ANTI-OEDIPE ET AUTRES RÉFLEXIONS - MAI/JUIN 1980 - DERNIERS COURS À VINCENNES (4 HEURES)
SPINOZA - DÉC.1980/MARS.1981 - COURS 1 À 13 - (30 HEURES)
LA PEINTURE ET LA QUESTION DES CONCEPTS - MARS À JUIN 1981 - COURS 14 À 21 - (18 HEURES)
CINEMA / IMAGE-MOUVEMENT - NOV.1981/JUIN 1982 - COURS 1 À 21 - (41 HEURES)
CINEMA : UNE CLASSIFICATION DES SIGNES ET DU TEMPS NOV.1982/JUIN.1983 - COURS 22 À 44 - (56 HEURES)
CINEMA / VÉRITÉ ET TEMPS - LA PUISSANCE DU FAUX NOV.1983/JUIN.1984 - COURS 45 À 66 - (55 HEURES)
CINEMA / PENSÉE - OCTOBRE 1984/JUIN 1985 - COURS 67 À 89 (64 HEURES)
- CINEMA / PENSÉE + COURS 90 À 92
- FOUCAULT - LES FORMATIONS HISTORIQUES - OCTOBRE 1985 / DÉCEMBRE 1985 COURS 1 À 8
- FOUCAULT - LE POUVOIR - JANVIER 1986 / JUIN 1986 - COURS 9 À 25
2- English - 03/06/1980 - 1 et 2
Gilles Deleuze Anti-Œdipus and other reflections. Class of the 03/06/80. Last session at Vincennes. traduction : C. Gien Duthey
The fact that you are numerous, very numerous, while the last time, it’s curious, you weren’t, and all that is... Then I remind you it’s our last session.
For those who... for work reasons would have to see me, I leave for ten days but I’ll be there and I’ll come back here to see those who need it, from the... around the 20th of June. Well, here it is, you understand, it was like that. The last time, we started on some sorts of very vague conclusions, since it was not only conclusions regarding this year but covering some kind of work - it’s a good thing to end here, whereas we don’t quite know where we will be next year. Well, some conclusions of, or some lines of research about the work we have been doing here for several years. I’ve started on some things, on “what is it ?”, I’ve taken up things on : “what it is ? - I’ve tried to define as a line of flight. “What are lines of flight ?” How does one live on lines of flight ? What does it mean exactly and most of all, how the line of flight or the lines of flight might turn out and run a risk of their own. I was saying basically for those who weren’t there, I was saying, well yes, the problem of an analysis, it may not be at all to do a psycho-analysis but to do for example, one can conceive something else, a geo-analysis.
And a geo-analysis, it’s precisely, it comes from the following idea, it is that people, whether individuals or groups, they are made up of lines. It’s an analysis of lineaments, to draw the lines of someone, to the letter, to do the map of someone. So then, the very question “does that mean something or not ?” looses all meaning. A line, it doesn’t mean anything. Merely do the map, with the sorts of lines of someone or of some group, or of an individual, that is to say, what are all these lines which blend ? Indeed... It seems to me, we could conceive people as hands. Each of us it is like a hand or several hands. We’ve got lines, but these lines do not tell the future since they don’t pre-exist, but there are lines, well, of all kinds of nature, and among others, there are lines we can call lines of border, of slope or of flight.
And in a certain way, to live it’s to live on, in any case it’s also live on lines of flight. It was what I’ve tried to explain, but each type of line has their dangers. It is because of that, it is why it’s good, it is why it’s very good, one can never tell -“it’s where I’m going to pull through” ; the salvation or the despair always comes from another line that the one we expected. One is always taken by surprise.
2// I was saying the proper danger of the line of flight, it’s that it brushes by some such strange things that in a certain way, it’s the one we have to mistrust most. It’s the one we trace that we have to mistrust most because it is where we brush by the bigger dangers. That is to say, the lines of flight always have a potentiality, a sort of potency, of possibility of turning out into lines of destruction, into lines of despair and destruction. Although I’ve tried to explain last time that for me, in any case, they were lines of life, it was before all, there, and on these “tips”, on these “tips” of flight, it was there that life made itself and created itself. And yet at the same time, it’s here that the line of flight risks turning out into lines of death, into lines of destruction, and all that. And the last time, I was becoming very moralistic, but it has no downside for me since I was talking about dignity, of what is disgraceful in the worshipping of death. What is this worshipping of death that all of a sudden, diverts a line of flight, gets it stuck in the sand, gets it entangled ?. Or a line of flight -imagine it even graphically- which suddenly turns and dashes at a sort of -there is no better word than- a black hole. All of this happens.
Today, as I don’t want to overly repeat myself, I would like to take perhaps, a related problem but in an entirely different background. And this problem, I insist, I felt like talking about it for a long time, but it never happened, so I take it up again now as a... It’s a point I’m interested in, and I would like that it seems to take off and that you ask yourself, but what is the link with ? With what I just summed up ; and then the link, we may see it little-by-little, so. Let’s forget it all. And there, I almost do, a summary of something not on my behalf. I’d like it to be like an exercise before you, where I would venture to build a problem with precisely authors who bring me things, proper materials to this problem. There you are. I say, first point, I number again because... Oh my god, here it is, yes -they hand it out... on the table, this morning... Here it is... Here it is. It’s not me...
Here is what I call abjection, this is abjection. Remember, even if you may not recollect this, remember the words of Unamuno which I find so beautiful, when Unamuno, Generals of Franco entering and shouting “Long live Death” ; Unamuno answers “I have never heard such a stupid and disgusting cry”. So I don’t know whether the guys who write, who do that kind of whatnots, actually think they are funny or witty, I say but it’s disgusting, it’s filthy, it’s worst than immoral, it’s filthy, it’s crap, here it is... It’s disgusting, it’s disgusting. What to do with it ?
3// What they use, it’s really filthy. Ah, it’s not from me I hope... They quote “R”, they quote Nietzsche... Nietzsche, it’s really becoming something weird... Well, let’s talk about something more cheerful... precisely... but it is going to be the same, it is going to be the same. Here it is, there is an author that many of you know very well and who has written a little text which responds to the entirety of his thought, I guess, and which in the same time, this text touches me particularly, even before I ask why it touches me. It’s Maurice Blanchot. Maurice Blanchot, in one of his books named The Share of Fire, writes this.
It is a text about Kafka. And here it goes about Kafka. Listen carefully, it is where I just want to start from : “It is not enough for me to do write, it is not enough for me to do write -I- am miserable”. “It is not enough for me to do write I am miserable”, “as long as I write nothing else than I am miserable, as long as I write nothing else, I am too close to me, too close to my misery, so that this misery really becomes mine”.
I would just like you to let go, to not search ; just remember the tonalities of the sentence. Curious : as long as I say “I am miserable”, “I am too close to me, too close to my misery” -too close to my misery ; one expects him to say, so that this very misery isn’t a bit exterior. He says the opposite. “As long as I say -I- ; I am too close to me, too close to my misery so that this misery really becomes mine”. Beautiful sentence huh ! “Really becomes mine”, he adds “on the mode of language, I’m not yet really miserable”. “It’s only when I come to this strange substitution : -he- is miserable, that the language begins to build up as a miserable language for me, begins to come out, to slowly project the world of misery such as it happens in it”. It’s only when I say -he- is miserable that this misery becomes mine on the mode of language, that is to say, that the world to which belongs this misery starts to build up. Then maybe in this phrase, we haven’t understood yet this “he is miserable”. We take it this way, we trust Blanchot. “Then perhaps, when I say he is miserable, then perhaps, I will feel involved.”
