Comentario a capítulos 5 y 16 de The Rivers North of the Future.  The Testament of Ivan Illich as Told to David Cayley.  Toronto: Anansi, 2005.  Para conversación en 17 Instituto de Estudios Críticos, 5 de mayo 2022. 

Muchas gracias por la invitación a participar en esta conversación.  Es un honor.  Cuando me contactó Benjamín Mayer al respecto yo pensé que mi única función en ella sería precisamente la de ser un conversante más, no tenía idea de que se esperaría de mí esta pequeña intervención especial, para la que no me encuentro especialmente preparado.  Así que, con mis disculpas, y sin más pretensiones que la de ayudar en la conversación, voy a centrar mis comentarios en el capítulo 5 sobre “la criminalización del pecado” y en su contrapartida en la segunda parte de Los ríos al norte del futuro, que es el capítulo 16, la conversación sobre “conciencia.” 

El contexto es por supuesto la gran temática de cristianismo y secularización que cruza todo el volumen.  Para Ivan Illich, como sabemos, la secularización es consecuencia de la “corrupción” del cristianismo, ella misma consecuencia quizá inevitable de la formación original de un “cristianismo histórico” en la creación de la Iglesia como poder secular.  La cuestión fundamental atraviesa por lo tanto la misión o la función de Pablo e indirectamente de Agustín de Hipona.  Dado que hablamos de corrupción, es lógico suponer que habría en Illich un gesto o una voluntad contra la corrupción, definitorio de su posición, y que tal gesto consiste en un retorno a la pureza de la revelación original, del acontecimiento de Cristo como revelación.  A lo largo de todo el libro Illich insiste en la parábola del Samaritano como momento clave o cifra de esa revelación.   Si el pecado es, desde el punto de vista de esa revelación original, simplemente la traición del amigo, que es también traición al dios encarnado, Illich insiste en que la criminalización de tal traición, que equivale a la conversión del pecado en crimen, tiene consecuencias incalculables en el proceso de corrupción secularizante constitutivo de la civilización cristiana y europea. 

Todo se retrotrae al siglo XII, para Illich un momento histórico en el que se produce una extraña conjunción histórica, que es la conjunción de una serie de cambios de formas de vida y de mentalidad y de prácticas eclesiásticas cuyo interés principal era el control de tales cambios.  Por eso podemos entender esa extraña conjunción histórica como un momento señalado en el itinerario que va de la conspiratio original a la conjuratio ya siempre necesariamente corrupta porque vela y oculta el flujo original del espíritu al darle concreción institucional y política, político-institucional.  “Cristo vino a liberarnos de la ley, pero la cristiandad permitió que la mentalidad legal fuera inserta en el corazón mismo del amor” (87), dice Illich refiriéndose a la institucionalización del matrimonio como contrato entre personas en el Cuarto Concilio de Letrán (1215). 

Son las disputas de investidura, sin embargo, las que terminan por originar la criminalización del pecado.  La Iglesia quiso asegurar sus derechos de control y dominación sobre los fieles contra los derechos del imperio sobre sus súbditos.  E intentó hacerlo mediante la reivindicación de autonomía en su autoridad espiritual.  La institución del sacramento de la Confesión, que obliga al fiel a declarar sus pecados a un sacerdote un mínimo de una vez por año, es entendida por Illich como un paso esencial en la criminalización del pecado, es decir, en la idea de que una falta espiritual habría de tener consecuencias seculares en el terreno del castigo.  Así nace el forum internum por oposición al forum civile, según el cual el fiel debe acusarse a sí mismo ante Dios y su representante sacerdotal por faltas a la ley divina.  Illich piensa que tal creación sacerdotal o eclesiástica implica ni más ni menos que el nacimiento de la conciencia.   Dice Illich:  “la implicación primaria de la idea de forum internum es que la ley ahora gobierna lo que es bueno y lo que es malo, no lo que es legal e ilegal.  La ley eclesiástica se convirtió en norma cuya violación llevaba a la condena al infierno–un logro fantástico y . . . una de las formas más interesantes de perversión del acto de liberación de la ley consagrado en el Evangelio” (90). 

El Concilio de Trento es un paso más, notorio, en la medida en que en él la Iglesia, que ya no es identificable con la Cristiandad sin más, entroniza la noción de que su autoridad ha abolido ya la diferencia entre lo que es bueno y verdadero y lo que es mandado, impuesto por la Iglesia misma.  No es que esto consume una colonización de la conciencia, sino que, para Illich, constituye la conciencia misma como interiorización, no ya del evento de revelación cristiana, sino de la autoridad eclesiástica.  Para Illich, siguiendo a Paolo Prodi, esta “criminalización del pecado” “guarda la llave para entender los conceptos políticos de Occidente de los próximos 500 años” (89)–por ejemplo, sienta las bases para entender el concepto de ciudadanía, y de ciudadanía democrática o tendencialmente democrática, como algo obligado por la conciencia. 

El capítulo 16, que empieza con la demanda de David Cayley a Illich de elaborar la noción de fuero interno, por un lado aclara la noción del nacimiento de la conciencia en la criminalización del pecado y sus repercusiones políticas, y por otro, en mi opinión, revela su posible problematicidad.  No tengo más remedio aquí que citar con cierta amplitud, también porque no es seguro que ustedes hayan vuelto a ese capítulo en la medida en que la conversación de hoy tenía que centrarse en los capítulos 5 a 9.  La primera cita que quiero traer a su consideración es la siguiente:

La criminalización del pecado hace posible hablar de conciencia.  Olvidamos con demasiada frecuencia que la conciencia, en el sentido en el que hablamos de dolores de conciencia y de que debemos actuar según nuestra conciencia, o, a la manera kantiana, derivar normas de la conciencia, porque lo que no quiero que se me haga a mí no debería yo hacérselo a otros, la conciencia en ese sentido es producto de la criminalización del pecado, y esa criminalización del pecado puede atarse plausiblemente al siglo doce, y particularmente al intento del Papa de expandir la victoria ganada en la lucha de investiduras.  (190)

Y la segunda:  “Mi hipótesis es que las certezas de hoy son . . . el resultado de los intentos occidentales de institucionalizar la idea cristiana fundamental de que la fe, la caridad y la esperanza no están vinculadas a una norma sino que son interpersonales.  . . . Las ideas occidentales sobre la democracia son un intento de institucionalizar un ‘deber’ que por su propia naturaleza es una vocación personal, íntima e individual” (191).  Y la tercera:  “parece extraordinariamente difícil . . . concebir la conciencia excepto como apelación a una norma . . . El Samaritano no actuó desde su conciencia.  ¿Cómo debemos entender desde qué actuó?  Pablo habla de amor, fe y esperanza” (192).  El capítulo termina con ciertas reflexiones sobre la angustia desde luego nada casuales pero que debo dejar al margen por el momento. 

Cabe entonces resaltar dos cosas, y con esto concluiré.  En primer lugar, la confesión y la obligación de confesión son cruciales en este proceso, pues es la confesión la que inscribe en el cuerpo del fiel la noción de que más allá del bien y del mal está lo que es correcto o incorrecto legalmente, esto es, atendiendo a las normas de la Iglesia.  Y por otro lado, la conciencia es entendida por Illich como sometimiento a la norma, o bien exógena o bien, a la manera kantiana, ya internalizada como mandato interior. 

