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Courageous Vulnerability: Ethics and Knowledge in Proust, Bergson, Marcel, and James by Rosa Slegers (Studies in Contemporary Phenomenology: Brill Academic Publishers) This work develops the ethical attitude of courageous vulnerability through the integration of Marcel Proust's novel In Search of Lost Time and the philosophies of Henri Bergson, William James, and Gabriel Marcel. Central to the discussion is the phenomenon of involuntary memory, taken from common experience but "discovered" and made visible by Proust. Through the connection between a variety of themes from both Continental and American schools of thought such as Bergson's phenomenological account of the artist, James' "will to believe," and Marcel's "creative fidelity," the courageously vulnerable individual is shown to take seriously the ethical implications of the knowledge gained from involuntary memories and similar "privileged moments," and do justice to the "something more" which, though part of our experience of ourselves and others, escapes rigid philosophical analysis.

Excerpt: In Marcel Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu, the narrator is surprised to notice that the simple phrase "the head of the Ministry of Posts and his family" [la famille du directeur du ministère des Postes] evokes for him a very peculiar, bitter-sweet feeling.  He happens to overhear a stranger say these words, and though the phrase in itself is of no particular interest to him, he realizes that it is linked to a time in his past when he was in love with Gilberte and heard her use this phrase in conversation. The narrator has long since lost interest in her, but the trivial, forgotten phrase brings back the feelings of heart ache that he was experiencing when he heard her say those words. It is exactly because the words were trivial that they have preserved their freshness and are able to evoke a forgotten feeling. Habit dulls the edge of memories, but only of those memories that are readily available to it. Memories that are, contradictory though it may seem, "forgotten," preserve their strength because the mind has had no chance to neutralize their emotional impact and mull them over until they lose their flavor.

The example cited above is just one among many instances in A la recherche of what Proust calls involuntary memory. The best known involuntary memory in the novel involves the famous petite madeleine dipped in tea, the taste of which causes the narrator to remember his childhood. In this work, I will investigate this notion of involuntary Memory and show how a memory of this sort can be classified as a privileged moment. In order to explore the epistemological and ethical implications of this kind of privileged moment, my thesis throughout will be informed by a lesser-known but particularly salient instance of involuntary memory: the narrator's memory of his grandmother as it overwhelms him when he revisits the hotel in Balbec. I will discuss this memory in what follows, but first it serves to mention a few general characteristics of the phenomenon of involuntary memory. First of all, an involuntary memory cannot be provoked. Rather, it hits the subject unexpectedly because it was forgotten until it was triggered by a, usually quite pedestrian, sensory experience (like hearing the phrase cited above, or tasting a morsel of cake dipped in tea). Furthermore, because of its involuntary and unpredictable character, this type of memory offers a particular kind of insight: something that was forgotten is made present again, with the result that the subject's self image and his or her understanding of the world now have to shift in order to make place for this new knowledge. Involuntary memories are always accompanied by a strong sensual experience, sometimes of unease or sorrow, other times of joy or pleasure. The truths conveyed by the involuntary memories are felt, not simply intellectually registered. I will investigate this kind of truth and call the knowledge gained from involuntary memory "felt knowledge" so as to distinguish it from what could be called factual knowledge. In order to obtain and accept this kind of knowledge, an attitude of openness is required from the subject. I will call this attitude "courageous vulnerability," expressing the courage it takes to pursue the truth at the core of involuntary memory, and the openness required to allow this unforeseeable and perhaps unpleasant truth to enter.

The relevance of the terms "felt knowledge" and "courageous vulnerability" is best understood through the instance of the narrator's involuntary memory of his grandmother mentioned above. The passage cited below will be the starting point of the discussion in the chapters to come, and effectively evokes the ethical significance of involuntary memory. The excerpt is taken from Sodome et Gomorrhe, one of the middle volumes of A la recherche du temps perdu. The narrator of A la recherche has just arrived at the hotel in Balbec where he had stayed with his grandmother on his previous visit. His grandmother has passed away in the meantime, and for his second visit the narrator has come to Balbec alone. He feels tired after the long journey and sits down on his bed to take off his shoes when he is suddenly overwhelmed by a very powerful sensation:

Upheaval of my entire being. On the first night, as I was suffering from cardiac fatigue, I bent down slowly and cautiously to take off my boots, trying to master my pain. But scarcely had I touched the topmost button than my chest swelled, filled with an unknown, a divine presence, I was shaken with sobs, tears streamed from my eyes. The being who had come to my rescue, saving me from barrenness of spirit, was the same who, years before, in a moment of identical distress and loneliness, in a moment when I had nothing left of myself, had come in and restored me to myself, for that being was myself and something more than me (the container that is greater than the contained and was bringing it to me). I had just perceived, in my memory, stooping over my fatigue, the tender, preoccupied, disappointed face of my grandmother, as she had been on that first evening of our arrival, the face not of that grandmother whom I had been astonished and remorseful at having so little missed, and who had nothing in common with her save her name, but of my real grandmother, of whom, for the first time since the afternoon of her stroke in the Champs-Elyées, I now recaptured the living reality in a complete and involuntary recollection.... And thus, in my wild desire to fling myself into her arms, it was only at that moment—more than a year after her burial, because of the anachronism which so often prevents the calendar of facts from corresponding to the calendar of feelings—that I became conscious that she was dead.

The very simple action of bending over to take off his boots triggers a memory of his grandmother so powerful that he sees her before him as she was when they stayed at the hotel together. The narrator remarks that he perceives "the living reality" of his grandmother and not the faded memory which she had become since her death. For the first time since the beginning of her illness, he experiences his grandmother as present to him. The narrator finally feels the pain of her absence now that he remembers her in this involuntary recollection, and it is only now, long after her death, that he feels that she is gone. He has of course thought and talked about her since her passing, but the grandmother who was the topic of these thoughts and conversations was a distant image rather than the person whom he now recalls:

I had often spoken about her since then, and thought of her also, but behind my words and thoughts, those of an ungrateful, selfish, cruel young man, there had never been anything that resembled my grandmother, because, in my frivolity, my love of pleasure, my familiarity with the spectacle of her ill health, I retained within me only in a potential state the memory of what she had been.

The memory of his grandmother, which for a long time had been "only... potential," is evoked in its full force by the movement of bending over to undo his shoelaces, and because of this involuntary recollection the narrator "comes to understand" that she is dead. The difference between this memory and the memories which "did not resemble" his grandmother illustrates Proust's famous distinction between voluntary and involuntary memory. Voluntary memory, Samuel Beckett writes in his essay Proust, "can be relied on to reproduce for our gratified inspection those impressions of the past that were consciously and intelligently formed. It has no interest in the mysterious element of inattention that colors our most commonplace experiences. It presents the past in monochrome."4 Voluntary memory can be controlled and the memories it concerns can be recalled, studied and analyzed at will; they have been made to fit the past self of which one is aware. Returning to the passage above, the memories that can be identified as voluntary are the ones that represented the narrator's grandmother as a stranger whom he did not recognize. In contrast with the controlled and tidy character of voluntary memory, involuntary memory is explosive and overwhelming: "involuntary memory is an unruly magician and will not be importuned. It chooses its own time and place for the performance of its miracle." This overwhelming experience brings with it the particular kind of knowledge mentioned above, which is felt rather than just intellectually registered.

