Not Enough Time is Time Enough – iPhone Notes

I think it is strange that, upon reflecting on my life, I think my time so short. I have no other reference for my life-time that what I-am. What I am is finitude, I am only ever someone born and someone who will die. I am always dying. So why is it that I feel my time is too short, that life doesn’t last long *enough?* I think this is part of the tension of what Heidegger calls Dasein’s being-toward-death, which is being-toward-possibility itself insofar as I never experience my own death as an event. The entirety of who I am is only intelligible as finite, ‘finite’ names the unitary phenomenon of my being born, my dying and the anticipation of my death. That I never am outside of anticipation discloses the entirety of my Being as temporality.

So what do I make of my feeling that there is never *enough* if I have no reference to anything other than who I am? What do I make of this pressure I feel? It seems that this pressure is simply the phenomenological texture of time, of my life, for-me. I am this pressure, my relationships to others are this pressure, the world for-me is this pressure.

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Reading the Epoché Against Essentialism

The following is a small section from the paper I just delivered at the revolting peripheries conference in Bielsko-Biala, Poland. This particular section contains some very basic thoughts on trying to read the epoche in Husserl against colonial logics that posit subjects in a particularly active way, projecting categories of understanding on the world. I am posting it here since this section in particular will form part of an article I hope to submit for publication in the next month and I want to continue to think through the links between philosophies of immanence, early phenomenological method and critiques of colonial logic. Somewhere in there too is a latent engagement with Meillassoux that I need to more explicitly bring out.

There is only what is, which is to say there is no essence, only the actual.

The epoché in Husserl’s thought functions to allow for cognition of entities as they manifest in phenomena, in givenness, contrary to the ways in which people normally proceed in thinking the world. Normal modes of cognition take form in a posture Husserl refers to as the “natural attitude.” This ‘natural attitude’ of people is a particular posture toward the world and other people in which apriori categories undergird the person’s activity in and interpretation of the world. An example of this kind of thinking is the basic formation of Kantian subjectivity in which the active mind imposes categories for understanding upon the world. The best that one can hope for in this schema, with regard to cognition of those autonomous features of the world, is a mild agnosticism, affirming only the possibility of their existence but neglecting the import of their autonomy for human reason and use.

Important to note here is the fundamental role the recognition of one’s immanent situatedness in-the-world plays for Husserl’s thinking on this point. It is important because to gesture toward givenness is to summon up a basic tension between a concept of active subjectivity, which is the primary agent of cognition, and a realist sense of the world, in which one grants the world autonomy even in the process of cognition. Givenness appears to denote something of a flux between the two. There is a tension between the place in which a person constitutes herself in the recognition of her own thereness in-the-world and the place from which one recognizes that her situatedness denotes a primary posture of being as encounter, namely, with those aspects of autonomy and otherness that constitute the world in which she is a participant.

Husserl writes, “Enough now of absurd theories. No conceivable theory can make us err with respect to the principle of all principles: that every originary presentive intuition is a legitimizing source of cognition, that everything originarily offered to us in “intuition” is to be accepted simply as what is presented as being, but also only within the limits in which it is presented there.”[1] Here Husserl’s language reflects the tension above, implying both an aspect of activity on the part of the subject and the characteristic of otherness in given phenomenon. The point we should take here is, namely, that what is primary for cognition is not anything other than what presents itself in and as the world in sheer givenness of actuality.

For our purposes I want to say that the tension between revolting and being subsumed within overarching structures of power reflect the tension between givenness and its alternative. That is to say, the tension between an affirmation of sheer givenness and a notion of subjectivity that makes the subject’s prior categories for understanding the basis for intelligibility and order in the world is precisely the struggle for how to speak of the constitution of people without such speech subjugating them to authoritarian pronouncements. The latter sort of configuration predicates itself upon the assumption of essentialist definitions of identity. Contrary to essentialist forms of reason, the point to take away from a recourse to phenomenological givenness is that whatever is actual, is. Actuality is the only place from which to think self-possession, and actuality is always a matter of givenness unbound by any transcendental notion of essences.

