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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 firstname.lastname@example.org
© 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
starting with The Crossing of the Visible (1996). Husserl brings us a long way. but despite that. Henry and Marion meet him with many questions. For all the boundaries Husserl breaks with the “principle of all principles. with his rehabilitation of the concept of idol and his renewed zeal for the icon. and the strictures of Kantian critique.10 which he wrote at the request and under the inﬂuence of Henry. in its ‘personal’ actuality) offered to us in ‘intuition’ is to be accepted simply as what it is presented as being. so as to explicate his view of the invisible as he lays it out in a deﬁnition of abstract painting. thus objectifying phenomena. but appearing. their phenomenality—not that which appears. that everything originarily (so to speak.Black Holes and Revelations 417 book. I expound Marion’s reﬂections on painting in his later philosophy. but also only within the limits in which it is presented there. Voir l’invisible sur Kandinsky (1988). no longer concerns phenomena.” we must accept it as is.15 This statement begins with a broad opening of possibilities for phenomenality—every originary presentive intuition legitimizes its corresponding cognition.12 and then I critically appraise the theological (de)merits.”13 Phenomenality: From Objectness to La Vie and Donation Henry observes in Phénoménologie matérielle (1990). “The intuition of an intentional object no doubt accomplishes a phenomenal manifestation. As Henry and Marion direct similar concerns toward Husserl. 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). Fourth. Marion keys in on the relationship between intuition. is every manifestation of a phenomenon carried out by the © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . Third. 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. I will use Marion’s queries to the “principle of all principles” to send us into the two philosophers’ rethinking of phenomenality. or perhaps erects. limits of his own on the phenomenon’s appearance. “The question of phenomenology . every time a phenomenon presents an intuition to us “originarily.11 This third section will point out how both Henry and Marion assimilate the Kantian sublime into their phenomenologies.” he clearly acknowledges.”14 Setting aside arguments about the validity of this claim. which both privilege the human subject. 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. in the principle’s last two phrases. it seems. intention. . but the mode of their givenness. and asks. let us entertain it in order to launch ourselves into our discussion. from Cartesian methodological doubt. For this reason. . But Husserl advances only temporarily.
Thus Henry claims to reverse Husserlian phenomenology—he redirects the ecstasy of intentionality (toward phenomena) into an enstasy of auto-affection (phenomenality). not out in the open (in objects). not as the light of theoretical knowledge. 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.”19 To summarize various strands of Henry’s thought about Life—it is the “essence of manifestation. the way Henry envisions it. For him. the ﬁnal two clauses Husserl includes in the “principle of all principles” stand as examples of how Husserl. as long as the discipline deﬁnes its project properly—namely.21 Phenomenality comes to mean for Henry self-phenomenalization (manifestation. Henry names his umbrella la Vie (Life). or even revelation of self. to/for self). According to Marion. They each attempt to discover a larger umbrella under which phenomena ﬁnd their how of appearing. invisible because occurring within a living one (in a subject). this means that phenomenology must overturn biology’s way of treating life. and imply that the phenomenality of each one is “pre-visible” to a “transcendental I. but perhaps most succinctly as the “auto-revelation of absolute subjectivity. following Kant. but he never posits it as the origin of the appearing of phenomena.”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. trying to summarize his point: “In short. but instead he aims to pick up Husserl’s project where it derailed. “simply as what it is presented as being” and “only within the limits. Marion insists that a proper account of phenomenality must relate to the operation of the reduction.20 Henry avers that phenomenology holds the key to recovering the interior life. and describe life as it actually transpires. conﬁnes phenomenality to “the objectness of the object.” giving itself to itself in pure immanence. or subjectivity.” The last parts.”22 Hence the object becomes (over)determined by the subject. But Husserl articulated the “principle of all © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . welling up ´ in the “auto-affection” of the “affective ﬂesh of pathos” (παθος ).418 Peter Joseph Fritz intuition of an objective intention transcendent to consciousness?” He continues. because modernity has refuted that concept. Marion views givenness (donation) as the mark of phenomenality—Husserl speaks of Gegebenheit. These oracular gestures toward a deﬁnition of phenomenality stem from an overarching worry Henry has about the contemporary world. In place of objectness and the over-activity of the subject. with phenomenality being taken as primitive to the phenomenon.” concern the phenomenon’s horizon. the (stillborn) offspring of modern thought— hardly anyone believes in interiority. He speaks of Life with many different terms. paradigmatically in the feelings of joy and suffering. Marion makes no such attempt to reverse Husserl. “Intuition ﬁnally contradicts phenomenality because it itself remains submitted to the ideal of objectifying representation. but rather as the night of affective experience.
from which it shows itself.”23 Two main characteristics of givenness are of interest for my argument. painting. The artist of the “inner need” (Kandinsky) meets the philosopher of the inner life (Henry).24 Phenomenology’s value lies in its capacity to recognize each phenomenon as a “self” with its own authority.”26 From the general concern of phenomenality. stands among the most famous in twentiethcentury painting. the painting’s appearing does not consist in being an object available for full constitution by a viewing subject (Husserl and Kant). in the spirit of Henry’s philosophy before Henry’s birth. stem from Kant). Kandinsky. let us now move into the more determinate topic. and he characterizes the painter as at once creating visual art and making a sort of music.30 Kandinsky famously emphasizes the fundamental proximity of the arts of music and painting. As we proceed. surpasses the superﬁcial gaze of the spectator. and its recipient (the viewer). its creator (the painter). . leads us to the immanent “noematic core” of the phenomenon. and through him. “The elements of the new art are to be found . “So much reduction. It involves both 1) an inability of a phenomenon to be foreseen and 2) a persistent invisibility even in its visibility. For our two post-Husserlian thinkers. Kandinsky writes.”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. once again. in the inner and not the outer qualities of nature.”27 or at least nature’s exteriority. Subjective consciousness does not grant “selfhood” to the phenomenon. so much givenness. and relate to the reduction. we must remember the alterations Henry and Marion made to Husserl’s limited account of phenomenality (whose limitations. art itself. Henry. when performed. It appears at a time when painting is beginning its “revolt from dependence on nature.Black Holes and Revelations 419 principles” in Ideas I before he raised the topic of the phenomenological reduction. and Pathos It is no wonder that the artwork and theoretical writings of Kandinsky caught Henry’s eye. One of Kandinsky’s books. Here we encounter a speciﬁc sort of phenomenon (a painting). but rather in the auto-revelation of life (Henry) or the self-showing of givenness (Marion). The colors and forms the painter utilizes must strike a spiritual chord in the spectator © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . The phenomenological reduction.”25 Marion distills these insights about phenomenology’s elucidation of the phenomenon as “self” into the principle for phenomenality. This “selfhood” also entails that in its appearing the phenomenon “leaves concealed givenness itself. . so givenness remains “uninterrogated. prior to the intentional ecstasy of consciousness (noesis). Concerning the Spiritual in Art (1911). for the phenomenon already has it by its own right and power.
