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The Rigor of a Certain Inhumanity: Toward a Wider Suffrage

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Focusing on the idea of universal suffrage, John Llewelyn accepts the challenge of Derrida's later thought to renew his focus on the ethical, political, and religious dimensions of what makes us uniquely human. Llewelyn builds this concern on issues of representation, language, meaning, and logic with reflections on the phenomenological figures who informed Derrida's concept of deconstruction. By entering into dialogue with these philosophical traditions, Llewelyn demonstrates the range and depth of his own original thinking. The Rigor of a Certain Inhumanity is a rich and passionate, playful and perceptive work of philosophical analysis.

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1 Ideologies

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Order may be conferred upon the following unchronologically arranged reminders of the history of thinking about linguistic representation if they are prefaced by the reminder that the word Gegenstand, so frequently used by Wittgenstein in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, and that word’s Latinate predecessor “object” bring with them the notion of something that is over against or cast in front and so stands in the way. A further complexity arises for us today from the fact that when the Scholastics, followed by Descartes and others, speak of the objective reality of an idea as distinct from its formal reality, objective means throwing before, projective. He says in the Preface added after the first edition of the Meditations that the formal reality of an idea is the idea as a psychological entity or operation “taken materially,” meaning by this taken in abstraction from what the Scholastics, followed by Brentano and Husserl, call its intentionality. In a reply to Caterus, Descartes cites from himself a statement that anticipates a point upon which Husserl will insist and upon the interpretation of which will turn what one thinks about representation in language: “The idea is the thing itself conceived or thought in so far as it is objectively in the understanding.” The star as observed by the astronomer through the “objective” lens of his telescope is not in his mind or in his eye or in his mind’s eye in the manner in which it is in the sky. Only with respect to its formal (or “material”) reality is the idea in the mind in the way that the star is in the sky. And as soon as our topic changes from that of the objective to the formal reality of the idea there results a compensating change in the idea of the mind that it occupies. The mind and its contents now become the topic of scientific study as when the astronomer’s own experience of seeing the star gives way to a third-personal treatment of that experience as a case to be investigated by the science of optics.

 

2 Worldviews

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Presented by Wittgenstein in the Philosophical Investigations is the idea that nominal, referential, and predicative representation presupposes a non-representational purpose or point (Witz).1 Can the same be said of the closely related if not identical idea defended by Heidegger in Being and Time according to which the apophantic “as” of assertion or “judgment,” for example the assertion “This hammer is too heavy,” is a graft upon a hermeneutic “as,” for example the experience of this hammer as too heavy expressed not by putting this finding into words but just by putting the hammer down and picking up one that is less heavy? Heidegger does claim to be giving an analysis of Dasein or human being as such, though he stresses that the starting point of that existenzial analysis is the concrete existenziell situation of inquiry in which he and his presumed reader are involved, the circumstance of philosophical questioning to which an ancient tradition says wonder gives rise. Wittgenstein describes imagined conceptual schemes in order to show that ones different from those with which we are familiar would be intelligible if certain very general facts of nature were imagined different (PI 230). Indeed, would not imagining the latter natural differences already be imagining the former conceptual ones? Such imaginings are designed to lead us away from a philosophical conception that attributes a piston-rod rigidity to conceptual necessity. Apparently absolute freestanding necessity is conditioned by historically relative circumstances. This holds for the necessity of Wittgenstein’s own assumption that the so-called purely logical connections have their roots in social practices. So-called “pure” logic is always already “applied.” Pure logic is unemployed logic, so that the famed vacuity of the formal relations that mathematical logic represents in its truth-tables is the vacation of language, language on holiday (PI 38). Logical meaning or emptiness of meaning, it could be said, is the offspring of rhetorical use. What that use is can be shown only by describing actual or imaginary cases, as Wittgenstein does in his later writings. So what I have just called an assumption is not an assumption at all, for it is supported by the album of cases which those late writings construct. To expect him, independently of the cases within which we know our way about, to speculate whether it is parochial to say that representation lives on what is unrepresentable, is to expect him to join ranks with the philosophers whose errings he puts down to their desire to philosophize in a vacuum. The remarks on the alleged crystalline purity and hardness—“rigor”—of the logical “must” made in the Philosophical Investigations are paralleled in Being and Time by criticism of the notion of universal validity (Geltung) and bindingness revived by Lotze (SZ 155) but going back at least to the Organon of Aristotle in which logos came into the philosophical ken of the Greeks primarily as assertion, and assertion is regarded as the primary locus of truth. It is important to observe that this is a statement about philosophy. Otherwise one will find it puzzling that Heidegger, especially in his work after Being and Time, can explore the Greek thinking of logos, for example the poetic thinking of logos in Heraclitus, for clues as to how today there could be a beginning of a kind of thinking other than that for which Aristotelian logic and its modern successors provide the norms.

