The Nancy Dictionary 9780748646470

The first dictionary dedicated to the work of Jean-Luc Nancy Jean-Luc Nancy is a key figure in the contemporary intelle

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The Nancy Dictionary
 9780748646470

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T h e N a n c y D ic t i o n a r y

The N a n cy D i c tiona r y Edited by Peter Gratton and Marie-Eve Morin

© editorial matter and organisation Peter Gratton and Marie-Eve Morin, 2015 © the chapters their several authors, 2015 Edinburgh University Press Ltd The Tun - Holyrood Road, 12(2f) Jackson’s Entry, Edinburgh EH8 8PJ www.euppublishing.com Typeset in 11/13 Ehrhardt by Servis Filmsetting Ltd, Stockport, Cheshire, and printed and bound in Great Britain by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon CR0 4YY A CIP record for this book is available from the British Library ISBN 978 0 7486 4646 3 (hardback) ISBN 978 0 7486 4647 0 (webready PDF) ISBN 978 0 7486 4645 6 (paperback) ISBN 978 0 7486 9970 4 (epub) The right of Peter Gratton and Marie-Eve Morin to be identified as the editors of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, and the Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2003 (SI No. 2498).

C on te n ts

Acknowledgementsvii List of Abbreviations for Works by Jean-Luc Nancy ix Introduction: Worlds without Measure Marie-Eve Morin and Peter Gratton Entries A–Z

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Bibliography238 Notes on Contributors

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A c kn ow l e d ge m ent s

We would like first to thank Carol Macdonald, our editor at Edinburgh, for her wonderful support and patience for this project. We would also like to thank B. C. Hutchens, the original editor for this project, as well all our many colleagues and friends who took up the call to provide the many terms you find below, some providing newer definitions from Nancy’s latest writings in a short amount of time as our deadlines neared. They have provided a true gift to those studying and working with Nancy’s texts. Finally, we would like to thank Yasemin Sari, our research assistant, who collected the entries and helped us with citations and annotations.

List of A b b re vi a ti on s f o r Wo r k s b y Je a n -L u c N a nc y

Adoration: The Deconstruction of Christianity II, trans. John McKeane, New York: Fordham University Press, 2013. ‘A’ ‘A-religion’, trans. Julia Borossa, Journal of European Studies 34.1 (2004): 14–18. AF After Fukushima: The Equivalence of Catastrophes, trans. Charlotte Mandell, New York: Fordham University Press, 2014. All Allitérations. Conversations sur la danse, with Mathilde Monnier, Paris: Galilée, 2005. BP The Birth to Presence, trans. Brian Holmes et al., Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993. BSP Being Singular Plural, trans. Anne E. O’Byrne and Robert D. Richardson, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000. C Corpus, trans. Richard A. Rand, New York: Fordham University Press, 2008. ‘C’ ‘La Comparution/The Compearance: From the Existence of Communism to the Community of Existence’, trans. Tracy B. Strong, Political Theory 20.3 (1992): 371–98. ‘CC’ ‘The Confronted Community’, trans. Amanda MacDonald, Postcolonial Studies 6.1 (2003): 23–36. CI L’impératif catégorique, Paris: Flammarion, 1983. CII Corpus II: Writings on Sexuality, trans. Anne O’Byrne, New York: Fordham University Press, 2013. ‘CP’ ‘The Calculation of the Poet’, trans. Simon Sparks, in Aris Fioretos (ed.), The Solid Letter: Readings of Friedrich Hölderlin, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000, pp. 44–73. ‘CTW’ ‘Communism, the Word’, in Costas Douzinas and Slavoj Žižek (eds), The Idea of Communism, London: Verso, 2010, pp. 146–53. CW The Creation of the World or Globalization, trans. François Raffoul and David Pettigrew, New York: SUNY Press, 2007. D-E Dis-Enclosure. The Deconstruction of Christianity, trans. Bettina Bergo, Gabriel Malenfant and Michael B. Smith, New York: Fordham University Press, 2008. ‘DEG’ ‘On Dis-enclosure and Its Gesture, Adoration: A Concluding Dialogue with Jean-Luc Nancy’, trans. John McKeane, in Alena Alexandrova, Ignaas Devisch, Laurens Ten Kate and Aukje van A

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Rooden (eds), Re-treating Religion: Deconstructing Christianity with Jean-Luc Nancy, New York: Fordham University Press, 2012, pp. 304–43. DS The Discourse of the Syncope: Logodaedalus, trans. Saul Anton, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008. ‘E’ ‘Entretien avec Jean-Luc Nancy’, with Véronique Fabbri, Rue Descartes 44.2 (2004): 62–79. EF The Experience of Freedom, trans. Bridget McDonald, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993. ES Ego sum, Paris: Flammarion, 1979. EvF L’Évidence du film: Abbas Kiarostami, Brussels: Yves Gevaert, 2001. ‘FI’ ‘Finite and Infinite Democracy’, in Giorgio Agamben, Alain Badiou, Daniel Bensaid, Wendy Brown, Jean-Luc Nancy, Jacques Rancière, Democracy in What State?, New York: Columbia University Press, 2012, pp. 58–75. ‘FIL’ ‘From the Imperative to Law’, in B. C. Hutchens (ed.), Jean Luc Nancy: Justice, Legality and World, London: Continuum, 2012, pp. 11–18. FS The Fall of Sleep, trans. Charlotte Mandell, New York: Fordham University Press, 2009. FT A Finite Thinking, ed. Simon Sparks, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003. GI The Ground of the Image, trans. Jeff Fort, New York: Fordham University Press, 2005. GJ God, Justice, Love, Beauty: Four Little Dialogues, trans. Sarah Clift, New York: Fordham University Press, 2011. GT The Gravity of Thought, trans. François Raffoul and Gregory Recco, New York: Humanities Press, 1998. H Hegel: The Restlessness of the Negative, trans. Jason Smith and Steven Miller, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002. ‘HC’ ‘Hors colloque’, in Gisèle Berkman and Danielle Cohen-Levinas (eds), Figures du dehors: autour de Jean-Luc Nancy, Nantes: Cécile Défaut, 2012, pp. 517–38. I Identity: Fragments, Frankness, trans. François Raffoul, New York: Fordham University Press, 2014. IC The Inoperative Community, ed. Peter Connor, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993. J La jouissance, with Adèle Van Reeth, Paris: Plon, 2014. L Listening, trans. Charlotte Mandell, New York: Fordham University Press, 2007.



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The Literary Absolute, with Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, trans. Philip Barnard and Cheryl Leser, Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1988. ‘LC’ ‘Love and Community: A Round-table Discussion with JeanLuc Nancy, Avital Ronell and Wolfgang Schirmacher’, August 2001, available at (last accessed 12 March 2015). M The Muses, trans. Peggy Kamuf, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996. MII Multiple Arts: The Muses II, trans. Simon Sparks, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006. ‘NM’ ‘The Nazi Myth’, with Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, trans. Brian Holmes, Critical Inquiry 16.2 (1990): 291–312. NT Noli Me Tangere: On the Raising of the Body, trans. Pascale-Anne Brault, Sarah Clift and Michael Naas, New York: Fordham University Press, 2008. ‘OBC’ ‘Of Being-in-Common’, trans. James Creech, in the Miami Theory Collective (ed.), Community at Loose Ends, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991. ‘OP’ ‘“Our Probity!” On Truth in the Moral Sense in Nietzsche’, trans. Peter Connor, in Laurence A. Rickels (ed.), Looking After Nietzsche, Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1990, pp. 67–88. PC Philosophical Chronicles, trans. Franson Manjali, New York: Fordham University Press, 2008. PD La pensée dérobée, Paris: Galilée, 2001. PM La possibilité d’un monde – Dialogue avec Pierre-Philippe Jandin, Paris: Les petits Platons, 2013. PP Le poids d’une pensée, l’approche, Strasbourg: Le Phocide, 2008. (le peuple souverain s’avance)’, in Marie-Louise PS ‘ Mallet (ed.), La démocratie à venir: autour de Jacques Derrida, Paris: Galilée, 2004, pp. 341–59. RP Retreating the Political, with Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, ed. Simon Sparks, London and New York: Routledge, 1997. ‘SDC’ ‘The Self-Deconstruction of Christianity: An Open Discussion with Jean-Luc Nancy’, August 2000, available at (last accessed 12 March 2015). SR The Speculative Remark (One of Hegel’s Bons Mots), trans. Céline Surprenant, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001. SW The Sense of the World, trans. Jeffrey S. Librett, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003. LA

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The Truth of Democracy, trans. Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas, New York: Fordham University Press, 2010. The Title of the Letter, with Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, trans. François Raffoul and David Pettigrew, Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1992. What’s These Worlds Coming To?, with Aurélien Barrau, trans. Flor Méchain and Travis Holloway, New York: Fordham University Press, 2014.

Intro d u c ti on : W orl d s w i t ho ut M e as ur e

The French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy, born in 1940, is among the most prolific French philosophers of the last half-century, writing as the lonely stepchild of the ontology of Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) and the deconstruction of Jacques Derrida (1930–2004), though not without weaving in many other influences. Producing few direct disciples, Nancy writes in a singular style that bears witness to the nudity of existence, a sense of the world that depends on nothing other. This writing – his range of topics borders on the encyclopaedic without the dilettantism of many philosophers – nevertheless has had a profound influence on those who think the legacies of deconstruction after the death of Derrida (his friend and perhaps most important interlocutor). His work on exscription, areality and how to speak non-anthropomorphically of the stone, the animal and all the things in the world presages well current movements in posthumanism as well as the new realisms and materialisms, while marking the limits of thought reached in each of these categories. His subjects are both high (adoration, the Trinity, and so on) and low (jouissance, fucking, and such) – often at the same time – and this dictionary aims to provide something of a menu for the range of his thought while never losing sight of the singular insights that carry him through his considerations on community, the deconstruction of Christianity, and the possibilities of pleasure in the society of the spectacle. Nancy’s prose is notable for what we could call its deceptive clarity. Two thinkers come to mind, even if Nancy’s attention to paradox is most reminiscent of thinkers like Maurice Blanchot (1907–2003), Georges Bataille (1897–1962) and Jacques Derrida. Martin Heidegger’s oeuvre is significant, especially in its earliest phases, for its stunningly obvious claims that nevertheless are vertiginous when contrasted with the Platonism of the tradition before him. After all, what are the themes of the early sections of Being and Time (1927)? There is the world, we are beings that care for our own existence, and we are always with others. Incontestable . . . and yet. Nancy’s prose is similar in never allowing an outside to define a given thing, area or zone – a community is its own spacing, jouissance is an ecstasy that has no other meaning, sense is the sense of this world and none other, and so on – while also never being far from the instant of our daily concerns and working out the profundity of the fact of the world and of our being with others. From the nudity of this

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existence, Nancy draws out implications for thinking creativity, aesthetics, communities, music, the rocks that dot our landscapes, and even our sex lives, all without the nomenclature, unity, and system-building of previous philosophers’ metaphysics. His writing is also reminiscent of Baruch Spinoza (1632–77), who wrote his Ethics (1676) and theological political treatises using the language of God, divinity, beatitude, and so on, while teasing out an immanentist ontology where God is nature, where freedom is a rational relation to one’s causality, and so on. In a similar way, Nancy will use terms like resurrection, adoration, ipseity, and creation ex nihilo while evacuating them of their traditional meaning or, better, teasing out a spacing that made the traditional term possible in the first place. Ipseity, for example, becomes the relation to one’s own self-relation, not to a given substance. Adoration is the wonder at the simple there is of existence. Fraternity is not the mark of a common patriarch or nation, but the singular plural measure of the measurelessness of existence. This way of redeploying ‘master concepts’ distinguishes Nancy sharply from Derrida, whose method was to take the underprivileged term as a means for deconstructing previous oppositions (difference over identity, alterity over sameness, and so on), and Derrida’s oft-remarked-upon concern about Nancy was that his work risked amplifying, rather than deconstructing, previous metaphysical conceits. But Nancy’s wager is two-fold: (1) the exposition of the Judeo-Christian and onto-theological tradition allows us to see the complicity between monotheism and all forms of foundational thinking that attempt to (or sometimes claim that it is impossible to) find the meaning of existence in a transcendent principle; (2) this elucidation also unearths resources for thinking existence against the rampant atheism of capitalism beyond its false equivalence of people and things within commodity fetishism and managed political spaces. For example, in his thinking of community – a term Derrida could only write in terms of a ‘community of the question’ or as ‘co-auto-immunity’ – Nancy is not just writing against a communitarian tradition that would ground or centre a given society, via a monarch or nation or God. He is also writing – and context is everything – at a time of rampant political atomism, where any thinking of community is anathema to capitalism’s creative destruction and the dominant liberalism’s emphasis on the self. In this way, Nancy’s gesture will be to think the community as the between space, neither one individual nor another, neither a community immanent to itself nor its absolute destruction. Nancy’s work spans more than five decades and includes more than fifty authored or co-authored books in French as well as hundreds of contributions to journals, collected works, and art catalogues. His work engages with historical figures such as Plato (c. 428–347 bce), René Descartes



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(1596–1650), Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), G. W. F. Hegel (1770–1831), F. W. J. Schelling (1775–1854), Karl Marx (1818–83), Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), and Heidegger, as well as contemporary French thinkers such as Jacques Lacan (1901–81), Bataille, Blanchot, and Derrida, while covering topics as varied as globalisation, hermeneutics, community, Nazism, resurrection, Christian painting, German Romanticism, techno music, modern dance and film. The task of this dictionary is to engage, sometimes critically, with the key terms of Nancy’s long career, both for the sake of those new to his work and for those unfamiliar with this or that corner of his widening oeuvre. As the reader will quickly find, many entries in this dictionary answer to what Friedrich Schlegel called the fragmentary demand – each word set off from the others like a world unto itself, while ineluctably connected to those around it. We could offer Nancy’s own claim that no word in itself nominates anything, but rather passes along, between and among other words, but this could lead the reader to the inauspicious conclusion that this dictionary fails to say anything in particular. At times the reader will inevitably have the impression of being caught in a circle: freedom, finitude, sense, touch, sharing, world-forming and so on are all attempts at naming what is for Nancy the basic movement of existence as turned toward an exteriority and hence as both distanced from and in relation to itself and other existents. As a result, at some level of generality, all of Nancy’s master terms seem to blend together. But it is important to remember that each specific term, even though it seeks to name the same movement of existence, intervenes in a precise conceptual field: Nancy’s reworking of the concept of freedom seeks to bring this concept away from its traditional tie to notions of ground, causality and subjectivity; his concept of sense reminds us that the rapport of sense is a dynamic and embodied one (sens meaning also direction and the five senses) and cannot be reduced to the signifying relation between a signified and a signifier or a word and a concept; his reinvestment of the relation between creation and world seeks to emphasise the plural and worldly character of existence against any understanding of the lateral (non-transcendent) movement of sense as capitalist equivalence and as nihilism. Let us set the context for Nancy’s writings. Born in July 1940 in Caudéan, near Bordeaux, Nancy spent part of his childhood under the Occupation before moving to Baden-Baden at the end of the war, where his father was posted as part of the French occupation troops and where he would remain until 1951. Retracing his intellectual and political development, Nancy remarks that his youth was ‘marked by a leftist Catholicism’ (PM, 14). He was an active member of the Jeunesse Étudiante Chrétienne, a group very much influenced by social Catholicism, which would be

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banned by the Church in 1954 for its radical position on the Algerian War. Though the group was militant and Nancy took part in its activities in favour of the democratisation of education, it more prosaically also organised reading groups on the Bible. As Nancy explains, his Catholicism was always influenced not only by the hermeneutical tradition but also by all the work of demythologisation done by Protestantism. Another important influence on Nancy’s youth was his interest in literature, in particular poetry. His first writings were not philosophical works but poems, in sonnet form no less. Accordingly Nancy points out that before the beginning of his philosophical work, he had gone through a phase of literary activism (PM, 17). From theology, his interests slowly shifted toward philosophy. As a student in khâgne (a two-year post-secondary-level curriculum preparing students for entrance to the Grandes Écoles), he was introduced to George Morel, a Jesuit priest who taught Hegel to a small circle of Catholic students. Nancy recalls, ‘[Hegel] was the first philosophy that was presented to me in a living manner’ (PM, 23). After his khâgne, Nancy pursued his study of philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris, where he obtained his licence (the equivalent of the bachelor’s degree) in 1962 and his diplôme d’études supérieures de philosophie (the equivalent of the master’s degree) in 1963. At this time, Nancy worked closely with Paul Ricoeur, who would supervise his master’s thesis on Hegel’s philosophy of religion. This is also where he first met Derrida, who was Ricoeur’s assistant at the time. After obtaining his agrégation in 1964 (a competitive examination that allows one to teach in the public education system in France), Nancy taught in Colmar before becoming an assistant at the Institut de philosophie in Strasbourg in 1968. He obtained his doctorate in 1973, again under the supervision of Ricoeur, with a thesis on Kant’s analogical discourse. Soon after, he became maître de conférences at the Université des sciences humaines in Strasbourg, where he would spend his entire academic career until his retirement in 2004. After publishing short articles on Nietzsche in the 1960s, Nancy published his first books during the 1970s. Two of these books came out of his intense study of Hegel and Kant: The Speculative Remark (1973) and The Discourse of the Syncope: Logodaedalus (1976). Two others were written in collaboration with his long-time friend and colleague Philippe LacoueLabarthe (1940–2007), a book on Lacan, The Title of the Letter (1973), and one on early German Romanticism, The Literary Absolute (1978). These were followed, in 1979, by a book on Descartes, Ego sum. Though varied in subject matter, these early works all circle around a common problematic, one that will inform Nancy’s later thinking of community, sense and world, namely what remains of the subject after deconstruction. In this sense, Nancy’s thinking is inscribed in the intellectual



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milieu of the 1960s, a time where we could say that the deconstruction of the subject had become fashionable. While the splitting or decentring of the subject is undertaken by many thinkers of this epoch (Louis Althusser [1918–90], Lacan, Michel Foucault [1926–84], Gilles Deleuze [1925–95] and Derrida), it is with Derrida’s deconstruction of the subject that Nancy has the most affinity. Nancy speaks of a ‘sensibility’ that touched him when he read, in La voix et le phénomène (1967), about the ‘instant that blinks and closes its eye’ (PM, 27). This famous ‘blink’ operates as a criticism of Husserl who had grounded the possibility of apodictic evidence in the pure transparency of the subject in the moment of intuition. If there is a moment of blindness at the heart of the instant, then the self-conscious subject never fully coincides with itself and the circle of presence is never wholly self-enclosed. But his affinity with the Derridean deconstruction of the subject does not mean that Nancy takes over the discourse of the 1960s generation uncritically. While for many members of this generation the self-certain, self-transparent subject had simply given way to the subject as effect (of the text, of the structure, of desire, of history, of power, etc.), Nancy, on the contrary, points out how these new theoretical discourses inadvertently end up reconstituting a master subject, and that despite their attempt to have overcome the metaphysics of the subject, they nevertheless reconstitute the subject as the absolute ground of knowledge and truth. This is especially apparent in the book on Lacan, but it also forms the premise of the book on Descartes. In The Title of the Letter, Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe show that despite the radical critique of Cartesian subjectivity, Lacanian psychoanalysis still ends up developing a theory of the subject. Indeed, the lack or gap at the heart of the subject becomes the foundation of a subject certain of itself as non-coincidence, and psychoanalysis becomes the scientific discourse that masters this subject (TL, 121). The lesson is that any theoretical discourse, no matter how subversive, always risks producing a subject: the subject of the discourse, in both senses of the genitive. Put differently, no matter how split or mad the subject of discourse is, the theoretical discourse on such a subject itself presupposes a master subject, a subject that is certain of itself and is the master of the meaning of this split or mad subject. In his readings of Kant, Hegel and Descartes, as well as in his work on German Romanticism, Nancy extends his interest in the discourse of the subject. Rather than showing how the most radical displacement of the subject in the theoretical discourse of psychoanalysis ends up reinstating the value of subjectivity as mastery at a higher level, Nancy now looks to show how the presentation or exposition of the subject in what could be called its ‘classical discourses’ always already undermines the self-­ certainty and self-transparency of the subject. While discourses that seek

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to contest metaphysics are often recuperated within metaphysics (especially as soon as they become fashionable), the discourses one may think of as metaphysical already show signs of their own self-deconstruction. Nancy finds the place of this collapse or failure of foundation by focusing on the discourse itself, that is, on the manner in which it is presented or exposed. For example, in The Discourse of the Syncope, Nancy shows that the Kantian system articulates itself around a syncope. In the Critique of Pure Reason (1781), Kant finds the cornerstone of the foundation of knowledge, the condition of possibility of knowledge of object, neither in receptive sensibility nor in spontaneous understanding, but rather in the schematism that unites and articulates one with the other. Yet, even though Kant recognises the necessity of a presentation (Darstellung) of schematism, he shies away from it in the Critique itself. Nancy focuses on the way in which this failed presentation is inscribed within philosophical discourse in the form of a rupture, or, as Nancy says, a syncope. With the help of this figure of the syncope (which is not unlike that of the blink of the eye that Derrida found in Husserl), Nancy can point to a certain ‘absence’ of ground without turning this ‘lack’ itself into a foundation (as Lacanian psychoanalysis did). The presentation of the foundation skips a beat (this is one of the meanings of the word syncope) so that, in the very presentation of the philosophical discourse (which says: ‘here is the ground’), the ground is withdrawn. Nancy will repeat a similar move in his reading of Hegel in The Speculative Remark and of Descartes in Ego sum. In the early 1980s, Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe founded, at Derrida’s suggestion, the Centre de recherches philosophiques sur le politique (the Centre for Philosophical Research on the Political). Two collected volumes came out of the Centre’s work, Rejouer le politique (1981) and Le retrait de politique (1983). The most important papers from these collections are gathered in English in Retreating the Political. The aim of the Centre was to create a space for discussing the political dimension and implications of deconstruction that arose during the Cerisy-Colloquium on Derrida’s work, Les fins de l’homme (‘The Ends of Man’), which was organised by Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe in 1980. In their activity at the Centre, Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe sought to articulate a properly philosophical questioning of the political. The premise of their work was their diagnosis of a total domination of politics in the contemporary world, one that plagued not only totalitarian regimes, but also Marxism and liberal democracies. In all these cases, politics was seen as the means to bring about and regulate the social body. Only four years after its opening, Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe would close the Centre, mentioning in a letter addressed to the participants a certain



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consensus that had formed around the question of totalitarianism after the ‘end of Marxism’ (which apparently left only ‘liberal democracies’ as worthy candidate for politics), which they suggested foreclosed the possibility of a radical interrogation of the political. Some of the questions raised at the Centre, however, would remain at the forefront of Nancy’s subsequent work on community. This is especially the case in his deconstruction of sovereignty and of any metaphysical and transcendent grounding of politics, as well as his pursuit of the questions of finitude and originary relationality. The first fruit of this work was the publication of The Inoperative Community (1986), which remains today among Nancy’s best-known works. Published at a time when Derrida had not yet taken what some consider his ethical or political turn, Nancy’s text was instrumental for those thinking a deconstructive politics to diagnose what ailed the contemporary West: the legacies of fascism and other ‘immanentist’ politics, such as nationalism, as well as the ascent of liberal capitalism. As is well known, désœuvrement is a term meaning ‘unworked’ or ‘idle’, and Nancy’s task was to think community as otherwise than as a means for something beyond itself. This, in a sense, is his own take on Kant’s categorical imperative: the production of evil is where the spacing of community is denied in the name of an end beyond itself. The Inoperative Community prompted a long dialogue with Blanchot over the political. Soon after Nancy first published what would become the title essay of the book in the journal Aléa in 1983, Blanchot responded with his own short work, The Unavowable Community. Their debate would last through several of Nancy’s later texts, including The Confronted Community (2001), Maurice Blanchot, Passion politique (2011) and La communauté désavouée (2014). While much of Nancy’s replies to Blanchot concern their respective readings of Bataille and the meaning of communism, at the heart of their dialogue is Nancy’s refusal to place a Levinasian-type ethics of Other at the heart of his thinking. As he did in The Title of the Letter, Nancy argues that any supposition of an Other provides a negative theology that presupposes a given subjectivity on the other side of what Levinas calls ‘the same’. Moreover, he argues that this thinking of the Other is secondary to the very relation of self and other. In this way, Levinas and Blanchot overdetermine the relation or ‘with’ of existence in order to bring us to a face-to-face moment of peace before the Other (FT, 270). To think community means, for Nancy, thinking the alteration of the world and not something other than the world (as in Levinas’s repetition of Plato’s thinking of a ‘good beyond being’). In sum, as Nancy has put it several times, ethics does not, pace Levinas, precede ontology, but requires it. After this debate, Nancy produced a number of works in quick suc-

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cession that elaborated a complex thinking of finitude, and these works provide his lasting contributions to ontology. Though Nancy will argue that not all is political, there is little doubt that there is a symmetry between his ontological claims about the sense of the world and his earlier work on community. In 1987, Nancy completed his dissertation for the doctoral d’état on the subject of freedom, under the direction of Gérard Granel (1930–2010), who like Nancy broke with a certain Catholicism and had more than a passing interest in Marx. Derrida and Jean-François Lyotard (1924–98) also served on the jury. The book begins with a confrontation with Kantian and later ‘liberal’ considerations of freedom, but is less a political work than a thorough ontological investigation of how to think freedom in the wake of such figures as Schelling and Heidegger. Schelling’s insight was that in order to avoid abstract idealism, freedom had to be thought as non-systematisable, as that which makes impossible any given system. Heidegger’s later reading of Schelling presented his thought as still metaphysical, since it was compromised by an onto-­theology of God as ultimate ground. Nevertheless, Schelling and Heidegger agree that freedom is never presented to a given subject – not without turning that which is free into a foundation, substance or some necessary entity. Borrowing on the term ‘ek-stasis’, important to both Schelling and Heidegger, Nancy argues that existence ‘absolutely and resolutely transcends, that is, ex-ists’ (EF, 13). In this way, it always ‘stands outside’ itself, but not in the sense of having an essence from some ‘beyond’. Freedom, then, is nothing other than the exposition of existence, and the experience of freedom is the experience of the very surprise, the taking-on, of our common abandonment to it – though without countenancing a God-like ground from which we have been abandoned. The Experience of Freedom was followed in quick order by a series of texts elucidating this ontology of abandonment, with A Finite Thinking (1990), The Sense of the World (1993), Being Singular Plural (1996), La pensée dérobée (2001) and The Creation of the World or Globalization (2002) among the most important. These texts, along with The Experience of Freedom, mark Nancy’s most important comments on Heidegger’s fundamental ontology. Nancy’s works set out to demonstrate how Heidegger, at times despite himself, offers a plural ontology that questions previous notions of the subject. Against the Levinasian reading of Heidegger as ultimately falling within a long ‘philosophy of the same’ and thus unable to think the ‘Other’, Nancy argues that one can ‘reinitialise’ the Daseinanalytic from a radicalisation of Heidegger’s conception of Mitsein (beingwith). This does not mean that Nancy is an uncritical Heideggerian; his texts are littered with snide asides concerning Heideggerian pieties and the high priests of Heideggerianism. Indeed, in La possibilité d’un monde



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(2013), Nancy notes that when he first came upon Heidegger’s writing, in the form of the ‘Letter on Humanism’ (1947), it appeared to him less as a profound shift in Western thought than as something of a comedy – ‘man as “shepherd of Being”’, and so on (PM, 23). He wrote up a mock essay that pretended to be Heidegger reading the work of Auguste Comte (an idea highly unlikely given that Comte was neither ancient Greek nor German), which managed to fool his friend François Warin (1938–), who had introduced him to Heidegger. Nevertheless Warin insisted that Nancy continue his study of Heidegger, and his early reading of Being and Time would bear fruit in all of his later works. Despite disagreements with Heidegger’s destinal thinking – foremost his disastrous politics – Nancy’s works of this period are extensive ruminations on Heideggerian tropes: the event of the Ereignis, being-with, the question of the origin, the abandonment of being, and so on. ‘Heidegger’s fundamental ontology’, he writes, ‘has put us on the way [chemin] to where we are, together, whether we know it or not’ (BSP, 26). This is perhaps most apparent in Nancy’s thinking of world and of sense (sens). Where the tradition had placed the meaning or sense of being outside or beyond it (or ‘before’ it through a priori categories), Nancy finds in Heidegger a notion of the world as always already imbued with a direction and meaning, as nothing but a circulation of sense. This does not mean, for Nancy, that this sense of being is reducible to a given signification beyond being, which Heidegger himself had characterised as onto-theology and Derrida had called the ‘transcendental signified’. Nancy writes: The sense of Being is not at stake in Dasein in order to be ‘communicated’ to others; what’s put at stake is at once being-with. Or again: Being is put at stake as the ‘with’ that is absolutely indisputable. From now on, this is the minimal ontological premise. Being is at stake among us; it does not have any other meaning except the dis-position of this ‘between’. (BSP, 27, trans. mod.)

But this thinking of the world and its sense is not an abstraction from the sense of the world, hic et nunc. In both The Sense of the World and The Creation of the World, Nancy uses this ontology to lend a critical edge to his analyses of late capitalism. He does so by differentiating terms often taken interchangeably: globalisation (globalisation) and mondialisation (world-creating or world-forming). Just as any given signification must, for Nancy, disavow an overflowing sensing of the world, in globalisation, where the world is taken as a market, that is, as something that can be bought and sold, the sense of the world is reduced to the ‘accumulation and circulation of capitals’ (D-E, 30). This is a world seemingly producing

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its own dissolution. Consequently globalisation ‘takes place as if the world affected and permeated itself with a death drive that soon would have nothing else to destroy than the world itself’, though, of course, this is an event of and within the world itself (CW, 34). For Nancy, globalisation produces an immonde, translatable as something ‘unclean’ or ‘unworldly’. This immonde is productive of an ‘inverted, destructive jouissance’: an addiction to images, drugs and so on, while pleasures are divvied up in quantifiable bits, thus producing the ‘malaise of contemporary civilization’ (J, 117, 126). The upshot, however, is not that ‘only a God can save us’. Rather, we must be attentive to the ways in which this ‘malaise’ has both opened and closed potential routes out of our historical impasse. For example, while the general equivalence of all under capitalism is nothing short of horrific to the impoverished and the dispossessed as well as to our ecological being-with, this scourge of the immonde has, as Marx put it in the Communist Manifesto (1848), ‘swept away’ certain nationalisms and foundational modes of thinking, and ‘all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned.’ Thus, Nancy envisions ‘an internal displacement of technology and capital that would make an inversion of signs possible’ (CW, 49). This displacement would take up this lack of principle or foundation of the ‘insignificant equivalence’ and ‘revers[e]’ it into ‘an egalitarian, singular, and common significance’, where the capitalist production of value as profit becomes ‘the creation of meaning’ (CW, 49). If all is being ‘profaned’, Nancy has nevertheless not shied away from reinvesting Judeo-Christian terms, such as ‘creation’, in order to think a praxis confronting the injustices of the contemporary world. Beginning in the mid-1990s, Nancy began working out a ‘deconstruction of Christianity’, which in addition to more localised works on religious paintings and music led to two volumes of essays, Dis-Enclosure (2005) and Adoration (2010). The goal of these works is not to produce a deconstruction that can still believe, as in John Caputo’s more or less devotional reading of Derrida. Rather, Nancy’s deconstruction of Christianity attempts to work out how atheism is nothing other than an impulse or drive within the Abrahamic monotheisms. Again, this should not be misunderstood: it is not that atheism – such as the scientific materialism of a Richard Dawkins and other ‘new atheists’ – is but another religion, though Nancy does aver that it holds within it a monotheistic worldview. But where Derrida’s readings align sovereignty, the sacrifice of the death penalty, fraternalism and so on to an often disavowed Christian legacy, the point for Nancy is that the move from polytheism to monotheism is already an absenting of God from this world.



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The gods of polytheism animate the given world; they are here, there, everywhere. Yet the God of monotheism, especially after implacable iconoclasms of the early Middle Ages and in Islam, is not of this world. This is best seen in the long line of onto-theological conceptions of the philosophers from Aristotle to Spinoza to Kant: God is a pure form transcending this world or else providing its ethical ground, but ultimately that is all. There is no presence to this God, no animation beyond a part in a given system that just as soon need not have Him (and now doesn’t): ‘The unicity of God . . . signifies the withdrawal of this god away from presence and also away from power thus understood’ (D-E, 36). God did not die with the advent of modernity, as Friedrich Nietzsche thought, or with the loss of authority, as Hannah Arendt described. He was, Nancy argues, always already stillborn. We will have to leave aside Nancy’s rich readings of those most ‘pagan’ aspects of Christianity, namely the birth of Christ, the triune relation, as well as the long history of iconodulism (the cults of Mary in Catholicism, and so on) that survived in ‘revealed Christianity’ well into this century, which Nancy depicts as ultimately an adoration of this singular plural existence. The point for Nancy is that the withdrawal of the gods means that they should be retreated and reinvested affirmatively, given their sense as the anarchical spacing of the opening of the divine itself. This ‘dis-enclosure’ at the heart of existence reveals a world of passion and sensation, bodily passivity and interrelation, without reason and without grounded signification. This leads Nancy neither to nihilism – the denial of the positivity of the singular plural of existence – nor to positing something to replace the fallen gods (we can think of all of the varieties of modernity, including a certain scientism). Rather one can see how Nancy, almost trope by trope, reads the Christian mysteries otherwise, finding incarnation not to be the ‘God made flesh’, but as the investing of the body in terms of sense, and describing resurrection not as a second life, but as a ‘self-righting [redressement] whereby the horizontal course of a life turns into a vertical signal’ (A, 52). Nancy’s work, then, is a consummation of the Spinozist project – not the rationalistic monism of the latter’s Ethics, but as the finishing, without end, of immanence in terms of its promise and its limits. Here Nancy summarises the joyful transcendence within immanence: [S]ince sense is not ‘made’ . . . it falls to us to recognize how it takes place. It can only do so as the relation [rapport] that opens at once between us (us, both humans and all beings) and in us, which addresses us . . . to an opening in us whereby is signaled an infinite referring and a referring to the infinite: yes, we are beings of sense; yes, the world’s sense is that we are charged with sense; and yes, the truth

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of sense is neither the completion nor signifying plenitude, but rather a suspense whereby sense is at once interrupted and infinitely relaunched. (A, 52)

Nancy’s rethinking of the divine not as a transcendent ground but as the infinite opening of sense right at existence itself also leads him more and more toward an engagement with artistic practices. While Nancy has discussed the ‘essence of art’ in light of Hegel’s and Heidegger’s aesthetics and the so-called death of art in the ‘postmodern world’, the majority of his writings on art in the past decade or so take a different form to that of the philosophical treatise. First, the question ‘what is Art?’ cannot find a place in Nancy’s thinking of the singular plural of existence. Art is always already dispersed in many art forms and art forms like sensibility are always dispersed not only in the five senses but in a multiplicity of sensations. Rather than a treatise on ‘Art’, Nancy writes short texts on a variety of art forms, artworks or artists. The topics he addresses in these varied works include portraiture, film, photography and poetry, as well as extended considerations of important artists such as On Karawa or Kim Soun Gui. Key essays on art are collected in Multiple Arts (2006), The Evidence of Film (2001), Listening (2002) and The Pleasure at Drawing (2009). In each case, the role of the art form or the artwork is not to represent, imitate or copy but to expose the event or passage of a singular material existence. But Nancy is not merely content to write ‘about’ works of art, to treat them as object of interpretation. His texts often ‘accompany’ the works, both exposing them and remaining exposed to them. One of the most explicit examples of this collaboration (co-labouring) is the one with choreographer Mathilde Monnier, which gave rise not only to two co-authored books (Dehors la danse, 2001; Allitérations, 2005) but also to a ‘danced conference’, where Nancy read a text to accompany the movement of bodies (or where the movements of the bodies accompanied Nancy’s thoughts). This experience of artistic practice is also for Nancy a mode of experience, of remaining exposed to the limit of philosophical thinking and writing. And given the importance of the limit, as the place of the even of sense in Nancy’s thinking, we should not underestimate these encounters between the thinker and what remains outside of his thought while always weighing on it. In a recent interview, Nancy summarises his sentiment with regard to artistic practice, which should remind readers of his earliest writings, which he believed tended toward a ‘literary activism’: I always feel like I am, in my own work, in my own writing of text, too violently thrown back to the side of the concept, that is, to the side of a discourse that would be without grip on the real. . . . The more time passes and the more I envy the writer, the painter, the musician or the dancer because I have the feeling that



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these people succeed in doing or creating things, not that bite into the real, but that are real! (PM, 28)

Nancy has not just been a writer on art, but its ‘subject’. The 2004 film L’Intrus, written and directed by Claire Denis (1946–), builds on and responds to Nancy’s remarkable and moving autobiographical essay of the same name. In 1990, just as Nancy’s writings were bringing him to wide attention, his heart began failing, requiring him to pull back from academic activities. Eventually, a heart transplant was required, and Nancy’s text goes through more than just the easily predictable claim about how this transplant at the heart of him disrupts certain notions of the self. Denis’s film and Nancy’s essay deal with the most profound questions of life and living on (though the protagonist of Denis’s film has a much darker ordeal, turning to the black market to find a replacement heart). Here Nancy describes the failure of his heart, and then narrates the moment where his name is inscribed on a waiting list for donors: I will never ask the question: how does one decide, and who decides, when a single available organ is suited to more than one potential graftee? The demand here is known to exceed the supply. . . . From the first, my survival is inscribed in a complex process woven through with strangers and strangeness. What must we all agree upon, in the final decision? A decision regarding a survival that cannot be considered from the point of view of strict necessity: in this case, where would one find one? Moreover, what would oblige me to survive? This last question opens onto many others: Why me? Why survive, generally speaking? What does it mean ‘to survive’? Is it even a suitable term? In what respect is the length of one’s life a good? I am fifty years old at this point: but fifty years old is young only with reference to the population of a developed country at the end of the twentieth century. . . . Dying at the age of fifty was in no way scandalous only two or three centuries ago. Why today does the word ‘scandalous’ come to mind in this context? Why, and how, is there no longer for us – we of the ‘developed countries’ of the year 2000 – a ‘right’ [juste] time to die . . . Where are the right measure [justesse] and justice in all this? Who measures them, who pronounces them? Everything in this affair comes to me from elsewhere and outside – just as have my heart and my body, which are an elsewhere ‘in’ me. (C, 123–4)

In the more than two decades since the transplant, even in the midst of other bouts of illness, Nancy has affirmed this life and the decision of another for him through the manner of the philosopher: to write, to think, to prod the public space of his native France with important questions about its often reactionary politics as well as on all the important ques-

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tions of life. Barely a year passes without one or two new Nancy books making their way to audiences both public and academic. These writings are searing in their recognition of the measurelessness of existence and merciless in critiquing a culture of equivalency, and in each case are a performative and moving testament to the continuing survival of his life and thought. Marie-Eve Morin and Peter Gratton

A ABANDONMENT Gilbert Leung In his distinctive concern for etymology, Nancy notes that abandonment contains the semantic unit bandon, which is ‘an order, a prescription, a decree, a permission, and the power that holds these freely at its disposal’ (BP, 44). A ban in this context should be understood as a general proclamation of the sovereign rather than as a specific prohibition. To abandon, therefore, is to be delivered over to the sovereign ban and, as such, one is always abandoned to a law. What does such a law prescribe? Nothing but abandonment. Both law and abandonment are conceived ontologically, where ‘abandonment remains the sole predicament of being’ (BP, 36). Given the multiple ways of thinking and speaking being, abandoned being is abandonment to the very possibility of such multiplicity, to the law of existence that opens onto the world in its efflorescence. At the same time, abandonment implies the exhaustion of transcendentals, the terminal insufficiency of any constructed sense of originary being. As such, the being of human being is in abandonment to the extent that it enters a forgetful oblivion, ‘to be abandoned is to be left with nothing to keep hold of and no calculation’ (BP, 39). Being abandoned to the entirety of law means abandonment cannot lose respect for law. This is not a forced respect, itself an important term in understanding abandonment. This is how it is; ‘“it cannot do otherwise” means it cannot be otherwise’ (BP, 44). The idea of respect, from the Latin respicere, means to look back. Abandonment is therefore the glance, regard or, better still, the consideration towards what comes before abandonment, that is to say, the considered relation to law in its totality. To lose respect for law would be to lose the very relation that is its sense, ‘by respecting

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the law, abandonment respects itself, so to speak (and the law respects it)’ (BP, 45). If the law commands nothing but abandonment, then this can now be more precisely articulated as the command to see or behold being in its abandonment. This is so in spite of the impossibility of containing being within a partial vision. Being, to this extent, remains invisible. Yet being is still there (the ‘y’ of il y a), which means being is also here and the ‘[here] opens a spacing, clears an area upon which being is thrown, abandoned’ (BP, 47). Abandonment is thus the inaugural throwing of being, from the very birth of being, and there is nothing upon which abandoned being relies, which makes it non-dialectical, and nothing to which abandoned being can go back, which renders being in a permanent state of being born (BP, 37). As such, abandonment is the dereliction of being or the forsaking of being, which enables us to speak in general terms of autonomy, freedom and the possibility of thinking.

ABSENTHEISM (see ATHEISM) ADORATION Matthew Ellison Adoration (2010, translated 2013) is the title of the second volume of Nancy’s deconstruction of Christianity, after Dis-Enclosure (La Déclosion), which appeared in 2005 (translated 2007). In a sense, the second part of the deconstruction of Christianity offers a response to the first: where dis-enclosure refers to the movement of thought by which Christianity opens the closure of reason, adoration names the gesture of addressing oneself to the opening thus brought to light. Central to this ‘dis-enclosure of reason’ is the thesis that Christianity is fundamentally marked by a self-deconstructive ‘becoming-atheist’. Christianity, by virtue of its doctrine of the incarnation, contains a ‘posture of thought whereby “God” demands to be effaced or to efface himself’ (A, 29). The result of this is an ‘outside that opens in the world, or rather opens it to itself, opens it as such, as world’ (A, 31). Adoration is Nancy’s name for our relation to this infinite excess of sense in the absence of a transcendental guarantor. In Adoration Nancy continues his approach, first developed in DisEnclosure, of mobilising the intellectual resources of Christianity against the closure of Enlightenment rationality. Where the latter had sought to



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close itself off from any kind of ‘outside’, Christianity, and specifically its notion of adoration, is of interest for Nancy insofar as it offers a way of relating to this outside (to the infinite) and resisting the appropriative tendencies of reason. Such a move will allow Nancy instead to think reason not merely as calculation, but in terms of a drive (pulsion, Trieb; he makes reference to this word in Immanuel Kant [1724–1804], Sigmund Freud [1856–1939] and Jacques Lacan [1901–81]) toward the incalculable (see jouissance). From the outset Nancy is careful to distinguish between adoration and forms of religious or mythic veneration (see myth). Where veneration is directed toward inner-worldly idols and therefore turns away from the infinite, adoration has no other object than the infinite itself. In the absence of any God, adoration consists in ‘[n]ot addressing itself to anything, to any being [être] or being [étant], and thus addressing nothing’ (A, 74). This ‘nothing’ is the opening of the world (or of worlds) as such, an opening of sense which for Nancy is as ‘risky, as adventurous as it is fortuitous, as dangerous as it is precious’ (A, 15). The Latin adoratio means ‘the word as it is addressed’ (ad-oratio) and refers to an elevated register of language, as opposed to sermo, ordinary language. It is a ‘word whose content is inseparable, if not indiscernible, from the address’. What is important in the idea of adoration is less any determinate content of speech than a conduct, a certain way of relating to the infinity of sense. Strictly speaking, then, adoration is addressed to what exceeds any particular address. A composition of ‘prayer, invocation, address, appeal, plea, imploring, celebration, dedication, salutation’ (A, 18), adoration addresses the opening of sense which for Nancy can only exist as shared. It is therefore at the same time ‘the recognition and the affirmation of the existence of the other’ (A, 18). Nancy refers to Jacques Derrida’s (1930–2004) idea of the ‘salut without salvation’, which he glosses as the manner in which we ‘recognize one another as being responsible [répondant] for sense’ (A, 53; Derrida 2005a: 310). Ultimately, for Nancy what is ‘worthy of adoration’ is the fact that ‘there is no sense of sense’ (A, 12), which is to say that sense refers to no higher being outside of itself. The world we share simply is, without preordained meaning or destination. According to Nancy, while philosophy has traditionally struggled in its attempts at ‘opening up the feeling of the infinite’ (‘DEG’, 312), there are certain texts which contain the germ of such a thought. One such moment he cites is Kant’s ‘Religion Within the Boundaries of Mere Reason’, where adoration (Anbetung) is described as the ‘annihilating mood [vernichtende Stimmung]’ one feels when confronting ‘the profound wisdom of divine creation’ (Kant 2001: 212, Ak. 6:197, trans. mod.). Nancy ‘atheologically’ transposes this as the act of relating to the ‘bare existence of the world’,

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the creation ex nihilo that infinitely ‘surpasses the capacity of thought to seize upon it’ (‘DEG’, 310). Such a feeling for the infinite is, of course, not absent from G. W. F. Hegel (1770–1831); in this regard Nancy also mentions the notion of Gelassenheit in Martin Heidegger (1889– 1976) (itself borrowed from Christian mystic Meister Eckhart [c. 1260– c. 1328]), the non-appropriative letting-be or ‘releasement’ of beings in their indeterminacy (see Heidegger 2010: 1–104). What these thoughts call to mind is a kind of prostration, a stance Nancy affirms wholeheartedly: ‘the philosopher must prostrate himself: as a philosopher, he must know that reason prostrates itself before what in itself surpasses it infinitely’ (A, 79). Just as Kant prostrates himself (before ‘the starry firmament above him and the moral law within him’, as he famously writes), so too does Nancy’s conception of adoration call for such an attitude of humility, a kind of religious disposition without religion. Nancy’s development of the concept of adoration is consistent with an approach that runs through many of his works: that of reappropriating the metaphysical or theological concepts of the tradition – or what Derrida would call ‘paleonymy’ – and reading them through the terms of his ontology. As is also evident in his use of the apparently theologically ‘tainted’ notions of ‘creation’, ‘god’ and ‘the divine’, Nancy’s treatment of adoration is an attempt to turn the language of Christianity against itself for the purposes of his thinking of sense. Such an approach is highly provocative, and some critics, above all Derrida, have raised concerns that Nancy’s reworking of traditional concepts risks reinscribing metaphysical modes of thought (in this regard one could also point to Nancy’s writings on community, fraternity and touch) (Derrida 2005b: 56–62; Derrida and Nancy 2014: 58–9). Nancy is of course conscious of adoration’s history, loaded as it is with ‘dubious piety and worldly frivolity’ (A, 19), and aware of the fact that his appeal to it may open him up to derision and even ridicule. Nancy is equally aware of the historical memory of language, however, and he argues that philosophy cannot simply forget old words and invent new ones. The very notion of adoration in fact articulates what we can take to be a response to Derrida’s concerns: ‘To “adore”’, Nancy writes, ‘must also and perhaps most of all be a way of addressing differently words that we can only rarely change or replace as we might like. A neologism is a technical innovation, a useful tool, but it only enters into language if it is taken up by usage’ (A, 19, trans. mod.). Being essentially the ‘attention to the movement of sense, to the possibility of an address that would be utterly new’ (A, 20), the concept of adoration therefore offers a kind of methodological justification not only for Nancy’s deconstruction of Christianity, but also for his ‘paleonymic’ approach as a whole.



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Adoration is the gesture of relating to the remainder of dis-enclosed reason. As that which addresses the infinite excess of sense, it is another name for what Nancy calls thinking (A, 13). Thinking is always a praxis for Nancy, a way of holding oneself in relation to the risk and chance of existence, to the possibility of something else. Adoration thus has an eminently practical import. As a mode of addressing oneself to what exceeds calculation, Nancy claims that adoration is an example of the new form of evaluation called for by Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), and therefore a possible way of overcoming nihilism (a constant preoccupation of Nancy’s later works) (A, 74). Adoration is not merely a theoretical exercise; neither is it simply aesthetic, ethical or political. Rather, Nancy claims, it is addressed toward what exceeds these registers: ‘If my project is neither about rituals nor a speculative attitude for philosophers, what is it? First of all, I seek to convey an attitude, a spiritual attitude: yes, we are open to the infinite. Let’s say it, let’s show it. It’s palpable, it’s not just “words”’ (‘DEG’, 306).

AGAMBEN, GIORGIO Bryan Lueck Giorgio Agamben (1942–) is an Italian philosopher best known for his work on sovereignty and the state of exception, but who has written on a wide variety of topics, including language, aesthetics, ethics and metaphysics. Some of Agamben’s most important work takes up themes from Nancy’s thought, sometimes explicitly and at other times more indirectly. Agamben engages Nancy’s thought most directly in his book Homo Sacer (1995), where he argues that abandonment, an idea Nancy had developed in the essay ‘Abandoned Being’, constitutes ‘the originary juridicopolitical relation’ (Agamben 1998: 109). Nancy advances a conception of abandonment on the basis of its etymological root, bandon, which has the sense of ‘an order, a prescription, a decree, a permission, and the power that holds these freely at its disposal’ (BP, 43–4). To abandon is to remit or turn over to the ban of a sovereign power. In abandonment, one is not answerable to any particular, contentful law, but rather to ‘law as such and in its entirety’ (BP, 44). The point that Agamben emphasises in the account of sovereignty he develops in Homo Sacer is that the law applies in its withdrawal. The sovereign, according to Carl Schmitt’s (1888–1985) famous definition, is ‘he who decides on the state of exception’ (Schmitt 2006: 5). As such, the sovereign occupies an ambiguous position, standing both within the political order (as the one who gives its law) and outside

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it (as the one authorised to suspend the legal order). In the sovereign, then, we find an excess of potential law over any particular posited law. Even if the sovereign does not make use of this excess, it remains present potentially. The excess of potential law corresponds to what Nancy had called ‘the law as such and in its totality’. To live within a political state, structured by the logic of sovereignty, is to be delivered over to a pure potentiality of law, which ‘is valid precisely insofar as it commands nothing and has become unrealizable’ (Agamben 1999a: 127). Agamben believes it is important to move beyond the conception of abandonment that Nancy articulates, since that conception ‘does nothing other than repeat the ontological structure’ of sovereignty (Agamben 1998: 59). A second major Nancian theme that Agamben takes up is that of community. Although the text makes no explicit mention of Nancy, Agamben’s The Coming Community (1990) can certainly be understood as responding to the problematic that Nancy developed in The Inoperative Community. Nancy’s task in that book is to think community outside the model of immanentism, that is, outside the ideal of the community as ‘organic communion with its own essence’, where ‘each member identifies himself only through the supplementary mediation of his identification with the living body of the community’ (IC, 9). Nancy argues that community is not, and could never have been, the kind of organic whole, fully present to itself, that is posited by the ideal of immanentism. Rather, community is constituted by the interruption of that presence. Agamben undertakes a similar project in The Coming Community, advancing a conception of community that would not be mediated ‘by any condition of belonging (being red, being Italian, being Communist)’ but that would be constituted rather by the co-belonging of singularities without identity (Agamben 1993: 85). In later works, including Homo Sacer, Means Without End (1996) and The Time That Remains (2000), Agamben makes explicit use of the idea of inoperativity, which must not be understood either as ‘the simple absence of work’ or as ‘a sovereign and useless form of negativity’, but rather as ‘a generic mode of potentiality’ (Agamben 1998: 62). Community, he argues, must be rethought on the basis of a conception of human beings as ‘beings that cannot be defined by any proper ­operation – that is, as beings of pure potentiality that no identity or vocation can possibly exhaust’ (Agamben 2000: 141).



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ANIMAL Jason E. Smith It is not often that Nancy speaks of the animal as such, as a theme or concept to be elaborated. Rather, his allusions to the animal are often embedded in references to Martin Heidegger’s (1889–1976) propositions regarding the animal in his famous 1929–30 lecture course, the Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics. As is well known, Heidegger contends that unlike human Dasein, which ‘has’ a world, and the stone, which does not, the animal is ‘poor in world’: it has a world in the mode of being deprived of one. Jacques Derrida (1930–2004) developed a deconstructive reading of these propositions in Heidegger’s seminar, placing particular pressure on the specific ‘poverty’ of the animal’s relation to the world. This would be the beginning of a long sequence of reflections on animality that would result in The Animal Therefore that I Am (2006). In The Experience of Freedom (1988), Nancy would himself join this debate without explicit reference to Derrida, wagering that – in a certain sense – it can be argued that even the stone cannot simply be said to be without world. In this book, Nancy addresses the mode of presence of the stone through the figure of freedom, questioning the distinction between the freedom of Dasein and what he calls the ‘freedom of beings in general’, a freedom in which even the stone participates. ‘In this sense’, Nancy writes, ‘the stone is free’ (EF, 159). Two years later in The Sense of the World (1993), Nancy will once again adopt this strategy of using the example of the stone to intervene in the polemic launched by Derrida on the question of the animal, radicalising Derrida’s deconstructive approach by proposing this time that, to compress Nancy’s formulations, the world makes sense not only for the animal but even for the stone (SW, 54–63). Nancy is speaking more generally of what he calls ‘the world beyond humanity’, but the stone once again serves as a privileged or strategic example of all those beings beyond the human that are present to the world. This use of this example generates two supplementary but decisive reflections: on the one hand, a conception of materiality as already inhabited by sense, and on the other hand a conception of sense determined first and foremost as contact, that is, exposure, nearness, spacing and ‘tact’. This reflection on touch as tact, tangency and contact – keeping with Nancy’s commitment to a certain materialism, these figures will be linked to the atomists’ conception of the world as arising from the unpredictable contact between atoms, the clinamen – will in turn lead to subsequent developments in Nancy’s thought on the theme and figure of touch. This theme will be in turn identified and interrogated by Derrida in his long book on Nancy and the

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sense of ‘touch’, Le Toucher (2000), a work that takes as one of its targets Nancy’s strategy of using the key example of the stone in his deconstructive re-elaboration of concepts such as sense, world and freedom. We can argue, then, that though Nancy rarely speaks of the animal as such, it is the debate around Heidegger’s propositions on the animal that lead to some of the most important developments in Nancy’s later thought.

AREALITY Marie-Eve Morin To be areal means to have the quality or nature of an area, a surface. But, as Nancy points out, if we take the ‘a’ of areal as a private alpha, then the word also serves ‘to suggest a lack of reality, or rather a slight, faint, suspended reality’ (C, 43). Nancy speaks of the areality of the mouth in Ego sum (ES, 163) and discusses the areality of the subject of right in ‘Lapsus judicii’ (FT, 165–9). The logic of arealisation is described in more detail in The Inoperative Community (1986) when Nancy is discussing the understanding of the relation between the community of lovers and society as a whole in Georges Bataille (1897–1962) (see love). Nancy thinks that Bataille remained unable to properly link the exclusive community of lovers (or artists) to the broader social community of equals (see equality). The logic of arealisation is supposed to overcome this problem. That the community is arealised means, first, that it is beyond the dichotomy between the real and the irreal (in the forms of the imaginary, the non-existent, but also of the ideal): community is not some ideal to be realised. On the contrary, community has to be, or is always, arealised. This arealisation (in the other sense of areal) relates to the nature of community as area, as formed space; it means that a community is spread out. A community is ‘not a territory [not something delimited and closed], but the areality of an ecstasy’ (IC, 20). Hence, Nancy speaks of a double arealisation of ecstasy and of community, the play between them consisting in the resistance to both immanence and fusion. Ecstasy opens up the subject and places it outside of itself: it is the resistance to immanence. If community is the area or playground where this ecstasy takes place or opens, then it means that community limits ecstasy, ensures that the ecstatic ‘subject’ does not pour itself out into the exterior, since what it encounters in its ecstasy is another ecstasy. Hence community, or the sharing of ecstasy, is what resists the rebuilding of immanence at a higher level. A consequence of this logic of arealisation is that there cannot be any ‘private’ community (e.g. of lovers) that is not already ‘woven, areal-



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ized, or inscribed’ (IC, 20) in a larger community, that is, in the social and political community. In Corpus (1992), Nancy applies the logic of areality to the body. The body’s reality consists in its areality. It has the reality of a swerve, a displacement or a vibration that ‘localizes’ the body (C, 70), and not that of a stable and purely immanent substance closed in upon itself. To be a substance means to be able to exist (or at least to be conceived to exist) independently of anything else. Hence, a substance has the structure of the point without extension. A body, by contrast, is necessarily extended or areal. At the same time, extension or areality is not the property of that which is spread out in mathematical space; it is an intension, tension, vibration or frequency (C, 17, 95, 134; SW, 58). An areal body is the opening or spacing of a place of existence or of the taking-place of sense (C, 15, 119; BSP, 18). Nancy gives the example of a newborn baby (but the phenomenon described applies to each body that comes to presence in each and every place): ‘when a baby is born, there’s a new “there.” Space, extension in general, is extended and opened. The baby is nowhere else but there. It isn’t in a sky, out of which it has descended to be incarnated. It’s spacing; this body is the spacing of “there”’ (C, 132–3). Furthermore, the areal body as the body that senses, or what Nancy also calls the enjoyed or delighted body (le corps joui), is a zoned areality, an areality made up of areal zones that open unto or touch each other (C, 117–19).

ARENDT, HANNAH Yasemin Sari Hannah Arendt (1906–75) was a German-Jewish political thinker and a student of Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) and Karl Jaspers (1883–1969). She left Germany in 1933 and lived in France until she immigrated to the United States in 1941. She taught at several American universities, including the New School for Social Research in New York until her death in 1975. Her works include The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), The Human Condition (1958), Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963), On Revolution (1963), Men in Dark Times (1968), Between Past and Future: Eight Exercises in Political Thought (1968), On Violence (1970) and The Life of the Mind (published posthumously in 1978). Hannah Arendt is the philosopher of natality, promoting novelty by way of emphasising principled political action, which manifests the human being’s freedom. Arendt’s ontology of natality – by which she understands the ability to bring something new into the world – has been

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significant for twentieth-century political thought. While her work covers a range of questions concerning freedom, revolution, violence, power, action and judgement, to name a few, her approach in understanding these matters is best captured in the prologue to her work The Human Condition: What I propose in the following is a reconsideration of the human condition from the vantage point of our newest and our most recent fears. This, obviously, is a matter of thought, and thoughtlessness – the heedless recklessness or hopeless confusion or complacent repetition of ‘truths’ which have become trivial and empty – seems to me among the outstanding characteristics of our time. What I propose, therefore, is very simple: it is nothing more than to think what we are doing. (Arendt 1998: 5)

While Nancy’s engagement with Arendt’s work in several of his works – for example in The Experience of Freedom (1988), ‘The BeingWith of the Being-There’ (2003) and in his texts collected in Retreating the Political (1997) – seems to be critical, there are striking similarities between Nancy’s thinking and Arendt’s understanding of the political, which have led commentators to speak of ‘Nancy’s secret Arendtianism’ (Marchart 2012: 184 n. 25). At the heart of Nancy’s and Arendt’s thinking lies the question of how freedom exists in the world. Articulating freedom as a worldly phenomenon, both Arendt and Nancy distance themselves from the tradition of thinking of freedom as the freedom of the will, and hence rethink or undo the notion of sovereignty that is linked to this notion of freedom. For them, the manifestation of freedom does not lay claim to the sovereignty of the subject, but happens in the plurality and equality of individuals. Arendt articulates such freedom as proper to ‘all political life’, insofar as political action ‘corresponds to the human condition of plurality, to the fact that men [sic], not Man, live on the earth and inhabit the world’ (Arendt 1998: 7). Understood politically, Arendt is not concerned with dichotomies and oppositions, but with the problem of the ‘in-between’ of our existence. She formulates the ‘between’ as that which separates us, and what keeps us together at the same time. For this reason, Arendt’s political thinking can be understood as an attempt to recover what she calls the ‘reason of being’ of the political – or what she otherwise calls freedom. Indeed she contends that when understood in instrumental terms, that is, as a kind of production (poiēsis), the political space turns into a realm of violence where human freedom cannot occur. Similarly, for Nancy, politics is not poiēsis, but praxis (EF, 78). It is in this sense that freedom is a beginning, where he understands ‘the task of politics as the liberation of freedom, as the (re)opening of the space of its



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inaugural sharing’ (EF, 79). Arendt’s influence on Nancy can be clearly seen in his articulation of the ‘opening of space of the political’, where ‘this space is opened by freedom – initial, inaugural, and arising – and freedom there presents itself in action’ (EF, 78). For Arendt, similarly, ‘to be free and to act are the same’ (Arendt 2006: 151) and action, the ‘sharing of deed and words’, is ‘the one activity which constitutes’ the public world that is common to us (Arendt 1998: 198). This public space is the ‘intangible inbetween’ of human existence, a ‘space of appearance’, which, in Arendt’s words, ‘comes into being wherever men are together in the manner of speech and action, and therefore predates and precedes all formal constitution of the public realm and the various forms of government, that is, the various forms in which the public realm can be organized’ (Arendt 1998: 199). Free space comes into being whenever people act together, and does not subsist either before or after. Here Nancy seems to agree with Arendt, even though he casts his own understanding of ‘free space’ against Arendt’s understanding of public, which, as ‘given free space’, ‘takes the form of an institution or of a preliminary foundation, unless it should be understood as the very foundation of this shared areality’ (EF, 145, my emphasis) (see areality). Nancy’s interpretation of Arendt’s articulation of free space can give us pause here. After all, if Arendt is indeed talking about ‘a given free space’, it may be difficult to find any similarity with Nancy’s. Yet, if Arendt’s free space is understood as the ‘foundation of this shared areality’, then what remains foundational for both is the relational element by which a public space is formed. In their ‘The “Retreat” of the Political’, Nancy and Philippe LacoueLabarthe (1940–2007) turn to Arendt’s criticism of totalitarianism, which is marked by the dissolution of politics in mere management or organisation ‘of the social body’ (RP, 127). When life is identified with the political, when ‘everything is political’, the problem of ‘total domination’ of politics (la politique) arises, whether it is in so-called totalitarian or democratic regimes (see democracy). This closure of the political motivates for both Nancy and Arendt the necessity of differentiating between ‘politics’ and ‘the political’, in order to rethink the latter in terms of relation and plurality, hence, freedom in the world. To this condition of plurality corresponds what Arendt calls ‘power’, which is ‘what keeps the public realm, the potential space of appearance between acting and speaking men, in existence’ (Arendt 1998: 200–1). In a similar vein, for Nancy, power (the power that is needed to struggle for the world against the unworld of globalisation [CW, 55]) belongs neither to each individual nor to the collective as a whole, but rather appears only in or as a collectivity, exists only in the plural (BSP, 30). Hence, Nancy’s thinking, and despite what

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he himself thinks, appears very much in line with Arendt’s articulation of freedom as an occurrence in space, in public, and only meaningful with others.

ART/AESTHETICS Martta Heikkilä Art is an integral part of Nancy’s philosophical inquiry, as the realm of art contributes to some of his central ontological notions. Yet, for Nancy, art is nevertheless radically different from philosophy, since art is characterised by the fact that it is irreducible to any kind of supersensible idea. Correspondingly, there is no unity of the concept of ‘art’. Instead, art is divided into the endless plurality of its concrete, material occurrences. When Nancy examines art, the results belong neither to traditional studies of aesthetics nor to the history of art, although he offers insightful readings of works coming from various stages in the tradition of the fine arts. More than anything, Nancy can be seen as a successor to the avantgarde philosophies of art, which have, in the first place, questioned the relation between art and the notion of epistemological ‘truth’ or mimesis, that is, the idea of an underlying reality which art would be able to present. According to Nancy’s central claim, art is not identifiable with nor can it be totalised under any single notion of truth. Rather, in art the oppositions of truth and untruth come to be dislocated. In question is the truth of art itself, which surpasses all representation. Nancy gives his most sustained discussion of the ontology of art in the essay ‘Why Are There Several Arts and Not Just One?’ in The Muses (1994). In examining the problem of the origin of arts, he has encountered the question of finding the ontological foundation of art. While the traditional notion of art, Nancy claims, is based on the distinction between the alleged one art and its division, he understands art as a singular notion. This is to say that art and the arts are fundamentally diversified, and therefore do not have an origin with which they could be identified. What is called ‘art’ is grounded neither in the totality of artistic practices, nor in the history of art, nor in the division of the five senses, but in a primordial difference and diffraction within art and all the endlessly varied forms it has taken and will take. In fact, Nancy states, this diffraction extends to the untouchable end of the notion of ‘art’ in its heterogeneous occurrences. Just as there is no being in general but only the singular existence of existing things, there is no art ‘in general’ which would grant a uniqueness or a unity of origin to art. Instead, the key to analysing art lies in its mate-



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rial existence, which makes possible the plurality of the instances of art. As a result, the concept of ‘art’, for Nancy, is diversified and thus plural from the beginning. Ontologically, the foundation of art must be sought in the fact of its existence here and now, in front of us. The singular existence of art is also what Nancy calls its ‘material facticity’. In all arts, matter gives form to itself. This is the transcendental condition of the arts. Matter, again, is difference, through which the existence of a thing as something becomes possible – in other words, the fact that art presents a figure or a form. Apart from this, Nancy takes an interest in the traditional assumptions concerning the correspondence of the different arts and the five senses, and goes on to question this alleged distribution. The arts and the senses both involve discontinuity and heterogeneity, and therefore the domains of individual arts – visual arts, literature, music, theatre, cinema, dance and so forth – cannot be identified with any particular sense. Therefore, the thought of the uniqueness of arts forms an essential part of his view. In each of the arts, different sensuous scales are evoked. However, at this point Nancy does not speak of synesthesia but argues that the different sensuous registers are originally involved in all arts. Essentially linked with the ontological notion of art’s original division, one finds Nancy’s conclusion concerning the nature of artistic presentation. According to one of Nancy’s basic ideas, art is ‘the presentation of presentation’. Art presents the fact that there is art and that there are several arts – that there is presentation, as he states in The Muses (M, 34). In other words, a work of art exceeds every representation in that it is the emergence or arrival of its own figure or form. This event presents us art in all its ‘splendour’. A work of art has the ability to shock us since the presence of every work of art is incomparable and unprecedented in that it comes from no other presence. Like being, art presents itself as a surprise. It makes something visible without reproducing anything that would exist previously. For this reason, art offers a sense of presence that touches us (see touch) beyond all discourse, philosophical or otherwise, by addressing us through non-mimetic means. What art brings about is not a representation of a thing. Rather, art is able to make its own form come into presence in an original fashion. Thus, art has to be thought from its essential groundlessness, without the mimetic sense of the reproducing of a more ‘original’ presence, whether an object or an idea. However, art is something that transcends our sensuous perception, and therefore Nancy’s inquiry can be called post-phenomenological. Nancy discusses art in numerous books, essays and catalogue texts, drawing on the philosophy of G. W. F. Hegel (1770–1831), Immanuel

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Kant (1724–1804), Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), Martin Heidegger (1889–1976), Georges Bataille (1897–1962), Maurice Blanchot (1907–2003) and Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908–61), with a selection of references to art theories and the history of art. Apart from philosophical sources, literary authors, visual artists and film directors have had a decided influence on Nancy’s writings. In the 1970s and 1980s, literature marked the most important art for Nancy. He discussed literary themes on the basis of predominantly French authors, with an emphasis on presentation, style and the general framework of Dichtung: poetry or ‘fiction’. From the 1980s, Nancy has written extensively on visual arts – painting, drawing and photography. The point of departure of his analyses may be the figurative content of the chosen picture, the artist’s work as a whole, or a markedly philosophical approach to art. These inquiries often overcome the boundaries of the artistic period and medium of the artworks. In the 1990s and 2000s, Nancy’s interests have expanded to cinema, music and theatre. For example, together with fellow philosophers Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe (1940–2007) and Bernard Stiegler (1952–), Nancy appears in the film The Ister (2004), directed by David Barison and Daniel Ross, and Nancy’s essay on his heart transplant, L’Intrus (2000), was the source of inspiration for the script of Claire Denis’s (1946–) film with the same name (2004).

