Saturday, February 28, 2009

World of the Question

"Apparition is a congealed form from which someone has already withdrawn, whereas in language there is accomplished the unintermittent afflux of a presence that rends the inevitable veil of its own apparition, which is plastic like every apparition" (Totality and Infinity, p. 98). When we challenge Levinas on the issue of whether a certain kind of presence, the presence of a speaker, intermits, we must keep in mind not only the fact that Levinas has a special (highly refined) understanding of language, but also that he understands experience to be constituted by alterity, so to speak, a position which would, were we to adopt it in the form Levinas suggests, modify everything we would want to say about the rhythm of affluxes, convergences towards speech, which we should carefully distinguish from convergences towards phenomenality, for the moment, even though certain rhythms of phenomenality might be traceable to the movements of the other speaker. For Levinas, the other is there at the commencement of experience (p. 93). In my view the other isn't properly welcomed by an idea of infinity, for such an idea takes from the other the power to come and go as she pleases. Hospitality demands that we not box the other in–actually I think there's agreement on this point; the question is whether we acknowledge the other's rhythms, or what we make of the rhythms of conversation. Would rhythms box in by virtue of their phenomenality, or of belonging to a phenomenal world?

Let's look at a passage in which Levinas relates his thinking about language to his thinking about consciousness. In this passage he is engaging in a critique of ontology, arguing that ontology posits a world in language before it says "yes" to anything. It should be kept in mind that for Levinas "attention," which makes explicit thinking possible, does not signify a refinement of consciousness but consciousness itself (p. 99).

The signification of beings is manifested not in the perspective of finality, but in that of language. A relation between terms that resist totalization, that absolve themselves from the relation or that specify it, is possible only as language. The resistance of one term to the other is not due to the obscure and hostile residue of alterity, but, on the contrary, to the inexhaustible surplus of attention which speech, ever teaching, brings me. For speech is always a taking up again of what was a simple sign cast forth by it, an ever renewed promise to clarify what was obscure in the utterance.

To have meaning is to be situated relative to an absolute, that is, to come from that alterity that is not absorbed in its being perceived. Such an alterity is possible only as a miraculous abundance, an inexhaustible surplus of attention arising in the ever recommenced effort of language to clarify its own manifestation.

(p. 97, my bold)

How is recommencement possible except on the basis of something like exhaustion, incompletion–is this what is meant by in-finition? I doubt it, because it is the recommencement that is described as ever happening. Recommencement never finishes, yet it would seem that it would have to finish in order to be recommencement rather than some other kind of commencement.

Would language be able to clarify its own manifestation without the aid of the question? Yet what if the question is not something that exists prior to language but must be constituted, or, rather, unfolded in dialogue. When we ask about the question's conditions of possibility we may catch a glimpse of language being made up on the fly (even given the depths of its temporal horizons)–but I don't see this is as quite what Levinas has in mind. What might he teach us about the world of the question?

Thematization manifests the Other because the proposition that posits and offers the world does not float in the air, but promises a response to him who receives this proposition, who directs himself toward the Other because in his proposition he receives the possibility of questioning. Questioning is not explained by astonishment only, but by the presence of him to whom it is addressed. A proposition is maintained in the outstretched field of questions and answers. A proposition is a sign which is already interpreted, which provides its own key. The presence of the interpretative key in the sign to be interpreted is precisely the presence of the other in the proposition, the presence of him who can come to the assistance of his discourse, the teaching quality of all speech. Oral discourse is the plenitude of discourse.

(p. 96, my bold)

Perhaps we are in the presence of philosophy's lovely question, but it can't be said that we've made no progress. Is the world of the question a de novo world, a world that is ever recommenced? Is it a world of rhythms, or is that too lovely? Yes, it may be, for Levinas resists thinking of language as a world. The question arises in a conversation in which worlds are posited but which itself is not a world and does not constitute a world. We might say that conversation is a condition of possibility of the world of a question, but I wonder then if we aren't (a) avoiding thinking about conversation from every possible angle, including from the angle of conversations being worlds, or doing something worldlike such as enveloping or being a "field," and (b) avoiding thinking about the radicality of the question. Could the question possibly free itself from conversation, or would such a belief require some sort of miracle? Whether or not it delivers, does the question promise the miraculous? The fabulous? (The fabulous response?) Does it fly? The world of flight can best be described as intermittent–it does and it does not float on air.

Finally, how does phenomenality enter into the conversation? Had it been absolutely excluded? We witness traces of conversation in phenomenality, apparitions of speakers who have withdrawn, ourselves perhaps. What do we take into conversation? Is a conversation that excludes all phenomenality desirable? How do we know we're not dealing with something like total conversation (a phantasm), a conversation that would insist on an unremitting afflux of presence, and would be able to insist, because it isn't real, or isn't designed for real conversation? Further clarification would be thwarted by such a total conversation, I suspect, leading me to speculate that perhaps further clarification requires an ability to step back, from phenomenality but more to the point even to step back from conversation, which means to be in conversation intermittently.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 6:31 AM. 0 comments

