Rough Theory

Theory In The Rough

Hand Waving

So just to lob one more random association into the cross-blog discussion of whose hands Derrida is amputating when he edits the passage in which Marx christens the fetish. We’ve discussed the possibility that these are Marx’s hands and Heidegger’s hands – what about Husserl’s? From On Touching (2005 pp.179-180):

This last example (the visible hand touching a visible object) defines the typical situation upong which Husserl establishes the privilege of touch in the strong sense – as the possibility of “double apprehension”: touching-touched. And this possibility, which depends on the hand or in any case a visible part of my body, presupposes a surface, the visibility of it, and (“then,” dann, says Husserl: but we may wonder what justifies this succession) the possibility of moving toward empathy and the indirect appresentation of the other man’s solus ipse. Let me quote this passage again: “… and is then transferred over in empathy: the other’s touching hand, which I see, appresents to me his solipsistic view of this hand and then also everything that must belong to it in presentified co-presence….

Hence our question: if this possibility of appresentative empathy, of indirect or analogical access, already partakes of the solipsistic “moment” – be it as a virtuality but thus also as an essential possibility – how can it be said that it comes “then,” afterward, finding itself grounded in an intuitive and pure presence or co-immediacy? And thus if we assume the “interiority of psychic acts,” isn’t it necessary, from the outset, that visibility, being exposed to the outside, the appresentative detour, the intrusion of the other, and sort forth, be already at work? And would this not condition, or at least co-condition, that on which it seems to depend and that it seems to follow, moreover in the very inside of the touching-touched as “double apprehension”? Mustn’t the intruder already be inside the place? Isn’t it necessary that this space thus open up the place for a replacing, and that it make room for the substitute, the metonymical supplement, and the technical?

Let me be more precise about the meaning or orientation of our question. Denying the possibility of a tactile experience of the touching-touched is not the point; but in acknowledging what its manual or digital example implies (as best and paradigmatic example, or “guiding thread” of the analysis), I ask whether there is any pure auto-affection of the touching or the touched, and therefore any pure, immediate experience of the purely proper body, the body that is living, purely living. Or if, on the contrary, this experience is at least not already haunted, but constitutively haunted, by some hetero-affection related to spacing and then to visible spatiality – where an intruder may come through, a host, a wished or unwished for, a spare and auxiliary other, a parasite to be rejected, a pharmakon that already having at its disposal a swelling in this place inhabits one’s heart of hearts… as a ghost.

Apologies for the lack of commentary (and for the decontextualised quotation, which I’ve severed awkwardly from its surroundings…) – buried under work today, and mainly just archiving this as a note to myself and Praxis…

11 responses to “Hand Waving

  1. Drew June 30, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    Nice link.

    Do you ever get the feeling that Derrida has constructed this polyhedral, asymmetrical prism – one that looks Husserlian from this angle, Hegelian from another, another Heideggerian, Nietzschean, or Freudian, and incorporating facets of Marx, Aristotle, Lacan and so many others. Once constructed, it is now a kind of looking glass that is used to view the world, forever only glimpsable a handful of faces at a time. The faces on the other side exercise an invisible sway upon the beams that are refracted, but are never present to view, or at best, are only marked by certain deviations, or a strange inverted image that appear only as flaws in the glass.

  2. N Pepperell June 30, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    This would be, I think, something like how Benjamin envisages his work, as well :-) Nice image.

  3. rob June 30, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    Derrida and his busy hands…

  4. WildlyParenthetical July 1, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    …and of course we’re back to Merleau-Ponty at this point, and the visible and the invisible and the chiasm… :-) Although I’m not sure if he’s chopping off MP’s hands, or observing them. If proprietorial exes were less proprietorial, I might be able to be more helpful. But it will need to wait til I can purchase On Touching again… soon! soon! But in short, I think that Derrida’s concern with Husserl is articulated here through a pretty Merleau-Pontyan frame. If this does bind into the stuff on Marx, I’d be fascinated to see how this might enable (through Derrida) an examination of the economy of embodiment.

  5. rob July 1, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    Okay, I brought in from home my copy of Deconstruction Engaged: The Sydney Seminars, since the opening interview also touches on (pun intended) the question of touching — in order to think about it in terms of a “struggle for the hegemony of one sense over the other”. The passage I thought might be relevant occurs after a brief “complication” of the notion that vision is at the heart of Western thought. The first complication Derrida makes is to argue (via Merleau-Ponty) that invisibility constitutes the medium of visibility (p.18-9), while the second is that “the authority of intuitive knowledge has not, never has been, simply the authority of vision”, since in many canonical works, “the fullness of the intuition … implies literally or figuratively an experience of touching” (p.20). With regard to the second point, Derrida makes reference to On Touching, and then briefly speaks of this struggle for hegemony:

    The only thing I can try here is to locate the place where this struggle for the hegemony or supremacy of one sense over the other, seeing over hearing, seeing over touching or smelling, takes place. The stakes of this struggle are enourmous. it is first of all a humanistic struggle for power, privileging the hand/eye relationship in the long process of humanisation. This raises the first question of the animal. Second, it is always caught up in a phenomenology of perception which neglects the prosthetic and technological dimension, which allows not only for a synaesthesia (the collaboration of the senses, or the substitution of one sense for the other) but also for the metonymic substitutions of one sense for the other…. Third, this phenomenology of perception ignores the teletechnology, the virtualisation and digitalisation of the field.

