Levinas credits this book to be the most important philosophic work in the 20th century and arguably in the entire history of western philosophy. It p
Levinas credits this book to be the most important philosophic work in the 20th century and arguably in the entire history of western philosophy. It produced thinkers such as Levinas himself, Sartre, Gadamer, Ricoeur, Arendt, Derrida, Marion, to name a few. On the first page Heidegger declares: "Our provisional aim is the Interpretation of time as the possible horizon for any understanding whatsoever of Being" (German Page 1--the word 'Sein' need not be translated with the capital "B."). He ends the (unfinished) book with a question: "Does time itself manifest itself as the horizon of Being?" (437). This last sentence of the book anticipates an investigation into time, which he outlined in the Table of Contents but never performed in (order to complete) the book. But time is not the ultimate subject matter of his thought. Being is. Heidegger devotes the rest of his philosophic career on the question of being by starting anew, by 'turning' to the question from a new beginning, by posing the old question in the new way in repetition. In any event, the ending just referenced is an extremely modest one for a work that is monumental in its achievement, as attested to by the string of the aforementioned thinkers it produced. It is modest also because it put into the question the "provisional aim" of the book he announced in the beginning. Did he establish the "provisional aim" he set out to establish, namely, that time is the ultimate horizon of being? Do we understand dasein's temporality that is said to reveal being? Do we know what being is by the time we read the last page? In order to disclose being, Heidegger felt that he had to disclose the being of the entity called dasein (that we are) that is uniquely equipped to disclosing being. But in analyzing dasein's being, did he arrive at disclosing the essence and the manner of (disclosure of) being. Perhaps not, at least, to his satisfaction. It is not clear, for example, how anxiety discloses being, as he says it does
Only two years after publication of Being and Time (BT) (1927), in his 1929 essay, "What is Metaphysics?" (published in Pathmarks, 82-96), Heidegger makes the famous 'turn' (Kehre) and begins to re-work afresh the question of being. He later recounts this 'turn' in his 1946 essay, "Letter on 'Humanism'" (Pathmarks, 250), referring to his 1930 essay, "The Essence of Truth," as the turning point (while omitting the 1929 essay just mentioned), and indicates cryptically that the turn involves the change from "Being and Time" to "Time and Being." In the "Postscript to 'What is Metaphysics?'" written in 1943, Heidegger refers to the "transition" from metaphysics to "the overcoming of metaphysics" (Pathmarks, 231). The "transition" he refers to here in 1943 is the "turn" he refers to in the 1946 essay referenced above. As examples of this 'turn,' I may cite the following in contrast: "Dasein has language" (BT 165); "Yet language speaks" (in 1959 lecture, "The Way to Language," On the Way to Language, trans. Peter Hertz, 124); "in the essence of the event [Ereignis] ... being lays claim upon the human being" ("Postscript" in Pathmarks, 237). The call of "conscience" (BT 274, 275) becomes "the voice of being" in later works such as the following: "Thinking, obedient to the voice of being, seeks from being the word through which the truth of being comes to language" (Pathmarks, 237, also 234). The "transition" or "turn" appears to be from the subject (dasein) to the object (being); or from dasein to Ereignis (the untranslatable word for appropriation, event, occasioning, occurrence, incident or happening, from 'ereignen': occur, happen, take place, come to pass). The so called "turn," however, does not involve a change of direction but a renewed attempt to answer the same question: namely, how is being in general disclosed (by 'being' he is referring to what Greeks wrote: "to ön" - the totality of beings, being in general, or a being)?
After BT, Heidegger discusses less frequently or discusses in passing terms such as Befindlichkeit ('State of Mind,' 'attunement,' or 'disposition'), care (Sorge), death, thrownness (Geworfenheit), anxiety or dread (Angst), and others that may apply more aptly to human subject. But he prominently maintains the other critical terms in the later writings such as authentic/proper/own (eigenlich, from which 'Ereignis' comes from), truth, disclosedness, temporality (Zeitlichkeit), dasein (or da-sein), being (or beyng), and the metaphors that stand for nothingness such as abyss (Abgrund). (For example, "Essential thinking heeds the measured signs of the incalculable and recognizes in the latter the unforeseeable arrival of the unavoidable" ("Postscript" in Pathmarks, 237). The key concept of truth as unconcealment and concealment is present in both BT and in the later works. Dasein's everyday inauthentic mode of being in the world (in the mode of the 'they') is said to conceal dasein's authentic (eigenlich, proper, ownmost) being toward death which is to be affirmed as its ownmost 'ability to be' (Seinkönnen--Macquarrie and Robins, like Joan Stambaugh, unfortunately translates this term as "potentiality-to-be" in the Aristotelian mode). Dasein's "fall" discussed in BT is also later worked out in terms of the "errancy" in the history of metaphysics. Thus, later Heidegger only deepens his thinking about being, from which he never wavered. Most notably, the continuity of his thought can be shown as follows: In BT Heidegger says: "... only as long as Dasein is... 'is there' ['gibt es,' 'it gives'] Being" (212). In the same manner, in "Letter on Humanism," he writes: "Being comes to its destiny in that It, being, gives itself" (Pathmarks, 255). Being gives itself; or 'being' means 'there is' in the active sense of 'giving it. I will come back to this notion of being as the active self-giving power of actualizing itself, causa sui, as conatus essendi.
The question of being is not simple. The quotation from Sophist (244a) Heidegger inserts at the beginning of BT is worth citing:
For manifestly you have long been aware of what you mean when you use the expression 'being' ['on' in Greek which Heidegger translates as 'Seiend']. We, however, who used to think we understood it, have now become perplexed.
The distinction between an entity (ein Seiendes) and the being (das Sein) of that entity--the distinction that Heidegger insists on--is not easy. One mutates from the other and vice versa.
According to Husserl, the predicative judgments are made based on the copula 'is,' which (as the primal representative of all verbs) already indicates what Levinas calls "the amphibology of being and entities" (Otherwise Than Being or Beyond Essence (OB) 43). To say 'A is B' or 'the car drives nicely' is to express something about A or the car, which is immediately mixed with its attribute so described. What is visible in this sentence, however, is not the being of the entity but the entity with a certain attributes described in the predicate. Nonetheless, what is invisibly said also in the predication is the being of the entity that enables the predication in the first place. The verb 'is' (the primal verb of all verbs) enables the predication of the subject in the first place. The copula 'is' (or any other verbs) enables the seeing something 'as this' or 'as that.'
For Heidegger, however, such an illumination by the predicate or, as he puts it, "the apophantical 'as'" (158) is made possible not in a theoretical judgment (as in Husserl) but in praxis, in dasein's being-in-the-world--more specifically, in dasein's existence in the mode of care or (more profoundly) in the mode of anxiety. The being of beings (in the world) is disclosed in the first place in the existence of care and ultimately in dasein's temporality. (This thesis proposed in BT cannot be fully understood unless one reads on to his later works, where, as discussed above, Heidegger changes his language and talks more about the 'objective' dimension of "the happening of being" ("... essential thinking is presumably an event proper to being [ein Ereignis des Seins]" ("Postscript to 'What is Metaphysics?'" in Pathmarks, 234)).
Lumping together both Husserl and Heidegger, Levinas thus states: "... being's essence is spelled out, scanned, resounds or [according to Heidegger] temporalizes in the verb to be and thereby becomes discourse and apophansis" (OB) 39). Discourse reveals being. The 'said' (as Levinas puts it) remains on the level of being. (Also: "Time and the essence [Sein] that it unfolds by manifesting entities (identified in the themes of statements or narratives) resound as a silence without becoming themes themselves" (OB 38).) Being is silently at work in the verb 'to be,' which is "the verb par excellence" (OB 42) for all predicative judgments, i.e., in the discourse or 'the said.' "The verb to be in predication makes essence [Sein] resound," says Levinas more succinctly (OB 42). For Levinas, this observation enables him to argue that 'the saying' is beyond 'the said' where being (Sein) resides, however silently or invisibly. And his project is to move beyond being.
My point, however at this junction at least, is that there is a "mutation in the amphibology of being and entities [in logos or discourse]" (OB 43) that "perplexed" not only the Eleatic Stranger in Plato's [Sophist but also the keenest mind such as Heidegger, who devoted all of his philosophic life to the single inquiry, namely, the question of being. But did Heidegger truly overcome metaphysics that he criticizes as not fully uncovering the question of being itself in the first place? Was Heidegger able to un-do or 'destroy' what Derrida termed "the metaphysics of presence" in the latter's reference to Husserl in [Speech and Phenomena? Or did Heidegger still not fall into the spell of being even in the later years, the spell of what Levinas termed "conatus essendi" (the impulse of being)? Is being legitimate in the first place? Is 'Da' of Dasein innocent? Without specifically asking these questions, Levinas asks a related question that implies these questions, namely: Is the question of being the most fundamental?
"Dasein in Heidegger is never hungry," said Levinas famously (Totality and Infinity (TI), 134). Or, "the home does not appear apart from the system of implements" (TI 170). Why must one's being-in-the-world be reduced to equipmentality (Zeughaftigkeit), care, or to being-toward-death--all of which are laid out as forming the unity of dasein in BT? Why must dasein be in anxiety or dread for the ultimate horizon of the world to be disclosed as grounded in nothingness or death? "Life is love of life," says Levinas in contrast (TI 112); and "[t]ools themselves... become objects of enjoyment" (TI 133). Even work can be enjoyable ("One can like one's job" TI 133). Thus, life need not be in dread (Angst) but it can be enjoyment in the end: "... the care for nutriments is not bound to a care for existence" (TI 134). To add more to the criticism, is book (a work, oeuvre) an equipment (Zeug), as Levinas may ask? How about a cadaver that lies there in the casket, as Maurice Blanchot may ask? To this alternative view of existence Levinas and Blanchot offers, I may add another, along with the two French Christian phenomenologists, Jean-Louis Chrétien and Jean-Yves Lacoste: What is the structure of dasein standing (not before death but) before God: Coram Dei? Does not a life dedicated to prayer and worship (like that of the monks) pose a radically different and more fundamental mode of existence than the one marked by nothingness or death? Why must being-toward-death, furthermore, be "non-relational," as Heidegger insists? ("By its very essence, death is in every case mine, in so far as it 'is' at all" (240).) Is it possible for dasein to be the one-for-the-Other, or more radically, a being-toward-death-for-Others, like Christ? Can the horizon of my death be other than my ownmost 'ability to be' (Seinkönnen)? Can one die so that others may live? Can my death be for Others' Seinkönnen? Heidegger's reduction of dasein into the "care of the world" in BT or "the guardianship of being" in later works (Pathmarks, 236, 237) must be re-thought. Am I not a brother to my neighbor, a guardian to my child?
