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60 5 On the Post-Metaphysics of Painting Raphael at the Limit Michael Schwartz In paintings themselves we could seek a figured philosophy—its iconography perhaps. —Merleau-Ponty, Eye and Mind This chapter explicates John Sallis’s post-metaphysical articulation of the constitution of the determinate thing, as this project is developed most decisively in Force of Imagination (2000). It proceeds to clarify the status of art within this philosophical re-visioning, drawing especially on the last chapter of that book, “Poetic Imagination,” as well as the more recentTransfigurements (2008). Highlighting Sallis’s original and compelling philosophy of art, which is woven with his singular enactments of philosophical art criticism, I build upon his insights in several directions. First, I call attention to artworks, as explored in the writings of Fredric Jameson, which have a utopian moment in configuring the sense of a social system. Second, I call for the importance of a mode of history-asgenealogy in the study of art “media” (what Sallis calls “matrices”) that uncovers contingent presuppositions about art which otherwise (and regularly) function in philosophical criticism as unquestioned guiding and general concepts. Third, I briefly explore the elemental constitution of post-medieval Western painting to renew inquiry into that matrix lineage. Finally, I advocate our paying attention to the differing horizons in which historical works of art were initially embedded, demonstrating that seemingly art historical rather than philosophical concerns can empower philosophical criticism—here with regard to a noteworthy pre- 61 O N T H E P O S T - M E T A P H Y S I C S O F P A I N T I N G modern painting, an early altarpiece by Raphael, a work of art that opens a sense of the Trinity that twists free of any purported metaphysics of presence or onto-theology of God. Philosophy at the Limit Sallis exercises philosophy at the limit, philosophy on the verge of overcoming its own metaphysical legacy of the sensible-intelligible binary and the unmediated presence of the intelligible within that scheme.1 Even as one can never step out of the philosophical tradition, which has always already begun, one can enact another beginning. In part this other beginning is to be disclosed from the margins of the tradition, the unread of major philosophical texts, what Sallis earlier called “archaic reflection .”2 Rather than an endless performance of destruction/deconstruction , Sallis enacts a twisting free within the wake of metaphysics such that we can speak of his philosophy as an exemplary instance of “postmetaphysical ” thought3 —even as this activating of another beginning is never complete, tradition always already under way, the renewal of philosophy always at the limit, on the verge. Self-Showing of the Thing Itself Sallis’s most sustained and extensive book-length effort at forwarding a post-metaphysical project is Force of Imagination: The Sense of the Elemental . The study is a rigorous and eloquent reenvisioning of phenomenology . The sensible is no longer a mere appearance, echo, or transparent (hence inessential) medium for the shining through of the intelligible; nor is it, in a simple reversal, that which replaces the intelligible in priority . The sensible is cast in a field of sense that twists free of the sensibleintelligible binary in allowing the very terms of the intelligible to fall away. How then might things as partaking of the sensible make any kind of determinate sense? Things show themselves, but never alone, always within a field of emergence, and never exhaustively, always with the sense of an abysmal reserve. In momentary glimpses, without formal-methodological enactment , the thingness of the thing can become suspended in light of the sensible image—the image per se. Image (as Sallis’s analyses stress sight) is not a quasi-thing but the upsurge of presence, having a locus 62 M I C H A E L S C H W A R T Z or hereness that is prior to definitive time and space. The image is also duplicitous, belonging at once to the perceiver and to the perceived, in-different to both; taking on determination as a thing that shows itself only with the opening of speech, the presence of the image exceeded through the gathering force of logos (and at no point needing to make appeal to an εἶδος as proper to the classical metaphysical scheme). As the opening of speech exceeds the presence of the image, the image resists being carried over into something said, an untranslatability of the...


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