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Table of contents :
Front Matter ....Pages i-x
Front Matter ....Pages 1-1
Introduction (Guoping Zhao)....Pages 3-7
Time and Existence (Guoping Zhao)....Pages 9-11
Space and Time (Guoping Zhao)....Pages 13-16
Time and Recognition (Guoping Zhao)....Pages 17-23
Primal Sensibility (Guoping Zhao)....Pages 25-32
Pure Experience (Guoping Zhao)....Pages 33-46
Primal Sensibility and the Other Time (Guoping Zhao)....Pages 47-59
Timelessness (Guoping Zhao)....Pages 61-69
Temporality and Existent (Guoping Zhao)....Pages 71-76
Being or Nothingness? Infinity and the Porous Existent (Guoping Zhao)....Pages 77-83
Death and the Beginning, or Infinite Time (Guoping Zhao)....Pages 85-97
Transcendence and Subjectivity (Guoping Zhao)....Pages 99-103
Front Matter ....Pages 105-105
Spatiality, Temporality, and Thinking (Guoping Zhao)....Pages 107-112
“Substance” and Imagination (Guoping Zhao)....Pages 113-118
On Reason and Rationality (Guoping Zhao)....Pages 119-124
Kant’s Imagination and Time (Guoping Zhao)....Pages 125-134
Self-Identity and Narrative Imagination (Guoping Zhao)....Pages 135-140
The Existent and Self-Identity (Guoping Zhao)....Pages 141-146
“Who Are You?” and “Who Am I?”: Self-Identity and Narrative Presentation (Guoping Zhao)....Pages 147-154
Back Matter ....Pages 155-157
Subjectivity and Infinity Time and Existence guopi ng z h ao
Subjectivity and Infinity
Subjectivity and Infinity Time and Existence
Guoping Zhao Oklahoma State University Stillwater, OK, USA
ISBN 978-3-030-45589-7 ISBN 978-3-030-45590-3 (eBook) https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-45590-3 © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland
For my children: Emma and Matthew
This volume was written over several years, but the questions I attempt to address have been with me since my early years, perhaps in different forms of expression. They are not questions about the meaninglessness of life and how we can find meaning for it; on the contrary, they are about the mysteriousness of life and why we cannot pinpoint the mystery. I want to know how to understand the part of my existence that is lingering underneath but is never present at hand. Yet the answers always slip through my grip. It is something that gives rise to spirituality and morality, and I want to account for it, not as an add-on—like art and religion are often seen as add-ons to the basic necessity of thinking and surviving—but as an essential part of how we exist in the world. But this book is not intended to just address my own questions. Similar concerns and questions have been manifest as least since Nietzsche. The numerous challenges to the “modern subject” have attended to the different, the decentered, or the sensual. Yet the attempts are often framed in impoverishing dichotomous terms of the identical and the negative, or the intellectual and the corporeal. I don’t think we can grasp the richness and complexity of subjectivity unless we also see how the frame has been broken. Drawing freely on the resources I know, both Western and Eastern, I find myself dissatisfied with both. I want an account of human subjectivity that is not limited to the modern Western approach tied to praxis but also does not follow the path of the leap of faith on which Eastern claims are often made.
It is in time and temporality that I have found the gate that opens to the mystery of our existence. Reconsidering time and its relationship with us is to untie the seemingly inseparable association of time and consciousness and open up human temporality to its unrealized potential. In my mind, such reconsideration is revolutionary, as it breaks free from the long tradition of modern Western thinking on time. With it, I am hoping this new account of subjectivity is much richer in its moral and spiritual sources than the current views allow. This journey has been long and slow, not only because of my ambition, which seems to be warranted by the needs of this confused time and by the inadequacy of existing work rising to the challenge, but also because of the limitations of language. How do you philosophize about something that is meant to be beyond language and praxis? How do you express something that is inevitably inexpressible? I have tried, but it is up to the readers to decide if the text indeed speaks to them. Nevertheless, I have enjoyed the journey tremendously. Going to the local coffee shop with my daughter, with music in my earphones and a cup of coffee next to my laptop, I often fell into a state of deep meditation as thoughts flowed to me and came out through my typing fingers. And the thoughts continued as my teen driver drove us home in the sparkling night of the quiet streets of our little hometown. The book may seem to end abruptly, as readers may feel the need for an immediate logical extension of the thesis to themes of sociality, justice, and politics. Rest assured that these themes are pondered in the next volume, which appears under the same title but with a different subtitle. The next volume moves beyond the nature of subjectivity to the question of language, being-in-common, or “the third” in Levinas’ terms. Only after breaking away from the language of totality can a true consideration of ethics as non-totality be engaged. Stillwater, USA
Temporality and Subjectivity
Time and Existence
Space and Time
Time and Recognition
Primal Sensibility and the Other Time
Temporality and Existent
Being or Nothingness? Infinity and the Porous Existent
Death and the Beginning, or Infinite Time
Transcendence and Subjectivity
Thinking, Imagination, and Self-Identity
Spatiality, Temporality, and Thinking
“Substance” and Imagination
On Reason and Rationality
Kant’s Imagination and Time
Self-Identity and Narrative Imagination
The Existent and Self-Identity
“Who Are You?” and “Who Am I?”: Self-Identity and Narrative Presentation
Temporality and Subjectivity
The most significant, and perhaps also unfortunate, philosophical events in modern history may have been the establishment—and subsequent collapse—of a transcendental and all-encompassing egological subject against the world and “experience.” The absolutization of man as a rational animal in the metaphysical configuration, and the path opened up thereafter to the truth of Being, eventually led to the well-known theme of the “death of the subject.” Many great thinkers, including Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Husserl, Heidegger, Bataille, and Wittgenstein, have participated in or contributed to the critique and deconstruction of the transcendental and egological subject. This critique and deconstruction, in Jean-Luc Nancy’s words, is “one of the great motifs of contemporary philosophical work.”1 With it, philosophy can no longer claim knowledge or truth about a “given” subjectivity. With much of the post-Cartesian philosophy beginning with such a “subject,” we have witnessed the crisis of the “subject,” which nearly spelled the “end” of philosophy in the West. But the question of being still haunts philosophy. The collapse of the transcendental subject does not put a stop to the haunting question of being and existence. How might we still arrive at an understanding of our existence? How might we come to terms with our being so that our life acquires an existential meaning? What happens to experience? Without the pretense of speaking of the “validity” of the knowledge of Being, 1 Jean-Luc Nancy, “Introduction,” in Who Comes After the Subject? eds. Eduardo Cadava, Peter Connor and Jean-Luc Nancy (New York: Routledge, 1991), 4.
© The Author(s) 2020 G. Zhao, Subjectivity and Infinity, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-45590-3_1
what is there about existence and experience of which it is still possible to speak? The question of being is at the heart of our understanding of what it means to be human; when it stops being an epistemological question, it becomes ever more saliently an ethical and spiritual question. To confirm Levinas’ claim that “being is not an empty notion”2 and to echo what Derrida calls “the subject of a proposition,”3 I propose that the current task is to attend to the forgotten, the unrecognized, and the unrecognizable experiences that nevertheless constitute subjectivity, without forgetting the salient and long-recognized presence. We do not need to destroy the long history of insights and misconceptions in order to shatter the “transcendence of the Ego,”4 but we do need to listen more carefully to the undercurrent that fills and grounds human life. An existential analysis of human subjectivity that gives full weight to the unrecognizable is essential if we are to do justice at all to experiences that are uniquely human. Two decades ago, Eduardo Cadava, Peter Connor, and Jean-Luc Nancy invited several leading French philosophers to ponder what may happen after the “subject” has been demolished. A compilation resulted from this endeavor: What Comes after the Subject? What has survived, perhaps, “after” or “outside” of the subject? With an accentuated consideration of “after-subject” or “otherwise than being,” philosophical humanism, in which the “I think” and the Presence encompass the sphere of the subject, rendering ego and consciousness transcendental to the world and to “experience,” has been challenged by an appeal to the other, to the outside of consciousness (e.g., Levinas’ alterity, and Derrida’s différance), and to the uncapturable (to consciousness) and therefore to the transcendental flow of experience from within (e.g., Deleuze).5 Intensifying the
2 Emmanuel Levinas, Time and the Other, and Additional Essays, trans. Richard A. Cohen (Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press, 1987), 39. 3 Jacques Derrida, “‘Eating Well,’ or the Calculation of the Subject: An Interview with Jacques Derrida,” in Who Comes After the Subject? eds. Eduardo Cadava, Peter Connor and Jean-Luc Nancy (New York: Routledge, 1991), 109. 4 Jean-Paul Sartre, The Transcendence of the Ego: An Existentialist Theory of Consciousness (New York: Hill and Wang, 1957). 5 See the discussion in Stephen Crocker, “The Past Is to Time What the Idea Is to Thought or, What Is General in the Past in General?” Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 35, no. 1 (2004): 42–53.
nonidentity, untraceability, and irreducibility of the subject has given hope to Alain Badiou, who exclaimed: “A Finally Objectless Subject”!6 But what we witness soon after these considerations is not, unfortunately, the final arrival of the future of an objectless subject, but is in reality more like a subjectless object, “an unexpected turn” that Badiou himself “would never have foreseen.”7 Our age has certainly witnessed the rise of post-humanism and post-anthropocentrism, which have pushed their way into many areas of social and political life. The deliberate diminishing of distinctions between human and nonhuman, subject and object, and living and nonliving in the subjectivity conversations, the prominent themes of embodiment, materiality, and “affect” in working out propositions about the subject, come partly from the changed material and technoscientific, and hence socio-historical, conditions of our age, but also from some of the specific philosophical strategies that have emerged in reinterpreting, displacing, decentering, and reinscribing the subject. The Deleuzian announcement of “hecceities”—the “individuations that no longer constitute persons or ‘egos,’”8 —and Derrida’s complaint that “the discourse on the subject, even if it locates difference, inadequation, the dehiscence within auto-affection, etc., [continues] to link subjectivity with man,”9 certainly have both contributed to the turn to post-humanism and post-anthropocentrism in philosophy. But clearly it is Deleuze’s overall philosophical project that has paved the way for such a move. Ivan Callus and Stefan Herbrechter even suggest that the recent shift away from Derrida and deconstruction to Deleuze’s vitalism “epitomized”10 the post-human move. With this move, theories are preoccupied with “affects” that are visceral and vital and with forces and relations in-between bodies, while “exploring animal subjectivity, object
6 Alain Badiou, “On a Finally Objectless Subject,” in Who Comes After the Subject? eds. Eduardo Cadava, Peter Connor and Jean-Luc Nancy (New York: Routledge, 1991), 24. 7 Ivan Callus and Stefan Herbrechter, “Introduction: Posthumanist Subjectivity, or Coming After the Subject,” Subjectivity 5, no. 3 (2012): 241–264. Retrieved on December 10, 2019 at http://www.palgrave-journals.com/sub/journal/v5/n3/full/sub201217a.html. 8 Gilles Deleuze, “A Philosophical Concept…” in Who Comes After the Subject? eds. Eduardo Cadava, Peter Connor and Jean-Luc Nancy (New York: Routledge, 1991), 95. 9 Derrida, “‘Eating Well’: An Interview,” 105. 10 Callus and Herbrechter.
ontology, actor-network theory, new forms of materiality and materialism, … and so on” rises to the center of attention.11 While it is interesting and refreshing to consider human lives from a materialistic, affective, even nonliving perspective, and while it is important to acknowledge the non-consciousness, the psychological and physiologic mechanisms that have long been dismissed from the consideration of human subjectivity, suggesting a post-human subject may have defeated its own purpose. In what sense is such a concept still a “human” subject? Hasn’t the so-called post-human and post-anthropocentric turn, in the name of decentering the human perspective, been turning into anything but a “human” perspective? Intentionally or not, the philosophical movement that deliberately intensifies and redesigns the forms and conditions of human experiences as incompatible with any sense of “predetermination, transcendence, or timelessness”12 has much to contribute to the post-human turn. But with this turn, not only do we lose the “human” perspective, we also face the daunting challenge of ethics. This is perhaps why the relationship between life/nonlife forces and ethics and politics has come to be “at the centre of present philosophy.”13 Ethics is to be redefined and limited to freedom from oppression and constraints, but not the power to choose right and to choose love. In significant ways, we are paralyzed in the face of the current social and political challenges, and we compromise our responsibility as philosophers. Thus precisely because of the post-human turn, the question of what is human after the “death of the subject” is most pressing. Nancy is aware that after the subject lies a yearning and a promise. We cannot escape the yearning and we have to address the promise, a truly “objectless subject,” perhaps? Heidegger was right when he famously said that only for man is “being” a problem. But why is “being” a problem and what kind of problem is it? Perhaps it is time to get back to the Heideggerian tradition, which either has not gone far enough or has gone astray, and take on again the task of a phenomenological investigation of the temporal constitution of being, to address the question of infinite temporality, not 11 Ibid. 12 Blackman, L., Cromby, J., Hook, D., Papadopoulos, D. and Walkerdine, V., “Editorial: Creating subjectivities,” Subjectivity 22: (2008), 16. 13 Frédéric Worms, “Is Life the Double Source of Ethics? Bergson’s Ethical Philosophy Between Immanence and Transcendence,” Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 35, no. 1 (2004): 82–88, 86.
only to “propose” a subjectivity that may lead to creative and diverse ways of living, but also to find a new way to express ethics and the spirituality of human life.
Time and Existence
In the modern age, we are all too familiar with the “scientific” and clocklike concept of time, which is largely enframed in the West by the ancient Greeks, particularly by Aristotle—time as the rectilinear, continuous, and consecutive progression of unified and identical instants of movement. It is the perpetual repetition of the current “now” that takes us from the endless past to the endless future. Events occur along time, but time remains vacuous, identical and eternal, indifferent to the occurrence. In this sense, the instants are also said to be “spatialized,” in which space is similarly conceived of as an endless juxtaposition of distances and areas, numerically separated but qualitatively identical or comparable. In Plato’s words, “chronos ” is “a moving image of eternity (aion) moving according to number.”1 Only recently have scientists changed the image of time to that of a curve, a beginning and ending element that constitutes the physical universe. But for living beings that are temporally constituted, time is far from abstract and external, indifferent and irrelevant. Time is the very medium and condition of existence, the ceaseless succession of durations where traces of the past, encounters of the present, and anticipation of the future, coalesce. Because of time, living becomes memories and remembrances, passing sentiments and perceptions, and anticipations and unexpected encounters. Time is the source of joy and sorrow, hope and fear,
1 Plato, Timeous, trans. P. Kalkavage (Newburyport: R. Pullins Company, 2001), 37d.
© The Author(s) 2020 G. Zhao, Subjectivity and Infinity, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-45590-3_2
creative novelties and erosions. Time is inevitably entangled with the subjective experience of existence. As Saint Augustine puts it, time is mysterious and is essentially bound up with the mystery of being.2 The mystery of time is also the mystery of existence. Our primordial experience, therefore, is living in time. Time makes the very existential meaning of living possible, and it is with living beings that time acquires any existential meaning at all. Even the ubiquitous conception of the linear and identical time that science has appropriated is first derived from the profound phenomenological and existential experience of the ceaseless, river-like succession of durations of movements. No moment stands still, and the fleeting succession constitutes the direction of time. It is our own “infinite transformation”3 of existence that founds a world that moves through itself infinitely forward. It is on this phenomenological ground that time was appropriated and emptied into a single, linear progression of identical movements. A single quality is signified while the internal complexity is desensitized in the narrative of the linear progression of time. Thus, the infinite, beginningless, and endless cosmological time is not an external addition, over against the existential and phenomenological. It was first projected and imagined based on a deep sense of the ceaseless flow of the past, present, and future, but was then emptied and essentialized into a vacuous line, losing its depth and dimensions. Classical or transcendental philosophy, in its search for absolute truth and transcendental knowledge, has paid little attention to time, except for “scientific” time, precisely because of the perceived entanglement of time with living existence. Only the eternalized “present” is of concern. Time is eternity, and temporality is insignificant. Attention is always fixed on the lasting and the permanent, the principle behind the accidental, where essence and truth allegedly lie. Time as a mode of existence is outlawed, much like some kind of Pandora’s box that may release dangerous, unmanageable troubles or accidental chaos.
2 Augustine, Confessions. Retrieved on December 10, 2019 at https://www.ling.upenn. edu/courses/hum100/augustinconf.pdf. 3 Nishida Kitaro, Last Writings: Nothingness and the Religious Worldview, trans. David A. Dilworth (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1987), 50.
TIME AND EXISTENCE
But it is by placing time and temporality at the center of consideration that contemporary philosophy has revived. Against transcendental philosophy’s obsession with the universal and eternal at the cost of the empirical and accidental, and against the reduction of multiplicity to totality, nonbeing to being, and the other to the same, contemporary philosophy, from Bergson, Heidegger, and Levinas to Derrida and Deleuze, has rebelled against the linear and spatialized time. The investigation of time is particularly salient in contemporary philosophy’s reconfiguration of subjectivity—ontologically, ethically, or otherwise. At the very beginning of Being and Time, Heidegger sets the goal of his investigation as the “interpretation of time as the horizon for any understanding whatsoever of being.”4 To interpret the existential experience of human beings, to strive for a meaningful grasp of human existence, an investigation of time as the mode of existence is inevitable, because we are, essentially, temporal beings.
4 Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1962), 1. Emphasis in the original.
Space and Time
But before venturing on a journey into time, it is necessary to say a few words about spatiality, to clear the way for a consideration of time and temporality. While time and temporality have been privileged in contemporary philosophy, space and spatiality have continued to be relegated to insignificance in the interpretation of existence. Just as time has been conceived of as eternal time, space is conceived of as an eternal expansion of distances and areas. For living beings, space is where areas and objects are displayed and identified, and we are simply observers gazing at the world from a distance. Henri Bergson suggests that to experience existence in space, we have to set ourselves aside, at a distance, and reflect and objectify such an existence.1 Spatial experience is external and objectifiable, and spatiality constitutes no part of existence. Such a notion of spatiality leads to the illusion that existence is in the horizon of time alone, as if we are inevitably and necessarily trapped in our own psyche, self-enclosed and auto-generating through time, without encountering the new and the not-me. But spatiality is the encountering of the outside, the coming of the other that opens up the existent. It is also our attempt to reach out, to embrace the world. The assumption
1 Henri Bergson, Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness, trans. F. L. Pogson (London: Allen and Unwin, 1910). Retrieved on December 10, 2019 at http://intersci.ss.uci.edu/wiki/eBooks/BOOKS/Bergson/Time%20and% 20Free%20Will%20Bergson.pdf.
© The Author(s) 2020 G. Zhao, Subjectivity and Infinity, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-45590-3_3
that we have “God’s eye” and that all of space is but the display of identified and penetrable objects is only a sign of myopia and arrogance. With this fiction, ironically, the existent is also turned into an object under the self-reflecting gaze, separated and juxtaposed among other objects in the world. Yet our existence is always situated in and “with” the world, and in the instants of encounter, we already relate to the world in a multitude of different ways. Our first relationship with the world, prior to conscious filtration and fixation, is the profound nebulosity of being touched by the world as a whole. William James calls it the “immediate flux of life,”2 in which there are no distinctions and identities, nor subject-object splits. In this nebulosity of immediate experience, we are immersed in the world as a whole, embracing its bottomless opacity and alterity. Such experience exceeds all egological fixations, and the world maintains its wholeness and its otherness in us. Thus, the immediate experience of the world, as James rightly claimed, is the basic underlying experiential unity behind all reflections and conceptions. Out of the nebulosity of immediate encounter, amidst the profound sense of unity and strangeness, we also reach out to sense the world, to touch, to feel, and to be embraced by the world. We see colors, shades, dots, and shapes; we see demarcations and overlaps. We judge, evaluate, and decide on the elements and the landscapes, distancing a centered “I” as the observer of the world, no matter how incomplete or arbitrary. We see trees, buildings, and people walking. As Dewey said, “The world in which we immediately live, that in which we strive, succeed, and are defeated, is preeminently a qualitative world.”3 It is a qualitative world because it relates to us in qualitatively different ways. Spatiality expresses the heterogeneous relations of ourselves to the world that are of diverse intensities and impact. Humanity’s modes of existence entail diverse ways of our relating to the world. For example, we are walking on the street, surrounded by the nebulous “outside,” the other, the not-me, yet we are “in,” immersed, in 2 William James, Essays in Radical Empiricism (New York: Longman Green and Co, 1912), 93. Retrieved on December 10, 2019 at http://topologicalmedialab.net/xinwei/ classes/readings/James/RadicalEmpiricism.pdf. 3 John Dewey, “Qualitative Thought,” in John Dewey: The Later Works, Volume 5, ed. Jo Ann Boydston (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1930/1984), 243–262, 245.
SPACE AND TIME
unity with the world. Then we notice a shining haze, in the forms of leaves and tree branches in the afternoon sun, or a looming shadow in the cloudy, rainy mist, as it engages with us in its situated singularity in the moment of existence. Or we pierce the haze and the shadow and desensitize other determinations so that we are able to see the tree as a fully present triangle-shaped object. Or consider William James’ example of the ringing bell. We may be walking in a field, lost in our own thoughts, but then “we realize all of a sudden both that the bell has been ringing for some time and that we’ve been counting the rings.”4 We are only dimly aware of the bell’s ringing, at a distance, entering into us with different intensities, amidst sensations of the birds flying by, the sounds of their wings fluttering and of leaves falling on the ground. Consider again that we are facing a work of art, a picture, or a sculpture. We see the demarcations, structures, lines, and colors, the sensible properties. Yet there is more, and even more is beyond our grip, inviting and calling us with what cannot be contained in the tones and colors and weights. Thus, the ocean comes to us as a body of water, as the warm breeze that accompanied many of our evening hours, but also as the bottomless, the great unknown that crashes over us, as do the enigmatic starry sky, the misty dawn, and the orange beams of the sunset. An object is always a mediated and situated singularity in the whole of existence at a particular moment and is only held together as an “object” with a simple character despite its internal alterity and complexity, as “freezing of being”. Spatiality, therefore, cannot stop at the geometric concepts of space and objects, as pure movement, indifferent to the content, to occurrence, and to engagement. Such space is emptied and essentialized space, like essentialized and emptied time, created for certain purposes. Spatiality is never a field of the linear expansion of distances and areas but signifies a situated and open existent that faces the world only partially recognizable and sensible. At any moment in an encounter with the outside, countless, complex relations and impacts occur.
4 Sean D. Kelly, “Edmund Husserl and Phenomenology,” in The Blackwell Guide to Continental Philosophy, eds. Robert Solomon and David Sherman (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003), 114.
Yet spatiality mediates through time, affirming itself in temporality. Every instant of the present is filled with an influx of the world, as well as our feeling, our touch of it, and our attempt to observe it and measure it out. But all this multiplicity of experiences, whether they come from primal sensibility, sensuousness, or consciousness, is conditioned by and mediated through time, and only through participating in temporality does spatiality become part and parcel of existence. Being temporal-spatial, as it seems, signifies the compound condition and medium through which we connect, evolve, and are open and situated in the world.
Time and Recognition
If, as Heidegger suggests, in order to understand our existence, “we must go back and lay bare”1 the temporal meaning of such existence, how do we start approaching the movement of time? If the nature of all sentient beings is temporal, does it have to be recognized as such? In other words, is time a phenomenon of intentionality and consciousness alone? By recasting time in reinterpreting being, contemporary philosophy has made a fundamental, yet rarely acknowledged and even less challenged, assumption that time is associated with attentive recognition. The moment becomes “present” because of its “presence.” Time is a conscious affair and is carved out by conscious activities. This bias necessarily leads to the privilege of present over past and future, for present is the moment when conscious action occurs. When egological activity is absent, time is absent. Starting with Augustine, this long-held bias in Western philosophy comes out of a tradition that privileges conscious activity in defining human subjectivity. In the classical phenomenological definition of time, for example, given by Edmund Husserl,2 the present is the whole and the general form of time, compared to which the past and future are only secondary, lacking intensity and degree in presence. They are essentially the lack of presence, and like shadow, depend on the present for their existence. Even in memory, where the past seems present, the past “must 1 Heidegger, Being and Time, 277. 2 Edmund Husserl, The Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness (Bloomington:
University of Indiana Press, 1964).
© The Author(s) 2020 G. Zhao, Subjectivity and Infinity, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-45590-3_4
still borrow its life-blood from the new present in relation to which it (the former one) is past.”3 Indeed, when time is understood only as a mode of conscious existence, the present is the only time, and past and future are non-existent, since conscious activities always occur in the current moment alone. But existence would consequently mean the constant, discrete movement of present moments, as we are essentially jolted from one moment to the next. The past phases out of the conscious state and becomes non-existent and the future is yet to come and cannot be recognized. They are the absence of time, and the fate of their existence is to accept whatever has been constructed and imposed by the present. In other words, there is no time except the present. Temporality, our existence in the continuous flow of time, therefore, is a lie. Unfortunately, such an association of time with attentive recognition has become the norm, “common sense,” for much of modern Western philosophy, appearing natural and rational. Analytical philosophy, for example, taking pride in itself for working within the purview of the natural and the rational, is happy to adopt such a schema of time. Problems and outcomes are traced upon the outline of the “present,” while the “hidden” and the “untraceable” are automatically ruled out. It is probably why, as Jack Reynolds comments, and I agree, analytical philosophy tends to dismiss anything outside the purview of common sense and to exclude anything radically “different.”4 The misconceived association of time with recognition and the problem with privileging the present alone as the defining moment of the human subject was brilliantly analyzed by Derrida, even though his hidden assumption of the same association has led to his so-called liquidation of the subject. Derrida rightly claims that Western transcendental philosophy rests on the primacy of an exhaustive and eternal “now” or present time, as does its transcendental subjectivity on a unified, contained, and stable temporality of the living-present. Hence, for the subject to emerge, there has to be a moment of self-presence when the self gathers itself, becomes fully aware, and rises up to itself. In Hegel’s terms, the subject has to become 3 Stephen Crocker, “The Past Is to Time What the Idea Is to Thought or, What Is General in the Past in General?”, 47. 4 Jack Reynolds, Chronopathologies: Time and Politics in Deleuze, Derrida, Analytic Philosophy, and Phenomenology (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2012).
TIME AND RECOGNITION
a self-conscious subject. But Derrida argues that since there cannot be and has never been such an exhaustive “now” or “living-present” as a self-contained moment, there can be no presence-to-self, a self-contained identity/subject. With his presumption of the association of time with consciousness, Derrida argues that the “present” is always already compromised by a trace of, or a residue from, the previous moment that precludes the moment’s ever becoming “present.”5 “Becoming ‘present’” here means a moment marked by a full awareness of itself. But because of the trace of the past that penetrates the present yet is not contained in the present, the moment cannot be a full present. The conscious state is neither complete nor stable, part of it already slipping away; therefore, a moment of full present does not exist. In order for the present to “be,” the trace of the past has to be appropriated. But what is in the past can only be appreciated or appropriated in the past moment, which, just like the present, is compromised already by the residual of its own past. Consequently, the present cannot be. The same is also true for the future moment. The effect of all traces can only be appreciated from the future, but the future is also implicated in the same process and the same logic and thus is already compromised and cannot ever become the “present” itself. In other words, the future that makes all “present” possible is also impossible. Derrida thus famously claims that time is indefinitely “deferred” and the subject is still “to come”; it slips away just as the present slips from our grip. Derrida is pointing at the very impossibility of time, even a stable and self-contained “present,” with conscious recognition alone. But this entire analysis does not challenge the assumption that time is the duration of conscious states. The “present” cannot be because consciousness is not able to be in full control at any moment. And the subject that cannot be is also an egological subject that rests on presence-to-self and selfcontainment. As Derrida notes, in “questioning the essential predicates of which all subjects are the subject, …[we find that] these predicates are…all in fact ordered around being present (étant present ), presence to self—which implies therefore a certain interpretation of temporality.”6 Rather than offering a different interpretation of temporality, Derrida
5 Jacques Derrida, Speech and Phenomena, and Other Essays on Husserl’s Theory of Signs (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1973), 68. 6 Derrida, “‘Eating Well’: An Interview”, 109.
advises us not to offer “the first nor the last word,” but to be vigilant and “recognize the processes of différance, trace, iterability, ex-appropriation, and so on.”7 In John Caputo’s words, in Derrida, “what is really going on in things, what is really happening, is always ‘to come.’ Every time you try to stabilise the meaning of a thing, try to fix it in its missionary position, the thing itself, if there is anything at all to it, slips away.”8 Derrida’s approach, though not necessarily “liquidating” the subject or leading to nihilism (accusations fervently rejected by him), does contain an exaggerated logical impasse and has contributed to the current paralysis in the study of human subjectivity. But time is the mode of existence of the whole being, which encompasses much more than just conscious activity. Primal sensibility that appeals to the beyond and the unrecognizable also moves in time, anteceding and coinciding with recognition. At the moment attentive recognition marks out the present, making it shine forth and present, primal sensibility already extends and blurs, interrupts and lingers, participating in the moment of the present. Time is first of all a phenomenon of primal sensibility. Before we can cut out a moment of presence by recognition, we already live in the anonymous and unintentional flow of sensibility. It dwells in the past (thus the past of its own right) that has phased out of the present and extends to the future that is to come, allowing the moments to progress into a moving whole. If Derrida were to appreciate time not only as the duration of egological presence, but also of the whole of existence, and if the trace and residual of the egological past flowed with the duration of sensibility, defying appropriation and annexation, and if the present didn’t have to be fully “present,” but could maintain its absence in the presence, the present would be in a new sense. The present does not have to be a moment of full mastery and authority; it can also be a moment of riding along, concealing while shining forth, constituting while being constituted. And there cannot be clear boundaries for the past, present, and future. If a subject does not rest on the contained, egological presence, an analysis of subjectivity that points to the impossibility of such a presence will not “deconstruct” the subject.
7 Derrida, “‘Eating Well’: An Interview”, 109. 8 In: John D. Caputo and Jacques Derrida, Deconstruction in a Nutshell: A Conversation
with Jacques Derrida (New York: Fordham University Press, 1997), 31.
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Thus, continental philosophy’s “deconstruction” of the subject unfortunately focused only on a notion of the subject that embodies the same presumed association of time with conscious states—a self-present and self-mastery being. And the deconstruction is carried out, unwittingly, through analyses based on the hopelessly entangled association of time and consciousness. The “I” as the determination of time is not seriously challenged. Even though Derrida, in his “ex-appropriate,” attempts to be against time in the sense of “indefinite deferral,” his interruption of temporality is insufficient for the birth of a new temporality that may enable and open up a different subject. Henri Bergson may have been the first in contemporary philosophy to attempt to expand the time-consciousness association to include much more than just an egological operation. His later analysis of time and pure memory has provided substance for philosophers after him to speak of “the trace of the untraceable,” which has become a major theme in recent continental philosophy. However, it is worth noting that even for Bergson, especially in his early, influential Time and Free Will, a strong tie between time and conscious activities is maintained. What is particularly remarkable about this work is that Bergson’s purpose in this work is to develop a theory of time and consciousness where genuine heterogeneity and novelty can be constantly produced. But with such an assumed association, I suggest, genuine heterogeneity and novelty will be difficult to produce. Bergson starts by challenging the Kantian theory of abstract time, where time, as well as space, is an ideal form imposed on the world by our mind. Instead, Bergson proposes that time is the medium through which our conscious states progress, the duration of our ego-conscious life. “Pure duration is the form which the succession of our conscious states assumes when our ego lets itself live.”9 In this theory, the past, present, and future penetrate each other; the past is never gone, but enters into the present through memory, and the future is always already anticipated, repeating and yet altering the present. Consequently, the past, present, and future are not a discrete series of identical instants, but form an organic whole, progressing with multiplicities and constant emerging novelty.
9 Bergson, Time and Free Will, 100. Emphasis in the original.
Admittedly, in this configuration of time’s association with consciousness, Bergson is already embracing a notion of the conscious state that is much broader than a pure egological operation because the past does not disappear but is retained and enters into the present. Indeed, his conscious state is more intuitive than is commonly understood, yet retaining past experience, attending to the present, and anticipating the future is still an intellectual and cognitive activity; and our freedom, as noted in Levinas’ criticism of Bergson, is the freedom of our conscious being. Bergson’s analysis of “sympathy” is a good example of how his original intent, to demonstrate how the moves of our conscious states form a “qualitative” progress of heterogeneity, has failed. The experience of sympathy begins, according to Bergson, with our putting ourselves in others’ shoes and sharing their pain. Such sharing necessarily inspires in us repugnance of others, so we want to avoid them. But then we realize that if we don’t help them, we won’t be helped should we be in the same situation. So we “need” to help others. This need is an “inferior form of pity” and is soon replaced by true pity when we feel that “nature” has done a great injustice and we do not want to be seen as complicit with it. The feeling of sympathy is thus a transition “from repugnance to fear, from fear to sympathy, and from sympathy itself to humility.” In the continuing considerations and changing feelings, no one state negates the other or is juxtaposed with the other. So Bergson claims that the conscious states are qualitatively (heterogeneously) different from each other. What Bergson fails to explain, however, is how we move from the “inferior form of pity” to true pity, a genuinely heterogeneous move. What are the sources of the radical difference? While our consciousness does move around and change directions, the moves are often traceable, logically related, and instinct based, and thus calculative in nature. They are far from unpredictable or heterogeneous. Since consciousness relies heavily on reason and logic, the flow of its considerations is within the boundary of our limited knowledge and experiences and is often comprehensible. Emerging new ideas are also surmountable by assimilation. The moves from repugnance to fear and from fear to “need,” for example, are all too familiar for our calculating minds. But how does consciousness suddenly come up with the idea that “nature has done a great injustice” and we need to do something about it? Can consciousness alone bring out the idea?
