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Monday, 14 August 2017

L'intériorité est le congé de la totalité

Tomorrow I'm lecturing on some of the initial ingredients deployed by Levinas in the argument of Totality and Infinity. He believes Descartes provided two important contributions to the project of a non-ontologist metaphysics as sketched in Plato's Sophist by the Stranger. (The project of having the Other paired with Being - and Same, Rest, Motion - and not as a derivative of what there is.) First, Descartes brought about the notion of infinity that is a concept that is beyond itself and therefore beyond the thought of a totality - an infinity that, I believe, cannot be reduced to actual infinity. Second, Descartes brought about the notion of interiority and therefore the possibility of a time that is different from that of history in its objectivity. Interiority is what makes separation - between me and the Other - possible and therefore what makes pluralism possible. Further, it is the interruption in totality. The notion of interiority contrasts indeed with history and therefore with historical accounts of things that promote an idolatry of facts. The contrast is Levinas' version of a fallacy of misplaced concreteness: there is no account of a totality because there is transcendence and transcendence springs from interiority. His use of Descartes and his notion of interiority surely puts him close to monadologies. To be sure, monadologies tend to be impersonal and to emphasize symmetry and reversibility - but they start out with the reality of the interior, of the subjective and make room for pluralism through the reality of a subjective perspective. Interestingly, in "L'athéisme et la volonté" (1B), he criticizes Leibniz because his monads are not distinct due to their interiority but rather due to their predicates and further because monads form a totality in the head of God. The two misgivings, however, seem to be based on features exclusive to Leibniz's monadology. Concerning the latter, if action in the actual world is not determined in a previous time, there could be no room for a totality. As for the former, if predicates are an expression of interiority, as in Whitehead, what distinguished different units of action would be their interiority. Still my question persists: is it possible to conceive of a Levinasian monadology?

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