WHO COMES AFTER THE SUBJECT?

EDITED BY EDUARDO CADAVA, PETER CONNOR, JEAN-LUC NANCY

ROUTLEDGE

NEW YORK AND LONDON

 

Contents
Preface vii
Introduction 1
Jean-Luc Nancy

 

1 Another Experience of the Question, or Experiencing the Question Other-Wise 9
Sylviane Agacinski

2 On a Finally Objectless Subject 24
Alain Badiou

3 Citizen Subject 33
Etienne Balibar

4 Who? 58
Maurice Blanchot

5 The Freudian Subject, from Politics to Ethics 61
Mikkel Barch-Jacobsen

6 Voice of Conscience and Call of Being 79
Jean-Franr,;ois Courtine

7 A Philosophical Concept. ... 94
Gilles Deleuze

8 "Eating Well," or the Calculation of the Subject:

An Interview with Jacques Derrida 96

Jacques Derrida

9 Apropos of the "Critique of the Subject" and

of the Critique of this Critique 120

Vincent Descombes

10 Being and the Living 135
Didier Franck

11 Who Comes after the Subject? 148
Gerard Granel

12 The Critique of the Subject 157
Michel Henry

13 Love between Us 167
Luce Irigaray

14 Descartes Entrapped 178
Sarah Ko/man

15 The Response of Ulysses 198
Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe

16 Philosophy and Awakening 206
Emmanuel Levinas

17 Seisus communis: The Subject in statu nascendi 217
Jean-Franr;ois Lyotard

18 L'Interloque 236
Jean-Luc Marion

19 After What 246
Jacques Ranciere

Name Index 253

About the Editors and Contributors 256

 

Preface

The essays collected in this volume present the current research of nineteen contemporary French philosophers on one of the great motifs of modem philosophy: the critique or the deconstruction of subjectivity.

The project was initiated by Ermanno Bencivenga, joint editor (with Enrico M. Forni) ofthe international review of philosophy Topoi. Bencivenga wished to devote a special issue of Topoi to an important aspect of contemporary philosophical
activity in France. The organization of the project was entrusted to Jean-Luc Nancy, who served as guest editor ofthe September 1988 issue of Topoi, in which a number of these essays first appeared, and who proposed to organize the issue around the question "Who Comes after the Subject?" The following year a French edition of this issue of Topoi was published as the final number of Cahiers Confrontations (no. 20, Winter 1989), under the direction of Rene Major. The French version included new contributions by Etienne Balibar and Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, plus the entirety of Nancy's interview with Jacques Derrida, only partially published in Topoi. In the summer of 1989, we approached Nancy about the possibility ofbringing out an American edition of these and other essays addressing this topic. The present collection therefore includes all texts from the earlier English and French versions, together with previously unpublished essays by Sylviane Agacinski and Luce Irigaray, and previously untranslated essays by Sarah Kofman and Emmanuel Levinas.

We have sought to bring to each ofthe translations a single notion of consistency, even while respecting as much as possible the individual contributions of each translator. We want to thank each of the translators for their patience and help with
this work. We would also like to thank Rene Major, Michel Delorme, and the D. Reidel Publishing Company for their cooperation. Finally, we would like to express our gratitude to William P. Germano for his enthusiasm and support.

E.C. and P.C.

 

Introduction

Jean-Luc Nancy

Philosophy, today, world-wide: what might this mean? It would not mean a diversity of fields, schools, streams, or tendencies with in philosophy. At leas t, it would not mean only this, or perhaps it would not mean this at all. This has been the traditional way ,of looking at such a topic. Nowadays, it would rather mean: different ways of thinking about philosophy itself. Different ways of understanding the word itself, and even ways of understanding that the thing it names is gone, or finished. Or different ways of inquiring about philosophy as something essentially linked to Western civilization, something with which other civilizations or a general shifting of cultures, also wi thi n the Western area—now have to deal (and what does "to deal with" mean here? What between or beyond "praxis" and "theory" would this imply? Do we have a philosophical language for this task?).

It is very likely that no one "philosophy"—if something like this still exists, and is not merely something shelved in our libraries—is able to grasp this situation, nor to think it through. It is very likely that there is no "Weltanschauung" for it. "Weltanschauungen" belong to the epoch when the world had not become the world, world-wide. The becoming-world of the world does not mean wh at is usually called the "uniformization" of everything and everyone—even through technology, which one assumes to be essentially identical to itself. In many respects, world also differentiates itself, if it does not indeed shatter itself. The becoming-world of world means that "world" is no longer an object, nor an idea, but the pl ace existence is given to and exposed to. This first happened in philosophy, and to philosophy, with the Kantian revolution and the "condition of possible experience": world as possibly of (or for) an existent being, possibility as world for such a being. Or: Being no longer to be thought of as an essence, but to be given, offered to a world as to i ts own possibility.

