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The NineYear Old Philosopher & the Hermeneutics of Self Understanding

The NineYear Old Philosopher & the Hermeneutics of Self Understanding

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Published by: David Kennedy on Nov 10, 2009
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for Children: Pixie. A.M. Sharp & R. F. Reed, Eds. , 195-208. Madrid: Ediciones de la Torre, 1996. All rights reserved.

As the heroine of a philosophical novel, Pixie is a master at posing questions with major ontological and epistemological implications. Among these are These

questions about the self and its relations, both internal and external.

questions are appropriate for philosophers of any age, but particularly for the nineyear old philosopher, whose self-understanding, while universally human, is also profoundly influenced by her position in the life cycle.1 Pixie's is the characteristic self-understanding of late-early or early- middle childhood, a life cycle moment characterized by dynamic emergence and continual, often rapid and breathtaking transformation. Pixie is quixotic, explosive, deeply curious, garrulous, crude, sophisticated, careful, impulsive, egocentric, compassionate, enthusiastic,

extroverted, sassy, loving, confused, bursting with questions. She problematizes everything. What she shows forth paradigmatically in her endless talk to herself and to her readers is the self in search of itself. This search goes on all our lives, but Pixie lives it with freshness and an intensity which is exemplary. This search, because it is interpretive, dialogical, and dialectical, is a hermeneutic activity par excellence. Hermeneutics begins with the situation of a break, a division in an original unity, whereby something previously understandable, unquestioned even, has become strange. This break initiates the hermeneutic process, which seeks to reestablish, through dialogue and a "fusion of horizons" with the object, a new, more



inclusive, more conscious understanding.2

Philosophy is by definition

hermeneutical because it originates with this rupture in understanding; it turns on itself in the form of a question. It could also be argued that philosophy is one of the most characteristic activities of the human self, because genetically, the self originates as the result of a breech with a prior unity,3 and its development consists in its attempts to reappropriate that unity on a higher level, through a dialogue which happens both within the self and with other selves, who also form aspects of the self, even if they are experienced as "outside." Any narrative about the self and its development over time can be understood to document this movement of breech, dialogue, and reappropriation. Before tracing it specifically in Pixie's narrative, I want to explore her exemplification of the philosophical self, i.e. the self in its very operative structure as break in understanding, as self-problematization. Self as doubled The narrative style of Pixie lends itself nicely to the particular drama of the self in hermeneutic process with itself. For one thing, it is written in the first person, and Pixie's "I" is talking to itself as much as to the reader. This fact points immediately to a chief characteristic of the self--its reflexivity, or doubleness. This aspect of being doubled is the unique property of the human self: a form of consciousness which can take the point of view of an other towards itself. If one definition of the human self is that it is doubled, then it is in a permanent state of imbalance, of being at one remove from itself. This sense of displacement sometimes has the feel of a temporary condition--of a tension of consciousness which inexorably seeks its resolution through ecstacy, sleep, or death--but it actually seems to be permanent. So our philosophical heroine is Pixie, but Pixie is not her real name, for how could one name capture this doubled identity? Because it seeks a unity which it feels is a sort of home, the self, like



Pixie, is in continual pursuit of itself, in a continual process of figuring itself out. Success in this process, which is the project of the self in its hermeneutic aspect, would amount to finding out--or giving itself (which is it?)--its real name.4 The self is a mystery to itself. Who is the real mystery creature in Pixie but Pixie herself? In G.H. Mead's and Sartre's terms,5 the "I," the "pour-soi," the eternally present upsurge of consciousness, intentionality, is continually in search of the "me," the "en-soi," the self as a finalized, determined, secure entity, i.e. as object. The self is a continual aspirant to becoming a perfect other, a whole which can behold itself as if it were outside itself, which psycho-logically is a sort of tragicomic joke. Although it can watch itself in the mirror, it will never be able to see inside and outside at the same time; it will never be able to comprehend its own doubleness as one. The self is also ultimately unknowable to itself because, although the upsurge of the "I" feels like it comes from beyond or outside of time,6 the "me" is in time. To fix the "me" in one aspect would actually be to kill it, to turn it to stone. The self is, simply because it is a continual upsurge of the newness of personal identity, incapable of fixing and systematizing its inherently ambiguous internal (and external) relationships, except in inauthentic forms and images. Self as story As a phenomenon of doubleness, the self is a conversation--an internal conversation, which is what thinking is. So human selfhood is by definition characterized as thought. Even Brian, who has fallen silent, never stops talking, and that conversation manifests as who he is. So each self is characterized by the conversation it is having with itself about itself. The fact that the self is a

conversation also means that the self is language, for any conversation implies language. The conversation is infinite, as the self is engaged in an infinite process of becoming, an endless emergence.



