Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Myth of Empathy; Part 3 of "The Visible and The Invisible"

Merleau-Ponty extends his description of intersubjectivity to it's limits where "the invisible" becomes intersubjectivity, or lack there of. This task of intuitively explaining the impossibility of encountering the other in any other way than my own is something I have felt should be the a final extension of phenomenology. The limits of phenomenology for me have always instinctively been an existential question of empathy, or lack there of, never to go beyond the consequences of what would manifest from this lack (or Derrida's discussion of narcissistic reappropriation in The Ear of the Other). One of course can layout exactly what the consequences are, but then they are not within the field of phenomenology, and it's original task, it's faithful task; to explain the appearance of anything to consciousness. There's a dominant reason why Husserl wrote The Crises of the European Sciences, and it's precisely to extirpate any "existential questions", the very questions that had led science away from the task of thinking into disparate disciplines that didn't operate without a sense of needing to be grounded, but a sense of having to provide something to someone. This surplus attitude is not the attitude of the Phenomenologist, and one is struck with the sense that Husserl thought that people couldn't understand phenomenology because science's dispersion into it's multiplicity, to eventually lose it's own sense, this sense that was to be rediscovered by Phenomenology. With this said, when Phenomenology broaches an "Existential Question", in this case, being on a scene with an other, it would have to require an original faithfulness to Phenomenology so that it appeared that the writer who broached this topic had no opinion of what they were considering, and were simply, and solipsitically explaining an experience. Derrida, Levinas, and Jean-Luc Nancy would all be influenced by phenomenology eventually to form status's of the other as a focal concern of their work. After all, after Phenomenology, once is thrown back into the world where existence holds sway again. An elaboration of the other within Phenomenology would always have to come to grips with the idea of empathy, since it is what fundamentally grounds any social structure at all. But the phenomenologist never has to be faithful to a social structure because they've given themselves over to phenomenology where things happen regardless of Being, and always because of the a priori, or nothingness. Certainly when confronted afterwards as human beings, they won't take for granted the social structure that opens up for a description of a logic that is always and already happening, but when in the work itself, the phenomenologist is in complete ignorance of any social surrounding. They are in a world, but the idea of a world is in suspense, being described, always deffered, a description deffered. This faithfulness that the phenomenologist would have to remind themselves of would create some incredible work at it's limits, describing the confrontation of the other, because the other is then truly and appropriately a nominal "X", a variable, within my thinking. Merleau-Ponty exemplifies this faithfulness of seeing an other as a variable by his luminous description of himself in the encounter with an other. How then, does Merleau-Ponty encounter this something (from nothing), that is an other? "If the other also is pure vision, how would we see his vision? One would have to be him. The other can enter into the universe of the seer only by assault, as a pain and catastrophe; he will rise up not before the seer, in the spectacle, but laterally, as a radical casting into question of the seer. Since he is only pure vision, the seer cannot encounter an other, who thereby would be a thing seen; if he leaves himself, it will only be by a turning back of the vision upon himself; if he finds an other, it will only be as his own being seen". Merleau-Ponty limits himself to his being able to see (which we will see in a later post, he describes vision as being the sense that constitutes the world, and not smelling or hearing). If one could possibly have an encounter with an other, it would not be something of my personal experience, as if they experienced the same thing as I had, but something that calls me into question. Something in experience that calls me into question is not an experience of the other as other, but a lateral appearance in me. Merleau-Ponty continues "If there is an other, by definition I cannot install myself in him, coincide with him, live his very life: I live only my own. If there is an other, he is never in my eyes a For Itself, in the precise and given sense that I am, for myself. Even if our relationship leads me to admit or even to experience that "he too" thinks, that "he too" has a private landscape, I am not that thought as I am my own, I do not have that private landscape as I have my own". This is penetrating phenomenology being done by Merleau-Ponty here. At one point, he even allows a space for the other that is basically identical to himself, but at another point, states the fact that his own private landscape is absolute alterity, or otherness. What does it mean when he says that the other can never be For Itself? He states that a For Itself is always a For Myself. In other words, I can't live for the other, the way I live for myself. Literally, I wake up every day and go about my business. I don't wake up and come to immediate cognition of an other and how they are going about their business. Even if I were to make a habit out of waking up and immediately thinking about an other, phenomenologically speaking, it's never immediate, the way I am for myself, how I am always immediate for myself. I would have to negate my invisibility (negate the fact that I'm a always and already a being inside of myself without recognition of things I eventually have to do), but as Mealeau-Ponty states throughout the text with his faithfulness to Sartrean negation, the negation of my invisibility is a positivity, or a proposition. In other words, I become visible, and aware when trying to enter into the other, and so make the very other I want to empathize with something that is other than myself, something that is invisible, thereby losing the For Itself that envelops myself. I cannot postulate an other and think to myself "We are really the same", without being utterly unfaithful to myself and the invisible experience I have every moment of time. In every moment of time, "What I say of it is always derived from what I know of myself by myself: I concede that if I inhabited that body I should have another solitude, comparable to that which I have, and always divergent prospectively from it. But the 'if I inhabited' is not a hypothesis; it is a fiction or a myth". I can concede the fact of some sort of sameness with an other, but this is always a fiction, because it's a negation of my invisibility, it's a postulate of something that never needs to be postulated as something to first come to the scene. This concession then that Mearleau-Ponty makes is negated right after he makes it. The minute I try to enter the other, I'm negated back to myself, in a private landscape where I make up fictions and myths about the other possibly having the same experience as me, even though he is exactly outside of me, and even forms me as the sole function of alterity. If they form me, and are always and already outside of me, they are not me, and they are not for myself, as I am for myself. They are then, something else. Being something else, they are a difference from me, and are different from me, however much I conjecture that they constitute me, and mythologize on how I constitute them.
"The other's life, such as he lives it, is not for me who speaks an eventual experience or a possible: it is a prohibited experience, it is an impossible, and this is as it must be if the other is really the other. If the other is really the other, that is a For Itself in the strong sense that I am for myself, he must never be so before my eyes; it is necessary that this other For Itself never fall under my look, it is necessary that there be no perception of an other, it is necessary that the other be my negation or my destruction". If the other was the same as me then, there would be no other, there would be no thought of the other, there would be no idea of the other. That something outside of myself exists precisely in the fact that it is not me and can never be me. Merleau-Ponty stresses that "He must never be so before my eyes". We can theoretically fictionalize and contextualize on the other being (verb form of being) like me, because it is a For Itself, and within this context, this context of postulated and positive thought, but it can never be so before my eyes, in other words, as myself, first and foremost always invisible. I cannot live 2 invisible lives. I can have my life which is invisible, negate it by thought, and postulate the possibilities of the others life. I cannot always and already be waking up operating as 2 beings at one time. I would have to physically split myself without thinking it. That the Husserlian idea of the Transcendental Ego comes to the forefront here is a possibility, but it's always postulated as "transcendental", meaning happening for all. As we said before, any concession we make about the other being like me is always and already negated by the fact that a concession was needed in the first place to bring together something that was always and already apart. This apartness, this shearing of being, this alterity forms me. Without this alterity I am no longer For Myself, no longer a self, and in essence, no longer alive. The In Itself For Itself distinction that Sartre made is no longer available. The In Itself distinction isn't even available if I, who am For Myself, am not available to make the distinction. I, who am making the distinction between The In Itself, essentially For Myself, is doing so while encountering an other who may or may not be making these distinctions. I have no idea. This though, is what I'm certain of, that I have no idea, and that is it. When thrown into being-with-others, I negate myself by thinking of ideas that attempt to systematize and solidify my existence with everything else, like this exact post that I'm writing. The dialectic of negation runs ramped. I am invisible, I negate my invisibility by the compulsion to speak about what is other than me making the other visible, then I negate this negation by accepting the fact that speaking about the other is not being the other, I am then an operation of negations which no longer realizes any history in it's process. I am always and already not simply me and not the other, but an attempt to bring together this otherness, which always and already knows that this bringing together of the other is in the most abstract form, something to do, to finally accept my absolute private owness, my solus ipse, my solipsism, and finally make the "existential conclusion" of not simply my lack of empathy, my myth of empathy, but, that I was on my way towards an attempt at empathization, in order to find it impossible in me. This operation, this process is but being itself, specifically, being there. As a phenomenologist, the question of the other and empathy is "concluded". I am then able to enter back into the world and the social structures that I can't take for granted by exactly mythologizing everything that is other to me. How I live is founded precisely on a myth, and more logically speaking, on a context. What I accept as what I have to do, is something that I never have to do if I choose not to, but being there has a sway over me that is more powerful than my phenomenological instincts. I have to do all things that I always and already am mythologizing, because the context, the myth, is what constitutes being there. My invisibility, for a time, is always negated by my visibility, the very fact that I can see, literally and figuratively. Being and Nothingness, Seeing and Invisibility.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Merleau-Ponty's Intersubjectivity; Part 2 of "The Visible and the Invisible"

