Another Start? (Updated 3/28/11, comments)

Why must Hegel’s Logic start with freedom? Freedom is not presupposition-less. Freedom means free. Free assumes a move away, a compulsion for dunamis; not dunamis for the sake of dunamis but dunamis as repulsion or attraction. Hegel thinks freedom as immediacy, ‘isness’. Because of freedom, immediacy wants what ‘isness’ isn’t – mediation. Two terms have appeared: freedom, ‘isness’ (immediacy). These two work together to lose themselves, objectify, mediate. ‘Isness’ is a rootedness, a dwelling, a place. As Kant’s monistic subject, we have place, immediacy. Immediacy may be boundless or bounded but it assumes locality and awareness of locality. It is easy to see how things proceed from this ‘there’, the ‘there’ of immediacy. In any case, assumptions are made about ‘isness’ (i.e., ‘isness’ must be free of itself). Since we make this assumption at the start, why not another? Instead of freedom, why not evocation? Instead of ‘isness’, why not other? Why can’t ‘isness’ presuppose other, the evocative that evokes ‘isness’? Why can’t evocation call ‘isness’ to immediacy? Why couldn’t freedom be a misunderstanding of evocation, dunamis from evocation? Certainly immediacy ‘is’ and as such, a start. However, this start may carry with it its logos. Its arche is certainly self-determination, itself. Could self-determination be an assumption given as a determination of immediacy? Are there other determinations that could be made? Would another direction, a logos, be possible from an other determination? Certainly an other does not appear in immediacy but how could it (and still be other in Levinas’ sense)? What determinations could be sustained if immediacy is ‘isness’ or ‘otherness’? Certainly ‘isness’ comes from nothing other than itself in its “pure immediacy” but “nothing other than itself” is already a tautological identity based on the “nothing other”. “Pure immediacy” absolutely negates other. Within this arche the other must fall out as mediated, as ad hoc from immediacy. Immediacy is pure negation. All its conditions reside in itself and thus, fail. Is this what is called ‘freedom’ or the impetus for freedom? What if all the conditions for immediacy reside in the other and ‘isness’ is called to be from what it isn’t? Is this a presupposition or another initial determination? Why presuppose a self-determination based on a ‘sense’ of immediacy? Is this automatically apparent, aprioir, assumed without self-criticism? If the Hegelian start is made by assuming that immediacy is self-determined, feels empty of other, then a decision, a determination, in kairos has been made. It may be that the moment of kairos, thought as immediacy, holds other options that require a very different ‘working out’, another start.



Does the reification of the immediate reflect a certain kind of privileged, existentiell ‘there’ of being? Isn’t the start of Hegel a certain kind of mode of dasein’s being-in-the-world? Isn’t it when dasein is introspective, aware of nothing other than his or her own stark existence? Immediacy as discussed by Hegel occurs when no one is around, when one is intensely focused on oneself, and dasein is isolated from others. I suppose one could maintain that this stark, isolated, existentiell modality is ‘always’ there in some sense but that is a bit of a stretch.(1) Could it be that this thought is a ‘scientific’ assertion (doxa) of how dasein really is? When dasein is with others (mitsein) the ‘there’ is not dominated by hermetic and hermeneutic isolation (unless one is depressed). In everyday interaction with others, attending plays or sports events and perhaps watching a live entertainment broadcast, dasein is immersed in a kind of shared moment, a communal ‘now’, with others. Ontically, the “I” does not show itself but the “we”. The “I” does not dominate existentielly. The experience is not like anxiety where beings withdraw or instrumentality where dasein is engaged in work and not over and above him/herself. The experience is of a kind of shared ‘I’, a ‘we’, with others, the ‘now’ moment (immediacy) is not mine but ours. It seems to me that the kind of privileged (the beginning of the Logic?) and self-absorbed immediacy of Hegel is reified over and against the other ways that dasein ontically is in-the-world. What is the self-critical justification for this start? Is this a tradition brought about by the hermetic environment of academia? It seems to me that Hegel assumes immediacy is the moment of moments that all other moments get their oxygen from at least in the rarified atmosphere of academia. Has anyone ever even questioned this specifically? Probably but I am not currently aware of it. It seems to me that the start determines the path and the end. Why this start and not another? Is Hegel’s start supposed to be self-evident? (2)



(1) A thought…could the immediacy of Hegel have something in common with the concept of dread in Kierkegaard?