Me gustaría invocar las reflexiones de Hegel sobre la conciencia desdichada en el capítulo cuarto de su Fenomenología del espíritu.  La subjetividad está para Hegel, en ese período de la historia del espíritu subsiguiente a la dialéctica del amo y del esclavo, escindida, alienada radicalmente.  El llamado sujeto se encuentra autónomo o abandonado y al mismo tiempo soberano, en el sentido de que todo lo que existe existe para él.  Pero el sujeto también entiende que su particularidad y su finitud burlan su pretensión de soberanía universal.  Soy capaz de incorporar la totalidad del mundo a mi conciencia pero el mundo al mismo tiempo me rechaza como ejemplo o instancia particular de finitud ridícula, como egoísta patético.  Desde el punto de vista del otro, es decir, para el mundo, soy solo otra cosa, un cuerpo, un donnadie.  El conflicto entre mi autoentendimiento interno y mi autoentendimiento como resultado de una perspectiva externa me liquida, me hace miserable.  La Iglesia, para Hegel, presentó una solución histórica a ese problema de la conciencia desdichada mediante el sacramento de la Confesión.  La Confesión es el mecanismo mediante el que excedo mi propia finitud.  En ella me reconcilio conmigo mismo, pero a un coste, a un precio.  Es el precio del autosacrificio.  La confesión, mi confesión, es la realización del hecho de que hay un tercero, y de que necesito un tercero, un mediador.  Ese tercero, el espacio de la comunidad, es el espacio en el que me alieno absolutamente para recuperarme a mí mismo, excepto que ahora mi verdad ya no es la mía sino que es siempre ya la verdad del otro.  En el retorno a mí me he sacrificado a mí mismo.  Encontré un nosotros, y ese nosotros me hará inmortal, me dará vida eterna.  Por fin hay un sentido en el mundo. 

La figura de la conciencia desdichada es la figura que media entre la vieja relación con lo divino, anterior a la “muerte de Dios,” es decir, entre la epifanía de la revelación en el sentido de Illich, una revelación siempre olvidada en el pecado, y por lo tanto también siempre recordada en él, y la versión moderna y secularizada que es la relación con “el pueblo,” la nación, la comunidad identitaria, en otras palabras, la política.  Podríamos incluso entender a partir de estas reflexiones de Illich sobre el siglo XII que la muerte de Dios no es un fenómeno de los siglos XVIII y XIX, vinculado a los nombres de Kant, Hegel, Marx y Nietzsche, sino que es ya parte de la reforma gregoriana, como momento en que la mediación eclesiástica reemplaza la mediación divina y hace al dios redundante.  Después de eso, ya todo es política.  Hasta que aparezca otra posibilidad. 

Pienso que todo esto es consistente con, y al mismo tiempo va más allá de las reflexiones de Illich.  Illich no habla de conciencia desdichada como aquello que el cristianismo histórico, en su corrupción o perversión institucionalizante, supera.  Mi idea es que no lo hace porque Illich es incapaz de asumir la necesidad de cancelar el sacrificio–su posición es sacrificial, abiertamente sacrificial, como la hegeliana.  En él el cristiano de la revelación debe aceptar su sacrificio en la marcha de la historia, y el cristiano histórico debe también en el límite aceptar su sacrificio en cuanto al dios de la revelación.  La desecularización en Illich todavía es práctica sacrificial, como lo es la secularización. 

En cuanto a la conciencia, ¿estamos seguros de que la noción de conciencia se agota en la conciencia moral que propone Illich?  Tenemos por supuesto un modelo alternativo, que es el heideggeriano.  Para Heidegger, desde la analítica existencial de Ser y tiempo, la conciencia no responde a la interiorización de la norma y no es por lo tanto primariamente conciencia moral.  Más bien todo lo contrario.  Por lo tanto cabría decir que Heidegger establece las condiciones para un abandono de la estructura sacrificial de la historia en los términos de Illich, que son los términos de toda contraposición entre cristianismo y secularización, incluyendo la hegeliana pero también a otros pensadores de nuestra contemporaneidad como René Girard, Vincenzo Vitiello o Gianni Vattimo.   La conciencia heideggeriana no lleva a la construcción o consolidación de ningún “nosotros” comunitario o político o político-comunitario que sea a la vez la apoteosis y la negación de la comunidad de fieles, sino que atiende más bien a un abandono y desplazamiento radical con respecto de los términos de la conciencia desdichada solo resolvibles en el sacrificio.  No hay por supuesto tiempo de entrar con detalle en el análisis heideggeriano, así que debo limitarme a proporcionar dos breves citas que podemos discutir, y con ellas termino mi exposición:  “La llamada de retorno a través de la cual la conciencia llama hacia delante da a entender al Da-sein que el Da-sein mismo–como fundamento nulo de su proyecto nulo, en pie en la posibilidad de su ser–debe sustraerse y retrotraerse de su perdición en el ‘se,’ y esto significa que es culpable” (Sein und Zeit 287).  “Cuando el Da-sein se deja ser convocado a esta posibilidad, ello incluye hacerse libre a la llamada: su disposición para la potencialidad-de-ser a la que se le convoca.  Entendiendo la llamada, el Da-sein escucha a su posibilidad más propia de existencia.  Se ha escogido a sí mismo” (287).

Ese entendimiento de la conciencia no pasa por la criminalización del pecado ni por la sublimación político-comunitaria de la muerte de Dios–tampoco por la ley moral kantiana.  Busca, sobre todo, eludir el sacrificio en el retorno a una concepción trágica de la existencia opuesta al drama histórico cristiano que Illich tan brillantemente propone.  Saber si la analítica existencial en Ser y tiempo es en última instancia compatible con la posición existencial de Illich, y cómo,es algo que no excluyo de antemano, pero que nos llevaría lejos de estos capítulos que debemos comentar hoy. 

On José Antonio Gabriel y Galán’s Muchos años después.

I just finished rereading José Antonio Gabriel y Galán’s Muchos años después. I still think it is an extraordinary novel. Pierre (Klossowski), Gilles (Deleuze) and Felix (Guattari) show up in less than very dignified garments at some point–staging an enigmatic body-without-organs performance.  But essentially the novel is a very tough take on the Spanish democratic transition in the 1970s.  Too many years ago, so this doesn´t strictly matter anymore except in a now allegorical sense.  Those of us who came of age at that time, it is true, were under the illusion that a promise had been made to us in terms of a liberation of desire–political, libidinal, existential.  But the promise did not pay off.  The three main characters in the novel: Silverio the communist, who spends his days writing and rewriting what ends up being a monstrous volume on the fate of communism–revolution or reform?, leftism or pragmatism?, and so forth.  He tries repeatedly to bring his work to the attention of the Central Committee, but the Central Committee could not care less even if poor Silverio was always ahead of the times and anticipated everything.  At the end, his monumental oeuvre ends us in ashes in three shoeboxes forgotten on a bench in the park, eventually thrown into the sea.  Julián published a very successful novel on inner exile, in French no less, but as it turns out it was the only novel he was ever able to write, and he ends as a ludopath, gambling his life away, and naturally losing it, in the new Madrid Casino.  And Odile, a great dancer, also goes through her own spiral of destruction in drug addiction.  The political illusion, drug addiction, and ludopathy stand in, therefore, for the promised liberation of desire, with tragic consequences.   Perhaps these few lines towards the end of the text address the role of the writer or the thinker reflecting on that existential predicament: “la verborrea podía considerarse una terapéutica eficaz, si bien desde el punto de vista de la dignidad no dejaba de ser un truco más o menos barato, dependiendo del estilo de la facundia.”   As a reader, muchos años después de Muchos años después, I need to wonder whether my own path was so divergent from the paths that Odile, Silverio and Julián took, which are also the paths of some of my brothers and sisters.  I expatriated myself partly as a consequence of what I saw as clear dead ends available to me, but then I am not sure my expatriation was not another dead end.  It was marked by work, and by an attempt to gain dignity in it or through it, perhaps too desperately, perhaps too enthusiastically.  Now I despise all of it, in certain precise ways, as nothing more than a “truco más o menos barato.”   And what remains is both a sense of relief that things were not worse than they actually have been and a sense of wonder that I could have been so stupid.

