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Blogging through Grossman, Part 2: Grossman demolishes otherness?

Blogging through Grossman, Part 2: Grossman demolishes otherness?

by Micah Towery on February 16, 2010

I probably should state right off the bat that I am not a philosopher by trade. If I mess up philosophical terms and definitions, feel free to correct me. I tend to have a more intuitive approach to philosophy, rather than a systematic one. Thus, I tend to explain things by analogy. I recognize the limits of this, but I hope, nonetheless, to contribute to real discussion. Also, I am skipping ahead in Grossman significantly, past the discussions with Halliday, about halfway into Summa Lyrica. I am doing this because last week I read the passage “‘I’ in the Lyric” and was excited by Grossman articulating something I have been trying to articulate for a long time.

In this passage it seems that Grossman is attacking the idea of “otherness.” I recognize that many philosophers and critics have used the term “other” to mean many different things. Everyone from Hegel, to Husserl, to Pope Benedict have used the term to describe entities that are not the subjective self. I am mostly familiar with this term through the work of Edward Said, whose vision of post-colonialism was heavily pushed by several professors at Binghamton University, where I did my undergraduate. I initially recognized the term “other” to be a handy way to say “not me.” It also seemed to capture the sense of alienation that can exist between the self and some other object/subject.

By my senior year, however, I was quite uncomfortable with the binary of self and other because it seemed to carry the connotation of an uncrossable gulf between persons. Now, there is undeniably a gulf in many senses: you cannot make a choice for me, for example. But does that mean that another person is inaccessible to us in a meaningful way? I tend not to think so. So, you can imagine my happiness when I read the following passage from Grossman:

Consciousness of self is only possible if experienced by contrast. I use I only when I am speaking to someone who will be a you in my address….Here we see a principle whose consequences are spread out in all directions. Language is possible only because each speaker sets himself up as a subject by referring to himself as I in his discourse. Because of this I posits another person, the one who, being, as he is, completely exterior to “me,” becomes my echo to whom I say you and who says you to me….It is a polarity [of persons], moreover, very peculiar in itself, as it offers a type of opposition whose equivalent is encountered nowhere else outside of language. This polarity does not mean either equality of symmetry: “ego” always has a position of transcendence with regard to you. Nevertheless, neither of the terms can be conceived of without the other; they are complementary, although according to an “interior/exterior” opposition, and, at the same time, they are reversible. If we seek a parallel to this, we will not find it. The condition of man in language is unique.

And so the old antinomies of “I” and “the other,” of the individual and society, fall. It is a duality which it is illegitimate and erroneous to reduce to a single primordial term…. It is in a dialectic reality that will incorporate the two terms and define them by mutual relationship that the linguistic basis of subjectivity is discovered.

In the margins I scribbled, “*** Grossman demolishes “the other” yay!!!”

In short, Grossman is positing that any concept of subject is impossible without another subject. And not only this, but this relationship is defined by a reversible I-You, not the static self-other. Admittedly, many powerful people have tried to break this I-You. I believe it was Buber who talked about I-it dialogue (in which, I think, there can be no echo, no reversibility) as opposed to I-Thou dialogue.

I guess at the end of the day, my quibble is not with the word “other” but rather with the idea that persons are opposed in such a way that they are fundamentally alienated beings. I just don’t buy that. We are relational beings, with things that inter-est (literally, it is between) us both. This relationship could not exist unless there were some fundamental assumption about that “other” person (namely, they are a person, like us). This belief, whether we admit it or not, is a fundamental assumption with every form of discourse.

I believe acknowledging this is important; I believe it frees us in important ways. We are not gripped with the anxiety that we are the only self, among alien others that we hope are selves (but are not sure). No, we are in a relationship, and therefore, discourse is possible. The solipsistic idea of discourse with an alien other denies its own terms of possibility.

It also frees us from the desire to become one with the other, I think. When we are gripped with that anxiety, like a person drowning, we grasp desperately; we are in the pit of loneliness. This, of course, is impossible and futile (and the basis of co-dependency). However, if we recognize that we are persons who are able to engage in discourse because the relationship already exists, we are much more free to explore the capacities of that relationship.

OK…so, what’s the connection with poetry? Good question. This ended up more of a rant. I do think there is something to be said about the position we speak from as poets (and artists in general). For Grossman, the lyric, the speaking mode of the subject who is “overheard,” is based in a community of discourse (not to imply other communities could be “other”). There is no sovereign speaker. We all take on some mantle (Grossman connects this with the idea of inspiration).

