|> contributions 21-30 > #19|
About this text
About Marcus Steinweg
Download as pdf
Love, Pain And Self-Erection
Subject of failure?
The subject is distinguished from the non-subject by the minimum of freedom to be itself, i.e. it has the freedom to defend its self in view of real unfreedom. A human being cannot be reduced to its status as mere object. It knows, as Carl Schmitt says, "not only birth," the facticity of its having been cast, "but also the possibility of a rebirth," which, as Hölderlin says in The Course of Life, is "the freedom to set out whither he will". There is therefore only one obligation for the human subject: to be free in view of its freedom. The subject is the auto-affective subject of freedom to self-subversion. In every act of its own freedom, i.e. the lack of binding subjectivity, it turns toward itself. It commits itself and authorizes itself as the subject of decisions and actions in relation to this freedom which is both minimal and absolute, i.e. unlimited. The subject of freedom is this subject of the open horizon, subject of limitless reliance on itself, since the subject’s self, its subjectivity, is nothing other than this infinite room for play, an endless open horizon, sea or desert, dimension of absolute freedom in which it loses itself in endless responsibility.
As we know, Sartre is the philosopher of this freedom and responsibility. However, the Sartrean subject is perhaps still too Cartesian and phenomenological subject of self-knowledge, subject of substantial stability. It continues to present itself as the subject of knowledge (or non-knowledge), as consciousness and self-consciousness instead of as the subject of radical blindness and affirmative self-subversion. For the beginning of the subject, its origin, is not the light of evidence. At the subject’s beginning, something radically non-subjective, neither subject nor object persists: the pre-reflective and pre-ontological nakedness of the material fact which bears witness to both the limit and the ground of possibility and the proper abyss of subjectivity in general. This is the absolute givenness of blind matter in which the self-affirmative blindness of the subject of freedom and responsibility remains embedded and which it reflects in a certain way.
The clash between two blindnesses, of opaque pre-reflective matter with the opaque self of a subject without subjectivity, marks the arena for the birth of the beginning of another, non-Cartesian subject which unifies the darkness of its origin with the veiling of its horizon, a singular subject which is given wings and also retarded by irreducible blindness.
Singularities are subjects of the line. They hold themselves on the curve of the greatest possible indeterminacy. This is the curve of becoming, of deterritorialization, the line of mutations, of uncontrolled movements, line of an originary deviation, of a drift, a clinamen which holds open the space of eventuation and movement of a concrete, although indeterminate singularity. It is the lifeline of a subject without subjectivity. Without identity, singularities dance on this line of indeterminacy by not allowing themselves to be measured against either its highest or their lowest points. Singularities are immeasurable, unfathomable, incommensurable.
The fathomlessness of singularities is not the extreme. It is movement itself which causes them to race from here to there and back again in absolute rhythms, from the depths of the origin into the wide open horizon. The subject of the origin is the universal, European we-subject. It is the subject of conversation, of dialogical reassurance of subjectivity, subject of identity of the logos in Plato. It is the subject of transcendental self-grounding and securing of the origin in Kant and Husserl. Without doubt, Heidegger's Dasein, which takes leave of the paradigm of the subject in the modern era, is still such a subject of reflection back to its beginning, to the beginning of this beginning, to the origin of the origin which no longer belongs to the space and the tradition of metaphysics.
The subject of the horizon, if we distinguish it from the horizon subject of the logos tradition, is the subject of the future, of what is coming. In a certain geo-ontological sense, it is the American subject. As we know, Deleuze and Guattari have conceded "a special place" to America. The conflicts subject-singularity, origin-horizon, root-rhizome, tree-grass, past-future, deceleration-acceleration, etc. are already the conflict Europe-America. Although America is "not free from the domination of trees and the search for roots" and Europe is rhizomatic "with its Indians without lines of descent, its ever-receding horizon, its movable and displaceable borders".
One has to take leave of bipolarity, the binary machine, in order to think bipolarities. Singularity as the subject of the line which is neither a pure line of descent nor a pure line receding to a vanishing point, is neither the European subject of depth, of the origin, of the root (of the logos), nor is it the American singularity of the wide open, naked horizon, of the future of the individual or the community of pure future beings. It neither digs in the grave of a withdrawing origin, in the tomb of interiority, nor does it heroize itself as the instance of quick decisions in the inhospitability of the simple exterior. The singularity which is nonetheless a subject withdraws from the European narcissism of self-experience, its lachrymosity and introspective fussiness just as much as from the self-righteous pathos of American resoluteness in order to adopt its own form of movement and action in the real exterior to the zone of interference or contact between America and Europe, a kind of absolute freedom, by dancing.
Dance is the mobility of freedom beyond the ideologies of expression, of the shameless self-realization of uninhibited 'creativity'. It therefore subverts the merely narcissistic subversion of normality. It is committed to freedom as such; its unfetteredness is absolute. Dance, says Badiou, "indicates thinking as the event of propriation". It bears witness to an essential disobedience to the established ontological order as an absolute innovation which breaks through the horizon of expectation. The subject of dance emerges from nothingness as a chaotic "uncoerced body". It is as if eternity had torn up the laws of time and space for a moment. At this moment the subject is infinitely alone. It singularizes itself at the brink of an abyss which is the proper name for subjectivity in general. It steps outside history in order to redefine its life, its singularity, its destiny. Dance is the moment of innocent oblivion to history in which the subject loses itself in the endlessness of the eternal.
Nihilistic ethics is the ethics of the depressed, of those who experience life as unhappiness, who are without hope and confidence. The only hope of the depressed subject is that of after-life. The depressed subject hopes for death and its thereafter. The hope of the depressed subject is therefore a kind of religious self-solace. It cripples the subject in the here and now in order to commit it to its beyond. The depressive nihilistic subject starts to believe in itself like a nothingness. It celebrates its inadequacy and impotence and encloses itself in its own nullity.