You see, he doesn’t say at all “you must not say -I, you have to take care of the others”. You have to say it’s only ‘-he- says’, only when I say, ‘-he- is miserable’ that this misery becomes actually mine on a certain mode. Then perhaps, I will feel involved and my pain will be felt on this world from which it is absent. This, it is worse, I take it off, huh ? “Then I will feel involved”, right.
4// And in what does that concern Kafka ? Well, he says : these are Kafka’s narratives. Kafka expresses himself in his narratives by this incommensurable distance, this distance which separates the -I from the -he. He expresses himself in this narrative by this incommensurable distance and by the impossibility he is in to recognise himself. In other words, he has reached the point where he is deprived, Blanchot will say in another text, the idiom here is very beautiful, “where he is deprived of the power of saying -I”. Reach the point where I am deprived of the power of saying -I. Well, then, we’ve done just a little progress, it would be that the -he. The -he, it’s the point where I am deprived of the power of saying -I.
What is this deprivation ? In what... ? So you should immediately understand how it is linked up with my last topic. It follows on straight ahead. It is that this -he, if I define it as the point where I am deprived of the power of saying -I, it’s precisely the line of flight. In other words, the -he is the expression, the expressing of the line of flight.
Well, but on what conditions ; how ? I reach the point where I am deprived of the power of saying -I, at the point, and this point is such that -then we can put things together, since we are in search of a problem. We can put things together. What does it show, what is defining this point ? It’s not the fact of saying -I, or not. I can go on saying -I ; it matters not. It is even stupid to believe that things pass so much through explicit language. One of the most beautiful sentences I find, I prefer in Beckett, it’s a text, a character of Beckett who says : “Oh, but I’ll tell it if they insist !”. “If -they insist, if they insist, but oh I can very well tell it as anybody else, it’s only I put nothing under it.” Not the question of saying -I or not saying -I... In a way, we are all like Galileo, we all say “the sun is rising” though we very well know that it is not the sun that is rising and that it is the earth that is turning. It doesn’t prevent me from saying -I, because it’s a convenient indicator, it’s an index. It’s a linguistic index, all right.
In the genius of nations, a problem that also touches upon us from time to time and that I never manage to work on ; how is it that thinkers of, that there is a certain, here also, geography of the thought, without our confusing, for example in Philosophy and even elsewhere, English Philosophy, German Philosophy, French Philosophy and that I believe that these rough categories are quite well-grounded. There really are concepts that are signed ‘German’, this is quite good, they may be the most beautiful, there are concepts which are signed ‘French’ - yes alas rather few, it isn’t our fault, there are concepts that are signed ‘English’ ; this is all very curious.
5// Now me, to my knowledge, I’ve never seen an Englishman take seriously the self, the problem of the self, at no level. This is curious ! All the great texts of the English, there are some marvellous, they are all turning around the following idea, that’s why there is a kind of boundary of unintelligibility, of non-communication between for example a Cartesian and an Englishman. A Cartesian it’s a little French flower, it can only be seen in France, Cartesians, but what a pack of them we have ! Well, but roughly speaking you all know it, Descartes it is a certain philosophy based on the self and on the formula which we may find again later, if I’ve got time, on the magic formula, “I think”, “I think therefore I am” ; well, why does an Englishman... The Germans have taken up the “I think therefore I am”, why ? Because they raised the self to a superior power still, they made it what they themselves called “the transcendental ego, e-g-o”, “the transcendental self”. Well, this is good. This is so a German concept, “the transcendental self”.
The English, it’s quite good, you understand, under the explicit discussions, there are so much more beautiful things, it makes them laugh. It makes them laugh. Each time the French or the German philosophers talk about the “self”, the “subject”, English philosophers find it to be so very funny, so weird ! They think that this is a truly funny way of thinking. They all turn around a very curious idea ; you know what it is the “self”, they keep saying, but yes the “self”, it certainly means something, it is a habit. To the letter one expects it to go on. I say -me (the self) because of certain phenomena, according to a belief it is due to go on ; that is all they put on... There are the beatings of a heart, there is someone who expects it to go on and says -me (the self, I) ; it’s a habit. It is very beautiful their theory of “the self” as a habit, if we link it to a kind of lived experience. Why don’t they live like us ? This, it requires an analysis of civilizations. Why don’t their thinkers live in any case the concept of “self” ? Well, you see, I’m turning around...
I come back to Blanchot. If I try to sum up his thesis, it appears to me to be a very very curious thesis. It would even be interesting to try to summarize it because it may have not been well drawn until now ; one always says that to hearten and continue any work. It may have not been well drawn and if it is well drawn, we would then face a problem. That is to say that Blanchot throws a kind of dynamite in all sorts of problems, without telling it or even maybe without knowing it at the time.
What do I mean ? If I sum up Blanchot’s thesis, it seems to me it amounts to say : there is or at least we can, from a certain point of view, I insist on from a certain point of view, on certain conditions -draw a kind of tension of the language, and that
6// tension of the language or in any case in virtue of this virtual tension, -it doesn’t exist ready-made, you have to trace it by yourself, one can organize the whole language. And this would be a style. One can organize the whole language depending on a tension, a certain well determined tension. Tension which would make us pass from the personal pronouns ‘I’, ‘you’, to the third person ‘he’. The ‘he’ overtaking the ‘I’ and ‘you’.
And the tension doesn’t stop there. And in the same motion, which would make us pass from the ‘he’, third person, personal pronoun, still said ‘personal’ pronoun of the third person ; which would make us pass from the ‘he’, pronoun of the third person, to another ‘he’, much more mysterious and secret. Why ? Because this other ‘he’ doesn’t designate anymore a person, said third. Do consider, the tension that we would put in the language, would have two main moments : overtake the personal pronoun of the first and the second person toward the ‘he’ of the third person, and at the same time, overtake the ‘he’ of the third person toward a unusual form, namely toward a ‘he’ which is no more of any person.
Here the problem starts to come to existence ; what would it be this ‘he’ ? What would it be this ‘he’ which is no more of the third person ? It would be the ‘he’ of Kafka, the ‘he’ Blanchot has tried to find again. Well, for the time being, let’s proceed slowly...
So I could say this is a real tensor, this double overtaking, it is what I called another year ‘a tensor of the language’. That is to say, we would stretch, the whole language and the narrative in the language is able to, toward -we would stretch it in accordance and depending on this motion of the first and second person to the ‘he’ of the third person and at the same time from the ‘he’ of the third person to the ‘he’ which is of no person anymore.
Well, on the conditions of adding what ? That at the level of this ‘he’, we still have to define - what is it this ‘he’ of the third, which is of no person anymore ? I say, far from being a ‘he’ of the anonymous, it would be on the contrary a ‘he’ of the purest singularity. It would be a ‘he’ of the pure singularity. That is, of the singularity detached from all person.
In another words, it would be at this level of the ‘he’, which designates no person no more, that the singularity would be marked, that the proper name would be marked... Look ! I say the proper name. How come ?
So there, I can sum up, even before my problem is elaborated. I can try to give you a hunch through a sort of shortcut. I only ask : try to conceive a position. The following position. Someone tells me : regarding the problem of the proper names, it is obvious that the proper name derives from the first and the second
7// persons. It means, it may mean something. It means : the first acceptation of the proper name would consist in this. The proper name applies to someone who says ‘I’, or to someone to whom I say ‘you’. There are derived proper names afterwards, for example : proper names of countries, proper names of animal species, as when the naturalists write in block letters to designate animal species. There are proper names of species, or proper names of cities, locations etc ; that would derive from the first acceptation of the proper name, which refers to ‘I’ and ‘you’. This thesis concerning the proper names is truly simple. It consists in deriving the proper names from the forms ‘I’ and ‘you’. You understand ? It’s a possible thesis, it’s a possible thesis.