Friday, February 27, 2009

Rhythm Without Ontology

Rhythmosophy, in its phenomenological mode, presupposes no being. Saying "consciousness" is not in fact tantamount to making a naive metaphysical claim about being. On the contrary, being is a cogitatum before it is anything else. Saying "the being of consciousness" is as good as understanding consciousness through an als etwas, an "as" structure, in this case "being," which rather resembles a category. "Being" is intentional before it is anything–so far as we know apodictically. Of course one is free to speculate. (This argument by the way should be taken as a rejoinder to all ontologies, not merely those that posit sentient rocks). Rhythmosophy is a practical adventure before it is a speculative one, though its adherent so far knows very little and asks many questions. Missteps will surely be part of its developmental process. For now, for all he knows esse est percipi. Or not. Rhythmosophy makes no claims about being. (It's understanding of "existence," i.e. embodied sentient existence, could well be problematical.) Rhythmosophy begins with an intuition–I think we can call it that, though it may also be an inference one makes–that consciousness vibrates at different frequencies, or, more rudimentarily, that consciousness gives itself periodically, if not completely (different people sleep differently, it might be assumed), then to a sensible measure. Consciousness appears to have various intensities. Moreover, in daily life there is an inconstant, variable pace of consciousness, or there are various paces of the consciousness of the living subject, in Barbaras' sense of the term "living subject." The consciousness who moves, which means any consciousness that we know of, moves in rhythm. Well, I have Barbaras' Being of the Phenomenon lying around. I suppose I'll start reading that in late March. In the interim, concerning the being of the rhythmic subject, the living subject in this one sense, no initial claim, naive or otherwise, is made about its status, nature, or meaning. Obviously it's not plain stupid to talk about the existence of the living subject, or "the being of the existential subject of consciousness." It's rather a question of how one knows what one is talking about, or how one accounts for the abstractions one uses in order to intelligently talk about such things.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 8:27 AM. 0 comments

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hominid Feet

A couple of stories (1, 2) about some recently discovered early human footprints, probably belonging to Homo ergaster or erectus. Video here

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posted by Fido the Yak at 2:23 PM. 0 comments

Mnesic Replay

Edgard Richard Sienaert, "Marcel Jousse: The Oral Style and the Anthropology of Gesture", Oral Tradition, 5/1 (1990): 91-106)

The human gestures obey the biological rhythm created by a concentration of energy followed by an energetic explosion after an action exercised upon man. The expressive quality and efficacy of gestural language is due to the fact that the subject relives in his gestures the phases of the experienced action in the order in which he saw them occur. The continuous gesture then is a propositional gesture similar to the basic grammatical proposition: subject-verb-object. In this way man plays out what was played in him, plays out his receptions, his "intussusceptions"–to "intussuscept" meaning taking possession of the outside world and carrying it inside. Play, then, is the osmosis of man and the reality that imposes itself upon him, it is the way by which reality is progressively instilled into him from childhood. It is this act of playing out, this play, that is at the origin of all art, for man needs to reproduce what he sees. He cannot but play out, he cannot do without art. Unlike the anthropoid, however, the anthropos can, through his bodily gestures, in an orderly fashion and in order to master them, consciously replay a perceived and intussuscepted gesture. This capability to re-play a once perceived reality in its absence, to re-present something past, is unique to man and it is memory that allows him to do so and thus makes him unique: through memory he replays experienced reality stored in him, through memory he conserves and transmits consciously his past actions and reactions and so is enabled to shape his future according to the experiences of the past. Memory is the reactivation of gestures previously internalized, shaped, played in us with the cooperation of our body. And the greater the participation of our body has been in the play–the more gestures participated in the playing out of the reception at first–the better will this past impression be expressed subsequently, the more efficiently will the stored facts be released, for memories are not ideas, much less images built into us, but gestures involving the whole of the human compound. Memory being gestural replay, the better the play–the intussusception–the better the re-play–the memory.

The original language then is corporeal, it is the expression of the entire body, of the entire being, of the whole of man. The gestures by which man replays can be differentiated according to the part of the body onto which the expression is transposed, according to which element of the human compound is called upon for ex-pression of the im-pression: the body as a whole, the eyes, ears, hands, the phonatory system–gesticulation can be corporeal, manual, ocular, auricular, or laryngo-buccal. Man went from corporage to manuélage to langage as global language was progressively concentrated in manual language–the sign language of the hands–and in laryngo-buccal language–that of the phonatory system, a gesticulatory reduction explained by a concern to economize energy and to free movement for purposes other than communication. This evolution is there for all to see, in all human beings who do not rely on writing—the "still spontaneous" peoples, children, deaf and dumb persons–and, on a secondary plane, in most verbal expression of literates, especially when emotion "takes over", clearly signaling that corporeal, ocular, and manual gesticulation is imbedded in the anthropos, that it is properly anthropological.

This of course relates to my experiments with the imaginary question. Let's play with the question a minute, think about its gesticulatory possibilities. How do Jousse's anthropological universals show themselves? What is the bilateralism of the question? How do we inquire evenhandedly? Why do we say things like "both sides of the question"? What is the mnesic question? What kind of experience could a question possibly relive? Does the question intussuscept in the same manner as the proposition? Is a question forever intussuscepting? Does the memorization of the question in any way interfere with its being a question?