The nihilist comes to grief against life and its incalculability. It does not succeed, as Simone de Beauvoir says in the spirit of Hegelianizing existentialism, in realizing the synthesis of the "in itself" and the "for itself". It therefore wants to "liberate itself from its subjectivity". "In the awareness of being able to be nothing, the human now resolves to be nothing. We want to designate this stance as nihilistic. The nihilist is close to the spirit of seriousness because, instead of realizing its negativity as a living movement, it conceives its annihilation as something substantial. It wants to be nothing, and this nothingness which it dreams of is nevertheless still a being, namely, precisely the Hegelian antithesis of being, a rigid givenness. Nihilism is defrauded seriousness which turns toward itself."
The nihilist dreams of motionlessness, of the interruption of becoming (in the concept). It dreams of bringing the contingency of the present and the incalculability of the future under control, of being protected against the unexpected. The nihilistic subject is therefore a subject with a yearning for calm. It is the subject of an imaginary or phantasmagoric becalming. It wants to neutralize the innocence of becoming and its own freedom in view of this innocence. "In any case it is always a matter of people who want to get rid of the restlessness of their freedom by denying both themselves and the world."
The nihilistic subject is a subject of denial of the world and the self. It invests the energy which remains to it in the celebration of its own downfall. It tickles its mortality by livingly staging its life as accelerated dying. The nihilistic subject is the subject of theatre, of putting its bad conscience and its narcissistic hysteria on show. Nothing gives it more satisfaction than the publication of its self as nothing. "Bad conscience," says Deleuze, "is essentially hypocritical and histrionic."
For the subject of nihilism, life means to despair of itself under the supervision of others, to celebrate its unworthiness as a singular victim. What the subject of nihilism sacrifices is life, its conflicts and its opportunities for happiness, which the nihilist replaces with paranoid obscurantism
Failure in melancholy
Melancholy presents the subject with an account for its subjectivity. The subject has to pay for what cannot be paid for. What cannot be paid for is the name for the subject’s initial encounter with loss. For there is something resembling a subject only as the subject of an original dispossessedness. The subject’s self-contact becomes the experience of a primordial expropriation of the self. The subject reveals itself as the subject without subjectivity. It is, to paraphrase Lukács, the subject of an ontological or transcendental homelessness.
The subject of melancholy is the subject of the setting sun, the subject of a persistent darkening. It affirms this darkening as its 'essence'. It identifies itself with the occidental theft of light.
Melancholy is refused reconciliation, insistence on the unredeemedness of a subject lacking any determination of its essence. The melancholy subject is displaced from itself and at an angle, interrupted or torn by an original loss. The melancholy subject is distinguished from the mourning subject by the fact that it insists on the singularity, the uniqueness and irretrievability of what has been lost. It identifies itself with this irretrievability by refusing to inscribe the singular loss into the general structure of lack (which would involve the subject as such), thus neutralizing it in concreto. Instead of universalizing the singularity of its loss by reducing it to an ontological lack, thus defusing it, it is the singularization and thus aggravation of the universal lack which constitutes the melancholy subject’s precarious self-consciousness. The subject of loss must not be confirmed as an instance of an objective rule. It itself becomes the starting-point for a new law-like regularity and attains the structural value of the repeatable, of the singular universality which is the repeatability of what cannot be repeated.
Philosophical experience is never completely free of melancholy in this sense. It destroys what it pretends to preserve in order to preserve it. It is true to itself in radical disloyalty. It betrays itself in order to continue the line of its desire. It realizes its own desire precisely at the moment it comes to grief on it. It pays more than it can pay. Its "calculation pays off only in failure".
The subject as failed substance
Because the subject does not have any transcendental or religious, that is, substantial determination, it cannot miss its destination.
It moves toward itself by turning away from itself, its hypothetical substantial self. To be a subject means to keep oneself on the line of turning away from oneself. The subject turns itself toward an indefinite direction. It affirms this turning as its authentic form of movement. This form is authentic because it does not have any guarantee based on transcendent or transcendental principles. It hovers over the abyss of an elementary lack of essence. In the act of subjectivization, the subject relates to this fundamental void or openness which is the space of its freedom for responsible shaping of the self. The subject is anonymous because it has to 'live' without subjectivity. It can only be with itself by losing itself on the ocean of its transcendental namelessness. It is the subject of this immersion and it is the subject of its emergence, the subject of self-invention without a ground.
The withdrawal of the human has already begun. The subject in the human being is accelerating on the line of turning away from human being. It draws the trace of an exertion which strives to turn the world and the self upside down by indulging in an acrobatic inclination, in the desire for a momentous delimitation or ecstasy in which the ambition of the acrobat can be recognized and the shamelessness of its aggression turned against itself.
The subject is always concerned with comporting itself in an active and simultaneously risky, vulnerable way toward the exterior without being swallowed or pulverized by it. For, like the chaos of Deleuze and Guattari, the exterior is a black hole. It is unsaturated matter which endangers all the subject’s activities, its care for itself, its will to sovereignty, its will to assert and to vouch for itself. The subject must stand against this chaos without denying it. It tries to bring its truth into play by fitting it with a language, a general expression. It wants to put moments of warlike chaos into words without neutralizing its powers through the reductive violence of representation and universalization. It must risk coming into the closest proximity with that which threatens it most.
The subject of aesthetic self-forming is the subject of its freedom and responsibility. The responsibility of the subject that cares for itself is not based on any morality. On the contrary, it contradicts any conceivable morality. The ethicalness of care consists in resisting the temptation of morality which in any case would mean making things easier for the subject. "What is our ethics, how do we produce an artistic existence, what are our processes of subjectivization which cannot be reduced to our moral codes?"
The ethical and aesthetic self-constitution of the self or the subject is a warlike act that is necessarily violent. The self interrupts itself, its 'symbolic', moral, socio- cultural self. It loses itself as subject in a moment of reinvention of its self. It traverses the zone of indeterminacy, a dimension beyond knowledge and power. But this traversal is not therefore without violence or power. It is violent in a pre-coded sense. This implies the sacrifice of the coded self and it sacrifices at the same time the 'knowledge' of its future. The self casts itself toward the unknown outline of its shadow; it exhausts itself at the moment of its destructive auto-constitution. It casts by affording a new casting of the self to be in new, unknown ways. It produces unimagined ways of being, of living, of the self. It creates itself anew. It risks the uninhibitedness of pure becoming. It invents dark modalities of resistance, of self-erection and presence. It practises a new concept of waging war. By bringing itself forth, it brings forth its own type of resistance, its own art of war, its own style, its own form of presence and its affirmation.
