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BLACK HOLES AND REVELATIONS: MICHEL HENRY AND JEAN-LUC MARION ON THE AESTHETICS OF THE INVISIBLE
PETER JOSEPH FRITZ
Phenomenology, in the hands of the French thinkers Michel Henry and Jean-Luc Marion, continues a shift toward the invisible begun most notably by Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Martin Heidegger.2 This article concerns this interesting development as it relates to painting, aesthetics generally, and, in turn, theology. Henry and Marion share the project of redeﬁning phenomenality, the “how” (comment) of a phenomenon’s appearing, since they ﬁnd Edmund Husserl’s account too constrictive.3 Where their versions of phenomenality differ, so do their views on aesthetics. Henry’s equation of phenomenality with “Life” squares quite neatly with his recasting of phenomenological method.4 Marion deﬁnes phenomenality more traditionally (and broadly), following Martin Heidegger’s view of it, as the right and power of a phenomenon to “show itself from itself.”5 As for aesthetics, Henry “sees” in the invisible the en-static “perpetual oscillation” of life between suffering and joy, which the painter makes apparent through cultivating harmony or discord among two-dimensional pictorial elements.6 Marion “regards” the invisible differently, in a more complex way. For him, “the painter produces absolutely new phenomena,” that is, “new visibles” whose “incandescence no longer leaves a place for anything invisible”—such paintings Marion groups under the name idol.7 But it is precisely this “crushing” visibility that, paradoxically, makes the idol invisible, as the viewer
Peter Joseph Fritz University of Notre Dame, Department of Theology, 130 Malloy Hall, Notre Dame, IN 465564619 USA email@example.com
© 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
416 Peter Joseph Fritz “suffers bedazzlement.”8 Even though artists produce them, idols quickly show themselves as exercising the initiative. Marion adds another wrinkle as well: the icon. With this phenomenon, the invisible gets ﬁgured as a counter-gaze that crosses my own—this Levinasian aspect of Marion’s phenomenology, among other things, distinguishes it quite clearly from Henry’s. In ways at once convergent and sharply divergent, then, Henry and Marion carve out paths different from the aesthetics of visible form. What gives with the invisible? Should we prefer the aesthetics of invisibility to the aesthetics of visibility? Does a preference for the former offer us answers to our contemporary problems, both aesthetic and theological, such as the widely proclaimed death of painting, or the prettifying of religious faith? The ﬁgures Henry and Marion uphold as exemplary painters point us toward an answer to our questions. Henry chooses Wassily Kandinsky, and Marion selects Mark Rothko. Though they evidence many differences, one cannot argue against the general similarities between Kandinsky and Rothko—they are both modern (twentieth-century), “non-objective” painters. The aesthetics of the invisible, in the case of Henry, predicates itself upon modern abstraction, and Marion seems in partial agreement with him, especially by assigning primary importance to a painting’s “effect.” Marion differs from Henry when he privileges the icon as the savior of images.9 Henry and Marion, by focusing on invisibility, open painting’s phenomenality—herein lies the value of their contributions. Both transcend Husserl’s constraining “objectness” (and Heidegger’s “beingness”), but they leave us with potentially questionable iterations of aesthetics: of unseen feelings of joy and suffering, and of the empty pupils of the eye. The question that will occupy us for the rest of this article is whether in doing this Henry and/or Marion avoid re-restricting phenomenality. We shall ﬁnd that one fails to avoid it, while the other ﬁnds a way out—albeit one with a complex itinerary. Having made the above prefatory comments, I can now state my thesis, which concerns the aesthetics of Henry and Marion, the aesthetics of black holes and revelations, when it is utilized as a resource for theology. Henry’s aesthetics, theologically applied, exercises an inadequate Kantian apophasis, characterized by a sublime sacriﬁce of the imagination; although Marion’s work sometimes evidences a similar tendency, its prevailing momentum offers theology a fully catholic scope. By the end of this article, at least a couple of major points of interest related to my thesis will come to the fore. One concerns the extent to which an aesthetics of the invisible necessitates a forced curtailment of the imagination so as to attain philosophically to an essence—this point relates to the work of both of our thinkers. The other, for the most part, implicates Marion, for it involves assessing how much critical traction he generates by deploying Immanuel Kant’s own notion of the sublime against him. My argument unfolds in four major parts. First, I brieﬂy discuss the redeﬁnition of phenomenality by Henry and Marion. Second, I explore Henry’s
© 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Black Holes and Revelations 417 book.” we must accept it as is. Third. but despite that. which both privilege the human subject. But Husserl advances only temporarily. We begin with Husserl’s statement of the “principle of all principles” in Ideas I (1913): No conceivable theory can make us err with respect to the principle of all principles: that every originary presentive intuition is a legitimizing source of cognition. is every manifestation of a phenomenon carried out by the © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . from Cartesian methodological doubt. limits of his own on the phenomenon’s appearance. Marion keys in on the relationship between intuition.10 which he wrote at the request and under the inﬂuence of Henry. thus objectifying phenomena. Voir l’invisible sur Kandinsky (1988).11 This third section will point out how both Henry and Marion assimilate the Kantian sublime into their phenomenologies. in the principle’s last two phrases. “The question of phenomenology . . it seems. every time a phenomenon presents an intuition to us “originarily. that everything originarily (so to speak. As Henry and Marion direct similar concerns toward Husserl. but appearing.15 This statement begins with a broad opening of possibilities for phenomenality—every originary presentive intuition legitimizes its corresponding cognition. but also only within the limits in which it is presented there.12 and then I critically appraise the theological (de)merits. but the mode of their givenness. For this reason. or perhaps erects.” he clearly acknowledges. For all the boundaries Husserl breaks with the “principle of all principles.”13 Phenomenality: From Objectness to La Vie and Donation Henry observes in Phénoménologie matérielle (1990).”14 Setting aside arguments about the validity of this claim. in its ‘personal’ actuality) offered to us in ‘intuition’ is to be accepted simply as what it is presented as being. intention. I will use Marion’s queries to the “principle of all principles” to send us into the two philosophers’ rethinking of phenomenality. and asks. with his rehabilitation of the concept of idol and his renewed zeal for the icon. Husserl brings us a long way. Fourth. and the strictures of Kantian critique. and manifestation. I lay out a series of objections to the Kantian theological project as presented in Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone (1793). . I expound Marion’s reﬂections on painting in his later philosophy. Henry and Marion meet him with many questions. their phenomenality—not that which appears. let us entertain it in order to launch ourselves into our discussion. no longer concerns phenomena. starting with The Crossing of the Visible (1996). so as to explicate his view of the invisible as he lays it out in a deﬁnition of abstract painting. “The intuition of an intentional object no doubt accomplishes a phenomenal manifestation. from a Catholic point of view— where a breadth and depth of imagination is at a premium—of Henry and Marion as they relate to Kant and his “logic of the parergon.
Marion insists that a proper account of phenomenality must relate to the operation of the reduction. or even revelation of self. Henry names his umbrella la Vie (Life). Marion makes no such attempt to reverse Husserl. and imply that the phenomenality of each one is “pre-visible” to a “transcendental I. with phenomenality being taken as primitive to the phenomenon.”17 Neither Marion nor Henry can accept Husserl’s restriction of phenomenality (which he draws from Kant’s metaphysics)18 via intuition’s determination by intentionality.” concern the phenomenon’s horizon. They each attempt to discover a larger umbrella under which phenomena ﬁnd their how of appearing. welling up ´ in the “auto-affection” of the “affective ﬂesh of pathos” (παθος ). He speaks of Life with many different terms.”22 Hence the object becomes (over)determined by the subject. trying to summarize his point: “In short. not as the light of theoretical knowledge. but instead he aims to pick up Husserl’s project where it derailed. In place of objectness and the over-activity of the subject. and describe life as it actually transpires. not out in the open (in objects).20 Henry avers that phenomenology holds the key to recovering the interior life. Thus Henry claims to reverse Husserlian phenomenology—he redirects the ecstasy of intentionality (toward phenomena) into an enstasy of auto-affection (phenomenality). the way Henry envisions it. the ﬁnal two clauses Husserl includes in the “principle of all principles” stand as examples of how Husserl. conﬁnes phenomenality to “the objectness of the object. following Kant.” giving itself to itself in pure immanence. “simply as what it is presented as being” and “only within the limits. For him. but he never posits it as the origin of the appearing of phenomena. this means that phenomenology must overturn biology’s way of treating life. the (stillborn) offspring of modern thought— hardly anyone believes in interiority. Marion views givenness (donation) as the mark of phenomenality—Husserl speaks of Gegebenheit. but perhaps most succinctly as the “auto-revelation of absolute subjectivity. does the constitution of an intentional object by an intuition fulﬁlling an objectifying ecstasy exhaust every form of appearing?”16 Marion concludes the same line of questioning by contending. invisible because occurring within a living one (in a subject).21 Phenomenality comes to mean for Henry self-phenomenalization (manifestation.”19 To summarize various strands of Henry’s thought about Life—it is the “essence of manifestation. According to Marion. paradigmatically in the feelings of joy and suffering. but rather as the night of affective experience.418 Peter Joseph Fritz intuition of an objective intention transcendent to consciousness?” He continues. as long as the discipline deﬁnes its project properly—namely. “Intuition ﬁnally contradicts phenomenality because it itself remains submitted to the ideal of objectifying representation. These oracular gestures toward a deﬁnition of phenomenality stem from an overarching worry Henry has about the contemporary world. But Husserl articulated the “principle of all © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd .” The last parts. because modernity has refuted that concept. or subjectivity. to/for self).
