lecture by David Kleinberg-Levin
Listening, the art of hearing, cannot be understood merely in biological and neurophysiological terms. It needs to be understood as a capacity, hence as a gift of nature that individuals can develop, or construct, making it a skill through social and cultural practices. Unfortunately, our present phenomenological vocabulary is too limited and crude to articulate possible actualizations of the potentialities distinctive of this skill as a temporal process: We listen-for something in order to hear it. And if we hear what we are listening-for, we may listen-to it in order to hear it better. In these two sentences, the terms “listen” and “hear” take on different meanings, depending on their role, their stage or phase, in the auditory process. What is involved in developing the ethical, social-political, and aesthetic potential inherent in our natural capacity for listening? I will bring into our present Foucault’s late historical studies on practices of the self, which he arbitrarily limited to ancient Greece, Rome, and early Christianity, elaborating our experience with listening as a practice of the self that we of today need to engage. Habermas worked out a discourse ethics, formulating a complex system of norms concerning freedom of speech and the rights of speech in communicative processes. But he neglected to formulate any norms regarding the other pole, namely, what is required of listening. I will suggest what needs to be thought to rectify this omission. Finally, I will draw on Heidegger’s work to propose an understanding of hearing as an ontological organ, an “organ of being”. This will be spelled out in terms of the transformation of the auditory Gestalt, presently suffering reification, from the fixity of a “Gestell” to the radically open “Geviert”, mandala of the fourfold, earth and sky interacting with one another on one axis, gods and mortals facing one another on the other axis. Echoes and reverberations, and the architectural spaces that interact with them, play crucial roles in leading us into the ontological dimension of the auditory field. In relation to this immeasurable dimension, our very being is put into question.
appearance at Tuned City
Social Acoustemologies: Listening / 09.07.11