Reiner Schürmann: The Philosophy of Nietzsche

The Philosophy of Nietzsche Book Cover The Philosophy of Nietzsche
Reiner Schürmann
Diaphanes
2020
Paperback
176

Reviewed by: Zach Schroeder

Reiner Schürmann’s The Philosophy of Nietzsche, edited by Francesco Guercio, provides a comprehensive detailing of the philosopher’s corpus while interpreting it largely through the lens of Kantian Transcendentalism. Schürmann claims that Kant’s transcendental philosophy is the horizon of Nietzsche’s transvaluation of all values and roots each element of Nietzsche’s thought in the Kantian concept from which he believes it actually derives. Schürmann claims this is necessary «to understand the horizon within which Nietzsche’s transvaluation of all values, and primarily his transvaluation of reason and truth, actually applies (17).» By interpreting Nietzsche in this way Schürmann is eventually able to derive a moral imperative from Nietzsche’s transvaluation of the will through the concept of eternal recurrence.

Nietzsche claims to be the first to question the founders of religion and philosophy seriously but it is Kant, according to Schürmann, who really did so, and Nietzsche is radicalizing this critique. Nietzsche criticizes Kant as having won a victory over dogmatic traditions only to open a secret path for them to work their ideals back into philosophy, which is why he seeks to go beyond Kant by criticizing truth itself (21).

The quest for truth, in Nietzsche’s view, is seen as a symptom and he targets the individual seeking it. While this might seem to invoke truth and reason as criteria and thus undercut the raising of the question in the first place, Schürmann believes Nietzsche avoids this pitfall by associating the question with a certain type of person or will. Because philosophers have so far failed to make this association, their prejudice remains masked. Schürmann believes that this is still a transcendental quest, however, arguing that it is compatible with Kant’s definition (23). The conditions of truth in Nietzsche are defined in terms of the truthful person. Reason is a tool for the purposes of life itself, thus Nietzsche’s genealogy of reason can be seen as a continuation of the Kantian project.

Transcendentalism is a tracing back of phenomena to their condition of possibility in the subject. This is core to both Kant’s and Nietzsche’s transcendentalism, with one key difference. In Kant, this is forms of knowledge, in Nietzsche, it is will types. The a-priori forms are then distinct life types or wills.

In The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche praises Kant for making philosophy creative instead of contemplative. However, Nietzsche began to observe the negative effects of Kant through a despair of truth, and believes this led Kant back into the cages of dogma and God. This is why Nietzsche wants to radicalize Kant’s critique. Schürmann draws our attention away from the detail of Nietzsche’s aphorisms, which he takes to be easily understandable, and instead examines the many different points of view Nietzsche takes, which are often contradictory. We are then meant to approach his concepts with an emphasis on nuance, multiplicity, and interwoven forces at play, as opposed to deducing some common unifying thread.

Schürmann says that everything from Zarathustra onward should be read with quotation marks, as Nietzsche distancing himself from the specific affirmations because Western language is contaminated with a faith in reason. Schürmann thinks this leads to an illusory reification through language. It is the Platonic structure of our language that sets us as unlike each other and identifies types abstractly, thus generating the illusion that some ideal prototype could be discovered and give us a science of that which we speak. In other words, the establishment of a mean among many is core to the very function and flow of our language, which disguises the rather nebulous nature of being in something artificial.

Kant reduced the self (identity) to form and function while Nietzsche believed it is dissolved entirely once traced back. The instinct or drive to discover stable principles is one of fear, a fear of a loss of identity, because our notion of identity is not metaphysically stable. Thus Schürmann believes that for Nietzsche the cardinal principle of logic appears to be the principle of identity. So, if identity is dissolved at the level of a-priori forms (will), logic does not have transcendental application.

Nietzsche’s transcendentalism as a genealogy of life forms amounts to radical criticism because it is leveled against faith in reason and truth itself. This criticism cannot be carried out in ordinary language so it takes place in the background of another truth that Schürmann believes should be taken with quotation marks, tragic truth. In tragic truth our instinct for truth reconciles itself in the insight that the only taste of a stable backdrop we can have comes from our dissolution into nothing, the opposite of metaphysical truth which then turns out to be the only one. Nietzsche shifting the question away from what truth is to where do truth and reason arise is exemplified in his critique of Socrates as the symptom of decadence and emblematic of a particular type of will. This also serves as a genealogy of not only truth, but the type of will that finds it so appealing. The history of truth as error shows “how the real world became a fable” and this part of Nietzsche’s work, Schürmann claims, is preparatory for tragic truth that can act as a protagonist.

Kant takes appearance to be, among other things, manifestations. Nietzsche rejects this in favor of preserving the beauty of things as presented. Nietzsche does not deny synthetic a priori judgments, but he denies that such judgments produce any objectivity in the sense of a transcendental science (47). Instead of asking how such judgments are possible, Nietzsche asks why our belief in such judgments is necessary. The objective validity of such judgments is, to Nietzsche, a value for someone and is necessary for life.

Schürmann believes Nietzsche uses Kant’s own insights to dismantle the Kantian quest for knowledge. What we call knowledge is, according to Nietzsche, only a schematization of chaotic sense reality for practical vital needs. Schürmann directs the reader’s attention to an emphasis on the body given by Nietzsche as evidence of chaotic reality. The practical need for schematizing and simplifying is then to resist the thrashing of chaos, but the body shows us that this resistance is futile in the long run, and instead serves our purposes during life alone.

Schürmann points out that Heidegger identifies Nietzsche as still within the Platonic tradition because of his poeticizing prior to reasoning out his concepts, something Plato does in Phaedrus. Schürmann believes this is an oversight on Heidegger’s part because the “prior-poeticizing” in Nietzsche is actually the transcendental grounds for truth in service of life (51). In other words, poeticizing is ontologically prior to reason in Nietzsche’s account.

The tragedy of ideal truth, understood historically, undertakes epochal turns at the moment of a “self-emptying” of values, also known as nihilism. The will to power is Nietzsche’s final conceptual understanding of the play of tragedy on truth and the various forms and emergences of nihilism. Schürmann focuses heavily on historical nihilism, but he does provide explanations for all forms of nihilism addressed by Nietzsche. Furthermore, linking nihilism with his broader attempt to explain Nietzsche’s work as a radicalization of the Kantian project, he says that because Kant placed ideas about totality in thinking and the human mind alone they had to inevitably be denounced as nothingness.

Schürmann interprets the will to power differently than Heidegger and Kaufmann (68). He views it through the notion of historical decadence culminating in Nietzsche’s passage in Twilight of the Idols called “How the ‘true world’ became a fable.” Schürmann takes a phenomenological approach and comes to describe it as a playing out of forms which through time is a perpetual attempt at configuration. The will to power is most evident as the means of distinction between epochs. To break from epochal influences is to assume control of one’s reality, transvaluating its activities into joyful creations. This phenomenological view puts struggle at the heart of all that there is and invokes a need to resist getting too carried away with useful fictions.

For Schürmann, the very phenomenology of the will to power makes for a verbal understanding of being. Nietzsche’s gift-giving virtue is a horizontal transfer of knowledge motivated by love. Its necessity for action and the emptying of power (knowledge) makes for a highly verbal description of ethical life. After examining the grounds of what he calls Nietzsche’s practical philosophy, the will to power emerges as the differentiating principle within the flux of forces. For Schürmann, the moral imperative derived from the will to power is then along the lines of “do justice to that flux (85).”

Nietzsche sees himself as the first philosopher to compare many moralities as part of the same phenomenon, opposed to his predecessors who attempted to understand a “correct” morality (90). The bad conscience that takes hold as a result of allowing oneself to live in service of one of these moralities is an example of assuming an inherited role instead of assuming control of reality. The result of Nietzsche’s critique is that “Kant is turned against himself: if morality is ‘common,’ then what is moral is to show what commonly happens, namely the a-moral aggregation of forces for which Western morality is but a disguise (94).”

Schürmann interprets the eternal recurrence as a transvaluation of both time and will. It is a movement from “thou shalt” to “I will” to the “free spirit.” Once eternal recurrence is fully thought, the selective essence contained within moments is revealed and creative choice becomes accessible. The wills of others is then transvaluated and one’s own will can live through the body and time goes from a succession of events narrated by a prior will into the now and its perpetual repetition of moments. Thus time goes from a particular life to be endured through one’s given role to a continuous return of opportunities for joy; from “a life” to “life.”

Nietzsche’s project of radical enlightenment robs us of the chance to systematize ethics, but Schürmann believes that the heavy moral imperative derived from the eternal recurrence, that of facing the consequences of each action as if we had to do so for eternity, is a chance to universalize ethical thinking in a different way. The moral imperative derived from Nietzsche is then identified as a kind of Hereclitean justice. To do justice is to homologize one’s logos with the strife of existence. The homologizing of living and thinking is meant to avoid the very essence of injustice, which is to be selective of certain forces over others. In other words, injustice can be understood as a breach in the process of thinking one’s way through life in a manner that is compatible with the flux.

Schürmann’s coverage of Nietzsche is comprehensive and detailed. It succeeds in its task of establishing him within the broader philosophical discourse. While some of the conclusions Schürmann draws are thought in a manner compatible with his own, particularly in relation to the tragic double bind, I see no reason to think of them as uncharitable or unreasonable. Any reader would walk away from this book with a firm grasp of core Nietzschean concepts, but that is not all. In this work one finds the beginning of an altogether different Nietzsche, a positive Nietzsche. While we have been thoroughly treated to Nietzsche’s negative concepts through his reclamation in the 20th century, Schürmann successfully pulls back the veil on a vast reservoir of thought that is, as of yet, largely untouched. For anyone looking to do serious work on Nietzsche in the future, it is my firm opinion that this will be a fundamental and necessary text.

Peter Dews: Schelling’s Late Philosophy in Confrontation with Hegel

Schelling's Late Philosophy in Confrontation with Hegel Book Cover Schelling's Late Philosophy in Confrontation with Hegel
Peter Dews
Oxford University Press
2023
Hardcover $110.00 / Ebook
344

Reviewed by: Marina Christodoulou (Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Philosophy at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences) ORCID ID: 0000-0002-5721-833X

From a first look at the Table of Contents of Peter Dews’s Schelling’s Late Philosophy in Confrontation with Hegel (OUP USA, 2023), one gets already the impression of seeing the intertitles of Schelling’s works and central philosophical preoccupations: nature, agency, identity, thinking, being, idea, blind-existingness, mythological consciousness, reason, revelation, history, liberation, and genealogy. Already here the reader suspects an ambitious endeavor, which is then confirmed by the length of the work (311 densely written pages), which is accompanied by a Preface, Notes on Translations and References, Notes on Terminology, List of Abbreviations, and then includes an Introduction, 9 Chapters, 3 Figures, Bibliography and Index. This ambitious endeavor is then further confirmed but also achieved by the reading of the book.

As the author writes in the Preface, the aim of the book is the following:

Studying the confrontation between Schelling and Hegel promises not only to promote a better comprehension of the inner life of German Idealism as a whole, but can throw light on many questions which continue to surge up for those who seek to grapple philosophically with the modern world, and the forms of human existence, agency, and self-understanding which it has fostered. (Dews 2023, xii)

Thus, we already see the intention of not just another book on the history of philosophy recounting the theories and ideas of the philosophers announced in the title (Schelling, Hegel), but also, as justified by the reading of the book, nearly an overview of German Idealism and of the modern world, as well as of the notions examined, such as existence, being, agency, nature, etc. However, the book achieves much more than this. We see a parade of unsuspected philosophers along the pages, such as, except from Schelling and Hegel, Aristotle, Spinoza, Kant, Fichte, Leonhard Reinhold, Jacobi, Heidegger, Sartre, and others, including many scholars writing on them.

I found the Notes on Terminology especially helpful, clarifying and precise. With them we get in direct touch with the German original (Aufheben/Aufhebung; Das reine Daß; Potenz; Das Seyende; Das Existirende; Das Existiren; Das unvordenkliche Seyn; Das urständliche Seyn), we see the translation/transcription choices of the author being justified and juxtaposed with those of other philosophers/scholars, and we avoid many misconceptions, assumptions, and misinterpretations, since similar or the same words are also used by other philosophers, and we might read Schelling with their apparatus, or to cite Donna Haraway, with their “situated knowledges”. Peter Dews already mentions such confusion and misinterpretations, or even biases, when reading Schelling or any other philosophers, and when it comes to understanding or interpreting them through the lens, the nomenclature and the concepts of another, especially when this other has been more influential in their time, as it happens with the case of Heidegger, who seems to intrude in every understanding and interpretation of even philosophers before him. Especially so in the case of the philosophers that influence Heidegger, and the works of whom he un-remorselessly usurps, who become themselves, within scholarship, only as their Heidegger doppelgänger. Even more specifically in the case of Schelling, who “has been on” Heidegger since the moment that Heidegger “had been on him”.[2] Peter Dews writes:

Although Schelling is not entirely consistent, his use of “das Seyende” and “das Seyn” can therefore be regarded, very roughly, as reversing the polarity which these terms have in Heidegger. This is worth noting since the Heideggerian influence on recent European philosophy has led even some translators of Schelling into error. One should also bear in mind that Schelling no doubt intended to replicate the grammar of Aristotle’s most general term for being, “το ὂν” (to on), a nominalized present participle. (xviii)

Following the Notes on Terminology, particularly helpful are also the Abbreviations, since apart from their necessity in looking back at them while reading the book, they are also, simultaneously, lists of the works of the main philosophers employed (Kant, Fichte, Hegel, Schelling, Sartre, and others) both in their original language and in English. Furthermore, I particularly appreciate the note on Gendered Language towards the end of the Abbreviations section, together with the notes on Orthography that add to the precision and the wide critical abilities demonstrated in this book, which are not limited into the usual and mere claustrophobic examination of a particular author or a particular historical philosophical era.

What I particularly appreciated in the Introduction, except from the very concise outline of the chapters, are some general comments regarding both the contemporary status of research on German Idealism and on Schelling, but also the historical milieu around Schelling’s thought, in relation to his contemporaries and especially Hegel. Concerning the first, Peter Dews notices that German Idealism (and in general the German Philosophy after Kant), as well as “its less systematic complement, Jena Romanticism” (1), are not only preoccupying the thought and scholarship of philosophers and scholars in the continental tradition, but there is an upsurge of interest by some analytic schools as well. This is something that, I would add, is seen not only with the employment of post-Kantian German philosophers by analytic philosophy, but also with other figures of continental thought, as for example the Phenomenologists. Moreover, as Peter Dews observes, in order to understand the “awkwardness in the reception of Schelling’s thought, we need to consider the dominant orientation of the new wave of research on the German Idealist period, which began in the late twentieth century, with an initial focus on Hegel” (2). And it is mostly this latter awkwardness that he clarifies in the Introduction. This constant juxtaposition and comparison not only of Schelling with his contemporaries, but also with “modern frames of reference” (14 and elsewhere; where with “modern” he means contemporary and not “modern” as a historical period), is something that constitutes the leitmotif of the book. In the Conclusion, Peter Dews even employs in his analysis the very modern-postmodern “hermeneutics of suspicion” (Marx, Nietzsche, Freud) (15; 281-283).

While studying the chapters one by one, –one can find a brief outline of them at the end of the Introduction (12-16), so that I do not merely repeat it here–, what I found most appealing and even positively surprising is how, despite having been studying Schelling for many years, many aspects of his philosophy have become much clearer to me, as I suppose will become for other readers, too. Moreover, the interconnections between notions, ideas, and theories all over his philosophy, or of ones used in specific works of his, have also been allocated a more concrete order of understanding. More so, concepts, theories, ideas, and notions from Aristotle, Hegel, Heidegger, and Sartre, have attained a clearer sense, through their interpretation by Shelling via Dews, and also through their comparison and juxtaposition with Schelling, who are, simultaneously, constantly compared, juxtaposed and interpreted through one another on the first stratum, and on the second stratum or “image of thought”, as Deleuze would say it, through or via Dews. I am referring here to notions major not only to these specific philosophers but paramount within Philosophy itself: myth-ology, reality, essence, not-being, non-being, becoming, nothing-ness, consciousness, nature, spirit, subject-object, agency, potentiality, actuality, dependency, freedom, necessity, autonomy, the “ontological argument”, etc. This book becomes, thus, nearly a storytelling narrative of characters and their exchanges, where the author becomes actively one of them. This is what philosophy is supposed to do, anyway, and Peter Dews has done it perfectly, with the end result becoming a book that is also pleasurable and grasping to read; another attribute or “virtue” sine qua non of good philosophizing.

