A Discussion on Crossing the Line between Pablo Domínguez Galbraith, Jaime Rodríguez Matos and Alberto Moreiras.

  • (This discussion, which took place in the Critica y Teoria Facebook group, continues a thread that begins in the Comment to Note on Recordings, then continues in the Comment to Breve nota acerca de la posición de Martínez Marzoa respecto del nihilismo.  This is the third installment, therefore.)
    Pablo Domínguez Galbraith Sorry for intervening this late in the conversation. I have always viewed deconstruction as signaling the internal breaks within Western Metaphysics, not as destroying -in the sense of Benjamin’s destructive character, a joyous destruction, a making space, finding openings and straight lines)- through a big break, nor making philosophy in the nietzschean sense of “killing fllies with cannonballs” (matar moscas a cañonazos) or writing with a philosophical hammer capable of breaking everything with fundamental blows. For me deconstruction means more an awareness of the impossibilities of being faithful without being unfaithful, thinking otherwise without repeating the same logic that one is trying to escape, of freeing from any logo/phono/falo-centrism without being captured again by the same structure one is trying to implement. Derrida wanted to use Heideggerian thought and articulations against Heidegger himself: he saw that the only way to go beyond Heidegger was to be very precise and conscious of Heidegger’s own internal breaks, the moments where he was betraying himself by being most faithful to his most intimate desire of breaking with metaphysics (the same with Rousseau, Mallarmé, Kant, Hegel, etc.). In a sense, the breaking of metaphysics Heidegger was trying to achieve would ultimately mean breaking with himself and his own work. I am very thankful of reading the conversation you all are having here, it has made me read today Heidegger’s letter to Jünger, where I found this fundamental quote that I think may be (or may not be) Alberto’s position in this matter. It would be great if Alberto would let me (us) know if he feels close or not to what Heidegger is trying to say to Jünger here:
    2 hrs · Like · 1
  • Pablo Domínguez Galbraith “In which language does the basic outline of thinking speak which indicates a crossing of the line? Is the language of the metaphysics of the will to power, of Gesalt, and of values to be rescued across the critical line? What if even the language of metaphysics and metaphysics itself, whether it be that of the living or of the dead God, as metaphysics, formed that barrier which forbids a crossing over the line, that is, overcoming of nihilism? If that were the case, would not then the crossing of the line necessarily become a transformation of language and demand a transformed relationship to the essence of language? And is not your own relation to language of a kind that it demands from you a different characterization of the concept-language of the sciences? If this language is often represented as nominalism, then we are still entangled in the logical-grammatical conception of the nature of language.”

    – Heidegger, “On The Line”, a letter to Jünger.