Such a program (if we can use this word) is not to be completed i n a day. It does not take "a long time," but the totality of a history: our history. The history of philosophy since Kant (i f not indee d since the remote condition of possibility of Kant himself at the beginning of the "Western" as such, of the Western "Weltanschauung") is the history of the various breaks out of which emerges, out of the "possible worlds" (the "Anschauungen"), as well as out of a simple necessity of the world (another kind of "Anschauung"), the world as possibility, or the world as chance for existence (opening/closing of possibility, unlimitationldisaster of possibility).

Each of these breaks is a break of philosophy, and not within philosophy. Therefore they are incommensurable with and incommunicable to one another. They represent a disarticulation of the common space and of the common discourse of "philosophy" (of what one assumes to have been such a commonplace). Their names (I mean their emblematic names up to the first half of this century) are well known: Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Heidegger, Wittgenstein.

We are the second half of the century. A "we" without "we," a "we" without philosophical community (apart from the fake one of conferences, congresses, etc.). Many lines of rupture traverse us—which does not necessarily imply any "hostility," but which means this: philosophy separated from itself, outside of itself, crossing its own limits—which means, perhaps, discovering that it never did have proper limits, that it never was, in a sense, a "property."

One of the most visible lines of rupture runs between two ensembles (each of which is itself heterogeneous). These ensembles are most often designated, especially in Anglo-Saxon countries, in an ethnogeographic manner: "Anglo-Saxon philosophy," "continental philosophy," and, more particularly, "French philosophy" (a kind of partitioning, therefore, of the Western itself). These appellations are, of course, extremely fragile. There is "Anglo-Saxon" philosophy in Europe, as there is "continental" and "French" philosophy in the Anglo-Saxon world (to say nothing of the one and the other in the rest of the world, nor of this rest itself, of this immense "rest" as the space of unimaginable possibilities for these philoso-
phies, beyond each of them . . . ).

These names have no simple, absolute reference, nor pertinence, but their meaning is nonetheless not void. The ethnonational partitioning of "philosophy" (languages, cultures, institutions, etc.) would require a very long and complex analysis. This collection of essays proposes nothing of the kind. In this regard, it simply proposes, at once under the name and on the name "French," a kind of practical exercise.

These ensembles are also identified by "theoretical" names, the pertinence of which is no less problematic. One says "analytic philosophy," for example, which leads to a misconception about both the diversity of kinds of "analysis" with which it deals, and the variety of logical, linguistic, ethical, aesthetic, and political preoccupations within the "Anglo-Saxon" domain. One says, on the other hand, "post-structuralism"—which, in this case, is a baroque designation, because there has neyer been one structuralism, and because what it deals with did not come "after," nor as a "posterity." Moreover, what this word claims to cover is similarly of a very great diversity. But the more than insufficient nature of these denominations is itself a testimony to the line of rupture—whose traces are complex, sinuous, sometimes difficult to grasp, multiple, or effaced.

It must surely seem unfair to have restricted this collection to French thinkers: there is outside of France more than one thinking, more than one kind of work, that would answer to what "French" denotes here. But not only would the project have become excessive from a practical point of view, it would moreover have been no less unfair to have blurred the contours of a French specificity recognizable in certain characteristic traits—although neither systematic nor even simply convergent—over the last thirty years (let us say, very broadly, since the closure, on the one hand, of a certain type of French "rationalism" and/or "spiritualism"—in this respect, "French" thought today proceeds in part from a "German" rupture with a certain philosophical "France" (which is also a rupture within a certain "Germanity")—and on the other hand, since the close of the Sartrean enterprise).

However, one will find no unity here. The differences are extreme, and opposing views are not lacking. The invitation to participate in this issue left entirely open the potential range of philosophical approaches. With one exception, brought about by the choice of the theme (for which 1 am responsible and the reasons for which 1 will give later), 1 did not send my question ("Who comes after the subject?") to those who would find no validity in it, to those for whom it is on the contrary more important to denounce its presuppositions and to return, as though nothing had happened, to a style of thinking that we might simply call humanist, even where it tries to complicate the traditional way of thinking about the human subject. If 1 state that such a return stems in fact from the forgetting of philosophy, 1 am no doubt speaking only for myself. But it is no less true that I am also encouraged to say this by virtue of all the contemporary work witnessed in the authors brought together here. Those among them who challenge the terms of my question—and some do, as shall be seen—at least do not do so in the name of a return backward, something that has never had any meaning or sense, in philosophy or elsewhere.

