A New Beginning for Philosophy: Where to Start?

2 March 2022

A New Beginning for Philosophy: Where to Start?

Stage designed by Anish Kapoor for Akram Khan's dance performance Kaash; Image credit: Wikimedia commons

Is it possible to start rethinking the meaning of philosophy according to Heidegger’s list of ‘tasks’ still keeping free from his logical schemes? If the ‘task of thinking’ is not to be satisfied with poor autonomy, but “to stand in front of the untenable,” where to begin again? This opportunity could be offered by the re-evaluation of the feminine in the philosophical tradition. Hannah Arendt and, more in general, the feminine sensitivity with its analysis of the origin as begin can maybe represent a new way to build a thought that is prepared to confront itself with the difference without annulling it and without being annulled by it. The aim of this paper is to try to follow this path.

Is it possible to start rethinking the meaning of philosophy according to Heidegger’s list of ‘tasks’ still keeping free from his logical schemes? (1) If the ‘task of thinking’ is not to be satisfied with poor autonomy, but “to stand in front of the untenable,” (2) where to begin again? After having started from Heidegger’s concept of Destruktion of the origin of the metaphysical tradition, will it be necessary to stop at the Deleuzian rejection of each kind of beginning, or can we imagine a new beginning (3) by appealing to different categories of thought? (4)


We will try to follow this lead in order to understand how and if we can develop a different notion of a new beginning for philosophy.


The crisis of the origin


While praising how the Greeks won over the Trojans, Hegel celebrates the superiority of what would later become the spirit of the West, describing the Greek victory as


the triumph of the West over the East, of European moderation, and the individual beauty of a reason that sets limits to itself, over Asiatic brilliance and over the magnificence of a patriarchal unity still devoid of perfect articulation or bound together so abstractly that it collapses into parts separate from one another. (5)


Such a narration sets the beginning of Western history. However, as Nancy states: “since Hegel it is always a question of the end of philosophy and another beginning. If one doesn’t see that, one doesn’t see anything.” (6)


Indeed, after Hegel, the sense of an end, of the crisis of a world that seemed to have stood still for centuries becomes increasingly apparent. Attempts at confronting the crisis, the idea of the end, and the search for a new beginning can be found in Husserl’s lectures on the crisis of the European sciences, or in Heidegger’s reflections on the end of metaphysics, as well as in the works of Spengler, Ortega, Wittgenstein, etc.


According to an interpretation recently given by Roberto Esposito, despite their differences these philosophers offer solutions which seem to abide within the same reasoning process that has produced them. In the opinion of the Italian philosopher, these proposals are part of ‘the Crisis Dispositif’:


(1) the crisis that afflicts Europe, exposing it to a lethal risk, has a metaphysical status even above its historical–political significance; (2) it takes expression in a forgetfulness of the constitutive identity of Europe, which blocks any possibility of development; (3) the only way to overcome this obstruction is to reappropriate the lost origin, reviving it through a new beginning. (7)


Whether or not these solutions are the product of such a ‘dispositif of the crisis,’ there is no doubt: from those years onwards, the question about the end starts going hand in hand with that of the new beginning, translating itself into a more or less radical self-criticism of its own history, thus allowing a different conceptual language to emerge. The backdrop to this idea is that it was not the crisis of Europe to start the crisis of Western philosophy. On the contrary, all those fulfilment expectations, which for two millennia were at the core of the history of thought, fatally crashed and dragged the entire European tradition with them into their shipwreck.


The task of philosophy must proceed from plural or immemorial beginnings, towards a future that is not to come but never to come, a future which is not teleologically predictable but always open to new rebirths.

Here, Heidegger’s contribution is fundamental: “[t]o ask: how does it stand with Being? – this means nothing less than to repeat and retrieve [wiederholen] the inception [Anfang] of our historical–spiritual Dasein, in order to transform it into the other inception.” (8) For Heidegger it is not a question of putting a definitive end to the history of metaphysics, but of reconsidering the way of thinking.