In the last post we confronted Merleau-Ponty's Hegelian instincts and his stress of a philosophy of negation for understanding The Invisible. Merleau-Ponty has taken Sartre's lessons of negation for understanding the a-priori to it's limits in this text and it brings out some strong insights. In the last post we ended off with the fact that Merleau-Ponty would have to throw himself into a solipsistic state where we happen to understand him to justify his flesh-invisible experience that he want's us to understand independent of the prior phenomenological attempts by Husserl and Kant. While he addresses himself in the negation, in essence that he is not anything that he can possibly affirm (lessons from Sartre he inherited that I wish I could elaborate more on with time) he takes a quick turn to the objects outside of him that are nonetheless his own, and along with the turn is the fact that there is an other present having a type of experience somewhat the same and somewhat different than him. His elaboration on this inter-subjectivity I think it's an expansion of Husserl's in the phenomenological sense because I think Merleau-Ponty has a style to his writing that isn't as teleological as Husserl when addressing the other. For Husserl, the other was a matter of a getting together in order to perfect, it was a world of geometers who were operating under praxis. Husserl never elaborated on the depths of logic of social experience, or rather the phenomenology of social experience. Merleau-Ponty's honest and open style leads to a very lucid understanding of how a confronting happens in the first place, all in the service of understanding the fact that a subject can't get outside of themselves when being in the world. On the other hand, because of his self-negation philosophy, he allows himself to not own the world. What must be established is something not being mine, and the de facto situation of not being able to escape myself ubiquitously. Merleau-Ponty states "What I see is not mine in the sense of being a private world. Hence-forth the table is the table; even the perspective views which I have of it and which are bound to the position of my body are part of being and not of myself...what is mine in my perception are lucunae". Lucuna are empty spaces. What Merleau-Ponty is trying to say here is that something is something regardless of my perspective of it. He's making a phenomenological/ontological division here. As a being, what is there is "in front of him". But what is his (mineness, owness) is an empty space. For being that is not mine (we gain a closer sense of what transcendental being is here), there is a boudness to a horizon. For myself, there is nothing. So me being myself, I am in nothing. For me, who is first a being, I am in a horizon, a private world where nothing has yet to be accomplished (allowing ourselves the Husserlian logic found in his Experience and Judgment). He says that finally there needs to be a "subjective face" to perception, which for our understanding is Husserlian ideality, also nominated by phenomenology as the eidetic. This movement is a doubling in which the as it is gains a such which makes a such as it is. The invisible being has no such. What "is", is being, and then being becomes mine when it is no longer (negation) as it is, but as such, meaning it's purely differentiated into many different things; representation, language, active perception, present awareness, ect. (the ect. here is inappropriate but we will move on).