35 The way Henry formulates the “Kandinskian equation” shows us that Henry sees in Kandinsky an echo of his own fundamental ontology.420 Peter Joseph Fritz (including the painter himself) in order for the painting to be called “good. feeling. with Henry in agreement. that “abstract painting deﬁnes the essence of all painting.”42 By the “intuition of the artist. which sets forth a phenomenology of the “subjective body. for he is attuned to his own joy and suffering.”43 Kandinsky reached the insight that art concerns not the outer world of © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . Amid a discussion of the relationship between music and abstract painting. 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. takes the above cues and several more from Kandinsky. and Henry admits this. A counter-equation.36 Henry’s fundamental ontology contains two poles.” which he distinguishes from the “empirical body.”38 Just as Henry seeks the essence of manifestation.”34 In Henry’s ﬁnal posing of it. an account of being (or the being of pictorial elements) rendered “according to its two modes of appearance: exteriority and interiority. though.”31 Thus we see the Kandinskian deﬁnition of the painter: “The artist is the hand which plays. Kandinsky ﬁnds. Voir l’invisible sur Kandinsky. so does Kandinsky pursue the essence of painting. Henry’s own book. visible and invisible. so we should lay out another equation to illustrate this. Henry references his book Philosophy and Phenomenology of the Body (1965). Kandinsky’s theory of art evidences a phenomenology of sorts. joy. and he lives for the spirit alone.”32 The artist (visually) touches the “inner feeling” of his viewer. and categorizes and organizes them into what Henry dubs the “great Kandinskian equation. This ontological unity of painting bears out its signiﬁcance in the effect it has on the viewer to whom the artist directs his work.”40 He offers that book as an ex-post-facto “philosophical foundation” for Kandinsky’s theory of abstraction and of visual elements. touching one key or another.”39 Abstraction. then. to cause vibrations in the soul. the equation reads as follows: Interior = interiority of absolute subjectivity = life = invisible = pathos = abstract content = abstract form. and their unity in the unity of the different senses that perceive them. spirit: we have here in Kandinksy the makings of Henry’s aesthetics of Life. soul.33 To repeat— outer/inner. suffering.”37 This quasi-ontology or phenomenology of painting proceeds “in the manner of Husserl’s eidetic analysis. takes over the whole picture—content and form— and the whole picture becomes an ontological unity in the pathos of life.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.
”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. Though not a religious believer (Henry converted to Christianity roughly half a decade after writing Voir l’invisible).45 Henry thus hearkens back to Philosophy and Phenomenology of the Body. We get from Henry. to make experienced all that can be experienced. an aesthetics of the invisible (even a doctrine of absolute knowledge!) in the form of the feeling of life. are also those of the cosmos.51 Marion hints that he too stands. and thus arousing them within the living body.47 Painting. assimilating its “essential parts” into his own reﬂections on painting.”49 Abstract painting expresses invisible modes of life by bringing them to visibility. in the Kandinskian line—he champions paintings that do not care to imitate nature. where he suggests that “to sense” means to “test” the “universal life of the universe. the visible. bodies of light. and the Gaze (Icon) Jean-Luc Marion picks up on Henry’s reading of Kandinsky. then. absolute knowledge (revelation!). as a unity of abstract content and even abstract form. painting gives us the reality of the cosmos. nature or otherwise.44 Painting should not represent anything. is replete with the modes of life. it seems.48 Henry ends the book with a couple of pages on Kandinsky’s Parisian canvases. or. Describing them. he makes some interesting comments about their abstract forms: “In this zero-gravity milieu. to their irremovable outlines. His view of painting thus maps (too?) straightforwardly onto his philosophical project as a whole. Henry articulates the goal of art according to Kandinsky: To give to feeling everything that can be felt. Marion. one will see.”50 Evidently. which has no reason. which. all the forces of our being which. to paraphrase Kandinsky. where weight is made levity.”—John 1:10). Henry makes a ﬁnal provocative statement: “Art is the resurrection of eternal life. glorious bodies— bodies of life. and the world came to be through him.Black Holes and Revelations 421 objects. Soul)—but only by awakening the life that has always already pulsed within her. a quickening of the subjective body (or ﬂesh. Rothko (Idol). the true calling of art. Marion thickly describes his viewpoint: © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . Marion’s painter instead busies himself making visible what would otherwise remain unseen. for that matter. but rather (the) inner life (of its spectators). to be limited to the reproduction of common facts or events. awakens feelings in the spectator that unlock. forms hover stripped of their substance. so to speak. art effects a sort of gloriﬁcation of the viewer. but rather it should give us life to feel within ourselves—at the deepest level. such is the ambition of abstract painting. but the world did not know him. which is Life. in effect.
52 Two related accents fall here—ﬁrst. If the artist wishes to bring forth this visibility. in order to extract. adds yet another phenomenon to the indeﬁnite ﬂow of the visible. as if ordering the primordial chaos. the “radiant” one. without precondition or genealogy. He deepens a seam or fault line. 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. indeed as the phenomenon characterized by its indisputable visibility.53 As the painter seems a ﬁgure for Marion of l’adonné. second. The painter. newly discovered. with strokes and patches of color. the subject who has undergone a phenomenological reduction (for Marion. the painter enters a rather complex relation with the inapparent—at once both active and passive. l’invu (the unseen).” Marion rehabilitates this phenomenon as the one that grants us pertinent © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . so much givenness”) to ﬁt it to painting’s phenomenalization: so much resistance. it is not he who put in the work on the painting but the painting itself. with each painting. In the essay in In Excess (2001) on the “idol. suffers the painting57—he resists (on the borderline of activity and passivity—in the way a crayon “resists” watercolor) the onslaught of givenness.60 With this in mind. opens itself to the visible on its own initiative. blocks of the visible. despite all his work. that of novelty. in the night of the inapparent. increasing by force the quantity of the visible. These active roles do not eclipse the mode of passivity in which the painter lives as well: he “admits that.” which he means in a somewhat different sense than he did in his early work.”55 Thus she puts us face to face with the striking property of givenness. which.’ ”59 The painting.”56 The painter creates. Marion employs the painting as his example of the second kind of saturated phenomenon. but in doing so. so much visibility. In fact. that of the primacy of the inapparent. Marion suggests. She creates. she must deal with the inapparent. Marion also dubs this phenomenon the “idol. presents itself as sopping with visibility. a phenomenon we could not have previewed. the “third” reduction to givenness). The painting—the authentic one—exposes an absolutely original phenomenon. suddenly appearing with such a violence that it explodes the limits of the visible identiﬁed to that point.422 Peter Joseph Fritz The painting—at least one that is authentic—imposes in front of every gaze an absolutely new phenomenon. though. lovingly or more often by force. He completes the world because he does not imitate nature. thus humbly called to appear upon the occasion of the work.54 she carries the charge of being the “gatekeeper for the ascent into visibility of all that gives itself. saturated with respect to quality.58 To twist Marion’s formula for phenomenality (“so much reduction.
likewise. in the words of an important resource for Kant. really unbearable.” which comes to light yet again in the following words: “The saturation of the visible becomes. or is conversant about terrible objects.Black Holes and Revelations 423 insights for the study of phenomena generally and saturated.64 The sublime coheres with the saturated phenomenon because it signiﬁes formlessness. amounts to seeing it reduced to its effect. “the truth of the world. the reduction to effect. and “astonishment” is a possible feature accompanying it.70 calling to mind the welling up of life within the “affective ﬂesh of pathos. in the ﬁnal analysis. Marion. the “idol” clues us in to the way invisible givenness presents itself to sight through phenomena. an exemplary saturated phenomenon. it is a “negative pleasure. We saw above that. or directs an intrigue toward me. to the point where it is not confused with any other. from all cosmic imprisonment.72 Marion and Henry differ. “Whatever is ﬁtted in any sort to excite the ideas of pain and danger.” that he has assimilated in his account of saturated phenomena the Kantian sublime. or operates in a manner analogous to terror. “To see the painting. Due to its incomparably vibrant visibility.”69 Also. though. this sublime “upsurge” made visible in the painting. intrigues me. they impose themselves.61 The painting. phenomena in particular.”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). “liberates the look from all inscription in this world. is a source of the sublime. to the one who knows how to look at it as it gives itself.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. proposes a reduction proper to painting. it obsesses me via a blast of luminescence. at the very least. The ﬂood of the visible overcomes it. Henry concerns himself almost exclusively with the way the painting awakens feelings of life (suffering and joy) within the viewer. He talks of the “upsurge” of the painting. Especially in the case of saturated phenomena.” As in Henry. that is to say. 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). Marion reminds us of Henry with his choice imagery to describe the coming into visibility of the painting.”71 or in Henry’s terms.”67 He restates the same point: “The painting offers to our terriﬁed eyes the spectacle of a wall of the unseen. Edmund Burke. 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. He argues.”63 We get a sense. and this mix of suffering and joy can ﬁttingly be called sublime.65 Again. operates in a manner analogous to terror.” it opposes our interest. or highphenomenality. whatever is in any sort terrible. which cracks under the pressure of the desire to appear. 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 .”66 The unbearable advent of the painting surely.