I will now give some highlights from the book, which cannot be but bound to personal preferences and “decisions”, as is always the case, either when implicitly or explicitly stated. Taking the opportunity from the reference to “decisions”, and since I have a personal interest in “philosophical decisions”, especially as meant by François Laruelle, but also as implied by Friedrich Nietzsche (“ephexis from interpretation”) and others,[3] I will at first mention some instances where in Peter Dews’s book I found some ideas that reminded me of these Laruellian philosophical “ideals”, either as interpretations and characterizations of certain philosophies and philosophers, or as direct quotations. Of course, almost certainly without the intention of Peter Dews, but still I find the mere fact of using or quoting these phases already as a testimony to a commitment to pluralism, democracy, and a withholding or suspension of a final decision (which would otherwise mean a dogmatism, and an authoritarianism, in which philosophers, according to Laruelle, engage as per usual, but which is unlike his ideals of Non-Philosophy that actually means his ideals of Philosophy itself, outside the discrepancies and the aberrances of its actual history). I am particularly referring to the characterization of “theoretical agnosticism” (146) (which, here, goes to Kant and specifically for his approach on the existence of the Ideal, but it can stand alone without Kant or this specific philosophical idea). Then in the section on the “transition from the Idea to the ‘External Existence’ in Hegel”, Peter Dews, gives attention to what Hegel emphasizes to be the reason for or the why of “the shift from the domain of logic to nature”. In Peter Dews’s words:

Hegel emphasizes that the shift from the domain of logic to nature is not a “having become” (Gewordensein) or a “transition” (Übergang), that it is “free” (that is, not a logical consequence), and that it is the result of a “decision” (Entschluβ—arguably, this follows from its characterization as free, once we rule out—as Hegel must—the existence of the world as random) (SL: 752– 753/W20, 6: 573). In light of this, the best sense to be made of the major scene- change within his system seems to be the following. The circular closure of the sphere of logic as a whole both confirms the internal self-sufficiency of the sphere and reveals it as determinate or limited—as the sphere of what is “still as yet logical” (noch logisch). This one-sidedness generates the philosophical drive to move into another sphere. (155)

Here, I shall boldly accentuate the words: decision (Entschluβ), self-sufficiency, and philosophical drive. This paragraph could have been written, I think, by Laruelle, too. Decision could take the notion of the “philosophical decision” that each philosopher arrives to when formulating a theory, with which decision one forms a sphere of thought, or an “image of thought”, which one believes it is philosophically “sufficient” or self-sufficient and thus becomes enclosed and limited by one’s own formulations and decision and by the sphere of thought one has created and attach oneself to. This “belief” in the sufficiency of their philosophical decision stems from the general illusion of a sufficiency of philosophical thought and in repercussion of one’s own philosophical thought, which can do without any other form of thought either philosophical or other. Here Peter Dews, through Hegel, or Hegel through Peter Dews, seems to have the same intuition or ideal for philosophy that Laruelle has, by saying that there exists a “philosophical drive” towards moving “into another sphere”. This “philosophical drive” seems quite Nietzschean as well, as Nietzsche sees the philosopher as the sapio <sapere>, that is, the one that tastes from idea to idea, without remaining or being grasped by or clinging to any of them; namely, without arriving at a final decision, but by keeping “an ephexis in interpretation” [Ephexis in der Interpretation], as Nietzsche says, where interpretation and decision, I propose, can be used interchangeably[4]. This is how Nietzsche defines philology or the philological method, as “an ephexis in interpretation” [Philologie als Ephexis in der Interpretation], which he also employs in his philosophy as well. This ephexis is also at the core of the Nietzschean type of skepticism. A little bit later in the book, Dews examines the notion of dependency (156, 164-170, and elsewhere), which is also existing in Aristotle and is quite known in analytic philosophy as “ontological dependency” or “existential dependency”, and it can be also seen in a more Nietzschean, Laruellian and even Hegelian sense, where each idea, and each system, sphere, or “image of thought”, as well as, more broadly, each discipline of thought, and each discourse, is dependent on all others, thus one alone cannot be ontologically efficient and sufficient (self-sufficient), even if it can be separated for the sake of epistemological analysis. Peter Dews has a worth mentioning comment/conclusion on this epistemological/ontological separation, in connection with Schelling’s distinction/separation between Positive and Negative Philosophy:

Arguably, if we wish to sustain an explanatory project of the Idealist kind, committed to the ultimate satisfaction of reason, yet also to separate epistemological from metaphysical monism, we cannot avoid a distinction comparable to that drawn by Schelling between negative and positive philosophy. Negative philosophy is the domain of the “eternal truths.” Positive philosophy, as we shall explore in more detail in the next chapter, begins from the Daβ— which Schelling also terms the “un-pre-thinkable” (das Unvordenkliche), or, more disquietingly, “blind existing-ness” (das Blindexistierende). (170)

In order to clarify what is Negative Philosophy in Schelling, I quote some passages from Peter Dews:

Schelling’s negative philosophy is a large, complex structure, consisting of a philosophy of nature and a philosophy of spirit. (140)

[…] “purely rational” (reinrationale) philosophy […] “logical’ philosophy” […]. (117)

[…] negative philosophy elaborates an a priori theory of the structures of being; […]. (117)

In negative philosophy, thought turns back on itself, reflecting on the manner in which it is logically compelled to think pure being. (118)

[…] the legacy of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Schelling’s suggestion is that, in these thinkers, “dialectic” plays the role of negative philosophy […]. (118)

In the thought of Socrates, as portrayed by Plato, dialectic plays a ground-clearing role, destroying the illusory knowledge of Sophists and Eleatics, but it does not culminate in any positive theory. It is in this context that Socrates’ claim to uniqueness in knowing that he does not know acquires its significance. His lack of knowledge is a docta ignorantia, which refers both backwards and forwards. (118)

Aristotle’s thought presents a very different picture, however, since he purges Greek philosophy of its mythological dimension, and—in the Metaphysics—develops a style of thinking which Schelling regards as a precursor of his own negative philosophy. […] There are two fundamental features of Aristotle’s thinking which are significant in this respect. The first is Aristotle’s denial that the structure of the ideas, as understood by Plato, can play any role in explaining the existence of things. In this context, Schelling refers to Aristotle’s criticism of “the confusion which arises . . . when the logical order is confused with the order of being,” with the upshot that “inevitably the real causes of being are mistaken for the merely formal principles of science” (GPP: 160/SW, II/3: 101). (119)

In effect, on Schelling’s reading, Aristotle “suppressed” the elements of a positive philosophy which were already present in Plato’s dialogues in the form of a “mere anticipation” (GPP: 164/SW, II/3: 107); that is to say, in the form of the mythical or eschatological discourse to which Plato was unable to establish a strictly philosophical transition from the domain of dialectic. (120)

Negative Philosophy is a categorization having sense only next to what Schelling calls Positive Philosophy:

[…] “historical’ philosophy” (117)

[…] the task of positive philosophy is to confront the bare fact of the world’s existence, and—operating abductively—to frame the most comprehensive explanation it can for the inner dynamic of nature and the evolving history of human consciousness. (117)

In positive philosophy, by contrast, it begins from one supreme fact—that the world exists—and seeks to frame an account of nature and the history of human consciousness, which, in a hermeneutic circle, is both guided by, and constitutes an ongoing confirmation of, its inaugural hypothesis concerning the intelligibility of the world’s existence. (118)

[…] the concerns central to positive philosophy are explored primarily through the medium of myth. (118)

(He [Schelling] suggests that what can be classified as “positive” in Aristotle’s thought—in other words, not purely constructible by reason—is only the empirical data, which are examined for the purpose of framing definitions that can then be used in syllogistic inference.) (119)

This illusion of sufficiency or independency of each philosophy or philosophical decision, theory, system, etc., or of Logic over what Hegel calls Realphilosophie, or of Negative Philosophy over Positive Philosophy, as Schelling calls it, and vice versa, is evident here. There is, in fact, an intra-dependency of decisions within Philosophy and of types of Philosophy, and an inter-dependency between Philosophy and the other disciplines or domains of thought. All these types of philosophy or “kinds of philosophical activity” (117) or “modes of philosophizing”, as Dews calls them (118), both in Hegel and in Schelling, (Dews clarifies them throughout his book), are precisely, as I see it, what Hegel, too, tried to avoid through his dialectical method, and accordingly what the aforementioned philosophers (Laruelle, Nietzsche) attempted to avoid with their own approaches and methodologies. Peter Dews quotes the following passage from Hegel, where again there is an anachronistic “reference” to the Laruellian philosophical decision, and to what Hegel gives as the why of “the shift from the domain of logic to nature”, the answer to which is “decision”, which as he says in the passage quoted here, does not need to have “any inner reason, in actual fact, as the French say, sans rime ni raison”. These can also have correspondences with Deleuze’s philosophical presuppositions, which often become the reasons sans rime ni raison for a (philosophical) decision. I quote:

Because Hegel’s logical domain is entirely self-sufficient, we would be required to suppose that: The very idea which is first presented as the most perfect, and which no dialectic could have any further power over, that this idea, without having any inner reason, in actual fact, as the French say, sans rime ni raison, could break apart into this world of contingent things, opaque to reason and resistant to the concept. (SET: 63/SW, II/1: 584) (168)

As a further comment on the above, I think that all criticisms between philosophers are due to their illusion of the independency and sufficiency of their proper philosophy, and the reflex towards a direct proximity to interpretation (rather than an ephexis from it); this was, I think, Deleuze’s intuition too, and thus his disrelish for criticism. Edmund Husserl’s notion of “regional ontology” or “ontological region” is also relevant here as well as in connection to the aforementioned ideas/methodologies of Laruelle, but I will not go into more detail here.

Moreover, I think that Peter Dews in this book exemplifies what Laruelle, again, phrases as the “democracy of all thought”, since I did not anywhere catch any pejorative statement or a hierarchy or a court-like mono-defense of one or the other of his philosophical protagonists.

What I would also like to highlight is the extent to which Peter Dews’s book manages to both clarify and juxtapose the following fundamentally philosophical-ontological terms/concepts in Schelling, and the neighboring ones in Hegel, Aristotle, Spinoza, Fichte (see, especially, pp. 40-41, where the concepts/notions of reality, existence, and consciousness are also juxtaposed), Sartre (see Chapter 6, esp. pp., 172-185), and others, as well as “the ontological argument” in general (pp. 185-193): being [das Seyn]; being-ness [das Seyende]; being-ness itself [das Seyende selbst]; blind being [dem blinden Seyn]; the subject of being [das Subjekt des Seyns); what Is [Was Ist]; “that which is not able-not-to-be” [“das nicht Nichtsein-könnende”] (SdW: 28); “the able-to-be” [das Seynkönnende]; the primordial being [Ursein]; being-in-the-role-of-essence [“wesendes Sein”] (SdW: 28); the pre-jective [das Urständliche], objective [gegenständlich] (HMP: 52–53/SW, I/10: 18); “the necessarily existing mode of being” [des nothwendig existirenden Wesens] (HMP: 53–54/SW, I/10: 19; see also SdW: 8); essence [Wesen]; absolute emptiness [die absolute Leerheit]. (Enc.1: §87, Zusatz/W20, 8: 188); “mere being” (das blose Sein); “negatively not-being” (negativ nichtseiend); “positively not-being” (positiv nichtseiend); etc.

And then I think that one of the greatest achievements of this book, is to clarify in an anachronistic manner the famous Aristotelian distinction between the “μὴ ὂν” (mē on) and the “οὺκ ὂν” (ouk on), by juxtaposing it, as already Schelling does in his work, with Schelling’s “positively not-being” or “positive not-being”, and “negatively not-being” or “negative not-being”, and “nothing”, as well as with Hegel’s relevant terms. I will quote here some extended passages from Dews, which I consider to be stellar in achieving the aforementioned:

From Schelling’s point of view, Hegel’s argument that the thought of pure being collapses into—has always already passed over into—the thought of nothing fails to distinguish between two distinct ways in which “mere being” (das blose Sein) can be regarded, which he distinguishes in the lecture course System der Weltalter: it can be thought as “negatively not-being” (negativ nichtseiend) or as “positively not-being” (positiv nichtseiend). The positively not-being is the “not-being which is posited as such, thus nothing at all.” By contrast, the “negatively not-being” is the “not-being, which is only not-being where actual being is denied, but in which there is also the possibility to be some entity (ein Seiendes zu Sein)” (SdW: 113). Schelling frequently distinguishes these two negations of being by using the Greek expressions “μὴ ὂν” (mē on) and “οὺκ ὂν” (ouk on). Here he is drawing on Aristotle’s theory of potentiality and actuality, as Aristotle uses the term “μὴ ὂντος” (mē ontos) rather than “οὺκ ὂντος” (ouk ontos) (that is to say, the expression for the contrary rather than contradictory negation of being) in order to describe the existing of properties potentially (δυνάμει—dunamei) as the negation of their existence in actuality (ἐνεργείᾳ—energeiai) (see, for example, Metaphysics XII.1.1069b18– 20). In a later discussion of the same issue, Schelling uses an Aristotelian example: to describe a voice as “not white” one would use the negative “ouk,” whereas to describe a sunburned face as “not white” one would use “mē” (see DRP, SW, II/1, 306–307). He further points out that, when Aristotle states the fundamental principle that the same thing cannot be and not be, he writes “εἶναι καὶ μὴ εἶναι ̓ (einai kai mē einai) rather than “εἶναι καὶ οὐκ εἶναι” (einai kai ouk einai), using “mē” rather than “ouk” to express negation. According to Schelling, modern philosophers only give this principle the “formal meaning” connected with contradictory negation, whereas Aristotle uses the expression that gives the principle a “wider extension” (see DRP, SW, II/1: 308–309). […] The disagreement between Hegel and Schelling, therefore, hinges on whether the not-being of pure being should be understood as a distinctive negative mode of being, which cannot be accommodated by the Hegelian contrast between the thought of sheer being, on the one hand, and the thought—in intention absolutely opposed and yet, according to Hegel, logically indistinguishable—of its total absence or nullification, on the other. To register this important Schellingian distinction in a convenient form, I will from now on draw a contrast between not-being or nothing (das Nichts) and non-being (das Nichtsein). As Schelling himself points out, this opposition corresponds to the modern French distinction between “le rien” and “le néant” (e.g., DPE, SW, I/10: 285–286). (127-129)

At this stage, one can imagine a further Hegelian objection: that the concept of “potentiality” is simply not available at the radical beginning of pure thinking. Hence it is important to note that, at the start of the discussion of being, Hegel does in fact consider the possibility that the contrary negation of being (which he refers to as “das Nichtsein”), rather than its contradictory negation (which he terms “das Nichts”), could be taken as following from the thought of pure being. […] (129)

Hegel concedes, then, that treating “non-being” as the next logical stage after “being” is not an inherently illegitimate move. He simply thinks the result would be a direct transition to one of the two moments of the subsequent category of becoming, which combine being and nothing—specifically, the moment of transition from nothing to being. It seems clear that Hegel must also have Aristotle’s conception of the shift from potentiality to actuality— from dunamis to energeia—implicitly in mind here, and that he is using the expression “das Nichtsein” to render Aristotle’s “μὴ ὂν.” What is striking about this concession is that the phrase “nothing, as it is in becoming” renders rather precisely what Schelling describes as das gegenständliche Seyn (objective being), as opposed to das urständliche Seyn (pre-jective being). For das gegenständliche Seyn is pure, formless givenness—one might think here of unconceptualized Kantian intuitions which, as the first Critique says, would be “less than a dream” (A112), unless taken up into a process of categorial synthesis. (130)