What does the self tell itself in this infinite conversation? Pixie shows us that the self is telling itself--and us, the self's other interlocutor--a story about itself. The self may be characterized as a narrator in endless search of a story that makes sense. This search is in fact what characterizes the philosophical turn of the self, and it is what makes Pixie philosophical. The non-philosophical self presumes to identify completely with the story it has been given by others, to be already determined, and therefore unproblematic. We discover this aspect of the self in Pixie's sister, To Pixie, the

Miranda, who is non-reflective and quite content, thank you!

philosopher, this presumption of a non-problematic self-understanding is a great scandal. But Pixie must also recognize that Miranda is part of her own selfhood, as are all those with whom she shares world. I will return to Pixie's understanding of herself as part of a larger self composed of others later in this paper. The story Pixie seeks to construct is a myth of self. The self's story can only be expressed mythically, because it is a creature both found and made, a fantastic closure always in the making. Perhaps this has to do with its felt self-understanding as timeless and disembodied, a non-temporal presence to itself. It is experienced as an ever present emergence into the now of the moment from some place beyond itself, perhaps that nothing which Pixie evokes as she questions space and time. It weaves stories of the past and the future in order to create and to name itself in time, to establish a sense of continuity, to locate and identify itself within the world. Confronted with its own sense of being thrown into the world from nowhere, the self is a self-maker, the teller of its own story, woven from the world in which it finds itself, laced through with the drama of its own drives--loving, destructive, selfdestructive, egocentric, compassionate, fragmented, unified, digressive, deeply and mysteriously goal-directed. Only the story, the narrative, provides the necessary context for the self making sense to itself. In the story the self remembers a history,



and works continually to harmonize its present circumstances and behavior with that history, and with the sorts of possible futures that history and the present imply.7 Every self-story at least implies a beginning, and so is a search for its own origins. Those origins are non-intuitive to the self, which perceives itself to have "always" been there, yet which obviously has not, and is not perceived that way by others, and is well aware of that too. Because self-awareness transcends any theory of its own origins, even if that theory can be empirically verified, any account of its origins must be mythic, for myth is the language of the non-temporal and transcendent. But unlike the collective myths which tell the story for traditional societies, the myth of the modern individual is continually in revision. As Pixie's final story plays with the great Western myths of origin, and as her classmates, in telling her story, play with it and change it once again--in the same way there is no final, original story. The self can never know itself through its stories, because its stories are not it, but just about it; the self can never get outside its own ground to tell about itself. On the other hand, the self can only know itself through its stories, because it is essentially unsayable and unknowable in any positive sense, and can only know itself as object at one remove, in its products, through its representation in its own narrative process, in its dreams, in its memories, in its continuous chatter to itself, in what others tell it about itself. Thus the self is an analogical construct, which seeks itself through mirroring and comparison, through themes and styles of selfconstruction provided by its biological, cultural, psychodynamic, and interpersonal context. So Pixie's preoccupation with relationships is analogous to her preoccupation with herself. The self, like Mr. Mulligan's "mind," is its

relationships, both within itself and within the world of others. It is a series of comparisons with others, distinctions and connections between aspects of oneself,



and between oneself and others, which results in a never ending narrative, constantly being revised, which is also an approximation of the "real" self, the self which is utterly sure of its own existence, but can never ultimately attain itself with any kind of final certainty. Like "space," like "mammal," "It's just a word. . . People talk about it as if it were something, but it's really nothing." Like the light when you turn off the switch, where does the "self" go when you go to sleep? Or when I point to myself and say "me," what do I mean? Just as Pixie mistakes the word mammal for a member of the class of mammals, so the self in search of itself is liable to category mistakes and part-whole confusions. What category does the self, which senses itself as outside time but can never approach itself except in time, belong to? Can we draw a Venn diagram of the "I"-"Me" relationship? The process of self-knowledge is in itself a crisis classification, in that the whole and the parts are never in a final, closed relation. In our search for self, we are continually taking parts for wholes--at times, given the hologrammatic nature of the implicate order, rightly. Indeed, the whole is unavailable, for if the self is only its relationships, then there is no whole. What final category, in the multiple, ambiguous, infinite digression of the self's narrative, provides a locus for the concept? Like Pixie's cat playing with its tail, self is shapeshifter, trickster, constantly losing the distinction between its own shape and the shape of the world it is a part of, or other selves--constantly drawing false distinctions, whether within itself or between itself and the world, denying the extent to which the world provides it with the only definition it has. Self and body Pixie as disembodied self, res cogitans on the nine-year-old philosopher's continual holiday, has a fine time with her relationship with her body. Her foot goes to sleep and she mistakes it for Miranda's; she lifts up her sleeping mother's eyelids,