” For Rothko.” it presents a neutral surface. stinging attack on art in “Reality and its Shadow” (1948).”73 Marion’s case against Kant is ostensibly to be made through any and all saturated phenomena. and this is crucially important. not the phenomenon’s power of appearing. which thus “closes off access to the intimate. presents even stronger evidence against Kant’s (thus Husserl’s) persistent conditioning of phenomena “in terms of the power of knowledge.”74 Though the idol.424 Peter Joseph Fritz Kant.”78 We begin to hear. and more excess-ively in the sublime. if it operates this reduction in bringing back all the visible to the pure and simple plane-ness of the surface.”80 Marion probably overstates the case. The opposition of façade to face insinuates that this essence of painting. the “façade cancels all depth. even further. I must develop as far as possible the less common hypothesis” (i.79 For Marion. a saturated phenomenon” in his aesthetic ideas. . the icon. an idea that inﬂuenced Rothko.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. can deliver the gaze from slavery to the world (of foreseen objects). Marion writes. but it seems that another sort of painting. echoes of the early Lévinas’s curt.75 In keeping with this. or the life of the other? Marion refuses to oppose ethics and aesthetics. for the face is perhaps the most glaring example of a phenomenon that does not “‘agree’ with the power of knowledge. in fact he highlights their association: “Art bears the responsibility of what it gives to see and. resembles a rotten core.” as Kant would have all phenomena do.” or 2) “‘mutilating’ oneself as a painter and giving up producing the face directly in visibility. With its ﬂatness (platitude). the potential visible to the pure seen. Marion observes that the other three types of saturated phenomena (event. the responsibility of its power to make us look. idol included. than phenomena as objects) “glimpsed by Kant himself—and against him. . which Marion recodes in terms of the façade and the face. The icon does.”81 The painting as idol proves dangerous— © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . Rothko “foreshadows” Lévinas’s contention that “the façade forbids us to paint the face. it must end inevitably in the façade. then. one without relation. 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. “The path to follow now opens more clearly.e. in effect. According to Rothko/Marion. 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. idol. there is one thing it cannot give: the face. ﬂesh) are “gathered” in the icon. but we must nevertheless attend to a stark contrast that emerges here in question form: Do I choose my own artistic enjoyment. After brieﬂy telling of Kant’s “foretaste of . rather than a fecund ground.76 Marion senses in Rothko a point of transition between the idol and the icon.
holds the icon in utterly high esteem.Black Holes and Revelations 425 perhaps the feeling of the sublime it gives attests to this—for it threatens to destroy the face. “The visible is liberated from vision at the moment when it seizes its own invisibility. “the visible and the invisible embrace each other from a ﬁre that no longer destroys but rather lights up the divine face for humanity. he sees in the Second Council of Nicaea’s (787) dogmatic afﬁrmation of the icon “perhaps the only . the unforeseeable painting. he allows no room for an iconic moment. Let us switch from talking about painting to reﬂecting on the body of the other person.”88 The icon. The phrase “from invisibility” brings us to the center of Marion’s thinking on aesthetics. but a counter-experience—the face that gazes at me. it centers itself on invisibility. I already mentioned that Marion’s interest in the icon marks his main divergence from Henry. The painting (as idol) offers the Other to my eyes in a way that leads me to mistake the Other for the object.”82 He proclaims that in the icon. so as to stay closer to Marion’s own words.87 Whereas the painting (idol) can evoke the counter-experience of the sublime. this crossing of intentionality fails to compare to the crossing of the visible in the painting (icon). itself. and leave concern for the Other to care for the object. before I get the chance to look at. The pupils signify for Marion the “gaze that comes upon me” that “provides no spectacle.85 Marion writes. This tiny black dot becomes a recurring theme in Marion’s work. This “center” lies in the middle of the human eye (whether real or painted): the pupil.”83 In The Crossing of the Visible.84 The painting (as icon) does not attain to the project of the idol. Second. foresees me. alternative to the contemporary disaster of the image. In fact. so divine and human faces coexist in an unconfused unity. but the concept of the icon necessarily includes an element of mediation (or at least two gazes.89 It functions as probably his favorite symbol for the invisible. from that point on. which stops violence (that of my hand). and disrupts the intentional gaze. as he categorically prefers the immediacy of Life experienced in auto-affection. . hence hetero-affection). But (somehow) the painting as icon can give the face without this danger. and elects me to peace. .”86 The icon gives not an experience. from Lévinas. Marion. plays no longer between the aim of the gaze and the visible. The invisible.” © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . but rather. but rather. He derives his account. as well as the critique of the artistic image to which I have already referred. Marion’s description of the face ﬂows at least in part from the dogmatic symbol of Chalcedon (451). the icon “assigns me. 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 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. which does violence (to me). in-visibly yet in-the-visible. on the other hand. and thus negate it. even though it depicts the human face visually. from invisibility. in the visible. First of all. contrary to the gazing aim.
concerning the usage of this visibility. iconoclasm.”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”). though. Phil. occluded eyes of a Modigliani or a Gauguin portrait do not count as iconic).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. so eloquently articulated here. but the anarchy of what has never been present. ﬁgures the sublime—the negative appearance of the unpresentable. “the very collapse of phenomenality. like an excluded middle. In spite of his respect for Lévinas. the Blessed Virgin Mary. 2:7). “Either the invisible or the impostor. confessing and admitting to be seen by it. but rather to signify the invisible gaze that “transpierces” the visible “screen” of the icon. toward the origin of another gaze.” à la Lévinas. which hardly constitutes an absolute value. deﬁned by Nicaea II. say. for the vacant. Thus we return to Marion’s view of painting (a speciﬁc sort of painting at that.98 In a way typiﬁed by © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . for him ethics and the Exodus ban on images (Exodus 20:4) go hand in hand. of an inﬁnite which commands in the face of the other.”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. . functions not to represent the shadows inside the eyeball.97 The iconic moment. Marion does not follow him in the latter’s (sublime) iconoclasm. both center on the face. it is necessary for him to move.”93 For Lévinas it seems quite clear that the “excluded middle. visibility becomes relativized—it does not “collapse.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. Lévinas deploys the “excluded middle” in an iconoclastic mode.”94 The doctrine of the icon. but the correctly disposed viewer can recognize that it has “emptied itself” (cf. He disputes the iconoclastic slogan. shows the value Marion ascribes to the visibility of the icon (the painting’s black pigment). .”92 The “excluded middle” and that which “could not be aimed at”—does he describe the pupil.” the pupil. The blackness of the pupil can take on another sense.”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. in order for the viewer to be allowed to see and escape from the status of being a mere voyeur. through the visible icon. rejects this analytic dichotomy. opting for a different teaching “concerning the visibility of the image . which in terms of light does not appear to sight? In the context of his overall philosophical project. and which. could not be aimed at. a darkness beyond the reach of my light-sensitive eyes. Ethics and its close relative. In the icon. for color shows itself in another mode than light: pigment. which envisions the “gazing spectator. a “usable” form of visibility.