The phenomenological reduction. prior to the intentional ecstasy of consciousness (noesis). Concerning the Spiritual in Art (1911).”27 or at least nature’s exteriority. we must remember the alterations Henry and Marion made to Husserl’s limited account of phenomenality (whose limitations. the painting’s appearing does not consist in being an object available for full constitution by a viewing subject (Husserl and Kant). stands among the most famous in twentiethcentury painting. Henry. As we proceed. “The elements of the new art are to be found . For our two post-Husserlian thinkers. and its recipient (the viewer). let us now move into the more determinate topic. but rather in the auto-revelation of life (Henry) or the self-showing of givenness (Marion). Here we encounter a speciﬁc sort of phenomenon (a painting). This “selfhood” also entails that in its appearing the phenomenon “leaves concealed givenness itself. “So much reduction.”28 He recognizes that the general public may not receive the new art kindly—“To those who are not accustomed to it the inner beauty appears as ugliness because humanity in general inclines to the outer and knows nothing of the inner”29—but nevertheless Kandinsky insists that the “inner need” of the artist.”26 From the general concern of phenomenality. once again.24 Phenomenology’s value lies in its capacity to recognize each phenomenon as a “self” with its own authority. art itself. . It involves both 1) an inability of a phenomenon to be foreseen and 2) a persistent invisibility even in its visibility. in the spirit of Henry’s philosophy before Henry’s birth. painting. when performed. One of Kandinsky’s books. The artist of the “inner need” (Kandinsky) meets the philosopher of the inner life (Henry). and relate to the reduction. so much givenness. surpasses the superﬁcial gaze of the spectator. Kandinsky writes. and through him.”25 Marion distills these insights about phenomenology’s elucidation of the phenomenon as “self” into the principle for phenomenality. from which it shows itself. The colors and forms the painter utilizes must strike a spiritual chord in the spectator © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . its creator (the painter).30 Kandinsky famously emphasizes the fundamental proximity of the arts of music and painting. stem from Kant). It appears at a time when painting is beginning its “revolt from dependence on nature. and he characterizes the painter as at once creating visual art and making a sort of music. and Pathos It is no wonder that the artwork and theoretical writings of Kandinsky caught Henry’s eye. so givenness remains “uninterrogated. for the phenomenon already has it by its own right and power. in the inner and not the outer qualities of nature. Subjective consciousness does not grant “selfhood” to the phenomenon. . leads us to the immanent “noematic core” of the phenomenon.Black Holes and Revelations 419 principles” in Ideas I before he raised the topic of the phenomenological reduction.”23 Two main characteristics of givenness are of interest for my argument. Kandinsky.
”42 By the “intuition of the artist. Henry references his book Philosophy and Phenomenology of the Body (1965). feeling.36 Henry’s fundamental ontology contains two poles.” which he distinguishes from the “empirical body. spirit: we have here in Kandinksy the makings of Henry’s aesthetics of Life. and categorizes and organizes them into what Henry dubs the “great Kandinskian equation.420 Peter Joseph Fritz (including the painter himself) in order for the painting to be called “good.”39 Abstraction. Henry’s own book. Kandinsky’s theory of art evidences a phenomenology of sorts. an account of being (or the being of pictorial elements) rendered “according to its two modes of appearance: exteriority and interiority. that “abstract painting deﬁnes the essence of all painting. and Henry admits this. so does Kandinsky pursue the essence of painting.”32 The artist (visually) touches the “inner feeling” of his viewer. takes over the whole picture—content and form— and the whole picture becomes an ontological unity in the pathos of life. which sets forth a phenomenology of the “subjective body. takes the above cues and several more from Kandinsky.33 To repeat— outer/inner.”40 He offers that book as an ex-post-facto “philosophical foundation” for Kandinsky’s theory of abstraction and of visual elements. Kandinsky ﬁnds.”37 This quasi-ontology or phenomenology of painting proceeds “in the manner of Husserl’s eidetic analysis. and he lives for the spirit alone.”31 Thus we see the Kandinskian deﬁnition of the painter: “The artist is the hand which plays. joy.”34 In Henry’s ﬁnal posing of it. to cause vibrations in the soul. visible and invisible. Amid a discussion of the relationship between music and abstract painting.41 Thus Henry links up Kandinsky’s view of art with his own account of sensation as being grounded in the “pathetic subjectivity that deﬁnes identically our original Body and the being we are—our Soul. then. the equation reads as follows: Interior = interiority of absolute subjectivity = life = invisible = pathos = abstract content = abstract form. suffering. This ontological unity of painting bears out its signiﬁcance in the effect it has on the viewer to whom the artist directs his work. though. Voir l’invisible sur Kandinsky. soul. and their unity in the unity of the different senses that perceive them. A counter-equation. extrapolated from insights of Henry/Kandinsky might look like this: Exterior = exteriority of the “world” = life manifested in light = visible = theory = determinate content = determinate form. with Henry in agreement.”43 Kandinsky reached the insight that art concerns not the outer world of © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . touching one key or another. for he is attuned to his own joy and suffering.35 The way Henry formulates the “Kandinskian equation” shows us that Henry sees in Kandinsky an echo of his own fundamental ontology. so we should lay out another equation to illustrate this.”38 Just as Henry seeks the essence of manifestation.
are also those of the cosmos. Describing them. forms hover stripped of their substance. but rather (the) inner life (of its spectators). such is the ambition of abstract painting. which is Life. glorious bodies— bodies of life. absolute knowledge (revelation!). Rothko (Idol). and thus arousing them within the living body.47 Painting. nature or otherwise. is replete with the modes of life. he makes some interesting comments about their abstract forms: “In this zero-gravity milieu. the true calling of art. for that matter. Soul)—but only by awakening the life that has always already pulsed within her. all the forces of our being which. assimilating its “essential parts” into his own reﬂections on painting. in effect. but the world did not know him. His view of painting thus maps (too?) straightforwardly onto his philosophical project as a whole. an aesthetics of the invisible (even a doctrine of absolute knowledge!) in the form of the feeling of life. to paraphrase Kandinsky. Marion thickly describes his viewpoint: © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd .”—John 1:10). which has no reason. but rather it should give us life to feel within ourselves—at the deepest level. Marion. in the Kandinskian line—he champions paintings that do not care to imitate nature. so to speak. it seems. where he suggests that “to sense” means to “test” the “universal life of the universe.”50 Evidently. which. to be limited to the reproduction of common facts or events.48 Henry ends the book with a couple of pages on Kandinsky’s Parisian canvases.”49 Abstract painting expresses invisible modes of life by bringing them to visibility.44 Painting should not represent anything. Henry articulates the goal of art according to Kandinsky: To give to feeling everything that can be felt. awakens feelings in the spectator that unlock. as a unity of abstract content and even abstract form. art effects a sort of gloriﬁcation of the viewer.Black Holes and Revelations 421 objects. Though not a religious believer (Henry converted to Christianity roughly half a decade after writing Voir l’invisible). the visible.”46 the inner “world” that Henry distinguishes sharply from the world of exteriority (hence his later attraction to the Gospel of John: “He was in the world. Marion’s painter instead busies himself making visible what would otherwise remain unseen. We get from Henry. a quickening of the subjective body (or ﬂesh. and the world came to be through him. or. Henry makes a ﬁnal provocative statement: “Art is the resurrection of eternal life.51 Marion hints that he too stands. to their irremovable outlines. then. one will see. to make experienced all that can be experienced. and the Gaze (Icon) Jean-Luc Marion picks up on Henry’s reading of Kandinsky. bodies of light. where weight is made levity. painting gives us the reality of the cosmos.45 Henry thus hearkens back to Philosophy and Phenomenology of the Body.