I imagine there is some comfort in waking up to the fact, even if belatedly, that, yes, we are always ahead of ourselves, and we are thrown into circumstances not of our own making. And there is no return. The only lesson to be learned is that newer generations may not be free of the illusions and delusions mine had to undergo. Things are not better now than they were so many years ago. If the promise of a liberation of desire was empty, the actual predicament, as I glimpse it from my students, is more like a promise of continued incarceration within tedious parameters they themselves seem unable to recognize as such. Let us see how they deal with it.

On Derrida’s Messianic and Heidegger’s “Authentic Existence.”

I have reread some of the Derridean texts on messianicity without messianism.  And, concurrently, I have been rereading Being and Time’s pages on being toward death and resoluteness.  As a result, I am convinced (for now at least) that Derrida’s messianicity without messianism, which is for Derrida the very cipher of his position on politics,  relates precisely and univocally to what Heidegger calls “authentic existence.”  As you might remember if you have read the text, but then you might not, “authentic existence” is the existentiell recognition of the fact that death is not to be bypassed, and that it is the “possibility of the impossibility of existence in general.”  In “resoluteness,” which is the “anticipatory revealing” of the impossibility of existing, always and in every case for me, we come to “understand” existence as radically singular and individual, subtracted from the “they.”  It is a freeing for existence in the very face of the impossibility of existence, which “initially and for the most part” remains entangled and obscured in everydayness.  Heidegger says something towards the end of his analysis of being-toward-death that seems inconspicuous but where in fact everything comes together: “Because anticipation of the possibility not-to-be-bypassed also disclosed all the possibilities lying before it, this anticipation includes the possibility of taking the whole of Da-sein in advance in an existentiell way, that is, the possibility of existing as a whole potentiality-of-being.”  It is here, I think, in this possibility of full existence that Derrida situates his messianicity without messianism–in other words, the structure of the to-come, always already perhaps-to-come.  Which means that even politics, as democracy-to-come, hinges for Derrida on the messianic possibility of full existence.  The other side of this is of course that apocalypse must then be understood as the revelation of a certain (I mean, certain with certainty) sacredness or sacrality in death (which Angst confirms and sustains).  The sacrality of the understanding of death, mine, opens for Da-sein “the complete authenticity of its existence.”   “Passionate anxious freedom toward death,” which is the Heideggerian formula, remains to a certain extent hidden in Derrida, but not so hidden if one reads, say, “Circumfession” carefully.  For me, this calls for a rereading of Derrida in exactly the same way Schürmann read Heidegger: from the end back to the beginning.   Needless to say, but I should say it: if the very condition of politics, particularly in the sense of democratic politics, is to be found on the “messianic” (remember: a waiting without horizon, which is the waiting for death/the event in the understanding that death/the event is always already here, has always already happened) project of authentic existence, then we are talking about infrapolitics.

On Jean-Luc Nancy’s “Exscription.” 

In the first page of “Exscription” (in The Birth to Presence) Nancy sets up a differend–the so-called transparent communication of the sort that is commended by general hegemonic discourse, which “serves only to obscure violence, betrayal, and lies,” and a different communication, the communication of exscription, where something like a spillage of meaning would take place.  This notion of a “spillage of meaning” becomes then what the essay must try to grapple with. 

Nancy does it through an extensive and rather cryptic commentary on the destiny of “the book,” which, he says, has been ruined by texts “bearing the names Mallarmé, Proust, Joyce, Kafka, Bataille, Borges, Blanchot, Laporte, Derrida.”  Of course these are names of the infrapolitical canon.  They set up a task: a “repetition” and a “rewriting” “of what does not have its identity imprinted once and for all . . . in the untranscribable Book:” “for the sake of deliverance.”  If the first kind of communication sets itself up as the answer to a question the second kind of communication has more to do with the response to a call.  It is always therefore an autographic move, or paspas naturel, pas ordinaire.  “The autograph walks into the abyss.” 

For Nancy this abyss marks the very possibility of community, which the book betrays: “the book never aspires to anything less than the retracing of what exceeds it.”  “At the end of books, there is the Apocalypse:” we write necessarily “according to the logic of discourse and therefore under the nostalgia of the theological logos, also speaking to make possible a communication of speech that can be decided only on the basis of a communism of relations of exchange and therefore of production.”  But, decisively, we write “yet also not speaking, but writing in rupture with all language of speech and writing:” for the Apocalypse, “an impossible, unsustainable nakedness.”

“The reasons for writing a book can be reduced to the desire to modify the relations that exist between a man and his fellows.  These relations are judged unacceptable and are perceived as a dreadful misery.”  These words open the commentary on Bataille.

Bataille places his writing in the stage–“the Christian theater of confession, absolution, relapse into sin, renewed abandon to forgiveness.”  But it is a stage:  “Bataille always played at being unable to finish, acted out the excess, stretched to the breaking point of writing, of what makes writing: that is, what simultaneously inscribes and exscribes it.”  The “interruption of discourse” is the emptying out of the Christian theater, and the emptying out of inscription, “always a murky business.”  But it is Bataille’s “movement of thought.” 

The definition of exscription comes then, and I think it must be seen as a difference with the Derridean notion of “there is nothing outside the text,” in spite of everything.  This is the fundamental Bataillean gesture that Nancy sponsors for himself, and that I think is quite consistent with infrapolitics as second-order deconstruction: “writing exscribes meaning every bit as much as it inscribes signification.  It exscribes meaning or, in other words, it shows that what matters–the thing itself, Bataille’s ‘life’ or ‘cry,’ and, finally, the existence of everything that is in question in the text (including, most remarkably, writing’s own existence)–is outside the text, takes place outside writing.”  “This outside–wholly exscribed within the text–is the infinite withdrawal of meaning by which each existence exists.”  Nancy now makes his own proposal, as I see it, linking Bataille to the thought of the ontological difference.  The “empty freedom” through which existence comes into presence and absence is “certainly not directed toward a project, a meaning, or a work.”  It only passes through them “to expose . . . the ungroundable being of being-in-the-world.  The ‘fact’ that there is being . . . this is the very place of meaning, but it has no meaning.” 

Writing and reading are therefore an exposure to the exscription of the ontological difference: “the being of existence is not unpresentable: it presents itself exscribed.”  “The heart of things: that is what we exscribe.” 

É(x)criture, then.  And through it “the implacable, joyous counterblow that must be struck against all hermeneutics, so that writing (and) existence once more can expose themselves: in the singularity, in the reality, in the freedom of the ‘common destiny of men.'” 

So writing existence is a praxis of existence, and existence is exposure to the ex-. 

A Note on Agamben’s State of Exception

The notion that metaphysics is the hegemonic configuration of the West, through the centuries and also now, has been disregarded, when not ridiculed and rejected.  Its counterpart is of course that any hegemony–always both a product and a foundation of sovereignty–is necessarily metaphysical.   This has not only been disregarded, ridiculed, and rejected, but just abominated and declared more than unacceptable, casus morti.  And yet, at the very heart of Agamben’s State of Exception, Agamben offers a thought that confirms it all:

He is talking about the Schmitt-Benjamin disputatio on sovereignty and the state of exception.  He says: “at issue in the anomic zone is the relation between violence and law–in the last analysis, the status of violence as a cipher for human action.  While Schmitt attempts every time to reinscribe violence within a juridical context, Benjamin responds to this gesture by seeking every time to assure it–as pure violence–an existence outside the law” (217 in The Omnibus Homo Sacer).  The following passage is crucial:

“For reasons that we must try to clarify, this struggle for anomie seems to be as decisive for Wester politics as the gigantomachia peri tes ousias, the ‘battle of giants concerning being,’ that defines Western metaphysics.  Here, pure violence as the extreme political object, as the ‘thing’ of politics, is the counterpart to pure being, to pure existence as the ultimate metaphysical stakes; the strategy of the exceptioin, which must ensure the relation between anomic violence and law, is the counterpart to the onto-theo-logical strategy aimed at capturing pure being in the meshes of the logos” (217).