Our talk of the end of metaphysics does not mean to suggest that in the future men will no longer ‘live’ who think metaphysically and undertake ‘systems of metaphysics.’ Even less do we intend to say that in the future mankind will no longer ‘live’ on the basis of metaphysics. The end of metaphysics that is to be thought here is but the beginning of metaphysics’ ‘resurrection’ in altered forms. (9)


There is no need to destroy the old history of metaphysics. It can keep “providing raw materials with which – once they are correspondingly transformed – the world of ‘knowledge’ is built ‘anew.’” This is how Heidegger answers the direct question: what does the End of Metaphysics means? “It means the historical moment in which the essential possibilities of metaphysics are exhausted.” (10)


Heidegger here does not mean an act of radical destruction, rather the ability to get rid of ‘epigonal’ history, which tend to layer ‘systems’ and ‘points of view.’ A process of deconstruction to descale the present removing all incrustations of the history of metaphysical thought.


If what is essential is to think of a new beginning, deconstruction is what can undermine those transfigurations developed over the centuries in the metaphysical tradition. It is a question of conceiving a new way of thinking that may set Dasein free, release it from all those conceptual apparatuses built to try to explain it. A job requiring the effort to restore the fundamental categories of thought to their original meaning.

However, the method of dismantling “is not a universal historical method.” (11) Nor is it a ‘negative’ method: on the contrary, it takes into account what is positive in what is subject to the work of destruction/deconstruction.


What is criticized is not the past that is opened up by the destruction. Instead, the present, our present-day existence, falls prey to critique insofar as this existence is covered up by a past that has become inauthentic. It is not Aristotle or Augustine who is criticized, but the present. (12)


Moreover, this method is not based on concepts of truth and untruth, but has a critical objective: to deconstruct false interpretations of the present.


The destruction as the critique of the present-day is the critique that makes visible what genuinely and primordially is positive in the past. By this means, the past first becomes visible as something that we genuinely have already been and can be again [eigentliches Gewesensein und Wiederseinkonnen]. (13)


The outcome is what Heidegger calls “Ehrfucht vor der Geschichte”, ‘respect for history.’ (14) Deconstruction thus becomes a form of historical knowledge which, as such, neither wants to produce nor to refute a system.


Construction in philosophy is necessarily destruction, that is to say, a de-constructing of traditional concepts carried out in a historical recursion to the tradition. And this is not a negation of the tradition or a condemnation of it as worthless; quite the reverse, it signifies precisely a positive appropriation of tradition. (15)


A ‘happy destruction,’ in the words of Alain De Libera, who identifies the deconstruction of the first Heidegger as a preparatory element for construction. A preliminary phase before re-appropriating an origin overshadowed by the subsequent tradition, in particular by modernity.


For Heidegger we, the West, the very meaning of philosophy are inevitably children of a tradition to which we must refer in order to re-found ourselves. Referring back to archaeology, to the archetype, is therefore a must so that thought can regenerate itself. Following Hegel, we could say the constitutive place of philosophy is situated in this chiasm between present and past. If, having lost every metaphysical reference, philosophy renounced even the confrontation with that initial dimension (cf. Brief über den Humanismus) that allows it to transcend itself, it would be condemned to disappear.


In the beginning, therefore, there is no philia for knowledge, but an act of violence. As Proust shows in In Search of Lost Time, “We search for truth only when we are determined to do so in terms of a concrete situation, when we undergo a kind of violence that impels us to such a search.”

Hence, Heidegger’s answer to the question “What is philosophy?” is indisputable: “[t]he question is an historical, that means, a fate-full question. Even more—it is not a it is the historical question of our 'Western-European actuality.” (16)


The rejection of the origin


Heidegger’s answer does not seem adequate. (17) Nancy starts from this very inadequacy when he states that


it’s pointless to seek to appropriate our origins: we are neither Greek, nor Jewish, nor Roman, nor Christian, nor a settled combination of any of these— words whose sense, in any case, is never simply given. We are neither the ‘accomplishment’ nor the ‘overcoming’ of ‘metaphysics,’ neither process nor errancy. But we do exist and we ‘understand’ that this existence (ourselves) is not the senselessness of a reabsorbed and annulled signification. In distress and necessity we ‘understand’ that this ‘we,’ here, now, is still and once more responsible for a singular sense. (18)


If a new beginning is to be thought of, it must not come from a predetermined origin. Gilles Deleuze had already reflected in this direction. For him the search for a beginning of philosophy would restore the ‘image of thought’ as “everybody knows what it means to think […] Everybody knows, no one can deny, is the form of representation and the discourse of the representative.” (19) The image of thought designates that implicit assumption according to which thought thinks of itself as ‘natural’ and ‘universal’: naturally directed towards truth as well as universally right.


