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Philosophy and Rhetoric 33.1 (2000) 96-99

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Book Review

The Long Path to Nearness: A Contribution to a Corporeal Philosophy of Communication and the Groundwork for an Ethics of Relief

The Long Path to Nearness: A Contribution to a Corporeal Philosophy of Communication and the Groundwork for an Ethics of Relief. Ramsey Eric Ramsey. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1998. Pp. xiv + 145. $49.95, cloth.

The cryptic title of Ramsey Eric Ramsey's new text creates a very useful metaphor that runs, as a long, sometimes winding, path through the wooded grounds of philosophy, communication, and ethics. The distance of the journey to corporeal communication and an ethics of relief is long in the sense that the journey requires most readers to shed some perceptual baggage as payment for passage. An example of such baggage shedding is Ramsey's effort to "re-call" communication. A valuable section of his work, it elicits an interesting new metaphorical perception of that which we take for granted.

The premise that Ramsey works under is an acknowledged one of a critical existential Marxist who is influenced by Martin Heidegger. The additional [End Page 96] frame of this project is Calvin O. Schrag's 1987 book Communication Praxis and the Space of Subjectivity; indeed, Ramsey posits this work as a "building upon" Schrag's contribution. Certainly, in the use and understanding of communicative praxis, Ramsey does extend the work of Schrag. But there is more to Ramsey than new chapters in a story told earlier.

Ramsey presents two arguments, along with well-sculpted, carefully detailed supporting premises that make the unfolding an enjoyable process. The issues of The Long Path to Nearness are (1) the neglected body in communication theory, which represents the inescapable contact point with the natural world, and (2) liberation ethics, explicated from an understanding of the absoluteness of uncertainty and the implications of responsibility. The arguments are fashioned around a Heideggerian "being-in-the-world" consciousness, one that, in its essence would presuppose both the body and the other as pretheoretical. Ramsey takes another approach, however, and avoids the transcendental while arguing, in a later context, for the transcendent.

The long path begins with a phenomenological explication of the corporeal body, with a frequent and consistent implication of praxis as a sort of journey signpost (50 miles to Dallas . . . then 40 miles to Dallas, etc.) reminding the reader that practice is essential to the understanding of communication corporeality. In "re-calling" communication, Ramsey defines communication as a dynamic practice that offers possibility, possibility shaped by the binary of active and passive moments. For Ramsey's project, the passive moment is that which represents the material world and the inescapable Dasein that implies the body. Ramsey does not argue for an intercorporeality, choosing instead to imply the concept with a "being-in-the-world-with-other" perspective in the context of the corporeality argument. The active moment is the moment of subjectivity, which represents the consciousness of intentionality. Given Heidegger's definition of logos as "speaking" and Ramsey's professed phenomenological perspective (a study of being as opposed to knowing), possibility for Ramsey represents communication as "being-in-the-world-speaking" through a consciousness of intentionality and a material body presence. This presence in the world is practiced, negotiated, and experienced through communication.

Ramsey's argument of possibility is an intricate exploration of the potentiality of horizons that are open-ended, endlessly challenging, and inviting potentiality for an ethics of liberation. Ramsey's explication of possibilities is one of the significant offerings of this effort, and is worth examination on the basis of its nuances and constructions.

The overall argument for corporeality will be largely familiar to a European audience immersed in the body politic. This is not to say that the [End Page 97] effort does not offer new and inviting understandings, but rather to suggest that the premises of Ramsey's work best relate to those of continental thought regarding body presence. For those who...


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