ARTWORK Martta Heikkilä For Nancy, ‘art’ and ‘work of art’ are inseparable concepts. His fundamental claim concerning the ontology of art is that there is no such thing as ‘art’ as such, but that art is heterogeneous from the start. No more than Nancy supposes that being is ‘in general’, no longer is there art ‘in general’. What we call ‘art’ must be reduced to its indefinite particular manifestations – that is, the singular existence of concrete artworks. If art has its origin in distance and difference, then what is called art always exists in its multiplicity, that is, in singular arts and in singular genres and, finally, even in particular artworks and their features. For Nancy, singularity in art is something that takes place in the presence of the artwork. This means that art exists only in fragments. Therefore, Nancy often approaches the phenomena of art starting from particular artworks, from practically every artistic discipline. Formal or art-historical interpretation of the artwork itself is often of lesser concern than the analysis of the work’s sensible, material qualities, singular fea-



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tures, expression, associations generated by the artworks, as well as their narrative contents. Artworks evoke ontological issues, which can be particular not only to the work at hand but also to the artistic genre in a more general sense or even to all art. Therefore, Nancy pays careful attention to the particularities of singular artworks: how their concrete features appear to him, how they refer to similar works or the œuvre of the author, but, most importantly, how they raise philosophical questions. In this, Nancy is interested, for instance, in Caravaggio’s painting Death of the Virgin (1605–6), Valerio Adami’s drawing Jacques Derrida (2004) and Gustave Flaubert’s novel The Temptation of Saint Antony (1895) alike. In all of these, one can find an intertwinement of the characteristics of the singular artwork and the reflection about its position in a larger context, which may be that of the specific art form or the body of works of the artist. When considering artworks, Nancy takes an interest in their distinctive particularities and traits that give the works their inimitable character. This is in line with his statement that art and the artwork only exist in the differences of their details, engendered by their endlessly proliferating techniques of production. The style of Nancy’s art analyses is often literary or essayistic and often fragmentary. Nancy relies on this view in saying that a work of art, in its groundless and shattered existence, cannot be a symbol or representation of being, and thus is not related to truth ‘in the sense philosophy would have liked’, as he says in the essay ‘Art, a Fragment’ (SW, 137–8). Art can, according to Nancy, only present the singular senses of multiple sites for existence. Since he resists any idea of ‘art’ conceived of as a totality, art cannot appear anywhere except in its unique instances. Yet Nancy considers the ‘work of art’ a somewhat controversial concept for the reason that the ‘work’ implies for him the possibility of displaying a totality with a common substance: a total figure or a total representation. In the concept of work Nancy sees a political connotation. He associates ‘work’ with the thought of a unified world view, which he saw to be present in Martin Heidegger’s (1889–1976) notion of the work of art. For Nancy, the Heideggerian ‘work of art’ is able to present a unified picture that may be used for political purposes, suggested by Heidegger in ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’ (1935–6). For Heidegger the work is only what it is in the world that it opens, whereas Nancy is seeking a ‘workless’ or ‘unworking’ work (désœuvrement), a work that refuses to create itself as a total work (œuvre). Hence, Nancy proposes an artwork that would offer itself as a permanently open whole, the concept of art remaining undecided and lacking anything that might unify it. The ground for Nancy’s concept of an artwork thus remains without

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ground – its existence can be found in singularity only, which is to say that nothing like medium, technique, style, age or mimetic truth will give artwork a unity or an essence. This is reflected by Nancy’s detailed analyses of the singular artworks. In these, the ontology of the art vis-à-vis the existence of a particular work is experimented in a way that often resembles Jacques Derrida’s (1930–2004) idea of the impossibility of defining the ‘frames’ of an artwork in The Truth in Painting (1978). In his books such as The Muses (1994), The Ground of the Image (2003), Noli Me Tangere (2003), Multiple Arts (2006), À plus d’un titre (2007) and The Pleasure in Drawing (2009), as well as in a number of essays, Nancy analyses visual arts from cave paintings to Renaissance, Baroque and modernist portraits by Raphael (1483–1520), Titian (c. 1488–1576) and Johannes Gumpp (1626–1728), as well as Paul Cézanne (1839–1906), Amedeo Modigliani (1884–1920) and Sonia Delaunay (1885–1979); nude pictures from Early Renaissance to the present day in a variety of techniques; photographs by Pedro E. Guerrero (1917–2012) (‘Lux Lumen Splendor’) and by Nancy himself (‘Georges’); contemporary art from the drawings of Simon Hantaï (1922–2008) and Valerio Adami (1935–) to conceptual paintings by On Kawara (1923–2014). Sculpture and contemporary media art appear less frequently in Nancy, although he explores, for example, the sculpted works of Henri Étienne-Martin (1913–95) (‘Res Extensa’) and video art by the Korean artist Kim Soun-Gui (1946–) (‘The Soun-Gui Experience’). In the field of literature, Nancy has written on, for example, the literary style in Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) and on the poetry of Yves Bonnefoy (1923–) and Michel Deguy (1930–). In cinema, Nancy has taken an interest in the films of Abbas Kiarostami (1940–), and in music, he writes about the compositions of Richard Wagner (1813–83) in Listening (2007).

ATHEISM Chris Watkin Nancy is happy to identify as an atheist, but the atheism that he claims does not consist in a simple denial of God’s existence. Nancy’s own, more nuanced understanding of atheism is elaborated not against the Western tradition, but through it and alongside it, as inseparable from it and as its own destiny. The invention of atheism, for Nancy, is both contemporary with and a correlative of the invention of theism, ‘those two faces of the same Western Janus’ (D-E, 18), and the history of ‘God’ in the West – Greek, Jew, Christian, humanist – is also the history of atheism, the two



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united as branches of what Nancy calls ‘onto-(a)-theology’ (D-E, 20). What theism and atheism share, and what defines onto-(a)-theology for Nancy, is a metaphysical presupposition about being, a presupposition that he calls the ‘principial paradigm’ (D-E, 15). The principial paradigm came to dominate in the West once the origin of the world was no longer understood primarily through mythical narratives (see myth) involving the interactions of personal deities, and its import is that the world is no longer given as a destiny but is to be constructed following an interrogation of its principle or origin (D-E, 14–15). In other words, the world must have an ‘In the beginning was . . .’ in terms of which it is to be understood. This principial paradigm unites theism and atheism in one common ontological structure and in one tradition. Yet Nancy insists that it is not through a wholesale rejection of the paradigm that atheism can be rethought, but rather through finding resources within this same tradition to destabilise the paradigm itself from the inside. Nancy identifies two ancient roots of onto-(a)-theology: one Hebrew and one Greek. First, the rigorous progression of Western atheism comes with Jewish monotheism, which develops and spreads through the ancient Greek world, dissolving all divine presences and divine powers and replacing them with a principle ‘that no longer has as “divine” anything but the name’ (D-E, 21), an unpronounceable name stripped of all personality. Second, the trajectory of atheism also has origins in the fifth century bce with Xenophanes’ rejection of anthropomorphised deities (D-E, 14) and it reaches a decisive moment with Plato’s replacement of the Greek pantheon by the singular theos (D-E, 15). The monotheism that flows out of the meeting of these Hebrew and Greek traditions is nothing but the theological confirmation of atheism (D-E, 20), a trajectory that runs its course through the Christianity of the archē (‘In the beginning was the Word . . .’) to the modern Western humanism that replaces the principle of divine essence with the essence of humanity (D-E, 23) and replaces God with ‘a God for atheists’ (A, 32), namely necessary reason. In both these cases of replacement, humanism leaves the fundamental structure of onto-(a)-theology unchanged. In both its theistic and atheistic avatars, the logic of the principle, which Nancy suggests might be shortened to simply ‘logic’ (D-E, 22–3), is either inconsistent or incomplete: either it seeks to justify its own archē in an infinite regress, which is incomplete because an infinite number of iterations of the principle is required for it to account for itself, or it no less infinitely seeks to posit itself as the one exception to its own logic that everything can be traced back to a principle. The latter is inconsistent because on this account at least one thing is not accounted for by the principle, namely the principle itself (D-E, 23). If atheism is the negation of any divine existence

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then it is distinguished only superficially from monotheism’s reduction of the divine to a principle; it is a negation that retains the essence of what it denies because its negation of the divine principle is itself declared as a principle (D-E, 16). This ‘principiality’ of atheism leaves it not at odds with monotheism but fundamentally and structurally complicit with it. Atheism, therefore, is of itself insufficient. What must be avoided is not simply affirming the existence of the divine but positing a principle – be it humanity, reason or society – on the throne of the absent god (A, 32). The rejection of the logic of the principle, for Nancy, should not lead to an atheism that constitutes itself as a lack while taking note of a conspicuous absence of divinity producing a world with its cause and destiny amputated, though often atheism has understood itself as precisely this (SW, 156). ‘Absentheism’ is Nancy’s term for this construction of atheism as a lack, which is also a desire for an absent deity. The term is used in The Creation of the World (2002) to mean neither theist nor atheist (CW, 88) but is later deployed in ‘Atheism and Monotheism’ in a more developed sense as the horizon of a subtraction, retreat, absence or limit (D-E, 18). The question, then, is how to think atheism otherwise than as absentheism, how to be ‘seriously, absolutely, unconditionally atheist’ with the capacity to make sense of one’s own atheism (‘CC’, 23). The shape that the answer will take is found in the tradition of monotheism. Christianity occupies an ambivalent relation to the logic of the principle, both participating in it and interrupting it. Christianity is both the coming together of Greek atheism and Jewish monotheism in onto(a)-theology (D-E, 20) and also the opening of a new understanding of atheism that renegotiates its relation to the inconsistent/incomplete logic of the principle. Christianity is, Nancy remarks, quoting Marcel Gauchet’s (1946–) The Disenchantment of the World (1985), ‘the religion of the departure from religion’ (D-E, 142), for it reduces God to the story of Jesus Christ the man-God abandoned by God, leaving in the wake of this abandonment only the completely secularised religion of humanity (IC, 138). This reading of Christ on the cross in terms of the negation of every other-worldly consolation for this-worldly woes is written into Christianity at its source because (1) Christianity affirms the presence ‘here below’ of divine alterity, thus deconstructing the logic of the horizon with its opposition of ‘down here’ and ‘beyond’, and (2) Christianity thereby restages philosophy’s own inaugural affirmation in the death of Socrates: not passing over to another world but opening the truth of this world (A, 28) (see death). Only this gesture of opening, which Nancy calls the becoming-atheist of Christianity (A, 29), can give us access to the unclosing (déclosion) of reason that, for Nancy, is the essence of an atheism that avoids the logic of the principle. Atheism here is understood not as



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the denial of God’s existence but as the refusal to posit ‘God’ as ‘being’ or ‘subject’, and with the Christian God there is no positing but rather an opening of sense that constitutes the spacing of the world and its relation to itself: ‘In a word: the Christian “god” is atheist’ (A, 31). Atheism, then, is a particularly Western invention, not simply in the sense that it happens to be in the modern West that atheism has taken hold, but in that atheism is constitutive of the West itself; it is the element in which the West invented itself (D-E, 14). Like the Christianity that does not reject the transcendent but brings it down to earth as an opening in the here and now, so also for Nancy finitude must not be understood as a horizon and limit of the infinite but as its expansion and truth (D-E, 18). In contrast to the absentheism of the horizon, Nancy calls this opening onto the infinite within the world ‘atheology’. The atheological – a term Nancy takes from Georges Bataille’s (1897–1962) unfinished Atheological Summa and which is not to be confused with onto-(a)-theology – designates an atheism clearly disengaged from the schema of an inverted theism (D-E, 26), an anarchic atheism with no principle (SW, 158) that does not mourn this absence of a principle as something lacking. It is a thinking in which alterity is not absent, beyond the horizon, but is rather opened within sameness and exceeds it infinitely. The relation between sameness and alterity that Nancy is sketching here is familiar to his readers from the relation between signification and sense in The Sense of the World (1993). The excess of alterity over the same is not the excess of the infinite beyond the horizon of finitude or the excess of God beyond the world but rather the excess of sense beyond signification. To use the language of Adoration (2010), this is the excess of the act of addressing a message from one person to another beyond the content of that message itself. To be atheist in this sense, in Nancy’s sense, is not to deny a deity but to open the sense of the world (SW, 158).

B BADIOU, ALAIN Daniel McDow Both eminent, though perhaps very different, contemporaries, Badiou and Nancy have sustained an exceedingly critical dialogue spanning several decades, with certain exchanges even bordering on the invective (Badiou



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the denial of God’s existence but as the refusal to posit ‘God’ as ‘being’ or ‘subject’, and with the Christian God there is no positing but rather an opening of sense that constitutes the spacing of the world and its relation to itself: ‘In a word: the Christian “god” is atheist’ (A, 31). Atheism, then, is a particularly Western invention, not simply in the sense that it happens to be in the modern West that atheism has taken hold, but in that atheism is constitutive of the West itself; it is the element in which the West invented itself (D-E, 14). Like the Christianity that does not reject the transcendent but brings it down to earth as an opening in the here and now, so also for Nancy finitude must not be understood as a horizon and limit of the infinite but as its expansion and truth (D-E, 18). In contrast to the absentheism of the horizon, Nancy calls this opening onto the infinite within the world ‘atheology’. The atheological – a term Nancy takes from Georges Bataille’s (1897–1962) unfinished Atheological Summa and which is not to be confused with onto-(a)-theology – designates an atheism clearly disengaged from the schema of an inverted theism (D-E, 26), an anarchic atheism with no principle (SW, 158) that does not mourn this absence of a principle as something lacking. It is a thinking in which alterity is not absent, beyond the horizon, but is rather opened within sameness and exceeds it infinitely. The relation between sameness and alterity that Nancy is sketching here is familiar to his readers from the relation between signification and sense in The Sense of the World (1993). The excess of alterity over the same is not the excess of the infinite beyond the horizon of finitude or the excess of God beyond the world but rather the excess of sense beyond signification. To use the language of Adoration (2010), this is the excess of the act of addressing a message from one person to another beyond the content of that message itself. To be atheist in this sense, in Nancy’s sense, is not to deny a deity but to open the sense of the world (SW, 158).

B BADIOU, ALAIN Daniel McDow Both eminent, though perhaps very different, contemporaries, Badiou and Nancy have sustained an exceedingly critical dialogue spanning several decades, with certain exchanges even bordering on the invective (Badiou

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2012: 53–81). Nevertheless, the pointedness of their correspondence demonstrates the extent to which they concur on several concerns essential to philosophy today: the relations among being, existence and event; sense, truth and subjectivity; singularity, plurality and multiplicity; fundamental ontology and its irreducibility; and the contemporary relevance of the question of communism. Perhaps their most longstanding and crucial debate, however, centres upon the notions of finitude and the ‘infinite’. For Badiou, ‘finitude’ marks consistent multiplicities that comprise everyday existence: they delimit existential possibilities and bestow a semblance of law-like regularity upon the world. The ‘infinite’, on the other hand, remains forever subtracted from existence or a ‘world’. Badiou distinguishes existence or worlds from being qua being, which is the condition for limitless transformative possibility or infinite worlds (Badiou 2012: 62). Any existential transformation is due to the occurrence of events, or un-presented, inconsistent multiplicities. Nancy and Badiou agree that being qua being cannot be the condition of being itself, while ‘events’ exceed any possible presentation in the world. Instead, events occur for an existent subject in a world such that their ‘surprise’ or unanticipated arrival is thinkable and transformative for that world. Discussing ‘truth’ in regard to such events, Nancy writes of ‘the discord of being as its truth: this is the surprise of the event’, an assessment with which Badiou would likely agree (BSP, 168–9). Badiou’s disagreement with Nancy, however, concerns the implacability of ‘the presencing of presence’. Badiou perceives ‘finitude’ as the absolute index or ‘master-signifier’ into which Nancy’s thought is continuously absorbed, as well as that wherefrom it unfolds, encompassing all of Nancy’s key notions of ‘sense, the sense of being, the responsibility of sense, existence, freedom, and thinking’ (Badiou 2012: 72–4). Badiou argues that Nancy’s sense of being falls to a finite thinking that does not present itself as such and instead must remain in reserve if being is to freely give birth to presence, that is, infinitely, yet singularly (Badiou 2012: 75–6). Instead, Badiou argues that any such thinking must in the first place rest upon an infinite exigency, or fidelity to the infinite undecidability of the truth of an event that constitutes a finite subjectivity as well as warrants the possibility of infinite worlds. Conspicuously, however, Badiou seems to miss the particular sense of ‘singularity’ in criticising Nancy in this way, an oversight that becomes readily apparent in regard to the question of ‘communism’. Nancy disparages Badiou’s ‘communist hypothesis’ for risking the suspension of the exigency that communism presents to mere hypothetical speculation and suggests instead that we first affirm that being is always already ‘in common’ (‘CTW’, 152). Nevertheless, Badiou professes to agree with



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Nancy on this point, namely that ‘[being-in-common] is the ontology of being insofar as it is nothing of that which is’ (Badiou 2012: 71). Being ‘nothing of that which is’, however, is precisely what prevents being qua being from becoming present as ‘the common’ for Nancy, or what prevents the being of the common from acceding to presence as such. Badiou desires to reserve ‘the common’ to his ‘communist hypothesis’, but it is ‘the common’ that Nancy desires to give presence ‘here, right there where we are’ in its singularity, each and every time (‘CTW’, 153). If nothing else, however, Badiou and Nancy would then agree that ‘communism’ is an exigency for thinking, but what that ‘thinking’ amounts to and how it relates to being qua being – whether in the formation of a militant ‘subjectivity’, or as an instance of being absolutely singularly yet simultaneously ‘in common’ or ‘singular plural’ – seems to be the crucial, unresolved bone of contention between them.

BATAILLE, GEORGES Patrick ffrench Reaffirmed after his death as a powerful precedent for deconstruction, the ambivalent status of Georges Bataille (1897–1962) in relation to both philosophy and literature provides Nancy with a means to use the one against the other while focusing on the motif of exposed finitude. His engagement with Bataille comes after the valorisation by Jacques Derrida (1930–2004) and by the Tel Quel group in the 1960s and 1970s of Bataille’s critical account of the Hegelian philosophy of the subject, centring on three key questions: the question of community, the question of sacrifice, and the relation of writing to existence (see G. W. F. Hegel). In all three cases Nancy’s attitude is both affirmative and critical. He sees Bataille as a thinker who went the furthest in the ruin of totalising modes of thought, but who was blocked at certain junctures. In focusing on these points Nancy intends to think with but also beyond Bataille. In ‘The Unsacrificeable’ (1991), for example, Nancy traces the way Bataille opens the sacrificial logic inherent in philosophies of the subject. Bataille was fascinated with the anthropological scene of sacrifice, and Nancy attends to the incomplete movement in Bataille’s thought towards a denunciation of sacrifice as giving meaning to loss, a movement that ‘ought’ to have resulted in the notion that ‘real existence is unsacrificeable’ (FT, 77). The notion of incompletion is crucial here, since it links the dynamic of thought and writing to the nature of the subject. The incompletion of the subject, its exposure to death and to the other, is an important aspect

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of what Nancy intends in his writing on community. Nancy shows how Bataille’s pre-war fascination with the possibility of a community that would be neither the aggregation of monadic individuals of bourgeois capitalism nor the totalised and closed communion of fascism went a long way to thinking a sociality premised on the exposure of subjects to their incompletion. Where Nancy detects a limit in Bataille’s thought is in the latter’s incapacity to think through the political implications of this account in his post-war writing, where the exposure of the subject is framed within the structures of love and eroticism isolated from social space. The term exscription is coined by Nancy in an essay on Bataille (though he will also employ it in other contexts) to suggest a non-representational view of writing whereby the presence of the writer or the referent is posed as an existence, exposed as something resistant to meaning. This last point suggests that, while Nancy is attentive to what he sees as certain conceptual limits in Bataille’s thought, there is a degree of continuity in the form in which they write. Bataille provides Nancy also with the precedent of a writing in which a term such as ‘nudity’, for example, operates in relation to thought and thinking, but also exscribes the body and its nakedness. In more orthodox terms it is a writing that functions on the double register of concept and affect and crosses between them, as exemplified in Bataille’s proposition ‘I think the way a girl removes her dress’ (Bataille 2001: 80; see PD, 12).

BEING-WITH François Raffoul The expression ‘being-with’, which Nancy mobilises and explores in his rethinking of our being-in-common, is drawn from the notion of Mitsein in Martin Heidegger (1889–1976), which Nancy seeks to reappropriate and radicalise. Specifically, Heidegger’s thought of Mitsein as co-extensive with Dasein should signal that ‘being-in-common, or being-with, cannot be added in a secondary and extrinsic way to being-oneself or beingin-solitude’ (‘OBC’, 2). Being should be understood from the outset as being-with. Nancy’s aim in his several works on being-with has been to re-evaluate the meaning and the scope of the preposition ‘with’ and to give it a fundamental role. Nancy’s conviction is that the ‘with’, a category that he considers to be still without usage and status, nonetheless harbours all that is to be thought for us today. His point of departure is that the ‘question of Being and the meaning of Being has become the question of



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being-with and of being-together (in the sense of the world)’ (BSP, 35). This passage shows Nancy’s debt with respect to Heidegger’s thinking of Mitsein: it is Heidegger’s existential analytic, he writes, that ‘has put us on the way [chemin] to where we are, together, whether we know it or not’ (BSP, 26). Nancy begins with what he considers to be one of the most important advances made by Heidegger, namely the recognition that being-with belongs constitutively to the essence of Dasein. This statement constitutes for Nancy a revolution of thought comparable to the discovery of the cogito by René Descartes (1596–1650) or to Immanuel Kant’s (1724–1804) Critique of Pure Reason (1781) (BSP, 93). He nevertheless stresses that Heidegger did not fully draw the consequences of this statement, for it should have led Heidegger to posit that Dasein is consequently never ‘alone’ or ‘isolated’, but on the contrary always one-with-another. If Dasein is essentially Mitsein, then Mitsein should retain a primordial position in the existential analytic. However, Nancy laments that this is not the case, with Heidegger returning in the second division of Being and Time (1927) to a consideration of Dasein by itself, apart from its absorption in the world with others. Further, in contrast with Heidegger’s analyses of the They (das Man), Nancy insists that being-with should be contrasted with any notion of commonality. For Nancy, Heidegger confuses the everyday with the undifferentiated, or with the anonymous, when in fact the everyday manifests a ‘differentiated singularity that the everyday already is by itself: each day, each time, day to day’ (BSP, 9). Finally, as Nancy has already suggested in The Inoperative Community (1986), Dasein’s being-toward-death is never radically thought in its implication with its being-with, and ‘it is this implication that remains to be thought’ (IC, 14) (see death). For Nancy, death essentially exposes the with of existence: one always dies to the world, to life, to others. In fact, Nancy claims that death – as the most proper possibility of existence – should be taken ‘as a possibility of the with and as the with’ (BSP, 90). This retreat of Heidegger before his own discovery defines for Nancy the task of our thought, which is to refigure fundamental ontology, as well as the thinking of Ereignis or event, from being-with. Nancy’s attempt is to radicalise Heideggerian ontology on the basis of the primordiality of being-with. This implies grasping the ‘with’ as originary to being itself. One should not posit being first and then add to it the ‘with’; one needs to lodge the ‘with’ at the heart of being. In sum, being-with should be approached ‘as the most proper problem of being’ (BSP, 32). This implies a break with traditional ontology, which has always neglected the ‘with’ or treated it as a minor category insofar as being has always been represented as alone, apart from all, without co-existence of any kind. Being was thought apart from the with, as One. Hence there was the identification of

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being with substantiality, without any co-essence, subsisting underneath all entities. Thought on the basis of the with, however, ontology becomes an ontology of the common. Presence can only be as shared, as presence is impossible if not as co-presence. Ontology will henceforth have to take the shape of the spacing affecting presence. In a sense, being is nothing other than the ‘co’ contained in being-with. It is nothing but that ‘with’. Nancy thus posits what he claims is henceforth ‘the minimal ontological premise’, namely that ‘Being is put into play among us; it does not have any other meaning except the dis-position of this “between”’ (BSP, 27). Being becomes nothing but the in-between of singular beings; it happens as the between and as the ‘with’ of singularities. Being, between and with: those terms, argues Nancy, say the same thing. The dis-position that shares out singularities simultaneously constitutes the singular and the plural, or, better, the singular as plural. Indeed, singularity can only be written in the plural, as ‘singularities’, for there is no single singularity: if being were singular – that is, unique – it would absorb all other beings and, therefore, would not be singular. The singular is plural and the plural is singular, each time. One could say that the singular is by itself a plural; in turn, the plural is always a plurality of singularities. Although the ‘with’ is the first feature of being, Nancy insists that it nevertheless cannot be appropriated. Indeed, the ‘with’ designates no essence (of a common being), only the sheer unsubstantial dis-position of singularities. What is shared is the singularity of existence, that is, the absence of any common being, a ‘nothing’. The ‘with’ frustrates any appropriation into an essence or common identity and only reveals a sheer exposure. In that sense, being-with exposes the inappropriability of existence while spacing and freeing its possibility. Only the being of an exposure (and not the exposure of a being), the dimension of ‘being-with’ can only be played out and acted, in common, in an originary praxis. Not appropriable, but engaging us completely, existence in common becomes what we have to decide for ourselves, and that for which we are, in an absolute sense, responsible.

BLANCHOT, MAURICE Russell Ford The most exhaustive biography of the French theorist Maurice Blanchot (1907–2003) is tellingly titled Partenaire invisible (Bident 1998). Although autobiography is a frequent element of Blanchot’s writing there seems to be no way to present his intellectual itinerary in the form of a conventional



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narrative. Nonetheless, Blanchot is an important interlocutor for and contributor to many of the major intellectual currents and debates of the second half of the twentieth century. Blanchot studied philosophy and German at the University of Strasbourg in the 1920s. He met the Lithuanian philosopher Emmanuel Levinas (1906–95) there and the two formed a close friendship that would last until Levinas’s death in 1995. Blanchot moved to Paris in 1929 and briefly studied medicine before embarking on a career in journalism. He never showed any interest in an academic career. Throughout the 1930s, Blanchot was involved in a variety of journalistic projects including, most significantly, serving as the rédacteur en chef for the Journal des Débats, which continued to publish, with support from the Vichy government, until 1944. Before the war, Blanchot’s writing was political and polemical, and his essays appeared in far right publications and repeatedly advocated a kind of nationalist revolution. These writings, often published in periodicals with anti-Semitic platforms such as Combat, gave rise to a debate in the 1970s concerning Blanchot’s pre-war kinship with fascism and anti-Semitism (Hoy and Holland 1976a, 1976b; Mehlman 1980). Blanchot’s response to this debate was characteristically oblique and the matter continues to stimulate scholarly discussion (Ungar 1995, Mesnard 1996, Bruns 1997, Hill 1997, Bident 1998, Hess 1999, Derrida 2000, Sanos 2012). Blanchot worked in Paris during the Second World War. It remains unclear whether he participated in the Resistance and, if so, to what extent. It should be noted that Levinas, imprisoned in Germany, entrusted the care of his family to Blanchot, who kept them safe throughout the Occupation (Hansel 1996). In 1944, during a visit to his home city, he narrowly avoided being executed by a Nazi firing squad, an experience that would be influential on his work and would be the focus of his short text The Instant of My Death (1994). Blanchot met and befriended Georges Bataille (1897–1962) shortly after the outbreak of hostilities and, almost immediately, each became an important interlocutor for the other. Bataille had attended Alexandre Kojève’s (1902–68) influential Hegel seminar during the 1930s and it was through him, as well as Raymond Queneau’s publication of Kojève’s Introduction to the Reading of Hegel in 1947, that Blanchot was led to formulate two of his most important early philosophical publications as responses to Hegel: ‘The Spiritual Animal Kingdom’ (1947) and ‘Literature and the Right to Death’ (1948), published in Critique and collected as a single essay in The Work of Fire (1949). Blanchot’s literary production in the years following the war was substantial. In addition to his literary and theoretical work, Blanchot wrote monthly pieces for the Nouvelle Revue Française from 1953 until 1968. In

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the 1940s, Blanchot published three novels: Thomas the Obscure (1941), Aminadab (which shares its name with Levinas’s youngest brother) (1942) and The Most High (1948). In the same year that Blanchot published The Most High he also published the first of what he called ‘récits’, Death Sentence. In ‘Sirens’ Song’, Blanchot distinguishes the novel from the récit: the former is concerned with depicting an event while the latter stages it, insofar as the former participates in the time of the everyday while the latter opens onto a time other than the everyday. After 1948, Blanchot published six more récits: a revised version of Thomas the Obscure (1950), When the Time Comes (1951), The One Who Was Standing Apart from Me (1953), The Last Man (1957), Awaiting Oblivion (1963) and The Madness of the Day (1973). He also continued to engage in and to write about contemporary politics. He was a fervent opponent of de Gaulle and, in 1960, along with Dionys Mascolo and Jean Schuster, composed the Manifeste des 121 declaring the Algerian War an anti-colonial war for independence. During the events of May 1968, Blanchot was an active member of a joint committee of revolutionary students and writers, the Comité d’action étudiants-écrivains. In addition to his journalistic and literary work, Blanchot was also the author of an influential and challenging body of theoretical work. His first major work of criticism, Faux Pas, appeared in 1943 and it was followed by The Space of Literature (1955), The Book to Come (1959), The Infinite Conversation (1969), Friendship (1971), The Writing of the Disaster (1980) and The Unavowable Community (1983), in addition to several other minor works. Throughout his works, Blanchot is interested in the distinctive importance of literature for philosophy and political life and he returns again and again to issues such as reflexivity, neutrality and fragmentation. The first part of Blanchot’s The Unavowable Community is a response to Nancy’s 1983 essay ‘La communauté désœuvrée’, which appeared in a special issue of the journal Aléa edited by Jean-Christophe Bailly and devoted to the issue of community. More broadly, the context for the discussion extends to Jacques Derrida’s (1930–2004) ‘On a Recently Adopted Apocalyptic Tone in Philosophy’, first presented at the conference ‘The Ends of Man’ at Cerisy in 1981, and to the subsequent founding of the Centre de recherches philosophiques sur le politique by Nancy and Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe (1940–2007). Nancy’s essay is an extended discussion of Bataille that focuses on Nancy’s interest in both communism and fascism, and the subtending issues of community and ecstasy. These issues were also those that Blanchot wrestled with in the 1930s and 1940s and his response to Nancy is personal as well as theoretical. While sympathetic to the problems raised by Nancy’s essay, Blanchot ultimately breaks with him on the significance of sacrificial death for Bataille



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(see death). In 1986, Nancy published his own book, The Inoperative Community, with a modified version of his earlier essay appearing as the titular first chapter. Despite his death over a decade ago, Blanchot continues to be an important interlocutor for Nancy’s work, as evidenced most recently by Maurice Blanchot: passion politique (2011).

BODY Marie-Eve Morin Nancy’s understanding of the body is closely linked to his deconstruction of Christianity, and especially to his non-metaphysical understanding of Christian dogmas such as the Eucharist or the incarnation. Metaphysically understood, these always mean that an immaterial spirit or an intelligible idea comes to inhabit a material body or a piece of extended matter so that the former can be made present, sensible, that is, touchable in the latter. It is because God or the Absolute cannot be seen, sensed or touched that we desire its presentation in a body (hence the Hoc est enim corpus meum) (see corpus, touch). Such a material presence would dissipate all our doubts regarding the world of appearances by giving us the Absolute, by presenting ‘the Thing itself’ not as mere idea but as tangible body. Against the metaphysical understanding of incarnation, which is predicated on an understanding of God or the Spirit as beyond this world, Nancy proposes an ‘immanent’ or, better, ‘trans-immanent’ reading of it: the intangible is nowhere but ‘here and now’. Christianity then is not the thought of the separation between body and spirit, between the here-below and the beyond, or between the sensible and the intelligible. Rather, Christianity opens the possibility of understanding the flesh as the contact/separation between the two. In the same place, or in the same body, two dimensions are separated and related. Hence the body is not a fully opaque, self-enclosed mass; it is rather always an opened or gaping presence, an extension or spacing where existence takes place (D-E, 82; C, 15, 123; BSP, 18). Incarnation, or what we should rather call carnation, does not mean that what is merely ideal comes to occupy a place, but that a place opens itself or spaces itself out. In order to exemplify this, Nancy gives the example of a newborn baby (but we should think that the phenomenon described is not limited to human beings but applies to each body in each and every place): ‘when a baby is born, there’s a new “there.” Space, extension in general, is extended and opened. The baby is nowhere else but there. It isn’t in a

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sky, out of which it has descended to be incarnated. It’s spacing; this body is the spacing of “there”’ (C, 132–3). In this sense, every body is absolute: it exists without origin or end; it arrives here without coming from anywhere and without holding anything in reserve, ‘like an image coming on a movie or a TV screen – coming from nowhere behind the screen, being the spacing of this screen, existing as its extension – e­ xposing’ (C, 63; see C, 199; BP, 187) (see image). The same ambiguity or double ‘nature’ of the body is found in Nancy’s reading of René Descartes (1596–1650). In Descartes, we seem to have pure extension on the one side and pure cogitation on the other. Yet, ‘thought is sensing, and as sensing, it touches upon the extended thing; it’s touching extensio’ (C, 131). It is only thanks to the quasi permixtum of thought and matter that there can be something like ‘sensing’, and hence something like ‘thinking’. How can thought feel itself ‘thinking’ (and hence know itself as ‘thought’) if not in relation to some opacity, to something that does not think but makes it think? Hence, against the traditional reading of Descartes, that his ontology provides a ‘cut between body and soul’, Nancy describes one of ‘the “between,” of the swerve or exposition’ (C, 143) (see soul). While Nancy refuses to see in the body a mass closed upon itself and insists on the exposition of the body, he is also critical of the phenomenological analyses of self-touch (my right hand touching my left hand) in Edmund Husserl (1859–1938) and Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908–61) because these analyses ‘always return to a primary interiority’, that is, they are always at the service of the integrity or the close-circuit of my own body (C, 128). For Nancy, on the contrary, the body has to be completely exterior to itself in order to touch itself and what it so touches must remain in exteriority. Nancy gives the example of the organs: when I am healthy, I do not feel my stomach or my heart; they are silent. When I feel my stomach, it is an outside that I feel and I feel it from the outside. This is what has always been at stake in the word soul, according to Nancy. The soul ‘doesn’t represent anything other than the body, but rather the body outside itself, or this other that the body is, structurally, for itself and in itself’ (C, 126). What we have to think is not an opposition between body and soul but the soul as ‘the body’s difference from itself’ (C, 126). The soul is the fact that there is a body, this body. The soul is the presence of the body, ‘its position, its “stance,” its “sistence” as being out-side (ex)’ (C, 128). In order to think this relation between the soul and the body – which, again, is not a relation between two substances, since the soul is nothing but the ontological spacing or opening-to of the body – Nancy redeploys the Cartesian partes extra partes beyond its application to the extended



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substance. But while Descartes thinks the ‘extra’ as undifferentiated void, for Nancy the extra is the place of differentiation, of the articulation of one body or one part of the body against another (C, 29, 97, 143). For Nancy, space is always and everywhere filled, a body always opening unto another, more or less subtle body. If this filled space does not collapse into a mass, a pure immanence, it is because of the ‘extra’ that articulates bodies against bodies, parts against parts. What Nancy’s thought of the body ultimately undoes is the dichotomy between inside and outside. There is no hidden inside that would be either covered over or revealed by the body. As a result the world of bodies consists only of surfaces folded in various ways. This means that ‘the body’ or ‘a body’ is itself always already not only spread out, but dislocated, articulated or zoned. It is a corpus more than an organic body. In Being Singular Plural (1996), Nancy affirms that ‘a singularity is always a body, and all bodies are singularities’ (BSP, 18). This means that the term ‘body’ is not limited to the human or even the living body. Not only is a stone a body exposed or turned toward the outside, but language and thought also need to be rethought as material or bodily event. This is not a crude reductionism since ‘sense’ always already opens up along the edges of the most opaque, most ‘stupid’ body. For Nancy an event of thinking, like an event of speaking or writing, not only involves a body but is itself a body: ‘A word, so long as it’s not absorbed without remainder into a sense, remains essentially extended between other words, stretching to touch them, though not merging with them: and that’s language as body’ (C, 71; see BP, 175–6). In a similar way, a thought that is worthy of the name is not a mere intelligible idea; rather, it weighs upon the one who thinks, like the stone on the ground: We certainly do experience the weight of thought. Sometimes the heaviness, sometimes the gravity of a ‘thought’ (‘idea’, ‘image’, ‘judgment’, ‘volition’, ‘representation’, etc.) affects us with a perceptible pressure or inclination, a palpable curve – and even, with the impact of a fall (if only the falling of one’s head into one’s hands). (GT, 76)

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C CATASTROPHE (see GENERAL EQUIVALENCE) CHRISTIANITY Chris Watkin Christianity occupies a privileged position in Nancy’s thought not because he considers it qualitatively unique among world religions, which he does not, nor because it is rigorously isolable from Judaism and Islam (D-E, 33), but because it is the religion through which the West has left religion and in terms of which the West can move beyond its own closure. It also happens to be the tradition that, as a French European, Nancy modestly acknowledges he is ‘least incapable’ of discussing (D-E, 33). Nancy understands Christianity in terms of a Hellenistic marrying of Greco-Roman universality and Hebrew monotheism (D-E, 32). While the Greco-Roman world provides the consciousness of a logical-technicaljuridical universality distinct from the sphere of a now private ‘salvation’, Hebrew monotheism is characterised not by the reduction of the number of gods to one but by the withdrawal of the one God from this world and the concomitant condemnation as idolatry of any attempt to represent the divinity. Nancy’s main engagement with Christianity comes in his deconstruction of Christianity and deconstruction of monotheism. The genitive of the ‘deconstruction of Christianity’ opens a range of interconnected possibilities: Christianity is deconstructed; Christianity deconstructs; deconstruction is Christian. First, Christianity is deconstructed. In the 1995 address at the Université de Montréal titled ‘The Deconstruction of Christianity’ (D-E, 139–57), Nancy begins with three axioms that serve as an introduction to the nature and scope of the project more broadly: (1) Christianity is inseparable from the West; (2) we in the West still live in the shadow of Christianity; and (3) the West’s notion of sense has become closed such that the West can only continue to be its ever-changing self if it lets go of this closure to become something other than itself (D-E, 142–3). There is much more at stake in the deconstruction of Christianity, therefore, than a reassessment of one religious tradition, for Christianity is



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present in the West at those points where it can no longer be represented as such: ‘a certain conception of “human rights,” as well as a certain determination of the relationship between politics and religion, comes straight out of Christianity’ (D-E, 33). The deconstruction of Christianity is a deconstruction of the modern West insofar as the modern West is what Christianity has become (D-E, 143), and insofar as the very dimension of history in general, as it is understood in the West, is fundamentally Christian (D-E, 146). If the deconstruction of Christianity is very much about the West, it is not particularly interested in Christianity for its own sake (A, 24). For instance, the deconstruction of Christianity does not in the first instance take a position with respect to the place or role of Christianity in contemporary life. Nancy is studious to avoid the twin pitfalls of ‘the unilateral schema of a certain rationalism’ (D-E, 34) that sees the modern West dragging itself away from Christian obscurantism, and its opposite, the attempt to cure our present woes by a return of religion in general or of Christianity in particular. His brief is neither to attack nor to defend Christianity (D-E, 141). Avoiding these equally undesirable poles, Nancy seeks what might lead us to a point, buried under Christianity, monotheism and the West, of opening a future that would be itself neither Christian nor anti-Christian, neither monotheist, atheist nor polytheist, but that would both make all these categories possible and, at the same time, go beyond them (D-E, 34). The deconstruction of Christianity is interested in extracting from Christianity something in it deeper than the religious, something that has produced us, and something that formed Christianity itself and which Christianity has misunderstood (D-E, 143; A, 26). This is what it means to say that Christianity is itself deconstructed. The second sense of the deconstruction of Christianity is that it is Christianity itself that deconstructs itself. Deconstruction is not an operation performed on Christianity from the outside but rather a characteristic of Christianity itself, of which Nancy underlines five traces or traits (D-E, 35–9). First: monotheism. In the case of the incarnate Christ, kenotic self-emptying does not signal a hidden god but rather an identification of absence with divinity itself. Monotheism is atheism. It dispenses with the presence of a world-ordering and meaning-giving power central to theism. Second: demythologisation. Christianity has a history of interpreting itself as decreasingly religious or mythological and increasingly as a symbolism of the human condition. Third: composition. Christianity is not only a narrative and a message but also and expressly a complex composite and elaboration of Judaism and Greco-Roman thought, without its own punctual origin. Fourth: self-reflexivity. Christianity is less a body of doctrine and more a subject in relation with itself, searching for itself. It is

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self-relation that defines Christianity both in terms of the Trinity and in terms of its recurrent interrogation of its own roots. Fifth: self-surpassing (autodépassement). Christianity is a religion of constitutive self-surpassing, a perpetual process of self-rectification through looking to its past and seeking to return to a purer, more faithful form of itself (see faith). In thus constantly looking to remake itself, Christianity both goes beyond itself because it reforms and changes over time and thereby also reaffirms itself because the gesture of going beyond is perhaps its own deepest characteristic (D-E, 141). The Christianity of which Nancy writes here is contained in no dogma or institution but breaks from every determinate form (A, 34). What Nancy here describes as Christianity’s self-surpassing he elsewhere addresses as dis-enclosure. Christianity, he argues in the ‘Opening’ to the first volume of The Deconstruction of Christianity (2005), participates in the closure of metaphysics through positing an arch-present supreme being that compounds the metaphysics of presence (D-E, 7). But if Christianity is at the centre of this closure of metaphysics then it is also at the heart of its dis-enclosure. The essence of Christianity is opening: the opening of self and the self as opening (D-E, 145), a self-relation that takes the form of an indefinite leaving of the self. In Adoration (2010) Nancy explains the deconstruction of Christianity in terms of an opening of reason. Where Enlightenment reason sought to close itself off from any ‘outside’, reason is opened by the very giving of reasons, by an address that surpasses any given reason (A, 43) in the same way that the gesture of giving surpasses and cannot be contained within any gift. The deconstruction of Christianity and the dis-enclosing of reason go hand in hand (A, 27). Finally, and more briefly, one further ambiguity Nancy leaves open in the phrase ‘the deconstruction of Christianity’ is that deconstruction is in a certain sense Christian. Insofar as Christianity is essentially the movement of its own distension, deconstruction is Christian because Christianity, at its origin, is deconstructive and relates to its own origin as to an opening (D-E, 149). As well as arguing for the historical self-deconstruction of a certain vein of Western Christianity, Nancy engages more specifically with a number of Christian doctrines. The doctrine of the incarnation holds a preponderant importance in his thought. Notable among the other doctrines that Nancy discusses are the Trinity, sin, salvation and faith. For example, in Being Singular Plural (1996) Nancy argues that the Christian Trinitarian God is onto-theological being-with (BSP, 200 n. 52), and in Adoration he elaborates further by explaining that the mystery of the Trinity articulates ‘God’ himself as relation (A, 51). The Trinity, as with Nancy’s singular



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plural ontology in which singulus does not exist (SW, 67), thinks being otherwise than in terms of a self-consistent and monadic unity. The Trinity is not one god divided in three, nor three gods joined in one, but an identical nature within which the possibility of relation is opened, with the sharing of sense from one to the other (A, 51). In his reassessment of sin, Nancy begins by tracing a fault line between Christian teaching, within which the focus of original sin is not on the sinful act but on the sinner (A, 53), and the ‘modern consciousness’ that continues to see sin in terms of fault. Though Nancy introduces this move in ‘The Deconstruction of Christianity’ as following Martin Heidegger’s (1889–1976) detaching of existential Schuldigkeit from the categories of fault or debt, he departs from Heidegger in understanding sin as an indebtedness of existence to itself (D-E, 156). What Nancy means by this becomes clearer in Adoration when he characterises sin as the ‘condition of mankind closed in on itself’ (A, 53), within which context absolution can only come through the opening of a relation within the world with what surpasses the world: a relation of sense. In Adoration Nancy also engages in a redefinition of the notion of salvation (le salut). Rejecting salvation as rescue, redemption or escape from the world and death, Nancy insists that it takes place not in a heavenly place but here, among us (A, 53). It is the ‘hi!’ (salut!) of the address that recognises the incommensurable other as the addressee and respondent of sense, that neither stretches nor completes sense but holds it in suspense and opens its possibility (A, 78). Salut! here is more a sound than a word, naming the unnameable in a phatic adoration (ad-oratio, ‘speaking towards’) of the other. It is a call, an address and a relation (A, 84). Faith, concomitantly, is also understood by Nancy in terms of sense. As opposed to belief (croyance), which he understands as the adherence to a determinate dogma or dogmas, faith (foi) is holding oneself to the God who is not present, to an openness of sense, and it is a pure open intentionality (D-E, 153). Christian faith, Nancy continues, is not a belief in something lacking, something waited for, but rather is faithfulness, confidence, and rigorously unjustifiable openness (A, 88) to the possibility not of any object but of the word of the other, the word of God (D-E, 153). In Nancy’s rewriting of all these doctrines, the heart of Christianity is openness as the structure of sense. As well as engaging with a range of Christian doctrines, Nancy entertains a longstanding dialogue with Christian painting, notably in Noli Me Tangere (2003) and ‘Visitation: Of Christian Painting’ (2001) (collected in The Ground of the Image). In both these texts the theme of openness to sense is articulated through the motif of touch. Christianity, Nancy argues, is the religion for which nothing – not even the body and blood of

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God – is untouchable (NT, 14), yet this touch is not a grasping hold or a possession but an open-handed caress (NT, 50).

COMMUNISM Daniel McDow If Nancy maintains that ‘communism’ is an ontological ‘given’ – in fact, ‘our first given’ (TD, 54 n. 6) – then its givenness is not categorically guaranteed, but rather is an infinite existential exigency (‘CTW’, 147–8). Each of us gives sense (sens) to this exigency each and every time we are summoned thereby, which is to say, singularly, while its sense subsists in the deceitfully simple ontological affirmation that ‘we are, insofar as we “are,” in common’ (‘C’, 378). For Nancy, ‘being-there’ is always already beingwith – ‘being-with is not added onto being-there’, but rather, ‘to be there is to be with’ (BSP, 98) – yet ‘being-with’ is not a condition immediately common (commune) to existence, which is to say that Nancy’s notion of ‘communism’ is neither categorical nor reductionist (on reductionism, see ‘C’, 371–2, 373). The exigency of ‘communism’ is not categorical insofar as its affirmation is neither bound by the necessity of duty nor universal, for the exigency of communism consists in a summoning that is always absolutely singular in its presencing. Indeed, its infiniteness lies in every singular, finite act of communication – in every instance of sharing, thinking, or even loving (‘CTW’, 150) – while the persistence of these instances of communication both affirms ‘communism’ as a veritable exigency and continuously exposes us to our ‘being-in-common’ (on infinity and finitude, see TD, 15–16, 19–20, 26–8). If there is something like a ‘categorical imperative’ to respond to the exigency of communism, then the infinitude of this duty forecloses ascribing any singular act with categorical necessity. It follows that this account also cannot be reductionist, because the exigency of communism always remains something to come, infinitely coming, yet arriving uniquely, each and every time, absolutely singularly. Nancy opposes the thinking of communism to community precisely in this sense, namely when he writes that ‘[c]ommunity without community is to come [un à venir], in the sense that it is always coming (vient), endlessly’ (IC, 71). This is to say that once we abandon our thinking of futurity (avenir) as a necessary determination of what we take to be ‘substantial’ community and, rather, affirm the singularity and finitude of our being, only then do we open ourselves to the true community of the common, or what Nancy calls ‘community without community’. In this



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rejection of ‘community’ and an openness to the groundlessness of ‘the common’, Nancy’s ‘communism’ would be an infinite exigency informing every finite act of communication therein, every singular affirmation that we are, always already, in common. Finally, and importantly for Nancy, communism is explicitly not a politics, but rather the ‘principle of activation and limitation of politics [la politique]’ (‘CTW’, 149). As an exigency, it gives politics – specifically, democracy – ‘an absolute prerequisite to open the common space to the common itself’ but, crucially, without lending this exigency any determination or substance (‘CTW’, 149). If Nancy says that ‘democracy is first of all a metaphysics’, a substantialist metaphysics or the determination of a ‘regime of sense’, then it is only on condition that it is presented as a politics that its substance as a metaphysics obtains (TD, 33–4). On the other hand, the reason that Nancy calls ‘communism’ the ‘truth of democracy’ (TD, 30) is that it is an exigency that never presents itself as such, but rather subsists in the infinite opening of the space of the common, through finite acts of communication that affirm indeed, we are in common.

COMMUNITY Jason E. Smith The Inoperative Community (1986) remains Jean-Luc Nancy’s best-known work. The first version, published in France in 1983, gave rise to a number of responses from the most eminent thinkers in France, including Maurice Blanchot (1907–2003). Its translation into English in 1991 established Nancy’s international reputation as one of the most important philosophers working in France. It is therefore significant that the theme of ‘community’ will appear relatively infrequently in his subsequent work. Or, if it does appear, it will assume new names and play new roles in his thought. We witness toward the end of the 1980s, and in particular in ‘The Compearance’ (1991), a decisive shift toward the theme of being-incommon and being-with and an attempt to articulate an ontology of a common or shared-out (partagée) existence. This trajectory will continue into the present moment, where the ontology of the common is in turn linked to an appeal to what Nancy calls the ‘name’ of communism, rather than, for example, the invocation of a communist idea or hypothesis by Alain Badiou (1937–). Despite the importance of this text for Nancy’s reception both in France and globally, it is therefore necessary to underline the contingency of his confrontation with this theme, spurred as it was by a proposed special issue of a journal edited by Jean-Christophe Bailly

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devoted to ‘Community, Number’. (Nancy recounts the circumstances of this encounter at some length in ‘The Confronted Community’ [2001].) At the time Nancy wrote ‘The Inoperative Community’ (1983), the first essay in the book with that title, he was engaged with Philippe LacoueLabarthe (1940–2007) and a number of other prominent French philosophers, such as Jean-François Lyotard (1924–98), Jacques Rancière (1940–), Alain Badiou and so on, in thinking through what he and LacoueLabarthe called the retrait – both as withdrawal and as retracing – of the political. When accounting for the development of Nancy’s path of thought, it is therefore essential to emphasise both the contingency of the theme of community and the way in which this theme emerges from, and responds to, the programme Nancy had embarked on in the early 1980s. At the very least, we can note the question of the political and its relation to community will only be posed, enigmatically, in the final pages of this essay (IC, 40–1). Just as significantly, over the course of the 1980s and early 1990s, this essay will give rise to a series of responses from some of the most important continental European philosophers: not only those of Blanchot in The Unavowable Community (1983) and Giorgio Agamben in The Coming Community (1990), but also in certain essays in Rancière’s The Shores of the Political (1998) and a year-long seminar given by Alain Badiou, La politique (1991–2). However contingent Nancy’s encounter with this theme may have been, the constellation of responses it elicited came to define an entire decade of contemporary thought. In order to understand the reasons why this essay had such a resonance, we must inscribe it within the larger historical moment, defined as it was not simply by the coming collapse of the Soviet system and the increasing marginalisation of the Western European communist parties but also by the increasing suspicion cast upon the historical idea of communism as an orienting framework for emancipatory politics. The period of the early 1980s was by all accounts one of historical reaction, ironically registered in the French context by the triumph of the socialist François Mitterand (1916–96). Nancy’s gesture therefore was to intervene in this historical moment through a complex strategy. His essay will be animated by the necessity to save the name communism. On the one hand, he does so by separating it from both the historically identifiable forms of communism offered up by the twentieth century and the theoretical framework for the idea of communism that was developed in the nineteenth century. On the other hand, he embeds these historical failures into a more originary and even ontological drive or impulse, what he calls (along with Blanchot) the ‘communist exigency’. To develop, as Nancy will, beginning in the late 1980s, an ontological conception of communism is to think beingin-common as torn between its status as a fact and as a demand, between



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what is given or offered and what is compelled and extracted from any ‘we’. This tension between what is always there and what is demanded will structure the temporality of the common: never present, always offered in the form of an exigency. At the heart of Nancy’s deployment of the term ‘community’ is its opposition to the concept of ‘society’. Nancy explicitly evokes Ferdinand Tönnies’s (1855–1936) book Gesellschaft und Gemeinschaft (1887) to this end, but we can just as well identify it with G. W. F. Hegel’s (1770–1831) characterisation of ‘civil society’, namely a form of being-together determined by need and therefore producing relations of exteriority. To this exteriority community is often evoked as a form of interiority in which the ties of togetherness are founded on the sharing of a common substance. It is precisely this conception of community – and Jacques Derrida (1930–2004) and Lacoue-Labarthe, Nancy’s closest allies in contemporary French philosophy, always associated the term with this communitarian and even fascist mode of community – that Nancy must combat. He proposes instead a community that, while breaking with or irreducible to the social as a figure of exteriority, is founded not on the interiority of an identity but on a movement of exposure or exposition (to death, to the other). Importantly, Nancy’s account of the movement of community also challenges the properly Marxist determination of community not as the sharing of a common, given substance or identity but as its production and (re)appropriation. At the centre of the Marxist account is therefore a figure of the human community – in his early work, Karl Marx (1818–83) sometimes used the term Gemeinwesen – that has no given identity other than what it itself produces, through its collective action, historically. It is to this figure of humanity as self-producing or self-positing subject that Nancy opposes a ‘we’ constituted by a movement of exposure or ex-position. Nancy’s ‘The Inoperative Community’ proposes a form of community refractory to both society understood as a system of external relations founded on necessity or need and community as the sharing of a given or produced substance. The subtlety of this conceptual needle-threading is, as mentioned above, complicated by the final moment of Nancy’s essay, concerning the political. Community is an exigency and not simply given: it commands action. But this action cannot take the form of production. Community must, it would seem, be brought about even if this exposition of community cannot take the form of labour, production or a work (IC, 31). The sphere of collective action (or praxis, an important theme in Nancy’s later work, as opposed to poiēsis or production) properly so-called is, of course, politics or, to take a distinction Nancy used frequently in the early 1980s, the political. As his reflections on community developed into

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ontological investigations of being-in-common, Nancy was compelled to emphasise repeatedly that existence in common is not first and foremost political. Later, he would even assert that the common (as the incalculable, as what can never be appropriated, only shared) could occur in almost every sphere of being-in-common (art, love, friendship and so on) except the political sphere. The exact relation between politics and community and between politics and power will form the intricate weave that structures Nancy’s most recent reflections on democracy and communism. But already in ‘The Inoperative Community’, this question emerges in its final pages, with the political invoked variously and elliptically as ‘the disposition [ordonnance] of community as such, the destination of its sharing’; it must, if it is not to be reduced to the ‘sociotechnical element of forces and needs’, ‘inscribe the sharing of community’ (IC, 40). In a certain sense, both the nature of the political itself and its relation to community remain the most intractable problems posed by the question of community. First, what form of action is this ‘inscription’ if it does not assume the classical figures of struggle or foundation? And, more enigmatically, why must there be the political at all; why does community or being-incommon need the supplément of the political in order for it to come about or, to use Nancy’s later terms, to ‘guarantee’ its possibility (TD, 17)?

COMPEARANCE (see BEING-WITH; BODY; COMMUNITY; SHARING) CORPUS Marie-Eve Morin Corpus is, of course, the Latin word for body, and it is used, in Latin as in English, to refer both to material bodies and to a body of work, that is a collection of writings, and first of all the collection or compilation of all the articles of Roman law (corpus juris). When speaking of the body, Nancy will sometimes prefer the word corpus to the French corps because of the former’s explicit relation both to plurality and to writing. The word corps, by contrast, resonates with the corps propre of phenomenology, ‘my own body’ or the ‘body proper’, and carries with it connotations of wholeness and integrity. For Nancy, on the contrary, the body is always a collection of pieces, bits, members, zones, states, functions. Heads, hands and cartilage, burnings, smoothnesses, spurts, sleep, digestion, goose-bumps, excitation, breathing,



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digesting, reproducing, ending, saliva, synovia, twists, cramps, and beauty spots. It’s a collection of collections, a corpus corporum, whose unity remains a question for itself. (C, 155)

Corpus also names for Nancy the kind of writing that measures up to the dis-located body. A corpus ‘isn’t a discourse, and it isn’t a narrative’ (C, 50). It is unlike the proper discourse (logos) exposed in Plato’s Phaedrus, which according to Socrates must be organised like an animal (zōon), with each part in its proper place. But if the corpus of dis-located bodies is not a discourse, it is also not pure chaos: ‘The corpus is neither chaos nor organism: it doesn’t fall in between the two, but lies somewhere else’ (C, 53). Rather than a logos, what we need to speak of the body is a catalogue or a list: the enumeration of an empirical logos, without transcendental reason, a list of gleanings, in random order and completeness, an ongoing stammer of bits and pieces, partes extra partes, a juxtaposition without articulation, a variety, a mix that won’t explode or implode, vague in its ordering, always extendable. (C, 53)

CREATION Marie-Eve Morin In The Creation of the World or Globalization (2002), as well as in Being Singular Plural (1996) and Dis-Enclosure (2005), Nancy uses the Christian notion of ‘creation ex nihilo’ in order to thematise the abandonment or withdrawal of the cause/ground of beings (see Christianity). That the world (beings as a whole) is ‘created’ does not mean that it is produced by a very powerful Demiurge on the basis of a pre-existing nothing. The nothing is not the basis on which the world is made, since such a thought of the nothing would turn it into a pre-given substrate (something similar to prime matter). To think of a creation ex nihilo, it is not enough to get rid of a God-Maker; the nothing itself must also be emptied out of its role as underlying, pre-given substrate: Not only is the nihil nothing prior but there is also no longer a ‘nothing’ that preexists creation; it is the act of appearing [surgissement], it is the very origin – insofar as this is understood only as what is designated by the verb ‘to originate’. If the nothing is not anything prior, then only the ex remains – if one can talk about it like this – to qualify creation-in-action, that is, the appearing or arrival [venue] in nothing (in the sense that we talk about someone appearing ‘in person’). (BSP, 16)

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Ultimately, what needs to be emptied out or deconstructed is the place of the transcendent principle that grounds the world, a place that can be occupied by a God-Maker, by the ‘Man’ of humanism, or even by the ‘Nothing’. What we are left with after the deconstruction of the transcendent principle (though speaking of a ‘remainder’ can mislead us into thinking that this process is negative and leads to a loss) is the world in its proper sense: ‘nothing but that which grows [rien que cela qui croît] (creo, cresco), lacking any growth principle’ (D-E, 24; see CW, 50). The ex nihilo of creation essentially signifies the groundlessness of the world, the ever-renewed coming to presence of the world: singularities, each time an other, each time with others. To speak of the creation of the world is therefore to see the world as the ‘explosion of presence in the originary multiplicity of its partition’ (BSP, 21, trans. mod.) or as the ‘free dissemination of existence’ (EF, 13). It would be a mistake to think of the creation of the world purely in ontological terms. Rather, for Nancy, this creation is as much an imperative as it is a fact. To create a world is to ‘decide to exist’ (see decision), that is to inhabit the world in such a way that the world can really form a world: an ungrounded, untotalisable plurality of existences, co-existing and co-appearing to themselves and each other. Inhabiting the world, which means creating it each time anew, requires that we stop seeking to totalise the world in a representation or ground it in a principle. In both cases, we posit a place outside of the world (the place of the principle or of the onlooker) from which the world appears as a totality or unity. But this relinquishing of all transcendent meaning of the world (what Nancy calls the process of world-becoming or mondanisation [CW, 44]) cannot lead to endless circulation and exchange between and among what exists. Such circulation and exchange arise from the general equivalence between all existences, a general equivalence that renders all meaningful co-existence and ex-position impossible. To learn to inhabit the world is to learn to stand within a world that has no firm ground, but the consistency of which resides only in the mutual articulation and play of all existences. In The Creation of the World, Nancy is very clear that this inhabiting, which is the true creation of the world or the true world-forming (mondialisation), is a struggle: To create the world means: immediately, without delay, reopening each possible struggle for a world, that is, for what must form the contrary of a global injustice against the background of general equivalence. But this means to conduct this struggle precisely in the name of the fact that this world is coming out of nothing, that there is nothing before it and that it is without models, without principle and without given end, and that it is precisely what forms the justice and the meaning of a world. (CW, 54–5)



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D DANCE Miriam Fischer-Geboers Nancy has not only published many works on the question of the body, but has also taken an interest more specifically in dance, especially contemporary dance, and in particular in the work of the choreographer Mathilde Monnier (1959–). Their collaborations and the exchange of ideas between them gave rise to the piece ‘Allitérations’ (2004) as well as to a book also called Allitérations. Conversations sur la danse (2005), which contains not only the text ‘Allitérations’, which Nancy wrote for the dance piece and read on the stage during the performance, but all the correspondence between Monnier and Nancy in preparation for the performance. Nancy’s writings have also inspired choreographers; the choreographer Wanda Golonka (1958–) has used ‘Fifty-eight Indices on the Body’ (2006) (collected in Corpus) for the piece ‘For sale’ (2005–6). Nancy’s reflection on dance is related to his thinking of the subject and of sense. As he explains in ‘The Extension of the Soul’ (2003) (collected in Corpus), a text that refers to René Descartes (1596–1650) as well as to Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) and that could be read as a treatise on dance, the subject is not an ego cogito, but a being ex-, an ex-istence or an ex-position (ego sum, ego ex-isto). This ego does not know itself; rather it moves (se meut) and is moved (s’émeut), it feels and experiences itself in the movement of existing (ex-ire) (C, 143). To borrow Antonia Birnbaum’s phrase, ‘To exist is to exit the point’ (C, 145). This is why the subject also always escapes from itself: ‘it arrives by falling outside the self’, a fall that Nancy calls ‘the ex-piration [l’échéance] of the subject’ (C, 144). It is this movement of the ex- that is exposed in dance: ‘Dance is above all a development or des-enveloping. I exit and I open myself to the world and I open the world too’ (‘E’, 68–9). In dance, the body ex-scribes (itself) (see exscription). Dance, for Nancy, is of the order of birth: ‘Birth: a spacing, an escape from punctuality’ (C, 21). Dance is, as Nancy says of all art in his Muses (1994), a ‘presentation of presentation’ (M, 34) or an exposition of exposition insofar as dance presents the coming to presence or birth of some sense. If all art, for Nancy, is a matter of sense, dance is ‘a way of making some sense [du sens] immediately with the body’ (‘E’, 66) or ‘the ­production

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of the body insofar as it is involved in . . . in what? In sense, thought, being’ (All, 55). It is obvious that dance does not produce or present a defined or definable sense (a ‘fixed point’) but rather is the production of a sense that is exiting the point and hence escaping (itself). Dance exposes in a certain way some ‘sense before sense’ or some ‘sense escaping outside of sense’ (All, 78). This is why Nancy will also say that dance is the ‘gesture that precedes sense’ and call it the ‘fore-gesture [avant-geste]’ (All, 79). As a consequence, dance is itself only ‘the birth of dance’. In Nancy’s affirmation that dance is ‘a way of making sense immediately with the body’, the word ‘immediately’ should be underlined. Nancy refers here not only to the ‘immediate nature’ of this production of sense but also to the ‘immediation’ of dance (All, 34). Dance is an immediate phenomenon not only in a spatio-temporal sense but also in the sense that it does not admit of a medium: ‘what is proper to this art is to produce its sense withdrawn from any medium and through this withdrawal to erase as much as possible the effect of signification produced by the medium’ (All, 29). This is why Nancy considers dance, following Stéphane Mallarmé (1842–98), as ‘pure dance’ (All, 108). ‘Im-mediate’ also means that the medium is not distinguished from the exercise of this art. Nancy explains: ‘when the medium is the own body of the artist . . . we are from the start led to suspect another configuration. The means and the end move closer, overlap even’ (All, 29–30). The dancing body is to itself its own end and goal. The dancer finds herself ‘in an immediate relation to herself: im-mediate, without mediation through a medium’ (All, 29). Hence the dancer is a particularly self-referential artist. It is in this self-referential movement, where the body does not have any other medium (not even a thought) at its disposal, that the body itself becomes thinking. The dancing body is a thinking body since it reflects (itself). While it dances ‘the body becomes the incorporeal of a sense that is not anywhere else than through the body’ (All, 60). In an interview Nancy clarifies that ‘dance is not a metaphor for thinking’ (‘E’, 76) but a genuine ‘thinking of the body’ or a ‘thought-in-body [pensée-en-corps]’ (C, 115). Nancy’s reflection on dance is in the end a reflection on philosophical thinking. The genuine act of thinking is for Nancy ‘an actual weighing . . . the very weighing of the world, of things, of the real as meaning’ (GT, 76). Philosophy and dance are related. In any case, Nancy does not hesitate to affirm: ‘Without any deceit . . . I can say that when I think, I dance’ (All, 101).



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DEATH Chris Watkin Inasmuch as Nancy is a thinker of radical natality (see Hannah Arendt), one would expect that the predominance of death, despite being a topic critical to much twentieth-century thought, would be less a matter of focus for Nancy. For the most part this is true. For example, in the essay ‘Someone’, collected in The Sense of the World (1997), he begins with the familiar theme of the problematic of the death of the other and death as alterity. Yet he then goes on to stipulate that death is not an empty relation or a relation with emptiness but rather ‘is the relation with the singularity of singularity as such’ (SW, 73). This statement refers back to his earlier consideration of the indifferent connection between each being, each someone, wherein ‘what is commensurable . . . is their incommensurability’ (SW, 72). This formulation is familiar from the arguments in The Inoperative Community (1986) and its vision of a community of singular beings who share in common only their singularity. Thus death operates as a figure for the complexity of being singular plural or the multiplicity of singularities that compose a world and all possible worlds in relation to each other. Speaking of the grave in this matter, Nancy writes, ‘The grave is not a commemorative superstructure posited in an empty place: the grave is itself a place, a space that is valid as such, through its spacing’ (SW, 73). There seems to be a reference here to the common misreading of Heideggerian being-towards-death as a final act of finitude. Rather, as Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) makes clear in Being and Time (1927), finitude is what a being carries with it at all times in what Nancy would call an intimate exteriority. Death then operates for Nancy as the connection to one’s singular inability to connect with others, which, in fact, is what allows one to connect with others through the proximate spacing model of Nancy’s theory of touch. He concludes this consideration with the stark reminder, ‘We die into the world as we are born into it: singular, whatever, substitutable – the place of the other being nothing but the spacing out of the place of the one. Birth/death, each as other’ (SW, 73). This comment provocatively links other productive concepts, such as natality, creation of a world and spacing, with a profound negativity. It is for the reader to decide if death adds negative depth to Nancy’s metaphysics of creative natality or whether perhaps birth transforms death into a mere spatial technicality: the pure singularity of singularity as such.

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DECISION Yasemin Sari While the concept of decision appears throughout Nancy’s work, it is most explicitly developed in ‘The Decision of Existence’ (1989) (collected in The Birth to Presence). In Nancy’s words, this essay is a ‘partial study of “decision” in Being and Time’, which aims to show ‘the mundanity of decision’ (BP, 82). In doing so, Nancy shows that the ‘decision of existence’ is indeed what overcomes the Heideggerian ontological difference, insofar as existence becomes existence only in decision – or existence is (in)decision – without becoming an ‘attribute of an existent subject’. Instead ‘existence makes itself into existence, opens its own Being, or appropriates the unappropriable event of its advent to Being, from a groundlessness of existence’ (BP, 102–3) (see event). As such, Nancy attempts here to demonstrate what he elsewhere calls an ethics as ‘the ontology of ontology itself’ (FT, 187). For nothing is decided for existence beforehand. Decision and existence correspond in that the decision of existence is a responding to existence, always in the world, and hence always in plurality. Nancy demonstrates that the decision of existence gives us an ‘absolute responsibility’ for ‘making sense’. Unlike Martin Heidegger’s (1889–1976) account of solitary resoluteness uncontaminated by the public, Nancy’s decision of existence can only happen in a sharing of responsibility. This responsibility is absolute, because (1) it is not relative to the appropriation (or reappropriation) of a given sense (or truth), and (2) it is what lets ‘relation’ appear (or reappear) in the finitude of existence – where there is no infinite demand for achieving a certain goal, for instance the common identity of a community. As Nancy states, we have to decide to – and decide how to – be in common, to allow our existence to exist. This is not only at each moment a political decision; it is a decision about politics, about if and how we allow our otherness to exist, to inscribe itself as community and history. (BP, 166)

Absolute responsibility brings to focus the decision of existence as an ethics, which is at the same time a praxis of world creation. The decision of existence keeps open a space, not necessarily in spatial sense, where one can sit or stand or occupy a place as such, but in the sense of an opening that makes room for ‘absolute responsibility’ in our being-in-common. The decision of keeping sense open does not turn it into a fixed ‘sense’ (given to existence) or into the one ‘Sense’ (i.e. the meaning of existence itself: man, humanity, God, etc.). If ‘sense is the concept of the concept’,



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where the former concept can be analysed in terms of ‘signification, understanding, meaning’, then sense ‘can’t simply be the concept (or the sense) of something that would stay put, set within an exterior reality, without any intrinsic relation to its concept’ (FT, 5). Sense as ‘the concept of the concept’ is that which allows one to have the latter concept – that is, allows us to conceptualise what is encountered in the world in its essence, or whatness. Only in sensing first can one move over to signification. Sense becomes, then, the thatness of, for instance, what is experienced in this tree, which in turn enables one to signify (albeit from different perspectives each time) ‘the tree’. The question is of course whether one can decide not to open, or expose, oneself – that is, decide to close oneself off upon oneself, i.e. decide not to exist. This seems to be possible since Nancy states that ‘existence is the decision to exist (and/or not to exist), and thus to decide (and/or not to decide)’ (BP, 85). But, at the same time, ‘it is existence that we must make, or exist – that is, decide, since existence has no essence decided for it and outside it, in some ideally floating ontological region’, since ‘undecidable existence convokes itself to the decision of existence’ (BP, 103). Insofar as existence does not have an essence decided for it in advance, the existence is decision, even when it attempts to foreclose the decision (for example by positing a final aim that is decided once and for all). The decision of existence ‘does not aim at an empty ideal of existence’ (BP, 106). In being-there, which is always a being-in-common, the existent does not decide itself for this or that possibility to be actualised. To say that the existent decides itself for existence is to say that the existent decides not to take on a ‘meaning’, a ‘truth’ or an ‘identity’ that would finish off the decision. The pun that plays on the term of (in)decision is decisive here in that it shows how the decision of existence, insofar as it is always a being-in-decision (rather than a having-decided in favour of this or that), is only possible as indecision. It is on the basis of this originary indecision that the existent is responsible for making sense of its own existence in and as decision. The very possibility of existence as decision is its indecision.

DECONSTRUCTION Rick Elmore Deconstruction is a notion as inseparable from Jean-Luc Nancy’s thinking as it is from Jacques Derrida’s (1930–2004). Deconstruction is notoriously difficult to define, as Derrida stresses throughout his work that

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deconstruction is not a formal system (Derrida 2008: 2–3). This resistance to reducing deconstruction to a formulaic method emphasises the way in which deconstruction is a process of immanent critique (Derrida 2002: 264). One does not deconstruct a system or text from an outside vantage point. Rather, deconstruction is a reading from within the terms, structures and logic of a text or system. Hence, in his ‘deconstruction of Christianity’, for example, Nancy argues that the metaphysical structures of Christianity contain the seeds for overcoming those very metaphysical structures (D-E, 24). Thus, to say that deconstruction is not a method does not imply that it lacks all logic. In fact, deconstruction unfolds across Derrida’s corpus in a number of clear strategies that not only challenge hierarchy, question authority, identify sites of violence, and contest anthropocentrism, but also help to mark the similarities and differences between Derrida’s deconstruction and Nancy’s. In his early work, Derrida associates deconstruction with a fundamental challenge to all forms of hierarchy, structure and authority (Derrida 2008: 3). Deconstruction is a ‘double gesture’ that both contests the implicit hierarchy in all binary oppositions and marks ‘a new “concept,” a concept that can no longer be, and never could be, included in the previous regime’ (Derrida 1981: 41–2). The deconstructive gesture shows that within any binary opposition the implicit priority of one side of the binary over the other cannot be logically maintained. Thus, for example, in the binary of good/evil or inside/outside, a deconstructive engagement challenges the privileging of the good or the inside over the evil or the outside by showing their structural interdependence. This challenge leads to a ‘new concept’ in the sense that by not simply reversing or overturning their opposition, the terms of the binary are revealed in a new way, as paradoxically both opposed and interrelated. Nancy takes up this aspect of deconstruction, lying as it does at the heart of Derrida’s critique of Western metaphysics, logocentrism and sovereignty. Yet, insofar as deconstruction traffics in terms that are both opposed and interrelated, it is necessarily associated with ‘aporia’. Insofar as the deconstructive gesture destabilises authority and structure, while refusing to side with any new authority or structure, it cannot be separated from aporia. The aporetic nature of deconstruction has often led to the accusation of political quietism (Derrida 2002: 231). Yet Derrida insists on the ethical and political force of deconstruction, going so far as to say that deconstruction is ‘through and through a questioning of law and justice, a questioning of the foundations of law, morality, and politics’ (Derrida 2002: 235). This insistence on the ethical and political nature of deconstruction comes not from the denial of its aporetic nature, however, but precisely through its relation to aporia, since its aporetic structure highlights the nature of ethical and political decision making as such.