It's here where Merleau-Ponty takes his sharp turn into inter-subjectivity by asking a simple question to himself and the reader. "Suppose now that there is another man before me who 'looks at' what I call 'the table'...a relationship is established". He later states "For the other's gaze on it is not a nothing for me, its exterior witness; whatever it may be in the last analysis, it is not nothing as I am nothing for myself, it does not have the power I have to push the things unto their truth or their meaning and to grasp them 'such as they are'". Nothing takes on somewhat of a contorted meaning here which an elaboration of Sartre's negativity would really help to understand. What Merleau-Ponty is stating here is the fact that whatever happens "outside of myself" is not nothing for me. It is happening to me for sure. But, the others gaze doesn't have the power of what I have in my nothingness. I, in my nothingness, can make things into meaning which we described before as the difference/doubling of the such in the such as it is. The other can't push truth into me. I can only do that because I come from a place of nothing which eventually gets doubled (a double negation...the position of the mineness; or being to mine.) So hopefully we can understand that Sartre's and Merleau-Ponty's nothingness is surely not a pure nothingness but is pushing it's way towards a doubling where an other exists for myself. The key for Sartre and Merleau-Ponty though is to incessantly describe all these events as taking place in being as nothingness. I think Derrida improves what they are both trying to get at along with Husserl's bracketing method in the same instance when his concept of sous rature, which we discussed in his interpretation of Husserl. To describe it again, it's to cross out a word that can't be used for this place of nothingness where something is trying to happen that we can't describe, and allowing ourselves to use the words we want to for nothingness, while at the same time knowing we can't use them. By allowing ourselves a perennial negotiation between nothingness and our impulse to describe nothingness (phenomenologically, the a priori), we gain a sense of the being into it's own. Hopefully with this also, Sartre's negative philosophy will come to light. Merleau-Ponty continues on with himself standing with someone else looking at something in his nothingness. he states "The perception of the world by the other cannot enter into competition with my own perception of it, for my position is not comparable to theirs; I live my perception from within, and from within, it has an incomparable of ontogenesis". This strikes at a recent lecture given by Judith Butler on Whitehead regarding forms of recognition and specifically for Butler, dominant forms of recognition. As a subtle recognition of the possibility of altering one's recognition towards the other, this is not the case for the phenomenological perspective, and here Merleau-Ponty states it precisely. It's impossible for an other to enter into my own perception of the world. For my position is not comparable to theirs. When Merleau-Ponty states that "I live my perception from within" we can take his negation philosophy and apply to that statement to mean "the other can't live in me". No one can enter me and I can't enter them, and this is a fundamental ontogenetical premise of existence that I find incredibly insightful on Merleau-Ponty's part. What this means for the socio-ethical concerns of empathy is devastating, of course, and everyone has to confront this absolute and impossible lack of empathy when approaching themselves phenomenologically. Merleau-Ponty stresses this even further when he states that Being is put to the test through the other because it summons the promises that he made to himself when he admitted he was nothing. The gaze over an object is in a relationship with an other but I remain the only witness. It's not as if I had four eyes and two brains where I can see the thing through myself and anything else, in this case, an other. "I remain the sole witness of the ontogenesis, the others can add nothing to the evidence of being for me". The most insightful analysis I find so far in Merleau-Ponty's conception of inter-subjectivity is when he states "One sole condition is laid down for their coming on the scene: that they could present themselves to me as other focuses of negativity". While the other has no place in myself, it does operate as a condition for my negativity, and that negativity is that it can not operate in me. And something is discovered here which is different from the gaze over the table, and it's the implicit logic of the statement itself that one cannot enter into me so that other is a negation for me, and that implicit logic is that Merleau-Ponty considered before the negation that there was something like himself, out there, and gazing at things. It is the case that one can't enter into the other and the other into me, but before this negative conclusion was made, I had a compulsion to realize that it was impossible for an other to enter into me and me into it. In essence, I have a compulsion to realize the other before I was able to negate it as a condition of myself. This is a wonderful analysis on inter-subjectivity, something that Husserl in his work never approached, or simply never got to. That it carries with it enormous ethical concerns is obvious. That we are operating solipsistically here is a testament to Merleau-Ponty's style and thought. He was able to lay out a condition and at the same time negate that other that conditions their existence, in essence leaving himself to himself, solus ipse. Not only that, but he was operating here solus ipse under the condition of the other which at first glance is counter-intuitive to the Phenomenological project operating independent of everything. Merleau-Ponty does operate independent of everything but because of his method of negation, conditions exist that confirm for me that I am nothing before I become the such as it is. To say we gained a sense of the a priori through a confrontation with the other is somewhat astonishing.