The tragedy of love, its fathomlessness, its failure does not describe its course in the sense in which one says that a relationship has ended 'tragically' or 'has failed'. It is the origin of the movement of love as a movement of mutual distancing from the self.
The subjects of love assert themselves by starting to free themselves from themselves, their old identities, in order to enter a new alliance of love and a new relationship to the self in the interplay of this distancing from the self. This does not make them any the less cheerful, light-hearted or decisive. The movement of love is the common coupled movement of loving singularities who are united by nothing other than their will to love and this will’s decision in favour of the other. Lovers are united by being disunited. The reality character of love is this disunity, this conflict. Love is based on conflict, on turbulence, on the polemos of love. It is the "bearing out" (Heidegger) of absolute differences, of irreducible difference: the event of propriation itself as love, as diaphora.
The subject of love can only grasp itself as the subject of this conflict. It has to admit the other as a radical limitation to the self in order to come to enjoy the genuine intensity of love, i.e. its non-narcissistic extension of the self in the other. The loving subject is the subject of enjoyment. What it enjoys is never itself. It does not enjoy its self and it does not enjoy the other self as a kind of missing half.
Loving subjects are separated. In contradistinction to the cut halves of the spherical human being in Plato's Symposium, they are originarily divided. They never were one. They do not complement each other as a somewhat stupid convention demands. The unsettledness of lovers is the passion for what is not complementary. The subject of love desires what overtaxes it rather than resting within the horizon of a shared origin.
The community of lovers is the chaotic community of subjects who in common touch the chaos, the abyss of love. Lovers touch each other by trying to touch each other where they lose themselves. For to touch chaos means to make contact with the polemos of love, the depth of that which does not have any ground. The subjects of love exchange their gazes and their embraces over the abyss of groundlessness; they reassure each other by agreeing on the awareness of a shared insecurity. For to love means to go through the dangers of an ontological uncertainty that permeates the loving subjects’ entire being. The absence of the loved one is part of the reality of love just as much as the loved one's presence. The subject of love, as Agamben says, must maintain the alien loved being "in its alienness and its distance"; it maintains even in "the closest proximity" to this being a kind of transcendental distance, i.e. a distance which enables the very being, the otherness, of the other being.
Distance is just as much a part of love as closeness. For the closeness of love as it is expressed in the community of loving subjects is itself nothing other than this experience of distance which is part of the experience of otherness. This is the violence of love, the peculiar pressure testified to in every eventuation of love. The common element of love is not harmony, complementation, economy. The specific harmonia of lovers is the conflict which rages in the daughters of Ares and Aphrodite between war and love. Lovers are raging subjects. The cosmos of love is too manifold to be controlled or ordered, or to be melodic like a beautiful adornment. The universe of lovers is as old as the universe itself. But the universe, if we want to thus name the totality of being in its incomprehensibility, is not the cosmos. It is the chaos of becoming and vanishing, the spectacle of an irreducible and therefore unfathomable multiplicity of movements and events.
In this spectacle, the loving subjects touch one another like strangers, as if the subject would poke a finger into the void. Where the other is, there is nothing. The other is absolute otherness, untouchability itself. Nevertheless, love is different in every way from the devotion to nothingness in nihilism. For the nothingness of the other which the loving subject touches and fondles is the other’s 'essence'. It is this nothingness without therefore being null and void. To be nothingness like the other is means to be everything: pure indeterminacy as complete virtuality. The essence of love lies in the insubstantiality of the lovers who, as absolute singularities, touch each other in untouchable places.
The failure of reason
The failure of reason manifests itself often in love in the following way. The loving subject, which is at the same time the subject of universal reason, of the ability to assess and judge, must relent from itself in the movement of love; it must carry its reason to the limit of unreason; it risks a problematic alliance with madness in order to be subject of love and its non-reason. But the madness of love is never articulated without a certain calculatedness or at least a moment of orientation. To love does not at all mean to become mute in relation to love in order to lose oneself in the abyss of totality, of substance in the Hegelian sense of the word. The subject of love has to try to be more than the object of a mood or a feeling that tears it beyond itself. Love is not a matter of inclination. It defies the established power of reason and its arrangements for action and the limitations and prohibitions which regulate it. For, established reason is reason in the stage of self-denial by doxa, by opinion. Reason has to become doxa to be able to establish itself in the space of social, political, cultural and scientific truth.
In place of love steps into this space melodrama, a kind of narcissistic theatre which achieves one thing above all: the dedramatization of love through the melodramatization of one's own 'feelings'. Whereas the movement of love is movement toward what is simply other and overtaxing, melodramatization represents something resembling an arrangement with that which overtaxes, a defusing of the other and its otherness. The melodramatic subject thinks in terms of scenes and roles. It is a subject of the stage. Without a public, its life does not have any meaning. Every movement, every action which it carries out anticipates the desired reactions. No matter whether it be pity, admiration, envy, the subject of the stage is always concerned with recognition. Nothing can it tolerate less than stage entrances which go without comment. It places itself centre stage in its theatre of the soul. Its social surroundings consist of extras. They are co-actors and the audience in a childlike presentation of the self. No one outdoes the kitschy subject for hyperbolic lachrymosity and infantile histrionics.
The child and its theatre — is that not a case of appeal? Mother, father, "mama-papa" (Deleuze/Guattari) as audience and witness. Is that not the child’s religiosity, the family stage? One finds it in Sartre's Words. Les mots, a book which represents a confession, a reckoning with oneself, with the system of the stage, the theatre, the cowardly ideology of home. To want to remain a child means to want to remain religious, not to cut through the bonds of family, whereas emancipation is the turning away from this system, a kind of self-liberation of the now 'grown-up' subject. What do children do when they are together? Is there a childlike being-together just as for Heidegger there is being-together as an ontological structure, as an existential of Dasein or human being? What does this 'together' mean when it is a matter of children, of egoists? Is not child another name for the interruption or disturbance of the efforts of transcendental or fundamental ontology? Is it not the disabling of itself as an existential? An ego beyond the egoity of subjectivist philosophy and the ontology of Dasein, beyond its transcendental consolidation?