    So this is why this struggle for power, for hegemony or supremacy, calls for an analysis of the so-called senses, the sensible data or perceptors. An analysis which should integrate from its inception, from the beginning, a taking into account of power as techne. Techne as art as well as prosthetic teletechnology in the spectral field of virtuality….

    Our relation, and even our critical, political relation to visual culture today should take into account these complications. They have nothing to do with one sense dominating the other, rather, with another structure of a general technoprosthetic virtual possibility.

    This is why from the very beginning … a long time ago I started trying to elaborate a concept of writing, of trace, of diffĂ©rance, gramme, or other reading which should be as foreign as possible to this endless competition between the so-called intuitive senses (spatial or temporal: seeing, touching, hearing). (pp.21-2)

    Looking over it now, I can see how much of Derrida’s point about another structure of general technoprosthetic virtual possibility confirms or resonates with NP’s conclusion to “The Exorcism of Exorcism” post.

  6. N Pepperell July 2, 2008 at 7:50 am

    Hey folks – I’ll let you know that the comments here and adding together with comments I’m receiving in person, to generate a vast list of Things I Haven’t Yet Read, Which Are Relevant to My Argument. Hmmm…. We’ll see how this plays out at the conference… ;-)

    Seriously, though: the associations are extremely helpful – precisely because there is just so much I’m having to reach for, here, mainly through an engagement with this one particular text…

  7. WildlyParenthetical July 2, 2008 at 11:44 am

    Mmm… it’s not really Derrida if it doesn’t connect to everything ever, is it? ;-)

    Intriguing quote, rob, btw. I’m struck, in particular, by Derrida’s evident thinking of MP, but also by the kinda bizarre construction of it: it’s not so hard to argue that MP does actually quite explicitly engage with technologisation (I’m thinking here of the example of the blind man with his stick; crude tech, I guess, but MP suggests that it becomes part of the body and its possibilities).

    Our relation, and even our critical, political relation to visual culture today should take into account these complications. They have nothing to do with one sense dominating the other, rather, with another structure of a general technoprosthetic virtual possibility.

    I like this. I (and some colleagues, actually) are working particularly with the way that Merleau-Ponty’s idea of ‘perception’, which is both broader than you might expect and a serious challenge to empiricist concepts of it, works to constitute the world. The question of visibility comes up a lot: the question of what the background is that allows something to be visible (background in two senses there). I actually think, NP, that this might have broader usefulness to you, in the sense that it’s an existing vocab for the processes by which things become apparent, visible, as well as inevitable, hidden, unmarked. [shrug] Anyway. Thesis calls.

  8. Nate July 2, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    hi NP,

    I’ve just sort of eyeballed many of the posts you mention here, I know nothing about Heidegger or Husserly, and I still haven’t found my copy of Specters, but — on reading your discussion of the ellipsed-out passage (great catch, by the way!) I thought of two things.

    One is the physical hands of workers, particularly in the injury cases I’ve been reading a bit about recently, where workers got their hands partly or wholly burnt, crushed, cut, etc and lost a lot of previous function (usually ended up in some sort of medical amputation too).

    The other is the … whatsits … metonymy? synecdoche? (this is why I couldn’t hack being a comp lit person) … the substitution implied in terms for talking about workers: a hired hand, a manual worker, etc, where the whole worker is identified with her hands (as part of the person being reduced to being just a worker qua variable capital). The two tie together in that the worker with the damaged hand was less capable of being a fully functional hired hand, according to the norms and labor processes of the time.

    Not sure that adds anything or is even relevant to this discussion, but that’s the association I had.

    take care,

  9. rob July 2, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    WildlyParenthetical, that passage you highlighted is one of my favourites from Derrida’s more recent work, one which I once used to give a certain version of media and cultural studies a good kicking.

    I should also point out that when Derrida charges a certain phenomenology of perception with “neglect[ing] the prosthetic and technological dimension”, he follows it up (in a few sentences elided in the above quotation) with references to “an enourmous literature on the touching eye“, from “Descartes, Berkeley and so on up until Husserl”. So I don’t know that Derrida means to inscribe MP in that history.

    Then again, I know nothing about MP, except what I get by way of Caputo’s Against Ethics (and I’m not even sure that it’s MP that the latter mentions), so don’t believe anything I have to say about what Derrida has or has not to say about MP…

  10. WildlyParenthetical July 2, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    Oh, I think it would be a bit wrong if he didn’t inscribe MP in that history, really, given that Merleau-Ponty’s ‘Phenomenology of Perception’ is a fairly substantial response to Husserl: challenging all kinds of things coming out of Husserl. But it makes more sense if he does actually refer to other people, coz that probably is one of those unspoken-French-style references which suggests that Derrida is appropriating Merleau-Ponty as an ally in the context of a challenge to that history (the history MP challenged too…. wow, I’m really tired, sorry, this isn’t making things very clear).

    There are indeed versions of media and cultural studies that deserve a good kicking. I wish it happened more often, as it might help stop the apolitical creep in the field I like to call ‘mine’ (although you can keep media, really… ;-)). Bugs me, that, particularly each December (CSAA can have me teetering on the edge of despair, yanked back by the occasional shining light).

    Anyway: woo, v. OT. Sorry, NP. :-)

  11. N Pepperell July 3, 2008 at 10:38 am

    Don’t worry about being off topic – carry on! :-)

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