If the artist wishes to bring forth this visibility. saturated with respect to quality. Marion employs the painting as his example of the second kind of saturated phenomenon. Marion ﬁnds such a phenomenological situation in Rothko’s work: “Mark Rothko resists what he has received as a violent given—too harsh for anyone else than him—in phenomenalizing it on the screen of slack colors: ‘I have imprisoned the most absolute violence in each square centimeter of their [the paintings’] surfaces. The “authentic” painter provides us with something new. with each painting. in order to extract. despite all his work. without precondition or genealogy. presents itself as sopping with visibility. indeed as the phenomenon characterized by its indisputable visibility. suffers the painting57—he resists (on the borderline of activity and passivity—in the way a crayon “resists” watercolor) the onslaught of givenness. which. The painter. The painting—the authentic one—exposes an absolutely original phenomenon. She creates. but in doing so.60 With this in mind. that of novelty. newly discovered.”55 Thus she puts us face to face with the striking property of givenness. that of the primacy of the inapparent. second. so much visibility. lovingly or more often by force. These active roles do not eclipse the mode of passivity in which the painter lives as well: he “admits that. adds yet another phenomenon to the indeﬁnite ﬂow of the visible. it is not he who put in the work on the painting but the painting itself. Marion also dubs this phenomenon the “idol. the “third” reduction to givenness). Marion suggests. blocks of the visible. l’invu (the unseen).52 Two related accents fall here—ﬁrst. the subject who has undergone a phenomenological reduction (for Marion. In fact. opens itself to the visible on its own initiative. increasing by force the quantity of the visible.54 she carries the charge of being the “gatekeeper for the ascent into visibility of all that gives itself.53 As the painter seems a ﬁgure for Marion of l’adonné. He deepens a seam or fault line.”56 The painter creates. in the night of the inapparent. thus humbly called to appear upon the occasion of the work. as if ordering the primordial chaos.58 To twist Marion’s formula for phenomenality (“so much reduction.” Marion rehabilitates this phenomenon as the one that grants us pertinent © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd .” which he means in a somewhat different sense than he did in his early work. a phenomenon we could not have previewed. the “radiant” one. though. with strokes and patches of color.’ ”59 The painting. she must deal with the inapparent. so much givenness”) to ﬁt it to painting’s phenomenalization: so much resistance. In the essay in In Excess (2001) on the “idol.422 Peter Joseph Fritz The painting—at least one that is authentic—imposes in front of every gaze an absolutely new phenomenon. suddenly appearing with such a violence that it explodes the limits of the visible identiﬁed to that point. He completes the world because he does not imitate nature. the painter enters a rather complex relation with the inapparent—at once both active and passive.
70 calling to mind the welling up of life within the “affective ﬂesh of pathos. or directs an intrigue toward me.”69 Also. He argues.” it opposes our interest. Marion insists on this—the painting confronts us with “terror” as we stand “in the face of the power that it exerts in the name of the darkness from which it arises. this sublime “upsurge” made visible in the painting. operates in a manner analogous to terror. to the one who knows how to look at it as it gives itself.” As in Henry.Black Holes and Revelations 423 insights for the study of phenomena generally and saturated. whatever is in any sort terrible. at the very least. that is to say. an exemplary saturated phenomenon.” which comes to light yet again in the following words: “The saturation of the visible becomes. though. it is a “negative pleasure. “Whatever is ﬁtted in any sort to excite the ideas of pain and danger. intrigues me. to the point where it is not confused with any other. We saw above that. the reduction to effect.”66 The unbearable advent of the painting surely. they impose themselves. Especially in the case of saturated phenomena. it obsesses me via a blast of luminescence. is a source of the sublime. in the words of an important resource for Kant. Marion.”71 or in Henry’s terms. He talks of the “upsurge” of the painting.” that he has assimilated in his account of saturated phenomena the Kantian sublime. or is conversant about terrible objects. amounts to seeing it reduced to its effect. in that Marion aims explicitly to deploy something like the sublime in order to gain critical traction in opposition to © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . with Marion’s invocation of the adjective “unbearable.” All of these thoughts from Henry and Marion call to mind the sublime’s representation of “limitlessness” (Unbegrenztheit). phenomena in particular. Edmund Burke. and “astonishment” is a possible feature accompanying it. Marion reminds us of Henry with his choice imagery to describe the coming into visibility of the painting. “liberates the look from all inscription in this world. the “idol” clues us in to the way invisible givenness presents itself to sight through phenomena.”68 To return to Michel Henry—his inﬂuence on Marion manifests itself in what we have just seen: the latter’s focus on “effect” (terror and fascination). Henry concerns himself almost exclusively with the way the painting awakens feelings of life (suffering and joy) within the viewer.64 The sublime coheres with the saturated phenomenon because it signiﬁes formlessness.62 Rothko’s experience of painting as reining in a brutal barrage of the visible speaks to an interesting feature of Marion’s “saturated phenomenon. likewise. or highphenomenality.”67 He restates the same point: “The painting offers to our terriﬁed eyes the spectacle of a wall of the unseen. Due to its incomparably vibrant visibility. really unbearable. in the ﬁnal analysis. The ﬂood of the visible overcomes it.”63 We get a sense.61 The painting.72 Marion and Henry differ. proposes a reduction proper to painting. “To see the painting. and this mix of suffering and joy can ﬁttingly be called sublime.65 Again. from all cosmic imprisonment. or operates in a manner analogous to terror. “the truth of the world. which cracks under the pressure of the desire to appear.
idol included. ﬂesh) are “gathered” in the icon. for the face is perhaps the most glaring example of a phenomenon that does not “‘agree’ with the power of knowledge. can deliver the gaze from slavery to the world (of foreseen objects).”81 The painting as idol proves dangerous— © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . Marion writes.”78 We begin to hear. but we must nevertheless attend to a stark contrast that emerges here in question form: Do I choose my own artistic enjoyment. the extreme visibility of the painting poses a problem: [I]f painting exercises the phenomenological function of reducing what gives itself to what shows itself.” it presents a neutral surface. . which Marion recodes in terms of the façade and the face.” as Kant would have all phenomena do. there is one thing it cannot give: the face. Rothko “foreshadows” Lévinas’s contention that “the façade forbids us to paint the face. echoes of the early Lévinas’s curt. According to Rothko/Marion. it must end inevitably in the façade. the decision to paint or not to paint the face comes down to two simple options: 1) “killing the face in enframing it in the ﬂatness of the painting and putting it to death in the idol. I must develop as far as possible the less common hypothesis” (i. the potential visible to the pure seen.76 Marion senses in Rothko a point of transition between the idol and the icon. one without relation. . which thus “closes off access to the intimate. and this is crucially important. presents even stronger evidence against Kant’s (thus Husserl’s) persistent conditioning of phenomena “in terms of the power of knowledge.424 Peter Joseph Fritz Kant. in effect.”73 Marion’s case against Kant is ostensibly to be made through any and all saturated phenomena.79 For Marion. the responsibility of its power to make us look.” or 2) “‘mutilating’ oneself as a painter and giving up producing the face directly in visibility.”74 Though the idol. idol. a saturated phenomenon” in his aesthetic ideas. in fact he highlights their association: “Art bears the responsibility of what it gives to see and.” For Rothko. and more excess-ively in the sublime. rather than a fecund ground. Marion observes that the other three types of saturated phenomena (event. The opposition of façade to face insinuates that this essence of painting. stinging attack on art in “Reality and its Shadow” (1948). an idea that inﬂuenced Rothko. not the phenomenon’s power of appearing.77 One familiar with modernist (particularly New York school) painting may catch here intimations of Clement Greenberg’s proclamation of “ﬂatness” as the essence of painting. With its ﬂatness (platitude). resembles a rotten core. “The path to follow now opens more clearly. The icon does. but it seems that another sort of painting. After brieﬂy telling of Kant’s “foretaste of . then.e.75 In keeping with this. the “façade cancels all depth. than phenomena as objects) “glimpsed by Kant himself—and against him. or the life of the other? Marion refuses to oppose ethics and aesthetics.”80 Marion probably overstates the case. even further. the icon. if it operates this reduction in bringing back all the visible to the pure and simple plane-ness of the surface.
before I get the chance to look at. from Lévinas. and thus negate it. . the latter apparently has no worries over the danger painting poses to the face of the other—at worst the painting calls up (sublime) feelings of pain and suffering within a spectator. “the visible and the invisible embrace each other from a ﬁre that no longer destroys but rather lights up the divine face for humanity. I already mentioned that Marion’s interest in the icon marks his main divergence from Henry. hence hetero-affection). But (somehow) the painting as icon can give the face without this danger. The phrase “from invisibility” brings us to the center of Marion’s thinking on aesthetics. This “center” lies in the middle of the human eye (whether real or painted): the pupil. itself. which stops violence (that of my hand). First of all.85 Marion writes.” © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . as well as the critique of the artistic image to which I have already referred. and disrupts the intentional gaze. . it centers itself on invisibility.89 It functions as probably his favorite symbol for the invisible. this crossing of intentionality fails to compare to the crossing of the visible in the painting (icon). Second. the icon “assigns me. The pupils signify for Marion the “gaze that comes upon me” that “provides no spectacle. foresees me. and leave concern for the Other to care for the object. in the visible. alternative to the contemporary disaster of the image. so as to stay closer to Marion’s own words.Black Holes and Revelations 425 perhaps the feeling of the sublime it gives attests to this—for it threatens to destroy the face. This tiny black dot becomes a recurring theme in Marion’s work. from that point on.87 Whereas the painting (idol) can evoke the counter-experience of the sublime.”82 He proclaims that in the icon. But elsewhere his reﬂections on the face concern not God but the other person—as a faithful phenomenologist he dutifully brackets God’s face. The painting (as idol) offers the Other to my eyes in a way that leads me to mistake the Other for the object. but a counter-experience—the face that gazes at me. holds the icon in utterly high esteem. so divine and human faces coexist in an unconfused unity. even though it depicts the human face visually. Let us switch from talking about painting to reﬂecting on the body of the other person. and elects me to peace. in-visibly yet in-the-visible. The invisible.”86 The icon gives not an experience. but rather. on the other hand. the unforeseeable painting. as he categorically prefers the immediacy of Life experienced in auto-affection.84 The painting (as icon) does not attain to the project of the idol. he sees in the Second Council of Nicaea’s (787) dogmatic afﬁrmation of the icon “perhaps the only . contrary to the gazing aim. “The visible is liberated from vision at the moment when it seizes its own invisibility.”88 The icon. he allows no room for an iconic moment. He derives his account. Marion.”83 In The Crossing of the Visible. from invisibility. but the concept of the icon necessarily includes an element of mediation (or at least two gazes. which does violence (to me). but rather. plays no longer between the aim of the gaze and the visible. In fact. Marion’s description of the face ﬂows at least in part from the dogmatic symbol of Chalcedon (451).
