On Time, Being, And Hunger: Challenging the Traditional Way of Thinking Life 9780823292301

The traditional way of understanding life, as a self-appropriating and self-organizing process of not ceasing to exist,

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On Time, Being, And Hunger: Challenging the Traditional Way of Thinking Life
 9780823292301

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On Time, Being, and Hunger

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 Jk\]Xefj>\iflcXefjXe[Kf[[D\p\ij# Stefanos Geroulanos and Todd Meyers, series editors

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On Time, Being, and Hunger Challenging the Traditional Way of Thinking Life

Juan Manuel Garrido

fordham university press new york 2012

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Copyright © 2012 Fordham University Press All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means— electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other— except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior permission of the publisher. Fordham University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party Internet websites referred to in this publication and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate. Fordham University Press also publishes its books in a variety of electronic formats. Some content that appears in print may not be available in electronic books. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Garrido, Juan-Manuel. On time, being, and hunger : challenging the traditional way of thinking life / Juan-Manuel Garrido. — 1st ed. p. cm. — (Forms of living) Includes bibliographical references (p. ) and index. isbn 978-0-8232-3935-1 (cloth : alk. paper) — isbn 978-0-8232-3936-8 (pbk. : alk. paper) 1. Life. 2. Hunger. 3. Metaphysics. I. Title. bd435.g343 2012 128— dc23 2011037049 Printed in the United States of America 14 13 12 5 4 3 2 1 First edition

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To Amaia de Aretxabala, Iker Vicente de Aretxabala, and Ágata Vicente de Aretxabala

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contents

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Acknowledgments

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Introduction

1

One

7

Two

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Three

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Four

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Five

36

Six

48

Seven

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Eight

64

Nine

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Ten

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Eleven

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Twelve

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Afterword

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Notes

103

Bibliography

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Index

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acknowledgments

Scholars around the world today are aware that the frequently denounced and deplored linguistic “imperialism” exerted by English speakers in our globalized and capitalized life constitutes an occasion for experiencing the most authentic hospitality. Languages belong to no one, which is why they can belong to anyone. The English language, like any other language, is utterly indifferent to nationalities and to any form of identity, whether cultural, historical, symbolic, racial, or social. My first acknowledgment is to my readers: I will certainly abuse your hospitality. My English is so poor that in all likelihood I am not even aware of when and where those abuses take place. I want to thank my friend David Johnson—not by chance the most hospitable friend that anyone may have—because he helped me immensely to lessen those abuses. I also thank Roberto Torretti for the many idiomatic remarks and all the advice he gave me, as well as the expert editorial work of Gregory McNamee. Any clever and witty formulation that my text may contain is probably theirs. I want to thank those people who have heard me read and explain these pages. I gave them partly as a three-day seminar in the Department of Comparative Literature at the University at Buffalo in the spring of 2010. Earlier versions of different parts of the book were communicated in two seminars in the University of Chile’s Doctoral Program in Aesthetics and Theory of Art, the first one on “Hunger” (March–July 2008) and the second one on “Art and Nature” (August–December 2008). I thank Aïcha Messina, who codirected the former seminar, and Eduardo Molina, who codirected the latter one, for what I learned in discussion with them. David Johnson and Roberto Torretti must be thanked once again, because during the revision of the manuscript they made mindful comments and raised important objecxi

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Acknowledgments

tions against my arguments. Other demanding readers I would like to thank are Andrés Claro, Carla Cordua, Alexander García Düttmann, Rodolphe Gasché, Fernando Pérez, and Roberto Rubio. (The reader should not think that the text I am delivering now to publication answers all the objections I have received!) Marcelo Boeri led a seminar of translation and discussion of Aristotle’s On the Soul at the Universidad Alberto Hurtado (Santiago) during 2010 and 2011; this offered me a unique occasion to revise and to improve my interpretation of Aristotle’s treatise. Andrés Aranda and Francisca Martínez—and Roberto Torretti, again—helped me with the study of scientific material. I thank Peggy Kamuf for authorizing me to review Derrida’s 1975 unpublished seminar La vie la mort, and I thank Marguerite Derrida for giving me permission to quote it in this book. Without the kind help of Andrew Jones, Special Collections Coordinator at UC Irvine, I would not have overcome the six thousand miles that separated me from Derrida’s archive. An earlier version of chapters 1–3, 11, and 12 was published in CR: The New Centennial Review 10, no. 3 (2011). I thank Michigan State University Press for granting me permission to use that material in this book. This book is part of the Fondecyt project Nº 1100024 (Government of Chile).

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On Time, Being, and Hunger

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Introduction

To live has been traditionally understood as having to take care of one’s own hunger. That life entails hunger means that the living condition is that of being in need or in want of the necessary conditions for being alive, for surviving, for not ceasing to be. Hunger is structural to life: Never, while alive, does the living being cease to be in want of the necessary conditions for being alive. Living beings can always cease to live; they can always die. Hunger means that living beings are infinitely mortal. Now, if life means to be in need or in want of the necessary conditions for living—if life is hunger—then living beings must take care of their own hunger. To live is the infinite precariousness of having to live. And no one or nothing can alleviate the task. Life is always one’s own: To be alive is the singularization, the individuation of the task; it is the emergence of selfhood, self-organization. Only beings delivered to themselves or to their selfhood and to the singular task of not ceasing to be may be called “living beings.” Finally, to live is to have to take care of one’s own hunger, because the fact of being thrown to

1

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On Time, Being, and Hunger

the task of not dying means that one is responsible for or the cause of one’s own being. In sum, according to the traditional way of thinking life, to live is to be delivered to oneself in the task of not ceasing to be as a process of nourishing oneself, growing, reproducing, varying, desiring, moving, imagining, knowing, thinking, creating, acting, speaking, writing, ageing, decaying, and anything else that may be considered as a “vital process.” This traditional conception of life involves a generalization of what Aristotle called the sensitive, or cognitive, life, he¯ aisthe¯tike¯ psyche¯, which constituted for him the animal condition, that is, the condition of having been born and separated from any nutritive source (the mother’s womb, for instance) and thrown to the task of caring for one’s own singular and irretrievable desire for food. I characterize this concept of life as traditional insofar as it forms the dominant—but not the exclusive—scheme and paradigm for Western conceptualizations of life. Two main and interdependent features characterize this traditional concept. On one hand, life is considered as a process—“life” or “to live” or “the living” must be understood as verb rather than as substantive—structured according to an immanent and self-engendered temporality. Everything that lives engenders by itself or by its own process of living the time that singularizes it and that identifies it to itself or to its own becoming (think of the so-called individual or specific memory of organisms). On the other hand, temporality singularizes and individuates the living being insofar as it is conceived as the time of a productive or self-productive and self-organizing process. The temporality of life is intimately purposive, teleological, teleonomic: It is the creation of possibilities, of history, of tasks. Inner temporality and finality are both the inseparable features of the traditional way of thinking life. Life—the condition of being delivered to hunger—means that a singular or self-appropriating process of being (whether individual or specific, whether developmental or evolutionary) takes place in the world. The phenomenon of life, if there is any, is not, however, the appearing of a particular living being (or of a particular cause of the living being, for instance the soul, or God’s goodness, or DNA); the phenomenon of life is the appearing of the fact of being alive— of not ceasing to be. In other words, life refers to the process itself of keeping death at bay; life is the process of bringing into the world the difference between life and death. Life “appears” where this difference appears (think of the phenomena of nourishing, growing, repro-

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Introduction

3

ducing, decaying, varying, desiring, imagining, and in sum of any phenomenon of self-organizing temporality taking place in the world: they all show themselves as resistance or defiance, as deferral of death). The phenomenon of life is thus the phenomenon that shows the coming to life of living beings, their pure fact of being, of not ceasing to be; or, more simply, their being as such. As we will see, one of the central hypotheses of this book is that the traditional concept of life forms the main paradigm for Western conceptions of being itself. As Nietzsche asserted: “ ‘Being’—we have no other idea of this than ‘living.’ ” Today, however, several phenomena seem to be on the verge of exhausting the traditional concept of life. One ambition of the present book consists in drawing attention to the rich philosophical consequences that the critical study of developmental and evolutionary biology might have, especially in the wake of the molecular revolution of genetics during the twentieth century. Biology’s theory and practice has become more and more suitable for interpretations that do not presuppose the notion of a self-organizing temporality. Today it is as if the phenomenon of life, and the traditional way of understanding it, had exploded along with the multiform and heteroclite proliferation of discourses and techniques concerning the molecular understanding and engineering of living beings. “Biologists no longer study life today in laboratories,” François Jacob wrote in 1970. If, in another sense, it is true that the traditional concept of life has formed the horizon for the understanding of “being,” then the interpretation of today’s multiform and heteroclite phenomena of life challenges ontology itself. The rise of philosophical propositions concerning the question of “life” after Heidegger’s Being and Time—think, for instance, of the proliferation of works devoted to “living corporality” (Leiblichkeit) during the past fifty to seventy-five years in the phenomenological tradition—has failed to break with the traditional way of thinking life. When, in the Letter on Humanism, Heidegger admitted that the living being “is the most difficult to think,” he was certainly not advocating for the return to the analysis of lived experience, of living corporality, of affectivity—all these concepts depend, as we will try to show, on the traditional concept of life—but, on the contrary, he was raising the formidable task of considering the living being without drawing from any traditional and inherited conceptuality for life, and, above all, beyond the conceptuality with which he himself had previously renewed, so

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On Time, Being, and Hunger

radically and so powerfully, the question of being. Life is for him something essentially different from being and existence. Life, in Heidegger’s work, will increasingly be thought of in rupture with its traditional concepts. Life will increasingly become something inaccessible to thinking. Life is more distanced from us than anything else (even the divine is closer to us than our bodily kinship to living beings, as Heidegger famously claims in the Letter). In the following pages I use the concept of life in order to grasp two different, almost opposite, realities. On one hand, life serves as the traditional scheme for being—and this applies, at least partially, even to Heidegger’s fundamental ontology. On the other hand, life will be considered exactly as what exceeds and leads beyond being. Let us call the way in which both senses emerge and oppose each other the deconstruction of life, the latter interrupting the former, the former self-interrupting and giving birth to the latter. To challenge the traditional way of thinking life (and being) amounts, then, to affording the philosophical means for understanding this deconstruction. Although the book is systematically constructed, it nonetheless can be read according to several different trajectories. The most obvious is given by the numerical order of its twelve chapters. In Chapters 1 to 3, I show the importance that thermodynamics has had for the conceptualization of living temporality and finality insofar as it made possible the incorporation of both temporal immanency and selforganization in the description of normal physical phenomena. In Chapters 4 to 8 the question concerning the relation between life and being arises, and I explain in what sense the former surreptitiously constitutes the ultimate horizon for the latter. My argument brings forward several criticisms of Heidegger’s interpretation of the notion of “force” (therefore indirectly of the notions of “nature” and “production”) and of Being and Time’s theory of ontological affectivity (to my eyes entirely dependent on the old paradigm of Aristotle’s concept of the sensitive or cognitive soul). I conclude those chapters by hinting at the latent deconstruction of being as life in contemporary discussions concerning, on one hand (Chapter 7), animality—that is, once again, the problem that Aristotle localized in sensitivity, and that must be seen as both lying behind Heidegger’s characterization of animality as poorness and behind Derrida’s renewal of the question of the animal in terms of “passivity” (receptivity, suffering)—and, on the other hand (Chapter 8), the epistemology of modern experimental biology.

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Introduction

5

Chapters 9 to 12 add successively four other figures of the deconstruction of life. In Chapter 9 I elaborate Nietzsche’s criticism of the traditional concept of life, in particular in the context of his nonsubstantialist theory of force. In Chapter 10 I elucidate further and interrogate the ethico-political sense of “hunger” as the fundamental affection upon which lies the belief in a supposedly original right to live, a supposedly original property of one’s own living body, and a supposedly original sovereignty of life— clearly at stake, for instance, in the traditional claims associated to the “right of necessity” (jus necessitatis). In Chapters 11 and 12, finally, I indicate different topics and issues through which modern theories of evolution on one hand and modern theories of development on the other render problematic the traditional views of time and self-organization. We will be dealing, for instance, with Darwin’s notions of “variation” and “natural selection,” with Jacob’s notion of “tinkering evolution,” with discoveries linked to homologous control genes in development, and so forth. As is often the case, the book affords as well other possible configurations for reading. The first three chapters, on thermodynamics, may be followed immediately by Chapters 11 and 12, concerning evolutionary and developmental biology. Everything that I try to suggest concerning the history and the epistemology of life sciences is concentrated in Chapters 4 and 8. Chapters 6, 7, and 9 explore and criticize the possibility of and the presuppositions at stake in the conceptualization of life and being as “self-appropriation.” The question of “hunger” is taken up partly in Chapter 5 and throughout Chapter 10. At several points the book provides parenthetical indications of these and other possible constellations of the chapters.

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One

A remarkable feature of living phenomena—think of metabolism, growth, reproduction, desire, thinking, aging, and so forth—is that they seem not only embedded in time, as are all other natural phenomena, but also to constitute, in themselves, singular formations of time. In developing organisms, for instance, cells seem to differentiate, migrate, and die according to quite a rigorous program (which, by the way, contains the ancestral memory of naturally selected characteristics out of which the program itself is composed). Genes prescribing the formation of tissues ought to be activated at precise moments and in coordinated fashion. Organs cannot be induced without regard to the general tempo of the whole and unique developing organism. Every single phenomenon of life seems to occur according to an original, self-produced, and self-regulated time; it seems to be regulated by an inner rhythm that is to some extent independent of the external influence of the material world. Put another way, living organisms organize themselves as if they had given to themselves their own present, their own past, and their own future. 7

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On Time, Being, and Hunger

The experience of biological objects is certainly constituted, as is the experience of every other natural object, by temporal succession (the pure form of all natural phenomena, as Kant would say). The second “Analogy of Experience” of the Critique of Pure Reason states that every natural causation is conditioned by temporal succession. Biological mechanisms as such, however, not only are conditioned by temporal succession, but are also meant to produce or form their own original order in time. This is in strict correlation with the fact that we are no longer dealing with the so-called efficient causation, but with the productive, the teleological causation, where time is not the frame structuring the mere succession of events but is itself created by the goal-oriented succession of stages of the process that produces a determinate entity. Aristotle holds that the temporal order of the stages of production in teleological processes is determined by the essence (eidos or telos) of the thing in construction. The earlier productive phases come first because they exist for the sake of those that come later, and the later phases are only possible insofar as they are sought by the earlier ones. “Further, where a series has a completion, all the preceding steps are for the sake of that. . . . Each step then in the series is for the sake of the next one” (Physics II, 8, 199 a 10 –15). A house cannot be made from the ceiling. The construction of the house presupposes a determinate sequence in which foundations and walls must exist before the ceiling does. Nature acts in this manner as well. This is easily shown by the fact that if someone wants to imitate a product of nature, he or she ought to proceed exactly according to its model, following the same successive stages of production that nature follows. The production of a being, by physis or techne¯, follows an irreversible sequence constitutive of this being. The outcome of any teleological process embodies the history of its own coming into existence; it is or it shows itself while being or showing the singular and irreversible process of its own coming into existence. Nothing similar is supposed to happen in considering merely mechanical causation. Here events succeed one another without becoming each other’s past or each other’s purpose. Mechanical causation is indifferent to matter’s progression in time, to its history, to its possibilities. At any moment of the trajectory, one can deduce the causes and calculate the effects. It is as if the entire trajectory were always already (atemporally) given. As Ilya Prigogine states, in criticizing modern dynamics, “Dynamics defines every state

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Chapter One

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as equivalent because each state can determine every other state, predict the totality of trajectories that constitute the evolution of the system.”1 In other words, there is no “evolution” of the system. Mechanical causation (in classical dynamics) implies temporally reversible (or temporally indifferent) laws: “dynamics defines as mathematically equivalent the transformations t → –t, that is, the inversion of the direction of time flow, and v → –v, the inversions of velocities.”2 (In Chapter 3, we will examine critically some philosophical presuppositions of Prigogine’s ideas concerning temporal irreversibility. It is likely impossible to introduce the “irreversibility” of time in nature without reintroducing teleology.) In building a house, the architect can certainly visualize the whole “atemporally,” that is, before finishing the work and perhaps even before the process of building begins. Thus, one might think that at any time he or she will be able to deduce or anticipate any other moment of the construction. It would seem, therefore, that the entire past and the entire future of the building process were given. But this is not the case. The architect only anticipates the unfolding of that which he or she already had in mind, but he or she cannot anticipate the mechanical concatenation of causes and effects that brings it into existence. While visualizing the eidos or telos of the house, he or she cannot deduce the trajectory of the material elements composing the house. Conversely, without knowing the architect’s plan— only by perceiving, for instance, the walls in the middle of the process of construction, or through the attentive observation of the bricks’ disposition and localization—it will be impossible to deduce or anticipate either the position of the other elements or the dimension or aspect of the resulting house. Natural examples of teleological processes are less ambiguous than technical ones in illustrating that they cannot be anticipated through mechanical analysis. Who could ever deduce or anticipate the shape and the positions of the cells of an adult tree by simply applying mechanical laws to the observed microscopic or macroscopic parts of the young plant? Even if we have taken the view that its genome contains the code that prescribes the most singular details of its becoming, the whole cellular machinery that activates it, together with the unforeseeable conditions of the environment—temperature and wind, availability of water and minerals, intensity of sunlight, and so on—will also determine the paths of its development and thereby its shape as well as the future possibilities for its survival.

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10

On Time, Being, and Hunger

It is important to bear in mind one of the major limits of the analogy between natural and artificial processes of production. In natural productions, Aristotle explains, the principle of change (and of rest) is internal—that is, it lies in the thing itself (Physics II, 1, 192 b 13–15)—whereas in technical productions the principle of change is external; it lies in another thing and from without (Physics II, 1, 192 b 28). In natural productions it is the thing itself, from within or “naturally,” that becomes what it is, whereas in technical productions it is the external agent (a human being) who will impose the form on a thing that had by itself another form (for instance, someone could give the form “table” to these pieces of wood). Art presupposes the prior representation by the mind of what is to be made (Metaphysics VII, 7, 1032 b 1). I would never find matter suitable to what I intend to make, nor would I shape it correctly, without previously knowing what object I desire to manufacture. In art, the anticipation or visualization of the universal must lead the process of the formation of matter. Art is knowledge of universals (Metaphysics I, 1, 981 a 15–16). Conversely, natural products rise spontaneously or by themselves, that is, without presupposing human knowledge. “To know” what a natural product is means only to “abstract” mentally its universal form from its natural becoming. It is not at all fortuitous, but deeply rooted in this ancient way of understanding nature, that contemporary biologists think they understand living phenomena only when it is possible for them to recreate and manipulate these phenomena under experimental conditions, that is, as if they had been able to “abstract” the universal form in order to previsualize it as the end that determines a productive process. The technical reproduction or technical mimesis of nature has always been a way of learning about natural phenomena. We think, for instance, that we understand something about the developmental genetics of the eye when we know how to produce, under laboratory conditions, an ectopic eye in flies through the targeted expression of an isolated gene.3 We do not need a particularly nuanced understanding of living processes, however, to doubt that genes are universal forms of living phenomena, that is, the essence of these abstracted—although those who compared the Human Genome Project with a vision of the Holy Grail4 were surely affected by this illusion— or that life can be grasped as a technique of nature that human beings are capable of learning. In our Darwinian age, some biologists and theoreticians of biology think of themselves as having renewed an understanding of living nature while at

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Chapter One

11

the same time overcoming the naïveté of Aristotelian teleology. In fact, the biological sciences cannot help but move within the Aristotelian horizon. What has been discarded is, at the most, Aristotle’s conception of artificial or technical teleology, insofar as the structure of biological phenomena is not conceived as responding to the prior representation of their essence, but certainly not his understanding of natural teleology, let alone the temporal structure of productive causation that the latter implies. Colin Pittendrigh proposed in 1958 to replace the word “teleology” with “teleonomy,” a term widely used thereafter by theoreticians to refer to the adaptive processes in natural selection and to the unfolding of the genetic program. Contrary to what Pittendrigh wrote, however, “teleonomy” does “carry a commitment to Aristotelian teleology,”5 even if it designates end-directed systems whose “ends” are not pregiven final states of development or evolution. What is at stake in teleonomy is a natural teleology, or what Kant called “natural end,” that is, internal finality without intentionality (that is, precisely, without art), and where the prior representation of the whole is never the real cause of the becoming of the parts, but only the subjective principle for their understanding. Another modern denial of teleology may also be found in Henri Bergson. He believed that he had avoided all kinds of teleology—whether “internal” or “external”—in the explanation of life, vehemently arguing that finality is but an illegitimate projection of human art into nature. But how would it be possible to excise teleology completely while understanding life, as he does, in terms of a creative time, or as a “common impetus (élan)” at the source of variation in evolution? Indeed, Bergson went so far as to invoke “some inner directing principle” that limits the spectrum of possibilities of adaptive evolutionary solutions in the formation of complex organs.6 My conviction is that we will not be able to question seriously the teleological structure of living phenomena while we continue to think of life as time formation in productive causation. In the next two chapters, I shall try to elucidate further the teleological structure of temporality in living phenomena.

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Two

The thermodynamics of the nineteenth century provided an influential theoretical frame for understanding living organization. We should not believe that thermodynamics has nothing to say about life insofar as it originated as a science principally occupied with quantifying energy flow and work in heat engines. Good disciples of Aristotle that we are, we have always understood nature through analogy with art. One of the singularities of living systems consists in their being capable of assimilating, storing, and expending energy on their own initiative and command, whereas inorganic systems are unable to perform such operations. The latter automatically expend the energy that they passively receive from the exterior. Passively, or by the simple fact of being exposed to the environment, to other objects, and ultimately to that munificent energy source disseminating physical force over our planet: the sun.1 In assimilating, storing, and spending energy on their own initiative, living systems apparently break the second law of thermodynamics. This law states that the entropy of a

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Chapter Two

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thermal system will always increase. This is invariably the case for inorganic systems—but for living ones? Metabolism, growth, self-motion, reproduction, and evolution, as well as moving, thinking, desiring, and so on, seem to be led exactly in the opposite direction! Life is above all initiative, spontaneity, freedom, whereas “the essential physical meaning of increase of entropy is a loss of power of spontaneous action.”2 Two opposite views are possible here: Either we are led to think of energy flow in living systems as a local and transitional exception within a larger system, or we see this flow as governed by extraphysical (for instance, vitalistic) principles. Animatedness in the former case would be compatible with thermodynamic laws and only renders the computing of energy more difficult—the system is necessarily more “complex.” In the latter, however, life would inescapably be transcendent to the laws of thermodynamics, and probably to any other physical law. Over the course of his career, Lord Kelvin became progressively convinced that life is not something pertaining to the physical world. In 1852 he stated that “the animal body does not act as thermo-dynamic engine.” Forty years later he wrote, “The influence of animal or vegetable life on matter is infinitely beyond the range of any scientific inquiry hitherto entered on.” In 1899, he remarked, “Mathematics and dynamics fail us when we contemplate the earth, fitted for life but lifeless, and try to imagine the commencement of life upon it.” Of this exceptionality of life human beings have nonetheless the most concrete and undeniable experience: the freedom of the will. In 1907—the same year in which Bergson’s L’évolution créatrice was first published—the vital phenomenon seems to stand, on Lord Kelvin’s account, as proof of the existence of a Creator of the Universe, and as the principal refutation of materialism.3 One of the earliest formulations of the second law of thermodynamics may be found in a remark made by Clausius in 1850 concerning Sadi Carnot’s 1824 theorem about heat engines: “This contradicts the other behavior of heat, since it everywhere shows a tendency to smoothen any occurring temperature differences and therefore to pass from hotter to colder bodies.”4 It is commonly held that with this law temporal irreversibility is codified in physics for the first time. The natural increase of entropy until its maximum is the future of all systems (at least all isolated systems). The past of a system can only have a lesser or equal quantity of entropy, but never more; the future can only have equal or more, but never less of it. The increase of total

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On Time, Being, and Hunger

entropy until it reaches its maximum (what is called thermal death) is the inevitable destiny of any thermal process. Time, therefore, is no longer the abstract measure of dynamic change, a quantity that is independent from the changing system itself. In other words—in Aristotle’s words—time is not merely the number of the movement or process, but the movement or process itself. Time is embodied by the system itself; it corresponds to its internal and intimate development. Time is formed by the immanent sense, the immanent direction of entropic processes. Entropy is the change, the “corruption caused by the work of time,” as Aristotle says (Physics IV, 222 b 25). Entropy shows that there is an “arrow of time” in natural processes.5 This law, first enunciated in relation to “heat engines” and strictly applicable only to completely isolated systems, will thereafter provide the ground for the most far-fetched generalizations. The story starts with Clausius himself, who conceives the whole of nature, the whole universe, as a thermal system governed by the second law. The second law, explains Clausius in 1863, express[es] a generally prevailing tendency in Nature towards changes in a definite sense. If one applies this to the universe in total, one reaches a remarkable conclusion. . . . Namely, if, in the universe, heat always shows the endeavour to change its distribution in such a way that existing temperature differences are thereby smoothened, then the universe must continually get closer to the state, where the forces cannot produce any new motions, and no further temperature differences exist.6

Some time later, he writes: The second law in the form I have given it says that all transformations occurring in Nature take place by themselves in a certain direction, which I have denominated the positive direction.7

The translation of the two first laws to cosmological theory thus is, “1. The energy of the universe is constant. 2. The entropy of the universe tends to a maximum.”8 Boltzmann’s cosmological views, supported by his interpretation of entropy along the lines of probability—the increase of entropy is understood as the decrease of organization or as the increase of disorder in a population of molecules, which constitutes the most probable future state of the system —are based upon similar generalizations.9

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Chapter Two

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Bergson describes the second law in 1907 as “the most metaphysical of the laws of physics,”10 probably because he also took it as a truth concerning the whole universe. Observe that it will only be against the background of a generalized conception of the second law that life will appear to him as “an effort for re-mount the incline that matter descends” or as “a process [that is] the inverse of materiality, creative of matter by its interruption alone.”11 Life, the élan vital, is the initiative of a singular temporal formation within the homogeneous falling-down stream of the universe. Previously we described thermodynamic processes as singular temporal formations against the background of temporally reversible laws of classical dynamics. Now, owing to the cosmological generalization of the second law, life— exception of exceptions, as Nietzsche would say12— can be described as the temporal formation whose singularity enhances against the predictable, universal, and irreversible direction of the inanimate world toward the increase of entropy. Given the thermodynamic condition of the physical world, or against the “duration immanent of the whole of the universe,”13 life—that is, organization, metabolism, growth, reproduction, variation, evolution, and so forth—shows itself as the power of decreasing entropy and of progressively recovering the capacity of spontaneous action. Life in nature becomes unpredictable innovation, indetermination of matter, freedom, creative élan, and the like. Vitalism is not, however, the only solution to the alleged apparent contradiction between the laws of thermodynamics and living organisms. Moderate views can be held by invoking other physical laws for biological phenomena. One may certainly admit that the evolution of life should not, of necessity, be reduced to the thermodynamic evolution of inorganic matter. For instance, the spontaneous formation of crystals does not imply a decrease of entropy, whereas every biomolecular activity does, so that the latter requires more than simply superior levels of thermodynamic organization.14 But their irreducibility to each other does not mean that thermodynamic evolution and the history of life refer to, so to speak, different worlds. Living phenomena could be considered as local exceptions tolerated by the entropic evolution of a larger system. Living systems do not magically make the conditions for their own emergence and survival appear; they must take them from the environment. “Highly developed systems may obtain their energy by a process of collection, not by creation.” The organism, qua thermody-

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namic system, may be said to feed on the environment, thereby “draining [organization] from other contiguous systems.”15 An organism keeps itself alive by “continually sucking orderliness from its environment.” Thus, food ought to succeed “in freeing” an organism “from all the entropy it cannot help producing while alive”; “what an organism feeds upon is negative entropy.”16 In sum, when the organism and the environment are treated as an energetic whole, there is no violation of the second law. The biosphere itself is not completely isolated, and its loss is continuously compensated through draining energy from the magnanimous sun, which represents a fabulous provision for order, in so far as this heat has not yet been distributed equally over the whole universe (though its definite tendency is towards that dispersion) but is for the time being concentrated within a relatively small portion of space. The radiation of heat from the sun, of which a small proportion reaches us, is the compensating process making possible the manifold forms of life and movement on the earth, which frequently present the features of increasing order. A small fraction of this tremendous dissipation suffices to maintain life on the earth by supplying the necessary amount of “order,” but of course only so long as the prodigal parent, in its own frantically uneconomic way, is still able to afford the luxury of a planet which is decked out with cloud and wind, rushing rivers and foaming seas, and the gorgeous finery of flora and fauna and the striving millions of mankind.17

Treating living beings as thermodynamic systems has promoted the idea that singular processes such as photosynthesis or glucose synthesis in plant growth may be subjected to mathematical analysis for quantifying entropy. Energy flow and biochemical information in the whole biosphere might be subject to such computational efforts. We should not be surprised to find even more ambitious, though likely much less accurate, attempts to analyze the whole history of life in terms of a continuous increase of organization understood as decrease of entropy.18 Needless to say, spearheading this history of complexity—the history of life—is the human brain, challenged by the comprehension of its own evolution. However that may be—whether understood as incompatible with thermodynamic evolution or as local exception tolerated by the evolution of the whole system —life is something essentially historical. Life is conceived of as the irreversible construction of complexity.