The narrator's knowledge of his grandmother's death is an instance of this felt knowledge. The narrator was of course aware of the fact of her death already, but the impact of the involuntary memory makes him understand this fact in a different way because he feels its implications. In the excerpt above, the narrator already hints at the content of these implications and the guilt he feels about his actions towards his grandmother when she was still alive. He now remembers the times when he felt embarrassed by something she did, and regrets his selfish reasons for punishing her by showing his discontent. The felt knowledge the narrator acquires is painful, and this links this kind of knowledge to the attitude I have called courageous vulnerability. In order to pursue the core of the involuntary memory, the narrator has to face several painful revelations about his past and his own person: he realizes that he was not always a loving, perfect grandson, but at times acted for entirely selfish reasons that prevented him, as it will turn out, from being open to her. The attitude appropriate to pursue felt knowledge must combine openness with effort and the courage to risk a discovery that may not be flattering to the self. In the following chapters I will develop and discuss the ethical attitude of courageous vulnerability and show its relevance through Proust's novel. I suggest that my notion of courageous vulnerability is best understood in the context of virtue ethics. As Rosalind Hursthouse remarks in On Virtue Ethics, there are certain topics which are neglected in the other main traditions of moral philosophy, utilitarianism and deontology, and which can be more effectively discussed in virtue ethics. Among these topics are moral character, friendship, family relationships, and the "role of the emotions in our moral life, and the questions of what sort of person I should be, and how we should live."' In the following chapters, I will show that courageous vulnerability touches on all of these topics. Furthermore, the brand of virtue ethics which Hurst-house develops recognizes that the list of virtues presented by Aristotle is incomplete and that new virtues may and must be added to the ones already accepted. Aristotle of course lists courage as one of his moral virtues, but the attitude I propose involves vulnerability as well as courage and thus clearly differs from the disposition Aristotle describes. Can courageous vulnerability then be classified as a virtue? I believe so, and I draw support for this claim from Hursthouse, who refers to the following neo-Aristotelian premise: "A virtue is a character trait a human being needs for eudaimonia, to flourish or live well." This means that "the virtues benefit their possessor," and that "human beings need the virtues in order to live a characteristically good human life."' Though I will not discuss Aristotle's notion of happiness or eudaimonia, I will show that courageous vulnerability is a character trait which makes us better and which we need to live well. Where, in the chapters to come, I write about "the courageously vulnerable person," I mean a person who, in addition to other virtues and vices, has the character trait of courageous vulnerability. Similarly, where I speak of "the attitude of courageous vulnerability," I am referring to the entrenched disposition which characterizes the courageously vulnerable person. These brief remarks on virtue ethics merely serve as a very broad context for my project; they are meant to indicate the general field within which this work seeks to make some progress. It is not my goal to defend or justify virtue ethics as a valid kind of moral philosophy, but to give a detailed account of an ethical attitude which should be regarded against the background provided by the tradition of virtue ethics.

My main goal in this work is to explore the ethical and epistemological implications of both involuntary memory and the wider category of the privileged moment of which involuntary memories form a subset. As is becoming clear, these two sets of implications are closely linked. Both felt knowledge and courageous vulnerability will be treated as epistemological issues, but the notion of courageous vulnerability will be used primarily to express the ethical attitude required to successfully deal with felt knowledge. It needs to be emphasized at the outset of this discussion that I am investigating a very particular kind of knowledge which does not fit the traditional epistemological mold but which, I argue, is a part of human knowledge nonetheless. In the background of this discussion of felt knowledge will be a form of virtue epistemology called "responsibilism" which can be used to determine the cognitive disposition of Proust's narrator and, more generally, anyone who wants to attain knowledge through a privileged moment. Responsibilism, especially in the form proposed by Lorraine Code, offers an interesting perspective on the matter because of the emphasis it places on the cognitive agent's effort and the use of "thick" narrative to describe cognitive activity.' Code says about her particular form of virtue-based epistemology that her "purpose in developing this responsibilist approach to human knowledge is to examine conditions for knowing well, not to provide a formula for acquiring indubitable knowledge."' I will discuss the conditions for "knowing well" in this particular sense, using a literary work as my source. I will argue that though the knowledge which can be won from privileged moments makes up only a small part of the whole of our knowledge, its ethical implications make it an interesting topic for investigation. Just like I do not aim to justify virtue ethics in this work, it is not my goal in this work to offer a defense or a discussion of virtue epistemology either. Rather, I am merely referring to Code's work in order to contextualize my claims. I will return to the notion of reponsibilism in Chapter One and again in the Epilogue where I will also restate my main claims in the context of virtue ethics.

[Iris Murdoch, another philosopher who defends the value of literature for philosophy, remarks in conversation with Bryan Magee: "Though they are so different, philosophy and literature are both truth-seeking and truth-revealing activities." Literature, Murdoch explains, "shows us the world, and much pleasure in art is a pleasure of recognition of what we vaguely knew was there but never saw before." Furthermore: Art is informative. And even mediocre art can tell us something, for instance about how other people live." Iris Murdoch, "Literature and Philosophy: A Conversation with Bryan Magee," in Existentialists and Mystics: Writings on Philosophy and Literature (New York: Penguin Press, 1997), 11, 12, 15. Martha Nussbaum is in agreement with these views and writes: "storytelling and literary imagining are not opposed to rational argument, but can provide essential ingredients in a rational argument." She clarifies the role of literature in rational argument as follows: "an ethics of impartial respect for human dignity will fail to engage real human beings unless they are made capable of entering imaginatively into the lives of distant other and to have emotions related to that participation." Martha C. Nussbaum, Poetic Justice: The Literary Imagination and Public Life (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995), xiii, xvi.]

