Friday, May 29, 2009

Resumption of the Drama

"Infinite being, that is, ever recommencing being—which could not bypass subjectivity, for it could not recommence without it—is produced in the guise of fecundity" (Totality, p. 268). Levinas explains that his concept of fecundity denotes a future which is both mine and not mine, not a future of the same, but an adventure for me (ibid.). It is both a possibility of myself and of the Beloved, and as such it "does not enter into the logical essence of the possible. The relation with such a future, irreducible to the power over possibles, we shall call fecundity" (p. 267, my emphasis). Is there a significant dialogic essence of the possible, or a polylogical dimension of the "can" (the originary importance of which I Levinas would reject in the form of the "I can," the living body)? Is there, alternatively, a meaningful polylogic ethos of possibilities? My departure from Levinas may be radical. I'll get back to it.

Have we found, in infinite being, a remedy to the vexation of repetition? Levinas speaks of the cessation of the tediousness of the reiteration of the I, but not the cessation of the reiteration. "The diverse forms that Proteus assumes do not liberate him from his identity," he insists (p. 268). He continues, "In fecundity the tedium of this repetition ceases; the I is other and young, yet the ipseity that ascribed to it its meaning and its orientation in being is not lost in this renouncement of self. Fecundity continues history without producing old age." A marvelous concept to be sure, and perhaps not only that. Levinas finds that senescence, conceived in continuity, manifests a limitation on the infinitude of being in the form of the past. I'll hold off criticism on this point a moment longer. The theme of the monotony of identity noted here is one Levinas repeats in his conclusions (p.304). Breaking the monotony of identity ties in with the absolute necessity, in Levinas' eyes, of discontinuity established through death and fecundity.

Levinas is keen to recognize discontinuity at the core of ipseity. In the context of outlining his concept of childhood and filiality, he argues that resuming the thread of history, which must be regarded as distinct from continuity, is marked by an originality "attested in the revolt of the permanent revolution that constitutes ipseity" (p. 278). He speaks at length on temporal discontinuity:

Time is the non-definitiveness of the definitive, an ever recommencing alterity of the accomplished—the "ever" of this recommencement. The work of time goes beyond the suspension of the definitive which the continuity of duration makes possible. There must be a rupture of continuity, and continuation of across this rupture. The essential in time consists in being a drama, a multiplicity of acts where the following act resolves the prior one.

(pp. 283-284)

Now, here is where I find Levinas truly challenging my predilections: for me the face to face could be described as a modality of coexistence; Levinas believes nothing of the sort:

To say that universality refers to the face to face position is (against a whole tradition of philosophy) to deny that being is produced as panorama, a coexistence, of which the face to face would be a modality. This whole work opposes this conception. The face to face is not a modality of coexistence nor even of the knowledge (itself panoramic) one term can have of another, but is the primordial production of being on which all the possible collocations of the term are founded.

(pp. 304-305)

Levinas' critique of panoramic being comes as he bypasses existential phenomenology in favor of an ethics, perhaps an ethics at the limits of philosophy. At bottom of the face to face there is goodness in place of either being or nothingness, which "consists in going where no clarifying—that is, panoramic—thought precedes, in going without knowing where. An absolute adventure, in a primal imprudence, goodness is transcendence itself" (ibid.). He takes a strong position, which I sympathize with, against a certain style of existential phenomenology. Before I would follow him, however, I would be concerned about throwing the baby out with the bathwater. A criticism of panoramic being could conceivably leave existence unscathed, criticisms of the clarifying work of existence can't make appearance go away, and rejecting a certain notion of pre-understanding doesn't make hermeneutics uninteresting. There are other modes of pluralism and other possibilities of existentialism besides those on offer in the pages of Totality and Infinity. Nonetheless Levinas has inspired me. I respond to a call to think repetition as operating within a temporality of limited scope, whereas the most vital temporalities take their shapes from the dramatic encounters with other persons. In a future post I will explore variations of the synkairotic encounter while keeping open the question of coexistence, as much as that's possible given my predilections.

Addendum. In a footnote to a passage in which he discusses the difference between his sense of "revelation" and "disclosure" (touched on here), Levinas tells us how he would have us interpret the term "drama":

In broaching, at the end of this work, the study of relations which we situate beyond the face, we come upon events that cannot be described as noeses aiming at noemata, nor as active interventions realizing projects, nor, of course, as physical forces being discharged into masses. They are conjunctures in being for which perhaps the term "drama" would be most suitable, in the sense that Nietzsche would have like to use it when, at the end of The Case of Wagner, he regrets that it has always been wrongly translated by action. But it is because of the resulting equivocation that we forego this term.

(p. 28, note 2)

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posted by Fido the Yak at 6:56 AM. 4 comments

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Continuous Stream of Emerging Pattern

Nachmanovitch speaks of the improvisor "operating on a continuous stream of emerging pattern" (Free Play, p. 32). He asks:

What, then, is this seemingly endless stream of music, dance, imagery, acting, or speech that comes out of us whenever we let it? To some extent it is the stream of consciousness, a river of memories, fragments of melodies, emotions, fragrances, angers, old loves, fantasies. But we sense something else, beyond the personal, from a source that is both very old and very new. The raw material is a kind of flow–Herakleitos' river of time, or the great Tao, flowing through us, as us. Mysteriously flowing through, unstoppable and unstartable. At its source, it does not appear or disappear, does not increase or decrease, is neither tainted nor pure. We can choose to tap into it or not to tap into it; we can find ourselves unwillingly opened up to it or unwillingly cut off from it. But it's always there.