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Three

According to Ilya Prigogine, from the 1960s on “complexity” can no longer be called an exclusive object of life sciences.1 Here, I will briefly consider far-from-equilibrium thermodynamics. Thermodynamics of far-fromequilibrium systems and dissipative structures has made crucial theoretical contributions to current representations of living systems. I will not be discussing the epistemology of the thermodynamic models put forward by Prigogine and his school, since such a task is out of my competence; instead, I will content myself with trying to bring forth some philosophical elements relevant for understanding the notions of time and self-organization at stake in his views. For the thermodynamics of “dissipative structures”—that is, open systems in which energy may be exchanged with the environment through self-catalyzed and self-enhanced cycles that maintain the system far from equilibrium —self-organization and formation of complexity are normal physico-chemical processes:

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On Time, Being, and Hunger The discovery of the “new states of matter” (the dissipative structures) was necessary to deduce the conservation and development of active structures from the laws of physics, and for the organization to appear as a natural process.2

The phenomenon of life should be neither prey to vitalisms nor treated as a statistical miracle hardly tolerated by normal physical laws.3 The latter view advocates a dualism that “snatches the living being from the inanimate order of nature, considers it as a being that escaped death in the margins of a Universe in which it only constitutes an arbitrary particularity.” Life is rather “a phenomenon of self-organization of matter evolving to more and more complex states,” so that—in this allegedly new vision of the physical world preached by Prigogine—it “constitutes a phenomenon as ‘natural’ as the fall of heavy bodies.”4 In simpler words, the difference itself between animate and inanimate nature ought to be made relative from the physical perspective. Classical physics was condemned to understand the universe as dead matter; life was, in the best case, an extremely unlikely event of this same dead matter. With “dissipative structures,” everything happens as if we were dealing with an inversion of this paradigm. In this new conception, nature—the formation of complexity—is itself structured as organized matter. Nature thus regains its right to produce life because it is thoroughly considered as capable of organization. This presupposition that nature is organized matter underlies, probably, Prigogine’s idealization of the worldviews of pre-Columbian civilizations in the Americas: South and Central America are something different. The dominating conception is that of a “biological” world in which the movement of planets and the shining of the sun ask for energy: we must nourish the gods; gods need men no less than men need gods. There is a unity, and this unity is biological, precarious, and ceaselessly in need of animation. On the contrary, for instance for the Greeks, the movement of planets is gratuitous; it does not require to be preserved.5

The vision of nature advocated by Prigogine is that of systems that spontaneously evolve far from equilibrium, that is, far from maximum disorder, far from maximum absence of power of spontaneous action. The arrow of time is no longer embodied in the foreseeable course of things toward equi-

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librium. It is no longer the chronicle of a thermal death foretold. Irreversibility means now that in natural constructions, only the unforeseeable is to come. The constructive role of irreversibility is even more striking in far-fromequilibrium situations where non-equilibrium leads to new forms of coherence. . . . We have now learned that it is precisely through irreversible processes associated with the arrow of time that nature achieves its most delicate and complex structures. Life is possible only in a non-equilibrium universe.6

Thus, some aspects of the ancient structure of teleology (see Chapter 1) seem to be explicitly recovered. It has been noted that it is in general difficult to avoid teleological language in referring to thermodynamic processes—“in this very matter-of-facts branch of physics, developed primarily because of its importance for engineers, we can scarcely avoid expressing in teleological language.”7 In this particular case, teleology is not implied in the sense of a pregiven telos qua predictable maximum entropy and thermal death as the outcome of any thermodynamic process. The formation of complexity in far-from-equilibrium systems does not follow a telos represented beforehand. The system is entirely abandoned to the invention of itself—that is why it has a future, in fact. If nature has a temporal direction, and if there is a future to invent, this is precisely because there cannot be a given end for the course of things. Unlike then the production of art (techne¯), where the telos is previously intended and externally imposed on products, natural phenomena must be treated as self-constructive (self-invented) processes. Teleology is now immanent to the becoming of natural phenomena. We are dealing with “a construction from within,”8 or with the purposiveness “in us” of which Nietzsche speaks and that he wishes to oppose to the “Spinozist” (that is, merely mechanistic) spirit of his time.9 But this rehabilitation of ancient natural teleology is only partial; insofar as the far-from-equilibrium system is exposed to the “invention” of itself, one should also say that the immanent telos is not potentially present from the beginning but is gradually shaped through the unpredictable development of the system. Convection cells in Bénard’s experiment of 1900 are one of Prigogine’s favorite examples to explain physical self-organization. Through thermal change, molecular chaos may transform into self-organized movement. In molecular chaos, molecules do not influence each other over distances larger

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than a few angstroms; but after a critical difference of temperature, thermal convection starts and matter begins to form bulks where fluid forms series of small convection cells. The system starts behaving as a whole: there is now order and coherence, local events are in resonance throughout the system, and the molecules’ movement now becomes coordinated. A macroscopic organization arises out of molecular chaos. When ∆T [a difference of temperature] is below the critical value ∆TC [a critical difference of temperature], the homogeneity of the fluid in the horizontal direction makes its different parts, which can only be defined arbitrarily, independent of each other. . . . But beyond the threshold ∆TC, everything happens as if each volume element was watching the behavior of its neighbors and was taking it into account so as to play its own role adequately and to participate in the overall pattern. This suggests the existence of correlations, that is, statistically reproducible relations between distant parts of the system.10

Spatial symmetry is broken. Different and organized or correlated places arise. The right does not have the same meaning as the left; the front and the back must differentiate each other, as do the bottom and the top. In the case of Bénard cells, every localized place has from now on a meaning and functions in regard to the molecules’ behavior in every other place.11 Temporal symmetry is also broken. The identity of the system is given by its internal development.12 Once the symmetries have been broken, and up until a new critical point is reached in which the system invents a new organization, a certain degree of stability and independence with regard to the environment is maintained. The self-maintenance of the system is not the work of some coordinated or planned effort of a system, as if it were a stage of the development of a given program. Self-organization results from the fluctuations and instabilities themselves of the environment. Self-organization is the unpredictable response to fluctuations, the spontaneous state of matter itself. “The maintenance of organization in nature is not—and cannot be—achieved by central management; order can only be maintained by self-organization.”13 “Self ” here means the spontaneous arrangement and regulation of a system that proves, at critical points, to be independent of deterministic conditions. But “self ” should be capable also of maintaining its degree of indepen-

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dence. Its organized form must endure. Self-organization is the opening of a singular and self-identified duration. This is an active, a creative, a dynamic process. Once the system is cut off from the environment, once it emerges in its singularity, it is not then given once and for all, but needs continuously to renew the process of its separation from external deterministic conditions. To be “self ”-organized means to reemerge continuously as “self.” Self-preservation is continual self-recreation. In persisting, in preserving itself, the system will be shaped or formed through the “history” of such recreations. From the time that it begins, all subsequent transformation of itself will necessarily be affected by this history. “Self ” is the history, the memory of its own recreations. Without this history or this memory, the organized system would not be properly speaking open to a nongiven future. The “new” configurations to come would not have the form of novelty were they not to irrupt in an already existing and self-appropriated historical system. For something “new” to come, a difference must be introduced between what already exists— and identifies to itself, or self-appropriates—and the coming element. The coming element is “new” precisely insofar as it cannot be anticipated by the already existing identity; otherwise it would not be new, but would already be part of it. The new is “new” because it incorporates to the system on condition that the system itself will be every time renewed. That is, its own identity is every time newly reshaped and reformed, which also means— and this is important—that its own identity cannot be anticipated; it is, once again, to invent. If, on one hand, the coming of the new ought to be referred to a given history of the system in order to appear and function as the coming of something “new” with respect to it; on the other hand the possibility of a “history” of the system is itself conditioned by the coming of the new and the subsequent process of the system’s re-creation. Indeed—let us insist on this second assertion— only because there is no certainty concerning the future; only because nothing could predispose and anticipate what is to come; only because the future is the absolute exposure to the other, the accumulation of past events is possible. The past is formed only insofar as the new comes. Were this coming predictable, already present in the present, contained or predicted by the past, it would not come; it would already be there, present in the present, coexisting with it, and present in the temporal passage that

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forges the past. Worse still, time itself, that is, the history and the memory of a system, the constructive character of irreversibility, would be a mere illusion, the mere unfolding of an already given (present) future. In short, nothing would ever have happened. I quote again Prigogine, a dense but accurate passage: Far from equilibrium, that is, when a constraint is sufficiently strong, the system can adjust to its environment in several different ways. Stated more formally, several solutions are possible for the same parameter values. Chance alone will decide which of these solutions will be realized. The fact that only one among many possibilities occurred gives the system a historical dimension, some sort of “memory” of a past event that took place at a critical moment and which will affect its further evolution.14

On one hand, the coming of the new ought to refer to a preexisting historically self-identified system if it is to be “new”; on the other hand, the system can only be determined through its inner exposure to chance if it is to be “historical,” and have a historical identity. The “self ” emerges, forms, and shapes itself as self in a dialectical process of identity and difference. To treat the passage of time as the formation of “selfhood,” however, privileges identity over difference. The newness of the new seems able to alter everything except the sameness of the persistent and constant alteration of the system in time. But if the past and its capacity to affect the future are never given in itself but depend on new configurations to come, if the uncertain character of the future determines the past itself as something always to come—it will always be to be written as the history of the coming future— then why is it that selfhood does not simply and totally dissolve in each of its own recreations? Why is it that temporal discontinuity argues here for continuity of the self ? Because what is dealt with under the name of “time” is in fact nothing other than the self-positioning of selfhood. Time temporalizes itself as self-formation of the self. Indeed, time here is understood as self-identifying or self-appropriating factor. Time is what keeps moving on in the formation of history and the coming of the new. Time is understood as what lasts in the self-organizing system —the substanding continuity of what endlessly turns into the other, identifies the different, appropriates the new. Time is understood as the ceaseless flow producing diversity. Diversity is only possible within the

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unity of the temporal flow; diversity is produced by the self-appropriation, the self-identification, the self-unification of the temporal flow. Only because time unifies and identifies to itself, to its becoming, one may say that it produces diversity; it produces the possibility for the one to be retained, to be identified to itself through variation, and to be differentiated from the other. Time (selfhood) is the form of change, that is, the form of the self-appropriating and self-identifying process of persistently and constantly rejecting any given identity and of becoming other.15 We should by now understand better why it is that self-organization is, for Prigogine, the same as the formation of “complexity.” The complex comes from the irreversible accumulation of critical decisions that shape the system over time. “Complexity” is the weight of the history of the system; it results from the temporal identification of the system to its own transformations. “Bifurcations,” that is, the “choices” resulting after a critical threshold far from equilibrium has been reached, leave indelible traces;16 this presence of the past affects the coming of the future, and gives a sense to it. The mere passage of time spontaneously leads to an increase of complexity. Time is thought to occur and to pass insofar as irreversibility—that is, the formation of the complex— occurs. We can extrapolate this to evolution and say that the history of life would be the history of the increase of complexity, the top of which would be naturally crowned by the human brain. Bifurcation after bifurcation, (happy) solutions after (happy) solutions, over the course of billions of years, this extraordinary physical machine that makes possible our unique capacity for thinking has formed, and actually keeps forming and therefore moving toward even superior forms. According to this view, the human brain is to be treated as standing at the antipodes of the primeval soup in which life first originates. Rather than being “in” history or evolution, the formation of the living (of the complex) creates time, history, and evolution; it is itself the selfformation or self-creation of time, history, and evolution. Consequently, for instance, one can expect that the brain would have evolved partly regardless of environmental pressure; it would have changed and improved further than the minimal conditions required for its survival.17 It should not be surprising if, from this perspective, we take simpler living forms—prokaryotes, for instance—as more “primitive” forms of life coexisting with later or more complex forms.

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On Time, Being, and Hunger

Is time (self-organization, self-appropriation, self-identification, complexity) the only possible paradigm in which life has been and should be thought? Surely not, and the final aim of this book is to explain in what sense not. But before putting forward any suggestion of this sort, I will take a long detour in Chapters 4 –7, devoted to showing how deeply embedded in Western thought is the understanding of life as self-organizing temporality. In addition, and giving some credit to a famous sentence in which Nietzsche denounces the fact that there has been no other representation of “being” than “life,”18 our detour will make clear as well, in first place, why is it that being has ended up being thought as “time” and, in certain way, as “production” (and as “event,” or as “gift,” and the like), and second, why is it that any effort to free “life” from “time” not only needs to go overcome teleological naïvités, but also will necessarily deconstruct ontology itself.

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Four

Living beings have by nature the task of remaining what they are by nature. We would not say of stones that they are concerned with maintaining themselves as stones; they are by nature just what they are, and not what they endeavor to be. The life of living beings shows itself as the difference between what these beings are and what they ought to keep at bay and would become were they not able of remaining what they are—in one word, death. Whenever we speak of “life,” we speak of the difference between life and death. Life is that property of some beings by which they distinguish themselves from death. Or better: life is the process that distinguishes life and death, insofar as it is the endeavor to keep death at bay. Aristotle defines life as that by which the animate being is distinguished from the inanimate being (On the Soul, II, 2, 413 a 21–22). To inquire about the nature of life is thus to inquire about the difference itself between living and nonliving (and dead) bodies. In the early nineteenth century, JeanBaptiste Lamarck observed,

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On Time, Being, and Hunger If we wish to arrive at a real knowledge of . . . what are the causes and laws which control so wonderful a natural phenomenon, and how life itself can originate those numerous and astonishing phenomena exhibited by living bodies, we must above all pay very attention to the differences existing between inorganic and living bodies.1

In modernity, the difference between living and nonliving bodies corresponds to a fundamental difference within natural sciences, namely the difference between life sciences and physical sciences. In early modern science, where everything is supposed to be reduced to mathematically quantifiable mechanisms, biological phenomena often are left beyond the scope and capacities of scientific investigation. Life is not written in mathematical characters. New laws or other laws for physics are needed if one wishes to understand organization, development, reproduction, evolution, and so forth. “Do you see this egg?” Diderot famously wrote. “With this you can overthrow all the schools of theology, all the churches of the earth”—including, of course and above all, the Cartesian and Newtonian schools and temples. Modern physics suspends the pertinence of inquiring about an “inner principle” of movement or change, that is, about what a being is inclined to be or what it naturally endeavors to be: that for the sake of which (telos, hou heneka) a being organizes itself and becomes what it is. In Aristotle and in Aristoteliandetermined science, on the contrary, such an inquiry was legitimate in physical investigation. This explains why for Aristotle the difference between living and nonliving beings did not cover the difference between two irreconcilable ways of doing science. In early modern science, however, there were only two alternative ways to assign a place to living beings and to explain their functions. Either living beings were machines in which only shapes, sizes and movements were significant, or they remained beyond the reach of mechanical laws, in which case the attempt to find unity and coherence in the world had to be abandoned.2

Modern efforts for understanding life, at least so long as they wished to preserve living phenomena’s singularity, had no choice: They renounced all unity and coherence in the world, and they embraced vitalism. Against the background of the cold, reductive, dead and blind mechanistic view of nature, living phenomena were conceivable only as a radical rupture or excess with respect to the laws of physics. Organization cannot be a quantifi-

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able mechanism. It must respond to some proper, internal, and extraphysical force. It should come as no surprise that the modern birth of the object “life,” as well as the progressive autonomy of the biological sciences, is more or less contemporaneous with the modern birth of “beauty” and the progressive autonomy of aesthetics. In fact, the terms “biology” and “aesthetics” arose almost simultaneously. It was indeed against the same background— seventeenth-century mechanism —that they were developed. Beauty cannot be a pleasure produced by simple mathematical harmony in proportions of figures, magnitudes, or movements; it also needs an extraphysical or an extramathematical component, something difficult to designate—a “je ne sais quoi,” a “grâce,” a “sentiment”—but whose presence decides whether the object deserves to be treated as beautiful. Likewise, life can only be apprehended as exceeding mechanical determinism: It is, so to speak, the “je ne sais quoi” that organizes the organism. In consequence, it should not be surprising, as well, that Kant’s Critique of Judgment was a treatise on the transcendental conditions of both aesthetical judgment and of the judgment concerning natural organizations. Both organic nature and aesthetic judgment are for him irreducible to normal conditions for objective knowledge (mathematics and physics). There could not be a mechanistic explanation of the organization of organized bodies. Kant writes: For it is quite certain that we can never adequately come to know the organized beings and their internal possibility in accordance with merely mechanical principles of nature, let alone explain them; and indeed this is so certain that we can boldly say that it would be absurd for humans even to make such an attempt or to hope that there may yet arise a Newton who could make comprehensible even the generation of a blade of grass according to natural laws that no intention has ordered; rather, we must absolutely deny this insight to human beings.3

The rediscovery of natural purposiveness during the late eighteenth century, particularly in the Critique of Judgment, opened a field for the interpretation of the “irrational” behavior of nature in organization (and beauty), which thus appears as irreducible to physico-mathematical natural sciences. Alfred Baeumler recalled to what extent the reemergence of Zweckmässigkeit,

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“finality” or “purposiveness,” responded to the wish of introducing “order” into those natural phenomena that were apprehended as escaping the limits of logical understanding.4 This does not mean, however, that Kant’s view engages some sort of vitalistic approach concerning the science of living beings. On the contrary, in Kant, the opposition of physical mechanism and vitalism is overcome for the first time in modern thought. Zweckmässigkeit is not postulated as a real and effective cause for natural products, but as a methodological principle for the observation and understanding of them. Indeed, without “adding” to our observations the reflective concept of finality, the mechanistic description of organic natural beings simply would not make sense at all. According to Kant, research in life sciences must be led by the regulative idea of finality; only insofar as it is will observation and experimentation respond to pertinent problems in the field.5 “Life” is that part of nature that is not intelligible by merely natural (“physico-mathematical”) sciences. “Life” is the realm of nature— of nature and not of the divine, nor of the will, nor of history, nor of art—that revolts against itself, challenging the scientific understanding. That is why life came to embody the promise of the discovery of other and unknown laws of physics, which eventually will be added to the existing laws. In the twentieth century, Schrödinger writes: Living matter, while not eluding the “laws of physics” as established up to date, is likely to involve “other laws of physics” hitherto unknown, which, however, once they have been revealed, will form just as integral a part of this science as the former.6

Schrödinger’s interest in hereditary processes—for example, in their exceptional regularity—will be nonetheless marked by the agenda of giving new breath to physical determinism and of rediscovering order-from-order laws.7 By contrast, Niels Bohr defends the irreducibility of living processes to physico-chemical analyses, at least insofar as the living processes are considered in the organism that is actually performing vital functions.8 Indeed, it would not be possible to aim at a physico-chemical or biochemical description at the atomic level without annihilating the living function under examination. The atomic approach to animation implies to kill the animal: literally, because of the technical means required for it, but let us add also figuratively, because even if it were possible to keep the body alive under

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observation while characterizing it as an atomic system, its animation would be disregarded as such, and the organism would be considered merely as the interactive sum of separable parts, that is, as nonliving matter. If we were able to push the analysis of the mechanism of living organisms as far as that of atomic phenomena, we should scarcely expect to find any features differing from the properties of inorganic matter. . . . We should doubtless kill an animal if we tried to carry the investigation of its organs so far that we could describe the role played by single atoms in vital functions. In every experiment on living organisms, there must remain an uncertainty as regards the physical conditions to which they are subjected and the idea suggests itself that the minimal freedom we must allow the organism in this respect is just large enough to permit it, so to say, to hide its ultimate secrets from us.9

And, in a lecture given in 1937, he maintains his position: Every experimental arrangement with which we could study the behavior of the atoms constituting an organism . . . will exclude the possibility of maintaining that organism alive. The incessant exchange of matter which is inseparably connected with life will even imply the impossibility of regarding an organism as a well-defined system of material particles like the systems considered in any account of the ordinary physical and chemical properties of matter.10

An approach that wants to include the functional dimension of living beings must necessarily consider a certain degree of freedom in regard to material and mechanistic conditions. One can say as well that in vitro systems are relevant only insofar as they are meant to provide a representation of processes taking place within a living cell. The fragmentation that has rendered possible the representation of cell contents and components must be reintegrated in “regulative” or “heuristic” representations of the functions of the intact cell; all molecular analyses concerning broken down cells should somehow be incorporated in higher levels of analyses. Only thus they will be grasped as relevant biological processes. In Bohr’s view, living processes should be considered as complementary to the physical laws that govern atomic mechanism. They cooperate without transgressing their structural borders and without ever rendering possible a “complete” explanation of the phenomenon.

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On Time, Being, and Hunger As long as the word “life” is retained for practical or epistemological reasons, the dual approach in biology will surely persist.11 In the study of regulatory biological mechanisms the situation is rather that no sharp distinction can be made between the detailed construction of these mechanisms and the functions they fulfill in upholding the life of the whole organism. . . . Surely, as long as for practical or epistemological reasons one speaks of life, such teleological terms will be used in complementing the terminology of molecular biology.12

Bohr will describe the complementarity at stake between physical and biological analyses as a tension that constitute the living phenomenon in its innermost structure. To use Kantian terms, a merely mechanistic explanation of organic forms will never be possible; even if all the mechanical details of the phenomenon were explained, the regulative or heuristic representation of its functionality or purposiveness would be required in order to bestow on them biological meaning. In themselves, the mechanistic analyses do not have the means for penetrating the slightest biological reality; the biological meaning of phenomena must be considered as a fact that cannot be explained by mechanical analysis. On this view, the existence of life must be considered as an elementary fact that cannot be explained, but must be taken as a starting point in biology, in a similar way as the quantum of action, which appears as an irrational element from the point of view of classical mechanical physics, taken together with the existence of the elementary particles, forms the foundation of atomic physics. The asserted impossibility of a physical or chemical explanation of the function peculiar to life would in this sense be analogous to the insufficiency of the mechanical analysis for the understanding of the stability of atoms.13 In this sense the existence of life itself should be considered, both as regards its definition and observation, as a basic postulate in biology, not susceptible to further analysis.14

Life is what shows itself as being substantially different from dead matter. Life is that which cannot be comprehended through the same intellectual means used to understand inorganic nature. A living system is meant to be what it is, or is meant to live, only so long as it does not relinquish its own life and therefore so long as it defers the cir-

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cumstances of being governed by the laws governing dead matter. Thus, the “biological meaning” of a natural phenomenon shows itself in the process of deferring death. That is why the “pathological” may serve so strongly as an heuristic idea leading the research concerning the “normal” conditions that make possible life. To know the “biological function” of a determined process and mechanism means to grasp in which sense it makes possible the sustenance of life and/or the deferral of death.15 That we are not dead: That is perhaps the fundamental knowledge or self-knowledge of life, with respect to which or in analogy with which every other knowledge concerning the living realm is possible. “Dead matter” is not primarily that which is described by our physicomathematical intellect; on the contrary, “dead matter” is intimately “lived” (in the sense of “experienced”) by the living being as the possibility of its own disappearing, that is, as the possibility of its own death. Life, which names the difference between organic and nonorganic systems, is the process according to which a living system keeps itself away from its own and singular death. Thus, the endeavor against being governed by the laws of dead matter is properly speaking the concern with not dying. Not-being [that is, death] made its appearance in the world as an alternative embodied in the being [that is, life] itself; and thereby being itself first assumes an emphatic sense: intrinsically qualified by the threat of its negative it must affirm itself, and existence affirmed is existence as a concern.16

Only what has the possibility of dying can exist in the mode of being concerned with not dying, that is, can be said to be alive. Stones do not live—neither do gods—in the sense that they are not in the mode of being concerned by their own death. That is why On the Soul is not a treatise concerning all sorts of life—including, for instance, the life of celestial bodies—but only the life of those beings that may die, the life in mortals, en tois thne¯tois (On the Soul, II, 2, 413 a 32). Immortality, that is, the continued or the eternal existence of individual living beings, is a nonsense— even though living beings are hungry of such an immortality and even though all their vital functions may be explained as responding to such a hunger.17 To be hungry of immortality, in fact, only means that life is by definition exposure to an always imminent end of life. One may even say that such an imminence of death is what “animates” life (the performance of vital functions). This