”99 When we acknowledge the icon. Henry envisions art as expressing life. for in the icon “the visible opens not onto another visible but onto the other of the visible—the invisible Holy One. with his project of ﬁnding unforeseeable phenomena. which in Marion’s preferred theological resource (at least in his early work). at times its solution tends toward ending up nearly as simple as Henry’s. which slingshots Christ into the resurrection and to the right hand of the Father. I deem it warranted to suggest that though Marion’s view proves more complex in its execution.” impoverishes itself so as to allow the gaze to pass through it to its invisible “prototype. every painting imitates Christ. which is strongly redolent of Kantianism.” and in this quasi-resurrection. but possibly the idol (as saturated phenomenon). from glory to glory” (2 Cor. by bringing the unseen to light.” and after a time there (on the third day?).Black Holes and Revelations 427 Jesus Christ. The previous section led us to conclude that Henry’s view of painting ﬁts perhaps too easily with his philosophy overall. The true glory of painting lies in the icon. from which the painter returns to the light of day as a new master of the visible. is “transformed . . Interestingly. not so I may approach it. that is. Before moving on. let us end with Marion in a similar way to how we did with Henry. the painter shows us a “miracle. Thus all the foregoing exposition has unveiled. we exit a space of “mimetic rivalry” between the invisible and the (visible) impostor. plunging into the “unforeseen. can preﬁgure resurrection.” the icon effaces its own visible “spectacle.”104 Surely Marion would caution us. After our close reading of Marion. Marion. of whom the icon (dogmatically) is the “type. and deﬁnitely the icon. The one who prays. among the many © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . though. we have Marion’s aesthetics of exposure to “untargetable” black holes. empty black holes intending me with a “ray of the divine shadow. that the new glory this “resurrection” brings will yield an idol. tells us how art foresees us! Instead of Henry’s aesthetics of invisible feelingrevelations. Hans Urs von Balthasar. as he brings up the theme of resurrection: “Every painting participates in a resurrection. he emerges victorious with a new visible: “The gates of Hell ﬂy open without ceasing.”105 Art is not the resurrection of eternal life.”103 Marion refers to the Christian tradition of Christ’s descent into hell. I have gathered these various theological points to illustrate how Marion evades the sublime iconoclasm of Lévinas.”100 The pupils. lets the invisible other see me through the visible.106 Now let us pause for a summary and a(n) (re)orientation. we ﬁnd Marion echoing the ﬁnal comments we observed from Henry. The painter undergoes a kenosis as well. signiﬁes the lowest moment of Christ’s self-emptying (kenosis). but so it may arrive to me. With his fascination with Life.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. 3:18).”101 open the way to invisible givenness. unless this glory is regarded as provisional on its own. . where the visible object becomes “visible transit where two gazes cross each other and are exposed to each other.
Marion directs his gaze at the painted image and ﬁnds ﬂatness (pure visibility) as distinguishing it. if occasional.110 In other words. whether Life or givenness. Marion does not stop there. that their searches for a better deﬁnition of phenomenality terminate in the discovery of new metaphysical foundations. We have mentioned how. the body.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. or more precisely. or the fact of (the) painting. The latter’s critiques. and elects us. through painting. From phenomenological aesthetics we make a theological turn. Henry (certainly) and Marion (possibly) still remain committed. which alternate between spot-on accuracy and polemical overstatement. the cross of gazes.109 To a certain extent it has. 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 . For all their disagreements with Husserl. apophatic search after an “aesthetic” (or sublime) essence of art. stays our hand. and ﬁnds in the black holes through which the invisible peers back at him. We have discussed everything from colors and forms to life. in effect. in some ways at least. especially in the case of Henry. modes of Life behind them. Marion locates the essence (even the salvation) of all images. 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. the invisible violates us. an undeniable. We see this method at work when each discusses painting: Henry unlocks colors to ﬁnd the feelings. and glory. One of Janicaud’s main criticisms of Henry and Marion states. they strip away what one might call the husk of the phenomenon to get to the kernel of phenomenality. convergence—a Kantian. though—he relates the painting (as idol) to the icon. which includes all paintings (even idols). Both believe (or at least write as if) they have identiﬁed the essence of painting.428 Peter Joseph Fritz divergences between Henry and Marion. whose essence he likewise seeks. In the face to face. His move in Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone to reduce (in the phenomenological sense of “lead back”. the essence of Christianity. God’s revelation.108 The “stretching” of phenomenality we have witnessed in Henry and Marion—beyond objectness—should render phenomenology wide open for an engagement with God. the “eidetic science” of “pure phenomenology. much to the chagrin of phenomenologists like Dominique Janicaud. can lend a helping hand here.” as in Ideas I. ethics. For over two centuries. And it seems that we have Kant to thank for this outpouring of interest in Christianity’s core. Assessment: Theology and Kantian Apophasis The idea of the invisible has brought us a long way from a simple description of the act of. Now we turn to the one who saves us: God. to purity.
when reason “needs . Kant tells us.”124 Kant’s concern with religious © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . a frame can enhance a painting’s beauty.” where it would “harm” the beauty of the work. according to him. the parergon risks a lapse “into adornment.” and attending the other parerga of religion are other equally “threatening” pitfalls. is isolable. Kant explains. . its “Materie”—which at least one English translator renders as “essence”—is “obedience . parergon performs a “double function.112 Religion. Christianity. the drawing of borders and “concentric circles. parerga exercise a negative function. Kant’s Religion engages in a project of separation and delimitation. .”113 Hidden (invisible?) within the moral disposition—for this reason religion’s subject matter. In between both of these. and thus this historical element “is something which is in itself quite indifferent. pace “the common man. With somewhat horrifying. miracles.”111 Kant has an eidos in mind—“the pure religion of reason.”114 The “historical element” of a faith. Second.123 In painting. means of grace).”116 Jacques Derrida makes a connection in The Truth in Painting (1978) between Kantian aesthetics and the modus operandi of the Religion. both in the Critique of Judgment (using examples of frames on pictures. as the essence of religion demands. is the attraction of the sensory matter. in the case of religion. the idea of the “works of grace” can issue in “fanaticism. Derrida notes that a border situation emerges as Kant proceeds. to all duties as [God’s] commands. a parergon is “an outside which is called to the inside of the inside in order to constitute it as an inside.” or “one (true) religion”—which. but undeniably alluring deftness.”119 First. “contributes nothing” to making human persons “better” (morally). 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.” those soiled with the empirical dross of history.” but rather “religion is hidden within and has to do with moral dispositions.”120 For instance. a link apropos of and instructive for this article’s topic. what Derrida calls the “pathology of the parergon. drapery on statues.”115 Kant likes to separate it out. the clearly intrinsic and clearly extrinsic. say.” a parergon such as belief in the assistance of grace comes in to provide it. Kant arranges parerga.” is not equivalent to “ecclesiastical faiths” based on “historical revelation. cause it “detriment. pharmakon. the parergon can be said to make a positive contribution.”122 In religion.” Derrida recognizes the source of the pathology amid these symptoms: “The deterioration of the parergon. and we can do with it what we like.Black Holes and Revelations 429 a still-burning theological blaze. the perversion. supplementary work” in order to “satisfy its moral need. Or in aesthetics.118 Like another famous Greek philosophical term. and in the Religion (works of grace. .121 In these ways. even if at present it has ties with various “ecclesiastical faiths. and to look forward to the day when it will pass away—when “at last the pure religion of reason will rule over all.”117 Characteristically. mysteries. and colonnades of palaces). . the adornment.
