In this essay I attempt to explicate the sense in which Michel Henry’s reductive phenomenology rendering Life as affectivity resonates with Alain Badiou’s subtractive ontology rendering the subject as eternity in time. I claim that these two modes of subjectivity are the two modalities of the Real manifesting itself as quality (Henry’s patheme) and quantity (Badiou’s matheme). As the two anti-thetical components of a complementary mode of being and thinking, Henry’s and Badiou’s shifting conceptualisations of the subject constitute a new understanding of the human. In Henry the subject takes the form of the human before its reflection in philosophy and objectification by science. This non-human being of the subject is compared and contrasted with Badiou’s inhuman being of the subject which distinguishes between the human animal and the immortal subject of truth. Henry and Badiou proclaim a move away from the human-animal-machine and towards the human in human more human than human. It is there that we recognize Gilles Deleuze as the embodiment of these two anti-thetical yet complementary modalities of the Real as immanent infinitude in and through which life, matter and thought touch one another. And it is here that Slavoj Žižek enters the scene proclaiming the inexistence of the human animal as the determinate vanishing mediator in the last instance.
It is often said that philosophy is an infinite questioning of that which is, in the way of explicating that which is not and yet to come. So as to begin at the beginning proper, we shall say that philosophy is also a continuity in change towards the unknown, a dialectical process of truth, a practice of situating eternity in time. In the light of this definition of philosophy we can say that Michel Henry, Gilles Deleuze and Alain Badiou are the philosophers par excellence. In their worlds the future comes before the present, immanence before transcendence, and affirmation before negation. It is at this juncture where the positions of causes and effects are reversed that things get complicated. For how can the future come before the present, immanence before transcendence, and affirmation before negation, especially if we keep in mind that at the beginning there is almost less than nothing? We shall begin answering this question by way of investigating the role of paradox, the relationship between being and truth, as well as the positions of affirmation and negation in Henry’s material phenomenology, Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism and Badiou’s materialist dialectic in relation to the philosophical concepts of life, matter and thought. The question of “what is it that these three figures affirm and what is it that they negate?” is therefore the point of departure of this essay.
Affirmative Negation and Transcendental Immanence
Let us begin with Henry who radicalises phenomenology to such an extent that it almost turns into a non-phenomenology, even a noumenology perhaps, if we can be forgiven for using such an ambitious term. Rather than being a negative opposition to phenomenology, his material phenomenology is driven by a radicalisation of the concept of immanence within philosophical discourse itself. This paradoxically affirmative negation of phenomenology is precisely the reason why his concepts of Life, Self and God signify an affectivity transcendent and immanent to being and thought at once.
The affect is, first of all, not a specific affect; instead, it is life itself in its phenomenological substance, which is irreducible to the world. It is the auto-affection, the self-impression, the primordial suffering of life driven back to itself, crushed up against itself, and overwhelmed by its own weight. Life does not affect itself in the way that the world affects it. It is not an affection at a distance, isolated, and separate, something one can escape, for example, by moving away or by turning the regard away. The affect is life affecting itself by this endogenous, internal, and constant affection, which one cannot escape in any way. (Henry, Material Phenomenology 130)
The three figures whose influences on Henry can neither be underestimated nor overestimated are Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud who have set the task and determined the objective for the century to come. This task is to learn from the past and sustain the conditions of impossibility for suffering to repeat itself in the future. In other words, the task is to supply the subject with practical tools for living a long, healthy, and happy life here and now.
As Foucault puts it in his essay on Nietzsche, Marx, Freud, with these three thinkers a new form of interpretation emerged in three different practices. Following Nietzsche, Foucault asserts that the dominant discourse of the classical period is “the history of an error.” According to Nietzsche this is a history written by the ones who hold the power but who are at the same time “the weak.” Nietzsche says that these have a slave mentality which subjects them to being reactive forces that multiply themselves by contaminating the others who are treated as inferior but are in fact “the strong.” In pursuit of escaping from that history of an error written by the slaves and which is a product of slave mentality, Foucault attempts to practice a new way of reading history which he, borrowing the term from Nietzsche, calls genealogy: “Where the soul pretends unification or the Me fabricates a coherent identity, the genealogist sets out to study the beginning—numberless beginnings, whose faint traces and hints of colour are readily seen by a historical eye.” (Foucault, Nietzsche, Genealogy, History 374) This is precisely what Henry does in The Genealogy of Psychoanalysis which undermines the basic presumptions of Freudian psychoanalysis, Cartesian philosophy and Nietzschean genealogy of morality by way of explicating their philosophical consequences for human beings detached from their affective qualities and subjective experiences. Henry therefore begins with the negativity of existence, with the negation of the truth of being by scientific knowledge. To overcome this negativity he has to affirm the truth of being outside the scientific knowledge. In a fashion similar to Descartes he begins by negating this negativity by way of affirming the subjective experience. This pure subjectivity is existential rather than rational, it is the experience that speaks rather than the reason as such.
We are unknown to ourselves, we knowers: and with good reason. We have never sought ourselves—how then should it happen that we find ourselves one day? It has rightly been said: where your treasure is, there your heart will also be; our treasure is where the beehives of your knowledge dwell. (Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morality 1)
Most probably inspired by these words of Nietzsche, Henry’s strategy is to subtract Christ from Christianity, Marx from Marxism, Freud from Freudianism, or Nietzsche from Nietzscheanism. His aim is to purify, or reduce these figures to their bare bones. In the way of achieving this he first gives a common-sensical account of their thoughts and then presents a counter version devoid of the predominant forms surrounding them. What matters is the manifestation of the real contents inherent in their illusory forms. This method is also the driving force behind Henry’s genealogical/critical strategy of reading/writing. It’s all a matter of distinguishing between the word and the sense, or the form and the content, but this separation is carried out in such a way as to disjunctively synthesize the subject of enunciation and the enunciated subject. The split introduced by Henry between the impression and the expression aims at uniting the “what” of the saying and the “how” of it.
The dialectical movement is that whereby a negation leads to an affirmation. However, these two moments of affirmation and negation are of themselves abstract. They find at once their reality and their identity in a common ontological essence which constitutes the foundation of both of them. This essence is nothing other than the essence of manifestation, it is negativity. The manifestation of Being in its condition of being manifest, of being given, implies the negation of pure and simple Being which bathes by itself in the unconscious night of identity. The negation of Being finds its foundation in the very operation of negativity. Negativity opens up the phenomenological horizon wherein negation repulses pure and simple Being and holds it at a distance. Therefore, the negation of this Being is one with its own arising in light; it is one with its promotion to the rank of phenomenon – consequently, it is one with its being posited and its affirmation. Hence, negation denies itself as negation because it becomes confused with the affirmation of what it denies, namely, with the manifestation of manifest Being. The auto-negation of negation, which is nothing other than affirmation, finds its foundation in the essence of manifestation. (Henry, The Essence of Manifestation 694)
In the light of these robust remarks we shall employ a janus faced dialectical reading herein, looking in two directions at once. Negativity is the driving force of the Hegelian dialectical process. Needless to say the new emerges only insofar as the old is negated, the arrival of the future depends on the negation of the past and the present. There is indeed a creativity inherent in negation itself. Henry’s thought is within affirmation and without negation at once, which takes into account the affects of humans and the processes of the life of the spirit within nature itself.
In order to understand from where Henry is coming and the direction towards which he is heading, we should first give a brief account of his book under scrutiny. The Genealogy of Psychoanalysis opens with an overview of the emergence of the unconscious by way of explicating how phenomenality became called consciousness in Western philosophy. Henry makes it quite clear that for him the unconscious is definitely not “structured like a language” as Lacan defines it. Lacan’s understanding of the Freudian unconscious is radically different from that of Henry’s to say the least.
What is merely a metaphor, the dream as the “text” of the analysis, as its object, is taken literally, as an intrinsic determination of that object’s essence. The contamination or denaturation of psychoanalysis by linguistics and the whole of the disciplines today associated with it is now possible. In all seriousness, people can now say that the unconscious is structured like a language. In Freud himself, the consideration of words all too often vitiates the delimitation of the real phenomena and the research into their actual determinants. (The Genealogy of Psychoanalysis 292)
Thus for Henry, phenomenality acts as a support to sustain the emergence of things in consciousness. Since he thinks that without appearing there is nothing, he begins his analysis of consciousness and the unconscious in such a way as to call into question the presuppositions of phenomenology such as the necessity of givenness prior to reflective thought. Phenomenology claims that giving is necessary because phenomenality is itself appearance. Phenomenality is a paradoxical affirmation precisely because cogito is the unconscious itself. Phenomenality turns out to be deceptive and casting doubt on it by way of an affirmatively recreated version of Freud’s concept of the unconscious becomes necessary. After pointing out the misunderstanding concerning Descartes’ notion of cogito, Henry criticizes phenomenality on the grounds that cogito is the affirmation of phenomenality, of appearance, of my appearing to myself.
“I think” means “I appear to myself” and this is a certainty, one sees cogito in such a way that one cannot doubt it. The question Henry asks is why and how Descartes affirmed the cogito. Cogito is indeed “I think” but in this new light shed on it thought itself becomes synonymous with feeling. Although the dream is an illusion my feelings while I’m dreaming are real nevertheless. I doubt everything in the dream but my agony exists because I feel it. I cannot doubt my feelings, hence I think is an I feel.
