrew Cashin, A Hermeneutic Phenomenological Study of the Lived Experience of Parenting a Child with Autism, p. 1.) And, "We speak, therefore of having gotten into a discussion, or of being caught in a discussion, and these expressions serve to indicate the element of buoyancy in understanding that leads the conversational partners beyond the original horizons into a process of inquiry that has a life of its own and is often filled with developments that are unanticipated and unintended" (Linge, xxii, in Cashin, p. 13). I'll check this book out tomorrow.

From David Krell's "General Introduction: 'The Question of Being,'" Martin Heiddegger, Basic Writings (Harper & Row, 1977, p. 31):

Yet this linear image of a way into the neighborhood of Being–as though that were somewhere over the rainbow–is annoying. Isn't such dogged persistence a mark of stubbornness or eccentricity; doesn't it ultimately betray a plodding imagination? And isn't the question of Being from first to last an academic one, bloodless and without force, like one of the shades Odysseus awaits in the underworld? Another student bends the linear image by emphasizing the essential restlessness of Heidegger's passage and the many turns of the path. "Although it always circles about the same thing," he notes,

Heidegger's thinking does not come to rest. Each time believe we have finally arrived at the goal and prepare to latch onto it we are thrown into a new interrogation. Every resting point is shaken. What seemed to be the end and goal becomes a departure for renewed questioning. If Descartes sought an unshakable foundation for philosophizing, Heidegger tries to put precisely this foundation in question.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 11:12 PM. 0 comments

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Every Question is a Re-Quest

Every question is the reverberation of a questioning. No question escapes a history of questioning–but is this really true? Are there no spontaneous questions? This is similar to the question of whether questions are creative. How would we ask a spontaneous question if we didn't already know how to ask questions? What is the distance between knowing how to do something and knowing what that something is, between a spontaneous question and spontaneous questioning? To think of a method of questioning is to travel the distance between a question as search and a questioning as research. Perhaps to search intently means also to step back from the search, to search with care. Could it be possible that people practice research without knowing what a search is? Carefully?

Is questioning really a mode of searching? I'm not sure that seeking is a good metaphor for asking. To ask is to ask someone, some person. More explicitly, to ask is to ask something of some person. When we speak of questioning things, or inquiring into things, are we speaking figuratively, are we completely eliding an addressee, or do we somehow have in mind some ideal person who would take our questions and possibly even provide answers? Do we project our future selves into or through the question? Conversely, is the question the opening of an encounter with another person? If you've read this far, how would you describe your coming to be involved in this question?

Does the question have its own voice? I doubt that the question truly owns its resonance. On the other hand, what if that's all it owns? Of course it might be said that resonance can't be owned at all. Can there be things that are truly given but never owned? Is a question given voice? For whom? Cavarero again: "Free from the presence of Narcissus and from Ovid's textual games, Echo comes to appear as the divinity who teaches an acoustic relationality, still linked to infantile pleasure, in which uniqueness makes itself heard as voice."

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posted by Fido the Yak at 3:24 PM. 1 comments

Monday, October 20, 2008


The word by way of preface which seeks to break through the screen stretched between the author and the reader by the book itself does not give itself out as a word of honor. But it belongs to the very essence of language, which consists in continually undoing its phrase by the foreword or the exegesis, in unsaying the said, in attempting to restate without ceremonies what has already been ill understood in the inevitable ceremonial in which the said delights.

(Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority, p. 30)

It can't be denied that these very words have a ceremonial quality to them. They ceremonialize the break with ceremony they attempt–or perhaps it's not so much that they themselves ceremonialize as they are embedded in a history of ceremonial deceremonializations. Ceremoniality already imbues them before they are said. We can see Levinas' unsaying of that idea, and even perhaps the whole thrust of these words which attempt to unsay more than was said in the passage above, or to say the left unsaid that imbued the saying–by virtue of leaving, perhaps, a withdrawal from saying.