and asks "Are you in there?"; she becomes temporarily convinced that she has two left feet. Is the self the body? Is the self in the body? Does the self have the body, i.e. is the body in the self? Is the self-body relationship a unity that transcends both terms? Is it a part-whole relationship or an identity relationship? Does the self change as the body changes--as it gets bigger, and no longer able to sit on its mother's lap, for example? The self is unimaginable apart from a body, but body can not only be imagined, but experienced, apart from self, as in a sleeping limb, or the sleeping body of another, or the bodies of animals. The mind-body separation is in fact the basis of the sense of self, and emerges at around 18 months, when children first recognize themselves in the mirror, and are able to regard themselves from the point of view of an other. So the self cannot seem to escape having, being, or being had by a body, and yet its experience of itself is as something separated and transcending its body. Self and its relationships with others But it is not just the relationship with her body which is ambiguous. Pixie also finds herself to be spread through all her relationships. It is the ontological paradox of the self that it experiences part-whole confusion with other selves. This is true even in a highly atomized, individualistic society like the modern EuroAmerican. Isabel and Pixie, walking down the hall, pausing at the top of the stairs and hugging, are paired and synchronized in a way which shows them to inhabit, in some way, the same psychological space. Isabel is an essential element of Pixie's self definition, in the often uncanny mirror of the alter ego. She says of her, "She's just like me in all the things I like about myself. And she's different from me in all the things I don't like about myself." Inherently isolated, inherently social, finding itself simultaneously completely separated from, and an aspect of, the world in which it is placed, only another self can clarify the self for itself, even if the very



necessity of that clarification compromises the self's experience of pure identity and self-unity. But as Brian's meeting with the giraffe implies, the self is only completed in its individuality in meeting with an other. The I-Thou completes the circuit of relation in which the self understands itself, and is free, in the way in which Brian is freed to speak through his meeting with an other. Miranda is also an essential element in Pixie's self definition, but she represents, as siblings archetypically do, the menace of the other to the self, the one who is so much like oneself that she threatens the self with a sense of contingency which leads to a loss of identity. In her relations with Miranda, Pixie faces the self's opacity to, and objectification by, the other with whom one does not choose to be in relation, who does not necessarily share one's project. So the relationship with Miranda, whose name means "looking," and evokes the word "mirror," is the relationship of the stare. In the Sartrean cosmos of self and other, the stare is what turns self into an object, what transfixes self in itness, in the "en-soi." It is the mark of domination, of victimization, and of the master slave relationship. It is the dark underside of the self and its relations. Miranda is the alter ego who, in

contradistinction to Isabel, is "just like me in all the things I don't like about myself, and different from me in all the things I like about myself." That this is the case makes of Pixie and Miranda no less a unity than are Pixie and Isabel. This is expressed in Pixie's physical confusion with Miranda, with whom she shares a bed, and a virus, possibly a headache, a leg when hers goes to sleep, ideas when Miranda's uses hers to prove her wrong, and with whom she is even more mixed up in family resemblances: Pixie has her father's mouth and her mother's eyes, Miranda has her father's eyes and her mother's mouth. This is indeed the world of mirrors, of repetition, and the threat to self at the prospect it is simply a generic self, a duplicate, in fierce competition with other duplicates for the same place in the sun.