for the vacant. Phil. but the correctly disposed viewer can recognize that it has “emptied itself” (cf.” à la Lévinas. through the visible icon. which envisions the “gazing spectator.”96 Marion informs today’s iconoclasts: [W]hat is at stake in the operation of the icon concerns not the perception of the visible or the aesthetic but the intersection of two gazes. it is necessary for him to move. but rather to signify the invisible gaze that “transpierces” the visible “screen” of the icon.”94 The doctrine of the icon. like an excluded middle. Ethics and its close relative. deﬁned by Nicaea II. Lévinas deploys the “excluded middle” in an iconoclastic mode. “Either the invisible or the impostor.” the pupil.”93 For Lévinas it seems quite clear that the “excluded middle. for him ethics and the Exodus ban on images (Exodus 20:4) go hand in hand. in order for the viewer to be allowed to see and escape from the status of being a mere voyeur. so eloquently articulated here. . which hardly constitutes an absolute value. In spite of his respect for Lévinas.97 The iconic moment. . a “usable” form of visibility. confessing and admitting to be seen by it. “the very collapse of phenomenality. toward the origin of another gaze. and which. but the anarchy of what has never been present. He disputes the iconoclastic slogan. visibility becomes relativized—it does not “collapse. could not be aimed at. functions not to represent the shadows inside the eyeball.”90 They refute the over-activity of a subject or “transcendental I” that aims at visible “objectives” by substituting for these “objectives” something invisible and invisable (“untargetable”). the Blessed Virgin Mary. occluded eyes of a Modigliani or a Gauguin portrait do not count as iconic). concerning the usage of this visibility. The blackness of the pupil can take on another sense. both center on the face.98 In a way typiﬁed by © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . of an inﬁnite which commands in the face of the other. rejects this analytic dichotomy. iconoclasm.426 Peter Joseph Fritz These “two voids” are the only two places “on the surface of the body of the Other” where “there is nothing to see. Marion does not follow him in the latter’s (sublime) iconoclasm. ﬁgures the sublime—the negative appearance of the unpresentable. for color shows itself in another mode than light: pigment. though.”92 The “excluded middle” and that which “could not be aimed at”—does he describe the pupil. 2:7).”95 How do we “use” visibility in the painting or viewing of an icon? The black pigment placed at the center of the eyes of. opting for a different teaching “concerning the visibility of the image . In the icon. which in terms of light does not appear to sight? In the context of his overall philosophical project.91 A text from Lévinas can illustrate Marion’s drift: “The trace of a past in a face is not the absence of a not-yet-revealed. shows the value Marion ascribes to the visibility of the icon (the painting’s black pigment). a darkness beyond the reach of my light-sensitive eyes. say. Thus we return to Marion’s view of painting (a speciﬁc sort of painting at that.
which slingshots Christ into the resurrection and to the right hand of the Father. we exit a space of “mimetic rivalry” between the invisible and the (visible) impostor. Henry envisions art as expressing life.”100 The pupils.106 Now let us pause for a summary and a(n) (re)orientation. but so it may arrive to me. that the new glory this “resurrection” brings will yield an idol. we ﬁnd Marion echoing the ﬁnal comments we observed from Henry.”103 Marion refers to the Christian tradition of Christ’s descent into hell. which in Marion’s preferred theological resource (at least in his early work). empty black holes intending me with a “ray of the divine shadow. with his project of ﬁnding unforeseeable phenomena.” the icon effaces its own visible “spectacle. for in the icon “the visible opens not onto another visible but onto the other of the visible—the invisible Holy One. among the many © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . The previous section led us to conclude that Henry’s view of painting ﬁts perhaps too easily with his philosophy overall. With his fascination with Life. and deﬁnitely the icon. as he brings up the theme of resurrection: “Every painting participates in a resurrection. Hans Urs von Balthasar. by bringing the unseen to light. not so I may approach it. though. Marion. I deem it warranted to suggest that though Marion’s view proves more complex in its execution. from which the painter returns to the light of day as a new master of the visible. the painter shows us a “miracle. can preﬁgure resurrection. I have gathered these various theological points to illustrate how Marion evades the sublime iconoclasm of Lévinas.”105 Art is not the resurrection of eternal life. where the visible object becomes “visible transit where two gazes cross each other and are exposed to each other.”101 open the way to invisible givenness. . The painter undergoes a kenosis as well. Before moving on. unless this glory is regarded as provisional on its own. After our close reading of Marion.Black Holes and Revelations 427 Jesus Christ. Thus all the foregoing exposition has unveiled. The one who prays. every painting imitates Christ. we have Marion’s aesthetics of exposure to “untargetable” black holes. 3:18). which is strongly redolent of Kantianism.102 But not until my next section will we see for sure whether Marion succeeds at adequately exorcising Kant from his phenomenology—it will soon become clear that this is no simple issue to navigate. lets the invisible other see me through the visible. The true glory of painting lies in the icon. from glory to glory” (2 Cor. at times its solution tends toward ending up nearly as simple as Henry’s. that is. plunging into the “unforeseen. Interestingly. is “transformed . tells us how art foresees us! Instead of Henry’s aesthetics of invisible feelingrevelations. signiﬁes the lowest moment of Christ’s self-emptying (kenosis).” impoverishes itself so as to allow the gaze to pass through it to its invisible “prototype.” and after a time there (on the third day?).” and in this quasi-resurrection. . let us end with Marion in a similar way to how we did with Henry.”99 When we acknowledge the icon. he emerges victorious with a new visible: “The gates of Hell ﬂy open without ceasing. of whom the icon (dogmatically) is the “type.”104 Surely Marion would caution us. but possibly the idol (as saturated phenomenon).
especially in the case of Henry. can lend a helping hand here. His move in Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone to reduce (in the phenomenological sense of “lead back”. One of Janicaud’s main criticisms of Henry and Marion states. the “eidetic science” of “pure phenomenology. Both believe (or at least write as if) they have identiﬁed the essence of painting.” as in Ideas I.428 Peter Joseph Fritz divergences between Henry and Marion. stays our hand. the body. the cross of gazes. though—he relates the painting (as idol) to the icon. We see this method at work when each discusses painting: Henry unlocks colors to ﬁnd the feelings. and glory. ethics. We have discussed everything from colors and forms to life. Marion does not stop there. modes of Life behind them. through painting.108 The “stretching” of phenomenality we have witnessed in Henry and Marion—beyond objectness—should render phenomenology wide open for an engagement with God. Christian theology has experienced a veritable gold rush of scholarship where theological prospectors mine Scripture and Christian traditions looking for the precious nugget of das Wesen des Christentums. if occasional. From phenomenological aesthetics we make a theological turn. and elects us. the invisible violates us. which includes all paintings (even idols). convergence—a Kantian. much to the chagrin of phenomenologists like Dominique Janicaud. or the fact of (the) painting. God’s revelation. in some ways at least.110 In other words. Now we turn to the one who saves us: God. which alternate between spot-on accuracy and polemical overstatement. Assessment: Theology and Kantian Apophasis The idea of the invisible has brought us a long way from a simple description of the act of.107 The next section’s task is to explicate how this seeking after the eidos of painting might translate into an overly thin theology—one distasteful to a catholic imagination—and how Marion ultimately discovers a path beyond it. apophatic search after an “aesthetic” (or sublime) essence of art. or more precisely. and in the common sense of “diminish”) the various doctrines and practices of Christianity to the universal concepts of practical reason ignited © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd .109 To a certain extent it has. to purity. an undeniable. For all their disagreements with Husserl. Henry (certainly) and Marion (possibly) still remain committed. in effect. they strip away what one might call the husk of the phenomenon to get to the kernel of phenomenality. Marion directs his gaze at the painted image and ﬁnds ﬂatness (pure visibility) as distinguishing it. For over two centuries. We have mentioned how. In the face to face. The latter’s critiques. and ﬁnds in the black holes through which the invisible peers back at him. Marion locates the essence (even the salvation) of all images. whether Life or givenness. that their searches for a better deﬁnition of phenomenality terminate in the discovery of new metaphysical foundations. whose essence he likewise seeks. And it seems that we have Kant to thank for this outpouring of interest in Christianity’s core. the essence of Christianity.
