Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Reader is Warned

"The reader is warned," writes Francis Jacques without a jot of irony, "that he or she will not find ideas or analyses that can be isolated and used in other contexts; the meanings of such ideas would suffer if they were detached from the book's overall trajectory, which covers questions taken in part from the rapidly developing field of the linguistic of utterance and in part from literary criticism, but also from psychoanalysis and theology" (Difference and Subjectivity, p. xxiii).

There's evidently a duality within the philosopher's image of himself as a speaker of philosophy. He decontextualizes and at the same moment, in the manner of a Heraclitus I guess, he doesn't decontextualize.

Will this work for me in the context of a blog post? Let's see. Jacques imagines that philosophy "remains rooted in the resources of everyday language, which is the universal metalanguage. The aim of philosphers is to articulate an interpretation of their experience as a whole. They attempt to bring about a process of semantic extension within various domains of ordinary discourse. Their own difficultiy is how to put forward a coherent and overdetermined interpretation of experience using a set of interdependent metaconcepts" (pp.xxiii-xxiv, my bold).

Do I just blithely skip over the part where philosophers are radical empiricists—would that it were true—in order to talk about (metaconceptual) gatekeeping? The reader is warned. . . . The reader is suddenly aware of culture of reading that allows for such things as warnings from the author along the way. Or charities. It could be otherwise, it occurs to me. Now, as thinkers, then, if we're really alive to our whole experience as readers of texts, then shouldn't we have acquired some basis for charitable writing, that is, writing that doesn't bar the way? Should lucidity of a certain kind—lucidity of love?— be a part of one's enculturation into the whole world thing of the philosophical text?

And now I'll put the shoe on the other foot. I assume that we know, you and I, gentle reader, that a more charitable reading of Jacques than the one suggested above is called for. Indeed any text given to us in some way as a work of philosophy (like a work of music, with that same ontic ambivalence, an existence in "performance" or "utterance" broadly conceived and at the same time not localizable within that in), any such philosophical text cautions charity. Or precautions? Have we begun to read when we have read the preface? At what point is the entire trajectory of the book apparent to us? When can we begin to read in good conscience?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 8:06 PM. 0 comments

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Eternity with a Forward Direction

Kangas writes that by contrast with Plato, for Vigilius Haufniensis, Kierkegaard's pseudonymous author of The Concept of Anxiety, "the instant of eternity has to be thought of as the 'extreme opposite' of eternity" (p. 189). He continues:

The instant, in other words, is not allowed to be reduced to mere evanescence or illusion; rather, it is precisely the real. The event is not a passage to reality, but reality itself. Or more simply: passage as such is real, identity is illusion. This evaluation of what remains between being and nonbeing is conditioned on defining eternity with a forward direction. Eternity is not what remains eternally self-present, or what can be reduced to that, but what never ceases to beckon and threaten from the future. The eternal cannot as such be integrated into the present but remains essentially futural: the present and the eternal are thus extreme opposites. This essential gap, the excessive futurity of the eternal, awakens precisely anxiety. And anxiety imposes the most strenuous demand upon the subject.

(ibid., Kangas' emphases, my bold)

Why would the recognition of a reality of passage be conditioned upon any sort of eternity, or indeed, an extreme dialectics? Is the real being reified surreptitiously for the sake of dialectic, in contradiction to any professed relaxation within the anarchy of the instant? Well, we are speaking of passage as such, passage considered apophantically. In what sense aren't we speaking of the real from within an idealism?

I harbor serious doubts about excesses of futurity. Are these doubts consistent with a practice of ataraxia? How does the skeptic deal with the sudden, existentially? Is there any existential import to skepticism—would it be arrogant to deny any such importance, as arrogant as the denial of edifying discourses, perhaps?

Possibly there is no merely about the evanescent.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 12:51 PM. 0 comments

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Elephant Glass

While being administered a Wechsler IQ test I balked during a task of placing numbers and letters in sequence when the same number was given to me twice. Is the intelligent answer "1,2,5,8, b,f,h,r,t, or "1,2,5,5,8 b,f,h,r,t"? I became preoccupied with my problem of repetition. Does anybody else have a problem with repetition, I wondered. Am I afflicted by an abnormality of thinking, an inability to process repetition that causes symptoms of mental confusion, or, indeed, actually confounds me in a way that nobody else could clearly understand but merely diagnose? What am I at this moment bewildered by repetition? How is it possible to go on thinking at all?

Kangas writes (citations omitted):

If at any moment repetition were allowed to occur, the very idea of repetition, a movement "by virtue of the absurd," beyond representation, would be annihilated. Repetition is essentially deferred. To think repetition can therefore occur only by means of an even greater thinking of its difficulty, at a limit, its impossibility. Thinking repetition takes shape as a continual stepping back from the present and self-presence to the point where freedom—whose "supreme interest" is repetition—discovers its destitution, in the ordeal. To think is to arrive ever again at the point where though discovers an abyss (vibrations, rotations, whirlings) and freedom finds itself ungrounded. Thinking proceeds up to what cannot be thought.

(p. 123)

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posted by Fido the Yak at 8:31 PM. 3 comments

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Revelations of Eoreality

Jankélévitch makes, while essaying music's ambiguous "depth," in a section that could be placed under the heading of enchanted chronology, the seemingly prosaic statement that musical works exist exclusively in the time of their playing (p. 70). Before critiquing let's read the full paragraph for context:

Music is an essentially temporal art, not a secondarily temporal one like poetry or dramatic literature or the novel. Of course, time is necessary to perform a play: but theatrical works can be read one right after the other, or in fragments, and in any order you please. A musical work does not exist except in the time of its playing. Now, this playing occupies a certain durational interval interval (by virtue of tempo), and one can work out its timing; the elapsed time is measurable but not compressible and would not submit either to being abridged or extended. Thus the sonata is properly speaking a succession of expressive contents that unfolds itself in time: it is an enchanted chronology, a melodious form of becoming, time itself. Sonata is sonorous time: the temporal realization of the virtualities contained in two musical themes. And it takes time for the listener to discover these virtualities and for the spirit to delve into the core of this immanence: there is a time for sinking in, and this time, perpendicular to the time of the performance (if one dares to use such language), is the time that the listener spends in delving into the thickness of this meaning devoid of meaning.

(Op. cit.)

Now let's take the position that a musical work exists only in the moment of its performance, knowing that we might afford some depth to such a moment, knowing that there is a time of listening. What does one then rehearse? Of course a musical rehearsal may be thought of as a kind of performance. However in a crucial sense the rehearsal, insofar as it a performance, has an as if quality. Its being as performance, if we may permit ourselves such a phrasing, is conditional. Is it conditional on there being some—some other—awaited performance, a performance that must have the quality of not being realized, not yet, or in the case of the perpetual student of music, not ever, but in any case not realized? Is the performance pseudoreal? Eoreal? Rehearsal reveals the eoreal aspect of the performative—an aspect beyond the telic and the atelic— which minimally teaches that the temporality of the musical is indeed well characterized as having depth, if not depth of being, which may perhaps not pertain to things eoreal, then appreciably depth of phenomenality.

What does rehearsal mean for enchantment? Again, one comes up against a problem of repetition. "In music," Jankélévitch asks (p. 71), "is repetition not often innovation?" I ask, is repetition in general an essay of the work of temporality itself, an essay which potentially reveals the eoreal aspect of time?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 8:32 PM. 0 comments