Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Phenomenology and the Self: An Asymmetric Laterality of Phenomenality

In light of Jean-Luc Marion's critique, rehabilitation and appropriation of the Cartesian subject, especially as viewed through the lens of Christina M. Gschwandtner's discussion in her Reading Jean-Luc Marion ("Phenomenology of the Self"), I would like to revisit the relationship of the self to the given in the phenomenological moment. Previously, I have attempted to blunt the dialectical tension within the concept of 'polarity' of the 'self' and the 'given' which is prominent in the critique of Marion's work in this area, and I opted for a  more neutral notion of 'sidedness' or laterality, despite the asymmetry inherent in the relationship between either side of phenomenality. I have posited a concept of phenomenodynamics and phenomenokinetics (quite frankly, based on the analogy with the principles of pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics in medicine and drug therapy), where the former describes the effects on the given upon the gifted, and the latter describes the effects of the gifted upon the given.

Individuation and the formation of the 'self' are constituted by the 'given' in this moment. In order to maintain the utter freedom in which the given gives itself in its degrees of saturation, and to maintain the unconditionality and anonymity of any 'pure gift' or 'pure call,' there must be at the core of phenomenality a productive 'back and forth,' an oscillation (Schwebe, nach K. Rahner) between given and gifted that has the fortuitous effect of bringing the self into itself more fully, which increasingly opens the aperture upon the given which is always showing itself fully. The gaze of the viewing, receiving subject itself  remains  open to individuation, which is a response to the 'call' (i.e., interlocuted, interpellated), shaped by the given. Phenomenodynamically, the given opens into the subjectivity of a self that is always emerging, individuating it into something new. Phenomenokinetically, the widening  gaze of an emerging, individuating self opens the aperture upon the given. The nature of the aperture is problematic (is it 'really' a feature of the given, or of the gaze?), but practically speaking, in terms of the laterality of the phenomenological moment, the aperture seems to straddle either side, hence, it also seems to be constitutive of the relationality that inheres there.

This schematic flux of phenomenality has implications for how the given and gifted radiate their relationality. If the aperture works to show degrees of givenness, in which phenomena have the characteristic of presenting as simple objects or less saturated phenomena, or intuition-busting, intention-bending embarrassingly rich saturated phenomena par excellence, such types of givenness and saturation 'depend' on the recipient. The recipient/gaze cannot be constitutive of the unconditionality or anonymity of  the given, but only of how these enter experience. If I may bastardize Lacan's 'mirror stage' here, the glass dimly seen might be able to interrogate the gaze. Since one does not look into the face of the Gorgon and live, the gaze must either be reflected or refracted---the given is always privileged in givenness and objectivity (it 'is' there regardless of a gaze; it need not enter phenomenality).

Individuation, the gaze, the aperture, the given and the gifted play out upon a version of Lacan's mirror,  which for our purposes is a shape-shifting, property-altering, flexi-plexi-glass mirror. It distorts but it also represents; it reflects but also refracts the gaze; and behind the glass something beckons. The gifted can see its own image, but never in isolation: it is always upon the surface of the glass: it can see its wholeness as a differentiating flesh, but always surrounded by surfaces reflective and translucent, but never quite transparent. It sees, yet it sees within the possibility of being seen---interrogated, read, perhaps even received---loved. At times, it suspects that the mirror is a two-way mirror, like the one in police and FBI interrogation rooms. It might not be love at all.

This 'mirror' gives an account of saturation, which can be of several types, but certainly the icon and the idol. The icon saturates the intuition by bending the gaze through a translucency of the glass that allows for being seen (open to the other); the idol saturates through its massive reflection of the gaze back upon the subject, which knows its image is contextualized but declines the company and becomes isolated within a flesh that can only be seen by itself, and forecloses 'being seen' (solipsism). A self poised toward openness receives the gift as that gift individuates the subject and its gaze which can orient itself upon the aperture that determines the degree of givenness that can come into view, into phenomenality. The play on the mirror is a game of surfaces. The asymmetric laterality straddled by the aperture upon the given might add degrees of porosity of those surfaces into either side of phenomenological moment.

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