French Theory is no theory. It is a well-known fact that “Theory,” as in “French Theory,” is neither a theoretical endeavor nor a theoretical manifestation of thought. “Theory” as in “French Theory” has evidently little to do with Plato’s apex of human evolution: contemplation of the ideal form as such. In the Platonic sense, theory is the ultimate abstraction.
The emergence of philosophy has not been a single, definitive historical event. Rather than a discipline notable for its purpose or method, or for questions and objectives universal across space and time, philosophy is a sort of atmospheric condition, arising suddenlyeverywhere and at all times. It can hold sway over human knowledge for a certain period, but also abruptly vanish, often for reasons unknown, just as mild spring weather or a storm can dissipate at a moment’s notice.
Vertigo, in-between-ness, translation, expansion of the real, of what is named “real,” understanding our task, both as thinkers, poets, writers, artists, and political bodies, as an effort to expand our conception of the real, struggling against the domination of conservative narratives [. . .]
“On the Use and Abuse of History for Life”—we should always start from there. You will doubtless have recognized the title of Nietzsche’s second Untimely Meditation, a joyous tilt at the ponderous historicism of his time. Nietzsche was writing in 1874, aware that the discipline of history was becoming modernity’s new religion. The discipline, yeswith its rigorous method, staid procedures, and acute sense of social importance.
Every time I write an account of some personal episode, it seems more impossible to rely on my memory alone. I need only attempt to describe a city neighborhood or cite a news item from the era in question, and I naturally resort to Google to hone or complete my memories. If it hopes to describe the twists and turns of a mind as accurately as possible, the literature of introspection, whether autobiography or psychological novel, ought now to mention the name Google every sentence or two.
I undertake my philosophical endeavors outside the university. As everyone knows, philosophy has for two centuries been the university’s private game preserve, and that, except for a mere dozen names, all philosophers of note have been professors: that is, civil servants. Philosophy since Kant has essentially become philosophical commentary, the philosophy of philosophy.
A simulacrum of philosophy has risen in university departments all over the world: theory, fake philosophy for non-philosophers.
Does deconstruction have a future? Is there still a discernable living theoretical practice within it? Deconstruction, as practiced by Derrida, could still make a great contribution in biology and contemporary definitions of life, but this same area reveals the changes that deconstruction must undergo to unleash its power, which even now certain metaphysical allegiances tend to curb.
Looking upon a page generated by a search engine of worldwide use, with its saturation of relevance-ranked results, we have the illusion of seeing everything. An open world comes to be on the screen.
Beneath the summer sun of 2016 the adolescents of Italy are roaming the city, all the way out onto the jetty, in search of Pokémon. The choicest such creatures make but a fleeting appearance, like the Virgin Mary at the end of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. “I saw her! The Virgin Mary!” exclaim two chosen children. “She was there!” And the fervent crowd follows, craning for a glimpse of the invisible. Then the children run in the other direction: “No! She’s over there! Look!”
May, 2016A small village in the Mâconnais region. A festival is being held beneath a capital, with debates, lectures, and conferences in alternation. Big names have made the trip, drawn by the prospect of a full four days’ literary coterie, where yesterday’s interrupted discussion can always take up on the morrow.
In order to think we must begin with the presentwhat we experience, what we hope for, what destroys us, what we cannot bearfor the present is probably but the mirror image of our broken dreams. And dreams (that is, the true present) are to be reinvented. Thought, in the splendid words of Ernst Bloch, is a “principle of hope:” a gay science in the midst of a new obscurantism, invasive and electronic.
This is not an apology for ignorance. Rather, this is an attempt to suggest that there are many more avenues of knowledge than we thinkor, that knowledge cannot be the preserve of a happy few, especially when it comes to art.
Maximize the possible. Entertain the possibility of material things, of real as well as imaginary things, of each part of every thing, of each occurrence of every thing throughout time, of contradictory things, of impossible things;