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imminent death is of course not merely conceived as an objective state of matter considered in abstraction of the capacity to perform vital functions: Death is something always already present in and to the act or the process of living. If one (the living being) does not care for keeping oneself alive, one will die. To be alive is the fact of being in place of one’s own death—the death that will sooner or later take away the singular place of the living being. The fact that one may die—the fact that one lives—is the fact of having (at least provisionally) a singular place in the world. Being toward death forms one of the major traditional schemes for thinking life. Nietzsche characterizes the “fear of death as European sickness.”18 The concern for one’s own life, or the task of not dying, or the belief that to live is to have a singular place in this world (to in-habit the world)—a singular, unique, and proper place that death would one day take away—are for Nietzsche, who succeeded in “inverting” the paradigm I am trying to characterize, only reactive responses to what for him is the only veritable truth of life: the pure becoming, the undecidability between life and death, the disappropriation and expropriation of the self, the lack of a place in (or being out of ) the world, and so on.19 We can also invoke Epicurus’s exhortation not to fear death: his well-known statement “Accustom yourself to believe that death is nothing to us” implies that life should not be reduced to the task of not dying: Life should be lived without regard to death, by abandoning the effort to avoid death and to secure life. The more indifferent you are to the difference between life and death, the happier you will be. But we are endemically sick from the fear of death. We seem only capable of thinking life in terms of being toward death. For us, life unequivocally means to be abandoned to the task of opposing oneself to death, of differing from it, of delaying it, of hopefully suppressing it. For that reason—let us follow again ideas handed over by Nietzsche—life can be characterized as the constant “evaluation” of what is useful for securing life or for keeping oneself alive and of what is harmful to it and consequently inspires fear (see Chapter 9). There could be no limit, however, to the accumulation of the means for securing life. As long as there is life, there is insecurity. Insecurity is structural or constitutive of life. Life is the infinite need or the infinite want of the assurance of life. We would probably do better assuming it (for instance, exercising ourselves to believe that death is nothing to us) than keep trying

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to change it. To change it, to “secure” life, were that possible, would immediately mean to suppress life. It would mean to annihilate the condition of life.20 Life itself consists in the difference between life and death and/or in the deferral of death. Life—the suffering of the possibility of death— comes to life along with the coming of (the possibility of ) death. Life is the fact of being alive and not dead, or the fact of being in place of one’s own death, which is always to come. Life is never given as a whole, but as something to complete, as the task or the process of keeping oneself alive. This task is “infinite” in the sense that it finishes only when life finishes, and when the possibility of dying finishes.21 If living beings had overcome the painful task of keeping themselves alive, if they had resolved the problem of their being—their principal, their ontological concern—they would no longer be alive. To be “actually” alive is to be in the (infinite) “process” of not dying. The “actuality” of life is thus the enhancing of its potentialities: the fact of being able to perform vital functions or the capacity of not dying. This is the sense of Aristotle’s definition of life as the first entelecheia of an organized body (On the Soul, II, 1, 412 a 27).22 Life itself, the process of living, is not to be confused with the being that is alive—this or that living organism, this or that living body. Neither does life correspond to some self-subsistent principle or property that acts as the cause of living beings or as that which instantiates itself in them thus bringing them to life. Life means the process itself of living (nourishing, growing, reproducing, perceiving, desiring, imagining, moving, dying, and so forth) in living beings. In this manner, without being a living being—without being this or that living organism, this or that living body, without actually being any kind of being, as special, subtle, or spiritual as it may be conceived—life is the being of living beings. Life therefore does not have an ontical character; it has an ontological one. One could probably say, as well, that life is in itself the ontological difference, or the bio-ontological difference between the process of living and living beings. It is worth noting that this conception of life concurs with one of the most notable characteristics of what the tradition calls the “soul.” Indeed, the soul—the vital principle, or life itself—is not the living body; it is essentially different from it, but confers to the latter its being alive. The soul (that is, life) is in itself the bio-ontological difference that gives or exposes or brings about the living being as such.23

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Life is surely not, then, “what” produces— or what is produced by—living beings. Life is neither the cause nor the condition of the emergence of living beings in the sense of their essential form and prototype (to eidos kai to paradeigma), nor the cause or the condition of the emergence of living beings in the sense of that for the sake of which they come about (to hou heneka), nor the cause or the condition of the emergence of living beings in the sense of what or who initiates the process of bringing them about (he¯ arche¯ te¯s metabole¯s), nor, finally, the cause or the condition of living beings in the sense of the material conditions required to perform vital functions (to ex hou ginetai). Life is the coming about of living beings or their production: their coming to the fore as the “causes” and “conditions” of beings withdraw, the fact that living beings live (I will return immediately to this concept of “production”). To say then that life (the soul) is the essence of living beings is to say that living beings have no essence (quidditas) or that the essence of living beings—life—is the absence of essence: it is the simple fact (quodditas) of being alive, that is, of being thrown into the task of keeping themselves alive even though the conditions necessary for living are not necessarily given. This ontological “causality” (life as the production of living beings, as their coming forth in the act or the process of living) is strictly correlative to the withdrawal of every ontical condition for the emergence of living beings. One should not think of some obscure divine or special type of causation; were this the case, we would still be dealing with ontical causation. The withdrawal of all ontical conditions of living beings is the suspension of causality itself as a means for understanding the being of living beings. Life shows itself when every condition (whether biological, physical, or technological) for the emergence of living beings is put out of work. Life shows itself when living beings are considered as having come from no previous or prescribed or programmed condition, as having instantiated no essence. Life shows itself when living beings are considered as being nothing (no essence, telos or eidos) coming from nothing (from any “cause” or “condition”). Life—the pure process of living—shows itself in the withdrawal of the (biophysico-technological) conditions of production. Life shows itself when it produces itself, when it comes from nothing and when nothing comes in this coming: life is the event of nothing or the naked birth to being: the res nata, the thing born (whence comes the Spanish word “nada”).

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Life—natural or artificial life, life in nature or life under experimental conditions—shows itself as such only insofar as it escapes or exceeds any form of ontical, bio-ontical or bio-ontico-physico-technological condition. Life essentially escapes or exceeds natural and artistic, human and technological modes of productions; life consists in such an excess (the “grâce,” the “je ne sais quoi,” the “life” of living beings). The fact that life exceeds natural and human modes of production—the simple fact that it is, or that it happens, or that it lives, or that it gives, and so on— explains why the production of life has been considered the thaumazioteron—the most wonderful, the most unbelievable— of objects (On the Soul, I, 1, 402 a 3). What is so extraordinary, so fantastic about the birth of a child has nothing to do with the nature of the container in which the first step took place. It is not even the fact of carrying out successfully the whole of the process in a test tube. What is incredible is the process itself.24

Life is the coming to being of living beings. No wonder that “life” will become the main scheme for understanding “being” in the Western tradition. Life presumably is the ultimate horizon of all possible ontology and thus presumably delimits the conditions under which all traditional thinking of being has been made possible—regardless of how “fundamental” it claims to be.

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Five

The living being is concerned with its own process of being. The living being essentially cares for not ceasing to be what it is by nature. Had living beings ceased to be concerned with their own process of being, they would cease to be; they would die. “Care” is thus the fundamental mode of being of living beings. The task of caring for one’s own being implies having been cut off from the conditions granting one’s own existence. It implies that existence lies now in one’s own hands. It implies that being is one’s own, that is, that the process of being is the emergence of the self. We find here a structure very similar to that of self-organization. Self-organization, as we saw in Chapter 3, is not given once and for all but implies that the self ought to be capable of enduring as such, and therefore that it ought constantly to re-create its independence with regard to environmental conditions. The self-organized being consists in the history of its renewed self-creations. In other words, the selforganized being is always exposed to imminent dissolution. Self-organization

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is the task of resisting the nonself or the antiself (the “other” considered as a threat to self-preservation). Thus the “self ” is basically thought of as an immunological entity. The immune self does not stand beside or behind the immunological activity, as if it were first a self-subsistent entity, which only then fights for survival; rather, the self is nothing other than the immunological fight for survival. The self is a historical and changing entity, altered by each immune encounter and in a sense renewed, if not recreated. . . . Challenged by constant engagements between self and nonself, the immune self has come to be viewed analogously to a living entity, continually redefined, reasserted, and redetermined.1

Living beings are the task of creating, by themselves, the conditions for not disappearing, for deferring imminent death. The ability to live is proportional to the degree of freedom with regard to environmental fluctuations, to external conditions, constrictions, and determinations. This freedom has a price, however: The more free and therefore the more capable of living, the more living beings are “by themselves” or the more they are confined to their own singularity, abandoned or delivered to themselves in the task of surviving, hence responsible for their own destiny. To be responsible for one’s own life means having to be the cause of it. It is obvious that it is this traditional characterization of living beings as cause of (as responsible for) themselves what lies behind Hans Jonas’s more recent interpretation of life as “responsibility” and “freedom”: The privilege of freedom carries the burden of need and means precarious being. For the ultimate condition for the privilege lies in the paradoxical fact that living substance, by some original act of segregation, has taken itself out of the general integration of things in the physical context, set itself over against the world, and introduced the tension of “to be or not to be” into the neutral assuredness of existence.2

Never, while alive, can the living being quit this responsibility; never can it free itself from this freedom. That is why no technical invention, no system of exploitation or of slavery, would ever relieve human beings from the responsibility of living—from the “living condition,” as it were. This does not mean that the supposedly “superior” ways of life (for instance, the bios theore¯tikos and the bios politikos) are fictitious. On the contrary, they are real,

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but they are neither more real nor more prominent than “inferior” ways of life. They are all, indeed, ways of living; they are all ways of assuming the task of not ceasing to be. That is why in the first line of Aristotle’s Metaphysics the want of contemplation describes, for humans, not a simple vocation or an ideal of life to come, but the condition of being alive—“by nature men are hungry to know.” There is no point either in sectioning the soul into different parts and in recognizing accordingly a supposedly “sheer” life, that is, a way of life performed by one and presumably more fundamental and inferior part of the soul—the nutritive one. The nutritive function of living beings is far from being sheer life, even though in certain cases it turns to be the only vital function at stake (for Aristotle, that would be the case of plants). Life is nakedly life, sheer life or life as such, in performing any of the living functions. So, unless we want to indulge in scholastic disquisitions, let us ignore the distinction between “fundamental” (or “minimal”) and “derivative” ways of life—whether we are speaking about humans, gods, plants, or bacteria. Accordingly, we will also ignore the distinction between the words bios and zoe¯ as marking the conceptual distinction between the exclusively human way of life and “sheer life,” the way of life shared by all living beings (specifically, “nutritive” life). The Greek language certainly makes meaningful distinctions between the terms. “Bios” is normally (but not exclusively) used to refer to the individual, mortal and biographical life (think of Plutarch’s Lives); it thus applies to the life of men and, by anthropomorphic extension, to the life of other living beings insofar as they coinhabit the human world (think, for instance, of domestic pets or plants, or perhaps of some living beings existing in fiction or fantasy). Instead, zoe¯ and the verb ze¯n apply normally to the life of living beings (including human) insofar as it is meant the natural and general condition of being alive. Nonetheless, Aristotle calls the “good life” of the citizen (the purpose of the bios politikos) “eu ze¯n.” Probably there is not such a clear conceptual distinction between these words as, for instance, Hannah Arendt apparently wishes. She calls zoe¯ “sheer life” or the “biological life process” (which, in spite of the word “biological,” is far from referring to the concept of life—if there is one—implied by the theory and practice of the life sciences; rather, her concept is apparently inspired by a particular interpretation of Nietzsche’s theory of becoming and eternal recurrence), which she defines as the “over-all gigantic circle of life nature herself, where no beginning and no end exist and where all natural

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things swing in changeless, deathless repetition.” Arendt reserves the word bios for the human mode of being in the world insofar as it engages language and action. 3

The “good life” [eu ze¯n], as Aristotle called the life of the citizen [bios politikos], therefore was not merely better, more carefree or nobler than ordinary life, but of an altogether different quality. It was “good” to the extent that by having mastered the necessities of sheer life, by being freed from labor and work, and by overcoming the innate urge of all living creatures for their own survival, it was no longer bound to the biological life process.4

I believe, however, that the sustenance of “sheer life” does not form part of any cyclic and deathless universe, but that it is the (infinite) task of not ceasing to be in the deadly world or earth that all living beings inhabit. In other words, the task of sustaining (all sort of ) life is infinite: the imminence of ceasing to be is always present—no matter how foreclosed it might be. The labor that seeks to ease the necessities of sheer life does not follow the never-ending rhythm of natural undifferentiated cycles, but responds to the fear of death. Death is not the invention of the human world (in contrast to deathless nature); rather, death is a constitutive element of our understanding of all sort of life. It does not make any sense to speak of a “biological living process” (in plants, animals, or household life) if this process does not mean the task of not ceasing to be (of not dying). Were not life the excess that breaks with all “cyclic harmony” in nature; were not this excess the fact of a constitutive want and lack in living beings (there are no limits to “consumption” in the task of sustaining life, as we know too well: hunger can never be appeased); were it possible to satisfy the necessities of life and to free oneself from them in order to participate in “superior” forms of freedom, there would simply not be any activity of self-sustenance or any proper want of other (“superior”) ways of life (to speak, to deliberate, to think, to contemplate, to create, and so on). It is not possible to overcome “the innate urge of all living creatures for their own survival” in order to “go further.” Politics is for the sake of “sheer life” or of “life as such”; or, better, politics is the outcome of the excessive hunger in which the fact of being alive, in all its possible forms, consists (see Chapter 10). The emergence of the self occurs when a being is abandoned to itself in the task of being. That is, the emergence of the self is the coming into life. To live means, once again, to be cut off from the external conditions and

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determinations and thrown to the task of not ceasing to be. To live means to produce oneself or to be delivered to oneself as the principal responsible for enduring. To live means that nothing and no one else can relieve the living being from the task of being. To live means to be delivered to oneself in and as the task of not ceasing to be qua process of nourishing, growing, reproducing, aging, dying, desiring, moving, imagining, thinking, acting, speaking, writing, and so forth. That living beings are delivered to themselves in the task of not ceasing to be basically means that the conditions for enduring are not given to them. Stones do not lack or want the conditions for being what they are. To lack or to want the conditions for being (for not ceasing to be) is the condition of life— of the production of the being in the world. One should avoid representing living beings mythically as if they had been “weaned” from the general integration of things—that is, ultimately, from Mother Earth’s generous womb, which would provide living beings with everything they would need for being, without asking for any reciprocity and without requiring from them any initiative or action. This mythical view is dramatically misleading insofar as it leads us to think that the want of conditions for not ceasing to be is merely a negative and transitory determination of life, as if this lack or want could one day or under other conditions be alleviated. Yet the want I am speaking of forms in itself the unrelievable condition in which life consists. No living being has found or will ever find itself passively connected to a source so generous that it will be relieved from the responsibility for enduring. Were such relief possible, once again, the relieved being would no longer be in the mode of the endeavor of not ceasing to be: It would have either died or become a happy god. Even plants, which Aristotle imagines to be rooted within an environment that supplies them with everything that their nutritive function may need, actively look to optimize their exposure to sunlight and earthy minerals, as well as their ability to perform metabolic processes (photosynthesis). This is easily demonstrated: one needs only to induce a craving, a lack, a want, in plants, to obstruct their exchange with the environment, and they will respond by moving themselves, ramifying their roots, and so forth. To emerge as living being, to self-organize, means to bring into the world such a dimension of a “lack,” of a “want.” The living condition is that of being-in-want or being-in-need—in a single word, hunger (orexis). Hunger

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is the original and singular experience of being cut off from any nourishing source and of being delivered to one’s own hands in the undelayable task of not ceasing to be. Hunger is the emergence of singular living selforganizing beings. Hunger is structural to self-organization. Hunger is not a lack that can be fulfilled in order to restore equilibrium and harmony. Hunger is original or factual; it is the fact of being in excess of and in rupture with the general integration of things. To be born, to grow, to reproduce, to multiply, to vary, to increase complexity, and so forth, are only thinkable as coming out of such an excess, not as existing for the purpose of filling a lack or satisfying a need. Through hunger, living beings are a priori opened to the world. Hunger is the “transcendent” structure of living beings. Instead of having roots or an umbilical cord connecting them respectively to the Mother Earth or the Mother Womb, living beings are, so to speak, connected to their empty stomach (Aristotle, On the Parts of Animals, IV, 4, 678 a 13–14, and IV, 5, 680 b 30). That is, they are abandoned to their hunger. And, through their hunger, they are abandoned or delivered to world. The world is the collection of things that appear or make sense in correlation with hunger. Thus, the emergence of living beings is coeval with the emergence of the world. And that is why nothing appears or makes sense otherwise than in relation to a living being’s constitutive hunger. Nothing appears or makes sense to living beings except in relation to the infinite task of not ceasing to be. Living beings perceive only what is relevant, pertinent, and significant to such a task. Hunger is the name of the ultimate hermeneutical horizon for the appearing of the world. Everything that appears in the world, everything that is “understood” by living beings, has the form of their hunger. Every appearing being offers the view or the image of such a hunger. Thus, nothing could be more natural for the living being than to believe that the appearing beings that it wants are by nature its own. If living beings are in want of something, it ought to be because what they are in want of may complete them — either because what they lack may be incorporated as food or simply because it forms part of their belongings. To be thrown to the task of being—and to self-appropriate in this task—to be responsible for not ceasing to be, in sum to have a singular place in the world (to inhabit a world), means above all— for the living being—to have a world. The world is the place where a living

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being, delivered to itself and to the task of not ceasing to be, looks for the appropriation of itself and of everything that makes sense or that appears in relation to this task of self-appropriation. More concisely, the world is the place opened and/or appropriated by the self-appropriating activity of living beings. That is why the world is always “my” or “your” world, “its” or “their” world, the familiar world or the world of the other, the foreign world, the world of friends or the world of enemies. There could not be a world of no one; a world is always the world of someone. The spontaneous belief that things that appear within the horizon of hunger are one’s own, however, surreptitiously amounts to a denial of hunger. Indeed, such a belief rests on the image of a virtual completeness of the living being, of a whole in which nothing would be lacking anymore. Hunger is then not thought of as constitutive or structural of the living being but only as a transitory emptiness activated and governed by the “necessities” of the virtual completeness of the living being. Appearing beings appear then as “objects of desire,” objects embodying the promise of the final fulfillment of the hungry body, objects bearing the illusory image of the coveted whole. Enraptured with the image of their own completeness and therefore denying hunger, living beings constantly experience the existence of competitors— other selves having or inhabiting worlds that neither pertain to nor correspond with the virtual image of their own totality—as threats to the task of not ceasing to be. In fact, as soon as living beings’ own world ceases to correspond to the image of its completeness, as soon as living beings find themselves unable to control their own world (something that could be as dramatic as finding oneself incapable of controlling one’s own body), the survival of the living beings is put seriously at risk.5 The traditional view of metabolism rests on a similar denial of hunger. Metabolism is never understood as the exchange of matter with the environment, but rather as a process of assimilation, of incorporation to one’s own body. Were it conceived as an exchange with the environment, in which the living being takes as much as it gives away, there would be no reason to consider metabolism as an assimilating or incorporating, rather than an alienating, contaminating or disappropriating process. But the idea or the image (eidos) of a whole that organizes the living being leads us to think that there is appropriation, incorporation, assimilation, or digestion. For

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Hippocrates, metabolism and digestion were conceived as the imposition of a form (eidos), the form of one’s own and complete body: “The nutrient rejects its form; it changes the form it first had, and goes down; digested, it nourishes” (Hippocrates 1861, § 6, p. 100). Aristotle states that living beings incorporate food “by the change of this food into the same form” (On Generation and Corruption, I, 5, 322 a 2). According to the ancient view of this matter, to eat, to incorporate, and to digest would thus be activities much more violent than that of breathing: In breathing, one does not incorporate bodies that are (supposedly) of the same nature as our own, and therefore our body lets be the foreign form of the foreign body without tearing out its identity; the air simply passes through the body (“cooling it down”) without transforming its form or adapting it to that of the host body: “Respiration incorporates a nutrient of a different kind than the body; the rest of the body incorporates nutrients of the same kind.” (Hippocrates 1861, § 29, p. 108). Nietzsche is then right when he denounces what stands behind the idea of metabolism: “To assimilate means: to make equal something foreign, to tyrannize— cruelty.”6 According to the traditional view of metabolism, therefore, the organism nourishes itself for the sake of the image of its (virtual) completeness. The image of the complete essence of the living being, therefore, operates as the telos, the hou heneka that guides and orientates, prescribes or programs, the realization of the organism. Thus, life would not be given in the structural incompleteness of a being whose essence simply consists in being thrown to the task of not ceasing to be; on the contrary, it would be the process of accomplishing the pregiven image or form of a supposedly fully realized living being in which hunger would be abolished. As we have seen, however, the emergence of the living selfhood occurs in the act of being delivered to one’s structural incompleteness. “What” is appropriated in life is the lack of the required conditions for being without having to be concerned with the process of being. Self-appropriation appropriates only such a lack—it appropriates a hole, then, rather than a whole. “What” emerges as “self ” in the task of being is the task itself, the process of not ceasing to be. The being itself of living beings is the process of selfappropriation. Only a self may be said to be “in the process of ” being, of not ceasing to be, of producing itself, and only a process can self-appropriate. The self is the process itself. Commenting on Nietzsche, Heidegger admits:

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On Time, Being, and Hunger In the concept of the living we always already think the “process” (Bewegung) in the wide sense of transition and transformation, the change in the other, which precisely displays the self in its sameness and its selfhood.7

To be fully alive, to be a living being in “act,” means to be in the capacity of becoming, that is, in “the process of ” being. Were the actuality of life a full accomplishment of some image or form guiding and leading the process of being, the living being would have ceased to be; it would “be” only in death. To live cannot be a pure and simple “actuality.” To live is always to be in the capacity of being. A process of being that would be fully given in the act of being—think for instance of the “process” of lightning in the sky—would be fully exhausted in its work, in its effect, and would be capable of nothing else. Following the same example, what is called “lightning” is never a self-standing, self-appropriating or substantial entity “capable of ” lightning, but it is fully exhausted in the act or work or effect of the lightning itself, without existing before the light and completely disappearing and completely exhausting itself as capacity of lightning after/in the act of lightning.8 A living process, instead, never is the pure and simple exhaustion of itself. On the contrary, it is above all what creates itself, affirms itself, and possesses itself even, or mainly, in the movement of exhausting its force and power. I will return to this in order to discuss the understanding of the living process precisely from the point of view of Nietzsche’s conception of force (see Chapter 9). Meanwhile, let us say a little more on the ontological, or bio-ontological, structure of “self-appropriation.” In his lessons concerning the essence and reality of force, Heidegger seems to characterize force according to the self-appropriating structure of life. The exhaustion of the force, instead of wasting and losing itself as force and as self, produces the force as “capacity” to act—and therefore as capacity to lose or waste “its” force, the force that from now on is “its own.” That which can be recognized as capable of losing its force and of becoming forceless or impotent is eo ipso recognized as having, as being a force. For instance, an animal has the force of reproducing itself, of procreating, insofar as it may become at a certain moment incapable of doing so; on the contrary, a stone cannot become impotent to procreate, it has not the capacity of becoming incapacitated, the force of becoming forceless.9 Hence, to Heidegger’s eyes, the sense of the sentence “all force is itself nonforce” (Metaphysics IX, 1, 1046

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a 30). To be a force is to have the capacity to lose this very same force, which supposes that the force already possesses itself as force, or that force is essentially the possession or the appropriation of itself. On this account, the exhaustion of the force is conceived as a process that must have at certain point “begun,” and this beginning is conceived as a previous state of the present (recoverably or irrecoverably) exhausted state of a determined force. That is why Heidegger states that the force creates (produces) the realm of its own action and of what defines or delimits its capacity as force. The realm of a force is the spatiotemporal range for its action or its “capacity.” During its exhaustion, the force indeed reaches the limits of what it shows to have been able to produce, it necessarily refers back to itself, identifies to itself or to the process of exhaustion, thereby unifying or appropriating itself as capacity of doing and of suffering.10 At the end of his lectures on the essence and effectiveness of “force,” Heidegger offers the example of a runner ready to start a race.11 He is on his knees, set to go. He has in itself the power to go far and fast; he shows itself as capable of going far and fast. He has here and now, that is, in the position of his own body, the capacity of moving to another here and another now. His own body, ready to start, already identifies and appropriates itself to the space and time—the realm — of the running. “Face and glance do not fall dreamily lost to the ground, nor do they wander from one thing to another,” as it would be the case, for instance, of a simple peasant woman on her knees; “rather, they are tensely focused on the track ahead, so that it looks as though the entire stance is stretched tout toward what lies before it.” On his knees, set to go, the runner embodies already what is to come, the imminent race; and once he has engaged the race, or once he has finished it, he will identify himself with the process of having run. “He runs and holds nothing back of which he would be capable; running, he executes his capability.” In other words, the whole process of running will show itself in its unity and identity; it will have constituted the selfhood itself of the capability of the runner. “This execution is not the brushing aside of the capability, not its disappearance, but rather the carrying out of that toward which the capability itself as a capability drives.”12 The “capability” is the self-identification and self-possession or the self-appropriation of the force. As I said, I am trying to suggest that the self-appropriating structure of the force is ultimately thought in the image of the structure of living beings.

