Sunday, November 29, 2015

Finitude Poised for Metamorphosis: Understanding Emmanuel Falque's Sense of Analogy

Emmanuel Falque's The Metamorphosis of Finitude: An Essay on Birth and Resurrection (NY: Fordham Univ. Pr., 2012; first published as Metamorphose de la Finitude: Essai Philosophique sur la Naissance et la Resurrection, 2004), presents 'finitude' within the context of the 'preemptive right of the infinite over the finite' in modern philosophy and phenomenology (MF, 16-17). Falque rejects the notion that finitude has its origin in the infinite, the notion that finitude is a snippet of the infinite within its tracing of infinity. Hence, we, in our finitude, do not first see ourselves as some imperfect piece of the perfect, but first see ourselves as defined by our facticity, our being within the plane of immanence, which, for us is 'impassable' (not impassible). Heavily indebted to Heidegger, Falque proceeds from our thrownness, our birth into a Dasein whose future is foreclosed by death. How shall we think Falque's 'finitude' productively?

If infinity is like a 'line,' a vector extending in two directions infinitely, then finitude is like a 'line segment,' with its end points of birth and death. This segment does not actually come from any pre-existing line as defined in basic geometry, but as a thing foreclosed in a being whose ends are clearly defined. Finitude knows of nothing in excess of its endpoints; it knows only of itself. This 'positiveness of finitude' is independent of the finite 'insufficiency of man' and of the infinite ( the plenitude of God), and it alone shapes Dasein (MF 18). Still, we must continue to think of the segment as in some way detached (I use the term advisedly in light of this theological motif in Meister Elkhart) from the line. Indeed, Falque depends on the play of this relation as he interprets the Incarnation as finitude coming face to face with the infinite as the Logos interdigitates with the flesh.

The likeness of the line segment to the line plays out in the 'apperceptive transposition' of suffering of the flesh of the Son to the Father (MF 67-74). The image and likeness of the segment to the line is the affinity of the one to the other. This image and likeness though plays on the horizon of finitude and the plane of immanence (not a 'concept' of immanence). The analogy of finitude and the infinite derives then solely from the Incarnation, where the very finitude of Dasein rests in the perichoresis of Trinity, which does not threaten in any way the integrity of the divine life (MF, 88-90).

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Solving the Deepest Issue in America

AOL News reports today that:

the president of the Rocky Mountains chapter of Planned Parenthood, Vicki Cowart, suggested a climate of rancor surrounding abortion in the United States sets the stage for such violence.
"We share the concerns of many Americans that extremists are creating a poisonous environment that feeds domestic terrorism in this country," she said.

Abortion certainly captures the Catholic imagination, and the Church clearly teaches that abortion has no place in a lived Catholicism, which also suggests that it has no role in a lived monotheism.

What is delightful in Vicki Cowart's remarks is her identification of the great American problem: 'a climate of rancor' and a 'poisonous environment that feeds domestic terrorism.' In one profound statement, Cowart has marshalled all the powers of her formidable, critical mind to denounce dissent in America, and identify an American terrorism no different from what has been lately visited upon the world. With her single and incisive statement, Cowart has equated Paris, Syria, 9/11, and global terrorism with the rancorous abortion issue in the U.S.

A terrorist is a terrorist is a terrorist.

Though officials have not released any information about the motives of the deranged shooter who killed 3 and injured 9 others, Cowart has determined that the shooter is profoundly 'pro-life,' and therefore violent: 'rancor' transforms the embrace of life into murder and mayhem, according to this president of the Rocky Mountains chapter of Planned Parenthood. Religious terror is simply religious terror, and any distinctions are merely distinctions without differences.

Cowart places Planned Parenthood in the bistros and theatres of Paris, and in the World Trade Center, and she likens this shooter to the radicalized elements of ISIS sympathizers and actants.

Cowart's strategy succeeds grandly because the American system is a 'stage for such violence,' and I applaud her for having the courage to equate the U.S. to ISIS. American liberal democracy has had its run, and now, as Cowart would have it, another form of government must step in and change the culture that breeds 'such violence' and feeds American terrorism.

