Tag Archives: Jean-Luc Nancy

Philosophy in Tension, part I

“Between religion and lived experience – in a space, let us note, where one also finds politics, science, and art – philosophy has the task, if I may say so, of spacing as such. Neither form, nor life, nor concept, nor intuition, but from one to the other, or rather, from one within the other, through the other, but also one against the other, a tension without resolution. It is not a question of relieving this tension, for it delights in itself as much as it suffers from itself…. It is not a happy medium, it is the exacting sharp edge of the philosophical decision…”

– Jean-Luc Nancy. Philosophical Chronicles. (NY: Fordham University Press, 2008),13-14.

“I think it’s very hard to keep things in the tensional structure of the openness… of nonmeaning. This is very difficult, which is why there is then the quick grab for transcendental signifiers – for God, for nation, and for other master signifiers.”  – Avital Ronell from: Astra Taylor. Examined Life. (NY: New Press, 2009), 35.

Can we take “tension” in positive terms, without demanding resolution in a dialectical sublation? I believe that is a task at the heart of what I’m calling “non-neurotic thought.”

I use the phrase “non-neurotic thought” to suggest a sort of ethos or discipline that might contend with the anxious inclination to arrive at permanent resolutions and secure guarantees. Absolutism and Essentialism are the tendencies of Neurotic thought. This describes much of the history of Western Philosophy. The concomitant demand is to put “everything in its right place,” like the assignations of the people in Plato’s Republic that define purpose by way of one’s supposed “nature.” “Know your role” is part of the neurotic imperative.

But of course with epistemic foundationalism, the determination of foundations is always arbitrary. At some point, there’s always a leap of faith, though some want to claim it as a point of “certainty” or “knowledge.”

Jacques Rancière contends that at root all of these ways of dividing up the world, such as Plato’s division of the polis, are expressions of a founding opinion. There is always fable in their construction. In fact The Republic openly portrays the crafting of the myth of the metals, the “golden lie.” But fiction and opinion as such are not in themselves problematic because it’s not a matter of condemning fiction in the name of some “truer” absolute. The problem lies in forgetting that we construct, forgetting that we create… forgetting that we don’t live in an eternal present. It’s like we sanctify our creations and imagine that the satellites we’ve sent into orbit are actually infinite, infallible and looking down on us, to govern us…

If that happens, what possibilities are we left with?

Tagged , , , ,