It is obvious that Spinoza, for example, made no progress in the Cartesian problem of the relationship between body and soul. Spinoza limits himself to resolving in another way the same problem posed by Descartes rather than posing the problem in another way. While it is doubtless true that Hume did not modify the statement of this problem either, he at least had the merit of showing that, posed in this manner, the problem is absolutely insoluble. (Henry, Philosophy and Phenomenology of the Body 147)
Descartes wanted to be certain of everything, and his will to certainty lead him to scepticism. To overcome his scepticism he had to question everything around him. As soon as he started thinking he was actually thinking against himself. When he said, “I think, therefore I am,” his inner voice was saying this: “To be sceptical requires thinking, and since I am sceptical about everything I must be thinking, and for me to think requires being, therefore I must be.”
Descartes came to realise that he cannot be suspicious about his scepticism. For if he were to be so, he would again be suspicious. But why did Descartes think that he was telling the truth when he said “I think, therefore I am”? I can be sceptical about everything but not about the “I think.” Thinking is a precondition of being and since I am thinking then I must be. But what if I were to say, “I fish, therefore I am.” Fishing is not a sign of being. You might be thinking that you are fishing, but might in fact be sleeping and having a dream in which you see yourself fishing. Thinking is different from fishing and dreaming; being and thinking are preconditions of one another.
Descartes continuously affirms that we sense our thought, sense that we see, that we hear, that we warm ourselves. And this primal sensing, since it is what it is, is pure self-identical appearance, identical to the being defined by that sensing. I sense that I think, therefore I am. […] Videor, in videre videor, designates this sensing inherent to seeing and makes it an actual seeing, a seeing that senses itself seeing. […] Descartes categorically declares, “If I take ‘seeing’ or ‘walking’ to apply to the actual sense or awareness of seeing or walking, then the conclusion is quite certain, since it relates to the mind, which alone has the sensation or thought that it is seeing or walking.” (Henry, The Genealogy of Psychoanalysis 21; Descartes, Writings I, 195)
When consciousness closes in on itself and thought becomes its own object, the subject and the object are imagined to be integrated. The gap between the subject and the object is filled with language, which actually splits the subject and the object. What Descartes ignores is that language has a significant role to play in his thinking process. He is not aware that he needs language to even begin to think. As a result of this exclusion of language from the thinking process, the Cartesian subject remains locked in a stage almost prior to the mirror stage, a fantasy world of oneness with the universe. Descartes thought that consciousness could conceive itself directly, without the mediation of language. But this is impossible, says Lacan, for before the acquisition of language there can be no thought. Descartes was imagining that he was conscious of his thought, but he was in no way conscious of what his thought symbolically meant.
What happens when Descartes is thinking of being is consciousness conceiving of itself as a thinking being. The Cartesian subject can say “I” outside of language. It does not distinguish between the speaking subject and the object being spoken about. Lacan’s theory that language splits the subject and this split is constitutive both of the subject and the unconscious explains Descartes’ paradox. For Lacan, thought is the effect of a split within being in its relation to the world, and truth is the effect of a split between thought and being. The subject emerges from these conflicts within and without at once. “As long as the truth isn’t entirely revealed, that is to say in all probability until the end of time, its nature will be to propagate itself in the form of error.” (Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Bk I 263)
Already the destruction of the positions of Hume introduced us into the heart of a general critique of Cartesian dualism and its philosophical offspring. The absurdity of the skepticism of Hume is here the truth of Cartesianism; throughout the coherence of the doctrine and the exactitude of its deductions, it shows the absurdity of the point of departure. Hume proved the absurdity of Cartesian dualism, an absurdity which was still hidden by the verbalism of the theories of parallelism, occasionalism, or pre-established harmony in the great Cartesians. (Henry, Philosophy and Phenomenology of the Body 147)
I would certainly be deceived if I were to see God as a malignant spirit trying to deceive me. In order to escape from such a deception Descartes reformulates the Cogito so as to find an indestructible foundation for God in The Passions of the Soul wherein he opens a new field for philosophical thinking but was not aware of what he had done. He didn’t name this new field as Freud did. In this new field Cogito was establishing itself upon the principle that consciousness is one with itself and thought reveals itself to itself at all times. For Descartes, God was a priori to the human subject because for God to exist it has to situate itself in the subject’s mind as God first. Descartes had no thoughts about the role of culture in the formation of the concept of God. And if there was a God it couldn’t be telling lies, for that wouldn’t fit in with the symbolic idea of God as perfect. So all the naïve truths Descartes was sceptical about at the beginning, such as a transcendental world beyond consciousness, must have been true. With this thought in mind Descartes declared that being and thinking are one and the same thing. That said, Descartes was indeed the first philosopher to call representation into question according to Henry, since “I think” doesn’t mean “I represent to myself” but rather that the latent content and the manifest content coincide, giving birth to the unity of form and content in thought as experience.
Hegelianism claims to overcome the dualism between form and content, to reconcile the finite and the infinite, the Being-there and the Concept; but the immanence of the universal in the determination remains a purely speculative affirmation as long as it is not experienced. (Henry, The Essence of Manifestation 711)
Freud introduces the unconscious precisely because it’s where representation disappears. The unconscious is born as soon as I stop representing the force of life within me. In a sense the unconscious affirms itself as the life of the spirit, so Henry can indeed proclaim that true reality is the unconscious itself as the manifestation of a reality different from that of representation. Hence a passage from represented to non-represented takes place although the unconscious itself doesn’t pass into the realm of visibility. For Henry, the true name of the unconscious is life as lived experience, the invisible life of feelings, I may feel anguish, agony and pain but can never see my affects.
The unconscious is situated outside the field opened by appearance and circumscribed by its phenomenality. The concept of the unconscious, even if first understood in the ontic sense, cannot take form and be defined outside its relation to ontological consciousness, thus it is itself ontological. (The Genealogy of Psychoanalysis 284)
For Henry, being is that which is prior to the subject-object distinction. He attempts at de-ontologising being while ontologising the subjective experience of cogito by way of reducing the subject to affects. He intends thought and being to be contiguous to one another, if not altogether mutually exclusive, but since for him thinking is itself feeling, to think is to be auto-affected, thought itself is almost a sixth sense in addition to our five major senses.
As a radical refusal of ecstatic phenomenality and its claim to define psyche’s essence, the unconscious assures man of a hold on his most intimate being: the unconscious is the name of life. In this regard, Freud is placed directly in the train of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche (and Descartes too, since “soul,” in the radical reduction of the first two Meditations, arrives at its essence through the rejection of every worldly dimension and of worldliness as such). (Ibid. 286)
It is Nietzsche’s legacy to have made a distinction between the subject and the signifier, knowledge and truth. By exposing the absence of truth in knowledge he inverted the nothingness inherent in knowledge which is constitutive of a truth outside science. Truth can take many forms and one of these is poetic truth, which Nietzsche considers to be closer to the absolute truth of the absence of truth at the centre of scientific knowledge. For Nietzsche there is no relation whatsoever between the object of knowledge and the truth of experience. Perhaps what Deleuze would years later call transcendental empiricism explains the production of truths alternative to the scientific truth which claims to be objective and absolute.
The influence of Nietzsche’s concepts of the will to nothingness and eternal return are pervasive in Freud’s later work. Freud’s turn towards metapsychology and his consequent creation of the concept of the death drive is rooted in his need for something to fill the gaps in his scientific and empirically observable theories owing much to Darwin. Although he was uneasy with the concept of the death drive on account of its non-scientific nature, he nevertheless had to conceptualise the death drive as the counterpart of the life drive in order to be able to go beyond the pleasure principle. Educated as a neuroscientist, Freud was aware that he was contradicting himself and perhaps even turning against his earlier attitude towards the human psyche by showing that at the beginning was the death drive and that the life drive was only an outcome, a kind of defence against the death drive.
The death drive was introduced by Freud together with a paradigmatic change of psychology into metapsychology. This innovative act was a consequence of his dissatisfaction with the neurobiology of his day, which did not even ask many of the questions he had in mind, let alone answer them. In Civilization and Its Discontents Freud introduced what he called the oceanic feeling, a sense of oneness with the world which he admits to have never experienced personally. (279) Perhaps his creation of the highly speculative concept of the death drive was his attempt to fill the gap opened by the absence of this oceanic feeling for him.
In An Outline of Psychoanalysis, Freud put forward the idea that drives produce affects and so drives are at the root of all actions. I agree with Freud that drives are at the root of all actions at the beginning, but contrary to what Freud says of them, I think affects are not mere manifestations of the drives. Rather, affects emerge as a response to the changes in the level of the intensity of external stimuli. The external stimuli create affects towards objects and the drives “find” their satisfaction through the affective quality of the objects produced to match the drive. But it is precisely this matching process that produces the desire for the object so that the unconscious drive turns into “conscious” desire.
In his 1920 essay Beyond The Pleasure Principle, Freud revised his drive theory and introduced his concept of the death drive. In this revised drive theory Freud conceptualised the life drive as inclusive of both the libidinal impulses and the self-preservative impulses. As for the death drive, Freud conceptualised it as the self-destructive impulse. So, at the beginning Freud argued that libidinal impulses contain sadistic elements as well. While in his first drive theory in On Narcissism (1914), Freud suggested that aggression should be included within the life drive, in his second drive theory in Beyond The Pleasure Principle, he says that aggression is the will to return to the inorganic state and is therefore directed against the self and serves self-destruction. According to this picture, if adaptation is essential to survival then aggression is against life and is a manifestation of the death drive.
