Sunday, February 28, 2010

Horizons and Temporality; Part 7 of Derrida's interpretation of Husserl

In the last post, we saw the seemingly inescapable nature of language in regards to phenomenology. I mention seemingly because Derrida proved for himself that sense existed independent of language when he makes the solipsistic assertion that geometrical evidence would remain imprisoned "in the inventors head" without it's liberation through language. Phenomenology though is put into 360 in the coming passages of Derrida's interpretation of the Origins, not simply because he proved for himself the ideal of pure sense, but because language has it's own implications. While history seemed imprisoned to language, there is certainly something prior to language that nonetheless will be explained through language which takes us back to the fact of sense occurring regardless of it's expression. We find more decisive explanations of this in Husserl's concepts of "Horizon" and his explanations of temporality (retention and protention relative to Presence). Out of fairness, it must be noted that these themes are elaborated on enormously not only in his published works, most descriptively in his Ideas I and his Internal Time Consciousness, but in his recently published manuscripts, most descriptively with his Analysis concerning Passive and Active Synthesis. Derrida will touch upon these themes but a real justice to the reading would require reading the above texts.

In regards to temporality, Derrida states "Husserl dwells on the receptive acceptance of signs-first in reading-than on the secondary technical or logical activity that is not only not contradictory to the first passivity but on the contrary, supposes it. The synthesis which awakens the sign to signification is first, in fact, necessarily passive and associative". The concept of sign here we will use analogously to language, but only for now, because these are two themes that are obviously different and can be elaborated on in their own rights. The matter at hand though is the idea of the receptive and passive acceptance of signs to signification, or syntax to semantics. How do we interpret passivity and receptivity? Husserl means to say that the "coming-into-being" of ideal objectivity happens by way of a passive retention. For example, while we at first may subjectively 'target' a sensuous formation outside of ourselves, this formation can either be retained or may fall into an abyss. If it's retained though, it's a process of further retentions on it's way towards the ideal. A pure sensuous formation then must be 'targeted' more than once (again and again) and gain a sense of "exactitude" every time it's targeted. Not only that but whatever this sensuous formation is, it must give itself also more than once to a subject. It's with this in mind that the constant distancing of the subject-object divide in late 20th century philosophy becomes so paramount. A good lecture on this was just posted by Mike Johnduff in his Working Notes Blog. The lecture was on Judith Butler's first encounter with the thought of Alfred Whitehead who made this distinction in a very simple yet insightful analysis. Husserl always eludes to this especially in the middle sections of the Crises but never comes to conclusions, being the good phenomenologist that he is. This characteristic of this retention for Husserl is not only the fact that it requires many subjective retentions to become perfected into an ideal, but also the fact that these retentions are always passive until they do become ideal, and an idea. A passive retention then is one where the subject has no idea (because nothing is yet idealized) of it retaining the milieu of phenomena outside of itself. In this sense, it's active, or what Husserl calls an "active passivity". These are literally ideal assumptions and/or implications, however one would like to contest or not contest their "values", or "legitimacy". When one reads Husserl's Analysis concerning Passive and Active Synthesis, one sees themselves actually doing phenomenology. By entering into an always deffered presence without coming to conclusions but still making statements about the temporality of subjectivity, one strikes at the center of the Husserlian Phenomenological pursuit, one that is understandably regarded as solipsistic based on the above description. With subjective receptivity and it's passive characteristic established, Husserl continues his reduction further to the requirements for passivity and receptivity; in other words, subjectivity in general.

In the most clear statements regarding Husserl's origins, Derrida goes into Husserl's establishment of his Horizon concepts as the grounds for subjectivity. It's the most clear statements because these are Husserl's most clear statements on subjectivity. Derrida states "In order to be able to establish facts as facts of history, we must always already know what history is and uner what conditions it's possible. We must already be engaged in a pre-comprehension of history". This pre-comprehension of history and for this post, that of subjective grasping, what's required is an already established way to comprehend. This transcendental theme goes as far back to the scholastics, but finds it's most concrete grounding in Kant's Critique of Pure Reason where his transcendental aesthetic first establishes the modernist project of understanding the a priori. Husserl though doesn't simply state the fact that space and time are the two conditions necessary for subjectivity. If elaborates on them to the point where they're no longer simply space and time. The vague notion of "Horizon" he uses expresses and gives it a "lived evidence, to a concrete knowledge which, Husserl says, is never "learned", which no empirical moment can then hand over, since it always presupposes the horizon". A horizon is every possibility of experience and thus ever possibility of subjectivity. Even if the experience for subjectivity is incomplete which it always is before it's ideality, it has an anticipatory thrust in the sense that it's always thrown into a situation or whether it wants to or not. Here, Heidegger's concept of "throwness" is paramount for it establishes throwness not just phenomenologically, but ontologically as a fundamental state for Dasein. Of course, Husserl's interest was not ontological for every reason stated in the beginning of the Crises. Derrida describes Horizon specifically as "the always-already-there of a future which keeps the indetermination of its infinite openness intact". You can simply equate horizon with the possibility of never getting away from the fact of experience. There's always something on the Horizon. Again, it's with this in mind that Heideggerian concepts, in this case as the Dasein "always ahead of itself" becomes paramount. To say that Heidegger simplified Husserl is easy to understand. Underscoring this is the fact that Ontology simplifies Phenomenology.

So two things are then established as implications of language, which is an implication of history (not historicity). To be able to speak, I must first be in a place (a horizon) where there is something that I subjectively "grab" for no apparent reason that still makes no sense (is not an ideal, or ideal objectivity), until it's grabbed more than once, again and again, und so weiter, to a place of exactitude where an object becomes ideal. Without again going into the problems of the subject-object division, we will give Husserl the luxury of his idealist proclivities and understand the phenomenological project in the gaze solely of the subject (where the life-world is taken by the subject, rather than the other way around). These retentions happen often and always deffer the presence, and give it the characteristic of passivity, meaning the outside milieu is always and already passing over the subjective being that is reaching out to grasp anything, for a time, without meaning. The activity in this passivity is something that Husserl elaborates on his is Analyses mentioned above. To be able to grab and have the characteristic of a passive flow, one is already in a state of historicity, or Horizon as the lived experience of anything that can be called experience and can't be called experience, a future that is always and already there for a subjective grasping. Questions emerge here. How coincidental are the concept of the "Horizon" and "Temporality"? Do they imply each other? Is Temporality the Horizon of Being (Heidegger)? Does "the notion of horizon thus make the a pirori and teleological coincide" as Derrida states? What is for sure is that Husserl created the most abstract concept possible for experience by giving it a connotation of infinity. As we will see in the next post, this above is the concern of a pre-predicative world but for which is different from the pre-scientific world. These two "worlds" will be distinguished, and the components of the pre-scientific world will be established for Husserl with much more detail because of the "bound idealitys" that envelop it, unlike like the infinite concept of the "horizon" and it's never ending operations of "temporal grasping" which firmly place Husserl's thought as the radical expansion of Descartes and Kant. Hopefully in future posts, we will get back to the phenomenological pre-predicative experience because of how fascinating it is in brining experience to it's most absolute limits.

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