The Aesthetics of Desire and Surprise: Phenomenology and Speculation 1498518478, 9781498518475

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The Aesthetics of Desire and Surprise: Phenomenology and Speculation
 1498518478, 9781498518475

Table of contents :
Contents
Acknowledgments
Preface
Introduction
Chapter 1Desire and Excess
Chapter 2Limit Experiences, Difference,Repetition, and Singularity
Chapter 3Surprise
Chapter 4The Properly Aesthetic Experienceand Knowledge
ConclusionDesire||Surprise and the Irreduciblein an Aesthetic Encounter
Bibliography
Index
About the Author

Citation preview

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The Aesthetics of Desire and Surprise

The Aesthetics of Desire and Surprise Phenomenology and Speculation

Jadranka Skorin-Kapov

LEXINGTON BOOKS

Lanham • Boulder • New York • London

Published by Lexington Books An imprint of The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc. 4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200, Lanham, Maryland 20706 www.rowman.com Unit A, Whitacre Mews, 26-34 Stannary Street, London SE11 4AB Copyright © 2015 by Lexington Books All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote passages in a review. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Information Available Library of Congress Control Number: 2015949522 ISBN: 978-1-4985-1846-8 (cloth : alk. paper) eISBN: 978-1-4985-1847-5 ∞ ™ The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992. Printed in the United States of America

For Darko

Contents

Acknowledgmentsix Prefacexi Introduction

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1 Desire and Excess

15

2 Limit Experiences, Difference, Repetition, and Singularity

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3 Surprise

107

4 The Properly Aesthetic Experience and Knowledge

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Conclusion: Desire||Surprise and the Irreducible in an Aesthetic Encounter

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Bibliography177 Index181 About the Author

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Acknowledgments

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Department of Philosophy at Stony Brook University for providing a fertile environment for insightful discussions with faculty and students. I am greatly indebted to Edward S. Casey for his erudite comments that stimulated various directions of research. David Allison, Robert Harvey, Mary Rawlinson, Lorenzo Simpson, and Jeff Edwards provided many useful suggestions resulting with improved manuscript. I also benefited from discussions with the faculty and students from the Art Department at Stony Brook University. Joseph Monteyne, Donald Kuspit, John Lutterbie, Andrew Uroskie, and Zabet Patterson contributed to my understanding of art exemplifying various philosophical positions. The support of my colleagues from the College of Business at Stony Brook University is very much appreciated. I am indebted to an anonymous reviewer for useful suggestions that contributed to the presentation of this work. The help from the editorial team at Lexington Books was indispensable for the book in its present form. It was a pleasure to work with Jana Hodges-Kluck and with Kari A. Waters, and I thank them sincerely for their support for the project, for their professional suggestions, and for enjoyable communication. Finally, I would like to thank my family, my husband Darko and our younger generations, who always expressed their approval for my philosophical endeavors. This work is dedicated to Darko who—after forty years— remains an irreducible surprise for me.

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Our encounters with the environment, both natural and manmade, sometimes surprise us, because most of the time we proceed in an automatic, everyday fashion (a nod to Heidegger), dulled by the overabundance of sensual impressions, and its annoying and meaningless information overload. However, in rare situations, if we allow ourselves such a “luxury,” we get surprised in an irreducible way—such an encounter belongs to a limit experience. Two issues need explanation. First, I wrote “if we allow ourselves”— which implies a conscious effort. In this work such a conscious effort is approximated by the notion of the “expectation of the unexpected.” This effort is related to desire, as a drive overstepping consciousness and conceptual determination. However, unlike in the Lacanian description of desire, one is not smitten by the unattainable “object of desire”—this desire is directed to the experience of newness and as such it might not be interesting for a psychoanalyst; there are no unresolved past issues haunting one’s current sense of subjectivity. Since notions of desire, expectations, attunement, and courage can be interpreted in light of lived experience, they allow for hermeneutical and phenomenological analyses and descriptions. The lived experience is the first part, or a prerequisite for encounters generating irreducible surprise, the not yet. However, my desire for the unexpected is not enough—there has to be a trigger from the outside to provoke the encounter. This trigger creates excess overflowing one’s representational capabilities. Such excess arises from the interaction with the outside, so that it is made up of a combination of immanence and transcendence. Here the phenomenology of excess fades, giving way to speculations about excess, so there is a shift in the direction of analysis.

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The second issue is the fact that we all get surprised. Hence, surprise is a down-to-earth phenomenon often taken for granted and with neglected significance due to the banality of the more or less meaningless surprises that fade away in the instant following the encounter. Nevertheless, in some situations one gets a sense of an irreducible surprise, a feeling that does not fade away completely, that lingers even after the orderly everyday phenomenality is restored and life goes on as usual. ON THE TERM DESIRE||SURPRISE Desire for the unexpected (or for irreducible newness) is a desire for transgression apart from objectivity, for overstepping the limit of representability, and for encountering a presence that cannot be represented. If the unexpected indeed happens, it happens beyond one’s consciousness and intentionality. The only representation that one gets is the follow-up sense of surprise and its further metamorphosis into other emotions. We are stuck with the recurring phenomenological riddle of not yet and no longer. The intensity of such an encounter allows us to experience how the process of being surprised evolves, offering interpretations of its significance in various domains of human interactions, such as aesthetics and ethics. The moment of the break separating the not yet and the no longer, the moment of the transformation of desire into surprise, is a speculative moment because we cannot represent it, but can feel its presence—it is the force that carries surprise. This moment of the breakup of phenomenality is the rupture, the pause, Blanchot’s neuter (neutre), Levinas’s face, Lacoue-Labarthe’s caesura, Deleuze’s plane of consistency, Merleau-Ponty’s flesh—to name a few philosophical efforts to characterize the “active passivity,” or commonality, or continuity, escaping phenomenal representation. The term proposed here is desire||surprise, and it tries to capture the complexity and the speculative-phenomenological character of the pair not yet and no longer. The complexity might be evident by the invocation of a number of philosophical positions and their relevancy to the task in front of us. At times, it might look as if fitting interpretations in a Procrustean bed. However, a good philosophical position allows various interpretations on the subject, and the subjects of desire, excess, origin, beginning and becoming, astonishment, wonderment, responsibility—and this is not the complete list of relevant subjects—are discussed by philosophers throughout the history of philosophy. When talking about caesura, Lacoue-Labarthe says that he will work by the example of Hölderlin. I wish to propose a trial-like approach of argumentation and to call upon philosophical “witnesses” to be able to offer a characterization of a very prosaic phenomenon having a speculative black

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hole in its center. I call this approach the trial of immediacy at the tribunal of mediation. The problem is that most of the philosophers offer a partial picture: either an analysis of desire which includes the whole spectrum from Kantian ethics to Lacanian psychoanalysis, or an analysis of aesthetic experience that unfolds following the surprise of the encounter. The relevant issue is often the beginning, how to deal with it and with the prerequisite for it as the origin belonging to the outside. The two philosophers that give primacy to the origin are Eugen Fink in his efforts to modify Husserl’s phenomenology, and Schelling in his invocation of the ground of existence as different from existence itself. Their work is interesting when trying to join the speculative with the phenomenological. In the present work, I wish to start even earlier, because before the break there is excess, and before excess there is the interaction of a willing interiority and the anonymous exteriority. This is why the current argumentation is organized around philosophical figures relevant in the sequence desire—excess—pause (rupture, break)—recuperation (surprise). This approach brings into question the disagreements about what comes first, aesthetics or ethics. In contrast to Levinas, for whom ethics is the first philosophy, my argument is that the impact of the breakup of phenomenality is aesthetic before being the ethical face of the Other. This position is not unethical, it just starts a bit earlier to honestly acknowledge the break as a break. Levinas discusses the radical exteriority beyond phenomenality, and calls it face, which hints at the relation to representability. Lyotard calls the radical exteriority a figure, Martin Seel calls it an appearance—so it is en route to presentation. Why not call it simply the break (the pause, the rupture) that separates the not yet from the no longer? We can speculate about it, denote it paradoxically as a “bridge,” a commonality, or a continuity, and leave representation and objectivity outside it. EXAMPLES I wish to characterize a certain type of experiential encounter when a presence exceeds a presentation, when one’s receptivity to manifold data is overwhelmed by a presence that cannot conform to the formality of one’s sensible intuition. There are such experiences, and they are all ecstatic experiences pointing to what is outside the ordinary turn of events. These are experiential encounters when one’s expectation is exceeded irreducibly, not just due to a wrong expectation. The power of expecting is exceeded. But, even in such cases, there are experiences of the A-ha! type as when a new cognition suddenly becomes available. Two most famous examples are those of Archimedes discovering his law while taking a bath, and Newton discovering the law of gravity when supposedly an apple fell on his head.

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In my limited way, I experienced situations in which a mathematical formula shows itself and helps me in proving a certain result. Usually there is sudden excitement, a type of disbelief, a fear of overlooking something and impatience to write it down, to verify that nothing was overlooked. These experiences are valuable and they help in career development, tenure and promotions. They start by exceeding expectations or with something unexpected, but are not irreducible. Why? The result is a new theorem or a new equation in front of me—it is objective; hence in retrospective analysis I can expect it. These are not the experiences considered here. I consider encounters when a given presentation cannot capture the complete presence, when there is excess of presence spilling over, beyond the objectivity of presence. Such experiences are not necessarily experiences of artworks; they can occur in any of life’s domains. The excesses considered in this work are useless for the purposes of objectively acquired knowledge; they do not yield new facts. Take an example apart from art evaluation, such as studying a theorem and its proof. It can happen that suddenly one is overwhelmed by a presence beyond the formality of formulas. For example, a presence of simplicity or elegance is suddenly revealed. And then, of course, one recuperates and has to deal with the encounter. There is no equation to help publish a paper and, yet, there is significance that can surpass the utility of any type. Let me offer another example. Once while enjoying a morning coffee, my eyes stopped on an orchid plant. In a carefree fashion I admired the beauty of its flowers, their form and color. Suddenly and beyond my expectation, the plant revealed a sense of harmony that paralyzed my representational capabilities. As if symmetry and dissymmetry, revelation and concealment, innocence and eroticism, order and disorder fused; elegance and nobility, pride and arrogance, all different and possibly opposing concepts fused in a surprising sense of harmony, negating my conceptual powers. The plant’s presence spilled beyond my faculties of representation. For a split second we shared a proximity different from subject-object distance. It almost feels inappropriate to talk about it: words do not do justice to the moment of proximity or intimacy shared with this plant. It is as Levinas would want it: a passivity more passive than any passivity, a breakup of phenomenality. I just do not see it as a face, a neighbor, as my substitution for another, as responsibility— I do not see it through ethical glasses. It is a properly aesthetic encounter, revealing something beyond conceptuality, culture, and taste. However, judgments of taste and cultural upbringing are certainly valuable. The more one knows about an art form, the more pleasures one can find in admiring that art form. Yet, when an artwork suddenly reveals more than the objectively present, it oversteps the bounds of one’s culture, taste, and understanding of art. It paralyses one’s sensibility. But, one recovers

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and this process of recovery is termed an irreducible surprise. Reflection following surprise leads to the admiration for the artwork; however, the initial excess of presentation resulting with the breakup of one’s sensibility testifies to the irreducible nature of the artwork. While a work in any art form can generate irreducible surprise, let me offer some examples from the filmic art, as the most complex art form. As a production involving many talents, film contains elements of visual arts (painting, sculpture), performing arts (theater), literature, and music, but in addition it has something specific, editing, in Kubrick’s words, “the only unique aspect of filmmaking which does not resemble any other art form.”1 With editing, cutting, and special effects, a film can disorient one’s intuitive senses of space and time, and can paralyze one’s sensibility. Of course, the irreducible surprise results from the first viewing since in repeated viewings the spectator already expects the images on the screen, and the irreducibility of the initial surprise lingers as a trace of an encounter not subsumable to the passage of time. When I recall my first viewing of 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968), I remember most vividly the “shock” of seeing the unexpected bone to spaceship cut, the stargate sequence, and the unexpected ending in the mysterious Louis XVI style bedroom. Prior to any reflection about film’s possible interpretations, and prior to the range of induced emotions, from awe and hope, to fear and inevitability, and prior to admiration of Kubrick’s artistic creativity, I remember the impossibility of my conceptual power to understand the images on the screen, being drawn into the images, involuntary and pre-consciously. In retrospective, such an experience loses the objectivity of presentation and the subject-object dichotomy, leaving the trace of unity and continuity surpassing the customary concepts of space and time. Avant-garde art usually challenges established artistic canons, creating surprises with unexpected presentations. Sometimes surprise is irreducible, sometime it is not. The work of the experimental artist and filmmaker Robert Breer (1926–2011) is interesting in the way he challenges conventional views. Various techniques that could capture movement led artistic efforts into augmenting conventional notions of, for example, perception, movement, stillness, continuity, artificiality, paradox, reality. Breer experimented with various means (camera, photography, cartooning, animation, mutascopes, rotoscopes)—all in efforts to capture the complexity of the surrounding world (natural and social), limitations of human perception, and illusiveness of the (inner) sense of time and the (outer) sense of space. Breer’s mixing of abstract and non-abstract elements challenges the limitation of conventional representation by augmenting it with abstract elements, pointing to the futility of strict dichotomy between the abstract and the representational. The short film REcreation (Robert Breer, 1956) is an experiment to see the effect of the 24th of a second. Namely, in ordinary films, the norm is to

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have 24 images per second to give the illusion of movement. Breer wants to experiment what happens if the 24 images are not related. The viewer’s sensibility is bombarded with unconnected images and unrelated sound, in effect disabling reflection and triggering viewer’s brain neuronal activity preceding consciousness. While Breer’s films are not narrative, the allure of cutting in order to stimulate a viewer’s sensibility preceding reflection is present in a number of narrative films, be it through hallucinatory scenes, or through special effects and the use of CGI. For example, Darren Aronofsky is an auteur often using fast and irrational cutting in depicting extreme mental states of his characters, creating a mix of horror and melodrama genres. His visual style of projecting the extreme psychic turbulence of a cinematic character onto his or her body disorients a viewer’s perception, resulting with surprise. Extreme fast cutting attacks a viewer’s sensibility, triggering brain’s neuronal activity, prior to reflection, as for example in the club scene from his Black Swan (2010) and the creation sequence from Noah (2014). I analyze Aronofsky’s filmography in the book Darren Aronofsky’s Films and the Fragility of Hope.2 DEFINITION OF THE PROPERLY AESTHETIC EXPERIENCE There is something that connects the exceeding of expectations when a theorem reveals the elegance beyond the formality of its proof, when an orchid plant reveals a harmony beyond the represented, and when the images on the screen reveal reality beyond formal representations. It seems that in all cases one’s receptivity is not just passively receiving data to be formalized by sensible intuition. The receptivity is such that the capacity for reception is paralyzed as if frozen in passivity, more passive than any other passivity (to echo Levinas). This passivity is an encounter with alterity, not with the other defined by my standards, but with the irreducibly other, such that I am not a subject in opposition to an object. The process of regaining my representational powers begins with the acknowledgment of this indifference between alterity and me. This acknowledgment is the startup of surprise. Hence, the argument elaborated in this work is that surprise starts with indifference. I set out to trace a trajectory of the properly aesthetic encounter as ecstatic, as pointing outside culture and taste—this is its properly aesthetic character. In this exploration, I acted as a scientist (a mix between a biologist and a mathematician), and as a lawyer. First, as a biologist who takes an invisible cell and puts it under a microscope, exaggerating its size in order to see its significance to matters of life and death, I occasionally exaggerated in vocabulary. However, it seems that exaggeration is often the language of philosophy. It is the matter of putting

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things under the microscope to uncover their significance (maybe it started with the first philosopher, Thales of Miletus and his statement that all is water). Second, as a mathematician trying to prove an assertion, I proposed a formula and then constructed a “proof” using as available arguments my interpretations of various philosophical positions. The assertion is: An instance of the properly aesthetic experience is composed of the prerequisite (desire) and the following three phases: excess, rupture (break, pause), and recuperation (surprise). The properly aesthetic component is the rupture separating desire form surprise. Third, as a lawyer who calls upon many witnesses trying to prove the case for the defense, I called upon many philosophers, used their quotes, and interpreted them (of course bending them to fit my case) to establish the irreducibility of the immediate against reflection in the court of mediation. And not only that; as a good lawyer, I tried to establish the merit of the immediate to earn well-deserved recognition in the development of the properly aesthetic component of experience. INDIFFERENCE VERSUS DIFFERENCE The irreducibility of the properly aesthetic, denoted as desire||surprise, indicates a break separating the desire that stems from one’s past experiencing, and the surprise that acknowledges the rebirth of one’s sensibility and reflection. Desire corresponds to the expectation of the irreducibly exceeded expectation. It is the passion for the outside. For Levinas, it characterizes responsibility as signification of a difference which is non-indifference. In this work, desire is also difference which is non-indifference but its signification is acceptivity, openness to alterity. Excess is the immediate presence beyond presentation that disorients and incapacitates one’s representational capabilities. The pause (or rupture, or break) is the consequence of excess, when receptivity overrides the power of sensible intuition and intellectual understanding. It is Blanchot’s neuter or difference in indifference (the origin). Surprise presents a difference. It is the recuperation in which the properly aesthetic fuses with one’s cultural upbringing. It is described as a series of announcements. An announcement is viewed as indifference in difference, as a commonality between a subject and an object. The announcement of sensibility is depicted in the work of Merleau-Ponty and his notion of flesh as a commonality between a seer and the visible. Next, the announcement of reflection is provided via astonishment as the commonality between sensibility and reflection, as a pause in reflection. Astonishment provokes sublimity

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and transforms into wonderment. Wonderment further transforms either into admiration, characterizing judgments of taste and evaluations of art, or into responsibility, characterizing moral judgments. NOVELTY VERSUS NEWNESS It is important to distinguish between novelty and newness. Novelty is a property of an objective presence, of something that allows presentation; yet, when presented, it ceases to be a novelty. To be distinguished from the novelty of objective presence, newness can be viewed as surpassing the objectivity of presence, or as a presence that cannot be presented, the non-representable and the origination of a true beginning. Past experiencing carries forward in expectations. Sometimes, however, one’s expectation is exceeded: what is experienced is not what was expected, in the sense that the encounter provides more than expected. If this exceeding negates one’s expectation due to novelty, it is just an accidental exceeding related to objective presence. In retrospective analysis, if one becomes acquainted with this novelty as objectively present, it could have been expected and would then cease to be a novelty. Sometimes one gets a feeling of an irreducible exceeding of expectation, of encountering something irreducibly new that in no way can be called novelty because there is no objective presence that can be labeled as the “thing” that exceeded one’s expectation. It is a feeling of encountering irreducible alterity surpassing one’s capability for representation. In an encounter defying the objectivity of presence, my representational capability is blocked: I am not a subject evaluating an object, because the dichotomy of subject-object does not exist in this instance. Even in retrospective analysis, after regaining representational capability, I cannot dispense with the newness of this encounter: it remains irreducible. And because this newness cannot be attached to an objective presence (otherwise it would be a mere novelty), it characterizes an instance of alterity or otherness that occasionally reveals itself at particular moments in one’s life. The paradox is that the alterity that cannot be objectively present undermines one’s role of controlling subject, yet it reinforces the sense of one’s subjectivity by pointing to openness and the possibility for growth. IMMEDIACY VERSUS SUDDENNESS The encounter with irreducible newness creates a rupture due to the inability of representing it, because before the encounter one was active in creating

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representations. However, one recuperates from such a break and the recuperation results in regaining one’s sensibility and reflection—the representational powers. This is experienced as the phenomenon of surprise. As with novelty versus irreducible newness, a surprise can be merely accidental, or it can be irreducible. An accidental surprise is the consequence of an encounter with novelty, and it disappears completely when the objective presence ceases to be novel. In contrast, an encounter with irreducible newness, with non-representable alterity, engenders a surprise that can be labeled irreducible because it is the surprise of a true beginning, of something that characterizes a new “birth.” Such a surprise entails a complex process in which one first regains sensibility, then reflection, but the irreducibility persists in reflection, and influences reflection by not allowing it to reach a well-defined conclusion. It is commonly perceived that surprise is sudden, but suddenness does not translate to simplicity; something sudden can be irreducibly complex. The consideration of surprise brings us to the notion of immediacy. Something immediate is also experienced as something sudden. Yet, it seems that my feeling or experience of suddenness follows the encounter perceived as immediate: suddenness is a characteristic of my reaction to an immediate action from the outside. The sense of the sudden emanates from me (from the inside) while immediacy emanates from the otherness (from the outside). For this reason, it seems appropriate to say that my surprise is sudden, but that the encounter is immediate. The suddenness of my surprise follows the immediacy of the encounter; suddenness belongs to my activity, immediacy engenders my response. When surprise is perceived in terms of the birth of selfhood, it resembles a slow-motion waking up: the announcement of sensibility followed by the announcement of reflection (astonishment), followed by the announcement of admiration and of responsibility. Yet, when perceived in terms of vulgar (clock) time, surprise has no interval; it is just a dimension-less point. But, it leads to a different perception of time, a “tick” time, a pregnant time that is still but at the point of bursting, of exploding. Surprise presents a birth of time: it adds a new strand to the fabric of time, making it tick, and the clock time can start from that moment. Time is not eternal because it flows from past to future; it is eternal because it has the possibility of being recovered and rejuvenated. This character of time is accomplished by suddenness, as the proper form of the time of surprise. Suddenness is my response to the immediate. Immediacy involves a lack of mediation, a presence that cannot be represented: it has the character of irreducible otherness.3 Hence, immediacy is not a property of something; it is the excess beyond one’s capacity for reflection or mediation because one cannot be prepared for it. Immediacy is a revelation of presence before presentation, and thus before representation as well.

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There is a distinct difference between the origin and the beginning. The origin is the non-representable, the unreachable outside that triggers the beginning. The origin is the grounding of the beginning, but it always stays outside it. In this vocabulary, immediacy is the origin of the beginning of surprise. DESIRE AS THE EXPECTATION OF THE IRREDUCIBLE EXCEEDING OF EXPECTATIONS When one’s capacity for mediation is oriented toward the future, it manifests itself as a set of expectations with varying levels of determination. On the completely determinate end of the spectrum there is, for example, the expectation of encountering a certain person or a certain thing. On the indeterminate end of the spectrum there is the expectation of the irreducibly unexpected, or the expectation of an irreducible exceeding of any expectation. Such expectation is not determined because it is related to the unknown rather than to a definite objective presence. Desire may be defined as the formal expectation of the irreducible exceeding of expectation, that is, as the limit of one’s indeterminate expectation. Hence, desire is a looking forward toward an irreducible excess, toward the encounter with irreducible alterity. Surprise is the emergence from such an encounter, and the resulting excess happens in immediacy, in the “interval” between desire and surprise. The startup of surprise and the realization that one is just emerging from an encounter with irreducible alterity carries the signification of the properly aesthetic, independently of culture and taste. And because such encounters are not tied up with the objectivity of presence, they all contribute (as instances) to the unique and properly aesthetic experience that unfolds during one’s lifetime. This work analyzes the properly aesthetic in one’s experiencing. Where does one start?—On the surface, on what one experiences on the ontic level, unburdened by philosophical speculations. From there we will look for relevant philosophical justifications of such experience and will attempt to develop the significance of the properly aesthetic in one’s life. The phrase “irreducible exceeding of expectation” is a repeated phrase in this work and it seems appropriate for two reasons. First, expectations are experienced regularly and allow for variation from foreclosure to openness in one’s outlook toward the future. Something that happens as a negation of expectation, either the unexpected or the exceeding of expectation, by default signals a break: ties with the past are severed, and something new starts. The irreducibly unexpected can be viewed as a special case of the exceeding of expectation since even in hindsight one cannot provide an expectation that is adequate to it. Hence, the phrase “exceeding of

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expectation” gives reality to the encounter with immediacy, with irreducible alterity. Second, the consideration of the “expectation of the irreducible exceeding of expectation” characterizes desire as the longing for openness latently present in one’s encounters with the environment. This desire makes one acceptive (non-indifferent), inclined to accept the encounter with alterity. Finally, the surprise following an encounter with irreducible alterity is experienced as a phenomenon in which one comes to terms with this encounter. FINK AND SCHELLING The phenomenology of the irreducible encounter denoted as desire||surprise addresses the speculative phenomenon which, though it sounds like an oxymoron, is basic to our experiencing. As presented in this work, many philosophers have addressed different aspects of this phenomenon, albeit under different names and in different contexts, as aspects relevant in the question of being, of knowledge, of ethics, and of aesthetics. I wish to present this speculative phenomenon in its own right, quoting various philosophers as pertinent with regard to different phases of the phenomenon’s unfolding. For Eugen Fink, the most basic question—presupposing all other questions regarding phenomenology—is “the question in what sense phenomenologizing, that which basically goes in phenomenological cognitive performance, is on the whole to be addressed as theoretical experiencing.”4 He continues to ask: “must we not in the end before all else formulate the concept of theoretical experience in a radicality such as is not possible on the basis of the natural attitude? . . .  Already allusion to the start of phenomenological theorizing gets us into trouble. How is it at all possible that phenomenological ‘theoretical experience’ can begin?”5 It seems that here the natural attitude of surprise can help: the capacity for irreducible surprise provides the mundane equivalent of the transcendental notion of origin. An answer to Fink’s question could be: yes, it is possible to have a mundane or natural attitude toward the beginning of an experience, and this is provided by the phenomenon of surprise. The speculation of the break preceding surprise leads to trancendentality, but the break as such is a very natural phenomenon: break a leg, break an object, break a meeting, so we do have a consciousness of a break in general. Hence, with the analysis of desire||surprise we go an inverse route: the transcendental is explicated via the natural, and not vice versa. But, this is precisely what Fink argues for. He writes, “Transcendental reason and transcendental logic and all the theoretical habitual dispositions of the ego are ultimately nothing other than reduced worldly-human reason, worldly logic.”6 To have consistency in the analysis, it seems appropriate to stay on the phenomenological plane

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throughout the whole analysis. Remaining on the phenomenological plane necessitates a phenomenological characterization for the desire, the excess, and the subsequent surprise to which this investigation attends. This work has elements of Fink’s and Schelling’s philosophies, the two philosophers working under the shadow of dominant figures: Fink under the shadow of Husserl and Heidegger, and Schelling under the shadow of Hegel. Yet, Fink and Schelling articulate a strand of philosophy that goes beyond being and speculation grounded in experience. In fact, for various philosophers it was unsatisfactory to start with essence and/or being: Schelling introduces the “ground of being” in addition to being; Fink introduces the source of a phenomenon prior to consciousness representing that phenomenon; Levinas in disagreement with Heidegger introduces “the otherwise than being”; and Merleau-Ponty talks about the birth of sensibility before having the intuition about separate senses. Whoever wants to consider something beyond consciousness, representation, or objectivity needs to invoke speculative thinking. The fact that many philosophers felt the need to go beyond testifies that the issues of otherness, transgression, and beyondness are defying and alluring subjects, leaving a trace in subsequent reflection. PHENOMENOLOGY OF SURPRISE A number of philosophers attack the elusive boundary between exteriority and interiority, folding and unfolding, limit and transgression, immediacy and mediation, the real and the symbolic. The relevant philosophical positions include those taken by Levinas, Deleuze, Foucault, Blanchot, Bataille, Lacan, and Žižek. Deleuze said that the encounters of philosophers occur in the blind zone. This assertion resonates very strongly with the subject of this enquiry and I tried to see where the seemingly different philosophies overlap. In illustration, looking at Mondrian one can discover points that connect Hegel’s and Deleuze’s different positions. In the encounters with irreducible otherness proposed in this work, immediacy originates the beginning of surprise. Hence, the phenomenology of the properly aesthetic experience includes the phenomenology of irreducible aesthetic surprise. The phenomenology of surprise as a process, both of restoration of one’s capabilities and of appropriation of the encounter, has affinity with numerous post-modern thinkers (mostly French): Merleau-Ponty, Lyotard, Bachelard, Nancy, and Ricoeur. The progression of surprise is a peculiar form of processing, denoted as the sequence of announcements in the dialectic of indifferences and differences. Such a process resembles in certain aspects the Hegelian dialectic in reverse. Hegel’s dialectic ends in absolute knowing, which can be interpreted as the absolute identity characterized by

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formal indifference between the terms. The progression of surprise proposed here starts with the origin as pure indifference (as absolute); continues with indifference of difference as the announcement of interiority (where only the content is given, without form, when the indistinctness of senses acknowledges that there are senses, without differentiating them); continues with astonishment as the announcement of reflection or indifference of reflection, proceeding via sublimity to wonderment and the intertwining of inside and outside; and finally resolves in the appropriation of the effect of the encounter with otherness in one of life’s domains through admiration and responsibility, leaving the domain of the properly aesthetic experience. In describing the becoming of knowledge and the phenomenology of concept formation, Hegel goes from immediate particularity (sense-certainty) toward mediated universality (the identity of the same and the other). In contrast, the process of surprise goes from immediate universality toward mediated particularity. Immediate universality can be characterized as sense-uncertainty due to the rupture of one’s sensibility. The process of recuperation can be viewed as mediated particularity because it is the recovery of subjectivity (to echo Levinas). Schelling viewed art as superior to philosophy because art can show or express something that cannot be said, even in philosophical speculation. That is why the absolute for Schelling is in immediacy; mediation only follows afterward. In this respect, my current position is very close to Schelling. Encounters that originate irreducible surprise are not constrained to encounters with artworks since any encounter with the environment, with otherness, carries a possibility for triggering irreducible surprise. In any case, the present argument is that the absolute is attained in immediacy, in the moment of the break in one’s representational capabilities. As soon as something is presented to senses as certainty, Hegel is right: it is already mediated. NOTES 1. Alexander Walker, Stanley Kubrick, Director: A Visual Analysis (W.W. Noron & Company, 1999), 22. 2. Jadranka Skorin-Kapov, Darren Aronofsky’s Films and the Fragility of Hope (Bloomsbury Academic, 2016). 3. For Levinas, “Immediacy is the collapse of the representation into a face.” Emmanuel Levinas, Oherwise Than Being or Beyond Essence, trans. Alphonso Lingis (Doquesne University Press, 1998), 91. For Blanchot, “the immediate . . . is the infinite presence of what remains radically absent.” Maurice Blanchot, “The Infinite Conversation,” in Theory and History of Literature (University of Minnesota Press, 1993), 38.

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4. Eugen Fink, Sixth Cartesian Meditation: The Idea of a Transcendental Theory of Method (with Textual Notations by Edmund Husserl), trans. Ronald Bruzina (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995), 67. 5. Ibid., 68. 6. Ibid., 69.

Introduction

In various experiential situations one might experience an irreducible exceeding of expectation pointing to what is beyond one’s historical experiential horizon. Irreducible should be understood as opposed to accidental or banal, something standing as indispensable even in hindsight analysis. In every experiential situation where this occurs, it seems that there is something common, the same type of the initial response—surprise, as if it is the same experience. Such a response marginalizes the content, the material of the experience, and this marginalization stems from the experiences exceeding one’s capability for processing it. The content (or the environment) attacks me, and I attack it in response. Such a clash is instantaneous, a complete seizure or pause, after which I recuperate, start processing it, and culture and cognition step in. Because of the perceived importance of such an encounter, it is tempting to call it a properly aesthetic experience; it is memorable as an experiential situation. However, because it negates the individuality of any specific situation, each encounter appears as an indistinguishable component in unity that could be called the properly aesthetic component in experience, indivisible in its instances. Flipping between two related yet different terms might be misleading: a properly aesthetic component of an experience versus the properly aesthetic experience. So, let us clarify the difference and settle on the appropriate term. Experience involves a determined object, the experience of something (in analogy to Husserl’s consciousness), and happens in one’s interaction with one’s environment. The term experience, better expressed as the stream of experience, implies continuity and duration, a unified whole that gets augmented as we live our lives and accumulate more and more experience. How can we define something in experiencing that has a more or less discrete character and a kind of unity so that it can be set apart from the rest of 1

2 Introduction

experience? We can talk about experiential situations. An experiential situation provides a scenario that gives unity to a part of experiencing as related to something in common. Such a situation is characterized by its duration, by the impact it leaves in memory, and by the impact it projects upon future experiencing. I can talk about the experience of being an undergraduate student. This experience comprises a period of four years and inside this period and this experiential situation there are many experiences with their separate scenarios that are memorable in their own right. Or, I can recall the experience of reading a certain poem for the first time, being swept by its force. The duration of such an experience measured by clock time is very small, yet its impact is significant. Dewey would call it “an experience,” in order to underline the unity and cohesiveness of what is experienced.1 As Dewey says, “The existence of this unity is constituted by a single quality that pervades the entire experience in spite of the variation of its constituent parts.”2 He labels such a quality as aesthetic. I wish to extract the aesthetic quality as the properly aesthetic component in experience and am characterizing it as the break in one’s representational capabilities. However, since the break or rupture has to be contextualized, so to speak, it has to have a (phenomenological) start, and a (phenomenological) aftermath. To be true to the representation-less nature of the rupture (since it cannot be represented), both the prerequisite and the consequence have to be abstract, yet phenomenologically presentable. In this work I consider desire as object-less desire for the unexpected. On the other end of rupture, I consider the beginning of surprise as object-less astonishment (outside culture and ethics), and its further metamorphoses as changes into either admiration or responsibility, or a combination of both. To summarize, the properly aesthetic component in experience happens around the break, the rupture of the objectivity of representation. The break per se is nothing to write about and the interesting development is the not yet preceding it, and the no longer following it. The break’s indescribable nature is the reason for introducing the notion of desire||surprise, as the notion of break enriched with its object-less context. Of course, desire is much more general than abstract desire for the unexpected, and of course surprise is much more general than abstract astonishment. But, I wish to delineate the leap from desire to surprise in its abstract universality, apart from any objectivity of an experiential encounter. Because the augmented notion of rupture includes the generic desire preceding it, as well as the generic surprise following it, it provides an abstract experiential template—hence, it makes sense to call rupture experience. However, because such an experience is detached from the objectivity of representation, it makes sense to call it the properly aesthetic experience that can surface as part of any experiential situation. Many philosophers write about the interval separating the not yet and the no longer, as the impossibility of immediacy and the issue of otherness or

Introduction

3

radical exteriority. Many philosophers write about aesthetic experiences, in transcendental and in phenomenological terms, struggling with the description of presence that escapes presentation, of presenting “more than meets the eye.” Here I combine the issues of immediacy, of origin preceding the beginning, and of absence as presence, underlining their aesthetic import. The wish is to extract the naked speculative break (the impossibility of immediacy) and to clothe it with the object-less desire (for the unexpected) and the object-less surprise (astonishment), labeled with the composite sign desire||surprise. Instead of a standard view of an experiential encounter including a break or rupture signaling its aesthetic nature, I argue that any experiential encounter can possibly incorporate the properly aesthetic experience, that is, the generic desire||surprise component independent of the objectivity of the underlying experience. The notion desire||surprise is the notion of contextualized break—contextualized but not objectified. On one hand, desire||surprise is a component—a properly aesthetic component—of any experiential situation, but on the other hand, due to its object-less character and consideration of it as an experiential unity comprising prerequisite and consequence, it merits being called the properly aesthetic experience. Due to their non-objectivity, all such encounters repeat the same template and only their positioning afterward attains value for a fully fledged experience, be it aesthetic or cultural and ethical. Each such encounter per se leaves something unexplainable, unrepeatable, non-closable; it illustrates the repetition of difference (to invoke Deleuze), and indicates that it cannot stand by itself as a fulfilled experiential situation, as an experience in the Deweyan sense. The properly aesthetic experience consists of the repetition of all (indistinguishable) instances of a properly aesthetic component (desire||surprise or the “contextualized rupture”) embedded in experiential situations. The later Husserl articulated his concept of life as embracing both subjectivity and objectivity intertwined in “productions of life.” The intentionality pertaining to the all-embracing world horizon of the life-world is anonymous, it is not a “consciousness of” something objectively present and specific, but grounds intentionality as such. Similarly, the properly aesthetic experience is not “experience of” but is an anonymous, or formal, or abstract, experience embracing all points of discontinuity of one’s conscious experience in a repository of indistinguishable instances. Every instance as an occurrence of this experience carries the whole of this experience, yet the experience appears incomplete. It carries in itself all the paradoxes of aesthetics: universal versus particular, distant versus close, disinterested versus interested. An experiential situation can include a moment of the irreducible exceeding of expectation that, in unleashing the aesthetic quality of the encounter, dominates the situation. We would say that such a moment is pregnant with meaning, pointing to its importance in the experiential situation. Yet, such a

4 Introduction

moment in any experiential situation is indistinguishable from any other such moment. The properly aesthetic experience is always the same, but, when contextualized in a specific experiential situation, it appears individualized and unique. A simple analogy is that the act of opening a door is always the same, but, when contextualized and the door is actually open, the view is individualized and it can include anything in the environment behind that door. ON EXCESSES, EXPECTATIONS, AND DESIRE My characterization of the properly aesthetic experience is based on the notion of desire||surprise, and a related notion is the exceeding of expectation. What, if any, is universal in our expectations and in excesses beyond our expectations? Upon characterizing the excess beyond expectation, the question becomes whether experiences in general can have a properly aesthetic component, as instances of the properly aesthetic experience embedded in a wider experiential situation. I argue that every experience, regardless of its objects, can have a properly aesthetic component. The analysis requires preliminary characterization of the notions of excess and expectation as such. Commonly speaking, excess denotes a surplus, exceeding something else in amount or degree. If the basic thing is deterministically defined, such as the weight of my luggage, then the amount of excess can likewise be deterministically measured, for example, the excess of twenty pounds. Even my body of knowledge, as a set of facts that I know, can be viewed as deterministically measurable: this is the fact that I know, that is the fact that I don’t know. Hence, when I say that my knowledge of zoology was exceeded when I learned that sea horses are the only animal species in which the males give birth, a new fact enters into my body of knowledge. Again, this excess is measurable. Such excesses are not interesting for our analysis. The characterization of excess becomes interesting when the corresponding basic entity is not deterministically determined. But, what can be exceeded, which was not determined deterministically? Can I say that my pleasure in visiting a certain city was exceeded because, upon my visit, I discovered that the city had an extraordinary ancient temple? Or, can I say that my courage was exceeded when I had to act in a threatening situation? It seems more appropriate to say that my expectation of either pleasure or courage was indeed exceeded. My pleasure was created in the excess beyond the initial expectation. I cannot say that my courage was exceeded, but I can say that my expectation of my courage was exceeded. It seems that whenever we experience excess over a non-deterministically defined notion (something that cannot be quantitatively measured), the excess relates to our current expectation of this notion. My expectation of X can be viewed as a non-precise, approximate,

Introduction

5

quantitative label I attach to the notion of X in question. The excess, then, is beyond my expectation, it is more than expected. Using the above examples, the result is, respectively, that I can view myself as experiencing more pleasures and as being more courageous. Such experiences can augment my future expectations. This augmentation can be either accidental or irreducible, depending on whether, in hindsight analysis, I can—or cannot—dispense with the excess. One’s set of expectations is a complex conglomerate of influences and personal traits, conditioned by culture. There are two broad types of expectations: cognitive and cultural, as dealing with, respectively, objective nature and society. Expectation of the exceeding of an expectation (regardless of whether it is cognitive or cultural) has the form of an expectation, but no direct empirical content. One can argue that the validity of this statement is questionable because the excess as such is the excess beyond an expectation, and hence it depends on the primary expectation that is exceeded. However, if one considers that expectations pertaining to every type of experience could be exceeded, one can think of the excess as being a priori in the sense of characterizing every expectation as if wired into its structure—otherwise we would talk about deterministic knowledge, not expectations. The expectation of experiencing the irreducible excess beyond any given expectation is formal in nature and it points to desire as such.3 I formally define desire as the expectation of the irreducible exceeding of expectation, that is, as the properly aesthetic expectation (“desire” will be further analyzed in chapter 1).The question is whether the properly aesthetic expectation can be exceeded. Can there be excess to it? No—and this is important because it allows the inclusion of the irreducible excess in one’s experiential space: the irreducible excess is a quasi-fulfillment of the (formal) properly aesthetic expectation. Desire belongs to one’s experience and it cannot be exceeded. “Excess beyond desire” bears a contradiction in terms; it undermines the nature of desire as such. But, can desire be fulfilled? The fulfillment of desire sounds contradictory also because this “fulfillment” is fleeting; “fulfillment” does not exhibit inherent constancy. As soon as fulfillment is achieved, it is negated in the projected experience of the non-closure. Desire can only be quasi-fulfilled and such “fulfillment” is intrinsically bound up with the properly aesthetic. Using Heidegger’s language, it seems that desire belongs to the ontology of Da-sein. With desire, I project. If I do not have desire, excesses beyond expectations will bypass me, unnoticed. Desire can be viewed as the formal (or “anonymous”) anticipation that any anticipation will be exceeded. Desire is an attitude toward life.4 Technically speaking, when saying that I desire a new car, I am saying that I wish to have a new car. When actually getting it, my wish ceases to be. Desire is never annihilated; it can never be consumed.

6 Introduction

It is formally (or abstractly) fulfilled by the irreducible excess beyond expectation, but in any particular instance the “fulfillment” is not attained: there is a sense of one’s inability to perceive the excess beyond expectation as leading to a closure. Given the characterization of the irreducible exceeding of expectation, there are many important questions that need to be addressed: What is the temporal dimension of the excess beyond expectation? Where does the irreducible exceeding of expectation originate, that is, what are the conditions for its possibility? What is the relationship between expectation and possibility? I argue that the irreducible exceeding of expectation leads to the recognition of irreducible otherness—which is the quintessential ethical issue. When my capacity for expecting is exceeded in an irreducible way, the subject-object relationship is lost: I am removed from the pedestal of a judging subject and acknowledge the other no longer as an object, but as an equal. Cognitive expectations serve as a driving force in our explorations of objective nature and the nature of cognition in general. They are grounded in understanding. Based on a darkened sky and moisture in the air, I expect rain. Based on recursive functions and induction, I expect that an algorithm will converge. My cognitive expectations stem from past cognitive experiences and allow for future cognitive experiences. Cultural expectations are based on the cultural umbrella encompassing both ethics and art as objectively present in actual works of art. For example, based on my ethical conditioning, in relationships with others I expect mutual recognition of otherness. My expectation in approaching an artwork is not exclusively based on my sophistication or refinements of taste, but cultural conditioning certainly contributes to what I expect when reading a poem, or when visiting a gallery. To distinguish the properly aesthetic experience from a cultural or a cognitive experience, we need a characterization independent from either culture or knowledge. In line with the characterization of the properly aesthetic expectation, it seems justifiable to state that only the irreducible excess beyond expectation can trigger the properly aesthetic experience. Consequently, viewing excess as something that initially “is not there” implies that the properly aesthetic experience is triggered by absence. But, what characterizes absence in aesthetics? To answer this, let us first consider absence in contexts other than aesthetics. In terms of cognition and understanding, absence can be perceived as non-presence. Look around the room: there are lots of chairs, but there is no table—the table is absent. Or, analyze a formal mathematical model, and a certain constraint is missing—that constraint is absent from the model. Even in terms of culture and ethics, that is, in terms of relationship structure with others, the notion of absence attains its vulgar identification with non-presence.

Introduction

7

When we go to a restaurant, the absence of manners in accordance with culturally accepted norms is identical with not applying those manners (nonpresence of those manners). Or, consider an ethical example: the absence of courage in a risky situation is identical with the non-presence of courage. In contrast to the vulgar characterization of absence as non-presence, aesthetic absence is characterized as an overabundance of presence, as something revealed beyond the objectivity of representation in experiences with artworks and nature. This absence is a presence that cannot be presented. This absence will, in turn, induce the possibility for the irreducible exceeding of expectation. When does an artist produce a work that is permeated by aesthetic absence? When does a spectator experience a work as pregnant with aesthetic absence? Due to its nature, it seems inappropriate to address absence directly because that would amount to attributing presence to absence, creating a contradiction in terms. The plausible way to approach absence—restricted to aesthetic absence—is indirectly, via an identifying term. In this work, aesthetic absence is identified with the condition for the possibility of the irreducible exceeding of expectation. The character of this absence is dual, arising in the relationship between the artwork (or nature) and the spectator. Simplistically speaking, if an artwork or nature provides the excess, and a spectator provides the expectation, the irreducible excess beyond expectation (as triggered by the aesthetic absence) is provided in their interplay—neither the artwork itself, not the spectator herself, can generate it on its or her own. THE EXCESS BEYOND EXPECTATION AND SURPRISE Figuratively speaking, when all that we expect at a current moment with respect to nature (cognitive expectations), and with respect to society (cultural expectations), is subtracted from the space of all currently possible situations—what remains? A vast residual of unexpected situations, including the excesses beyond expectations, and they all take us by surprise. An unexpected situation that was unexpected only by accident is not relevant to my analysis. Suppose that, while walking, I unexpectedly run into an acquaintance. This is an unexpected situation, but if I knew in advance that I would meet that person, our encounter would have been completely expected. Such surprises do not carry substantial excess because they are only accidental. The power of expecting is capable of dealing with such situations. The question is whether there are surprises that cannot be dispensed with, that cannot be characterized as accidental because, no matter how we try, we can never prepare ourselves to completely deal with them and reduce them to the expected. Are there surprises that surpass our capability for expecting?

8 Introduction

Yes, there are—and these are precisely the surprises that can be used to characterize properly aesthetic experience. In contrast to the accidental surprises, these are the irreducible surprises. Irreducible means “non-dispensable,” something that did not happen just by chance and that could have been otherwise; on the contrary, it happened because of the inability of our power of expecting, which even in retrospective analysis cannot provide an adequate expectation. If I read a poem and for a moment feel petrified as if in a state of shock, with a sense of getting much more than expected, I have a feeling that I was essentially unprepared for the magnitude of this encounter with a work. I get a feeling for which no learned commentary of this poem could have prepared me completely adequately, and that no increase in expectation could have been high enough to annihilate the surprise/excess the poem generated. The poetry is the irreducible surprise. The irreducible surprise is the phenomenological manifestation of the irreducible excess beyond expectation. This is the character of particularity when appropriating and contextualizing the irreducible exceeding of expectation. In an encounter with the artwork as a framed entity we usually have a certain expectation because the work was labeled as art, and the invitation to view it implicitly asks us to receive it critically. Surprise in such a context is related to the excess beyond expectation generated upon encounter with the artwork. Encounters with the environment often generate surprises due to the unexpected. If, in hindsight analysis, the unexpected appears irreducibly unexpected (I cannot provide an adequate expectation), then the surprise is irreducible, manifesting the irreducible excess beyond expectation. But how does that irreducibility fit with the formal expectation labeled as the properly aesthetic expectation? If I expect the irreducible excess of any given expectation, and if my expectation is indeed fulfilled, how can I be surprised? If I expect the surprise as such, how can there be any surprise? Can we state that the fulfillment of the formal properly aesthetic expectation is surprise? Regardless of whether we formally expect the irreducible exceeding of any given expectation, its factual realization always surprises: it is—commonly speaking—unexpected. The unexpected character is apparent; this is how it appears in any concrete situation. The irreducible surprise characterizes the “fulfillment” of desire as the manifestation of the irreducible exceeding of expectation that fulfills the formal properly aesthetic expectation. However, such quasi-fulfillment does not bring closure, it is open and boundless, it is not a full-fillment; it has a fleeting and discontinuous character. In sum, the expectation of the irreducible exceeding of any given expectation is desire. The realization of this expectation, that is, the “fulfillment” of desire, is contradictory in nature (as fulfillment that is never fulfilling) and is experienced as irreducible surprise. The realization is never complete because it points beyond one’s factual experiential space, and this is why it appears

Introduction

9

as a surprise. In contrast to some aesthetic theories, I argue that there is nothing tranquil in the properly aesthetic: the properly aesthetic underscores the inability of my capacity for expecting by mercilessly exceeding it. What is the implication of such an essential exceeding of expectation? The augmentation of my set of expectations. Heidegger states that “Da-sein is always its possibility.”5 He also states “It is for its reality that what is expected is expected. By the very nature of expecting, the possible is drawn into the real, arising from it and returning to it.”6 Intuitively, expectations serve as articulations of possibilities and precede their realization. Non-realized possibilities lack reality. Hence, the realization of a possibility is induced by a relevant expectation. Without expectations we don’t have a driving force for realizing possibilities. It seems important, then, to have occasional enrichments of our set of expectations: it translates to an increase in the set of realizable possibilities, since a nonarticulated possibility remains an empty possibility (a possibility lacking any reality). An expectation can be enriched only in an irreducible way, when we experience an irreducible excess beyond expectation, and this experience of excess amounts to the generation of a new realizable possibility. To paraphrase Heidegger: by the very nature of the irreducible exceeding of expectation, the new realizable possibility is drawn into one’s reality. This process of assimilation is the implication of the irreducible excess beyond expectation and results with the augmentation of one’s possibilities. It precedes subjectivity and the subject-object dichotomy, and it precedes relationships with others, or ethics as such. Without the irreducible exceeding of expectations, one is reduced to a foregone conclusion, and to being a completely predictable identity-thinking creature, with all aspects determinable. THE BREAKING POINT OF SPECULATION: CAESURA AND LACOUE-LABARTHE’S EXAMPLE OF THE TRAGIC Speculation deals with the breakup of phenomenality. As argued in this work, an encounter with irreducible newness generates a break (a caesura) in Husserl’s intentional consciousness and phenomenology. Such an encounter invites speculation on the characterization of the break. The desire for the unexpected as the attentive expectation for irreducible otherness has in itself something of a Greek tragedy: the sense and anticipation that something non-representable will happen. When it indeed does happen and the process of subsequent surprise starts to unfold, the surprise can be understood as a kind of catharsis, the relief at survival of such an encounter. This notion of caesura brings us to the work of Lacoue-Labarthe and his invocation of Hölderlin.

