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  • A Measure of Philosophical Distance
  • Bhrigupati Singh (bio)

How is conceptual foreignness received within an existing territory? I am grateful to my respondents for receiving my invocation of foreignness from phenomenological psychopathology not as a question of culture or nationality but rather, in terms of philosophical distance. As I ask in the article: how do we measure philosophical distance? Rather than complete agreement, or assimilation, or estrangement, perhaps distance is best calibrated through the small events of thought–understandings, misunderstandings, and clarifications, that punctuate even the most thoughtful and hospitable reception, as I have been fortunate to receive from our respondents. In my brief response, I will focus on some of these smaller events and crossings, in the hope of further specifying what Cavell’s philosophical corpus might offer to the study of schizophrenic experience and psychic life.

As a foreigner enters a territory, they may carry seeds to re-plot a local antagonism. Van Duppen and Feyaerts point to one such antagonism within phenomenological psychopathology, between the “ipseity disturbance model” (the idea that schizophrenia is essentially a disorder of the “minimal self”), as against approaches that suggest “whether the inter-subjective dimension would instead be a vital or ‘core’ aspect of psychotic disorders.” Van Duppen and Feyaerts find my article favorably weighted to one end of this antagonism, namely how there are “different reasons to consider the social dimension as essential to the phenomenology of psychosis.” Agreeable as this sounds to anthropological ears, I want to re-emphasize a different, prior problem that I suggest in my article, namely that with Cavell it is not a question of the subjectivity of one versus the inter-subjectivity of two or more. Rather, more radically, the difference between “intra” and “inter” subjectivity is not as commonsensical as it seems, even in “normal” consciousness, leaving aside for the moment schizophrenic pathologies and auditory hallucinations.

This is not to say that the difference between one and many, and between “intra” and “inter” subjectivity is entirely dissolved. Rather, in Cavell’s unorthodox rendering of the history of reason and unreason, the modern “advent” of the investigation of skeptical doubt begins not with Descartes but with Shakespeare. Within Cavell’s counter-history of philosophy that moves through different forms of comedy and tragedy and poetry and film, the deepest “core” of the “intra” subjective may be vulnerable to and composed and undone or remade in relation to particular others. What if we were to re-plot the “social” versus “ipseity” as a misleading distinction, what concepts then, would we move towards? One way to rename the issue may be of “linking,” even to oneself. As such, many of the concepts of this article, pitch, tone, [End Page 285] intensity, and so on, are signposts, as much to the study of the “intra” (e.g., in studying the ebb and flow of “ruminations” and “mood alterations”, as with Shyam), as they are to “inter” subjectivity.

In this vein, Van Duppen and Feyaerts rightly invoke Wilfred Bion’s “Attacks on Linking,” which may indeed be one among other possible resources for further thought in reconfiguring the intra/inter distinction, as with Bion’s invocation of the primitive breast or penis as the “prototype for all links” (1955, p. 125) that may compose or inform even the “minimal” self. Having marked this resonance, I also want to flag a different intuition of distance, leaving it open for future measurement. The ethnographic and literary instances I take up in this article are each also interpretable in psychoanalytic terms, as “Oedipal” (Vishal and Rekha), as expressing a “murderous superego” (Shyam and his upper caste neighbors), and as repetition compulsions (Mark and Karin). Guided by Cavell, I do not interpret them as such. Cavell offers an “anti-Oedipus” (in ways distinct from Deleuze and Guattari), namely, a proximity to, and sharp difference from psychoanalytic terms of interpretation, in ways yet to be explored. To reduce these current and future directions and antagonisms of thought to only the “social” dimension of schizophrenia would be to have banished the foreignness of the foreigner, much to our own loss.

In what other ways might foreignness be received? After a generous opening summary of...


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pp. 285-287
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