On this, I can even invent it by myself and wonder afterwards if there are some authors who have upheld it. In this case, I’m not thinking of someone in particular, but there are many, sometimes it is even implicit for them... On the other hand, I think, it’s almost an example, it is that, it is the way I would like you to work, and not at all because I think I am an example. I say that only for the ones to whom this method is convenient. As soon as I’ve said that, I’ve got a vague recollection. So then what I’ve just said it isn’t at all erudite. There are people who derive the proper names from ‘I’ and ‘you’.
But, once I’ve said that, which implies no special knowledge, there is a memory coming to me, which does come from a knowledge, at random, as we all have. I suddenly tell myself, there is a curious text, of an author, I don’t know why, isn’t read anymore, but it‘s all the more reason, I point him to you, give him a try, because he is a very curious author and he has got a funny life history. He is a psychiatrist ; he was the son of an abominable historian of philosophy of the 19th century and he died not a long time ago. I believe he died during the war or just after... He was called Pierre Janet. Well, at a time, he was very very well-known. He was more or less contemporary to Freud, his career is quite parallel to Freud’s. And neither of them understood the other. It’s very curious, there were endeavours to get them in touch but they didn’t get along. Their starting points were the same, it was hysteria ; Janet initiated a very very important conception of hysteria and he did a quite curious psychology which he proposed to name “Psychology of the Conduct”, even before Americans propounded the “Behaviour Psychology”. And it seems to me a very interesting psychology.
Roughly the method was : a psychological determination given, look for the type of conduct it represents. And it was very fruitful, because it gave things like this... I won’t proceed very further to make you want to search for Janet’s stuffs. It was very interesting ; he said : memory. It is almost a very good academic method
8// this “Psychology of the Conduct”. The memory, he said. Well it bears no interest, it doesn’t mean anything to me. I ask myself : what is the type of conduct one can hold when one remembers ? And his answer was : the narration.
Hence, the famous definition of Janet : the memory is a conduct of narration. The emotion, he said, the emotion ; one can’t feel if one can’t set down... You see, he used the conduct as a system of coordinates for all things. Everything was conduct. Therefore it was very different from the American notion of behaviour. But there was confrontation. Emotion he said, if one doesn’t say to what type, to what type of conduct it refers to and he said... So I interrupt Janet because me, I’ve got a childhood memory which has impressed me forever. We all have childhood memories like this.
It was during the holydays, my father used to give me Mathematics lessons. I was panic-stricken and it was all settled. That is to say, up to a point, I suspect we both did it already resigned. Since we knew what was going to happen. In any case, I knew, I knew what was going to happen beforehand, because it was all settled, regular as clockwork. My father for that matter knew not much of Mathematics but he thought he had, above all, a natural gift for enunciating clearly. So he started, he held the pedagogical conduct, the pedagogical conduct. I was doing it willingly because it was no kidding subject at all ; I held the taught conduct, the taught conduct. I showed every signs of interest, of maximal understanding, but all very soberly because it was no matter of..., and very fast there came a derailment. This derailment consisted in this : five minutes later, my father was yelling, set to beat me and I found myself in tears, I have to say, I was really small, and weeping. What was it ? It is clear, there were two emotions. My deep grief, his deep anger. What did they respond to ? Two failures. He has failed in his pedagogical conduct, he didn’t manage to explain at all. Of course he didn’t, he wanted to explain it to me with algebra, as he always said, because it was simpler and clearer this way. Then if I protested... and there it derailed. I protested arguing the teacher would never let me do algebra because when a six-year-old is given a problem, he hasn’t got the right, he is not supposed to do algebra. So the other was maintaining that it was the only clear way. Well, therefore, we both got into a tizzy. Misfire in the pedagogical conduct : anger ; misfire in the taught conduct : tears.
All right. It was a failure. Janet said : emotion, it’s very simple, it’s a failure of conduct. You are upset when there is, when you hold a conduct and this conduct fails ; then there is emotion. And then, one of the best books of Janet, he wrote loads of books,
9// sometimes, not good, but one of his finest books, one of his most curious books, it seems to me, the most peculiar of Janet is a big book, which is made from lessons he taught, and which is called From Anxiety to Ecstasy. It’s a nice title, if you ever see this book, if you have some time one day in a library, page through From Anxiety to Ecstasy, which always seems to me a very fine book.
I remember, I think it’s precisely in From Anxiety to Ecstasy that one finds a very curious remark of Janet. He says : “Do you know what the first person is ?” There again, you can see why I’ve just told you this, he is willing to show that the first person is a certain conduct, a certain conduct. He says, well yes, here it is and here is the example he gives. He says : “If there was no first person, if one couldn’t say ‘I’, what would one be compelled to say ?” For example, an example from Janet, you are a soldier and you ask for a leave to your officer. Janet thinks hard and says, I’m not sure he is right for that matter, one would have to ponder, but it’s quite good what he says, so let’s pretend he is actually right. He says, “if there was no first person, the soldier would be compelled to say : ‘Soldier Durant asks for a leave for soldier Durant’. That is to say, he would be forced to redouble the proper name. This is very very smart, I don’t know if you can feel it, this is very very very shrewd, very, it’s a beautiful idea. One tells oneself, even if one doesn’t quite understand, one tells oneself “there is something in there”.
If I ask for a leave for my friend, I say : “Soldier Durant asks for a leave for soldier Dupont” ; the officer answers : “Is it any business of yours ?”. If I ask for a leave for myself, and if I have no sign ‘I’... [interrupted]... [...] or the personal pronoun, since it can extent to ‘you’, the same reasoning, the personal pronoun, it’s the economy, it would be a fine definition, it’s the economy of the reduplication of the proper name. It’s good. The soldier Durant can say indeed “I ask for a leave”, it avoids him saying : ‘Soldier Durant asks for a leave for soldier Durant’. Why do I tell you this ? Because, I hope you are attuned to it, it is just the contrary of the thesis I just alluded to. The thesis I alluded to was one that seemed all simple : the proper name is derived from the personal pronoun, first and second persons.
Things are so complicated when one builds a problem. We have to see at least the possibility of the opposite way. The possibility that after all, it’s just the opposite. The possibility that after all, it is the personal pronouns of the first and second persons that come from the proper name. Do you understand what we’ve put ourselves into then ? For if it’s true according to Janet’s hypothesis, that the proper name comes from the first and second persons, what does the proper name designate, what does the proper name refer to ?
10// Therefore at this level, we meet the same problem again. What I want to say - before I make my synthesis which is going to give us the problem around which we are turning, before I make my synthesis, I expound another case, which is relatively important in linguistics. Here goes, I try to define for my benefit, what one could call a ‘personalism’ or a ‘personology’ in linguistics. Once said that, in my view, there is a great modern linguist who has made a real ‘personology’. It’s Benveniste ; it’s Benveniste. And in fact Benveniste attaches a special importance to the personal pronouns in language and even states that it is common to all languages ; he attaches a special importance to the personal pronouns of the first and the second persons. So that -I don’t believe I strain his thought, on certain conditions I will specify later, Benveniste proposes a way of derivation which would be as follows : First, ‘I’ and ‘you’, personal pronouns of the first and the second person. Secondly, ‘he’ - no, no, I am mistaken, you cross out.
Benveniste proposes : First : extraction. Extract, from the ‘I’ and the ‘you’, personal pronouns of the first and the second persons, an irreducible form, a linguistic form irreducible to all others. Secondly : from this irreducible form would follow ‘I’ and ‘you’, usually used, as they are usually used. Thirdly : from it would follow the form of the third person, the ‘he’.