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Indeed, it is first and foremost the living being who can be characterized as a force that self-appropriates in the imminence of its exhaustion, of its uninhibition (Enthemmung), and who is able to lose its power or become impotent—the example of procreation and impotence indicates, indeed, “the special bond between ‘force’ and ‘life.’ ”13 The concept of “life” at stake is explicitly opposed by Heidegger to modern biological mechanism (as well as to its ill-conceived antidote, vitalism): We are dealing, indeed, with the self-appropriating process of organization or of uninhibition of forces. It would be worth recalling that the concept of Enthemmung played an important role in the description of animal’s being in the world two years earlier in the lectures of the winter semester of 1929–30, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics. Animal self-appropriation (Eigentümlichkeit) is structured according to the captivation (Benommenheit) of the animal in its surrounding world. Animal driving is not activated by the “understanding” or “perception” of its situation, but “uninhibited” by that to which animal’s drives are spontaneously referred to. Animality itself is the extension and range—the realm — of disinhibition (Enthemmungsring), which equals the spatiotemporal realm of its capacity. I am also trying to suggest, of course, that such a characterization of force according to the self-appropriating structure of “life” also determines the understanding of “being.” Being self-appropriates in the beings’ capability of being. Being self-appropriates as dynamis; being is nothing other than the dynamis of being. Certainly, we are quite far from the element of “concern” and “care” described earlier in order to characterize the self-appropriation of life. What now is at stake is rather the structure of natural beings, whose interpretation seems to be renewed by Heidegger precisely in the summer semester of 1931, insofar as he will conceive their reality as independent vis-à-vis human concern— even though they would be completely senseless if we do not presuppose human concern.14 Perhaps one can even suggest that Heidegger’s later elucidation of the ontological meaning of physis might be led, implicitly, by the understanding of natural beings as living beings, and therefore by the understanding of being as life, insofar as physis will be characterized as the emergence or production of a self-appropriating process of coming to be. What comes to be stands in reference to its own origin, its own rising; it thus self-appropriates in its capability of being.15 It would likely not take long to show that Heidegger’s earlier understanding of

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natural beings in Aristotle is also determined by the interpretation of physis (of being) as life. The natural beings basically are beings nontechnically produced; that is, they are basically self-produced beings: The [natural beings] are only what we do not produce, but rather are what is already there for us, already there in the world, but in such a way that it has to do with producing, that it is a self-producing and thus is there in selfproducing.16

At the time these early lectures were given in 1924, Heidegger did not see a contradiction, as on the contrary he would have doubtlessly seen afterward, in characterizing the being of natural beings as life (he¯ psyche¯): Aristotle is so well-versed in the type of consideration of the ancients, that he approaches, more and more, the proper respect in which to discuss the physei on [natural being]. Within the genuine regard and that which it yields, we come across psyche¯. From there, it can be seen that the physikos, properly speaking, if he wants to see living things as living things, also considers psyche¯.17

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Six

The surreptitious understanding of being as life unwittingly made possible, guided, and limited Martin Heidegger’s tremendous and unprecedented efforts to spell out the sense of being. His entire work could be considered from our point of view as having contributed decisively to identify the traditional sense of life as well as to render explicit to what extent this sense has thoroughly determined our understanding of being. Is there any possibility of freeing the thinking of being from the “closure” of life? But what would be the aim of such an enterprise? To close the horizon of life compels us to close the horizon of being. And beyond being, what? Nothing. Or the pure and naked thing. The thing unconcerned with being. For several years before Being and Time—which established a strong, an inviolable distinction between being and life—Heidegger took no precautions against characterizing life as being in the world.1 For example, in an explicit passage that would no longer be possible after Being and Time, Heidegger wrote:

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It is also incorrect to speak of a “world of animals” and a “world of human beings.” The issue is not modes of apprehending actuality according to definite points of view; rather the issue is being-in-the-world. Thus, since the world is encountered through a definite disposition of living things, animals and human beings are in their world. The relatedness of animals to the world is precisely that which brings animals in their being genuinely into being-there (Dasein).2

During the years I am referring to (basically between 1919 and 1926), all the terms that in Being and Time will become the “existentials” of being— that is, the fundamental structures in which existence displays itself, such as “being-in-the-world” (In-der-Welt-sein), “care” (Sorge), “being-with” (Mitsein) or “coexistence” (Mitdasein), and so on—were predicated of life. Life is the way in which Heidegger grasped the sense, the process or movement (Bewegheit, kinesis) of being.3 No wonder Heidegger considered On the Soul the ontology of life and of Dasein.4 The psyche¯ of Aristotle’s treatise is an ontological concept, irreducible to the psychological and phenomenological realm of lived experience (Erlebnis)—hence the title of the treatise, Peri Psyche¯s (“On the Soul”), must be translated, according to Heidegger, as “Of being in the world.”5 Aristotle laid out the first fundamental traits of an ontology of life in his treatise Peri Psyche¯s. It is completely misleading to see therein a psychology or to use such a title for it.6 Life is the very mode of Being that which is living. Zen is a basic ontological concept. The soul is also to be understood in this sense.7 For Aristotle, perception, thinking, wanting are not experiences (Erlebnisse). Peri Psyche¯s is not psychology in the modern sense, but instead deals with the being of human being (or of living beings in general) in the world.8 Aristotle’s De anima. If one translates it “On the soul,” then it is misunderstood today in a psychological sense. If we adhere, not to words, but to what is said in Aristotle’s investigation, then we translate it: “About being in the world.” What are crudely designated in an easily misunderstood manner as “faculties of the soul,” “perception,” willing,” are for Aristotle not experiences, but ways of existing of a living being in its world.9

In other words, to nourish, to grow, to reproduce, to age, to die, to perceive, to imagine, to desire, to deliberate, to think, to speak, to contemplate, and so on, ought to be considered as originary possibilities of being.

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One also ought to bring up the structure being-toward-death (Sein-zumTode), which could only be a possibility of life: Only a living being can die— only for a living being does the fact of being-toward-death mean finitude, singularization, temporalization, task (that it “has” to be, that it “has” to exist). From the existential analytics of Being and Time on, however, there is a radical difference to make between life as process of being that is not exclusive to human beings, and the human mode of being concerned with the human being’s own process of being, that is, existence. In Being and Time, dealing with the latter a priori excludes dealing with the former. It is not completely clear why Heidegger defended this distinction. To have continued to analyze human existence in terms of “life” may surely have misled the reader of 1927 into thinking that Being and Time continued along the path of (instead of breaking with, as it actually does) the “philosophies of life” (Dilthey, Scheler, or Bergson). More important, however, the shift was necessary for Heidegger to break with Husserl’s powerful conceptuality concerning “lived experience” (Erlebnis) and “living corporality” (Leiblichkeit). To Heidegger’s eyes, “care”—that is, being in the mode of being concerned with one’s own process of being—lets itself be grasped neither as lived experience (that is, through the structure of consciousness) nor as performance of living corporality. In the process of being, consciousness finds itself always already thrown to the task of having to be in a world that precedes it, that it does not constitute. Only in a second time and in a derivative mode is consciousness able to put out of work the fact of being in a world in order to thematize and examine its proper structures and functions. The process of being, as such, had always already put consciousness “out of itself ” in the task of dealing with the problem of having to be. The being of consciousness thus would exceed everything that consciousness (or corporality) can live. Instead of clarifying the different senses in which “life” and “being” are or are not distinguishable, Heidegger seems to exclude “life” in Being and Time. But all gestures of exclusion must leave traces. Heidegger’s earlier invocations of Aristotle’s concept of life (and of psyche¯) in order to characterize being in the world will not simply disappear. In fact, the principal mode of life treated in On the Soul, namely animal life, can be found, to my eyes, at the heart of the existential analytic. Let us examine this more carefully. Animal life is for Aristotle sensitive life (he¯ aisthe¯tike¯ psyche¯). Aisthe¯sis, according to Heidegger’s earlier interpretation, characterizes “the manner of

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existing of something living in its world.” As we have seen (Chapter 5), animals are those living beings that look for their preservation with the help of sensibility. Were animals deprived of sense perception, they would die. Animals are “weaned” from their food, and therefore they have to be able to look for it, to recognize it, to choose it, to taste it, to assimilate it. They must nourish by themselves. Aisthe¯sis is the mode of being of animal life because it designates the way in which animals self-organize and self-appropriate. The self-appropriation of animals (of living beings in general: even plants, against Aristotle’s opinion, are essentially sensitive or cognitive beings) is only possible as being delivered to sensibility. Or more precisely, as we have seen, to be an animal means to be in want of the necessary conditions for being alive and therefore to be bound to understand and to interact with the only thing that may provide them: the world. To be delivered to the task of being, to self-appropriate, is to emerge as embodied self. To live is to be a sensitive body. Leben is Leiben, as Heidegger will say later: “We are not first of all ‘alive,’ and only then getting an apparatus to sustain our living which we call ‘the body’ (Leib), but we live insofar as we live bodily (wir leben, indem wir leiben).”11 Now, as soon as one turns one’s view toward Being and Time, the analyses of Dasein are determined in large measure by the structure of sensitive life. Assuredly, the sensibility of Dasein is very different from that of living corporality (Leiblichkeit). Heidegger is apparently interested in making this point clear.12 Dasein is not an incarnated being. Not that Dasein is a spiritual being, a pure soul; but “incarnation” or “living corporality” are not adequate structures for understanding the ontological and existential meaning of its “body”—if one may still speak of the “body” of Dasein. Heidegger, for instance, explicitly and repeatedly insists that the “Da” (the “there”) of Da-sein, that is, the place “out of itself ” in which it finds itself responding to the task of being, designates a place that could not be self-appropriated in the selfproximity and the self-presence of Dasein’s “own” body (“here”). Dasein is never “here”; it is always already “there,” separated from all incarnated selfproximity, distancing itself from every self-presence. The place of Dasein can never be merged into the “point zero” (Nullpunkt) or the “absolute here” (Absolute Hier) or into the “point of reference always already given” (repère toujours donné) required for spatial orientation.13 The place of Dasein can be apprehended only by “distancing” (Ent-fernung); that is, while it is thrown 10

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“there” inhabiting the world, concerned with the task of being, put out of itself and out of any place originating in self-proximity or incarnation. Dasein understands its here in terms of the over there of the surrounding world.14 The “here” of an “I-here” is always understood in terms of an “over there” at hand (aus einem zuhandenen “Dort”) in the sense of being toward it which de-distances, is directional, and takes care.15

The close (here, hier) and the far (over there, fort) are both opened there (da) by being in the world. The “here” of corporality has been made possible only thanks to a previous and original disclosure of the world in the spacing Ent-fernung of the “Da”: The existential spatiality of Da-sein which determines its “place” for it in this way is itself based upon being-in-the-world. The over there is the determinateness of something encountered within the world. “Here” and “over there” are possible only in a “there,” that is, when there is a being which has disclosed spatiality as the being of the “there.” This being bears in its ownmost being the character of no being closed. The expression “there” means this essential disclosedness.16

Now, that Heidegger was able to disentangle the analysis of Dasein from the phenomenological realm of the Leiblichkeit does not mean he was able to disentangle it from the structure of he aisthetike psyche. First of all, the latter is not a phenomenological structure.17 But more determinedly, Heidegger keeps “sensibility” as one of the fundamental structures of Dasein. Thus Dasein will inevitably be apprehended as an animal body. This explains why Heidegger may claim that existence places itself in a disclosure (Da) that precedes the self-proximity (Hier) of the living corporality, at the same time that an entire system of ecological metaphors is retained: Um-welt, Umsicht, Um-gebung, and so forth—they are all metaphors of a “horizontal” field, structurally interdependent with a Nullpunkt or Absolute Hier of spatialization. Why indeed should the “Da” of Dasein still have the structure of seeing-around, of circum-spection? From where would this “around” be constituted, if not from the self-proximity of the existential place to itself, that is, from the incarnation or embodiment of existence? It makes no sense to describe an opening (Da) preceding living corporality if this same opening will eventually be conceived as self-appropriating in self-proximity. (Here

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it would be necessary to follow Derrida’s classical criticisms of the “selfproximity” and to the “proper” or “propriation” [double value of “proprius”] of being in Of Grammatology as well as in “The Ends of Man.”) Thrown out of itself in the task of not ceasing to be in a world that it had not created and that radically separated it from itself (from any self-proximity in the mode of incarnated self-presence), Dasein nonetheless “finds itself ” (es befindet sich) existing. In other words, the “self ” of the process itself of existing finds itself, self-appropriates. To find itself is to self-appropriate in the “transcendence” of the process of being. “Out of itself ” or out of the “here” constituted by one’s “own” body, Dasein still “in-habits” the world or has a “home.” Out of itself (“out” in regard to the self-proximity of living corporality), Dasein finds a home (it is bei sich), it finds itself being in the world. It feels it; it has a sense of it (Befindlichkeit). The existing “self ” may not be structured as “absolute here”; the process of being may not be present to itself (or to anything)18; the self may well be irretrievably ahead of itself (vor es selbst) in the fact or in the facticity of having to be. Nonetheless, the “there” of being is still conceived as the place in which being gathers itself and unifies itself in its transcending structure. In order to ek-sist—in order to be out of oneself, entirely occupied in the task of being in the world—a relation to itself emerges or self-appropriates. The self itself, the Selbst of existence, is self-appropriation. “The expression ‘there’ means this essential disclosedness. Through disclosedness this being (Da-sein) is ‘there’ for itself together with the Da-sein of the world.”19 To “find” oneself being in the nonpresence and nonproximity to oneself is the mode of the proximity (of self-appropriation) of being itself to itself. Heidegger’s descriptions make clear how deeply the paradigm of he¯ aisthe¯tike¯ psyche¯ has contaminated the (self-appropriating) “there” of existence. The emergence of the self occurs in Dasein’s act and/or passion of finding itself being in the world—which is not, as we have seen, the matter of some “perception” or “intuition,” but consists in the affective disposition (Befindlichkeit) of the fact of being thrown to the task of being (facticity). In other words, Dasein is only insofar as it finds and feels itself being. The affective disposition is the disclosure of being. Affectivity “brings the Dasein before the that of its there.”20 No wonder, then, that after Being and Time, the explicit and deep rupture with the phenomenology of living corporality notwithstanding, several thinkers tried to rebuild Dasein’s corporality while giving methodological

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primacy to body and to living corporality. The letter of the “Existential Analytics” authorized it. In the wake of important works such as E. Straus (1935), M. Merleau-Ponty (1945), or L. Landgrebe (1968), Dasein will be progressively understood as a corporeal reality, and the possibility of existence as a possibility of one’s own living body. As Patocˇka writes: the living body “it is not a possibility among others, but a privileged possibility, which co-determines the sense of the existence in its totality. The ontological basis is the corporality as possibility of self-moving.”21 According to Patocˇka, Heidegger would have not seen that the original praxis must by principle be the activity of a corporeal subject, that corporality must then have an ontological status that cannot be identified to the happening of the body as present here and now.22

In sum, existence presupposes life; being in the world is living in the world. To exist, to inhabit the world, to be in the mode of having to be, is in the end to be thrown to the task of not dying qua process of nourishing itself, growing, decaying, desiring, moving, reproducing, and so forth: The circle of the existence (to exist for one’s own sake, for the sake of one’s own mode of being) implies always in certain manner the circle of the life that carries out vital functions in order to return to itself and to become into itself, so that life is the purpose of all its singular functions.23

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Seven

Two years after the publication of Being and Time, Heidegger took up the issue of life in the second part of his winter semester seminar Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics. The essence of life is analyzed in terms of “animality” (Tierheit). Does this mean, finally, that sensitive life, he¯ aisthe¯tike¯ psyche¯, will be developed explicitly as the paradigm for thinking the essence of life, and therefore of being? Not at all. In fact, Heidegger will insist on and radicalize the distance between human existence and life. Human existence will never be properly grasped as life; conversely, life will never be properly understood as being. The human being does not “live”; the animal “is” not—it does not inhabit the world, it does not understand beings as what they are, it does not speak, it does not create, it is not toward death and therefore it does not singularize and temporalize in the same mode as Dasein does. Perhaps owing to the self-inflicted pressure of excluding “life” from the existential analytics, Heidegger’s position in Being and Time concerning animality (life as such) remained quite dogmatic. He contented himself

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with repeating that life could be the object of ontological analysis only in a “privative” way. Animal life, in itself, is neither Dasein nor does it have the mode of being of other innerworldly beings.1 In the lectures of the winter semester of 1929–30, animality will be positively considered as inaccessible to being—and therefore inaccessible to the understanding of being. By “positive” I mean that such a characterization is not made through as a deflationary mode with respect to beings (sc. human beings) that would not be deprived of that which animals are deprived (being, world, time, death and language). Perhaps Heidegger can be considered not only as the philosopher who unwittingly rendered explicit the interdependence of life and being (see Chapter 6); at the same time, he can also be considered as having indirectly established the basic elements for freeing life from its traditional concept (that is, from being itself ). One of the major achievements of The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics is to have treated the difference between humans and animals otherwise than as a “specific” difference.2 Humanity (existence, being) is not a “specific” mode of animality (life). And this does not mean finding out how humans and animals are distinguished from one another in this or that particular respect. It means finding out what constitutes the essence of the animality of the animal and the essence of the humanity of man and through what sort of questions we can hope to pinpoint the essence of such beings at all.3

For animality (or life) to be understood, it is not a question, for instance, of thinking or experiencing ourselves as corporality without language, as aisthesis without logos. There is no way to have access to the living character of animals— or to the living character of ourselves—as pure living beings. We, human beings, who also are animals, cannot understand animality, not even our own animality, for the simple reason that animality is not of the order of what can be “understood” or “experienced.” Only being can be understood or experienced. The “comparative method” followed by Heidegger deserves to be deemed one of the first—if not simply the first—philosophical attempt to free animality from its kinship with humanity.4 The three theses concerning the world—“stone is worldless,” “animal is poor in world,” “man is worldforming”—relate to each other by virtue of their very incommensurability,

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or incomparability. Heidegger’s decision to retain the same word (“world”) in the three theses is misleading, however, since it leads to the impression that in each case “world” refers to the same reality. But the “worldlessness” of stones is not a negative or privative mode of animal’s “poorness” of world; the latter is not, in its turn, a depreciated degree of the human being’s way of inhabiting the world—“the world of the animal . . . is not simply a degree or species of the world of man.”5 Stones are not deprived of what animals have poorly, and animals do not lack what humans have in abundance. Stones do not have the chance of lacking, not to say of losing, the world; as for animals, they will never have what they lack, even were they to have the gift of speech, of reason, of handicraft, and so forth: Animality’s mode of inhabiting the world is poorness. Animals have a world in the mode of not having it. They are in the condition of not having while being able to have (Nichthaben im Habenkönnen).6 The condition of animality—the condition of life—is privation (Entbehrung). Were it possible to put an end to such constitutive privation, animality—life itself—would be suppressed. The objection has been obstinately raised that such a characterization is anthropocentric, that it inevitably leads conceiving life as “inferior” in regard to human existence. Derrida, for instance, often addresses the accusation that Heidegger’s poorness is doomed to reintroduce the “measure of man” through the same analysis that was supposed to exclude it: This analysis, certainly, has the interest of breaking with difference of degree. It respects a difference of structure while avoiding anthropocentrism by the very route it claimed to be withdrawing from that measure—this meaning of lack or privation. This latter is anthropocentric or at least referred to the questioning we of Dasein. It can appear as such and gain meaning only from a non-animal world, and from our point of view.7

Heidegger anticipated this criticism in § 63 of The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics. If it is true that the comparative method followed in the lectures runs the risk of overrating our human essence with respect to that of the animal, thus leading to the thought that we possess what animals by nature lack, it is equally true that with such a method we are faced with the challenge of thinking the animal’s poverty and animal’s deprivation as a positive characteristic. We do not have access to the animal’s world; the only way to describe it is from the experience of our own world—although not

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as a “part” of it. Since it will never be possible to open an access to animality (life), the concept of poorness is meant to make it possible to think the inaccessibility itself to animality. Perhaps, then, the supposedly purely negative characterization— our examination of the not-having of world—will only begin to exercise its full effect once we prepare to bring out the essence of world with respect to the world-formation of man. . . . We have no right now, or at least as yet no right to alter our thesis that the animal is poor in world or to level it down to the indifferent statement that the animal has no world, whereby not having is taken as a mere not-having rather that as deprivation. Rather we must leave open the possibility that the proper and explicit metaphysical understanding of the essence of world compels us to understand the animal’s not-having of world as a deprivation after all, and to discover poverty in the animal’s specific manner of being as such.8

We do not have access to the essence of life. Now, that life is inaccessible to us, human beings, means neither that we are not living beings nor that we do not suffer poverty or pain. It eventually means that our own poverty and pain and life are inaccessible to us. Specifically, there is not “lived experience” (Erlebnis) of animality, and it is not possible to build any “analogy” in order to interpret animal experience. Heidegger denies the possibility of “empathy” (Einfühlung) with animals.9 Any attempt at reproducing animal experience by way of analogies (paralleling, for instance, the construction of sensorial fields) misses the essence of animality. It is worth to recall that it was upon the possibility of such analogies, therefore ultimately upon Einfühlung, that the science of animal bodies in the sense of what Husserl calls “somatology” in Ideas III was phenomenologically grounded. The fundamental presupposition (Grundvoraussetzung) at stake in Einfühlung with alien living beings consists in anatomical resemblance (Ähnlichkeit). The handlike feet of apes give me a sense of their functions—they are useful not only to support the whole body but also to grab things. Even the description of “pseudopodia” of inferior animals presupposes some likeness of the kind. To understand the function of an organ presupposes the detection of some kind of similarity with the organs of my own living body. The validity of the interpretation of other animal bodies (human as well as nonhuman bodies) rests on the researcher’s possibility of a direct experience of his or her own living body.10 The strata of Einfühlung correspond thus with layers of organization in the living kingdom, my body self-given in

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inner experience providing the necessary prototype with respect to which everything else is understood as variation. The analogy that opens the phenomenological and hermeneutical access to alien nonhuman living beings is then properly accomplished through the dismantling (Abbauen) of the original apperception of my own living corporality. Every nonhuman living being is understood as a sort of distorted me.11 According to Heidegger, however, we do not share the world with animals (with living beings qua living beings).12 We are not “with” them. In order to be-with someone, we have to co-inhabit the same world: “Being-with always means being-with-one-another in the same world.”13 At most we may act as if we could transpose ourselves to the place of animals in order to go with them (mitgehen), in order to observe them living, or, as Derrida suggests, in order to “follow” them. But this going along with the animal is only possible on the condition that their inaccessibility is never overcome and that the impossibility of being with them is affirmed. That is why the more we are ourselves what we are, that is, the more we affirm our humanity and our ek-sisting essence, the more we let animality show itself from itself.14 Perhaps one could say that animality bears witness to an original possibility of being-with, which no longer depends on sharing the “same” horizon of existence. But what would “being” mean in such a case? Heidegger would surely “draw back” from considering further implications in such an understanding of the “being-with”—namely, because we would be dealing with the possibility of conceiving “with” in relation to what is unconcerned with being and with being-with. This conception would lead us too far: if it is true that we “go with” the animal insofar as we affirm our own essence and therefore the impossibility of sharing the world with it, why then would it not be possible to speak of a “going-with” nonliving beings, for example with stones? On Heidegger’s account, it is a priori impossible to go with or to follow stones. In that they are worldless, they do not offer a sphere of transposition (Sphäre der Versetzbarkeit).15 But precisely for that reason, stones may bear witness to the most original possibility of being-with. To be “with” a stone—to touch its impenetrability, to sense its opacity, to experience its absolute inaccessibility—is “to be with” something in absolute worldlessness—beyond being, beyond existence, beyond life. Is it not that a radical way to think the originarity of being-with?16 In being with the animal—in worldlessness—Dasein finds itself having the experience of not being able to understand, of not being able to be-with

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or to coinhabit. It has the experience of being with what is unconcerned with being and therefore of what stands out of the world. Life (animality) becomes, in this particular sense, the other of being. Life shows itself as what exceeds the horizon of ontology. Life is that at which or on the occasion of which Dasein understands its own constitutive limits. Some seventeen years after the seminar of the winter semester of 1929–30, in his Letter on Humanism, Heidegger contends that living beings are for us the most difficult matter to think. We should see in this reference to life neither a contradiction nor a denial of his earlier radical rupture with the phenomenology of the living corporality— on the contrary, the difficulty of thinking life is due to “our appalling and scarcely conceivable bodily kinship with the animal.” Heidegger is radicalizing his 1929–30 position concerning animality (life): Of all the beings that are, presumably the most difficult to think about are living beings, because on the one hand they are in a certain way most closely related to us, and on the other are at the same time separated from our eksistent essence by an abyss. However, it might also seem as though the essence of divinity is closer to us than what is foreign in other living creatures, closer, namely, in an essential distance which however distant is nonetheless more familiar to our ek-sistent essence than is our appalling and scarcely conceivable bodily kinship with the animal.17

Life is no longer being, time, world, task; life is no longer what hitherto we have understood as life. “Life” turns now into the name of what exceeds all the names of being. “Life” is what exceeds all representation of being. How therefore should we call now the “life” that opposes what we have hitherto called, following tradition, “life”? Should we call it “death”? But “death” is only the secret truth of life. Probably facing a similar difficulty, Derrida, in his unpublished seminar of 1975 devoted to La vie la mort, incidentally uses the masculine word “le mort,” which usually denotes “inanimate matter” (the French word for “death” is the feminine “la mort”), in order to designate the realm of what here we characterize as what remains unconcerned with being—and with the difference between life and death: One cannot think being beyond the representation (or the metaphorical trope): “living.” If we wanted to try to do so, we would be forgetting that being is only a representation or a metaphor. To pretend thinking beyond representation means to forget language itself and the origin of language,

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and even life at the origin of language. If language and logic are the language and the logic of the living, it is purposeless to try to say and think something like the dead (quelque chose comme le mort). Whence two additional consequences, to say the least: either one has to relinquish thinking beyond logic and language, beyond logos, because to do so has no sense, no possibility; or one has to think, for instance the dead (le mort), beyond language, beyond logic and metaphoricity, therefore le mort becoming the generic name for everything that exceeds and transgresses the limits of what can be said and enunciated.18

But is it possible to think, or to say, le mort? In any case, Derrida did not pursue the deconstruction of life under the title of “le mort,” but under the title he inherited from Heidegger for such a purpose—that is, “animality.” In the analyses that Derrida carried out concerning “animality,” one may observe, indeed, an attempt at deconstructing the traditional concept of “sensitive life” (he¯ aisthe¯tike¯ psyche¯) with the purpose of liberating everything that in such a concept can no longer be put into the account of the self-appropriating and productive process of being. The adequate procedure for doing so ought to aim at disclosing all the elements of aisthe¯sis that cannot be subordinated to vital functionality (to the task of not ceasing to be in the process of nourishing, growing, reproducing, moving, and so on). In other words, it is a question of deconstructing everything of aisthe¯sis that corresponds to the concept of a “capacity” (dynamis), that is, of a force or potentiality that self-appropriates in the act of being put to work (see Chapter 5). Now, the capacity of sensing, aisthe¯sis, may be defined as a dynamis tou pathein, that is, as a potentiality that is put to work in the act or in the event of suffering. But suffering may be understood, precisely, as something that cancels the power of any capacity.19 Suffering (“animality”) will be understood by Derrida as the event of a pure passivity that expropriates the capacity of any power of self-appropriation. Derrida made these claims while analyzing this well-known passage of Jeremy Bentham concerning the animal (the “sensitive being”): The French have already discovered that the blackness of the skin is no reason why a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor. It may come one day to be recognized, that the number of the legs, the villosity of the skin, or the termination of the os sacrum, are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same

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On Time, Being, and Hunger fate. What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason, or, perhaps, the faculty of discourse? But a full-grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day, or a week, or even a month, old. But suppose the case were otherwise, what would it avail? the question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?20

Of course animals suffer—the suffering of animals is undeniable. By definition, animals are nothing other than suffering. Bentham’s question, as Derrida argues, does not concern the possession of a capacity (dynamis) or a habit (hexis). Rather, Bentham’s question is whether animals, sensitive living beings that have no access to language or being, can “suffer,” that is, whether they can be considered as the event or the occasion of a pure passivity, before any self-appropriating process will have taken place. The question is disturbed by a certain passivity. It bears witness, manifesting already, as question, the response that testifies to a sufferance, a passion, a not-being-able. The word can [pouvoir] changes sense and sign here once one asks “can they suffer?” Henceforth it wavers. What counts at the origin of such a question is not only the idea of what transitivity or activity (being able to speak, to reason, etc.) refer to; what counts is rather what impels it towards self-contradiction. . . . “Can they suffer?” amounts to asking “Can they not be able?” And what of this inability [impouvoir]? What of the vulnerability felt on the basis of this inability? What is this nonpower at the heart of power? What is its quality or modality? How should one take it into account? What right should be accorded it? To what extent does it concern us? Being able to suffer is no longer a power; it is a possibility without power, a possibility of the impossible.21

Derrida adds: Mortality resides there, as the most radical means of thinking the finitude that we share with animals, the mortality that belongs to the very finitude of life, to the experience of compassion, to the possibility of sharing the possibility of this nonpower.22

It is impossible, however, to “share” in suffering with animals. Not because we are different or superior to them, but because suffering cannot be of the order of what can be shared. Suffering is not a matter of empathy or compassion. No one can be in the place of who or what suffers: that is the

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first and last recognition of other’s suffering. Were suffering something to be shared or something that one may convey to others, it would not be suffering; it would be the beginning of its overcoming as suffering. Even our own suffering remains inaccessible to us: Strictly speaking, no “understanding,” no “experience” of it is possible. Suffering has neither meaning, nor reason, nor purpose. It suffers from its own absolute, insurmountable, unbearable senselessness.