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Deconstruction confronts us with an undecidable aporia in which the authority of any system or text is fundamentally undermined but without offering a clear alternative authority to take its place. For Derrida, this aporia shows us the inherently questionable nature of all claims to authority, insofar as deconstruction exposes all such claims as decisions on what is inherently undecidable (Derrida 1988: 116). The fact that all decisions must pass through the aporetic ‘ordeal’ of the undecidable means that every decision always risks violence, always risks being unjust and unjustifiable (Derrida 2002: 253). Hence, the deconstructive gesture reminds us that there is a risk of violence and exclusion in every decision. Deconstruction is a concern for this violence of decision, a concern for how one resolves the inherently unresolvable aporia of decision within the institutions of law, politics and morality. Although Nancy certainly takes up deconstruction as an aporetic process, Derrida’s insistence on the aporetic nature of deconstruction marks a site of disagreement between them. In particular, Derrida expresses concern that Nancy risks resolving this aporetic structure too quickly by failing to fully deconstruct the fraternal roots of community, a concern Nancy dismisses in Being Singular Plural (1996) (Morin 2006: 139). However, for both Nancy and Derrida, the concern for violence shows deconstruction to be at root a critique of anthropocentrism. In his 2001 interview with Elisabeth Roudinesco entitled ‘Violence Against Animals’, Derrida says, ‘[a]ll the deconstructive gestures I have attempted to perform on philosophical texts . . . consist in questioning the self-interested misrecognition of what is called the Animal in general, and the way in which these texts interpret the border between Man and the Animal’ (Derrida and Roudinesco 2004: 63). In addition to its other aspects, deconstruction bears on the question of the animal. It follows the terms, concepts and logic by which a text delimits the border between the human and the animal. For Derrida, the unseating of privilege seen in the deconstructive challenge to authority, hierarchy and binary opposition bears fundamentally on the ‘self-interested misrecognition’ by which human life is given value over all other life: anthropocentrism. Hence, essential to deconstruction is the questioning of the logic by which one separates and subordinates one form of life to another, the logic by which one violently defines, excludes and subordinates certain forms of life. This is, for Derrida, an insight he and Nancy share, insofar as Nancy’s work is fundamentally concerned with unseating the privilege of the human, a fact Derrida emphasises in his reading of Nancy in On Touching (2000). Hence deconstruction is a set of strategies that trace the force and violence inherent in systematic, hierarchical, binary thinking in order to disclose the way in which these modes of thought (and all thinking) necessarily involve

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moments of decision that demarcate sites of violent exclusion, sites that pertain particularly to the exclusion of ‘non-human’ life, marking such life as inherently less valuable ethically, politically and materially.

DEMOCRACY Jason E. Smith It is only in the past fifteen years or so, since ‘The Senses of Democracy’ (1999), collected in The Truth of Democracy (2008), that the term ‘democracy’ has taken on an urgency in Nancy’s thought. Since the early 1980s, his ‘political’ thought was largely concerned with the theme of community and more broadly with what he would come to call the ‘ontology of the common’. One of the conditions for thinking this space of the common was, moreover, a rigorous separation between the common and the political. As he wrote in ‘The Senses of Democracy’, ‘It is thus a matter of thinking the interval between the common and the political’ (TD, 41). This relative neglect of the term ‘democracy’ must also stem from what he calls its ‘nonsignificance’ (‘FI’, 59). In the first place, the word no longer has a capacity to divide: today, everyone lays claim to the label ‘democrat’ and to the term ‘democracy’. This consensus that democracy seems to induce renders the word in a certain sense apolitical. Why then has engagement with the question and concept of democracy become so important to Nancy over the past decade or so? One might speculate that the increasing use of the term ‘democracy’ as a kind of banner under which to herald the most egregious forms of geo-political aggression (such as the American invasion of Iraq in 2003) compelled Nancy to launch a bid to reappropriate this term, proposing a properly philosophical and political interrogation of the term along with its ambiguities and contradictions. But we might also see his recent approach to the term as an intervention in a field of contemporary philosophy polarised around two positions: Alain Badiou’s (1937–) identification of democracy with ‘democratic materialism’ and his contention that a properly egalitarian politics must be thought outside of consensus around the term ‘democracy’, and Jacques Rancière’s (1940–) longstanding identification of politics with the incalculable eruption of a dēmos and democracy not with a form of rule but the deposing of every archē claiming to found the political. That the term ‘democracy’ can be bent and forced into every possible shape is, in turn, a capacity built into the term itself. As the Greek formation of the word spells out, unlike those modes of politics like monarchy and oligarchy that are oriented by a principle (an archē), the rule of the



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people is first and foremost the exercise of power, an imposition of force (kratein). This absence of any principle founding the political means that for the moderns, according to Nancy, the term ‘democracy’ has always and unavoidably been split between its status as a form of government (‘representative, formal, bourgeois’) and what he calls the idea of democracy, which he identifies with the ‘truth’ both of the people and of power, and which is concerned not with governance but with justice and ‘dignity’ (TD, 6–7). The idea of democracy is then also a matter of what Nancy, in his most developed and perhaps definitive engagement with the term, calls the ‘truth of democracy’: what democracy is truly, beneath or beyond its merely ‘managerial’ forms, and what is more than democracy itself. Nancy does not hesitate to refer to this truth of democracy as ‘communist’ or communism, in the terms in which he himself defines this concept: ‘From this perspective, the true, longed-for name of democracy . . . [is] communism’ (‘FI’, 68; see also TD, 14–15). It is this distinction that will lead Nancy to offer a conception of what he calls ‘democratic politics’. On the one hand, he argues, communism must be understood not as a historical form of the state or a particular organisation of the production process, but rather as an event: the surging up and sharing out (partage) of the common, that is, of the infinite, the incalculable, of what has absolute value (another name, in Kantian terms, for dignity). This event of the incalculable – the incalculable as what can only be shared, and hence must be ‘common’ – should not be thought of as taking place exclusively in a particular sphere of human existence: there is no privilege of the political when it is a question of the common. Indeed, the common happens in any number of spheres, in those of ‘art or love, friendship or thought, knowledge or emotion but not’, he underlines, ‘in politics’ (TD, 17, my emphasis). In this sense, politics is not one sphere among others, since its fate is not to be a site for the sharing out of the infinite but to be what Nancy enigmatically calls the latter’s ‘guarantee’. ‘Democratic politics’, he writes, ‘refrains from laying claim to this sharing (out), even though it guarantees its exercise’ (TD, 17). Democracy, in Nancy’s account, is therefore both its ‘inadequate’ form – the representative democracy of bourgeois societies – and its idea: the eruption of justice, the egalitarian sharing out of dignity (absolute value, the infinite), communism. These are the invariant, at times contradictory poles that structure the concept. More specifically, however, Nancy is able to outline on the basis of this conceptual framework the basic tasks of a properly democratic politics. This task is defined in the passage cited above as double. Such a politics must refrain from laying claim to the common, that is, must constantly hold itself apart from a fusion between the political and being-in-common, while also acting in view

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of ­‘guaranteeing’ the spheres and spaces in which such a happening of the common might occur. Because this eruption of the incalculable can, however, never be guaranteed, the task of a democratic politics would not be to effectuate such a sharing out – this would be to ‘lay claim to it’ – but merely to ‘prepare the space for it’, to ‘give’ these other registers and spheres where it might occur ‘their space and possibility’ (TD, 27). That the task assigned to democratic politics would be to ‘guarantee’ the multiple spaces of the common necessarily brings into play the question of power. This is a delicate question in Nancy’s work. From the early 1980s he has underlined that the political as such could not simply be identified with the exercise of power, whether this takes the form of a separated state power or the sub-institutional plurality of micropowers identified and analysed in the work of Michel Foucault (1926–84) (see power). In an important passage from ‘The Senses of Democracy’ (1999) addressing the necessary separation between the political sphere and that of the common (itself fragmented into a multiplicity of places or sites where the common can take place), Nancy states that ‘politics is not responsible for the identity and destiny of the common, but only for the regulation – even if it is infinite – of justice. (It thus has to do with power . . .)’ (TD, 41). What is the nature of this power? It would be necessary to follow Nancy’s own complex reflection on this term before providing a definitive answer. Here we can only note that if the power is not to be confused with state power in Nancy’s terms, this does not mean that a democratic politics would necessarily take place outside the space of the state and the exercise of state power. What is more important, however, in these formulations is the fact that if the political must be separate from the common in order for the common to take place, the common has as its other key condition the presence of an organised politics of some form that would exercise a form of power capable of guaranteeing a space for the incalculable (another name for justice). The political is therefore the guarantee of the common, and this guarantee necessarily involves power and its exercise. The specific form this power would take, however, is not spelled out by Nancy. And, indeed, it is not done so for a precise reason: it is the task of political practice itself, rather than philosophy, to invent such forms.

DENIS, CLAIRE Douglas Morrey Nancy has used a series of articles responding to films by Claire Denis (1946–) as a way of expounding key concepts from his late philosophy,



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while Denis has fostered a dialogue with the philosopher, using his work as inspiration for some of her films. Nancy first wrote on her in an article entitled ‘A-religion’ in response to Denis’s Beau Travail (1999). Anticipating the concerns of Dis-Enclosure (2005), Nancy reads the film as providing a Christic narrative for a post-Christian world, with the central character Sentain (played by Grégoire Colin) representing the figure of a saviour who sparks the jealousy of some of those around him and is murdered but seemingly resurrected (see Christianity). Nancy also suggests that the ritualistic or cultish activities displayed by the French Foreign Legion in the film make the army corps into something like a secular order of monks. But Nancy proposes that the film’s title implies its real subject is the work of cinema or image-making, which leads him to consider questions familiar from The Evidence of Film (2001) and The Ground of the Image (2003): can art be the focus of a religion? ‘Can beauty save itself? Should it not, rather, save itself from itself?’ (‘A’, 17). For Nancy, Beau Travail is about this question or the danger of an image or an art that could become sufficient unto itself and therefore closed to the world, in other words a representation tempted by fascism. Subsequently Nancy published ‘Claire Denis: Icon of Ferocity’ (2001), a somewhat poetic or impressionistic response to Denis’s Trouble Every Day (2001). Building on his work in Corpus (1992) and ‘The “There Is” of the Sexual Relation’ (2001) (collected in Corpus II) (see sexual relation), Nancy reads the vampiric imagery in the film as expressing a necessary link between the desire to touch and the desire to tear, the desire for sex and the desire to devour, the frustration and insatiability of a touch that can never adequately reach the other. In 2002, Denis made Vers Nancy, a ten-minute short commissioned for the portmanteau film Ten Minutes Older: The Cello. The film features footage of Nancy on a train (ostensibly heading towards the city of Nancy in eastern France) discussing issues of immigration and identity with a young woman played by Ana Samardzija. Picking up many of the ideas evoked in L’Intrus (2000), Nancy suggests that the possibility of intrusion or intruders is paradoxically necessary to the establishment or maintenance of a stable identity. L’Intrus was subsequently the inspiration for Denis’s film of the same name, released in 2004, which, in Nancy’s own words, ‘adopts’ rather than adapts his autobiographical text. Denis places a heart transplant at the centre of the narrative, but also, by setting the film on the FrenchSwiss border (with further episodes in Korea and Tahiti), creates a story of frontier-crossings, intrusions and foreign bodies. In an article written about the film, Nancy again saw a Christ-like narrative of resurrection: not only in the resuscitated recipient of the new heart, but in the ambiguous suggestion that the man’s son may have been sacrificed for his rebirth.

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DERRIDA, JACQUES Rick Elmore Jacques Derrida (1930–2004) was an Algerian-born French philosopher best known for developing the style of textual analysis known as deconstruction. His work covers a broad range of issues from the structures of writing and speech to engagements with Karl Marx (1818–83), psychoanalysis, the notion of community, forgiveness, sovereignty, the death penalty and the question of the animal. Derrida was a prolific author, publishing over forty books including Of Grammatology (1967), Writing and Difference (1967), Glas (1974), Politics of Friendship (1994), Rogues (2003) and The Animal That Therefore I Am (2006). He taught courses at universities both in France and abroad, most notably the École Normale Supérieure, the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Yale University and the University of California at Irvine. He was a major force in the fight to expand the teaching of philosophy in French high schools and universities. Since his death, his texts continue to be translated and published, and there is an ongoing project to publish his over forty years of lecture courses in both French and English. The first volumes of these lectures appeared under the title The Beast and the Sovereign in 2009. Derrida’s relationship with Jean-Luc Nancy spanned over thirty years. He was Nancy’s teacher and a jurist on Nancy’s dissertation committee. All of Nancy’s work reflects the influence of Derrida’s style of deconstructive reading. In 1980, Nancy, along with Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe (1940–2007), organised the Les fins de l’homme conference in Cerisy-laSalle on Derrida and politics. This conference not only helped solidify Derrida’s place as a key figure in contemporary philosophy, but also brought attention to the political aspects of Derrida’s work, an attention that grew through the 1980s and 1990s. In 2000, Derrida authored a book-length engagement with Nancy’s work, titled On Touching – JeanLuc Nancy. This work brought new attention to Nancy’s thought both in France and in America. Although they had a number of philosophical disagreements, particularly over Nancy’s continued use of the notion of ‘community’ and his discussion of fraternity in The Experience of Freedom (1988), they remained personally and philosophically close until Derrida’s death in 2004. One cannot overstate the influence of Derrida’s notion of deconstruction on Nancy’s thought. It is the driving force behind his early critique of the metaphysical character of Lacanian psychoanalysis, his reading of the history of ‘community’ during the 1980s, and, most explicitly, his project on the deconstruction of Christianity. In the last of these pro-



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jects, Nancy, drawing inspiration from Derrida’s critique of logocentrism and the metaphysics of presence, attempts to chart an intrinsically nonmetaphysical thinking of the world from within the Christian tradition. For Nancy, Christianity, not unlike democracy in Derrida’s thought, is paradigmatic of the possibility of non-metaphysical thinking, as, in its very metaphysical structures, it contains the seeds for overcoming those structures (D-E, 24). It is out of the vanishing of Christianity that Nancy sees the possibility of a new notion of the world, one that offers a being-with outside the confines of an immanent or self-identical notion of community. This deconstruction of Christianity is, in many ways, an extension of Nancy’s general project of rethinking the nature of political community by challenging all attempts to found politics on the notion of identity. However, despite the deconstructive character of Nancy’s project, Derrida was critical of certain aspects of this work, in particular the ways in which Nancy remained committed to a notion of ‘community’. Derrida’s concern was that community could not be radically separated from an exclusionary and ultimately violent relation to ‘fraternity’ and to a positing of ‘brotherhood’ as the model of political community (Derrida 1997: 46–8 n. 15). However, Derrida’s fullest engagement with Nancy’s work comes in On Touching – Jean-Luc Nancy. In On Touching – Jean-Luc Nancy, Derrida contends that Nancy is today’s great thinker of touch and ‘touching’ (Derrida 2005a: 74). In that work, Derrida traces from Aristotle (384–322 bce) to Maurice MerleauPonty (1908–61) a history of thinking touch in terms of immediacy and continuity, a tradition with which, he argues, Nancy breaks. In particular, Derrida is keen to demonstrate Nancy’s attempts to think touch without immediacy or the privilege of the human, insisting, rather, that touch must involve some form of meditation or supplementarity. On Touching is a wide-ranging engagement with Nancy’s work, touching, as it does, on the themes the syncope, the partage, sens, the ex-orbitant, the ex-act and the ex-crit. However, as in his earlier comments in Politics of Friendship, Derrida signals in this text a concern for the way in which Nancy goes too far in the direction of a kind of ‘empiricism’ that would see an absolute break between our era of metaphysics and earlier metaphysical periods, risking, Derrida feared, a certain uncritical return to metaphysics in Nancy’s thought. Hence in On Touching, Derrida reiterates the longstanding disagreement between his and Nancy’s work, namely the degree to which Derrida believes Nancy overestimates the possibility of truly breaking with the metaphysical and political traditions he critiques. For Nancy’s part, in Being Singular Plural (1996) he dismisses Derrida’s concern, suggesting that while he agrees with Derrida’s critique,

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­ articularly of ‘fraternity’, he has himself critiqued the notion of fraternity p that concerns Derrida, and thus he sees no risk in continuing to use the notion of ‘community’ (BSP, 198 n. 28).

DESCARTES, RENÉ James Griffith The famous, or infamous, starting point for Cartesian philosophy is the cogito, the Archimedean point of absolute certainty whereby I know that I exist because I am thinking. Thus, the self is, if nothing else, an incorporeal, thinking substance. A standard reading holds that the cogito is true because it is a judgement of an idea clearly and distinctly perceived by the intellect. Because (a) intellectual perception is limited while the will is infinite, and (b) judgement is a combination of intellectual perception and will, judgements can be in error. However, because my intellectual perception of my own thinking is immediately found in the very moment of thinking, this perception is absolutely clear and distinct such that I can know with absolute certainty that I exist, if only as a thinking substance. In the case of the cogito, my idea of myself as a thinking substance is innate, and so neither adventitious nor fictitious, since I cannot separate this idea from my intellectual perception of it. Consequently, there are two substances of which I am constituted: the incorporeal, cognitive substance of mind or soul (Descartes does not distinguish between esprit and âme) and the corporeal, extended substance of body (see corpus). Descartes makes clear that the mind is not held in any particular portion of the body, but is somehow infused within the body as a whole. Nancy primarily takes up Descartes in the essays which constitute Ego sum and in ‘The Extension of the Soul’ in Corpus. Against a number of standard and critical readings of Descartes, Nancy argues that there is neither immediacy nor mediation in the cogito. That is, the moment of the cogito is neither a moment where the self emerges without any distance between the thinking substance and the substance that judges the existence of the thinking substance, nor a moment where the self is distinguished from itself in this judgement. For Nancy, the cogito is found at the limit of identity and difference, a limit which ‘can no longer have to do either with identity or difference, either with immediacy or mediation’ (ES, 35 n. 8). Instead, the cogito emerges where the thinking substance – which intellectually perceives innate, adventitious or fictitious ideas – perceives an idea of itself as a thinking substance. In doing so, the thinking substance through which perception occurs is separate from the thinking substance



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that perceives, in parallel to Descartes’s description of how vision works by describing how images appear on the back of a dead ox’s eye (see ES, 69–72). Yet, the cogito remains a moment where the thinking substance is judged as an idea that appears clearly and distinctly to itself. Therefore, it occurs at the border between identity, insofar as it is a moment where the self announces itself as a thinking substance, and difference, insofar as it is a moment where the idea of the self is perceived as distinct from other ideas. Because it occurs at this border, the cogito cannot be held to be either immediate or mediated. The cogito can occur at the border between identity and difference, or between immediacy and mediation, because of the technique that Nancy identifies as the feint. For instance, when Descartes asks to read the Discourse on Method – that is, the story of Descartes’s discovery of the method that allows us to judge truths as clearly and distinctly perceived – as a fable, Nancy understands this as indicating that fiction is no mere rhetorical ornament or flourish, but rather a procedure whereby fiction is introduced within truth (ES, 101). That is, truth necessarily carries a fictitiousness within it, and this is the case even for the innate idea of the thinking substance. The feint of fictitiousness is in fact what allows the self to emerge: the cogito emerges as indubitable since it is the point where no more feigning, no more fictitious ideas and no more fables are possible, yet it also emerges through a radical feigning. As Nancy puts it: ‘To feign one must think, and to think one must be’ (ES, 117). In his earlier text The World, Descartes presents the creation of a mechanistic, mathematically reducible world of corporeal, extended substance as a fable (ES, 102–3). This fable, insofar as it is the true creation of a world, not only gives us access to the truth of our world, it also rests upon, according to Nancy, its own indubitable point, a sort of material cogito, which Nancy calls a chaogito (ES, 119). While both the thinking and the extended substances can be clearly and distinctly perceived, the union between the body and the soul is, according to Descartes, ‘conceived through the activity of ordinary life’ (C, 138). Nancy recognises in the substantial union, which does not make the human being a third substance, ‘an ontology of the “between”’ rather than the sharp distinction between body and soul that traditional readings of Descartes claim (C, 143). That is, this distinction becomes sharp only insofar as it is investigated by and for the thinking substance through a feint that invents the idea of thinking substance by means of which the thinking substance can intellectually perceive itself. Yet, Descartes knew well that the unity of the body and the soul is experienced in everyday life rather than in intellectual perception. If that everyday experience brings this truth to light, it can only do so obscurely. Indeed, this very obscurity

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‘makes for certitude’ because what this obscure truth makes known ‘is the fact that [that which knows and what is known] are two distinct things in a single indistinction’, which allows the union of the body and the soul to be ‘distinguished from the distinct in general’ (C, 139, 140, 144). Linking Nancy’s reading of the cogito and of the union, we can say that the feint that allows the thinking substance to perceive itself through an innate idea of a thinking substance can be at the limit of immediacy and mediation as a judgement of a clearly and distinctly perceived idea only because the union of extended and thinking substance is experienced and obscurely known, and therefore known as distinct from intellectual perception. In short, the obscurely known unity of the body and the soul opens up the possibility of feigning oneself as a thinking substance distinct from the body in order to know this thinking substance immediately in its mediation from itself.

DIFFÉRANCE Rick Elmore Insofar as Jean-Luc Nancy’s work is fundamentally informed by deconstruction, the notion of différance plays a key role in his corpus. Différance is one of Jacques Derrida’s (1930–2004) best-known terms, lying as it does at the heart of his discussions of writing, logocentrism and presence. The term was first used in his 1963 essay ‘Cogito and the History of Madness’ and was pivotal to his reading of Edmund Husserl (1859–1938) in Voice and Phenomenon (1967). However, its fullest elaboration comes in his 1968 essay ‘Différance’. This term plays on the two meanings of the French verb différer, which means both ‘to differ’ and ‘to delay’. Différance simultaneously marks difference in the sense of ‘an interval, a distance, spacing’ and a ‘delay’, ‘deferral’ and ‘temporalization’ (Derrida 1982: 7–8). It traces a difference of time and of space or, more accurately, the very possibility of temporal and spatial difference: ‘we will designate as différance the movement according to which language, or any code, any system of referral in general, is constituted “historically” as a weave of differences’ (Derrida 1982: 12). The importance of différance is that it designates not only some particular differences between, for example, the sensible and the intelligible, speech and writing, presence and absence, but also the very possibility of difference as such. It is in this sense that Derrida insists that, strictly speaking, différance can be ‘literally neither a word nor a concept’, as it traces the very possibility of there being a difference between concepts and things, signifier and signified, speech and writing, and so on (Derrida



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1982: 3, 11). Hence, différance shows that all forms of presence, certainty, truth and meaning emerge out of an irreducible and always more originary play of difference, an insight that forecloses in advance the possibility of a totally present, complete, absolute or ultimate truth, system or discourse. In the most general sense, therefore, différance marks the play of a fundamental difference of ‘spacing’ within all systems and, consequently, shows that all systems are necessarily self-undermining (repetitious, temporarily deferred and so on). It shows, in short, that all systems are deconstructable. It is the concern for the questions of spacing and auto-deconstruction that marks the influence of différance on Nancy’s thought. However, the logic of différance can be felt across his work and particularly in his overarching concern for issues of spacing, entanglement and distance. Community, ‘singularity’, the body, ‘proximity’ and in fact any notion of self-sameness is, for Nancy, made possible only through a more fundamental spacing or difference. For example in his analysis of ‘singularity’, Nancy argues that singularity only emerges from a more essential plurality, in the sense that no singularity can appear except in relation to other singularities, that is, in an already existing plurality (BSP, 1–4). Hence, it is only through the difference of plurality that singularity can emerge at all, a logic that marks the force of différance in Nancy’s work. This is not to suggest that Nancy’s thinking of difference and spacing unfolds in an identical manner to that of différance in Derrida’s thought (Morin 2004). However, the basic logic of différance, as that which makes possible individualisation, community and politics, is an essential for Nancy. However, in addition to this focus on the role of difference, one also sees the influence of différance in Nancy’s insistence on the autodeconstructive character of Christianity. At the heart of Nancy’s ‘Deconstruction of Christianity’ is the notion that Christianity has always been complicit with secularism or atheism. Christianity only emerges, Nancy argues, on the basis of a certain atheism internal to it: ‘The only Christianity that can be actual is one that contemplates the present possibility of its negation’ (D-E, 140). Christianity is always self-undermining or auto-deconstructive in the sense that Christianity emerges only on the basis of a fundamental tension between the religious and secular, the inside and outside, the immanent and tran­ scendent, presence and absence. Nancy sees this tension, for example, in the Christian notion of the parousia, a logic by which Christ is both present and always to come, in the world and yet here only insofar as he is not yet present. This paradoxical inclusion of the negation of Christianity within Christian discourse, the secular within the religious, atheism within theism, marks the inherently deconstructive character of Christianity and the influence of Derrida’s notion of différance on Nancy’s critique. Hence,

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one sees in both Nancy’s political writings and his critique of Christianity the overarching influence of the logic of différance.

DIS-ENCLOSURE (see ADORATION; CHRISTIANITY) DRIVE Matthew Ellison Nancy’s treatment of the drive is found in Adoration (2010), the second volume of The Deconstruction of Christianity, and above all in the appendix, ‘Freud – so to speak’ (2008). The German verb treiben, from which are derived both the noun Trieb and the English ‘drive’, means (among other things) to drive, propel, force, urge and drift. Drive (pulsion in the French) thus connotes a certain dynamism and a force, both of which are important for Nancy’s appropriation of the concept. While the term ‘drive’ is no doubt most frequently associated with Freudian psychoanalysis and the thought of Jacques Lacan (1901–81), who translates it as pulsion, Nancy first locates the term in Immanuel Kant (1724–1804). In the Critique of Pure Reason (1781) Kant speaks of reason’s desire to go beyond the merely given and toward the unconditioned, that is, toward what is itself not conditioned by any other cause; God, the soul and the cosmos are such unconditioned ‘ideas of reason’. For Kant ‘reason is driven [getrieben] by a propensity of its nature to go beyond its use in experience’ (Kant 1999a: A798/B826), a drive Nancy characterises as the ‘desire for the thing itself’ (A, 49). This thought is important for Nancy’s project of the deconstruction of Christianity and the ‘dis-enclosure of reason’ insofar as it allows him to think reason not as closure and calculation but as a movement of thought ‘toward the unlocalizable outside of the world, in the world itself’ (A, 39). Kant is the first in a line of thinkers to name this force, Nancy claims, though he also mentions G. W. F. Hegel (1770–1831), Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) and Sigmund Freud (1856–1939). A similar idea underlies the psychoanalytic conception of the drive. Nancy notes that Freud distinguishes between drive (Trieb) and instinct (Instinkt), a fact often covered over by the misleading translation of both as ‘instinct’ in English. Even if the two terms overlap to a degree, Nancy argues for their separation. While Instinkt refers to constraint and an inability to resist, which Laplanche and Pontalis describe as ‘a hereditary behaviour pattern peculiar to an animal species’, Trieb, on the other hand,



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is a ‘dynamic process consisting in a pressure (charge of energy, motricity factor) which directs the organism toward an aim’ (Laplanche and Pontalis 1973: 213), an aim which, one might add, is not necessarily given in advance. Nancy in turn understands this as the impetus and thrust from which man comes and which surpasses him. The force of the drive, or, more precisely, of the drives in the plural, is what ‘makes us into a thrusted being, not a being “produced” by a network of causes, but dragged along, launched, projected, or even “thrown”’ (A, 102). Nancy therefore understands the drive in an ontological sense, which he also believes was the case in Freud. In excess of all calculation, it is a force which nevertheless ‘dis-encloses [déclot] ontology’ insofar as it names the ‘relation to what can come about [s’accomplir] neither through knowledge nor representation’ (A, 49, trans. mod.). The drive for Nancy is another way of understanding that being is not a noun (and thus not a being), but a verb that means ‘“to thrust or push” (or “to impel,” “to throw,” and even “to shake,” “to excite”)’ (A, 49). For Nancy the drive – what he also calls ‘the drive of sense’ (A, 60, trans. mod.) – names this general dynamism and restlessness of existence. Nancy argues that with the theory of the drives Freud introduces another provenance and destination (or ‘narrative’) of the human, before and beyond any self-sufficient ego or subject. Where the human may once have been understood as ‘coming from a creator or from nature’, Freud in Nancy’s account portrays the human as driven from and towards an unknowable ‘elsewhere’. This elsewhere, Nancy insists, is nevertheless ‘not a beyond; it is not a transcendence, in the sense understood by theologies, nor is it a simple immanence’. Rather, ‘this “elsewhere” is in us: it forms within us the most originary and the most energetic motor of the impetus that we are’ (A, 102). In the New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis (1933) Freud proclaims that ‘the theory of the drives [Trieblehre] is so to say our mythology. The drives are mythical entities, magnificent in their indeterminacy [Unbestimmtheit]’ (Freud 1990: 118, trans. mod.). Nancy cites this formulation approvingly, taking it to mean (a) that drives are not themselves knowable, or, in Kantian terms, conditioned or determined (bestimmt) objects; and (b) that they name our existence as being pushed, propelled and thrusted outside of ourselves toward no final destination. For Nancy, the Freudian theory of the drives is ‘the mythology of a mankind without myths. A pure mythology in some way: without the figures of gods or heroes . . ., being only the unfigurable thrust of what attempts to live by producing sense, relation, the world’ (A, 71). Insofar as he understands the mythical quality of the drives not as a ‘reference to the unreal [irréel]’, but as a mythification of the real itself, Nancy’s reading of

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Freud’s formulation is close to that of Lacan (see Lacan 2006: 723–4) (see myth). As in Freud’s account, for Nancy the drives are the name of a certain risk, since they name an exposure to forces beyond the subject’s mastery. However, Nancy again returns to a favourite formula of his from Blaise Pascal when he claims that it is only by ‘welcoming’ the force of the drives and ‘espousing their impetus’ that ‘man is to have any chance of “infinitely surpassing man”’ (A, 48). Nancy’s meditation on the drive, if evocative, remains underdeveloped, and he no doubt neglects the full intricacies of the concept as it is thought by psychoanalysis. Nonetheless, his interest in the drive – and this is why the concept appears in the context of a deconstruction of Christianity – lies in the manner in which it allows us to think a dis-enclosure of reason. He sees in both the Kantian and Freudian iterations of the drive a kind of thrust beyond the given and toward an indeterminate or unconditioned outside, an idea entirely consistent with the rest of his work on Christianity and with the broader orientation of his ontological writings.

E ECOTECHNICS Illan Wall Nancy coins the term ‘ecotechnics’ to describe the current global politicoeconomic conjuncture (see general equivalence, globalisation). As J. Hillis Miller explains, ‘“Eco” comes from the Greek word oikos, the house or home. The prefix “eco-” is used more broadly now to refer to the total environment within which one or another “living” creature “dwells”’ (Hillis Miller 2012: 66). Thus, at stake in the term is the manner in which the ‘eco’ is technologically determined and enframed. For Nancy, ecotechnics is closely associated with globalisation, which he suggests should be analysed as a double phenomenon, that is, as the ecotechnological enframing of the world in global capitalism, and the mondialisation or world-formation that ‘maintains the reference to the world’s horizon, as a space of human relations, as a space of meaning held in common’ (Raffoul and Pettigrew 2007: 2). In this sense, ecotechnics is an aspect of the critique of globalisation. It implies a triple division of the world: ‘the division of the rich from the poor; the division of the integrated from the

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Freud’s formulation is close to that of Lacan (see Lacan 2006: 723–4) (see myth). As in Freud’s account, for Nancy the drives are the name of a certain risk, since they name an exposure to forces beyond the subject’s mastery. However, Nancy again returns to a favourite formula of his from Blaise Pascal when he claims that it is only by ‘welcoming’ the force of the drives and ‘espousing their impetus’ that ‘man is to have any chance of “infinitely surpassing man”’ (A, 48). Nancy’s meditation on the drive, if evocative, remains underdeveloped, and he no doubt neglects the full intricacies of the concept as it is thought by psychoanalysis. Nonetheless, his interest in the drive – and this is why the concept appears in the context of a deconstruction of Christianity – lies in the manner in which it allows us to think a dis-enclosure of reason. He sees in both the Kantian and Freudian iterations of the drive a kind of thrust beyond the given and toward an indeterminate or unconditioned outside, an idea entirely consistent with the rest of his work on Christianity and with the broader orientation of his ontological writings.

E ECOTECHNICS Illan Wall Nancy coins the term ‘ecotechnics’ to describe the current global politicoeconomic conjuncture (see general equivalence, globalisation). As J. Hillis Miller explains, ‘“Eco” comes from the Greek word oikos, the house or home. The prefix “eco-” is used more broadly now to refer to the total environment within which one or another “living” creature “dwells”’ (Hillis Miller 2012: 66). Thus, at stake in the term is the manner in which the ‘eco’ is technologically determined and enframed. For Nancy, ecotechnics is closely associated with globalisation, which he suggests should be analysed as a double phenomenon, that is, as the ecotechnological enframing of the world in global capitalism, and the mondialisation or world-formation that ‘maintains the reference to the world’s horizon, as a space of human relations, as a space of meaning held in common’ (Raffoul and Pettigrew 2007: 2). In this sense, ecotechnics is an aspect of the critique of globalisation. It implies a triple division of the world: ‘the division of the rich from the poor; the division of the integrated from the



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excluded; and the division of North from the South’ (BSP, 135). It is a ‘political-economic’ constellation that can be distinguished from sovereignty: ecotechnics ‘damages, weakens and upsets the functioning of all sovereignties, except for those that in reality coincide with ecotechnical power’ (BSP, 135–6). A point of comparison can be made with ‘biopolitics’. Where biopolitics emphasises the association between life (bios/zoē) and politics, ecotechnics puts its emphasis on the manner in which the world is technologically enframed. Instead of the politics of life with its originary fracture (zoē/ bios), Nancy suggests that ‘it is . . . a destinal figure (“race” or “the human worker”) that comes to substitute for the classical figures of sovereignty’ (CW, 94). The destinal figures of ‘race’ or ‘the human worker’ become realigned as ‘natural life’, yet they no longer coincide with some form of simple ‘life’. Rather, it is clear that so-called ‘natural life’, from its production to its conservation, its needs and its representations, whether human, animal, vegetal or viral, is henceforth inseparable from a set of conditions that are referred to as ‘technological’, and which constitute what must rather be named ecotechnology where any kind of ‘nature’ develops for us (and by us) (CW, 94). Most importantly for Nancy, biopolitics forms a world that is becoming un-world (immonde). ‘A world is precisely that in which there is room for everyone: but a genuine place, one in which things can genuinely take place’ (CW, 42). Biopolitics names the process of the management of life, wherein it is reduced to ‘bare life’ and denied a genuine ‘taking place’. The space of the camp very clearly demonstrates this attempt to negate ‘worldforming’ (see Agamben 1998, 1999b, 2005). Nancy suggests that ‘[t]he “world” in these conditions, or “world-forming,” is only the precise form of [biopolitics]’ (CW, 95). In this sense, he redirects the analysis of biopolitics to the question of ‘world-forming’ and, more specifically, ecotechnics.

EQUALITY Peter Gratton All of Nancy’s political writings invoke a conception of equality while attempting to rethink the term as other than base notions of quantitative equality found in liberal democratic theories (see democracy) and in the capitalist world of equivalence. Nancy offers not simply a political equality, but an ontological form, which he links to the notion of ‘equaliberty’ proposed by Étienne Balibar (1942–): ‘equality designates here the strict equality in dignity of all living humans – not excluding other registers of

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dignity for all living beings, even all things’ (AF, 40). Equality is the very mark of the relation between one and the other, and among all others. This is why Nancy cannot accept the self-Other relation of Emmanuel Levinas (1906–95), since in the latter’s view, one is already in an asymmetrical relation to the Other, who is higher than height. In Nancy’s conception, an inoperative community (see inoperativity) would be an assemblage guided by equality of incommensurables: absolute and irreducible singulars that are not individuals or social groups, but sudden appearances, arrivals, and departures, voices, tones – here and now, every instant. To demand equality for tomorrow is first of all to assert it today, and by the same gesture to reject catastrophic equivalence. It is to assert common equality, common incommensurability. (AF, 41)

For Nancy, this is the true legacy of Marxism – a testament to a ‘communism of nonequivalence’ (AF, 41). Equality is thus not to be founded on a common substance or element, or based in abstracted sets of rights. All are equal, he argues, not because of a level of similarity and sameness, but because ‘no one is identical or commensurable with other’ (AF, 60).

EQUIVALENCE (see GENERAL EQUIVALENCE; EQUALITY) ETHICS François Raffoul By ethics, Nancy does not understand a body of prescriptive norms or values that would regulate existence from above. Nancy is suspicious of any morality that claims to provide a priori norms for existence, and, against all moralism, he considers that it is not philosophy’s task to provide such morality. He considers that ‘there is no philosophy that either provides or is itself a “morality” in this sense. It isn’t philosophy’s job to prescribe norms or values’ (FT, 173). The task of philosophy is instead to question the ethicality of ethics, to engage a philosophical reflection on the meaning of ethics and on what puts us ‘in the position of having to choose norms or values’ (FT, 173). This resituates ethics in the concrete setting where it takes place, in the midst of existence itself. This implies that one considers ethics as belonging to existence itself, and not constituting some separate abstract level from which to judge



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existence. For Nancy, no values or ideal norms float above existence, precisely to the extent that nothing rules existence from above. ‘In principle, the ethics thus announced refers to nothing other than existence. No “value,” no “ideal” floating above concrete and everyday existence provides it in advance with a norm and a signification’ (FT, 179). Ethos is not external to being: ‘it is not added to it, does not happen to it, does not give it rules that come from elsewhere’ (FT, 189). In a sense, for Nancy ethics is ontology itself; there is no need to ‘add’ an ethics to an ontology that would have been presupposed as unethical. This is why, commenting on the expression of ‘original ethics’ in Martin Heidegger (1889–1976), Nancy writes, ‘We would have to show the extent to which the “thinking of Being” . . . is nothing other than a thinking of what Heidegger called “original ethics,” and that it is this throughout, in all its various developments’ (FT, 174). It is to this extent that we could say that this understanding of existence marks the end of a metaphysico-theological foundation to morality in order to lead to ethics as the ground of being. In Nancy’s terms, ‘“Originary ethics” is a more appropriate name for “fundamental ontology.” Ethics is what is fundamental about fundamental ontology’ (FT, 189). Ultimately, for Nancy existence engages an original ethics because existence is not some substantial ground but an event that calls for a responsible engagement. The withdrawal of theological foundations and principles frees existence as a responsibility for itself, indeed, as an absolute, infinite and boundless responsibility for itself and for the world. ‘Absolute responsibility’, Nancy writes, ‘came to us with the absolute infinity of grounds and ends . . . with the death of God and the birth of the world, that is to say, with existence submitted to our absolute responsibility’ (FT, 295). Existence is absolute responsibility for existence, that is, an original ethics.

EVENT François Raffoul Nancy’s thinking of the event stems from his understanding of existence as based on no principle, ground or essence. Being happens, it is an event, and is no longer conceived as the foundation of beings. Nancy stresses that nothing pre-exists existence. To that extent, it is but the event of itself: not preceded by any principle or ground, and no longer referring to any other instance than its own happening. The event is no longer anchored in a principle that itself would not be happening. For instance, Nancy

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states that the world happens ex nihilo, that is, deprived of any foundation except its own happening. Further, the event always (each time) manifests a certain alterity, never coinciding with itself. There is a dissymmetry in the event, which Nancy approaches in terms of the experience that seems to always accompany a genuine event, namely the experience of surprise, as if an event, to be an event, must be as well surprising, as if, Nancy would suggest, the event resided in the surprise itself. For Nancy, two features must be held together when it comes to the motif of the surprise of the event. On the one hand, it is not a mere accompanying aspect of an event, but its fundamental characteristic. An event, Nancy writes, is surprising or it is not an event: ‘What makes the event an event is not only that it happens, but that it surprises’ (BSP, 159). It is almost as if it was the event that was a feature of the surprise, and not the reverse. One must speak of the surprise not ‘in the sense of its being an attribute, quality, or property of the event, but the event itself, its being or essence’ (BSP, 159). Thinking the event would mean thinking the surprise, which immediately signifies that thinking is surprised by the event: surprised, or, to follow literally the French sur-prise, over-taken. Thinking is overtaken by the event it tries to think. Unable to seize it within the concept, it finds itself seized and overtaken by the event. On the other hand, if the surprise is a constitutive feature of any event ‘worthy of the name’, it must be such that the event as it were surprises itself. Nancy considers that what makes the event an event is not only that it happens, but that it surprises ‘and maybe even that it surprises itself’ (BSP, 159). Nancy clarifies the latter expression in the following way: the event surprises itself, that is, it diverts from its own (expected) happening or arrival (the French word is arrivée, and in French arriver means both ‘to happen’ and ‘to arrive’). The event is so surprising that it cannot expect itself. It cannot simply unfold predictably, following an essence, a direction or some principle. Rather, it surprises itself, so that the event can only be ‘by way of surprise’ (BSP, 159). Ultimately, the event is the only way in which existence, deprived of essence, can be.



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EVIDENCE (see KIAROSTAMI, ABBAS) EVIL Peter Gratton In contemporary philosophy, there is probably no other word that packs the punch of ‘evil’ to stun the brain from thinking. To those who wish to deny that philosophy and civilisation have moved through the Nietzschean death of God, there is no greater threat than that some philosophical theory cannot for now and for all time declare some given circumstances as ‘evil’. That this is the moral equivalent of naïve realism – I will kick the stone to prove its reality; I will point at some given set of actions and declare them evil without further ado – does not stop those who would anaesthetise thought, there where it is needed most. One need only think of the decades-long controversy over Hannah Arendt’s (1906–75) subtitle to Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963), ‘the banality of evil’, to get a sense that, politically and ethically, evil is a central category, and, perhaps for that very reason, any discussion of it must be off the table lest we leave ourselves open to the worst. The task after Auschwitz is not to think ‘God be thanked, I am not like that’, but to think evil as what confronts and blinds thought at the same time: thinking after the death of God means at once that not only is everything possible, but the worst has happened. And yet there is not a God to save us, or sure grounds on which we can rest our beautiful souls. Nancy’s considerations on evil are concentrated in The Experience of Freedom (1988), but let’s begin with his most recent formulation: Evil is precisely to deny the world, to want to substitute an empire for it – ­whatever is sovereign . . . That can be as much the empire of capital as of the ‘me’ or that of a God, of technology drunk on itself, or piety drunk on itself. . . . The world is centrifugal, erratic, open. (PM, 129)

In this way Nancy thinks evil as very much of this world, as all-toomundane: it is the enactment or praxis of the phantasm of sovereignty over the spacing of being. Nancy’s thinking of evil has its roots in F. W. J. Schelling’s (1775–1884) middle philosophy, especially the 1809 Philosophical Inquiries Concerning the Nature of Human Freedom. Schelling himself was distancing himself from the Augustinian consideration of evil as the negative of existence, as the dark stain on a soul, though Immanuel Kant’s (1724–1804) considerations of radical evil were closer

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to Schelling’s target. For Kant, failure to obey the moral law is the result of a corrupted character or disposition (Gesinnung) whose nature is such that it is the source of all of one’s evil maxims not in line with the moral law. But Schelling found wanting Kant’s inability to move beyond the antimony between freedom and necessity, solved by the famed ‘as if’ (als ob) of the Critique of Practical Reason (1788). Freedom, for Schelling, is not the internal mastery of one’s self-interested passions, but is rather exactly the freedom to do evil. This, for Schelling, meant that evil was ontologically ‘positive’, not the nihil of a long tradition, which could not countenance a positivity for evil without running into theodical problems. (If evil had positivity, then God would be responsible for its existence.) But this means that evil, like freedom, is not systematisable for Schelling: the free decision is extrinsic to any structure of thought – or it would not be freedom – and this marks his permanent break from Hegelianstyle idealism. However, it is also not, on his account, something that can be presented to consciousness, and this forces Schelling into some of the most profound and paradoxical writings on freedom and evil in the Western tradition. Nancy, without mentioning Schelling, follows him in at least the first two of three ‘points’ with which he begins his chapter ‘Evil: Decision’ in Experience of Freedom: (1) evil is strictly unaccountable and unjustifiable, whether in terms of a ‘theodicy or logodicy’; (2) evil is ‘positive wickedness’ and there is a ‘closure of every thought of evil as the defect or perversion of a particular being’; and (3) it exists as the ‘actual incarnation of evil in the exterminating horror of the mass grave’ (EF, 123). In short, as Schelling held, it is non-sublatable in any given dialectic, ‘form[ing] a positive possibility of existence’ (EF, 123). For Nancy, evil is when freedom ‘unleashes itself against itself’, a ‘self-hatred’ whose possibility cannot be foresworn (EF, 126). Nancy writes: Wickedness does not hate this or that singularity: it hates singularity as such and the singular relation of singularities. . . . It hates sharing [partager]. This hatred is freedom’s own. . . . Evil is the hatred of existence itself. It is a possibility of the existent only in the sense that in evil the existent withdraws existence into the abyss of being – pure immanence or pure transcendence. . . . In this sense . . . evil is in the existent as its innermost possibility of refusing existence. (EF, 128–9)

In this way, Nancy not only attempts to think evil in terms of a sense of the world that can reference no other, he also connects this thought to his earlier work on community. In The Inoperative Community (1986), Nancy had argued against a thinking of pure political immanence (a ‘pure political transcendence’ is, for him, the same thing), which on



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his reckoning is totalitarianism: a nihilistic denial of existence and the sharing of singularities (le partage des singularités), which is nothing other than the harrowing decision and possibility of evil that is our common abandonment. This is where the ‘gravity of thought’, in his account, must begin, without the facile declamations of those sovereigntists who won’t speak their name.

EX NIHILO (see CREATION) EXPERIENCE Ignaas Devisch Understanding Nancy’s analysis of ‘experience’ asks a lot from the reader. In The Experience of Freedom (1988), Nancy relates our ability to have an experience to our ontological freedom. His thought therefore tries to convey the basics of the human experience of freedom: ‘The experience of having nothing given, nothing founded . . . the inaugural experience of experience itself [that] experiences the nothing as the real [and] as the stroke of luck it offers’ (EF, 86). Let’s think about our birth. The experience that comes closest to experiencing the ‘nothing as real’, for Nancy, is the experience of birth. My own birth is an ‘experience’ for me, but one that I never could have undergone consciously and thus ‘experience’ as a subject. As my birth escapes me but simultaneously enables me to be, so ‘I experiment that I am in the experience of myself’ and that I already was before any substance, identity or essence came to constitute itself (EF, 87). Such a substance would only hinder the sheer fact of the existence ‘that I am’, each time anew: ‘I experiment that the withdrawal of essence is an affirmation of existence’ (EF, 88). Birth can be linked to the ‘empirical-transcendental experience’ of freedom Nancy is describing. What does he mean by it? In fact, Nancy’s transcendental experience of freedom is fundamentally indebted to Jacques Derrida’s (1930–2004) différance. Only in a note does Nancy mention that freedom is différance (EF, 186 n. 8). Let us therefore take a closer look at this complicated concept in order to see how the referral or the withdrawal of presence might itself, in Nancy, come to presence. Martin Heidegger’s (1889–1976) reservations in Being and Time (1927) towards the subject’s full presence lie in the way such a subject is based on an understanding of being that is focused exclusively on the present. Such a conception of being does not take into account the horizon opened up

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by temporality out of which being emerges. This movement of difference undoes all self-sufficiency or full presence in advance. Heidegger employs the ontic-ontological difference to clarify how this movement comes into existence. He strives for a new understanding of being that takes account of dimensions of time other than just presence. For Derrida, Heidegger does not go far enough. Derrida, therefore, highlights différance as the next step in the settling of accounts with the metaphysics of presence and its conception of the subject that accompanies it. More emphatically than Heidegger, he emphasises that because of this ontic-ontological difference, every form of permanent presence (of being) and full-presence to oneself (of the subject) is always already lost. Derrida thus radicalises this difference by revealing its differantial structure, indicating the structurally absent moment in the coming into presence of every phenomenon in more explicit terms, and shows how, as a result of this, ontological difference also differs from itself, it is ‘as differing’: all original presence is always and already lost. To Derrida and also to Nancy, all existence is necessarily inscribed in this movement of différance. But this is what ‘spacing’ is about: what is can only exist through that which is not present to itself, through being positioned in space, through a difference with and thus a relation to itself and to others. The spacing of the world is what makes up the finitude of our existence. The fact that there is something we cannot complete and are nevertheless exposed to, this is what constitutes the incompleteness (‘infinition’) or finitude of the world. To Nancy, only with this movement of differing is existence possible. Let us return now to the experience of freedom. Freedom differs, for if freedom first makes existence possible, freedom as such does not exist (EF, 167). To exist means to be thrown into a world, as Nancy states in the opening pages of The Experience of Freedom, referring to Heidegger’s account of thrownness. To experience our freedom within this world is therefore ‘empirical-transcendental’: it is true that the subject shows itself to be free when it is free to decide to get up from the chair or to go here rather than there, but the very fact that such a getting-up is possible at all is not a power or property of the subject itself. Rather, such a power is always and already given to existence in the first place: it is from the already happening and the event of the world that the ‘smaller’ happening of getting out of the chair is possible. But – and this is Nancy’s point – this event itself does not and cannot appear. This ‘appearing of appearance’, or the ‘experience of experience’ (EF, 87), is itself non-phenomenological (see phenomenology); it cannot appear as such, and cannot be experienced. It is rather that which makes all appearance and experience possible by retreating from the realm of



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experience, and by opening up the gap in which existence always and already installs itself (or finds itself to be already installed ‘there’). In conclusion, freedom ‘spaces’ existence both by leaving space and time to all beings and by delivering beings, through retreating, to their empirical place where no essence can any longer stifle this existence. This retreat, therefore, is its generosity: freedom refuses to fill in the blank that the retreat leaves open and, in this way, gives way to the being-free of existents. This is why the retreat of presence needs also to be thought as presencing, as coming into being as an advent, a surprise and a gift (EF, 19, 54–6, 114–18, 146). Freedom throws us into a world where, precisely because nothing (substantial) is given, anything can happen. ‘The experience of having nothing given, nothing founded . . . the inaugural experience of experience itself [that] experiences the nothing as the real [and] as the stroke of luck it offers’ (EF, 86). The experience of freedom is therefore nothing but the experience of existence itself.

EXPERIENCE OF FREEDOM Aukje van Rooden From the outset, the theme of freedom occupies centre stage in the work of Nancy, although it has gradually transformed from a philosophical issue in his dissertation, published in 1988 as The Experience of Freedom, to the overall and more implicit horizon against which other themes emerge. In The Experience of Freedom Nancy provides a critical reading of the works of Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), F. W. J. Schelling (1775–1854) and Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) on this subject, in order to develop a theory of freedom that can generally be taken as a radicalisation of Heidegger’s fundamental ontology and that is intrinsically bound to other central issues in Nancy’s work, like that of the being singular plural, sense and experience. Like Heidegger’s, Nancy’s conception of freedom has to be understood as a critique of traditional metaphysical theories of freedom. Freedom, according to these theories, is something human beings possess as a property and that allows them to be what they are (e.g. to exercise a free will, to perform free acts, to make free decisions). According to Nancy, these theories of freedom have always struggled with a paradox that is ultimately that of onto-theology: concerned with the search for an ultimate foundation, they cannot but understand freedom as founded by a supreme being, a causa sui. In these theories, being free thus paradoxically boils down to

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being subjected to this causa sui, that is, being founded and determined by it. One of the central dilemmas of these metaphysical theories is therefore that the instance determining the whole of reality, which in onto-theology was called God, is in a sense both the guarantee of human freedom and its annulment – a dilemma that according to Nancy characterises all traditional metaphysical theories of freedom. In his own view, Nancy wants to do away with the metaphysical logic of foundation, since ‘freedom, if it is something, is the very thing that ­prevents itself from being founded’ (EF, 12). In other words, only by freeing existence from the logic of foundation can freedom itself come to the fore, according to Nancy. By withdrawing existence from the necessity of foundation, Nancy thus develops a conception of freedom that is attuned to unfounded, disseminated and non-teleological existence. More precisely, for Nancy it is the very absence of ground or direction that implies the freedom of existence, including human existence. By understanding freedom as a characteristic of existence, rather than as a property of the individual subject, Nancy largely subscribes to Heidegger’s existential philosophy. Like Heidegger, Nancy sees freedom as the openness of existence as such, anterior to any property of the subject, as well as to rational or juridical principles that might guarantee these properties. Nevertheless, Nancy also criticises Heidegger’s conception of freedom, deeming it still too anthropocentric and incapable of acknowledging the everydayness (Alltäglichkeit) of freedom. Despite Heidegger’s groundbreaking attempt to identify freedom with the existence of Dasein rather than with properties that could be attributed to it, it is according to Nancy still the existence of Dasein that Heidegger is preoccupied with. Nancy for his part makes a more radical claim: ‘Freedom perhaps designates nothing more and nothing less than existence itself’ (EF, 14). This existence, Nancy stresses time and again, concerns all kinds of beings: human and non-human, animate and inanimate. Freedom is nothing more or less than the existence shared between all beings in the world. It is the free existence not only of man, but also of the bench he is sitting on, of the tree that it is made of, and of the dog that is passing by. Pursued to the extreme, freedom thus also includes Heidegger’s famous ‘worldless’ stone. At the end of The Experience of Freedom, Nancy tries to push his own theory to the limit: ‘Will I say that all things are free? Yes, if I knew how to understand this’ (EF, 158; see also SW, 61; C, 123). Although difficult to understand, this is the most necessary point of Nancy’s conception of freedom. After all, a philosophy of freedom that takes an overcoming of metaphysics seriously must be willing to draw the ultimate consequence and affirm the withdrawal of foundation for everything. What remains is a groundless and directionless exist-



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ence, the freedom of which lies precisely in the overall openness implied by the absence of ground and direction. According to Nancy, to exist means, for all existents qua existents, to be exposed to the freedom of this openness. Another reason why human beings do not have an exceptional status in Nancy’s philosophy of freedom is that freedom is not something that can be appropriated. Freedom itself is not, according to Nancy. It is not something we have, or have not, something we can strive for and possess or lose. It is, again, nothing more or less than existence itself, the way it presents itself. This is why Nancy describes freedom not in terms of a cause or principle, or in terms of rights or constraints, but as an ‘offering’, a ‘generosity’, ‘surprise’ or ‘burst’ of existence, or, elsewhere, as its ‘dis-enclosure’ or ‘birth’. This also implies that freedom, although offered, is never a given: the ‘gift is kept in the offering’ (EF, 147). Instead, freedom is offered time and again, each time just this once. In other words, freedom, according to Nancy, is never general, but each time a singular occurrence that is shared between beings without these instances having a transcendent condition or common substance. Although to exist means to be always already exposed to these free occurrences of existence, Nancy does not want to exclude the possibility of a denial of existence and thus of freedom (an issue that he identifies with that of evil) – and, conversely, the possibility of responsibility. ‘The opening’, Nancy claims, ‘does not open unless we let it open, and we only let it open if we let ourselves be exposed in existence’ (EF, 147). In the case of human beings, one could infer, to expose oneself to the openness of existence is not a passive resignation but an active ex-position, a setting forth. This is also how Nancy proposes to understand the experience of freedom of the title of his work. Tracing the word back to the Latin experiri and the Greek peirates, Nancy indicates that to experience does not mean to repose on the firm ground of sense data, but rather the opposite, to try and risk, to let oneself be surprised. As a result, according to Nancy to experience freedom means to decide for existence, for the openness that existence is. This is not the voluntary act of an autonomous individual, but rather a decision for the decisiveness of existence itself (see ‘The Decision of Existence’ in FT). Since it is existence itself that decides itself every instant that it poses itself, to decide for existence means to expose oneself to these instantaneous, momentary decisions that are always already taken before us. These can never be appropriated, but are nevertheless to be accepted as a generous offer. As such Nancy is not advocating a determinism, but is actually saying that to exist means that one constantly undoes determination: ‘“To decide”

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means not to cut through to this or that “truth,” to this or that “meaning” of existence – but to expose oneself to the undecidability of meaning that existence is’ (FT, 97; see DS, 10). Since thinking is only possible because of this undecidability, freedom is not only one of the central themes of Nancy’s philosophy, but also its condition of possibility and its praxis.

EXSCRIPTION Peter Gratton In his later work, Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) argued at several points that his infamous claim ‘language is the house of being’ was not a metaphor, that is, separable or representative of Being outside of it. Recent arguments on realism and anti-realism in continental philosophy have centred particularly around the role of language in post-hermeneutical philosophy, where language is presented as a given human sign system blocking us from the in-itself of the real. Heidegger’s claim in some sense refuses the frame of this discussion, finding language to be neither a mere human tool nor extrinsic to Being itself. Nancy’s thinking of exscription is an important extension of Heidegger’s thought, by way of Jacques Derrida’s (1930–2004) notion of écriture, the differantial time-spacing that makes possible any writing in the limited, everyday sense. Allied to his thinking of sense, Nancy uses ‘exscription’ to denote a circulation of meaning (sens) by which language is not merely referring to or representing a given x outside of it, but has its own bodily materiality (exactly analogous to his considerations of the ‘weight of thought’) through which existence ex-poses itself: ‘In writing, the real is not represented’ since it marks the ‘surprise and freedom of being in exscription’. As he puts it more pithily, ‘the heart of things: that is what we exscribe’ (BP, 339). This exscription, he argues, replaces a thinking of language as related to a negative theology, whereby language can only ever say what it is not. For this reason, we are not ‘drive[n] back to the ineffable’ (BP, 175). Nancy writes: Certainly there are proper names and there are deictics. . . . But finally what is shown in denomination is the fact that the thing is showable (and that it is therefore never ineffable or unpresentable) – whereas what is shown in the thing, this that it is, the matter of the reference, shows itself only as the external limit of deixis. (BSP, 175)

The this-ness is precisely what in the overflowing of the sense of the world resists signification, even as language spreads itself, so to speak, to or right



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at (à même) and touches upon the thing. When one speaks or writes in the everyday sense, one moves from the closed circuit of signification to the bodily, singular event of speaking or writing, as the genus (‘stones’ in general) exscribes itself to the particular (this stone) – or as the thing exscribes itself to the material performance of writing or speaking, to the naming of itself. ‘Exscription’ means that the thing’s name, by inscribing itself, inscribes its property as name outside itself, in an outside that it alone displays but where, displaying it, it displays the characteristic self-exteriority that constitutes its property as name. There is no thing without a name, but there is no name that, by naming and through naming, does not exscribe itself ‘in’ the thing, as ‘as’ it, while remaining this other of the thing that displays it only from afar. . . . In truth language always ends outside of itself. (BSP, 175–6)

Neither word nor thing-in-itself, what is ex-scribed is the relation (the ‘ex-’) united in what we call the thing, the thing itself reaching to ‘us’ in, through and as language. At the limit of language, there is no more difficult thought in Nancy’s writing; it weighs it down in terms of difficulty and gives it a particular weight for thinking language other than as nominational or as a tool of the speculative philosopher. Writing, then, is what matters in Nancy’s thought – in all meanings of the term.

F FAITH Mark Lewis Taylor Faith is what Nancy analyses as religion’s – particularly Western Christianity’s – name for ‘fidelity to the opening’ of a totality of relations in the world (NT, 83; GJ, 16). In his earlier work, Nancy linked faith closely to onto-theology’s affirming a supreme being, such that the ‘death of God’ entailed a death of the faith by which subjects were ordered to God (IC, 140). If in later works Nancy relates the Christian notion of faith (Latin: fidelis; Greek: pistis) to his own notions of fidelity to the world’s opening, he still maintains the death of God in onto-theology, continues writing from ‘completely outside any religion’ (GJ, 12), and reminds us that the ‘sense of the world’ traced by him in his writings ‘no



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at (à même) and touches upon the thing. When one speaks or writes in the everyday sense, one moves from the closed circuit of signification to the bodily, singular event of speaking or writing, as the genus (‘stones’ in general) exscribes itself to the particular (this stone) – or as the thing exscribes itself to the material performance of writing or speaking, to the naming of itself. ‘Exscription’ means that the thing’s name, by inscribing itself, inscribes its property as name outside itself, in an outside that it alone displays but where, displaying it, it displays the characteristic self-exteriority that constitutes its property as name. There is no thing without a name, but there is no name that, by naming and through naming, does not exscribe itself ‘in’ the thing, as ‘as’ it, while remaining this other of the thing that displays it only from afar. . . . In truth language always ends outside of itself. (BSP, 175–6)

Neither word nor thing-in-itself, what is ex-scribed is the relation (the ‘ex-’) united in what we call the thing, the thing itself reaching to ‘us’ in, through and as language. At the limit of language, there is no more difficult thought in Nancy’s writing; it weighs it down in terms of difficulty and gives it a particular weight for thinking language other than as nominational or as a tool of the speculative philosopher. Writing, then, is what matters in Nancy’s thought – in all meanings of the term.

F FAITH Mark Lewis Taylor Faith is what Nancy analyses as religion’s – particularly Western Christianity’s – name for ‘fidelity to the opening’ of a totality of relations in the world (NT, 83; GJ, 16). In his earlier work, Nancy linked faith closely to onto-theology’s affirming a supreme being, such that the ‘death of God’ entailed a death of the faith by which subjects were ordered to God (IC, 140). If in later works Nancy relates the Christian notion of faith (Latin: fidelis; Greek: pistis) to his own notions of fidelity to the world’s opening, he still maintains the death of God in onto-theology, continues writing from ‘completely outside any religion’ (GJ, 12), and reminds us that the ‘sense of the world’ traced by him in his writings ‘no

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Church can claim to gather and bless’. Moreover, ‘there remains for us neither cult nor prayer, but the exercise – strict and severe, sober and yet joyous – of what is called thought’ (D-E, 157). Nancy does not utter any simple ‘No’ to Christianity as religion, but his thinking does aim to deconstruct it, ‘to loosen the assembled structure in order to give some play to the possibility from which it emerged but which, qua assembled structure, it hides’ (D-E, 148). Concerning Christian faith, he disassembles it, opening it toward concepts of his own thinking. Nancy deconstructs faith by reading it as distended and swelled by a history and a tradition, as stretched between ‘an infinite antecedence and an infinite future’ (D-E, 147). Faith’s being stretched creates a tense, persistent openness, eventually de-constructing its own beliefs and structures. Christianity, thus, is itself ‘a dimension of sense’ (D-E, 147). Nancy can even deconstruct Christian faith’s notion of ‘the living God’ as life always extending beyond itself (D-E, 156). Relating faith to his notion of fidelity to the open enables Nancy to relate faith to two other key aspects of his writings: the labile antagonism of an always opening immanence and the arts. The relation to antagonism emerges when he dis-encloses faith as praxis in the New Testament letter attributed to James. He discerns in the letter a ‘praxical excess of and in action’ (D-E, 52), an excess that is not ‘belief’ (NT, 10; D-E, 152–3), but a fidelity of an ever-opening subject displaying ‘love of the neighbor’, ‘the discrediting of wealth’ and ‘the truthful and decided word’ (D-E, 55). Crucial is the central phrase, by which ‘the glory of faith’, of faith’s excessive act, is distinguished from (actually discredits) the glory that shines like the gold of the rich man (D-E, 57–8). Here religious faith approximates Nancy’s fidelity to the ceaseless sense of the world working against and undoing all closed and concentrated immanences, especially the glomus of globalisation (CW, 111–12) or capital (CW, 47). Nancy’s commentary on faith in James’s epistles also opens onto his reflections on art. The praxis of pistis is also a poiēsis. This latter works the inadequation of the self to itself (D-E, 52), so necessary for creating acts faithful to the open. Faith as poiēsis is a making that occurs in spaces of listening, into which selves are thrown by the appeal of others. As such this faith is analogous to ‘literature and art’ (NT, 10; L, 31). Art is a transimmanence (M, 34–5), ceaselessly opening and dis-enclosing wherever world is threatened by closure and concentration. Against ‘domination over the world by kings and priests (by the powerful)’ the arts mark the openings, a ‘powerless but brilliant and shattering omnipotence’ (GI, 138). This is the poiēsis-praxis of faith, its fidelity to the opening of world.



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FILM Douglas Morrey Nancy’s direct engagement with film has revolved essentially around two directors: Claire Denis (1946–) and Abbas Kiarostami (1940–). Nancy has published articles on Denis’s films Beau Travail (1999) and Trouble Every Day (2001). Denis filmed Nancy discussing ideas about immigration and national identity in the short film Vers Nancy (2002) and took inspiration from his L’Intrus (2000) for her film of the same title (2004), which Nancy analysed in a subsequent article. L’Intrus was also the inspiration for another French film, La Blessure (Nicolas Klotz, 2004), again discussed by Nancy in ‘La blessure, la cicatrice’ (2005). But the philosopher’s longest engagement with film is the book L’Évidence du film (2001) devoted to the work of Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami. In this text, Nancy suggests that Kiarostami’s cinema (and perhaps by extension any cinema that lays claim to the status of art) shows the world as evidence and the world in its obviousness (both senses are contained in the French évidence): not exactly the world as given but the world that comes to show itself if one cares to look. Cinema, for Nancy, is an opening in the world onto the world. Unlike Plato’s cave, to which it has often been erroneously compared, film ‘does not reflect an outside, it opens an inside onto itself’ (EvF, 46). For Nancy, to ‘realise’ a film, or an image, is to set free the movement of a presence presenting itself; it is, at the same time, the realising of a real, a real made possible by a respectful gaze. In this sense, looking is ultimately nothing other than thinking the real, rising to the challenge of a sense that cannot be completely measured or contained. For Nancy, to look is to regard in the sense of both gazing at and having regard for something. A just regard would imply a respect for the real thereby regarded, an attention and an opening onto the force proper to that real. The look seeks not to capture that force, but rather to communicate with it. This can only be achieved to the extent that the real is allowed to present itself rather than being absorbed into pre-existing visions or worldviews. Nancy’s work on film can thus be understood as an extension of his philosophy of representation as expounded in The Ground of the Image (2003) in which he interprets the atrocity of Auschwitz as marking a logical end-point to the Western conception of representation: an attempt at representation without remainder. An ethical philosophy of image-making after Auschwitz thus requires a respectful attention to that which, in the real, resists representation, resists ready incorporation into prefabricated ways of understanding the world. L’Évidence du film thus posits a concept

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of the filmmaker as creator in the sense in which the term is used in The Creation of the World (2002): attentive to the future, or to events, to the extent that they exceed the possibilities of representation. Kiarostami’s is a cinema, as Nancy puts it, detached from representation and turned toward presence, where presence is a matter not of vision but rather of ‘encounters, worries, or concerns’ (EvF, 30). This conception of the image as a kind of impossible creation – an attention to the presentation of presence in which representation is impossible – recalls Nancy’s thought, expressed in The Ground of the Image, regarding the sacred character of the image. Nancy argues that the image is sacred to the extent that it is separated from the real or withdrawn from the real and, as such, is inaccessible, untouchable. But this separation also implies that there is always a certain violence contained within, or activated by, the image, which can be understood as a tearing of being away from or outside itself. In L’Évidence du film, Nancy characterises this separation as a ‘theft’, the image ‘stripping its reality from the real in order to restore it, confirmed, averred, sealed in its strength’ (EvF, 34). The idea of the image as untouchable is part of an important nexus of concepts in Nancy’s work uniting the sacred, the image and touch, theorised as that limit point par excellence in which the material evidence of the senses meets and enables an incorporeal sense or meaning. For Nancy, looking at a work of art, whether painting or film, is always a kind of deferred touch and, as such, helps us to understand touch as a movement whose significance lies in its deferral (or différance), the hesitation or withdrawal by virtue of which the absence of touch is always already contained within a touch. The radical uncertainty of this concept of touch makes it useful for complicating the so-called ‘haptic turn’ within film studies, which has sought to theorise cinema’s appeal to the senses beyond simply sound and vision. As scholars such as Laura McMahon have pointed out, Nancy’s notion of a touch that finds its meaning in withdrawal is useful for theorising the spectral sensuousness of cinema without falling back into a regressive metaphysics of presence and immediacy. At various points in L’Évidence du film, Nancy stresses his lack of expertise in film history or criticism. Given his conceptual vocabulary, however, it is not difficult to place Nancy’s writing on film squarely within a French film-critical tradition. The most obvious precursor to the Nancy of L’Évidence is André Bazin (1918–58), whose faith in the indexicality of the photographic image led him to prefer the ‘democratic’ mise en scène of Italian neorealism or Jean Renoir and his didactic semiotics of montage cinema. The key term évidence also recalls the criticism of Jacques Rivette, who saw this characteristic as key to the genius of Howard Hawks, in the process elaborating a theory of mise en scène as the perfect fit between



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subject and style that creates a sense of the necessity of the real. Finally, Nancy’s reflections on the sacred character of the image, his wariness over representation, definitively compromised at Auschwitz, and his promotion of a cinema that facilitates thought rather than reflecting ideas make his work contemporary with Jean-Luc Godard’s monumental Histoire(s) du cinéma (1998).

