Thursday, April 23, 2009

Merleau-Ponty & Meillassoux

Meillassoux III: Rejoinders and Responses
from Larval Subjects by larvalsubjects

In response to this strong argument, Meillassoux points out that while we can concede that these conditions cannot properly be said to exist, we must nonetheless still be able to say there is a transcendental subject (24). That is, the transcendental subject must nonetheless be operative or must take place. In this vein, comments Meillasoux, nothing prevents us from asking “what are the conditions for the transcendental subject or this “taking place” of the transcendental subject?

Meillassoux argues that the transcendental subject remains indissociably linked to a point of view on the world. When we think of Kant’s critical revolution, one of the key concepts of this critique lies in the assertion of our finite relation to the world. It is precisely this that restricts our knowledge to receptivity and ensures that it is always bound to a horizon and that total knowledge can only be a regulative idea. Were our relation to being not governed by finitude, we would have immediate access to the totality of being, thereby undermining Kant’s critique of metaphysics in the transcendental dialectic. There it will be recalled that the paralogisms, antionomies, and ideas of reason all fall into irresolvable conflicts and problems because the subject attempts to go beyond the limits of experience and make claims about the nature of being that exceed our finitude. Thus, the critical gesture– as Heidegger so nicely articulates in Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics –lies in affirming the manner in which our relationship to being is inextricably bound to a point of view or finitude.

It thus follows that the condition for the possibility of the correlationist subject, the transcendental subject, is point of view. But now, our question becomes, what is the condition for the possibility of point of view? Although he does not mention him by name, Merleau-Ponty has the answer. In order for us to have a point of view on the world, we must be attached to a body. If the point of view and the transcendental subject are to be instantiated rather than merely exemplified, if it is to take place, it must be attached to a body from which it cannot be separated. For only the body has a place in the world. But the body is an object among other objects in the world. It is an exemplary object to be sure as Husserl in Ideas II and III and Merleau-Ponty both recognized, but it is nonetheless a physical object. As a result, the transcendental is the condition of bodies (for-us), but the body is the condition of the transcendental. It is the non-empirical condition for the transcendental, for without the body the transcendental could not take place.

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