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The move from the “inferior form of pity” to true pity where we choose not to be complicit with “nature’s great injustice” has to be grounded in something other than egological calculation. It is the “unreasonable,” and yet compelling, sense of being drawn to and opening to the grandeur of the whole (“nature”) and being moved by it. As temporalspatial beings, we are open and situated in the world, and the sense of belonging and the all-encompassing feeling of sorrow and love bigger than ourselves constitute the true source of sympathy! Thus, the real rupture, the true source of qualitative multiplicity and heterogeneity, has to come from the movement of primal sensibility, which enables disphasure, the time out-of-joint, and the time of the outside. The time of sensibility, which signifies the duration of sensible movements, suspends the flow of conscious consideration and calculation, overwhelming it and taking it in new directions without consciousness’s own doing. Hence, the modern effort at reinterpreting being/subjectivity through recasting time has fallen short because of the unfortunate association of time with recognition. Even Levinas, who attempts to connect time with the Other “despite” consciousness, defines an “instant” as the very “accomplishment of existence,”10 the moment when the existent exercises mastery over “anonymous” existence.11 In recent discourse on the concepts of “trace” and “difference” in continental philosophy, greatly inspired by Bergson’s work, the association of time with conscious operation is still widespread, though little acknowledged and less challenged. The significance of the untraceable trace seems only to demonstrate the failure of conscious operation, as in Derrida’s analysis. A return to the primordial, the undifferentiated, the multiple, and the out-of-sync, the co-existence of the self-aware and the “anonymous,” seems imperative. We need to get back to the “whole” of our experience, embracing the inexhaustible richness and “emptiness” of it, if we want to do justice to the quintessentially “human” existence.
10 Levinas, Existence and Existents, trans. A. Lingis (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1978), 76. 11 Levinas, Time and the Other, 51.
Time is the mode of existence of our whole being, the very medium and condition of sensible existence. Not only do conscious states pass in time, but also sensible undertakings, and thus the temporal nature of our existence. Unlike the egological operation that marks out the present to appear through recognition (or intuition for Husserl), primal sensibility appeals to pure experience, experience that does not “appear,” that comes from the ancient ages and nameless encounters, rumbling underneath without announcing itself, and brings it to bear on existence. As spatial and temporal beings, we are always with others and encompassed by the world, and much of what we experience is not consciously recognizable, nor able to be in “presence.” What filters through our physic-psycho system or egological operation is but a fraction of the vast ocean of our experience of existing in the world. Pure experience, unable to be pierced through or assimilated by the attempt of consciousness, is the inescapable calling, the question that perpetually haunts the self-aware existent, fissioning the ego in its deep underside and opening up the I to the other time. As the ancient Zhuangzi has legendarily advised, pure experience is the inaccessible emptiness and nothingness that can only be sensed, but not spoken about.1 Pure experience is the quintessential human experience. Whereas pure experience defies language and conceptualization and cannot be pierced through or captured by egological operations, it is 1 只可意会, 不可言传, from Zhuangzi:《庄子·天道》 : “意之所随者, 不可以言传也.”
© The Author(s) 2020 G. Zhao, Subjectivity and Infinity, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-45590-3_5
touched upon by primal sensibility and in all its opacity and evasiveness, brought to bear on being. Sensibility appeals to it, brings it to the horizon, and makes it heard. If pure experience signifies the unrecognizable and the co-existence of the other existence, primal sensibility is the conduit between the recognized and the unrecognizable. Egological power prides itself on its freedom to penetrate and totalize whatever comes its way with identification and representation, blindly and arrogantly reducing the other to its own parameters. It operates in the direction of contracting and fixating, even though pure experience, infinitely evasive and impervious, defeats it at its every turn. Primal sensibility, on the other hand, senses the seeping in of the outside and pure experience and receives and dwells in its bottomless intricacy. Primal sensibility brings us in touch with pure experience, yet it does not capture or penetrate pure experience; instead, sensibility embraces the mystery, upholding its innocence and otherness. Primal sensibility moves in the opposite direction of egological operation. Rather than narrowing down, condensing, and bringing to focus, primal sensibility opens up and appeals to the pure and spiritual, often only to set off on an endless quest for the unattainable and an imaginative recreation of the beyond. Primal sensibility brings the pure and the numinous to surround the existent, interrupts its oblivious complacency, and shakes it up from its blind operation of usefulness and practicality. Primal sensibility brings pure experience to sleep by our side and fill our days with boundless wonder and mystery. Sensibility is at the heart of art and religion and is in the deep ground of human morality. As the conduit connecting the recognized and the unrecognizable, primal sensibility amalgamates disparate existences. T. S. Eliot once said that sensibility “devours any kind of experience.”2 Pure memory that has passed away in an indeterminate state, physical and emotional experiences that have made an impact on the body and the psyche, the egologically captured and differentiated, and the nebulosity of the immediate and direct receiving of the world, are all “touched” and sensed by sensibility, thus participating in a “duration,” in the Bergsonian sense, of time. Sensibility does not distinguish or assimilate, the way consciousness does,
2 Eliot, T. S., “The Metaphysical Poets,” in Selected Essays 1917–1932 (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1951). Article retrieved on December 10, 2019 at https:// www.usask.ca/english/prufrock/meta.htm.
but only senses all that comes its way. Divergent multitudes of the recognized and unrecognizable are consolidated, not into a coherent unity, but into a full release of a sensible disparate cacophony. Through sensibility, therefore, the pure and the spiritual participate in the qualitative multiplicity of being and nonbeing. Since sensibility touches on the “disappeared,” calling upon that which has never presented, to bear on presence, it expands the reach of the existent to the uncontainable realm. The “other experience” not only participates as the outside, as “virtual” and unrecognized, but is also brought to bear on conscious recognition, even though only as a reminder. The concealed is revealed as the concealed, and the indeterminate is determined to be the indeterminable. Thus, being and presence are always accompanied by nonbeing and absence. There is no Being and Presence without the foreshadow of nonbeing and absence. Sensibility provides a bottomless ground upon which egological operation takes place, and consequently, being exists only on the condition of primal sensibility’s bringing along the irresistible pure experience. The sensible encounter with the world and the connection with pure experience foreshadow and engender being and the existent. The idea that we human beings have the capacity to appeal to and to receive, and to be affected by, the world around us in a way that goes beyond the egological and conscious operation has long been acknowledged and explored in different cultures. In the West, the term sensibility emerged after the Enlightenment Era and was in vogue during the Romantic Period and beyond. During this time, the belief that sensibility grounds moral development and intellectual understanding took prominent hold in the minds of philosophers and writers. T. S. Eliot coined the term “dissociated sensibility,” for example, to decry the unfortunate dissociation of intellectual thought from sensibility and suggested that when thought is disconnected from sensibility, it becomes refined, but arid and reflected, and feelings become crude. But primal sensibility is no ordinary sensibility as perceived in the West, in that sensibility is hopelessly entangled with and is only the product of physical and psychological movements. In the tradition of Western thought, there seems to be an inevitable tendency, a seemingly irresistible desire, to dissect ourselves into binary parts that can then be identified and examined: body and mind, cognition and emotion. One of the earliest thinkers to speak of sensibility, John Locke, for example, believed that sensibility comes from bodily motion: “Ideas in the Understanding are
coeval with Sensation; which is such an Impression or Motion, made in some part of the Body, as makes it be taken notice of in the Understanding.”3 Sensibility is closely related to sensitivity; while it is the ground for thought and understanding, it first comes from taxed nerves and over reaction to stimuli. Consequently, sensibility is often taken as a gendered quality, particularly associated with femininity. This tendency to divide human capacity into mental and physical realms, with emotions and instincts closely tied to the latter, has a long history in the attempts of Western philosophy to understand the ways humans receive the world. Everything has to be rendered identifiable and presentable, so our approach to the world has to be either in the realm of consciousness or relegated to physiology, or emotion and instinct, which is the “psychical transposition of a physical stimulus,”4 as if humans are an assemblage of separate parts—mind and body, intellect and instinct, and the physiological and the psychological—all of which can be ascertained and examined. Relying on the assumption that organ functions determine a being’s abilities and its ways to receive the world, we approach the world either cognitively or physiologically, emotionally or instinctively. But aren’t we too arrogant in assuming we are able to capture our inner lives that way? Don’t we quickly realize that our inner life is a flux, with the constant emergence of appearance from absence, rich and inexhaustible that we cannot dissect and capture? The infinite and inexhaustible being of nonbeing cannot be reduced, as such, to physiologically determinable mechanisms, identified and comprehended. The controversy is that, though sensibility is recognized as the ground on which intellectual and moral thought emerges, it is frequently relegated to the physical and the psychic realms, allowing no possibility beyond the dissectible and the identifiable. But sensibility is primal precisely because it is not reducible to physical or psychic reactions to stimuli, or reactions from over-taxed nerves. “Primal,” that is to say, is the antecedent and overwhelming flow, more than simple cognition and physical reaction; it is the mysterious, unidentifiable way that humans approach
3 John Locke, An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding, Book II, Chapter I. (London: Penguin Books, 1997), 120. 4 Henri Bergson, The Two Sources of Morality and Religion, trans. R. Ashley Audra and Cloudesley Brereton (London: Macmillan & Co., 1935), 32.
the world, unfiltered by particular organ functions. Primal sensibility signifies first and foremost the quintessentially human ability to receive, nonrepresentationally, the whole, the pure, without truncation. Thus, primal sensibility is not a rush of emotion, a sensational reaction to a stimulus, but rather the unique and primordial way in which human beings live as temporal and spatial beings. Western philosophy has produced another model to describe humanity’s unique way of receiving the world beyond simple conscious and physical-psychic movements: the “intuition.” But while “sensibility” is overly physical and psychic, “intuition” is often overly mental and egological. One of the most elaborated concepts of intuition, for example, given by Bergson, is to describe the conduit between pure memory and perception, the mechanism that imports the past to the present, actualizing the virtual to the real. As Lawlor explains, “Normally, under the pressure of needs, we direct our attention to life, that is, to the present with a view to future action, with a view to a future point, hence the narrowing down of consciousness.”5 Bergson’s intuition, however, is unique in that it works in the opposite direction of normal consciousness. It is an effort of reflection “to seek experience at its source.”6 In other words, intuition is our ability to reach out to the “dark” and evasive spring of experience, but only to seize it and make it visible. “Expanding consciousness from the present to include the past, intuition then makes the effort to bring this darkness into the light of images.”7 Therefore, “intuition is reflection”8 ; it is consciousness “enlarged.”9 Leonard Lawlor, in an excellent explication of Bergson’s notion of intuition,10 points out that Bergson’s intuition is first of all an “absolute knowledge.” Absolute knowledge is different from knowledge in that 5 Leonard Lawlor, “What Immanence? What Transcendence? The Prioritization of Intu-
ition Over Language in Bergson,” Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 35, no. 1 (2004): 24–41, 26–27. 6 Bergson, Matter and Memory (1991), 184. 7 Leonard Lawlor, “What Immanence? What Transcendence? The Prioritization of Intu-
ition Over Language in Bergson,” Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 35, no. 1 (2004): 24–41, 28. 8 Henri Bergson, The Creative Mind, An Introduction to Metaphysics, trans. Mabelle L. Andison (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2007/1946), 70. 9 Bergson, The Creative Mind, 63. 10 Lawlor, “What Immanence? What Transcendence?”
it is not “perspectival and thus relative to a viewpoint”; rather, “intuition coincides with and enters into what it intuits.”11 Intuition is about knowing, but a different way of knowing. Rather than being abstract and general, intuition is a pre-linguistic, pre-symbolic, and active way of knowing. Intuition “enters” the virtual, “as an experience of force,”12 and with an intuitive grasp of the spirit, brings it to appear. Intuition is knowledge because it ultimately “generates images or representations.”13 Separating intuition from instinct or feeling, Bergson explains that instinct and feeling are reactions to needs (they follow the stimulusresponse sequence), but intuition is not a reaction; it is an action that “generates ideas or represented images.”14 The sources are different: one from needs and the other from pure memory. However, Bergson states that intuition and sensation are similar in the sense that they both are “affective states”15 and work as “contacts” and “forces.” In a certain sense, intuition and sensation are both emotions but intuition is a “supraintellectual” emotion that is pregnant with ideas while sensation is only an “infra-intellectual” emotion, because it only responds to needs.16 In this analysis, intuition is neither an egological operation based on representation nor a physio-psychic operation based on “physical stimulus.” Intuition is intelligence, but a different kind of intelligence, an intelligence that is able to touch on and reach out to the virtual and the spiritual and bring about a form of “nascent perception.”17 The ultimate goal of intuition is to arrive at conscious insights through an expanded reach, starting from the unpresentable and moving to “memory-image” (an inbetween experience partaking of pure memory but embodying itself in perception), and finally to representation, in which the indeterminate is determinate and the virtual is actualized. The limitation of Bergson’s intuition is its single-minded pursuit of what we can consciously capture, which does no justice to the mode of
11 Lawlor, “What Immanence? What Transcendence?” 25. 12 Lawlor, “What Immanence? What Transcendence?” 38. 13 Lawlor, “What Immanence? What Transcendence?” 28. 14 Lawlor, “What Immanence? What Transcendence?” 28. 15 Lawlor, “What Immanence? What Transcendence?” 28. 16 Lawlor, “What Immanence? What Transcendence?” 28. 17 Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory, trans. N. Paul and W. Palmer (New York: Zone Books, 1991), 133.
existence where we appeal to the unattainable and dwell in the pure and spiritual. In fact, Bergson is not alone. The common motivation behind the modern Western philosophical approaches, whether reason or senses or intuition is prioritized, seems to have been to pierce and to capture, to the greatest extent, the opaque and the elusive, to reduce it to the manageable and render it the same. The central concern of Western modern philosophy, it would be fair enough to say, is on the power of the I to be free to dominate, because the perceived alternative—heteronomy and subjection of the I to the world—is unthinkable and unacceptable, even though we know deep down in our hearts that “the world,” both inside and out, has never succumbed to our will and can never be made transparent to us. Yet we do not exist in the world either as the slave or as the master. Our self-consciousness does not have to rise at the cost of the world’s submission. What is missing in the consideration is the ubiquitous human condition and experience of being with the not-me and outside of me and transcending the fixed self-circulation and determination by the mechanism of the inevitable. Perhaps it is time to acknowledge and correct this pathology, to allow ourselves to exist among the pure and the unconquered, the other and the unpresentable. What primal sensibility signifies, first and foremost, is the human experience of appealing to the pure and the spiritual precisely as pure and spiritual, without attempting to finally arrest it in comprehension and representation. In a nonrepresentational move, primal sensibility confirms the very impossibility of identification and determination, and the spirituality of the other-than-me. From a touch of the emptiness and absence of the pure, therefore, there arises a journey of creative imagination of the unattainable and the inexhaustible. Since primal sensibility touches not only on the heterogonous sources of experience from within, like Bergson’s intuition, but also on the inbetween of the I and the world, the direct experience of opening up and receiving the world as a whole, primal sensibility is the bridge, the interface between the transcendent and the immanent.18 Even though Bergson calls intuition the “properly human experience,”19 his notions of pure memory and intuition trap humans in the immanent realm where 18 Even though for Bergson memory is linked to sense. Sense for him does not denote our encounter with the outside. It is internal sense, sense of the pure memory, but not the pure experience that comes from outside, transcendent to the conscious existence. 19 Bergson, Matter and Memory (1991), 184.
transcendence only means transcendence to consciousness.20 Primal sensibility, on the other hand, is how we receive the world without truncation; it maintains the outside, receiving it and filling our moments with its infinite depth. The outside and the other, unabsorbed in the immanent, constitute the very existence of our being.
20 Bergson’s intuition seeks only the source of experience from within pure memory, which is the whole of perceptions already past, and intuition attempts to bring this whole to participate in perception. Intuition is “to call up the recollection, to give it a body, to render it active and thereby actual” (Bergson, Matter and Memory , 66). Other concepts of intuition in Western philosophy may differ from Bergson’s in one way or another; what is common is that intuition is the ability to reach presentation in a nonrepresentational way.
While modern philosophy has paid enormous attention to, and centered on, rational and physical-psychic experiences, these identifiable and presentable experiences are but a small portion of the vast ocean of our experience of existing in the world. Underneath the visible part of the iceberg of consciously or physio-psychically aware activities is always a sea of exappropriating movements.1 For spatial and temporal human beings, pure experience is the anonymous and unannounced that escapes conscious fixation. Pure experience encompasses the free memories of infinite singular events, sensitive encounters that no longer register, the nebulosity of experiences of direct encounters…. Pure experience constitutes the infinite depth of our existence, uncontainable and ex-appropriate in a living present, and thus is beyond Being. The idea that there are uncaptured and uncapturable experiences, the “other” in us that interrupts or constitutes our being, has gained increasing acceptance in contemporary philosophy. Against transcendental philosophy’s penchant to totalize the world and our experience, for example, recent French philosophy has placed the themes of “trace” (outside of 1 In addition to Sigmund Freud and his followers, other modern philosophers have also made similar claims. For example, Hegel said in Science of Logic: While “the activity of thought, which is at work in all our ideas, purposes, interests and actions, is … unconsciously busy…, what we consciously attend to is the contents, the objects of our ideas, that in which we are interested; on this basis, the determinations of thought have the significance of forms which are only attached to the content, but are not the content itself” (p. 8). Available at http://www.hegel.net/en/pdf/Hegel-Scilogic.pdf.
© The Author(s) 2020 G. Zhao, Subjectivity and Infinity, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-45590-3_6
consciousness) and “difference” at the center stage: Levinas’ separation of the saying from the said, where the saying signifies the unfathomable and the absolute different,2 is but one example, as is Derrida’s “voice of the other in us.”3 Such a philosophical movement in French thought, apparently, has been motivated to a great extent by Henri Bergson’s stunning articulation of “pure memory.” While in Time and Free Will, Bergson has associated time with the progression of conscious states and has been criticized as limiting human experience to that of the psychological domain of internal timeconsciousness, in his later work, Matter and Memory,4 Bergson sets as his central task to grapple with an entirely different order of reality: “pure memory,” the “fugitive”5 experiences that “appear and disappear independently of our will.”6 While Bergson’s language in Matter and Memory is still largely psychological, his many claims, such as that pure memory is an “independent reality,”7 suggest that Matter and Memory is an exercise in ontology.8 In Deleuze’s words, Bergson enabled us to speak of the past as genuine ontological existence9 other than the present and the intentional. Based on Bergson’s analysis, when the mind comes in contact with a material object, a pure perception is created. With time, the object passes away and so does the perception, which then becomes a memory. Such memories are stored up partly in the motor-mechanism, or
2 Emmanuel Lévinas, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority, trans. Alphonso Lingis (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1969), 194. 3 Jacques Derrida, “Of an Apocalyptic Tone Newly Adopted in Philosophy”, trans. John P. Leavey, Jr. in Derrida and Negative Theology, ed. Harold Coward and Toby Foshay (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992), 25–71, 71. 4 Bergson, Matter and Memory (1991). 5 Bergson, Matter and Memory (1991), 83. 6 Bergson, Matter and Memory (1991), 85. 7 Bergson, Matter and Memory (1991), 74. 8 Jean Hypopolite made a strong argument on this point in Jean Hypopolite, “Various
Aspects of Memory in Bergson” (1949), trans. Athena V. Colman, in Leonard Lawlor, The Challenge of Bergsonism: Phenomenology, Ontology, Ethics (New York: Continuum, 2003): 112–128. 9 Gilles Deleuze, Bergsonism, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam (New York: Zone Books, 1991).
“the sensori-motor equilibrium of a nervous system connecting perception with action,”10 a system that “follows the direction of nature”11 and is shared by other living species. But at the same time the perception is also vividly stored up as “personal memory-images…[with] their outlines, their color and their place in time.”12 As past memories, they are no longer attached to, or dependent on, the objects. Having been moved to the past, they also cannot be changed, since the present is where changes can happen,13 nor can they be repeated, as nobody can step in the same river twice. Passing out of the present, they have passed out of recognition, but they have not passed out of time. In fact, precisely because of time, pure memory—the whole of singular memories—now is liberated “from the present”14 and becomes an independent, free, and spiritual existence. “With memory we are, in truth, in the domain of spirit,”15 Bergson states.16 According to Bergson, since pure memory is outside of conscious recognition, it stays in a “virtual state,”17 indeterminate, and only “awaits the occurrence of a rift … to slip in,”18 to become “actualized.”19 As a whole, true memory is itself singular and heterogeneous, differentiated by particular dates and situations.20 When it becomes determinate, how it will be determined, and in what forms and shapes, is also unpredictable. Hence pure memory is not only the other in us, but also the spontaneous. Like a cloud composed of thousands of drops of water, the “thousands of
10 Bergson, Matter and Memory (1991), 95. 11 Bergson, Matter and Memory (1991), 88. 12 Bergson, Matter and Memory (1991), 88. 13 Jean Hypopolite, “Various Aspects of Memory in Bergson” (1949/2003). 14 Lawlor, “What Immanence? What Transcendence?” 32. 15 Bergson, Matter and Memory (1991), 240. 16 The word “spirit” is used by Bergson to mean an existence of an independent reality
other than the one we know. 17 Bergson, Matter and Memory (1991), 239. 18 Bergson, Matter and Memory (1991), 95. 19 Bergson, Matter and Memory (1991), 128. 20 This point is made clear also by Lawlor in Leonard Lawlor, (2004) “What Immanence? What Transcendence?”.
singular events,” will appear when “the cloud condenses,”21 but the condensed cloud is anything but the same as any of the thousands of drops. In Deleuze’s words, pure memory is repeated “in an infinity of diverse degrees of relaxation and contraction, at an infinity of levels.”22 Therefore, the return to and “reconquering”23 of the present by the past brings infinite possibilities. Unpredicted elements participate in the present, overlying the pure perception of the present. As Bergson claims, every perception comes with “new elements sent up from a deeper stratum of the mind.”24 There is never a pure perception without memory and a present without past after all. Unlike the classical view where the past is the reproduction and the shadow of the present and has to borrow life force from the new present, Bergson claims that the past is the whole, the essence that defines our existence, and with it comes the indeterminate and heterogeneous nature of our existence. Bergson’s remarkable analysis of pure memory provides substance to the notion of trace and pure experience. It helps us understand what might be at the source of pure experience and the indeterminate and unrecognizable nature of its existence, as well as how it might slip in, overlie, interrupt, and transform the present and the egological existence. With the notion of pure memory, Bergson has apparently tried to address the question of the incredible internal fluidity and heterogeneity of human existence, and with the model of intuition, the human ability to generate new thoughts from such fluidity. His is a theory of how human beings can embody a virtual world of difference beyond what is consciously attainable and how we may bring new worlds to light from their hidden indeterminacies. But Bergson’s pure memory is greatly compromised and limited by his conception of the present, the idea that the present is only associated with the mind’s contact with a material object, or the creation of a pure perception. Following the old tradition of the association of time with consciousness, Bergson suggests that the present is when a perception is created, as if perception is self-contained and secured. Memory
21 Lawlor, “What Immanence? What Transcendence?” 34. 22 Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton (New York: Columbia
University Press, 1994), 83. 23 Bergson, Matter and Memory (1991), 131. 24 Bergson, Matter and Memory (1991), 104.
is the self-contained perception passed out of the present. Pure memory is the whole of singular memories that has been liberated from recognition and become a free and spiritual existence. In this conception, pure memory originates, essentially and solely, from and is filtered through the operation of the mind. The internal heterogeneity of our existence is only auto-divergent and auto-generated. Nothing is beyond our egological and conscious operation. It would be fair to say that for Bergson, existence is not limited to consciousness and the present, for pure memory is distinctively outside the realm of consciousness, but it is also fair to say that for Bergson, existence is no more than consciousness.25 Bergson’s exclusive focus on perception as well as his limited concept of spatiality, where space is the eternal expansion of displayed objects and our relationship with the world is the relationship of an observer who inspects and penetrates the world, seriously limit the scope of pure memory and have compromised its character. Since existence is situated and immersed in the world, relating to the world in multiple ways beyond sensuous and conscious means, the present is inevitably a cacophony of announced and unannounced activities. Spatiality signifies relationality and our relationship with the world goes beyond a God-like, distant observer. Before we can set ourselves up and cast our gaze to perceive, before our intentional and unintentional grasp, in the prehistory, the outside, coming uninvited and irresistible, already washes over me. Our primary experience is the experience of direct encounter, the unfiltered receiving of the world with all its wholeness and its opacity. While such receiving of the world is not differentiated and marked by conscious movements, much of it is carried on by primal sensibility, in which the outside is received as the outside, without truncation and without containment. The event of our setting ourselves up and casting our gaze to perceive is also always and inevitably accompanied by a rift where the unintentional touch of the primal sensibility brings in the other, the sense of the noumenal and opaque.26 Along with sensual and 25 Even though his concept of perception is tied to the living body, and cognition is effectively vital, rather than speculative, Bergson’s concept of consciousness, or the mentalpsychological system, is always in the context of the sensori-motor; and its interest and function are primarily in motor actions and praxis in the world. This tendency of Bergson has been carried further by Deleuze and has contributed much to the recent post-human turn. Bergson’s affirmation of the co-existence of discrete and multiple kinds of existence takes him no further than our sensori-motor encounter with the world. 26 This point is further elaborated below.
egological experiences, pure experience complicates the present, unsettling its unity in the underside. Consequently, pure perception cannot be “pure” because it is already entangled with and penetrated by the pure experience of the encounter. The outside world is not just an object to be perceived but is always also the noumenal world of unknown-ness and outside-ness. If, as Bergson says, there is never pure perception without memory, there is also never pure perception without pure experience. At the moment when perception is created, pure experience already antecedes, coincides, and penetrates, grounding but also upsetting the perception. Perception is extended and interrupted by un-annexable pure experience. What passes in time, therefore, is the perception-in-pure experience, and such experience passes into the past, into pure memory. Accordingly, pure memory cannot be a cloud of cohesive and clearly defined drops of water, as Bergson described it, their grounds long eroded and boundaries long blurred, but perhaps a cloud of shining lights half-immersed in misty air, or flickering beams with varied luminosity. Such clouds of shining lights also do not neatly pass in time, into pure memory. There is no clear boundary between the memories and the present, because with primal sensibility, pure experience flows along and resounds in silence, always “present” in its absence. Unmarked by conscious recognition, pure experience appears and disappears, cutting through and breaking down the passing away of the perceptions-in-pure experience. Therefore, while pure memory, in its nebulosity, remains a free and spiritual existence, waiting for the occurrence of a rift to slip into be actualized, as Bergson has described, such actualization will not be definite and final; there will always be the inerasable trace, outside of actualization. With pure experience of the outside participating in pure memory, the present is already endlessly extended and unsettled. New elements and spontaneous actualization and imagination of the present, therefore, arise. The source of pure experience, including that of the pure memory, subsequently, is far from self-generated and self-altered, and its arrival and bearing on existence are far from just actualization and realization. Primal sensibility brings in the pure experience of the outside, the not-me, the entering of the world in the I. With perception-in-pure experience passing in time, pure memory embraces the truly novel and other. Unpredicted elements confound the present, participate in pure memory, and thus pervade the whole of our existence.
The participation of the outside in existence is clearly shown in Bergson’s early analysis of “sympathy,” even though the purpose of his analysis is to show how the heterogeneous progression that allows true sympathy to emerge comes from conscious movement alone. The “unreasonable” and yet compelling sense of being drawn and opening to the grandeur of the whole, coming from the profound impact of pure experience, overcomes one’s conscious calculation and enables it to move beyond self-drive to true sympathy. What pure experience signifies is an existence exceeding identification and containment. Pure experience not only eludes and defies egological penetration and allows the other and the outside to be part of existence, it is also the primordial experience grounding and constituting existence. The idea that the instant “present” is not characterized by “perception,” but first and foremost by an immediate and aboriginal experience more primordial than conceptual and mediated experiences has also been expressed by thinkers of phenomenological persuasion. In fact, the term “pure experience” was first coined by William James, whose thought has inspired the entire modern phenomenological movement, particularly its two most important figures, Edmund Husserl and Maurice MerleauPonty. In an essay entitled “A World of Pure Experience,” first published in 1904, James claims that pure experience comes from a “prephilosophic” attitude when facing the world initially. James defines such primordial experience as the underlying experiential unity behind language and conceptual thought, the ground from which all thoughts and reflections are drawn. The concept of pure experience later becomes the key concept of his “radical empiricism.” As James sees it, “The instant field of the present is always experience in its ‘pure’ state, plain unqualified actuality, a simple that, as yet undifferentiated into thing and thought.”27 Such pure experience is what “furnishes the material to our later reflection with its conceptual categories.”28 This phenomenal material, prior to the subject-object divide, grounds all the cogito, reflexive thematization, which in turn imposes its interpretivist structure upon pure experience. “Reality, life, expedience, concreteness,
27 William James, Essays in Radical Empiricism (New York: Longmans, Green & Co, 1912), 74. 28 James, Essays in Radical Empiricism, 93.
immediacy, use what words you will, exceeds our logic, overflows and surrounds it.”29 While some complain that James’ concept of “pure experience” is as perplexing as it is intriguing, Joel W. Krueger explains that James is deeply suspicious of conceptual and reflective analysis in providing a primary and exhaustive account of human experience. James attempts to call attention to the fact that “the phenomenal content of embodied experience as experienced outstrips our capacity to conceptually or linguistically articulate it.”30 In other words, he believes that our basic, primordial experiences harbor non-conceptual and phenomenological content that is too rich and evasive to lend itself to an exhaustive conceptual analysis.31 On the other hand, conceptual or reflexive analysis and thematization have to rely on selectively emphasizing, identifying, fixing, and abstracting the flux of experience; therefore, what comes out of the analysis is already distorted and reduced. Thus, James urges us to “keep on speaking terms with the universe [of pure experience] that engendered it” at any cost,32 and famously, and controversially, claims that “I have finally found myself compelled to give up the logic, fairly, squarely, and irrevocably. It has an imperishable use in human life, but that use is not to make us theoretically acquainted with the essential nature of reality.”33 As dramatic and radical as it may sound, by making claims to this effect, James destroys the assumed correlation between the world and our egological and conceptual identification of the world and instead focuses on pure experience, the immediate flow of life, as our primordial experience of the world. However, when tracing the source of pure experience, James still points to our bodily, sensuous, and physical functions as the ultimate origin. “Pure experience in this state is but another name for feeling or sensation,” says James.34 His emphasis on the non-conceptual character of 29 William James, A Pluralistic Universe (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1977): 96–97. 30 Krueger, “The Varieties of Pure Experience: William James and Kitaro Nishida on Consciousness and Embodiment,” in William James Studies. Online at http:// williamjamesstudies.org/the-varieties-of-pure-experience-william-james-and-kitaro-nishidaon-consciousness-and-embodiment/. 31 Ibid. 32 James, A Pluralistic Universe, 94. 33 Ibid. 34 James, Essays in Radical Empiricism, 94.
pure experience and his empiricist and naturalist proclivity lead him to look at the body as the site of generative functions.35 While the body, for James, cannot be reduced to simple affective existence because it is always situated within its changing environment, he provides no hint that there is anything other than the “sensory modalities of an agent immersed and acting within a living world,” as Krueger noted.36 James is not alone. In fact, the rich and inexhaustible experience that is the primordial source of thought and language has been variedly described by phenomenological thinkers as originating from the body/senses or from consciousness. Edmund Husserl has attempted to grasp such experience in intuitive consciousness as something given to, and therefore captured in, consciousness. In The Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness, Husserl has struggled with the concept of a preconsciousness or “after-event” but as he sees it, allowing such a concept would necessarily lead to the Freudian “unconscious content,” which is not acceptable.37 Maurice Merleau-Ponty, inspired by James’ idea of embodiment, has focused on the embodied experience as the source of the primordial experience. 35 For example, James writes in a footnote, “The world experienced (otherwise called the ‘field of consciousness’) comes at all times with our body as its centre, centre of vision, centre of action, centre of interest. Where the body is is ‘here’; when the body acts is ‘now’; what the body touches is ‘this’; all other things are ‘there’ and ‘then’ and ‘that’. These words of emphasized position imply a systematization of things with reference to a focus of action and interest which lies in the body; and the systematization is now so instinctive (was it ever not so?) that no developed or active experience exists for us at all except in that ordered form…. The body is the storm centre, the origin of coordinates, the constant place of stress in all that experience train. Everything circles round it, and is felt from its point of view.” [William James, “The Experience of Activity,” Psychological Review 12, no. 1 (1905): 1–17, 9.] 36 Krueger, “The Varieties of Pure Experience: William James and Kitaro Nishida on Consciousness and Embodiment”. 37 Husserl writes, “It is certainly an absurdity to speak of a content of which we are ‘unconscious,’ one of which we are conscious only later. Consciousness (Bewusstsein) is necessarily a being-conscious (Bewusstsein) in each of its phases. Just as the retentional phase was conscious of the preceding one without making it an object, so also are we conscious of the primal datum—namely, in the specific form of the ‘now’—without its being objective;… retention of a content of which we are not conscious is impossible; … if every ‘content’ necessarily and in itself is ‘unconscious’ then the question of an additional dator consciousness becomes senseless.” [Edmund Husserl, Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness, trans. James S. Churchill, Appendix IX (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1964), 162–163. The latter part is modified by Derrida in Speech and Phenomena.]
