Inexhaustibility and Human Being: An Essay on Locality

Inexhaustibility and Human Being: An Essay on Locality

Inexhaustibility and Human Being: An Essay on Locality

Inexhaustibility and Human Being: An Essay on Locality

Synopsis

At a time when the metaphysical tradition is being called profoundly into question by proponents of pragmatism and continental philosophy, Inexhaustibility and Human Being examines a specific aspect of metaphysics: the nature of being human, acknowledging the force of these critiques and discussing their ramifications. Exploring the possibility of a systematic metaphysics that acknowledges the limits of every thought, the book offers a metaphysics of human being based on locality andinexhaustibility. Its major focus is on a corresponding "anthropology" in which human being is both local and exhaustive - that is, based on limitation and on the limitation of limitation. Among the book's major topics are: being as locality and inexhaustibility; human being as judgment and perspective; knowing and reason as query; language and meaning as semasis; emotion; sociality; politics; life and death. Clearly written, and wide-ranging in scope, Inexhaustibility and Human Being covers a multitude of subjects - history, love, sexuality, consciousness, suffering, the body, instrumentality, government, and law - in the development of its thesis. The book will appeal not only to philosophers - but also to those involved in studying the various arenas of human activity Professor Ross examines.

Excerpt

If our time is to be known to the future for its intellectual and spiritual accomplishments, it will be known, I believe, for the discovery of inexhaustibility, as the time in which we first came to understand, explicitly, the inexhaustibility of our experience and our surroundings. By “our time” I refer specifically to the last half of the twentieth century, but the entire century may be included, particularly the classic American tradition. By “inexhaustibility,” I refer to finiteness, to the inescapable conditions of finite beings and to their unquenchable openness to departures. the subject of this book is the inexhaustibility in finiteness, specifically in relation to human being: individual, collective, centered, and dispersed.

It is remarkable that early readings of Wittgenstein’s later work should have found in it a method on which a secure foundation for philosophical analysis could be constructed, given the profound inexhaustibility inherent in Wittgenstein’s position: that of forms of life. If all rules and methods, including those definitive of reason, are based on social practices, then none can define rationality intrinsically; but all are a function of what human beings say and do, and are changeable with variations in practice. There are no norms absolutely outside of, independent of, social activities. in this sense, understanding is indefinitely open and variable in principle but terminatable in practice in forms of life. This complementarity of openness to modification and determination by conditions is what I mean by inexhaustibility. However, I do not restrict it to human experience, for it is an intrinsic characteristic of finite things.

The movement on the Continent from Husserl to Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger, on the one hand, and from Marx to Foucault, on the other, manifests a far more profound acknowledgment of inexhaustibility—in particular, Merleau-Ponty’s emphasis on the ambiguity of things (leading explicitly to inexhaustibility in Dufrenne’), on the invisible in the visible, and Heidegger’s emphasis on the reciprocity of concealment and unconcealment, in αλήθεια. There is a transcendental argument in Being and Time that suggests that the return to Being has absolute primacy over questions of beings, that the primacy of Dasein—that being whose being is to question Being—is similarly unqualified. in Heidegger’s later work, however, Being is and must be inexhaustible, given the manifold ways in which truth establishes itself. a related expression of inexhaustibility is given by Derrida’s view of supplementarity, the “surplus” in every meaning. Derrida’s arche-trace is an important expression of inexhaustibility, though he minimizes both the positive side of inexhaustibility and the materiality of human activities. Foucault gives us a . . .

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