Seinaert went on to edit The Anthropology of Geste and Rhythm which I hope to peruse a copy of before too long.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 1:09 PM. 0 comments

Dabar: Some Psychodynamics of Language

Walter J. Ong's landmark Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word affords us an opportunity to critically examine the nexus between language and thought, even though we should be wary of too quickly adopting his distinction between oral and literate (chirographic, typographic and electronic) cultures with all of its implications. The fact that most language acquisition, beginning in the first months of human life, takes place before the acquisition of literacy gives us one reason for believing that the features of orality, or what Ong terms "massive oral residue" (passim), are in fact evident in every actual, lived language. We could, though I won't bother at this precise juncture, rigorously explore other reasons for believing that by and large language remains intertwined with speech even among the most sophisticated of literate communities. Instead I would simply ask you to reflect on your own experiences with language, even as you're reading this. What is your body doing while you read this? What feelings are in your throat, or in your hands as you formulate a thought that could be expressed in some form of language? What peoples your imagination?

"Sound exists only when it is going out of existence," Ong insists (passim), and this passing out of existence favors a semiotics of spoken words that ties meaning directly to situations of use. "Words acquire their meanings only from their always insistent actual habitat, which is not, as in a dictionary, simply other words, but includes also gestures, vocal inflections, facial expressions, and the entire human, existential setting in which the real, spoken word always occurs" (p. 47). Indeed. The passing out of existence of spoken words means, as well, that spoken language, that is, the culture of speaking, places a premium on memory, that mnemonic technologies are well developed in the absence of writing, technologies which involve the whole body in the act of memory (p. 67). Ong tells us that experience is intellectualized mnemonically in oral cultures (p. 36). Do we generally intellectualize experience mnemonically? I don't feel as if this idea were totally foreign to me, though I am unsure about what "experience" actually means. (There may be a contradiction with Ong's belief that "[s]elf-analysis requires a certain demolition of situational thinking" (p. 54), insofar as self-analysis is an intellectualization of experience, though, naturally, the contradiction would be in our thinking and not in Ong's, who rigidly distinguishes between oral and literate economies of thought.) Should it be incumbent upon the thinker to develop a style of embodied, situational awareness that corresponds to the ephemerality of communications, or do we accept the styles of awareness that seem to come as second nature with our technologies of communication? (These may not be mutually exclusive).

Ong finds that communication in oral cultures is redundant and formulaic (passim). Copia (pp. 40-41). Undoubtedly one could jump from repetition straight to copia, though that doesn't exactly ring true to my ears. Probably copiousness is not generated directly by repetition but by a patterning that makes use of repetition. They are woven together, just as they are in Ong's book, whose redundancies and reliance upon formulaic expressions are apparent to any reader. Here my feeling is that "repetition" is actually an abstraction of a rhythmic phenomenon explained by the instrument of the body, which is always in some measure a rhythmic existence which leaves its stamp on everything that passes through it. Ong's body is imprinted in Orality and surely Presence too, though it is uncertain as to whether Ong the author was ever conscious of the fact. Ong says that "[r]eal time has no divisions at all, but is uninterruptedly continuous" (p. 76) when in fact lived time, the only time worth being called real, is rhythmical, polyrhythmical, and as such no stranger to either continuity or discontinuity. Words are sounded and sound is dynamic, Ong rightly points out. Dynamism–and we mean here an existential dynamism–however, changes things. It transforms. If repetition existed dynamism would change it into something else. The word is an occurrence, an event (dabar, passim). "The spoken word is always an event, a movement in time, completely lacking in the thing-like repose of the written or printed word" (p. 75). Well, there is apparently some practice involved in speaking, something to do with recurrence and temporal horizons. Here's Ong:

In a primary oral culture, where the word has its existence only in sound, with no reference whatsoever to any visually perceptible text, and no awareness of even the possibility of such a text, the phenomenology of sound enters deeply into human beings' feel for existence, as processed by the spoken word. For the way in which the word is experienced is always momentous in psychic life. The centering action of sound (the field of sound is not spread out before me but is all around me) affects man's sense of the cosmos. For oral cultures, the cosmos is an ongoing event with man at its center. Man is the umbilicus mundi, the navel of the world (Eliade 1958, pp. 231-5, etc.). Only after print and the extensive experience with maps that print implemented would human beings, when they thought about the cosmos or universe or 'world', think primarily of something laid out before their eyes, as in a modern printed atlas, a vast surface or assemblage of surfaces (vision presents surfaces) ready to be 'explored'. The ancient oral world knew few 'explorers', though it did know many itinerants, travelers, voyagers, adventurers, and pilgrims.

(p. 73, my bold)

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posted by Fido the Yak at 11:33 AM. 0 comments

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Reduction to Rhythm

It arrives on time without being punctual. The beat is not a point, but it is like a source, an arrival that was always already home. There is the beat, and there are reverberations, sourced vibrations. Is there an "ultimate matrix"? A raw material of phenomenology? Is it rhythmical? Is it rhythm? Will we allow rhythm to be collapsed into absolute subjectivity?