He inspires, Levinas. I aspire to do ceremony unceremoniously, to express an unceremonious style while carrying out life's daily rituals. Why elevate the routine to the ceremonial? Why risk being pompous at all? Why risk being ill understood? It occurred to me to say nothing today, to let silence further unsay Levinas' unsaying, as if that were still vital to me (which it still is today though it's intrigued me on many previous occasions). But the quotation would have been a ceremony even without explicit comment. The reading of Levinas has commenced! Sound your funky horn! The reading of Levinas has commenced! I protest against the solemnity of a silence. I attempt to unsay its pregnancy of unsayings with an abundance of arrival, and so to reiterate the unsaid profusely. I leave these words.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 9:13 AM. 5 comments

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Are Questions Creative?

Heidegger analyzes the question of nothingness and argues that it's logically impossible to question the nothing without making something of it (What is Metaphysics?). How do we question the nothing without calling it into being? The question of the nothing, he says, robs itself of its own object. He continues:

Wenn wir uns aber durch die formale Unmöglichkeit der Frage nach dem Nichts nicht beirren lassen and ihr entgegen die Frage dennoch stellen, dann müssen wir zum mindesten dem genügen, was als Grunderfordernis für die mögliche Durchführung jeder Frage bestehen bleibt. Wenn das Nichts, wie immer, befragt werden soll–es selbst–dann muß es zuvor gegeben sein. Wir müssen ihm begegnen können.

However, if we do not allow ourselves to be distracted by the formal impossibility of the question of the nothing and nevertheless confront the question, then we must satisfy what is a basic requirement for the possible carrying through of any question. If the nothing itself would be questioned then it must be given beforehand. We must be able to encounter it.

Possibly there is no nothing itself but only a nothing als etwas. In calling the nothing into question we would indeed be questioning the formal concept of an imaginary nothing, perhaps because that's all that's meant by thinking "nothing." So what then do we make of the requirement that we be able to meet what we question before we begin to question? Or that the questioned must be given? Is givenness never to be called into question? Is a question never to be creative?

Is a question essentially a consciousness? Let's say that it is a conscious act. We might call such an act a thought just for the sake of following Heidegger's argument. He says that thinking, which is essentially always thinking of something, while it is thinking of the nothing must act contrary to its own essence. Wouldn't it be more likely for thought to operate contrary to the essence of the nothing before operating contrary to itself? (Our ideas about the nature of thought may not be compatible.) Yet the thinking of nothing is not so simple. We need something like a temporal horizon to interpret the way thought brings itself into the thinking of the nothing; the nothing appears as the residue of what thought accomplished just now, reflects upon it, sums it up–no, that's not quite it. It responds. In negation it's as if everything that had come before possibly to affirm the present moment had been posed in the form of a question and then answered in the negative. Here it's not a matter of negation revealing the primacy of a question, but one of negation simply unfolding in the horizon of a questioning, or indeed, a culture of questioning.

Does questioning, when directed at the nothing or at anything, ever operate contrary to its essence? Would only being able to address the already given be more in keeping with the essence of an answer than a question? How would we know when a question had violated itself? Obviously we may see questioning operate contrary to the way we feel questioning should operate. It can operate contrary to its ideal. But how much do we really know about the operation of the question? Or should I say the "carrying through" of the question? What do we already know about how a question is carried through? How do we begin to study it? I'll keep you posted.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 10:35 AM. 4 comments

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Worlds of Imagined Phenomena

Do imagined phenomena do anything like reside in anything like a world? Casey introduces the idea of a "world-frame" to describe the situatedness of imagined objects of consciousness. I don't fully believe in the world of perception that Casey portrays in contrast to the world-frame. As ever, it seems, I am uncertain as to what exactly constitutes a world. Consequently I am reticent about adopting his terminology. His description of the situatedness of imagined phenomena, however, deserves our attention. I quote at length.

When we attend to the specific content of acts of imagining, we see it to be describable first of all in terms of the entities, events, and states of affairs with which we are already familiar from preceding consideration of the act phase. Such specifiable factors constitute the core of what we imagine–its "noematic nucleus" in Husserl's term. But a closer scrutiny reveals other components of imagined content as well, components on which the imaginer typically does not focus but which are nonetheless nonthematically present to his imagining consciousness. These non-nuclear components of imagined content constitute what we shall call a "world-frame" for particular imagined entities, events, and states of affairs. For none of these latter appear or occur in an experiential vacuum. They present themselves as positioned, however indeterminately, in an immediately surrounding zone of presentation.