Heidegger's ontological reduction must be reassessed. As already posed, why should the question of being be the most fundamental? Why should humans be a 'shepherd of being'? Or, why must an entity be understood in terms of the being of that entity, as it has been all along in the western philosophy ever since Heraclitus--with a few exceptions?
Levinas, thus, criticizes Heidegger for holding on to the notion of conatus essendi (the impulse of being or, as Levinas interprets it, "persistence in essence" (the French term 'essence' is used to refer to 'Sein,' as he notes.), despite Heidegger's attempts to "overcome" (the) metaphysics (of presence). Is Levinas's critique accurate? I believe so. Here are some examples that support Levinas's critique. Even in the notion of 'thrownness' (Geworfenheit), conatus essendi is at work. Heidegger writes:
But Thrownness, as a kind of Being, belongs to an entity which in each case is its possibilities, and is them in such a way that it understands itself in these possibilities and in terms of them, projecting itself upon them (181).
Dasein is thrown into its own possibilities, which lies within its own "situation." Dasein's Seinkönnen can never lie in the "situation" of Others. Equipmentality, care, and ultimately temporality, all presupposes dasein's thrownness into its own 'ability to be' (Seinkönnen)--ultimately to its ownmost possibility, i. e., my death or nothingness, which in turn is to be affirmed in the anticipatory resoluteness as the possibility of the impossible. To exist is to be free to become one's ownmost 'can-be' (Seinkönnen), even the impossibility of the possible as the possibility of the impossible, i.e., death ("Death is the possibility of the absolute impossibility of Dasein" (251)):
In Being-ahead-of-oneself as Being towards one's ownmost potentiality-for-Being [Seinkönnen], lie the existential-ontogolical condition for the possibility [Möglichkeit] of Being-free for authentic existentiell possibilities (193).
Consider these other passages in the same vein:
Death is Dasein's ownmost possibility. Being towards this possibility discloses to Dasein its ownmost potentiality-for-Being, in which its very Being is the issue (263).
What has been projected is the Being of Dasein, and it is disclosed in what constitutes that Being as an authentic potentiality-for-Being-a-whole (324).
Primordial and authentic coming-towards-oneself is the meaning of existing in one's ownmost nullity (330)
Even though Heidegger's adaptation of Aristotelian concept of potency fulfilling itself toward a certain telos in the notion of Seinkönnen is foreign to Spinoza's concept of conatus essendi--being's impulse to persist in its being--the charge of conatus essendi can still be leveled at Heidegger precisely because of his use of the term 'Seinkönnen.' 'Seinkönnen' (literally 'can-be') is dasein's power or ability to be, the power to give itself being. In the "Postscript" Heidegger explains more clearly in Nietzschean terms:
Understood as a fundamental trait of the beingness of beings, 'will' is the equating of beings with the actual, in such a way that the actuality of the actual comes to power in the unconditional attainability of pervasive objectification (Pathmarks, 231).
Being has a 'will,' as it were, to bring itself to be within its own most possibilities. Being is the power to be. In this almost Darwinian sense, being is the will to be. Heidegger writes in the language that is eerily similar to Spinoza's conatus essendi: "the will to will secures the dominance of its essence," or
"... all objectification of beings is preoccupied with procuring and securing beings and obtains from beings the possibilities of its own continuation... (Pathmarks, 231; italics added.).
In its active verbal sense, 'being' (the noun) gives itself its being within its own 'situation,' within the horizon of its own, proper (eigenlich) 'can-be' (Seinkönnen). Thus Heidegger writes even more clearly than he ever did in BT: "... we must prepare ourselves [as if in vigil that Paul talks about in I Thess. 5:6] solely in readiness to experience in the nothing the pervasive expanse [or clearing] of that which gives every being the warrant to be. That is being itself ("Postscript," Pathmarks, 233).Being in the end is nothingness that allows itself to be, as in causa sui. But nothingness is precisely understood as conatus essendi, as being's 'letting itself' (lassen) be within its own most properness (Ereignis) in the clearing (Lichtung) or in the nothingness of "the pervasive expanse." The ultimate Seinkönnen is dasein's own demise. Dasein's ownmost 'can-be' is its own 'not-be,' when it expires. Dasein expires because its impossibility is its possibility
Being in Heidegger is incapable of transcendence. The purported transcendence of dasein in the manner of 'there' (in temporality) can only be possible within her own 'situation' (or 'epoch') beyond which she is not able to transcend. Dasein cannot transcend its own death or destiny. Being remains within conatus essendi even at the moment of its completeness in nothingness. The origin for undoing the bond of conatus essendi must, then, come from elsewhere, other than and otherwise than being or beyond essence. How is such a thought possible?
Dasein is an entity first and foremost, as Heidegger insists. His analysis of this entity (albeit an ontological one) leads to an understanding of its being as temporality. Likewise, why could not a peculiar entity provide a beginning for a radically different understanding of my being-in-the-world for the Other? As Levinas proposed, can face be that entity which gives meaning beyond the horizon of my being-in-the-world so as to reorient, consecrate, and dedicate my being-in-the-world? The face, an entity which is nothing like an entity, will shatter my being-in-the-world and undo the grip of my Seinkönnen in my conatus essendi. There is another entity that shatters my being-in-the-world: the historical death of Christ. The historical fact is not a simple 'ready-to-hand' or 'present-to-hand' for me to read about. Because it lives in such a way that it transforms my being-in-the-world. "I die with Christ" and "to the world," St. Paul says, so that I may live for the Other. What is the ontological structure of such a life--a life of substitution? What else could it be other than the life of vigil - lived without the anticipatory resoluteness (Entschlossenheit) - kept in the life of liturgy, where my death or "the worldly cares" are "set aside" so as to participate in His death, as one approaches the Elements (the Eucharist)? If these questions just posed are valid in any way, a phenomenological analysis wholly different from one provided in BT must be offered. The concrete, historical death of Christ enables a new way of human existence marked not by care or death but by charity resting on the power of Christ's death emanating not from my Seinkönnen but from beyond my ability-to-be.
Jean-Luc Marion praised this book as a “breakthrough” in a symposium held on the book at U. of Chicago in 2016 (available on YouTube). Coyne in the boJean-Luc Marion praised this book as a “breakthrough” in a symposium held on the book at U. of Chicago in 2016 (available on YouTube). Coyne in the book in turn acknowledges his debt to Marion for providing an impetus for writing this book, first occasioned by their “fateful” conversation that took place at a street corner in Chicago’s Hyde Park. What a fruitful conversation it turned out to be!
Ryan Coyne masterfully traces the genealogy of Heidegger’s thought ranging from 1920’s to 1960’s, the entire span of Heidegger's philosophical career that includes Being and Time (1927, hereafter “BT”) and the subsequent “turn (Kehre)” that occurred with the 1929 essay, “What is Metaphysics?” The hidden sources of Heidegger’s early thought, Coyne argues, derives from St. Paul and St. Augustine, as they left a clear stamp in BT, despite Heidegger’s professed need of philosophy to overcome Christianity. Heidegger’s brilliant analyses of ‘care’ (Sorge) and death carried out in BT owes their genealogical origins to St. Paul and St. Augustine, according to Coyne. Soon thereafter, during the middle-years of Heidegger’s thought in 1930’s, when Heidegger was already moving away from the (subjective) existential analytics of Dasein (carried out in BT) and towards (the objective) Being’s movement (Ereignis) of granting (of beings) and withdrawal—in the verbal sense of Being’s move Heidegger begins to designate in late 30’s as ‘event’ (Ereignis) with the archaic German spelling ‘Seyn’ for ‘Sein’ (translated in respective archaic English as ‘Beyng’ for ‘Being’)-- Augustine makes another important imprint in Heidegger’s thought, as Coyne successfully shows based on his close reading of Heidegger’s “Unpublished treatises: addresses—ponderings” dating from 1936-38, a collection of which was posthumously published in 1989, with a second edition in 1994 (translated and published in English in 2012 by Indiana U. Press as Contributions to Philosophy (Of the Event [Vom Ereignis]).
Finally, in the 1946 major essay Heidegger wrote in his later years under the title “Anaximander Saying,” Augustine once again makes a crucial entry in his thought, enabling Heidegger to designate the very movement of Beyn—as uttered by Anaximander (in Heidegger’s interpretation) as ‘necessity’ which Heidegger then thoughtfully translates—as ‘use,’ relying heavily on Augustine’s Latin word ‘fruitio’ (enjoyment). In De moribus ecclesiae, Augustine writes: "For what else do we mean when we say frui if not to have at hand something that is especially prized?" Heidegger sees in the word frui: "to hand something over to its own essence and, as so present, to keep it in the protecting hand" (Off the Beaten Track 277). Augustine's word 'frui' will have already made a deep impressions in the early Heidegger, as will be mentioned below, in a different context: fruitio Dae (enjoyment of God as the beatitudo huminis).
Besides Paul and Augustine, Heidegger further relies on other key theological terms, Coyne argues, such as ‘infinite,’ ‘repentance,’ 'faith,' or ‘salvation,’ 'justification,' among others, to denote the activity of Beyng that lies beyond metaphysics that Heidegger delimits and criticizes as onto-theology, while heavily depending on such theological notions he wants to ‘de-theologize,’ as Heidegger puts it.
Through a careful reading of Heidegger’s crucial texts at every juncture of his thought development, Coyne forces Heidegger into confessing that he (Heidegger) had to rely on theological language in order to “de-theologize” philosophy. (It is as though God was sending key theological terms to Heidegger at every crucial juncture of his thought as the fateful gifts.) In showing this, Coyne establishes his own thesis: That the ‘thoughtful’ language that seeks to describe the movement of Beyng beyond metaphysics, beyond the language of onto-theology, ends up heavily dependent on such language. Indeed, a language beyond onto-theology is not possible, as Heidegger’s philosophic development (Coyne hopes) shows—with the consequence that philosophy of religion (an oxymoron for Heidegger) cannot move beyond the ontic language of history, traditions, and of theology, Coyne suggests.