Doubt would be a shape latent in the moment, a shape to be released, if only I knew how to talk to the moment. Should I couple doubt to paralysis as if that were a bad thing, a blockage? Should I let it emerge strongly or weakly? Doubt, sweet doubt, I will sing your praises. I as paralysis.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 12:38 PM. 3 comments

Continuous Sound over Silent Breaks

"From its very beginnings," Montiglio says, "a structural aspect of Greek drama has favored continuous sound over silent breaks: the nearly total absence of empty scenes. Permanently inhabited by the chorus, the stage is filled with its visible and audible presence at the end of each episode" (Silence, p. 160). The image of the drama parallels the image of speech even as one informs (interpolates) the other. Today instead of imagery I'll speak of cosmology, a cosmology of the continuous, the continuous drama, the continuous dialogue. Does a euphemistic cosmology by itself tell us anything about what it leaves unsaid? The unsaid must be interpreted. Too true. If we engage in cosmology–is that what we do? Do we do cosmology by engagement? If we involve ourselves, somehow, with cosmology, with the understanding that the said must leave room for response, that the unsaid must leave room for response, even quiet response, how do we account for our understanding? What kind of understanding is it? Cosmological? We have a cosmological understanding of cosmological understandings, we understand cosmology through cosmology. Ah, if that were true we'd be between cosmologies. Perpetually? Alternatively, one cosmology might dominate another cosmology. That's another cosmology. So is the question of the day "How are we instilled with cosmology" or "How do we move between cosmologies?" Are we able to routinely shake ourselves free of cosmology? Given certain cosmologies (the euphemistic cosmology, for example), would it always be sufficient for freedom from cosmology to merely stop talking about the world? This is dubious, but, if so, to free oneself would one have to specify which world of which one were no longer speaking? How?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 11:47 AM. 3 comments

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Imminent Differences

Barbaras tells us that the difference between fact and essence must be conceived as an imminent difference, "always already accomplished but also always on the way to being accomplished" (Being, p. 85). Would the difference between difference–haplopic difference?–and imminent difference be an imminent difference? Well, let's hear Barbaras out for a moment.

Taking stock of this ontological "diplopia" cannot consist only in taking note of it; one has to conceive it. Each position, that of experience or fact, as well as that of the "in-itself" or of essence, calls the other forth in the very moment when it excludes it. There is a deep-seated instability in the philosophies of essence as well as in those of existence. Neither of the two perspectives expresses the total situation, and this is why each of them is led to pass into its other. But if there is a truth of this "to and fro," of this duality, this truth does not reside in the duality itself. It is precisely the unilateral form according to which each position expresses itself that determines its reversal into its contrary, so that if there really is a truth to the duality of fact and essence, it is not expressed in the very notions of fact and essence. The to-and-fro corresponds to a more profound situation, to an original mode of the presence of Being in which the duality is rooted, which almost inevitably calls forth a rigid oppositional formulation, but whose true meaning does not reside in this duality. In order to understand the ontological "diplopia," therefore, one must return to a relation to Being that stops short of the opposition between essence and existence, a relation of which the to-and-fro is like the distorting trace. What is at issue is to rediscover the soil in which the necessity of this philosophical alternation is grounded, a soil that can only be located deeper than each of the terms, whose "unilaterality" alone determines alternation. One must therefore overcome the relation of fact and essence as an oppositional relation in favor of a plane where it will turn out to be a unity. By overcoming the fixity of the terms in which the opposition is expressed, we shall overcome the relation as oppositional relation. The notions of fact and essence lead us to conceive their very relation as an external oppositional relation rather than as movement; the point, therefore, is to overcome the antagonistic dimension of the to-and-fro in order to grasp the passage to essence as proceeding from existence itself, and the passage to existence as proceeding from essence itself. We must understand each term as its own passage into the other–that is, we must locate essence short of its opposition to existence and existence short of its opposition to essence.

(pp. 83-84)

One imagines an arrhythmia of the busy moment, the veryish moment of simultaneous exclusion and invitation, without pause, of the always, already, always again, and almost done enjambed within a single breath, the total breath, which exhales and inhales at once. Alternatively one plays with a floatier to-and-fro, a space of more emancipated movements. One leaps and swings amidst an undetermined canopy of philosophical conversations, phasing in and out like fruitions, or just words, utterances, even the most solid of them situations of near total incompleteness. One breathes. If rhythm exists–rhythmosophy must never cease to question how it is that rhythm exists–it sides with the alternation between its imaginary existence and its real essence, between its making itself appear as absence and its making itself absent. It exists thus as absurdity and ecstasy, but never already quite both at once (in any chronometric sense of happening at once; there is the phenomenon of the rhythmic happening to imagine: absurd, ecstatic, synkairotically phased). The son clave is the model of this flipendicularity. The sudden harmonziations of any two voices are the roots the bass walks, in steps unlocked, steady as freedom, measured, the pulse; yet the incomplete situation hangs on the syncopations with the three-two, steady as anything until it passes into the two-three; the conversation of any two or more voices, of many unconstricted passages.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 1:29 AM. 0 comments

Monday, May 25, 2009

I=∫F dt

"Impulse, like improvisation, is not 'just anything'; it is not without structure but is the expression of organic, immanent, self-creating structure" (Nachmanovitch, Free Play, p. 29). The Muse's voice will be heard as meaning and experience become infinitesimally divergent, that is, as they converge. That's one outlook. It's taught as part of an approach to improvisation which asks for, not uncommonly, a relinquishment of self on the part of the improvisor. Nachmanovitch says that the "mysterious factor of surrender, the creative surprise that releases us and opens us up, spontaneously allows something to arise" (p. 30). Not just anything, apparently, but the voice of the Muse. The voice of the Muse, though, represents a tiny bit less of a surprise than just anything. We are in truth being asked to surrender a tiny bit less of ourselves than we pretend. Our supplication isn't as supple as it could be, our openness not completely open. Could this be the condition on which we hear the voice of the Muse? If we wanted to, how would we go about making supplications to openness?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 7:21 AM. 0 comments

