Friday, December 10, 2004

The History of the World

[Compare Ben Lerner's "Didactic Elegy"]

‘. . .a successful scientific theory of cognition must account for phenomenality, that is, . . . for the fact . . . that things have appearance.’

From the introduction to
Naturalizing Phenomenology

The world is everything that is on my case.
The solution to the problems
of phenomenology, which are problems
of action
as much as of perception,
is that
things appear as people surface.
Appearances are things arranged
on the surfaces of people
And surfaces are people arranged
among the appearances of things.
Note that the tenses are preserved.
Note the surface tension; the apparent ease
Of the presentation is an illusion.
We push against surfaces
and stand before appearances.
The appearance is the locus of our seeing.
It is the ambivalent object of sensation,
Determined in perception.
The surface is the locus of our doing.
It is the ambivalent subject of motion,
Determined in action.
We may push and push
and remain immobile.
We may stand and stand
The immediate determination
of what is seen
is intuition.
The immediate determination
of what is done
is institution.
The image is detached
from appearances,
and applied to surfaces
with equal ease.
The image is what can be done
without effort,
and seen,
without strain.
The image is easy*.
It is no substitute
for thought
for feeling.
Beauty remains the difficulty.
To negotiate the passage
between the intuition
and the institution.
To grasp the concept
is Begrifflichkeit
and to hold emotion,
We play them
off against each other
like third rate diplomats.
Style is negotiation.
The image is a concept
backed like an emotion.
The facility of style
lies in the arrangement of imagery.
May the republic retain
its style.
Imagination is not for children
Politics is to action
What science is to perception.
A doing that transforms the
immediacy of doing, the institution.
A seeing that transforms the
immediacy of seeing, the intuition.
Note where we stand to see.
Note what we see to stand.
History is all that has been done,
the total subject, everyone.
The world is all that will be seen,
the total object, everything.
Knowledge is the rightness of perception,
power the rightness of action.
Science cannot plumb the mind because
the mind itself is stretched
Between the surface and appearance.
Science works alone
on the appearance.
Science wants to see all that it can
Forgetting all that it has done.
Science assembles its apparatus,
and forgets.
By this means it locates objects
in space.
Just as politics positions subjects
in time and
its machinations.
Phenomenology recovers the time lost
In the spaces between things,
The space lost in the time
that is left to the people.
The history of the world:
Everything and everyone
that is on my case.

Post Script

Ezra Pound’s vision of elysium stipulates that ‘First came the seen, then thus the palpable.’ (LXXXI/535). This eidology is here corrected. Motion is as fundamental an experience as sensation. Spirit or mind is not sensation sensing itself (Novalis). Spirit is to be moved by sensation, to be sensitive to motion. To move against sensation. To sense against motion. To stand before and push against. To understand. To stand firm in this middle distance and write.

*We lift images from appearances and apply them to surfaces never the other way round. A surface is that to which an image may be effortlessly applied. An appearance is that from which it is lifted without strain. To imagine is sometimes to see and sometimes to do. The image may equally well be seen or done. The same image is equally compatible with surfaces and appearances. There are not some images that go better with surfaces than with appearances. But we must keep in mind that we cannot impose an image on an appearance; we must lift it from there. Nor can we lift an appearance from a surface, we must put it there. Thus, we lift an image off the appearance of the closed door and apply this same image in opening its surface. This whether in imagination or in experience. That is, the door appears closed as we run into it, and it surfaces in its openness as we pass through it. Note here that the door's openness is nothing to the door but belongs to you and me (the subject), i.e., that which is in motion. Its closedness, on the other hand, is the door’s imposition on our motion (and is objective).


Laura Carter said...

I like your version better.

Thomas Basbøll said...

Well, I'll accept the compliment, of course. Thanks. I do really like Lerner's poem. It got me thinking about the possibility of just setting the thing down. Even if I find it hard to measure his critical distances.