What I want from the epoché, then, is a wider application that points us toward particular moments of givenness when we try to talk about revolting identities. In this sense, what we are doing in speaking of revolting peripheries is affirming the integrity of something already there in-the-world, without the need of any authoritarian transcendental to guide our affirmation. We seek to bracket what is our natural attitude with all of its essentialist content, we reject all of its concerns and we look toward something immanently given in our experience of oppression to constitute ourselves for ourselves.

To affirm actuality in this way is to undercut colonial logics of being. Colonial logic does work to impose its categories for understanding upon the actual world. Insofar as this type of logic functions to impose such a causal order upon the world, it functions very much like what Heidegger refers to as onto-theology, which is the logic that forces one to ground everything in essentialist definitions that correspond to transcendent notions of pure categorical essences. If this is how thinking of the subject occurs, then it is not too far to state that a colonialist ideology is our natural attitude

The real issue is not then an onto-theological constitution of metaphysics, but more accurately an onto-colonialist constitution. I think this is interesting, especially as Sean and I continue to discuss how to think concepts of “hope” in ways that jettison the impulse for teleological grounding for political or other actions. Political teleology is onto-theologic proper. It is that way of thinking which necessitates a regress into a transcendently given ground for proper cognition and reason. Such logic pronounces judgment upon revolutionary acts that do not think, that cannot think, in terms of what comes next due to the vast powers that are set against them. Colonialist ideology is exactly onto-theology insofar as it seeks to prescribe the structures of being in-the-world for those in the periphery. This is an authoritarian move that consigns all native speech that does not align into categories of non-being or unintelligibility.

Thus, we may here reconfigure Heidegger’s insight, in conjunction with this reading of the epoche, claiming that onto-theologic is not a matter of ideologically neutral ‘reason,’ but rather, a recourse to an onto-colonialist vision of the self, which is our natural attitude in contemporary western societies. Enrique Dussel notes, “That ontology did not come from nowhere. It arose from a previous experience of domination over other persons…Before the ego cogito there is an ego conquiro; I conquer.”[1] The conquering subject sets the parameters for all subsequent attempts to think self-possession. Insofar as this is the case, the colonial powers maintain the ability to subsume attempts at criticism, forcing them into categories of intelligibility.

 

[1] Dussel, E.D., Philosophy of liberation. 1985, Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books. p. 3.

 

[1]Husserl, E., Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy. Collected works/ Edmund Husserl. 1982, The Hague: Nijhoff. p. 45.

Doxological Theology Part II: Idol and Icon

Of course, as the trained theologian will not fail to note, to address praise to this God is no mean feat. As Jean-Luc Marion highlights, the conflict between idol and icon is always “a conflict between two phenomenologies.” [1] As such, it is a conflict not between two competing objects with competing referents who otherwise are (have their Being) in the same way, but one between different ways in which these objects may be. That even objects which reference the ‘correct’ God may be idols, and the fluidity with which objects may traverse the divide between idol and icon both suggest this distinction. Rather, what is at stake is two distinct “modes of apprehension [or reception] of the divine in visibility.” [2]

For Marion, the basic form of the idol is not that of illusion or forgery. It is not properly illusory because it consists rather in the recognition of precisely that which cannot help but be seen; the idol stabilizes (grasps) that which captures the gaze, so that it can become a point of reference, given for the gaze’s use. It is not properly a forgery because the fabrication only enters the status of idol in the later, determinative, moment when it presents as “that which will fill a gaze.” [3] “The gaze makes the idol, not the idol the gaze—which means that the idol with its visibility fills the intention of the gaze, which wants nothing other than to see.” [4] The gaze stops upon some thing (the idol), and the idol re-presents that stopping point—the gaze’s own aim. Thus, the privileged metaphor for Marion is the invisible mirror; what the idol presents to the gaze is the gaze in its own intention, but it shows this in a way that masks over—renders invisable—its own operation. [5]

The icon, on the other hand, phenomenally inverts the operation of the idol. The icon is not determined by the gaze, but “provokes” it towards a vision unaccountable within its own aim. [6] In the icon, Paul’s formula rendering Jesus the “icon of the invisible God” becomes paradigmatic; the icon does not present the visible as a means of discerning between visible and invisible, offering an image for the grasp of the gaze. [7] Instead, the icon presents the invisible precisely as invisible; as that which confronts the gaze without becoming an object for the gaze’s determination. The privileged reference here is a face; because the gaze and aim that determine the icon as icon are not those that belong to the one who apprehends the icon, but to the icon itself as presentation of the invisible, the one who apprehends finds in the icon not a thing but an aim alien to herself, by which she is confronted. Thus, while the idol’s reflexive origin admits a fixed point of return, the icon can be submitted to no measure, no aesthetic, but only to its own apocalyptic, abyssal “infinite excessivess.” [8]

What is important here for the student of theology learning to pray and praise with Dionysius is the idol/icon analytic when applied to the conceptual names of God. How are we to address our praise to true God rather than idol?