But what is the “breakthrough” that Marion refers to with respect to this book? It lies in Coyne’s persuasive genealogy of Heidegger’s early thoughts captured in the analysis of Dasein in BT. The theological influence on Heidegger’s thought is profound, as Coyne successfully shows, despite Heidegger’s denial of such. Coyne’s discovery of this with textual evidence is indeed a “breakthrough.” Here I want to outline St. Paul’s and St. Augustine’s impact on Heidegger’s early thought, as demonstrated by Coyne.
In his 1920 commentary on the First Letter to the Thessalonians (published in The Phenomenology of Religious Life, Heidegger observes that the ‘when’ of Christ coming is bound with the ‘how’ of Christian living, as the Christians are to await Christ’s second coming. The question of when He is coming is displaced by the question of how Christians are to live in preparation for His coming. The ‘how’ of Christian way of being is further tied to Paul’s own apostleship. Paul as the apostle sees his own being entirely determined by how the Thessalonians live as Christians. The disappointment caused by the delay of His coming leads to the “brokenness” of Christian life which can only be overcome by the manner of their living, by how to prepare for His coming. Christian vigil marks the way of being for Christians. From this Heidegger discovers his conceptual tools he utilizes to overcome Husserl’s overly theoretical approach to the analysis of the transcendental consciousness. Unlike Husserl’s transcendental ego, Dasein is broken. What matters is Dasein’s ‘how’ in its being in the world. St. Paul thus provides the non theoretical categories for analyzing Dasein’s existence.
In II Thessalonians 2:1-10 St. Paul refers to a figure of the restrainer, katechōn, who is said to restrain the anti-Christ, thus delaying Christ's coming. (The rise of the anti-Christ is to be eclipsed by the coming of Christ who will defeat him; thus, the rise of the anti-Christ speeds His coming.) The notion of restraining will prove to be a key to Heidegger’s thought, as it is incorporated into another notion St. Paul emphasizes, namely, as Heidegger puts it: "Faith is: dying with Christ." (The notion of dying with Christ is found in both I Thessalonians 5:10 and in Galatians 2:20, 5:24, both of which Heidegger discusses in his Thessalonians lectures.) St. Paul speaks of denying or restraining oneself to the world in awaiting for Christ’s coming, because, he says, "... time has been shortened..." Thus, Paul exhorts the Corinthians: “… let even those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away” (I Cor. 7:29-31). Here Heidegger sees, as Coyne puts it, "a fuller picture of how Christian experience brings forth temporality" (42). As we read in BT, Dasein’s temporality is analyzed to be a transcendence ahead of itself, always already exceeding itself, stretched forward toward the future possibilities—ultimately to its own death as its utmost and ownmost possibility. The world passes away, as Paul says, because our existence is temporality itself, says Heidegger. Even after the ‘turn,’ temporality dominates Heidegger’s analysis of Beyng. The present existence is broken, insecure, and fraught with, as Heidegger says in BT, “anxiety” (Angst).
As already stated, the Thessalonians commentary enables Heidegger to reject Husserl’s transcendental time consciousness. Coyne writes: "Earlier we noted... this Being reverts immediately upon its present highly unstable and insecure" (42). Heidegger thus writes: "Christian life is not straightforward but is rather broken...." Phenomenology of Religious Life, 86, as quoted in Coyne's 43. Broken because the world passes away and the self must die to the world in awaiting for Parousia (the end time or the fullness of time when Christ comes). The eschatological awaiting, i.e., faith in Christ, consists in belonging to the schema in which, as Coyne puts it, "this ipseity persists as part of the form of the world that is now passing away" (43). By persisting in (and despite) the world that passes, Christian life is 'stretched beyond itself,' to use the language of BT. Coyne does more. The brokenness of Christian life further implies "the process of mortification whereby the old sinful self is passing away as the new redeemed one is born" (44). Dasein is thus able to stretch forward into the future possibilities, despite its inherent insecurity and anxiety.
Thus, Paul’s notion of ‘dying to the world’ is transformed in Heidegger to be Dasein’s ‘thrownness’ or ‘being-in-the-world,’ wherein at bottom nothingness or death is the ultimate end. Dasein’s existence is rooted in the abyss (i.e., in nothingness, as Sartre would say later). Even in the later thought, Heidegger maintains the abyss as the ultimate origin of Beyng. It is not Nietzsche, then, who broached the notion of abyss to Heidegger. It is St. Paul in the notion of ‘dying with Christ’ or ‘denying oneself to the world’ in faith, in being in Christ, or in awaiting for the Parousia, that provided the notion of abyss to Heidegger. Heidegger will never admit to this of course, thanks to Nietzsche. But Coyne forces him to confess.
There is more. Coyne writes: “it was by reading Augustine that [Heidegger] first came to define human ‘being-there’ or existence as ‘care’ (Sorge)” (5). In summer of 1921 Heidegger offered a seminar entitled “Augustine and Neoplatonism,” where Heidegger’s sees Augustine’s account of the self that is radical and whole different from Descartes.’ Coynes writes: “Heidegger tries to show in ‘Augustine and Neoplatonism’ that Augustine’s search for God led him to characterize human existence as a species of nothingness, one that Heidegger sees as ontologically opposed to the Cartesian self” (55). Guided by Augustine’s question (“What do I love when I love my God?”), Heidegger makes the following crucial observation, according to Coyne: “Augustine succeeds not in rendering God present as an object but instead in rendering himself present to God by ‘making of himself a question’ (Confessions 10.33)” (54). In BT, Heidegger says, in the manner of Augustine, that Dasein is the unique being whose Being is in question.
Another key concept that Heidegger utilizes from Augustine, according to Coyne, is the ‘fruitio Dei’ (enjoyment of God) (65). The key passage is found in Augustine’s commentary on John’s Gospel: “But when you fear God, lest His presence desert you, you embrace him, thus you desire to enjoy him” (quoted in Coyne’s 68). Thus, as Coyne writes: “the argument in the 1921 summer seminar is that Augustine spends the first half of Confessions [Book] 10 searching for ‘what’ God is, only to discover in the second half of the book that the crucial question actually concerns ‘how’ he is seeking God” (68). To seek God, for Augustine, is “to achieve genuine fruitio Dei or enjoyment of God by rejoicing in truth” (68-69). Love of God is the prerequisite for searching of God. Only love can reach God. This is Hana Arendt's discovery in her reading of Augustine (Love and Saint Augustine publiched in 1929, which Coynes mentions.
Heidegger then interpretes this notion of fruitio in combination of another passage, one from Augustine’s commentary on the Psalms where Augustine introduces the word ‘cura’ (care) in the context of man's search of pleasure (delectio): “[God] examines our heart and explores carefully to see that it is where our treasure is, that is, in heaven. He examines also our inward parts and explores carefully to see that we do not capitulate to flesh and blood but rejoice in God. Then he guides the just person’s conscience in his own presence, guides it there where no human being sees; he alone sees who discerns what each person thinks and what causes each person pleasure. For pleasure is the end of care [finis curae delectatio est]” (Expositions of the Psalms, 1-32, vol. III/15 of The Works of Saint Augustine, (Hyde Park, New York: New City, 2000), 123; as quoted in Coyne 72). Seeking pleasure (delectatio) without even knowing that one is seeking is characterized by Augustine as ‘care’ (cura). As Coynes notes, in BT, 492 (SZ 199), Heidegger acknowledges that the notion of ‘care’ was transported from Augustine. Coyne puts the significance of this link: “The end toward which care tends is a blind spot from within the situation of caring, and it is by ‘worrying’ over this blind spot, Heidegger contents, that for Augustine true selfhood is built up” (72). Analogously, in BT, Heidegger maintains that Dasein's inauthentic comportment with worldly things covers over its authentic mode of existence characterized as care (Sorge). Here Heidegger de-theologizes Augustine's fruitio Dae and appropriates the word 'frui' in terms of man's ultimate concern, 'care' (Sorge), that underlies his pleasure seeking. Man knowingly seeks pleasure, forgetting his ultimate concern, 'care,' that underlies the pleasure seeking. For Heidegger, the 'care' has nothing to do with seeking God but solely and exclusively with Dasein's own existence. The death of God is rampant in Heidegger's thought.
However, in the later years, the word 'fruit' will come back to haunt Heidegger. 'Fruit' interpreted as 'use' (derived from 'brook,' meaning to enjoy the use of, to possess, to hold, which in German 'fruchten' or 'Frucht' means to bear fruit, fruit) is used to designate Beyng's dispensation of being in each historical epoch ("Usage [Brauch] hands over what is present [Anwesende] to its presencing [Anwesen]; to, that is, its while." (Off The Beaten Track 277). Thus, Heidegger is forced to move back to the theological metaphor, as in the notion of God's dispensation in His dealings with people in each historical epoch. Is philosophy possible without theology?
Heidegger’s analysis of daily comportment of Dasein apart for its authentic care in BT, then, is his de-theologized version of Augustine’s creaturely search for God distracted by the worldly cares, forgetting thereby the truth of its being as nothingness. Coyne writes:
Augustine provides a compelling account of the real crisis afflicting the creaturely life because he manages to show that true religiosity exceeds human abilities, which renders this life fundamentally uncertain and marks it as a constant ‘being-troubled,’ or what Augustine calls molestia (75).
Moreover, in Sermon 142, Augustine says: “God must be loved in such a way that, if at all possible, we would forget ourselves.” Although Heidegger does not refer to this passage, he draws from the Confessions the notion of ‘the self out of reach.’ As Coyne puts it, “the closure he comes to God, the more acutely he registers his distance from God” (79). Heidegger, says Coyne, attributes this as “endangerment” (Gefährdung) in such a way that “the act of risking oneself by entering into the paradoxical dilemma…, that of continually experiencing one’s distance from God as a way of approaching God” (79). Dasein cannot recover itself from its daily concerns with the worldly things unless and until it puts itself into question. This notion comes straight from Augustine, who declares that the I has become a question to itself. Thus, Heidegger writes: “What it defends itself against, the threat, lies in existence itself. The threat against which existence defends itself lies in the fact that it is. That it is is the threat of existence itself” (Introduction to Phenomenological Research, 221; as quoted in Coyne 84). Thus, as Coyne puts it, “[t]his disturbance internal to life is nothing other than life itself, the burden of its having-to-be” (84). The threat Dasein feels is “none other than the self in its ‘state of not being at home, uncanniness [Unheimlichkeit]’” (Id., as quoted in Coyne 84). Heidegger even puts it in the manner of Augustine when the latter was asking about time: “Uncanniness is, if one asks what it is, nothing; if one asks where it is, nowhere” (Id., as quoted in Coyne 84).