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Zydeco Cha Cha

"Every work of art is painting and statuary, immobilized in the instant or in its periodic return" (Levinas, Totality, p. 263, my bold). We need to ask whether rhythm opens us up to the infinities of other people. For me, rhythm is a manumission from stupid moods, a dynamic movement out of a dismal immobility which is marked by the throb of a mere will to subsist, and an anemic throb at that. Rhythm overcomes the dolorous–or alternatively dwells in it, it amounts to the same–or rather it presents the means and the inspiration, the method of breathing and bodily vibration and most vitally the feeling that propels through the horizon of the given, the blue given, in a motion something like transmutation; rhythm is less of a form that one imposes on life than a music that emerges, develops and sends, a music that gives. Listening to rhythm, making rhythm with my knives and pans, musical instruments or my feet, makes me alive to my infinition. I enjoy it. Would this ecstatic journey of the self through rhythm be a condition for an openness to your infinition? Or do I risk deceiving myself about what is truly called for by your face? Levinas says "the whole body–a hand or a curve of the shoulder–can express as the face" (p. 262). So let's take off our shoes and socks and dance. Let's dance to some Zydeco Cha Cha.

The statues too would join us. The statuary and the plastic would join the performing arts if only we knew when to grasp the skoppic, the improvisation of the shape, and its many returns, the clay of everyday language. We could see them moving towards us, the statues, the sonorous masks, expressing, ecstatic, performative, the marble foot. This expression must not be confused with the infinition of the other person. Is such expressivity not a condition, though, of the openness to the infinitions of other people? What do you say of your mobilities, the ones you put out in the open? Do you ever find that you give yourself rhythmically?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 9:08 PM. 0 comments

Voices Cast at the Margins of the City

Montiglio tells us that Athenian orators of the fourth century, in contrast to Homeric public speakers, "want their voices to be made of a pure disembodied logos, and not of a powerfully resonant substance. . . .From being ligeia, their voice has become lampra (luminous)" (Silence, p. 148). She recapitulates and expands on ligus:

[I]n epic poetry ligus modifies not only the voice of good speakers, but also the song of the Sirens and the dirge of the Muses, thus associating different forms of expression on account of their clear and powerful resonance. As regards speakers, there is no incompatibility between the audible physicality of their voices and the clarity of their words. By contrast, in the classical age ligus is applied to specifically to kinds of music and utterances in which sounds prevail over words: the lovely melody of the aulos, but also, and more insistently, the voices of mourning.


Ligus, Montiglio says, speaking still of the classical age, "describes voices that are cast at the margins of the city: that of the nightingale, a plaintive song reminiscent of barbarian rhythms; that of mourning women, like the Thebans who pour out their ritual cries over the dead, or like the Suppliants, barbarian women similar to nightingales, who cry out their lament with a barbarian voice"(pp. 148-149). The marginalization of voices ripples–no, the disturbance is deeper. Sundered from sound, wrenched from its body, the voice loses its capacity to legitimately express suffering in public spaces, paradoxically just as further suffering is imposed by force; subaltern dissent is stifled at the cost of a muted logos for everyone, and, consequently, a muted democracy. Passions, any passions, including the passions of the Muses, have become a threat to the web of orders: the political, the epistemic, the linguistic, the expressive, the noetic, all sustained now by not just a denial of vocal power but by a violent reification of speech and concomitant suppression of the real, a devaluing of the real in the economies of the recognized. Recognition. The irony of course is that the voice is the epitome of recognizable of personal expressions, gestures that tell who we are. If hearing consigns us the world and its contingency, as Cavarero says in echo of Jonas (For More than One Voice, p.37), then the deafness codified by excision of voices from the shared logos makes problematic any discussion of a shared world, except in the most rarified, least inclusive settings. I have to stop myself here. I don't want to rely on pre-established habits of thinking in order to assimilate what Montiglio has to say. The dematerialization of language means something to me personally, and I suspect the dematerialization of silence does as well. Silence feels.

Let's pick up again on Montiglio's discussion. Her interpretation of the conceptualizations of the vocal quality of ritual mourning is, naturally, informed by Nicole Loraux's study of ritual lament. She ties work to a conceptual dematerialization of the voice, and also, coincidentally, a dematerialization of the logos.

As Nicole Loraux has shown, the legal effort to reject the vocal expressions of mourning outside the public space is prompted by the political urgency to contain feminine lament, which supposedly upsets civic order by its unbridled affectivity. Accordingly, it is to be expected that the voice of the orator refuses to resemble these voices of lamentation: while the latter are all-sonorous, ligeiai, the former dematerializes by coinciding with the rational content that it conveys. In fact, lampros applies to the logos as well as to the speaker's voice; and persuasive speech, as Athena reminds us, is provided with eyes, with a gaze that emphasizes its rationality. This speech that wants to be manifest to the eye makes itself visible through an equally transparent medium: an immaterial voice, a pure "mirror of thought."

(pp. 149-150)

The nurturing of empathy leads to a realization that we not only acknowledge gaps in soulful encounters but that we feel our own impulse to respond to gaps. I speak now, to be critical of my own thoughts, from experience and from memory, which we may wish to regard in its physicality. Is luminosity an aspect of its physicality? Is it any less questionable for being embodied? Obviously I harbor doubts about the nature of my feelings, my impulses, my responses. Shall I cull the margins of the city for the secrets to my soul? How could that be empathy? Because it would represent a commitment to listening?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 4:13 AM. 0 comments

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Die menschliche Weltunbegriffe

The breach ( }∅{ ) evokes the destiny of the person–a chaosmic evocation–without ever saying definitively what that means. It speaks asymptotically to infinitions. The syncopation of infinitions, empirically attestable, finds its way through the breach. Rhythmosophy is the style of inquiry that prepares to both listen for and respond to asymptotic destinies. Rhythmosophy is one of the disciplines which illuminates only insofar as the person is integral to its guiding organon.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 2:38 AM. 7 comments

Friday, May 22, 2009

Temporality on a Model of the Gift Economy

Shahar blogs (naturally in a post one ought to read a few times in its entirety):

Levinas equates the Saying (to be opposed to the Said) with the immanence of the body, with the diachrony of ageing and pain, and with the sensibility of flesh. In contrast to structuralism, which synchronizes the relations between signs in an atemporal horizontal totality, Levinas posits the primordial relation with the other. In this instance, signs are given as gifts between interlocutors before they are fixed into impersonal structures. Time de-phases the identical.