After this elaboration of the other in regards to "an object", Merleau-Ponty states "The other is born from my side, by a sort of propagation by cuttings or by subdivision, as the first other". Derrida, Husserl, and Merleau-Ponty all take the liberties of describing things as "sort of". This can be confusing, but it must be understood that they can't absolutely define the things that they want to define so rather than just say that the other is born for difference, or the other is born out of a division, the sort of raises the question of whether the next verbs in the proposition can really do justice to the explanation. Thinking of what it is to be a "sort of subdivision" is something that needs to happen when one is reading over these passages. One can't simply read over them once. One has to take account for the fact that subdivision needs it's ambiguity brought to it by the "sort of" in order to clarify the essence of the action, the pure action in nothingness. This way of thinking will be helpful for future and past posts when phenomenologists and post-structuralist philosophers need to make their concepts more open to being a thought that isn't tied to the concept. Finally, Merleau-Ponty states "But how is it conceivable that what is nothing be doubled? How would one discern one "nothing" from another? The question only shows that we have forgotten our principle on the way, that we have come to forget that nothingness is not, that we grasp is by negintution and as the reverse of being. If there can be several beings, there will be as many nothingnesses". Merleau-Ponty stays faithful to his negative philosophy, his apophatic philosophy. He wants to ask how it's possible for doubling or difference to occur but remembers that this wanting has no space available in the negative philosophy of being. As long as one is operating in negintuition, in an intuition that never affirms anything, but says nothing can be the case, one can't ask anything of something when it's always and already nothing, and with this in mind things pop up in experience that we say that we know is not the case, but are conditions that can never envelop me. Merleau-Ponty is faithfully following a negative dialectic here; One that doesn't start from a place in order to come to something other than what it is to affirm this otherness, but descends down to the fact that what appears, can't possibly be anything other than my own nothingness, I.E. Being. Being and Nothingness certainly so far for Merleau-Ponty in The Visible and Invisible, in regards to inter-subjectivity in this case. Sartre's theoretical influence on Merleau-Ponty is unquestionable in this text.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Impossible Reflections: Merleau-Ponty's "The Visible and the Invisible" Pt.1

As we will see in the first posts regarding this text by Merleau-Ponty, many of his concerns at the beginning of The Visible and the Invisible were concerns broached by Derrida in his interpretations of Husserl. Merleau-Ponty from the start asks about Reflection and Interrogation as modes of being able to do phenomenological work, if phenomenological work is possible in the first place, which is always the concern of phrenologists. This is synonymous with Heidegger's claim that "one is always a beginner". Merleau-Ponty addresses these problems thoroughly in the beginning of this text and elaborates the Kantian insight that one can't escape one's own concept when confronting the a-priori, which Merleau-Ponty refers to as the flesh. Merleau-Ponty states "For the movement of recovery, of recuperation, of return to self, the progression toward internal adequation, the very effort to coincide with a naturans which is already ourselves and which is supposed to unfold the things and the world before itself-precisely inasmuch as they are a return or a reconquest, these operations of reconstitution's or of re-establishment which come second cannot by principle be the mirror image of its internal constitution or establishment".
Merleau-Ponty uses the term naturans here to signify the transcendence of flesh that is all-pervading throughout his work. Their synonymous meanings simply to refer to the Kantian and Husserlian a priori; the before-hand of the idea or concept.

But Merleau-Ponty seeing the problems of applying ones concept a posteriori to an experience prior to expression investigates this problem with sharp insight. He refers to Kant in each step of his Analytic where he always states "if a world is to be possible" before justifying a category for human subjectivity. Of course this guideline of "World" is an "unreflected image of the world". Kant gives himself a philosophical axiom for his subjective categories in the name of "World". He also realizes though that fact that he's using the "World" as a thought in the axiom and this doesn't serve as a foundational ground but a secondary variable; specifically, the thought of the world , not the fact that something that can't be called a world (but we call it this anyways) serves as the foundation for his subjective categorization of human experience. So again, we're thrown to axioms we can't use as foundations for what we would like to explain. Merleau-Ponty wants to solve this but feels the need the address the fact that thought, the notion, and the idea, or however you would like to signify the essence of the coming-into-being of representation, is in need of being decomposed for a flesh-phenomenology. Whatever this is, will be show in later posts as we move on further in the text.