Why do I propose this too abstract scheme ? I propose it to indicate we’re facing two schemes. I suppose, the one of Blanchot, the one of Benveniste which are opposed point-to-point. It is opposed point-to-point in this sense. Blanchot starts from the ‘I’ and the ‘you’, overtakes them toward ‘he’, overtakes the ‘he’ toward an irreducible ‘he’. Benveniste starts from the personal pronouns in general, detaches from them ‘I’ and ‘you’ and finally detaches from the ‘I’ an irreducible form.
In other words, in one case, Blanchot’s case, there is what I would call the language, a processing of the language which is subjected to a tension, I would almost say, to use a term of physics, a superficial tension, a surface tension. A superficial tension which carries it away to its periphery and which tends toward this mysterious ‘he’, this ‘he’ that is of no person anymore.
11// This is a superficial and peripheral tension which carries away the whole language, the whole language toward this ‘he’ that doesn’t refer to any person anymore.
For Benveniste, it’s just the opposite. There is a centring and a deep concentration that carries away the whole language toward the personal pronouns, and the extraction of a ‘I’ even deeper than the other personal pronouns. Here, it’s a kind of internal concentration, of inner centring.
[X : It’s even the difference he makes...(inaudible parts)... term or even of the type of the language, these two elements...industry of speech.]
That’s right. Completely. As it leads him to call the language/speech distinction into question. Completely. That’s absolutely correct. And this is why Benveniste needs what he calls the ‘discourse’. The discourse being precisely a category which goes beyond the duality, the language/speech duality of Saussure.
Then, it’s from this I would like to start again. And start as from scratch so that you understand what it is all about, because our problem is going to be exactly this one. We don’t choose, we don’t choose now, we try to cope with, with these two possible movements. We’ve just drawn two virtual movements ; they don’t exist ready-made. It would really be like two uses of the language. One use which concentrates, which tends to this deepening of the personal pronoun and one which -at the contrary, is always external to itself, which goes beyond the personal pronouns toward an impersonal ; toward a ‘he’ that is of no person anymore.
Well, there’s no point in saying one is right and the other is wrong ; what does it matter ? One has to understand what they mean, one has to seek what is convenient to oneself ; what is convenient in what way ? Something has to be convenient, but it depends a lot on what each of us understands by ‘I’, when he says ‘I’, ‘me’.
Then well, I pretend to start again from scratch and I say : well, what does ‘I’ mean linguistically ? What is it this ‘I’ ? There you know that linguists in general, have always said, have often very well demonstrated that it is all the same a very very bizarre linguistic sign, a very peculiar sign indeed. And that furthermore, there are some linguistic signs which are in this case. There may be one which is deeper than the others. He quotes in this case, as being very peculiar, the personal pronouns of the first and the second persons, ‘I’ and ‘you’ ; he also quotes the proper noun, he quotes again coordinates as ‘here’ and ‘now’. Maybe also ‘this’ and ‘that’. And finally he quotes the proper names.
12// It makes a category which seems very very very composite. Personal pronouns of the first and second persons, proper names, adverbs as ‘here’ and ‘now’, demonstrative pronouns as ‘this’ and ‘that’.
Well, what do all these notions have in common ? Or, it amounts to the same, let’s try to analyze the sign ‘I’. You know that for these notions, the linguists have coined an interesting category, from the English word ‘shifter’ that Jakobson proposed to translate by ‘embrayeur’ in French. They say they are very peculiar linguistic signs because they are shifters. What is a shifter ? We can try to define it about ‘I’ or about ‘here’ and ‘now’.
When I say ‘I’, what has a linguistic sign got generally ? It has a double link, it has a link with something it designates, a state of thing it designates ; that’s what is called a designation link and then it has a link with a signified. It is the signification link. If I say ‘man’, here is a common and simple linguistic sign ; it is not a shifter. When I say ‘man’, I can assign the designation link. I can say that ‘man’ designates this one or this other one. And I can assign the signification link too. It is : reasonable animal. ‘Man’ means ‘reasonable animal’. I would say that ‘reasonable animal’ is the signified of ‘man’.
Well, you see that any linguistic sign seems to always have a designated and a signified, in different connections, it all depends : the concrete word and the abstract word they have not... It may be that the abstract word is the one which has before all a signified, for example ‘justice’. The concrete word ‘dog’ may have before all a designated, I don’t know, but finally, even if it varies, words seem to have this double link, this double reference. Now when I say ‘I’, what is disconcerting ? What is the designated ? There is none. Can you feel it ? There is none. It seems to ; you would say it’s ‘me’. What is ‘me’ ? There is no designated when you say ‘I’. I do not designate myself. Why is that ? Because, on principle, in the designation link, there is no self-designation. The ‘I’ is already a quite odd sign, it’s Benveniste’s expression when he says it is ‘sui-referential’, that is to say, it refers to itself, it doesn’t refer to a state of thing.
In other words, whereas the other signs well seem to have a designated, which defines itself by its independent existence from the sign, the ‘I’ has no designated that possesses an independent existence from the sign. On the other hand, does the ‘I’ have a signification ? The answer is no. To the letter, the ‘I’ doesn’t mean anything. The ‘I’ doesn’t mean anything in what way ? I had said it concerning something else. There is a very good expression of Russel. When Russels says, huh well, when I say ‘dog’, the word
13// ‘dog’ is a common linguistic sign, it has for meaning something I can secondarily designate by the name the ‘caninety’. Since the ‘I’, what is in common between all those who say ‘I’ ? One could as well say, the ‘I’ weirdly isn’t at all a collective concept. It is only a distributive concept. Notice that it is the same for ‘here’ and ‘now’ and it becomes more complicated. What are they then, these kinds of concept, which are only distributive ? In other words the ‘I’ refers to the one who tells it. It’s a weird state for a linguistic sign. A sign which designates only the one who utters it and which has no collective meaning, which has only a distributive meaning as it is effected by the one who talks, by the one who tells it. Here it is. The one who says ‘I’ is ‘I’. We can do the same for ‘here’, for what a ‘I’ designates as ‘here’. ‘Here’ is a purely distributive concept. If I say ‘here’, the neighbour says ‘here’ as well. And yet between the two ‘here’, there’s strictly nothing in common. Well then, this is weird. Here are concepts, I can say as well that they are concepts, but there the difference would be important, they are concepts which may have a meaning but it is fundamentally an implicit meaning. It is an enfolded meaning. That is to say, the meaning is given in the signifier itself. This is very rare indeed.
Here I want to make an allusion to Descartes, because it is one of the finest text of Descartes I know. It is in The Answers - You know that Descartes wrote a book, actually letters which are called The Meditations. With that, at the time people objected, there is a book called Objections ; so Descartes answered these objections in a book Objections and Answers to the Objections. Now, in these objections, there are many kinds of objections on the ‘I think’ of Descartes, when Descartes said ‘I think therefore I am’, a beautiful phrase. A lot of people retorts : ‘oh no, I think therefore I am, what is it all about ?’. And Descartes, in a momentum, I think there is only one text where Descartes really talks like a logician or a linguist could talk nowadays. He has a hunch of something, because there was a guy who had precisely objected on the question of the language. In the XVII Century, there were already linguists. And there, Descartes really answers by taking up the problem of the language. And he says, you know, when I say ‘I think therefore I am’, you don’t have to be surprised, for as weird as it sounds, I am giving a definition of man. This truly interests me because it seems to me very mysterious. Descartes launches the phrase ‘I think therefore I am’ and says to an objector ‘You don’t understand, it is not a phrase like that, it’s a genuine definition of man’. One would object : but why a definition of man ? Here Descartes becomes really good I believe, he is clever. He says so : you are used to a definition he calls Aristotelian.
