We have seen through Hegel a problem. A problem which is to be pinpointed by Schelling, wrestled with by Novalis, and eventually to be disposed of bit by bit through the work of post-Hegelians of the future who seek to explore a tacit axiology.
To what end? It is a problem which seems to lead us to a sort of theoretical abyss. What is “pure difference” after all?
This is surely an ill-informed question, because clearly pure difference is not. But it is this difficult question which we are called approach, to concern ourselves with matters of “living finally” as it were beyond existence, beyond the being-there of Dasein, etc. To break down the distinction between the Biological and the Symbolic, moving towards a conception of the One life.
The spectres of Derrida and Heidegger are brought forward through the Introduction of Novalis’ Philosophical Writings.
Margaret Stoljar writes on page two:
It is clear that these remarks are to be understood with a Nietzschean back-drop for reasons which I hope to make evident. What is at stake here is a concept of “form of life” which is undifferentiated in the One.
It is no wonder that Derrida never learned “to live finally” (see .pdf here), as he never was able to escape conceptions of (categorical) violence in the Symbolic as understood in seminal texts such as Violence and Metaphysics. More in-depth consideration of this is surely to come, but it suffices for my purposes now to note that neither Derrida nor Heidegger can, given their understandings of biology, arrive at any conception of the Biological, and thus of Non-violence.
After finding Hegelian discourse insufficient, is it because no other choice presents itself given the way we are physically embodied, given the way we have our first-person phenomenological experience of consciousness which has a neuro-biological basis that we must resort to a tacit axiology. Perhaps for structural reasons, then, for reasons of form rather than content, we are often at a loss when trying to move “with Hegel beyond Hegel” – whom as I have hinted before is to be thought of as the philosopher of identity par excellence. This loss marks the limit of the Symbolic, and by no means should it be taken as a tragic end. It is only the end of pure description.
Whereas Derrida seeks to take up multiple masks to mitigate the pain, our task is to do away with the need for such masks altogether. It is clearly not the case that that we cannot know the thing-in-itself, but that it seems as though we are not capable of saying what it is that we know. And, for some reason this is deemed problematic. It is this purely normative element which is neglected in Derrida, despite the fact that it is arguably this normative distinction between différance/absence which indicates the troublesome grounds of deconstruction, according to Laruelle (see .pdf here).
It is our task to show that this closure has always already been an opening for considering the pure normativity of (biological) life as potentially a positive force alongside descriptivity, and that we may take this opening should we choose in an immanent affirmation of life. Our aim is no doubt to produce a discourse which affects the world in a certain way, in this way as opposed to that way.
Moving “with Heidegger beyond Heidegger”, this is also known as the discourse on the bios of zoë, according to thinkers like Agamben and Malabou. To begin, we must ask if such a task is possible in the first place. And, if it is possible, if there is one [s'il y a un], where should one begin to look for it?
R.Radhakrishnan, in Theory in an Uneven World, locates this problem as follows:
Why do human communities have recourse to the rhetoric of essences? Any community has a given identity that is sedimented by the imbrication of many histories. There is also the desire to produce from the given identity an ideal community which one can call one’s own, and “narrative” as a socially symbolic act is the way from here to there. Can narrative function as pure process (i.e., without the authority of some ideological apriorism)? Which prescripts does and should narrative follow? If narrative is an act of self-fashioning, which prescripts are liberating and which are repressive? (“Postmodernism and the Rest of the World”, pp.18)
And, in what interests me here, he continues:
Can the narrative function be divorced from the need from identity? Is narrative owned and operated by any agency, or is it external to the jurisdiction of agency? My position is that no narrative is possible without some tacit axiology, simply because narrative is neither a value-free nor a purely descriptive act. The “value” that legitimates the narrative project is in a sense anterior to the project itself, and in another sense it can only be realized as a function of the narrative process. The successor failure of a given narrative is to be measured in terms of its closeness to the intended trajectory; the produced value has to be read in terms of the intended value.
Or, to put it plainly: Whither Nietzsche?
The turn to Nietzsche in search of a means of “living finally” seems to make much sense, despite his poor health. What happens when we get to the end of the “with-beyond” dance, when we start to master as it were its steps par coeur? It appears as though Nietzsche’s work is key to understanding the dangers of such a mastery to the biological body, as well as shining light on a way of pointing in the right direction as it concerns an articulation of our tacit axiology.
As he writes, “[h]e who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.” This aforementioned “abyss” of pure difference is not important in itself, it is not a mere end. To the contrary, for Nietzsche, it is only the beginning. The abyss of pure difference is only important insofar as it gazes into you. Here, we encounter the Du of the Ich-Du (I-Thou) relationship seen in the work of Martin Buber, which parallels in many ways the distinction between the Symbolic (Ich) and the Biological (Du).