Such a focus on the physio-psychic or bodily system or egoconsciousness, however, accounts for our approach to the world only for the purpose of appropriation, and thus limits and reduces the character of “pure” experience. Filtering the impact from the outside through sensuous or egological processes, pure experience stops being the outside, the truly different, but is channeled into our system of survival and practicality and is settled within the parameters of our physical and egological existence. It is the narcissistic reduction of the other to the same. Senses or cognition all work in the direction of concentration, fixation, and capturing. They are processes of narrowing down: to feel the other so it can be steered and made to enter into the nerve-sensory system, and to recognize it so it can be identified and assimilated into the known. They are approaches to making the world fit “me” so I can appropriate and utilize the other. With such processes, the genuinely different and outside is appropriated, and our existence is confined and deadened in self-circulation. Not only do sensual and cognitive approaches work in the direction of rendering the other the same, so that the world’s initial impact on our being, as the outside and the not-me, is lost, but they can also work only from the antecedent, the aboriginal, and the pristine receiving of the world: the truly pure experience. In other words, to filter and to steer in order to reach the so-called primordial experience, there has to be something to filter from and steer with. If there is anything “given” to our consciousness, as Husserl and Merleau-Ponty have taken pains to emphasize, it is because the “given” is already there, received through primal sensibility. Thus, the “primordial” experience is already secondary, coming from the antecedent, the truly pure experience that is received and called upon by primal sensibility. Unlike the physio-psychic or cognitive approaches, primal sensibility appeals to the outside and maintains the outside as the outside and the different as the different, dwelling in the abyss of the great unknown. Primal sensibility touches upon the world and embraces its bottomless depth and otherness, bringing the outside to bear on our being. It is the quintessentially human approach that opens the existence to the world beyond the animalist horizon, and without it, the world beyond would be oblivious to us. It is with primal sensibility that we hear the call from the beyond, from the depth of the otherness of the other. Consequently, before the self-world bifurcation, in the overwhelming immediacy, we are part of the whole and we participate in the buzzing multitudes of the
world. For the egological being, pure experience is the obscure, indeterminate nebulosity irreducible to egological fixation, yet it is also the antecedent and primordial source for all egological and sensual operation. The sense of givenness that phenomenologists talk about when describing primordial experience comes precisely from primal sensibility’s open touch that does not capture nor penetrate, but only receives, calls upon, and embraces. In pure experience, paradoxically, we are in unity with a world that is already profoundly outside of me and other-than-me. In fact, if we used only our survival processes, pure experience would lose its true character and become no more than an incomplete or unformed experience, even a malfunctioning confusion with the world. After defining pure experience as “the immediate flux of life which furnishes the material to our later reflection with its conceptual categories,” James immediately follows with the announcement that “only new-born babes, or men in semi-comas from sleep, drugs, illnesses, or blows, may be assumed to have an experience pure in the literal sense of a that which is not yet any definite what.”38 For James, pure experience cannot really be had and since all we have are the ways an active organism uses to penetrate the world, pure experience can only be conceived of as an early stage, as incomplete and confused experience. Such association of pure experience with consciousness, or the physio-psychic generative functioning of life, reduces and eventually eradicates pure experience. Whatever was found in a pure experience would be part of the same, in its incomplete and confused state, and genuine alterity and strangeness would be lost. Yet many do not think that in pure experience, there can be anything genuinely different or outside, not because the genuine difference has been rendered the same by our egological or physio-psychic channels, but because difference comes only from the discriminative mind, and pure experience is prior to the subject-object bifurcation; therefore, there cannot be such difference. Debunking the dualistic divide (admirably!) between thought and thing and between the self and the world, James assumes that an inevitable unity of things in pure experience has to happen and that such unified experience provides the ground “for an ontology that harbors no aperture for any brand of metaphysical dualism.”39 38 James, Essays in Radical Empiricism, 93. 39 Joel W. Krueger, “The Varieties of Pure Experience: William James and Kitaro Nishida
on Consciousness and Embodiment,” in William James Studies. James also states, “My
Pure experience signifies the one and the unified, and no sense of the different and the other can exist in pure experience. The “undivided self and the world” is automatically taken to imply that there is only a sense of unity and identification and no sense of otherness and difference from the world. The Eastern philosophical tradition, known for its emphasis on the pre-ego, pre-conceptual approach to the world, also places a conspicuous emphasis on the “oneness” of the self with the world without any deliberative discrimination. The “in-between” of the I and the world is conceived of as an experience of the “personal-cosmic communion.”40 While it speaks to the much overlooked (in the West) experience of how much we are part of the world, and how much our egological operation has separated and isolated us from the world, the assumption of our “unity” with the world can only be built upon an unheeded conflation that, without a discriminating mind, we inevitably and exclusively experience the world as in unity with us. In other words, any sense of difference can only come from a discriminating mind, and difference is only the difference identified and recognized by our mind. At the preconscious stage, hence, there can be no difference.
thesis is that if we start with the supposition that there is only one primal stuff or material in the world, a stuff of which everything is composed, and if we call that stuff ‘pure experience,’ then knowing can easily be explained as a particular sort of relation towards one another into which portions of pure experience may enter.” (James, Essays in Radical Empiricism, 4.) 40 A key term in Chinese Confucianism. It needs to be noted that in the consistent
appreciation of the “personal-cosmic communion,” there is always a lingering sense that the cosmic is always larger, the other-than-me that draws upon the self from beyond. Another sign of such an Eastern tendency is also shown in the philosophy of Nishida Kitaro, the modern Japanese philosopher who attempted to synthesize the West and East. Kitaro has taken on this aspect of James’ “pure experience” and underscores the unity of the self and the world, the absolute boundary-less self that is in unity with the universe. “By pure I am referring to the state of experience just as it is without the least addition of deliberative discrimination.” [Nishida Kitaro, “Pure Experience,” in An Inquiry into the Good, trans. Masao Abe and Christopher Ives (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990): 3–29, 3.]. Nishida Kitaro spent much of his lifework on synthesizing the Zen approach to the world and some of the German and American philosophies. He is heavily influenced by James, particularly his concept of pure experience. Indeed, Kitaro’s philosophy may be seen as centered on the James’ concept of pure experience, which is applied to his philosophy of religion, art, and morality. Unfortunately, he incorporated much of James’ thought related to the psychological and bodily source of pure experience and his appropriation of the Zen approach does not go further than its original state.
Yet genuine difference and alterity come from the ontologically notme, the outside, the world that we cannot harness or assimilate and that can be sensed only through primal sensibility. Consequently, pure experience is the experience of the profoundly beyond, the otherness and strangeness of the world. It is the experience that the world is impermeable and unidentifiable, despite all the sensual and egological attempts at penetrating it. Therefore, the assumption that before the subject-object bifurcation, all we can experience is a unity of us with the world cannot be the primordial, pure experience, but only a secondary, logically inferred and flawed, extrapolation. In the immediacy where we have no sense of the separation of us from the world, the world that we are with is still the impervious, and the other, surrounding me. We do not feel we can “identify” or be “unified” with it, even though we also do not know we are separated from it. While inseparable from it, while in unity with it, the world still appears profoundly “outside,” opaque, and not-me. Whereas pure experience is pre-conceptual and indeterminate, itself the “other” to the egological existent, coming from our encounter with the world, it nevertheless conveys the profound sense that we are in and with a world that is beyond me and is outside of me. We are part of a world that defies my absorption and assimilation. Such pure experience, if it indeed provides the source for later philosophical thinking as many phenomenologists have emphasized, would be behind what Kant calls the “noumenal world.” The persistent sense of our inability to access and comprehend the world with certainty and clarity emerges continually and grounds all modern philosophical thinking, rationalistic or empiricist. As arrogant as modern philosophy may have been in attempting to totalize and penetrate the world, a profound sense that beyond our horizon is the calling of the absolutely other and the outside has never been completely absent. Both Bergson and the phenomenologists, while providing significant insights into pure experience, have limited it to the confines of the all-toohuman approaches that render the other the same. In their configurations, there is no conceivable, genuine difference outside of ontology. But pure experience is the inescapable call, the yearning of the other and the outside, and the question that perpetually haunts the self-aware, spatiotemporal existent. Characterized by the impossibility of penetration and determination, pure experience is heterogeneous in source and in character and encompasses my entire existence. In the depth of our existence,
therefore, pure experience is the other within me that slips in at unexpected moments from varied dimensions and directions, washing over me with the free and the spiritual. Pure experience profoundly affects the mode of our being, enabling infinite possibilities and alternations.
Primal Sensibility and the Other Time
As stated earlier, time is the condition and medium of our whole sensible existence. While conscious activities strive to mark out the moment of presence, primal sensibility brings in the other time, the dissonant times from ancient ages and nameless encounters, rumbling underneath the present. Since primal sensibility works in the opposite direction from consciousness, without arresting and fixating pure experience, its movement does not signify a moment of identification. There will not be a shining forth of recognition. The unintentional reach of the primal sensibility, opening to and receiving the other and the unrecognizable, is anonymous. In a state of latency, therefore, its movement is not characterized by the ultimate arrival of presence, but by the continuous rumbling flow of the undercurrent cutting through and grounding the conscious movements. No point of beginning or ending, manifested neither in appearing nor in disappearing, sensible time is the time of sound but not light, yet it continues, like a river flowing inside. In the deeper strata of existence, therefore, the other time, the time out of sync, slips in, coincides, or penetrates, leaving traces on the existent. The existence of other time in temporality signifies a temporal existence that cannot be but has to dwell in its infinite intricacy and potentiality. As the other time, the sensible time encompasses both anachronic and isochronic times—times that do not coincide and times that do not shine forth. As the conduit connecting the recognized and the unrecognizable, primal sensibility brings in a cacophony of disparate experiences—free memories of infinite singular events, sensitive encounters that no longer © The Author(s) 2020 G. Zhao, Subjectivity and Infinity, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-45590-3_7
register, the nebulosity of experiences of direct encounters, etc.,—heterogeneous in source and in strength, participating in the temporality of the whole existence. With primal sensibility, time is not limited to memory, anticipation, or awareness. The other time, the phaseless and the diachronic, slides in and fades away without invitation, bringing in impervious but lingering pure experience. Appealing to pure experience from divergent sources, primal sensibility brings to bear a field of time with infinite dimensions and directions, dwelling and lingering, superseding each other. In the sense that the other time cannot be subsumed or incorporated into conscious movement, it is the other of time, the time that adamantly stays outside, as an inerasable trace and hidden current, exappropriated. Participating in and constituting the mode of the existent, it also disrupts and interrupts the self-identity and self-complacency of the conscious presence, making it impossible for self-containment and selfcircumscription. The other time and the other of time, the sensible time, is also the primary time enabling the continuity of temporality. For so long in Western philosophy, time not associated with conscious recognition has been considered a lack of time, or the absence of time. The term “present” indicates the exclusive association of time with “presence”; without “present,” time does not exist, or becomes a shadow, only borrowing life force from the present, like past and future, the significance of which is but an imposed creation or recreation from the present. Temporality, from this perspective, is essentially a series of discrete and self-contained moments of “present,” erecting itself against its own demise. But there has never been such a temporality because no “present” can stand alone, self-sustained and self-contained. In Derrida’s words, there has never been an “undivided unity” of the “now.”1 Instead, all “presents” are built upon their other, the nonpresence. The other time penetrates, shatters, and grounds the presence and constitutes temporality. To the common eye, existence appears as a series of successive experiential events, but all events are compounded moments. Existence passes by perpetually, and life is in incessant extension. Whenever the conscious mind arouses itself in perception or in recognition, because of the interminable continuity of existence, there will be an inevitable gap, or delay, 1 Jacques Derrida, Speech and Phenomena, and Other Essays on Husserl’s Theory of Signs, trans. David B. Allison (Evanston, Northwestern University Press, 1973), 60.
PRIMAL SENSIBILITY AND THE OTHER TIME
between the perceiving and the perceived, the recognizing and the recognized. The conscious activity of perception, no matter how unique and rapid, takes an instant to complete, but no instant stands still, and all instants are already in passing. In Derrida’s words, in the “blink of an eye,” there is still a duration to the “blink.”2 In the duration of the instant is the delay of the conscious recognition. Yet the unintentional activity of the primal sensibility carries on, receiving the world in its opacity and drawing in countless impressions of pure experience. Within and between the “presence,” therefore, is the unintentional and oblivious dwelling of the sensible movement that brings in the nonpresence. Our perception of an object is never certain and cannot be built upon a sure grasp of its appearance but is always intertwined with the noumena, the nonpresence. Consequently, what is identified or recognized is already gone, turned into the other, the nonpresence. Conscious time is penetrated and grounded by the other time and rises and subsides from the other time, like the ripple of waves in the bottomless ocean. Accordingly, what actually appears, the presence, is built upon the other, the “nonpresence and nonperception.”3 And because the nonpresence cannot be appropriated or assimilated into the presence, the underside of the presence is eroded. In the deadly delay, a rift is opened where traces of the past and the unnamed pure experiences surge, linger, and penetrate. Rather than the other time being subdued and absorbed in the presence, or relegated to complete absence, the other time is the very ground that allows the presence to appear, albeit always appear from the absence. What transpires in existence, therefore, is that all experiential events are intermingled phenomena with multifarious overt and covert movements, and no existent is entirely present. Conscious time cannot rise up on its own; it cannot “be” in that sense, because it is always filled with the other at its core. The other time of primal sensibility, therefore, is not the shadow, the secondary, nor a reminder of the present. Rather, it is the primary, the ocean stream upon which ripples of the present can emerge and shine forth. Egological operation builds itself upon fixation and identification, but because of time, all that is being fixed is passing away, and what is signified is the other, the nonpresence. Conscious time is discrete with
2 Derrida, Speech and Phenomena, 65. 3 Derrida, Speech and Phenomena, 64.
moments of shining forth and fading away, but all moments of shining forth vanish in its deeper underside, before it can hold itself together. The other time gives rise to the present but also fragments it in its anonymity. What appears, therefore, is compounded experience, the presence in pure experience. The present is never fully “present,” then. The other time penetrates the present, shatters its autonomy. It continues and sustains temporality. In the consciousness-present-centered time schema, the past, when recognized as the past, is already the past that has never been, and is only a construction imposed by the present on the past through synthesis and reorganization. The past is a recognized past.4 The future is also synthesized into anticipation in reference to the present. At the root of all this thinking5 is the denial of a primal sensibility that is always touching and sensing the world, upholding the past qua past, as unrecognized and unrecognizable, as outside of recognition. The future also remains unknown and outside of anticipation, only sensed and awaited, like a calling. Primal sensibility dwells in the “past” that has phased out of the “present” and extends to the “future” that is to come. The apparent neat division of past, present, and future, consequently, is a fiction, and no moment can be broken up into separate and distinct realms. The trace of the past lingers and participates on its own terms, and in its own right, just like the future is a future on its own terms and in its own right. The marked phases of the past, present, and future of consciousness are already disphasured by primal sensibility, penetrating each other. The other time makes the continuous flow of temporality possible, allowing the moments to progress into a moving whole. Temporality carries on because of the other time. For the conscious presence, therefore, the “other time” extends the breadth and depth of the moment, ruptures it at its core, and reshapes the mode of existence. Our temporality signifies the richness and the heterogeneity of our whole existence. The participation of the other time in temporality, therefore, denotes an infinite being capable of embracing the other at its core, unconfined by thought and identity, exceeding itself. To 4 Apparently, Bergson’s pure memory is not part of the schema. 5 Deleuze also suggests that past, present, and future are all syntheses of time, a unity
imposed on their “pure” states, while the pure states are denied by synthesis. Deleuze does not think there can be experience without synthesis. What he fails to recognize, however, is that the “pure,” though denied by synthesis, is not denied by experience.
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use Levinas’ phrase, the other time “brings more than I contain,”6 breaking open my interiority. It signifies an existent that is infinitely spontaneous, inexhaustible, and possible. But the idea that there are always uncontainable elements in our existence, exceeding thought and identity, is deeply detested in Western philosophy. In transcendental philosophy, for instance, we see ample attempts at solidifying and circumscribing thought, even though it may only mean drawing a line in the sand. Denying the haunting sound of the other time is denying the uncapturable and the rupture in existence, and that may have been the real reason the conscious activity, against all odds, has been made the sole mark of time. The all-encompassing, self-contained, selfconscious moment takes pride in devouring all uncertainties and instabilities. The attempt at securing and solidifying thought in the face of and precisely against all uncertainties is clearly shown in Hegel’s treatment of time and conscious mediation. The idea of the other time may have emerged in his philosophy but his treatment of it, indeed his treatment of the other in general, is perhaps the most epitomic of the modern approach. Even though “time” is not one of Hegel’s main categories, and his references to time are often scattered in his writings,7 in the few places where he explicitly writes about time and the effect of temporalization, he conveys a deep insight into the changing nature of existence and the instability and impossibility of self-possession in time. In the Encyclopedia, in the first chapter of Philosophy of Nature (paragraph 258), Hegel gives a formal and characteristically dialectic definition of time: “It is the being which, in that it is, is not, and in that it is not, is.”8 In other words, time is that which when we say “this,” the “this” is already negated and becomes its “not,” and the negated eventually becomes “is.” At the moment of marking out the moment of presence, what is being marked is always not there, gone with time. In another place, when he tries to explicate the concept of “sense-certainty”—the reflective and intentional but direct mode of consciousness of the here and now—Hegel also points out that when sensecertainty attempts to grasp an object, the moment it launches the attempt,
6 Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 51. 7 When expressed, the expressions are also often obscure. 8 G.W.F. Hegel, Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature, Vol. I, §258, ed. & trans. M. J. Petry
(New York: Routledge, 1970), 229–230. Emphasis in the original.
the content or object is already gone, disappeared in time and the content is turned into something else: the other or the negative. Hence, sensecertainty fails because of the time delay/gap between the direct, undifferentiated sense of the object and the intentional grasping. In Hegel’s words, when we attempt to know “this,” we always get “that,” and there is no way our sense-certainty is able to capture the world as it is.9 Yet this profound insight into the nature of the conscious process and the consequently inseparable involvement of the same and the other did not lead him to accept the implications of the other time and the significance of the un-signified and unidentifiable, but only to an even morestrongly felt need to contain and overcome the other within the same. Hegel maintains that the fact that whatever is given to our intentional grasp is given as other than itself, as already past or still to come, precisely indicates the necessity of our conscious mediation. The essence of our being, he claims, comes ultimately from the active intervention of our ego-consciousness. “Pure being remains, …as the essence of this sense-certainty…But this pure being is not an immediacy, but something to which negation and mediation are essential.”10 As a transcendental philosopher whose ultimate concern is with the whole truth and absolute knowledge, Hegel’s realization that we can never reach direct and immediate knowledge of the world because our ego-consciousness works in the slippage of time, instead of leading him to acknowledge the pure and the other experiences that cannot be captured by consciousness, only takes him to rely even more forcefully on the dominant power of conscious mediation. The immediate, as Hegel notes, slips away and becomes nonexistent only so that the ego-consciousness can reconjure up the present in place of the other. Conscious mediation and gathering compensate for the slippage, holding all the differences and absences together and rendering them present. For Hegel, the infinite power of the same, the “enduring” that supersedes all differences and distinctions, is the essence, the Truth, or the Spirit. Differences exist only as that which
9 Hegel writes, “The Now does indeed preserve itself, but as something that is not Night; equally, it preserves itself in [the] face of the Day that it now is, as something that also is not Day, in other words, as a negative in general” [G. W. F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. A. V. Miller (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1977/1807), 60. Emphasis in the original]. 10 Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, 61.
PRIMAL SENSIBILITY AND THE OTHER TIME
has been superseded and resolved11 and time becomes the “absolute present” and freedom of the Spirit. Hegel states, “Only the totality of Spirit is in Time … for only the whole has true actuality and therefore the form of pure freedom in face of an ‘other,’ a form which expresses itself as Time.”12 Time is the absolute present, actuality, and freedom, thus time is “eternal.”13 His realization of the inevitable differences only leads to the bold declaration that knowledge and truth depend solely on our higher faculty of active conscious mediation, which overcomes temporality and the direct senses. It is no surprise that Nancy (1991) takes Hegel’s definition of the metaphysical philosophical subject, “that which is capable of maintaining within itself its own contradiction,” as the “dominant definition” of modern transcendental philosophy. In such a definition, “the contradiction would be its own,… that alienation or extraneousness would be ownmost, and that subjectity (following Heidegger here, and distinguishing the subject structure from anthropological subjectivity)… consists in reappropriating this proper being outside-of itself: this is what the definition would mean. The logic of the subjectum is a grammar …of the subject that reappropriates to itself, in advance and absolutely, the exteriority and the strangeness of its predicate.”14 Hegel’s attempts to overcome the inherent uncertainty and fluidity of existence helped to solidify the correlation of time with conscious activity and further eternalized the present with unwavering certainty. It epitomizes the bold project of transcendental philosophy that urges us to dismiss the other times, reducing temporality to a linear, discrete, single dimensioned progression of conscious states, and in so doing, leaves the depth, richness, and spirituality of our existence unaccounted for. 11 Hegel writes, “Essence is infinity as the supersession of all distinctions, … its self-repose being an absolutely restless infinity; independence itself, in which the differences of the movement are resolved, [is] the simple essence of Time…. The differences, however, are just as much present as differences in this simple universal medium; for this universal flux has its negative nature only in being the supersession of them; but it cannot supersede the different moments if they do not have an enduring existence. It is this very flux, as a self-identical independence which is itself an enduring existence, in which, therefore, they are present as distinct members and parts existing on their own account” (Phenomenology of Spirit, 106. Emphasis in the original). 12 Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, 413. 13 Hegel, Philosophy of Nature, 232. 14 Jean-Luc Nancy, “Introduction,” in Who Comes After the Subject? 6.
To a certain degree, the modern philosophy of consciousness is precisely about overcoming difference and absence by the power and freedom of ego-consciousness. The desire to accentuate the power of the egological being is strong enough to override concerns about pure experience and to dismiss the other times from temporality. The fear of the unpredictable and the heterogeneous that other times may bring thus leads to the strong desire to take control, to rise above the “darkness” and uncertainty. Striving to safeguard the all-encompassing power and freedom of the ego-consciousness, the rumbling sound of the other times must be overcome and its threat eliminated. Modern metaphysics is thus built upon the eternal presence understood as self-consciousness.15 For Derrida, transcendental philosophy is always “a philosophy of presence,”16 and within it, there is no way to object to the privilege of the eternalized present-now, because the privilege “defines the very element of philosophical thought, it is evidence itself, conscious thought itself, it governs every possible concept of truth and sense.”17 Yet such violence against the other inside the self as expressed in the privilege of the conscious time and the dismissal of the other times, unfortunately, is at the very root of the totalitarianism embedded in modern Western thought—a totalitarianism that attempts to absorb, assimilate, and eliminate the other and different, the unpresentable, both within and outside of the I, and render the other the same. With totalitarianism, we become internally deadened, our inexhaustible richness lost, and we inevitably commit violence against the other that we cannot absorb in our system of thought. In claiming absolute freedom of ego-consciousness, we lose infinity. Derrida was acutely aware of the totalitarian tendency of transcendental philosophy and launched a ruthless deconstruction of its claims and pretensions. In Speech and Phenomenon, Derrida targets Husserl’s concepts of perception and time and, through a logic analysis of the embedded contradictions and inconsistencies, exposes their logic impasses and thus effectively shatters Husserl’s claim that phenomenology provides a more secure source of knowledge. Derrida confirms that Husserl’s phenomenology is not merely another example of metaphysical philosophy, but he asserts, as David Allison
15 Derrida, Speech and Phenomenon, 63. 16 Derrida, Speech and Phenomenon, 63. 17 Derrida, Speech and Phenomenon, 62.
PRIMAL SENSIBILITY AND THE OTHER TIME
notes, that Husserl’s repeated invocation of “the most traditional concepts of Western metaphysics to serve as the axiomatic foundation for phenomenology”18 indicates that Husserl’s conceptual structure characterizes “precisely the paradigm, the highest and final case of this tradition.”19 Husserl is still looking for a transcendental “source-point,” the undivided unity of the “present-now,” to justify the certainty of knowledge and self-identity. By targeting Husserl, apparently, Derrida intends to contest the parameters of a much larger tradition. Husserl conceives his transcendental phenomenology as “an utterly original philosophy”20 in that the essence of experience, and the source of knowledge, is located in an intuitive grasp of the world rather than the symbolic representation that the traditional metaphysics has designated. Phenomenology is about going back to and clarifying the “primal ground” of all philosophical and scientific thought,21 because “at the lowest cognitive level, [there] are processes of experiencing, or, … processes of intuiting that grasp the object in the original.”22 Higher, theoretical cognition is only secondary, Husserl says, as the symbolic representation “not only represents the object voidly, but also represents it by means of signs and images,”23 yet signs and images are inherently foreign to selfpresence. Derrida points out that for Husserl, there is most definitely “the irreducibility of re-presentation to presentative perception, secondary and reproductive memory to retention, imagination to the primordial impression”24 and Husserl’s goal is to get back to presentative perception, retention, and primordial impression as the source of secure knowledge. While the instant is always a duration and conscious activity rises on ground that has already shifted, primal sensibility continues. The moment of trace or of the other that fills the gaps in intentional activities is an 18 Comments made by David Allison, translator, in Speech and Phenomenon, xxxii. 19 Comments by David Allison, in Speech and Phenomenon, xxxii. 20 Edmund G. Husserl, “Inaugural Lecture at Freiburg im Breisgau: Pure Phenomenology, Its Method, and Its Field of Investigation,” in Husserl: Shorter Works, eds. Peter McCormick and Frederick A. Elliston (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1981/1917), 9–17, 10. 21 Husserl, “Inaugural Lecture,” 10. 22 Husserl, “Inaugural Lecture,” 11. 23 Edmund G. Husserl, The Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness, Appendix II,
trans. James S. Churchill (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1929/1964), 134. 24 Derrida, Speech and Phenomenon, 64.
unintentional experience of the opacity of the world in front of me. Our perception of the object thus is never certain and cannot be built upon a sure grasp of its appearance, but is always intertwined with a sense of its noumenal nature. At the time of presence, therefore, what is slipped in is the depth of nonpresence. The core of Husserl’s argument, as Derrida sees it, is that the intuitive grasp is the experience instantaneously present to itself, so there is no temporal delay as there is with symbolic representation. It is produced “in the undivided unity of a temporal present so as to have nothing to reveal to itself by the agency of signs.”25 Such experience of “being present” is the living present and is necessarily “certain and present.”26 Husserl thus grounds his argument on the assumption of the instantaneity of selfpresence, through which he thinks he can avoid all the difficulties coming from the inevitable gap between signs and representations and the things themselves. But, Derrida argues, in Husserl’s argument, just like what we see in traditional metaphysics, “we cannot avoid noting that a certain concept of the ‘now,’ of the present as punctuality of the instant, discretely but decisively sanctions the whole system of ‘essential distinctions’.”27 Even though Husserl recognizes that because of the essence of lived experience, the instant of now is also in flux, extended, and spread-out,28 he insists that an actual now can persist throughout the extension, like a retentional train, or “the nucleus of a comet.” The actual now remains so, against all continuous changes. But Derrida quickly points out that such “presence of the perceived present” can only appear with “primary memory and expectation (retention and protention),” which are still nonpresence and nonperception. Just as in the metaphysical tradition, the actual now only remains despite the nonpresence and otherness internal to itself. But, Derrida comments, Husserl “never recognized any other—of a perceiving in
25 Derrida, Speech and Phenomenon, 60. 26 Edmund G. Husserl, Formal and Transcendental Logic, trans. Dorion Cairns (The
Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1969), 310. 27 Derrida, Speech and Phenomenon, 61. 28 Husserl writes in The Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness, “It belongs to
the essence of lived experiences that they must be extended in this fashion, that a punctual phase can never be for itself” (§19, 70).
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which the perceived is not a present but a past existing as a modification of the present.”29 For Husserl, Derrida complains, “This spread is nonetheless thought and described on the basis of the self-identity of the now as point, as a ‘source-point.’”30 Precisely the same logical problem of the metaphysical tradition seems to also exist here at the core of Husserl’s phenomenology. As Derrida sees it, “Consciousness is necessarily a being-conscious in each of its phases. Just as the retentional phase was conscious of the preceding one without making it an object, so also are we conscious of the primal datum.”31 No conscious “now” can be “isolated as a pure instant, a pure punctuality.”32 Derrida asserts, “As soon as we admit this continuity of the now and the not-now, perception and nonperception, in the zone of primordiality common to primordial impression and primordial retention, we admit the other into the self-identity.”33 Just like Husserl’s argument for the “uselessness”34 of signs and re-presentations, therefore, nonpresence and otherness are internal to Husserl’s immediate presentative perception. Derrida’s analysis shows that Husserl’s own argument deconstructs Husserl’s proposition. For Husserl’s presentative perception, just like for the metaphysical symbolic representation, “nonperceptions are neither added to, nor do they occasionally accompany, the actually perceived now; they are essentially and indispensably involved in its possibility.”35 The internal alterity “neither befalls, surrounds, nor conceals the presence of the primordial impression; rather it makes possible its ever renewed upsurge and virginity.”36 29 Derrida, Speech and Phenomenon, 64. 30 Derrida, Speech and Phenomenon, 61. As Husserl says, although the flow of time is
“not severable into parts which could be by themselves nor divisible into phases, points of the continuity, which could be by themselves, ‘the’ modes of running-off of an immanent temporal Object have a beginning, that is to say, a source-point. This is the mode of running-off with which the immanent Object begins to be. In its characterized as now” (The Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness, 48–49). 31 Derrida, Speech and Phenomenon, 63. 32 Derrida, Speech and Phenomenon, 61. 33 Derrida, Speech and Phenomenon, 65. 34 Derrida, Speech and Phenomenon, 66. 35 Derrida, Speech and Phenomenon, 64. 36 Derrida, Speech and Phenomenon, 65, 66.
Through the analysis of the concept of time, Derrida is able to reveal the internal contradictions in both traditional metaphysics and Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology. Husserl’s problem is that he recognizes the continuity of life existence and, thus even living now, as an intuitive grasp of the world, is constituted by retention as nonperception, but he strives to find unity and the “absolute perceptual source”37 in the “primordial.” Yet the primordial, Derrida says, as far as it is still conscious activities and conscious time, is also already delayed and divided. There is the trace, the nonperception, “more ‘primordial’ than what is phenomenologically primordial”!38 But Derrida did not find any phenomenological and existential basis for the trace and the nonperceptions. The “more primordial” is essentially unthinkable, except only as a logic concept. Derrida never challenged the assumption of the time associated with consciousness, nor Husserl’s central focus on conscious activities (albeit intuitive conscious activities) at the phenomenological level. His deconstruction of the stability and unity of conscious time did not lead him to a recognition and appreciation of the other time, the time of the nonpresence and otherness, but only to a logical impasse, where the nonperception internal to presence is seen as what “radically destroys any possibility of a simple self-identity.”39 What is also destroyed are any values and meanings because, logically, they depend on nonpresent elements. The logical impasses, which may be where Derrida enjoys dwelling, eventually lead to his radical claim: “There never was any ‘perception.’”40 Derrida’s concept of “différance” can be seen as an expression of such a logical impasse. Derrida defines “différance” as “the operation of differing which at one and the same time both fissures and retards presence, submitting it simultaneously to primordial division and delay. Différance is to be conceived prior to the separation between deferring as delay and differing as the active work of difference.”41 “Of course this is inconceivable if one begins on the basis of consciousness, that is, presence, or on
37 Derrida, Speech and Phenomenon, 67. 38 Derrida, Speech and Phenomenon, 67. 39 Derrida, Speech and Phenomenon, 66. 40 Derrida, Speech and Phenomenon, 143. 41 Derrida, Speech and Phenomenon, 88.
PRIMAL SENSIBILITY AND THE OTHER TIME
the basis of its simple opposite, absence or nonconsciousness.”42 It is not the actual existing difference, nor its opposite, absence. Derrida suggests that it can only be conceived of as “the supplementary difference [that] vicariously stands in for presence due to its primordial self-deficiency.”43 Without an existential location for such “supplementary difference,” or the difference beyond the schema of consciousness, Derrida dwells in the logicality of the concept. So it can only be conceived of as the displaced, the already-gone, as “in-the-place-of-itself: put for itself, instead of itself.”44 It is a purely logical concept, rather than an existential or phenomenological one. Maybe it is true, as Derrida has claimed, that in a philosophy that is always a philosophy of presence, only from another region, a “region that lies elsewhere than philosophy,”45 can such privilege be questioned and the associated “security and ground”46 shattered. But in doing so, would the region of philosophy be extended? Would such a philosophy perhaps be reborn with “ever renewed upsurge and virginity?”47 The unthinkable of the other time, and the unthinkable of the human existence not containable by ego-consciousness as the defining element, may become what brings the new birth.
42 Derrida, Speech and Phenomenon, 88. 43 Derrida, Speech and Phenomenon, 88. 44 Derrida, Speech and Phenomenon, 89. 45 Derrida, Speech and Phenomenon, 62. 46 Derrida, Speech and Phenomenon, 62. 47 Derrida, Speech and Phenomenon, 66.
The idea that time is not just cognitively experienced and that temporality extends to the depths of other times is shared by Eastern philosophy, where the appreciation of non-ego-conscious experience has historically been strong. Perhaps the most salient example is Buddhism, whose thought is permeated with the ideas that life is transitory, that we live in momentariness, and that the experiential process is relentlessly continuous and interminable. Moments are not severable but are conditioned and compounded phenomena with manifold overt and covert moments. The continuity of existence takes “more than the conscious mind to ‘grasp’”1 ; thus, the neat division into past, present, and future is “a mental construction, a fiction as well as a hinderance.”2 As a philosophy and a religion, Buddhism also constructs its concepts of temporality with a normative bend. Interestingly, Zen Buddhism constructed a “timeless” temporality, which, at least on the surface, seems to resonate with the modern Western emphasis on the eternal “presence.” According to Toshihiko Izutsu,3 the Zen Buddhist notion of “timelessness,” variedly expressed as “zero time,” “no time,” or “here and now,” 1 Kenneth K. Inada, “Time and Temporality: A Buddhist Approach,” Philosophy East & West 24, no. 2 (1974): 171–179, 172. 2 Inada, “Time and Temporality,” 173. 3 Toshihiko Izutsu has impressively explicated the Zen Buddhist concept of time in
“The Field Structure of Time in Zen Buddhism,” published in his collection of articles, The Structure of Oriental Philosophy: Collected Papers of the Eranos Conference, Volume II
© The Author(s) 2020 G. Zhao, Subjectivity and Infinity, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-45590-3_8
does not indicate the loss of time or oblivion to time, but more accurately, denotes an idea of “present-only” time, the idea that time is the expanded, eternal presence of the “present” alone. With an ontological conception of time, the “present” is conceived of as the instant when the individual existents in the universe are manifested at once (in our minds), and thus it is the only time possible. Consequently, temporality is timelessness, “a-temporality,” as Izutsu terms it. Izutsu states, “I am here using the word ‘a-temporality’ in order to designate the very peculiar temporal situation brought about by the simultaneous actualization of all things, in distinction from sheer non-temporality.”4 This notion of a-temporality, however, is only the normative and metaphysical ideal that Zen practitioners are encouraged to achieve. Such an ideal of one time containing all times and one thing containing the whole of the universe can only be built upon yet another temporality, one where all things come with their own times and their own spaces. Izutsu evinces the Zen notion of temporality that has a “two-dimensional structure consisting of a-temporality and temporality” and that without the empirical temporality, “the a-temporal dimension of time structurally cannot remain in itself.”5 The field-structured, empirical temporality provides the ground upon which a-temporality can be activated and manifested. According to Izutsu, Zen Buddhism6 develops its concept of time from Mah¯ay¯ana Buddhism, where time is believed to have originated from the deep psyche of consciousness. According to the Wei Shih school of Mah¯ay¯ana Buddhism, consciousness or the mind is divided into three strata: the surface stratum of thinking and the six senses, the middle stratum of awareness of self and the world (perhaps close to what we in the West call direct and intuitive grasp of the world), and the deep stratum, also called a¯laya-consciousness, of the unconscious and subconscious. The
(Keio University Press, 1978). This part of the discussion makes extensive reference to this work. 4 Izutsu, “The Field Structure of Time in Zen Buddhism,” 88. 5 Izutsu, “The Field Structure of Time in Zen Buddhism,” 89. 6 Zen Buddhism is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese Chi’an Buddhism, which
originated in China as a combination of the Indian Mah¯ay¯ana Buddhism and Chinese Daoism. Zen Buddhism was further developed in Japan and blossomed there. Two of the major schools of Mah¯ay¯ana Buddhism, the Hua Yen and the Wei Shih, have both contributed substantially to the Zen Buddhist concept of time, and, according to Izutsu, culminated in Japanese Zen Buddhism.
deepest level of a¯laya-consciousness is the core and the source of all others as in it are stored all the ontological potentials of the world.7 Through the inner transformation of this stratum, “the world of being as a whole, including both the internal and the external world,” is produced.8 What are stored in the deep level of a¯laya-consciousness, according to the Wei Shih theory, are “seeds” (bija) in which are preserved the future potentials of existence as well as “all the karmic effects or impressions left behind by whatever man has experienced in the past, whether internally or externally.”9 Lying dormant in the deep psyche in a state of potentiality, a “seed” rises up and becomes actualized in varied phenomenal forms when necessary conditions are obtained, making its appearance to the surface consciousness. Time is the instant when the actualization occurs. Thus, time is closely related to the inner working and transformation of deep consciousness. Furthermore, when one seed is actualized, “it impresses the unconscious, leaving there the subtle effect of its phenomenological actualization, which immediately results in the birth of a new ‘seed.’”10 Even though the seeds are ontologically unrelated, and each seed only “actualizes” for an instant and ceases to exist in the next instant, the causal-effect chain movement continues indefinitely, and time forms a succession of discrete units, endlessly progressing forward. In this Buddhist version of time-consciousness by the Hua Yen school of Mah¯ay¯ana Buddhism, also elaborated is the oldest Buddhist notion of the affiliation between being and time. Buddhism has long believed that time and being are most intimately and essentially connected and there can be no discrepancy between them. D¯ ogen, the Japanese Zen master and one of the most profound philosophers in the history of Zen Buddhism, proposes that time is existence and existence is time. “To be is to time.”11 In addition, the Hua Yen school also believes that all things in the world are ontologically transparent, which necessarily leads to a
7¯ alaya in Sanskrit means storage, storehouse. 8 Izutsu, “The Field Structure of Time in Zen Buddhism,” 98. Zen Buddhism endorses
a thoroughly subjectivist ontology. All things in the world are believed to be only the phenomenal images of our mind. 9 Izutsu, “The Field Structure of Time in Zen Buddhism,” 98. 10 Izutsu, “The Field Structure of Time in Zen Buddhism,” 100. 11 Izutsu, “The Field Structure of Time in Zen Buddhism,” 108.
notion of the “unobstructed interpenetration” of all of them.12 Hence we can see the whole universe embodied and manifested in every object in the world. This idea of existents is famously uttered in poetic expressions such as “A grain of sand is the whole universe,”13 “A flower blooms and the whole world blooms into spring,”14 and “In a mote of dust the entire universe is contained.” If existent is time and if all existents (phenomenal images) in the world are transparent, interpenetrating each other, there must also be a “temporal interpenetration,” as Izutsu calls it,15 in which past, future, and other infinite times interpenetrate each other. Since the seed, stored and incubated in the depth of the unconsciousness, carries all the infinite past and endless potentials of the future, when it “comes up to the daylight levels of consciousness and manifests itself,”16 it is the actualization of both the ontological potentials and the other times of the infinite past and future. Consequently, the present-instant is not just the mark of the phenomenal appearance of intentional consciousness but also the penetration and integration of the other times in the present. In such conceptions of time and temporality, time is not simply the companion or product of egological endeavor. While the present-instant does mark the conscious recognition (of the phenomenal appearance produced by the seed’s actualization) and therefore is only actual at the present instant-point, as Izutsu emphasizes, “time originates in the invisible depths of consciousness.”17 Signifying the rising up and actualization of a seed, the present owes its essential structure to the nature of the seed. Latent seeds, carrying all past impressions and future potentials, are outside of conscious recognition, indeterminate, waiting for the conditions to arrive for them to rise up to the daylight and become actualized into a phenomenal reality. Thus, the invisible and the unrealized is the antecedent and the ground that enables and defines the present, and the potential and virtual exerts profound influence upon
12 Izutsu, “The Field Structure of Time in 13 Izutsu, “The Field Structure of Time in 14 Izutsu, “The Field Structure of Time in 15 Izutsu, “The Field Structure of Time in
Zen Buddhism,” 104. Zen Buddhism,” 106. Zen Buddhism,” 104. Zen Buddhism,” 106.
16 Izutsu, “The Field Structure of Time in Zen Buddhism,” 98. 17 Izutsu, “The Field Structure of Time in Zen Buddhism,” 99.
the present and the real, determining its mode of existence.18 How the seed will be actualized, in what forms and shapes, is all spontaneous and unpredictable, for a seed preserves endless potentials and possibilities. In the Bergsonian sense, then, with seeds, we are in the domain of spirit.19 With these considerations, the Zen Buddhist conception of temporality becomes “spatialized.” “Time, instead of forming a flowing line, manifests itself as a spatial expanse of infinite depth and width.”20 Izutsu calls this idea “field-structured” temporality, for every instant-point of the “present” is extended to a spread of being, and time is “a constantly moving juxtaposition of ontological ‘fields,’ each of which is a spread of being, complicated in internal structure and rich in ontological content.”21 Izutsu explains, The present is physically a single point-instant. To this observation, however, we must immediately add another far more important one, namely, that this physical point of the present, in the Buddhist view of time, is not, in its internal structure, a point, but a “field” …. The point-instant of the present is internally a “field” formed by the interaction, i.e., interpenetration of the ontological energies of the three temporal factors, past, present and future. …Such is the depth structure of the present instant. It has, as it were, an ontological thickness. Though it is reducible to a point and instant in its physical form, it is ontologically an expanse in the sense that it is a concentration point of all time and, therefore, of all existence.22
With such “spatialized” temporality, then, we are experiencing the depth of our entire existence at every moment of the “present.” Much more than the current intentional endeavor, layers of hidden memories, undifferentiated experiences, and direct impacts from the outside are washing over me, shaping the way I exist at the present. Or in Zen Buddhist terms, at every moment, “the totality of existence … goes on 18 Izutsu, “The Field Structure of Time in Zen Buddhism,” 101. This is perhaps why Bergson’s pure memory was treated in ontological terms by Deleuze. Pure experience, encompassing and expanding pure memory, can also be conceived of as virtually ontological existence in the same sense. 19 Bergson, “With memory we are, in truth, in the domain of spirit” (Matter and Memory, 1991, 240). 20 Izutsu, “The Field Structure of Time in Zen Buddhism,” 110. 21 Izutsu, “The Field Structure of Time in Zen Buddhism,” 91. 22 Izutsu, “The Field Structure of Time in Zen Buddhism,” 93.
manifesting itself in a new and different form moment by moment.”23 Thus, temporality is characterized by the shining forth of the “now” with its “infinite depth and density of luminosity”24 underneath. Such conception of temporality, compared to the linear progression of egological time in the West, accentuates an entirely different ontological experience of reality. In a way similar to pure experience that brings in the other times, the seed, carrying the infinite past impressions and future potentials, is the embodiment of the past and future times, the “other” times that do not register. The instant of “present,” as the “actual self-presentation of a particular ‘seed’ in a particular form,”25 is the instant when infinite past and endless future become actualized. The “present” is penetrated and integrated with the infinite other times. Even though to Western ears some Zen Buddhist beliefs sound peculiar and arbitrary, such as that the whole world, internal as well as external, is subjective, made of ontological images produced by the mind; that time is not the framework, the condition and medium, of subjective experience, but is existent itself; and that there is no true existence and the continuous appearance of things is only an illusion,26 the Zen Buddhist concepts of time and temporality speak to some profound insights that are often missing in the Western world. But the Zen Buddhist construction of time and temporality does not rest here. As a philosophy and religion, Zen Buddhism is ultimately concerned with the transformation of consciousness and with the training of the mind through contemplation to bring about a new mode of being. Contemplation is meant to activate an inner state of the self in which all things disclose their true nature, hidden from the ordinary eye, and therefore the ordinary concerns and struggles are relativized in the face of the true reality.27 The construction of temporality is not just to describe 23 Izutsu, “The Field Structure of Time in Zen Buddhism,” 24 Izutsu, “The Field Structure of Time in Zen Buddhism,” 25 Izutsu, “The Field Structure of Time in Zen Buddhism,” 26 Buddhism proposes that the consistence or continuity of
95. 105. 101.
things is only an illusion. Izutsu explains this point: “That which appears to the empirical eye as one and the same thing continuing to exist for some time … is a series of closely similar phenomenal forms” (“The Field Structure of Time in Zen Buddhism,” 99). 27 The word contemplation in Sanskrit is ´samatha-vipa´syan¯ a, which literally means stop´ ping, keeping still, and quiet (Samatha), and viewing (pa´syan¯ a ) things in detail and in
and interpret, but also to enable a new mode of being in which distinctions between past, present, and future, and between the whole and its parts, disappear. In Izutsu’s words, it is to “activate a peculiar faculty of metaphysical sight… so that an entirely new vista might be opened up of the world of being and the things in the world as they reveal the profound reality of their existence as time.”28 It is this ultimate purpose of Zen Buddhism that has enabled the temporal structure of “a-temporality” and essentially made the temporal “field” reduceable to the present-point, where the entirety of the universe is actualized at once. In the words of the greatest philosopher of the Hua Yen school, Fa Ts’ang [法藏] (643– 712), “The totality of the things come into being at one stroke, simultaneously, in an instant.”29 This instant actualization is expressed in oceanimprint-contemplation,30 the highest form of contemplation in Mah¯ay¯ana Buddhism. Izutsu describes it as “the limitless expanse of a deep ocean remaining completely calm and tranquil whose unruffled, lucid surface reflects, like a spotlessly clean mirror, the images of all things in the universe.”31 No ripples, no distortions, no concealment or mysterious nothingness. All things in the universe appear in absolute clarity “as they truly are, each manifesting its natural, primordial reality.”32 Needless to say, such a “vision,” such a manifestation of reality, is still a world away from the manifestation and “presence” we are familiar with in the West. The true reality that Zen practitioners are encouraged to disclose is not the reality of ordinary eyes and ears in time and space. Primary, timeless and spaceless, reality is from the bottomless ground that is the original abode of things and events in the world. Yet in a way strikingly similar to the Western essence, nothing escapes from such a manifestation. Nothing is beyond the vision and appearance. Such a normative ideal, clearly, denies anything chaotic and mysterious, anything radically other, or genuinely transcendent from the horizon of seeing. The seeds distinction. The purpose of the practice is the discipline of calming down the superficial agitations of the mind, whether sensory, emotive, or cogitative, and keeping it in a state of stillness, and thus actualized, seeing or cognizing all things distinctively, each in its individual reality. 28 Izutsu, “The Field Structure of Time in Zen Buddhism,” 85. 29 Izutsu, “The Field Structure of Time in Zen Buddhism,” 106. 30 hai-yin san-mei [海印三昧] in Chinese and s¯ agara--mudr¯ a--sam¯ adhi in Sanskrit. 31 Izutsu, “The Field Structure of Time in Zen Buddhism,” 86. 32 Izutsu, “The Field Structure of Time in Zen Buddhism,” 87.
that carry the past impression and future potential, indeterminate and unpresentable, are rendered completely visible and exposed in contemplative seeing. As Izutsu remarks, no unconquered trace dissolves into “the nothingness of metaphysical undifferentiation”; all stand out clearly, “each showing its own ontological delineation.”33 Like many other Eastern approaches, though never reducing the world to the ordinary human mind, the mind in Zen Buddhism maintains the ability to expand itself to encompass and identify with the universe. In reaching ocean-imprint-contemplation, all the dimensions of temporality and temporal sequence, all the ontological vicissitudes, are dissolved with only the center intact. “The contemplative I … functions in the temporal dimension of being as the unifying point of all ontological instants at every instant.”34 The contemplative I is identifiable with the timeless Mandala, the microcosm of the universe. In Zen Buddhism, spirituality signifies the rising up of the self to reach the beyond, the height of the universe. With this normative ideal and pursuit, then, the present becomes the “a-temporal totum simul.. a locus in which all things multi-dimensionally interpenetrate each other into a unity…[and] a locus in which all time distinctions interpenetrate each other and converge into a temporal unity.”35 Temporality is suspended or annihilated. “For where all things are in a state of ultimate actualization there is no place for time to flow. The whole world of being has sunk into absolute stillness and quietude.”36 The present-point is eternality in this sense. Unlike the Western “present,” the present-point in Zen Buddhism has a particular “temporal density,”37 yet it is a density without unfathomable depth, without the participation of the unpresentable, the already disappearing, and the spontaneous. While Zen Buddhism originated from the joined sources of Chinese Daoism and Mah¯ay¯ana Buddhism, and whenever one speaks of Zen one
33 Izutsu, “The Field Structure of Time in 34 Izutsu, “The Field Structure of Time in 35 Izutsu, “The Field Structure of Time in 36 Izutsu, “The Field Structure of Time in
Zen Buddhism,” 87. Zen Buddhism,” 112. Zen Buddhism,” 107. Zen Buddhism,” 110.
37 Izutsu, “The Field Structure of Time in Zen Buddhism,” 107.
thinks of nothingness,38 the pursuit of ocean-imprint-contemplation, as practiced by many Zen observers, does seem to indicate the loss of the Daoist spirit of nothingness. The infinite emptiness that can never be exhausted is now to be captured, made determinate, and its spontaneity and mystery gone. In this kind of contemplation, says Izutsu, “there is absolutely no place for anything like the ontological chaos which characterizes in such a remarkable way the world-view of a Chuang-tzu.”39 It “is radically different from, or rather, the exact opposite of, the contemplation of Nothingness, in which absolutely nothing remains in the field of vision.”40 Zen practitioners are encouraged to grab the “nothingness” only to mobilize the “whole” from which they can achieve a sense of perspective and absolute clarity as well as freedom. Nothing is concealed beyond manifestation and nothing outside may overcome the serene self.
38 The word Zen has its origin in Indian Sanskrit “dhyana” or “sunya”, meaning emptiness or void, but it also reflects the key Daoist idea of emptiness and nothingness that is the inexhaustible ground of everything. 39 Izutsu, “The Field Structure of Time in Zen Buddhism,” 103. 40 Izutsu, “The Field Structure of Time in Zen Buddhism,” 87.
Temporality and Existent
Even though there is still an unbridgeable gap between the egological mind and the contemplating mind, between the “freedom to” and the “freedom from,” and between the different ontological experiences of reality they underscore, the seemingly shared desire for certainty and for mastery, to rise above the “chaos” and “darkness,” so to speak, has led both transcendental philosophy and Zen Buddhism to conceptualize temporality, unexpectedly, in a similar fashion: reducing temporality to a single dimension or even a single point. As much as Zen Buddhism is interested in up-rooting the ego-consciousness with a logical negation, and despite its non-binary focus on being and nonbeing, the urge to manage our lives to achieve a high level of self-mastery and self-directive seems to have left little room for absolute nonbeing/nothingness in the enlightened being and leads to a normative ideal where all can be annexed in “being” and manifestation.1 At the heart of these attempts is the shared unwillingness to let go, to be guided by the unknown and the Other, by the absolute beyond. To make such reduction possible, however, a presumption has to be made that the absolute other and the infinite is not only undesirable and disposable, but also can be made to shine forth, to be “present.” It is assumed that the egological or contemplating mind can assimilate or
1 Albeit an inner, non-egological manifestation, one that is radically different from what we are familiar with in the West.
© The Author(s) 2020 G. Zhao, Subjectivity and Infinity, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-45590-3_9
actualize the other and absorb the outside within. Essentially, our physiopsychic or cognitive latitude is intended to delineate the horizon within which the world exists; thus the world exists for me. Essentially, the world is made to identify with the egological or contemplating mind, or to succumb to our will and desire. But the world has never existed for me and could never be reduced to my horizon. Beyond what we pierce through and think of as “ours,” there is always the noumenal, the obscure that is at the very foundation of our “enclosed” system. As the medium and condition of our whole sensible existence, time is not just the conscious time but also the other time, the time of the primal sensibility that rumbles underneath existence. The outside of “my” territory, the great unknown, like the sound of silence, is calling me at every “present.” Primal sensibility dwells in, appeals to, its unlimited depth and intricacy and brings in the outside unidentified and unrepresented. It is precisely the participation of this impenetrable other through primal sensibility that has made existence more than its own confines and its own self-circulation. The reduced temporality does no justice to the polyphone of the other times that coalesces and penetrates the conscious time, and to human existence and relations to the world in general. The other time cannot be appropriated and annexed; consequently, temporality cannot be reduced to a linear progression or a single point but expands and extends to the depths of the other time. Temporality signifies a mode of existence that is always intermingled with free memories and unregistered impressions, complicating and participating every present. It signifies the richness and inexhaustibility of human subjectivity. Both Derrida’s and the Zen Buddhists’ insights point to the impossibility of the ego-conscious temporality. While Derrida’s critique makes a compelling case that there is no unified, exhaustive, conscious “present” and no present can stand alone without its other, and hence the nonpresent is “essentially and indispensably”2 part of the present, the Zen Buddhist field-structured temporality makes clear that every moment of the present is a compound moment of covert and overt realities and that the times of hidden realities inevitably penetrate and extend the present. These insights suggest that temporality is more than the linear progression of conscious time.
2 Derrida, Speech and Phenomenon, 64.
TEMPORALITY AND EXISTENT
Different from Derrida’s conviction, however, temporality does not denote an impasse, the impossibility of time. Beyond and within the ego-conscious movement is the movement of the primal sensibility; thus the other time participates. Along with the conscious states, the sensible movements coalesce, interpenetrating one another in a nexus, a duration of time of the whole existence. With primal sensibility, therefore, diverse, unrecognized and indeterminate experiences come in with their ancient times, the times of varied dates and contexts, and the times of unmarked encounters, preceding and penetrating conscious movements. Conscious time is inevitably interwoven with the dissonant time of the different ages and spaces. Hence before attentive recognition carves out a moment of presence, existence already dwells in the anonymous and unintentional movement of primal sensibility. When the present finally makes its cut, shining forth, its underside has already shifted, and the other, the pure and the undifferentiated, slips in, disrupting its unity and obscuring its boundaries. Consequently, the present is already heterogeneous, with the unintentional touch of the noumenon, the spontaneous participation of “retention” and “protention,”3 the lingering of the already-gone past and the anticipation of the future, as well as with the infinite other times. The ex-conscious experience that arises out of our encounter with the world remains deep-seated and flows, like an undercurrent, without announcement and without coming into the light, yet it is the other, the alterity to the conscious movement. Derrida calls such presence “originheterogenous” since there is no “origin” that is not already immediately heterogeneous.4 The necessary and inevitable “other” embedded in the “origin” indicates that the origin is given partly as other than itself. For Derrida, this is a clear sign that the “I” therefore cannot hold itself together, is contaminated, and in an endless process of deferral. As critical as Derrida is of the obsession with self-identity in transcendental philosophy, his logic of contamination or total deconstruction only indicates a similar obsession. While it is true that the present can never be stable and self-contained and that time cannot be solely the duration of egological operation, all egological operation is built upon the other and the pure
3 Husserl, The Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness. 4 Jacques Derrida, Of Spirit, Heidegger and the Question, trans. Geoffrey Bennington
and Rachel Bowlby (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1989), 107.
and the interpenetration of the other time both supports and ruptures the rise of the present, allowing temporality to flow with expanded depth and dimensions. Human temporality thus extends beyond our own time, before and beyond our egological horizon. Also different from the convictions of Zen Buddhism, the participation of the other time is not the actualization of the latent realities that are already there, though hidden, waiting to be actualized. Actualization for Zen Buddhism may only translate to a predetermined, projected path and all that has to happen is the realization of what is meant to be. Yet the other time is the time of the unrepresented and unpresentable, and for the unpresentable, there will not be an actualization because there is nothing “actual” per se. Neither is the Bergsonian “actualization” the sole occurrence there, where the virtual and indeterminate pure memory is spontaneously determined in unpredictable ways. Bergson’s pure memory is past perception that was once captured by perceptive consciousness and appeared. Yet pure experience drawn by primal sensibility is more than the trace of perceptions and is beyond captivation. What is in the state of latency is also in the state of inexplicability, defeating every conscious attempt at fixation. Hence the present is not the moment of final determination and manifestation, but the moment of new creation appealing to the uncapturable infinity. The uncapturable does not come to be realized, but only inspires and enacts imaginative recreation. Consequently, what penetrates and participates in the present moment is not just the trace of a past presence, nor the emergence of a predetermined reality; it is the trace of the free and spiritual, the presence of absence. It does not participate only through condensation or actualization, but also through bearing on the present as a reminder, setting off wonder and imagination. The flow of conscious time is ruptured and unsettled by the heterogeneous and diachronic occurrences, the inexhaustible and uncapturable flux, yet temporality is henceforth extended and enabled with unfathomable depth. Accordingly, the temporality of all of existence is not the flow of a river of water, where every drop remains constant and continuous, but a river of fireworks that appear and disappear, emerge and diverge, with different intensity and luminosity. Yet as a whole, the flow continues interminably, with unlimited depth and possibilities. Primal sensibility undercuts the authority and power of consciousness over time and the present, brings in the other time, blurs and unphases conscious progression. With it, pure
TEMPORALITY AND EXISTENT
experience, defeating conscious appropriation and annexation, participates and joins on its own terms. The duration of time is enabled not only by the shining forth of the “now,” already unsettled on its underside, but also by the deep ocean of the rumbling torrents of the other time. Rather than a coherent, smooth, and solidified flow, temporality necessarily embodies varied dimensions, directions, and turns, diachronic and synchronic movements. If we use Derrida’s words, temporality is “also discontinuity, divergence and scission.”5 The multi-dimensional, often out of sync, endless, and beginning-less temporality signifies the inexhaustibility and the impossibility of the final determination of human existence. The present, therefore, is already foreshadowed and undercut, as well as enriched and sustained by the participation of other time. Unlike what has long been assumed, the present is not a single, coherent and unified moment of conscious operation. Every shining moment of present recognition is unsettled by pure memories and unmarked impact at its core. Countless other times arise from the deep strata, filling in and cutting through the unity of the instant of recognition. The illusion of self-identity, unable to “represent” or “correspond” to the cacophonic, unfathomable wellspring, therefore, can only signify a creative configuration out of the infinite possibilities of modes of being. In this new temporality, subjectivity is “no longer ours,” never completely actual and determinate, nor deadened in its absolute certainty and clarity. Subjectivity is never an answer, a knowledge, or an entity, but is always a question—a question that is forever calling but can never be answered. The endless inexhaustibility, spontaneity, and possibility render the question unanswerable. With time as the mode of existence and inextricably associated with primal sensibility, being is liberated from the horizon, and the confines, of the conscious operation, which limits time within its authority and autonomy. The primacy of the “I think” or egology no longer defines subjectivity. Similarly, conscious time no longer delineates the ontological boundaries, as many contemporary philosophers have assumed.6 Too often the efforts to reconfigure the subject 5 Alia Al-Saji, “The Memory of Another Past: Bergson, Deleuze and A New Theory of Time,” Continental Philosophy Review 37 (2004): 203–239, 209. 6 For example, Derrida’s recent emphasis on the concept of “futural” time, his idea of the “messianic,” and his repeated claims of that which is “to come” in relation to democracy and justice, all seem to point to that which he deems not able to be integrated within the possibilities of a subject. The “unforeseeable and unknowable” future, therefore,
confine time to the power and the limitations of the egological operation, yet are unable to deal with the inevitable aporia and irresolvable paradox resulting from the exclusion of the other time from temporality and the nonbeing from being. But if time breaks away from the tyranny of ego and consciousness, subjectivity reaches beyond “me,” beyond my own time and my own making. Time becomes the mode of existence of the infinite being, the very opening-up and reaching-out to the other and the outside. The cacophony of divergent experiences, with different intensities and luminosity, participates in the living flow of subjectivity, signifying the unidentifiability and unpredictability of existence. It signifies infinity. The reduction of temporality, therefore, affords an illusionary outlook of control and mastery of life and existence. The unfathomable depth, the absolute other, is negated, along with the possibility of infinity and transcendence. What comes from such reduction is not only the loss of uncertainty, the “darkness,” for sure, but also the inexhaustible richness, the source of endless creative possibilities.
becomes the mark of the boundary of the subject and defines what is outside the horizon of the subject.
Being or Nothingness? Infinity and the Porous Existent
Now the lurking question of being or nothingness, the seemingly unresolvable tension that has profoundly divided contemporary thought, is loud and near. With the waves of challenge against the transcendental subject, or Being, tension arises as to how we are to describe existent: being or nonbeing? beyond being? Other than being? The unresolvable tension in contemporary thought between being and nothingness is a clear sign that we may not know how to think beyond the either-or terms, and dichotomic thinking has long been embedded in modern philosophy. In the Cartesian tradition (including its Kantian and Husserlian articulations), the transcendental ego, rising up in unified and exhaustive presence, is the transcendental Being that identifies and totalizes the world as its other and its object, and itself as the internal entity of its gaze. In both inward and outward directions, there is the dichotomy of being and things, being and the object, as geological and physical oppositions and as being and nothingness, which is unable to be, the lack of being or the opposite of being. The other is always defined in oppositional and correlational terms. It is not other in itself but is other than the I-Subject, as a limitation to being. The thing/object is the opposite of the I-Subject and the self-object is the empirical, material entity to be faced by the I. That is why the I-Subject’s eternal question is “To Be or Not To Be”: to be the constitutive, self-aware agent that makes the world his own or the nothingness that is unable to be, the lack of being. It is an eternal question, and a perpetual pursuit centered on Being.
© The Author(s) 2020 G. Zhao, Subjectivity and Infinity, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-45590-3_10
Contemporary thought has striven to challenge and discredit such a transcendental, constitutive subject, but the aftermath seems still to be tied down by the dichotomic view and by the center that is said to be nonexistent or to have been “liquidated.” Either by revealing its inevitable excess, the beyond, the irreducible giveness (Heidegger, Marion), or by pointing at its inevitable lack and void (Lacan, Derrida), the new concepts are derived from challenging the subject and thus the subject is still its source and its justification. Recent French philosophy is particularly keen to reject the totalizing tendency, perceived as an essential endowment of the transcendental subject. This “philosophy of difference”1 has set as its task to “avoid reducing difference to the logic of the same.”2 What comes out of the rejection and the avoidance is an unprecedent emphasis on the radical, irreducible difference that nevertheless is a constitutive part of existence (Nancy, Derrida, Levinas).3 Yet the difference still finds itself caught in the seemingly inevitable tensions of being and nothingness and being and beyond being that are so deeply embedded in Western philosophy. The emphasis on difference is an emphasis on the impossibility of totalizing the subject, the recognition that “the subject —the property of the self —[is] never closed upon itself without remainder.”4 The subject cannot be comprehended, totalized, and captured in knowledge, in essential endowment, in reflection or in representation. Yet besides the negative expression of the subject as “what it cannot be,” as nonidentity, nontraceability, and irreducibility, the question becomes: How can it still be described? The negative expression may only signify a language that is inherently limited and limiting, but also a way of thinking that is confined and prisoned. Since modern Western philosophy is, at its core, based on totalitarian thinking, the tension between being and nothingness, being and nonbeing or beyond being, does not seem to be easily resolvable within its framework and any attempt to resolve it within the tradition seems to risk totalizing it again.
1 Todd May, Reconsidering Difference (University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997). 2 May, Reconsidering Difference, 2. 3 May, Reconsidering Difference, 2 4 Nancy, “Introduction,” in Who comes after the subject? 4.