So, thinking of pure being as “μὴ ὂν” rather than “οὺκ ὂν” does indeed involve thinking of it in mediated way. Das Subjekt des Seyns cannot entirely shake off its relation to the being of which it is the subject—as Schelling puts it at one point, potentialities “exist as waiting for” actuality (DRP, SW, II/1: 311). Yet, of course, this cannot be the whole story, else we would not find ourselves at any kind of radical beginning. It is fundamental to Schelling’s conception, in fact, that pure being should be double in this way. On the one hand, we apprehend it as immediately identical with its concept; in his lectures On the History of Modern Philosophy, Schelling refers to this moment of thinking as the “concept of concepts” or the “pure concept”—an apprehension of existence which abstracts from any determinate grasping of something as something […] (130)

[…] This is, Schelling asserts, “the point where thinking and being are one” (HMP: 52/SW, I/10: 18). […] Schelling’s critique of modern philosophy, then, hinges on the claim that the primordial identity of thought and being (“das urständliche Seyn”), the most abstract expression of the freedom or spontaneity of thinking, is almost inevitably forgotten or obliterated, with the result that philosophy fatefully makes a beginning not with the pure possibility of being, but with some version or other of the notion of substance. (131)

My only “criticism” is minimal, and it is the following, which is not quite a criticism in its usual sense, since I am against that practice, but more like a throwing of an opinion so as to initiate a problematization and a dialogue. It concerns the triadic schema of correspondences of Hegel’s categories (158):

Logic of Being –––––> Science of Logic
Logic of Essence –––––> Philosophy of Nature

Logic of the Concept –––––> Philosophy of Spirit

As Dews says, also referring to Vittorio Hösle’s Hegels System [(Hamburg: Felix Meiner, 1978), vol. 1, 101–104], there seems to be an incongruence or a difficulty between the three doctrines of Being, Essence, and Concept and their corresponding Philosophies. So, Peter Dews attempts a relocation of these correspondences in an attempt to solve the difficulty as follows (159):

Logic of Being –––––––> Philosophy of Nature
Logic of Essence –––––––> Philosophy of Spirit

Logic of the Concept –––––––> Science of Logic

It is with this attempt or any attempt of relocation of the Hegelian or of any philosopher’s correspondences and inner-system of thought that I would disagree, although it is a common practice of philosophers to criticize the “decisions” of other ones. I think that the difficulty in understanding the aforementioned schema of Hegel, as well as it is the case with other difficulties of understanding a philosopher’s thought and “decision”, lies in the names, that is, in the disagreement in definitions, which are not absolute but perspectival and “situated”. In the case of Hegel, I think that the major incomprehension of many aspects of his philosophy as well as a name that concentrates a heavy load of debates, obscurities, criticisms, etc., is the name of essence, that is, its definition in Hegel and subsequently in many feminists that were influenced by Hegel, such as Luce Irigaray. However, it is not of the present to dive into more detail on this, and I would refer the interested parties to my Thesis (Christodoulou 2022), where I discuss this in detail.

To conclude, Peter Dews’s Schelling’s Late Philosophy in Confrontation with Hegel achieves what it prepares one to do in the title, in the contents, in the Introduction, and much more. This is a book that is worth reading not only for its original contributions to Schelling, Hegel, and especially Schelling’s later philosophy, on which latter, dedicated secondary bibliography is scarce, but also to the research on fundamental ontological notions existing diachronically in Philosophy. It is also a book that is not only to be read once and archived, but to which one can return so as to consult for various issues, not only regarding Schelling, and only in case they are a Schelling scholar, but also if they are thinking on any of the terms/notions/concepts mentioned above and many others. In this regard, it is also worthwhile as a textbook and even a didactic one within academic classrooms, but at the same time it avoids the dryness that such books are often characterized with, and it is pleasurable to read both to the academic but also to any other reader who is a philosopher or is interested in philosophy.


[1] This paper is prepared as part of my postdoctoral research project “Ontological Exhaustion: Being-Tired, and Tired-of-Being: a philosophy of fatigue, exhaustion, and burnout” at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, implemented with the financial support of the National Programme “Early-stage and Postdoctoral researchers” – 2, Stage 1, 2022–2024.

[2] I am making reference here to some sections from my Thesis, especially the one entitled “Heidegger “Being-on-Schelling”: A Beginning to Schelling and a Closing to Heidegger”, where I use this phrasal verb to denote an intoxication/addiction of Heidegger to Schelling, and Heidegger’s usurpation of his philosophy. This expression/phrase is based on David Clark’s “Heidegger’s Craving: Being-on-Schelling,” in Anna Alexander and Mark S. Roberts (eds.), High Culture: Reflections on Addiction and Modernity (Albany, New York: SUNY Press, 2003), 95-131, or Clark, David. “Heidegger’s Craving: Being-on-Schelling.” Diacritics, vol. 27, no. 3 (1997): 8-33. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1566331. See, Marina Christodoulou, Life as Addiction, PhD Diss., University of Klagenfurt & University of Toulouse –Jean Jaurès, 2022.

[3] See, my Thesis (Christodoulou 2022), and especially the Introduction and the Conclusion, and my following two articles: Marina Christodoulou, “Neither «pathimaton», nor «symptomaton», or «kataphaseon» katharsin. The non-cathartic philosophy of «non- decision» and «ephexis in decision»,” Systasis 40: Special thematic section: “Παθημάτων κάθαρσιν or πραγμάτων σύστασιν? Professor Michail D. Petruševski’s Solution of the Problem of Tragic Catharsis 80 Years Later” (2022): 86-146; and Marina Christodoulou, “Essaying-in-philosophy as an ephexis in decision” in Odradek: Studies in Philosophy of Literature, Aesthetics, and New Media Theories 8, no.2: ‘Heretical Voices: The Reasons of the Essay in Modern and Contemporary Literature’ (Edited by Paolo Bugliani) (2022): 23-63.

[4] Ibid.

Frantz Brentano: The Teaching of Jesus and Its Enduring Significance

The Teaching of Jesus and Its Enduring Significance. With an Appendix: 'A Brief Description of the Christian Doctrine' Book Cover The Teaching of Jesus and Its Enduring Significance. With an Appendix: 'A Brief Description of the Christian Doctrine'
Primary Sources in Phenomenology
Frantz Brentano. Translated by Richard Schaefer
Springer Cham
2021
eBook 58.84 €
VIII, 122

Reviewed by: Elodie Boublil, Ph.D. (University of Paris XII; Alexander von Humboldt Fellow (2018-2020)

The Teaching of Jesus and its Enduring Significance brings together a set of texts written by Frantz Brentano at the end of his life and deals with the Christian doctrine of Revelation, the relationship between faith and reason, the teaching of Jesus reported in the Gospels, and the authority of the Church, as an institution, to define Catholic dogmas. This volume represents a valuable historical, biographical, and philosophical document that allows us to contextualize the genesis of Brentano’s reflection on natural knowledge and the limits of human understanding, and better understand the roots of his rejection of dogmatic theology.

Indeed, these texts reveal how much Brentano was affected by his tumultuous relationship with the Roman Catholic Church as he suffered exclusion and critiques in the aftermath of his opposition to the First Vatican Council. Brentano decided to leave the priesthood in 1873 and then the Church in 1879 because of an existential and spiritual crisis that, until the end of his life, left traces evidenced by this volume.

In his preface, Brentano explained and complained: «in spite of many subsequent attacks from those on the side of the Church, I determined never to act in an aggressive way, and even took pains to encourage a certain respect for the Church, that I myself still cherished, in the hearts of others. But I nevertheless would like to see other youthful souls, who are motivated by the highest aspirations, spared the difficult inner struggles that I suffered through.» Following a rationalist perspective, Brentano aims here to prove that the faith proclaimed by the Revelation and formulated by the Catholic Church does not meet the criteria of rational and objective knowledge. Brentano, a defender of natural theology, sees dogmatic theology as an illegitimate and invalid doctrine incompatible with the latter.

The rupture between Brentano and the Catholic Church followed the proclamation in 1871 of the dogma of papal infallibility on the occasion of the First Vatican Council. Brentano was involved in the discussions as Alfred Kastil’s introduction recalls: «Bishop Ketteler (…) before the opening of the Vatican Council, as the conflict over infallibility, began to surge, commissioned the young theologian Brentano, whose thorough knowledge of Dogmatics and Church history he so valued, to draft a memorandum on the contentious subject.» Brentano joined the leaders of the schismatic current of the «Old Catholics» in elaborating counterarguments to this dogma.

According to Brentano, the affirmation of papal infallibility would represent an abuse of power by the ecclesiastical authorities and an obstacle to intellectual freedom. As I will indicate later, such a statement reflects neither the spirit nor the letter of the texts promulgated by the First Vatican Council, even if it has the merit of alerting to the temptation of clericalism and power abuses.

Brentano’s aim in The Teaching of Jesus and its Enduring Significance is therefore twofold: on the one hand, to show the moral value of the person of Jesus, his authenticity and courage, and on the other hand, to demonstrate what he considers to be inconsistencies or even contradictions in the dogmas of the Catholic Church to justify his opposition to the Council and his rejection of the dogma. We will see, though, that he tends to compensate for his rejection of absolute truth by an absolutization of rationality that may itself be problematic.

This work also helps contextualize Brentano’s rationalism by revealing his personal and philosophical relationship to the Catholic faith and his defense of natural theology. The latter is situated within a broader philosophical movement opposing Catholicism – that of the secularization of the late 19th century – as the author’s references to Nietzsche in the last pages show. His emphasis on the moral and existential exemplarity of Jesus is also striking and original in this particular context. This review begins by summarizing Brentano’s arguments before offering a short critical analysis, both from a philosophical and a theological standpoint, to match the scope of this volume.

I. Jesus, The Gospels, or The Church?

As the book’s introduction indicates, Brentano repeatedly affirms his admiration for Jesus, for the moral law proposed by the Gospels and recognizes the existence of a unique God who is infinitely good. Unlike positivist philosophers supporting historicism, Brentano does not seek to compare the historical Jesus to his presentation in the Gospels. His critique is instead directed toward the Catholic Church and what he believes to be his relation to truth through the problematic question of dogmas’ definitions. According to Brentano, any search for objective truth is the privileged and exclusive domain of philosophy and rational metaphysics based on natural knowledge. Contrary to the Christian doctrine, Brentano does not think natural knowledge is compatible with the Revelation.

Consequently, Brentano does not recognize the logical and epistemic value of «the teaching of Jesus» and even less its dogmatic elaboration by the Tradition. He claims and reaffirms in these pages his apostasy, even if he maintains his moral admiration for the person of Jesus, his courage, his authenticity, and if he retains his providential role in the history of humanity. Brentano’s criticism thus pits the person of Jesus against the Church. This is a statement or hypothesis from the author. However, even if he is a theologian by training, he does not elaborate a theological refutation of the unity between the sacramental body of Christ and the ecclesial body, as affirmed by Saint Paul in the first epistle to the Corinthians.

The first chapter focuses on the moral teaching that can be drawn from the Gospels, contemplating the life and words of Jesus. After recalling the commandments of God’s law given to Moses, Brentano looks at the morality contained in the parables of the Gospels. The author insists on the exemplarity of Christ and the authenticity of his testimony and his life, contrasting with the disciples’ attitudes: «One should look to his example. One should learn from him to be gentle and humble of heart (Matthew 11:29 [NSRV]). The commandment to love one another is transformed into a new commandment by the addition of the words: «as I have loved you» (John 13:34 [NSRV]). One must thus also follow him by taking up his cross. He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6 [NSRV])» (The Teaching of Jesus, p. 36).

Nevertheless, expanding on his analysis and description of Jesus’ teaching, Brentano became interested in his humanity. He criticizes Jesus’ human traits, his anger, and legitimate outbursts at the religious authorities who consistently seek to trap him, discredit him, and put him to death. However, such a way to downplay Jesus’ personality because of his humanity reveals the way Brentano conceives of God (based on an ideal of impassibility or self-mastery). It does not contradict the Christian dogma, according to which Jesus is true God and Man and therefore endowed with human affectivity. In the following pages, we see that this criticism of Brentano may result from the fact that he was somewhat favorable to Monothelitism, a doctrine rejected by the Church and according to which Christ would have had two natures (human and divine) but only one will (divine). This heresy was rejected by the Lateran Council (649) and the Ecumenical Council of Constantinople III (680-681). Unfortunately, Brentano seems to endorse Monothelitism witfhout explicitly addressing the arguments that refute it.

Brentano insists on the figurative language and parables of Jesus to distinguish faith from reason. He argues that parables are less precise than logical demonstration and, therefore, less prone to convince: «Faith exists in a disproportion between the evidence and the level of conviction. For faith exists, to a certain extent, midway between opinion and knowledge, sharing with the former the absence of secure grounds and sharing with the latter absolute conviction and the suspension of doubt. One has often run up against this, but the Church has continually reaffirmed this paradoxical, logically and morally dubious anomaly (The Teaching of Jesus, p. 39).» Such a rationalist definition immediately rules out the supernatural dimension of faith, which would find its roots in grace, and reduces it to a form of unfounded certainty. These definitions endorsed the Kantian definitions of faith, opinion, and knowledge, proposed in the Critique of Pure Reason and the Critique of Practical Reason. God and the soul, in these contexts, are practical ideas of reason whose application should be limited to the field of morality. According to Brentano, the truth can only have a logical and epistemic value. Thus, if Christ has a moral value of exemplarity, one cannot, according to Brentano, rely on his words to found and legitimate dogmas: «Jesus’s moral teaching does not constitute significant progress because it heralded entirely new commandments, but rather because, through his life and death, he lived them in a way that offered an incomparable example of the possibility of such sublime virtue. His sublime courage enlivened others to imitate him. This example will shine forth forever, and no prophecy is more certain as when, in this sense, one says: Jesus for all time» (The Teaching of Jesus, p. 41).

In a second chapter, Brentano focuses on the content of Jesus’ teaching concerning God, the world, and his mission. According to Brentano, Christ’s humility would conflict with his words about the glory of God and his identity as the Son of God. Brentano transposes here a human and worldly conception of glory and royalty since he qualifies the reign of Christ as a «monarchy,» to consider later this description contradictory and “untenable.”

Brentano’s approach to theology is based on the theology of substitution (supersessionism), which will be refuted by the Church in the 20th century, notably by the declaration Nostra Aetate and the constitutions of the Second Vatican Council (1965). In other words, Brentano’s reading manifests a theological and cultural bias that is entirely incompatible with his claim for an objective knowledge that would be deprived of any form of dogmatism. Moreover, on other occasions, Brentano provides explanations that result from several anti-Semitic prejudices.

II. Brentano’s Epistemology and the Absolutization of Natural Theology

In a third chapter, Brentano examines Blaise Pascal’s ideas and his apologetics of the Christian faith. However, as the volume editor explains, “his terse manner of formulating Pascal’s view is too much geared towards setting up his criticisms to be taken as a comprehensive introduction to, or interpretation of, Pascal’s text.” Brentano believes that Pascal’s argument about the original sin as the source of evil and suffering is irrational and unconvincing. He claims another explanation for the fallibility of human freedom could have been put forward without necessarily resorting to a theological argument. A strictly Aristotelian approach centered on acquiring virtues and analyzing incontinence would have been sufficient in line with his strictly human interpretation of Jesus’ moral perfection. Brentano advocates for self-control that could be acquired without the help of grace.

Brentano criticizes Pascal for not tolerating theological and philosophical criticism and for not subjecting Christian dogmas to rationalist scrutiny: «instead of attempting to bring these doctrines into harmony with reason, Pascal hurls the crassest insults against the presumption of a reason that seeks to evaluate whether real contradictions exist (The Teaching of Jesus, p. 58).» Brentano puts forward scientific arguments to refute creationism and reproaches Pascal for not questioning dogmatic theology’s ontological foundations. Moreover, according to Brentano, Pascal’s work is judged contradictory since Brentano opposes the Jansenist argumentation of the Provincial Letters to the later mysticism of the Thoughts.