The three key concepts mentioned so far, involuntary memory (as a privileged moment), felt knowledge and courageous vulnerability, will be investigated through the work of William James and Gabriel Marcel. A third philosopher, Henri Bergson, will offer a phenomenological groundwork for the philosophical debate as a whole. After discussing involuntary memory, the privileged moment, and felt knowledge within the context of A la recherche in Chapter One, I will turn to Bergson and his concept of the artist in Chapter Two. I will show that in Bergson's aesthetics, one finds an appreciation of art and the artist which is exemplified by the narrator of A la recherche. In this same chapter, the attitude of the Bergsonian artist will be used as an analogy for the ethical attitude of courageous vulnerability. Chapter Three will draw on the philosophies of William James and Gabriel Marcel in order to show the ethical significance of this attitude. As will become clear, it takes what James calls a tough-minded, empiricist temperament to deal with the felt knowledge gained from a privileged moment. The works of Gabriel Marcel will bring concepts such as problem and mystery into the discussion, and help draw out the ethical implications of James' philosophy. Though the primary goal of this project is to investigate the privileged moment and its importance with regard to felt knowledge and courageous vulnerability, this discussion will also allow me to argue for the close affinity between the philosophies of James and Marcel. Ethical notions and insights can be found throughout the work of William James, and Marcel offers concepts and distinctions that do justice to James' implicit ethics. I intend to build up a conceptual framework based on the close affinity between the philosophies of James and Marcel in order to give a full account of the privileged moment and its effects on the subject. After combining the philosophies of James and Marcel, Chapter Four will further develop the Marcellian themes raised in Chapter Three, focusing on the "phenomenology of having." Reading Marcel's ethics through A la recherche will show that courageous vulnerability requires great effort, a point that will be emphasized again in Chapter Six. Chapter Five develops a few Jamesian themes that flow from Chapter Three, most notably James' account of mystical experience and what he calls the "will to believe." I will argue that the privileged moment from A la recherche is a mystical experience in the Jamesian sense, and that the will to believe plays a part in what the narrator does with the felt knowledge gained from this experience. Chapter Six, finally, again focuses on courageous vulnerability by returning to the relation between the narrator and his grandmother. The insights from the previous chapters will be brought together and used to both fill out the sketch of courageous vulnerability in Chapter Two, and distinguish this attitude from Gabriel Marcel's notion of creative fidelity. This last chapter is meant to offer both a synthesis and a conclusion to the work as a whole.

Throughout the chapters outlined above, I intend to show a close connection between philosophy and literature through the philosophical investigation of phenomena taken from common experience but "discovered" and made visible by Marcel Proust in his A la recherche du temps perdu. As the narrator puts it in Le temps retrouvé: "Every reader is, while he is reading, the reader of his own self. The writer's work is merely a kind of optical instrument which he offers to the reader to enable him to discern what, without this book, he would perhaps never have perceived in himself." [Chaque lecteur est quand it lit le propre lecteur de soi-même. L'ouvrage de l'écrivain n'est qu'une espèce d'instrument optique qu'il offre au lecteur afin de lui permettre de discerner ce que sans ce livre it n'eût peut-être pas vu en soi-même] Within the narrative, Proust creates and evokes something that escapes rigid philosophical analysis. Both James and Marcel recognize that there always is a "something more"{ to experience that cannot be captured in technical discourse. In The Mystery of Being, Marcel refers to this "more" when he writes about art: "When I look at or listen to a masterpiece, I have an experience which can be strictly called a revelation. That experience will just not allow itself to be analyzed away as a mere state of simple strongly felt satisfaction."" Proust's novel reveals what we perhaps never would have perceived in ourselves, and Marcel and James offer the philosophical concepts to talk about this revelation. In line with these observations, James remarks the following about the function of the philosopher:

His books upon ethics ... so far as they truly touch the moral life, must more and more ally themselves with a literature which is confessedly tentative and suggestive rather than dogmatic,—I mean with novels and dramas of the deeper sort, with sermons, with books on statecraft and philanthropy and social and economical reform. Treated in this way ethical treatises may be voluminous and luminous as well; but they never can be final, except in their abstractest and vaguest features; and they must more and more abandon the old-fashioned, clear-cut, and would-be 'scientific' form.

Proust's novel is easily "allied" to the philosophies of James and Marcel and I will use it to make concrete the ethics found in their works. In establishing this alliance, it will be important to do justice to the subtlety and complexity of Proust's work. The tentative and suggestive nature of A la recherche is reflected in Le temps retrouvé where the narrator explains that he does not think of his readers as "his" but as "the readers of their own selves, my book being merely a sort of magnifying glass like those which the optician of Combray used to offer to his customers—it would be my book, but with its help I would furnish them with the means of reading what lay inside themselves" [les propres lecteurs d'eux-mêmes, mon livre n'étant qu'une sorte de ces verres grossissants comme ceux que tendait à un acheteur l'opticien de Combray; mon livre, grace auquel je leur fournirais le moyen de lire en eux-mêmes]." The narrator immediately adds that some of his readers will have eyes for which the book is not a suitable instrument. I will argue that the optical instrument of A la recherche suits the eyes of Bergson, James, and Marcel, and that their vision as magnified by Proust helps distinguish the attitude I have called courageous vulnerability, and so defends literature as a source for ethical insight.

Chapter Six offered a detailed synthesis of the themes related to the notion of courageous vulnerability, as well as a conclusion to my project as a whole. Since it has been my aim in this work to develop an ethical notion, it serves to touch on the wider context within which I think this notion should be understood. This epilogue merely aims to offer a brief overview of the themes discussed, and to suggest that my project can be situated in the context of virtue ethics broadly construed.

I have argued that in order to do justice to the plurality found in A la recherche, one must pay attention to both the madeleine soaked in tea and the untying of the boots, that is, to both the celebration of joyful recollection, truth, and art in the Ouverture and Le temps retrouvé and to what Bowie calls the "vein of disturbing moral speculation" in the "eclipsed" middle volumes of the work. Every privileged moment appeals to the narrator to investigate, but the moral nature of this appeal can easily be overlooked if one regards only the series of joyful involuntary memories in Le temps retrouvé. The privileged moment takes on a specifically moral character when the felt knowledge at stake in this moment concerns a person and I pointed to the narrator's recollection of his grandmother as the most salient example of this phenomenon. The felt knowledge which the narrator gains from this moment is difficult to accept because it forces him to reconsider his past actions: he recognizes that he hurt his grandmother for entirely selfish and petty reasons, and this realization is all the more painful because he cannot make amends. I also pointed out that the narrator wants his book to serve as an optical instrument for his reader, enabling the reader to recognize what I have called privileged moments in his or her own life. I now suggest that the verifiability of the felt knowledge one senses within Proust's work stems from the thickly descriptive accounts of the narrator. It is my claim that, as Lorraine Code would put it, the narrator's descriptions of love and of privileged moments "ring true," even for those readers of A la recherche who hold that the narrator's tendency to analyze just about everything is a bit neurotic, or at least exaggerated.

Though the title A la recherche du temps perdu indicates that Proust's narrator is in search of lost time, it can be argued that he is in fact also in search of truth. Proust himself wrote the following in a letter to his friend Jacques Riviére: "J'ai trouvé plus probe et plus délicat comme artiste de ne pas annoncer que c'était justement à la recherche de la Writé que je partais, ni en quoi elle consistait pour moi." What is at stake in a privileged moment, the narrator has shown us time and time again, is the truth. In a privileged moment, "we feel... the joy of rediscovering what is real" [nous sentons la joie du réel retrouvél. The truth regained in an involuntary memory is marked by the certitude and authority of felt knowledge. In James' words: "Of some things we feel that we are certain: we know, and we know that we do know. There is something that gives a click inside of us, a bell that strikes twelve."' This "click" is what the narrator experiences in his privileged moments, which present themselves as opportunities to "search for lost truth." To pursue this truth and to achieve felt knowledge, the narrator needs to be courageously vulnerable, especially when the felt knowledge at stake concerns a person.