The failure of reason is manifest also in the self-infantilization and self-kitschification performed by the subject of false love. The subjects of this kitschification are subjects of an incessant staging of the self. They are interested in dramaturgy more than anything else. Kitschy subjects are dramaturges of their own nullity, of constant disappointment. For them reality is nothing but risk and disappointment. They are the directors of narcissistic self-denial, of bad conscience, of the "little anxiety". And since the subject of theatre, as Heiner Müller recalls, is always also a subject of a certain trial, court, judgement, accusation, the kitschy subjects indulge in never-ending self-accusation and self-condemnation. They take all guilt upon themselves and make those close to them responsible for the drama of their lives and their inability to make something of them. The community of kitschy subjects is the community of subjects of sentimental self-love. Their love for themselves goes as far as the catastrophe of the loss of 'self-esteem'. Kitschy subjects love themselves to the brink of self-dissolution. The community of kitschy subjects is the hedonistic community of subjects who, through fear of living, enjoy its falsification by staging it as a melodramatic fall from grace. Kitschy subjects are sinners. They constitute the sinner community of the guilty. And they love to be sinful and guilty in this way in front of an audience.
Failure and self-invention
The subject is anonymous because it has to 'live' without subjectivity. It can only be with itself whilst losing itself in the ocean of its transcendental namelessness. It is the subject of this immersion and it is the subject of its emergence, subject of self-invention without ground.
The subject comports itself toward itself while it constitutes a contact zone with the exterior (Blanchot) by entering it. "For a human being to appear or come forth it is necessary that the forces in the human being come into contact with the quite peculiar forces of the exterior." What is crucial is the contact. One could speak of a touching of the untouchable which reaches its climax as soon as the subject without subjectivity enters the zone of indistinguishability — panic or original haste which causes the subject to strip off all certainties and precautions at the threshold to the exterior in a candid and reckless gesture of madness, in order to be nothing other than this feverish vector: the subject of subjectivization.
For subjectivization to be possible, the subject has to transgress the principle of identity, the law of 'I think', the power of reason. The maritime discourse of matter flooding the ego and the 'I think', however, does not bring about a subjectless subject, an Hegelian substance. Even though it sometimes appears that way, the thinking of the exterior is not a thinking beyond the subject. The attempt at such a thinking would be in vain and would drown in the abyss of mere silence. A thinking without a subject would no longer be thinking. It would be nothing other than the unattested wave motion of nothingness.
Personality, individuality, character are words whose meaning is too often exhausted in covering up a sub-subjective current (of the anonymity of an intoxication undermining identity or subjectivity, the stuttering and murmuring beneath language and its concepts). Subjectivization is the moment of making active contact (again) with the force and violence of this exterior, as Maurice Blanchot terms it, which dwells at the heart of the occidental logos. For the subject, far from being a principle of real self-evidence, swims in the midst of waters which hinder the proper formation of an island by flooding in and redefining its borders over and over again. Anonymity could designate the subject of this flooding, a subject without secure borders, without destination, without transcendental reality. "If there is a subject," says Deleuze in his portrait of Foucault, "then it is a subject without identity." The subject whose emergence we observe in Foucault's last books is a subject without any constitutive relationship with transcendental rules or laws which would tell it what it is or should be. It is a subject of a solitude accompanying every one of its actions. It can rely on nothing but this solitude which infinitely singularizes its being. The subject of contact with anonymity or the exterior is this absolute singularity. It is a singularity instead of being a subject in the sense of Kantian thinking. It does not profit from the universal auspices of a transcendental subjectivity.
The subject is always concerned with comporting itself in an active and simultaneously risky, assailable way toward the exterior without being swallowed or pulverized by it. For the exterior is, like the chaos of Deleuze and Guattari, a black hole. It is unsaturated matter which endangers all the subject's activities, its care for itself, its will to sovereignty, its will to self-assertion and self-testimony. The subject has to stand up to this chaos without denying it. It attempts to allow its truth to come into play, to fit it with a language, a general expression. It wants to put moments of warlike chaos into words without neutralizing its powers through the reductive violence of representation and universalization. It has to risk coming into the closest proximity with that which threatens it most of all.
Singularity and solitude
The passion to act is the passion of a subject who insists on changes and innovations. It often has to fight against the indifference and cynicism of disappointed and disinterested subjects who accuse it of being 'dreamy' or 'idealistic'. Negri emphasizes that action, rather than being the activity of an individual, can be a common search of singularities communally for what is common. "I regard action as something that creates something in common and a community, the substance of our dignity and our lives." The action of the multitude — the swarm of singularities — aims at pure living and its dignity. To act means to engage oneself as the subject of this dignity and this life. The dignity of the subject of action does not lie beyond its life as something which transcends this life. The subject is dignified as the subject of its life and this passion to act which brings forth something new, discovers hitherto unknown modalities of the coexistence of singularities. To act means already to coexist, to be together or in community. "When one acts, one leaves solitude."
The multitude defies the course of things. It declares itself to be not in agreement with this course. It resists what is over-hastily and unjustifiably called 'destiny'. It disengages itself. It is the community of those who resist, a community of singularities who refuse obedience to an authority, a kind of auto-erective collective. "It seems to us to be completely obvious that those who are exploited will resist and, under the appropriate conditions, will rebel." The multitude rises up against authorities; it organizes its desire, which is always the desire for happiness, against the forces which compromise this desire. It tries to generate counter-forces to protect its desire against internalization, i.e. against defusing, disciplining and channelling through the apparatuses and institutions of the dominant systems of authority. The multitude is the counter-community of all those who insist on the possibility of realizing their desire for freedom and happiness. Their opposition is therefore not reactive or passive. It is also not without violence in the sense in which one speaks of non-violent resistance. The multitude is the community of warriors. It pursues its aims, has its own visions; it knows what it is fighting for. It is essentially affirmative. The multitude rebels against exploitation and oppression. It rebels against alienation and domination. Nevertheless it "bears" what exploits, oppresses, alienates and dominates it. It bears, say Negri and Hardt, the empire: the limitless, globalized, decentralized power of capital. Because it bears what restricts it, it must be against this bearing, against this co-bearing, this co-supporting of the empire. It has to become active. It has to invent something new. It has the ability to do this. "In the creative capability of the multitude which bears the empire lies, so to speak, the ability to build up a counter-empire, to give the worldwide currents and exchange relations another political shape."