” but rather “religion is hidden within and has to do with moral dispositions. With somewhat horrifying. Christianity. a link apropos of and instructive for this article’s topic. a frame can enhance a painting’s beauty. its “Materie”—which at least one English translator renders as “essence”—is “obedience .” those soiled with the empirical dross of history. pace “the common man.” where it would “harm” the beauty of the work. the idea of the “works of grace” can issue in “fanaticism. pharmakon. even if at present it has ties with various “ecclesiastical faiths. and in the Religion (works of grace.123 In painting. parergon performs a “double function. . Kant’s Religion engages in a project of separation and delimitation. the adornment. cause it “detriment. the parergon can be said to make a positive contribution. parerga exercise a negative function. Second.”114 The “historical element” of a faith. the clearly intrinsic and clearly extrinsic.”115 Kant likes to separate it out. .”113 Hidden (invisible?) within the moral disposition—for this reason religion’s subject matter. is the attraction of the sensory matter.112 Religion. say. mysteries.” is not equivalent to “ecclesiastical faiths” based on “historical revelation. in the case of religion. is isolable. .” or “one (true) religion”—which. and to look forward to the day when it will pass away—when “at last the pure religion of reason will rule over all.” Derrida recognizes the source of the pathology amid these symptoms: “The deterioration of the parergon. Kant explains. both in the Critique of Judgment (using examples of frames on pictures. as the essence of religion demands.” and attending the other parerga of religion are other equally “threatening” pitfalls. to all duties as [God’s] commands. In between both of these.”119 First. but undeniably alluring deftness.”122 In religion. and we can do with it what we like. and colonnades of palaces). Kant arranges parerga. Or in aesthetics. a parergon is “an outside which is called to the inside of the inside in order to constitute it as an inside. according to him.”120 For instance. supplementary work” in order to “satisfy its moral need.”117 Characteristically. miracles. the drawing of borders and “concentric circles.Black Holes and Revelations 429 a still-burning theological blaze. Derrida notes that a border situation emerges as Kant proceeds.” a parergon such as belief in the assistance of grace comes in to provide it. what Derrida calls the “pathology of the parergon. Both of Kant’s projects consist in marking out integral parts “to the total representation of an object” and at the same time judging what “belongs to it only in an extrinsic way.121 In these ways. drapery on statues.”124 Kant’s concern with religious © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . the perversion. the parergon risks a lapse “into adornment.”111 Kant has an eidos in mind—“the pure religion of reason. means of grace). and thus this historical element “is something which is in itself quite indifferent.118 Like another famous Greek philosophical term. Kant tells us. when reason “needs .”116 Jacques Derrida makes a connection in The Truth in Painting (1978) between Kantian aesthetics and the modus operandi of the Religion. . “contributes nothing” to making human persons “better” (morally).
as an historical system. My exposition of Henry and Marion brought us to the topic of the Kantian sublime. . based on the parergon’s double function. we could quickly break down the word parergon as Kant deploys it in the Religion.” Earlier Kant writes that on the occasion of sublime feeling the mind “is incited to abandon sensibility and to busy itself with Ideas that involve higher purposiveness.” The imagination (which we might interpret as a source of parerga) is “regarded as an instrument of Reason” to this end. It makes sense.” is their tendency to lead faithful people to busy themselves with “piety. it is “subjected to a cause. and my discussion of Kant’s zeal for pure religion returns us to the sublime.430 Peter Joseph Fritz parerga. where revelation is a broad circle that includes two elements.” In the sublime. going from aesthetics to theology. what is essential—hence the idea of grace ﬁts alongside (par) religion (ergon). I believe. in the light of moral concepts.126 Should one recode these statements. to read the methodology of Kant’s Religion as a performance of the sublime. even enhances. the moral law. and then to © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . while it is purposively determined according to a different law from that of its empirical employment. . with this mixture of two functions. The parergon in its positive sense coexists peacefully with. though. For this reason Kant hopes intently for their eventual becoming obsolete—when reason will not need such ambivalent help.”125 It seems. Though Kant is somewhat of a patient gradualist when it comes to a hope in the clear advent of pure religion. and certainly its history of effects in Christian theology. then. Derrida makes much of the different etymological valences of parergon. from the Critique of Judgment §29. which arise within “historical” or “ecclesiastical faiths. and the essence of religion will appear with indisputable clarity. verges on forcing the issue—that is. Kant proposes in the Religion to “examine [the ﬁrst] in a fragmentary manner . the text of the Religion. Reason exercises its “dominion over sensibility. I made passing reference above to Kant’s image of concentric circles. even endangers the integral center—hence fanaticism based in the idea of grace (pathologically understood) ends up being quite beside (par) the point (ergon). obscures. it must be said that Kant’s ascription of terms such as “aberrations” to the parerga evidences Kant’s inclination toward a negative view of parerga. But what about the sublime gets enacted? Let us observe some salient features of the Kantian sublime. the imagination is sacriﬁced to something greater. detracts from. The imagination deprives “itself of its freedom. The parergon in its negative sense. it seems that one would have Kant’s Religion. toward thinking that their “pathological” function arises with more frequency than the positive one. making the trappings of historical faith seem beside the point.” while forgetting what is truly essential—“virtue. the ﬁnal section in the “Analytic of the Sublime. Furthermore. In a similar way. par-ergon.” In a word. that parerga showcase in an exemplary way the “indifference” Kant ascribes to the “historical element” of Christianity. 1) the “wider sphere” of historical revelation and 2) the “narrower one” of the pure religion of reason.” namely.
”129 Once again. . should one appear.” is telling. its only value would reside in its assistance in my recognizing the ever-present archetype faster than I would have unaided. visible manifestation or historical instantiation does not matter. directly and deﬁnitely in the case of Henry.g. All of the foregoing has been directed toward an explication of a phrase I used in the introduction—as a central element of my thesis no less—but which I waited (until now) to fully deﬁne. the thinner theology becomes with respect to its worldly husk. . My thesis states that the aesthetics of black holes and revelations developed by Henry and Marion translates. the more easily recognizable is its moral (essential) kernel. Christianity’s historical proﬁle is beside (par) the point (ergon). which “must needs separate from one another.130 Does not the artwork in Henry function like the historical “Teacher of the Gospel” (Kant’s circumlocution for Jesus) might for Christians? That is.”128 Faiths are vehicles for reason’s ride home. We have ﬁnally reached the payoff of the article. If we transpose Henry’s aesthetics into a theological register. be no exaggeration to say that for Kant nature exists solely for the mediation of rational ideas . maybe (probably) Kant was trying to make room for Christianity when others refused to do so. I mean a theological mindset comprised of elements from the negative side of the logic of the parergon and the sacriﬁce of the imagination that occurs in the sublime—all in the interest of shoring up a philosophical essence. . he would not be the “object of saving faith. Kant contends that even if the “Son of God” appeared on earth in person. . and indirectly and possibly in the case of Marion (this is our remaining question). Given the rationalist cast of the thought of his time. . When I write “Kantian apophasis. perhaps he was trying to raise it to a higher plane—but a sublime sacriﬁce was the price of admission. John Betz gets at my point while giving his own account of the Kantian sublime as it relates (negatively) to theology: “It would .Black Holes and Revelations 431 see whether it does not lead back to the very same pure rational system of religion. vehicles easily discarded when the sublime feeling that moral concepts give announces reason’s imminent arrival at home’s threshold.”— but his comparison of historical faiths and pure religion with water and oil. Adolf von Harnack). we could easily recognize the coherence of his views with a Kantian apophasis. For Kant and his followers (e. as long as an invisible idea operates within me. it seems that Life is already within © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . that truth is merely the homecoming of reason. . In his moral recasting of the Incarnation.” but instead “the archetype. It does not need to be awakened by any exterior phenomenon.” Kant feigns tentativeness—“If this experiment is successful . the enthralling discovery of one’s rational destiny by way of a detour through nature and self-alienation.127 Sensibility— history in this case—is sacriﬁced to the dominion of Reason. into such a theological apophasis in their phenomenological descriptions of painting. and the purely moral (the religion of reason) be allowed to ﬂoat on top. that we [would] attribute to him..” then. lying in our reason.
