Katherine Mansilla Torres: Resignificar la violencia. El pensamiento político de Maurice-Merleau Ponty

Resignificar la violencia. El pensamiento político de Maurice-Merleau Ponty Book Cover Resignificar la violencia. El pensamiento político de Maurice-Merleau Ponty
Katherine Mansilla Torres
SB / Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México
2021
Paperback $16.90
208

Reviewed by: Luz Ascarate (Université de Franche-Comté / Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne)

Selon Paul Valéry, « la connaissance a le corps de l’homme pour limite »[1]. Un grand paradoxe se présente donc si nous essayons de penser philosophiquement la violence, un sujet urgent et d’actualité : la violence nous renvoie immédiatement au corps, et la connaissance philosophique trouverait sa limite dans le corps. Nous pouvons cependant considérer la réflexion philosophique comme une réflexion qui dépasse les limites de la connaissance, et en ce sens, qui ne peut se réaliser que dans la considération du corps. En tout état de cause, toute la difficulté est de savoir si la philosophie est la discipline la plus adéquate pour traiter le sujet de la violence. Le philosophe est-il capable d’apporter quelque point de vue d’importance à ce sujet ? Katherine Mansilla le pense, en suivant Maurice Merleau-Ponty, un philosophe qui est parvenu à développer une réflexion philosophique sur le corps. Mansilla présente la pensée de Merleau-Ponty afin de soulever des questions et de proposer des réponses possibles aux différentes significations qui découlent du thème de la violence. Mansilla estime que l’importance de la perspective élaborée par Merleau-Ponty est qu’elle nous permet de comprendre la violence à partir de la contingence : l’histoire, les relations collectives, notre pays. En ce sens, le livre de Mansilla est aussi une refonte de la pensée politique de Merleau-Ponty basée sur le concept de violence. Mais le texte de Mansilla est loin de diviser la pensée de Merleau-Ponty entre une partie théorique et une partie pratique, entre sa phénoménologie et sa philosophie politique. Mansilla relève le défi de penser, enrichi par la perspective gestaltiste de la figure et du fond, l’unité de la philosophie de Merleau-Ponty, de sa phénoménologie de la perception à sa dernière ontologie, en tenant compte du fait que l’unité de la production philosophique est encadrée par le fond historico-politique qui traverse toute la pensée de Merleau-Ponty.

I. Le fond socio-historique

Que la philosophie ne puisse être détachée de son contexte ou de son fond socio-historique est une intuition qui a accompagné Merleau-Ponty tout au long de son œuvre. Cependant, cette appartenance ne peut être comprise qu’à travers l’effort de comprendre cet arrière-plan comme la condition de possibilité d’une expérience constitutive. Comme on le lit dans Éloge de la philosophie, « la philosophie habite l’histoire et la vie, mais elle voudrait s’installer en leur centre, au point où elles sont avènement, sens naissant. Elle s’ennuie dans le constitué. Étant expression, elle ne s’accomplit qu’en renonçant à coïncider avec l’exprimé et en l’éloignant pour en voir le sens »[2]. Mansilla parvient à rendre compte de la dialectique qui s’établit entre le constitué et le constituant dans la pensée de Merleau-Ponty. Une dialectique qui, selon elle, est présente dès ses premières œuvres, dans lesquelles il tente d’élucider la structure de la perception. Elle se consacre donc non seulement à situer la pensée de Merleau-Ponty dans son contexte socio-historique, mais, à partir de là, elle délimite le rôle des concepts les plus importants de sa pensée en général – tels que le corps propre, l’intentionnalité opérante, la temporalité, l’être-au-monde – afin de comprendre sa pensée sur la violence. Cette pensée ne doit pas être comprise comme une position « politique » mais plutôt comme une pensée sur « le politique », qui répond à des concepts tels que la dialectique sans synthèse, l’anonymat social et l’institution.

C’est le premier chapitre, intitulé « Merleau-Ponty sur le fond social de l’entre-deux-guerres », qui sert de base à ce fond socio-historique. Mansilla se place dans le contexte biographique de Merleau-Ponty afin d’établir une relation entre la violence vécue par le philosophe en temps de guerre et sa critique de la philosophie de « survol ». Un événement important souligné par l’auteure est la participation de Merleau-Ponty à la fondation, avec Sartre, du groupe Socialisme et Liberté en 1941, qui a soutenu la Résistance dans ses publications. C’est à cette époque que le philosophe prépare les bases de ce qui deviendra la Phénoménologie de la perception dans sa thèse dirigée par Émile Bréhier. À cette époque, parmi les lectures les plus importantes de Merleau-Ponty figurent les textes de Trosky, de Lénine et l’ouvrage de Renaudet sur Machiavel. Dans le contexte mondial, à la fin de la guerre, l’idéologie totalitaire est en plein essor, ce qui entraîne une opposition entre le libéralisme et le communisme.

II. L’héritage husserlien

Mais de cet arrière-plan ou fond biographique émerge l’exigence philosophique héritée de la phénoménologie husserlienne du retour aux choses elles-mêmes qui, dans la vision de Merleau-Ponty, prend le sens d’un retour de la réflexion philosophique au sujet de son propre corps dans un monde marqué par la violence. À cet égard, les conférences de Paris données par Husserl à la Sorbonne en 1929 ont été fondamentales pour la conception de la phénoménologie de Merleau-Ponty. Mais l’héritage husserlien est également fondamental pour comprendre le sens de la liberté que Merleau-Ponty articule afin de donner un sens au politique. Il est intéressant de noter que l’auteure reprend la distinction ricœurienne entre la politique, domaine ontique des pratiques institutionnelles rationnellement assumées par la philosophie politique, et le politique[3], domaine ontologique ou structurel des relations de pouvoir, afin de situer la perspective de Merleau-Ponty dans la dialectique de ces deux domaines, que l’auteure comprend comme la dialectique de l’institué et de l’instituant.

En ce sens, la liberté est comprise dans une perspective génétique qui permet à l’auteure de revenir sur les aspects constitutifs du politique. Cette sphère précède la sphère de la connaissance ou de la délibération. Ainsi, les intérêts socio-historiques sont ici fondamentaux pour comprendre l’orientation des analyses de la Phénoménologie de la perception dans la perspective de Mansilla. Ces intérêts radicalisent la description de Merleau-Ponty grâce à la perspective génétique héritée de Husserl. Mansilla emprunte ici les instruments de cette orientation de la méthode husserlienne pour comprendre Merleau-Ponty, ce qui ne trahit pas le sens de la réduction husserlienne. Comme on le sait, en tant que dévoilement ou thématisation de la constitution, la réduction husserlienne est toujours une «interrogation rétrospective» (Rückfrage)[4] qui peut avoir deux orientations, correspondant à un fondement de validité (Geltungsfundierung), et à un fondement génétique (Genesisfundierung)[5]. Ces deux types de fondement correspondent au sens philosophique de « fondement ». Mais c’est cette dernière qui nous permet d’expliciter, selon les termes de Fink, la « pauvreté, la plus extrême qu’on puisse imaginer »[6] de la subjectivité.

Mansilla découvre le même geste dans la pensée de Merleau-Ponty. Il nous exhorte, précisément, à revenir à une expérience originelle du monde, une expérience qui précède toute connaissance. C’est à ce niveau que nous nous reconnaissons comme des êtres vivants face à un monde qui nous est inéluctable (p. 42). Mansilla nous fait ainsi lire ce fragment de la Phénoménologie de la perception : « la perception n’est pas une science du monde ce n’est pas même un acte, une prise de position délibérée, elle est le fond sur lequel tous les actes se détachent et elle est présupposée par eux »[7]. Selon Mansilla, le travail de Merleau-Ponty sur la perception nous permet de prendre conscience que nous sommes des corps qui forment un seul système avec le monde, ce qui peut être compris comme la signification du monde par le corps dans une relation circulaire. Le sensible demande au monde d’être mis en forme par le corps. Le corps répond à cette demande et met le monde en forme. Cette mise en forme est comprise par Mansilla comme expression ou signification, ce qui lui permet de voir la continuité entre les analyses merleau-pontiennes consacrées à la perception et celles consacrées plus tard à l’expression. Dans cette perspective, nous lisons précisément dans la Phénoménologie de la perception une radicalisation du thème de l’expression en vue de l’orientation génétique qui annonce déjà ce qui va suivre dans la philosophie de Merleau-Ponty :

 « C’est la fonction du langage de faire exister les essences dans une séparation qui, à vrai dire, n’est qu’apparente, puisque par lui elles reposent encore sur la vie antéprédicative de la conscience. Dans le silence de la conscience originaire, on voit apparaître non seulement ce que veulent dire les mots, mais encore ce que veulent dire les choses, le noyau de signification primaire autour duquel s’organisent les actes de dénomination et d’expression »[8].

Selon Mansilla, Merleau-Ponty poursuit ainsi les analyses génétiques de Husserl, renouvelle l’héritage phénoménologique qu’il assume de manière rigoureuse sans cacher ses paradoxes et dont il explore différents horizons thématiques pour développer sa propre réflexion. En ce sens, le corps et le langage sont compris dans l’héritage génétique de la phénoménologie husserlienne. C’est ce même héritage qui lui permet de surmonter les dichotomies qui découlent du sentiment de violence. Ainsi, dans le deuxième chapitre intitulé « Violence et humanisme », l’auteure échange les analyses génétiques contre une vision profonde du politique.

Le texte clé est ici le célèbre ouvrage Humanisme et terreur[9]. Sur la base de ce texte, et sans négliger le contexte socio-historique marqué à cette époque par la participation de Merleau-Ponty à la revue Les temps modernes, l’auteure retrace le lien entre les différentes significations de la violence chez Merleau-Ponty. Le premier a trait aux phénomènes politiques que le philosophe traverse entre 1945 et 1947, qui peuvent être compris comme le conflit entre libéraux et communistes sur la violence que les uns rencontrent chez les autres. Cette violence est appelée, par l’auteure, violence idéologique. Merleau-Ponty trouvera une forme de violence pré-prédicative et pré-rationnelle qui lui permettra de dépasser les dichotomies des idéologies de la guerre froide. Cette forme de violence qui répond au second sens peut être explicitée grâce à une perspective humaniste de la violence, qui comprend la violence comme matériellement constitutive de toute praxis politique.

Un troisième sens de la violence est la violence de l’histoire, qui est le fondement des deux autres formes de violence. Merleau-Ponty reprend ici, selon l’aurore, ses analyses de la perception en identifiant en elle un corps traversé par son intentionnalité opératoire située dans une temporalité perceptive. En bref, l’histoire, en sédimentant les sens dans le temps, et en demandant aux hommes de marcher en un sens, change. Selon Mansilla, « l’histoire est violente parce qu’elle est contingente et ambiguë » (p. 57). Merleau-Ponty nous invite donc à aborder l’histoire à partir d’un sujet acteur dans une histoire ouverte, violente, sauvage. L’avenir politique est donc un acte révolutionnaire dans un sens existentialiste, créatif et révolutionnaire. Dans chaque type de violence, nous trouvons une structure de plus en plus fondamentale et constitutive du social. Ainsi, dans le troisième chapitre de cet ouvrage intitulé « L’anonymat social », l’auteure revient sur l’influence husserlienne de l’analyse génétique chez Merleau-Ponty pour comprendre ce dernier type de violence. Nous sommes confrontés à une radicalisation du fondement contingent du politique et de l’expérience. C’est cette radicalisation qui aurait conduit Merleau-Ponty à se rapprocher de Machiavel.

III. De Machiavel à Marx

Machiavel permet à l’auteure de plonger dans le contexte socio-politique révélé par les analyses de la perception. Le texte clé ici est une conférence sur Machiavel présentée au Congrès de Florence de 1949 et publiée dans Signes[10]. Mansilla identifie ici une confluence entre la préoccupation merleau-pontienne pour le langage et pour la contingence fondamentale du politique. Au fond, c’est cette préoccupation commune qui aurait conduit Merleau-Ponty à chercher chez Marx certaines réponses à la réflexion philosophique sur les problèmes politiques et sociaux qui traversent son contexte socio-historique, comme le montrera Mansilla dans le cinquième chapitre de son livre intitulé « Merleau-Ponty, lecteur de Marx ».

L’auteure comprend la relation de Merleau-Ponty avec le marxisme comme une relation constante et dialogique. Elle identifie ainsi les mentions de Marx depuis la Phénoménologie de la perception jusqu’à Les aventures de la dialectique[11]. Le concept clé ici est celui de production, un concept que Merleau-Ponty comprendra dans une perspective existentielle et humaniste. Mansilla parvient également à rendre compte de la discussion de Merleau-Ponty avec les marxistes de son temps sur la défense du Parti communiste français, ainsi que de la rupture avec Sartre. Selon l’auteure, il s’agit dans les deux cas d’une radicalisation de la perspective de la contingence par rapport au social.

Dans le dernier chapitre intitulé « Expression, institution et contingence », l’auteure propose une vue d’ensemble du politique dans la perspective de Merleau-Ponty, en s’appuyant sur les aspects explorés dans les chapitres précédents. Le concept clé ici est celui de l’expression, qui permet à l’auteure de comprendre la dialectique entre l’institué et l’instituant. L’auteure identifie un lien primordial entre la contingence du langage et la contingence de la politique. Cela permet au philosophe d’expliciter les relations dialectiques comme étant les siennes, dans une vie commune contingente qui s’enracine dans sa communication et son action avec les autres. Nous nous retrouvons donc avec une conception purement contingente de l’histoire qui place dans un cadre phénoménologique génétique divers événements historiques qui traversent la vie de Merleau-Ponty. L’expression comprise dans le cadre de la communication entre individus et cultures diverses nous permet de reconnaître une universalité ouverte fondée sur un anonymat originel. Merleau-Ponty nous permettrait ainsi de nous interroger sur un sens profond de la violence qui implique ses significations historiquement sédimentées et une approche de notre réalité sociale.

Mansilla nous permet enfin de poser certaines questions qui dépassent le cadre de la philosophie merleau-pontienne et s’adressent à la philosophie en général : la philosophie peut-elle dire quelque chose de radical sur la constitution politique du monde dans lequel nous vivons ? Est-il possible de réaliser une philosophie engagée dans la réalité ? Cet engagement est-il accessoire ou nécessaire au travail philosophique ? Le pari de Mansilla est un pari qui défend l’unité de la théorie et de la pratique philosophiques, une unité incarnée dans un contexte socio-historique vital que nous ne pouvons pas « survoler ». En ce sens, il est impossible de ne pas rapprocher l’ouvrage de Mansilla, dont nous recommandons absolument la lecture, aux tentatives qui ont déjà été faites en phénoménologie pour défendre cette unité chez des penseurs comme Claude Lefort, Tran Duc Thao et Enzo Paci.


[1] P. Valéry, Cahiers. Tome 1. Paris : Gallimard, 1973, p. 1124.

[2] M. Merleau-Ponty, Éloge de la philosophie, Paris, Gallimard, 1953, p. 59.

[3] Cf. P. Ricœur, « Le paradoxe politique » (1957), in : Histoire et vérité, Paris : Seuil, 1964.

[4] E. Fink, Sixième Méditations cartésienne. L’idée d’une théorie transcendantale de la méthode, traduit par Nathalie Depraz, Grenoble, Jérôme Millon, 1994, p. 62.

[5] Cf. ibid.

[6] Cf. ibid., p. 103.

[7] M. Merleau-Ponty, La phénoménologie de la perception, Paris, Gallimard, 1945, p. V.

[8] Ibid., p. X.

[9] M. Merleau-Ponty, Humanisme et terreur. Essai sur le problème communiste, Paris, Gallimard, 1948.

[10] M. Merleau-Ponty, « Notes sur Machiavel. Chapitre 10 », dans Signes, Paris, Gallimard, 1960.

[11] Cf. M. Merleau-Ponty, Les aventures de la dialectique, Paris, Gallimard, 1955.

Vincent Blok: Ernst Jünger’s Philosophy of Technology: Heidegger and the Poetics of the Anthropocene

Ernst Jünger’s Philosophy of Technology: Heidegger and the Poetics of the Anthropocene Book Cover Ernst Jünger’s Philosophy of Technology: Heidegger and the Poetics of the Anthropocene
Vincent Blok
Routledge
2017
Hardback £105.00
154

Reviewed by: Richard Fitch (Independent Scholar)

Ernst Jünger (1895-1998), was a problematic polymath whose life and work continue to discreetly haunt both German and European intellectual life. He was first a soldier, highly decorated and often wounded in the First World War. The Second War he spent as a staff officer occupying Paris where he mingled with the likes of Picasso. Both experiences were transmuted into literature, most famously in his 1920 memoir of the trenches, Storm of Steel, which made his literary name. He went on to excel in many literary genres, such as those of memoir, diary, novel, essay, science fiction, allegory, theoretical tract and in the forms of literary expression usually associated with the name of Friedrich Nietzsche. He stands alone, amongst German writers, with Goethe, Klopstock and Wieland in having had two editions of his collected works published in his lifetime. As if this were insufficient for a life well lived, he was also an entomologist of some distinction. So far, so wiki — he appears a figure of some note; but is he, or was he, of philosophical note?

There is a paucity of English-language secondary literature on Jünger, and little of that literature is of direct philosophical interest. Does this matter? Was Jünger more than a warrior littérateur entranced by beetles – if being philosophical would make more of that? In this book Vincent Blok sets out to provide an affirmative answer to this question. He proceeds in two keys: in that of the history of philosophy and in that of philosophical argument.

With regard to history, Blok’s strategy is to entwine Jünger with Martin Heidegger. This is no facile ‘x & y’ project. They corresponded, and Heidegger was a careful reader of Jünger, and more than a careful critic. Volume 90 of his Gesamtausgabe carries the title Zu Ernst Jünger ‘Der Arbeiter’. And in his celebrated essay collection Pathmarks the essay ‘On the Question of Being’ is a direct response to Jünger’s essay ‘Across the Line’. But even more than this Heidegger saw Jünger as the figure that stood between himself and Nietzsche. This in itself would seem to suffice to establish Jünger’s place, howsoever minor, in the history of thinking in the twentieth century. However, Blok desires even more than this. More than showing the influence of Jünger on Heidegger, and exploring Heidegger’s critical response to Jünger, Blok ventures to assert that Jünger goes beyond Heidegger. To ground this startling proposition a change of key is required, to that of philosophical argument.

With regard to philosophical argument, Blok initially uses the entwining with Heidegger to make an intervention in the philosophical questions of, not only, as the title suggests, technology, but also those of nihilism and language. And Blok entwines these questions as he entwines his leading men. And it is with regard to the question of language that Blok argues that Jünger goes beyond Heidegger.

The book consists of an argument in three interlinked movements. First, Jünger’s concept of the worker is explored as it is presented in his text with the most direct philosophical import: The Worker of 1932. Then Heidegger’s engagement with this concept takes the stage. Finally, Blok suggests how Jünger’s work might be understood to elude the critique that issues from Heidegger’s engagement, and thus be of continuing philosophical import. This book is an argument first. Readers after an introduction to Jünger’s life and work need to look elsewhere. In addition, at least a basic appreciation of the full range of Heidegger’s mature thought is probably a prerequisite for a fruitful engagement with Blok’s argument. The three movements will be tracked in turn.

Part One ‘The Age of Technicity and the Gestalt of the Worker’: The Worker: Dominion and Form, to give its full title, is a work written in the twilight of the Weimar Republic that seeks to explore how one can reorientate oneself in the wake of the shattering of the brittle maps of nineteenth century bourgeois liberalism by the brutal hammer of the First World War. Without much need for the gifts of prophecy, the implication is that the Weimar Republic sought to carry on as if nothing had happened and that is the secret of its coming disaster. Jünger with the form, or gestalt, of the worker seeks to articulate a more robust response to a world whose contours are formed by the ice and fire of technology and not by the ethereal legal fictions, then practically dispelled, of contracts and rights. Central to The Worker is a slippery conception of gestalt, and it is here that Blok’s focus falls. As Blok argues, for Jünger gestalt indicates that power that gives fundamental ontological form, and thus unity, to a particular epoch of human existence. Blok describes gestalt as “a summarising unity or measure within which the world appears as ordered.” (13) Gestalts can differ, so the world can appear as ordered in different ways. It seemed clear that the appearance of the order of the world changed in Germany, and in Europe, between the springs of 1914 and 1919. Reflecting on his experience of the trenches Jünger intuits a shift in fundamental measure from that of the Enlightenment to that of the worker. Evidence of this is that the War makes no sense in a world as ordered by the Enlightenment. It makes no sense, yet it is, thus something must have changed. But the shift is hard to discern, so for those without the eyes to see it is experienced as the nihilistic dissolution of bourgeois values and meaning-giving. It is hard to discern because, for Jünger, a gestalt cannot be perceived directly, but only through its effect on its world. The gestalt is not a product of history as even ‘the characteristic of time changes through the influence of the gestalt.’ (16). Blok argues that Jünger sees his task first to draw out the contours of the forms of life as work imposed by the new gestalt of the Worker, and then strive to find ways of being that might productively respond to this new fundamental ordering. In the gestalt of the worker, the world appears ordered as work, to the extent that even leisure is understood as a form of work. And the world is waiting for the task. Blok quotes Jünger to the effect that “The working world expects, hopes to be given meaning.” (12).

Blok understands this meaning-giving in Nietzschean terms, specifically those of the will to power as art. And before proceeding Blok offers an intermezzo on Nietzsche’s conception of nihilism. The Nietzsche presented is a Nietzsche of the will to power. While this Nietzsche is currently interpretatively unfashionable, this is the Nietzsche that Heidegger sees Jünger as embodying, so it is contextually apposite. More problematic is Blok’s rather narrow understanding of nihilism which he takes to consist in the erasure of the “Platonic horizon of the transcendental idea.” (21).

Returning to Jünger, Blok now explores how the gestalt of the worker leads to the type of the worker, where the type is the way of life that fits best with the gestalt. One is already in the gestalt of the worker so, “Our transition to the type of the worker thus consists of a becoming who you are.” (32). Blok’s reading here is informed by Jünger’s 1930 essay ‘Total Mobilisation’. Being a worker-type is not a matter of personal industriousness or wage-slavery. It is an attunement to the situation that the new gestalt of work leaves one in. “In the epoch of the worker, ‘work’ would form the metaphysical measure of the world and men, in whose light the technological world appears as technological order and man finds his destination as the type of worker.” (35). Again, it is not a matter of a traditional work-ethic, or a class based analysis calling the workers of the world to unite. It is a recognition of the metaphysical ordering that currently dominates. It is a strange metaphysics which appears necessary while it dominates, but which can dissolve, and with it its necessity, in the blink of an eye. This shift to the worker means that what appears as nihilism is not the collapse of all value, or the highest values devaluing themselves, but the misrecognition of a shift in the metaphysical order of the values that themselves give order to the appearance of our world – a shift here from Enlightenment to Work. And to consciously create oneself as a worker is to most fittingly respond to the manner in which the world appears to be ordered when it is ordered by the gestalt of the worker. The analysis of the gestalt of the worker thus does not aspire to the utopian or normatively prescriptive but tries to be realistic and phenomenological. It is a response to the world, and one’s most fitting place in it, as they appear given. The ‘heroic realist recognises himself as the type of the worker’ (36). One may not like this world of work, but it is the world that appears.

How does the worker work? This work is, somewhat surprisingly, a poetic task guided by the gestalt: “The will to power is led as though by a magnet by the gestalt, which is not and only is in the will to power as art.” (36). It is a poetic task, bringing forth a language that allows the dominion of its gestalt ‘to emerge from its anonymous character’ (35). What then is the worker to work at? “The worker’s task is to transform the work-world of total mobilisation into a world in which the gestalt guarantees a new security and order of life.” (39). The task of the worker is to be bring to light how the world appears to be ordered in the epoch of the worker, where this bringing to light is guided by the source of that ordering, and results in the practical ordering of life. There is a suspicion that here Blok’s Jünger is too close to Nietzsche, but then that is where Heidegger also finds him so he is in good company.

Part Two: Heidegger’s Reception of Jünger – Work, Gestalt and Poetry: Blok identifies Heidegger’s key problem with Jünger as his apparent claim that nihilism can be overcome. Where Jünger sees two gestalt: Enlightenment and then Work, Heidegger only sees one nihilism. The gestalt of the worker is yet another occasion of the forgetting of the question of being. Furthermore the gestalt itself is platonic, still concerned with the search for certainty and security. And from this symptom Heidegger diagnoses that Jünger remains within the orbit of Nietzsche’s metaphysics. But Jünger is not minor satellite, but ‘the only real follower of Nietzsche’ (54). As ever there is the question of the trustworthiness of Heidegger’s interpretation, whatever its stimulating novelty. Blok notes that the likes of Günter Figal and Michael Zimmermann argue that it is Jünger that first provokes Heidegger to find his own response to the question of technology and to the modern world in general. A response that would lead to Heidegger grasping for both National Socialism and then Hölderlin.

Blok begins his defence of Jünger by examining the development of Heidegger’s ontology of work in Being and Time and beyond. He argues that this development is provoked by his reception of Jünger’s work, but that, between 1930 and 1934, Heidegger was following Jünger rather than reacting against him, so that, for example, ‘following Jünger, Heidegger rejects economic conceptualizations of work and worker’ (70). For Blok it is only in 1934 that Heidegger develops his own response, and it only then that he turns his guns on Jünger. Only then does Jünger become captive to the unquestioning of Being, and becomes one who indicates but does not question. Where Blok sees Jünger as engaged in a poetic task, Heidegger sees him all ‘bound up with the will to power of representation’ (80). Jünger fails to enact the ‘new’ languaging of Being that is required. For his own part Heidegger begins to move away from the trope of work towards those of exposure and Gelassenheit. As Blok notes “According to Heidegger, our questioning is only really philosophical when this questioning recoils back from what is asked, back upon itself.” (88). One might speculate that Gelassenheit et al, the whole post-conceptual rhetorical apparatus of the mature Heidegger, with its negative and mystic overtones, be a recoiling back from not only Jünger’s world of work, but also from the world of the trenches (and perhaps even from their successors as the locus of extreme horror — the camps, though that is certainly too charitable to Heidegger) that was the midlife to the expression of this world? Blok examines Heidegger’s use of a conception of gestalt in his essay ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’ (1935-6) with an eye on Heidegger’s emerging idea of the poetic tasks of language. Blok’s response is, by now, as expected. Whatever Heidegger’s idea of the poetic task, Blok argues that Jünger is up to it. Jünger’s is not the old language of will to representation or of the bad old subject. Blok quotes Jünger “It has far more to do with a new language that is suddenly spoken and man answers, or he remains silent – and this decides his reality… The clatter of looms from Manchester, the rattle of machine guns from Langemarck – they are signs, words and sentences of a prose that wants to be interpreted and mastered by us.” (104). Whence then this new language? From Engels’ Manchester or Jünger’s trenches, or indeed from their contemporary equivalents, or from sojourns at Todtnauberg? Jünger may lack Heidegger’s philosophical sophistication but perhaps he is not without judgement here. And howsoever Blok may overstate Jünger’s case, it is perhaps, against Heidegger of all thinkers, a case worth overstating. For Heidegger, the man of the university-machine, we are exposed off the beaten tracks of the Black Forest. For Jünger, the stormtrooper insect-fancier, we are exposed on the battlefield or the factory floor (it is all too easy to think of contemporary equivalents here). Wherever they both are, Blok asserts that Jünger is “on his way to an understanding of the essence of language that is no longer metaphysical.” (106). And that, all over the place, is the philosophical goal.

Part Three: The Essence of Language and the Poetics of the Anthropocene: In this final act Blok makes a case for Jünger as a properly post-Heideggerian poetic language-worker and thus not a pre-Heideggerian epigone of Nietzsche. It is the weakest part of the book, but that might be no bad thing. Why? Because of the structure of his argument and book, Blok has to connect this act to the preceding two, in particular the first act on the worker. In order to achieve this he examines texts such as Jünger’s 1963 essay ‘Type, Name, Gestalt’ where the link, via gestalt, is obvious. However, much as Heidegger did, in his later years Jünger moved far from some of his earlier work, and especially from anything that reeked of political engagement. This retreat might be seen, in print, as early as On the Marble Cliffs (1939), a thinly but artfully veiled allegory of the Germany of the time and its horror. By 1951’s The Forest Passage, Jünger is a ‘forest fleer’ or rebel, alone in the same German forests where Heidegger sought a different sort of solace. Jünger seeks a quiet but firm freedom, not the main event. And by his 1977 allegorical novel Eumeswil, there is the figure of the Anarch, not to be mistaken for the anarchist, who survives the world dominated by work not by embracing the fate of the worker but by cultivating a resolute scepticism and a careful if still quiet freedom. “The difference is that the forest fleer has been expelled from society, while the anarch has expelled society from himself.” (Jünger 1995, 147). This seems far from the trope of work, and Blok is aware of all this, he notes that ‘the poet must stand in opposition and not engage in the workshop landscape.” (113). But he also appears constrained by the logic of the argument he has already made. But when, at the close of a chapter that touches on The Forest Passage, Blok asserts that “In general, we can conclude therefore that Jünger’s later essays are in line with his early work on the gestalt of the worker.” (116) the effect is not altogether convincing as to whether Blok himself believes his own case. That said, there is much of interest in the case that he does make. And even if he is constrained by his earlier positions, this reader senses that, ultimately, fidelity to Jünger’s text wins out, hence the weakness of his argument might not be a weakness when it comes to exposing Jünger’s work.

There is also the problem, for Blok, of trying to demonstrate how Jünger manages to squeeze past Heidegger on their tight forest path to post-metaphysical language, in only 33 pages including notes. His case simply does not have room to breathe. For example, Blok asserts that the inaccessibility of gestalt necessitates poetic naming, but does not explore how this echoes the withdrawal of Being that Heidegger associates with clearing and event. And while Blok asserts that the “Geheimnis [secret] of the gestalt makes clear that the new epoch of the worker is not a matter of observation but of poetry.” (141) it is not always clear quite how we got from work, and the trenches, to poetry. While Jünger clearly was an skilful, experimental and promiscuous stylist, the suspicion remains that this is inadequate to merit the mantle of a new post-metaphysical language fit for the time of the worker. All in all the third act reads as a draft of an argument to come, and when it comes it will be welcome.

A complicating of the actual relationship between Heidegger and Jünger would also be welcomed, as would, though it is clearly outwith the task Blok set for himself, a questioning of the relationship of each, personal and intellectual, with another German master of the dark arts, Carl Schmitt. In an interview on the occasion of his 90th birthday Jünger reflected on what he saw as Heidegger’s political stupidity: “He thought something new was coming [in 1933], but he was terribly mistaken. He did not have as clear a vision as I did.” (Hervier 55) How might Heidegger have responded? In the same interview Jünger relates one of his brother’s Heidegger anecdotes: “One day, Heidegger was stung on the back of the neck by a bee, and my brother told him that that was excellent for rheumatism. Heidegger didn’t know what to answer.” (Hervier 55). In his final letter found in the collection of their correspondence Heidegger, on the occasion of Jünger’s 80th birthday, wrote: “My particular wish for you on this day is brief: Remain with the proven, illuminating decision on your singular path of saying. That such saying is itself already an act that needs no supplement by a praxis, only few still (or yet?) understand today.” (Heidegger & Jünger 61). Blok does aid in that task of understanding.

A few scattered comments: as is not uncommonplace the index is lamentable; the book’s connection, as promised in its title, with the workplace concept of the Anthropocene is slight, gratuitous and unnecessary to the argument (138-9); the style is repetitive but repetition of one’s place in the argument can keep one on track, and it ameliorates the effect of the inevitable typos and occasional infelicities in sentence construction.

In conclusion: Blok benefits from the lack of a substantial body of existing English-language secondary literature, in that it is easier for a novel perspective to stand out when the field is not crowded. Though he might soon have company with the publication in late 2017 of an English translation of The Worker (Jünger 2017). Although details and arguments might be disputed, he clearly establishes Jünger as a significant interlocutor with Heidegger and thus as someone who cannot be philosophically ignored by readers of Heidegger. Likewise, much as Heidegger cannot be ignored by those engaged with the philosophical questions of technology, nihilism or language, neither now can Jünger. In short and to repeat: Blok succeeds in making sure that his Jünger can no longer be ignored by philosophers, especially by those who care about the same philosophical questions that propelled Martin Heidegger’s mature work.

References:
Heidegger, Martin & Jünger, Ernst. Correspondence 1949-1975, translated by Timothy Sean Quinn (London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016).
Hervier, Julien. The Details of Time: Conversation with Jünger, translated by Joachim Neugroschel (New York: Marsilo Publishers, 1995).
Jünger, Ernst. Eumeswil, translated by Joachim Neugroschel (London: Quartet Books, 1995).
Jünger, Ernst. The Worker: Dominion and Form, translated by Bogdan Costea & Laurence Paul Hemming (Northwestern University Press, 2017).

Vincent Blok: Ernst Jünger’s Philosophy of Technology

Ernst Jünger’s Philosophy of Technology: Heidegger and the Poetics of the Anthropocene Book Cover Ernst Jünger’s Philosophy of Technology: Heidegger and the Poetics of the Anthropocene
Vincent Blok
Routledge
2017
Hardback £105.00
154

Reviewed by: Salvatore Spina (Università degli Studi di Messina/Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg)

Il volume Ernst Jünger’s Philosophy of Technology. Heidegger and the Poetics of the Anthropocene di Vincent Block non è semplicemente uno studio sulla filosofia di Ernst Jünger e sull’influenza che questa ha avuto sul pensiero di Martin Heidegger. Naturalmente i presupposti teorici e le basi concettuali del lavoro di Block affondano le proprie radici nell’analisi dei testi fondamentali dei due autori in questione, ma nelle pagine del volume è possibile trovare molto di più; esso propone, per parafrasare l’espressione di Michel Foucault, un’ontologia dell’attualità. In maniera programmatica, proprio come incipit dell’introduzione al volume, scrive l’autore: «This book studies how Ernst Jünger – one of the greatest German authors of the twentieth century – envisioned the technological age we currently live in» (1).

In altri termini lo scopo dell’autore è di mostrare come l’armamentario filosofico utilizzato da Jünger nel secolo passato risulti, nonostante i cambiamenti storici, politici e sociali, ancora attuale per descrivere la nostra epoca che, mutatis mutandis, presenta le stesse caratteristiche descritte ne L’operaio. Epoca che ha come suo attore protagonista l’uomo della tecnica, la cui incidenza sulle trasformazioni del pianeta Terra è tale da determinare il passaggio ad una nuova era geologica: l’antropocene. Scrive l’autore: «The […] reason to study Jünger’s concept of the age of  technology is, therefore, that he provides concrete strategies and methods to envision the future. Furthermore, Jünger  is one of the first authors who conceptualize this future in terms of the anthropocene» (2).

Tuttavia Block non si limita semplicemente a proporre un’analisi dettagliata del pensiero di Jünger, al fine di mostrarne il carattere profetico e attuale. Nelle pagine dell’autore tedesco egli scorge, andando al di là dell’epocale interpretazione proposta da Heidegger, la possibilità di una considerazione non metafisica dell’essere e del linguaggio filosofico; concezione che, secondo Block, è affine al pensiero di Heidegger, dello Heidegger post-svolta, più di quanto quest’ultimo sia disposto ad ammettere.

La prima parte del volume presenta un’attenta disamina dei lavori jüngeriani degli anni Trenta. In particolar modo vengono presi in considerazione due testi capitali della riflessione del giovane Jünger: L’operaio e La mobilitazione totale.

Secondo l’interpretazione di Block la Grande Guerra, esperita in prima persona da Jünger nella battaglia di Lagemark e poi raccontata nelle pagine del testo Nelle tempeste d’acciaio, non è per il filosofo tedesco un semplice evento storico; essa è piuttosto il nome di un mutamento epocale, rappresenta cioè una vera e propria categoria filosofica. Nella Prima Guerra Mondiale avviene, secondo l’interpretazione di Jünger, un vero e proprio ‘scossone nell’ordine del mondo’, così da prospettare il declino tanto dei valori borghesi, che avevano retto l’ordine sociale della modernità, quanto delle categorie filosofiche di matrice platonica, che, nonostante vari mutamenti e correzioni, avevano lo scopo di fornire un senso al divenire. Scrive Block: «Total mobilization thus primarily has the effect of engendering ontological indifference, since every connection to the transcendent essence of thing is destroyed – Jünger also speaks of a “decrease of types” –  in favor of dynamization or potential energy» (11).

In altre parole, la Prima Guerra Mondiale funge da grimaldello per scardinare un ordine divenuto ormai vetusto che aveva edificato le proprie certezze intorno all’interpretazione dell’uomo come animal rationale. Distrutta ogni connessione con l’essenza, svincolata l’interpretazione dell’umanità dell’umano dall’attributo della razionalità (almeno così come questa è pensata nell’ambito della modernità), l’uomo nell’epoca della tecnica dispiegata è da considerare in relazione a criteri del tutto inediti: l’efficienza, la funzionalità, la riproducibilità.

Detto in maniera esplicita, dalla descrizione di Jünger emerge un nuovo tipo umano; inizialmente la sua forma viene associata a quella del guerriero, successivamente, e in maniera filosoficamente più pregnante, dagli anni Trenta in avanti questo nuovo tipo umano, svincolato dall’ordine che egli stesso contribuisce a distruggere con la propria azione, avrà la forma dell’operaio.

Partendo da queste considerazioni Block si muove seguendo due vettori ermeneutici fondamentali, che in qualche modo gli studi jüngeriani danno per acquisiti da qualche decennio. Da un lato emerge chiaramente il riferimento di Jünger alla filosofia di Nietzsche, tanto nell’interpretazione del proprio tempo come nichilismo, quanto nella declinazione della mobilitazione totale (forse accostabile all’attivismo di cui parlava Nietzsche) come trasformazione della vita in energia; dall’altro lato il pensiero di Jünger non viene affrontato semplicemente nella sua dimensione narrativa, poetica, descrittiva, bensì indagato nella sua radice squisitamente filosofica ed essenziale. Utilizzando il lessico heideggeriano, potremmo dire che Block mette in evidenza lo spessore ontologico delle analisi di Jünger, non limitando l’analisi all’indagine ontica che, in qualche modo, è largamente diffusa nelle pagine del filosofo di Wilflingen.

Nella seconda parte del testo Block presenta un confronto tra la filosofia di Jünger e quella di Martin Heidegger. Il grande merito del lavoro di Block è quello di non limitarsi ad analizzare i testi in cui avviene un confronto diretto tra i due autori sulla questione del nichilismo – Oltre la linea di Jünger e La questione dell’essere di Heidegger. Da un lato, Block analizza Essere e tempo e i testi di Heidegger degli anni Trenta a partire da una prospettiva inedita, ovvero la questione del lavoro; egli mostra come tra la visone jüngeriana e quella heideggeriana vi siano dei punti di contatto ma anche delle divergenze enormi che in qualche modo rimandano al contesto generale entro cui si svolge l’intera riflessione filosofica dei due autori.

Dall’altro lato, Block focalizza la propria attenzione sul volume 90 della Gesamtausgabe in cui Heidegger si confronta direttamente ed esplicitamente con Jünger e in particolar modo con il testo L’operaio. Il lavoro filosofico di Block si muove in due direzioni parallele, mostrando sia la centralità del lavoro ermeneutico di Heidegger per poter comprendere lo spessore ontologico del pensiero di Jünger sia la possibilità di un superamento dell’interpretazione heideggeriana in virtù di una considerazione diversa della riflessione dello stesso Jünger.

Il limite della prospettiva ermeneutica heideggeriana consisterebbe, secondo Block, nell’incapacità di comprendere fino in fondo la dimensione non metafisica della riflessione di Jünger; spinto dalla necessità di far rientrare ad ogni costo anche il pensiero jüngeriano nei limiti propri della metafisica occidentale, accostandolo in tal modo a Nietzsche, Heidegger avrebbe fornito, dunque, un’interpretazione parziale e per alcuni versi faziosa. Scrive l’autore: «It will become clear that Heidegger’s reception of Jünger is biased. Because he takes Jünger’s writings a priori as philosophical reflections in light of Nietzsche’s metaphysics of the will to power, Heidegger does not see that Jünger is under way to a non-metaphysical method to en vision the turning of Being, and to a non-metaphysical concept of language that is much closer to Heidegger’s than he would admit» (56).

Questa riconsiderazione del pensiero di Jünger in una prospettiva non nichilistica, al di là dell’orizzonte della storia della metafisica tracciata da Heidegger, viene condotta da Block – nella terza ed ultima parte del volume qui in esame – attraverso un’analisi del linguaggio e della poetica del pensiero di Jünger.

Come accennato in precedenza, in questo contesto il pensiero di Jünger presenta delle assonanze con la riflessione dello Heidegger post-svolta. Attraverso un’analisi puntuale del testo Al muro del tempo, Block ricava dall’opera jüngeriana una riconsiderazione fondamentale dell’essenza del linguaggio e del dire poetico, l’unico in grado di parlare realmente nell’epoca della ‘perfezione della tecnica’ in cui anche il linguaggio si riduce all’efficienza e alla funzionalità.

Nella poesia si realizza quel ‘passaggio al bosco’ che caratterizza la forma di resistenza propria nell’era del dominio incontrastato della tecnica; non una negazione dei caratteri propri della tecnica, ma un attraversamento poetante che in tal modo fornisce forme inedite di libertà. Scrive Block: «The freedom of the individual is to resist the threat of the perfection of technology and to find a way beyond the nihilist reduction and the perfection of technology, based on this individual freedom» (115).

In ultima istanza, al di là delle apparenti differenze terminologiche e contestuali, per Block risulta evidente come tanto per Jünger quanto per Heidegger l’unico modo di corrispondere all’Essere e al suo mistero nell’epoca del nichilismo dispiegato sia la poesia: «This Geheimnis of the gestalt makes clear that the new epoch of the worker is not a matter of observation but of poetry» (141).

Il volume di Vincent Block è un ottimo strumento per confrontarsi con una delle questioni fondamentali del Novecento, quella della tecnica, la cui onda lunga caratterizza il nostro tempo in maniera forse ancor più pregnante che in passato. La chiarezza espositiva, i riferimenti puntuali alla bibliografia primaria e secondaria lo rendono un segnavia essenziale, uno dei primi in lingua inglese, da un lato per comprendere la disamina filosofica della questione della tecnica e delle declinazioni che ne hanno dato Jünger e Heidegger, dall’altro per confrontarsi con le problematiche che danno forma al nostro oggi e ‘provocano’ la nostra storicità e il nostro essere nel mondo.

 

Ernst Jünger: The Worker: Dominion and Form, Northwestern University Press, 2017

The Worker: Dominion and Form Book Cover The Worker: Dominion and Form
Ernst Jünger, Laurence Hemming (Editor), Bogdan Costea (Translator)
Northwestern University Press
2017
Paper Text $34.95
232