[1] Jean-Luc Marion, God without Being : Hors-Texte, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), 7.

[2] Ibid., 9.

[3] Ibid., 10.

[4] Ibid., 10-11.

[5] Note the resemblance of the invisible/invisable distinction here to Althusser’s formulation of the ideological interpellation of the subject as subject.

[6] Ibid., 17.

[7] Ibid., 17.

[8] Ibid., 20-21.

The Unground of Our Being

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Nothing is real, if “real” is taken to mean anything beyond a momentary existence. Everything is ambiguous and transitory, unstable. People, which is to say, humans, can only perceive their perceptions. The perceiving of perceptions enables people to be affected. But even this affectedness is not a universal. The perceiver, which is to say the “I,” who is an I by the very nature of her being a perceiver, does not always allow affectedness. In order to enable affectedness, where affectedness means something like what Slavoj Žižek calls being moved to the point of the movements being traumatic (though in a good sense), one views the Other with which one is confronted as a “Thou.” Insofar as one views the Other one encounters as an “It,” she will be incapable of this engagement.

The traumatic affectedness of encountering the Other in all of her Thou-ness does not merely affect one in such a way that one is moved to a greater or lesser degree but remains stable, but moves one in such a manner that the very makeup of her world is altered. Her perceiving of her perceptions change, not because she is nearer the “actual truth” but because the mode of perceiving as well as the Others that she perceives have been fundamentally altered. There is only present, and present is never and will never be static or stable. The past is only existent insofar as it is re-membered and re-présented (that is, [ɹiˈpɹɛzɪntɪd] in IPA, or [ree-prez-int-id] in free form). There is no Kantian “thing-in-itself” that simply cannot be reached or perceived; there is only continual re-ideation of existence.

With this in mind, I think a great linguistic misappropriation has brought confusion and disorientation (vis a vis “faux-stabilized orientation,” as it were) into the “Christian” lexicon. Even this word, “Christian,” has seen stabilizing attempts. Where to travel to “God” through the “Spirit” by “Christ” should be existential and constantly moving, never ceasing to undo and re-ideate, a concerted effort has been made to capture it and ground it, keeping it from its “beyond control-ness.” These other words–“God,” “Spirit,” and “Christ”–are also taken captive by a grounding motive. “God” becomes this being, this entity, this force, moving away from the perplexing “I am who I am/will be.” “Spirit” becomes this force that can be called upon, manipulated. “Christ” becomes this entity that can be asked into one’s heart, understood by one and described.

Instead, these words should be understood as sorts of verbs, or perhaps allowed their own descriptor that is not so limiting. Their ideations are not, I think, either to be understood as grounded in any sense other than their co-temporary grounding as potential affectors and affecteds.

The world is made up of a continual bouncing between the particular “I’s” who are not allowed to remain still, ever, though they cluster together in packs and try to hold on to some groundedness. These clusters try to trap others in their faux-grounding, causing those who “are” otherwise-than-the-faux-grounding to despair in their present. The hope for the future (again, “future” is only ever a part of “present”) is a hope that, though one is trapped by those who would ground the ungrounded, a loosening of the cracks might occur that in turn might affect an irrupting of this faux-grounding, allowing “I” to be affected–traumatized, in a good sense–by the other “I’s” with whom she is confronted.

An Introduction

Working within the interstices of philosophy, theology and political theory FluxofThought is an honest dialogue that is engaged in a discourse of multifarious expressions of faith and politics. The aim of this discourse is critical thought on the religious life and community. FluxofThought holds no unifying doctrine or dogma, contributors speak from varying disciplines with varying agendas and goals. The differences between contributors is embraced toward the fulfillment of our goal. Despite differing theoretical positions, FluxofThought is anchored by camaraderie, civility and humility.

Cheers,

FoT