In Freud’s vision the death drive was targeting the living organism, aiming at turning the organic into the inorganic. Because of the intervention of the self-preservative force of the life drive, the death drive was turned towards the external world by a psychic operation, so that the self-destruction of the organism was prevented. It is important to note here that the death drive does not correspond to self-destruction. The death drive postpones the self-destruction of the organism by projecting aggression onto the external world and hence can be said to serve self-preservation. The self-destructive impulse turns against itself and manifests itself as violence and aggression against the others. The subject kills the others not to kill the self. “The death drive turns into the destructive force when, with the help of special organs, it is directed outwards, on to objects. The organism preserves its own life, so to say, by destroying an extraneous one.” (Freud, Civilization, Society, and Religion 357) It is this scenario that makes it possible to say that there is a disjunctive synthesis at work here. A term coined by Gilles Deleuze, disjunctive synthesis defines the operation in and through which the two components of an apparatus, a psychic apparatus in this case, appear to be two differently conceived constituents of the same thing.
Overall, Freud reckons that the neuronal system is divided into two, one type determines experiences while the other type is self-excitement, not exogenous but endogenous. This is the principle that determines enthropy, liquidates excitement and drives the subject towards inertia and death. The whole psychic apparatus is built on escape from excitement, the brain liquidates excitement which produces malaise. Henry rejects the death drive and claims that liquidating libido is pleasurable. In the world death drive rules, but then Eros arrives to give life its character which again brings us back to Nietzsche who creates the concept of bad conscience as the generator of illness, which is in turn fed by the illness it generates, giving birth to the man of ressentiment. Nietzsche’s ressentiment is the-will-to-nothingness, or the life-death-drives.
When the suffering of life can no longer be supported and becomes an unbearable suffering, this experience gives birth to life’s movement to take flight from itself, and as this is not possible, to change itself. It thus has need and drive. Profoundly, Freud says that “the ego remains defenseless against the excitations of the impulses.” Life’s defenselessness against itself is even what makes the impulse. In this way, the affect is in itself a force; it continually gives rise to force within itself in virtue of what it is. (Henry, Material Phenomenology 130)
Nietzsche says that the will to nothingness eventually turns against itself and becomes creative and revalues all values to survive death. (On The Genealogy of Morality 116-8) It is through writing as the patient and the physician, as the analyst and the analysand at the same time that Nietzsche is able to turn resentment, bad conscience, fear, and guilt against themselves and produce desire as affirmation of the world as it is after a conflict that is interior as much as it is exterior to the self.
According to Henry a force passes through me, this force is actual affectivity as life and the will to live is called impulse. Henry sees in Nietzsche an effort to save life. Nietzsche claims that Apollo is the realm of visible forms but another realm exists, that of will to power, which is the realm of Dionysus wherein life is seen as suffering and enjoyment at once. There is an ambivalence of sentiments in our depths. In Henry the subject and the infinite are united under the actuality of affective Life, that is, the pathetic lived experience in an eternal present. In the final section of The Genealogy of Psychoanalysis entitled Potentialities Henry says this:
The ontological delimitation of the concept of unconscious has rigorously separated the nonphenomenality of the “world” (the finitude of its horizon) from that of life. Unconscious, therefore, has two wholly different meanings, depending on whether it refers to the inevitable obscurity of all mental content once it quits the “present” of intuition and self-evidence and becomes a mere virtual representation or refers to life itself, which necessarily escapes the light of ek-stasis. This double reference occurs constantly in Freud, and we have shown how the simple latency of representational contents yields to a more profound consideration, which thematizes the unconscious in its connection to life’s original essence and its primal mode of immanent accomplishment: action, force, drives, Energy. (318)
Although Nietzsche significantly prefigures Freudian themes he nonetheless fails in adequately dealing with the internal comprehension of joy and suffering. Nietzsche gives back to life its phenomenological dimension by way of affirming the meaninglessness of life. Henry points out that for Nietzsche life itself is unconscious and his phenomenology of life is not given in terms of representation but as feeling. Accordingly, pleasure and pain are the primary modalities of life. Splendour comes from self revelation, life feels itself. Nietzsche made life the source of values, life creates values, life is the initial principle of evaluations. Nietzsche, for whom self-destruction and suicide are in the service of bad-conscience, is happy to be alive. Illness of life is its turning against itself, suffering turns either into self-destruction or will to live.
Nietzsche’s well known saying, “that which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” is the driving force behind Henry’s philosophy. The problem with Henry’s approach is that pain and suffering may not always render one stronger. Quite the contrary, it has often been noted that traumatic experiences make one weaker, paralysing the will and blinding the intellect.
Henry returns there, where Democritus had exploded the atom, and begins at that sub-atomic level before which there is pure sensation manifesting itself as affect. Upon reducing the representational forms to their irreducible contents he equates thought and feeling, thereby making it possible to speak from a position in and through which thought and being are made manifest as one. This position is a finite point at which infinity is accessed via immanent means that are sensible experiences and this infinity is a regulative idea reduced to these finite bodies.
In the field opened by Galilean science, there are material bodies, microphysical particles, molecules, amino acid chains, neurons, and so on, but no Self. In the field opened by modern science, there is no person. It is not that the upheaval of knowledge that resulted from the emergence of the entirely new scholarship of modern science has similarly upset (or at least modified) our idea of a person, what makes his essential Being; rather, science quite simply suppresses it. (Henry, I Am the Truth 262)
Descartes thinks that nature exists, nature is perfect, God is perfect, so God exists. Correspondence between the real and the idea is at stake. Henry affirms the Cartesian idea of God as that which is essentially good and perfect. For Henry the measure of truth is the good and inversely, that is, goodness and truthfulness cannot be separated from one another. That’s probably the reason why Henry considered scientific knowledge to be insufficient in establishing a new norm for living and a new law of life for humanity. This new norm and this new law would be in the service of nothing but an eternal value driving life away from the evil deeds and the miserable deaths they may bring. Thus for Henry, the problem with scientific knowledge in general and mathematics in particular is that the representations of reality promoted by them are known through the mind but not through the senses. Their world is the world of “eternal truths” without any change. Mind has access to the unchanging things whereas the body has access to things that constantly change. Cartesian doubt asks “what can I know something for sure?” Henry answers this question by saying, “you can feel God without mathematics.”
The so-called human sciences, fascinated by the Galilean model, borrow its mathematical methodologies and strain to extend them systematically. In so doing they remain outside the sphere of what is proper to man as living Selves. In effect, an abyss opens between life and mathematical ideals, separating reality and irreality forever. This abyss was perceived by Marx’s transcendental gaze when he asked about the possibility of measuring the living (and thus real) work that made possible the economic exchange of goods. The random and arbitrary construction of ideal economic objects that are presumed to be the representatives (thus the objective equivalents) of invisible life, the invention of economics, was the response of humanity to a practical and unavoidable question. (I Am the Truth 266-7)
Herein resides the core of Henry’s material phenomenology of auto-affective life which persists in and throughout his ouvre from The Essence of Manifestation to I Am the Truth, including his rigorous reading of Marx in the middle. For Marx, being is external to thought, they are mutually exclusive as a consequence of the replacement of the use value with the exchange value as well as the alienation of humans from their own realities under the rule of capital. In his Marx: A Philosophy of Human Reality, Henry subverts the dialectical materialism of Marx and turns it into a materialist dialectic a la Badiou who says in his Logics of Worlds that “there are only bodies and languages, except that there are truths.”(4) Henry is on a par with Badiou on this point, but for Henry the truth is a qualitative matter rather than a quantitative idea. When Henry says I am the Truth what he means is that my thought is my feeling and feelings are the only way in which truths manifest themselves.
Kant has shown that the possibility of knowing any phenomenon whatsoever refers back to a priori forms of intuition (space, time) as well as to categories of understanding, forms without which there would be no phenomenon for us, and consequently no science. Transcendental philosophy leads us from what appears to the appearing of what appears. This pure appearing considered in itself is called by modern philosophy “consciousness,” “transcendental consciousness,” “consciousness of something,” “intentionality,” “Being-in-the-world,” and so on. These diverse systems of conceptualization assert the relation to an “Outside” and the truth of the world as the unique essence of phenomenality. (265-6)
For Henry, transcendental categories are nothing other than reflective abstract ideas. Although Hume’s return to sensations is a step forward, it is still insufficient in that it posits empiricism and rationalism as mutually exclusive. Against the rationalism of Descartes and Hume’s empiricism Henry takes it upon himself to construct an ontology of subjectivity, a transcendental immanence, a material phenomenology based on the unity of the soul and the body as well as thought and feeling. From this point of view the phenomenological transcendental ego is that which constitutes the cogito. In this new light deduction is a reduction, it reduces the transcendent being to immanent subjectivity in such a way that causality becomes not homogeneous but heterogeneous. This is an ontological problem in that causality is not an a priori condition of experience. Henry’s idea derives from the fact that being is not-all, it is never fully constituted. The origin of the idea of causality is a lack because the problem is falsely posed in the first place. The condition of experience and the experience itself are separated, causality is itself the position of the subject, it is itself posited by the subject. Hence Henry can introduce the notion of auto-affection.
This unconscious, which – for simplicity we will call representational unconscious (Ucs = Cs), has nothing to do with the unconscious that secretly refers to life’s essence. The bar placed on phenomenality concerns only representational phenomenality, and its rejection liberates appearance’s original dimension in which being reveals itself to itself outside and independent of ek-stasis, in the radical immanence of its self-affection as life. (I Am the Truth 287)
The main problem of humanity is the habit of posing false problems and the addiction of trying to solve them. According to Henry reduction helps us create the conditions for the possibility of certitude and avoid false problems. This requires an “internal transcendental experience” driven by “intuitive judgments” positing cogito not as a reflective judgment in the Kantian sense. (Critique of Judgment 13) Henry’s transcendental immanence solves the problems of Kantian transcendentalism by way of situating lived experiences (Erlebnisse) outside the Platonic heaven of ideas. Internal apperception overcomes the transcendental categories. Reduction to the sphere of immanence is what is meant by phenomenological reduction in Henry’s world of sensible being of things.