In its severely delimited and delimiting character, the world-frame is unlike the continuously unfolding and ultimately unlimited world of perception. The perceived world is a massive, all-inclusive whole–so encompassing in fact that there is finally only one such world. This world persists throughout our many perceivings of it, and can never be exhausted by any finite series of such perceivings. It is a world to which we return again and again as an abiding fons et origo.

No such originative and stable world underlies the specific content of imagining. No single experiential plenum persists from one imaginative presentation to the next, linking such presentations as presentations of one all-encompassing world. Rather, each presentation carries with it its own special situatedness. Such situatedness is so shifting and unstable that it cannot even be regarded as constituting a field, at least insofar as "field" implies a persisting plane that underlies and extends beyond the particular items that appear in it. Unlike, say, a perceptual field, the world-frame of imagination has no enduring extensiveness: it appears always and only as the proximal locale of imagined content, as its immediate context. Thus the world-frame is sketchy and schematic in character, offering to the imaginer patches of space and stretches of time instead of a single coherent spatio-temporal continuum. Because of its noncontinuous and nonlasting nature, the world-frame cannot be considered as presenting the imaginer with a world in any sense comparable to the perceived world.

(Imagining, pp. 50-51, Casey's emphases)

As indicated, I doubt the stability, plenitude, duration, extent, and inexhaustibility of the world of perception, though by no means would I close the book on on these features. If we attend to our imaginations and let that experience guide our descriptions of the worlds of imagination, such as they are, we may in fact be led to question whether or to what extent our ordinary worlds of perception are at root worlds of the imagination. Might it not be the case that a phenomenon like inexhaustibility originates in the imagination rather than in some form of brute perception? Further, is it warranted to claim that perceptual worlds abide while imaginary worlds evanesce? Can consciousness really be so simple?

Let's imagine Pegasus again and keep that experience in the margins of our awareness as we continue reading.

In view of its discontinuity and fragmentariness, we might be tempted to apply to the world-frame Sartre's graphic term "anti-world." But this is to go too far. Although the world-frames of imaginative presentations lack the depth, breadth, and persistence of the perceived world, they do present themselves as evanescent constellations of specific imagined contents, as momentary mini-worlds of imaginative experience. Thus if world-frames do not count as worlds in any strict sense, they are at least worldlike insofar as they provide suitable and fitting frameworks for what we imagine.

Despite their ephemerality (they perish at the end of each act of imagining), world-frames function in a worldlike way by situating imagined content–giving it, if not a name, at least a local habitation. This situating capacity derives from the spatializing and temporalizing powers of world-frames, that is, their ability to establish a specifically imaginal space and imaginal time. Such space and time lack the universality of the a priori space and time that, as Kant endeavored to show, serve to make the perceptual world intuitively present to the senses yet infinite in extent. But this does not mean that imaginal space and time are merely "quasi" in character, as Husserl claims. They are not posited as if they were the space and time of perception–which is to imply that they are nothing in themselves. Nor do they represent a strictly "unreal" sense of time and space. Rather, each of these dimensions of the imaginative presentation has its own distinctive character and plays a special role in implementing and specifying the world-frame. For it is due to this character and this role that the world-frame becomes a genuinely framing factor withing the imaginative presentation, enabling each specific item of imagined content to occupy a certain position within the presentation.

(pp.51-52, Casey's emphases)