14// You are used to say : man, it’s the reasonable animal. That is to say, you work by traditional concepts. You define a thing by gender and specific differences. The gender of man, it’s animal and the specific difference, it’s reasonable. One could say this is a process of definition which goes by ‘explicit meaning’. Explicit meaning, why is it so ? Because when I say ‘man is a reasonable animal’, here it is, I teach, I teach, I have a class and I tell them : “Repeat : man is a reasonable animal”. They say : “Alright, then man means ‘reasonable animal’, but one has to know what animal means and what reasonable means.” Fine, so one goes up from the definition of the gender to the definition of the difference. Very well. You can see that it is the explicit meaning. The explicit meaning is a signifier from which the signified can and have to be made explicit.
Descartes says “what you don’t understand about my thought, when I say ‘I think therefore I am’, it’s a mode of definition which proceeds in an entirely different way.” For he asserts, and he will assert it in all his works, that to understand the phrase -it’s really sharp linguistically- to understand the phrase, presumably you have to know the language. But you don’t need to know what ‘to think’ and ‘to be’ mean. The meaning is enfolded in the phrase and I can’t say ‘I think therefore I am’ without understanding, unless I only repeat it like a parrot... But if I think it, I hereby understand by the phrase, by the signs themselves, what ‘to think’ and ‘to be’ mean. In other words, ‘I think therefore I am’ contrary to ‘man is a reasonable animal’ is a phrase with an enfolded meaning, and not with an explicit meaning. You can see we are going up to little-by-little. Yet the enfolded meaning isn’t a meaning which could be developed. It is a meaning which has not to be developed, which cannot be developed because its mode of being is the enfolding. So we may not be convinced, but we just remember that. I say we’re going a little further in the analysis of what the linguists call ‘shifters’. I then would say that they are very paradoxical signs, since they are ‘sui-referential’, since they apply to whom utter them, or depend on who use them. They are strictly distributive or with an enfolded meaning, it’s the same.
As Russel said, if I come back to Russel’s sentence, the word ‘dog’ refers to a common concept, to all beings the word designates. In other words, this common concept is the ‘caninity’. The ‘I’ doesn’t refer to such a common concept. Or, as he puts it, the proper noun doesn’t refer
15// to a common concept. Several dogs, as they are named ‘dogs’, have a common concept. On the other hand, if several dogs can be named ‘Rover’, there is no such thing as a common concept we could call the ‘Roverity’. Here we cannot say better, this is the status of the ‘distributive concept’. It amounts to say that ‘Rover’ as a proper noun is solely a distributive concept. If I go on with my echoes, echoes coming from classical texts, I tell myself, let’s make a detour then, even if we mix all up for this last time, let’s pass by Hegel.
Since he is an author I seldom talk about, make the most of it. Besides, I don’t venture, I keep to the very beginning of The Phenomenology of Spirit. And at the very beginning of The Phenomenology of Spirit, it is obvious for any reader that Hegel does a conjuring trick, an entertainer’s trick, that he will brazenly call the ‘dialectic’. Since, what does he tell us ? In order to show that things are taken in a motion, an uninterrupted motion proper to the dialectic, to show that things are submitted to a sort of motion of ‘self-overtaking’. What will he do ? Has anyone ever been more cunning ? He says this : let’s start from what is surer. Imagine we’re making a kind of dialogue between dead persons, there is... Let’s say that Hegel explains it precisely to some English philosophers. You can guess by yourselves when the English are going to start laughing. Hegel with seriousness says _ I take back all I have just said about Hegel and it is obvious he is huge genius. But, all the same...
Now follow me closely. He tells us a tale which seems very fine, very convincing ; he says, here it is, there is the sensitive certainty, the entangled conscience, it’s the beginning of The Phenomenology of Spirit. The conscience enmeshed in the sensitive certainty. And the conscience says : the tangible world is the last word of everything. There, the English philosophers may say, he’s already betraying, this German, he’s already betraying, and up to a point they would say, yes maybe we, we can say that, we have said that, the sensitive certainty is first and last, it’s indeed a theme which goes through what one calls empiricism. And anyone knows that empiricism is English. Well then, it is so. Here is the conscience tangled up in the sensitive certainty. The conscience takes on the particularity, the singularity. And Hegel, splendid, analyses the singularity. He will show that it is an untenable position since one cannot take a step without precisely overtaking this stage of the sensitive certainty. And in order to show it, he says : here it is, the sensitive conscience is like torn up, this tearing is going to be the first stage of the dialectic of The Phenomenology of Spirit. The conscience is like torn up since it believes it seizes the most particular when it only seizes the abstract universal.
Why does the conscience think seizing the most particular ? The conscience thinks it takes an aim at the particular in the tangible world and it expresses it saying : ‘this, here, now’.
16// But, as Hegel puts it, -and at this moment he becomes almost cheerful, he is not usually, ‘here and now’, it’s the empty universal, as it is the all moment of space, no : of all locations of space ; and I can say ‘now’ of all moments of time. When I think I seize the most singular, I only seize the empty and abstract generality. So that you see : the sensitive conscience taken into this contradiction is evicted from the tangible world and must pass to another stage of the dialectict. But before it does, the English philosophers I talked about, have great fun. Why do they laugh ? Because Hegel, well, he seems to have lost his mind, but the dialectic must work ; he does a feat of strength since he does as if the concepts of ‘this’, ‘that’, ‘here’ and ‘now’ were common concepts. That is to say, common concepts referring to states of things and having an explicit meaning. He deals with the concepts ‘here’, ‘now’, exactly as if they were like the concept ‘dog’. So that an advocate of the sensitive certainty wouldn’t be in much trouble to say -if we had no other reasons to read the Phenomenology- to say “well I can close the book, let’s stop here, as there is no reason to go further”, as Hegel says. Hegel thinks the sensitive conscience overtakes itself because simply, he has done a conjuring trick ; namely, instead of noticing that ‘here’ and ‘now’, to the letter, were shifters, he translates them as common concepts, and there, indeed there is a contradiction. There is a contradiction between the aiming at ‘here’ and ‘now’ that pretends to the most singular, and the form ‘here-now’ translated in the purest universal. You see that in fact it isn’t that.
If one forms a special category of distributive concepts, saying the point is not that ‘here’, ‘now’ or the proper nouns and the ‘I’ are no concepts, they are very special concepts, distributive concepts. And distributive concepts absolutely cannot be lined up on the common concepts, there are concepts of a particular type. So, there are of a particular type. I’ve tried, by taking the notion of ‘embrayeur’ or shifter, I would just like it to be relatively clear, it’s very curious indeed. When I say ‘I’, well then, it only refers to the one who utters it, to me only ; the others also say ‘I’ and there is no more community from the point of view of concept. And, well, you understand...
Is that true for all forms of ‘I’ ? You are going to see why I say that, we’ve almost reach the goal, at the end of what was the most difficult in what I had to say. Is that true ? Is that true for all forms of ‘I’ ; needn’t it be detailed ? It need to be detailed for sure, because it’s only true up to a certain stage. If I say ‘I am strolling’, it’s not an ‘I’, but at the same time, isn’t there a big difference between
17// ‘I’ in certain uses and ‘I’ in other uses or ‘I’ in certain sentences and ‘I’ in other sentences ? I take two very distant examples on purpose. I’m always trying to build up my problem. I take two furthest examples but we’re going to see perhaps that all kinds of intermediate cases are problematic. I say “I’m strolling”, I can well hear it’s a sentence...
Second part Namely it’s an ‘I’ which is for a ‘he’. It’s an ‘I’ set in line on the ‘he’. How is that ? Well, I can say “I’m strolling” and not being strolling at all. Ah I’ve just said... I can say “I’m strolling”, the proof is, I stand still, I don’t stroll and I say “I’m strolling”. I can therefore say ‘I’m strolling” without doing it. It amounts to say, in this case, that the ‘I’ has a link of designation with a state of thing which is external to it, and which can then be completed or not. I would say in this case, it’s one use of the word ‘I’, alright ; the word ‘I’ is a special word, a special sign but it can have a common use.
