Wednesday, July 07, 2010

*gong!* Start again!

The conclusion of Marion’s book leaves me totally suspicious of the entire text, and most troublingly of the integrity of the phenomenological descriptions throughout – including those I found compelling and harmonizing with my own. I’m very concerned about the appearance of any affinity between this completely corrupt and intellectually dishonest account and my own.

I was suspicious of Marion’s start. He developed his account of “the erotic phenomenon” and “the erotic reduction” (my emphasis – and I’ll get to that in a bit) on the basis of the question “Does anyone out there love me?” and the threat of futility. That seemed rather dichotomous (i.e., either someone loves me, or life is futile), but did seem to me to evoke the risk of erotic love, and the contingency and ambiguity of erotic experience.

He then turned this question and this dichotomy toward the desire for eternal assurance of love, which struck me immediately as a strange and phenomenologically ungrounded move, but I took it in stride to let him have his word. The “lover’s advance,” the expression of desire, Marion determined, is properly an advance that is eternal.

He then turns toward failures of love: lying, deception, flirtation, infidelity – as my previous post noted, by imparting ethical ideas into the phenomenon of the erotic, without identifying the context of these ethical judgments, admitting them to be judgments, or admitting to the arbitrary normativity of this account. At that point, he’s clearly gone far beyond the circumspect bracketing necessary to a phenomenological description.

In the final chapter, Marion resolves the paradox of the desire for eternal love (the same desire he imposed on the erotic phenomenon in the first place) by saying that love between two lovers is vain, futile, a lie, unless they have a child – flesh of their flesh, yet not their flesh; an ongoing extension of their love beyond their love and their deaths. So add to the normative, imposed, anti-phenomenological account of the erotic phenomenon the necessity that the only properly erotic encounter is a procreative one.

Not content with that, Marion then goes on to mark how hopelessly contingent the issue of a child is. The couple may be barren (thus, their love futile and a lie); the couple may choose not to procreate (thus, their love futile and a lie); the child may die, or may not love them back, or they may not love the child (thus, their love futile and a lie). So the only way that love can be true, and avoid being a lie, he says, is in the… Wait for it…

final judgment, which can only be by…

God, whose love is so great that obviously, God’s the best lover.

This is not a phenomenology. Note that, from the start, the entire project takes as its focus “the erotic phenomenon.” There is only one, because Marion construed love, from the start, strictly and only from the cultural tradition of Catholicism. That makes this a theology of heterosexual child-bearing love in service to God, and not a phenomenology.

So, unless he just got lucky with some of his nicer descriptions (the description of faithfulness is really very good, for instance, even though its totally insincere), how can I take up any of these descriptions? All of them are infected by this ideology, and the fact that he never admits of it makes the infection all the more pernicious. The book is rotten to its core.

Or, in the immortal words of David Mamet, “fuck you you fucking fuck!”

Incidentally (no doubt), the book was translated by a professor from Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. Back in Pittsburgh, I was briefly involved in the local chapter of the National Abortion Rights Action League. Catholic Pittsburgh was a battle ground in the nasty early-90s anti-abortion-rights crusade, and every week Franciscan would round up folks from Steubenville and bus them 50 miles or so to Pittsburgh to harass and yell at the women entering Planned Parenthood and other clinics. The more of this book I read, the more I thought about those people from the place I used to call Stupidville.

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