The (traditional) phenomenological project of reducing everything to human experience has, necessarily, caught up with time. Indeed, in Alia Al-Saji’s “The Temporality of Life: Merleau-Ponty, Bergson, and the Immemorial Past,” temporality becomes the unwilling servant to human subjectivity by being made into a structuring principle for the self — the past is the vital thrust that makes the present possible not by metaphysical necessity, but by retroactive phenomenological ‘secretion of time.'1)Alia Al-Saji, “The Temporality of Life: Merleau-Ponty, Bergson, and the Immemorial Past,” Southern Journal of Philosophy 45, no. 2 (2007), 177-206: 181. Merleau-Ponty points to
the privilege of the present in the way in which the body lives time. Notably, the body “secretes time … project[ing] round the present a double horizon of past and future”2)Al-Saji, “The Temporality of Life,” 181; Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Phenomenology of Perception trans. Colin Smith (New Jersey: The Humanities Press, 1962), 239-240 / [“secrets time […] project[ing] a double horizon of the past and future around the present” trans. Donald Landes (London: Routledge, 2014), 249.]
These descriptions point to an immemorial that is neither lost presence, nor distant past; as both ground and abyss, the immemorial is a past that accompanies and makes possible the present.3)Al-Saji, “The Temporality of Life,” 184.
While noting that the past is not exhuasted in creating the present (thereby affirming some virtuality to it), the past is only important insofar as it is understandable and creates a present for us.4)Ibid., 186-188. While there’s more to say, all I have for now is the vague intuition that time is something so utterly alien to us that our attempts to humanize it — that is to say, make it understandable — strip it of its radical otherness. While not Kantianism per se, perhaps time is quasi-noumenal insofar as it is outside our comprehension but still affects us. In the meantime, here’s Germán Sierra:
You’re used to thinking of gods and demons as anthropomorphic – or at least biomorphic – stuff, something that must resemble living things you’re already familiar with – if not humanoid, in the shape of animals or plants. Sometimes adopting the form of earthly or atmospheric events such as volcanos or lightnings, or space bodies like the Sun, the Moon or stars. Otherwise they should be immaterial, invisible, spiritual, formless, metaphysical beings. But let’s imagine something that – being material, physical, corporeal and dynamic – is not bioid. Not physiologically driven, not even determined by a circular teleological aim – you wouldn’t consider it alive. Something that recycles energy, but not in the way we’re used to measuring it. Something that neither follows, nor contradicts, the laws of nature – like a weird, not fully explained quantum event. That would be a real monster; it would perform like there’s actually something radically different out there. Something that might come from the past or from the future, not because it has ‘travelled’ from there, but because it always existed in a parallel space of possibilities – almost-assembling matter meta-waiting for the right environmental context to re-order itself in some unexpectable way. Like if the observer had produced an event not by observing it, but by the same process of becoming capable of observation, because the operation of becoming observer had required the previous development of possibilities of new relations, a self-organizational process that would open the universe to new self-organizations. Something that, for instance, might occupy the same tridimensional space as currently observable matter but, at least in its early development stages, without inteferring [sic] with it. Who said possession must imply extreme seizures, flying furniture, throwing up green stuff and a 360° head twist? You know prions, those proteins inducing other proteins to re-fold and change shape with destructive effects for cells – well, let’s imagine something like that but at a different level of reality and maybe without short-term perceivable consequences. Some n-dimensional process showing itself as a second superimposed tridimensional space pulsating in our world of phenomena like a glitch. You think of the devil as a horned beast that would need to impregnate people or cattle to reproduce, but instead think of it as a metastitious creature that can self-ensamble [sic] in the proper conditions from the proper scratch material, and then not reproduce itself but expand, occupy, amplify and diffuse (like some graphic novels’ cosmic hyper-villains) what we would call ‘darkness’ because from our point of view it’s an infiltrating outside – until darkness, imperceptibility, invades and consumes all the known matter and all the known energy of the known universe, metabolizing it into the dark matter of non-knowledge. A demon lurking in the silence that lies behind life’s noise.5)Germán Sierra, The Artifact (Lawrence: Inside the Castle, 2018), 92-94.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Alia Al-Saji, “The Temporality of Life: Merleau-Ponty, Bergson, and the Immemorial Past,” Southern Journal of Philosophy 45, no. 2 (2007), 177-206: 181.|
|2.||↑||Al-Saji, “The Temporality of Life,” 181; Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Phenomenology of Perception trans. Colin Smith (New Jersey: The Humanities Press, 1962), 239-240 / [“secrets time […] project[ing] a double horizon of the past and future around the present” trans. Donald Landes (London: Routledge, 2014), 249.]|
|3.||↑||Al-Saji, “The Temporality of Life,” 184.|
|5.||↑||Germán Sierra, The Artifact (Lawrence: Inside the Castle, 2018), 92-94.|