Crossover Queries: Dwelling with Negatives, Embodying Philosophy's Others

Crossover Queries: Dwelling with Negatives, Embodying Philosophy's Others

Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 592
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  • Book Info
    Crossover Queries: Dwelling with Negatives, Embodying Philosophy's Others
    Book Description:

    Exploring the risks, ambiguities, and unstable conceptual worlds of contemporary thought, Crossover Queries brings together the wide-ranging writings, across twenty years, of one of our most important philosophers.Ranging from twentieth-century European philosophy-the thought of Heidegger, Foucault, Derrida, Levinas, Janicaud, and others-to novels and artworks, music and dance, from traditional Jewish thought to Jain andBuddhist metaphysics, Wyschogrod's work opens radically new vistas while remaining mindful that the philosopher stands within and is responsible to a philosophical legacy conditioned by the negative.Rather than point to a Hegelian dialectic of overcoming negation or to a postmetaphysical exhaustion, Wyschogrod treats negative moments as opening novel spaces for thought. She probes both the desire for God and an ethics grounded in the interests of the other person, seeing these as moments both of crossing over and of negation. Alert to the catastrophes that have marked our times, she exposes the underlying logical structures of nihilatory forces that have been exerted to exterminate whole peoples. Analyzing the negationsof biological research and cultural images of mechanized and robotic bodies, she shows how they contest the body as lived in ordinary experience.Crossover Queries brings together important essays on a remarkable range of topics by one of our most insightful cultural critics. Commenting on philosophical and theological issues that have shaped the recent past as well as scientific and technological questions that will preoccupy us in the near future, Wyschogrod consistently alerts us to the urgency of problems whose importance few recognize. To avoid the challenge these essays pose is to avoid responsibility for a future that appears to be increasingly fragile.-Mark C. Taylor, Columbia University

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4764-6
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xxii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    Fixed bridges are firmly anchored structures that enable one to travel from one shore to another, whereas pontoon bridges are temporary connections that facilitate movement across a body of water. Cyberlinks arise anywhere and nowhere to create transitory ties joining images, sound bytes, and fragmentary messages. In the essays that follow, the risks and ambiguities, the unstable concatenations of contemporary thought as manifested in many and varied contexts—in the desire for transcendence and in meanings ascribed to corporeality, in critical dilemmas of ethical existence and in the status of philosophical inquiry itself—will be explored as expressions of negation...

  6. Part I: God:: Desiring the Infinite
    • 1 Intending Transcendence: Desiring God
      (pp. 13-28)

      In what may seem a paradoxical claim, Edmund Husserl maintains that the “rich use of fancy” in art and poetry can contribute significantly to phenomenological philosophy conceived as a rigorous science. Phenomenology “can draw extraordinary profit” from the gifts of these arts, which “in the abundance of detailed features … greatly excel the performances of our own fancy,‭” as Husserl declares (Ideas, 184). In consonance with this claim, it may be useful to turn (briefly) to contemporary Italian artist Francesco Clemente’sInside/Outside, an artwork that mimes the apophatic discourse of negative theology in its attempt to render visually that which...

    • 2 Corporeality and the Glory of the Infinite in the Philosophy of Levinas
      (pp. 29-44)

      In the opening line of Arnold Schoenberg’s operaMoses and Aron, Moses stammers, “Only one, eternal, thou omnipresent one, invisible and inconceivable,” thereby invoking a God who cannot appear, be pictured or mediated through images. The suspicion of theophany echoes a significant strand in Western theological thinking. Yet the lure of theophany, the appearing of God or a god to a human being, persists, as the protest of the Israelites in Schoenberg’s opera attests: “To worship whom? Where is he? I see him not” (MaA, 61).

      How is this conflict to be explicated if, as Levinas holds, God cannot be...

    • 3 Postmodern Saintliness: Ecstasy and Altruism
      (pp. 45-60)

      What must saintliness be if we are to think of it as postmodern? Does the termpostmodernismnot refer to a dizzying array of ever-shifting significations attributable to aesthetic styles and cultural practices? I shall focus upon postmodernism as a revolt against modes of rationality that make foundational claims, that is, as an attack upon what Jean-François Lyotard calls “grand narratives,” by which he means comprehensive epistemological schema, as well as all-encompassing theories of emancipation. In preference to the logics of modernity in their idealist and empiricist expressions, postmodern thinkers embrace what I should like to call an epistemic erotics,...