 

3 The Experience of Language

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How close does the experience of language let reading get? How close is close reading? Taking close reading as its point of departure, this chapter will then widen its focus in order to consider the experience of language with some reference to art, interpretation, and what we are now accustomed to calling archi-writing. This last will also be called telescripture, written in the lower case, so that through its first and second syllables, derived not from “telos,” end, but from “tēle,” distant, far, and through the allusion to uppercase (Holy) Scripture which its third and fourth syllables make, we do not underestimate the theological and religious depths and heights to which its forces reach.

What are the principles of close reading? Principles are practical or methodological and theoretical or logical. The principles of close reading are either rules for doing close reading or the conditions of the possibility of close reading. If the methodological rules are going to be good guides for conducting close reading, our formulation of those rules had better be guided by our knowledge of the logical foundations. But do close reading and interpretation more generally have any logical foundations?

 

4 Phenomenology as Rigorous Science

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As a student of mathematics at Berlin, Husserl became acquainted with Karl Weierstrass and his project for founding mathematical analysis on the concept of number. Not without finding Weierstrass guilty of a certain naïve empiricism, Husserl himself aimed to further this program in the dissertation On the Concept of Number (1887) which he went on to compose at Halle under the direction of Carl Stumpf, a former student of Brentano, and which became integrated into his Philosophy of Arithmetic (1891).1 In these works Husserl demonstrates that numbers belong to a continuum that presupposes a mental act of collecting. It is not surprising that Frege criticized the Philosophy of Arithmetic for its psychologism. Without fully accepting Frege’s criticism, Husserl henceforth stressed the objectivity of the fundamental concepts of mathematics and logic. The mental act of collecting, for example, was not a subjective operation; it was conducted according to “rigorous laws,” as will be what Husserl will call his “philosophy as rigorous science.” This philosophical science will steer a course between the naïve empiricism he finds in Weierstrass, the naïve Platonism he finds in Bernard Bolzano’s Theory of Science, and the naïve psychologism he finds in Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint and other works of Franz Brentano whose classes he had attended at the University of Vienna.

 

5 Pure Grammar

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What is the idea of pure grammar to which the title of Husserl’s fourth Investigation refers? What is the idea of a grammar of pure logic to which §14 of that Investigation refers? What is the logic of this grammar? What is the grammar of this logic? And what is the philosophical significance of his idea of pure logical grammar? I shall begin to try to answer these questions by way of the answer Husserl himself gives from a historical point of view to the last of them, explaining what part he sees this answer contributing to philosophy. I shall focus upon the development of logic.

The Development of Logic is the title of a large book by William and Martha Kneale in which one will search in vain through its 750 pages for a mention of Husserl, in spite of the fact that, like W. R. Boyce Gibson, the translator of Husserl’s Ideas, and Emmanuel Levinas, the translator of part of Husserl’s Cartesian Meditations, William Kneale attended some of the lectures Husserl gave at Freiburg in the Summer Semester of 1928. That was a year before Husserl’s Formal and Transcendental Logic was published and a year before Husserl travelled to Paris to give the Paris Lectures on which the Cartesian Meditations were to be based. In April of 1928 Husserl gave a lecture in Amsterdam where he met the intuitionist mathematician L. E. J. Brouwer. In the preceding month Brouwer had travelled from Amsterdam to Vienna to give the lecture on “Mathematics, Science, and Language.” This lecture was heard by Wittgenstein and was the occasion of a switching of his attention from questions architectural back to questions philosophical and logico-mathematical, now in a style in some respects sympathetic with Brouwer’s but antipathetic to that of Bertrand Russell and Frank Ramsey, who referred to Brouwer as “the Bolshevik menace.”1 Under that description Ramsey included too Hermann Weyl. Husserl had been chairman of the board of examiners for Weyl’s doctoral dissertation at Göttingen in February 1908. I do not know whether after his visit to Vienna in February 1928 Brouwer was back in Amsterdam to hear Husserl deliver two lectures there the following month. Nor have I come across any explicit reference by Husserl to Wittgenstein. However, Wittgenstein refers to Husserl, and Husserl had read some Russell at least by 1936.