The multitude organizes or reorganizes itself in order to start something new. It tries to gain space for its desire against the pressure of its encoding by the empire. It struggles against what denies this desire, what limits, diminishes, defuses or prohibits it. It does not do this just anywhere, in temperate zones which have not been seized by the empire. There is no exterior to the empire. There is no transcendence at all. The multitude mobilizes its forces within the empire. For the multitude, it is a matter of "thinking and acting within the empire and against it". It is a matter of reinventing itself in relation to the world as a whole. To be against the empire is for the multitude the struggle "for a new way of living in the world". Being-against, i.e. opposition, is not just one form of existing among others. In the world-historical phase of 'post-modernity', it corresponds to the multitude's way of being to fight against the power of the empire and to constitute itself as a militant collective. "Today the multitude's generalized opposition has to recognize imperial sovereignty as the enemy and to find the appropriate means of undermining its power." The community of those who are against is the affirmative militant community of singularities who put their potentials at the service of realizing their desire against the decentralized, global power of the empire which in turn fights against this desire because it includes the desire for hitherto unknown forms of community, of love and life.
The multitude is the community of singular subjects of potency who join together in a collective search for hitherto unknown grounds of community, because the truth of each of these singularities is connected with the truth of the others. Nevertheless, this truth is not an overarching principle of community like the transcendental subjectivity of universal we-idealism. The we of the multitude is an arbitrary we, arbitrary in Agamben's sense: arbitrariness as the "figure of pure singularity". For the we of singularities, the multitude, is itself a singularity rather than being its contradiction. The community of acting singularities is an absolute void, total indeterminacy. It is the relation to this (implicit) exterior, "the relation to an empty and indeterminate totality," which for Deleuze is the "enormous and terrifying emptiness" of oceanic souls , the body of instinctual subjects without properties who colonize the hyperborean zone of becoming, the zone of action and change and invention. The community of active subjects is the active community of singular natures who define themselves in relation to the abyss of possibility. The active community of singularities is constituted as the community of subjects perpetrating change. Change means destabilization, putting into question, destruction. What Benjamin calls the "destructive character" is the subject of action in a pure form. "All action," says Artaud, "is cruelty". Action only exists as an act of violence, as a disturbance of the situation, as a compromising of the present state of affairs, as a redefinition of the present predicament. Action drives the subject to transgress realities as they manifest themselves at the moment. It brings forth new realities and changed subjects. Because every action is essentially blind, the results of action are unpredictable. But there are aims and hopes which make the sense of action more precise. The blindness of action can be guided to a certain degree. It is the precipitancy of a subject oriented toward new realities who accelerates into the unknown without losing sight of its objectives.
The aim of action is change, a new life. The community of acting subjects is the community of subjects whose lives gain a modified meaning. For the meaning of life, as it is called, is not anything uniform or once-only. It is becoming itself, the unfolding and development of the desire of a subject affirming itself as the subject of its passions. Self-affirmation is the condition of possibility of action. Action without self-affirmation is nothing but reaction. What distinguishes the active from the in-active subjects is that they refuse to the reactive. They refuse merely to respond to alien impulses. They refuse to be the objects of hetero-affects. Acting subjects are autonomous. They give themselves their own law. Acting subjects are subjects who affirm themselves as the subjects of a certain autonomy.
Subjectivity and immanence
The subject has to make decisions. It has to act in the here and now. The subject is the subject of this necessity. It is the subject of decisions that cannot be postponed. It is the subject of a certain urgency. It is a hyperbolic subject, subject of exaggeration and self-over-stimulation. The subject does not have any time.
There is no beyond for the subject. There is no pause. The subject is the subject of an importunate here and now. It is, as Deleuze and Negri say, the subject of immanence. Nevertheless, it persists as the subject of a certain Utopia. Utopian thinking does not have anything to do with flight from reality and the world. Utopian thinking is thinking in the midst of the real. Utopian thinking risks non-romantic and non-idealistic hopes. The subject of the Utopia of immanence dreams of reality rather than fleeing from it. It does not dream of a realm beyond reality. There is no beyond. It dreams of the expansion of reality. It transgresses and surpasses the real within reality. It transgresses it toward an aspect of reality which has not yet been opened up. As the subject of this dream and this transgression and surpassing, the subject assumes responsibility for its dream. It assumes responsibility for its sleep. It assumes responsibility for the night and the 'shadowy sides' of reality.
For, the subject of immanence is the subject of undivided responsibility. It is the subject of absolute freedom. Utopian thinking thinks this responsibility and freedom. It clears a path for the subject into its freedom. It opens up the space of freedom to the subject. The subject tries to think the place of freedom. It has to recognize reality as this place. It has to accept that there are no possibilities of flight, of escape. The subject of immanence struggles for freedom, justice and responsibility. It is essentially a fighting subject. To fight for freedom does not mean to fight in the name of God, a religion or a nation. It means to fight in the name of freedom. It does not mean to fight in the name of historical, national, international, cultural, religious or any other values.
The subject does not have any values. It fights against values. The struggle for freedom is not the struggle for freedom as a value. Freedom is not a Freedom is the subject's reality. That does not mean that unfreedom does not exist. Nevertheless, unfreedom is objective; freedom is absolute. The subject's objective unfreedom does not contradict the fact that the subject is absolutely free. In objective unfreedom the subject remains free in an absolute sense. The subject's freedom is inviolable. The struggle for the subject of freedom is the struggle for the dignity of a subject without values.
The subject is free. It keeps free of values. Values are either intelligible values of a religious or metaphysical community of transcendence, or they are values within a system of exchange and equivalence. The subject of freedom refuses transcendence and equivalence to an equal degree. It is the subject of an absolute desire. It desires that all subjects realize their freedom and responsibility. To be responsible means to realize one's own freedom. It means to dream the dream of freedom in the midst of reality's cruelty. The dream of freedom is the dream of immanence.
