Sunday, June 28, 2009

Language and Life as Metaphors, and also the Question

Corradi Fiumara's inquiry into metaphoricity, The Metaphoric Process: Connections between Language and Life, hereafter Metaphoric, assumes a reciprocal interaction between language and life, as she works towards 'pursuing the quest for a language not only conversant with intraepistemic deductions but also capable of interepistemic communicative efforts" (pp. 7-8, my emphasis). She defines language as embodied in persons; it is the derivative of personal logic and an unbreakable bond of listening and speaking, writing and reading (p. 8). She moves between speaking of a personal logic and emphasizing the relevance of interpersonal contact. "Once an ontogenetic, life-dependent, perspective is adopted, a more interactive communicational dimension is inevitably disclosed in which language appears as a process rather than as a system—a process which helps us focus more holistically. We can thus incline toward appreciating the complexity of linguistic dynamics rather than positing a 'system' that communicators would allegedly employ in cognition" (p. 6). The possibility of an asystemic holistic processualism asks to be noticed, asks to be further elaborated. We should also wonder about a connection between the unbreakable and the process. I think what is meant is that the unitary process of, say, writing and reading, is composed of processes so intertwined that to consider one without the other distorts our view of language. But are such processess literally unbreakable? This might be a thesis worth challenging, though intuitively it conforms to my worldview. Why is the question of the autology of reading, for example, not being asked? Are we fully inquiring into language and life, or are we still dealing with inchoate concepts?

When a question is being posed, or a problem identified, it is our philsophical right to ask why just that question is being asked. That there cannot be an explicit, appropriate or consensual reply is no reason for not continuing to inquire why a certain question is being asked in the sense of being privileged with respect to other possible questions. That meaning grows out of use is an increasingly accepted and often sloganized point even though its practical implications are often unsuspected; for, indeed, as contexts of use are invariably contexts of life vicissitudes, it becomes necessary to ask what people are trying to do and why, in whatever context. This line of inquiry may open new perspectives on the creative and metaphoric roots of our cognitive concerns.

(p. 10, Corradi Fiumara's emphasis, my bold)

By Corradi-Fiumara's reasoning we're also compelled to ask about who quests after a more conversant language. "We commonly admit that it takes the whole person to do creative research work, but we are not to ask just how inquiry interdigitates with the live personality of the scholar" (p. 11). Why, for instance, would Fido the Yak investigate imagination as coessential to the structure of rationality? Why do I desire that the question be reimagined, as akin to aerobics as much as procedural law and knitting?

Leondar remarks that a configuration half-perceived, a relation faintly grasped, or a concept newly emergent must be, first, named metaphorically. Of course once such a newly discovered phenomenon is well understood and extricated from its originating context, the metaphor will vanish into the literal lexicon, its heuristic work completed. Through a growing awareness of the pervasive use of metaphors we may come to perceive our imaginative construction of reality (with its derivative structures of meaning) as distinct from the claim that a successful empirical test (with its feedback loops) is what conclusively warrants the acceptance of our basic view of the world. An easier acceptance of this differentiation may enable us to explore a continuity in model-making which connects an expanding variety of different domains.

(p. 12)

The question is like tree pose (vrkshasana). It forces us to balance ourselves on one leg, and so it calls routine equilibrium into question. Equilibrium becomes a problem, a problem that, through practice, can be sustained as a method of pursuing a path of fuller self-awareness, a vital aspect of inquiry, by drawing the problem into the body, the breathing. Now, don't solve the question by breathing, but pay attention to the spaces between the question. Let it come and go freely. Switch to your other foot.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 4:24 AM. 3 comments

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Voicelessness as Symptom

Montiglio turns briefly from the study of Greek tragedy to the study of medical texts:

[T]he Hippocratics insistently note the appearance of aphôniê as a most significant symptom. The meanings of this term range from speech difficulties, to a partial or total inhibition of the vocal organs, to aphasia, to the inability to speak on account of a physical lesion. Such an extended semantic field fits within the Greek pattern of calling "silence" not only a total absence of words or sounds, but also their partial presence. Just as the dative sigêi and the adverb siga (in silence) can apply to a bad speaker, that is, to someone who does use his language even though inadequately, the term aphôniê equates all kinds and degrees of speech disturbances with a "nonvoice." In the view of the Hippocratic doctor, patients who fail to communicate as he hopes are simply "voiceless."