lurks the dominated sensibility of the Kantian sublime. “The elaboration of the Christian concept of Truth has made truth appear to ﬁnd its essence in Life. In addition.”135 which sums up the auto-revelation of life at the heart of Christianity. Thus Henry’s aesthetics of the invisible. with all his positive talk of icons. From the beginning of I Am the Truth. but any possible life. but it doesn’t seem that one really needs the painting to experience Life. this would translate into shearing away the outward expressions of Christianity—even Christ!—in favor of a private mysticism as the sole mode of access to divine beauty.”134 Once again. It seems. Furthermore. then. the auto-revelation of auto-affection. and perhaps the painting (the visible. historical object) can awaken modes of Life. the reader will not be surprised to learn. We know from the discussion of Marion’s relationship to Lévinas that the former resists the latter’s deployment of the sublime in an iconoclastic direction. the © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . the liturgy.432 Peter Joseph Fritz everyone. liturgy. the Truth.”132 The core of Christianity unveils the real—“the unique reality. strips the (sensible. after considering several relevant biblical texts. and eucharist. that Marion ﬁnds an area for at least a bit of critical traction against a theological Kantian defeat of the imagination by reason. visible. Is this what Henry gives us? Henry’s I Am the Truth (1996) conﬁrms the suspicion. Marion engages in a similar hunt for the Wesen that Henry does. maybe. since Kant’s (and Lévinas’s) iconoclasm at the very least touches on theology. and thus leaves himself open to the charge that for the former as with the latter. for leaving the door wide open for an Henrian reading of Christianity—“I am the Way. a particular form of life. Henry’s rendering of phenomenality. one does not necessarily need the idol.131 And what is this essential core? Henry contends. the icon.” or the “kernel” of Christianity. it would seem without question that he does not. within Henry’s phrase “suffer oneself. any conceivable reality. as in his view of abstract painting. and the Life (!)” (John 14:6). which I likened to Kantianism. Henry seeks the “essential core. This would be a result of the imagination’s selfdeprivation of its own freedom to imagine worldly things so as to reveal its own essence. Marion uses the speciﬁc notion of the Kantian sublime as an antidote to Kant. Does Marion escape a similar fall into Kantian theological apophasis? On the surface. as we saw above. now brought into (or at least near) theology. interiority without an outside. Theologically. Also as we have already observed. Marion expressly states that his overall project of a phenomenology of givenness is directed against Kant. Henry might as well do away with the painting too. corroborates my critique. We could blame the Gospel of John. historical) details off the phenomenon. any phenomenon—the visible is beside the point. But I ﬁnd it difﬁcult to conclude otherwise than that at times Kant still maintains a grip (even if a light. is invisible: “It is precisely because life is invisible that reality is invisible—not just a particular domain of it. l’essence de la manifestation. In his weaker moments. occasional one) on Marion.”133 This essence. Life.
the Incarnation. in its essence (?). would not pure phenomenology. or whatever other phenomenon to tap into originary givenness. which has its basis in yet another complex phenomenon. the incarnation might as well not have taken place. positive function of the parergon now will guide us. First. the above fails to take into account the breadth of Marion’s engagement with his sources. and the quite creative way in which he inverts the Kantian sublime. the recipient of the visibility of the icon. “It is no exaggeration to say [that] . We might still treat the visual details of the icon as parerga. John Damascene (675–749). and this happens through the black holes of the pupils. negatively understood? Could not the rich fabrics of the Blessed Virgin’s gown. thus revealing prayer. 330–379) to Theodore the Studite (759–826). . and all the other visible (historical) elements of Christianity would fall away. The second. except maybe the pupils of their eyes. an eidetic science. as I have repeatedly indicated throughout. the Marion of the negative side of the parergon reaches a mystical apprehension. as the essence of Christianity. Another. but in order to attain to the invisible eidos? The visibility of the icon. fully reduced to givenness. But. is the rest of the painting a mass of parerga. reminiscent of Colossians 3:2: “Think of what is above. a hidden life (of prayer). especially the theological ones. though by a more circuitous path. are beside the point. The Crossing of the Visible. not because of an ethical objection (like Lévinas). Let us return to the example of an icon of Mary and the Christ child. the loveliness of her face. the crossing of gazes. The complexity of the problem comes to light if we re-consider the use of the visibility of the icon. this is not the whole story. shows that Marion envisions himself as a kindred spirit with a number of iconodule saints. from Basil of Caesarea (c. and in the latter part of my thesis. but this time as ones that enhance our experience of the iconic gaze. comes to mind as one of the staunchest defenders of icons as being representative of the complex fabric of the Christian tradition. This is a fair interpretation in light of the Kantian inertia of some of Marion’s thought surrounding givenness. . ﬁgured as exposure to the gaze of the Other (God). not of what is on earth. Bringing up Marion’s familiarity with © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . Admittedly. Like Henry. or the endearing posture of the Christ child distract from the crossing of the visible by the invisible? If so. bypass these parerga to reach the empty black holes. For John. this time with the two functions of the parergon in mind.”136 The sacramental imagination of the Damascene and others like him lends a strong backing to Marion’s phenomenology. from the negative side—if the icon is properly. is sacriﬁced to a higher cause. The depictions of Mary and Jesus.Black Holes and Revelations 433 eucharist.” The imagination. a sense of the interlacing of the visible and the invisible where the distinction between ergon and parergon becomes blurred and the layering of the earthly tradition reﬂects the sublimity of the Kingdom of God (“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places”: John 14:2). unless there are images of Christ. with its explicit invocation of the dogmatic defense of icons at the Council of Nicaea.
If we are careful. where the “higher cause” is that of reason—really. we look to the phenomenon. it would require painstaking attention to how the phenomena of Christianity work alongside each other to build up a beautiful tradition. we can utilize Marion’s philosophy. without placing prior restrictions on them. L’adonné does not suffer himself. My critiques come out of an appreciation for Henry and Marion. nor of the possibility of a fruitful theological application of their thoughts. has no interest in bolstering the rational subject. For Marion. to let Christian beauty appear (from itself) in its many gleaming (and dull) facets—from the loftiest dogmas to the most common devotions. on the other hand. essential or parergonal. then. I shall conclude with a related suggestion. as with Kant (and Henry). immanence. Marion. should place his reading of Husserl’s principle of all principles in a new perspective. The phenomenon crashes sublimely on l’adonné. we can speak of a sacriﬁce of the imagination in Marion. not the negative. to which l’adonné relinquishes the status of selfhood. but rather it suffers a self. he inquires into the makeup of a post-subject. which is no less dangerous for being unintended—or inapparent. in fact it includes. visible. but this does not exclude. We have now seen that Kant regards the sublime as the subject’s feeling of its perhaps limitless power. function of the parergon. we look inside the subject for the ground of the sublime. leaving behind the sensible. Instead. which he calls l’adonné. God has saved (and saves) us in many and various ways. Instead the sacriﬁce is in the interest of phenomena.” and the challenge of phenomenology is to allow each one of them to be given as a self. in the context of the positive function of the parergon. but not one of Kantian apophasis. invisible. In fact. This all relates to Marion’s turning of the Kantian sublime back on Kant. In this way. Such a phenomenological method would rule out the hasty designation of each phenomenon as integral or extrinsic.137 For Kant. Clearly my reservations about Henry’s thought are more serious. and invisible in their visibility. The sublime lifts the rational subject toward the idea(l)s of a higher realm. another self. an acknowledgement of the underside of their trajectory of thought.434 Peter Joseph Fritz such theological sources. Christianity gives and shows itself in countless “originary presentive intuitions. and my admiration for Marion’s more solid. most © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . We can see them alongside (par) each other and inquire as to how they contribute to the work (ergon) of serving God and neighbor. Marion’s inversion of the sublime teaches that we need not sacriﬁce a catholic imagination—he has opened a space for its universal scope. Conclusion These past few paragraphs should indicate that I have hardly intended the preceding as a rejection of the philosophical achievements of Henry and Marion. following the positive. with a “brutal shock.”138 Perhaps. that of the phenomenon.