 

6 Meanings and Translations

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In Speech and Phenomena one reads that “Bedeutung is reserved [by Husserl] for the content in the ideal sense of verbal expression, spoken language. . . .”1 This may not mean, as it is taken to mean by J. Claude Evans in Strategies, that “Bedeutung is used to characterize speech” by Husserl as opposed to characterizing something else.2 What it says is that “Bedeutung” is used to characterize the content in the ideal sense of verbal expression, whereas “Sinn” is not limited to that.

Further, the statement in Speech and Phenomena that “for Husserl, the expressiveness of expression—which always supposes the ideality of a Bedeutung—has an irreducible tie to the possibility of spoken language (Rede)”3 is compatible with the statement in Strategies that Husserl does not “reserve the power of expression . . . for spoken language.” Assuming that the phrase “for Husserl” in the sentence from Speech and Phenomena signals that Derrida is here stating Husserl’s express intentions and not what Husserl is committed to perhaps against his will, the expressiveness of expression could have an irreducible tie to the possibility of spoken language without the power of expression being reserved for spoken language. The expressiveness of written expression could have for Husserl an irreducible tie to the possibility of spoken language.

 

Re-introduction

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So far we have been considering chiefly the case where representation is semantic. But consider now more closely the case where representation is, for instance, ethical. Consider first such a case on analogy with legal representation. Advocates represent their clients at the bar by making representations on their behalf. To make a representation in this context is to make or defend a claim. Further, it can be to make (or defend) a claim that a client has a claim. And the latter claim can be one that is founded in the claimant on behalf of whom the advocate pleads. Or on behalf of which the advocate pleads. For claims can be judged to be possessed by claimants not capable of the kind of intentional behavior manifested by their putting a claim on their own behalf into words. Their claim may need to be voiced by proxy advocates. These will usually conduct their case by appealing to matters of fact and of law. Usually too, so will lay persons making ethical judgments, though our appeals to moral principles will be motivated ethically only when such appeals to the general or universal are inspired by respect for the individuals concerned in their singularity.

 

7 Approaches to Quasi-theology via Appresentation

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The strictness of a conception may be measured in two ways. A conception will be more strict than another if it requires the fulfilment of a larger number of possible criteria than the other. Alternatively, it may be more strict than another if it insists on the fulfilment of a particular criterion that for the other conception is one of an optional set. That is to say, one may measure strictness either according to the standard of the number of conditions deemed necessary or according to the degree of necessity that is deemed to attach to a particular condition. So a conception that is more strict and more demanding than another according to one of these ways of measuring strictness may not be more strict according to the other way of measuring it.

Emphasized in the methodology of “the phenomenological turn” made by Husserl are (1) intuition or evidence as invoked in “the principle of all principles,” (2) intentionality, (3) description of the as such, (4) bracketing off by reduction of matters of empirical or metaphysical fact and existence, (5) the horizonality of consciousness. That at least some of these factors overlap others among them becomes plain once we consider Husserl’s assertion in the Crisis that “in all cases the world is pregiven and, within this horizon, objects are given. . . . The pregiven world is the horizon which includes all our goals, all our ends, whether fleeting or lasting, in a flowing but constant manner, just as an intentional horizon-consciousness implicitly ‘encompasses’ (‘umfasst’) [everything] in advance.”1 Here Husserl is purporting to describe the world experienced in our natural straightforward attitude to it. The “flowing but constant manner” in which the world is lived under that aspect is something that becomes explicit when we make the phenomenological turn in order to describe the horizon of the pregiven in its howness. In this changed perspective “nothing shall interest us but precisely that subjective alteration of manners of givenness, of manners of appearing and of the modes of validity in them, which in its constant process, synthetically connected as it necessarily flows on, brings about the coherent consciousness of the straightforward ‘being’ of the world.”2 Pregiven in this synthetic connectedness is not only the pregivenness of the retained past, but the simultaneous protentiveness of the future. It is a law of essential being, Husserl tells readers of §82 of Ideas, “that every present moment of experience has about it a fringe of experiences, which also share the primordial now-form, and as such constitute the one primordial horizon [Originaritätshorizont] of the pure Ego, its total primordial now-consciousness.”3

