Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Absolute Irony of the Question

The so-named rhetorical question, an ironic trope at first blush, is in truth an example of the speculative question. The ignorance of the speaker doesn't really amount to much in this case. The totally ironic question is something altogether different, for total irony points to an irrevocable split between phenomenon and essence "beyond their recuperable identity" (Kierkegaard's Instant, p. 29). The opening up of the possibility for total ironic questioning readies thinking for philosophy, philosophy in its post-Socratic phase, which has become synonymous with philosophy itself. The ironic question, ironically both phenomenon and condition for a phenomenon of questioning, exists as a prepatory gesture, and hence its eidos remains in withdrawal. Its eidos forever becomes recallable as the unrecallable: "The infinite absolute negativity of the Socratic standpoint. . . is to have the Idea merely as limit, to recollect it only as the non-recollectable" (p. 33, Kangas' emphasis).

The critique of the eroticization of the question, which eroticism almost amounts to a paraphilia among the clerisy (as does, ironically, critique), paradoxically calls for a poetics of inquiry, and implies not the temperament—poetic temperament could only be determined in its cold state—but the life of a poet. Philosophy gives us to think, poetically as must needs be, the enigmatic existence of an original preparatory thinker, of a *Socrates, in the spasm of the question. Is it possible to emulate Socrates and still be critical of the philosophical question? How do we emulate enigma, or simply admire the enigmatic existence, without succumbing to obscurantism?

In the Socratic movement, philosophy, the question "receives a radical priority over any expository discourse aiming at knowledge" (p. 24, my emphasis). Is the search for knowledge via the question supervened in favor of an apeironic priority of questioning, a priority indifferent to being and nothingness? Kangas here at this juncture equates the radical priority of Socrates' question concerning the good with the radical priority of "the original possibility of questioning—Socrates maintains a relation to the excess implied in any new beginning. Remaining faithful to this excess is the condition for remaining faithful to Socrates' 'historical-actual, phenomenological existence'" (ibid.). Fidelity to Socrates' enigmatic existence paradoxically means allowing the figure of Socrates to recede behind the absolute priority of inquiry.

Having drawn a distinction between the ironic and the speculative, between the preparation and the journey, do we then, in inquiry, seek knowledge? Not in an expository way, one might answer. Yet we might still investigate how we imagine these things are put against one another, journey and preparation, if that's how our imagination approaches the problematic. Does the absolute irony of the question ever cross paths with the expository? Or is this crossing of paths what is meant by the "enigmatic existence" of the philosopher?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 6:37 AM.


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