FINITUDE Ian James Finitude needs first and foremost to be understood in terms of limits, that is, as the state of being bounded. In this context the boundedness of human life by the limits of birth, death and shared worldly existence (see world) is our most evident or readily available apprehension of finitude. Within modern thought the term might be most obviously understood as the central organising figure of Kantian critical philosophy in which human knowledge is limited to the bounds of finite intuition and understanding. The thinking of finitude in critical philosophy is inseparable from its ambition to provide a foundation for human knowledge insofar as its grounding within finite intuition also comes at the expense of its limitation (that is to say, the distinction between the knowable phenomenon and the unknowable noumenon or thing-in-itself). In the wake of Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), finitude plays an equally central role in twentieth-­ century existential ontology, in, for instance, the finite temporality of ‘being-towards-death’ elaborated by Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) in Being and Time (1927), and in Jean-Paul Sartre’s (1905–80) phenomenological ontology in Being and Nothingness (1943), the finitude of ‘being-foritself’ and ‘for-others’. Nancy’s thinking of finitude draws on this rich post-Kantian tradition but also, in decisive ways, moves beyond it. Most notably his thinking of finitude and of limits is orientated towards the question of excess. Here limits are always engaged in a logic of exposure to a radical exteriority, an outside or excess over the limit, and to this extent Nancy’s thought develops the legacy of a specifically French ‘thought of the outside’ that can be associated with thinkers such as Georges Bataille (1897–1962), Maurice Blanchot (1907–2003), Emmanuel Levinas (1906–95) and the early work of Michel Foucault (1926–84). In this context the task of a finite thinking, for Nancy, would be to think thought itself as that which, without renouncing the values of truth or universality, can only think within and at its own limit, touching at its limit and at its own singularity

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of thought (FT, 5). Towards the beginning of A Finite Thinking (1990) Nancy argues that this task is inseparable from the question of sense and of the finitude of sense: ‘it could be a question of sense’s essential finitude – something that would, in turn, demand an essential finitude of thinking’ (FT, 4). To think the finitude of sense and to demand an essential finitude of thinking is not, for Nancy, an affirmation of the enclosure of thought within its own limits. He does not argue that finite thinking is some kind of prison house, which would deprive thought of any access to truth, or condemn it to be rooted in determinable specificities of historical context or situation. Nancy’s finite thinking is not a relativism or perspectivism where one point of view has exactly the same value as any other. Nor is finitude here a limitation of thought, which would imply an existence, beyond the limit, of a limitlessness or of an infinite (and therefore theological) transcendence. Already in A Finite Thinking Nancy understands finitude in terms of a limitation which is always, one might say always already, de-limited or exposed to a certain limitlessness of actual and material worldly existence. Finite thinking is ‘[n]ot a thinking of limitation, which implies the unlimitedness of a beyond, but a thinking of the limit as that on which, infinitely finite, existence arises [s’enlève], and to which it is exposed [s’expose]’ (FT, 27). Any understanding of Nancy as a thinker of finitude needs to engage with the difficult logic of the limit that is being articulated here and, in particular, needs to engage with the force and implications of the formulation ‘infinitely finite [infiniment finie]’. Such a formulation is no doubt highly indebted to the thought and writing of Blanchot in texts such as The Infinite Conversation (1993) and clearly signals that Nancy’s thinking of finitude is in no way reducible to the thought of an existence, which would simply be enclosed within finite limits (e.g. those of contingency, mortality and language). It is worth noting that some contemporary philosophers, for example Alain Badiou (1937–), have responded very critically to Nancy’s philosophy of finitude. They have judged it negatively insofar as finitude itself might arguably only ever be understood as a form of limitation or enclosure of being. Therefore, according to Badiou, it is a continuation of metaphysics. This criticism needs to be evaluated in the light of what it clearly fails to take into account, namely that Nancy’s is a thinking of de-limitation, excess and exposure, or what he also comes to call ‘in-finitude’. More recently Nancy’s sustained engagement with the question of the deconstruction of Christianity re-emphasises and further radicalises his central and persistent argument that finitude can only be understood according to a logic of excess, of de-limitation,



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and as a relation to a radical exteriority or outside. Finitude in Nancy is therefore always already traversed by a specific experience or understanding of infinity whereby ‘finiteness does not limit infinity; on the contrary, finiteness should give it its expansion and its truth’ (D-E, 18).

FRATERNITY Ian James At the beginning of The Experience of Freedom (1988) Nancy evokes ‘the free space of “fraternity,” the immense site at which “equality” finds its incommensurable measure’ (EF, xxii) (see equality). In so doing he signals the extent to which his use of the term ‘fraternity’ needs to be understood in the context of his fundamental reworking of Heideggerian ontology. Just as freedom in this seminal text of his corpus should not be understood in more traditional terms, for instance as the autonomy of the will or as the predicate of a subject, so fraternity is resituated in a space outside its traditional meaning. Where freedom as ‘free space’ comes to be understood as a free opening of existence, as the fact of appearing or (after Martin Heidegger [1889–1976]) as existence freed in the open, so fraternity is articulated as an ontological possibility and as a mode of spacing or coming to appearance. Nancy takes pains to disengage his use of the term ‘fraternity’ from its traditional baggage. The republican slogan with which it might most obviously be associated appears to him to be ridiculous, thoroughly tainted by its official political value and marked by the decidedly outdated legacy of Rousseau (EF, 168). More problematically still, the word ‘fraternity’ may remain indelibly marked by its most obvious familial meaning and therefore always designate a sharing of identity and of substance. It may also, after Sigmund Freud’s (1856–1939) account in Totem and Taboo (1913), refer to a relationship of brotherhood between men established in the murder of the father. Yet Nancy insists that it is possible to interpret fraternity differently and outside of its identitarian and masculinist connotations. It is possible, he suggests, to interpret it as ‘a sharing of a maternal thing which precisely would not be substance, but sharing, to infinity’ (EF, 168). Nancy’s use of the term ‘fraternity’, then, follows the strategy he uses for so many other key philosophical terms (such as community, sense, freedom or world), namely to dismantle or deconstruct its traditional meanings, but not, as would Jacques Derrida (1930–2004), to locate an instance of

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aporia or undecidability. Rather he creates new meanings through reworking the term in different contexts and giving it a new philosophical sense or resonance. Here fraternity comes to have meaning only insofar as it is used alongside and comes to resonate with other key terms of Nancy’s reworked thinking of being, for instance, singularity, relation, being-in-common, compearance, freedom and sharing. For Nancy we are in a relation of fraternity because we are singular beings and because singularity itself is only as relation, and therefore because our being is always already shared, always already in common or in the mode of a co-appearing. Fraternity here is neither a relation of a shared familial tie nor anything that passes exclusively between men. Rather it is a relation of generalised equality that opens up between singularities in the withdrawal of shared identity or substance (see sexual relation). Fraternity is a relation in which the incommensurable singular plurality of being is affirmed as an infinite sharing.

FREEDOM Daniel Hoffman-Schwartz Jean-Luc Nancy’s affirmative rethinking of freedom stands as one of his boldest philosophical interventions. It is no exaggeration that for Nancy the history of philosophy is organised by its double relation to freedom: philosophy begins in and with a freedom that it continually attempts to suppress by subordinating it to essence, foundation or substance – all figures of necessity. This beginning is described by Nancy in quasi-­historical terms as the ‘decision for philosophy’, but it is also and more profoundly the freedom from and in which thought always emerges: ‘thinking . . . receives (itself) from a freedom that is not present to it’ (EF, 7–8). In Nancy’s account, there are two exemplary instances of the philosophical subordination of freedom to necessity: the medieval ‘ontotheological’ instance and the modern instance, that of the ontology of subjectivity and the Idea (see onto-theology). In the ‘onto-theological’ instance, the freedom of beings is grounded in the freedom of a supreme being, freedom thus negated twice over: first, in the very gesture of subordinating beings to a supreme being; second, in the ontological necessity of this supreme being, which by its nature cannot not be (EF, 11–12). In the ‘modern’ instance, freedom is identified with necessity, whether in the form of rational legislation (and thus the rational self-subjection to rational legislation) or that of the progressive teleological fulfilment of



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the Idea of freedom (EF, 44–7). Though ‘freedom’ may thus appear to be irredeemably onto-theological or ideological, it is nonetheless for Nancy the classical philosopheme whose repetition and reinscription provokes the most radical destructuring (or ‘deconstruction’) of the history of metaphysics. Nancy’s starting point in this endeavour is Martin Heidegger (1889– 1976), from section nine of Being and Time (1927): ‘The “essence” of Dasein lies in its existence’ (EF, 9). Existence is hereby made ‘essential’ and thus no longer subordinated to any transcendent necessity, whether that of a supreme being or an Idea – even or especially a free supreme being or an Idea of freedom. Existence is thus freed from essence and, at the same stroke, freedom is redefined as just this essential existence, a being given over to an existence that is not governed by any idea, essence or model. In Nancy’s words, existence ‘absolutely and resolutely transcends, that is, ex-ists’ (EF, 13); it is a singular ‘bursting forth [éclat]’ or a ‘Setzung’, a pure positing, as distinct from a stable position (EF, 57, 31). Nancy can thus write: ‘freedom perhaps designates nothing more and nothing less than existence itself’ (EF, 14). The ‘freedom of existence’ implies, as well, the ‘freedom of being’: ‘freedom must be the element or fundamental modality of being, as soon as being does not precede existence, or succeed it, but is at stake in it’ (EF, 19). But this ‘freedom of being’ must nonetheless be understood as the (‘auto-affective’) self-expenditure of being (EF, 57); it is the freedom of being that allows the bursting forth of existence, but precisely because being withdraws and expends itself in the very bursting forth of existence. Nancy refers to this dynamic as that of ‘the generosity of the withdrawal’ (EF, 106). Such a conception of the ‘freedom of being’ situates Nancy’s thinking of freedom at the very limit of what might be indicated by the term ‘ontology’. Echoing Heidegger but also taking some distance from him, Nancy writes, ‘freedom is not, but it frees being and frees from being’ (EF, 68). ‘Freedom’ thus hovers at the historico-philosophical border between fundamental ontology and something else (perhaps a fundamental eleutherology), a something else that is never simply other than ontology: ‘Freedom: the withdrawal of every positing [position] of being, including its being posited [position] as different from beings. There is therefore no thesis here on being except insofar as there is no longer any possible thesis on being. . . . This is its last thesis’ (EF, 167). For Nancy, there is only the experience of thought because there is no transcendent necessity, because, in other words, there is freedom. This is what Nancy, salvaging an aspect of the Kantian tradition, refers to as the apodicity of freedom. Unlike theoretical reason, which for Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) requires the elaborate search for grounds (as expressed

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in the question quid juris – ‘by what right?’), practical reason, associated with the domain of freedom, is immediately and without question its own ground, inasmuch as its exercise is the very proof of its existence. Freedom is thus a peculiar kind of experience that is not that of a self-evidence and which does not belong to the domain of theoretical reason or phenomenal objectivity (EF, 11). It is, in other words, a ‘transcendental experience or a transcendental of experience’ (EF, 87). Though this experience of freedom thus cannot be phenomenal, freedom qua existence nonetheless ‘implies the thought of a transcendental materiality, or, if we prefer, an ontological materiality’ (EF, 103). Thinking thus does not encounter freedom within the cognitive order of comprehension or incomprehension (nor that of the ‘un-comprehension’ of speculative dialectics) (EF, 50). Rather, thought ‘touches’ (see touch) freedom, experiences it as its own ‘proper/improper material intensity’, ‘by virtue of which alone it can be what it is’ (EF, 103). The ethico-political consequences of this experience of freedom are dizzyingly aporetic. For Nancy, the (in-)essentiality of existence means that freedom is the very law of existence, a law that consists in precisely the absence of law. (Put otherwise, the Setzung of existence never finally settles into a position, is never finally gesetzt [posited]; but this lack of stable position is the law of existence, its Gesetz [law].) The ‘law’ of existence thus cannot simply be either followed or transgressed. To follow the law is precisely to transgress it. Thus ‘in a sense, it is impossible to transgress; in another sense, it is nothing other than the inscription of the transgressive/transcendent possibility of existence. Existence can only transgress itself’ (EF, 30). This inscription of the (non-)law of freedom may take the structure of an imperative. It is autonomous, in the sense not merely of ‘giving oneself a law’, but of ‘a legislation by the self in which the self does not pre-exist . . . and this law itself is not based on any right’ (EF, 107). This imperative to freedom does not however free the self from any unfreedom, but from the law of freedom that the imperative itself takes up and repeats. This self-resistance of freedom can be inscribed in the semantic content of the imperative, as in the following imperative imagined by Nancy: ‘be what you are, that is, freedom, and for this, free yourself, from an essence and/ or concept of freedom!’ (EF, 107). But at the limit, what matters most for Nancy is the force of the imperative, that is, the ‘intonation’ and ‘material intensity’ with which it thus frees itself from its own semantic determination (EF, 109). Freedom shades towards ‘the political’ in two interrelated ways. First, the freedom of existence entails as well a radical affirmation of relation; to be given over to existence is to be given over to relation. Freedom is



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thus inseparable from an originary being-with (Mitsein); the freedom of existence is thus political, though the space thereby opened is not that of a form and thus cannot be imagined as a city or polis. Second, there is nonetheless a political transcription of freedom, which follows the model without model of the éclat or Setzung of existence in a movement of beginning or ‘initiality’ (EF, 78). Freedom, for Nancy, is thus ‘the event and advent of existence as the being-in-common of singularities’ (EF, 78) and is therefore also linked inextricably to the question of ‘revolutionizing revolutions’ (EF, 164) (see event).

FREUD, SIGMUND Matthew Ellison While Freudian psychoanalysis is not a central theme in Nancy’s work, his corpus contains a handful of discussions of Freud (1856–1939), as well as scattered passing references. One early deconstructive treatment of Freud is ‘In Statu Nascendi’ (1977), where Nancy, through a consideration of the concept of ‘fore-pleasure [Vorlust]’ and Freud’s linking of sexual and aesthetic fore-pleasure, investigates the ways in which psychoanalysis is itself an aesthetic understood in the broadest sense as sensation. These concerns are also taken up in a more recent text on aesthetics, The Pleasure in Drawing (2009). Another early engagement with Freud is found in the essays ‘The Political Panic’ (1979) and ‘The Jewish People Does Not Dream’ (1981), both co-written with Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe (1940–2007). These texts, written during the period in which Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe established the Centre de recherches philosophiques sur le politique (CRPP), examine a tension in Freud’s so-called ‘cultural’ writings between, on the one hand, a certain insistence on the model of paternal identification, and, on the other, the figure of ‘the mother’, which withdraws identity and allows for a paradoxical ‘identification with the retreat of identity’ (RP, 180). Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe show how Freud’s thought exhibits a certain ‘archeophilia’ (an attachment to origins or foundations) and at the same time – thanks to the elaboration of a social model of identification, which they locate in part in Freud’s joke essay – contains the resources to think the ‘multiple weavings and fissurings of this political and subjectival normativity’ (RP, 118). Freud therefore provides an important reference point for the CRPP’s thinking of relation, grounding and identification, as well as Nancy’s later writings on these questions. The title essay in Corpus (1992) reflects on a posthumous note of

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Freud’s that Nancy sees as consonant with his own writings on the body, and which provides some of the impetus for his attempt to think the ‘sense of the body’ anew (or to think the ‘body as sense’). Freud writes: ‘psyche is extended, knows nothing of it [Psyche ist ausgedehnt, weiß nichts davon]’ (Freud 1999: 152, cited in C, 21). For Nancy, Freud’s ‘most fascinating’ claim that the psyche is extended or stretched out suggests that ‘“the psyche” is body, and this is precisely what escapes it’ (C, 21). The psyche is not an incarnation of spirit, Nancy argues, but is instead primarily corporeal, an extension of the body about which it (the psyche) knows nothing. ‘The “unconscious” is the being-extended of psyche’, he writes (C, 21). In a chapter of The Sense of the World (1993) titled ‘Psychoanalysis’, Nancy asks ‘how is there world for psychoanalysis?’, and equates the world, understood as a ‘totality of signifiability’ that refers to or ‘opens onto nothing’, with the Freudian unconscious (SW, 47). In this vein Nancy also approvingly cites a letter Freud wrote to Marie Bonaparte in 1937 in which he remarks that to ask for the meaning and value of life is pathological, since ‘objectively neither has any existence’ (Freud 1980: 452, cited in SW, 49). Freud’s statement resonates with Nancy’s own claim that the world does not have a sense but is sense. The coda of Adoration (2010), ‘Freud – so to speak’, is Nancy’s most recent reflection on Freud, in which he attempts to read the concept of the drive as the way in which ‘Freud in his own way think a dis-enclosure of reason’ (A, 49), a notion central to the project of a deconstruction of Christianity.

G GENERAL EQUIVALENCE Matthew Ellison General equivalence has been a key concern of Nancy’s work since the turn of the millennium. Nancy borrows the concept of the general equivalent (allgemeines Äquivalent, which in English is more commonly translated as ‘universal equivalent’) from Karl Marx’s (1818–83) Capital (1867) (see communism). For Marx the general equivalent refers to money, the general value form under capitalism that facilitates the evaluation of any commodity by a single criterion. The term takes on a broader tenor in

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Freud’s that Nancy sees as consonant with his own writings on the body, and which provides some of the impetus for his attempt to think the ‘sense of the body’ anew (or to think the ‘body as sense’). Freud writes: ‘psyche is extended, knows nothing of it [Psyche ist ausgedehnt, weiß nichts davon]’ (Freud 1999: 152, cited in C, 21). For Nancy, Freud’s ‘most fascinating’ claim that the psyche is extended or stretched out suggests that ‘“the psyche” is body, and this is precisely what escapes it’ (C, 21). The psyche is not an incarnation of spirit, Nancy argues, but is instead primarily corporeal, an extension of the body about which it (the psyche) knows nothing. ‘The “unconscious” is the being-extended of psyche’, he writes (C, 21). In a chapter of The Sense of the World (1993) titled ‘Psychoanalysis’, Nancy asks ‘how is there world for psychoanalysis?’, and equates the world, understood as a ‘totality of signifiability’ that refers to or ‘opens onto nothing’, with the Freudian unconscious (SW, 47). In this vein Nancy also approvingly cites a letter Freud wrote to Marie Bonaparte in 1937 in which he remarks that to ask for the meaning and value of life is pathological, since ‘objectively neither has any existence’ (Freud 1980: 452, cited in SW, 49). Freud’s statement resonates with Nancy’s own claim that the world does not have a sense but is sense. The coda of Adoration (2010), ‘Freud – so to speak’, is Nancy’s most recent reflection on Freud, in which he attempts to read the concept of the drive as the way in which ‘Freud in his own way think a dis-enclosure of reason’ (A, 49), a notion central to the project of a deconstruction of Christianity.

G GENERAL EQUIVALENCE Matthew Ellison General equivalence has been a key concern of Nancy’s work since the turn of the millennium. Nancy borrows the concept of the general equivalent (allgemeines Äquivalent, which in English is more commonly translated as ‘universal equivalent’) from Karl Marx’s (1818–83) Capital (1867) (see communism). For Marx the general equivalent refers to money, the general value form under capitalism that facilitates the evaluation of any commodity by a single criterion. The term takes on a broader tenor in



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Nancy’s work, however, and forms a central part of his reflections on the interrelated phenomena of globalisation, technics and, more recently, the idea of a civilisational catastrophe. Nancy understands capitalism as the system resulting from a gradual, ‘unconscious’ decision made by civilisation in favour of a certain mode of evaluation, that of equivalence (A, 18; TD, 23). As what lies at the heart of capitalism, Nancy claims that general equivalence is the very ‘law of our civilization’ (AF, 32). The result of this choice is a generalised marketisation and in turn mediocritisation of existence, an attempt to ‘calculate the incalculable’, in which singularities appear as little more than bearers of an exchange value. As Nancy writes, under general equivalence ‘ends, means, values, senses, actions, works, persons’ are rendered homogeneous or ‘exchangeable because none of them is related to anything that might distinguish it, because all of them are related to an exchange that . . . is but a substitution of roles or a permutation of places’ (TD, 24). In The Truth of Democracy (2008), Nancy is concerned to contest a certain liberal rhetoric that would see in general equivalence a form of equality (see democracy). General equivalence, for Nancy, produces only an abstract economic commensurability between individuals, an effacement of genuine difference. Another thinking of the notions of democracy and equality is thus necessary, one based on an absolute incommensurability of singularities. Given that modern democracy emerged ‘out of, if not as’, capitalism and general equivalence, Nancy claims that the possibility of a democracy worthy of the name is tied to a ‘mutation in the paradigm of equivalence’ (TD, 24). There is also an essential link, Nancy argues, pushing Marx’s term beyond its original sense, between general equivalence and technics, since these developed in a close symbiosis in modernity. Nancy will also name this conjunction ecotechnics. Technics has been at once the material support for the calculative disposition of capitalism and subject to its drive toward indistinction. Technics, Nancy argues, is itself ‘subject to equivalence: the equivalence between all its possible ends, and even, in a way that is just as extreme as that brought about through money, that between means and ends’ (TD, 23). This indistinguishability of means and ends entails an unthinkably complex interdependence of technical, social, economic, ecological, scientific and cultural systems, which in turn ‘depend[s] on a general interconnection: that of money by which all these systems function and to which, in the last analysis, they lead back, since any operation of fabrication, exchange, or distribution must lead to profit’ (AF, 5). General equivalence at once relies on and assimilates the autonomous development of technics. Together they form an immeasurably vast matrix

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that far exceeds any human mastery. In After Fukushima: The Equivalence of Catastrophes (2012), Nancy will argue that ‘the regime of general equivalence henceforth virtually absorbs, well beyond the monetary or financial sphere but thanks to it and with regard to it, all the spheres of human existence, and along with them all things that exist [l’ensemble des existants]’ (AF, 5). General equivalence thus assumes a certain ontological significance in Nancy’s work: under capitalism singularities are in fact apprehended in terms of their amenability to the universal equivalence of capital. For this reason Nancy claims that it is the interconnection of general equivalence and technics that ‘forms a world’ today (CW, 95). Nancy’s argument here recalls that made by Martin Heidegger (1889–1976), who claims that technics is an ontological mode of revealing (see Heidegger 1977). For his part, Nancy uses Heidegger’s term ‘enframing [Ge-stell, arraisonnement]’ to denote the hubristic and calculative stance underlying the conjunction of general equivalence and technics (CW, 95). Under the ‘regime’ of general equivalence singularities come to presence as amenable to profitability, in which all singularities are infinitely substitutable and the openness or spacing of relation is reduced to a banal principle of exchange. Nancy accordingly argues that general equivalence produces the ‘global injustice’ (CW, 54) of a world closed in upon itself, an ‘earth without sky’ or what he calls an ‘unworld [immonde]’, a squalid world unfit for habitation (CW, 34). In Nancy’s terms the spread of general equivalence around the world is another name for globalisation, and he believes that this extension is leading not just to gross inequalities, but to the possible destruction of the world itself. As he writes in The Creation of the World (2002): ‘everything takes place as if the world affected and permeated itself with a death drive that soon would have nothing else to destroy than the world itself’ (CW, 34). The title of Nancy’s book on the Fukushima nuclear disaster must therefore not be understood as claiming that all catastrophes are somehow equivalent, but rather that the general equivalence which leads to them is itself catastrophic (AF, 6–7). As a name for a general indifference or nullification of distinctions, senses and values between singularity, and the accompanying idea that any being is therefore as valuable as any other, general equivalence is another way of talking about nihilism. Accordingly, for Nancy, the overcoming of nihilism (no small project!) is tied to a ‘dislodging of the very foundation of general equivalence’ (TD, 31). Nancy will speak of this task of overcoming general equivalence in terms of introducing ‘a new nonequivalence’ (TD, 24), of ‘creating a world’ by giving ‘form to a differential of values’ (CW, 53), in terms of the opening up of a Nietzschean ‘different evaluation’ or



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‘re-evaluation [Umwertung]’, and later, in the context of the deconstruction of Christianity, as the adoration of sense (A, 74).

GLOBALISATION Jane Hiddleston ‘Globalisation’ in English translates two terms in French, globalisation and mondialisation, to which Nancy attributes quite distinct meanings. First, globalisation names the recent phenomenon whereby the West has come to encompass the world, instituting a regime of global capitalism, propagated by technology. This domination by the West has led not to unity but to disintegration, since the only unifying force is that of ruthless technological and economic exploitation. The West is urbi et orbi, a more dissolute ‘anywhere and everywhere’ than the papal formulation implies, a diffuse presence without centre or foundation. The world of globalisation is nothing but an agglomeration, a sprawling network, built out of a rapidly expanding population and overlaid by the development of techno-science, in which inequalities have become increasingly pronounced (see equality, general equivalence). Furthermore, in this context of global expansion, the ‘West’ is no longer the harbinger of universal reason. Nancy notes that, while already in 1802 G. W. F. Hegel (1770–1831) observed that increased commerce between Europe and the rest of the world had triggered a questioning of certain entrenched certainties, this has not now led to the development of a more nuanced ‘sense of the world’. On the contrary, the West has redoubled its economic power but has lost any sense of meaning or progress: it is in the same stroke that the confidence in historical progress weakened, the convergence of knowledge, ethics, and social well-being dissipated, and the domination of an empire made up of technological power and pure economic reason asserted itself. (CW, 34)

The totalisation performed by the movement of globalisation turns in on itself, then, and it interrupts relationality and prevents sharing. According to Nancy, the result is that ‘the world has lost its capacity to “form a world [faire monde]”’ (CW, 34). Global expansion has not led to the creation of a new global community, but merely to the deepening of economic and political inequalities. Secondly, however, if Nancy deplores the economic inequality of this disseminated global order, he also uses the term mondialisation, or

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‘­world-forming’, to explore the potential for a more liberating process of creation. Globalisation implies a form of totality, whereas mondialisation is ‘an expanding process throughout the expanse of the world of human beings’; the former implies totalisation and uniformity, while the latter connotes active and ongoing expansion (CW, 28). In his preface to The Creation of the World or Globalization (2002), Nancy comments on the multiple potential meanings of the ‘or’ (a choice between the two, the former as the latter, or two indifferent alternatives), and suggests that in each case the challenge is precisely to consider whether ‘globalisation’ could give rise to a more fluid and more just ‘creation of the world’. The thesis of his study is, then, that globalisation may have destroyed the world, but it also lays open the ground for a new construction of worldhood. The disastrous fragmentation and disintegration that Nancy laments in the early pages of The Creation of the World also provide the starting point for a new process of creation. Creation here is conceived not in the religious sense but is wrested from its associations with foundationalism to intimate an active and continual process of production. This world-forming will be ‘the form of forms that itself demands to be created, that is not only produced in the absence of any given, but held infinitely beyond any possible given’ (CW, 52). The world, in this sense, is in the process of being reinvented, and exists in the form of the multiple relations between singularities that continually contribute to that reinvention. ‘Globalisation’ from this perspective has two sides. The broad, destructive sweep of global capitalism has at the same time emptied the notion of ‘world’ of any meaning, and as a result provides a forum for its ongoing re-creation. The task of creating the world is double-edged; it must be ‘a struggle of the West against itself, of capital against itself’ (CW, 53). Global capitalism creates a world without ethos or reason, and this loss of a founding reason is what at the same time undermines global capitalism and announces the necessity for alternative processes of ‘world-forming’. The dissemination of the sense of the world also becomes, for Nancy, the condition for the creation of justice, since it allows a process of continual reinvention of universal laws, and it reveals the limits of the capitalist system by which it is currently if provisionally dominated. If sense can be perpetually recreated, then its continually renovated form can work against oppressive political systems that seek to impose their uniform meaning on the rest of the world and, by that means, to retain their hegemonic status. Justice will not be the necessary outcome of the dissemination of the world, but that dissemination is, for Nancy, the starting point for its creation. The fractured agglomeration of the world order is, then, one of infinite potential:



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to create the world means: immediately, without delay, reopening each possible struggle for a world, that is, for what must form the contrary of a global injustice against the background of general equivalence. But this means to conduct this struggle precisely in the name of the fact that this world is coming out of nothing, that there is nothing before and that it is without models, without principle and without given end, and that it is precisely what forms the justice and the meaning of a world. (CW, 54–5)

The exploitative hegemony of global capitalism can in this way also be seen to create a newly dialogic structure in which struggles can take place and alternative forces can gather strength. ‘Globalisation’ may at the moment propagate deepening inequalities, but its system creates openings for its very dismantlement. The chaotic agglomeration of the new world order, far from necessarily being paralysed by the contemporary reign of capitalism, is precisely what allows for the invention of an alternative relationality that promotes the freedom and movement of singular beings. Nancy vilifies the inequalities of the global system, but uses the current context to propose an alternative conception of mutual exposure that will allow for a new thinking of justice. Nancy shows how globalisation has engendered a loss of the sense of the world, which results in a refusal of sameness and origin. But this loss of a sense of sameness also provides the backdrop for alternative forms of justice, even if these have not yet been properly thought through or implemented. The struggles that Nancy conceives might contest the new world order are crucially presented not in themselves as exercises of power, and not, even more, as affirmations of a new model or order. He suggests that the dissemination of the meaning of the world might allow for struggles of infinitely variable form. Nancy explores the integral place of all forms of struggle in the new global order, and he conceptualises that order precisely as one that undermines itself through its foreclosure of any unified system, model or structure. Every sense or meaning of the world is from this point of view provisional, dynamic and experimental, and universalising systems, such as those of global capitalism, seek to stall that expansive movement. Nancy’s refusal to make of ‘world-forming’ a system of its own demonstrates his commitment to hearing anew emergent voices, to allowing these voices to question established laws and truths, and to promoting an ongoing, never completed movement towards improved global justice.

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GOD Chris Watkin From ‘Of Divine Places’ (1985) to Adoration (2010), the question of God or the gods plays out as a sometimes interweaving, sometimes disparate set of concerns and themes in Nancy’s thought that we might loosely gather together under the categories of the God of religion, the God of metaphysics, the God of the poets, and the God of the death of God. In each case, Nancy understands the divine in terms of his own themes of sense and exposure. The God of religion for Nancy is the God of Blaise Pascal’s (1623–62) Mémorial (1654) and of the Deus interior intimo meo (‘God more intimate to me than I am to myself’) of Augustine’s (354–430) Confessions (397–400). God, for Augustine, names the bottomlessness that always retreats beyond our touch (A, 75–6) such that the absolute presence of the divine is always coupled with God’s irrecoverable absence (IC, 137). For Nancy, this play of presence and absence is nothing other than the infinite excess of ‘me’ (moi) beyond myself, my ek-sistence inseparable from my relation to an other to which I am exposed and open (A, 73). Nancy understands the God of metaphysics (or the God of the philosophers, or the God of onto-theology) in terms of the relationship between sense and the world. The God of metaphysics – the author, first cause or supreme being – has been customarily understood as the divine creator who gives sense to the world and yet is outside the world, outside any place. However, Nancy follows Ludwig Wittgenstein (1859–1951) in arguing that this God labours under a contradiction: it is considered to be placeless and yet its very placelessness is specified within a spatialising preposition: ‘outside’ the world (SW, 55). Spinoza’s deus sive natura (‘God or nature’) is the only God to escape this contradiction of being nowhere and outside at the same time. The God of metaphysics has progressively been denuded of the attributes of existing independently of the world. For example, Spinoza’s God is the immanent cause of the world and Leibniz’s God is one who creates the best of all possible worlds. They have no extra-mundane reality but are nothing more than an internal reason of the general order of things (CW, 44). The God of onto-theology is no longer supreme being but world-subject in a world that no longer has anything to do with a putative outside (D-E, 71). The world is no longer created or superintended by a God who dwells outside it but the world itself is opened, within itself, onto the sense that infinitely exceeds it, a sense found not in escaping the world but in the spacing of the world. Commenting approvingly on the philosophy of Gérard Granel



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(1930–2000), Nancy notes that now the divine names the alterity constitutive of the world’s opening not onto a placeless outside of it but constitutive of the opening of its own spacing, the sharing of sense according to which the world is ordered (D-E, 72). The ‘outside’ that gives sense is now ‘inside’, an opening of the sense of the world within the world that makes Spinoza, for Nancy, the first thinker of the world in this sense (SW, 55). Concomitantly, the world itself is no longer understood as divine workmanship but as the space of the ‘there is’ in what Nancy calls its ‘configuration without a face’ (SW, 156). There is no God – no Western Helleno-Judeo-Christian-Islamic God as the agent of the world – because God does not belong to the ‘there is’ (see Christianity, Judaism). The ‘nothing’ of creation ex nihilo is understood no longer as the nothing out of which God made the world, but rather the divine itself is now nothing: nothing other than the coming forth of the world (BSP, 16). The God of metaphysics is a God-principle with no need of a name, but for Nancy there is another God, a God who cannot be properly signified without a remainder. When the supreme being has been reinscribed in the spacing of the ‘there is’ of the world, ‘God’ remains not as a signification but as a proper name (D-E, 115). This God is invoked, not posited, addressed, not deployed. It is the God who, in ‘The Calculation of the Poet’, is present not in self-identicality but in passing, in the metre of the Hölderlinian verse with its cadences that preserve the vestige of the Gods’ passage, or rather ‘of the passage that the Gods are’ (‘CP’, 61). With this emphasis on Friedrich Hölderlin’s (1770–1843) rhythm and the distribution of his language, Nancy has once again understood this God in terms of spacing and sense. Much of Nancy’s engagement with the divine turns around the motif of the death of God, which for him is not to be thought of as an event which creeps up on religion but rather something which has always already been at work in religion (PP, 49), for monotheism is already pregnant with the death of God (CW, 85). Nevertheless, the death of God is irreversible and we are to expect no divine return or resurrection (IC, 122). The phrase ‘the God of the death of God’ appears in The Ground of the Image, where Nancy refers to the Christian (specifically the Catholic) God as the God who withdraws from all religion and from any link to a divine presence (GI, 11). Once more, the notions of sense and spacing come to the fore in Nancy’s understanding of the God of the death of God. The death of God – or the ‘end of metaphysics’ or ‘end of philosophy’ – is the closure and exhaustion of metaphysics and the replacement of an ontology of substance, order and origin with an ontology of the ‘common’ and ‘sharing’ (‘C’, 374).

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H HEGEL, G. W. F. Devin Zane Shaw Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831) is a widely influential German philosopher whose best-known works include the Phenomenology of Spirit (1807), the Science of Logic (in three volumes, 1812–16), the Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences (1817) and the Elements of the Philosophy of Right (1820). His work is an important point of reference for Karl Marx (1818–83), Martin Heidegger (1889–1976), Georges Bataille (1897–1962) and Jacques Lacan (1901–81), among others. Nancy, for his part, finds that ‘Hegel is the inaugural thinker of the contemporary world’ (H, 3). Hegel’s public intellectual career began to take shape while he was coediting the Kritische Journal der Philosophie (Critical Journal of Philosophy) with F. W. J. Schelling (1775–1854), which was founded to articulate and promote what they called identity-philosophy or absolute idealism in opposition – as Hegel argues in Faith and Knowledge (1802) – to the so-called ‘subjective idealism’ of Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), C. G. J. Jacobi (1804–51) and J. G. Fichte (1762–1814). Hegel and Schelling would later part due to what Schelling considered to be an unfair characterisation of his project in the Phenomenology of Spirit. Hegel’s most important professional appointment came in 1818 at the University of Berlin; he would remain there until his death in 1831. Hegel is a key point of reference in much of Nancy’s work. He has published several sustained readings of Hegel, focusing on the history of metaphysics and speculative thought (The Speculative Remark [1973], Hegel: The Restlessness of the Negative [1997] and ‘Identity and Trembling’ [1983], collected in The Birth to Presence), Hegel’s political philosophy (‘The Jurisdiction of the Hegelian Monarch’ [1981], also collected in The Birth to Presence), and his aesthetics (The Muses [1994]). This entry will focus on Nancy’s interrogation of the significance of speculative philosophy. In The Speculative Remark, Nancy engages in a close reading – what he calls at one point an explication de texte (SR, 26) – of a remark on the expression aufheben, typically translated as ‘to sublate’, found in Hegel’s Science of Logic (1817). Nancy aims to demonstrate that Hegel’s claims to



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an encyclopaedic system of science are undermined by slippages, deferrals and reversals in the sense of the term aufheben. Nancy writes: Aufheben is indeed the word of Hegelian discourse, the right word of speculative thought, its password. But that word does not present its meaning – speculative meaning, or speculativity as meaning – in the pure transparency of its presence as word, of its lexical and semantic position. (SR, 59)

On the one hand, Nancy argues that Hegel refuses to grant a stable or univocal identification to the term so that aufheben is not mistaken for a predicate of some thing or state of a thing – since the dialectic is defined as a dynamic of mediation. On the other hand, Nancy claims that Hegel’s refusal to give a univocal meaning to aufheben prevents the movement of the concept from reaching a point of closure within the system. In ‘The Jurisdiction of the Hegelian Monarch’, Nancy extends his interrogation of the problem of decision to Hegel’s political philosophy. For Nancy, Hegel’s discussion of the role of the monarch stands at ‘a limit point for political philosophy in general’ for two reasons (BP, 110). First, conceptualising the monarch involves the problem of decision within the political. For Hegel, the monarch is the person who actualises both the law and the political community. Second, Nancy argues that a rereading of Hegel’s political philosophy opens the possibility for thinking the political otherwise than as founded on a social contract, the fulfilment of the activity of the subject of history, or as an organic totality. For Nancy, at issue in Hegel’s account of the monarch is the relation of decision, if not the decision of relation. While Hegel argues that the monarch’s decision, as the actualisation of the state, fulfils the constitution of the subjectivity of political community, Nancy focuses on those points at which the place or ‘position’ of the monarch undermines this process of fulfilment. In a sense, the monarch is nothing more than the ‘dots on the i’s, the signature, the name’, or the ‘I will’ that actualises the community (BP, 131). However, the monarch’s ability to posit (setzen) the law (Gesetz) has two incompatible or competing implications. While Hegel focuses on the monarch as the fulfilment of the community as subject or as an organic totality of the state, Nancy argues that the ‘absolute singularity’ of the monarch opens the possibility for another figure or ‘symbolisation’ of the political. This singularity of the monarch interrupts the possibility of totalisation, for either he is not an individual, and thus is not in a position to decide (‘dots on the i’s, the signature, the name’), or he is an individual and ‘he exceeds [the totality] or he remains withdrawn from it’ (BP, 140). Hence it is also possible to stress the relation or separation at the basis of community, which, for Nancy, can be thought democratically

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as the being-with or being-in-common of an inoperative community (see inoperativity, democracy). ‘The Jurisdiction of the Hegelian Monarch’ also prepares an interpretation of Hegel that loosely distinguishes between the thought of the earlier Hegel of the Phenomenology of Spirit and the later Hegel of the Encyclopedia and the Philosophy of Right. As Nancy writes, the ‘Phenomenology does not fit into the System as such’ (BP, 122). He expands on this distinction in Hegel: The Restlessness of the Negative. There, Nancy returns to his earlier considerations on the relations of ‘restlessness’, ‘decision’ and ‘separation’ in Hegel’s thought, not to ‘restore’ Hegel, nor to ‘expound’ Hegelianism, but in order to examine the ways in which Hegel’s work initiates a task of thinking today (H, 7). The book is also of interest due to Nancy’s treatment of ‘the subject’. He often uses ‘the subject’, ‘the self’ or ‘selfconsciousness’ as shorthand for an agent of synthesising representations or the interiority of the ego, which in either case functions as the ground of metaphysics (and thus forecloses the question of being). In Hegel, Nancy argues, the self is nothing but its concrete relation to alterity (H, 22–3). Thus Hegel, by orienting philosophy toward the restlessness of negativity, takes ‘thought out of the realm of identity and subjectivity’ (H, 55). If Hegel is ‘our’ contemporary, Nancy concludes, it is not because the dialectic results in an absolute knowing for-itself-in-itself, but rather (building on his earlier work in The Inoperative Community [1986]) it is because this restlessness of thought opens out to the concrete world of singularities in which ‘nothing is assured of presence or of being’ (H, 78).

HEIDEGGER, MARTIN François Raffoul Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) is a major and constant reference in Nancy’s thinking. Nancy often situates his reflection on being-with in Heidegger’s existential analytic and his thematisation of Dasein, and he also inscribes his rethinking of existence in Heidegger’s fundamental ontology. In Being Singular Plural (1996), for instance, Nancy goes as far as to write that it is Heidegger’s fundamental ontology that ‘has put us on the way [chemin] to where we are, together, whether we know it or not’ (BSP, 26). Nancy thus assumes the Heideggerian beginning in Dasein as the place where the meaning of being is ‘at issue’, although he attempts to radicalise it further on the basis of the claim that being must be understood as being-with, and never subsisting apart from such co-existence. For Nancy, ‘to be’ means ‘to be with’, and this is where he paradoxically



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also marks his distance with Heidegger. For although Heidegger did posit that Dasein is essentially Mitsein, he ultimately fell back on an inadequate ontology of the unity of being and of the radical individuation of Dasein apart from others. This is why Nancy is able to claim both that Heidegger ‘indicates to us that place from which first philosophy must recommence’ and that it is also ‘necessary to refigure fundamental ontology (as well as the existential analytic, the history of Being, and the thinking of Ereignis that goes along with it) with a thorough resolve that starts from the plural singular of origins, from being-with’ (BSP, 26). Another motif around which Nancy both inscribes his thinking in Heidegger and marks his reservations with it concerns the question of anthropocentrism. For while Heidegger evokes the ‘privilege’ of human Dasein in his thinking of being, Nancy stresses on the contrary that being-with or the singular plurality of being is no longer governed by the human signified, or the human as transcendental signified. Nancy explains in Being Singular Plural that being-with designates a communication between singularities, where no privilege to human Dasein can be granted. The singular plural exceeds the anthropocentric closure, and is nothing but the between of singularities. Existence is not the property of Dasein. The human being does not constitute the centre, or the end, of world. The world is not a human world, but a world of the co-exposure of the human and the non-human (see animal). In the end, it is with the very motif of deconstruction that Nancy parts most decisively with Heidegger. For while with Destruktion Heidegger envisages a reappropriation of an ontological ground and origin, Nancy on the contrary considers that ‘deconstruction’ does not give us access to some original givenness of being. It is not for Nancy a question of reappropriating the proper of human existence and original Dasein, or returning to origins, for according to him to deconstruct means instead to take apart, dismantle or disassemble a construction, not in order to go beyond it, but to create some ‘play’ within it by exhibiting its very logic. Deconstruction is thus nothing but the revealing of the structure of the construction. This is why, for Nancy, deconstruction does not give access to an originary proper domain, ‘being’ or Ereignis, but rather to a sheer case vide, an ‘empty slot’, a gap or void without any substantiality or integrity of its own. Deconstruction reveals the sheer gap of a spacing, the very spacing that in fact constitutes the ‘with’ of existence.

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HÖLDERLIN, FRIEDRICH Devin Zane Shaw Johann Christian Friedrich Hölderlin (1770–1843) is best known as a poet and as the author of the epistolary novel Hyperion (1797, 1799). Like his fellow residents in the Tübingen seminary, F. W. J. Schelling (1775–1854) and G. W. F. Hegel (1770–1831), Hölderlin also kept current with contemporary developments in German philosophy and the French Revolution. His fragmentary writings in philosophy reveal Hölderlin to be an early critic of the critical idealism of J. G. Fichte (1762–1814), especially the fragment later entitled Urteil und Seyn, and as having a persistent engagement with topics in aesthetics (he had planned to write the ‘New Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man’ in response to Friedrich Schiller (1759–1805) and possibly Schelling). Recently, numerous scholars (including Beiser 2002, Frank 2004 and Henrich 1997) have demonstrated Hölderlin’s influence on Schelling and Hegel and their development of absolute idealism. In ‘Hyperion’s Joy’ (1983) Nancy argues that Hölderlin is an early critic of Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) and speculative idealism. More specifically, Hölderlin poses, against the speculative demand for the unconditional unity of the system, the figure of the ‘non-advent of the One’ (BP, 63). Drawing on Kant’s Critique of the Power of Judgment (Kritik der Urteilskraft, 1790), Hölderlin thinks beauty starting from the One. However, following Kant, Hölderlin holds that beauty is without a concept, which he takes to mean that beauty – as the expression of the absolute – is incommensurable with the necessity of the conceptual unity of the system. Thus for Nancy, Hölderlin brings speculative idealism to a close through a critique of the possibility of thinking the One as unity or the absolute as a concept of self-presence. Instead, the One is thought as finitude in terms of the becoming of all beings (mortals and gods) as is revealed in the beauty in the passing advent of the poem. The importance of Hölderlin is not limited to this critique. For Nancy, the end of metaphysics also has a socio-political significance insofar as the exhaustion of metaphysics is symmetrical with the exhaustion of the politico-philosophical principles for organising or unifying community. Thus the non-advent of the One indicates the absence of an ultimate and self-present meaning of history or community. In ‘Of Divine Places’ (1985), Nancy draws on Hölderlin to rethink the divine as being-in-common rather than being-one or self-presence: ‘it is with the withdrawal of the gods that community came into being’ (IC, 143). If it is possible to speak of a ‘we’ of community, it is because we share



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in common the exposition or exposure to finitude. The divine is this common exposure along the scattering or plurality of places. There is no pre-eminent being or place. The divine is not eschatological, but rather a bare, even quotidian, proximity or presence: in a paraphrase of Hölderlin, ‘the god is as manifest as the heavens’ (IC, 123). Nancy aims in his reading of Hölderlin to exhaust the eschatological remnants of Heidegger’s reading. Whereas for Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) Hölderlin’s poetry bears witness to the opening and coming of the ‘god [that] can save us’, for Nancy it demands that one think the ‘common measure’ of existence, the being-with or being-in-common, that takes place between us, even though there is no ultimate meaning or sense of the world.

I IDENTITY Matthew Ellison Nancy’s work often portrays the idea of identity in negative terms. Indeed, many of his writings – above all The Inoperative Community (1986) – are directed against the pernicious effects of mythic identitarianism and nationalism on the political stage (see myth). Nancy does not reject the concept outright, however. In Identity: Fragments, Frankness (2010), a polemical text written in response to the French government’s launching of a debate on national identity in late 2009, Nancy even goes so far as to affirm a certain conception of identity. ‘Stupefied’ by the crude identitarian thinking underlying the Nicolas Sarkozy administration’s initiative, Nancy is concerned (a) to introduce some conceptual exactitude into the debate, and (b) (though this ultimately amounts to the same thing) to turn the idea of the identity of a people against identitarianism. Nancy begins by insisting that identity, contrary to what he sees as the commonplace view, is not a question of a fixed or substantial essence underlying a person, people, community or nation. He claims that this view, which became institutionalised in the bureaucratic techniques of the nation state in the nineteenth century, has ensured that identity has remained ‘an abstract word, stuck in its equality with itself’ (I, 12). In opposition to this conception of identity as figure or fixity, Nancy argues that ‘an identity is something more subtle, more delicate, and more



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in common the exposition or exposure to finitude. The divine is this common exposure along the scattering or plurality of places. There is no pre-eminent being or place. The divine is not eschatological, but rather a bare, even quotidian, proximity or presence: in a paraphrase of Hölderlin, ‘the god is as manifest as the heavens’ (IC, 123). Nancy aims in his reading of Hölderlin to exhaust the eschatological remnants of Heidegger’s reading. Whereas for Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) Hölderlin’s poetry bears witness to the opening and coming of the ‘god [that] can save us’, for Nancy it demands that one think the ‘common measure’ of existence, the being-with or being-in-common, that takes place between us, even though there is no ultimate meaning or sense of the world.

I IDENTITY Matthew Ellison Nancy’s work often portrays the idea of identity in negative terms. Indeed, many of his writings – above all The Inoperative Community (1986) – are directed against the pernicious effects of mythic identitarianism and nationalism on the political stage (see myth). Nancy does not reject the concept outright, however. In Identity: Fragments, Frankness (2010), a polemical text written in response to the French government’s launching of a debate on national identity in late 2009, Nancy even goes so far as to affirm a certain conception of identity. ‘Stupefied’ by the crude identitarian thinking underlying the Nicolas Sarkozy administration’s initiative, Nancy is concerned (a) to introduce some conceptual exactitude into the debate, and (b) (though this ultimately amounts to the same thing) to turn the idea of the identity of a people against identitarianism. Nancy begins by insisting that identity, contrary to what he sees as the commonplace view, is not a question of a fixed or substantial essence underlying a person, people, community or nation. He claims that this view, which became institutionalised in the bureaucratic techniques of the nation state in the nineteenth century, has ensured that identity has remained ‘an abstract word, stuck in its equality with itself’ (I, 12). In opposition to this conception of identity as figure or fixity, Nancy argues that ‘an identity is something more subtle, more delicate, and more

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evasive’. It has nevertheless a certain ‘force’, which ‘lies in displacing, in changing figures’ (I, 11). Nancy therefore wants to think identity as open and dynamic, rather than closed and static. Particularly important for this inversion is recognising the movement of temporalisation involved in enunciating an identity. If one were to ignore the passing of time, the content of the classical formula of identity x=x would indeed yield a static self-coincidence. As Nancy points out, however, when a concrete I or we (the first x in the formula) identifies itself (saying that it is this or that), it is enunciating something that will be its identity. Enunciating an identity thus relies on a certain incompletion, an orientation toward the future. For Nancy, identity is nothing other than the open-ended establishing or ‘drawing’ of a line of these identifications, the ‘tracing’ forms which are nowhere given in advance (I, 18–19). The important move that Nancy makes is to insist that an identity is not an aggregation of qualities, but what adopts these in the first place. Identity is what ‘qualifies all the determinations that fall to it as being “its own.” This does not mean that they “belong” to it, but that they find themselves in relation to the “idem” of the identical, to its sameness’ (I, 19) (see ipseity). A people or nation – or indeed any kind of singularity, individual or collective; it matters little for Nancy’s understanding of identity – does not therefore have an identity, but, insofar as it ‘qualifies the determinations that fall to it’, is an identity. Accordingly, if something like ‘the people’ exists (a term of whose loaded history Nancy is acutely aware), it can only exist as a ‘self-saying’ or ‘so-called people [soi-disant peuple]’ (‘PS’, 344). Like an identity, the ‘so-called’ people only exists insofar as it ‘says itself [se dit]’ from a singular point of enunciation, and cannot be understood as embodying any mythical or substantial essence. An identity must be open to the unpredictable future in order to subsist. Nancy argues that to conceive of identity as closed, as completed or completable, is in effect to kill it off, for one risks reducing it to a mere set of attributes and ruling out any possibility for future modifications. What is identified in this way, Nancy writes in Hegelian-Sartrean terms, possesses only an abstract, unreflective, thing-like identity, an ‘identity in itself ’ (I, 19). Instead, any identity worthy of the name must be an ‘identity for itself ’, capable of modification through self-transcendence. Accordingly, identity must be understood as the surplus over any determinate qualities. It is in this sense that Nancy wants to think identity in terms of a ‘force’ that displaces previous identifications. This is why Nancy argues that identity requires a proper noun. The proper name, an ‘index’ that strictly speaking signifies nothing but points to something to come, is the only thing on which an identity can rest: ‘we



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know that a proper name does not have a signification, that its meaning is precisely only that absolute “proper” in relation to which all kind of properties, attributes, qualities are external’ (I, 19). The name here is a way of designating what Nancy calls the proper. This is not an ‘essential property . . . of the individual or the group’. Rather, it is ‘the proper in the sense in which existence is not a substance with qualities but an act of being that qualifies, in a singular manner, all the attributions, circumstances, and relations in which it is engaged’ (I, 19). The fact that the proper qualifies these determinations means that it, like the name, is in excess of them. The proper noun is thus a mark of a negative relationship to predicates: it is the point from which emanates what Nancy calls ‘a possibility of sense’ or ‘tracing of sense’ (I, 34, 22). This understanding of the proper (le propre), which in French evokes both propriety and cleanliness, is such that it can only subsist through an exposure to and contamination by the improper. As G. W. F. Hegel (1770–1831) knew, an identity only makes sense when thought in terms of its concrete difference from and contact with what is other (con-cretus, what has grown together). Nancy echoes this view in the essay ‘Eulogy for the Mêlée’ (1993) when he writes that an identity that seeks to remain intact (untouched) and close itself off from the outside is a nonsense: it risks becoming ‘idiotic, utterly deprived of relations and, therefore, of identity’ (from the Greek idios, meaning private, self-centred, closed in on itself) (BSP, 154) (see touch). In order to think the truth of identity, therefore, ‘[i]t is a question of entering into the gap and dehiscence that an identity opens of itself within itself’, an opening or internal difference that also perpetually disjoins the proper from itself and opens it to the improper, to otherness (I, 22). While identity is indeed a question of the proper and appropriation, this internal difference means that each appropriation is at the same time an expropriation, for ‘there is never an established subject, already identified, to whom the appropriation would return’ (I, 42). Nancy therefore argues that the commonplace view of identity – as substance and self-coincidence – consists in covering over this exposure to an outside of sense. This exposure harbours a kind of transformative force, insofar as it names the capacity to begin anew (I, 34). Nancy claims that it is precisely this ex-, this outside or opening, that ‘all “totalitarianisms”, all identitarianisms, and ultimately all -isms try to fill in at all costs’ (PD, 162). This potential is also covered over with the absorption of peoples in nation states, which has made the former ‘governable’ and calculable, rendering them increasingly incapable of ‘new beginnings’ (I, 62). Nancy’s polemic in Identity emphasises the fact that the state, with its identity cards, biometrical data and social security numbers, is only able

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to account for the ‘identity in the sense of the recognizable [l’identité du repérable]’ (I, 35). Instead, identity must be thought of as exceeding the orders of knowledge and calculation. Genuine identity, as Nancy thinks it, has ‘always been, whether for a people or for a person, a simple index – the index of the name – directed toward what comes, and never ceases to come, what comes back and transforms itself, opens new paths, which leaves traces, but never a thing or a unity of sense’ (I, 41).

IMAGE Martta Heikkilä Nancy’s interest in the theme of image grew in the early 2000s, and he provides his most sustained treatment of the image in the short essay ‘The Image – the Distinct’ (1999) (collected in The Ground of the Image [2005]). For Nancy, the image is always distinct and in this sense is ‘sacred’. The image’s distinction appears in two ways. First, it is detached from us by being always placed ‘outside’ and before our eyes; as such, it is untouchable. The image is separated from everything else by a line or trait. The image always detaches itself from a ground and it is cut out within a ground. Second, the image must be different from the depicted thing. The image distinguishes itself from the thing essentially by its intensity and the force of its distinction. To be exact, the image does not represent anything, but its ‘inner force’ is what touches us (see touch). This is because the image neither delivers any signification or intention, nor gives us the thing itself. Thus, it remains apart from the world of things, which makes its use different from ordinary objects. Since the image is characterised by its not being identifiable with the presented object, it obtains its particularity through difference, that is, through its distinctive character among the variety of images. In this way, the image’s distinctiveness also means its ability to become noticeable and remarkable as such. Given the image’s distinctiveness, the crux of Nancy’s questioning is how one should account for its ‘pure phenomenon’. Characteristic of his idea of image – and of art in general – is that it exceeds its own means of presentation. An image gives presence since in it presence becomes displayed in a certain manner, while the image offers itself as the matter of presence. Such presence, in turn, comes from no other presence. This is to say that the image’s presence is never simply ‘there’, for the image lacks it: the image gives presence to what is absent and what could not receive presence. Thus, the image is neither the presented thing nor its imitation.



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That the image is distinct means that it withdraws from everything that is not in the concrete image. Such a distinctive trait sets image apart from a thing and from the world, when the world is understood in the sense of availability, as present-at-hand. Here, one can see a similarity with Martin Heidegger’s (1889–1976) notion of the artwork and presence-at-hand (Vorhandenheit). The image shows itself through energy and intensity. In Nancy’s account, the portrait holds a special position in that it is ‘the image of the image in general’: the portrait ‘extracts’ the intimacy and force of the model and throws these in front of us. The image exposes to us its resemblance and even sameness with the depicted motif. Thus, selfreference is what the portrait is all about. By merely resembling itself the image may gather itself together and bear the likeness of an absent person, such a resemblance being described by Nancy as a ‘concentration’ and ‘coincidence’ of the totality of the image with itself.

IMMANENCE Mark Lewis Taylor A concept for the totality of relations, immanence is usually thought in contrast to a posited outside, some exterior beyond being’s totality, but one that Nancy only posits and then deconstructs or de-positions. In Western philosophy and theology, ‘immanence’ is usually set off against ‘transcendence’. Nancy holds both to be inadequate for understanding existence and the being of humans in the world. Nancy deconstructs immanence, especially as a mere opposite to transcendence. Nancy’s ‘absolute immanence’ of perspective, then, is no simple positing of immanence against transcendence. Instead, it is his radical thinking of existence’s multiple textures, its movements and its relations. This is an immanence he prefers to name transimmanence, a very finite and unceasing ‘passage-ing’ in the world (SW, 55–6) (see finitude). Only reluctantly does Nancy enter into the Western discourse of immanence and transcendence. ‘If one still must speak in such terms’, it is to play them off against one another (SW, 18). He does this to articulate a tension not between the world and its ‘outside’, but among modes of being and existing in the world. The binary opposition between immanence and transcendence is thus deconstructed or, better, sublated (from the Latin meaning ‘to take away from below’) within the greater complexity of a multiply-refracted, diverse, ever-moving kind of immanence, that is, ex-isting in his terms. Nancy returns consistently to highlight and analyse four key dynamics of this transimmanence, and brings to light ways of

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pres-encing and existing that defy the reductive claims of both transcendence and immanence. First, the world is understood as a presence that has an ‘outside within’. Over and again, Nancy discusses how since Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) and Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889–1951) ‘various forms of an “outside of the world” have been opened up in pure worldly immanence’ (D-E, 6). What is meant here is that every experience of the world, where otherness prompts a will to posit a transcendent outside, is really nothing more than ‘the extension of the world, with no possible appeal to another world’ (D-E, 143). To illumine this ‘outside within’ Nancy refers more than once to Wittgenstein’s observation that ‘the sense of the world must lie outside the world’ (CW, 52; D-E, 142). However, Nancy combines this ‘outside the world’ with Wittgenstein’s other well-known claim that ‘It is not how things are in the world that is mystical, but that it exists’ (CW, 52). Nancy thus discusses this ‘that-ness’ of the world – without making a ‘mystical’ turn (BSP, 12) – in order to find there the surprising ‘outside within’. Second, Nancy develops this ‘that-ness’ of the outside within as the astonishingly complex ‘with-ness’ of the world. For Nancy there really are no present entities in the world, only a spacing of presences, always plural, always co-appearing, in co-existence (CW, 73). Similarly in analysing bodies, for Nancy there is no body, only bodies – and not even a collection of bodies, but ‘a sharing out’ (partage) of bodies. This constitutes the ‘fragility of the glorious body’ (BP, 268). Thus, what we might term a body – yours or mine – has its outside in its ways of opening out toward a sharing with other moving and weighing bodies. Nancy is given then to speak not of a body (‘There is no body’, BP, 207) but of a corpus, better numerous corpuses relating within an ‘ontological materiality’ (EF, 103; C, 207) (see matter/materiality). Third, in Nancy’s transimmanence there is a pervasive antagonism, an unceasing labile tension between this outside within as unceasing opening of existence to itself, on the one hand, and the congealing of thought and existence into presences that are ‘immanent and enclosed, self-­ constituted’ (BSP, 72). Ben Hutchens thus distinguishes ‘closed immanence’ from Nancy’s ‘open immanence’ (Hutchens 2005: 167). In fact, the immanence/transcendence binary relation is an example of this labile tension, especially when ‘pure immanence’ and ‘pure transcendence’ are posited as opposites; each ‘withdraws existence into the abyss of being’ (EF, 105). For Nancy, generally expressing evil is a ‘hatred of existence’ (EF, 2), and, in society, it constitutes a brutal collision of justice with injustice (CW, 111). Fourth, ever-opening immanence, as transimmanence, works through



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art’s special effectivity. Art is the ‘transcendence of immanence’, as trans­ immanence (M, 34–5). Poetry, especially, marks the edges of the outside within, and intensifies the borderline wherein an indefinite coming is kept in tension (BP, ix–x, 285). For example, in music, Nancy uncovers a pure resonance that marks the very beginning and opening up of the beyond sense, as well as the beyond of body’s resonant chamber, and the ‘beyondmeaning’ that always is breaking free from language and signification systems (L, 30–1). Immanence, in Nancy, can only be this ‘transcending’, the transimmanence that artfully is opening ever more ‘outsides within’ the world.

INCARNATION Chris Watkin The Christian doctrine of divine incarnation holds a privileged place in Nancy’s engagement with theological themes (see body, corpus, Christianity). It is at the heart of what he seeks to deconstruct in Christianity, and it is in parallel to this rethinking of incarnation that Nancy elaborates his own understanding of spacing and the sense of the world, dialoguing with the doctrine in terms of his own themes of corpus and spacing. The doctrine of divine incarnation understood as divine kenosis is for Nancy at the very heart of Christianity (D-E, 151) and also constitutes that religion’s point of absolute rupture with Judaism and Islam (D-E, 38). It has most frequently been understood in the West in terms of the dualism of Plato’s cave, in which the body is the shadowy prison or tomb of the soul into which the light of the spirit descends (C, 67), structuring the body as the signifier of a sense that lies beyond it. For Nancy, however, incarnation does not begin with a dichotomy of flesh and spirit such that a union between them need be thought at all (IC, 139). In rethinking incarnation against the Platonic dualism of soul and body, Nancy starts from the apostle John’s account of the incarnation of Christ: not that spirit inhabited flesh but that ‘the Word became flesh’ (John 1: 14). There is neither a deification of humanity nor a becoming-human of the divine, but rather Nancy sees the heart of the doctrine of the incarnation as the community of essence (homoousia) of God the Father and God the Son, and this is Christianity’s true innovation (D-E, 151). In the Gospel of John, ‘the Word became flesh’ (logos sarx egeneto), the logos itself makes of itself a body (‘se fait corps’, Nancy translates) not in a way that denatures either the word or the flesh (Christ does not cease to be

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God, and Christ’s body does not cease to be physical) but according to its ownmost logic (D-E, 82). In the essay ‘Verbum caro factum’ (Latin: ‘the Word became flesh’), Nancy describes the Christian God as a kenotic deity who empties himself of himself not to take on flesh but to make himself flesh. This kenosis, in turn, leads not to the divinisation of humanity in the place of God but to the absence of any founding principle (D-E, 82). It is a move not of signification (flesh signifying spirit) but of the absence or suspension of final signification, and this suspension is the characteristic move of Nancy’s reworking of the incarnation motif. With the notion of corpus Nancy seeks to render the consubstantiality of John’s views of incarnation within his own atheological frame. He insists on the meanings of ‘sense’ drawing together the five (corporeal) senses and (intelligible) meaning: ‘the spirit is the body of sense, or sense in the body’ (C, 67), and ‘the element of meaning is a reality that is indiscernibly and simultaneously empirical and transcendental, material and ideational, physical and spiritual’ (GT, 60). Corpus is the end of the ideality of incarnation because the body is no longer either the signifier of sense nor its signified (C, 23). Spirit is no longer otherworldly but now opens itself within the world, and Nancy refuses to allow the sense or spirit that opens itself in this way to be one pole of a body/spirit dichotomy. In the language of Adoration (2010) spirit is not a divine breath but an orifice open within the compact thickness of the world, not illumination but spacing (A, 1). In fact, whereas incarnation was previously the exclusive paradigm for the relation of flesh and spirit in the West (C, 87), spacing is for Nancy the atheological successor to divine incarnation (C, 61). The body is not the vessel of the divine but its exposition. The difference is that, with incarnation, the body is a sign signifying the spirit and its purpose is to make sense, whereas with sharing it is sense that gives and shares out bodies (C, 83). Bodies are shared, not signified, and whereas the signifying body is closed, pointing away from itself to its determinate signification, the sense of shared bodies is open, its closure suspended so as to avoid the ‘smothering completion of a conclusion’ (A, 73). In conformity with the notion that the incarnation is an opening of sense within the world, the import of the doctrine for Nancy is that it is up to us (mortal humans), as technicians of our own world, to make sense, or rather, because sense is not ‘made’ or produced, to recognise how it can take place (A, 52) within the world. Nancy’s rewriting of incarnation as the suspension of closure is captured in ‘Dei paralysis progressiva’ (BP, 48–57), in which he reads the paralysis of Friedrich Nietzsche’s (1844–1900) final years as an incarnation of the death of God. This death is not a punctual event but a progressive suspension of life (BP, 48) (see instant). If it were a ‘punctual event’ it would



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repeat the traditional logic of incarnation, a logic that Nancy finds at the heart of Christianity and that he calls the ‘Christmas projection’. In the same way that, in the story of the first Christmas, the incarnation breaks up history and changes it forever, the Christmas projection for Nancy is an extension of this principle according to which ‘one fine day’ something ahistorical breaks in upon history and, from that moment forth, changes everything (D-E, 145). Avoiding the metaphysics of such a divine punctuation of history, through Nietzsche’s paralysis, God is presented as dead by Nietzsche in persona dei (BP, 48), not as the madman’s proclamation ‘God is dead’, but as a suspension of all proclamation and a monstration that itself appears as a suspension of the difference between life and death. ‘The death of God incarnate’ can be read in two senses, both of which Nancy intends: as the incarnation of ‘the death of god’ and as the death of the incarnate god. God present as dead is god present as nothing, as the motionless suspension in nothing (rien) that cannot even be called death because it has done away with all determinate identity (BP, 51).

INFINITY Ian James Nancy’s thinking of infinity can be situated in relation to a very specific trajectory of French phenomenology and post-phenomenological thought. Within this trajectory a mode of thought emerges whose key operation is to affirm, expose itself, or gesture towards an instance of infinite alterity or excess. This infinite alterity resists the phenomenological reductions as conceived by the phenomenology of Edmund Husserl (1859–1938). It is also irreducible to any horizon of being or possibility of ontological disclosure, and exceeds, traverses or de-limits all the limitations imposed by any logic of human finitude, however they may be conceived. Most obviously, one might cite in this context the thinking of time, alterity and the il y a elaborated by Emmanuel Levinas (1906–95), for instance in his lectures of 1946 and 1947, published under the title Time and the Other. Here Levinas speaks of the infinity of the absolute other and of the need to think time as a relation to that other, which will always remain inassimilable and beyond the grasp of finite apprehension or understanding. One might also mention in this context Jacques Derrida’s (1930–2004) thinking of ‘infinite différance’ in Voice and Phenomenon (1967). In very different ways such a gesture might be said to be shared with other French thinkers whose work critiques, deepens or transcends the phenomenological account of presence, or of the manifestation of phenomena to

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finite intuition and consciousness. Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s (1908–61) ­affirmation of a negative infinity of openness in The Visible and the Invisible (1964) might be mentioned in this regard. One of the ways in which Nancy engages with this legacy is by repeating G. W. F. Hegel’s (1770–1831) distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ infinity. ‘Bad’ infinity would imply the infinity of a progression or unending expansion. ‘Good’ infinity is actual and, as it were, already traversing the finite. Good infinity is understood by Nancy as the instability of all finite determination and as the ungrounded and unbounded movement of presentation of the world that undoes presence. In the movement of thinking the infinity of the coming to presence of the world, thought itself opens onto, and without fully grasping, that which is in excess of conceptualisation or phenomenological and ontological disclosure. Here, finite thinking is always and already passing through an actual infinity of opening or exposure, or, put another way, finite thinking is always traversed by, or exposed to, an excess of sense. The main thrust of Nancy’s arguments relating to sense and infinity can be understood in relation to his reworking of the question of sense and embodied sensing in order to move beyond the orbit of the phenomenological subject. Ultimately what is at stake in Nancy’s thinking about infinite sense is the double register of that which is sensed (in touch, hearing, sight, smell and taste) and that which makes sense in its diffuse intelligibility or availability for more determinate forms of meaning. For Nancy, if our embodied senses are always already engaged with this double register of sense, and if they are so by means of their exposure to it, or contact-in-distance with it, then this is so because sense is infinitely in excess of any finite relation of signifier to signified. It infinitely exceeds the economy of exchange that governs any symbolic order. Sense, therefore, cannot be apprehended within finite cognition or intuition and cannot function as ground or foundation for meaning. Rather, sense is always exposed, shared or circulated in a heterogeneous and internally diffracted corpus of embodied sensing and within a movement of infinite referral, of sending and return, resonance and echo, of that which is sensed. Infinity in Nancy always therefore needs to be understood as the infinity of the relation to and of sense. It operates as a term in his discourse only insofar as it resonates with or can be put in relation to other key terms, those of infinite sending (renvoi) and referral, but also, for instance, those of exposure, excess, opening, touch and being-with.