BEING OR NOTHINGNESS? INFINITY …
Both the Derridean differánce that posits an endless delay and deferral to the unity and the possibility of the subject and the Levinasian ethical subjectivity as passivity, hostage, and responsibility to the radical Other— an expression contrary to the power and freedom of the constitutive subject—still show signs of being conceived in reference to the totalizing subject, either as a rupture or as its reverse. But precisely as Levinas quoted, “Not to philosophize is still to philosophize,”5 we are trapped in the either-or dichotomy where we either have the full, secured, absolute presence, or we have nothingness, non-existence, or absolute passivity as the opposite of Being. All these conceptions have a unified Being and Presence as the point of reference. Our thinking seems unable to go beyond the dichotomy. But with a temporality that is the flow of multi-dimensional and multidirectional times, of experiences and pure experience appearing and disappearing with different intensities and luminosities, under the concrete being and presence, there are always cracks and chasms of unlimited depths and possibilities. Out of the unfathomable absence emerge unpredicted possibilities. Therefore, infinity is inevitably part of subjectivity. Our existence can only be characterized by the inexhaustible and unpredictable possibilities of infinity. Perhaps the Daoist notion of nothingness can shed some light on how infinity might be thought of. The Daoist nothingness may provide a new framework, a new approach, to go beyond the dichotomy. In the Daoist tradition, Wu, or nothingness and emptiness, is profoundly different from
5 Emmanuel Levinas, Of God Who Comes to Mind, trans. Bettina Bergo (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998), 55. While I have suggested that Levinas’s conception of subjectivity is still tied down by its point of reference, the constitutive Subject, in conceptualizing the Other, Levinas clearly attempts to reach a realm beyond the confines of any reference to the Subject. Levinas suggests that egology, the “I think,” has compromised the true knowledge of the other in its otherness. Consequently, the other appears to be the opposite of the same or the I, or it becomes an extension of the same. Levinas argues that the other cannot be merely the other of the same and cannot be conceived merely as resistance or reversal of the I, and he warns of the danger of violence in rendering the other the same. He argues that the other must be the absolute Other, the Other that is prior to any geographical, physical, and cognitive opposition to the same. While Levinas has also hinted at such radical Otherness in subjectivity, and hence calls it “Otherwise than being,” a closer read of his conception of subjectivity indicates that it is more about “beyond essence,” as unable to be, as a hostage and responsibility…; all these indicate that he is still working within the realm of the reversal of the constitutive Subject and unable to find a ground radically other enough for the “Otherwise than being.”
the Western concept of nothingness. In the Western transcendental and metaphysical tradition, thingness and nothingness, as well as being and nonbeing, are in opposite, binary positions, and one is absolutely devoid of and against the other. The Daoist nothingness, however, denotes a completely different understanding. Nothingness and emptiness constitute the very ground from which all things emerge. In Laozi’s Dao De Jing, it is stated that being originates from nothingness/nonbeing (you sheng yu wu). As Yü Ying-shih explains, “That which is called nonbeing is the beginning of things and the completion of affairs.”6 Dao De Jing further states, “Reaching the ultimate of emptiness, deeply guarding stillness, the things of the world arise together; thereby do I watch their return.”7 Emptiness or nothingness is the source of all things, yet it cannot be seen, or grabbed; neither can it be named or identified. Whatever is grasped and identified is already not. “What you look at but cannot see is called ‘transparent’; what you listen to but cannot hear is called ‘rarified’; what you grab at but cannot grasp is called ‘minute.’ These three cannot be probed through; thus they are conflated to one.”8 The one is the unprobeable whole where multiplicities emerge. Ungraspable and yet the source of all things, the Daoist nothingness also denotes a state of constant transformation. After examining the etymological meaning of the Chinese character Wu, the German sinologist Guenter Wohlfart suggests that Wu or nothingness “is obviously not a matter of the marking of a final establishment or persisting, but much rather of the characterization of a passing or (in the future) emerging, that is, a matter of a process or a changing-into-one-another.”9 Hence the Daoist nothingness conveys a state of existence that is nonessential, always in a state of flux, emerging and disappearing, and turning into all things in its transformation. Such a notion of nothingness and emptiness provides a new possibility, a completely different avenue that seems more fitting to describe infinity 6 Ying-shih Yü, “Individualism and the Neo-Taoist Movement in Wei-Chin China,” in Individualism and Holism: Studies in Confucian and Taoist Values, ed. Donald J. Munro (Ann Arbor: Center for Chinese Studies, The University of Michigan, 1985), 134. 7 Laozi, Dao De Jing, trans. Robert Eno (2010), Version 1.2. 16. Retrieved February 2, 2019 at http://www.indiana.edu/~p374/Daodejing.pdf. 8 Dao De Jing, 14. 9 Guenter Wohlfart, “Heidegger and Laozi: Wu (nothing)—on chapter 11 of the Daode-
jing,” trans. Marty Heitz, Journal of Chinese Philosophy 30, no. 1 (2003): 39–59, 45.
BEING OR NOTHINGNESS? INFINITY …
within subjectivity beyond either-or terms. What is acknowledged in the Daoist notion of nothingness is that any form the subject takes is not a correlative or representative of reality.10 Subjectivity is infinity not because of its magnitude, its immensity, or sacredness, nor even just because of its nonidentity and non-actuality, but because it is infinitely rich and inexhaustive, endlessly generative and possible, yet cannot be grasped and revealed, nor fixed and objectified. The very nature of infinity is that it is infinitely free—free from conception, manifestation, reduction, and replication. It is beyond knowledge, hence cannot be captured by our egological or contemplative minds. With infinity in subjectivity, our existence can only be characterized by the inexhaustible and unpredictable possibilities.11 To understand the unfathomable depth and the evasive richness and ambiguity of subjectivity as infinity is to enquiry into itself. Thus the existent is always a question, yet the question will not be finally answered. Nor is there an I-Subject dichotomy or the other dichotomies: being and nonbeing, being and otherness, difference and concealment, and others. Heterogeneous experiences cohabit in profound richness and innocence, the unfathomable nebulous whole. Being and nonbeing are inseparable, and infinity is in a simultaneous and inescapable creative tension between you 有 and wu 无, thingness and nothingness, presence and absence. Between being and nonbeing, dwells the human existent. It is the tensions and ambiguities that make us human. As Heidegger allegedly claimed after being introduced to the Daoist notion of nothingness, “In this [genuine] in-between [of things] dwells the human.”12 “The original 10 The Daoist Zhuangzi described a notion of the human self as nonbeing in the sense that it transcends all entities and is beyond all enclosed presence and yet it embodies, generates, and completes all things. See my earlier work on Zhuangzi: “Transcendence, Freedom, and Ethics in Levinas’ Subjectivity and Zhuangzi’s Non-being Self,” Philosophy East & West 65, no. 1 (2015): 65–80. 11 Existence as infinity is not even “becoming,” for “becoming” always points in certain directions and at certain destinations, but infinity has no prediction and no destination. 12 Quoted in Xiangling Zhang, “The Coming Time ‘Between’ Being and Daoist Emptiness: An Analysis of Heidegger’s Article Inquiry into the Uniqueness of the Poet Via the Lao Zi,” Philosophy East & West 59, no. 1 (2009): 71–87, 80. Legend has it that, when Heidegger was searching for the meaning of being, when his project in Being and Time “could not succeed with the help of the language of metaphysics,” he was introduced to the Daoist notion of nothingness by the Japanese Kyoto school scholars. As someone who had denounced the metaphysical tradition that identifies the essence of being through essential endowment, and as someone who believed that being is not a metaphysical entity, not a being or beings, this notion opened up a whole new way of seeing the world for
human dwelling or human nature cannot be found in any objectifiable or ‘useful’ being except within that in which prevails the ‘great usefulness of the useless.’”13 With such an understanding of nothingness as inevitable ground for presence, within the limits of language, subjectivity may only be described through the metaphor of porous existence. The existent is porous in the sense that boundaries are always permeable where the unfathomable depth, or nothingness, is implicated. The nothingness penetrates existence, yet it is also the ground upon which existence is perched. The existent is porous also in the sense that there are heterogeneous dimensions and intensities, slipping in at every instant of duration. The porous existent cannot hold as a stable, all-appearing, circumscribed presence. Part of it has always already disappeared. The porosity of our existence signifies that the originary, antecedent, and yet inexhaustible and nonrepresentable nothingness grounds the presence of existence. It signifies categorically that being has nonbeing on its underside, and being is always open to the other and the outside. The term “porous self” was first coined by Charles Taylor to describe the sense of self in which spiritual and cosmic forces “could cross a porous boundary and shape our lives, psychic and physical.”14 Unlike the “buffered” and bounded modern self after the “age of reason,” there is no secure ground to ensure a protected and bounded self. The porous self allows a person to be invaded or overcome by unseen forces. While
him, a complete avenue that he couldn’t resist. Thus, he claimed that “Tao could be the way that gives all ways” (Heidegger, quoted in Guenter Wohlfart, “Heidegger and Laozi: Wu [nothing]—on Chapter 11 of the Daodejing,” trans. Marty Heitz, Journal of Chinese Philosophy 30, no. 1 : 39–59, 52). Not surprisingly, Heidegger is considered by some to be “the only Western philosopher who not only intellectually understands Tao, but has intuitively experienced the essence of it as well.” [Chang Chung-yuan, Tao: A New Way of Thinking (New York: Harper & Row, 1997), viii.] 13 Heidegger’s comments on Zhuangzi concerning “a huge tree that is useless,” quoted in Zhang, “The Coming Time ‘Between’ Being and Daoist Emptiness,” 80–81. 14 Charles Taylor, “Buffered and Porous Selves,” in The Immanent Frame (September 2, 2008). Taylor describes the distinction between what he calls the modern and premodern senses of self. The modern self is called “buffered self” while the pre-modern self is the “porous self.” Retrieved October 10, 2019 at https://tif.ssrc.org/2008/09/02/ buffered-and-porous-selves/.
BEING OR NOTHINGNESS? INFINITY …
Taylor’s account accentuates the effect of the fears and terrors of the “enchanted” world where demons or fairies float, I suggest that the concept of a porous existence captures best the mode of existence with a multi-dimensional and beginning-less temporality, where the unintentional touch of the noumenon, the spontaneous participation of “retention” and “protention,” the lingering of the already-gone past and the anticipation of the future, participate. Every “now” is a “stretched now” consisting of continually changing heterogeneous moments that interpenetrate one another.
Death and the Beginning, or Infinite Time
If time is the mode and condition of our whole existence, and temporality signifies the depth, the heterogeneity, and the complexity of the present, our existence is not tied down to the narrow limits of physical and conscious activities. With primal sensibility, time moves on, drawing close nameless experiences of the ancient age and the yet to come, complicating and unsettling the present. Every moment of now and then resounds with the other time, the ageless memories and unmarked encounters. Yet the question remains: Does the time prior to the beginning and after death participate in temporality? It goes without saying that birth and death mark the beginning and the end of our biological lives, but does time stop there? Do birth and death mark the end of our temporality? Is human temporality confined by physical and biological activities? In other words, do the pre- and after-history, the utterly other of time, or perhaps infinite time, participate in temporality? For all sentient existences, life passes in time, but if existence were limited to sensori-motor and habitual and mechanical activities, driven by moments of impulses, temporality would be caught in the difficult question of animality, as Didier Franck rightly noted.1 Birth and death would be a matter of occurrence, a destiny to which the existent would be oblivious. There would be nothing unknown and nothing other, temporality would be limited to the bond of sensory activities and the other times and infinite time would not exist. 1 Didier Franck, “Being and Living,” in Who comes after the subject?
© The Author(s) 2020 G. Zhao, Subjectivity and Infinity, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-45590-3_11
Modern philosophy has fought strenuously against this fate of animality by appealing to the qualitative difference between being-in-itself, which simply exists in the moment, and being-for-itself, which fights the disappearance of time. With the unchallenged association of time with consciousness, temporality begins and ends with presence, awareness, and intention. The authority and autonomy of ego-consciousness set the boundary of temporality. Temporality becomes my temporality, marked by my conscious presence, and the other time is the disappearance of time to be struggled against. Temporality is centered on the “now” when being inserts itself against the past and future. Like Kafka’s man in his Parable, one has to constantly struggle to carve out a “present” that witnesses both his tragedy and his heroism, or he risks disappearance in history.2 The other time, beyond conscious control and exterior to awareness, or the disappearance of time, is the looming threat, the ultimate challenge. The existent must fight such a threat of “nonexistence” to make his present. Consequently, prior to the beginning and beyond death is non-existence, the erasure of being, and the other of time, and the moments that indicate the end of the virility of the subject become the ultimate struggle in modern philosophy. The perennial quest for the origin, and for the first principle, in Western philosophy signifies such an ultimate struggle. As Richard Cohen observes, “Philosophy has hitherto been synonymous with first philosophy, with the firstness of first philosophy as the very telos of philosophy.”3 Conceiving and theorizing the beginning as the starting, and containing, point of all things, philosophy attempts to appropriate the mystery and perplexity of prehistory, and absorb it into its own project. Denying prehistory by starting with and at the beginning, the other time is rendered non-existent, and infinite time dismissed as a threat to being. Yet the obsession with the beginning may have only disclosed the everlasting and inescapable appeal of the time of prehistory, the absolute other of time that lingers, disturbs, and yet slips away ever again when we thought we 2 See Arendt’s interesting analysis of Parable [Hannah Arendt, Between Past and Future (Penguin Classics, 2006).] According to Arendt, for the man in Parable, time is a cut in the middle of the line, the non-temporal gap opened up by his fight, and in this gap his presence remains constant. Thus “I” am the author of my time and my presence, and my authority makes both time and presence eternal. This is a typical modern understanding of temporality and being. In this view, time is “mine” alone and I am this originary, constitutive, and transcendental subject. 3 In his “Introduction” to Levinas, Time and the Other, 14.
DEATH AND THE BEGINNING, OR INFINITE TIME
had it in our hands. In a strange way, transcendental philosophy’s denial of time prior to the beginning only testifies to infinite time as inevitably part of our temporality even though, and precisely because, it is not my time. Heidegger has made the attempt to reject the point of beginning as necessarily the containing point, closing Dasein off from the other time of prehistory. Unlike his transcendental predecessors, Heidegger approaches the beginning existentially, so Dasein may maintain some openness that was lost in the transcendental subject. Hence the point of beginning, as Heidegger characterizes it, signifies Dasein’s “being-thrown” (geworfen) into the world, the moment when Dasein suddenly finds himself arbitrarily placed in the present. “Being-thrown” indicates the inscrutable connection between the present and the infinite past. But Heidegger’s connection to the unfathomable past is made only to lament Dasein’s lack of authorship and autonomy. Heidegger later suggests that Dasein can also fight against the fate of “being thrown” by seizing the possibilities offered in the concrete condition and reclaiming his “freedom.” The ultimate concern, it seems, is still the virility of the egological existent. For someone who sees the present precisely as what can be seized and resolutely made my own, someone for whom the now always trumps, prehistory has to fall within and be assimilated into Dasein’s vision. Thus “being-thrown” is the self-pity and self-struggle of the egological being. Instead of opening up, Dasein is actually more closed up with his ultimate concern with its lack of virility at the moment. There is no genuine “other time” then, or infinite time, against the egological being, and Dasein is closer to the metaphysical “subject” than Heidegger might have liked. Sensible time and anachronistic time, which have always been calling upon the existent and participating in his temporality, are still denied in Heidegger. Contrary to prehistory, which seems utterly unfathomable, and hence philosophy’s attempt to deny it or domesticate it through mastering the moment of beginning, the perspective of being’s inevitable demise has brought overwhelming terror. Philosophy, as Simon Critchley notes, has long been preoccupied with preparing people to deal with the terror of the inevitable.4 That may be why Levinas complained that our
4 See Simon Critchley, The Book of Dead Philosophers (Vintage, 2009).
principle relationship with death has escaped philosophers’ attention.5 Death, which marks and opens up a time absolutely unknowable, has been excluded from participating in being except for the fear it brings, the egological existent’s terror of annihilation. Heidegger stands out again in this philosophical tradition with his remarkable attention to death, not as the fearful inevitable demise, but as the ultimate issue or question of existence. Admitting that Dasein can have a physiological death, Heidegger prioritizes the existential concept of death over any biological sense of life. For Heidegger, death is Dasein’s supreme moment for the possibility of being. “Being-towards-death” provides the opportunity for Dasein to shatter off his inauthentic and superficial everyday existence and become his own authentic being. It is the definitive mode of Dasein’s existence. By turning the inevitable demise into a heroic event of freedom and individualization, Heidegger makes death an essential part of existence. Reconfiguring death “in the widest sense, […as] a phenomenon of life,” Heidegger hence reclaimed the time of death within the horizon of Dasein’s mastery. The issue of death is dealt with in a way that demonstrates the egological being’s resoluteness and courage. Infinite time is subsumed within the horizon of the existent. Yet the inevitable question is: How can death, non-existence, ever be determined by the mode of Dasein? Or in Didier Franck’s words, “How can something ontologically foreign to Dasein be ostensible, thanks to Dasein, and in Dasein? How can existence be reduced to life?”6 Heidegger’s answer is that death is “ecstatic temporal existence.” Ecstasy, (or ekstasis ), coming from the ancient Greek word, is the combination of “ek” (out) and “stasis ” (stand), to be or to stand outside of oneself. So it is the existence of the egological being as outside of itself, the very paradox of standing outside of time as one in time. In this way, Heidegger attempts to open up the horizon of temporality for being. But the purpose of such “opening-up” of temporality is still to safeguard the supremacy, the freedom, and the audacity of Dasein. Heidegger’s concern has always been Dasein’s self-validation and authenticity, and its ultimate determination of time. Dasein is still an egological being, responding to the question of his existence by clutching even harder in his hands and into presence what is slipping away. Beyond awareness and
5 Levinas, Time and the Other, and Additional Essays, 71. 6 Franck, “Being and Living,” in Who comes after the subject? 136.
DEATH AND THE BEGINNING, OR INFINITE TIME
intention is the opposite of existence, the non-existent and non-Dasein. The “opening up” of temporality, therefore, is more about conquering the time beyond and reinforcing the boundary of the conscious egological temporality, than about opening up to infinity. This is partly the reason why Heidegger’s Dasein has drawn considerable criticism for not being distinguished sufficiently enough from the transcendental subject. Derrida, for one, complained that, though Dasein cannot be reduced to the subject, it is still privileged and still “retains certain essential traits (freedom, resolute-decision, … a relation or presence to self, etc.)” of the subject.7 What is to be avoided at all cost for Dasein is its subjection to anything other, including infinite time. The otherwise than time, or infinite time, is reduced to serving egological temporality. Dasein’s heroic struggle finally closes temporality and confines it to conscious control— temporality is my time and is within my own making. The possibility of infinite time is lost. But death and the beginning, the marker between biological existence and non-existence, bring in, most definitively, infinite time, the unmeasurable abyss and the completely other, and the ultimate possibility of opening-up of existent to the beyond. The pure experience of the timeless outside brought by primal sensibility, the sense of the absolutely unknown and other that lies beyond, comes in the highest intensity with death and the beginning. They partake in the cacophony of the whole of pure experience, but with an overwhelming profundity. Infinite time, therefore, is brought to participate in temporality. Rather than an opportunity for the egological being to demonstrate its heroism and courage to appropriate what is ex-appropriated and to fight the disappearance of time, death and the beginning mark the impossibility of the possibility of the egological existent. Unable to be confined within sensuous and egological boundaries, consequently, human existence is beyond animality and egological mastery but is open to the infinite and the absolute other than me. Levinas has expressed an idea of the other time and infinite time that is similar, as he is also troubled by Heidegger’s omission of infinite time as part of human existence. Levinas agrees with Heidegger that our temporality typically signifies “the bond between the self and the ego”8 and that the “now” belongs to the egological being in which “I” am the
7 Derrida, “‘Eating Well’: An Interview,” 98. 8 Levinas, Time and the Other, and Additional Essays, 62.
master, “master of the possible, [and] master of grasping the possible.”9 The subject stays in its intimate self-enclosure in conscious temporality. But unlike Heidegger, Levinas maintains that death puts an end to such mastery and enclosure. Rejecting Heidegger’s proposition that the subject’s heroism and egological power reach beyond death, Levinas claims that death instead “marks the end of the subject’s virility and heroism.”10 Time cannot be sacrificed to ecstatic self-presence because there is “another moment,”11 a moment that “is not the achievement of an isolated and lone subject.”12 Such a moment, for Levinas, is the moment of the other human being. The time of the Other is the irreducible other time, absolutely outside the self’s control. The ultimate goal of Levinas’s philosophical project, as we know, is to introduce the idea of an alterity that surpasses knowledge and comprehension and overpowers ego and consciousness, leading the self to an ethical condition of responsibility to the Other. Such alterity, according to Levinas, comes from another time, the time of the future. To the self, the time of the future is “superior to the horizons of being and the truth of being.”13 It allows the self to finally “escape from the immanence of subjectivity.”14 Against Heidegger’s being-toward-death that is “what comes from out of me,” the future is “what comes at me, ungraspable, outside my possibilities.”15 It disrupts my egological freedom. The other time can never be reduced to self-presence, as death eventually was in Heidegger. The other time is indeed the counter movement of the egological subject since it is the “impossibility of possibility,”16 rather than the possibility of impossibility. With this analysis, Levinas attempts to extend human temporality to include infinite time. Temporality is not limited by our conscious lives and it breaks out of egological authority. As Cohen comments,
9 Levinas, Time and the Other, and Additional Essays, 72. 10 Levinas, Time and the Other, and Additional Essays, 72. 11 Cohen, in his “Introduction” to Levinas, Time and the Other, 8. 12 Levinas, Time and the Other, and Additional Essays, 39. 13 Cohen, in his “Introduction” to Levinas, Time and the Other, 15. 14 Cohen, in his “Introduction” to Levinas, Time and the Other, 6. 15 Cohen, in his “Introduction” to Levinas, Time and the Other, 9. 16 Levinas, Time and the Other, and Additional Essays, 70 (note 43).
DEATH AND THE BEGINNING, OR INFINITE TIME
Levinas has discovered “the irreducible alterity of time”17 and the infinity of time. Yet Levinas limits the other time to particularly coincide with the face of the Other, the neighbor. The time of the Other person corresponds to the time of the infinite and is the absolute alterity of the future. Such a claim, as admirable as it may be for ethical reasons, seems arbitrary and unsupported by phenomenological experience or intuition. With the time of the human Other so identified as the time of the infinite, an unsymmetrical relationship is also ensured between the other and the self, and the existent becomes unnecessarily and artificially traumatized. In Levinas’s description of ethical experience, hyperbolic language is frequently used to describe the psychological nature of such experience: persecution, obsession, hostage, trauma, emasculation, suffering, and so on. The self becomes a psychologically split subject, as Simon Critchley commented.18 Levinas’s purpose is to introduce the human Other from on high so the face of the Other exerts a moral demand on the ego that cannot be evaded. As understandable as his purpose is for his ethical project, Levinas’ analysis of the other time is phenomenologically obscure and misses its more distinct dimension: the broader and more mysterious, the otherwise than man. Genuinely infinite time, therefore, is the time of the absolute unknown and irreducibly other, ungraspable and unspeakable, rather than that of the definite other human being. Death and the beginning mark the impossibility of the egological being but also the possibility of an infinite existent that comes from the outside and is toward the outside. They mark the participation of absolutely infinite time in temporality. Unlike what has been claimed by transcendental philosophy, the beginning is not the source or the origin, the moment that contains all and generates all; rather, it is the moment of opening up the traceless prehistory in me, the exterior in the immanence, and the absolute nothingness in existence. When the egological existent emerges, it is always already situated in the nothingness of prehistory, more ancient than time. With primal sensibility, the unfathomable prehistory touches upon the existent with all its ungraspable depth and mystery, lingering like the sound of silence, and
17 Cohen, in his “Introduction” to Levinas, Time and the Other, 16. 18 Simon Critchley, “The Split Subject,” Journal of Chinese Philosophy, 35, no. s1
sets off haunting questions: Where am I from? Why am I this particular ‘me’ (rather than any other, any object)? Why suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, does the “I” appear? Why am I here? I am haunted because the questions signify the irresistible rumbling sound deep inside me, and also because the answers lie somewhere else, exterior to me. They are the questions coming at me, outside of my possibilities. While not the chronological “cause” of the “I,” the other-than-time, or perhaps the infinite time of the ancient past, grounds and unsettles the very presence of the I. Sustained by the bottomless nothingness, therefore, the existent finds itself incomplete, porous, unable to fully appear and be present, but is perpetually called upon by the traceless past. Anachronistic, being can never fully “be,” but is already extended in its underside to infinite time. Accordingly, only out of the antecedent nothingness and absence can the existent emerge. Hence, the beginning signifies the absolute unknown and other as the very source of my presence. The impossibility of egological appropriation of time, and yet infinite time’s participation in temporality, leads to a being that is beyond appropriation, or “ex-appropriate,” as Derrida calls it.19 The infinite “past,” disappears without a trace, appeals to the I from deep inside and puts the “I” into question. My presence is deeply eroded and heterogeneous at its core. The beginning is a reminder that the “impossibility” of the I is originary and antecedent, and on my underside is the “non-me,” the absolute nothingness that comes with infinite time. Transcendental philosophy’s dream of full presence and appropriation, hence, is defeated at the very beginning. Infinite time breaks the confines of the egological operation and delivers an existent that is never enclosed but lies precisely in the beyond. As Zhuangzi attempted to convey in his notion of the nonbeing self,20 the existent is in a perpetual state of being and nonbeing, presence and absence. From nothingness, therefore, the infinite being emerges.
19 Derrida “‘Eating Well’: An Interview,” 106. 20 The Daoists, particularly Zhuangzi, have rejected the notion of an established and
isolated self and proposed the notion of a nonbeing self. In the climate of the modern Western celebration of the autonomous and individualistic subject, Zhuangzi’s nonbeing self has been disdained as a cultural eccentricity, but the recent philosophical reflection on the issues and problems of the transcendental subject, and the move to a destabilized subject, should finally make one realize that Zhuangzi’s idea is perhaps a harbinger of such a philosophical movement.
DEATH AND THE BEGINNING, OR INFINITE TIME
Unlike what Heidegger has proposed, the beginning does not just signify the “being thrown” of the egological existent, its self-indulgence and self-pity, but more significantly, it signifies that I am this singular “being” of infinity, unsettled already by prehistory and by the infinite time, and yet always reaching out to the beyond. If, indeed, “at the beginning is the name of God,” the infinite nothingness is the God that inevitably rushes over me. The temporality of the whole being is not in the confines of consciousness and the self is led by what is far beyond what I can contain, as Levinas claims. Our existence, therefore, unable to take up a solitary unity, is in an enduring state of openness and nothingness. Similar to the beginning, death also brings infinite time to the existent, opening up the opportunity of reaching out to the beyond. Unlike the beginning where the infinite time is from the nameless and immeasurable past, surging in the deepest strata of me, unsettling the presence at its core, death marks the future time of nothingness, the time of annihilation and the disappearance of being. As the disappearance of existence, death can never be experienced or understood by the existent and is thus an unassimilable and irreducible other; yet it is also the very other that the existent is moving toward. The absolute other, the negation of being, is the future of my time, the future of me when “I” am not. The inevitable negation of being, the otherwise than being, paradoxically, is also the most intimate to being, as the infinite time rumbling under every present, overshadowing and interrupting it from the underside. Karl Jaspers once said that everything we do in existence we do in view of death. Montaigne also famously states, “To philosophize is to learn to die.” Unlike species for which life exists in its immediacy, without the questioning and quest for anything beyond, death for human beings is not just the demise of biological existence, or the failure of egological self-making, but the opening point of an ungraspable mystery, the event “where something absolute, unknowable appears. … [and yet] where we ourselves are seized.”21 We are seized because it marks the opening-up of our temporality to infinity and to our connection to the beyond. Death brings in again a time that lingers on the horizon of my being. We may stand alone at a loss about where we came from and where we are going, but the calling from the beyond is heard in the wind, and we are surrounded by infinite time with its unfathomable depth. The ever-present
21 Levinas, Time and the Other, and Additional Essays, 71.
death, and the appealing of the other-than-me, opens up the existent to the absolute other and the complete outside. We already know that the other time, the time we do not own and cannot synthesize, the time beyond our self-presence, is the sensible time that unsettles us like a deep undercurrent. With primal sensibility dwelling in and extending to the infinite time, the “time without me, … this world without me, … a time beyond the horizon of my time”22 joins the other time with unparalleled power and intensity. Different from pure memory and the sensations and feelings no longer register that may slip in at unexpected moments, however, infinite time comes with the traceless trace of the absolute exterior and nothingness. Consciousness knows no infinity, but primal sensibility extends beyond the egological limit and reaches out to the infinite. The exterior, undomesticated to self-presence and to the presence of the neighbor, crashes into the egological being with its unique sense of infinite depth and grandness, unsettling the existent’s dream of total sovereignty and freedom. Because of primal sensibility, time moves on unlimited, and temporality extends to infinity. Yet infinite time participates in temporality only negatively, as absence and nothingness. Upholding the absolute exteriority, primal sensibility brings in the infinite time irreducibly and incorrigibly, impinging on the existent’s temporal syntheses from the outside, disrupting its unity. The untraceable past and unanticipated future are the absolute nothingness lying in the deep strata of existence. The participation of infinite time in temporality does not denote an existent capable of synthesizing infinite time, nor the familiar dream of the existent expanding and identifying with the grand infinite, the universe, but rather that the infinite is always calling upon me, breaking open my enclosure and unsettling my autonomy, and drawing me beyond. It opens a passage in the structure of existent to the absolute nothingness. Infinite time is indeed “what comes at me, ungraspable, outside my possibilities,”23 as Levinas has announced. Rather than the medium of “my” activity, or a trophy of the finite being, infinite time is the relationship of the egological being to the outside. Beyond the horizons of significance the existent brings to bear upon itself,
22 Emmanuel Levinas, “Meaning and Sense,” in Basic Philosophical Writings, eds. Adriaan Peperzak, Simon Critchley, and Robert Bernasconi (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996), 50. 23 Cohen, in “Introduction” to Levinas, Time and the Other, 9.
DEATH AND THE BEGINNING, OR INFINITE TIME
pure experience of the absolute exterior, the radically other than man, appeals and grounds the infinite being. Underneath the daily minutiae, therefore, the resounding sound of silence from outside is heard, piercing through the whole existence. Lying behind everyday heat and hurry, pure experience of infinite time surges and leaves its mark on existence. Unexpected and unanticipated experiences, coming from afar and from the deeper strata, slip in, overlie, and shape the current being. They leave an indelible mark on the very “presence” and “identity” that is to be forged by our consciousness. As if addressed by the ungraspable, we come to sense the deep hollow that is in our underside. The existent cannot enclose itself obliviously in its dream of mastery but is called by the absolute other and the unknown. Existence comes from and stretches over an abyss, and also fades away into the bottomless nothingness. Thus subjectivity as infinity is porous with absence and presence penetrating each other. The inevitable co-existence of pure experience of the absolute outside and other with being and presence, yet pure experience’s ever escaping from the most arduous grip, leads the existent toward the realm of the spiritual. Heidegger once said that only for humans is being a question. Derrida explains that it means that we are the only animals who ask questions, and who have the power and freedom to ask questions.24 But if being is a question for humans, it is only because the spiritual is underneath me and outside of me, persistently calling upon me with all its evasiveness and otherness. The everlasting quest for the answer to the question of being, therefore, only expresses the infinite appeal both inside and beyond me. As Bergson has rightfully stated, while on a daily basis pure experience (for him, pure memory) is “inhibited by the practical and useful consciousness of the present moment25 ;” and the “general aim of life”26 is preoccupied with stimulation and adaptation, actions and reactions, we are still able to let go, to “withdraw ourselves from the action of the moment.” We have “the power to value the useless, … [and] the will to dream. Man alone is capable of such an effort.”27 A living being that does nothing but live would need no more than the practical and the useful,
24 Derrida, “‘Eating Well’: An Interview.” 25 Bergson, Matter and Memory (1991), 95. 26 Bergson, Matter and Memory (1991), 84. 27 Bergson, Matter and Memory (1991), 83.
but human beings are the species for whom life is not just about action and reaction but, more significantly, about the unlimited layers of experiences rushing to the moment, deepening and enriching it. The unpredicted upsurge of pure experience reshapes the landscape of existence like a misty haze. Yet Bergson’s time as the duration of consciousness only concerns the immanent past and future, the auto-generation of differences and multiplicities. Infinite time, which points at the negation of me, the absolutely exterior of me, does not enter the duration and is not part of the conscious temporality. But if only the time we possess, the time of our own making, mattered, life would appear sufficient with the here and now, with everyday chores, concerns, and gains. We would be living in the present alone, and the memories of the past and anticipations of the future would only be preparatory and secondary. Anything beyond intention and awareness would be non-existent and irrelevant. We would be content and intoxicated with the vanity of self-pride. We are born and die, as a matter of fact, a destiny oblivious to the self-presence. Even the Heideggerian heroism that turns death into the possibility of life would be a mere drama of insignificance. But the event of the present is not only infiltrated by its immediate past and immediate future but is also transformed by the infinite unknown and other. Pure experience of the other times and infinite time, uncircumscribed in our horizon, is an essential part of our existence. The moments of the other time seize us and overflow the present, taking us beyond the here and now, the mundane everydayness, and enacting an existence more primordial than the egological subjectivity can recognize. As evasive and unfathomable as it may be, pure experience of the absolute outside allows the existent to wake up from its complacent dream of mastery and come face to face with the bottomless nothingness that is always part of existence. The real issue about the infinite time prior to birth and after death is whether it participates in temporality. Does existence extend to infinite time, which eventually takes our everyday experience out of its mere intimacy and immediacy? Animals have their biologically confined temporality, but humans are drawn to infinite time, which is calling us and grounding us in an existence beyond being. Existence is grounded in emptiness and nothingness, concealment and evanescence. Under every moment of present, therefore, is extended the depth of the other times and infinite time, which lurk behind, participate in and fundamentally change the mode of existence. Every moment of the present is
DEATH AND THE BEGINNING, OR INFINITE TIME
accompanied, blurred, and transformed by the multi-dimensional and the heterogeneous, by that which has gone with the wind and that which has never appeared. Existence, with it infinite depths, is inexhaustible. With such temporality as the mode of existence, the existent is never just the present, the presence, the being, but also beyond being and infinite being. Thought and essence cannot capture our whole existence. A life of infinite temporality is also a life full of possibilities, of spirituality, art, and the good. If philosophers had paid as much attention to anachronistic time as the mark of the other time as they did to death, they would have known that the other time could not be made the “possibility of impossibility”; it could never be a possibility of the egological being. Infinite time is more undoubtedly Other and defeats any attempt to reduce it to the ultimate possibility of being.
