Friday, March 13, 2015

The New Existentialism + quote of the day

This is what I meant by interpreting, via Tristan Garcia, how the New Existentialism seems to be retrieving yet updating the notion of how the static, conceptual "human being" disappears into an "ontological darkness." (In response to a Twitter comment which questioned my riffing/brainstorming a few posts back.)

The human being is not a static object, simple abstract concept, nor historicized idea within a frozen epistemological order, pace Foucault in the infamous last paragraphs of his The Order of Things. "The human" both dissappears yet continually reappears as an agency, actor, architect, or self-author dependent on that specific pillar of freedom which chooses to *assert itself,* existentially, *as* something "human." Here is Foucault with something similar - the human dissappears, as if erased in the sand at the edge of the sea. One simply can't *assume* the identity of that being without regard for the non-epistemological ontological conditions that have helped to create it. Or in a Whiteheadian-Jamesian vein: nothing comes "ready made."  All is within a continuous act of self-creation.  Here's Foucault:
"One thing in any case is certain: man is neither the oldest nor the most constant problem that has been posed for human knowledge. Taking a relatively short chronological sample within a restricted geographical area – European culture since the sixteenth century – one can be certain that man is a recent invention within it. It is not around him and his secrets that knowledge prowled for so long in the darkness. In fact, among all the mutations that have affected the knowledge of things and their order, the knowledge of identities, differences, characters, equivalences, words – in short, in the midst of all the episodes of that profound history of the Same – only one, that which began a century and a half ago and is now perhaps drawing to a close, has made it possible for the figure of man to appear. And that appearance was not the liberation of an old anxiety, the transition into luminous consciousness of an age-old concern, the entry into objectivity of something that had long remained trapped within beliefs and philosophies: it was the effect of a change in the fundamental arrangements of knowledge. As the archaeology of our thought easily shows, man is an invention of recent date. And one perhaps nearing its end.

If those arrangements were to disappear as they appeared, if some event of which we can at the moment do no more than sense the possibility – without knowing either what its form will be or what it promises – were to cause them to crumble, as the ground of Classical thought did, at the end of the eighteenth century, then one can certainly wager that man would be erased, like a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea.”