(2) It seems to me, this is yet another example of the sophistry that enters philosophy when philosophers become ‘professional’ and are paid for their ‘career’. It conglomerates and congeals, stupefies and specializes into a lifetime of having a financial stake in the game of apologetics. Sadly, I have seen it ruin the love of philosophy in several people. Could it be argued that this is one example of the alienation that Marx thinks is capitalism?

9 thoughts on “Another Start? (Updated 3/28/11, comments)

  1. Administrator

    “If you were referring to a proposal of someone declaring that a collection of concepts and their relations and traits (plus the particular instance) were ontologically equivalent to *otherness itself as a meta-concept* , then you might have a plausible case, that there was an equivocation going on .”

    Yes, I think the later would be more accurate. I am a bit befuddled by what the former position would be…In any case, the error of equivocation referred to in the later seems to come about from a tacit acceptance and historical conditioning towards an ‘as if’, in the manner of…a metaphor. Thus, being, ontology itself, is founded on an already understood and accepted notion that the other is fully open to and in accord with sight. The presence of the other has been supplanted by the hypostasis of light. This reduction is not necessarily ‘bad’ in itself. It has certainly led to advances in science and modern medicine along with environmental and political threats. I think the fly in the ointment is when the obsession of presence denies and demotes to obscurity the thinking of the excess that cannot be taken up in metaphor and light. The NOT that is already necessitated by any ‘object’ of light does not find its telos in light as Hegel would have it…this has the effect of perpetually sealing off any possibility for an other not already accounted for, taken up/lifted/sublated by the concrete universal…accept perhaps as an earlier, yet essential, act. It is an infinite regression that parades as a universal identity. It incessantly repeats itself as repetition, iteration and only a trace, a differ’a’nce (in Derrida) can be coaxed from the narrative itself. The trace, present in the text, the reduction, is always already overturning its truth, the veracity, of itself from within. It is the NOT that must always negate any presence and light, the dark that is left un-thought and unacknowledged. However, in Levinas the NOT does not terminate in the rhizome of referential signs but in the face of the other. Light promises power but all the while the grass grows under the feet of the philosopher and the end of philosophy, prophesized by Nietzsche, ends in the babble of the un-man, the last man…the whimpering fool. The illusion of power, the promise of the potency of light all the while imprisons as Medusa’s sight and whispers the siren’s song of oblivion…yet the face of him or her would break the enchanting spell and terminate boundlessness in alterity, a time that is not or ever was mine, that sight can only retreat and cower from only to be devoured by the incessant il y a of its necessity.

    …forgive the interlude…

  2. Administrator

    “it is a misuse of the very word ‘equivocation’ to refer to conceptual reduction as equivocation”

    Ah, I thank you for your very correct point. I totally agree that it would be incorrect to state that ‘all conceptual reductions are equivocations’. However, in the case where the otherness of another is reducible to the set of all possibilities in conceptual thought then the equivocation would, simply put, be in suggesting that conceptions and the other are of the same kind…the equivalence is in kind. While the explicit form of this equivalence sounds absurdly funny to most there is a tacit acceptance of this in much of the history of ontology. The other has been completely taken as an object of light, totally absorbed in the light of logos, as presence. I would think this would certainly quality as an ‘equivocation’ and would love to hear why this specific case could not be an equivocation from your point of view…

  3. Administrator

    “What would a relation with the other as such—if it were to happen in contradistinction to the ‘reduction of the other ‘ which Levinas apparently laments be like ?

    Why would such a non-reductionist relation be supposedly good and the reduction be supposedly bad ?

    What would Mr.Levinas propose would the specific experiental content be like , when and if existents are not reduced to the neuter state of the idea ?

    And why would the result of a process by which one makes it a point to *avoid* reducing existents to the neuter state of the idea , be a good result ?”