After all this has just been said though, Merleau-Ponty isn't out to disparage reflection and interrogation as modes of gaining the sense of a flesh-phenomenology. He states "The remarks we made concerning reflection were nowise intended to disqualify it for the profit of the unreflected or the immediate. It is a question not of putting perceptual faith in place of reflection, but on the contrary of taking into account the total situation, which involves reference from the one to the other. What is given is not a massive and opaque world, or a universe of adequate thought it is a reflection which turns back over the density of the world in order to clarify it, but which, coming second, reflects back to it only in its own light". Here, Merleau-Ponty is speaking Hegelian here. The reference to a "total situation", the reference to the fact that reflection comes second in order to expatiate in order to clarify it sounds nothing else than the Hegel's Dialectic of Spirit. A couple aspects of Merleau-Ponty's thought needs to be clarified though. When he speaks of the "unreflected or the immediate" he's speaking of the flesh-phenomenology which could be seen analogously to the Kantian a priori, but as we will see Merleau-Ponty isn't just talking about the unreflected or the immediate as a logical concept or a prerequisite for ideality, he's looking to explain it as a "total situation" that includes the the movement of the unreflected getting to notionality. There is a situation where reflection is given to clarify what was prior to reflection by an idea of reflections own light. Sound similar to Derrida's encounter with Husserl?

Merleau-Ponty clues us into what he wants out of phenomenology after he addresses the fact that applying ones concept to the unreflected is onerous. "I see, I feel, and it is certain that for me to account for what seeing and feeling are I must cease accompanying the seeing and the feeling into the visible and sensible into which they throw themselves, and I must contrive, on the side of them, a sphere they do not occupy and whence they would become comprehensive according to their sense and their essence. To understand them is to suspend them, since the naive vision occupies me completely, and since the attention to vision that is added on subtracts something from the total gift, and especially since to understand is to translate into disposable significations a meaning first held captive in the thing and in the world itself". The Invisible is first addressed for us in Merleau-Ponty here. It is "seeing" and "feeling" in distinction from the visible which is the "visible" and "sensible". Also for Merleau-Ponty, they "throw themselves". This Heideggerian concept of throwness is a paramount concept, but it does have it's limits and I personally wish that Merleau-Ponty had a new way of thinking this "transition" than this more abstract concept for causality called "throwness". Further on in Merleau-Ponty's statement, he refers to this invisibility becoming comprehensive according to their sense and essence? Comprehensive? Sense? Essence? These must be transcendental themes for Merleau-Ponty. These are the centered ideas that the post-structrualism of Derrida would eventually try to slip away from. "Sense" and "Essence" though are Husserlian gestures of transcendence that want to be in an unoccupied "sphere". Does it seem that these phenomenological texts are really a matter of coming up with the most creative and abstract adjectives to be able to describe whatever it is that's called "experience"? And constantly changing them in order to give them a sense of vagueness in order throw the reader into space of not fully understanding what a word signifies? Is this the true trick of phenomenology? Essentially, negation by ever-changing abstract adjectives?
Vision is added to seeing and feeling which is a subtraction from the later two, which is a "total gift". Merleau-Ponty privileges the invisible as the wholly other to what the understanding is. He previously addresses the totality as a "total situation" but finds the negations of seeing and feeling as a negation of a gift, the gift to see and feel without thinking. Negotiating the term "gift" with his acceptance on the Hegelian dialectic of notionality and invisibility in reference to each other is something he hopefully addresses later on in the text, and if he doesn't, he wouldn't err on the side of a Hegelian systematic description of Spirit, but have a philosophers subtly in privileging the wholly other over and against his thinking being...which I personally find not only boring, but unphilosophical...but lets wait and see. At the very least, if Merleau-Ponty insists on invisibility as a "gift that has been negated", we as readers would expect him to give insightful analysis on this invisibility that he himself said is negated by the concept (or notionality). How he could do this we will have to wait and see. He would have to "throw" himself into a presence that is borderline solipsistic, but yet we would still have to be able to understand him as he leads us in this presence, operating equally solipsistically. This would be amazing. This would be phenomenology, in the flesh.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Merleau-Ponty's "The Visible and the Invisible".

At the end of the weighty interpretation of Derrida on Husserl, I thought it would be a good idea to tackle a text that was slightly less weighty, but still phenomenological is a 'strong' sense. I also thought it would be good to exit out of problems of genesis in general that Derrida took up with Husserl's Origin's of Geometry. While problems of genesis and the circularity of the problems involved always seem like the philosophical issues with the greatest importance, they can be cumbersome after awhile. I certainly felt the effects of it. Regardless, Husserl's jump from static to genetic phenomenology is something we will come back to in later posts and in other texts. For now though I thought it was a good idea to go into something more tangible than problems of consciousness and the transcendental ego. This tangibility is found in the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty. While taking on his Phenomenology of Perception would certainly be too large of a task for this site, I thought his The Visible and the Invisible would be a good work to extract.

