Being-seeming

Just read the novel The Interpretation of Murder, which is set in New York 1909 and centers on Freud and Jung’s visit to America (in Freud’s case, his only visit).

There is some discussion in the book about Hamlet, mostly because of the Oedipal aspects, but also the scene where Hamlet responds to his father’s death.

Queen: If it be [that “all lives must die”], why seems it so particular with thee?

Haml: Seems, madam! Nay, it is. I know not “seems.”

Hamlet goes on to cite instances of when things seem (“my inky cloak,” “the fruitful river in the eye,”) but says they cannot “denote me truly”:

Haml: These indeed seem, for they are actions that a man might play [the play within the play]. But I have within that passeth show.

This is an instance of the being-seeming distinction (or appearance-reality). This is a longstanding distinction (perhaps going back to Parmenides? and Kant) in philosophy that many people have tried to grapple with in these terms.

I was going to say that Foucault was not one of them because he focuses so much on knowledge and practices as they are historically situated (the “historical a priori” etc), especially if you recast being-seeming as ontology-epistemology.

But perhaps it doesn’t quite work to do that. If ontology includes the Heideggerian tradition of asking “what conditions our understanding of being?” then you could get into rationalities and historical contingency and the power-knowledge relationships.

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