Transcendence and Subjectivity
Subjectivity as infinity denotes first of all the infinite depth and heterogeneity of our existence, the unlimited potential of transformation beyond fixed essence. Other times and infinite times slide in unannounced, interlace with the present with different intensities and strengths, enabling unanticipated novelties and heterogeneous movements. With the field of the other times extending indefinitely, existent has no final actualization or determination, cannot be enclosed or deadened, but is infinitely beyond fixation and identification. It breaks free of any attempt at objectification and the certainty of knowledge, only setting off and inspiring creative imaginations. Subjectivity as infinity also denotes that there is in the structure of subjectivity what is ex-egological and ex-subjective, a zone that is inside me and yet is also always outside of me. The nothingness embedded in being, the other at our core, comes not only from pure memories generated by me, but also from the pure experience of the absolute outside, the spatially exterior and the temporally infinite. Through primal sensibility, the conduit and the interface between me and the world, the absolutely other penetrates the whole of my existence, leaving a profound yearning that interrupts the formation of my being. It is the other in the same, yet resists my appropriation. The “ex-appropriation,” as Derrida calls it,1 signifies that my relationship to the other in me is itself uncompromisingly irreducible. It is not a relationship of absorption or synthesizing, 1 Derrida, “‘Eating Well’ An Interview,” 105.
© The Author(s) 2020 G. Zhao, Subjectivity and Infinity, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-45590-3_12
but a relationship that maintains the unrecognizable as unrecognizable, the pure and spiritual as the pure and spiritual. I am unable to assimilate or synchronize the other in me but am indefinitely and inevitably grounded on and pierced through by it. Thus, paradoxically, subjectivity transcends ontology. In Levinas’ words, subjectivity is infinity because the soul is “capable of containing more than it can draw from itself.”2 Infinity “designates an interior being that is capable of a relation with the exterior, and does not take its own interiority for the totality of being.”3 The nothingness in my underside is the transcendent yet also the immanent inside me. Our analysis so far has shown that the traditional ontologicaltranscendental divide is an artificial divide. For most of the post-Cartesian philosophy that begins with the “subject,” there has been a persistent divide between immanence and transcendence, which is perceived as the unbridgeable split between the sphere of the subject and what lies outside the subject. The sphere of the subject centers on the field of consciousness immanent to the subject, thus, the divide is between the field of consciousness immanent to the subject and the exteriority of things. In transcendental philosophy, of course, the conscious subject is erected as an element of transcendence itself against the flux of experience, which is seen as merely passive synthesis. In Kant, for example, the ego, or the “I think,” is elevated to the height of transcendence, and much of the world becomes mainly my representations of it.4 Hence, there appear to be two models of transcendence: the subject transcending “experience” or the “other,” and the exteriority of things transcending the self. In this philosophical tradition, therefore, humanity is conceived of either as a constituting thing, the transcendental subject, or as a thing, and hence the predicament that Foucault has termed the “empirico-transcendental doublet of modern thought.”5 We embody the empirico-animal existence that is passive and determined as well as the ego-consciousness that is allencompassing and free. Apparently, this whole immanence-transcendence divide is framed within the inevitable dichotomy between mind and body, 2 Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity, trans. Alphonso Lingis (Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press, 1969), 180. 3 Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 180. 4 Like what Sartre called, “The Transcendence of the Ego.” 5 Michel Foucault, The Order of Things, The Archaeology of the Human Sciences (New
York: Routledge, 1989), 347.
TRANSCENDENCE AND SUBJECTIVITY
self and world, and the inside and outside. In these models, we are either immanent or we are transcendent, as we are entangled in the ontological dualism of immanence and transcendence. Bergson and others have striven to break free of this deadly dichotomy between transcendence and immanence by introducing the transcendent into the immanent. Dissociating pure memory from consciousness, Bergson attempts to identify immanence with the outside. The past was never present and is a free and spiritual existence in the unconscious, only brought in by intuition to be actualized in the present. Hence, it belongs to the realm of transcendence to consciousness. But as our analysis has made clear, even such pure memory is still an auto-alteration of the present and is still within the immanence of being. The Bergsonian absolute immanent is the absolute outside only to the extent that it is outside of present consciousness; it still originates from within. Therefore, Bergson’s transcendence from immanence is still the “same” of being, rather than the wholly other, just as William James’ “pure flux of consciousness” is still a product of bodily senses. Similarly, Derrida seeks to identify a transcendent movement of différance, “a différance still more unthought than the difference between Being and beings,”6 and yet his différance, while never present and serving to constantly disrupt and destabilize the “text,” has no source outside of the “latent” movement of the immanent experiences. Levinas, on the other hand, proposes the absolute alterity of the Other as the other time, the alterity that comes to me despite me. Driven by his desire for an exteriority that remains irreducibly exterior so that it may liberate the self from its totality, unity, and the “same,” Levinas introduces the face of the neighbor as the truly Other that initiates an inevitable responsibility on the part of existent to the Other. Appealing to the genuine other in order to call into question the status of the transcendent subject, Levinas still fails to recognize the wholly other inside existence. As much as existence moves toward the Other, the absolute exterior is still oblivious to and irrelevant to existence and the divide is ever more formidable; thus the existent is turned into a “hostage.” Our existence is still trapped in the temporality of the empirico-animal and conscious timeframe and, while the time of
6 Jacques Derrida, “Ousia and Gramme: Note on a Note from Being and Time,” in Margins of Philosophy, trans. Alan Bass (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1972), 67.
the Other disrupts or interrupts my temporality, no infinite time participates in the temporality of existence. Yet the nothingness that is my past and my future, the wholly other that is in my underside and at the core of me, and the irreducible relationship to the exterior from me, indicate a different mode of existence that breaks the confines of ontology and bridges transcendence and immanence. The inseparability of the inner and outer indicates a non-dualistic divergence of immanence and transcendence, signifying another mode of the infinity of subjectivity. Embedded in the absolutely other and outside, the structure of subjectivity, paradoxically, is the structure where the absolute other and eternally evasive always resides. Pure experience of the absolute other and the absolute beyond breaks us free from the trap of the animalist horizon. We are addressed by and can sense the outside, but the outside is also in me. Transcendence is in immanence and transcendence is from immanence. Hence, a sense of spirituality is located at the “in-between” of the I and the world beyond. There is no absolute antinomy between self and world, between the subject that is capable of imposing its choices upon the world and the world that is being imposed on. The establishment of a transcendental and all-encompassing egological subject against the world and “experience” collapses. This intriguing interlock of transcendence and immanence, which traditional philosophy cannot appreciate, indicates that for existence to approach anything absolutely outside and other, there has to be other and outside already in me. We are drawn to the wholly other and outside because the wholly other is already part of me, constituting my very existence. Existence is capable of being altered by the wholly other; it is capable of spirituality. Consequently, there is no infinity if subjectivity has no relation to the transcendent; there is also no infinity if the subject is able to domesticate and synthesize the transcendent. Without a relation, subjectivity would be circumscribed and living happily in its dream of oblivion. Being would not be a question. With a relation of inclusion and assimilation, however, infinity would disappear, turning into a trophy of the egological existent. Transcendence in immanence is not only the transcendence of non-consciousness, or as transcendence to consciousness as Bergson and Deleuze have described it; transcendence in immanence also denotes that which is the absolute outside of me, not originating from me nor filtered through me. It is the absolute outside of me that comes at me and crashes over me, without succumbing to the same and without being
TRANSCENDENCE AND SUBJECTIVITY
overcome. Pure experience, which has brought the inevitable otherness and the noumenon upon me, the other time that participates in my temporality, provides the possibility of the transcendence in immanence of my existence. The nothingness that is the origin of me and is underneath me gives rise to subjectivity as infinity. Infinity designates precisely the inexhaustible and ungraspable field on which our subjectivity is grounded. This profound sense of the outside overflowing me but also opening me up, through which we transcend the narrowness, the trap of ourselves, is often felt and widely shared among existents.7 The experience of infinity, as inevitable as it is, is the experience of being surrounded by something infinitely grander and more profound, yet unfailingly unknowable and ungraspable. Out of the existent’s mundaneness and everydayness, and against the egological pride and vanity, life becomes infinitely more than it appears. Schleiermacher calls it the experience of being swept away by the feeling of coming to encounter something infinite. With infinite time participating in temporality, we come to experience a profound sense of our existence being part of a larger whole. Without expanding and enlarging itself, without identifying itself to the larger whole, the existent is dissolved, and no longer isolated in space and its egological temporality. We are “the self in relation to something beyond us.”8 Penetrated by the pure experience of our encounter with the world, we are drawn to what is behind the semblance, the mysterious concealment, the rumbling of the invisible. 7 The two philosophers who may have hinted at a similar idea are Harold Oliver and Martin Buber. Oliver hints at this possibility of opening up to the genuine otherness of the other when he describes the experience of encountering the other where the “I” is open and transformed by the encounter. [Harold H. Oliver, Relatedness: Essays in Metaphysics and Theology (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press 1984)]. Oliver also has a notion of “pure experience,” unmediated by thinking and reflection, that touches on the otherness of the other. He maintains, similarly, that pure experience is more primordial and more fundamental than “the Cogito, the subject-self, the Absolute Ego, the Moral Ego, the object, the object-world” while the latter are “entities of reflected experience” (p. 51). Likewise, Martin Buber’s pre-reflective or participatory experience and the notion of the I-Thou relationship point to such an experience of opening up and participation in the bigger Whole [Martin Buber, I and Thou, trans. Ronald Gregor Smith (New York: Scribner Classics, 2000)]. In both descriptions, the experience leads to transcendence, where we go beyond what constrains us and become connected with the outside, the other. Pure experience brings in the outside, from the ancient times, and profoundly affects our existence. 8 Eric Reitan, Is God A Delusion? A Reply to Religion’s Cultural Despisers (West Sussex, UK: John Wiley & Sons, 2009), 20.
Thinking, Imagination, and Self-Identity
Spatiality, Temporality, and Thinking
For the spatial-temporal human existence, spatiality signifies the heterogeneous ways we are related (and unrelated) to the world: the direct and immediate impact from the Outside—either in the form of the whole or of what Maurice Blanchot calls the autre, the obscure and mysterious—the physically and psychically connected, and the intuitively and the reflectively grasped. It signifies the multitude of experiences coming from the relations and non-relations. With time as the medium and condition of our whole existence, we dwell in a multitude of experiences at every duration of an instant. Consequently, an object is always a mediated singularity situated in complicated relations or non-relations. Yet among the multitude of relations, Western philosophy has frequently isolated the conscious and self-aware relation and has singled it out as the source of certain knowledge. Plato may have been one of the first to assume that our rational gaze alone can reveal the “idea” of the world. We can know the world directly through reason. Dismissing sensory experiences as shadows and deceptions, he suggests that rational dialogue can enlighten the soul, which is part of the metaphysical world of ideas, and awaken it to its preexisting knowledge. Aristotle, assigning a more important role to sense-based experience, nevertheless argues that to know something means to know its essence. Humans have to use their rational faculties to intuit or induce the universal forms embodied in experience, he claims. The rationally processed raw materials of sensory experience reveal the essence of the known object. The British empiricists follow suit and many emphasize the role © The Author(s) 2020 G. Zhao, Subjectivity and Infinity, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-45590-3_13
of experience but also the function of the mind in restructuring empirical experience to form complicated knowledge. Either starting from rational conscious thinking as a secure and sure path to knowledge or relying on it to process sensory materials, to different degrees, they see rational, conscious thinking as separable from sensory approaches and conscious experience as isolatable from all the complexities of situated existence. Conscious thinking is directly connected to substances, the reality of the object and the external world. Rational thinking is the essential path to truth. Apparently, to assume that it is possible to separate ego-conscious and sensory relations with the world and to take rational thinking as the definite way to “know” the world is to assume that conscious movement can capture a unified moment of “presence,” without interruption and entanglement from the other times, and hence procure “knowledge” of the object. It is also to assume that the sensory encounters with the world do not render a certain “presence” and are thus irrelevant to time. Clearly, the deeply entrenched association of time with consciousness in the Western philosophical tradition has effectively enabled these assumptions. The leap of faith that has been adopted is that there is an eternal, uninterrupted flow of conscious time that constantly brings presence, so the world is revealed under our rational and conscious gaze. Thus, the dominant concept of thinking or knowing has been built upon an audacious simplification of our situated existence, as well as a linear and fragmented notion of temporality. But our analysis so far suggests that the human encounter with the world brings us more than what is sensually received and consciously recognized. The unintentional movement of primal sensibility opens the existent to pure experience, uncapturable by egological operations. Since time is the medium and condition of the whole of existence, there are the other times—the time of sensitivity and of primal sensibility, the time we do not own and cannot synthesize. Other times participate at the instant of the “present,” and varied, recognized and unrecognizable, experiences flood in, constituting a disparate cacophony of mixed dimensions and intensities. The displacement and disappearance of presence is inevitable, and absence grounds and permeates presence. Hence, there can be no unified and certain “presence,” and the world does not appear or become “revealed” to thinking. There are still those who argue that while the higher—the more reflective and theoretical—thinking is unable to secure a stable and certain presence, the pre-conceptual intuitive grasp of the world is able to attain an
SPATIALITY, TEMPORALITY, AND THINKING
undivided presence, and hence secure the essence of experience and the source of knowledge. According to Husserl, theoretical thinking, or symbolic representation, represents the world through signs and images. But since signs and images are inherently secondary, foreign to self-presence, they always come from a temporal delay. In its attempted synthesis, reflective thinking inevitably leaves a temporal gap, which allows the “other than itself” to slip into the present. In such a “presence,” therefore, something other than the presence is revealed. In other words, the “presence” embodies something other than itself and is thus self-contradictory, ununified and inconsistent. While it tends to claim eternal “presence,” it is unable to secure a certain and consistent representation of the world. But the self-conscious movements that directly touch upon the world, claims Husserl, prior to linguistic and symbolic construction, are the intuitive grasp of experience at its most primary source. The intuitive grasp is the experience instantaneously present to itself, and therefore “the object in the original.”1 There is no temporal delay and thus no “other” slipping into the instant present. In this undivided unity of time, the presence is identified as it is, without internal contradictions. No nothingness in the thing and no absence in the presence. Such an experience of “being present” is the living present and is therefore necessarily “certain and present.”2 Yet, as Derrida has argued, the intuitive, presentative perception in fact appears in a duration similar to that of re-presentation, where retention and protention, like past and future, are inevitably part of the presentation, and therefore nonpresence and nonperception are inevitably part of the “living presence.” As far as both intuitive and representative perceptions are self-aware, conscious, movements and move in the direction of identifying and capturing what comes their way, at the moment they bring under focus and render present, what is being rendered present is already gone. An instant is always a duration where primal sensibility continuous, phasing in and out with varied intensity. Thus, conscious activity rises on ground that has already shifted. For both intuitive and reflective thinking, the actual now and present is, despite the nonpresence and otherness, internal to itself. Unlike what Husserl wants to believe, our
1 Husserl, “Inaugural Lecture,” 11. 2 Husserl, Formal and Transcendental Logic, 310.
intuitive grasp of the world does not deliver the “object in the original,”3 nor a coherent and stable grasp of the “essence” of the world. Even Bergson’s intuition, which reaches out and “actualizes” the virtual and “determinates” the indeterminate, works in the same direction of concentration and fixation. Intuition for Bergson is the conduit between pure memory and cognitive perception, and it enters what is “dark” and evasive to make it visible and present at the moment of actualization. In a certain sense, intuition is an attempt to seize and tame the free and the spiritual to eventually generate representation. As far as intuition, as described by Bergson, goes into the source to capture knowledge, it works the same mechanism as other ego-conscious movements. Just like Husserl’s intuition, the actualization of Bergson’s intuition is situated in the unactualizable. The exterior and the incorrigible fragment the intuitive grasp or synthesis in its underside, unable to form a unified, transparent representation. Identification of the “now” as a source point happens despite the non-identifiable. Waves of the evasive and the opaque slip in at the moment of the present; consequently, the function of thinking, unlike how it has been regarded in Western philosophy, is not to render presence, nor to deliver essence, knowledge, or correlative representation, because there is always the absence, disappearance, absolute alterity, and noumenon, that participate in the claimed full, secure, and unified “presence.” Thinking is thus effectively imagination. Lodged in the shifting ground permeated by disappearance and nothingness, thinking is the movement to produce “presence” out of absence, “unity” out of fragmentation. What is to be “represented” includes “the unidentifiable…, the nameless, the presence of the inaccessible.”4 As such, “presence” is not what reflects or reveals reality, but a new form of semblance that evokes what is lingering beyond. Imagination is evocation. It is the way we think and act as a species in the world. Like Bergson’s intuition, since the conscious “fusion” of times is an attempt to unify the inassimilable, yet with the lingering sense of their impossible consolidation, imagination becomes an active movement of
3 Husserl, “Inaugural Lecture,” 11. 4 Maurice Blanchot, The Infinite Conversation, trans. Susan Hanson (Minneapolis, MN:
University of Minnesota Press, 1993), 70.
SPATIALITY, TEMPORALITY, AND THINKING
re-creation. Bergson calls intuition “affective,”5 “pregnant” with ideas. Working with a multitude of concrete and pure experiences, intuitive thinking is first of all synthesizing the sensed, the pure and virtual, and the cognitively and sensorially received, yet leaving out an appreciative sign of the inevitable remainder. Moving in tune with the ever intriguing, imagination invents ideas and images through pursuing the evasive. The multitudinous dimensions of infinite commotions, and the inexhaustible depth of time and experiences, give imagination its breath and impetus. The source of knowledge overflows to the other side, the realm beyond the senses or operation of the intellect. Therefore, imagination is not judging and synthesizing to produce unity and certainty of the alleged knowledge and substance as Kant claims. The unhindered freedom and power granted to rational thinking, the faith in its access to “truth” and knowledge, fades in the face of the attempted expression of the lingering inexpressible. Rather, imagination is an active pursuit of a question, the chasing of the infinite depths of “reality” that we live with. Not representation, but creative presentation. To borrow Kant’s terms, imagination both produces out of absence and reproduces out of the previously experienced. Imagination is a creative presentation of that which is never fully captured. We imagine what comes our way, reaping the surface and evoking the hidden in the unfathomable depths. Thus, imagination comes with an inevitable hint of uncertainty, the very signification of the overflow of the outside into it. It is a reminder of the limitations and the impossibility of “representation.” Moving in the direction of identification and synthesis, thinking spreads over the fragmented and inventively expresses the inexpressible. In its inevitable synthesis, imagination creates a seemingly coherent and unified semblance. Bringing together heterogeneous relations into a coherent order of redescription and re-creation, imagination enjoys a tensive unity and a deliberate sense of self-indulging that can only be encouraged through the recognition of other imaginers. In other words, the security and certainty of imagination resides not in the assumed correlation between the imagined and the “object,” but in the recognition and confirmation of the shared human community. Imagination is the invention of ideas and stories that can be shared, recognized, and acted upon with other inventers.
5 Lawlor, “What Immanence? What Transcendence?” 28.
Despite all its seeming holes and flaws, in the West we have adopted a notion of thinking that is closely related to representation.6 We have endorsed an illusion of objectivity, as if our rational knowing of the world is detached from the ways we exist in the world. Boldly claiming that thinking brings direct access to the being of beings, we affirm the certainty of knowledge. We claim whatever filters through the channels of praxis as the essence of the world. But the true power of thinking lies not in revealing or discovering what is outside there, but in creatively imagining what could be. Attuned to the evasive and impervious, imagination creates a semblance of something, something not “real” but that takes after and evokes the inexpressible. Above all the opacity and intricacy of the world that we are situated in, thinking as imagination attempts to touch upon the unpresentable and to generate a presentation that speaks to the unpresentable. Knowing and being, therefore, are inseparable. There is no dichotomy between epistemology and ontology. Knowing is not a purely ego-conscious activity of gazing at the world but is part and parcel of the ways we exist in the world. It signifies our complicated relationship with the world. Looking beyond and looking within, we see the same infinite depths that lure but also puzzle the desire of the egoconsciousness. “When we gaze out at the immensities of the space, we understand them because there are immensities within us as well.”7 There is always a sense of modesty and awe, toward what we cannot completely capture and penetrate and for what seems always to slip from our grasp.
6 I am aware of all the recent developments in epistemological theories and the changed understandings of knowledge. Here, I am only referring to the long-standing tradition that still plays a dominant role in science as well as social science. 7 From the TV series, Big Bang Theory.
“Substance” and Imagination
The dominant concept of thinking in the West is built upon yet another assumption, the assumption of the “world,” the “object,” as posited and presentable to thinking. We have long identified “thinking” as the mental process to “model” the world, as if the world is formed and ready to be “modeled” by thinking and knowledge represents the correlative representation of the world. It is thought that sense perceptions, such as shape and size, are only accidental properties, and that substance, imperceptible to the senses yet what the senses respond to, is the thing-hood of things, the reality lying behind various sensory appearances. The essence or substance of an object that unites the accidents, providing them with a basis, is the self-identity of a thing in which it is in itself and is, and is only, accessible to thinking. In other words, what appears in our thinking is what the world essentially is. In Kant’s words, substance “indicates a being” and is “the persistence of the real in time,”1 and time for Kant is always conscious time. In this conception, however, the world is just what holds and appears to be under our conscious gaze, as Plato and many others have proposed. This notion of substance as a constitutive element of ontology has dominated a large part of modern Western philosophy. Yet the questions remain: Can thing-hood, or reality, “really be grasped and given
1 Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, the Cambridge Edition, trans. Paul Guyer & Allen W. Wood (Cambridge University Press, 1787/1998), A144/B183.
© The Author(s) 2020 G. Zhao, Subjectivity and Infinity, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-45590-3_14
real expression by means of the notion of substance?”2 Is substance so inevitably associated with rational thinking? Could it be that such a notion of substance is inescapably restrictive in expressing the thing-hood of things? A few decades ago, the Kyoto school philosopher Keiji Nishitani asked these same questions and argued that insofar as the reality of an object does not express its “original selfness” in the “field of sensation,” it does not express itself in the field of reason either. “On the field of reason the selfness of things merely represents the sort of Form in which they appear to us who happen to be thinking about them.”3 The “‘substance’ grasped on the field of reason,” therefore, “cannot but be the mode of being of a thing in its selfness insofar as it appears to us and insofar as it is seen by us.”4 Whatever is captured in the field of reason is only the rational expression of it, yet such expression “invariably restricts the selfness of a thing to the way that thing is disclosed to us on the field of reason,”5 argues Nishitani. The leap of faith is apparent in the assumption that what is disclosed through thinking is what the reality of the thing is.6 Thus, Nishitani suggests that the essence of things must lie somewhere else, and he calls this somewhere else “Sunyata,” emptiness. Emptiness is where the objective essence of things is; it is where they are their true self. “Settled in their position, things are in their samadhi-being.”7 Nishitani uses a series of terms such as “near side,” “the middle,” or “the center,” to represent “the point at which the being of things is constituted in unison with emptiness, the point at which things establish themselves, affirm themselves, and assume a ‘position.’”8 2 Keiji Nishitani, Religion and Nothingness, trans. Jan Van Bragt (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982), 119. 3 Nishitani, Religion and Nothingness, 130. 4 Nishitani, Religion and Nothingness, 120. 5 Nishitani, Religion and Nothingness, 119. 6 Kant does recognize the noumenon, and therefore, he insists that all we can know
is appearance or phenomenon, not the things themselves. Yet he also made the bold move of claiming the objectivity of our understanding, so that appearance, substance, and the things themselves are strangely connected. See the analysis of Kant’s ideas about imagination and time in Chapter 16. 7 Nishitani, Religion and Nothingness, 130. 8 Nishitani, Religion and Nothingness, 130.
“SUBSTANCE” AND IMAGINATION
Apparently, Nishitani’s emptiness is purposefully designated as a field beyond our sensory and rational representation; nor is it limited to the negation of reason and senses. “Emptiness” simply represents the true being of things, and since it is beyond reason and senses, there is no way to express it except in the notion of emptiness. Yet Nishitani claims that we are able to leap into such a true reality of things, to assume unity with it and to sense the emptiness of things. “The things themselves reveal themselves to us only when we leap from the circumference to the center, into their very selfness. The leap represents the opening up within ourselves of the field of sunyata as the absolute near side.”9 While it is understandable from the Buddhist metaphysical notion of all true reality residing in emptiness—hence the unity of our being and the being of the world—phenomenologically or existentially, it is not clear on what ground Nishitani can claim such an affinity of understanding and objective essence. If essence is objective, if it is independent of our relations with it, how can we be aware of it or how can it even be considered? Similarly, in the West, substance, while always conceived within our conscious relation with the world, is often taken to signify the thinghood itself, as the objective reality of things. But there is no “objective” besides “objective” for human beings who are receiving the “objective.” Substance is substance for humans, the substance of the world in relation to and in interaction with us. The world comes to be our horizon only because of the relationship we have with it, and Berkeley would have been correct when he said that “for a thing ‘to be’ means for it ‘to be perceived,’”10 if he had not limited perception to that of our sensations but actually meant that there is not anything for humans besides our relations with the world. The assumption that what we capture through rational thinking is what the world is, is simply an expression of wishful thinking. But the argument that the substance of the world can only be its substance for humans does not reduce the world to our praxis, or our sensory and rational calipers. Our spatiality and temporality have situated us to receive the world in manifold ways. We only sense the world through its relationships with us, and the relationships are far more than just praxis. The very ideas of substance and the direct access of conscious thinking to
9 Nishitani, Religion and Nothingness, 130. Emphasis in the original. 10 Nishitani, Religion and Nothingness, 121.
substance originate from the idea of an interlocking time and consciousness, hence from a reduced and truncated temporality. The connection between substance and conscious time, or a reduced temporality, is made the most clear by Kant. Kant claims that the schema for substance is “the persistence of the real in time,”11 “a being in time,”12 “since time is only the form of intuition, [and] thus of objects as appearances.”13 It is the assumption that conscious time can hold a moment of appearance; hence, the substance is presented to the rational consciousness. But if there is presence, there is disappearance. For Kant, the moment when the intuition or inner sense “ceases in nothingness” is the time of negation or “the non-being in time.”14 Negation is the opposite of filled time. Kant claims that substance is possible because in the transition from reality to negation, there is a discrete quantity of conscious time, the quantum. In his words, “Every reality [is] representable as a quantum.” Because of “this continuous and uniform generation of that quantity in time,”15 substance is possible and is attainable through rational thinking. Kant recognizes that all appearances and perceptions are in a temporal sequence, “a successive being and not-being,”16 but he insists that they are “collectively only alterations,”17 while substance persists. Manifold experiences come and go, but “the arising or perishing of the substance does not occur.”18 With such confidence and insistence on the certainty and eternality of substance, Kant simply dismisses the potentially unsettling effects of other times and the penetration of not-being in being and safeguards the old faith in eternal substance. Kant is clear that the concept of substance can be related only to “the general conditions of a possible experience, but never to things in general.”19 In other words, the substance he refers to is not the substance of 11 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). A144. 12 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). B183. 13 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). B183. 14 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). B183 15 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). B183. 16 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). B233. 17 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). B233. 18 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). B233. 19 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). A246/B303.
“SUBSTANCE” AND IMAGINATION
the things themselves, but the substance of pure concept that we apply to the phenomenal world, the world of experiences.20 His treatment is part of the tremendous investment of modern Western philosophy in the presumed association of time with consciousness and the idea that conscious time is able to obtain a unified and continuous moment of presence. But as has been proposed earlier, time is the condition of our whole existence, and conscious time is never able to hold such a unified, stable moment. Every moment is entangled with the other times, and every presence is grounded and penetrated by nothingness. A certain and stable connection between substance and conscious thinking is untenable, and the concept of substance is truncated by sensory or rational filters. If we break free from the confines that have been placed on our philosophical reflection by the assumed association of time and consciousness, if we consider time as the condition and medium of the whole of existence, it becomes clear that there is no “persistence of the real in [conscious] time.” Primal sensibility receives the world as beyond me, as the mysterious, the noumena lying beyond my horizon, and such a sense of the world becomes entangled with the conscious identification and fixation of self-aware movements. Our temporality indicates that our encounter with the world is always an entanglement of various relations. The other times, like shadows, come alongside, ground and penetrate conscious time. In a world that is inevitably opaque and impervious, to think is, therefore, also to imagine the “unthinkable.” Hence, while the substance of the world is always the substance received in us, it is more than the reality ascertained and represented through conscious thinking, and neither is it encompassed and secured in Nishitani’s nothingness, where the true nature of things resides. Our temporality indicates that the “essence” of the object is received always with its infinite depth, indeterminate, unformed to be “known.” What we can capture with conscious movement and receive from physical-psychic connections is still not “true,” not the essential, not the only and the absolute. Claims of totality in identity and in knowledge crumble. The conscious move that is anchored in unity and presence and governed by logic, rules, and laws is faced with the impossible task of expressing the inexpressible and has to grapple with an inevitable aporia in its attempts.
20 See the more in-depth discussion in Chapter 16.
The other times cannot be assimilated into conscious time, and imagination becomes the reminder, the very signifier of what is beyond. It follows that knowledge is not the corresponding representation of the world. Never has anything been ready-made, objectifiable and representable as the truth, and the “it” is never the real above the shadow. Imagination is not mimicry, since there is nothing to mimic, nor is imagination an illusion, as if there is a reality compared to which imagination is false. Recognizing that nothingness lies at the core of things, uncaptured and resisting objectification, we recognize that “it” is always exceeded by the beyond. Nishitani suggests that, with nothingness as the source of the thing-ness of things, we need to make an effort “to stand essentially in the same mode of being”21 as nothingness. If such is the case, the mode is imagination. Imagination is the conscious movement to resemble and stand in the same mode as the inexpressible, the creative endeavor to reach the unreachable. Unable to capture and identify the ever-evasive nothingness of things, yet always drawn to its mysterious calling, what is called “knowledge” is our creation, set off by the call of the ever-evasive. Our freedom to know is the freedom to recreate, toward the depth of nothingness. Every imaginative expression of ours, therefore, is inspired by the opaque and the evasive that grounds and pervades everything. The bottomless mystery, like the sound of silence, calls upon us always. Nothingness provides the source and inspiration that set off creativity and imagination, and thus, nothingness “anchors” unlimited possibilities. While rational thinking pursues single, substantive truth, imagination attempts at creative possibilities and potentials. Driven by the other side, evoking the ungraspable, imagination is not about final answers, but about creative ways to respond to the uncaptured.
21 Nishitani, Religion and Nothingness, 128.
On Reason and Rationality
The belief that we are able to secure the substance of the world is grounded on yet another, much more substantial and deeply rooted, belief about reason and rationality as the fundamental and distinctive feature of human capacity. Rationality is often considered the defining characteristic of human beings, what distinguishes them from other species. The faith in rationality sustains the long-held belief in the sure way to truth and to knowledge. Throughout the history of Western philosophy, reason has been given a high status, and its magic power is to deliver humans from the confused monstrosity of the animal world, as if animals do not make rational decisions about the best way to get food or avoid danger or predict the outcome of their actions. But don’t they, at least to a rudimental degree, demonstrate that capacity? We may have the most advanced capacity, but on a certain level, animals make rational decisions for praxis purposes. On what ground, then, can we claim that the rational capacity distinguishes the human species from other animals? Yet faith in rationality, though strong, is not without difficulties. The ancient Greeks have unambivalently advanced reason, early Enlightenment thinkers have seen reason as the ultimate human path to liberation and future perfection, and Kant, in his “Copernican Revolution,” sees rationality, especially “universal reason,” as the ultimate salvation of humans to liberate themselves from external authorities. Max Weber, on the other hand, has identified different kinds of rationality and has
© The Author(s) 2020 G. Zhao, Subjectivity and Infinity, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-45590-3_15
seen “formal” and “procedural” rationality as eventually leading humanity to an “iron cage of rationality.” After WWII, critiques of “instrumental reason” are abundant and profound. Adorno and Horkheimer criticize instrumental reason harshly as the source of the recent historical tragedies. Various attempts have also been made to “rescue” reason and to save humankind from falling into “irrationality.” The difficulties and problems with reason have originated from a fundamental confusion about what reason is. At a very basic and essential level, reason simply means thinking logically for a given purpose. Reason is the tool of the conscious movement, guiding it with rules and principles and producing unity and consistency, but it cannot be the source of new ideas. New ideas can be synthesized, clarified, or inferred from reason, but cannot originate from reason. Rationality is the capacity to conduct logical reasoning, and therefore, there can be no different kinds of reason or good reason and bad reason. Reason is blind. As an instrument, logical reasoning does not predetermine how it is used and the parameters of its employment. It is an instrument in need of context and purpose for its use. Thus, it may be used for reasoning on the premise of universal conditions, as Kant’s Universal Reason, or contrarily, it may be used to support eugenics, which justified the measuring of human worth and act upon such measurements. Aristotle thinks humans are rational animals because we can use reason to achieve ends, but he has predetermined the ends to achieve, and reason is set in motion in that context. The different “kinds” of reason that have been identified can be understood as reasoning for different purposes or under different conditions also. All the categories of rationality, such as instrumental reason, universal reason, or communicative reason, can be redefined as reason for an instrumental purpose, reason to reach universality, and reason for communicative actions. Weber’s four types of rationality, including practical rationality that is the ability to use reason in people’s day-to-day activities and in their worldly interests, theoretical rationality that is the ability to master reality with increased precision and abstract concepts, substantial rationality that is the use of reason within the context of clusters of values that people share to guide daily lives, and formal rationality that is the rational calculation of means to ends on the largest, or universal, scale, can all be understood as using logical reasoning in different contexts and for different purposes. Thus, practical rationality is about using logical thinking to conduct daily activities for certain life-situation goals;
ON REASON AND RATIONALITY
theoretical rationality for a more reflective, theoretical construction and understanding of reality; and substantive rationality the use of reason in a communal-social environment, where certain values have been established, and such rationality is using reason to manage situations arising in the environment. Formal and procedural rationality, on the other hand, clearly indicates the use of reason on a universal scale for instrumental purposes of efficiency, calculability, predictability, and maximum gain. All these “types” of rationality are different uses of reason in different contexts and for different purposes. If any use of rationality is to be blamed, it is not reason itself that is wrong, but the purpose we pursue that needs further consideration. Therefore, Weber’s warning and critique of formal rationality is really a critique of our unhinged instrumental pursuit of efficiency at all costs, which cannot be solved by changing the type of rationality but has to be solved by changing our orientations and purposes. It is not a special kind of reason, instrumental reason as it is often called, but the way in which reason is used to pursue instrumental purposes. Yet the consequences of such use have led to the belief that reason is necessarily instrumental and should be abandoned. In the history of Western philosophy, the two “kinds” of reason or rationality that have been considered either as inherently distinguishable from “instrumental reason” or as established purposefully to lock the use of reason out of instrumental purposes in order to help establish a social, practical, and normative context for its use are the Kantian Universal Reason and the Habermasian communicative reason. In the wave of dismay over and devastating critique of instrumental reason, these are seen as the types of reason that can not only rescue reason from its fall but also rescue human beings from the dreaded degeneration into irrationality. But Kant’s universal reason is distinguishable from other reasons only because of the universal condition in which it has been put to use. Universal reason is reason set to work on the premises of an imposed universal principles. The practical imperatives, the principles of universality, are external to reason, created and chosen by Kant, rather than internal properties or outcomes of logical reasoning. Reason and universality are not inherently connected. Consider Kant’s Formulation I, the Formula of Universal Law: “Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.” Moral decisions can indeed be worked out from such maxim, but the condition on which the rational deliberations are conducted, the directions they are going, are already given.