As far as a little background, was born in 1908 and died in 1961. He was a thorough disciple of Husserl and Heidegger. Specifically in regards to Husserl, he was an ardent student of Husserl's unpublished manuscripts and often refers to them more in his work than Husserl's published work. He's different from Husserl in that he's more apt to give specific examples, specifically examples in art where he found the work of Cézanne to be the most penetration into his phenomenology of perception. Beyond this though, he gives concrete examples in his Phenomenology of Perception of patients with certain cognitive disabilities after World War 2. For example, he explores Anosognosia; a disability where the patient seems to be unaware of their disability. He explores a patient who is always trying to reach out for something as if he had his amputated arm and never realizing that he didn't have him arm. In this sense, Merleau-Ponty is a philosopher of embodiment. He gives concrete examples of the body and certain art to establish the fact that perception is the grounding axiom of the phenomenological attitude. So it's obvious to say that perception for Merleau-Ponty is different from perception in Husserl. Perception in Husserl is often at the disposal of a consciousness making it's own mind up and it's own theme that create reality. Merleau-Ponty on the other hand is much less of an "idealist" than Husserl. He gives credence to the fact that one is already thrown into a world (lessons from Heidegger) and can't escape the fact that their body is "meant" to do certain things and to the extreme that the body is meant to do these things, one is never able to escape them. With this in mind, the mind and it's sense is always tied to the worldly body. It's not as if Husserl didn't encounter this in his Crises, especially with his concept of the Lebenswelt (Lifeworld), but he never went far with it because how much he was always concerned with the logic of experience in general independent of everything via his bracketing method and Cartesian epoch. Merleau-Ponty on the other hand is a thinker who finds phenomenology in the primacy of perception, specifically body's perception and it's lack of dependence on consciousness pure and simple. He finds them tied together, but most importantly, he sees the body as a subject and an object at the same time unlike Husserl who saw the body only as the intentional object of thought that was to be disregarded if one was to gain an idea of what "pure sense" was independent of it's noema (object of thought). With this in mind, one understands why this will be less weighty to understand because we will actually have access to things, body's, and perceptions when doing phenomenological analysis. A great quote to exemplify this is in his Phenomenology of Perception when he states “Insofar as I have hands, feet; a body, I sustain around me intentions which are not dependent on my decisions and which affect my surroundings in a way that I do not choose”. By way of limiting himself to the obviousness of his body he becomes a sort of anti-idealist in the phenomenological field. While Husserl would find transcendental consciousness in pure sense's logic of temporality and activity/passivity, Merleau-Ponty would find it in what the body does and is always and already doing regardless of intentionality-logic.

So the next posts will be moving from the mind independent of everything to the mind and body not being distinct from each other both with their "unconscious" states of being. The Visible and the Invisible was Merleau-Ponty's last work. It will be an invigorating work to write on since the examples he gives are always lucid and incredibly descriptive. We are allowed the luxury of our body in Merleau-Ponty. The issue at hand in this specific text though is how the invisible "lines" the visible itself and how each would not exist without the other. Other issues will also arise, regarding the fact if he's really doing phenomenology when he enters into the inter-subjective zone when he goes into the fact that communication transcends his previous work of a pre-reflective cogito where one is limited to their pre-given body and perception. During these posts we will certainly go back to Husserl's criticism of science, sociology, Heidegger's ontology, existentialism, romantic prose, and everything else that doesn't fall under the "noble task of philosophy"; to understand it's pure sense. So while Mearleau-Ponty will be a good juxtaposition to Husserl, it will also enlighten Husserl's Crises as an absolute call to arms for what philosophy should Husserl's terms, which for better or worse, I find justified. That being said, we will take the rigorous thought of Merleau-Ponty and try to expatiate on it as faithfully as Derrida did with Husserl. I hope we can succeed.

Until the introduction to Merleau-Ponty's The Visible and the Invisible, I've been commissioned for some more writing at This week I get to have fun with lists titled "Top 10 ways to tell you're not as smart as you think you are" and "Top 10 Swedish Songs" among others. Until the introduction of the Merleau-Ponty text, have fun watching Zizek's "spontaneous attitude toward the concept of love".

Sunday, March 7, 2010

How faithful was Derrida to Husserl?; Conclusion to Derrida's interpretation of Husserl