Cowart has determined once and for all that mental illness and terrorism are the same entity. She has also proven that American 'extremists,' like theirs radical Islamist extremist counterparts, are part of the same global movement. The rancor must be silenced and the war on domestic terrorism must make America safe for abortion.

Vicki Cowart should run for president of the U.S. Her visionary gleam is just what America needs. The editors of AOL News should manage her campaign.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Emmanuel Falque and John Caputo: Martha and Mary Appear in Meister Ekhart

The resurgence of interest in mysticism in 20th century phenomenology, and its continuation into the 21st century worries and fascinates me. Both John Caputo and Emmanuel Falque (along with many other thinkers in the philosophy of religion) recognize an indebtedness to Heidegger's indebtedness to Meister Ekhart, while further incurring debt to the mediaeval mystic. I worry because phenomenology has a plasticity about it that enables its becoming all things to all people in cataphatic splendor and idealism, and I remain fascinated by its methodological edge that cuts to an apophatic and fecund space where an authentic realism takes root. Ekhart's sermon on Luke 10:38-42, the story of Jesus' visit to Martha and Mary's home, has entered the thinking of Caputo and Falque powerfully, and perhaps in complementary ways.

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying.  But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things;  there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42, NRSV)

Caputo begins with Ekhart's privileging of Martha over Mary, despite Jesus' remark that Mary, sitting at his feet, "has chosen the better part," an inversion of the traditional mediaeval embrace of the vita comtemplativa  over against the vita activa. Martha responds to the Jesus event in her midst with an urgent agency that makes a space for bringing into existence something that insists (The Insistence of God, 43-49).  She makes a space ready for a very physical and fleshly Jesus, whose bodily needs are as important as his spiritual gifts. She is, in a sense Jesus' partner. Mary, on the other hand, remains enthralled by the call, and unable to respond as a partner, but as one lost in the music of the calling voice, paralyzed by insistence.

Falque reads Ekhart to be embracing Martha as one who already understands the flesh as transformed in the Resurrection. Falque follows Ekhart closely as the latter reads Martha, in effect, as already having been at the feet of Jesus and as one already enacting the life of the spirit by engaging the necessities of the life of the body. 

Meister Ekhart...described, in the visit of Jesus to Martha and Mary..., a kind of prefiguration of our mode of being resurrected. Martha...has in fact a kind of superiority over her sister Mary. She doesn't stay there sitting (objectively) at the feet of the Savior and listening to him but lets herself be inhabited (subjectively) by him. She remains detached from him...because he is in her. (The Metamorphosis of Finitude, trans. G. Hughes, NY: Fordham Univ. Pr., 2012)

Falque's definition of resurrection as 'transformation' of the 'manner of living' in this world and this world itself as embodied in Martha,  seems to complement Caputo's move from insistence to existence, from a call of an event, to an agency responding to that call. The response to the call in Caputo's schema is analogous to the transformations of in Falque's, which in turn, are analogous to Caputo's advent of the Kingdom. It seems then that Falque would agree with Caputo's assessment of Martha:

We take as a model the agency of Martha, the wife who was a virgin. Martha acts, but she acts from the ground of the soul, which is one with the ground of God. that means she is an agent mobilized in response to a provocation, to an event, who gives existence to an insistence, and that existence takes the form of the most material and quotidian reality(Insistence, p.48).

Friday, November 20, 2015

Levi Bryant on the Real and Monsters

I don't think I've ever done this before, but I simply want to direct readers to Levi Bryant's essay, "Ages of Monsters: Of Gods and Monsters," on Larval Subjects. On a personal note, I think Levi's thoughts resonate with some ideas floating in this blog, and I am sympathetic to his musings.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Folly of God: John Caputo's Tetragrammatology

It is unclear to me if John Caputo's The Folly of God: A Theology of the Unconditional (Polebridge: Salem, OR, 2016) [F] is the final installment in a trilogy comprised of his earlier work, The Weakness of God: A Theology of the Event [W], and The Insistence of God: A Theology of Perhaps [I]. I am equally unsure that the last 3 books Caputo has published does not comprise some kind of valediction, as there is language in It Spooks, Hoping Against Hope and even F that is elegiac and valedictory. Perhaps these observations are nothing more than a recognition of Caputo's farewell to the academy, though he seems to pop up everywhere these days.

