Unreal Nature

February 26, 2017

Incapable of Being Contained

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:08 am

… there is always something essential in me that I can set over against that world, namely, my inner self-activity, my subjectivity, which confronts the outside world as object, and which is incapable of being contained in it.

Continuing through the essay ‘Author and Hero in Aesthetic Activity’ in Art and Answerability: Early Philosophical Essays by M.M. Bakhtin edited by Michael Holquist and Vadim Liapunov (1990):

… The other is given to me entirely enclosed in a world that is external to me; he is given to me as a constituent in it that is totally delimited on all sides in space. Moreover, at each given moment, I experience distinctly all of his boundaries, encompass all of him visually and can encompass all of him tangibly.

[line break added] I see the line that delineates his head against the background of the outside world and see all of the lines that delimit his body in the outside world. The other, all of him, is laid out before me in the exhaustive completeness as a thing among other things in the world external to me, without exceeding in any way the bounds of that world, and without in any way violating its visible, tangible plastic-pictorial unity.

There can be no doubt that the entire stock of my perceptual experience will never be able to provide me with the same kind of seeing of my own total outer delimitedness. Not only actual perception, but even mental representations are incapable of constituting the kind of horizon within which all of me would be included, without any remainder, as a totally delimited being.

… The point here is not the epistemological subject-object correlation, the point is the living correlation of me — the one-and-only subiectum, and the rest of the world as an object not only of my cognition and my outer senses, but also of my volition and feeling. The other human being exists for me entirely in the object and his I is only an object for me. I can remember myself, I can to some extent perceive myself through my outer sense, and thus render myself in part an object of my desiring and feeling — that is, I can make myself an object for myself.

[line break added] But in this act of self-objectification I shall never coincide with myself — I-for-myself shall continue to be the act of this self-objectification, and not in its product, that is, in the act of seeing, feeling, thinking, and not in the object seen or felt. I am incapable of fitting all of myself into an object, for I exceed any object as the active subiectum of it.

We are not concerned here with the cognitive aspect of this state of affairs (which constitutes the foundation of idealism). Our concern is rather with the concrete lived experience of our subjectivity and the impossibility of its — of our — being exhaustively present in an object, in contrast to the object-status of any other human being.

… Solipsism, which places the entire world within my consciousness, may be intuitively convincing, or at any rate understandable. But it would be intuitively quite incomprehensible to place the entire world (including myself) in the consciousness of another human being who is so manifestly himself a mere particle of the macrocosm.

… Everything inward that I know and in part co-experience in him I put into the outward image of the other as into a vessel which contains his I, his will, his cognition. For me, the other is gathered and fitted as a whole into his outward image. My own consciousness, on the other hand, I experience as encompassing the world, as embracing it, rather than as fitted into it … .

… Our concern here is only concrete lived experience, its purely aesthetic convincingness.

… What follows from all this is that only the other human being is experienced by me as connatural with the outside world and thus can be woven into that world and rendered concordant with it in an aesthetically convincing manner. Man-as-nature is experienced in an intuitively convincing manner only in the other, not in myself. I am not — for myself — entirely connatural with the outside world, for there is always something essential in me that I can set over against that world, namely, my inner self-activity, my subjectivity, which confronts the outside world as object, and which is incapable of being contained in it.

… I am not contained altogether in any external state of affairs — none of them includes all of myself exhaustively; for myself, I am located on the tangent, as it were, to any given state of affairs. Everything in myself that is spatially given gravitates toward my own non-spatial inner center, whereas everything that is ideal in the other gravitates toward his givenness in space.

… it is only the other who can be embraced, clasped all around, it is only the other’s boundaries that can all be touched and felt lovingly. The other’s fragile finiteness, consummatedness, his here-and-now being — all are inwardly grasped by me and shaped, as it were, by my embrace; in this act, the other’s outward existence begins to live in a new manner, acquires some sort of new meaning, is born on a new plane of being. Only the other’s lips can be touched with our own, only on the other can we lay our hands, rise actively above the other and “overshadow” all of him totally, “overshadow” him in every constituent feature of his existence, “overshadow” his body and within his body — his soul.

I am incapable of experiencing any of these actions in relation to myself. Not just because of the physical impossibility of doing so, but, rather, because of the emotional-volitional untruth involved in turning these acts upon myself.

My most recent previous post from Bakhtin’s book is here.

-Julie

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