    • 4 Levinas and Hillel’s Questions
      (pp. 61-75)

      “Philosophy is in crisis,” says the postmodern thinker. “Yet,” she continues, “we are forced to comport ourselves within its ambit, forced to dance its dance, to use its concepts and to unsay them even before they are said.” But what is meant by “philosophy,” and how are we to unsay it if we have at our disposal onlyitsnotions? Can philosophy provide its own critique without lapsing into self-referentiality? Is there an exteriority, an outside of philosophy that speaks otherwise than philosophically, that can call into question philosophy’s hierarchy of constructs? And if there is, what boots it if...

    • 5 Recontextualizing the Ontological Argument: A Lacanian Analysis
      (pp. 76-92)

      I read Lacan. I ask myself: What is this good for? It is good for nothing. If so, can this be proved? I will try. I will not know, you will not know, if I am successful. In Lacanian terms, if I have succeeded, I have failed; if I fail, I have succeeded.Doch, I shall apply Lacanian techniques to one of Western theology’s most frequently and strenuously examined texts, Anselm’s ontological argument. By remapping the proof, I hope, with Lacanian audacity, to bring forth unforeseen significations and a new approach to the psychoanalytic interpretation of religious texts.

      One difficulty...

  7. Part II: Training Bodies:: Pedagogies of Pain
    • 6 Asceticism as Willed Corporeality: Body in Foucault and Heidegger
      (pp. 95-111)

      Heidegger and Foucault can be envisioned as thinkers of emancipatory askeses, disciplines of liberation in which each may be seen as engaged in freeing knowledge and truth from embedding contexts of repressive epistemological constraints and their ancillary ethical implications, a freeing through which a certain release is attained.¹ Techniques in which historical accretions are not merely jettisoned but reenvisioned are deployed by Heidegger to deliver the relation of Being and beings in what he calls a concealing-revealing and by Foucault to uncover the disguises truth wears by bringing to light the strategic power relations that generate the practices of knowledge,...

    • 7 Blind Man Seeing: From Chiasm to Hyperreality
      (pp. 112-124)

      Once in a great while a play opens that should have irresistible appeal to afficionados of Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Such a play isMolly Sweeney, Irish playwright Brian Friel’s extraordinary drama about the crisis in the sensory and affective life of a woman born blind who, through surgery, supplants a world of darkness with one of limited sight. Where does sensory richness lie, the play inquires, in the mingled conformation of sound, feeling, taste, and smell in which language and percept are commingled, or in the ability to experience the world as spectacle? Consider the preliminary account of Molly’s predicament as...

    • 8 The Howl of Oedipus, the Cry of Héloïse: From Asceticism to Postmodern Ethics
      (pp. 125-140)

      Asceticism is a complex of widely varying practices, beliefs, and motives that have appeared in particular historical and cultural contexts. It is, to use the language of art criticism, site-specific. If the historical and phenomenological integrity of asceticism’s many manifestations is to be preserved, it is beyond dispute that ascetic phenomena must be allowed to emerge in discrete material and psychosocial meaning constellations.¹

      Yet, I want to argue, there is also for every psycho-social practice an episteme, a cluster of often invisible ideas, that is both the conceptual backdrop and the enabling mechanism for the emergence of ascetic life in...

    • 9 From the Death of the Word to the Rise of the Image in the Choreography of Merce Cunningham
      (pp. 141-154)

      When one of the key figures in the world of dance, who is generally envisaged as an exemplar of high modernism, Merce Cunningham, appeals to the power of images rather than to a semiology of movements as the basis for his new work, then a shift that must be interrogated has occurred. As Wittgenstein demonstrated to philosophers the kinetic force of language in his apothegm “The meaning is in the use,” so Cunningham showed the world of modern dance that the meaning is in the action or movement. Along with Martha Graham, Paul Taylor, Murray Louis, and later Twyla Tharp,...

  8. Part III: Bodies:: Subject or Code?
    • 10 Empathy and Sympathy as Tactile Encounter
      (pp. 157-172)

      Empathy and sympathy are feeling-acts that open unique modes of access to other persons. While they differ from one another in object and intentional structure, both bring other persons into proximity to the experiencing subject. This “bringing near” suggests that empathy and sympathy are misunderstood if they are interpreted as mental acts whose objects yield their meanings only when they are taken as traversing an intervening space, as originating at a remove from the act of apprehension. Sight and hearing are the paradigmatic senses for grasping objects that are given as coming from elsewhere. Visual objects are apprehended as coming...