My recent use of somebody's idea of the "unsaid" is similar to the Saying in that it points to the performance of the said, its illocutionary residue; its particular bias is textualist as well as dialectical. Levinas' formulation holds more promise.

Time de-phases the identical. Dephasis problematizes temporality, as if temporality could persist while Time (time's identity) passed underground, even beneath phenomenality, phasis, delivery. A model for this temporality is the gift economy, if only because it's already been described. Now, do we say Time, its reality bracketed out for the sake of exploring the problem of dephasis, neither phases in nor phases out the identical, its presupposition it would seem, but precisely deprives it of phase? Interlocution as the relation that absolves of the relation? We can use totality to undo totality at the "same time" we step outside it? Is this approach suggested by an inherited style of reflection, or perhaps guided by an eidos of reflection? Has structuralism justly been given a due?

I'm sure Kevin would have something to say about this dephasing of the identical, as evidenced by his commentary here. "The music of engagement is always richer than this." (I don't mean to deflect. Just curious.)

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posted by Fido the Yak at 12:00 AM. 13 comments

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Two Pianists

I've intiated a fascination with Edward Simon.

Recently I picked up Vijay Iyer's Tragicomic. Vijay is always worth listening to.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 11:57 PM. 0 comments

Lila (लीला) with Multiple Subtexts

To extemporize is to surrender–in a single gasp–to both the ephemeral and the forever. To accomplish this paraphrasing of Stephen Nachmanovitch (Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art, p. 21) I woke from a dream of being washed down stream, swimming against the current, losing strength, being drawn under. I woke with the realization that the stream was me, as in none other than me. Paraphrasing is so integral to my daily routine that I'm almost surprised by how wretched my paraphrases are. In fact my attempts at communication make me violently ill. "Stepping into the unknown can . . . lead to failure, disappointment, rejection, sickness, or death. . . . [W]e play undisguisedly with the fleetingness of our life, with some awareness of our own death" (p. 23). We signify. "Exterior to Time" means we surrender to a single breath, means we can step outside–outside parataxis–and play. We signify, playing the shadows of the paraphrastic. What sensibility is this?

The impromptu accedes to a remoteness from both passage and aporia–gasp#&150;a remoteness always ready (made ready by the impromptu impromptu) for its own remoteness, that is, a remoteness simultaneously born of the impromptu and pregnant with it, carrying the echo of the impromptu, immanent remoteness if you will. Sonorous access to infinition–dunt infinitions, sad to say. . . . Maeiutics and euphoria have yondered off to some other remotion, or other remotions. An imminent remotion.

"[T]o do art only for the high feeling of completion and connectedness in the moment of inspiration would be like making love for the moment of orgasm" (p. 18). He completes his thought: "The work of the improviser is, therefore, to stretch out those momentary flashes, extend them until they merge into the activity of daily life" (p. 19).

Another day passes. I apologize for a David Simon quality to yesterday's negativity, a frustrating, if momentarily gleany, one-sidedness. What I almost wanted to do was to begin anew a critique of the moment, a critique that extemporization prompts in my thinking, though such critique is not entirely foreign to me of course. Nachmanovitch actually says that in improvisation we accept the transient and the eternal. Does this imply that we could somehow say no to both? On the fly? I want to witness the birth of thinking. Do I want to feel it? What feeling accompanies my daily praxes, the rhythm of my play? What feeling is there in the breach?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 11:53 PM. 0 comments

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Philosophers and their Shadows

Barbaras comments on Merleau-Ponty's "The Philosopher and His Shadow," his own commentary on his reading of Husserl:

His approach to the history of philosophy is the heir of his philosophy of perception and intersubjectivity: just as the thing is not frontally and objectively possessed but rather grasped in transcendence in a lateral way, the thought of an author is not such that one can make a precise list of what belongs to it and what it has ignored. The relation of commentary is a modality of the intersubjective relation, of linguistics in particular. In dialogical experience, I do not communicate to another a thought possessed elsewhere. I think with him and make myself in his image; moreover, his thought comes to itself only be formulating itself and offering itself to me, so that there is no clear-cut distinction between what would belong strictly to an author and what the interpretation projects into the author. What defines a thought is what is was still seeking to say, its "unthought," which can be revealed only in a reflection which, on the basis of its difference, turns itself into the echo of the thought. Therefore, the rejection of the idea that one must subject a reading to objectivity in favor of the idea that one must attempt to explicate an unthought can be a higher form of fidelity.

