Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Prodigal: Marion Returns from Khora to Luke

Marion's latest reading of 'The Prodigal Son' remains unintelligible apart from his analysis of 'fatherhood.' Fatherhood is the gift already reduced to givenness, and therefore without being, unconditional and without sovereignty. As such, this reduced gift of fatherhood exempts itself from reciprocity. "With fatherhood, the giver is manifested even insofar as he is absent, the recipient insofar as he defaults, and the gift in direct proportion to its unreality"(NC, 102; see the discussion in 98-114). The nexus between Caputo's thought on the weakness of the pure call, in its unconditionality and without sovereignty and Marion's analysis of a gift already and always reduced to givenness is striking here.

In his reading of Luke 15:11-32, Marion complicates his analysis of fatherhood with a "denial of the very fatherhood of the father" (149) and "lost...filiation" (150). Such denial and loss can only be reconciled to fatherhood in the death of the son. Indeed the death of the son results from his dissipation as his inheritance itself dissipates. Like Lear, the younger son yielded his ousia, but unlike Lear who crawls unburdened by being to the grave, the younger son crawls back to the father, who, through forgiveness, restores being to the son, who was dead but alive again. In this manner, all that fatherhood entails remains untouched by the son's loss and denial. Filiation is therefore just as unconditional, irrevocable and undeniable as fatherhood itself. The gift already reduced to givenness forgives the misinterpretation of the gift.

In a fascinating turn, Marion locates the operations of hermeneutics within the sons, whose conversions are prerequisite to their proper exercise of their hermeneutics. In order for the hermeneutics of the gift to interpret the gift of life and filiation correctly, the gift itself must operate as pure gift. The sons must see the gift as the gift already given in givenness without being, without causality and sufficient reason. The unconditional call of the father echoes within the son when he realizes that he has spent his inheritance and has become destitute. Dispossessed, the younger son, who has lost "the call" (150), rediscovers it as its response, which is the return from khora to the father. Forgiveness, "the gift given over again," allows the father and son, gift and gifted, to be unveiled: "the unveiling of the father as father coincides with the unveiling of the son as son" (150-51). This "complete phenomenon of the gift" dictates the operation of its hermeneutic in the hands of the son possessed of conversion, metanoia, but also a turn toward the father.

The elder son, feeling a bit disenfranchised by what seems to him to be an overreaction to his brother's return, disowns his brother by relinquishing him into filiation: "this son of yours has squandered your property" (Luke 15:30). But the father, in giving his fatherhood to his elder son ("you are always with me and everything I have is yours" [15:31]), unveils both sons' filiation, and restores brother to brother: "this brother of yours was dead and is alive again" (15:32). Hence, the gift already reduced to givenness, offers itself in love and life. The elder son's hermeneutics will receive the gift by accepting it in its givenness, or not.

Fatherhood lacks sovereignty because it cannot participate in the economy of the gift and reciprocity. This gift already reduced to givenness can make no claim on economic return, but in its unconditionality, effects a return nonetheless. The father of the two sons make no gift of property as Lear does. Lear, unable to forgive, fatally operates within the economy of an impure, inadequate gift, which he wants to give again but cannot because it is always arrested by reciprocity. Instead, the father in the parable merely passes what is already the son's to the son: "he only does him justice in an equal exchange" (149).

I wonder why Marion ignores the father with two sons in King Lear, Gloucester, and his sons Edmund and Edgar. In this famous sub-plot, the play of the natural attitude and the reduction to fatherhood provides a compelling version of a difference in filial hermeneutics.

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