Says Caputo, "everything in Husserlian constitution turns on a certain anticipatory movement, a gesture of regularizing the flow by means of anticipating its regularities, of sketching out beforehand the patterns to which it conforms, of trying in effect to keep one step ahead of it. The flux is not raw and random but organizes itself into patterns which build up expectations in us about its next move, and this 'building up' of expectations is the key to the 'constitution' of the world. Experience is the momentum of such expectations, their progressive confirmation or disconfirmation, refinement or replacement" (Radical Hermeneutics, p. 37).

The disruption of syncopations (lost beats, a confusion of horizons) teaches us to think on our feet. We don't renew the foot but the step, and intentionality becomes diaphanous in the nonpunctual moment, the moment of rhythm. Something we find at the source of phenomenality, between presence and absence, amidst the hustle of the imagination. We do the hustle. We do intentions. What now is the amplitude of presence, or of absence. An intuition that amplitudes fall in some measure under the sway of rhythm.

Let's press ahead. Is consciousness lost in a "spacing out process" or is it merely altered? Does consciousness reduce to rhythm? We are a step away from dancing to the rhythm of apeiron. "What is irreducible for Husserl," Caputo says, "is the flow of internal time. That is rewritten by Derrida as the irreducible spacing out of nonderived re-presentation, that is, the sheer open-ended power of repetition, the plurivocity of combinatorial possibilities, the impossibility of containing and dominating this drift, the inescapability of indefinite alteration"(p. 145, my bold).

How do we conceptualize a relation between rhythm and infinity? Do we need to think of infinition? Is it enough to think of movement? "Derrida," Caputo claims, "wants to refute them [the Eleatics] with a kind of Dionysian dance, with the rhythm of dithyrambic song" (p. 145). Does the reduction to rhythm show us a refutation of a thought infinity or its transmutation? I think this can be played with. Let's imagine, with Caputo's assistance, a hermeneutics of rhythm that has no standing, a hermeneutics of the breach of rhythm at the source of phenomenality. Such a hermeneutics "has no standing and no position, and it makes no attempt to get beyond physis, beyond the flow. Such a hermeneutic comes to pass only in the element of movement and kinesis" (p. 147).

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posted by Fido the Yak at 9:19 AM. 0 comments


First imagine a phonocentrism not of an inner voice, not of soliloquy–what, really, is solitary about about an inner voice, about anything interiorized, or, perhaps by the same token, bound for exteriorizations? The inner voice speaks permeations such as to vibrate against any supposed harmony of interiors and centering. Phono-eccentrism. Ride it. Caputo says, "In inner soliloquy I speak to myself, but I do not write to myself" (Radical Hermeneutics, p. 137). Speaking for myself, I say in quiet what I write, as well as what I read. I invite you to become aware of your larynx as you read this. Breach-phonation does not do violence to the really felt. It does however play. Is it playful enough? For whispers? For the shout chorus? Breach-phonation keeps time with the heart, even as it plays itself, in moments, against the heart beat. The moment of the breach may be the realization of departure from the thump, a wild anacrusis, or yet another thump. Thump thump.

Next up: rhythm at the source of phenomenality?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 8:28 AM. 0 comments

Friday, February 20, 2009

Touching Rhythm (Rhythmosophy)

To touch rhythm is to be touched by rhythm. Though he doesn't say "touch," Lefebvre invites us to see touch as a model for how we interpret rhythm. There is more to understanding rhythm, however, than being absorbed by it. Before proceeding I have to step back and look at what Lefebvre is doing with the concept of perpetuity, the uninterrupted reach, the going through, or the seeking through that has come to be synonymous with diuturnity. Once again he distinguishes between the cyclical and the linear and says that "[t]he linear is the daily grind, the routine, therefore the perpetual, made up of chance and encounters" (Rhythmanalysis, p. 30). He has said that the linear and the cyclical combine, but he clearly means here to define the linear as both routine and grind, both the aleatory and the perpetual. The first thing to note, then, is that there may be a cyclical element to Lefebvre's "linear" time. It encompasses the beaten path and the breaking of paths. It does not however foresee the end of paths, or the ends of journeys. It does not anticipate heat death. It apparently has no significant relation to finitude nor to exhaustion. What then is the difference between the linear and the cyclical? Let's look at a couple more instances of Lefebvre's sense of perpetuity. Speaking of "the lessons of the street" and the "teachings of the window," he says that they "perpetuate themselves by renewing themselves" (p. 33). A pleonasm, or rather a tautology? Well, should we think of the linear as renewal, or is there a contradiction at work here, a paradox whereby the beaten path is also the path of renewal? He also says that people "come in crowds, in perpetual flows" (p. 34). We say "perpetual flow" readily enough, but in doing so are we speaking in riddles? What do we really believe about flows? Are our beliefs consistent with a polyrhythmic grasp of being such as Lefebvre recommends?