10 Introduction

Lacoue-Labarthe characterizes the tragic as “the caesura of the speculative,” the breaking point of speculation. What are his arguments? In the Introduction to Typography, a compilation of Lacoue-Labarthe’s works, Derrida positions him between Heidegger and Levinas, between Heidegger’s Being and Levinas’s “otherwise than Being.”7 The essence of Heidegger’s being is existence; the essence of Levinas’s “otherwise than being” is his passivity in the face of the Other. Lacoue-Labarthe’s being exists in a world where intrusions of the Other (the face) create caesuras, breaks in one’s existence, where speculation intrudes into phenomenology, where the transcendental disturbs the immanent. This intrusion of speculation into phenomenology is related to the term désistance, as something ceasing to be and being the ineluctable (unavoidable) at the same time. It denotes something that in its presence already carries the necessity of its absence; the end result is presupposed at the beginning. Désistance relates to the interval between the not yet (unavoidable in the future), and the no longer (ceased to be). There is a break, the caesura, in between, that escapes intelligibility and consciousness. Désistance denotes a middle ground between activity and passivity. Greek tragedy serves as an illustration of désistance, since the tragic hero is bounded by fate to the acts leading to tragedy, and then is punished for the acts that were mandated by fate in the first place. So, the not yet of his acting is already imprinted in the past “verdict” by fate. The future frees the past, and this liberation has to do with human freedom. But, what is human freedom in the grip of fate? The paradox of freely acting while knowing the situation will end badly, hence of acting without consideration for utility or outcome. In The Caesura of the Speculative, Lacoue-Labarthe writes, “The question I am posing therefore has to do with the possibility, in general, of a demarcation of the speculative: of the general logic of differentiation, of the ordered contradiction, of the exchange of the passage into the opposite as the production of the Same, of the Aufhebung and of (ap)propriation, etc.”8 The paradox of the speculative seems to be the following: the speculative ceases to be at the same moment that it starts to be. Hence, speculation occurs in the moment that escapes representation, the moment between the not yet and the no longer. I wish to argue that the caesura allows for a dual interpretation. It can be viewed as the demarcation of the speculative, “the caesura of the speculative” as Lacoue-Labarthe argues, but it can also be viewed as the trigger for inserting speculation into phenomenology. Along this line I characterize desire||surprise as the oxymoronic phenomenological-speculative-phenomenological “phenomenon,” having a speculation of caesura in its core. To indicate the composite nature of desire||surprise, let me propose a neologism (in the spirit of Derrida’s inclination for “bending” the language): sphenomenon. In discussing the caesura, Lacoue-Labarthe asserts the need to proceed by example and takes the Hölderlin’s “case” as a singular case “within a certain

Introduction

11

history” to deal with the demarcation of the speculative, with the caesura escaping the duality of oppositions characterizing philosophy. He senses the importance of the tragic as “the place where the system fails to close upon itself,”9 so that it allows for the intrusion of otherness, for the break or the caesura. In the present study my approach is not one of example, but of the “witness stand” of defense argumentation. The witnesses are various philosophical positions, all dealing in one way or another with the ineluctable, singular, and fleeting moment of the irreducible break (as speculation) that separates the drive of desire as openness, from the feeling of surprise as a springboard to more pronounced feelings of admiration and/or responsibility. In contrast to the tragic as the origin of the speculative, I wish to propose a more generic term: lack. The tragic is a special case of lack: lack of fortune, a lack that brings suffering. However, a lack can also be purposive and beneficial. Hence, lack can be considered as a common route to good and to evil, to comedy and to tragedy. For Hölderlin, tragedy is “the metaphor of intellectual intuition,” a conduit of meaning that precedes conceptual characterization. The caesura indicates a pause or a break and is often related to the breakup of a metrical pattern in a verse in order to bring it closer to natural speech patterns. In the drama of tragedy, in its reversals and representational ambivalences, Hölderlin sees the same intensity provided by the use of caesura in poetry, as “the counter-rhythmic intrusion.” In tragedy representations follow a certain order, but there is a sense of an impending disaster: the reversal, or the breakup of representation. The reversal happens in a moment of pause, when the succession of representations comes to a halt, before the sense of representation changes and what was only implicit in tragedy becomes explicit. There is the break, the disarticulation, of the succession of representational meanings developed in the work. As Lacoue-Labarthe writes, “The disarticulation represents the active neutrality of the interval between [entre-deux]. This is undoubtedly why it is not by chance that the caesura is, on each occasion, the empty moment—the absence of “moment”—of Tiresias’s intervention: on the intrusion of the prophetic word. . . .”10 The prophetic word—any prophetic word and not only the word of the blind prophet of Thebes—carries ambiguity in its meaning; it can be understood in this or in that way. Such ambiguity presents a pause because the representational (sensible and intellectual) apparatus is in the state of active passivity, before deciding how to process it. For Aristotle the catharsis of the individual spectator characterizes tragedy as a dramatic work. According to Aristotle, in order to acquire virtuous dispositions, we need to develop proper habits, so that, when we do good actions, we feel good at the same time. Feeling good perfects an activity, hence we need to seek ways to induce pleasures of the right kind, that is, pleasures that accompany actions that accord with virtue. In other words, we need to harmonize our desires and our reason. A tragic spectacle, as a form of art, can help

12 Introduction

in purifying emotions of pity and fear by introducing a level of cognition to our emotional response. It seems that the initial displeasure or pain caused by fear and pity is purposive: it is by means of such painful emotions that we can induce pleasure (i.e. via the catharsis of such emotions). Both pity and fear are painful emotions, pity being more complex and including fear (for oneself) as well as compassion for others. Fear is more basic and, hence, universal, and is triggered by probable or necessary evil events that can happen in the near future. A good tragic spectacle will induce pity and fear in a simulated environment involving proper actions and allowing for proper interplay between the universal and the particular. Such an environment provides a clearer outlook on pleasures and pains in one’s life, and since “. . . ethical virtue is concerned with pleasures and pains,”11 such an environment provides an appropriate ground for acquiring right habits leading to virtuous dispositions. The tragic drama stays in between the speculative and the phenomenal, between the universal and the particular, which can be presented schematically as: desire (provided by an individual spectator)—tragic work (provides suspense)—pause, break, or caesura (leads to catharsis as the transformation between particular/universal, speculative/phenomenal)—enjoyment following catharsis (provided by individual spectator). Since I wish to inquire into aesthetic experience, the schema starts and ends with the individual spectator. The transformation from initial expectations to catharsis happens in the break, the caesura. Hence, the caesura inherent in a tragic work results in catharsis as the relief of emotions. Consider a more general problem by replacing tragedy with lack in general, and by replacing catharsis with surprise. Thus generalizing, we can leave Antiquity and classic Greek drama, and consider current everyday encounters. What we carry on from the Greeks is the power of speculation, the drive to transgress limits, the desire for the unexpected. In reference to Hölderlin and the Greeks, Lacoue-Labarthe writes, “The Greece thus discovered by Hölderlin is, in short, tragic Greece—if the essence of the tragic is, as the Notes say, the monstrous coupling of god and man, the limitless becomingone and transgression of the limit (hubris) that tragedy (a remote echo here of Aristotle) has the function of purifying.”12 The properly Greek character is the caesura, the break, the inimitable happening in the moment of tragic transformation, the active neutrality of the interval between not yet and no longer. THE STRUCTURE OF THE BOOK AND RELEVANT PHILOSOPHICAL POSITIONS Introduction presents the motivation for an inquiry of the irreducible exceeding of expectation. It provides the characterization of the properly aesthetic

Introduction

13

experience and the preliminary definitions of the terms such as expectation, excess, desire, surprise, suddenness, and aesthetic absence, further developed in subsequent chapters. Chapter 1 deals with desire and excess. Levinas’s work on desire and irreducible otherness is interpreted and analyzed in light of the present arguments. Levinasian desire is different from desire as considered in psychoanalysis, so an outline of Žižek’s work on Lacanian desire is also presented. Bataille’s work on general versus restricted economies and on excess as such is interpreted and compared with the proposed position. A consideration of some of Duchamp’s work exemplifies Bataille’s fascination with eroticism. Blanchot’s questioning of literature and the impossibility of immediacy is presented, followed by Foucault’s answer to both Bataille and Blanchot. Finally, excess viewed as absence leads to consideration of the indirect use of language in metaphorical communication, and to the work of Ricoeur. Chapter 2 considers the consequence of excess, the so-called limit experiences carrying a break simulating “the little death.” The repetitive occurrence of limits indicates difference in repetition. Nietzsche’s view of Eternal Return in his Zarathustra is further employed by Deleuze in his consideration of difference and repetition. By way of the dialogue between Foucault and Deleuze, and throwing in Hegel and Žižek, I argue that the encounter of these various positions happens in “a blind zone” (to evoke Deleuze). Mondrian’s approach to universality and particularity illustrates a (possible) meeting place for Hegel and Deleuze. The notion of singularity, this physical notion of the breakup, and its philosophical importance to personal differentiation, takes on a new meaning in a future leading to “technological singularity.” Accordingly, the work of the futurologist Kurzweil is also interpreted and questioned. Chapter 3 proposes the phenomenology of surprise. Surprise follows upon the break in one’s representational capabilities. Such a break originates a phenomenon, but belongs to speculation, which is evocative of Fink’s work on “speculative phenomenology.” The subsequent announcement of sensibility invokes Merleau-Ponty’s work on perception. The metamorphosis of surprise then includes astonishment as the announcement of reflection, and here Nancy’s work on the surprise of the event is relevant. My argument’s subsequent development of wonder relates to Kantian sublimity, bringing into focus Lyotard’s work on sublimity as related to art. Wonder branches into admiration of works of art, and into ethical responsibility. When considering judgments about art, Dufrenne’s and Bachelard’s works are interpreted with respect to the interplay between reflection and its negation. Seel’s “aesthetics of appearing” considers presentations en route to objectivity, acknowledging something irreducible pertaining to aesthetic experiencing. This irreducibility feeds subsequent desire, which is argued with the help of Lyotard’s “radical

14 Introduction

connivance between the figure and desire,” and we are back to the beginning, to unquenchable desire. Chapter 4 argues for the beginning of reflection and mediation where the properly aesthetic ends. In Hegel’s dialectical approach, absolute knowledge is achieved after a number of different shades of consciousness—amounting to the becoming of knowledge as identity-thinking. In contrast, the argument in this work is that the becoming of the aesthetic starts with the “absolute aesthetic” (the irreducible exceeding of expectation), and is then—through announcements of sensibility and reflection—gradually transformed into taste, as the aesthetic-cultural shadow following the properly aesthetic. Schelling’s approach to the absoluteness of aesthetics is in line with the current proposal; hence, the consideration of Schelling (and his influence on Jaspers) concludes the arguments for the primacy of aesthetics versus ethics, and for the irreducibility of immediacy to mediation. NOTES 1. Dewey asserts that “we have an experience when the material experienced runs its course to fulfillment.” John Dewey, Art as Experience (A Wideview/Perigee Book, 1980), 35. 2. Ibid., 37. 3. The notion of desire is an important philosophical concept in aesthetics as well as in ethics. For Kant, it is a mental power (in addition to the cognitive power and the feeling of pleasure and displeasure as the mediating link between them) connected with practical reason and the transcendental concept of freedom. According to Kant, reason provides the a priori principle—final purpose—in guiding our mental power of desire toward efforts to achieve freedom (“a supersensible characteristic of the subject”) in purely intellectual domain, which in practical domain translates to moral consciousness. 4. For Lacan desire is infinite and “begins to take shape in the margin in which demand rips away from need” Jacques Lacan, Ecrits, trans. Bruce Fink (W.W. Noron & Company, 2002), 814. 5. Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. Joan Stambaugh (State University of New York Press, 1996), 40. 6. Ibid., 262. 7. Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, Typography: Mimesis, Philosophy, Politics, ed. Christopher Fynsk (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989), 23. 8. Ibid., 211. 9. Ibid., 224. 10. Ibid., 235. 11. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, trans. H.G. Apostle (The Peripatetic Press, 1975), 1104b9. 12. Lacoue-Labarthe, Typography: Mimesis, Philosophy, Politics, 244.

Chapter 1

Desire and Excess

In considering the properly aesthetic experience, four phases emerge: desire (the prerequisite), the irreducible exceeding of expectation, the pause (or rupture), and recuperation (the irreducible surprise). I am conscious of the possibility of excess and I desire it through the expectation of the unexpected. I am also conscious of the surprise and the awe following from such an encounter. Yet, between the possibilities of excess and surprise there is an ungraspable instant—the rupture—the void that I cannot appropriate. Philosophers discussed in this chapter (Levinas, Žižek, Bataille, Blanchot, Foucault, and Ricoeur) provide valuable insights regarding the encounter with irreducible otherness. As suggested in my interpretations of their work, each emphasizes one of the phases of properly aesthetic experience as presented in this study. Levinas and Žižek consider desire, albeit in different lights. While Levinas emphasizes responsibility for the other, providing the ethical orientation that carries one to recuperation, Žižek writes about Lacanian desire. Bataille is stuck with the exigency of capturing excess and transgression, while Blanchot is fascinated with the neutrality of the pause, the indeterminacy of disintegration of contradictions. Foucault considers transgression and limitlessness and comments on both Bataille and Blanchot. At first glance, the thought of Levinas and Bataille seems to be distant in relation to one another, as they emphasize opposite endpoints of the void. The thought of Blanchot emphasizes the in-between, the void, and he seems to provide the bridge between Levinas and Bataille, yet retaining the irreducible difference of all three positions. Ricoeur wants to capture expressions that go beyond ordinary language, hence his need for metaphor. In Passion and Excess Steven Shaviro discusses Blanchot and Bataille, acting as a “ventriloquist,” and arguing that such is a desirable position for the critic. He writes: 15

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I am mobilizing, making productive use of, the writings of Blanchot and Bataille; what’s important is not the totality of what they actually or potentially say but the new directions they open up, the places they help me get to, the things they can be made to say. I’m using them, abusing them, making them say what I want them to say . . . They are what I never could have said myself, but what I find myself compelled to say.1

As stated in the Preface of this work, I likewise put various philosophers on a witness stand in an effort to defend my view of immediacy. This implies bending their views to fit my case, but with all due admiration for the creativity and the force of their thought. The key issue is our inability to deal with immediacy. Immediacy cannot be presented since presentation involves mediation. Due to the impossibility of presenting immediacy (it is the absence in presence, or the presence that cannot be represented), the challenge is to come as close as possible to the presentation of this absence in presence. Immediacy, for Levinas, is the face; for Bataille it is the ecstasy of the void; and for Blanchot it is the impossibility of the neuter and the origin preceding the surprise. I will argue for characterizing immediacy as the rupture between desire and surprise, implicit in the notion of desire||surprise. Desire embodied in the formal expectation of the irreducible exceeding of any expectation (equivalently, the expectation of the unexpected) is the acceptive inclination toward the encounter with irreducible otherness. This inclination “feeds” one’s possibility of being irreducibly surprised. The surprise starts upon recuperation from the rupture and it is the embodiment of the absence of immediacy. The properly aesthetic experience as experience (involving consciousness) is the phenomenologicalspeculative-phenomenological description of desire||surprise. The further unfolding adds non-aesthetic components to this experience, for example, ethical or cultural components.

LEVINASIAN DESIRE AND IRREDUCIBLE OTHERNESS Levinas uses the language of ethics in his elaboration of irreducible alterity, but his model is not a model of morality. Here is his disclaimer: “The ethical language we have resorted to does not arise out of a special moral experience. . . The ethical situation of responsibility is not comprehensible on the basis of ethics. . .  The tropes of ethical language are found to be adequate for certain structures of the description: for the sense of the approach in its contrast with knowing, the face is in contrast with the phenomenon.”2 The task of the present work is to characterize the encounter with irreducible alterity in aesthetic terms.



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I fully agree with Levinas that the encounter starts as “the passivity prior to the passivity-activity alternative,”3 but would like to describe it in terms other than “accusation, persecution, and responsibility for the others.”4 Adequate aesthetic terms such as acceptivity, excess over expectation, and desire as the expectation of the unexpected, all lead to one term in particular: surprise. Levinas’s challenge is that the ethical Other is much more radical than any other Other, including that found in art. The consideration of otherness in the present work is not restricted to art evaluation; the emphasis is on otherness encountered as irreducible excess over any expectation, on the immediacy of the encounter preceding the ethics of the encounter. Face, for Levinas, is the “way in which the other presents himself exceeding the idea of the other in me.”5 This is infinity that overflows or exceeds the idea of infinity—it is the mode of excess. Face is “the presence of exteriority” and “never becomes an image or an intuition.”6 Levinas’s face captures the otherness that “escapes representation” and “it is the very collapse of phenomenality.”7 This view has an analogy with, and is relevant for, the otherness encountered in properly aesthetic experience considered in the present work. In aesthetic terms, upon recuperation from the shock (the pause) of a properly aesthetic encounter, the properly aesthetic component gradually disappears and the aesthetic-cultural or ethical experience starts. The aesthetic pause as defined in this work is in effect the “break-up of time,” a term Levinas uses to define proximity.8 The mode of excess that Levinas calls face and that he describes in ethical language, I wish to leave as “faceless” excess over any expectation (hence, escaping representation and defying phenomenality), revealed in immediacy and describable only in aesthetic terms. What is at stake here is the consequence of the startup of revelation, prior to revelation itself. Levinas contrasts the Western metaphysical view of the Other as an alter ego with the view of otherness preceding consciousness and intentionality, and writes, “The Other imposes himself . . . as more primordial than everything that takes place in me.”9 In contrast, if the Other is perceived in a symmetrical relation with myself, in a system of mutual relationships where everything is measurable and can be evaluated in terms of criteria defined by myself—the Other is, then, reduced to the same. It becomes a part of the totality in a closed system framed by the fundamental concepts of Western thought, such as subjectivity, consciousness, and intentionality. The Other conceived in such a way serves to elucidate and define myself; hence it loses its otherness. Yet, life manifests deficiencies of such a totality: there are situations that cannot be subsumed within intentional consciousness. The idea of infinity points to attempts to grasp the outside of totality. For Levinas, the idea of totality is purely theoretical, while the idea of infinity is moral.10 In this work I argue that the idea of infinity revealed

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through irreducible otherness is aesthetic in the first place (as excess), but gains an ethical note in the Levinasian sense. Levinas distinguishes between disclosure and revealing. Disclosure is related to totality, production, truth, openness, and possible inspection, while revealing manifests multiplicity, gradual uncovering, and defiance to total reflection. The Other is revealed, not disclosed. Difference between exposure and production is that exposure reveals the Other, the Other is inherent in the exposure, while in production the Other is subsumed and annihilated by the product. However, the revelation starts as pure immediacy. Levinas writes, “Immediacy is the collapse of the representation into a face, into a ‘concrete abstraction’ torn up from the world, from horizons and conditions.”11 Immediacy is the revelation of presence before presentation. It presents the irreducible alterity and surpasses the objectivity of representation; it is void as “concrete abstraction.” This “concrete abstraction” contrasts with an experience of knowledge acquisition whereby the use of concepts presents an “abstract concretion,” subordinated to the universality of concepts. Concepts capture concretion, albeit in an abstract way necessitated by their universality. It is not the case that irreducible otherness should be viewed as the direct negation of knowledge, since such a conception would undermine otherness’s irreducibility; however, immediacy indirectly negates knowledge as a system because it negates totality. Subjectivity spills over the boundary delineated by the ontology of being. The defiance of immediacy bringing the collapse of the representation is a breakup, a void, a shock, from which revelation starts. This startup merits an analysis in its own right. Whereby Heidegger subordinates the relation with the Other to ontology, Levinas uses the relation with the Other to expand ethics. The immediacy of the encounter resulting in irreducible otherness is not only beyond being, it is also beyond ethics—it is properly aesthetic as the irreducible excess that leads to the phenomenon of surprise and prepares me for both ethics and ontology. My relationship with the irreducibly other is non-symmetric only if I forgo the power of subjectivity and intentional consciousness; if I do not, I will annihilate otherness by making it serve my purposes. The only way to acknowledge irreducible otherness is to acknowledge it in pure passivity, or in Levinas’s words, “more passive than any other passivity.” This passivity leads to the desire not directed to a specific object, but to the metaphysical desire for infinity, which breaks the totality and encapsulation of one’s subjectivity. Levinas argues, against Heidegger, that the meaning of being is preceded by the encounter with absolute otherness, which stays outside being: it is otherwise than being and beyond essence. I interpret two main works by Levinas in light of desire as it is formulated here, as the expectation of the exceeding of any expectation, and in light of the proposed characterization of the properly aesthetic experience.



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In Totality and Infinity, Levinas puts forward his ethics based on the difference between totality and infinity; totality as permeated by sameness, and infinity as the basis for subjectivity beyond intentional consciousness. He writes, “The other metaphysically desired is not ‘other’ like the bread I eat . . . The metaphysical desire tends toward something else entirely, toward the absolutely other.”12 This “absolutely other” is excess, something beyond, which I cannot appropriate by any category or previous experience. The other can be absolutely other, according to Levinas, only “with respect to a term whose essence is to remain at the point of departure, to serve as entry into the relation, to be the same not relatively but absolutely. A term can remain absolutely at the point of departure of relationship only as I.”13 Hence, a reference point for the absolutely other has to be the absolutely same. This is I. The absolute sameness of I is not immovability, its “existing consists in identifying itself, in recovering its identity throughout all that happens to it.”14 Hence, I is not defined via a set of attributes (as an objective presence might be), but as the capacity for identification. Granting that the I is the capacity for identification, one can ask how is this capacity triggered, how can identification start? There is no identification without alterity. How is this “concrete relationship” provoked? It seems that, according to Levinas, identification starts with the “reversion of the alterity of the world to self-identification.”15 But, reversion can come only after the appearance of alterity. How does alterity appear? Levinas writes, “Alterity is possible only starting from me.”16 In this work, I propose a concrete approach to the startup of irreducible alterity. It starts as a pause, a void, a total annihilation, a point of discontinuity—as an excess over my totality, which I nonetheless desire. Levinas extends the notion of intentionality (of representation) to intentionality of enjoyment whereby exteriority is preserved. The things we enjoy do not come delineated and framed apart from surroundings; Levinas calls them “elemental.” The elements (e.g. earth, air, wind) do not have a form; they are indeterminable. According to Levinas, “Indetermination . . . precedes the distinction between the finite and infinite.”17 The elements are enjoyed “in pure expenditure,” without concern for their utility, and this enjoyment underlines humanity. Sensibility, for Levinas, is a mode of enjoyment that precedes and is independent of the process of representation. He writes, “In sensibility itself and independently of all thought there is announced an insecurity . . .,”18 and “. . . the unreflected and naïve consciousness constitutes the originality of enjoyment.”19 This view seems to be relevant to aesthetics as considered in the present study, and is congruent with the view of sensibility as sometimes inadequate to the processing of encountered exteriority, with subsequent reflection acknowledging this inadequacy. The insecurity is clearly announced in the moment of pause when excess happens.

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The enjoyment of encountering beyond-ness originates in this unreflective moment of sensibility’s weakness. Because of the fleeting nature and mystery of elements, the enjoyment of the elemental is fragile, without security. This insecurity is neutralized by the labor and possession with which the I finds a more secure ground. Levinas develops the notion of the interiority of separation by considering enjoyment of the elements, followed by dwelling in a home, followed by labor and possession. The I has to be individualized and separated to acknowledge irreducible exteriority, that is, to break the grip of sameness. But, according to Levinas, “Metaphysical desire which can be produced only in a separated, that is enjoying, egoist and satisfied being, is then not derived from enjoyment.”20 He continues, “. . . a shock must be produced which, without inverting the moment of interiorization . . . would furnish the occasion for a resumption of relations with exteriority. Interiority must be at the same time closed and open.”21 I could not agree more: this shock can be viewed as the rupture caused by the irreducible excess over expectation. It is an occasion to encounter exteriority, to acknowledge my limitation, and to subsequently intrude into my interiority. Levinas writes, “The exteriority foreign to needs would then reveal an insufficiency full of this very insufficiency and not of hopes, a distance more precious than contact, a non-possession more precious than possession, a hunger that nourishes itself not with bread but with hunger itself.”22 The exteriority foreign to needs provokes desire outside the opposition between satisfaction and non-satisfaction of needs, desire that calls into question the totality of one’s world. The aesthetic acceptivity, as desire for the irreducible exceeding of any expectation, points to openness, to the questioning of totality, and to the acknowledgment of irreducible exteriority. I agree with Levinas that “The idea of infinity implies a soul capable of containing more than it can draw from itself. It 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.”23 It points to the beyond of enjoyment and satisfaction of needs. Levinas contrasts expression with action. He states that “the epiphany of infinity is expression and discourse.”24 I wish to go deeper in understanding the immediacy of this epiphany, the startup. How does epiphany start if not with a shock (or equivalently, with a pause), a break with ordinary experience? Such a shock introduces violence to an activity, abruptly stopping the activity and signaling the pause. The pause is both expression and action at the start. After that, the unfolding goes into different directions: ethical or cultural/aesthetic. For Levinas, the presentation of the face is nonviolence, “for instead of offending my freedom it calls it to responsibility and founds it . . . It is peace.”25 In the present work the encounter with absolute otherness is as much violence as it is nonviolence; it is at the same time a shock and a



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pause, a passivity at the core of any activity. In encountering the irreducible excess over expectation, the presentation is not violence toward my I-ness, instead, it is suspense—not against me, but as an invitation, an opening. Because of the unknown, it is not peace—it is excitement. To paraphrase Levinas, the encounter with the irreducible excess of expectation instead of offending my freedom, it calls it to enjoyment and founds it. It is the acceptivity preceding responsibility and allowing for a new beginning. Levinas uses the term fecundity to denote the possibility of a new beginning, as when a child is born and surpasses the totalities of both parents. Departing from Heidegger, he defines fecundity as a relation with future, a future that is “irreducible to the power over possibles.”26 In contrast to Heidegger’s finite temporality, Levinas argues that the infinity of being constitutes time.27 Due to interruptions by alterity and resurrections by fecundity, time is discontinuous and only as such can capture the infinity of being. Levinas writes, “There must be a rupture of continuity and continuation across this rupture.”28 This is akin to the proposal in the present work since it complies with the experience of the irreducible excess over expectation carrying an aesthetic connotation. I have stated that instances of properly aesthetic encounters belong to unique, properly aesthetic experience unfolding during one’s lifetime. The irreducible excess provides discontinuity, but all such excesses taken together, independent of the objectivity that induced them, create an underlying continuity of being and lead to continuity on a different level. Levinas concludes Totality and Infinity by stating that “The ethical, beyond vision and certitude, delineates the structure of exteriority as such. Morality is not a branch of philosophy, but first philosophy.”29 The aim of present work is to argue that the startup of the encounter with exteriority is—in the first place—delineated by the aesthetic. Not aesthetics viewed as philosophy of art or judgments of aesthetic/cultural taste, but viewed as the experience of the irreducible excess over expectation. In the first instance, the encounter with irreducible exteriority is aesthetic—immediacy, a rupture, a pause, a discontinuity, followed by recuperation and appropriation recreating subjectivity. Desire, as the expectation of the irreducible exceeding of expectation, opens being toward its beyond-ness. For Levinas, desire is translated into responsibility for the other and it is viewed ethically. Desire viewed in aesthetic terms as described in the present work is not responsibility for the other (thought it might come subsequently), but is rather an openness to and longing for the irreducible surprise, the inclination to go further, to transgress. In Violence and Metaphysics Derrida discusses Levinas’s position presented in Totality and Infinity and asks, “would the experience of the face be possible, could it be stated, if the thought of being were not already implied in it? In effect, the face is the inaugural unity of a naked glance and of a right to speech.”30 Derrida concludes his analysis by stating,

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Thus, in its most elevated nonviolent urgency, denouncing the passage through Being and the moment of the concept, Levinas’s thought would not only propose an ethics without law, as we said above, but also a language without phrase. Which would be entirely coherent if the face was only a glance, but it is also speech; and in speech it is the phrase which makes the cry of need become the expression of desire.31

Hence, according to Derrida, only the glance is beyond being; what follows after the glance involves Being and the violence that comes with it. Derrida obviously senses the duality of the encounter: the initial glance followed by the unfolding of the relation. The argument in the present work is that a naked glance comes first and that it could result in the impossibility of speech. This result would present a breaking point in experience, a rupture that is associated with the properly aesthetic. Recuperation and the possibility of and right to speech follow, and are ethical. I would like to emphasize the necessity of the initial naked glance in encountering the irreducible excess over expectation. The nakedness of the glance implies the void, the rupture with the previous experience, and this characterizes the immediacy of the encounter. Levinas responded to Derrida’s concerns with Otherwise than Being: Or Beyond Essence. The association of temporality with essence assumes that time is economized in that the past has an impact on the present and that subjectivity is subsumed by essence. The question is: what is subjectivity, and “does temporality go beyond essence?”32 Levinas argues that “subjectivity . . . is the breaking point where essence is exceeded by the infinite.”33 Further, in his model, essence is preceded by signification and signification is a substitution that implies “substituting itself for another.”34 This substitution is sensibility, the sense of which is proximity, a term denoting the nearness of the Other to me. In contrast to Husserl, Levinas argues that the time associated with sensibility cannot be recuperated and used by intentional consciousness; it is a time beyond essence. Levinas argues that language carries in itself an otherness that cannot be appropriated. Language is not just “a system of signs” used for denomination (that function is achieved with nouns as universal signs supporting objectivity and the theme of the said), it also conveys sensibility due to verbs because “The lived sensation, being and time, is already understood in a verb.”35 The special place is occupied by the verb to be, and sensations can be captured via its adverbs. As opposed to the Husserlian distinction between noesis and noema, Levinas proposes the distinction between saying and said. The restriction of saying to manifestation of objective presence would imply the reduction of the saying to the said, but Levinas argues that the signification of saying is not encompassed in the said, but rather precedes and spills beyond it. He argues against giving priority to the said over the saying, which



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is characteristic of ontology where all is subsumed within Being. If the saying is considered in its full significance, it can add to the objectivity of the said, as well as to its meaning and interpretation. Levinas’s task is to expose “signifyingness prior to ontology.”36 For Levinas, saying is not giving signs, since that would presuppose intentionality; it is rather exposure, the condition for all communication. Exposure is sensibility related to vulnerability. He writes, “The exposure to another is disinterestedness, proximity, obsession by the neighbor, an obsession despite oneself, that is, a pain.”37 This concept of exposure goes beyond the notion of essence employed by ontology. Levinas distinguishes between sensibility in its immediacy and sensible intuition as “already of the order of the said.”38 Immediate sensibility is beyond being and beyond universality. When irreducible alterity is presented in an ethical framework as does Levinas, enjoyment has to precede vulnerability because one needs to “first enjoy one’s bread, not in order to have the merit of giving it, but in order to give it with one’s heart, to give oneself in giving it.”39 This is what makes the encounter an ethical encounter. However, when irreducible alterity is considered from the aesthetic standpoint, as in the present study, one can examine the experience from a point even earlier than “enjoying one’s bread” and describe the shock of experiencing the bread for the first time. In order to enjoy bread, I have to encounter it and be surprised by its appeal. In experiencing the irreducible excess that surpasses expectation, the pause in the initial moment is the passivity preceding intuition, but also preceding enjoyment and vulnerability. The pause entails indifference followed up with Levinasian enjoyment and vulnerability. Hence, in arguing for the aesthetic origin of the encounter with irreducible otherness, I wish to begin even earlier in my investigation than does Levinas with respect to ontology. Levinas defines proximity (the nearness of the Other to me) in terms of enjoyment and vulnerability. But, it seems that proximity should be announced in terms of indifference turning to non-indifference, a surprise, before I can emit something starting from myself, such as enjoyment. When I am taken by irreducible surprise, I am vulnerable beyond my control. Hence, vulnerability indeed characterizes proximity, but as a surprise. If my desire can be characterized as the expectation of irreducible excess over expectation, then enjoyment follows as soon as I recuperate from the pause induced by my vulnerability. The pause does not imply vulnerability in the usual sense of the word; it is not pain. It is a frozen state, a collapse of time and space, of Kantian forms of intuition, an irreducible breaking point of my consciousness, the antecedent of a new beginning. Levinas defines obsession as the relationship with alterity in which “the subject is affected without the source of the affection becoming a theme of representation” and where “The relationship with exteriority is ‘prior’

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to the act that would effect it.”40 Hence obsession “pollutes” the clarity of intentional consciousness, it is an incessant murmur that testifies to the insufficiency of a closed system. This obsession echoes as desire, a passion for exteriority. In the current study, this passion for exteriority is the desire for surprise. For Levinas, this obsession or passion is responsibility. Responsibility allows “substitution of me for the others”41 which is inspiration or the psyche as “the other in the same, without alienating the same.” In inspiration I go out of myself, I am open to and welcome exteriority. However, inspiration defined in aesthetic terms would not coincide with responsibility. Substitution as passivity is inherently present in my desire defined as the expectation of the irreducible excess over expectation, because I long for the passivity that would allow annihilation of my conditioning as an ego: this is my only way out of the closed system. Such substitution precedes responsibility for the other; it can at best point to responsibility without the intentional direction “for the other.” This lack if intentional direction is responsibility’s antecedent aesthetic character—only subsequently can responsibility relate to ethics, as directed “for the other.” Levinas emphasizes the passivity of substitution; he writes, “Substitution is not an act; it is a passivity inconvertible into an act, the hither side of the act-passivity alternative.”42 While Levinas identifies substitution with responsibility, I wonder whether there is a characteristic of substitution that precedes responsibility—say, a pure acceptivity—that is “a passivity inconvertible into an act.” Sensible is, according to Levinas, the other in me. My sensibility subjects me passively to exteriority, it is a stirring of my consciousness and other pillars of my being; this is what it means to be human, to go beyond essence (a “strict book-keeping where nothing is lost nor created”) and to acknowledge freedom (“a contestation of this book-keeping by a gratuity”). For Levinas this gratuity can be either “absolute distraction of a play without consequences, without traces or memories,” or it can be “responsibility for another and expiation.”43 These are two extremes; is there any possibility for something in between? Aesthetically speaking, a gratuity that contests the book-keeping of essence can be a distraction of a play, but with consequences and with traces, yet without constituting responsibility for another, not even “a responsibility for creation.” These traces open the space for pure, irreducible surprise. The encounter with alterity stirs the sensibility of the ego, shattering its concepts and animating its psyche, uncovering a layer beyond conceptual universality and uncovering proximity that cannot be described in spatial terms alone. It seems that for Levinas the only possibility for the ego to “survive” and actually carry on the movement from conceptuality to alterity, and back to conceptuality and its re-installation, is responsibility. According to him, responsibility allows me to come back from the shock caused by



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encountering irreducible otherness, it is the salvation of my individuality and makes me irreplaceable. In this work I argue for the total breakup: at one end there is the desire to encounter irreducible alterity, at the other there is surprise, and in-between there is a void. Replacing Levinas’s responsibility with the desire||surprise pair (indicating the two endpoints and a void between) allows abandonment of ethical language and disclosure of the properly aesthetic character of the encounter with irreducible alterity. Objectivity, according to Levinas, “signifies the indifference of what appears to its own appearing.”44 A system is indifferent to whatever is outside it, and the essence absorbs the subject that identifies it. This is closedness of a system. Levinas defines responsibility as “signification which is nonindifference.”45 However, this definition does not imply that responsibility and non-indifference coincide. It seems that non-indifference is a wider term than responsibility. Responsibility is directional, we could almost say intentional, it spoils the surprise. Non-indifference is generic, open, it is an acceptivity and inclination toward surprise. It is a prerequisite for surprise because, if I am indifferent, how can I be surprised at all? It seems as if, toward the end of his book, Levinas uses less ethical and more neutral language to deal with alterity. Nonetheless, he states again, “Proximity, difference which is non-indifference, is responsibility.”46 In describing the movement between universality and individuation Levinas writes, “But, I am capable of conceiving of a break with this universal, and the apparition of the unique I which always precedes the reflection which comes again. . . . to include me in the concept—which I again evade or am torn up from.”47 The description of this movement fits the dynamics of aesthetic encounters considered in the present work. With expectation of the irreducible excess over expectation, one is certainly capable of conceiving a break with the totality of one’s experience. This formal expectation is desire that individualizes and provides a way back via surprise and a recuperating reflection: thanks to this desire, one can posit the significance of the aesthetic encounter, independently of the objectivity of the encounter. Thanks to surprise, one can enjoy it. Do we really need to call it responsibility? To Levinas’s question “can openness have another signification than that of disclosure?”48 I have tried to answer with a question: Can desire have another signification than that of responsibility? Is non-indifference coincident with responsibility? In experiencing the irreducible excess over expectation there is supreme passivity of exposure to the other—the pause—but that is not responsibility. Where does responsibility come from, if one is supremely passive? Can supreme passivity and responsibility go together? Faced with irreducible otherness, in the initial instant of supreme passivity, I am expressionless and mute. Expression should follow exposure in the process of recuperation.

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Finally, Levinas concludes with a consideration of newness, so relevant in the present work. He writes, “It is not because the other is new, an unheard of quiddity, that he signifies transcendence, or more exactly, signifies, purely and simply; it is because newness comes from the other that there is in newness transcendence and signification. It is through the other that newness signifies in being the otherwise than being.”49 This statement is compatible with my proposal. The signification of the encounter with otherness is not in its novelty (or banal newness); on the contrary, newness has signification because it reveals otherness, because it allows the experience of otherness. Newness is related to surprise, it is a consequence of the encounter. Certainly it is not because of surprise that the otherness is irreducible; it is because of irreducible otherness that there is surprise. Metaphysical desire is the acceptivity of irreducible otherness. Surprise is the consequence of the encounter. Between desire and surprise there is a pause, a void, a rupture, an immediacy that cannot be captured and presented. ŽIŽEK ON LACANIAN DESIRE Moving away from the Levinasian ethical otherness and desire, let us turn now to Lacan, Žižek, and the psychoanalytic view of desire. Lacan, in “The Split Between the Eye and the Gaze,” talks about the “privilege of the gaze in the function of desire,”50 acknowledging the visual as having an eminent position in the structure of desire. According to Lacan, the gaze disorganizes the field of perception. However, can a sound or a smell, in the domain of their respective senses, create something analogous to the gaze in its domain of vision? I wish to look at desire in more general terms, not only with regard to the visual dimension, but taking into account all senses. This alternate perceptual investigation could have affinity with the desire for the unexpected. For Lacan and Žižek the Real is lack, hence unstructured negativity, or negativity alongside the abstract immediacy, and different from Hegel’s negativity as the mediation of the immediate. Negativity is mediation because it is derivative, not primary: to have negation we need to have something that can be negated. Lack, on the other hand, is primary in the sense that it does not need a specific thing to negate. Lack relates to negativity in the same way that angst relates to fear: a generality surpassing objective instances versus the specificity of something objectively represented. Lack is absence, negativity is non-presence. Absence and presence are both primary, whereas non-presence is derived, mediated by the primacy of presence. Lacan’s objet petit a is the lack as the remainder of the Real that starts the process of interpretation. The Real is opposed to the symbolic, without the opposition between presence and absence; hence, Real is “without fissure.”



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Žižek sees the irruption of the Real on the boundary separating the inside from the outside. Comparing inside and outside he writes, “Continuity and proportion are not possible, because this disproportion, this surplus of inside in relation to outside, is a necessary structural effect of the very separation of the two; it can only be abolished by demolishing the barrier and letting the outside swallow the inside.”51 Therefore, there is a flux, a discontinuity, eruptions of outside to inside, swallowing the inside. In such moments, nothingness or the “pre-symbolic substance” (as Žižek illustrates with regard to the novel The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag) pervades. This pre-symbolic substance is evocative of Blanchot’s neutral. Then the symbolic order has to take over again. According to Lacan and Žižek the “Other of the Other” is posed as a way to restore symbolic order because of the conviction that there is somebody (a puppeteer) behind the eruption from the outside, so that chaos or indifference is surpassed and there is an order. The encounters considered here attest to the eruption of the outside, swallowing the inside (to use Žižek’s vocabulary). However, I am not concerned with psychoanalysis and restoration of the symbolic order; my task is much more modest: I wish to offer a phenomenology of surprise as an emotional state en route to restoration of the symbolic order, or of conscious subjectivity. The Real is neutral, indifferent, and we endow it with meaning. So, argues Žižek, the communication with the Real is asymmetrical: the Real is indifferent and provides purely arbitrary situations (it does not communicate anything endowed with meaning), but the subject endows this “answer of the real” with meaning and considers it a successful communication. We provide meanings to outside encounters to smoothen the disruptions and discontinuities of outside intrusions. But, the outside seems to be indifferent. Blanchot says it poetically: “. . . the essence of the image is to be altogether outside, without intimacy, and yet more inaccessible and mysterious than the thought of the innermost being; without signification, yet summoning up the depth of any possible meaning; unrevealed yet manifest, having that absence-aspresence which constitutes the lure and the fascination of the Sirens.”52 The outside, the real, provides images without intimacy, waiting to be endowed with meaning by a look giving them significance. Hence, appearances are elusive and contain presence beyond presentation, allowing for multiple meanings; images can serve as general templates, indifferent but allowing possibilities for the creation of meaning. The symbol cannot encapsulate one’s whole being: there is something that escapes it, so there is a gap between the signifier representing one as a subject and the excess that does not allow symbolization. Subjects communicate and this gap creates problems in intersubjective communication. Communication takes into account “the signifier not yet enchained but still

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floating freely, permeated with enjoyment: the enjoyment that prevents it from being articulated into a chain.”53 This surplus of meaning is denoted in Lacan’s neologism le sinthome, to indicate the excess in the subject that cannot be put under the symbolic order. It can be interpreted as follows: there is something that escapes conceptualization and allows the other to reside inside me. This is what makes the limits of my subjectivity porous, allowing for the intrusion of otherness, and acknowledges my singularity. In thinking about the implications for psychoanalysis, Žižek writes, “What, then, do we do with it [le sinthome]? Lacan’s answer, and at the same time the Lacanian definition of the ultimate moment of psychoanalysis, is identification with the sinthome.”54 We would like to get rid of symptoms because they go against the symbolic order. We do not want to annihilate le sinthome because it provides an additional, non-symbolic determination of subjectivity: it is what individualizes, what cannot be put under generality and order, and what sets one apart from all others in the social sphere. Žižek elaborates on the notion of le sinthome, this residual that resists inclusion in the signifying chain and leads to the singularity of the subject. It is related to jouissance, the singularity of forms of one’s enjoyment. In contrast to “the symptom” that can be decoded by interpretation, le sinthome resists interpretation and mediation, and is defined as “the fragment of a meaningless letter the reading of which produces an immediate jouis-sense or ‘meaning in enjoyment’”55 The Symbolic mediates the Real and produces appearances in our objective world. However, behind appearances lurks the Real, the presence that cannot be represented, the immediacy (hence meaningless, since meaning is produced by mediation) of enjoyment. But enjoyment is already mediation because, if I enjoy it, I am aware that I like it, so jouissance is “meaning in enjoyment.” Hence, following Lacan and Žižek, le sinthome denotes immediacy of mediation, the intertwining of immediacy and mediation, of outside and inside, which sounds very Hegelian, except that Hegel considered it in relation to thought. Which is fine, because the abstract immediacy (pre-conscious and pre-sensible nothingness) triggers thought as the mediated immediacy. Between Hegel’s immediacy and mediation, the abstract and “the power of negative,” there is space to insert Lacan and Žižek and le sinthome as sensuous mediation, preceding consciousness and thought—mediation. This pre-conscious sensibility evokes Merleau-Ponty and his approach toward the “birth of sensibility.” But, how is immediacy treated in Lacan? Is it a part of the Real that cannot be mediated? If the Real presents “a fissure” in the symbolic, does this also mean that there is propensity for breaking points, where the Real announces itself, tearing apart the fabric of the Symbolic? When Žižek exclaims “Love thy Sinthome as Thyself!” does he also imply the desire for the unexpected?



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If the excess of the Real over the Symbolic (the enjoyment) is repressed, its return or eruption requires a psychoanalyst. The properly aesthetic encounters denoted desire||surprise considered in this work have nothing to do with repression and the question is (to put it in Lacan’s terminology): can the Real erupt into the Symbolic without being repressed in the first place? Let us assume that the Real is the outside, the reminder that escapes symbolization. The exteriority is wider: it contains the Real that exists in a subject as le sinthome, the singular form of enjoyment, and presents a hole in the symbolic order of the subject. However, exteriority is not encompassed by the Real: there is more to it. The neutral space indifferent to enjoyment and pain, to schizophrenia and paranoia, to absence and presence, offers itself to a subject suddenly, unexpectedly, indicating only one’s limitation of perceptual and mental powers. It triggers surprise that afterward is appropriated within one’s experiential space. The encounters considered here as producing irreducible excess over expectation indicate that an exteriority exists which is not a hole in my interiority, which has nothing to do with myself. In order to accept it and to acknowledge it in surprise, I have to have the attitude of openness. To be able to open myself to such encounters, my subjectivity cannot be encapsulated in a fixed symbolic form, it cannot be a self-enclosed circle—it has to be porous, allowing the exterior to reach the inside. Otherwise, I might just pass by something (a work of art, a scene in the environment) or somebody, without experiencing any depth, without becoming aware of my lack. Psychoanalysis might say that the singularity inside one provides a screen and decides how and when to let exteriority in. Maybe psychoanalysis can help one to become less uptight, more attentive to the environment, but it cannot guarantee such encounters: the exteriority has to provoke it. However, if on one end the exteriority is indifferent, and on the other end I value my surprise, there has to be a metamorphosis in this process. This metamorphosis is what I try to articulate. In this context Derrida’s notion of the spectre is relevant. Spectre serves as an in-between in relation to objective reality (the symbolic world) and the reality that cannot be represented. As Žižek writes, it is “elusive pseudomateriality.”56 According to Lacan, the spectre is a necessary accompaniment of reality since what is experienced is already symbolized, it already has some objective form; hence, reality is already mediated—attesting to the impossibility of immediacy, of grasping the reality “in itself.” Žižek writes, “To put it simply, reality is never directly ‘itself’; it presents itself only via its incomplete-failed symbolization, and spectral apparitions emerge in this very gap that forever separates reality from the real, and on account of which reality has the character of (the symbolically structured) reality.”57 In order to express the impossibility of presenting immediacy, the beginning of an aesthetic encounter can be termed non-experience, indicating a break

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in the continuity of one’s experience (contradicting Husserl). The notion of spectre goes toward exteriority, the real, preceding the symbolic order and the world of objective representations, and this is as far as one can go and still be tied to the notion of experience. What I try to understand further is the gap that Žižek talks about. The inability to say something more is termed a pause, and is denoted in the expression desire||surprise. This seems the right place to turn to Bataille. BATAILLE AND EXCESS Bataille’s work is centered on excess, transgression, limits of experiencing, and their importance in human life. In “The Notion of Expenditure,” he talks about “nonproductive expenditure” that falls below the radar of human rationality, and this expenditure is what defines humanity because, he writes, “human life cannot in any way be limited to the closed systems assigned to it by reasonable conceptions.”58 Humanity is characterized by its impulse to negate the utilitarian—the possession of goods, both material and moral, as well as an orderly and calculating existence. In “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” he writes, “The life thus broken into three pieces has ceased to be life; it is nothing more than art, science, or politics . . . A totality of life has little to do with a collection of abilities and areas of expertise.”59 He emphasizes the importance of eroticism as the way to explore life’s innermost secrets and emotions. I argue that the aesthetic encounters considered in the present work (as related to birth) are as much part of life as eroticism or mysticism (related to death). One can purposely strive for a non-productive expenditure via negations of utility, but one can also surprisingly encounter newness as the breakup of totality. In Literature and Evil, Bataille holds that literature expresses the concept of Evil because evil is “the basis of intense communication,” and literature as such is communication. For Bataille, communication is proximity without the objectivity of discursive talk. He wants to stress “the value of ‘mystical participation,’ of identification of the subject with the object which it is in the power of poetry to express.”60 Poetry takes upon itself the impossible task of uniting opposites, “the unchangeable and the perishable,” the subject and the object, the horror and the ecstasy of life. The aesthetic experience undergone while reading and feeling poetry is a paradigmatic aesthetic experience that brings one to the limit of her sensibility. According to Bataille, poetic feeling is “the perception which cannot be reduced to the sense-data.”61 Poetry reveals a deeper reality by going beyond objective limitations, beyond the world reduced to objects having only use value. Its absence of limitations relates poetry to the sacred and to religion as such. Bataille writes, “religion



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and poetry never fail to propel us outside ourselves in great bursts in which death is no longer the opposite of life.”62 Death as part of life, and not as its opposite, is one of Bataille’s recurring themes. In The Tears of Eros, Bataille tells the story of eroticism as linked to the awareness of death. The orgasm is “the little death”; it is the instant of loss of consciousness and a preview of the loss of life. Eroticism carries a sacred value, but this sacred value is basically related to the aesthetic. Bataille writes, “A sacred value remains an immediate value: it has meaning only in the instant of this transfiguration wherein we pass precisely from use value to ultimate value, a value independent from any effect beyond the instant itself, and which is fundamentally an aesthetic value.”63 This definition captures the instant of what I termed the properly aesthetic, independent of any recuperation afterward that would bring into play non-aesthetic elements, such as culture or ethics. The ultimate value—the immediate value—is severed from the past; hence it cannot be related to a goal, it is independent from any utility. This is the aesthetics of the instant: disinterestedness in the past prior to its occurrence, and indifference to whatever happens after it. In Erotism: Death and Sensuality, Bataille ponders the continuity and discontinuity of being. The discontinuity of being is due to reproduction and birth, and only death brings back the continuity of an anonymous existence. Bataille wants to explore the limits of human life: when are we closest to death, but still being alive? When can we discontinuous beings get a glimpse of the continuity of existence? He identifies eroticism as a part of human life akin to death.64 In erotic activity, discontinuous and separate beings fuse, negating their discontinuity and revealing the continuity of being. However, Bataille affords the same role to poetry. He writes, “Poetry leads to the same place as all forms of eroticism—to the blending and fusion of separate objects. It leads us to eternity, it leads us to death, and through death to continuity.”65 In the expectation of the irreducible excess over expectation, as considered in this work, there seems to be the desire for the discontinuity of discontinuity, that is, a desire for continuity. Granting that there is continuity and discontinuity of being, and that we ordinarily live in a discontinuous mode, this mode has to be stopped to experience continuity. The properly aesthetic experience starts with a pause, with the inability of my sensibility to acknowledge the encounter with a presence spilling beyond the boundary of my experience. The pause as such is a point of discontinuity; however, recuperation from and acknowledgment of the encounter follow it. The objective presence that triggered the encounter (whether an art object or something from the environment) is insignificant (though necessary) as such; what imparts a lasting significance to the encounter is this moment of discontinuity. My memory records my reaction (in a certain time and place) and the objectivity of it falls into oblivion; the reaction itself becomes an “object” for memory.

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Because of the discarding of the objectivity of presence, all such properly aesthetic encounters are repeated instances of the same experience scattered throughout one’s life. This repetition provides continuity apart from clock time and objective space. In memory, I will record them as separate instances because I can remember where each instance happened and when. How they happened, though, is irrelevant. I cherish my reaction, the encounter with irreducible otherness that led me beyond my experiential space. Objectively speaking, such experiences are separate, but they achieve fusion or proximity and continuity on a different level, surpassing the objectivity of presence. Bataille characterizes eroticism as “the disequilibrium in which the being consciously calls his own existence in question.”66 The emphasis is on consciously, hence “I am losing myself.”67 This is directional, in contrast to the disequilibrium that surfaces in an instant of properly aesthetic experience. The irreducible excess over my expectation signals a disequilibrium of my existence to which I was not consciously attuned. Desire as the expectation of excess and, subsequently, as the expectation of irreducible surprise, implies that the irreducible surprise should not be surprising, and yet it always is, bringing into play the contradictory nature of desire: when it risks being satisfied, it withdraws only to resurface again when the risk is gone. For Bataille, “excess manifests itself in so far as violence wins over reason.”68 Is this the only way excess could manifest itself? In experiencing the irreducible excess over expectation and the pause it generates in an instant of pure void—timeless, placeless and sightless—could it not be the case that excess manifests itself in so far as passivity wins over reason? One can argue that the implication of winning as such is by necessity violence. Yet, it is a special type of violence as well as of passivity: a violence more violent than any violence (akin to death), and a passivity more passive than any passivity (echoing Levinas). The excess in properly aesthetic experience leads beyond the opposition of violence and passivity; to passivity and violence intertwined, to a loss and a gain at the same time, hence allowing (actually, leading to) opposing views and interpretations. Bataille’s desire is “a desire to live to the limits of the possible and the impossible with ever-increasing intensity. It is a desire to live while ceasing to live, or to die without ceasing to live . . . .”69 It is a desire for sacrificing and surrendering oneself, succumbing to ruinous temptations—all out of “the nostalgia for a moment of disequilibrium”70 that can expel one from the utilitarian and rational order imposed by norms. Bataille exposes eroticism and its importance in human life, but there exists another way out, another valve to neutralize the suffocation of rational existence. Eroticism with its underlying desire is directional; it is directed toward expected pleasure. In general, the irreducible surprise encountered in properly aesthetic experience comes as a bonus. One might desire it, but it is a desire for surprise



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as such, not fixed in any objective way—it cannot be objectively fixed; otherwise, it would contradict itself. Thus, it comes seemingly effortlessly: I do not work for it, I do not spend any energy on it, I do not hold my breath for it. And yet, when experienced, it brings the world to me—without longing for death, to be thrown again into the eternal continuity of being, I experience the little birth leaving my mark on the eternal flow of continuity. Emily Dickinson writes, “Because I could not stop for Death,/ He kindly stopped for me.” Indeed, I do not want to stop for Death—He will stop for me, anyway. In the meantime I allow myself to be irreducibly surprised by being acceptive and by not shunning myself from the world, from the beyond of my limited existence. The bonus character of the irreducible sur-prise or over-getting via exceeded expectation, of getting something that I absolutely did not bargain for, imprints the encounter with aesthetic disinterestedness in which everything is at stake. The irreducible excess over expectation is beyond the dichotomy of equilibrium and disequilibrium. Bataille stresses the necessary character of transgression and transcendence related to erotic desire. In his Preface to “Madame Edwarda” he writes, “If there is nothing that transcends us, transcends us in spite of ourselves, something that at all costs ought not to be, we shall not attain the insensate moment toward which we are striving and which we are at the same time resisting with might and main.”71 The excess related to transcendence attains its significance by running contrary to our “ordinary” self and by projecting the sweet flavor of forbidden fruit. However, what if something transcends us without being in spite of ourselves, without the constraint that it ought not to be? Irreducible excess over expectation simply transcends me as an aesthetic transcendence, whereby I do not resist the proof of my limitation. On the contrary, I am acceptive to it. This is why we like surprises that follow excesses beyond expectations, and we like being in awe. Levinas encounters (in pure passivity) the irreducible otherness that catapults him outside being and beyond essence. For him, the only thread to which one holds, in order to be able to return to the totality of being and its consciousness, is the responsibility for the other. This responsibility is enjoyment and vulnerability combined. Bataille encounters (in pure activity) the transcendent continuity of being. The only thread to which one holds, to return to (discontinuous) life, is excess, because “the being within us is only there through excess, when the fullness of horror and joy coincide.”72 While Levinas survives the encounter thanks to responsibility, Bataille survives it thanks to excess. Excess is necessary for transcendence as exceeding, and exceeding creates something irreducibly new. But, excess should be as much related to birth as it is to death. The nature of excess defies strict classification, yet when considering the irreducible excess over expectation that results in irreducible surprise, what gives it the aesthetic flavor is the sense of openness and awe.

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Bataille contrasts inner experience as a state of ecstasy or rapture that cannot be put properly in words, to the ethical, scientific, and aesthetic experiencing that has external goals. For example, for him, the aesthetic attitude serves the purpose of finding enriching states. This characterization might be accurate, but, in the encounter of irreducible excess over expectation, there is no prior goal: the encounter is neither pre-meditated nor utilitarian. Desire as the expectation of the irreducible exceeding of expectation is merely a forward orientation, and not the goal. The essential, for Bataille, is “the extreme limit of the ‘possible,’”73 which is that point where “one cannot conceive of the possibility of going further.”74 This extreme limit is fundamentally important because “without the extreme limit, life is only a long deception, a series of defeats without combat followed by impotent retreat—it is degradation.”75 The extreme limit of the “possible” implies the endpoint of the possible, where possibility ceases to be. But, how does the “possible” start? Life is an equal degradation without new starts. An encounter resulting in irreducible surprise indicates a new beginning, and adds to a density of the “possible.” Bataille opposes poetry to the experience of the extreme limit of the possible. Experiencing the extreme limit requires decisiveness to go to the end, to experience rupture, without too much contemplation. “Poetic femininity,” for him, is characterized by succumbing to words and being decisionless, and cannot compare with the experience of the extreme limit of the possible. As Bataille puts it, a poet is raped by words. However, why wouldn’t it be possible for the poet and the words mutually consent to engage in “erotic” play, sometimes reaching the extreme limit? Or, from the reader’s point of view, why wouldn’t poetry be a rupture, as the negation of the possible, resulting in the irreducible surprise engendered in the encounter? Bataille would not agree. He writes, “The extreme limit . . . is never literature. If poetry expresses it, the extreme limit is distinct from it: to the point of not being poetic, for if poetry has it as an object, it doesn’t reach it. When the extreme limit is there, the means which serve to attain it are no longer there.”76 Maybe the extreme limit is evasive and “we can’t really attain it.”77 I agree with this assessment, although it is a matter of interpretation what the extreme limit is. When experiencing irreducible excess over expectation as a rupture and a pause, as the freeze and the blind spot of my (inadequate) sensibility, I do and I do not reach the extreme limit. In one instant I still did not reach it, in a subsequent instant I am already recuperating from the encounter and acknowledging newness in awe and surprise. The extreme limit is the pause or rupture between desire (i.e. expectation of the irreducible exceeding of expectation) and surprise. As a rupture, it is inaccessible to me; it somehow got lost in the amnesia of the instant of pause.



