Thursday, September 17, 2015

Hermeneutics of Plasticity in Marion's Approach to Givenness

And to continue with more preliminary remarks...

The primacy of givenness in Marion's phenomenology creates inversions not only in metaphysics but in phenomenology itself. The centrality of the horizon bends toward givenness itself, which decenters 'horizon,' the sine qua non of the phenomenological gesture. Givenness does not erase the horizon, but puts it in play, allows it to multiply into a play of horizons that have become more fluid than was possible in the traditional practice of phenomenology. This kind of plasticity of the horizon and the allowance for multiplicity cannot be limited to the horizon, as its thrust impacts on the recipient of phenomena in more tangible and practical ways.

When Marion speaks of the 'ontological status' of the gaze, he speaks of hermeneutics---he can only mean hermeneutics. The anteriority of givenness suggests that the modifications of the gaze, which modify the thing itself, are rooted in the given. The asymmetric laterality of the phenomenological moment locates plasticity on the side of the recipient. In Marion's concept of phenomenality, that which gives itself does so unconditionally and therefore even in the absence of the gaze of the recipient, though the modes of phenomenality---the modes of the appearance of objects and events---depend on the existential experience of the recipient.

If Marion's approach is to remain coherent, the approach must always stipulate the origin of the ontological status of the gaze: givenness---the given calls the gaze into being. The 'self' of the given 'inscribes' its hermeneutic upon the self of the recipient. This kind of inscription should be thought of less as writing than as a shaping or a forming of the receiving self, while all hermeneutical variations trace to Dasein.

Such inscriptions and formations locate the negative certainty within the phenomenological moment in the plasticity of the receiving self. Akin to Keat's 'negative capability,' this uncertainty marks an acceptance within the receiving self of such uncertainty, which enables it to remain open to givenness. This understanding problematizes the nature of the recipient and renders it vulnerable to the obvious critique of the romantic impulse, which conjures up the 'critic-as-artist' or 'critic-as-hero' (read hermeneut, recipient for critic here). Yet, the recipient engages in a poeisis, not necessarily of an 'overflow of powerful feelings' but of an experience of phenomenality whose gradations or degrees of saturation or objectness can be 'recollected in (the) tranquility' of a counter-experience (pace Wordsworth).

Marion always insists nearly everywhere that his phenomenology does not identify actuality but, instead, possibility; he famously insists on this distinction to distinguish theology from phenomenology as they regard the actuality and possibility, respectively, of revelation. Still, a theopoetics is what the recipient reports back from her experience. Depending on the hermeneutical variations inducted by Dasein and the modifications of the gaze as constituted by givenness and as modifying givenness, the recipient will report back about either an object or an event.

I must insist that the unconditionality of givenness requires all modifications of the given are a function of the modified and modifying gaze, which cannot alter the essence of the given, but the aperture of the gaze upon it. As the self, inscribed and formed by givenness, waxes in its plasticity, its modified gaze strengthens to lift a bit higher the veil on the given. Degrees of unveiling are enabled therefore by the given giving itself to the receiving self, in its hermeneutic of plasticity. This process of the gift giving itself---the event of the gift---is the hermeneutical event from the side of the recipient. These are, apparently, often the same event.

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