Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Modicum of Spice

Commentary is geophilosophical in the sense of being a movement that produces the immanence of the earth both formally and actually. Formally, commentary makes of a text, its earth, an orbis, a round world, by bringing text into the space around it. A dwelling in and on the text, commentary accords with Heidegger’s explication of work as a dialectic of earth and world: “Upon the earth and in it, historical man grounds his dwelling in the world. In setting up a world, the work sets forth the earth. . . . The work moves the earth itself into the Open of a world and keeps it there. The work lets the earth be an earth.”[i] Commentary likewise does not break its text, but preserves its integrity, shaping itself to it even in the midst of digging through it interlinearly and dwarfing, dominating it circumferentially. Commentary lets the text be a text and furthermore brings it into the open as self-secluding in the sense of presenting itself, not as some transparent medium for seeing behind or underneath it, but as further text. As Gumbrecht explains: “What . . . hermeneutic topologies of the below and the behind share is a categorical—not to say dramatic—distinction between a level of primary perception and an always ‘hidden’ level of meaning and intentionality . . . In contrast, commentaries do not aim at a level ‘below,’ ‘behind,’ or even ‘beyond’ the textual surface, but commentators nevertheless do not see texts “from above” or from that famous ‘distance’ that we so readily associate with objectivity. We expect commentaries . . . rather to be ‘lateral’ in relation to their texts of reference, and we want commentators to position themselves in ‘contiguity’ not so much with an author but with the text in question. It is this contiguity between the commentator’s text and the text on which to comment that explains why the material form of the commentary depends on and has to adapt to the material form of the commented-on text.”[ii] Yet, it is absolutely necessary to add (else the essential dialectical relation between text and commentary might be lost), that commentary’s topological contiguity with its text does not delimit is interpretive, archaeological function, but rather institutes it as realized and to-be-realized in the text itself and our being before it. In other words, commentary is an immanent geo-graphy, an inscriptional earth-writing that continuously asserts by its very movement that its truth belongs here in the most palpable and factical sense, that it is written into the shared presence of reader and text, as the intersections between glossing and graffiti exemplify. So I will also say that commentary is actually geophilosophical, that it constitutes a structure of understanding and experience that opens world to earth. The telos of commentary, its far-off end, is tellus, what bears us. “Turn it and turn it again for everything is in it; and contemplate it and grow gray and old over it and stir not from it” (Aboth 5.22). What the Talmudic commentator here says of the Torah is sayable of the earth.

[i] Martin Heidegger, “The Origin of the Work of Art,” 46.

[ii] Hans Ulrich Gumbrect, The Powers of Philology, 43-44.


anna klosowska said...

it's stunning. At this point, you're my favorite philosopher--really. I always come away un-jaded from reading yr new stuff.

Nicola Masciandaro said...

Can't wait to read you (and write) the rest--gulp! embarrassed boasting, thrill. I am writing it for, on account of, you.