Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Unscruple

When we speak of classicism, we also mean that we want to read Merleau-Ponty just as one reads a classic author. Commentators insist on the fact that Merleau-Ponty teaches us the way in which he must be read. Because the truth of an author is not an object that can be circumscribed, because it resides in an unthought which inhabits it through and through without being formulated anywhere, the reading must be an interpretive appropriation, an active intersubjectivity, an echo. If this means simply that no interpretation is a mere repetition, that the reader reconceives the work on the basis of its own difference without anyone being able to say that this is an arbitrary projection, this is obvious. But the risk is that by means of the authority of this obvious fact, we dispense with a scrupulous reading and go straight to an 'intuition' of Merleau-Ponty that would only need to be reactivated differentially, instead of paying careful attention to the movement and concepts across which this intuition is elaborated. In our eyes, Merleau-Ponty's always luminous thought is still arduous, sinuous, and dense. By remaining as attentive as possible to the text, we propose simply to try to explicate it, just as one explicates a classic author; no one would think of exercising this dimension of active appropriation first in relation to a classic author. It seems to us not only that the richness of the texts at our disposal justifies a work of reconstitution but also, because of their density and their incompleteness, that they require such a work of reconstitution.

(Renaud Barbaras, The Being of the Phenomenon, pp. xxxii-xxxiii), my emphasis

That there is an unscruple at the heart of the scrupulous reading, reading which demands giving the best of yourself, that is, reading which requires, among other things, creativity and a genuine practice of freedom, is obvious. Scrupulous reading, however, is not defined by any one scruple or its other–ah, but there's the rub. Is the unscruple also a scruple? Now it appears to be neither scruple nor unscruple. It's as if the scruple always had to be decided phronetically, as would then the unscruple. Can this pass as definition? Can we ever precisely know what a scruple is with respect to reading or any other pursuit? A scrupulous reading of Barbaras' text also requires that the reader be free to interrogate Barbaras' reading of Merleau-Ponty, which means of course putting into question Barbaras' readerly scruples. Scruples? What kind of reader am I after all? A man whose intelligence and creativity I admire puts years of study into a reading of an oeuvre and yet I would dare to question his scruples? But he gave me the idea? It's completely juvenile, I know. Asinine. Please forgive me.

Labels: , , ,

posted by Fido the Yak at 6:58 AM.


Post a Comment

Fido the Yak front page