“Being Given” Experiencing Phenomena and Thought Formulas

Phil 6958: The Uncertain Boundaries of the Subject


Short Paper on Being Given, part 2

In this reading §26 particularly stood out to me. Marion begins by laying out a very enticing objection to the Cartesian-Scientific epistemological framework (262). This reminded me of his conception of the cause-effect framework which is often thought to structure the experience of phenomena—or should I say givenness? (165). Marion levels a phenomenological critique against the cause-effect scheme, demonstrating its oversimplification of the given. The same thing is done here in that Marion explains the result of applying the Cartesian “doctrine of the code”—(I don’t know what that means, but I’ll go on thinking of it in terms of an epistemological framework/interpretation). The result is that all phenomena are rendered as “intuitively poor givenness” (165). It helps me to think of the Cartesian framework and the cause-effect framework as mathematical formulas. Phenomena are plugged into these formulas and what comes out are structured units of intelligibility. In the case of the Cartesian framework/formula, the structured units lose any possibility to be saturated phenomena. Perhaps to be stricter, saturated phenomena fed into the Cartesian framework can never come out as saturated on the other end. Givenness as a Cartesian object, “gives itself too poorly to show itself in its full phenomenality” (264).  

Feeling is a critical aspect of the givee’s encounter with the given. This is lost in the interpretation of the given as an “object.” Marion then outlines two essential characteristics of the receiver (givee?). The first is that the receiver gives form to the given, i.e. lets it give itself. I did not understand why Marion then finds it important to say here: “Therefore, the receiver who presents and renders visible should see” (265). He classifies the “to whom” as what can be “the full receiver” while the “to which” cannot be (265). The former can present the given as what shows itself in the world while the latter is blind. These sight metaphors seem quite murky as I construe them with literal blind people. In one way, Marion is saying that vision is a metaphor for consciousness, thus only what has consciousness can be a “to whom.” But it also seems that the Cartesian is blind—an inauthentic “to whom”—because seeing means seeing the whole of a phenomenon not just what is mashed out by a formula.

Marion’s second essential characteristic of the receiver is that the giving form, which the receiver applies to the given, is itself a result of givenness. This is a reasonable assertion to me following the first characteristic. What I wonder is how it relates to Derrida’s claim that the subject is a function of language. Language must be a phenomenon and as such, plays a role in the formation of the “screen” of the receiver (265). Thus Derrida’s claim can be encompassed in Marion’s framework at first glance. Marion simply widens the scope of the phenomena that determine the subject. On this point, although deviating from the text slightly, I am skeptical about the talk of the saturated phenomenon that is World War I. World War I certainly is an overwhelming event but is it a phenomenon? World War I is a name for a great mass of phenomena occurring over years to a many people. I see the overwhelming-ness, the saturated-ness, of World War I not as a phenomenon like a painting but as a name for many phenomena simply for ease of communication. Now the concept, World War I, I would not deny is a phenomenon evinced by the way it affects us when we hear of it. But I think it is wrong to categorize it as just the same sort of phenomenon as a painting which has a concrete being-in-the-world presence that World War I can never have. Perhaps a painting and World War I can both be saturated phenomena, but certainly not in the same way or the same givenness.

About C.P.

Collin is a professional writer and scholar. He holds an MA in Philosophy and a BA in English literature. His philosophical work has appeared in print published by Wiley/Blackwell and Open Court. More of his writings, philosophical, literary, comic, and just plain nonsensical are available online. He currently lives in Seattle where he is writing science fiction, dressing up for Cons, and wreaking havoc on his opponents (npcs and tabletop humans alike).
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