Henry’s philosophy is probably one of the most magnificent symptoms of our perilously nihilistic times although it is at the same time an attempt at overcoming this very nihilism with a recourse to God as immanent infinitude. In order to creatively resist against capitalist axiomatics an intervention at the level of affects as well as percepts is required. Henry’s attempt at escaping from the capitalist axiomatics by way of withdrawing to the domain of affects and turning towards religion is insufficient for achieving what he intends in spite of the immanence at work in his onto-theology. His strategy is a reactive defence at best to say the least. Truth is neither only out there nor resides solely within. Truth is the effect of a conflict-event between the subject and the world of objects. Diving into oneself from time to time may indeed be necessary for touching the truth of being, but one also has to come back up to the surface from the mystical depths and transmit the being of truth in such a way as to initiate a transformative intervention at the level of percepts as well as affects.
Ultimately life is the wager, made on a body that has entered into appearing, that one will faithfully entrust this body with a new temporality, keeping at a distance the conservative drive (the ill-named ‘life’ instinct) as well as the mortifying drive (the death instinct). Life is what gets the better of the drives. (Badiou, Logics of Worlds 509)
In his essay entitled Philosophy and Psychoanalysis (19-26) as well as in the final part of Being and Event and the last book of Logics of Worlds, Badiou investigates the relationship between science, philosophy, politics and psychoanalysis in relation to the legacies of Plato, Descartes and Lacan. In these three texts by Badiou what’s at stake is the correlation of being-thinking/truth-event in conjunction with the logic of appearance, the critique of phenomenology and the emergence of the subject. Although Badiou calls thinking the non-dialectical unity of theory and practice, and compares the act of thinking as it takes place in science, politics, philosophy and psychoanalysis, here I will limit my rendering of his stance particularly to the interaction between politics and psychoanalysis, with philosophy as the mediator in-between.
In psychoanalysis the goal is to think the singularity of the human subject confronted by language and sexuality, hence there is a tension between the universal and the particular at work. Psychoanalytic thinking searches for a new possibility of the subject suffering from symptoms and the aim of the cure is to reduce suffering to a minimum. Psychoanalysis works towards the normal functioning of the subjective structure. The subject’s accomodating its real is the aim, so that the symptom of the real is displaced and the subject is re-accomodated in relation to its real. For psychoanalysis the relation to the real is inscribed in the structure, but in politics the real is subtracted from the state. While political action displaces the real itself and not only the symptom of the real, psychoanalysis wants to think the difference of the sexes as the real. So Lacan can say that “there is no sexual relation.” For psychoanalysis the real is negative, a source of scepticism. There is always a conflict between the real life of individuals and the symbolic order of the state. In this sense if psychoanalysis listens to politics it is exposed to scepticism (negative axiom), and if politics listens to psychoanalysis it is exposed to dogmatism (affirmative axiom). Politics and psychoanalysis, however, can encounter each other in a productive manner in and through philosophy. Being neither an imaginary construction or empty symbol, truth can touch the real of the subject’s desire as well as transcending the regime of opinions. Rather than being a correspondence between thought and thing, for Heidegger truth is unveiling, for Althusser production, and for Badiou it is a process. As for Lacan, truth is not adequation between language and thing but the “depositing of speech in the big Other.” Precisely because thought has no direct access to the real, truth is the effect of a separation, not a correspondence. Consequently, truth is nothing but an encounter with the real by way of which the void is mediated, generating a rupture between the thought of the subject and the object of thought.
At the end of this process truth appears as the disappearance of absolute knowledge; truth emerges as absolute knowledge absolves itself. For Heidegger, truth is the structure of the forgetting of being, whereas for Badiou truth emerges with the disappearance of the event which gives birth to it, the event becomes the absent cause of truth, just as for Lacan what founds the truth is the big Other as a void in symbolic knowledge, a result of the separation between thought and real. For Badiou, as opposed to Henry, life is a blind process with no potential for creative thought capable of generating truth.
That which is thus forever burdened with self, only this can we truly call a Self. Herein is accomplished the movement without movement in which it receives, as a substantial and burdensome content, that which it is; it masters itself, arrives at itself, experiences its own profusion. The Self is the surpassing of the Self as identical to self. (Henry, The Essence of Manifestation 473)
In Henry the self can be transformed and turned into a subject only from within, that is, he only works for a qualitative change within the individual. What is missing in Henry is the quantitative change of the embedded selves. Analogous to that, what is missing in Badiou is a qualitative change within the selves constituting the society. The question is, why does one aspect of transformation has to be absent in these two modalities of potential subjectivity?
This new simple fundamental nature is that of the union of soul and body. Cartesianism is no longer a dualism, the three primitive simple natures are equal in their dignity and in their autonomy, equal also with regard to the bonds of the dependence which unite them to the absolute substance, i.e. God. (Ibid. 137)
According to Henry’s account we can say that the evil genius turns against itself in such a way as to access the goodness inherent in human essence. This immanence of goodness in human essence signifies an affirmation of the good not as a transcendent entity but rather as a negation of the evil without human essence. In contrast to Badiou’s proclamation that one can only fight against evil in this world so as to create goodness, Henry claims exactly the opposite to be the case. For Badiou the good is that which transcends life, it is beyond temporal time of the mortal human animals, whereas for Henry the evil within humans is created by the external world in which one is embedded and is not essential.
For Descartes, perfection is lack of lack. The freedom from imperfection takes place when nothing is lacking, a lack of limitation occurs, the infinite lacks nothing and since God is that which lacks nothing it is perfect in itself. But since God lacks nothing God ceases to exist in itself as soon as one tries to represent it. God is a pre-linguistic entity which is but does not exist nevertheless. The difference between to be and to exist is the difference between being and nothingness. Not to reduce being and thought to the knowledge of an object is to affirm presence of being outside of scientific knowledge. To affirm being outside of science is to negate scientific knowledge as human reality.
Men given over to the insensible, become themselves insensible, whose eyes are empty as a fish’s. Dazed men, devoted to specters and spectacles that always expose their own invalidity and bankruptcy; devoted to false knowledge, reduced to empty shells, to empty heads—to “brains.” Men whose emotions and loves are just glandular secretions. Men who have been liberated by making them think their sexuality is a natural process, the site and place of their infinite Desire. Men whose responsibility and dignity have no definite site anymore. Men who in the general degradation will envy the animals. Men will want to die—but not Life. It is not just any god today who is still able to save us, but—when the shadow of death is looming over the world—that One who is Living. (I Am the Truth 275)
The presumed dividedness of Henry and Badiou is a division between different modalities of the same thing, this division is between something and nothing, and therein resides the gap that splits as it unites the physical and the metaphysical in a fashion analogous to the synapses connecting and disconnecting the neurons in the brain. “We could say that the epic heroism of the one who gives his life is supplanted by the mathematical heroism of the one who creates life, point by point.” (Badiou, Logics of Worlds 514)
“God is dead” means that man is dead too. Man, the last man, the dead man, is what must be overcome for the sake of the overman. What is the overman? Quite simply man without God. Man as he is thinkable outside of any relation to the divine. The overman decides undecidability, thus fracturing the humanist predicate. (Badiou, The Century 168)
Henry’s philosophy of life involves the deliverance of the unknown in the way of situating the history of an error in a new context. This new context renders Henry capable of articulating the process of becoming non-identical of the old knowledge, thereby creating the conditions of possibility for the manifestation of a new subjective body as the generic truth not situated in time. Henry’s affect as phenomena is distinctly non-temporal while Badiou’s ontology as mathematics aims at situating eternity in time. Although both of them do render infinitude immanent as the subject, the collective and quantitative change for Badiou becomes the individual and qualitative change for Henry. One can see the Promethean and the Hermetic orientations of thought manifested in these two respectively.
The Difference Between Being and Existence
In his essay entitled Existence and Death as well as in Logics of Worlds, Badiou makes it explicit why being and existence are not the same thing. According to Badiou existence is an ontic category, it is being-there as a substantial object, or being-in-the-world as Heidegger would put it, whereas being is an ontological category which does not require an earthly subsistence, it resides in the domain of the subject without a substance.
It is this “Cartesian” motif of the subject as infinite-existence in and by freedom that supports the famous Sartrean definition of consciousness, that is to say of existence: “a being that is in its being the question of its being, insofar as this being implies a being other than itself.” A definition about which a humorist once remarked that it used the word “being” five times only to designate nothingness. The immediate consequence of this definition is indeed that consciousness is not what it is, and is what it is not. If existence is infinite freedom, it is the constant putting back into question of its being, never identifying itself with the forms of being that it takes on, and holding itself beyond these forms which are nothing but its singular outside, or its transitory objectifications. (Badiou, Existence and Death 63-73)
In Kierkegaard and Heidegger at the beginning there is anxiety which is a subjective experience of negativity, but philosophy cannot continue ad infinitum at an individual level. Husserl’s époché involves the suspension of any relation to objectivity, he, too, begins with pure being separated from existence. The movement is from being to existence, from that which is not here to that which is there. Both Husserl and Henry equate being and experience. In both cases phenomenology turns out to be the idea that we cannot go from being as experience to being as existence, or from subjective non-being to objective being. When Henry removes consciousness and intentionality from the scene he drifts towards nihilism, which is the conviction that the experience of negativity cannot be interrupted, that anxiety cannot be overcome, that suffering is inevitable as a condition of philosophical novelty, that affirmation is impossible, that nothing other than experience exists. Badiou, however, affirms that truths exist. His is a positive affirmation of existence, claiming that there is a distance between being and existence which has to be traversed. The immortal subject of truth goes beyond the lived experience, negative distance between being and existence is turned into a positive gap, a thinking of negativity and not only an experience of it is at stake. Although Henry’s God is immanent it is still a negative relation to infinity within finitude. A dialectical reading reveals that Henry goes from nothing to one and Badiou goes from void to infinity.