Beyond its involvement in these individual alter relationships, the self is also inextricably tangled up in the community of which it forms, necessarily, a part. It internalizes aspects of all the selves in which it is in social, cognitive, or spiritual process. The community, in particular the community of inquiry, which is

community in more concentrated, more focused form, may be understood as one large self, which through the interaction of the selves within it, is emerging and clarifying itself, becoming more and more "like" itself, in its tortuous approach toward that horizon of understanding which, as Robert Corrington has so well described it, "lures us beyond ourselves into larger stretches of experience and world encounter."8 Each member of the community of inquiry is a sort of hologram of the larger self of the community, in that it is both a separate piece and an internalization of the whole. Within the community, each member occupies a unique perspective, which by definition is just the perspective which is lacking in all the other selves. Through the operation of the community of inquiry, each member internalizes all the other perspectives. Each other perspective represents a part of me which is present and functioning when the community of inquiry is functioning. When the community is successful, it also protects, nurtures, and brings to expression my own identity, because my perspective is necessary to the whole. Because of its part-whole structure, the community of inquiry is potentially a therapeutic community in relationship to the self, as is illustrated in the case of Brian. Brian represents that aspect of the self which has the potential of giving up talking. The text does not give information on why--whether Brian's silence

represents the wounded self, the self which has broken with nature, or the self in protest and refusal against the absurd.9 What we do sense strongly from the text is that Brian finally resumes talking because the community of inquiry has given him a voice--it has affirmed his perspective as unique and necessary in the process of self-



correction and emergence which characterizes the community, and in that same process, healed him. The part-whole relationship within the community of inquiry may be characterized as a hermeneutic circle both epistemologically and in terms of the ontology of the self. In the hermeneutic "circle of interpretation," there is a

dialectical interaction between the whole and the parts, a circular relationship, in which each gives the other meaning. This involves, as Richard Palmer has pointed out, a logical contradiction, for the whole receives its definition from the parts, and yet the parts can only be understood in reference to the whole. The contradiction is resolved on the level of meaning, in which the meaning of the whole is a "sense" derived from the meaning of individual parts, yet not identifiable as the mere sum of those parts. It is meaning which understanding grasps in the essential reciprocal interaction between the whole and the parts.10 So the self understands its own meaning through its interaction with the larger sense which emerges in the evolution of the community of inquiry. As Pixie's story is transformed in being taken up by the group, so the self's story, as it interacts with the community of selves, is transformed in that interaction. In allowing itself to be affected and changed by that interaction, the individual self undergoes a process of universalization, which is also the coming into a kind of objectivity, although that objectivity is, like the self, emergent and therefore never attained once and for all. And we must admit that, just as the self remains fundamentally a mystery to itself, in that it is never fully articulated or expressed, nor is there some ultimate point from outside itself from which to view it; so the community, because it also is an emergent narrative, a story it is telling itself which is never finished and which is continually self-correcting in ways which are fundamentally unpredictable to each member of the community--so the community is also a mystery to itself.11 Both the self and the community are



being taken "where the argument leads," in an evolutionary, self-correcting path, a drive towards a horizonal unity which is both always present in potentia, and infinitely receeding. Self and freedom Pixie as paradigm of the structure of self-understanding also leads us to reflect on issues of freedom, rules, and individual agency. The self's lived

experience of itself is as ageless, beyond the possibility of death (which only happens to others), disembodied, self-naming, and self-creating. The origins of the self are lost to itself in infinite regress, and the present of the self is an unfolding narrative, an infinite process of becoming which appears to offer complete freedom of the next move. As res cogitans, "pure mind," it experiences itself as potentially omniscient, at least in regards to its objects--Pixie lying in bed and thinking about what's happening "all over town" is a play on this felt sense. Above all, the intentional structure of the self is a motion of transcendence, or, as Heidegger put it, an ekstasis, a standing "out into the openness of being."12 For all these reasons the self is emblematic of the possibility of absolute freedom--as Pixie says, "Free free free! Everything's possible!" Yet the self's lived experience is also characterized by a sense of radical contingency and limitation, both by others and by oneself, and by the experience so well described by St. Paul: "What I would, that I do not; and what I would not, that I do."13 So Pixie has a "tantrum" when told she can't stay up late, i.e. she loses control of herself. Then, at supper, she loses control of the three concepts--analogy, simile, and metaphor--which she thinks she has understood quite well. In fact the self is ruled by its compositeness, its relative fragmentation, and by the same patterns of cause and effect which are found in the res extensa. The self is not "free free free": it lives in a space of eternal conflict between its own urge for