Things get more complicated, or cryptic, after that, when Agamben attempts to show that “pure (or divine) violence is attested to only as the exposure and deposition of the relation between violence and law,” to such an extent that, as Benjamin’s essay on Kafka would show, the “law” whose nexus with power and violence has been deposed “blurs at all points with (infrapolitical) life” (220).

The final passage of the section, thoroughly messianic, encapsulates in a sense my difficulties with Agamben in general–for me, the reason why a step back becomes necessary, that is, a step not forward towards a messianic deposition of the law (through divine or revolutionary violence), but back towards the region that is prior to politico-juridical capture (or metaphysical capture).

“One day humanity will play with law just as children play with disused objects, not in order to restore them to their canonical use but to free them from it for good.  What is found after the law is not a more proper and original use value that precedes the law, but a new use that is born only after it.  And use, which has been contaminated by law, must also be freed from its own value.  This liberation is the task of study, or of play.  And this studious play is the passage that allows us to arrive at that justice that one of Benjamin’s posthumous fragments defines as a state of the world in which the world appears as a good that absolutely cannot be appropriated or made juridical” (221).

Finally, here is the last paragraph of the book, where Agamben seems to come to the infrapolitical neighborhood only to double down into politics, at the cost of proposing an archiutopian notion of it:

“To show law in its nonrelation to life and life in its nonrelation to law means to open a space between them for human action, which once claimed for itself the name of ‘politics.’  Politics has suffered a lasting eclipse because it has been contaminated by law, seeing itself, at best, as constituent power (that is, violence that makes law), when it is not reduced to merely the power to negotiate with the law.  The only truly political action, however, is that which severs the nexus between violence and law.  And only beginning from the space thus opened will it be possible to pose the question of a possible use of law after the deactivation of the device that, in the state of exception, tied it to life.  We will then have before us a ‘pure’ law, in the sense in which Benjamin speaks of a ‘pure’ language and a ‘pure’ violence.  To a word that does not bind, that neither commands nor prohibits anything, but says only itself, would correspond an action as pure means, which shows only itself, without any relation to an end.  And, between the two, not a lost original state, but only the use and human praxis that the powers of law and myth had sought to capture in the state of exception” (242).

Violence becomes a cipher for a life not captured by juridical sovereignty and at the same time the means for its extraction from it. This is why in Benjamin it appears as divine violence. Agamben aims at a time of posthegemony, but it shows up in his text as a sacred time, the time beyond the second coming, an after-time. This is a messianic projection that can only become so either from religious eschatology or as an ideological offshoot of a democracy-to-come.

The Question of Freedom. Aporias.

No, I am talking about the absolute arrivant, who is not even a guest.  He surprises the host–who is not yet a host or an inviting power–enough to call into question, to the point of annihilating or rendering indeterminate, all the distinctive signs of a prior identity, beginning with the very border that delineated a legitimate home and assured lineage, names and language, nations, families and genealogies.  (Jacques Derrida, Aporias 34)

To say “I am a Jew” or to say “I am a Christian” or to say “I am this and that,” and by “this and that” we mean any form of being that has been culturally produced, politically produced, historically or historiologically produced–that is insistent existence.  It is existing, alright, but it is a form of existing where ontical identifications have been made primary and defining.  We call that in-sistence, a dwelling that is primarily or exhaustively concerned with our ontical relations, our relations to beings, to entities.  Of course the same is true if we primarily think of ourselves as professors, or engineers, or federal agents.  Of if we think about ourselves in terms of the identitarian register, whatever it is we claim under that determination.  This does not mean we should not do it (we would do it anyway)–it only means that, as long and for as long as we do it, we live in insistence as a mode of being, and we exclude or neglect ex-istence, which calls for a different relation to beings as such, that is, to Being. 

Being cannot be grasped, cannot be retained, we get a glimpse of it as a clearing-in-withdrawal, it can only be the ground of a questioning.  We access it in the slackening of insistence for the sake of existence, that is, for the sake of something in us which constitutes us more fundamentally than any insistent allegiance–and that constitutes everything else as well. 

This is the reason that Heidegger, in Section 16 of The Beginning of Western Philosophy, says that an approximation to ex-istence, that is, to ex-istent existence from in-sistence, insistent existence, is first of all to be understood as a liberation: “Assuming that the Being of humans came to existence, then a transformation of them has occurred.  In the transition to existence, they are determined on the basis of existence.  And existence as understanding of Being is letting-be: freedom.  The transition to freedom leads to lack of shelter, thus to a liberation from something to something” (70). 

Liberation to the freedom of existence.  Heidegger does not talk about what makes some human beings capable of taking the step from insistence to existence.  He claims it is a universal capability, even though not everybody acts on it.  Those who do step into a letting-be which enables not just oneself but all beings to be what they are, in freedom. 

“The questioning directed to Being is the basic act of existence; this questioning inaugurates the history of humans as existing humans” (72).  And yet we choose, generally and for the most part, to withdraw ourselves from it.  “We can withdraw from it only in the way the wanderer, distancing himself more and more from the spring, semblantly dissolves every relation to it and yet perishes precisely through and on this relation of distancing himself” (73). 

Some of us, for whatever reason, get a bitter taste of the emptiness and hollowness of insistence.  We can certainly double down and perish from it, heroically or abjectly.  But we can also understand that the exclusion from insistent shelter opens up the field of freedom.  It is a difficult freedom, but there is no other freedom.

Heidegger says: “To be actually existent means for us: to become the ones we are” (74).  Far from “persevering” in identity, becoming the ones we are also means becoming mortal and becoming timely.  It is a simple matter: to give up our exclusive dependence on insistence for the sake of existence, in difficult freedom.  So that, by becoming the ones we are, we also let all beings be what they are. 

What does the Greek morning have to do with it?  If we are enabled “to begin again the unbegun beginning” (74), to recover originary freedom, and if that is the “essential task” of our lives, we do it out of our own resources.  We have nothing else, short of the boring and anxiety-producing refuge in insistence.   

The Greek morning is only a historical referent.  But it is also a historical referent.  It helps. 

But I wonder whether this difference between insistence and existence, which repeats of course the difference between Leitsfrage and Grundfrage, and ultimately repeats the ontological difference in its second, non-metaphysical modality, should be read as aporetic:  as both necessary and impossible.  Perhaps Heidegger would not deny its aporetic character–both insistence and existence cross each other’s borders, and they do it all the time, perhaps time itself is the ceaseless aporetic crossing of the borders between insistence and existence and back to insistence–but I think he would still insist on the absolute need for the paradoxical experiencing of the aporia as such (I call it paradoxical because, in principle, there could be no ex-perience of the a-poros).   Perhaps the Parmenidean fourth way is the experiencing of the aporia created by the impossible difference between the first way and the third way.  As usual, I fail to locate the second way in this uncanny map.

