Byzantine Spy (byzantinespy) wrote in the_book_nook,
Byzantine Spy

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Marleau-Ponty's Comments on the Philosophical Creation of the World as Bearing Witness to Being

Rather than follow the rules I read all the way through The Visible and the Invisible, and rather than summarize the points I'd like to just ramble a bit on a topic that Marleau-Ponty addresses and that has always interested me. One of the reasons why I enjoy doing philosophy is because I feel like it gives me a chance to (re)create the world conceptually. It's something I first found in Machiavelli and then in Kant, Nietzsche, and others. Marleau-Ponty talks about it too and he has an interesting take on it:
Philosophy as creation (Gebilde), resting on itself--that cannot be the final truth. For it would be a creation that sets as its goal to express as Gebilde what is von selbst (the Lebenswelt), that therefore negates itself as pure creation. The point of view of creation, of the human Gebilde--and the point of view of the "natural" (of the Lebenswelt as Nature) are both abstract and insufficient. One cannot install oneself on either of these two levels. What there is is a creation that is called forth and engendered by the Lebenswelt as operative, latent historicity, that prolongs it and bears witness to it. (p. 174)

What I took this to mean is that we can't think of the philosophical creation of the world as one in which an individual creates everything from himself and out of nothing; humans are not in fact gods. This point reflects the argument that Marleau-Ponty has been making all along about the person's relationship with the world, which is that he shouldn't be thought of as a subject trying to reach outside of himself to a world of objects, that he has to create ideas because they are beyond his personal being; the whole concept of subject and object is faulty. If we know about an object it is because we are of it and it is of us. For example, we know of the existence of time because we are of it (p.184): we aren't trying to grasp a concept that is outside of us; we're realizing something that is written in us. In the same sense, he mentions that when we sense an object it is not simply that but that we are sensed by the object; it speaks through us. "We do not possess the musical or sensible ideas... They possess us." (p. 151)

Marleau-Ponty makes this move partly because it's a better explanation of the workings of consciousness than what Caresians offer, which is to take the mind and its interworkings for granted. They posit consciousness without seriously explaining how it got there or why it thinks the way it does; and because of that, which is in itself sloppy, the conclusions they reach often turn into rationalizations for positions they held all along. Also, by positing consciousness as being something other than part of the world, they reduce its abilities as one of understanding its surroundings within its own (inevitably faulty) limits and representations; they don't consider that the mind's relationship with the world is in fact part of Being and is in itself truth.
It is a matter of understanding that... "subjectivity" and the "object" are one sole whole, that the subjective "lived experiences" count in the world, are part of the Weltlichkeit of the "mind," are entered in the "register" which is Being... It is not we who perceive, it is the thing that perceives itself yonder--it is not we who speak, it is truth that speaks itself at the depths of speech. (p.185)

All of this would mean that a philosopher, rather than create the world entirely out of himself, is bearing witness to the world as part of it--inside Being. However, Marleau-Ponty doesn't stop there, because if he did then all understandings of the world could count as equally valid testimonies to it. Rather, it is through constant interrogation of the world, of crossing through different sensations and other subjectivities and the geography of the field of Being, that one knows more of it. He compares philosophy to science in this regard: "It casts the prevailing categories into question, invents new types of Being, a new heaven of essences. But it does not terminate this labor: it does not entirely disengage its essences from the world; it maintains them under the jurisdiction of the facts, which can tomorrow call for another elaboration." (p.108) With all the talk of "bearing witness" it is with the interrogation that the philosopher is truly active and consequently "creative."
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