F is a brief volume that lays out Caputo's own (Tetra)Grammatology, in which he articulates the great themes of his previous work. In a nutshell, Caputo wants to leave a lasting impression of these four letters of deconstruction:

1. Anything culturally mediated is constructed.
2. Anything constructed is deconstructible.
3. Deconstructibility arises from any mediation, as inscribed spacetime ('from below') or from the 'pressure' of the undeconstructible itself ('from above').
4. Deconstructibility is constituted by conditionality, and undeconstructibility is constituted by unconditionality. (F, 23-29).

Hence, the call, the pure call that has captured the imagination of those enthralled by what's been going on in continental philosophy, unconditional and without sovereignty (cf. W), pressures 'from above' (but whence we know not), from undeconstructibility.

Unconditionality and undeconstructibility play out in the trace, the 'gramme' as Caputo states. The trace is what is already there, what already might be there, written before the letter is traced there. This is the locus of 'perhaps' (cf. I). The trace does a good deal of heavy lifting, for Caputo, and certainly for Derrida. Caputo repeats Derrida's grammatology in F (in his trilogy?) as a writing of a 'tetragrammatology' (my coinage, not in Caputo or F) of deconstruction, which is a way of making straight the path of the conditions for the release of the event (cf. W) which calls from the unconditional, anonymously.

After all this prolegomena to charity how can Caputo get it so wrong? How can he, after tracing the Protestant Principle  (after Barth's [ecclesia] semper reformanda) through the Jewish Principle (after Derrida's "semper deconstruenda"), let 'narrative time' lull him into misreading simul justus et peccator as an economy of a false gift, falsified by reciprocity? The sheep and the goats of Matthew 25 are pure Vorstellung, and they must not be read as a corruption of innocence (F, 119ff.). As I have argued elsewhere, all the parables and parabolic narratives (of which Matthew 25 is clearly one) are perlocutionary acts.

A more subtle hermeneutic allow for the possibility that the goats and sheep are the existential reality of the 'blessed of my father.' These actors in Matthew 25 are at once sheep and goats, and are liable to an act of faith and the justice to come already visited upon them. Caputo, then, has mistraced the trace in his reading into some imagined economy of reward and punishment. The sheep are traced into the goats, the goats into the sheep; and that trace is unconditional and without sovereignty---the goat-sheep in the 'blessed of my father' is undeconstructible. We must not, as Caputo warns (F, 126f), "confuse the unconditional (undeconstructible) with the conditional (deconstructible)." We must "[r]emember that in all this" (even when we appear in Matthew 25) "we play the role of the justus et peccator."

If W, I and F are a trilogy, then they certainly offer a vision of religion, not necessarily one 'without religion,' but one which itself is the trace that ghosts the letters in 'confessional' religions. The religion of the trace is the religion that is already traced in the insistence of the letter in all religion. Whenever the word is written, it is traced upon a form that comes from somewhere,  that can never completely be traced over, leaving a slight blur, a haze on the page that lets the words reverberate, that lets the already written come though the tracing of a letter. There is a quietude there, in the gentle beckoning of the trace, the call of the trace that quickens the letter of the word, and the word of the letter. It insists from above and from below, and even from the legacy of Caputo's tetragrammatology of the perhaps---the weakness, the folly and the insistence of God.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Is Paris Burning?

It has been only a few short months since this blog discussed sacramental violence offered in the name of religion. 

Paris, again, has become the stage on which a vampiric ISIS once again slakes its thirst with the blood of innocents. This deranged version of Islam seeks to execute an ideology of blood. This ideology, feckless in the light and dancing in the dark, knows itself only through the blood of the other. Like the Germanic monster, Grendel, it recoils at joy, and its heart laughs in the broken bones and blood of misery.

The joy and laughter of ISIS at the blood burning the streets of Paris is the joy and laughter of the Zizekian pervert. This misbegotten child infatuated with its image in the mirror continues to engage in a horrific oedipal struggle for the will of the infidel.