The reader of these essays will no doubt perceive their diversity, and, should he or she perceive also something that is neither a unity nor a homogeneity but something that partakes of a certain "tonality," this will be a kind of "French accent" in many different philosophical tongues. 1 sent out my invitations keeping in mind at once the work of each contributor in regard to the question asked (I accept responsibility for its arbitrariness—but it is a reasoned arbitrariness, as we shall see in a moment)—and the distribution of current research in France.

One will recognize some of the principal axes at the source of this distribution: for example, the Husserlian, the Marxian, the Heideggerian, and the Nietzschean traditions. But one will not find anything like a "tradition" in the ordinary sense. Nobody here stands within a custom or a school. Each entertains a complex rapport to many of these traditions (and in such a way that it would be perfectly impossible, short of a lengthy study, to endeavor to present them one by one: it is incumbent on the texts to do this). Several have already been recogni zed as what I would risk calling the inventors of a thinking. All are concerned in one way or another with an unreserved questi o ning of "phi losophy" and its "traditions," with a determined reevaluation of the "philosophical" as such and not with variations of "Weltanschauungen." All are the thinkers of an age in rupture. Which means also: they take responsibility for this age, because the questions they are di sc ussi ng, and especi ally here, obviou sly engage all the ethical and political challenges of our time (as well as the debates about what "ethics" and "politics" mean today).

I asked the question: "Who comes after the subject?" to settle on one of the principle rupture lines. The critique or the deconstruction of subjectivity is to be con si dered one of the great motifs of contemporary philosophical work in Francc, taking off from, here again and perhaps especially, the teachings of Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Husserl, Heidegger, Bataille, Wittgenstein, from the teachings of linguistics, the social sci ences, and so forth. (But one should not forget the practical, ethical, and political experience of Europe since the 1930s: the fascisms, Stalinism, the war, the camps, decolonization, and the birth of new nations, the difficulty in orienting oneself between a "spiritual" identity that has been devastated and an "American" economism, between a loss of meaning and an accumulation of signs: so many instances for the i nv est iga tion ofthe diverse figures of the "subject. ") The question therefore bears upon the critique or deconstruction of interiority, of self presence, of consciousness, of mastery, of the individual or collective property of an essence. Critique or deconstruction of the firmness of a seat (hypokeimenon, substantia, subjectum) and the certitude of an authority and a value (the individual, a people, the state, history, work). My question aimed in the first place to treat this motif as an event that had indeed emerged from our history—hence the "after"— and not as some capricious variation of fashionable thi nking. But at the same time I wanted to suggest a whole range—no doubt vast—in which such a critique or deconstruction has not simply obliterated its object (as those who groan or ap plaud before a supposed "liquidation" of the subject would like to believe). That which obliterates is nihilism—itself an implicit form of the metaphysi cs of the subject (self-presence of that which knows itself as the dissolution of its own difference). There is nothing nihilistic in recognizi ng that the subject—the property of the self—is the thought that reabsorbs or exhausts all possibility of being in the world (all possibility of existence, all existence as being delivered to the possible), and that this same thought, never simple, never closed upon itself without remainder, designates and delivers an entirely different thought: that of the one and that of the some one, of the singular existent that the subject announces, promises, and at the same time conceals.

Moreover, one will see in the texts that follow at least two very different uses of the word "subject. " Sometimes it has the value of the metaphysical concept I have just recalled. sometimes (for example, for Granel or Ranciere) it has the value of a singular unum quid, less present to itself than present to a history, an event, a community, an oeuvre, or another "subject."

Not only are we not relieved of thinking this some one—this some one that the subject has perhaps always pointed towards or looked for, and that brings us back to the same figures: the individual, a people, the state, history, production, style, man, woman, as well as "myself' and "ourselves" . . . —but it is precisely something like this thought that henceforth comes toward us and calls us forth. Such at least was the hypothesis I was following, thinking not to be too disloyal to a certain singularity of the era, common to all and particular to no one, circulating anonymously amidst our thoughts. This is what I tried to indicate with the verb "comes," and with the pronoun "who?": With whi ch "one" have we hence forth to
deal?