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Bataille’s “schema of the . . . pure experience” resembles in some way the proposed properly aesthetic experience. He writes, “As long as ipse perseveres in its will to know and to be ipse, anguish lasts, but if ipse abandons itself and knowledge with it, if it gives itself up to non-knowledge in this abandon, then rapture begins.”78 Bataille’s description is akin to the perception of the properly aesthetic experience, except for the following: as ipse I do not abandon myself because the experience does not start consciously—I am taken by the irreducible exceeding of expectations. It is not the case that I search for a specific excess; excess approaches me. I do not experience rapture—it is a pause or rupture that leaves me in an instant of pure passivity. Upon recuperation I appropriate this experience of rupture in surprise and awe and with some kind of respect. This is not respect for the other in moral terms; it is the respect for otherness, acknowledging the newness and the power of whatever surpasses my limited existence. Such an instance of the properly aesthetic experience is a reminder that I do not live in a closed system where all is predictable and subject to knowledge. The encounter adds absolutely nothing to the objectivity of my knowledge since its facticity is fleeting, but what I do get is a sense of openness. If a presence reveals to me more than what is contained in its objective presentation, then I must be somehow significant. On the other hand, this excess points to my insignificance because of my limitation. This intertwining of significance and insignificance reveals one’s humanity. Such a chance encounter might have a bigger importance in one’s life than a carefully prepared meeting with an up-front and clearly calculated utility. Actually, Bataille said something poignant that reverberates along these lines, “But where others may see a trap, I see the sovereignty of chance. Chance, inescapably the final sentence, without which we are never sovereign beings.”79 Irreducible surprise in an instant annihilates my desire as being satisfied (the expectation of the exceeding over expectations has been satisfied), hence in Bataille’s vocabulary, in that instant I am a sovereign being. The problem is that such satisfaction further feeds the resurrection of desire, again and again, and I am thrown back into the circle. Bataille would agree with this formulation. He distinguishes art from knowledge (or a well-defined project). A work of art is a project, but it is not as harmonious and clean-cut as knowledge would be; art opens a door to dissonance, and hence spills over the limits of the project. Artistic impulse is to go beyond, to create something new, a presence that spills over its physical limitations; this impulse is basically the desire to annul desire. Yet, it is at the same time a desire to provoke desire, to arouse and to stimulate desire due to the presence that cannot be pinpointed. Bataille acknowledges the newness inherent in ecstasy because ecstasy would have no meaning for the subject “if not that it captivates, being new.”80 Also, even if one is seeking ecstasy, the ecstasy is provoked by the outside.

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Bataille writes, “There exists an irreducible discord between the subject seeking ecstasy and the ecstasy itself. However, the subject knows ecstasy and senses it—not as a voluntary direction coming from itself, but like the sensation of an effect coming from the outside.”81 Hence, the outside is required to provoke my sensation, regardless how desperately I might seek it—I cannot do it by myself. The provocation triggers excess over my expectation that by necessity has to be provoked from the outside. However, in a properly aesthetic encounter one is not seeking ecstasy; the encounter is an instant of pure passivity preceded by desire as the expectation of the unexpected. The experience itself brings disequilibrium—a positive one—that affects and rearranges the order of things in one’s life. Bataille gives the account of a properly aesthetic encounter on the Stresa pontoon bridge in Italy, where he unexpectedly heard “voices of an infinite majesty.” It was a broadcast of a chorus singing Mass. He describes the experience using the following phrases “I remained frozen on the spot . . . . an instant of transport occurred . . . The sacred nature of the incantation only made firmer a feeling of strength, made one cry out even more to the sky and to the point of rupture the presence of a being exultant in its certitude as though assured of its infinite chance.”82

Another similar experience he mentions is when hearing Don Juan for the first time, “. . . as though the skies opened up—but the first time only, for afterwards, I expected it: the miracle no longer had effect.”83 These are the types of experiences considered in the present work and, unlike in Bataille’s work, are considered here in their own right. For Bataille such experiences “express the movement which proceeds from exultation (from its blatant, carefree irony) to the instant of rupture,”84 and attain their “full meaning at the moment of expiation (moment of anguish, of sweat, of doubt).”85 The authority to justify inner experience must be expiated; there is no objective authority as there is over a project. For Bataille an instance of properly aesthetic experience is expiatory, serving almost as a “safety flotation device.” It seems true that an instance of properly aesthetic experience when invoked can serve as a way out, as a surrogate when speaking of the unspeakable. After all, with its instantaneous rupture such an experience is closest to an ecstatic experience. However, this account does not encompass the whole picture. Let me propose an inversion. Suppose that one experienced terror (or anguish, or doubt, or pain) and then an aesthetic surprise crosses her path. The anguish might enforce and magnify the impact. Of course, in another direction, due to anguish, one might be incapable of experiencing surprise. Assuming that one indeed does experience surprise, maybe then if one starts from a very low point in life, the impact of surprise might be stronger, the senses might be more



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receptive. Bataille himself describes how he felt very sick and “at the end of a contemptible odyssey”86 prior to experiencing the surprise on the Stresa pontoon bridge. In such a case it is conceivable that a moment of terror, or a period of anguish, attains its “true meaning” when it is used to magnify the pleasure one gets upon recuperating from an irreducible surprise. Hence, instead of using aesthetics to diminish the blow of anguish or dread, it is conceivable to use anguish or dread to magnify the aesthetics of the encounter. When I feel vulnerable, I might be more susceptive to otherness. This susceptibility suggests the intertwining of pain and joy, of ups and downs, of birth and death. And then, there is a third possibility. When I am in a relatively balanced mode without terror on my shoulders and without anxiety wrapped around my fragility, but also without ecstatic joy or exuberant and vivacious energy to the point of bursting; when I am in a simple contemplative mode with the underlying thought that “it’s a wonderful life” after all (and despite all), that life is wonderful only because it is life—simple and plain, where complexity shows its true nature—I might then be in the most sincere mode for experiencing a properly aesthetic encounter. This seems to hold for the experience of contemplation of which Kant speaks. What I feel is fairness (so, it is ethical to some extent, after all) to give its due to a properly aesthetic encounter, in a fundamentally disinterested way, without projections or utilitarian flavor. My desire, as the expectation of irreducible excess over expectation, can be generic, not a way out or a way in: just a pure childlike desire without an underlying strategy. It might be a propensity of human nature to go beyond, to go beyond for no particular reason; hence a desire to do so, without any specific goals in mind. But, we also have a life-preserving impulse, despite non-productive expenditures. Bataille says that we want to experience death, but without ceasing to live. Maybe it is human to seek assurances to still have a firm ground beyond one’s feet, or to at least recover one’s ground upon letting everything go. Different personalities seek different ways out, be they through ethics, aesthetics, consciousness, truth, beauty, etc. Whereas Levinas, upon his return from beyond being, resorts to ethics via responsibility for the other, Bataille seems to resort to aesthetics to expiate his ecstatic torment. Bataille writes, “Rupture is the expression of richness. The insipid and weak man is incapable of it.”87 Without rupture there is no real growth. The second law of thermodynamics states that entropy increases in a closed system. Hence, without something breaking into the closed system, into the totality of being, existence would adhere to a lifeless schema, and the branch on which one sits would break. In addition to aesthetic experiences, Bataille recognizes the power of laughter to create rupture. For his purposes, laughter actually serves much better than aesthetics, since laughter allows “intense communication” among humans because absurdity doesn’t know separations. Each ipse is separated within its own consciousness, but in absurdity such a

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separation is annihilated—absurdity is shared by everyone in the same way. Laughter is intrinsically connected to anguish, or, as Bataille puts it, “Shared laughter assumes the absence of a true anguish, and yet it has no other source than anguish.”88 In telling the “Tale of a Partly-Failed Experience,”89 Bataille starts with the description of an instance of properly aesthetic experience. He writes, “At the very least, as I had passed suddenly from inattention to surprise, I felt this state with more intensity than one normally does and as if another and not I had experienced it.”90 After mentioning another such state, Bataille concludes matter-of-factly, “I was far from knowing what I see clearly today, that anguish is linked to [such states].”91 And this works well for Bataille: the meaning given through knowledge is fleeting, the real significance can never be encapsulated in a discontinuity detached from the eternal continuity of being. Anguish, as a directive that forces one to break the bondage of a system, subtends all exulting experiences and engenders one’s heightened sense of well-being, although this is only temporarily a sense of well-being and of “banal felicity.” The problem with such states for Bataille is the accompanying wish to prolong them, to prolong their “felicity.” This wish is an indication that I and my attention still have a hold, a grip over being, and that the unknown cannot be reached; I am still a subject enjoying an object. For the current consideration of the properly aesthetic experience, the whole stake is in the moment when “I had passed suddenly from inattention to surprise.” What is indispensable is the experience of rupture, of the gulf between inattention and surprise, building up surprise on the way to restoration and recuperation. The rupture results from the encounter with immediacy and signals the possibility of a new beginning, redrawing the boundaries of my experience. Bataille wants to use such “partially-failed” experiences to somehow attune himself to the possible experiencing of the “unknown,” the non-objectivity of the ultimate depths of human nature in which life is coincident with death, and in which the discontinuity of being approaches the eternal continuity of death. Trying to express the evasive moment of the passage from discontinuity to continuity, Bataille writes that, “. . . at this moment which hardly lasted, the movement of flight was so rapid that the possession of the “point” which usually limits it, was from the start surpassed, so that, without transition, I had gone from a jealous embrace to utter dispossession.”92 And here Bataille and I part ways—which only confirms the fragility of this condensed point embracing pain and joy, life and death. What Bataille describes is what I try to bring out in this work, called properly aesthetic experience. Bataille and I share the experience of the moment “that hardly lasted,” the blind spot that is a rupture. The difference is that Bataille is drawn toward this moment, puts all his efforts and powers of inner experience in the



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service of being able—albeit in vain—to peek into this blind spot, to observe the point as an ipse. He tries “to grasp once again in vain the ungraspable which had definitely just escaped.”93 Bataille wants to experience death, without ceasing to live; this is the extreme limit of the “possible.” I, on the other hand, do not want to stop for death—it will stop for me, anyway. I like and cherish this hardly-lasting, ungraspable moment of pause during which I, as well as my ipse, am annihilated. I do not seek it specifically, apart from my being open as a squid with tentacles flowing in all directions, in a state of a lightly-veiled exuberance due to the silly thought of gratitude for just being alive. The moment of “recuperation” and the awe of experiencing annihilation gives me an experience of birth, the feeling of a fresh, seductive mountain brook streaming into the slightly lazy river that I am, stirring its waters to create the foam through which the sun’s reflection is magnified a thousand times over . . .  I look forward to the surprise. Bataille writes, “Suddenly, I stood up and was completely taken . . .  the new chance experience answered to nothing which one could have evoked in advance.”94 So, forget initiation, or preparation to reach the “point” en route to experiencing the “unknown”—what matters is, after all, the sudden, irreducible surprise that has it all. The problem for Bataille is that upon recuperation, when the words take over, the “exactitude” comes back and “we discover in ourselves that which is not yet consumed and will not be able to be consumed, not being commensurate to the fire.”95 The opposing circumstances of wanting complete annihilation and of not being able to achieve it, create a feeling of shame and exhaustion. And a desire that cannot be quenched. It is probably a function of where one is with regard to life as such, when the shock of encounter ceases and the rupture starts to be overcome. One can either feel gratitude and respect for life and its mysterious surprises, adding density to the flow, or one can feel the inability of finite existence to supersede life, to go beyond—and yet to be. But this point of difference is so tenuous, so labile and unstable, that the feeling encompasses both seemingly opposed senses of joy and pain. This is why I sense that Bataille and I speak of the same experience; there is maybe only a small shift in emphasis of this experience: while Bataille thirsts for the moment preceding the pause (or, in his vocabulary, the moment of continuity and “little death”), I thirst for awakening immediately after the pause, for the “little birth.” At the end of Inner Experience Bataille resorts to poetry and to Proust’s fascination with time. He links poetry to sacrifice: in poetry words are sacrificed, they lose their everyday meaning; hence “poetry leads from the known to the unknown.”96 However, the sacrifice of words is insufficient for reaching the “extreme limit”—poetry is “the most accessible sort” of sacrifice. But, this assertion is negated by the writing of Proust who wants to tame the time that is the ultimate protector of the unknown. When a sound, a smell, or some

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other sensation evokes a past instant, the continuity of time is ruptured, and this instant attains a greater duration. When the smell of sweet basil suddenly transports me to a past almost forgotten, to a girl holding a stalk of basil and my grandma’s hand, walking toward the church on a dusty country road, in that instant my state itself becomes an “object” in memory. The objectivity of the remembered scene falls into the background, while the arresting of time fills the void of memory. The annihilation of objectivity characterizes all instances of properly aesthetic experience—they become indistinguishable, which is as close as one can come to “the unknown,” to the “continuity” of being, to the “extreme point.” Such sensations are impressions, different from knowledge. Poetic images bring back past impressions, where the “I” survives and relates the images to itself. Yet, the feeling of desire as absence of satisfaction persists and opposes the fulfillment of the impression. The contradictory nature of desire, for fulfillment and for non-fulfillment, keeps poetry beyond a simple sacrifice of words. Not only poetry, but reminiscences also maintain desire. Both reminiscences and poetry deal with the world of images, or of “the known which gives it form.”97 Hence, they cannot lead to the ultimate sacrifice that is the image-less void of the unknown. Yet, Bataille ends with a note of recovery: a ray of light asking him gently to raise a hand dropped in distress. If the collapse is not irrecoverable and one can return, the rupture (or pause) creates a beginning, a new thread added to life’s weave. Although the rupture is experienced as pleasure at first, by the necessity of unquenched desire such experience soon creates a fertile ground for new encounters with irreducible otherness, by exceeding expectations, suddenly, finding one unprepared, over and over again. ARTISTIC PRESENTATION OF TRANSGRESSION: EROTICISM OF DUCHAMP Bataille was a contemporary of Duchamp, and they both were initially associated with Breton and surrealism, but later on dissociated from Breton and went their separate ways. They did not seem to influence each other, but both put a considerable emphasis on eroticism, a term indicating the propensity of human nature for unquenchable desire, for the wish to go beyond boundaries and accustomed ways of living and understanding. Eroticism underlines a wish for satisfaction, and the impossibility of holding on to it, since the instant of satisfaction eliminates desire: desire as such can never be satisfied. Both Bataille and Duchamp stress the value of laughter in dealing with anguish and insecurity. Both stress the role of chance in surpassing expectations. Bataille acknowledges the power of aesthetic encounters, specifically those with poetry, to create “rupture” (moving away from well-established



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paths), and Duchamp’s oeuvre is based on the wish to force the viewer/reader to think differently, outside of a box, using parody and verbal puns. In Duchamp’s oeuvre eroticism appears in many forms, and he states that eroticism should be considered as respectable an ism as any other. Eroticism is related to the desire that can never be completely quenched and that defies representation by a fixed image. Since it is never fixed, but vibrant, uncontainable, and outside complete grasp, it serves as the perfect example with which to address what is outside of purely retinal experience. The problem with such desire is that, in the moment it is satisfied, it is lost—hence, in effect, it can never be satisfied and serves as a perpetuum mobile. For Duchamp, eroticism can be viewed as a way out of conventions, of static representations. He wanted to present eroticism’s inherent dynamics, hence his work is often taken with the “eroticism of precision” of the machine, avoiding “all formal lyricism.”98 This type of attention to machinic eroticism certainly relates to Duchamp’s fascination with optical machinery, vibrations and constant movement, illusions of added dimension and volume, and disdain for purely visual effects (retinal), the “pleasing” and the “useful.” In a book following the colloquium dedicated to Duchamp and eroticism, Mark Decimo writes, “Eroticism is the tension that allows us to discover the other as we have never before imagined, charged with an unspoken—and sexual—function . . . . Eroticism is the very instant when the “click” takes place, the rendezvous, the moment when our vision changes and approaches what is there, before our eyes, in a new way.”99 Hence, eroticism is related to desire and to the capacity to be astonished. Duchamp was a combination of a painter and a researcher, an inquiring mind, on the lookout for exceptions. How does one bring out his or her capacity to be surprised, to be astonished, and to see things in a different way? How does one surpass customary representations, both objective and linguistic? After all, as Decimo writes, “We are done with life, checkmate—intellectually dead—the day that capacity to be astonished no longer functions and we accept the obvious, apparent, conventional interpretation. The very image of dépassement and what, according to Duchamp, life should be, intellectual life, are one and the same: Eroticism. Eros, c’est la vie.”100 When faced with something so basic to human life, and with the history of artworks and literary works glorifying everlasting love and being deadly serious about human sexual relations, full of larger-than-life characters and emotional and lyric representations, it might not be surprising that an inquisitive artistic mind such as that of Duchamp turned to parody and humor. After all, irony, parody, and laughter are great shields against the seriousness of human existence, as Bataille would agree. In addition to Duchamp’s artworks, the introduction of his alter ego, Rrose Sélavy, speaks eloquently about Duchamp’s fascination with gender relations, outside the “official”

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view of a dominant male and a submissive female. In fact, his complete oeuvre is an attempt to think differently, to see beyond accustomed ways of seeing, to get to the bare, naked, human existence, apart from the dictates of customary and everyday “rules.” Reference to his two masterpieces, The Large Glass and Given101 will allow us to elaborate a bit on Duchamp’s relationship to eroticism and transgression, and to relate Duchamp’s work to the views of Bataille and Deleuze. Duchamp’s term inframince (ultra thin, bellow thin) indicates something that can be felt, but hardly described. For example, “The warmth of a seat (which has just been left) is inframince.”102 Another note indicates “inframince separation,” as a separation in two senses, of interval and screen, of male and female. This separation, ultra-thin separation, results in a delay in achieving identity between the two terms. This concept seems to be close to Deleuze’s consideration of difference. The small difference that will never go away, in turn keeps both desire and the inability to achieve closure, complete satisfaction, and it leads us back to eroticism. Duchamp worked on The Large Glass from 1915 to 1923, declaring it unfinished and turning away from art to play chess. The understanding of this work is impossible without the notes that Duchamp published in 1934 as The Green Box. The elaborate machinery of the Bride’s unsatisfied desire and her Bachelors’ inability to satisfy her is composed of a number of separate works (such as Chocolate Grinder, Malic Moulds, Oculist Witnesses, Sex Cylinder, etc.),103 both in physical form (composed of oil paint, varnish, lead foil, lead wire and dust on two cracked glass plates), as well as in written form (notes and sketches).104 Being at the same time a parody of desire, and the acknowledgment of its grip which makes us vulnerable and unable to control it, The Large Glass is a first-rate example of an artistic activity that is as much mental as it is visual. It would be in vain to try to decipher it (and such an attempt would defy its purpose) because it does not succumb to a closed system—elements of various relationships (male/female, strong/weak, dominant/obedient, mechanical and algorithmic/aleatory and random) emanate from this work, making it enigmatic and surprising. Looking at Duchamp’s notes for The Large Glass, the word “desire” appears many times. In describing the Bride, Duchamp writes about the “. . . blossoming of this virgin who has reached the goal of her desire . . . It is, in general, the halo of the Bride, the sum total of her splendid vibrations: graphically there is no question of symbolizing by a grandiose painting this happy goal—the Bride’s desire.”105 The Large Glass seems to present desire as fuel for an irrational machine. It cannot be deciphered without notes given in The Green Box, we need the explanation, some pointers to help in experiencing the delay from visual comprehension to mental understanding. Breton gave one of the first reviews on this work in the article “Phare da la mariee” [Lighthouse of the Bride]



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that appeared in the journal Minotaure in 1934. He wrote, “In this work it is impossible not to see at least the trophy of a fabulous hunt through virgin territory, at the frontiers of eroticism, of philosophical speculation, of the spirit of sporting competition, of the most recent data of science, of lyricism and of humor.”106 Breton obviously recognized the multidimensionality of The Large Glass, its relation to mental efforts and technological developments, as well as its eroticism that is only augmented and made lyrical through parody and humor. Duchamp’s last work, Given, made in secrecy over twenty years (1946–1966) and seen only after Duchamp’s death, is a complex installation at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It is a mixed media assemblage, comprised of a wooden door, bricks, velvet, aluminum, iron, glass, Plexiglas, linoleum, cotton, electric lamps, gas lamp, etc.107 The spectator has to peep through two small holes in an old wooden door, starting the experience as a voyeur. He sees a brick wall with a hole in it through which a naked female torso is holding a gas lamp in the foreground, and a lush landscape with a waterfall in the background. Due to its realistic presentation, without the need for verbal explanation, yet dealing again with eroticism, Given has often been described as the alter ego of The Large Glass. Many associations between the two works can be made, for example, Michael Betancourt writes, “The fixed perspective/view places the audience looking through the door not only in the role of voyeur, but shifts the spectator into the role of the bachelors in the Large Glass.”108 What is seen in Given are more or less realistic shapes, so one could ask, what happened to Duchamp’s aversion toward the retinal pleasing of the eye? However, this work, pointing in numerous artistic and philosophical directions, and referencing Duchamp’s previous works, speaks to the artistic need for continual reinvention, to keep on addressing an elusive subject in ever new ways, yet to provide clues (only speculated clues) as to its significance. Eroticism as a motivating force lurking underneath social and visual convention, as a desire for intimacy with another human being, but forever slightly separated in time (delay) and space (inframince), so that desire can persist— such eroticism emanates from Duchamp’s works in his efforts to challenge questions of artistic production and evaluation or admiration. With primacy given to eroticism’s driving force, and with a turn to laughter that diminishes the anguish felt when faced with such a basic drive, Duchamp invites comparison with Bataille. Duchamp’s art is discussed by Lyotard, and in summarizing his comments on Duchamp’s two masterpieces, Lyotard writes, Compendium: you can say all that ex tempore. That is, the laying bare: before it, the body is hidden from the gaze; after it, it is exposed to it. It is the instant of transformation or metamorphosis of this before into this after. It is graspable

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only as this limit. So: two “solutions.” That of the Glass, where the gaze comes always too soon, because the event is “late,” the corpus remaining to be stripped without end. With that of Given, it’s the gaze that arrives too late, the laying bare is finished, there remains the nudity. Now makes a hinge between not yet and no longer. That goes without saying for any event, erotic, artistic, political. And does not give place to mysticism.109

Lyotard’s statement points to the impossibility of presenting immediacy, the moment of break, of the leap from not yet to no longer. Artistic efforts testify to the allure of capturing the impossibility of immediacy and of going beyond descriptive representations. The break encountered in representational capability is not something mystical, transcendental, or metaphysical. As already said, the break is a very prosaic phenomenon, experienced daily in numerous contexts, so that experiencing a break in my representational capabilities that results in surprise is nothing out of the ordinary. I can speculate on what is going on in the break separating my desire (not yet) and my surprise (no longer), and can talk about passivity more passive than any other passivity, a neutrality, a commonality between myself and my surroundings as the continuity on a level different from the discontinuity of separated beings. I can speculate about “the space of literature” and “the plane of consistency”— these are philosophical speculations when trying to say the unsayable, to express something I did not experience. However, speculation about the leap from not yet to no longer, resulting in the transformation of my experiential space and in event generation, is indispensable for understanding the properly aesthetic encounter with irreducible newness.

BLANCHOT AND THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF IMMEDIACY The question of literature, of writing, is an evasive one: in taking a “pen” I assert my “power,” my will and determination to express something important, an “eternal truth”; yet, I feel insecure and somehow lost in the elusive text that emerges beneath my hands, realizing right away that my task and my effort are prone to limitations and bound for insignificance. The more I strive to be relevant, the more I sense a distant laughter neutralizing my relevance and neutralizing the opposites (truth-untruth, relevance-irrelevance) by an ethereal veil of indifference. This indifference is not pure indifference as opposed to difference: it is indifference in a state of flux which shows itself to be a core of difference and relevance. And this feeling is indispensable and priceless. The question of the exigency of writing is crucial within Blanchot’s oeuvre: why does one write and how is this related to creativity? What is the space



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of literature? Blanchot writes, “. . . the work is a work only when it becomes the intimacy shared by someone who writes it and someone who reads it, a space violently opened up by the contest between the power to speak and the power to hear.”110 The work (as opposed to the book, the product) is a relation in which the two parties communicate in proximity apart from objectivity. Whereas everyday language uses words as instruments to convey information and to designate the universality of concepts, “essential” or poetic words are ends in themselves, indifferent to utilitarian purposes. Because they are not constrained by either fixed meanings or concern for the objectivity of knowledge, they carry wider significance, unconstrained and unlimited in what they say to me or to you. Because a poetic word cannot be subordinated to a fixed meaning, it does not exist in a purely objective way and it remains irreducibly other. It can surprise us every time anew, subsisting in the interval between possibility and impossibility. The nature of the poetic word coincides with the work of art in general: a work of art defies the incarceration of fixed and universal meaning, projecting a sense of indifference regarding instrumentality, yet this indifference carries in itself the core of relevance. Blanchot emphasizes the irreducible difference between concepts of beginning and origin. Regarding the origin, he writes, “The central point of the work is the work as origin, the point which cannot be reached, yet the only one which is worth reaching.”111 As origin, the work is beyond, surpassing the artist’s intentions and the receiver’s comprehension. As argued in the present study, a receiver attains closest proximity to an artwork in a properly aesthetic encounter when one is blinded or overwhelmed by the overabundance of presence that reveals itself, resulting in a pause that annihilates one’s sensibility. This pause is the origin preceding the beginning. The beginning only starts upon recuperation, when the senses start functioning again, the images emerge from the receiver’s blindness, and objectivity and appropriation by one’s understanding step in. The origin is never reachable—it can only leave a trace (to employ a much-used word by Levinas and later Derrida). The trace in a properly aesthetic encounter, as something that points toward the encounter’s unreachable origin, is the feeling of irreducible surprise in which one is—at the same time—absolutely insignificant and absolutely important: insignificant as a witness to something that irreducibly exceeds my limited existence, and important as being worthy of experiencing irreducible otherness. Hence, a work of art (or any trigger of properly aesthetic experience, as is found in the environment) sets off the unreachable origin that shatters the established order of things in one’s world. The irreducible surprise as the trace of the origin of the aesthetic encounter marks the starting point of the beginning of aesthetic/cultural or aesthetic/ ethical experience, and the appreciation of art, or environment, or society, can commence.

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Blanchot links the necessity of writing to the necessity of dying and writes, “Artist is linked to the work of art in the same way in which the man who takes death for a goal is linked to death.”112 Death can be viewed either as a possibility, or as something ungraspable. In suicide, one mistakes one death for another: one views death as its own possibility, which it is not because death is the impossibility of a possibility. Similarly, the artist takes a book for the work, which it is not because a book is the impossibility of a work. Dying includes a “radical reversal”: death as “my power” when I am still alive, becomes my impossibility in an instant, “the unreality of the indefinite.”113 There is a difference between suicide and work: “Suicide is oriented toward this reversal as toward its end. The work seeks this reversal as its origin.”114 The artist driven by the exigency of writing produces a book as his or her possibility; the book announces the expulsion of the author from the interiority of the work, attaining separate subsistence in the literary space; the author becomes just the first receiver of the work, indistinguishable from other receivers. This is the origin of a work, this reversal from the constrained artist’s space to the indefinite literary space. And why is one drawn to writing? Blanchot writes, “Writing begins with Orpheus’s gaze.”115 Orpheus couldn’t do otherwise than turn back, despite the tragic consequence of losing Eurydice; the desire was too strong and no constraint or law could annul it. This is the inspiration for Blanchot, “the impatience and imprudence of inspiration which forgets the law.”116 The artist cannot do otherwise than surrender to desire, impatiently, without calculating possible consequences. The reader of a literary work has to surrender to the work as well: one should not look for reinforcing pillars to carry the totality of one’s experiences, but should be open to the work’s communicating itself. This openness is a kind of acceptivity (i.e. the inclination to accept) that translates to fascination—the experience of a new beginning with the trace of a properly aesthetic encounter, the origin, which is the work itself. The fascination with a work of art acknowledges the infinite otherness of the work. Blanchot writes, “. . . in a poem a possibility subsists for which neither culture nor historical effectiveness nor even the pleasure of beautiful language can account.”117 Art surpasses boundaries set by culture and taste; it carries the unexpected, the excess over any possible expectation; and only as such can it be an origin. The origin has neither beginning, nor end: it is a rupture in time, a present with no past and no future; it is “time’s absence,”118 that cannot be appropriated by any dialectic. The contradictions are neither excluded nor reconciled: it is pure absence and indifference that invites fascination. For Blanchot, to be “able to pronounce the word beginning,” the work “must escape with a leap the implacable insistence of something having neither beginning nor end.”119 In fact, continues Blanchot, “the work is this leap and . . . it immobilizes itself mysteriously between the truth which does not



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belong to it and the prolixity of the unrevealable which would prevent it from belonging to itself.”120 This dual character of the leap (as an instantaneous action indicating immediacy, and as an ungraspable passivity arrested in the interval separating immediacy from its absence in representation) characterizes work as origin. When the work escapes with a leap to pronounce the word beginning, the I of the receiver (including the artist as well) starts the recuperation from the instant of pause, from a passivity more passive than any other passivity (to invoke Levinas, and why not, since the leap indicates the irreducible exteriority?). The great refusal is the refusal of death, “the temptation of the eternal.”121 Philosophy idealizes death and transforms dissolution into new beginning. Speech is the disappearance of what “is” in order to be named, the death of particularity necessary for the life of concepts. The challenge is “to recapture this prior presence that I must exclude in order to speak, in order to speak it.”122 The presence that must be excluded in order to speak is the immediate presence. Blanchot writes, “the immediate, infinitely exceeding any present possibility by its very presence, is the infinite presence of what remains radically absent, a presence in its presence always infinitely other, presence of the other in its alterity: non-presence.”123 The relation with the immediate is “impossibility” because “there cannot be an immediate grasp of the immediate.”124 It seems that Blanchot’s perception of the immediate comes very close to the immediate as discussed in the present work. The irreducible exceeding of expectation leading to a rupture in one’s sensibility and resulting in a pause is the immediate, unreachable otherness. One receives the immediate “in the dark,” or blinded by the excess of presence—so that there is no “immediate grasp of the immediate.” Only when one starts recuperating and first reacts with irreducible surprise, one can start processing the encounter with the immediate—which is by that time already gone and accessible only in a trace, a trace “embodied” in the surprise of the encounter. The suddenness of surprise is “seemingly” immediate, but in effect it is already the response to exteriority; the encounter with exteriority (i.e. the immediate) is antecedent to it. Blanchot characterizes impossibility as “the form of the relation with the immediate”: the time of impossibility is the “incessant,” the instant that never passes, without past or future. The immediate is “the ungraspable that one cannot let go of.” Impossibility, concludes Blanchot, “is the passion of the Outside itself.”125 Now, “impossibility” is different from “nonpossibility,” similar to the “unexpected” differing from the “non-expected.” The prefix non- designates the opposing pair to whatever comes after the hyphen; the non-possibility is the impossibility that is closest to possibility. Blanchot is fascinated by the impossibility, by pure neutrality, antecedent to opposing pairs.

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The inability to grasp the immediate, and yet the incessant drive to do so, is desire. My characterization of desire as the expectation of the irreducible exceeding of expectation seems compatible with Blanchot’s view of “the desire of a self not only separated but happy with the separation that makes it a self, and yet still in relation with that from which it remains separated and of which it has no need: the unknown, the foreign, autrui.”126 The expectation (of encountering the unexpected) is a looking forward to the other as other and is a testimony to happiness with separation. Blanchot writes, “Desire is separation itself become that which attracts: an interval become sensible, an absence that turns back into presence.”127 Desire is the perpetual expectation to encounter the unexpected, to subsequently experience the irreducible surprise resulting in awe and a sense of satisfaction. In the heart of this satisfaction is peculiar dissatisfaction—the reverberation of desire that is not pacified and not tamed. In discussing the limit experience, Blanchot evokes the work of Bataille and his inner experience. In homage to Bataille, he writes, “Bataille’s entire work expresses friendship, friendship for the impossible that is man.”128 The exigency of dealing with the immediate, the futile effort to transgress the boundary of possible experience and to experience the limit, manifests itself as “an essential lack” that characterizes man, “the impossible that is man.” The limit experience is “the experience of non-experience.”129 Regarding art and culture, Blanchot writes, “There is an a-cultural part of literature and of art to which one does not accommodate oneself easily, or happily. . . . art has always surpassed every acquired cultural form, to the point that art might best be qualified as postcultural.”130 I believe this a-cultural part of art is a consequence of the immediacy inherent in the work of art; culture mandates norms that disallow immediacy in its unrestricted otherness, hence it cannot encompass an artwork. Yet, art is not pre-cultural in the sense of savage naturalness; it is post-cultural due to its own spilling beyond cultural norms; the norms are insufficient to contain the work of art. Culture signifies established traits and consensus, belonging to a milieu. Literature, or a work of art in general, contains the non-presentable presence, the impossibility of standardization and the force of creativity. Culture wants to appropriate works of art, but they—nonetheless—spill over. Blanchot defines the neuter designating “difference in indifference.”131 It is “the gentle prohibition against dying, there where, from threshold to threshold, eye without gaze, silence carries us into the proximity of the distant.”132 This prohibition against dying is the arrested movement of dying and the impossibility of closure. It is beyond ontology, beyond objectivity of presence, and beyond any presence-absence pair. The neuter, the space of literature, or more generally, the space of art, is beyond complete comprehension, consciousness, and understanding. As such, it cannot be reached, but we



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know that it is because it leaves a trace. It is the impossibility characterizing one’s life, absence revealing itself without actually disclosing itself, the origin of a beginning. It is a container of residuals when filling in the concepts, the space for singularities that cannot fit into concepts. Considering writing, or any creative artistic effort, the work in an instance—suddenly—announces its transgression of the artist’s efforts and limitations. Writing then becomes an origin, a work announced in a book or in an art product through its absence. The absence allows receivers to be absorbed into the neutral space where art speaks and their consciousness and understanding do not help in attributing meaning. Only upon recuperation, upon the irreducible surprise that follows from encountering the origin of an artwork, can the receiver begin processing the encounter. The phenomenology of aesthetic experience (which is not properly aesthetic any longer) can start. FOUCAULT’S RESPONSE TO BATAILLE AND BLANCHOT Opposed to Plato and Hegel, harboring a love/hate relation toward Kant, and espousing admiration for Hölderlin, Nietzsche, Blanchot, Bataille, and Deleuze, Foucault inclined toward understanding transgression, excess, otherness, and the relation between ethics and aesthetics. In his essay titled “A Preface to Transgression” (1963), Foucault pays homage to Bataille and his consideration of excess, eroticism, and the never-ending desire for transgression. He notes that sexuality does not point to anything beyond itself. He writes that “sexuality is a fissure—not one which surrounds us as the basis of our isolation or individuality, but one which marks the limit within us and designates us as a limit.”133 Sexuality is related to the death of God because, without God, there is no exteriority of being and one’s experience is interior and sovereign (as Bataille argued). With God, the transcendental being, the consideration of transgression is meaningless because, as opposed to God, I am finite and my limit is externally (transcendentally) posed. Without God I have to search for limitlessness inside, without safe haven to guard and “protect” me against transgression. Sexuality and eroticism are not the same, “And if it were necessary to give, in opposition to sexuality, a precise definition of eroticism, it would have to be the following: an experience of sexuality which links, for its own ends, an overcoming of limits to the death of God.”134 In eroticism the transcendental being ceases to be, the transgression swallows the transcendence: I experience the internal transcendence. This is the value of transgression, but is it liberating? Foucault writes, “Transgression is an action which involves the limit, that narrow zone of a line where it displays the flash of its passage, but perhaps also its entire trajectory, even its origin; it is likely that transgression has its entire space in the line it

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crosses.”135 This is Bataille’s view also, the fleeting nature of transgression, “this moment which hardly lasted . . . . so that, without transition, I had gone from a jealous embrace to utter dispossession.”136 Transgression or excess as considered in this work results in the break of one’s representational capabilities and is a moment without duration, an overwhelming intensity that paralyses one’s capabilities. Whether the excess comes from outside (the irreducible otherness of Levinas), or whether it comes from inside (according to Bataille, Foucault, Deleuze) is basically irrelevant. In any case, transgression or irreducible excess creates a break, a pause, a neutrality—following which everybody can go his or her own way: Levinas can acknowledge the ethicality of the encounter; Bataille can despair over the impossibility of being arrested in transgression; Foucault can continue to elaborate on the issues of power and knowledge, genealogy and archeology; and Deleuze can find space for improvisation. The bridge (actually, the set of bridges) connecting seemingly disparate views is best articulated by Blanchot: this is why he can be equally supportive of Levinas and of Bataille, and why he is not (to my knowledge) questioned by any of these thinkers. It is impossible to oppose Blanchot because he speaks of the neutral space, of dissolution of all incompatibilities, inconsistencies, contradictions. It seems that the closest thinker to Blanchot is Deleuze, allowing analogies to be made between some of their key terms. Deleuze’s vocabulary is more philosophical, while Blanchot’s is more poetical, but if “perhaps one day this century will be known as Deleuzean,”137 it might also have a partner in Blanchot. Foucault invokes Blanchot’s principle of “contestation,” as “a radical break of transitivity” in which nothing is affirmed as a fact; contestation has no objective presentation—it has only a form free from any specific content. Therefore, transitivity has to be broken since there is no objective index to direct the transition. Foucault views transgression similarly and, in his wish to free it from negative connotation, he writes, “Transgression contains nothing negative, but affirms limited being—affirms the limitlessness into which it leaps as it opens this zone to existence for the first time. But, correspondingly, this affirmation contains nothing positive: no content can bind it, since, by definition, no limit can possibly restrict it.”138 This statement on transgression can be interpreted as follows: in the presence of God transgression is related to the negative since man is a limited creature, unlike the God. In the absence of God transgression points to one’s capability to go over limits, hence affirming one’s limitlessness, without any objectivity attached to limitlessness—it just indicates that one is capable of transgression. The important wording here is “for the first time”—hence, transgression is related to irreducible newness: one could not have been there already because, if she had been, her act could not have been a transgression. There is no content and no objectivity in the moment of transgression,



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implying that one’s representational apparatus (mental, perceptual, and emotional) is put on hold. When does an encounter signal transgression or surpassing of the limit? When one is not prepared for it, when the past is insufficient to provide proper expectations or even anticipations (as projections of past into the future). This insufficiency is not a function of experience as the space of past encounters. One is not prepared for it, because one’s perceptual and mental capabilities are limited but allow for transgression—which makes them limitless in their capacity to acknowledge newness. The encounter contests one’s experiential “space” and finds one unprepared. If this encounter is the negation of one’s experience, it is not the negation of a specific fact, hence it is not a negativity to be employed in a dialectical system of negation–affirmation; it does not affirm anything specific, it only affirms openness as such, hence limitlessness. Questioning the form of thought in which transgression is expressed, a form which, claims Foucault, we carelessly call “the philosophy of eroticism,” and asking if there is a proper language for it, analogous to dialectical language in which contradiction is expressed, Foucault writes, “What natural space can this form of thought possess and what language can it adopt?”139 Finding a language for transgression seems like a contradiction—as soon as I express my transgression in language, it is not transgression any more. And this creates uneasiness, or even embarrassment. Hence, maybe irony and parody are the best forms by which to frame thoughts of transgression—which Bataille understood when he claimed that laughter allows “intense communication” surpassing subjectivity because absurdity (springing from anguish) does not allow for the separation of individuals. As already stated, the works of Marcel Duchamp illustrate the connections between transgression, eroticism, and parody communicated by the language of art. Dialectic builds upon contradiction in its thesis-antithesis-synthesis development. Transgression and excess, as Bataille well sensed, cease to be when achieved. It is pure immediacy which leads to the impossibility of its representation, since each representation is mediation. Foucault puts it well, referring to Bataille’s texts as “a dwelling place for what may already be a ruined project.”140 Of course representing excess or transgression is a ruined project. Try to come at it from various angles, but the first premise is that it is a break indicated by a pause and the only “language” to describe it is non-language—absolute silence. This observation leads to the notion of the limit and impossibility of language. It indicates the breakup of subjectivity, and so Foucault writes, “The breakdown of philosophical subjectivity and its dispersion in a language that dispossesses it while multiplying it within the space created by its absence is probably one of the fundamental structures of contemporary thought.”141

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I am aware of the double standard in the present work since many of its sentences are written in the first person and “I” is a common word. This choice just underlines my inability to escape from subjectivity before and after the break. The nameless, subject-less pause is devoid of the “I”—it is anonymity, disinterested, and indifferent. Foucault invokes “the possibility of a mad philosopher”142 who has the option (as an interior experience) to transgress his philosophical being. It seems that Foucault places transgression of being at the inner core of one’s possibilities—but why would his example subject need to be a philosopher? Is transgression of one’s being possible for any individual? Not everybody can produce “the non-dialectical language of the limit,” but everybody has limitations and the possibility of being caught unprepared, and thus of experiencing a breakup of objectivity and representation. For someone entrenched in “what you see is what you get,” such a break might be too insignificant, the surprise afterward will not follow—and everything will seem to be in order and going according to plan. What is needed is the desire for transgression and, although this seem to be an inclination, maybe it can be acquired to some degree through art and education, by opening one’s horizons to the seemingly insignificant intensities and movements in one’s perception. It can be argued that excess comes from inside, as excess over one’s capabilities; excess “brings to light this relationship of finitude to being.”143 Outside presents just an occasion, and one may pass by without noticing, as one can read a poem with the sensibility required for reading a cooking recipe, and can look at a painting only as the adornment of a wall. In the final analysis—one is responsible for transgression, and since transgression is nothing else than the encounter with the Other, we are pointed again to Levinas and his discussion of the Other. The encounter with the Other might belong to the domain of ethics, but it still does not belong to the domain of morality; this encounter is the aesthetic trigger of ethics. It is in the porous interval intertwining the inside with the outside, the neutral interval between the opposites, containing origins. The thinker most fascinated by this neutrality of the breaking point and the immediacy of origin is Blanchot. He and Foucault engaged in a dialogue and each wrote about the other. In the essay entitled Maurice Blanchot: The Thought from Outside (1966) Foucault interprets Blanchot’s philosophical views and restates that “the being of language” opens up with the annihilation of the subject because when language is employed in a discourse about contradiction, consciousness and subject-object relation, it is subsumed within its utilitarian function of guiding representation. Only when such discourse is abandoned is language freed from the utility requisite to the representational communication related to objective reality, and can it attain its character in direct communication; it can allow communicability as such, not merely the communication of something.



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An author creates a work, and a spectator/reader encounters it, provoking a break within his or her representational capabilities—incomprehensible, sudden, and unprepared-for. Yet, one has to have a certain disposition allowing this break to happen, allowing the fortress of knowledge, consciousness, and subjectivity to have some “weak” points, or hidden tunnels for possible escape or possible outside infiltration (whichever direction one considers). Is this not also the capability for surprise? In discussing Hölderlin and in agreement with Blanchot regarding the limit experience of joining madness and artistic work, Foucault writes, “. . . the continuity of meaning between a work and madness can only be realized if it is based on the enigma of similarity, an enigma which gives rise to the absolute nature of the breaking point. The dissolution of a work in madness, this void to which poetic speech is drawn as to its self-destruction, is what authorizes the text of a language common to both.”144 A number of authors write on the limit, trying to say the unsayable (e.g. Sade, Bataille), to write about transgression. However, Blanchot is different: his writing possesses the attractive proximity-distance feeling, illustrating what is being written about. His writing is about writing itself, “language about the outside of all language, speech about the invisible side of words.”145 Foucault writes, “Attraction is for Blanchot what desire is for Sade, force for Nietzsche, the materiality of thought for Artaud, and transgression for Bataille: the pure, most naked, experience of the outside.”146 To experience attraction is “to experience in emptiness and destitution the presence of the outside;” so it is also characterizable as the desire for otherness. Foucault senses the radical break and passivity in Blanchot’s thought, the discontinuity in the world of representations and resemblances, but he also senses continuity on a different level (reminiscent of Bataille). He does not mention Levinas, but Levinas is crucial for trying to understand Blanchot’s thought. As already argued, Blanchot’s thought thrives in the impossibility of neutral space between Levinasian desire and Bataille’s transgression and excess—and this is why Blanchot is so relevant to the present work. Blanchot returns a nod by writing about Foucault, in the essay titled Michel Foucault as I Imagine Him (1986). He emphasizes the “imperative of discontinuity” in Foucault’s thought and writes, “Thus, Foucault proposed event, series, regularity, and condition of possibility as the notions he would use to oppose, term by term, those principles he thought had dominated the traditional history of ideas; event was opposed to creation, series to unit, regularity to originality, and condition of possibility to meaning, that buried treasure of concealed meanings.”147 But, he continues, it seems that Foucault’s “adversaries” are “somewhat outdated” because it is not, as they argue, the case that the subject disappears; rather, Foucault’s argument is a consideration of disappearance as such, and of the being of disappearance, which brings into

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view “a plurality of positions and a discontinuity of functions (and here we reencounter the system of discontinuities, which, rightly or wrongly, seemed at one time to be a characteristic of serial music).”148 Blanchot implies that Foucault does not dismiss the notions of subjectivity and truth, but provides ways to augment the discourse, to raise the consideration of discontinuity to the level granted to considerations of continuity. Similarly, Schoenberg’s serial music wanted to put dissonance in organization, to counterpose harmony to rule-based dissonance in order to bring out the value of dissonance. As Schoenberg would argue, good music is not about method, it is about substance. The augmentation of musical definition increases the possibility for musical substance to come through. AESTHETIC ABSENCE AS AN EXCESS OF PRESENCE: RICOEUR AND THE USE OF METAPHOR Metaphor presents a use of language beyond its representational aspect of conveying information, often used in a poetic way since, as Nietzsche states, “For a genuine poet, metaphor is not a rhetorical figure but a vicarious image that he actually beholds in place of a concept.”149 Heidegger states that speculative metaphors present revealing-concealing interplay. Metaphors precede understanding in that the unity of something to be conveyed is grasped in intellectual intuition (to use Fichte and Schelling’s term), before its realization in intentional consciousness. The use of metaphor attests to the openness of language and its possibility to disclose something, to express; it augments meaning with expression, it says the unsayable, albeit in an indirect way. With metaphor, a new meaning is expressed by using something already known. Metaphor is a shortcut, a leap that bypasses analysis and reflection. In talking about his inspiration in Ecce Homo Nietzsche writes, “The involuntary nature of image, of metaphor is the most remarkable thing of all: one no longer has any idea what is image, what metaphor, everything presents itself as the readiest, the truest, the simplest mean of expression. It really does seem, to allude to a saying of Zarathustra’s, as if the things themselves approached and offered themselves as metaphors.”150 Nietzsche stresses the involuntary nature of the encounter, its sudden and unexpected character, and the dissolution of the difference between complexity and simplicity, generating a feeling of the absolute. Metaphors invoke directness of communication, when the subject-object dichotomy is annulled and “the things” approach me with the same intensity that I approach them; communication precedes conceptuality. In The Rule of Metaphor Ricoeur proposes the idea that talking about evil and finitude requires indirect and symbolic language. A purposive action can



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be described in ordinary language; however, description of evil requires indirect words, such as “estrangement” and “bondage.” This distinction resonates with that observed in descriptions of presence versus descriptions of absence. Presence can be described directly, since presence has objective attributes: the instrumental use of language can depict it. Absence, on the other hand, has to be described indirectly, as seems to be the case when describing any lack in general. In such cases, metaphorical and symbolic language, using the polysemic structure of ordinary language, describes the meaning indirectly, but reveals it in a direct way. Ordinary language is not an ideal language (as is the language of mathematics) that is independent of context—in ordinary language words have polysemic structure, and in different contexts provide different meanings. Ricoeur quotes Aristotle’s saying that a good use of a metaphor “implies an intuitive perception of the similarity in dissimilars.”151 This statement implies a kind of a shortcut in understanding and interpretation: something is grasped in its totality, skipping some descriptive “steps” as would be done when using the instrumental function of ordinary language. Such “intuitive perception” goes beyond the objectivity of presentation and incorporates absence as presence. Use of metaphors in art is analogous to the use of models in science—they provide a setting for disclosure. The special significance of the metaphor is discovered in the use of the verb “to be,” because the “is” stated in a metaphor stands at the same time for “is not.” A metaphor creates a link between two seemingly disparate states: the objective representation, and the absence as revealed presence. There is a discontinuity, a break “wired” into the use of metaphor: what is objectively present is there (by objectivity), but is also annihilated by a metaphorical statement that describes something which “is not” there objectively. In a sense, there is a double use of the pair “is/is not,” or “presence/absence” because it applies to both the objectivity of representation and to the virtual setting of the metaphorical description. Due to its dual nature and to its “split reference,” a metaphor is useful in poetry, or in art in general. Because of its indirect relation to the work, yet more direct than a descriptive statement could be, a metaphor allows for a proximity in approaching an artwork that could not be attained by descriptive statements. The use of metaphor relates to the present study because a metaphor opens a space for a great possibility—the possibility for irreducible surprise. A metaphor (either a verse or image in a poem, or metaphorical imagery in painting, or a scene in a play) starts with an ordinary (or literal) meaning, and so initially leads the spectator away from the intended meaning. Then, suddenly, when the “intuitive perception” hits, the distance (so to speak) from the metaphor and the intended meaning is bigger than it would be if the representation were described objectively, leading a spectator “by the hand.” The metaphor is a creative deception intended to magnify the surprise at the moment of

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realization when the work is revealed. The use of metaphor incorporates the break inherent in any beginning, a discrete start of something new. The new meaning attained by seemingly ordinary language surprises the spectator. A metaphor prolongs the path from sense to reference, so when there is a sudden leap, the sense of surprise following the leap (or break) is magnified. The concepts of reference and denotation are not synonymous, and they differ when one identifies a meaning of something, when one proceeds from a thing to a symbol, as is the case when one uses metaphors. Metaphor refers but does not denote—it expresses. Ricoeur writes that “representing is the case of denoting, and expressing is a variant by transference of possessing, which is a case of exemplifying.”152 Metaphor represents by expressing something indirectly, but this indirect route leads to a direct access of meaning—which is a paradox. This indirect expression creates the conditions for achieving proximity without hindrance from descriptive language. Proximity is achieved by erasing bounds between interior and exterior, feeling and cognition, sense and reference, and spectator and artwork. A metaphor facilitates the leap into the work (to use Blanchot’s expression), surpassing the “middleman” (i.e. descriptive language tied to the objectivity of representation). In the indirect representation by a metaphor, the language is turned on itself: it annihilates its descriptive function, testifying to its richness and polysemy. Poetic experience, argues Ricoeur, “expresses the ecstatic moment of language—language going beyond itself.”153 With a metaphor, ordinary words with established meaning are used to convey new meaning, to create a new experience. The new meaning is not “spelled out,” leaving the possibility for augmentation by active and creative participation of a reader or a spectator. The metaphorical utterance is open, yet very centered, so again, it displays a paradoxical character fit for artistic work. The metaphorical process contains a break, a leap from one interpretation to a revelation of another, the discovery of similarity in the dissimilar. It provokes the interplay of perception and thinking, of imagination and understanding. Ricoeur compares poetic and speculative discourses and the role of metaphor, and asserts (in agreement with Heidegger) that there is a difference—a poet’s metaphors differ from a philosopher’s metaphors. Poetry (or art in general) provides a “sketch” of truth by indicating tensions “between subject and predicate, between literal interpretation and metaphorical interpretation, between identity and difference.”154 Such tensions are felt first (hence the primacy of aesthetic encounter), triggering thinking that follows the surprise of the encounter. To philosophically speculate “is to seek after the place where appearing means ‘generating what grows.’”155 The appearance is not restricted to an objective entity, but is viewed as appearance in general, as a whole. Hence, speculative thought comes after the poetic encounter, to deal with its signification for the experience.