The subject of immanence is the subject of self-authorization. It affirms itself as the subject of its dreams. It affirms itself as a subject that fights for the reality of its dreams. To dream means for this subject to assert itself in reality without accepting the economic, political or mass-media deformation of the subject. The struggle against this deformation is the struggle for the subject in its purest form. Subjectivity is another name for freedom, for the namelessness of the subject. Freedom is another name for the ocean or the desert as dimensions of absolute responsibility. The subject of immanence is the subject of this desert and this ocean. The subject is alone. To be a subject means to be alone and without help. Freedom and responsibility are indivisible; they cannot be divided up. The subject's subjectivity is indivisible. The subject is an atom. It fights for this indivisibility by fighting for freedom. It is the subject of an active resistance, subject of a powerful affirmation of its life and its desire, subject of anarchy.
The subject of freedom is mortal; it is a finite subject. The subject as the bearer of freedom dies and allows itself to be killed. But the freedom of this subject, insofar it is pre-personal and pre-individual, does not die with the subject. It flies over the subject in moments of living and at the moment of dying. The subject's freedom is what makes it a subject and surplus-subject, i.e. the unconcluded opening toward an absolute future.
When Heidegger, in Being and Time, demands of Dasein that it resolutely go on ahead toward an "indefinitely certain death" in order for it to be authentic, he appeals to its possibility of realizing its "ownmost possibility", the possibility of its own impossibility, its death. Dasein can be the subject of self-realization of its own death. This means that it remains the subject of its own dying even when factually, at the moment of death, it is lost as a subject. The freedom toward death allows Dasein to triumph over its own death at the moment of 'transition' which marks the collapse of world-opening and freedom. It is as if Dasein would appropriate its own factual having-died. Dasein does not survive itself factually. It is its freedom which survives its objective collapse. Dasein, or the subject, as we say, dies. Its subjectivity, its freedom is infinite. freedom is not compromised by the death of factual Dasein.
Subject of self-transgression
The first sentence of the preface to the first edition Critique of Pure Reason from 1781 sketches the outlines of problematic subjectivity. "Human reason has a particular fate in one genus of its knowledge: that it is troubled by questions which it cannot dismiss because they are posed by the nature of reason itself, but which it also cannot answer because they transcend all capabilities of human reason."
A part of the nature of reason — whereby in this case Kant is addressing the subjectivity of the subject itself — is the impossibility of dismissing questions which reason itself is forced to pose and to answer. Reason thereby obliges itself by making itself into the arena of an active failure or a constitutive self-overtaxing. That is its "fate", says Kant, at least "in one genus of its knowledge": that it finds itself placed under the demand of achieving more than it can factually achieve because the questions with which it troubles itself and which bring it into a state of "embarrassment" "transcend all capabilities of human reason".
They are in a certain way inhuman questions, questions which drive human being to its problematic and perhaps necessarily undecidable limit, even though they take their starting-point and their necessity from human being itself. They are questions which transgress reason, self-consciousness, the subject and obscure it as something transgressed, questions through which reason plunges "into obscurity and contradictions from which it can indeed gather that they must be based somehow on hidden errors, but which it cannot uncover because the principles which it employs no longer recognize any touchstone of experience since they go beyond the bounds of all experience. The battleground for these endless disputes is called metaphysics".
In experiencing itself, reason goes through the experience of the limits of all experience insofar as, like Kant himself says, metaphysics, "as the consummation of the culture of all human reason," is a part of reason itself. The self-articulation of reason is in itself already metaphysical in the sense that metaphysics, as the Prolegomena say, "is given by the natural predisposition of human reason". Transcendental dialectics, as the second division of transcendental logic, is the official location of the staging of the metaphysicity of reason as a transcendental self-overtaxing. Nevertheless, the book as a whole, whilst trying to simultaneously denounce two erroneous paths (firstly, the path of dreaming or seeing ghosts of dogmatic pre-Kantian metaphysics, and secondly, the path of positivist lack of fantasy and its trite obscurantism of facts), makes an effort to constitute a subject beyond these false alternatives of 'idealism' and 'realism'.
Perhaps this subject is not so far as generally assumed from the conception of a (new) subject in Nietzsche's thinking, whose decisive characteristic is the power and the will to affirm eternal recurrence. For this subject, too, is the subject of a self-overtaxing and self-overwinding. It is the subject of becoming and its affirmation which has to assert itself simultaneously both beyond and within its capabilities, the subject that emerges in more recent philosophy as the subject of ek-stasy (Heidegger), subject of absolute freedom (Sartre), subject of the exterior (Blanchot), subject of deterritorialization (Deleuze/Guattari), subject of responsibility and self-exposition in absolute hospitality (Lévinas, Derrida).
Perhaps Nietzsche, more implicitly than intentionally, has contributed to intensifying and clarifying this Kantian figure of a subject of self-overexertion. To think along with Nietzsche perhaps means to be a Kantian in a sense not taken into account by Nietzsche. Perhaps both thinkers, in their complementarity and incompatibility, open up the zone of another metaphysics as long as we understand metaphysics as the battleground of a subjectivity asserting itself against itself.
The subject of experience, of freedom, of responsibility and of the exterior is a subject of its passions. It is a subject of affects, currents, waves and intensities, subject of love and an uncertain quivering. It lives an enormous emotion that startles and disturbs it.
The subject touches what overtaxes it; it is shaken by an excess of contact. It moves along its own borders. It ambles at the limit of total loss.
The subjectivity of this subject includes the experience of complete dispossessedness. The subject of experience experiences its own ontological poverty, its substantial homelessness which at the same time is the hallmark of its opening toward what is indeterminate and still undecided.
It is therefore necessary to distinguish this subject from the subject of narcissism, of snivelling self-accusation and maudlin interiority. This subject does not want to be a subject; it wants to be the object of circumstances, of alien affects. The subject of narcissism is the subject of sensitive self-enclosure, the subject of the imaginary. It flees from the resistances and imponderabilities of reality. To avoid failing in reality, it withdraws from the dimension of reality. It wants to dwell in its own world removed from reality. The narcissistic world is the universe of appearance, of illusion and defensive lies. It subdivides itself into the realm of mere dreams and the order of naked facts. Both 'idealists' and 'realists' are in equal measure subjects of an illusion that opposes the real.