When I say “I’m strolling”, I don’t use the ‘I’ according to the proper sense of ‘I’. I use it in a common sense, that is to say, it is worth a virtual ‘he’. I say ‘I’m strolling” exactly as a third person would say of me : “he is strolling or he is not” ; there is an alignment of ‘I’ on ‘he’. You may now understand Benveniste’s idea which consists on saying : it isn’t enough to draw, to simply draw the formal specificity of ‘I’ and ‘you’ in relation to ‘he’, something else must be done, draw the form of a special ‘I’. One has to draw from the ‘I’, an even more special ‘I’, even deeper than it, that is going to be the centre of the language/speech, that is to say at the centre of the discourse. What would it be ? I want to take the opposite case to the sentence “I’m strolling”. I’ve just seen when I say “I’m strolling”, I’ve got a certain use of the word ‘I’. I use it in a usual and common sense, I use it as a ‘he’ or as a common concept.
Let’s seek a case which is not like that. “I’m strolling”, do you remember, is a common use, since I can say “I’m strolling” without doing so. Therefore “I’m strolling” is a phrase referring to a state of external thing that can be completed or not.
18// Whilst I jump to the extreme, I say “I promise”. I say “I promise”, it’s curious, isn’t it ? It is completely different from the point of view of a good linguistic analysis ; not only Benveniste has done it, but all the English linguists have put their hearts into this case too. It’s when I say “I promise”. Alright. “I promise”. It may be a false promise. A false promise is not a promise false. I mean a false promise is not a promise false, what does it mean ? It means that when I say “I promise”, it happens to be that, willingly or not, intending to hold it or not, I’m doing something by saying it ; that is to say, I actually promise. It is enfolded in the sentence.
I would say such a sentence doesn’t refer to any external thing. Or I would say as well, its meaning is enfolded. Can you see the difference ? I would like you to grant me that difference, the fundamental difference between two sentences : the ‘I’ of “I’m strolling”and the ‘I’ of “I promise”. By saying “I promise”, I promise. By saying “I’m strolling”, I do not for all that do.
Now, if one wonders why these two different cases, the linguistic analysis perfectly accounts for it. In one case, as an English linguist puts it “I do something by saying it”. There are things I do by saying them. By saying “I promise”, I promise ; by saying “I shut the window”, I don’t. In other words, one would say, there are acts of speech ; the English linguists have in fact forged the very curious concept of ‘speech act’. The speech act. There are acts of speech that must be distinguished from actions, from actions external to language. “I promise” doesn’t refer to an action external to language. “I shut the window” refers to an action external to language. When I say “I declare the session opened”, the session is opened.
In other words, I do something by saying it. I open the session. There is no other way to open the session than to say “the session is opened”. It is a speech act. Do you see ? Well. Then, I’ve got my two furthest cases : “I’m strolling” and “I promise”. Or if I say “I salute you”, you would say there are equivalents. Yes indeed. Instead of declaring “the session is opened”, I can give three little knocks. Three little knocks are no speech act. We will name speech act all phrases which have in proper that something is done by being uttered. So “I promise” is not of the same type that “I’m strolling”. Well, I would say, is the difference between these two furthest cases so clear ?
19// I take some examples. I say “I suppose”. What does it refer to ? To someone. I say “I think”. It refers to someone too. One feels it is going to get complicated sometimes. I say “I reason”. This is becoming quite interesting because if one mixes all up... I see that unmistakably Descartes is without doubt, he was right, he is not opposed for the sake of being opposed. Descartes is someone who thinks that the phrase “I think” is of the second type : I can’t say it without doing something by saying it, that is to say, without thinking. Why is it so ? Because, among the implicit presuppositions, there is the idea that man always thinks. Therefore, in a certain way, I cannot not think.
Benveniste will deny that “I think” is a phrase of the second type. He will make it pass on the side of the first type. That is to say it’s complicated, each time an analysis of the sentence is required. But at least I had filled in, it’s where I meant to go... I had at least filled in a part of the building of my problem. Namely, what does Benveniste mean when he centres the entirety of the language, not only on the personal pronouns, first and second persons, but on something even deeper contained in the personal pronouns of the first and the second persons.
Can you see ? The answer is that a centring of the language, as Comtesse expressed it very well a moment ago, is going to allow of putting the question of the duality language/speech on behalf of what Benveniste calls the discourse. That amounts to say that ‘he’, or the entirety of the sentences said common only exist by, only exist as... only exist linguistically insomuch as one as to assign them, to refer them to this kind of matrix of discourse, namely to this ‘I’ deeper than all ‘I’. This ‘I’ deeper than all ‘I’, that is to say this ‘I’ of the type “I promise”. The ‘embrayeur’, the shifter.
You see there is not only the overtaking, I come back to the starting point, in this case, there is not only linguistically the overtaking of the ‘he’ toward the ‘I’ and the ‘you’, but an overtaking of the ‘I’ and the ‘you’ toward an even deeper ‘I’. So then, we make a new turn, since Benveniste has had I don’t know how much influence on the linguistic -Blanchot’s text seems to me to become even weirder ; though Blanchot doesn’t think about the present linguists when he writes it. What does that mean ? When he says “no, not at all” What is that ? All happens as if he were telling us “what is this personology we put in... ?” And he says, he explicitly says : all modern literature has been against this movement. All modern literature or all that counts, according to him, in modern literature.
20// All modern literature has gone the opposite way which consisted in overtaking the ‘I’ and the ‘you’ to a ‘he’ of the third person, and the ‘he’ of the third person toward an even deeper ‘he’ which is of no person anymore.
This is what Blanchot has to teach us not only in literary terms, but linguistically, since he is, to my knowledge, he is the only one who upholds this type of proposition at the linguistic level ; it is in Blanchot that one can find some elements of a critic of the theory of the shifters, of a critic of the linguistic theory of the shifters. So that is curious since... Why doesn’t Blanchot do this critic ? Why ? There is something I can’t see ! What does he mean ? It amounts to say : this scheme of Blanchot only holds -if, as Benveniste showed us there were an ‘I’ deeper than ‘I’, namely the ‘I’ of “I promise” deeper than the ‘I’ of “I’m strolling”, Blanchot would have to try the very different endeavour, in fact the opposite endeavour : show us that in the ‘he’ of the third person there is a ‘he’ deeper yet, which is of no person anymore and which concerns us all ; and which -I wouldn’t say now, is at the centre of the language, but at the edge, which is the tensor of the language, which carries out the peripheral tension of the language, all the superficial tension of the language, insomuch the language would be like flattened, would tend to its own limit.
And in fact, all the authors he talks about as having handled this mysterious ‘he’, Kafka and some others... They are authors who have in proper to perform this kind of spreading of the language, not to centre it on the shifters or some other elements, but to perform this kind of detachment and to treat the language as some sort of skin which is stretched ; superficial tension of this skin which tends to a kind of limit... They do not put centres in the language, they go through it with tensors.
So well, what would it be ? We need... And then, what would this ‘he’ be ? It’s not difficult, you should have guessed already what kind of ‘he’ it is. If you grant me -we pretend to believe in what Benveniste has said...why not ? He is certainly right from his point of view - at the level of ‘I’, there are two levels. Once again to put it simply and to not complicate matters : there are the ‘I’ of “I’m strolling” and the ‘I’ of “I promise”. There are not the same.