Such an ideology, hiding behind, or living between the raindrops of religion, only wants more blood. Che vuoi? A reduplicating 'more of the same,' more lust for sameness, more gluttony for blood. Jouissance of the pervert is the fantasy that sameness is safe, and the other is malleable.

ISIS is the ideology of the blood of the other: it drinks for everlasting life as its fangs etch its signature of violence into anything human. Like all perverts seeking to become the object of desire of its big other, it ultimately seeks self-annihilation.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Death of the Flesh: The Way of All Flesh as the Calling of Religious Community

The natural disposition of the flesh rejects non-self. Auto-immune disease results from the flesh's self mistaking itself for non-self: the flesh rejects itself. Since I provisionally accept that the body can become diseased, but we always suffer in the flesh, the self never finds itself in the body. The self and the flesh form a unity. Immunology, though, occludes the possibility of any kind of dualism in this state of affairs.

When we declare the death of the body, the body, or parts of the body often remain viable; transplant medicine bases its project on this condition. Transplantation poses problems for the flesh, as it sets up a collision of two selves. The donor's self remains in the organ (the graft) that survives the death of its body, and when transplanted into the body (the host) of another imbued with flesh, self and non-self reject each other, in the clashes of host versus graft and graft versus host. The solution to this problem is to alter the host (and graft), via immune-suppression, so that it does not recognize non-self.

As we keep the matters of the self (or selves) in mind, we can return to death. That the body, or parts of the body remains viable, we continue to note that the body experiences disease and dying, but only the flesh experiences death. Dying of the body implies cessations of functions, shutting down of systems resulting from disease. But death never completely comes to the body until every process within it ends. Such is death for the body: absolute cessation of processes. I think HAL had it right as it flashed: "life functions terminated."

The flesh suffers, and it eventually suffers death. This death is the death of the self, as the flesh and self saturate each other: there is no room for another flesh or self: relationality, saturated with the flesh, in its very excess precludes another self in the same place. Self rejects non-self.

Which is the richer phenomenon, the living on of the body, with all its life-processes and genetic coding for more function and more life, albeit in the flesh of another, or the "living on" of the flesh and self, in their excess of relationality, after the suffering of death? We cannot speak here of an "afterlife," for otherwise we would not be speaking of a saturated phenomenon: we speak therefore of the life of the flesh, and the death of the flesh. The saturated phenomenon of the flesh achieves a negative certainty that the death of the flesh and death of the body are different phenomena. Better we should speak of something like an "afterdeath," or come up with a more robust understanding of death as it applies to the flesh. The reader should abandon this reflection now if she expects a discussion of 'consciousness after death' to ensue.

The event of death forecloses on disclosure. We defer any exploration of the relationship between self and consciousness. Instead we maintain the location of consciousness in the flesh and body of living creatures. So our question[s]: does the givenness of death constitute the self of the recipient in the phenomenological moment? Is that constitution fatal, or does it itself impart 'mortality?' Because we do not experience death as the death of our own flesh as a counter-experience, we are open only to the experience of the death of the other as death of the flesh. This is not to say that we do not have some experience of some aspect of death as our own, and in this regard, imaginative variations of the reduction can be in play; but because of the foreclosure of the event to us, that is, the necessarily incomplete 'reportage' of this event, the reception of death has no place to project itself.

If the flesh grounds Dasein's being in the world and its authentication through its being toward death, then at least one response of the self to the givenness of death is expectation. This is the way of all flesh: to receive formation of the self from the givenness of death, not in its lethality but in its invitation to authenticity, albeit in the manner of a special case of expectation: of advent and a messianism. The givenness of death calls the self into being, the self into a formation. The community, grounded in the experience of the self as the witness of phenomenality of the death of the other, arises in response to the same call.

