There must be a great sort of dissonance when you are convinced of some inner reality when others believe the exact opposite of you. Imagine being Jesus: maybe he was born with the knowledge of or experience of his own divinity (as coupled with his humanity), maybe he grew to discover it. But I suppose that neither of those axioms would really matter to you, oh Jesus.
You grow up, proclaiming things like “The Father and I are One” and insinuating that you–yes you!–are the divine one. You are the transcendent one. You–who was born of a woman, healed on the Sabbath, forgave sins, touched the unclean, cast out demons, and was crucified–are the one that the prophets spoke of???? And yet the tradition contradicts all these things! How dare you forgive someone’s sins! Touching the unclean? Go perform a cleansing ritual!! Atone for your sin of violating the Sabbath! Even the Muslims know that the Messiah of Israel cannot be crucified!! You blasphemer! Repent of your sin immediately! How dare you claim to transcend our clearly demarcated boundaries!!!!
Now imagine you are a trans woman. Maybe you were born having known or experienced your gender differently than people treated you; maybe you grew to discover it–5 years into life…14 years….21 years….50 years….80 years…. But, again, I suppose that these axioms might not matter all too much to you, oh Queer One.
You grow up and begin proclaiming things like “I am not a boy!!!” or insinuating that you–yes you!–are among those who cannot concede the gender everyone else imposes on them. You are the transcendent one. You–who was born with a specific set of genitalia, played sports, dressed in typical boyish garb, responding to your male name and male pronouns–are the one the tradition warns about. “God created them male and female!” they press. “A woman must not wear men’s clothing,” they insist, “nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this.” So you figure, “hey, maybe I’ll start wearing women’s clothes then!” Your wit does not woo the nay-sayers of life. Do not repent. You need not cleanse yourself. Christ has not atoned for you, for you have not sinned in gender. What nonsense!
Suppose that we were once wrong about Christ–we denied him. Suppose we were wrong about trans people–we denied them as well. And look what happened.
Thank you for transcending boundaries with me.
Today marks two noteworth philosophical birthdays:
The first is one of the founders of existential philosophy, the Danish Philosopher and Theologian Søren Kierkegaard, who turns 200 today.
“Be cautious with an abstract thinker who not only wants to remain in abstraction’s pure being but wants this to be the highest for a human being, and wants such thinking, which results in the ignoring of the ethical and a misunderstanding of the religious, to be the highest human thinking.” –Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments
The Second is the philosopher, economic theorist, and political revolutionary, Karl Marx, who turns 195 today.
Celebrate these two groundbreaking and revolutionary thinkers today.
This past week/end the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy held its yearly conference. Although the flight cancellations and other travel difficulties (resulting from Sandy) brought a large number of paper cancellations, particularly on Thursday, the event was nonetheless a great experience to be a part of. With scholars from across the globe, the program was bursting with presentations on Phenomenology (particularly Heidegger, Husserl, and French thought), Deconstruction, Race and Gender Theory, Critical theory, psychoanalysis, and much more. Generally, there were about a dozen simultaneous presentations, interspersed with a variety of plenary addresses, including, notably, Miguel de Beistegui’s lecture “The Question of Desire in French Phenomenology” (gotta give a shout out for the Silverman Pheno. Center).
Of the panels that I was able to attend, the standout was by far “Is Radical Phenomenology Too Radical? Paradoxes of Michel Henry’s Phenomenology of Life.” There, Frederic Seyler (DePaul University)presented the above paper, with a response by Jeffrey Hanson (Australian Catholic University) notable for his recent publication Affects of Thought. Both speakers were particularly clear and cogent, and Seyler was able to critique Henry’s thought, while simultaneously remaining quite fair to the thinkers position, an accomplishment which is seldom achieved.
The Simon Silverman Phenomenology Center
Presents the 31st Annual Symposium
Over 50 years after his death, we may be still only beginning to know Merleau-Ponty’s thought and its significance for thecontemporary world. While historical research into Merleau-Ponty’s thought is crucial, the Simon Silverman Phenomenology Center’s 31st Annual Symposium on “Merleau-Ponty Into the Future” will take a different approach.
We will ask not what Merleau-Ponty’s thought was or even is but what it might become. Merleau-Ponty will be brought into conversation with registers such as aesthetics, psychology, ecology, geopolitics and feminism. We will explore how Merleau-Ponty’s thought might flower anew in such fields, and how such registers might themselves take new directions through engagements with the possibilities opened by Merleau-Ponty’s thought.
We invite you to join us for this exciting exploration.
Galen Johnson, University of Rhode Island
Geil Weiss, The George Washington University
Laura Doyle, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
David Abram, The Alliance for Wild Ethics
Special thanks to Aware of Awareness, for bringing this video to my attention.
“One can say that we perceive the things themselves, that we are the world that thinks itself or that the world is at the heart of our flesh. In any case, once a body-world relationship is recognized, there is a ramification of my body and a ramification of the world and a correspondence between its inside and my outside, between my inside and its outside.”
-Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Visible and the Invisible