(Being, p. 69)

I think with him and make myself in his image. Merleau-Ponty says, "I borrow myself from others; I create others from my own thoughts. This is no failure to perceive others; it is the perception of others" (159). The quotidian personalistic attitude towards the world, which we hope to be able to understand rhythmosophically, via reductions by a method of improvisatory rhythmic variation, does not in the first place imagine other people as other minds and then more or less as an addendum supply bodies and a sense of concrete material horizons to the image of the other. There is no constituting of a mind for a mind but of a person for a person. We imagine whole persons. If we were to follow Merleau-Ponty's lead, we'd find that the body, in particular, its status as "the viniculum of self and things" (p. 166), holds the key to grasping the intersubjective dimension of the personalistic imagination. On the model of touch, physical and personal at once, "[t]he physical thing becomes animate. Or, more precisely, it remains what it was (the event does not enrich it), but an exploratory power comes to rest upon or dwell in it" (ibid., my emphasis). If we grasp such an exploratory power through the grasp of the experience of our own free hands, are we thus employing a metonymic relation necessarily mediated by explicit cognitions? The question is that of imagining the whole person. Merleau-Ponty uses the example of shaking hands as a knowledge of the other, reasoning:

[W]e have here neither comparison, nor analogy, nor projection or "introjection." The reason why I have evidence of the other man's being-there when I shake his hand is that his hand is substituted for my left hand, and my body annexes the body of another person in that "sort of reflection" it is paradoxically the seat of. My two hands "coexist" and are "compresent" because they are one single body's hands. The other person appears through an extension of that compresence; he and I are like organs of one single intercorporeality. For Husserl the experience of others is first of all "esthesiological," and must be if the other person exists effectively and not as the ideal terminus or fourth term of a proportion which supposedly would come to complete my consciousness' relationships to my objective body and his. What I perceive to begin with is a different "sensibility" (Empfindbarkeit), and only subsequently a different man and a different thought.

(p. 168)

The ability to feel, the exploratory power of the other person: these are vitally of the tactile; one almost has the sense reading these words that the whole person is composited from an imagination that is primarily sensual, rather than being abstracted from ways of being a person, sensuous, embodied, but irreducible to any single faculty, ability or organ. "Other persons. . . . are not there as minds, as "psychisms," but such for example as we face them in anger or love–faces, gestures, spoken words to which our own respond without thoughts intervening, to the point that we sometimes turn their words back upon them even before they have reached us, as surely as, more surely than, if we had understood–each one of us pregnant with the others and confirmed by them in his body" (p. 181). Well, here are some words I find difficult to absorb (which means I'll get back to them in some fashion, perhaps through Barbaras once again):

"Animalia are realities which cannot be given in a fundamental and original presence to several subjects; they enclose subjectivities. They are the very special sort of objects which are fundamentally and originally given in such a way that they presuppose fundamental and original presences without being able to be given in a fundamental and original presence themselves." This is what animalia and men are: absolutely present beings who have a wake of the negative. A perceiving body that I see is also a certain absence that is hollowed out and tactfully dealt with behind that body by its behavior. But absence is itself rooted in presence; it is through his body that the other person's soul is soul in my eyes. "Negativities" also count in the sensible world, which is decidedly the universal one.

(p. 172)

Imagine that instead of simply carrying a wake of the negative as some necessary property or attribute, the person essentially puts negativity into play in the form of irrealizations which matter in the sensible world. So let's get back to this idea of making myself in the image of the other. I imagine meontically rather than mimetically, or, better said, the image of the image does not originate in mimesis, which nevertheless runs parallel with some kinds of thinking. Further, there is a methectic aspect to my irrealizations of animalia, one might even speak of an intermethexis. I can discern the interpersonal as a horizon of imagination, yet the image of the image eludes my grasp. It is not there fully for me. Not to too quickly shirk responsibility, but are these thoughts then by which I create others my own?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 10:07 AM. 3 comments

Inquiry is a Continuous Beginning

I quote a paragraph from Merleau-Ponty's "The Philosopher and his Shadow" (in Signs) on the topic of epoché as the essence of inquiry. I'll return to the essay in a later post. The idea I want to play with here is how inquiry, any inquiry, draws the person of the inquirer into question in a movement like a return to self. What does inquiry look like once we continue to interrogate this reentry into the self?

Take for example the theme of phenomenological reduction, which we know never ceased to be an enigmatic possibility for Husserl, and one he always came back to. To say that he never succeeded in ensuring the bases of phenomenology would be to be mistaken about what he was looking for. The problems of reduction are not for him a prior step or preface to phenomenology; they are the beginning of inquiry. In a sense, they are inquiry, since inquiry is, as he said, a continuous beginning. We must not imagine Husserl hamstrung here by vexatious obstacles; locating obstacles is the very meaning of his inquiry. One of its "results" is the realization that the movement of return to ourselves–of "re-entering ourselves," St. Augustine said–is as if rent by an inverse movement which it elicits. Husserl rediscovers that identity of "re-entering self" and "going-outside self" which, for Hegel, defined the absolute. To reflect (Husserl said in Ideen I) is to unveil an unreflected dimension which is at a distance because we are no longer it in a naive way, yet which we cannot doubt that reflection attains, since it is through reflection itself that we have an idea of it. So it is not the unreflected which challenges reflection; it is reflection which challenges itself. For by definition its attempt to revive, possess, internalize, or make immanent has meaning only with respect to an already given terminus which withdraws into its transcendence beneath the very gaze which has set out in search of it in this attempt.

("Shadow," p. 161, Merleau-Ponty's emphases)

Let's suppose reentry into the self elicits an ecstasy, a coming outside the self. Do we reenter the same self we remember being inside–for surely we do remember something like being inside the self or it would make no sense to speak of "reentry" in place of entry. Can we see that from an ecstatic perspective? Let's question the continuity of reentrances. Could we sense a memory of estrangement called up by reentry? Or is estrangement a feeling we have about ecstasies, memories of ecstasies. A mood is set by reentry and far more. In saying "reentry" we have imagined a whole person, a person with a depth of history, memories, forgetfulness, an eventful world, feelings, imagination, style. Such repleteness may tell us something critical about inquiry itself. Nevertheless, have we not also created an obstacle to inquiry? Can the reentered self be questioned on the same grounds as the self that would have existed prior to any reentry, a personalistic self, perhaps; or does reentry call for a new logos, a newly entered conversation, one that recognizes the singularity of the person quite apart from any totalizing scheme? Do we find a malleated self at the horizon of reentry, its malleations possibly effected by reentry, or are we faced with the malleations of an image of self, the work of an imagination that might be mistaken for continuous were it not for its slips into ecstasy? I don't propose here that the imagination slips into ecstacy alone, although one can of course imagine a reduction to solitude and its vexations; I only mean to say that a philosophy of the imagination is not necessarily a philosophy of mind, in the sense that Merleau-Ponty gives that term in his reading of Husserl.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Le Corps Impropre

Ruse and ambush–Ulysses' Craft–constitute the essence of war. This skill is inscribed in the very existence of the body; it is suppleness–a simultaneity of absence and presence. Corporeity is the mode of existence of a being whose presence is postponed at the very moment of his presence. Such a distention in the tension of the instant can only come from an infinite dimension which separates me from the other, both present and still to come, a dimension opened by the face of the Other.