The death of the other discloses terror or hope; if terror then a community of magic and superstition arises. If hope, a community of advent, of a messianism of an anonymous religion, an unthematic religion, arises. The former community is poised for a pantheon, the latter for Mashiach. The former is poised for rejection of non-self; the latter is poised for the self of the other as another in the flesh that is the image and likeness of my flesh. In this manner the phenomenality of death, the event of death, recapitulates the call of a community into the event of religion in each and every death; as the 'called' community recapitulates the givenness of death in the phenomenological moment. It is through religion that expectation, the response to the givenness of death, opens upon the possibility of revelation.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Givenness is Always in its Place (another brief note)

In a previous post, I asserted that 'givenness is the Real.' To carry the synthesis further, givenness is always in its place. Many disciplines have appropriated Lacan's register theory (RSI), perhaps most recently, Levi Bryant's onticology, in a lecture on speculative realism and Borromean critical theory (2013). Perhaps givenness, then, is recognized not for its existence, but for its insistence, which would suggest a folding of the Real upon the Symbolic; for it is the unconscious that insists as Lacan has famously noted and DeLay has explained in his God is Unconscious.

If I might be as bold, I would suggest that the Real, Symbolic and Imaginary registers of Lacanian psychoanalysis have application to Marion's new phenomenology. It could turn out, of course, that my appropriation does little more than provide a helpful analogy; but I offer it as a means to understand the structure of the phenomenological moment. If givenness unfolds in the register of the Real, perhaps, phenomenality does so in the Symbolic, and counter-experience in the Imaginary.

The relationship between the phenomenon and phenomenality is structured like a language, and unfolds in the Symbolic register as a play between noesis (receiving) and noema (giving).

Counter-experience is already locked into language and representation; it therefore belongs to the refolding within the register of the Imaginary. The imaginary already 'knows' that something has occurred within the Real, and through the opening called 'lack' lets something escape from the Symbolic order into some kind of locution.

The provisional quality here is quite obvious. Time will tell if register theory opens phenomenology to greater comprehensibility.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A brief Note on [In]Dividuation: Levi Bryant in the Folds (Falling in Love with Deleuze All Over Again)

Levi Bryant has presented an interesting turn on Deleuze's '[in]dividuation' in his Larval Subjects piece, "Of Folds and Vortices."

Though Bryant's experience of writing locates dividuation further downstream from where I located it in the liminal zone between the Real and the Imaginary, he describes something similar:

Where writing is a verb, the unfolding of a thought that she has not yet thought, the written is the dead letter, fallen into matter and now present in the world.  She has been dividuated by her writing.  The author is always two.  She is the writing, but also the written that persists after her.  She is responsible for and before the written, yet also not it.  She is responsible for what she has written, for she inscribed those things and made them actual in the world.

So if dividuation refers to the blurring within the transformation between registers, then the transformation or translation, neither fully actualized, deferred always in the hazy oscillations of their liminality, point to the dyadic essence of the phenomenological moment: the laterality inscribed by givenness and the recipient that saturates relationality. I agree with Bryant that dyadism is in no way a dualism. Laterality, as I have described it recently, has nothing to do with dualism.

These observations might come to bear on the blurring of horizons that have earned Marion much critique. If Marion's thought of the plasticity of horizons fits into, for example, Catherine Keller's Cloud of the Impossible, it would be in a 'fold,' a Cusanian wrinkle in reality. Marion, after all, is no stranger to Deleuze. And I wonder, how great a distance there really is between Deleuze's "Postscript on the Societies of Control" (October, 59, Winter, 1992) and Marion's flirtation with Agamben in Negative Certainties.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Writing as Counter-Experience: The Saturation of the Lacanian Real

Derrida concerned himself with the privileging of speech over writing, yet he did not have Jacques Lacan’s registers of the Real, Symbolic and Imaginary ready at hand to interrogate the problem of the distance between speech and writing, or more exactly the distance between the movements within the pre-linguistic faculty to the linguistic gestures of speech and writing. In his God is Unconscious, Tad DeLay has introduced a productive plasticity in the Lacanian registers that might illuminate the saturated phenomenon of the givenness of pre-linguistic activity that shape the counter-experience of speaking and writing.