The symptom of aphôniê is all the more disquieting for the doctor because he urgently needs his patients' words in order to understand the nature of their illnesses. Ancient Medicine stresses the importance of entertaining a dialogue with one's patient on a theoretical level. A concrete application of this principle, the Prognosis relies on the possibility of a regular communication with the sick, which alone enables the doctor to describe the symptoms of the disease in the most accurate way possible and to formulate a prognosis along with its evolution.

The troublesome character of aphôniê may explain why its emergence is repeatedly marked as "sudden" (exaiphnês). For it is unlikely that the onset of aphôniê was always so sudden in reality, considering the wide range of meanings of this term. As Danielle Gourevitch remarks, here "the observation is somehow replacing its object." To the doctor's eyes, a loss of speech and voice is apparently so fatal a symptom that it seems to manifest itself unexpectedly, abruptly, with no progression or warning: "When she was given a fragrant application of ground meal and myrrh, suddenly she lost her voice and died," writes the author of Epidemics 4 (30). Not surprisingly, this sudden loss of the voice is followed by an equally sudden death.

(Silence, pp. 228-229, my bold)

The disappearance of the voice more than the disappearance of language disquiets. Are all animal species endowed with a voice? To what extent might the voice be "given" through experience, developed rather than merely genetically endowed? Some species we know are able to learn vocalizations—but do they learn the voice itself? Biologist Stephanie Watwood, who studies how social interactions affect vocal development in animals, notes that the signature whistle of the male bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) assimilates to the signature whistles of other males whom they ally with as they fully mature. For females the signature whistle does not change over the lifespan. (See the video labeled "Whistles of Bottlenose Dolphins" here.) Does the juvenile male dolphin lose its voice as it enters adulthood? Is the autocognominal call an indication that dolphins are recognizable to each other by their voices, or does it signal some need for an additional unique identifier because the dolphin's voice alone isn't in fact unique? Does voicelessness represent the loss of the cognomen, the loss of any and all identity? Did the ancient Greeks conceive of disappearances of the voice that didn't symptomize dying, or is it perhaps the nature of conceptualization to remain loosely bound by a constellation of established usages and pregiven meanings, or to move within the ambit of affiliations, to assimilate? No, I rather imagine—assimilation means this much as much as it means an implicitly thoughtless con-formity— humans conceptualize more freely than that, at least as freely as dolphins and a few other types of animals create vocalizations in response to their acoustic milieu.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 7:53 AM. 5 comments

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Notes on Intersubjectivity

Barbaras carries forward Merleau-Ponty's critique of Sartrean intersubjectivity, a critique which easily applies more broadly. The first point to make almost goes without saying. Barbaras writes that the reality of the other is inescapably missed "as soon as the other is understood as a unity of sense constituted in me, as an analogon of the ego" Being, p. 131). It's my feeling that the ego, rather than presenting a model or a vehicle for approaching the other, in fact distances the self from the other, conceptually at first, but with actual consequences for the relation to the other. This distance is not the distance of the detour so much as that of the wrong path. This is not to say that the goal of meeting the other is the obliteration of all distances. Nonetheless, the possibility of approach structures any encounter, and the encounter with others is no less primeval than the experience of self. The journey through the ego abridges the encounter.

Merleau-Ponty's concept of laterality corrects a theoretical misapprehension of how the encounter with the other actually plays out. As Barbaras says:

The other is given to me only laterally; it envelops me rather than looks at me. And the face-to-face from which a victor must emerge represents only the most radical modality, which is never completely realized, of this primary "laterality."

(p. 136)

Perhaps the critique goes to far, stretching the meaning of laterality to the point where it can mean just about any worldy contact. We should question the sense in which contact with other people is always mediated by the world. In any event, laterality remains a powerful conceptual corrective.