It is in terms of this image that everybody knows and is presumed to know what it means to think. Thereafter it matters little whether philosophy begins with the object or the subject, with Being or with beings, as long as thought remains subject to this Image which already prejudges everything: the distribution of the object and the subject as well as that of Being and beings. (20)


This leads Deleuze to get rid of the temporal paradigm as well, bringing essence back to the outside of subjects, an essence which is no longer reducible to a psychological and subjective state, as it still was in Heidegger – whose early work Derrida places within a metaphysics of subjectivity. In this sense, essence is extratemporal, and implies a whole world that is always at the beginning, “an absolute, radical beginning.” (21)


Rather than a movement dictated by the subject’s cognitive will, thought arises in a strictly ‘involuntary’ manner and the subject is actually subjected to the sign they encounter, and which imposes its force on them, forcing them to think. In the beginning, therefore, there is no philia for knowledge, but an act of violence. As Proust shows in In Search of Lost Time, “We search for truth only when we are determined to do so in terms of a concrete situation, when we undergo a kind of violence that impels us to such a search.” (22)



The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, John Martin, 1852; Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Attempting to answer Heidegger’s question, in What is Philosophy? Deleuze and Guattari show how the relationship of thought with truth must be conceived “less in the manner of someone who possesses a method than that of a dog that seems to be making uncoordinated leaps.” (23) Consequently, it is in the interweaving of chance and necessity, and therefore of violent constraints, that philosophical thought can be generated with its creation of concepts.


The deconstructive fury of these passages against all the categories marking Western philosophical tradition is evident. For Deleuze, thought begins with violence, it begins by undergoing the force of difference carried by a sign, so that its origin is passive and involuntary. There is therefore no predisposition or ‘friendship’ of thought towards Truth. The necessity of what forces to think is only guaranteed by a fortuitous or contingent encounter with the sign:


Thought is primarily trespass and violence, the enemy, and nothing presupposes philosophy: everything begins with misosophy. Do not count upon thought to ensure the relative necessity of what it thinks. Rather, count upon the contingency of an encounter with that which forces thought to raise up and educate the absolute necessity of an act of thought or a passion to think. The conditions of a true critique and a true creation are the same: the destruction of an image of thought which presupposes itself and the genesis of the act of thinking in thought itself. (24)


Or, according to what Deleuze says in his work on Proust,


[t]he sensuous sign does us violence: it mobilizes the memory, it sets the soul in motion; but the soul in its turn excites thought, transmits to it the constraint of the sensibility, forces it to conceive essence, as the only thing that must be conceived. Thus the faculties enter into a transcendent exercise, in which each confronts and joins its own limit: the sensibility that apprehends the sign; the soul, the memory, that interprets it; the mind that is forced to conceive essence. (25)


For Deleuze, the beginning must then be sought outside philosophy, in neighboring disciplines such as literature. Given his questioning the very concept of temporality, Proust can doubtlessly be considered as one of the best authors from this perspective. While writing his apprentissage, in a repetition which denies its own past and subject, Marcel discovers the falsity of that very past and subject. He replaces the relationship of recognition traditionally established with the past with that of memory as repetition, and the more faithful this repetition is, the more it affirms the deferral of essence with respect to the identity of memory and empirical experience. What takes life in the writing of the Recherche is – in an anti-Hegelian, but also anti-Heideggerian way – a phenomenological process at the end of which one never arrives at a coincidence, but at a profound, radical dissymmetry. “What he [Marcel] finds in the repetition is the absolutely new, that is, the unthought of insofar as it does not belong to thought and its image; it is not the initial identity reconfirmed, although, as in the case of Hegel, at a higher level.” (26) The discrepancy between present and past, between memory and repetition, is a way of relating to difference without mediating it, a way of allowing something profoundly new to emerge from the return to the beginning.