    • 11 Levinas’s Other and the Culture of the Copy
      (pp. 173-188)

      When objects of perception or cognition are said to be the same, what is generally meant is that a trait or traits of an object can be found in one or more other objects. A resemblance between or among them is predicated with respect to traits that are repeated despite otherwise diverse attributes. That by virtue of which an object is said to resemble another can be interpreted either as a preexistent form or as an essence inferred from observed qualitative or quantitative properties. Not only may forms or essences be thought to express what is exemplified in objects that...

    • 12 From Neo-Platonism to Souls in Silico: Quests for Immortality
      (pp. 189-204)

      “Sie haben alle müde Münde / Und helle Seelen ohne Saum [they all have weary mouths / pure souls without a seam],” wrote Rilke longingly.¹ Humans in their mortality could not hope to attain the enviable purity of the awe-inspiring and mysterious angelic soul. The yearning for soul has become far more complex in postmodernity, in that “soul” has been rendered moot in modernity’s various accounts of mind-body dualism. In its Cartesian version, mind as the ground of certainty came to occupy the void left by the evacuation of soul. With the demise of the modern subject, famously described as...

  9. Part IV: Nihilation and the Ethics of Alterity
    • 13 The Semantic Spaces of Terror: A Theological Response
      (pp. 207-221)

      It would seem that Terror and violence stand together, inhabiting the same semantic space.¹ The extraordinary ambiguities that attach to the termTerrorrequire multiple approaches, interpretations both deconstructive and additive, which constitute a space whose boundaries are in constant and uneasy flux. Here, I shall successively undertake readings of Heidegger, Levinas, Derrida, Dominique Janicaud, and software developers, the proponents of so-called agile thought. Each will be seen as a critic who both undermines and supports specific positions of the preceding thinker. Thus, my interest is in creating a conversation, a semantic space in which both convergence and dissension constitute...

    • 14 The Warring Logics of Genocide
      (pp. 222-235)

      The very mention of genocide usually elicits a shudder, afrissonof horror, of psychological revulsion and moral outrage. Images of mass annihilation, of the dead and dying that the term evokes are especially troubling, since genocidal killing, now endemic to the world of postmodernity, is envisioned as a slaughter of innocents. It is understood that those earmarked for destruction are selected on the basis of criteria that lie outside the standard rules of conduct in war, even if genocidal events occur in the context of what is designated conventionally as war. Genocidal killing is often justified by its perpetrators...

    • 15 Incursions of Alterity: The Double Bind of Obligation
      (pp. 236-247)

      What, we might ask, could Gregory Bateson’s description of the double bind have to do with the question of evil? I hope to show that the double bind, the claim that no matter what one does one cannot win, not only plays a role in determining the development of schizophrenia, as Bateson maintains, but is intrinsic to the emergence of the moral life.¹ I view the double bind as a prior condition for deciding that a contemplated act is evil and for the sense of obligation that enters into the avoidance or pursuit of ends that are deemed to be...

    • 16 Memory, History, Revelation: Writing the Dead Other
      (pp. 248-262)

      A piece of historical writing is often thought of as a narrative interpreting the times of those who can themselves no longer depict the epoch in which they lived and moved and had their being. The subjects of this story are no longer here to attest to their era’s culture, economy, institutions, politics, and way of life, whether to praise or to excoriate them. The historian is challenged to configure for the living the lives and times of dead others, making inferences from the clues that are trusted by the profession: archives, artifacts, and transmitted traditions. What remains unstated in...

    • 17 Exemplary Individuals: Toward a Phenomenological Ethics
      (pp. 263-280)

      Efforts to develop a phenomenological ethics have until now begun from two altogether different starting points. The first, a tack taken by Max Scheler, Nicolai Hartmann, and others, assumes that values are instantiated in the world and have properties that open them to intuitive grasp. Values are independent in being and accessible to us without being attached to things.¹ The second starts with the embodied existent’s actual encounters with other persons and finds in these transactions an empirical locus for what is prescribed or forbidden in the moral realm. Levinas turns to the experience of the other to develop a...

  10. Part V: Conversations
    • 18 Interview with Emmanuel Levinas
      (pp. 283-297)
      Edith Wyschogrod and Emmanuel Levinas

      Edith Wyschogrod: Is there a turning (Kehre), a change in your work, such that instead of finding moral significations by way of phenomenology, through what is inscribed in the face of the Other, you find it in language? If there is such a change, I would like to know why you now rely on the Logos more than previously.

      Emmanuel Levinas: I am quite surprised that [you assert] there is a change and that there is no longer phenomenology. [In fact] there is not at all an analysis of language. It is a certain manner of speaking, of finding in...