The subject of experience is distinguished from the subject of dream and from the subject of facts by the circumstance that it surrenders the fortress of interiority and leaves it in order to encounter what is new in contact with the exterior or the real, an encounter which does not leave its shape unchanged. Experience as such will always have been the event of a certain broaching, touching and injury.
Whereas the narcissistic subject makes its vulnerability into the measure of self-enclosure of its identity to prevent or to repress factual injury, the subject of experience is exposed to the facticity of pain itself without becoming passive when faced with pain. The subject of pain must raise itself above pain without palliating or denying it. It is the subject of love, of passionate contact with the untouchable. It loses and constitutes itself through this contact. This is the contact with that which cannot be contacted, the event of radical self-expropriation in which the subject constitutes itself through self-exhaustion. The subject of love is the subject of a certain failure, of a turning, of katastrophé, as the Greeks say, into the madness of self-loss.
To love means to become mad, to move out into the desert of valid instability and to affirm this change from the oasis of reason into the desert of unreason as its truth, as a propriating eventuation of truth.
The moment of katastrophé, of turning, of madness, etc, is the moment of its sovereign receptivity and affirmation by the subject of love who recognizes itself in its constitutive derangement. To be able to love, it requires the courage to derangement. It requires this minimum of consistency to affirm itself as the self of derangement and to risk itself as self through this affirmation so as to bring itself into play as a subject that loves.
The madness of love does not reside in the subject's return into substance, into the uniformity of matter. The subject does not float in the diffuseness of water which it denounces as an indifferent element and the origin of its self-erection. It has to be more than some kind of animal. As long as we understand what Georges Bataille says about animals, that they are "water in water".
Subject and decision
The subject is the subject of decision. It is the subject of a choice which both determines and shakes up its being because the subject "can choose", and as Carl Schmitt assures us, "in certain historical moments even choose the element to which it resolves itself as a new total form of its historical existence through its own deed and own achievement". The subject of decision is the subject of a risky sovereignty.
The question of decision, insofar as it includes the question concerning the possibility of sovereign existence, is the fundamental question of philosophy. It reaches into the ground or rather the abyss of philosophical love which, perhaps more than any other love, is interested in the impossible grounding of its own abysmalness, its own groundlessness. The question of decision becomes the question concerning its ground and its ungroundable unfoundedness. The groundless ground — is that not already the abyss of decision? What should it be called? Who or what decides? Is it a 'subject'? What is the space or the dimension of decision? Is it one space, one dimension? Who grounds such a singularity? Can the space of decision be decided? Are its borders fixed; are they elastic; are they permeable? Are they incessantly being displaced anew? If it were undecidable, would it then be the space of undecidability?
If undecidability is a part of decision, as Derrida has shown, then this means for the subject of decision that it is a subject in the space of undecidability and also the subject of undecidability. The question concerning this subject and its relation to other subjects would be the question concerning another or a new, displaced subject that does not have all the properties of the 'classical' transcendental subject. For there to be decision, as Derrida tirelessly repeats, the subject must not be a transcendental subject, a subject whose transcendental-ontological vocabulary (forms of intuition, categories, etc.) is already completely given. The subject of deconstruction (which is therefore not called a 'subject') is an incomplete, unconcluded subject related to contingency and the unexpected. This subject would be (for in a certain sense this subject does not exist) the subject of deconstruction. It would be the subject and object of deconstruction, subject of self-deconstruction, subject of an inherent undecidability which represents the undecidability of the conflict of its self as the subject of decision with the undecidability of its objective situation. The subject of decision loses itself as a subject in the space of undecidability. It loses itself and it redefines itself; it reinvents itself with every decision.
The problem of decision cannot be postponed because decision as such demands its non-postponability. Every postponable decision is not a decision. The situation of decision is crisis. Krisis is the Greek word for decision. It also means 'dispute', 'dilemma', 'divorce', 'crucial, decisive factor', 'judgement', 'response'. The verb, krinein, means 'to divorce', 'to differentiate', 'separate', 'select', 'favour', 'to prefer one thing to another'. The crisis demands of the subject that it make a choice, that it privilege one of its options. The subject comes under pressure. It cannot leave everything as it was. It has to accept responsibility. It is now the subject of action instead of being only the representative of an opinion. It can no longer keep on hiding in the space of discussion. It has to step forth in order to be the subject of its decisions and actions. The crisis is the decision and it is the situation which demands a decision. The subject as subject is the subject of crisis. It is in the midst of a situation calling for decisions.
The subject of cheerfulness
What kind of cheerfulness is it that shakes the subject's heart at the moment of its confrontation with death, that causes it to beat less calmly than usual?
Instead of closing the wound of the experience of death (death comes first, it is the beginning), this cheerfulness is an activity which gives room to death itself and the impossibility which accompanies it (for 'I' do not die, neither in Heidegger nor in Blanchot), which admits death as death (as intensive, harrying absence) and allows it to eventuate. Cheerfulness is therefore in a rather enigmatic sense the cheerfulness of the 'subject' that has already died. The 'enigma' and the 'subject', the subject of the enigma and as enigma will always be our topic as soon as we turn to Blanchot by allowing ourselves to be captivated by the special darkness and enigmatic brightness of his language. To read Blanchot, says Simon Critchley, means to go through the experience of descending from the extreme simplicity, indeed barrenness of his language into the silence of the meaning which it produces. It means passing from the realm of light, of the day and its light, into the order of the night and its darkness. It is perhaps necessary to insist that this experience, without being reversible, itself already implies its own turning because the subject of this experience goes toward the night and its own death as if toward a new, unknown sun. It is in this sense nothing other than the subject of the experience of another day. It articulates itself as the limit of even the movements of sunrise and sunset which we mark with the concepts, Orient and Occident.