(Totality, p. 225)

The body exceeds the categories of a thing, but does not coincide with the role of "lived body" ["corps propre"] which I dispose of in my voluntary action and by which I can. The ambiguity of corporeal resistance which turns into a means and from means turns into a resistance does not account for its ontological hybris. The body in its very activity, in its for itself, inverts into a thing to be treated as a thing. This is what we express concretely in saying that it abides between health and sickness.

(p. 229)

I learned your softness through my body, alive enough, present enough, never fully inverted into a thing. As always, we will have to define the for itself for ourselves. Me, if I'm going to learn a metaphysics, a metaphysics of the supple, for instance, it won't be for the sake of circumventing the phenomenal. When I say epiphany I refer to the phenomenal, where I sojourn when I'm earthly. In this light to actually see the phenomenal is a gift. To feel your softness is a gift. Epiphany says that.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

συμβολον ηδη μοι

Montiglio interprets Pindar's poetics, supplying some broad thoughts about the materiality of sound according to the ancients. "Poetry is a sonorisation of the silent mind, and its coming to being depends on a restless movement of the vocal organ" (Silence, p. 95, her emphasis). And, worth noting in passing: "Reading out loud is a metaphor for both the execution and the composition of the poem. It is only through this reading that poetry comes to exist. Mental writing does not produce a nonrecited poem" (p. 94). Liquid sounds. Dramatic sounds. Sounds too powerful to be human. Did silence ever call to be animated? Somewhere a poem slips out of existence, into the silences that never give birth to conversation. Not even rereadings let us escape oblivion indefinitely. The poem knows that. Every poem secretly knows that. "The 'liquidity' of song, which takes us back to its oral origins, favors a thorough diffusion of the poet's voice"(p. 98). This would be a thespian voice, a persona attached to an arc ever near completion, the figure of sonorous presence, approximating total presence–cut down by skop as foretold. The voice of the ancient poet, though, is it not the voice of a rereading? "The voice of the Muses, which engages other voices in a contrapuntal response, seems to have the same capacity of spatial diffusion as the light; it is as tireless as the rays of the sun and spreads like dawn on the sea; it makes itself heard everywhere"(p. 97). Rereading is the silence of the said, or, better, it insists on the silence of the said, reads it aloud so as to put it to sleep, exactly a lullaby. The polyphonization of the unsaid, the said's remainder, rests on this sleep of the said within the rereading. What does the page symbolize amidst such tireless conversation? It too must be reread, polyphonized along with the rest of the unsaid. Symbolize?

Since the experience of poetry, in an aural culture, consists in the hic et nunc of its performance, the real or imaginary listener who wants to describe it follows the movements of its musical unfolding, just as we would describe a symphony following the succession of its resonances. Sappho seems indeed to be reproducing the many instrumental and vocal components of a true symphony, the subject matter of which is only mentioned at the end.

(p. 97)

Imagine a word too powerful to be human. Don't we do this all the time? Symphony, aural, resume, the silent mind. Imagine what it would take to voice such words, and only such words. To voice discretely, and only with the voice, the voice itself. Never happen. (Let "the vocal organ" be a metaphor for its never happening.) We call upon other voices–as if to converse? The experience of poetry has always been like hanging out with the daughters of Mnemosyne, the way we used to, when it rained. Would our aural materialism propose to explain away the touch of Terpsichore and her siblings, or her symbol? Unstring the Canon of the Nine? Step lightly, dear imaginary listener, in your interpretation of the boundlessness of musical voices, a boundlessness that coexists with the silent mind. The silent mind is a wild animal. The excursion of the poem means not to tame. Nor to bewilder. We are coming closer to saying what it means for the silent mind to stand for a material cause–the meontic efficiency of the symbol, incidentally, is nowhere near that of the ordinary sign. Do you suppose there is some balance to be struck between silence and restlessness?

Lagoon. Tortoise. Lagoon.

I threw myself at the shores of your tongue, restless you. What solace was there in sweet centuries we spoke them too. And we stole the silence of the said from the public library, its bright corners, musics, ours and Sappho's, who seemed never to have learned how to die, but fragment, fragment. . . taught us words like mythoplokos.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 8:00 PM. 3 comments

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Gently Disturbed

We've been enjoying Gently Disturbed by the Avishai Cohen Trio. Drummer Mark Guiliana reminds me of Leon Parker's playing on Jacky Terrasson's Reach, though his kit isn't quite so minimalist.

Here the trio plays "Remembering" (which isn't on Gently Disturbed).

"Eleven Wives"

Here's the Jacky Terrasson Trio with Leon Parker and Ugonna Okegwo. Lately Okegwo has been playing with Tom Harrell, among others.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 5:50 AM. 0 comments

Engagement with the Expressive

Barbaras interprets Merleau-Ponty's turn to speech:

[B]y returning to the world from the phenomenon of expression, by grasping the very birth of sense instead of referring it straightaway to a perceptual ground, Merleau-Ponty gains access to the genuine figure of the world as soil or source of expression. Then, to the infinity of the telos brought to light in the expressive act, there corresponds the infinity of an archē. Insofar as it is the soil of the expressive movement, the world will have this infinite depth inherent in the fact that sense is never completely fulfilled. Because no expression erases itself in the face of a pure sense, because expression cannot claim to be nailed down in a full meaning, the world will be given only as withdrawal, as this "presence" which, through its obscurity, gives birth to expression without ever being absorbed in the expressed. Considered on the basis of expression, the world can no longer be defined through presence but as that whose being consists in exceeding every presentation.