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Ricoeur affords primacy to the poetic encounter, with its dialectic of contraction and repulsion creating proximity through the abandonment of objective appearances, which paradoxically creates distance from representations at the same time when the utmost proximity is attained (since the dichotomy between subject-object is erased). Philosophy, that is, speculative thinking, then follows and tries to come to grips with the experience triggered by the aesthetic encounter. It seems that Ricoeur’s discourse on metaphor complies with the work of Levinas and Blanchot in its elucidation of the proximity of the encounter with (non-objective) otherness and the neutrality of the encounter since only in such neutrality can one simultaneously achieve belonging and distancing. The utmost proximity (which for Levinas is ethics) outside objective appearances, and the neutrality of subject-object dichotomy (which is distancing), precedes the speculative reflection that needs distancing to be meaningful and valuable. The task in this work is to argue for the primacy of the aesthetic encounter between the disparate and separated entities (a subject or a spectator versus the environment or a work of art) leaping to proximity erasing their objective boundaries. Metaphorical expression, employed in art as an indirect shortcut to surpass the laborious descriptive path which spoils the surprise, allows language (in words as in images) to express the “unsayable” in a direct way, creating fertile ground for a break in one’s representational capabilities since there is a break “wired” into the use of a metaphor. If I have to leap from one reference to another, seemingly disparate, the leap is more pronounced than if I just continue along a descriptive path. Ricoeur’s work on the role of metaphor clarifies this “augmented” leap indispensable to the language of art. The movie Il Postino (Michael Radford, 1994) nicely illustrates the role of metaphor in poetic discourse. As Neruda in exile instructs a young postman—a poet in the making—metaphors are used to express more forcefully what a prosaic description cannot. The movie’s plot and its scenery converge toward a general metaphor of poetic creativity, that is, the movie as such can be taken as a metaphor for poetic struggle in order to express the depths of humanity, the sacrifice and the staying power of human sensibility, the struggles characterizing human existence. In Oneself as Another, Ricoeur writes about Levinas’s work on otherness and reiterates that the Levinasian movement of the other toward me includes a break of phenomenology and ontology. Levinas’ radical exteriority breaks with representation and phenomenology in the epiphany of the face, in the movement of the other approaching me. Levinas argues for the primacy of the movement of the other toward me to conclude the primacy of ethics as first philosophy. I have argued that the break in the encounter with radical exteriority is aesthetic in the first place because it has to start with my response—I have to overcome the breakup of my representational

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capabilities. Only by following the aesthetic impulse, can the ethical dimension start. Ricoeur seems to hold a similar view. He writes, “Now the theme of exteriority does not reach the end of its trajectory, namely awakening a responsible response to the other’s call, except by presupposing a capacity of reception, of discrimination, and of recognition that, in my opinion, belongs to another philosophy of the Same than that to which the philosophy of the Other replies.”156 This work argues for acknowledging “a capacity of reception,” intrigued by the moment of break when encountering radical exteriority. One can answer the call of the Other only if one’s interiority is porous and allows radical intrusion, from which one needs to recuperate by receiving and giving significance to the encounter. The recuperation prior to significance is the reason why the aesthetic impulse precedes the ethical, starting the dialectic of inside and outside, admiration and responsibility. I propose to identify the Absolute with the beginning of irreducible surprise. Such an identification is much more mundane than is the invocation of infinity, God, and transcendental freedom, but the fact is that we all get surprised. The wish is to probe deeper into the mystery of surprise. In surprise, immediacy as non-knowledge persists, and it is incorporated into reflection as something outside it, escaping complete encapsulation. PHASES OF THE PROPERLY AESTHETIC EXPERIENCE: DESIRE, EXCESS, PAUSE, AND RECUPERATION When considering properly aesthetic experience, the issue at stake is the encounter with immediate presence, with irreducible otherness from which one has to recover. The schematic representation of the encounter with irreducible otherness as the properly aesthetic encounter proposed in this work has a prerequisite (desire), and three subsequent phases (excess, pause or rupture, and recovery or surprise). In Proximity: Levinas, Blanchot, Bataille and Communication Joseph Libertson juxtaposes the views of the three philosophers as related to proximity, and to communication and alterity that escapes comprehension, and writes: “The essential link between Bataille and Blanchot, with their apparent annihilation of a traditionally defined interiority, and Levinas, in his insistence on the irreplaceable unicity of the cogito and of the moi in recurrence, is the fact that the general economy produces interiority, even though its modality may be that of the impossible exigency.”157 General economy is characterized by inspiration and incompletion, and “the only rapport with alterity in proximity is the passivity of inspired desire.”158 While Libertson provides a comprehensive analysis of the views proposed by Levinas, Battaile and Blanchot on interiority and otherness,



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elucidating their differences and similarities, and relating their views to Hegel’s and Deleuze’s views, I wish to interpret Levinas, Bataille, and Blanchot in relation to the proposed “phases” of the properly aesthetic experience. 1. Desire as the prerequisite: One has to be somehow acceptive, a fertile ground for an encounter with immediacy. In the present work the prerequisite for aesthetic acceptivity is desire characterized as the expectation of excess that surpasses expectation. This desire is the metaphysical desire to encounter irreducible otherness. Levinas characterizes this desire with the “responsibility for the other,” which is “signification which is non-indifference,”159 or “difference which is non-indifference.”160 Bataille’s desire is the propensity for transgression, for excess, for going contrary to ordered and rational existence. It is a desire for “irresponsibility,” if responsibility is conceived in a vulgar way, as a compliance with the restricted economies of normative and ordered existence. However, if responsibility is viewed on a different level as toward “the impossible that is man,” Bataille’s desire is driven by the responsibility for self. Blanchot’s desire is the exigency of writing, the allure of the neutral space of literature designating “difference in indifference”: neither the desire for the other, nor for myself, but the desire for annihilation of the difference between the other and myself in neutrality without beginning and without end. The characterization of desire as the (formal) expectation of excess surpassing every expectation incorporates both responsibility and nonresponsibility, and Levinas’s ethical language seems insufficient for capturing the properly aesthetic side of it. Desire as the expectation of exceeding the expectation, as a looking forward to the unexpected, that is, as expecting the unexpected, points to one’s non-indifference toward the closure of a system, a longing for otherness. This is why identifying signification of this non-indifference with responsibility seems too restricted: I do not look that far into the consequence of the encounter—I just desire the rupture, to “wake up” with the feeling of irreducible surprise. One can soften the notion of “signification which is non-indifference” and replace the strictly ethical term “responsibility” with “responsivity,” or even “receptivity.” However, the prefix re- usually implies going back, as in something approaches me and I re-’act’ in one way or another. But, in my desire (which is an expectation) I look forward, not backward. I would like to capture the encounter with newness that remains new, despite my looking forward to it. This desire makes me acceptive as being inclined to accept the encounter with irreducible otherness. Without desire, my sensibility is passively receptive; desire creates my inclination toward openness; it creates a certain level of activity. Hence, the term acceptive is a more fitting term than receptive. Putting aside ethical connotations, the term responsibility, response-ability, indicates my capacity

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for response: this response can only come after an encounter with otherness; it cannot characterize my desire (I further argue that the ability for response upon an encounter with irreducible otherness is surprise). Desire considered in this work is characterized by accept-ability that indicates its forward orientation. Levinas’s theory is coherent; his subject answers the call of the Other, hence responsibility as response-ability is justified. My subject does not answer the call of the Other: the subject is overwhelmed by the presence of that Other and cannot answer anything; the answer or response comes only subsequently. The argument in the present work is that the non-indifference embodied in desire for the unexpected, for the immediate, is acceptivity. The consequence of this acceptivity is the possibility of the breakup of stale existence, and the initial response is—simply—surprise. The characterization of desire as the expectation of the unexpected evokes Heraclitus’s Fragment 18: “He who does not expect will not find out the unexpected, for it is trackless and unexplored” (Clement, Stromateis II, 17,4).161 In fact, there are a few different translations of this fragment, for example, “If you do not expect the unexpected, you will not find it; for it is hard to be sought out and difficult,” or, “If you do not expect the unexpected you will not find it, for it is not to be reached by search or trail.” Wheelwright translates it as “Unless you expect the unexpected you will never find [truth], for it is hard to discover and hard to attain.”162 It seems that Fragment 18 states that the unexpected can only be encountered if one is attentive or inclined to it, not if one sets it as the goal of a search. The unexpected can only come as a bonus to openness. If I make it my task to pursue the unexpected, a specific goal to achieve—such an effort undermines itself. The incessant quest for surprise annihilates surprise; it is a futile effort. The conscious effort to transgress is destined for anguish in the end (as Bataille has most eloquently written). Excess attains its full (aesthetic) impact when it is not actively pursued, but one is just attentive enough to allow it to happen. 2. Excess. The encounter starting with irreducible excess over expectation overflows one’s capacity for representation. This is the moment that Bataille longs to experience—the limit of the possible, the approach of the blind spot. Bataille’s work is a testimony to the human desire to see in the dark, to know the unknown. For Levinas it is the startup of “the epiphany of the Other in the face,” the announcement of exteriority in a non-symmetrical relation with the same. For Blanchot it is the transgression at the origin of a work, in which language leaves behind its representational function and turns on itself. In this work, excess is viewed as the startup of a relationship with exteriority, a relationship desired yet unexpected, for which one is equally prepared and non-prepared, in which one’s activity is instantly frozen into passivity.



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Excess is the sudden breaking point in which objectivity is irrelevant; the significance of the excess is the announcement of exteriority, independent of the “text of the announcement.” Say that I expect to hear some news. The instant the news-bearing voice cuts through silence, prior to hearing the news itself, in the breakup of silence I already encounter the signification of excess. 3. The pause (the rupture, the break). This is the instantaneous interval defying the continuity of time. I can talk about it, but it remains an enigma; it is—and it will always be—the impossibility of my representation. This is the timeless “interval” that attracts Blanchot’s fascination, the impossibility outside contradiction and non-contradiction. The pure neutrality and passivity of existence, without beginning and without end, the origin to beginning, outside beginning. In general, a beginning indicates the startup of something presentable, at least in words. The beginning is the beginning of something. For example, birth is the beginning of one’s life; however its origin is in the anonymous continuity of existence. Characterizing something as a beginning implies that one’s (intentional) consciousness is already at work. But, where does a beginning start, what triggers a beginning? There has to be a point outside beginning, an independent point or space—a pure immediacy without intimacy, without constraints of any sort, yet containing the power to start true beginnings. Such a point is beyond my power to represent it. Absence is a prerequisite for presence, not the Hegelian absence as the opposite of presence that aids in the formation of the concept of presence, but pure absence, a void, preceding the opposition of the absence-presence pair: the common origin of both the objectivity of absence and the objectivity of presence (the “objectivity of absence” denotes Hegelian negativity). 4. Recuperation and surprise. This is a phase when one starts regaining the capacity for representation and can represent, to the best of one’s abilities, the encounter with immediacy, already gone and irretrievable. This recuperation is most relevant for Levinas, due to its capacity to aid one in “identifying oneself, in recovering its identity throughout all that happens to it.”163 Levinas gets at a lot—namely, at subjectivity itself. He talks about “a plane both presupposing and transcending the epiphany of the Other in the face, a plane where the I bears itself beyond death and recovers also from its return to itself. This plane is that of love and fecundity, where subjectivity is posited in function of these movements.”164 A plane indicates continuity between presupposing and transcending, hence the break (transcendence) doesn’t seem to be absolute; there is a thread connecting presupposition and transcendence. For Levinas, that guardian of recuperation is responsibility, “signification which is non-indifference.” Hence, it seems then that the plane of love and

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fecundity subtends the responsibility for the other. But, why love? Why fecundity? What is more originary than that which subtends them? Fecundity implies fertility, which in turn implies new beginnings. A new beginning can only start as a break from continuity, otherwise it would not be characterized as a beginning.

NOTES 1. Steven Shaviro, Passion and Excess (The Florida State University Press, 1990), 179–80. 2. Levinas, Otherwise Than Being, 120. 3. Ibid., 121. 4. Ibid. 5. Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority, trans. Alphonso Lingis (Doquesne University Press, 1998), 50. 6. Ibid., 297. 7. Otherwise Than Being, 88. 8. Levinas writes, “Proximity is a disturbance of the rememberable time. One can call that apocalyptically the break-up of time.” ibid., 89. 9. Totality and Infinity, 87. 10. Ibid., 83. 11. Otherwise Than Being, 91. 12. Totality and Infinity, 33. 13. Ibid., 36. 14. Ibid. 15. Ibid., 38. 16. Ibid., 40. 17. Ibid., 132. 18. Ibid., 137. 19. Ibid., 139. 20. Ibid., 148. 21. Ibid., 149. 22. Ibid., 179. 23. Ibid., 180. 24. Ibid., 200. 25. Ibid., 203. 26. Ibid., 267. 27. Ibid., 281. 28. Ibid., 284. This point will be further discussed in the context of Bataille’s thought. 29. Ibid., 304. 30. Jacques Derrida, Writing and Difference, trans. Alan Bass (The University of Chicago Press, 1978), 143.



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31. Ibid., 147. 32. Levinas, Otherwise Than Being, 30. 33. Ibid., 12. 34. Ibid., 13. 35. Ibid., 35. 36. Ibid., 46. 37. Ibid., 55. 38. Ibid., 62. 39. Ibid., 72. 40. Ibid., 101. 41. Ibid., 114. 42. Ibid., 117. 43. Ibid., 125. 44. Ibid., 131. 45. Ibid., 138. 46. Ibid., 139. 47. Ibid. 48. Ibid., 179. 49. Ibid., 182. 50. Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, the Seminar of J. Lacan, Book Xi, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Alan Sheridan (W.W. Norton & Company, 1998), 85. 51. Slavoj Žižek, The Žižek Reader, ed. Elizabeth Wright and Edmond Wright (Blackwell Publishing, 1999), 20. 52. Maurice Blanchot, “The Experience of Proust,” in The Book to Come (Stanford University Press, 2002), 14. 53. Žižek, The Žižek Reader, 30. 54. Ibid., 31. 55. Ibid., 17. 56. Ibid., 73. 57. Ibid., 74. 58. Georges Bataille, “Visions of Excess,” in Theory and History of Literature (University of Minnesota Press, 1999), 128. 59. Ibid., 227. 60. Literature and Evil, trans. Alastair Hamilton (Marion Boyars Publishers Ltd., 2001), 42. 61. Ibid., 83. 62. Ibid., 84. 63. The Tears of Eros, trans. Peter Connor (City Lights Books, 2002), 23. 64. Erotism: Death and Sensuality, trans. Mary Dalwood (City Lights Books, 1986), 11. 65. Ibid., 25. 66. Ibid., 31. 67. Ibid. 68. Ibid., 41.

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69 Ibid., 239. 70. Ibid., 240. 71. Ibid., 269. 72. Ibid., 268. 73. Inner Experience, trans. Leslie Anne Boldt (State University of New York Press, 1988), 36. 74. Ibid., 39. 75. Ibid. 76. Ibid., 50. 77. Ibid. 78. Ibid., 53. 79. Eroticism, 250. 80. Inner Experience, 60. 81. Ibid. 82. Ibid., 75, 76. 83. Ibid., 77. 84. Ibid. 85. Ibid., 76. 86. Ibid., 75. 87. Ibid., 80. 88. Ibid., 96. 89. Ibid., 112. 90. Ibid. 91. Ibid. 92. Ibid., 126. 93. Ibid. 94. Ibid., 127. 95. Ibid., 128. 96. Ibid., 136. 97. Ibid., 147. 98. Juan Antonio Ramirez, Duchamp: Love and Death, Even, trans. Alexander R. Tulloch (London: Reaktion Books, Ltd, 1998), 13. 99. Mark Decimo, Marcel Duchamp and Eroticism, ed. Mark Decimo (Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scolars Pulishing, 2007), 2. 100. Ibid. 101. La mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même (The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even or The Large Glass) and Etant donnés: 1) La chute d’eau, 2) Le gaz d’éclairage (Given: 1) The Waterfall, 2) The Illuminating Gas or Given) 102. Gavin Parkinson, “The Laughter and Tears of Eros,” in Marcel Duchamp and Eroticism, ed. Marc Decimo (Cambridge Scolars Publishing, 2007), 156. 103. See, for example, Gloria Moure, Marcel Duchamp (New York: Rizzoli Internatioal Publication, Inc., 1988), plates 78–79. 104. Marcel Duchamp, Notes and Projects for the Large Glass, ed. Arturo Schwarz (Harry N. Abrams Inc., 1969).



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105. Richard Hamilton, A Typographic Version of Marcel Duchamp’s Green Box, trans. George Heard Hamilton (New York: Jaap Rietman Inc., 1960). 106. Calvin Tomkins, Duchamp: A Biography (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1996), 298. 107. Moure, Marcel Duchamp, Plates 129–30. 108. Michael Betancourt, “Precision Optics / Optical Illusions:Inconsistency, Anemic Cinema, and the Rotoreliefs,” EUROARTMagazine, no. 12 (2010). 109. Jean-Francois Lyotard, Duchamp’s Trans/Formers, trans. Ian McLeod (Venice, CA: The Lapis Press, 1990), 198. 110. Maurice Blanchot, The Space of Literature, trans. Ann Smock (University of Nebraska Press, 1989), 37. 111. Ibid., 54. 112. Ibid., 105. 113. Ibid., 106. 114. Ibid. 115. Ibid., 176. 116. Ibid., 173. 117. Ibid., 216. 118. Ibid., 30. 119. Ibid., 244. 120. Ibid. 121. “The Infinite Conversation,” 33. 122. Ibid., 36. 123. Ibid., 38. 124. Ibid. 125. Ibid., 46. 126. Ibid., 53. 127. Ibid., 188. 128. Ibid., 205. 129. Ibid., 210. 130. Ibid., 346–48. 131. The Step Not Beyond, trans. Lycette Nelson (State University of New York Press, 1992), 75. 132. Ibid., 76. 133. Michel Foucault, Language, Counter-Memory, Practice, trans. Donald F. Bouchard and Sherry Simon (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977), 30. 134. Ibid., 33. 135. Ibid. 136. Bataille, Inner Experience, 126. 137. Foucault, Language, Counter-Memory, Practice, 165. 138. Ibid., 35. 139. Ibid., 40. 140. Ibid. 141. Ibid., 42. 142. Ibid., 44.

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143. Ibid., 49. 144. Ibid., 85. 145. Maurice Blanchot: The Thought from Outside, trans. Brian Massumi (New York: Zone Books, 1987), 25. 146. Ibid., 27. 147. Maurice Blanchot, Michel Foucault as I Imagine Him, trans. Jeffrey Mehlman (New York: Zone Books, 1987), 76. 148. Ibid. 149. F Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, trans. Walter Kaufmann (Random House, Inc., 1967), 63. 150. Ecce Homo, trans. R.J. Hollingdale (London: Penguin Books, 1979), 73. 151. Paul Ricoeur, The Rule of Metaphor, trans. Robert Czerny, Kathleen McLaughlin, and John Costello (Toronto: University of Toronto, 1977), 6. 152. Ibid., 234. 153. Ibid., 249. 154. Ibid., 313. 155. Ibid., 309. 156. Oneself as Another, trans. Kathleen Blamey (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1992), 339. 157. Joseph Libertson, Proximity: Levinas, Blanchot, Bataille and Communication (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1982), 55. 158. Ibid., 338. 159. Levinas, Otherwise Than Being, 138. 160. Ibid., 139. 161. Charles H. Kahn, The Art and Thought of Heraclitus (Cambridge University Press, 1979), 30. 162. Philip Ellis Wheelwright, Heraclitus (Princeton University Press, 1959), 20. 163. Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 36. 164. Ibid., 153.

Chapter 2

Limit Experiences, Difference, Repetition, and Singularity

The experience of irreducible excess surpassing expectations signals the break with representational abilities, implying a break with reasoning. In that sense it has affinity with madness, but madness concentrated in a moment and reversible: analogous to orgasm as a “little death,” such a break could be termed a “little madness.” It is no wonder that some artists and writers who take up the onset of madness have produced work that carries breaks within it, a new stylistic or verbal expression, as a testimony of the limit experience. Blanchot names “Goya, Sade, Hölderlin, Nietzsche, Nerval, Van Gogh, Artaud” and asks, “Is it possible that thought cannot arrive at what is, perhaps, the ultimate dimension without passing through what is called madness and, passing by way of it, falling into it?”1 Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, 2010) is a film that illustrates the limit experience and disintegration of reality when an artist seeks perfection— which implies letting go of rules, giving oneself completely, surpassing oneself by trying to go to a new territory, being ruled by passion to the point that reality gets distorted, and reaching the limit of which Bataille speaks.2 Nina Sayers, a ballerina in the movie, gets immersed in the dual role of the white and the black swans, the dichotomy of good and evil, oversteps the thin line between reality and imagination, between reason and madness, and perishes in that role, with what seems to be a peaceful, content look, as if saying: it was worth it! And the audience senses that her performance is extraordinary, something new, not seen before, a possible trigger of pure aesthetic experience, exceeding expectations in the irreducible way. Bataille again comes to mind with regard to his wish to reach the limit, to experience it, but to be able to come back. But, who can guarantee the return? Some artists and writers left memorable works while reaching the limit of madness because the level of sincerity projected in such works unequivocally 67

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speaks about boundary, transgression, a disintegration of reality based on representations, reason, continuity, concepts, and analysis. In his essay, “Madness par excellence,” Blanchot invokes Jaspers’ study on Van Gogh, Strindberg and Hölderlin in relation to schizophrenia, writing, Jaspers says this forcefully: Goethe is capable of everything, except the late poems of Hölderlin and the paintings of Van Gogh. In such works the creator perishes; not of exertion, not from excessive creative expenditure; but the subjective experiences and emotions, in relation with the upheaval of the soul—the experiences whose expression the artist creates and which he raises to the truth of an objective form—comprise at the same time the development which leads to collapse.3

This statement might not resonate as being a fair one if we consider the author of The Sorrows of Young Werther. Goethe wrote that book with passion and, at least as his biography indicates, in large part from subjective experience. The suicide of Werther maybe did save young Goethe and the further development did not lead to his collapse; in fact this work propelled him into fame. Hence, it seems possible to create from subjective experience, almost perishing of it, and yet also to come back; creation does not have to end in madness or suicide. However, it is not unusual that authors or artists gain popularity after going mad or after committing suicide, since these events ignite curiosity in an audience, and the voyeuristic desire to find the biographical elements that underscore the sincerity in their work. Madness seems to be the irreducible otherness of reason, unlike “unreason,” which is its other, defined by the same. The break of madness is complete, the neutral space between reason and unreason. When its testimony is sensed in an artistic or literary work, it can speak compellingly about transgression, about excess, about the unexpected—and it can trigger excess in reception and provoke a representational break in the sensibility of a spectator or a reader. But, we—the spectators—have the privilege of “recuperating” from it, of experiencing surprise starting with astonishment as a surprised thought and passing into admiration in witnessing something new. Under a certain interpretation, this new seems nothing other than the repetition of difference. To argue for it, let us invoke the related work of Nietzsche on “Eternal Return,” and its influence on Blanchot, Deleuze, and Foucault. NIETZSCHE: AN INVOLUNTARY MASK AND THE ETERNAL RETURN The author of the Eternal Return was, maybe, predestined to write at the boundary of poetry and philosophy, as if finding escape from one in the other.



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I wish to underline the impact of Zarathustra on Nietzsche’s subsequent writings, and to discuss why Zarathustra seems to be the appropriate setting for the affirmation of the “Eternal Return” as a philosophical-poetic concept of inspiration, creativity, difference, and repetition. It is the perfect example of combined poetic inspiration and philosophical insight, and thus is influential to future thinkers. In the chapter of Ecce Homo titled “Why I am So Clever,” Nietzsche writes, “To ‘want’ something, to ‘strive’ after something, to have a ‘goal,’ a ‘wish’ in view—I know none of this from experience.”4 This quote is a good introduction to the feeling that Nietzsche, to a large extent, held an involuntary mask: for somebody who “wrote in blood,” the above quote does not seem sincere. It seems that Nietzsche is the premature child of twentiethcentury poetry, a poet with the multiple intertwined threads of his ability as a thinker, his initial professorial career and education as a philologist, and his inner contradictions between his need to reevaluate all values and free human existence of non-natural human-made constraints, and his reluctance (until the very end) to clearly advocate for complete freedom of verse. Nietzsche’s education and career in philology resulted in the significant scholarly insight that Greek verse lacked regular metrical stress.5 After leaving philology, two sets of strong forces shaped the style and subject of his output: poetry and philosophy, art and scholarship. He remarked to Rhode on 15 February 1870, “Science, art, and philosophy coalescence so much in me at present that one day in all probability I shall give birth to centaurs.” One could only imagine the laughter (and rage) of Nietzsche’s readers at my suggestion that Nietzsche played it safe: toggling between philosophy and poetry, asking questions and creating answers, finding refuge in one from the other. It seems that he did not have a choice: it was his fate to create “centaurs,” capturing sensitivity of the modern man—not the Overman, not the last men, just the modern man. In the period 1883–1884, Nietzsche indeed gave birth to a “centaur” named Zarathustra (first three parts). Part III was written during January 1884. The book fell on “deaf ears”—with devastating consequences for its author. From his own written “confessions,” it seems that Nietzsche invested a great deal of creative energy and wrote “in blood,” resulting in beautiful poetry born at the heights of supreme inspiration—only to receive cold silence from everybody, including his friends. Unfortunately, he did not have an Ezra Pound on hand to help him push forward his poetry even more forcefully. Some years later, in Ecce Homo, he would write “As for my Zarathustra, who of my friends would have seen more in it than an impermissible piece of presumption but one that was fortunately a matter of complete indifference? . . . Ten years: and no one in Germany has made it a question of conscience to defend my name against the absurd silence under which it has lain buried . . . .”6�

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In addition to the claim that he was breaking ground for a poetry free from the formal and attitudinal conventions suppressing its strength, Nietzsche could well be seen as a pioneer in unmasking reality through philosophical/ poetical proclamation of “war” with values created and/or accepted from fear, pity, ignorance, or weakness, indebting us to the enormous originality and complexity of his books, his “children” springing up from the extremely successful “marriage” of philosophy and poetry—marriage which is for him, of course, “the will of two to create the one that is more than those who created it.”7 Zarathustra is a work combining poetic expression, wit, and philosophical teachings. Unfortunately, the work was not welcomed by its readers. After the “disaster” with the first three parts, Nietzsche put on a mask of a parody, and produced Part IV (not in harmony with the other three parts) in a short time, and privately distributed copies to his friends, without intending to publish them. He then closed the door for other poetical Zarathustras that could have come, developing his philosophical ideas, and along these lines became more and more bitter, still unread. In 1888, while summing up his “children,” the wounds left by Zarathustra are fully reopened, and he “bleeds,” despite the sarcasm, hyperbolas, and humor intertwined with his delusion.� In the section “On Poets” in Part II of Zarathustra, Nietzsche articulates his frustration with accepted poetical forms: “Alas, I cast my net into their seas and wanted to catch good fish; but I always pulled up the head of some old god.”9 It took until some years later, and maybe the sense that his “battle” was nearing its end, before Nietzsche could clearly say, in his recognizable style, “The art of grand rhythm, the grand style of phrasing, as the expression of a tremendous rise and fall of sublime, of superhuman passion, was first discovered by me; with a dithyramb such as the last of the third Zarathustra, entitled ‘The Seven Seals,’ I flew a thousand miles beyond that which has hitherto been called poesy.”10 And this statement brings us to the affirmation of Eternal Return in “The Seven Seals: Or the Yes and Amen Song.” Why would one accept eternal recurrence? Why would that be desirable? Nietzsche is passionate and eloquent about it: creativity, extremes, the unexpected. In Part III he wishes for a moment of creativity, in Part IV he longs for extremes, for indifference in diversity, and in Part V he yearns for the unexpected and lusts after eternity.� Moments of creativity, of transgression, and of experience of the boundaries of existence create the unquenchable desire to relive them, even if one has to relive everything else encountered in life, exactly as is, in line with Nietzsche’s famous concept of amor fati. A moment of sensing the otherness of representation—of absence as presence—brings the breath of eternity, surpassing one’s finite and perishable physical existence and objectivity; hence the wish to experience this moment again and again—eternally.



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However, in pondering the idea of the Eternal Return as containing a moment of break carries a contradiction: a break is outside the past/future dichotomy; it does not have a presence, hence it cannot repeat itself. Blanchot was fascinated by the idea of Eternal Return and the difference between singularity and uniqueness, especially in relation to writing and presence. In The Step Not Beyond, he considers three ideas: the neuter, the fragment, and the “Eternal Return of the Same” (ERS). The neuter is the neutrality of opposites: neither their contradiction, nor their fortification. It penetrates fragmentary writing by displacing its particularities. The ERS is repetition—of difference. This is because the ERS negates the present; the present disappears. Blanchot writes, “In the past what is given as repetition of the future does not give the future as repetition of the past. Dissymmetry is at work in repetition itself. How then think dissymmetry in terms of the Eternal Return? That is what is perhaps most enigmatic.”� The rupture created by neutrality where the presence is dissolved separates writing from speech. There is constant “combat between language and presence,”� in which presence wins because language as such is also presence. Blanchot writes, “the defeat that writing would seem to inflict on presence in making it no longer presence, but subsistence or substance, is a defeat for itself. From this point of view, writing alienates presence (and alienates itself).”� Fragmentary writing approaches the “incessant murmur” which carries the language to its limit, to disintegration of presence as such. It characterizes the space of writing with “points of singularity.”� Such points or marks retain their singularity despite losing their uniqueness to the repetition of Eternal Return. An interesting question takes up the difference between singularity and uniqueness. Singularity implies irreducible difference and discontinuity, it is neither presence nor absence, and hence it points to a void. Uniqueness, on the other hand, is destroyed by repetition because it is the carrier of oneness, of cohesion, and of closure. This discussion of uniqueness asks for Deleuze’s analysis on difference and repetition. DELEUZE ON DIFFERENCE AND REPETITION In representational thought relying on concepts, we have the relations of negation and of identity. Deleuze wants to substitute “negation” for difference and “identity” for repetition, and proposes “to think difference in itself, independently of the forms of representation which reduce it to the Same.”16 He contrasts generality and repetition since, “Generality, as generality of the particular, thus stands opposed to repetition as universality of the singular.”17 A concept presents generality, subsuming all instances under its umbrella. For example, a concept of “dog” generalizes all dogs by extracting

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commonalities, and leaves aside particularities. Concept creation requires the death of individuality in order to give rise to generality, as Hegel well understood in his dialectic. Concepts deal with identities in representation, while “repetition is difference without a concept.”18 The repetition of something preserves the form of its particularity, but repetition cannot be reduced to the same because there is something in addition to the form of representation. If we take only representational form into account, repetition will not produce any difference; but if we take into account nonrepresentational factors, repetition will create essential difference. Take, for example, a theatrical play, showing on different nights. The plot and the representation are the same, but there is difference in how an actor approaches it at that specific moment, and in how a spectator reacts to it (even if this spectator saw it on two consecutive nights). A good actor, an improviser, will act each time as if he performs for the first time, will carry a play within himself, and will produce new gestures (This is how Artaud envisioned performances). A spectator might perceive the same play completely differently: different thoughts and emotions might be triggered, depending on other thoughts and events preceding the play. The fact is that each repetition has to start, and each start is immediacy. According to Deleuze, Hegel “betrays and distorts the immediate.”19 He writes about the philosophies of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche and their objections to Hegel’s dialectic of mediation as a system where everything is employed in the service of building a systematic thought. Repetition provides space for improvisation, for remaining inside conceptual boundaries, but gives priority to “minor” elements, freeing particularities that produce novelty inside the representational template. As Deleuze writes, “. . . repetition is attributed to elements which are really distinct but nevertheless share strictly the same concept. Repetition thus appears as a difference, but a difference absolutely without concept; in this sense, an indifferent difference.”20 Although termed “an indifferent difference,” repetition nevertheless does not result in indifference. On the contrary, repetition is the sprout to the creative movement that goes outside prescribed conceptual boundaries. The willing of difference characterizes the Eternal Return of the Same, according to Nietzsche. In contrast, diversity (as opposed to difference) indicates only the mere appearance of difference. Deleuze’s philosophy of difference, built around notions of repetition and difference, is the predecessor of his joint work with Guattari. In defiance of conceptual and systematic thinking which serves to elucidate great Western concepts such as the One, Subject, and Identity, Deleuze and Guattari instead develop the idea of rhizomatic thought: non-entrenched and non-rooted, freely moving outside of a conceptual framework. They develop a number of concepts to explicate their view, some taken from botany, some from



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mathematics. For example, in botany a rhizome signifies a horizontal growth system spreading stems in all directions. A piece taken from a rhizome can be used to propagate a new plant. Hence, each piece of a rhizome contains in itself the possibility for regeneration. In mathematics, an n-dimensional multiplicity (or a manifold) designates an abstract mathematical space where each point has a neighborhood resembling n-dimensional Euclidean space. Hence, a multiplicity, as well as a rhizome, is a higher dimensional composition of elements that carries the whole structure. Disregarding the content of its elements (the representation), a rhizomatic structure is characterized by relationships among elements, their movements leading to growth and modification. Deleuze and Guattari propose a non-dialectical philosophy of becoming, built on a number of philosophical concepts, such as the plane of immanence (or the plane of consistency), lines of flight, deterritorialization, and body without organs. The suddenness of immediacy allows the possibility for improvisation, for a creative move unguided by structural thought. But, what are the triggers of new, hence creative, moves? Are the triggers immanent or transcendent? Based on habits and past experiences (both bodily and mental) we have certain expectations for both future encounters and our actions in given situations. Granting that our thoughts follow a combination of arborialrhizomatic structures (since some thoughts are systematic and some are involuntary, moving freely outside organization or composition), we can ask: When does it happen that a thought is surprised, as if uprooted from its habitual territory? The question is whether excess created by the inadequacy of expectations in an encounter is something coming from outside to disrupt the system, or a self-interruption of immanence? Relevant questions might be posed using Deleuze and Guattari’s vocabulary: What triggers lines of flight? Can we somehow increase our capacity for deterritorialization? Let me try to interpret Deleuze and Guattari’s “abstract machine” (a plateau) of rhizomatic thought. Unlike in the model of systematic thinking (arborial model), thoughts move along a freely connected network of impressions. Disregarding the content (representation) of thought, what is left is movement, hence it cannot be represented with a single point; it has to be a line, but a line without beginning and without end, a continuation, continuous movement, with different speed, intersecting other lines of thought. What triggers a thought, an event of thinking? There must be something outside that triggers one’s sensibility, and Deleuze calls it intensity, but one’s mental capacity contributes as well. My experience denotes the territory where my thoughts intersect in rhizomatic lines crossing, providing non-conceptual residuals, individuations and differences in repetitions, creating plateaus of dimension n−1, always

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excluding the unity, The Concept or The One, since that inclusion would disrupt the smoothness of the plateau: “the only way the one belongs to the multiple: always subtracted.”21 Subtracting The One creates a degree of freedom, since not all is determined and organized, and there is no representation into which all elements are subsumed. Characteristics (principles) of a rhizome are: connection and heterogeneity (network structure), multiplicity (without subject or object, only determinations, magnitudes and dimensions), a-signifying rupture (breaks that do not signify, breaks along lines of flight that are part of the rhizome, new sprouts), and mapping as opposed to tracing (the rhizome as map, open in all directions, unlike a tracing, which follows a lead or a competent directive). The One (the unity, the concept, the hierarchical or arborial structure) is either a subject or an object—in any case, a formal representation. In contrast, a multiplicity has only determinations such as magnitudes and dimensions; it is not an image or a word and does not represent something. The important concept is the concept of lack, of absence-aspresence, of something only implicitly present. The rhizome is best described by lack: it does not have an arboreal root structure. So its structure remains undefined: we specify what is not, in turn allowing a level of freedom when thinking what is. A definition by lack leaves space for improvisation. An improvisation is not restricted to rules; it is made possible by the lack of complete determination. Take, for example, improvisation in music. Deleuze and Guattari talk about becoming-music, becoming from the rhizomatic structure developed both from bodily experience and from one’s environmental context. Environment provides experiences with natural and artificial elements. When the representational form is subtracted, what are left in one’s mind are patterns of connectivity among elements, movements, and intensities. Patterns create a repository of elements to use in novel organizations, leading to new experiences. A book by Gary Peters titled The Philosophy of Improvisation analyses the process of improvisation apart from the common view of a completely chance event in the spur of the moment. Presenting examples from theater, music, and dance, Peters draws from many thinkers (including Heidegger, Nietzsche, Adorno, Kant, Benjamin, and Deleuze) to develop a philosophical concept of improvisation. He writes, “Perhaps above all else the overriding ambition here is to demonstrate deep rooted entwinement and entanglement of the old and the new, which is often obscured by the desires and claims of improvisers themselves heirs to a modernist aesthetic (or ideology) of innovation and novelty that is often at odds with the real predicament of the artist at work.”22 Hence, again, it seems that a new creation comes from a combination of the known and the unexpected new direction, but the old is present as a ground from which a new beginning can start (as a line of flight, to use Deleuze and Guattari’s vocabulary).



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The question concerning creativity and newness, either in production as an artist or experienced as a spectator, relates to lines of flight, leading to directions outside known territory, to deterritorialization and subsequently to enrichment and reterritorialization. What triggers a line of flight? It seems that desire for newness is a prerequisite for actually being able to accept the new as new. This desire requires openness of thought, and, according to Deleuze and Guattari, it is best achieved via a rhizomatic structure of thought, where the past (the old) is stored as a set of multiplicities, free from representational chains, open to new associations and assemblages.� New rhizomes may sprout everywhere, even in the heart of a tree, indicating possibilities for the unexpected in perception. Memory is always tied up with the past. However, there are two different types of memories: long-term memory related to arborescent thinking and tracing following the trajectory of past events, and short-term memory (or minute memory) that allows for discontinuity and rupture. The rhizome does not contain units; instead, it contains directions of movement. It does not have a specified beginning or end; every part of it is “a middle.” Those middles are plateaus: “A plateau is always in the middle, not at the beginning or the end. A rhizome is made of plateaus.”24 The middle between things, a region with flat intensities, avoiding culmination or directive for aiding in representation, is a plateau, a region with—mathematically speaking—zero derivative.� The new comes from the environment, while the old is entrenched in one’s experiential territory. The concept of becoming is a key concept for Deleuze and Guattari. Hegel in his Phenomenology explicates the becoming of knowledge, in a dialectic of thesis and anti-thesis culminating in absolute knowing. Deleuze and Guattari see a becoming differently: “A becoming is not a correspondence between relations. But neither is it a resemblance, an imitation, or, at the limit, an identification . . . To become is not to progress or regress along a series . . . . Becoming produces nothing other than itself . . . Becoming is certainly not imitating, or identifying with something . . .”26 The question is: how does immediacy relate to a becoming? For Deleuze and Guattari, becomings are written on either the plane of immanence or the plane of consistency (because there are no inconsistencies when formal representation is abandoned and only movements and intensities are present; there is only a structure of thought, without its content). This plane functions as an abstract machine where each concrete assemblage is a multiplicity, a becoming. In the plane of consistency, as Deleuze and Guattari write, “It is no longer a question of organs and functions . . . It is a question not of organization but of composition; not of development or differentiation but of movement and rest, speed and slowness.”27 The plane of consistency is “the body without organs,” indicating the residual reverberation of an organism, when its fixed organization is abstracted. The plane of organization (or the plan(e)�

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of organization-development) runs contrary to the plane of consistency, in trying to stop deterritorialization, and in reconstituting forms and subjects. The plane of consistency works in opposite directions, trying to break down organization by movement, speed, flight. The two planes serve as “two abstract poles,” and the most fruitful work happens in the balance between form and content, and in flights into the unexpected and formless, where, as in music, “expanding and contracting microintervals are at play within coded intervals.”29 In discussing improvisation, the question is how to take a line of flight from the plane of consistency, to build on top of a systematic and organic body. Improvisation entails co-presence of preservation and destruction of the past. It not only needs freedom to begin but also rules to create meaning. The proper place for improvisation might be in a passage from arboreal to rhizomatic thought, and to this end it might be useful to present Deleuze and Guattari’s distinction between smooth and striated space. Deleuze and Guattari argue that smooth space is nomad space, while striated space is sedentary space. They intersect, but passages from one to the other are not symmetric and vary among different models: is it the case that a smooth space gets captured and enveloped in a striated space, while a striated space dissolves into a smooth space, allowing its development, or some other combination? For example, in “The Aesthetic Model: Nomad Art” there is a distinction made between close-range vision and haptic space, and longrange vision and optical space. Close-range vision operates “step by step,”30 allowing for the possibility of unexpectedness and for newness since there is no long-term memory to entrench vision in a fixed position. In contrast, longrange vision requires orientation, points of reference, perspective, boundaries, horizons; it calls for constancy and invariance. Deleuze and Guattari write, “What interests us in operations of striation and smoothing are precisely the passages or combinations: how the forces at work within space continually striate it, and how in the course of its striation it develops other forces and emits new smooth spaces.”31 This process is related to deterritorialization and reterritorialization. Deterritorialization, as the movement of leaving the territory by a line of flight, can be either negative (unable to proceed with the line of flight), or positive (leaving the territory). Positive deterritorialization can be either relative (the line of flight is not free but segmented and the new territory is not reached) or absolute (the creation of a new territory). The possibility of positive absolute deterritorialization seems very relevant to the current work. It is the movement outside one’s experiential space and known territory, feeling the glimpse of a break as the encounter with “the body without organs,” apart from the objectivity of representations. After a break—which is by definition outside one’s experiential space—there is recuperation, a new



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start, or a beginning. The philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari is concerned with becoming. But, what about beginning, how does it relate to becoming? They are both processes, but beginning needs an origin, unlike Deleuze and Guattari’s becoming that has neither beginning nor end. At this point it seems appropriate to again invoke Blanchot and his work on immediacy, the origin, and the beginning. Blanchot’s neuter is the unrepresentable space of literature and it corresponds to Deleuze and Guattari’s plane of immanence or plane of consistency. Blanchot’s term “origin” seems to correspond to the term “becoming” in Deleuze and Guattari. Blanchot’s leap, in which the work is pronounced and beginning starts, seems to be akin to Deleuze and Guattari’s line of flight. Hence, in such an interpretation, a plane of anonymous becomings is a space of origins, a space of immediacy. The plane of immanence is the immediacy, the repository of creative triggers, a combination of multiplicities composed of movements, affects, and intensities, allowing creativity. Thinking devoid of specific content proceeds in a rhizomatic fashion, characterized by movement in different directions and at different speeds. A consolidated thought obtains unity; it is spread across a certain territory, bounded by a circle, and characterized by rhythm and harmony. Then, suddenly, the circle is opened: there is a crack and something else gets in. The subsequent newness is the result of “internal impulses and external circumstances.”32 This positions excess over expectations (triggering newness) as the joint “culprit” thriving at the intersections of immanence and transcendence. In discussing artistic creativity, Deleuze and Guattari provide the example of Klee, who said that the artist starts by looking around in order to capture “the trace of creation in the created,”33 to subsequently turn to elements of “immanent movement”: not already organized entities, but possibilities for new assemblages, new creations. Anonymous becomings as multiplicities of movement and intensity carry seeds for new beginnings, switching from a smooth to a striated space. After all, we need works, representations, objects, and they announce themselves with a beginning, a line of flight resulting in deterritorialization. From a spectator’s point of view, the reception of work should follow a similar trajectory since the artist is, after all, the first spectator of an emancipated work beginning its own “life.” Hence, a spectator has to “open up to the Cosmos” to be receptive to newness. This seems only possible if thought is not completely arborified, if the concepts do not subsume all particularities, and if the system and organization are not completely determined and ossified. Receptivity is a desire for the unexpected, for difference. It is a desire to move away from the known, seen, experienced. Receptivity implies passivity, letting go the grip of concepts, and being alert to differences in repetition. Desire is a wish to feel difference before it is appropriated by a concept.

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ŽIŽEK, DELEUZE, AND HEGEL: IMMANENCE AND TRANSCENDENCE, IMMEDIACY AND MEDIATION In Valences of the Dialectic Jameson analyses the concept of the dialectic, from Hegel, to Marx, to postmodern critics. In chapter 5 (Deleuze and Dualism) he presents Deleuze’s view of dualism (Nomads versus the State, rhizomatic versus arborescent). Jameson is critical of Deleuze’s philosophy, arguing that it tries to annihilate traces of the dialectic by introducing a plethora of new terms and by proclaiming an ideological dualism (Nomads versus the State), but that all these efforts only lead to the monism of the principle of desire because, argues Jameson, in Deleuze “everything is libidinal investment, everything is desire; there is nothing which is not desire, nothing outside of desire.”34 According to Jameson, dualism as such is an unstable structure in need of progression, of movements and occasionally of islands of stability. We cannot exist in a perpetually schizophrenic state. The principle of the dialectic implies a progression toward something, rejecting both dualism (incompatibilities) and monism (no real opposites). This discussion of direction brings us again to the importance of transgression. Indeed, if transgression or excess should indicate unproductive negativity (contrasting Hegel)—why would it then be important to experience it? Transgression must be beneficial in a certain way, so it has a certain utility function. The transgression of my limit proves my limitlessness. So, a subject can be defined either from the interior as in classical ontology, with the full power of concepts such as consciousness, contradiction, the One, etc., or it can be defined from the exterior by lack of coherence, by differences and by singularity. However, if there is a limit, either coming to it from the interior, or from the exterior—both directions end up in the same blind spot. As Deleuze said, differing philosophical positions coincide in the blind zone. There, in the blind zone of the pause (time break) and the neutral (space break), one can find Hegel’s philosophy and the philosophical positions of French postmodernists equally relevant to the current investigation. In his critique of Deleuze’s dualism, Jameson invokes the work of Slavoj Žižek on the contemporary development of Lacanian thought and on the combination of subjective (desire, libido) and objective (political, economic) spheres. Žižek considers Deleuze in the light of Hegel and vice versa, and provides some insightful connections and points of connectivity. He identifies Deleuze’s philosophy with “transcendental empiricism,” which sounds paradoxical, but it puts together Deleuze’s consideration of pre-reflexive multiplicities in the plane of consistency, and the subject-less intentionalities and virtuality needed for the constitution of reality, within lived experience. Deleuze’s philosophy is concerned with the notion of the New and of the difference between becoming and being, and the notion of immanence.



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He writes against Hegel and Hegelian transcendence, but, as Žižek observes, the difference is sometimes annihilated and Deleuze comes very close to Hegel. This closeness is the fate of philosophical positions and their interpretations, which could be more or less slanted toward the target position of the one who interprets; that is, the interpretation could be more or less free to conjecture, or more or less in line with the source, supported by quotations. In his consideration of the relationship between Deleuze and Hegel, Žižek includes Foucault in the picture. Foucault and Deleuze shared many philosophical convictions, but Žižek points to their “strange complementarity.” While Foucault emphasizes power’s unity of itself and resistance to itself, Deleuze considers desire uniting itself and its repression: for Foucault emancipation from power is inherent to power itself; for Deleuze the force of repression is inherent to desire.� The Hegelian dialectic, in which desire passes into power, leading back to the subject, presents a dialectical synthesis of Deleuze and Foucault, argues Žižek. Instead of opposing the particular and the (abstract) universal, Deleuze opposes the Singular and the Universal. The concept of singularity is crucial for Deleuze, since it picks up difference in repetition, and designates the New as universal singularity. Žižek observes, “What Deleuze renders here is the (properly Hegelian) link between true historicity and eternity: a truly New emerges as eternity in time, transcending its material conditions . . . A truly new work stays new forever—its newness is not exhausted when the ‘shocking value’ passes away.”36 I argue similarly that the encounter with the irreducibly new generates subsequent surprise which cannot annihilate newness. This newness is in opposition to mere novelty related to something novel in representation, which ceases to be novel when absorbed in representation. The New that Deleuze considers cannot be appropriated by appearance. Multiplicities as singularities belong to the Virtual, beyond the Actual composed of empirical experience. Similar to Schelling, who distinguishes between the ground of existence and existence itself, Deleuze distinguishes between the Virtual and the Actual that is realized from the Virtual. To the Deleuzean concept of the “body without organs,” which indicates the surplus of the whole beyond the simple unity of its parts, Žižek responds with the contrasting concept of “organs without body,” in which something (e.g. gaze) takes a dominant position and indicates the wholeness inherent in a part. The two concepts differentiate between the two identifications of the Virtual in Deleuze: either with productive Becoming, or with non-productive Sense-Event. Žižek writes, Is this opposition of the virtual as the site of productive Becoming and the virtual as the site of the sterile Sense-Event not, at the same time, the opposition of the ‘body without organs’ (BwO) and ‘organs without body’ (OwB)? Is, on

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one hand, the productive flux of pure Becoming not the BwO, the body not yet structured or determined as functional organs? And, on the other hand, is the OwB not the virtuality of the pure affect extracted from its embeddedness in a body, like the smile in Alice in Wonderland that persists alone, even when the Cheshire cat’s body is no longer present?�

In this work I argue not for the duality of the two identifications of the virtual, but for their consecutive impact: the virtual subtending productive Becoming comes prior to the virtual preceding the non-productive Sense-Event. Hence, the two identifications of the virtual are not in contradiction. The “body without organs” as the announcement of the composition preceding organization, or the announcement of unity preceding the organization of its parts, comes prior to the “organs without body” as the announcement of the sensual effect preceding thought and reflection that can provide a unified and conscious response. Since becoming should precede a Sense-Event, their respective virtualities are consecutive. In positing reality and virtuality, Žižek writes, “How can a space for virtualization emerge within reality itself? The only consistent answer is that the reality in itself, to put it in Lacanian jargon, is not all: there is a certain gap in reality itself, and fantasy is precisely what fills this gap in reality. Virtualization is made possible precisely because the Real opens a gap in reality which is then filled in by virtualization.”38 Žižek’s argument is that appearances point to a failure in reality, because reality without failure would not need appearances. This is an interesting line of thought. Let me adapt it to the encounters considered here, the unexpected encounters resulting in irreducible surprise. The gap opens when the world of appearances is put on hold and one cannot process the encounter with his or her sensibility and consciousness. This is the origin of surprise which can be represented only afterward; in a sense the origin is a fantasy, an appearance of something non-representable which cannot appear. We can speculate that the reality without appearances is the Ultimate Real with regard to proximity à la Levinas, and with regard to passivity and neutrality à la Blanchot. The Lacanian Real is there also, as a disgruntled troublemaker (which makes life interesting and worth living, no question), but there is also another side to this Ultimate Real, the Unexpected Real as the welcoming intruder that for no particular reason announces the gap in reality, without the need for psychoanalysis and its invocation of the death drive. The two sides bring duality into the Ultimate Real, the eternal duality of good and evil (evocative of Schelling), except that we now argue for giving equal priority and primordial status to something “good” or “positive,” analogous to Schelling’s argument for primordial evil, in addition to primordial good. This duality does not question the Lacanian Real, indicating



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unquenchable lack to which we are driven irresistibly. With the Unexpected Real I wish to add a part to the Real based on abundance, not on lack, that has the power to overwhelm by freezing one’s representational capabilities, without asking for it or desiring the objet petit a. If the Real is “more real than reality,” it should be all encompassing, a repository where reality turns to fill in the gap based on lack, as well as where reality gets a deserved break and accepts abundance from the Real as an influx of new energy. This notion of the Real gives fullness to life, a pulsating that tries to break out of the symbolic to deal with the lack at its center, but that also accepts the intrusion of abundance in the already populated symbolic, finding a space for it. In talking about how life is not just life, Žižek puts it in very uplifting terms: “I think that we should rehabilitate the sense of full commitment and the courage to take risks.”39 When I desire the unexpected—am I not desiring and committing myself to taking a risk? The unknown has the allure of exploration, the passion of non-instrumental commitment. In comparing Kant and Hegel, Žižek argues that Kant identifies a boundary between the thing-in-itself (noumenon) and the phenomenon, while Hegel extends the analysis to the boundary space in between the phenomenon and the noumenon, hence extending the speculation to the so-to-speak nearest transcendental. This, according to Žižek, is the most interesting space, the limit in between. He writes, “Our freedom persists only in a space IN BETWEEN the phenomenal and the noumenal . . . the Kantian Real is the noumenal Thing beyond phenomena, whereas the Hegelian Real is the gap itself between the phenomenal and the noumenal, the gap that sustains freedom.”40 Can we extend this line of thought and speculate that there is a space in between the two Virtuals, as the “space” in between “the body without organs” and “the organs without body”? Both concepts are already away from the Kantian Real and reside in the space between the phenomenal and the noumenal. In a sense, this space reverberates with Levinas and the proximity of the Other, with the Lacanian Real as repository of drives, with the Deleuzean plane of consistency populated with intensities, and with the space of transgression that Bataille so passionately wanted to experience— all those “spaces” belong to the pre-conscious. Schelling’s transcendental as the ground of existence; Fink’s transcendental “constitutive becoming”; Blanchot’s neuter, or the space of literature (although akin to Deleuze’s plane of consistency): these concepts seem to go a bit further into the unknown (to use a spatial analogy), belonging to the unconscious. Deleuze’s notion of the “plane of consistency” asserts immanence and there is no need for transcendent principles because only movements and intensities are present. However, argues Žižek, Hegel is also a philosopher of immanence since, for him, it is the subject who experiences the difference between appearances (for-us) and the way the object is in-itself. Hence, the

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difference between Hegel and Deleuze is not in their notions of transcendence versus immanence, but in the difference between their explications of gap and flux. Hegel’s phenomenology asserts the gap separating phenomena from the things in-themselves, the gap that can be annihilated in the infinity of the absolute, while Deleuze builds his philosophy upon the notion of flux characterizing restless Becomings. In both cases, the excess is immanent, coming from inside, asserting the hole at the center of subjectivity. Hegel struggles to achieve a concrete universal by moving through the dialectical procedure, while Deleuze looks for universal singularity in the constant flux of intensities characterizing difference in repetition. For Hegel, the phenomena possess a gap in their immanence that has to be filled with some illusory material from the outside; hence there is a need for transcendence. Žižek argues that “immanence is not the starting point but the conclusion: immanence is not an immediate fact but the result that occurs when transcendence is sacrificed and falls back into immanence.”41 I argue that in Hegel the interplay of immanence-transcendence is related to the interplay immediacy-mediation. For Hegel, an immediate relationship is viewed as an accident, “detached from what circumscribes it”42; it is a selfenclosed circle. Abstract immediacy is something preceding appearances, it is the pre-mediated encounter. The encounter occurs suddenly and creates a break (because it is self-enclosed, hence separated), and thus it negates continuity. This self-reliance and freedom from surroundings is “the tremendous power of the negative; it is the energy of thought, of the pure ‘I.’”43 This negativity allows the process of subject creation. It is appropriated in the process of mediation, giving rise to “immediacy whose mediation is not outside of it but which is this mediation itself.”44 This, according to Hegel is “authentic substance.” But, how can we understand immediacy that is the mediation itself? It has to be related to thought as the vehicle for mediation, but it has to be apart from any specific thoughts because specificity would dispense with immediacy. So, it can be viewed as the energy, the driving force of thought, the invigoration of thought, preventing thought from coming to a standstill. This power of tarrying with the negative is, for Hegel, the Subject. But, there is a paradox of power: on one hand, power is something unrelated to representation, as if coming from the outside, preceding its working on a specific instance; but, on the other hand without an instance showing itself, power is nothing. So, this argument invites analogy to the interplay of immediacy/mediation: abstract immediacy is nothing if it is not transformed into mediation, which, on the other hand, cannot start without provocation from the outside. Immediacy is provocation, pro-vocation, preceding the representation or instant-realization. As opposed to ancient times, argues Hegel, when there was a process of formation of universality and forms—abstract forms—by which to understand



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the world, in modern times, the abstract forms are already available and the need is to give life to such forms. In other words, there is a need to give life to abstraction, to bring to life a particularity, a singularity, a specificity lacking in universal forms. Hegel says, “Hence the task nowadays consists not so much in purging the individual of an immediate, sensuous mode of apprehension, and making him into a substance that is an object of thought and that thinks, but rather in just the opposite, in freeing determinate thoughts from their fixity so as to give actuality to the universal, and impart to it spiritual life.”45 Hegel continues to argue that it is more difficult to free the thoughts from fixity than to free the senses since the fixed thoughts have the “I,” or “the power of the negative,” while senses can only deal with abstract immediacy. Since the “I” for Hegel is “the power of the negative,” giving that up would mean abandoning the utilitarian role of the negative: does the abandonment of the power of the negative leave space for unproductive negativity, negativity that cannot be (directly) used in concept creation? Does this invoke Bataille? With the displacement of fixity and affirmation of movement, Hegel comes somewhat close to his fierce critic, Deleuze. In describing experience as the movement involving the encounter and the appropriation of otherness, Hegel writes, “And experience is the name we give to just this movement, in which the immediate, the unexperienced, i.e. the abstract, whether be it of sensuous [but still unsensed] being, or only thought of as simple, becomes alienated from itself and then returns to itself from this alienation, and is only then revealed for the first time in its actuality and truth, just as it then has become a property of consciousness also.”46 This movement of immediacy and mediation, of exteriority and interiority could well go under the name of folding and unfolding. Deleuze’s intertwining of interiority and exteriority, in which the thought is the interiority of exteriority, comes very close to Hegel’s description of subject creation. In fact, Hegel proposes that the fixity of the “I,” that is, the Subject endowed with intentional consciousness, based on the power of negativity, is being moved from such a dominant position and the movement is possible when the power of negativity is lost—which can imply that the encountered negativity is at that time unproductive, and only indirectly in the service of concept creation. One can argue that the philosophy of differences, rhizomatic thought, and smooth and striated spaces in Deleuze and Guattari, employed in the process of subjectification (i.e. the subject’s construction), indirectly feeds striated spaces and eventually gets appropriated in making one the person he or she is. It might be interesting here to ponder again the difference between negativity and lack. Negative is the opposite of positive and it operates on the same level. Lack, on the other hand is non-directional, nonspecific, and indicates that something is missing without specifying what. Let’s say that “what is” is

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interiority, and the rest (“what is not”) is exteriority. They do not operate on the same level: if we want to prove that something is—that specific thing is the proof itself. But, if we want to prove that something is not, we can only do it by enumerating all that is, searching the whole interiority to be able finally to conclude that something is not, that it is lack. Hence, lack can be viewed as generalized nonrepresentable negativity without the specific opposition apart from interiority itself. This lack seems to accompany abstract immediacy (to use Hegel’s term) because it points to the outside, to exteriority. In the process of mediation, when the power of thought is put in motion, and lack transforms into negativity, it attains power, and we can proceed with Hegel. Hence, lack is the (still) powerless negativity, yet endowed with ultimate power: not the power of negativity, but the power to put movement in motion, combining both positivity and negativity. Žižek seems to be right that Deleuze and Hegel are not incompatible after all: Deleuze’s folding and unfolding considers lack and pre-subjective movements, and Hegel’s power of negativity appropriates it for the creation of consciousness. Both seem to acknowledge the power of movement, of freeing the fixity of thoughts in order to free the subject of foregone conclusions, to free the reified concept of anemic universality, and to dispense with generality and make space for universal individuality, which leads to singularity. Žižek writes about Hegel’s logic of essence and the antagonism between ground and conditions, that is, between the inner essence and the external circumstances needed for the realization of essence. In Logic Hegel starts with the developed concept of the notion (whose becoming was given in the Phenomenology). The developed concept of the notion posits an equality sign between ground and conditions: it is the result of the last stage in phenomenology, Absolute Knowing, as the indifference between subject and object, essence and external circumstances, in-itself and for-itself. Žižek writes that Hegel “undermines the usual notion of the relationship between the inner potentials of a thing and the external conditions which render (im)possible the realization of these potentials, by positing between these two sides the sign of equality.”47 The sign of equality, according to Žižek, indicates the “antievolutionary character of Hegel’s philosophy” because it dispenses with the dialectical process of one passing into the other: the equality sign indicates the mutual intrusion of inside into outside and vice versa. In other words, the inner potential of an object is present in external conditions, and external conditions are reflected in the inner potential. Indeed, Hegel, in closing the circle states that, at the end, we have reached the beginning from which we started. He does not resort to immanency, to a reduction of external conditions to internal mediation, which would bring him close to Spinoza (and would reduce the distance from Deleuze), but maintains the reciprocity between external and internal and their mutual intertwining.