Incidentally, the ideas in this post might have some interesting connection with Adam’s first post on Keat’s disputed Ode. How is address to the urn possible if the urn is not a person? Is address different than discourse?

Hopefully this all adds up to something…As always, feel free to tweak, commend, denounce in the comment section. I probably need it.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Stewart K. Lundy February 16, 2010 at 5:11 pm

I believe Heidegger defines the Other as “that of which I am already one” in Being and Time. For there to be (an)other, I must be one of that group which is Other. There is no essential antimony.

The subject (and the “I”) are both fundamentally privative, as Grossman hints above. The subject is not-everything-in-the-world-(except-me) which then looks upon everything-in-the-world-(except-me). Or, to put it another way, the subject is an extraction from the world; since that which is the subject is originally part of the world, this process of extraction fundamentally changes the world analyzed in the subject-object relationship since what is analyzed is not the world but the-world-without-me which is a radically different world. This is the God’s-eye-view metaphysics which attempts to grasp the Truth (of which we are an inextricable part). To remove ourselves from the world (as subjects) is to obscure the Truth of which we are primordially a part. As Nietzsche says, “The knower is farthest from himself.” In a similar way, we are all part of Truth (aletheia) in its disclosedness. Unlike simply trying to know oneself, the attempt to know Truth is to attempt to know oneself and how one fits into the world and how that world operates.

There is no dichotomy between “I” and “Other.” I’m not sure why anyone would think there is.

Dan Fitz February 16, 2010 at 5:29 pm

What if the other is a tree or a person in a coma or a bug? Wouldn’t the dissimilarities or otherness of the aforementioned define any relationship with a rational being more than the similarities? Shared interest can foster a sense of community or connectedness. if this is true shouldn’t a differing perspective, like the views of one who is clinically insane or the perspective a person raised inside of a dungeon as a sex slave (or other varying less harsh circumstances), cultivate otherness.
If otherness is a necessary component of sameness as Grossman suggest: “In short, Grossman is positing that any concept of subject is impossible without another subject.” Wouldn’t the opposite hold? That one couldn’t have otherness without a referring to shared, common perspective. Implication being that otherness does exist because we need a counterpoint that would help to define or determine what sameness is?
With regard to poetry, many times when I am reading it I have no idea what is going on. The writer’s perspective is alien to me. Often it feels as if I am reading the ramblings of a madman. An ode to an urn? I am secure in my belief that if Keats did not introduce me to his I would have never thought to get from or give and ode to any type of vase, decanter, urn or jar, Grecian or otherwise.

Micah Towery February 16, 2010 at 7:06 pm

@ Dan Fitz: You bring up some important points. The idea of understanding sameness by otherness is something that comes up a lot. I’m not sure I entirely agree with that. For example, if you and I are standing in a room together, we notice we have many of the same features: arms, hair, voices (apologies if you are missing any of those). We could safely assume that we are similar. We don’t need to see a rock without arms to understand that we are the same in many ways. We share traits in common (between us). As we begin to meet other beings with similar characteristics, we could even posit that there is an archetype of “human,” right?

Now, this is where your other point comes in: what about the madman? Isn’t he similar, yet fundamentally different? I don’t see this as a problem. It certainly forces us to question our understanding of the human person, but it doesn’t destroy the archetype at all. It can certainly be manipulated by power, as Foucault pointed out, but to believe that gulf characterizes our relationship with others seems to be an unhelpful and cynical assumption. It’s unhelpful because if you are only reading the ramblings of a madman who is wholly other, then there is no compulsion or challenege in that writing, right? On what possible basis could an other challenge you? The writer’s perspective may be alien to you, but that doesn’t mean there is no relationship.

My fundamental point is this: I’m not against people using the term “other,” but I do think it is a less true characterization of how persons relate.

@ Stewart: Not sure I totally understand everything you’re saying (and I haven’t read Being and Time), but it sounds something like this: Heidegger believes that before we can call something other, we must recognize that we are a part of that other already (inasmuch as we exist in the same world)? That is, before I can regard my fellow human as other, I must regard them as human? And to try and speak as a subject removed from the world (as a scientist may), one is actually speaking about a world that is not the world (because they are not a part of it)?

