Mortal Communities Between Facticity and Existence. Draft Paper for MLA 2017. By Alberto Moreiras.

mtpsccqI only have twelve minutes, as you know, and I would like to use them to present an idea of community to you that in my opinion dissolves the general problem community has always presented to political thought, and which I will sum up by claiming that community is, can be, the most antipolitical of all political concepts.   In recent times it has been pretended that community could configure an anti-liberal or non-liberal basic concept for a new politics, the possibility of a democratic overcoming of liberal individualism. But things are not so easy, and we are now running the risk of a disavowed, but thorougly liberal, counterconcept of individualism camouflaged as a thinking of community.   The problem is that such a concept of community cannot fail to be authoritarian through its very suppression of politics—we were discussing this yesterday in a session on the current crisis of the Podemos political party in Spain.

As you can see, I am already rushing through very difficult things, but I ask you to bear with me.   I thought of presenting this to you through Jan Patocka’s Heretical Essays in the Philosophy of History (Patocka was a Czech philosopher who died at the hands of the police after being tortured as a dissident in 1977 Czechoslovakia), which I would then supplement with Walter Brogan’s 2002 essay “The Community of Those Who Are Going to Die.” I think there is a common reference in both to Martin Heidegger’s early definition of philosophy, in the 1922 essay entitled “Phenomenological Interpretations with Respect to Aristotle: Indication of the Hermeneutical Situation.” Let me start with the latter, that is, with those aspects of the latter that will help me advance as quickly as possible.   But I have to tell you I will not get to the explanation of Patocka’s uncanny notion of community—that will have to wait for an expansion of this text. Let me simply, as a placeholder, offer you a provocative quotation from his text. Patocka says: “The solidarity of the shaken is built up in persecution and uncertainty: that is its front line, quiet, without fanfare or sensation even there where this aspect of the ruling Force seeks to seize it. It does not fear being unpopular but rather seeks it out and calls out quietly, wordlessly. Humankind will not attain peace by devoting and surrendering itself to the criteria of everydayness and of its promises. All who betray this solidarity must realize that they are sustaining war and are the parasites on the sidelines who live off the blood of others” (135).

Now, I am sorry, because this will be somewhat tough conceptually, but I must explain some basic things about the very young Heidegger’s existential analytics, which he was already attempting to develop in a confrontation with Husserlian phenomenology that, as you know, forever altered the map of philosophy.   Here, in 1922, Heidegger is concerned, at the request of some university authorities, with explaining what he understood as the “hermeneutical situation” (358), defined as “the understanding appropriation of the past” (358).   But he finds that a preliminary clarification is in order—for Heidegger, the hermeneutical situation always springs necessarily from factical life.   This means that we cannot step outside our own skin and borrow the facticity of the past, of any past. Rather, “factical life is in such a way that in the concrete temporalizing of its Being it is concerned about its Being, even when it avoids itself” (359).   In other words, “factical Dasein is what it is always only as its own, and not as the general Dasein of some universal humanity, concern for which can only be an illusory task. The critique of history is always only the critique of the present” (360). This notion of factical Dasein—and there is no other Dasein than the factical one, while at the same time Dasein can and must take up its own facticity every time—is crucial to what I am trying to think. I will come around at the end of this presentation to linking facticity and existence to capitalism and anticapitalism, in order to give these remarks some concrete bearing in the political world as such.

This critique of the present which is also historical critique, or the historical critique which is also a critique of the present, respond to a caring which is the fundamental anthropological relationship to the world. This caring has a complicated structure: “there is alive in the movement of caring an inclination of caring towards the world as the tendency towards absorption in the world, a tendency towards a letting-oneself-be-taken-along by the world” (363).   Heidegger describes this tendency as the inclination of factical life towards falling, “the innermost fate which life factically bears” (364).   Falling is tempting, comforting, and alienating, and it cannot be cultivated away.   At the same time, falling is only a tendency of factical Dasein, and Dasein is not to be understood as simply its own falling. Falling is just what Heidegger calls the “averageness” of Dasein. But Heidegger detects in factical life, that is, within factical life and not in some other region of existence, what he calls a “counter-movement” (366).   If Dasein is always concerned about its Being, then such a concern is the site of the counter-movement to falling. “The Being of life in itself, which is accessible within facticity itself, is of such a kind that it becomes visible and reachable only by way of the detour through the counter-movement against falling care. This counter-movement, as life’s worrying about not becoming lost, is the way in which the possible and apprehended authentic Being of life temporalizes itself” (366).   “Authentic” Being only means, one’s own Being, in such a way that there is also authentic facticity: “The very idea of facticity implies that only authentic facticity—understood in the literal sense of the word: one’s own facticity—that is, the facticity of one’s own time and generation, is the genuine object of research” (369).

The counter-movement, that detour of facticity whose momentum is really the encounter with authentic facticity, is called “Existenz.” Existenz, says Heidegger, “becomes understandable in itself through the making questionable of facticity, that is, in the concrete destruction of facticity with respect to its motives for movement, with respect to its directions, and with respect to its deliberate availabilities” (366).   But then Existenz is a counter-movement against life’s tendency towards falling.   Let me finish this inadequate and all-too-rushed explanation of what is in fact Heidegger’s first attempt at developing an existential analytic by pointing out that, in this explanation, Heidegger finds the possibility of a “fundamentally atheistic” philosophy (367) which is to be defined as “the explicit interpretation of factical life” (369).