Badiou’s being is not a solid, organically self-integrated and homogenous domain of reality, but rather inconsistent multiplicity. There is no ultimate being qua being, being is a non-totalisable multitude stricken with tensions and antagonisms which initiate the event and make change possible. Being introduces a split in the order of becoming, a rupture, a discontinuity, which is why Badiou has to explicate the structure of being in and through set theory according to which the singular in-itself doesn’t exist. It is at this point that the notion of universal singularity becomes an effect and a function of the advent of a novel idea in the present.
According to Kant we cannot know the real of being but we can think it nevertheless. He identifies the a priori in his Introduction to The Critique of Pure Reason, and in the way of a non-metaphysical ontology introduces the notion of a priori synthesis. At the beginning Kant thinks that knowing the distance between to be and to exist is impossible, but then he goes on to construct the knowledge of this distance. The distinction Badiou makes between being and existence becomes clearer as it is situated in relation to Kant in Logics of Worlds.
I have posed that existence is nothing other than the degree of self-identity of a multiple-being, such as it is established by a transcendental indexing. With regard to the multiple-being as thought in its being, it follows that its existence is contingent, since it depends—as a measurable intensity—on the world where the being, which is said to exist, appears. This contingency of existence is crucial for Kant, because it intervenes as a determination of the transcendental operation itself. This operation is effectively defined as ‘the application of the pure concepts of the understanding to possible experience’. In my vocabulary—and obviously with no reference to any ‘application’—this can be put as follows: the logical constitution of pure appearing, the indexing of a pure multiple on a worldly transcendental. But, just as with the object, Kant will immediately distinguish within this operation its properly transcendental or a priori facet from its receptive or empirical one. (237)
An object is a being which appears in the world and is measured by its degree of existence. In Kant the object is different from being, true being cannot be known as an object, pure being is always a subjective experience. Kant distinguishes between the ontic and the ontological, but for Badiou this difference has degrees. Pure materialism considers the being and the object to be the same thing. There is no difference between being and its appearance in the world. The object is a subjective creation for Kant, being as such is present in the object itself. For Badiou being as such cannot be reduced to the object in the world but mathematics has access to pure being as pure multiplicity although this pure multiplicity cannot be reduced to an object or a thing that exists. So Badiou can say that death is being in the world with zero degree of existence and life is a process of disappearance in the world. Living/Dying is a movement towards a minimal degree of existence. In an event we have the appearing of being in the world. According to Marx, for instance, proletariat is the true being of society and a revolution is the becoming visible of the truth of society. Identity of the object and the thing requires revolutionary action to initiate a becoming equal of thing and object, to cause a change of places in the hierarchy of being, object and thing, an effectuation of being in existence resulting in an emergence of a new truth as a consequence of a fidelity to an event which changes the coordinates of a given situation.
In what it would instead call an ideological conception of Life, democratic materialism sees nothing but fanaticism and the death instinct. It is true that, if there is nothing but bodies and languages, to live for an Idea necessarily implies the arbitrary absolutization of one language, which bodies must comply with. Only the material recognition of the ‘except that’ of truths allows us to declare, not that bodies are submitted to the authority of a language, far from it, but that a new body is the organization in the present of an unprecedented subjective life. I maintain that the real experience of such a life, the comprehension of a theorem or the force of an encounter, the contemplation of a drawing or the momentum of a meeting, is irresistibly universal. This means that, for the form of incorporation that corresponds to it, the advent of the Idea is the very opposite of a submission. Depending on the type of truth that we are dealing with, it is joy, happiness, pleasure or enthusiasm. (Logics of Worlds 511)
Badiou attributes four distinct affects corresponding to the faithful subjects of the four conditions of philosophy: enthusiasm for the political subject, pleasure for the subject of art, happiness for the subject of love, and joy for the scientific subject. These affects characterizing the individual generic procedures are then supplemented with a universal process of four other affects which signal the incorporation of a human animal into the process of becoming the subject of truth: terror, anxiety, courage, and justice.
To oppose the value of courage and justice to the ‘Evil’ of anxiety and terror is to succumb to mere opinion. All the affects are necessary in order for the incorporation of a human animal to unfold in a subjective process, so that the grace of being Immortal may be accorded to this animal, in the discipline of a Subject and the construction of a truth. (Ibid. 87)
The constitutive link which has come to be considered missing between the mental phenomena and the physical entities is actually a non-relation rather than an absence of relation, for it is neither transcendental nor immanent to the subject, but is rather the manifestation of phenomenal affectivity supplemented with mathematical ontology intervening in the ordinary flow of things and thereby initiating a rupture in time itself.
But the ontological break, whether mathematizing or vitalist, does not suffice. We must also establish that the mode of appearing of truths is singular and that it plots out subjective operations whose complexity is not even broached in the purely ontological treatment of Being and Event. What the 1988 book did at the level of pure being—determining the ontological type of truths and the abstract form of the subject that activates them—this book (Logics of Worlds) aims to do at the level of being-there, or of appearing, or of worlds. (Ibid. 8)
An event is that which causes affection which creates the possibility of a new truth. Being a rupture in becoming, the event can only be realised retroactively. The process of a truth is necessary for the recognition of an event as an event. Situation is a pure multiplicity which is turned into a cause by way of which a fidelity to truth is actualised, thereby turning the pure multiplicity into a generic multiplicity. Badiou passes from theory of sets (Being and Event) to theory of categories (Logics of Worlds). Positive affirmation of a new intensity of existence, a qualitative difference signifies the passage from ontology of being to existential intensity by way of a fidelity to an event.
As the degree of the subject’s intensity of existence increases, so does its pain and anxiety in the face of death. This causes hopelessness and despair which may or may not lead to a total devastation of the project of inverting and putting into the spotlight the void at the centre of the subject. Heidegger repeatedly puts all this down in Being and Time when he says that “being-towards-death is angst.” One cure for expelling anxiety has been to believe in God, any other metaphysical construct, or in some cases it has even taken the form of a materialist system of thought; in all these cases, however, an escape is seen as a solution when in fact it is the problem itself. For our concerns, an escapist attitude striving to go beyond that which is here and now does not work at all, since what we are looking for is a way of learning to make use of the reality of the death drive as an interior exteriority constitutive of the subject as a creatively generative agent of change at present, in the time of the living and the dead at once, that is. The Lacanian definition of the subject referred to by Badiou towards the very end of Being and Event sums it all up: “I am not, there where I am the plaything of my thought; I think of what I am, there where I do not think I am thinking.” (Lacan quoted in Badiou, Being and Event 431)
At the current conjuncture we don’t know if it is still worth mentioning that neither Badiou nor Henry propose a full blown return to Marx and Hegel, but rather a reversal of the dialectical process in such a way that affirmation comes before negation within the dialectical process itself. Their thoughts signify not a total negation of the dialectical correlation of thought and being but its partial affirmation. Badiou’s thought is Henry’s thought without the affective and qualitative dimension of being and Henry’s thought is Badiou’s thought without the logical and quantitative dimension of being as John Mullarkey puts it in his Post-Continental Philosophy. Henry’s and Badiou’s enterprise as a whole aims at a new conceptualisation of the subjective body and thereby a new subjective mind within and without the capitalist axiomatics at the same time. In both cases the law of the market as the law of finitude based on the exploitation of mortality must be overcome for the sustenance of the conditions for the possibility of transforming the human-animal-machine into the immortal subject beyond the life-death-drives. It is at this point that we recognise Badiou and Henry as the two anti-thetical but complementary components of a becoming revolutionary of the machinic-human-animal reduced to its function in the servicing of goods and pathological drive towards that which is not, that which is lacking and for which it strives in need of a future less worse than the present as it is. In accordance with such a dialectical reading we shall therefore say once again that Henry goes from nothing to one and Badiou goes from void to infinity.