It is the key word “long” in Nietzsche’s quote which marks our movement into a brief consideration the Eternal Du (i.e. God), and which brings forth an elucidation of the necessary death of God. What is happening in conjunction with Buber’s discourse is pertinent to our project because the Ich is now situated within the place of the Eternal Du – with the help of Nietzsche. It is at this stage that one begins operating immanently in accord with the vision-in-One of Laruelle. This is the meaning of the death of God, it is one of a replacement with the New, of a unified subject who has now learned to live finally, a determination-in-the-last-instance.
We find that Nietzsche shows the need for a tacit axiology which functions as a “trans-valuation of values” as he would have it. In the same way as we just saw with Buber, it is necessary to move to a trans- or post- religious orientation, and this means we are called to occupy the place of the One and see through the eyes of the New. Thus, there may be much truth in Nietzsche’s remark that “[i]t is only starting from me that there are hopes anew” (KSA XVIII). But what is this determination, precisely? Is it possible to occupy the place of the One? How does this work, exactly? Is it even coherent? A failure to say anything on these questions leads to an onset of a real threat nihilism.
Manuel Dries outlines three conditions which give rise to this threat in Towards Adualism: Becoming and Nihilism in Nietzsche’s Philosophy (see .pdf here):
- ‘what there is, is becoming (and not being)’, and
- ‘most (if not all) strongly believe in being’.
- nihilism is a function of the belief in being.
He continues his analysis, in a first attempt to surmount this problematic dualism between ‘becoming’ and ‘language’:
We seem to have here what I wish to call Nietzsche’s version of the ‘impossible presentation thesis’: his exclusive disjunction entails the impossibility of presenting becoming within language, i.e., within a system of signs that ‘fixes’ meaning by ‘expressing’ it (Feststellung)10. As in the case of Schopenhauer’s being–becoming dichotomy, Nietzsche’s own dichotomy between becoming and any kind of determinateness annuls the value of what is given within language.
And, as if right on cue, footnote 10 brings forward Novalis:
The early Romantic philosophers such as Novalis, Schlegel, and Schelling assumed the logical and ontological priority of an Absolute (das Unbedingte) that is never ‘present’ and can only be represented within reflection and language. This idea leads them to their philosophies of ‘infinite approximation’ (see, e.g., Frank 1997 and Bowie 2003).
Dries is quite correct in not attributing the impossible presentation thesis to Nietzsche himself, noting that Nietzsche in many ways anticipates the late-Wittgenstein by noting that language is both limitatio and conditio. Indeed, Nietzsche quickly does away with the problem of both Derrida and Hegel:
The demand for an adequate mode of expression is nonsensical: it’s of the essence of a language, of a means of expression, to express only a relation … The concept of ‘truth’ is absurd … the whole realm of ‘true’, ‘false’ refers only to relations between entities, not to the ‘in-itself’ … Nonsense: there is no ‘essence-in-itself’, it’s only relations that constitute entities, and neither can there be a ‘knowledge-in-itself’. (Nachlaß Spring 1888, KSA 13, 14)
How, then, do we situate Nietzsche and Novalis?
Anna Ezekiel, in Trope, Reason, and Affirmation in Nietzsche’s and Novalis’ Theories of Language (see .pdf here), concludes by suggesting the following:
I believe her account is very, very fair to the work of both Nietzsche and Novalis.
Thus, as we have seen in Part I of this series, a Nietzschean "forgetting" of Novalis' transcendental realism allows us to see that there is an avenue wide-open for a tacit axiology and that there indeed is something that can be said about becoming within language. The balancing of pure identity and pure difference, of being and becoming, of descriptivity and normativity, of Ich and Du, of zoë and bios, is the way of this avenue.
Tacit axiology, therefore, should not be seen as a problem, but as necessity which translates to an absolute insistence on truth. I believe the time has come to name this immanent affirmation of truth as satyagraha.
Derrida, Jacques & Laruelle, François.La Décision Philosophique, No. 5, April 1988, pp. 62–76) translated by Robin Mackay.
Derrida, Jacques, and Jean Birnbaum. Learning to Live Finally: An Interview with Jean Birnbaum. Hoboken, N.J.: Melville House Pub., 2007. Print.
Derrida, Jacques. "Violence and Metaphysics."Writing and Difference. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978. 79-102. Print.
Dries, Manuel. "Towards Adualism: Becoming and Nihilism in Nietzsche’s Philosophy" in Nietzsche on Time and History, ed. M. Dries. Walter de Gruyter (2008)
Ezekiel, Anna. Trope, Reason, and Affirmation in Nietzsche's and. Novalis' Theories of Language. Philosophy Study, ISSN 2159-5313. Vol. 2, No. 10, 743-753. October 2012.
Nietzsche, Friedrich, and Giorgio Colli. Sämtliche Werke: Kritische Studienausgabe in 15 Einzelbänden; KSA. Dünndr.-Ausg. ed. München: Dt. Taschenbuch-Verl. [u.a.], 1988. Print.
Radhakrishnan, R. "Postmodernism and the Rest of the World." Theory in an Uneven World. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2003. 18. Print.
Stoljar, Margaret Mahony. Novalis: Philosophical writings. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1997. Print.