In this chapter, Brentano examines more specifically the arguments in favor of the Church offered by Pascal in a passage of The Thoughts: the spread of Christianity in the world, the sanctification of Christians, the divine source of Scripture, the person of Jesus, the testimony of the apostles, the life of Moses and the prophets of the Old Testament, the history of the Jewish people,  the timeless continuity of the religion, the doctrine of original sin, the holiness of Church teaching, the behavior of «worldly-minded people.» To address these doctrinal points, Brentano provides historical counterexamples and rephrases the definitions. To refute prophecies, for instance, Brentano defines them as «predictions» or divinations, whereas such characterization corresponds somewhat to the activities of the «false prophets» described in the Scriptures. The authentic prophet is indeed the one who, as Paul Ricoeur says, «is that man capable of announcing to the King that his power is weak and vain;» in other words, the one who does not respond to the libido dominandi and the libido sciendi of the powerful,  but somewhat reminds them of the vanity of their overly human desires for control over people and events before the almightiness of God. In this sense, the type of divination criticized by Brentano is also undermined by St. Paul as it may contradict the virtue of hope: «For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is no hope at all: Who hopes for what he can already see?» (Rom, 8.24). So, paradoxically, Brentano unconsciously sided with Christian theology and the reasoning behind Pascal’s wager.

The point on which Brentano insists the most is the continuity of the Christian religion, and even more so of the unity of dogma through the centuries. According to him, the variability of the Church’s decisions and attitudes over the centuries and the disagreement between certain popes would show contradictions that would make it impossible to proclaim the dogma of papal infallibility. He criticizes the turning point made under the pontificate of Innocent III (1160-1216), during which the «vicar of Peter» was henceforth called «vicar of Christ» – and the institution of the pontifical theocracy continued and accomplished during the reign of his successor Boniface VIII (1235-1303). Indeed, according to Brentano, the condemnation for the heresy of Pope Honorius I (x- 638), who supported the monothelitic doctrine, shows, in retrospect, that a Pope can be wrong, and his teaching refuted by his successors.

According to Brentano, the affirmation of papal infallibility represents an absolutization of the power of the Church as an institution, which he does not hesitate to compare to the absolutism of Louis XIV, recalling the famous phrase of the French monarch: «I am the State.» It is important here to clarify how Brentano (mis-)understands papal infallibility. According to him, it seems that any statement uttered by a Pope would always be considered universally valid. Thus, the example of Honorius I would have shown that such an assertion would be a contradiction de jure and de facto.

Finally, taking up the example of the moral perfection and goodness of Jesus, Brentano concludes this chapter with a critique of clericalism, the Inquisition, and the political power of religious authorities by emphasizing the incoherence and violence of persecutions against intellectuals and scientists who conducted research contrary to the teaching of the Church (Giordano Bruno, Galileo, and Copernicus). He thus reaffirms – quoting the Gospels – that the command of love cannot be taught through abuses of power, violence, surveillance, calumny, and persecution. Brentano ends his reflections by comparing Jesus to Nietzsche to reaffirm better the moral superiority of Jesus due to his life’s testimony and genuine sense of compassion.

***

Several points must be critically assessed to contextualize Brentano’s text and examine his demonstration.

III. Faith and Reason: Best Enemies?

Brentano’s text leaves no room for the dimension of mystery when he considers the Incarnation, the Trinity, or the Redemption, and the free compliance it entails through the supernatural gift of faith, as conceived by the Christian doctrine. For the Fathers of the Church, faith is not opposed to human reason but opens it to a dimension that exceeds its finite capacities while fulfilling them. The hermeneutic circle described by Augustine between faith and reason, taken up by phenomenology and hermeneutics throughout the 20th century, defines human reason in its relationship to transcendence and its desire for the absolute. Such a conception overcomes the Kantian dichotomy, which may sound quite reductive, between belief as a subjective conviction and truth as objective certainty. The subject-object dichotomy has notably been considerably revised throughout the 20th century. Any attempt to take Brentano’s arguments for granted on the sole basis that he discredits faith as being “subjective” would have to endure and refute, as well, the critiques raised against rationalism and classical empiricism provided by critical epistemology and phenomenology.

Moreover, the First Vatican Council, which Brentano opposes, had precisely defined the respective perimeters of theology and philosophy. Far from rejecting philosophy and rational knowledge, it asserted its value in the search for truth: «There exists a twofold order of knowledge, distinct not only as regards their source, but also as regards their object. Regarding the source, we know in one by natural reason, in the other by divine faith. With regard to the object, because besides those things which natural reason can attain, there are proposed for our belief mysteries hidden in God which, unless they are divinely revealed, cannot be known» (Dei Filius, IV: DS 3015). It is not the First Vatican Council that rejected philosophy but Brentano, who philosophically rejected dogmatic theology, as a reliable way to truth. In other words, from a post-Kantian perspective, Brentano limits the scope of any possible experience to the gnoseology he developed during his philosophical career. For him, faith statements cannot have a truth value.

Brentano’s summary of Christian doctrine is based on the «God of the philosophers,» the “architect” of Malebranche and Leibniz, and not on the God of Christian Revelation defined by dogmatic theology. Consequently, Brentano’s demonstration reveals more of his philosophical option  — a kind of philosophical supersessionism — than it constitutes a viable refutation elaborated from within. From a methodological point of view, Brentano relies on deist dogmatism to refute the Christian dogma of the Trinity. Brentano’s text is instead a counter-apologetic in favor of an alternative definition of God that would make it possible to dispense with dogmas and the Roman Catholic Church, rather than an honest discussion – in the sense of a medieval disputatio – of the arguments given by the Fathers of the Church, moreover rarely cited, on the respective roles of faith and reason in these metaphysical endeavors.

Consequently, Brentano’s text is less a systematic and consistent refutation than a polemical attempt to put down the Christian doctrine. In this sense, it bears historical significance as it reveals the bellicose spirit of the late 19th century. It deserves attention to better understand the sources of division and quarrels between philosophers and theologians around the turn of the 20th century.

IV. On Papal Infallibility and the Catholic Church: Historical and Theological Discussions

One may be surprised while reading Brentano’s critique of the dogma of papal infallibility as it deliberately seems to ignore the decrees of the First Vatican Council that do not match his interpretation. Providing the historical context of the Council would have been helpful. The political history of Europe and Italy (notably the Risorgimento), as well as the history of the Church, showed that affirming the dogma of papal infallibility also responded to a need for unity in the context of growing secularism and a recurrent battle within the Church between Gallicanism and ultramontanist doctrines. Second, Brentano is wrong in implying that the declaration of papal infallibility amounts to an abusive absolutization of the power of the Pope as an individual.

The constitution states: «the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex-cathedra, that is, when in the discharge of the office of pastor and teacher of all Christians, by virtue of his Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the Universal Church is, by the divine assistance promised to him in Blessed Peter,  possessed of that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed that his Church should be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith or morals; and that, therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, irreformable» (Vatican I, chap. 4, s. 9).

The declaration specifies that it applies when the Pope speaks «ex-cathedra» and that it concerns dogmatic definitions in matters of faith and morals. These definitions are not meant to be new definitions that would be completely independent of the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church, as the content of the doctrine is believed to have been revealed once and for all by God in the Scriptures and forever complete. In other words, papal infallibility means that dogmatic definitions (such as the dogma of the Assomption in 1950) proclaimed by the Pope ex-cathedra necessarily match the deposit of faith. It also affirms the supernatural and spiritual vocation of the Pope – that exceeds his individual nature – in the sense that the Pope is not meant to be the representative of the Bishops, as in a political party, but rather the «Servant of the servants of God» as other texts will recall (Ecclesiam Suam, 114). Considering this vocation, one should understand the dogma of papal infallibility from the Christian perspective, and not by projecting a strictly secular point of view onto it, as if some rational perfections were granted to a single individual because he would have institutional power. Such a standpoint would contradict Jesus, who declared, «If anyone wants to be first, he must be the last of all and the servant of all» (Mark 9, 35). Ex-cathedra then means endowed with the Holy Spirit, in the spirit of Peter, who learned how to let himself «be led by someone else where he does not want to go» (John 21:18), precisely giving up on his own subjective will to obey God rather than men (Acts 5, 29), in other words, to obey the command of love and unity, rather than the lust for power and reputation.

When the constitution states that whoever denies the definitions proclaimed by the Pope ex-cathedra should be declared «anathema,» it only means «separated from Christ» (Rom 9, 3), as Catholics believe that the Church is the body of Christ, and the Pope, the vicar of Christ. This means that if someone refutes this doctrine (for instance, Brentano), he has the absolute right and freedom to endorse another doctrine of faith or none of them, but he is not legitimate in trying to change the deposit of faith of the Catholic doctrine according to his subjective, personal views and to present them as theologically valid for the people.

So, Brentano’s theological position conflated two aspects: a political one and a theological one. One shall necessarily agree with Brentano’s critique of power abuses and the extreme violence committed against those who raised questions or asserted different points of view. However, papal infallibility is not meant to lead to a one-sided homogenization or some ideological arbitrariness but rather to affirm the believers’ capacity through grace to trust in the Pope and the Church so that there will not be «in the Church as many schisms as they are priests» (St. Jerome; Paul VI, Ecclesiam suam, 113), and unity could be preserved throughout history. It is worth noting, though, that the Catholic Church’s aggiornamento in the 20th century has encouraged dialogue with humanities and sciences to make progress in understanding the world and people.

V. Classical empiricism and positivism as appropriate methodological tools to address theological questions?

The phenomenologists of the Göttingen Circle and Edith Stein will reflect extensively on the question of the relationship between phenomenology and religion from both an epistemological and a moral point of view. According to Edith Stein, opposing these two fields should give way to a dialogue that broadens our philosophical conception of truth. In her last treatise (Finite and Eternal Being, IV, #10), entitled «an attempt at a deeper comprehension of truth (logical, transcendental, ontological truth),» Edith Stein carries an in-depth analysis of the Aristotelian and Thomistic definitions of truth to show, from a phenomenological point of view, how transcendental truth and logical truth are articulated, and subsequently how divine truth would be inherently different from any truth. According to her, philosophy would become an ideology if it presents itself as a closed-off system, restricted to logical truths or the propositions of the natural sciences: “Reason would be unreasonable if it persisted in stopping at the things it can discover by itself” (Stein). Philosophy and theology, according to Stein, are not settled: «Pure philosophy, as a science of being and being in its ultimate causes, as far as man’s natural reason can carry is, even in its most complete completion imaginable, essentially unfinished. It is certainly open to theology, and from there, it can be completed. However, theology is also not a closed or enduring doctrine. Historically, it unfolds as an appropriation and intellectual and progressive penetration of the revealed truth of the Tradition.” (Stein)

Brentano’s critique of dogmatic theology should be put into perspective with what Christian doctrine says about the dynamism and spiritual growth of the spirit while contemplating the teaching of Jesus – teaching that for Christian theology are not «logical propositions» to be understood by a few initiates, but the revelation of a personal God accessible to all. In this perspective, a phenomenological approach would instead state that God is less an “object” of investigation than the “subject” of an encounter: «phenomenology is a philosophical style that can be attentive to religious, moral, and ecological evidence without reducing that experience to the presentation of objects» (A. Steinbock.  2012. ‘Evidence in the Phenomenology of Religious Experience, The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Phenomenology (Edited by Dan Zahavi), Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 590-593).

Ultimately, Brentano’s text points to the methodological differences between philosophy and theology. Acknowledging their discrepancies does not mean ruling out one another but encouraging an honest and respectful dialogue. The translation of this volume is timely in that it draws attention to the necessity to think anew about the way we conceive of faith and reason in a disoriented world where, paradoxically, blind scientific positivism confronts new forms of obscurantism and plot theories – two opposite yet similar ways to disfigure the human mind, her reason as well as her heart.

In theology as well as in philosophy, the word of Edith Stein resonates acutely: «accept nothing as love if the truth is missing, accepts nothing as truth if love is lacking.» To Brentano, Jesus is the only teacher who ever managed to fully reconcile these two dimensions of human existence and prove their significance: “If one interprets it consistently and pays close attention to its essential elements, then Jesus’s teachings have not been superseded by history. On the contrary, they have yet to be realized in their fullest sense” (The Teaching of Jesus, p. 41).

Waller R. Newell: Tyranny and Revolution: Rousseau to Heidegger, Cambridge University Press, 2022

Tyranny and Revolution: Rousseau to Heidegger Book Cover Tyranny and Revolution: Rousseau to Heidegger
Waller R. Newell
Cambridge University Press
2022
Hardback £ 29.99
372

Stuart Elden: The Early Foucault

The Early Foucault Book Cover The Early Foucault
Stuart Elden
Polity
2021
Paperback $26.95
288

Reviewed by: Michael Maidan (Independent Scholar)

Stuart Elden’s The Early Foucault is the third of a four-volume study of the origins and development of Michel Foucault’s thought. This book is the first one regarding the period it covers, basically the 1950s, but it is the third to be published. It will be soon followed by a fourth and final book, that will cover the ‘archaeological’ period and Foucault’s forays into art history and literary criticism. External factors explain the disconnect between the order of production and the chronology. Elden’s first two books dealt with the publication of Foucault’s lectures at the Collège de France.  The publication of the Lectures began in 1997, with the publication of the sixth lecture, Il faut défendre la société (1975-1876). Additional volumes followed it, released not in the order of their delivery by Foucault, but on the availability of audio recordings of the lectures. Foucault’s preparatory notes and other ancillary materials later supplemented and eventually displaced the recordings. Elden’s earlier books responded to the availability of the Lectures and the will to integrate the new material into a coherent picture. The First Foucault and the forthcoming book on Archaeology deal with the archive material made available to the public in recent years. This material includes reading and preparatory notes, lectures of the period before his appointment to The College de France, manuscripts in different degrees of development, philosophical diaries, bibliographies, etc.

Elden is one of the first to attempt a synthetic picture of this wealth of materials. He relies on archival material from Foucault and his contemporaries, detailed comparisons between different editions of published works, and a thorough familiarity with the secondary literature.

While we have three superb biographies of Foucault (Eribon, Miller, and Macey) and numerous specialized studies, these are primarily based on Foucault’s published work and interviews with Foucault and his contemporaries. But the opening of Foucault’s literary estate — deposited today in the Bibliothèque nationale de France — necessitates revisions, or at least qualifications, of our prior understanding of Foucault’s thought and development. Elden’s book is a thorough study of the archive. It also explores Foucault’s stay in Upsala (Sweden) and his use of its University Library’s significant collection of medical books and printed materials. Also, using documents unearthed in recent years by Polish historians, he sheds some light on the sordid story of how the communist Polish secret police attempted to entrap and possibly blackmail Foucault.

It is not possible to describe in detail the riches of the book in this review. Therefore, I will concentrate on a few issues previously insufficiently documented and on how newly discovered materials sheds light on the formation of Foucault’s thought. Ultimately, the book’s structure is strongly indexed to a foretold result, writing the two texts Foucault submitted for his doctoral degree (Doctorat d’État). This structure necessarily downplays the roads not taken. Elden is aware of this, and on several occasions, he considers projects that Foucault abandoned or reoriented into newer ones.

Chapter 1 discusses Foucault’s university studies in philosophy and psychology, with particular emphasis on a Master’s thesis that Foucault prepared under the supervision of Jean Hyppolite.  This work was presumed lost, but it was recently recovered and would be published soon. Chapter 2 investigates Foucault’s first teaching assignments at the University of Lille and the Ecole normale superieure (ENS) in Paris. Chapter three discusses Foucault’s earlier publications and describes several other projects that Foucault began in this period but left unfinished. Chapter 4 looks at his work as a co-translator of the existentialist psychiatrist Binswanger and the philosopher and essayist von Weizsäcker. Chapter 5 analyzes Foucault’s study of Nietzsche and Heidegger, his reading of the work of Dumezil, and his relationship with the composer Jean Barraqué. Chapter 6 covers Foucault’s postings in Upsala and Warsaw, while chapter 7 does the same for the Hamburg period. In Hamburg Foucault translated and commented Kant’s Anthropology, that he submitted as his secondary thesis for his Doctorat d’état. Finally, chapter eight deals with the defense, publications, and after story of Madness and Civilization, his principal doctoral dissertation.

One of the many strengths of Elden’s account is its attention to Foucault’s study of Hegel, Husserl, Kant, the Dasein analytical movement, and many more. This is particularly welcome because Foucault is not very loquacious about his readings. In particular, there is almost no explicit reference in Foucault’s published writings to his extensive reading of Husserl. Elden shows that Foucault studied Husserl intensively, even reading and annotating some of Husserl’s unpublished manuscripts. The same is true of other master thinkers, such as Freud, Binswanger, Nietzsche, and Heidegger.