I'm picking up on a contradiction between the ephemerality of the image and the habitation of the image that I'd like to explore. In my marginal notes I've called attention to repetition, the recurrence of images, world renewals and habits of imagination. When you imagined Pegasus again did you notice any recurring images? Did you have a sense that Pegasus inhabited any re-cognizable world or worlds? Well, here's a question about experiential multiplicities. Can you re-cognize multiple dimensions of imaginative presentation? If you could describe the chronotope corresponding to the complex genre of our imaginations of Pegasus would you be satisfied that you had covered all manner of the extensivity of imagination? What does habitation do to extensivity? (Perhaps it neither breaks it up nor prolongs it, but constitutes it all at once. I don't know.) Think for a moment of intensivity, and think of habitation as an intensification. What does intensity do? What does it do with respect to the constitution of worlds? Are worlds more or less intense, or does intensity simply not pertain to worlds, in which case a question of the habitation of worlds, since we have proposed to define habitation in light of intensification, would be left hanging? Recall Nancy's intensive re- of re-pre-sent-at-ion. Is there such a thing as a presentation that isn't in some sense already inhabited, already constituted in intensity? If something like a pure perception were to exist, in contradistinction to an imagination, it might resemble an uninhabited presentation, a re-presentation, or a kind of meontic representation. It would have to be startling, I think. Extraordinary. This is one reason I suspect that ordinarily we inhabit imaginary worlds, although I reserve doubts about the possibilities of repetition, strictly speaking.

My definition of the occasion of imagination is looser than Casey's, my sense of the act of imagination more amorphous, more ambiguous. Am I projecting ambiguity onto imaginary phenomena or are they intrinsically ambiguous? Does my sense that imagination, memory, habit and cognition operate together blind me to an appreciation of imagination itself? At bottom perhaps is the issue of how to define an act of consciousness–as if that could be accomplished in a single gesture. Casey speaks of the "multiplicity of the mental," which he defines as "the mind's proclivity for expressing itself polymorphically, resisting reduction to monistic schemes and structures" (p. 60). Do worlds have proclivities? Are they constituted by proclivities, or through proclivities, in such a way as to warrant being called polymorphic? How much distance is there finally between the polymorphic and the discontinuous, between metamorphosis and intensification, between habitation as formative and habitation as resistance to form?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 10:14 AM. 0 comments

Monday, October 13, 2008

An Imagination that Escapes Imagination

Who imagines us? I can't yet permanently dispel the thought of a phantom imagination, an imagination whose function would be to make animal forms. Am I not animated? How has that come about? I don't think I can begin to answer this line of questioning on my own. Irigaray says:

We want to have the entire world in our head, sometimes the entire world in our heart. We do not see that this gesture transforms the life of the world into something finished, dead, because the world thus loses its own life, a life always foreign to us, other than us.

Thus, if we precisely grasp all that makes the springtime, we would without doubt lose the wondrous contemplation in the face of the mystery of springtime growth, we would lose the life, the vitality, in which this universal renewal has us participate without our being able to know or control where the joy, the force, the desire that animate us come from. If we could analyze each element of energy that reaches us in the explosion of spring, we would lose the global state that we experience by bathing in it through all our sense, our whole body, our whole soul.

We sometimes, at least partially, find this state again, I would say this state of grace, in which the spring puts us, when we are immersed in a new landscape, in an extraordinary cosmic manifestation, when we bathe in an environment that is simultaneously perceptible and imperceptible, knowable and unknowable, visible and invisible to us. We are then situated in a milieu, in an event that escapes our control, our know-how, our inventiveness, our imagination. And our response to this "mystery" is or could be astonishment, wonder, praise, sometimes questioning, but not reproduction, repetition, control, appropriation.

(Between East and West, p. 121-122)

Do I believe in a life of the world? Well, not as a precept but I remain open to the possibility. (A life in the world but not of the world must be imagined.) Perhaps believing in the life of the world would be like believing in the life of phenomenality. The horizons in which things appear are certainly not dead as far I can fathom. We might want to object to a reduction of the world to horizons, but if this is yet another way of talking about how the world is lived we might want to expand our own horizons and let the thought be thought through. It may be that the world has a structure of openness, a source of ambiguity worthy of respect. Yet it's difficult for me to sort these two out, life and world. What exactly is meant by saying "life" remains unclear to me; it seems to be said in at least two senses when talking about the life of the world, implying one sense in order to say explicitly another. Perhaps life itself hesitates to settle on a meaning, and the world's openness and the ambiguity we feel in our encounter with the world's openness are echoes of this more primordial hesitation.