What is the relation of perpetuity to memory? To meditation? Lefebvre has given us an interesting idea to puzzle over: to grasp the rhythms of the street, he says, requires "a bit of time, a sort of meditation on time" (p. 30). Can we say that to be touched by rhythm is to be in two times at once? Would these be separate times, joined only by rhythm, or might they be modalities of a unitary time? Should we acknowledge our creation of other times or of time itself? Lefebvre says that memory is required to grasp the rhythms of the street, "in order to grasp this present otherwise than in an instantaneous moment, to restore it in its moments, in the movement of diverse rhythms. The recollection of other moments and of all hours is indispensable, not as a simple point of reference, but in order not to isolate this present and in order to live it in all its diversity" (p. 36). Wouldn't touching rhythm then also require protention, anticipation of the coming moment, the next moment and perhaps additionally the constitution of "next" by consciousness? How would we meditate upon the next moment without transforming the next moment into a meditation? Are our routines meditations? What about our routine meditations? Where is the finitude in rhythm? Might there be a rhythm to the way things slip away, slip away from even memory or from anticipation? Is the by in touched by rhythm the place where rhythm slips away from consciousness, from meditation–but the touch of rhythm requires meditation! I find it puzzling. Can we be sure that the touch of rhythm doesn't instigate meditation?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 7:24 AM. 2 comments

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Quick Defense of Spontaneity

Levinas is wrong about spontaneity but he is creatively wrong so it will be worth our time to read him carefully. Propadeutically, I have a sense that I am responsible for my existence, responsible for giving it meaning and ultimately determining what it is. Levinas challenges this sense. He asserts that we are created, which would imply to many that one cannot claim full responsibility for one's existence. However, Levinas has an unusual definition of the creature which should pre-empt a hasty repudiation of his position. He says, "The unity of spontaneous freedom, working on straight ahead, and critique, where freedom is capable of being called in question and thus preceding itself, is what is termed a creature" (Totality, p. 89). Perhaps the issue is one of simple nomenclature, though I reckon not. In the phrase "working on straight ahead" we find a clue to Levinas' misconstrual of spontaneity. He identifies spontaneity with the activity of the for-itself, implying that freedom does not fall within the purview of a complete existentiality but is instead reserved for a certain kind of being. (Again there are issues of nomenclature. Does saying "existential" imply a relation to human existence, or more generally and by extension of this meaning to sentient existence? In my usage it often does.) Levinas thus gives freedom a peculiar definition. He says that the "imperialism of the same is the essence of freedom" (p. 87), and he states that "freedom, the determination of the other by the same, is the very movement of representation and of its evidence" (p. 85). On these terms Levinas may be right in analytically separating spontaneous freedom from critique, if only to unite them in the creature, but they are questionable terms.

Against Levinas I maintain a skepticism about any primary curvature of being (p. 86). Being may be curved in any variety of ways, and humans in particular evince a multitude of curvatures. Spontaneity then is not primarily orthogonal to relations to other people or to any primary curvature of being. (I wonder if Levinas is entirely consistent in speaking of a primary curvature of being here?) This point is important when it comes to thinking about what it means to be put into question. Levinas says that "[t]he knowing whose essence is critique. . . leads to the Other. To welcome the Other is to put in question my freedom" (p. 85). Maybe there is some truth in this statement, yet I hesitate at this juncture to say that we are on the same page. What does it mean to be critical, and how does this being critical relate to spontaneity? Levinas equates the critical essence of knowing with "the movement of a being back to what precedes its condition" (p. 84). Hmm. The prerogative of knowing, Levinas says, lies in "being able to put itself in question, in penetrating beneath its own condition" (p. 85). I'm perplexed as to why there wouldn't be a condition beneath the condition. (What does philosophy have against the condition?) Perhaps the condition beneath the condition of knowledge is the question, in which case perhaps we put ourselves in question only because we can. Perhaps not. At any rate, I am inclined to balk at putting spontaneity at odds with critique. On the contrary, spontaneity may be essential to the performance of critique. Is criticism a transformative process? Does it lead to anything? Does it reach out to others–surely we can be spontaneous in reaching out? What about welcoming, then? Welcoming is quite different from reaching out to things, a neutral reaching out. The welcoming of gifts?

I welcome Levinas' critique of philosophy, if not as nicely as possible, then nice enough for discussion.

Philosophy itself is identified with the substitution of ideas for persons, the theme for the interlocutor, the interiority of the logical relation for the exteriority of interpellation. Existents are reduced to the neuter state of the idea, Being, the concept. It was to escape the arbitrariness of freedom, its disappearance into the Neuter, that we have approached the I as atheist and created–free, but capable of tracing back beneath its condition–before the Other, who does not deliver himself in the "thematization" or "conceptualization" of the Other. To wish to escape dissolution into the Neuter, to posit knowing as a welcoming of the Other, is not a pious attempt to maintain the spiritualism of a personal God, but is the condition for language, without which philosophical discourse itself is but an abortive act, a pretext for an unintermitting psychoanalysis or philology or sociology, in which the appearance of a discourse vanishes in the Whole. Speaking implies a possibility of breaking off and beginning.