Unless . . . the second way is the way of what Derrida calls the arrivant in the epigraph above, of whom he says: “it no more commands than is commanded by the memory of some originary event where the archaic is bound with the final extremity, with the finality par excellence of the telos or of the eskhaton” (34).   Death, in other words, which is no longer insistent or existent, but rather marks the passage from existence to non-existence.  Non-existence is no longer the opposite of insistence, not quite, since it is mediated by existence.  And yet perhaps non-existence, as the most proper possibility of Dasein, which is aporetically the possibility of its impossibility, the certain possibility of its impossibility, determines in advance the flight from existence to insistence, through anxiety and fear.  Insistence would be in a way a warding-off of non-existence and not so much a flight from existence.  If both existence and insistence are modalities of being, non-existence is the border upon which they both crash and lose their impossible purity and reach exhaustive contamination.

The second way of Parmenides, the impracticable way, the impossible way, the way of no-way–is it not the way of death? 

Dasein‘s most proper possibility (death) is also its impossibility (the impossibility of existence)–this is the aporia.  In Aporias Derrida, at the end of a vertiginous analysis of Heidegger’s existential analytics of death, links this up with what he calls “a universal Marrano, if one may say, beyond what may nowadays be the finished form of Marrano culture” (74).  Why is that?

Derrida has exposed in his analysis that Heidegger must impossibly hold to his distinction between the authentic and the inauthentic, which is the difference between existence and insistence, “as well as that among the different forms of ending: dying properly speaking, perishing, and demising” (77): “These distinctions are threatened in their very principle, and, in truth, they remain impracticable as soon as one admits that an ultimate possibility is nothing other than the possibility of an impossibility and that the Enteignis always inhabited Eigentlichkeit” (77).  There is no existence without insistence, which means that the distinction does not hold. 

Derrida gives the name of “Marrano,” with a capital m, to what we may call the vortex of disappropriation for any possibility of authenticity.  In a clipped and all–too–rushed manner Derrida concludes his 1992 Cérisy lectures by claiming that the analytics of death in Being and Time does not exceed the Christian experience, “indeed, the Judeo-Christiano-Islamic experience of death to which the analysis testifies” (80): “this fundamental questioning cannot protect itself from a hidden bio-anthropo-thanato-theological contamination” (79).  From that perspective, the deconstruction of the existential analytic, which is also the deconstruction of the existence-insistence polarity, is a marrano adventure.  Derrida concludes: “Let us figuratively call Marrano anyone who remains faithful to a secret that he has not chosen, in the very place where he lives, in the home of the inhabitant or of the occupant, in the home of the first or of the second arrivant, in the very place where he stays without saying no but without identifying himself as belonging to.  In the unchallenged night where the radical absence of any historical witness keeps him or her, in the dominant culture that by definition has calendars, this secret keeps the Marrano even before the Marrano keeps it.  Is it not possible to think that such a secret eludes history, age, and aging?” (81).

Incidentally, this seems to me the textual site where Derrida links deconstruction and the marrano position, thereby inserting himself, autographically, as a marrano thinker within the history of thought.  But his critique of Heidegger, which he makes extensive to Freud and Levinas (“The same could be said for Freud’s and Levinas’s thought, mutatis mutandis.  . . . the only characteristic that we can stress here is that of an irreducibly double inclusion” 80), is in fact the accentuation of an already explicit, perhaps still inchoate marranization of thought, already active in Heidegger in the original displacement from insistence with entities to the outside of an ex-istence “in the unchallenged night”–and the argument could be repeated for Freud and Levinas.  If so, Derrida’s universal Marrano, il y vas d’un certain pas (6), is a figure of difficult freedom whose drive would have intensified the voiding out of the double inclusion into the double exclusion where the secret of existence could live on, in a wait for the arrivant unentangled by falsely hospitable contamination. 

Nicholas’ Question

“Now for my basic clarifying questions. From my point of view, the problems we face today are in some ways unlike anything humanity has faced before. I completely agree that history can teach us valuable lessons, and that we should try to learn from history, but I get the impression that Heidegger is saying something more than that. Maybe I’m mistaken though, and Heidegger is really just making a simple point about the need to study history. It’s hard for me to imagine how we would be in a position to do “real” thinking by somehow remembering pre-metaphysical thinking. Wouldn’t the resulting thinking be just a synthesis of metaphysical and pre-metaphysical thinking? It’s not as if we can return to pre-metaphysics, so clearly that can’t be what Heidegger is arguing. But is it really just the simple point that we should learn from history? Is he really just saying that any ahistorical thinking is no thinking at all?” (Nicholas)

Nicholas, thank you for that question, which gives me an opportunity to repeat, recapitulate, sum up what I think is the main thrust of what I am proposing to all of you in this seminar.  I don´t know that I have the time to say everything that would need to be said in answer to your question, but I will give it at least an initial try.  I would ask that you reread some of the things I have been posting in this space, though, as they might clarify further.

I think you know by now that I am a philosophical renegade.  I studied philosophy formally at the University of Barcelona in the second half of the 1970s, but after a while I got very fed up with the sanctimonious piety of the discipline and decided to abandon it–I had a chance to go get my PhD in Philosophy at Heidelberg, but I let it go in favor of coming to the US to get my degree in the much more humble field of Spanish and Latin American Studies, which at the time meant for me: literature in my primary language.  In fact I was so fed up with university pieties that I also rejected an invitation from Yale in order to get my degree in a provincial department, U of Georgia–I figured it would be safer for me to keep away from more sanctimonious rhetoric, the one associated with supposedly elite institutions, in order to open some degree of freedom for myself, since I just wanted to be left alone to do my thing and I could not care less at the time about the structures of academic prestige (now I realize they have advantages). So I did, and I have spent most of my career doing literary and cultural studies, which is another can of worms that I won´t go into, as it would be rather irrelevant to your question.  The point is, even though I had abandoned philosophy as a discipline, I was already hooked on Heidegger.  He was not the only one that had hooked me–I was also hooked on Greek philosophy, and on Nietzsche in particular, and later on on Freud and Lacan, Derrida, Badiou, etc.  But Heidegger kept growing on me, although I never (well, almost never) made it a point to write directly about him.  I did not need to.  He was the writer that taught me the most, consistently.  The guy I could go to when I was bored to death with everything else in order to find a new stimulus, to recharge my often exhausted batteries if you will.  Which brings me to our seminar and to your question.

Heidegger is for me, indisputably, the essential thinker of the 20th century.  That does not mean I consider myself a Heideggerian or that I want to repeat Heidegger or that I have some kind of desire to paraphrase him endlessly and make a cult of him.  Not at all.  It simply means I realized long ago that thought, as far as I was concerned, had to measure up to what Heidegger had said–his work was there, it was extraordinarily important, and it needed to be accounted for rather than disavowed or ignored. 

It is in that context that, when it came to attempt to develop thinking that I am doing in my own name, that is, not as a critic, not as an exegete, not as what one could consider an interpreter of the primary work of others, Heidegger needed to come on board.  Which is the fundamental reason I am dwelling on him quite a bit in the seminar, whose secret mission is simply to push the notion of a marrano infrapolitics.  As I said on Wednesday, if it came to Heidegger’s dead ears that I am making him the measuring yardstick for the development of marrano infrapolitics, even of marrano posthegemonic infrapolitics, he would turn around in his grave.  Until, that is, he gave me a chance to explain myself. 