"The experience of the other is that of an encounter," Barbaras declares. "It is not to be asked then, how knowledge of the other is possible, as one need only clarify the meaning of this encounter" (p. 128). Are we allowed to ask then how it is possible to clarify meanings? Anyway, Barbaras continues his riff, asking us to "discover, in the heart of consciousness as it is lived, a dimension which throws it back out toward the exteriority of the other. Because the relation of consciousness to the other is a relation of being rather than of knowledge, its lived immanence does not entail a the negation of all transcendence" (ibid.). How do we know this? How does the body of knowledge that attests to the beingness of the relation to the other support the distinction drawn here between being and knowledge? As for the main clause, why should transcendence be affirmed or denied at the point where the actuality of the relation to the other becomes evident? Do we know that transcendence isn't an irredeemably egological concept, illsuited for a discussion of coexistential laterality?

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

About Carrying

Barbaras continues a critique of Sartre:

Phenomenality is just as much negation of determination as it is negation of the in-itself. One has to say instead that phenomenality stops short of both affirmation and negation. It is a negation that not only does not dissolve into the positivity of essence but still negates every form of positivity, so that it also cannot affirm itself as pure, univocal negation nor abolish itself in favor of fully positive being.

(Being, p. 123, Barbaras' emphasis)

Instead of "phenomenality" I would say epoché. The question I'll ask relates to whether one makes a commitment to the study of, or even the worthy living of, phenomenality. Could an encounter with the phenomenal be compromised by a prior commitment to understanding the phenomenal? This goes towards a critique of the instant. How does one declare an allegiance to the instantaneous without doing violence to the instant? Conversely, how does one maintain absolutely no affinity for the instantaneous and yet be able, at the drop of a hat, to live in the instant? Must the instant be unbearable? Well, this perhaps suggests a reason why the instant is thought of as precisely not experienced in any temporal, mundane or ordinary sense. On the other hand the difficulty of sustaining an enthusiasm for the mundane suggests that duration too may be as unbearable as the instant. We live in the to-and-fro between these unbearable states, between duration and instantaneousness. If this movement is bearable, does that mean that the instantaneous as well as the mundanely temporal therefore become bearable?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 1:05 AM. 0 comments

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Philosophy of Nothingness. . .

"A philosophy of nothingness," Barbaras writes (Being, p. 121), "is still not realized as long as it defines nothingness as pure nothingness. Nothingness is genuinely nothingness only if it is not nothingness through and through." What is it about nothingness that's not like itself, adulterated through and through? Say that silence is a way of experiencing nothingness. Has there ever been in your experience a moment of unadulterated silence? What would you want to say about it?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 1:54 PM. 8 comments

Other Rhythms, Breathing In

Gary Peters, whose Philosophy of Improvisation found its way into my hands today, has written a brief overview of Levinas' ideas about rhythm ("The Rhythm of Alterity: Levinas and Aesthetics." Radical Philosophy 82: 9-16). Notwithstanding that I haven't read all the sources Peters consults, I'm sure I disagree with Levinas' usage of the term rhythm and with certain aspects of his conceptualization. Nevertheless I'm inspired enough by Peters' review to offer a few words on the topic.

I follow Randy Weston in holding that rhythm, far from being opposed to the melodic, is the heart of the melodic. In fact I can make the case more forcefully. Rhythm is already melody, a lesson Weston first learned during his travels in Tunisia, if I'm not mistaken, though the lesson is portable enough. The following therefore, should make no sense to me:

The melodic (the 'said') can take up residence within the noise of the world, it is stated and yet its delivery (the 'saying') remains silent. The eloquence of this silence is rhythmic, the rhythm upon which the melodic depends, the rhythm that needs no melody. Rhythm cannot be heard, it can only be sensed; it is the melodic that is heard.

(p. 13)

Rhythm can be sensed and heard. If there is a truth here in Peters' summation of Levinas' position, it lies in there being within the saying qualities aptly described as rhythmic, qualities that say, enigmatically, paradoxically, qualities that are said to be "in the saying" eloquently and in silence at once. Levinas' desire to delimit melody, to box it in and then out, to thoroughly captivate it, has of course a special significance with respect to the history of ideas. However, if rhythm is already melody, rhythm does not provide a means of escaping the thesis of intentionality. Rhythm is a phenomenon of consciousness. "Rhythmic" time consciousness and "melodic" time consciousness both illustrate, all things considered, the same reality. Protention and retention still apply. Do they still apply to anarchic rhythm, the pulse of the breach?