I think I can agree with that, and it’s interesting to see him comfortably using the term other without falling into the binary that causes me such discomfort. But it may be speaking past what I’m trying to get at. I do believe that we are always-already a part of the world, and in a similar sense part of truth. I am fine with saying that, but I chafe sometimes against speaking of being “one” with truth, as if truth were some monad that we meld with (like the Borg). What is so incredible about truth (if I may use such an unfashionable word in a completely unfashionable way) is that it is so multi-faceted and dynamic.

Stewart K. Lundy February 16, 2010 at 11:07 pm

@Micah: Heidegger says that “Other” necessarily means what you just said — for me to be a human, there must be another human. The Other is not only something alienated, but is also what is closest to us.

To speak of the world, as the scientist does, is not to speak of the real world, ironically. It is to speak of the world without us which is no world at all. Thus, the dangerous tendencies of science and its destruction not only of the world (Welt) but also the environment (Umwelt).

You’re right to question the “absorption” of us into Truth. We are most true when we are ourselves. Annihilation isn’t the goal, and it’s worth noting that whenever there’s some all-encompassing concept. Truth is singular, just like Reality is singular. Our existence, our relationships (to God and men) are all part of Truth itself. Ultimately, our self-realization is the fullest manifestation of Truth as it aligns us with the fundamental pattern of the universe — natural law, God, etc.

Adam Fitzgerald February 17, 2010 at 4:57 am

Thanks, Micah for your post.

The question of the other is as persistent a theme for continental philosophy today as it a frustration for those who cannot take literary theory or certain writing seriously. As Christopher Ricks has said—Why all this talk about alterity and the other? Time to talk about something other. Zizek in his recent lectures on Jacques Derrida champions the early, subversive Derrida, who he sees as Nietzschean and renegade, and deplores the late, Levinasian Derrida, the Kantian Derrida, who capitulates to the overpowering meditation on otherness.

That said, in my own very amateurish way, having read Derrida, some Levinas, some Heidegger, even less Husserl, I want to try crudely to contextualize the question of the Other, and in doing so, challenge Grossman’s critique that this binary self/other is unnecessary, and even faulty. I need to begin by regurgitating what I basically know, in my very limited studies, and will rely on those better trained and aware of these insights to correct/critique/elucidate.

1: self/other can be thought of in two modern philosophical contexts, one is the Cartesian mode that begins with the meditations on subjectivity and epistimology in Descartes, and the other, is owing to the Levinasian notion of the other brought forth in two prime works, “Existence and Existens” but most importantly “Totality and the Other.” In the latter, Levinas is addressing the question of otherness as a means to critique not only the western tradition of defining Being as One and the Same, a source of insularity and violence he traces back to the origins of Greek philosophy i.e. Plato, but most clearly—Levinas is addressing his response to Husserl and Heidegger, his major influences. With Husserl’s phemonology and Heidegger’s “ontology” (a phrase Heidegger rejected, but Levinas uses)—each of these modern philosophers move away from the epistimological question of Descartes What can I know, as a self, and towards the essential activity of percetion, the point where subject and world collide, where phenonemon emerges. For Heidegger, the student of Husserl, the consciousness of phenomenon is secondary to the obscured root of philosophy, as Hedeigger sees it, which has been obscured since Plato. The real question is Being—which is both the being of the individual in time (beings) and the possibility of being, to begin with (existence itself). Heidegger develops his thought, I believe, along a course where both senses of being, the possibility of being, and individual beings, emerge along a field, space or opening of being-in-the-world. Thousands of necessary nuances follow.

The problem for Levinas, who writes his first book during World War II, and writes his second book in the aftermath, is to look back on the absolute question of the Holocaust, at that moment in history, trained as he is not only in German existentialism but in Hebrew scripture and commentary, and try to orient a critique that resituates ethics as the absolute metaphyiscal question. In doing so, this leads him to see the history of Western philosophy as a totalizing system in which questions of identity and meaning are subsumed within a closed system—binaries such as self/other, one/many, etc. Since philosophy has always developed a system of meaning that values being as one and the same, a reasoning of its own thinking antithetical to non-philosophy, philosophy can only comprehend its limits and exterior by circumscribing all other peoples and cultures into its closedness—therefore, violence is at the origin of philosophy. Knowledge is based on laws and symmetries that exclude the undefined, the outsider, etc. Being, which Heidegger wanted to recuperate outside of a Platonic metaphysical construct, therefore, in Levinas’ eyes still remains in the same crooked bag of limiting the definition of the other into a categorization of the self-understanding subject. The other, therefore, emerges in Levinas’ critique—situated at a unique historical moment in lieu of the mass genocide, as a Jew, writing in response to German masters—as a means by which the other remains, like God, undefined—a rupture of the totalizing system of philosophy (philosophy’s project to complete knowledge).