In that context, I will now attempt to get to your question:  no, Heidegger’s primary reference is not history, it is the Seinsfrage, the question of being.  It takes time to understand what he means by that, it takes a lot more than the explanation I can give you of it here, so all I dare say now is that it is important and that you should work it into your study plans over the next 15 years.  But in shorthand, so as to get to your question:  Being is not something out there, being is not God or some other extraterrestrial entity.  On the contrary, being is radically dependent on historical humanity, and in particular on Western humanity, since our languages are all of them absolutely centered on the notion of being.  Heidegger will say:  history is the history of being, everything else is historiology, and as such metaphysical.   We can translate this a bit: the history of being marks the historical destiny of Western humanity, which, as dominant humanity, also involves the destiny of the planet as a whole.  But the history of being is also the history of a monumental, and historically sustained, cover-up, a forgetting, he calls it, which has resulted in metaphysics as the properly (and properly violent) hegemonic articulation of the West (hence of the planet, in a derived way).  Can we get beyond the cover-up, can we retrieve being through all the metaphysical mystifications?  We can try.  Heidegger tried.  He tried first by formulating his own understanding of ex-istence as not exhausted in, in other words, as in radical excess of, hegemonic everyday alienated unfree inauthentic living, and he came to realize that he needed to understand the reasons why we are stuck where we are, in that kind of living, primarily and for the most part.  He thought that for that he needed to go back to the first morning, the historical dawn of Western thinking, namely, the early Greek thinkers and poets.  The radical investigation of what he thought he could deem both original and derivative in the Greek world of thought, and subsequently in the history that developed though Rome, through Neo-Testamentary religion, through the curia and the Holy Roman Empire, through the history of the Western nation states, through the history of technology, through the history of revolutions and secularizations, through nihilism, etc., is what makes him the essential thinker of the 20th century.  The point was never to say: “hey, fellows, I have succeeded in demonstrating that there is a strange continuity in history that explains the devastation of the world we see today, our political impasses, the wasteland that is everyday life for a vast majority of human beings, the misery, the cracks and inconsistencies of capitalism, etc., starting with the Greeks.”  The  point was rather, from the beginning, I would say, to say: “hey, fellows, if we are going to have a future, we need to interrupt the inertia of that Western history, to step out of it, and to move towards an other beginning of thinking.  But–that other beginning of thinking is only that, a beginning, preparatory, nothing else.  I have not decided anything: I do not have a philosophy.  I only ever want to clear the way to a possible future.”   

His thesis was:  the destruction of metaphysics, through the retrieval of a thinking of being, is a necessary condition for the future of thinking, which is also the future of humanity. 

In my opinion, regarding the problems you mention in the first lines of the paragraph above, Heidegger is the most clear-sighted and useful thinker both at the level of diagnosis and at the level of recommending how to work on a path out of them.  But I do grant that it takes time to figure this out–if only because his complete works exceed one hundred volumes. 

Modestly, I am trying to develop the idea of a marrano Heideggerianism–after Heidegger, as Rafael so brilliantly put it in his presentation this week.  The marrano has good personal and historical reasons to abhor metaphysics.  So the marrano–what I am trying to present as the historical and typological figure of the marrano, which I am calling the marrano register–is for me the existential position (perhaps only one of them, although I cannot think of any other, frankly) that is attuned to the (Heideggerian) task of finding a path beyond or below history, towards a reformulated, certainly renegade, posthegemonic understanding of free existence.

I call that infrapolitics.  Let me now add that without infrapolitics there will never be a politics worthy of the name.  We do not have it now, and the non-Heideggerians that I know of have been singularly inept at proposing it. 

Well, as I said, this is only a beginning.  I hope it helps as such. 

Introduction to sections 11 and 12, Heidegger, The Beginning of Western Philosophy.  (Rojcewicz translation for quotations in English, GA 35 for the original German.)

Remember the first words of the seminar:  “Our mission: the cessation of philosophizing?  That is, the end of metaphysics; by way of the originary questioning of the ‘meaning’ (truth) of Beyng” (1).

At the end of Section 11 Heidegger says that the Seinsfrage, that is, the question of the essence of Beyng, is “the fateful question ‘of humanity,'” although he puts humanity in question marks and hurries to say he only means Western humanity.  It is Western humanity that has devoted itself to asking merely “semblant questions” in the name of ontology (42).  The question of Beyng is no longer, it seems, an ontological question.  Ontology has prospered in the forgottenness of Beyng.  We need to go beyond ontology and ontological reflection. 

Heidegger then says an “experience” of the question–Erfahrung–is needed, and that such an experience will bring us to “a possible characterization of the beginning and of its possible proximity” (43).  The question:  “was ist das Seiende, nämlich hinsichtlich des Seins?” (55).  Heidegger then engages in a disquisition on whether and in what sense that question is a Fragliche question, question-worthy (55).   The question must be asked so that what is not (thought of) as question-worthy in what is interrogated shows its question-worthiness, makes it explicit.

“Beings are the interrogated” (44).  They are familiar to us, within known limits: everybody knows “das Seiende im Ganzen.”    We are pre-acquainted with it.  We pre-know it.  We must get beyond that and ask: “was ist das Seiende, es als ein solches, sofern es überhaupt Seiendes ist?  Was macht Seiende, gleichviel welcher Art und aus welchen Gebiet, überhaupt zu Seiendem?” (58).  (“what are beings as such, just insofar as they are beings?  No matter of what kind or of what region, what makes beings beings at all?” 45).   The question-worthiness thus begins to appear:  “das Seiende is das Bekannte, dessen Sein das Unbekannte” (58). 

We know the being of beings to the extent that we know what non-being is.  It is a limited extent.  It is even an extent to which we are generally forgetful, an extent we rarely make question-worthy.  We ex-press it constantly and we do so precisely because it is always “pressing” (“it is already present prior to the expression of it,” 47).  But we generally do so “thoughtlessly” (in Gedankenlosigkeit, 61).  Can we turn that thoughtlessness into thought?

We thoughtlessly know being in its thatness, whatness, suchness, trueness.  And yet we know it “without delusion,” with certainty, and in general agreement with others.  But we have no concept of it: “wir es verstehen und doch nicht begreifen, . . . wir es vor allem Begriff verstehen” (62).  It remains forgotten in favor of beings.  It is therefore the most unproblematic (das Fragloseste). 

How do we turn it into question-worthy?  For the first time (50). 

Heidegger concludes Section 11 by claiming that we have been preparing for that question since the first day of the seminar–it is interesting that here he uses Sein, Sein des Seienden, rather than Seyn (66).  And yet we do not know was das Sein besagt (66). 

[Note that the upshot is that we do not yet know anything about the most fateful, the fateful, question of Western humanity.  We, Western humanity, are clueless about our fate, and ontology and the ontological tradition, beyond our poor understanding of history, itself conditioned by ontology (by bad ontology?), are at least partly responsible for it.  This is what generates the need to proceed to the destruction of ontology, also to the destruction of historiology, and to the recovery of the first beginning, in order to access a “proximity” to the Seinsfrage.]

Toward the end of Section 11 Heidegger remarks that we know little “of the essence of language,” just as little “as we know of the essence of being” (51).  This could offer a clue as to what is meant by Western humanity, since, Heidegger says, “we are now following a linguistic idiom, one in which we have been moving since long ago” (51). 

The linguistic tradition of Western humanity, then, has long moved along a path that opposes Being to becoming, to the “ought,” to thinking (or consciousness), and to semblance.  According to this particular determinateness, which has a history and comes from a history, Being is “perseverance, abiding, rest, standing in availability, presence at hand, palpability, and actuality” (53).  Something is gained regarding the question of Being.  Being is not simply opposed to the nothingness, but is also opposed to all those determinations: “We surely said that the question of Being is the deepest and broadest.  Being is so encompassing that it finds its limits only in nothingness.  Yet now we see that becoming, the ‘ought,’ thinking, and semblance fall outside of Being” (54).  Not trivial, since we are talking about nature and history, all human moral action and even work and even politics, everything having to do with subjectivity, and everything which falls outside of truth.   In the Western tradition, those issues took over philosophical reflection and reduced the question of Being to the unimportant and ar bitrarily narrow.  “And so it might be fully justified that the question of Being altogether disappeared from the ruling center of philosophical questioning” (54).  And so the historiologists, the ontologists, the metaphysicians may be correct: it is really just a matter of thinking about beings (55). 