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Eight

The possibility of asking about the meaning of being implied that “being” is no longer self-evident, or that the obscurity of the term’s meaning can no longer go unnoticed. The effort deployed around the “question of being” led necessarily to resaying, rewriting, retranslating, reinterpreting, substituting, or even crossing out the names of the “being,” beyond all the given concepts and meanings of it. If there is a legacy inherited through the “question of being,” it is no other than the one that radicalizes such a process of destruction or deconstruction of the names of being, until reaching its maximum, that is, until the full “voiding of being” or the ontological kenosis to which, according to Gérard Granel, “even Heidegger did not allow himself to be carried.”1 To ask about being is first of all to respond to the fact that being is nothing—neither a concept, nor an essence, nor a nature, nor a cause, nor a principle, nor, in sum, any “being” whatsoever. But if being is nothing, and has no name, the only thing that remains to think or to affirm as being is this nothingness itself, that is, the difference between being and beings—

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difference that, qua “ontological,” is only a derivative determination of a more originary différance, a word that Derrida invented to designate, as it were, the unnamable nothingness of being. The unnamable nothingness of being, to which philosophical thinking seems to have been led after Heidegger, makes what we may call the inaccessibility, the animality of being: the need, the want, the hunger for putting being into question, restlessly, until the point at which being is exceeded and voided by the very demand of the questioning that concerns it. No wonder that Derrida’s work on “animality,” along with the whole deconstruction of the “metaphysics of presence”—that is, of the life of consciousness (the “living present”) and of the “proper” or “appropriation” of being—that precedes it,2 was a possible task for philosophical work after Heidegger. The disclosure of animality—that is, both the closure of being as life in the sense of self-appropriation and production, and the disclosure of life as the excessive movement that takes being beyond itself and its names—has been handed down by the very question of being and its kenosis. The historical movement followed by the philosophical tradition parallels another kenosis, a biological one that occurs in life sciences and concerns the concept of “life.” On one hand, thermodynamics’ view of self-organization, as we saw earlier (Chapters 2 and 3), made it possible to incorporate both temporal immanency and teleological structure— old strongholds of vitalism —to descriptions of physical phenomena. The developments in the theory and practice of biomolecular analyses, on the other hand, have made possible a description of cellular processes in which “life” plays absolutely no role as object of inquiry. In fact, since the appearance of thermodynamics, the operational value of the concept of life has continually dwindled and its power of abstraction declined. Biologists no longer study life today in laboratories.3

What “happens” in the laboratory probably has nothing to do with the “pure coming” that characterizes life or being as such. I am not saying this on account of the fact that laboratory events are meant to be produced by knowledge and thus foreseen by the technological representation that looks for the reproduction of biological processes (see Chapter 1). Technical conditions would not destroy by themselves, that is, by their ability to reproduce the identity of the processes, the so-called wonderfulness of the production

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of life; the development of an embryo, for instance, will be “extraordinary” whether it results from in vitro conception or not (see the end of Chapter 4). A “living process,” wherever and however it is thought to occur, is by definition something self-produced, exceeding any natural or biotechnical condition for its emergence. Where in laboratory work could such a thing as a “living process” be encountered? With which conceptual tools would it be possible to name and quantify it? And if such a process were to happen, what would it have to do with experimental research? All possible regulative unity of the concept of “life” now seems to have exploded along with the unprecedented proliferation of discourses and techniques concerning living beings. Paradoxically, never before have we known less about “life”; it occurs as if “life”—the object and the concept, the thing and the word—had been disseminated and dissolved in our new knowledge concerning life. “Life” has exploded in the infinity of its events, in the nonunified constellations of practices and discourses that overlap, transform, displace, contradict, accumulate, replace each other in the empirical wandering (errance empirique) of scientific work.4 The astonishing imprecision of the concept of “gene,” for example, upon which philosophers of biology have so much insisted in recent times, is not due to a theoretical failure but embodies the positive condition for life sciences’ work and productivity.5 The knowledge of life is now deconstructing the traditional concept of life. “Deconstruction” is not a methodological approach consisting in a critical analysis that dismantles and renders obsolete the philosophical concepts of our tradition. Deconstruction is not, either, the work of a philosopher that wakes up in the morning and makes up his mind to submit a particular concept to his deconstructionist gaze. Deconstruction never responds to the personal initiative of putting something into question. Deconstruction occurs when our concepts are challenged by experiences and events that they cannot grasp without at the same time exhibiting their own presuppositions, limits, ambiguities, contradictions. In this specific case, the alluded proliferation of techniques and concepts and theories concerning living beings may help to exhibit the limits and presuppositions of the traditional concept of life. Deconstruction, as Derrida suggests on so many occasions, is neither a philosophical attitude or method nor a step back that lets come the world. Deconstruction is the passion of the real— of what suspends, by its very coming, our understanding of the real, and thus compels us to think.

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Certainly, we can always indulge in evoking the ineffable nature of life or at least in contesting the epistemo-technological reductionisms prevailing in the “uprooted” and “alienated” science of current times. Doing so, however, we would miss the philosophical opportunity to question the traditional concept of life— of being—that has dominated Western philosophy. We would miss the opportunity to think that what is happening today with our concept of life may teach us that “reality” is in fact unconcerned with “philosophical presuppositions,” that knowledge may occur beyond acts of consciousness and beyond the understanding of being: the current situation of the concept of “life” in life sciences may offer the opportunity to challenge the belief that sciences “presuppose” what philosophy alone is able to bring into discourse. Maybe philosophical thinking has something to learn from this unconcern of life sciences in regard to “life” and to the “being of life.” “Life”—if such a thing exists—is not produced or reproduced in laboratories. Nothing, properly speaking, is “produced” in laboratories, by means of experimental devices. Experimental systems consist in the reproduction of themselves or of what already has been produced (for instance technical devices, some normal experiments and experimental procedures, instruments, model organisms, and the like). This self-reproduction of the system creates the space within which the emergence of differences, and therefore the unknown, becomes for the first time possible. In other words, the reproduction or self-reproduction of the system creates the identity against which the disruption of differences occurs, each time deconstructing the conceptual horizons of the reproduction of the same. A research experiment is a device to bring forth something unknown—in fact, something which does not even exist in the form in which it is going to be produced. What makes it a research experiment and not simply a trial is that the unknown is brought forward under conditions which allow its identification as something new with respect to a piece of already-modeled nature.6

Let us briefly turn to one of the examples worked out by Hans-Jörg Rheinberger (1992, 1993, 1997), namely the establishment of an in vitro system for protein synthesis and the emergence of a “new” object, the transfer RNA. The emergence of this new object at the beginning of the 1960s was not the target of the members of Paul Zamecnick’s group that started to

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work with rat liver in the context of a cancer research program toward the end of the 1940s. It did not even exist as possibility within the horizon of the experimental research. Thanks to different new techniques, in particular concerning centrifugation— centrifugation makes it possible to isolate and to identify new fractionated elements of rat liver cells—the emergence of a functional RNA substance, at first difficult to localize in one or the other of the products of the centrifugation, appeared. And it appeared as a “new object” when it was shown that the supernatant that was cleared after the ultracentrifugation that precipitated the microsomes (the “supernatant” is the liquid that is separated from the sedimented parts after centrifugation, and the “microsomes” are small vesicles that contain functional RNA substance for protein synthesis) proved to be both functional and an intermediate element for protein synthesis. Once the hypothesis of a contaminated supernatant by microsome particles was discarded, the new biochemical entity emerged, appeared under the name of “soluble RNA”—“soluble” because it did not precipitate with the rest of the microsomes. A new object appeared, and it had rather surprising significations. Physically it was characterized as “soluble,” because it emerged from the soluble enzyme fraction and was not obtained from the “insoluble” microsomal RNA. Functionally it was characterized as an “intermediate” in protein synthesis. The path by which epistemic things come into existence defines what they are.7

A molecular geneticist like James Watson would not have seen this thing merely as the biochemical “soluble RNA” and would have had other functional and structural significations to bestow on it. Indeed, such an intermediate element between amino acids and protein appeared to him in light of what Francis Crick had previously deduced or predicted as a transmission molecule in the genetic transcription. Random circumstances— one that Watson and Hoagland (from Zamecnick’s group) were in communication— turned the discovery of the biochemical entity “soluble RNA” into the discovery, the emergence of the genetic entity “transfer RNA.” Neither the biochemical and biotechnical context within which something like a “soluble RNA” makes sense and could appear, nor higher levels of relevance and analysis (for instance, the physiology of rat liver and of dysfunctional traits of cancer tissues), nor the more specific program concerning in vitro protein

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synthesis (to which the group was led within the context of a cancer research program), nor, finally, the horizon, as it were, constituted by regulative ideas such as “health” and “disease,” or “life” and “death,” could have provided the elements for predicting or anticipating the emergence of a soluble RNA, let alone the emergence of transfer RNA. In its appearing, the epistemic thing deconstructs any regulative perspective for its emergence—its emergence consists in the deconstruction of any regulative perspective. Each consecutive “discovery” resulted in both the rearrangement of the entire experimental and theoretical context in which the epistemic thing (soluble RNA or transfer RNA) first appeared and the recreation of the very history that had led to its discovery. It is the hallmark of productive experimental systems that their differential reproduction leads to events that may induce major shifts in perspective within or beyond their confines. In a way, they proceed by continually deconstructing their perspective. In the present case, protein synthesis research began as a cancer research program. Via differential reproduction, via the implementation of skills, tracing techniques, and instruments such as laboratory rats, radioactive amino acids, biochemical model reactions, centrifuges, and technical experts, it gained a momentum of its own. It became completely disconnected from cancer research and instead, through several unprecedented shifts, it ended up with transfer RNA, which provided one of the experimental handles for solving the central puzzle of molecular biology: the genetic code. Experimental systems, in fact, do not and cannot tell their story in advance.8

Everything that comes about in experimental systems, if it comes, does so by accident, that is, by displacing or deconstructing any teleological orientation toward the identification of entities and the technical reproduction of the system. Once again, the emerging realities are nothing but differences produced against the background of the self-reproduction of the system. The “moment of its own” of an experimental system is nothing but the ability to let differences appear. The self-reproduction of the system is thus ruled neither by the search for identity (this could ultimately be the aim of producing technological devices, instruments on whose capacity to produce the identical one can rely), nor by a purposive search for differences (the experimenter’s question, “What happens if I—?” anticipates and therefore already identifies the difference that is expected to come), but by its internal

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power of differing along with its own reproduction. Rheinberger says, it is ruled by différance: “The production of differences becomes the reproductive goal of the whole machinery; the system is then governed by ‘différance.’ ”9 An experimental system must be fluid enough to allow for unprecedented events, but stable enough to allow them to be recognized. A difference in the form of an unprecedented event may induce a rearrangement of the whole representation of a scientific object. If a research system is organized in a way such that the production of differences becomes the organizing principle of its reproduction, it can be said to be governed by or to create that kind of subversive and displacing movement Jacques Derrida has called différance. In this sense, “differantial” reproduction is precisely what endows a research system with its own relatively autonomous internal time.10

If truly ruled by différance, the “autonomous and internal time,” as well as “the organizing principle” of the reproduction of the system, have, in spite of the names they bear, nothing in common with a self-identifying or self-appropriating historical process. “Autonomy” refers only to the accidental (“automatic,” as it were) character of differantial events. Certainly, différance makes possible the “historicity” of the system and ultimately the historicity of science in general.11 But this history should not be perceived as an irreversible process of successive production of differences that selfappropriates in their intimate duration, that is, as an “increase of complexity” (see Chapter 3). That experimental systems “stem,” “bifurcate,” “hybridize”; that they come to form “experimental cultures” and the like, are only biological “metaphors” for understanding experimental reasoning.12 Experimental systems not only cannot tell their stories in advance; strictly speaking, they cannot tell them a posteriori either, because the history of a system remains always to be written according to what comes unexpectedly and by accident. The “internal time” of a system or its individual history recreates itself permanently, radically. The emergence of a new thing reshapes each time a constellation and/or contamination of experimental systems (“experimental cultures”) with its own singular, but never given once and for all, history. The singular history out of which experimental systems stem, by structure and definition, remains always to come. There was not “out there in reality” something that deserved to be called “soluble RNA” and that came to the fore and “showed itself ” thanks to new instruments and techniques for the observation and control of the

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subvisible world (ultracentrifuge, radioactive tracers, and so on). “Soluble RNA” was not a subvisible object lying somewhere in the fragments of rat liver cells waiting to be discovered. Rather, the instruments and techniques themselves—and, together with them, every piece of technological matter (including entities such as “model organisms”), as well as every contribution of scientific imagination— create the referential space within which “soluble RNA” came to existence as a thing in the world for the first time. In other words, “soluble RNA” (and later “transfer RNA”) should not be considered as something in itself, that is, as a thing that may be considered independently of the conditions for its appearing (think of the whole machinery of biochemical entities and procedures that not only gives sense to the entity called “soluble RNA” but also conditions its very appearing); on the contrary, it is only while appearing, that is, when inscribing its differential traces within the system, or when existing in relation to the context of its appearing, that it is a thing. Nothing in this thing can be treated as being in itself. In other words, the thing only exists insofar as it is “inscribed” in the space—the graphematic space— of experimental work. Think once again of the space created by the fragmentation of a cell by means of centrifugation; think, more in general, of any in vitro representation of the cell. The spaces of representation not only open or constitute the space for new inscriptions to occur and to have the chance of appearing; they also create the in vivo processes of cellular metabolism themselves as referent for the in vitro processes. For the same reason, the models with which life sciences work have no wild counterparts. “Nature” makes no sense by itself, as horizon or as regulative unity for the experimental traces; on the contrary, it is in itself an effect of the differential inscription of these traces. Representation . . . is equivalent to bringing a scientific object into existence. . . . An experimental system creates a space of representation for things that otherwise cannot be grasped as scientific objects.13 So the comparison is definitely not between “nature” and its “model,” but rather between the different graphematic traces that can be produced. Their matching gives us the “sense” of “reality” we ascribe to the scientific object under study.14

In his unpublished lectures on La vie la mort (1975), specifically in commenting François Jacob’s La logique du vivant, Derrida appears to have been interested in suggesting that experimental molecular biology could

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or should be considered as text. This idea was pointed out already in Of Grammatology:15 If the object, the referent of a scientific text (and science itself is a text); if the object [the referent] of a scientific discourse (and science itself is a discourse); if such an object and such a referent are no longer meta-textual or meta-discursive realities; if their very reality has an analogous structure or a basically homogeneous structure to the structure of scientific textuality; if the object (the living being i.e. reproductibility), the model and the scientific subjectivity (the knowing subject, etc.) have an analogous structure, namely that of the text, one can no longer speak of [knowing] subject, of [known] object and of analogical model. . . . The text is not a third term in the relationship between the biologist and the living being, but it is the structure itself of the living being qua common structure between the biologist— qua living being—the science qua production of life, and the living being itself.16

If it is true that “life” is no longer the regulative horizon for experimental research in life sciences; if all sense and referent of “life” bursts out in the graphematic reality of experimental systems, this is not due to any triumph of the “reductionism” in biology, which eventually appeared as able to explain living phenomena through the merely mechanical interaction of their physico-chemical parts. “Molecular biology” is not here primarily understood as a scientific “discipline” devoted to the study of living processes at the level of the molecule, but as a conjuncture of heteroclite experimental practices, discourses and technologies structured according to the differantial or graphematical logic referred to earlier. This conjuncture, of course, does not “respect disciplinary, academic, or national boundaries of science policy and of research programs”; rather, it is “a loose articulation of traces from different spaces of representation engendered by the procedures of the experimental setup.”17 Molecular biology as an epistemic discourse in its own right is not just another biological discipline, or the result of happy disciplinary crossovers. Nor is it simply the product of a few research schools devoted to basic research, such as the phage group at Caltech, the Cavendish crew in Cambridge, and the Pasteur équipe in Paris. This is a myth created by the “members of the club.” Generally speaking, what we today call “molecular biology” emerged from and was supported by a multiplicity of widely scattered, differently embedded, and loosely, if at all, connected experimental systems

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for characterizing living beings to the level of biologically relevant macromolecules. By implementing different modes of technical analysis, these systems created a new space of representation in which the central concepts of molecular biology gradually became articulated.18

Rather than denounce the empiricist incongruence, the reductionist myopia, or the technological imperialism of molecular biology, we would be better served by seeking the philosophical opportunity to understand and explain the self-deconstruction of any unifying horizon insufflated by the idea of “life.” Were the philosophical question concerning the essence and being of life addressed to molecular biology, no answer would be forthcoming. Not even after sifting through its fundamental concepts in search of its fundamental presuppositions. But this is not because molecular biology “does not think”; rather, it is probably because molecular biology is structurally unconcerned with the philosophical question of the essence of life. Modern life sciences have not only transformed our concept of life but also suspended any reference to it. Or better: They have abandoned the idea that there could be a concept, and an essence, of life. Today, when the kenosis of the being has reached its end, the time for deploring the irreflexive nature of science has passed and the task of exposing philosophy and its “fundamental questioning” to the senseless (and irruptive, deconstructive) indifference of the real has come.

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Nine

According to the traditional concept, to live is to be in need or in want of the necessary conditions for not ceasing to be. It is hunger. Only dead living beings cease to be in want of the necessary conditions to keep themselves alive. To live means to be delivered, abandoned to the task of taking care of one’s own hunger. In the traditional, or even the “mythical” view of life, to be a living being, a living self-organizing system, means to be weaned from the blind integration of things, that is, from that order of things and forces deeply unconcerned with living beings’ concern with its own being. To be a living being is to emerge in opposition to the senseless unconcern of the world and to recreate continuously—to endure in—this opposition: “a multiplicity of beings struggling with each other (= protoplasm) feels itself in opposition to the external world.”1 The unconcern of the external world with the living being’s concern with its own being is strictly incomprehensible for the latter. Living beings

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have an innate or structural need to foreclose it. As we have already seen (Chapter 5), the “appearing” world that living beings inhabit is created by the horizon of their survival: Only that appears which is a priori related or relevant to the living being’s concern with not ceasing to be. But the world as such, the thing in itself, does not “appear” to living beings. Living beings, on the contrary, must inhabit a world full of meaning and values, they must be surrounded by “useful” and “harmful” things, “truthful” or “untruthful,” a world with laws, objects, processes and mechanisms. The living being’s understanding of the world—for example, the human capacity of abstraction and thinking—has been a fundamental tool in the task of not dying. Let us follow Nietzsche’s original argument. Together with the possibility of a truthful and right representation of things, comes the possibility of mistaking, of only finding the mere appearance of the truth. Together with the representation of certitude in a world that in itself is unconcerned with truth or falsehood, come uncertainty and insecurity. With the organic world begins indeterminacy and appearance.2 The transition from the inorganic world to the organic is the transition from firm perceptions of force values and relations of power to the uncertain, the undetermined.3

Together with life comes the possibility of death; the task of not dying presupposes the (mistaken) belief in truth, in self-identity, and concomitantly in the identity of things that are either useful or harmful. Metabolic processes, we have seen (Chapter 5), presuppose the mistaken belief in the assimilation to something that would be identical to itself, as if nourishing oneself were the process of actualizing the image of one’s own completeness. Belief (judgment) must have originated before self-consciousness: in the process of assimilation of the organic belief is already there—that is, this error!4 What [the plasma] appropriates for itself, it renders equal to itself and subordinates to its forms and types.5

The fact that organization—the illusion of self-identification— occurs implies the “evaluation” of what is either “good” or “evil” from the perspective of survival. The fact that something may identify to itself eo ipso means that it identifies what is useful or harmful to the self-identification, the same

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and the different to one’s own identity, the high and the vile, truth and falsehood, and so on. The “higher” and the “lower,” the choice of the more important, of the more useful, the more urgent, exist already in the lowest organisms. “Living being”: this already means “to evaluate.” Everywhere the will means evaluating—and the will lies in the organic.6

The whole genealogy of our knowledge and of the structure of our reason lies in such a reactive will of self-organization (see The Gay Science, §§ 110 – 111). Knowledge has been a useful mistake; it has made life possible and hence it has been “selected” in the history of life. Life is the history of the self-selection of life, or of what is useful to life. There is evolution; there is “increase of complexity” over the course of time, so long as the “mistake” of life— of self-organization—is kept. Knowledge = an error that becomes organic and organizes.7 One always forgets the most important: why is it that the philosopher wants to know? Why does he value the “truth” more than the appearance? This valuation is older than every cogito, ergo sum: even the logical process presupposes that there is in us something that affirms it and that denies its contrary. Whence this primacy? All philosophers have forgotten to explain why they value the true and the good, and no one has attempted the contrary. Answer: the true is more useful (it preserves the organism).8 The valuation: “I believe that such and such is the case” as the essence of “truth” in valuations, conditions of preservation and growth express themselves all our organs and senses of knowledge are developed only with a view to conditions of preservation and growth trust in reason and its categories, in dialectics, thus the valuing of logic, only proves logic’s usefulness for life, proved by experience—and not this “truth.”9

On this account, biology itself, as a form of knowledge and technique, can be said to have been naturally selected. Biology and biotechnology have become part of the truths that make life possible—rather, what we believe to be life: the illusion of self-organizing beings that identify what is good and evil, right and wrong, true and false, with respect to the image of their own completeness. Biology is meant to help us in the task of surviving, of

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preserving life— of preserving the fundamental mistake and the primordial and illusory belief in which “life” consists. Life is a reactive configuration of forces before the blind, the indifferent and purposeless becoming of things. Self-organization is thought of as an exception to the general interaction of forces in nature. Organization is the capitalization of forces, the creation of a capacity (dynamis) for spontaneous action, which stands in opposition to the blind exterior or environment from which it is excepted. In such a reactive form, the forces crystallize in the (reactive, exceptional) will that looks for the power for its own preservation; it is hunger looking for assimilation and incorporation; it is will of not ceasing to be—will to power. As life, the “will to power” is nothing other than the accumulation of anything that secures the living self. It identifies forces in the environment, assimilates them or simply overcomes them, increasing its (reactive, exceptional) “power” in the sense of the “capacity to act.” The will to power can only express itself against resistances; it seeks what will resist it—this is the original tendency of protoplasm in sending out pseudopodia and feeling its way. Assimilation and incorporation is, above all, a willingness to overwhelm.10 The feeling of supremacy (Machtgefühl) first conquering, then dominating (organizing)—it regulates the vanquished for its own preservation and preserves for this the vanquished itself. The function arises also from the Machtgefühl, in struggle with even weaker forces. The function preserves itself in the overpowering and domination of lower functions.11

Life is a self-appropriating and self-identifying power expecting to be recognized as such—as the power, as the capacity of not ceasing to be. Life is will to self-preservation and self-securing. The active form of will to power, on the contrary,12 must be considered as the exhaustion of the force. It is dissemination, disappropriation, disidentification. The active force does not identify itself to what it supposedly “can” produce, but gives itself away in its effectiveness. The active force ends up incapacitated, powerless; it cannot turn itself into a “capacity to” live (the “living being”); it does not have the power to emerge. The active force is indifferent to its own survival; it is indifferent to its own “life.” The powerless singularity of what I call hunger is continuously interpreted by Nietzsche in terms of “becoming,” “intensification,” “will,” “life,” even though hunger ought to be considered as the simple passion of not

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having, or as a pure suffering, unable to become a self-appropriating capacity (see Chapter 7). In any case, Nietzsche makes an important distinction between life as reactive “self-preservation” and as active and disappropriating “growing.” These two perspectives are irreducible to each other. “The perspective of the conservation is not the perspective of growth. The conservation looks for being [that is, identity], the intensification requires at least becoming.”13 Conservation is self-appropriation; on the contrary, growth—as active force—is affirmation: affirmation of the force until the point at which no self, no dynamis, can subsist. In other words, what makes the object of the affirmation is not the self (the self-appropriating process of the force, the identity of the affirmation to itself, and so forth), but the affirmation in the sense of the discharge, the release, the giving away (Auslassen) of the force—its total expenditure (as light in the “process” of lightning). Physiologists should think twice before positioning the drive for selfpreservation as the cardinal drive of an organic being. Above all, a living thing wants to discharge (auslassen) its strength—life itself is will to power; self-preservation is only one of the indirect and most frequent consequences of this. In short, here as everywhere, watch out for superfluous teleological principles!—such as the drive for preservation (which we owe to Spinoza’s inconsistency—).14 Against the instinct of preservation as radical instinct: the living being will rather discharge—it is what it “wants” and “must” (both words are equivalent to me!): the conservation is only a consequence.15

Precisely “self ” does not preserve itself, on the contrary it wastes itself, loses itself or disseminates itself over the release (Auslassen) of the force.16 “Becoming,” “intensification,” “life,” and the like, are equivocal images in that they make it possible to think of the release of force as a process and for that reason as something that is self-identical, that appropriates its “own” becoming, its “own” development and transformations. “Becoming” should be retained as an image only insofar as it designates something that neither lasts nor endures: not, then, as the image of a stream where nothing subsists—with the exception of this same never-ending, that is, “permanent,” stream —but as interruption and negation or destruction of entities and processes, including the self-identifying process of differentiation and change in which the “becoming” (Werden) itself is sometimes meant to consist. There is no identity in the world; a thing never can be identical to itself.17

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In other words, “becoming” should be thought as hunger. Hunger is the pure passion of not having, regardless of any image or form of completeness, and therefore regardless of any image of what is to be incorporated. Hunger releases the appearing being of any relevance to metabolism —it releases it from being perceived in light of the metabolic memory of lack and suffering. It releases the appearing being of any identity to itself. Nothing “appears” ready to be incorporated, and incorporation itself loses its sense. Hunger is the interruption of metabolism, of he¯ thre¯ptike¯ psyche¯; it opens metabolism to an infinite (without end and without purpose) process of dissolution of the image or form of things. “Becoming” must be understood as the stream of such a dissolution, of such nothingness—as the stream of things (Fluss der Dinge) that destroys all possible thingness (including the thingness of the stream itself ): “The ultimate truth of the flow of things does not bring with it the incorporation.”18 Despite then the subjectivist and therefore substantialist connotations inevitably heard in the concept, “will,” “will to power,” “will of more will,” should be understood as nothing other than hunger—the infinite passion of not having, of lacking (in Nietzsche’s term: the infinite intensification of will). “What is called ‘feeding’ is merely a subsequent phenomenon, a practical application of that original will to become stronger.”19 To become “stronger” is not, once again, to accumulate “power” in the sense of the “capacity to act.” What becomes stronger is the will—that is, the passion of not having—until the point at which it releases itself from any self-identity or self-appropriation. To become “stronger,” or to “grow” (in the specific terms referred to earlier), stands in opposition to conservation and accumulation. In light of the infinite lack suffered in hunger, nothing can be considered “more” or “less” “achieved,” “more” or “less” “complex,” or “in the process of ” becoming such or such. Hunger is the abolition of time as the productive irreversibility of natural processes. At each moment, every time, the singular passion of not having is infinite; hence the destruction or destructuration of the virtual completeness of living beings, as well as of the self-appropriating process of becoming or of self-organization. Every time, at any given moment of the “process” of living, living beings are confronted by the fact that this incompleteness and that this pain—the singular pain of being alive—has no possible end. The only response to such pain, the sole response that will look neither for its foreclosure nor for its (illusory, mistaken) overcoming, is to affirm this

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infinity, or to live as if the pain were eternally recurrent; hence, the only response is, somehow, to cease to “live” in the concern of not ceasing to be. The condition of this life, hunger, is not meant to pass. To know this dissipates the error in which life consists. Time, the productive time of organization, ceases to pass—it ceases “not ceasing” to pass (it ceases to endure). Hence the well-known imperative of Nietzsche to live this life as if it recurred eternally.20 The eternal recurrence suppresses any temporality and finality of the “living process.” It is a call for living this life while abolishing life itself in the sense of the self-appropriating task of not ceasing to be qua process of nourishing, growing, reproducing, and the like. The “eternal recurrence” of life deconstructs the traditional concept of life. The conception of life as eternal recurrence of hunger (if I may call “hunger” what does not have such a name in Nietzsche’s philosophy of becoming), through which the eidetico-teleological paradigm for understanding life (self-organization) deconstructs itself, is unique and original but assuredly belongs to a precise philosophical context and tradition that made it possible and that continued it. As background, one should at least think of the concept of “conatus” in Spinoza’s philosophy of Nature, the “pure will” in Kant, and the “drive” (Trieb) in Fichte, not to mention Schopenhauer. As later theoretical elaborations, one could think, for instance, of some central concepts in psychoanalysis such as Freud’s Widerholungzswang or Lacan’s jouissance. All these referents represent a deep and deconstructive movement trying to think or rethink life against its traditional concepts, against the structure of self-appropriation in self-preservation, against the self-realization and self-satisfaction of the subject. It will be necessary to return on other occasions to examine in detail such ways and movements of modern thought.