Early in A la recherche the narrator says of his favorite author Bergotte that certain morceaux in his works revealed to him things the beauty of which had so far been hidden from him. Proust's reader, I argue, can have the same experience of revelation. The thick narrative communicates the narrator's experience to the reader and his insights are described in such a way that the latter cannot but think of similar experiences in his or her own life. This kind of participatory reading helps discern things which were previously hidden and so increases our knowledge. However, the narrator's experience can only serve to increase the reader's knowledge if the reader is herself receptive. The second-hand experience offered by A la recherche of a privileged moment requires an openness from the reader as well, be it, perhaps, an easier kind of openness than the openness required of the narrator in the pursuit of felt knowledge. Just like the narrator has to be courageous in pursuing the core of the involuntary memory of his grandmother, the reader has to have the courage to not only follow the narrator but also take the next step and recognize instances of involuntary memory in his or her own life. The second-hand experience of involuntary memory can give one insight into the process and truth-conduciveness of privileged moments and make one pursue one's own involuntary memories. The thick narrative used by Proust shows a way of obtaining knowledge from what may seem mere vague and inexplicable feelings.

Over the course of the past six chapters, I have engaged the narrator's discoveries and insights in a project which explores the ethical ramifications of literature through philosophy. In Le côté de Guermantes, the narrator remarks how an unfamiliar work of art shows us new connections and associations which at first do not make sense to us.' Art is presented as a "treatment" which is initially unpleasant but ultimately results in a "renewal of the world."6 The narrator of A la recherche lets us share in his discovery of the privileged moment and so "renews" a part of the world as we experience it. The philosophies of Bergson, James, and Marcel help understand this renewal and offer the opportunity for what Marcel calls secondary reflection. The integration of their philosophies with a sustained close reading of A la recherche ensures that this secondary reflection does not lose touch with experience. This approach has allowed me to make these philosophies converge in a very concrete description of the attitude of courageous vulnerability. In addition, A la recherche has served as a critique of certain aspects of Marcel's ethics, especially his notion of creative fidelity. Conversely, the combination of philosophy and literature allowed me to criticize the narrator's lack of openness to other people, and his failure to "will to believe" in the possibility of intersubjectivity.

Chapter Two and Chapter Six in particular showed that the narrator is the Bergsonian artist par excellence, but that his preference of the aesthetic over the ethical prevents him from being fully courageously vulnerable. Sensitive though he may be to individuality and difference, the narrator does not change his actions towards others as a result. He does, however, use his insights to write a book. In terms of Chapter Three, the narrator has an aesthetic sensitivity to vagueness and mystery, but fails to respect the same in his relations to other people.

A person is always a mystery, and this is exactly what the narrator finds very difficult to accept, whether it concerns his relation to his grandmother or his desire to possess Albertine. Chapter Three investigated from a pragmatic perspective the kind of knowledge which I have called felt knowledge, arguing that the truth found in a privileged moment can "make a difference" if, and this issue is further developed in Chapter Five, one is prepared to believe-before-evidence. Chapter Three also prepared the way for the explicitly ethical discussion of these issues in Chapters Four and Six and investigated a certain kind of situation in which mystery and vagueness are absent. This negative approach helped understand the significance of the privileged moment through an exploration of anhedonia, the feeling which marks life in what Marcel calls a "broken world." Chapter Four continued this negative approach, focusing on a "problematic" relationship as one aspect of this broken world. The narrator crystallizes Albertine and seeks to "have" her completely, not only through what Marcel calls l'avoir possession (i.e., the narrator locks her up in his house) but also through l'avoir implication (i.e., the narrator wants to know everything she thinks, does, has done, and wishes to do). Chapter Four thus showed one way in which mystery and vagueness can be lacking in a relationship between two people. The narrator seeks to dispel the mystery with which Albertine as a person presents him, but in reducing her to a set of problems he turns her into a tiresome prisoner.

Chapter Five further developed the idea that there are certain truths, the truth of felt knowledge being one of them, in which one has the right to believe before one has gathered sufficient "objective" evidence. In fact, these truths escape objective evidence and can never be proven in a way that would satisfy the intellectualists criticized by James. To be more precise, we are dealing here with truths which may only come into existence if one believes in them before one can be absolutely certain about them. To use James' language: privileged moments as mystical experiences "break down the authority or the non-mystical or rationalistic consciousness.... They open out the possibility of other orders of truth."' I have argued that by taking seriously this other order of truth, we allow for a "wider world of meanings" and fur- ther approach "the final fullness of the truth." The narrator of A la recherche believes it is his vocation to be a writer, but has no objective evidence that he really has this potential. It is only by committing to his book project that the vocation becomes a reality. Conversely, the narrator does not really believe in the possibility of love and friendship as described by Marcel. As a result, love and friendship are indeed impossible for him.

The notion of courageous vulnerability takes into account the difficulty of being open to the other but also offers an alternative to the narrator's pessimistic outlook. It prescribes an attitude which is difficult to maintain, but possible nevertheless, as long as one has the will to believe. The normative nature of this notion makes it fit in with the tradition of virtue ethics, and the attitude of courageous vulnerability may be regarded as an attitude appropriate to the virtuous person. Furthermore, my project has in common with virtue ethics the emphasis placed on the importance of context: as I pointed out in Chapter Six, courageous vulnerability should be regarded as the appropriate response to something which is not entirely under our control, be it a privileged moment or the presence of another person. I criticized Marcel for demanding that we be creatively faithful to the dead; we can try to be open to them and respect the people they were, but oftentimes we may not be able to feel their presence. As a result, we do not experience anything to which we can be open. Courageous vulnerability thus fits not only with the neo-Aristotelian branch of virtue ethics proposed by Hursthouse, but also with the pluralistic theory developed by Christine Swanton who argues that "a virtue`is defined ... as a disposition to respond to or acknowledge, in an excellent (or good enough) way, items in the field of a virtue (whether those items are people, objects, situations, inner states, or actions)."9 Applied to my argument, this means that courageous vulnerability is a disposition to acknowledge and to respond to privileged moments in whatever way they may come, but especially when they concern people. The narrator of A la recherche, for instance, acknowledges the presence of his grandmother in an involuntary memory, but ultimately fails to respond to this "item in the field of virtue" because he does not change his actions towards the people whom he loves and who are still alive. Again it must be noted that if a virtue is a "disposition of responsiveness to items in the world," these items have to in fact be there, in the world and experienced, if we are to respond to them?' More concretely, one can only gain felt knowledge from a privileged moment and then do something with this knowledge if one experiences a privileged moment first. Swanton's remark that "virtue is a state of appropriate responsiveness to, or acknowledgment of, what I call `the demands of the world— is particularly relevant to my argument because, as I discussed in Chapter One, the narrator experiences his privileged moments as so many appeals to him to uncover what is hidden by a couvercle. The narrator experiences each of these appeals as a moral demand, but in the end he chooses to respond to and act on those appeals which I classified as primarily aesthetic. The appropriate responsiveness to the specifically moral "demands of the world" he experiences in, for instance, the involuntary recollection of his grandmother, is lacking. The narrator is a Bergsonian artist, but he is not a courageously vulnerable person.

