On Geoffrey Bennington Scatter 1: The politics of philosophy. By Maddalena Cerrato

IMG_6887I am extremely pleased to be here to discuss this book, since it is a very good book, and I mean a “good book” in some sort of “technical” sense… that I would like to try sketch out here as a preliminary self-absolving preamble to my remarks referring to Bennington’s notion of reading.

Good books in a “technical” sense are those books that talk to you in a way that triggers a powerful mixture of projections and magical thinking that makes you feel like what you are reading is concerned about your very own thinking. That is to say – if you allow me to play a little bit more with Heideggerian terms – not that what you are reading somehow reminds you of some dispersed thoughts that initially and for the most part occupied your mind, rather it means that your thinking concerned about your own existence seems to be at stake in what you are reading. Neither this or that everyday thought, nor even a particular “I-have-thought” or “I-was-just-thinking,” but rather an originary thinking that embodies the ecstatic character of temporality and the priority of the future in it. One could say that, technically, “good books” are those books that let themselves be read as though they were concerned about your thinking as thinking that has always-already been there as what is-to-be-thought, as thinking that is projecting toward a potentiality of thinking that has always been there. Ultimately, I am suggesting that we could then define “technically good books” on the basis of such an experience of undecidability between reading and thinking that is at the heart of the reading as Bennington suggests. The specific task of reading is always already exposed to (quote) “potential confusion of authorial ‘voices’ and responsibilities –of who is saying what, who is signing or countersigning what in whose name-“ (55) (end quote). And, such confusion opens up to moments of  undecidability and potential for Täushungs (self-deceit) that concern both the “content” of the reading and the fact of the readings themselves.  So, the sort of intellectual vertigo that marks the experience of a good book, is one of the degrees of undecidability involved in reading, intended as interruption of the hermeneutic closure, to which Scatter1 attests. On this ground, pushing it a little bit further, good books would be those that offer the Kairos for a reading to the extent that they offer a moment of undecidability, that is a moment (an Augenblick) of both “in-sight” and blindness, namely, a moronic moment (see 183). In this sense, the reading of good books always already enacts the “politics of reading,” a decision that interrupts the undecidability at the same time that it interrupts the pretense of interpretative fulfilment.

Ok, maybe, I could have just said that I really enjoyed this book which is very subtle in its analysis and elegant in its argumentative structure, and it gave me plenty of food for thought, but this wouldn’t have given me any excuse to say that if my remarks on “pseudo-Bennington” sound moronic this is none of my fault since it is the book’s itself…for being a good book.

My reading of this book and of the ongoing argument presented – which is indeed not so scattered –  has been marked by the fantasmic presence of many entangled layers of thinking where I dwelled in one way or another for  many years, as well as by the active intrusion of my reading of the multiple readings hosted by another good (even if maybe a little too ambitious) book -Reiner Schürmann’s Broken Hegemonies– and, lastly and more relevantly, by the overall projection into and toward the thought of infrapolitics.  The only – still completely self-referential – way to try to summarize and frame the countless inquietudes, questions, and suggestions emerging from such an explosive mixture is referring them to the relationship between philosophy and community, or maybe in the triad politics-philosophy-community taken in the broadest possible sense.

Behind the doubling up of politics in the locution “politics of politics” where Bennington’s reading starts, there is the inability of dogmatism and moralism to exhaust the realm of politics, to capture it into their normative conceptual structure. Behind this kind doubling up that does not invest only politics, but actually any other practice and or discourse concerned with it, there is an inability of teleological thinking to exhaust the possibility of Being, or rather, Being as a possibility that is always already the possibility of failure, or of the pseudos as primordial distortion. Such an inability calls for an intervention that interrupts with a foolish decision both the attempt of teleological closure of the political by political philosophy, that is also the attempt of metaphysical closure of Being, as well as (it interrupts) the misery/ordeal of undecidability which will still mark, in the mode of spectrality, the decision itself.  “The politics of politics” is a mode of a double rescue of politics from teleology both from its inherently autoimmune (self-destructive) logic – which indeed, as shown by deconstruction, affects all ethico-political concepts worthy of the name, as well as from its failure in exhausting politics.  Such a doubling up of politics is a rhetorical-political gesture that interrupts the teleology, but saves the eskhaton. This eschatological dimension, separated and rescued from teleology, is the possibility of politics in the form of the possibility a scatter of eskhata, of events of decision emerging from the undecidability of truth.

Here is my main inquietude. What is at stake in the ontotheological approach to the undecidability of truth, that is, substantially, the moralistic-dogmatic denial of it, is a certain task of philosophy. What this originary possibility of deceit threatens is, overall, philosophy’s role with regards to the community. As Schürmann put it- this is promoting “the koinon to the level of normative instance capable of consoling the soul and consolidating the city” (9).  There is no room for the equi-primordial pseudos, for originary possibility of distortion or deceit, if the philosopher needs to be able to console the soul and consolidate the city, that is, to absolve of his public function posing the koinon, the common, the norm that legitimizes theoretical and practical rules, as the bond that binds a community. To secure the stability of the laws governing knowledge and acting of the community, to preserve the norm that legitimizes theoretical and practical rules that bind the community, the traditional (political-)philosopher needs to secure the logic of subsumption without remainder through what Schürmann calls the denial of the transgressive withdrawal of singular and of the tragic condition, meaning the denial of the ordeal of undecidability of truth. Ultimately, to preserve the public duty of the philosopher, to secure his function of consoling the soul and consolidating the city as what Schürmann calls the “professional philosopher” – which is (quote) “an altogether bureaucratized version of the philosopher-king” – is what seems still to be at stake both in Foucault’s reclaiming of philosophical parrhesia, as well as in Heidegger’s Entschlossenheit.