Chapter 1 presents the teachers Foucault encountered first in Lycée Henri-IV during the preparation for the entrance examination to the École normale supérieure (ENS) and later at the ENS and the Sorbonne. These teachers were not only sources of knowledge and inspiration for Foucault but also incarnated the philosophical establishment, and Foucault will meet them as teachers, examiners, members of his doctoral jury, and later, as colleagues. Of particular interest is the figure of Jean Wahl, who played an essential role as a relay for German philosophy, was interested in the philosophy of Heidegger, but also in Hegel and Kierkegaard. Foucault attended Wahl’s courses on Heidegger in 1950 and possibly also in 1952.

Elden then presents the figure of Jean Hyppolite, and most importantly, the thesis that Foucault wrote under his direction and submitted in 1949. The dissertation asks three questions: (a) what are the limits of the field of phenomenological exploration and what are the criteria for the experience that serves as the point of departure; (b) what the limits of the transcendental domain in which experiences are made up; (c) what the relations of the transcendental world with the actuality of the world of experience (12).

Elden describes Foucault’s arguments (12-17) and adds that Foucault refers to Hegel’s Phenomenology of the Spirit, other Hegel writings, and a wide range of secondary literature, including the work of Kojève, Lukacs, Hyppolite, Löwith, and Croce. Foucault also references Husserl and expositors of Husserl’s philosophy, such as Levinas, Fink, and Sartre. According to Elden, Foucault argues that The Phenomenology of Spirit is not an introduction to the Hegelian system or its first part, but rather an assessment of how a ‘system as the totality of knowledge… could be conceived’ (13).

Elden concludes that it is ‘an apprentice work’ and is surprised that Foucault does not evoke the famous ‘master slave’ theme. He points out some continuity between the thesis and Foucault’s later interests. For example, Elden lists the idea of the transcendental and the stress on the question of knowledge (16). Elden also notes the absence of references to Heidegger and Nietzsche (17). However, he seems less surprised by Foucault’s strikingly ‘unhegelian’ reading of the Phenomenology.

Foucault studied not only philosophy but also psychology and psychopathology. Elden refers to his teachers, Lagache and the psychiatrist and neurologist Ajuriaguerra.  Foucault also read the work of Georges Politzer, who proposed a Marxist oriented ‘concrete psychology,’ critical of psychoanalysis.  Foucault was also interested in the historical approach to psychology that  Ignace Meyerson developed. Regarding psychoanalysis, Elden refers briefly to Pierre Morichau-Beauchant, one of the earliest French psychoanalysts and a friend of his family. Foucault attended Lacan’s seminars. Based on Maurice Pinget, a close friend at that period, Elden writes that Foucault attended Lacan’s seminars in 1951 and until his departure for Upsala in 1955.  But while Pinget claims that Foucault was very enthusiastic about Lacan, other witnesses seem to remember that Foucault had little sympathy for Lacan’s project and philosophical ambitions (20). And Foucault’s early publications do not reflect Lacan’s teachings.  Elden promises more on the relationship between Foucault and Lacan in his forthcoming book about Foucault’s Archaeology (21).

Maurice Merleau-Ponty was another significant influence. Foucault attended Merleau-Ponty’s lectures in 1947-48 in the Sorbonne, but probably not his lectures at the College de France. Foucault wrote an unpublished manuscript on Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy (see chapter 4). Elden describes the influence of Merleau-Ponty as being significant for the young Foucault, in particular, because of Merleau-Ponty’s project to bridge between psychology and philosophy (23).

A section in this chapter deals with the preparation for the aggregation examination. Elden explains the mechanism of the exams (24-25) and portraits some important characters for Foucault in this period, mainly Althusser and Canguilhem. Foucault failed in his first attempt but retook the exam the next year and was graded second in philosophy. One anecdotical aspect of his exams is that Foucault’s subject for the oral exam was sexuality, a topic newly introduced by Canguilhem to the program. It seems that Foucault complained about the subject.

Chapter 2 deals with the Lille and ENS period, from 1949 to his departure for Upsala in 1955. Following his aggregation, Foucault applied for a scholarship to conduct doctoral research at the Foundation Thièrs. His proposal was the study of the problem of human science in post-Cartesian thought and the work of Malebranche and Bayle. Elden remarks that this subject seems to link back to Merleau-Ponty’s lectures on Malebranche and Maine de Biran. In this period, Foucault also worked as an assistant lecturer in psychology at the University of Lille. He taught contemporary psychology and its history, psychoanalysis, psychopathology, Gestalt theory, the work of Pavlov and other Soviet psychologists, Rorschach tests, and the existential psychologies of Roland Kuhn and Binswanger. He also taught psychology at the ENS, covering psychology, experimental psychology, Pavlov, and the psychoanalytical theory of personality.

In parallel to his teaching activities, Foucault obtained a certificate in psychopathology from the Institute of Psychology of Paris. The studies there included lectures and practical observations at the Sainte-Anne psychiatric hospital.

We have several archival materials from this period. Three ‘substantial manuscripts’ were preserved: ‘Connaissance de l’homme et réflexion transcendantale’ (Knowledge of man and transcendental reflection), an untitled manuscript on Binswanger, and one on phenomenology and psychology.  We also have indirect materials, such as student notes, which cover Foucault’s teaching at the ENS.  Elden describes and summarizes the content of this archival material.

Regarding ‘Knowledge of Man,’ the manuscript is in a binder labeled ‘Cours 1952-3’, and its content overlaps with a course that Foucault taught in 1954-5 at the ENS with a different title. Elden suspects these notes may be more than just teaching material, maybe material for a projected thesis. In these manuscripts, Foucault takes leave from his Master’s thesis and explores the notion of a ‘philosophical anthropology.’ The manuscript begins with references to the origins of philosophical anthropology in the early modern era. In a typical Foucauldian gesture, he dates the origins of the word ‘anthropology’ to the work of the physician and philosopher Ernst Platner, a Kant’s contemporary. Next, Foucault surveys the development of anthropology in early modern times, referring to Scheler, Husserl, and Binswanger. Finally, Foucault claims that philosophy did not recognize anthropology as an autonomous discipline because of the influence of dualism, theology, and the privilege given to abstract a priori rationality. Foucault refers abundantly to Leibnitz, Spinoza, Lessing, Malebranche, Descartes. Still, Elden suspects that these sections are most likely oriented to the curricular requirements and are not the kernel of Foucault’s project.  The second part of the course studies Kant’s anthropology in relation to the critical project overall.  A few pages inserted after the concluding chapter of the manuscript deal with ‘the end of anthropology,’ an idea that he powerfully develops many years later in The Order of Things. The final pages are devoted to a reading of Nietzsche, to the relationship of biology to psychology, and the criticism of psychologism, religion, and universal history.  Finally, Foucault reviews current views on anthropology, discussing Jaspers, Heidegger, Löwith, Kaufmann, and Vuillemin.

Elden dedicates a few paragraphs to the question of when and how Foucault knew about Heidegger’s reading of Nietzsche, which was still unpublished at that time. The question is whether Foucault developed his reading of Nietzsche independently of the influence of Heidegger, a query that Foucault himself addressed ambiguously.  Elden discusses this issue in chapter 5.

Another important manuscript of this period is the one on Binswanger.  This manuscript has been, in the meantime, published in a critical edition with the title Binswanger et l’analyse existentielle (2021).  Elden discusses the problems of dating the manuscript, presents Binswanger’s career, and his relationships with Freud, Husserl, and Heidegger.  According to Elden, one of the key themes of Foucault’s manuscript is whether Binswanger was able to move from a descriptive and pre-scientific apprehension of the human being to a rigorously scientific anthropology (34). Elden does not pursue this lead but concentrates instead on showing the extent of Foucault’s mastery of Binswanger’s work.  What attracted Foucault to Binswanger? Elden says that Foucault was attracted by Binswanger’s interest in ‘modes of being of the human.’ Binswanger also provided an alternative to Sartre’s anthropological-phenomenological project (37). Elden adds that while Foucault did not publish this text, it is quite developed. While the manuscript overlaps with his Introduction to Dream and Existence, Foucault did not use this manuscript as a basis for his later essay. Elden speaks of a road not taken, even if eventually the interest in Daseinsanlysis may have inspired Foucault to write History of Madness. But Foucault soon will reject the whole idea of philosophical anthropology and its impossible hermeneutical circle. In his later work, Foucault will castigate as an ‘empirico-transcendental doublet’ the pretension of a philosophical anthropology.

The third manuscript reviewed in this chapter has for title Phénoménologie et psychologie. Foucault gave a course with the same title in 1953-4 and the following year. A different manuscript on psychology in Husserl and Merleau-Ponty may also be part of the course. And a third manuscript, intitled Psychologie et phénoménologie’, seems to date from the same period, but it has only a thematic but not textual relation to the manuscript (40).

Foucault begins with the claim that ‘The tradition attributed two forms to psychological experience, recognizing each as an independent source: introspection…and objective observation…in the first psychology sought its philosophical foundation, in the other its scientific justification. The situation was clear, but it was an alibi: psychology was never where it was suspected to be’ (Foucault, quoted and translated by Elden, 41).

The manuscript follows with the claim that the death of God contributed to the division between subjective and objective forms of experience. But according to Elden, the reference throughout the manuscript is Husserl. Elden comments that Husserl was a major focus of Foucault’s research at this point in his career, even if he rarely discussed Husserl in his writings (42).

Archival material regarding Foucault’s lectures on psychology, child psychology, testing, etc., is not extant. Still, we know indirectly of Foucault’s lectures through notes from students at the ENS, Lagrange, and Simon in particular (43-46).

Elden also refers to Foucault’s internship in the Sainte-Anne hospital, collaborating with Jacqueline and George Verdeux on various testing and electroencephalography research. Foucault also participated in studies conducted at the Fresnes prison, part of a project to evaluate new inmates suitability for different institutions and programs.  Elden observes that Foucault seems to have had in this period an earlier exposure to many of the issues that he will explore in-depth in his mature work. Elden also mentions that Foucault never referred in detail to his previous work, and his recollections were not very consistent. For example, we know that Jacqueline Verdeux requested Foucault’s help for her translation of Binswanger’s work. But Elden does not say if Foucault knew Binswanger before his collaboration with Verdeux or how he came to be interested in his work.

Chapter 3 deals with Foucault’s first publications in the early ’50s. In this period, Foucault wrote three essays and one book, which reflect on Foucault’s interests in psychology and psychopathology. They are the Introduction to the French translation of Binswanger’s Dream and Existence, a review essay on the history of psychology from 1850 to 1950, and finally, one on scientific research and psychology. Maladie mentale et personnalité, a book, was published in 1954, reissued in 1962 with profound changes, and finally abandoned by Foucault. While these writings were published between 1954 and 1957, Elden estimates that they were written simultaneously.

Elden’s decision to separate the published from the unpublished works may be a disservice to himself and his readers, insofar as the detailed descriptions do not coalesce into a clear hypothesis about what drives Foucault’s explorations. We don’t know if Maladie Mentale et Personnalité and the Introduction to Dream and Existence represent the ideas developed in the early manuscripts or their abandonment.

Maladie Mentale et Personnalité was commanded by Jean Lacroix for the series ‘Initiation Philosophique’ published by the prestigious Presses Universitaires de France. The collection was planned as a series of introductions to philosophical subjects. Lacroix accepted Foucault’s proposal in February 1953, and Foucault delivered a manuscript in October 1953. In Chapter 8, Elden compares the original with the revised edition Foucault published after publishing Madness and Civilization. Elden summarizes the book and emphasizes that the way Foucault presents the problem of psychology and pathology is similar to the approach that he will develop in his mature works, namely, uncovering the structures that make possible forms of scientific knowledge (63). At this stage of Foucault’s evolution, the problem is still presented in philosophical anthropological terms: the approach must be grounded on Man itself, not on the abstraction of illness (Elden 65, quoting Foucault). Evaluating the impact of this book, Elden argues that as Foucault’s profile raised, more attention was paid to this book, especially to the (heavily edited) second edition, despite Foucault’s attempts to forget the book. Nonetheless, some have argued that if we want to examine ‘the archaeology of Foucault’s thought,’ we should consider the first edition (quoted by Elden, 78).

Summarizing his argument, Elden states that “it is striking how much of the work that Foucault undertook in the 1960s has its roots back in the period studied here (190). And he adds, ‘what seems striking in reading all of Foucault’s writings, published and unpublished, are links between periods, rather than clear breaks’ (190). Foucault himself characterized his evolution as a philosopher who moved on to psychology and from psychology to history. Elden shows that these transitions are not breaks but the reconfiguration of some initial questions and their development in new directions.

Elden’s book is undoubtedly a treasure trove for the student of Foucault. Elden says that ‘I have read what he [Foucault] read and analyzed what he wrote.’ The extent of his scholarship, the sources, and the available secondary literature are impressive. Elden benefited from access to Foucault’s papers and the work of a group of young researchers that are busy publishing critical editions of several of the documents that Elden refers to. A good example of this is the recent special issue of the journal Theory, Culture and Society, edited by Elden, Orazio Irrera and Daniele Lorenzini with the title ‘Foucault Before the Collège de France.’ And we should commend his selflessly sharing in his blog many facts, big and small, that he helped uncover.

When all is said and done, how is this going to impact our understanding of Foucault? It is too early to say how this will affect our future interpretation of the life and work of Michel Foucault. Most likely, not in a revolutionary way, but we will have a better context and insights on how some of his ideas developed and what they mean. But the philological and the reception dimensions of a work often do not run in parallel. The misunderstandings around Foucault are at least as productive as the historical record. The student of Foucault knows that a concept such as ‘biopolitics’ has a very short half-life in Foucault’s work. But we can argue that it becomes the inspiration for a renewed interest in Foucault’s work several years after his untimely death. The same is true of his criticism of the ‘repressive hypothesis,’ the idea of the ‘death of man,’ the ‘ontology of the present’ and other metaphors easy to weaponize that, tend to disappear from Foucault’s conceptual universe as soon as coined, only to reappear later in a new metaphor.

Joseph Cohen, Raphael Zagury-Orly: L’Adversaire privilégié, Éditions Galilée, 2021

L'Adversaire privilégié Book Cover L'Adversaire privilégié
Joseph Cohen, Raphael Zagury-Orly
Éditions Galilée
2021
Paperback 18.00 €
208

Hagi Kenaan: Photography and Its Shadow

Photography and Its Shadow Book Cover Photography and Its Shadow
Hagi Kenaan
Stanford University Press
2020
Paperback $24.00
248

Reviewed by: Arthur Cools (University of Antwerp)

In Photography and its Shadow, Hagi Kenaan addresses the medium specificity of the photographic image, particularly the transformation of the image experience due to the invention of this medium. It is not his first publication to reveal his interest in and critical confrontation with the dominance of the visual in contemporary culture. In his book on the French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, The Ethics of Visuality. Levinas and the Contemporary Gaze (Tauris, 2013), Kenaan stated that “[s]omething has happened to our gaze. The experience of seeing has changed. The visual field has undergone a radical transformation” (xiv). In this study, he scrutinized the limits of contemporary visuality, which attracts the gaze “into the constant flickering of images, large and small screens, at every angle, at every moment, in every possible size, always in plural” (xii). Contrasting the visuality of the image with Levinas’s phenomenological description of the appearance of the face of the other person, he explored the possibility of the emergence of what he called the “reflexive gaze,” a visual field that appears to be oriented (in the strong sense of the word “orientation,” as being essential to what appears) and that as such opens up an ethical domain.