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Ten The emptiness of hunger is emptier than all curiosity, cannot be compensated for with the mere hearsay of what it demands. —emmanuel levinas

Were hunger meant to be overcome, satisfied, abolished, life would not be possible. Yet, because hunger is not meant to pass, because it is infinite, hunger is a problem—an ontological, ethical, political problem —through which life deconstructs itself. The problem of hunger is not the evil or wrong administration of resources that fails to warrant, protect, and secure human (not to say, in general, living) beings’ life in the biosphere. Were this the problem, a solution would be possible—whether ethical, political, economical, or theological. The problem of hunger is that hunger—the want of securing life— cannot have a solution. The problem is the infinite voracity of living beings: that famine is greed and greed is famine. At the same time, and paradoxically— this paradox constitutes the ethico-political determination of the problem of hunger—the “rights” and “sovereignty” associated with life must rest on the idea that it would be possible to put an end to hunger. Politics is nothing other than the promise of alleviating hunger (the “good life”).

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Hunger is the experience of being delivered to oneself in the task of not ceasing to be; it is self-appropriation, that is, the emergence of power (capacity, dynamis) and property. The subject of property, right, and sovereignty is the living being’s “own” life or the living being’s “own” living body. Thus, at least in the modern politico-philosophical myth, the civil order is meant to provide protection to the living beings’ own bodies. Hunger— the imminence of death or “bodily fear,” as Hobbes says—must be under control. Living beings, which self-appropriate through “bodily fear,” have the natural capacity to lay down their natural right to protect themselves and to become obligated to each other and to a sovereign who will provide protection, thereby alleviating the fear of death. In this sense, the political realm is nothing other than the prolongation of the natural right to protect oneself from death. The Obligation of Subjects to the Soveraign, is understood to last as long, and no longer, than the power lasteth, by which he is able to protect them. For the right men have by Nature to protect themselves, when non else can protect them, can by no Covenant be relinquished. The Soveraignty is the Soul of the Common-Wealth; which once departed from the body, the members doe no more receive their motion from it. The end of Obedience is Protection.1

There is civil order only insofar as there exists the intention to secure the life of the subjects. The sovereign has an absolute power over the individual living bodies that are members of the commonwealth only inasmuch as he or she is obligated to protect them. The supposedly unlimited power of the sovereign is in reality naturally limited by the self-preservation of the subject’s living bodies in the commonwealth. The power of the sovereign and the power of the commonwealth are, so to speak, coeval and coextensive. As soon as the sovereign interrupts protection—imagine arbitrary decisions looking for the sovereign’s own private good, neglecting the good of the commonwealth—his sovereignty is automatically canceled, and he or she becomes another particular living body in war with every other living body. The bond of obedience is dissolved. It is worth noting that Hobbes explains that when hunger occurs—I mean, when the fact of being in need of food without having the material means of obtaining it occurs— civil law is automatically derogated. (But

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the problem is precisely that hunger never ceases to occur: the foreclosure of hunger, the belief in and the promise of its alleviation, constitute the fundamental aporia of the political.) The passion of hunger means that the sovereign does not protect the living bodies of his subjects; it means the suspension of the civil law. Any action against the law carried out under the passion of hunger should not be treated as crime. Crimes committed by life’s necessity must be excused. In many cases a Crime may be committed through Feare. For not every Fear justifies the Action it produceth, but the fear onely of corporeall hurt which we call Bodily Fear, and from which a man cannot see how to be delivered, but by the action.2 If a man by the terrour off present death, be compelled to doe a fact against the Law, he is totally Excused; because no Law can oblige a man to abandon his own preservation.3 When a man is destitute of food, or other thing necessary for his liffe, and cannot preserve himselfe any other way, but by some fact against the Law; as if in a great famine he take the food by force, or stealth, which he cannot obtaine for mony nor charity; or in defence of his life, snatch away another mans Sword, he is totally Excused, for the reason next before alledged.4

At least since Rome, the right of necessity (jus necessitatis) has been invoked to justify actions that stand in opposition to positive legislation, insofar as one’s own survival and the integrity of one’s own living body is at stake. Cicero made famous the scene of two men, equally wise and equally valued, who fight to grab the only piece of floating wood that remains after a shipwreck: only chance, not injustice, decides which of them will save his life.5 The Digesta claims the innocence of those who damage unintentionally and in an emergency (for instance, when there is a fire) the property of another person.6 Aquinas’s statements in favor of helping people under distress at the expenses of private property and his claims concerning the obligation of giving to those who are in need are well known.7 In his On the Law of War and Peace from 1625, Grotius invokes the right of injuring private goods in favor of the survival of the community, or to maim or kill those who obstruct our defense, and the like, and he agrees with the theologians’ opinion concerning theft in case of necessity.8 Pufendorf dedicates a whole chapter to the rights and privileges of necessity; he multiplies the analyses

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of cases—including the case of the innocence of those who eat human flesh in order to survive—and elaborates an accurate reflection on the relation between property and necessity.9 In On the Social Contract, Rousseau, in spite of contesting that the right of the strongest may be properly called a right, claims that “every man has naturally a right to everything he needs.” Only Kant, and after him Fichte (at least partly), states that the “alleged right” (vermeinte Recht) of necessity cannot be considered as a “right,”10 but as an exception to the order of right (criminal deeds committed by necessity are “unpunishable”). Human beings are subject of rights only as persons, not as living beings. By itself life’s necessity, hunger, has no rights—but it has the power of suspending the order of right. The aporia of the political is that hunger—hunger in all the senses of the word, whether “literal” or “figurative,” if such distinction is pertinent, since hunger in its literal or proper sense must refer to all living functions and actions, that is, to all the senses in which we literally say of something that it is alive: not only nutrition, growth, reproduction, aging, but also desire, imagination, creation, knowledge, thought, deliberation, action, and so on—is structural to life. Hunger means the fact of being alive, and that is why the entire realm of rights—natural and civil—self-deconstructs: Life cannot be protected from hunger. Hunger is the fact of being exposed to the constitutive insecurity in which life itself consists. Exploitation, the same exploitation that maintains a great portion of human living beings in starvation, while another great portion self-enslaves in securing the means for satisfying their own insatiable hunger, has always been legitimated in the name of the suppression of hunger and not in the name of the necessity of affirming it. Perhaps one should vindicate a “right”—but it cannot be one; it is rather an act of freedom with regard to all “rights,” natural as well as civil: literally a right of not having rights—not to eat but to be hungry (in all senses of the word), even if one day it happens that food is granted to everyone and no human living body starves anymore (could ever that happen? To live precisely means to be constantly and structurally dying of hunger). Hunger cannot be self-appropriated— once again, hunger is not a mere function of metabolism —and therefore cannot give rise to power, subjectivity, property, or right. Hunger is the unprotected and unprotectable exposure of life to the risks of its suppression. In itself, hunger is ultimately unconcerned with the task or the concern of not ceasing to be; it becomes indifferent to any so-called necessity of protecting life.

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Hunger should be the evidence that nothing of what appears in the world appears in view of the image of the living being’s completeness (the “object of desire”). Inversely formulated, it should be the evidence that nothing of what appears in the image of such a virtual completeness—no object of desire—is in itself made in the image of it. Hunger withdraws the appearing world from the trophic horizon of metabolism. Hunger deconstructs the eidetico-teleological paradigm of metabolism in self-organization. It withdraws the food from its very form of food, that is, from any form that would make food appear as able to take part in the living being’s image of its own completeness (Chapter 5). Hunger is unconcerned with food. Food appears as nothing— or nothing appears in the appearing of food. What we eat shows itself as something that would never take part in the image of the virtual totality of ourselves. In fact, we never eat (metabolize, change into our own form) anything of that which we may think ourselves to be eating. What we eat shows itself as nothing or as the pure and simple position of the thing itself or the thing inasmuch as it escapes from the “yoke of the form” (eidos), as Heidegger says in describing Plato’s interpretation of truth.11 Hunger snatches the bread from my mouth. It is not the “recognition” of the other’s hunger, and therefore of the other’s property and right to eat, that snatches the bread from me; rather, it is the materiality itself of the bread, the matter that “shows itself only in its materiality,” before being incorporated through its “intuition” under the form of the eidos.12 Only the naked, the “amorphe,” the pre- or nonintuitive position of the bread—but we should no longer call it “bread”: we are dealing with the radical nakedness of the thing, the thing as unconcealed by hunger— can snatch itself from the mouth. Hunger is the evidence that nothing will ever be eaten, incorporated, metabolized into the same, neither in the “material” nor in the “spiritual” sense of “to eat,” neither in its literal nor in its figurative sense (but there is no place for such distinctions, as we have seen). Just think of the deception of the faithful person who, hungry for God, expects every Sunday to receive the body of Christ: “Something divine was promised, and it melted away in the mouth.”13

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Eleven

Charles Darwin’s theory of “natural selection” is not a theory that seeks to explain the production of living forms, the cause of their variation and change, but only the mechanism through which they have been selected over the course of life’s history. For the same reason, the theory of natural selection is not occupied with the origin of life itself, that is, with the essence or cause that brought it into existence. It is no valid objection that science as yet throws no light on the far higher problem of the essence or origin of life. Who can explain what is the essence of the attraction of gravity?1 I may here premise, that I have nothing to do with the origin of mental powers, any more than I have with that of life itself. We are concerned only with the diversities of instinct and of the other mental faculties in animals of the same class.2

The Origin of Species should not be construed as a theory of “life.” Nonetheless, it seems impossible to elaborate a theory of the natural selection of 86

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living forms without presupposing that these forms produce themselves and that they vary, grow, reproduce, multiply, and so on. Life—the task of not ceasing to be qua process of self-nourishing, growing, reproducing, varying, multiplying: in sum, hunger—may thus be considered as a basic presupposition upon which a theory of natural selection rests. Without life, without the excess of hunger, there would be no history of life. Life is the excess (hunger) by which there is such a thing as variation of living forms. If hunger rules, what natural selection and the history of life presuppose is much less the self-appropriating process of living formation and the increase of complexity than the antiteleological view that breaks, as I will try to suggest, with the idea of life as a formation in time. Paradoxically, then, one is ultimately led to the conclusion that, properly speaking, life cannot be “historical.” Darwin introduces his concept of natural selection and begins to shape it through an analogy with agriculture (again the analogy with art, or with a form of art, seems required for understanding nature). This analogy initially leads one to believe that The Origin of Species presupposes that life is a productive or self-productive process of nature. Darwin insists that the power of the breeder is limited to selecting traits that he or she does not produce himself or herself; therefore, traits that must be produced “spontaneously” or “by themselves.” The key is man’s power of accumulative selection: nature gives successive variations, man adds them up in certain directions useful to him. In this sense he may be said to have for himself useful breeds.3

Nevertheless, the “successive variations” that “nature gives” are not to be understood as the self-production of living forms. The breeder selects in light of a predetermined and anthropocentric functionality; accordingly, it will be only in view of such “directions useful to him” that the “succession” of variations will not be mere variation or dispersion and dissemination of traits and will become a process of production and preservation. In other words, the accumulative power of anthropotechnical selection is exterior to variation. Variation— or the “natural” production of living forms—is not per se accumulative, conservative, hereditary. In fact, variation takes place insofar as it moves away from or at variance with any line of succession and accumulation. Variation is accidental to any productive process, which also means that variation is the accidentality that deconstructs processuality it-

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self: One cannot describe as a “process” something that lack causes and purposes, and that cannot be identified to itself or to its capacity of becoming what it is. As Aristotle put it, there cannot be an art and potentiality in the production of accidents, since the cause of what is or becomes accidentally is itself accidental (Metaphysics, VI, 2, 1027 a 5–8). Variation is the accidentality as such, if I may say so; it is the coming that breaks with the telos and therefore with the self-appropriating temporality of any becoming. Natural selection is also a principle limited to selecting forms that this very mechanism of selection does not produce. “Nature” in the expression “natural selection” refers to a “spontaneous,” “nonpurposive,” “automatic” process of survival in or adaptation to the extremely complex and close-fitting interactive system of livings beings with each other and with the environment. Some have even imagined that natural selection induces variability, whereas it implies only the preservation of such variations as arise and are beneficial to the being under its conditions of life. . . . In the literal sense of the word, no doubt, natural selection is a false term; but who ever objected to chemists speaking of elective affinities of the various elements?—and yet an acid cannot strictly be said to elect the base with which it in preference combines. It has been said that I speak of natural selection as an active power or Deity; but who objects to an author speaking of the attraction of gravity as ruling the movements of the planets? Every one knows what is meant and is implied by such metaphorical expressions; and they are almost necessary for brevity. So again it is difficult to avoid personifying the word Nature; but I mean by Nature, only the aggregate action and product of many natural laws, and by laws the sequence of events as ascertained by us.4 New varieties are very slowly formed, for variation is a slow process, and natural selection can do nothing until favourable individual differences or variations occur.5

Variation can be treated as “successive” and potentially “accumulative” only inasmuch as it is thought of in light of a process of selection, that is, ultimately, for the sake of the process of formation of a determined group of individual traits. Assuredly, in natural selection, the accumulative process does not take place in the direction of the human being (“man’s use or fancy”). But Darwin says that it takes place in the direction of “the animal’s or plant’s own good.” “Natural selection,” he says later in the same text, “acts

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solely by and for the good of each” living being. Natural selection, in this sense, does refer to the irreversible process of accumulation of traits that have proved “beneficial to the being under its conditions of life.”7 One may argue then that natural selection, although it cannot be characterized as anthropocentric, is nonetheless anthropomorphic or anthropo-technico-morphic in that it supposes that processes of self-formation or self-production (and selfevaluation) take place in nature. Variation would thus give rise “by nature” to self-evaluative (self-organized) systems. But this reading is not fair enough. The formation of living forms, the self-preservation of identical traits and memory of their transformation over the course of time, in sum heredity itself, no less than in artificial selection, is something exterior to variation. As I said, variation is accidental to selection; that is, it is unconcerned with selection. If natural selection were to be conceived as the inducer of variation, we would have to take the term in its “literal sense,” as if “nature,” by means of some internal or immanent active power of selection, were able to guide the accumulation of traits that nature itself produces by variation. It is at this point in The Origin of Species that Darwin’s concept of life—accidental variation—breaks with the traditional concept of life. Variation can be treated as the principle of temporalirreversible production of living forms only if we “personify” Nature, that is, if we succumb to the “mistake” (see Chapter 9) that engenders evaluation and that sees self-appropriation. But variation is accidental to evolution (the preservation of the fittest). In itself, variation occurs regardless of any effect upon selection. Variation always occurs at random. 6

There is variation of properties among individuals, in the ensemble, variations that arise from causes independent of any effect it may have on the individual who possesses it. That is, the variation arises at random with respect to its effect.8

Variation is unconcerned with the survival of either individuals or groups. Variation is unconcerned with fitness. In other words, it is altogether accidental whether some variations are useful or harmful to the formation and survival of living beings. Mutations are “random” or “blind” in the sense that the mechanisms responsible for mutagenesis are equally likely to produce a mutation in contexts where that mutation enhances or diminishes fitness.9

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We have already alluded to the “spontaneous” or “automatic” character of “natural” selection. It is owing to this automatic character that several nonfunctional or dysfunctional phenotypic traits may be found coexisting with those that are functional and that allow adaptation. As described by Gould and Lewontin in a famous paper from 1979, Darwin’s theory of natural selection is deeply antipanglossianist: Not everything that is selected by natural selection has to have a function. For instance, there is no reason or purpose for our blood to be red; even if we discover that long ago the red color turned out to be decisive for survival, this would have also been accidental to the selective effects and “will not help us to understand why blood is red.”10 Thus, potentially harmful traits may become beneficial, and potentially beneficial traits may become harmful. Madeira beetles, which were wingless or equipped with dysfunctional wings, might have been initially selected because they “will have had the best chance of surviving from not being blown out to sea”; on the contrary, “those beetles which most readily took to flight would oftenest have been blown to sea and thus have been destroyed.”11 Once again, the relation between the form of living beings— emerged either by chance or by the use and disuse of the organs— and selection can only be accidental. Nothing produces the formation of living forms. François Jacob uses a very eloquent image to describe natural selection in evolution: he speaks of “tinkering with evolution” (le bricolage de l’évolution). Nature, Jacob explains, does not act as an engineer or a designer that has in mind what he wants to do before undertaking the process of construction. Nature acts as a bricoleur. That is, in the face of unforeseeable requirements and challenges of the environment, it improvises with a material that it has accumulated without any purpose whatsoever. Many materials may not have had any function; others may have lost their function and are ready to adopt a new one; others may have had different functions simultaneously, and so on. Natural selection has no analogy with any aspect of human behavior. If one wanted to use a comparison, however, one would have to say that this process resembles not engineering but tinkering, bricolage we say in French. While the engineer’s work relies on his having the raw materials and the tools that exactly fit his project, the tinkerer manages with odds and ends. Often without even knowing what he is going to produce, he uses whatever he finds around him, old cardboards, pieces of string, fragments of wood

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or metal, to make some kind of workable object. As pointed out by Claude Lévi-Strauss, none of the materials at the tinkerers disposal has a precise and definite function. Each can be used in different ways. What the tinkerer ultimately produces is often related to no special project. It merely results from a series of contingent events, from all the opportunities he has had to enrich his stock with leftovers. In contrast with the engineer’s tools, those of the tinkerer cannot be defined by a project. What can be said about any of these objects is just that “it could be of some use.” For what? That depends on the circumstances. In some respects, the evolutionary derivation of living organisms resembles this mode of operation. In many instances, and without any well-defined long-term project, the tinkerer picks up an object which happens to be in his stock and gives it an unexpected function. Out of an old car wheel, he will make a fan; from a broken table a parasol. This process is not very different from what evolution performs when it turns a leg into a wing, or a part of a jaw into a piece of ear. . . . Evolution proceeds like a tinkerer who, during millions of years, has slowly modified his products, retouching, cutting, lengthening, using all opportunities to transform and create.12

The image of a tinkering evolution, at least as Jacob presents it, does not completely escape, however, the vision of nature as a teleological o quasiteleological force. The bricoleur, for instance, knows (foresees) that he may use the materials that he stores; therefore, he acts already according to a regulative idea, the idea of a general utility, which orients the search “around him” and makes him select things that potentially are materials for functional construction. Undoubtedly the bricoleur stores purposeless things, but in no case does he store things that are incapable of having a purpose, unusable things. The bricoleur selects according to the supposition that everything that he collects may have a use. The image of tinkering helps us to understand the radical randomness and the antipanglossianism of the evolutionary theory; nonetheless, it also gives the idea of nature as a process of successive accumulation (“during eons upon eons”) of material that is always ready to be actualized or used. In this manner, the vision of nature as irreversible becoming, as determining the past opening to a time to come, is surreptitiously introduced. Once again “life” is understood as heritage, lineage, specification: self-appropriation in the process of becoming. Specification occurs while potentialities are actualized over time and while the horizon of utility is progressively and irreversibly determined and oriented—without

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mitigating the infinite new formations or specifications, together with the infinite unforeseeable possibilities, that are always “to come.” Tinkering evolution presupposes “life” as production of time. The modern theory of evolution has based the rules of the historical game on two constraints imposed on living organisms: reproduction and thermodynamics. Yet for the understanding of certain structural and functional aspects of living organisms, not only the rules but in some cases the actual details of the historical process may be of importance. For every single organism living today represents the last link of a chain uninterrupted over some three thousand million years. Living beings are indeed historical structures; they are literally creations of history.13

Jacob thinks of the infinite diversity of living forms and the infinite resourcefulness of nature’s creativity as the outcome of a combination of a finite number of regular elements. The structure of DNA is for him one of the principal examples of this idea. Composed only of four nucleotides coding for twenty amino acids, but yielded to a sophisticated cellular machinery of transcription, editing, cutting, fragmenting, editing, and so forth, DNA gives rise to the infinite diversity of living forms and functions that populate the living world. Another example may be found in the sharing of homologous control genes of development among very different species, like the eyeless gene in Drosophila, Pax-6 in mice, and Aniridia in humans.14 These homologies found on master control genes would prove that evolution has fashioned the diversity of life out of the same fundamental elements— namely, homologous organs with remarkably different structures, such as the eyes in flies, mice, and human beings. It is not at all clear how the idea of tinkering evolution can be reconciled with the idea of the combination of elementary underlying units. The materials with which the bricoleur works are necessarily deprived of any functional unity. Wooden boxes, bicycle paths, nails, and the like are not determined by any given function: They are precisely not “wooden boxes,” “bicycle paths,” “nails,” and the like, but whatever the unforeseeable circumstances and conditions for adaptation will make of them. But if this is the case, why would we think that epistemic entities such as “nucleic acids,” “polymers,” “proteins,” and the like are, on the contrary, well-defined “underlying units” that build the diversity of life through their combination?

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The idea of a progressive creation of evolutionary possibilities out of the combination of elementary underlying units is also in solidarity with the presupposition of a unifying, self-appropriating, and irreversible becoming of life. Such a unifying principle—life—would be common to all living forms and would determine their collective memory from the origin of life on. The same elements are at stake in every form of life. Phenomena such as homologue control genes (homeobox), which Jacob interprets in the sense explained earlier, and Horizontal Gene Transfer (HGT), which consists in transferring genetic material between different species in prokaryota and viruses, would make out a case for such an unifying and collective memory of life. (HGT is a cooperative response to environment consisting in the incorporation or rejection of genetic information as needed; it may explain for instance the quick spread of antibiotic resistance and it is thought to have played a major role in the evolution of early life.)15 Such an interpretation of the HGT or Jacob’s elementary underlying unities and their temporal combination may not be so far from Bergson’s “common impetus” determining the creation of complex organs (see Chapter 1). It is only for the sake of an integrated body of functions or of a selforganized system that the question may arise concerning its formation in time and its evolution through the selection of differences. Only for the sake of such a system, which keeps itself away from death, and which reproduces itself and accumulates functional traits over time— even if it conserves nonfunctional (although harmless) traits— do the concepts of history and future, past time and time to come, make sense. Only on that view does time pass and are differences or variation produced. By itself, however, variation remains unconcerned with the process of selection. By itself, it does not selfappropriate in the form of a self-organized system. By itself, it does not become the immanent time of its “own” differentiation. By itself, it is nothing that could be characterized as “being,” in any sense of the word “to be,” above all not in the sense of a self-producing process. Darwin was of course not interested in understanding such an important ontological consequence; nonetheless, he says, The mere lapse of time by itself does nothing either for or against natural selection. I state this because it has been erroneously asserted that the element of time has been assumed by me to play an all-important part in modifying

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It is only for the sake of the self-appropriating process of self-producing systems, only in view of organisms with functional (and nonfunctional but harmless) parts, each one bearing individual or specific histories, that phenomena such as HGT or homologue control genes become puzzling and sources of “wonder.” If, on the contrary, we bear in mind that variation is a phenomenon unconcerned with natural selection, and therefore with the formation of individual organisms and species, they become the most ordinary and expected of phenomena. The fact of HGT clearly challenges the traditional idea of self-organization, insofar as it seems to imply that there is energetic and genetic transfer “from the genome up to cells, community, virosphere and environment.”17

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Twelve

No subject of biology has caused more “wonder” than development. Is there anything more fantastic, more unbelievably perfect than the process by which a single cell, dividing and multiplying itself, can give rise to a highly complex organism? Almost inevitably, one is led to think that what guides the development of living beings from the fertilized egg to the adult form should be an unifying and internal principle of organization. At the end of the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s, François Jacob and Jacques Monod’s famous operon model of gene regulation made molecular biologists believe that one of the major genetic secrets concerning development had finally been revealed.1 In the presence or absence of the right chemical signal, control genes give the order to switch on or off certain particular specifications for protein synthesis. Little imagination was then needed to link morphogenesis as well as the genesis of all teleonomical processes to such chemical interactions. The formation of living forms and of living functions would ultimately rest on the stereospecific properties of microscopic molecules. 95

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On Time, Being, and Hunger If one analyzes the catalytic or regulatory or epigenetic functions of proteins, one is led to the recognition that each and every one depends—above all— upon the capacities of these molecules for stereospecific association. . . . All the teleonomic performances and structures of living beings are, at least in principle, analyzable in these terms. Assuming this concept to be adequate— and there is no reason to doubt that it is—the remaining step toward resolving the paradox of teleonomy is to give an explicit account of the manner in which stereospecific associative protein structures form and of the mechanisms by which they evolve.2

But detractors did not take long to denounce the scientific hubris implied in such conclusions. Indeed, soon the operon model was revealed as all too simplistic; at most it was applicable to prokaryote cells, and for certain specific functions. What is true for bacteria, however, is not necessarily true for elephants. It was soon discovered that development could not be reduced to the simple idea of an unfolding, displaying, informing, preexisting DNA molecule that contained the building plans of the whole organism; in fact, such a view was surreptitiously bringing preformationism back to life in the guise of the genetic program.3 Once again, the thing at stake is revealed to be much more “complex,” and to engage a whole theory of self-organization is fathomable only on the condition of going far beyond the level of molecular analysis. The developmental program consists of, and lives in, the interactive complex made up of genomic structures and the vast network of cellular machinery in which those structures are embedded. It may be that this program is irreducible—in the sense, that is, that nothing less complex than the organism itself is able to do the job.4

Fortunately, however, the problem of development did not dishearten molecular biologists. Several discoveries carried out during the late 1980s and 1990s concerning the genetic basis of development,5 together with a persistent tradition looking for mathematical and chemical models for understanding the interaction of cells in morphogenesis,6 seem to show that the “complexity” in question still may do without the ghost of self-organization, or that the complexity in question is such that it may break with any supposed self-appropriating identity or unity of developmental processes. It is known, for instance, that the cells’ position contributes to the determination of their differentiation and consequently morphogenesis. A group

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of cells differentiated and located at one place of the embryo will determine the formation of arms, while the homologous group of cells located in the opposite place will determine— only by virtue of the difference in position—the formation of legs. At earlier stages of development, one can, for instance, change the position of such groups of cells without affecting the normal development of the organs. How are the position and movement of cells determined? How do the cells “know” their position? How do they know when and where to migrate? When and where will this or that part of their genome be activated? The answer will be found not in the mind of nature, or thanks to the external projection of the experience of our own living body, but in gradients of concentration of chemical substances, in cell communication and signaling, and the like. One of the fundamental morphogenetic gradients that patterns or prepatterns Drosophila’s egg is determined by the concentration of bicoid protein at the front of the anterior-posterior axis of the larva. This protein is synthesized before fertilization, that is, by the activation of genes in the mother. Mutation in such maternal genes intended to suppress bicoid substance will accordingly produce the absence of head in larvae, given that the chemical signal for activating the genes controlling the development of the anterior parts of the organism will not take place. The different gradient concentrations, their diffusion and interaction, divide the egg into different zones specifying different thresholds for gene transcription. Such prepatterning determines the map of the organism. There is not need to presuppose, therefore, a unifying and holistic élan regulating the correct unfolding of the process of development. There is no place anymore to think in terms of a self-appropriated living body serving as Nullpunkt in space orientation (giving rise to “right” and “left,” “back” and “front,” “up” and “down”) and as living present in time succession. Once the molecular structure and interaction of morphogens is figured out, and once the control genes that activate the cascades of events in the formation of complex organs are isolated, nothing now prevents, under experimental conditions, the rise of mutants with legs or eyes induced in the “wrong” places and at the “wrong” times. Rather than “organisms,” larvae and embryos are “patchworks” that arise from the interaction of chemical morphogens. Protein gradients determine the fate of cells without “foreseeing” and without “producing” that in light of which—eidos or telos—the system would have organized itself. It would

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be interesting—and necessary—to consider how the “differantial reproduction” of experimental systems (see Chapter 8) in developmental biology determines our representations of development, and how it disseminates the organism and the organization. “Development” should therefore be treated as making out a strong case for deconstructing self-organization. Development is neither a wonderful coordination nor a creative struggle between parts. Rather, it is ruled by hunger: that is, by a dispersion that escapes the yoke of eidos or telos and that is deeply unconcerned with spatiotemporal self-appropriation.