In other words, there is a practice of Dasein, a practice of the human being, which has to do with finding itself in a confrontation with its own falling—a critical destruction of the falling must take place, since, without it, the human being could never find, could never experience, its very own facticity, and would be blind and remain blind to its own conditions of existence. Negation—critical negation—takes primacy over position, Heidegger says, since without the labor of negation fallenness would, in every case, prevail.   The labor of critical negation is, therefore, “the explicit interpretation of factical life,” and the very name of philosophy, without which there would be no access to history, including one’s own history. This is all I need from Heidegger’s essay. Let me now move to Walter Brogan’s explication.

Brogan takes his point of departure in a double critique of what we could call the transcendentalist and the immanentist approaches to the existential analytic, as represented, respectively, by Jacques Taminiaux and by Hubert Dreyfus. For Brogan, both Taminiaux and Dreyfus, although in opposing ways, fail to see that there is no “dichotomy between existence and facticity” in Heidegger (238).   If there were a dichotomy, then the preference for existence could be fairly accused of a transcendentalism, and the preference for facticity could be fairly accused of a pragmatism.

According to this second reading, the pragmatist, Brogan says, “one understands being-with-others only in terms of specific factical ways of being thrown together. The concept of community that inevitably grows out of this is based on my being the same as the others I encounter; in other words, it is a community based on the they-self, a community based on actualized, concrete relations in which Da-sein finds itself and to which it gives itself over. It is a community that remains bound by an economy of exchange. The tendency to allow oneself to be defined by what is outside oneself is at the heart of the modern concept of community, the community of those who are the same” (240). We cannot emphasize this enough: the modern concept of community, in Brogan’s determination, is a community of equivalents, based on or ruled over by a principle of general equivalence, where everybody is communally interchangeable or interchangeably communal.   If we go towards the transcendentalist reading, and privilege existence to the exclusion of facticity, then community would be impossible, because equivalence could never obtain. In this particular case, the social would have to be established by principle, in the form of a law or the law. “The nonrelational character of Da-sein’s existential being makes any notion of community implausible . . . A community of radically subjective beings can only be established from outside, by a principle of universal law and divine authority” (241).

But in Heidegger’s account philosophy is fundamentally atheistic because it rejects all theological biases—both the transcendentalist one and the pragmatist one, which would have us believe we are all interchangeable on equal terms, as objects or things, and we were thus created. Brogan’s proposal is for an “existential community” of “differing beings” (242; 241), a “mortal community” of sovereign beings, linked by their anticipatory knowledge of their radical limit, finitude, death, the ultimate non-equivalent, he says (243; 245), where sovereignty, in a certain and precise sense, can only be ever prepared for the sake of an “other history.” Brogan quotes from Heidegger’s Contributions to Philosophy: “Da-sein is the crisis between the first beginning (the whole history of metaphysics) and the other beginning” (244).   But of course there is no other beginning: it is a notion that can only affirm itself from the perspective of the counter-movement to historical facticity, against the principle of equivalence and the hijacking of every possibility of sovereign existence. Our facticity is in every case our own death, which liberates us into an existential temporalizing away from fallenness as fate. If community can break away from fallen facticity and can engage in a countermovement towards freedom, then community can be retrieved for democratic political thought. But not otherwise.

So imagine that the relationship between facticity and existence that Heidegger presents can be taken over to an understanding of the intimate or extimate relationship between capitalism and anticapitalism, to the very extent that capitalism is our historical facticity and anticapitalism a form of factical resistance to it.[i] Anticapitalism could then only be understood as a countermovement. We could create existential exceptions to capitalism in education, family life, or professional life without necessarily waiting for a complete overcoming of capitalism that will never arrive but also without claiming an antipolitical exodus from historical life.   Anticapitalist existence would be concrete destruction, concrete factical destruction, political destruction, but a form of political destruction that we could also define as infrapolitical to the extent that it would not be looking for any new construction but would remain radically attuned to whatever is under every possible construction: a destructive movement at the time of total subsumption into general equivalence, the practice of a solidarity of the shaken that can, no doubt, claim for itself the totality of existential practice. There is, after all, nothing beyond infrapolitical destruction, just as there is nothing beyond factical life.

Alberto Moreiras

Texas A&M University

Works Cited

Brogan, Walter. “The Community of Those Who Are Going to Die.” In Francois Rafful and David Pettigrew, Heidegger and Practical Philosophy. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 2002. 237-247.

Heidegger, Martin. “Phenomenological Interpretations with Respect to Aristotle: Indication of the Hermeneutical Situation.” Michael Baur transl. Man and World 25 (1992): 355-93.

Patocka, Jan. Heretical Essays in the Philosophy of History. Erazim Kohak transl. James Dodd ed. Chicago: Open Court, 1996.

Villacañas, José Luis. “Todos somos anticapitalistas.”

[i] I owe these thoughts to José Luis Villacañas’s “Todos somos anticapitalistas,” Levante, December 20, 2016.

[1] I owe these thoughts to José Luis Villacañas’s “Todos somos anticapitalistas,” Levante, December 20, 2016.


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