(p. 88, my bold)

Responses: (a) I wouldn't want to say that spontaneity lacks conditions, even in a roundabout way; (b) Levinas draws a distinction between discourse and language; (c) the possibility of breaking off and beginning is the possibility of spontaneity. Whether we are talking about language in any ordinary sense or language in Levinas' metaphysical sense there is an implication of spontaneousness. Moreover, welcoming does not negate spontaneity but rather welcomes it.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 7:13 AM. 0 comments

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Choreosophic Musing of the Day

Ong says, "Not only communication but thought itself relates in an altogether special way to sound" (Orality and Literacy, p. 7). Ong may be at odds with Cavarero in that he doesn't believe philosophy is possible except in the context of chirographic culture, and that condition may involve for him an acknowledgment and acceptance of some limitations on philosophical thought that Cavarero would rather lead us to revolt against. Broadly, we would be happier if we allowed ourselves to imagine a philosophical style of thinking that related in an altogether special way to sound, a philosophy whose departures from everyday thinking didn't do violence to this special relation to sound, which we have yet to explore, a rhythmosophy, a choreosophy, no stranger to love, in step with egalitarianism and the way things come and go. (Should philosophy make us happy?)

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posted by Fido the Yak at 3:19 PM. 0 comments

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Question is Essentially Co-Operative

Mike Johnduff posts on a co-operative technique of enquiry, raising a question or two in my mind. First though, if we use the word enquiry as roughly synonymous with investigation, it is frequently the case that while conducting an inquiry our questions are not literally posed directly to other people. The question then appears to be metaphorical, a way of understanding how we learn. However, one may speak intelligibly of an ethos of enquiry and even a spirit of the question, a characteristic speech intention of the genre of utterance known as the question. The question is a crucial element of our intellectual culture. The habitus of the intellectual inclines him to approach phenomena that appear before the intellect as if they were questions. He knows what a question is in a practical sense. He knows how to formulate a question, to work with it, pose it, answer it or re-open it. Working with questions is second nature to him, essential to the life of the mind, the life he lives and breathes. Yet it is after all second nature. In the domain of this second nature, where we can speak intelligibly of the ethos of the question, it appears that the question is essentially co-operative. Not every imaginable variation of inquiry is obviously co-operative, but the knowledge of how to work with questions is, and that's what makes the question essentially co-operative. What is the nature of this co-operation?

The question, then, is essentially a co-operative undertaking. On the other hand, the question disrupts co-operation. It interrupts the flow of conversation. It arrests ideas that would easily pass for being understood–in order to better understand them? Well, that is a question. Does the question emerge to further a better understanding of prior thoughts, of shared understandings, or does it reject prior understandings. Does it reject understandings so forcefully as to put in doubt whether understanding can be achieved at all? Does the question risk aporia? In its essence, if it is to be a question at all, must it risk an inability of arriving at an understanding, a negative capability, as the poet says, one with only the slimmest hope at resolving its doubts. Questioning may be the apotheosis of negative capability, which is one reason why it itself should be interrogated. There is a danger of glorifying the question, perhaps even of doing permanent damage to the way we ask questions. Yet, to keep the questioning here open, aren't these dangers, which are cut from the same cloth, attendant upon–no, essential to asking questions?

So, in asking a question, how do we negotiate between enduring aporia and shared understandings that aren't really shared–phony understandings, shambolic understandings? In questioning do I call upon your working knowledge of the question (a prior understanding, though one that is not closed, it's worth noting)? Does any question place a demand on our practical knowledge? Does one simply request, opening the door for politeness, that a given understanding be negotiated rather than allowing a verbal transaction to go through as originally intended by one conversation partner? If we weren't able to offer a commitment to a possibility of future understanding, would anybody bother with answering our questions at all? Is the hopeless question still a question in a practical or any other sense? If an inquiry which questions no other people expresses the ethos of the question, or calls upon the ethos of the question, the practical knowledge of the question, and it is still essentially of the question, worthy of the name inquiry, then on what grounds would we exclude the hopeless question from the territory of the question? Is escape from the territory of the question what the aporetic aspect of the question promises, or might it be quite the opposite: the aporetic dimension of the question gives entrance to the beating heart of the question?

The question is without a doubt essentially a co-operative undertaking, but the meaning of co-operation will have yet to be determined. It is in question.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 8:46 AM. 0 comments

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Making some Noise

I've got Kenny Garrett's Sketches of MD: Live at the Iridium in heavy rotation. Here he talks about the music on the recording and also says a few words about his music in general:

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posted by Fido the Yak at 6:40 AM. 3 comments

Friday, February 13, 2009

Quaestio Mihi Factus Sum?

Has philosophy eroticized the question? Improperly? That is, in a way that would disguise its true beauty? Or its original difficulty? You see, I've picked up Caputo's Radical Hermeneutics: Repetition, Deconstruction, and the Hermeneutic Project (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987). The difficulty I'm going to have is that I'm going to prematurely conclude that the distinction between metaphysics and hermeneutics is specious, or perhaps not rigorously followed. Caputo is, it cannot be denied, a true believer in repetition, a belief redolent of metaphysics. By all means let's go to Berlin twice and compare notes.

So we have now a kind of ébranler of the question, a trembling that Caputo and possibly some other philosophers find exciting. This is why he is passionate in his disdain of metaphysics, a disdain I could easily agree with given certain understandings. "Metaphysics always makes a show of beginning with questions, but no sooner do things begin to waver a bit and look uncertain than the question is foreclosed. The disruptive force of the question is contained; the opening it created is closed; the wavering is stilled" (p. 1). This objection comes from a thinker whose metanarrative demands that all philosophy question majuscular B Being as presence, as if questions alone weren't demanding enough. There are reasons, then, to suspect that Caputo's hermeneutics will put a question or two into foreclosure, despite his being the George Bailey of philosophical questions.