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INOPERATIVITY (Désœuvrement) Russell Ford Désœuvrement (inoperativity, worklessness, unworking, idleness, inactivity) is one of the most fecund concepts in contemporary philosophy. In Nancy’s 1986 text The Inoperative Community, désœuvrement refers to a number of individuals bound together by their shared mortality but having no shared or collective identity. The term originates from an influential and idiosyncratic reading of G. W. F. Hegel (1770–1831) by Alexandre Kojève (1902–68) and has gone on to play a central role in debates concerning ethics, politics and aesthetics, as well as their intersections. Kojève’s lectures on Hegel, given in Paris in the 1930s, focused almost exclusively on the Phenomenology of Spirit, especially its account of the dialectical conflict of master and slave, but were also informed by Martin Heidegger’s (1889–1976) ontological philosophy. According to Kojève, the temporal work of the dialectic is the transformation of the non-human world into a human world. The Phenomenology narrates this transformation and culminates in the accomplishment of this work and the corresponding end of history. It is the slave that accomplishes this task by choosing a subordinated life of labour over death. The motor of the dialectic is human desire, a negativity set off against the plenum of being, which transforms the non-human into the human. For Kojève, the historical work of humanity is finished; the life of human beings after history is other than the life of desire’s work. In a later essay, Kojève identifies the anti-heroes of several of Raymond Queneau’s (1903–76) novels – whom he calls ‘aimless rogues [voyous désœuvrés]’ – as exemplary of human life after the closure of history (Kojève 1952). In his brief ‘Letter to X’ (1937), where X = Kojève, Georges Bataille (1897–1962) writes that his life is a refutation of Hegel’s closed system (Bataille 1997: 296). This life of ‘unemployed negativity [négativité sans emploi]’ is an activity without purpose, one that neither aims at nor achieves a ‘work’, but it is nonetheless an activity. This kind of activity is characterised by Bataille as transgressive since it rejects the essentially human form of temporality in an act of what Bataille calls ‘sovereign negativity’ and is exemplified by experiences such as love, laughter and, more generally, art and sacrifice. Like Kojève, Bataille accords significant importance to death, but whereas for Kojève death reveals the purposiveness of activity, for Bataille it reveals its purposelessness. Although désœuvrement is central to the debate between Kojève and Bataille, its most influential and sustained use is found in the work of

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Bataille’s close friend Maurice Blanchot (1907–2003). Although he never attended Kojève’s seminars, Queneau’s 1947 publication of Kojève’s Introduction to the Reading of Hegel had a decisive impact on Blanchot. Two of Blanchot’s most programmatic essays, ‘The Spiritual Animal Kingdom’ (1947) and ‘Literature and the Right to Death’ (1948), directly engage Kojève’s work (Blanchot 1995). The themes of these essays – the ambiguity of death and its complication with language – are extended and developed in Blanchot’s 1953 récit The One Who Was Standing Apart from Me, where the term désœuvrement appears for the first time. However, it is two years later, in The Space of Literature (1955), that the term assumes a prominent place in Blanchot’s discourse. For Blanchot, literature is both made possible and undone by the ‘désœuvrement of being’, the nonconceptual negation that is other than creative or sovereign affirmation; the figure of Orpheus, who wins back Eurydice on the condition that he refrain from looking at her, dramatises the deathly failure of language that yields the désœuvrement. In his 1969 essay ‘The Absence of the Book’, Blanchot writes, succinctly, ‘to write is to produce désœuvrement’ (Blanchot 1993: 424). Blanchot’s thought is an important resource for Nancy and Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe’s (1940–2007) early text The Literary Absolute (1978), where they follow Blanchot in identifying Romanticism as an ‘interruption’ of idealism. In 1981, following the conference ‘The Ends of Man’ at Cerisy, and with the encouragement of Jacques Derrida (1930–2004), Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe created the Centre de recherches philo­ sophiques sur le politique. The Centre was organised around a nonempirical thinking of politics, and the conversations that developed in and through its work, oriented especially around the issues of democracy and community, were decisive for Nancy’s 1983 essay ‘The Inoperative Community’, published in a special issue of Aléa. Blanchot’s The Unavowable Community (1983), which responded to Nancy’s essay, was published later the same year. In 1986, Nancy published a revised version of his essay in The Inoperative Community, where he also responded to Blanchot. In 2014, Nancy returned to Blanchot’s essay in his La communauté désavouée. Nancy’s 1983 essay is chiefly responsible for making désœuvrement a central term in contemporary political philosophy. Following Nancy’s Heideggerian concern with thinking both beyond and within the closure of metaphysics, The Inoperative Community pursues the question of what can be thought after Hegel – what might escape from the work of the dialectic – through a close reading of Bataille. Nancy is largely sympathetic to Bataille, affirming his rejection of the Rousseauistic idea of a lost, immediate community, as well as any nostalgia for such a loss. For both,



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community is other than both identity and totality; it is a being-together of existences that are at the same time held apart from one another by their own being-toward-death. However, Nancy ultimately distances himself from Bataille, who, he maintains, is still reliant upon a tacit appeal to subjectivity. In his response to Nancy, Blanchot is largely sympathetic, but as the title of his essay indicates – replacing désœuvrement with désavouée – he is suspicious of whether unworking itself may harbour too much of the idea of a political project. As Leslie Hill has argued, the difference between the thought of community in Nancy and Blanchot turns on the debate between Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) and Emmanuel Levinas (1906–95) on the relative priority of ethics and ontology (Hill 1997). Désœuvrement continues to be an important concept for Nancy’s philosophical project and has also served as a point of contention in his debates with other theorists (see Fraser 1984, Critchley 1992). Giorgio Agamben (1942–) has also taken up the concept of désœuvrement in dialogue with both Nancy and Blanchot, most notably in Homo Sacer (1995) and The Time that Remains (2005).

THE INSTANT Peter Gratton Nancy in key places aligns a thinking of the ‘instant’ (also discussed under the term ‘punctuality’) to the critique of the metaphysics of presence. (It should also recall Maurice Blanchot’s The Instant of My Death [1994].) Thinking the ‘instant’ differently from the presence of the present, the standing now (the nunc stans of medieval philosophy) of the moment of thought or theory in the tradition, allows Nancy to elaborate different considerations of the temporal relation of one and the other, and thus plays an important role in his ontology as well as his considerations of catastrophe, jouissance, artistic practice, the rhythm of music, and the very ‘with’ of being. For example, Nancy argues that both art and sexuality have a ‘relation to the infinite’ (see sexual relation) and in both activities continuously and contrapuntally we are geared towards ‘the projection of an immobile, eternal infinite, an image of eternity that is not sempiternity’ (J, 68). As Nancy rightly notes in several places (e.g. PM, 27), time is a central concern of thinkers from Henri Bergson (1859–1941) through to Edmund Husserl (1859–1938), Martin Heidegger (1889–1976), Maurice Blanchot (1907–2003), Gilles Deleuze (1925–95) and Jacques Derrida (1930–2004). For this reason, he tends to think Derridean

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­ ifférance (the becoming-space of time and the becoming-time of space) d as espacement or spacing in order to accent the becoming world of space-time, which he thinks is deprivileged in these accounts. Nancy’s thinking of the instant derives from Friedrich Nietzsche’s (1844–1900) eternal return of the same, Derrida’s Voice and Phenomenon (1967) and Heidegger’s critique of the metaphysics of the presence in Being and Time (1927), where each criticises a thinking of time on the basis of the eternal repetition of the ‘now’, which Nancy thinks is the Hegelian bad infinite of sempiternity (time as going forever both backward and forward, forever the same and continuous). It is unclear, however, how a thinking of the instant on the basis of the eternal escapes from its avowedly ontotheological basis in the Platonist conception of the truth of time founded on its imitation of eternity, where time is always a fall from the eternal instant. In Being Singular Plural (1996), Nancy argues that the circulation of sense, where there is neither a telos nor an outside to which it refers (the sense of the world being the world and nothing more), is exemplified by Nietzsche’s thinking of the eternal return of the same, a ‘repetition’, he argues, that is nothing but the ‘affirmation of the instant, [an] affirmation/ request (re-petitio) seized in the letting go of the instant’ (BSP, 4). This thinking affirms ‘the passing of presence’ and itself passes along with it (over and against Platonism). In this way, ‘reality is in each instant, from place to place, each time in turn’, which he finds in René Descartes’s (1596–1650) thinking of continuous creation (BSP, 19). But rather than the mark of the God of onto-theology, as he puts it in The Birth to Presence (1993), this contrapuntal temporality is ‘the time of abandonment’ and ‘is the time, the wavering of the instantly abandoned instant; time abandons itself to itself’ (BP, 41). This ‘instantly abandoned instant’, for Nancy, is the mark of the coming of the surprise of the event, which is a different modus temporis than the futurity of the ‘to-come’ in Derrida’s language. For Nancy, alterity is not the surprise of the Other that is over there, but is the happening of time’s suspension and pulsation, ‘broken off and started up again in its very disjunction’ (BP, 42). One can think here a different inflection, then, of Derrida’s thinking of futurity out of Hamlet’s ‘the time is out of joint’, where for Nancy the eternal outside of time interrupts time, without sameness and thus always surprising. (It is the surprise that makes the ‘always’ impossible for Nancy and thus makes the time ‘out of joint’.) This is the timing of jouissance, which is exemplary of the instant, an instant that ‘endures a little’, but without continuity to a before or after, since it is inassimilable to what is presented to a given subject or community (J, 69). Nevertheless Nancy insists that we greet the instant in quotidian existence, which pace Heidegger is not the time of



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sameness, but is the spacing of the joy of an existence concentrated in the instant, just this once and nevermore.

IPSEITY Marie-Eve Morin Ipseity is another name for what Nancy calls selfhood or singularity. Following the Derridean logic of différance, selfhood denotes for Nancy the ‘movement’ of existence as being-unto-self or being-toward-self (BSP, 94–6; SW, 154–5). This means that there is no self at the origin of this ‘movement’ or this ‘exposition’, but that selfhood is rather the ‘effect’ of an essential being-toward that can never fully reappropriate within itself what it is toward. The self is what it is only through this inappropriable exteriority. At the same time, we should not think of this exteriority as some other thing out there; it is rather the limit or edge upon which the self is exposed, a limit which belongs properly neither to the outside nor to the inside (BP, 154–5). Such a self is also what Nancy calls a singularity or an ipseity. A singularity is not a fixed point of identity but something that identifies itself through its exposition, something that is essentially caught up in a movement of identification from/with (d’avec) (BSP, 66, 149; FT, 284). Hence, Nancy’s ontology neither affirms a plurality of individual points, nor dissolves any fixed identity in the mere indistinction of pure differences. At the same time, we should not conclude that, because singularities are not points of identity, they are ‘mixed’ identities. Asked to write in praise of mixture (as the Bosnian War was raging), Nancy writes instead a eulogy of the mêlée. The idea of mixture, Nancy says, ‘presupposes isolated pure substances and then the operation of their mixture’ (FT, 278). As a political example for such mixture, Nancy mentions the systematic rape of women of one ethnic group by men of another ethnic group. Even though such mixtures create mixed children, they at the same time reaffirm through this mixture the pure identities of both races, and the absence of relation between them (FT, 285–6). The reaffirmation of pure elements is a danger always looming over a discourse of mixture (multiracialism, multiculturalism and so on). A singularity is hence neither a pure nor a mixed identity but always a mêlée of traits. ‘Ipseity’ is the word Nancy uses to rethink the ‘identity’ of singularity in terms of the double-movement of entanglement/disentanglement, or of mêlée/démêlé. An ipseity possesses its own recognisable ‘tone’ and lets itself be identified in the process (or as the process) of

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disentanglement from other singularities. At the same time, it does not let itself be encapsulated within any fixed set of features, and hence remains unidentifiable or inimitable. To posit, to fix an identity once and for all, to use the proper name as the sign of pure, punctual identity – be it to adopt it or to reject it – is to dismiss both the mêlée and the démêlé. It ignores the mêlée, the entanglement, within each ipseity, and therefore there is the necessity of a démêlé, of a disentangling, from/with other ipseities. Jacques Derrida (1930–2004) is critical of Nancy’s use of ipseity. While Nancy emphasises the spacing at the origin of the self and the sharing out that essentially constitutes ipseity (EF, 70), Derrida reminds us that ipse means power, potency and sovereignty – values which are all associated with the ‘I can’ of the free self-conscious (masculine) subject (see Derrida 2005b: 10–12, 45).

J JOUISSANCE Peter Gratton With the publication of La jouissance (2014), this term is revealed as key to Nancy’s oeuvre. Developed, at times obliquely, in such texts as The Inoperative Community (1986), The Birth to Presence (1993), Dis-Enclosure (2005), Adoration (2010) and both volumes of Corpus, la jouissance is a term and concept arriving through his long readings of Georges Bataille (1897–1962) and Jacques Lacan (1901–81). For example, Bataille forges a thinking of community as a sacred fusion of each finite, singular being, which he argues occurs in the communion of sexual partners, the loss of finite identity through death, the bliss of the sacred – in short, the loss of the self and its limits (see finitude, sense). Jouissance marks that which cannot be brought under any given social order; it is a transgressive dissolution of the self in a movement of excess marked by orgasm and the sacred (both captured in the English word ‘bliss’). Finding Bataille to have a ‘sharp sense of the excess and the infinity of desire’, Nancy argues, though, that he is ‘too Catholic’, wanting an ultimate fusion (J, 44). In order to avoid this, jouissance and the related verb jouir mark for Nancy neither an experience of the self, since for Nancy the self is not a substance out of which such a relation can happen, nor the dissolution of the self into some Other, be it a God or community.

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disentanglement from other singularities. At the same time, it does not let itself be encapsulated within any fixed set of features, and hence remains unidentifiable or inimitable. To posit, to fix an identity once and for all, to use the proper name as the sign of pure, punctual identity – be it to adopt it or to reject it – is to dismiss both the mêlée and the démêlé. It ignores the mêlée, the entanglement, within each ipseity, and therefore there is the necessity of a démêlé, of a disentangling, from/with other ipseities. Jacques Derrida (1930–2004) is critical of Nancy’s use of ipseity. While Nancy emphasises the spacing at the origin of the self and the sharing out that essentially constitutes ipseity (EF, 70), Derrida reminds us that ipse means power, potency and sovereignty – values which are all associated with the ‘I can’ of the free self-conscious (masculine) subject (see Derrida 2005b: 10–12, 45).

J JOUISSANCE Peter Gratton With the publication of La jouissance (2014), this term is revealed as key to Nancy’s oeuvre. Developed, at times obliquely, in such texts as The Inoperative Community (1986), The Birth to Presence (1993), Dis-Enclosure (2005), Adoration (2010) and both volumes of Corpus, la jouissance is a term and concept arriving through his long readings of Georges Bataille (1897–1962) and Jacques Lacan (1901–81). For example, Bataille forges a thinking of community as a sacred fusion of each finite, singular being, which he argues occurs in the communion of sexual partners, the loss of finite identity through death, the bliss of the sacred – in short, the loss of the self and its limits (see finitude, sense). Jouissance marks that which cannot be brought under any given social order; it is a transgressive dissolution of the self in a movement of excess marked by orgasm and the sacred (both captured in the English word ‘bliss’). Finding Bataille to have a ‘sharp sense of the excess and the infinity of desire’, Nancy argues, though, that he is ‘too Catholic’, wanting an ultimate fusion (J, 44). In order to avoid this, jouissance and the related verb jouir mark for Nancy neither an experience of the self, since for Nancy the self is not a substance out of which such a relation can happen, nor the dissolution of the self into some Other, be it a God or community.



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In everyday usage, jouissance refers to a certain bliss, most notably in the culmination of the sexual relation, but it also has an older sense of enjoying one’s property or rights: ‘Etymologically, there is no privileged relation between the word jouir and sexuality. For quite some time, la jouissance had a wholly juridical meaning . . . the entire possession of something’ (J, 14). The term, as Nancy explains, derives from the Latin gaudere (‘to enjoy’) and meant to have appropriated something completely. By the sixteenth century, jouissance began to take on a sexual meaning, the subjective feeling of enjoyment to the point of excess, one that is sinful since it takes oneself out of what is proper (J, 16). This links the word to the French jouir (‘to enjoy’) and joie. What interests Nancy is the origin of joy in Middle French, which designates the sensual or sexual feelings of the troubadour that do not culminate in jouissance in terms of an orgasm. This jouissance is without end or teleology; that is, it is a ‘sexual rapport without orgasm’ (J, 15, 52). Joie, as in the English ‘joy of good tidings’, is related to the other and brings oneself out of oneself, in a state of ecstasy, which can be either religious (spiritual) or more base (bodily), an ‘earthly meaning’ through which jouissance takes on a more bodily sense (J, 17–19). Nancy argues that there is a paradox at the heart of jouissance between its meaning as appropriation and as that which ex-appropriates those who experience it. As Nancy notes, ‘there is a contradiction in the usage of the terms [joie and jouissance], which perhaps refers to a contradiction at the heart of the thing itself’, which is found in moments of passion: ‘Take me’, ‘Be mine’ and so on (think of every slow-rock song you’ve ever heard), marking total appropriation while the moment of consummation is said to be one of communion, a bringing oneself out of oneself (J, 17, 23). Nancy plays on each of these meanings throughout his writings on the term, and clearly his thinking of the impropriety that brings one out of the proper (which was never there in the first place) belongs to his long thinking of the legacies of the deconstruction of the subject. For Nancy, jouissance is not just a sexual term, but refers to our ontological condition of ‘being outside of ourselves’ (J, 26). In short, it is far from the last word or the last coming (Nancy doesn’t shy away from mentioning the link between the English ‘to come’ and the French venir, the coming of the other, that is a central term in his and Jacques Derrida’s [1930–2004] texts [J, 28]). Rather, there is a metonymy between the sexual relation and the ontological notion of sense, which speaks by way of language with no external referent and no teleology. Nancy writes in Dis-Enclosure: One does not say (as in Sade) ‘I’m coming [je jouis]’ or ‘you’re coming’ in order to express a sense, but one says it to feel the saying resonate with the coming. Just

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as orgasm is a pleasure that is neither terminal nor preliminary, but pleasure that is exempted from having to begin and end, similarly orgasmic sense is sense that ends neither in signification nor in the unsignifiable. . . . It must be understood that orgasm is always about sense in all senses. . . . Sense is precisely that: the fact of feeling it go by, and of its feeling itself going from one to the other (from one person to the other as well as from one sense to another). . . . Sex, from this point of view, is the sense of the senses. Not that it constitutes the only paradigm for this, but that it offers the syntax for it. . . . Sense depends on nothing but a receptivity, an affectability, a possibility. (D-E, 127)

As such, jouissance refers to that which is outside itself, and the concept, Nancy argues, is semantically open: ‘the property of jouissance is to be constantly renewed [sans cesse renouvelée]’ (J, 29). This semantic openness will be familiar to readers of Derrida on the notion of democracy, or on a ‘messianism without a messiah’, and so on. This ek-stasis cannot have a pre-given form without domesticating the jouissance in question. Ultimately, then, Nancy will define the undefinable term simply as Derridean différance (J, 69). Therefore it is not something to be achieved by the sovereign self: it is the incommensurability of the relation between one and the other, one or the other, and thus links up with his notion of ‘exposure’ (in all meanings of that term as well, e.g. ‘to expose oneself’) (J, 23). Jouissance – as sexual (not sexed or a specific gender) difference and ontological difference – is as such implacably shared (partagée) and bodily (J, 35). But just as much as jouissance is not merely sexual, it is also what is common to art, which also is a ‘relation to the infinite’, and consequently jouissance in the sexual sense is metonymic for the ‘with’ and ‘co’ of existence for Nancy. But just as we have lost a sense of the world, jouissance in late capitalism, he argues, has given way to the ‘inverted, destructive jouissance’ of addiction, while pleasures are rendered as quantifiable and any excess simply has the meaning of a profit (J, 117, 123). This is the malaise of contemporary civilisation (J, 126).

JUDAISM Christina Smerick Jean-Luc Nancy does not devote any substantial work to the study or exploration of Judaism in and of itself. However, he makes mention of Judaism regularly in the context of monotheism, Christianity, and Judeo-Christian metaphysics and ethics. Nancy follows the historical



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tradition of distinguishing between pre- and post-exilic Judaism, which he differentiates by the phrase ‘non-Greek Judaism’ (IC, 111). Pre-exilic Israelite religion was not monotheistic but monolatristic: it worshipped one God above all other gods, rather than claiming that one God is the only god. In pre-exilic Judaism, God ‘ruins all presentation and all representations’, according to Nancy’s understanding of G. W. F. Hegel’s (1770–1831) analysis (IC, 130). The God of Israel refuses to appear (via presentation) and outlaws graven images (via representation) (see image). Nancy also writes, ‘Judaism is an atheism with God’ (IC, 128) (see atheism). The god of monotheism, which Judaism instantiates, is a god in retreat and desertion, a god who abandons human beings in the act of giving them the world. (Here Nancy plays with the French term abandonner, which contains donner, ‘to give’; see abandonment.) Nancy claims that Judaism initiates a notion of the divine in withdrawal. In his estimation, the story told by the West about itself presents Judaism as ‘the religion of the God who abandons, the religion that the Western world looks upon as that of the Jewish people, the people whom “God had kept aside to be the age-old anguish of the world” . . . (Hegel)’ (IC, 139). Rather than writing about Judaism as such, Nancy focuses upon how the West has mythologised or mystified the Judaic religion and people. This mystification is the work, in part, of Christianity, to which Nancy devotes much more time. In Dis-Enclosure, he writes, ‘Jewish monotheism, understood in its unfolding and its spread throughout the Greek world, opens into Christian thought. It prepares nothing other than the simultaneous evaporation of all divine presences and powers’ (D-E, 21). He understands Judaism to be a religion of the temple as well as a religion that posits its members as ‘sons of God’, whereas Christianity moves from temple to community and from sons to ‘brothers’ (D-E, 43). In Adoration (2010), Nancy notes that Judaism is the root of Christianity and that it wrestles with eschatology – thus he contrasts between a coming kingdom not of this world and the world as it is (A, 49). Nancy also obliquely examines Judaism in a couple of works co-written with Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe (1940–2007) on Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), psychoanalysis and anti-Semitism. The works focus primarily upon Freud’s analysis of Judaism, however, rather than providing the reader with a sustained account from their perspective. Daniel Boyarin has noted that ‘within the thought of philosophers such as Nancy lies a blindness to the particularity of Jewish difference which is itself part of a relentless penchant for allegorizing all “difference” into a monovocal discourse’ (Boyarin 1994: 67). He argues that, while no one should accuse Nancy of anti-Judaism, there are nevertheless tendencies within Nancy’s work that obfuscate or simply fail to understand the particularity of the

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Jewish populace within the overarching narrative of the West of which Nancy is so critical.

JURISFICTION Gilbert Leung Jean-Luc Nancy notes three ways that fictions have been associated with law: (1) jurisprudential exercises that require imagining the extent of the applicability of the law; (2) the positing by those involved in the law of the mysterious ground of the constitution; and (3) in Roman law, the extension of the law to cases it did not cover (FT, 156). Beyond this, Nancy demonstrates that jurisdiction itself  –  the extent of the power to make a legal decision or judgement  –  is ultimately a fictional construct. This he calls ‘jurisfiction’. What are the steps involved in the movement from jurisdiction to jurisfiction? Jurisdiction is literally jus dicere, the declaration (dicere) of right or law (jus). Nancy notes that dicere (related to the Greek root deik-, meaning ‘to show’) is constitutively juridical since it contains within it the ideas of showing, pointing and determining that are necessary components of legal judgement (FT, 154). Given that jus is already implied in dicere, while right, in order to be law, must be articulated, announced or declared, jurisdiction takes on a pleonastic quality, with jus and dicere simply emphasising what is inherent to each other. Right is articulated by a subject that is, according to Nancy, the merest outline of a juridical figure or persona that endows itself with a  certain capacity, power, desire or will. The word persona can also mean ‘mask’ in Latin, and this conveniently symbolises the essence of the subject in question as projecting and amplifying (per-sonat) the force of its own voice. The mask and its voice are ‘artificial’ and ‘theatrical’, which means that the subject declaring right can only do so by establishing itself ‘on a nothingness of being and nature’ (FT, 155). If the declarative nature of right is to present itself, it can therefore only do so by way of artifice and theatre, in other words, by way of fiction. To clarify the relation of right to fiction, Nancy examines the parallel relation of the judge (iu-dex, literally from the Latin: ‘one who says right’) to the case. The case, from the Latin casus, literally means ‘the fall’, as in ‘the fall in or through chance, through contingency, the fall according to opportunity (an opportunity that constitutes the judge as much as the criminal); the fall, then, as accident’ (FT, 157). In a double movement, the judge in every instance articulates right in and through the contingency of the case,



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and by the very act of articulating right, the judge also affirms the fiction of the case. The case always lapses (from the Latin lapsus, ‘falling’ or ‘sliding’) or falls back on itself. This is why, for Nancy, ‘juris-diction is or makes up juris-fiction . . . [t]he persona of the judge and his edictum are forged from the same fictitious gesture: right is said here of the case for which there can be no prior right, and which is the case of right’ (FT, 158). What, then, are the wider implications of jurisfiction? Against a relatively crude positivism that might consider all law as emanating from a determinate, fixed and ‘legitimate’ source – for example, legislature or case law – the notion of jurisfiction can be deployed together with an array of other critical legal theories to demonstrate the contingent and accidental nature of law formation. This, in turn, would impact on the basic question of legal certainty, for if law and right are seen as having an accidental and arbitrary quality, then this could also be seen as undermining the authority of positive law and – which amounts to the same thing – restrictive conceptions of the rule of law (see Leung 2012). Another implication involves the question that was Nancy’s principal concern in developing the notion of jurisfiction in the first place, namely ‘[w]hat happens when philosophy becomes juridical?’ (FT, 152). In other words, what happens when philosophy is ‘legitimated juridically’ and adopts a ‘juridical discourse and practice’ (FT, 152)? In posing such questions, Nancy understands the juridicalisation of philosophy as occurring after Roman/Latin interventions and as having reached its apotheosis in Immanuel Kant’s (1724–1804) tribunal of reason. At stake, then, would be not only the ground of law, but also the ground of philosophy and metaphysics, as well as the possibility of critique. Reason takes on the role of praetor or judge, saying the right of the right to say. Reason reasons about the case of reason, and in this self-judgement the case of reason falls under reason’s jurisdiction, a jurisdiction that is in essence a jurisfiction. Or, in Nancy’s words, ‘since philosophy thinks itself  –  says itself  –  in terms of right, it inevitably thinks in a way that is structured around (or affected by) lapsus judicii, by the slipping and falling that are an intrinsic part of the lack of substance within which jurisdiction takes place’ (FT, 167). When philosophy becomes juridical, the right to say is haunted by this lapsus and the fictionality of the saying. The result, Nancy concludes, is ‘the sometimes open, always latent revolt over the right to say – the ultimate demand of the right to say the right of what is by rights without right’ (FT, 169).

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JUSTICE Marie-Eve Morin In The Experience of Freedom (1988), Nancy aligns justice with the notions of measure and of sharing. The ‘measure’ of justice, however, has nothing to do with a ‘given measure’ or with a ‘just mean’ (EF, 75). Rather, justice has to do with the ‘just measure of the incommensurable’ (EF, 75). In other words, justice does not measure definite differences on a common scale (such a measuring would presuppose the general equivalence between what is measured), but rather ‘differences’ that are incomparable and hence incommensurable. What is measured here is ‘free existence’. In The Experience of Freedom, Nancy presents this ‘measuring’ in quasi-­Derridean terms: ‘justice can only reside in the renewed decision to challenge the validity of an established or prevailing “just measure” in the name of the incommensurable’ (EF, 75). Here, we are not far from Jacques Derrida’s (1930–2004) undeconstructible justice beyond any right or law, or from the necessity to ‘calculate with the incalculable’ (Derrida 2002: 243–4). At the same time, Derrida would probably object to thinking of justice in terms of ‘measure’ since for him justice always remains ‘in excess’ of any measure (Derrida 1994: 26–34). In ‘Cosmos basileus’ (1998), Nancy defines justice more positively as that which ‘must be restituted, returned, given in return to each singular existent’ (CW, 110), as that which is owed to each singularity as this singular ‘one’. Here, Nancy seems to have left incommensurability behind and to be advocating a balancing out of debts: justice consists in giving to each one what is owed to him or her. Here again, Derrida would be suspicious of Nancy’s definition of justice because it seems to rely on ‘what is appropriate’ (convenance, Greek oikeiotēs), and ‘what is appropriate or suitable’ is essentially linked with ‘the hearth (oikos), the home, . . . kinship, . . . familiarity, property, and therefore appropriability, proximity’ (Derrida 1997: 154). But given Nancy’s understanding of existence as singular plural, the just measure remains, here as before, immeasurable (how to measure the gift that each free existent is?) and improper (how to decide where one singularity ends and another begins?). The ‘proper’ measure of what one is owed cannot, at this point, be separated from the ‘improper’ since ‘determination of appropriateness . . . is nowhere but in the sharing itself and in the exceptional singularity of each, of each case, according to this sharing. In any case, this sharing is not given, and “each” is not given’ (CW, 109). Justice, like sense, does not hover above existence or above the world. It does not come from the outside to ‘repair or accomplish’ the world.



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Justice is given with the world but this given is that of the ‘demand’ ‘to create a world tirelessly’, rather than let the world collapse in the general equivalence of an unworld (CW, 112).

K KANT, IMMANUEL Adrian Switzer The focus of this entry will be on Nancy’s reading of Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) as developed in such works as The Discourse of the Syncope: Logodaedalus (1976) and The Literary Absolute (co-authored with Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe [1940–2007]) (1978); other entries such as freedom, experience of freedom and evil take up Nancy’s relation to Kant’s important works in these areas. In The Discourse of the Syncope, Nancy argues that Kant’s critical philosophy is the interrupted and interrupting other of literature and poetry, and that the systematic critical philosopher is a self-denying belle-lettrist. That is, Kant’s work announces the self-presentation of philosophy as a central question: ‘[T]here is a moment when this question [of how to present philosophy] takes place as a ­question. . . . This is the moment in which philosophy explicitly designates its own exception as literature’; ‘[t]his’, Nancy writes, ‘is the moment of Kant’ (DS, 18–19). In one sense, this is no more than a particular restatement of a historical fact: ‘Kant opens up the possibility of romanticism’ (LA, 29). The Romantics, according to Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy, decided to call their various artistic endeavours ‘literature’ (LA, 11). Hence, what we now recognise and classify as literature dates to the late eighteenth century, that is, to the time of Kant. Under the heading of ‘literature’, what the Romantics meant was something genre-defying and comprehensive, the absolute genre of literature (LA, 11). In this regard, and in the name of the ‘literary absolute’, Schlegel and other Romantics borrow a Kantian motif, namely systematic completeness (DS, 5–6). Further, there is the received wisdom that Kant was an inept and incapable writer and, moreover, that he was aware of this fact: Nancy cites a number of texts, spanning Kant’s career, in which Kant acknowledges his own lack of style and elegance (DS, 27). Finally, in a reversal of Kant’s philosophical selfconstitution through the refusal of literature, modern literature made of Kant a literary figure: ‘Immanuel Kant . . . regularly haunts high and low



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Justice is given with the world but this given is that of the ‘demand’ ‘to create a world tirelessly’, rather than let the world collapse in the general equivalence of an unworld (CW, 112).

K KANT, IMMANUEL Adrian Switzer The focus of this entry will be on Nancy’s reading of Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) as developed in such works as The Discourse of the Syncope: Logodaedalus (1976) and The Literary Absolute (co-authored with Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe [1940–2007]) (1978); other entries such as freedom, experience of freedom and evil take up Nancy’s relation to Kant’s important works in these areas. In The Discourse of the Syncope, Nancy argues that Kant’s critical philosophy is the interrupted and interrupting other of literature and poetry, and that the systematic critical philosopher is a self-denying belle-lettrist. That is, Kant’s work announces the self-presentation of philosophy as a central question: ‘[T]here is a moment when this question [of how to present philosophy] takes place as a ­question. . . . This is the moment in which philosophy explicitly designates its own exception as literature’; ‘[t]his’, Nancy writes, ‘is the moment of Kant’ (DS, 18–19). In one sense, this is no more than a particular restatement of a historical fact: ‘Kant opens up the possibility of romanticism’ (LA, 29). The Romantics, according to Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy, decided to call their various artistic endeavours ‘literature’ (LA, 11). Hence, what we now recognise and classify as literature dates to the late eighteenth century, that is, to the time of Kant. Under the heading of ‘literature’, what the Romantics meant was something genre-defying and comprehensive, the absolute genre of literature (LA, 11). In this regard, and in the name of the ‘literary absolute’, Schlegel and other Romantics borrow a Kantian motif, namely systematic completeness (DS, 5–6). Further, there is the received wisdom that Kant was an inept and incapable writer and, moreover, that he was aware of this fact: Nancy cites a number of texts, spanning Kant’s career, in which Kant acknowledges his own lack of style and elegance (DS, 27). Finally, in a reversal of Kant’s philosophical selfconstitution through the refusal of literature, modern literature made of Kant a literary figure: ‘Immanuel Kant . . . regularly haunts high and low

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literature alike’ (DS, 20). By providing Romanticism with the concept of critique, which enabled it to define literature as an ‘absolute’ criticoaesthetic genre (LA, 104–5), by reflecting upon and writing about his own failure as a writer, and by appearing in the literary works of such writers as Thomas De Quincey (1785–1859), Louis Guilloux (1899–1980) and Robert Musil (1880–1942), Kant and literature seem to be bound inextricably with one another. In fact, Kant and the history of literature stand in such close proximity that they are, arguably, the same. The ‘same’, in this case, must be understood in Nancy’s sense of an ‘undecidable’ sameness and difference from itself: ‘The same undecides itself: it undoes itself as it constitutes itself, fissures itself in the very gesture and instant in which it overcomes, fixes, and effaces its fissures’; or, put more briefly, the same ‘syncopates’ itself (DS, 10). Here, then, the historical rootedness of literature in Kantian critical philosophy – ‘Literature is in philosophy: not because it entered into it . . . but because it “came out” of it’ (DS, 86) – and Kant’s literary doubts about his own capacity to present his own philosophy converge on or emerge from the central theoretical topic of synthesis. If the self-identical and self-differentiated sameness of critical philosophy and literature is a matter of syncopation, the latter, Nancy writes, ‘is the equivalent of transcendental synthesis’ (DS, 11). In order to relate the activity of synthesis to the literary syncope on which critical philosophy depends, Nancy focuses on the 1781 A-edition version of the Transcendental Deduction in the Critique of Pure Reason. In this text, Kant treats transcendental synthesis as a matter of the imagination presenting unities that have already been synthetically combined. Kant gives the example of the experience of a continuous line, which is possible only if the imagination is able to re-present the segments of the line that have already been synthesised (Kant 1999a: A101–2). Further, by leaving out of his account the third moment in the A-edition Deduction, namely the synthesis of recognition in the concept (Kant 1999a: A103ff.), Nancy is able to treat representation as an activity of the imagination without dependence upon or subsumption under the governance of the categories of the understanding as rules of synthesis. Transcendental synthesis, treated apart from conceptual determination, is in this way identified with ‘presentation [Darstellung]’, a topic which Nancy describes as the shared concern of both philosophy and literature. Hence, critical philosophy cannot simply refuse literary Darstellung, which also goes by the more familiar name of ‘poetry [Dichtung]’ (DS, 72), and thereby constitute itself as an unliterary science of pure thought, because philosophical truth must always be presented discursively. In this way, as Kant insists in a number of places in his oeuvre, the philosophical exposition of truth differs from the mathematical exhibition of the same (DS, 68). At best, then, critical



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philosophy in its reliance on discourse and in its aim at complete scientific self-presentation can only ever interrupt the literary form of Darstellung – Dichtung – so as to claim systematic self-presentation for itself. To put this last point in Nancy’s language, ‘[Philosophy] itself excludes the very thing that founds or structures it: a unity without remainder and the final harmony. Philosophy syncopates its own foundation: that is how it forms itself’ (DS, 70).

KIAROSTAMI, ABBAS Douglas Morrey In 1994, when the magazine Cahiers du cinéma invited Nancy to contribute to a book celebrating the centenary of cinema, Nancy chose to write about a contemporary film, Life and Nothing More. . . (1992), by film director Abbas Kiarostami (1940–). The book never saw the light of day, but Nancy’s text was published in another film journal, Cinémathèque. A few years later, he was invited to expand this original text to create the book L’Évidence du film (2001), which also includes an interview between Nancy and Kiarostami, with the text presented in French, English and Persian. For Nancy, Life and Nothing More. . . is an uncategorisable film, neither exactly narrative fiction nor documentary nor allegory. Nancy argues the film asks us to look first, without expectations, and this injunction becomes key to the theory of film art Nancy develops in the book. The film represents a kind of new beginning for cinema, ‘the insistence of cinema, which partakes of its evidence’ (EvF, 12). The film documents the immediate aftermath of the 1990 earthquake in Gilan province in northern Iran. A man, Farhad Kheradmand, who seems to stand in for the director, attempts to find the young boys who appeared in Kiarostami’s earlier film Where Is My Friend’s House? (1987), which was also made in the region. The French title of the film is Et la vie continue. . .: Life Goes On. In Nancy’s analysis, what the film shows is the evidence of being as that which continues: ‘Being is not something; it is that something goes on. . . . It continues to discontinue, it discontinues continuously’ (EvF, 60). Since the film raises the question of the injustice of the earthquake (the arbitrary loss of life and so on), Nancy proposes that the film becomes a meditation on justice: ‘It’s a question of rendering justice to life insofar as it knows death’, which is to say the ‘absolute point of arrest of which there is nothing to know’ (EvF, 74) (see death). The fact of this being that continues in discontinuity, the fact of this death in life, is the sense (that touches upon the limits of sense) of the

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‘evidence’ that Nancy sees in Kiarostami’s films. Nancy defines evidence as that which comes to presence, if one cares to look. It is an evidence that grips (saisissement) but that ‘always keeps a secret or an essential reserve’ (EvF, 42). If Kiarostami’s cinema is didactic, then, it is only in the sense of ‘an education in looking at the world’ (EvF, 24). For Nancy, reading Kiarostami, to gaze is ‘to regard’ (regarder), in the sense of both looking at and caring for what is seen, and thus to have a certain care and sense for the real of the cinema.

L LACAN, JACQUES (see JOUISSANCE; PSYCHOANALYSIS) LACOUE-LABARTHE, PHILIPPE John Martis In a career marked by sustained collaboration with Nancy at the Université de Strasbourg, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe (1940–2007) extended poststructuralism in terms of its exploration of the link between philosophy and literature. Lacoue-Labarthe also wrote extensively on the theatre, theatrical staging and music, for example on Friedrich Hölderlin’s (1770–1843) versions of Antigone and Oedipus, Richard Wagner (1813–83) and Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922–75), as well as on the philosophies of G. W. F. Hegel (1770–1831), Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) and Martin Heidegger (1889–1976). Invariably, the foundational philosophical authors from Plato (c. 427–c. 347 bce) onwards are present as interlocutors and probed in terms of that which they ‘avoid without avoiding’, an expression Lacoue-Labarthe used while developing his reading of Heidegger. Lacoue-Labarthe’s key theses are developed in a series of close readings collected in Le sujet de la philosophie: Typographies I (1979) and L’imitation des modernes: Typographies II (1986), translated in English respectively as The Subject of Philosophy (1993) and Typography: Mimesis, Philosophy, Politics (1989). Here his thesis is that any representational mode produces the loss of its philosophical subject, a loss outlasting all ruses of return (see representation). Precisely because philosophy in search of truth must

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‘evidence’ that Nancy sees in Kiarostami’s films. Nancy defines evidence as that which comes to presence, if one cares to look. It is an evidence that grips (saisissement) but that ‘always keeps a secret or an essential reserve’ (EvF, 42). If Kiarostami’s cinema is didactic, then, it is only in the sense of ‘an education in looking at the world’ (EvF, 24). For Nancy, reading Kiarostami, to gaze is ‘to regard’ (regarder), in the sense of both looking at and caring for what is seen, and thus to have a certain care and sense for the real of the cinema.

L LACAN, JACQUES (see JOUISSANCE; PSYCHOANALYSIS) LACOUE-LABARTHE, PHILIPPE John Martis In a career marked by sustained collaboration with Nancy at the Université de Strasbourg, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe (1940–2007) extended poststructuralism in terms of its exploration of the link between philosophy and literature. Lacoue-Labarthe also wrote extensively on the theatre, theatrical staging and music, for example on Friedrich Hölderlin’s (1770–1843) versions of Antigone and Oedipus, Richard Wagner (1813–83) and Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922–75), as well as on the philosophies of G. W. F. Hegel (1770–1831), Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) and Martin Heidegger (1889–1976). Invariably, the foundational philosophical authors from Plato (c. 427–c. 347 bce) onwards are present as interlocutors and probed in terms of that which they ‘avoid without avoiding’, an expression Lacoue-Labarthe used while developing his reading of Heidegger. Lacoue-Labarthe’s key theses are developed in a series of close readings collected in Le sujet de la philosophie: Typographies I (1979) and L’imitation des modernes: Typographies II (1986), translated in English respectively as The Subject of Philosophy (1993) and Typography: Mimesis, Philosophy, Politics (1989). Here his thesis is that any representational mode produces the loss of its philosophical subject, a loss outlasting all ruses of return (see representation). Precisely because philosophy in search of truth must



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be written in the mode of literature or fiction, its subject is inexorably lost between philosophy and literature. Particularly, what is written is undone, in terms of substantiality, by the flight of the writer within the event of writing, a fact obscured and avoided in the texts themselves. This theme is highlighted as he reads Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), writing in ‘La fable’ (1970), ‘We write: we are dispossessed, something is constantly fleeing, outside of us’ (Lacoue-Labarthe 1993: 12), and, later, Heidegger, writing in ‘L’oblitération’ (1973), ‘What interests us here . . . is neither the subject nor the author [but] the dissolution, the defeat of the subject in the subject or as the subject: the (de)constitution of the subject or the “loss” of the subject – if indeed one can think of the loss of what one has never had, a kind of “originary” and “constitutive” loss (of “self”)’ (Lacoue-Labarthe 1993: 81–2). Lacoue-Labarthe’s early collaboration with Nancy, issuing in individual and jointly authored works, begins with Le titre de la lettre (1973), a deconstructive exploration of Jacques Lacan (1901–81), and L’absolu littéraire (1978), which investigates the German Romantic project that looks to literature to yield the substantial subject lost to philosophy since Immanuel Kant (1724–1804). After co-organising ‘Les fins de l’homme’, a colloquium on Jacques Derrida’s (1930–2004) work, at Cerisy-la-Salle in 1980, they co-founded the Centre de recherches philosophiques sur le politique (1980–4) in order to explore the political implications of deconstruction and articulate a properly philosophical questioning of the political. Their most important interventions at the Centre are collected in Retreating the Political (1997). Lacoue-Labarthe’s submission for his doctorat d’état, La Fiction du politique: Heidegger, l’art et la politique (1988), addressed the question of Heidegger’s involvement with Nazism, arguing that this involvement followed from the ‘essence of the West’, revealed in the West’s attempt at preserving its identity through the extermination of the heterogeneous. Agreeing with Nancy on much, Lacoue-Labarthe had less confidence than Nancy that a subject of experience – even one ­constituted as sens (sense) in movement, or through ‘one’s being given over to others’ – can reassert itself distinctively. Their divergent perspectives are evidenced in their contributions to the collections Du Sublime (1988) and Who Comes after the Subject? (1991).

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LANGUAGE AS ADORATION Christina Smerick The title of Nancy’s second volume in his Deconstruction of Christianity, titled Adoration (2010), functions as a multivarious term for a kind of human ek-stasis. Human beings, first and finally, are adoration. Our first words are those of adoration, and through them we are constituted as we come into being via language. In language, we adore that which lets us be in language, in the inspiration and expiration of breath in word. It functions as a ‘relationship to a presence that it would be out of the question to bring “here,” that must be known and affirmed as essentially “elsewhere”’ (A, 9). Nancy prefers terms for human being that suggest movement, change and play, rather than falling into the Western habit of discussing human commonalities as fundamental states or qualities. Thus, adoration consists in a movement of the human life, a life that, implicitly and explicitly, responds to its own givenness, to its own unfinished motion. Such a praxis or response Nancy labels ‘thinking’ – but again, this thinking is not a cognitive assent to a truth statement, but rather a movement, and thus thinking is a bodily act. Adoration as this thinking response of the body (which we are, and which is all we are) is a response to the gift of all things – that there are things. This is not, however, a reduction of the plurality of givenness to some sort of theoretical ‘something rather than nothing’. The givenness of the multiplicity and the tenuousness of the world, along with its contingency, change and play, resists the substitution of an ontic or even ontological something as guarantor. This givenness or gift of the world has no ‘giver’ or originator – we respond to the gift itself in and as adoration. The world is given, and in being given there is space, rupture, openings (for it is not a monad, a solid thing), and ‘adoration is addressed to this opening’ (A, 15). Nancy writes, ‘Adoration simply means: attention to the movement of sense, to the possibility of an address that would be utterly new, neither philosophical nor religious, neither practical nor loving – but attentive’ (A, 20). To say all this less poetically, Nancy’s ontology is that of the world as given as the world of sense, given excessively in movement itself, in plurality itself, and in tenuousness itself. The world is not a guarantee, nor a thing, nor supported by something else. It is fortuitous. Yet its existing allows us to be, and brings forward the possibility of our being, while eliciting a response from us, a response of gratitude or of witness. This attending to that in which we live, move and have our being – while neither fetishising nor idolising nor monotheising it – is adoration. Adoration is not a sustainable, stable attitude, but rather rises up in us



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and speaks to what is inaccessible. Inasmuch as we exist due to this sense of playful crisis, this undulating world of meanings and possibilities and death, we respond to it. Is adoration necessary? No, because that which it adores is also not necessary. Is it inevitable? That’s a good ­question – but Nancy usually avoids making blanket claims about the ‘nature of humanity’ and so would resist any sort of ‘inevitability’ attached to adoration. Nevertheless, he does seem to imply that insofar as we exist in language, our speaking, even if unintentional, may have an element of adoration to it, even if (as is usually the case) it goes unnoticed by the speaker.

LAW Gilbert Leung The concept of law has an internal complexity that renders it particularly difficult to define (Hart 1983: 89–98). When considering how Nancy thinks about law, we have the added problem of a semantic slippage that is the bane of translators between common and civil law traditions. Common law originates from a customary and case-based system that is pragmatically evolutionary. Civil law hails from a Roman-law-inspired system of codes that are declared, written down and read. In Roman law this is known as lex, which comes from legere, meaning ‘to read’. Yet if lex is read, from an early Roman point of view, lex is also what does the reading. What does lex read? Lex reads, or rather picks out, chooses or selects  –  still from the verb legere (Varro 1938: 232–3) – jus, where jus is the general and unwritten law before its enactment in the Twelve Tables forming the basis of Roman law. From lex, we have the Italian legge, the Spanish ley and the French loi, which we translate as ‘law’. From jus, we have Italian diritto, Spanish derecho and French droit, which we translate as ‘right’. At the risk of oversimplification, we could say that right (jus, droit, diritto, derecho and so on) connotes the idea of some pre-positive legality, while law (lex, loi, legge, ley and so on) encompasses institutionally established norms and enactments that are recognised as legal. However, given the pragmatic nature of the common law, the term ‘law’ is used in a more pervasive and general way than ‘right’. Hence we see ‘law’ used as a translation for both loi and droit when the latter is referring to the subject matter of law in general. For example, droit international tends to be translated as ‘international law’ rather than ‘international right’; also droit commun is obviously rendered as ‘common law’ and not ‘common right’.

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Nancy often uses the term loi or ‘law’ in this typically civil law sense of positive and institutionally recognised legislation. He also follows the above-mentioned linguistic style of using the term droit to refer to what common law lawyers understand as ‘law’ rather than ‘right’. For example, ‘En droit, la loi doit être le code universel . . .’ (CI, 39) has been cleverly translated as ‘De jure, the law ought to be the universal code . . .’ (FT, 155), where de jure is merely legalese for the general question of law as opposed to fact. The influence of the civil law tradition can also be seen in the way Nancy distinguishes ‘juridical law’ from non- or pre-juridical law. Juridical law is that which hails from a declaration by a law-giver (cf. common law, which is more associated with the force of time immemorial), while the latter is not (see Leung, forthcoming). In such a declaration, juridical law becomes intimately linked with its fictive foundation, what he calls ‘jurisfiction’. Aside from the classical juridical context, Nancy also uses the term ‘law’ in relation to ontology (see, for example, EF, 30). The characteristics of law in this ontological context involve an obligation, order or imperative voice that is (1) obeyed or disobeyed, (2) respected or transgressed, and (3) the tracing or providing of limits. These characteristics could also be said to apply to juridical law and so there is a certain consistency across registers. The major difference is that juridical law imposes itself upon a subject, while existential law is existence imposing itself upon itself. The law taken in this bold ontological register is not a question of moral justification and is therefore not a question of the right (droit) of existence. Instead, it is the law of existence as facticity (in the sense in which Martin Heidegger [1889–1976] uses the term) and aporetic self-transgressiveness. It is tempting to see the idea of the law of existence as a bridge towards a new thinking of natural law, where nature for the ancient Greeks (phusis) may be seen as a precursor to all post-Heideggerian thinking of being. However, given Nancy’s particular commitment to ontology, he would be reluctant to see it this way. Human existence is, for Nancy, without nature since nature and, by extension, natural law represent an auto-finalised order (‘FI’, 66). Existence and what it means to be human, by contrast, would in no sense be a finalised order. Existence as law is rather the opening to a world instead of nature.



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LEVINAS, EMMANUEL Peter Gratton Emmanuel Levinas (1906–95) is best known for his claim that ethics precedes ontology and that Western philosophy, up to and including Martin Heidegger (1889–1976), is a long attempt to reduce alterity to the order of the same. As he details in Totality and Infinity (1961) and numerous other writings, Levinas is not after a prescriptive ethics that would inform a set of laws or duties and mark out their place of application. For Levinas, ethics in this sense belongs to the history of ontology: it relies on a thinking of nature or a common being under which rules are placed, all in a veritable equality, even if it is an equality of aristocrats in Aristotelian ethics or a Kantian kingdom of ends. Guided by the equal application of the (moral) law, Western ontology in Levinas’s account cannot bear witness to the central site of the ethical, namely the face-toface relation. In this relation, Levinas claims, there is an unassimilable alterity of the Other who comes to me and who is higher than height. This Other cannot be quantified under any given register or identified through ontological claims. All ethics in the normal sense, then, are what Levinas dubs ‘politics’, namely the reduction of the Other to the same in an act of violence. The site of the face-to-face relation, for Levinas, is always one of peace and hospitality for the Other, and this absolute alterity is what gives meaning to our attempts to attend to the other through finite rules and responses. The face, then, is a pure expressivity that summons me in the form of a command, ‘Thou shall not kill’, and all our attempts at ‘politics’ and ‘ontology’ are ever-revisable responses to and responsibility for this ‘fact’. Levinas’s thinking of the Other is a witnessing of the transcendent par excellence, and thus he often rereads the Western tradition both (a) to accent those moments in which there is a refusal of alterity (for example, in the considerations of death in both G. W. F. Hegel (1770–1831) and Martin Heidegger (1889–1976), in Edmund Husserl’s (1859–1938) discussion of the other as alter ego, and so on); and (b) to privilege its brief interruption of philosophical discourse (the ‘good beyond being’ in Plato [c. 427–c. 347 bce]; the thinking of the infinite that precedes the cogito of René Descartes [1596–1650]). This thinking of transcendence is crucial to Nancy, but in the end we can say every distance passes between them through the distinctions between transcendence and transimmanence, between the Other and being-with, and between the infinite and the infinite-in-finitude, these all being important to Nancy’s project. This becomes most clear in Being Singular Plural (1996), which looks to

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r­ einitialise Heidegger’s Dasein-analytic in terms of the ‘co’ of existence, the original being-with (Mitsein), which by its very framing – p ­ rivileging the Mitsein of Heidegger’s fundamental ontology – is an affront to Levinas’s summation of Being and Time (1927) as ultimately egoistic. Nancy barely passes a page in Being Singular Plural without noting how the singularity of each one is an ontological claim not to be thought in terms of the Levinasian Other. For Nancy, there is no ‘ethics’ that ‘would be independent from an ontology’ (BSP, 11). Proceeding in much the same way as his (and Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe’s [1940–2007]) analysis of Lacan many years earlier in The Title of the Letter (1973), Nancy’s argument is that Levinas provides something of a negative theology of the Other, hypostasising a subject as the negation of the same. Nancy also argues that Levinas overdetermines the very relation of the one and the other, which is ‘prior’ to any possible specific relation as hospitality, peace and so on: ‘I can . . . grasp the relation with the face only as second and as constituted’ (FT, 270). In this way, Levinas, ‘in a rather classical manner’, provides a hierarchy and teleology of the sense of existence, and hence provides a pre-given meaning to existence (as in onto-theology) when there is only, for Nancy, the contrapuntal givenness of existence (FT, 270). But this does not mean Nancy thinks this leads to a delineation of existence in terms of univocity and sameness. He writes: [I]n the es gibt [the il y a or simple ‘there is’ or givenness] of Being, one can see everything except ‘generality’. There is the ‘each time’ . . . of an existing, singular occurrence. There is no existing without existents, and there is no ‘existing’ by itself, no concept – it does not give itself – but there is always being . . . the theft of generality. Being is at stake here, it is in shatters, offered dazzling, multiplied, shrill and singular, hard and cut across. Its being is there. . . . [T]hat is what Levinas, before anyone, understood. But being-with takes place only according to the occurrence of being, or its posing in shatters. (FT, 270)

Against the asymmetry of the relation to the infinite of the Other, Nancy thinks the infinite within the relation of finite beings (see sexual relation). Moreover he does not correlate this in-finitude to the Otherness of the future, but rather of the instant hic et nunc: the surprise of the event is not to be awaited, but is in the everyday occurrence of singular plural existence. ‘[D]esire for the exception presupposes’, he argues, ‘disdain for the ordinary’ (BSP, 10). It is in their different relations to Levinas that one also finds Nancy’s distance from Jacques Derrida (1930–2004), since he argues that Derrida’s positing, following Levinas, of a thinking of the ‘secret of the Other’ simply defers an ontology of plurality to a beyond; that is, he risks



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deriving a sense of the world from beyond its own plenitude. ‘It is not a question of an Other (the inevitably “capitalized Other”) than the world,’ Nancy concludes; ‘it is a question of the alterity or alteration of the world’ (BSP, 11).

LISTENING Brian Kane In French, entendre means both ‘to listen’ and ‘to understand’. Nancy focuses on the difference between listening and understanding in order to interrogate the relationship between listening, sense and subjectivity. As Jacques Derrida (1930–2004) demonstrates in Voice and Phenomenon (1967), Edmund Husserl (1859–1938) grounded the meaningfulness of any speech act on the presence of a phenomenological subject (see phenomenology) that, in an act of auto-affection, hears/understands himself speaking. Entendre, which shares the same Latin root as the word for ‘intentionality’, is associated with a mode of listening proper to the phenomenological subject. However, Derrida deconstructs this phenomenological subject to argue that any moment of auto-affection (hearing/ understanding-oneself-speaking) is based on a more primordial heteroaffection or spacing. This deconstructed subject cannot be approached through entendre, but only through a contrasting mode of listening for which Nancy uses the French écouter. The difference between entendre and écouter is analogous to the ontological difference between beings and Being, described by Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) in Being and Time (1927). While entendre listens for particular significations or entities in the world, écouter is a form of listening that opens up or exposes itself to sense in Nancy’s meaning of the term. Throughout À l’écoute (2002), translated in English as Listening, Nancy isolates the particular structure of être à l’écoute, which parallels Heidegger’s être-au-monde, as Heidegger’s being-in-the-world is rendered in French, and describes its entailments under two broad headings. First, listening opens the listener not to things signified by sound, but to sound’s sonorous presence: sound spreads and expands through space in a series of rhythmic waves, which reflect and interpenetrate; it surrounds and enters the listener, vibrating their body. Unlike visual objects, it has no hidden face, thus challenging the logic of phenomenological manifestation. It arrives with an attack at the moment that it departs. Nancy describes this ontology of sound – which is nothing more than a structure of infinite

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referrals and deferrals (see différance) – as ‘resonance’. Écouter, in passing over the things signified by sound, is a mode of listening that exposes itself to sense. Much of Listening is given over to describing the tense spacing between sense and signification, which is central to Nancy’s account of music. Second, listening is not to simply hear the self, but an ‘approach to the self’. In contrast with phenomenological entendre, a different subject emerges, one that is not thought on the basis of substance (res cogitans). Nancy calls this a ‘resonant subject’ in order to underscore that this subject is, like sound, a structure of infinite referrals and deferrals. The subject is always listening to itself without finding itself given as present. Through écouter, the circuit of the subject is never closed. Rather, invoking the phrase of Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe (1940–2007), Nancy’s long-time collaborator, the subject is always an ‘echo’ of the sounds that precede it and can never be simply appropriated. Nancy often addresses the subject as echo by invoking the figure of the foetus in the mother’s womb. Before one can differentiate self and other, before the self can refer to the self, there is the circulation of blood, the noise of respiration, and the muted hum of the world that precede the foetus, placed within the resonance chamber that is the womb.

LITERARY COMMUNISM Marie-Eve Morin The phrase ‘literary communism’, Nancy says, is a provocation since what it names ‘can hardly be aligned with the idea of “communism” or with the idea of “literature” as we habitually use either of them’ (IC, 80). Communism names, for Nancy, our ontological constitution, that is, our being-in-common, and is opposed to community understood as communion. Reading a passage from the Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859) by Karl Marx (1818–83), Nancy argues that Marx thinks not the common nature of humanity but its being-in-common. Capitalism destroys community because it places the generality of production and of products at the origin of the organisation of community. Communism means, on the other hand, that the community of singularities and its articulation is posited before production. Hence labour is truly social and ‘individual’ property is ‘true common property’, insofar as the product belongs to the singularity only insofar as it articulates itself in common (IC, 74–5). Communism, therefore, ‘does not want to claim that one should put in common that which, by itself, would not be so. . . . It wants



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to say that we are, insofar as we “are,” in common. That we are commonly’ (‘C’, 378). This communism is not the communism that would be ‘the real appropriation of human essence by man and for man, man’s total return to himself as social man’, as Marx wished for in the 1844 Manuscripts. The latter partakes in the tradition of myth in that it seeks to create ‘humanity’ as an immanent totality (IC, 51). Communism understood as being-in-common is essentially linked to literature as that which interrupts the work and prevents its totalisation or self-presence. Hence, literary communism is another name for the interruption of myth or for the inoperative or unworked community (see inoperativity). Literature is synonymous here with what Jacques Derrida (1930–2004) called writing (MII, 27–8). Writing is, for Derrida, the name of that which fractures consciousness understood as absolute and transparent self-presence, rendering impossible its absolute selfenclosure. In this sense, writing is the mark of exteriority at the heart of interiority, which makes presence differ from itself, and indefinitely defers self-identification. For Nancy, writing is not linked to signification but to the birth or the event of sense (MII, 28). Hence, writing is linked to singularity rather than generality (of words or concepts). We should not speak of literature, but rather of ‘what is literary’ in any work, literary or not, as that part which underlines its ‘inoperative’ character, its non-accomplishment as work or myth. Each work, literary or not, has a share of myth and a share of literature (IC, 63). Writing (or literature) exposes the mythic story, the ‘exemplary life’, to each of us. It presents – that is to say, it offers or abandons – a fragment or a piece that is without origin or end. We can produce a ‘total explanation’ of the work of literature by appealing to the psychology of the writer, to her social condition and so on, but the ‘literariness’ of the work is what interrupts these sorts of explanations by unveiling what they cannot explain: the ‘arbitrariness’ of its written – that is, its material – character. Of course, every book, every story, every artwork, can turn into a myth, that is, into a founding speech. This is also true of philosophy: there is a mythic Hegelianism (a Hegelian system presented as complete and total explanation of everything that is) that is interrupted by the written, material presentation of this system. This problem of the presentation or exposition of philosophy is the guiding thread in Nancy’s early reading of Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) and G. W. F. Hegel (1770–1831) in The Discourse of the Syncope (1976) and The Speculative Remark (1973) respectively. Every work, literary or not, must ‘be offered, that is to say presented, proposed, and abandoned on the common limit where singular beings share each other out [se partagent]’ (IC, 73). At this limit, which is our being-in-common, the work is exposed or turned inside out. It is in this sense that literature or the experience ‘of

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writing, of the voice, of a speech given, played, sworn, offered, shared, abandoned’ is necessarily ‘communist’ (IC, 70). By literature, Nancy obviously does not have in mind the early Romantics’ conception of literature analysed, with Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe (1940– 2007), in The Literary Absolute (1978). For the Romantics, literature is that which provides an adequate presentation and unmediated experience of the absolute. Such an adequate presentation is possible because literature is itself absolute: the perfect closure unto itself in the demand for the perfect and complete work. The motif of the total work serves to arrest the proliferation of works. Each fragment is a self-enclosed totality and hence replicates, rather than fragments, the absolute (LA, 43–4). Literary communism should not be understood as calling for either the aestheticisation of politics or the politicisation of art (SW, 119). At the same time, the phrase ‘literary communism’ is, in Nancy’s mouth, an imperative: ‘to defy at the same time the speechless immanence and the transcendence of a Word’ (IC, 80), both of which would put an end to ‘communication’. Literary communism implies that we should ‘not stop writing, or letting the singular outline of our being-in-common expose itself’ (IC, 41). Writing marks again and again the place where ‘I no longer (no longer essentially) hear in [the dialogue] what the other wants to say (to me), but I hear in it that the other, or something other [de l’autre] speaks and that there is an essential archi-articulation of the voice and of voices, which constitutes the being in common itself’ (IC, 76). Being-in-common is how ‘we’ are, and this ontological constitution makes fusion or communion impossible. As the interpellation from one finite being to another incommensurable being, ‘writing’ or ‘literary communism’ is the act in which the in-common that we are is experienced as such (see experience, finitude). As Nancy explains, it is what fastens us to one another, provided we do not understand this fastening as what completes or accomplishes something, but as a knot that preserves separation (MII, 25).

LITERATURE Patrick Roney Rather than designating a distinctive artistic practice within the overall division of the arts or a cultural activity or a creation of the Spirit, Nancy understands ‘literature’ in existential-ontological terms as the very praxis of our being-in-common. Within the thought of finite community, ‘Art’ no longer serves as a retrospective idea that unifies all the arts, including literature, into one essence that in Romanticism goes by the name of



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‘poetry’. On the one hand, the nature and scope of literature can thus be seen to go beyond the confines of any such traditional or metaphysical conception of art: each of the arts forms a discrete practice of being-inthe-world, whose plurality is a function of the singular tracing out of places of co-presencing, or, to use one of Nancy’s many terms, of comparution. Nonetheless, Literature (with a capital ‘L’) occupies a special place within the plurality of the arts because it invokes, perhaps more clearly and essentially than the others, the experience of our being-exposed to others. ‘Being-in-common is literary’, Nancy writes in The Inoperative Community (1986), which does not mean that a new myth of community has been ‘poeticised’, but that literature communicates sense, or the very possibility of sense, that both binds together singular beings and exposes them to their incompletion (see inoperativity). ‘Incompletion [inaccomplissement] is the very condition of politics. Fastening [le nouage] is the very condition of literature’ (MII, 25). Perhaps the best way to approach Nancy’s conception of the relation between literature, community and finitude (a relation he designates by the term ‘literary communism’) is as a response to the legacy of Romanticism, and early German Romanticism in particular. In many places, but particularly in The Literary Absolute (1978) and The Inoperative Community, Nancy interprets the essential gesture of Romanticism as the invention of the scene of myth. Myth has to be staged due to awareness of its disappearance and out of the desire for its renewal, so that whatever myth had been, Romanticism interprets it as the foundation and origin of all literature, indeed, of humanity as such, since in creating myth, man had created himself as a figure fully present to himself. What Romanticism seeks is a ‘totalising myth’, a myth that gathers all others into the absolute immanence of a humanity whose essential vocation is, to use Nancy’s term, ‘mythation’. The original power of myth is thus identified by Romanticism as the originary power of the creative imagination, baptised with the name of poetry (or literature). ‘Myth, in short, is the transcendental autofiguration of nature and of humanity’ (IC, 54). However, it is the totalising gesture of Romantic literature and its anticipation of the humanity-to-come that attests to the very absence of myth. Moreover, since the new mythology must be poetised, it then becomes the function of a conscious subject, who, in possession of his imaginative powers, fictions his own foundation and thus turns the foundation of his humanity into a fiction. As the spontaneous action of the fictioning subject, the ­literary absolute deconstructs itself (see deconstruction); the will-to-myth suffers interruption at its own hands since the desire for a new mythology would at the same time lead to the complete immanence of community, closed in upon itself, which would efface community

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altogether, since communication implies the separation of its participants: we share a space – the same space of a certain being-in-common – only because ‘we’ are differentiated as singular beings whose very existence is to be in relation to others. Pure immanence would be another form of the night in which all cows are black. The Romantic project of a literary absolute is profoundly ambiguous because, on the one hand, it acknowledges the absence of myth as its starting point, and as a consequence seeks a new foundation that cannot be drawn as it was heretofore from religion or the political or the philosophical. On the other hand, the Romantic project seeks to transcend the loss of meaning by constructing a new teleology, that of humanity. However, the realisation of a full and completed identity is constantly interrupted by literature itself. The ‘voice’ of community – finite and always open to its incompletion – interrupts this desire. ‘A name has been given to this voice of interruption: literature’ or, he adds, ‘writing [l’écriture]’ (IC, 66). In what sense does Nancy think literature as the interruption of myth together with the notion of finite community? On the one hand, the finitude of community is also the ‘unworked’ community (la communauté désœuvrée) insofar as it is no longer conceivable as a completed or yet-tobe-completed work that has been made according to an ultimate end. On the other hand, literature does not present community with a myth that assures it of its living and intimate presence to itself, that unites origin and end into one meaning. On the contrary, every story told is always unfinished and infinitely repeated and repeatable, and thus literature relies ‘essentially’ on this inessential incompletion. In literature, singular beings are always already exposed to their incompletion, which at the same time means an exposure to others and other-ness. Nancy’s writings on particular authors, works and genres of literature (and art) are vast, many of which are collected in the volumes of Multiple Arts (2006) and The Birth to Presence (1993), and in a number of lectures and essays published individually. Throughout numerous individual readings, the common threads of both the interruption of myth and writing as a praxis of finite community are evident. The lesson of Gustav Flaubert’s (1821–80) Temptation of Saint Anthony, for instance, is of the impossibility of sublimating vision into the visionary that beholds nothing but pure light. What Flaubert’s text yields, despite its failure or even because of its failure, is the lack of inspiration: ‘It reveals no transcendent world; it is neither traced nor dictated by a god’ (MII, 73). The absence of transcendence attests to the fact that there is nothing but this world, a fact that Nancy affirms at the very beginning of his major work on ontology, Being Singular Plural (1996). Writing does not reveal, nor can there be a pure vision in writing; if literature in and after Flaubert bears witness to



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anything, it is the abandonment of the temptation to transfigure life poetically. Henceforth, literature is exscription, which is one way in which Nancy translated Jacques Derrida’s (1930–2004) notion of écriture: the origin that differs from itself and defers itself is the condition of our freedom of being-toward-the-world.

LOGODAEDALUS Katie Terezakis Nancy published Le Discours de la syncope: I. Logodaedalus in 1976; an English translation by Saul Anton was published in 2008. Nancy originally intended Logodaedalus to be the first half of a project with a sequel titled Kosmotheoros, but never completed the latter work. Nancy takes the term ‘logodaedalus’ from Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), who uses it to describe the folly of those who ‘quibble over words’, as opposed to adopting the serious precision of the grammarian or the critical philosopher (Kant 1999b: 366, Ak. 6:206). At issue for Kant is the question of whether philosophy is capable of achieving a popular, commonly accessible style and whether that demand should apply to his own writing. Kant finds that all forms of philosophy can be written in a common language, with the exception of the systematic critique of the faculty of reason (Vernunftvermögens). Formal metaphysics requires the writer’s vigilance, lest reason leap into hasty speculation or dogmatic assertion. To achieve exactitude, metaphysics commands specialisation and technical language. Kant likens the logodaedalus to those pedants of religious or intellectual culture who gratify their desire for superiority by addressing an uncomprehending public with the specialised language designed for systematic philosophy. Kant only uses the term ‘logodaedalus’ again in a margin note recorded in his Nachlass. As such, Kant uses the term only in rare asides, whereas for Nancy it evokes the fundamental problem of presentation in Kant’s critical project, as well as Kant’s own, secret desire for popularity. Nancy’s Logodaedalus centres on Kant and the problem of presenting or writing philosophy. Kant is the very logodaedalus he dismisses, Nancy suggests, insofar as Kant both abjures and longs for popular recognition, and remains preoccupied with the possibility of elegant writing. More to the philosophical point, Nancy notices how the Kantian a­ rchitectonic and schematism reintroduce the issue of philosophy’s presentation, underscoring the construction and portrayal of the critical system, even while Kant denies that language or literary expression has any essential relationship to the ideas they convey. Kant claims that the critical project has its

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own monogram or framework, a consolidated account independent of its author and free of his signature or personalisation. Nancy, however, finds in Kant’s writing the very problem of exposition; the investigation of appearances, as Kant argues, is characterised by the problem of its own appearance. Nancy recalls the figure of the utterly cerebral Kant, with his timely walks and mind-numbing prose, but Nancy also argues that the familiar portrait of Kant has become a virtual delegate for impersonal knowing itself. Kant, as we have come to know him, seems to speak for and as reason, in a style detached from any common tongue. According to Nancy, the presentation of the critical project entails the ‘disappointed identity’ of Kant the promising author, and his subsumption into ‘the kant [sic]’. Nancy describes Kant’s denial of his text’s literary construction, as well as his attempt at authorial self-erasure, as ‘syncopated’ in Kant’s work. While Kant is the central figure of Logodaedalus, Nancy uses the analysis of Kantian syncopation to begin questioning the general conditions of philosophical presentation.

