Unreal Nature

February 18, 2018

Brought Into Being

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:50 am

… Between us, as it were, I am insulated from falling into ‘non-being,’ from living life as an ’empty possibility’ — from being finalized, ‘determined, predetermined, bygone and finished, that is, essentially not living.’

This is from Mikhail Bakhtin by Alastair Renfrew (2015):

Bakhtin’s subject is a “concrete,’ bodily person, who thinks and acts in the stream of once-occurent events against the background of a constantly changing series of contexts. It is clear from this that he intends a philosophy of human being, thought and action that is inimical to the broad sweep of Western philosophy since Plato preferred ‘eternal truth’ to ‘our transitory and deficient temporal life,’ the ideal life of the mind over the external, ‘real’ world (which was for Plato merely a ‘world of external appearance.’

Bakhtin’s subject does not simply mediate between mind and world, or at least does so in a very particular way: the subject acts, performs a deed, and in so doing makes concrete and gives value to any particular form of knowledge: ‘the knowledge of the content of the object-in-itself becomes a knowledge of it for me.’ Being-as-event, as we have seen, is not accessible from the theoretical transcription of the performed act (its ‘content/sense’), but only from the performed act itself, the ‘historical act of actualization’ of that content/sense — ‘for the act is actually performed in Being.’

[line break added] In the performance of such acts — which can, we must remind ourselves, be acts of thought or speech, as well as physical ‘action — the once-occurent event of being is no longer something that is thought of, but something that is, something that is being actually and inescapably accomplished through me and others.’

The only ‘being’ that has value, that is not a false, abstracted version of lived experience, is literally brought into being — performed — by the subject or ‘bearer’ of that being in his or her interaction with objects and other people in the external world.

This ‘real’ life is therefore not something that passively or automatically just ‘is’: it requires an active commitment, in the absence of which life is lived merely as an ’empty possibility.’ The subject of this real life, who has the ability to give value to knowledge, make it knowledge and understanding ‘for me,’ is not just a consciousness, but an answerable consciousness, who ‘undersigns’ his or her own action in the process of consciously performing it.

… A refusal of this active commitment on the part of an individual subject, what Bakhtin terms an ‘alibi in being,’ living ‘by … passivity alone’ and choosing or affecting to ignore the implications of one’s unique, concrete locatedness in respect of the world verges on being a kind of fiction, a form of non-life, a condition Bakhtin struggles to imagine as an actual possibility: ‘every movement, gesture, lived-experience, thought, feeling’ must be rooted in my acknowledgement of my own participation in being-as-event.

… but what use might a thousand potentially conflicting ‘truths’ be, in everyday life as much as in law or science? This problem is never resolved ‘philosophically’ in Bakhtin, but as we will see generates a number of attempted solutions …

[ … ]

Bakhtin’s other is always the-other-for-me, and it always implies its imbrication in the event of intersubjective contact.

… I am, essentially, an object for the other, albeit a particular kind of object, and my openness-for-myself is maintained and renewed by the openness bestowed upon me by the other, for whom I am ‘a constituent moment of the living ongoing event.’ Between us, as it were, I am insulated from falling into ‘non-being,’ from living life as an ’empty possibility’ — from being finalized, ‘determined, predetermined, bygone and finished, that is, essentially not living.’

-Julie

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