Just going through my email and I realized just how really bizarre most of my correspondance is! So, here is what I discuss with my friend "Bob" (not his real name, of course).
Rufus: A question has occurred to me when thinking about my own project, but I think it applies to yours as well: What do you take to be the ontological status of a possible world?
Bob: A light question to start the morning! First, I think that any ontology of a possible world would always have to be in process. Second, i tend to follow the Heideggerian path through this, that there is always being with your self as a condition of existence and being in the world. Jean Luc Nancy has been helpful on this- Being Singular Plural. I also subscribe to the never quite unfolding idea from Heidegger. That is the idea that we are never fully open to ourselves as unmediated being. I think this idea helps because it both closes off problematic ideas of "oneness" and opens up possibilites as the self relates to the world. These are tricky questions however and I don't feel very qualified to write about this sort of thing outside of history circles. More work is needed perhaps. How would you feel about a close reading of Being and Time over the summer? We would could read a small chunk each week and then just keep a running commentary over email. Thanks for making me think so early
Rufus: Okay, that's an interesting take on it. The topic came up because I was wondering how Said would deal with the question, and actually feeling like he didn't handle it very well. He states at a few places that he doesn't feel that there is a "real Orient", which is fine, but then why should we have a problem with Orientalism? With utopias, or Romantic ontologies, the problem becomes what relationship the possible world has with the "real world". And if we see ourselves as always living in a sort of possible future anyway, it seems very hard to tell what makes this possible future ontologically different from a "utopian" future. So, it's all dreadfully confusing. The difficulty with history is that, even though we talk about interdisciplinarity all the time, when you get to what seem like obvious "literary" or "philosophical" questions, people always ask "Yes, but what does this have to do with history?" It would be fun to read Being and Time! I've tried it before and suffered greatly, but I don't think it's impossible. Remind me when the summer comes.
Bob: Yeah, I guess I will need to take another look at Said on this. The distinction between possible and utopian futures is confusing. In Jacoby's book he makes two distinctions between iconoclastic utopian thinking and blueprint utopian thinking. The latter more likely to end in totalitarian nightmares and the former more likely to creatively inform more mainstream thinking. I guess all thinking contains at least a degree of utopianism. So maybe it is a question of degrees, but again this is very speculative.As for Said stating there is no real Orient- I guess he opposes the orientalism of the constructed orient. But if I see your point- then how could you respond to something that is not real. I think Said and others get around this by confronting the orient as "real" anyway. They take orientalism as something that has its own ontology in the world and needs to be counteracted. But then again this brings in the question of what is an authentic ontology in these situations and does utopianism simply cloud the issue.I'll stop here but yeah after the semseter and the exams we should get to Heidegger and I will reread Said.History is provincial but I think people get frightened of actually reading texts that might be difficult. Let's face it most history monographs, although interesting, are not that complex. I think as long as you can adequately historicize these issues then you cna argue against the critics. Sounds like you've been having fun with the Phil. class.Will you be around tomorrow for lunch?
Me: So, as you can see, we're insufferable! Ack! What can I say? Grad school ruins you, I say! RUINS!