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Žižek continues to argue for the implications of Hegel’s equality sign between ground and conditions for psychoanalysis and the relevance of the Lacanian objet petit a, and asks, “when a thing ‘reaches its notion,’ what impact does this have on its existence?”48 He argues that the developed notion necessitates the disintegration of existence. The specific thing ceases to be, and the notion takes over. In psychoanalysis, the notion amounts to the interpretation of the symptom after which the Real is subsumed within the symbolic; it is annihilated and the interpretation stands for it, indicating that the symbolic order has taken over. However, things do not work like that. Lacan introduces the objet petit a to indicate the irreducible remainder of the Real, un-subsumable within the symbolic order. There is something from the Real that escapes symbolization. In order to deal with this incompatibility between outside and inside, necessity and contingence, ground and conditions (we could also add immediacy and mediation), Hegel at the end resorts to a tautology, a logical positing of the equality sign. Necessity and contingency are two expressions of the relationship between actuality and possibility. Necessity, as a relationship between actuality and possibility, indicates an objective stance, a determinate being. By positing the object itself, actuality is affirmed and possibility disappears as a mere possibility by passing into actuality. On the other hand, contingency requires a process of establishing connections and of building up content, leading the movement of possibility toward actuality; it comes from the subjective side. In order to seal the relation between actuality and possibility, the two expressions of their relationship have to become indistinguishable (necessity and contingency have to coincide). But this can only be done formally: to state it as a tautology, the two expressions have to become undecidable. This is where logic can start. Žižek’s interpretation of Hegel indicates the irreducibility of the objet petit a nested in between becoming and being: “In so far as the relationship between contingency and necessity is that of becoming and being, it is legitimate to conceive of objet a, this pure semblance as a kind of ‘anticipation’ of being from the perspective of becoming.”49 Hence, it is the form that is incomplete, that cannot properly capture the content. We know how Hegel deals with this: in the last stage of absolute knowing in Phenomenology, the new content is completed, and we need to go back one step to realize that the “true” form is already there. Otherwise, the process would go on ad infinitum and we would never be able to complete the circle and go back to the beginning that has the end as its presupposition. Žižek comments Hegel’s step backward with the question, is not a kind of leap from ‘not-yet’ to ‘always-already’ constitutive of the Hegelian dialectics: we endeavor to approach the Goal (the absolute form devoid of

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any matter) when, all of a sudden, we establish that all the time we were already there? Is not a crucial shift in a dialectical process the reversal of anticipation, not into its fulfillment, but—into retroaction? If, therefore, the fulfillment never occurs in the Present, does this not testify to the irreducible status of objet a?�

It is interesting how Hegel actualizes possibility (the “not-yet”). The nature of possibility is that it can be actualized, so it has inherent actuality, and yet it is not actual since it is merely possible. The nature of possibility is that it ceases to be possibility in the instant it is realized or actualized. This surplus in the nature of possibility, overstepping the bounds of mere possibility, is the unpresentable, the reality that cannot be put under the symbolic order. The film Rachel Getting Married (Jonathan Demme, 2008) illustrates very well the impossibility of form to capture the content, that is, the impossibility of the absolute unity of the two sides. Kym, an institutionalized addict, comes home to attend the wedding of her sister Rachel. The marriage is a (supposedly) proper union of the two (or more) individuals. It starts with the formal act (the wedding) and the content (married life afterward) is developed over time. In the movie, the preparation for the act of marriage goes on with incredible attention to formal details (who will sit where, who will say what, with all the horde of wedding planners, and the full wedding rehearsal). However, the content-differences are felt on many levels: the bride and the groom are white and black, she is a psychologist (exploring matters of the mind), he is a musician (intuitive, sensual), her family is dysfunctional, his seems to be very much functional with the inevitable grandma. Going to the level of the bride’s family, the two sisters are very different from each other, but there is felt connection between them. Their parents (who are divorced, attesting to the impotency of formality) are themselves very different (emotional father and a distant cold mother). They all struggle to fit their insoluble differences into a perfect form, and, along the way, in this perfect act of planning, there are unplanned situations (such as Kym’s speech at the dinner rehearsal, or the former tragedy of the death of a younger brother that keeps coming up to the surface, invoked either by naming him, or by incidentally seeing his plate). The form (the preparations for the wedding from rehearsals to the actual moment) goes through changes and improvements, adding more and more details to assure absolute form, a perfect wedding. A perfect marriage act is viewed as the beginning of life together, the union of two individuals. Here, the bride is already pregnant, implying that there is already the content pertaining to the union, even before the formal act of marriage. Going back to Hegel (and leaving aside Hegel’s view of marriage) this movie can serve as an illustration of the struggle to provide a union of form and content, to have a form (abstract, universality) able to capture content (concrete, particular). What is the power of negativity in a marriage? With



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the formal act of marriage, both parties negate their single status, but should not negate their personalities. This presents the possibility for the dissolution of the union. In the case of Kym and Rachel’s parents, they are presented as different personalities and the tragic death of their son (content entered as an immediacy while they were married) contributed to their divorce. Watching the movie and thinking about Hegel, the following interpretation unfolds: the wish to start formally (with the developed notion as formal identity), to subsume all differences within a harmonious unity. But, there are two problems here. First, the use of the notion afterward, in specific instances, might bring to light its inefficiency, the impossibility of its capturing all content within a form (Lacan and Žižek would say the impossibility to subsume the Real within the Symbolic). This impossibility gives rise to the objet petit a and other implications for psychoanalysis. In the movie, the whole drama of the family, following the wedding of the parents, attests to this impossibility. Second, there is another aspect of the failure of formal enclosure, apart from that recognized within psychoanalysis. The pregnancy of the bride is the implicit yet real “content” of the unity, but still formless content on different levels (the unborn, hence not completely developed, child, and its formless unity because of its missing the marriage act). This formless content is first just present, then it is formally announced resulting in surprise. Or, dare we say it: astonishment—when the mind accepts the mystery of a new beginning, changing into joy by suddenly realizing the grandchild in the making. This work proposes a phenomenology of irreducible surprise starting with the announcement of the senses (a nod to Merleau-Ponty), then the beginning of reflection or the immediacy of thought which can be described as astonishment, changing into different levels of reflection, but never being quenched, never reaching that illusive unity of immediacy and mediation. The concept of excess over expectations is useless to psychoanalysis. It is simply a testimony of a new becoming and it can originate different feelings in a person. According to Lacan and Žižek, objet petit a is related to desire, indicates lack, lurks behind an appearance, and is the intrusion of the Real into the Symbolic. What is considered in this work, the desire for the unexpected, is the remainder of the Real beyond lack existing in subjectivity: it is the origin of lack, outside, preceding the beginning of the intrusion of the Real. It is beyond objet petit a. As such it is nothing to psychoanalysis, an irrelevancy, yet we do experience irreducible surprise just as we experience desire. The importance of the break considered here is smaller than the importance of the objet petit a, but it is important in its own insignificant way. The objet petit a contributes to subjectivity, to singularity that is akin to the differences Deleuze considers. It is the subjectivity of experience that sets one apart from everybody else. The intrusion of the Real considered here, the irreducible

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encounter with otherness as unexpected, goes in a different direction: it leads to the continuity of discontinuity (to evoke Bataille). The unexpected can never be mediated, it is immediacy that creates singular points in one’s consciousness and subjectivity. The break between desire and surprise is universal in the sense that it is always the same, regardless of who will be surprised and what the trigger of surprise is. It is passivity more passive than any other passivity, it acknowledges the continuity of being. It is the origin preceding the beginning. Yet, the encounter with this anonymity of origin and the subsequent process of experiencing irreducible surprise makes one singular, since experiencing surprise, this universal, yet always different phenomenon, is singular when contextualized—otherwise it would not be a surprise, by definition related to newness. MONDRIAN—A HEGELIAN OR A DELEUZEAN? Throughout his writings, Mondrian repeatedly emphasized the need to depict the universal and to represent the harmony and the rhythm of pure relationships, unburdened by the particularities of individual existence. But, why painting? For Mondrian, the value in painting is not in the representation of objective nature (because the colors of nature cannot be reproduced), nor is it in the creation of illusion; it is in the path to represent in a concrete way the universal that appears in contemplation—inwardness, unburdened by subjective particularity. He does not want to create an illusion of a third dimension in a picture, which is by definition only two dimensional. He wants to destroy the illusion of space, and to trigger a pure feeling, disconnected from a particular objective presence. In order to present the universal, the presentation has to be detached from a particular image, and it has to abolish the difference between a figure and its ground, and between a form and its meaning. Apart from separate elements used in a painting, one cannot overemphasize the importance of their composition as a unity in which each element contributes to the whole. In fact, Mondrian explicitly identifies “universal consciousness, which is unity.”51 A composition needs to represent the unity of individual and universal, and of inward and outward. Mondrian writes, “Composition expresses the subjective, the individual, through rhythm . . . At the same time it expresses the universal through the proportions of dimension and color value, and through continuous opposition of the plastic means themselves.”52 Hegelian dialectic process, through the interplay between parts and the whole, particularity and universality, and the role of negation, influenced Mondrian’s search for compositional coherence and harmony. The destruction of one element allows something else to appear; individual death is the



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magical power allowing universality to appear. Hence, the Hegelian “tremendous power of the negative” influences Mondrian in combining the elements (plane, line, color, non-color) to annihilate and reinforce each other at the same time. Mondrian said that “the destructive element is too much neglected in art.”53 In addition, the creation of multiplicity allows the destruction of the individual. This conception of multiplicity could have influenced Mondrian’s interest in the “starry sky.” In fact, Mondrian states that the “multitude of stars produces a more complete expression of relationship.”54 Through multiplicity one can express harmony and can escape from the symbolic import created by a single entity. According to Mondrian, there is a difference between generality and abstractness: generality shows the “broad contour of things,”55 while abstractness leads to pure or exact relationships. Mondrian is not interested in presenting a generality whereby a contour of natural forms is preserved; instead, he wants to dispense completely with natural forms. He states that “In the capriciousness of nature, form and color are weakened by curvature and by the corporeality of things.”56 Curvature is associated with natural (or female) element, as opposed to spiritual (male) element, and leads to a tragic feeling. To express universality and harmony, one has to dispense with tragic feelings and has to reduce natural forms to horizontal-vertical compositions, to the pure ideality of relationships. In discussing primary colors, Mondrian differentiates between yellow and blue as “most inward,” and red as the “most outward,” and writes that “a painting in yellow and blue alone would be more inward than a plastic in the three primary colors.”57 Hence, the use of various positions of colored planes creates a rhythmic play between inwardness and outwardness, resulting in the manifestation of depth. It is useful to distinguish between reality and nature: reality incorporates both inwardness and outwardness and extends beyond visible, outward nature. Hence, primary colors in an abstract-real painting remain real, even without representing outward nature. In order to depict abstract reality, one needs to dispense with naturalistic colors. Mondrian’s artistic quest was consistently directed toward the presentation of universality in relationships by combining colors, non-colors, lines, and planes in equilibrium. In his later writings and paintings he moved from repose (as static equilibrium) to dynamic equilibrium, which might be viewed as a repose that reinvents itself all the time, a destruction and construction at the same time, all the opposing forces working in harmony—this equilibrium would capture the true spirit of universality. Mondrian’s writings attest to the importance of rhythm and composition in painting. Discussing how to express the absolute or the universal, and which should be art’s task, Mondrian writes, “Composition leaves the artist the greatest possible freedom to be subjective—to whatever extent

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this is necessary. The rhythm of the relationship of color and dimension (in determinate proportion and equilibrium) permits the absolute to appear within the relativity of time and space.”58 Hence, composition and rhythm serve different purposes: the subjective and the individual can be expressed through composition, while the universal can be expressed through rhythm. Since the new plastic has to express a relationship between the universal and the subjective, both composition and rhythm are mandatory. Rhythm is achieved through proportions of dimension and colors, and by the opposition of different elements present in the painting. Mondrian’s aim in painting is “to express relationships plastically through oppositions of color and line.”59 In “Dialogue on the New Plastic” (1919), Mondrian presents a dialogue between a singer and a painter, and this gives him an opportunity to carry even further a musical vocabulary to describe the tasks facing the new plastic. The harmonious element is related to the constant and the universal, while the melodic represents variability and subjectivity. The vocal adds a naturalistic, lyric, and descriptive element. Music does not represent natural objects; so, in that sense, it is abstract, but Mondrian argues that “abstraction alone is not enough to eliminate the naturalistic from painting. Line and color must be composed otherwise than in nature.”60 Painting cannot escape from the visual; hence there must be a way to present some form and, yet, to have the presentation be unrelated to naturalistic forms, in order to capture the essence of relationships, unburdened by any particular natural appearance. Hence, Mondrian’s planes, colored and non-colored, represent only relationships, without reference to form. Asymmetry in the visual arts may be related to dissonance in music, and Mondrian expressed his liking for dissonance. The question of symmetry versus asymmetry is relevant for the rhythm of the painting as follows. Mondrian regards symmetry as characterizing nature’s rhythm which carries in itself the “the law of repetition.”61 Symmetry is related to regularity, and the task of the new abstract-real plastic is to “transform symmetry into equilibrium, which it does by continuous opposition of proportion and position; by plastically expressing relationships that change each opposite into the other.”62 It seems that a certain asymmetry, which is always present in Mondrian’s work, gives an impression of dynamic equilibrium. It destroys natural regularity, yet it is present in nature. Disharmony, on another level, can be a “more profound harmony” if it brings into reconciliation the universal and the particular. There is a profound difference between natural harmony, and the harmony of art. The harmony of art presents neutralization of oppositions, and this, on the natural level can appear quite disharmonious. Mondrian wanted to create an image of pure rhythm, proportion and harmony, a point where simplicity and complexity merge into one another, where surface and depth become indistinguishable,



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where static and dynamic fuse. He wanted to present a moment that is prolonged indefinitely, a representation of the non-representable, the Idea transformed into Sensation. His goal was to find perfect equilibrium between mind and matter. His task was to express a “dynamic movement in equilibrium,” emotion in impassivity. New developments in music and, correspondingly, in dance signaled for Mondrian a new spirit bringing humanity closer to the ideal of abstract reality. According to Mondrian, rhythm can be liberated only if it is disengaged from limiting form. Jazz, with its free expression, as well as modern dances, serve much better to bring the rhythm into the foreground. And since rhythm is mandatory for the achievement of dynamic equilibrium and for the expression of a pure relationship of opposition to equilibrium, it is necessary to free rhythm from limiting form. Mondrian equates jazz and Neo-Plasticism as the two expressions with liberated rhythm, that is, with rhythm unconstrained by form, hence without hindrance in presenting pure relationships. This signals that art is converging toward life, unifying the material and the spiritual. The new man creates his own unique rhythm, different from repetitive natural rhythms, which can be free of form only when a unity of material and spiritual is achieved. To facilitate this evolution, man has to be in an artificial environment, apart from nature; hence both the metropolis, with its “open rhythm that pervades the great city,”63 and the bar, because “Everything in the bar moves and at the same time is at rest,”64 serve as proper environments for human evolution. How to save singularity that escapes conceptual incarceration? The Hegelian dialectic is a “war” between the universal and the particular. Mondrian, being a good Hegelian, in fact becomes more of a Deleuzean: universality is stripped to its bare skeleton through the use of limited shapes and colors. Mondrian’s compositions are repetitive (as far as the elements used), but are all different in the composition of their elements and in their acknowledgement of asymmetry. (Blanchot argues that asymmetry justifies the understanding of the Eternal Return of the Same as the repetition of difference). So, part of his oeuvre, those neoplastic compositions, can be used to illustrate Deleuze’s concept of difference and repetition. New York City’s vitality, its rectangular grid of streets, its high elegant skyscrapers, and the vibrant rhythm of jazz and boogie-woogie that fascinated Mondrian proved an excellent impetus for new directions in his art. The influence of the vibrancy of New York City diminished Mondrian’s desire for complete abstraction and he started to give specific names to paintings, for example Place de La Concorde (1938–1943) and Trafalgar Square (1939–1943). It is a change in direction from pure intellectual abstraction, to abstraction in presentations of objective world. Repetition now becomes a destructive element. Mondrian writes, “Similar forms do not show contrast

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but are in equivalent opposition. Therefore they annihilate themselves more completely in their plurality.”65 In Broadway Boogie-Woogie (1942–1943), the solid lines are broken with small blocks of color. Mondrian’s “vocabulary” of lines and planes, colors and non-colors, is now combined and there is no clear distinction between planes and lines. Colors are enclosed in other colors, rectangles are inside and outside, and the overall feeling and impression is one of pulsating rhythm and vibrancy. The identity of the plane is destroyed by parallel lines; the identity of line is destroyed by colored patches. Hence, the two elements of composition, colors and forms (planes and lines), become mutually supportive and destructive at the same time. Mondrian’s last paintings attest to his fascination with the new rhythm. In his last (unfinished) painting Victory Boogie-Woogie, Mondrian indeed expressed the “dynamic movement in equilibrium.” He writes, “Not only in abstract art but in all plastic art, the expression of form is subordinate to the expression of dynamic movement. Form appears only as means of expression.”66 This sounds like Deleuze. FOUCAULT AND DELEUZE ON THE EVENT, THE VISIBLE, AND THE SAYABLE In Theatrum Philosophicum, Foucault writes about Deleuze’s concept of a phantasm proposed in The Logic of Sense. Deleuze’s philosophy of becoming, of movement and intensity, affords priority to events as opposed to objects or static entities. For Deleuze the “pure event” has no extension, neither in time nor in space. He defines phantasm by three characteristics: it is a pure event as effect (not an action that could be represented); it is a movement of pre-individual singularities opening the ego; it is expressed by the infinitive verb form. For example, “to die” or “to give” both express a phantasm. A phantasm is an event “in play,” contrasted or expanded to fit the scale and the story of which it is part. Foucault likewise gives priority to the event over the object and considers the event of thinking specifically. Thought considered as an event contrasts thought considered as providing the structure contributing to a system. The “metaphysics of the phantasm” revolves “around atheism and transgression,”67 because it stands apart from The One, functioning at the limit of bodies and defying objective representation and the dichotomy between inside and outside. Phantasm is the non-representable, outside conceptual determination, yet it serves as singularity, an incorporeal event. An event is a becoming: neutral, intangible, neither beginning nor ending. Phenomenology dealing with consciousness “places the event outside and beforehand, or inside and after, and always situates it with respect to the circle of the self.”68



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But, what about an event that happens in the gulf between outside and inside, between beforehand and after? What is the significance of this gap where there is no subjectivity and no consciousness to position it neatly in the schema of subject-object relationship? Deleuze rejects the utilitarian character of the event and frees it from signification for the subject. The phantasm and the event resonate jointly in “the incorporeal and the intangible.” The intangibility of the event provides difference in repetition, a singularity that cannot be subsumed by conceptual unity. The phantasm provides excess but apart from objective presence; “it presents itself as universal singularity: to die, to fight, to vanquish, to be vanquished.”69 Phantasm occurs in the repetition of the intangible event; it allows singularity as universal. Foucault writes, “Determining an event on the basis of a concept, by denying any importance to repetition, is perhaps what might be called knowing; and measuring the phantasm against reality, by going in search of its origin, is judging.”70 Thinking—not knowing and not judging, just forming thoughts— proceeds in the construction of events and phantasms, the intangible, and the incorporeal. Thought (e.g. “to die”) is an event repeating a phantasm. It is intensive irregularity, while intensity is pure difference (outside of representation). Instances of purely aesthetic encounters considered here are repetitive, yet each is different; however, they possess indifferent diversity, which is in line with the Deleuzean event, outside of common sense and the philosophy of representation or concept creation. Deleuze’s “pure event” resonates closely with description of “the properly aesthetic experience” as the moment when desire transgresses to excess, a moment without extension in time or space, without objectivity or representation. Dialectic does not liberate differences because it subsumes them within negation. Difference can be freed if dialectic and contradiction are abandoned—which requires immediacy and discards mediation. I propose the event of astonishment as surprised thought. In astonishment there is no contradiction, no dialectic, no negation—it is pure surprise, the event of surprise, always repetitive, yet always different. And each time the event of astonishment happens, it has to be related to something new (hence different), yet the event “astonishment” is repetitive: every astonishment seems to be identical (with respect to representation). No objectivity is present, and yet astonishment incarnates pure difference. The way Foucault argues for stupidity is reminiscent of the way Bataille argues for absurdity: stupidity leads to the abandonment of oneself, while absurdity allows intense communication. Stupidity involves freeing the thought from categories. To paraphrase Bataille, one is intelligent and knowledgeable in one’s own way, but it seems that we are all stupid in the same way: stupidity illuminates multiplicity itself. I propose to consider astonishment as another illustration of multiplicity: different triggers can surprise

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us, but we are all being astonished in the same way because astonishment precedes “organized” thoughts. Foucault invokes “schism” happening in thought because one cannot capture the moment when the future becomes the past (“time is always more supple than thought”), hence there is a break—unaccounted for—in one’s thought. What is interesting here are the instances when such a break is pronounced and experienced more forcefully. Granting Deleuze’s rhizomatic thought and events and phantasms produced as intangible and incorporeal, I am fascinated by certain events—call them absolutely positive (in line with Deleuze and Guattari’s vocabulary)—that more strongly pronounce the schism. At the end of the essay, Foucault credits Deleuze with unifying different philosophies. Philosophizing about break and pause creates a black hole and the space of disintegration of sensibility, perception, and thinking, and, as such, allows various philosophical paths to either reach their breaking points, or to provide exits from them. Philosophizing about break leads to the point where philosophy reaches its limit, since the limit of thought has to be the limit of philosophy. Hence, it seems that, at the limit, seemingly incompatible philosophical views converge and continue on in the same direction. In 1986, two years after Foucault’s death, Deleuze published a book about his philosophy simply titled Foucault. He elaborates on Foucault’s understanding of a “statement” as opposed to a proposition. A proposition is about a certain fact or a state of things asserted by a clearly defined subject (the one who proposes something about something). A statement dethrones the speaking subject, it projects anonymity; it appears more like a murmur. Deleuze notes the attraction of Blanchot’s thought on Foucault and writes, “Foucault echoes Blanchot in denouncing all linguistic personology and seeing the different positions for the speaking subject as located within a deep anonymous murmur.”71 Deleuze goes on to associate Foucault’s statement with his own notion of multiplicity (stemming from a geometric construct). In this direction, argues Deleuze, Foucault is following the path of Blanchot in denouncing the difference between different poles indicated in objective representations, such as the singular and the plural, the neutral and repetition. In talking about opposing positions, Deleuze argues that the “encounters between independent thinkers always occur in a blind zone.”72 Deleuze invokes Foucault’s thesis on the difference between the visible and the sayable (the articulable), and between the form of content and the form of expression. While, for Blanchot, speaking is primary, Foucault accords priority to seeing and irreducible visibility. He distinguishes between the visible (as determinable) and the articulable (as determined), stating that “the receptivity of light and the spontaneity of language”73 are disconnected,



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having a “non-place,” a break or distance, in between. Deleuze likens this position to that of Kant, who had to connect the space opened up by the consideration of nature versus freedom within reflective judgment. Foucault needs a “new axis” to co-adapt the visible and the sayable. Deleuze points to the difference between exteriority and the outside in Foucault’s thought. There are two forms of exteriority (seeing and speaking), and this requires an outside in which forces operate, different from forms, and in which thinking occurs. He notes Foucault’s inclination toward Blanchot’s and Nietzsche’s thought, and writes, “If seeing and speaking are forms of exteriority, thinking addresses itself to an outside that has no form. To think is to reach the non-stratified. Seeing is thinking and speaking is thinking, but thinking occurs in the interstice, or the disjunction between seeing and speaking.”74 The intrusion of the outside provokes seeing, in turn creating an intrusion of the outside to the internal (thinking), provoking speaking. Deleuze proposes that, in addition to the two axes of power and knowledge, Foucault needs a third axis to attain “a sense of serenity . . . and life truly affirmed.”75 This third dimension was always present, as the relation to the outside—a thought. But, if a thought is the relation to the outside— what about thought as interiority? A thought is triggered by the outside, and becomes interiority, but the link with the outside remains, though as the “unthought” (the “impossibility of thinking”) in the heart of thought. Deleuze argues that the relation between outside-inside is a movement of folding and unfolding, of their mutual intertwining as proximity and distance. This intertwining evokes the interplay between otherness and intimacy. Deleuze invokes Blanchot who writes, “The demand to shut up the outside, that is, to constitute it as an interiority of anticipation or exception, is the exigency that leads society—or momentary reason—to make madness exist, that is, to make it possible.”76 Blanchot credits Foucault with making clear this exigency. It seems that the outside cannot be swallowed by neither power nor knowledge. One can ask: what is the interiority of anticipation, or of expectation? This interiority should be something that is immanent to expectation and what distinguishes expectation as expectation. It has to be something outside representation, outside boundaries of definition and certainty—the unexpected, the irreducible otherness escaping enclosure or encapsulation. Expectation has to allow for transgression and to acknowledge it not as an anomaly (madness), but as its integral part, the heart of its interiority. I have termed the expectation of the unexpected as desire and it seems that such an expectation has a special place among expectations since it is oriented toward lack, toward outside, acknowledging the outside as its integral or interior part. But, the expectation of the unexpected can be viewed as an attitude, the attitude of welcoming irreducible otherness. If otherness is allowed to be a part

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of interiority, it indicates that there is the other in me, a doubling. Deleuze underlines Foucault’s recurring theme of “the doubling” that links “games of repetition” and of difference, that comes from “an interiorization of the outside,” and he writes that “It is not a doubling of the One, but a redoubling of the Other. It is not a reproduction of the same, but a repetition of the Different.”77 This statement can be interpreted as follows: the coexistence of the other in me allows for openings and possibilities for change. Foucault writes about the “aesthetics of existence” and about the care of the self since the care of the self is prerequisite to care for others. This aesthetic of existence affords primacy of aesthetics over ethics, but of an aesthetics viewed, not narrowly as the evaluation of art, but as the sensibility toward otherness, toward the limitlessness immanent to a person—aesthetics as a porous boundary of subjectivity, allowing its modifications and underlining its inabilities, as Deleuze would argue: a movement of folding and unfolding, of intertwining of outside and inside, “a power to affect itself, an affect of self on self,” which is force. The impossibility of neutralizing these oppositions, as the force from outside, implies points of disconnection and breakup of intentionality: not all can be subsumed by intentionality. The limiting lines or strata separating and connecting the outside and the inside “have the task of continually producing levels that force something new to be seen or said.”78 This is the “zone of subjectivation,” the celebration of life, the announcement of limitlessness and the surpassing of constraints that would shut off possibilities, the freeing of life within oneself. Man is a changing entity. In fact, there is a God-form (containing infinity) and a man-form (encapsulated in finitude). Deleuze asks whether Foucault’s proposition that there is no point in lamenting the disappearance of the manform, giving rise to “the superman” of Nietzsche as a man that “frees life within man himself,”79 is appropriate, and questions prophetically, “what new form will emerge that is neither God nor man?”80 Nietzsche’s Eternal Return is, according to Deleuze, a Superfold or an “unlimited finity” (which is neither infinity, invoking God, nor the finitude of limited Man). The affirmation of the Eternal Return as the repetition of difference preserves singularity and dispenses with the suffocation of finitude. Indeed, in The Logic of Sense Deleuze credits Nietzsche with discovering and exploring “a world of impersonal and pre-individual singularities.”81 The notion of singularity carries the idea of unconditional break within itself, unlike the notion of uniqueness. Deleuze and Foucault seem to disagree on a very important point: while Foucault believes that “life and labour . . . did not lose the regrouping of their being,”82 Deleuze, analogous to language freeing itself from representation and becoming literature, argues for the need of life and labor to free themselves from biology and economics. The wish to have life free from biology



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and economics, is a dangerous wish: beware what you wish for because it might happen! The new form of man, the superman, neither God nor man, involves technological changes, genetic research, and the wish to dominate the unknown. To Deleuze’s wish that the new form of superman, which is neither God nor man, “will not prove worse than its two previous forms,” I wish to attach an uneasy feeling about both the future of humanity as we know it and the predicted point of technological singularity in the relatively near future. SINGULARITY: NON-TECHNOLOGICAL VERSUS TECHNOLOGICAL In an Appendix to his Logic of Sense, titled “The Simulacrum and Ancient Philosophy,” Deleuze argues for the difference between a copy and a simulacrum. A copy is based on resemblance, while a simulacrum is “built upon a dissimilarity, implying an essential perversion or a deviation.”83 A copy is based on the model of the Same and it is an imitation of the original; it presupposes the original, the center, the true, and the identity. A simulacrum is based on the model of the Other in the sense that it displaces the center, replaces the original (the notion of original becomes obsolete), dispenses with uniqueness, and proclaims singularity as difference in repetition. Simulacra imply thinking about similitude (or even identity) as resulting from difference or disparity. This difference is not difference from the original (judged by representation); this difference is judged for itself, apart from representation. Deleuze writes, “The simulacrum is not a degraded copy. It harbors a positive power which denies the original and the copy, the model and the reproduction. Resemblance subsists, but it is produced as the external effect of the simulacrum . . . .”84 In the world of simulacra, the same and the similar have relevance only as simulated. The power of simulacra is related to modernity. Deleuze identifies the artificial and the simulacra as characterizing modernity in their opposition as two “modes of destruction.” The simulacra is the destruction of Platonism, while the artificial is the destruction of disorder for the purpose of retaining the order of representations, copies, and models. Deleuze writes, “The artificial and the simulacrum are not the same thing. They are even opposed to each other. The artificial is always a copy of a copy, which should be pushed to the point where it changes its nature and is reversed into the simulacrum (the moment of Pop Art).”85 Nowadays “the artificial” pervades all pores of human interactions, with one another and with the environment. Our early interactions with computers, in which the computer was predominantly used for subordinate rule-based activities, gave way to adaptive computers, neural networks, virtual reality,

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and unprecedented processing power, bringing in question the future for humanity as we know it. This consideration of future follows from predictions of the exponential growth of technology leading to the point when artificial intelligence surpasses human intelligence, creating a break in any future predictions, the Singularity point. Indeed, current technological advances in biology, genetics, and biochemistry, coupled with the exponential increase in computing power and telecommunication technology, raise numerous ethical, cultural, and political questions. The underlying theme, both thrilling and stimulating on the one hand, and upsetting and disturbing on the other, concerns the future: where are we going? Predictions led by prominent computer scientists and experts in artificial intelligence indicate that humanity, as we know it, will disappear. In his book The Singularity is Near (2005), and in the documentary film Transcendent Man (2009), Ray Kurzweil argues that in the near future there will be a drastic paradigmatic change, after which we will have to redefine what it means to be human. This point in time is the moment of Technological Singularity. The Singularity (Doug Wolens, 2012) is a documentary addressing technological singularity and its consequences for humanity. The subtitle is: “Will we survive our Technology,” and the film presents a number of interviews with scientists and futurologists, addressing a question of what it means to be human in the age of ever-increasing technological pervasiveness. As a believer in technology and as a mathematician who has worked on development of combinatorial algorithms and heuristic procedures based on genetic search and neural networks (belonging to the artificial intelligence toolkit), I took Kurzweil’s book with excitement. However, knowing approximately what it is about, I first went for the index, to hopefully discard an uneasy thought. Kurzweil’s book has a large index of about fifty pages. I was looking for “surprise”—but there is no mention of it in the index; then I was looking for “wonder”—again, no mention. This experience induced unsettling thoughts: if this is a book about our impending future and the paradigmatic change in humanity—does that mean that there is no place for surprise in our future? No place for wonder? Wouldn’t that be the end of philosophy according to Plato, and probably the end of the humanities? But, let us consider “emotional intelligence.” Kurzweil writes, “The most complex capability of the human brain—what I would regard as its cutting edge—is our emotional intelligence.”86 Research on the architecture of the brain shows that “emotionally charged situations appear to be handled by special cells called spindle cells, which are found only in humans and some great apes.”87 Hence, according to neurological researchers, a small number of cells with a special structure with very long dendrites (branching fibers extending from a cell) that allow connectivity to various brain regions, are responsible for our emotions, social interactions, and our response to art



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and to moral dilemmas. To indicate how small a portion of our brain this is, Kurzweil writes, “We have fifty billion neurons in the cerebellum that deal with skill formation, billions in the cortex that perform the transformations for perception and rational planning, but only about eighty thousand spindle cells dealing with high-level emotions. It is important to point out that the spindle cells are not doing rational problem solving, which is why we don’t have rational control over our responses to music or over falling in love.”88 Does that mean that our humanity (i.e. what we often consider “more real than reality”), encrypted in irrational and non-analytic emotions and behaviors, underlying “big” notions such as love, art, and ethics, and imprinted in a tiny percentage of cellular brain architecture, is very vulnerable in comparison to a superior analytical and computational brain-power? Hence, do we have a chance against the technological rise of supercomputer power? Kurzweil’s book is full of praise for the future, for the possibilities it offers to extend the life and the rational part of the new artificial entity, discarding with the troublesome biological entity called “the human.” For example, the analogy to old-fashioned love would be a direct combination of the two neural circuits, directly accessing another’s “thoughts.” Kurzweil writes, “Machines can pool their resources, intelligence, and memories. Two machines—or one million machines—can join together to become one and then become separate again. Multiple machines can do both at the same time: become one and separate simultaneously. Humans call this falling in love, but our biological ability to do this is fleeting and unreliable.”89 What is there to say if one believes that the strength of love is in its continuity and proximity of the beloved, despite this notion of our “fleeting and unreliable” biological ability? Let us grant that love becomes easy and that it can be manipulated with a few directions and keystrokes—but, what about unhappy love, the culprit behind so many poetic expressions and great tragedies, and so much emotional turmoil? Are we willing to let that go, conceding that a simple random factor included in the algorithm can simulate unhappy love? But, who needs that, anyway (except for a few poets)? As already said, it seems that, according to Kurzweil, there is no place for surprise or for wonder (as we know it) in the future development of “humanity” in which biological deficiencies are surpassed. Would the absence of surprise be due to the fact that surprise is difficult to simulate, or because it is worthless, not concluding or analyzing anything? If love can be simulated by merging various machines tasked with simulating soul-mates, how could we simulate surprise? Maybe it can be programmed by chance encounters, based on random number generators or by devising different chance procedures, so that unexpected combinations are generated. But, what is the meaning of the unexpected for a machine? How would machines have the capacity to be surprised? If a machine can find a logical explanation for everything, in an

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instant’s time, surprise as such is ruled out, being part of deficient biological creatures at lower levels of development. Surprise that I have in mind is surprise that we—the biological entities— can experience, involving bodily changes as well (e.g. increased heart rate). It is possible that all matter can be surprised in the sense of molecular changes upon an encounter. For example, when a pebble is thrown into the ocean, maybe both the ocean and the pebble are surprised in some sense in the instant of the encounter, and maybe both “welcome” it—but this is outside my capabilities for experiencing, and I can only speculate about it. Likewise, sentient machines independent of biology may have their emotions, but it seems unlikely that such emotions are compatible with emotions of humans as biological entities. In Kurzweil’s future world, there is no place for wonder or admiration resulting from our finitude, in comparison with the infinity of the cosmos and eternal time. This brings to mind Nietzsche’s Eternal Recurrence and amor fati, and I would welcome to relive my life over and over again, to eternity, but the thought of becoming immortal leads to absolute indifference. Technology is alluring and its development cannot be stopped. It brings many benefits and makes life easier, more exciting, and more productive. However, it indeed goes in unpredictable directions and toward drastic changes in our life-world by redefining what it means to be human. Kurzweil’s book seems too radical from the current point of view, but many of the directions indicated by Kurzweil might well be in our future. In answering his critics, mostly John Searle and William A. Dembski, Kurzweil argues that they do not accept the notion of a computer system and Artificial Intelligence different form a rule-based computation, and that they “cannot seem to grasp the concept of the emergent properties of complex distributed systems.”90 Indeed, it is true that today advanced search techniques are based on pattern recognition and the so-called “deep learning,” with a number of biologically inspired combinatorial approaches using self-organizational methods, such as genetic algorithms, simulated annealing, neural networks, and ant colonies. Such meta-heuristic approaches are quite efficient in suboptimally solving difficult problems involving the so-called combinatorial explosion. In addition, I can accept the development of “more complex paradigms based on brain reverse engineering,”91 and adaptive algorithms surpassing human control. However, going back to Kurzweil’s future predictions and sophisticated machines that are self-adaptive, can simulate randomness, and can perform analytic decision-making (and do it way better than biological humans), I still cannot envision how to simulate surprise originating in the breakup of human limited capacity for representation. Artificial intelligence and self-adaptive computational procedures incorporate randomness (or pseudo-randomness of



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algorithmic generators) to enhance the search, for example to avoid entrapment in a local optimum. This use of randomness in an algorithm seems akin to the systematic use of negativity (as in Hegel’s dialectic), to progress to a higher stage, toward absolute knowing, or infinite reflection. Except that the immersion of Hegelian dialectic in history and additional dialectical moves invalidate the complete analogy of Hegelian “power of negativity” with the use of random components in the methods of artificial intelligence. What about other philosophical positions, arguing for the importance of non-instrumental negativity as negativity that cannot be appropriated toward concept creation? What about arguments by Schelling, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Adorno, Bataille, Lacan, Žižek, to name a few? How to simulate the singularity of a sudden break of representation, occurring randomly, with non-measurable intensity, serving as a black hole, creating a moment of non-measurable proximity, inducing a subsequent feeling of irreducible surprise and providing a taste of transgression? These are our current singularity points: always the same in repetition, yet always different and fascinating us each time anew. Maybe such points are biological errors and the occurrence of Technological Singularity in the year 2045 (according to Kurzweil) will dispense with such a glitch in the neural networks of our biological brains, and the new race of cybernetic creatures will never be able to understand or “feel” the allure of an irrational decision or of weakness as a sign of strength. There is no question that a machine can be a much better pattern recognizer than a human being, and a much better decision-maker based on analytical reasoning. In 1979 Douglas Hofstadter published his seminal book Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, and in the new preface for the twentiethanniversary edition in 1999, he writes, “In some sense, GEB was a ‘forward looking’ book, or at least on its surface it gave that appearance. Many hailed it as something like ‘the bible of artificial intelligence,’ which is of course ridiculous, but the fact is that many young students read it and caught the bug of my own fascination with the modeling of mind in all its elusive aspects, including the evanescent goals of ‘I’ and free will and consciousness.”92 In his paper “Moore’s Law, Artificial Evolution, and the Fate of Humanity,” Hofstadter questions “the Kurzweil-Moravec scenario” as something elusive and unlikely happening in the near future of a couple of decades.93� While he argues for the possibility of one day having computational entities with emotions such as desires,94� Hofstadter identifies “the twin constraints of finiteness and mortality” characterizing our humanity, and laments their possible loss because “At the very moment that creatures switch over from being mortal to immortal, all meaning, desiring, hoping, fearing, caring, and indeed, all thinking would go out the window.”95 In an interview from 2008, when asked whether he shares Kurzweil’s view of universal machinery as hardware allowing the execution of software, producing human souls, and

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allowing immortality, Hofstadter answers, “Well, to me, this ‘glorious’ new world would be the end of humanity as we know it. If such a vision comes to pass, it certainly would spell the end of human life. Once again, I don’t want to be there if such a vision should ever come to pass.”96 It is always difficult to speculate about the future, especially due to fast and profound technological changes. However, it seems that the problem is not only the changing technology, it is also the changing human subject. Conditioned by the ease of getting an enormous amount of irrelevant information, relieved by the allure and “security” provided by computer-generated virtual reality, and dulled by the lack of empathy resulting from relationships rarely going below the surface—it seems that the biological entity known as human is preparing to surrender to the anonymous world ruled by machines. Let us hope for more time. Although the future might be devoid of the surprise and wonder that belongs to underdeveloped biological entities, I would like to believe in the future of surprise. Hence, let us now turn back to philosophy, and the still unresolved issues of surprise, immediacy, origin, subject, consciousness, etc.

NOTES 1. Blanchot, “The Infinite Conversation,” 199. 2. In Darren Aronofsky’s Films and the Fragility of Hope, Black Swan is interpreted as a metaphor for achieving artistic perfection. Aronofsky depicts the disintegration of reality with scenes of hallucinations, the use of mirrors and multiple reflections, the use of CGI in presenting bodily transformation, and extreme closeups. Skorin-Kapov, Darren Aronofsky’s Films and the Fragility of Hope. 3. Maurice Blanchot, The Blanchot Reader, ed. M Holland (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, Ltd, 1996), 117. 4. F. Nietzsche, Ecce Homo: How One Becomes What One Is, trans. R.J. Hollingdale (London: Penguin Books, 1979), 35. 5. Anticipating Nietzsche, Hölderlin already understood Greek culture as emotional, ecstatic, irrational, led by Dionysus. 6. Nietzsche, Ecce Homo, 94. 7. Thus Spoke Zarathustra, trans. W. Kaufmann (New York: Penguin Books, 1966), 70. 8. In the last moments he prepares Dionysus Dithyrambs, as if determined to resort to poetry once again. 9. Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, 128. 10. Nietzsche, Ecce Homo: How One Becomes What One Is, 44. 11. Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, 229–30. 12. Blanchot, The Step Not Beyond, 42. 13. Ibid., 31.



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14. Ibid. 15. Ibid., 50. 16. Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), xix. 17. Ibid., 1. 18. Ibid., 23. 19. Ibid., 10. 20. Ibid., 15. 21. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi (The University of Minessota Press, 1987), 6. 22. Gary Peters, The Philosophy of Improvisation (University Of Chicago Press, 2009), 1. 23. Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 14. 24. Ibid., 21. 25. Mathematically speaking, a point where the first derivative vanishes is an optimal point. It is a plateau with highest intensity, hence no directive for either increasing it or decreasing it; it has the same intensity in all directions. 26. Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 237–39. 27. Ibid., 255. 28. The term plan(e) underlines the planned organization which characterizes arborescence. 29. Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 270. 30. Ibid., 493. 31. Ibid., 500. 32. Ibid., 318. 33. Ibid., 337. 34. Fredric Jameson, Valences of the Dialectic (Verso, 2009), 196. 35. Slavoj Žižek, Organs without Bodies: Deleuze and Consequences (Routledge, 2004), 71. 36. Ibid., 15. 37. Ibid., 30. 38. Slavoj Žižek and Glyn Daly, Conversations with Žižek (Polity, 2004), 95. 39. Ibid., 107. 40. Žižek, Organs without Bodies, 42. 41. Ibid., 61. 42. G.W.F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. A.V. Miller (Oxford University Press, 1977), 19. 43. Ibid. 44. Ibid. 45. Ibid., 20. 46. Ibid., 21. 47. Žižek, The Žižek Reader, 228. 48. Ibid., 231. 49. Ibid., 241. 50. Ibid.

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51. H Holtzman and M.S James, The New Art—the New Life: The Collected Writings of Piet Mondrian (G.K. Hall and Co., 1986), 30. 52. Ibid., 39. 53. Ibid., 357. 54. Ibid., 90. 55. Ibid., 52. 56. Ibid., 75. 57. Ibid., 36. 58. Ibid., 31. 59. Ibid., 75. 60. Ibid., 77. 61. Ibid., 40. 62. Ibid. 63. Ibid., 221. 64. Ibid., 222. 65. Ibid., 349. 66. Ibid. 67. Foucault, Language, Counter-Memory, Practice, 171. 68. Ibid., 176. 69. Ibid., 177. 70. Ibid. 71. Gilles Deleuze, Foucault, trans. Sean Hand (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988), 7. 72. Ibid., 42. 73. Ibid., 68. 74. Ibid., 87. 75. Ibid., 96. 76. Blanchot, “The Infinite Conversation,” 196. 77. Deleuze, Foucault, 98. 78. Ibid., 120. 79. Ibid., 130. 80. Ibid. 81. The Logic of Sense, ed. Constantin V. Boundas, trans. Mark Lester and Charles Stivale (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990), 107. 82. Foucault, 131. 83. The Logic of Sense, 256. 84. Ibid., 262. 85. Ibid., 265. 86. Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity Is Near (Viking, 2005), 191. 87. Ibid., 192. 88. Ibid., 194. 89. Ibid., 26. 90. Ibid., 477. 91. Ibid., 461.



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92. Douglas R. Hofstadter, Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (Basic Books, 1999), P-21. 93. “Moore’s Law, Artificial Evolution, and the Fate of Humanity,” in Perspectives on Adaptation in Natural and Artificial Systems, ed. L. Booker, et al. (Oxford University Press, 2005). 94. Hofstadter writes: “In some sense, a human brain is nothing other than an amazingly powerful, massively parallel, brute-force, chemical-reaction machine that interacts with a very complex environment in real time . . . . In any case, if computers are strictly determined by the laws of physics, that same fact holds no less true for brains, since they too are physical objects. If there is room in brains for the laws of physics to coexist with teleonomy—goal-drivenness (i.e., the existence of desires)— then why should there not be the same potential in objects made of other substrates?” Ibid., 178. 95. Ibid., 195. 96. Tal Cohen, “An Interview with Douglas R. Hofstadter, Following ‘I Am a Strange Loop,’” in Tal Cohen’s Bookshelf: (2008).

Chapter 3

Surprise

What is surprise? Is it a relationship between a subject and an object, or is it an affect of a subject? It will be argued that surprise is both, starting as the announcement of anonymous sensibility common to the subject and to the object, evolving into astonishment announcing the affectivity of the subject, and further evolving into the announcement of reflection and wonderment. In fact, this makes sense: if the encounter with the irreducibly unexpected creates a rupture (a pause or a break), then the recovery of one’s subjectivity starts as a trace of this rupture. The passivity of exteriority as anonymous indifference has to give way to the activation of interiority as affectivity and reflectivity—at some point they have to share a commonality allowing the transition. A commonality is characterized by an announcement that breaks the passivity but is still not the action; it is an incarnation of a possibility. The nature of announcement is looking forward toward something that is not yet here, something that is revealed in the announcement, but not yet fully disclosed. Commonly speaking, it is strange to say that surprise starts with the announcement—isn’t this contradictory to the view that “the announcement spoils the surprise?” It depends on the announcement. To announce (in Latin, nuntiare stemming from nunc, now, at present), is to begin the surprise. The announcement considered in this work is not an outside proclamation, and has nothing whatever to do with words or with actions. Instead, here the announcement is defined as indifference of difference, a commonality allowing transition. I argue that surprise is a sequence of announcements. In the core of a sudden surprise, there is a sequential processing of “waking up.” In contrast to a perceived view that surprise is simple because it is sudden, I argue that, despite its suddenness, surprise is not a simple affect but a complex process, the irreducibly new beginning to an experiential situation. 107

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Let us go back to the desire preceding the encounter with irreducible otherness. It was viewed as the acceptivity inherent in the expectation of excess over any expectation. Levinas’s desire is characterized by the responsibility for the other, defined as the “difference which is non-indifference.”1 In fact, acceptivity can also be defined in this way, as non-indifference. Blanchot’s neuter, as the impossibility of closure and the exigency of writing, is defined as the “difference in indifference.”2 The void of the neuter separates desire from surprise: in the neuter, desire has already ended but one cannot let it go, and surprise did not begin yet but it is already at stake. Neuter’s “difference in indifference” leaps into surprising indifference of difference. The discontinuity of desire—neuter—surprise carries over to its characterization as “difference which is non-indifference”—“difference in indifference”— indifference of difference announcing difference. The three characterized “situations” are non-indifference (desire)—indifference (neuter, rupture, pause)—difference (surprise). Hence, surprise starts as indifference in the core of a difference—as an announcement—and is further transformed by bringing out other characterizations of difference. As previously defined, “the announcement” is here used as a term indicating a commonality allowing a transition from the situation before it to the one after it. During the announcement, old and new situations are both present: the old is not independent of the new anymore, and the new is still not in place or revoking the old. Hence, during the announcement, both old and new (i.e. difference) coexist jointly and the announcement is that “glue” that connects them, as if pointing to indifference of difference. Commonly speaking, surprise arises in an experience induced by encountering something new. First, let us distinguish between banal and irreducible surprise, and discard the banal ones. The banal surprise is an accidental surprise. If, in retrospect, I can dispense with surprise as being non-surprising in light of my past experiences, that surprise is reducible to an accident. When I surprisingly meet an acquaintance, it is a banal surprise, since the encounter could have been expected as perfectly non-surprising. If, on the other hand, I cannot reduce the surprise to an accident, even when the combined strength of my total past is evoked, then the surprise is irreducible and the newness is acknowledged as genuinely new. Leaving banal surprises aside, the irreducible surprise can be characterized either as aesthetic or as non-aesthetic. This has to do with beginnings and endings. The encounter with irreducible otherness, the immediacy that breaks up the totality of one’s world, signals the pause and a breaking point of one’s representational abilities, including the desire of looking forward to it. This is the origin outside beginnings and endings, Blanchot’s neuter, a “difference in indifference.” From this origin starts an announcement—with a leap (i.e. suddenly)—putting in motion either a process of a beginning or of an ending. Such an announcement disrupts the

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continuity of one’s everyday existence by inserting irreducible signification into some encounters. A birth, when a child emerges from a woman’s womb, originates the surprise of the beginning and it is a paradigmatic surprise of creation in general. The surprise that transforms into wonder is aesthetic. The wonder as such might be philosophic or scientific, but wonder is beyond the initial surprise. Because the surprise leading to wonder signals a beginning, an openness characteristic of wonderment, it seems appropriate to label it aesthetic. Death of a close person, on the other hand, presents an irreducible surprise, but it is the surprise of the ending and it is a paradigmatic surprise of extinguishment, stoppage, annihilation; it is non-aesthetic. This is a surprise of a major tragedy directly hitting either myself, or a person close to me, or descending upon humanity in general. The surprise that transforms into grief, anxiety, or despair is non-aesthetic. Hence, the classification of either an aesthetic or non-aesthetic character of surprise unfolds upon the recovery of one’s representational capacity. In the first instant upon emerging from the shock produced by the encounter with irreducible otherness, I feel the indifference of my senses, as an echo of the indifference characterizing the origin: I do not feel my senses functioning separately, I just feel that they are there. The anonymous Il y a of existence announces itself in the indistinguishable Il y a of my senses, my sense-ness. This is the switching point from which the transition toward my sensibility, intuition, reflection and understanding emanates in one of two directions: either aesthetic (related to a beginning) or non-aesthetic (related to an ending). In this work, I opt to follow the aesthetic direction, leading to the acknowledgment of a beginning. Hence, in what follows, when considering surprise, I restrict the analysis to the irreducible aesthetic surprise. METAMORPHOSIS OF THE IRREDUCIBLE AESTHETIC SURPRISE The irreducible aesthetic surprise starts as an unconditional beginning, unasked and unbidden. But, it begins from me; it is my surprise. Surprise originates in the moment of pause or shock caused by the encounter with immediacy, but it begins as my reaction to a relationship with the irreducible otherness. Between origination and beginning there is an insurmountable void: the impossibility of representing immediacy. Granting that surprise begins as my reaction, how does it unfold afterward? I do not live in a perpetually surprising mode; hence it has to cease somehow. Indeed, how does surprise end?