(p.60, Barbaras' emphasis)

The rhythmosophic engagement with the expressive means this: the breach –}∅{, the sign which evades the instant archive–the improvisation of improvisations, does not wait outside correspondence. Its infinities do not hang around. (Infinities of broken limits.) The evanescence of infinities may touch on the teleological, or anyway feel the repercussions of telic logoi, without in any way ceding the power to onset radical causalities, causalities of middle voices and otherwise, harmolodically apperceived, that is, given a harmolodic temporality, as extensions of expressive movement. This is the grasp. It is the grasp where the grasp isn't everything. The door opened up by the breach, is it divarication itself? Straddle? It remains to rhythmosophy to describe the givenness of the world as plunge, and not to be submerged in this description.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Imagine a Face

Scarry asks us to imagine a face. "It may seem than in shifting from the motion of skating to the motion of smiling, we have veered away from the subject of circles, but we have not, for when the face breaks into a smile, the mouth moves into a small upward opening arc" (Dreaming, p. 208). Levinas asks us to imagine a face that would break through the image of the face, a face that would appear above and beyond phenomenality. This metaphysical face that transcends appearances is a face that speaks.

To speak to me is at each moment to surmount what is necessarily plastic in manifestation. To manifest oneself as a face is to impose oneself above and beyond the manifested and purely phenomenal form, to present oneself in a mode irreducible to manifestation, the very straightforwardness of the face to face, without the intermediary of the image, in one's nudity, that is, in one's destitution and hunger.

(Totality, p. 200, Levinas' emphasis)

If we could ever turn off the imagination, everpresent as life, we might be able to discern whether faces ever appeared without touching on images. The imageless appearance perplexes. Perhaps, however, it is intermediacy rather than the image per se that has vexed us so. What appears to be a phenomenon of the persistence of images may be an aspect of intermediacies, in which case we might prefer to approach an understanding of living with images, their betweens and their middles, before thinking we know what an image does to the point where we could identify appearances that weren't images.

I imagine the face of the beloved. Images appear. That much makes sense. Are appearances irreal? Is the face of the beloved any less a real face for appearing as an image to me? Well, it is not the face of the beloved until it speaks to me and breaks through its image? How long does that last? Are there pauses in conversation? Perhaps a mistake has been made by Levinas in isolating a purely phenomenal form. How many images in life are purely phenomenal forms? My ruminations on the imagination have led me towards the idea that the imagination, rather than being an activity I can easily start and stop at will, by a process that might generate purely phenomenal forms, is instead integral to my life at every moment. Its rhythm doesn't belong to the will in any unscrutinized sense of that idea. My imagination surrounds the spoken, interweaves, intermediates. Has enough been said about the betweens of the said, or the betweens of the said and the unsaid?

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Friday, May 08, 2009

Ameibomei as Uninterrupted: Imaginary Speech

The undertaking to thoroughly describe communicative, illocutionary silence necessarily requires working with an image of speech, if only to go around it. All images of speech are not reconcilable, though we may recognize any collection of them as all being ideas about speech, which if it doesn't approximate a reconciliation, at least suggests the possibility of one. In making such a recognition we may cede to an epistemic aporia about speech. We act as if we knew that certain ideas were ideas about speech, but we haven't yet been able to define speech, certainly not in a way that would make sense of contradictory propositions made about speech. Practically, as intellectuals, such as we are, we may well find ourselves in a defensive position regarding our grasp of speech. We put ourselves into question simply by noticing that two images of speech cannot be reconciled–but I am being hasty. Let's try to reconcile two views. First, there's my naive sense that conversation requires breaks in speaking, and that on that basis conversations can in fact be carried out episodically, over long hiatuses in some cases. Speech is rawly hiatal. This is an image of speech that conditions my thinking about verbal exchanges and interactions of all kinds. It is not the only image of speech one could imagine, live by. One could imagine a completely antithetical view. In the Homeric world, Montiglio tells us, "speech ideally circulates without ceasing" (Silence, p. 60). Montiglio uncovers a notion of something like a "speech economy," but one must wonder about the nature of speech as it would appear in such a system, and how its differences from speech according to the image of hiatal flows would illuminate the problem we have here with speech.

Homeric epic regards speech as the object of a continuous exchange. The verb for "to answer," ameibomei, literally "to exchange," inscribes speech within the ethic of reciprocity that should govern the behavior of heroes. But what is an exchanged word? First and foremost it is an entity that goes around incessantly, bandied back and forth without ever disappearing.

Outside the domain of speech, ameibomai signifies to alternate, to compensate. Emphasis is placed on the absence of any interruption during the movement. In Iliad 9, for instance, ameibomai means "to interchange watches": "They mounted guard in turn, and the fire would never go out" (471-472). Parallel to the constantly burning flame, the changing of the guard ensures continuity. No void is allowed: as soon as a soldier departs, another takes over.