In "The Sentiment of Rationality," James remarks that if empiricism will ever be accepted as the ultimate philosophy, existence "will be a brute fact to which as a whole the emotion of ontologic wonder shall rightfully cleave, but remain eternally unsatisfied.... Wonderfulness or mysteriousness will be an essential attribute of the nature of things."' Our privileged moments, I have argued, are one way in which we can experience, with "ontologic wonder," what Marcel calls the mysterious. I have shown how these moments are a part of the "wonderfulness or mysteriousness" of experience, and argued that courageous vulnerability is the appropriate response to these moments.

An Unprecedented Deformation: Marcel Proust and the Sensible Ideas  by Mauro Carbone (SUNY Series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy: State University of New York Press) French novelist Marcel Proust made famous "involuntary memory," a peculiar kind of memory that works whether one is willing or not and that gives a transformed recollection of past experience. More than a century later, the Proustian notion of involuntary memory has not been fully explored nor its implications understood. By providing clarifying examples taken from Proust's novel and by commenting on them using the work of French philosophers Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Gilles Deleuze, Italian philosopher Mauro Carbone interprets involuntary memory as the human faculty providing the involuntary creation of our ideas through the transformation of past experience. This rethinking of the traditional way of conceiving ideas and their genesis as separated from sensible experience--as has been done in Western thought since Plato--allows the author to promote a new theory of knowledge, one which is best exemplified via literature and art much more than philosophy

Excerpt: I propose here to follow to the letter the long and celebrated passage from the final part of the first chapter of Marcel Proust's Recherche: that part which contains what has come to be known under the title: "Resurrection of Combray through involuntary memory" (R 1, 522/1033). Here is the passage on which I would like to focus.

Ilya avait déjà bien des années que, de Combray, tout ce qui n'était pas le theatre et le drame de mon toucher, n'existait plus pour moi, quand un jour d'hiver, comme je rentrais a la maison, ma mere, voyant que j'avais froid, me proposa de me faire prendre, contre mon habitude, un peu de the. Je refusai d'abord et, je ne sais pourquoi, me ravisai. Elle envoya chercher un de ces gâteaux courts et dodus appelés Petites Madeleines qui semblent avoir été moulés dans la valve rainurée d'une coquille de Saint-Jacques. Et bientôt, machinalement, accablé par la morne journée et la perspective d'un triste lendemain, je portai a mes lèvres une cuillerée du the où j'avais laissé s'amollir un morceau de madeleine. Mais a ]'instant même où la gorgée mêlée des miettes du gâteau toucha mon palais, je tressaillis, attentif a ce qui se passait d'extraordinaire en moi. Un plaisir délicieux m'avait envahi, isolé, sans la notion de sa cause. II m'avait aussitôt rendu les vicissitudes de la vie indifférentes, ses désastres inoffensifs, sa brièveté illusoire, de la même façon qu'opère l'amour, en me remplissant d'une essence précieuse : ou plutôt cette essence n'était pas en moi, elle était moi. J'avais cessé de me sentir médiocre, contingent, mortel. D'oùavait pu me venir cette puissante joie ? Je sentais qu'elle était liée an gaité du the et du gâteau, mais qu'elle le dépassait infiniment, ne devait pas être de même nature. D'où venait-elle ? Que signifiaitelle ? Où l'appréhender ? Je bois une seconde gorgée où je ne trouve rien de plus que dans la première, une troisième qui m'apporte un peu moins que la seconde. Il est temps que je m'arrête, la vertu du breuvage semble diminuer. Il est clair que la vérité que je cherche n'est pas en lui, mais en moi. Ill'y a éveillée, mais ne la connait pas, et ne peut que répéter indéfiniment, avec de moins en moins de force, ce même témoignage que je ne sais pas interpréter et que je veux au moins pouvoir lui redemander et retrouver intact, à ma disposition, tout à l'heure, pour un éclaircissement décisif. Je pose la taste et me tourne vers mon esprit. C'est à lui de trouver la vérité. Mais comment ? Grave incertitude, touret les fois que l'esprit se sent &passe par lui-même; quand lui, le chercheur, est tout ensemble le pays obscur oil it doit chercher et où tout son bagage ne lui sera de rien. Chercher ? pas seulement créer. est en face de quelque chose qui n'est pas encore et que seul it peut réaliser, puffs faire entrer dans sa lumière.

Et je recommence à me demander quel pouvait être cet état inconnu, qui n'apportait aucune preuve logique, mais l'évidence de sa félicité, de sa réalité devant laquelle les autres s'évanouissaient. Je veux essayer de le faire réapparaître. Je rétrograde par la pensée au moment où je pris la première cuillerée de the. Je retrouve le même état, sans une clarté nouvelle. Je demande à mon esprit un effort de plus, de ramener encore une fois la sensation qui s'enfuit. Et, pour que rien ne brise Man dont il va tacher de la ressaisir, j'écarte tout obstacle, toute idée étrangère, j'abrite mes oreilles et mon attention contre les bruits de la chambre voisine. Mais sentant mon esprit qui se fatigue sans réussir, je le force au contraire à prendre cette distraction que je lui refusais, à penser autre chose, à se refaire avant une tentative suprême. Puis une deuxième fois, je fais le vide devant lui, je remets en face de lui la saveur encore récente de cette première gorgée et je sens tressaillir en moi quelque chose qui se &place, voudrait s'élever, quelque chose qu'on aurait désancré, à une grande profondeur; je ne sais ce que c'est, mais cela monte lentement ; j'éprouve la résistance et j'entends la rumeur des distances traversées.

Certes, ce qui palpite ainsi au fond de moi, ce doit être l'image, le souvenir visuel, qui, lie à cette saveur, tente de la suivre jusqu'à moi. Mais il se débat trop loin, trop confusément; à peine si je perçois le reflet neutre où se confond l'insaisissable tourbillon des couleurs remuées; mais je ne peux distinguer la forme, lui demander, comme au seul interprète possible, de me traduire le témoignage de sa contemporaine, de son inseparable compagne, la saveur, lui demander de m'apprendre de quelle circonstance particulière, de quelle époque du passe il s'agit.

Arrivera-t-il jusqu'à la surface de ma claire conscience, ce souvenir, l'instant ancien que l'attraction d'un instant identique est venue de si loin solliciter, émouvoir, soulever tout au fond de moi ? Je ne sais. Maintenant je ne sens plus rien, il est arrêté, redescendu peut-être; qui sait s'il remontera jamais de sa nuit ? Dix fois il me faut recommences, me pencher vers lui. Et chaque fois la lâcheté qui nous détourne de toute tâche difficile, de toute œuvre importante, m'a conseillé de laisser cela, de boire mon the en pensant simplement à mes ennuis d'aujourd'hui, à mes désirs de demain qui se laissent remâcher sans peine.