Levinas says that in "in rhythm there is no longer a oneself, but rather a sort of passage from oneself to anonymity. This is the captivation or incantation of poetry and music" (Philosophical Papers, p. 4, in "Rhythm," p. 11). Furthermore, Peters explains:

For Levinas, the thwarting of Husserlian intenionality, the eluding of perception, simultaneously enervates conceptual cognition while intensifying the sensation of 'things-in-themselves', precisely by presenting the exteriority of those things. He sees the dispossession that the exotic inflicts on perception as the mark of an aesthetic sensation which, in slipping between the poles of subjectivity and objectivity, and between consciousness and unconsciousness, confounds intentionality, confronting it with the anarchic. The peculiarity of Levinas' aesthetics of rhythm concerns precisely the anarchic character of the exotic pulse and, in particular, the way in which the transcendental ego loses its intentional grasp and is carried away. Having said that, however, it is significant that even in this early work he is careful to avoid the radical amorality of the unconscious and the transgressive potential of anarchic rhythm.

Rhythm represents a unique situation where we cannot speak of consent, assumption, initiative, or freedom, because the subject is caught up and carried away. . . . It is a mode of being to which is ascribed neither the form of consciousness, since the I is stripped of its prerogative to assume its power, nor the form of unconsciousness, since the whole situation and all its articulations are in a dark light present.


(p. 10)

I like the attempt to shatter continuous duration in the name of the time of the other, but I have limited use for dark lights. In being responsible for our own experiences of rhythm, a responsibility that flows from the freedom to move, which is a primeval way of being in rhythm and all of its modalities, despite contingencies which are in actuality necessary for the exercise of rhythmic freedom, we do not lose responsibilities for the other. We feel other rhythms. The question of an originary ethical relation, though it lies within the scope of consciousness without thereby being created by consciousness, is not to be answered by appealing to a metaphysics of instantaneous time that borrows from our love of musicality, and especially polyrhythmia, only to betray it. "Duration is not the measure of existence." Agreed. But read carefully: absolute alterity is sensed as a rhythm which "is not the respiration of the instant itself but the explosion of that instant, the 'accomplishment of existence'. . . . [T]he result can be forever thrown into doubt; nothing can be 'prefigured' in instantaneous. It is understood here as the stopping of time which then has to be renewed anew" (p. 14). The hard truth is that existence accomplishes nothing by ceasing to breath altogether. Levinas perhaps has more than one target in his critique of prefigurations. However, anticipation does not mean prefiguration, it does not extricate the thinker from doubt, and it emphatically does exist at the edge of existence where people breathe, the edge of existence any sane discussion of existence must address if not occupy. The physicality of the rhythmic is, pace Levinas and Peters, of the body. A genuine rhythmosophic trismagestics interprets the whole instant, and rather than doing away with respiration, sets respiration as a problem to be addressed, a question. The question of breathing is a question of rhythm at the edge existence.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 4:36 AM. 2 comments

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Nachmanovitch turns to Winnicott on play:

Like other manifestations of the Muse, the child is the voice of our inner knowing. The first language of this knowing is play. In this light, psychiatrist Donald Winnicott came to clarify the aim of psychological healing as "bringing the patient from a state of not being able to play into a state of being able to play. . . .It is in playing and only in playing that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self."

(p. 50)

How do we speak the first language of inner knowing? Playfully, creatively. With toys. Making toys of words and things. But if the language would have to be created isn't the knowingness then of the inner knowing thrown up in the air—don't worry, Fido will catch you. Sooner or later Fido will remember having thrown you up into the blue, inner knowing. Galumphing, in the sense anthropologist Stephen Miller attributes to the word. We galumph the whole person into discovery: "Oh, there's something I've thrown up in the air. It kind of looks like me." Now, does one really galumph though without ever letting the limbs touch the ground? Making a toy of our gait, as chimpanzees appear to do. Frequently I find myself talking with my inner chimpanzee. We like to galumph together.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 9:43 AM. 0 comments

Monday, June 15, 2009

Homology of Silence and Cries

Montiglio tells us, speaking of ancient Greek tragedy, "Silence often heralds a sudden, and sinister, transformation of one's being, such as the emergence of a pain that cannot be told but only cried out" (Silence, p. 224). Silence and cries represent an homology, rather than an opposition, because both signify the collapse of the logos (p. 225). (I can't help think that attention to the syntagmatics of silence and crying would tell us something more.) Silences, too, are heavy and physical, carried by the body that cries or that will cry. Greek audiences, Montiglio reasons, shared an interpretation of silences "as preludes to destructive outbreaks" (p. 220). Do these vocal outbursts genuinely fail to communicate anything whatsoever? How much space do we want to allow for the incommunicable? Is anything human lastingly unintelligible?