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Afterword

The aim of this book has been to render plausible and relevant the task of carrying out a critical enquiry concerning the traditional way of thinking life. I believe indeed that it is possible, and necessary, to define a traditional way of thinking life, a dominating and regulative idea in the history of conceptions of life. One may formulate such a regulative idea in the following terms: Life is self-appropriation in the task of not ceasing to be as process of nourishing oneself, growing, reproducing, varying, desiring, moving, imagining, knowing, thinking, creating, acting, speaking, writing, aging, decaying, and the like. In short, to live is to be delivered to one’s own—and infinite—hunger. These definitions are not meant to be definitive. I propose them on the basis of my limited understanding of the phenomenon, which is of course scholarly and historically situated. And certainly I do not believe that all conceptions concerning life in the West fit into them. I do not even believe that there would be one single conception of life—for instance, the one that we may attribute to Aristotle (but it is already ridiculous to believe that we

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could find, that there existed, “one” conception of life in Aristotle, or even that we could find “one” Aristotle)—that would purely and fully correspond to them, just as I do not believe that there would be one single conception of life (for instance, the “one” that we may attribute to “Nietzsche”) that purely and fully escapes them. In proposing that there is a traditional idea of life, my aim was simply to put forward a heuristic concept for understanding that which is on the verge of being exhausted in today’s philosophical understanding of life. What do I mean by “today”? I mean an age marked by the unprecedented proliferation of discourses, techniques, artifacts, theories, opinions, and debates concerning the phenomenon of life, whether in natural sciences, social sciences, or politics; whether in ecology, economics, ethics, law, philosophy, literature, or everyday life. The traditional way of thinking life is on the verge of being exhausted everywhere in everyday life, everywhere we believe it may be a question of life. Philosophy is called to think such a collapse of the traditional way of thinking life. It is to my eyes a philosophical task, and therefore a political duty, to witness and thereby to contribute to this collapse. I am one of those people who believe that tradition is not something accidental but instead essential to philosophy—not that tradition should be thought of as a reservoir of concepts and arguments historically accumulated and ready to be used for understanding the challenges that arise from the experience of the real. For me, it is not even simply a question of recognizing the historical character of our concepts, and therefore the historical character of truth, of experience, of reality itself. History or historical time should not be assumed as given facts within which our thinking moves. History and historical time are themselves reinvented and re-created as such at every time, at every turn, at every event, and at every response to the challenges arising from the real. They are responses to the real. Our experience of the real, certainly made possible through tradition, compels us to recreate, to elaborate, to read, and to write this very same tradition. The real is the problem that calls, that summons the “philosophical text”—all those oral or written texts, whether produced by philosophers or not, in which the event of thinking (the call of the real) occurs. Tradition—the philosophical text— comes, is written, invented, shaped, through the provocation of the real, and the provocation of the real comes, is written, invented, shaped, as the task of creating tradition. Thing and thinking, reality and philosophy, are but one and the same thing.

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Not only does tradition exist every time ex nihilo—thus, it is created each time by the unforeseeable challenges of the real—but what emerges as tradition also remains always, by necessity, to come. The real is the experience of what we do not yet understand, of what compels us for the first time to the task of creating tradition. There is not one or a certain number of given philosophical traditions that, during the past, have evolved and irreversibly increased in complexity, and that in the future will continue to multiply, reproduce, vary, and continue to increase in complexity. Tradition is not bound to the evolutionary avatars of monophiletic reproduction. Tradition is not heritage. I prefer to believe that tradition—the very coming of the real—radically removes us from any familiar or philetic space for a proper culture and a proper world. Tradition occurs—it is impossible to anticipate how—wherever and whenever (but space and time are not given a priori, that is, before the event of the real and of tradition) someone is compelled to think, regardless of the language he or she speaks and the histories in which he or she was born and raised. In this short book, I have risked the proposition that the idea of hunger can lead us through the task of formulating what challenges and what is challenged in the traditional way of thinking life. Hunger is the emergence of the living being or its being delivered to its ownmost and innermost self. Life itself is nothing other than the movement of such a delivery. No concept of organization, of development, of evolution can do without the idea of hunger. What else could explain, for instance, the excess that makes life “vary” and “increase” in complexity? Now, full self-appropriation in hunger is never possible. Never, while alive, does a living being overcome its hunger. The living being is, in this sense, a priori disappropriated from itself, from the self, and from any a priori condition or from any trophic horizon for understanding the world. Hunger is then both the experience in which I am delivered to my ownmost and innermost self and the experience in which self is ceaselessly and from everywhere exceeded, disorganized, disappropriated, alienated, dispossessed from itself. Hunger is the singular experience that gives and gives away my ownmost and innermost self.

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notes

chapter one

1. Prigogine and Stengers 1986, 104. 2. Ibid., 105. 3. Halder, Callaerts, and Gehring 1995. 4. See Gilbert 1992. 5. Pittendrigh 1958, 394. 6. See Bergson 1911, 40, 51, 76, 85. chapter two

1. “In terms of human conceptions, the sun is an inexhaustible source of physical energy (physischer Kraft). The stream of this energy which also pours over our earth is the continually expanding spring that provides the motive power for terrestrial activities” (Mayer 1845, 37; English trans. in Lindsay 1973, 99). 2. Needham 1941, 209. 3. All the texts of Lord Kelvin to which I am referring are quoted and commented on in Keller 1995, 48–59. 4. Clausius 1864, 50; Uffink 2001, 326. 5. For this expression, see Eddington 1929. 6. Clausius 1864, 323; Uffink 2001, 337. 7. Clausius 1867, 42; Uffink 2001, 338. 8. Clausius 1867, 44; Uffink 2001, 338. 9. For a general view, see Uffink 2007; for a critical account, see Torretti 2007. 10. Bergson 1911, 243. 11. Ibid., 245. 12. “The astral order in which we live is an exception; this order and the considerable duration that is conditioned by it has in its turn made possible

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the exception of exceptions: the development of the organic” (Nietzsche 2001, 109). 13. Bergson 1911, 11. 14. Needham 1943. 15. Eddington 1934, 56. 16. Schrödinger 1945, 79, 76. 17. Schrödinger 1935, 39. 18. For photosynthesis, see Brittin and Gamow 1961; for glucose synthesis in plant growth, see Klippel and Müller 1995; for energy flow and biochemical information in biosphere, see Smith 2008a, 2008b, 2008c; for entropy and evolution, see Blum 1951; Brooks and Wiley 1986; see also Morowitz 1986 for a deeply critical view of the latter. chapter three

1. “The idea of complexity is no longer limited to biology. It is invading the physical sciences and appears to be deeply rooted in the laws of nature” (Nicolis and Prigogine 1989, 8). “Far from challenging the laws of physics, complexity appears as an inevitable consequence of these laws when suitable conditions are fulfilled” (ibid., 15). 2. Prigogine and Stengers 1986, 139. 3. Prigogine 1998, 51–52. 4. Prigogine and Stengers 1986, 261, 264. 5. Prigogine 1998, 62. 6. Prigogine 1997, 26 –27. 7. Eddington 1929, 77. 8. Prigogine 1998, 28. 9. Nietzsche 1884, 26 [432]; KSA XI, 266. 10. Nicolis and Prigogine 1989, 13. 11. “Symmetry breaking brings us from a static, geometrical view of space to an ‘Aristotelian’ view in which space is shaped or defined by the functions going on in the system” (Nicolis and Prigogine 1989, 13). “The observation of the morphological asymmetry of adult organisms has introduced into human thinking the notions of ‘right’ and ‘left’ which have influenced philosophers and writers ever since Plato. It is amazing to see these deep notions emerging quite naturally through the intrinsic dynamics of a modest, ordinary-looking physico-chemical system” (ibid., 23). “The emergence of the concept of space in a system in which space could not previously be perceived in an intrinsic manner is called symmetry breaking” (ibid., 12). 12. “In the regime of uniform steady state (which is also asymptotically stable) the system ignores the time. But once in the periodic regime, it suddenly ‘discovers’ time in the phase of the periodic motion and in the fact that the maxima of different concentrations follow each other in a prescribed order.

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We refer to this as the breaking of temporal symmetry” (Nicolis and Prigogine 1989, 21). 13. Prigogine 1997, 71. 14. Nicolis and Prigogine 1989, 14. 15. In other words, time (selfhood) is metabolism, that is, self-organization through or thanks to continual change or transformation. A metabolizing (living) system “is never the same materially and yet persists as its same self, by not remaining the same matter” ( Jonas 2001, 76). Jonas adds, in a note to this passage, “The exchange of matter with the environment is not a peripheral activity engaged in by a persistent core: it is the total mode of continuity (selfcontinuation) of the subject of life itself. . . . When we call a living body a ‘metabolizing system,’ we must include in the term that the system itself is wholly and continuously a result of its metabolizing activity, and further that none of the result ceases to be an object of metabolism while it is also an agent of it.” 16. “In general, we have a succession of bifurcations. . . . The temporal description of such systems involves both deterministic processes (between bifurcations) and probabilistic processes (in the choice of the branches). There is also a historical dimension involved.” Prigogine 1997, 69–70. 17. Prigogine and Stengers 1986, 250 –254. 18. “ ‘Being’—we have no other representation of this than ‘living.’ ” Nietzsche 1885–86, 2 [172]; KSA XII, 153; Nietzsche 2003, 94. chapter four

1. Lamarck 1809, quoted in Keller 2003, 17; emphases mine. 2. Jacob 1970, 41– 42; 1973, 33. 3. Kant 1790, § 75, Ak. V, 400; 1997, 271. 4. See Baeumler 1923. 5. Hermann Cohen writes: “Teleology should absolutely not be considered as scientific method, as method for research, but simply as a point of view for positing questions and for giving the appropriate direction to an investigation. Nonetheless, the procedure of the research itself, the consideration, the experimentation and the calculation are exclusive moments of the mechanistic explanation, which alone can serve as method” (Cohen 1885, 561). For a general account of Kant and experimental life sciences, see Garrido 2011b. 6. Schrödinger 1944, 73. 7. Olby 1974, 240 –245. 8. Bohr writes: “The concept of purpose, which is foreign to mechanical analysis, finds a certain field of application in problems where regard must be taken of the nature of life” (1933, 458). 9. Ibid. 10. Bohr 1937, 20 –21. 11. Bohr 1960, 21.

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12. Bohr 1962, 26. 13. Bohr 1933, 458. 14. Bohr 1937, 21. 15. Canguilhem 1978, 2008; Foucault 1998. 16. Jonas 2001, 4. 17. I am referring to the famous passage concerning nutrition and generation (both are functions of the nutritive or metabolic soul, he¯ thre¯ptike¯ psyche¯), in On the Soul II, 4, 415 a 28– 415 b 7. Living beings nourish themselves and reproduce in order to share as much as they can in the eternal. Any action that they perform according to nature may be described as tending to that end. But as corruptible beings they cannot subsist in their identity and numerical unity; they share in the eternal only by producing similar beings, that is, thanks to the unity of the species. “For the most natural function of living beings, those that are perfect and not mutilated, and that do not have spontaneous generation, consists in producing another being similar to itself—an animal another animal, a plant another plant—so that they would participate in the eternal and in the divine as much as it is in their power. For all living beings are hungry for that, and for the sake of that they do everything they do according to nature. . . . Not being able to share in the eternal and the divine by merely persisting, since no perishable being can remain the same and numerically one, all living beings would participate or take part in them, some more and some less, as much as it is in their power; and what remains is not the being itself but something similar to itself, not numerically but specifically one” (On the Soul II, 4, 415 a 28– 415 b 7). 18. Nietzsche 1883–84, 24 [29]; KSA X, 662. 19. I will return to this in Chapter 9. 20. I will return to this in Chapters 5 and 10. 21. The idea of “infinite task,” with its Kantian, neo-Kantian, and phenomenological roots and imports, has been recently put again on the floor for discussion by Rodolphe Gasché in his book Europe, or the Infinite Task (2009). 22. Hans Jonas seems to be very faithful to such a traditional determination of life: “So constitutive for life is the possibility of not-being that its very being is essentially a hovering over this abyss, a skirting of its brink: thus being itself has become a constant possibility rather than a given state, ever anew to be laid hold off in opposition to its ever-present contrary, not-being, which will inevitably engulf it in the end.” Jonas 2001, 4. 23. See Nancy 2008; Garrido 2009a and 2011a. 24. Jacob 2000, 106; 2001, 71. chapter five

1. Tauber 1996, 8. 2. Jonas 2001, 4.

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3. Arendt 1958, 96. 4. Ibid., 37. 5. See Nussbaum 2001 for analyses of depression in animals. 6. Nietzsche 1881, 11 [134]; KSA IX, 491. 7. Heidegger GA 48, 256. 8. See the well-known argument of Nietzsche in On the Genealogy of Morality, I, § 13. “A quantum of force is just such a quantum of drive, will, action, in fact it is nothing but this driving, willing and acting, and only the seduction of language (and the fundamental errors of reason petrified within it), which construes and misconstrues all actions as conditional upon an agency, a ‘subject,’ can make it appear otherwise. And just as the common people separates lightning from its flash and takes the latter to be a deed, something performed by a subject, which is called lightning, popular morality separates strength from the manifestations of strength, as though there were an indifferent substrate behind the strong person which has the freedom to manifest strength or not. But there is no such substratum; there is no ‘being’ behind the deed, its effect and what becomes of it; ‘the doer’ is invented as an afterthought—the doing is everything” (Nietzsche 2006, 26). 9. See Heidegger GA 33, 111; 1995, 94. 10. “We saw that [dynamis] in itself is at once [dynamis tou poein kai paschein], that the relation to what can bear, to what endures, what resists, belongs to the essential structure of force. Not that it could ever be predetermined or directly discerned which beings withstand an effective force in their character of being able to the realm of a force of producing. Every such force delineates a realm for itself, within which it dominates that for which it is, and what it is, namely force. Force then always dominates itself in a peculiar sense. Every force accordingly has a character of possessing that is difficult to grasp with sufficient generality; this character of possessing is precisely this implicating delineation of its realm. Hence a losing, and so a distinctive way of withdrawal, is in an emphatic sense capable of corresponding to this characteristic of possessing. The steretic alteration of force into unforce is accordingly of a different kind from, say, the turn from movement toward rest, not only because force and movement are different according to their particular content but because the proper possessive character of force is more inwardly bound up with loss and withdrawal. The Aristotelian proposition [pasa dynamis adynamia] does not mean to say that wherever a force is at hand, there factically and necessarily an unforce is also at hand, but rather that every force is, it if becomes unforce, the loss of its possession. It is unforce by virtue of one and the same thing by which force is forceful” (GA 33, 113; 1995, 173–174). For a commentary of these pages in Heidegger’s lessons, see Brogan 2005, 122–124. 11. Heidegger GA 33, 217; 1995, 187. 12. Heidegger GA 33, 217–218; 1995, 187. 13. Heidegger GA 33, 112; 1995, 95.

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Notes to pages 46 –52

14. “The independence of things at hand from humans is not altered through the fact that this very independence as such is possible only if humans exist. The being in themselves of things not only becomes unexplainable without the existence of humans, it becomes utterly meaningless; but this does not mean that the things themselves are dependent upon humans” (1931, 202). 15. “The [physis] is . . . a coming-back-to-itself, to itself as what keeps rising physis” (GA 9, 293). 16. Heidegger GA 18, 218; 2002, 147. 17. Heidegger GA 18, 226; 2002, 152. chapter six

1. See Rubio (2011) for a recent study on the question of life in Heidegger’s work before Being and Time. 2. Heidegger GA 18, 57; 2002, 40. 3. See, for instance, Heidegger GA 61, 81, 130; 2001, 61, 96 –97; see also GA 62, 352. 4. Heidegger GA 22, 182–188, 308; 1993, 153–158, 228. 5. Heidegger GA 17, 293; 2002, 223. 6. Heidegger GA 22, 182; 1993, 153. 7. Heidegger GA 22, 309; 1993, 228. 8. Heidegger GA 17, 6; 1994, 4. 9. Heidegger GA 17, 293; 1994 (modified), 223. 10. Heidegger GA 17, 8; 2002, 5; see also Heidegger GA 18, 45, 51–52. 11. Heidegger GA 43, 117; 1978b (modified), 99; see later developments of Leiben in the Zollikon Seminars, 2006. 12. See also Garrido 2009b. 13. Husserl 1952, § 18 a, § 41 a, § 60; Merleau-Ponty 1945, 345; 1962, 348. 14. Heidegger GA 2, § 23, 107; 1977, 100. 15. Heidegger GA 2, § 28, 132; 1977, 125. 16. Ibid. 17. Of course, this statement would require a long explanation, especially today when “phenomenological” interpretations of Aristotle are à l’ordre du jour, but I will only give a succinct indication. The aisthe¯sis is not grounded in the kinesthetic system of the embodied ego. To lead the constitution of the sensible world to the self-proximity of the embodied ego, legitimizing such an approach upon a well-known sentence of Aristotle concerning one of the functions of the common sense (“we can perceive that we see and hear,” On the Soul III, 2, 425 b 11), not only risks anthropologizing Aristotle’s aesthetics— since it is only for ourselves that such an assertion is valid—but also excludes everything that in sensation would be, for him, irreducible to the “living

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experience” of a free ego (“das freie Ich”) who can (“ich kann”) move itself (“Ich bewege mich”) and to place itself as the “absolute here” of spatial orientation and around which the world organizes itself as the ultimate horizon of possible experience: starting with everything that corresponds to a passivity without attention (without “achten”)—not even latent or potential—and that the Stagirite would put in the account of what he calls involuntary movement (akousios) (for instance, tachycardia or erection) and nonvoluntary movement (oukh akousios) (for instance, sleeping, waking, respiration, ejaculation, changes of temperature, and so forth). The living body does not lead to the unity of lived experience; rather, it disseminates in a sort of differential of “parts” (heart, penis, semen, lungs, mouth, esophagus, arteries, and so on) that are inaccessible to the ego’s experiencing, each of them abandoned to itself in the process of sensing (or in the process of living), each of them self-appropriating in the process of living (or sensing)—“each of them like a separated living being” (On the Movement of Animals, 11, 703 b 21). One could retort perhaps that any involuntary or even nonvoluntary movement bears witness to a certain degree of spontaneity of the sensitive body and concomitantly of the position of a “repère toujours donné” for living activities. But there is still another stratus, beyond any spontaneity, in which sensibility is ultimately constituted for Aristotle, the “intermediary element” (to metaxu): the sensation is each time enabled by a corporeal element strictly insensible (anaistheton) (On the Soul, II, 7, 418 b 4 and see as well II, 9, 421 b 17) that withdraws from us (ibid., II, 423 a 30 –31) in order to let appear the sensible object. The intermediary element is, for instance, the diaphanous for seeing, the air for hearing, the flesh for touching, and so forth. Perception is therefore made possible by a disclosure (the withdrawal of the intermediary element) that it could not constitute. 18. “The that of facticity is never to be found by looking (in einem Anschauen)” (Heidegger GA 2, § 29, 135; 1977, 127). 19. Heidegger GA 2, 132; 1977, 125, emphasis mine. 20. Heidegger GA 2, § 29, 136; 1977, 128. This also explains why Dasein is only sensitive to the being of beings (“ontological understanding”); that is, it is only sensitive to itself or to its own process of being. One might even say that nothing appears (Sich-Zeigen) to Dasein that had not been previously opened by the process (the care) of being. Nothing can touch Dasein if it is not in the form or the figure of such a process. There is not, for instance, a “pure” or “immediate” sensing. On the contrary, only on the condition that beings are discovered by Dasein’s finding itself being; only when sense data are relevant or meaningful for the task of being is there such a thing as perception (see Pradelle 2000, 211, for a commentary on the primacy of the Stimmung over the passivity of hyletic data). We encounter (begegnen) and sense (empfinden) only what the circumspective and caring gaze lets come to our perception (das umsichtig besorgende Begegnenlassen).

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21. Patocˇka 1988, 96. 22. Ibid., 93. 23. Ibid., 105. chapter seven

1. Heidegger GA 2 § 10, 49–50, § 12, 58, § 41, 194, § 49, 246; 1977, 46, 54, 181, 229. 2. See Garrido 2009b for an earlier version of these analyses concerning animality in The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics. 3. Heidegger GA 29–30, § 43, 265; 1983, 179. 4. Heidegger GA 29–30, § 45 b. 5. Heidegger GA 29–30, § 48, 294; 1983, 200. 6. Heidegger GA 29–30, § 50, 307; 1983, 209. 7. Derrida 1989, 49. 8. Heidegger GA 29–30, § 63, 395; 1983, 272. 9. Heidegger GA 29–30, § 49, 296; 1983, 201. 10. Husserl 1971, § 2 b, 8–10; 1989, 7–8. Husserl hesitates to include general biology and botany in somatology, probably because cellular anatomy and physiology as well as plant anatomy and physiology do not seem to presuppose sufficiently close resemblances with the investigators’ bodies. Nonetheless, there are several texts in which Husserl includes a much broader variety of beings within scope of corporeal likeness and therefore as eligible examples of somatological experience. The movement of branches of trees, for instance, may be analyzed through kinesthetic introjections. “If my arm moves itself, I have sensations of movement; if otherwise a physical thing moves itself, I do not. But if the branch of that tree moves itself, sensations of movement could be ‘associatively’ ‘associated’ into it. . . . And this can be fully and correctly applied above all when I see another human body. There is no reasoning but only ‘complementarity’ through empathy” (1971, 45). More important, the resemblance is not exclusively “anatomical,” but also includes behavior: “The alien physical body not only is analogous to mine, but ‘behaves’ like my body, as if it were moved in the way of the I-move-myself, I-get-up, etc. . . . The alien physical body is there in such a manner that I can transpose myself into it, I can think of it as if it were my own body” (1973a, 289). The ultimate ground for likeness between living beings is the “living body” itself as organ of self-motion and perception—primary kinesthesia and receptivity. A living being is any being experiencing a surrounding world. When it appears to me that such or such portion of matter is “alive,” I presuppose, for instance, that it has the capacity of moving itself, of perceiving its surrounding world; I project in it some degree of autonomy, of self-presence, and so forth, I introject in him animatedness (see Husserl 1952, 49 b), I intra-understand (Einverstehen) the interiority that constitutes him as animal being and differentiates him from

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merely external material nonliving bodies. It is “alive” even though I am not allowed to assume that it speaks or thinks or that it experiences its being alive in the way I do. In sum, to understand living beings is to judge them as if they were (to a certain degree) like me. 11. Husserl 1971, 116 –117, 126. By dismantling the original apperception, we obtain the different strata of Einfühlung. It is in no way possible, however, to have access to an actual experiencing of the inner experiencing (or inner self-givenness of life) of nonhuman living animals. By definition, Einfühlung is just an indirect interpretation (Eindeutung) of the other’s experiencing; Einfühlung is an experience that “represents” (vergegenwärtigt) another internal, irreproducible and unrealizable experiencing (Erlebnis) of the world. Therefore, to experience the other nonhuman living beings as variation of my own life does not mean that they are variations of it, as if there were an “essence of life” we all “share” (human beings in the maximum degree). To describe the aesthetical strata of our own living bodies is not eo ipso to describe animality, nonhuman life. I cannot experience myself as if I were not who I am and as actually abandoning the higher functions that constitute my original apperception. I cannot experience myself as purely animal. Nonhuman life is not a potential level of human life. A cat’s visual sense data are not a “possibility” of my human vision; by dismantling my sensitivity, I only perform Einfühlung with it. The cat sees and plays and eats and desires just as cats do; human beings see and play and eat and desire just as human beings do. “A cat, the way in which it moves itself, or washes, and plays, each movement is ‘characteristic’ of the movements that cats make. In every movement this character is apprehended; it is apprehended that insofar as they are in such or such manner, they belong to the species of cats. Besides, this species of movement belongs to a group of multiple systems of characteristic form of doing and behaving like cats do, so that a particular can represent, embody, indicate the entire system. What is characteristic does not lie in the mere sensible form of the movement, but it is merged to the movement’s form of animation, to the active movement’s form, thus also to the form of psychical and expressive life. . . . A human being is in all its movements, actions, in its speech, writing, etc., a human being!” (1973a, 6). Somatology, insofar as it is grounded in this particular mode of experience called Einfühlung, does not deny, but on the contrary affirms the incommensurability between the forms of life. Nonhuman life is in principle inaccessible to experience, which is why it must be approached through analogical interpretation. Were Einfühlung a way of experiencing the other experiencing, I would be ashamed while observing someone who is ashamed (1973a, 188), I would become hungry looking at the cat who keeps staring at the tuna sandwich I have between my hands. One has to be careful then when one claims that in the knowledge of life “we sometimes need to feel like beasts ourselves” (Canguilhem 2008, xx); in fact, we never feel like beasts. If I can come to know the “living organism,” it is because I can take the measure of the distance