    • 19 Postmodernism and the Desire for God: An E-mail Exchange
      (pp. 298-315)

      John D. Caputo: In just the past year [1998] we have seen two books edited by English theologians—one entitledThe Postmodern God, the otherPost-Secular Philosophy—that have pressed the claim that “postmodern” must be understood to mean or at least to include “postsecular,” that the delimitation of the claims of Enlightenment rationalism must also involve the delimitation of Enlightenment secularism.¹ A critical stance toward modernism goes hand in hand with a critical stance toward secularism. In France, Jacques Derrida’s most recent work has taken a turn toward what he calls “religion without religion,” that is, toward a thinking...

    • 20 Heterological History: A Conversation
      (pp. 316-328)

      InThe Ethics of Remembering, Edith Wyschogrod applies the familiar postmodernist concept of “heterology”—the study of Otherness or “alterity”—to the philosophy of history. The following conversation with Carl Raschke explores the notion of “heterological history,” as Wyschogrod delineates it, in relationship to a variety of contemporary philosophical and theological themes.

      Carl Raschke: InThe Ethics of Remembering, you challenge the post-structuralist (and hence postmodernist) deployment of the “trace” as it pertains to the reading, and the writing, of history. Whereas in such writers as Derrida, Taylor, and even to a certain extent Levinas the trace implies an unrecoverable...

  11. Part VI: The Art in Ethics
    • 21 Between Swooners and Cynics: The Art of Envisioning God
      (pp. 331-344)

      The semiotic possibilities of the Hebrew of Genesis 1:31, “Viyar Elohim et kol asher asa vehinei tov meod [God saw everything that he had made and indeed it was very good],” include cognitive, moral, and aesthetic dimensions. Some traditional interpretations see the text as asserting that the world is well-wrought, that nature’s means, cunningly adapted to its ends, are indications of divine purposiveness, and that obedience to divine ordinances is a manifestation of human goodness. Other accounts focus upon the created order as a vast spectacle that attests nature’s power to arouse awe and rapture, a perspective reflected in the...

    • 22 Facts, Fiction, Ficciones: Truth in the Study of Religion
      (pp. 345-359)

      What is it that we ask for when we ask for truth in the study of religion? Before trying to link the two key terms of this inquiry, truth and religion, let me tell you a story, a tale about truth in which the idea of fact but not yet of religion figures prominently.

      Absent in the narrative I am about to recount is the romance of the story. What must be repressed in the telling is that facts are objects of our desire, of a certainSehnsucht, not because by nature we want to know, as Aristotle maintained, but...

    • 23 Eating the Text, Defiling the Hands: Specters in Arnold Schoenberg’s Opera Moses and Aron
      (pp. 360-374)

      “A masterpiece always moves, by definition, in the manner of a ghost,” its mode of temporalization, its timing, always out of joint, spectrally disorganizing the “cause” that is called the “original,” Derrida tells us (SoM, 18). Can there be an “original” describing an event that has already occurred but that rearises spectrally in the gap between theophany and inscription, the space between the golden calf and the tablets of the law (Exodus 32:19–20), between the idol as a physical artifact and writing? These questions are raised in the context of Arnold Schoenberg’s operaMoses and Aron,¹ a masterpiece that,...

    • 24 Killing the Cat: Sacrifice and Beauty in Genet and Mishima
      (pp. 375-387)

      Genet’s heroes are “as at home in infamy as a fish is in water.”¹ According to Sartre, the effect produced by Genet’s use of crime is not “an ethics of evil” but its metamorphosis into a “black aestheticism.”² For Mishima, descriptions of blood and gore produce a comparable result: “when blood flows existence as a whole receives its first endorsement.”³ The works I consider, Genet’sFuneral Ritesand Mishima’sTemple of the Golden Pavilion, include theoretical accounts of beauty and sacrifice that, despite their speculative nature, produce an aesthetic intoxication nearly comparable to that of the novels’ transgressive events.


    • 25 The Art in Ethics: Aesthetics, Objectivity, and Alterity in the Philosophy of Levinas
      (pp. 388-402)

      Two objections arise repeatedly in connection with Emmanuel Levinas’s philosophy of language. First, it is argued, in the spirit of Jürgen Habermas and K. O. Apel, for whom ethics is grounded in discursive reason, that for Levinas ethics is an unmediated relation to the other and, as such, transcends linguistic and conceptual structure. Ethics is not a matter of moral argument but of solicitation by the other, who by virtue of sheer otherness resists violence. Levinas’s access routes to the other are nonlinguistic: they include the human face, an idea of the infinite that exceeds any description of it, and...

