“Being Given” Circles in Sand and Marion’s Neuroses

Phil 6958: The Uncertain Boundaries of the Subject


Short Paper on Being Given, the finale

Marion’s turn to paternity as an example of the “nameless call” remained obscure for me. It seemed to reveal more of his personal neuroses about paternity than reflecting phenomenological reality. I did find his invocation of the hermeneutic circle particularly helpful (308). Marion demonstrates that an analysis of the call leads back to the responsal which leads back to the call, ad infinitum. This circle is also the case with givenness-gifted and given-reception. Thus Marion states: “Givenness traces, perhaps in sand, but ineffaceably, the most rigorous hermeneutic circle” (308). This is a powerful explanation which convincingly reestablishes the idea that the subject remains within the relation of givenness. In this way, ideas of an absolute or static subject don’t seem tenable because we are moved back toward the given when we scrutinize the subject. I do wonder about Marion’s metaphor of the trace of the hermeneutic circle in sand, though ineffable. What does he mean by this? Does he mean that the circle remains despite its changes in particular phenomena? Or is he referring to the contingency of his theory of givenness, which in the future may be more thoroughly explained?  

Marion’s final chapter “Opening onto a Question” was very approachable and enjoyable. As I mentioned in the last reflection, Marion expands what constitutes “the subject” beyond Derrida’s formulation, but not in such a way as to oppose it. Here he clearly states such advances in phenomenology are actually confirmed by givenness (322). It does this by broadening the scope of phenomena to what is given. Marion also admits that givenness is not the final word on phenomenology (322). I find modest philosophers the most convincing.

Marion moves to a creative critique of the “subject” as classically formulated. This is a review of what he has already said in Being Given however he makes a move to not destroy the “subject” but to contest: “the claim that it occupies this center as an origin, an ego or first person, in transcendental ‘mineness’” (322). The classic view leaves no room for the creation of the “subject” by the given: “…he is himself received from what he receives” (322). I am reminded greatly of Nietzsche’s claim of the great lie of the moral agent as causa sui (Beyond Good and Evil).

Next Marion does not give Levinas’ name, yet I find most of this page to be dealing with his philosophy (323). “For in the realm of givenness, the phenomenon of the Other, for the first time, no longer counts as anything like an extraterritorial exception to phenomenality, but belongs to it officially, though with the title paradox (saturated phenomenon)” (323). Like the “subject” the Other (even the radical Other?) is within givenness. I wonder how Levinas and Marion would engage one another. I see Levinas as claiming that Marion is preparing for the Other in listing categories like saturated phenomena and accounting for the Other as given. Would not Levinas reproach Marion for creating a relation of totality between the givee and the Other (or a reduction to sameness)? On the other hand, I see Marion debating that the Other is always already given, even if it is a radical alterity/Other. The Other is given, or gives itself, as Other. In the case of the radical Other, it is given as a saturated phenomenon. Here there is a classification of the Other as a kind of phenomenon, although maybe Marion can be saved from Levinas’ reproach by appealing to the transformative nature of givenness. Thus the givee is capable of transformation by the given (Other) and sameness is not a necessity.

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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