The ethical impetus, as I understand it, very reductively and cheaply, alas, still remains this: as long as we subsume the other into our experience, our knowledge, as long as we appropriate their otherness into ourselves, we have not recognized them as other. Hence this business of other-as-other, or other-as-infinitely-other. In this way, the horizontal relationship between others is analogical to the vertical relationship to God—even though the other has a face, the face is not a representation of otherness, the face is the very otherness shining through. Levinas also adds, importantly, that rather than this absolute gulf (which you refer to Micah) negating the possibility of communication, it is what lends communication its urgency and necessity. Levinas wants in all of our language work, our philosophical work, our social occurences, for the other to remain that unclosed, infinite Variable. The second we plug in the X of the Other to = being, or reason, or human, like my cousin very pragmatically demonstrates, we invalidate the ethical responsiblities that are unbreakable (any contigency that for a time falls under our definitions). So the only definition that holds therefore has to exceed and overflow definition: The Other must remain Other. It is a voided space, that we can’t fetishize or appropriate.

2/ Now, to your post and Grossman. When you talk about the the term other as being a handy way of describing “not me,” or a binary of simply self/other, subject/object—I think you are using the term still in a Cartesian sense of what is merely not the thinking subject. I think, and I could be misunderstanding, that Levinas in his discussion of the term wants us to see something as mandated beyond thought or subjects, before these divisions of self, being, someone else. Our relation to others cannot be exhausted by cognition (Descartes) or
perception (Husserl) or ontology (Heidegger). And given the nasty habit of nations, and political parties, like philosophers, of categorizing and prioritizing hierachies of beings, we need to entirely resist that temptation even as we aware of it.

3/ You talk about being uncomfortable about the notion of the uncrossable gulf between persons—but how is this gulf at all crossable? The core of Levinas’ thought is to affirm that it is indeed not crossable. You seem to reason we can’t have the person be purely separate from us and at the same time have a meaningful relationship—Why not? Levinas would say the only original and intrinsic relationship we could BEGIN to have would have to be founded on remembering other-as-other, because if we forget that, then we begin to silently/blindly appropriate their being-as-other into our own meaning-making productions.

4/ Grossman writes about the consciousness of self and other people participating in an interchange of langauge, in which language allows for all people to be I’s or Thou’s (he’s definitely been reading his Martin Buber). In his opinion, this intersubjectivity is shared and communal, lumping us together (Husserl uses the same logic). What I would argue however is that even though I may be the other for someone else, or the other for myself, or the I to someone else as other, and these positions change, a/ that doesn’t stop the relationship of my being to other as being outside of language, and b/ that doesn’t annul the fact that in so relating, we remain completely separate, and in that separation, my otherness and their otherness are irreducible, particular, and non-synonymous. He claims he is not trying to push for equality or symmetry, but in emphasizing the reversibility in language as the essence of the relation, I think he is doing something potentially more dangerous than equality or symmetry—he is saying what two people share by language defines them, as well as their relationship. This is the very line of thinking that CAN, in Levinas’ opinion, create such violence. (Clearly not Grossman’s point, but is it a consequence of his reasoning?)

5/ Remember also that Grossman is pointing at how these terms fall away and allow for subjectivity to discover itself. Well, in one way, he’s absolutely right. That is how subjectivity is discovered—but since subjectivity is particular, and discreet, ONLY subjectivity is discovered in this method—the relation to the other as other hasn’t been dissolved. It remains there, not totalized by our subjective experience, only announcing its impasse, and impossibility for us to comprehend.

6/ Why would I-You be any less static than I-other?

7/ Your point about I-You vs. I-It illustrates one danger in this thinking: as long as we are safe in dividing the Its from the Yous, then we run the risk of denying relationship at all. For those who follow deconstruction in its questioning of women, animals, other marginalized categories of entities in Western history—the You/It distinction illustrates the consequences and potency of such a metaphysics.

8/ You want to be freed from the anxiety of being the only self—but Heidegger argues that anxiety is one of the primary modes in which a being-in-the-world understands itself, as being separate and distinct. Add to that what assures you is the imaginative act of imposing your subjective sense onto other others, therefore assuming that as they are like you, you are not alone, and they are not different. To Levinas and Derrida—a lot has gone wrong from such a wilful glossing over of difference.