LOVE Catherine Kellogg For Nancy, in the occidental tradition, love is an experience that appears to be peculiarly invested with the kind of immanence – the dream of being perfect, total, absolute – no longer guaranteed by a supreme being (see God, religion, onto-theology). In this sense, throughout his writings, Nancy is clearly talking about something other than, or at least not identical to, the representation of the experience of erotic love: he is also talking about the intimate association between love and thought (and he talks about its ‘origins’ in the word ‘philosophy’ itself). The love of thought and the thought of love are perfectly congruent. Both the tradition of occidental love and the tradition of occidental thought, then, promise fulfilment, perfection, wholeness; a reunion with a lost original unity. Indeed, Nancy demonstrates the profound complicity between the double-ness of the idea of love (love is completion and the striving towards completion, love is journey, love is return, love is the encounter with alterity, love is complementarity, love is enslavement, love is freedom or transcendence, and so on) and Western philosophy. Love, he proclaims, is conceived of as the identity of identity and difference; it is the thought of the dialectic crystallised perfectly in G. W. F. Hegel’s (1770–1831) claim that ‘The Absolute wishes to be close to us’: God is love and God is



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the supreme being. The thought of love, then, as the thought of Being, of perfection, of return, and thus as freedom or transcendence, is the thought of meaning qua meaning. Nancy points out, however, that in love we find ourselves shattered; love does not deliver absoluteness, it does not produce a perfect reunion. Rather, love is an experience of the impossibility of pure immanence (see jouissance). This is because in love, we are actually always drawn up out of the narcissistic circle of our notions of perfection, of completion and of return. Nancy says, we are broken by love; in love we find ourselves beyond ourselves, in excess to ourselves. Our experience of love exposes us to being jarred out of the very perfection love seems to promise. As he says, rather beautifully, The heart is not broken, in the sense that it does not exist before the break. But it is the break itself that makes the heart. The heart is not an organ, and neither is it a faculty. It is: that I is broken and traversed by the other where its presence is most intimate and its life most open. The beating of the heart – rhythm of the partition of being, syncope of the sharing of singularity – cuts across presence, life, consciousness. That is why thinking – which is nothing other than the weighing or testing of the limits, the ends, of presence, of life, of consciousness – thinking itself is love. (IC, 99)

What the other (whom we love) presents to us, Nancy argues, is the fact of her existence, which is to say, a being of mortality and finiteness (see finitude). Love here, then, is not a matter of communion or return. Indeed, it is commonplace to acknowledge that what provokes love is the other’s singularity – the je ne sais quoi that attracts us to another. Indeed, for Nancy, in love, we are confronted directly by our own remains; in love, as he says, ‘I can no longer, whatever presence to myself I may maintain . . . pro-pose myself to myself without remains, without something of me remaining, outside of me’ (IC, 97). Furthermore, in all of its endless variations, love comes to us always singularly. This is why love’s own (secret) name is the statement ‘I love you’. Love’s name must carry both the ‘I’ and the ‘you’ because all loves, so humbly alike, as Nancy says, ‘from the sole embrace . . . to tireless devotion . . . are all superbly singular’. Perhaps more significantly, Nancy says that, notwithstanding its exhaustion, the statement ‘I love you’ is a promise that ‘draws itself back before the law that lets it appear’ (IC, 100). The paradox at the heart of the statement ‘I love you’ is that, on the one hand, love cannot guarantee itself. As Nancy says, ‘it is possible that one day I will no longer love you, and this possibility cannot be taken away from love – it belongs to it. It is against this possibility, but also with it,

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that the promise is made, the word given’ (IC, 100). On the other hand, it is the very inability to guarantee love – the very ephemerality of the experience of loving – that calls forth the promise of love in the first place. What Nancy has done here, then, is to invoke the statement ‘I love you’ along with a question of the nature of promises, and what he calls a law. The statement ‘I love you’, he says, is a limit of speech, and this much, at least, seems clear. As a statement most often uttered in moments at the limits of meaning, it is powerless, it can do nothing (see sense). What is promised – that I love you – cannot possibly be guaranteed. But he goes on to say that this promise lets emerge the law that love must arrive. What he gestures towards here is the insight that all forms of signification participate in the dramatics of what is not-yet, but promised in meaning. Signs literally take the place of missing referents, and in this sense signification, while naming a ‘presence’, is always already pointing beyond itself towards what is not and cannot be present. In this sense, there is always an ‘opening’ or a beyond that makes any signification possible. And yet, all signification happens ‘on the scene of presence’; it names a presence that is simultaneously belied by the process of signification itself. What is announced by signification is the promise of what is not-yet, but promised in meaning: this will be. And insofar as it is said, the phrase ‘I love you’ also participates in the law of the given word: this love will be. In this sense, Nancy tells us that love always ‘arrives in the promise and as the promise’. What is promised is that I love you. That it can be promised is what he calls the law, the law of the spoken word: this will and must be. The thought of love, then, the thought of perfection, return, transcendence, is the thought of meaning as such. But the experience of love, its ability to bring us to what is most peculiar or singular about ourselves and each other, brings us to the limit of speech or meaning. What the experience of love shatters, then, is the thought of love, the idea of an immanent or perfect meaning. Both thought and love, then, ‘take place in the reticence that lets the singular moments of this experience offer and arrange themselves’ (IC, 84). Both thought – this thought or that thought – and love – this love or that love – are what takes place, happens, as impossible happenings, in the reticence, retracing or retreat of meaning as such, in the retracing/retreat of pure immanence.



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M MARION, JEAN-LUC Chris Hackett French philosopher Jean-Luc Marion (1946–) was a student of both Jean Beaufret (1907–82), from whom he inherited a deeply Heideggerian approach to philosophical questions, and Jacques Derrida (1930–2004), with whom he sustained a long debate concerning phenomenology after metaphysics, the meaning of the gift, and the possibility of the theological naming of God. As a historian of ideas he has influentially argued for the continuity of René Descartes (1596–1650) with the medieval tradition, a point vital for understanding his texts. In phenomenology Marion has developed an account centred on givenness (Gegebenheit) rather than intentionality. He is also a theologian profoundly shaped by the apophatic sensibilities of Eastern patristic thinkers. Marion holds chairs at the University of Paris IV (Sorbonne) and the University of Chicago. He was elected to the Académie française in 2008. Juxtaposing Marion with Nancy allows the latter’s specific appropriation of Derridean thought to stand out more clearly. For the sake of an atheism free from theism, Nancy broadens deconstruction, which Derrida self-consciously limited to the philosophical appropriation of the Christian God by ‘Greek conceptuality’, to thinking the equation of metaphysics with Christianity, which he describes in terms of a hinge of an auto-deconstructive impulse definitive of Christian monotheism. According to Marion, Christianity, especially in its most central theological figures (for example, Pseudo-Dionysius [sixth–fifth c. ad], Thomas Aquinas [1225–74]), already breaks free from idolatrous metaphysical conceptuality. For thoroughly historical reasons, he restricts the onto-theological tradition of metaphysics (defined by Martin Heidegger [1889–1976] as the reduction of Being to one particular being) to the modern period, finding its first critical elaboration in Francisco Suárez (1548–1617). For Marion, a phenomenology of givenness – for which intuition exceeds the conceptual a priori and thereby surpasses the transcendental strictures of modern thought, and which holds absolutely no bias towards the appearances, even opening to the impossible phenomenon par excellence (God) – is the means by which the onto-theological tradition of metaphysics is overcome (see onto-theology).

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Nancy’s criticism of Marion, first in ‘Of Divine Places’ (1985), focuses on the concept of ‘distance’ in Marion’s early retrieval of a nonmetaphysical God. Nancy remarks that Marion borrows his approach from deconstruction, which underlines the disappearance of the divine that he employs the terminology to avoid. Nancy’s response to Marion remains fundamentally the same when examining his later phenomenology of givenness. In The Creation of the World (2002) Nancy suggests that Marion’s reduction to pure self-givenness of phenomena is incomplete, since absolute self-givenness could only be equated with nothing, the nothing that is. Any content given to God can only be metaphysical, since God could only be an ‘inaccessible alterity’. For Marion, by contrast, his notions of ‘distance’ and, later, ‘saturation’, ‘counter-intentionality’, ‘l’adonné’, the ‘impossible’ and ‘negative certitude’ are not imitations of deconstruction as much as alternatives that seek to overcome metaphysics with a non-idolatrous conceptuality. ‘Distance’, for example, only denotes the freedom of God to unveil itself as it is while infinitely transcending its self-revelation; ‘distance’ is a metaphor, like ‘darkness’ for earlier apophatic thinkers, for the God who gives itself so fully that it eludes any approach but the ‘response’ of pure self-gift, the ‘return’ of love that is the ‘redundance’ of the divine self-giving and its very manifestation. This perspective would find Nancy’s deconstruction to be only a further development of the metaphysical assumption behind onto-theology: it even more radically constricts the a priori to finitude and its ‘sense’. Thus it is as a philosopher who believes in the Christian God that Marion makes an illuminating chiaroscuro with Nancy. If Nancy’s thought can be understood as an elaboration of the phenomenological observation that sense arises in a world without God, the fact that there is a philosopher for whom faith in the revealing God is the condition for destroying our metaphysical idols, even the vacant idol of atheism, suggests that for the atheist (or ‘post-atheist’) the meaning of finitude is not ascertainable and not necessarily the last word for thought. Perhaps, for example, thinking is more authentically finite when it accepts the possibility of the divine impossibility that Christianity proposes. Confronted with the choice of either God as charity (Marion) or the ‘absolute fragment’ of the world’s finitude (Nancy), we would have to admit that what we see depends on what we first admit is possible to see: le croire pour le voir. The final word, as Heidegger once noted, is not philosophy’s to give.



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MARX, KARL Daniel McDow For Nancy, what is ‘ownmost’ (le plus propre) to the legacy of Karl Marx (1818–83) is that the proper name (le nom propre) ‘Marx’ should direct us to the anamnesis of an absolutely singular event in the history of thought, an anamnesis that becomes an exigency for contemporary thinking (TD, 16). For Nancy, ‘Marx’ signifies a space common to a multiplicity of discourses – philosophy, economics or history, among others (‘C’, 380) – yet the singularity of Marx’s name is precisely that which subtracts the event ‘Marx’ from so many hypostatic representations, or ‘Marxisms’. That is to say, ‘Marx’ does not name a politics (la politique) but rather marks the moment in which thinking became its own (propre) subject – thought thinking itself, and thus a praxis – which thereby opens thought to a thinking in and of the common. Following G. W. F. Hegel (1770–1831), the sense (sens) of thinking is posited as being, but unlike the Hegelian ‘concept’, the truth of Marx’s thinking consisted in thinking’s opening onto the real, which always has been and ever still remains in common. The event of ‘Marx’ therefore signifies thinking as praxis, which supplies the necessary conditions for what Nancy calls acts of ‘communication’, or the sharing of the ‘in-common’ (see community, communism). The common, which is ontologically prior to existence and not to be confused with what Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) calls Existenz, is absolutely singular in each and every instance of its opening. It is ‘the end [which] precedes in the origin to which it withdraws’ (‘C’, 385). As both origin and end, the inaugural opening of the common – the ‘in-between’ or ‘in-common’ – is, for Nancy, indexed by the name ‘Marx’. Nevertheless, the exigency that this entails is irreducible to mere nomination: ‘Marx’ is never simply a name. Nancy argues that the name ‘Marx’ is ‘less and more than a “thought”. . .[,] less and more than a thinker: here thought sees itself in a whole different perspective’ (‘C’, 381). This is to say that the exigency at stake in thinking of the event of ‘Marx’ is no less than the thinking of thought itself, and thus thought as a praxis rendered other to itself insofar as it is effectuated in the common, but thereby positing its existence as sense. It is ‘not the meaning [un sens] of existence, but existence as meaning’, or the demand ‘not that thought [be] put into practice, and that the real [be] thus the product of the meaning that the Idea gives it, but that praxis be thought [la pensée], and that the “meaning” appears with the real itself, as the real’ (‘C’, 383). This diremption undergone by thinking – which, crucially and again, is not simply ‘thought’, but thought thinking itself singularly, in each and

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every praxis, and thus giving itself sense in and as the real – demonstrates the passage from Hegel to Marx. For Hegel, self-identical existence ‘is itself its lack of self-identity [or its disparity with itself, seine Ungleichheit mit sich] and its dissolution – its own inwardness and withdrawal into itself – its own becoming’ (Hegel 1977: §54), while for Marx, the transformative power of praxis, which is reducible neither to thought nor to ‘the concept’, comes from introducing non-identity into the sense of being, ‘an otherness older and more “constitutive” than [its] identity’ (‘C’, 382). This otherness is that which has been excluded from ‘conceptual’ existence, yet that which nevertheless has always already remained the being of existence (Existenz), which is our authentic existence: our beingin-common. To think existence as being-in-common is thus to make ‘the real’ the subject of thought – a thought which thinks itself and thus a veritable praxis – whose very availability is what is proper to the name ‘Marx’. What belongs to the real is therefore the being of the common, our being-in-common, and what the event of ‘Marx’ reveals is that thought as praxis has taken place in the real and that, in thinking thus, we thereby open ourselves to the common. The question that this raises is if the thinking of community has obfuscated that of ‘the common’, then how does community now ‘appropriate to itself the meaning that it is’ (‘C’, 383)? That is to say, how does the thinking of community, as a determination of sense, give way to a more fundamental thinking that we always already are in common, or ‘that we are, insofar as we “are,” in common’ (‘C’, 378)? It is only when thinking becomes this praxis of sharing or communicating sense, and thereby affirming our being-in-common, that we can respond to this exigency of the event named ‘Marx’.

MATTER/MATERIALITY Marie-Eve Morin The ontology of being-with, Nancy says in Being Singular Plural (1996), can only be ‘materialist’ (BSP, 83). He puts the word ‘materialist’ in quotation marks since his materialism undoes, rather than merely reverses, the dichotomy between matter and spirit, by showing that one is nothing but the exposition of the other. For example, in The Experience of Freedom (1988), Nancy says that freedom is not a kind of spiritual force that would be opposed to the material (or mechanical-causal) force of nature. Rather, ontological freedom – the fact that what exists is delivered over to existence, cut off from its cause – is from the start material. The withdrawal of being, that is of being thought as pure immanence or pure concentration



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in itself, as cause or ground of what is, is necessarily the ‘material Setzung’ or position of singularities (EF, 103). Nancy names this materiality transcendental or ontological materiality (EF, 103). Matter, for Nancy, does not designate a purely immanent substance, closed upon itself, but rather names ‘what is divided of itself, what is only as distinct from itself’ (BSP, 84). Matter is ‘the very difference through which something is possible, as thing and as some: that is, other than as the indistinct inherence or hardening of a one that would not be some one’ (SW, 57). In other words, matter is always differential: there is always a minimal rift or spacing at the heart of anything that allows it to exist, to be this thing. This is even true of the stone, which Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) declared to be worldless. It is impossible, Nancy says, ‘to reduce “the stone in the stone” to a “pure” immanence; “immanence,” in other words, is also and in a way “to itself”’ (FT, 322). The stone is there, resisting my grasp, dissolving neither in my hands nor in my thoughts, exposed in its materiality, because its existence has the structure of the ‘to-itself’ or of différance (see SW, 59–63). Creation ex nihilo is for Nancy ‘the genuine formulation of a radical materialism, that is to say, precisely, without roots’ (CW, 51). Creation ex nihilo does not mean that the world is fabricated from the nothing, conceived as underlying substratum or as prime matter produced by an especially ingenious or powerful producer. Rather, it means that the world has no presupposition or precondition, no foundation or principle: beings are only what they are and there is nothing outside of the world of beings (D-E, 24; BSP, 16; BP, 196). The world that is created ex nihilo is necessarily the world of bodies. What the body is, however, cannot be properly thought with the help of the traditional matter/spirit dichotomy, in which either inert matter is spiritualised and infused with meaning or an intelligible soul is incarnated or imprisoned in inert matter. In other words, the metaphysical understanding of incarnation, grounded in the two-world paradigm, must be replaced by a thought of ‘carnation’ (C, 15–17, 83). Carnation is not the materialisation of an invisible idea or spirit; it is the irreducible ambiguity of all bodies as flesh – as event of sense, matter and spirit in the same place. Nancy’s materialism impacts his understanding of art. Art cannot be understood, as G. W. F. Hegel (1770–1831) describes it, as the sensible presentation of the idea. Such a conception of art subordinates the material aspect of the work to its spiritual aspect, its form, which is understood to be the expression of the idea. Materiality constitutes an essential part of the work of art, but one that is at the service of another instance. Art ‘dies’ when such material presentation is seen to be inadequate to the true content of the Idea. For Nancy, the death of art is at the same time the

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liberation of its materiality and sensuousness from any subordination to an intelligible principle. Nancy’s materialism also undercuts the dichotomy between thing and thought and between mute matter and conceptual or linguistic meaning. Materiality is not opposed to thought. Rather, there is a specific materiality of thought itself: its weighty character. True thinking, according to Nancy, does not dissolve the materiality of the thing into a purely intelligible concept, but lets that which is outside of thought weigh on thought. As a consequence, thought cannot fold back upon itself and appropriate for itself the weighty character of the thought that thinks the thing (GT, 76). It is exactly this weighty character of thought/thing, of bodies against each other and against thought, that phenomenology in general (which thinks being as sense and sense as intentional access), and Martin Heidegger’s (1889–1976) concept of world as significance in particular, obfuscate. What we need is a new finite ‘transcendental aesthetics’ for which the ‘form’ of sensibility would not be space and time but ‘gravity’. Such transcendental form would not be a pure, abstract ‘form’, since gravity always implies materiality (GT, 77; FT, 27). In the same vein, language does not, or does not only, subsume a singular, material thing under a universal concept. It also presents the presence of the thing along with its exteriority (BSP, 88; BP, 175). The failure of the name to capture ‘this thing here’ in its materiality does not mean that the thing remains ineffable. Rather, the concept or word ‘stone’ comes to touch this material thing by being mediated through a singular event of sense, that is, the material inscription of the concept. Concepts are not, language is not, apart from such a material inscription, which Nancy calls exscription (C, 71; BP, 175–6). Meanings as inscribed significations (categories, concepts) are always already beyond language, in contact with a material point (‘the flesh of a lip, the point of a pen or of a stylus’) ‘where all writing is ex-scribed, where it comes to rest outside of the meaning it inscribes, in the things of which this meaning is supposed to form the inscription’ (GT, 79, trans. mod.). What is inscribed – the meaning of the word ‘tree’, for instance – is at the same time exscribed, placed outside of language by its contact with a material instance: lip, pen, keyboard. The concept ‘tree’ in its abstract meaning can come to touch ‘this tree here’ (impenetrable matter) through the exscription of its sense as a singular material event (BP, 338–9). At the same time, the ex- of exscription reminds us that the thing is that which weighs outside of thought. As a consequence of this exscription of language, reading must also remain, without ceasing to decode significations, weighty, ‘caught in the odd materiality of language’ (BP, 336).



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MÊLÉE Jane Hiddleston Nancy’s essay ‘Eulogy for the Mêlée’, originally published in German in 1993, collected in Being Singular Plural (1996), and retranslated as ‘In Praise of the Melee’ in A Finite Thinking, forms an extension of his thinking of being singular plural. Written in response to the horrific Serbian project of ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Sarajevo, however, the piece has a political grounding less evident in the rest of the work and forms an impassioned statement against the notion of purity that underpins the concept of nationhood that fuelled the war in the former Yugoslavia. Nancy opens by asserting that ‘“Sarajevo” has become the expression of a complete system for the reduction to identity’, and he offers in resistance a ‘eulogy’ for the alternative notion of a mêlée as ‘a crossing and a stop, a knot and an exchange, a gathering, a disjunction, a circulation, a radiating [un étoilement]’ (BSP, 145). The mêlée, moreover, is crucially distinct from mélange, which risks forming another identity. The difficulty with the notion of mélange, according to Nancy, is that it still implies a collectivity of individuals, gathered together within the container of the ‘melting pot’, for example, and therefore remains within a logic of sameness rather than difference. It still falls into the trap of essentialism and can take on two different forms, ‘that of a fusion or a thoroughgoing osmosis, or that of an accomplished state of disorder [mise en désordre achevée]’ (BSP, 150). The mêlée, by contrast, is not a state but a process or an action; it is a perpetual series or web of meetings among singularities who come and go, which never achieves a completed identity: In a mêlée there are meetings and encounters; there are those who come together and those who spread out, those who come into contact and those who enter into contracts, those who concentrate and those who disseminate, those who identify and those who modify – just like the two sexes in each one of us. (BSP, 151)

This does not mean that there is no such thing as culture, but that culture is never ‘one’; it never becomes inert and is always recreating itself. Language, moreover, is also always multiple as ‘a mêlée of languages’, and exists through its contact with and alteration by other languages (BSP, 154). Community, Nancy thus insists, is not about ‘interior unity, subsistence, and presence in and for itself’, but is nothing other than the meeting of differences (BSP, 154). Thus the rape of Bosnian women, for example, occurs in the fantasy of a unified community that does not exist; it is carried out in order to produce ‘bastards’ who can be killed in order

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to prove, Nancy argues, the triumph of purity. But rape is the ultimate act against relationality; ‘it sinks its teeth into relation, into the mêlée’ (BSP, 155) (see sexual relation). Mêlée, finally, is not a chance occurrence, but is originary: it was always there and names the multiplicity into which we are all born and by which we are made. It is the denial of this originary multiplicity and the quest for an impossible purity that engenders the always hopeless but always destructive wars of ‘ethnic cleansing’ of which Sarajevo is just one example.

MONDIALISATION (see GLOBALISATION; WORLD) MONOTHEISM Christina Smerick Jean-Luc Nancy addresses monotheism throughout most of his works, from The Inoperative Community (1986) through to Adoration (2010). In every case, he establishes and repeats some clarifying boundaries to the term. First, monotheism is a product of, and produces, the West. Second, monotheism encompasses all three ‘religions of the book’ – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – but Christianity has priority in Nancy’s work because monotheism deconstructs itself most thoroughly. Third, monotheism and religion are not identical for Nancy: religion is more broadly construed and tends to focus upon practices and rituals, whereas monotheism is also a philosophically and ontologically loaded designation that shapes a developing metaphysics of the sense of the world. Nancy’s analysis of monotheism links to his political concerns regarding the sense of the world. Western metaphysics, in the guise of both monotheism and fundamental ontology, has dominated the discourse, and assumes a vertical axis that orients the world, or a universal ground that supports it. This myth has significant repercussions. Regarding theology, it encourages us to think of the world as One opposed to or guaranteed by some Other One (and thus, Western metaphysics is fundamentally monotheistic). Western metaphysics and monotheism produce the same sort of discourse that shapes the West’s attitude toward the world, an attitude that results in globalisation – a making-same of difference, a unifying practice that is, in practice, annihilating. Nancy argues that monotheism is not just a conflation of many gods into one, but is a radically different attitude toward divinity. In monotheism, God is identified with Being itself. Thus, monotheism is an appeal to a



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universalism that grounds and forms the world-as-One. It is worth noting that Nancy traces this sort of monotheism not just to Judaism, but to the Greeks as well, when Greek philosophers move from thinking about the gods to thinking about the Idea and/or the theos, which has no personality and of which Plato, he states, had ‘no Idea’ (D-E, 22). The history of thought in the West traces out the conversion of God from person to premise. From medieval philosophical proofs of God’s existence, to the pantheism of Baruch Spinoza (1632–77), to the imaginary project posited by Ludwig Feuerbach (1804–72), and finally to the notion of God as ‘the premise or principle of a presupposed totality, founded in unity and necessity’, God has been thoroughly philosophised and rendered into a tool, theorem, idea and/or Being itself (D-E, 21). Yet monotheism simultaneously produces discourses of alterity and openness that undo the airtight premises established by its philosophical branch, onto-theology. Monotheism is auto-deconstructive because it articulates, albeit on a subterranean level, a necessary removal of God from the world. A unified and absolute God is a God that has removed Himself from immediate presence to us, and thus in a significant way monotheism is an a-theism. Monotheism posits a creator who creates ex nihilo – out of nothing, rather than out of Himself. Thus, the only cause or material out of which the world is created is nothing. The doctrine of creation ex nihilo thus produces the non-presence of God – the absenting of God, such that the world simply exists as fact, without origin and without cause. In ex nihilo, Nancy argues, we have the ‘undoing of every premise’, a lack of premise, a something preceded by nothing. Thus, religiously speaking, creation is ‘to empty nothing of any quality as premise’ (D-E, 24). The turn from immanent beings co-present in the world, found in archaic religion, to an absent God that could only ‘create’ out of nothing by becoming nothing philosophises religion and sets the stage for religion’s auto-deconstruction. Monotheism and onto-theology are co-morbid, in that monotheism turns God into a being or a premise. The God that creates ex nihilo via its absence (thus opening the world) is not a replacement for the divinities of old, but rather substitutes a premise for a person. While there are still notable differences between the philosophical notions of onto-theology and the ‘God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’, monotheism’s God no longer has a presence in this world, but beyond it. Yet, there is no world beyond this world, and so monotheism denudes itself of God, and sets up the world as a ‘radical materialism . . . without roots’ (CW, 51). Nancy focuses this work primarily upon Christianity in part because Christianity is the meeting of two a/theisms: Jewish monotheism and Greek atheism. The monotheism of Christianity derives from Greek atheism, and current philosophical discourse owes as much (or more) to

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the Christian tradition as to the ancient Greek one. In Christianity, due to the radical claims regarding the incarnation and the resurrection, monotheism works out its underlying, and often unarticulated, assumptions: that the God who creates out of nothing must Himself be nothing and that the ‘man-god’, abandoned by God, is the ‘totally secular divinity of humanity’ (IC, 139). In the incarnation, Nancy argues, God puts himself outside himself. ‘In this sense, the Christian god is the god who alienates himself. He is the god who atheizes himself and atheologizes himself ’ (D-E, 82). This reflects the notion of kenosis: of God emptying himself by becoming human. In the incarnation, God a-theises himself, such that there is ‘no founding presence’ (D-E, 83). In God-becoming-man, God disappears from sight, a man is glorified and anointed, and the world is exposed to itself – not to an outside space, not to something that is Other, but to the Other that is itself. Thus, monotheism works itself out in fear and trembling within the tenets of its most (recently) culturally dominant branch, Christianity.

MUSIC Michael Gallope and Brian Kane Broadly speaking, Nancy delineates two ways of thinking about music. The first explores the openness and immersive resonance of the sonic medium and its relationship to sharing, exposure and exchange, as well as to partitions of sense that are not guided or regulated by any signifying dogma. The second dimension describes the way music can be harnessed to bolster one’s identification with a single subject or signifier for the purposes of a regressive politics. For Nancy, both possibilities are intrinsic to the sonic medium. It is this high-stakes ambiguity – one directly connected to the immersive force of sound and its corresponding sensory practices of entendre, ouïr and écouter (three French synonyms for listening, though with quite specific meanings) – that makes music unique among the arts. For Nancy, an artwork is made of its distinct parts, though it is not completed or regulated by a resultant totality. Instead, Nancy’s artwork is made only of the movement of parts. This ensures one can always ‘touch the work in each part’ or ‘be touched by it’ in a way that ‘holds the work open’ (L, 65) (see touch). Among the different arts and their corresponding senses, music harnesses these mobile parts through a special form of ephemerality. While such an emphasis reflects important elements of G. W. F. Hegel’s (1770–1831) writings on music in the Lectures on Aesthetics (compiled in 1835), Nancy develops the theme of ephemeral-



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ity into a unique theory of resonance, where sound is taken to exemplify complex forms of uncertainty, relationality and plurality alongside a certain multidimensional experience of time, in dialogue with Edmund Husserl (1859–1938), Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) and Gérard Granel (1930–2000) (L, 66). Nancy emphasises the temporality of the musical work, describing how each moment comes into being with an attack. Each musical attack is rhythmically succeeded and penetrated by another, continually deferring the closure of its sense onto other moments, making the musical work into an example of resonance. Nancy also analyses music’s exposure to sense in the ontology of the musical work. He argues that the whole is nowhere but in the parts, making the musical work itself a singular plural. Unlike phenomenological accounts (like Roman Ingarden’s [1893–1970] writings on the ontology of the musical work), the work is not to be understood as an intentional object but as continually held open by each of its parts, allowing its sense to be exposed. Nancy’s writings on music are perhaps best understood in terms of the difference between signification and sense. Aestheticians often posit a distinction between music that signifies, through the use of text-setting or the inclusion of programmatic elements, and music that does not signify, often referred to as ‘absolute music’ or music as an art of tones. Nancy reformulates this by addressing music as a ‘mode of signification’ and a ‘mode of sensibility’ and argues that music cannot be understood wholly within either mode. Rather, music holds itself at the threshold between sensibility and signification. Music is the ‘distance between sound and sense’ (L, 58), insofar as the encounter with music is an opening or exposure to sense. Nancy is interested in a mode of listening (écouter) that preserves this distance, deferring and challenging the moment when sense is overlaid with signification. Because of this emphasis on sense over signification, Nancy claims that music is ineffable. However, Nancy’s ineffabilism must be qualified. There is a long line of musical ineffabilists, from Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860) and the young Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) (of the Birth of Tragedy [1872]) to Vladimir Jankélévitch (1903–85) and Gilles Deleuze (1925–95), for whom music is privileged amongst the arts due to its power to grant direct access to realms of being that are incapable of being articulated in images and words. In contrast, Nancy is wary of transforming music’s ineffability into a form of sublime access to something beyond signification, since that would turn music back into a medium of signification, in this case the signification of absence or negativity. In music’s capacity to move beyond signification, to open onto sense, there is always the danger of ‘oversignifying’ or reinscribing music’s sense as sublime or negative theological signification.

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For Nancy, this danger means that the fragile and evanescent temporality of music ‘always harbors the most formidable of ambiguities’ (L, 51). Echoing the theory of ‘musicolatry’ coined by his long-time collaborator Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe (1940–2007) in Musica Ficta: Figures of Wagner (1991), Nancy warns his readers of occasions ‘when [music] presents itself as, and when it sets out to be, expansion – outpouring, overflowing, dilation and sublimation, the propagation of a subjectivity’ (L, 51). In such cases, the expansive, sensational, ineffable and immersive qualities of sound can become the tool of a powerful ideology. Nancy acknowledges music’s intimate relationship with affect, contagion and methexis. These powers allow music to operate as a powerful social force. While music can emerge as the expression of a community’s sentiments (a form of katharsis), it can also be used to shape or impress particular affects onto a community. Nancy sees the latter in Nazism’s treatment of music, where it was methodically used as a vehicle for affective formation. Like the sublime (or negative theological) aesthetics of music, Nancy sees this political use of music as an imposition of signification (of the community, of the political order) onto music’s sense. To avoid this political danger, Nancy insists that music find a way to ‘listen to itself’ (L, xx). While he occasionally mentions specific works or genres (art music, opera, jazz, rock, electronic dance music, avant-garde composition and hybridised genres in the age of globalisation), his primary aim is not to advocate or critique any particular kind of music, but rather to describe a mobile, attentive but non-dogmatic practice of listening that allows music to be evoked as an indirect and complex form of open-ended self-relation. It would be a music based in a logic neither of ‘manifestation’ nor of ‘naming’ but instead ‘that of a pressure, an impulsion’ that points towards what is already there, what is shared, strained, breathed and suspended in our collectively shared sense of the world (L, 20).

MYTH Marie-Eve Morin Myth, understood as foundational discourse, seems essential for community: it is thanks to the myth that we recognise each other as belonging together. Nancy’s analysis of the functioning of the myth, both as story and as foundation, points to an ‘interruption’ of myth, which is both more and less than the ‘absence of myth’ out of which the concept of ‘myth’ originates in the first place.



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Nancy begins his essay ‘Myth Interrupted’, collected in The Inoperative Community (1986), with the ‘well-known scene’ of the mythic foundation or origin of a community. Myths have the power to gather dispersed people into a community and make them recognise each other as belonging together. Myth represents, therefore, a community’s attempt at selfgrounding or self-formation. Myth is totalitarian in two ways. First, in its form: the myth is self-communication, that is, it communicates only itself and in this sense does not tolerate anything outside of itself, especially not alternative myths. Second, in its content: the myth always strives to provide a total explanation of everything that exists and assigns everything (gods, mortals, animals, etc.) a role and a place (IC, 57). In this sense, myth is opposed to literature. The myth gives meaning to everything, completely, at once. It is full speech (parole pleine) or tautegory (as F. W. J. Schelling [1775–1854] says), the ‘opening of a mouth immediately adequate to the closure of the universe’ (IC, 49–50). In this sense, myth is primordial logos: it fashions or moulds the concepts or images that will form the basic vocabulary of the community by which that community will be able to name itself and the elements that comprise the world. The first gesture of Nancy’s analysis of the ‘mything’ – that is, creative – power of myth is to move from myth itself to the myth of myth. What has been said of the communal or communitarian power of myth is itself a myth: it is the story that we tell ourselves about myth. In this sense, ‘myth’ is a purely Western or a purely philosophical concept (IC, 46; GT, 47). The concept of myth, as well as the desire for the creative power of myth, arises from the consciousness of a lack of foundation. This consciousness, coupled with the desire for an absolute foundation, is what gives rise to the myth of myth (IC, 52). For Nancy, muthos and logos are not opposed to each other but imply each other. Myth is ‘the name for the cosmos structuring itself in logos’, that is, myth names a ‘fiction’ or a ‘story’ that provides reason and structure (logos) to the world as a whole (cosmos). Hence, while myth seems to name the other of philosophy, it in fact names its most profound desire. This is why the appeal to a new mythology, to a new effective foundational story, can be heard throughout Western history. Nancy names not only Romanticism and communism but also structuralism as the last traditions of myth (IC, 48–51). There is a romantic myth of the author-subject as the origin and end of the Work, but there is also a structuralist myth of ‘the Structure’ as a total explanation of what is. The interruption of myth happens at the point where we know that the myth is a myth, not only in the sense that ‘myth’ is our invention, but more pointedly in the sense that the foundation, the creative myth, is a fiction. At the same time, if the myth of myth says that fiction itself is

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capable of serving as a foundation, then the realisation that the foundation is a fiction is not enough to bring us outside of the ‘mythic’ way of thinking about community. To do so, we need to interrupt the desire for a founding fiction or a fictioning foundation. Historically, this point of interruption happened with Nazism. Nazism brought mythic thinking to its limit, not because it tried to revitalise certain old Nordic stories, but because it attempted to produce the German people by putting to work the logic of the myth that was described above. This logic is essential to Nazism since it serves as the apparatus by which a people identifies itself with itself: it produces the self-enclosed subject that is lacking to the Germans so that the German people can become the ‘subject’, the support, source and finality, of its own history. A myth is ‘a fictioning, whose role is to propose, if not to impose, models or types . . ., types in imitation of which an individual, or a city, or an entire people, can grasp themselves and identify themselves’ (‘NM’, 297). This type is for Nazism the Aryan. But the Aryan is not simply a type that would differentiate itself from other types; it is the well-formed type, the archi-type. The Jew is, following this logic, not just another type, but the absence of type. The Jew is, for the Aryan, without form, because he is without myth (‘NM’, 307). Myth is interrupted at the point where we realise that the total accomplishment of myth as the logic of the self-foundation of a people as Subject is self-defeating and leads to dead immanence. Mythic communities attempt to appropriate the limits or edges between the members, to turn them into something proper, into a whole that would subsume its own fractures. But a community, no matter how ‘united’ or ‘fused’, remains, at its limit, exposed to other communities. If the community’s completion ends in the destruction of existence, then this means that there never was and can never be a working myth. If myth works, it destroys being-incommon; but at the same time, if we were not in common, we would not desire communion. ‘Being-in-common’ explains both the desire of the effectuation or formation of ‘community’ (as communion) through myth and the impossibility of any effective myth. Is there a myth of the in-common or of the inoperative community? (See inoperativity.) For Georges Bataille (1897–1962), there is a kind of myth of the absence of myth. For Nancy, this formulation is problematic since it can always be heard in a nostalgic way. Nancy will rather speak of the ‘interruption of myth’ and of the ‘passion of community’ it gives rise to. The interruption of myth undoes the community instead of producing it; it brings us to the edges, exposes us to each other and to ourselves. On these edges where we exist, there is a passion, communication or propagation (all words Nancy borrows from Bataille) of our being-in-common.



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N NIETZSCHE, FRIEDRICH Adrian Switzer Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), despite or because of an aphoristic writing style, is one of the most important philosophers of the last two centuries. His writings on ethics, aesthetics and power together pronounce the death of God, the dissolution of not just a certain religious feeling, but a taste for any absolutes. Recognising the radical contingency of philosophy and morality, Nietzsche is a scathing critic of naïve moralisms, while looking to think something beyond a modern nihilism that Nancy will discuss as general equivalence. Nancy’s deconstruction of Christianity is hard to imagine without Nietzsche’s mighty influence, and Nietzsche’s writings inflect Nancy’s work at many important points. For example, paragraph 381 of The Gay Science (1882) moves among a number of different themes in short order: style, truth, immoralism, philosophy, dance and divinity. Each of these terms figures into Nancy’s various readings of Nietzsche. Though we displace Nancy à la lettre in focusing on a text he nowhere engages directly, we proceed dans l’esprit of his readings in glossing a single paragraph of The Gay Science – reading Nietzsche, Nancy insists, must always be a detailed and specific endeavour. Organised under the heading of ‘being understandable [Verständlichkeit]’, Nietzsche excuses himself for being ‘incomprehensible [unverständlich]’ to most readers; but, then again, he does not ‘want to be understood by just “anybody”’ (Nietzsche 2001: 245). To those for whom he is writing – ‘my friends’ – Nietzsche does not want ‘the liveliness of [his] temperament’ and the ‘brevity [Kürze]’ of his style to keep him from being understood (Nietzsche 2001: 245). At the risk of being misunderstood, even by his companions, Nietzsche insists on his brief style as an ‘immoralist’ so as to ‘avoid corrupting innocents’ for whom their simple virtues are their lives (Nietzsche 2001: 245). Familiar as our image is of Nietzsche the immoralist, Nancy, in ‘“Our Probity!” On Truth in the Moral Sense in Nietzsche’ (1980) (collected in L’impératif catégorique), asks how we are to understand this idea. Does not Nietzsche’s immoralism suggest, rather, in the words of Thomas Mann, ‘a being possessed by moral exigency’ (‘OP’, 67)? Does not Nietzsche’s im-moralism make of him either ‘the moralist of an anti-morality’ or ‘the moralist of an altogether other m ­ orality’ (‘OP’,

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67–8)? In deciding between these options, we also, implicitly, join Martin Heidegger’s (1889–1976) reading of Nietzsche according to which (im) moralism serves his end of completing metaphysics (‘OP’, 69). In the ‘other’ morality of Nietzsche is implied an ‘other’ truth. It is for this reason, as Nancy writes, that ‘[p]robity, Redlichkeit, this constant motif which Nietzsche so emphasized . . . points to this completely other morality’ (‘OP’, 70). With this, we rejoin The Gay Science 381. Aside from the need to be brief in order to be an immoralist, Nietzsche’s brevity allows him to catch certain truths that are ‘especially shy and ticklish’, and so can only be taken by ‘surprise’ (Nietzsche 2001: 245). In fact, one must be brief with truth. To act otherwise toward truth, to undertake such an inquiry with probity, is to ‘acknowledg[e] . . . a truth more true than . . . our lies’ (‘OP’, 70), and this, Nancy writes, is to ‘face . . . the untenable nature of thinking the truth’ (‘OP’, 74). Alone, one is unable to face such truth, which, faced with probity, ‘shatters to pieces the subjectivity of the subject’ (‘OP’, 74). Instead, there is the need for a group of principled, truth-oriented persons. In paragraph 335 of The Gay Science, as Nancy notes, it is with ‘our probity [unsere Redlichkeit]’ that Nietzsche faces truth; in paragraph 381, it is ‘we’ philosophers and ‘we’ scholarly nonscholars who interrogate truth (Nietzsche 2001: 246). However, just as Nietzsche begins the paragraph by ranking himself among friends only then to distinguish himself on the grounds of his ‘brief’ and ‘incomprehensible’ style, so he concludes with a community of philosophers who are each separate from one another and unique. There is no general ‘formula’ for being a philosopher, since each, with his/her own ‘taste for independence’, has ‘different needs for its nourishment’ (Nietzsche 2001: 246). In this regard, the philosopher – now in the singular – is like the dancer for whom ‘the dance is his ideal, also his art, and finally also his only piety, his “service to God”’ (Nietzsche 2001: 246). So it is, and despite the possible company of fellow-thinkers, that if there is an ‘other’ moralism and an ‘other’ truth in Nietzsche, they are the province of the individual philosopher-dancer, hence Nancy’s claim that Nietzsche’s autobiography Ecce Homo is his work of greatest probity (‘OP’, 74). Who is the Nietzsche to whom this truth is revealed? What remains of the shattered subjectivity of Nietzsche who alone faces truth with probity? Following Nancy, we might cite the unspeaking body or corpus of Nietzsche to answer these questions (BP, 189–207): Nietzsche’s paralytic body struck mute at Turin in 1889 (BP, 50); Nietzsche’s philosophical – dancing and ‘God-serving’ – body twirling in a motionless danse macabre until his final death in 1900 (see Nancy and Fabbri 2004: 76). What the Nietzschean proclamation of the death of God does, Nancy argues in ‘Dei paralysis progressiva’ (1986), collected in The Birth to Presence (1993), is affirm a self that is anterior to



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the productive act of self-relation by which subjectivity is traditionally produced (BP, 54). Such anteriority leaves the activity of self-relation operative while removing the ontological subject to which such activity relates (BP, 55). Still, and forever, swaying between the creative self and the nothingness of the absent subject and dead God, the mute Nietzschean ‘I’ looks for all the world like a body whose infinite dance is imperceptibly the same as a motionless stasis (BP, 53). But we philosophers, in Nancy’s company, understand Nietzsche’s truth with probity. Together, each in our own fashion, it is as (im)mobile bodies that we become (im)moralists; and it is in this way that we practise our (im)piety by continuing God’s work of creation ex nihilo.

O OFFERING (see SACRIFICE) ONTOLOGY Bryan Lueck Ontology, according to the influential definition proposed by Johannes Clauberg (1622–65) in his Metaphysica de ente (1664), is the science that deals not ‘with this or that being . . . but with being in general’ (Clauberg 1691: 281). ‘Being’, in the sense developed by the early modern ontologists who followed Clauberg, refers not merely to existing things, but to any possible object at all. An ontological account is one that describes the properties that necessarily belong to any possible object. In his Prima philosophia, sive ontologia (1730), for example, Christian Wolff (1679–1754) argued that every possible object must have a sufficient reason why it exists rather than not and that no possible object can have contradictory determinations. At the end of the modern period, Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) proposed an important modification in the ontological project, restricting its scope to objects that could be given in experience. With his doctrine of the categories, which he developed in the Critique of Pure Reason (1781), Kant attempted to isolate the pure concepts of the understanding that necessarily apply to all objects of empirical knowledge. In Being and Time (1927), Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) revitalised and reformed the discipline of ontology. Heidegger’s aim was not to



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the productive act of self-relation by which subjectivity is traditionally produced (BP, 54). Such anteriority leaves the activity of self-relation operative while removing the ontological subject to which such activity relates (BP, 55). Still, and forever, swaying between the creative self and the nothingness of the absent subject and dead God, the mute Nietzschean ‘I’ looks for all the world like a body whose infinite dance is imperceptibly the same as a motionless stasis (BP, 53). But we philosophers, in Nancy’s company, understand Nietzsche’s truth with probity. Together, each in our own fashion, it is as (im)mobile bodies that we become (im)moralists; and it is in this way that we practise our (im)piety by continuing God’s work of creation ex nihilo.

O OFFERING (see SACRIFICE) ONTOLOGY Bryan Lueck Ontology, according to the influential definition proposed by Johannes Clauberg (1622–65) in his Metaphysica de ente (1664), is the science that deals not ‘with this or that being . . . but with being in general’ (Clauberg 1691: 281). ‘Being’, in the sense developed by the early modern ontologists who followed Clauberg, refers not merely to existing things, but to any possible object at all. An ontological account is one that describes the properties that necessarily belong to any possible object. In his Prima philosophia, sive ontologia (1730), for example, Christian Wolff (1679–1754) argued that every possible object must have a sufficient reason why it exists rather than not and that no possible object can have contradictory determinations. At the end of the modern period, Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) proposed an important modification in the ontological project, restricting its scope to objects that could be given in experience. With his doctrine of the categories, which he developed in the Critique of Pure Reason (1781), Kant attempted to isolate the pure concepts of the understanding that necessarily apply to all objects of empirical knowledge. In Being and Time (1927), Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) revitalised and reformed the discipline of ontology. Heidegger’s aim was not to

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discover the determinations of any possible being, but rather to articulate the conditions of the possibility for undertaking such a project in the first place. Ontology in Clauberg’s sense, Heidegger argued, is only possible for a being that has, albeit pre-theoretically, an understanding of the meaning of being. The being that has this understanding is Dasein, which Heidegger defined as the being that is constitutively concerned with its own being. The project of what Heidegger called fundamental ontology is to clarify Dasein’s pre-ontological understanding of the meaning of being with a view towards explicating the meaning of being itself. Instead of categories describing the characteristics of any possible being, Heidegger investigated the fundamental ways of being, or existentials, of Dasein. Most basically, Dasein has the character of being-in-the-world. World must not be understood here as a kind of container: Dasein is not in the world in the way that matches are in a matchbox. World refers rather to a web of practical, referential meanings within which Dasein finds itself always already oriented. To take Heidegger’s most famous example, a hammer is not given most originarily as a mass of wood and metal present to a cognising subject, but rather as referring to the act of hammering, which refers to fastening, which refers to protecting oneself from bad weather, and so on. To be in the world is to understand and to be open to the possibilities for existence that manifest themselves within such referential networks. Nancy’s ontology builds on the analytic of Dasein that Heidegger carried out in Being and Time. Indeed, in Being Singular Plural (1996), Nancy insists on the necessity of rewriting Being and Time in a way that would articulate Heidegger’s central insights more faithfully than Heidegger himself had. Nancy lays special emphasis on the existential of being-with, which Heidegger described as equiprimordial with beingin-the-world. As part of the network of references that is constitutive of being-in-the-world, Heidegger thought, we encounter other beings with the character of Dasein. In the tailor’s workshop, for example, the shears that refer to the cutting of garments refer just as originarily to the people to whose measure the garments will be cut. Being-in-the-world, then, is necessarily being with others. But what, precisely, is the sense of ‘with’ here? Nancy believes that Heidegger failed to address this question with sufficient rigour. Heidegger tended to understand ‘with’ either on the basis of the related terms – in which case it is presented as an external relation of juxtaposition – or on the basis of a ‘We’ understood as a common subject. Both of these conceptions obscure the sense of ‘with’ by thinking it in terms of something else. According to Nancy, ‘with’ must be understood on its own terms simply as our unpresentable presence to each other. In this more originary sense, ‘with’ is ‘a preposition that has no position



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of its own and is available for every position’ (BSP, 62). In other words, ‘with’ is neither a kind of bridge extended between isolated individuals nor a milieu in which a community shares its common being, but rather the co-presence of a multiplicity of singular beings. For Nancy, then, ‘Being is being-with, absolutely’. It is ‘the “with” that constitutes Being; the with is not simply an addition’ (BSP, 61, 30). This is the case not only for beings with the character of Dasein, but for being in general. To be is to come to presence, and there can be no presence that is not presence-to. There can be no being, in other words, whose being would be wholly self-contained. Such a being, Nancy argues, would constitute a kind of black hole of sense: ‘Pure unshared presence – presence to nothing, of nothing, for nothing – is neither present nor absent. It is the simple implosion of a being that could never have been – an implosion without any trace’ (BSP, 2). Being, in sum, is not; it happens rather as an event, each time unique, at the limits where beings are exposed in their presence to each other.

ONTO-THEOLOGY Mark Lewis Taylor A term coined by Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) in the Critique of Pure Reason (1781) to refer to Anselm’s ontological argument (Thomson 2005: 7), ‘onto-theology’ gained widespread currency in philosophy and theology via Martin Heidegger’s (1889–1976) writings (see for example Heidegger 1998: 340). For Nancy, ‘onto-theology’ names a pervasive ethos of thought and practice, particularly in the West, which his own project deconstructs and resists. In Nancy, onto-theology has a precise meaning that brings multiple dimensions of Western thought and practice under scrutiny. Moreover, his specific description of how onto-theology is deconstructed or subverted is crucial for understanding his posture of critical resistance to Western projects – ‘West’ and ‘Western’ not simply sited by geopolitical movements of European and US powers (legacies of colonialism and imperialism) and associated hegemonic blocs (the G-7/G-8/G-20 nations), but also defined by its techno-science, general determinations of democracy and law, and corresponding modes of discourse, argument and representation (IC, 29–30). Onto-theology names an order marked by a ‘posited presupposition’. It is the posited character of this order’s presupposition that differentiates it from myth and polytheism, whose worlds have the character of given

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presuppositions. Onto-theology is an active positing of a whole order ‘as the affirmation of the unique God and/or as thesis of Being’ (CW, 71). The ‘and/or’ here reflects a view of onto-theology as two-fold, concerning not just a properly theological affirmation of God, but also often, but not always, a broader metaphysical and philosophical thesis about being as such. Thus, Nancy continues a legacy of the later Heidegger, who criticised as ‘onto-theological’ both theological affirmations of God and also metaphysics. In Nancy’s view, onto-theology’s ‘affirmation of the unique God’ is intrinsically bound up with the West’s metaphysical project and is often at work as ‘unbroken tradition’ (IC, 117), too, in various other interplaying dimensions: religious and theological monotheism (even in ‘negative theology’ and ‘Trinitarian theology’ [BSP, 200 n. 52]), international Realpolitik (RP, 139), globalisation (D-E, 30–1), systems of language and signification (C, 87; L, 30), certain regimes of Marxism (RP, 145–6), both humanism and simple atheism (D-E, 18–19), and reigning views of the body (BP, 297). Onto-theology, then, is a kind of ordering ethos with a reach tending toward an ‘entire program’ (CW, 71). Onto-theology is problematic, for Nancy, and will undergo its deconstruction or subversion, because the positing of the unique God entails a ‘transcendent unicity’ that is also closure, which ‘effectuates an absolute hierarchization’ (D-E, 40). Here, his view of sovereignty also finds place, examined by Nancy as ‘summitry’, management from heights, towering over extended things, separated ‘from the humus, from the back bent from working the earth, from laying down in sleep, from malady or death’ (CW, 96–100), thereby anchoring and enforcing hierarchical orders (see death). This summitry and its destructive consequences are especially evident to Nancy in the wake of the attacks on the US Pentagon and the World Trade Center in 2001, and in the ‘total mobilization’ effected by US ‘national theism’ (D-E, 40). The modes of hierarchisation, though, whether of God or the vestiges of a transcending God throughout human orders, are put under continual subversive tension by a world of circulating sense, which is the transimmanent ‘sense of the world’. This creativity of the world is the only ‘sovereign’ force Nancy seems to affirm, especially as it undoes orders of onto-theology (CW, 112). How is onto-theology deconstructed? For Nancy, in onto-theology’s very positing of ‘the unique God’ are carried the conditions for deposing that God. This is because the positing usually includes a claim that God causes or produces, and, for Nancy, that very claim entails ‘extending, correlatively, the limits of the world’ (CW, 71). An example might be drawn from the realm of evolutionary cosmology. The claim that God causes the world, as a ‘Creator’, clearly rivals claims by evolutionists who hold the world’s origins to lie in the world’s own immanent processes, as these



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are presently understood or still subject to research. The posited claim about God’s causality, usually as creation ex nihilo, would seem a radical limitation of world, grounding world in a transcendent, world-limiting God. What actually happens, though, is that the world is made indefinite, its immanent materiality thereby also given an infinity of creative and productive force. Some theologians might take even this kind of God reference as valuable ‘enchantment’ of the world’s origins, and thus base the materialism of world in some necessary notion of the Creator. Nancy’s thought clearly breaks the other way, blocking theologians who would dodge ‘the death of God’ that Nancy affirms (IC, 113). In fact, the Creator cannot remain a limiting force separable from world, even when ontotheology posits it as such. Instead, the attempt at limiting world ‘shares out the indefiniteness of the universe . . . and the infinity of its meaning’. Nancy underscores how this indefiniteness is reinforced by ‘contemporary cosmology’ (CW, 52). Thus, onto-theology’s positing a transcendent God is also a deposing of that God, throwing into bolder relief the unceasing, fructifying dynamism of world, what throughout Nancy’s work he terms ‘the sense of the world’ (SW, 78). What is laid bare, then, is an always opening world, a ‘dis-enclosing’ of world by deconstructing onto-­ theology. ‘The God of onto-theology was progressively stripped of the divine attributes of an independent existence and only retained those of the existence of the world considered in its immanence’ (CW, 44). Nancy’s exploration of the ambiguities and unfolding contradictions in onto-theology’s own claims also deconstructs other Christian beliefs: the Trinity, church, incarnate body of Christ (D-E, 29–41) (see Christianity, incarnation). More comprehensively still, the deconstruction extends to any form of ‘transcendent unicity’ and its ‘hierarchies’, and across many diverse fields (economy, international politics, family and so on). Given the extent to which Nancy sees monotheism and Christianity to have engendered ‘the West’, modern rationality, ‘our entire tradition’ (D-E, 34, 139–40), a whole Western ‘civilizational’ onto-theology undergoes Nancy’s deconstruction, which is participatory in the dis-enclosing and always unsettling tension of the world’s sense.

OTHER (see BEING-WITH; LEVINAS, EMMANUEL)

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P PAINTING Martta Heikkilä Nancy has a long-lasting interest in paintings, both in their ontology and in singular artworks (see also art) and pictorial genres. Since the 1980s, he has written a number of essays about painting for exhibition catalogues and other presentations on singular artists and themes present in their work. From the 1990s onwards, Nancy has increasingly focused on contemporary artists, such as François Martin (1945–) and Valerio Adami (1935–). Especially in the early 2000s, Nancy has made extensive contributions on specific motifs and types of representations. These include portraits (‘The Look of the Portrait’ [2000], collected in Multiple Arts), Christian pictorial types, such as the ‘Visitation of the Blessed Virgin’ (‘Visitation: Of Christian Painting’, collected in The Ground of the Image [2003]), and ‘touch me not’ paintings (Noli Me Tangere: On the Raising of the Body [2003]), as well as depictions of nudes (Being Nude: The Skin of Images, co-written with Federico Ferrari [2002]) (see touch). Apart from the treatise of particular artists and pictorial genres, Nancy implies a whole metaphysics of painting, as well as of art in a larger perspective. In these analyses, particular paintings are characteristically situated within a wider philosophical frame, in which painting is addressed primarily as a category of critical analysis and a conveyor of philosophical themes. As a philosopher, Nancy does not aspire to define what painting is ‘as such’. The truth of painting lies beyond language and defies all of our discourses on truth. Therefore, painting is not an object of knowledge or of taste, nor can it be reduced to the simple existence of a practice, a ‘product’ such as a ‘work’, ‘canvas’, ‘piece’, or to mere coloured substance (see inoperativity). The subject of the painting becomes visible through what is portrayed in it. More than anything, painting means an event. It is the unique presence of this event that brings about the painting. As Nancy says, the painting paints ‘the offering of the thing’ (BP, 354, trans. mod.). The presence of a thing in the painting is absolute: when we see a figure – a cow or a spot, as in Nancy’s example – there is no question of a representation or a symbol, but it is the depicted thing: the cow or the spot. In painting, the presence of a thing is not static, but is engendered by



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the complex exchange between the figures and the ground, elements that emerge only in co-existence. Nancy describes painting as a ‘stage’ and a ‘surface’. The painting is characterised by elementary plasticity. In approaching the irreducible and inexhaustible nature of the painting, colour and light are of primary importance for Nancy. Painting offers the light of things in their ‘luminous presence’, while colour is the presence of the depicted thing and its form. Because the colour used in every singular painting is inevitably unique and thus local by nature, mimesis in painting can only be approximate: one may paint something like the colour of the object, but not an exact reproduction of that colour. In the singularity of its expression, all the intimacy of the painting is its exposition to presence.

PASSION Chris Hackett Passion can refer to an excessive emotion, especially love or anger or the emotions more generally (‘the passions’), to an intense and motivating feeling concentrated on an object or idea, to powerful sexual desire (see jouissance, sexual relation), or, finally, and more archaically, to any passive state, especially when one is being acted on from the outside, often unwillingly (synonymous here with ‘suffering’). All dimensions of the term are important in Nancy’s philosophy, as is the observation that, in the history of Western philosophy, passion is a restive concept. It tends to transgress the boundaries of the psychosomatic dualism, being manifest in both body and soul. In theology, when used with the definite article (‘the Passion’) the word refers to the suffering of Christ that culminates in his death on the cross as portrayed in the four Gospels (see incarnation, Christianity). In this sphere passion has aspects of sacrifice and redemption and involves a willing entrance into and wilful remaining within a state of being acted upon, especially by malevolent forces. This theological understanding has deeply influenced the concept in its other iterations. Passion is the central theme of Nancy’s essay ‘Elliptical Sense’ (1988), collected in A Finite Thinking, which is concerned with articulating the meaning of ‘sense’, that is, the intelligibility that pertains to true finitude. For him, finitude is the ‘exposure’ to finitude’s own limitlessness that simultaneously defines and reinforces its own limits. Nancy is interested in the kind of thinking this requires, referencing Jacques Derrida’s (1930–2004) notion of ‘ellipsis’ (or ‘arche-writing’, the ‘supplement’,

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‘surplus’, ‘trace’, khôra and so on) that names the quasi-transcendental structure of différance. Derrida will address this text and others in his book inspired by Nancy’s philosophical reflections on touch in the Western tradition, On Touching – Jean-Luc Nancy (2000). In ‘Elliptical Sense’, Nancy considers passion (as in ‘the passion for the origin’) as the possibility of thought, as that which is both alien to and constitutive of thinking, as well as that burning quest for the real of which the possibility and impossibility together, with no resolution, are also the conditions for thinking. Passion is the reciprocal agony and ecstasy of the finitude of thought, its endless pursuit of meaning in the world that is always already meaningful before the arrival of any signification and in its brute facticity. Hence the ‘passion of sense’ is closely aligned with ‘touch’. This latter term signifies the sense of the world as a meaningful structure that arises in the quotidian situation of our embodied encounter with one another. In On Touching, Derrida suggests that this material embodiment of the world as sense is from the beginning intrinsically tied to Nancy’s project of the deconstruction of Christianity. But it is only a moment, according to Derrida, of his greater work of ‘absolute . . . postdeconstructive realism’ (Derrida 2005a: 46) for which touch itself is the expression of distance (‘spacing’), an infinite tension that marks the finite flesh of human beings – and a thinking that the Passion of Christianity proffers but only by being (impossibly) left behind.

PHENOMENOLOGY Bryan Lueck Phenomenology is a philosophical methodology that was first developed by the German philosopher Edmund Husserl (1859–1938) and that has been taken up and modified in different ways by Martin Heidegger (1889–1976), Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–80), Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908–61), Emmanuel Levinas (1906–95) and many others. Husserl’s original goal in developing the methodology was to provide a radically new point of departure for addressing a particularly intractable problem in the theory of knowledge: how can cognition, which is a subjective mental act, get outside itself and reach its object? Indeed, how can the cognising subject know whether the cognised object exists at all? The major contribution of phenomenology towards solving this problem consists in questioning the common-sense, pre-philosophical understanding of the world that gives rise to it. This understanding, which Husserl calls the ‘natural attitude’, treats the world and the things in it as ‘simply there’, as ‘on hand’



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completely independently of any subject’s thinking about them (Husserl 1998: 51). The first step in the phenomenological method is to put out of play this natural belief in the independent existence of the world ‘out there’. This act of putting out of play, which Husserl calls the epochē, is not to be understood as a denial of the existence of the external world; it is rather a refusal to take any position at all on the matter. Under the epochē, Husserl insists, the world continues to appear exactly as it had appeared within the natural attitude. The only difference is that the world and the things in it come to be encountered strictly as appearances, or, in Husserl’s language, as phenomena. Phenomenology, then, is the rigorous, systematic description of how these phenomena are given within our experience. The most important discovery about the givenness of phenomena that becomes possible under the epochē is that of intentionality, or the a priori correlation between cognition and its object: every experience we have is necessarily an experience of something, and, conversely, every object given in experience is necessarily the correlate of a subjective act. Subject and object, in other words, are not discrete things in the world; they are necessarily given together. Phenomenological descriptions focus on the ways in which different kinds of objects are given as the correlates of different kinds of subjective intentional acts. The centrality of intentionality in phenomenological descriptions gives the methodology a strongly subjectivistic orientation, which Husserl expresses unambiguously in his Cartesian Meditations (1931): ‘Imperturbably I must hold fast to the insight that every sense that any existent whatever has or can have for me – in respect of its “what” and its “it exists and actually is” – is a sense in and arising from my intentional life’ (Husserl 1995: 91). This orientation provides the key to the solution of the epistemological problem that phenomenology was originally meant to address: if the object is given most basically as the correlate of a subjective intentional act, then the question of whether and how that act gets outside itself and reaches the object loses its sense. Nancy is both an inheritor and a critic of the phenomenological tradition. His thought can be characterised as phenomenological in the broadest sense of the term, since it does not presuppose the validity of the natural attitude. When Nancy addresses themes such as the body, community, the artwork and the world, he never treats these as objects that are simply present, standing over and against him. Instead, he provides close descriptions of how these phenomena become present originarily. But Nancy’s thought challenges Husserlian phenomenology in rejecting the idea that sense resides in and arises from constituting consciousness. Nancy expresses this point most explicitly in The Sense of the World (1993): ‘there is no epochē of sense, no “suspension” of a “naïve thesis” of sense,

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no “placing in parentheses”’ (SW, 18). There can be no epochē of sense, no containing it within the subject-object correlation, because the subject’s very act of performing the epochē is responsive to a sense that is already there. To be in sense, on Nancy’s account, is to be exposed ineluctably to an outside that cannot be appropriated even in principle. This outside is given most originarily not as an object present to a constituting consciousness, but rather as an obscure materiality that touches and that weighs on thought. As Nancy argues in The Gravity of Thought (1991), ‘sense needs a thickness, a density, a mass, and thus an opacity, a darkness by means of which it leaves itself open and lets itself be touched as sense right there where it becomes absent as discourse’ (GT, 79, trans. mod.). This opacity resists being reduced to a transparent signification, fully present to consciousness. A stone, to take one of Nancy’s favourite examples, is never present before our minds without remainder as the signification ‘stone’. We encounter its sense as exceeding its signification. This excess is not to be understood as another signification, but rather as ‘the spacing of a “there”’ where sense takes place as event (C, 132). Nancy’s most basic criticism of phenomenology is that it fails to think this event-character of sense: it ‘does not open us up to that which – in sense and consequently in the world – infinitely precedes consciousness and the signifying appropriation of sense, that is, to that which precedes and surprises the phenomenon in the phenomenon itself, its coming or its coming up’ (SW, 17).

POETRY William Watkin Poetry is a key term for Nancy’s interventions in modern aesthetics, but more than this it is a central term in Nancy’s overall philosophy. To access this second importance requires understanding the role of art for Nancy as fragment in relation to truth (see art, artwork, painting). Taking note of this, the particular relationship between art and poetry needs to justify the claim that it is poetry as such, and not just art, that actually holds a privileged place in Nancy’s philosophy of sense. If art is defined as a sensuous singular multiple that is the sensuous presentation of truth in the form of the presentation of presentation as such, and as what constitutes not the truth of being but the being of truth in action, then what is left for poetry to add to this already foundational, complex and claustrophobic definition? There are two moments in Nancy’s work that provide justification for the special access of poetry to truth due to sensuous presentation. The



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first is to be found in The Muses (1994) in terms of Nancy’s modification of G. W. F. Hegel’s (1770–1831) definition of art as the sensible presentation of the idea. The second occurs in ‘Making Poetry’ (1996), collected in Multiple Arts, where Nancy defines poetry as the making of making as such. In The Muses Nancy accedes to the tradition within philosophy of taking poetry as the art of arts. In this way he accepts the central dicta of modern aesthetics from Hegel: poetry is the art of arts due to its being the sensible presentation of the idea. In his Lectures on Aesthetics (compiled in 1835), Hegel designates poetry as the greatest of all arts because it encapsulates the tension of art in relation to idea. Poetry, he argues, combines sensuousness with images and ideas, but of all the arts it is the most willing to sacrifice sensuousness for sense. In this way poetry comes closest to thinking, but only at the expense of negating its own being as the sensuous presentation of the idea. This impossible paradox is of course due to the limitations of art as a whole, and so poetry presents the limit case of art and justifies the need for the supersession of art by religion. This being the case, the sensible presentation of the idea means the selfnegation of poetry’s being in pursuit of the presentation of the idea. Nancy’s essay seeks to reconfigure poetry’s failure to present the idea and remain itself as in fact a key moment in being that is accessed each time by sense, rather than a negative stage to be overcome. To do this he effectively links poetry to all three elements of the French sens – meaning, direction and sensuousness – to add a fourth element, tautegory, or the sense of sensation as such. For example, poetry’s odd relationship to other arts on one side and thought or being on the other presents a particular case of directional proximity that Nancy elsewhere calls touch. Poetry as a term is both singular, one of the arts, and unifying, the art of arts. Thus it exists between being singular and being plural or multiple or ‘the stroke of sense altogether and of all the senses’ (M, 17). If touch is defined as the tautegorical sense of sense or ‘sensing and sensing oneself-sensing’ (M, 17), then the role of poetry as interim means that poetry is the touch of art. Poetry can operate as sensuous language usage, rhyme, metre and so on, as well as self-reflection on sensuousness as such. That this dual process denies poetry any fixed being is in fact yet another benefit. Poetry stands in a relation of touching as proximate distance to itself so that its very intermittent being demonstrates the ontology of touching. Accepting this to be the case, poetry reticulates a particular sequence of the meanings of sense in that its internal conflict between self-present meaning (poetry as the art of arts) and singular presence (multiple sensuousness) is mediated by sense as directional proximate distance (touch) due to the fourth sense of sense that poetry adds into the equation, the tautegorical self-awareness of the sense of sensing as such due to sensation.

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A simple equation to keep in mind here is that art is to the sensuous what the world is to sense. In this regard, Nancy argues, poetry holds the privileged position in that through Dichtung: ‘we witness simultaneously the renewal of the arts beneath the unity of a pure production of sense and the sensuous dislocation of sense’ (M, 27). In other words, it is precisely the self-negating conflict of Hegelian poetry that gives one full access to sense each time sense makes a world. Poetry is not a ‘way station’ to being but an internal element of being. Significantly, it is what poetry fails to achieve, to come to being as pure sensuousness as self-sensing, that allies it to being through the apparent paradox of what Nancy terms poetry’s ‘sensuous essence’. The conception of a ‘sensuous essence’ is itself, for Nancy, a type of contradiction in terms, for the sensuous as intimate exteriority can be neither entirely self-present essence (immanence) nor essence conferred upon something from beyond (transcendence). Sensuous essence is a form of production but as the ‘pro-duction’ or presentation of sense as such or presentation itself. All that sensuous essence is able to produce, to bring to presence, is the sense of sense or sensing of sense. One could say: sense senses itself and the truth, the touch or stroke of truth, is the interruption of the ‘sensing itself’. This construction is, Nancy rightly stipulates, almost impossible to sustain due to the ‘untenable tension towards a before-ness of sense’ (M, 28). Sense senses itself as previous to its coming to presence as a sense that can be identified as a truth. Sense therefore precedes its own coming to presence, while the truth which proceeds from sense is the only means by which sense can be named as such. In between these two impossibilities resides poetry (art), leading Nancy to exclaim ‘that is why there is no poetry that does not bear upon the extremity of its own interruption’ (M, 28). If poetry is meaningful in relation to thinking sense, or thinking the truth of the world as sense, meaning can only be gifted to poetry by the interruption of its sensuous essence. The tension that exists between sense as the subsequent sensing of itself as precondition and truth as the subsequent interruption of self-sensing by this very observation is the tension of poetry. Poetic and sensuous essence can only come to presence through its interruption by supersensuousness, not because the supersensuous explains or names the sensuous, as has traditionally been assumed to be the case, but because self-sensing sensuousness is defined as exteriority and excess only by its being interrupted, otherwise it would succumb to what Nancy calls the ‘hyletic circle’ (M, 14), the assumption that the sense of the world resides simply in sensuous presence as exteriority. The case for poetry is further strengthened in the later essay ‘Making Poetry’, where Nancy says unequivocally: ‘If we understand or, in one way or another, accede to a dawning of sense, we do so poetically’ (MII, 3). We now understand at least one half of what Nancy means by ‘poetically’. The



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remainder of its meaning is to be found under the theme of the relation of poetry to making, specifically the nature of poetry as the making of making as such. Here we can see a shift in emphasis in relation to the importance of creation for Nancy’s later work. Previously poetry was the sensuous presentation of presentation as such; now it is the making of making as such. Nancy has not changed his definition but realigned it in relation to the importance of making in terms of defining the sense of the world. A good indication of this is early on when he defines poetry in relation to sense: ‘“Poetry” does not exactly have a sense; rather it has the sense of an access to sense that is each time absent, and postponed until later. The sense of “poetry” is a sense that is always still to be made’ (MII, 4). As he then explains in reference to his previous ideas, because poetry is the art that can never be itself, it means that the essence of poetry is never to coincide with itself. In this way poetry solves a potential aporia at the heart of the sense of the world as a transimmanent process of continual making through a combination of reticulation and exteriority (see trans­ immanence). The problem with the thing made is that its finitude is final, closed, self-present: all the qualities Nancy wishes to avoid in terms of his own ontology. However, viewed from the perspective of poetry as the making of making, here the finitude of poetry is in fact a perpetual openness that facilitates the opposite but related problem of the finitude of thought. Poetry, for Nancy, means ‘the first making, or making insofar as it is always first, each time an original act’ (MII, 7). Yet, as we saw, poetry is never itself primarily because poetry is in each case the impossibility of closing on making as such. Thus what poetry makes each time is access to making as such: Making accomplishes both something and itself each time. Its end is its finish: it thereby posits itself as infinite, each time infinitely beyond its own work. The poem is the thing made of making in itself. This selfsame thing that is both abolished and posited is the access to sense. (MII, 8)

In other words, if art is defined as an essential component of truth as sensuous presentation, poetry’s paradoxical position of being both a part of art and the essence of art, which leads to its definition as that which never coincides with itself, means poetry is the process of the self-sensing of art in relation to sense. Put simply, without an understanding of poetry’s role in relation to sensuousness there is no philosophical access to sense.

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POIĒSIS AND PRAXIS Patrick Roney According to Aristotle, poiēsis and praxis are human activities that can be defined as ‘making’ and ‘doing’ respectively. The former is an action whose end is distinct from the act of making, whereas the latter is an action where the end cannot be different from the act itself, as in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (see 1140b 1–5). Nancy’s appropriation of these two terms retains their basic sense, but in a highly modified way that takes into account their decisive transformation in the aftermath of Immanuel Kant’s (1724–1804) philosophy, particularly as it occurs in the tradition of early German Romanticism, which, as Nancy and Philippe LacoueLabarthe (1940–2007) never tired of repeating, is an era to which we still belong. In Nancy’s early collaborations with Lacoue-Labarthe, including The Literary Absolute (1978) and the texts collected in Retreating the Political (1997), the modern persistence of poiēsis as a mode of action is understood with reference to the crisis of presentation precipitated by Kant, who had denied the possibility of any intuitus originarius with regard to the ‘I’. Insofar as the ‘I’ is subject to the pure intuition of time, which is the form of our internal sense, it admits of no substantial presentation. This desubstantialisation of the ‘I’, either as the I think, the pure faculty of synthesis that combines intuition and concept, or per the Critique of the Power of Judgment (1790) as the free play of the imagination that produces no object, entails that the I is presentable only as a representation – as a figure or image, a Bild of something that has neither concept nor end. Insofar as the self can only present itself figurally, this opens up a crisis in the philosophy of the subject that gives birth to German Romanticism and its project of a ‘literary absolute’, in which beauty serves as the unifying idea of the system that in completing itself will produce the completed subject as its ground and goal. What results is the poiētic model of the literary work as the autoproduction of the subject. In this, the subject’s self-­presentation as a work is at the same time the subject as a work in progress. Though fragmented, the subject is nonetheless an organic individual that replicates and prefigures the totality. In Romantic literature this takes the form of the artist as creator who possesses the secret of the formative power of nature and who is himself engaged in the infinite process of Bildung, which in this case also means self-formation, and also takes the form of the world as ‘poetised’: ‘The poetic is not so much the work as that which works, not so much the organon as that which organizes . . .: always poiesis or, to give at least an equivalent, always production’ (LA, 48–9).