In his new book, Photography and its Shadow, it may appear that Kenaan is leaving behind the Levinasian optics of ethics as first philosophy, were it not the case that the title of this publication reminds us of an early article on art by Levinas entitled “Reality and Its Shadow” (1948). While in this article Levinas does not consider the emergence of the photographic medium, and Kenaan in his new book does not pay particular attention to Levinas’s treatment of the artwork and artistic visuality, the notion of the shadow reveals the legacy of the latter in Kenaan’s approach to photography. This legacy is manifest at different levels: the understanding of the image as a shadow; the reflection on the kind of connections between reality and shadows; the examination of the appearance of shadows in the general economy of being; the definition of the shadow as a double of reality, which fixes the momentary or, as Levinas formulates it, which “transform[s] time into images” (Levinas 1948, 139);[1] and as a “fixed shadow” (Kenaan 2020, 6), a “shadow [that] is immobilized” (Levinas 1948, 141). Significantly, it is Levinas who, at the end of his article, brings the creation of the artistic image since the Renaissance into the horizon of the Nietzschean theme of the death of God, or what he calls “the alleged death of God” (Levinas 1948, 143). It is this same Nietzschean horizon that gives a decisive twist to Kenaan’s approach to photography, as becomes manifest in the third part of the book, entitled “Photography and the Death of God,” where he writes: “The proclamation of God’s death by Nietzsche’s madman was the point of departure for our study of photography. Photography emerges with the death of God, a condition that calls for a new way of orienting humans within an indifferent (homogeneous, meaningless, nihilistic) space” (Kenaan 2020, 159).

Let us consider this central claim of the book, through which Kenaan intends not only to describe the transformation of the visuality of the image by the photographic medium, but also to understand this transformation in light of a more encompassing historical transformation of Western culture as a whole in the 19th century and its aftermath, which Nietzsche labeled the death of God. This connection with a broader cultural field of investigation provokes a certain analytic complexity. The approach is first of all phenomenological in that the author describes the specificity of the visual experience of the photographic image on the basis of many concrete examples. This phenomenological approach is complemented by a strong historical interest, with the author returning to the beginnings of photography and providing a detailed description of the different techniques from which photography – as a practice (as a guideline for ‘taking’ pictures) and as a new theory of the image (as an image of nature, made by nature, not created by the artist’s hand) – emerges in the 19th century. However, the methodology is intended to be “ultimately ontological rather than historical” (9), in the Heideggerian sense of the word, namely in the sense that, as the author formulates it in the opening lines of his book, “[p]hotography has become an intrinsic condition of the human” (2) and this condition is both “existential” (i.e., photography has become part of ordinary experience) and transformative (i.e., this condition indicates an ontological shift in our understanding of the world and ourselves).

The central claim of the book is thus ontological, with the Nietzschean theme of the death of God not mentioned merely to establish a contextual and/or epochal connection with the appearance of the photographic image in modern culture, but in order to define the ontological transformation that manifests itself in and through the visuality of the photographic medium. This transformation, understood in its ontological dimension, is not limited to the photographic medium or to the question of what an image is, but more radically concerns the experience of seeing, the visibility of world, the meaning of existence. Kenaan is certainly not the first to draw particular attention to the transformation of the image experience and of visual perception through the invention of the photograph, but his departure point of the Nietzschean theme of the death of God within the framework of a Heideggerian understanding of ontology creates a new, intriguing perspective. How is this theme at work in Kenaan’s approach to photography?

In fact, the theme of the death of God brings together different lines of argumentation and it is the combination and consequent elaboration of these lines that constitutes the book’s originality, as well as its complexity. The first – and most familiar – of these argumentative threads consists in pointing to a reversal of Platonism with regard to the image experience. Here, Kenaan joins “an anti-Platonic approach” characteristic of theories of the image in the late 20th century. This approach no longer takes the image to be a copy or a representation but “is aware of the need to articulate a modality of presence that belongs to images qua images (and not as objects or functions)” (102). Maurice Merleau-Ponty already announced this new direction of thought in Eye and Mind when he wrote: “The word ‘image’ is in bad repute because we have thoughtlessly believed that a drawing was a tracing, a copy, a second thing.”[2] However, considering the reversal of Platonism as an intrinsic condition of the invention of the photographic image, Kenaan not only dates the event of this reversal more than a hundred years earlier (even prior to Nietzsche’s birth), disconnecting it from the debate about the developments of modernism in painting, but also points to a naturalistic basis and proposes a new, more precise interpretation of the reversal of Platonism with regard to the image experience. The invention of photography presupposes that the appearance of the image is no longer related to the divine or to the ideal forms, as is the case in Platonism, but to the mere physical laws of (breaking) light rays and (fixing) shadows. It is the possibility of seeing in mechanically fixed shadows the appearance of an image which defines the reversal of Platonism. In photography, the relation between image and shadow is reversed and this reversal implies a completely different ontological understanding of what a shadow and an image are.

Kenaan retraces this new relation between image and shadow in the writings of William Henry Fox Talbot, the author of The Pencil of Nature (1844), who described the invention of photography as the art of “photogenic drawing.” Talbot’s descriptions of his photographic experiments, which he initially called skiagraphy, “shadow drawing” or “shadow writing” (117), reveal that the invention of photography coincided with the discovery of the shadow as a transcendental condition for the photographic image and as an intrinsic part of the visibility of nature. In this regard, Talbot liberates the shadow from the binary opposition between being and appearance that determines Plato’s ontology. In a Platonic framework, shadow and image belong to the realm of appearance; they are both dependent on the presence of the real (being), and they are in this sense secondary. Moreover, the relation between the two is one of identity: the shadow, as projection of a material object, is defined as an image (eidolon) of that object, and the image, considered as the visual appearance of the idea (the original presence of the real), is defined as a shadow projected by that idea. Talbot discovers in his experiments with light rays that shadows have their own unique mode of appearance and that this mode of appearance is given in nature. The shadow belongs to the way in which nature unfolds its visibility. The shadow therefore cannot be reduced to the binary logic of object and copy, being and appearance. It is not in itself already an image, but the photographic image depends on it; depends on the possibility of “capturing,” “controlling” and “fixing” the shadow event projected by light rays. On the basis of his readings of Talbot, Kenaan describes the appearance of the shadow as an “in-between.” It both belongs to nature and transcends nature, it is part of nature’s visibility and it reproduces this visibility, it is not itself an image but it provides the ground for a potential image: “the shadow manifests a doubling of nature that belongs to the very order of nature itself” (135). In this sense, he makes plausible the continuum thesis that defends a causal continuity between shadow and image; between nature’s visibility and the image’s visuality. In this sense, the appearance of the photographic image has its origin in nature.

A second line of argumentation is construed around another aspect of the Nietzschean theme of the death of God, namely the belatedness of the effects of this event. In Nietzsche’s narrative, the event of the death of God is not yet recognized, its meaning remains concealed and its consequences are simply denied. In this sense, the death of God casts a shadow, the extent of which is still undefined. In a similar way, Kenaan argues that the invention of photography, which is based on the discovery of the shadow in nature’s visibility, conceals its origin and confounds its meaning. He speaks of a “betrayal” (136). The second part of the book, “The Butades complex,” reveals the mechanism of this betrayal: photography, in its attempt to distinguish itself from the traditional concept of image creation as an act of drawing, defines itself within the limits of the idea of drawing. Butades, the myth of the Corinthian maid who traces the shade of her departing lover, plays an important historical role in this context. According to Pliny, who was the first to mention this story in his Natural History, “the drawing of pictures began with ‘tracing an outline round a man’s shadow’” (58). Between 1770 and 1820, in the wake of romantic classicism, this story was very popular in the visual arts as a pictorial theme about the origin of painting and of art in general. At the beginning of the 19th century, it delivered the main narrative frame for understanding the invention of photography and presenting the photographic image to the public: “‘The legend’s popularity in the eighteenth-century British visual culture, […], did not coincidently anticipate the dawn of a new relationship between image, object, and beholder that was photographic. Rather, it virtually establishes this relationship by setting the terms in advance by which photography would be discovered, understood, and assimilated’” (61). Kenaan quotes here the study by Ann Bermingham, “The Origins of Painting and the Ends of Arts: Wright of Derby’s Corinthian Myth (1782-1785).”

Relying on this narrative, however, it is clear that photography betrays its own newness. To make a photograph is not an act of drawing – the latter is created by the drafter’s hand, the former implies a mechanical process. Moreover, the shadow in the myth of Butades is defined as the picture of the beloved one. The myth relates the act of drawing to the amorous desire of keeping present an original presence even when this presence has gone, disappeared or died. The betrayal of photography’s newness implies thus a denial of what the invention of photography discovered: the continuously moving, transforming and evanescent appearance of shadows in nature’s visibility. Shadows, experienced as intrinsic to nature’s visibility, are not fixed and do not depict an original presence. Therefore, the idea of taking a picture, formulated to promote the camera as a technical means and photography as each individual’s way of keeping present whatever they want, is misleading: it conceals the mechanical process that is the birthmark of the photographic image, it misunderstands the outcome of this process as the visual depiction of an original experience, and it turns nature and world into a vast repository of photographic images.

A third line of argumentation deals with Nietzsche’s perspectivism. Nietzsche formulated this idea in his early writings in an epistemic context, namely as a criticism of the defenders of an all-encompassing theoretical access to the objectivity of reality. Perspectivism holds that a view from nowhere is not possible: knowledge of the real is not given independently of a point of view. The connection with the later theme of the death of God is obvious: “Perspectivism is primarily a way of acknowledging the disintegration of an all-encompassing structure of legibility, the loss of coordinates to orient man’s place in the universe. The collapse of an overarching, super-sensible principle that upholds human meaning and value is what Nietzsche understands as the ‘death of God’” (159). It is Kenaan’s contention that the invention of photography has opened the possibility of an infinity of perspectives: “The idea of an infinite plurality of perspectives is part of its inner logic. […] photography’s space consists of an indefinite multitude, a plurality of viewpoints that refuse to coalesce” (157). The introduction of the photographic apparatus detaches vision from the human eye and transforms the relationship between the visible and the visual: “photography’s visualization of the visible becomes, in principle, limitless” (154). This not only means beyond the limits of the human eye with regard to distance (too far or too close), time (too fast or too slow) or light sensitive (too bright or too dark), but also beyond the limits of the evanescent unfolding of nature’s visibility: “Every visibility is a potential photograph that can be taken from an infinite variety of perspectives.” In this regard, the photographic visualization has the potential of achieving “full domination of the visible.”

Anti-Platonism, denial of its own origin, and perspectivism: it is through these three conceptual frames that the major Nietzschean theme of the death of God functions as a heuristic and organizational device in Kenaan’s approach to photography. As a consequence, the appearance of the photographic image is presented as a kind of epochal transformation within the human condition. Ontologically speaking, this transformation can be articulated in at least three different ways: 1. a subversion of the Platonic opposition between being and appearing, including the ontological upgrading of the presence sui generis of the shadow; 2. the concealment of the mechanical nature of the photographic image and therefore the concealment of its emptiness and arbitrariness; 3. and finally, the submission of the embodied visual appearance to the limitless visibility of the photographic image, and hence the collapse and fragmentation of all meaning and values given within the visual field of human experience.

The outcome of this examination of the photographic image is challenging and at the same time disturbing because of its general, encompassing and nihilistic claim that the rise of the photographic image is based on the breakdown of all human meaning and value as given with the embodied condition of visibility. Moreover, according to Kenaan, this “ultimate breakdown of human meaning” (178) defines photography’s visual dominance today, despite its efforts to conceal it: “The visible thereby becomes a homogeneous expanded space of inhuman eyes, identical units, each of which can record an infinite number of views that are all equally set to provide sequences of representation. In such a space (the term ‘world’ no longer applies here) each and every point is a place mark for potential views” (170). Here, it becomes clear that the Nietzschean theme of the death of God not only functions as a heuristic device to analyze photography’s specific transformational power regarding embodied visible perception but also that the visual specificity of the photographic image is intended to concretize and to visualize the abyssal implications of the Nietzschean theme of the death of God: the appearance of a limitless shattered space of the visible without coherence and orientation, disconnected from the human body and indifferent with regard to the human world.

It thus seems that, in bringing Talbot’s invention of photography and the Nietzschean theme of the death of God into the same field of reflection, Kenaan first of all intends to say something about our contemporary culture, which has predominantly become a visual culture, and in which he has detected in his other book, The Ethics of Visuality, “a pathology” (xviii) of the gaze. The outcome of the examination in Photography and its Shadow seems therefore to confirm and to legitimize the starting point of this other book in the examination of another approach to vision, inspired by the philosophy of Levinas, that breaks with the limitless fragmentation of the visual without meaning: “the eye is flooded with images, swamped yet driven by a chronic hunger – rather than a desire – that does not seek meaning in the visual, only stimulation” (xv). However, returning to the mechanical roots of the photographic image, one may wonder what the theme of the death of God precisely adds to the analysis of the visual experience of the photographic image and whether the generalization it implies does not distort the specificity of this experience.

Considering the birthmark of the photographic image, Kenaan does not distinguish between the many different kinds, such as the digital and the analogical, the virtual and the real, the moving image and the snapshot, the simulation and the video game, the publicity poster and the family photobook, the visual artwork and scientific image production, or the passport photograph and the selfie on Instagram. The photographic image is considered a pars pro toto, and the original condition of a general transformation of visibility in contemporary culture. However, the problem with this generalization is not only that images have different meanings according to their various functions in contemporary society, but also that we are aware of these meanings and their differences and, accordingly, have different image experiences. The generalization implied by the Nietzschean theme of the death of God does not allow for an examination of these differences and, in a certain way, hinders access to such an analysis. Even if familiarity with the photographic image “[i]n our age of satellites, drones, Google Glass, and GoPro” makes it possible to bring randomized visible objects into one sentence, such as “the red spot on a seagull’s bulk, a particle of food processed in the digestive system, a cookie crumb on the desk of an administration, the tip of an iceberg melting in the Arctic, a dead fish in an oil spill in the ocean, the bronze hand of an ancient god at the bottom of the sea” (170-1), among many others, the meaninglessness of this collection of fragmented objects does not replace or obliterate the possibility of meaning recognition in each of these photographs. The latter is in fact dependent on the here and now of the single image experience, whereas the former requires abstraction from it.

Here, we touch on and are confronted with the basic ontological assumption of Kenaan’s approach, which we mentioned at the beginning and that Kenaan reformulates in his debate with Roland Barthes as: “[O]ntology teaches us to see the photographic as an Existential” (104). This means, according to Kenaan, that the task of ontology is “to open photography to the way in which its presence can be seen as a branch of being” and not, as is the case in Barthes’s view, to seek to define the essential features of the photographic image. The notion of “existential” is introduced to describe photography as a way of being (a way of understanding world and oneself) and not as a distinctive category of image experience. “Existential” is the term that Heidegger explicitly used to describe the existentiality of existence ontologically (cf. Being and Time §9). However, “existence” is the term he coins (against the metaphysical tradition, which defines existence in relation to a given essence) to address the question of the ecstatic openness to being, which distinguishes the manner of being of the human being. Moreover, this openness is only possible from a “being there” (Dasein), a situated being-in-the-world, or human being’s facticity. To understand the photographic as an “existential” thus implies a description of the photographic as one way of being of this facticity (among other ways of being, such as being mine, being-with, being born, being understanding, being caring, being anguished, being towards death, etc.). In other words, even if it is factually true that the mechanical condition of the birth of the photographic image (the invention of the camera) provokes a visibility disconnected from the human eye, it is still necessary to relate this visibility to human being’s facticity in order to be able to understand the photographic ontologically as an “existential.”

This ontological orientation indisputably constitutes the originality of Kenaan’s approach. It enables him to interpret the appearance of photographic visibility as an epochal transformation of being-in-the-world. Yet, it might be that the Nietzschean theme of the death of God, although explicitly intended to examine this transformation as epochal, is not sufficiently specific with regard to photographic visibility understood as an “existential.” In particular, it lacks the tools to describe the openness to being as related to this visibility. Nor are the naturalistic descriptions of Talbot’s experiments of (fixing) shadows able to address this. The natural effects of breaking light rays do not say anything about the existentiality of the human being, which seeks to capture and to understand these effects. What turns these natural effects into a new kind of visibility, the visibility of the photographic image, presupposes human being’s openness to being. Photographic visibility is a visibility with regard to the human condition. If this visibility thus constitutes an epochal transformation, as is the central claim of Kenaan’s approach, it should be possible to describe this transformation in terms of how the relation to being is concerned with the specific visibility of the photographic image. Kenaan leads the reflection in that direction but changes course by stating that the camera’s visibility is disconnected from the human body and interpreting this disconnectedness in line with Nietzsche’s perspectivism as a limitless plurality of views.