self-expression, gratification, and even transgression of limits, and its responsibilities to others. Typically the self enters every new situation under its characterstic sign of personal transcendence and unlimited freedom, only to discover that each situation builds towards increased and more complex levels of mutual responsibility, and inherent demands for self-restraint. Ultimately, freedom turns out to be, not release from situation, or the experience of the absence of boundaries, but meeting, connection. As Buber expresses it, "the free human being encounters fate as the counter-image of his freedom. It is not his limit but his completion; freedom and fate embrace each other to form meaning." And he contrasts this freedom to what he calls "caprice." "Free is the man that wills without caprice. . . He must sacrifice his little will, which is unfree and ruled by things and drives, to his great will that moves away from being determined to find destiny."14 Self in hermeneutic process What Buber describes as the movement of the self from the "little" to the "great" will is at least analogous to the movement of hermeneutic self-understanding described by Gadamer and by Ricoeur. Understanding, Gadamer says, involves a moment of "loss of self," as a result of which "the individual self, including his activity and his understanding of himself, is taken up into a higher determination."15 As I have already pointed out, this moment of loss of self resulting in new selfunderstanding is only possible because of an initial breach in understanding, a sense of discrepancy, of alienation. The self becomes problematic to itself--it becomes a strange text, difficult to decipher, once (before the onset of reflection) familiar, but no longer so. This problematization, or crisis of self-understanding, although it is always latent in the structure of the self, is triggered by historical (i.e. collective) and/or developmental (i.e. individual) events. It only emerges into philsophy when the pre-understandings--whether personal, cultural, or some combination of the two-



-into which one's narrative fit seamlessly and unproblematically, break down. So Gadamer says, "The hermeneutical problem only emerges clearly when there is no powerful tradition present to absorb one's own attitude into itself and when one is aware of confronting an alien tradition to which he has never belonged or one he no longer unquestioningly accepts."16 Ricoeur calls the condition prior to the break "belonging," which he characterizes as "a prior relation of inclusion which encompasses the allegedly autonomous subject and the allegedly adverse object. . . . Hermeneutics . . . begins when, not content to belong to transmitted tradition, we interrupt the relation of belonging in order to signify it." This interruption he characterizes as "distanciation," which initiates a dialogue with the object, resulting in what he describes, using Gadamer's concept, as a "fusion of horizons." The end result (which is only a temporary result in an endless process) is a dialectical movement resulting in "appropriation," whereby the knower "makes what was alien become one's own."17 Belonging is a an original condition of self-unity, either before the doubling of consciousness--i.e. before 18 to 24 months og age--or when the doubling of consciousness is non-problematic, because of the presence of a "powerful tradition which absorbs one's attitude into itself." Philosophy, psychoanalysis, and art

represent a rupture in that unity, a self-problematization of the subject: the self turns on itself, becomes its own text, and enters into dialogue with that text. Pixie's dialogue with herself is paradigmatically a philosophical rather than a psychoanalytic or artistic one--she questions, reasons, identifies contradictions, makes generalizations, identifies part-whole relationships, etc. in a way which is identifiable as "philosphical." It is in dialogue with this "text" which is herself, that the dialectic unfolds. The hermeneutical dialogue, Gadamer suggests, has the structure of a game,



the to and fro, fateful character of play. In it, the player puts her identity at risk, in that "the game tends to master the players. . . .The real subject of the game . . is not the player, but instead the game itself. The game is what holds the player in its spell, draws him into play, and keeps him there." Thus Gadamer can say, "all playing is a being-played," in the sense that "the player experiences the game as a reality that surpasses him."18 Play has ontological significance, in that when things are represented in play, there is a "transformation into the true." Through the playful representation of art, philosophy and psychoanalysis,19 and over against the "world of aims" and "biological conceptions of purpose," "what is emerges. In it is

produced and brought to light what otherwise is constantly hidden and withdrawn." Gadamer thus calls play the "clue to ontological explanation." He summons in illustration tragic or comic drama, which, when it is successful, is a kind of selfrepresentation of being which "leaves behind it everything that is accidental and unessential, e.g. the private particular being of the actor. He disappears entirely into the recognition of what he is representing. But even that which is represented, a well-known event of mythological tradition, is raised by its representation to its own validity and truth."20 Gadamer's ontology of play has implications for an understanding of how the community of inquiry functions and develops which cannot be taken up here. From the point of view of the hermeneutics of self-understanding, what is important is that the self gets absorbed into this larger play of the dialogue with itself and the world. This ammounts to a loss of self, a becoming vulnerable to something which is not under the individual self's control. It is this Hegelian "moment of negativity" which results in appropriation, or a new self-understanding on a higher dimension. So Kierkegaard has the young man in Repetition say, "Did I not get myself again, precisely in such a way that I must doubly feel its significance?"21 On one level, we



