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Raw Being and Violent Discourse: Foucault, Merleau-Ponty and the (Dis-)Order of Things

  • Rudi Visker
Part of the Phaenomenologica book series (PHAE, volume 129)

Abstract

Phenomenology has been too pacifying, Deleuze tells us, and he suggests that we leave Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty for what they are and turn to Foucault in order to discover a more profound Heracliticism.1 Genealogy is too much a war-machine, others respond, and they recommend different remedies. There is nothing extraordinary about this situation. We are, in fact, all too familiar with it. We have come across it in different philosophical settings, with different parties engaging one another and with different choices to be made. We all know from our own experience — and lest we forget, there will always be a flourishing para-philosophical literature to remind us — that this “originating” miracle we know as the philosophical tradition has been “breaking up” (cf. VI, 124/VI, 165). And, now as always, the question is not whether we will be able to live with it, but how we will do so, how we will “accompany this break-up, (…) this differentiation” (ibid.). Hence, perhaps, my hesitation and the uneasiness which haunted me at the thought of having to enter in this arena crowded by all those choices that, like the war, “have taken place” (cf. SNS, ch. 10): for or against “the” subject, for or against universality, for or against the origin of truth. Either Foucault or Merleau-Ponty, either discourse or existence — no doubt such apparently clear-cut choices confront us with questions ranging far beyond method. For does not the standard academic response against the kind of pseudo-politicization of philosophy which I have been evoking, suffer from the ills it is supposed to cure? Is there really such a difference between those who bid us to take sides and “merge” with one of the “existing” positions (VI, 127/VI, 169) and those who, in refusing to do so, nestle themselves in the comfortable teichoscopic position from which they can observe the heroes at the foot of the wall (Iliad, 3, 121-244) and report in a completely detached manner on the choices that others found themselves making?

Keywords

Originary Experience Philosophical Tradition Objective World Internal Realism John Wild 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Deleuze, G., Foucault, Paris, Minuit, 1986, p. 120 (“la phénoménologie est trop pacifiante, elle a béni trop de choses”) and passim. Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    The phrase is Hyppolite’s, from his intervention at the famous 1957 Royaumont-colloquium on Husserl, where he coined the expression “a transcendental field without a subject” (un champ transcendantal sans sujet) which, as the preceding quote suggests, seems to have been taken up by Foucault, who was his student and successor at the Collège de France. (See Husserl. (Cahiers de Royaumont. Philosophie N° III). Paris, Minuit, 1959, p. 323).Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    For a lucid account see Russell Keat’s “The Critique of Objective Thought” which is the fifth chapter of the jointly written Understanding Phenomenology (M. Hammond, J. Howarth, R. Keat), Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1991.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    On this shift see my “Michel Foucault”. Genealogie als Kritik, München, Fink, 1991, p. 78 ff.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    On the strategy behind Foucault’s quotation marks, see, apart from the book in note 6, the summary remarks in my “Can genealogy be critical? A somewhat unromantic look at Nietzsche and Foucault”, in Man and World, 1990 (23: 4), pp. 441–52.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    Merleau-Ponty’s view that classical Italian painting “lacked any idea of the subjectivity of the painting” (SO, 518) should perhaps be qualified somewhat in the light of recent research pointing to “an increasingly articulate sense of the artists’ individuality” in the course of the 15th century Italian Renaissance, which was, however, primarily based on differences in skill (e.g. the mixing of colours, the drawing of faces, etc.) and does not yet seem to imply the notion of subjectivity Merleau-Ponty seemed to have had in mind (Baxandall, M., Painting and Experience in Fifteenth Century Italy, Oxford/New York, O.U.P., 1991, p. 20 ff.).Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    Panofsky, E., La perspective comme forme symbolique et autres essais, Paris, Minuit (1975), pp. 63–6. Merleau-Ponty quotes repeatedly from Panofsky’s famous 1924 piece on ‘perspective as symbolic form’ in “Eye and Mind” (see PriP 174–510E, 49–51).Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    For a brief exposition see Putnam, H., Reason, Truth and History, Cambridge, C.U.P., 1981, esp. chapter 3.Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    As can be inferred from Merleau-Ponty’s discussion with Kant throughout PP and in the opening chapter of VI or from Foucault’s explicit disclaimers in AK 126 ff./166 ff. (on ‘conditions of reality’) and in the 1973 interview “An Historian of Culture” (in Foucault Live (Interviews,1966–84), New York, Semiotext(e), 1989): “What I called episteme in The Order of Things has nothing to do with historical categories, that is with those categories created in a particular historical moment” (p. 75).Google Scholar
  10. 12.
    Raw being seen as an ‘inaccessible radical exteriority’ makes Jean Pierre Le Goff, in an otherwise interesting article, interpret Merleau-Ponty’s last writings as an attempt to turn philosophical reflexion into “an intellectual mysticism” (“Le paradoxe du language et l’être brut”, in Actualités de Merleau-Ponty (Les Cahiers de Philosophie 7), pp. 69–84, esp. p. 76 ff.).Google Scholar
  11. 15.
    On this “transition from the mute world to the speaking world” (VI, 154/V/, 202) which was already a major theme in PP, see Taminiaux, J., “Experience, Expression and Form in Merleau-Ponty’s Itinerary”, in Dialectic and Difference: Finitude in Modern Thought, New Jersey, Humanities Press (1985), pp. 133–54 and Thierry, Y., Du corps parlant. Le langage chez Merleau-Ponty, Brussels, Ousia, 1987.Google Scholar
  12. 16.
    Most succinctly in “Form and Meaning: A Note on the Phenomenology of Language”, in Derrida, J., Margins of Philosophy, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press (1982), pp. 155–73.Google Scholar
  13. 17.
    Rainville, M., L‘Expérience et l’expression. Essai sur la pensée de Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Montréal, Editions Bellarmin, 1988, p. 119.Google Scholar
  14. 18.
    Lefort, Cl., ‘Editor’s Foreword’, in VI, p. XXX.Google Scholar
  15. 19.
    Waldenfels, B., “Vérité à faire. Merleau-Ponty’s Question Concerning Truth”, in Philosophy Today (1991), (35: 2), p. 189.Google Scholar
  16. 20.
    Waldenfelds, B., Ordnung im Zwielicht, Frankfurt a.M., Suhrkamp, (1987): “Mit jedem Anspruch, der in der Erfahrung auftritt, tritt etwas auf, das selektive und exklusive Formungen produziert, aber in diesen nicht aufgeht,” (p. 178). Waldenfels’ attempt to generate from this insight a notion of a ‘responsive rationality’ is further documented in some of his essays in the two companion volumes to Ordnung im Zwielicht: In den Netzen der Lebenswelt, Frankfurt a.M., Suhrkamp, 1985 and Der Stachel des Fremden, Frankfurt a.M., Suhrkamp, 1990.Google Scholar
  17. 21.
    As is suggested in Waldenfels, B., “Das Zerspringen des Seins. Ontologische Auslegung der Erfahrung am Leitfaden der Malerei”, in Leibhaftige Vernunft. Spuren von MerleauPontys’ Denken, (ed. A. Métraux and B. Waldenfels), München, Fink (1986), p. 185.Google Scholar
  18. 22.
    A solution which, it should be noted, is explicitely rejected in “Das Zerspringen des Seins”, p. 159.Google Scholar
  19. 27.
    Kundera, M., The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, London, Penguin Books, 1983, p. 61 ff. (‘On Two Kinds of Laughter’).Google Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1993

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  • Rudi Visker

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