That the camera provokes a visibility disconnected from the human body is, however, itself visible in the photographic image. This kind of being visible is called “framing”: the photographic image reveals the visual appearance of a framing of the visible. Kenaan indeed mentions and explores the nature of this framing, especially in the experiments by and the examples related to Talbot, but he omits to analyze and describe the appearance of this framing as an “existential,” that is, as an appearance that delineates human being’s openness to being. It is not argued how and to what extent the Nietzschean theme of the death of God could be interpreted as the expression of the visual appearance of a framing. However, it is not difficult to point to some ontological implications that result from the framing of the visible.

The visual appearance of a framing implies first of all a re-organization of the relation between the visible and the invisible. In the field of an embodied perception, the invisible is intrinsic to that perception as what cannot be seen: either because it does not belong to the visible (but to another sense, e.g., it can be smelled), or because it is part of the other side of the perceived objects that we cannot see from our embodied perspective but only in moving our body around that object (what Husserl calls “adumbrations”). In neither case does the invisible limit or contradict the fullness of the embodied visual perception. However, this is different in the visual appearance of a framing. Here, the invisible is essential in at least two ways. The photographic image is itself cut out, extracted from or selected in a field of visibility that encompasses the framing. The invisible is also present within the framing as something that appears as not yet fully visible, still arising, happening. If it is the case that the photographic image catches and attracts the human gaze and is able, as Kenaan contends, to dominate the visible, then it is only because and on the basis of these two ways that invisibility limits its visuality. This means that the visual experience of the photographic image is not without a relation to what exceeds the visibility of the frame and is not without a certain organization of the frame.

Moreover, the visual appearance of a framing – whether or not fixed by the mechanism of the camera – presupposes the recognition of a frame. In fact, Talbot’s experiments showed this very well: he delineates and sets up a frame each time to be able to study the effects of light rays and precisely this experimental method makes it possible to recognize the effects of framing in natural processes of light rays. Interesting cases such as trompe l’oeil (and, by extension, immersive) experiments demonstrate that there is no visual experience of a framing without the recognition of the frame. In this regard, the visual appearance of a framing still refers to and depends on the condition of the human body in two ways: in order to be recognizable, it is necessary that the frame is adapted either to the visual apparatus of the human body (i.e., it remains within the limits of the human eye’s capabilities and expectations) or to its cognitive apparatus (i.e., it corresponds to a conceptual modelling). The fact that mechanical or digital production of visual fragments is limitless – like a camera out of control that cannot stop taking pictures of the same object whatever the picture resolution may be – is completely irrelevant without a reference to the human body in one of these two ways. This means that the mere fact of being framed does not fix or define the meaning of the visual appearance of the framed fragment. Or, to put it in an “existential” way: the visual appearance delineated by the photographic image cannot undo, replace or supplement human being’s openness to being.

Finally, as Kenaan amply demonstrates in his examination of the historical development and interpretations of the photographic image, each particular framing appears to be historical: it exposes and is the expression of human being’s situated being. The historical leaves a trace in the visual appearance of the framed that the frame cannot erase.  Without this trace of the historical, Barthes’s discourse on  the punctum of the individual photograph, to which Kenaan refers, and also his own discourse on “[p]hotography’s goodbyes,” which he calls “the book’s subject” (51), would not make sense. Yet, to say goodbye is not necessarily the appropriate response to photographs. In some photographs, the trace of the historical relates to the singularity of the here and now of the framing event as being intrinsic to the meaning of the photograph. This is especially the case for documentary photographs that record events from the perspective of the witness, that is, from the perspective of a here and now, the meaning of which the photographer is witnessing. In these cases, the frame of the photograph is explicitly used to reveal and express something about the meaning of the historical and hence about the meaning of human being’s facticity. This means that, however fragmented its visual appearance may be, the photographic image can contribute to making sense of being-in-the-world and to witnessing the values we live by.

As these remarks make clear, Kenaan’s approach is original and inspiring because it analyzes the photographic image as an “existential” and not just as a distinctive category of the image. It consequently shows the relevance of situating the visuality of the photographic image in a broader cultural, epochal transformation of visual experience. Establishing different and intriguing connections with the Nietzschean theme of the death of God, it sheds a new light on the origins of the photographic image and its effects on the visible. In this way, it contributes to a re-examination of the visual experience of framing in its relation to the human condition.


[1] All references to this article are quoted from Emmanuel Levinas, The Levinas Reader, edited by Seán Hand, Basil Blackwell, 1989.

[2] Quoted from Mauro Carbone, The Flesh of Images: Merleau-Ponty between Painting and Cinema. New York, Suny Press, 2015, 2. Mauro Carbone pointed to this “form of reversal of ‘Platonism’” that “develop[s] the premises affirmed by Nietzsche’s philosophy and explored by modern art” (Ibid.) in the work of Merleau-Ponty.

Hanjo Berressem: Gilles Deleuze’s Luminous Philosophy

Gilles Deleuze's Luminous Philosophy Book Cover Gilles Deleuze's Luminous Philosophy
Hanjo Berressem
Edinburgh University Press
2019
Paperback
256

Reviewed by: Timothy Deane-Freeman (Deakin University)

There is a kind of light which is perceptible only on the “other side” of darkness, in a movement through the colour spectrum, through the shadowy non-colour, black, and beyond, where we discover a luminescence immanent to the universe itself. This is certainly the light which plays upon the impossibly black surfaces of Pierre Soulages’ Outrenoir paintings, constituting, in Alain Badiou’s words, “a light other than light” which opens up “the painterly landscape of a world without borders and of an infinite potential of perspectives…” (2017: 21-22). This is likewise the light seething beneath Bacon’s canvases, which will need to be “cleaned” of the figurative clichés already covering them, such that it might be captured in the aleatory diagrams of the artist (Deleuze 2003: 86-87). And it’s precisely this light which is the object of Hanjo Berressem’s impressive and accomplished study, Gilles Deleuze’s Luminous Philosophy, a monograph which aims, in the author’s words, “to develop a coherent image of Deleuze’s philosophy from two of its conceptual leitmotifs: light and crystals” (1).

Berressem’s reasons for centralising these two motifs are multiple. The notion of light, he will argue, captures the affirmative and optimistic spirit of Deleuze’s thought, its playful and joyous elements. At the level of Deleuze’s metaphysics, light provides us with a persuasive means of drawing out his Spinozism in the vocabulary of 20th century physics, of which more shortly. Finally, this approach opens up a new and productive way of thinking about the Deleuzian individual— as the crystalline centre for a refractive “play” of this immanent light, of which it constitutes a temporary and contingent means of capture. Of course, these three axioms are fundamentally linked. But perhaps most importantly, a symbiosis of light and crystals serves as a means of overcoming the traces of a problematic dualism, or even of dialectics, which some commentators have read into Deleuze.

If, following the latter, individuals (understood in the broadest possible sense) constitute transient centres of organisation on an energetic plane which is both their source and ecology, then we appear, in fact, to inherit two complementary, yet formally distinct planes in need of reconciliation: on the one hand, a plane of already constituted individuals, on the other, a plane of pre-individual forces, which serves as their condition. The oscillation between these two registers, such that their distinction is neither absolute, nor collapsed into the monism with which Deleuze will be charged by the likes of Badiou (2009), constitutes a central problem for Deleuze, and, as such, for his many commentators. Indeed, as Berressem notes, this tension, between Deleuze as a thinker of absolute deterritorialization, multiplicity and schizophrenic becoming(s), and Deleuze as the heir to a monistic “doxa of the body,” to use Badiou’s phrase (2009: 35), poses an immediate problem: “how to think the paradox of this conceptual simultaneity?” (21). And it is this task, indeed, upon which Berressem embarks.

For Berressem, this schism can be meaningfully thought using the twin images of light and of the crystal, which become a means of affirming the inter-dependence of these planes, and as such the radical immanence upon which Deleuze is so insistent. As Berressem explains:

…the notion of the complementarity of the plane of light and of the plane of crystals is one figure of [Deleuzian] affirmation. As the complementarity of these two planes suffuses Deleuze’s thought from its beginning to its very end, it allows us to draw a line of light through his work: a line of white light refracted by crystals (1).

This latter pairing, of crystalline individuals through which light passes—which, indeed, constitute temporary and refractory “captures” of light—thus offers up a compelling means of approaching the daunting parallelism Deleuze inherits from both Spinoza (the two formal series of thought and extension) and Bergson (the metaphysical dyad of virtual and actual), overcoming the Cartesian, or even, following Zizek (2012), Hegelian residues we might be tempted to identify in Deleuze’s work.

Further, once the infamous “plane of immanence”—the all-encompassing, yet necessarily elusive condition of Deleuzian metaphysics-—is modelled as a plane of “light,” with crystals conceived as temporary spatial orientations or polarisations of this light, we have transposed its form into one which is eminently compatible—though importantly, irreducible—to the image of the Universe we inherit from contemporary science. Physicists, indeed, dedicate themselves to the actualised functions of this “light” — a term which, in the context of their work, refers no longer to that band of the electromagnetic spectrum which is “visible,” but rather to the radiant chaos of electromagnetic waves, perceptible through instruments and mathematical modelling (gamma rays, X-rays, microwaves, radio waves). And in the same way that the human eye is situated within a particular band of perception, science too can only “see” those modalities of light which are actualised before its topoi, established on its particular plane(s) of reference.

Art, meanwhile, as we have seen, captures this light through its own perceptual techniques, forming it in concrescences of paint and celluloid, rendering visible its multiple and subterranean affects. While philosophy, finally, instigates its own luminous relation, tracing this light’s virtualities and “counter-effectuations” (Deleuze & Guattari 2009: 159), its potentialities and compossibilities, its becomings as opposed to its being—in other words, its invisibilities—such as constitute, in the vocabulary of a Deleuzian set theory, “a thread which traverses sets and gives each one the possibility, which is necessarily realised, of communicating with another, to infinity…” (2013a: 20). It is this luminous “thread” which serves philosophy’s entwined purposes, of resisting the doxa of “closed systems,” and of forging hitherto unthought connectives.

In part, the author’s success in advancing this “luminous” reading of Deleuze is due to his exploration of some of the dimmer corners of the Deleuzian oeuvre. Present are the usual suspects—Simondon and Bergson, Spinoza and Leibniz (Guattari, meanwhile, receives his own complementary volume[1])—however of equal importance to Berressem’s excavation of this “conceptual spine” are figures often considered peripheral to Deleuze’s project—Lucretius, D.H. Lawrence, Serres—whom he nevertheless plums for significant insights into the mechanics and becoming of Deleuze’s concepts.

Indeed the book’s argument for a hermeneutic centralising these “lines of light” (59) begins with a text which has seen relatively little attention in the well-tilled field of Deleuze scholarship (Ryan J. Johnson’s rich intervention aside[2]), 1961’s “Lucretius and the Simulacrum,” best known as an appendix to The Logic of Sense. In the book’s first chapter, Berressem reconstructs Lucretian natural philosophy as we find it in De Rerum Natura, the extraordinary text in which Lucretius defends the Epicurean “rain of atoms” (corpora) by positing the clinamen -that unpredictable swerve of atoms which creates the world of things and vouchsafes the possibility of free will. From this early text, Berressem will derive not only a profound and persistent Deleuzian affection for life, nature and change, condensed here in the Lucretian figure of Venus, but will also begin to elaborate the conceptual simultaneity of pointillism and dynamism, such as persists throughout Deleuze’s oeuvre. As Berressem explains, “the moment of the clinamen is of fundamental importance for the genesis of the world, as well as, on a much smaller scale, for the genesis of Deleuzian philosophy…” (29).

This model, according to which a rain of atoms (or perhaps more properly, as we will shortly see, photons) is subject to an unpredictable barrage of collisions, explains the genesis of the dappled and complex multiplicity we call life. If the atoms simply fell straight down, then their parallel trajectories would never intersect, and no phenomena would ever adhere. In their swerving and subsequent collisions, however, the aleatory and chaotic becoming of “nature” is unleashed — a nature which, from its very beginning, must not be thought in terms of any mechanism or determinism. This is because the inter-energetic processes unleashed by the “event” of the clinamen can be reduced neither to a dynamic logic of causal series, nor to a fundamentally pointillist atomism. Rather, each atom, whilst perceptible only in its processual (or actualised) dynamisms and collisions, retains, in spite of this, a shadowy virtuality, which persists and is never fully actualised. In Deleuze’s words, this is therefore a Universe in which “each causal series is constituted by the movement of an atom and conserves in the encounter its full independence,” (1990: 270) which is to say a set of virtual characteristics which persist outside the plane of actualised causes and effects.

In this context, Berressem argues that against a Cartesian lumen naturale, Deleuze will consistently embrace a Lucretian lumen veneris. Over a rational light which might ultimately render visible all of God’s creation, Deleuze will favour a light, “made up of a multiplicity of diffractions and absorptions that are sustained by a constant solar emission… this multiplicity of light, its diversity and the singularity of its instantiation, allows one to conceptualize a luminous philosophy” (34). The clinamen, in other words, in providing a model of the noetic inextricability of both virtual and actual “sides” of any object, becomes the first “event,” in Deleuze’s philosophy, a term which we can read as fundamentally entwined with two others which recur throughout Berressem’s book: the individual and the crystal.

The vocabulary of crystallisation, of course, stems from Deleuze’s engagement with Gilbert Simondon, whose philosophy of individuation is only just beginning to make its proper influence felt in the Anglophone academy. For Simondon, “crystallisation” offers up a model of the genesis of the individual which is immanent, ecological and processual, eschewing what he will claim is the profound inadequacy of philosophy’s preferred model-Aristotelian hylomorphism. According to this latter model, the individual is comprised of an innate matter upon which a determinate form is imposed, as it were, “from above.” The crystal, however, is the product of an autogenesis, according to which environmental energies are transformed or “transduced” around an initial event or locale, itself haphazard and contingent. As Simondon explains:

A crystal that, from a very small seed, grows and expands in all directions in its supersaturated mother liquid provides the most simple image of the transductive operation: each already constituted molecular layer serves as an organizing basis for the layer currently being formed… the transductive operation is an individuation in progress; it can, in the physical domain, occur in the simplest manner in the form of a progressive iteration; but in more complex domains such as the domains of vital metastability or of a psychic problematic, it can advance in constantly variable steps and it can expand in a domain of heterogeneity (2009: 11).

Here, in a microscopic model of Simondon’s broader project, crystalline individuation is traced from the example of relatively simple mineraloid transduction, up to the levels of complex biological, psychological and collective individuation.

And developing upon this project, Berressem dedicates impressive and methodical work, drawing on findings in biology and chemistry, to establish not only the possibility of discussing living individuals as crystalline—albeit not solid crystals, rather liquid or quasi-crystals—but also of speaking meaningfully of virtual individuals—be they psychic, noetic or philosophical—in terms of crystallisation. As he explains:

Similar to the way matter crystallizes itself into specific forms from within a field of vectorial and energetic potentiality, mind crystallizes itself into specific thoughts from within a field of vectorial and intensive potentiality… This is why for Deleuze, philosophy, as the art of thought, needs to open itself up to the non-philosophical: to link its concepts to pre- and non-philosophical plateaus and parameters. Only under this condition does it make sense to talk of crystals as ‘seeds of thought’ (28).

In other words, not only do crystals, conceived as “events” at the level of actualised matter, provoke the crystallisation of “thoughts” and “Ideas” in philosophy, but these same noetic crystals must be understood not as innate or immaculate, but rather situated within their own energetic and affective milieux or ecologies.

In his second chapter, Berressem zooms in, turning to an account of the refractive functioning of such a “crystalline” thought itself. Via a detailed treatment of Deleuze’s early engagement with Hume, in particular his elaboration of the subject—and later of the individual tout court—as the contraction of a habit, Berressem moves to a discussion of Deleuze’s noetic philosophy as it emerges in Difference and Repetition. Here, Deleuze claims that much of what is considered thought is in fact nothing but a habitual “recognition,” which sees, in keeping with the Kantian model, the faculties engaged in a harmonious function of “representation.” Philosophical thought, however, in keeping with its project of breaking with doxa, should strive to escape the model of recognition, taking as its object not the unified beings of an already thinkable representation, rather the multiplicities of an unthinkable becoming. In this context, Deleuze will sketch a cognitive model according to which the faculties “fail” in recognising their object, and embark upon a mutual experience of provocation and constraint — each thrust back into contact with that which is its “own,” and entering into a differential inter-agitation which is productive of the new.

