The Penumbra of Personhood

The cover art, entitled, ‘A Child’s Nightmare’ appealed to me not because of its lurid figures but because anti-humanism as understood by liberal philosophers is rather like such figures; hyperbolic, formulaic, threatening, but only to a child.

Here are a few out-takes from the book interpreting the conception of love as lensed by writers who have been unfairly given the label ‘anti-humanist’.

                “The facticality of the social world allows for Dasein and its fellows to affirm the possibility of agreement in a world wherein conflict is also always a possibility. I may have collected this or that from the Nietzschean beach, though contrary to his own advice, and yet the next person may have collected elsewise. Nevertheless, out of both of our preserves, there will be ‘objects’ that appeal to the both of us. This is, not to speak outlandishly or in an over-rapid way, the basis for love. Part of the worlding of the world has been noted by two persons in and of themselves, with no coercion and no convincing emanating from the other. This is indeed a wondrous moment, when both realize that they ‘share’ something authentically as Daseins and thus this is also the moment where falling re-presences itself as that which uplifts us into the flight towards freedom. This is our living-being-of-running-along. If there is a running-along-towards-death there is also, alongside it and as its ethical perspective, a running-along towards-life of which love is the most palpable presence. In life, love overtakes death and runs along ahead of it, just as Dasein’s being is ahead of itself. Love skirts the precipice of Dasein’s demise before Dasein itself can undertake to apprehend it. This is why the death of love in life is worse than mere death, for while love was present it was not only a gift and a moment, but a true copresence of Dasein-in-Mitsein, of the more than one that seeks not the One of its joint birth or ‘shared’ end.”

                “To lose this and yet live on cheats us of life before ‘our time’, as it were. But as with the surf, another love will arise in our shared breast, another set of objections to life as lived in the recent past will be collected and shared. This is not merely our hope, but our human will at its best work. It is the will to power made sublime. It is the art of living-on within living on. And just as love is irruptive – indeed, aside from art itself it is the only human-fashioned uncanniness that the world contains – it is also transcending. The casual idioms like ‘colors are brighter’ and so on are not about seeing the world as it is more clearly and with more focus, but about apprehending the worlding of the world as a momentous moment of gift and copresence. Love grants us the ability to leave the world before we die, because we have discovered that the other wills us to live anew and vice-versa. Now we are no longer sitting on the beach together, side by side, keenly interested in what the surf will bring to us. Instead, we are the surf itself.”

“The will to pleasure and the will to death also live with one another, even within one another. Is one only angelic and the other only demonic? Hardly so. Pleasure induces a great suffering, second only to that of love, and death could well be its a merciful release. She is an angel, yes, but angels too have needs. They are not exactly human but all this presents to me is a challenge.”

“There occurs precisely a loss of the anti-humanistic aspect of love, its libertinage, its transgressions, its spontaneity. But the neighbor is the libertine of compassion. He irrupts the socius and takes matters into his own hands, but always without worry. He has replaced worrying with caring. The lover is the libertine of passion, and this is assuredly nothing new. But between the lover and the neighbor there is still love, and when one dies, so does the other.”

The Penumbra of Personhood ended up being the most difficult challenge for me as a writer and thinker to date. There were times when I felt I would not complete it, which is most out of character for me. Yet this was a ultimately good experience, for it taught me about the limits of any particular present understanding and that I have, as ever, much to learn.