For us, the question is... Are there two levels of ‘he’ ? You see ; you would tell me, we don’t have to put too much symmetry, but it’s curious anyway because Benveniste does as if ‘he’ wasn’t a problem at all. He overtakes it right away toward ‘I’ and ‘you’, he overtakes them toward the deeper still ‘I’. Benveniste does no analysis
21// of ‘he’. He treats the ‘he’ as a common concept, as the word ‘dog’, as all this. And yet, aren’t there also two kinds of ‘he’ ? ‘He’, it can be the third person. Yes, alright. It can be the third person. I say “he comes”, “he comes”. What else can it be ? I do not speak in the name of Blanchot, I try to say the simplest things ; we are going to see if it fits with Blanchot.
But there is another ‘he’ which is said not only the third person, which is the impersonal ‘he’ : [in French : “il pleut” for “it rains”, “#he rains” and not “it rains”]. Why would it deserve a special analysis, as well as the ‘I’, the difference between these two kinds of ‘he’ ?
When I say “he comes” or [“#he rains”], here are two phrases which are highly strung. What would this ‘he’ be ? What is this kind of sign ? It doesn’t refer anymore to a person. What does it refer to ? It refers to an event.
There is thus the ‘he’ of the event. You recognize this ‘he’ of the event in the sentence [“Il y a” in French, for “There is” in English]. It is curious to notice that the ‘personologists’ make depend the [“Il y a”], treat it like a shifter, that is to say, make it depend on the ‘I’. We are not there yet. [“Il y a” (=there is) or the ‘il’ of “il pleut “(=it rains) refer to the event.] An event is not a person. Is it though the anonymous ? If you remember what I was saying, there we find the same problem again. It is not the anonymous. It is not the universal. An event, on the contrary, is extremely singular and is individuated. Here it is, we have to say the individuation of the event is not of the same type that the individuation of the person.
Here again, it makes the heck of a problem, because the problem is taking a new turn as one goes along its building up ; each instant we think we’re about to fail to master it, as a result of its bursting out into various directions. So I digress again. I think we are holding it now, despite all the digressions I make. Since I think the digressions are parts of the building of the problem. Then they won’t be ; you can give them up afterward, but to cope with the problem, one has to make all kinds of detour.
Then, in fact, there are a lot of authors... The problem of individualisation is another one we have worked on one year ; I have spent months on it. I was happy because I was much interested. Well, it’s... There are a tremendous amount of authors, if we run again a search of source material... A tremendous amount of authors for whom the individuation, in the first meaning of the word, can only be the individuation of a person. Well, here it is, a text of Leibnitz is coming back to my mind. He says, of course, there are all sorts of uses of the word : [‘un’, ‘une’ ; masculine and feminine forms in French for ‘a’ in English] ; he reflects on the indefinite article. He says, [‘un’, ‘une’ in French] ‘a’ is a series of hierarchical degrees. When I say “an army”,
22// it is what he calls ‘a pure being of collection’, it is an abstract. When I say “a rock”, it is already more individuated, according to Leibnitz. When I say “a rock, a beast, an animal”, it is yet more unified, more individuated. And he formulates his big phrase : “To be one is to be One”. Can you see ? “be One” underlined, “To be one is to be One” the last ‘one’ underlined. Well, one is more, as one is more ‘One’. It amounts to say that what is fundamentally -to be, it’s the person.
So, many authors have thought that the secrecy of individuation was on the side of the person. And they will finally say that the event has an individuation only by derivation or by fiction. It is a fictive or derived individuation. It supposes a person. Once again, the English only... It’s odd this story of ‘Genius of Nations’... There are only the English to not buy it. But I believe that many English authors at least pass, brush by this idea : no, the true secret of individuation is not the person, the true individuation is the one of the events. It’s an odd idea.
You would say to me : what does justify ? We are past this now. Yes ; what does suit you ? Does that mean something to you ? Does that ring any bell ? What do they mean ? They mean that even persons are individuated on the mode of the event -they make the opposite derivation. Only it doesn’t show ! We have so many bad habits, we get to believe we are persons. But we are not. We are in our ways little events. And if we are individuated, it’s in the manner of events, it’s not in the way of persons. It’s curious ; one would say, well, but the event has to be defined -nobody, no, I call for the resonances that things... Depending on what you will say, the definition of the event is going to radically change.
What is a battle ? What is an event ? An event ? Ah there, death ! What is it ? Is it an event ? What is the connection between the event and the person ? A wound, is it an event ? Well, yes, if I’m wounded. It’s the expression of something that happens or has happened to me. Well. How a wound is individuated ? Is it individuated since it happens to someone, to a person ? And will I name person the one to whom it happens ? Complicated.
You may recollect, the ones who were there I don’t quite remember how long ago, I had taken a very long time asking the following question : what is the individuation of one hour of the day ?
23// What is the individuation of a season ? What is this mode of individuation, which according to me, doesn’t pass at all by the persons ? What is the individuation of a wind, when geographers talk about winds ? Here ! Precisely they give them proper names !
Our problem is taking a new turn. Understand ? It’s the same problem we are taken in since the beginning, all the time at different levels. Some will say : the proper name it’s the person before all. And all the other uses of the proper name are derived. Others will say -here it’s time to make one’s own choice, I’m so much on the side of... But no, you know, it’s not this way, it seems to be..., alright. Then, it’s not the first time it looks like it and it is not it. I really think that the first use of the proper name is that the meaning of the proper name is to be discovered by derivation with the events. What was fundamentally, or what is fundamentally indexed to a proper name, it’s not the persons, it is the events. I mean, before the person, there is obviously this very very curious region, because the individuations are being made in an entirely different way.
I have mentioned the poem of Lorca which is so beautiful. “What terrible five-hour of the evening !”. “What terrible five-hour of the evening !”. What kind of individuation is this ? In English novels for example. I only ask you to notice that in some English novels -I don’t say in all of them, but in most of them, the personages are no personages. Look ! We’re finding Blanchot again, fortunately, we’re backing him, we’re comforting with him. He doesn’t speak of English novelists. It gives us another source, perhaps to give ground to Blanchot. But in most English novels, many times, and above all at principal moments, personages are not treated as persons. They are not individuated as persons.
For example, the Brontë sisters have some kind of genius... Particularly one of them, I can’t remember which one, so I abstain. I believe it to be Charlotte... She doesn’t stop presenting her personages as... They are no persons. It’s absolutely the equivalent of a wind. A wind that blows.
Or Virginia Woolf, it’s a shoal of fish. It’s a promenade. It’s not... There, I find the same case again... Precisely what Benveniste neglected and treated as minor : “I’m strolling”. It’s precisely, it suffices to go strolling to not be a ‘I’ anymore. If my promenade is a promenade, I’m no ‘I’ anymore, I’m an event.
24// The one who has done it wonderfully, in English literature, it’s obviously Virginia Woolf. Virginia Woolf, as soon as she sets a hero in motion, he looses his quality of person. Great example, in Virginia Woolf, the promenade of Mrs Dalloway... “I won’t say anymore I’m this or that” concludes Mrs Dalloway. “I won’t say anymore I’m this or that”... I won’t say “I” ; I’ve got an individuation problem. It’s very odd ; we’ve got to be cautious with stuffs. We are never done with. We were saying if needed, ah well, there is a vague choice between what and what ? Between saying “I” and saying the nothingness, or saying “I” or the undifferentiated gulf. The form “I” or ‘the bottom without face’.
There are authors, there are thinkers. Consider them as great painters -when I was saying, there is as much creation in philosophy for that matter... It’s like painting, it’s like music. There are great philosophers who have been working in these coordinates : the form of the individual or the undifferentiated gulf. And God they had genius ! One of those who has gone furthest this way, it’s Schopenhauer ; he sang about the misery of individuation, but the individuation was conceived as the individuation of a person and the undifferentiated gulf. And Nietzsche, young, has been taken into that and The birth of the Tragedy doesn’t go any further than these coordinates. Very quickly, Nietzsche tells himself there is another way. It is not a medium way. It is an absolutely different way that disrupts all the data of the problem. He says, but no, the choice isn’t between the individuation of person and the undifferentiated gulf ; there is another mode of individuation.