With great regularity, survival has been restricted to mean the continued living of a living being. One refuses to accept survival as the resurrection of a dead being, an acceptance which would lead to welcoming as survival the continued living of a dead one which is exhausted neither in the images of recollection nor in the moments of devoted yearning nor the usual excesses of melancholy. Maurice Blanchot has described this triumph of the dead over death in one of his narratives in which he allows the report of a resurrection to become the record of this most terrible of all experiences. The girl, whose dying includes the unfolding of this triumphant return, returns from the land of the dead as a dead girl. The moment of her awakening envisages the encounter with a living person of a girl who has died. "I bent over her, I cried out loudly for her, I called her first name in a clear voice and immediately (I can say that because it did not take even a second) a kind of breath came out of her still tightly shut mouth, a sigh which gradually became a faint, weak cry. Almost at the same time (I am also sure of this) her arms moved, they tried to lift. Her eyelids were still completely closed. But a second or perhaps two seconds later, they opened suddenly on something terrible of which I will not speak, on the most horrible sight which a living being can have, and I believe that if I had trembled at this moment, if I had felt fear, everything would have been lost, but my tenderness was so great that I did not have even a single thought over for the strangeness of what happened; to be sure it seemed to me to be quite natural, and this because of the infinite movement which carried me toward the encounter with her, and I took her in my arms, and her arms embraced me, and from this moment on she was not only fully alive but also completely natural, cheery and almost healed."
One must not allow oneself to be deluded. The girl's cheerfulness, her liveliness and self-evident integrity do not only not represent a contradiction to her having died, but must be taken as the most certain indication that her resurrection has succeeded. The girl returns to life as a dead person for the moment of attestation to assure herself as a living dead in the arms of the narrator of her having died. A rare and eerie tenderness is required to achieve the kind of intimacy with a dead girl that is necessary for the act of testimony. By the narrator not allowing himself to be confused either by fear or by excessive astonishment, the miracle of resurrection will become the signature of his own life. He begins to understand that he too is the subject of his own death, of a death of which one can only say that it is not life as such. The subject who, although it is dead, has neither broken off nor concluded its life is the subject of immanence.
The self of love
The subject of self-erection is the subject of difference between love and sentimentality. It is the subject of self-struggle. It has to fight against (its own) sentimentality, small feelings and their belittling effects in order to be a subject of love, its power, intensity, cruelty and endlessness. The subject of love touches the real or the exterior in order to become through this contact something other than it is. Instead of loving itself and immuring itself in the narcissistic self-hate of self-love, it begins, in touching the untouchable, to erect itself against its current self as a self of love, that is, as a self that touches the other. It begins to affirm the other, the exterior, chaos or the real as its own truth.
This affirmation is something other than mere respect because it is riskier and it requires more courage to love (to dare to touch the untouchable) than it does to respect (that is, to neutralize the other’s otherness through over-hasty and always anxious 'fraternization'). Respect maintains itself through a certain distance. That is the distance of fraternization. To love means to give up this distance, to risk an identification with a real alterity without denying or defusing or ignoring factual divergences, objective differences, factual multiplicity and the absolute incommensurability of the other.
Both the subject of philosophy and the subject of love are subjects of this identificatory love (and the violence which belongs to this love). Philosophy and art are risky movements of love, movements of exuberance, of self-precipitancy and self-extravagance which affirm objective difference in order to affirm absolute neighbourhood. Mere differentiation is nothing other than negative. It follows the principles of demarcation, exclusion and negation. Philosophy and art are affirmative movements surpassing the merely negative. Philosophy and art must risk the greatest possible proximity to what is inconceivable and incommensurable; they must risk a kind of blind, rash, excessive neighbourhood with the other, an unfathomable intimacy with the impossible, a radical love of something that exceeds one's own limits and possibilities. That is what art and philosophy can achieve: to commit oneself to do what is possible out of love for the impossible, and to do the impossible out of respect for what is possible.
The subject of art and of philosophical love affirms itself as the subject of its will and its love of self-erection. It struggles against the normality of undecidability in order to become abnormal in relation to its normality. It is the subject of an elementary perversion that shakes its being. In the midst of undecidability, which it neither denies nor plays down, it will assert itself as the subject of its decisions because the 'realism' of the subject of self-erection is not the 'realism' of factual truth. The space of facts, which has its own undecidability and its own intransparency, restricts itself to the objective situation (of the subject). The subject's situatedness comprises more than the facticity of the determinants, laws and structures criss-crossing it. The subject is more than the product of its history. It is not exhausted by an object status, no matter how this is thought. The subject has the power (for this reason it is called subject) to be something radically different from an object. It is also more than a subject that stands over against objects. The subject's situatedness is the scene of a continual self-transgression and self-surpassing. The subject is something that collapses on itself.
The love of self-erection is the love of truth of a subject who is the figure of a desire that stands up for itself, of an unsentimental passion and love for the real. The subject of this love tries to maintain its sovereignty in the midst of its factual non-sovereignty. It experiences contact with the real as pain.
Pain is the experience of opening up. The subject transgresses itself and the limits of its interiority to come, on its own responsibility, into explicit contact with the exterior through which the subject experiences the limits of obviousness, Aletheia, disclosedness. The pain is not a symptom that would indicate a cause. There is no etymon for the pain; it has neither meaning nor core.
Physis in Heidegger's sense means also the opening of the surface of symptoms, the emergence of world. Although Heidegger's thinking of the event of propriation achieves a certain denaturalization or dematerialization of physis, it thinks Dasein simultaneously in relation to a radical closing. "This coming out and emergence itself and as a whole was called physis early on by the Greeks. It clears at the same time that on which and in which human beings founded their dwelling. We call it the earth. ... The earth is that to which the emergence of everything that emerges returns as such to hide and shelter. In all that emerges, the earth holds sway as that which hides and shelters." In the emergence of physis, its withdrawal, the refusal of its presence is preserved and present. Physis is also the name for the world before its emergence. Pain 'opens' the subject of the emergence of world toward the earth, the dimension of original world-closure, without diminishing the character of withdrawal, the opacity of being.
Perhaps the subject of pain, insofar as it is the subject of the experience of closure, is the proper subject of ontological cheerfulness. Perhaps there is success and happiness only in relation to the impossible, to ontological closure. Perhaps one has to encourage oneself to be happy in factual unhappiness, to see in undeniable blindness, to be free in the midst of real unfreedom, to be sovereign within objective non-sovereignty. Perhaps the subject of pain (the subject of philosophy and art) is the figure of this courage and this self-encouragement. Perhaps the self-encouragement which erects the subject as the subject of a genuine decision is the initial propriating event, the shared principle ground of art and philosophy.