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The surprise begins unconditionally (this is its properly aesthetic element), but it then gradually fuses with other elements (culture, ethics) contributing to the flow of one’s experience, engendering signification, and serving as the base for the buildup of one’s subjectivity. Imagine a river slowly flowing, nested comfortably in its riverbed among majestic mountain peaks, gently turning its direction as if being considerate toward obstacles and benevolently acknowledging them in passing. Suddenly, at an unexpected turn, a waterfall tumbles down, immerses its waters in the river and creates a stir and commotion, catching the river in its naïve acceptivity, yet without its being ready for fusion. A bit further along the way the river recuperates, the fresh water is welcomed, accepted, and incorporated into the flow; it becomes indistinguishable from the “old” waters. It is not the case that the new water disappears; some of it gets appropriated by the river contributing to its flowing, making its flow more assertive and confident, while some of it evaporates in the air, unproductively, for no particular reason, only to come eventually back, disguised in the rain feeding the waterfall and the river. And some of it simply disappears without ever coming back. Yet, the waterfall tumbled down with its full force, with all the water that it had, indifferent to the fate of its waters afterward. This is how a surprise gets appropriated or engaged: the flow of experience assumes some of it, and some of it just disappears after the initial fuss and storm. A part of surprise without measurable utility, a “nonproductive” part that eventually “evaporates,” only to (partially) come back again, unexpectedly, is astonishment. The productive or appropriated part, the part that continues further with the flow is wonder. Surprise seems to be indivisible and concentrated as a sudden eruption, yet it allows metamorphosis and transformation. In this transformation, astonishment presents discontinuity, a strand that disappears, the capacity to let go, while wonder is the insistence to continue, the impossibility of indifference, and the power of processing and transformation. But, this characterization might suggest that surprise is an entity with divisible parts. This is misleading: surprise is commonly perceived as “compact,” as an instantaneous affect of one’s interiority. It seems that there is a capacity for surprise, commensurable with a desire for surprise, that is, commensurable with the acceptivity of exteriority and otherness exceeding one’s expectations. If I am not acceptive, the encounter might pass by me; if I am indifferent, the encounter with irreducible otherness will not happen. The exceeding of expectation cannot happen if there is no expectation; the unexpected will not happen if there is indifference. In Levinas’s terms, the irreducible Other still needs the Same, not as its opposition, but as its reference point. Hence, I need to be acceptive, to be attuned, to be open to surprise. In further transformation, wonder begets both admiration as the pleasure of the senses and of contemplation, and responsibility as the signification

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of non-indifference. Contrasting amazement and admiration, Kant defines amazement as “an affect [that occurs] when we present novelty that exceeds our expectation,” and admiration as “an amazement that does not cease once the novelty is gone.”3 Amazement seems to be akin to pure bewilderment, while admiration presents the interplay between reflection and its stoppage due to suspicion regarding its limitation. Although a cognitive act, admiration seems to flourish on surprises of reflection that happen as echoes of the originating surprise and that are heard each time when reflection is caught up in its inability for processing. To paraphrase Kant’s admiration-amazement parallel, the surprise of reflection is a surprise that does not cease once the originating surprise is gone. It is a derivative yet irreducible surprise in a sequence of such surprises, characterizing admiration as a dialectic of reflection and its annihilation. Its derivative character follows from being a surprise triggered by the original surprise; its origin is the surprise from which it metamorphosed. Plato said that philosophy begins with wonder. Levinas might be right that ethics is the first philosophy, because the signification of non-indifference (responsibility in Levinas’s vocabulary) inherent in wonder precedes the question-answer interplay. But, wonder is announced by astonishment, hence pure aesthetics (non-productive, useless, fleeting) precedes it. Astonishment lasts but a moment, while wonderment persists. Perceived suddenness of surprise is related to astonishment as independent of any reflection. Wonderment transformed into either admiration (the aesthetic strand) or into responsibility (the ethical strand) induces reflection that needs time to proceed and that appropriates the initial (originating) surprise. The transition from astonishment to wonderment induces a feeling of sublimity due to the shock of overwhelming presence that provokes reflection. Sublimity as viewed here presents a bridge between astonishment and wonderment: it partially appropriates astonishment to start wonderment. A sublime feeling incorporates nobility and respect, branching out to, respectively, admiration and responsibility. Kant talks about a noble “cast of mind”4 related to sublimity. Nobility distinguishes admiration from astonishment, and contemplation from the initial realization of excess beyond expectation; it signals leaving the purity (disinterestedness) of the aesthetic encounter en route to invoking the full capacity for reflection, “which happens when ideas in their exhibition harmonize, unintentionally and without art, without our aesthetic liking.”5 Such harmonization fits in the metamorphosis of surprise proposed here, when the initial astonishment or amazement gives rise to admiration. Respect, on the other hand, is a “big” ethical concept, and Kant uses it to express the feeling produced by consciousness of the moral law.6 For Kant, respect is “a special and peculiar modification of the feeling of pleasure and displeasure which does seem to differ somehow from both the

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pleasure and displeasure we get from empirical objects.”7 It is a feeling that does not require a presentation to serve as its cause. In contrast, a feeling of pleasure and displeasure is an effect of a presentation. Such a view of respect as being a priori to a presentation is compatible with Levinasian responsibility as “significance which is non-indifference,”8 beyond the facticity and particularity of moral norms. In wonderment, hence, the properly aesthetic surprise is transformed into a complex reflection, proceeding in different directions (aesthetic/cultural, ethical, or scientific). One then starts feeling admiration, enjoyment, fulfillment, and responsibility (in different shades and proportions), and the experience is not properly aesthetic any more. To summarize the proposed unfolding of the irreducible aesthetic surprise: the origin (the immediacy or the encounter with irreducible otherness) triggers the beginning of surprise. Surprise begins with the announcement of senses characterized by an indistinctness regarding their specific functions—let us call this beginning sense-ness. The first distinct sensation is astonishment that further invokes sublimity. Sublimity incorporates nobility and respect and leads to wonderment. Wonderment begets either admiration or responsibility. Admiration is a feeling of acknowledgment of difference, a feeling of pleasure because of the other. Responsibility is a feeling of my accountability for the other, a need for my response because of the other. Admiration contains an inherent passivity (as when admiring an artwork) and it stays with me—I can admire in solitude, which projects an aura of nobility. Responsibility, on the other hand, subtends coexistence in society, be it characterized by culture, morality, or scientific endeavors, by tainting reflection with awareness of others and of self in relation to others. Responsibility contains an inherent activity (as when doing something for the other) and it necessarily goes toward the other, another human being or environment. From admiration arises artistic evaluation, which is not necessarily restricted to artworks because I can evaluate a scene in nature artistically. From responsibility arises morality. Artistic admiration and moral activity develop further from diminishing surprise, when pure surprise disappears, appropriated by art criticism, moral norms, and the logic of scientific understanding. The philosophical views summarized in the following sections seem relevant for the proposed metamorphosis of surprise as the sequence of announcements. Despite the perceived suddenness, the phenomenology of surprise proposed in this work views surprise as a complex process, with different sequential phases. Each of the philosophical views presented subsequently is interpreted in the light of one of the phases. It is not my intention to interpret the role of surprise in Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy, or in any other subsequently presented philosophical view. Those positions are interpreted as they fit in a specific phase of the proposed framework of surprise as a

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sudden (yet complex and composite) process characterizing the beginning of an experience as aesthetic. To emphasize again: I propose to look at the phenomenon of surprise as a series of announcements, starting with the announcement of sensibility, leading to astonishment as the announcement of reflectivity, further transforming (in a leap) from astonishment to wonderment inherent in sublimity, and subsequently branching out to either admiration grounding aestheticcultural-scientific experiences, or responsibility grounding ethical experiences. Considering surprise as sudden astonishment seems too simplistic and does not give due credit to its impact in one’s experience. In order to acknowledge the newness necessary for the startup of surprise, Fink’s speculative phenomenology and his inquiry into the origin of a phenomenon is presented first. The next philosophical view relevant to the beginning of surprise includes Merleau-Ponty’s writing on chiasm and intertwining as it fits with the announcement of sensibility, prior to the definiteness of separate senses. Next, Nancy’s description of the surprise of the event, as characterizing the happening of the event and related to the surprise of thinking, fits with astonishment as the announcement of reflectivity. Then, Lyotard’s writing on sublimity brings in focus the transition from astonishment to wonderment. The development of wonderment toward admiration leads to the aesthetic branch, hence Dufrenne’s writing on the phenomenology of aesthetic experience is relevant. In addition, Bachelard’s dialectics of outside and inside captures the play of reflection and its annihilation in the continuous force of admiration of a poetic image. The aesthetics of appearing proposed by Seel underlines the nature of appearance apart for objective representation, and seems relevant to the encounters considered in this work. ON FINK’S SPECULATIVE PHENOMENOLOGY Speculative philosophy makes claims that cannot be verified by everyday experience. Hence, when I talk about the break of my representational capabilities, I can only speculate about indifference. Speculative thought is contrasted with phenomenology as a study of conscious experience. Being conscious of something, one can write about it and propose a phenomenology of such an encounter. But, one can only speculate what is beyond one’s consciousness. The present work is an example of speculative phenomenology, since I move between phenomenology and speculation. I started by developing a phenomenology of desire for the unexpected. This was followed by speculation about the break, continuing with a phenomenology of surprise. A mix of speculation and phenomenology appears in the work of Eugen Fink, whose thesis is titled, Representation and Image: Contributions to the

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Phenomenology of Unreality. Working under the dominance of Husserl, Fink nevertheless questioned some elements of Husserl’s notion of intentional consciousness. For Fink, a phenomenon invites both analysis as the power to discriminate and to generate knowledge, and speculation as the power of questioning and philosophizing. Fink’s philosophical position was influenced by both Husserl and Heidegger, and in turn he was influential for MerleauPonty’s study on the primacy of perception. The question is: how to do a philosophy of origin? For Fink the notion of becoming amounts to a mutual joining of the constituted world as being, and its constituting life as pre-being. He states that philosophy in essence is play, which is a concept characterizing human nature (this invites comparison with Gadamer’s proposal of art as play). Fink argues for the “phenomenology of phenomenology,” for going beyond the natural attitude to the transcendental “constitutive becoming” of the world, to witness the “birth of the world.” His view is that phenomenology has to contain a certain level of speculation, since otherwise it becomes mere psychology. Phenomenology of reflection is too constrained and cannot address existential issues properly. Fink argues that phenomenology should originate in something other than phenomenology. This is my point also: the origin or immediacy beyond representation precedes the representation as given in consciousness. While Kant theorizes the transcendental ego and Husserl the concrete I; Fink posits a transcendental ego—not as a being, but instead as a source of being, a pre-being. His philosophy looks beyond being, at the source of being, the origin preceding the beginning. What is prior to consciousness, as a source or origin to a conscious fact, precedes intuition and its forms. The consideration of origin points to the limits of phenomenology and asserts the possibility of speculative reflection. In the Sixth Cartesian Meditation, Fink proposes a transcendental theory of method as an inquiry into the origin, the speculation of the pre-existing environment for phenomenology. It is a critical answer to Husserl and his Cartesian Meditation, which begin with the ego. Fink wants to inquire into inter-subjectivity and the problem of becoming, and, by inquiring into the transcendental theory of method, he in fact does a “phenomenology of phenomenology.”9 The problem is to situate the conditions justifying the transcendental phenomenology and the ego performing the analysis. Fink writes, “In the field of ‘transcendentality’ there remains, therefore, something still uncomprehended, precisely the phenomenological theorizing ‘onlooker.’ Nothing other than this very onlooker is the theme of the transcendental theory of method, which therefore is the phenomenological science of phenomenologizing, the phenomenology of phenomenology.”10 The onlooker is the subject performing the theorizing, so what is supporting his or her functioning, what justifies his or her “expertise” in performing

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such acts? Husserl’s phenomenology goes from the ontic level to the inquiry of transcendental phenomenology. This transition is possible due to the transcendental ego and the intentional consciousness. But, what grounds the transcendental ego? What are the pre-conditions for establishing the consciousness of the ego, that is, what about transcendental inter-subjectivity or commonality of being and its environment? Fink seems to hold a middle ground between Husserl’s transcendental ego performing phenomenological reductions, and Heidegger’s Da-sein as being in the world. The problem is to acknowledge the primacy of the origin outside the transcendental ego that allows the ego to perform phenomenology. The beginning of phenomenology has to acknowledge the origin outside and its presence inside. The I reflects, but transcendental reflection performing the phenomenological reduction discloses the transcendental I, pulling it out of the anonymity inherent in the word-constitution, and “steps out of darkness and ‘being-outside-itself’ into the luminosity of transcendental ‘being-foritself.’”11 This disclosure seems to be the prerequisite for development of self-consciousness. The phenomenological onlooker performs the phenomenological reduction uniting the human I of natural attitude and the transcendental I of phenomenologizing. Husserl’s phenomenology starts with the ego as a pole of intentionalities and transcendental subjectivity in the living present. The intentionality includes the past as memory and recollection. But, what about the transcendental past? Fink wants to develop a “transcendental critique of recollection, of the consciousness of the past that is indicated in the habitualities of this actual moment.”12 Is the past of intersubjectivity, of pre-being, relevant to the present and to the phenomenological reduction? This is the question of origin: how is origin that precedes the beginning, the outside, incorporated into the present? Birth and death are “the great realities of human existence,”13 but I—being already born and not yet dead—do not have a first-hand experience of either birth or death. Still, my analysis is heavily dependent of it— what justification do I have for speculating about beginnings and ends? Is it possible that some transcendental recollection of intersubjectivity becomes relevant as a recollection of the multiplicity of births and deaths shared in intersubjectivity and implanted in the transcendental onlooker, justifying the intuitive use of the phenomena of birth and death in phenomenological reduction? The speculative phenomenology of Fink certainly adds to Husserl’s phenomenology. In addition, I wish to go somewhat further than Fink: can we identify mundane phenomena that provide intuition about birth and death, giving the flavor of natural attitude to the transcendental recollection of beginning and ending? The phenomenon of surprise as the aftermath of an irreducible break in the stream of consciousness incorporates both the

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intuitions of death and of birth, since something came to a stop following the break of the stream of experience, only to give rise to birth in the waking up of sensibility. The work of Merleau-Ponty, who was influenced by Fink, complies with the interplay between commonality and individuality, between the flesh of the world and the subjectivity of perception. Here we leave the territory marked by Husserl and enter the territory of Heidegger—and Fink seems to be the “bridge.” Indeed, commentators such as Ronald Bruzina have viewed Fink as a middleman between Husserl and Heidegger, writing, “There is no doubt that Fink was indebted to Heidegger for his appreciation of the importance of the question of being for philosophy . . . what Fink does in the Sixth Meditation is something Heidegger could not do, namely, raise the issue in such a way as to make it both accessible to Husserl and appreciated by him (even if he might not agree entirely with Fink’s way of treating it).”14 The analysis of the phenomenon of surprise presupposes a representational break that lies outside it. This break is a logical necessity stemming from the concept of surprise based on experiencing newness, but it is at the same time a transcendental necessity preceding the logic of the notion since the consciousness of break presupposes “being-outside-itself.” This transcendental necessity leads to the problem of transcendental idealism and its positioning regarding transcendence and immanence. The direction from a natural attitude based on transcendental pre-conditions, in order to move to transcendental phenomenology, shows the intertwining of inside and outside, of subjectivity and intersubjectivity, and discards the differences between idealism and realism.15 The phenomenon of surprise seems to be the paradigmatic phenomenon, analogous to Dewey’s and Gadamer’s assertions that the aesthetic experience is the paradigmatic experience that can elucidate what experience is by being an experience (Dewey) representing “the essence of experience per se” (Gadamer). Similarly, I argue that the phenomenon of surprise carries in itself the basic questions of phenomenology and most forcefully provides insight into the relationship between the transcendental and the immanent, between presence and absence, and between the Other and the Same, subjectivity and intersubjectivity. Fink’s contribution to phenomenology is, in his own words, “an anticipatory look at a meontic philosophy of absolute spirit.”16 The word “meontic” (without appearing again in the text of the Sixth Meditation) is the key notion connecting the transcendental to the mundane. The notion of the absolute unites the existent (natural attitude) as such, which is the world, and the pre-existent (transcendental) which is the world-origin. Fink’s speculative phenomenology is characterized by its meontic combining of constitution and transcendence, its analysis of observable and experienced phenomena by way

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of the speculative consideration of the origin. The meontic approach is trying to reproduce and situate the non-present. As already stated, this work has affinity with Fink’s speculative phenomenology since the proposed speculative phenomenon titled desire||surprise requires a combination of analysis and speculation; it iterates among description-speculation-description. How can we speculate in phenomenology? By considering the origin of a phenomenon, outside of phenomena yet indispensable for its analysis and its position in experiencing. Husserl’s phenomenology is transcendental regarding the elements (e.g. time and space), but he takes the phenomenological method without questioning. Fink wants to augment the phenomenological approach by considering the “transcendental theory of the method,” which necessarily includes the phenomenological onlooker and justification for the startup of phenomenological analysis. Fink’s work influenced Merleau-Ponty’s articulation of commonality, or the “flesh” beyond intentional consciousness as an acknowledgement of intersubjectivity. Intentional analysis cannot grasp the origin outside the phenomenon, the origin transcending consciousness of the noema and justifying the primacy of perception. MERLEAU-PONTY’S INTERTWINING OR CHIASM The phenomenology of surprise proposed in the present work characterizes the start of surprise as a true beginning, a leap from the anonymity of existence (indifferent immediacy) toward perception, toward the employment of senses and, further on, toward reflection. The presence of something overflowing the presentation by one’s senses is necessary for signalling a break or pause, when sensibility is caught in its passivity. Awareness of this passivity, emerging from a blinding, overwhelming, image (or encounter) announces—merely announces—one’s senses. In such an instant I am aware of my senses, but in a strange way: not that I sense a touch or a smell, or see anything objective, I do not feel the result of functioning senses. I become aware—so to speak—of the birth of my sensibility, my sense-ness. In the moment of birth, a child is still connected to the mother’s body through the umbilical cord; he or she is and is not a separate being yet, despite all the organs having developed properly; the oxygen absent from the child’s lungs indicates mortal dependence on the mother’s nurturing body. The cut of the umbilical cord and that first breath and cry indicate the necessary separation, so that all the organs can assume their functions and subjectivity can start to be ascertained and shaped. In the initial instant of surprise, I am connected with the “umbilical cord” to the encounter that triggered it. I sense myself sensing, not yet separated

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from the encounter that originated the delivery, and, as in a perverse logic, my body is extended beyond its physical confines to encompass the encounter. The separation, the cut of the umbilical cord, the retreat of my shapeless body to its physical confinement, is announced by feelings of astonishment or amazement, analogous to the first breath and the first cry. In astonishment, I start asserting my territory, indicating my inclination to put things under my control—which is in vain, of course; astonishment transforms into admiration, resembling a game of hide-and-seek between reflection and non-reflection. Merleau-Ponty’s work is indispensable for the phenomenology of perception while the umbilical cord’s connection to the environment is still in place, when I see myself seeing, and touch myself touching. For him phenomenology is “a study of the advent of being to consciousness, instead of presuming its possibility as given in advance.”17 “The Intertwining: The Chiasm” chapter in The Visible and the Invisible articulates most forcefully Merleau-Ponty’s elaboration of the pre-reflective phase of experience between empiricism and rationalism, when one’s senses are turned on themselves to sense sensibility itself, at the birth of sensibility, as the antecedent to separate senses. He writes, “Since the same body sees and touches, visible and tangible belong to the same world.”18 The notion of “flesh” as the equivalence of sensibility and the sensible thing, provides Merleau-Ponty with the notion of embodiment of the intermediary between the subject and the object, the seer and the visible. He writes, “It is that the thickness of flesh between the seer and the thing is constitutive for the thing of its visibility as for the seer of his corporeity; it is not an obstacle between them, it is their means of communication.”19 The seer and the thing have a commonality, bringing them into proximity, defying objective distance, and allowing communication different from that of a question-answer discourse. The flesh is “midway between the spatiotemporal individual and the idea, a sort of incarnate principle that brings a style of being wherever there is a fragment of being.”20 This view is relevant for the initial phase of the metamorphosis of surprise in the present work. In irreducible surprise, a “fragment of being” emerges after the instant of pause or shock. The sense of sensibility announces itself, announces being, yet there is still indeterminacy and non-recognition of separate senses, and reflection is still missing. Each separate sense of each separate body with every other body “is bound in such a way as to make up with them the experience of one sole body before one sole world . . . and all together are a Sentient in general before a Sensible in general.”21 This is the “anonymous visibility” of the flesh residing in all bodies and allowing communication. In some sense, the anonymity is reminiscent of Levinas: whereby Levinas wants to go beyond being as existent and resorts to the anonymous Il y a of existence, MerleauPonty goes beyond senses and resorts to the anonymous Il y a of sensibility,

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“the flesh of the world”22 as he names it, its visibility, and, one could add, its touch-ability, its smell-ability, etc. The intertwining (the communicability) of outside and inside, and of body and world, is made possible by this commonality. Merleau-Ponty’s primary interests are in the senses of sight and touch. In a long sentence he writes, when, starting from the body, I ask how it makes itself a seer, when I examine the critical region of the aesthesiological body, everything comes to pass . . . as though the visible body remained incomplete, gaping open; . . . as though, therefore, the vision came suddenly to give to the material means and instruments left here and there in the working area a convergence which they were waiting for . . .: the current making of an embryo a newborn infant, of a visible a seer, and of a body a mind, or at least a flesh.23

All this results in animation or inspiration, and in the visible body: “suddenly it will see, that is, will be visible for itself . . .,”24 hence it will start a new beginning, and add a new signification. This process of making of a visible a seer parallels the evolving of an aesthetic encounter considered in the present work: the desire is inherent in “waiting for” and the beginning of surprise is inherent in the sudden arrival. The void, or the break separating desire from surprise, is inherent in the irreducible difference characterizing the “making of an embryo a newborn infant.” The break is due to the difference between an embryo ceasing to be, and a newborn infant arriving; it is the origination of a true beginning. It is interesting how Merleau-Ponty describes the impossibility of experiencing the “reversibility of the seeing and the visible, or the touching and the touched,” which becomes impossibility precisely “at the moment of realization.”25 This impossibility happens because, in the moment of touching and being touched, my body and that of the world “adhere to one another,” and become indistinguishable. In touching I am an active subject; in being touched I am passive: there is a void in between. For Merleau-Ponty, this void is “the zero point of pressure between two solids that makes them adhere to one another.”26 This void seems to be akin to the void between desire and surprise considered in the present work and characterizing the properly aesthetic experience. In desire, as in touching, I am active and still a subject. In encountering the irreducible exceeding over expectations, I reach the zero point of my subjectivity and I am engulfed in a pause in which surprise originates. My desire, as the expectation of the exceeding of any expectation, and this excess itself, are fused: they “adhere to one another,” as if my body and the body of the world are becoming one. This void is the origin of my surprise, and the beginning of

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surprise starts with the announcement of my sensibility, viewed as the indifference of difference. In a sense, Merleau-Ponty’s flesh is the indifference of difference between my body and the body of the world. The indifference of difference inherent in flesh passes into difference, and this transition corresponds to Merleau-Ponty’s feeling of being touched. Hence, the impossibility of experiencing the overlapping of touching and being touched is due to a commonality between myself and the world—the flesh—where touching and being touched are indistinguishable, disorienting my experiential capacity to clearly distinguish between the activity of touching, and the passivity of being touched. Merleau-Ponty concludes his “Chiasm” chapter by considering language that “refers back to itself”27—not the language of discourse, but the language as the gaze of the mind. Analogous to the “reversibility of the seeing and the visible,” there is “a reversibility of the speech and what it signifies.”28 They share “the same fundamental phenomenon of reversibility which sustains both the mute perception and the speech and which manifests itself by an almost carnal existence of the idea, as well as by a sublimation of the flesh.”29 Such reversibility subtends both sensibility and reflection, making possible their intertwining. And this intertwining is a relevant point for the further metamorphosis of surprise, in the instant of astonishment and its transformation into wonderment, characterized by sublimity manifesting the sensibility of thought (vulnerability and enjoyment combined). Astonishment is the announcement of thought, of reflectivity. It is the indifference between reflection and non-reflection, the indifference of difference, passivity in the core of activity that goes by the name of thinking. Merleau-Ponty’s reversibility is possible only if there is common ground for both terms that are involved. The reversibility of reflection (as an activity) and of what is being reflected upon occurs in the passivity of reflection when it is taking the place of the reflected upon. This passivity of reflection precedes the eruption of astonishment. Hence, astonishment can be viewed as the surprise of thinking. Nancy’s work regarding the surprise of the event is relevant here. NANCY’S SURPRISE OF THE EVENT For Nancy, surprise is the essence or being of the event, “the event-ness of the event.” Without surprise there would be no event. He writes, “What makes the event an event is not only that it happens, but that it surprises.”30 In evoking Hegel, he argues that becoming should not be identified with “passage into” indicating procession, but with the agitation of unrest, “which has not yet passed and does not pass as such—but happens.”31 In the word that Hegel uses for event as occurrence or happening (Geschehen) implying

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“precipitation and suddenness,” Nancy senses that “Hegel lets the Geschehen come and go, happen and leave, without seizing it.”32 What cannot be seized is the “as such,” the event-ness regardless of the factuality of what happens. This event-ness, according to Nancy, “can only be a matter of surprise, can only take thinking by surprise.”33 In “pure occurring” not effectuated by some cause but starting ex nihilo, the time is “empty time” as the time itself (it is not in time, it is not successivity). This “empty time” characterizes “the present without presence,” “it is the unexpected arrival of the thing itself.” Nancy continues, “It is neither (successive) time, nor (distributive) place, nor (extant) thing, but rather the place of something—the event.”34 The event is not “presentable”; in Nancy’s words, “it is the unpresentifiable of the present.”35 Blanchot calls it “the absence of presence.” The unexpected arrival divides abstraction from the result, so that “There is a rupture and a leap,”36 a rupture indicating severance of all presuppositions, and a leap indicating the appearance. The surprise, for Nancy, “is not anything,” not a newness of comparison with the existing, but a leap of—concurrently—the “not yet” and the “already.” Nancy writes, “The surprise is nothing except the leap right at Being, this leap where the event and thinking are ‘the same.’”37 Let me interpret this statement in relation to the present work. As argued in the previous section, immediacy is the precedent of re-presentation, a presence that cannot be represented because it is prerequisite to representation. The impossibility of presenting immediacy leads to a rupture (a pause and empty time), and the leap originates the beginning as a creation, not as a transformation of something into something else. This leap from immediacy to mediation and presence induces a leap of thought, a recovery of the “frozen” capacity for reflection, beginning as irreducible surprise. It seems that Nancy’s article can be summarized in the following statement: event-ness of the event is immediacy as the origin that leaps into the beginning. The impossibility of representing immediacy results in surprise, the acknowledgment of the breaking point of representation. Nancy defines the constitution of the event as “the nonpresence of the coming to presence, and its absolute surprise.”38 The surprise he considers “is not a surprise for a subject,” the surprise is the event itself which is not representable, but rather is “the leap into the space-time of nothing,” where this space-time “is the originary division and chiasm that opens them up to one another.”39 Again, it seems misleading to name “surprise” that which is, in fact, pure immediacy. The title of Nancy’s essay could have been “The Immediacy of the Event,” or “The Immediacy: Of the Event” to indicate the originality and non-intimacy of the leap. In contrast, surprise is mine, intimate, it follows the leap; it is a trace of immediacy. While immediacy “is not anything,” surprise carries my world on its shoulders. Immediacy characterizes event-ness of the event

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and is completely indifferent, while surprise—from its beginning—clings to a “fragment of being,”40 to use a phrase of Merleau-Ponty, and proceeds as my feeling triggered or induced by immediacy: immediacy precedes surprise and there is a void between, which is transgressed in a leap. Immediacy and surprise are related as cause and effect, and while immediacy characterizes the event-ness of the event, we might say (in analogy) that surprise characterizes the self-ness of self. Without surprise, there would be no self; without immediacy there would be no event, no origination of self. However, one can argue: and what about the event of thinking? The surprise induced by the immediacy of the outside induces in turn the immediacy of thinking as an event, resulting in the surprised thought. Every true beginning originates from immediacy, anonymous and indifferent. Hence, a new thought also originates from immediacy outside thinking. For a thought, such immediacy is the sensation of astonishment, which is outside thought and originates the beginning of thought as the surprise inherent in the sublimity characterizing the transition from the sensation of astonishment toward the reflection of wonderment. Astonishment is the surprise of thinking. Surprise, as the surprise of encountering irreducible otherness, starts even earlier, in the announcement of sensibility. What is in play afterward is the dialectics of outside and inside, the intertwining of the other and the same (or the other in the same). Surprise leads to the immediacy of the event of thinking, hence to the leap from a banal thought to a creative one. The perceived complexity of surprise carries over to its proposed phenomenology as a series of sequential and gradual announcements. In the process of the metamorphosis of surprise proposed in the present work, astonishment as the announcement of reflection is followed by the transformation (leap) to wonderment. The leap from astonishment to wonderment can be characterized by sublimity. Hence, this seems to be the appropriate place for interpreting Lyotard’s work on sublimity. LYOTARD AND SUBLIMITY In the metamorphosis of irreducible aesthetic surprise, after the pre-reflective instant announcing sensibility, followed by astonishment as announcement of reflection, wonder starts. Wonder can lead to either admiration, or to responsibility, or to any combination of admiration/responsibility in different proportions. This, in turn, leads to a startup of either an aesthetic/cultural experience, or an ethical experience, or a cultural/social experience, respectively. Hence, the transition from astonishment into wonderment seems to be a common ground of aesthetics, ethics, and culture, whence artistic evaluation and moral norms can go separate ways. It has already been stated that this

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transition is characterized by sublimity, incorporating the feelings of nobility and respect. In progressing through the proposed metamorphosis of surprise, Lyotard’s work from the Lessons on the Analytic of the Sublime seems to fit best when arriving at the point of considering wonder and sublimity, after the initial astonishment starts retreating to give more “space” to reflection. Contrasting aesthetics—ethics, Lyotard considers the following contrasts: beautiful—good; indirect presentation—unrepresentable object; presentation of absence—absence of presentation; presentation without adequate concept—concept without adequate presentation. Sublimity arises when reflection reaches its limit, when it attempts to reflect on the absolute, be it the absolute in aesthetic presentation, or in morality, or in speculative thought. Lyotard writes, “The consequence for thought is a kind of spasm. And the Analytic of the Sublime is a hint of this spasm.”41 This seems very much in line with the proposal in the present work to characterize properly aesthetic experience as rupture with both sensibility and reflection “on hold” in the instant of pause (seizure, spasm) due to their inability to handle the encounter, or to deal with presence. It is difficult to conceptualize the unlimited, argues Lyotard, because understanding in employing concepts works under the assumption of limitation, of the definiteness implicit in conceptual description. In comparing the aesthetic idea to the rational idea, Lyotard reminds us that whenever the presence of an object surpasses the boundaries of the concept of that object in the sense of exceeding our experience, an aesthetic idea arises—in contrast to a rational idea, which is a concept of an object that cannot be presented. Hence, an aesthetic idea is characterized by a presence triggering the excess of its reception, that is, a presence that goes beyond simple objective presentation and somehow captures absence (non-presentable presence) as well. The aesthetic idea cannot possibly be exhausted in descriptive phrases; it cannot be subsumed under a definite concept of understanding. A work of art can be viewed as an implicit nod to absence as presence. The lure of the absolute and the exigency of going beyond limits characterize human nature and present a driving force for encountering sublime feelings. Lyotard writes, “The absolute is never there, never given in a presentation, but it is always ‘present’ as a call to thing beyond the ‘there.’ Ungraspable, but unforgettable. Never restored, never abandoned.”42 It seems that the absolute has many forms: it is Levinas’s irreducible Other, it is Bataille’s void or the unknown in the core of the ecstatic moment, it is Blanchot’s neuter and the incessant need to write, it is the impossibility of presenting (i.e. mediating) immediacy. The absolute is a “presence” that cannot be objectively presented. It can only implicitly manifest itself; it can be felt. Whenever we encounter something irreducibly unexpected originating a new beginning, a facet of the absolute unveils itself, if only for an instant. The irreducible

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surprise resulting from such an encounter in its metamorphosis toward wonder invokes sublime feelings. Lyotard asks, “is it possible, and how would it be possible, to testify to the absolute by means of artistic and literary presentations, which are always dependent on forms?”43 This is a challenging question that guides artistic efforts. The underlying assumption is that thinking of the absolute is incompatible with thinking of forms, because forms imply limitation, running counter to the limitlessness attributed to the absolute. Let me pose another question: Is there a way of testifying to the absolute with a formal presentation, that is, in an artwork that has a “beautiful” form, yet whose content spills beyond it as if the form were made purposively restrictive to underline its own inadequacy? Let us ask again: what is the absolute and why is this concept of reason singled out? The absolute is irreducible otherness, experienced in encounters with nature and art. It is irreducibly unexpected. A glimpse of the absolute can be obtained whenever the presentation (as formed matter) ceases to be complete or closed and points to a presence beyond the surface of the factual presentation. The presence of the absolute is the absence of presentation; its “form” can only be defined in negative terms as inability. Artistic presentations of the absolute should not be concerned with the form of the form, instead they should be concerned with the surpassing of whatever form is available; for example, they should go beyond a style or movement labeled with an –ism, such as modernism, postmodernism, minimalism, expressionism, impressionism, etc. Discussing the affective quality of sublime feelings, Lyotard recalls Kant’s distinction between enthusiasm and respect: enthusiasm is an affect and as an affect it agitates the mind, hence it is a hindrance to free contemplation, while respect is a pure moral feeling. Nonetheless, enthusiasm, and any other affect “of the vigorous kind”44 that is strong enough to point to our strength in overcoming obstacles and resistance, is aesthetically sublime in that it induces consciousness of our strength. Interestingly, Kant singles out “[the state of being] without affects . . . in a mind that vigorously pursues its immutable principles”45 as being sublime “in a far superior way” because it allows the purity of reason. Such a state, says Kant, is “noble” and arouses admiration. This characterization of nobility fits the metamorphosis of surprise proposed in this work, when astonishment as the announcement of reflection gives way to wonder, and to the startup of admiration as the interplay between reflection and feeling. Astonishment clears the mind of its every affect; only affectivity as such is announced. This clearance allows a firmness of mind that is not burdened by specific affects; hence wonderment can start. The feeling of nobility guides wonderment in the direction of admiration. Admiration indeed projects something noble in the sense of being firm, unshakable in determination, and principled, hence significant, or something opposed to

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insignificance and vulgarity. In another direction, the feeling of respect leads wonderment in the (ethical) direction of responsibility. Maybe we should dwell a little bit more on the difference between feelings of nobility and respect. I feel nobility as a reaction triggered by the outside but applying back to me, as a noble state of my mind, involving strength as something that subtends my acknowledgment of principles. Respect, on the other hand, is at its best when I can turn toward something or somebody else and evaluate it in a disinterested way, as a fair judge would do, according to pure lawfulness. Emotions can make judgments impure; they involve sensibility and disable the contemplation of lawfulness. But, what to make of this difference between nobility and respect regarding the phenomenology of the irreducible surprise? In sum, following astonishment and its transformation into wonderment engendered in sublimity, the feeling of nobility announces admiration oriented toward art evaluation and the cultural significance of the aesthetic encounter, transforming into an aesthetic-cultural experience. The feeling of respect signals the metamorphosis of the sublime, resulting in responsibility, and the initial aesthetic encounter transforms into an ethical experience. Not that experiences can be neatly separated by type, but one mode can be predominant: I can go to a museum, and I can also give my time to a worthy social cause, and the two can go together. Lyotard views sublimity as the irreducible break between Kant’s speculative and practical philosophies, between judgment and reason, between nature and freedom. He writes, “Sublime violence is like lightning. It shortcircuits thinking with itself.”46 In one sense, the rupture caused by encountering irreducible otherness or irreducible excess over any expectation is certainly a break of my “powers of the mind”—all three of them (cognitive power, the power to feel pleasure and displeasure, and the power of desire). However, the sublime can also be viewed as a bridge over the void or abyss between presentation (Levinas’s Same) and non-presentable “presence” (Levinas’s Other). Since sublime is a feeling both of pleasure and displeasure, it has a break “wired” into it. Sublimity allows the discontinuity of discontinuity, hence continuity on a higher level. On the other hand, in the metamorphosis of surprise proposed here, sublimity arises with the restoration of the power of reflection, after the instant of pure astonishment. Then, displeasure, regarding sensitivity’s inability, and pleasure, regarding subsequent recuperation, serve as a composite mending power that appropriates the excess beyond expectation. Desire, as the expectation of the irreducible exceeding of any expectation, finds its repose—albeit temporary—and allows considering such a break as one’s own victory. Maybe in such an experience I do not feel dominance over nature, or dominance of reason over sensibility, as Kant would want it, but I do feel a kind of dominance over the situation, the break that did not break me, but allowed me to get a glimpse of a new

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beginning, as if a new strand were added to my experiential “space,” adding to its thickness. Lyotard concludes his Lessons on the Analytic of the Sublime with the forceful statement, “The sublime feeling is neither moral universality, nor aesthetic universalization, but is, rather, the destruction of one by the other in the violence of their differend. This differend cannot demand, even subjectively, to be communicated to all thought.”47 In the framework proposed in the current work, the rupture that occurs during the encounter with excess signals the failure of universality, because universality assumes communicability, and the void destroys every communication. According to Kant, universalization of taste requires sensus communis, while the universality of moral communicability requires the a priori idea of freedom. The universalization of taste is severed in the instant of rupture, as if disappearing into a black hole, and the a priori idea of freedom does not guide the beginning of surprise, it does not start with an implicit “ought.” The acceptivity inherent in the desire for the unexpected, leading to some kind of appropriation of the incompatibility between desire and surprise, does not possess the universalization based on either sensus communis or on moral “ought.” The properly aesthetic experience revealed in sublimity is beyond both taste and morality. Both artistic and moral judgments may follow afterward, when sublimity changes into admiration or responsibility. In judging encounters as instances of the properly aesthetic experience, four consecutive phases were proposed, namely desire, excess, pause (rupture), and recuperation (surprise). The metamorphosis of the irreducible aesthetic surprise was characterized as a series of consecutive announcements: the announcement of sensibility, followed by the announcement of reflection (astonishment), triggering wonderment inherent in sublimity, further branching to admiration and/or responsibility. Kant explicates the reflective aesthetic judgments (of taste and about sublime) via the four moments, corresponding to the four logical functions of the understanding, namely quantity, quality, relation, and modality. He specifies the moments involved in judging about sublime as follows, “in terms of quantity, as universally valid; in terms of quality, as devoid of interest; in terms of relation, [as a] subjective purposiveness; and in terms of modality, as a necessary subjective purposiveness.”48 With the augmented notions of sublimity and morality as pertaining to the judgments about the irreducible aesthetic experience, it is interesting to compare the four proposed phases with the four moments in Kantian judgments about sublime, that is, to describe the desire in terms of quantity, excess in terms of quality, pause in terms of relation, and recuperation in terms of modality. According to Kant, sublimity uncovers the supersensible in us, leading to the idea of supersensible freedom pointing to morality. The mathematically

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sublime uncovers the imagination’s inability to comprehend the absolute whole, despite reason’s demand to obey its laws, albeit without specifying which law. The dynamically sublime uncovers the mind’s superiority over sensible nature, pointing toward the moral law proclaimed by practical reason as the only way to achieve supersensible freedom. The encounters judged as instances of the properly aesthetic experience do not have to be provoked by something absolute in size or might, and the result is not the feeling of one’s superiority over sensible nature. However, they do uncover a sense of morality by acknowledging otherness and one’s place inseparable from the rest of the environment, and by providing a glimpse of the origin as necessary for a birth or for any true beginning. In that sense, they point to one’s limitlessness, as the possibility of encountering new beginnings. In judging that an encounter resulted with the properly aesthetic experience, with respect to quantity we consider the boundless desire as the inclination to accept the encounter with irreducible otherness. The universal validity of such desire follows from the wish to probe deeper into reality surpassing objective presence and to surpass the finitude of human nature and the limitations of sensibility. With respect to quality, the judgment about encountering excess (unmeasurable magnitude) points to the ability of surpassing the interest of sensibility, hence it is devoid of interest. With respect to relation, the pause or rupture when one’s sensibility and reflection are put on halt, disabling the senses of space and time, and disabling the mental power, is subjective and purposive in generating a sense of the continuity of being and the primordial origin of both aesthetics and ethics. While this is not the ability “to judge nature without fear and to think of our vocation as being sublimely above nature,” 49 as Kant would argue, it is the ability to judge nature without fear and to judge our place as inseparable from nature, in the state of innocence, beyond artificiality of social regulations. Kant states that sublime is best described in relation between a sensible presentation and its consequence for one’s humanity. With respect to modality, the recuperation resulting with irreducible surprise points to the capability of accepting something new; it points to the openness of reason, provoking the esteem for human nature. When writing about laughter as a result of a surprising presentation in a naiveté, going contrary to one’s expectation, Kant acknowledges “the eruption of the sincerity that originally was natural to humanity and which is opposed to the art of dissimulation that has become our second nature.”50 Similarly, the irreducible surprise resulting from an instance of the properly aesthetic experience, when the power of expecting was irreducibly exceeded, uncovers our primary, uncorrupted nature and the innocence grounding the ethical. As conjectured in the present work, sublimity has a break “wired into itself” as the appropriation of the rupture. It further evolves into either admiration or responsibility, or all possible combinations of admiration/responsibility

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between. The phenomenology of responsibility is developed by Levinas, and interpreted in chapter 2. I wish to trace a bit further the strain of admiration in the metamorphosis of surprise, leading to artistic judgments and aesthetic appreciation. In the next two sections, Dufrenne’s and Bachelard’s philosophical positions relevant for admiration of works of art are presented and put into the proposed framework of the phenomenology of surprise. Admiration unfolds in the interplay between the power and failure of reflection to deal with a work of art, and both Dufrenne and Bachelard acknowledge this interplay: as the “dialectic of reflection and feeling”51 for Dufrenne, and the dialectics of outside and inside for Bachelard. I subsequently present Seel’s aesthetics of appearing dealing with the process of appearing, in a sense comparable to the proposed process of the metamorphosis of surprise. Since the metamorphosis of irreducible surprise leaves something undeterminable, it seems appropriate to end this chapter with the irreducibility of desire that started the process in the first place. For this I turn back to Lyotard. DUFRENNE’S RELATION OF A PRIORI AND A POSTERIORI In the Phenomenology of Aesthetic Experience, Dufrenne asserts that aesthetic experience incorporates the “aesthetic object” and “aesthetic perception.”52 The aesthetic object is a peculiar sort of presence: it is both in the world and the source of a world. This is possible because there are two worlds relevant to the aesthetic object: it is an object in the “represented world,” and it is the source of an “expressed world.” According to Dufrenne, the expressed world created by the aesthetic object is revealed by feeling, “an immediacy that has undergone mediation.”53 Feeling is a peculiar reflection (or knowledge) that reveals a world. Expression is a capacity of a subject, “the revelation of the self”54 that brings interiority into the exterior. Nonetheless, the exterior induces interiority because the aesthetic object is the source of the expressed world. Dufrenne senses the immediacy at the heart of aesthetic experience, something where there is “nothing to anticipate.” He writes, “Everything is in expression and what is expressed is given to me immediately.”55 There are two types of reflection: a reflection that reduces an object to its physical appearance, and a reflection where the appearance is treated as a quasisubject to which one adheres. This other type of reflection “culminates in feeling.”56 This feeling coincides with “being-in-depth” or profundity, and depth indicates being beyond measurement, something hidden. Dufrenne writes, “But the hidden is not the merely unexpected, that surprise which one encounters at the turn in the road.”57 This is compatible with the present argument: the desire inherent in the expectation of the unexpected surpassing

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everyday banalities is imprinted in acceptivity toward the aesthetic object spilling over its representation of a physical object. The unexpected starts with surprise, and Dufrenne writes, The surprise seems to be no more than a first moment, however indispensable it is for purging our perceptions and drawing them into required state of disinterest. It is, however, something more than that. Compared with that wonder, which Aristotle calls the starting point of science and which Husserl and his commentators consider to be the inspiration of the philosophy as well, aesthetic wonder has the peculiarity of provoking reflection only eventually to reject it.58

However, it seems that in Dufrenne’s analysis the properly aesthetic part of the aesthetic experience is somehow brushed away, without being given its proper due. The task in the present work is to fill in some gaps regarding the initial phase, the beginning of the experience in its immediacy. The announcement of sensibility is the initial phase in the evolution of surprise, it signals the recovery of one’s sensibility and starts with the “state of disinterest.” Following the astonishment at such an encounter, wonder and admiration unfold further and derivative surprises of thought might be engendered in the dialectics of reflection and its rejection, extricating layers of signification. Going back to the phenomenology of feeling, how does feeling start? Dufrenne follows Kant’s strategy. Reflection and understanding lead to determinative judgments, and categories as pure concepts of understanding provide a priori conditions for the possibility of representation. Analogous to the relation between understanding and representation, Dufrenne proposes the relation between feeling and expression. Kant associates the ability to feel pleasure and displeasure (as a power of the mind) with reflective judgment, but leaves it as a composite power. Analogous to Kant’s categories as a priori and pure concepts of understanding, Dufrenne proposes a priori affects as the basis for an explication of a feeling. The “representation” of the expressed world can follow the representation of the world of appearances. Analogous to the impossibility of imagination turning to reason, Dufrenne writes, “Since reflection exhausts itself in the attempt to come to know an inexhaustible object, it turns to feeling.”59 Dufrenne asserts the “dialectic of reflection and feeling”60 as leading to better comprehension of the aesthetic object, and concludes that “aesthetic experience culminates in feeling without being able to eliminate reflection. It is located in the alteration of these two activities.”61 Dufrenne defines an aesthetic experience in a wider sense than used in this work. I distinguish between properly aesthetic and aesthetic/cultural experiences. Regardless of how fulfilling my admiration for a work of art might be, or how it might lead my reflection to open itself more and more, or how much more respectful

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I might be toward human creativity and toward the mysteries of nature— nonetheless, the initial moment of surprise when I become conscious of emerging from a rupture, from a pause annihilating my senses, has a special (properly aesthetic) significance since it originates admiration following it (this sense of emerging from a rupture is close to Bataille). It seems that, for Dufrenne, the progression of an aesthetic experience follows a trajectory similar to that followed by the progression of a cognitive experience, in the sense of starting up with surprise, and then culminating in a dialectic between reflection and feeling. In contrast, I argue that aesthetic experience starts with culmination (its proper aesthetic culmination is in the instant of beginning), and then progressively loses its purely aesthetic character in conglomeration with culture and ethics, in a dialectic of reflection and feeling. Dufrenne asserts that the culmination of aesthetic experience is “in feeling as the reading of expression.”62 It is, then, important to inquire into conditions for the possibility of feeling, that is, into a priori affectivity. This affectivity is important because “Affective quality is the soul of the expressed world, which itself lies at the origin of the represented world.”63 The affective a priori is subjective but nevertheless universalizable, argues Dufrenne. He proposes affective categories as ideas that occur prior to a concrete feeling and argues for the possibility of pure aesthetics (analogous to Kant’s possibility of pure mathematics). Although a priori knowledge is incomplete and inexhaustible, it moves us in categorizing aesthetic qualities (the beautiful, the sublime, the gracious, etc.—indefinitely). There is no finite table of affective categories, and a pure aesthetics cannot be defined. The categories serve to apply the general to the singular (e.g. sincerity to a poem), and Dufrenne attempts to prove the validity of affective categories by arguing that “something general resides at the heart of the singular.”64 Feeling as an intimate knowledge is possible because of an implicit knowledge supplied by “a system of affective categories.” Dufrenne concludes, “such implicit knowledge . . . is the a priori idea of man and of the human world, just as the pure concepts of the understanding constitute the a priori idea of nature.”65 Dufrenne’s phrase that “the a priori is revealed only in the a posteriori”66 suggests that the feeling needs to be aroused in order to be, the exteriority needs to induce the implicit knowledge of intimacy. He concludes poetically, “Art is a form of service which nature expects from men.”67 BACHELARD’S DIALECTICS OF OUTSIDE AND INSIDE Further illustrating the proposed metamorphosis of surprise, after it progressed into admiration characterized by the interplay between reflection and its failure when encountering a work of art, Bachelard’s dialectics of outside

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and inside offers valuable insights. In admiration, the original encounter with an artwork, when one’s expectation is irreducibly exceeded, reverberates over and over again, making closure of reflection impossible. Bachelard’s study of intimate places, The Poetics of Space, is a phenomenology of poetic imagination. In contrast to everyday images, poetic images bring newness and a kind of intimacy with regard to which cultural conditioning doesn’t help much. He talks about the “very ecstasy of the newness of the image,” “the essential novelty of the poem”68 which is “not an echo of the past.”69 The poetic image is not en effect of a cause—it is irreducibly unexpected. Due to newness, the poetic image “comes before thought.”70 It seems that Bachelard senses that the impact of the poetic image is most strongly felt in the initial instant. He writes about “the evolution of poetic images from the original state of reverie to that of execution.”71 Poetic images, says Bachelard, induce reverberations, unlike other arts that induce “sentimental resonances.” Reverberations bring newness, “a change of being”: they excavate “new depths in us.”72 Bachelard writes, “Through this reverberation, by going immediately beyond all psychology or psychoanalysis, we feel a poetic power rising naively within us. After the original reverberation, we are able to experience resonances, sentimental repercussions, reminders of our past. But the image has touched the depths before it stirs the surface.”73 This description bears affinity with the proposed properly aesthetic experience. Except, what for Bachelard is “the original reverberation,” for me is the startup of irreducible surprise as the trace of immediacy already gone. Reverberation implies the persistence of something after the source has gone, while resonance connotes the source’s prolongation. I propose the transformation of the initial phase of surprise into astonishment and then wonder, from the depth of pre-reflection to the intertwining of reflection and non-reflection. Using Bachelard’s vocabulary, one could say that reverberation starts with surprise and is further transformed into multiple resonances reflecting the interplay of reflection and non-reflection. This interplay applies to the poetic image created by a work of art in general, not only to poetry as literature. Bachelard implicitly acknowledges the rupture or the shock (or pause) created by a poetic image as an annihilation of senses, “the entire life of the image is in its dazzling splendor, in the fact that an image is a transcending of all premises of sensibility.”74 In the chapter entitled The Dialectics of Outside and Inside, Bachelard further exposes the reverberations and resonances of a poetic image. The notions of outside and inside are burdened by geometric connotations and imply mutual opposition. In contrast to this “geometrism, in which limits are barriers,”75 argues Bachelard, we should perceive outside and inside as “both intimate—they are always ready to be reversed, to exchange their hostility.”76 The poetic image is ephemeral, it strikes instantly, and it is received as

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something exaggerated. The task of the phenomenology of imagination is to emphasize this exaggeration because “in prolonging exaggeration, we might have the good fortune to avoid the habits of reduction.”77 In contrast to psychology, which attaches geometric spatial connotations to the space of intimacy, phenomenology should follow poets and stir away from geometry. Man is a being “of a surface, of the surface that separates the region of the same from the region of the other,” at the same time open and closed, visible and invisible, subject to numerous inversions of openness and closure.78 This statement is evocative of Levinas, who states that “Interiority must be at the same time closed and open.”79 Surface is the boundary, at the same time separating and connecting, the most interesting place where beyond-ness is announced. And because human being is the being “of a surface,” human being can incorporate irreducible excess beyond expectation into his or her experiential space, and this is why aesthetic surprises are so valuable. For the intimate space (home) he considers, Bachelard emphasizes doors as a transitory element that acknowledges at the same time limits and their negations, openings and closings. This dialectics of inside and outside, embodied in a door and inherent in a poetic image, arises from the depths of “the most restricted intimate space.” As if one is most exposed to the “osmosis between intimate and undetermined space”80 when one feels the concentration of interiority, where the narrowness of space is at the limit of bursting (the point prior to ecstasy, as Bataille would say). Levinas has also pointed to this dialectics of outside and inside by defining interiority as the other in the same. It seems that the crucial point in the dialectics of outside and inside is the elusive point of mutual acknowledgment and annihilation between immediacy (the attack of the outside) and intimacy (the persistence of the inside). Intimacy and immediacy appear to go in different directions. Immediacy presents a rupture, a new origin, a possibility of birth, and it is embodied in irreducible surprise. Intimacy projects continuity and the aversion of mediation, the distrust of change and the shakeup of one’s world. Immediacy leads to the impossibility of attaining closure, and is manifested in the incessant need to write and to speak; intimacy leads to the impossibility of living without closure and is manifested in the exigency of silence. The opposite of immediacy is not mediation—it is intimacy, the mediation more mediate then any mediation. Yet, both immediacy and intimacy reverberate in a work of art (a poetic image), and the two, in the final analysis, are indistinguishable. Bachelard’s description of the dialectics of outside and inside eloquently presents the intertwining of “intimate and undetermined space,”81 the porous ground where inside and outside share immediate intimacy, a commonality allowing transgressions from one to the other, and vice versa. This commonality allows the acknowledgment of irreducible otherness. It seems that such

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transgressions characterize admiration when encountering an artwork in its irreducible otherness, what cannot be confined by one’s reflection. SEEL’S AESTHETICS OF APPEARING The encounters generating a break in representational abilities have to be questioned in the context of appearing and appearance. Hence, Martin Seel’s work on the aesthetics of appearing is relevant and I wish to propose some affinities and differences between Seel’s and the present work. According to Seel, the main point of aesthetic perception is to “apprehend something in the process of its appearing for the sake of its appearing.”82 Seel argues that aesthetic perception is not tied to art objects exclusively and that any encounter can result in aesthetic perception,83 but he nonetheless credits artworks with the capacity to most forcefully invoke aesthetic perception because they are made with the intention of provoking aesthetic perception. In any case, in order to involve art objects or anything in the environment, argues Seel, in an aesthetic perception, there has to be a process of appearing. Following Kant (and the implications of his Third Critique), Seel is a philosopher of aesthetics and insists on its importance, not as a companion piece to epistemology or ethics, but as an independent philosophy in its own right. He writes, “Aesthetics is an independent part of philosophy because it is concerned with a relation to the world that cannot be traced back to theoretical or ethical approaches. Aesthetics is indispensable for other philosophical disciplines—and therefore for philosophical thinking itself—because it is concerned with irreducible aspects of world and life.”84 Hence, aesthetics merits a category of its own, which implies the need to set aesthetics apart from other branches of philosophy. Seel’s solution is the consideration of appearance as an exclusive concept of aesthetics, apart from the objective representation that characterizes knowledge and science, and apart from the interest and responsibility inherent in ethical considerations. Though he does not argue that aesthetics should have a preferred position above other philosophical disciplines, he states his conviction that “Acts of aesthetic perception can enrich the possibilities of human perception in almost all areas—and that’s all.”85 Seel distinguishes between objects of perception and aesthetic objects, which is related to difference between ordinary perception and aesthetic perception. Aesthetic perception involves at the same time the perception of something (object, event, smell) and the perception of my perception. Ordinary perception perceives an object in its objectivity, determined by both objectively present attributes and clearly defined sensual response; it perceives an object in a “sensuous being-so appearing,” as a conceptually

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determinable entity. Aesthetic perception, on the other hand, perceives an object in its “aesthetic appearing,” which contains a level of indeterminacy, and the sensual response is synergetic—the appearance is a totality containing more than the unity of its parts; there is a surplus of presence unaccounted for by the objectivity of the object and by the employment of one’s separate senses; the appearing process reveals an aesthetic object.86 In aesthetic perceiving one’s perception is open to the immediacy of presence, unconstrained by the spatial and temporal requirements necessary for ordinary sensuous perception. According to Seel, there is a wide range of aesthetic objects leading to three different dimensions of appearing: mere appearing, atmospheric appearing, and artistic appearing. Mere appearing concerns the sensual givenness of an object, its mere presence. Atmospheric appearing adds the various appearances of the situation (smells, sounds, gestures), what enriches the mere appearing as awareness of surroundings. Finally, artworks are presentations meant to appear. Seel writes, “In contrast to objects of mere appearing or atmospherically articulated appearing, they are formations of an articulating appearing.”87 Artworks are produced with the intention of evoking the process of appearing; they can only be approached and brought to life by the process of artistic appearing. In the aesthetic sense, Seel wants to free sensual perception from its representational chains. Hence, from an “ordinary” object perceived in a “sensuous being-so” appearing, he resorts to an “aesthetic object” as an object of appearing. The process of appearing carries aesthetic signification, but to be compatible with artistic production (i.e. there has to be an end result, an artwork and not only a conceptual idea, as Seel argues against Danto), the process of appearing retains objectivity with its end result, an appearance. The concepts of appearance and of presence are related yet fundamentally different: while an appearance pertains to the experience of something present in the environment, the presence is a more ephemeral concept of “a relation of human beings to their life surroundings.” Seel continues, “In agreement with Heidegger, we can speak of an ecstatic presence, of position in the midst of extensive spatial, temporal, and meaningful relations.”88 A presence is an occurrence of reality. Seel remarks, “there is a common root of the two contrary driving forces of aesthetic perception: to lose oneself in the real or to go beyond everything that is (so far) real.”89 But, going beyond everything that is (so far) real implies irreducible newness and the augmentation of reality. Also, losing oneself in the real acknowledges the possibility of absence in presence. Hence, presence in aesthetic perception is a relational concept that bears affinity to the process of appearing, yet it is different from the concept of an appearance. Presence is revealed in the process of appearing. Absence as presence allows a blind spot, a break in appearing about which we can only speculate.