Two aspects of Cassandra's silence apply more generally to the tragic representation of silence. First, breaking silence does not mean making contact; on the contrary, the silent character moves from silence to an incomprehensible and solitary language. Second, silence gives way to a resonant and exuberant voice that overcompensates for its absence.

(p. 216)

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posted by Fido the Yak at 2:08 PM. 23 comments

Comportment Within the Question/The Question as Dance

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

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posted by Fido the Yak at 1:34 PM. 3 comments

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Kaleidescopic Consciousness

Dissapointingly, mildly, Daniela Vallega-Neu's The Bodily Dimension in Thinking makes no reference to Erwin Straus' work on the upright posture. I'm reminded of Straus by Dylan's latest post (in a series of excellent posts on the theme of embodiment) which specifically explores a relation between thinking and standing. Some cursory googling on Straus unearthed a real find, a book which will move to the top of my wish list: The Child in the World: Embodiment, Time, and Language in Early Childhood, by Eva Maria Simms.

Uprightness requires resistance against gravity and the constant work of opposing its pull. Human walking is arrested falling: a carefully balanced play between letting oneself fall forward and arresting the fall through the movement into the next step. It requires the courage to let go of the father's hand or the table's edge and risk hitting the floor. It is truly amazing to watch an infant fall and pick him- or herself up over and over again in order to be upright. And how exciting it must be for a toddler to cruise th[r]ough the living room, initiating movement forward but then be carried along by its velocity! Without motility, the upright posture is hard to maintain. We cannot stand still for hours on end, and every night sleep forces us to give into gravity and recline: "in sleep we no longer oppose gravity; in our weightless dreams, or in our lofty fantasies, experience becomes kaleidoscopic and finally amorphous" (Strauss 1966/1980, 142). The posture of the body determines the quality and range of attention and activity. Letting go of uprightness restructures the experienced world, as every bed-bound hospital patient knows. We become dependent on others, unable to care for ourselves, and we easily fall into reverie and sleep. The horizon of the world closes in around the bed, and the beckoning "action space" is lost in the fog of amorphous and fragmented events. With activity restricted, attention tends to wander and lose its focus: it becomes kaleidoscopic.

(p. 37, Simms' emphasis, my bold)

Do we feel the ebb of momentum as we lie flat on our backs or stand perfectly still? Do we become less playful in these dilated moments, or does another kind of playfulness come to hold sway, something removed from all equipoise?

I find a tranquility in walking, I must admit. Just for kicks I will think about the question while walking, and also while in triangle pose (trikonasana), and compare my thoughts.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 1:04 PM. 13 comments

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Eidos of the Question

"It is a characteristic of the philosophical interrogation," Merleau-Ponty says (Visible, p. 160, in Barbaras, Being, p. 88), "that it return upon itself, that it ask itself what to question is and what to respond is." I note how Merleau-Ponty includes response in his characterization of the philosophical question. Questioning proceeds from speech, which I tentatively define as both expression and response, that is, as a modality of intersubjective life, which patterns its inner dynamic. Here's a question, then, about the definition of the question: Does the question necessarily express anything?

Is it possible that the question necessarily expresses doubt? Does doubt express anything? What does doubt have to do with the eidos of the question? Barbaras states that doubt is shown by Merleau-Ponty, in his critique of Descartes, to be "inadequate to the sense of philosophical interrogation" (Being, p. 89). He means Cartesian doubt, it must be made clear, and I reckon the meaning of "philosophical" deserves to be explored a little. We can keep the question in mind, however, redefining terms as needed.