Thus, there is no doubt about Paul’s and Augustine’s influence on the young Heidegger. The influence is not coincidental but substantial. The very analyses of the ‘factical life’ of Dasein owes its origin to Paul and Augustine. This is the “breakthrough” discovery which Marion speaks of in reference to Coyne’s book.
What impresses me most in reading this book, however, is the confirmation that for Heidegger death remains, even after the 'turn,' the unchanged roadblock that, as Levinas puts it, “runs up against ontology.” In Contributions (in the 1930 text) Heidegger writes: “Only the human being ‘has’ the distinction of standing in front of death, because the human being is steadfastly in beying: death [is] the highest testimony to beying” (Contributions 181, quoted by Coyne on his page 226). As we know, Dasein’s march toward his own death remains the persistent theme in BT; even after the “turn” death belongs to Beyng itself in its epochal move. It is inevitable that ontology runs up against nihilism. Death is Being's utmost possibility, its end, its purpose, its essence, its movement. Being's move ultimately expires. It leads to nothingness at bottom. It withdraws into abyss.
But we can and must do better, Levinas urges, by moving beyond Being and toward the good in the manner of Plato (who already delimits being by declaring in The Republic that "the good is beyond being in dignity and power"). The question of Being need not be the first and the ultimate question of philosophy. Good is better than and prior to Being. Correlatively, philosophy of religion need not remain in the realm of beings either, contrary to Coyne’s suggestion. For it can be a wisdom of love that delineates love beyond and more than the language of Being, albeit in exaggeration, hyperbole, or via the misuse of ontic language in a way that is reminiscent to Heidegger's own such attempt to overcome metaphysics—or via parables as Jesus did. 'Not to philosophize is [not] still to philosophize.' Heidegger would not necessarily disagree with this old saying attributed to Aristotle that Levinas twisted. Or, the Word of God can still speak beyond Being.
Finally, is death the end of all possibilities? “Oh, death, where is your sting?” taunts Paul. We must be able to overcome death. There must be a meaning that does not end with death, that lies beyond and exceeds death—a meaning that cannot be defeated by nihilism. How can this be? Levinas offers an alternative in his analysis of death. Reversing Heidegger’s thesis, Levinas states: Death is the impossibility of the possible. We have time until death comes—the time to serve that does not end up with death but the ‘good’ time whose meaning lies beyond the temporal plane of being,not delimited by the time of death. What kind of time will this ‘good time’ be? If I may conjecture, I suggest that it is the eschatological time, the time between ‘already’ and ‘not yet,’ the time of dying and living with Christ, the time of the vigil that Being cannot understand, the time of the ‘arid dessert’ in contrast and incongruent to that of the fertile soil of the generous mother earth. Theology must insist on transcending ontology, however half hazardously....more
The initial distinction Luther draws between the soul and the body dissolves as soon as he discusses Christian love tFreedom from sin, freedom to love
The initial distinction Luther draws between the soul and the body dissolves as soon as he discusses Christian love towards other human beings. If faith alone is sufficient to save the soul, then all the works of the body are useless unless directed towards the fellow humans in love. The soul is necessary to be made right with God in faith, the body is necessary to serve others, and thus "become a Christ" for their sake. The good man does the good works and not the other way around, as Luther puts it. Having been freed from condemnation, we are free to love others. Thus freedom from the economy of works and production leads to the freedom to love. For Luther, freedom (of the soul) enables love towards the fellow humans (that requires the body). In short, it is the freedom of love which is at issue here. What kind of freedom is this? Is this similar to the soul transcending the body in the manner of the inverse incarnation that Levinas talks about: the descent of the soul (Christ) to the body (the Incarnation), so as to be a sacrifice for others (kenosis that Levinas calls "substitution"). In Luther, freedom of the soul (from condemnation) immediately becomes freedom of love (for others). In Levinas, desire for the Other is the love for the Other in substitution. Luther is in fundamental agreement here. For he states: We are free to love for the sake of others--even to death--as Christ did for us. Freedom does not lead to responsibility (as almost all western ethics teaches us). Rather, as with Luther and Levinas, we can say that freedom leads to love. We have the Christian freedom to love. This freedom is burdened with responsibility for all others, like Christ substituting for the whole world-- inexhaustible and inexorable. ...more
The book is a bold attempt to justify the Christian belief and doctrines, especially the doctrine of the Trinity. But apologetics is not the author’sThe book is a bold attempt to justify the Christian belief and doctrines, especially the doctrine of the Trinity. But apologetics is not the author’s aim. Only those who believe may read this book and appreciate the delicate and yet rigorous analyses provided therein. Let the following remark Marion puts at the end of the book be the warning to those who want to read it. It pertains to the “invisible” phenomenon of holiness he is discussing in the immediate context but also applies to any other “saturated” phenomena he discusses in the book. He writes: “… at stake is the realm of phenomenality proper to holiness, which can only be manifested for those who have experienced it” (150). Only those who desire holiness, and see the invisible in the visible by faith, may understand and agree with Marion’s account of holiness and, by extension, with his accounts of the Word (Logos), the Resurrection, charity, and the sacraments (particularly the Eucharist) he provides in the book. The title of the book, “Believing in Order to See,” serves as the same warning, while it also serves as a short description of what the author himself is doing in the book: providing a phenomenological exegesis on the Word of God on the topics cited above. To follow his analyses, the reader would have to be a believer of the same faith. (The three chapters in Part II are taken from his addresses delivered in the conferences organized for the Catholic laity.) One must believe in order to see the “invisible.” Otherwise, the “invisible” won’t be seen. In the same way, one must believe (in the Word) in order to following Marion’s analyses. Otherwise, one will have difficulty in accepting his analyses. This is so because the phenomena he describes in the book are not the regular phenomena appropriate to (the visible) objects but are the invisible phenomena that require, as he puts it, the “kind of reason [that] can, according to the things themselves, reach what gives itself to be thought” (19). Marion does not describe what kind of rationality this is, however. Certainly it is not the communicative or consensus model of rationality that Habermas proposes, which Marion discusses in some detail and denounces (20-29).
The thesis that faith is the necessary condition for understanding, which the title of the book bears, is hardly new, as it was held by many authorities Marian cites and is well versed in, such as Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, and others medieval thinkers. This book puts this thesis in practice and examines the fundamental phenomena described in the Bible and maintained in the Christian theology, particularly the doctrine of the Trinity and the other topics already listed above. Citing Hegel as providing an exemplary model (19, 29) (i.e., that Reason is the logic of the Absolute Spirit’s self-unfolding and self-realization in history), Marion sets out to show the rationality of the religious phenomena in the cases of Jesus’s events (Resurrection in particular) and the Eucharist. The traditional phenomenology (that of Husserl and Heidegger) was not rigorous enough for Marion to do justice to what he calls the “saturated” phenomenon, which he defines as “that which the manifest given surpasses—not only what a human gaze can bear without being blinded and dying, but what the world in its essential finitude can receive and contain” (99). The “saturated” phenomena cannot be relegated to the realm of the mystical religious belief, having nothing to do with philosophy. Quite the contrary, they require all the more rigor of phenomenology, the kind Marion provides in this book as well as in his other prior work dedicated to such phenomena: Being Given and The Visible and the Revealed. In so doing, Marion follows “the principle of all principles” that was proposed by Husserl and later rearticulated by Heidegger, namely the following as I quote respectively:
Each intuition given in an originary way is a legitimate source of knowledge; whatever presents itself to us in Intuition in an originary way (in its fleshly reality so to speak) is to be taken simply as it gives itself, but only within the limitations in which it gives itself there (Ideas I, §24; quoted on pp. 95-96).
[Phenomenology aims at] showing from itself what shows itself in such a way that it shows itself from itself (Being and Time, §7; quoted on pp. 109-110).
For Husserl the “flesh and bone” encounter is necessary for an authentic intuition and for it to be a legitimate source of knowledge. For Heidegger the self-showing of Being that shows itself out of itself qualifies as the proper matter for thought. Based on these criteria, then, nothing in the Bible is prevented from becoming a legitimate (although "saturated") encounter appropriate for phenomenology, such as the biblical accounts of the disciples’ encounter with Christ as the Word or Logos, the Resurrection, or even the believers’ encounter with the Eucharist. The question is not whether these events are encountered in “flesh and bone” but whether they yield the authentic self-manifestation in their own right, thus requiring the rigorous analyses appropriate to the matters themselves. By providing rigorous phenomenological description of these religious encounters (as recorded in the Bible), Marion attempts to show the invisible in the visible, like the visible icons showing the invisible spiritual reality, or, analogously, like Cézanne’s painting of, say, the mountains showing Cézanne (39). Likewise, in the religious encounters (recorded in the Bible) we are to see the Father in the Son (John 14:9, (36)), His grace in the elements of the Eucharist, or His love on the Cross. And all these are the legitimate matters for thought!
The phenomenological accounts of these showings of the invisible in the visible are made possible, he argues, because the Word of God, the Logos, who “became flesh and pitched its tent among us” (John 1:14, (36)), is ultimately rational. The Word is the inner logic of God’s creation and redemption of humankind and of the world (“… the Word, in whom everything receives being, life, and movements, display reason” (18), or “[w]e have a duty to rationality in the name and from the point of view of the Word” (19). Logos is the intelligibility that lies behind the saturated phenomena revealed in God’s Revelation: “Our God always reveals himself as the underlying reason” (18).
