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Fr. 562

August 28, 2014

Having drawn what normative conclusions and shortcomings can be drawn from Faye’s “lost (super)continents”, we move now to the final element of his presentation. We will call attention here is the question of time or temporality. How do temporality and lost (super)continents interact?

Faye arrives at this point in somewhat roundabout fashion, after opening with another quotation:

To sum it up, certain words of wisdom from Cioran seem relevant: “One does not live in a country, one lives in a language.” Yes, a language before all else, to which I would add an era, that in which one has grown up, that one never truly leaves behind, even when one would like to be on even footing with one’s time. Much more so than a specific country, I come from the 20th century. The bricks making me up were fired in this period and at no other, whatever I might do to put down roots in the new millenium.

We will leave aside the issue of language, to which numerous others have previously drawn our attention (notably in hermeneutics) in order to focus better on that of time. Much as lost continents or supercontinents are isolated or to a specific era, to be found there alone, so are likewise the sources fueling specific instances of identity formation. Although we can come to knowledge of continents and identity sources from another time, these can never truly be made our own in any significant sense, for they are not of our time. Even if cognitively accessible, they are practically inaccessible, a fact which Faye’s lost (super)continents captures well. Extending his image of geographical archeology, we might even go so far as to account for certain changes over time on a cognitive level.

Naturally, it remains to be seen whether Faye’s account encounters any shortcomings once he has incorporated the question of time within his image. One count on which he falls short seems precisely that of how time relates to geography more specifically, what we might term the geological question. If Faye elsewhere invokes layers of the self and, by extension, accretion, his image is largely superficial in a narrow sense. At each point, the person pursuing the archeologico-geographical investigation is concerned with where continents are in relation to one another, whether in the past or present. Some time is given over to development and the gradual resolution of contradictions in identity, a task for which this investigation’s descriptive function seems well suited.

By contrast, it is unclear how such an analysis of lost continents can get at that which prompts these developments, that which causes the shift from state x to y to z. We are confronted with the difficulty of isolating the forces underlying the formation of these continents, i.e. that which prompts their having been lost in the first place. In other words, if pursuing Faye’s image leads us to a cartography of the self at a given instant, it leaves underdeveloped the account of how we arrived at this instant’s map.

In Faye’s defense, this may owe in part to the nature of the object and the relative inaccessibility of these processes to cognition. He recalls this fact in closing his preface:

Now, nothing is fleeting like the me, a state of being given in an instant, and these pages will have been a net to capture a little of the ephemera and attempt to hold it in place. Stefano Landi, an Italian Renaissance composer, grasped this ephemera in the title of one of his works: Homo fugit velut umbra, “Man flees like a shadow”.

We ourselves raised this concern in relation to the question of interpretation. The fact remains, however, that Faye’s archeological geography of lost continents trades on some knowledge of the underlying geology of identity, for it is unclear how else we could come to supplement the knowledge that the temporal comparison of cartographies would provide. Left at its surface value, this geography would leave us bereft of conceptual resources which we sorely need to draw informative connections between different states of the self, resources on which Faye’s image implicitly draws.

It is towards such an obscure geology that we hope to take important steps.


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