Trauma and the Saturated Phenomenon: Distinguishing Interruption from Rupture

I recently read Tamsin Jones’ article on the parallels between the disruption of the subject in “postmodern,” specifically phenomenological, approaches to religion and the disruption of the subject in trauma. She draws compelling parallels between the ways in which Immanuel Levinas and Jean-Luc Marion talk about the self’s encounter with the invisible, unbearable, absolute, irregardable Other (which Marion calls the saturated phenomenon) and the ways in which trauma theory talks about the self’s encounter with the traumatic event. The parallel is particularly disturbing since thinkers like Marion associate the saturated phenomenon with the divine.

This caught my attention because I have noticed myself having to make a differentiation in my own work between something like what Jones identifies from a more positive kind of interruption. We both seem to share a conviction that the “ethics of alterity” is a good and necessary move in philosophy and religion as well as an awareness of the ways in which this can nevertheless slip into violence. I wish I’d had the language of trauma and Jones as conversation partner earlier, as I was writing my book but in lieu of that, this is my attempt to bring her work into the conversation.  Continue reading “Trauma and the Saturated Phenomenon: Distinguishing Interruption from Rupture”


Does Rhythm have a Metaphysical Ground?

Quite a while back now someone asked me a really good question that I wonder about sometimes. It just occurred to me that this might be the sort of thing that is interesting to more people. The question is something like this: “Is there a more transcendent rhythm than the rhythm of creation that grounds it in some way? Is it tied to some metaphysical scheme?” Here’s where I stand on that question at this point:

Continue reading “Does Rhythm have a Metaphysical Ground?”

Baudrillard and the Rhythms of Consumer Society

Jean Baudrillard wrote a book called The Consumer Society in 1970 in which he considers an enormous number of phenomena from the perspective of consumerism, including time. The way in which time itself is changed or re-conceptualized in consumer society is especially evident in the idea of “leisure time.” We work for leisure time as much as we work for money. In fact, in consumerism, money and time are entirely exchangeable in an almost one-for-one correlation evidenced by the adage “time is money.” Baudrillard says “Divisible, abstract, measured time thus becomes homogeneous with the exchange-value system: it forms part of that system on the same basis as any other object. As an object of temporal calculation, it can and must be exchanged against any other commodity (in particular, money).” (Baudrillard, The Consumer Society, 153). When we pay for the convenience of something (pre-made orange juice rather than oranges themselves is Baudriallard’s example) what we are in fact buying is time. Continue reading “Baudrillard and the Rhythms of Consumer Society”

Sciences of Rhythm

One of the foundational claims of my research is that, as with many phenomena, the way in which one approaches rhythm will impact how one thinks about it. Pascal Michon, probably the most explicit philosopher of rhythm, thinks about this in terms of the two different definitions of rhythm identified by linguist Benveniste in 1966. Benveniste argues that the Platonic definition of rhythm is the default one for which we all reach – an oscillation between strong and weak beats, an order of a sequence of time, associated with concepts like meter, number and periodicity – but that it is not oldest. The older, pre-Socratic, ionian version of rhythm, Rhuthmos, denotes an ephemeral shape or improvisation. Michon takes this schema and traces a battle between these two versions of rhythm that plays itself out over the history of philosophy. One feature of his narrative is that the scientific disciplines tend to gravitate towards the Platonic understanding while the poets attempt to recover something of the pre-Socratic. Philosophers are split down the middle. You can read the whole of Michon’s history of the concept for free here. Continue reading “Sciences of Rhythm”

What is an Idea?

I don’t have a scientific answer to that question. I’m sure one or several such accounts exist (leave some in the comments if you know!) but I’m more interested in the phenomenology of an idea, a map of the experience of having one.

I tend to think about the world of ideas as an electro-magnetic field that hums between objects and events. There are many points of affinity or attraction between objects and events, potential connections to be made, but they are only actualized when these objects and events come into spatial and/or temporal proximity to one another and to a particular human person (at least as far as we know). When a connection like this snaps into place, we call that event an idea. Continue reading “What is an Idea?”

Arrival, Advent, and Nietzsche

In his book, The Gay Science, Nietzsche presents us with the following scenario:

What if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: “This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it…Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus?… Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?[1]

This is what happens to Dr. Louise Banks, the linguist invited to decode the language of mysterious visiting aliens in the just-released, 2016 film Arrival. In her loneliness, these aliens (which some in the film certainly perceive to be demons of sorts) give her the gift of a language that enables her to experience her future as though it is also already her past. This reality, however, is not presented to us as nightmarish but as desirable, almost eschatological. Continue reading “Arrival, Advent, and Nietzsche”

Four Methodological Contributions of my Research on Rhythm

It’s job application season and as a postdoc who is nearing the end of her post, this is currently taking up large amounts of my time. I’ve never resented the job-application process, though. I find the exercises involved – trying to make sense of what one is about, trying to effectively and concisely communicate the significance of one’s research – to be a fantastic opportunity to zoom out and look at the whole forest, to remember why I do what I do.

This time around, I am noticing the many different points-of-view from which one could understand my research, each one emphasizing something slightly different. These are some of the different fields, topics and insights pertaining thereto that have come out of my research on rhythm: Continue reading “Four Methodological Contributions of my Research on Rhythm”

Theology and Non-Representational Theory

As I mentioned in my previous post, my current research on the role of rhythm in the doctrine of creation has taken me to thinking about the relationship between human culture and the natural world and to some of the research that happens at this intersection, in particular human or cultural geography. My introduction to human geography has come in the form of Nigel Thrift’s book, Non-Representational Theory: Nigel Thrift. Non-Representational Theory: Space, Politics, Affect. Abingdon: Routledge, 2008. Continue reading “Theology and Non-Representational Theory”

The Autobiographical Compulsion

In 1931, Virginia Woolf wrote The Waves, a poetic novel that evokes the rhythms created by the interpenetrations of cosmic cycles and particular lives. Pieces of prose describing the landscape at particular times of the day, under certain heights of the sun, intersect with an account of six individuals’ innermost orientations towards the world from childhood to old age. As the title suggests, each character is evoked and communicated through the particular way that he or she experiences and interacts with the rhythm of the waves of surrounding reality and of his or her own inner experience.

Though we can never know all the reasons an author chooses to write a particular book, we do know that in this case Woolf’s theme is in part a representation of how she experienced the process of writing itself. She says, “I am writing to a rhythm and not to a plot. … All writing is nothing but putting words on the backs of rhythm.”

The question, then, is: exactly what rhythm(s) is Woolf writing to? Continue reading “The Autobiographical Compulsion”

A Reference Guide for Rhythm in Post-Hegelian Philosophy

This is a reference guide for rhythm in the work of various philosophers – where it appears and how it’s used. Perhaps unexpectedly, the category is actually one that crops up fairly regularly in continental philosophy but is not discussed at length and so is often overlooked. However, comparing and contrasting various approaches to rhythm is a helpful, alternative perspective on the relationships between thinkers. Continue reading “A Reference Guide for Rhythm in Post-Hegelian Philosophy”