Arendt’s idea of the beginning as birth, while referring to the biological metaphor, succeeds in deconstructing organicist conceptions of history, precisely because it unites the dimension of bios with that of narration, or rather of infinite re-narratives.

Differently from representative logic, in which differences break the unitary background, Deleuze states that


[w]ith univocity, however, it is not the differences which are and must be: it is being which is Difference, in the sense that it is said of difference. Moreover, it is not we who are univocal in a Being which is not; it is we and our individuality which remains equivocal in and for a univocal Being. (27)


If, in the passage from philosophy to thought, Heidegger invited us to reflect on the need to overturn the prescriptions of that logic which seeks scientific foundations or funds available for technical operations, a new beginning must then be sought in a thought that leaps over calculative thinking, which had marked philosophy since ancient times. Heidegger denounced the danger of the hegemony of calculative thinking, typical of economics and technology, imposed on the West by metaphysics, after taking leave of the ‘first beginning’ represented by auroral thought. In this way, Western people (but in a westernized world we can say people in general), have become the ruler of the world.


It is precisely the destruction of the idea of origin and original that in Deleuze opens up the space of difference. With this process, differences are not registered as differences in the univocity, which would be shocking with respect to the original unity, but are distributed. Being is no longer divided into hierarchically ordered categories that are distributed among determined entities assigned to a fixed place. No category or meaning difference between entities is thus hierarchized. Being is said in the same way in a human, in an orchid, in a bee, in a tick. The idea of beginning, of origin, is broken down. Even if there is a moment of beginning, when it is encountered by the act of repetition it loses all identity with itself and from this impossible coincidence it is no longer possible to identify the difference between an original being and originated entities. A process of liberation, which at the same time allows for mutual individuation, takes place. Not the Hegelian determinatio, but the individual form, which Deleuze finds in the haecceity. Hence, the process of production amounts to an individualization but not an identification. Metaphysics, which used to define a form of philosophy anchored in the values of tradition, is completely deconstructed for a thought in difference and from difference.


Birth and re-birth


Can philosophical thought renounce to any form of transcendence, of trespassing? Can it stop at ‘a life’ in its total immanence, to quote Deleuze again? (28) In more constructive terms, it is perhaps possible to think of a different relationship with the beginning by using the concept of birth. In Hannah Arendt’s work, as it is in the work of some feminism, this concept becomes a philosophical category breaking into the classical structure and opposing the metaphysics of death starting from which Western thought would have developed. (29)


The reference to birth maintains the deconstructive intent with respect to a metaphysical or even cultural-historical origin and refers back to a perpetually singular beginning that brings with it the new since a new born is a factual and unpredictable singularity that appears in the world and belongs to it.


Now, precisely this appearance (showing up, becoming visible, arising) marks the crucial aspect of the category of birth with respect to the philosophical tradition: although devalued within the philosophical tradition as it marks the distance of and from truth, Arendt rises such an appearance to the level of the very foundation of the human condition, of the origin. Breaking with a continuist conception of time, birth interrupts deductibility and causality chain, and becomes one with the questioning of the “rectilinear structure of Time whose past is always understood as the cause of the present, whose present is the tense of intention and preparation of our projects for the future, and whose future is the outcome of both.” (30)


The concept of birth, therefore, becomes a metaphor for the human ability to start something new, something free in contrast to a technical and executive attitude, because every birth disrupts the existing and produces disharmony in the previous order. Hence the crisis of the ordering thought that is repeatedly faced with the excess of the new. Birth is inextricably linked to the novum, it is the event that gives meaning to time and to the past. An event, though, which cannot be appropriated. Such an event, as with individual birth, is therefore not a choice, but a passage, like dawn. And this subtractive nature of birth renders the idea of beginning as ‘the immemorial,’ which cannot be reduced to an anthropologic or divine element.