9/ You seem to say that if the other is other, he is alien, and therefore cannot communicate. So therefore communication is most important in relationship? (I’m not saying it isn’t important, but is it the ground-value for determining whether or not a relationship is meaningful? I point back to Dan Fitz’s wise, pragmatic examples—there are many relationships in a person’s life wher communicative channels break down. Anxiety, among other things, surely follows—but has their inalienable right as another been forfeited?) Why is it solipsistic to think we communicate with others, through a language that is inherited, and alien to us all, to a degree? This is where the ethics of Levinas passes onto the deconstruction work of Derrida. As Levinas wishes to prioritize the otherness in human relation, so Derrida’s work points to the otherness at work in our discourse, that punctures the illusion writing is all ours, all shared, happy and snug in one-big-daddy-warm-sack-of-intersubjective-free-flowingness.

10/ You say no longer seeing the other as anything more than another subjective self will free us from anxiety, and in doing so, loosen us from the desperation to merge. But isn’t so much of Christian theology and mysticism based upon the anxiety of God’s non-beingness? His voidlike, apophatic negativity—in which we desire, impossibly, to merge with Him?

11/ Jesus, forgive me for all these inchoate thoughts and rambles.

12/ I think part of what I resist in Grossman is this reductive idea of a community of discourse—as if language invalidated difference, and allied us together in some streamline. The lack of a sovreign speaker, at least in a Derridean sense, points to the otherness already at work in language and in us when we rely on language—there, always already, all the time.

13/ As for the Urn, I can’t pretend I see/know/or have a tie-in yet. But I definitely am interested in contrasting the I-Thou and I-It of Burber into a Keatsian analysis. Maybe Keats’ whole point was to rase the urn, ecstastically, into the holy place of Thouness? I don’t know. Shooting off a lot, please dismiss whatever doesn’t seem like a worthy or interesting provocation.

Thanks again—much to mull and think over.

AJF

Micah Towery February 19, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Adam, you make so many good (and helpful) points/distinctions that I think I won’t be able to converse with them all. This statement seems especially pertinent:

“The other, therefore, emerges in Levinas’ critique—situated at a unique historical moment in lieu of the mass genocide, as a Jew, writing in response to German masters—as a means by which the other remains, like God, undefined—a rupture of the totalizing system of philosophy (philosophy’s project to complete knowledge).”

I think this use of the term “other”–as a way to explode an attempt to create a totalizing system–is certainly helpful. And in that sense, perhaps I should admit that I overlook some of usefulness of it as a term. At the end of the day, I think I want my main point to be boiled down to this: our relationships are better characterized by the relationship of I-You/Thou, rather than Self-Other. Nonetheless, you’ve made some great points I want to respond/converse with.

1. You say “The Other must remain Other. It is a voided space, that we can’t fetishize or appropriate.” This is a worthy impetus for the distinction of “other,” the idea that we should not (can not?) appropriate/fetishize “others” (in whatever form they come). I would like to think that my understanding agrees with it, that my understanding of personhood forbids it. More to the point, I do not think we need to theorize an absolute gulf between persons to justify this impetus. And I do not think my above rant supports any system that would. Language, and other things that we share as relational beings, does involve a sort of mutual submission, a willingness to use words and to “confine” ourselves. But I do not think these words confine us necessarily. Actually, connecting with Joe’s comment on your first Keat’s post, I think these words are generative and a not prisons. They are filled not just a static meaning, but also intent, context, and perhaps a certain creative power. My problem with Levinas, if I understand it correctly, is that he has thrown the baby out with the bathwater.

2. As far as being a Cartesian, I have been accused of this several times in my life (and accused others as well). It seems Cartesian may be the greatest philosophical put down in our day! Poor Descartes–even if he had a good idea, nobody would listen anymore…

Again, I would say that my understanding is less Cartesian and more Thomistic. As far as I can tell, Aquinas had many useful distinctions that were balanced, nonetheless, and contextualized in an overall worldview. Marshall Mcluahn makes a great point in The Mechanical Bride about the modern attempts to dominate nature, science, etc., came from a pre-modern desire to control. Some would trace this back to the monasteries, where monks maximized their time through scheduling and intense study of habits and systems (which is why the monasteries and Catholic Church were really the birthplace of science as we know it, much to Dawkins chagrin). Aquinas could be accused of this (as many who rant against the later scholastics do), but I really think that Aquinas presents a much more balanced picture than we often realize.