  12. Part VII: Comparing Philosophies
    • 26 The Moral Self: Levinas and Hermann Cohen
      (pp. 405-422)

      The work of Levinas attempts to give an account of the uniqueness of the human person, starting from what he believes to be peculiar to persons, the recognition of others as the source of moral obligation. This criterion had already been proposed in the literature of neo-Kantianism, but the formulation it received there had been found wanting. According to Heidegger, the neo-Kantian sees in the ethical a means for transcending human finitude: “There is something in the categorical imperative which exceeds the finite being.”¹ But for Heidegger the concept of the ethical can display itself only in relation to a...

    • 27 Autochthony and Welcome: Discourses of Exile in Derrida and Levinas
      (pp. 423-431)

      Is hospitality not a solicitation to its addressee, “Viens, all that I have, all that I am, is at your disposal”? Is hospitality, as Levinas writes, “an incessant alienation of the ego … by the guest entrusted to it … being torn from oneself for another in giving to the other the bread from one’s mouth,” a one for the other that fissures the ego, hospitality that does not expect reciprocity and withholds nothing from the guest (OB, 79)? Or is there, as Derrida observes, an ineliminable tension between an unconditional offer to another and the juridical, political, and economic...

    • 28 Time and Nonbeing in Derrida and Quine
      (pp. 432-448)

      Contemporary philosophers may be divided into two classes: those who believe in normative epistemological discourse governed by canons of objectivity and rationality continuous with those of science, and those who think of cognitive discourse as one among many claimants to meaning. Richard Rorty argues that, if there is “no common commensurating ground between them, all we can do is be hermeneutic about the opposition.”¹ In this interpretation, it is futile to try to breach the distinctive discursive modes and ontological claims separating the work of Quine and Derrida. Quine belongs in the systematic cognitive camp, since he thinks the criteria...

    • 29 The Logic of Artifactual Existents: John Dewey and Claude Lévi-Strauss
      (pp. 449-463)

      Scientific thinking as a model for human inquiry has fallen under criticism, often by those who number themselves among its most ardent admirers. In the case of John Dewey, the romance with science comes to an inconclusive end, since he has no quarrel with the explanatory force of scientific concepts or with the power of science as an organon of theoretical constructs that express the underlying regularities of phenomena. Instead, it is the lackluster record of science in addressing the multi-layered world in which we live—one to which Dewey attributes purpose and passion—that leads him to seek a...

    • 30 The Mathematical Model in Plato and Some Surrogates in a Jain Theory of Knowledge
      (pp. 464-473)

      One of the generative questions in Benjamin Nelson’s late work was: What accounts for the breakthrough insights that permit the reduction of all quality to quantity, the proclaiming of a mathematical reality behind the experiential immediacies of experience and the affirmation of a homogeneous time and space throughout the universe, insights that characterize Western science? It is a question that exercise both Nelson and Joseph Needham; both consider it from an intercivilizational perspective. To put the matter in Needham’s terms: “What was it that happened in Renaissance Europe when mathematics and science joined in a combination qualitatively new and destined...

    • 31 Soft Nominalism in Quine and the School of Dignāga
      (pp. 474-487)

      Nominalists argue that everything that is must be particular. D. M. Armstrong contends, “Nominalists deny that there is any objective identity in things which are not identical. Realists, on the other hand, hold that the apparent situation is the real situation. There genuinely is, or can be, something identical. Besides particulars there are universals.”¹ Quine appreciates the difficulties of this position. Because the “quixotic” nominalist “foreswears quantification over universals, for example, classes, altogether,” Quine prefers “conceptualism,” a position that acknowledges that there are universals but holds them to be “manmade.” “Tactically conceptualism is … the strongest position … for the...

    • 32 Fear of Primitives, Primitive Fears: Anthropology in the Philosophies of Heidegger and Levinas
      (pp. 488-504)

      These are the words of Percy Mumbulla, from Ulladulla, an Australian aborigine in a long line of guardians of tribal memory about the arrival of Captain Cook at Snapper Island, as set down by Roland Robinson, a collector of oral traditions:

      Tungeii, that was

      her native name:

      She was a terrible tall woman

      who lived at Uladulla

      She had six husbands and buried the lot….

      She was tellin’ my father

      They were sittin’ on the point

      That was all wild scrub

      The big ship came and anchored

      out at Snapper Island

      He put down a boat

      an’ rowed up the...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 505-562)
  14. Index
    (pp. 563-566)