Posts Tagged ‘Arendt’

Hospitality of Incapacity

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

The horror of potentiality is the ongoing encounter with ones own lack, one’s privation of faculty, in the face of a temporal expanse. It is that uncanny, impotential twin, the foreign and ostensibly imaginary figure that is often neglected in favour of an unceasing capacity to-act, endless actualization, endless production. How are we to engage in meaningful dialogue with our intrinsic foreign double? How can we engage the existence of potentiality in it’s Janus faced embodiment, the double faced Roman deity of both beginnings and endings? A mode of being “two-in-one” is the state described by Hannah Arendt when offering a reflection on solitude. Solitude, for Arendt, is not the condition of loneliness, isolation or boredom often associated with the term, but rather a being together with oneself, a silent “dialogue of myself with myself”. Thinking is the corresponding activity of this dialogic-solitude, which Aristotle even went so far as to declare it as proof of a specifically human quality. The non-thinking being is painted as not human (what the ancient Greeks called barbarian), it cannot relate outside itself, for thinking always involves a displacement of one’s own position, a division of the self. A thinking subject, a human subject, a subject that can negotiate its powerful incapacity, who can, in the words of Bartelby the Scrivener, “prefer not to”, exist in potentiality, for they actively contemplate the relation between their capacity to-act and their incapacity not-to-act. By engaging the capacity of incapacity in dialogic-thought, potentiality is not something that ‘grinds-to-a-halt’ when actualized (as in the case with a generic understanding of potentiality, when we say that a “child has the potential to know” or grow tall, for once the child is tall, there is no more potentiality for growth), it is a form of potentiality that ‘gives itself to itself’, that ‘preserves itself’ in actuality and perpetuates its very existence.

The hospitality with which one must welcome one’s incapacity is, above all, an interruption of the capable self. The foreign self, the impotential self, operates as an involuntary guest who takes up permanent residence, and to whom an open door must be extended for potentiality to exist. In unconditional hospitality, that is a hospitality with no invitation, with no condition to adapt to the rules of the host, the guest/host dynamic finds itself in an inverse power arrangement than that found in conditional hospitality, where the host dictates order and holds court. Through this hierarchical inversion, where the guest becomes a host and a host becomes a guest, a type of conceptual violence emerges, in that we only come to enter our own selves from outside: “… the master of the house is at home, but nonetheless he comes to enter his home through the guest—who comes from outside. The master thus enters from the inside as if he came from the outside. He enters his home thanks to the visitor, by the grace of the visitor”. With the unconditional hosting of our incapacity, which interrupts our capacity to-act, we arrive at the existence of potentiality, a frightening relation wherein the capable ‘host-self’ generously abnegates authority to the incapable ‘guest-self’. In the wilful renouncing of authority on the part of the ‘host-self’, the possibility looms, of course, in foregoing its singular autonomy. What opens up, however, with the unconditional hosting of our impotential guest, is a forging of a co-autonomous potentiality, a dialogic autonomy, a veritable ‘selves’-rule principle.

Beginnings and (hopefully) Becomings…

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

In brief, what I want to discuss for the upcoming thesis:

The Greek word “Agon” denotes both a place of assembly (a space of contest – often in the theatre) and conflict, it is a mode of the appearance of struggle, which implicates its very notion in an aesthetic order. Typically, what is understood as constituting the sphere of “politics” are the sets of institutions, organizations of power and the “distribution of places and roles, and the systems of distribution” – which Rancière proposes to rename, in a non-pejorative fashion, ‘the police’. What he postulates as ‘politics’, rather, is the activity “antagonistic to policing: [as] whatever breaks with the tangible configuration whereby parties and parts or lack of them are defined by a presupposition that, by definition, has no place in that configuration.” Modes of contestation proper to politics, as such, cannot occur within a preconfigured, preordained space, for such a notion presupposes ‘recognized’ actors and roles that are already acknowledged as ‘parties’ (those possessing the capacity of ‘understandable’ speech). The Agon, as such, if it is to be understood as within the realm of politics, is an appearance of an aesthetic sphere that is forever becoming, continually re-drawing lines of demarcation, roles, names, operations and modes of speech / communicative acts.

The making visible of Agon, hinges on the realm of the invisible, uncounted, un-placed and non-situated. But, following up on Agamben’s analysis of ‘exceptionality’, one cannot simply polarize the counted and the uncounted, the ‘police’ and politics, for the two domains pass through one another (Agamben calls this ‘di-polarities’). Rather what is necessary is to examine the ‘modes of indistinction’ that accommodate such a ‘passing through’. Such a conceptual configuration of ‘politics’ and ‘exclusion’ reposition the ethics of the author who seeks to engage in the ‘political’ realm; whose task is not merely to make visible the invisible, but rather to allude to the more complicated, nameless terrain, that constitutes the indifference between inside and outside.

Nietzsche’s “virtù” ethics will spur on the discussion surrounding the ethics of the authorial, in close attention to Bonnie Honig’s account of a “virtue / virtù” political ethics that perpetuate modes of contest and unsettlement. Arendt’s reading of Kant, in particular her notes on the Kantian spectator will also factor in since any discussion of an aesthetic appearance must include reference to the one who has the capacity to experience.