With many books in the Western philosophical Cannon, one never really "reads" these books which is a point that Derrida makes in regards to the stabilization of 'figure'. The amount of elaboration on this specific Husserl text and Derrida's approach could really be never ending. I will be the first to admit that there were themes that I just had to skip over because they didn't jump out at me as being of central importance to Husserl's original impulse in his Origins of Geometry. While one accepts the fact of every interpretation being infinite, one is still left with a lack of consolation in not being able to ever fully grasp some of these texts to the level where one wants to grasp them; and especially Derrida. His analysis of Husserl is beyond meticulous. When reading an interpretative text from anyone, there's always a sense of distrust when approaching the text because of the fear of how much of that personality will enter into the text. This was not the case with Derrida, and I came in skeptical because of how much I've invested into Husserlian phenomenology as being the fundamental task of philosophy. As I had only read Derrida's own theoretical texts (E.G. De la grammatologie) before this, I didn't know what to expect from a purely interpretative text of his. Knowing that his interpretive powers were really arguably the best in the history of philosophy, I had a sense that he could be trusted with a Husserlian text. I was initially worried that all he read was the Crisis of the European Sciences with the Origins of Geometry as the addendum. These were worries I did not have to have at all. Derrida read Husserl meticulously quoting almost every published work of his in rigorous analasyes including the manuscripts that are just being published now, separated into their own texts. I could really spend a whole post talking about how faithful Derrida was to Husserl not just on the grounds of substance, but on the grounds that he was always trying to justify him in places of seemingly irreducible cul-de-sac's. It's with this in mind that Derrida would gain such an edge to his own thought as it continually evolved and changed in his lifetime. How close could someone come to empathizing with an author (not simply emotionally empathy, but theoretical empathy) more than Derrida did here with Husserl? It's almost as if he was speaking through him and entering into the solipsistic dialects that Husserl possibly went through himself. Regardless, instead of those who criticize Derrida for a "faulty interpretation of Husserl" and phenomenology in general, and those specifically who relate him to "your cranky uncle" (Robert Sokolowski in his Introduction to Phenomenology), one should commend the absolute intensity of Derrida's approach. I would ask someone like Robert Sokolowski to find where Derrida interpreted Husserl "wrongly", rather than referring to him in a couple paragraphs at the end of a book with no substance. To put it simply, as Derrida was as faithful to Husserl, we should be as faithful to Derrida's faithfulness towards Husserl.

With all that personality out of the way, we come to the final thoughts on Derrida's interpretation of Husserl, and for my eyes, Derrida is finding the project of Husserl in Hegel without necessarily stating it. In the last post we saw how the concept of Horizon gave grounds to temporality which constituted all subjectivity, and with this in mind we gain a sense of what the Transcendental Ego is. After this he asks then what are the essential and general components of the pre-scientific life world. We are given a sense of the pre-predicative world by Horizonality and Temporality, but what then of the pre-scientific world? The World that establishes the axiomatic foundation of geometry. There are 5 things which establish it,

- A thing must be disposed in space and time (Kant's fundamental category for any experience)
- These things must have been corporeal; a dimension of 'thinghood'
- These Pure Bodies have spatial shape and "alterations of deformation" (something that is "round" which is not subjectively evident has the possibility of changing into something else which is still not yet subjectively evident. )
- Material qualities must be "related" to these shapes (E.G. Roundness, Hardness, Heaviness. Even if an object "has a shape" a priori to "relatedness" they only gain their categorical qualities when there is a subject-who-relates. Here, Heidegger's concept of "care" is paramount because it signifies the idea that Dasein is always and already thrown into a place where it has to 'care' about things, not simply care in the sense of an affection for an other, but 'care' about anything in general
- that by a practical (Praxis) necessity of daily life, certain shapes and processes of transformation could be perceived, restored, and progressively perfected (And to understand this one could look towards at least 3 texts of Husserl starting with Formal and Transcendental Logic, Experience and Judgment, and Analyses Concerning Passive and Active Synthesis. The problem of temporality in regards to passive retention is the fundamental theme that is being elaborated here.).