Henry’s Material Phenomenology and Deleuze’s Transcendental Empiricism
That which does not surpass itself, that which does not hurl itself outside itself but remains in itself without leaving or going out of itself is, in its essence, immanence. Immanence is the original mode according to which is accomplished the revelation of transcendence itself and hence the original essence of revelation. (Henry, The Essence of Manifestation 227)
The Essence of Manifestation defines ontological monism as the idea that nothing can be given to us in any other way than from within. Henry himself is an ontological dualist precisely because he thinks that there are two orders of meaning and being. He thus undertakes a phenomenological reduction situating the transcendent within immanence and inversely. His effort is in the way of seeing the subject neither as an object of phenomenology nor as an object of scientific enquiry. His aims at bringing to light the human reality in and through a metaphysical investigation of the subjective body, or an ontology of subjectivity. His philosophy is a phenomenology and a methodology at the same time because there exists a transcendental internal experience for which an immanent ontology of subjectivity is required. (Henry, Philosophy and Phenomenology of the Body 1-10) An internal transcendental sense, an auto-affection, is the essence of manifestation. Henry discovers a new subjective body, a body not subjectivised by objective reality, an absolute subjectivity consisting in a transcendental immanence, a radical empiricism. (Ibid.. 42-52)
What is a transcendental field? It can be distinguished from experience in that it doesn’t refer to an object or belong to a subject (empirical representation). It appears therefore as stream of a-subjective consciousness, a pre-reflexive impersonal consciousness, a qualitative duration of consciousness without a self. It may seem curious that the transcendental be defined by such immediate givens: we will speak of a transcendental empiricism in contrast to everything that makes up the world of the subject and the object. (Deleuze, Pure Immanence 25)
Subjectivity is in no way an impersonal milieu, a simple ‘transcendental’ field which, at the end of classical thought, dissolves into a pure mirage, into an empty continuity, a simple representation deprived of all content. ‘Transcendental’ does not designate what subsists after this flight from reality, in this dissolution of all effectiveness, viz. a pure nothingness, but a region of perfectly determined and absolutely concrete being. (Henry, Philosophy and Phenomenology of the Body 186)
Both Henry and Deleuze theorize a pre-lingustic, pre-reflective and pre-symbolic realm wherein affects, percepts and sensations dominate the scene. In Henry this realm is not a transcendental field but a sphere of radical immanence. In Deleuze, however, it is a transcendental field operating as a plane of immanence. “When immanence is no longer immanent to something other than itself it is possible to speak of a plane of immanence. Such a plane is, perhaps, a radical empiricism” (Deleuze and Guattari, What is Philosophy? 46) The difference between Henry’s transcendental immanence and Deleuze’s plane of immanence is that for Henry immanence is actual and real rather than virtual and real as it is in Deleuze. It is of course possible to designate both Henry’s and Deleuze’s stances as transcendental empiricism, but here complications arise. Henry himself is quite clear on this point, his is definitely an empiricism of subjectively lived experience (Erlebnis) before the rational mind objectifies the sense data. Henry is a card carrying non-biological thinker, while Deleuze is well known for his biologism. That said, one must submit that Deleuze is ambiguous when it comes to the distinction between the empirical data provided by scientific naturalism and the sensual data provided by lived experience alone. Here we have two distinct forms of empiricism. It is well known that Deleuze considers relations between objects/subjects to be external to the subjects/objects themselves. As for Henry, it should have become clear to the reader by now that he has no symphaty even for intersubjectivity let alone objectivity. Their common denominator is obviously a persistent stance against objectivity.
Life is thus not a something, like the object of biology, but the principle of everything. It is a phenomenological life in the radical sense where life defines the essence of pure phenomenality and accordingly of being insofar as being is coextensive with the phenomenon and founded on it. For what could I know about a being that could not appear? Because life is the original phenomenalization at the core of being and thus what makes it be, one must reverse the traditional hierarchy that subordinates life to being under the pretext that it would be necessary for life itself “to be.” As such, the living would delineate only a region of being, a regional ontology. (Henry, Material Phenomenology 3)
Departing from Hegel, Marx had proposed a new dialectical logic in the way of creating a new humanism for humanity. What Henry took upon himself was nothing less than developing Marx’s project of materialising Hegel’s idealism. Henry’s endeavour of material phenomenology is an attempt to negate the presuppositions of Husserlian and Heideggerian phenomenology. That said, the idea of affects in-themselves capable of meaning anything without the intersubjective dimension of their receptivity in socially receivable forms is a mystery. As for the manifestation of truth, it is equally mysterious what kind of truth can be produced without any relation to the real conditions of existence of the really suffering people in this time.
This indefinite life does not itself have moments, close as they may be one to another, but only between-times, between-moments; it doesn’t just come about or come after but offers the immensity of an empty time where one sees the event yet to come and already happened, in the absolute of an immediate consciousness. (Deleuze, The Logic of Sense 29)
In this light we now see more clearly what Deleuze is aiming at with his disjunctive synthesis of transcendence and immanence leading to his transcendental empiricism. Empiricism starts from the material world rather than from the metaphysical world which it sees only as a product of the representations of experience through language. In fact, it knows no world other than the material world, and even if it does it prioritizes the physical world over the metaphysical world. Experience of the world before subjectivation is what Deleuze is trying to access. Since reaching the pre-subjective field of partial objects is possible only through language, and he knows that, he says that we have to produce that pre-subjective field which juxtaposes the transcendental field and the plane of immanence.
That said, I will now leave behind the exhausted subject of mind-body dualism and move towards the more recent theme of the relationship between bodies and languages, with the hope of opening up a field across which one passes and in the process of this passage becomes the embodiment of a new possibility of signification, another sign, neither within nor without the old mode of signification. For this a third dualism is required, and that third dualism, being that of language and Event, has already been worked through by Deleuze.
With Deleuze the Cartesian mind-body dualism has been replaced by body-language dualism. Without being too insistent about it at this stage I would like to hint at where the relationship between these dualisms is heading. I propose, therefore, what Deleuze has already pointed out, namely a new possibility of analysing the nature of dialectics in the context of the relationship between language and its affective quality, what he calls the sense-event. As he puts it in his Cinema 2: Time-Image, Deleuze thinks that neither the grounds of mind-body dualism nor those of body-language dualism are sufficient to theorize a progressive movement towards a new mode of signification.
The interval of movement was no longer that in relation to which the movement-image was specified as perception-image, at one end of the interval, as action-image at the other end, and as affection-image between the two, so as to constitute a sensory-motor whole. On the contrary the sensory-motor link was broken, and the interval of movement produced the appearance as such of an image other than the movement-image. Sign and image thus reversed their relation, because the sign no longer presupposed the movement-image as material that it represented in its specified forms, but set about presenting the other image whose material it was itself to specify, and forms it was to constitute, from sign to sign. (Deleuze, Cinema 2 33)
“The event considered as non-actualized (indefinite) is lacking in nothing. It suffices to put it in relation to its concomitants: a transcendental field, a plane of immanence, a life, singularities.” (Deleuze, Pure Immanence 31) What we encounter with Deleuze is therefore a replacement not only of mind-body dualism with body-language dualism, but also a beyond of both, a trinity is at work; body-language-event. This event is the sense-event and it is here that what is meant by meaning becomes relevant. Referring to Klossowski’s book on Nietzsche, Deleuze points out the passage from intensity to intentionality, from sign to sense.
There is in Klossowski an entire “phenomenology,” which borrows from scholastic philosophy as much as Husserl did, but which traces its own paths. As for the passage from intensity to intentionality, it is the passage from sign to sense. In a fine analysis of Nietzsche, Klossowski interprets the “sign” as the trace of a fluctuation, of an intensity, and “sense” as the movement by which intensity aims at itself in aiming at the other, modifies itself in modifying the other, and returns finally onto its own trace. (Deleuze, The Logic of Sense 298)
One of the meanings of meaning is signification: what does an object/subject signify? The other meaning of meaning is significance: what makes an object/subject significant? Common to both meanings of meaning is this question: What difference does it (object/subject) make? What’s at stake here is the emergence of new sense not only out of non-sense but also out of the old sense, that is, a repetitive explication of a new sense within the old sense with a difference. The new sense always appears in the form of an absurdity at first, but in time, through repetition and persistence this absurdity appears in a new light and becomes new sense. Absurd is not the same as non-sense or absence of sense, but the non-sense inherent in sense, and hence in-between sense and non-sense. In and through the absurd the unconscious manifests itself revealing another realm of consciousness which resides in-between the subject and the object. This consciousness is the becoming of being, a (w)hole in process, always incomplete and yet already (w)hole, a non-all. Being is an incomplete idea of wholeness in the process of becoming present. The pre-subjective impersonal consciousness in-between being and non-being generates the space between past and present out of which the future emerges. The event initiates the emergence of being out of non-being, what Deleuze calls a static genesis, the driving force of becoming. This emergence, however, has neither a beginning nor an end, and therefore being is itself the becoming impersonal of self-consciousness; “I am all the names in history,” says Nietzsche.
The dissolved self opens up to a series of roles, since it gives rise to an intensity which already comprehends difference in itself, the unequal in itself, and which penetrates all others, across and within multiple bodies. There is always another breath in my breath, another thought in my thought, another possession in what I possess, a thousand things and a thousand beings implicated in my complications: every true thought is an aggression. It is not a question of our undergoing influences, but of being “insufflations” and fluctuations, or merging with them. That everything is so “complicated,” that I may be an other, that something else thinks in us in an aggression which is the aggression of thought, in a multiplication which is the multiplication of the body, or in a violence which is the violence of language – this is the joyful message. For we are so sure of living again (without resurrection) only because so many beings and things think in us: because “we still do not know exactly if it is not others who continue to think within us (but who are these others who from the outside in relation to this inside which we believe ourselves to be?) – everything is brought back to a single discourse, to fluctuations of intensity, for instance, which correspond to the thought of everyone and no one.” (Deleuze 298-9)
The bounds of possible experience forces the subject to imagine itself as a thinking being. The orientation of thinking is thereby born by way of constituting the self as vision-in-one a la Laruelle wandering in a field towards the supersensible beyond possible experience. The self is given by itself an image of what it is to think in relation to the thing-in-itself. (Deleuze, Difference and Repetition 176-7) The need to venture beyond the limits of possible experience is in turn constituted by the self in such a way as to reclaim the unthinkable from transcendence. The unthinkable is situated within the immanent field of being as a fractured I, a split self. All conceptual thought begins as such, as an unthought within thought, an internally constituted external world. The non-philosophical cause of philosophy, the unthinkable source of thought, that which is actually not, is thus a virtual condition of possibility for the generation of a life already past, always here and yet to come at the same time. It is almost there that we recognize the immortal subject as the eternally returning prodigal son without a visible father to see him coming from beyond the life-death-drives.