In talking about an imagination that escapes imagination I'm playing with at least two senses of imagination. (I'm committed to this play with imagination, possibly at the risk of playing with commitment.) Imagine an imagination that excludes itself and then imagine as its other an imagination that includes itself. Now imagine an imagination that excludes its other and an imagination that includes its other (a thought similar to }∅{, perhaps, or simply the tao of imagination): are these two imaginations one? With respect to Irigaray's thoughts on the life of the world, would an all-inclusive, absolutely or exclusively inclusive imagination lack a necessary power of imagination, a power not to be included? In short, does the power of escape work reflexively? Does the power of escape work both ways and absolutely at the same time? Can I be open to a world that isn't already open? What does it mean to surpass, to transcend? Where do you go when you transcend? Another world? Another imagination?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 8:44 AM. 4 comments

Friday, October 10, 2008

Spontaneous Voicelessness

Edward Casey imagines a distinct variety of silence, a soundlessness that is not a strict silence but "an amorphous auditory state in which no specific sound is heard" (Imagining, p. 27, his emphasis). Let's flesh out this image and study it. Imagine an amorphous auditory envelope in which one can sense the presence of voices, one feels enveloped in voices, yet no specific voice can be heard. An intimate bustle, intimate and slow. Something like breathing, irregular, vague, on the cusp of being respiratory. Murmurs. Subvocal vibrations. An infrasonic, glacial ebullience. Swamped near to drowning in this tide of ingenious vocables, spreading out boundless as if to submerge the world. (Our images not nearly our own, we borrow freely from cultural memory.) Splashes of voices, mere splashes without any clear sense of being animated, or of having sense at all. What can we learn from such an image of a voicelessness, or such images, such a flow of imagining, if we can talk about flow while suspending a question of continuity?

Casey cites Bachelard on "the need to animalize which lies at the origin of imagination" (I might say the need to animate, or even the desire to animate.) Bachelard continues, "The primary function of imagination is to make animal forms" (Lautréamont, p. 51, IN Imagining, p. 30). The connection between the animate and the form brings to mind a passage from an interview of Michel Henry that Michael Tweed translated and Shahar blogged about. Henry says (my bold):

A form is not actually a kind of exterior entity, but the expression of a force. The point, straight line, broken line, etc., are the expression of specific forces that occur in different ways, continuous or intermittent, in the same direction or changing direction. And the theory of forms, which refers to forces, refers at the same time to subjectivity, because the forces inhabit our body, our lived body, our subjective body that is our actual body. Consequently the world of forms is, in some way, a coded universe the true meaning of which amounts to the play of forces within us, hence to life, for the living body is a body that is made of forces: such is the origin of painting. Further, it is an invisible element, the invisible force with which the living body is identified, that is the principle of the composition of a painting.

So, incidentally, we might think that forms are already animated, animalized, animal, or on the verge of becoming animal, i.e. dynamic. Perhaps we are speaking of an animot voicelessness–yet we have before us precisely an amorphous voicelessness. Is there a dynamism without forms? Would such amorphousness perhaps be chimeral, a blending of for(ce)(m)s rather than a negation of for(ce)(m)s? Does our voicelessness under study here reveal in any discussable way a desire to animate? What would wildness mean if it weren't animated? A journey behind the back of forms–but how does it feel, this voicelessness?

Casey says that for humans "the voice seems to be intrinsic to the human body and not just an accompaniment of it" (pp. 32-33). It's hard to imagine a disembodied voice, he argues. Is it hard to imagine a disembodied voicelessness? Imagine a body without gestures, the body as womb perhaps. Now imagine an amorphous collaqueation of bodies without gestures, bodies without voices. This image of bodies without gestures accords with my image of amorphous voicelessness, but before agreeing that it is indeed easier to imagine an embodied voicelessness than a disembodied voicelessness I'd want to make sure that being without gestures doesn't represent a kind of disembodiment. Perhaps it even represents a kind of de-animation, an inversion of the basic function of imagination. Wouldn't that also be a power of the imagination? Can't we imagine with our whole bodies being outside of our bodies? There are limits? Silence, perhaps, is such a limit. Our dubious silence of the indistinct voices takes place at a border between the felt body and silence. Perhaps it is a shadow place, or even a shadow silence. And whose silence would that be? Now that the thought is out there, can you imagine it as either belonging or not belonging to anybody?