…[A]nything conscious is Imaginary…The Imaginary fuses with reality qua reality in perception…[T]he Imaginary is what is artificially produced. (GiU, 8)


By ‘plasticity’ I do not suggest a deformation or disfigurement of the pre-linguistic---what is going on in the register of the Real, but an immediate, constituting givenness whose suppleness and flexibility gives rise to the mediate realm, which results in a movement into the imaginary (but symbolic, too, as the register of the unconscious) order. As Delay notes, “Lacan calls the Real that which is unassimilable, the impasse of formalization, a knocking at the door that wakes us up before we have gathered our wits to interpret the knocking as a visitor” (GiU, 19). If what is given, knocks itself into our perception, gives itself unconditionally, on its own sui generis, de novo terms, outside all constitution of a priori categories, or a constituting self, then not only is givenness within the register of the Real, but of the same cloth as the Real: better yet, givenness is the Real.

The experience of writing is a rather ordinary, banal experience. But what precisely is writing, whence does it come? We automatically link writing to language, but how does language enter the imaginary order of writing, of text? It is only in the pre-linguistic, pre-textual, pre-intertextual Real that the stirrings of language have their unconditional antecedents. Hence, the experience of the Real, of the givenness of language, emerges in the counter-experience of speaking and writing, which are the produced artifacts of what moves in the pre-linguistic space. This mode of production involves the biological vocalizations, 'speech,' (in this case, of humans) and other symbolic (an unfortunate term here) representations that point to referents.

When I say ‘speech’ I refer to the behavior that uses phonation to effect a sign system which communicates (that is, incompletely translates) the Real to the Imaginary. I do not ever mean to imply ‘a speech,’ something that might be read from a text. That would simply be a sonic rendering of writing. I am talking about the simple behavior of speech which is the extemporaneous speaker’s quagmire, the campaign manager’s nightmare. The very distance between the Real and the imaginary orders underscores the possibilities of lapsus linguae, the imprecision of meaning, the “let me tell you what I meant by that,” the inherent dyslexia of the traversal of the pre-linguistic, pre-textual into marriage of the speaker with her speech, which ironically is the basis of the privilege. When phonation marries its source to the voice of the speaker, an authorization has taken place that is completely absent from writing, which comes from no one knows (at least for sure).

The dyslexic noise, the interference of mediation, (nearly?) detaches the Real from the symbolic. The fall into mediation reflects the distance between thought (or pre-thought) and the word. The imprecision of writing and speech in the symbolic order underscores the saturation of Real imposed on the intuition of language. Because the givenness of this saturated phenomena overwhelms the apparatus of the imaginary order, our experience of the saturated phenomenon of the Real can only enter into the side of the imaginary as a counter-experience. The Real is always ‘there’ completely, unconditionally, of itself by itself in a manner that always saturates the intuition, which in turn thwarts intentionality, in this case, speech and writing. “That is not what I meant, not what I meant at all.”

Back in the days when Noam Chomsky was better known (at least to linguists) as a neo-grammarian than as a political gadfly, a transformational-generative grammar observed rules of engagement that tended to generate less dyslexic surface structures. The new grammar had a kind of certainty and predictability built into it that could not account for a slip of the tongue beyond phonemic discreteness (that language employs sound-bytes that sometimes float away from the larger sound-bytes with which they associate more or less tenaciously). The neo-grammarians were the last structuralists, the last bastion of modernity that could not accommodate the onslaught of post-structuralism inaugurated by Jacques Derrida, who, with Lacan before him (alas, Lacan remained steadfastly a structuralist, as many of his apologists do today), demonstrated that no sign, no sign-system is not already constructed, and therefore deconstructible. Writing and speech then, are deconstructible,  whereas givenness and the Real are undeconstructible.

If writing as such describes a general experience for those who write, then the experience of writing as a mere approximation of the experience of pre-thinking, the movements that lead to writing, would meet the criteria for both the banality and counter-experience of a saturated phenomenon. Of course, not every experience of the movements that lead to writing, and even speech are saturated. They are often not only banal, but quite routine. Some of the simplest performative speech acts testify to this simple objectness of some thoughts: “fill ‘er up with the regular, please;” “move out of the way;” “buy me this.” The connectivity between a Real need and an act that satisfies that need automatizes the relationship between what is immediate, and its mediate expression, even if that Real need itself might be a saturated phenomenon. The automaticity in such simple expressions avoids the interrogation of the need itself, and simply gets something immediate done via the mediate. Of course, such automaticity also begs the question of the experience of the movements within the Real itself.