Since Heidegger,
modern philosophy is a thought of the co-belonging of being and event.
You see where I am going with this. At the same time as Heidegger—by reassigning
our field of study to its originary question, to the question of being—dominated
the philosophical twentieth century, he doubled this innovative revival by
introducing a theme itself entirely novel in philosophy: the theme of the event,
or of what is an event. It could be possible to show—but it is beyond my aim
here—that the question of the event is a question that could have arisen only
after the Nietzschean diagnosis of the death of God. I mention this only on the
account of this death, on which I will quickly return, but in the sole light of our
singular aim.
Being and event: this is the title of a contemporary classic in philosophy,
written by a somewhat controversial (one cannot help asking why) fellow (Badiou),
who happens to be a colleague of yours, and a caiman not so long ago. But the
envoi is Heideggerian, in the Contributions to Philosophy, a text still not yet
translated into French because it was written in Germany between 1936 and
1938, and because it contains stuff that is rather compromising for the whitewashing
operation whereby devout French Heideggerians try to clear their
Master’s name of all collusion with Hitlerism. [Any resemblance …] It is in this
text, which is as brilliant as it is awful, as innovative as it is unaccomplished,
that appears with all its initial might the thematic of the event, the event in
being, being as “distributor” of events, event as “influx” [influx] of being—the
more event there is, the more there is being—and finally being itself as event.
In this somewhat insane text, which is a long draft disrupted and choked by
the historical circumstances surrounding it, we thus find all the seeds of what
post-war French philosophers will explore in their singular way, especially from
the sixties onwards up to this day, with us included.
I realize there is something almost mathematical, thermodynamical about
all philosophies which would take up the subject, up to Alain Badiou and
the eponymous title of his magnum opus. It is that by comparing the various
economies which link being and event in the respective philosophies, we
notice a kind of unthought but absolutely self-evident Law at work in all these
conceptual creations: the slower is being, the faster goes event. The faster goes
being, the slower is event. So here was my little idea, the idea which assured me
a way out of this business for the said contribution (and I was very proud of
what I had found, but I think the Swiss audience, consisting uniquely of professionals,
did not get my enthusiasm at all). I could then talk of acceleration while
avoiding the all-sweeping empirical description of technology. I was placing
myself within the perspective of the condition of technology, which is our
initiatory exclusive domain, metaphysics.
If being is slow, event goes fast. If being is fast, event goes slowly. Let us take
two particularly striking examples—and I am not the first to take them as the
two antagonistic “poles” of contemporary metaphysics: Deleuze and Badiou. For
Deleuze, being is called the virtual, and the virtual goes very fast. Deleuze says:
an infinite speed of appearance and disappearance. So in the Deleuzian system
the event will be, it will always be a slowing down, a gaining of consistency
[mise-en-consistence], a kind of eternalized interception of this infinite speed
of being. On the other hand, for Badiou, the self-enthroned hyper-Platonist,
being is identified by mathematics. Ontology is mathematics, and therefore
being, in the Platonico-archaic mode, is that which is eternal and immobile,
like Aristotle’s prime mover, even if the comparison would not be particularly
pleasing for the person principally concerned. There would be a lot to say about
the presuppositions of this purely noumenal vision of being, but it is a matter
of fixing the thing, not to point out the obvious: in a so to speak fixist, frozen
ontology like Badiou’s, well, we see that event itself goes extremely fast, at the
speed of lightning even. While for Deleuze it is being that is an infinite speed
of appearance and disappearance, for Badiou it is event that is even a speed so
infinite of appearance and disappearance that you ask yourself if it ever existed,
like thunder you can only recognize by the claps. This is what his metaphysics
tells us: event is extra-being; it does not belong to being. It is even this quasi-theology
of the event that led me to make a lengthy deconstruction of this
somewhat aberrant postulate of an event which would not belong to being, a
deconstruction which puts forward extremely precise arguments.