may understand Pixie's final crisis, leading to the plays of the final chapters, as such a process. Her disastrous category mistake at the zoo, followed by her sickness, followed by the transformation beyond recognition of her story into four stories by her classmates, suggests this dialectical movement of self-loss followed by what Ricoeur, describing appropriation, calls "the self-interpretation of a subject who thenceforth understands himself better, understands himself differently, or simply begins to understand himself."22 Above all, Pixie "loses" herself in the transformation of her story by her classmates into the play of art, but through that self-loss begins to understand herself better. The Pixie plays The four stories which emerge from Pixie's story can be seen as the playful self-representation of Pixie's and her classmates' inquiry, and the community of inquiry's appropriation of the foundational metaphors of the Western philosophical tradition. The plays function as a "transformation into the true" of the ideas with which Pixie and her community have been in dialogue throughout the novel. From the point of view of the hermeneutics of self-understanding, Ricoeur refers to this process as "refiguration by narrative." The self, he says, "does not know itself immediately, but only indirectly, through the detour of cultural signs of all sorts, which articulate the self in symbolic mediations."23 So Pixie and the other members of the community of inquiry tell the original philosophical stories over again--or are the stories telling them?--in an effort to find themselves there: to find their origins, which involves evoking the origins of everything; to define the mind-body relation; to address the problem of parts and wholes, not only intrapersonally ("If I replace all my parts again," says the Tin Woodman, "will I still be me?") but interpersonally, i.e. the part-whole relationship between the individual and the community of individuals ("No one was happy. the best pair of eyes would say, `We're really no



good, because we can't run'"); to solve the mystery of personal identity beyond physical transformation, and the origin and nature of difference between persons; to address the mystery of self's lived experience as transcending the body, even while aware of itself as body. Each story represents the self's effort to "start from the beginning," and to tell the "big story" which will satisfy all the appearances. The fact that each person has taken Pixie's story and transformed it into something which is both the same as the other stories and also quite different, is not only characteristic of the horizonal multiplicity of the community of inquiry, but helps us understand the role of narrative in self-construction. Each person is telling a story about him or herself which is both common--sharing a tradition, or a set of pre-understandings--and unique. Each self tells itself, indeed "produces" itself, writes its script, directs, and plays the leading role. It must do so, in order to "give shape to things and put them in order." So, in the fourth story, Brian plays himself, and the Pixie he plays is the Pixie of his own representation, the only Pixie he knows. Each self tells the story, not only of her own self, but of all selves, from a perspective which is unsharable by other selves; yet there is a common horizon, if infinitely receding and never determined once and for all, in which the perspectives converge. That horizon, as Corrington's discussion of the hermeneutics of Royce, Peirce, and Gadamer shows, is visible to all members of the the community of inquiry, if never completely attained. The final story--a story identified with Plato, but much older than he24--which tells yet again the grand Western story of the forms or edoi, of knowledge as remembrance, and of the relationship between beauty and truth, can be read as a grand analogue for the lived experience of the self: the sense of ontological uniqueness we cannot help but experience ourselves as; the sense of being incarnated, i.e. come from beyond yourselves, combined with the sense of being



"thrown" into a world in which "nothing ever comes out quite right," thereby implying the existence of a world, or at least a conceptual realm, in which everything is just right; the sudden opening within the self, the sense of significance associated with the experience of beauty and of great art; the irreconcilable longing for homecoming, for "being back home where we belong again, and we're happy." The abrupt interruption by Robert of this grand evocation of the vision which dominated Western self-understanding for thousands of years returns us with a jolt to the postmodern world, where no story--neither the idealist's, the realist's, the empiricist's or the pragmatist's--can claim that it is more than a story. This is Wittgenstein's world of language games which do not translate into each other, and Pixie's "third mystery," the aporia created by the epistemological relativism which is the current condition of Western philosophy. The novel ends with the implicit suggestion that it is this "third mystery" that she is now ready, through the selfenlargement she has experienced, to take on. Conclusion Pixie, our philosophical heroine, has represented the self for us: disembodied, timeless, ageless, voice, doubled, shapeshifter, "smaller than small and bigger than big," inherently digressive, a compulsive storyteller, a story in search of itself requiring constant revision, a continual crisis, a never-ending conversation with itself, involved in an infinite regress in search of its ground, spread through its internal and external relationships, multiple, in constant transition, pure identity yet completely determined by its environment, radically free and radically contingent, ambiguously related to its body, unpredictable, charismatic, flashing, unstable, a mystery to itself, a walking fallacy of composition, an aspirant to becoming a perfect other, an idea in search of becoming a thing, a thing longing to become its own ideas. . . . Pixie shows forth these characteristics of the self as only the quixotic,



enthusiastic nine-year old philosopher can. Like many 9-year old philosophers, she has so many questions she hasn't the time to pause and go about answering them. This is as it should be, for "the structure of the question is implicit in all experience,"25 and the experience of the self is, in hermeneutic experience, the ultimate question.