Here, the idea of a new beginning emerges as the possibility of a relation to the past, to the origin, but with a different attitude: it is a question of ‘re-enacting,’ ‘re-making one’s birth,’ which can apply to every existence as well as to every epoch in history. Re-enacting, and not re-thinking, shows the profound epistemological change in the relationship with the beginning, in order to escape the theoretical dimension, the knowledge that would reduce the emerging to the factors that make it possible.



Hannah Arendt; Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

It is no coincidence that Arendt addressed this concept after the devastating experience of Nazism. In Origins of Totalitarianism, she highlights how, unlike the tyrannies of antiquity or the despotic systems of modernity, contemporary totalitarianisms have as their distinctive feature that of ‘eliminating thought.’ In other words, they do not just deprive humans of their freedom, or control their bodies. They aim at dismantling the ‘memory of the beginning.’ This is not just a question of erasing different origins. In a more ontological – or if we want anthropological – dimension, we could say they aim at effacing the fact that each of us is a beginning, and therefore a possibility of novelty, of freedom.


This way, Arendt makes it clear that the new beginning can start from birth and not from creativity: creation, whether transcendent, thus related to the activity of a divine creator, or immanent, as the fruit of the construction of a society, presupposes the presence of a unitary principle in the name of which multiplicity disappears. If, along with Augustine, it is crucial to identify the beginning with birth (De civitate Dei, XII, 20), even more important is to connect birth to re-birth, as Virgil did. The Virgilian poem


is a nativity hymn, a song in praise of a child’s birth and the arrival of a nova progenies, a new generation. It has long been misunderstood as a prophecy of salvation through […] the poem is an affirmation of the divinity of birth as such; if one wishes to extract a general meaning from it, this could only be the poet’s belief that the world’s potential salvation ties in the very fact that the human species regenerates itself constantly and forever. (31)


Arendt’s idea of the beginning as birth, while referring to the biological metaphor, succeeds in deconstructing organicist conceptions of history, precisely because it unites the dimension of bios with that of narration, or rather of infinite re-narratives.


With word and deed we insert ourselves into the human world, and this insertion is like a second birth, in which we confirm and take upon ourselves the naked fact of our original physical appearance. This insertion is not forced upon us by necessity, like labor, and it is not prompted by utility, like work. […] its impulse springs from the beginning which came into the world when we were born and to which we respond by beginning something new on our own initiative. (32)


This reading, thus, succeeds in distancing the human being and their practice (including that of thought) from subservience to the intrinsic and necessary movement, be it natural or historical. But even more, it determines a practical repositioning. Therefore, Arendt can answer the question What does it mean to think? using categories derived from birth, interpreting the maternal language as an original language from which to draw judgement, which thus will not be marked by any ethnic or cultural constraints. And which lies at the origin of a subject that is always in the nascent state, and as such open to the best choice to be adopted in a particular context.


In this perspective, philosophy is not a discourse on life, but a vital activity, the way through which life becomes a subject. In What is Philosophy?, Deleuze and Guattari went the same direction when they wrote that thinking does not have pre-existing natural or legal presuppositions to apply. According to them, thinking is giving birth to what does not yet exist.


Arendt’s inversion also allows us to overcome the logics within which part of the Western tradition remains inscribed: thought is not the result of logical schematism, rather a birth, what Vico called geminae ortae. Here, there is no extraneity between the subject and the predicate but a reciprocal generation. This way, Arendt forces us to understand that being born is not simply a past incident, but an event that still gives us food for thought. Not a foregone conclusion, then, but a task. The task of philosophy.


Gilles Deleuze had already reflected in this direction. For him the search for a beginning of philosophy would restore the ‘image of thought’ as “everybody knows what it means to think […] Everybody knows, no one can deny, is the form of representation and the discourse of the representative.”

This discussion brings us back to what Nancy wrote in Le sens du monde. After taking leave of the idea of the Cartesian cogito, of the deduction of existence from thought, it is now a matter of deducing one’s own existence from the decision-making act of the free being. What is fundamental is not birth – with all its biological and naturalistic heritage – but that inaugural gesture which is at the origin of all responsible living. It is not just a question of the end of metaphysics, nor of the end of positive thinking which would be replaced by negative thinking. What is at stake is the very meaning, reason and essence of thought as it has been known in the Western tradition. Here is where Nancy, with his question on the end of philosophy and its new beginning, invites us to start from again.