And yet.  Perhaps upon reflection we will discover that becoming, the “ought,” thinking and semblance do not fall outside of Being.  “Every something that is not nothing has some sort of Being” (55). 

Should we persist in raising the question of the question-worthiness of Being, or have we been persuaded that the question of Being is barely question-worthy? 

In a footnote to the last page of Section 12 Heidegger mentions “the flight in the face of Beyng into graspable beings! Cf. Nietzsche.”  I find it hard to grasp what Heidegger had in mind here in terms of his reference to Nietzsche, but he is clearly pointing out a structure of fugitivity, of flight, from Being to beings, that has occupied, perhaps even defined, the entire history of Western humanity, from its inception. 

[How to turn that flight around, that is, how to begin to think of an alternative fugitivity, a fugitivity from beings back into Being, or Beyng–that seems to be the orientation and the mission of the Seinsfrage.  It would be a total reversal of historiology, which goes through an ontological clearing and destruction already recommended in Being and Time. Is this not the “cessation of philosophizing”?  The cessation of philosophizing may begin to be understood as the destructive character of the Seinsfrage, in a movement of return to the historical beginning, or to a proximity to the beginningProximity to the beginning: Is there a way in which we can find it in ourselves? Heidegger will proceed in Section 13 to an examination of the notion of existence as a way of facilitating that path.  But that secret will only be revealed next week!]

Unhappy Consciousness

In Chapter 4 of the Phenomenology of Spirit, following the analysis of the master/slave dialectics, Hegel brings up the problem of the unhappy consciousness, which can be presented succinctly as follows:  Subjectivity is radically alienated, split.  The subject finds herself autonomous and sovereign, in the sense that everything that exists exists for me.  But the subject also knows that her particularity and finitude makes a mockery of her universal pretension.  This is the Unhappy Consciousness.  Hegel finds that the Catholic Church presents a historical solution in the following sense:  I am able to incorporate the totality of the world into my consciousness but the world at the same time rejects me as a particular, base instance of ridiculous finitude, as a pathetic egoist full of bullshit.  In the eyes of the world, that is, in the gaze of the other, I am simply another thing, a body, an object.  The clash of my self-understanding from an internal perspective and of my self-understanding from an external perspective makes me miserable.  I must find a way out of this predicament.

Confession gives me a way out.  Confession is the mechanism through which I find a way out of my own finitude.  Through confession I reconcile myself with myself, but at a price.  It is the price of self-sacrifice.  Confession is the realization that there is a third, and that I need a third, a mediating third.  That third is the space into which I thoroughly alienate myself in order to recover myself.  It is the space of community, whose model is therefore the Catholic Church (or, indeed, the Communist Party, and everything in between, i.e., everything that attempts to take the place of the Catholic Church or the Communist Party: the family, the tribe, the Oaxacan community, the place of social belonging).

Think about Inquisitional practices or think about the self-critique which was so essential for Communist Party members (the emblematic example is the Moscow Show Trials in the 1930s, but we know it goes on in cancel culture today).  In the confessional I negate my own private interiority and make it available to the gaze of the other, which turns me into a passive object, whose truth is always ever the truth of the other.  By accepting that, I find a return to myself in the destruction of what is unhappy in my unhappy consciousness.  But in the return to myself I have also given myself up.  I have found a We.  What more do I want?  I will live in the We, and the We will make me immortal.  Through confession I find forgiveness, recognition, reconciliation.  Now, finally, there is a meaning–a social meaning.

The essential structure of this reconciliation is sacrifice.  Now, if infrapolitics presents itself as non-sacrificial thought, then it obviously must reject the whole structure, the whole figure.  Infrapolitics would then be the enterprise of destruction of the figure of the Unhappy Consciousness, of its presuppositions and consequences, for the sake of a non-sacrificial structuration of existence at the end of metaphysics.

The figure of the Unhappy Consciousness is the figure that mediates between the old attachment to the divine, prior to the “death of God,” and the more modern, secularized version of the issue as an attachment to “the people,” to the nation, to the community, in other words, to “politics.”  Through it we see how, indeed, all modern concepts of the political are secularizations of theological concepts, as Carl Schmitt famously put it.  But we also see how the modern concept of the political is a sublimation of the death of God, how the social becomes a compensatory formation for the subjective split, for the senselessness in the age of nihilism.

This is one of the reasons, incidentally, why the marrano stands for me as an essential figure of infrapolitical experience.

Now, it seems to me that Heidegger is attempting to offer a non-sacrificial solution to the catastrophic predicament of the end of metaphysics.  Or, indeed, that a non-sacrificial solution is itself the end of metaphysics. The recovery of the Seinsfrage is a precondition for a non-sacrificial structuration of history, hence for the “other beginning.” 

What is at stake in Heidegger’s 1932 seminar on Anaximander and Parmenides, and in the Seinsfrage, which itself dictates the totality of the seminar, is a destruction of the figure of the Unhappy Consciousness–of its presuppositions and consequences.  Nietzsche has a crucial role there. (And Kierkegaard, who in his Concluding Scientific Postscript takes up Unhappy Consciousness and takes it in a direction other than the Hegelian one, is also no doubt part of the secret conversation).  But obviously Anaximander and Parmenides are the truly crucial ones. 

In any case, infrapolitics calls for a marrano Heidegger, or for a marrano reading of Heidegger’s relentless solicitation of the Seinsfrage.  Not only, but certainly also. 

More on the Marrano Adventure

One day we will learn to think our exhausted word “truth” (Wahrheit) from out of the protection (Wahr) and learn that truth is the preservation (Wahrnis) of being, and that being, as presence, belongs to it.  Preservation as the protection of being belongs to the shepherd; a shepherd who has so little to do with bucolic idylls and nature mysticism that he can become the shepherd of being only if he remains the place-holder for the Nothing. Both are the same.  Man can do both only within the dis-closedness (Ent-schlossenheit) of Da-sein.  (Heidegger, “Anaximander’s Saying” 262)

Last week, at the seminar, we left suspended the notion of marrano adventure: that is, the notion of what it is that comes (ad-venire) to a marrano existence.  We may already have sufficiently established that the marrano experience is an experience of double exclusion, that is, an experience that dwells in the impossibility of belonging.  If so, then we could think of the marrano as “the place-holder for the Nothing.”  The marrano is alone, they are in the thrall of a profound solitude.  Alone with their secret, which constantly turns into the anxiety of discovering that there is no secret, that the secret is the Nothing–it cannot be shared.  This means: the marrano feels out of place, out of joint, in any experience of the third way of Parmenides, the way of opinion, the way of the mortals.  They are still there, but out of joint with it.  Out of joint with history, out of joint, hence looking at their own disjointure, dis-appearance, death.  But it also means that they are out of joint regarding the possibility of the first way: the goddess does not talk to them, she remains silent. 

The second way is the Nothing.  The marrano is in truth always already there.  How is the marrano to turn its own experience of the Nothing into something other than pessimism, other than nihilism? 