Four Seminars. p. Kosky (Stanford. . . Heidegger writes. “La méthode phénoménologique” in Phénoménologie matérielle (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. See Martin Heidegger. I return brieﬂy to this point later in this article. the radiance of God’s glory (see Heb. Voir l’invisible sur Kandinsky (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. perhaps summarizing many advances in his thought toward invisibility. if vigilantly employed so as to keep within what I called its prevailing momentum. “God’s manifestness—not only he himself—is mysterious. is probably the classic text for the subject of my article. 1990). trans. and Thought. cut short by his death. 2001). Andrew Mitchell and François Raffoul (Bloomington.” This term suggests Marion’s early concerns with the idol in his theological work. . IN: Indiana University Press. Alphonso Lingis (Evanston. from Maurice Merleau-Ponty manifesting the ﬂesh of the world to Michel Henry assigning auto-affection. A good illustration of this relationship between the visible and the invisible comes from Heidegger’s thoughts on God. 7 Marion. NOTES 1 My thanks to Kevin Hart. trans. In Excess: Studies of Saturated Phenomena. 3 I take this deﬁnition of phenomenality as the “how” of appearing from Henry. Marion still emphasizes the limitations and even the danger of the idol. with its black holes and revelations. 49–62. 1:1–3). 220. The last work of Merleau-Ponty’s life. 6 Michel Henry. 9 The issue of the icon will complicate the relationship between Henry and Marion as I move toward my constructive remarks in the section labeled “Assessment: Theology and Kantian Apophasis. such as God without Being. 80. 8 Jean-Luc Marion.139 This would bring us closer to a Christian theology steeped in a catholic (in my case. p. pp. and Cyril O’Regan for their comments on drafts of this essay and for their encouragement to submit it for publication. Smith (Stanford. famously suggested the need for a “phenomenology of the inapparent. in order to bring it into full light?” Jean-Luc Marion. Being Given: Toward a Phenomenology of Givenness. 1962). as in Being Given. Heidegger.” But lest I mislead readers of God without Being who have not yet read Marion’s later work. “. For instance. 2005). 4 See especially Michel Henry. 2003). © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . 69. but also a later shift in perspective. so perhaps this shift is rather a recollection of what phenomenology does anyway: “From Husserl disengaging categorial intuition to Derrida establishing différance.” thus giving impetus to Marion and others like him. 68. who uses it throughout his writings.”. Translations of material from this book are mine. Lawrence Cunningham.” Martin Heidegger. trans. can help us to open up theology to the plenitude of God’s saving works (erga). p. John Macquarrie (New York: Harper & Row. p. Robyn Horner and Vincent Berraud (New York: Fordham University Press. both visible and invisible—Marion hopes for nothing less. Albert Hofstadter (New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics. Hence I will mention. where Marion esteems the idol as an exemplary case of “saturation. in Poetry. trans. IL: Northwestern University Press. Being and Time. pp. trans. ed. CA: Stanford University Press. The Visible and the Invisible.” pp. Followed by Working Notes. 2002). Jeffrey L. 2002). Catholic) imagination than any sublime. which phenomenology is not attached to the invisible. James K. In Excess. 2 Jean-Luc Marion suggests that phenomenology has always depended on some relationship to the invisible. Claude Lefort. Maurice Merleau-Ponty. 2004).” 10 Jean-Luc Marion. here p. trans. using the word “rehabilitation. Language. though I have neither time nor space to explicitly engage it. 1968). 209–227. 111. §7: “The Phenomenological Method of Investigation. Also. CA: Stanford University Press.Black Holes and Revelations 435 excellently in the Son. 5 See Martin Heidegger. Poetically Man Dwells . 11 I carefully chose my description of Marion’s later philosophical treatment of the idol. A. . Marion’s philosophy. 203. trans. (post)modern apophatic appeal to the invisible. 144. The Crossing of the Visible.
I am the Truth: Toward a Philosophy of Christianity. 19. Ibid. Phénoménologie matérielle. Carlson (Evanston.. “Analyse des oeuvres et index”. pp. 13/2 (Summer 1969). p. 51. IL: Northwestern University Press. 188. 73. 54. son épreuve de soi... p. emphasis Husserl’s.. See Michel 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . F. 104. Ibid. 64.” for without his spiritual striving. pp. Ibid. Marion. . Sadler (New York: Dover Publications. 53. See Husserl. “a transcendent being. Henry.” pp.michelhenry. p.. p. §24. Reduction and Givenness: Investigations of Husserl. 25. and Phenomenology. maintained by his widow. an inhabitant of this world of ours wherein subjectivity does not reside. Michel Henry. 203. Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone. IL: University of Chicago Press.. Marion. vol. Voir l’invisible. Chapter Three.. 2003) pp. p. pp. Jean-Luc Marion. Being Given. “Quatre principes de la phénoménologie”. la passivité première de la vie. pp.. Heidegger. see Michel Henry. Kandinsky maintains that the artist has to bear the cross of art—“he is free in art but not in life. 73. 5–6. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. immanent to transcendent.. 64. Marion. 1987). “Does the Concept of ‘Soul’ Mean Anything?”. p. Marion. “Noesis and Noema. 1). Henry’s website. M. 18. p. 1998). p. 46. Interestingly enough. emphasis added. p. p. 1998). Ideas I. p. 17. Ibid. Geoff Bennington and Ian McLeod (Chicago. trans. See Ibid.. pp. 49.. Susan Emanuel (Stanford. 186. Girard Etzkorn (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff. 104.com/ phenomenologiemat. “Pathos signiﬁant in M. accessed 6 July 2007. Being Given. 211–235. Anne Henry. Henry. trans.H. . Ibid. 13. H. Wassily Kandinsky. for Husserl’s breakthrough description of the correlation of the “intentive mental process” (noesis) with that which it is “conscious of” (noema). trans. In Excess. Kersten (Dordrecht. Ibid. perhaps contains the clearest. Phénoménologie matérielle.. 105. Henry. 6. in the spirit of the ontology of immanence that Henry developed in The Essence of Manifestation. Ibid. . The Truth in Painting. p. Part Three. trans. 2003). son auto-affection invisible. and took on a life of its own (p. Ibid. trans. This phrase and several others (to follow in my ﬁnal part) come from Jacques Derrida. 189.htm. here p. T. The Essence of Manifestation. 56. In the preface of this book. 13. Thomas A. ix).436 Peter Joseph Fritz 12 13 14 15 Immanuel Kant... pp. Inc. The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers. Concerning the Spiritual in Art. Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy: First Book: General Introduction to a Pure Phenomenology. Philosophy and Phenomenology of the Body. 68–70. 16. 1975). 1977). Henry. p. http://www. Philosophy and Phenomenology of the Body’s main question.” Anne Henry. p. Greene and Hoyt H. p. Translations are mine. trans. p. 4.. is how one might engage in an analysis of the body. Theodore M. Ibid. p.” within a discussion of the ego as “absolute immanence” (p. 1960). On the development of this maxim for phenomenality. here p. most concise deﬁnition of what Henry means by pathos. We see here the major characteristic of Henry’s thought: asserting the priority of the enstatic to the ecstatic. p. trans. in Phénoménologie de la vie. 94–114. Ibid. 44. art will stagnate. 77–104. Hudson (New York: Harper & Row. Michel Henry. Henry indicates that the book began as a chapter in his magnum opus. Edmund Husserl. p. p. Anne Henry writes. 8. 1: De la phénoménologie (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. CA: Stanford University Press. Being Given. Philosophy Today.
Marion. Marion. See Henry. reception. see Thomas A. and upon further review of Being Given I found Marion’s speciﬁc naming of the Kantian sublime as a predecessor to the saturated phenomenon. 44. PA: Duquesne University Press. Being Given. p. Christianity becomes a “Henryism” of sorts. 153–179. p.. 136. Ibid. “[I]t makes me undergo a passion. 51. Collier & Son Corporation. p. NY: Prometheus Books. H. trans. Bernard (Amherst. the reduction. I Am the Truth. 101–150. See Ibid. 193. p. p. Girard Etzkorn (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff. Marion. 2000). which coincides with l’épreuve de la Vie.” Marion. He can thus say about the color of the painting. 2007). p. Cf. Ibid. p. p. Being Given. Harvard Classics v. 1973). The Crossing of the Visible.” pp. Carlson. trans. I here make my own. hence Henry. namely.. whose interpretation. 244. In Excess. 193. though in a slightly different way. The Crossing of the Visible. p. Ibid. The spectator feels the effect of the painting’s visual upsurge. in its essential parts. 337n92: “I am obviously referring to the studies of Michel Henry in Voir l’invisible . 25. In Excess.” Absolute knowledge. Marion. . Marion uses traditionally Christian motifs. These are Emmanuel Lévinas’s terms for the relation to the Other throughout Otherwise than Being. such as subjectivity. 23: “[T]he Truth of Christianity differs in essence from the truth of the world. though I will not do so in this essay. even at a superﬁcial level one can make sense of the charge of Gnosticism many critics have leveled against Henry’s work. pp. 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . p. 24 (New York: P. Kevin Hart suggested this connection to me.. The Crossing of the Visible. p. On this topic and the various sub-topics within it. Alphonso Lingis (Pittsburgh. J. and bears much consideration. activity. 1965) Part I. its appear-ing. and the will. Thus. Marion. Critique of Judgment. 219–220. p. 248n35. and Henry following him. Being Given. Being Given. p. passivity. see p. 1998). in Kevin Hart (ed).Black Holes and Revelations 437 Henry. 134. §29. p. Below I discuss the way Marion derives his way of speaking about the “icon” from Lévinas. Christian works. p. Marion. Kant. trans. colors represent feelings. 244. F. See Kant. Without passing judgment on Henry’s subjective motives.. 51. Ibid. “Blindness and the Decision to See: On Revelation and Reception in Jean-Luc Marion”. Marion. emphasis added. The Critique of Judgment. 46–49.” Marion. 102. 40. Philosophy and Phenomenology of the Body. 307. p. Being Given. p. 52. Marion. In Excess. The Crossing of the Visible. pp. In Excess. 30. The Essence of Manifestation. Counter-Experiences: Reading Jean-Luc Marion (Notre Dame. p. p. 27. Henry. sometimes when reading his texts it is difﬁcult to tell whether the conversion does not go in the opposite direction. Marion alludes here to Kandinsky. 107. Voir l’invisible. See Marion. Otherwise than Being. Edmund Burke. See Marion. A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful. Ibid. The issue of “knowing how to look” or “having eyes to see” is an important one in Marion’s thought. Though we must point out that for Kandinsky. Marion cites Genesis 1:2. 237. 69. Voir l’invisible. “The Analytic of the Sublime. pp. or Beyond Essence. See Emmanuel Lévinas. pp. The same is true for the spectator. 98–99. but it is worth noting that the traces of the Other (the face) show up in another saturated phenomenon. Perhaps the most interesting is the early Christian identiﬁcation of Christ as the new Orpheus—Christ descends to the underworld to lead out its inhabitants. IN: University of Notre Dame Press.. 194. See Marion. §§23–29. 67.. especially his ﬁnal. Henry. In the section from which I quote. §23. p. stands as a major theme throughout Henry’s writings. . in his late works. Henry. p.
