David Micheal Levin revisited

Mark started a FB IPS thread on Levin’s book The Opening of Vision. Some of my comments follow, from previous work in the Ning IPS forum.

I’ve cited that book (pp. 47-8) to support my musings in the Ning IPS fold thread. Quote:

“5, the ontological body: This is a hermeneutical body because i) it is accessible only through hermeneutical phenomenology and ii) it is itself hermeneutical, i.e., disclosive of the presencing of being.

4, the transpersonal body: This is our ancestral body, the ancient body of our collective unconscious, that dimension of our bodily being through which we experience our connectedness with all sentient beings, our participation in nature’s organic processes, and the cessation of our total identification with the conventional time and space of our socialized ego. Religions use ceremonies and rituals to schematize and bring forth such a body.

3, the ego-logical body: This is the civil body, socially constituted in the economy of a body politic. It is personal and interpersonal, and consists in masks, roles, habits, routines, and social practices. It is formed through child-rearing practices, education and participation in social structures.

2, the pre-personal body: This body is pre-civil and pre-egological. It is the body of the infant and child: a body adults still carry with them, however split off it might be; a body which adults can retrieve through memory or a relaxation of defenses, letting it take part in life involuntarily and spontaneously.

1, the primordial body: This is the wild body, the dreambody, the animal body, the body of nature, the vegetative body rooted in the earth. This body can only be invoked with the language of metaphors, symbols, stories, legends, fairy tales, myths, poetry and dreams. This body is both pre-egological and pre-ontologial. It carries around with it a dark, implicate pre-understanding of Being: a subsidiary guardian awareness of the meaningfulness of Being.
Development from stage 1 to 3 is normal and typically completed when the child becomes an adult. Stages 4 and 5, however, represent stages of individual development that require special effort, commitment, and maturity. Stages 1 and 2 are basically biological. Stage 3 is distinctively cultural…. The ego-logical body is the body shaped according to the ego’s image of itself. But stages 4 and 5 go beyond what society requires. We might call them ‘spiritual’ stages.

Normal development (stages 1-3) is always, more or less, a linear progression, but the progression beyond 3 is not; it is essentially hermeneutical, involving a return, a turning into the body of experience, to retrieve a present sense of the earlier stages. Beyond 3 it is necessary to go ‘backwards’ in order to go ‘forwards.’ Stage 3 is the moment when, for the first time, this return and retrieval is possible.”

In Levin’s book The Philosopher’s Gaze (UC Press,1999) he discusses Derrida’s critique of Husserl, in that the latter uses the metaphor of light to represent this phenomenological presence. Levin agrees with Derrida in that such language “generates a virtually irresistible temptation to reify, totalize, and homogenize, and reduce the forces of temporality and historicity to a state of eternal presentness” (70).

Again with the fold, also see this relevant passage in Levin’s Sites of Vision (MIT Press, 1999), the chapter on Derrida and Foucault. The entire chapter up to this point was Derrida’s refutation of the metaphor of light and vision, equating it with the metaphysics of presence. But when the metaphor extends to how blinding light diffuses any distinctive presencing Levin notes:

“Without disputing the heliocentrism and ocularcentrism of metaphysics, Derrida will argue, however, that, contrary to first appearances, the logic of this sun-and-light-centered discourse does not in fact entail, or necessitate, a metaphysics of presence—on the contrary, the more one thinks about the matter, the more one will be compelled to acknowledge that the logic of this metaphorics actually resists, and even subverts, the possibility of presence. Thus he asks us to reflect on the phenomenology actually implicit in the logic of this metaphorics: ‘Presence disappearing in its own radiance, the hidden source of light, of truth, and of meaning, the erasure of the visage of Being—such must be the insistent return of that which subjects metaphysics to metaphor.’ Here we can see Derrida’s deconstructive strategy at work—that is, at play: he uses the metaphorics of light to deconstruct the metaphysics of presence, that very presence that the visual generation of metaphyics has been thought to support. If this is a Hegelian Aufhebung, it is a sublation with a mischievous, chiasmic twist.”

At the Ning IPS thread on Levin Balder linked to a sample chapter from Levin’s Before the Voice of Reason. I enjoyed the sample chapter, raising many of the themes I explored in that thread, particularly the means of using language to establish relations with what was pre-language, i.e., nature. And how such attunement is achieved via a bastard reasoning or hyper-dialectic in Merleau Ponty’s turn of phrase, which is not merely a return to what was but an an intertwining with the yet to come:

“The attunement…having originally preceded the ego-logical consciousness, is not realized, and does not actually take place, until the belated moment of its reflected recuperation. The ‘always already’ that memory strives to retrieve is inseparable from a ‘not yet,’ a future conjectured in hope” (61).

In the following passage I found much akin to my own rhetoric against the totalizing hegemony of “nested hierarchies” posited by allegedly purely quantitative, mathematical models of hierarchical complexity and much exploited in kennilinguist altitude sickness:

“What I want to argue here…is…the voices of the non-identical: what cannot be subsumed and contained…by the ‘sober,’ tone-deaf concepts produced by our strictly ‘rational’ understanding—a hearing in excess of, or say beyond, our concepts for grasping and comprehending them; a hearing impossible within the ontologies codified by both rationalism and empiricism, both of which enshrine in reification the structure that positions a subjective interior opposite an objective exterior” (65-6). 

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About theurj

Also known as theurj. I've contributed some essays to Integral World and co-founded Open Integral blog, now defunct. I continue to participate in Integral Postmetaphysical Spirituality forum.
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