Thus a paradox of unwilled spontaneity, an imagination that imagines itself as other, may be at play in the image of voicelessness. In speaking about the relative spontaneity of an image, Casey has three things in mind: (1)its unsolicited arising, its feeling as if it effortlessly appeared, (2) its instantaneous, and (3) its capacity to surprise (p. 34). He regards the first as most crucial. Possibly we merely forget that we have called upon the imagination, that we have in fact solicited an image, and this forgetting allows for the illusion of spontaneity. However, what if the "illusion" of spontaneity is a necessary precursor to our imaginings? Or simply another way of saying how we imagine? We let our imaginations run wild. We let them function. We let spontaneity be, and this letting be of spontaneity takes the form of images. To let be is decidedly not to will. To will a spontaneity would be to will it out of existence, out of all irreality. The image is an unclaimed spontaneity. If it is called for, it is called for by a surprise that it creates the conditions for. Spontaneous voicelessness vanishes in the instant it reveals itself as surprise, at the border between the emergence of a human voice and an amorphousness. Voicelessness is a image from an unclaimed life, from the wild.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 11:53 AM. 0 comments

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Another Haiku

A spider
blown out of proportion—
autumn chill.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 10:45 AM. 0 comments

A Meontic Mode of Silence

Irigary, in a criticism of Hegelian dialectic, recommends a turning away from "an absolute saturated with language. . .in order to return to the absolute silence that the respect for other as irreducible to oneself calls for" (Between East and West, p. 100). She continues, "Negativity is then applied to the absolute itself as the accomplishment of the subject, an absolute reduced not to nothing but to a silence attentive to the other" (ibid.).

I'd like to give a moment's thought to the possibility of a meontic mode of silence, a mode of silence that invites us to hear what isn't voiced in order to better hear the voice. (It is appropriate to speak of voices, to hear voices in these words. We are indeed speaking in interpersonal terms. At issue is something like an egalitarian imperative, what Irigaray refers to as "horizontal transcendence," and the whisper of a radical panecastics that would resituate negativity, thought and the question without the violence of a depersonalization.

Let's say, for the sake of conversation, that the duration of silence is dialectical in every direction. Naturally. The attentionality of a silence is dialectical in every direction, open to interlocutors from all corners, speakers of the between, so it is might be expected that its duration should be multidirectional or polyvalent. Is this true of even the most intimate silences? The nature of the most intimate of silences is to not be widely known. That limitation too represents a kind of meontics. Maybe to be intimate is to be incompletely answered in a special way, to not know all of the valences of a silence's duration, to not let them be known.

Where would our interiors be without silence? Could we then build an interior without attention to others? This is an anxiety I think many people have, that one can indeed build build an interior away from all attention. People fear being trapped, and at the same time they fear a threat to betweenness. Perhaps though it is a question of durations. One attention span does not perfectly synchronize with another. Silences overlap, perhaps even lay askew. They seem not to attend to each other, and for a moment at least, the each other is thrown into doubt. Where would each other be in the absence of attention? Well, let's not rush to fill every silence with a lack of attention.

Will silence tell us whether it masks attentiveness or inattentiveness? Will words?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 10:43 AM. 0 comments

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Velocium quam asparagi coquantur

Here's a simple recipe for Levi, whom I am missing.

Baked Coho Salmon with Wild Rice and Asparagus for Two

Wild Rice

One hour before eating mix ½ cup of wild rice and ½ cup of long grain brown rice together in a sauce pan. Add about 1 and ¾ cups of water and bring to boil. Cover and let sit a notch above the lowest heat. Entertain yourself for about twenty minutes.