    Well, I suppose one way to think about ‘the bad’ would be as incongruity. I am free to think of a lion as a house cat but if I go to the jungle to pet the kitty I may find that what I thought was a kitty thought of me as lunch…What if Levinas is right and the other always exceeds my idea of the other? If I act in such a way that I believe I essentially know and understand the other then I always have the option to oblige myself to take certain liberties ‘in their best interest’ or ‘for the greater good’ or ‘for the purity of the race’. If I can (re)place them in a category and substitute them for a concept then the obligation is no longer to them but to the integrity of the system. For Levinas, something important has dropped out of the equation, something that cannot be recovered by any amount of recalculation. His philosophy wants to show what this loss would be without making it into yet another equation and therefore, more of the same. The death of the other is irrecoverable loss for Levinas. He thinks the other as a uniqueness and singularity that not only resist my reductive equivocations but found me. Foundationalism, the arche’, is a retreat from the radical rupture of the other. It is a way to take cover, to cower before and forget Responsibility. It seeks the kitty instead of the lion that faces it. Levinas tries to develop and show how this gives rise to language, history and symbolic representation. In “Otherwise than Being: or Beyond Essence” he gives an extremely involved analysis of how this occurs but one thing I will allude to in it is his discussion of the saying and the said.

    Let me restate that reduction is itself not necessarily bad…only when it becomes a political tool for violence, an implement of force or a self-made prison that bars the door against the other that does not conform to my reductions of him or her. I suppose that one could resort to a kind of sophistry that finds no value in acuity and only in repetitious acrimony, the tau of tautology, analytic a priori judgments where the subject is always yet again re-stated in the predicate but one might legitimately ponder how this might differ from propaganda (in regard to the other). Is this sad state of affairs a real possibility for reductionism?…I think history is replete with examples of such indolence. Thus, could we realistically think of it as ‘bad’?…I believe so…would it be ‘good’ to know there is a vastly important difference between the idea of an other and the other?…I think so.

  4. Administrator

    What, specifically, does the recipient of altruism sort of conception fall short of , when tending to the other .?

    I think I have described altruism as the best scenario and hubris as the worst with regard to ontological equivalence. Let me try to explicate the radical ethics of Levinas in this fashion…In Kantian fashion ethics rests on duty driven by a rational reciprocity. As each human is aware that they are an end in themselves, they can surmise and agree upon an ethics that must follow. This maxim follows from the categorical imperative: “Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will to become a universal law”. In this case duty is bound by rationality and the underlying foundation of equivalence. In Kant human relations are symmetrical and reciprocal. In “Otherwise than Being: or Beyond Essence”, Levinas thinks of the self as ‘hostage’ in its responsibility to the other. “Proximity” is an anarchic relationship with the other that cannot demand reciprocity from the neighbor. Asymmetry is the basis for Ethics in Levinas. Levinas states that “The relation with Being that is enacted as ontology consists in neutralizing the existent in order to comprehend or grasp it. It is hence not a relation with the other as such, but the reduction of the other to the same. … a suppression or possession of the other” and “Subsuming otherness under a general theme is ultimately war and violence exercised as “the imperialism of the same” and instituted as “the tyranny of the State.” Elsewhere Levinas states, “Philosophy itself is identified with the substitution of ideas for persons, the theme for the interlocutor, the interiority of the logical relation for the exteriority of interpellation. Existents are reduced to the neuter state of the idea, Being, the concept”. The asymmetric relation to the other even goes further as there prior to any debt incurred, prior to any contract entered into. Responsibility to the other is an obligation that is “more passive than any passivity”…”I am summoned by the Other to answer for him, to stand in his place in order to see to his needs. I myself, and no one else am called; no one can substitute for me. This establishes my identity as a subject. I am subpoenaed by the Other for a charge beyond any fault, before any freedom exercised and before any innocence claimed or any guilt confessed”. I think you can see that Ethics has a very different and essential value in Levinas than our indebtedness to rationality.

  5. Administrator

    “What makes you and Levinas think that the otherness of another, cannot be reduced to a set of concepts, meta-concepts, and the *proximate* (NOT approximate) relations amongst them ?”