p. NY: State University of New York Press. “The Sublime Offering. p. 87. p. pp. 40. if a potentially dangerous one. 87. 52. “Reality and its Shadow”. 1998). Alphonso Lingis (Pittsburgh.. perhaps the major proponent of the Kantian and the Burkean sublime in French postmodernity. p. of course.. 197. “There is something wicked and egoist and cowardly in artistic enjoyment. trans. Marion. Ibid. He continues. Ibid. pp. The Crossing of the Visible. et al. Ibid. Being Given. Marion’s language at this juncture shares afﬁnities with the discourse of Jean-François Lyotard. 31. In Excess. See Emmanuel Lévinas. Critique of Judgment. 56. p. 78. More on this below. §29. Lessons on the Analytic of the Sublime. in Collected Philosophical Papers. 51. 212. In Lévinas. p. “Imagination at the limits of what it can present does violence to itself in order to present that it can no longer present. 1–13. 35.” p. p. Marion.” Nancy deploys the term Unbegrenztheit (or unlimitation) as he describes the feeling of freedom that human persons experience when confronted with art. In Excess. 76–77. p. The reference is Lévinas’s haunting turn of phrase in “Reality and its Shadow”: “Art then lets go of the prey for the shadow” (“Reality and its Shadow. 61. 76. 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd .. 25–54. In Excess. Being Given. Marion. Marion shares with Lévinas the conviction (assumption) that “my” gaze inevitably does violence to that which it beholds. 55. an election in persecution. trans. See Kant. as of feasting during a plague” (p. Marion. p. p. Otherwise than Being. Later in life. but even as late as Otherwise than Being he cited “Reality and its Shadow” without retracting that essay’s position. . 49. For him the icon stands as the privileged image that evades Lévinas’s critical strikes. Ibid. Ibid. the sublime offering art extends to us is a sort of negative presentation of our human destiny—to touch (and remake) our very limits. We must ask. In the essay. p. pp.. For the “softened” position. Jeffrey S. the painting (idol) stands at the limits of presentation. 1994). Surely Marion uses “icon” to mean a broader category than paintings of saints on wood. trans. but I feel justiﬁed in assuming that this more comprehensive designation still includes such paintings. PA: Duquesne University Press. Marion assumes this critique of art as his own. Lévinas asserts his main point: art fosters irresponsibility. Lévinas softened his take on art a bit. Essays by Jean-François Courtine. he speaks of it as “traumatic . Marion. p. The Crossing of the Visible. p. and the same applies to all saturated phenomena—thus potentially all phenomena. Yet another French postmodern thinker demands recognition here—Jean-Luc Nancy. 181. emphasis added. “The Sublime Offering”. For Nancy.” Lévinas. 19. pp. pp. especially when “I” direct it toward the other person. 12). as well as a Christian one. 147–148 for quotes from Burke’s Part IV. 1998). See Jean-Luc Nancy. Marion. There are times when one can be ashamed of it. pp. For Marion. For example. 233. Librett (Albany. Soon after. Ibid. 12).” Jean-François Lyotard. De l’oblitération: entretien avec Françoise Armengaud à propos de l’œuvre de Sosno (Paris: Éditions de la Différence. p. 61.. election seems touched by the sublime. whether this is necessarily true. Elizabeth Rottenberg (Stanford. .. Ibid. Election is another Levinasian theme. Being Given. p.. Marion. p. Lyotard writes.. though he limits it in that he appreciates the idol as an example of the saturated phenomenon. CA: Stanford University Press. 198–199. 220. in Of the Sublime: Presence in Question. Marion. The Crossing of the Visible. see the interview in Emmanuel Lévinas. Marion. Ibid. 1993). p.. I exaggerate my terminology a bit to explicate the connection between Lévinas and Marion. p.438 Peter Joseph Fritz section vii.
Religion. p. See Kant. xx. p. pp.. 57. p. p. 21.. pp. The Crossing of the Visible. 1987). Colm Luibheid (Mahwah. The Crossing of the Visible. p. John R. 60. Lévinas. 112. p. 64. See Kant. 62–64. Again. See his “Phenomenality and Christianity”.. Critique of Judgment. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. 64. 65. p. pp. 64. 83. Ibid. 71–101. NY: Paulist Press. p. pp.. 27. 384.” as he plainly states. p. 48. The Theological Turn of French Phenomenology. Prusak. 29. Marion. Truth in Painting. Stephen Lewis (New York: Fordham University Press.. 367–411. For Lévinas phenomenality designates showing. Religion. 55. Kant. pp. Nisbet 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . for instance. Bernard G. Dionysius the Areopagite.. 143–144. See. Otherwise than Being.. H. 103. 75. 2000) and Dominique Janicaud. Ibid. 11–12. 65. 67. Derrida. B. 55–57. 11–13 and Derrida. Truth in Painting. See Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. 59.” p. pp. especially pp. 135–141. p. Phenomenology “Wide Open”: After the French Debate. 11. p. “The Intentionality of Love. Religion. 56. Ibid.. Ibid.. pp. In Excess. “Beyond the Sublime: The Aesthetics of the Analogy of Being” (Part One). pp. Derrida. “The Intentionality of Love”. here p. Kant’s discussion of the Exodus ban on images within his ﬁnal section on the sublime: Kant. in Phenomenology and the “Theological Turn”: The French Debate (New York: Fordham University Press. I understand that Marion intends “icon” to mean more than a “pictorial genre. Ibid. 59. Marion subtitles this essay. Ibid.. trans. in Prolegomena to Charity. pp. See Jean.. Kant. Religion.. Marion. p. 53.. Ideas I. 102. especially p. Dominique Janicaud’s famous chastisement of thinkers like Henry and Marion for the theological overtones of their work bears mentioning. 349. Marion. p. 97. 63. 62. p. §29. Religion. p. 135 (1000A). I borrow this notion of “stretched” phenomenology from Kevin Hart. 12/1 (April 2007). Ibid. Truth in Painting. 80–82.Black Holes and Revelations 439 89 Marion. Ibid. 78. 2005). 189. 41. 88. 81. p. trans. p. “In Homage to Emmanuel Lévinas. I ﬁnd his critiques captivating. Religion. 56. §23. 74. 94.” Marion. §29. 232–233.. p. Ibid. The Crossing of the Visible. p. Critique of Judgment. Janicaud. Ibid. 55. p. p. p. Truth in Painting. pp. p. Kant. pp. pp. 136. Being Given. pp. 60. Derrida Truth in Painting. 96. 86. Ibid. pp. p. pp. trans. trans. Angelaki: Journal of Theoretical Humanities. 115–116. p. p. 99. Husserl. trans. “The Education of the Human Race” in Philosophical and Theological Writings. Being Given. The Mystical Theology in Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Works. 2002). but wonder if he is too rigorist in his opposition to the “new phenomenology. 232–233. Ibid.Luc Marion. here p. pp. Derrida. Modern Theology 21/3 (July 2005). 47.. 98.” See Dominique Janicaud. 110. Theological Turn.. Charles Cabral (New York: Fordham University Press. Betz. pp. Ibid. Ibid. pp. pp. Kant adopts this idea from Gotthold Lessing.. Ibid. Kant. 37–53. Kant. p. Kant.. Religion. 56–57.
it merely gave it. 189. and gives it. emphasis added. 137 See Marion. pp. © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . pp. 139 Marion ended a seminar discussion at the University of Notre Dame (22 Feb 2007) by quoting Luke: “There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed. 135 Ibid. 218). 199.440 Peter Joseph Fritz (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p.. 51. Therefore whatever you have said in the darkness will be heard in the light. 44–53 for a summary. “Education gives the individual nothing which he could not also acquire by himself. p. 217–240. 136 Kenneth Parry. 33. Thus revelation likewise gives the human race nothing which human reason. p. 134 Ibid. Brill. 49. 132 Ibid.. the most important of these things sooner” (§4. 138 Marion. pp. and In Excess. In Excess. could not also arrive at. I Am the Truth. p. 242.. pp. 238. nor secret that will not be known. Being Given. it merely gives him what he could acquire by himself. but more quickly and more easily. 2005). 70. J. Lessing writes. p. p.. 133 Ibid. 2. Depicting the Word: Byzantine Iconophile Thought of the Eighth and Ninth Centuries (Leiden: E. 1996). 248–319 for a full description of l’adonné. and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed on the housetops” (Luke 12:2–3). Book V. left to itself. 131 Henry. p.
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