Monday, June 15, 2009

Comportment Within the Question/The Question as Dance

Jacky gives us a startling juxtaposition: "Knowingness is a state of soul which prevents shudders of awe" (Rorty); and "Consciousness without shudder is reified consciousness. The shudder in which subjectivity stirs without yet being subjectivity is the act of being touched by the other." (Adorno). Before the questioner can be summoned into questioning there is the shudder of being touched by the other. Questioning is a possibility of being touched by others, one of its modalities. Knowingness, then, does not belong to the questioner as the questioner operates concretely, shuddering, touched; knowingness rather appears, objectively, as an attribute of reified consciousness, or, perhaps, the state of a damaged soul. Aesthetic comportment, yes, but also the inquisitive comportment is defined by the nourishment of a capacity to shudder. The farther we get from reified consciousness the closer we approach the question in its concrete essence. Obviously? How do we describe the comportments of the body-question open to the shudder, the questioning that draws the body within the question? Do we set out from tropes of balance, knowingly, of balance between request and demand, seeking and finding, addressivity and responsivity, poise and comedy? Whether or not we regard other people as transcendent, can we sketch out a sense in which the question is imminent among others if not to ourselves? Or does the question by nature, as a thing of calls and responses, seek out our transcendence? Could the question seek out our transcendence without causing us to shudder? What is the distance between being capable of transcendence—being capable of receiving the question, perhaps, of heading into it—and living transcendentally? What exactly would dance transcend?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 1:34 PM.


OpenID kvond said...

The Rorty quote is most interesting because it closely follows Spinoza's own (seeming) dismissal of awe or wonder. As Spinoza puts it:

IV. Admiratio [Wonder] is an imagination of a thing in which the Mind remains fixed because this singular imagination has no connection with the others. (See p52 and p52s.)

What is notable is that Rorty was critical of Spinoza on this very count, that for instance he found Spinoza to be manifestly against the use of metaphor in such a way that seemed to give us a stale, reified concept of consciousness, one for instance that was quite against the use of metaphors. But I think that Rorty and Spinoza have in mind the same kind of "awe", that of being manipulated into beliefs based on the powers of shudder, in particular the veneration of persons or imagined entities that are invested in our own Sadness.

If any are interested, I bring up Spinoza's approach to "wonder" here:

and on metaphor:

What I think is most appealing is the way in which the bodily effects of "shudder" come out of the very sense of dis-connection, that is, they are not anticipated, and their causes are somewhat opaque. But any shudder can immediately lead us to building or growing our connection to other things. There is of course the shudder that isolates. And the shudder that connects. Hard to parse them sometimes.

June 15, 2009 4:17 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Thanks for the interesting comment, as ever.

Incidentally I think you'd be interested in Lakoff and Johnson's Metaphors We Live By if you haven't already read it.

How do you interpret "knowingness"? What do you think about Rorty's sense of "knowingness"?

June 16, 2009 1:47 AM  
OpenID kvond said...

I don't precisely recall Rorty's take on knowingness in a general sense, but surely the quote makes one think of his treatment of "meaning". He certainly saw meaning as language bound, and "true" to be something we can say about sentences. I recall him saying, eliciting Quine, that "meaning" is the cleared away ground in the jungle of use. I liked this metaphor quite a bit. So when Rorty is talking of "knowingness" I suspect he is talking about meaning. But he adhered to a Davidsonian concept of meaning, which was that metaphors had none: that they fell into the category of "use" somewhere at the jungle's periphery. In this way there is a kind of human capacity for invention which seems to fall into the gray area of "knowing"

I wrote on Davidson and Rorty on metaphor in this article "Davidon's Razor, Vico's Magnet" if interested:

For myself in a recent book by Wheeler on Biosemiotics she was fond of citing someone whose main claim is "We know more than we can say". I realize the problems for such a claim, in particular for those from the Analytical tradition where issues of justification and Realism are particularly sticky. So, in the Davidsonian sense, I want to be very careful about this claim. We might know more than we can say, but do we know more than we can ascribe by mental predicate?

So, what I tend to say is, on the Realist debate that is characterized by questions of justification and the truth of sentences we should be very strict about what it is that we know. But because I am a panpsychist I also ascribe to the Augustinian/Plontinian tradition and accept that "knowing" is simply the mode of action implicit in thought, and that in a semiotic fashion, all things "know" (as Augustine creates the triad Knowing, Being, Loving that seems to go all the way down the chain of Being).

In this way I embrace both sides. Knowingness provides a certain kind of immunization against "shudder" but I am also a strong believer in "shudder". Perhaps this means that the more one knows, the more fine and intense the shudder must be or becomes.

June 16, 2009 3:49 PM  

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