    I would suggest that practically everything can be reduced, abstracted from, proximate observations made, etc. Phenomenology and science are founded on this…However, the question remains as to what you have when you are done and what has been overlooked, unthought, mistaken, etc. When people are reduced it certainly brings up the odorous recollection of such failed attempts as well as the successful enterprises such as modern medicine…In any case, when ontology and human being is the subject of concern our historical reductions have been replete with misdirection and contradiction (unless you seriously believe that Hegel completed philosophy). The question is not CAN they (the other) be reduced but what is the result of the reduction – what has been ignored, re-interpreted, glossed over and what are the valuations that are at work beneath the hood of these reductions? Of course, this net of suspicion can always be thrown over any endeavor of this type but the legitimacy cannot be ignored and warrant non-emotive examination.

    “Is there the murky wierd notion that some referent being mysterious somehow endows it with some sort of alleged grandeur lacking in what can be understood and explained ? (One hopes that you do not embrace that silly inchoate canard….) “

    No silly ‘canards’ here or appeals to the cloud of unknowing…much too easy to dismiss such nonsense.

    “On what grounds do you claim (if that is what you are claiming) that a totalizing absolutism which, hence, rejects all ambivalence/rejects all ambiguity cannot still incorporate some sort of internal charters and bylaws that forbid physically violent aggression towards those that support beleiefs and ways of acting (no matter how wrongheaded / murky et al the notions are of the persons who espouse beliefs and ways of living which are disapproved of by the absolutists) *provided * those persons do not veer from merely expressing wrong notions to intentionally threaten other sentient creatures (or persons) with agressive physical violence and/ or intentionally putting toxins in a natural resource (such as posioning the water and soil ect ? “

    Only on the grounds of historical missteps that have resulted in extermination of the non-human. Did you know that Levinas was interned in a Nazi concentration camp during WWII? Levinas thinks he can establish Ethics on an essential footing, first philosophy, not on altruisms, afterthoughts, wistful wishes and other such second place standings that have plagued ontology. Even if you disagree with him it may be worth your while to think about the internal structure at work in such a philosophy. The counter argument that you are suggesting that I am making is not my intention…i.e., that all absolutists are violent. It is funny how to see that the argument for contingency has turned on a dime here. I have been making the case that contingency and the accidental may have relevance for the absolute. Now the protest I am hearing is that I (or Levinas) am making is that reductions or absolutism always results in each individual case to violence…for me this is a red herring. I am referring to histories that are certainly examples of absolutism gone awry but not going further to assert the absolute point that “all absolutists are violent”. This kind of premise is certainly untenable.

    “I am a vehement absolutist , yet I am still opposed to the use of violent tactics such as police state arrests, physical vindictiveness against people who merely verbally express beliefs I call wrong , and would speak out unhestatingly against those who would advocate physically violent censorship and physical oppression of dissent . “

    Thank you and I applaud that…however, the direction here is not the anecdotal nor is it based on a converse logic…i.e., some absolutists have committed atrocities therefore, all absolutists have committed atrocities. My argument would be that there is an intrinsic danger in absolutists reductions that has historically resulted in atrocities not that all absolutist reductionist will commit atrocities. Let me also add that while I would not consider myself a ‘relativist’ I would also concede that such a philosophic direction could also harbor intrinsic dangers.

    “As an aside , let me state, I have found the concept of otherness / of another (the not-self) to be very useful and edifying to an analytical meta-ethics /axiology …yet NOT the way deconstructivists conceptualize otherness …NOT with the ideologically pluralist/ respecting opinions and acceptance / tolerance shtick that the relativists tack on to it …”

    Am I hearing a bit of an ax to grind with “deconstructivists” and “relativists”? I am well aware of the parochial (graduate school) absurdities with these schools as well as the same in the analytic (obejectivists…) approaches as well. I prefer to stick to the sources and keep the matter at hand on the actual works rather than the high pitched noise that muddies up understanding.