This list above is what must first qualify a priori for the ideal of science to be understood.
From here on at the end of Derrida's interpretation of Husserl, everything that's being interpreted is abstract Hegelianism. For instance, Derrida states "The philosopher is a man who inaugurates the theoretical attitude; the latter is only the spirit's radical freedom, which authorizes a move beyond finitude and opens the horizon of knowledge as that of a prehaving, i.e. of an infinite project or task". So basically, "Spirit's" radical free is mans freedom to see that at one "time" they were being given pure spatial shapes that were then a matter of being "related" to qualities. This is one place of "Spirit", where it can be 'free', which here means to inquire back in time to something that had theoretically happened before. This certainly is radical freedom in the sense that it's not the case at all that anyone has to inquiry about anything beyond one's limited presence and finite "world-view". It's left to a philosopher to inaugurate the theoretical attitude. Here we see the "evolution" of consciousness that Hegel talked about in his Phenomenology of Spirit. Elsewhere Derrida states "Idea alone reveals the Being of intentionality itself. Nothing appears in a specific evidence. What does appear is only the regulative possibility of appearing and the finite certainty of infinite Phenomenological determinability; a certainty without a corresponding evidence". So there is no evidence in phenomenology. Phenomenology never lives up to a phenomenology because it never wants to live up to anything, and in this sense it lives up to it's own sense by giving radical responsibility to a concrete consciousness to try to understand itself independent of the Idea. By elaborating just how we and Derrida did on Phenomenology, the method starts to make sense. We allow things to appear and disappear just as they do in subjective phenomena. We have no evidence except for the fact that there is evidence in the first place. We run around a circle coming back to originality just as it's about to slip away as we turn the corner from that otherness-space of ideality. When we use the preposition "of" when describing phenomena, for example, that "the idea as the sense of all history", the "of" here concern the intentional absolute of objectivity. When doing phenomenology, one is trying to gain an independent sense of prepositions or that which simply relates things. For phenomenology, the substantive is the subject and the object/verb is the signified content that are in need of a substance to fill the gap between the two, "the gap" that Hegel pondered on his whole life, the space that he thought was the fundamental question of philosophy. Phenomenology elaborates on the preposition by braketing it's linguistic sense. As phenomenologistis, we don't just accept propositions and the grammatical terminology that has been given to parts of a proposition. We want to know what the "relatedness" means of the "of". We want to know about the deffered presence of the gap that always escapes our grasp because it's function is not to be ideally realizable by subjectivity. In the presence of a pointing, what is the sense? Husserl gave it a sense by given it static "knowables" addressed above, which come down to pre-requisites for experience, for intentionality, for subjectivity. On the final pages of Derrida's analysis, he states "The first philosophical act is only the sense-investigation of this historical rationality in the constant movement of self-elucidation". This is Hegelian through and through. It's here that I think that Derrida strays slightly off the path of his extraordinary faithfulness to Husserl that we talked about above. Derrida is seeking out the teleology of phenomenology through Hegel without sticking to the fact that Husserl always gets rid of the soul's natural faculties, in this case the teleological presupposition. Here's where I would differ from Derrida in the last quote. The first phenomenological act is only the sense-investigation of historical rationality, but never idealizes "the movement of self-elucidation". That Husserl always talked about "perfectings" is true. That this was his enterprise is not the case, and this gets to the heart of what can be said about Derrida's interpretation of Husserl, and it's this: Derrida chose to interpret Husserl's Origins of Geometry and not something else out of one of his many unpublished manuscripts at the time which tells me that Derrida was thoroughly interested in origins in general, meaning that Derrida's impulse was teleological, and in this sense, how faithful then can he be towards Husserl? Husserl never states things as broadly as "Philosophy opens up rationality to the constant movement of it's own self-elucidation". Not even Hegel says this, although readers of Hegel always summarize him this way when forced into positions where they are asked about a philosophy and have the unfaithfulness towards the philosopher by trying to describe him in a short amount of time. It was this exactly what Hegel wrote so passionately about in his preface to The Phenomenology of Spirit; that if you don't enter into reading a whole text and feeling it's changes, one isn't doing anything, which Derrida absolutely sympathizes with, more than anyone in late 20th century philosophy. Derrida goes on to say that language abdicates speaking being and that Husserl's project is to take on the responsibility of words and how they had been transferred from sense, in order to look after them, in advance. This is pedagogical. One is not simply learning words here, but looking after them always going back to their original sense. This impulse is etymological, but not necessarily phenomenological, although they overlap. In The Origins, Husserl is in a method of seeing sense. He's not looking after already established words in order to sustain their originality, no matter how much this gesture is commendable, certainly one that is practiced by Derrida. Husserl isn't finding a story, but seeing a sense. Most importantly though, what distinguishes Derrida from Husserl, is that Husserl isn't looking for difference as the Absolute Origin, quite the opposite, he's always looking for singuality, the singularity of the transcendental ego, of transcendental sense independent of the historical definition of what an "Origin" is. Husserl's phenomenology is constant and always changing, indeed, but never summed up as such for the phenomenologist, like I just did. Husserl asks a question without an impulse towards finding an answer, but an impulse towards finding "how" his question goes, regardless of it's reaching a theoretical destination, regardless of it having a historical origin, although he goes into these themes but only for the sake of establishing the eternal sense of intentionality, an establishing that sees but never "finds". Derrida's final words on Husserl regard the fact that pure consciousness is difference, always deferring a presence that a phenomenlogist would want to grasp...but does Husserl ever want to grasp whatever anyone means by "presence"? Certainly, he can see it, but does he ever stay in it? Does he ever sum it up in relation to it's temporality? Did Husserl just write his work on Internal Time Consciousness but not his work on Active and Passive Synthesis?

Husserl was almost messianically tied to his discipline. A discipline that would go in circles for eternity which Husserl would never see as a problem. Derrida would always stay faithful to this until the end of his interpretation where his teleological proclivities would come to the forefront, and I'm sure I'm going to get in trouble by Derridean academics on this. To save myself just a little but, I will quote Derrida at the end of the interpretation when he says " The pure and interminable disquietude of thought striving to 'reduce' Difference by going beyond factual infinity toward the infinity of its sense and value-that disquietude would be transcendental. And Thought's pure certainty would be transcendental, since it can look forward to the already announced Telos only by being in advance of the Origin that indefinitely reserves itself. Such a certainty never had to learn that Thought would always be to come".
I think this above quote is allowed as a summarization of the method of Husserlian Phenomenology...but that this method was always the problem or totality of phenomenology is not the case even as thought never had to learn that it was eventually going to happen to pure sense. What's not being accounted for...right the sense of what just happened...and the impulse, this accounting, never needed to be teleological, but simply directional.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sling around the posey


Idea lost to what had never been,
Dream taught to what had to sin,
Pace the lateness of origins song,
Forever deffered, no problem solved.


Can't speak to who I always see,
Repetition calls for what's mortally weak.
To glance my way without return or jaw,
A long lost love, when buried to thought.

The Stop

Forever returned to places to be,
A bridge thawed out in snow and sleet,
To name the space of what would grow,
Already in motion, a love to sow.

And tie our ways to glory's end,
A lack of courage, the scar of a pen.
To think of what could always be,
The fear of thought, the stop to see.


Walk around, in case I saw,
A place of forgiveness where otherness drawls.
Here thee are, make a human of me,
Sink thy claws, throw potpourri