Isn't there something deliberately weak, from a philosophical viewpoint, about inquiring into the eidos of the question? There may be some call for a defense of a postcritical eideticism, a call for some kind of philosophical statement. What do we mean, though, by philosophy? What makes a statement or a question philosophical? Philosophy is always a return from constructa to lived experience, Merleau-Ponty says ("The Philosopher and Sociology," Signsp. 112). Philosophy does not rest still with social theory but plunges into the intersubjective world–in the mode of questioning? What sort of an engagement is that? It would by the definition given above be intersubjective or coexistential. Philosophy, Merleau-Ponty continues his thought, "has a dimension of its own, the dimension of coexistence–not as a fait accompli and an object of contemplation, but as the milieu and perpetual event of the universal praxis" (p. 113). Universal praxis. Do we need to perform an eidetic reduction of the praxis of the question along the way of inquiring into eidos of the question? How do we make the return to lived experience—as if something about our reflections or our ideas hadn't been living. Curious. Did we ever leave lived experience expecting to learn something in return? Our questions inhere in ex-pectations?

Merleau-Ponty argues that Husserl's promotion of the Lebenswelt to be the central theme of phenomenology is not inconsistent with certain earlier thinking about eidetic intuition as confirmation of experience. But hasn't the eidetic shifted meaning? Should we recognize some tergiversation in phenomenology's grappling with the eidos? Would that be an adequate reason to turn our attention completely away from the eidetic?

When the recognition of the life-world, and thus too of language as we live it, becomes characteristic of phenomenology. . .this is only a more resolute way of saying that philosophy does not possess the the truth about language and the world from the start, but is rather the recuperation and first formulation of a Logos scattered out in our world and our life and bound to their concrete structures–that "Logos of the aesthetic world" already spoken of in the Formal and Transcendental Logic. Husserl will only be bringing the movement of all his previous thought to completion when he writes in a posthumous fragment that transitory inner phenomena are brought to ideal existences by becoming incarnate in language. Ideal existence, which at the beginning of Husserl's thought was to have been the foundation for the possibility of language, is now the most characteristic possibility of language.

(p. 105, my bold)

A warning from Barbaras, who argues that the phenomenon of speech calls for a phenomenological reduction, "a reduction that allows us to understand the world on the basis of this possibility, that is, to understand the world as sense. By characterizing sense in terms of positive meaning, however, the philosophy of essence testifies just as much to its misunderstanding of speech. It considers the expressive operation as something completed; it forgets operative speech in favor of constructed speech. Instead of interrogating the emergence of language in the world, it naively gives itself language in the form of the world" (p. 109).

If there is something circular in the idea of the philosophical question, there may equally be a circularity in the idea of the question. Well, the question does not ask itself. That too is its eidos, or an aspect of its eidos, which must be "held and understood within the openness it unfolds" (p. 106; NB, Barbaras is speaking of "the absolute" here).

Finally I'll say a word about doubt, which may pertain to Cartesian doubt, or other forms of doubt. It is possible to sustain, as a kind of doubt, a hypothesis of the hypothetical which is irreducible to a negation of any given existence, but rather simply an indifference to any secondary claim about existence that hasn't been tried; a doubt which parenthesizes in lieu of either affirmation or denial. I am aware of the criticisms of this position, but am not yet convinced by them. Perhaps we should learn what doubt really is before deciding whether or not the question necessarily expresses doubt, philosophical or otherwise. Must one detach oneself from doubt in order to study doubt? Must one negate the experience of doubt in order to ken its essence? (We would be speaking of "morphological," inexact essences; that much we take from our readings). And wouldn't we have to ken the essence of doubt in order to answer any question of its necessity as a precondition, perhaps, for the question, the experience and the idea of the question. "The very being of the question," Barbaras writes, "excludes the possibility that the question remain without a response, gaping toward a transcendence" (pp.89-90). As I interpret him, Barbaras is speaking specifically of the Cartesian question, such as it is as a kind of commonplace, the question of the existence of the world, and he means to be critical. Is it possible for a question, any question, to remain without a response? Is it possible that the question inheres in response whether or not it is possible for a question to go without a response? That I suspect is true, but to appreciate its truth one must interrogate the way of asking questions, always returning from the constructa to the lived experience, the experience of the question.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 2:12 PM. 3 comments

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Synapsis of the Muse

"The muse is the living voice, as each of us experiences it, of intuition. Intuition is a synaptic summation, our whole nervous system balancing and combining multivariate complexities in a single flash" (Free Play, pp. 39-40).

