So much for the specific analysis. What of the question, then, that gives the topos for this essay? Let me draw this conclusion out systematically. First: there are no pure poles of either reception or response. The economy of response is not the same as an economy of reception, but what we treat in presenting an account of the economy of response is the movement 'between' receiving and responding: the body is already a field of intentions. Secondly, when attempting to assess what is involved in the operations of this economy a number of loci become evident: the contingencies of time and the specificities of bodies lived in particular ways (sexed and socialised bodies); the geography of the movements or performances of these bodies; the embodied dialectic between the known and identifiable and the irreducibility of the other's body such that any encounter becomes what I like to call a congress of mysteries; the exchange of signs — gestural and linguistic — that, to employ Kristeva's terminology, conform to a certain symbolic code, but a code never divorced from the motile drives of the semiotic; the operation of a desire that parallels because it is ultimately inseparable from the dialectic of knowledge and mystery, affinity and difference, visible appearance and invisible excess. The operation of desire works with a dialectic of distance and proximity; it is this dialectic, as Gadamer observed, that makes misconstrual, méconnaissance, fruitful. In fact, the praxis of interpretation makes nonsense of the Enlightenment distinction between meaning and misunderstanding. As Merleau-Ponty already saw, touch is the very figure of desire's operation; Lévinas would say 'caress'.33

My account of economies of response makes interpretation irreducible. Irreducible in two senses. First, that it will never come to an end. Second, that as a practice it is infinitely complex, subtle and only partly conscious of itself — which is why Habermas's understanding of communicative action is too reductive: dialogue between clearly stated and self-reflexive positions is only one aspect of the hermeneutical activity involved in any encounter. I suggest any act of understanding, any act of reading, any act of interpretation

33 For Emmanuel Lévinas on 'caress' see Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority, tr. Alphonso Lingis (Pittsburgh, Penn.: Duquesne Press, 1969), pp. 257—8.

is implicated in these complex embodied operations that constitute the economy of response. But what of the therapy and the formation? How do these relate to this complex and incarnate hermeneutics? Gabriel Marcel, Merleau-Ponty and Henry all see the Christian account of incarnation as paradigmatic of the mystery of human embodiment itself. What is evident from our analyses of Christ's two post-resurrection encounters as represented by the writer of the Gospel of St John, is that there is a specific teleology: Christ himself is the meaning that can never be totally embraced, recognised, known. His is the excessive body, par excellence, that organises all the other forms of embodiment. The praxis of interpretation, that proceeds via economies of response, is governed by a Logos that does not give itself as self-presence (and therefore does not fall foul of deconstruction), but gives itself as a sensible transcendence (Luce Irigaray's term),34 as a saturated phenomenon, as a body whose significance is irreducible, the knowledge of which is precisely that it is irreducible. The praxis of interpretation is involved in the congress of mysteries, having as its goal an understanding that forever eludes its final grasp. It is involved, then, in a search for truth, a struggle to find meaning. Put briefly, interpretation involves a practice of hope. Despair is where interpretation becomes impossible or arbitrary; the place of trauma and aphasia from which emerge Kristeva's tales of love; the frozen wastes of Dante's nether hell. Interpretation is ultimately an eschato-logical act. It is the teleology of the praxis of interpretation that shapes the lived experience of the one interpreting. It fashions the self while also enabling that self to reflect upon its own condition. It wagers on the operation of a transcendental Good while continually reminding the interpreter of their fallibility and finitude. It is in this sense that hermeneutics is implicated in a science of healing, an economy of redemption, and, I suggest (following an intuition of Schleiermacher here), the moral formation of subjects. On 21 August ad 397, St Augustine preached a sermon in which he raised the question that I believe is at the heart of his work as it is at the heart of this essay. The question is simply: 'What hast thou that thou didst not receive?'35

34 This is explored further in the next essay, 'Divinity and Sexual Difference'

35 Quoted in Sergei Lancel, Augustine (London: SCM Press, 2001), p. 196.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment