Beyond Question

Does the metaphorical obtain only within metaphysics? The philosopher who answers this philosophical question in the affirmative must first be able to answer the question, 'Where are the limits of this metaphysical within?' We have been considering Derrida's questioning whether this second question can be answered by Heidegger or anyone else. Derrida's questioning is a calling into question of the assumption that philosophy can maintain control over a metalanguage in which questions are asked about the relation between metaphysics and metaphor. In the wake of Godel, Frege, Russell and Zermelo he is questioning the possibility of the completeness and consistency of a metalanguage in which there can be philosophical questioning as such. Not the first or last to do that, in his essay 'Violence and Metaphysics' he is questioning Levinas's way of questioning that possibility. Not without irony, not without Derrida being conscious of this irony and conscious that Levinas is too, his questioning of Levinas in one section of this essay appeals to a Heideggerian motif. And so in turn does Levinas's response. Levinas, we have seen, challenges the philosophical tradition of holism exemplified by Spinoza, Hobbes, Hegel and modern structuralism. He thinks holism on its own, if valid, would do a violence to the singularity of human beings because they would be at best interacting nodes of a totality according to the doctrines associated with philosophies of system. Levinas argues that the violence of systematic and symmetrical holism can be prevented only by what we might call dissymmetrical holy-ism, understanding the word 'holy' in the etymological sense of 'apart'. Paradoxically, it is only the holy, the heilig or the saint in this sense of separation a sens unique, that allows violence at all. In no way can there be violence without the one way of the face to face.

Derrida wonders why such violence is not already prevented by the phenomenological ontology of Heidegger where letting beings be, as already Husserlian phenomenology's requirement that philosophy go back to the things themselves, would seem to guarantee for the individual the fullest possible care and respect. Is not Levinas failing to see that the ontological thinking of being as such, even if it is taken, dubiously, to inherit the totalizing propensity of Hegelian Spirit, allows and may even demand respect at the ontic level of relations among individual human beings? Is he not also failing to remember the ontological difference? Is he not thinking of being as a being if he believes that being can be in any way repressive? Only a being can repress another being, not being as such.

Now Levinas frequently criticizes the doctrine that would ground morality upon respect. What he has in mind when he does so may not always be the Kantian tenet that one thing alone is unconditionally good, namely will motivated by respect for the moral law. Respect for the moral law may be the foundation of justice, but justice itself is a violence unless it retains what might be provisionally called respect for the face. However, where respect is understood as no more than an attitude based on sympathy, it is, so to speak, too lacking in a certain good violence to forestall the bad violence threatened by the earlier mentioned holistic philosophical doctrines, all of which are ultimately philosophies of war. Peace is the traumatic violence of my being hostage to the Other, called to stand bail and to expiate for him or her. It is because Levinas can find no hint of this peaceful violence in Heidegger's thinking of being and letting be that he judges it to be a letting be of totalitarian violence and war.

Yet, just as Heidegger remonstrates with those interpreters of his own poietic thinking (dichtendes Denken) and of Hölderlin's thinking poiêsis (denkendes Dichten) who would describe their language as metaphorical, so Levinas warns his interpreters incessantly against mistaking as metaphorical the use he makes of certain key terms. For to suppose that those terms are being used metaphorically is to suppose that their crucial function derives solely from their belonging to a semantic field. The reason for his taking exception to this may be compared to Heidegger's reason for demurring at the supposition that his and Hölderlin's etyma, their original words for being, are metaphors for being.26 That would turn being into something signified or represented by the metaphor, hence to conceal precisely what the metaphor would purport to reveal more articulately. The most one might say is that being is itself metaphorization.