By moving away from pessimism, and from nihilism, the marrano may perhaps enter the tragic.  Heidegger says, in “Anaximander’s Saying,” that the experience of being that the fragment of Anaximander we discussed last week contains is “neither pessimistic nor nihilistic.  Nor is it optimistic.  It remains tragic” (269).  “Tragic” means that the marrano is caught between their conatus essendi, that is, the “rebellious whiling” (268), the rebelllious persistence in continuity, and a dawning understanding that they cannot persist, that they have no place, that their adikía dictates their passage to inconsistency, to disappearance, and to death.

The marrano is in danger, they feel the danger.  Always on the verge of a panic attack, or indeed in the throes of a panic attack.  Can the danger give the marrano something?  Can the danger produce marrano knowledge?  Heidegger says: “Knowledge is the remembrance of being . . . Knowledge is the thoughtful awareness of the preservation of being” (263).  What can the marrano remember beyond remembering? As historiology is blocked off as a solution, since the marrano can appeal to no apparent history, no reliable tradition, that is, no register of identity, no peaceful accommodation to being, can the marrano appeal to some other history, to some other experience of history? 

[I would call it an experience of infrapolitical history, an infrahistorical experience, but we do not have the time to get into this.  In any case, in Barbara Fuchs’ book, Exotic Nation, we may perhaps catch a glimpse of a particular dimension of infrapolitics in Spanish history, a dimension that has always already refused to submit to the shadow of terror that hegemonic history projects over the land; an experience that neglects to pay heed to the “power within the state superior to the state itself,” inquisitional power, and dwells in everyday affective practices that are heterogeneous to it, and have an other than political intent, an existential intent.]

Last week we discussed Heidegger’s image of the wanderer and the spring.  I repeat my notes on that issue from last week here:

The section that immediately follows Heidegger’s exegesis of the Anaximander fragments (in the 1932 seminar The Beginning of Western Philosophy)  ends in a crystal-clear definition of the ontico-ontological difference, which is also the ruination of onto-theological thought.  That passage reads, in the English translation: “And if we ask, no doubt also unsuitably, for the genuine result held out by these pronouncements, then it is this:  beings are indeed on the basis of Being, but Being itself is not a being.  Being and beings are different–this difference is the most originary one that could ever open up” (XX).  The notion that God might be a being would be inconsistent with the principle of ontotheology, which makes God the principle.  There is something about Being that exceeds God, that is, before the principle.  Which brings ontotheology to its ruin.

The section that follows starts with a meditation on our understanding of history.  Heidegger’s basic contention is that our relation to history, channeled today through what he calls historiology, is a form of self-delusion: we presuppose that we are more advanced, less primitive, always in a better relation to things than our ancestors.  And then Heidegger proposes an extraordinary image, the image of the wanderer and the spring.  Within the image the spring would be an originary experience, an experience that human beings had in a period that must remain immemorial to us, from which we are always already detached, separated.  The wanderer stands for historical Dasein, now marked as a being that wanders from its own beginning:

A wanderer in an arid region must distance himself more and more from the spring at which he first and last drew water.  Viewed soberly, his distance from this spring is thereby increasing.  He leaves the spring behind, and with the increasing distance he loses his orientation; the spring in the end lies inaccessibly far behind.  Assume the wanderer then dies of thirst.  Why did he die?  Presumably because at too great a distance from the spring he no longer had a relation to it.  Yet how is the too great distance from the spring no longer a relation to it?  At a sufficiently great distance, does this relation cease to be a relation, or is the excessively great distance from the spring always still a relation to it, a negative relation but still precisely a relation and even one that is hardly inconsequential?  . . . Does not the spring pursue him more importunately the closer he comes to dying of thirst?” (Beginning XX). 

Is this a romantic position?  Or reactionary?  The image allegorizes a relation to history according to which the distant wanderer dies out of an inability to turn his distance into a form of proximity.  And unworked-out or de-worked relation to the originary–that is, to the historically originary–would be a form of perishing.   Another way of putting it:  we increase our distance to the source (read, the Urerfahrung), we persevere in our wandering, and we perish from it.  Heidegger raises then the question whether it is the beginning itself that remains concealed from us, increasingly so as we wander further and further away, or whether there is a proximity, indeed an essential proximity to the beginning, since it is our beginning, that we betray by intentionally pushing away from it, by obdurately turning our sight from it. 

At the end of subsection 8 Heidegger makes a reference to the first words in his seminar.  Those words were:  “Our mission: the cessation of philosophizing?  That is, the end of metaphysics; by way of an originary questioning of the ‘meaning’ (truth) of Beying” (XX).   A retrieval of the Urerfahrung, the primal experience which is the spring of the philosophical endeavor, would also mean the restitution of a historical experience whose main thrust would not be escaping history, fleeing from history, but returning to it.  Such a return would not be a return into contourlessness–it would be a return to the experience of the difference between being and beings, which does not authorize an understanding of the human mission as merely a persevering in what one is, which would be an ontic task–albeit the task that has organized the long history of metaphysics.  What one is has now become insufficient.  The mission exceeds it.

That concludes the notes from last week.   

We may now perhaps continue the investigation on the marrano adventure by positing that the marrano is fated to think the ontological difference as a particular form of return to history.  The marrano must recover a proximity to the spring, or the marrano will perish (or will languish in perishing). 

Heidegger lectured again on Anaximander in 1946 (cf. “Anaximander’s Saying”) and he said things that are not inconsistent with what he had already said in 1932 but take the issue a bit further in several respects.  The approach to history is one of them.  In 1946 Heidegger omits any mention of his old image concerning the wanderer and the spring.  Instead, he wonders: “Is there, concealed in the chronological remoteness of the saying, a historical proximity to the unspoken, an unspoken that will speak out in that which is coming?” (245). 

This “proximity to the unspoken” is perhaps the lot of the marrano, hence the very possibility of a marrano adventure. 

What is spoken has been ruined for the marrano, who is excluded from it.  From their position, the marrano may have recourse to whatever has remained unspoken in the spoken, in the huge historical chatter the marrano can no longer countenance.  Would this unspoken qualify as a marrano apocalypse? It is an eschatology, its very possibility.  The marrano, in their errancy, moves towards an alternative destiny, subsequent upon a revelation.  But it is a marrano revelation.

The marrano adventure is therefore “epochal,” in that it leaves something behind for the sake of something other: another time of history, another historical temporality.  At this point Heidegger makes a statement that clarifies its very possibility.  Heidegger says: “Little depends on what we represent and present to ourselves from the past; but a great deal depends on the manner in which we are mindful of the destined” (255).  Our “manner” is the way we relate to being, that is, our position regarding the three (but there are four) Parmenidean ways.  In that sense our “manner” is “the correlate of the epochal character of being” (254).  We would have to speak of a marrano manner, a marrano Da-sein: “the correlate of the epochal character of being we can experience most immediately is the ecstatic character of Da-sein.  The epochal essence of being appropriates the ecstatic essence of Da-sein.  Man’s ek-sistence sustains the ecstatic thereby preserving what is epochal in being, to whose essence the Da, and therefore Da-sein, belongs” (254-55). 

In the epigraph there is mention of the word “dis-closedness.”  Marrano Da-sein, marrano ek-sistence, is dis-closed toward the unspoken, since the spoken holds limited use for them.  This dis-closedness is a premise for the marrano adventure.  It presupposes a terrible nakedness, a terrible dispossession.  But it turns the dispossession about.  Heidegger concludes his “Anaximander’s Saying” with the words: “Then thinking must poeticize on the enigma of being.  It brings the dawn of thought into proximity to that which is to be thought” (281). 

Perhaps then the marrano is always already historically destined to think the enigma of being epochally, that is, to think the enigma of being in the transition, which the marrano existentially needs, from radical danger to eschatological peace? 

This would be the reason why the marrano adventure stands in for the task of thinking today. Or for a certain task of thinking.