(p. 61, my bold)

Montiglio has us draw a distinction between listening while waiting one's turn to speak, implicitly expected, and silence. To sit listening, for the ancient Greeks, belongs to speech whereas sitting in silence does not. Thus she leads us to the conclusion that "it is only to signify anomalies in an exchange that silence interrupts the verbal flow" (p. 62). It is the exchange which gives speech meaning and simultaneously calls for the entification of the utterance. Well, what exactly is our image of exchange? Do we have an image of exchange without a prior image of speech? Must we imagine the word that is a promise, sent forth on its journey, and yet, on the other side, interchangeable, a commerce? How does speech come to its other sides? In being imagined? If I said one needn't form an image of speech in order to speak I too would be asking you to imagine an essence of speech, "real speech," or "actual speech," unimagined speech. One doesn't evade speaking easily. Silence exists in relation to an imaginary speech, and this may be especially true if we are talking about something like a cultural construction of language instead of "The Idea of Speech"; imaginary speech, even praxiologically understood, tacitly informs even those operations that break from speech, provided, perhaps, that there exists something like a communicative intent, even one given through a purely rejective gesture, a blunt silence so blunt it's not even blunt. Imaginary speech is not metadiscourse, or, if you will, it is not merely to be explained as metadiscourse. Imaginary speech escapes itself. It delineates its silences. Yet silences persist, imaginary and inimaginary. Just as it practically remains possible to communicate between contradictory imaginary languages, notwithstanding the rise of minor misunderstandings or moments of miscommunication, that is, people who do not share the same image of speech may nevertheless communicate, so too does it remain possible to hold a communicative silence in reference to different images of speech. Well, this is a thesis. Possibly in such an instance one holds more than one silence simultaneously, for instance the silence that is continuous with the pause and therefore belongs to speech, and, on the other hand, the silence which speech defines as its disturbance. Of course we have already criticized this position. The silence that accomodates two images of silence is itself delineated by an image, a model, of communication.

Should we be guided by an image of speech that asks us to believe in questionable ideas like incessance and things that are only apparent, that never disappear? One imagines ghosts of words. Quite probably we would have to call upon an auxilliary image of silence just to make sense of the world of communication. And so we should ask about being guided by images that primarily serve other images, images that don't stand on their own, and won't therefore easily submit to scrutiny. Montiglio nonetheless scrutinizes. She does so without isolating, but rather by examining manifestations of phenomena across the spectrum of ancient Greek culture. Is her image of speech superior to the Homeric image her scholarship has uncovered? More interesting or more useful? Even the proposition that the contact between disparate images of speech engenders creativity in language, a tenet of dialogism, reflects an image of speech. It contests as well as illuminates. We must then put in question our communicative intentions. Are we now in dialogue with the ancient Greeks, who we say had an image of uninterrupted exchange at the heart of speech? What do we mean to say by our engagement in classicist discourse? Will we finally be able to reach the point beyond which there is no discourse, no understanding, because we have already understood, the point where silence intervenes? Was it never our intent to understand? If not then would it be fair to say that we are drawn to the image of the uninterrupted flow of speech, that it is so seductive in fact that we should question the position we've taken with regard to it, and thus put into question our own image of speech, the one we must explicitly hold in order to effect a criticism? Do we really yearn for a speech that isn't mythos? Do we ever really practice such a speech?

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

For the Intimacy of Ideation to be Grasped

A twist on the problem of the phenomenality of the Other: "For the intimacy of recollection to be able to be produced in the oecumenia of being the presence of the Other must not only be revealed in the face which breaks through its own plastic image, but must be revealed, simultaneously with this presence, in its withdrawal and in its absence. This simultaneity is not an abstract construction of dialectics, but the very essence of discretion" (Totality, p. 155). I don't believe it's so easy to escape dialectics. I say that despite not understanding exactly what Levinas means by "discretion," which I take to function as an antithesis to dialectics. When I say that human contact does not presuppose ideation–the imagination of an other self, for instance, and all that implies– I too am proposing an alternative to dialectics or any comparable totalizing system of thought, though in seeking to hew to the actuals of coexistence I've not yet arrived at a position on the experience of other selves, and, in dodging this issue, I know I'm not giving ideation a fair shake. This is quite damaging. At stake in the problem of the phenomenality of other people is a sure enough understanding of some ways in which experience is shaped by ideation. A caveat: I, who defend the reality and philosophical relevance of the person, don't maintain that ideation is the work of windowless monads or isolated psyches–despite the fact that solitude and loneliness, topics that authoritative thinkers of the present seek to avoid, have emerged as challenges for me–and as much I would resist reducing ideation to dialectic thought (possibly an other of one's felt own understandings), I would resist reducing it to "cognition" narrowly conceived or "behavior" in its most reductive acceptations, that is, as something a monad might do. It might be presumed that ideation begins in coexistence, in living with. . . ; however, the opacities surrounding ideation are such that at this incipient stage of investigations I'd rather not presume to know ideation in any detail except insofar as one must make presumptions, imaginatively, for purposes of exploring various possibilities of ideation.

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Saturday, May 02, 2009

The Shape of the Human Mind

vitruvian-man"The Illiad," Scarry says (Dreaming, p. 202), "illustrates the observation made by Democritus and Plato that circles move easily in the mind, so easily that at times they seem the very shape of the mind itself." Circular movements come easily to the hominid imagination insofar as the hominid both understands movement directly and has the ability to move in circular fashion. The hominid gross anatomy, marked by some distinctive synovial joints, opens up possibilities of circular movement that are less expressed, one might say less emancipated, in other apes, though it almost goes without saying that all apes have interesting ball-and-socket joints. Naturally, positing a spherical shape of the mind hardly contradicts the observation that hominids make circular movements rather easily. However, I suggest that the mode of relation between joints and spherical images is not mimetic but methectic. Psyche does not reproduce its hidden image before itself in various modes but rather enacts its image in the modes it grows accustomed to, and possibly more. It participates in its own image. The extent to which the shape of the psyche is an habituation can be overstressed, but I find it worth noting anyway.

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Friday, May 01, 2009

Against a Background of Prior Communication: "Left Alone"

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posted by Fido the Yak at 2:55 PM. 0 comments

Psychic Currents

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 current–only 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.

(pp. 35-36)

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 presence–that would be to fall back into the aporias of objective thought and to look for the signs of a consciousness in a corporeal presence–it means instead that the other presents itself as absent, that manifestation and withdrawal are identical in it.

(pp. 25-26)

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.

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