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The concept of appearing, argues Seel, “is a minimal concept of aesthetic encounter.”90 But, the concept of appearing can be viewed simplistically as a conduit for appearances, or it might be analyzed in depth, relating origins, becomings, beginnings, ends, and the whole array of speculative/ phenomenological concepts. Analogous to Fink’s work, which augments Husserl’s phenomenology with a speculative component under the title of the transcendental critique of method, I wish to augment Seel’s work on the process of aesthetic appearing with the speculative origin, or the prerequirement to this process. Seel rightly views the importance of the process by stating, “The basic concept of appearing is not the appearing of something, but appearing, period.”91 He goes on to offer a critique of “fundamentalist interpretations” of the process because such interpretations bring the preconceptual, “raw being” into consideration, but they cannot escape from the fact that the process of appearing remains dependent upon the concept of appearance. Seel writes, “No appearing without appearances; indeterminacy accompanies determinacy. Only where there is determinacy can interest in indeterminacy develop. Only where appearances are identifiable is the path to a play of appearances open.”92 Again, I wish to interject here by stating that— in general, as well as in particular analogy with a play—the end result does not characterize the process, nor does the end justify the means, as is well known. The other direction, the inference from the process toward the end result, might be more interesting. To paraphrase Seel, we could say that there is no appearance without the process of appearing. The process of appearing starts with an encounter, and ends with an appearance. A transformation of an ordinary encounter to an aesthetic appearance happens somewhere in the process—such a transformation is complex on multiple levels as an example of discontinuity pointing to continuity on a different level. Most of the exposition and argumentation in Seel’s Aesthetics of Appearing seems very much in agreement with the consideration of aesthetic encounters in the present work. However, when it comes to consideration of the (speculative) phenomenon of desire||surprise, we have to part ways. I consider the (augmented) process of appearing, denoted by desire||surprise, which includes attentiveness (desire), break, and subsequent recovery (called the metamorphosis of surprise and akin to Seel’s appearing). Seel’s process of appearing belongs to phenomenology as a process of delivering a phenomenon of appearance and does not want to be caught up in speculation about “raw being.” Maybe he is right: a speculation as such should be a thing of the past, resonating with German Idealists and Romantics. However, the speculation proposed here stays clear of the “big” metaphysical concepts of God and Infinity. I simply wish to designate a break as the simultaneous ending of something (an objective representation) and beginning of something else (an appearance). Logically speaking, if I look and perceive my surroundings

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in an ordinary way, entailing objective representations and ordinary daily routine, then when I come to a position to encounter an aesthetically perceived object instead of a mere object of perception, there has to be a discontinuity in my representational powers. If the difference between an ordinary object and an aesthetically perceived object indeed exists, that is, the difference between my ordinary perception and my aesthetic perception, then the switching between the two modes of perception creates points of discontinuity in my representational capabilities. The discontinuity as the leap from ordinary to aesthetic perceiving should also be part of the analysis of aesthetic encounter. The appearance of an object of perception is its “conceptually discriminable sensuous composition,”93 either in reality or in imagination. As already said, Seel’s approach is not an “aesthetics of appearance,” but an “aesthetics of appearing,” emphasizing the process, not the end result. He writes, “The appearance of an object can therefore be grasped either in its being-so or in its appearing.”94 The process of appearing unfolds, at the end resulting in an appearance. This process, according to Seel (and reminiscent of Kant’s “free play” and Gadamer’s concept of play), invokes a play of “qualities that are perceivable in an object from a particular perspective and at a particular point in time,” surpassing conceptual determinations of attributes and qualities. As Gadamer would insist, a play is the activity of players producing something in addition to the unity of the individual performances of players. I wish to add that in a well-regulated game (take football or basketball), as in a “free” game (wrestling unconstrained by rules), there are stops or discontinuities of play that bring to a halt all activities before re-starting the game. Often halts such as time-outs are used strategically to recuperate and re-invigorate the game, or are the result of a deviation in the rules (as in football), necessitating the intervention of the judges. Analogously, aesthetic perception and the process of appearing ask for consideration of stops or blind spots, invigorating the process itself. Seel invokes the “passion for what appears”95 and likens it to the passion for playing, when the movement is for the sake of movement, and not for some ulterior motive. A game or a play provides possibilities to measure performance, argues Seel: it is action-oriented, but with a limited duration and stands apart from “ordinary” everyday actions. The “game of aesthetic perception” possesses a double character: a subjective part related to the specificity of what is being perceived, and an objective part dealing with “a play of appearances” in general. Hence, a work of art stands as a specific work itself, but also as a presence in general (this is reminiscent of Gadamer’s statement that an aesthetic experience is a paradigmatic example of an experience in general). It seems that the second part of Seel’s aesthetics of appearing is included in the aesthetics of desire||surprise, following the break. Hence, of Seel’s

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argument, that “if it was plausible to attribute a specific objectivity to the appearance of an object, then the same must apply to the appearing of the object,”96 one can ask: why would that be so? The appearing as a process is in a different category of an appearance as an object’s “conceptually discriminable sensuous composition.” For an appearance, the consideration of continuity or discontinuity is meaningless, while it essentially characterizes the process itself. Indeed, following Adorno, Seel distinguishes between “determinable appearance and indeterminable appearing.”97 The current addition to the characterization of the process of appearing is the exploration of discontinuity present in the leap from an ordinary to an aesthetic perceiving, as the origin of an aesthetics or appearing. Seel explores the differences between ordinary and aesthetic perception but does not consider the change from one to the other. However, he takes into account the so-called “limit experiences,” but is very careful never to abandon the end-result of the process, the appearance. His strategy is as follows. First, an appearance is different from an objective representation of something (This difference seems analogous to the difference between the use of descriptive statement and metaphor in speech or writing). Next, in rare situations, the process of appearing involves resonances of appearance, adding to the undefined character of what is appearing (this invokes comparison with Bachelard and his invocation of reverberations and resonances). Resonances, according to Seel, are types of appearance even further from objectivity than “regular” appearances. He simply cannot let go of appearances completely. However, he is aware that aesthetic encounters often come unprovoked and unexpected, and writes, “Frequently, however, there is no actual doing at all required—when what is appearing suddenly holds us spellbound, or when the conversion to aesthetic consciousness befalls us.”98 This quote implicitly asserts the possibility of discontinuity in the process of appearing. But, Seel argues against Nietzsche’s term of “intoxication,” related to the Dionysian intrusion into an otherwise ordered Apollonian world, and against Nietzsche’s affirmation of transgressions in the human life-world. For Nietzsche, transgression defends against suffocation due to the principium individuationis that separates man from man. In The Birth of Tragedy Nietzsche writes, “Under the charm of the Dionysian not only is the union between man and man reaffirmed, but nature which has become alienated, hostile, or subjugated, celebrates once more the reconciliation with her lost son, man.”99 The “intoxication” that Nietzsche talks about results in the loss of the spatial-temporal shape of whatever is appearing, so according to Seel, it leads to “the wrong track,” to a consideration of the transcendence of what is appearing, and hence to metaphysics. Seel continues, “I believe that this transcending is to be understood not as going beyond the world of appearance but rather as losing oneself in this world. Resonating is a phenomenon

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not of transcendence but of the radical immanence of appearing.”100 Indeed, Nietzsche’s intoxication is more radical than resonating can ever be. Resonating, as Seel defines it, is not the same as intoxication, because it retains a level of objectivity, an “acoustic or visual phenomenon,” “an occurrence without something occurring.”101 In “intoxication” one is not conscious of what is going on; the hangover after is the occurrence, the result of a break in conscious processing due to intoxication. Why not allow Nietzsche, and other philosophers of transgression, to affirm the value of breaks in objective reality, leading to an intuition of the continuity of being, and to an intuition of the impossible phenomenon of one’s own birth and death? The relation of an occurrence versus the process of occurring goes in the inverse direction from the previous writing, in which the process of appearing relates to an appearance (“no appearing without appearances”). Seel now switches to an occurrence (the end-result) obtained without the process of occurring. This missing of the process seems to be an implicit acknowledgement of a break in the process since we have the end result, or occurrence, but the process or occurring is hidden from us. Hence, if the process is “hidden,” Seel needs another notion to remain consistent. He resorts to an occurrence instead of an appearance, and proclaims that we get “an occurrence without something occurring.” The limiting concept for Seel is the “absolute” resonating as the “occurrence without any trace whatsoever of what is occurring.”102 The notion of “absolute resonating” as giving up all determinations of the phenomenal world and of oneself should leave out the misleading verb “resonating,” because it misleads us into tracing the previous situation, preceding the encounter. Why not call it simply a break, a pause in the stream of experience, the newness indispensable to a properly aesthetic encounter? Is it a mystical experience? I do not think so: there is nothing mystical in it since one recuperates after the break and feels surprised, both because of the object that triggered it, and because of one’s inability to deal with it. The aesthetic surprise invokes a positive feeling, since it provides an intuition of birth, one’s own re-birth. Seel concludes, “Resonating leads us to the edge of our developed capacity to perceive—to where we can no longer recognize anything but can nonetheless perceive with the greatest intensity. Resonating, that extreme of appearing, thus acquaints us with a limit of conscious being.”103 Resonating thus defined is consistent with Seel’s definition of the process of appearing as tied to audible or visual perception. I propose to augment the process of appearing with the inherent break of one’s representational capabilities. The term “absolute resonating” sounds misleading. “Absolute,” even when used in quotes, belongs to the realm of the transcendental. Resonating implies a leftover, a trace of something that happened before. Hence, is “absolute” resonating a break or not? Why not call it simply: a break. After all, the concept of “break” is a very

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down-to-earth concept. The phenomenon of break is experienced regularly in various contexts: it implies that something is modified, and this in turn implies a need to deal with the modification (e.g. let it go, try to repair it, get something new, etc.). The realization of the break in my representational capacity surprises me, because most of the time I am able to perceive the world around me. However, in rare but extremely valuable situations, when such a break happens, it is not resonating—it is the intrusion of radical otherness and the breakup constitutive of the properly aesthetic experience. Nonetheless, I get my appearance at the end. Hence, the current approach is not in disagreement with Seel’s approach: what I wish to do is to extend the process of appearing to its prerequisite, the attentiveness for encountering appearances. This augmented process (denoted by desire||surprise) is called the properly aesthetic experience, containing the process of appearing. This provides the possibility for a more detailed analysis and “dissection” of the process, pronouncing more clearly the break resulting with an occurrence without consciousness of how it occurred. Such an analysis and augmentation of the process of appearing has space for Nietzsche’s intoxication, for Bachelard’s reverberations and resonances, and for Seel’s “absolute resonating.” LYOTARD’S “RADICAL CONNIVANCE BETWEEN THE FIGURE AND DESIRE” Lyotard’s work in aesthetics affirms the importance of disruption, but in a positive sense. Aesthetic encounters testify to the defiance of the self as a closed structure. The openness and passivity inherent in aesthetic events, when a habitual representation is disrupted and the recuperation invokes a sense of newness, leads to surprise. The concept of surprise is a neglected concept in philosophy, as something that is a byproduct, a passing emotion en route to something more dignifying. I wish to underline the importance and the complexity of surprise. The way to achieve it is to include the preconditions, the origin of a surprise as an event. In fact, surprise is an event par excellence: a philosopher should turn to surprise in order to analyze the event in general. An event is different from a structure, since it contains a temporal dimension and constitutes a mutual relationship between a subject and its surrounding objectivity. It is relational and temporal, ending with its perceived importance in defining the subjectivity involved in it. The event has a consequence—it is part of its characterization. Without any consequence, there would be no event. Hence, an event has a distinctive start (which is to say implicitly that it follows from a disturbance, a discontinuity of the flow of experience), and it has a consequence (e.g. a sense of admiration, or of responsibility, or just a neutral sense of openness and beyond-ness in

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general). Because of its consequence, an event transforms one’s experiential space. The distinctive start of the event is a shock of some kind, by no means with a negative connotation. Lyotard advocates openness of the self, and argues for the deficiency of the explicit characterizations appropriate to scientific knowledge. We need aesthetics to deal with the surplus of meaning and presence that cannot be captured by either descriptive language or structural analysis. Lyotard questions Merleau-Ponty’s view of the primacy of perception and argues for the primacy of desire as the part of sensibility that escapes the encapsulation of Plato’s intelligibility of ideas and forms. He wants to go beyond perception. However, perception and desire should not be cast into the same category: they are different concepts in all aspects, temporal and visible. Desire can orient perception, and open its depths beyond Kantian space/time intuitions. A body, a perceptual body, is charged with desire as an active passivity, as responsiveness to what can be revealed without being presented. An encounter can trigger surprise as the inability of representation (either verbal of visual) to capture presence. The notion of figure presents the sensible in the intelligible. A figure is not a mere appearance, it is “the very play of presencing and absencing in which desire figures itself forth.”104 The figure and the figural as viewed by Lyotard have affinity with the work proposed by Seel, the appearance and the process of appearing, and especially for an occurrence without anything that occurs. The aesthetics of appearing accounts for the nonconceptual, for the presence spilling beyond presentation. The figure (as the appearance) has a connotation of a perceptive and a representational world. Both Lyotard in his formulation of the figural (as opposed to a figure), and Seel in his insistence on the process of appearing (as opposed to appearance) acknowledge the need to go beyond ordinary perception. However, Lyotard and his consideration of desire as active passivity, and of the excess revealed in surprise and astonishment, goes further than Seel in attacking the intelligible with the sensual. Lyotard is more radical. He could be positioned before and after Merleau-Ponty, and not simultaneous with Merleau-Ponty: Lyotard’s desire precedes MerleauPonty’s perception, and Lyotard’s astonishment follows afterward. Hence, he seems to hold a position similar to the one presented in the current work, denoted as desire||surprise. Following Freud’s analysis of dreams, Lyotard describes the “radical connivance between the figure and desire” belonging to transgression.105 In Freudian desire, a figure as something that cannot be described and intelligibly comprehended contains three components: the image, the form, and the matrix. The image-figure appears in dreams as a visible object, the formfigure presents the perceptible, not necessarily visible, and the matrix-figure deals with the invisible in the discourse, the nonstructural belonging to the

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unconscious. The matrix-figure points to otherness, to the impossibility of immediacy (as Blanchot would say). It demonstrates “that our origin is an absence of origin.”106 So, lack is wired into the space of the figural. This lack points to the impossibility of satisfied desire, since the absence of the object of desire characterizes desire. The figural related to desire is “the antipode of the verbal and the motor, that is, of the reality principle with its two functions, language and action. To these two functions, desire turns its back.”107 Hence, the figural is desire’s specific relation to representation in words and in processing or activity. Desire possesses activity, but a kind of passive activity, apart from “objective” activity. This is why I compared Seel’s and Lyotard’s (following Freud) description of appearance and figure. Seel’s appearing has three dimensions and one can compare them with the three dimensions of figure in Freud. However, Seel’s appearing is an action in reality, it is a “real” process of appearing, while the figural that Lyotard writes belongs to desire, the defiance of objective reality (in Lacanian terms, belonging to the Real outside the objective). It points to the residual outside conceptual determination and scientific knowledge. Lyotard concludes, “Such are the fundamental modes of the connivance that desire establishes with figurality: transgression of the object, transgression of form, transgression of space.”108 Artistic efforts point to such directions by various transgressions of image and form to capture the unsayable and the nondescriptive, yet figural. This last section served to argue for the unquenchable character of irreducible surprise. Following initial astonishment, and the whole spectrum of the follow-up feelings and emotions, something undefined remains as the trigger of subsequent desiring, leading to new surprises. NOTES 1. Levinas, Otherwise Than Being, 139. 2. Blanchot, The Step Not Beyond, 75. 3. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment, trans. Werner S. Pluhar (Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 1987), Ak. 273. Kant also writes, “Amazement [Verwunderung] consists in the mind’s being struck by the fact that a presentation, and the rule it provides, cannot be reconciled with the principles that the mind already presupposes, so that we begin to doubt whether we saw or judged correctly. Admiration [Bewunderung], on the other hand, is an amazement that keep returning even after that doubt is gone.” ibid., Ak.366. 4. Ibid., Ak. 273. 5. Ibid. 6. Kant writes, “Consequently, respect for the moral law is a feeling that is produced by an intellectual ground, and this feeling is the only feeling that we can cognize completely a priori and the necessity of which we can have insight into.”

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Critique of Practical Reason, trans. Mary J. Gregor (Cambridge University Press, 1997), 5:73. 7. Critique of Judgment, Ak. 222. 8. Levinas, Otherwise Than Being, 138. 9. Fink, Sixth Cartesian Meditation: The Idea of a Transcendental Theory of Method (with Textual Notations by Edmund Husserl), 8. 10. Ibid., 12. 11. Ibid., 14. 12. Ibid., 49. 13. Ibid., 62. 14. Ibid., l. 15. Ibid., 159. 16. Ibid., 1. 17. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, trans. Colin Smith (Routledge, 1992), 61. 18. “The Visible and the Invisible,” in Studies in Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy (Northwestern University Press, 1997), 134. 19. Ibid., 135. 20. Ibid., 139. 21. Ibid., 142. 22. Ibid., 144. 23. Ibid., 147. 24. Ibid. 25. Ibid. 26. Ibid., 148. 27. Ibid., 154. 28. Ibid.; ibid. 29. Ibid., 155. 30. Jean-Luc Nancy, “The Surprise of the Event,” in Being Singular Plural (Stanford University Press, 2000), 159. 31. Ibid., 163. 32. Ibid., 164. 33. Ibid., 165. 34. Ibid., 168. 35. Ibid., 169. 36. Ibid., 170. 37. Ibid., 172. 38. Ibid. 39. Ibid., 173. 40. Merleau-Ponty, “The Visible and the Invisible,” 142. 41. Jean-Francois Lyotard, Lessons on the Analytic of the Sublime, trans. Elisabeth Rottenberg (Stanford University Press, 1994), 56. 42. Ibid., 150. 43. Ibid., 153. 44. Kant, Critique of Judgment, Ak. 273.

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45. Ibid., Ak. 272. 46. Lyotard, Lessons on the Analytic of the Sublime, 54. 47. Ibid., 239. 48. Kant, Critique of Judgment, Ak. 247. 49. Ibid., Ak. 264. 50. Ibid., Ak. 335. 51. Mikel Dufrenne, The Phenomenology of Aesthetic Experience, trans. Edward S. Casey, et al. (Northwestern University Press, 1998), 419. 52. Ibid. 53. Ibid., 277. 54. Ibid., 380. 55. Ibid., 386. 56. Ibid., 393. 57. Ibid., 398. 58. Ibid., 409. 59. Ibid., 416. 60. Ibid., 419. 61. Ibid., 424. 62. Ibid., 437. 63. Ibid., 446. 64. Ibid., 479. 65. Ibid., 484. 66. Ibid., 492. This statement is reminiscent of Kant’s statement, “But even though all our cognition starts with experience, that does not mean that all of it arises from experience.” (Critique of Pure Reason, B1) 67. Ibid., 554. 68. Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, trans. Maria Jolas (Beacon Press, 1994), xv. 69. Ibid., xvi. 70. Ibid., xx. 71. Ibid., xxi. 72. Ibid., xxiii. 73. Ibid. 74. Ibid. 75. Ibid., 215. 76. Ibid., 218. 77. Ibid., 219. 78. Regardless of arguing against geometry, it almost seems that Bachelard cannot run away from employing concepts from geometry (surface, inversion) and physics (reverberation, resonance). 79. Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 149. 80. Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, 230. 81. Ibid. 82. Martin Seel, Aesthetics of Appearing, trans. John Farrell (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005), 15.

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83. Seel writes, “In principle, anything that can be perceived sensuously can also be perceived aesthetically.” Ibid., 21. 84. Ibid., 17. 85. Ibid., 18. 86. According to Kant, an appearance is, basically, an undetermined object of our sensible (i.e. empirical) intuition. In contrast, experience provides determinate objects, determined by the forms of intuition (space, time), by the forms of thought (categories), and by the matter of intuition as contributed by sensation. 87. Seel, Aesthetics of Appearing, 96. 88. Ibid., 97. 89. Ibid., 98. 90. Ibid., 35. 91. Ibid., 54. 92. Ibid. 93. Ibid., 41. 94. Ibid., 45. 95. Ibid., 134. 96. Ibid., 48. 97. Ibid., 15. 98. Ibid., 34. 99. Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, 37. 100. Seel, Aesthetics of Appearing, 141. 101. Ibid., 143. 102. Ibid., 144. 103. Ibid., 158. 104. Jean-Francois Lyotard, The Lyotard Reader and Guide, ed. Keith Crome and James Williams (New York: Columbia Uiveristy Press, 2006), 27. 105. Ibid., 293. 106. Ibid. 107. Ibid., 295. 108. Ibid., 299.

Chapter 4

The Properly Aesthetic Experience and Knowledge

As argued in the present study, a properly aesthetic encounter originates with a rupture of one’s sensibility and reflection, caused by the encounter with irreducible otherness, with the irreducibly unexpected. The beginning starts with irreducible surprise as a leap from immediacy to mediation. It is commonly perceived that surprise is but an instant occupying “empty time,” interesting not in its own right, but as a trigger of subsequent reflection. In contrast to such a view, it has been argued here that surprise is a complex process that originates in the break of one’s representational capabilities, begins with the announcement of sensibility, continues with the announcement of reflectivity (astonishment), further pointing to the refined announcements of admiration and responsibility, and then diminishing in a play of reflection, giving rise to complex experiences combining culture and morality. The metamorphosis of surprise follows the sequence of announcements. The announcement is characterized as the indifference of difference, as a commonality allowing a transition, when something is pronounced or revealed, but not yet disclosed. In analogy, the umbilical cord presents the indifference between the mother and the child, although their difference has been already pronounced when the child is out of the womb. One can say that the umbilical cord signifies the announcement of birth. Hence, the phenomenology of surprise starts with absolute indifference and is further transformed, contributing to our experiences involving conceptual thinking. In ending with the absolute in knowledge, Hegel has the right content and has to go back one step to recognize the right form. In starting with the absolute in surprise, there is a unity of right content and right form, and to move from there the form needs to be modified to—so to speak—“spoil” the absolute, to start grasping it. Since this invites the comparison with the Hegelian dialectic taken “in reverse,” we need to go back to 145

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Hegel and inquire into his notions of immediacy, mediation, becoming, and beginning. The encounter with irreducible otherness results in the breakup of consciousness (sensibility and conceptuality). This brings us to the beginning of this study: to the characterization of the properly aesthetic encounter as rupture, an unconditional break. As the last “actor” in this trial of immediacy before the court of mediation, I wish to call upon Schelling, and to conclude this study with him. ON HEGEL’S NOTION AT THE END OF PHENOMENOLOGY AND THE BEGINNING OF LOGIC In Phenomenology, Hegel provides a systematic way to find out what is universal in our actualization of knowledge. His answer is that the becoming of knowledge is universal, the dialectical process of asserting and proving. Indeed, in the Announcement of the Phenomenology he writes: “This first volume represents knowledge in its becoming.” The becoming of knowledge is the process of acquiring the knowledge itself, the phases or the shapes that human spirit goes through to be able to claim “This is True.” To certify the truth, the shapes of Spirit have to be necessary and sufficient. Necessity has to be shown at each phase; otherwise, the phase would be irrelevant. Sufficiency can only be established at the end of the process of the becoming of knowledge because sufficiency signals that all that needs to be there to assert knowledge is available. When necessity unites with sufficiency, the process of absolute knowing is completed. This process of the becoming of knowledge as certification of truth necessarily ends with the beginning from which it started. The result, the certification of truth or the proof of identity is not interesting as a particular knowledge. It grounds the knowledge as an origin outside knowledge. Knowledge is only interesting in its becoming when the process of struggling and reconciliation between immediacy and mediation, between particular and universal, is going on. The end of reconciliation, absolute knowledge, is actually non-knowledge; as absolute, it is ungraspable and beyond limits. We can only feel its anonymous indifference, yet it is “the ungraspable that one cannot let go,”1 to borrow Blanchot’s phrase characterizing the impossibility of immediacy. The formal identity at the end of Hegel’s becoming of knowledge is the elusive identity of immediacy and mediation, or non-knowledge. Hegel’s Phenomenology starts with abstract immediacy as immediacy of the senses and proceeds with the development of self-consciousness and mediation, going through different stages in the development of Spirit, resulting in absolute knowing, or the unity of universal and particular formalized



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in the Notion. Hegel’s Logic starts with the abstract identity inherent in the notion (as needed for the beginning of a scientific inquiry), but then struggles to give life to it, a content from which a scientific exposition can proceed. To some extent, Hegel’s accomplishment is established based on what he did not write, on what is only a presence in his writing. Namely, looking at the Table of Contents in Logic, the strict methodological procedure characteristic of Hegel’s triad comes out right away: Each book in the Objective Logic has three sections, each section has three chapters, each chapter has A, B, C subsections, most of them with further sub-subsections a, b, c, and some further with α, β, γ . . . . Likewise, the Subjective Logic has three sections each with three chapters, etc. Hence, the form required for rigorous scientific inquiries is undoubtedly present, and it is reminiscent of the strictness and rigor of a mathematical proof. However, Hegel then struggles to fit in the content, to assert that being and nothingness unite in essence, that immediacy passes over into mediation and unites in mediated immediacy, which is thought. But, how closed is his system? In this dialectic of sublating and moving to a higher level of unity until absolute unity is reached, is there any content that is left out of the system, or is everything instrumental in achieving unity? Hegel’s critics (e.g. Bataille) accuse him of leaving no space for unproductive negativity. This criticism would be true if the development would stop unconditionally. However, Hegel considers history and the development of the notion in the present utilizes the past—but it does not cut off the future: the future might take the development up to its time in an immediate way, and filter it through mediation, ending anew in absolute unity. According to Hegel, being (immediacy) and nothing (reflection) unite in becoming. He writes, “Becoming is an unstable unrest which settles into a stable result.”2 This sentence implies transformation, because how can unstable unrest settle into a stable result? It has to undergo a discontinuity, a break separating unstability and stability. In the present work, desire is the unstable unrest, and surprise following upon the irreducible excess over one’s expectations settles into a quasi-stable result (the beginning). The stability is only in the acknowledgment of the beginning. The process afterward is not completely stable, as surprise partially lingers. Hence, the stability of this result (the beginning) is always challenged and irreducible encounters attest to the never-ending process of becoming. Becoming is constituted by beginnings, as the continuity of discontinuity. The possibility of experiencing irreducible surprise as a beginning implies that one is still in the process of becoming. Logic, as a science, is different from other sciences which have their own subject matters. The subject matter of Logic is its inquiry into the scientific apparatus, that is, subject matter and scientific method coincide. By having the apparatus of logical reasoning, specific sciences can develop their argumentation, can start with some propositions. However, logic has to inquire

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into presuppositions. Hegel’s Logic was published in 1812. In 1831, in the Preface to the Second Edition of Logic, Hegel provides a “disclaimer” for his efforts: Such presuppositions as that infinity is different from finitude, that content is other than form, that the inner is other than the outer, also that mediation is not immediacy (as if anyone did not know such things), are brought forward by way of information and narrated and asserted rather than proved. But there is something stupid—I can find no other word for it—about this didactic behavior; technically it is unjustifiable simply to presuppose and straightway assume such propositions; and still more it reveals ignorance of the fact that it is the requirement and the business of logical thinking to inquire into just this, whether such a finite without infinity is something true, or whether such an abstract infinity, also a content without form and form without content, an inner by itself which has no outer expression, an externality without an inwardness, whether any of these is something true or something actual.3

Hegel goes on to claim that “the magnitude of the task” requires incredible effort, but the author “had to content himself with what it was possible to achieve in circumstances of external necessity, of the inevitable distractions caused by the magnitude and many-sidedness of contemporary affairs . . . .”4 This sounds almost like a confession of failure—the failure to provide absolute unity of immediacy and mediation, of content and form. Hegel defines becoming as “a movement in which both [being and nothing] are distinguished, but by a difference which has equally immediately resolved itself.”5 This sounds like an indifferent diversity. Becoming has two moments, coming-to-be and ceasing-to-be, indicating the inseparable nature of being and nothing. This duality provides a double determination: coming-to-be affords immediacy to being and its relation to nothing, while ceasing-to-be affords immediacy to nothing and its relation to being. Hence, both being and nothing are already unities of both of them and becoming is both a beginning and a ceasing at the same time. Becoming is a continuous anonymous process in which being and non-being coexist without any contradictions, while beginning is the simple “leap” (i.e. immediacy, to evoke Blanchot) pronouncing being, and then mediation can start, and the dialectic can strive for unity. Hegel would argue that the beginning is already mediated as the negation of ending; accordingly, he concludes, “Becoming is an unstable unrest which settles into a stable result.”6 As already mentioned, this statement seems to be an implicit acknowledgment of the gap between unstable unrest and stable result. Hegel discusses the relation of causality as the relation of cause and effect. He argues that the content of effect is contained in the cause, and vice versa—that whatever is in the cause shows in the effect, so that “the cause



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is therefore truly actual and self-identical only in its effect.”7 In causality, which relates cause to effect, the content of cause and the content of effect are outside their causal relation, or external to it. Causality, argues Hegel, is “external to itself because here its originativeness is an immediacy.”8 In finite reflection, the chain connecting causes and their effects stops at immediacy and cannot unite cause and effect. Uniting causes and effects would require infinite reflection. This inability of finite reflection is shown whether we start from cause, or from effect. Starting with effect, the first effect “arrives at substance externally,” while the next effect depends on the previous effect. The reciprocity of cause and effect is the reciprocity of active and passive substance. First, the immediate substance vanishes and the cause originates. Hegel writes, “Causality is this posited transition of originative being, of cause, into illusory being or mere positedness, and conversely, of positedness into originativeness; but the identity itself of being and illusory being is still an inner necessity.”9 Hence, Hegel has to acknowledge the “originative being” as a cause leading to illusory being, “the remainder of being,”10 beyond essence. He continues with the argument that illusory being is only the first determination of essence, and that “the truth is rather that essence contains the illusory being within itself as the infinite immanent negativity that determines its immediacy as negativity and its negativity as immediacy, and is thus the reflection of itself within itself.”11 Hence, in infinity, at the end of infinite movement, essence can appropriate illusory being, and there is no remainder of being, outside essence. But, we should consider a finite being, a subjectivity with consciousness, with perceptual capabilities, and mental powers. In the case of a finite being, the Hegelian unity of immediacy and mediation is not absolute. The publication of Hegel’s Logic of Being (the First Book) in 1812 was received with criticism from a mathematician Johann W.A. Pfaff, who wrote to Hegel asking for explanation along the following lines: “How does the thinking [subject] develop? How does the new, which is not already present in thinking, arise or break forth out of the old? How is synthesis possible? How does thought progress, etc.? How do freedom and necessity, creation and construction, invention and proof interpenetrate?”12 Unfortunately, Hegel’s response to Pfaff is lost. The criticism seems to be justified, because Hegel does not discuss in much detail the “originativeness” or the starting point of something, as pure immediacy, origin to mediation. Similar objections to some aspects of Logic were raised by von Sinclair who, in 1812, wrote to Hegel discussing the opposites that contradict each other in dialectical movement: “Moreover, there cannot yet be any talk of external reflection where everything still appears in a single undifferentiated interconnection. I believe I have clearly indicated my point of entry into speculation (paragraphs 52–65). From this moment on I no longer abandon the synthetic

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path, and nothing immediate any longer comes forth.”13 It seems that von Sinclair senses the irreducibility of the immediacy starting an encounter. The origin to irreducible surprise as immediacy, resulting with the break in one’s representational capabilities, is the “undifferentiated interconnection” between externality and oneself. When this first moment (of indifferent difference between the outside and oneself) is passed, and reflection starts in astonishment as the surprise of thought, pure immediacy is gone. Hence, von Sinclair’s statements resonate in line with what I wish to expose. At the beginning of 1813, Hegel gave an answer to von Sinclair saying, But I hold generally that, however much trouble one is justifiably used to taking in philosophy about the proper beginning, in another respect one ought not to make much fuss over it . . . For the beginning, precisely because it is the beginning, is imperfect . . . The philosopher himself will let the objection arise for a reader at its own time and necessary place. His entire philosophy itself is nothing but a struggle against the beginning, a refutation and annihilation of his starting point . . .  I likewise hold that the beginning can only have the form of a fact or—better—of something immediate. For it is precisely because of this that it is a beginning, i.e. because it has not advanced.14

For Hegel, only a simple fact can be immediate, while doubt implies reflection, so it cannot be immediate. It is obvious that Hegel considers immediacy as the immediacy of representation, not something preceding the representation, as the non-presentable presence that initiates the encounter with exteriority. This first sense-certainty (a fact) signals the starting point of philosophy, and the reflection begins in—as what he calls it—the advance. A philosopher has to start with speculative thinking leading back to the initial, albeit sensual representation: a specific object, a fact. In this sense, the immediate considered in this work precedes Hegel’s immediate, precedes sense-certainty (to recall the beginning of the Phenomenology). Hegel writes, “An actual sense-certainty is not merely this pure immediacy, but an instance of it.”15 The word “certainty” already indicates mediation—because my sensual representation mediates the encounter with exteriority, be it a taste or smell. The argument in the present work is that, only after my representational capabilities are restored (first sensual then reflective), can I indeed represent something. That something can be the beginning of philosophical speculation, or (if one is not a philosopher) it can be the (unimportant) beginning of one’s mild surprise, or (if one is a poet or an artist) it can be an irreducible surprise acting as the creative trigger of future work. Hence, I am proposing a phenomenology of irreducible surprise following the break in one’s representational capabilities. One cannot quote Hegel when quoting, for example, Blanchot because their concepts of immediacy are not the same.



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Hegel becomes relevant upon the “advancement” or metamorphosis of surprise when reflection starts to interfere with immediate thought, in the dialectic of inside and outside (to quote Bachelard). In further progressing either to admiration and art appreciation, or to responsibility and ethics, Hegel’s movement can take over. However, Hegelian dialectics ends in an absolute idea, as the absolute identity of the universal and the particular, but the absolute identity can only be achieved in infinity—a finite reflection is always deficient and unity is not absolute. Hegel implicitly acknowledges the impossibility of the absolute in finitude. In a letter to Hegel from 1822, Duboc writes, “. . . according to your own philosophical belief, truth resides in ‘becoming,’ the unity of being and nothing. For Schelling it resides in absolute identity, the indifference of infinite and finite being.” To this letter Hegel replied, I define the Idea as becoming, as the unity of being and nothing . . . I note the necessity of exhibiting definitions such as that the Idea is the unity of being and nothing, of the concept and objectivity, of the variable and the invariable, and so forth, as also propositions such as that being is nothing, the concept is objectivity, the ideal is the real, along with the converse, and so on. At the same time, however, it is necessary to realize that all definitions and propositions of this sort are one-sided, and that to this extent the Opposition has a right against them. The defect they exhibit is precisely that they express only the one side, the unity, the is, but give equal expression neither to the existing difference— being and nothing, and so on—nor to the negative that lies in [the] relation of such determinations.  . . . My view is to this extent that the Idea can only be expressed and grasped as a process within such unification—for example as becoming, i.e. as movement.16

In this paragraph, Hegel clearly acknowledges the one-sidedness of definitions proposing identity between two terms, hence their inability to complete the identity: becoming indicates that unity is never realized, that the identity of the two terms is only an ideal, and, though a philosopher can strive for it, in reality there is always some content that escapes formalization. ADORNO’S AFFINITY WITH HEGEL Adorno was not a straightforward Hegelian, but had affinity with Hegel. He was opposed to Hegel regarding the issues of identity and nonidentity, and argued that Hegel, by equating identity and nonidentity in his dialectic, takes the subjective stance, that is, puts the subject in the driver’s seat, so to speak. Adorno wants to get rid of the “subjectness” characteristic of German Idealists and wants to allow the nonidentity of identity and non-identity. This leads

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to a non-subjectivistic dialectic (negative dialectic) as a method coming, not from a subject, but capturing the interplay between the subject and the object, with influences going in both directions. Nonidentity indicates a residual that cannot be annihilated by unity. Adorno wants a dialectic that is not purely formalistic like an algorithm, since that would mandate dialectic’s subjective nature: if the method is purely formal, it is guided by the analytical capacity of the one applying the method, a subject directs its performance. On the other hand, if the method is “open” to the moves coming from the outside, then the method is not rigid—it is adaptive. In the essay titled Aspects of Hegel’s Philosophy, Adorno acknowledges the importance of rupture in Hegel’s critical thought and writes, “His critical thought goes beyond both the stating of the unconnected and the principle of continuity; in him, connection is not a matter of unbroken transition but a matter of sudden change, and the process takes place not through the moments approaching one another but through rupture.”17 Hence, Adorno senses the importance of rupture and suddenness in Hegel’s thought: this is how connections are made and how the dialectic works. What is interesting with respect to the present work is the rupture separating the old from the new. This new resulting in irreducible surprise is not an object or impression—it is the newness itself, the feeling of something beyond one’s representational capabilities, regardless of its objectivity. Newness itself can be experienced numerous times and is always the same feeling, yet it triggers a feeling of difference each time due to the nature of newness. Hegel struggled to reconcile the immediate and the mediation and was convinced that something immediate is already mediated, which seems appropriate if the immediate is something present to the senses as “this thing here,” because it implicitly negates everything other than “this thing here.” Analogous to Hegel’s immediacy-mediation relation, one can look at the difference-repetition structure intertwined with the notion of newness. Newness should present something different than before, since this is the nature of newness, yet this difference results in repetition because it always repeats the same feeling, the same origin preceding the beginning of surprise. Newness in its nature is difference, and at the same time it repeats always the same startup for surprise. Here we come to Deleuze and his analysis of difference and repetition. The notion of surprise illustrates Deleuze’s difference and repetition. Hegel’s philosophy is essentially a critique of what exists, a negative philosophy because of his insistence on the power of negativity. However, Hegel’s philosophy is a philosophy of becoming—as such, it seems inherently positive. His dialectic concerns the present time, learns from the past, and does not consider the future. The finite dialectic ending in the present time cannot achieve absolute unity; it can only be done in infinity when the



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process of becoming is complete. With absolute knowing or the absolute idea, Hegel provides a limiting case which is unattainable in finite time. The inability of finite dialectic to achieve absolute unity provides a space for the un-subsumable elements in concept creation. In the world of exchange, everything is mediated by the exchange itself, everything gets a value, so immediacy is not tolerated. Yet, argues Adorno, philosophy attempts to affirm the importance of immediacy as what grounds things. He emphasizes that, for Hegel, there is no pure immediacy because if something exists, it is already mediated. Regarding Hegel’s method, Adorno writes, “It is characteristic of his method that he evaluated immediacy by its own criterion and charged it with not being immediate.”18 It seems clear that mere immediacy is incompatible with knowledge, but mere immediacy is the trigger, the origin for possible knowledge. I say possible and this signals the neutrality of immediacy. If immediacy would necessarily lead to knowledge, it would already be implicated in knowledge, tied to it; hence it would not be a pure immediacy. Pure immediacy carries a sense of freedom: freedom as indifference, as passivity, without the need to act and achieve something (e.g. truth). There are many facets of freedom, and one possibility for freedom should be the possibility of passivity. It might not sound humanistic to link freedom with passivity, but tying up freedom with humanity and goodness only misses the point, as Schelling understood very well. Through Hegel’s view of immediacy, Adorno concludes that Hegel’s philosophy proceeds from individual experience toward consciousness of intersubjectivity. He writes: Experience’s advance to consciousness of its interdependence with the experience of all human beings acts as a retroactive correction to its starting point in mere individual experience. Hegel’s philosophy formulated this. His critique of immediacy gives an account of how what naïve consciousness trusts as immediate and most intimate is, objectively, no more immediate and primary than any other kind of possession.19

As stated previously, Hegel considers immediacy as already mediated: as soon as something is sense-certain (“this thing here”), it includes reflection. The encounters considered in this work are immediate and, in the moment of break in one’s representational capabilities, one achieves intimacy with otherness that surpasses language’s powers of explication. I can only speculate about this intimacy because I can be conscious about it only afterward. However, in the metamorphosis of surprise, that is, in the development of the phenomenon of surprise, I became conscious of the moment of intimacy shared with something in the environment that is at the same time particular

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and universal. However, this universal is my universal, my generality. First, this reverberation of past immediacy is indeed personal or individual; it is between the environment and me, without intersubjective interactions (The “environment” or otherness provoking the encounter could be another person, but in the moment of break I do not perceive him or her as another person, since that would imply reflection). Consciousness of such an encounter considers its non-objective character and asserts its general nature: all such encounters are repetitions, since forms of intuition (space and time) do not apply; I get the sense that such an encounter is at the same time the most intimate and individual, and the most universal or general for me. Assuming that others get a posteriori feelings about such encounters (i.e. that irreducible surprise is a human possibility), it seems that, in the immediacy preceding sense-certainty and originating irreducible surprise, the absolute unity of the general and the individual is achieved. When the senses get a hold of it, the unity dissolves and reflection starts filling the details of the encounter, first adding the spatial and temporal intuition, following with reflection, then moving toward admiration or responsibility—or just acknowledging the surprise, without further development. This seems to be the Hegelian move “in reverse”: from absolute unity toward the startup of dialectic that can never reconcile the unity in finite time. However, one can argue that the moment, the Augenblick, the moment of Kierkegaard and of Heidegger, is time encompassing infinity because it is the breakup of time. The condensation in a moment becomes akin to an infinite dialectic—only infinity or a timeless moment can allow speculation over the absolute unity of the individual and the universal, the two extremes. The finite reflection succumbing to time, space, and consciousness leaves a gap between particularity and universality. Kant had put a veil between the noumena and us, arguing that we cannot know things-in-themselves. According to Adorno, “Hegel would like to rend the veil: hence his polemic against Kant’s doctrine of the unknowability of the thing in itself.”20 The current position is that noumenon (or immediacy that we do not know) influences us, so the boundary is porous. I wish to introduce some “wind” to play with the veil, to give a glimpse to the unknown—but just a glimpse, without generating any new knowledge. Goethe’s observation that everything perfect points beyond its own kind is very lucid and poetic, acknowledging the need to transgress boundaries. Maybe the desire for the unexpected, for beyond-ness, is the desire for perfection, but perfection not as a dead matter, not in the style of a dead intellectual (to evoke Schelling). Perfection can be viewed as a becoming, a perpetual movement, per-fection sharing the same Greek root “per,” meaning “thoroughly, through,” and appearing in, for example, perpetual, perennial, permanent, persistent.