Baked Salmon Fillet

For two people you need to have bought no more than 1 lb. of salmon. Preheat the oven to about 375°. Peel a few cloves of garlic and set them aside. Spread yogurt butter on the bottom of a baking dish. If you need to bone the salmon get out a pair of needlenose pliers and do that. Cut the salmon into two fillets and skin each half. Place the salmon in the baking dish show side up. Put the garlic through a garlic press and spread the minced garlic on the salmon fillets. (If you don't have a garlic press you will have to mince the garlic with your knife or use minced garlic from a jar–or not use garlic at all.) Sometimes I spread yogurt butter with the garlic on top of the salmon, but that's not necessary. Cover the baking dish with a lid or with tinfoil. This needs to bake in the oven for about 25 minutes. Wash off your knife, your hands and cutting board with hot water and disinfectant. Kill some time.


Use one bunch of asparagus, about a pound. Rinse it. Snap off the stems right where it's easy to snap them, about ⅝ of the way down. You can use the bases later for a vegetable stock. Otherwise pitch them. Lay the asparagus spears in a steamer basket in a big stock pot or the like with about an inch of water on the bottom. Add some salt. Cover the pot and set on the stove, but don't turn on the heat until you have less than ten minutes before the salmon is done. Take a whole lemon (you don't need a whole lemon but it's easier to work with a whole lemon in your hand) and using a paring knife peel just the outer rind away from not quite half the lemon. Use a zester or fine multi-purpose grater to grate some zest. Kill some time by setting the table or uncorking some wine. (We tried this dish the other night with a so-called dry Riesling, which wouldn't have been my first choice, but the bottle was already open so we finished it. I think a Maryhill Viognier would have been better.) Turn on the heat and when you hear it boil let the asparagus steam for 4-7 minutes, depending on the thickness of the spears. Don't overcook the asparagus! Four minutes is most probably enough. Melt about three tablespoons of yogurt butter in a saute pan on medium high heat. Add the lemon zest and a splash of orange juice. Now take the asparagus spears out of the steamer and place them in the saute pan. Use tongs if you must. Toss the asparagus a few times. (If you can't flip things in a saute pan, practice with a towel.) Grind some pepper on the asparagus and toss some more. When the asparagus is good and coated you're ready to dish it up.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 4:55 PM. 0 comments

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Detached from a Context

Virginia Woolf wrote, "In books as in people, graces and charms are delightful for the moment but become insipid unless they are felt to be part of some general energy or quality of character." Should we be led to imagine that some general energy of corroborees (or quieter colloquies) doesn't endure? Surely on the one hand we're free to take Woolf's point and still attend to qualities of characters, to an emergent sense of a juxtaposition, temporal conjunction or an interpersonal exchange. On the other hand, there is a risk of becoming distracted. We have so few opportunities in life to really get to know another person.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 7:20 AM. 2 comments

Monday, October 06, 2008

Dynamics of the Imagination Revisited

I'd like to revisit the dynamics of the imagination, this time taking some guidance from Edward S. Casey's Imagining: A Phenomenological Study (Second Edition, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000). Let's take Pegasus as our imaginary exercise for the day, since it's an example Casey uses. One thing he says in this regard strikes me as indubitable insofar as it can be confirmed by observations of my own experiences of imagining. He says, "An imagined object does not remain present to us in an abiding manner, as do many perceptual objects; to keep it before our mental gaze, we must constantly re-imagine it, and even then it is difficult to say whether we are continuing to imagine exactly the same object again and again" (p. 7). Well, if I think about it perhaps I can entertain doubts, for instance, doubts about what it means to abide. A composite thought. If we set out to study the imagination we must find ways of talking about composition. And, of course, dynamism, which is a key point being made here. Our questions about continuity or abidance don't vitiate any insight we may have been given into the regenerative property of the imagination, though we may be left with doubts. Indeed, it is "difficult to say" whether (abiding /re-)imagination engenders the same imaginary objects, or even whether the same of such an undertaking would be the same as the same we mean by pointing twice to an object presumed to be real or otherwise non-imaginary. (Yes, an imaginary same; we should be thereby be alerted to imaginary repetitions, continuities, transiencies.)