” while forgetting what is truly essential—“virtue. the text of the Religion. where revelation is a broad circle that includes two elements. 1) the “wider sphere” of historical revelation and 2) the “narrower one” of the pure religion of reason. what is essential—hence the idea of grace ﬁts alongside (par) religion (ergon). detracts from.” In a word. which arise within “historical” or “ecclesiastical faiths. The parergon in its negative sense. from the Critique of Judgment §29. par-ergon. But what about the sublime gets enacted? Let us observe some salient features of the Kantian sublime.126 Should one recode these statements.430 Peter Joseph Fritz parerga.” In the sublime. Reason exercises its “dominion over sensibility. I believe. though. Furthermore. the imagination is sacriﬁced to something greater. and then to © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . then.”125 It seems. and certainly its history of effects in Christian theology. obscures.” 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.” is their tendency to lead faithful people to busy themselves with “piety. it is “subjected to a cause. even endangers the integral center—hence fanaticism based in the idea of grace (pathologically understood) ends up being quite beside (par) the point (ergon). verges on forcing the issue—that is. I made passing reference above to Kant’s image of concentric circles. making the trappings of historical faith seem beside the point. Though Kant is somewhat of a patient gradualist when it comes to a hope in the clear advent of pure religion. it seems that one would have Kant’s Religion. and my discussion of Kant’s zeal for pure religion returns us to the sublime. going from aesthetics to theology. In a similar way. For this reason Kant hopes intently for their eventual becoming obsolete—when reason will not need such ambivalent help. 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. as an historical system. The parergon in its positive sense coexists peacefully with. . Derrida makes much of the different etymological valences of parergon. to read the methodology of Kant’s Religion as a performance of the sublime. in the light of moral concepts. based on the parergon’s double function. The imagination deprives “itself of its freedom. with this mixture of two functions.” namely. My exposition of Henry and Marion brought us to the topic of the Kantian sublime.” The imagination (which we might interpret as a source of parerga) is “regarded as an instrument of Reason” to this end. the moral law. and the essence of religion will appear with indisputable clarity. toward thinking that their “pathological” function arises with more frequency than the positive one. even enhances. while it is purposively determined according to a different law from that of its empirical employment. we could quickly break down the word parergon as Kant deploys it in the Religion. . that parerga showcase in an exemplary way the “indifference” Kant ascribes to the “historical element” of Christianity. It makes sense. the ﬁnal section in the “Analytic of the Sublime. Kant proposes in the Religion to “examine [the ﬁrst] in a fragmentary manner .
g.” but instead “the archetype. John Betz gets at my point while giving his own account of the Kantian sublime as it relates (negatively) to theology: “It would . lying in our reason. be no exaggeration to say that for Kant nature exists solely for the mediation of rational ideas . which “must needs separate from one another. the thinner theology becomes with respect to its worldly husk. We have ﬁnally reached the payoff of the article.” Kant feigns tentativeness—“If this experiment is successful . My thesis states that the aesthetics of black holes and revelations developed by Henry and Marion translates.”128 Faiths are vehicles for reason’s ride home. he would not be the “object of saving faith. and the purely moral (the religion of reason) be allowed to ﬂoat on top. . and indirectly and possibly in the case of Marion (this is our remaining question). into such a theological apophasis in their phenomenological descriptions of painting. For Kant and his followers (e.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.127 Sensibility— history in this case—is sacriﬁced to the dominion of Reason. Christianity’s historical proﬁle is beside (par) the point (ergon). . maybe (probably) Kant was trying to make room for Christianity when others refused to do so.” then. If we transpose Henry’s aesthetics into a theological register. . visible manifestation or historical instantiation does not matter.. directly and deﬁnitely in the case of Henry. 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.”— but his comparison of historical faiths and pure religion with water and oil.”129 Once again. it seems that Life is already within © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . the more easily recognizable is its moral (essential) kernel. . Given the rationalist cast of the thought of his time. the enthralling discovery of one’s rational destiny by way of a detour through nature and self-alienation. that we [would] attribute to him. 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. It does not need to be awakened by any exterior phenomenon. as long as an invisible idea operates within me. that truth is merely the homecoming of reason. . When I write “Kantian apophasis. we could easily recognize the coherence of his views with a Kantian apophasis. . perhaps he was trying to raise it to a higher plane—but a sublime sacriﬁce was the price of admission. its only value would reside in its assistance in my recognizing the ever-present archetype faster than I would have unaided. vehicles easily discarded when the sublime feeling that moral concepts give announces reason’s imminent arrival at home’s threshold.” is telling. Kant contends that even if the “Son of God” appeared on earth in person. In his moral recasting of the Incarnation. should one appear. Adolf von Harnack).Black Holes and Revelations 431 see whether it does not lead back to the very same pure rational system of religion.
Thus Henry’s aesthetics of the invisible. Theologically. for leaving the door wide open for an Henrian reading of Christianity—“I am the Way.131 And what is this essential core? Henry contends. lurks the dominated sensibility of the Kantian sublime.432 Peter Joseph Fritz everyone. any conceivable reality. one does not necessarily need the idol. occasional one) on Marion. Does Marion escape a similar fall into Kantian theological apophasis? On the surface. Also as we have already observed. Henry might as well do away with the painting too. that Marion ﬁnds an area for at least a bit of critical traction against a theological Kantian defeat of the imagination by reason. “The elaboration of the Christian concept of Truth has made truth appear to ﬁnd its essence in 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. which I likened to Kantianism. and eucharist. it would seem without question that he does not. We could blame the Gospel of John. In his weaker moments. interiority without an outside. now brought into (or at least near) theology. after considering several relevant biblical texts.”134 Once again. since Kant’s (and Lévinas’s) iconoclasm at the very least touches on theology. the liturgy. the reader will not be surprised to learn. strips the (sensible. Marion uses the speciﬁc notion of the Kantian sublime as an antidote to Kant. the auto-revelation of auto-affection. but it doesn’t seem that one really needs the painting to experience Life. the Truth. as in his view of abstract painting. as we saw above. corroborates my critique. It seems. the © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . a particular form of life. historical object) can awaken modes of Life. with all his positive talk of icons. and the Life (!)” (John 14:6). Marion engages in a similar hunt for the Wesen that Henry does. the icon. liturgy. Furthermore. and thus leaves himself open to the charge that for the former as with the latter. visible.” or the “kernel” of Christianity. Is this what Henry gives us? Henry’s I Am the Truth (1996) conﬁrms the suspicion. From the beginning of I Am the Truth. Marion expressly states that his overall project of a phenomenology of givenness is directed against Kant. In addition. Henry’s rendering of phenomenality.”133 This essence. Henry seeks the “essential core. Life. any phenomenon—the visible is beside the point. then. But I ﬁnd it difﬁcult to conclude otherwise than that at times Kant still maintains a grip (even if a light. l’essence de la manifestation. 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. but any possible life. and perhaps the painting (the visible. is invisible: “It is precisely because life is invisible that reality is invisible—not just a particular domain of it.”135 which sums up the auto-revelation of life at the heart of Christianity. within Henry’s phrase “suffer oneself. 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.”132 The core of Christianity unveils the real—“the unique reality. maybe. historical) details off the phenomenon.