Can we turn the tables on our lovely question? Are you androgynous? Are you comfortable with your sexuality, lovely question? Are you underwater? Just thought I'd ask.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 12:45 PM. 0 comments

The Image of Rhythm

One reason I have for keeping Lefebvre's Rhythmanalysis at arm's length is a feeling that rhythms, all rhythm, may be imaginary. Is keeping one's balance a work of the imagination? In a way. That's a sense I'm giving to the word imaginary, a sense which is not merely broad, but means something like "created by sentient existentialities, perhaps involving some kind of metamorphosis, or an involved projection of sentient energy into the forms of the world." Dance could be an image of rhythm. Alternatively I could say rhythm itself is essentially proprioceptive, and proprioceptive feelings are constituted if that helps get across my drift. (I'm not sure I really want to make that claim, restricting the genesis of rhythm to one sense, although it may be a doorway to understanding the essence of the phenomenon.) Here we're up before dawn in our philosophical understanding of rhythms. Is there an internal rhythmic concsiousness? Must we assume rhythm in order to analyze rhythms. If so, how do we choose which concepts to align with our concept of rhythm? Does it align with the real or the irreal, the objective or the subjective or, to deploy a meronym, the intersubjective? Is rhythm the meronym of the continuous and the discontinuous or does it exist by itself? If we align rhythm with physis (or kinesis, in a similar move), doesn't experience along with empirical data brought to our attention compel us to admit that rhythms are many, and that therefore our concept of rhythm can never be more than approximation of any phenomenon of rhythm, and may well be wide of the mark in many instances? Must we be able to step into and step out of rhythm in order to know that rhythm exists? I wouldn't rush to chalk up such an ability to having an idea of rhythm, but if it exists and must exist prior to any hermeneutics of rhythm it must be analyzed, elicited, interpreted, heard, played with or discussed in some fashion. Speaking of the image of rhythm is my attempt to do that.

I turn the floor over to Lefebvre, who asks us to distinguish between the present and presence. (Please note that his idea of the imaginary appears to be more in keeping with an idea of representation than mine is.)

Its name tells as much, but the meanings of words fade over time. The present offers itself in all innocence and cruelty: open, evident, here and there. It can wear a smile, or be tinged with melancholy, provoke tears. But this evidence is misleading, fabricated. It is an adulterated product that simulates presence as a forgery imitates a fact of nature, fruit, a flower, etc. A kind of (dissimulating) simulator of the present: the image!

If you take it for what it is (a paint-daubed or coloured scrap of paper), it falls short of its goal. If you take it for what it seeks to evoke, it accomplishes it. You have to 'have confidence' in the photo, painting, drawing. It has become a sort of social, also known as aesthetic (not moral), obligation that gives rise to abuse. But if you have the ability to take the flows and the streams (T.V., the press, etc.) as rhythms among others, you avoid the trap of the present that gives itself as presence and seeks the effects of presences. The latter are the facts of both nature and culture, at the same time sensible, affective and moral rather than imaginary.

Through a kind of magic, images change what they reach (and claim to reproduce) into things, and presence into simulacra, the present, the this. Do speech and exorcism exist? Yes. Nothing is more simple: a child could do it. Necessarily, a gesture suffices: to take images for what they are, simulacra, copies conforming to a standard, parodies of presence.

The rhythmanalyst will give an account of this relation between the present and presence: between their rhythms. A dialectical relation: neither incompatibility, nor identity–neither exclusion nor inclusion. One calls the other, substitutes itself for this other. The present sometimes imitates (simulates) to the point of mistaking itself for presence: a portrait, a copy, a double, a facsimile, etc., but (a) presence survives and imposes itself by introducing a rhythm (a time). The act of rhythmanalysis [le geste rhythmanalytique] transforms everything into presences, including the present, grasped and perceived as such. The act [geste] does not imprison itself in the ideology of the thing. It perceives the thing in the proximity of the present, an instance of the present, just as the image is another instance. Thus the thing makes itself present but not presence. On the contrary, the act of rhythmanalysis integrates these things–this wall, this table, these trees–in a dramatic becoming, in an ensemble full of meaning, transforming them no longer into diverse things, but into presences.

(pp. 22-23, Lefebvre's bold and italics)

Some steps:

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posted by Fido the Yak at 9:03 AM. 0 comments

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Neba Solo

A gentle side of Neba Solo:

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posted by Fido the Yak at 2:06 PM. 0 comments

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Postulated Question

If Gadamer is right that every assertion is in answer to a question, what question does the nonassertion of the breach (}∅{) refuse to answer? One should interpret with caution the answer to any question issued with a command (arche). Even the refusal to answer a question posed under such conditions becomes suspect. The nonassertion of the breach could simply be a refusal of the conditions of the question's formulation. Working backwards, though, can we discern whether the nonassertion of the breach refuses anything besides a command to answer, such as any kind of question that we should like to take up, even to explicitly refuse, if only it were properly formulated? One reacts to the postulation of ultimacy (and its substitutes, which give us a reason for not saying "ultimacies"), weighs it against, perhaps, an ethos of nonauthoritarian thinking, an existential obligation to create one's response to the world. On which side of the postulated question does epagoge fall? In sticking to the breach, I won't surrender epagoge. Not just yet. In the breach the not-just-yet is not at odds with epagoge. Go figure.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 8:56 AM. 0 comments