We will say that THE plane of immanence is, at the same time, that which must be thought and that which cannot be thought. It is the nonthought within thought. It is the base of all planes, immanent to every thinkable plane that does not succeed in thinking it. It is the most intimate within thought and yet the absolute outside-an outside more distant than any external world because it is an inside deeper that any internal world: it is immanence… (Deleuze, Difference and Repetition 176-7)
The non-external outside and the non-internal inside is where thought encounters its being. The being of thought and the thought of being within and without the field of transcendence and the plane of immanence is the space-time within and without which the production of thought gives birth to the generation of being and inversely. If being requires being conceived, and since, as Schopenhauer puts it, the eye cannot see itself unless there is a mirror in front of it, an idea worthy of the name of truth can only be generated in an through an overcoming of the physical and the metaphysical presuppositions alike. The passage from transcendental idealism to transcendental empiricism takes place when and if the creative act is turned into a generic act. Here comes the difference between qualitative and quantitative modes of change and how they can be disjunctively synthesized.
Perhaps this is the supreme act of philosophy: not so much to think THE plane of immanence as to show that it is there, unthought in every plane, and to think it in this way as the outside and inside of thought, as the not-external outside and the not-internal inside –that which cannot be thought and yet must be thought, which was thought once, as Christ was incarnated once, in order to show, that one time, the possibility of the impossible. (Deleuze and Guattari, What is Philosophy? 59-60)
The being of the sensible cannot be represented because it is different from the sensible being itself. (Deleuze, Difference and Repetition 176-80) The sense and the non-sense are split in such a way as to situate the source of the given to the realm of ideas which can neither be known nor experienced but can be thought. (Ibid. 191) God begins to emerge as an idea not externally constituted but internally generated. We have already turned towards an ontology of eternity in time. We determine God as a regulative idea first and foremost. This internal determination already situates the infinite object within the finite subject. The real, the non-being is thereby placed within the temporal dimension of being human. God as an intuitive idea contains human as that which it has created. (Ibid. 194-5)
We hope the reader can now see how the self generates here a regulative idea suitable for thinking the infinite. The self is thereby retroactively given to its passive receptivity as an active subjectivity in the last instance.
It would be wrong to confuse the two faces of death, as though the death instinct were reduced to a tendency towards increasing entropy or a return to inanimate matter. Every death is double, and represents the cancellation of large differences in extension as well as the liberation and swarming of little differences in intensity. Freud suggested the following hypothesis: the organism wants to die, but to die in its own way, so that real death always presents itself as a foreshortening, as possessing an accidental, violent and external character which is anathema to the internal will-to-die. There is a necessary non-correspondence between death as an empirical event and death as an ‘instinct’ or transcendental instance. Freud and Spinoza are both right: one with regard to the instinct, the other with regard to the event. Desired from within, death always comes from without in a passive and accidental form. Suicide is an attempt to make the two incommensurable faces coincide or correspond. However, die two sides do not meet, and every death remains double. (Ibid. 259)
Deleuze invites exploration of a text in the way of explicating a progressive potential within the text which had hitherto been consciously or unconsciously ignored or neglected, or even repressed. This theme is linked to Deleuze’s life-long concern with Nietzsche’s thought of eternal recurrence and difference qua repetition. The emergence of the unthought within thought requires an encounter with the already thought in such a way as to expose its inner dynamics and hence show what’s inside it as its outside. That is, what the thought seems to be excluding as its other constitutes its subject as self-identical. It is through the exclusion of the other that the subject becomes itself. If we apply this to subject-object relations it becomes obvious that the split between the subject and the object is itself a construct, but nevertheless a necessary construct for the subject’s subsistence. In-between the subject and the object, then, there is an unfillable gap that is constitutive of both the subject and the object.
There has only ever been one ontological proposition: Being is univocal. From Parmenides to Heidegger it is the same voice which is taken up, in an echo which itself forms the whole deployment of the univocal. A single voice raises the clamour of being… In effect, the essential in univocity is not that Being is said in a single and same sense, but that it is said, in a single and same sense, of all its individuating differences or intrinsic modalities. Being is the same for all these modalities, but these modalities are not the same. It is “equal” for all, but they themselves are not equal. It is said of all in a single sense, but they themselves do not have the same sense. (Ibid. 35-6)
For Deleuze new thought can only emerge as a curious absurdity, as in the Beckett case. That is because the new thought, although it comes from within the old thought, is beyond the interiority and the exteriority to a context in its primary emergence. This means that new thought always appears to be a non-sense, for no thought can be meaningful without a context. But non-sense is not the absence of sense. It is, rather, sense with its own particular context which it creates in the process of emergence from out of the old context. Being without the predominant context makes the thought seem absurd, non-sense, but not meaningless, for meaningless means absence of thought.
Consciousness becomes a fact only when a subject is produced at the same time as its object, both being outside the field and appearing as “transcendent.” Conversely, as long as consciousness traverses the transcendental field at an infinite speed everywhere diffused, nothing is capable of revealing it. It is expressed, as matter of fact, only when it is reflected on a subject that refers it to objects. This is why the transcendental field cannot be defined by the consciousness which is coextensive with it, but withdraws from any revelation nevertheless. (Deleuze, Pure Immanence 26)
In this light we now see more clearly what Deleuze is aiming at with his disjunctive synthesis of transcendence and immanence leading to his transcendental empiricism. Empiricism starts from the material world rather than from the metaphysical world which it sees only as a product of the representations of experience through language. In fact, it knows no world other than the material world, and even if it does, it prioritizes the physical world over the metaphysical world. Experience of the world before subjectivation is what Deleuze is trying to access. Since reaching the pre-subjective field of partial objects is possible only through language, and he knows that, he says that we have to produce that pre-subjective field which juxtaposes the transcendental field and the plane of immanence as “one Being and only for all forms and all times, a single instance for all that exists, a single phantom for all the living, a single voice for every hum of voices and every drop of water in the sea…” (Deleuze, The Logic of Sense 180)
From the Machinic Human Animal to the Immortal Subject Beyond the Life-Death-Drives
What Freud, in Civilization and Its Discontents, calls the “oceanic feeling,” is the security of existence in the womb, tied to the mother with the umbilical cord, and swimming in the placental waters in foetal shape without the danger of drowning. In what follows I will attempt to compare and contrast Deleuze’s, Badiou’s and Henry’s philosophies in relation Slavoj Žižek’s stance.
Žižek points out Deleuze’s emphasis on the passage from metaphor and towards metamorphosis in terms of the difference between “machines replacing humans” and the “becoming-machine of humans.”
The problem is not how to reduce mind to neuronal “material” processes (to replace the language of mind by the language of brain processes, to translate the first one into the second one) but, rather, to grasp how mind can emerge only by being embedded in the network of social relations and material supplements. In other words, the true problem is not “How, if at all, could machines imitate the human mind?” but “How does the very identity of human mind rely on external mechanical supplements? How does it incorporate machines?” (Žižek, Organs Without Bodies 16)
Here we see the theme of machines replacing humans in the process of being replaced by the theme of humans connected to machines, or machines as extensions of humans providing them with another realm beyond and yet still within the material world; the psychic and the material horizontally situated next to each other.
In his Marx: A Philosophy of Human Reality, Henry distinguishes between Marxism and the thought of Marx, just as he distinguishes between Christianity and the passion of Christ in I am the Truth and Incarnation: A Philosophy of the Flesh. In a similar fashion we can say that Henry makes a distinction between humanism and human reality. We can even go further and claim that Henry’s humanism is a non-humanism in the sense of Laruelle’s non-philosophy, or what he later designates as non-standard philosophy. Consequently, Henry proclaims a humanism without humanism, a move away from the animal-machine and towards the human in human more human than human, that is, a non-standard humanism of the human before its reflection in philosophy and before its objectification by science. This new humanism resonates with that of Badiou’s anti-humanist or inhuman humanism which makes a distinction between the human animal and the immortal subject of truth.
The human animal is what Badiou calls the contemporary condition of human beings. Animal machine is what Henry calls the same thing. In Henry we have a coupling of humans with machines, whereas in Badiou we have a coupling of humans and animals. In what follows I will try to figure out the philosophical and political implications of these two distinct couplings.