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that separates me from it, that is, because its “distortion” appears to me. One should go as far as to say that the life of any other being, human or non human, is in principle inaccessible to me, to my inner experiencing. Maybe one should go even farther and suggest that life is, as such, inaccessible. Elaborating on the ultimate constitution of the flow of consciousness—that is, the life itself of consciousness: time—Husserl reaches the description of a prereflective “pre-time” (Vor-Zeit) that cannot become the object of the experience for the living ego. “The primordial stream is the primordial permanent constituting, in which the ‘stream of consciousness’ is constituted in its primordial temporality. Of course, this may be understood as a sort of pre-time, which is not yet the form of objects for the I that lives in the stream of consciousness. . . . As pre-being, it is unexperienciable, unsayable” (2006, 269). Nothing different was dealt with, as it is well known, in the lectures concerning the inner temporality of consciousness (cf. 1966, § 36): in its ultimate layer, inner time constitutes itself “in absolute timeless consciousness” (im absoluten zeitlosen Bewusstsein) (Husserl 1966, Beilage VI, 112; 1991, 117). Life might well be something originaliter given; but precisely insofar as it is given in this way, and insofar as it is considered in its originality, life may be considered as inaccessible to inner experiencing and to reflection. Life becomes simply what always “accompanies” the inner experiencing, with neither more substance nor more objectivity than the pure, prereflective, pretemporal, unthematizable original I. This cannot be the place for further elaborations on these difficult ideas. 12. The general assumption behind the Einfühlung with human and nonhuman living beings—and consequently the general assumption behind any experimental intervention that I may decide to bring about in the environment and in the organism of alien living beings—is that of sharing the same world. “Through empathy we grasp the organic individual as animated in and referred to the same surrounding world in which we ourselves live” (Husserl 1973b, 116). Naturally, I will not assume that the world is given to everyone and every living being in the same manner and to the same degree that it is given to me in the current perception. The world is every time and in every place given differently. But I assume that it is the same world that is given. The cat which is now with me staring at my tuna sandwich certainly has no idea that I am eating “a tuna sandwich,” and that I am doing so compelled by the effective publicity of the product, which knows how to calculate and predict the behavior of consumers like me through anthropological and sociological research (useless for understanding a cat’s desire). But the cat is staring at the same thing that I have between my hands. I do not have a clue how the phenomenon may appear to him, but I am sure that it appears to him. I can appresent the cat’s perception of the same thing. There is therefore a “synthetic unity” of the common experience and a common appearing of the world. “The same thing: this presupposes the convergence of both series of phenomena with the synthetic unity of an experience” (1973a, 12). When I see a cat playing with my shoes, or when

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I see him, for instance, staring at a tuna sandwich I have between my hands, I transpose myself to his place (“to transpose oneself ” translates what Husserl calls sich versetzen, sich einversetzen, sich hineinversetzen, in a sense to be deeply distinguished from Heidegger’s use of the term) (see 1973a, 266; 1973b, 239– 241, 498–502). I “have a feeling,” as it were, of what it would be to be in his place, I introject in him a similar kind of inner experiencing as the one I have, and eventually I become persuaded that he wants my tuna sandwich. Such a “transposition” and the consecutive series of interpretations and assumptions I perform are exactly the same kind as those that take place in the “experimentation” with living beings. To set an experiment implies to appresent the alien living experiencing on the basis of analogies with my own living body and inner experiencing. I instinctively presume that by controlling certain factors of what appear to me to be relevant factors constituting the environment and the organism of some animal, I will observe meaningful changes in the physiology and behavior, changes that might be relevant for a better understanding of its way of experiencing and of the different functions of its organization. 13. Heidegger GA 2, § 47, 238; 1977, 222. 14. “Transposing oneself into this being means going along with what it is and with how it is. Such going-along-with means directly learning how it is with this being, discovering what it is like to be this being with which we are going along in this way. Perhaps in doing so we may even see right into the nature of the other being more essentially and more incisively than that being could possibly do by itself. Going along with the other being can also mean helping to bring it to itself— or possibly letting it be mistaken about itself. Consequently, this self-transposition does not mean actually putting oneself in the place of the other being and displacing it in the process. However clear this negative injunction may seem, the positive interpretation of self-transposition that is frequently offered is nonetheless misleading. It is said of course there is no question of any actual transporting oneself into another being, as if we could somehow vacate our own position and directly fill out and occupy the place of that being. The transposition is not an actual process but rather one that merely transpires in thought. And this in turn is easily understood to mean not an actual transposition, but an ‘as if,’ one in which we merely act as if we were the other being. . . . [Self-transposition] does not consist in our simply forgetting ourselves as it were and trying our utmost to act as if we were the other being. On the contrary, it consist about the possibility of ourselves being able to go along with the other being while remaining other with respect to it. There can be no going-along-with if the one who wishes and is meant to go along with the other relinquishes himself in advance.” Heidegger GA 29–30, § 49, 296 –297; 1983, 202–203. 15. Heidegger GA 29–30, § 49, 299; 1977, 204. 16. See Nancy 1998, 59, for an exploration of the possibility of such an original mode of being-with with what is worldless.

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17. Heidegger GA 9, 325–326; 1978a (modified), 205–206. 18. 1975, MS 1, 5. 19. The reader will find more indications concerning the idea of passivity in my study of sensibility in Kant (Garrido 2008). 20. Bentham 1786, Chapter XVII, § 1. 21. Derrida 2008, 27–28. 22. Ibid., 18. chapter eight

1. Granel 1999, 535. 2. Lawlor’s book on life and immanence (2006) has recently recalled in what sense and to what extent the deconstruction of the metaphysics of presence in Derrida, at least from Speech and Phenomena (1973), is engaged with the question of life. 3. Jacob 1970, 320; 1993 (modified), 299. 4. For the concept of “empirical wandering” see Derrida 1982a, quoted and commented on by Rheinberger 1997, 82, 183. 5. Rheinberger 2000; Müller-Wille and Rheinberger 2009. 6. Rheinberger 1992, 391. 7. Ibid., 410; see also Rheinberger 1997, 155. 8. Rheinberger 1993, 471; see also Rheinberger 1997, 36. 9. Rheinberger 1992, 420; see also Rheinberger 1997, 224. 10. Rheinberger 1992, 323–324; see also Rheinberger 1997, 133. 11. Rheinberger 1992, 324 n. 60. 12. See Rheinberger 1997, Chapter 5. 13. Rheinberger 1992, 391. 14. Rheinberger 1996, 394. 15. See Derrida 1976, 9. 16. Derrida 1975, MS 4, p. 5. This situation, according to Derrida, would ultimately explain the “analogy” with writing (écriture) in the very concept of “genetic code.” The “code” is not the simple “model” for approaching the “real,” “natural,” or “wild” thing that we call “heredity”; the “code”—the text, in sum, writing—is what renders possible the appearing of the phenomenon of heredity itself. “This situation—a text without external reference, being completely outside because the only reference is another text remarking a text— this situation is eventually that of the bio-genetic text, writing itself in a text in which the bio-genetics takes part or from which it is produced, writing itself in an object or in a referent that not only is already, in its turn, a text, but a text without which the scientific text—itself produced from the living— could not write itself. . . . The text cannot be considered as a model, a determined model, something to which one could compare something else. If it were to be

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considered as model or analogy, it would not be in that case a model or analogy like others, because the structure of the living and the structure of the text can no longer play the roles of compared and comparing” (Derrida 1975, MS 6, pp. 4 –5). For a study of the history of the “genetic code” and the importance of the metaphors of “text” and “writing,” see Kay 2000. 17. Rheinberger 1992, 403– 404; Rheinberger 1997, Chapter 9; Rheinberger 2009, 6 –7. The quotations are from Rheinberger 1993, 444 (see also 1997, 34), and Rheinberger 1995, 84, respectively. 18. Rheinberger 1993, 443; see also Rheinberger 1997, 34. chapter nine

1. Nietzsche 1885, 35 [59]; KSA XI, 537. 2. Nietzsche 1885, 35 [53]; KSA XI, 536. 3. Nietzsche 1885, 35 [59]; KSA XI, 537. 4. Nietzsche 1881, 11 [268]; KSA IX, 544. 5. Nietzsche 1886 –87, 7 [9]; KSA XII, 296. 6. Nietzsche 1884, 25 [433]; KSA XI, 127. 7. Nietzsche 1881, 11 [197]; KSA IX, 520. 8. Nietzsche 1884, 25 [372]; KSA XI, 109. 9. Nietzsche 1887, 9 [38]; KSA XII, 352; Nietzsche 2003, 147. 10. Nietzsche 1887, 9 [151]; KSA XII, 424; Nietzsche 2003, 165. 11. Nietzsche 1881, 11 [284]; KSA IX, 550. 12. Such a clear and univocal differentiation between “active” and “reactive” will to power does not exist as such in Nietzsche’s text; I am following Deleuze’s classical interpretation (1983). 13. Franck 1998, 300. 14. Nietzsche 2003, § 13, p. 15. 15. Nietzsche 1884, 26 [277]; KSA XI, 222–223. 16. Thus, there would be a fundamental difference between Nietzsche’s nonsubstantialist notion of force and the one that Heidegger puts forward (see Chapter 5) in relation to dynamis and ousia—which Heidegger believes, nonetheless, to be at the heart of Nietzsche’s conception of force. 17. See, for instance, Nietzsche 1881, 11 [202, 231, 237]; KSA IX, 523, 530, 531. I believe that Didier Franck is right when he proposes, in passing, to identify the primordial chaos at stake in the becoming and in the stream of things with the ultimate layer of the primordial constitution (Urkonstitution) of time consciousness in Husserl’s phenomenology of time (Franck 1998, 305–306, 328–329). The primordial flux of time as absolute subjectivity (Husserl 1966, §§ 35–36), or as absolute deobjectivization (the structure of the primordial temporalization of consciousness must not be taken as that of any temporal object, for instance a melody, because the primordial time consciousness is

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not a sequence of thoughts stretched in time, but the primordial condition of possibility of any temporal entity stretched in time), cannot be identified with and cannot let subsist any kind of entity whatsoever. It is a pure movement of no-thingness, of withdrawal from temporal self-appropriated beings: “Any object that changes is missing here [in the ultimate layer of time constitution]; and since ‘something’ runs its course in every process, no process is in question. There is nothing here that changes, and for that reason it also makes no sense to speak of something that endures. It is therefore nonsensical to want to find something here that remains unchanged for even an instant during the course of its duration” (Husserl 1966, § 35, 74; 1991, 78). In order to differentiate time in temporal objects and time in its ultimate or primordial level of constitution, Husserl is obliged to express himself paradoxically saying that the primordial flux is atemporal; “subjective time becomes constituted in the absolute timeless consciousness, which is not an object” (1966, Beil. VI, 112; 1991, 117). “There is no duration in the original flux. For duration is the form of something enduring, of an enduring being, of something identical in the temporal sequence that functions as its duration” (Husserl 1966, 113; 1991, 118). Thus the primordial flux is only metaphorically a “flux,” or a “stream.” All names are lacking for the absolute subjectivity of time, since all names necessarily refer to a “something” in time: “But is not the flow a succession, does it not have a now, an actually present phase, and a continuity of pasts of which I am now conscious in retentions? We can say nothing other than the following: This flow is something we speak of in conformity with what is constituted, but it is not ‘something in objective time.’ It is absolute subjectivity and has the absolute properties of something to be designated metaphorically as ‘flow’; of something that originates in a point of actuality, in a primal source-point, ‘the now,’ and so on. In the actuality-experience we have the primal source-point and a continuity of moments of reverberation. For all this, we lack names” (Husserl 1966, § 36, 75; 1991, 79). In his turn, Nietzsche would describe “becoming as a continuum of force where nothing punctually identical to itself becomes and . . . for that reason, we cannot apprehend the becoming as opposed to being”; he would claim “that this archi-becoming is incommensurable both to any unity and to any plurality whatsoever, [and that it] excludes all identity and all difference in general” (Franck 1998, 328–329). As for Husserl, it is worth noting that the primordial time consciousness, the absolute subjectivity of time, does not self-appropriate in the self-presence and self-identity of consciousness; on the contrary, it detaches itself from any temporal unity, any temporal self-identification and self-appropriation; it is a sort of primordial disappropriation of consciousness, a différance that precedes and makes possible both what unifies and disunifies in time succession, what is permanent and what changes, the identity and difference. It does not “pass,” does not temporalize itself as temporal object, but forms the ultimate ground responsible for the constitution of any “passage,” any “process,” any “ceaseless change”— even

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the ceaseless change of experiences (Erlebnisse). This interpretation of time consciousness in Husserl’s text would have, nonetheless, important obstacles. Once the intentional structures of the perception of temporal objects (basically the now, the retention and the protention) are discovered, and once the diagram of time is drawn (Husserl 1966, § 10, p. 28; 1991, 29; see as well the diagram that includes protention in Husserl 2001, 22), it is difficult for Husserl to avoid transposing those intentional structures to the description of the primordial flow itself, which means that he ends up taking the timeless ultimate layer of the constitution of time as an object stretched in time. The primordial timeless flux will thus often appear as enduring and giving unity to the flow of experiences (see, for instance, Husserl 2006, 12). He even describes one of the fundamental properties of the primordial flux as “irreversible,” neglecting the fact that the “irreversibility” of time can only be constituted thanks to the intentional retention that identifies a phase of time and that makes it possible to distinguish it from another one, thereby establishing the transitivity and asymmetry of its phases. “It is a question of a fundamental property: namely that Ux changes into Uy and therefore that every U changes into a new U and from this to another one according to a direction, but not inversely. The ‘eternal,’ the unceasing process cannot be reverted, every Ux being essentially characterized as anterior or posterior, and this order admits no more reversibility than does a numerical series” (Husserl 2001, 31). Needless to say, it will be necessary to return to this sensible topic of time consciousness (the very life of consciousness) on another occasion. 18. Nietzsche, 1881 11 [162]; KSA IX, 504. 19. Nietzsche 1888, 14 [174]; Nietzsche 2003, 264. 20. “Let us print in our life the image of eternity!” “To live in such a manner that we want to live again and to live like that eternally.” Nietzsche 1881, 11 [159, 161]; KSA IX, 503. chapter ten

1. Hobbes 1651, II, XXI, 272. 2. Ibid., II, XXVII, 343. 3. Ibid., 345. 4. Ibid., 346. 5. De Officiis, III, xxiii, 90. “ ‘Suppose there were two to be saved from sinking ship—both of them wise men—and only one small plank, should both seize it to save themselves? Or should one give place to the other?’ ‘Why of course, one should give place to the other, but that other must be the one whose life is more valuable either for his own sake or for that of his country.’ ‘But what if these considerations are of equal weight in both?’ ‘Then there will be no contest, but one will give place to the other, as if the point were decided by lot or at a game of odd and even.’” Cicero 1928, 364.

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Notes to pages 83–96

6. Justinian 1979, 97; Book IX, title 2, § 49. 7. Summa Theologica, IIa IIae, Q. 66, art. 7. 8. Grotius 2001, Book II, Chapter 1, § 4 and Chapter 2, § 6. 9. Pufendorf 2005, II, Chapter VI, “Of the Right and Favour of Necessity.” 10. Kant 1797, Ak. VI, 235; 1996, 28. 11. Heidegger 1931–32. 12. Levinas 1978, 124; 1991 (modified), 77. 13. Hegel 1948, 253. chapter eleven

1. Darwin 1861, 514. 2. Darwin 1872, 205. 3. Darwin 1859, 30. 4. Darwin 1861, 85. 5. Darwin 1859, 177. 6. The quotations are from Darwin 1859, 30 and 201, respectively. 7. Darwin 1861, 85. 8. Lewontin 2001, 54. 9. Sarkar 2005, 27. 10. Gould and Lewontin 1979, 593. 11. Darwin 1859, 136. 12. Jacob 1982, 34 –35. 13. Ibid., 31–32. 14. Jacob refers to this in 2000, 135–136, and 2001, 95. 15. Woese 2002; Vetsigian, Woese, and Goldenfeld 2006; Goldenfeld and Woese 2007. 16. Darwin 1869, 110. 17. Goldenfeld and Woese 2007. chapter twelve

1. Jacob and Monod 1959, 1961; Jacob et al. 1960. 2. Monod 1971, 90. 3. Lewontin 2000, 5. 4. Keller 2000, 100 –101. 5. See Nüsslein-Volhard’s (1995, 2007) and Wieschaus’s (1995) works on molecular prepatterning in Drosophila’s egg and Gehring’s already referred discovery of master control genes (the “homeobox”) (Gehring 1998). 6. See the work on form by D’Arcy Thompson (1942), Turing’s reactiondiffusion model (1952), the influential positional information theory of Wolpert (1969), and Edelman’s less well-known topobiology (1988).

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index

animality, 46, 50 and being, 64 and the essence of life, 56 and the deconstruction of life, 61 and humanity, 56 –57 inaccessibility, 56 –57 sensitive life (he- aisthe-tike- psyche-), 2, 4, 50 –55, 61, 62 as suffering, 61–62 See also poorness Aquinas, 83 Arendt, H., 38, 39, 107 Aristotle, xii, 2, 4, 8, 10 –11, 12, 14, 25–26, 33, 38– 43, 47, 49–51, 88, 99–100, 108–9 arrow of time. See time art (techne-), 8, 19

See also life Bentham, J., 61–62, 114 Bergson, 11, 13, 15, 50, 93, 103, 104 élan vital, 11, 15, 93, 97 biology and aesthetics, 27–28 as a necessity for life, 76 –77 and physics, 26 –30 See also molecular biology bios and zoe, 38 bios theoretikos and bios politikos, 37–38 Blum, H. F., 104 Bohr, N., 28–30, 105–6 Boltzmann, L., 14 Brittin, W., 104 Brogan, W., 107 Brooks, D. R., 104

Baeumler, A., 27, 105 being, 48 Befindlichkeit, 53 being-there (Dasein), 50 –53 being-with, 59 bio-ontological difference, 33–34 ontological difference, 64 the other of b., 59 the question of b., 64 –65 self-proximity and selfappropriation of b., 52–53

Callaerts, P., 103 Canguilhem, G., 106, 111 capacity, 44. See also force care, 36, 46 Carnot, S., 13 Cicero, 83, 117 Clausius, R., 13–14, 103 Cohen, H., 105 complexity, 17–19, 23–24, 41, 70, 76, 87, 96, 101, 104 consciousness, 50, 65, 112, 115–17

129

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130

Index

corporality, living corporality corporeal fear, bodily fear, 82–83 living corporality (Leiblichkeit), 3, 50 –54, 56, 59–60 living corporality and morphogenesis, 97–98 Crick, F., 68

evolution, 9 Darwin’s theory of natural selection, 86 –90 and human brain, 16, 23 random variation, accidental, 87–90 tinkering with evolution, 90 –94

Darwin, C., 5, 10, 86 –90, 93, 118 death being toward death, 32, 50 fear of death, 32, 39 inminence of death, 31–32, 36, 39, 82 le mort, 60 –61 See also life: and death deconstruction, 66 Deleuze, G., 115 Derrida, J., xii, 4, 53, 60 –62, 65–66, 70 –71, 110, 114 –15 development, 95–98 morphogenetic gradients in Drosophila, 97 and organism. See also organism) positional information, 96 –97 différance, 65, 70 Dilthey, W., 50 DNA, 2, 92, 96

Fichte, J. G., 80, 84 force, 4 –5 f. and the emergence of selfhood, 44 – 47, 61, 107 nonsubstantialist notion of f., 75–78, 107, 115 Foucault, M., 106 Franck, D., 115–16

earth, 16, 39– 41, 103 Eddington, A. S., 103– 4 Edelman, G. M., 118 empathy (Einfühlung), 58, 62–63, 110, 112 entropy, 12–16, 19, 104 negative entropy, or neguentropy, 16 Epicurus, 32 experience, lived experience (Erlebnis), 3, 31–32, 49 –50, 58, 109 experimental systems, 67–72 graphematic structure of, 71–72

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Gamow, G., 104 Gasché, R., 106 Gehring, W. J., 103, 118 gene, 7, 10, 66 homeobox, 10, 92–93, 118 Horizontal Gene Transfer (HGT), 93–94 genetic code, 69, 114 –15 and development, 95–97 genetic program, 11, 96 Gilbert, W., 103 Goldenfeld, N., 118 Gould, S. J., 90, 118 Granel, G., 64, 114 Grotius, H., 83, 118 Halder, G., 103 Hegel, G. W. F., 118 Heidegger, M., 3– 4, 43–61, 64 – 65, 85, 107–10, 113–14, 115, 118 heredity, 89, 114. See also evolution Hippocrates, 43 Hoagland, M., 68 Hobbes, T., 82, 117

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Index hunger, 1, 40 – 43, 101 and the abolition of time, 79 and becoming, 77–80 denial of h., 42– 43, 77 and eternal recurrence, 79 and evolution, 87 as horizon for the appearing of the world, 41 and immortality, 31, 106 infinite h., 39 and jus necessitatis, 83–84 and metabolism, 43 and the object of desire, 42– 43 and orexis, 40 as a problem, 81 and self-organization, 41 as unconcerned with the task of living, 84 –85 and will to power, 79 and yoke of the form (eidos), 85 Husserl, E., 50, 58, 108, 110 –13, 115–17 in vitro, 29, 66 –68, 71 Jacob, F., 3, 5, 71, 90 –93, 95, 105–6, 114, 118 Justinian (Digesta), 83 Kant, I., 8, 11, 27–28, 30, 80, 84, 105–6, 114, 118 Kay, L., 115 Keller, E. F., 103, 105, 118 Klippel, A., 104 Lamarck, J.-B., 25, 105 Landgrebe, L., 54 law, 82–83 Lawlor, L., 114 laws physical l., 12–13, 18, 26 –29 reversible and irreversible l., 8–9

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131

Levinas, E., 82, 118 Lewontin, R., 90, 118 life as active and reactive will, 76 –77 and being, 2–3, 46 –56 and death, the difference between l. and death, 2–3, 25, 30 –33, 37, 39, 50, 55, 60, 75, 82 the deconstruction of l., 4, 61 evaluation of l., useful and harmful to l., 32, 75–76, 89–90 and experimental life sciences, 67–71 the inaccessibility of l., 4, 56 –59, 111–12 insecurity of l., security, 32–33, 75–78, 81–84 living condition, 37, 40 as a mistake, 75–79, 89 the most wonderful object, 35 in the origin of truth and knowledge, 76 –77 sheer life, 38–39 somatology, 59–60, 110 –12 traditional concept of l., 1–5, 32, 35, 37, 42, 56 61, 66 –67 Lindsay, R. B., 103 Mayer, J. R., 103 Merleau-Ponty, M., 54, 108 metabolism, 42– 43, 79, 84 –85, 105 molecular biology, 3, 29–30, 65, 68–73, 95–97 Monod, J., 95, 118 Morowitz, H., 104 Müller, I., 104 Müller-Wille, S., 114 Nancy, J.-L., 106, 113 natural beings, 46 – 47 natural selection, 11, 86 –90, 93–94

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132

Index

nature and art (techn-), 8–12 cyclic and deathless n., 39 living n. and mechanism, 26 –30 and natural selection, 87–90 as organized matter, 18–20 not a regulative idea, 71 wild nature and model, 71 writing and, 71 Needham, J., 103, 104 Nicolis, G., 104 –5 Nietzsche, F., 3, 5, 15, 19, 24, 32, 38, 43– 44, 75, 77–80, 100, 104 –7, 115–17 Nussbaum, M., 107 Nüsslein-Volhard, C., 118 Olby, R., 105 operon model, 95–96 organism self-organization, 17–20, 23 self-organization and time, 20 –22 as thermodynamic system, 15–17 Patocˇka, J., 54, 109 philosophy, 100. See also science Pittendrigh, C., 11, 103 plants, 38– 40, 51 politics, 39, 81–82 poorness, 57–58 Pradelle, D., 109 Prigogine, I., 8–9, 17–19, 22–23, 103, 104 –5 property, 82–85 Pufendorf, S. v., 83, 118 respiration, 47 responsibility, 2, 37, 40 – 41 Rheinberger, H.-J., 70 sq, 114 –15 rights, 81–84 right of not having rights, 83 RNA, 67–71

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Rousseau, J.-J., 84 Rubio, R., 108 Sarkar, S., 118 Scheler, M., 50 Schrödinger, E., 28, 104, 105 science immune self, 37 modern science, 26 –28 science and philosophy, 67, 73 self, 39– 40, 43– 47, 51–54, 69–70, 75–80 Smith, E., 104 soul, psyche-, 47, 49–50 sovereignty, 81–82 Stengers, I., 103–5 Straus, E., 54 task, 1, 32–34, 36 – 43, 51–53 infinite task, 39, 106 Tauber, A. I., 106 teleology, 8–11, 19, 30 natural end, 11 and natural selection, 88 teleonomy, 11, 96 Zweckmässigkeit, 27–28 See also time thermodynamics, 12–19, 65, 92 far-from-equilibrium, 17–19, 22–23 second law, 12–16 thing epistemic thing, 68–69 thing in itself, the naked thing, 48–85 Thomson, W. (Lord Kelvin), 13, 103 Thompson, D. W., 118 time the arrow of time, 14, 18–19 eternal recurrence as abolition of t., 80 future, to come, 21

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Index historical time, 22 hunger as abolition of t., 78, 87 irreversibility, 8–9, 13, 15–19, 70 primordial constitution of time consciousness, 115–17 and teleology, 8–9 Torretti, R., 103 tradition, 100 –1 Turing, A., 118 Uffink, J., 128 unconcern ontological unconcern, 48, 59–60, 67, 74, 84 –85 variation, 11, 23, 59, 86 –89, 93–94 Vetsigian, K., 118

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133

Watson, J., 68 Wieschaus, E., 118 Wiley, E. O., 104 Woese, C., 118 Wolpert, L., 118 world being in the world, 39– 40, 48–54 being out of the world, 60 Heidegger’s three theses concerning the world (“stone is worldless,” “animal is poor in world,” “man is world-forming”), 56 –59 to inhabit the w., 32, 41– 42, 52–54 See also hunger Zamecnick, P., 67–68

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n ] f i d j  f ]  c ` m ` e ^



 Jk\]Xefj>\iflcXefjXe[Kf[[D\p\ij# Stefanos Geroulanos and Todd Meyers, series editors

Georges Canguilhem, Knowledge of Life. Translated by Stefanos Geroulanos and Daniela Ginsburg, Introduction by Paola Marrati and Todd Meyers. Henri Atlan, Selected Writings: On Self-Organization, Philosophy, Bioethics, and Judaism. Edited and with an Introduction by Stefanos Geroulanos and Todd Meyers. Georges Canguilhem, Writings on Medicine. Translated and with an Introduction by Stefanos Geroulanos and Todd Meyers. Jonathan Strauss, Human Remains: Medicine, Death, and Desire in NineteenthCentury Paris. Juan Manuel Garrido, On Time, Being, and Hunger: Challenging the Traditional Way of Thinking Life.

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