Epistemological concussion and masochism

We, people, observe particular knowledges even when our experiences falsify that knowledge. What we say is different to what we do, and different again, to what we believe.

Interesting writing seeks out our sites of epistemological concussion because, therein, is usually something worth saying in words.

Our epistemological concussion at the sites of pain and pleasure are a distinctly deep knowledge/experience trauma. So much of what we claim to know about pain fails to correlate to our first-person experience. For this reason, sadism and masochism are interesting settings of epistemological concussion worthy of words.

The word, ‘masochism’ has been likened to a wound (see, for example, Eugenie Brinkema drawing from Lacan and Nancy (but regrettably not Derrida)). In this metaphor, the wound of/from masochism is a result of a lack of definition. For masochism (pleasure in pain) to be what it is, pain cannot mean what it means and pleasure cannot mean what it means.

While a literary treatment of masochism is blessedly refreshing compared to the usual psychological and medical stodge, such an approach tends towards a performative narcissism at the expense of the topic at hand. The first responder to any knowing/living epistemological concussion is best chosen from ordinary language. That is what it means to write hard and clear.

Masochism as a wound—a gaping split, a leaking suture, a sore slash, a wet gash, a weeping wound—with these words we begin to find our living pain knowledge.


Is the writing the philosophy, or the object of a philosophical process?

Husserl tends to describe the written artefact of phenomenological investigation as “Ausdruck” (expression) and “Deskription Ausdruck” (descriptive expression), “beschreibungen” (descriptions). The written down phenomenological findings are not meant to ‘represent’ the observed phenomenological experience of the past but serve to be a “predictive synthesis”.  (Predictive synthesis of doxa, for example, or predictive synthesis for the future horizon implicit in all perception). We write-out the ‘aspects’ of a phenomenon (experience) as they are, which encompasses their potential.

Writing, then, is for the future, for the possibilities. We write phenomenological descriptions from observation not to capture the ended temporalities, but to open the future to risk, prospect, chance.

Wonderful, yes?

What can a phenomenologist see when they look at the world?

Husserl talks about gegebenheit when describing the process of perceiving something in the world. In translation to English we usually use the word ‘givenness’. Givenness illustrates two aspects of the world. It is a quality of that which is given, or perceived, as well as the act of it being giving.

Givenness has a generous, immediate and egalitarian quality. It is a process of offering rather than exchange or ‘having’. The world perceived ‘displays’ and ‘contains’ givenness. It is a condition. It is not ‘displayed’ for us to have, nor are we asked a price for it.

Givenness is a quality of the process of being. The givenness of a tree is not hidden nor delayed from our perception, it is immediately present. The givenness is neither reserved for certain types of creatures or those with endorsed qualifications. It is there for all and every and always.

If you look you will see that the world gives itself to you. You don’t need any documented credentials, or socially endorsed status, or sanctioned knowledge. You don’t have to be a celebrity, or a person with a title, or CEO of McMeaters.

The whole world is given to you; how will you describe what you perceive?


Image: Delegation admiring Tom Bass sculpture ‘Ethos’


[Buy me a coffee]