Reticulations : Jean-Luc Nancy and the networks of the political


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The choice to single out those themes turns out to be very fruitful dare I say more fruitful than divisions used in other introductory books? As such, Morin has done a very transparent job in systematically penetrating into the thought of a non-systematic thinker. As a minor critique, one could argue, that the last chapter could have benefited more from a further elaborated division between body and art.

It indeed includes a comprehensive explanation of how one should interpret the Nancian understanding of the body, nevertheless, embodiment for Nancy might just as well be the figure that gives his ontology its weight. In this sense, it would have been interesting to learn about his understanding of the body without it being crammed together with another theme. A lot of credit should be given especially for the first chapter. The reader gets a cross-section of how Nancy, in his various studies, displaces traditional concepts like sense, world, relation and finitude in order to describe the way in which we are to this world.

Nancy announced such a project already in the mid s, but we had to wait until and for the publication of corresponding philosophical treatises. This should not to be considered a mistake. The third and fourth chapters describe the themes Nancy is probably best known for: community and politics. His political thinking does not limit itself to a rethinking of community.

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The political would be the tracing of singularities, of their communication and of their ekstasis : a community consciously undergoing the experience of its sharing. And yet on the other hand, the experience of finite co-existence as sharing, as incompletion, and as an undetermined ekstasis or opening of singular plural existence onto and as singular plural existence is political through and through. Jean-Luc Nancy wrote an afterword to this book where he explicitly affirms once again the disjunction between ontology and politics and the imperative that one should not seek to ground the latter in the former.

And yet in many ways they also exacerbate the challenge of a thinking which seems to both simultaneously demand and forbid a politics which would respond to a quasi-ontology of shared finite existence that emerges in the wake of the deconstruction of philosophical and metaphysical foundations. A Laruellian non-philosophical approach allows the thinking of the political, and of political community, to step outside of the logic of the production of an absolute or totalised identity that still philosophical immanentist community articulates.

In many ways Laruellian non-philosophy has striking similarities with Nancean thought whilst at the same time sharply differentiating itself from it.

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For, Laruelle, the term immanence does not describe the indwelling of the human with the human, that is to say the self-identity of human essence in a communal fusion. The One of the real, for Laruelle, is immanent to the differentiation of all that exists, and therefore to all phenomena and instances of world or of lived life. It is that dimension which, like the Lacanian Real, is beneath or which indwells within the realm of phenomenal appearance and within all that is accessible via the transcendence of consciousness and world. At the same time the One of the real is One because it is absolutely autonomous, undivided, and indeed indivisible, and therefore in and of itself entirely indifferent and resistant to conceptual transcendence, to any possibility of its reflection into conceptual determination or representation.

Jean-Luc Nancy

In Kantian terms the One could be aligned with the noumenal realm in the sense that it is inaccessible to both experience and pure understanding. Put in quasi-Hegelian terms, the One of the real, in its autonomy and indivisibility, resists, absolutely and without remainder, the labour, work or operativity of the concept; it resists all negation, splitting or scission by the dialectical operations of conceptual determination, and does so in such a way that immanence remains radically undetermined by all human categorization and cognition.

The One of the real, then, is absolutely unknowable and philosophy, the operation of conceptual division and determination par excellence , cannot ever grasp the real nor touch upon it, nor affect it in any way. The essence of his argument though is that philosophies of difference, insofar as they variably affirm, articulate or otherwise deconstruct being in terms of difference, of alterity, or of excess, nevertheless continue to conceptually determine being as difference, alterity or excess.

They continue the work of philosophy insofar as they differentiate between the immanence of the real and the transcendence of concepts and produce an image or concept of being and existence as Other. So, for Laruelle, the language of being singular plural that one finds in Nancy, the practice of philosophy thinking at it limits and of affirming singular plural existence as an excess over those limits, is simply more philosophy.

That language of excess, alterity and otherness cannot help but conceptually determine the real just like any other form of philosophy.

Jean-Luc Nancy. The Temple and the Sacred Today. 2010.

The foremost amongst these axioms is that the real is One, indivisible, autonomous, undetermined and indeterminable by the conceptual splitting and transcendence of philosophy. As important is the axiom that the real is the unilateral and immanent cause of all thought and concepts, of all phenomena, and all instances of worldly transcendence. This logic of unilateral causation is decisive.


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For the real is the immanent cause or determination of all thought and of all that is. Laruelle will say, following Marx, that the real is the determination-in-the-last-instance of all thought and all that is or can be, but that it is never determined in return by thought. It remains untouched by the transcendence of thought and therefore remains radically undetermined and indeterminate. The key point is that Laruelle treats all philosophies equally insofar as they all equally have no purchase on the real and are all just as equally determined-in-the-last-instance by the real.