But there is more, as Marion likes to say. Thanks to the incarnation of Logos, our reason is capable of the infinite capacity. We can think the infinite, the invisible, or the invisibility of the infinite. The following claim by Marion is strikingly daring:
The incomprehensible infinite has therefore taken flesh in our reason. Our reason is henceforth to be found serving as a dwelling place for the infinite. It has therefore taken on a dimension that definitively and infinitely surpasses us. It henceforth ranks as the infinite, despite our finitude, or rather thanks to it; in this sense it therefore appears to us as incomprehensible to us. […] it henceforth extends infinitely further than our representations, our calculations, our wishes and our desires. It conceals a power of intelligibility whose limits escape us… At stake is the right of the infinite to make itself, endlessly, without respite, without rest, without attributable end, the official passenger of our poor, lurching rationality, which is henceforth in charge of a stake of reason that infinitely transcends what it could ever imagine.
[….] For what has taken flesh in our reason, the infinite in the form of the incomprehensible, has laid claim to a name—namely that of the logos, the very term that the wisdom of the Greeks assigned to the rigor of thoughts and the meaning of things. The infinite, which has taken flesh in our finite flesh, lays claim to the very name from which our reason emerges. Reason has taken flesh in our reason (37).
Human reason is the incarnation of the Word (Logos). As such, it is infinite despite its finitude and is thus capable of reasoning or accounting (λογίζομαι) for those phenomena which are beyond the scope of objectivity. In short, reason is capable of accounting for the Infinite in the finite and the invisible in the visible. This is possible because “the Word became flesh and pitched its tent among us” (John 1:14, (36)). The Infinite does not bedazzle the reason and transform reason into praise and adoration, as in Descartes' Third Meditation, because it abandoned itself, taking the human form, and lowered itself to the point of death (Phil. 2:7-8, (36)). "In Christ, the Word, we have the perfect immanence of transcendence. Immanence and transcendence are henceforth reconciled with each other. The incomprehensible has sided with us." (36).
The Christian doctrine of the Trinity becomes decisive here. Marion does not say that reason is capable of reaching the Infinite or the incomprehensible. Rather, the Infinite is accessible in the finite as the Infinite or the invisible in the visible. The infinite shows itself in the visible as the invisible or as the incomprehensible. This is so by virtue of the Incarnation of the Logos. In the Son our reason is capable of seeing the Father; in the bread and wine, our reason is capable of seeing God’s grace. Our faith is rational through and through. To believe is to be rational toward the things that are incomprehensible as such in the visible and in the sensible, as in the icons.
It goes without saying that Marion’s incarnational epistemology (“christology is a matter, among others, of epistemology” (38)) is uniquely Christian. A Jewish thinker such as Levinas would never dare to say that reason is capable of reaching the Infinite. Absent christology in Levinas—Christ is entirely absent in Levinas work--incarnation for Levinas ends up being the ‘in’ of the Infinite or the extraordinary relation (without relation) in which the ‘more’ is in the ‘less,’ producing in the subject the state of delirium or obsession—without the negative clinical sense these terms convey. Ethics for Levinas is not against reason but beyond reason, overflowing reason and rationality, thus having to resort to metaphors and hyperboles. In contrast, the incarnation of the Word in human reason, as in Marion, expands reason beyond itself without delirium, albeit still maintaining a bit of obsession:
If we bear in our rationality not only the comprehensible but also the incomprehensible, if we are henceforth no longer able to keep it within the limits of what we comprehend in the mode of objects, if it does not cease to make us yearn for all ambitions, for better or for worse, that is because our logos remains, whether we want it to or not, inhabited by the logos to the point of obsession (37).
Reason desires and aims at the Infinite without delirium. It remains obsessed without necessarily turning into praise and adoration. Reason does not turn into a mere affirmation of faith in Marion. It maintains its rationality without having to resort to metaphors and hyperboles. This is because “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
Marion’s rationalist account of the Revelation, however, is somewhat problematic. His analysis of the Eucharist is the case in point. The Eucharist means for Marion God's gift first and foremost. As the etymological origin of the term suggests, we give thanks to God for His grace when we participate in the Eucharist. Indeed, the elements, the bread and the wine, is referred to as the Holy Gift, which in turn refer to Christ’s body broken for the many and the blood shed for the many. Based on this traditional understanding of ‘giving thanks,’ Marion develops his own notion of the gift, in which the giver is always forgotten in the gift. A gift becomes just an object (of value or enjoyment); the giver is always forgotten; and the giver abandons the gift (if it is not abandoned by the giver, it would not be a gift for the receiver). And thus the gift-nature of the gift is lost, as the gift becomes and remains just as another object, detached from and abandoned by the giver (though it remained treasured and valued like an object). Thus, the gift as such hangs on a delicate balance between forgetfulness and abandonment. If the sender is forgotten, it becomes an object and no longer a gift; but if it is not abandoned by the giver, it cannot be a true gift. The paradox is that the forgetfulness and the abandonment serves the dual function of the gift becoming both non-gift (involving forgetfulness) and gift (abandonment) at the same time. In fact, the abandonment reinforces the forgetfulness and thus reinforcing the gift becoming a non-gift. In this regard, Marion once again cites Heidegger’s notion of the “letting be” or “there is” (Es gibt), which is always forgotten and withdraws, so as to present Being in error in the history of metaphysics: “It [the ‘there is’/es gibt] withdraws in favor of the gift which it gives” (Time and Being, 8; (132)).
In the Eucharist, however, the gift as such is and must be re-affirmed. God, the giver of the Son, must appear in the holy gift, if we are to affirm the Holy Gift as such (“Thus if givenness is to appear again, it would be necessary for the giver to become again visible within the persistent being and through it” (132)). God’s invisible grace becomes visible in the Eucharist. How is this to be explained phenomenologically?
In 1 Cor. 11:21-26 Marion observes the triple abandonments: “on the night when he was betrayed (paredideto/tradebatur)(I Cor. 11:23)… […] For I received (parelabon/accepi) from the Lord what I also handed on (paredōka/tradidi) to you” (1 Cor. 11:23) (132). Etymologically speaking, the word ‘betrayal,’ ‘receive,’ and ‘tradition’ are closely related. Thus, Marion writes: “Christ is given up, as one says, namely by and in the betrayal” (132). This abandonment is further interpreted in terms of ‘kenosis’ of Philippians 2:6. Thus, Marion writes: “The abandonment to death of the perfectly given Son in turn perfectly testifies to the giver and to givenness” (132). Now, the two senses of abandonment are conjoined with the third: the broken bread and the spilled wine. Marion thus writes: “As simple foods, the broken bread and the spilled wine are already truly given, but given at a loss, consumed without return, in a word, abandoned” (133). He further writes: “Christ himself who by his kenosis allows the ultimate giver, the Father, to appear” (134). The logic of gift is articulated thus: “no gift appears as such if it does not come from elsewhere and that none comes from elsewhere except the one that comes from above, therefore, from God himself” (134-35). Alongside with the logic of gift, the doctrine of the Trinity is once again decisive here. Christ, the gift, revealed in the bread (broken) and the wine (shed) ultimately reveals God himself, the giver.
But why must God appear as the giver of the gift in the bread and the wine? Are Christology and the Eucharist a matter of epistemology or that of ethics? Does not the Eucharist exhibit human subjectivity Levinas described as "substitution"? Is not the Eucharist primarily a 'sacrifice of reconciliation,' thus presupposing sin and injustice in the world? "The time is out of joint," the Bible says along with Hamlet and Siddhartha. Salvation presupposes the moral corruption of the world where humanity is lost, abused, or otherwise objectified. Christ's death and resurrection address the fall of humanity with the Eucharist as the essential part of Christ's on-going salvific work administered through liturgy. Levinas's notion of "substitution" explains the central Christian liturgy understood as the rite of ethics beyond phenomenology. Let me briefly argue this point.
In describing the ethical subjectivity, Levinas uses the word kenosis, though not in Greek. He thus speaks of a subject as “a being divesting itself, emptying itself of its being, turning itself inside out” (OB 117; also 92, 110-11, 138). In “God and Philosophy,” he states even more succinctly: “I am never finished with emptying myself of myself” (Emmanuel Levinas: Basic Philosophical Writings (BPW), 144). Levinas’s key word, substitution, is often described in terms of the metaphor of extreme divesture in which “an expenditure overflow[s] one’s resources” (OB 112). In his 1963 essay, “Trace of the Other,” Levinas recalls the meaning of the ancient Greek term ‘liturgy’ in connection with his discussion on the transcending nature of the work (oeuvre) (See Deconstruction in Context, Mark C. Taylor, ed. (Chicago: U of Chicago, 1986), 349-50). The Greek word for ‘liturgy,’ λειτουργία, means “a public service,” referring to the ancient city of Athens’ rule where “a burdensome public office or charge” was assigned to the richer citizens in rotation or by volunteering, who is to serve the function “at their own expense.” Levinas explains the “primary meaning” of the term as referring to “the exercise of an office that is not only completely gratuitous, but that requires, on the part of him that exercises it, a putting out of funds at a loss” (BPW, 144). Liturgy, then, is a public service that requires loss of one own funds. Literally speaking, liturgy is, as it were, ‘a waste of time and money.’ The expenditure to the point of deficit, or emptiness to the point of death, as in the case of Christ (Phil. 2:8), is precisely what Levinas refers to by the term ‘substitution.’ Christian liturgy, then, is the event of the substitution of Christ in the full ethical sense that Levinas gives. The Eucharist in this sense is primarily ethical, not epistemological. What is revealed in the bread and the wine is the subjectivity of the subject, the very substitution of the Lamb of God bearing the sin of the world, or, in Levinas's term: the hostage par excellence. When we participate in the Eucharist, we are to "become ... what we eat" (Augustine's Sermon 272), the 'sacrifice of reconciliation.'