For me, Aquinas merges with 20th century personalism, a la John Paul Deuce’s ideas on Thomistic Personalism (great link on that here: http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:_EG71-5BB7wJ:www.upra.org/archivio_pdf/ao42_williams1.pdf+thomistic+personalism&hl=en&gl=ca&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESgxFvifV1S4Ky7ON8Lf7ySgZs4yd3WRks7kkAShy2DnwByCKKmIL5BmaxdZN3MFpasP4kYjPYKT59Mq4jNwPRKQTm2X0VBAtIXDJ26KdJgLrGOO60ESyCucKx0Bj1VxNyLXm2GJ&sig=AHIEtbSleXFtNoCq_Zkw9NJn6uB-E4jfCQ ).

In short, I think this is the root of my ideas, rather than Descartes. It recognizes helpful distinctions and the abilities of language, but checks them with a sense of the magnitude and carefulness about the category of the person.

Does that make any sense? Hopefully it does…

3. I think my response to this is essentially the same as for point 2. Language is powerful, and the person is meaningful. We must strive to communicate with one another. It is a messy process, with many mistakes, but I do not think it necessarily follows that “we begin to silently/blindly appropriate their being-as-other into our own meaning-making productions.” This is a hard charge to deflect because it says we are blind to it (unless we have the correct assumptions). As I said, I think Levinas threw the baby out with the bathwater, and I do not find his characterization of personal relationships convincing.

4. One issue I have with contemporary philosophy is that it is so language-focused; language is the fundamental lens of interpretation. If we must choose fundamental categories/lenses, I would rather cast my lot with the person as the fundamental one. Hence, I do not think intersubjectivity lumps us together. I don’t think it smudges out the particulars of individual persons. Also, I’m not sure that I would characterize us as a being outside language. Rather (and this is a point Grossman makes), we live in a community of persons, and language is part of that community. We take on language, ingest it, and then use it, modifying it, animating it, and living in it. Of course it changes us in some ways (in the way food or experience changes us), and of course some use language to successfully manipulate, but we are not slaves to it.

Thus, I do not see it as a consequence of Grossman’s idea that persons are defined by language. But rather language is one of the things they hold in common that facilitates relationship (among other things).

5. This point is only true if we assume the Self-Other relationship fundamentally, if I understand it correctly.

6. When I called Self-Other static, I simply meant that we fundamentally distrust the “other” who calls us “other.” We don’t believe it. It’s one way. There is no give and take.

7. I see You-It not as the consequence of Western binaries, but rather the consequence of a person who does not recognize another person as a person, but something to appropriate/fetishize.

8. I do not think I am engaging in an “imaginative act of imposing [my] subjective sense onto other others.” I am merely saying I am a person; they are a person. I do not necessarily define how they experience personhood. A self (in the Freudian sense) is divisible, reducible to impulses and such. I do not dismiss the potential value of psychoanalysis, but I think it is wrongheaded to believe it is a complete science. To me, the person is irreducible, worthy of respect, and capable of relationship. I do not see this as a willful glossing over of difference.

9. As I mentioned before, I do not see language as alien. It belongs to community, between us. There are rules and words and concepts that we inherit, but we are not defined by it. Rather, we (as a community) define language. Yes, there is a submission to community, but that submission is mutual. My issue with Levinas is that he seems to think that language can be used as some absolute weapon against another who is powerless to fight it. I just don’t see language working like that. It’s more nuanced than that.

10. I am a fan of much Christian mysticism, but a cautious one. It’s a dicey topic and probably needs another blog post! I am wary, though, of mystics who speak of a merging with God where personality/particularity is smudged. There is, however, a process of merging with God where parts of our persons are burned away, parts that feel very much a part of us (but ultimately aren’t). This process is sometimes described as a movement toward the melding of persons (in a more Buddhist sense), a movement toward non-being, but ultimately that is not what happens. One mystic I’ve been reading contrasts the nothingness of Christ to the nothingness of Sartre. The latter actually leads to nothingness, while the former is a sense of darkness through which we pass.

11. Ditto.

12. I do not think Grossman is reductive if you have the assumptions about person and community that I do ;-)

13. One thing I was thinking in terms of the Keat’s poem was that address is different than discourse. Address doesn’t always expect a response (as it is purely rhetorical). Discourse does. Hence my belief that it is Keat’s speaking through the Urn, and not the urn itself speaking of its own accord.

Hope some of this was understandable at least!

Good stuff.
Micah

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