The moral decisions are made as the results of a combination of the chosen, universal moral value and rational deliberations. The a priori is the stipulated universal condition given from the outside, beyond rational calculation, that makes Universal Reason universal. In other words, rational thinking alone does not lead to the universal moral decision. The same is true for Habermas’ practical or communicative rationality. Habermas claims that practical reason should be able to provide common goals and ends for human communities, but it is the goals of “intersubjective understanding and reciprocal recognition,”1 as well as of cocommitment for communicatively coordinated actions, that have determined the use of reason in the pursuit of normative, subjective, and objective validities. While the concept of practical reason is to link rational thinking with normative goals, and thus lead to normative ends, the effort clearly shows that in their linking, bold, normative stipulations are made in the name of reason, yet they are conditions imposed on reason. As Habermas makes clear, “The attempt to ground ethics in the form of a logic of moral argumentation has no chance of success unless we can identify a special type of validity claim connected with commands and norms.”2 These conditions, these norms and criteria, cannot be arrived by applying reason alone, or be cognitively determined, but have to be chosen and provided for. Reason, unfortunately, does seem to have its limits. Both damning reason as necessarily instrumental and advancing some “kinds” of reason while denouncing some other “kinds” confuse the simple nature of reason with its external, associated conditions. It is the context, the premises imposed from outside of reason that have been guiding the use of reason and leading to different ends or purposes. Even the idea of “living a life of rational decisions” is not an idea that can be obtained purely from logical thinking. The end purposes of goodness, happiness, or appropriateness provide the direction for the employment of rationality, and such end purposes emerge from the existent receiving of the outside and her response to the call and appeal of the other and nothingness. 1 Jürgen Habermas, “Selections from ‘An Alternative Way Out of the Philosophy of the Subject: Communicative Versus Subject-Centered Reason,’” in Critical Theory: The Essential Readings, eds. David Ingram and Julia Simon-Ingram (New York: Paragon House, 1992), 279. 2 Jürgen Habermas, Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action, trans. Christian Lendardt and Shierry Weber Nicholsen (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1990), 57.
ON REASON AND RATIONALITY
Sensitivity and primal sensibility, our receiving of the other as well as ourselves, rather than reason, provide the source, the a priori, that guide the employment of reason. Therefore, reason alone cannot reveal the essence or discover knowledge of the world. The assumption that it does has been mobilized by our strong desire to capture the evasive and the uncapturable with the certainty of logical reasoning. As a logical thinking method, reasoning can clarify our thinking to ensure clarity, unity, and coherence, but cannot lead to new discoveries. Analysis of logical reasoning has long concluded that neither inductive nor deductive reasoning can help us reveal truth and discover new knowledge. David Hume, for one, has single-handedly dismantled the prevailing belief that through experience and reflection, our inductive reasoning is able to instantiate certain knowledge of the outside world. The logical positivists also made a convincing case that deductive reasoning brings nothing new at all, except clarifying definitions and relations. Reason may help clarify premises and conclusions, but they cannot reveal or discover new knowledge. Yet ego-consciousness, though working with entangled, infinite dimension of experiences, including pure experience that cannot be identified and fixated, is working to identify and to render the world present. Out of the multitude of relationships and experiences with the world, reason helps synthesize the disappearing and the exterior and recreate a semblance of the uncaptured. The “presence” is an imaginative synthesis, a reminder of that lingering uncaptured and uncapturable. With reason as the way of ego-conscious operation, however, imagination maintains an internal intelligibility, correlation, and coherence. Imagination creates an iteration of its own unity; not unity between it and the world, but unity within itself. Between the employment of the elements and patching up the bottomless depth of nothingness, imagination organizes and produces a forged semblance that responds to the sense of nothingness, which can then be shared, understood, and operated upon by the community. Clearly, it is not rationality or the capacity for reason that characterizes our activity in the world. It is the question and the call from the beyond and creative imagination as a response to the unreachable that characterize our activity in the world. Reason can be learned and modeled by machines, information can be gathered and processed by instruments, and rational decisions can be made by AI, but the inspiration toward infinity and movement to stay in tune with the unpredictable and the infinite in creation cannot be learned, predicated, or duplicated. We are drawn
and inspired by what is unreachable, and we recreate in response to the unfathomable nothingness, which evade me always. Driven by what is the other side, imagination is possibility and potential, rather than truth and substance. Working in the dimensions of time and inspired by pure experience, imagination is how we interpret, think, understand, and respond to the uncaptured world.
Kant’s Imagination and Time
Imagination and time are essential concepts for Kant. Unlike his predecessors, who see imagination narrowly as make-believe and visualization, Kant sees imagination as the basic way our mind works in all areas of cognition, aesthetics, and moral lives. It is an integral part of human activity. Imagining, rather than revealing or discovering, is how we think and know the world. Yet his notion of imagination, as already hinted at earlier, carries the limitations of the philosophical tradition in which he is situated. Relying on the long-held assumption of time-conscious association, and limiting sensibility to that of perception, he justifies the unity, certainty, and objectivity of knowledge from imagination. While his technical terminology and analysis can be difficult to untangle, Kant seems to postulate that knowing starts with appearance and perception. “The first thing that is given to us is appearance, which, if it is combined with consciousness, is called perception.”1 Sensibility is the source of experience: receptive, passive, yet also conscious and cognitive. Kant claims that “without the relation to an at least possible consciousness, appearance could never become an object of cognition for us, and would therefore be nothing for us.”2 For Kant, besides our cognitive and conscious actions upon the world, we do not have much “empirical” connection with the world. “The I think must be able to accompany all
1 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). A120. 2 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). A120.
© The Author(s) 2020 G. Zhao, Subjectivity and Infinity, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-45590-3_16
my representations.”3 Things have to appear, present, captured by our self-aware sensibility, in order to deliver perceptions. There is no sensibility that is pure receptivity, without effort, no primal sensibility that receives the world as the unidentifiable. Perceptions are always already mediated through consciousness. While Kant is the first, and perhaps the only, philosopher to have emphasized the idea of the noumenon—the mind-independent external world beyond our reach—the existence of the noumenon does not have any impact at all on our receiving and knowing of the world. Kant identifies three basic human capacities in knowing and understanding the world: sensibility, imagination, and understanding. Sensibility provides perceptions that are “immediately related to the object” and are “singular.”4 On the other hand, understanding is active and spontaneous, a capacity through which we mediate and understand the world through representations and conceptions. What bridges these two extreme capacities is imagination. “Both extremes, namely sensibility and understanding, must necessarily be connected by means of this transcendental function of the imagination,” says Kant.5 Hence, imagination occupies a central position in Kant’s theory of knowing. Imagination penetrates, takes up, and combines the manifold of sensible perceptions and provides a corresponding “unity of the apperception”6 to understanding. According to Kant, every appearance (of an object) contains a manifold; hence, perceptions that appear through sensibility are also “dispersed and separate in the mind.”7 Imagination is the “active faculty of the synthesis of this manifold in us.”8 Kant claims that imagination is able to function as the bridge between sensibility and understanding because it shares features with both. “The imagination, on account of the subjective condition under which alone it can give a corresponding intuition to the concepts of understanding, belongs to sensibility; but insofar as its synthesis is still an exercise of spontaneity, which
3 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). B132. In paragraph 16 “On the original—Synthetic Unity of Apperception.” 4 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). A320/B377. 5 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). A124. 6 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). B150. 7 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). A120. 8 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). A120.
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is determining and not, like sense, merely determinable,”9 it belongs to understanding. In other words, imagination produces intuitive and sensible representations, which makes it aligned with sensibility. Yet unlike the perceptions (sometime called intuitions) of sensibility that arise through passive affection, the intuitive representations of imagination are the result of active, spontaneous synthesis. “By synthesis …, I understand the action of putting different representations together with each other and comprehending their manifoldness in one cognition.”10 Kant claims that both the imagination and understanding are capable of engaging in synthesis. The synthesis that imagination enacts, however, is a figurative synthesis that combines the manifold sensible intuitions and is distinct from the intellectual synthesis that combines understandings. Therefore, imagination reaches out to the sensible and the intuitive. It is “the faculty for representing an object even without its presence in intuition.”11 It does not merely copy and represent something present but recreates, striving to represent from the unpresented that which is in memory or is already gone. Imagination is active and generative; it determines forms of sense a priori. Kant proposes that such synthesis should also be called “transcendental synthesis,” as in the act the a priori forms of intuition such as space and time and the a priori categories of understanding such as cause and substance are combined with perceptions or intuitive representation to produce higher-level knowledge. The a priori forms provide structure, affinity, and unity to knowledge. For Kant, space and time condition appearances and determine all possible appearances and therefore provide the very possibility of experience. Without the mediation of the a priori, appearances would not appear. More specifically, Kant claims that time is the transcendental schema that organizes and determines the manifold perceptions. According to Kant, time is an a priori form of inner sense “by means of which the mind intuits itself, or its inner state.”12 Putting it another way, time is the medium and condition of intuitive conscious movements and, therefore, “everything that belongs to the inner determinations is
9 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). B152. 10 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). A78 B103. 11 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). B152. 12 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). A23.
represented in relations of time.”13 Yet instead of being just an existential condition, or in Kant’s terms an “empirical reality,” time for Kant is also a “transcendental reality,”14 as it plays a central role in imaginative synthesis. It provides the “time-determination” schema to order and unify the manifold impressions in general, allowing representations to be consistent with the categories of understanding and thus providing a priori unity by combining all representations. In Kant’s view, our encounter of the world comes as seamless, buzzing confusion, but a group of simultaneous “impressions” is not possible, “for each representation [Vorstellung ], in so far as it is contained in a single moment, can never be anything but absolute unity.”15 Kant believes that we can become conscious of only one image in a moment, and therefore, time has to distinguish and organize the undifferentiated impressions into separate, successive images. Time imposes a linear structure and is the unifying form that mediates the manifold into a one-dimensional succession where appearances can be perceived in clear order. Therefore, time has to be a “transcendental reality,” a priori. Kant says, “These principles [time and space] could not be drawn from experience, for this would yield neither strict universality nor apodictic certainty. We would only be able to say: This is what common perception teaches, but not: This is how matters must stand. These principles are valid as rules under which experiences are possible at all, and instruct us prior to them, not through them.”16 Kant’s “Copernican Revolution,” which exalts human rationality and agency in knowledge, has led him to see time-consciousness as a conceptual necessity. Time is not what is, but what must be. For this purpose, apparently, there can be no conception of other times, uncontrolled, uncaptured, and sometimes invisible. Time must be one-dimensional. For Kant, it is unthinkable and unacceptable to perceive other times: “The arising of some of them and the perishing of others would itself remove the sole condition of the empirical unity of time, and the appearances would then be related to two different times, in which existence flowed side by side, which is absurd. For there is only one time, in which all different times must not be placed simultaneously but only
13 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). A23. 14 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). A35-6/B52. 15 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). (A99). Emphasis in the original. 16 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). (B47).
KANT’S IMAGINATION AND TIME
one after another.”17 The complexities of existence, “unthinkable” and “absurd” for Kant, propel him to see one-dimensional, successive time as a necessary imposition and determination, to the point that he boldly claims, “Objective significance is conferred on our representations only insofar as a certain order in their temporal relation is necessary.”18 Time must be successive, rather than simultaneous,19 and there can be only one time, conscious time, and nothing else. It follows that Kant’s concepts of consistency and unity, or in his words, the “universality” and “apodictic certainty” of cognition, are contained only in categories, but by applying these categories a priori, imagination, as well as the intellectual synthesis, are rendered certain and unified. All representations we have, therefore, are already mediated through the conscious determination and all unity and universality come from the unity and universality of categories a priori. One may wonder, though, to what extent we can claim the “validity” or “objectivity” of imagination. How much is our knowledge purely human construction or even illusion? In other words, what is the purpose and status of imagination? Kant insists that a relation to a pure object, an object in the world, is necessary for knowledge, because “apart from this relation synthetic a priori propositions are entirely impossible, since they would then have no third thing, namely a pure object, in which the synthetic unity of their concepts could establish objective reality.”20 For cognition to have objective reality at all, “i.e., to be related to an object and to have significance and sense in that object, …the object must be able to be given in some way,” because without that, “the concepts are empty.”21 On the other hand, Kant laments that although one lets “this consciousness reach as far and be as exact and precise as one wants, still there always remain only representations, i.e., inner determinations of our mind in this or that temporal relation.”22 All we can access is the phenomenal world, the world as is given to us, the world we can experience, and knowledge and knowing are limited in the already-mediated world. Imagination gains “objective 17 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). B 232 A189. 18 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). B 243. 19 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). (B47). 20 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). B 196 A157. 21 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). B 195 A156. 22 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). B 243.
reality,” which can only mean “application to objects that can be given to us in intuition, but only as appearances; for of these alone are we capable of intuition a priori.”23 Aiming to prove that the categories are universal, certain, and objectively valid with respect to objects of the senses, Kant nevertheless finds himself repeatedly announcing that we operate only in the self-mediated world. Imagination is not self-circumscribed construction and has to be related to a third party, the pure object, yet we have no relation to the pure object, which is beyond our sensible reach. Thus, he asks the question: “Now how do we come to posit an object for these representations, or ascribe to their subjective reality, as modifications, some sort of objective reality? Objective significance cannot consist in the relation to another representation.”24 Kant’s tremendous emphasis on inner consistency, universality, and certainty, as well as the objective reality of cognition, bears striking similarity to the Platonic and Aristotelian assumption of certain truth. The struggle of Kant is the struggle for certain and universal truth, truth as revelation of the world, but at the same time being acutely aware that we do not have a “god’s eyes” and have no access to the “truth.” It is also the struggle of recognizing that imagination has to have a relation to a pure object, yet already assuming that the pure object has absolutely no sensible relations with us. Kant has made capacious claims that the noumena, the things themselves, are independent of our minds and unapproachable by our knowledge, yet he claims that the realm of the noumenal is approachable by pure reason. Kant suggests that the noumena belong to the realm of metaphysics, which aims to transcend experience, and that metaphysics can be approached by pure reason. His reasoning, however, is based on an assumption of the all-encompassing opposition of sensibility and reason. Kant suggests that if the world is non-sensible, it must be the world of reason or the world of understanding. In other words, the division between the phenomena and noumena is the division of “the senses and of the understanding.”25
23 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). B150-1. 24 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). B 243. 25 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). A250.
KANT’S IMAGINATION AND TIME
For if the senses merely represent something to us as it appears, then this something must also be in itself a thing, and an object of a non-sensible intuition, i.e., of the understanding, i.e., a cognition must be possible in which no sensibility is encountered, and which alone has absolutely objective reality, through which, namely, objects are represented to us as they are, in contrast to the empirical use of our understanding, in which things are only cognized as they appear…. Here an entirely different field would stand open before us, as it were a world thought in spirit (perhaps also even intuited), which could not less, but even more, nobly occupy our understanding.26
The assumption that the noumena cannot be known and yet are completely open to thought and understanding takes another leap of faith and leaves the question of justification. Indeed, Kant suggests that since the noumena cannot be known, all rational speculative principles, convictions, can only be taken “as if” they were true. They cannot be proven or disproven, and there can be no justification for the convictions and principles. Kant has also explained that the concept of appearances cannot be the bridge that brings the noumena to sensible awareness, even though he recognizes that if appearances did, the differences would not only be differences in logical form of cognition “but rather the difference between how they can originally be given to our cognition, in accordance with which they are in themselves different species.”27 Yet it being already determined that the noumena belong to the realm of metaphysics and pure reason, nothing of that kind of sensible awareness can be had about
26 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). A250. 27 See Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998): “Now one might have thought
that the concept of appearances, limited by the Transcendental Aesthetic, already yields by itself the objective reality of the noumena and justifies the division of objects into phenomena and noumena, thus also the division of the world into a world of the senses and of the understanding (mundus sensibilis & intelligibilis), indeed in such a way that the difference here would not concern merely the logical form of the indistinct or distinct cognition of one and the same thing, but rather the difference between how they can originally be given to our cognition, in accordance with which they are in themselves different species. For if the senses merely represent something to us as it appears, then this something must also be in itself a thing, and an object of a non-sensible intuition, i.e., of the understanding.” A 250.
the noumenal world. Therefore, he insists that “appearances are nothing but representations.”28 But by completely excluding the noumena from knowing and knowledge, Kant excludes the fundamental insights the sense of the noumena contribute to knowing. We become curious to know how, if the phenomenal is all we are aware of, is Kant so certain of the noumena? Does his speculation have no sense base at all? If Kant is himself aware of the noumenal, why does such a sense or awareness have no bearing upon how we know and approach the world? What seems certain, however, is that Kant’s appreciation of the noumena has profoundly transformed his theory of knowledge. In a nutshell, the problem with Kant’s theory of knowledge comes partly from his limited notions of sensibility and temporality. Even though he sees sensibility as the human capacity “within which alone objects are given to us,”29 his notion of sensibility as merely cognitively observing the world limits what can be given to us, which is pure perception, as Bergson has later similarly claimed. Kant has noted that, in encountering the world, what appears in our mind is a manifold perceptions, “dispersed and separate in the mind,” yet conceived only as undifferentiated appearances from different angles and sides of an object: “My mind is always busy with forming the image of the manifold…. The mind must undertake many observations in order to illustrate an object differently from each side…. There are thus many appearances of a matter according to the various sides and points of view.”30 These manifold images are of the same dimension. There is no receptivity that receives what comes our way without our making an effort to possess it, nor is there a primal sensibility that appeals to pure experience. Sensibility, for Kant, is always part of the pre-calculative act. His conceptions of time and temporality also only recognize the conscious time, the time of intuitive conscious movements, as if such effort and work are the only meaningful ways we exist in and are related to the world temporally. But such claims and conceptions, as Kant has made clear, are prescriptions rather than descriptions. They are conceptions that originated from “ought” purposes. Linear, one-dimensional
28 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). A 251. 29 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). A 247. 30 Kant, Lectures on Metaphysics, the Cambridge Edition, trans. Karl Ameriks & Steve
Naragon (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 28: 236.
KANT’S IMAGINATION AND TIME
time is what must be given so that unity and consistency of knowledge and cognition can be ensured. The decision of a time-conscious association is a decision of imposition and perceived necessity. As Lawrence Friedman rightly notes, “The argument for the necessity of a synthesis of apprehension is simultaneously an argument for the necessity of timeconsciousness.”31 They are part of the effort to reduce the buzzing confusion in our encounter with the world. The other times, as well as pure experience, are subsumed in a limited notion of sensibility and a reduced concept of temporality. The “unhomogenous”32 are eventually rendered in harmony and unity, or even universality. Kant has repeatedly claimed that experience has a grounding role because “objective reality, … can always be shown in experience,”33 yet Kant’s experience is always already truncated. For Kant, experience is “the synthetic unity of appearances” and “without [synthesis] it would not even be cognition but rather a rhapsody of perceptions.”34 Without intuition piercing thought and holding it together, experience would be nonexistent. Kant’s concern with the “fit” between perceptional experiences and the rules of consciousness, and with the “unity of apperception,”35 therefore, lead to an unfortunately simplified and reduced understanding of our existence and knowing activities. Such an exclusively egoconscious orientation in his consideration of experience leaves no room for pure experience and for experiences that are evasive, uncapturable to cognition, but nevertheless offer much to our understanding of the world. As was made clear earlier, our experience has never been limited to perception alone; instead, we live with multi-dimensioned, field-like experiences. Our spatiality, relations with the world, has led to qualitatively different, yet interpenetrating, experiences. Memories—exaggerated, combined, morphed, or uncluttered—anticipations, the sense of the noumenal, do play a part in knowing and understanding. The profound sense of noumena, and the awareness of the otherness of the world that is always entangled with pure perception, inevitably bears on our knowledge of the
31 Lawrence Friedman, “Kant’s Theory of Time,” Review of Metaphysics 7, no. 3 (1954): 379–388, 381. 32 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). A137-8/B176-7. 33 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). B 196 A157. 34 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). B 196 A157. 35 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). B 196 A157.
world. Kant’s exaltation of the conscious subject, his adamant insistence on the power and freedom of the subject to dominate, has artificially separated existence from the world and failed to recognize the existent that receives, appreciates, follows, and dwells in its complicated relationship with the world. This effort and all of these struggles have also prevented Kant from honestly appreciating imagination as it is: an evocation, an active pursuit of the uncapturable and inexpressible. Imagination is how we think as a species existing in the world, facing the eternal mystery of the universe. Tracing complicated appearance and disappearance, dwelling in the midst of a multitude of times penetrating each other, imagination stays in tune with the inexpressible and restlessly strives, recreating with the power of sensibility and rationality. The inexhaustible experiences, always slipping out of our grip, nevertheless inspire and provide the context and the source from which rationality strives in endless creative imagination. Our rational ability only leads us to the realization of the very boundaries of our “knowing,” yet it strives further, to the depths of nothingness. It also follows irrefutably that, unlike what Kant has claimed, new creation can come only as a result of combination, of the synthesis our consciousness enacts upon the perception. The bottomless and inexhaustible source of experience is the well, the spring from which every new imagination can be inspired and generated. Kant sees so little coming from the outside besides vague, buzzing appearances, that he says, “If we investigate what new characteristic is given to our representations by the relations to an object, and what is the dignity that they thereby receive, we find that it does nothing beyond making the combination of representations necessary in a certain way, and subjecting them to a rule.”36 Only the power to synthesize, and perhaps the possible ways to synthesize, provides any new element. Nothing really new comes from the outside, from the object. But if we appreciate the richness, the inexhaustibleness of our experiences dwelling in and receiving the world, we have an endless source of new inspiration. Precisely because the source is infinitely uncapturable, its every move, every shape, and every dynamic provide new inspiration. Without being able to fixate on it, it becomes the eternal source of new creation.
36 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787/1998). B 243.
Self-Identity and Narrative Imagination
Grounded on nothingness and constituted by countless, heterogeneous sources of experiences, the existent is porous with what cannot be exhausted or grasped by the introspective immediacy celebrated by Descartes and Husserl. Human temporality signifies the impossibility of an unequivocal, self-enclosed being and presence. It signifies the inevitable opacity and void of existence. Concealed while shining forth, constituted while constituting, the porous existent allows the pure and the spiritual to flow within, and thus is infinitely indeterminate and cannot be comprehended, reduced, or objectified. Consequently, the existent is beyond knowledge. In Levinas’ terms, the “interiority” and “secrecy” of subjectivity refuses concept and genera and “breaks-up totality.”1 Existence cannot be shared, understood, or communicated,2 and no conscious knowing, thinking, and thematizing can absorb or totalize it. When we look inside, we will not see a thing or an object that is there to be known through the senses and reasoning, as the current science of the mind has suggested it to be, nor a posited essence to be thematized. The question of “Who am I,” as knowledge or the truth of our being, or a reflective representation of the substance, has to remain unanswered. 1 Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 118. 2 Existence means radical solitude and interiority; as Levinas said, “Existence is the Sole
Thing I Cannot Communicate; I Can Tell About it, but I Cannot Share My Existence.” [Levinas, Ethics and Infinity, trans. Richard, A. Cohen (Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press, 1985), 57].
© The Author(s) 2020 G. Zhao, Subjectivity and Infinity, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-45590-3_17
Yet it has long been thought that practices and actions are grounded in something more original and substantial. The “I am” and “I think” are the substantive sources to anchor one’s actions and practices in the world and with others. The truth of “I am” determines what and how I do. But practical actions, while not hanging in the air, do not have to be grounded on a “thing,” a substance, nor do they justify a stable, all-encompassing, transcendental subject. On the other hand, the recent “deconstruction” of the subject has not left one lost, without source and directions, because what it has deconstructed is an illusion to begin with and has never been the true source of actions. “Subjectivity or the appropriation of the self lies not at the origin of the human venture,” rightly claimed John Van Den Hengel.3 Rather, the “origin” that guides human actions is called out, made present, at the interplay of the porous, indeterminate being with others. A creatively imagined and intersubjectively charted self-identity emerges in response to the questions “Who are you?” and “Who am I?” In other words, self-identity is not constituted by more or less accurate facts or truth about ourselves, but rather, it is configured by the imaginative intention and attention for the purpose of presentation, to ourselves and others. It is the committed and promised narrative fiction patched up out of the porous existence of nothingness, rather than the truth we discover. Responding to the nonbeing argument of time—that the past is no longer, the future is not yet, and the present does not remain—Augustine once suggested that the only way to make time present is through articulation in language. We recount the past and predict the future in narrative, and the present is no longer a point of passing, a point that does not remain, but a present intention (intentio) which the person is intending to pronounce. Augustine proposed that recounting the past is making an impression on the memory and predicting is making an impression on an event that has not yet happened.4 Viewed from this perspective, the present, unlike the much-traveled path of conceptualization in Western philosophy, is not congealed and solidified, but is only patched over or reinvented. Our reflective configuration, rather than immediate positing and perception, “presents” time, as a presentation, despite its 3 John Van Den Hengel, S. C. J., “Paul Ricoeur’s Oneself As Another and Practical Theology,” Theological Studies 55 (1994): 458–480, 461. 4 Gert J. Malan, “Ricoeur on Time: From Husserl to Augustine,” HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 73, no. 1 (2017): 5, https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v73i1.4499.
SELF-IDENTITY AND NARRATIVE IMAGINATION
nonbeingness. All the highlighted or managed memories, attentions, and expectations, for Augustine, are things of the mind, not of the world. In other words, they are presentations, rather than representations. They do not “represent” what is there, but reinvent what is there in presentation. One’s attentive mind is relegating, organizing, and choosing memories, events, actions, traces, to recreate a presentation out of the unpresentable. As Jonathan Bennett observes, storytellers impose form “on the raw mass of experience, [create] shape and meaning by emphasizing some things and leaving others out. [They find] connections between events, suggest cause and effect …”5 In the narrative imagination, a composite narrative time is forged, against and out of the heterogeneous times of existence, and from which a self-identity, as narrative and as imagination, is born. Paul Ricoeur is one who has truly devoted himself to explicating the relationship between narrativity and narrative identity. Drawing from Ricoeur, we can understand how narrativity allows a different temporality to emerge against the temporality of the existent. Based on Augustine’s insights on time and Aristotle’s idea of emplotment, particularly Aristotle’s concepts of mimesis6 and muthos,7 Ricoeur emphasizes that following a story is always both following the directedness of successive actions and reverting the directed succession by the arrangements of the plot. In narratives, says Ricoeur, we are “pushed ahead” temporally by the development and respond to its impetus “with expectations” and concerns about its outcomes and ends.8 On the other hand, the configuration of the narrative displays a different temporal dimension. “The configurational arrangement makes the succession of events into significant wholes that are the correlate of the act of grouping together.”9 The plot of the story recapitulates “the initial conditions of a course of action in its terminal consequences” and reestablishes actions and events “according to an order that is the counterpart of time as ‘stretching along’ between a beginning and an end.”10 Memories
5 Jonathan Bennett, “Time in Human Experience,” Philosophy 79, no. 2 (2004): 165– 183, 173, https://doi.org/10.1017/S0031819104000221. 6 Imitation of temporal movements brought by action. 7 Synthesis of the actions by meanings or purposes. 8 Paul Ricoeur, “Narrative Time,” Critical Inquiry 7, no. 1 (1980): 169–190, 174. 9 Ricoeur, “Narrative Time,” 179. 10 Ricoeur, “Narrative Time,” 180.
and expectations rearrange the course of events, as though recollection inverted the so-called natural order of time. “By reading the end in the beginning and the beginning in the end, we learn also to read time itself backward.”11 Therefore, a “temporal dialectic,” as Ricoeur calls it, exists and it consists of the linear progression of time and the “inverted”12 time. Such a dialectic is “implied in the basic operation of eliciting a configuration from a succession.”13 Hence, narrative time is intentional time and, like storytelling, is embedded in its own logic and arrangement. Yet, unlike the time of the existent that can never be rendered unified and whole, the temporal narrative dialectic brings concordance and homogeneity to the narrative time. As Ricoeur indicates, the plot mediates the manifold of events, the disparate components of the action, including intentions, causes, and chance occurrences, as well as pure succession and the unity of the temporal form.14 Calling it “synthesis of the heterogeneous” and “discordant concordance,” Ricoeur underscores that narrative time is ultimately unified time because of the inherent logic of storytelling. Thus, with narrativity, emerges a narrated self-identity upon a composite temporality as a possibility of articulation. Self-identity is intentionally and attentionally forged, through imaginative narrativity, in response to the demand of the questions “Who are you?” and “Who am I?” It is called out at the intersubjective intersection as a commitment and promise. Yet such self-identity can only be precariously perched on the slippages and displacements of being. With narrative time, the present appears
11 Ricoeur, “Narrative Time,” 180. 12 Ricoeur, “Narrative Time,” 180. 13 Ricoeur, “Narrative Time,” 178. 14 In Oneself as Another, Ricoeur states, “I propose to define discordant concordance, characteristic of all narrative composition, by the notion of the synthesis of the heterogeneous. By this I am attempting to account for the diverse mediations performed by the plot: between the manifold of events and the temporal unity of the story recounted; between the disparate components of the action—intentions, causes, and chance occurrences—and the sequence of the story; and finally, between pure succession and the unity of the temporal form, which, in extreme cases, can disrupt chronology to the point of abolishing it” [Paul Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, trans. Kathleen Blarney (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1992), 141].
SELF-IDENTITY AND NARRATIVE IMAGINATION
stretched, stitched together, and the surging heterogeneous times mediated and crossed over; thus, self-identity is built upon an imagined temporality against the temporality of existence. In daily existence, we experience diachronic thrusts and simultaneity of the dissimultaneous. Life is filled with the encroachment of involuntary memories, traces of the already forgotten, extension and reversions. As Marcel Proust describes in his work In Search of Lost Time, “Between that distant moment and the present one, unrolled in all its vast length,” is the whole of the past “I was not aware that I carried about within me.”15 When “the past was made to encroach on the present,… I was made to doubt whether I was in the one or the other.”16 We get lost in the untraceable thrust and the nebulous, unfathomable depth of our being, yet in the intentionally and attentionally invented presentations, memories, anticipated occurrences may be blocked, manipulated, or commanded. In Iyer’s words, “I lose my capacity to express myself freely and spontaneously in language,”17 yet I regain an imaginative voice through mediated presentation, as a commitment and a promise to the other and to the world. I imagine Levinas’ separation of “saying” and “said” is meant to describe something distinguishable like existent and self-identity. He notes that “saying” gives rise to the “said” but can never be contained or exhausted in the “said.” “Saying” breaks the totality of the “said” and leaves a trace. It is the “ex-ception and ex-pulsion,”18 the “hither side of ontology,”19 which transcends all genera and concepts. Levinas describes subjectivity as “beyond being” or “otherwise than being,” simultaneously appearing and withdrawing from the being. Like “saying,” then, the existent appears in self-identity but at the same time withdraws from selfidentity. Self-identity belongs to the realm of time-consciousness, the realm of reflection, identification, and presentation, but subjectivity is infinitely beyond collection and objectification.
15 Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time, vol. VI: Time Regained, trans. A. Mayor and T. Kilmartin, revised by D. Enright (New York: Random House, 1993), 529. 16 Proust, In Search of Lost Time, vol. VI: Time Regained, 262. 17 Lars Iyer, “The Sphinx’s Gaze. Art, Friendship and Philosophical in Blanchot and
Lévinas,” Southern Journal of Philosophy 39, no. 2 (2001), 197. 18 Emmanuel Levinas, Otherwise than Being, or Beyond Essence, trans. Alphonso Lingis (Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press, 1998), 163. 19 Levinas, Otherwise than Being, or Beyond Essence, 46.