    I do not think that Levinas is trying to arrive at some relativistic/pluralistic stream of consciousness but a critique of ontology, from within the ontological tradition, that recognizes a boundary, an absolute boundary if you will, in which exteriority is not conceived as absolute neutrality but as him or her. I am sure you are aware of the utility of negation, the NOT of Hegel…however, that direction presses towards an equivalent neutrality, an aufhebung/sublation/lifting up to ‘idea’ that results in a concrete universal. It could be argued that the particular is essential for Hegel but as an ‘on the way to’ such that the other takes on a secondary role and is eventually incorporated as ‘idea’. The NOT of Levinas has a face not a concept and Ethics can never be ancillary in Levinas. Categories, pure concepts, Idea, objects, neutrality all reduce the other to accidental, a moment of the System, an object to be consumed by light and therefore, a tacit equivalence of ontological status. Levinas would have us ponder on the implications of this philosophical/epistemological move and how that may perpetuate errors that have resulted in atrocity…where the Idea (and all it implies) ingest the other such that the other becomes a false equivalence, mistaken as hyle…of the same status as one object among many. In this role the other always becomes secondary and at best the recipient of altruistic intentions…at worst hubris.

  6. Administrator

    Tree – I love the well thought out responses. Do you mean to allude to Deleuze and Rhizome in your treeness? Let me deal with what I think is one important topic first…other responses to follow…

    Do we ever encounter raw significance (you ask) ?

    The Greek notion of Hyle (matter, substance) in Aristotle and later examined thoroughly in Husserl first assume a certain kind of temporal structure, time consciousness. In the example you give there is ‘first’ a tiny pin prick of light. The assertion is made at the beginning that it is ‘there’ in merely it’s ‘isness’. Here we have the non, the ‘now’ moment, severed and devoid of experience in a pure abstraction. The reason I state this is because if we take all the implications of what is suggested we are faced with a something like the idea of a camera that no one is watching. It picks up spectral data but since no one is observing it, it has only obtained the status of a thought experiment. It has not yet achieved anything that could legitimately be called ‘observation’. In order to be transformed from a thought experiment to an ‘observation’ we must first posit yet another phenomenon, a temporal context. The sensation exists in some indeterminate, ‘raw’ state in a here and now. Then, through a process of sense neurons and higher brain activity a ‘space’ is carved out for the room and the light to ‘exist’ in. At the end of this process a ‘recognition’ of a beam of light in a dark room orients us to the apprehension, the gestalt, of an ‘experience’. At the end we have an ‘object’ to consciousness with all the apprehension and intention that must accompany any such phenomena. All of these steps have a quite definite thematic and abstract thought ‘process’ that must accompany it. If the implication is that I must accept at ‘face value’ ‘brute’ facts as self-evident or prior to legitimate analysis then we have made a detour into dogma. I think it would be a fool’s errand to argue against a dogma of any type. Please understand, I am not suggesting that your proof of hyle is not valid only that what makes it all hold together and work as you would like has much left beneath the pretension to simplicity.

    However you may want to say it…a transformation, an intuition, a transcendental leap, a context must always already be given to legitimate the thought experiment. Hyle in its ‘rawness’ would be a tale told by no one to no one. The founding idea of phenomenology is to look at phenomena as it shows itself and not as an abstraction or a historical narrative of what it is. Thus, Heidegger discusses ‘lived time’ as opposed to the vulgar concept of time (as linear ‘now’ moments) or ‘lived space’ as deseverance and regionality as opposed to abstract linear space. In phenomena there is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ triangle. The ‘perfect’ triangle only exits in concept just as ‘now’ moments, linear space, raw sensation, etc. only exist on their abstractions. One may take the Hegelian (and Parmenides) leap and suggest that the ‘idea’ is the concrete universal, in this case hyle, but one is still left with a phenomenological residue that always ‘accompanies’ raw sensation and makes such a concept intelligible. I would also apply this to the more pristine case of a tautology (discussed a little more later).

