Some Notes on Edward Farley’s Ecclesial Man



On “Apprehensions”

As Farley suggests, apprehensions and realities “play an important role in the way the problem and proposal of [Ecclesial Man] are formulated.”[1] I would argue, moreover, that both concepts are important to defining the “ecclesial man,” where the “ecclesial” component of mankind’s existence is based on negotiating what can be “apprehended” and what can be deemed as “reality.” When I specifically consider the term “apprehension,” I would argue that there is a better term, one which does not venture too far afield into the dangerous semantic game of “intuition” –something that Farley is very careful to make note of, since, we are not talking about a “spontaneous feeling which dispenses with evidence and which is at the mercy of one’s own subjectivity.”[2] I would equate Farley’s “apprehension” with Kant’s “apperception,”[3] since, in my view, what is being described is something that is perceived in relation to a reality that is not immediate.

Farley, of course, rightly views apprehension as “an act which grasps realities directly or immediately.” In this case, “apperception” is functioning is much the same way, where it involves perceiving something outside of the parameters of the senses, interpreting it as something meaningful and worthy to be engaged as an object of understanding, and understanding it as a point of transcendence. Here, to define anything as occurring and existing wholly within another reality means to suppose that the only way we can perceive, interpret, and understand such a thing is to perceive it at that other-level. This, I feel, is what Farley is getting at, particularly with respect to defining something on that “other-level” in terms of the evidence that, as he suggests, “occurs in its most individual and basal form.”[4]

In a very important way, I would argue that Farley is defining “apprehension” as something we use to understand something we cannot engage fully with senses. Instead, it is something, as I would argue with the appropriation of the concept of “apperception,” that is provided to use in the evidence of what is around us. This kind of talk ventures into natural theology, I believe. But, I find that it is more than just a question of natural theology –it is a question of what can be believed, what cannot be believed, and what connections can be made to what we know –or can grasp through “apperception” –to be true. Farley’s “apprehension” is concerned with this: what can be known to be true. When we feel as if we can “know” something to be true, we are committing ourselves to a willful act of, as Schopenhauer would agree, representation and objectification –we are making decisions about what to believe and forming those beliefs in terms of truth-claims.


On “Realities”

In conjunction with what Farley puts forth with the concept of “apprehensions,” I found his discussion of “realities” to be very helpful for me. As Farley suggests, a reality is “general and unfocused and comes to life at the level of the specific.”[5] Though I would agree with this, I cannot resist believing that, even if a “reality” is “general,” I feel that it can be focused. If a reality “comes to life at the level of the specific,” then that specificity is focused. It means, in my view, that our most immediate reality is just as much in focus as any other reality that we “know” through our “apprehension,” or, as I would call, “apperception.”

I see this in the following way: our “apperception” allows our present and most immediate reality to be “real” to us just as much as events that have happened in the past can become a “reality,” or even, just as much as the events that we look forward to which have not happened yet become a “reality.” In suggesting “realities” in the plural, I would argue that Farley is denoting a “focused” aspect of stratifying realities. I would argue that “stratifying realities” is about categorizing realities: the distant past, the more immediate past, the just past, the present, the right now, the immediate future, and the distant future. This is only naming a few, but all can be considered as “realities” to a person’s “apperception.” As Farley argues, “realities occur in the mode of differentiation [where] they stand out and exhibit themselves in the mode appropriate to their kind.”[6] This leads me directly to considering his statement in reference to Jacques Derrida’s “difference,” where the processes of finding differences present the chance of deferment. I say this to contend that what Farley is describing about “realities occurr[ing] in the mode of differentiation” means that much of the way we define a reality as “real” –even our most immediate reality in the here and now, “right now” –is by considering differences and, then, deferring our position to one where we can use “apperception” to point to something as “a reality.”


On “Life-World and Faith-World”

When I originally read this section, I was under the impression that Farley’s concepts of “life-world” and “faith-world” was a re-articulation of Saint Augustine’s ideas about the “City of Man” and the “City of God.” I now see that there is not a correlation between Farley and Saint Augustine. Instead, there is much more of a correlation between Farley and Heidegger, even though it is still not a completely linear relationship. Heidegger’s “being-in-the-world” –even, to some extent, with a consideration of my understanding of Hegel’s notion of “being-for-self” and “being-for-others” is, if Farley were likely to argue, is only one of many “realities.” If applying Husserl, as Farley does, Heidegger’s “being-in-the-world” seems to be closer to a “life world” than a “faith-world.” I would argue, however, that Heidegger’s being-in-the-world can be a life-world as well as a faith-world, because it depends on one’s “apperception” of what a “reality” is.

I find that, if we are to use Husserl here and consider the role that the consciousness plays in the way we can “know” anything, then I would contend that “life world” and “faith world” are relative to how either is being “known.” What I mean is there should not –and could not –be any true dividing lines between either, because both are not universal realities but are, instead, “realities” in reference to whom is defining one “reality” from another. But, for the sake of argument, I would say that there is always a purposeful stratification at work: there is always a sense that one reality is on one level and another reality is on another level. What I mean is “life-world” and “faith-world” are not one in the same, but the latter proceeds from the former. A “life- world,” in my view, is the foundational “reality” upon which a “faith-world” is established. I would go so far as to say that the “faith-world,” as Farley describes it, is a “reality” that allows for us to “apperceive” a “reality” that transcends it.

To that end, I would argue that the highest “reality” is what I would call an “other-world.” It is this “reality” that we can place God, as an object of transcendence, as what we can only know through “apperception.”


On “Presence and Appresence”

Farley presents a very intriguing concept in this section: “presence and appresence.” He relates this concept with the ecclesia, which he suggests “mediates realities which are directly present, ‘realities at hand.’”[7] For me, this directly relates, in turn, to what I have already mentioned about what can be known through “apperception” –the idea that the decisions we make about what we know, how we know it, and what can be gained from that knowledge is based on the nature of how we “apperceive” it as an object of understanding. This is what I would consider as a “reality at hand,” a reality that can be grasped on some fundamental level and become a “known” entity.

For Farley, in order for anything to be one of many “realities at hand,” it arises from “the sense in which realities are directly present through the social mediations of that determinate intersubjectivity which we are calling ecclesia.”[8] Here, what I find that Farley is arguing is that the interactions and relationships developed through an ecclesia open the possibility to see that “reality at hand” as one of many “realities at hand.” In other words, what we perceive as being having presence before us allows for us to “apperceive” something transcendent that has “appresence.” This means, in turn, that our most immediate, here-and-now reality, as a “reality at hand,” becomes the “reality” upon which we can build knowledge of other “realities at hand.”

[1] Page 65

[2] Page 65-66

[3] What must be noted, here, is that Kant is not the only one to use the term “apperception,” since Leibniz and Descartes use it too.

[4] Page 66

[5] Page 68

[6] Page 68

[7] Page 208

[8] Page 208


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: