Poiein Kata Phusin. On Reiner Schürmann. By Alberto Moreiras

At the end of Heidegger on Being and Acting: From Principles to Anarchy (286-89), Reiner Schürmann explicates four “Consequences for the Direction of Life.”   This is to comment on some punctual sites in the explanation with no pretense of exhaustivity but with a view to establishing their possible productivity for infrapolitical thinking.

  1. Schürmann mentions a “heuristic” function in Being and Time’s concentration on “everyday activities” in view of the need to establish a “fundamental ontology.” But “there is another priority of praxis in Heidegger, which appears as early as in Being and Time and which remains operative throughout all of his work: to retrieve the being question from the point of view of time, a certain way of life is required. To understand authentic temporality, it is necessary to ‘exist authentically;’ to think being as letting phenomena be, one must oneself ‘let all things be;’ to follow the play without why of presencing, it is necessary ‘to live without why.’ Here the priority of praxis is no longer heuristic . . . According to the mainstream of the metaphysical tradition, acting follows being; for Heidegger, on the other hand, a particular kind of acting appears as the condition for understanding being as time. Here praxis determines thinking. In writings subsequent to Being and Time, it is suggested that this praxis is necessarily of a political nature” (287)

This second (non-heuristic) priority of praxis is fundamental to the infrapolitical constellation, which emphasizes it and names it “existential.”   A praxis of existence—not a politics, not an ethics, certainly not a disciplinarization or institutionalization of existence—opens the way to infrapolitical reflection to the very same extent infrapolitical thought cannot be premised on anything but a specific relation to existence.   Whether Heidegger himself indicated the possible political relevance of this existential understanding of praxis is probably irrelevant for infrapolitics, but it may not be irrelevant regarding the fundamental thrust of Schürmann’s interpretation.   There is, in the attribution to the late Heidegger of a (reluctantly) “anarchic” political drift, an assumption I would not share: that changes in thinking, in order to be relevant, are necessarily epochal (even if, at a certain point, under the hypothesis of the closure of metaphysics, their epochal stance would mark, according to Schürmann, the end of epochality, the end of epochal history), and, as epochal, they reach and affect and shape and force the compliance of the totality of the political collectivity as such.   For Schürmann “anarchy,” on his terms, is not the singular choice of a thinker but rather the offspring of the contemporary economy of presencing with which the (contemporary) thinker should comply.   Anarchy would be a “nomos” at the end of principial (metaphysical) epochs. “The nomos or injunction always and everywhere determines the oikos, the abode of man” (235). There is a certain ultimate incoherence in claiming both that thinking presupposes a particular exercitium that belongs to the thinker’s singular existence and that thinking only lives through attunement with a nomic or temporal presencing that affects everyone.

  1. “Being can be understood as time only through its difference from history. The investigation into the concrete epochs and their regulation is what binds the later Heidegger’s phenomenology to experience. Since this is, however, not an individual’s experience, the issue of phenomenology proves to be political in a broad sense. An economy of presence is the way in which, for a given age, the totality of what becomes phenomenal arranges itself in mutual relations. Any economy is therefore necessarily public” (287)

The politicality of epochs has to do with the fact that epochs force an order of the visible (things, words, actions) into an order of domination. Principial epochs guarantee the domination of the principle as hegemonic domination (at the time of modernity subjectivism dominates hegemonically, and so forth, and it dominates all orders of existence: politically as well as philosophically or artistically, etc.)   But Schürmann’s distinction between history and time prepares his affirmation of an end of epochal history that opens the visibility of presencing as non-domination. At the end of the cycle of principial epochality, where we hypothetically are (this is the closure of metaphysics), the thinker can move or prepare the way for anarchy as non-domination. But the politicality of the thinker is then either prophetic or it has the character of a historical vanguard.   In both cases it appears as messianic, as it incorporates and enables a promise (the “early” correspondence of the thinker, as response to an unconcealing presencing, is a commitment to and an announcement of a general dispensation to come).   Infrapolitics prefers to consider posthegemony as the deconstruction of all political legitimation, including the preparatory, anticipatory, or transitional legitimation of a purported, posthistorical economy of presencing of universal reach. Infrapolitics gives up on preparatory thinking as it refuses the distinction between history and time.

  1. “The hypothesis of closure results from the reduplication ‘will to will’ substituting itself for the difference ‘being and entities.’ Enframing, then, is not like any other principle. It is transcendence abolished. Total mechanization and administration are only the most striking features of this abolition and reduplication, of this loss of every epochal principle; a loss that, as Heidegger suggests, is happening before our eyes” (288).

For Schürmann technology would be “the age without a beyond” (285) that terminates the epochal cycle, the history of being.   He claims that, at the end of the epochs, “originary time” resurfaces into a presencing no longer to be understood as the constant presence of the metaphysical dispensation.   Responding to originary time—the worlding of the world, the thinging of the thing—is what the thinker today prepares: “to think is to follow the event of presencing, without recourse to principial representations” (286). But the withering away of epochs needs not be thought as the welcoming of an unepochal dispensation, about which we know nothing and we experience nothing others may not have also known and experienced in any of the previous transitional times. Infrapolitics is an intraepochal affirmation of “simple dwelling” in the here and now, not a “step into the blue” (284) at the abyssal end of the history of being.

  1. “Poein kata phusin . . . Thinking is essentially compliant with the flux of coming-to-presence, with constellations that form and undo themselves. To think is to follow the event of appropriation, to follow phuein” (289).

