Bernhard Waldenfels: Responsivity and Tele-absence

Two things regarding the contemporary German phenomenologist, Bernhard Waldenfels (pictured, right, with his wife Christine on his way to a Merleau-Ponty seminar in 1961):

  1. I’ve tracked down a hard-to-find piece by Waldenfels in which he explains one of the main points of his phenomenology, a change in focus “from Intentionality to responsivity” (also the title of the article):
  2. A wonderful paragraph discussing “tele-absence” from Waldenfels’ 2009 book, Displacements of place and time: Modes of embodied experience (Ortsverscheibungen, Zeitverscheibungen: Modi leibhafter Erfahrung). I recently came across this passage and felt I had to translate it:

What would a medium capable of mediating the immediate look like? …The problem, actually, does not lie in telepresence, which elevates our own possibilities to the level where distance is abolished; but in tele-absence, which withdraws from its own access. The withdrawal of the alien, which is also entrenched in our perception, strikes me with more force than the resistance of the alien, which is something I can defend myself against. With the latter, it is only a question of possessing greater or lesser force. But this is not the case for withdrawal, which is like a shadow that cannot be grasped. Every attempt at access dispels it rather than bringing it closer, just as Orpheus forces Eurydice into renewed death and absence through the power of his glance. Resistance can awaken its own energies, but withdrawal exceeds my own possibilities in that it transforms them into lived impossibilities… All technical artifice runs up against an inner border: If the alien were there, it would not be what it is. Even a video camera, which not only registers our voice and breathing, but even the lifting of the eyelids or the creasing in one’s  brow, would fail when it comes to the glance that is more than something that is seen [or recorded], or to the voice that is more than something that is heard [or taped] –because voice and glance disrupt, incite, interrupt. Here technical media run up against the limit of representability, without being able to represent this limit themselves … (pp. 110-111)


This entry was posted in Bernhard Waldenfels, Phenomenology, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.