Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Pure Answer

"What really defines a question," writes Barbaras (Being, p. 141), "is that it involves the possibility of an answer, at least as a horizon." The question springs from the tessellation of interpersonal encounters, which in disaggregate form a horizon of actuality of answers for the (possible) question, though it is nonetheless also the home of nexii of singularities, abilities (actual possibilities), ideas of abilities (and on to the "virtual"), membranes, textures, passages, and expressive gestures. The tessellation is where laterality figures, or figures as horizon. Two ideas, both connected to the emergence of the question from the tessellation of encounters: the openness of the question, and the drawing of the whole person into question (drawn not wholly, but by implicature). The person could not possibly be drawn into question given a perfect, irrefrangible solitude. However, solitude is an element of the encounter, texturally, environmentally in its paradigmatic instance, perhaps, though it could easily enough be viewed as a fundamental polarity of the encounter–here I hesitate to describe the encounter in the abstract for fear of foreclosing on any of its possibilities, or any avenues that could be strolled through its concretions. This may be a point of contention. Does the positing of the pure question rely upon the pure answer, whether given as possibility or in some other way? I am tempted to think that it does, and that therefore we must be cautious in defining the question in any such way that would discount or devalue the realities of answer. With such a caveat in mind let's follow where Barbaras goes with the idea of the openness of the question:

What defines interrogation, as pure interrogation, is that the question accepts no answer that would conlcude it. . . . Sense is precisely interrogative sense, present as something to interrogate, withdrawing itself behind the question that gains access to it. This interrogative sense is given at one and the same time as response and reenactment of the question within the response; it is present only at a distance.

(p. 141, Barbaras' emphasis).

Do we, as questioners, only accept tentative answers? (As always, although I make a rhetorical point, the question isn't entirely "rhetorical." It could be answered directly.) What directions would we give to the reenactments of "our" questions? The answers Barbaras gives, the questions he reenacts, gravitate around his ontological account of the thought of Merleau-Ponty. Here the discussion moves from the sense of vision to the body of the question, which is the body as chiasm:

[I]n order to restore the signifying and ultimately the interrogative dimension of vision, as opposed to Sartrean abstraction, Merleau-Ponty appealed to the experience of touch. Ultimately interrogation itself, at all levels including linguistic, turns out to be defined by this reference to touch. . . . [I]nsofar as it is originary interrogation, "auscultation or palpitation in thickness," our relation to Being proceeds from an originary Touching. The notion of the flesh corresponds to this originary Touching; strictly speaking, it is the body of interrogation, the body as interrogation.

(p. 144, Barbaras' emphasis).

And we see Barbaras tying the discussion of the question into his analysis of the dialectic of fact and essence: "The notion of wild essence describes this ultimate level where the fact exists only as the possibility that articulates it, where the essence makes sense only insofar as it remains caught facticity. The Being of interrogation therefore designates Mediation as the last reality, and, in a sense, there is only mediation" (p. 145). So far so good? If it is true that "interrogation proper proceeds from an act of ideation" (p. 143), then we are encouraged to approach the imagination of the question as "caught facticity." An obvious relation exists between fact and question, a relation introduced by response, whether in the form of the question (the wonderful question, always to be questioned) or the answer; less obviously there is conceivably a facticity of question and answer, or a factical background to the exchange of question and answer. There is also the fact of posing a ?-idea.

Is the encounter an act? Does the word interaction hint at a beyond of action, any sort of crossing over? Does the act conceived in one domain remain an act when carried over to another? Does the encounter carry the potential to redefine action, to reenact it? Can the pure answer be any kind of reenactment, or must it be "free" to close the question?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 1:15 PM.


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