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Perfection is a continuous probing, a continuous search, and it cannot be pacified by accomplishments, praise, or empty rhetoric. According to Adorno, Hegel’s dialectic underlines the conviction that philosophy strives in unsettled areas, where the atmosphere is different from the lifeless atmosphere of overarching tradition. Hence, the current undertaking to probe into the phenomenon of surprise might be justified, since surprise is often brushed off. Philosophers, starting with Plato, love its “cousin,” wonder. But, what precedes wonder? I speculate that it is the possibility of letting loose and abandoning oneself in the encounter with otherness. If philosophy begins in wonder, its origin is the break signaling the startup of irreducible surprise. SCHELLING’S INCOMPATIBILITY BETWEEN THE GROUND OF EXISTENCE AND EXISTENCE ITSELF Hegel provided a meticulous and explicit form of presentation in his works (as visible right away from his Table of Contents, divided in books, sections, and subsections), always following the triad of immediacy—mediation— comprehension. Then, inside every section, he struggled (especially in Logic) to provide arguments for unity, as if implicitly attesting to the impossibility of absolute unity in the finite horizon. In contrast to Hegel, Schelling’s essay from 1809, titled Philosophical Investigations into the Essence of Human Freedom and Matters Connected Therewith, is a work flowing freely, without any sections or formal divisions in argumentation. By explicitly rejecting the constraints of form for the presented material, Schelling implicitly proclaims the unity of content and form, since free form seems appropriate for investigations about freedom. However, in the essay he explicitly argues for the impossibility of unity between the ground of existence and existence itself. Hence, Schelling and Hegel seem to be complementary to each other, yet they are closer than they appear to be. Hegel argues for absolute unity when the dialectic is taken to infinity, but he also acknowledges that, in the finite horizon, absolute unity cannot be achieved. Schelling, in his way, argues about the impossibility of a system containing its own ground of existence, that is, the condition for existence must lie outside existence—ground and existence do not coincide. This is also due to finitude: precisely because human being is finite, there has to be disunity between the ground of existence and existence itself—otherwise being would be infinite, would be God, since only God includes the condition of existence. Humanity is characterized by mortality and digressions in life, providing dynamism, struggle, and a wish to go outside the boundaries, always desiring something in addition to the finitude of

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existence. This desire asserts the irreducible character of the origin (ground) to the beginning (existence). In Philosophies of Nature after Schelling, Iain Hamilton Grant considers Schelling’s concept of naturphilosophie as the concept combining physics and metaphysics, uniting the organic and inorganic nature, and rejecting the split between idea and nature, or between self and world, resulting with “speculative physics.”21 Speculation in encounters with environment (natural as well as man-made), in encounters with organic and inorganic nature, is in the heart of the experiences considered here. The representational break in desire||surprise denotes inability to avoid speculation. Is there freedom for humanity? Schelling argues that human freedom stems from the inability of the system to encompass it all: if everything could be explained and accounted for (as in a closed systematic approach), there would be no freedom whatsoever, everything would be predestined. He goes on to reproach Kant for stopping at “negative” philosophy as the inability to approach things-in-themselves. For Schelling, philosophy can be either negative or positive: negative philosophy analyses possibilities as presented for our mental powers, without reflection upon actualities; positive philosophy begins with immediate experience as an actuality, and then includes reflection to analyze the subsequent process. Immediate experience as an actuality is relevant for the current approach. The encounters considered here start as irreducible excess over expectations, and only subsequently unfold into the phenomenology of surprise. Schelling writes, “Only one who has tasted freedom can feel the longing to make everything analogous to it, spread it throughout the whole universe.”22 Could an irreducible surprise give a taste of freedom? In contrast to negative philosophy, which posits the boundaries of things that we can know, a positive approach to philosophy tries to go over those bounds, so it has to start with triggers of experience. The desire to encounter the unexpected, something for which one is utterly unprepared because it is outside one’s sensibility and understanding, provides proof of the inclination to overstep the bounds of a finite and ordered existence. Such an encounter, in which reality is manifested but defies representation and appearance, reminds one that his or her existence is not “closed” and logically explainable, that there is space for freedom and augmentation. Schelling writes, This is the incomprehensible base of reality in things, the indivisible remainder, that which with the greatest exertion cannot be resolved in understanding but rather remains eternally in the ground. The understanding is born in the genuine sense from that which is without understanding. Without this preceding darkness creatures have no reality; darkness is their necessary inheritance . . . All birth is birth from darkness to light . . . .23



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Without going into theodicy and religious overtones, this quote seems very relevant for the statement that, between origin and beginning, there has to be a gap, from death to life, from darkness to light, from no understanding to luminous thought. Yearning, this object-less desire, is a force leading to incomprehensible encounters in which past experience is severed (“die in darkness”) and the subsequent metamorphosis leads to surprise (“more beautiful shape of light”) through which one’s experience is enriched, maybe not in an objective (representational) way, but by the thought of freedom, of the outside and of openness. As Schelling writes, “. . . something comprehensible and individuated first emerges in this manner and, indeed, not through external representation but rather through genuine impression . . . .”24 Schelling equates desire, or “the pure craving,” or yearning, with a “blind will,” and it is a consequence of the incompatibility of the ground of existence (darkness) and existence with its understanding (light). Unlike God who has ground of existence united with existence, argues Schelling, man has this yearning, this unsatisfied desire as a reminder that darkness and light, ground and existence are not completely dissolved into each other in humanity. This for Schelling justifies the consideration of good and evil with the same priority: evil being natural to men as much as goodness. As Schelling says, “the ground of evil could not in any way lie in lack or deprivation.”25 Evil resulting from lack or deprivation would mean that evil is derived, not primary. The reason for evil is much more primordial: the incompatibility of ground and existence. Since it is not predestined, an action as actualization of existential ground can be as much evil as it can be good. Without this duality of good and evil, and without blind will or non-specified desire, man would approximate an infinite being, and would lose humanity. Schelling argues that, in fact, evil is needed to provoke goodness, to achieve revelation. Although Schelling’s essay is religiously “colored,” as is appropriate for the time of its appearance, nevertheless it expresses freedom of choice and underlines the need for evil, digressions, and unreason (i.e. darkness), so that from it something good can appear (light). This negativity is different from Hegel’s “tremendous power of negativity.” For Hegel, negativity is in the domain of self-reflection: it is already mediation, since to negate something we have to have that something present before its negation. For Schelling, evil as negativity belongs to the ground of existence and precedes existence, and it remains incomprehensible, outside of systems of conceptual thinking and understanding. This incomprehensibility results in unsettled elements of existence and consciousness, forever feeding the desire and yearning to probe into the mystery of the beginning, the mystery of the “distinction between that which exists and that which is the ground for existence.”26 Because there is an irreducible gap in principles of good and evil, man is rational as well as irrational, and can never succumb to perfect unity—otherwise he or

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she would be God. Hence, the irrational principle characterizes humanity. Schelling here foresees future philosophers, such as Bataille, who advocate transgression and excess. He writes, “The irrational and contingent, which show themselves to be bound to that which is necessary in the formation of beings, especially the organic ones, prove that it is not merely a geometric necessity that has been active here, but rather that freedom, spirit, and selfwill were also in play.”27 For Schelling, desire belongs to the ground of existence, as a driving force for the movement that characterizes the existence of a natural being. This movement is becoming as a sequence of beginnings and endings. Since the ground of existence is not subsumed under existence, the irrational or evil can spring up in existence. An answer to evil forces is revelation. Revelation reminds man of God’s presence and annuls the evil forces that are needed so that the good may appear. Schelling asks whether revelation is an action “that ensues with blind and unconscious necessity, or is it a free and conscious act?”28 Indeed this is a very intriguing question, on the same level with the question of human freedom. Schelling argues for the middle ground: it is not a conscious will, but also it is not completely unconscious and blind necessity. Conscious will, for Schelling, is the will of love. Revelation is triggered by forces grounding existence and is made possible by the will of love. Turning to the encounters considered in this work, and to excess beyond anticipation, the guiding question might be whether the origin of excess is external or internal. It seems to be in the middle, neither external nor internal exclusively, but occurring in the encounter between exterior and interior: desire for the unexpected is conscious, because I am aware of it; however, because of its indeterminacy, it is free. Desire for the unexpected and desire for transgression are not the same: desire for transgression is more directed, more definite, and is more naturally related to sexual desire, overstepping taboos. Desire for the unexpected is the most undefined desire, undirected in its perceived utility because, if satisfied, it brings only surprise, which might be significant as a trigger of a creative or an ethical act, but it may as well be without any significance whatsoever, just pure surprise acknowledging life’s vitality. Schelling acknowledges the vitality of life, “the rigor of life,” since “where there is no struggle, there is no life.”29 Hence, setbacks, evils, breaks—all are necessary for reviving life, for revelatory positive forces, for goodness, and for the struggle for survival. The unexpected can result in something either good or bad. However, when I desire the unexpected, I desire openness or something good, something important, but without specific utility. The considered encounters may be called revelations, but they are object-less revelations, revealing always the same thing: the openness of existence, the porousness of boundaries, the acceptance of something new via irreducible surprise. A break is needed so that something new can



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start, indicating at the same time an ending and a new beginning, and this is what characterizes life: a series of beginnings and endings. In the encounters considered here, there are no religious connotations as there are in Schelling; rather, the encounters considered here come closer to the revelation that Jaspers talks about. Revelation is the acknowledgment of surprise. Desire considered here is the desire for the unexpected (for me), so it is a generic desire, individualized yet universal. The break between desire and surprise is indicated as desire||surprise, with desire as the force moving from the individual toward the universal, while surprise goes from the universal toward the individual. Hence, in the movement and transition from desire to surprise, the transformation from the individual to the universal and back to the individual is accomplished, resulting in an enriched individual. This sounds Hegelian, but it does not contribute to concept formation. On the contrary, it underlines the deficiency of conceptual thinking and systematic and orderly existence, attesting to the mystery and irrationality of human nature as a seed for future creativity (artistic creation and admiration), or awareness of ethical considerations and empathy due to life’s imperfections and still unclaimed possibilities. Such desire presents an inner necessity, as opposed to empirical necessity based on objective needs. For Schelling, this inner necessity is itself freedom. He writes that the essence of man is “his own act.” The act combines formal necessity and freedom, two seemingly incompatible notions. Yet, it can be argued that man is by necessity a free being, which stems from the fact that the ground of existence is irreducible to existence itself: necessity of freedom is the freedom to will and to act. Die Weltalter is Schelling’s unfinished and fragmentary philosophical poem, published after his death.30 The third version (written in 1815) was published by Schelling’s son Karl in 1861, and he created a “Synoptic Table of Contents” to accompany it. The translator J. Wirth included it in the English translation from 2000. This “Table of Contents” and its insertion in the text might produce a more readable text for readers, but would not Schelling himself have created one if he had wished to have it? I would have preferred to read the poem without chapter and sections insertions, as a continuously flowing discussion, uninterrupted by the formal arrangement of the text, resembling the essay on freedom. Schelling writes about the importance of presence that cannot be represented, of presence preceding perception and reflection, of an irreducible remainder of the ground of existence that cannot be subsumed under existence. He reflects on the paradoxical character of the system. On the one hand, a system presents a set of constraints because parts have to fit into the whole, restricting freedom; on the other hand, a systematic approach and thinking, especially if adaptive and changeable over time and with respect to

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the subject, facilitate scientific findings, artistic creativity, and the manifestation and use of freedom. It seems that the middle ground is the most beneficial here: no extremes, such as that of a rigid system or that of a completely anarchic approach, can be useful—the best advancement is achieved with systematic thinking, but allowing for moments of gaps, “madness,” excesses, and transgression, abandoning the dry and overused path. To be creative, one has to stray from the overused path, but has to return to known space in order to represent the creative effort, either as a piece of art or as scientific or philosophical writing. Freedom for Schelling is divine madness, and free will is the will that wills nothing in particular, a desire or yearning that is not objectively directed. It is present as a force of life’s vitality. The desire for the unexpected considered in this work is the object-less desire for a true beginning. It points to the outside of the already visited and revisited space of experience. To encounter the unexpected, one has to be attuned to the presence that is not objectively present, but that can manifest itself. Schelling says something relevant to such encounters: “This incomprehensible but not imperceptible being, always ready to overflow and yet always held again, and which alone grants to all things the full charm, gleam, and glint of life, is that which is at the same time most manifest and most concealed.”31 Schelling wants to afford significance to what he calls “the intermediate concepts,” as concepts presenting something in between the complete concepts of what is scientifically explainable, and the lack of any concepts for non-explainable entities. He argues that the intermediate concepts combining the presentable and the non-presentable are the most interesting ones, since they capture reality as it is, incomprehensible and surpassing mechanical conceptual identification. Life is constant movement, with opposing forces of expansion and contraction, openness and closure, distance and intimacy, and, as Schelling says, “This is the poison of life that needs to be overcome, yet without which life would pass away.”32 This statement describes poetically the force of life’s vitality. Yet, overcoming does not have to be triggered by the “poison of life.” Actually, the interesting case is when life is not grim after all, because if life is grim we look for an exit (the survival impulse), but when “life is beautiful,” why would we look for something new? (As the saying goes: if it’s not broken, don’t fix it). In trying to answer this question, I will borrow Schelling’s vocabulary: when the forces get a taste of their accomplishment and become comfortable, they desire (out of curiosity and idleness) to go out of their comfortable unity to explore further. This is the vitality of life. It pulsates between contractions and extensions, between cozy intimate places and unbounded neutral spaces. Who wouldn’t wish to be in a small yet comfortable boat in the midst of a (calm) sea, to experience at the same time the intimacy of life’s existence and the promise of an unbounded exteriority? Who would not like to meditate in a



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cozy room with large windows overlooking the majestic mountain range covered with snow, or gaze from a cliff overlooking either the serenity of a calm sea or the rage of wind and waves mercifully attacking the cliff? It is easily recognizable that these examples lead to Kantian sublimity. However, for an encounter to create “anew something that has being,” encounter does not have to have such a sublime setting. Something can reveal newness in seemingly insignificant details—smells, sounds, unexpected relationships, all of which can disarm one’s armory of cultural upbringing and perceptiveness, scientific proficiency and cleverness, and can assert anew the value of life in its full simplicity and mystery. This is a kind of surprise originating from the unexpected excess coming from exteriority, and from the acceptivity of my inner constitution: I am attentive after all and still belong to the universality of life as an integral part; I am not a completely separate being. Such encounters (apart from religion, politics, morality, as the immensely important “departments” of human existence and interactions) are significant to asserting anew the old wisdom that small things in life, simple things in life, often carry a big import and contribute to one’s sense of happiness. As already argued, such an irreducible surprise seems to present fertile ground for the further evolution of either admiration or responsibility, or of all shades and combinations of the two in between. Shelling uses the word Sehnsucht, which is translated as yearning, indicating a non-objective desire, an undetermined desire as a forward movement, for something out there, as a longing. This can also be viewed as the desire for the unexpected, for the beyond of objective representations. Schelling writes, “All conscious creation presupposes an unconscious creating. Conscious creating is just the unfolding and setting into opposition of unconscious creating.”33 This is very relevant for the current proposal, since “true” beginning, which carries the seed of creativity, has to originate beyond consciousness and intentionality, has to originate beyond habitual experiential space, in the open, beyond consciousness—which is unconsciousness. Schelling recalls Aristotle and the saying that a touch of madness is necessary to accomplish something great. Otherwise, one would be stuck with situations already seen, experienced, and thought. Hence, it is beneficial to go sometimes beyond reason—that is, to experience a touch of madness or a situation in which reason is defenseless and helpless, in which it is not functioning. This happens when an encounter freezes one’s representational capabilities and the neutrality of the transformation of desire to surprise (as the two processes in one’s conscience and personality) disallows any objectivity. Schelling identifies three types of people: one kind of person governs madness and is oriented toward the full force of intellect (dead intellectuals), another kind of person is governed by madness (as being completely mad)—these are the two extremes. A third type of person balances in the

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middle, being governed by reason but with occasional touches of madness. This is the most desirable type of person since, says Schelling, “where there is no madness, there is also certainly no proper, active, living intellect (and consequently there is just the dead intellect, dead intellectuals.)”34 This consideration of reason and madness leads to Schelling’s influence on Jaspers. JASPERS’ REASON, ANTI-REASON, EXISTENZ, AND ENCOMPASSING Jaspers considers reason as essentially different from intellect. In a work titled Reason and Anti-Reason in Our Time, he first offers a criticism of both Marxism and psychoanalysis as being unscientific due to a misleading employment of reason, bending “science” to conform to the desired findings. Science is not a mere technology and a set of procedures, techniques, and algorithms used to prove something, or the application of intellect to secure some ends—it needs Reason—that is, the will to know, the will to truth. Reason is related to desire: the acknowledgement of never-satisfied desire and the openness, the will to always go further, is a prerequisite for a genuine science, unlike the “pseudosciences” that proclaim desire and demand that it be fulfilled.35 The satisfaction with the “totality” of knowledge, the quest for the totally planned society and order, the wish to explain everything in analytical terms, all such tendencies undercut reason from its bloodline, the freedom characterizing authentic personality. Jaspers writes, “Reason has no assured stability: it is constantly on the move . . . It leads to self-knowledge and knowledge of limits, and therefore to humility—and it is opposed to intellectual arrogance . . .  Thus reason works itself out of chains of dogma, of caprice, of arrogance, of passion . . . It is in itself a boundless openness.”36 Hence, reason has built-in the desire for transgression, for encountering something new, for escaping incarceration, for getting a glimpse of freedom. This is reason’s propensity for openness. Jaspers implies the possibility for encountering something irreducibly new without actively asking for it: reason’s “humility” encompasses at the same time a certain passivity allowing otherness to manifest itself, and the activity of the will to enlarge experiential horizons.37 This is a nod to Schelling and his arguments that the essence of human freedom is the irreducibility of the ground of existence and actual existence, leaving space for the irrational as well as the rational, for powers that work against order to disable the system’s encapsulation. What is most alien to Reason and to which Reason is attracted, is the passivity of indifference as an origin to a beginning, to put Reason on the move. Anti-Reason as the negation of Reason is simply a closed, dead intellect, the impossibility of irreducible surprise, and, instead, work in the domain of derivative statements.



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Jaspers acknowledges the “boundless will to communication” characterizing Reason. But, such communication could not be a banal exchange of information related to objective reality—this would be non-authentic communication among separated beings. The authentic communication that Reason demands is communication with exteriority, “in the presence of Transcendence” according to Jaspers, something that is beyond one’s experiential space. In accordance with Schelling’s question, “Why does anything at all exist; why does not nothing exist?” Jaspers answers, “The question makes us conscious of the presence of Being as the unintelligible and impenetrable mystery that approaches us and exists before all our thought.”38 Hence, there is a mystery preceding thought, as the origin outside beginning. There is presence that cannot be represented, something escaping objectivity. Jaspers writes, “When we imagine that we sometimes know more than we can think and express in historical forms, we are forced to look round for metaphors.”39 I have discussed Ricoeur’s work and the use of metaphors in “short-cutting” communication, directly expressing something that escapes descriptive narration in ordinary language. Reason is triggered by externality, by something alien to it, which it then processes and makes a part of existence. Yet, Jaspers is strongly against yearning for “mystery, irrationality, absurdity, wizardry, magic, adventure, and finally for blind unrestraint and blind obedience at one and the same time.”40 Such desire appears, argues Jaspers, when mere intellect takes over and creates a sense of dissatisfaction. In the current interpretation, such desire would be the desire for mere novelty, without leaving the world of objects and petty intrigues, the desire for accidental surprises that in retrospect would not be surprises after all. Desire for the unexpected, for an irreducible surprise—not because one is bored and needs some action, but because the openness of being asks for continuity of existence—reflects the “humility” of reason in acknowledging the incompleteness and disunity of the world around it. Jaspers writes, The very substance of our being yearns for fulfillment, for satisfaction and incarnation in the present. But the access to such fulfillment can be of two kinds. It can lead to a genuine fullness under the guidance of reason and to a historically continuing development through reason. Or it can produce a merely deceptive realization, lost in the dispersal and anarchy of random multifariousness, without reason and contrary to reason.41

Here we can question Jaspers. Is it really the case that “fullness” can be achieved in only one of the two extreme cases: under the guidance of reason, or as a merely deceptive realization?—It depends on how reason is defined. The “fullness” achieved in encounters triggering an irreducible surprise in the aesthetic sense does not contribute to objective knowledge. It does, however,

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contribute to self-knowledge and to the knowledge of limits (tells us something about ourselves), but without any scientific fact: a chance encounter resulting in irreducible surprise is surprise at oneself. Such “fullness” can stop there—without any further developments leading to something creative or something good (to employ ethical language), or it can indeed propagate further artistic creation, admiration, or responsibility, all under the wings of a restless reason. Hence, I wish to acknowledge the possibility for simple aesthetic fulfillment without any immediate propagation to something more than that. This wish for simple aesthetic fulfillment is not advocating “aesthetic license and poetic anarchism,”42 it is a wish to free reason from the requirement that it has to be productive all the time. It would be an unbearable burden. The possibility of non-productive reason is a prerogative for its openness. Through reason we acquire knowledge. However, Jaspers senses that knowledge cannot encompass it all, so knowing should be open, and knowledge as such is a defiant notion.43 In trying to differentiate philosophy from art, Jaspers argues that philosophy is reflection, or “thinking in life in which I extricate my life from untruth,”44 while “in art, in the form of a vision externalized into an image, fulfillment comes in a leap.”45 Philosophy and art serve different purposes in our lives, since in philosophy we try to come to grips with the reality of life, while art testifies to the difference between life and contemplation; hence, “while the goal of philosophizing is to think in the reality of life itself, the very point of adopting art is to separate reality from contemplative enthrallment.”46 Jaspers distinguishes between “true” and “untrue” art, and positions true art above philosophy, since true art can provide fulfillment beyond what philosophy and reflection can provide. However, philosophy has the possibility to uncover “untrue” art, to dissect it and disregard it as worthless.47 There is part of philosophy that comes close to art and that is on the same level as art—this is metaphysical speculation.48 When “fulfillment,” such as that provided by true art, leaves us speechless and incapable of objective representation, we afterward feel a need to talk about it, to speculate on the mystery of such fulfillment. Such metaphysical speculation testifies to our need to probe into encounters that transgress our experiential space with reflection, being aware, at the same time, that such reflection cannot have any scientific validity—because metaphysical speculation approaches the poetics of language. It points to the inability of reflection and actually proves its unlimited ability. Following Kierkegaard, Jaspers develops the notion of Existenz to indicate an individual’s concern with self-knowledge, apart from objective presence and concerned with freedom and authenticity. It is different from the common use of “existence” as empirical existence, that which indicates the attributes of an objective presence. Existenz is characterized as the will to explore the



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limits of human reason, the basis for developing humanity, the impulses directing one’s actions, the transcendence of limited human experience. The related concept of Encompassing indicates the transcendence of all experiential horizons, as the beyond-ness of one’s habitual experiential space containing possibilities for the augmentation of self-knowledge.49 In the quest of Existenz to surpass the finitude of the objective world, of appearances and particularity, there is a need to go beyond horizons, to transcend the limit of empirical existence. Whenever one is dissatisfied with the pettiness and accidental truths in one’s life, there is a need, a will to go beyond. The externality that Jaspers names Encompassing can be viewed as the externality “closest” to the experiential space, and it is there that possibilities for surpassing the limits of objective presence reside. As an Existenz, I wish to go beyond my horizons; to engage in more meaningful communication; to know more about my inclinations; to understand my underlined humanity hidden below cultural, political, and professional conduct; and to discover my real self, a self open for communication without strategic wishes to dominate or usurp another’s space. It is a way out of a closed and organized existence in which all is accounted for. According to such a view, Encompassing presents the needed transcendence, answering the call of the unsatisfied in existence; it is “a self-supported ground of Being.”50 I am aware that my self-knowledge is limited and I wish to augment it, without adding any factual knowledge. Instead, I wish to add to my capacity for authentic communication, and to get a sense of my possibilities. The exteriority of the Encompassing and the striving of the Existenz toward self-creation by self-elucidation, as arising from being unsatisfied with empirical existence, is one way to approach exteriority. Maybe Jaspers’ training in psychiatry made him attuned to the unsettled depths of human interiority, of humanity extending beyond intellect, beyond objectively verifiable and verbally explainable encounters and activity. His Existenz is based on dissatisfaction with habitual relationships and the need for “existential communication.” For authentic communication, one needs to be an independent self, but equally open to another Existenz, to a being like oneself. Due to the conflicting poles of self-discipline and of self-abandon, existential communication is manifested in the struggle between keeping one’s “stable” empirical existence and the attainment of one’s possible Existenz.51 This is the fight for truth of one’s existence, not a factual truth but the truth as self-knowledge. The struggle based on equality is binding one Existenz to another, bringing out what is relevant in their beings. Can we “open” Jaspers’s exteriority outside Encompassing and look beyond Existenz? Due to situations of encountering irreducible excess beyond expectations, we experience irreducible surprise. The desire for the unexpected, as an object-less desire or yearning, creates attunement and

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openness, a fertile ground for encountering exteriority. Such desire does not have to be tied up with unsatisfied being so that it is triggered by deficiencies of empirical existence, in turn resulting in the necessary augmentation of reason, and in authentic communication among similar beings. I like to leave room for the possibility of encountering exteriority in a balanced mode, with no struggle, for no particular reason, and in the passivity (sensual and mental) that enables exteriority to approach in an unexpected way. Such an encounter does not lead to communication with others like me, and it stops in self-communication as my surprise. The encounter was not asked for, and it might not be useful whatsoever—yet it seems immensely important as an unequivocal “proof” that my being is open, welcoming exteriority, joyful and playful, despite the anxiety and dissatisfactions of empirical reality. I am not always calm and balanced—but neither am I always in the state of anxiety. From a philosophical point of view, death, struggle, and anxiety are more desirable concepts to dwell in because they open possibilities for searching for unity, truth, and authenticity. However, the origin of a beginning, outside of a beginning, can trigger a beginning independent of one’s striving for it. I argue for a neutral openness of being—it is more difficult to justify it philosophically than justifying openness based on the search for a way out. In the movie industry, it seems that making a good comedy is much more difficult than making a good tragedy (not many comedies have received an Oscar). There is something in dissatisfaction that serves as a perpetuum mobile, a wish to exit, a wish to explore and to transgress. But, there is nothing to prevent transgression without explicitly asking for it—life would be just a constant struggle without it. Sometimes it seems soothing to welcome exteriority of its own. It is a properly aesthetic encounter just to acknowledge one’s openness, and it may (I am not saying that it must) develop into something more, for example, admiration or responsibility. This openness is far away from Leibniz’s optimism, is not claiming that life is beautiful, calm, and balanced. The world around us is, in fact, awful: natural and man-made disasters, ecological suicide and cultural decline, alienation and increased shallowness of relationships due to the imperative for instant gratification, replacement of the real environment with the virtual one due to technological advancements, etc.—but it is not my intention here to lament the current state of affairs. All the philosophers concerned with being and existence certainly have fertile ground for philosophizing about the way out, about changing one’s attitudes to achieve an existence that is more meaningful. However, it seems worthwhile to ask for the possibility for moments of openness when the armory of one’s habitual seeing and acting is disabled, when one is not burdened with “heavy” thoughts and lets his or her interiority be porous, welcoming the outside, desiring the unexpected but not as a way out—on the contrary, as a way in, in the continuity and indifference between “in” and



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“out.” Hopefully, somebody like Voltaire would not find such a possibility ridiculous. SCHELLING AND HEGEL: ABSOLUTE INDIFFERENCE VERSUS ABSOLUTE IDENTITY Schelling proclaims the highest point of his investigation to be the discovery of why there is a difference between the ground of existence and actual existence. He said that there must first be indifference, absolute indifference between the ground and the non-ground, which is absolute lack or neutrality. It is important here to distinguish between identity and indifference: absolute identity is different from absolute indifference. Absolute identity is only the indifference of form, but content can escape identity. Indifference asserts the neutrality of content as well, the two sides (ground and non-ground, light and darkness, good and evil, etc.) have content that is indifferent to one and the other. Moreover, there is no form, no identity of form, just formless indifference in content. This is why Schelling and Hegel can coexist: what Schelling talks about precedes Hegel’s development of concepts. Hegel’s immediacy as sensecertainty is not Schelling’s immediacy of indifference between ground and non-ground. In his earlier essay from 1801 entitled The Difference between Fichte’s and Schelling’s System of Philosophy, Hegel rejects Fichte’s as well as Schelling’s position. He rejects Fichte’s position by saying that Fichte’s equation “Ego = Ego” shows only the subjective Subject-Object relation, that is, “‘Ego = Ego’ is transformed into the principle ‘Ego ought to be equal to Ego.’”52 Hegel rejects Schelling’s position by saying that Schelling shows only the objective side of the identity “Ego=Ego,” that is, Schelling puts the principle of identity as the absolute principle of his system as a whole, without reflection, and only by the immediate feeling. In the Difference essay, Hegel writes “For absolute identity to be the principle of an entire system it is necessary that both subject and object be posited as Subject-Object.”53 However, Schelling does not talk about absolute identity: his principle is absolute indifference, which precedes any formal (and non-formal) identity. In the “Freedom” essay, Schelling states firmly, “Thus we have shown the particular point of the system where the concept of indifference is indeed the only possible concept of the absolute.”54 In surprise, freedom can be viewed as indifference, but indifference not in the sense of carelessness, inattention, or negligence; instead, it should be viewed as indifference in the sense of acceptance, or productive passivity. Productive passivity sounds like an oxymoron; nonetheless, it indicates mutual recognition and honoring of differences. A philosophy of surprise

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is a philosophy of productive passivity, of welcoming otherness on its own terms. What do we get in return? Just a surprise carrying the sense of mutual belonging to the same world—and this is a lot. I might be a nervous, egoistic, and domineering subjectivity trying to assert my freedom and to deal with my fear and trembling, my psychoses, angst, death drive, and castration anxiety, but should I not possess the potential for “undirected jouissance” as well? Desire for enjoyment is a “directed” desire looking to satisfy the end result, enjoyment. Desire for surprise is neutral: I don’t know if the surprise will be enjoyable or not, but the adrenalin rises with the thought of encountering something new. I have to be productive to work on my capacity to accept surprise encounters. This work implies that an effort is needed to curb my egotistical subjectivity and to allow otherness to override my consciousness. The result is a state of passivity but on a different level than passivity with respect to the objective world—passivity more passive than any other passivity, as Levinas would say. Such passivity characterizes the origin of the beginning of surprise. Plato said that philosophy begins in wonder. But, what is the origin of wonder, the ground of wonder, outside it and preceding it? Wonder in itself carries some positive energy, or the force of the wish to discover, to probe deeper, to unravel a mystery. Hence, it seems that wonder should not originate in negative forces. I suggest productive passivity that incorporates all the relevance there is, indifference pregnant with one’s whole being. Discussion of the wish to encounter exteriority on its own, without trying to escape from everyday suffocation, brings us to a psychoanalytic description of desire and Žižek’s interpretation of Schelling. Žižek acknowledges Schelling’s term “absolute indifference” as “the abyss of pure Freedom that is not yet the predicate-property of some Subject, but rather designates a pure impersonal Willing (Wollen) that wills nothing.”55 Žižek argues that Schelling’s insistence on the impossibility of inducing a passage from potentiality into actuality, which can only be narrated after the fact because it is a free act (it does not have to happen), leads to an “implicit admission” of “retroactive fantasy.” This psychoanalytic reading of Schelling finds place for desire, psychosis, and the irreducible part of subjectivity in defiance of the symbolic order. In answering why he is returning to German idealism, Žižek responds that “a certain fundamental malfunction” cannot be explained in “cognitivist evolutionism.” Both German idealism and psychoanalysis, argues Žižek, provide terms for this malfunction. For German idealism, this is self-relating negativity, while for psychoanalysis it is the death drive. These terms both point to the inherent power of negativity and the power of lack. The subject persists as a radical negativity. It disrupts the symbolic order, reminding us of the Real as the repository of excesses that cannot be pinpointed, and that assert the radical otherness defying explanations, causality, argumentations, and strategic and political manipulations.



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The desire for the unexpected addressed in this work carries a level of indifference, unlike desire as exemplified in the objet petit a. Lacan’s and Žižek’s uses of negativity (evil), characterizing the freedom and struggle inherent in the movement of contraction-expansion, is a type of instrumental negativity since it is used to augment subjectivity and to make it defiant of symbolization. Freedom is indispensable and should be fought for, opening possibilities for a subject’s willing and acting. To the freedom to will and the freedom to act, I wish to add the freedom to be passive. Heidegger wrote about Schelling’s essay on freedom in Schelling’s Treatise on the Essence of Human Freedom and slanted the interpretation toward his own philosophical position. Žižek interprets Schelling in the triangle Schelling-Hegel-Lacan, and finds in Schelling’s writing implicit and explicit references relevant to the psychoanalytic domain. I wish to add another interpretation of Schelling, in the triangle Schelling-Fink-Levinas, addressing the primordial indifference of the ground and the non-ground, the speculative origin of consciousness and phenomenology, and the passivity in the encounter with otherness. It is Fink’s origin encountering Levinas’ Other in Schelling’s primordial indifference of the ground and the non-ground. Within this “triangle,” I wish to augment the speculation over the sudden leap from potentiality into actuality by allowing for productive passivity. In his disagreement with Hegel, Schelling credits aesthetics and the immediacy with absolute indifference going beyond formal identity, which is very much in line with current proposal. At the end, this work is about defending the immediate against mediation. It seems paradoxical to invoke a large number of philosophers, all writing very eloquently about immediacy and the unexpected. The use of so much reflection to prove the importance of nonreflection testifies to the allure of the ungraspable, to the wish to attain the unattainable. NOTES 1. Blanchot, “The Infinite Conversation,” 46. 2. G.W.F. Hegel, The Science of Logic, trans. A.V. Miller (Amherst: Humanity Books, 1969), 106. 3. Ibid., 42. 4. Ibid. 5. Ibid., 83. 6. Ibid., 106. 7. Ibid., 559. 8. Ibid., 564. 9. Ibid., 571. 10. Ibid., 399.

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11. Ibid. 12. Clark Butler and Christiane Seiler, Hegel: The Letters, trans. Clark Butler and Christiane Seiler (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984), 267. 13. Ibid., 292. 14. Ibid., 293. 15. Hegel, Phenomenology, 59. 16. Butler and Seiler, Hegel: The Letters, 493. 17. Theodor W. Adorno, Hegel: Three Studies, trans. Shierry Weber Nicholsen (The MIT Press, 1993), 4. 18. Ibid., 58. 19. Ibid., 63–64. 20. Ibid., 64. 21. Iain Hamilton Grant, Philosophies of Nature after Schelling (Continuum, 2006). 22. F.W.J. Schelling, Philosophical Investigations into the Essence of Human Freedom, trans. Jeff Love and Johannes Schmidt (State University of New York Press, 2006), 22. 23. Ibid., 29. 24. Ibid., 31. 25. Ibid., 36. 26. Ibid., 40. 27. Ibid., 43. 28. Ibid., 58. 29. Ibid., 63. 30. Schelling intended to produce a genealogy of time, but only The Past survived. 31. F.W.J. Schelling, The Ages of the World (Third Version C.1815), trans. Jason M. Wirth (Albany: State University of New York, 2000), 61. 32. Ibid., 89. 33. Ibid., 102. 34. Ibid., 103. 35. This work was written in 1950. If should be noted that later Lacan (in 1957) realized the impossibility of satisfied desire and developed the notion of objet petit a as the never satisfied object of desire, the impossibility to subsume the Real under the Symbolic order. 36. Karl Jaspers, Reason and Anti-Reason in Our Time, trans. Stanley Godman (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1952), 39. 37. Ibid., 40. 38. Ibid., 45. 39. Ibid., 47. 40. Ibid., 68. 41. Ibid. 42. Ibid., 70. 43. Jaspers writes, “No knowledge exists as a closed system. Whatever I know will leave a remainder, as a boundary. I think and I know in specific categories, but those are not absolute . . . The ‘entire world’ is thus no true entity, since even as an



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idea it achieves no true concretion. It is a boundary concept.” Philosophy, trans. E.B. Ashton, vol. Volume 1 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1969), 170–71. 44. Ibid., 327. 45. Ibid., 328. 46. Ibid. 47. Ibid., 334. 48. Ibid., 335. 49. Reason and Existenz, trans. William Earle (New York: The Noonday Press, 1957), 52. 50. Ibid. 51. “Excerpts from Philosophy (Volume 2),” in Existentialism, ed. Robert C. Solomon (New York: The Modern Library, 1974), 143–44. 52. G.W.F. Hegel, The Difference between Fichte’s and Schelling’s System of Philosophy, trans. H.S Harris and W. Cerf (Albany: State University of New York, 1977), 83. 53. Ibid., 155. 54. Schelling, The Freedom Essay, 73. 55. Žižek, The Žižek Reader, 258.

Conclusion

Desire||Surprise and the Irreducible in an Aesthetic Encounter

The properly aesthetic component in an encounter with either the environment or the work of art is characterized by a break: the severance of all things past and the announcement of a beginning. Hence, a properly aesthetic encounter is an encounter with irreducible otherness, creating rupture in one’s capacities. It happens when one’s expectation has been irreducibly exceeded, implying that one has stepped into uncharted territory. The start of surprise begins the recovery. The factuality of the encounter originating the surprise falls into oblivion; the recognition of excess as irreducible carries the entire signification of the encounter, and all particular instances of such an encounter belong to the properly aesthetic experience that is spread over the course of one’s life, subtending one’s subjectivity. Properly aesthetic expectation, as the (formal) expectation of the irreducible excess over any expectation, corresponds to desire. It is acceptivity as the subjective preparation for welcoming otherness. And when excess indeed does happen, one is defenseless, engulfed in the encounter, blended into it in indifference and anonymity beyond one’s sensibility. This indifference is not abstract nothingness, the opposite of being. It is rather the indifference between subject and object, fusing their subjectivity and objectivity in a neutrality pregnant with the possibility of a beginning, asserting anew the subjectivity of a subject. We can talk about this indifference only by projection, and then only indirectly. Upon recovery, beginning with surprise defined as a sequence of announcements, whereby difference starts its assertion, slowly, carefully—yet suddenly—one can pronounce the excess and the irreducible newness of the encounter. Surprise incorporates a metamorphosis from a mere announcement of sensibility toward a complex reflection in admiration (characterizing aesthetic-cultural experiences) and responsibility (characterizing ethics and morality), and the properly aesthetic component diminishes in the process. However, it cannot 173

174 Conclusion

be quenched completely, and the failure of closure provokes further desire. And this is a feedback loop, a dialectic of sameness and otherness that grounds one’s subjectivity. Starting with what is at hand, or experienced, brings us to the surprise and we can propose a phenomenology of surprise. However, what is prior to surprise? One can talk about desire, and especially about desire for the unexpected, as a concrete but object-less and undefined desire. This desire can be described in a phenomenology of desire. The in-between (the rupture, the break, the pause) belongs to speculative thinking, to transcendence. We can only speculate about it; so the present approach is a combination of phenomenology and speculative thinking. In phenomenology we describe the train of thought, but in speculation we propose something that cannot be proven or disproven, here the origination of surprise. The inherent break separating desire from surprise (denoted as desire||surprise) is the result of the impossibility to present immediacy. Indeed, a presentation as such is mediation, implying that a presentation of immediacy is impossible. However, immediacy leaves a trace as a presence that cannot be presented, as the absence of presence. One encounters it when the presence exceeds presentation, be it in a work of art or in either natural or cultural environments. The resulting immediacy characterizes beyond-ness, excess, irreducible unexpectedness, bringing mediation to a halt: it points to a breakup of totality by adding a new strand (something that was not there before) to one’s flow of experience. One’s time is finite (as Heidegger argues), but it has infinite moments intertwined into it (nodding to Levinas). This is a consequence of new beginnings. I have interpreted a number of philosophical positions trying to understand how they would fit into the proposed interplay between desire and surprise. After the introduction, desire and excess were discussed in chapter 1, and the works of Levinas, Žižek, Bataille, Blanchot, Foucault, and Ricoeur were interpreted and positioned according to the proposed template of desire— excess—rupture. The wish to further explore the issue of limits in one’s experiencing led to consideration of so-called limit experiences in chapter 2, and the interpretation of work by authors fascinated by transgression, excess, and the question of whether excess is immanent or transcendent. This discussion took up works by Nietzsche, Deleuze, Žižek, and Foucault. Surprise and the beginning of recovery after the rupture caused by excess were discussed in chapter 3, putting into context relevant works by Fink, Merleau-Ponty, Nancy, Lyotard, Dufrenne, Bachelard, and Seel. Analyzing the phenomenon of surprise led to characterization of the transformation from the void of annihilated subjectivity in the encounter with the irreducible otherness, to the play of reflection in admiration and responsibility of a recovered subjectivity. The effort was undertaken in order to extract the properly aesthetic part

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grounding both culture and ethics. The proposed metamorphosis of surprise was traced along various works, but the trajectory, so to speak, was viewed as the Hegelian dialectic in reverse. The argument is that surprise begins where the concept reaches its ending, hence that the limit of speculative thinking at its ending is the limit of aesthetics at its beginning. The last chapter, chapter 4, considers Hegel’s Concept, developed at the end of Phenomenology and employed at the beginning of Logic, as it argues for the failure of closure in a dialectical system. Finally, the work of Schelling and his influence on Jaspers are discussed in order to argue for the beginning of aesthetics, there where knowledge ends. Adorno suggested that reading Hegel provides elements of an aesthetic experience. This probably implies that one gets a sense of a complete work (as if dealing with an artwork), but includes the sense of the work’s resistance to being carefully dissected and analyzed in parts. Some other philosophers could fit into such an “aesthetic category,” for example, Kant and Heidegger. Receiving a philosophical work in an aesthetic manner involves approaching it actively and passively at the same time: actively to interrogate the work in efforts to probe its depth, and passively to let the work speak for itself. This combination of activity and passivity seems to be the appropriate attitude with which to welcome surprise as well. In reading a philosophical text, as any other text (a literary text or a mathematical proof), I have to be attuned: I have to be both active, allowing text’s processing, and passive, allowing the text to reach me. The interplay and mutual intertwining of activity and passivity, of breaks and recuperations of my representational capabilities creates possibilities for experiencing surprise. It can be a surprise of realizing the richness and speculative force of a philosophical thought, or the simplicity of a mathematical proof, or the manifestation of continuity of being in a work of art. Why do I invoke so many philosophers in this work? In order to come to grips with a defiant subject (immediacy versus mediation) surfacing in one way or another in various philosophical schools, at various historical times, and within various contexts. This is not a study of a specific philosopher, and it risks the misrepresentation of somebody’s view (as if this would be unheard of in philosophy). But, is not philosophy a clever set of dueling misrepresentations? The considered encounters invert Wittgenstein’s dictum from the Tractatus, that one should throw away the ladder once one has reached the top, that is, to disregard the process after achieving the goal. The present encounters work backward: as if I suddenly found myself up in the air, on a cloud, and throw down a rope to descend slowly to the ground, still uncertain how and why I found myself in the air in the first place. The surprise as achieved by a great work of art can also be triggered by a seemingly unimportant encounter in one’s environment. The factor of the

176 Conclusion

unexpected is indisputable. Modern art, with its wish to provide something new, imitates life itself. Modern art is not aesthetic in terms of some canons of beauty; instead, it is capable of invoking an aesthetic response by providing surprise, a new outlook to an entrenched concept. The works of a selection of artists (Duchamp, Mondrian) were discussed in order to illustrate some philosophical views. There are books and books on aesthetics, but I felt that some important insights were still left vague. I interpreted different positions viewed as relevant, in admiration of their impact and lucidity, hoping to add something to their thought. In the end, maybe, too much has been said; after all, how can one write so many pages on surprise? This brings a comparison to mind. After reading one of my favorite philosophical texts, Kant’s Analytic of the Sublime, I couldn’t brush off the feeling that the main tenet of that work is well summarized in a short poem by Dickinson, “The brain is wider than the sky.”1 Of course, this doesn’t take anything away from Kant’s masterpiece, but it shows a tender point related to aesthetics, a proximity that defies reflection, that teases it. Literature is at the limit of philosophy, and it goes where philosophy tries to follow. At best, they are indistinguishable, as the two sides of the same coin, indifferent to their differences. NOTE 1. Emily Dickinson, The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson, Part One: Life (126) (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1924).

Bibliography

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Index

absence, 3, 6–7, 16, 26–30, 38, 46–55, 61, 70–71, 74, 116, 121, 123–24, 134, 141, 174 absolute identity, xxii, 151, 167 absolute indifference, 145, 167–69 absolute knowing, xxii, 75, 84–85, 101, 146, 153 acceptive inclination, 16 acceptivity, xvii, 17, 20–21, 24–26, 46, 59–60, 108, 126, 161, 173 actual, 79, 86, 148–50. See also virtual admiration, xv, xviii–xix, xxiii, 2, 11, 13, 58, 68, 110–13, 118, 122, 124–31, 145, 151, 154, 164, 173–74 Adorno, Theodor W., 74, 101, 137, 151–55, 175; Adorno’s affinity with Hegel, 151 aesthetic absence, 7, 13, 54 aesthetic experience, xiii, 30, 113, 116, 128–30, 136; the properly aesthetic component in experience, xvii, 1–2; the properly aesthetic experience, xvii, xxii, 1–4, 6, 15–16, 58–59, 126–27, 145; definition of, xvi; phases of, 58

aesthetic-cultural experience, 173 alterity, xvi–xxi, 16, 18–19, 21, 23–25, 47, 58 announcement, xvii, xix, xxiii, 13, 87, 107–8, 112–13, 120, 122, 124, 126, 129, 145–46, 173 Aristotle, 11–12, 55, 129, 161; catharsis, 11–12 Aronofsky, Darren, xvi, 67, 102n2 astonishment, xii, xvii, xix, xxiii, 2–3, 13, 68, 87, 93, 107, 110–13, 118, 120, 122–26, 131, 140–41, 145 Bachelard, Gaston, xxii, 13, 113, 128, 130–32, 137, 139; dialectic of outside and inside, 113, 130 Bataille, Georges, xxii, 13, 15–16, 30–43, 48–51, 53, 58–60, 88, 123, 132; Bataille and excess, 30; extreme limit of the possible, 34; inner experience, 34, 36, 38–39 becoming, xii, xxiii, 14, 73–75, 77–81, 84–85, 92, 114, 120, 146–48, 151–52 Betancourt, Michael, 43 Black Swan, xvi, 67, 102n2 181

182 Index

Blanchot, Maurice, xii, xvii, xxii, 13, 15–16, 27, 52–54, 56–61, 67–68, 71, 77, 94–95, 108, 121, 146; Blanchot and the impossibility of immediacy, 44–49; neuter, xii, xvii, 16, 48, 71, 77, 81, 108, 123; space of literature, 44, 48, 59, 65, 77, 81 Breer, Robert, xv death, 13, 30–33, 37–39, 46–47, 49, 61, 67, 72, 80, 88, 109, 115–16, 166, 168 Decimo, Mark, 41 deep learning, 100 Deleuze, Giles, xii, xxii, 13, 50, 71–79, 81–84, 87, 91–97; body without organs, 73, 75–76, 79–81; deterritorialization, 73, 75–77; difference and repetition, 13, 71, 91, 152; lines of flight, 73–75; plane of consistency, xii, 44, 73, 75–78, 81; plane of immanence, 73, 75, 77; rhizome, 73–75; simulacrum, 97 Derrida, Jacques, 10, 21–22, 29, 45, 62; désistance, 10; spectre, 29–30 desire: as the expectation of the irreducible exceeding of expectations, xx; for the unexpected, xi–xii, 2, 9, 12, 26, 28, 60, 77, 87, 113, 126, 154, 158–61, 163, 165, 169, 174 desire||surprise, xii, xvii, xxi, 2–4, 10, 16, 25, 29–30, 117, 135–36, 139–40, 156, 159, 173–74 Dewey, John, 2, 14n1, 116 Dickinson, Emily, 33, 176 disclosure, 18, 25, 55

discontinuity of discontinuity, 31, 125 dualism, 78 Duchamp, Marcel, 13, 40–43, 51, 176; Given, xxiii, 43–44; inframince, 42–43; The Large Glass, 42–43 Dufrenne, Mikel, 13, 113, 128–30; dialectic of reflection and feeling, 128–30; expressed world, 128–30; relation of a priori and a posteriori, 128; system of affective categories, 130 emotional intelligence, 98 encounters of philosophers, xxii eroticism, 13, 49, 51; and Bataille, 30–32; and Duchamp, 40–43 essence, xxii, 10, 22–25, 33, 84, 116, 120, 147, 149, 155, 159, 162, 169 Eternal Return, 13, 68–72, 91, 96 See also Blanchot, Maurice; Deleuze, Giles; Nietzsche, Friedrich ethics, xii–xiii, 2, 6, 9, 14, 16–19, 24, 49, 52, 57, 96, 111, 122–23, 127, 151, 173, 175 event, 13, 44, 53, 73–74, 79–80, 92–93, 113, 120–22, 139–40 excess, xi–xv, xvii, xix–xx, xxii, 13, 15, 17–25, 27–37, 39, 41, 43, 45–47, 49–55, 57–63, 65, 67–68, 73, 77–78, 82, 87, 93, 108, 119, 123, 140, 147, 156, 158, 161, 173–74; excess beyond expectation, 4–9, 33, 111, 125, 132, 165; excess of presence, xiv, 47, 54 expectations, xi, xviii, xx, 4–7, 9, 12, 51, 67, 73, 77, 95, 147, 156, 165; cognitive expectations, 6–7; cultural expectations, 6–7; exceeding of expectations, xvi, xviii, xx–xxi, 1, 3–9, 12, 110;

Index

irreducible exceeding of expectations, xviii, xx–xxi, 1, 3, 5–9, 12, 14–15, 21, 34–35, 47–48 expectation of the unexpected, xi, 15–17, 36, 60, 95, 128; exteriority, xiii, xxii, 3, 17, 19–21, 23–24, 29–30, 57–58, 60–61, 83–84, 95, 107, 110, 130, 150, 160–61, 163, 165–66, 168 Fink, Eugene, xiii, xxi–xxii, 13, 81, 113–17, 135, 169; speculative phenomenology, xxi, 13, 113, 115–17 Foucault, Michel, xxii, 13, 15, 49–54, 79, 92–96 Goethe, Johann Wolfgang, 68, 154 Grant, Ian Hamilton, 156 Greek tragedy, 9–10 Guattari, Felix, 72–77, 83, 94. See also Deleuze, Giles Hegel, G.W.F., xxii–xxiii, 13, 75, 78, 81–87, 145–55, 169, 175; Hegelian dialectic, xxii, 79, 85, 88, 91, 101, 145, 155, 175; Hegel’s notion, 146; sense-certainty, xxiii, 150, 154 Heidegger, Martin, xxii, 5, 9–10, 18, 21, 54, 114–16, 134, 154, 169 Hofstadter, Douglas R., 101–2, 105n94 Hölderlin, Friedrich, xii, 9–12, 49, 53, 67–68, 102n5 humanity, 19, 30, 35, 91, 97–99, 101–2, 127, 165; human freedom, 10, 155–56, 158, 162, 169 Il Postino, 57 immanence, xi, 73, 75, 77–78, 81–82, 116, 138. See also transcendence immediacy, xiii, xviii–xxiii, 16–18, 121–23, 131–32, 152–55;

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impossibility of, 2–3, 13, 29, 44, 141, 146; and mediation, xxii, 28, 78, 83, 85, 87, 146, 148–49; versus suddenness, xviii. See also mediation improvisation, 50, 72–74, 76, 103 indifference, xvi–xvii, xxiii, 23, 25, 44, 48, 59–61, 107–12, 120, 151, 153, 162, 173. See also absolute indifference; non-indifference infinity, 17–21, 96, 148–49, 151–52, 154–55 interiority, xiii, xxii–xxiii, 20, 58, 83–84, 95–96, 128, 132 irreducible otherness, xix, xxii, 6, 9, 13, 15–16, 23, 25–26, 32–33, 40, 45, 50, 58–60, 68, 95, 108–10, 112, 122, 124–25, 127, 132–33, 145–46, 173–74 Jameson, Fredric, 78 Jaspers, Karl, 68, 159, 162–65, 170n43; anti-Reason, 162; Encompassing, 162, 165; Existenz, 162, 164–65 Kant, Immanuel, 14n3, 111, 124–27, 129–30, 141n3, 141n6, 144n86; Kantian sublimity, 13, 161; noumenon, 81, 154 Kierkegaard, Søren, 72, 101, 154, 164 knowledge, xiv, 4–6, 14, 18, 35, 38, 50, 130, 133, 145–46, 162–65, 170n43 Kubrick, Stanley, xv Kurzweil, Ray, 98–101. See also technological singularity Lacan, Jacques, xi, xxii, 13, 14n4, 26–29, 80–81, 141, 169; Lacanian psychoanalysis, xiii; le sinthome, 28–29; objet petit a, 26, 81, 85, 87, 169–70

184 Index

lack, 11–12, 24, 26, 48, 55, 74, 81, 83–84, 87, 95, 141, 157, 167–68 Lacoue-Labarthe, Philippe, xii, 9–12; the breaking point of speculation, 9–10; caesura, xii, 9–12 Levinas, Emmanuel, xvi–xvii, xxii–xxiii, 15–26, 32–33, 118, 132, 168–69; face, xii–xiv, xxiii n3, 10, 16–18, 20–22, 57, 60–61; fecundity, 21, 61–62; Levinasian desire, 13, 16, 53; obsession, 23–24; otherwise than being, xxii, 10, 18, 22, 26 Libertson, Joseph, 58 limit experience, 13, 48, 53, 67, 137, 174. See also Bataille, Georges Lyotard, Jean-Francois, xiii, xxii, 13, 43–44, 113, 122–26, 128, 139–41; radical connivance between the figure and desire, 139–40 madness, 53, 67–68, 95, 160–62 mediation, xix–xx, xxiii, 26, 28, 78, 82–85, 128, 132, 145–50, 152, 155, 174–75. See also immediacy Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, xii, xvii, xxii, 13, 28, 87, 112–13, 116–20, 122, 140; chiasm, 113, 117–18, 120–21; flesh, xii, xvii, 116–20; intertwining, 117 metaphor, 11, 13, 15, 54–57, 102, 137, 163. See also Ricoeur, Paul Mondrian, Piet, xxii, 13, 88–92, 176; Neo-Plasticism, 91 multiplicity, 73–75, 77–79, 89, 94. See also Deleuze, Giles Nancy, Jean-Luc, xxii, 13, 113, 120–21; surprise of the event, 13, 113, 120

negativity, 26, 51, 61, 78, 82–84, 101, 147, 149, 152, 157, 168–69 newness, xi–xii, xviii–xix, 9, 26, 34–35, 50–51, 59, 75–77, 79, 131, 152 Nietzsche, Friedrich, 13, 49, 53–54, 67–70, 72, 95–96, 100–101, 137–39; amor fati, 70, 100; Zarathustra, 13, 54, 69–70, 102 non-aesthetic, 16, 31, 108–9 non-experience, 29, 48 non-indifference, xvii, 23, 25, 59–61, 108, 111–12. See also indifference non-presence, 6–7, 26, 47 novelty, xviii–xix, 26, 79, 111, 131, 163; novelty versus newness, xviii objective presence, xviii–xx, 19, 22, 31–32, 88, 93, 127, 164–65 origin, xx–xxi, xxiii, 3, 11, 16, 45–47, 49, 52, 60–61, 77, 87–88, 93, 102, 108–9, 111–17, 119, 121, 127, 130, 141, 149–50, 155–58, 162–63, 168–69 passivity, xii, xiv, xvi, 10–11, 17–18, 23–25, 32, 35–36, 44, 47, 58, 88, 107, 112, 117, 120, 153, 162, 169 Peters, Gary, 74 phantasm, 92–93. See also Deleuze, Giles phenomenon, xii, xix, xxi–xxii, 10, 16, 81, 113–17, 120, 135, 137–39, 153, 174. See also sphenomenon power of the negative, 82–83, 89. See also Hegel, G.W.F. proximity, 17, 22–25, 30, 45, 48, 55–58. See also Levinas, Emmanuel Rachel Getting Married, 86 recuperation, xiii, xvii, xxiii, 15–17, 21–22, 31, 38–39, 58, 61, 76, 125–27

Index

reflection, xvii, xix, xxiii, 13–14, 18–19, 25, 87, 107, 109, 111–15, 117–18, 120–31, 147, 149–51, 164 responsibility, xiv, xvii, 15–17, 20–21, 24–25, 33, 58–62, 110–13, 122, 125–28. See also Levinas, Emmanuel Ricoeur, Paul, xxii, 15, 54–58; the use of the metaphor, 54 Schelling, F.W.J., xiii, xxi–xxiii, 14, 54, 79–81, 151, 155–63, 167–69; ground of being, 165; incompatibility between the ground of existence and existence itself, 155; the intermediate concepts, 160; Sehnsucht, 161; yearning, 157, 160–61, 163, 165 Seel, Martin, xiii, 13, 113, 128, 133–41; aesthetics of appearing, 128, 133, 135–36; an occurrence without something occurring, 138 sensible intuition, xiii, xvi–xvii, 23 Shaviro, Steven, 15 singularity, 13, 28–29, 67, 78–79, 82–84, 91–93, 96–98; non-technological versus technological, 97. See also Deleuze, Giles Skorin-Kapov, Jadranka, 102n2 speculation, xxi–xxiii, 3, 9–13, 43–44, 81, 113–14, 117, 135, 149–50, 156, 164, 169 sphenomenon, 10 stream of experience, 1, 116, 138 subjectivity, 3, 9, 17–19, 21–22, 27–29, 51–54, 61, 87–88, 114–17, 168–69 sublimity, xvii, xxiii, 13, 111–13, 122–23, 125–27 substitution, xiv, 22, 24. See also Levinas, Emmanuel

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suddenness, xviii–xix, 13, 47, 73, 107, 111–12, 121. See also immediacy surprise: accidental surprise, xix, 108; irreducible surprise, xi–xii, xv, 8, 15, 32–35, 55, 87–88, 108–9, 125, 127–28, 131–32, 145, 150, 154–56; irreducible aesthetic surprise, xxii, 109, 112, 122, 126 metamorphosis of, 13, 111–12, 118, 120, 122–25, 145, 175; sequence of announcements, xxii, 107, 112, 145, 173 phenomenology of, xxii, 13, 27, 112–13, 117, 128, 145, 156, 174; technological singularity, 13, 97–98, 101. See also Kurzweil, Ray technology, 98, 100, 102, 162 temporality, 21–22. See also Heidegger, Martin totality, 16–21, 30, 108, 134, 162, 174. See also Levinas, Emmanuel transcendence, xi, 26, 33, 49, 61, 77–79, 82, 137–38, 163, 165. See also immanence transgression, xii, 12, 33, 40, 42, 49–53, 78, 101, 137–38, 140–41, 158. See also Bataille. Georges van Gogh, Vincent, 67–68 virtual, 79–80. See also actual Wheelwright, Philip Ellis, 60 wonder, xii, xvii, xxiii, 13, 107, 109–13, 120, 122–26, 129, 131, 155, 168 Žižek, Slavoj, 13, 15, 26–30, 78–82, 84–85, 168–69; organs without body, 79–81

About the Author

Jadranka Skorin-Kapov is Professor at Stony Brook University, New York, with a diverse educational background. After graduating mathematics at the University of Zagreb, Croatia, in 1987 she received her PhD in Operations Research from the University of British Columbia, Canada. While working as a full time professor at Stony Brook University, Skorin-Kapov studied philosophy, receiving her PhD in Philosophy in 2007. Being a perennial student by choice, in 2009 she enrolled in the graduate program in Art History and Criticism at Stony Brook University and received her third PhD in 2014. Professor Skorin-Kapov also serves as the Head of Management Area at the College of Business, Stony Brook University. In addition, she recently founded, and currently directs, the Center for the Integration of Business Education & Humanities (CIBEH), in an effort to enhance business education with ideas framed by philosophy and art. Skorin-Kapov is the author or coauthor of over seventy scholarly publications in Operations Research and Combinatorial Optimization, the recipient of a number of grants and awards, including five National Science Foundation grants, and the author of a book on Aronofsky’s filmography entitled Darren Aronofsky’s Films and the Fragility of Hope.

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