Et tout d'un coup le souvenir m'est apparu.

Many years had elapsed during which nothing of Combray, save what was comprised in the theatre and the drama of my going to bed there, had any existence for me, when one day in winter, on my return home, my mother, seeing that I was cold, offered me some tea, a thing I did not ordinarily take.

I declined at first, and then, for no particular reason, changed my mind. She sent for one of those squat, plump little cakes called "petites madeleines," which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell. And soon, mechanically, dispirited after a dreary day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory—this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me, it was me. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, contingent, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? I sensed that it was connected with the taste of the tea and the cake, hut that it infinitely transcended those savours, could, no, indeed, be of the same nature. Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it?

I drink a second mouthful, in which I find nothing more than in the first, then a third, which gives me rather less than the second. It is time to stop; the potion is losing its magic. It is plain that the truth I am seeking lies not in the cup but in myself. The drink has called it into being, but does not know it, and can only repeat indefinitely, with a progressive diminution of strength, the same message which I cannot interpret, though I hope at least to be able to call it forth again and to find it there presently, intact and at my disposal, for my final enlightenment. I put down the cup and examine my own mind. It alone can discover the truth. But how: What an abyss of uncertainty, whenever the mind feels overtaken by itself; when it, the seeker, is at the same time the dark region through which it must go seeking an where all its equipment will avail it nothing. Seek? More than that: create. It is face to face with something which does not yet exist, to which it alone can give reality and substance, which it alone can bring into the light of day.

And I begin to ask myself what it could have been, this unremembered state which brought with it no logical proof, hut the indisputable evidence, of its felicity, its reality, and in whose presence other states of consciousness melted and vanished. I decide to attempt to make it reappear. I retrace my thoughts to the moment at which I drank the first spoonful of tea. I rediscover the same state, illuminated by no fresh light. I ask my mind to make one further effort, to bring back once more the fleeting sensation. And so that nothing may interrupt it in its course I shut out every obstacle, every extraneous idea, I stop my ears and inhibit all attention against the sound from the next room. And then, feeling that my mind is tiring itself without having any success to report, I compel it for a change to enjoy the distraction which I have just denied it, to think of other things, to rest and refresh itself before making a final effort. And then for the second time I clear an empty space in front of it; I place in position before my mind's eye the still recent taste of that first mouthful, and I feel something start within me, something that leaves its resting-place and attempts to rise, something that has been embedded like an anchor at a great depth; I do not know yet what it is, but I can feel it mounting slowly; I can measure the resistance, I can hear the echo of great spaces traversed.

Undoubtedly what is thus palpitating in the depths of my being must be the image, the visual memory which, being linked to that taste, is trying to follow it into my conscious mind. But its struggles are too far off, too confused and chaotic; scarcely can I perceive the neutral glow into which the elusive whirling medley of stirred-up colours is fused, and I cannot distinguish its form, cannot invite it, as the one possible interpreter, to translate for me the evidence of its contemporary, its inseparable paramour, the taste, cannot ask it to inform me what special circumstance is in question, from what period in my past life.

Will it ultimately reach the clear surface of my consciousness, this memory, this old, dead moment which the magnetism of an identical moment has travelled so far to importune, to disturb, to raise up out of the very depths of my being? I cannot tell. Now I feel nothing; it has stopped, has perhaps sunk back into its darkness, from which who can say whether it will ever rise again? Ten times over I must essay the task, must lean down over the abyss. And each time the cowardice that deters us from every difficult task, every important enterprise, has urged me to leave the thing alone, to drink my tea and to think merely of the worries of to-day and my hopes for tomorrow, which can be brooded over painlessly.

And suddenly the memory revealed itself. (R 1,44-46/48-50)

I would like to develop my textual analysis of these pages from a philosophical point of view. As I have said, the above pages have been traditionally designated as those which detail the discovery of involuntary memory. On the other hand, we can assert that they first of all describe an experience of eidetic intuition: the experience by which the protagonist of the Recherche tastes again the "essence" of the village where he spent his childhood holidays, an experience that furnishes him with the idea of this village, i.e., offering him, as Gilles Deleuze writes, It] he in-itself of Combray" (DR, 115/85; see also PS, 70-76/61). Along with Deleuze, we could define this essence as mythical (DR, 119/88), not only sought but created, as Proust's Narrator himself admits, as well as being retrojected into "a past which was never present" (ibid., 115/85), into "the pure past of the Ideas" (ibid., 119/88). Yet the absence of all "logical proof," in the feeling of the "all-powerful joy" that accompanies the intuition of that idea, certainly does not amount to denying "the indisputable evidence of its felicity, its reality, and in whose presence other states of consciousness melted and vanished:' Indeed, the mythical essence intuited here was not simply, as the Narrator informs us, "in me" but "was me?'

It is well known that, since the time of his own studies, Marcel Proust had been interested in the theories (particularly the aesthetic ones) of Arthur Schopenhauer,' whose influence on Proust has been stressed by several commentators, and is, in my opinion, overestimated by many of them. It remains true that the third book of The World as Will and Representation—the one devoted to an analysis of the arts and significantly entitled: "The Representation Independent of the Principle of Sufficient Reason. The Platonic Idea: The Object of Art"—contains a section which focuses on eidetic intuition and which is important for us to consider here, namely, section thirty-four.

Similarly to the essence of Combray, which the Proustian Narrator felt as being one and the same with his own essence, in this section Schopenhauer observes: "When the Idea appears, subject and object can no longer be distinguished in it, because the Idea . . . ] arises only when subject and object reciprocally fill and penetrate each other completely."' Therefore, according to another passage from the same section, in eidetic intuition,

[w]e lose ourselves entirely in this object, ... ] we forget our individuality, our will, and continue to exist only as pure subject, as clear mirror of the object, so that it is as though the object alone existed without anyone to perceive it, and thus we are not able to separate the perceiver from the perception, but the two have become one, since the entire consciousness is filled and occupied by a single image of perception.'

In other words, eidetic intuition brings about the suspension of my individuality—and thus, Schopenhauer underlines, "of all relation to the will"—granting an experience of indistinctness from the object, which is thus raised to its own eidos, and is offered to the contemplation that I am allowed to have, since I am, in turn, raised to the state of a "pure subject of knowing."

Likewise, the Proustian Narrator experiences that the essence of Combray, which is one and the same with his own, exceeds his feeling of being "mediocre, contingent, mortar i.e., precisely, his individuality. However, far from raising it, in a Platonistic way, to the state of a "subject of pure knowing," the intuition of such an essence is that of the Narrator himself—Proust specifies—as "the dark region through which [he] must go seeking and where all [his] equipment will avail [him] nothing?' In other words, the essence that is myself opacifies my being a subject,' as Proust indicates, highlighting, with respect to Schopenhauer, an anti-Platonistic turn in his description of eidetic intuition.

