Sunday, September 02, 2007

Further Thoughts on Immanence in Response

In the world of high-stakes blogging there are the quick and the dead. I am amazed at the speed and depth of post discussions that I have come across. I am beginning to realize that much of what is written feeds directly into or out of published or taught material. I thought I would pace myself and respond to helpful comments directed towards my questions and observations. The firs series of responses comes from the discussion that I directed you to earlier (see here).

Following this I will address the comments made directly in the below post.

The first quote is from Larval Subjects who responded sharply to my thoughts that perhaps notions of the sacred (or at least theologically sensitive aesthetics) may be helpful navigating some the issues being raised.
LS responded by saying that,

Philosophy has abdicated itself when it follows this path [of assuming or requiring transcendence] or ends up in a pious crypto-theology suitable to the needs of priests, despots, and demagogues– immanence, which is philosophy’s vocation since Thales’ declaration that the world is sufficient to itself, requiring no mythological explanation or transcendent beyond, always rejecting any sort of obfuscatory and hypnotic sacred.

I find it difficult to respond to this quote. I also find it hard to be defensible. Either position (assuming or defending either immanence or transcendence) desires a superior perspective; an ability to see behind the assumptions of the other. I will leave further commentary until later.

In a number of respects, I draw my distinction between theology and philosophy from Jean-Luc Marion who rigorously tries to define the limit of philosophy. I differ from Marion in holding that theologies that posit transcendence ought to be left behind. I read the history of philosophy as the history of attempts to think immanence. These attempts can be deployed in a variety of ways, can be more or less successful, and the question of whether or not immanence has ever been fully thought is entirely open. By immanence I understand the thesis that we don’t need to refer to anything beyond, or to any intervention outside the world, to explain the world or to account for value. Consequently, when Thales says “all is water”, he is appealing to a principle of explanation that is strictly immanent to the world and is breaking with mythos or narrative explanations of the world such as those found in Greek mythology.

LS desires to discard reference to anything "beyond" the world. This is a very problematic statement. Again, I can't help notice such a position assuming an indefensible perspective; a seeing of the other side of immanence. I appreciate the example of Thales saying that "all is water". But is the Christian doctrine "God is love" any less a statement of immanence? Or conversely is water the "strictly immanent" principle LS takes it to be? Certainly the use of "water" as ontologically basic differs from speaking of there being "turtles all the way down" though perhaps not by much.
What I hope to clarify in my own articulation is that my using words such as transcendence and sacred are not to be pictured as portals to another dimension. Though I do not have a clear concept of a personal God I also do not consider God and spirit to be somehow "outside" of reality. Speaking of the sacred refers to the relational nature of truth and our inability to control or manipulate it. Transcendence refers to the movements and possibilities of "presence". We are boundaried people but that does not exclude the possibility of communion (and also the transgression of boundary).
What I am wondering is if LS's notion of immanence requires "truth" to always be clean, clinical and reproducible. To be scientific in the most modern sense of the word. I would find this much more frightening that the subscription to fairies and goblins as clinical dissection always requires the death or manipulation of the object and not a relationship with her.

Stay tuned LS had much more to say on the matter.

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