    With regard to your tree analogy…yes, the idea of a tree is the same and perhaps one may infer the structural characteristics as well. However, let me caution you on this point. If you are familiar with the history of science I am sure you are familiar with how what once was thought as hubris in phenomena was later understood as structurally significant. I would cite such notable examples as cells and organisms, DNA and proteins and atoms and subatomic particles. If you want the particular case I can reference these as well. In any case, structural components are dynamic apprehensions not static. They have a history, a change in understanding and a reorientation in all cases of what is thought as essential and hubris, absolute and accidental. What existentially remains the same is the concept of a tree not the structural organization as we know it. Additionally, you will never find a tree without the incidental components that you suggest (color, shape, size, etc.). If I may, can we attribute a universality to the appearance of incidental characteristics? What are deemed contingent and unimportant are always present with the universal (the ‘tree’). Does this elevate the importance of the particular from optional to always together with, not found phenomenally without and therefore suggest a more important role than mere hubris?

    With regard to a tautology, I would not suggest a tautology is contingent, only that its phenomenological appearance can never be said to be absent from, incidental to its apprehension. To suggest that all phenomenological contexts are accidental is also to imply and impute an absolute, independent, hermetic ‘existence’ (or exteriority to existence) that can be thought in the same vein as unicorns or the existence of god. However, in the case of a tautology, at least, I would attribute a phenomenal case of what physicists term ‘singularity’. A tau-tology (redundant : tauto-, tauto- + logos, saying) must attain ‘trueness’ as repetition, an identity lest it traverse into the miry bog of contingency and mere doxa. What is universal in the tautology is the ‘idea’ (e.g., identity) just as could be stated of the prior tree example. As in the tree example, I would suggest that a phenomenal component is always present together with the ‘idea(l)’ of the tautology. To separate this component or regard it’s as dispensable is to make a leap from ontology to idealism. Are all leaps illegitimate? Not necessarily but some rationale and justification needs to be provided in the analysis other than it’s pure ‘isness’ to avoid theological errors.

  7. Administrator

    Thanks you sir for your kind comments and I think I also share your concerns about obscu”rant”isms.

    “Is the conception of being that Levinas proposes one in which the conceptual content of being is forever unavailable and so according to him one can only speak of being in terms of what it is not and what it is the unamameable content left over (a sort of via negativia) ?”

    The history of being is the history and tradition of light so its content is certainly available and visible. I would not think of Levinas as a negative theology. My impression is that, as a student of Heidegger, he would be a phenomenologist. He was also a rabbinic scholar as well. His focus is not on a god, neumena or monad that can take on negative nouns and adjectives. He is looking at being and, IMO, observing:

    1)…how Being has historically defined, thought of, understood itself…moreover, the human phenomena of how that has been “pre-understood”, pre-conceived apriori in worldhood/horizon, by all human beings whether or not they are aware of the history that makes their certitudes possible.

    2)…how Being is inclined and consumed in its own narratives about itself to the point of obsession, force, violence and myopic insistence to the point of its on self-destruction while blinding itself to its predicament and obstinately refusing what exceeds its totalities.

    3)…how the assumption is that yet another ontology, hermeneutic, tradition of light will “complete the system” and, with Greek cheerfulness, finally win the battle of peras over aperion, the Sisyphean task…for Levinas totality over infinity.

    4)…how the other, the not, the excess is always, yet again, taken up and accounted for in a zero sum, neutrality. The very way in which “it” is conceived is an obstinate refusal of the face of the other for Levinas. If the face of the other is radical alterity that cannot be captured or violated by the tradition of light but always eludes as infinite exteriority, Levinas thinks we can take note of the force of our hermetic totalities as a hint that the an-archic alterity of the other that faces us cannot be gathered into light and understood without effacing, losing and essentially changing the phenomena. He believes this an-archic diachrony (temporality that is not my time, experienced or known by me) is Responsibility and moreover, gives rise to language, history, and light as retreat and refuge from the gaping abyss of him or her.

    “On grounds do you, sir, (or Mr. Levinas) claim that exploring being with a tenor of light leads to physical violence, IF violence of the physical sort is the sort you (and/or Levinas) are referring to .?”

    The violence arises from pre-understanding the alterity of the other as standing reserve in Heidegger’s term, ready for use, a means to an end, in the order of a thing and not letting the rupture of the other face us in our absolute inadequacy to change it, dismiss it, murder him or her…“pre”-understand him or her.

    “On what grounds, do you claim that wonder and beauty are only to be found in the absence of light . ? How would light allegedly threaten wonder and beauty ?”

