Sunday, October 24, 2004

from dailiness to a natural sense of “lifeworld”

Take 1: Writer can’t cease treating his life as a discursive formation

Dear Jürgen,

I’m so delighted to be writing you. I write, therefore I am?

I’m ultimately, to you, a text of a particular life that hardly appears at all, except inasmuch as I become “the writer” becoming autobiography (always so selective), if not confession (selective, too). You write of Kierkegaard, but what about the authorship of being “Habermas”?

My days are generally beautiful, my life is largely happy.
All the suffering in the world is heartrending. But I’m doing well,
giving what I can.

So much to say, so little time.

Generality about the lifeworld comes thin. On the one hand, even the generalizing pretense of conceptualization is inevitably perspectival. Of what one says of generality—supposedly of generality—a reader decides what’s appealing or appropriate for their experience. The truth of the generality seems ultimately to be a claim about what’s normative (like lexicality), inasmuch as it claims independence of my life, notwith-standing my own exemplarity (which isn’t for me to assess). In this respect, I’ll give you my view and hope that it’s useful—to what scale,
I can only discover through others, maybe you. Dear Jürgen.

On the other hand, general statements can be validly made. A discursive formation (e.g., conceptualization of “the lifeworld”) expresses an aggregate generality of understanding that has a genealogy, i.e., that was emergent from countless interactive agreements (or adoptions—or acquiescences) about what the topic matter is (a genealogical emergence).

Given fairness to the concept, one pretends to contribute to the formation, i.e., to the generality or generalizability of the discursive topic and is evaluated tacitly by influence (or, very likely, the lack of influence).

Yet validity isn’t a matter of mere opinion. Failure of influence may be due not to the invalidity of the contribution, but to reader conditions of appropriation. For example, one is likely to not read you insightfully (often not even very accurately). So, “you” must decide about the promise of your not yet being understood. Validity claims go both ways: Critique of something difficult is likely invalid (which is news to young scholars)

The discursive formation is the institutionalized pretense of “generally speaking.” But seldom can a discursive formation pretend to empirical generality. Discursive generality is always historical (though statements about discourses may have empirical merit). The reality of living discursive formations is that they are, at best, really evolving. That evolving is thinly generalizable as well—maybe not generalizable at all, analogous to the developmentality of a life: One may generalize over the life, but what’s the generality of the life across lives? What’s its exemplarity? Besides, self-inquiry into the life (necessary for generalizing about it) effects the character of the life, maybe even its feeling for telos or Career (in a lifespanned sense of what one is doing with one’s life).

So, inquiry into the evolutionarity of a discursive formation affects the character of the formation’s self-formativity.

Dear Jürgen, life is so strange.

Discursive formations (e.g., recognized theory of “the lifeworld”) have perdurance. The validity of their generality may be generatively normative (flowering the generality of some exemplarity), by grace of its continuing influence and its furtherance by inquirer contributions.

The discursive formation lives like a manifold authorship on the waters of others’ time.

I might hope to contribute to the “generality” of thought about the lifeworld, but whatever understanding is sustainable (which is the reality of existential generality—like the bestseller that stays up the list beyond 15 minutes) depends, first, on the historicity of the concept inherited by the inquirer; then the sustainability depends on what the trace of further inquiry—the writing—shows: the effective historicality of its persistence as further forming of the topic (the conceptual topos).