Lodged in the very structure of narrative concordance despite discordance, therefore, self-identity evokes what is rumbling on the other side, the unexhausted and non-representable. The heterogeneous dimensions of times and experiences are the source and inspiration of self-identity. Gazing at something that cannot be seen, self-identity moves away from the invisible to appear, as Walter Benjamin’s angel who is always “about to move away from something he is gazing at.”20 Thus, self-identity is fragilely structured. It may be disrupted and yet be remade. Stories can be told and retold differently, arrangement be rearranged again.
20 Walter Benjamin, Illuminations, Essays and Reflections, ed. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1968), 201.
The Existent and Self-Identity
The intentionally appropriated, forged and configured, self-identity, emerging at the interface of the self and the world, however, is often thought to be equivalent to the truth and the substance of our existence. Self-awareness, self-reflection, self-identification, awakened by the other, is thought to be the necessary condition to be, as expressed in the longstanding, sole association of time with consciousness. The intentional and conscious self-awareness, called forth at the intersection of the self and the other, has been emphatically located as the birthplace of the atomistic self. According to Fichte, the I, or the pure consciousness, must recognize another free individual’s “summons” in order to posit, and to become aware of, himself as a free individual.1 In other words, mutual recognition gives birth to the free and self-conscious subject. Yet it is unclear why mutual recognition necessarily and inevitably leads to a recognition of the “free subject.” Why does the occurrence of self-awareness and reflection only point to an independent, free agent, a rational subject that becomes such by being recognized as such? Hegel went a step further to describe such recognition as the encounter of, and the struggle between, a master and a slave. The emergence of the independent self-consciousness, according to Hegel, is the result of a life and death struggle between the
1 Johann G. Fichte, Foundations of Natural Right (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000/1796/7).
© The Author(s) 2020 G. Zhao, Subjectivity and Infinity, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-45590-3_18
self and the other and the result of the self’s overcoming and “superseding” the other.2 Based on this thesis, while recognition is key to the birth of the free subject, the recognition is essentially antagonistic; that is, the realization of one’s own subjectivity depends on turning the other into an object. Ideas consistent with this theme can be widely found in the Western philosophical tradition under various guises: in Heidegger description of “they” and authenticity, and in Jean-Paul Sartre’s description of “Hell is other people,” where being has to constantly struggle under the gaze of other self-consciousness to escape the fate of objectification. Yet the thesis of the birth of the free, independent subject at the intersection of the self and other is already the result of a value-orientation chosen long before the encounter and recognition of the “subjects.” A reflection of what the subject ought to be, or what the self wants to be, has entered the “narrative” of what the self is. The value-orientation has been described by Ricoeur as the Cartesian tradition that “exalts” the subject too high, as opposed to the deconstructionist tradition, mainly associated with Nietzsche and other more recent philosophers of the same inclination, that “humiliates” the subject to the point of the end of the subject.3 An intentionally chosen narrative of the “free subject,” rising from the intersubjective recognition, therefore, is taken to represent the “true” subjectivity rather than a self-identity. Facing the other, the recognition could have led to many different articulations, and the value-orientation of transcendental philosophy has led to the chosen presentation of the free subject. It was made the true and the only, rather than a possibility of presentation. None of the two traditions Ricoeur is writing against sees the self-reflection and self-presentation as a reconfiguration, an imagined narrative, arising from the more primary experience of existing in the world. They either take the reflected subject as the existent or the deconstruction of it as the end of the existent. Nor does Ricoeur see a distinction between narrativity and experience, and between the existent and self-identity. He sees the problem with the two traditions as only the problem of the nature of the subject conceived, rather than as also of a 2 Georg W. G. Hegel, Phenomenology of the Spirit, trans. A. V. Miller (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977/1807). 3 Paul Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, trans. Kathleen Blarney (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1992), 16.
THE EXISTENT AND SELF-IDENTITY
conflation of the existent with self-identity itself. Thus, Ricoeur seeks a new selfhood to replace the much-challenged Cogito. For Ricoeur, the Cartesian tradition of the transcendental ego, “where the I as consciousness is absolute ground,” and the anticogito tradition, “where the subject is only a linguistic or rhetorical flourish,”4 are both too extreme and, in a time of “the shattered cogito,”5 a narrative identity that can function as the source and origin of practical action is the suitable alternative. Ricoeur’s purpose is to conceptualize a selfhood that is not substantialized but can, nevertheless, provide an answer to the question, “How should I live?” He believes that “traditional metaphysics is at a loss to ground the self because it is too solidly rooted in Being as substance or presence,…[and] Being must not be allowed to be exhausted by substance and form.”6 When the human subject seems to have lost its confidence in determining what is to be done, perhaps a “wounded cogito,” one that is not the absolute ground nor the hopeless dispersion, is the only hope. For Ricoeur, a self that emerges from discourse in which she claims “I believe-in” is the nonsubstantialist concept of being. Rather than substance, this self is characterized by her capacity to recount, attest, and act in the world. Thus, “despite the lack of an absolute guarantee of truth, there is a confidence—an unverifiable confidence—in the self, in what the self says, and in what the self believes it can do.”7 Being is the “living affirmation.”8 In other words, as Hengel phrases it, the self exists “as an attestation of the truthfulness of being.”9 It is an act, a determination, and a narrative. It is a narrative identity born to a composite discourse, which is, phrased by Atkins, “a discourse which charts the intersection of the objective, intersubjective and subjective aspects of lived experience.”10
4 John Van Den Hengel, “Paul Ricoeur’s Oneself as Another and Practical Theology,” 460. 5 Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, 11. 6 Hengel, “Paul Ricoeur’s Oneself as Another and Practical Theology,” 471. 7 Hengel, “Paul Ricoeur’s Oneself as Another and Practical Theology,” 471. 8 Paul Ricoeur, “Negativity and Primary Affirmation,” in History and Truth: Essays in
Phenomenology, trans. and ed. Ch. Kelbley (Evanston: Northwestern University, 1965), 328. 9 Hengel, “Paul Ricoeur’s Oneself as Another and Practical Theology,” 471. 10 Kim Atkins, “Paul Ricoeur (1913–2005),” The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy,
ISSN 2161-0002. Retrieved on October 9, 2019 at: https://www.iep.utm.edu/.
Hence, Ricoeur’s “wounded Cagito,” which emerges as a new possibility after the “shattered” exaltation of Descartes’s subject and the demeaned, empty, Nietzschean subject,11 is a narrative self-identity. Ricoeur’s vivid exposition of the relationship between narrativity and identity details how identity can be forged despite the nothingness in its underside, patching together a coherent presentation, but he does not see that the narrative self-identity is already a step away from the more primary ways of existence. Narrative imagination is still a literary artifact and a way of thinking,12 despite its evoking and being inspired by the more immediate and un-reflected experiences. Ricoeur also attempts to address the problems with the transcendental subject from a narrative perspective. Responding to Husserl’s struggle regarding phenomenological time, his attempt at rendering the instant present secure and stable through intuitive grasp, Ricoeur says, “The endless aporias of the phenomenology of time will be the price we have to pay for each and every attempt to make time itself appear, the ambition that defines the phenomenology of time as pure phenomenology.”13 Seeing Husserl’s attempt as an ongoing struggle that still ends, rightly, in aporias, Ricoeur proposes that the poetics of narrativity, the narratively composite time, is a fitting response and alternative. “My thesis [is] that the poetics of narrativity responds and corresponds to the aporetics of temporality.”14 Underlying this proposition, unfortunately, is the entanglement and conflation of narrative temporality and existential temporality. “I take temporality to be that structure of existence that reaches language in narrativity and narrativity to be the language structure that has temporality as its ultimate referent. Their relationship is therefore reciprocal.”15 It is this kind of circular definition of temporality and narrativity that helps Ricoeur conflate language structure and the structure of existence. As he also claims, “The world unfolded by a narrative work is always a temporal world: Time becomes human time to the extent that it is organised after
11 Hengel, “Paul Ricoeur’s Oneself as Another and Practical Theology,” 461. 12 Harry Jansen, “Time, Narrative, And Fiction: The Uneasy Relationship Between
Ricoeur And A Heterogeneous Temporality,” History and Theory 54 (2015): 1–24, 3. 13 Paul Ricoeur, Time and Narrative, vol. 1, trans. K. McLaughlin and D. Pellauer (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1984), 84. 14 Ricoeur, Time and Narrative, vol. 1, 84. 15 Ricoeur, “Narrative Time,” 169.
THE EXISTENT AND SELF-IDENTITY
the manner of a narrative; narrative, in turn, is meaningful to the extent that it portrays the features of temporal experience.”16 There is no distinction between an intentionally fashioned narrative time—the succession and the configuration—and the times of existence—the field-deep, multidimensional, and heterogeneous times—or between configured identity and the existent that is beyond configuration, that is the source and inspiration of the configuration. Ricoeur understands that narrativity has its own language structure and follows the logic and arrangement of emplotment. At the end of his study of Time and Narrative, he realizes that narrative identity cannot be just the identity of the characters in a story and in history but has to be personal identity in general. It cannot be just an answer to questions such as “What story does a person tell about his or her life?” “What story do others tell about it?” but also questions of “Who?” “Who is that? Who are we?”17 In other words, his narrative identity, as long as it is conflated with the existent, has to be able to address not only issues of a narrative nature, but also issues of phenomenological concerns. As Hengel also notes, narrative identity displays “the polysemy of action, …[but] Ricoeur remains aware that he has not yet discovered thereby what binds together the variety of human action that displays itself in the practices of human language.”18 No one action can be “used as the key to the understanding of the other modes of action. Action is polysemic.”19 Underneath the person as identifying reference in speech, and beyond the agent of action, even beyond the identity that emerges and is displayed in narrative, Hengel argues, there remains the question of what binds them together and supports them. Perhaps it is for this reason that in his final study, Ricoeur ventured an ontological analysis to account for the manifolds. But Ricoeur’s ontology is still built upon the entanglement of narrativity and temporality, or reflection and direct experience. Ricoeur’s conflation of the existent and reflected, projected, and presented self-identity, his entanglement of phenomenological analysis and narrative analysis has been noted as part of his tendency to weave together “heterogeneous 16 Ricoeur, Time and Narrative, vol. 1, 3. 17 David Pellauer and Bernard Dauenhauer, “Paul Ricoeur,” The Stanford Encyclopedia
of Philosophy (Winter 2016 Edition), ed. Edward N. Zalta, https://plato.stanford.edu/ archives/win2016/entries/ricoeur/. 18 Hengel, “Paul Ricoeur’s Oneself as Another and Practical Theology,” 463. 19 Hengel, “Paul Ricoeur’s Oneself as Another and Practical Theology,” 464.
concepts and discourses to form a composite discourse,” a characteristic of his philosophy.20 Yet a self-identity, born to the call to attest and to present itself, cannot be confused with the existent that is beyond attestation and presentation. The narration is always built upon the existential structure that is more primordial and originary. What is missing in Ricoeur’s philosophy of the narrative self is the understanding that narrativity, as an intentional and attentional act, is already an imaginative appropriation of the porous existent, which is not the essence, or Being, but is infinity, a being grounded on nothingness. Such an existent gives rise to self-identity, which emerges at the intersection of the self and other, at the moment when the self is called to reflect and present to the world and herself “Who am I,” the question that opens onto multiple ways of commitment and articulation.21
20 Atkins, “Paul Ricoeur (1913–2005).” 21 Ricoeur is not alone in approaching human subjectivity from a narrative or discourse
perspective. Jürgen Habermas claimed a paradigm shift from the philosophy of consciousness to the philosophy of language in order to attempt a theory of the subject that avoids the totalizing power of the ego-consciousness. Habermas claims that language is “the web to whose threads subjects cling and through which they develop into subjects in the first place.” [Jürgen Habermas, On the Logic of the Social Science, trans. Shierry Weber Nicholsen and Jerry A. Stark (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1988), 117.] A linguistically mediated and intersubjectively generated speaking and communicating subject, Habermas claims, would allow an intersubjective relationship where all are equal subjects. But Habermas’ subject relies heavily on the linguistic structure of communication, which is too thin to be the ground of human subjectivity, and on Mead’s theory of the social self, which is still based on the philosophy of consciousness. Thus, it is unclear how his subject breaks away from the power of ego and consciousness and enters into intersubjectivity. Discourse or narrative is always already a consciously and reflectively mediated activity. With such a theory of the self/subject, Habermas cannot explain how the subject is fundamentally different from the subject of ego and consciousness and how the subject escapes the fate of objectifying and being objectified.
“Who Are You?” and “Who Am I?”: Self-Identity and Narrative Presentation
Self-identity is called forth by the question “Who are you?” at the intersection of the existent and the world, especially the intersubjective world that demands her answer. It is an intentionally synthesized presentation of “Who I am,” configured reflectively for the world. Unlike the familiar “I think” or “I am,”—the solitary retrospection and self-determination of the truth of the I—self-identity does not express the “essence” of the I, nor is it a representation of the I. It is an expression of the commitment, resolve, and promise of the existent to the self, to the other, and to the world. Situated within the multitude of relations in the world, in the intersubjective interface, we encounter the other who is beyond our knowledge and comprehension, who presents us with the unfathomable depth of her existence, and yet who “nestles within the self as responsibility, that is, as an ability, even a necessity, to respond.”1 The other of consciousness, according to Ricoeur, is the “voice”2 within me, demanding response. The world and the other enjoin me, demanding my commitment and promise. Self-identity is thus born from our inescapable receiving of the other and responsibility to the other. It is from our attention and care to what is other than me and outside of me that the intentional synthesis is motivated and performed. When the conversation turns inward, a conversation in which the existent faces her own “Who am I?” question—a
1 Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, 469. 2 Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, 469.
© The Author(s) 2020 G. Zhao, Subjectivity and Infinity, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-45590-3_19
demand to come to terms with herself—this question requests a determination and commitment that is both a responsibility and an inscription. Self-identity becomes a declaration of “Here I stand!”3 As a configured presentation to the question “Who am I,” self-identity is always both intentional and attentional. It is intentionally mediated and attentively moved by the call from the other and by the manifold contingencies one finds oneself in. It is intentional, in the sense of coming from intention and purpose, but also in the sense of coming from thinking and reflection. Yet conscious thinking and reflection is imagination. As an intentional presentation, consciousness and reflective movements are both imaginatively descriptive and ethically prescriptive, stitching over what is uncaptured, reinventing a presence that evokes the absence and disappearance of the existent, and making a commitment to the world. As a configured presence, self-identity carries a sense of stability, continuity, and visibility, a certain “permanence in time”4 perhaps, which defines sameness and identity, even at the risk of encroachment and disruption of the unexpected. A stitched-together presence precariously perched on the porous existent, self-identity, nevertheless, is one’s commitment and promise to oneself, to others, and to the historical, cultural, and ethical context in which one finds oneself. Thus, self-identity signifies imaginary solidification, reflective commitment, and ceaseless evocation. The gap between the stitched-together and presented self-identity and the porous existent that threatens to engulf the narrative imagination is the risk at the heart of the commitment. Consequently, the “Who” of the I, the narrative fiction that answers the questions “Who are you?” and “Who am I”? first arises as a concern, as care. Ricoeur says that “narrative shows how concern ‘interprets itself’ in the saying ‘now.’”5 Being with the world through concern and care, self-identity comes as a responsibility to answer a demand that one cannot escape and to respond to situations and circumstances one did not create, even consequences one did not intend. Thus, as Ricoeur notes, we often find ourselves in situations in which we are “both abandoned and responsible at the same time.”6 Yet self-identity is also a privilege,
3 Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, 168. 4 Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, 122. 5 Ricoeur, “Narrative Time,” 177. 6 Ricoeur, “Narrative Time,” 176.
“WHO ARE YOU?” AND “WHO AM I?” …
an opportunity to do the impossible, to present oneself as an attestation, commitment, and promise to the other. To invent a “now” against the other times, to keep time while it is phasing away, such movements can only be motivated by care for other and the world, for the historical, cultural, and ethical context of one’s existence. Ricoeur calls the concern that drives the presentation “the narrative of preoccupation.”7 The preoccupation of the existent as a situated being receiving the other-than-me, in the institution of language and thinking, delivers self-identity as a new invention, an imagined narration of who I am. Moved by concern and by care, attending to the other and the world, also means that self-identity cannot be predicted and predetermined. Situated in historical, cultural, and ethical contexts where various values, norms, ideals, models, even heroes are the means by which the community recognizes itself, the existent faces a multitude of expectations, demands, and considerations. Different times, memories, and experiences slide in at the moment of the “now,” while judgment is to be cast, choice is to be made, and identification is to transpire, making available different articulations of self-identity. The tormenting question of “Who am I?” impresses and calls upon the manifold elements of the porous existent to respond. Out of experiences and pure experience, memories and pure memory, and traces of the forgotten, ... self-identity is configured to tell a tale that is both an invention and evocation, and a confirmation and commitment to the world. Here, Ricoeur’s brilliant explication of how self-identity is narratively configured through responsibility, attestation, testimony, and keeping one’s word is eminently helpful. Responsibility, says Ricoeur, unites two meanings: “counting on” and “being accountable for.”8 Responsibility means the other can count on me and I am accountable for my actions before another. It is not only a commitment and promise to assure the other that they can count on me, but in so doing, a statement about the “I” is also made as a response to “Who are you?” The Who is born from responsibility, as the “I” of promise and commitment. Along with it is the statement of “self-constancy,”9 as Ricoeur points out, in which the I respond: “Here I am!” Self-identity, with its forged continuity and
7 Ricoeur, “Narrative Time,” 177. 8 Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, 165. 9 Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, 165.
promised constancy, therefore, evokes the lingering question: “Who am I, so inconstant, that notwithstanding you count on me?”10 On the other hand, demonstration, attestation, and witness as responses to the question “Who are you?” are also meant to express assurance that, “in spite of suspicion, meaning and the self are possible.”11 It is a promise that the self will be there, accountable. Rather than truth, self-identity is “an attestation of the truthfulness of being.”12 Testimony enables a self-identity as “the bearer of a promise or a hope.”13 Referring to an intention and an inspiration, it links the witness and the conviction together. Thus, demonstration and attestation present a self-identity that confirms a commitment to truthfulness. Certainly, Ricoeur notes, keeping one’s promise always means to “appear to stand as a challenge to time, a denial of change.”14 In that sense, it is a promise despite time and other times. The commitment to the other that is motivated by attention and care necessarily leads to a denial of time and a pursuit of permanence, yet care and attention to the other-than-me and the outside-of-me also disrupts the permanent time, and thus introduces the inevitable tension of time. But such a denial is only ethically justified. As Ricoeur explains, the ethical justification is derived “from the obligation to safeguard the institution of language and to respond to the trust that the other places in my faithfulness.”15 In other words, the denial is not a denial of truth or reality but a denial for ethical and narrative purposes. It is a movement that takes on the linguistic and narrative schema for the purpose of promise. This ethical justification, “considered as such, develops its own temporal implications, namely a modality of permanence in time.”16 The invented temporality is thus a narrative temporality. Selfidentity built upon such a narrative temporality can only be an imaginative response to an ethical demand, and “it is here, consequently, that the equivocalness of the notion of permanence in time is dissipated.”17 10 Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, 168. 11 Hengel, “Paul Ricoeur’s Oneself as Another and Practical Theology,” 471. 12 Hengel, “Paul Ricoeur’s Oneself as Another and Practical Theology,” 471. 13 Hengel, “Paul Ricoeur’s Oneself as Another and Practical Theology,” 474. 14 Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, 124. 15 Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, 124. 16 Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, 124. 17 Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, 124.
“WHO ARE YOU?” AND “WHO AM I?” …
The ethical response to “Who am I” and the claim of “Here I am!” are the two responses of the same commitment. Yet they are in opposite directions in the configuration of self-identity. As Ricoeur notes, “How can one say at one and the same time ‘Who am I?’ and ‘Here I am!’?”18 In the answer to “Who am I,” a “Who” is configured to make the commitment, yet in the answer “Here I am!” the person realizes herself as inscribed both as a subject of responsibility and a subject of imputation. It is both the expression of ownership and of dispossession, of selfaffirmation and self-effacement. Coming from the attention and care of an existent who is situated in and receiving of the world, this aporia of self-identity seems inevitable. There is always the disturbance of the other and the other times that encroach and slide in, “breaking through the enclosure of the same.”19 The movement of configuring a self-identity is met “with the complicity of [a] movement of effacement by which the self makes itself available to others.”20 Narrative identity, therefore, can never be turned into an ironclad certainty and full presence, even at the time of presentation. The unconditional receiving of the infinite other at times marks a halt in the conscious push for the configuration of a continuity of self-identity. Nevertheless, the intentional movement configures and enables a selfidentity that can say “I,” an agent who confirms, commits, and promises. Intentionality constitutes a “who” of intention and action. Self-identity is not only engaged and committed to the “now,” but also promises a future time. Ricoeur calls such “reaching out beyond,” such gripping of a now and projecting of a future, “ontological vehemence.”21 This “ontological vehemence” suggests a self-identity affirming a semblance of “being,” a “who” that speaks, acts, and is responsible for actions. “Attestation expresses being”22 in presentation. Through the actions and intentions, therefore, the self-identity I is opened to be understood and analyzed. Unlike the porous existent, conceptual access is available to self-identity’s configuration.
18 Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, 167. 19 Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, 168. 20 Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, 168. 21 Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, 301. 22 Hengel, “Paul Ricoeur’s Oneself as Another and Practical Theology,” 470.
In his last book, Memory, History, Forgetting, Ricoeur analyzes how memories can be manipulated, blocked, and ethically-politically obligated. He also addresses the question of forgetting: how “traces of the past can be lost, and that past will be … beyond memory,”23 and how narrative mediation can select and deselect, order and rearrange memories intentionally. But he also points out that there is always the forgetting “where the traces remain.”24 No matter how much memory is blocked, manipulated, or commanded, and no matter how much forgetting is ordered “through amnesty or censorship,” there always lies “the possibility of a forgetting held in reserve.”25 His analysis sheds light on how the intentional stitching together of the porous existent may happen, but as long as the configuration is also attentional, attending to and receiving of the other outside of me, narrative identity can only be tensive and tentative, fragilely structured. As an imaginary synthesis, self-identity also assumes a certain sense of unity. Such unity is ensured both as a condition for ethical commitment and as a narrative necessity. From a deliberately ethical perspective, Ricoeur notes, “The idea of gathering together one’s life in the form of a narrative”26 is the foundation for a good life. Attestation and demonstration need unity in the self-identity. Ricoeur uses narrative emplotment to explain narrative unity, the “concordant discordance,” as he calls it, in which heterogeneous elements are brought into a syntactical order. Emplotment mediates and configures events, agents, and objects and renders them meaningful elements of a narrative whole constituted by why, how, who, where, and when, “a tensive unity which functions as a redescription of a situation in which the internal coherence of the constitutive elements endows them with an explanatory role,” explained Atkins.27 The mediation function of emplotment also produces a character as a coherent part of the story. Ricoeur says, “It is indeed in the
23 Pellauer and Dauenhauer, “Paul Ricoeur.” 24 Pellauer and Dauenhauer, “Paul Ricoeur.” 25 Pellauer and Dauenhauer, “Paul Ricoeur.” 26 Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, 158. 27 Atkins, “Paul Ricoeur (1913–2005).”
“WHO ARE YOU?” AND “WHO AM I?” …
story recounted, with its qualities of unity, internal structure, and completeness which are conferred by emplotment, that the character preserves throughout the story an identity correlative to that of the story itself.”28 Hence for Ricoeur, this self-identity so configured can be explained by the characteristics of a character in a story, in that a character appears as “existing in accordance with a finite perspective affecting my opening to the world of things, ideas, values, and persons.”29 Like a character, self-identity is made out of the multitude of contingencies. Character is always a choice, a limited one out of the infinite possibilities. A character also assumes a set of “lasting dispositions by which a person is recognized,”30 a set of “distinctive marks which permit the reidentification of a human individual as being the same.”31 Out of necessity of narrative structure for presentation, also out of necessity of intersubjective recognition, a character maintains a definite degree of sameness, an identity despite nonidentity. But as such, Ricoeur states, character only expresses “a certain adherence of the ‘what?’ to the ‘who?’”32 While self-identity has the dimension of the “Who” where it is a projected self that is only counted on as a promise, as “keeping one’s word,”33 even though keeping one’s promises does express a constancy of the self, “character is truly the ‘what’ of the ‘who.’”34 Thus, self-identity is configured through the mediation of both descriptive and prescriptive actions. “By the descriptive features that will be given, the individual compounds numerical identity and qualitative identity, uninterrupted continuity and permanence in time,”35 yet in prescriptive actions, self-identity is ventured to the future, to the uncertainty, to the agency of the Who. With all these analyses, self-identity appears as tentative stories charted out at the intersection of the concerns of the limitless, inexhaustible, and indeterminate porous existent and the demand of the other. It is the
28 Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, 143. 29 Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, 120. 30 Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, 121. 31 Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, 119. 32 Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, 122. 33 Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, 118. 34 Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, 122. 35 Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, 119.
invented story that addresses the cultural, political, and historical contingencies but also responds to the sound of silence inside, the multidimensioned experiences. In response to the question “Who are you?” a reflective movement, in narrative and in action, is set in motion and, with intention and attention, a self-identity is imagined and configured. The intersubjective context is the context of questioning and demand, where the self is called to come to terms with herself, yet in responding to what comes from the other, the imaginative narration draws on inspiration from the forever-elusive and inexhaustible experiences of the porous existent. Much more than the contingencies, including the absolutely other, the extratemporal or the other times, death and the beginning, have all participated in a conversation in “an extratemporal situation.”36 Thus only a work of art or imagination can fulfill the vocation of self-identity. Selfidentity attests to itself and the other, even if only in a broken manner, a “Who” who speaks, acts, and responds. “Barely skirting paradox,”37 at the intersubjective encounter, the otherwise infinite existent is made to appear, as an imagination, and as self-identity. Therefore, the “essential ontological fragility”38 found by Derrida at the ethical, juridical, and political foundations is not the fragility of the existent, which is infinity and is beyond ontology, and which cannot be fully present as a being. What appears in the fragile structure is the selfidentity that is imagined and presented to the world of ethics, law, and politics.
36 Jansen, “Time, Narrative, and Fiction: The Uneasy Relationship Between Ricoeur and a Heterogeneous Temporality.” History and Theory 54 (February 2015): 1–24. 37 Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, 122. 38 Derrida, “‘Eating Well’: An Interview,” 104.
A Absence, 18, 20, 27, 28, 31, 38, 48, 49, 52, 54, 59, 74, 79, 81, 92, 94, 95, 108, 110, 111, 148 Animality, 85, 86, 89 Aristotle, 9, 107, 120, 137 Association of time and consciousness, 21, 117 A-temporality, 62, 67 Augustine, 10, 17, 136, 137
B Beginning, 3, 9, 11, 47, 80, 85–87, 89, 91–93, 137, 138, 154 Being, 3, 4, 6, 9–11, 13, 14, 16, 17, 19–23, 25–33, 36, 39, 42, 43, 46, 49–54, 63, 65–68, 71, 75–82, 86–97, 99–103, 109, 112, 114–116, 118, 119, 121, 128, 130, 131, 134–136, 138, 139, 141–144, 146, 148–151, 153, 154
Bergson, Henri, 11, 13, 21–23, 29–31, 34–39, 45, 74, 95, 96, 101, 102, 110, 111, 132
C Communicative reason, 120, 121
D Death, 3, 6, 85, 86, 88–91, 93, 94, 96, 97, 141, 154 Derrida, Jacques, 4, 5, 11, 18–21, 23, 34, 48, 49, 54–59, 72, 73, 75, 78, 89, 92, 95, 99, 101, 109, 154 Disappearance, 86, 89, 93, 108, 110, 116, 134, 148
E Ego-consciousness, 42, 52, 54, 59, 71, 86, 100, 112, 123 Egological existent, 45, 87–89, 91, 93, 102
© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 G. Zhao, Subjectivity and Infinity, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-45590-3
Emptiness, 23, 25, 31, 69, 79, 80, 96, 114, 115 Existence, 3, 4, 9–11, 13–18, 20, 23, 25, 26, 31–39, 41, 42, 45, 47–51, 53, 58, 59, 61, 63, 65–67, 72–76, 78–83, 85, 88, 89, 91, 93–97, 99–103, 107, 108, 117, 126, 128, 129, 133–135, 137, 139, 141, 144, 145, 147, 149 Existent, 13–15, 23, 25–27, 45, 47, 48, 51, 62, 64, 66, 81, 85–89, 91–97, 99, 101, 103, 108, 122, 134, 135, 137–139, 142, 143, 145–149, 151, 154
F Field-structured temporality, 72 Field time, 48
H Hegel, G.W.F., 18, 51–53, 141 Heidegger, Martin, 3, 6, 11, 17, 78, 81, 87–90, 93, 95, 142 Hume, David, 123 Husserl, Edmund, 3, 17, 25, 39, 41, 42, 54–58, 109, 110, 135, 144
I Identification, 26, 31, 39, 40, 44, 47, 49, 99, 110, 111, 117, 139, 149 Imagination, 31, 38, 55, 74, 99, 110–112, 118, 123–127, 129, 130, 134, 137, 148, 154 Infinite time, 64, 85–97, 99, 102, 103 Infinity, 36, 54, 74, 76, 79–81, 89, 93–95, 99, 100, 102, 103, 123, 146, 154 Instrumental reason, 120, 121
Intuition, 25, 29–31, 36, 91, 101, 110, 111, 116, 126, 127, 130, 133
J James, William, 14, 15, 39–41, 43, 101
K Kant, Immanuel, 45, 100, 111, 113, 116, 119–121, 125–134 Knowing, 30, 108, 112, 125, 126, 129, 132–135 Knowledge, 3, 10, 22, 29, 30, 52–55, 75, 78, 81, 90, 99, 107–113, 117–119, 123, 125, 127–130, 132, 133, 135, 147 Kyoto school, 114
L Levinas, Emmanuel, 4, 11, 22, 23, 34, 51, 78, 79, 87, 89–91, 93, 94, 100, 101, 135, 139
N Nancy, Jean-Luc, 3, 4, 6, 53, 78 Narrative imagination, 137, 144, 148 Narrative time, 137, 138, 145 Nishitani, Keiji, 114, 115, 117, 118 Nonbeing, 11, 27, 28, 71, 76, 78, 80–82, 92, 136 Nonpresence, 49, 56–58, 109 Nothingness, 25, 67–69, 71, 77–82, 91–96, 99, 100, 102, 103, 109, 110, 116–118, 122, 123, 134–136, 144, 146
O Other time, 25, 47–54, 58, 59, 61, 64, 66, 72–76, 85–87, 89–91, 94, 96, 97, 99, 101, 103, 108, 116–118, 128, 133, 149–151, 154
P Perception, 9, 29, 30, 34–39, 48, 49, 54–57, 74, 109, 110, 113, 115, 116, 125–128, 132–134, 136 Porous existent, 82, 135, 146, 148, 149, 151–154 Porous self, 82 Post-humanism, 5 Presence, 4, 17–20, 25, 27, 47–50, 54–59, 61, 62, 67, 73, 74, 77, 79, 81, 82, 86, 88, 89, 92–95, 97, 108–110, 116, 117, 123, 127, 135, 143, 148, 151 Present, 6, 9, 10, 16–22, 25, 29, 33–39, 47–50, 52, 53, 56, 57, 61, 62, 64–68, 71, 72, 74, 75, 85–87, 95–97, 99, 101, 108–110, 123, 126, 127, 136, 138, 139, 146, 147, 149, 150, 154 Presentation, 109, 111, 112, 136, 137, 139, 142, 144, 146–149, 151, 153 Primal sensibility, 16, 20, 23, 25–27, 29, 31, 32, 37, 38, 42, 43, 45, 47–50, 55, 72–75, 85, 89, 91, 94, 99, 108, 109, 117, 123, 126, 132 Pure experience, 25–27, 33, 36, 38–50, 54, 66, 74, 75, 79, 89, 95, 96, 99, 102, 103, 108, 111, 123, 124, 132, 133, 149 Pure memory, 21, 26, 29–31, 34–38, 74, 94, 95, 101, 110, 149
R Rationality, 119–122, 128, 134 Reason, 22, 31, 51, 89, 91, 107, 114, 115, 119–123, 130, 131, 145 Ricoeur, Paul, 137, 138, 142–153 S Self-identity, 48, 55, 57, 58, 73, 75, 113, 136–154 Sensibility, 20, 23, 26–29, 125–127, 130, 132–134 Sensible time, 47, 48, 87, 94 Sensitivity, 28, 108, 123 Spatiality, 13–16, 37, 107, 115, 133 Substance, 21, 36, 108, 111, 113– 117, 119, 124, 127, 135, 136, 141, 143 Synthesis, 50, 100, 109–111, 123, 126–129, 133, 134, 138, 147, 152 T Temporality, 6, 10, 11, 13, 16, 18, 19, 21, 47, 48, 50, 53, 54, 61, 62, 64–66, 68, 71–76, 79, 83, 85–94, 96, 97, 101–103, 108, 115–117, 132, 133, 135, 137–139, 144, 145, 150 Thing-hood, 113–115 Thinking, 45, 50, 62, 77–79, 108– 118, 120, 122, 123, 135, 144, 148, 149 Timeless, 61, 67, 68, 89 Transcendence, 6, 32, 76, 100–103 U Universal reason, 119–122 Z Zen Buddhism, 61–63, 66–68, 71, 74 Zhuangzi, 25, 92