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The significance of the subject-as-poiēsis (which is equally the subjectas-work) applies not only to the literary sphere but also and more importantly to the essence of the political. In Retreating the Political, Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe identify the essence of the work of art and of Romantic politics as the same: as Bildung and Gestaltung (the latter can be translated as ‘figuration’) which in the case of politics takes the form of a people that ‘originates, exists as such, appropriates itself . . . only on the basis of a myth’ (LA, 153). The myth-making gesture of poiēsis lies, to borrow a phrase from Simon Sparks from his introduction to The Literary Absolute, in the ‘will-to-figure’ (LA, xxi), whose primary gestalt in the epoch of the end of metaphysics happens to be that of man. Thus autopoiēsy – truth producing itself as a literary work – represents at the same time the political production of the subject of meaning that would take the form of ‘We, the People’ as an autonomous entity. What then of the relation between poiēsis and praxis? The way Nancy understands their difference is stated succinctly in an essay from Multiple Arts: ‘Romanticism is the obsession with a poetic making/making poetic of the world. We, on the other hand, have to contend with something quite different, which is: being in the world’ (MII, 71). This difference is between the will to transfigure life and the world into the unity of the ‘system-subject’ and an action that is directed towards the finitude of existence, or, alternatively, to the freedom of existing. Praxis is more than just a kind of action; it is rather a being-directed-towards-the-world that, rather than producing the subject that mythologises the world, ‘exscribes’ the singular being into the ‘there’ of the world (see exscription). Echoing Aristotle’s formulation, Nancy defines praxis as an action that effects the agent, not the work, or again as an action that ‘transforms its agent rather than its object or matter’ (FT, 47). Each is a mode of being-directedtowards. Whereas poiēsis is directed toward the object or work that is produced as the telos of the action, praxis is directed toward the doer and has no telos other than the communication of sense. There are two aspects to praxis that help to clarify its sense. First, insofar as praxis does not aim at the production of an object, it effects a ‘retreat from accomplishment’ and from the attendant values of completion and fulfilment, all of which are proper to the production of a work; in short, praxis frees action from teleological thinking and frees it for the possibility of beginning (since the power of beginning is how Kant defines freedom in the first place). Second, this leads to an experience of the world as divested of origin and end, which at one level signifies a loss of meaning; however, insofar as it frees the world from (ultimate) ends, praxis discloses the ‘thereness’ of the world – an exteriority towards which the self is directed in which the self ek-sists as outside of itself, which

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prevents any dialectical return-to-itself as an absolute subject. In a word, praxis is directed towards the sense of the world. The world is no longer to be conceived as a work in progress that awaits its completion; rather, we enter into the world by suspending all ends, and in doing so we ourselves are exposed to its alterity and our own. Nancy also understands praxis in terms of the experience of freedom as a decision for existence as that which ek-sists in the openness of the ‘towards’. ‘Being is open’ means in effect that being does not have the character of a self that appropriates all exteriority into itself; the sense of being is to be directed towards its non-appropriable alterity as that into which ‘I’ am appropriated in my being-with-others. One of the remarkable features of Nancy’s reworking – or unworking (désœuvrement) – of the sense of praxis is its implications for man’s productive activities, including technology (see inoperativity, ecotechnics) and art. If, as Nancy suggests, we move from a ‘poiētic’, goal-oriented understanding of technology to an understanding of technology as a praxis, then it is no longer the product that matters but its effect upon the agent. The praxis of technology transforms labour into the production of sense: an open-ended articulation of discrete spaces – whether they be media technologies, technologies of movement, of habitation, etc. – where communication becomes possible between singular beings who inhabit the same space. This does not mean that praxis always leads to a positive affirmation of existence. There are at least two possibilities: as technology, it can lead to an infinite self-expansion of itself at the expense of all other ecotechnical systems, or it can lead to an infinite opening of sense that disrupts all forms of closure (SW, 101–2).

POLITICS/THE POLITICAL (La/Le Politique) Illan Wall In 2003 Nancy gave a brief, basic philosophical radio talk in which he discussed the question of politics and the political. Reprising his early work with Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe (1940–2007) at the Centre de recherches philosophiques sur le politique (Centre for Philosophical Research on the Political), he explained that excessive use is often made of the term ‘political’. When we claim that everything is political, politics loses its specificity. It becomes ‘totalitarian’ in the sense that ‘the horizon of thought is that of a “political” absorption of every sphere of existence’ (PC, 25). In the face of such a subsumption, Nancy suggests the analytical move of differentiating in French le politique (the political) from la poli-



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tique (politics). Where politics signifies the everyday back and forth of the representative political arena, the political is that which is ‘most political’ in politics. ‘“The political” seems to present the nobility of the thing –  which thereby implicitly regains its specificity, and thus its relative separation’ (PC, 27). The distinction between politics and the political was popularised in the late 1970s by Claude Lefort (1924–2010), who saw the political as the manner in which society was produced as a unity through the now empty place of the king. Politics on the other hand denotes the interplay of conflicting powers within this unity. Lefort suggested that in democracy, the political was the (empty) symbolic space of authority. In the absence of a king, legitimacy remained always in question. Thus, the political signified the space for the contestation of the very basis of power. When Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe set up the Centre de recherches philosophiques sur le politique in 1980, they envisaged the institution as a space for ‘the philosophical questioning of the political’ and ‘the questioning of the philosophical about the political’ (RP, 108). They claimed that it was important to take such an approach, because the political had withdrawn from politics; it had retreated (see retreat). Thus, traditional political theory and political science were incapable of thinking the political because they simply took politics as their object. In this sense, Nancy marked both a consonance and dissonance with Lefort’s thinking: he suggests that the political ‘designate[s] not the organization of society but the disposition of community as such’ (IC, 40). However, he also travels a more philosophical path, demanding that the political is the essence of politics. Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe diagnose what they call the ‘retreat [retrait] of the political’. This is the way that ‘the question of the political, that is the question as to its exact nature or essence, retires or withdraws into a kind of evidence or self-givenness, in which that which is political in politics is taken for granted or accorded a kind of obviousness which is universally accepted’ (James 2005: 336). Our epoch is no longer concerned with the nature of the political; rather such a question is treated as already ‘given’. Politics in neo-liberalism, for instance, is presupposed as that which happens after and in the wake of the economy and is ultimately determined by the economy. In a classic deconstructive move, Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe play with the term ‘retreat’ (retrait), insisting that the retreat of the political from politics should allow us to open new paths of thinking by ‘re-treating’ or re-tracing the political. This can be thought through a philosophical questioning that withdraws from politics in order to approach the question of the political. In Being Singular Plural (1996), Nancy explains two modes of the withdrawal of the political. First, politics collapses into law. Human rights

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law appears to always already give easy answers to the question of the political. In other words, the human rights of international law subsume politics with an insistence of an all-encompassing juridical framework. This critique will be familiar to readers of Giorgio Agamben (1942–) or Michel Foucault (1926–84). However, Nancy insists that the other side of this withdrawal of politics into law is ‘the formal abstraction of the law, which undoubtedly “does right” by every particularity and every relation, but without giving this right any meaning other than itself’ (BSP, 47). In this sense, law becomes a cipher for ‘the reality of the relation of forces – whether economic, technical, or the forces of passion’ (BSP, 47). Alongside this withdrawal of politics into law, there is the second limb of the withdrawal of the political, which the Situationists called the society of the spectacle through which the political withdraws into ‘a selfrepresentation that no longer refers to an origin, but only to the void of its own specularity’ (BSP, 47). Nancy here repeats the Situationist critique of late capitalist society, but with a crucial difference. In the society of the spectacle, representation ‘triumphs, absorbing entirely both the transcendental and the concrete’ (BSP, 49). However, because the spectacle is all-consuming, it cannot help but move within representation itself: The denunciation of mere appearance effortlessly moves within mere appearance, because it has no other way of designating what is proper – that is, nonappearance – except as the obscure opposite of the spectacle. Since the spectacle occupies all of space, its opposite can only make itself known as the inappropriable secret of an originary property hidden beneath appearances. This is why the opposite of deceitful ‘imagery’ is creative ‘imagination,’ the model for which is still something like the Romantic genius. (BSP, 51–2)

Nancy tells us that the Situationist critique comes very close to understanding a ‘society exposed to itself, establishing its being-social under no horizon other than itself’ (BSP, 52). Yet they place such an insight back into the most traditional of metaphysical constructs, insisting upon the distinction between the false reign of appearance and some authentic presence behind it. While he disagrees with this formulation, Nancy nevertheless suggests that mediatisation forms a part of the retreat of the political that has to be retreated.



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POSTSTRUCTURALISM Rick Elmore Nancy’s work is fundamentally shaped by the figures and concerns of poststructuralism, in particular the work of Jacques Derrida (1930–2004) and the project of rethinking politics after 1968. ‘Poststructuralism’ is an umbrella term that arose in the American academy to mark affinities among a disparate group of mainly French intellectuals who came to prominence in the 1960s and 1970s, including Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault (1926–84), Julia Kristeva (1941–), Gilles Deleuze (1925–95), Luce Irigaray (1930–), Michel Serres (1930–), Philippe Sollers (1936–), Roland Barthes (1915–80), Hélène Cixous (1937–) and Jean-François Lyotard (1924–98) (Poster 1989: 4). Although the philosophical and political disagreements among these thinkers are numerous, what united them from the perspective of the American academy was their critical reaction to the dominance of structuralism, their resistance to humanism, and their rethinking of politics in light of a general disenchantment with the French Communist Party (Poster 1989: 4). Also important to the early reception of poststructuralism was the influential journal Tel quel, which was a major touchstone of poststructuralist thinking during the 1960s and 1970s and epitomises this mixture of theory, anti-humanism and politics. In Tel quel the thematic affinities between theory, anti-humanism and politics that define poststructuralism came together. The writers associated with Tel quel are, of course, only a small slice of the political and theoretical trajectories taken by figures associated with poststructuralism. Yet, this insistence on the inseparability of theory and politics marks both a major trajectory of poststructuralist thought and an important aspect of the group’s influence on Nancy’s work. The link between Nancy’s project and that of poststructuralism is seen most clearly through his indebtedness to the work of Derrida. In his now famous 1966 essay ‘Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences’, Derrida articulates in many ways the theoretical basis of both poststructuralism and Nancy’s project. In that essay, Derrida undertakes a thoroughgoing critique of the notion of structure, showing how the stabilising element of any structure, its ‘centre’, is always paradoxically both inside and outside the structure, organising the structure while itself escaping structurality (Derrida 1978: 279). This paradox of the centre highlights structuralism’s inability to ground the very notion of structure, whether understood in terms of the ‘sign’, ‘meaning’ or ‘taboo’. For Derrida, structuralism remains fundamentally committed to classical notions of foundation, centre, principle and truth (all aligned in what he

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calls the ‘metaphysics of presence’), which are definitively undermined by his critique of structurality. Derrida shows that every system of analysis is unavoidably entangled in the logic, power and violence it seeks to critique. This fundamental entanglement of theory and politics lies at the very heart of Nancy’s work. From his very earliest work on psychoanalysis, The Title of the Letter (1973), co-authored with Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe (1940–2007), Nancy adopts Derrida’s critique of the metaphysics of presence, showing how Lacanian psychoanalysis remains metaphysical even in its critiques of metaphysics, and he would remain committed to this kind of deconstructive reading throughout his career. However, Nancy’s work engaged earlier than Derrida’s in explicitly following the poststructuralists’ concern for rethinking the character of political communities. Thus, for example, in The Inoperative Community (1986), he engages in a deconstructive reading of the notion of community, showing how contemporary politics, including both communitarianism and state socialism, operates with a dangerous, self-identical or ‘immanent’ notion of community. Following the path laid out in The Inoperative Community, Nancy’s work thinks against the immanence of self-identity, shattering the notion of any immanent community, while simultaneously working to articulate a being-with that avoids any fundamental claim to shared identity. This focus on a non-identical ‘being-with’, besides defining Nancy’s political thinking, also marks the anti-humanism of Nancy’s project, insofar as it challenges any notion of ‘community’ based on some shared identity and necessarily entails contesting the very identity of the thinking, human subject. Hence, one can trace all the major themes associated with poststructuralism in Nancy’s work, highlighting the way in which his thinking emerged in conversation with the figures, problems and legacies of this movement.

POWER Jason E. Smith The term ‘power’ can refer to either an ontological or a political category. In the first instance, power refers to either potentiality or possibility (puissance), usually in opposition to and relation to actuality, or at times to a subjective faculty or capacity (Vermögen). In the second case, power is understood in its specifically political sense, for example, as sovereign power, as a tension between authority and domination or violence (as captured by the German term Gewalt), or in the dialectical or antagonistic



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play between constituted and constitutive power. There is a tendency in contemporary continental philosophy to think these two valences in their proximity and at times identity, in particular through the works of the Italian philosophers Giorgio Agamben (1942–) and Antonio Negri (1933–). Nancy’s own approach to the question of power is a complex one. For the most part, his reflections on power are centred on pouvoir rather than puissance, a political rather than ontological use of the term. This is in part attributable to the fact that his approach to the problem of power, unlike that of other tendencies within contemporary thought, begins with the separation of ontology – his ontology of being-with, being-in-common and so on – from the political. But this refusal to identify ontology and politics is also supplemented by a set of conceptual threads that will complicate, particularly in Nancy’s most recent work, the simple separation between what Nancy calls communism – a mode of being-in-common that, despite the history of this term, is irreducible to any political form or organisation – and politics as a form of government or more generally as the consolidation and institution of power. On the one hand, Nancy will consistently underline that politics should in no way be confused with power. On the other hand, Nancy will also underline that power should not, in turn, be confused with a mere ‘mechanics of forces’ (EF, 78; ‘FI’, 69). In some of his earliest reflections on this question, Nancy, writing with Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe (1940–2007) in the early 1980s, argues that ‘the question of power [does] not seem by itself to constitute the initial question of the political’, even while underlining the importance of the question of power in the delineation of the political field (RP, 117). At stake in this gesture is not only a distancing of the question concerning the nature or essence of the political from its classical figures – power as state power, or power as class domination – but also the more recent work of Michel Foucault (1926–84) on pre- or sub-institutional ‘micropowers’ (RP, 117). This position will be reiterated a few years later in The Experience of Freedom (1988), where once again Nancy asserts that ‘the political does not primarily consist in the composition and dynamic of powers’ (EF, 78). Foucault will again be invoked, this time for contributing to a modern conception of politics – but Karl Marx (1818–83) and the figure of class struggle are obliquely targeted here as well – as a ‘pure mechanics of forces’ and, to use Foucault’s own expression, a ‘political technology’ that misses in a crucial sense the nature of power in the first place (EF, 78). Nancy’s more recent work in ‘Finite and Infinite Democracy’ (2009) and Politique et au-delà (2011) will take up this question of the nature of power in its difference from a mere physics of forces or a technology of coercion. Importantly, Nancy will underline what he

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calls the ‘desire’ proper to power that is irreducible to a ‘necessity for government’: a desire, or rather a drive, that is split between a drive to domination or mastery (a will to power, in a different idiom) and a corollary drive to subordination (‘FI’, 69ff.). These remarks, which supplement any mechanics of forces with the dynamics of the unconscious drives (pulsion, the French translation for Sigmund Freud’s [1856–1939] Trieb, typically translated in English as ‘drive’), are intriguing and developed only in passing, but do suggest a necessity to think the question of power through a properly Freudian framework – though Nancy does not explicitly or specifically refer to Freud here – that will engage the concepts of drive, unconscious, and what Freud, in his Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920), identified as the proximity between the drive to mastery or power and the death drive. If Nancy’s work since the early 1980s has largely been concerned with separating the sphere of ontology or being-in-common from the political or politics, he has nevertheless begun recently to articulate what the nature of their relation might be. These reflections have required a renewed engagement with the question of power as a political question, in particular in recent texts devoted to the concept of democracy. Nancy will in these texts maintain a necessary separation between being-in-common and the sphere of politics properly so-called, a separation that democratic and more generally emancipatory politics have aspired to abolish, often to their ruin. Such an aspiration to negate or abolish the instance of power as separate from the sphere of the common, he argues, results in the catastrophic failures of modern politics while at the same time being an irreducible ‘drive’ that constitutes these politics. For Nancy, then, the question of power is a delicate one, in a constant tension with the sphere of the common. In ‘The Senses of Democracy’ (2000), Nancy will argue that if the task of politics is to open up and maintain the non-political spaces in which the ‘incalculable’ (what cannot be appropriated, what can appear only in being shared in common) can occur, the freeing and securing of these spaces ‘has to do with power’ (TD, 41). What Nancy proposes in these enigmatic pages is a certain conception of political power as a necessary instance in the constitution or exposition of being-in-common.

PRESENTATION Martta Heikkilä Presentation is one of Nancy’s key philosophical concerns. To understand its scope in his thought, one may refer to the traditional distinction



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between ‘presentation’ and ‘representation’ (BP, 34). For Nancy, in metaphysical discourse, the world is always posited as an object of representation, whereas he calls for a return to the way in which the sense of the world returns to itself in its infinite unfolding. This is what he terms ‘presentation’. When referring to ‘representation’, Nancy has in mind, in the first place, Vorstellung, as described by Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) in his Critique of the Power of Judgment (1790) (BP, 73). Kant’s Vorstellung means the same as the Latin repraesentatio, ‘representation’ or ‘conception’, that is, the making or rendering the thing present. Thus, Vorstellung has the sense of repetition, of establishing something before oneself and keeping that thing at one’s disposal. By contrast, ‘presentation’ means to Nancy roughly the same as the Kantian Darstellung (or praesentatio): the sensuous presentation of ideas or ‘exhibition’. Representation has a substitutive function as regards the represented object, if the represented thing is understood as an idea or as a picture that is brought before the subject. Correspondingly, the thought of presentation does not imply for Nancy a subjective reproduction of an ‘original presence’. On the contrary, it suggests presenting something that is not to be presented, or could not be completed in totality. Apart from Kant, Nancy shares Martin Heidegger’s (1889–1976) viewpoint that being is not to be thought of as constant presence or as availability (Vorhandenheit, as described in Being and Time [1927]). ‘Constant presence’ is the notion against which Heidegger directs his critique of the history of ontology, and he claims it predominates the history of metaphysics. For Heidegger being is not ‘present’, but is in a necessary relation to nothingness, to what it is not, and only nothingness lets being unfold and come to presence. Thus, being is rather to be described as presentation, whereby being takes place here and now, in an infinite number of ways, without ever being fully present or available (see instant). What both Heidegger and Nancy want to emphasise is the active process of being as coming into presence. Nancy sets off from the assumption that there is no such thing as being ‘in general’, nor is being anything stable and continuous. Primarily, ‘presentation’ means to Nancy the exposition of being, or the way being appears to us in an original, unprecedented way. This appearing implies the finitude of being and its irreducible singularity. To ask what presentation means is thus an inquiry into the question of being itself: for Nancy, this is being that ‘is’ not, but comes or is born into presence in an infinite arrival. ‘Birth’, which is an event, refers to a notion of being as a particular event. In Nancy’s thinking of presence his focus is on its very sense as the state of birth into presence, or coming-(in)to-presence (in French, venir or

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naître à la présence). Thus, ‘presence’ refers to constant becoming and to being that allows itself to come to presence in a finite and singular manner. The notion of presentation concerns thinking of being in terms of coming into presence that remains suspended in its passage and in the distance, thus exhibiting difference. That a thing comes into presence means that something is born into presence. In a general scheme, Nancy’s ontology rests on the thought that existence remains without ground, with no sense of foundation, substance, subject or identity, nor is there thought that something would be reproduced in the way things present themselves to us. Therefore, presentation bears the sense of difference differing within itself, since the appearing of a thing becomes a groundless ground for all being. Presentation is the event whereby being is exposed. This exposition never reaches its final signification, whatever the discourse; it only borders the sense of signification and always remains presented on the limits of sense. Thus presentation is presence before any signification. In Nancy’s words, it allows a thing to present itself ‘in its own truth’. Representation, on the contrary, tends to close into itself also what lies outside of its limits: representational thinking strives to give a thing a fixed identity, and at the same time it strives to define the ground it emerges from. This is also to say that representation has a substitutive function as regards the represented object, if the represented thing is understood as a picture or as an idea that is brought before the subject. Correspondingly, the thought of presentation does not imply a subjective reproduction of an ‘original presence’. It suggests presenting something which finally cannot be presented, or completed. As a result, presentation is never a figure for Nancy, but concerns finitude itself, insofar as it is a coming into presence without presence. Regarding presentation, art has a specific importance for Nancy. He conceives of art as the presentation of presentation, or the appearing of appearing. Art is the fact that there is such a thing as presentation, as he stresses in The Muses (1994). Namely, an image – like any other thing – presents itself inasmuch as it resembles itself, and thus affirms its being that thing. Art is a matter of distinction and of the opening and withdrawal of sense. It is according to this kind of dual gesture that it comes into presence by opening itself to its own groundlessness. Nancy’s fundamental claim is that each of the arts is the coming into presence of some presence, and not of presence in general, which thereby models itself. This presence ‘itself’ only takes place in the difference of presences, which is the case in art and in other things.



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R RELATION (see SEXUAL RELATION) RELIGION Christina Smerick Religion in its various forms is the subject of much of Nancy’s work. Care must be taken in distinguishing religion properly so-called from the monotheistic ‘religions without religion’, which Nancy believes differ radically in style, structure and content from previous religious worldviews. Speaking broadly, archaic religions revolve around myths and idols, and value proper observance of ritual and cohesive belonging. The myth and the idol, in these religions, ‘assure a presence and respond to a demand’ (A, 39). The gods of archaic religion are co-present with human beings, and sin in these cases is to be disobedient in observances, which could be rectified via ‘sacrifice or tragic death’ (A, 53) (see death, God, sacrifice). The old gods were present (‘in nature, in an image, in a mind possessed’) and this presence provides either threat or help, as the case may be. The old gods were ‘presences of absence’ (CW, 69). They share their being-in-common with humankind, and cannot be simply combined, with identities erased, to configure the god of monotheism. Likewise, the understanding of the relation between life and death was figured such that death was ‘next door’ to life, and the border between the two penetrable and sometimes cyclical. In particular, Nancy focuses his attention on the structure of Roman religion prior to the legalisation and dominance of Christianity. Roman religion was defined by ‘scrupulous observance (of rules, of rituals)’ (A, 55). Roman gods had names and were ‘immortal partners’ with humanity, thus not ‘gods’ in the sense of Plato’s theos (a god of principle). In Plato’s articulation, the gods, and the ‘given, structured, and animate universe’, disappear or are rendered as fictitious rather than as foundational (D-E, 15). Monotheistic religions are not simply a replacement for these older religions; nor is monotheism in general simply a unifying of what was once multiple. A radical reorientation around questions of being, life, death and relation occurred as the Roman Empire fell and Christianity rose to dominance. Nancy argues that Christianity changed the status of religion

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to ‘an instance and institution of salvation’, in part by undoing and redoing the relation between life and death. Monotheisms in general move from the sacrificial observances of archaic religions to personal adoration, from gods who founded the world and demand rituals to a god who speaks, and demands relational supplication. This new world formed by Christianity ran on force and money, and substituted a world of relation for the world of observance of the Roman Empire. Monotheism posited a god of withdrawal, ‘away from presence and also away from power thus understood’ (D-E, 36). The god of monotheistic religion does not expect sacrifice, but rather faith. In exploring monotheistic religions, Nancy argues that ‘all our great religions are inseparable from philosophy: that is to say from the ontotheological end – the aim and the cessation – of religion’ (IC, 128). Monotheistic religions, by carrying with them the yet-to-be-­deconstructed spectre of the absent god that is beyond being and annihilated in the giving of the world, align themselves and help produce a philosophy that posits the death of god as its ‘final thought . . . which thus proposes it as an end to religion’ (IC, 128). Monotheism sows the seeds of its own dissolution and thus presents a radically different understanding of god from polytheisms: an a/theism rather than theism. Nevertheless, monotheisms have retained some of the form and function of religion-in-general, in the form of clergy, castes and denominations. In Nancy’s estimation, the deconstruction of monotheism that Christianity, in particular, instantiates is obscured by traditional norms of observance and ties of belonging found not only in Christianity, but in Judaism and Islam as well. Monotheistic religions still maintain group cohesion (although ever more splintered) and ritual performance (although again growing ever more diverse and disparate). Monotheistic practices produce motifs that undermine the philosophical construction of god-as-premise. The motifs of creator/creation, saint/sinner and reason/faith all introduce moments of contingency, openness to otherness, and the insufficiency of human reason that undo the tightly woven unicity of premise/conclusion posited by onto-theology, the philosophical form of monotheism. Therefore, monotheism sows the seeds of alterity and exposure and creates fault lines within onto-theology, points of fracture that deconstruction may take advantage of to undo the suffocating unity of the world made over by the West.



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REPRESENTATION Jeffrey S. Librett The philosophical points of departure for Nancy’s considerations on representation are Martin Heidegger’s (1889–1976) attempt to move beyond ‘representational thinking’ (das vorstellende Denken) into the thinking of Being, Jacques Derrida’s (1930–2004) deconstruction of any restitution of textual signification or of presence more generally, the conceptualisations of Vorstellung from Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) through to G. W. F. Hegel (1770–1831), the writings of Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860) and Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), as well as ancient and medieval notions. For Nancy, ‘representation’ coincides with occidental metaphysics. The ‘task’, he writes, ‘involves thinking “representation” not only as a particular operational or technical regime but also as a general name for the event and configuration ordinarily called “the West”’ (GI, 35). Representation would be the name for a collection of conceptual possibilities that define the West, which Nancy takes to be reaching its end, in the process of globalisation. For Nancy, Western metaphysics has traditionally undertaken to synthesise or mutually accommodate two main positions on representation: the Judaic prohibition of idolatrous images or representations of God’s presence (a presence regarded by Judaism as always in retreat), on the one hand, and the Greek philosophical attempt to subordinate imaginary representations to a logical ideality deemed prior and proper, on the other hand. These two approaches to representation, which have been fundamental for the West, are suspicious of representation in favour of presence itself. In place of these problematic foundations, Nancy attempts to develop a mode of thought that is equally suspicious, but also equally affirmative, of both representations and presence properly so-called. Thus, Nancy tries to avoid the pitfalls of rationalist or empiricist subjectobject epistemologies, which seek to legitimate certain representations as adequate to presence, while he also eschews the symmetrical, irrationalist temptation of, for example, vitalist or existentialist fantasies of access to the presence of a lived reality ‘beyond’ all representation. The philosophical strategy through which Nancy attempts to evade these two extremes is to affirm representation as something other than either the attempt at an indirect return to or restoration of the presence of things, or the symmetrical inversion of this, for example, the escape from the illusions of presence, nature and so on. Accordingly, in the essay ‘Forbidden Representation’ (‘La représentation interdite’) (2001), collected in The Ground of the Image, Nancy determines all representation as

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‘forbidden’ and ‘surprised’ (both of these English participial adjectives are contained in the French interdite) by a dimension of partial absence that representation can never exclude from its functioning and that one must acknowledge and affirm according to an ethics of probity. As it functions, for example, in artworks, representation is ‘the presentation of an open absence within the given itself’ (GI, 33). More generally, representation is not essentially a matter of the imitation of the thing, but rather ‘the presentation of what does not amount to a presence’ (GI, 33). In more conceptual detail, representation ‘is not . . . presence pure and simple; it is precisely not the immediacy of the being-posed there but is rather that which draws presence out of this immediacy insofar as it puts a value on presence as some presence or another’ (GI, 36). Here, Nancy is reworking the analyses of the ‘as’ in Heidegger’s paragraph 33 of Being and Time (1927). ‘Representation’, he goes on, ‘does not present something without exposing its value or sense – at least, the minimal value or sense of being there before a subject’ (GI, 36). But value and sense are no more simply present here than the thing itself. The result of this functioning of representation, according to Nancy, is therefore that not one but two aspects of absence are combined within it: first the absence of the thing (qua original presence), and second the absence of its sense, that is, the sense of the thing that always paradoxically presents itself as an absence, and for which therefore Nancy adopts the term ‘ab-sense’ from Maurice Blanchot (1907–2003), notably L’attente l’oubli (1962). This ‘ab-sense’, or present-absent sense, involves further a plurality of singularities, in that representation itself is constituted in social practice. All representation should therefore be understood, he argues, as inter-dite – ‘forbidden’ or ‘surprised’ – not only insofar as it is made impossible and overtaken qua reconstitution of presence by this double absence it involves, but also insofar as it is ‘inter-dicted’ – said always ‘between two parties’ (GI, 48) – and marked by this play of difference and being-in-relation. Representation as forbidden and surprised by itself is the ‘bringing-to-presence [that] divides presence and opens it onto its own absence (opens its eyes, its ears, and its mouth)’ (GI, 48). The sense of representation appears as split between and amongst sensuous modalities, possibilities of meaning, and beings that arrive only in the mode of a continuous and continuously riven arrival.



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RESURRECTION Christina Smerick Nancy addresses the concept of the resurrection in Noli Me Tangere (2003), Dis-Enclosure (2005), Adoration (2010), ‘Of Divine Places’ (1985) and in various interviews. In almost every case, he reinterprets resurrection tangentially to orthodox Christian interpretations (see Christianity). Resurrection more broadly construed is a shadowed ‘manifestation’ of God – the original glory of appearance is dimmed by the passage through darkness and death. As such, ‘resurrection’ of immortal gods is a reflection of the heavens themselves, which alternate between darkness and light (IC, 125). Whereas in orthodox Christianity Christ’s resurrection is the site of hope and salvation, the confirmation of God’s promise and the conquering of death, Nancy interprets Christ’s resurrection as death continued rather than overcome. Likewise, in Noli Me Tangere he argues that resurrection is not death vanquished, but death ‘extended indefinitely’ (NT, 17). Resurrection indefinitely extends the act of departing, the absence or disappearance of the beloved. It is neither regeneration nor rebirth, but emphasises the emptiness of the tomb and the absence of the departed one. By having the dead body still present while departed, present while absent, resurrection undoes the dichotomies upon which we rely: those of presence/absence, death/life or body/soul. Rather than being a clarifying revelation, resurrection reveals nothing – a lack of glory, resolution or conclusion. Nancy relates the impossibility of the resurrection to the ‘impossibility of Christian love: it is a matter of holding oneself in the place of the impossible. . . . This place can only be a place of vertigo or of scandal’ (NT, 52). In Dis-Enclosure, Nancy’s remarks on resurrection primarily relate to the work of Maurice Blanchot (1907–2003) on the same theme. In line with his analysis in Noli Me Tangere, he argues that resurrection does not escape death or recover from death but instead indefinitely extends death, and thus ends the opposition of death to life. Death is the subject that is resurrected, not the person or the body. He uses the term ‘anastasis’ rather than resurrection to emphasise this aspect of standing or raising up from its Latin root. Resurrection salutes, stands up for, or addresses death. Nancy adamantly resists any soteriological or orthodox Christian interpretation of the resurrection, refusing to see it as a conquering of death or as a resolution to a storyline. Rather, resurrection only emphasises the condition of the world in which we find ourselves – a world exposed, emptied of sense, absent of god. Resurrection happens in writing – in ‘any sort of

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saying’ that in its saying suspends sense and gestures to our ‘experience of being without essence and thus of dying’ (D-E, 96). In that we are already dead, already dying, writing or saying speaks this, and thus stands death before us to be ‘saluted, hailed, each time’ (D-E, 101).

RETREAT Marie-Eve Morin The expression le retrait du politique is discussed in two addresses by Nancy and Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe (1940–2007), the co-founders of the Centre de recherches philosophiques sur le politique: the ‘Opening Address’, pronounced in December 1980, and ‘The “Retreat” of the Political’, given at the end of the second year of activities of the Centre in June 1982. (Both are collected in The Retreat of the Political.) The phrase ‘retreat/withdrawal [retrait] of the political’ describes at least three interrelated movements. First, the assumption is that the political itself has retreated from our view because of its unavoidability. If ‘everything is political’ then politics loses its specificity and becomes indistinguishable from the sphere of the in-common: the political has the non-appearance of obviousness. This retreat of the political can be witnessed in all forms of totalitarianism, including Marxism. Politics is put in charge of accomplishing the social community. Once the social community (or humanity) accomplishes itself as such, politics disappears into the social body and becomes the self-regulation of the community by itself. Here, every excess that the political represents (the Greek polis, Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe insist, was the place of a more-than-life, of transcendence [RP, 117]) is closed back upon the community itself and reinscribed in the figure of sovereignty and subjectivity. In this retreat of the political, which is also a collapse of any transcendent dimension, no specifically political questions have the chance to arise, hence the need to withdraw from this closure of the political in order to raise the question of the political anew, that is, to treat it once again. This withdrawal, Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe insist, is not a withdrawal into the ivory tower of the philosopher (RP, 112). Rather, it is a political gesture, the only one possible today since it is from the place of this retreat that ‘the political’ will be able to appear anew. This is possible because the disappearance or withdrawal of the political in its specificity also lets something appear: it allows us to experience the essential absence of the unitary, total and actualised community. From this perspective, it becomes possible to determine the political anew, that is, to



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retrace or remark it according to the withdrawal of the sovereign community (TD, 39). But this retracing does not mean that we try to ground the social body in a new figure of sovereignty and entrust politics to accomplish this grounding. This would be to return to the classical (metaphysical) determination of the political, which understands the political as the putting-to-work or the accomplishment of a self-founding, self-sufficient and self-originating body. What needs to be put into question is not a specific form of politics but the way in which the political is a function of another instance that founds and grounds it. (While this critique seems to be aimed at totalitarian regimes, Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe also insist that technocratic or managerial democracy aims at the same homogenisation and self-regulation of the social body but by other means, that is, mass consumption and mass media [RP, 128]). The question that appears in the withdrawal from and retreat of the political is that of relation: how can we think of a relation (rapport) without either presupposing the relations (as social contract theorists end up having to do) or sublating those relations into a subject of a higher order (like G. W. F. Hegel [1770–1831]). ‘Relations’ can only be thought in the retreat of, or by subtraction from, the subject: ‘[t]he nature of relation (if it ever had a nature) is the reciprocal retreat of its terms, insofar as relation (but can one even speak of “relation” in the singular?) is given by or proceeds from the division, from the incision, from the non-totality that it “is”’ (RP, 119). What is at stake in the retracing of the political in subtraction from the subject is a ‘political’ space, a space of originary relation(s) that makes it impossible to reduce the plurality to a single origin or principle.

ROMANTICS/ROMANTICISM Daniel Hoffman-Schwartz Jean-Luc Nancy’s writing (with Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe [1940– 2007]) on ‘Romanticism’ in The Literary Absolute (1978) is not merely an intervention within literary or cultural history – the domains with which we usually associate the study of ‘Romanticism’; nor is it even exactly an intervention within literary theory. Rather, what is at stake for Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe in ‘Romanticism’ is the historico-philosophical constitution of the very concepts of ‘literature’, ‘literary theory’ and, even more pointedly, ‘theory’ tout court. As they put it, ‘philosophy . . . controls Romanticism’ (LA, 29). To the extent that we still think within the shadow of these concepts (literature, literary theory, theory tout court), we still think within the shadow of Romanticism. Nancy’s own later ­conceptions

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of ­inoperative community (see also inoperativity) and ‘political writing’ thus always proceed with implicit reference to the problematically compelling Romantic precedent analysed in The Literary Absolute. For Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe, the Romanticism in question is first and foremost so-called ‘Jena Romanticism’ or ‘Theoretical Romanticism’ – that is, the Romanticism of Friedrich Schlegel (1772–1829) and August Wilhelm Schlegel (1767–1845) and their circle, as published in the journal Athenaeum between 1798 and 1800. They argue that Romanticism must be fundamentally understood within the post-Kantian frame of German idealism. While German idealism, broadly speaking, can be understood in terms of the intellectual effort to surmount the constitutive finitude of the Kantian subject, Romanticism responds to this idealist imperative under the aegis of presentation, that is, as a response to the way in which the constitutive finitude of the Kantian subject ‘manifests’ itself in the problematic of ‘the subject unpresentable to itself’ (LA, 30). The specific reference to Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) is thus the ‘Transcendental Aesthetic’ from the Critique of Pure Reason (1781), which famously outlines space and time as a priori forms of sensibility (or ‘pure intuitions’). The crucial points that ensue from the split character of a priori intuition are as follows: the subject’s self-relation takes place ‘within’ the ‘inner-sense of time’ rather than the ‘outer-sense’ of space. But, unlike the obvious precedent of the Cartesian cogito, the ‘inner-sense’ aligned with the subject does not offer a privileged path to truth or certainty, precisely because of the irreducibly split character of the a priori (time and space, inner- and outer-sense). Finally, and most importantly, the presentation of the subject qua inner-sense (i.e. time) is necessarily problematic, insofar as it involves an irreducible spatialisation and thus is merely ‘analogical’ or ‘indirect’ (LA, 30; Kant 1999a: B68–9, B156; Heidegger 1997: §34). The specificity of Jena Romanticism within this post-Kantian field, according to Nancy, resides in its attempt to restore the metaphysical privilege of the subject by granting presentation, now redefined in and as ‘literature’, a special ontological function (rather than the merely propaedeutic function it retains in Kant). Nancy, with reference to the Platonic eidos, describes this tendency as eidaesthetics: In sum, all this represents nothing other than the final repetition of Western eidetics in the element of subjectivity. From now on, in the axis of a certain Plato, or rather, of a certain Platonism, eidetics will always be able to shift into aesthetics. This eidaesthetics . . . traces . . . the horizon proper to Romanticism. (LA, 37)

Jena Romanticism thus takes shape as a series of strategies for producing a paradoxically infinite literary work (œuvre) that would stand as the



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presentation and actualisation of an infinite subject. It is this project of the infinite literary work – or, more precisely, the ‘infinite work’ as constitutive of the concept of ‘literature’ – that generates in turn what Nancy terms ‘romantic equivocity’ (LA, 124): the infinite work can only be ‘achieved’ – if it can be ‘achieved’ – through the ‘in-finitisation’ of (finite) works. That is to say, it can do so through something that very much appears to be indistinguishable from the subversion or indeed the destruction of ‘the work’ (œuvre) – arguably the central ideological category of the tradition of European aesthetics and poetics (i.e. wholeness and perfection, beautiful form, etc.). Romanticism thus introduces something akin to what Maurice Blanchot (1907–2003) famously calls désœuvrement – the ‘unworking’ of the work – but it does so, in principle and programme, only to give extra ballast to the metaphysical concept of ‘the work’ (see LA, 15, 57). The dynamic of Romantic ‘in-finitisation’ finds arguably its canonical articulation in Athenaeum-fragment 116: Other kinds of poetry are finished. . . . The romantic kind of poetry is still in the state of becoming; that, in fact, is its real essence: that it should forever be becoming and never be perfected. . . . It alone is infinite. (Schlegel 1991: 32)

Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe can thus write that for Romanticism ‘work in progress henceforth becomes the infinite truth of the work’ (LA, 48). In this context, the exemplarity for Romanticism of the form of the fragment also becomes clear. In Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe’s words, ‘the fragment . . . involves an essential incompletion’; it is ‘the immediate projection of what it nonetheless incompletes’ (LA, 42–3). According to this logic, the Romantic fragment is thus not simply a static incomplete form, a mere part of an absent work; rather, it instantaneously projects (or posits) the implied absent work as the infinite work and ‘in-completes’ this projected infinite work at the threshold of its necessarily finite (or ‘finitising’) presentation. Among the paradigmatic tendencies of Romantic writing, ‘critique’, or ‘criticism’ (in the double sense of the German Kritik), stands alongside the fragment. (This is perhaps the place to note that while Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe’s treatment of the fragment is highly indebted to Maurice Blanchot’s ‘The Athenaeum’ [1964], their treatment of critique is indebted to Walter Benjamin’s The Concept of Criticism in German Romanticism [1919].) As is also evident in Athenaeum-fragment 116, Romantic ‘literature’ is nothing but its own displacement by criticism or indeed ‘theory’; such a ‘theoretical’ displacement comprises another, complementary strategy for constituting the infinity of the work. Thus Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe write, ‘[Romanticism] is theory itself as

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literature, or, in other words, literature producing itself as it produces its own theory’, or, otherwise put, ‘romantic criticism is situated in the place, or time, of waiting for the work’ (LA, 12, 102). In a slightly different vein, criticism ‘in-completes’ finite works by ‘indicat[ing] the absence of Form in all form’ (LA, 105): the merely finite form, apparently complete, must be ‘in-completed’ (shown to be incomplete) by critique-criticism (Kritik) in order to achieve ‘Form’, which is to say, again, the infinite. Romantic désœuvrement nonetheless is not finally reducible to its status as a mere moment of the infinite work; there is no guarantee that the Romantic programme, so to speak, ‘works’. On the contrary, the settingfree of presentation qua writing – in other words, the setting-free of presentation from ‘the presented’ (i.e. a signification or a meaning) – is ‘eclipsed’ within Romanticism as its own unthought possibility (LA, 124).

S THE SACRED Chris Hackett There are virtually as many conceptions of the sacred as there are philosophers who use the term. According to the phenomenology of religion, the sacred is perhaps best understood as a sui generis dimension of reality simultaneously seen, or rather experienced, in the totality of its aspects and concentrated on a specific object or place in experience that represents the locus of reality’s mediation to itself from the ‘other world’ of the divine, before which all that exists in this world is utterly contingent. According to the influential definition associated with the German Lutheran theologian Rudolf Otto (1869–1937), the sacred is both tremendum (terrible) and fascinans (captivating) and is, as such, the content of religious experience. Here the sacred is often contrasted with the ‘profane’, that is, mundane reality, or that which is not sacred but nevertheless wholly depends on it in order meaningfully to exist. At the same time, as Émile Durkheim (1858–1917) famously noted, the sacred performs a fundamental social function that pertains to the cohesion and self-identification of groups. As such, the distinction between the sacred and the profane is the most elemental classification of social and individual experience. Normatively, the sacred cannot be touched except by the ‘consecrated’, those who have been made sacred themselves; it is that which is marked off and set apart, and as

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literature, or, in other words, literature producing itself as it produces its own theory’, or, otherwise put, ‘romantic criticism is situated in the place, or time, of waiting for the work’ (LA, 12, 102). In a slightly different vein, criticism ‘in-completes’ finite works by ‘indicat[ing] the absence of Form in all form’ (LA, 105): the merely finite form, apparently complete, must be ‘in-completed’ (shown to be incomplete) by critique-criticism (Kritik) in order to achieve ‘Form’, which is to say, again, the infinite. Romantic désœuvrement nonetheless is not finally reducible to its status as a mere moment of the infinite work; there is no guarantee that the Romantic programme, so to speak, ‘works’. On the contrary, the settingfree of presentation qua writing – in other words, the setting-free of presentation from ‘the presented’ (i.e. a signification or a meaning) – is ‘eclipsed’ within Romanticism as its own unthought possibility (LA, 124).

S THE SACRED Chris Hackett There are virtually as many conceptions of the sacred as there are philosophers who use the term. According to the phenomenology of religion, the sacred is perhaps best understood as a sui generis dimension of reality simultaneously seen, or rather experienced, in the totality of its aspects and concentrated on a specific object or place in experience that represents the locus of reality’s mediation to itself from the ‘other world’ of the divine, before which all that exists in this world is utterly contingent. According to the influential definition associated with the German Lutheran theologian Rudolf Otto (1869–1937), the sacred is both tremendum (terrible) and fascinans (captivating) and is, as such, the content of religious experience. Here the sacred is often contrasted with the ‘profane’, that is, mundane reality, or that which is not sacred but nevertheless wholly depends on it in order meaningfully to exist. At the same time, as Émile Durkheim (1858–1917) famously noted, the sacred performs a fundamental social function that pertains to the cohesion and self-identification of groups. As such, the distinction between the sacred and the profane is the most elemental classification of social and individual experience. Normatively, the sacred cannot be touched except by the ‘consecrated’, those who have been made sacred themselves; it is that which is marked off and set apart, and as



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such is the original opening of the intelligibility of existence. An essential element of the sacred is its dangerousness to approach. It can only be drawn near to with caution and regulative care. Paradoxically, the sacred must be accessed, for the sake of securing meaningful existence, but simultaneously must be protected from access for the same reason. Traditionally, religion is the human activity of mediating this contradiction, classically through the offering of sacrifice, that is, the return of the profane to the sacred, as a gesture that enacts the recognition of the absolute contingency of the being of this world, and is also the means by which this contingency, and through it the sacred itself, is disclosed. In God’s total identification with humanity in the incarnation, access to the sacred is radically democratised (see democracy) and ‘God’, in order to remain divine, is only manifest by being wholly invisible, infinitely exceeding any conception or approach by virtue of that which makes divinity totally accessible. The definition of the sacred by Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) is valuable: that which cannot be laughed at. Modern experience, he observed, is marked by the fact that there is nothing that cannot be laughed at. We have murdered God, and the hallmark of our experience is complete metaphysical vertigo. We live in the time of ‘nihilism’ when the highest values are completely razed and there is no hierarchical differentiation of meaning outside of our capacity to invest the world with value. Nancy’s philosophy can fruitfully be understood to be a response to Nietzsche’s observation regarding the sacred: on the one hand, Nietzsche is right, nihilism follows upon the death of God, and what is called the ‘end of metaphysics’ is the end of Christianity. On the other hand, this situation, which is the telos of Christianity, opens up the possibility of a post-metaphysical thinking of reality in itself, that is, as finitude in surplus of itself. For Nancy, then, one can say that only nothing cannot be laughed at; only nothing, the ‘infinite finitude’ of being, is sacred. According to Nietzsche, famously, our temples and churches are now only ‘tombs and sepulchres’ of God. Nancy agrees with this assessment as an obvious mark of contemporary existence from which there is no turning back. The sacred space, considered as a locus of access to the ‘other’ world carved out of this one, and set apart, protected and regulated, is no longer meaningful. Nancy’s thought can be said to begin with the sense of the sacred that emerges with the awareness that today we have an inalienable sense that there is no other world but this very one of our experience. Now that there is nothing but this immanent world, infinitely open to nothing but its own excess of itself without reserve, now that there is no other world beyond or behind in which we can believe any more, this world itself, in its pure openness to alterity that is its own immanence, is coincident with the sacred itself.

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This approach to the sacred can be seen at work in the first chapter of Nancy’s The Ground of the Image (2003). For Nancy, the image and the sacred share the same quality of ‘force’: the sacred manifests itself as that which is, unlike other objects, in itself marked by a general unavailability. The sacred is a quality of being that is irreducible to the profane, which, in contrast to the sacred, is given, is there, as readily utilisable for human ends. Like the sacred, images have the power to disturb and even to transform our sense of our existence. Images, like language for Martin Heidegger (1889–1976), Hans Georg Gadamer (1900–2002) and Jacques Derrida (1930–2004), for example, actively constitute the reality of human experience, but they do so by suspending the homogenous flow of experience. The paradigm of this ‘force’ is, and remains, the sacred. Like the sacred, images are present in the world not through ‘manifestation’ (which pertains to mundane, ‘available’ realities), but rather as ‘distinct’, by being set apart and making present the opening of unavailable absence. Unlike sacrifice – and this is what separates images and Nancy’s sacred from religion – images do not transgress or create a passage over the sacred ‘distinction’. The image is discontinuous, ‘given in an opening that indissociably forms its presence and its separation’ (GI, 3). After religion, it is the sacred, the pure opening of the world in its pre-constituted meaningfulness, that remains. Everything that exists is an opening of world to its own absolute excess of itself and is therefore sacred.

SACRIFICE Marie-Eve Morin Religious (what Nancy also calls ‘ancient’ or ‘real’) sacrifice is a legitimated form of transgression that binds two orders that are in principle heterogeneous, gods and mortals, together. In ‘The Unsacrificeable’ (1991), collected in A Finite Thinking, Nancy outlines the transformation of sacrifice from its ancient to its Western, Christian form (see Christianity). We do not know what real sacrifice was because we only ever see it as that which has been surpassed in Christian, moral sacrifice. Hence, real sacrifice appears to us as mere barter or traffic (‘Here is the butter, where are the offerings?’), but this is because we do not understand the kind of community that existed between mortals and gods (FT, 61–2; D-E, 79; IC, 135–6). The inaugurating gesture of the West is that of the forbidding of human sacrifice. At the same time, sacrifice does not disappear, as the



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emblematic figures of Socrates and Christ show. Rather, it is internalised and infinitised in the ‘absolute economy of absolute subjectivity’ (FT, 62). Western sacrifice is self-sacrifice, or the sacrifice of the subject in both the senses of the ‘of’: the subject sacrifices itself in order to be more truly itself (think of how Socrates portrays his own death in Plato’s Phaedo). Such spiritual sacrifice is ‘sacrifice only in the figural sense’. The finite being’s appropriation of its truth or essence requires a passage through the ‘absolute negativity and death’ (see death, finitude), but such a passage is the infinite process of the subject losing itself in order to better come back to itself (FT, 62, 73). The subject is turned toward an outside or an Other; it spills itself outside of itself in order to be restored to itself in its truth. Sublimated in this way, however, the cruel and bloody moment of real sacrifice nevertheless still fascinates. ‘If one looks carefully’, Nancy says, ‘one can find the place of sacrifice in all political philosophy’ (BSP, 5). Such a sacrificial politics is what Nancy calls in The Sense of the World (1993) ‘politics in truth’ or totalitarianism (SW, 89). It requires that one sacrifice one’s individual life to a higher instance: state, people or cause, even if this instance is seen as the inner truth of the individual (and not as something merely external to it). Emblematic here is G. W. F. Hegel (1770–1831), who does recognise the superiority of modern individuality over the holism of the ancient polis, yet modern individuality achieves its truth in the concrete universal of the modern state. The state, as the concrete universal, rejects all forms of particularisation and supersedes civic society as the realm of particularity and differences. Individuality is not something to be overcome or escaped in the state, as if the structure of the state imposed limits on individual wills, as is the case for example in Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679). On the contrary, the state is the ‘ethical substance’, the place where ethical life – that is, concrete and substantial reason – is realised (see ethics). This is why it is ethical for the individual to sacrifice his or her life to the universal in war (see Hegel’s Philosophy of Right §§324–5). Nancy finds such a politics also in Martin Heidegger (1889–1976). While in Being and Time (1927) authentic being-towards-death (what Heidegger calls anticipatory resoluteness) is not shared in common, it at the same time allows me to properly take over my own existence (see Heidegger 1962: §60). It brings me into ‘my Situation’, that is, face to face with the communal, historical possibilities handed over to me and which I have to make my own. It is the community that bestows upon my existence its sense, integration and wholeness, yet it does this by appropriating me to the common destiny of a people. My individual fate is brought into the common destiny of a ‘people’ (Heidegger 1962: §74). As Nancy shows in ‘The Being-With or Being-There’ (2003), Heidegger

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reproduces the most traditional understanding of ‘communal death’ as sacrifice. What Nancy finds in Georges Bataille (1897–1962), on the other hand, is a thinking of death as what reveals the impossibility of the community making itself through the sacrifice of individuality. For Bataille, human sacrifice is the emblematic form of excess or aneconomical ‘expenditure’. The individual imagines that her death is reabsorbed in the community, which bestows upon her an infinite sense, as if the limitation of her singular life were to be redeemed through the continuation of the life of the community. Yet, sacrifice does not bring about the communion of the individual with the group. Rather, in being exposed to an absolute loss or a meaningless expenditure such as the death of the Other, we experience finitude as something that we cannot appropriate and that cannot be put to work into a higher totality. Such an unworked community is still tied to sacrifice, provided we understand sacrifice as a pure expenditure without recovery. The shared experience of death Bataille is seeking through human sacrifice would not be put to work or subordinated to any one power, but aims instead to de-propriate the subject and liberate it from servitude, from the subjection to any function. Whether this is really the case is exactly Nancy’s question. There is still the risk, according to Nancy, that the sacrificial project serves the function of creating a community by operating a transfiguration of the subject, no matter how different this community imagined itself to be from homogeneous community. As long as the executioner, the victim and the spectator expect a transformation from the sacrificial experience, there cannot be absolute expenditure. The only way such a radical expenditure could occur would be if the participant would also commit suicide themselves. If this is the case, the Bataillian community would result in collective suicide and hence in a work of death. Nancy is also critical of the sacrificial politics he thinks is found in the work of Jacques Derrida (1930–2004). Because Derrida understands singularities as ‘absolute secrets’ and still insists on the absolute alterity of the other, he can only understand community on the model of sacrifice. Derrida’s alternative to the sacrifice of all singularities for the sake of an abstract or concrete universality is the unjustifiable election of one singularity at the expense of all others, who are as singular (and in a sense exactly the same) as each one (see the discussion of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac in The Gift of Death [1992]). Though the latter sacrifice is not the sacrifice of the individual to a transcendent cause or truth, it leads Nancy to believe that despite all disruptions and displacements of traditional politics, Derrida does not succeed in thinking being-in-common. By casting singularities not as absolute secret but as exposed unto



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their limits, Nancy can say that singular beings are not sacrificed but offered. Even though ‘offering’ resembles sacrifice to the point of confusion, Nancy assures us that ‘nothing is more different’ (FT, 74). Offering denotes a presentation without present, a gesture of giving that never settles in any fixed presence, but is held back at the edge of the recipient’s acceptance (EF, 117, 146). The semantic of offering links finitude with prodigality, generosity or liberality rather than limitation (EF, 10, 52–3, 147). The limits of the finite being do not cut it off from a transcendent truth or essence that it would have to appropriate through sacrifice, but are rather the place where the being is exposed, turned inside out, and hence feels itself existing. This is why Nancy can say that existence is unsacrificeable: there is no transcendent truth to which to accede. In On Touching (2000), Derrida expresses reserve toward the motif of generosity because according to him generous offering remains bound to congeniality and power (one gives because one can give and because one is congenitally or ontologically generous). Such generosity is still caught up in the economy of the gift (see Derrida 2005a: 21–3).

SARTRE, JEAN-PAUL Paul John Gorre Gilles Deleuze (1925–95) once praised Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–80) as the great teacher of the post-war French youth (Deleuze 2004: 77). Though Nancy is more appropriately associated with the subsequent May 1968 generation, the influence of Sartre upon the trajectory of two key aspects of his work is indelibly marked, even if in a largely critical form. The first case appears in the work on the notion of ‘the political’ (le politique) and the second in the work on philosophical accounts of freedom. Furthermore, that these two are intertwined only emphasises Sartre’s influence on Nancy. In works explicitly addressing the political, Sartre’s declaration that Marxism or communism is the unsurpassable horizon of our time is often cited (Sartre 1968: xxxiv). Though it is admittedly ‘hijacked’ against its original intent, it nevertheless serves as the critical starting point for an investigation into the possibility of a thinking of community worthy of the name – this is the aim of The Inoperative Community (1986). Sartre shapes Nancy’s thoughts on the retreat of the political, for he both exemplifies an instance of the closure of the political – by announcing the absolute limit of political thinking – and presents a manner of methodologically retracing a possible community through his notion of ‘totalization without

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a totalizer’. Nancy resists the latter, for it still commits to the tendency of actualising or presencing an essence of community or being-in-common. Regarding philosophical accounts of freedom – the focus of The Experience of Freedom (1988) – Nancy sees Sartre’s existential phenomenology as an exemplary instance of the traditional philosophical problems that accompany accounts of freedom: the commitment to what he calls the ‘ontology of subjectivity’, which grounds itself on a false sense of forcible causality amounting to a fictional necessity different from that of the natural order. It amounts to some subjects’ hard claim of ownership or responsibility for free acts such that freedom is reduced to the causal acts of an autonomous agent who self-determines her decisions or choices. Sartre’s work, insofar as Nancy reads him as ‘unhappy consciousness’, acts in contravention to the general surprising and open element of freedom that Nancy suggests characterises a more genuine experience of freedom. Still, Nancy’s thought bears the trace of Sartre’s influence despite being characterised as a paradigm of the faults of the circulating tendencies of Western thinking. This is clearest in the co-belonging of the question of the philosophical and the political. For Nancy, a genuine notion and experience of freedom is more appropriate to the retreatment of the political in the same degree as retreating the political amounts to an expression of genuine freedom. In this manner Sartre remains both educative and a problem as the very teacher/illustration of worthy problems. He is not only foundational but also must be overcome – the stage from whence happens the retreat. As such, Sartre can be said to be an unsurpassable thinker of Nancy’s core thoughts – community and the freedom proper to it. Consequently, Deleuze’s comments prove true, despite any protestation.

SCHELLING, F. W. J. Devin Zane Shaw Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling (1775–1854) is a German philosopher who made important, though now often neglected, contributions to the metaphysics of German idealism, philosophy of nature, philosophy of art, and theology. His work is typically divided into various periods (see Dunham et al. 2011). During the first period, which culminates in his System of Transcendental Idealism (1800), Schelling undertakes a critique of post-Kantian transcendental idealism in which he develops a naturephilosophy and a philosophy of art. Nature-philosophy aims to demon-



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strate first the natural basis of the subject’s activity, and second an organic concept of nature that emphasises the centrality of nature’s productivity (the Spinozist natura naturans) and the processes of chemistry, electricity and magnetism, rather than reducing natural processes to a merely mechanistic physics. The philosophy of art, which Schelling calls the ‘keystone’ of this system, has three characteristics. Artistic production, or what he calls ‘aesthetic intuition’, demonstrates the unity of unconscious (natural) and conscious production. It realises concretely (in the real) what philosophy demonstrates ideally (in contrast to practical reason, which can only approximate its object, the categorical imperative) and it opens the possibility of producing a new myth that can unite a people in an organic community. In 1801, Schelling announced ‘his’ system of philosophy, a bold return to metaphysics in the aftermath of the Kantian critical project, that he calls identity-philosophy or absolute idealism. While nature-philosophy and the philosophy of art play prominent roles in this period, Schelling advances in collaboration with G. W. F. Hegel (1770–1831) a critique of the subjective idealism of Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) and J. G. Fichte (1762–1814). Rather than positing the practical subject or absolute I as the foundation of the system, he argues that philosophy must proceed from the identity of subject and object. This identity is necessary, he claims, to explain the correspondence of the knower and what is known – subject and object – rather than presupposing it. The third period includes Schelling’s Philosophical Investigations into the Essence of Human Freedom (1809) and the various drafts of the Weltalter (Ages of the World). During this period, Schelling turns against and critiques the presuppositions of identity-philosophy – in short, the idea that logical necessity qua reason is the basis of all intelligibility. His philosophy of freedom explores the natural and historical-theological conditions necessary for human freedom, which is – as Nancy points out – ­conceptualised as an existential decision rather than modelled on the categorical imperative. The final period of Schelling’s work, which is characterised as the philosophy of revelation, takes shape around 1830 and remains a central preoccupation until his death. Though this work was only published posthumously, he delivered parts of it at the University of Berlin when he assumed in 1841 what was once Hegel’s chair in philosophy. Schelling aims to integrate critical or negative philosophy with what he calls positive philosophy. Negative philosophy, which is associated, in modern terms, with post-Kantian philosophy, serves to eliminate what is contingent from the ‘first concepts of being’ – it is confined to the essence or whatness of beings (Schelling 2007a: 144). Positive philosophy thinks the thatness or

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the fact of existence of God using the historical-theological resources of Greek mythology and the revelation in Christianity (see Nancy’s ‘Myth Interrupted’ [1985] and ‘Of Divine Places’ [1985], both collected in The Inoperative Community). On the basis of the differences among these periods, many commentators have concluded that Schelling was a protean thinker who never brought a system to conclusion (LA, 28). This conclusion overlooks his continued attention to the relationship – despite the changing significances of the terms – between ‘freedom’ and ‘system’. For Schelling, free activity precludes and prevents the possibility of a completed system. In his Letters on Dogmatism and Criticism (1795–6), for instance, he argues that a complete system cannot be lived by a philosopher: at that ‘moment [its creator] would cease to be creator and would be degraded to an instrument’ of his or her system (Schelling 1980: 172). In general, Nancy follows Martin Heidegger’s (1889–1976) interpretation of Schelling (see Heidegger 1985). On this account, Schelling is an important critic of Kant who nevertheless remains beholden to the metaphysics of the subject and onto-theology (see evil). Nancy and Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe (1940–2007), in their reading of the lectures collected as The Philosophy of Art (1802–4), argue that Schelling’s philosophy of art relies on the subject’s reflection as the basis for interpreting art (LA, 107). This interpretation, however, omits Schelling’s own criticism – engaged during the period of absolute idealism – that reflection as an activity of the understanding is a subordinate faculty for philosophical thinking. By claiming that art is subsumed under reflection, Nancy does not note how the historical specificity of art, especially the distinction between ancient and modern art, comes to undermine the supposed logical structure of Schelling’s metaphysics during the period of absolute idealism. In The Experience of Freedom (1988), Nancy engages Schelling’s philosophy of freedom, albeit indirectly through Heidegger. Nevertheless, even if one accepts the Heideggerian critique of Schelling’s onto-theology – that the absolute is ultimately interpreted as a being (God) or as will – the path of Nancy’s interrogation of evil and decision is nevertheless deeply indebted to Schelling. For Nancy, like Schelling, evil is interpreted as a positive possibility of existence, co-appearing with the good, rather than a lack or privation of knowledge or being (EF, 126). For Schelling, evil is conceptualised as the inversion of principles, turning the dark ground of existence against divine grace, annihilating human freedom through free activity. For Nancy, evil is stripped of its onto-theological character, but it is still thought as a decision against the freedom of existence. Evil is ‘the hatred of existence as such’, the attempt to force the openness of being into pure immanence or pure transcendence, in the same way that



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the demand for an organic or self-present community risks annihilating its other (EF, 128). To not decide for evil, for Nancy, is to give way to the ‘existentiality of existence’, the openness or sharing of what he calls being-with and being-in-common.

SCHMITT, CARL Andrew Norris Contemporary politics in general and the ‘war on terror’ in particular are increasingly defined by ideas inextricably linked with the name of Carl Schmitt (1888–1985). The mortal conflict between ‘us’ and ‘them’, legal exceptions made by the unregulated sovereign decision, the emergence of apparently permanent states of exception such as Guantánamo Bay, and the blurring of the distinction between war and peace all recall Schmitt’s prescient and disturbing work (see also sovereignty). The post-war confidence that the major battles had been fought, and that a stable consensus had been achieved among free (non-Stalinist) peoples on matters of political principle, is now a distant memory. Accordingly, the days when the study of political philosophy could be revived and driven by a project that sought to systematically work out ‘our intuitive convictions’ concerning the nature of justice in a well-ordered society seem to many to be well behind us (Rawls 1971: 4). Of those philosophers most heavily indebted to Martin Heidegger’s (1889–1976) work, Giorgio Agamben (1942–) has been most explicit in his appropriation and critique of Schmitt. But Schmitt also plays a quiet but important role in Nancy’s engagement with political questions. In particular, Nancy’s claim that the politics of community as it is ordinarily understood entails the autogenesis or autopoiēsis of identity through the elimination of what it is not (Jews, gypsies, terrorists and so on) directly recalls Schmitt’s identification of the concept of the political with the distinction between friends and enemies. Schmitt argues that politics as such concerns the assertion of the homogeneous community’s shared ‘way of life’ or ‘form of existence’ in a situation of conflict with ‘the other, the stranger’ (Schmitt 2007: 37). In the ‘high points of politics’, conflict with the existential enemy becomes a mortal matter, and the sovereign authority that utters the voice of the political Einheit ‘demand[s] the sacrifice of life’ (Schmitt 2007: 34, 54, 67, 71) (see sacrifice). In this process, the citizen himself becomes an object of purification in the sense that the private, embodied self is sacrificed in favour of the identification with the community. As Schmitt emphasises, in the final analysis, ‘all political concepts, images,

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and terms have a polemical meaning’ (Schmitt 2007: 30). Schmitt fights to defend the political from the ‘depoliticization’ of liberalism, which he sees as the culmination of a centuries-long ‘striving for a neutral domain’ that might transcend potentially violent political conflict (Schmitt 2007: 89). Liberalism seeks to evade the demanding decision and hierarchical sovereign authority characteristic of politics as such. Schmitt argues that this attempt to purge the world of politics proper (the war to end all wars) leads to a dehumanisation of all forces that might oppose this movement – a dehumanisation that in a bitter irony encourages the extermination of the opponent. At the same time, the search for a ‘neutral sphere’ in which the kinds of conflict that wracked early modern Europe might be set aside leads, in the end, to a celebration of technology. Here Schmitt’s argument bears striking resemblances to Heidegger’s analysis of the nihilism of technological modernity – with the crucial difference that the rise of technology is the result of human, political demands and conflicts as opposed to the history of Being. On Schmitt’s account, Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) thought he could rise above theological debate by essentially removing God from politics. As an early empiricist, Hobbes argues (1) that we can know only what we experience, (2) that what we experience is always finite, and (3) that an omnipotent, omniscient God is by definition infinite. This implies that there is and can be no direct knowledge of God, and hence that any theological debate about His qualities or the specifics of His revelation is essentially senseless. One can have no strong grounds for opposing a Catholic or Protestant sovereign, and hence no grounds for engaging in anything like the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. But if this argument secures a neutral domain by removing contentious religious debate from the public realm, it itself is based upon a metaphysical account of the nature of knowledge and being that not all could accept, and which thus could not itself achieve the desired neutral status. The same proves true of the attempt to ground (a)political neutrality on economic rationality, which collapses in the emergence of Marxist class war. In the end, only technology is truly neutral. But, paradoxically, this neutrality is not what one had hoped it would be: ‘the neutrality of technology is something other than the neutrality of all former domains. Technology is always only an instrument and weapon; precisely because it serves all, it is not neutral’ (Schmitt 2007: 91). In the end, politics and political struggle are inescapable. Both alone and in his work with Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe (1940– 2007), Nancy takes up Schmitt’s political analyses in a philosophical or post-philosophical idiom. In their ‘Opening Address to the Centre for Philosophical Research on the Political’, Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe make their concern with Schmitt fairly explicit:



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If there exists . . . a concept of the political (which, moreover, we would distinguish rigorously from the essence of the political), if a new concept of the political or something that one could present as such could become clear, then any such concept would, in our opinion, necessarily derive . . . from a philosophical field itself determined, that is to say, ancient, past, closed. (RP, 109)

Schmitt himself makes no distinction between the essence and the concept of the political, and in fact begins The Concept of the Political (1927) by announcing that what concerns him is the Wesen or essence of the political (Schmitt 2007: 19). The essence of the political as laid out by Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe corresponds to the essence of metaphysics in Heidegger’s account of technology, according to which ‘the essence of technology is by no means anything technological’ (Heidegger 1977: 4). Lacoue-Labarthe echoes this phrase when he writes that ‘the essence of the political . . . is by itself nothing political’ (RP, 71). Nancy surely agrees. The manner in which this subordinates the political to the metaphysical opens the possibility that Nancy’s thought will move beyond Schmitt; however, it also opens the possibility that it will collapse into an apolitical idyll. For Schmitt will surely disagree when Nancy writes of the social or political contract, ‘The whole question is whether or not we can finally manage to think the “contract” – the tying of the (k)not – ­according to a model other than the juridicocommercial model’ (SW, 111, my emphasis).

SENSE Jeffrey S. Librett The word ‘sense’, which Simon Critchley (1960–) has called ‘perhaps Nancy’s master word’, is a privileged name for Being in Nancy’s oeuvre (Critchley 2009: 241). Rather than seeking the ‘meaning’ or ‘sense’ (in German, Sinn) of being, as did Martin Heidegger (1889–1976), Nancy seeks to determine – but also to hold within a certain indeterminacy – being as sense, the sense that being might be. The (in)determination of ‘sense’ – which extends across much of Nancy’s oeuvre but becomes the central theme in The Sense of the World (1993) – can perhaps be most economically rendered by considering a series of negations of binary alternatives that circumscribe it. Thus, first of all, sense is not signification, the content of a determinate meaning, the ideal signified term associated with or vehiculated by a material signifier, but something like the possibility or opening of significance itself. In The Sense of the World, Nancy situates

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‘sense’ in absolutely close proximity to the world, but precisely not as a supersensuous meaning that would stand opposite the world qua object or sensuous referent. Nor is the sense of the world simply the world itself as sensuous manifold, given totality or ordered cosmos. Nancy is neither a materialist nor an idealist, neither immanentist nor transcendentalist. Sense and world remain distinguishable from each other but at the same time tactically or as it were tactilely inscribed in each other. They touch each other in a mutually constitutive chiasmus: each is said to ‘structure’ the other (SW, 8). This chiastic turning, however, is not exactly a totalisation, and certainly not the totalisation of a presence, because Nancy asserts emphatically – and indeed tries to demonstrate how it is the case – that we have neither a present sense (or meaning, orientation, transcendent direction, destiny, value-system and so on) nor a present world (because the world is complicatedly caught up in, constituted and rendered in many respects absent by representations) at our disposal. Sense and its ‘objective correlative’, the world, are therefore neither simply present nor entirely absent. Hence, their mode of existence is tied up with a temporality of selfdelay and self-anticipation. Temporally speaking, sense is always partially up ahead, as it remains in the process of its constitution, yet it is always behind us in that we are constitutively inscribed in memories, histories, languages and so on. Sense is no escape from time, because it is radically temporal through and through. In addition, sense possesses its own spatiality, in that it is associated with contiguity, proximity and existence (SW, 37–45). In both its temporal and its spatial dimensions, then, sense is a ‘being-toward’ (être-à) (SW, 12), a tension and extension from one space-time toward another, a movement and an inclination. As the French term sens indicates more clearly than the English equivalents of ‘sense’ or ‘meaning’, sense in Nancy’s sense is the directionality defined by a ‘between’-ness or intermediacy (neither here nor there, neither now nor then), at a distance from both inside and outside, self and other. With respect to subjectivity and objectivity, then, sense or meaning is neither something that one actively constitutes as an autonomous subject nor something that one simply, passively finds out there, given in or as the world. In a middle-voiced (dis)position, sense could be said to be something that ‘occurs to one’, except that it occurs to one as irreducibly plural. And not only is meaning or sense what occurs to us, but this occurrence is, as Nancy develops the notion, the (infinitely dispersed) collectivity of being and the being of this strewn collectivity. ‘We are meaning’ (BSP, 1) as the circulation, division, sharing, pursuit of and flight from being. For we are the relation among ourselves and our contexts into which sense stretches itself out.



