Carnal Hermeneutics
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Carnal Hermeneutics

Richard Kearney, Brian Treanor, Richard Kearney, Brian Treanor

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eBook - ePub

Carnal Hermeneutics

Richard Kearney, Brian Treanor, Richard Kearney, Brian Treanor

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Building on a hermeneutic tradition in which accounts of carnal embodiment are overlooked, misunderstood, or underdeveloped, this work initiates a new field of study and concern. Carnal Hermeneutics provides a philosophical approach to the body as interpretation. Transcending the traditional dualism of rational understanding and embodied sensibility, the volume argues that our most carnal sensations are already interpretations. Because interpretation truly goes "all the way down, " carnal hermeneutics rejects the opposition of language to sensibility, word to flesh, text to body.In this volume, an impressive array of today's preeminent philosophers seek to interpret the surplus of meaning that arises from our carnal embodiment, its role in our experience and understanding, and its engagement with the wider world.

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Introduction: Carnal Hermeneutics from Head to Foot
Richard Kearney and Brian Treanor
1. See Richard Kearney, “What Is Diacritical Hermeneutics?” in The Journal of Applied Hermeneutics, vol. 1, no. 1, ed. Nancy Moules (University of Calgary, 2011); “Eros, Diacritical Hermeneutics, and the Maybe” in Philosophical Thresholds: Philosophy Today, vol. 55, eds. Cynthia Willett and Leonard Lawlor (2001); and “Diacritical Hermeneutics” in Hermeneutic Rationality/La rationalité herméneutique, eds. Andrew Wiercinski et al. (Munster: LIT Verlag, 2011).
2. See Anne Davenport’s “Translator’s Note” in the endnotes to Chrétien’s “From the Limbs of the Heart to the Soul’s Organs,” in this volume.
3. See Christina M. Gschwandtner’s “Translator’s Note” in the endnotes to Falque’s “This Is My Body,” in this volume.
The Wager of Carnal Hermeneutics
Richard Kearney
1. See our hermeneutic analysis of the other as alien, stranger and foreigner in our Introduction to Phenomenologies of the Stranger, eds. Richard Kearney and Kascha Semonovitch (New York: Fordham University Press, 2011) and Hosting the Stranger, eds. Richard Kearney and James Taylor (New York: Continuum Press, 2011).
2. See Richard Kearney, “What Is Diacritical Hermeneutics?” in The Journal of Applied Hermeneutics, vol. 1, no. 1, especially notes 5 and 6. See also Paul Ricoeur’s hermeneutic analysis of Homeric recognition in The Course of Recognition (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005).
3. See Chapter 1, “In the Moment: The Uninvited Guest” in Richard Kearney, Anatheism (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010). One might also mention here Jesus’ curing of the blind man where the senses of sight and touch are synesthetically crossed as well as his repeated post-resurrection acts of sharing food with his disciples, at Emmaus, at lake Galilee and Jerusalem, where his risen identity is revealed through “tasting and touching.” For a fuller treatment of the many literary and artistic renditions of Biblical and Gospel scenes of touching and tasting, see Jean-Luc Nancy, Noli me Tangere (New York: Fordham University Press, 2006) and Richard Kearney, Flesh: Recovering our Senses in an Age of Excarnation (forthcoming).
4. I am grateful to my brother Michael Kearney, for bringing this scene to my attention and the Buddhist image of the “co-arising of body and mind” like “two sheaves of reeds.” See also Joanna Macy, in Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory: The Dharma of Natural Systems (Albany, NY: SUNY, 1991).
5. Aristotle, De Anima 2, 423. This references, as well as further citations of De Anima refer to the translation by J.A. Smith which is available both in print (London: Clarendon, 1931), and on the Internet Classics Archive, Citations include the book number (e.g., 2) and Bekker number (e.g., 423).
6. Aristotle, De Anima 2, 421.
7. Aristotle, De Anima 2, 418.
8. Aristotle, De Anima 2, 428.
9. See Jean-Louis Chrétien’s illuminating commentary on Aristotle’s claim that touch is the most universal of all the senses in an essay entitled “Body and Touch” in The Call and the Response (New York: Fordham University Press, 2004), 92–94. I am deeply indebted to Chrétien’s brilliant hermeneutic retrieval of Aristotle’s reading of the senses in De Anima, Book II, ch. 11, and also to John Panteleimon Manoussakis and Emmanuel Alloa for their recent innovative retrievals, both represented in this volume (see references in notes 10 and 21 below).