So it seems to me precisely that they are all authors who beat around the very very complex notion of event. An individuation of the event which doesn’t amount to an individuation of person. In what is there a morality ? There is a morality everywhere in the ‘personology’ I described earlier, there is a morality. Understand ? Understand that Benveniste is a moralist of the language. He is a moralist of the language, simply his moralism is a moralism of the person. In the other side, there may be as morality, but it happens to be not quite the same. Neither is it the same dignity, nor the same wisdom, nor the same dissipation... It isn’t the same non-wisdom... It isn’t... Everything changes.
Why is that ? Because if you’re living that your individuation is not one of the person... Well, let’s say, to take up the terms I used the other time, it is one (individuation) of a tribe for example. I am a tribe. I have got my tribes. Well, I’ve got tribes mine to me. So, you’re going to object “you’ve said ‘yours’”, “you’ve said ‘I have’”. Therefore the tribe is subordinate to ‘you/me’. Ah no, ‘you/I’. I would answer, no, you don’t get it, don’t bother me with the language. When I say “the sun is rising”... So I’ve said : “I’ve got my tribes”. Well, it’s not that in the sentence “I’ve got my tribes”, it’s not that I’ve got a tribe subordinated to ‘I’ and ‘my’. That is to say, to the personal pronouns of the first person
25// which is in the possessive form. It is that ‘I’ in fact, is individuated on the mode of tribes ; namely an individuation which is not the individuation of a person.
So I say, doesn’t it change everything ? There again, the question is not who is right. If one says now, well, you see, the proper name foremost designates events... It designates winds, it designates events, it doesn’t designate persons. It’s only and secondarily that it designates persons. That is to say we are doing the anti-Benveniste ; it’s not for or against Benveniste, it’s because we’re holding another path. What will it mean ? Why am I starting to talk about the individuation by event opposed to the one... At this moment, I almost said the individuation on the mode of the person... What would it be ? Strictly, strictly a linguistic fiction ; it doesn’t exist. I would say it because I feel like it... Obviously now all ‘personologists’... Suppose it was true, obviously the ‘personology’ cannot identify a fiction, or what ?
Well but, what may it mean ? It may mean, well here it is, one should say, it must be the event. It is a funny thing, an event, because one has to distinguish not in the event itself, one has to distinguish two things. We’re not through with all these distinctions. I’m wounded, ouch ! The wound... The blade is thrusting into me...
Joe Bousquet is a very curious author ; it’s beautiful, beautiful. He was wounded by shell splinter during World War I. He didn’t die out of his injury, he died actually not a long time ago. He ended paralysed, forced to immobility. He has lived confined to bed, he has written a lot, all that. He didn’t write at all on himself fortunately. He wrote on something he thought he had to say. And here is a sentence of Bousquet which seems weird. He says “my wound”, “my wound pre-existed me, I was born to embody it.” There are a lot of things there. What does he mean exactly ? You notice, only one deeply sick, deeply touched can tell such a thing, which would be abject in someone else’s mouth. It has to be Bousquet and his shell splinter which has made him disabled to talk like that. “My wound pre-existed me”, it seems a kind of diabolic pride, or what. “I am born to embody it”.
If the sentence means something to you, accept this method, if not, drop down. If the sentence means something to you, let’s try to proceed. What does he want to say ? It may mean -it seems to me he explains it so well himself, one can feel it... It’s that an event only exists as effected. There is no non-effected event. This is alright. There is no platonic idea of the wound. But at the same time, one has to say both, there is always in the event a part which overtakes,
26// which overflows its own effectuation (its being effected). In other words, an event only exists as effected in what ? I find again the terms we used earlier. An event only exists as effected in persons or in things... in persons and states of things. The war doesn’t exist regardless of the soldiers who are subjected to it, or regardless of the materials it implies. That is to say, effected in locations which are there concerned. Effected in states of things and in persons. Otherwise what are we talking about ? What war would it be ? A pure idea of the war, what does it mean ? So I have to assert that all events are of this type. And at the same time, I have to uphold that in all event, as tiny and insignificant as it may be, there is something in it that overflows its effectuation. There is something that cannot be effected.
I can’t go too much further. What would it be, this something which cannot be effected ? Wouldn’t it be what I called the individuation proper to the event and which doesn’t pass anymore by the persons or the states of things ? In a cold wind, here it is, in a cold wind -if you like the cold wind or if I don’t know what, there is something, a cold wind doesn’t exist regardless of its being effected in what ? In some states of things, example : the temperature which let it off, which causes it. And in persons, the coldness felt by persons, by animals, etc... And however something tells me that it may be very legitimate that some of you tell me : “ah, this doesn’t mean a thing to me !”
Something tells me there is no cold wind which doesn’t overflow, which however, is consubstantial of this part that is the one of its effectuation. And it’s here, that there is a kind of, to the letter, whatever event happens to us, there is something that is to be called ‘the splendour of the event’ ; it overflows all effectuation. At the same time, it cannot be non-effected and it overflows its own effectuation. As if there were a ‘more’, an ‘extra’. Well. Something which overflows the effectuation by the things, in the things and by the persons. It is what I would call the deepest sphere of the event.
Not the deepest, the word is bad, for it isn’t anymore a world of the depth ; here I use any word ! Do you see, now we understand better the sentence of Bousquet where he says “the problem is to be worthy” -so then it’s his proper morality, “to be worthy of what happens to us”, whatever it may be, whatever good or bad, he has almost come to think... for the ones who know a little, of the stoic morality, which has another aspect.
Accept the event. What does that mean ? It doesn’t mean at all to resign oneself ; “My God, you’ve done well and good !” This is not at all in the Stoics. I believe they had an idea...
27// It is not by chance that the Stoics are the first among the Greeks to do a theory of the event, a theory they have pushed very very far. And they mean precisely that, in the event, there is something they name in their own term ‘the incorporeal’. The event, at the same time, is effected in bodies -and doesn’t exist if not in bodies, but it contains in itself something incorporeal.
“My wound existed before me, I am born to embody it”. That is to say, yes, it is effected in myself but it contains something by which it isn’t anymore ‘my’ wound. It is ‘he’ wound.
Well, we’re back with Blanchot. Do you understand ? Hence “to be worthy of the event”. Whatever it is, may it be shit, may it be a disaster, may it be a great happiness, there are people who live on the mode, they are constantly unworthy of what happens to them. May it be the sufferings, may it be the joys and the beauties ; I believe them to be ‘the personologists’. I believe they are the ones who centre, who do the centring on the first and the second persons ; they are the ones who don’t draw the sphere of the event.
Well. To be worthy of what happens to us, this is a very curious idea, or a very very curious way of living. That is to say, to ‘mediocrise’ nothing. There are people who ‘mediocrise’ death. There are people who ‘mediocrise’ their own diseases, however they have diseases. I don’t know, yes, they have diseases-events. Yeah well, there are people who make everything filthy... as the guy who writes “commit suicide !”.
Here is a phrase of fundamental mediocrity. It isn’t someone who has a connection with death, absolutely not. The ones who have a connection with death, they have on the contrary a cult of life, which is entirely something else and they don’t piss around like that. So, well, do you understand ? To be worthy of what happens, it is to draw, in the event that is effected in me or that I effect, it is to draw the part of the ‘un-effect-able’.
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2- English - 03/06/1980 - 1 et 2