 

8 Who Is My Neighbor?

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Who is my neighbor? The discussion of this question throughout the ages has ranged from asking whether my neighbor is the Jew and the friend, through asking whether my neighbor is any and every other human being including the stranger and my enemy, to asking whether he or she is God. Is it conceivable that my neighbor might be a nonhuman animal? Would this be conceivable to Levinas? If it is claimed that Levinasian “metaphysical” ethics as ethics of human beings beyond their being (phusis) can meet a shortcoming in the ethics of utilitarianism at least as this is understood by John Stuart Mill, it must not do so at the cost of ignoring the fact that utilitarianism requires that in determining the morality of an action, rule, practice, or institution consideration must be given to the welfare of any and every sentient being. Of what classical utilitarians have said on this matter nothing is more eloquent than the words in which Jeremy Bentham declares his hope that:

 

9 Who or What or Whot

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Kierkegaard’s statement “The metaphysical, the ontological, is [er], but it does not exist [er ikke til]” draws the line that separates him from Hegel and both of them from Levinas.1 His Danish does this distinctly. On the one hand, the preposition “til,” “to,” indicates a relation between subjectivity and otherness that, Kierkegaard maintains, cannot be subsumed within the sphere of being or essence. On the other hand, while agreeing with Kierkegaard’s denial, Levinas argues against Kierkegaard (and Heidegger) that the ec-static, ex-sistent to-ness and toward-ness of the relation indicated by Kierkegaard’s preposition presupposes an inward-ness without which there can be no relations. This in-wardness is not the inwardness of subjectivity as Kierkegaard describes it. It stems not from the singular individual’s decision and free will, but from finding itself subjected to and responding to another’s command. Before investigating this difference more closely, let us review briefly the Hegelian conception they agree in rejecting.

 

10 Ecosophy, Sophophily, and Philotheria

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Once upon a time I took part in a trek along a network of valleys to the base camp of the 1970 British expedition to the south summit of Annapurna in the Himalayas. Although our final destination was merely the edge of the Hiunchuli glacier, our sirdar Yong Tenzing acceded to my request that I might proceed on my own to a cairn a little higher up. On top of the cairn was a Norwegian 10-øre coin. Had this been placed there, I mused, by the philosopher and mountaineer Arne Naess with some of whose writings I was familiar? If not, had it been put there by his namesake and nephew, the Arne Naess who has sponsored Himalayan climbs, supporting them financially to the tune of rather more than 10 øre?

In his Ecology, Community, and Lifestyle: Outline of an Ecosophy, Arne Naess senior describes how each thing belongs to a whole and to a plurality of subwholes according to an indefinite range of possible Gestalten in which it may appear as a figure or ground.1 That belonging is not the belonging only of an instance that falls under a concept. Belonging as the belonging of an instance that falls under a concept, the belonging in terms of which rights and justice are defined, itself falls within a notion of justice as concordance that is closer to the idea of justice as expounded in Plato’s Republic and to Anaximander’s notion of dikē as expounded in Heidegger’s “The Anaximander Fragment”2 than it is to the Enlightenment and Kantian idea of justice and injustice determined as cases or maxims falling under or falling foul of a natural or moral law by which they are taken to be covered. However, in the Critical system of Kant this hierarchical idea of justice falls under the regulative Idea of orderedness in an organic whole that has more in common with the Platonic conception of justice as synergic harmony. Instead of prescribing principles entailing conclusions unidimensionally, this conception of justice as balance within a multidimensional whole offers guidelines. Deductive rigor makes way for persuasion, as in the cosmogony outlined in the Timaeus. Instead of a blueprint we have a recipe, instead of a tracing a map. A recipe leaves room for practical judgment and imagination. It therefore leaves room for their misuse. The difference between use and misuse is a difference of phronēsis, practical understanding in our ways of conducting ourselves in the regional ecologies of the world.