or whatever other phenomenon to tap into originary givenness. Another. 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). . The Crossing of the Visible. with its explicit invocation of the dogmatic defense of icons at the Council of Nicaea. positive function of the parergon now will guide us. would not pure phenomenology. comes to mind as one of the staunchest defenders of icons as being representative of the complex fabric of the Christian tradition. a hidden life (of prayer). fully reduced to givenness. the Marion of the negative side of the parergon reaches a mystical apprehension.” The imagination. thus revealing prayer. This is a fair interpretation in light of the Kantian inertia of some of Marion’s thought surrounding givenness. . are beside the point. the crossing of gazes. shows that Marion envisions himself as a kindred spirit with a number of iconodule saints. We might still treat the visual details of the icon as parerga. and in the latter part of my thesis. except maybe the pupils of their eyes. The second. from the negative side—if the icon is properly. the above fails to take into account the breadth of Marion’s engagement with his sources. 330–379) to Theodore the Studite (759–826). For John. and all the other visible (historical) elements of Christianity would fall away. which has its basis in yet another complex phenomenon. an eidetic science. this is not the whole story. the Incarnation. But. not because of an ethical objection (like Lévinas). First. Admittedly. reminiscent of Colossians 3:2: “Think of what is above. The complexity of the problem comes to light if we re-consider the use of the visibility of the icon. not of what is on earth. the loveliness of her face. The depictions of Mary and Jesus. is sacriﬁced to a higher cause. unless there are images of Christ. Bringing up Marion’s familiarity with © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . Like Henry. “It is no exaggeration to say [that] . Let us return to the example of an icon of Mary and the Christ child. though by a more circuitous path. negatively understood? Could not the rich fabrics of the Blessed Virgin’s gown. is the rest of the painting a mass of parerga. ﬁgured as exposure to the gaze of the Other (God). especially the theological ones.Black Holes and Revelations 433 eucharist. as the essence of Christianity. from Basil of Caesarea (c. this time with the two functions of the parergon in mind. but this time as ones that enhance our experience of the iconic gaze. or the endearing posture of the Christ child distract from the crossing of the visible by the invisible? If so. the incarnation might as well not have taken place. but in order to attain to the invisible eidos? The visibility of the icon. and this happens through the black holes of the pupils. as I have repeatedly indicated throughout. bypass these parerga to reach the empty black holes. and the quite creative way in which he inverts the Kantian sublime. in its essence (?). John Damascene (675–749). the recipient of the visibility of the icon.”136 The sacramental imagination of the Damascene and others like him lends a strong backing to Marion’s phenomenology.
Marion’s inversion of the sublime teaches that we need not sacriﬁce a catholic imagination—he has opened a space for its universal scope. but this does not exclude. we look inside the subject for the ground of the sublime. has no interest in bolstering the rational subject. in the context of the positive function of the parergon. and invisible in their visibility. Instead. Christianity gives and shows itself in countless “originary presentive intuitions. The sublime lifts the rational subject toward the idea(l)s of a higher realm. most © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . If we are careful.137 For Kant.”138 Perhaps. but rather it suffers a self. an acknowledgement of the underside of their trajectory of thought. to which l’adonné relinquishes the status of selfhood. but not one of Kantian apophasis. essential or parergonal. function of the parergon. leaving behind the sensible. to let Christian beauty appear (from itself) in its many gleaming (and dull) facets—from the loftiest dogmas to the most common devotions. Instead the sacriﬁce is in the interest of phenomena. in fact it includes. we can utilize Marion’s philosophy. invisible. it would require painstaking attention to how the phenomena of Christianity work alongside each other to build up a beautiful tradition. nor of the possibility of a fruitful theological application of their thoughts. he inquires into the makeup of a post-subject. and my admiration for Marion’s more solid. not the negative. we look to the phenomenon. I shall conclude with a related suggestion. should place his reading of Husserl’s principle of all principles in a new perspective. For Marion. as with Kant (and Henry). In fact. then. we can speak of a sacriﬁce of the imagination in Marion. We have now seen that Kant regards the sublime as the subject’s feeling of its perhaps limitless power. without placing prior restrictions on them. where the “higher cause” is that of reason—really. L’adonné does not suffer himself. We can see them alongside (par) each other and inquire as to how they contribute to the work (ergon) of serving God and neighbor. My critiques come out of an appreciation for Henry and Marion. Clearly my reservations about Henry’s thought are more serious. which is no less dangerous for being unintended—or inapparent. that of the phenomenon. with a “brutal shock. 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. Marion.” and the challenge of phenomenology is to allow each one of them to be given as a self.434 Peter Joseph Fritz such theological sources. visible. which he calls l’adonné. The phenomenon crashes sublimely on l’adonné. Such a phenomenological method would rule out the hasty designation of each phenomenon as integral or extrinsic. another self. This all relates to Marion’s turning of the Kantian sublime back on Kant. In this way. immanence. on the other hand. following the positive. God has saved (and saves) us in many and various ways.
famously suggested the need for a “phenomenology of the inapparent. Being Given: Toward a Phenomenology of Givenness. Language. 8 Jean-Luc Marion. Albert Hofstadter (New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics. Jeffrey L. In Excess: Studies of Saturated Phenomena. A. who uses it throughout his writings. trans. 7 Marion. 2002). 2 Jean-Luc Marion suggests that phenomenology has always depended on some relationship to the invisible. IN: Indiana University Press. Maurice Merleau-Ponty. in order to bring it into full light?” Jean-Luc Marion. 2002). NOTES 1 My thanks to Kevin Hart. CA: Stanford University Press. .” But lest I mislead readers of God without Being who have not yet read Marion’s later work. so perhaps this shift is rather a recollection of what phenomenology does anyway: “From Husserl disengaging categorial intuition to Derrida establishing différance. The Visible and the Invisible. Smith (Stanford. 80. but also a later shift in perspective. 1990). In Excess. such as God without Being. ed. Being and Time. is probably the classic text for the subject of my article. 6 Michel Henry. with its black holes and revelations. 2003). 2001). trans. 69. 220. Marion’s philosophy. Heidegger writes. 1:1–3). . in Poetry. p. Followed by Working Notes. © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . For instance. where Marion esteems the idol as an exemplary case of “saturation. See Martin Heidegger. can help us to open up theology to the plenitude of God’s saving works (erga). 11 I carefully chose my description of Marion’s later philosophical treatment of the idol.” thus giving impetus to Marion and others like him. 49–62. .” pp. Also. 2004). 2005). pp. Robyn Horner and Vincent Berraud (New York: Fordham University Press. trans. 111. “La méthode phénoménologique” in Phénoménologie matérielle (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.” This term suggests Marion’s early concerns with the idol in his theological work. CA: Stanford University Press. if vigilantly employed so as to keep within what I called its prevailing momentum. Four Seminars. 4 See especially Michel Henry. 5 See Martin Heidegger. John Macquarrie (New York: Harper & Row. Voir l’invisible sur Kandinsky (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. Poetically Man Dwells . “. The Crossing of the Visible. (post)modern apophatic appeal to the invisible. trans. IL: Northwestern University Press. 203. I return brieﬂy to this point later in this article. 144. cut short by his death. and Cyril O’Regan for their comments on drafts of this essay and for their encouragement to submit it for publication. using the word “rehabilitation. perhaps summarizing many advances in his thought toward invisibility. which phenomenology is not attached to the invisible. 209–227. 3 I take this deﬁnition of phenomenality as the “how” of appearing from Henry. as in Being Given. A good illustration of this relationship between the visible and the invisible comes from Heidegger’s thoughts on God. p. trans. Catholic) imagination than any sublime. p. §7: “The Phenomenological Method of Investigation. Kosky (Stanford.” Martin Heidegger. from Maurice Merleau-Ponty manifesting the ﬂesh of the world to Michel Henry assigning auto-affection. p. trans. Lawrence Cunningham. Translations of material from this book are mine. Hence I will mention. Heidegger. Marion still emphasizes the limitations and even the danger of the idol. 1962). though I have neither time nor space to explicitly engage it. “God’s manifestness—not only he himself—is mysterious. James K. The last work of Merleau-Ponty’s life. Andrew Mitchell and François Raffoul (Bloomington. the radiance of God’s glory (see Heb. here p.” 10 Jean-Luc Marion.Black Holes and Revelations 435 excellently in the Son. and Thought. Claude Lefort. pp. 1968).139 This would bring us closer to a Christian theology steeped in a catholic (in my case.”. . Alphonso Lingis (Evanston. trans. 68. both visible and invisible—Marion hopes for nothing less. 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.