Schürmann proposes two master terms for such a compliance: non-attachment and releasement, both taken from Heidegger in specific reference to Meister Eckhart. There is certainly a difference between submitting to ordering principles and “acting according to presencing,” in compliance with the worlding of the world and the thinging of the thing.   But who guarantees the public, collective, universal compliance with the second under the guise of the (transitional) principle that there are no principles?   A second-order hegemony, in this case presumably guaranteed by the thinkers and the poets to come, is no better than the pedestrian economy of the principle.   Infrapolitics prefers the suspension of compliance, not out of any fundamental suspicion towards the mysterious dispensations of the fourfold, rather out of a fundamental suspicion of its interpreters.   Letting-be is infrapolitically to be thought as existential releasement for the sake of a radical attachment to the free singularity of existence.


2 thoughts on “Poiein Kata Phusin. On Reiner Schürmann. By Alberto Moreiras

  1. Very interesting notes, thank you Alberto. Just wanted to add to something that may be of interest for infrapolitics. I have been reading Jean-Luc Nancy’s Disclosure (deconstruction of Christianism). The first chapters take un the question of atheism (which will be another name for an aporia of a principle without principle, like anarchy in your reading). If there is atheism, there is a “history of God”, and if there is a “history of God” it may well be that there exists a structure/structuration of epochality. Nancy is articulating monotheism as essentially a form of atheism (“monotheism will have represented nothing other than the theological confirmation of atheism: the reduction of the divine to the premise in a logic of dependence on the world.” [20]). Monotheism is an atheism without history (a principle without accident, an arché as logos) –we could tentatively say– whereas atheism is a “history of God” without principle, but within epochality. In any case, for Nancy, “God denotes the premise or principle of a presupposed totality, founded in unity and in necessity.” [21]

    At some point, Nancy will refer to Schurmann via Heidegger, in these terms: “In all of this, God names only the tautology of the unitotality thereby presupposed. In Heideggerian terms, God names the consistency of being, understood as principial, founding, and essential. God represents in the most patent way, being at and as ground of beings: ens summum, verum, bonum. We should therefore not be surprised that Heidegger sees in Christianity (to say nothing of its two fellow religions [co-religionaires]) little more than an epiphenomenon, lacking any particular specificity with regard to the destinal and epochal history of being (where “being” itself is understood not as principle but, on the contrary, as a “principle of anarchy,” to content ourselves with Reiner Schürmann’s paradox, or, again, as a deconstruction of the logic of principles in general).” [21]

    Every theism is an atheism (they both emerged at the same time, when the destinal mode is substituted by the totalizing reason of divinity), and anarchy is a principle too, albeit one that deconstructs principle itself. Nancy is for something he calls “absentheism”, but even that, “continues to form a horizon” [18]. There are two possibilities in the logic of the premise/principle: either you state a premise (or principle) to confirm it in a teleological tautology, or you state the premise with the task of exceeding principiation itself, to expose the principle as heterogeneous to any tautology, and thus, fleeing into a heterology. Atheism, thus, is always already a theism, but it is inescapable for us. Our atheism must “withdraw”, stating a principle that will exceed its own principle, “breaking” its own hegemony as it is founding it (the atheism that does not do that is what we call Humanism, Nihilism or else, Capitalism).

    Heidegger’ last words in a sense were “Only a god can save us now”… says Nancy. Deconstruction, and probably infrapolitics, will see here a tautology and a paradox: to “save” belongs to the divine principle, therefore only a “god” can save us. But for deconstruction/infrapolitics what a “god” would expose, is precisely, the peril of salvation. Paradoxically, in a move similar to what Derrida says about the Apocalypse (‘In the end, there is no end”, and “I have come to announce, in the end of times, that there is nothing to announce’), the only salvation infrapolitics can provide -we could probably say-, is the salvation of the perils of salvation.

    Finally, while for Schürmann, as you say, technology will be the age without a beyond, for Nancy (as well as Derrida), technology (or again, “capital”, says Nancy) is a regime that “never ceases dissolving, through its own unfolding, every possibility of finding, imputing, or inventing causes or ends for it.” [17] For me this nuance is of sum importance. Technology (capital) will always present itself in the form of epochality, nonetheless, it has no beyond as it “takes command” of the principle of anarchy itself, of the ending of end.

  2. Pablo, thanks, this is very good. Yes, I think Nancy, whom we have not stopped referring to, on the other hand, is a crucial thinker for us, and we need to establish some plan for a systematic reading and a systematic accounting of his thought for infrapolitics. The notion of “exscription” in his Birth to Presence is decisive or seems decisive to me. So is of course his critique of general equivalence. In terms of what you say above, I think a distinction needs to be made between technology and capitalism, as they are not the same thing. It may be true that the principial critique involved in a historical deployment of capitalism matches technologies’ own principial critique, but that is only because the technological “destination” forces or organizes capitalism, not the other way around. In this context, Schurmann’s declaration that “technology” has no epochal beyond–which amounts to saying that the metabasis eis allo genos consisting in declaring the Aristotelian final cause the structuration of the history of being under metaphysics is in itself terminal for the history of being–is in Schurmann paired to the statement that, therefore, the end of epochal history is upon us. This is what I contest, and I would think Nancy himself would contest it too. On the other hand, in Broken Hegemonies I think Schurmann modified his original position on the “principle of anarchy” to state that every principle is always archil-anarchic, so anarchy is not something that comes at the end of history but has always already reigned, etc.

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