 

11 Barbarism, Humanism, and Democratic Ecology

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In the final sentence of his book The New Ecological Order Luc Ferry writes: “Between barbarism and humanism, it is now up to democratic ecology to decide.”1 He means by this that democratic ecology, as that has been described in his book, must decide between barbarism and humanism, and from what has been said in his book it follows, he maintains, that it is for humanism that democratic ecology must opt. Ecology would not be democratic unless it were an ecology centered on the dēmos. By dēmos he means humankind, the third of the three things mentioned in the subtitle of his book, which is L’arbre, l’animal et l’homme, “the tree, the animal, and man.” From what I shall be saying about this book will follow, I hope, some understanding of how, as Liddell and Scott’s lexicon reports, dēmos could have meant first “a country-district, tract of enclosed or cultivated land.” This is a meaning that is overlapped by what according to the lexicon, as noted in chapter 10, was meant at first by the Greek root of the word “ethics,” namely ēthos, connoting not only “the habits of man,” but “habitat” or, in the plural, “the haunts of animals.” This Greek overlap is carried forward by the Latin overlap that licenses us to interpret humanism in terms of the humane.

 

12 Where to Cut: Boucherie and Delikatessen

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Referring in The Animal That Therefore I Am to The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience, Derrida says that he wishes to recommend the latter book especially because, sharing the author’s concern, he will perhaps proceed a little differently.1 My concern in that book and particularly in chapter 8 of this one is to raise consciousness. It is to raise consciousness, where it seems to me to need raising, to conscience, and to raise conscience, where it seems to me to need raising, to responsibility. By responsibility I mean ethical responsibility in a sense I take to be the sense proposed by Levinas, except that I wish to persuade my reader that such responsibility is a response not only to other human beings. It is called for also, I argue in that book and in chapters of the second part of this one, by beings that, in one common sense of the word, cannot call, beings that, perhaps in Heidegger’s sense of the phrase or in a sense he would like to have given it, do not have the word or are not possessed of or by it: nonhuman sentient beings, even nonsentient beings. My concern is to bring out for those who, like Levinas,2 are in any doubt, that such beings directly concern us ethically. Ils nous regardent. They are our concern ethically and directly, not, say, merely because concern for the welfare of animals is prudent in so far as they may be of benefit to humans, or for the reason given by Aquinas and Kant that an unthinking attitude toward animals is liable to induce an unthinking attitude toward human beings.

 

13 Passover

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Ce sacré pas du repas, this blessèd and blasted pastoverness of the repast, was something that made Derrida and me smile. The occasion was the colloquium “Victor Cousin, the Ideologists, and their Relations with Scottish Philosophy” that took place at the International Study Center of Sèvres in 1982 under the direction of Derrida on the French side, of myself on the Scottish side, and of Pierre Alexandre, who, as then co-director of the Center and formerly director of the French Institute in Scotland, was well placed to coordinate our energies. Professor Henri Gouhier honored us with his presence and his comments. In the course of the weekend participants visited the Victor Cousin Library at the Sorbonne. At the end of the colloquium Derrida invited us to a reception at the École Normale Supérieure. On the final evening several of us, including my colleagues and friends George Davie and Nelly Demé, had dinner together in a restaurant in the rue Descartes. But without Derrida. We had omitted to invite him! Not entirely without good reason. For my part, I had considered that he would surely prefer to get back immediately to his writing. Even so, we should at least have invited him! That is to say, I myself should have, I who was perhaps both not sensitive enough and too sensitive.

 

14 The Rigor of a Certain Inhumanity

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A passing bell sounds in the word “rigor” used in the phrase borrowed from Derrida in the title of this book to perform a double service. On the one hand the title refers to the rigor mortis threatened by the rigidly rigorous pure science of representation that Husserl and the young Wittgenstein both sought as an ideal and feared as an instigator of crisis. On the other hand the title refers to a deepening of crisis, to what may be described as a hyperCritical crisis because it is a crisis provoked by a responsibility, spelled out in the second part of this book, to let the rigor of universalist Kantian humanism and Enlightenment defined as freedom (as considered in chapter 11) be contaminated by a singularity that is other than particularity and predication.

For Husserl, for the young Wittgenstein, and for Kant rigor is the strict purity of the principle or law. What happens, we have asked with Levinas, when this rigor of the law of universalist humanism is crossed by the address of singularist ethical alterhumanism? What happens, we have asked with Derrida, when the rigor of the law of universalist humanism and the rigor of alterhumanism are crossed by the address of singularist ethical inhumanism? Then rigor no longer signifies purity and crystalline essence, but the hardship of the “rough ground” to which Wittgenstein urged readers of his later work to go back and the aporia that must, according to Derrida, be endured.

 

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