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Finally, this active-passive singular plurality of meaning that we are, or in accordance with which we are, the collective process of our discovery and construction of sense is for Nancy neither truth nor falsity or fiction (SW, 12–15). Whereas truth takes the form of the fixation – the punctual presentation and signification – of an essence, sense existentialises essence, defers and differs from it, while bringing it into being. Sense opens truth onto an infinite de-termination (SW, 29–33). To this degree, sense diverges from truth, but without being its opposite or contrary. Being is being toward the world, as toward the sense it makes.

SEXUAL RELATION Peter Gratton The English translation of both relation and rapport, ‘relation’ is important in Nancy’s singular plural ontology as the very spacing of the ‘with’ or ‘co’ of existence. ‘Everything’ that occurs within the sexual relation, he writes, is ‘accounted for by [the] with, [the] co- of the community or of copulation’ (CII, 10) (see community). For the purposes of this entry, I will concentrate on Nancy’s rethinking of ‘relation’ in terms of sexual difference, particularly as he understands Jacques Lacan’s dictum that il n’y a pas de rapport sexuel, ‘there is no sexual relation’. Nancy’s main essays on the topic, collected in Corpus II, are a careful working out of the notion of rapport as opposed to relation, which is analogous to Nancy’s differentiation between the overflowing of sense and the reification of signification. In moving from rapport to relation we thus pass from something akin to the distinction in Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) and Emmanuel Levinas (1906–95) between the saying and the said, between a given activity and its product, between something that is originary and its consummation within a pre-given narrative. For Nancy, what is decisive is that – as the title of his essay on Lacan, ‘The “There Is” of the Sexual Relation’, suggests – we must be attuned to the ‘that there is’ of the sexual rapport. Lacan’s claim is that there is no common logic to bind the different logics of jouissance between or as the sexual relation. Nancy agrees inasmuch as he refuses to posit an overarching substance that would sublate the dyadic rapport between and among what we too casually call ‘the sexes’. (Nancy does seem to think of the sexual relation as, perhaps too restrictively, the ‘between two’ [CII, 8].) As in all of his work, Nancy wants to think the ‘with’ of the relation without erasing singularity, by making of all a single sexual mass, or by atomising given substances on either side of the supposed relation. Rather

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the rapport is the very opening of the taking place of the sexual; it is the ‘between’ of an ek-stasis: [R]elation happens only by means of distinction, and that is . . . what distinguishes beings (which I have here named bodies) without itself being. To say that there is no relation is then to state what is proper to relation: in order to be, it must not be a third thing between the two. . . . [I]t is the void – or space, or time . . ., or sense – which relates without resembling, or resembles without uniting, or unites without finishing. (CII, 8)

This is the ‘without relation of relation’, of what ‘is only between things’ (CII, 8). What then is the sexual relation? There is, Nancy suggests, no sex as such, no identifiable genre (gender or genre under which its narrative would fit). Just as Heidegger held, too, that language speaks man and not vice versa, Nancy argues that the ‘there is’ (l’il y a) of the relation is a sexuality ‘shared, shared out, and mingled’, which is then brought under the categories of this or that sex (CII, 10). Sex is ‘each time the properly infinite process of its own differentiation’ and sex is the ‘differing and deferring [of] itself’, in short, différance, the ‘opening of the between itself’ (CII, 11). The very spacing of intimacy occurs when what is most ‘my own’ is opened out, ecstatically, toward the other and the other in me (CII, 11). Sex, then, is of the ‘order of sense – and the senses of sense – where signs are in play but do not make signification’ (CII, 19). This is the exscription of the exclamation of sexual ecstasy – ‘fuck me’, ‘I’m coming’ and so on to infinity – where there is no other end to jouissance than its own ecstatic being-with: ‘jouissance enjoys itself, and this can happen only in the distinction, division, and relation of more than one who experiences jouissance’ (CII, 219). Sex is the play of the enjoyment of the between, where there is no other end to existence but what is at stake in this play (the jouer of jouir, the play involved in this bliss). But this rapport is always hic et nunc, emplaced and spaced, shared out, this instant: ‘There is in fact no relation as relation’, Nancy writes. ‘Indeed, fucking [baiser] does not take place as such, but [is] always otherwise’ (CII, 21). (Pornography, in this way, is what ‘pretends to be fucking as such’, though again there is no fucking as such.) Fucking, for Nancy, is the impossible self-relation of the relation itself, and as such is never purely sensed or signified (CII, 21): ‘Jouissance is not something we can achieve. It is what achieves itself and consumes itself in that achieving’ (or finishing that never is finished once and for all) (CII, 21). Despite all of this, for Nancy, the sexual is not merely an example or metonymy of a more general play of the ‘with’. The rapport of beingwith, he argues, is sexual: ‘Différance is sexual. . . . Therefore being is



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sexed and/or sexing’ (CII, 109 n. 6). It’s difficult to know what to make of this claim: is ‘to bed, to do, to fuck, but also to take, to penetrate, to jerk off, to touch’ (CII, 10) an intensification of an original being-with? Its condition of possibility? For Nancy, though, the sex ‘in all relations (linguistic, social, affective, aesthetic)’ is found in ‘the dimension of unaccomplishment’: ‘there is sex where there is no production, no result, and no positing of any sort of term’ (CII, 101). This links the co- of c­ opulation – that which consumes us without being consummated – to Nancy’s long thinking on community in terms of désœuvrement, its unworking and unworkability. To those who wish to reduce sex merely to this or that position – the ubiquitous lists offered on magazine covers at the check-out counters of the West – or to a given site for (re)production, Nancy argues that sex can’t even be reduced to what is dubbed ‘sexuality’. As such, jouissance is not an accomplishment or finishing, but the viens or the ‘come’ of our common being-with.

SHARING François Raffoul Nancy often insists that being is not common, but in common. To develop such a thought, the French term partage, usually rendered by ‘sharing’ or ‘sharing out’, offers invaluable resources. Partage has a long history in Nancy’s thought, ever since ‘Sharing Voices’ (1982), and was pursued as Nancy attempted ‘to deconstruct all philosophical wordings of “community” (its metaphysical, anthropotheological, political, even affective and aesthetic terms)’ (‘C’, 393 n. 2) (see community). It is also highly polysemic and Nancy proposes no fewer than ten senses of the term: ‘partition, repartition, part, participation, separation, communication, discord, split, devolution, destination’ (‘C’, 374, trans. slightly modified). Partage also includes dialogue, dialectic and the difference of the identical. What appears in these lists is that partage paradoxically signifies both a sharing and a separation. Nancy seeks to reveal in ‘sharing’ an essentially distributive quality, when sharing means distributing in several ‘shares’, when sharing means the same as dividing. Sharing would then not be associated with commonality and sameness but rather with difference. This is why some translators, in order to capture this latter sense, have opted to render it by ‘partition’ or ‘parturition’. However, this translation is equally inadequate in that it does not capture the ‘with’ that is also implied in partage. This explains why another practice has been to translate the term by using two terms: divide and share. Yet, an essential feature of Nancy’s

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thought of partage lies in the fact that it indicates at once a separation and a sharing. Indeed, common usage says something of this paradoxical indissociability; in sharing something, we necessarily also divide it. For instance, when used in the expression notre partage, the term indicates something like ‘our common lot’, that is, the lot that each of us has in common, i.e. shares. Partage thus designates the paradoxical concept of a community as sharing what cannot be shared, that is, the sharing of differences and singularities. This sense of ‘sharing’ could then best be rendered by the locution ‘sharing out’, so that the reader hears both the divisive and the inclusive senses in the term, unless one of the two senses is clearly emphasised. For example, the expression nous partageons ce qui nous partage, which Nancy uses frequently, cannot be rendered otherwise than by using the two terms: ‘we share that which divides us’. This illustrates Nancy’s often repeated statement according to which being or existence is not common but in common, en partage. The thought of sharing (out) seeks to designate our being-in-common as the exposure of singularities to one another. In The Experience of Freedom, Nancy insists on the separation of singularities as well as on their relation: on the one hand, solitude, as such, must be total, and freedom is nothing if not the independence of a singular being cut off from everything; but on the other hand, it is just as true (and ‘irreducible’), Nancy concludes, that ‘in solitude and even in solipsism – at least understood as a sola ipsa of singularity – ipseity is itself constituted by and as sharing’ (EF, 70).

SHOAH Jeffrey S. Librett The Shoah constitutes, along with subsequent and ongoing genocidal processes (in Sarajevo, in the Congo and elsewhere), an enduring and crucial background concern in all of Nancy’s work, especially insofar as much of his work comprises the large project of rewriting Martin Heidegger’s (1889–1976) analysis of Dasein as an analysis of being-in-common (BSP, 145–58). This large project attempts to overcome the limitations of fundamental ontology by correcting Heidegger’s failure to think sociality other than as inauthenticity or as submission to the destiny of a collective identity, a failure intimately bound up with Heidegger’s historically retrograde xenophobia and its National Socialist expression. Beyond (and within) the desire to produce a way of thinking human being-together that avoids nationalism, racism and other essentialisms of identity, however, Nancy also develops a significantly innovative account of the ideological



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foundations of the Shoah per se, an account that focuses on the National Socialist approach to representation. His account appears principally in ‘Forbidden Representation’, collected in The Ground of the Image (2003). Beginning his analysis in ‘Forbidden Representation’ by reconsidering the vexed question of the representation of the Shoah, Nancy argues that this question can be developed adequately only with reference to the Nazi project of the completion/annihilation of representation. This Nazi project coincides with the Shoah because the Nazis sacrificially identify the Jewish people with representation in its normal or incomplete form. That is, according to Nancy’s account, the  National Socialist ideology (or ‘worldview’ – a massive subjection to the gaze) was organised around a total achievement or perfection of representation that would coincide paradoxically with its overcoming and indeed its annihilation. In place of representation, in their hatred of absence and otherness the Nazis attempt and claim to put presence itself. Alluding to the National Socialist form of Nietzscheanism, Nancy calls this aspect of Nazi ideology the metaphysics of ‘superrepresentation’, namely ‘a kind of representation whose object, intention, and goal is fully completed within what is manifestly present. . . . [A] total, saturated presence’ (GI, 39). The foundation of such presence, for Nazi ideology, is of course the Aryan race itself. The Nazis identify this race with ‘super-representation’ – self-presence – while they identify the Jewish people (racially conceived) with representation in its traditional, everyday sense. Because normal representation – that is, all semiosis – involves an element of the failure to reconstitute pure spiritual presence, a material element associated with absence, nothingness, abandonment or death, the Nazis see such representation, and the Jews whom they brand its exemplary representatives, as what destroys or forbids the possibility of pure presence. If one can only get rid of representation, absence or lack itself will disappear, and if one can only get rid of those who are ‘responsible’ for representation, representation itself will be gone forever. Such is the murderous naïveté or stupidity of fascist logic. Thus, the ‘death camp constitutes the stage on which super-representation plays out the spectacle of the annihilation of what, in its eyes’ undermines it (GI, 40). The unprecedented horror of Nazi genocide in the service of this racist metaphysics of super-representation created, in the camps, a situation that was and remains in fact not properly representable: the ‘camps . . . brought about . . . a complete devastation . . . even of the possibility of representing, to such an extent that there is not even any way to represent this devastation’ (GI, 34). Nonetheless, and precisely in order to contest the appearance or possibility that the anti-representational genocide was

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successful, for Nancy, the task of representing the Shoah, although not in the sense of restoring it to full presence, remains an urgent imperative. But the task of representing the Shoah – the Shoah having been driven to a large degree by an attempt to forbid representation (as opposed to full presence) – must be undertaken within the larger forward-looking project of assuming the impossible character of representation more generally. For representation as (re)constitution of full presence is always ­impossible – forbidden and surprised, according to Nancy, by a dimension of absence that it can never exclude, and that we must affirm as belonging to its proper functioning.

SIGNIFICATION (see SENSE) SINGULAR PLURAL (see BEING-WITH; IDENTITY; SHARING) SOUL Christina Smerick Jean-Luc Nancy shies away from any sort of Platonic dualism or that of Christianity with regard to the soul and the body. The soul is not an animating principle, the breath of life, or that which comes from elsewhere to enliven dead flesh – Nancy firmly rejects any model of incarnation. He invigorates Aristotle’s use of the term ‘soul’ in order to demonstrate what can be meant by the claim that the soul ‘is the form of the body’ (C, 137). This is not to say that the soul is some sort of incorporeal map or plan that is imposed upon shapeless matter in order to create the body, but rather that there is a unity of soul and body in that the soul is ‘the body’s relation with itself’ (C, 126). The soul is the awareness of extension, which is the body. Body is extended, it is a taking-up of space; soul is the sense of this spacing, the awareness of the spatiality, and the exposure. The soul is the extension of the body in that it is the exquisite sensitivity to the space or openness of the body. Nancy also uses the term ‘soul’ to indicate ‘sense’. Rather than a ghost in a machine or an invisible site of personality or immortality, the soul is sense, the extension of the body as extending. To be human is to be ‘an extended sense’. If the soul is extended, if it is the knowledge or awareness of sensation itself, then the body is the site of the soul in that the soul is sense – the body is the locus of the site of touch, of sensing. The body is



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the place where existence happens in both a spatial and a temporal sense. In a slightly different direction, Nancy understands the soul as the movement of thought. The soul is both distinct and indistinct from the body. It is a res, a substance that cannot be reduced to the body, but it is not distinct from the body existentially, objectively or subjectively. The union of body and soul is one of relation or touching rather than substantiality. The soul is moved by the movements of the body, is affected by what touches the body. The soul has extension because the soul is moved, is motion – ‘e-motion’. Nancy writes, ‘The body is the extension of the soul to the ends of the world and to the confines of the self, the one tied to the other and indistinctly distinct, extension tensed to the breaking point’ (C, 144).

SOVEREIGN/SOVEREIGNTY Peter Gratton Deconstruction has, if anything, always been the autocritique of sovereignty in all its given forms and analogues: self-mastery, imperium, the phantasm of the eternal and infinite, and so on. Nancy’s thinking of sovereignty is found in two places in particular: ‘War, Right, Sovereignty – Technē’ (1991) (collected in Being Singular Plural) and ‘Ex Nihilo Summum (Of Sovereignty)’ in The Creation of the World or Globalization (2002), though a confrontation with the logic of sovereignty, especially Georges Bataille’s (1897–1962) claim that ‘sovereignty is nothing’ and Carl Schmitt’s (1888–1985) dictum that ‘sovereign is he who decides on the exception’, is littered throughout his writings. For Nancy, sovereignty is but another term for evil. As he put it in a 2013 interview: Evil is precisely to deny the world, to want to substitute for it an empire, whatever is sovereign . . . that can be as much the empire of capital as that of the ‘me’ or that of a god, of a technology drunk on itself or of a piety drunk on itself. (PM, 129)

Just as Nancy thinks we have exhausted any sense of the world beyond itself – in short, we must come through the other side of the Nietzschean invocation of the death of God – so too sovereignty marks an empty place once held by God, the monarch, the nation and so on, that grounded the ‘in common’ of the being-with of existence. He writes in The Sense of the World (1993), ‘there can be no doubt that sovereignty, as an identification of the “common” with the decision of being in common, has exhausted its resources of sense to become a pure object of truth, the effects of which

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in turn, of course, cannot fail to be effects of “purification”’ (SW, 90). More widely, Nancy is also clear that sovereignty is not extrinsic to the teleological thinking of much of the West: Every consideration about ends leads back to sovereignty. The power of ends, as the power of the ultimate or extreme, resides in a sovereignty. And every end, as such, is necessarily ordered by a sovereign end (a ‘sovereign good’). For the whole of our thinking, the End is in Sovereignty, and Sovereignty is in the End. (BSP, 120)

The sovereign is that which exempts itself from finitude, making itself the telos or end of a given system, bringing the plurality of existence under the logic of a unity. Nancy’s task in Being Singular Plural (1996) and The Creation of the World is to work out the logic of sovereignty while carefully showing its intimate relation, ‘in its physis and technē’, to war; it is the end for which war is fought ‘according to the only concept that is at our disposal’ (BSP, 121). As such, the problem of sovereignty is not merely a ‘metaphysical’ one but a political one, perhaps the first and last of all political problems. For Nancy, pace Schmitt, sovereignty is not a secularisation of a theological concept of God, but is rather atheological through and through, linked to the nontheology of the state and capitalist accumulation. While there are still resources from within a deconstruction of Christianity for Nancy to think a sense of the world, this radical atheology of that which is beyond spacing and plurality means we must engage in the praxis of thinking the truth of democracy, a sharing out of singularities whose interruption is executed in any phantasm of sovereignty, which is the non-shareable par excellence.

SPACING William Watkin There can be no consideration of familiar Nancy terms such as touch, sense, being singular plural and proximate distance without an understanding of his conception of spacing. There is a strong Heideggerian or phenomenological flavour to Nancy’s spacing in that spacing is what facilitates the measure of distance and of touching (see Martin Heidegger, phenomenology). Thus spacing as such in Nancy is not a measurable space but the space that is the measure of conceptualisations of connection, immanence, distance and transcendence. Thus there is no effective transimmanence without this conceptualisation of spacing. Although



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spacing is a recurrent theme throughout Nancy’s work, it is perhaps most prominent through the pages of The Sense of the World (1993) and its consideration of sense – let us call this for now meaning – and touching, which we call here bodily existence. As he says, ‘In a sense . . . sense is touching. The being-here, side by side, of all these beings-there’ (SW, 63). Sense or the process of making sense through touch is described here as ‘exaction and separation of a tact’ (SW, 63), which is another way of saying spacing as a form of separation that facilitates connection. From the very onset of The Sense of the World Nancy inscribes spacing as a central element of the overall system of the sense of the world by virtue of beings in their singular plurality being born to presence through the metaphysics of transimmanence. When Nancy maps out the basic dialectic of transimmanence, ‘Truth punctuates, sense enchains’ (SW, 14), he notes that the punctuation of truth, itself a concept highly reliant on Alain Badiou’s (1937–) event, is pure presentation as such without temporal or spatial origins. Subsequent to a truth, a singularity, sense joins together the punctuations by spacing them out. He goes on to state, ‘There is thus an originary spatiality of sense that is spatiality or spaciousness before any distinction between space and time: and this archi-spatiality is the . . . transcendental form of a world’ (SW, 14). In other words, sense is party to what might be called an indifferent spacing as such or, to use the Hegelian and Deleuzian formulation of indifference, sense is pure difference as such between two points that themselves are void of any identity except that of pure presentation. There is no sense without aspatial singularities, yet there is no singularity without another singularity and thus there is always a spatial element to every singularity. For each being to be singular it must also be plural and so must always be subject to an indifferent spacing between at least two singularities or a pure difference as such. Later Nancy goes on to explain this process with more clarity when he says ‘truth can be what it is only by spacing itself out into a world’ (SW, 48), or there can be no puncture without enchaining, no sense as meaning without sense as direction or bearing.

STRUCTION Matthew Ellison ‘Struction’ is a concept that appears in Nancy’s later work, principally in What’s These Worlds Coming To? (2011), a book co-authored with French physicist Aurélien Barrau (1973–). The term represents a development of

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Nancy’s thinking concerning the conjunction of ontology and technics (la technique) (see ecotechnics). Struction is a concept used in graph theory, though Nancy’s deployment of it is unrelated to mathematics. Rather, what Nancy is trying to think is the meaning and status of a struction before the addition of any prefix (con-, de-, in- and so on). According to Nancy, the Latin struo means ‘to amass’ or ‘to heap’. What is at stake in struction is an amassing or a piling up, a bare contiguity of beings without principle of coordination or ordering (WTW, 48–9). For Nancy the question of struction arises as the result of an intellectual paradigm shift. Whereas once it may have been possible to understand the world as organised according to an architectura paradigm, that is, as structured according to a ‘first or final construction’ (whether the ‘architect’ be God or Man), it must now be understood in terms of a structural or structional paradigm, ‘relative to an assembling that is labile, disordered, aggregated, or amalgamated rather than conjoined, reunited, paired with, or associated’ (WTW, 49). Technics, for Nancy, is now a matter of the ‘endless multiplication of ends, rather than means aiming at ends’ (‘HC’, 535). Nancy therefore argues that technological construction – the building of an artifice of ‘tools’ in the service of given ends or necessities – has become overconstruction due to the immeasurable and apparently limitless proliferation of these ends in a multitude of technical networks. This overconstruction destabilises or deconstructs (see deconstruction) not only given constructions, but also the very notions of construction, finality and utility: means and ends become strictly indistinguishable. Nancy can thus claim that ‘construction bore within itself the seed of deconstruction’ (WTW, 51). Struction, as the very ‘lesson of technology’ (WTW, 50), therefore names a way of understanding the world in our technical age, not as organised according to any blueprint or destiny, but as utterly without given ends. It refers to the resulting ‘uncoordinated simultaneity of things or beings, the contingency of their belonging together’ (WTW, 49). Relations among singularities do not unfold according to a determinate programme, but instead consist in ‘contiguity, contact, tension, distortion, crossing, and assemblage’ (WTW, 50). This lack of organisation does not mean that the world is meaningless, however. It is only when thought of as devoid of model and programme (and thus referring to nothing) that the world can make sense. Nor does it mean that our exposure to the condition of struction entails any kind of regression. Rather, Nancy writes, ‘[s]truction is liberation from the obsession that wants to think the real or Being under a schema of construction and that thus exhausts itself in the pointless quest for an architect or mechanic of the world’ (WTW, 53–4). Herein lies the ambiguity of the idea of struction, and indeed of Nancy’s



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thinking of technics as a whole. While the increasing autonomy of technics harbours an unprecedented potential for the destruction of the world (Nancy frequently speaks of a death drive in relation to technics), it is also that which lays bare sense and the world as being without model and without given end. For Nancy, struction is thus another name for the giving of being or sense in its absolute indeterminacy, or of what he calls the creation of the world in the book of the same name. One can therefore say that struction, as another name for the giving of existence, carries within it both a threat and a promise (to borrow a formulation by Jacques Derrida [1930–2004]). As such, it holds an important connection to deconstruction, a link Nancy articulates as follows: ‘deconstruction brought to its extremity touches on struction [touche à la struction]: a name for the real/res/nothing, for the inconstructible’ (‘HC’, 535). ‘The inconstructible’ here refers to that which precedes and exceeds all structuring and construction. It is ‘what is neither constructed nor constructible, but is set back from the structure, its empty space, and which makes it work’ (CW, 61). For Nancy deconstruction, so often and so wrongly perceived as nihilistic or merely destructive, has always sought to encounter precisely this force, this movement of the real (or of sense) that he is now calling struction: Struction offers a dis-order that is neither the contrary nor the destruction or ruin of order: it is situated somewhere else in what we call contingency, fortuity, dispersion, or errancy, which could equally be called surprise, invention, chance, meeting, or passage. (WTW, 54)

As a way of naming surprise and chance, struction also offers a way of thinking temporality. Referring not to ‘first or final constructions’ but to the naked contingency of existence or the real, ‘struction opens less onto a past or future and more onto a present that is never really accomplished in presence’ (WTW, 52). The time of struction is that of the taking place or happening (survenue) of the new, the event of its coming to presence. As such, struction can be seen as an interruption of the programming of linear temporalities and schemes of historical necessity that attempt to cover over the passing of time. It is a name for the ‘errancy’ of sense, and accordingly of our destinerrance, a term invented by Derrida that Nancy often employs to evoke our condition of being without given destiny. For Nancy it is the ‘sense of the errancy of sense’ that must be thought, such that we might better grasp our technical condition, or ‘find a way to recognize “sense” in struction’ (WTW, 57–8).

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SYNCOPE Katie Terezakis Nancy makes use of the concept of syncopation in Le Discours de la syncope: I. Logodaedalus, published in 1976; an English translation by Saul Anton was published in 2008. Medically, a syncope is a brief loss of consciousness, as in a swoon or faint. Phonetically, it is the loss of a sound from the interior of a word or at the juncture of two words. Musically, the syncope is a rhythmic deviation, such as the missed beat diverging from a regular tempo. The French colloquial use of avoir une syncope has the figurative sense of ‘I almost had a heart attack’ or ‘I almost lost it’. Syncopation invokes the notion of something that ‘is’ nothing in itself, but that creates a distinction between what precedes and succeeds it. The syncope is a loss of consciousness, diction or beat that departs from an otherwise established course, and that, precisely in being a ‘loss’, creates a difference, without conjoining or nullifying the regularity of its context, or whatever exists ‘before’ and ‘after’ it. Nancy appropriates the concept of syncopation in his analysis of the critical philosophy of Immanuel Kant (1724–1804). With the image of the syncope, Nancy suggests that there is a blind spot and an elision in the Kantian project, and that it resounds persistently (if unbeknownst to Kant) throughout Kant’s philosophy. Kant’s syncope or swoon is not a rupture geared toward ruination, nor is it an aporia, though Nancy does indicate that Kant’s syncope reveals an intrinsic ‘weakness’ or ‘undecidability’ in the critical project. Nancy depicts syncopation in Kant as analogous to the Cartesian cogito: the syncope is the flip side of consciousness and transcendental synthesis, which do not take notice of their identity until it momentarily fails them. According to Nancy, then, through Kant we learn that ‘philosophy syncopates its own foundation: that is how it forms itself ’ (DS, 70). As such, transcendental philosophy eschews traditional ontology and foundationalism, and becomes exposition. At the same time, Nancy employs the image of syncopation to imagine Kant’s attempts to eliminate his own personality or signature from his work, producing only the ‘monogram’ of the work in itself. Kant ‘blacks out’ on his true desire to compose elegant prose and to win the popularity that should come with it. Nancy takes Kant’s presentation of the architectonic in a ‘style without style’ alongside Kant’s literary self-denial; both syncopate the activity of writing in the elaboration of the philosophical system. Nancy argues that with the critical turn, Kant inaugurates an ethos of presentation or literary portrayal (Darstellung) itself, while both Kant and his system syncopate the conditions of their production. As a motif meant



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to raise questions about the ways that texts may bear meaning beyond their propositional claims, the syncope is related to the ideas of the ‘trace’ and of the ‘tonality’ of philosophical texts. Nancy’s treatment of the undecidability that attends Kant’s position on presentation prefigures his treatment of Romantic ‘irony’ and ‘incomprehensibility’.

T TAUTEGORY Devin Zane Shaw Tautegory is a term coined by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834) to differentiate between the significance of a symbol and the significance of allegory. Discussions of the tautegorical characteristics of mythology and Christianity can be found in Coleridge’s Statesman’s Manual (1816), Aids to Reflection (1825) and ‘On the Prometheus of Aeschylus’ (presented in 1825 and published in 1834). Coleridge, however, is neither the first (nor is he the last) to privilege symbol over allegory, nor the first to criticise allegory as a defective literary device and interpretive category. Similar claims are already found in early works by F. W. J. Schelling (1775–1854) (some of which Coleridge had read and appropriated or – as some claimed – plagiarised), including the lectures posthumously collected as The Philosophy of Art (1802–5) and Philosophy and Religion (1804). Schelling himself would later respond to accusations that Coleridge had plagiarised his work by stating that, for the ‘apposite expression’ tautegory, ‘I happily let [Coleridge] have the borrowings from my writings’ (Schelling 2007b: 187 n. e). According to Coleridge, an allegory, such as that of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, is a ‘translation of abstract notions into a picture language’ as a means to instruction. Allegory is a defective literary device because the imagery is external to the idea it represents. By contrast, a symbol is tautegorical insofar as it ‘partakes of the Reality which it renders intelligible; and while it enunciates the whole, abides as a living part in that Unity, of which it is the representative’ (Coleridge 1972: 30; see Coleridge 1995: 1,268). Thus the Prometheus myth, he contends, recounts the common genesis of law (nomos) and Idea, which reaches its fullest ­expression – in Schelling’s terms, its highest potency – in the opposition of producing nature (natura naturans) and human will (Nous).



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to raise questions about the ways that texts may bear meaning beyond their propositional claims, the syncope is related to the ideas of the ‘trace’ and of the ‘tonality’ of philosophical texts. Nancy’s treatment of the undecidability that attends Kant’s position on presentation prefigures his treatment of Romantic ‘irony’ and ‘incomprehensibility’.

T TAUTEGORY Devin Zane Shaw Tautegory is a term coined by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834) to differentiate between the significance of a symbol and the significance of allegory. Discussions of the tautegorical characteristics of mythology and Christianity can be found in Coleridge’s Statesman’s Manual (1816), Aids to Reflection (1825) and ‘On the Prometheus of Aeschylus’ (presented in 1825 and published in 1834). Coleridge, however, is neither the first (nor is he the last) to privilege symbol over allegory, nor the first to criticise allegory as a defective literary device and interpretive category. Similar claims are already found in early works by F. W. J. Schelling (1775–1854) (some of which Coleridge had read and appropriated or – as some claimed – plagiarised), including the lectures posthumously collected as The Philosophy of Art (1802–5) and Philosophy and Religion (1804). Schelling himself would later respond to accusations that Coleridge had plagiarised his work by stating that, for the ‘apposite expression’ tautegory, ‘I happily let [Coleridge] have the borrowings from my writings’ (Schelling 2007b: 187 n. e). According to Coleridge, an allegory, such as that of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, is a ‘translation of abstract notions into a picture language’ as a means to instruction. Allegory is a defective literary device because the imagery is external to the idea it represents. By contrast, a symbol is tautegorical insofar as it ‘partakes of the Reality which it renders intelligible; and while it enunciates the whole, abides as a living part in that Unity, of which it is the representative’ (Coleridge 1972: 30; see Coleridge 1995: 1,268). Thus the Prometheus myth, he contends, recounts the common genesis of law (nomos) and Idea, which reaches its fullest ­expression – in Schelling’s terms, its highest potency – in the opposition of producing nature (natura naturans) and human will (Nous).

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As Schelling will later note, Coleridge’s use of tautegory is not nearly as definitive as his critique of allegory. In ‘On the Prometheus of Aeschylus’, Coleridge wavers between two different meanings of the term. At some points he treats tautegory as a synonym for ‘philosopheme’, a philosophical doctrine in poetic form. At other points, tautegory designates the consubstantiality of meaning (as truth) and being in mythology or revelation. The difference between the two usages can be seen in his distinction between the Promethean philosopheme, which has ‘profound truth in it’ insofar as it recounts the cogenesis of idea (will) and law (nature), and the Mosaic doctrine of monotheism, which is ‘the truth’ (Coleridge 1995: 1,278). Indeed Coleridge treats the latter – Mosaic doctrine – according to the stronger meaning of tautegory, as a myth or revelation in which meaning and being are self-inaugural and living truth within the unity of Christian revelation. Schelling holds that mythology is tautegorical insofar is it ‘emerges immediately as such and in no other sense than in which it articulates itself. . . . To mythology the gods are actually existing essences, gods that are not something else, do not mean something else, but rather mean only what they are’ (Schelling 2007b: 136). This claim echoes his earlier claims, found in The Philosophy of Art, according to which, in the symbol, meaning and being are the same. Throughout his work, Schelling maintains that ancient Greek mythology remains an important paradigm of thought insofar as it presents the emergence of humanity within nature – theogony, for instance, presents the figuration of natural forces from which human history and consciousness emerge. The historical actuality of Greek mythology, for the early Schelling, offers the possibility of a new mythology to come – through artistic production – and a new community of humanity that would overcome the fragmentation of modern society. For the later Schelling, Greek mythology and Christian revelation set out a universal historical telos that explains first the emergence of human history out of nature and the subsequent elevation of humanity above nature. Nancy critiques the communal promises of the tautegorical character of mythology. He argues that the tautegory of myth – which stages a ‘scene of lived experience and of the performance of myth’ – repeats the foundational gesture of Western metaphysics, the self-inaugural gesture of an ‘absolutely foundational, symbolizing, or distributive speech’ (IC, 72, 52). He contends that the critique of myth does not involve the demythologisation of myth; such an account would repeat the foundational recommencement of community at the end of myth. Instead, Nancy argues that the critique of the self-inaugural power of myth, and its concomitant claim to unify community in common being (whether this being is a common



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and totalising identity, substance, autochthonous power, etc.), must be interrupted. To interrupt myth is to interrupt its claim to a tautegorical logos that, by structuring and totalising the being of community through a ‘poetico-fictioning ontology’ (IC, 54), forecloses on the singularity and finitude of the being-in-common of community. Nancy proposes that literature is one name of the interruption of myth. He offers two accounts to describe how literature interrupts myth. On the one hand, he claims that literature is detotalising and nontautegorical insofar as writing inscribes the limit of communication both as responding to something other than itself and as something always unfinished and interrupted by something other than writing (see literary communism). Literature, in ‘merely communicating . . . what it puts into play, sets to work, and destines to unworking, is nothing but communication itself, the passage from one to another, the sharing of one by the other’ (IC, 65). On the other hand, Nancy also suggests that literature invents both the idea of a tautegorical myth and the interruption of myth: ‘myth is simply the invention of literature . . . [literature] names “myth” that which it represents to itself as having been present before’ the inauguration of literature (IC, 72). If we consider Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe’s claims in The Literary Absolute (1978), it could be argued that this second account of literature underlines how the early Romantic concept of the genre of literature, as evidenced in its various iterations such as Schelling’s philosophy of art, projects into a historical past (or, in the case of the idea of a new mythology, a historical future) the idea of a tautegorical, communal mythology that is a retrospective conceptual creation of Romantic philosophy (see Romanticism).

TOUCH Marie-Eve Morin Touch was brought to the centre of Nancy’s thinking when Jacques Derrida (1930–2004) published On Touching – Jean-Luc Nancy (2000). A first, much shorter version of the text had already appeared in 1992 in a special issue of Paragraph dedicated to Nancy’s work. Touch is indeed a central theme in Nancy’s thinking and is somewhat equivalent to rapport or sense. That is, it names what happens between singularities, right at the extra of the partes extra partes. Contra both the common-sense and philosophical understanding of touch as the sense of proximity (by opposition to the senses of sight, smell and hearing, which can sense at a distance), Nancy insists that in touching, what is touched always remains outside of

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what touches it, so that the law of touch is not so much proximity as separation: ‘All of being is in touch with all of being, but the law of touching is separation; moreover, it is the heterogeneity of surfaces that touch each other. Contact is beyond fullness and emptiness, beyond connection and disconnection’ (BSP, 5). Another way of saying the same thing is to say that what is touched is always the impenetrable. If touch penetrated into the touched, it would not be touching. This is why Nancy understands the union of the soul and the body in René Descartes (1596–1650) in terms of touch. In this touch, both res remain intact but what is ‘communicated’ between them is a movement or an e-motion (C, 141). What is touched, then, is not so much another body but the open, the limit or the spacing between bodies. Hence touching always touches the untouchable. In his understanding of touch, Nancy distances himself from the phenomenological analyses of self-touching in Edmund Husserl (1859–1938) and Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908–61), for whom ‘analyses of selftouching always return to a primary interiority’ (C, 128) (see phenomenology). In On Touching, Derrida develops this remark and claims that the originality of Nancy’s thinking of touch lies in its insistence upon ‘a différance in the very inside of haptics’ (Derrida 2005a: 229), or a ‘technical supplementarity of the body’ (Derrida 2005a: 224; see Derrida 2005a: 96–7, 129). The long analysis of touch in various figures of the tradition that Derrida undertakes in On Touching aims to show first that there is at the heart of touch a desire to master and assimilate that on the edge of which touch happens, and second that this desire to assimilate is predicated upon a certain homogeneity. Touch is here thought in terms of identity, homogeneity and presence, even when a certain distance and interruption is underlined. For example, in Husserl’s or Merleau-Ponty’s analyses of self-touching, the touching never coincides or merges with the touched, and it is indeed in preserving this distance or difference between touching and touched that there can be sensing. Yet, this sensing, this ‘proto-reflection’, folds back upon itself in order to give rise to the synthesis of one’s own body. The duality sensing-sensed is what allows me to experience this body as my own. As Derrida explains: ‘This detour by way of the foreign outside . . . is . . . what allows us to speak of a “double” apprehension (otherwise there would be one thing only . . .) and what allows me, after undergoing this singular experience, . . . to say “this is my body”’ (Derrida 2005a: 175). The experience of self-touch is what puts me in touch with, or makes me present to, myself, so that the loop of the touching-touched closed itself upon an interiority: my own body. Never does the distance between touching and touched undermine the integrity of my own body. On the contrary, Nancy’s thinking of touch, Derrida writes, ‘first recalls



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sharing, parting, partitioning, and discontinuity, interruption, caesura – in a word, syncope’ (Derrida 2005a: 156). It is in this sense that Nancy will speak, instead of a self-touching-oneself that would lead back to an interiority, of a se-toucher-toi, a ‘to self-touching-you’ or ‘to feel-oneselftouching-you’ (C, 38; Derrida 2005a: 34, 108, 278, 281–2, 290). Very simply, there is no ‘I’ that overcomes or surveys in reflection the distance between hand and hand, I and you. At the same time, Derrida worries that, in turning touch into the figure or the name of interruption or of exteriority and in speaking of a touch that succeeds in interrupting itself, Nancy still renders the intangible (the limit) tangible, accessible, present (Derrida 2005a: 38, 295–6). The figure of touch not only serves to describe what happens between bodies or parts of bodies. Writing itself must also be understood in terms of touch. Writing should not be ‘about’ the body, should not content itself with signifying what is outside of it. Rather it should touch the body or the thing and in this way become touching itself. Writing consists in ‘touching the body (or some singular body) with the incorporeality of “sense.” And consequently, to make the incorporeal touching, to make of meaning a touch’ (C, 11). This touching does not happen, Nancy says, ‘exactly in writing. . . . But along the border, at the limit, the tip, the furthest edge of writing nothing but that happens’ (C, 11). It is this process that Nancy calls exscription: the significations that are inscribed are also placed outside by the materiality of the text itself. In Noli Me Tangere, Nancy addresses Derrida’s concerns about the Christian underpinning of touch (see Christianity, corpus). While discussing Christ as the touching and touched God, Nancy turns to the scene, in the Gospel of John, when Jesus instructs Mary Magdalene, at the moment when she recognises that the gardener outside of Jesus’s tomb is in fact the risen Christ himself, not to touch him (John 20: 17). At that moment, between death and life, the touching-touched God has become untouchable. Nancy understands this ‘interdiction’ of touching the resurrected body as the imperative not to come ‘into contact with its manifest presence, to accede to its real presence, which consists in its departure’. In fact, to touch Christ ‘or to hold him back would be to adhere to immediate presence, . . . it would be to miss the departing [la partance] according to which the touch and presence come to us’ (NT, 15). To want to touch Christ would be to think of resurrection in terms of a resuscitation that makes the beginning of a new presence. But the truth of the resurrection, for Nancy, lies not in the presence of Christ here below but in the departure of presence, a departure that is the law of sense and of touch. The interdiction of touch concerns the full presence of a body that would be fully in this world or of this world and it allows for another dimension to

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be touched: ‘this dimension from which alone comes glory, that is, the brilliance of more than presence, the radiance of what is in excess of the given, the available, the disposed [déposé]’ (NT, 17). This other dimension is the opening or spacing of the world that is its sense. Hence, Nancy argues, contra Derrida, that Christian touch need not be understood metaphysically as a making present.

TRANSCENDENCE (see IMMANENCE; TRANSIMMANENCE) TRANSIMMANENCE Mark Lewis Taylor Transimmanence is Nancy’s concept for naming and locating the places and movements at work within his unique and expansive notion, ‘the sense of the world’. If the world’s sense is its continual ‘taking place’ (BSP, 5), always-circulating and opening through incessant joining, playing, speaking, sharing and passaging within both the knowing and being of bodies in the world (SW, 78), then transimmanence is Nancy’s word for naming these interplaying dynamics, and also locating them. The locating is expressed in Nancy’s writing as a concern with a logic of spacing, or of weighing, among dynamically charged entities. But the locating function also expresses Nancy’s mindfulness regarding the spatial and locating consciousness of Western discussions of ‘transcendence’ and ‘immanence’. Transimmanence, then, is a concept that ‘locates’ in two related ways: throwing into relief the heart of Nancy’s project, while also situating his project in relation to broader discussions. The concept of transimmanence can be introduced by examining a key extract from The Muses (1994): One could also put it this way: art is the transcendence of immanence as such, the transcendence of an immanence that does not go outside itself in transcending, which is not ex-static but ek-sistant. A transimmanence. Art exposes this. Once again, it does not ‘represent’ this. Art is its ex-position. The transimmanence, or patency, of the world takes place as art, as works of art. (M, 34–5)

As a first key trait, there is here the dialectical relation of transimmanence to the notion of transcendence. The very notion of transimmanence is broached by Nancy in relation to ‘transcendence’. When pronouncing



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art as transimmanence Nancy announces it as ‘the transcendence of immanence as such’, or ‘the transcendence of an immanence’. Here, trans­ immanence is introduced as emerging through (dia) engaging transcendence. This does not mean that thinking transcendence is the necessary precondition for the possibility of thinking transimmanence. It does mean, though, that transimmanence has provenance in discourses of transcendence. Nancy’s notion of transimmanence engages and then breaks from or deconstructs the notion of transcendence. Indeed, there is a ‘refusal of transcendence’, as called for by theorists such as Michael Hardt (1960–) and Antonio Negri (1933–) (Hardt and Negri 2000: 90–1). Nancy’s refusal, though, remains mindful of the term’s provenance in Western discourses of transcendence. Like Ernesto Laclau (1935–2014) (Laclau 2005: 244), Nancy can reference mainly ‘failed transcendence’, but in so doing develops his counter-position to transcendence as a dialectical engagement of transcendence. Nancy’s refusal is a deliberate working amid the ruins of transcendence, its legacy of failure. What now, more positively, can be said about transimmanence itself? Second, the extract from The Muses highlights the transiting, crossing character of transimmanence. Obviously, the very prefix of the term, trans- (from the Latin trans, ‘across’), suggests this. Transimmanence is a crossing, but without being the type of crossing or ‘crossing over’ that entails, as in transcendence, an ascending (scandere, from the Latin for ‘to climb’) to some place above or outside world. Transimmanence is a transiting or crossing entirely within world. It ‘does not go outside itself in transcending’. But what is the uniqueness of transimmanence’s crossing, its transiting, if it is not ascension to an ‘outside’? The third aspect of our extract offers a crucial response: transimmanence is an ‘ek-sisting’. In the Greek, ek-, as originally from eik, concerns a point whence action or motion proceeds. It is not so much a standing out as the ‘ex-’ in ek-stasis (ecstasy). Nancy’s transiting in transimmanence keeps the focus not on anything that might stand out from world, but on a motion that is a moving into ‘outer’, always other within the world. The emphasis is on a sliding or passing through. Ek-sisting is continual transiting through the complexities of world, finding edges, ever new routes to edges, alternative dimensions of depths within, tracing the textures and layering through which movement occurs – unceasingly. It is a motion or exteriorisation that does not actually go outside (‘What outside?’ Nancy often quips) but does pass toward an outer within world. This is what B. C. Hutchens calls ‘open immanence’, not ‘closed immanence’ (Hutchens 2005: 167). This ek-sisting, more broadly, is also a resistance to closure. As Nancy argues in Corpus (1992), transimmanence is world in extension, continually extending, coordinating separation and relation (C, 95); but

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this extension, a mode of weighing, works in continual, labile tension with another kind of weighing, an amassing that Nancy calls ‘concentration’ (C, 77, 79). Nancy can term the transimmanental opening of the spacings of extension amid concentration a ‘revolt’ and ‘liberation’ of bodies (C, 111). There is a fourth aspect of our passage that both clarifies transimmanence and points to a central, expansive domain of Nancy’s project: transimmanence as ‘ex-positional’ through art. ‘Art is [transimmanence’s] ex-position’ (M, 35). Art is ex-position not as we might refer to essays and speeches as expositions, but as a ‘putting out’ and ‘into place’ (Old French, poser). By putting into place, art puts into being, into some place amid the multifarious spacing of the world. Transimmanence as ex-posited through art is linked to the dynamism that generates the sense of the world. Nancy says further in our extract that transimmanence taking place as works of art is a ‘patency’. With this term Nancy seems to draw on the medical and phonetic uses of the term, referring to patency as ‘being unblocked’, being-with other entities such that free flow and passing occur. In other words, transimmanence, as ex-positional through the arts, works to clear passageways, moving deftly, creatively, to make places and spaces of the world. The ex-positing that is the work of art is a reforging of the world as extension (again in agonistic relation to world as concentration), thus creating or ex-positing both ‘intimacy and withdrawal’ of multiply-sensed and sensing bodies in a singular plural world (C, 33). In sum, transimmanence names within Nancy’s project the dynamic, ceaselessly flowing sense of the world, which evolves and revolves into ever more textured and artfully ex-posited complexity. This is also a ‘revolt of bodies’ toward freedom (C, 101). Within the larger discussions of transcendence and immanence, then, Nancy’s ‘transimmanence’ is not simply a matter of having done with both, declaring a pox on both their houses. Nancy, instead, strikes a neither/nor approach to transimmanence/ immanence, recasting both in the discursive milieu of transimmanence.

TRINITY Christina Smerick In a 2001 interview, Jean-Luc Nancy provides a relatively straightforward account of the Trinity: it is one God in three persons, Father, Son and Spirit; it is not a ‘structure, but a working’ (‘LC’). In Adoration (2010), he reiterates that ‘God is relation’, and is ‘his own relation’, an absolute relation as such, which does not rely upon static substances but is the between itself: ‘breath, spirit: sense’ (A, 30). The Christian God is thus



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not substantial, not a substance, but relation to itself (see Christianity, sexual relation). Taking each relation in turn, Nancy’s understanding of the person of the Father seems to hold with his articulations of monotheism generally – ‘a god infinitely withdrawn’ or beyond Being, who is not present (PC, 20). Nancy is most interested in the person of the Son, in particular the notion of Jesus as the Spirit made Flesh, as articulated in the doctrine of homoousia, the consubstantiality of God’s nature and human nature in one being, that of Jesus. He utilises Christ as the consubstantiality of flesh and spirit to deconstruct the body/soul or body/sense oppositions. The Trinity brings homoousia and parousia (the physical presence of Christ-asGod) together in a way that undermines both terms. Father and Son are identical and yet separate; the Son is present and yet God (the Father, the God of monotheism) is never present. Regarding the person of the Holy Spirit, Nancy is reticent, noting in a round-table discussion that ‘the Spirit is the relationship from Father to Son, from Son to Father, and from God to all men’ (‘SDC’). In Adoration, he describes the Spirit as that which ‘opens in [the father] the relational dimension’ (A, 51). He rarely mentions the Holy Spirit directly (although he uses the word ‘spirit’ elsewhere) but does state in Dis-Enclosure that the Holy Spirit is ‘already outside itself (that is its Trinitarian nature)’ (D-E, 82). Nancy’s interest in the Trinity seems to cohere primarily around the notion that Christianity, by virtue of having such doctrines, is the first and perhaps only religion that generates its own questioning from within. This supports his contention that Western thought and its conundrums are dependent upon or at least beholden to the peculiarity of Christian thought, which seems, from its very beginning, to undo itself. Finally, Nancy draws from Trinitarian theology presented in Christianity to work out the Gordian knot of transcendence/immanence, outside/inside and sense/being.

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U UNWORKING (see INOPERATIVITY)

W WEIGHT (see MATTER/MATERIALITY) WORKLESSNESS (see INOPERATIVITY) WORLD Jane Hiddleston ‘World’ exists in Nancy’s vocabulary insofar as it designates something that no longer exists. Early on in The Sense of the World (1993), Nancy affirms categorically that ‘[t]here is no longer any world: no longer a mundus, a cosmos, a composed and complete order (from) within which one might find a place, a dwelling, and the elements of an orientation’ (SW, 4). This means that ‘world’ now cannot be considered in relation to some prior meaning; it has no ‘assignable signification’ (SW, 5), and cannot be represented. It is not defined in relation to an exteriority, it cannot be conceived by reference to anything outside itself, and it does not even belong to the order of representation. Rather, the sense of the world, as opposed to any putative meaning, is the dynamic, multiform mass of existence, and it is sharing itself beyond the sharing of any given meaning. The world does not have sense; it merely is sense, the concreteness or praxis of sense, ‘that on which our existence touches and by which it is touched’ (SW, 10) (see touch). This sense is beyond knowledge and outside presence, and is nothing other than the unworking of sense, the excess that is left behind by sense. Moreover, ‘world’ is what emerges from the vast web of relations among singularities and continually exposes

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U UNWORKING (see INOPERATIVITY)

W WEIGHT (see MATTER/MATERIALITY) WORKLESSNESS (see INOPERATIVITY) WORLD Jane Hiddleston ‘World’ exists in Nancy’s vocabulary insofar as it designates something that no longer exists. Early on in The Sense of the World (1993), Nancy affirms categorically that ‘[t]here is no longer any world: no longer a mundus, a cosmos, a composed and complete order (from) within which one might find a place, a dwelling, and the elements of an orientation’ (SW, 4). This means that ‘world’ now cannot be considered in relation to some prior meaning; it has no ‘assignable signification’ (SW, 5), and cannot be represented. It is not defined in relation to an exteriority, it cannot be conceived by reference to anything outside itself, and it does not even belong to the order of representation. Rather, the sense of the world, as opposed to any putative meaning, is the dynamic, multiform mass of existence, and it is sharing itself beyond the sharing of any given meaning. The world does not have sense; it merely is sense, the concreteness or praxis of sense, ‘that on which our existence touches and by which it is touched’ (SW, 10) (see touch). This sense is beyond knowledge and outside presence, and is nothing other than the unworking of sense, the excess that is left behind by sense. Moreover, ‘world’ is what emerges from the vast web of relations among singularities and continually exposes



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those singularities to one another; it is the very relationality of entities or existences one with the other. ‘World’ is another name, then, for singular plural being; it is an emptied-out collective term for our formless, immanent being-in-common. It is the space of the opening-out of singularities one to the other without common ground or origin. ‘World’ is merely the co-existence of singularities, and is also itself, then, multiple: ‘The world is always the plurality of worlds: a constellation whose compossibility is identical with its fragmentation, the compactness of a powder of absolute fragments’ (SW, 155). This emptying out of the ‘world’ is an effect, Nancy argues, of globalisation, which has precisely destroyed the world as signifier of a community. The world at this particular historical moment is nothing more than ‘agglomeration’, not a globe that unites but merely a glomus. A world might be understood, according to Nancy, as a totality of resonances, a common place or a manner of being: ‘an ethos, a habitus and an inhabiting: it is what holds to itself and in itself, following to its proper mode’ (CW, 42). It may no longer be the creation of a God, understood by reference to that God, but it is a totality of beings as they share a common locus. Yet this totality is what is destroyed in the recent growth of globalisation, fuelled by global capitalism and global technoscience. The force of globalisation in fact destroys relationality, sharing and the convergence of knowledge, and works against the creation of a world as ethos or praxis. Nancy calls, then, for a new process of ‘world-forming’, which would reignite and reinvigorate the ongoing process of the creation of the world as the space of the mutual exposure of singularities. This ‘world’ would provide not a new, settled form of meaning, but rather ‘the insatiable and infinitely finite exercise that is the being in act of meaning brought forth in the world [mis au monde]’ (CW, 55).

WORLD-FORMING (see GLOBALISATION)

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N ote s on C on tri but o r s

Matthew Ellison is a graduate student in the Department of French at University College London. His research, funded by the Wolfson Foundation, focuses on the question of politics in the thought of Jean-Luc Nancy. Rick Elmore received his PhD in philosophy from DePaul University in 2012. He works primarily on issues in contemporary French philosophy and critical theory with a focus on violence, ethics and animal studies. He is assistant professor of philosophy at Appalachian State University. Patrick ffrench is Professor of French at King’s College London, where he researches and teaches in twentieth-century French literature and thought. He is the author of The Time of Theory: A History of Tel Quel (Oxford, 1996), The Cut: Reading Bataille’s Story of the Eye (British Academy, 2000) and After Bataille: Sacrifice, Exposure, Community (Legenda, 2007). With Ian James, he was the editor of a special issue of the Oxford Literary Review (36.2) on Jean-Luc Nancy, Exposures: Critical Essays on Jean-Luc Nancy (2005). Miriam Fischer-Geboers is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Basel in Switzerland. Her habilitation project on the ethics of language focuses on the relation between language and violence in the moral and extramoral sense. From 2009 to 2014 she was head research assistant to Emil Angehrn, also at the University of Basel. She is the author of Denken in Körpern. Grundlegung einer Philosophie des Tanzes (Alber, 2010) and ‘Jean-Luc Nancy: La danse comme pensée’, in Paule Gioffredi (ed.), À l’(a r)encontre de la danse contemporaine. Porosités et résistances (Harmattan, 2009); translator of Jean-Luc Nancy, Ausdehnung der Seele. Texte zu Körper, Kunst und Tanz (Diaphanes, 2010); and co-editor (with Emmanuel Alloa) of Leib und Sprache. Zur Reflexivität verkörperter Ausdrucksformen (Velbrück, 2012). Russell Ford is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Elmhurst College. His work is primarily concerned with the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and issues in social/political philosophy and aesthetics. He has published essays in The Southern Journal of Philosophy, Philosophy Today



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and Philosophy and Rhetoric, among other places, and he is the translator of Pierre Klossowski’s Such a Deathly Desire (SUNY, 2007). He is the editor of a forthcoming special issue of Angelaki, ‘Why So Serious? On Philosophy and Comedy’ (2017). Michael Gallope is Assistant Professor in the Department of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Minnesota. Paul John Gorre is a PhD candidate in philosophy at the New School for Social Research. His dissertation investigates the cultural significance of modern scientific knowledge and methods from a phenomenological perspective. His other research areas include twentieth-century continental philosophy, socio-political philosophy and design studies. He is a Visiting Instructor at Pratt Institute and Teaching Fellow at both Parsons The New School for Design and Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts. Peter Gratton is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the Memorial University of Newfoundland. He has published numerous articles on political, continental and intercultural philosophy and is the author of The State of Sovereignty: Lessons from the Political Fictions of Modernity (SUNY, 2012) and Speculative Realism: Problems and Prospects (Bloomsbury, 2014). Executive board member of the International Association for Philosophy and Literature, and books editor of Derrida Today, Peter has also edited three books: Traversing the Imaginary (Northwestern, 2007), co-edited with John Mannousakis; Jean-Luc Nancy and Plural Thinking: Expositions of World, Politics, Art, and Sense (SUNY, 2012), co-edited with Marie-Eve Morin; and The Meillassoux Dictionary (Edinburgh, 2014), co-edited with Paul Ennis. He is editor, along with Sean McGrath, of the Edinburgh book series New Perspectives in Ontology. James Griffith teaches philosophy at the Bratislava International School of Liberal Arts. He primarily works on early modern philosophy and continental philosophy. His dissertation, defended at DePaul University, is titled ‘Fable, Method, and Imagination in Descartes’. He is also the translator of Yves Charles Zarka’s Hobbes and Modern Political Thought (Edinburgh, 2015). W. Chris Hackett is Research Fellow/Lecturer, School of Philosophy, Australian Catholic University. He is the co-author, with Tarek Dika, of Quiet Powers of the Possible: Interviews in Contemporary French Phenomenology (Fordham, forthcoming 2015) and translator of ­Jean-Yves

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Lacoste, From Theology to Theological Thinking (University of Virginia, 2014) and Emmanuel Falque, God, the Flesh and the Other: From Irenaeus to Duns Scotus (Northwestern, 2015). He is presently ­ completing an English edition of Jean Wahl, Existence humaine et transcendence (1944). Martta Heikkilä is Adjunct Professor in Aesthetics at the University of Helsinki, Finland. She lectures and publishes on theory of contemporary art and aesthetics in the context of modern continental philosophy, particularly phenomenology and poststructuralism. She is the author of At the Limits of Presentation: Coming-into-Presence and its Aesthetic Relevance in Jean-Luc Nancy’s Philosophy (Peter Lang, 2008), and has contributed to Jean-Luc Nancy: Justice, Legality and World (Continuum, 2011) and Limite – illimité: questions au présent (Cécile Defaut, 2012). Her current research project concerns the topics of deconstruction and the visual arts and in recent years she has edited and written Finnish volumes on art criticism and philosophy of drawing. She worked at the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts as a Senior Lecturer in Art Theory in 2012–14. Jane Hiddleston is Associate Professor at the University of Oxford, and Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford, where she has been teaching French and francophone literature and literary theory since 2005. She has published several books, including Assia Djebar: Out of Algeria (Liverpool, 2006), Poststructuralism and Postcoloniality: The Anxiety of Theory (Liverpool, 2010) and Decolonising the Intellectual: Politics, Culture, and Humanism at the End of the French Empire (Liverpool, 2014). She is currently working on a project exploring conceptions of literature and its role in recent North African fiction. Daniel Hoffman-Schwartz is an Associate Research Scholar in the Department of Comparative Literature at Princeton University. He is the editor of Flirtations: Rhetoric and Aesthetics this Side of Seduction (Fordham, 2015) and the author of recent or forthcoming pieces on Edmund Burke and Novalis, Derrida and Lucretius, and Percy Shelley and Breaking Bad. Ian James completed his doctoral research on the fictional and theoretical writings of Pierre Klossowski at the University of Warwick in 1996. He is a Fellow of Downing College and a Reader in Modern French Literature and Thought in the Department of French at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of Pierre Klossowski: The Persistence of a Name (Legenda, 2000), The Fragmentary Demand: An Introduction to the



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Philosophy of Jean-Luc Nancy (Stanford, 2006), Paul Virilio (Routledge, 2007) and The New French Philosophy (Polity, 2012). Brian Kane is Associate Professor on Term in the Department of Music at Yale University, and the author of Sound Unseen: Acousmatic Sound in Theory and Practice (Oxford, 2014). His research explores the intersection of music theory, philosophy and contemporary music with a focus on sound, listening, the senses and phenomenology. Catherine Kellogg is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Alberta. She specialises in contemporary political theory, and is the author of Law’s Trace: From Hegel to Derrida (Routledge, 2010). She has also published numerous articles and book chapters on Arendt, Hegel, Derrida, Malabou, Benjamin, Nancy and Agamben. Her work has appeared in such journals as Law, Culture and the Humanities, Philosophy & Social Criticism, Law and Critique, Cultural Values and Theory & Event. Her current project is a book-length study tentatively titled Sovereignty and Cruel Treatment. Gilbert Leung holds an LLB (Hons) from the University of Lancaster, a joint LLM and DEA (diplôme d’études approfondies) from the European Academy of Legal Theory, and a PhD from Birkbeck, University of London, with the thesis ‘Radical Cosmopolitanism: Law, Freedom and World Creation’. He has previously taught in law schools in the UK, Luxembourg, Germany and Albania and is currently focusing on a monograph titled Jean-Luc Nancy: The First Question of Law. His principal research interest lies in the nexus of law, critical theory and philosophy, and he has previously published in, amongst others, The Journal of Law, Culture and the Humanities, Law and Critique and Law and Humanities. He is an editor of Critical Legal Thinking, an online platform for critical legal theorists and allied thinkers to publish theoretically informed comment and analysis on current events, and one of the directors of Counterpress, an open access publisher of critical and legal theory. Jeffrey S. Librett is Professor of German and Head of the Department of German and Scandinavian at the University of Oregon. He is the author of The Rhetoric of Cultural Dialogue: Jews and Germans from Moses Mendelssohn to Richard Wagner and Beyond (Stanford, 2000) and Orientalism and the Figure of the Jew: Groundlessness and Disavowal in Modern German Thought (Fordham, 2014), as well as numerous essays on literature, philosophy, psychoanalysis and theory from the eighteenth century to the present. He is founding editor of the ejournal Konturen,

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and translator of diverse texts, including Jean-Luc Nancy’s The Sense of the World and Of the Sublime: Presence in Question by Michel Deguy et al. (SUNY, 1993). Bryan Lueck is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. His research focuses on topics in normative ethics, including obligation, dignity, contempt and forgiveness, as well as on issues in twentieth-century and contemporary continental philosophy. He is the author of numerous articles on such figures as Immanuel Kant, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jean-Luc Nancy, Jean-François Lyotard and Michel Serres. John Martis SJ (PhD, Monash University) is the Head of the Departments of Philosophy at Jesuit Theological College and the United Faculty of Theology, within the MCD University of Divinity in Melbourne, Australia. His research interests include philosophical subjectivity, in its relation to faith, and relatedly the possibility of bridging phenomenological and deconstructive approaches to investigating experience. He is the author of Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe: Representation and the Loss of the Subject (Fordham, 2005). Marie-Eve Morin is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. Her research interests include phenomenology, existentialism and deconstruction. She is the author of Jean-Luc Nancy, an introduction to Nancy’s work for Polity Press’s Key Contemporary Thinkers series, as well as articles on Heidegger, Sartre, Derrida, Nancy and Sloterdijk. She is the co-editor (with Peter Gratton) of Jean-Luc Nancy and Plural Thinking: Expositions of World, Politics, Art, and Sense (SUNY, 2012) and the translator of Jean-Luc Nancy’s Ego sum (Fordham, forthcoming). She is currently working on a comparative study of Nancy’s and Merleau-Ponty’s ontologies in light of the speculative realist challenge. Douglas Morrey is Associate Professor of French Studies at the University of Warwick, where he works on French cinema and contemporary French writing. He has published books on Jean-Luc Godard, Jacques Rivette and Michel Houellebecq and is currently writing a study entitled The Legacy of the New Wave in French Cinema. Andrew Norris teaches political philosophy at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the editor of Truth and Democracy (University of Pennsylvania, 2012), The Claim to Community: Essays on Stanley Cavell and



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Political Philosophy (Stanford, 2006) and Politics, Metaphysics, and Death: Essays on Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer (Duke, 2005). His other publications include ‘“How Can It Not Know What It Is?” Self and Other in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner’, Film-Philosophy (2013); ‘The Disappearance of the French Revolution in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit’, The Owl of Minerva (2013); ‘On Public Action: Rhetoric, Opinion, and Glory in Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition’, Critical Horizons (2013); ‘Das Politische als das Metaphysische und das Alltägliche’, in Wittgenstein: Philosophie als ‘Arbeit an Einem selbst’ (Fink, 2009); ‘Thoreau, Cavell, and the Foundations of True Political Expression’, in A Political Companion to Henry David Thoreau (Kentucky, 2009); and ‘Sovereignty, Exception, and Norm’, Journal of Law and Society (2007). He is currently completing a monograph on Stanley Cavell’s contribution to practical philosophy. François Raffoul is Professor of Philosophy at Louisiana State University. He is the author of Heidegger and the Subject (Prometheus, 1999), À chaque fois mien (Galilée, 2004) and The Origins of Responsibility (Indiana, 2010). He is completing a new monograph on Thinking the Event. He is the co-editor of several volumes: Disseminating Lacan (1996), Heidegger and Practical Philosophy (2002), Rethinking Facticity (2008), French Interpretations of Heidegger (2008) and The Bloomsbury Companion to Heidegger (2013). He has co-translated several French philosophers, in particular Jacques Derrida (‘Ulysses Gramophone: Hear Say Yes in Joyce’, in Derrida and Joyce: Texts and Contexts, SUNY, 2013), Dominique Janicaud’s Heidegger in France (Indiana, forthcoming 2015) and Jean-Luc Nancy’s The Title of the Letter: A Reading of Lacan (1992), The Gravity of Thought (1998), The Creation of the World or Globalization (2007) and Identity (Fordham, 2014). He is the co-editor of a book series at SUNY Press on Contemporary French Thought. Patrick Roney has been a member of the Department of Philosophy at Koç University in Istanbul for the last six years. He received his doctorate in comparative literature and a master’s in philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1996. His research and publications have focused mainly on issues in aesthetics and the philosophy of art, phenomenology, and German idealism. Aukje van Rooden is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam. She has published widely on contemporary continental philosophy, literature and aesthetics and is the co-editor of Re-treating Religion: Deconstructing Christianity with Jean-Luc Nancy (Fordham, 2012).

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Yasemin Sari is a PhD candidate in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Alberta, Canada. Her dissertation, ‘An Arendtian “Recognitive Politics” of Non/Violence and In/Visibility’, aims at ­constructing a theory of ‘recognitive politics’ based on Hannah Arendt’s understanding of political space. This theory of recognition examines the relationship between Arendt’s conception of ‘the right to have rights’ and the condition of visibility, in order to understand the condition of ‘artificial equality’ in its spatial aspect. Devin Zane Shaw teaches at the University of Ottawa and at Carleton University. He is the author of Freedom and Nature in Schelling’s Philosophy of Art (Bloomsbury, 2010) and Egalitarian Moments: From Descartes to Rancière (Bloomsbury, 2015). He is co-editor of ‘Theory Mad Beyond Redemption’: The Post-Kantian Poe, a special edition of the Edgar Allan Poe Review (2012). Christina Smerick is the Shapiro Chair of Jewish-Christian Studies, Chair of the Religion and Philosophy Department, and Associate Professor of Philosophy at Greenville College in Greenville, Illinois. She received her PhD in philosophy from DePaul University. Her recent publications include ‘No Other Place To Be: Globalization, Monotheism, and Salut in Jean-Luc Nancy’, in Thinking Plural: Expositions of Jean-Luc Nancy on World, Art, and Meaning (SUNY, 2012), and ‘Bodies, Communities, Faith: Christian Legacies in Jean-Luc Nancy’, in Analecta Hermeneutica no. 4 (2012). Her edited volume, ‘This Is My Body’: Embodiment in a Wesleyan Spirit, is forthcoming with Pickwick Press. Jason E. Smith is currently Associate Chair of the Graduate Art MFA programme at Art Center College of Design. His writing and research are largely concerned with contemporary art and aesthetics, modern continental philosophy (Spinoza, Hegel, twentieth century) and post1968 political thought (primarily French and Italian). He has published in Artforum, Critical Inquiry, Parrhesia, Radical Philosophy, South Atlantic Quarterly and Theory & Event, among others. With Jean-Luc Nancy and Philip Armstrong, he has published Politique et au-delà (Galilée, 2010). He recently edited and contributed to a special issue of Grey Room devoted to the films of Guy Debord, and is currently working on a monograph on the same subject. He was a Cornell Society for the Humanities Fellow in 2013–14. Adrian Switzer is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Missouri Kansas City. He is the co-translator of



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Parmenides, Cosmos and Being: A Philosophical Interpretation (Marquette, 2008), a contributor to The Cambridge Foucault Lexicon (Cambridge, 2014), and the author of articles on Kant, Nietzsche, Merleau-Ponty, Deleuze, Derrida and Irigaray. Currently, Dr Switzer is at work on a monograph on Nietzsche’s political philosophy. Mark Lewis Taylor is Maxwell M. Upson Professor of Theology and Culture at Princeton Theological Seminary. His major interests are in the political philosophy of religious practices, particularly in Christian communities and social movements. He has served as the Chair of the Religion and Society Committee at Princeton Seminary, and teaches numerous courses on political theory and theological discourse. His most recent book is The Theological and the Political: On the Weight of the World (2011). He received the Best General Interest Book Award for his earlier book The Executed God: The Way of the Cross in Lockdown America (2001), which proposed a Christian theology resistant to US empire in light of the prison-industrial complex, police brutality and the death penalty. Among his other books are Religion, Politics and the Christian Right: Post9/11 Politics and American Empire (2005) and Remembering Esperanza: A Cultural-Political Theology for North American Praxis (2005 edition, Fortress Press). Katie Terezakis is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Rochester Institute of Technology. She is the author of The Immanent Word: The Turn to Language in German Philosophy 1759–1801 (Routledge, 2007), the editor of Engaging Agnes Heller: A Critical Companion (Lexington, 2009), and the co-editor of Lukács’ Soul and Form (Columbia, 2010). She has published articles on German idealism and its discontents, on critical theory, and on American philosophy. Her current book project considers the philosophy of symbolic action developed by the twentieth-century American philosopher John William Miller. Illan rua Wall is an Associate Professor at the School of Law, University of Warwick. He is the author of Human Rights and Constituent Power (Routledge, 2011), and one of the founding editors of the Critical Legal Thinking blog. He is currently working on a project entitled ‘Law and Disorder’. Christopher Watkin is Senior Lecturer in French at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. He is the author of Phenomenology or Deconstruction? The Question of Ontology in Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Paul Ricœur and Jean-Luc Nancy (Edinburgh, 2009), Difficult Atheism:

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Post-Theological Thinking in Alain Badiou, Jean-Luc Nancy and Quentin Meillassoux (Edinburgh, 2011) and From Plato to Postmodernism: The Story of Western Culture Through Philosophy, Literature and Art (Bristol Classical, 2012). He is currently writing a book on the figure of the human in contemporary French thought (Badiou, Meillassoux, Malabou, Serres, Latour), and a book-length introduction to Michel Serres. He has published articles on a number of French thinkers across the disciplines of philosophy, literature and theology, and is the editor of the Crosscurrents monograph series with Edinburgh University Press. William Watkin is Professor of Contemporary Literature and Philosophy at Brunel University, West London. He is the author of In the Process of Poetry: The New York School and the Avant-Garde (Bucknell, 2001), On Mourning: Theories of Loss in Modern Literature (Edinburgh, 2004), The Literary Agamben: Adventures on Logopoiesis (Continuum, 2010) and Agamben and Indifference: A Critical Overview (Rowman and Littlefield, 2014). He has just completed a two-volume study of both books of Badiou’s Being and Event, entitled Badiou: Indifferent Being, Communicable Worlds. He is currently working on a full-scale reconsideration of the philosophy of difference through the concept of indifference.