The synaptic describes the space between touches, the between that enables touch, that touch means. Touch also means the traversal of that space. How is it that touch is brought into that space, for an instant, that space just for touch?

Over and over we meet with a question of shared experience, a question of how experience could possibly surpass the bounds of self, the returning vibe, even as it reinforces them, harmonizes them, evokes the selfsame vibe. Intuitably the synaptic is musical, replete with sweet voices, musical with repletion. We desire to speak with the sweet voices.

Music for us is the loving voice of intimation, of listening wrapped into itself, repletorially, listening, completely open to the announcement to the world of the world, the world that appears instantly in its announcement, of voices on the street below, rising voices of the unsummed love. We desire to speak with the musical voice. The voice of the muse is instantly recognizable as being other than our own, though it resounds within us and without us, multifariously. We share in its vibrations. Synapsis.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 12:39 AM. 6 comments

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Ape Gestures and Language Evolution

Ape Gestures and Language Evolution, by Amy Pollick and Frans B. M. de Waal. From the discussion of the results:

Our data strongly support the gestural flexibility hypothesis according to which our closest primate relatives use brachiomanual gestures more flexibly across contexts than they do facial expressions and vocalizations. Gestures seem less closely tied to particular emotions, such as aggression or affiliation, hence possess a more adaptable function. Gestures are also evolutionarily younger, as shown by their presence in apes but not monkeys, and likely under greater cortical control than facial/vocal signals (see Introduction). This observation makes gesture a serious candidate modality to have acquired symbolic meaning in early hominins. As such, the present study supports the gestural origin hypothesis of language.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 6:58 AM. 0 comments

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Reading Resides in the Voice and in the Hands

Dermot Moran, commenting on Merleau-Ponty (blogged about at However Fallible and Perverse Egalitarianism), argues that seeing is tactile, that even when our gaze moves from one thing to another, "we do not drop into the invisible." After a thing drops from visual focus there remains a background of the visible, analogous to a tactile background that remains after something has been touched. Moran then presents what appears to be an exceptional case. "Reading is a kind of seeing that has transcended the seeing of the letters and marks on the page and resides in the pure incorporeality of the meanings," he says. I, having expressed the view here that reading is coporeal, will offer a few words to elaborate my sense of reading and then, hopefully, further a critical appreciation of reading.

Instead of the transcendence of our bodily experience of written signs–there are reasons, such as the eye strain Moran cites, to believe that such a transcendence could never be perfectly accomplished–we should think of rough transpositions from one bodily mode of experience to another. Reading represents a practically silent transposition of the visual into the vocal, or, in the case of those who read sign language, a practically motionless transposition into the manual. Naturally one can read aloud or gesturally or both, and one can respond demonstrably as one reads, affirming or denying, testifying, commenting, revising, thinking, speaking. All reading passes through the faculty of speech, which resides in the body and its assuetudes. In fact it has its genesis in assuefaction, the faculty of faculties, so to speak, and this being the case it never transcends bodily experience.

Reading never transcends bodily experience. The idea can be critiqued. Obviously. I've raised the problem of the noetic faculty before, which according to some views would be a transcendent faculty, presumably, being transcendent, transcending even assuefaction itself. Quite a conundrum, given certain definitions of noesis. A version of the conundrum appears to be presented to us by Moran's idea of the pure incorporeality of meanings. Does it make sense for me to talk about a faculty for speech separate from a faculty for language, pure language, which according to many reasonable definitions allows for, indeed demands, the disembodiment of meanings? I've sometimes taken the view that the incorporeality of meanings is such a fantastic notion that those who propose it bear an onus to explain it. I've spoken of *language. Have I blinded myself to a reality of language? Of thought? How do I know what a body is? What burden do I bear?

The case of reading does not appear to a simple matter of transcendence into pure incorporeality. As in the past, I ask that you attend to your own experiences of reading as you think about the issue. As much as the eyes, reading resides in the voice and in the hands.

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