For Badiou, on the one hand, being is immobile and eternal, and on the
other, event is of a precarious and infinite speed; in such a way that if you take an
ontology slightly slower than his, like Heidegger’s, where being is not eternal but
slow—what Heidegger revisits about the Greek aletheia, that is, the pulsation of
veiling and unveiling whereby being reveals itself to us historically—then the
only thing which speeds things up a little is, opportunely, the event. It is the
only moment where the somewhat placid slowness of Heideggerian being, the
veiling-unveiling of being, unveils itself a little bit faster. But it still goes a little bit
slower than in Badiou. So you see, there is a sort of proportional mathematics, a
dialectics of speed and slowness in the event: being is immobile for Badiou, slow
for Heidegger, fast for Deleuze. As a result, event is very fast for Badiou, a little
less so for Heidegger, altogether slow for Deleuze. We shall finally add that it is
not by chance that all this will coincide with the respective libidinal economies
of the three authors. In Being and Sexuation, I call Badiou’s vision of sexuality,
“transcendental machismo.” It truly is a kind of philosophy of pure virility. There is
a virile heroism in Heidegger as well, but even so it is somewhat thwarted by
his Nazi adventure which will lead him to become something of a better fellow,
slightly more of an ecological hippie, and therefore almost feminine in what
concerns his questioning of being (the rediscovered proximity to physis, etc.).
Whereas for Deleuze, we have seen what it was all about: becoming-woman,
therefore, probably, an ontology itself more “feminine.”
Finally, let us add that “feminine” ontologies always grant a privileged place
to what may be called the metaphysical pathic, the affectual in philosophy. And
besides, if the primitive scene of the division of ontology into masculine and
feminine dates back to Plato and Aristotle, we see clearly that the latter grants
much greater importance to the affect than his philosophical Master and Father,
to the point where he turns it into the historically most influential concept, the
one contained in his opuscule On the Soul. The soul is the body of the affect, of
pure sensation; this will be exactly—even if he was not aware of it—the concept
of what Deleuze will call the Body without Organs, which he often illustrates by
the example of the masochist precisely. This is something I point out often, but
after all Deleuze’s famous Body without Organs is nothing other than Aristotle’s
soul. Finally, if the Plato/Aristotle couple can be considered as the primitive
scene of the ontological division of sexes, we can say that all masculine ontology
has a strong propensity for verticality, and feminine ontology for horizontality.
Moreover, I quite simply would not have written one line of Being and Sexuation
without the precious remark of a friend, a great writer and essayist, a great
academic like yourselves, Tiphaine Samoyault, who one day told me that for
her Platonism was untenable, especially in the form it is given by an eminent
colleague of yours, a Platonism which she felt like a violence, like the very
matrix of common anthropological violence itself, for the simple fact that she
was a woman. A woman could only be Aristotelian.
The question of horizontality versus verticality is also the question of the
void in philosophy. Vertical, “masculine” ontologies are “voiding” [йvidantes]
ontologies; horizontal, “feminine” ontologies, from Aristotle to Spinoza, which
are for that very reason almost always philosophies of Nature, are ontologies
where the void is most often foreclosed. This question of a discontinuous
ontology, caesured by the void as masculine desire through the castration of
phallic jouissance, opens up to a crucial question in philosophy: the question
of the transcendental. On the contrary, feminine ontologies, as Deleuze formulates,
are philosophies that fight against diehard transcendentalization; they are
philosophies of “full” immanence, of the “foreclosure of the void,” as Badiou
says—as if by the greatest coincidence—on the subject of Aristotle and Spinoza.
Speaking of the latter, Deleuze will say that he is the “prince of philosophers,”
the only one “never to have compromised with transcendence.” Which is not
far from being, on the contrary, the principal charge brandished by Badiou
against an antagonist philosophy: all excessive, or even moderate, proximity to
immanence and empiricity will be considered suspect.
To this we can add another striking law that runs through all this unconsciously.
