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Between Natality and Mortality

By October 18, 2008January 24th, 2018Presentation: Academic, Presentations, Vita

PITTSBURGH, PA – A panel on the work of Reiner Schürmann entitled “Philosophy-to-come: Reading Reiner Schürmann” was held today at the 47th Annual Meeting of the Society for Phenomenology and Existentialist Philosophy.  The panel included a paper by Emmanuela Bianchi entitled, “From (Sexual) Difference to (Sexual) Differend: A queer feminist reading of Broken Hegemonies,” one from Richard Lee entitled, “A Break in the Middle: From Epochal Principles to Hegemonic Fantasms,” and a paper from me entitled, “Between Natality and Mortality: The Torments of Autonomy.”

My paper traced what Schürmann calls the “double comprehension of being” in Kant in which the sense of being as pure givenness is said to be recognized but denied by Kant as his thinking undertakes its Copernican turn.  Schürmann suggests that this can be heard in the ambiguous ways two German terms that mean “posit or position” are used by Kant.  The terms are “Position” and “Setzung.” Schürmann shows that these two terms point at various moments in Kant either to the notion of being as a category that arises from the transcendental operations of the subject or to being understood as pure givenness external to the transcendental subject.  Schürmann insists that this second sense of being threatens to undermine the entire transcendental project and so must be denied by Kant.

Drawing on this reading, I attempt to show that Schürmann’s own deep skepticism about philosophical language and particularly his insistence that language always involves the violent supression of singularity is itself undermined by Schürmann’s own suggestion that the singular comes to language in the tension between Position and Setzung that gives voice to the two comprehensions of being in Kant.   

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