10. See commentary by Chrétien, “Body and Touch,” 95–96 and the fascinating reading by John Panteleimon Manoussakis of these same passages in the De Anima in “Touching,” part 3 of God after Metaphysics: A Theological Aesthetic (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007). Aristotle notes that the fact that we perceive through the medium of touch—namely flesh—“escapes us” (Aristotle, De Anima 2, 423b) and this gives rise to various metaphorical readings of the flesh—as an air-envelope, membrane, watery second skin, etc. And, we might add, its very enigmatic character has provoked countless different philosophical readings including those cited and featured in this volume (see essays by Chrétien, Alloa, Manoussakis, Nancy, et al.). Given Aristotle’s revolutionary claim that “flesh is not the organ but the medium of touch” (ibid.), and that all sensing—from top to bottom—is “mediated,” we have grounds for claiming that every act of human sensation, no matter how basic, is already an exercise in hermeneutic Verstehen-Befindlichket (to borrow Heidegger’s language from Being and Time). The hermeneutic as-structure is never absent. There is no escaping hermeneutics, even if one wanted to. Manoussakis develops Aristotle’s insight into touch in terms of a threefold distinction between “grasp,” “caress,” and “kiss” in line with contemporary phenomenological hermeneutics, while Alloa in his essay in this volume—“Getting into Touch”—retraces the genealogical rapport between ancient Alexandrian hermeneutics and Aristotelian diagnostics.
11. Chrétien, “Body and Touch,” 85. It is also worth noting here that in a curiously enigmatic passage in the Metaphysics Theta, ch. 10, 1051b, 23–25, Aristotle speaks of apprehending the truth of something in terms of “touch” (thigein) and of ignorance in terms of a lack of “touch,” or as we might say, being out of touch. And he goes on in Metaphysics, XII, 7, 1072b, 21, to claim that “It (mind) becomes thought by touching and thinking. . . .” It is important to note that the verb used for touching in the Metaphysics is thingangein while in the De Anima, it is haphê/haptesthai. I am grateful to my colleagues Thomas Sheehan, Arthur Madigan, and Erin Stackle for discussion of this passage.
12. Chrétien, “Body and Touch,” 87–90.
13. See the very insightful distinction between the infant mouth as os or as bucca in its first gestures of touching and tasting, Jean-Luc Nancy, Corpus, trans. Richard Rand (New York: Fordham University Press, 2008), 2–122. Nancy’s phenomenological description of the body’s radical exposure to the other from birth is captured in his wonderful neologism “expeausition”—the exposition of skin to skin (ibid., 14 ff.). See also his essays in this volume, “Motion and Emotion” and “Essential Skin” in the chapter “Rethinking Corpus,” where he speaks of the most basic epidermal responses of skin being, from the outset, both completely psychological and physiological—two forms of the same thing. It would be interesting to bring Nancy’s hermeneutics of “corpus” into dialogue with the recent work of philosophers engaged in more empirical-cognitive research, such as Catherine Malabou, Sean McGrath, and Evan Thompson, or with empirical psychologists like Matthew Fulkerson, The First Touch: A Philosophical Study of Human Touch (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2014).
14. Linguistics and psychoanalysis can also provide many interesting insights regarding the original relationship between proto-speech sensibility and speech proper. See in particular Roman Jacobson’s intriguing analysis of the transition from infant “babble” to speech (which influenced the hermeneutic phenomenologies of Merleau-Ponty and Alloa) and Freud’s famous description of the child’s first acquisition of language as a synesthetic game of fort/da where the child touches a spool of cotton (pulling and pushing it out of vision) while pronouncing the words, “gone, back again” (see Beyond the Pleasure Principle). It might be recalled here that Aristotle had already noted the proto-hermeneutic power of the voice in De Anima: “Not every sound made by an animal is voice . . . what produces the impact must have soul in it and must be accompanied by an act of imagination, for voice is a sound with a meaning, and is not merely the result of any impact of the breath as in coughing” (220b, 30).
15. Jean-Luc Nancy, “Essential Skin,” in this volume.
16. Chrétien, “Body and Touch,” 98.
17. Aristotle, De Anima 2, 428a.
18. Chrétien, “Body and Touch,” 98. On the question of hermeneutical...

Indice dei contenuti

  1. Cover
  2. Series Board
  3. Series Editor
  4. Title Page
  5. Copyright
  6. Contents
  7. Acknowledgments
  8. Introduction: Carnal Hermeneutics from Head to Foot
  9. Why Carnal Hermeneutics?
  10. Rethinking the Flesh
  11. Matters of Touch
  12. Divine Bodies
  13. Notes
  14. List of Contributors
  15. Index
  16. Series List