It is that, as we move towards more “virile” ontologies, of which Badiou
constitutes the unsurpassable limit, we move towards a separation—as clear-cut
as possible—between being and event, to such an extent that event would not
even belong to being. The separation of being and event is less clear-cut in
Heidegger, since sometimes he does happen to write “being: event.” The reason
is that, unlike Badiou and unlike Deleuze, Heidegger—even more radically than
Kant—wanted to be done with all philosophical dogmaticism, which is an effort
I share retroactively, since it is Badiou’s somewhat peremptory apodicticity of
logico-mathematical universalism which would lead me to reject violently,
somewhat hysterically, his “philosophy.” It would have to be studied at length,
everything he utters on the difference of sexes, and the manner in which all this
ends up running into what someone who knew him well, Jean-Claude Milner,
calls “facile universalism.” Moreover this is what the book I present you with
had begun doing, courteously, as regards “transcendental machismo.” And
eventually, the rejection this philosophy inspired in me comes full circle to what
Deleuze said: white, heterosexual, western man is the empty universal. That in
philosophy the restored promotion of such a unilateral universalism should
precisely come from such a cast-iron subjective typology, such is the irony of
the bar-room philosophizing which is also always, in part, what philosophy is.
Because, in Deleuze, being and event are identified much more closely than in
Badiou and even Heidegger. It is also often a commonplace of philosophical
debate: Spinoza’s ontology is the most feminine ontology there is. There are lots
of Spinozist women. “Whyyyyyyy?”, would have asked Deleuze with his old
witch’s voice. In other words, if he—Spinoza—had been a modern philosopher:
an ontology where being and event are strictly and everywhere the same thing.
A chapter of my book is called: “being=event in Deleuze.”
So this is the other Law, which comes after the Law of perfect proportion
of speed and slowness in the event: it is that, the more an ontology “were
feminized,” the more being and event would be identified. So you see where I
have been heading, and you see the somewhat heretical riddle that results from
the speculative domain opened up by this book—my book: the masculinization
of ontology, which would separate being and event as it goes along, and the
feminization of ontology, which would bring closer being and event as it goes
along until they are identified, would disturbingly coincide with my strictly
libidinal thesis—that is to say, with the libidos of their respective authors, the
said libidos themselves often made explicit in their philosophies. In feminine
libido there would be an originary, perfect identity of desire and jouissance,
which all actual libido would like to join asymptotically; just as, asymptotically,
a feminization of ontology would tend to come always closer to an identity of
being and event. It is for this reason that once again I mention at length another
philosopher who happens to be a biological woman, Catherine Malabou, and
her important book called The Heidegger Change where, as I demonstrate,
she attempts a sort of heretical appropriation of Heidegger. For her, being
and event are definitively the same thing. Unlike Badiou, whom I label with
“transcendental machismo” which consists of a separation as radical as possible
of being and event, since man is the imposition of the radical semantic break
between desire and jouissance that all becoming-woman comes to disrupt,
I call “transcendental hysteria” this speculative manner in which being and
event are constantly identified, which is superlatively the case with Malabou. In
each page of her book, so to speak, being changes, being is absolutely incessant
change, becoming and metamorphosis, permanent event, which can be, after
all, just as tenable as an ontology of “transcendental machismo”—Badiou’s—
where, because of the absolute segregation between being and event, we think,
quite conversely, that it occurs almost never anything that matters and that
being is most often atonic and identical to itself, etc. Deleuze liked to compare
his philosophy to a witch’s philosophy, and besides it is not by chance that he
physically looked like an old Carabosse, yet after all if there is one person who
beat him on his home ground, it is no other than Malabou: each page of her
book is full of event-expressions such as: “beingness stands for the being which
stands for being” [l’йtantitй vaut pour l’йtant qui vaut pour l’кtre], “the absolute
exchangeability of the originary deal,” “the economy of an originary ontological
substitutability,” “everything is exchanged against itself, against the other, being
[l’кtre] on account of the being [l’йtant], the being [l’йtant] on account of its
essence, essence on account of being [l’кtre],”10 etc.
The least one could say is that in this hotchpotch the only truly by-no-means feminine,
not-the-least-bit-queer ontologist is Alain Badiou. In all the others,
there is always a moment when being is confused with event. In Malabou,
this is absolutely. In the book, I suggest quite convincing—I think—avenues
on the isomorphism of a certain libidinal functioning of “classic virility”; and
what Badiou transcendentally draws from it as to the dialectics of a perfectly
discriminated being and event, in a brilliant manner—I must admit—in terms
of metaphysics, is not the problem. It is even for this reason that it is so interesting.