ENDNOTES 1. I am assuming, although this is not the place to argue it in any detail, that at each phase of the life cycle, the self is most vividly revealed in certain of its aspects. Those aspects are present in persons throughout the life span, but they are represented paradigmatically in the particular phase of the life cycle in which they are most strongly expressed. The major terms for the discussion of hermeneutics in this paper are drawn principally from Paul Ricouer, Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981); and Hans George Gadamer, Truth and Method (New York: Crossroad, 1975), and Philosophical Hermeneutics (Berkely, CA: University of California Press, 1976). The psychoanalytic literature is filled with accounts of this process. A few of the classic philosophical narratives on the emergence of self-consciousness are found in George Herbert Mead, Mind, Self, and Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1934); Maurice Merleau-Ponty, "The Child's Relations With Others," in The Primacy of Perception (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1964), which includes a discussion of Lacan's analysis of the role of the "specular image” in the formation of self; and John MacMurray, Persons in Relation (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1961). It could also result, it could be argued, in the end of itself--a merging of the en-soi and the pour-soi which abrogates the doubleness which is the determinative characteristic of the human self. G.H. Mead, Mind, Self, & Society; and Jean Paul Sartre, Being and







Nothingness, trans. Hazel E. Barnes (New York: Philosophical Library, 1956). 6. Karl Rahner makes a coherent case for this sense of transcendence of the person, who exists "before the multiplicity of his immediately-given objects." A Rahner Reader, Gerald A. McCool, ed. (New York: Seabury, 1975), p. 264. For an incisive portrait of the self as narrative, see Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue, Second Edition (University of Notre Dame Press, 1984), Chapter 15. See also Paul Ricoeur, Time and Narrative, vol. 3, trans. K. Blamey and D. Pellauer (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988). This discussion also draws from Heideggerian and Husserlian analyses of temporalization, which are well-represented in Schutz and Luckmann, Robert S. Corrington, The Community of Interpreters (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1987), p. 32. See Ann Sharp, "Silence and Speech in Pixie," in this volume. Richard Palmer, Hermeneutics, Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1969, pp. 87, 118. We have one topographical analysis of this mystery in Johari's Window, which is an application of the Four Possibilities to the terms Self, Other, Known, and Not Known. The possibility "Not known to self, not known to other" expresses the condition of mystery. Martin Heidegger, "Letter On Humanism," in Basic Writings, Ed. David Krell (New York: Harper, 1977), p. 231. Romans 7:14 Martin Buber, I and Thou, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Scribners, 1970), pp. 102, 107-108. "On The Problem of Self-Understanding," in Philosophical Hermeneutics, p. 54. Ibid, p. 46.


8. 9. 10. 11.

12. 13. 14. 15. 16.



17. 18. 19.

Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences, pp. 105, 117, and passim. Truth and Method, pp. 95-96, 98. All of these practices may be characterized as spiritual, and can be grouped with the practices of various spiritual traditions, all of which involve the hermeneutic relationship to the self. Truth and Method, pp. 96, 97, 101, 103. Quoted in Patricia A. Johnson, "The Task of the Philosopher: Kierkegaard-Heidegger--Gadamer," Philosophy Today 28,1 (Spring 1984): 3-18, which is an excellent exploration of the "movement of retrieval" which results from the moment of self-loss in dialogue. Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences, p. 158. Paul Ricoeur, "Narrative Identity," Philosophy Today 35,1 (Spring 1991):80. Mircea Eliade calls Plato "the outstanding philosopher of `primitive mentality', that is the thinker who succeeded in giving philosophic currency and validity to the modes of life and behavior of archaic humanity." The Myth of the Eternal Return (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1955). Truth and Method, p. 326. And see this section of Gadamer's text, entitled "The Hermeneutical Priority of the Question."

20. 21.

22. 23. 24.



David Kennedy Northern Michigan University September, 1992

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