However, let us dwell further on this description. It is a description, as we read, of an instantaneous and extraordinary experience, in a certain manner violent. Schopenhauer himself affirms, in his turn, that "the transition that is possible, but to be regarded only as an exception, from the common knowledge of particular things to knowledge of the Idea takes place suddenly [plötzlich]."

Based on the Proustian description, we could define the experience in which an eidetic intuition is given to us as the experience of shock, a term that, as is well known, was first used by Walter Benjamin in connection with Proust.9 However, let us once again attentively read the most significant passage from the Proustian description:

No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin.

This passage enables us to specify that the shock in question is to he qualified, with Erwin Straus and Henri Maldiney, as an aesthetic-pathetic shock,  since it occurs by means of an encounter with the sensible ("the warm liquid ... touched my palate"), which is never given without its own affective-tonality ("an exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses"), as Husserl's phenomenology had already pointed out."

The aesthetic-pathetic shock described by Proust breaks with the obviousness of the habitual comportment, which he characterizes with the expression "mechanically [machinalement]": this is the obviousness that Husserl classifies as "the natural attitude" and which, he explains, leads us to consider the world as "there for me," as "on hand [vorhanden]," "as a world existing beforehand" which is endowed with objective properties." On the one hand, we can thus affirm that the eidetic intuition described by Proust occurs as an aesthetic-pathetic shock, which reveals its particular epochalizing merit, the one already suggested by Schopenhauer On the other hand, one must keep in mind that such a merit renders necessary the confrontation of the Proustian description with the formulation given to the epoché by Husserl himself, and before him by Descartes.

In order to problematize the "natural attitude" toward the world, it is well known that Husserl proposes to perform what he defines as a "phenomenological epoché," which he explicitly connects to Descartes' "attempt to doubt universally." In fact, Husserl refers to Descartes' Third Meditation, which starts as follows:

I will now shut my eyes, stop my ears, and withdraw all my senses. I will eliminate from my thoughts all images of bodily things, or rather, since this is hardly possible, I will regard all such images as vacuous, false and worthless. I will converse with myself and scrutinize myself more deeply; and in this way I will attempt to achieve, little by little, a more intimate knowledge of myself.

Descartes' above statement seems to be echoed in a part of the passage from the Recherche that we have been considering, viz. in the description of the repeated efforts on the part of the Narrator to provide "an explanation" of the meaning of the aesthetic-pathetic shock (moreover, it should be noted that the original French term for "explanation," referring importantly to Cartesian clarity, is "éclaircissement," usually translated into English as "enlightenment," whose roots appear once more in the same passage).

The Narrator's first attempts had at least enabled him to overcome the "stock notions" of "objectivism" (PS, 37/27) in virtue of which one tends to attribute to the object the meaning that blossomed in the encounter with it; a prejudice that characterizes what Husserl calls "the natural attitude!' Yet here one must be careful: what had led the Narrator to this conclusion was not the success of these efforts, but rather, as he inferred, their failure: " . . . the potion is losing its magic. It is plain that the truth I am seeking lies not in the cup but in myself" And, as he repeats on several occasions, his efforts had enabled him only to "rediscover the same state, illuminated by no fresh light [clarté]"

At this point, he then decides that such an attempt should make a qualitative leap: "I ask my mind [esprit] to make one further effort" And it is precisely at this point—in which it is a question of underlining this qualitative leap—that the sentence of Descartes, which we have previously referred to, finds its own echo in Proust, produced not only from the analogies between the described situations, but also by some lexical occurrences. In fact, Proust writes: "And so that nothing may interrupt it [i.e., "the fleeting sensation"] in its course I shut out every obstacle, every extraneous idea, I stop my ears and inhibit all attention against the sound from the next room."

Moreover, it is important to remember that the attempt reported by Descartes in the previously quoted sentence is followed by a statement which is decisive for the history of the Western thought, namely, "I am a thing that thinks!'" On the other hand, the Proustian Narrator's attempt does not bear any fruit: "my mind [esprit] is tiring itself without having any success to report" Hence, it could be said that Proust wanted to re-echo the Cartesian operation in order to refute explicitly its efficacy. Immediately after, however, the Narrator introduces a new attempt to carry out this operation, announcing: "for the second time I clear an empty space in front of it [my mind]." Yet Proust himself had already observed in the "Introduction" to his translation of The Bible of Amiens by John Ruskin, " ... the sophism of freedom of indifference was picked apart long ago. The writer who constantly creates a void in his mind, thinking to free it from any external influence in order to be sure of remaining individual, yields unwittingly to a sophism just as naïve."

Needless to say, then, that the Proustian Narrator's second attempt is also doomed to failure, just like the successive ones, "Wen times over I must essay the task, must lean down over the abyss. And each time the cowardice that deters us from every difficult task, every important enterprise, has urged me to leave the thing alone, to drink my tea and to think merely of the worries of today and my hopes for to-morrow, which can be brooded over painlessly"

Yet still the Narrator finally announces, "[a]nd suddenly the memory revealed itself" without Proust having stressed any connection with the efforts to which the Narrator had subjected himself. Hence, it is precisely when the Narrator gives up activating his own attempts that his memory, finally, appears.

In any event, it is not only the different consequences of the attempts by the two protagonists which distinguish the Proustian description from that of Descartes'. Taking up the subtle considerations of Giles Deleuze again, we can affirm that these efforts also differ, and especially so, with regard to their respective motivations. For Descartes, it is "to achieve, little by little, a more intimate knowledge of myself," while for the Proustian Narrator it is the "fundamental encounter" with "something in the world [which] forces us to think," as Deleuze puts it, clearly re-echoing section forty-nine of the Critique of Judgment (DR, 182/139; see also PS, 25, 122/16, 100).'9

It is in Proust's formulation, then, that Deleuze sees traced "an image of thought in opposition to that of philosophy . . . philosophy of the rationalist type" (PS, 115/94) and aims at those presuppositions which nourish the formulation impressed on the issue of the epoché by both Descartes and Husserl. Such presuppositions—Deleuze explains—consist in attributing to men "a benevolence of thought, a natural love of truth" (ibid., 24/16), i.e., a spontaneously philosophical tendency. As Deleuze maintains, it is precisely on such presuppositions that the method of the philosophy in question is based. According to this philosophy—in his opinion—"from a certain viewpoint, the search for truth would be the most natural and the easiest; the decision to undertake it and the possession of a method capable of overcoming the external influences that distract the mind from its vocation and cause it to take the false for the true ..." (ibid., 115-116/94).

On the other hand, we saw that the Proustian Narrator acknowledges feeling willingly ready to surrender to the "cowardice" which urges him "to leave the thing alone, to drink my tea and to think merely of the worries of to-day and my hopes for to-morrow, which can be brooded over painlessly." Or, to take up a term suggested by Deleuze once more, Proust describes the spontaneous human tendency toward "misosophy" (DR, 182/139), a tendency from which only the "fundamental encounter" with "something [which] forces us to think" can distract us.