CA: Stanford University Press. p.. In Excess. Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone. Translations are mine. 53. pp. Henry. 13/2 (Summer 1969). p. “Noesis and Noema. In the preface of this book. 46. 1975). 1987). p. and took on a life of its own (p.. Anne Henry. Concerning the Spiritual in Art. “Analyse des oeuvres et index”. On the development of this maxim for phenomenality. Interestingly enough.” pp. 68–70. here p. la passivité première de la vie. 104. Theodore M. Henry’s website. Carlson (Evanston. p.. p. M. p. accessed 6 July 2007. trans. 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 . Hudson (New York: Harper & Row. 189. p. 5–6. p. 1). emphasis added. p. p. pp. Ibid. 1960). 1977). p. 19. 211–235. p. 17. 56. Ibid.. p. is how one might engage in an analysis of the body. 73.” within a discussion of the ego as “absolute immanence” (p. Being Given. emphasis Husserl’s. Ibid. Marion... Henry indicates that the book began as a chapter in his magnum opus. Greene and Hoyt H. 186. Philosophy and Phenomenology of the Body’s main question. 64. Being Given. 54. Reduction and Givenness: Investigations of Husserl. Marion. 49. Philosophy and Phenomenology of the Body.. IL: University of Chicago Press. We see here the major characteristic of Henry’s thought: asserting the priority of the enstatic to the ecstatic. p. son auto-affection invisible. see Michel Henry. trans. Thomas A. 1998). See Husserl. Henry.htm. son épreuve de soi. p. immanent to transcendent. IL: Northwestern University Press.436 Peter Joseph Fritz 12 13 14 15 Immanuel Kant. p. Ibid. Anne Henry writes. Ibid. “Does the Concept of ‘Soul’ Mean Anything?”. I am the Truth: Toward a Philosophy of Christianity. 203. The Truth in Painting. H. Michel Henry. Geoff Bennington and Ian McLeod (Chicago. 44. pp. pp. p. This phrase and several others (to follow in my ﬁnal part) come from Jacques Derrida. 1998). Chapter Three. 25. The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers. Girard Etzkorn (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff. 13. Ibid. T. Susan Emanuel (Stanford. 6. F. 4. Kersten (Dordrecht. “Pathos signiﬁant in M. Ibid.. Kandinsky maintains that the artist has to bear the cross of art—“he is free in art but not in life. http://www. Ibid.com/ phenomenologiemat. Voir l’invisible. trans. 94–114. “a transcendent being. 16. Philosophy Today. Ibid. The Essence of Manifestation. Jean-Luc Marion. Edmund Husserl. Michel Henry. p. Phénoménologie matérielle. most concise deﬁnition of what Henry means by pathos. Marion. Being Given. 1: De la phénoménologie (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. 64.. . Heidegger. trans. 13.” Anne Henry. Wassily Kandinsky. Ibid... Sadler (New York: Dover Publications. . in the spirit of the ontology of immanence that Henry developed in The Essence of Manifestation. Part Three. Ibid. 188. 2003).” for without his spiritual striving. Henry. trans. an inhabitant of this world of ours wherein subjectivity does not reside.. “Quatre principes de la phénoménologie”. art will stagnate. pp. Henry. 73.. pp. p. ix). p. Phénoménologie matérielle. 18. 2003) pp. Ibid. here p.. and Phenomenology. 104. vol. Ideas I. . Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy: First Book: General Introduction to a Pure Phenomenology.. maintained by his widow. See Ibid. 51. for Husserl’s breakthrough description of the correlation of the “intentive mental process” (noesis) with that which it is “conscious of” (noema). Marion. Ibid.michelhenry. Inc. 105.H. §24. trans. trans. perhaps contains the clearest. 77–104. 8. in Phénoménologie de la vie.
“Blindness and the Decision to See: On Revelation and Reception in Jean-Luc Marion”. “[I]t makes me undergo a passion. 27. 244. Ibid. J. 337n92: “I am obviously referring to the studies of Michel Henry in Voir l’invisible . p. p. 307. Though we must point out that for Kandinsky. Edmund Burke. 40. Being Given.. Being Given.” Marion. p. passivity. H. Marion. but it is worth noting that the traces of the Other (the face) show up in another saturated phenomenon. especially his ﬁnal. Christianity becomes a “Henryism” of sorts. pp. §23. 25. Marion. p. Marion uses traditionally Christian motifs. 1965) Part I. 24 (New York: P. I Am the Truth. whose interpretation. 2007).” Marion. 193. See Marion. Girard Etzkorn (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff. trans. §29.” pp. 248n35.. Ibid. p. p. p. though I will not do so in this essay. Bernard (Amherst. . and upon further review of Being Given I found Marion’s speciﬁc naming of the Kantian sublime as a predecessor to the saturated phenomenon. “The Analytic of the Sublime. See Marion.. Henry. 67. §§23–29. F. 219–220. 52. p. hence Henry. in its essential parts. 107. Being Given. Marion. 102. Harvard Classics v. 2000). 101–150. Being Given. 30. p. 51.. Being Given. See Kant. reception. The Crossing of the Visible. such as subjectivity. Thus. trans.Black Holes and Revelations 437 Henry. Critique of Judgment. p. trans.. Without passing judgment on Henry’s subjective motives. though in a slightly different way. The Crossing of the Visible. 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 . pp. On this topic and the various sub-topics within it. p. p. Marion. p. and Henry following him. Collier & Son Corporation. 244. 44. A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful. Alphonso Lingis (Pittsburgh. or Beyond Essence. See Marion. pp. 153–179. 46–49. Counter-Experiences: Reading Jean-Luc Marion (Notre Dame. Henry. 1973). which coincides with l’épreuve de la Vie. See Henry. colors represent feelings. the reduction. The Crossing of the Visible. NY: Prometheus Books. In Excess. 134. He can thus say about the color of the painting. p. emphasis added. 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. 1998). p. In Excess. p. 194. in Kevin Hart (ed). See Ibid. 237.. sometimes when reading his texts it is difﬁcult to tell whether the conversion does not go in the opposite direction. 136. These are Emmanuel Lévinas’s terms for the relation to the Other throughout Otherwise than Being. Ibid. Voir l’invisible. see Thomas A. p. Cf. The Critique of Judgment. p. In Excess. The same is true for the spectator. 69. p.” Absolute knowledge. Marion alludes here to Kandinsky. activity. p. Ibid. pp. namely. Ibid. PA: Duquesne University Press. Marion. The spectator feels the effect of the painting’s visual upsurge. Marion. 193. In Excess. p. Marion. In the section from which I quote. and the will. IN: University of Notre Dame Press. its appear-ing. even at a superﬁcial level one can make sense of the charge of Gnosticism many critics have leveled against Henry’s work. in his late works. see p. The Crossing of the Visible. Carlson. Marion cites Genesis 1:2. Marion. Voir l’invisible. stands as a major theme throughout Henry’s writings. The Essence of Manifestation. The issue of “knowing how to look” or “having eyes to see” is an important one in Marion’s thought. and bears much consideration. See Emmanuel Lévinas. Christian works. Philosophy and Phenomenology of the Body. 23: “[T]he Truth of Christianity differs in essence from the truth of the world. . Kevin Hart suggested this connection to me. Kant. 51. I here make my own. Henry. 98–99. Below I discuss the way Marion derives his way of speaking about the “icon” from Lévinas. Otherwise than Being.