    Well, to the degree that concepts concretize, wall off, imprison us from alterity, the NOT that faces us, the excess that eludes us is the same degree that diminishes wonder and beauty and inclines us towards a mechanistic, reduction absurdum and hermetic narcissism. Speaking for myself I find wonder and beauty in what shows itself in science and philosophy as incredible, intricate and unfathomable symmetry despite its ontological status, not necessarily reductionary as long as it’s always gaping impenetrableness reminds us of our precarious and delicate moment of grace that neutrality only covers over and seals us off from…

  8. Administrator

    Ah, yes, thanks for your good questions…

    (1) To be what specifically OR do you mean to affirm a causation of bare being …generic ontological permanence ?

    “Being” is a term that, as I am sure you know, has a quite rich history. For Hegel, I suppose you could think of being as the “bare” minimal consciousness of immediacy, the awareness of here now, stark and quite undifferentiated in its origin (arche’). For Aristotle, Being is a dunamis, a manifold (hens) dynamic of one (as in Parmenides) and many, simultaneously matter and form (eidos, idea) governed by change (metabole), an emergence that sustains itself in presence as a shape (boundary form). Likewise, Levinas is trying to think towards a first philosophy. However, in his view, Being is not given, originates (arche’) from presence as in the bare present moment or the physics (phusis) of temporality as in Aristotle (and Heidegger) – the history of light…but in the absence of an absolute other that can never come to presence. This is the evocative given in the face of the other. If the history of being, ontology, is given in terms of light, Levinas thinks, it is bound to end in totality, violence and a kind of psychotic narcissism that seeks to dominate and destroy the other. I would also add with regard to your question, that as Heidegger reminds us we all know what we mean by Being, is and its verbs, the copula that we constantly assume in everyday speech (and awareness by extension) and yet when we think about peeling back the onion skins of what “it” is we find a conundrum at its center and, I might add, quite a rich history. As you ask, “To be what” is a question that asks after a thing, a noun OR a state. Both notions are encompassed by the thought of being but each of the philosophers I have mentioned has worked out their own quite rich ideas of what being ‘is’. In my opinion, Levinas has gone a step further by basing his ideas on what being isn’t, perhaps the NOT of Hegel with a face and fundamentally rooted being in the other, not the generic other but the he or she that always escapes our narcissistic projections – this, he calls Ethics.

    (2) . What specifically was what we call an individuated person : prior to it coming to the point / moment, where it is said ‘ to be ‘ .?

    Ha, this sounds like a Koan to me! I suppose my thinking would be along the line that an individuated person is NOT prior to his or her being. To think of a person as being before or after they are, emerge or come to the point; the moment of being is perhaps in Heidegger’s notion to think towards nothingness. It is interesting to wonder at how Being can even conceive of the notion of nothingness. Being, nothingness, infinity (as Descartes reminds us) are commonplace notions that have some kind of specificity for us and yet when we try to pin that specificity down we find that their meaning overflows their everyday usage. This, then is the start of philosophy…perhaps a useless enterprise as many think but for me, philosophy captures the quintessential of wonder and beauty. Wonder and beauty cannot be reduced to a history of light but remain in the absence of light and can only be refused admittance by making it the ‘same’ as light – identity (tautology of A=A).

  9. Administrator


    Mark ,
    You posted the following question :Instead of freedom, why not evocation?
    Please elaborate on what is meant by that question …

    Sure, sorry for the illusive brevity. Immanuel Levinas speaks of the Evocative in his works “Totality and Infinity” and “Otherwise than Being”. In the Hegelian notion of freedom we are confronted with absolute nothingness and the retreat, known as being, in Freedom. In my view, what we are left with is, at least initially, an insular monad, a hermetic immediacy. For Levinas, the “phusis of being” (to be bracketed for now) is the anarchistic radical alterity of the face of the other that breaks up our narcissistic totalities. Thus, the evocation of the other calls us to “be” (in the totalizing notion of ontology) not the absolute freedom which flees from immediacy into mediation. From the beginning of Hegel’s ontology, totality results..from Levinas, what was aimed at in the notion of Metaphysics.

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