  • Alberto Moreiras Pablo, may I also ask you to put this comment of yours, and the quote, in the blog? Thanks a lot for it. I think we are in agreement, if we can agree, as I think we can, on this: when you say “thinking otherwise without repeating the same logic that one is trying to escape, of freeing from any logo/phono/falo-centrism without being captured again by the same structure one is trying to implement,” is that not precisely the figure of the most fundamental break, the one that cannot be contained precisely because it is not a mere inversion of the prior position? Inventing an other language, moving toward an “other beginning:” we know how difficult that is, how impossible, even. But this is what Heidegger called to be unterwegs, in order to point out that there was nothing yet accomplished in that order. Also De Man, in his essay on Benjamin’s “The Task of the Translator,” when he says that we can only ever prepare. These are cautious people that do not want to go out on a limb and risk a faux pas (like the ones Heidegger detects in Jünger) but yes, their intent has never been less than revolutionary. Regarding the quote, yes, that is what Heidegger actually said many times, in one form or another, but that is one of the classic passages. I am in agreement, which means, I understand that “the inversion of a metaphysical statement is still a metaphysical statement,” which means the only path outside the tradition, for an other beginning outside what Heidegger thought in the wake of Hegel and Nietzsche was a terminal exhaustion of Western historical thought, is to reach “a transformed relationship to the essence of language.” What does that mean? Well, is the infrapolitical project something other than the attempt to reach a transformed relationship to political language? Doesn’t mean it will happen, but we can only try, with all kinds of caution and care. This brings up another topic for discussion which has been lurking for many years but there has been no decisive thought on it: is “language” really prior, the prior? When we talk about transforming the relationship to language, do we essentially think of and about language? Or is language, here, against the current of the last sixty years, code for something that is not language, but that feeds and nurtures language? It was Marx who said first “not language, but economy,” and it is easy for us to say that was a bit crude. A century plus later, is it still so easy for us to say “language, that’s all”?
    1 hr · Edited · Like · 1
  • Alberto Moreiras Incidentally, the way I see it, infrapolitics is precisely that attempt at modestly initiating the path along something that may not exhaust itself in language alone.
  • Jaime Rodríguez Matos I don’t think there was a disagreement at all about the idea of the break. The point I think was that this would still be the case even if we were “back” at the height of Althusser or Sartre, or Badiou, or Marx, or even Descartes. Back at the point where all of these systems did not yet seem to be exhausted. So that the point becomes how to get away from the idea that the break is somehow tied to their exhaustion or whatever we want to call it. This is why for Heidegger it was so important to not simply refute or dismiss previous ontologies–because that was the history of our stumbling regarding that which does not exhaust itself in language (or in the form of the object or the thing, and so on).
    57 mins · Edited · Like · 2
  • Alberto Moreiras Jaime, ok, let’s accept there is no disagreement on the notion of the break, let’s move on to exhaustion. Not refuting means, in Heidegger, “destruktion of the history of ontology” in 1927, which by the time of “Nietzsche’s Word” (1943) will have become “destruktion of ontology” plain and simple. And take Nietzsche. Heidegger will look, for instance, at his History of an error, in Twilight of the Idols, and will say that Nietzsche was led into a positive affirmation of nihilism because of his inability to progress beyond metaphysical inversions (“from the real world to the apparent world, but then, with the destruction of the real world, have we not also destroyed the apparent one?, etc.”). You may say that is not a refutation in the traditional way, but how is it not an affirmation of the historical exhaustion of Nietzschean thought? Even though at the same time Heidegger said that we needed to devote 10 to 15 years to reading Nietzsche before we thought of doing anything else . . . In other words, “exhaustion” does not mean we stop reading these people and stop learning from them even in a most productive way. It means something else, that has to do with radical historiality. It is not, for instance, that we should read Sophocles only because Sophocles may still be close enough to “the beginning,” no, we should read Sophocles because we need to understand what Sophocles was trying to share with his public, which pertains to history. At the end of the day, history is being, and being is history.
  • Pablo Domínguez Galbraith Thank you very much for your answer Alberto. I will gladly put this comments on the blog, but I do not see a thread with all this discussion already posted. I think we should try to post everything together, as it has been a continuous discussion (and my comments emerged from reading yours and the others). Regarding the second part of your long last answer, on prioritizing language, I just wanted to supplement Heidegger’s quote with something he writes later in the same text, something he says to Jünger around the question of crossing the line. Jünger says that crossing the line brings a new direction of Being and “with it there begins to shimmer what is real.” Then Heidegger reverses the question saying rather that it is the new direction of Being which first bring the moment for the crossing of the line. But what does “Being” means? For Heidegger, Being means the turn itself, the turning-toward man, or the turning away. Man is always turning toward or away from Being, there is always a movement and there is always an asymptote that cannot be crossed (an infinite/infinitesimal line of existence unbearable and un-inhabitable?). Elsewhere in the text Heidegger mentions the spiral again, a figure you touched on in the first seminar. Isn’t the spiral the figure for this distancing and approaching (always closer or farther away) from the impossible contact, the impossible break? At times I hear Heidegger (and Derrida) insisting on this fundamental impossibility, the impossibility of crossing the line, the spiral you will always fall into by pretending (trying, believing) to have crossed it. But the again, as Jamie and yourself just mentioned, there is something that does not exhaust itself in language alone, something that could approach Being without falling in the grammatical/nomination pitfall, that may be worth pursuing.
  • Jaime Rodríguez Matos (I see that you erased the previous comment, but I’ll leave this one here anyway.) Of course. That is the key. Exhaustion means something different. Just as event or break mean something different. What is the best way to convey that change so that it becomes a central aspect of how we write and think, particularly within an academic environment that is constantly turning toward the exhaustion of previous models or methods of research in order justify itself? I don’t have the answer to this question.
  • Alberto Moreiras The thread started being copied as a comment to On Recording, and then moved on to Guillermo`s posting. You can continue posting as a comment to Guillermo, which will pick up on the previous set of comments. Or you can start a new thread. I think breaking long discussions into threads is a good thing, particularly because they become a lot more visible (the system does not give good notification regarding comments, only regarding posts.) We can add editorial inserts (I can do that), telling people where to start if they want to go back to the beginning.
  • Alberto Moreiras Jaime, I very well understand what you mean and are saying. And it is also politically important to avoid obvious pitfalls. Ultimately, however, gross misunderstandings of the kind we know are unavoidable, so I think, after all is said and done, all attempted and failed, the best thing to do, actually, is to ignore the pitfalls altogether and to move on as rigorously and thoughtfully as we can. And, as the immortal Amarillo Slim said (was it Amarillo Slim?), “let the chips fall where they may.”
    26 mins · Like · 1
  • Alberto Moreiras Pablo, by the time of the Jünger letter Heidegger was keenly aware that it was not a matter of a decision, that it was not for us to decide to cross the line or indeed to develop a transformed relation to language or to anything else. That we could only be attuned, hope to be attuned, aim to be attuned, to a situation (in history) that totally escaped our control always and everywhere. That is why he would say that being is the turning, that is, being is historical attunement. Although, for the most part, it is also historical non-attunement, withdrawal, and abandonment. One doesn`t cross the line by being very earnest about it, which was Jünger`s naive and decisionistic position. It is only the new historical dispensation that can or may do it for us. Hence the importance of understanding, in the sense of the hermeneutics Guillermo was discussing earlier. But that is, of course, an “understanding” that is more than an understanding in the traditional sense.
  • Alberto Moreiras And yet there is nothing mystical about this. Our tools for this attunement are only two: mood and study. But the two are necessary, and one does not come without the other.
    15 mins · Like · 1
  • Alberto Moreiras The reason why I insist on additional blog posting is that I don`t want these discussions to be lost, or left to mere memory. And they will, if we leave them only on facebook, where they are too difficult to find after a few weeks.
    6 mins · Like · 1
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