The following chapter investigates the extent to which not only linguistic acts, but embodied experience and action itself must be accounted for as “performative.” In doing so, I will take Judith Butler’s account of performativity as a starting point and complement it with a phenomenological account of embodied experience. I will critically engage with the problem of how norms “work upon bodies” and how bodies themselves “work on” these norms to change and even create new ones. I will argue that the need for repetition and iteration of norms, which is at the heart of Butler’s account of performativity, presupposes bodily subjects who do the repeating, i.e. enact those very norms that act upon them. In this respect, bodily performativity has a “dual dimension:” it preserves and stabilizes prevailing social norms, plus, it changes these norms through their enactment. Therefore, we give norms a reality by enacting them, but also have the possibility to transcend them.
This chapter discusses the relation between performing and expressing. It takes Judith Butler’s early critique to philosophies of expression as a point of departure in order to investigate whether (i) every philosophy of expression presupposes a substantial and transparent subject and (ii) expression can or cannot be the source of transformation. A closer discussion of the roots of performative theories in ordinary-language philosophy and in cultural anthropology shows that the inquiry into linguistic and more generally social performatives does not rule out expressiveness. Conversely, a phenomenological discussion of expression, mostly inspired by Maurice Merleau-Ponty, allows us to reject the assumption that expression presupposes a substantial and transparent subject and to shed light on the transformative implications of expression. This comparative investigation is not aimed at neglecting the distinction between performing and expressing, but rather at indicating their complementarity.
This chapter seeks to explore the possibility of a new phenomenological understanding of what the “presentation of self in everyday life” (Goffmann, 1959) has become since we have entered the era of new media and digital culture. I am interested in exploring a particular form of performativity, namely digital performativity, and more precisely its transformations within the context of so-called “extended selves:” here, digital performativity mostly involves the ways we act ourselves out along with our (real as well as digital) identities and, therefore, the ways we construct our selves by means of digital artefacts (in this sense I speak of digital processes of subjectification). I will try to outline the features of “digital extended selves” and to suggest a phenomenological framework that could be useful in order to further investigate the notion of digital performativity.
This investigation is guided by the ethical commitment to the subject’s singularity as irreducible. Conceived of as such, the subject’s singularity is immune to the reduction to the transcendental ego. Yet, it will be argued that phenomenology can provide a relevant method to investigate specifically the irreducibly singular subject: this tool is the epoché disjoined from the reduction and extracted out of the transcendental framework. Here, the epoché ought to be understood as a performance of the subject, in the objective rather than subjective sense of the genitive: the subject is performed by practicing the epoché. This specific epoché is an act of resistance against any reduction, and it thereby performs a subject who suspends the alleged adequacy of the world to the immanence of his self-presence. This suspension thus ruptures any homogeneous self-sufficiency, thereby opening a heterogeneous space where an irreducibly singular subject surges as he encounters another irreducibly singular subject. It will be argued that this specific encounter is precisely what psychoanalysis practices: an address of one to another thanks to which I am singular for you who is singular for me.
The aim of this chapter is to provide an initial outline for a theory of phenomenological reading. Mostly, phenomenology today seems to come about through the reading of texts of the phenomenological tradition more than through a genuine looking at the “things themselves.” In this chapter I argue that this is not germane to phenomenology, if we can develop a genuine theory of phenomenological reading. In order to reach such an understanding, I propose a reading of Gadamer’s essay on λόγος and ἔργον in Plato’s Lysis, an early dialogue about φιλíα. By following Gadamer’s footsteps, but also by expanding the results of the inquiry, this chapter will spell out four principles of every performance of phenomenological reading: 1. we must pay attention both to what is said in the text and the way in which is said; 2. we must bring about φιλíα both for the text and the matter-at-hand; 3. we must be aware of our ignorance in approaching a text and not hope to find answers, but to find new questions—that is, we hope for an increase in what we don’t know; 4. lastly, we need to find the difficult balance between keeping critical distance from the text and finding common ground with it.
This chapter aims to demonstrate key similarities and differences between Anglo-American speech act theory and Heidegger’s early existential analyses of language. Part One compares John L. Austin’s discussion of performative utterances in How to Do Things With Words with Martin Heidegger’s expansive conception of the forms of discourse in Being and Time and early lectures, and demonstrates their common complaint of the general neglect of performative expressions by traditional studies of language. Part Two locates Heidegger’s approach to language within his broader conception of phenomenology as a phenomenology of performativity or enactment (Vollzug) in four senses. Part Three gestures to a parallel between Heidegger’s insistence upon the need for formalization of the re-enactment (that is encumbent upon the phenomenologist) with Searle’s solution to how performatives work. In both cases—Heidegger’s phenomenology and Searle’s theory—the enactment does not so much report a truth as introduce a new truth.
This chapter examines the relation between the performative constitution of meaning and the transcendence of language. It claims that a reflection on the performative ground of meaning leads to a reflection on its limits. This argument will be developed through a reading of key concepts of the phenomenological tradition in relation to Wittgenstein’s linguistic turn and Adorno’s critical theory. The contribution investigates Wittgenstein’s reflection on the limits of language in comparison with Heidegger’s conception of language as unconcealment and further explores Adorno’s concept of the nonindentical and Husserl’s description of the passive synthesis. It argues that these key concepts address in different ways the constitutive relation between the performative constitution of meaning and the negativity and transcendence of language. Finally, with reference to Husserl’s Crisis and the distinction between life-world and technologization, the chapter shows that the moment of negativity embedded in the performative constitution of meaning enables a fundamental critique of meaning.