The Eucharist is the post-Easter reality of Christ. The risen Lord disappears as soon as the two disciples on the way to Emmaus recognizes Jesus “in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:35), the passage Marion discusses extensively (137-143). But, to my disappointment, Marion uses the passage primarily to illustrate the lack of the two disciples’ understanding of Christ; while the role of the Eucharist (by which Christ is seen) is hardly discussed. The Gospel of Luke passage, however, describes Jesus as the risen Lord "in the breaking of the bread" only to disappear as soon as He is so recognized, consistent with all of other Gospel accounts. The glory in his victory, Christus Victor, does not last at all. Rather, the risen Lord disappears or is lifted up to heaven, out of sight. As soon as the two disciples recognizes Christ “in the breaking of the bread,” he disappears, leaving behind only the bread and the wine. The extreme degree of emptiness is thus reenacted at the very moment of glory. What could the Eucharist be other than the body of Christ elected to be the sacrifice for the world and the blood shed to the point of death? If God is present in the Eucharist, He appears as the suffering servant par excellence: a hostage elected and assigned to the extreme obedience, to the point of death. In such an account of the Eucharist, God does not appear as the giver of the gift but as the trace of the by-gone goodness ordaining one to the ‘liturgy,’ to the service of others to the point of death, until death comes. By saying this, we have entered theology....more
This book makes Hegel's philosophy readable and understandable, which is a quite an accomplishment. Adriaan Peperzak is a master of rendering difficulThis book makes Hegel's philosophy readable and understandable, which is a quite an accomplishment. Adriaan Peperzak is a master of rendering difficult thoughts clear and understandable, as he does with Levinas and other major philosophers in the history of western philosophy. This book is not only a must-read for anyone who want to read Hegel's difficult texts as students but also for any Hegelian scholars. Heavily relying on Hegel's Encyclopedia--probably one of the most difficult philosophic texts of all times (in the section on Logic)--Peperzak provides a detailed commentary on Hegel's Elements of the Philosophy of Right, the textbook Hegel wrote in 1820 for his course on practical philosophy, where he describes the unfolding of the spirit in its concrete and objective (self) realization in property, family, civil society, and state. A rare feat of accomplishment that explains Hegel's political philosophy in terms of the spirit's self unfolding and self identity. Peperzak remains faithful to Hegel's overall intention and philosophy. Accordingly, he does not rely on Hegel's earlier and more popular work, Phenomenology of Spirit (1807), as many commentators do, to interpret Hegel's political philosophy. Peperzak writes: "Hegel's entire philosophy is one long unfolding of the all-encompassing One, whose most adequate name is 'spirit.' Every thing and every dimension of the universe is therefore a realization and revelation of spirit" (137).
This is probably not the most popular interpretation of Hegel but is most accurate and succinct summary of his thought. Peperzak only hints here and there that Hegel's "faith in Reason" blinded him from a more adequate understanding of God (who reveals himself beyond reason or understanding) and faith. But this book does not aim at critiquing Hegel's philosophy. For that we must turn to, among others, Peperzak's essay entitled: "Faith in Philosophy Or Philosophy Within Faith?" (Budhi, 18.2 (2014), pp. 1-38). In that essay, Peperzak summarizes Hegel's "philosophy" rather succinctly in the following way:
Hegel’s philosophy is indeed the unfolding of a conceptual (i.e., at once logical and onto-logical) science or Wissenschaft about all the essential phenomena that are relevant for a human life in the world of absolute Spirit, which Hegel calls “God,” because it is the all-encompassing self-knowledge of the Whole (das Ganze) of the total Truth (die Wahrheit) of Hegel’s universe. [...] As Logos (or onto-logical Idea), the Spirit unfolds its basic categoriality into the universal pattern of all essentiality, thanks to whose “dialectical identity” (or hybrid synthesis) of being and non-being, all beings find their orderly connections and mutual inclusions with one another and the whole of their universe (Id., 30).
In his Elements of Ethics (2004), the title that recalls Hegel's Elements of the Philosophy of Right, Peperzak writes of the unfolding of the spirit as follows:
The history of spirit is understood as a dialectical unfolding (in which the negatives of all positions play a necessary and productive role), unfolding is understood as progress, and progress is interpreted as the victorious self determination of the spirit, that is, as the center and completion of the mind itself (Elements of Ethics, (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2004), 242-43).
Steering away from Kojèves' and Lucàcs's interpretations, Peperzak successfully argues for the arena of history as a double stage in which the spirit expresses itself in art, religion, and philosophy in the subjective side as well as it actualizes itself in property, family, society, and in the state in the objective side. Peperzak writes:
Only by blending the dimension of this self-knowledge with the most perfect form of ethical life, can Hegel sketch a picture of world history in which the history of Sittlichkeit [ethicality] (as the history of states) is combined with the historical unfolding of art, religion, and philosophy. […] History is the temporal, successive, and therefore finite, manifestation of the infinite self-knowledge through which the spirit’s absoluteness ‘liberates itself from the form of natural immediacy.’ Only by sublating the naturalness of geographically and anthropologically determined peoples ([Elements of the Philosophy of Right] § 346), i.e., only by transforming the spirit’s objectivity into the embodiment of the spirit’s religious and philosophical self-consciousness, can history transcend the mixture of justice and violence characteristic of its natural imperfection (§ 352)” (Modern Freedom, 614-15).
’God’ is used by Hegel as a more popular name for the universal and absolute spirit. […] Because the spirit, as the origin of its all-encompassing unfolding, is both the unmoved beginning and the ‘actuosity’ of the universal moment, the universe can be characterized as the ‘course of the spirit’ or the ‘course of God.’ Every moment and stage of this universal course is created, necessitated, willed, and actualized by God (or the spirit). ‘God’s course’ is the ‘cause’ and the life of all the actualities in which the spirit manifests or reveals (offenbart) its creative fullness. Nature, right, state, art, religion, and so on exist because of the spirit’s realization, unfolding, and revelation of itself (Modern Freedom, 482).
Thus, history unfolds as His-story. But in maintaining this thesis, what has Hegel done to the notion of God, if 'God' can be understood even as a notion? It goes without saying that Hegel's optimism in history is soundly defeated by the brutal empirical facts of WW I, WW II, and by many other atrocities and barbarism that occur even now, even in the most civilized states. If this is His story, God must be either a monster or dead. But such a conclusion is not as serious as these: that God is immanent and constitutes the totality of all there is, that philosophy (as the articulation of the spirit's inner logic or logos) contains all there is to know and to desire, and that there is therefore nothing beyond philosophy to think. Such is the pretension of Hegelian philosophy that is ignorant of God's transcendence, which is attested to consistently by 1500 years of wisdom sustained in the medieval period, which incidentally Hegel calls the "dark middle ages" (Modern Freedom, 322, n.).
Are we more "ethical" in modern times than we were before--in the strict Hegelian sense? The obvious answer is negative. But what do we mean by "ethical"? A different sense of the term must be articulated, coming from the hither side of the shore, that could breach Hegel's totality and infinity....more
Jean-Luc Marion is a masterful reader who is extremely faithful to the texts he comments. His commentary on Descartes has been well established as groJean-Luc Marion is a masterful reader who is extremely faithful to the texts he comments. His commentary on Descartes has been well established as groundbreaking and as a benchmark for any future study on Descartes. His reading of Nietzsche, Husserl, and Heidegger, among others, is equally masterful and detailed. Now, with this book, In the Self's Place in Jeffrey Kosky's wonderful translation from French, Marion has done it again with Augustine and with the mammoth body of texts Augustine bequeaths to the western civilization. Marion not only read all of Augustine's texts but also most of the secondary resources that have abound in France in the last three decays. He himself translated every Augustine's text he cites, making Augustine's text come alive. This particular book is lengthy--302 pages total excluding the endnotes--only because he cites numerous texts of Augustine in Latin, followed by his own translations. Almost all of the most crucial texts in Augustine are thus cited in this book.
Marion seems to know Augustine better than Augustine himself. Is it possible that a commentator can know the author better than the author himself? Yes, only if the commentator is extremely faithful to the texts and to the author, and only if he is equipped with a new set of philosophical lexicon, as Marion is--the lexicon mainly derived from Husserl, Heidegger, Derrida, and Levinas. Marion is able to revisit the ancient texts and uncover the hidden treasures hitherto not excavated, thanks to new set of vocabularies and insights opened up by the post-modern thoughts. Let me explain.
As Marion says in one of his recent Gillford lectures (which is available in YouTube), his project is to reveal the "thing-in-itself (die Sache selbst)," which, according to Husserl, is the ultimate goal of phenomenology. But for Marion, Husserl's method and language are not adequate to "reveal" the thing-in-itself. For they remain adequate only for certain phonemana, namely, those befitting to the mode of consciousness operating in intentionality, only for the phenomena that show themselves in the correlation between noesis (knowing) and noema (the known).
The discovery of inadequacy of such a mode of thinking based on the presumed adequacy between the thinking and the thought (the adequacy which has been assumed ever since Parmenides) was first rigorously contested by Emmanuel Levinas, to whom Marion acknowledges his indebtedness. Also, equally important, is the tip Marion obtained from Levinas, as Marion admits in the recent documentary film on Levinas entitled "Absent God" (also available on YouTube), namely, the possibility of unabashedly and philosophically discussing the biblical themes and concepts. Levinas has conferred, as far as Marion was concerned, the legitimacy on the project of engaging the Bible philosophically.
When one engages the Bible philosophically--without reducing it to some philosophic concepts that are external to the Bible itself (as too many philosophers have done, as in Locke, Leibniz, Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, and (I would even include) Aquinas)--one is engaging in the medieval project of "faith seeking understanding" (the phrase which Augustine was the first to articulate). Both Levinas and Marion, then, are medieval thinkers because they both seek to understand the Bible philosophically; that is, because they both attempt to think that which is beyond thought, to think that which overwhelms thought, as was the case in Descartes's third Meditation (where Descartes had to pause his meditations in order to admire the magnitude of the idea of God, which could not have been deduced from the finite I).
To engage in the medieval project of thinking what exceeds the thought, however, one must employ the post-modern philosophical lexicon; because the classical philosophy or what Marion calls "metaphysics" or "ontology" simply falls inadequate to that which exceeds thinking adequately corresponding to what is thought, namely, the thing-in-itself, which nonetheless reveals itself (beyond the lexicon of the metaphysics) in the Bible as well as (for Marion but not for Levinas) in paintings and (for both Marion and Levinas) other great philosophic texts.
But the question remains: Can we discuss the Bible without reducing it to philosophical concepts, without translating it into Greek? In short, can we speak of the Bible without resorting to metaphysics or ontology? Marion fondly remembers Levinas's decisive formula on this question: "We must speak Greek in order to think what Greeks themselves did not or could not think." (I am not sure which Marion said precisely, as he was quoting Levinas in one of the Gifford Lectures he gave on the topic of "Revelation," which is also available on YouTube).
