The gift of death or the face of the other… (Updated 11/5/10)

11/5/10 – Addition of paragraphs 3 and 4


Jemeinigkeit, Heidegger’s notion of being-toward-death, is Dasein’s (the ‘there’ of human being) utmost possibility.  The possibility of the impossible is Dasein’s own most.  It cannot be outstripped.  It holds open the possibility of Dasein’s authenticity.  Death is not a he or a she.  Death is mine but it cannot be understood or apprehended.  No light can penetrate my death.  Death cannot be seen.  It cannot be taken hold of.  It even resists the notion of ‘is’.  Death ‘is’ but its final tragic comedy is the erasure of my ‘is’.  As such, death is alien.  It erases my ‘is’ while it writes my ‘is’.  Death is ‘it’.  It is a referent that does not point to another referent but ends, as in the Greek notion of telos, culminates, and gives referential meaning by point backward in the genesis of me as arche and telos, alpha and omega, the circle that has no outside.  Death is singularity; singularity that gives birth to me.  In death the neuter, the ‘it’ that begins and ends in ‘itself’, is identity.  It ‘is’ it…It ‘is not’ it and thus, contradicts itself in tautology…this is the absolute impossibility that nonetheless is possible.  All the notions of linguistics, the laws of physics, betray each other in singularity.  Death is the unmoved mover, the impenetrable ground of being and thus, the history of light.

The history of being is not tangled in the scaffolding of logic, of logos.  It is a retreat from an absolute not, the absolute negation of Being…In the beginning, before God and mortals, there was nothing…the nothing that is my most intimate moment, kairos, the supreme moment of moments from which all in-between moments flow.  The conundrum – this moment is death; it is nothing.  The nothing of death is not some abstract notion of nothing but sunyata, aperion, the fertile void.  It gives life from death, makes possible from impossible.  As the absolute ‘not’ of Being, as thrown from nothing, suspended from the void, there ‘is’ (the there-is) antithesis.  Antithesis is the history of Being, the tragic comedy of light…the logic.  Dasein is the aufhebung, the sublation, the synthesis of thesis – death and antithesis – Being.  The absolute, irrevocable ‘not’, death, reverses the Hegelian direction from thesis to ‘not’ to lifting up to light.

Death is the absolute ‘not’ of me.  It is the end of my freedom.   Death negates me.  Yet, death as the utmost possibility of Dasein that grounds Dasein and is the thrown nullity of Dasein is the antithesis that has become the thesis.  The ‘not’ as the referent that ‘is’ the telos and arche is absolute.  It is not preceded by Being and freedom.  This would be a lapse into the transcendental metaphysics of Hegel’s Logic.  Freedom is made possible by jemeinigkeit, by Dasein’s thrown nullity.  Only a being-towards-death has the possibility for freedom.  The awareness of death makes everydayness inauthentic.  Without jemeinigkeit circumspection would not be rooted in sorge, Care, the temporalizing ecstasies of Dasein.  Such a being would simply be immersed in the necessities of biological life until that being was no more.  The history of light would not be possible for such a being.  A being as this could only be thought in terms of ‘subject to the laws of physics’ from the circumspection of dasein.  Logic as the logos of Plato could only be ‘thought’ to exist from the type of being that is Dasein.  To suggest that the Forms exist or precede existence in a Kantian, categorical fashion for a being without jemeinigkeit is to take the step back into metaphysics.

The reversal of Hegel’s trifecta comes from the contradiction that is tautology, the nonsense of singularity, the moment of death that makes all other moments possible for dasein.  The thesis as the absolute ‘not’ of death and the antithesis as Being are lifted up as dasein.  The thesis is the antithesis and the antithesis is the thesis.  The normalized characteristics of each are reversed. For Hegel the reversibility of thesis and antithesis maintains and preserves the positive and the negation as thesis and antithesis but does allow either to give rise to, have absolute dependence on, the other.  The ‘not master’ is the slave and the ‘not slave’ is the master.  Each negation already asserts what is negated.   However, the formal placeholder of A -> not A = A AND not A is always maintained.  The negation will always assume and posit what is to be negated.  In the reversal A ‘is’ not A and not A ‘is’ A.  The negation, death, does not posit an apriori, a concurrent, contemporaneous Being.  To think death as the telos and arche of dasein that ‘is’ is a conundrum.  Death is not an ‘is’.  When death ‘is’ I am no more.  Death is the absolute denial of ‘is’.  The result of this reversal is the absolute rupture of dasein.  It is the inability to ever be pure Spirit.  It is what will never allow the system to be complete.  It is the trace of the erasure that cannot be summed up or canonized.  It is the narrative that must always essentially have counter narratives.  The tangle of rhizome can never be straightened out and done away with.  The will can never rise above the other as self-determination and self-limiting.  This term of Error refuses, withdraws and conceals and forever denies absolute rest to absolute Spirit.  An other step into this quagmire is posed by Levinas.

Levinas notes the neutrality of death and the evocative of the face of the other and asks, in effect, why neutrality?  Why ‘it’?  Why give precedence, priority, the proper to the unmask-able circle of nothing and light.  Why prefer the repression of the mysterium tremendum, the dreadful night of the soul, the ‘it’ that cannot die but must to the radical alterity of the face of the other?  Why face the totality of eternal light from the abyss of death when the other faces us; the other that is not ‘it’, that does not stand in our logic and fall with our presence?  What choice has history made for us?  What violence are we willing to promulgate to cling to our light?  As Nietzsche wrote of the waning freeze of the heroic Greek in logos, logic so light and ‘its’ logic freeze our dying cry of desperation.  All the while the other stands before us as mother, father, friend, enemy.  The other not as the hermetic seal of logic and neutrality but ‘its’ interruption.  The other is the small still voice, the call that is not of my origin nor of my history but is not alien either.  The caress that cajoles, evokes and washes over me from a time that is not my time.  What if Levinas is correct?  What if jemeinigkeit is the mould of the face of the other, the plastic cast that freezes our infantile narcissism while its cracks beckon us towards the face of the other?

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