Tuesday, August 16, 2011

birthday, Vegas, fall semester, writing

Yesterday was Debra Messing Day at the House About Town. That's because yesterday was Debra Messing's birthday. Mine too. I got dozens of birthday greetings, which was very nice and made me feel well-stocked with friends and loved ones.

Last week we hit Vegas for a sort of Duquesne philosophy alumni bash, and I am slightly abashed to say that "bash" is an appropriate term for it. I don't care much for Vegas, because I don't gamble, and I find the architectural kitsch more than overwhelming. The best parts of those days were spent in a poolside cabana carousing, like old times.

Saturday I finally bought the bike I've been threatening to buy for nearly two years. It's not the bike I wanted, but it'll do. It's a cheapo 15-speed mountain bike. My fall schedule is so weird, that the bike seemed finally not merely warranted, but necessary. On Mondays and Wednesdays I have a class at 10, then I'm next in class at 3 pm.

That mess begins Monday. Today, I took stock of the 37 single-spaced typed pages of notes I've taken this summer on phenomenology and embodiment, to see what kinds of papers or articles I could block out of it. I think I have three legit ideas.

(1) "How big is my body?" This is what started me off this summer, as it came up in a conversation in New Brunswick. That'll lead to some nifty stuff on the phenomenological concepts of normal and abnormal, both of which are equivocal, both of which are targets of post-structuralist critiques that almost entirely miss the point, and both of which are, I think, absolutely indispensable to the phenomenological analysis of embodiment. I'll get at all that in part through describing and contemplating the wonderfully weird sensation I get of being suddenly taller.

(2) Unnamed item on "the body" as the fetish of phenomenology. At the end of summer, I wrote a 5000+ word essay that began its life as a potential article to submit to a special issue of a phenomenology journal, on "the body" and embodiment. My essay went in some directions I didn't predict, and I now call it "the goofy paper." The theme of "the body" being a fetish of phenomenological writers is really a way to critique "phenomenology of the body" as a way to examine embodiment, life, perception, etc. I think phenomenology of "the body" misses the mark completely. What's needed is not a clarification of "the body," which could only be a clarification of "the body" as a constituted object. What's needed is a clarification of embodiment, which is to say, in the lingo of the later Husserl, of the passive synthesis, or of the aesthesiological-physiological body - that which "pre-gives" "objectlike formations" to and for the ego. Cazart!

(3) Another unnamed thing, on the origin of meaning in non-meaning. So, when we get through with understanding passive synthesis and embodiment as fundamental origin of the ego having anything to make meaning with or upon, if we consider the pregiven as pregiven, we can't help but notice that it can't "mean" anything. Meaning is constituted/projected by an active ego. Meaning is a meaning precisely of an experience or experienced object. But meaning is not a pure invention of the ego: idealism is wrong. If that's so, then the source of the raw material of meaning is not itself meaningful but proto-meaningful, or, to make the point more, er... pointedly, the origin of meaning is non-meaning. (I'm certain, in retrospect, that spending time in Vegas helped me to understand that.)

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