This difficulty over articulation might seem to be the same difficulty as the one to which negative theology was a response. But it is not the same difficulty if negative theology is a theology about a being, albeit the highest. A nearer antecedent in the genealogy of Heidegger's, Derrida's and Levinas's difficulties with metaphor is identified in a remark made in Otherwise than Being about something Husserl says in §36 of The Phenomenology of Internal Time Consciousness (cited above in the third section of chapter 4). In Transcendence and Intelligibility Levinas says that when Husserl writes of the flow of time he has not reached 'the ultimate or living metaphor'. This is time as pro-phecy, inspiration or à-Dieu (TRI 36). In Otherwise than Being Levinas says that Husserl is not speaking metaphorically at all at that point, notwithstanding his statement there that he is; he is not drawing an analogy between time and a river. 'To speak of time in terms of flowing is to speak of time in terms of time, not in terms of temporal events.. Temporal modification is not an event nor an action nor the effect of a cause. It is the verb to be' (AE 43-4, OB 34-5). A verb is a 'time-word', a Zeitwort in German; and its modes include tenses, modes of time. So for being and its verbality and for time and its adverbiality 'we lack names', Husserl says, followed by Heidegger. Once nominalized, being and time are killed. As is God, when He is named. So when Levinas follows Nietzsche's Zarathustra in proclaiming the death of God yet appears to be unable to get by without the word 'God', this word is no more being employed by him as a metaphor than a metaphor is being given for a word in Holderlin's phrase 'words, like flowers'.To use the word 'God' as a name for a transcendent being is to do Him a mortal violence. It is also to do mortal violence to man. The paradoxical reason for this is that only the extraordinary proname 'God', with pro-pronames for it like 'Infinity', is sufficiently violent to utter my being an unsubstitutable substitute in responsibility for the Other.This 'for the Other' could at some risk be said to be metaphoricity itself or quasi-metaphoricity.27 But not only would this metaphoricity itself be non-semantic; it would not only exceed the field of the semantic standing of one thing for another, the representation of things present and absent.It would exceed also the field of presencing, of being and its truth, aletheia, and of being's permanence through ecstatic temporality or the homogeneous chronological continuum. When the signification of one thing standing for another is interrupted by my standing for the other human being, both the humanism of the ego persisting in its being and the ultra-humanism of Nietzsche find their selves overtaken by the alter-humanism of my self expiating for the Other. Then, and now, 'at this very moment in this text', there erupts a diachrony that resists synchronization.There explodes in my face an ethical diaphorization bearing no implicit or explicit resemblance to metaphor as defined by Aristotle and a succession of other rhetoricians through the ages. Incomparable with classical metaphor, other than the flower that is absent from all anthologies, it is an utterly other trope.

There are many other such tropes alleged by Levinas not to be metaphors. Our next chapter will list them at length.Anticipating that roll call, let us note here two or three of the cautions he issues against mixing with metaphors what only seem to be metaphors.He warns, for example, that the expression 'in one's skin' is not a metaphor of the in-itself, adding, in a phrase similar to one cited earlier from Derrida, that it is 'better than metaphors'.28 He also observes that the diachrony of the subject is not a metaphor but is the subject itself (AE 73, OB 57). This holds not only for the phenomenological and ontological diachrony of the ego's ecstatic persistence through a recollectable past toward a projected future. It holds too for the ethical diachrony of the self s unrecollectable past and unsynthesizable future forever to come. So there are two levels or two spacetimes of non-metaphoricity. Heidegger draws attention to the ontological non-metaphoricity. While applauding and retaining that insight, Levinas thinks that there is an ethical non-metaphoricity underlying the ontological non-metaphoricity. But how can he think this? Is there not a problem here?

Derrida writes of what he calls etymological empiricism, which, he says, transporting a well-known metaphor from Kant via Heidegger, is the hidden root of all empiricism.29 Etymological empiricism is the empiricism of Polyphilos, as well perhaps of Nietzsche. At its most extreme it will say that even the metaphysical or meta-metaphysical notion of being has an etymological root in concrete notions like, for example, respiration. Indeed, both Nietzsche and

Levinas say this. We learned already in our discussion of concreteness in the second chapter that Levinas is no less preoccupied than Heidegger with the problem, to solve which Kant invoked his doctrine of schematism, the problem that at B177 of the first Critique is referred to as that of the application of concepts in concrete). Levinas's agenda at least from Totality and Infinity onward is to rethink ontology in concreto by emphasizing Greek pneuma as Hebrew man, revealing how one breath is intermingled with the other.30 Now Nietzsche will say also that this etymological connection is a movement of metaphor. But in thinking of being as metaphor he is forgetting, as Derrida reminds us Hegel reminds us, that, like empiricism in general, he is using the verb to be, thinking by metaphor without thinking the metaphor as such. Empiricism forgets what Husserl calls 'categorial intuition'.So that to think of metaphoricity as such is to think of being again, a metaphor more or less. And when Levinas, instead of affirming metaphoricity, again and again denies it, is not he embarrassed by the same predicament? Since he has to think metaphoricity if he has to deny it, he has to think being. He seems to be unable to evade the Parmenidean-Heideggerian thesis that being and thinking are one.He can put this problem behind him only by substituting for it a difficulty, the difficulty of substitution, the difficulty that if ethical substitution and diachrony are to be otherwise than being they will have to be what as such cannot be thought.

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