How do we unravel filaments of memory from filaments of imagination? Pegasus, the white of a cloud, ascending. Does our imagination of Pegasus begin with our feet on the ground, on the Aleian Plain? Once we have been condemned to wander, has our wandering life abided in such a way as to call into question our flights of imagination? Are not all of our flights now in some measure composed of wandering? Pegasus' mane. Stroking his neck. Feeding him an apple. A gust of wind. The components of a project of imagination abide (we could as easily say fade away) differently from the abidance of the project itself. Filaments of memory, mythology, literature, cinema are re-imagined–maybe emphatically re-imagined as we are reminded of their origins (a conundrum)–in discrete gestures, but a project of re-imagination takes place on a field of wandering, a field of crossing paths. We choose our gestures to compose a project of imagination, or so it seems. Twenty-eight visions of Pegasus' mane, though we probably wouldn't risk the distraction of counting. Pegasus' mane through our fingers. Or not. Not this time. Is this apparent difference simply a question of scale? A question of familiarity which might be shorthand for a question of scale, of temporal distances? This filament is already worked. Really? The weave is ongoing. Really for real? Are we somehow blind to our own wandering state? Do our flights of imagination remove us from our pain, the pain of a broken hip, the pain of wandering?

Casey tasks himself with clearly distinguishing imagination from memory, fantasy and other mental activities. It's a worthy task, but I wonder if there's any psychic phenomenon, however peripheral its psychicity may be, which can't serve in some way as a re-source of the imagination. What does it mean then to be a resource of the imagination? Is dynamism a resource? Can one be one's own dynamism? Does imagination have its own resources, or would such ownership represent a fatal hubris? Yet who would be content with a sophrosyne imagination? Pegasus' clipped wings. Imagination must at least imagine itself as having its own resources, as flying on its own outstretched wings. Imagination must be audacious to its core, which is why I wonder whether it isn't always precisely realized from the Aleian Plain. And what then of its irrealization? How does one realize an audacity while one is already audacious? One composes an audacity, accepting the condition as a conundrum, at the same time one imagines on the fly. Wandering. Taking flight among the clouds. Do we imagine as if there will never be an unraveling, as if we must remain blind to our own resourcing, our own mortality? Do we not recollect images of the past with a similar sense of being in some vital way eternal? Why wouldn't that say something essential about the imagination? That it's not entirely itself, perhaps. Not wholly in possession of its own resources. And still we take flight among the clouds. Still we wander.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 11:52 AM. 2 comments

Sunday, October 05, 2008

A Question Beyond what Already Exists

Irigaray says that "Brahma exists only through the capacity to pose a question beyond what already exists" (Between East and West: From Singularity to Community, trans. Stephen Pluháček, New York: Columbia Univeristy Press, p. 41). Should we think of questioning as a transcendental gesture? Does transcendence even begin to do justice to the question. Imagine then a yonder side of already being. Does the question bring to light a yonder that otherwise wouldn't have been anticipated? What is a yonder that is not? A mediated yonder?

Is surprise a yonder of already?

Think of an idea like "the being of the question" or "?-being." In succumbing to a desire to bestow being upon the question, if only, perhaps, for the sake of fixing a topic of conversation, do we not risk asking less of ourselves than the question invites? What is there of ourselves beyond what is? The question is prejudicial. Who is there of ourselves beyond who we are? A transcendence both of and beyond–don't think there isn't any risk involved in asking too little, or in allowing too little to be asked. Too little risk is also a risk to be weighed, to be questioned.

Was the question already beyond what already exists, or was it posed there? To compose a beyond that questions what already exists: who are they that exist through such a capacity? Those who surprise? Who isn't ("(non)-being") most authentically surprising?

I wouldn't say that I know Luce Irigaray, if only through her writings, because that might imply that the capacity to surprise had somehow vanished from her works. We go back. We read anew. I'm not sure how we could say that the text is what already exists while it yet affords possibilities of posing questions beyond itself. Do we want things to be depleted? Is that a meaning of the bestowal of onticity? What is the silence that comes with the relinquishment of words? It may constitute a kind of violence to hear such a silence as impersonal. It may constitute an imponderable stupidity not to hear the implicit question in the silence that comes with the withdrawal from words.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 6:53 AM. 0 comments

Thursday, October 02, 2008


Here's a haiku that came to me the other day out walking on the town bike path.

Don't panic!
It's only our old friend
praying mantis


posted by Fido the Yak at 10:06 AM. 2 comments