If, as a perfect progressive beautiful soul, I just wanted to cut my teeth on
the macho on duty, I would have made do with Alain Soral.
Doubtless, all that is somewhat sacrilegious about my endeavour lies therein.
Indeed, if we agree on the fact that it is phallic jouissance that empties masculine
desire in its repetitive, if not sadistic, compulsion (Milner, thinking of Badiou,
once said that Platonism was meant to be fulfilled in sadism); if the Deleuzian
masochist is this masculine figure whose phallic jouissance sanctions desire,
and who tries to ward off the void by way of full phantasmatics whose ritual
of foreclosure of jouissance fills his Body without Organs; and finally, if this
phallocentric dialectic of void and fullness is null and void in the feminine
position, and the dialectic of void and fullness entirely inappropriate in relation
to a masculine libidinal economy, well then there is a disturbing coincidence
with the fact that “virile” ontologies from Plato to Kant should lead to vertical
transcendentalism, whereas horizontal, “feminine” ontologies, from Aristotle
to Spinoza, should be ontologies of the plane of consistency, of the fullness of
immanence. And the least one could say is that the Badiou/Deleuze antagonism
provides us with precious innovative tools to revisit something which will have
traversed, unknowingly, the entire history of metaphysics.
In yet other words: what separates a hetero-centered ontology and a more
“feminine” ontology is the economy which links therein the empirical and the
transcendental. The more we move towards a vertical, “virile” ontology—a
“scoring thought” [pensйe du manche], as Lacan says in his accent like Tony
Montana—from Plato to Kant to Badiou, the more we move, as it were, towards
a transcendentalization devoid of empirical content. As someone I like a lot, a
great philosopher still not well known, Reiner Schurmann says:

(…) reason prescribing objective realities to the world knows what is essential
even before experience. Here lies its violence. Such contents possessed in
advance have been made into the weapons of every dogmatism. The Cartesian
version of material autonomy leads directly to projects like Condorcet’s “mathematizable
society”.11

For instance, in Logics of Worlds, anyone who can read will see that the possible
libidinal economies whereby the human animal singularizes itself are all led
back by Badiou to the same archetypal transcendental of the good old heteroheroic
couple. Even in this respect—and so you see that it is all profoundly
coherent—Badiou cannot keep himself from bringing everything back to the
same empty transcendental. It is even what remains fascinating for so long in
this philosophy: the manner in which it maximizes metaphysical violence par
excellence, or transcendentalism up to a level never attained before, even by
Kant or Husserl. And this is just as well what eventually deceives us when we
have explored it all, but that is another story.
Conversely, an ontology which would “feminize” itself, like the ontology
of Deleuze, will proportionally bring together the transcendental and the
empirical. This is what Deleuze, according to a formula still debated today,
called transcendental empiricism. We would also have to talk about the
empirico-transcendental doublet in Foucault, whose libidinal economy was at
the very least singularized; or about the manner in which Derrida, the deconstructionist
of phallogocentrism, deconstructs the empirico-transcendental
doublet by a mise-en-abyme. It is nothing less than this site that is opened
up—still groping a little here and there—by Being and Sexuation. In Malabou’s
work for instance, the fascinating thing about her book is the extent to which
the ontological transcendental seems to coincide on every page with the crudest
empiricity. Really, we often get the impression that she talks about herself,
even whilst her book remains throughout a book of pure metaphysics, which
was after all the case of Heraclitus, or Parmenides, with whom all our troubles
began. We again see that these “feminine” metaphysics, Deleuze or Malabou, are
always asymptotic, like what I said about feminine libido itself.
Then, on that level too, catharsis, that is to say, Hegelian aufhebung: what is
suppressed is all the same always preserved; not only is the hypothetical state
of nature preserved in the indubitable state of culture, planetary technological
unification of the human species, but metaphysical transcendentalization,
be it closest to the empirical and precisely because of that, always preserves
something of the libido which produced it.