In order to speak Greek while thinking what they themselves could not think, Levinas abuses Greek with "some barbarism," with hyperbole and extreme metaphors or metonymies. Levinas is famous for saying (in his germinal essay "God and Philosophy"), contrary to Derrida and to the ancient dictum attributed to Aristotle: "Not to philosophize is not still to philosophize." Marion would agree with Levinas and would share (or inherit) Levinas's passion for thinking the "beyond;" though Marion would have none of Levinas's "barbarism," hyperbole, or Levinas's boldness to move beyond philosophy, as he does like a splash of a lightning bolt that breaks out from his own discourses (in a characteristic manner of the Saying that pierces through the Said). In contrast, Marion remains, admittedly, within the tradition of phenomenology, except that he only deepens the inquiry all the way to the end--until and to the point where the thing-in-itself reveals itself beyond phenomena. He remains in the discipline of phenomenology as a rigorous science, except that his rigor (and by virtue of his rigor) would move the inquiry beyond the phenomena and to, what he calls, "the event" or "the saturated phenomena," for which Husserl's lexicon falls far short. In order to supplement Husserlian or, for that matter, Heidegger's lexicon, Marion employs the lexicon from Derrida and Levinas, words such as "differance" (Derrida), "the immemorial," or "desire" (Levinas).
In Augustine (to whom he always refers as the Saint) Marion discovers the self who is a "stranger" to itself, a "waste land," an enigma, a mystery to itself--a notion which is anachronistically post-modern a thousand year before Descartes. For Marion the self, as understood by Augustine, is a "saturated phenomenon," just as God is. So too the "conversion" is an event that cannot be described or explained as a possibility within the horizon of being or transcendental consciousness. That is, it cannot be explained in terms of Husserl's intentional analysis or Heidegger's analysis of dasein. These "saturated phenomena," which are deeply rooted in the (affects of the) Bible (in the case of Augustine), demand the post-modern language Marion inherits from Derrida and Levinas, no less rigorous than the language of the modern philosophy. In so doing, Marion succeeds in liberating Augustine from the grip of "metaphysics" (including the neo-Platonism) or of (the question of) Being. A case in point is Marion's splendid critique of Gilson's Thomistic reading of Augustine (this criticism appears almost as an appendix to the book at the end), which is as decisive as his attack on Heidegger's understanding of Augustine carried out solely in terms of the all encompassing umbrella of Seinsfrage, namely, "Why is there something rather than nothing?" Marion convincingly shows that in Augustine the fundamental question is: "Why do I love this rather than that?" Or more specifically, why do I love God more than the world or vice versa? Humans are condemned to love, not condemned to freedom (as Sartre famously said). The question is: What or which does one love? The primacy of freedom that metaphysics assumes and celebrates in modern era has no place in Augustine's Confessions.
The title of the book, "In the Self's Place," is derived from the title of one of the last sections in the book, where Marion inserts, in the manner of a conclusion, the summary of his main thesis, which is densely articulated in his own lexicon. One may find surprising the abruptness with which he inserts the conclusions; and yet one cannot help but to be convinced of his conclusions, after having gone through his mammoth effort and accomplishment achieved with his unmatched patient, detailed, thorough, and rigorous discussions of Augustine's texts (mostly from the Confessions). In doing so, Marion applies the rigor of phenomenology on Augustine's texts and brings the inquiry to its logical and extreme conclusions:
I will try to employ the operative concepts of the phenomenology of givenness in order to assess whether they permit a more appropriate, coherent, and correct reading of the Augustinian texts (1).
For so long, I did not understand the unity of the book, Confessions. The brilliant analysis of memory in Book 10, of time in Book 11, and the commentary on the creation account of Genesis 1 in Books 12-13 seemed to me to be unrelated and lacking coherence to the rest of the book. However, Marion puts an end to such a common misunderstanding. The Confessions cannot end with the accounts of Augustine's own past and present life alone. Insofar as confession is praise, and insofar as praise without confession cannot be genuine; the book, if it is to be faithful to its title, must begin and end with praise, as it does. Like Descartes' doubt, Augustine's confessions are not person but universal. For it is by and through (the act of) confession, one may hope to know oneself and God. The self and God, as Augustine declared in his early works, Solliloquies, are the only two things he wanted to know "and nothing else." Indeed, as we will discuss more later, one cannot know the self unless one knows oneself in relation to God; and one cannot know God unless one knows oneself in relation to Him. (The inadequacy of the word 'know' used here will become evident shortly below.) This is so not because the self somehow participates in God or God is immanent in one's self (in the manner of neo-Platonism; and, as Marion shows decisively, Augustine cannot be reduced to neo-Platonims!) but because, unless one know that he is created, he cannot know the Creator and vice versa; or because unless one knows how far he is away from God, he cannot know how near He is to oneself: "God was nearer to me than I am to myself," says Augustine repeatedly. The self remains a stranger to itself because it does not know itself unless it knows itself in its relation to God, who remains unknowable, invisible, ineffable, incomprehensible, etc.
Unless one confesses, one cannot truly know oneself. This is more radical than the claim about the self knowing itself in (self) reflection, in self knowledge, or in self consciousness. The Delphic dictum: 'Know thyself' remains insoluble for Augustine because it cannot account for the self's relation to itself as the other. The self is a stranger to itself. Insofar as it remains an enigma to itself, the self is an other to itself. ("I am an other," says Rimbaud, which Levinas appropriates in his own way. Didn't Augustine already anticipate Rimbaud?) In the case of metaphysical self knowledge (as in 'Know thyself'), the self remains in its own comfortable place undisturbed by what he knows. The sovereignty of the self in discovering itself, its immutability, its ability to remain the same, is a classic definition of self in freedom. In the classic philosophy, the self either recovers itself in its reminiscence of itself in (Socratic) recollection or reflects upon itself in self (re) presentation. In this appropriation of the self by itself, it maintains itself in the self-sameness. As Levinas would put it simply, the self remains the same, unaltered and rejecting all manner of the other. The self remaining the same in its appropriation of itself so as to remain as the same is opposed to the other. It has no room for the other within itself. Such a self, sovereign and free, is incapable of confession, however, and is incapable of praise.
In order to know oneself, Augustine confesses (or writes the Confessions). Because for him to know oneself is to be able to confess; and to be able to confess is to praise. (In fact, as Marion points out, confessions are of two kinds: confession of sin and confession of praise. In either case, confession is bound up with praise.) Moreover, to be able to praise, one must rely on the pre-existing language of the believers who had already offered such a praise. As Marion puts it, to praise is to respond to the call of God in the language that precedes one's own language, to respond to the situation that precedes oneself, and, finally, to join in the chorus of the whole creation that shouts (if one is silent enough to listen): "It is He who made us and not we ourselves" (Psalm 100)--the same sound of praise (which is at the same time a confession) that is heard after all things fell in silence, according to Augustine, when in the garden of Osthia he and his mother, Monica, arrived at the heights above heavens and beyond "our minds" -- to the thing In-Itself (idipsum (the word which is not to be translated (sacrilegiously) as "Being"). See Book 9, Chapter 10, par. 24-25 (hereafter 9.10.24-25). That God is the Creator and that we did not create ourselves, is the summit of all praises as well of all confessions. To utter this praise or confession is not to know something with the mind or consciousness. It is not to declare a fact but to immediately enter into a relationship at the very moment of saying it. It is, in short, an utterance which is possible only as a liturgical act, valid only when it is uttered in the act of worship and as an act of worship. It is not a performative utterance in the sense that it would become true when we utter it. When we utter a praise, we do not make it true (for the act of creation had been performed in the immemorial past and our uttering it does not make it happen at the moment of the utterance) but we enter into a relationship to "He who made us," He who claims us (always already).
The confession, which is at the same time a praise, is uttered not only by the individual self (Augustine) but by the community of the believers for whom Augustine writes his Confessions so that "when they are read and heard, [my confessions] may stir up the heart so that it will ... awake in the love of thy mercy and the sweetness of thy grace" (10. 3. 4)--in other words, so that they too may utter the praise. The scope of Augustine's praise increase so that by the end of the book, the whole creation may resound in the same praise. The book Confessions in its entirety then is a grand liturgical act of confession/praise that becomes valid in the act of worship, in the community of believers, uttered together with the believers, in public and in concert with the whole creation, who shouts: "It is He who made us and not we ourselves."
Confession therefore is the proper "place" to begin one's discovery of oneself and of its relation to God; for it places oneself in the position of the created, as the created, finding oneself offering praises to the Creator, in response to God's act of creation, which has always already taken place in the immemorial past. Thus, the book, Confessions, seeks to bring the readers (the believers then and now) into the confession, joining Augustine and the whole creation together to praise.
Insofar as we are created, "the approach of God can happen only by praise" (4). But this principle applies to the readers as well:
[I]f he who does not praise cannot approach God and if the Confessiones want to approach God, then any reader who would refuse to praise would by that very refusal be blocked from understanding and even reading the Confessiones (4).
Moreover, praise evokes love for God; and the love of God evokes praise. Praise is neither an intentional act nor a meaning giving act of consciousness. Rather it moves oneself toward God and draws God toward oneself. It is first and foremost an act of love that attracts, the attraction that can aim beyond oneself as well as can be pulled by that which is from without:
In the case where I praise God, that is to say, where I address my words to him inasmuch as I love him, my weight leads me to him as to my proper place... Praising him therefore means that I rise into my place, that I go back up there from where I am and toward him from whom I come. (8).
If humans cannot reach God by knowing (because God is infinite, ineffable, incomprehensible), they can certainly reach Him by loving, by praising Him, and by confessing to Him (which is same as praising Him). We, the finite sinners, can indeed address him by act of praise and confession: "I [can] speak to God, even before saying anything whatsoever about God" (8, italics added).
Praise also lets God come to me and claim me, because it turns the speaker (locutor) into an addressee (interlocutor) (8); it evokes the counter-intentionality whereby the I who praises is claimed by the one whom the I praises. Similarly, confessing "implies ... turning one's face to God so that he can come over me, claim me, and call me starting from himself, well beyond what I could say, predict, or predicate of him starting from myself alone" (9, italics added).
We can now appreciate the necessity of the book written in and as the confessions. If God, as the Infinite (the word Augustine never uses), is unknowable, incomprehensible, and ineffable, etc.; and if the self (as the other to itself) is no less incomprehensible; any statement of facts, a recollection of the past, or a reflection of the self in the present will not lead to the discovery of the self or of God. Only an act of confession, which invariably leads to praise, can accomplish this "discovery." For, ultimately, we "know" by love more and better than we know by knowledge (of the self, of the world, and, even if it were possible, of God).