They are, if you like, all parts of the real without in any way being able to image, conceive or reflect the totality of the real into their own philosophical formulations. It is from within this perspective that Laruellian non-philosophical practice uses, adopts or takes up different philosophies as materials.

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A particular philosophy or philosophical framework is subjected by non-philosophical practice to a logic of unilateralization; it is unilataralized insofar as it is viewed as being determined or caused by the immanent real but in no way able to determine, divide or affect the real in return. In the context of the problem of the relation of ontology to politics that has been sketched out above, Laruellian non-philosophy offers a solution of startling simplicity and force.


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Taking up the Nancean thinking of community as the experience of finite co-existence and then treating that experience according to the axioms of non-philosophical practice allows the whole problem of effectuation, putting to work, operativity and immanentist totalisation to be viewed in entirely different terms. Remember that Nancy explicitly forbids any recourse to the thinking of unworked community or the ontology of shared finite existence as a foundation for a political project or practice.

Yet if we substitute the Nancean language of being-with as excess for the Laruellian language of the radical immanence of the real and if, in so doing, we uni-lateralize the Nancean experience of ontological community then, in an important and decisive manner, everything changes. The immanence of the real thought theoretically and non-philosophically and also experienced according to Laruellian axioms can never be put to work or rendered operative in any labour of the concept or project of thought.

The possibility opened up here is that of thinking an immanently real community that is experienced immanently, prior to any philosophical logic of existence, of being or ontological excess, as the unilateral but radically undetermined and indeterminate cause of inoperative community as it is thought still philosophically by Nancy.

Before or anterior to its opening as co-existence and, as Nancy would say, the trans-immanence of a shared sense of the world, community must have its immanent cause in the undetermined and indeterminate real lived as such prior to all philosophy.

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It is in the name of this albeit rather strange experience of the undetermined and indeterminate lived real of community that some kind of truly global politics of community may come to articulate itself. Radical immanence in Laruelle is not the closed immanence of an effectuated identity and essence as it is in Nancy. Rather it is an open immanence. This is an immanence which must be understood axiomatically in the Laruellian manner as the real cause-in-the-last-instance of any and all opening or coming to presence of a finite shared world or worlds.

It is an immanence which will never and can never be closed off by the determinations of philosophy, thought or representation. It will always be in an autonomous identity with itself and forever foreign to the identity of philosophical concepts or the positioned and positionable identities in the world as we can know it.

A determined and determinate politics that acts in the name of the lived real of community understood according to Laruellian axioms does not and cannot put that real to work because such a community will remain irrevocably undetermined and indeterminate, but no less an immanent real and real cause of all that lives and comes to be in our shared world.

One might wonder at this stage why it has been necessary to travel through so much philosophical and non-philosophical thinking to get to such a bare and minimal affirmation of a politics as that which is carried out in the name of the non-philosophically lived immanent real of community understood philosophically as finite co-existence. If politics has always in one way or another been haunted by the possibility of its foundation in mythical, theological or philosophical forms then the task of separating it from such illusory foundations will be no easy thing.

In short, and on this Nancy and Laruelle agree, politics, and so many other practices, need to cure themselves of the philosophical desire for an image, reflection or philosophical concept of the real with which they would legitimate themselves as practices. If we think and act politically in the name of open community, understood as the lived immanent real and real cause-in-the-last-instance of inoperative community and finite co-existence, then we act in the name of a real, which undetermined, indeterminate and undivided by the identity of philosophical concepts, is the real cause of everything that presents itself in our shared world, of all human, and non-human being, of all that exists both locally and globally.

Naming something from the perspective of its immanent real axiomatically understood as indivisible One, and according to the non-philosophical logic of the determination-in-the-last-instance by the real, means that the real as so named does not become a philosophical foundation or conceptual work, nor still a project.

Reticulations : Jean-Luc Nancy and the networks of the political Reticulations : Jean-Luc Nancy and the networks of the political
Reticulations : Jean-Luc Nancy and the networks of the political Reticulations : Jean-Luc Nancy and the networks of the political
Reticulations : Jean-Luc Nancy and the networks of the political Reticulations : Jean-Luc Nancy and the networks of the political
Reticulations : Jean-Luc Nancy and the networks of the political Reticulations : Jean-Luc Nancy and the networks of the political
Reticulations : Jean-Luc Nancy and the networks of the political Reticulations : Jean-Luc Nancy and the networks of the political
Reticulations : Jean-Luc Nancy and the networks of the political Reticulations : Jean-Luc Nancy and the networks of the political
Reticulations : Jean-Luc Nancy and the networks of the political Reticulations : Jean-Luc Nancy and the networks of the political
Reticulations : Jean-Luc Nancy and the networks of the political Reticulations : Jean-Luc Nancy and the networks of the political
Reticulations : Jean-Luc Nancy and the networks of the political Reticulations : Jean-Luc Nancy and the networks of the political

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