The task of philosophy must proceed from plural or immemorial beginnings, towards a future that is not to come but never to come, a future which is not teleologically predictable but always open to new rebirths. As Maria Zambrano noted, the task of being born and re-born should go hand in hand with the act of desnacer, that is, undoing birth. Thus, teleology and archaeology interpenetrate and alternate, foreseeing the confirmation of the elements of birth, together with the confidence of being able to redesign them in the course of time. Being born and reborn is not only about surviving, but also about providing a new sense of things. (33)


 

NOTES


1. I would like to thank Alessandra Meoni for her meticulous editing of the English text.


2. J.-L. Nancy, The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking, in Philosophy World Democracy, published on 29 July 2021 (https://www.philosophy-world-democracy.org/other-beginning/the-end-of-philosophy).


3. As Roberto Esposito clearly points out, in order to be guided through the several ways of thinking the concept of ‘origin,’ it is crucial to bear in mind its essential polysemy, which is “Ursprung on the one hand and Herkunft or Entstehung (but also Abkunft, Geburt) on the other. Whereas the first term refers to absolute truth, pure essence, and the complete identity of the thing with itself – and, for this reason, it refers to what is logically anterior to everything external, accidental, or supplementary – the second term toward which Nietzsche’s sympathies are directed refers to an ‘origin’ – Herkunft – in which numerous beginnings proliferate and mingle in contradiction and dispute” (R. Esposito, The Origin of the Political. Hannah Arendt or Simone Weil?, trans. by V. Binetti and G. Williams, New York: Fordham University Press 2017, p. 19).


4. As Divya Dwivedi clarifies: “[t]o begin with, ‘beginning’ should be distinguished from ‘origin’ as the substance which receives the differences that are tolerable for it, that is, it remains the same as long as the predicates are within a certain range. This means, beginning should henceforth be distinguished, not only from the initial, the inaugural and the archē, but above all from the substantiality of a “philosophy” that would also be the substantiality of ‘the occident’ in having ‘its’ history in the range designated by Heidegger as: metaphysics as ontotheology as the history of the west.” D. Dwivedi, Nancy’s Wager, https://www.philosophy-world-democracy.org/other-beginning/nancys-wager#viewer-eiqh4.


5. G. W. F. Hegel, Aesthetics. Lectures on Fine Art, trans. by T. M. Knox, 2 vols., Oxford: Clarendon Press 1975, II, p. 1062.


6. J.-L. Nancy, The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking, cit.


7. R. Esposito, A Philosophy for Europe: from the outside, trans. by Z. Hanafi, Polity Press, Cambridge 2018, p. 22.


8. M. Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics, trans. G. Fried and R. Polt, 2nd rev. ed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014 (1953), p. 41.


9. M. Heidegger, Nietzsche. Volume 4: Nihilism, ed. by D. F. Krell, trans. by F. A. Capuzzi, New York: Harper & Row 1982, p. 148.


10. Heidegger, Nietzsche.Volume 4: Nihilism, p. 148.


11. M. Heidegger, Introduction to Phenomenological Research, trans. by D. O. Dahlstromp, Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2005, p. 85.


12. Ibid., p. 86.


13. Ibid.


14. Ibid. Cf. A. De Libera, Heidegger, de la déconstruction à l’histoire de l’Estre (Geschichte des Seyns), in D. Simonetta and A. de Vitry (dir.), Histoire et historiens des idées, https://books.openedition.org/cdf/9932?lang=it).


15. M. Heidegger, The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, ed. and trans. by A. Hofstadter, Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press 1982, p. 23.


16. M. Heidegger, What Is Philosophy?, trans and intr. by J. T. Wilde and W. Kluback, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, \2003, p. 41. The logic behind Heidegger’s metaphysics has led to the full expression of racial thinking, as highlighted in D. Dwivedi, cit. For an in-depth examination of going beyond Heidegger’s metaphysics in the direction of a departure from classical logic and the law of identity in the direction of new faculties, see: S. Mohan, And the Beginning of Philosophy, https://www.philosophy-world-democracy.org/other-beginning/and-the-beginning-of-philosophy.