Berressem draws out the already refractory model such a thought presupposes, positing philosophy as that style of “crystalline” thinking which is able to transform the unity of received light into such problematic multiplicities. As he writes, “in a process that is comparable to the refraction of white light into the spectrum of colours, crystallization refracts monism into multiplicity” (24). And while this “luminous” conception of thought finds plenty of implicit support in Difference and Repetition itself, Berressem’s work in drawing out the subtle yet consistent vocabulary of light throughout the book—such that it might be linked to the broader figure of a Deleuzian “luminosity”—is genuinely accomplished, providing fertile yet underemphasised connectives with a constellation of other Deleuzian texts.

The crystal, then, provides us with a model of thought and of its object, both of which constitute refractory crystallisations emerging through transduction around a particular germinal “event.” But, to return to the question with which we began, how are we to reconcile these particulate individuals with the pre-individual flows or forces which are their condition? How, in other words, are we to move from an atomist monadology to a crystalline ecology?

Essential here is Berressem’s use of the motif of photonic wave-particle duality, the “elemental complementarity of particles and waves” (32), which recurs throughout Luminous Philosophy. Quantum mechanics, in many ways, begins with the problem that neither the concept of the particle nor of the wave, as inherited from classical physics, properly explain the unique behaviours of photons at the quantum level. Photons, indeed, occupy an indeterminate space between these theories, such that, as Albert Einstein concedes:

…we must use sometimes the one theory and sometimes the other, while at times we may use either. We are faced with a new kind of difficulty. We have two contradictory pictures of reality; separately neither of them fully explains the phenomena of light, but together they do (1938: 278).

In other words, elementary particles are interchangeably either individuals, flows or aerosols, depending upon the particular mode of visualisation, theorisation or of thought which is brought to bear upon them.

And this same indeterminacy can be expressed in terms of light and crystals, such that, as Berressem explains, “crystals are the effect of polarization, of the spatial orientation that defines, for instance, electromagnetic, gravitational or light waves” (23). Considered in this photonic sense, then, both waves of light and refractory crystallisations of light constitute the same ontological substance, albeit “thought” in formally distinct modes. In this way, Berressem restages Spinoza’s “parallelism”—such as Deleuze more or less retains—between a plane of extension and of thought, using the motifs of a luminous physics to maintain their ontological simultaneity as substance, God or nature.

Berressem’s third chapter traces this particle-wave model of parallelism into Deleuze’s work on both space and time, prosecuting fertile and original discussions of The Logic of Sense, The Fold and A Thousand Plateaus. Here, the author himself enacts a folding of the philosophy of time advanced in The Logic of Sense onto that of Difference and Repetition, in order to differentiate two temporal registers conceived in terms of light -an infinity of Chronic “strobes” or “pulses” constituting the microscopic physical adherences necessary for the maintenance of a “present,” alongside an immaterial, Aionic time, “an empty, intensive, virtual duration that is open to both a past and to a future” (118). Transposed into the author’s preferred metaphysical category of light, these alternate temporal modalities become “a diffuse aionic glow that suffuses a scene against the stuttering of the chronic strobe…” (118). Alongside temporality conceived in these luminous terms, Berressem here pursues the model of a crystalline space through Deleuze’s Leibnizian monadology, which sees the latter’s radically singular atoms reconceived as folds, pleats or fractalizations of immanent substance. The discussion in this chapter is of an immense richness, however in order to treat what I take to be the book’s fundamental themes, I will leave detailed explication to one side and direct the interested reader to Berressem’s text.

For now, it suffices to say that the model of wave-particle complementarity—alongside a “refractory” and affirmative model of philosophy—is brought to bear in what is the crowning achievement of the book, its final, long chapter, entitled simply “Luminous Philosophy.” Here, Berressem interweaves a discussion of colour in Deleuze’s 1956 essay “Bergson’s Conception of Difference” with discussions of light in the 1978-81 lectures on Spinoza, his work on cinema and his study of Francis Bacon. Across each of these latter works -as Berressem rightly notes- earlier, more disparate and allusive discussions of light consolidate and centralise, such that by the time of Cinema I: The Movement-Image, Deleuze will explicitly give us a “plane of immanence […] entirely made up of Light” (2013a: 67).

Cinema, after all, is the art of the photon, and Berressem devotes meticulous exegetical work in support of the claim that Deleuze’s two volume study of film constitutes not simply a quaint, “aesthetic” corner of the Deleuzian oeuvre, rather the central articulation of concerns present in Deleuze’s thought since at least as far back as his encounter with the Lucretian clinamen. In these books, Deleuze, drawing on Bergson’s idiosyncratic metaphysics of the “image,” gives us “the universe as cinema in itself, a metacinema” (2013a: 67), composed through a multilateral framing, splicing and montage of energetic states- an individuation of light commensurate with that enacted by the camera on its own microscopic scale.

But cinema, like philosophy, relates not simply to the “actualised” modalities of light- profoundly capable, as it is, of rendering visible virtual operations like those of thought, dreams and temporality. In this context, Cinema II: The Time-Image provides Deleuze’s most elaborate discussion of the crystal, which he identifies in the “crystal-images” of certain auteurs, the likes of Zannussi, Welles, Ophüls and Resnais. Their films, in combining images of dream, reality, falsehood, illusion and documentary, thus produce indeterminate relations between light’s actual and virtual dimensions, relations which, in terms of the refractory structure of the crystal, must be conceived as inherently productive. As Deleuze explains:

These are ‘mutual images’ […] where an exchange is carried out. The indiscernibility of the real and the imaginary, or of the present and the past, of the actual and the virtual, is definitely not produced in the head or the mind. It is the objective characteristic of certain existing images which are by their nature double (2013b: 73).

Berressem’s originality, in linking this luminosity to that which he has carefully excavated across Deleuze’s oeuvre, is to suggest that the two cinema books, taken together, thus form such a crystal, abiding at the very heart of Deleuze’s thought, and staging a parallel encounter between light’s actual (movement-image) and virtual (time-image) modalities. As Berressem explains:

The point-at-infinity of Deleuze’s cinematographic projective plane lies in the crystal space between the two books; the point-at-infinity where its two sides meet in a conceptual tête-bêche… it is this unthinkable point that marks the ultimate crystal moment in Deleuze’s philosophy. The ideal identification of the virtual and the actual at philosophy’s point-at-infinity (213).

As such, we find ourselves in the very “heart of lightness,” the centre of the immensely productive crystal constituted by Deleuzian philosophy, in the refraction between virtual light, actual light, philosophy and (cinema as) non-philosophy. This characterisation, whilst serving admirably to locate the cinema books at the heart of Deleuze’s oeuvre, and plugged in to a much broader ecology encompassing even his earliest works, likewise serves to draw out the key conceptual dimensions along which Deleuze’s most microscopic and localised arguments take place.

Clearly then, as I hope to have demonstrated, there is much of both use and of value in this study, which deserves to be recognised as a philosophical treatise in its own right, beyond the realm of Deleuze scholarship. The failings of the work are few and far between, and reflect the difficulty of ever fully accommodating a philosophical project of such bewildering breadth and erudition as that of Deleuze. One omission, perhaps, is Deleuze’s admittedly obscure politics, which -particularly as it calcifies in his collaborative works with Guattari- is largely absent. It’s possible indeed that the cleaving of Deleuze and Guattari in two, whilst opening up a set of fertile potentialities, comes at the cost of the overarching tenor of their project, both together and after their collaboration, which is marked by the long, and here unmentioned, shadow of May ‘68.[3]

A relative absence of meditation on the particular modes of individuation (or of crystallisation) engendered by capitalism -an essential theme for Deleuze as for Guattari- is mirrored in a more generalised eschewal of the agonism which, despite his explicitly “affirmative” position, often characterises Deleuze’s thought. There is a sense indeed, throughout the book, that the “luminosity” Berressem hopes to emphasise elides some of the critical edge animating Deleuze’s philosophy- an amicability evinced by the relative absence not only of Deleuze’s “enemies” (the Hegelian negative, Platonist idealism, Cartesian interiority, capital) but also the venomous source of the unique form of affirmation which Deleuze takes up- the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche.

Nietzsche, indeed, an infrequent reference here, advocates an affirmation which is not so much “luminous” as Dionysian, rooted in a valorisation of the shadowy violence of life. And Deleuze, like Nietzsche, will caution against any conciliatory or peaceable reading of his concepts, warning, in Difference and Repetition, against “the greatest danger […] of lapsing into the representations of a beautiful soul” (1994: xx). The beautiful soul, in this context, is that reader for whom all differences are recuperable under the arid rubric of “toleration,” for whom “there are only reconcilable and federative differences, far removed from bloody struggles…” (1994: xx). Berressem is not, of course, this naïve figure, but his relative silence on questions like the catastrophe of capitalism, as on dogmatic thought, “control,” and the loss of our “belief in the world”—and many other themes of a “Dark Deleuze” besides—mean that he does occasionally run the risk of being read in this way.

Alongside this politically muted Deleuze—a figure I admit many “Deleuzians” might well approve of—we also encounter a profoundly systematic Deleuze, as evinced by Berressem’s early statement of intent:

…if one considers every perceptual and cognitive process as one of pattern production and pattern recognition, a pattern of Deleuzian thought begins to emerge: Hume, Lucretius, Simondon, Difference and Repetition. All of these develop, in a logic that recapitulates that of difference and repetition proposed in Difference and Repetition, philosophical theories of the incarnation of the virtual in the actual (71).

While there is nothing wrong with this characterisation per se, underemphasised, perhaps, is the disjunctive and “differential” articulation to which Deleuze submits his own concepts.

Deleuze, like Nietzsche, is wary of any “systematic” reading of his thought, such as might reinscribe the monistic and proscriptive tendencies he will identify in “Royal” philosophies. In favour of building an exclusive or closed system, Deleuze will offer a necessarily “shifting,” consistently dynamic philosophy, which changes its concerns and vocabulary across his works. As he himself explains:

We all move forward or backward; we are hesitant in the middle of these directions; we construct our topology, celestial map, underground den, measurements of surface planes, and other things as well. While moving in these different directions, one does not speak in the same way, just as the subject matter which one encounters is not the same… (2006: 63)

Indeed the impressive continuity Berressem endeavours to establish across Deleuze’s oeuvre, linking early discussions of the Lucretian clinamen to his very last works on the immanence of “a life,” perhaps comes at the cost of those moments of discontinuity and of rupture which Deleuze himself is at pains to inject.

In the context of the increasing ubiquity of communication technologies at the end of the last century, Deleuze laments, in a 1990 conversation with Antonio Negri, a contemporary conflation of “communication” and “creation,” suggesting that genuine creation instead has a fundamental affinity with rupture, incommensurability and silence. “Creating has always been something different from communicating,” he explains, “the key thing may be to create vacuoles of noncommunication, circuit breakers, so we can elude control…” (1995; 175). Berressem’s book creates a rhizomatic topology of interconnection, such that every part of Deleuze’s oeuvre can be plugged into a metaphysics of crystals and of light. However, the contemporary political task—should we still hope to read Deleuze’s metaphysics as a politics—is perhaps of a different order.

As Andrew Culp has written, in his book Dark Deleuze, in many ways the shadowy opposite of Berressem’s work, “the necessity of ‘taking another step’ beyond Deleuze avant la lettre is especially true when both capitalists and their opponents simultaneously cite him as a major influence” (2016: 2). As Culp continues:

…the first step is to acknowledge that the unbridled optimism for connection has failed. Temporary autonomous zones have become special economic zones. The material consequences of connectivism are clear: the terror of exposure, the diffusion of power, and the oversaturation of information (2016; 4).

In other words, whilst identifying subterranean connections across Deleuze’s oeuvre, as between Deleuze’s metaphysics and contemporary science, is an enormously fertile endeavour, such work should always be conducted with the important caveat that non-communication and discontinuity -between individuals, as between disciplines and ideas- remain fundamental dimensions of Deleuze’s own philosophy.

These criticisms, however, are peripheral to the book’s many merits and great richness. There is much here of value not only for Deleuze scholars but for those interested in contemporary metaphysics, post-phenomenological thought, linkages between contemporary science and philosophy and more. Indeed, taken alongside Berressem’s accompanying volume on Guattari, which does indeed take a more concretely socio-political approach to its metaphysics, the work undertaken here is of a quite impressive breadth and quality. Gilles Deleuze’s Luminous Philosophy is a book which deserves, on this basis, a wide and enthusiastic readership.

Works Cited

Badiou, Alain. 2017. Black: The Brilliance of a Non-Color. Translated by Susan Splitzer. Cambridge: Polity.

Badiou, Alain. 2009. Logics of Worlds: Being and Event, 2. Translated by Alberto Toscano. London: Continuum.

Berressem, Hanjo. 2020. Félix Guattari’s Schizoanalytic Ecology. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Colebrook, Claire. 2002. Understanding Deleuze. Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin.

Culp, Andrew. 2016. Dark Deleuze. Creative Commons.

Deleuze, Gilles. 2013(a). Cinema I: The Movement-Image. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam. London: Bloomsbury

Deleuze, Gilles. 2013(b). Cinema II: The Time-Image. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta. London: Bloomsbury.

Deleuze, Gilles. 1994. Difference and Repetition. Translated by Paul Patton. New York: Columbia University Press.

Deleuze, Gilles. 2003. Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. Translated by Daniel Smith. London: Continuum.

Deleuze, Gilles. 1995. Negotiations, 1972-1990. Translated by Martin Joughin. New York: Columbia University Press.

Deleuze, Gilles. 1990. The Logic of Sense. Translated by Mark Lester with Charles Stivale. London: The Athlone Press.

Deleuze, Gilles. 2006. Two Regimes of Madness – Texts and Interviews 1975-1995, David Lapoujade ed. Translated by Ames Hodges and Mike Taormina. New York: Semiotext(e).

Deleuze, Gilles, & Guattari, Félix. 1994. What is Philosophy? Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchill. London: Verso.

Einstein, Albert, & Infeld, Leopold. 1938. The Evolution of Physics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Johnson, Ryan J. 2017. The Deleuze-Lucretius Encounter. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Simondon, Gilbert. 2009. “The Position of the Problem of Ontogenesis.” Translated by Gregory Flanders. In Parrhesia, No.7: 4-16.

Žižek, Slavoj. 2012. Organs without Bodies: On Deleuze and Consequences. Abingdon: Routledge.


[1] Hanjo Berressem, Félix Guattari’s Schizoanalytic Ecology, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2020. The relationship between these simultaneous sister volumes, the author explains, is such that “although each book can be read as an individual text, the two correspond to one another in such a way that when they are read together, an immaterial book emerges in the mind of the reader” (xvii). In the service of this virtual volume, square bracketed “hyperlinks” point the reader to corresponding passages in each book’s “actual” sister. This structure serves the obvious and immediate function of elevating Guattari’s thought to its proper place – distinct from, yet complementary to that of Deleuze. Despite the broad success of this innovation, Guattari’s absence was felt, at times, in the exegetical flow of the present work. The task of separating these two disruptive pupils remains a difficult one.

[2] Ryan J. Johnson, The Deleuze-Lucretius Encounter, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2017.

[3] For a convincing argument to the effect that Deleuze and Guattari’s collaborations, as well as their subsequent work, are instigated by the “events” of May ’68, see Claire Colebrook, Understanding Deleuze, Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin, 2002.

Andreas Gailus: Forms of Life: Aesthetics and Biopolitics in German Culture, Cornell University Press, 2020

Forms of Life: Aesthetics and Biopolitics in German Culture Book Cover Forms of Life: Aesthetics and Biopolitics in German Culture
Signale
Andreas Gailus
Cornell University Press
2020
Paperback $29.95
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Stuart Elden: The Early Foucault, Polity, 2021

The Early Foucault Book Cover The Early Foucault
Stuart Elden
Polity
2021
Paperback $26.95
300