The jargon of finitude Or, materialism today Bruno bosteels To ask about materialism today means to ask about the time of materialism. This can be taken in at least two different senses. When wil be the time of materialism again? Does the time of materialism, whenever it happens, which may be rare, always mark the time of now, against the timeless, ahistorical or eternal lucubrations of idealism? This last formulation hints at the second main way in which the question may be understood, namely: What is time when seen from a materialist point of view, as opposed — presumably — to an idealist one? Any serious study of the time and history of materialism is bound, sooner or later, to have to come to terms with materialist conceptions of history and time.
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By Bruno Bosteels 1. Then again, I never personally met Derrida. My encounters with him—there have been two or three—have always been as a simple member in the audience, but in one way or another these encounters were also mediated by Gayatri Spivak. But then, professor Spivak never allowed me to sit in on her Derrida seminar that I wanted to audit as a graduate student. For someone who was not really an academic so much as an activist, she told me, she simply could not accept auditors in her class.
I mention this without the slightest note of regret or resentment, but only as a way of giving you a context for the sense of trepidation with which I address you in the company of someone who is now a great friend but also a towering authority on the subject of Derrida. Allow me then to take cover and situate my comments today under the heading of three epigraphs. If there is style, what the woman of Nietzsche insinuates is that there must be more than one.
In her book Changing Difference: The Feminine and the Question of Difference, Malabou wonders out loud both to herself and to her readers: Has anyone ever invented anything whatsoever in deconstruction after Derrida? Has anyone done anything other than mummify, worship, turn to stone the figure of the master?
Ich bin der und der. My name is legion. Who practices philosophy? Who loves or is in love with wisdom, with knowledge, with truth? To answer this question requires a typology Who, what type of man? The male heterosexual fantasy of progeny, at once pro-genus and pro-genius?
What would happen, then, if the question of style were to become the question of woman? That is the question that Derrida asks of the woman of Nietzsche. I mean that it is certainly astonishing for us, US critics, students, and teachers today, we who have been trained in multiculturalism and the critique of identity politics. What was, after all, the situation on the philosophical front in France, particularly with regard to Nietzsche? In , Deleuze publishes his Nietzsche and Philosophy, but to my knowledge Derrida never refers to this reading in his own interpretations of Nietzsche.
In fact, other than the eulogy for Deleuze included in The Work of Mourning, I cannot recall a single instance where Derrida would quote Deleuze in any significant fashion.
So much for friendship and the acknowledgment of complicity. Thus, by the mid to late s, the major theme of the French Nietzsche seems to be in place: Nietzsche is read as a philosopher of difference.
Disgust with Hegel: Ekel with Hegel. Have I been understood? Young or old, established authorities or up-and-coming provocateurs, but all of them men—heterosexual or not. Just imagine: twenty, thirty, forty men meeting among men over the course of five days, between July 4 and 8, But not one—or only one—woman. Sure, with Jane Gallop we could say that this reading now is dated: Spurs today? Perhaps even dynamite because he was not a man but a woman: the woman of Nietzsche.
These last two topics and the genres or styles of genealogy and ontology to which they respectively lend themselves, however, constitute the main focus of two other interpreters whose work can be said to have been foundational in the reception of the French Nietzsche, namely, Foucault and Heidegger. Ja cques. What should we make of the style of this inscription? Nobody, I think, has offered a more forceful rebuke of the way Nietzsche in France became the trademarked pedigree of the philosophy of difference than Catherine Malabou.
According to Malabou, there is something profoundly amiss about the way post-Nietzschean and post-Heideggerian philosophies try to mobilize the principle of difference, only to end up in the paradoxical immobility of an apparatus that in its antidialectical rage cannot stop rigidifying the difference as difference. So as not to get caught up in the typically masculinist cock fight over who got things right, I will not dwell on the first type of criticism.
An empty cask that has had its time? In formulating this critique of the thought of difference, to be sure, Malabou does not follow the familiar path of showing the extent to which her immediate predecessors would have remained imprisoned, as if in spite of themselves, in the closure of idealist metaphysics. Her protocols for reading a philosophical text are themselves refreshingly plastic, rather than being reduced to either a deconstructive or a symptomatic approach in the styles of Derrida or Althusser.
Even if they fully by right correspond to an epochal moment of their own, the various philosophies of difference more generally speaking according to Malabou have had their time and, at least in the way they are usually presented in the critical posterity of deconstruction, no longer provide an apt motor scheme to think the present.
In her view, the constant plasticity of processes of giving, changing, receiving, and exploding form, in the synaptic network of the brain as much as in the organic tissue of the body, would no longer obey the older codes for the writing or graphing of the play of difference.
The epochal configuration that Derrida in invokes so effectively at the beginning in Of Grammatology in order to justify the enlarged sense of writing, or arche-writing, as a program that somehow was already in the air, also would account for the current decline of deconstruction.
What goes up sooner or later also may have to come down. Malabou in the end questions under what conditions and at what price philosophy after Nietzsche and Heidegger is able to affirm difference as difference. In spite of the presumed gap of the ontico-ontological difference, this presupposes first of all that somehow there must be ways to present the difference as difference. In order for metaphysics even to be recognizable as such, we must have access to the play or structure of difference as different from all metaphysical schemes.
A second presupposition behind the philosophies of difference, therefore, refers to the necessity of being able to instantiate this primordial difference as somehow given in singular experiences, whether it be in the simulacra of certain forms of art and literature or in the radical upheavals marked by select political happenings of our time.
The jargon of finitude
By Bruno Bosteels 1. Then again, I never personally met Derrida. My encounters with him—there have been two or three—have always been as a simple member in the audience, but in one way or another these encounters were also mediated by Gayatri Spivak. But then, professor Spivak never allowed me to sit in on her Derrida seminar that I wanted to audit as a graduate student.
Bruno Bosteels archive
Apply Spring Tim Ryan B. The seminar focuses on the geographical context of the Brazilian Amazon and the conditions of its urbanization, occasionally in dialogue with ongoing political processes in neighboring Bolivia. The urbanization that is characteristic of the Amazon is an extraordinarily complex phenomenon. It involves dimensions extending from the pole of industrial resource extraction and the resultant formation of advanced capitalist economies in the heart of the forest, to the fragile continuity of the traditions of indigenous societies whose economic structures and spatial environments are experienced as fundamentally intertwined with rural, communitarian, and mythic horizons. In order to interrogate the urban driven form of spatial and territorial expansion in the Amazon, the seminar will inquire into the political economies that motivate it, and thus the orienting ontology, specifically, the ontological assumptions about the meaning and significance of the natural world. By considering ontological plurality at the level of spatial practices and technologies, the seminar aims to explore the tensions between the global capitalist tendency toward urbanization and modernizing, and the local traditional orientation toward "ecologizing" as the basis for an imagined political economy that is at the same time a politics of nature. The seminar will be organized in a series of clusters with an interdisciplinary focus combining elements of architecture, ethnography, anthropology, cartography, political economy, and political philosophy.
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