[To be continued elsewhere, due to the size limit of the posting space.]
Emmanuel Levinas called Proust "a psychologist of the infinitesimal." The concrete images Proust crafts with infinite details and patience in his noveEmmanuel Levinas called Proust "a psychologist of the infinitesimal." The concrete images Proust crafts with infinite details and patience in his novel are not so much based on the actual experiences he might have had, as they are based on the marvel of imagination rooted in the memory. Proust presents an incontrovertible case of imagination and memory for philosophers to ponder. The fact that his descriptions are fictional matters not here, because the novel stems from the experiences he remembers and imagines. However, Proust is not interested in reproducing his experiences in modified and refined depictions. He is after something else: the truth of the lost time which his mind cannot resurrect in "the storehouse of memory" (as Augustine puts it in referring to memory), as if the mind can resurrect or suppress it at will, but which arises on a chance encounter with an object that triggers a memory, which in turn summons up the whole past or the whole bygone era. It is not I but something other than I that calls up the past in memory. It is something external to the I that calls up the past. The past belongs to something exterior to the mind, something beyond the domain of my intellectual power. Proust writes:
It is a waste of effort for us to try to summon it [the past], all the exertions of intelligence are useless. The past is hidden outside the realm of our intelligence and beyond its reach, in some material object (in the sensation that this material object would give us) which we do not suspect. It depends on chance whether we encounter this object before we die, or do not encounter it (46).
As a case in point, Proust offers the following description of a cup of tea his mother offered in one cold winter day with "one of those squat, plump cakes called petites madeleines" (47). He continues:
But at the very instant when the mouthful of tea mixed with cake crumbs touched my palate, I quivered, attentive to the extraordinary thing that was happening in me. A delicious pleasure had invaded me... by filling me with a precious essence: or rather this essence was not in me, it was me (47).
Where could it have come to me from - this powerful joy? I sensed that it was connected to the taste of the tea and the cake, but that it went infinitely far beyond it, could not be of the same nature. Where did it come from? What did it mean? How could I grasp it? [...] It is clear that the truth I am seeking is not in the drink, but in me (47).
But is it up to me to recall the past, as if the past is entirely in my command? Do I re-create the past by my sheer will of imagination? Not so, according to Proust. For he says:
It is up to my mind to find the truth. But how? What grave uncertainty, whenever the mind feels overtaken by itself; when it, the seeker, is also the obscure country where it must seek and where all its baggage will be nothing to it. Not only that: create. It is face to face with something that does not yet exist and that only it can accomplish, then bring into its light (48).
The past that confronts him, occasioned by the taste of the tea mixed with petites madeleines, is quite strange, is something he must create as if it is totally new to him. The past remembered is the other, as Levinas would say. The past comes to him as the other, occasioned by the chance encounter with a cup of tea his mother offered with petites madeleines. His mother's madeleines brings forth another one he had in the past, dipped in the "infusion of tea or lime-blossom," offered by Aunt Leonie in one Sunday morning before the Mass at Combray (49).
The entire bygone past emerges out of the cup of tea as in the Japanese game of colored pieces of paper dipped in a bowl of water, transforming themselves into different shapes in the imagination:
As soon as I had recognized the taste of the piece of madeleine dipped in lime-blossom tea that my aunt used to give me..., immediately the old grey house on the street, where her bedroom was, came like a stage-set to attach itself to the little wing opening on to the garden that had been built for my parents behind it...; and with the house the town, from morning to night and in all weathers, the Square, where they sent me before lunch, the streets where I went to do errands, the paths we took if the weather was fine. And as in the game in which the Japanese amuse themselves by filling a porcelain bowl with water and steeping in it little pieces of paper until then indistinct, which, the moment they are immersed in it, stretch and shape themselves, colour and differentiate, become flowers, houses, human figures, firm and recognizable, so now all the flowers in our garden and in M. Swann's park, and the water-lilies on the Vivonne, and the good people of the village and their little dwellings and the church and all of Combray and its surroundings, all of this which is assuming form and substance, emerged, town and gardens alike, from my cup of tea (50).
The medeleines with tea his mother offered brings to his mind or to his memory the same he tasted when Aunt Leonie offered with tea in Combray, and Aunt Leonie's medeleines in turns conjures the whole Cambray; but this happens not as a result of an active association his memory or mind engages in. The mind does not create the link. Memory is not a product of an active mind. Rather, it is a thing in itself (provoked in the sensation of an object) that creates the link that is established beyond the power of the mind. For the link is created only when the mind is purged of all its baggage and will power, only when it "create[s] an empty space" (48). Only then the past enters and occupies the empty space that the mind creates. Only then, the lost past emerges like "the murmur of the distance traversed" (48):
I go back in my thoughts to the moment when I took the first spoonful of tea. I find the same state, without any new clarity. I ask my mind to make another effort, to bring back once more the sensation that is slipping away. And, so that nothing may break the thrust with which it will try to grasp it again. I remove every obstacle, every foreign idea, I protect my ears and my attention from the noises in the next room. But feeling my mind grow tired without succeeding, I now force it to accept the very distraction I was denying it, to think of something else, to recuperate before a supreme attempt. Then for a second time I create an empty space before it, I confront it again with the still recent taste of that first mouthful and I feel something quiver in me, shift, try to rise, something that seems to have been unanchored at a great depth; I do not know what it is, but it comes up slowly; I feel the resistance and I hear the murmur of the distances traversed (48).
Events, too, occur like memories in Proust. They strike the I as if from without, as if the I remained forever a stranger to them. In other words, events are told in what Blanchot calls “the narrative voice" in the neuter, where the I shifts from itself to the he in the narrative space. Levinas writes in the same vein:
It is not the inner event that counts, but the way in which the I grasps it and is overcome by it, as if encountering it in someone else. It is this way of taking hold of the event that constitutes the event itself” (Proper Name, 102).
For example, even when he finally gets to kiss Albertine in the bed (this is all the drama you get in this volume of the novel), he remains a spectator or "a psychologist of the infinitesimal" who analyzes what had just happened in infinite details. The I never fully participates in the events, even he is in the thicket, in the midst of them.
The past surfaces like a stranger in the memory. This appearance is not a result of the Socratic mimesis, where what is recalled is familiar to the mind that recollects it; nor is it a result of the memory retained in the present, active moment of consciousness, as in Husserl; nor is it a result of the memory that once lacked existence but now re-gained in "the vest storehouse of memory," as in Augustine. The past that appears in "the immense edifice of memory" is quite strange to me who encounters it. It is like a dead soul returning to an object of one’s possession, as in the Celtic belief Proust cites (46):
But, when nothing subsists of an old past, after the death of people, after the destruction of things, alone, frailer but more enduring, more immaterial, more persistent, more faithful, smell and taste still remain for a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, on the ruin of all the rest, bearing without giving way, on their almost impalpable droplet, the immense edifice of memory (49).
What arises in "the immense edifice of memory" is quite other worldly, like a cadaver of the departed, as it is brilliantly described in Blanchot's The Space of Literature in drastic contrast to the description of death affirmed in dasein's resolute march towards it that Heidegger gives.
The past thus emerged is not a living past, like a tradition held fast by daily practice, or like a well trodden pathway maintained by a stream of travelers. Rather, it is the past that has been lost forever, something that no recollection can bring back to life. There is a strange disconnect between the past and the present, as in one's relationship with the deceased recalled in memory. The present is not a continuation of the past. Proust thus memorializes the bygone past like one remembers the dead in a funeral. The past is forever gone. We remember in the sadness of knowing that the past could never return and come back alive: "the memory of a certain image is only regret for a certain moment; and houses, roads, avenues are as fleeting, alas, as the years" (429).
Memory for Proust, therefore, is not a "storehouse" from which the mind pulls what it wills. The "immense edifice of memory" in Proust is in contrast a strange landscape in which the mind enters without the familiarity of associations and habits. It is strange because it is bygone, dead. Levinas notes this strange otherness in the memories Proust recalls:
The result is something unique in Proust, something unprecedented in literature. His analysis... merely translates that strangeness between self and self which is the spout of the soul (Proper Name, 102).
As in memory in Proust, the soul or psyche in Levinas is the otherness within the self, the self that responds to that which is beyond, to the other, despite itself. The “empty space” in which memory takes shape in Proust is the space of transcendence in which the I finds itself a stranger to itself, as “the other in me,” or as in the enigmatic verse of Paul Celan: “Ich bin du, wenn / ich ich bin.”
The following depiction of the glory of Mme Swann (who “dresses in the morning for the world to see and undresses at night for a single man”) in stark contrast of the modern women's style of clothes illustrates this melancholy of having lost the bygone past forever, like death of the Gods:
The idea of perfection which at that time I had carried inside me I had conferred upon the height of a victoria, upon the slenderness of those horses, as furious and light as wasps, their eyes bloodshot like the cruel steed of Diomedes, which now, filled as I was with a desire to see again what I had once loved, as ardent as the desire that had driven me down these same paths many years before, I wanted to see before my eyes again at the moment when Mme Swann's enormous coachman, watched over by a little groom as fat as a fist and as childlike as Saint George, tried to control horse wings of steel as they thrashed about quivering with fear. Alas, now there were only automobiles driven by mustached mechanics with tall footmen by their sides. I wanted to hold in front of the eyes of my body, so as to know if they were as charming as they appeared in the eyes of my memory, women's little hats so low they seemed to be simple crowns. All the hats were now immense, covered with fruits and flowers and varieties of birds. In place of the lovely dresses in which Mme Swann looked like a queen, I now saw Greco-Saxon tunics with Tanagra folds, and sometimes in the style of the Directoire, made of liberty-silk chiffons sprinkled with flowers like wallpaper.... [....] But when a belief disappears, there survives it - more and more vigorously so as to mask the absence of the power we have lost to give reality to new things - a fetishistic attachment to the old things which our belief once animated, as if it were in them and not in us that the divine resided and as if our present lack of belief had a contingent cause, the death of the Gods (427).
The past is no longer alive in the memory. It is recalled as a memory of the dead not as in the liturgy of worship and veneration but in the desolate edifice of memory over where the clouds of the death of God loom large, where things once dear become fetish. ...more