17. Concerning Heidegger’s proposed solution, Nancy writes: “Heidegger seems here to remain caught in a relativistic conception of ‘finite thinking,’ which would remain simply one ‘possibility’ among many, unable to claim any knowledge of finitude’s truth in itself. This requires clarification, at the very least. We don’t know finitude ‘in itself.’ However, this isn’t the effect of perspectivism but because there is no finitude ‘in itself.’ It is with this that we need to concern ourselves, and not the rhetoric of the modesty of thinking within which Heidegger remains trapped,” J.-L. Nancy, A Finite Thinking, ed. S. Sparks, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press 2003, pp. 320-321, fn. 4.


18. J.-L. Nancy, A Finite Thinking, p. 15.


19. G. Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, trans by P. Patton, New York: Columbia University Press 1995, p. 130.


20. Ivi, p. 131.


21. G. Deleuze, Proust and Signs. The Complete Text, trans by R. Howard, London: The Athlone Press 2000, p. 44.


22. Ivi, p. 15. The German philosophical tradition had addressed this issue for a long time dealing with Stoss as a primary impact, see M. Heidegger, Sein und Zeit, Tübingen: Niemeyer Verlag, 1927, II, 2.


23. G. Deleuze, F. Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, trans. H. Tomlinson and G. Burchell, New York: Columbia University 1994, p. 55.


24. G. Deleuze, Difference and repetition, cit., p. 139.


25. G. Deleuze, Proust and Signs, cit., p. 101.


26. See M. Ferraris, Differenze. La filosofia francese dopo lo strutturalismo, Milan: Albo Versorio 2007, pp. 138ff. – my translation.


27. G. Deleuze, Difference and repetition, cit., p. 39.


28. As Sergio Benvenuto observes: “every ambitious philosophy, like Nancy’s, proposes itself as the end of philosophy, yet every philosopher fears, like Nancy, the end of philosophy, he hopes that philosophy will continue, despite the closure that every philosophy promises,” S. Benvenuto, The Eternal End of Philosophy, https://www.philosophy-world-democracy.org/other-beginning/the-eternal-end-of-philosophy


29. As Adriana Cavarero points out, the philosophical tradition for millennia represented by men “has decided not to measure the human condition in the female sexuation of the origin, from which its sex is excluded, and to look elsewhere,” towards disappearance in death (A. Cavarero, Dire la nascita, in Diotima: Mettere al mondo il mondo, Milan: La Tartaruga 1990, p. 114, my translation). Such a choice, however, generates the anguish of mortal disappearance, the one experienced by and in the body, which is transformed into the obsession of lasting, of not dying, of not ending; the obsession of lasting therefore dictates the canons of eternity, which, being unattainable in a mortal body, is sought on another level, in thought: objects of thought, ideas, concepts, all those “things that always are,” that remain immutable, are removed from the fate of transience, of appearance, they are ‘presumed’ universal and objective, eternal. Thus, if the body is mortal, finite, transient, the answer to the need for eternity that arises from the obsession with duration is to be sought in thought, which manages to get untied from the living body right by ‘philosophizing.’ It follows that death, experienced as a perfect and definitive untying act that allows access to a dimension of eternity, becomes the figure of philosophy (see pp. 114-115).


30. H. Arendt, The Life of the Mind. Vol. 2: Willing,San Diego; New York; London: Harvest Book 1978, p. 171.


31. Ivi, p. 212.


32. H. Arendt, The Human Condition, Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1958, pp. 176-177.


33. As Etty Hillesum wrote in her journal: “if we fail to draw new meaning from the deep wells of our distress and despair, then it will not be enough. New thoughts will have to radiate outward from the camps themselves, new insights, spreading lucidity, will have to cross the barbed wire enclosing us […]. And perhaps, on the common basis of an honest search for some way to understand these dark events, wrecked lives may yet take a tentative step forward,” E. Hillesum, An Interrupted Life:The Diaries1941-1943,and Letters from Westerbork, New York: Henry Holt and Company 1996, pp. 250-251.

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