Thursday, January 19, 2012

“We then imperceptibly enter another logic, another culture.”

About a year ago when I was preparing to teach my January intersession course, which is a semester's worth of graduate work condensed into two weeks,  I took up the hospitality piece by Derrida.  (I was reading Derrida and others at Saints Café in State College, Pennsylvania, when I took the photo that I use in the banner for this blog.)  It seemed to work well in the redesign of the course I was teaching, which I decided should focus on ‘thinking difference.’   I'd been working may way towards this focus through  some writing I’d done on Arendt and Heidegger, as well as reading and teaching Irigaray.   It was Irigaray who inspired me to take seriously the possibility that it might be possible and necessary to ‘invent a new logic,’ as she puts it, that would be hospitable to human plurality.   In the past year I've been trying to understand what this ‘logic’ might be, and how we might ‘invent’ it.   The students who have been working with me on that question have done well to imagine that this new ‘logic’ is grounded, first, in a cura sui, a care for self, which, as Foucault has documented in detail, has a tradition that stretches back in Western philosophy to the beginning with Socrates.   In some sense, the tradition of philosophy is the tradition of cura sui.   Irigaray talks about ‘dwelling,’ and here she is borrowing from Heidegger, it seems, in emphasizing a kind of meditative or contemplative openness to others and that allows them ‘to be’ beyond our projections and categorizations.   With such dwelling, the self is also, in a sense, ‘protected’ insofar it remains ‘apart.’  In writing this I’m reminded of the essay my daughter, who is a sophomore in HS, wrote last night  on Emerson.   In reading her piece, which we were mutually proud of because it flowed so well and appeared without any of the typical writer’s angst,  I couldn’t help but see a connection between Emerson's vision of the ‘self’ and Irigaray's .   And both seemed to be channeling the Stoics, and as I read Emerson’s words I was struck at how similar they seemed to Marcus Aurelius, whose meditations were part of last fall’s curriculum in Honors College.  

So what of this ‘new’ logic, and how can we go about inventing it when so much of what we are ‘thinking,’ or at least envisioning, perceiving, imagining, appears to be linked so clearly to the past?   Of course, this question is mostly rhetorical, because it’s a set up for musings on the project of originary philosophy, which will be taken up with some focus tomorrow, when the Radical Rhilosophy of Education Recherché Group reconvenes tomorrow at Teachers College.   It seems as if the two months since we’ve last met correspond to a drop in my focus on the project which was building momentum in the fall.   The energy I was devoting to the originary philosophy project culminated in the second half of a review essay I completed in late December, which I'd like to post on this blog, but I haven't yet figured out how to do that.  Another piece I wrote last fall for a conference was the turning point in the push to ‘realize’ (make real) the experiment of inventing a new ‘logic,’ which I’m now speculating has to be mediated by alternative forms of composition, or writing that extends beyond the confines of conventional academic styles.  

‘Form follows function’ is the maxim of modern architecture and industrial design, and so it seems to be the case for any attempt to build something new.   What ‘function’ (“an activity or purpose natural to or intended for a person,” Apple Dictionary) does philosophical writing take when tasked with inventing a new ‘logic’?   “The problem for us, as Westerners,” Irigaray writes, “is that it is no longer a question of mastery, but one in which we have now to let be done as well as to do, to let be as well as to be.  We then imperceptibly enter another logic, another culture.”

I started by recalling the time when I was studying Derrida’s lecture on hospitality, as I intended to share how it was that, when returning to Prof. Schurmann's book on Heidegger, I had a moment where everything was leading back to one of the main character’s in Plato’s Sophist, namely, the xenos, the stranger, whose words I first encountered in Derrida, and then, through Schurmann, in Heidegger, for whom the words of this character represent the motto for his most important work.  At the time, a month or so after sitting in Saints Cafe, I tried to write something in response to that epiphanic wave that hit me, and I'll share that too, because it shows where I started to wonder about how moving forward and out, or entering another logic, another culture, may require moving back, first.    

To be continued….(indeed, as I wrote in my entry after writing this post: "I intended to respond to something I read the other night in Heidegger's “Plato's Sophist”.   I didn't quite get to the quotation, but that's ok, because blogging is going to be an intermediary writing space for me.  The blog is a place where I share works in process: musings, drafts, streams of consciousness, which I want to share in its unedited form.  It seems that building up the strength to write and submit pieces that are ‘unconventional’ requires that I put my thoughts on the matter out into the public domain." 1.19.12 diary entry, The Daily Writing Club, Post Structural Theory online group

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