Yes, all metaphysics is always sexuated, because all thought is always differentially,
singularly, sexuated. It is even for this reason that, in the end, there
is no longer metaphysics except in its turn singular; which does not mean
non-universal, but means most certainly—and this is excellent news—that the
time of metaphysical univocity is bygone. Which is also to say: God [Dieu]—
or Diou, as the poet Pierre Guyotat wrote ten years ago—is dead. And so it
also means that philosophy, and the philosopher who produces it at any rate
coincide in the most perfect, that is to say, the most singular manner.
This is why, against the overhanging dogmatic of a Badiou, but also against
a certain Deleuzian systematic which can too verge on dogmatism, we have
to return to philosophy as the plural critique of philosophy. That is why I put
forth Heidegger’s attempt to pluralize, to plurivocize the question of being,
by drawing a definitive line on all doctrinal and unilateral conceptions of
philosophy. Neither feminine nor masculine, but rather traveling constantly
between the diverse shades of the specter spread out between the two, it is
metaphysics itself which becomes in a way queer—taking over the critical
envoi of modern philosophy—and thus fights against all prescriptive, apodictic,
dogmatic, subsuming, neo-normative determinations of philosophy. After
all, we can just as well reckon, in a somewhat bi-polar manner—and this is
the becoming-queer of metaphysics—that with the meta-virile position of
metaphysics, event is extremely rare, precarious, fleeting, and that, with the
meta-feminine position, we can say the opposite, that is to say, that there is event
a little bit everywhere and all the time, in a sort of pathic immanence. Just as
phallic jouissance is at the same time the center, the “voiding” [йvidant] heart
of masculine libido, even while its taking-place as such has indeed something
extremely precarious and fleeting about it, like the meta-virile conception of the
event, this on the one hand; and on the other, the pathic and even protopathic
identity of desire and jouissance is the both omnipresent, immanent nucleus
of feminine libido, which it attemps to reach asymptotically at each and every
moment, and which, in the meta-feminine metaphysical projection, results in a
proportional proximity of being and event, of the empirical and the transcendental,
etc.
With means certainly humbler than Heidegger’s, by shifting every philosophy
on the ground of its so to speak psychoanalytic overdeterminations, by psychoanalyzing
as it were each philosopher from the point of what he or she puts
forth—or not—on the sexual question, one gives oneself just as well the means
of philosophizing psychoanalysis, of pointing out that all questions concerning
sexuation always assume, whether one is aware of it or not, an ontological
discourse. The time of a dogmatic philosophy which would overhang the entire
content subsumed by the facilities of the transcendental—for instance, logicomathematical—
in order to deliver always and everywhere its unilateral truth,
in other words, a philosophy that happens to be neo-normative, nor-male-izing
[normвlisante] is over, well over. All philosophy of the twentieth century, the
philosophy that succeeded Nietzsche, with very few exceptions like Leo Strauss,
Habermas, Rawls, or Badiou, has tolled the knell of any possibility of thinking
being [l’кtre], and therefore the being [l’йtant] normatively. This is what Reiner
Schurmann called: principle of an-archy, in the strictly philosophical sense
of the impossibility of an arche from which all the rest could be inferred—in
particular norms to set it in motion—by tearing down the order of reasons on
the basis of a first principle that is beyond discussion. The profound novelty of
our age is ultimately the definitive relinquishment of such a principle.
This will allow me to conclude in a slightly elliptical manner, by talking a
little bit of myself: if I spoke from the sole point of libidinal economies, of singularization,
it is perhaps because herein lies the way to think beyond the great,
henceforth saturated philosophies of Difference, without throwing ourselves,
out of spite, into the arms of a philosophy where the principle of apodictic
universalism, identifying concept and subsuming transcendentalism, triumphs
anew. Singularity is no longer exactly Deleuze’s or Derrida’s difference, even
if it is perhaps already that of Foucault’s or Schurmann’s: it is the manner in
which difference is monstrously caesured by the positive universal of science. It
is this caesura which means that the coming philosophical universality will be
anything but easy. And it will be much to its credit.

MEHDI-BELHAJ-KACEM

TRANSGRESSION-AND-THE-INEXISTENT-A-PHILOSOPHICAL-VOCABULARY

 

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