- Oct 2021
Plessner tells us that from its center the animal positions itself -- it gains mastery of its own lived body, "it is a system that refers back to itself, a self, but it does not experience-itself" (p. 267).
The closed and centric positionality of the animal is characterized first and foremost by the immanent constitution of a self. While not occupying any definitive space, it is spatial inasmuch as it constitutes the non-relativizable "here" of the organism. Double aspectivity is defined for the animal with respect to a separation, and at the same time non-separation, between its core, its here, its self and its whole body of which the core is part. Thus the living thing whose organization exhibits a closed form is not only a self that 'has', but a special kind of self, a reflexive self or an itself. We may speak of a living thing of this kind as being present to the living thing that it is, as, by virtue of its set-apartness from this living thing, forming (not yet 'having', which is why it is not yet an 'I'!) an unshakeable point in this living thing in relation to which it reflexively lives as one thing. In the irreducible oscillation between being inside and being outside that distinguishes the positionality of the closed organism on the ground of simply being the body itself lies the boundary for the referentiality of the thing back to itself. (pp. 220-21) One can anticipate the movement of Plessner's dialectical logic in setting up the conditions for his anthropology. The animal has a self-presence but not a reflective access to it. The animal has achieved a distance to its own body (one might say a "detachment") but does not have a perspective on having such distance. It enjoys a qualitatively new level of agency in its relationship to its surround but it is still fully absorbed in its here and now. The animal is conscious inasmuch as it has awareness of that which it stands in opposition to and reacts to from out of its center (albeit without being able to thematize that relationship). Plessner refers to this as the animal's "frontality."
Here, Moss helps clarify the word "detachment" as the living organism achieving some kind of distance from its own body, but does not have a perspective of it. Importantly, Plessner holds that the animal is conscious, but not self-conscious. Plessner's term for this type of consciousness is "frontality".