Monday, February 09, 2009


"The role Kant attributed to sensible experience in the domain of the understanding," Levinas tells us, "belongs in metaphysics to interhuman relations" (Totality and Infinity, p. 79). Likewise he says that "metaphysics is enacted where the social relation is enacted–in our relations with men" (p. 78). So why doesn't Levinas turn to social anthropology for any sort of metaphysical insights? Despite his emphasis on interhuman relations I think Levinas was profoundly at odds with the anthropology of his day. "The idea of infinity, the metaphysical relation, is the dawn of humanity without myths" (p. 77). Anthropology has yet to discover a humanity without myths, though of course we know of individuals who are critical of the myths which have been handed down to them. From the vantage point of anthropology infinity is a myth of the philosophers. It is reasonable, Levinas' infinity. It makes a kind of sense. For the anthropologist, however, the mythical need not be opposed to reason or sense (though for some it would of necessity be opposed to some category of thought). So while Levinas' infinity provides an instrument to critically examine the anthropologists totalizations, the anthropologists have given us a critical way of looking at Levinas' infinity. Where does the discussion go from here? Can one imagine an anthropology of infinities? Or, conversely, could one practice a metaphysics of the quotidian that, if not scientific, would not be inconsistent with a kind of scientific skepticism? How does one appreciate empirical studies of the face-to-face?

The OED word of the day is meronym. In the first, rare sense it means a word that is midway between two extremes, e.g. convex, flat, concave. (I'm afraid in its second sense the word metonym will be more commonly used.) Is it possible that a meronymic quality can be found for every concept. Take infinity. What's its midwayness, its meronymy? I suggest that the contour may be seen as a meronym of the face-to-face.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 9:33 AM. 0 comments

Monday, February 02, 2009

The Dialectician

Happily Lefebvre, in his study of rhythm, begins with a critical attitude towards repetition. He says that "there is no identical absolute repetition, indefinitely. Whence the relation between repetition and difference. When it concerns the everyday, rites, ceremonies, fêtes, rules and laws, there is always something new and unforeseen that introduces itself into the repetitive: difference" (Rhythmanalysis, p. 6). Well, how critical is this stance really? Does difference relate to something that doesn't exist by a relation that doesn't exist? Does difference not exist, or not exist in some special way, say, indefinitely in an identical absolutely way, or even differently?

Lefebvre says, "Not only does repetition not exclude differences, it also gives birth to them; it produces them. Sooner or later it encounters the event that arrives or rather arises in relation to the sequence or series produced repetitively. In other words: difference" (p. 7, Lefebvre's bold). We should be critical of all kinds of mythomanias of difference and also repetition. So how does repetition, which doesn't exist indefinitely in any identical absolute way–in other words, we might conclude, there is no apeiron of repetition, no repetition of apeiron–actually produce difference? By encountering it, Lefebvre says very clearly. Of course previously he had said difference "introduces itself," we have not forgotten. But let's stick with this second attempt to think a relation between repetition and difference. Is a squirrel produced by any old encounter with a squirrel? Are we to imagine that to be is to be encountered?

Lefebvre has a method. He begins with abstract concepts, which he pioulsy mistrusts as being inadequate to the real (which apparently is not a concept), and he then moves from abstractions to the concrete. Dwelling in the concrete beforehand, making observations based on experience, and then making abstractions: this would not be a phase of Lefebvre's critical research method. And we can see the results. Something that doesn't exist in any certain way that we have been able to nail down gives rise by a process that we can't be completely certain of (because even if Levebvre didn't contradict himself the process doesn't resemble other processes of giving rise to things and would force us to adopt without any argument a radical belief about how beings arise) to something of critical importance (namely difference), though we are not sure why it is of critical importance nor how it exists.

The dreary monism of the dialectic: "everything is cyclical repetition through linear repetitions" (p. 8). The "depths of the dialectic" indeed. And we might note that this thinking both assumes and contradicts panta rhei, if we are to vigorously interpet "indefinitely": it assumes that everything exists in this indefinite way consistent with panta rhei, an assumption that follows from remembering Lefebvre's definition of repetition, and it contradicts panta rhei by positing the cyclical. That contradiction of basic assumptions I suppose is the charm of dialectical thinking. I don't mean to complain. It does have charm.

Are there secret rhythms? No! Lefebvre assures us, because there are no secrets (p. 17). Yet when Lefebvre begins to classify rhythms he identifies secret rhythms (including memory and the unsaid and the said), public rhythms, fictional rhythms, which relate to false secrets (the imaginary!–I so share Leferbve's excitement I would even speak of imaginary rhythms) and dominating-dominating rhythms (just one class here), which are also imaginary but last longer than fictional rhythms and aim for an effect that is beyond themselves. Hmm.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 9:25 AM. 4 comments