Barbaras interprets Merleau-Ponty's grappling with the experience of the other: "the other is a being who is present only as absent, is given only as its own withdrawal, and, because of that is not given to a consciousness. The experience of the other is, par excellence, the 'presentation of the unpresentable'" (Being of the Phenomenon, p. 40). The paradoxes bother me. Perhaps they were already latent within the phenomena of coexistence and did not arise as the result of a philosophical error such as the entification of experience. I say that cautiously, not least because of my own inclinations to entify experience. In fact the "not given to a consciousness" of the other is not easily interpreted. Does "consciousness" mean primarily "self-relation," as Barbaras says at one point? Does it mean specifically a being capable of forming or having an experience? Does it primarily mean an insular subjectivity?
The other appears as such, and, to this extent, its givenness does not refer to an insular consciousness; however, if the relation to the other were based truly on an anonymous subjectivity, it would lose all meaning because there would be no distinction within this anonymity, that is, because finally there would be no consciousness to which the other could appear. The ego and the alter ego have parallel destinies: the moment the ego vanishes into the anonymity of being-in-the-world, the other undergoes the same fate and stops being other because it is not a consciousness. Just when the experience of the other appears possible, since the abyss between insular subjectivities can be bridged, the experience loses all meaning, for along with their differences, the consciousnesses themselves disappear. Alterity and egoity are not opposed. On the contrary, because a consciousness is endowed with identity, because it is self-consciousness, it can be other, that is, differ from an other. Therefore, if the relation to the other excludes self-transparent consciousnesses, the relation also challenges the idea of an undifferentiated psychic currentonly a consciousness, a self-relation, can engender a difference, a divergence in the heart of this current. The move critical of Husserl's egology, which is based on the discovery of the [wild] anonymity of being-in-the-world and which eventually converges with Scheler's perspective, calls now for an opposite move that leads to a revindication of one of Husserl's truths against Scheler. The existence of the other makes sense only insofar as it is reconceived from the viewpoint of an ego, to which it can appear and from which it can be distinguished as an alter ego. At this point, the problem is posed in a way that conforms to all the dimensions of the experience. There is certainly an originary anonymity, but this anonymity must at the same time be rejected since it is experienced and consequently divided up by the consciousnesses which are fused in it. There is, then, a solipsism which cannot be overcome, and yet this solipsism must also be rejected, since the experience that consciousness has of its solitude presupposes a prior background of communication with the other. In fact, the solitude of consciousness is the experience of the absence of others, and it refers consequently to an originary relation with them against whose background this absence can be experienced as such. All absence is a modality of presence.
Would the withdrawal of the other from owned phenomenality follow the same path as the withdrawal of the imaginary from the real? Is there anything to this withdrawal besides withdrawal? Anything like a habitus? Anything like an eidos of experience, even an unthinkable eidos, one that appears only in withdrawing from thought? Is ideation thought in every possible sense? What is my image of phenomenality?
The other appears; its transcendence, therefore, could not correspond to the factual presence of something transcendent. But it appears in such a way as not to give itself in this appearing; it remains transcendent to its givenness. Or rather, it gives itself as this very transcendence. It is precisely the presence of a non-presence. This claim does not mean that the other's absence conceals another presencethat would be to fall back into the aporias of objective thought and to look for the signs of a consciousness in a corporeal presenceit means instead that the other presents itself as absent, that manifestation and withdrawal are identical in it.
Is it ever the case that another person gives herself against the background of originary solitude (as the transcendence of her givenness)? What makes this thought nearly unimaginable? A thought that belongs to solitude, the exile within, exiled even from ownness.