I reproduce here the passage from my letter of invitation (February 1986) that presents the qu estion: Who comes after the subject? This question can be explained as follows: one of the major characteristics of contemporary thought is the putting into question of the instance of the "subject," according to the structure, the meaning, and the
value subsumed under this term in modern thought, from Descartes to Hegel, if not to Husserl. The inaugurating decisions of contemporary thought whether they took place under the sign of a break with metaphysics and its poorly pitched questions, under the sign of a "deconstruction" of this metaphysics, under that of a transference of the thinking of Being to the thinking of life, or of the Other, or of language, etc.—have all involved putting subjectivity on trial. A wide spread discourse of recent date proclaimed the subject's simple liquidation. Everything seems, however, to point to the necessity, not of a "return to the .subject" (proclaimed by those who would like to think that nothing has happened, and that there is nothing new to be thought, except maybe variations or modifica tions of the subject), but on the contrary, of a move forward toward someone— some one else in its place (this last expression is obviously a mere convenience: the "place" could not be the same). Who would it be? How would slhe present him/herself? Can we name her/him? Is the question "who" suitable? (My formulations seem to presuppose that none of the existing designations for example, Dasein or "the individual" would be suitable. But my intention of course is to leave open all possibilities.)

In other words: If it is appropriate to assign something like a punctuality, a singularity, or a hereness (haecceitas) as the place of emission, reception, or transition (of affect, of action, of language, etc.), how would one designate its specificity? Or would the, question need to be transformed or is it in fact out of place to ask it?

At this point I have fulfilled—at least I hope I have—my role as editor, and I wil' let the texts speak. They are the "subjects" of this issue.

The role of editor, I must admit, has made me forget that I could and probably should, having asked the q uestion, have written a response my self. It's too late to do this now, and perhaps this is not .such a bad thing. In the interview with Derrida, I make some observations that will perhaps serve to clarify my position. B u t I will add a few words here to indicate the precise direction my answer might have taken.

The dominant definition of the philosophical (or "metaphysical") subject is to my way of thinking the one proposed by Hegel: "that which is ca pable of maintaining within itself its own contradiction." That the contradiction would be its own (one recognizes here the dialectical law), that alienation or extraneousness would be ownmost, and that subjectity (following Heidegger here, and distinguishing the subject structure from anthropological subjectivity) consists in re a ppropri ating this proper being outside-of itself: this is what the definition would mean. The logic of the subjectum is a grammar (cf. Nietzsche—but also Leibniz: pmedicatum inest subjecto) of the subject that re appropriates to itself, in advance and absolutely, the exteriority and the strange n ess of its predicate. (A canonic Hegelian example, at least according to the way it is usually read: "The rational is actual.") This appropriation is made by the verb "to be." "To be" thus has the func tion here of an operator of appropriation: in fact it means "to have" or " produce" or "understand" or "support," etc. In a rather hasty manner, I could endeavor to say it is the technological interpretation of Being.

Still, for this to be the case, it would be necessary that the subject be, absolutely and without predicate. It is at this point that the institution of the subject of modem philosophy begins: ego sum. "To be" means then that which the Cartesian redundancy states: ego sum, ego existo. Being is the actuality of existence (or again, this "notion which belongs in an absolute way to all the individuals of nature"— Spinoza). Existence as actuality "is not a predicate but the simple position of the thing" (Kant); existence is the essence of the subject to the extent that it is, prior to any predication. (And this is why—again Spinoza—the essence of an infinite substance—or God—necessarily envelops existence.)

Descartes, Spinoza, Kant—one could continue: metaphysics itself indicates that what is posed here as the question of an "after" (in history) is just as much a question of the "before" (in the logic of being—but this would invite a different kind of retracing of history: that which comes to us has preceded us). Before the subj ect of a predication (let us say: before the subject-of) there is (il y a—this is Levinas's "word"—Heidegger's word is: es gibt, it is given, it gives) the Being of the subject, or the subject without "of," the subject-being, existence. Metaphysics, de-constructing itself (this is its logic and its history), indicates this "before" as "after": existence. Not the subject of existence but existence subject: that to which
one can no longer allot the grammar of the subject nor, therefore, to be clear, allot the word "subject."