197. p. Marion. Yet another French postmodern thinker demands recognition here—Jean-Luc Nancy. but even as late as Otherwise than Being he cited “Reality and its Shadow” without retracting that essay’s position. Marion. “Reality and its Shadow”. the sublime offering art extends to us is a sort of negative presentation of our human destiny—to touch (and remake) our very limits. perhaps the major proponent of the Kantian and the Burkean sublime in French postmodernity.. §29. Ibid. whether this is necessarily true. The Crossing of the Visible. Marion assumes this critique of art as his own. Ibid. 35. Lyotard writes. .. pp. For example. p. and the same applies to all saturated phenomena—thus potentially all phenomena. We must ask. 1998). Marion. CA: Stanford University Press. p. p. p. pp. Critique of Judgment. 147–148 for quotes from Burke’s Part IV. p. 1–13. Being Given. 87. pp.” Lévinas. 56. in Of the Sublime: Presence in Question. In the essay.. as of feasting during a plague” (p. election seems touched by the sublime. 51. More on this below. For the “softened” position. Being Given. Marion’s language at this juncture shares afﬁnities with the discourse of Jean-François Lyotard.” p. Marion. Ibid. NY: State University of New York Press. 12). 1993). p. In Excess. Alphonso Lingis (Pittsburgh. See Kant. of course. an election in persecution. 61. trans. Marion shares with Lévinas the conviction (assumption) that “my” gaze inevitably does violence to that which it beholds.438 Peter Joseph Fritz section vii. PA: Duquesne University Press. Librett (Albany. 76.” Nancy deploys the term Unbegrenztheit (or unlimitation) as he describes the feeling of freedom that human persons experience when confronted with art. p. p. Election is another Levinasian theme. p. 49. 25–54. See Jean-Luc Nancy. p. emphasis added. Ibid. “Imagination at the limits of what it can present does violence to itself in order to present that it can no longer present. pp. The Crossing of the Visible.. 61.. as well as a Christian one. 1998). Ibid. p. he speaks of it as “traumatic . De l’oblitération: entretien avec Françoise Armengaud à propos de l’œuvre de Sosno (Paris: Éditions de la Différence. The Crossing of the Visible. trans. “The Sublime Offering.. There are times when one can be ashamed of it. 52. Ibid. p. if a potentially dangerous one.. p. Essays by Jean-François Courtine. in Collected Philosophical Papers. Lévinas softened his take on art a bit. Being Given. 220. Lévinas asserts his main point: art fosters irresponsibility. 181. especially when “I” direct it toward the other person. See Emmanuel Lévinas. et al. For Nancy. 55. pp. Marion. Elizabeth Rottenberg (Stanford. I exaggerate my terminology a bit to explicate the connection between Lévinas and Marion. 31. He continues. Soon after. 78. though he limits it in that he appreciates the idol as an example of the saturated phenomenon. p. In Excess. 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 . In Lévinas. Surely Marion uses “icon” to mean a broader category than paintings of saints on wood. Marion. “There is something wicked and egoist and cowardly in artistic enjoyment. Marion. Jeffrey S. . the painting (idol) stands at the limits of presentation. p. 198–199. pp. In Excess. Later in life.” Jean-François Lyotard. “The Sublime Offering”. trans. 76–77. 212. Marion. 233. 19. 87. Ibid. Ibid.. For Marion. 1994). Marion. 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. Lessons on the Analytic of the Sublime. 40. For him the icon stands as the privileged image that evades Lévinas’s critical strikes. p. see the interview in Emmanuel Lévinas. Otherwise than Being. but I feel justiﬁed in assuming that this more comprehensive designation still includes such paintings. p. 12)..
p. 55. Ibid. NY: Paulist Press. I borrow this notion of “stretched” phenomenology from Kevin Hart. pp. 29. Being Given. pp. Critique of Judgment. 11–13 and Derrida. trans.. Kant’s discussion of the Exodus ban on images within his ﬁnal section on the sublime: Kant. Ibid. 63. Janicaud. 59. 80–82. 59. §29. Angelaki: Journal of Theoretical Humanities. p. See Gotthold Ephraim Lessing.” as he plainly states. 56. pp. Ibid.. 65. “Beyond the Sublime: The Aesthetics of the Analogy of Being” (Part One). Kant. Kant. Theological Turn. “The Education of the Human Race” in Philosophical and Theological Writings.” See Dominique Janicaud. trans.. Husserl.. pp. 94. 83. pp. Religion. Kant adopts this idea from Gotthold Lessing. B.. Stephen Lewis (New York: Fordham University Press. especially p. Kant. Dominique Janicaud’s famous chastisement of thinkers like Henry and Marion for the theological overtones of their work bears mentioning. pp. 88. p. p. 97. Ibid. Kant. pp. pp. Marion. 65. 135–141. Derrida Truth in Painting. p. Ibid. 37–53.. 98. Kant. Ibid. Truth in Painting. 232–233. in Phenomenology and the “Theological Turn”: The French Debate (New York: Fordham University Press. p.. Being Given. 112.. Betz. 41. Ibid.. Kant. 1987).” p. p. 56. p. 12/1 (April 2007). p. Religion. H. 136. 75. pp. Ibid. pp. 64. “In Homage to Emmanuel Lévinas. Ibid. Critique of Judgment. 21. In Excess. 349. The Crossing of the Visible.. 27. Ibid. Ibid. Religion. pp. 48. See Jean.Black Holes and Revelations 439 89 Marion. p. Ibid. p.Luc Marion.. 367–411. 115–116.. 57. Religion. p. 2000) and Dominique Janicaud.. p. “The Intentionality of Love”. See Kant. 56–57. 11. Ibid. 55–57. 2005). John R. p. pp. Charles Cabral (New York: Fordham University Press. p. 47. Bernard G. p. 71–101. 67. Colm Luibheid (Mahwah.. Marion. 62. 110. here p. §23. 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 . trans. See. See his “Phenomenality and Christianity”. I ﬁnd his critiques captivating.. xx. Lévinas. p. pp. I understand that Marion intends “icon” to mean more than a “pictorial genre. pp. 189. 53. §29. for instance. 2002). p. p. Religion. 96. 62–64. pp. The Theological Turn of French Phenomenology. Phenomenology “Wide Open”: After the French Debate. Dionysius the Areopagite. Marion. but wonder if he is too rigorist in his opposition to the “new phenomenology. Ibid. 384. pp. especially pp. p.. p. pp. pp. 143–144. Truth in Painting. Derrida. p. here p. in Prolegomena to Charity.. See Kant. Ideas I. Ibid. 135 (1000A). 60. Derrida. Religion. p. “The Intentionality of Love. p. 103. 11–12. Ibid. Ibid. Religion. 99. p. For Lévinas phenomenality designates showing. Otherwise than Being. The Crossing of the Visible. Ibid. 102. Truth in Painting. 81. 64. Prusak. Derrida. 55. Again. Truth in Painting. The Crossing of the Visible. trans.. 86.” Marion. 74. 232–233. 78. Marion subtitles this essay. Modern Theology 21/3 (July 2005). pp. The Mystical Theology in Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Works. p. p. 60. 64. trans.
Depicting the Word: Byzantine Iconophile Thought of the Eighth and Ninth Centuries (Leiden: E. 189. left to itself. 33. nor secret that will not be known. emphasis added. pp. Being Given. 2.440 Peter Joseph Fritz (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Therefore whatever you have said in the darkness will be heard in the light. Lessing writes. 136 Kenneth Parry. 1996). but more quickly and more easily. p. p. 238. could not also arrive at. 248–319 for a full description of l’adonné. 51. I Am the Truth. p. and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed on the housetops” (Luke 12:2–3). 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. and In Excess. “Education gives the individual nothing which he could not also acquire by himself. it merely gave it.. 217–240. the most important of these things sooner” (§4. 131 Henry. 134 Ibid. 199. 133 Ibid.. 138 Marion. 242. p.. p. p. p. In Excess. Book V. and gives it. Thus revelation likewise gives the human race nothing which human reason. 49. 135 Ibid. 2005). J. Brill. 70. 44–53 for a summary. pp. pp. © 2009 The Author Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . it merely gives him what he could acquire by himself. 137 See Marion. pp. 132 Ibid. 218)..
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