Looking at it more closely, it is precisely such an encounter, which produces what I have defined, recalling Benjamin, as an aesthetic-pathetic shock (ibid.). Retrieving the observations of Schopenhauer quoted at the beginning—and in particular that according to which the subject (the perceiver) and the object (the perceived) prove to be inseparable from one another in the eidetic intuition—it seems possible to maintain that the aesthetic-pathetic shock, by producing amazement in our encounter with the sensible, causes the dispossession of the reciprocal distinction between the active and passive poles of perception, i.e., it suspends both habit and will.

If this aesthetic-pathetic shock recovers the epochalizing merit, this merit does not consist in a suspension of the sensible perspective of the doxa in the name of a spiritual or intellectual perspective, which could be deemed truer, but in a suspension of the obviousness of the sensible perspective in the sensible itself, so that in it the vision of the essences can be given. Put otherwise, by doing so the sensible is traversed by an eidetic intuition, which is one and the same with this suspension. In fact, as Proust taught us and as Deleuze underlines, "the essences dwell in dark regions, not in the temperate zones of the clear and the distinct" (PS, 122/100).

As far as Husserl is concerned, he certainly does not seem to understand the epoché—I refer here to the epoché of the surrounding world, i.e., to the transcendental epoché—in a spiritualistic sense. Nevertheless, Husserl tends to characterize the epoché performed with respect to our "natural attitude;' in strongly subjective terms, as an "unnatural, voluntary attitude,"" rather than proceeding to examine what can suspend both habit and will. However, if it is deemed that "the disinterested spectator, 'reduced' in the epoché, [is] a metaphysical fiction, no less than the panoramic spectator in the name of which science claimed to speak about the world itself and its laws,' then it is necessary to take seriously Merleau-Ponty's invitation to think to the end "the passivity of our activity" (VI, 274/221).

The present work tries to respond to this invitation in a direction opened up by Merleau-Ponty himself. As is well known, the pages devoted to the Recherche that interrupt The Visible and the Invisible begin with the assertion that, "InIo one has gone further than Proust in fixing the relations between the visible and the invisible, in describing an idea that is not the contrary of the sensible, that is its lining and its depth" (VI, 195/149). In other words, MerleauPonty attributes to Proust a characterization of the ideas that—like the one of love incarnated in the petite phrase of Vinteuil—appear to be inseparable from their sensible presentation and, therefore, differently from the "ideas of the intelligence:' are impossible to isolate as positive entities that can be actively grasped. This is why Merleau -Ponty interprets this Proustian characterization in a substantially anti-Platonistic sense, as he had done previously, again in the notes on the Recherche prepared for the course of 1960-61, under the title "Cartesian Ontology and the Ontology of Today" (NC, 191-198)23: notes which are fundamental insofar as they trace the developments that the pages devoted to the same argument in The Visible and the Invisible would have followed, had it not been for his sudden death.

In the constant attention that Merleau-Ponty devotes to Proust, here is the principal motive that guides his reflection in the later phase of his work: with respect to an appropriate philosophical formulation of the "mutated" relationship with ourselves, with others, with things, with the world—ultimately a mutated relationship with Being—which Merleau-Ponty sees at work in our epoch, a different description of the relationship between the sensible and the intelligible becomes decisive, i.e., a new theory of ideas. According to Merleau-Ponty, it was Proust, more than any other, who pushed in such a direction.

It is well known that Deleuze, just like Merleau-Ponty, found in the Recherche a constant point of reference for his own philosophical reflections. However, it should also be stressed that Deleuze's own book on Proust and, even before that, the article which preceded it in Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale, were published a few years after the course of 1960-61 in which Merleau-Ponty's reflections on the Recherche had been widely developed. So, if one considers that the Proustian conception of the idea—or "essence"—occupies in its turn a crucial position in Deleuze's book, it becomes easy to understand why, in the present book, the chapter that examines Merleau-Ponty's most extreme attempts to retrieve a thought of the sensible idea in the work of Proust is followed by a chapter that both compares and puts in dialogue these reflections with those given by Deleuze on the same themes, in order to seek possible ways of developing them.

Yet, in order to investigate such ways, another direction is no less important, namely, that which Deleuze starts off with while measuring himself against the Platonic concept of eidos—of "form," idea or essence—in his attempt to focus on the task of "reversing Platonism," a task which Nietzsche has bequeathed to the thought of our time. Hence, it is first of all Deleuze's programmatic text, originally entitled Renverser le platonisme (LS, 292-324/253-279), to which we will make further reference. In light of this text, the idea which for Proust is inseparable from its own manifestations is specified as "form" which is not given first, but together with its own sensible deformations: the only ones which can offer us a presentation, albeit indirect, of that idea. In its turn, the form so conceived forces us to reconsider, in the same direction, the meaning of resemblance and recognition, which no longer find, in a preliminary model, the reference on which to found themselves. By exploring the "mystery" of a recognition without resemblance, also in this case Proust also appears to have gone very far. Yet to explore this mystery means, in other words, to wonder about the question of knowing how it is possible to recognize what one did not know. Hence, the ancient problem of Plato's Meno returns with the questions it raises with regard to the genesis of the idea—i.e., of the transformation of the particular into the universal—and to the role that memory plays in this genesis, the configuration of this memory, as well as the particular nature of the time in which the ideas appear to live.

Consequently, based on the Proustian conception of the sensible idea, this present work endeavors to measure itself against such questions via a twofold confrontation. On the one hand, we intend to compare the thought of MerleauPonty with Freudian psychoanalysis, and especially with some of his reflections on fetishism, while on the other, we intend to compare the philosophy of Deleuze with the conception of memory elaborated by the early Greeks: such confrontations, like the two sides of the Recherche, end up revealing their intimate convergence.

The first allows us to place the accent on the "primordial symbolism" that transforms the sensible particular into a universal from which it is inseparable, thanks to the dynamics of anticipation and retrieval that reveals the passing, in our existence, of a circular temporality: a temporality in which there seems to echo the "mythical time" recounted by the early Greeks.

Precisely in the light of such myths, the second confrontation allows us to clarify the work of that memory, which is specifically exercised in the dynamics of the anticipation and retrieval in which the sensible idea originates. Here we are dealing with the work of involuntary memory which is anticipated in the passage of the Recherche quoted at the outset: a passive operation—and therefore inseparable from the action of memory's oblivion—but at the same time an operation which the Proustian Narrator defined, while correcting himself significantly: "Seek? More than that: create:"

Hence, the anti-Platonic characterization of the ideas, which Merleau Polity finds in Proust, combines with the anti-Platonic conception of recollec tion that Deleuze sees in the author of Recherche, and in doing so, it offers to the thought and art of the twentieth century a mirror in which to reflect itself.




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