Thought is the one and only uniquely human capacity, and thought, strictly speaking, is simply that act through which the human animal is seized and traversed by the trajectory of a truth. Thus a politics worthy of being interrogated by philosophy under the idea of justice is one whose unique general axiom is: people think, people are capable of truth. (Badiou, Metapolitics 97-8)
The ontological determination of the essence of the body as extension has an absolutely general meaning in Cartesianism: That the body must be understood essentially as extension does not hold only for the inert body of physical nature, this affirmation also applies to the living body and the human body. The result is, in one case, the famous theory of animal-machines and, when it comes to the human body, the conception of the latter as an assemblage in extension of extended parts bound to one another according to a mechanical relationship. Actually, there is no difference between the human body and the body of the animal, any more than there is between the latter and any physical body whatever. (Henry, Philosophy and Phenomenology of the Body 136)
In his Less Than Nothing, Žižek points out that the Cartesian cogito is not a different substance separate from the body as Descartes himself has misunderstood his own insight. Referring to Jacques Derrida’s deconstruction of the hierarchical human-animal distinction in The Animal That Therefore I Am, Žižek goes on to say that the category of “the animal” is an anthropocentric category, a result of producing otherness as negativity, an unfortunate habit of philosophy since Aristotle, gaining momentum with Descartes who introduced the notion of animal-machine (animals don’t feel pain, they don’t suffer as such), passing through Heidegger who says they are speechless and narrow worlded if not altogether worldless because they lack language, and moving onwards to Badiou who considers the contemporary human being as a human animal servicing the goods of capital without an Idea. (Žižek, Less Than Nothing 408-12)
The problem with Badiou’s dualism is thus that it ignores Freud’s basic lesson: there is no “human animal; a human being is from its birth (and even before) torn away from its animal constraints, its instincts are “denaturalized; caught up in the circularity of the (death) drive, functioning “beyond the pleasure principle; marked by the stigma of what Eric Santner called “undeadness” or the excess of life. This is why there is no place for the “death drive” in Badiou’s theory, for that “distortion” of human animality which precedes the fidelity to an Event. It is not only the “miracle” of a traumatic encounter with an Event which detaches a human subject from its animality: its libido is already in itself detached. No wonder, then, that Badiou has such problems with the notion of the (death) drive that he regularly dismisses it as a morbid obsession, and so forth. (Žižek 824)
For Derrida, as it is for Žižek, animal life in its naive immediacy is a human construction. Žižek asks whether we humans can reach a world of immediacy and answers this with a definite no. For Žižek the distance is always already here, there can be no immediate experience of the world. So Žižek can say that modernity retroactively builds an image of natural immediacy, a fullness of being as manifested in human-animal distinction. Thereby is dismantled the myth of immediacy which then gets reflected. For Hegel the cut is here from the beginning, the distance is always already inscribed. The moment of introducing reflexivity is a retroactive move, there is no whole from the beginning. The new is produced in and through a reduction of the past but for Žižek the past is never complete, time-space is always already non-all. Animal emerges as a category with the rise of human as a species being. Human animal is a new category produced from the perspective of humans. There is no essence of the animal and the real universality is composed of the outcasts. Upon applying the Hegelian dialectic and explicating why the first antagonism is between universality and its particular forms, Žižek refers to Marx’s writings on money and animals in Capital’s first edition. Marx’s early writings underline the species being of humans and that humans relate to themselves as a universal species. We are the animals immediately caught in our environment and we miss the dimension of what we humans really are. Let’s consider the two modes of human-condition in its being and becoming rendered by Kierkegaard and Heidegger.
The key point here is that it is not enough to say that, while such a determination of animals as speechless, etc., is wrong, the determination of humans as rational, speaking, etc., is right, so that we just have to provide a more adequate definition of animality — the entire field is false. This falsity can be thought in terms of the Kierkegaardian couple of becoming and being: the standard opposition animal/human is formulated from the perspective of the human as being, as already constituted; it cannot think the human in its becoming. It thinks animals from within the given human standpoint, it cannot think the human from the animal standpoint. In other words, what this human/animal difference obfuscates is not only the way animals really are independently of humans, but the very difference which effectively marks the rupture of the human within the animal universe. It is here that psychoanalysis enters: the “death drive” as Freud’s name for the uncanny dimension of the human-in-becoming. (Žižek 410)
The death drive is situated in a domain that is not yet cultural and/but not natural anymore, no longer animal nature and/but not yet human culture. (334) Žižek mobilizes the Hegelian dialectic of non-all, pointing out that retroactivity is not simply subjective, since fiction is a necessary condition of reality. It is part of our identity as humans that we are unable to see ourselves in becoming. We cannot see ourselves in ourselves, not that we cannot see animals in themselves. We see past as if it’s always already here, as if it is not a fiction. Kant proposes man as an animal who needs a master, since only humans have an unruliness which has to be cultivated. There is a break with nature but it has to be cultivated. It’s not that we need culture to tame us, the brutality is embodied by the Freudian drive in between nature and culture. Naturalising the human mind is not the solution but the problem itself. What defines a world are not its own positive features but the way in which it relates to its own possibility and impossibility, potentiality and impotentiality, I can and I can’t. What makes us human is what we cannot do rather than what we can do. Human intelligence got stuck at a certain moment of impossibility, which is the impossibility of overcoming the mind-body distinction. Drive is fixation on this impossibility, hence one gets caught in a vicious circle with no possibility of escape. Žižek rejects Badiou’s notion of human animal caught in utilitarian pleasures, which is subjectivised only with the arrival of an event from beyond. There is no human animal, says Žižek, in nature itself we strive for suffering and unhappiness. What Badiou calls human animal is a secondary ideological formation. The duality of human animal and the subject of event is not sufficient to explain the drama of human-condition; there has to be a third domain and this is the death drive, the compulsion to repeat by way of which we generate our own problems and get stuck. Humanity is a product of a malfunctioning which we enjoy. Being human means you find a libidinal object and you become obsessed with it. Human freedom emerges out of the natural causal order precisely because ontological reality is not-all. Reality in itself is never fully constituted, there are always gaps in it. It is even said that there is a virtual dimension as a void in reality itself. Badiou says, for instance, that the event is not a miracle, but is rather subtracted from a situation, not a creation ex-nihilo but a fragment of being itself. In his Critique of Practical Reason, Kant claims that if we had access to things-in-themselves we would become puppets of the noumenal realm, adding that our freedom and ethical activity are consequences of our finitude. If the event is a fragment of being, then why can’t we reduce it to being? Because we are finite. Being is incomplete, says Žižek, being is never all but always non-all.
According to Heidegger, the Hegelian process of experience moves at two levels, that of lived experience (Erlebnis) and that of conceptual machination (Machenschaft): at the level of lived experience, consciousness sees its world collapse and a new figure of the world appear, and experiences this passage as a pure leap with no logical bridge uniting the two positions. “For us:’ however, the dialectical analysis makes visible how the new world emerged as the “determinate negation” of the old one, as the necessary outcome of its crisis. Authentic lived experience, the opening to the New, is thus revealed as being underpinned by notional work: what the subject experiences as the inexplicable rise of a new world is actually the result of its own conceptual work taking place behind its back and can thus ultimately be read as having been produced by the subject’s own conceptual machination. Here there is no experience of genuine otherness, the subject encounters only the results of its own (conceptual) work. But this reproach only holds if we ignore how both sides, the phenomenal “for itself” of the natural consciousness and the “for us” of the subterranean conceptual work, are caught up in the groundless, vertiginous abyss of a repeated loss. The “transcendental pain” is not only the pain the natural consciousness experiences, the pain of being separated from its truth; it is also the painful awareness that this truth itself is non-All, inconsistent. (Žižek 868-9)
Thought can mean something only insofar as it is situated within an already given ontic realm, but for thought to mean something worthy of the name of truth it also has to leave the old paradigm behind, change the co-oordinates, and perchance initiate a new course of continuity in change separate from but in contiguity with “the myth of the given and the myth of the non-given” at the same time. The emergence of a “more than material subjectivity arising from matter itself” is indeed required to sublate the very mode of being and thinking in which the subject is embedded and embodies, since the ideas are themselves objects we are embedded in and embody at once.
True progress is a matter of realising that theory and practice are always already reconciled and yet the only way to actualise this reconciliation passes through carrying it out and across by introducing a split between the subject of statement (the enunciated content) and the subject of enunciation (the formal structure in accordance with this content). In Hegel’s work this split is introduced in such a way as to unite the mind, the brain and the world rather than keeping them apart. It is a separation which sustains the contiguity of these three constitutive elements of consciousness, not only as thought and concept but also as percept and affect.
The paradoxical nature which some humans affirm as the human nature is in fact a product of the culture of death instituted by an inherent contradiction of capitalism driven by the fact that the body is seen as an object of mutilation unless it conforms to the value system they created in their minds. When Marx said that commodity fetishism remains even if we expose it in theory, when Nietzsche said that “God is dead” but still undertook a genealogy of morals in relation to God, when Freud said that the symptoms persist even if the patient recognizes them, what they meant to say is that life goes on even if there is no one left to live it. It is there where we recognise the Hegelian subject as Žižek would put it; the living dead, or the undead which persists beyond life and death as it traverses many fantasies.
Hegel had once said that “the great man of his time is he who expresses the will and the sense of that time, and then brings it to completion; he acts according to the inner spirit and essence of his time, which he realizes in accomplishment.” (Hegel, Philosophy of Right 296) This, I think, is still true and ever shall be if we are to have a future worthy of a subject of truth, capable of distinguishing between unconscious drives and conscious desiring, between the optimistic will and the pessimistic intellect, in the way of many universal singularities beyond the servicing of goods and the satisfaction of common-sense of those who “would much rather will nothingness than not will.” (Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morality, p. 118) And “to say again at the end what I said at the beginning,” (118) philosophy is nothing if not an infinite questioning of that which always already is and still ever yet to come, heading in one simultaneous movement towards two directions at once, never fully determined in accordance with that which is not fully present in these pure and empty forms of time, trapped in an eternally out of joint interstitial time wherein dwell the living and the dead, locked in-between the first and the last instances of this “dark night of the soul” wherein “all cows are black”, before and after which “less than nothing” resides…
 Deleuze, The Logic of Sense, pp. 298-9. Here Deleuze incorporates a quote from Pierre Klossowski’s Nietzsche (Paris: Cahiers de Royaumont, éditions de Minuit, 1967), p. 233. I’m indebted to Denise Riley for bringing this up in The Words of Selves (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000), p. 184
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