But what existence? It is not an essence, it is the essence whose essence it i s to exist, actually and in fact, in experience, "hie et nunc." It is the existent (and not the existence o/the existent). With this in mind, the question asks "who?" Which means that the question of essence—"What, existence?"—calls forth a "who" in response. The question was therefore a response to the question of existence, of its "being" or its "meaning," nothing more and nothing less. (But whenever one responds to a question with another question, what one does is defy the first question from ever coming to be asked. . . . )

Every "what" that exists is a "who," if "who" means: that actual, existent "what," as it exists, a factual (even material) punctuation of Being, the unum quid (and it is not by chance that this is Descartes's formula for the quasi-third substance that is the union of soul and body, the reality of human existence, as evident as the reality of the ego).

"Before/after the subject": who. This is first of all an affirmation: the being is who. In a sense, it is Heidegger: Being is simply existing withdrawn from every essence of Being and from every being of essence. (But this still does not tell me if it is proper to determine this existent in the way Heidegger describes the Dasein supposing that this description is sufficiently clear to us now. "After the subject": men, gods, living beings, and what else? I would not go further than this.)

But this is also a question: who is who? It is not "What is who?"—it is not a question of essence, but one of identity (as when one asks before a photograph of a group of people whose names you know but not the faces: "Who is who?"—is this one Kant, is that one Heidegger, and this other one beside him? . . . ). That is to say, a question of presence: Who is there? Who is present there?

But what, presence? It is the presence of the existent: it is not an essence. Present is that which occupies a place. The place is place—site, situation, disposition—in the coming into space of a time, in a spacing that allows that something come into presence, in a unique time that engenders itself in this point in space, as its spacing. (Divine places, where presence withdraws, places of birth, where presence presents itself, common-places, where places are shared, places of love, where presence comes-and-goes, historic places, geography of presences, etc.).

There where there was nothing (and not even a "there"—as in the "there is no there there" of Gertrude Stein), something, some one comes ("one" because it "comes," not because of its substantial unity: the she, he, or it that comes can be one and unique in its coming but multiple and repeated "in itself." Presence takes place, that is to say it comes into presence. It is that which comes indefinitely to itself, never stops coming, arriving: the "subject" that is never the subject of itself. The "ipseity" of presence lies in the fact that it engenders itself into presence: presence to itself, in a sense, but where this "self' itself is only the to (the taking place, the spacing) of presence. "I engender time" is the phrasing of Kant's first
schema (schema: tracing, spacing). Strictly speaking it means: I engender "I," I engender myself as the "a priori form of internal meaning" that is time. The "internal" engenders itself as exteriority—in order to be the "internal" that it is, in order to exist. It is most intimately in this coming into presence. Presence to: To what? To whom? To the world, but the world is the shared taking place of all places. Presence thus comes to presence, without being to its-self (this is why "to engender oneself' is a poor metaphor for "to exist," which is thc metaphor for the carrying over of the self outside of the self before the self . . . ). Presence to the world: and the so called "technological" world should not be excluded from this,
from the moment the technological interpretation of Being will have allowed some places to come about as the places of a presence to technology.

This presence to that is not to itself is not a "contradiction," and does not imply a dialectical power that "would retain it within itself." 1 can find no other name for this than the name of "freedom." Not freedom as the property of a subject ("the subject is free"), but freedom as the very experience of coming into presence, of being given up to, necessarily/freely given up to, the to (the to of the "toward," of the "for," of the "in view of," of the "in the direction of," of the "alongside," the to of abandoning to, of the offering to of "to one's core," of the "with regard to," of the "to the limit," and also of the "to the detriment of," "to the bitter end": freedom is wherever it is necessary to make up one's mind to ... ).

"I engender time" as the schema, the spacing of the place where I (who) takes place, where I comes into presence. (Who? I am coming—here I am). The "I" does not preexist this schematization. It does not come after it either; it "is" it, or it "exists" it, if one can (if "I" can) use the verb like this. If existence, as Heidegger insists, exists according to the Jemeinigkeit, the "in each case mine," it is not in the manner of an appropriation by "me," at each moment, ofevery taking-place. Freedom is not a quality, nor an operation of the existent: it is her/his/its coming into the presence of existence. If presence is presence to presence and not to self (nor of self), this is because it is, in each case, presence in common. The coming into presence is plural, "in each case ours" as much as "mine." This community without the essence of a community, without.a common being, is the ontological condition of existence as presence-to. The plural coming is a singular coming— and this is not a prediction. But how could one say what it "is"? One (Who?) might try by saying: the plural liberates (or shares) the singular, the singular liberates (or shares) the plural, in a community without subject. This is what we have to think about. Who thinks, if not the community?

 

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