The suspicion is that after the end of metaphysics, with the failure of onto-theology, what is at stake in the rescue of the task of the philosopher as the one that institutes the common, the possibility of the community, is the idea that this task represents the only possible ground for something as a community of the so-called philosophers or- as Derrida says – a community of the question.  If this is true, can we then say that at stake in the politics of politics’ rescue of politics is it still what we can call “the politics of philosophy”, meaning the relation of the philosopher with the community in the double instance of the political community and of the philosophical community?

But, how should we then understand the deconstructive and deconstructed triad politics-philosophy-community?  The scatter of eskhata gathering up in the idea of politics of politics certainly cannot be regard as something that builds and organizes something like “an historical community of destiny,” of a community worthy of its name. But if this is the case, this means that – and I guess this is my own haunted decision in this reading – that such a rescued dimension of politics can only be thought as posthegemonic politics.  And, that in this sense the thinking of the existential unconditional conditions of such a politics, the excess, the dignity of life that is since it is marked by the “necessarily-possibly-not” in always already a demi-dignité, seems to be what we have been calling infrapolitics as a common name, a demi-title that happens to gather a scatter of readings (sometimes of good books), that is indeed haunted by its always-necessarily-possible indignity. [1442words = 11min.]

Maddalena Cerrato (Texas A&M University), March 2017


“Infrapolitics in-between” Thinking with Heidegger, Foucault and Schürmann. By Maddalena Cerrato.

[Here there are some notes about what we were discussing throughout the first two sessions of the seminar….I apologize in advance for my still unsteady english…especially since I do not have the english versions of the texts I am referring to…] During the seminar’s last session, at some point, Alberto posed the question “What happens before subjectivation?”, as a question that could lead toward the space where infrapolitical theoretical practice takes place. So, taking that as a Leitfrage (leading question) and working with Heidegger and Foucault in their indirect connection through Schürmann’s reflexions on both of them, I would like to try suggest the possibility of thinking infrapolitics as a possible “in-between” (something like the heideggerian der Zwishen) subjectivations. The Dasein is always-already thrown into a world, or in Foucaultian terms we could say that individual is always-already subject to the normative order of the regime of truth in force. And that world, that regime of truth, always historically determined, constitutes the arché, the principles of a subjectivation where the human being find himself always-already thrown, insofar as an radically historical being (this is the Da of the Dasein). I would say that this is the archic, historical and heteronomous subjectivation, that constitutes the individual as a subject, gives form to his consciousness, and that is interiorized as identity, or perhaps better as multifold overlapping identities. As Schürmann wrote in his beautiful essay about Foucault: “ ‘Self-identity’, endlessly invoked, thus results from interiorized, although heteronomous, subjection. Self-identity is self-objectivation accepted and enforced as self-subjection.” For Foucault, indeed, government of the individuals happens always in a double modality: the exterior domination, through which the individual is subject to the norm and to the other’s control, and, on the other hand, the identitarian recognition, through which the individual is tied to an interiorized form of the normative framework. “This form of power applies itself to immediate everyday life which categorizes the individual, marks him by his own individuality, attaches him to his own identity, imposes a law of truth on him which he must recognize and which the others have to recognize in him. It is a form of power which makes individuals subjects. There are two meanings of the word subject: subject to someone else by control and dependence, and tied to his own identity by a conscience or self-knowledge. Both meanings suggest a form of power which subjugates and makes subject to.” (Foucault, The Subject and the Power) This is the first subjectivation, that I would say corresponds to the identitarian fiction, referring to last week’s meeting and to Derrida’s ’64 seminar the ontic metaphor through which the Dasein thinks about himself…, the auto-hetero-grafic metaphorization…where the hetero- implies a normative element. The subjectivation to which Alberto’s leading-question referred, is a second subjectivation, the properly political one, the one in force of which the individual (as a single human being as well as a collective individual) acts insofar as (the als structure)…a specific political subject. This is a “willful” subjectivation that one can say works as the arché of a specific political practice. It can and cannot follow directly from the first subjectivation…in form of continuance as well as reaction/inversion… So, with respect to what we were talking about on Tuesday, what about thinking infrapolitical practice as an an-archic theoretical praxis that irrupts in between the two subjectivations? What about thinking the infrapolitical irruption as the possibility of a not-dialectic mediation that can possibly open up the possibility of a political subjectivation autonomous and an-anarchic with respect to normative horizons of a specific regime of truth into which we have always-already been thrown? In this sense, I would say that infrapolitics is a critical-deconstructive practice, a demetaphorization that takes as a departure point the excess, the difference, the difference, the trace, the secret, the haunting…the rest.. with respect to the first subjectivation, this is our thrownness, as well as with respect to the second one in its form of coming-toward-itself, of a possibility always-already there, in the perspective of the ectasis of Heideggerian Dasein‘s temporality…. It operates as a not-dialectic, not-normative, an-archic mediation that interrupts the self-identity of the consciousness, and that, at the very same time, takes a distance from, or interrupts the “transparency” of political response that is coming. Such a practice can be neither teleological nor deontological, since it cannot be founded on any universal principle and so it cannot become an object of either a prescription or a doctrine which could be handed down or taught. It cannot be guaranteed, it can be neither founded nor postulated as necessary: it can only happen as an act of thought whose possibility is always-already there…this is, I would say, because of what Heidegger called the ontic-ontological priority of Dasein. It can happen and it does not really matter whether in a more or less narrative form…what does matter is that it keeps a “distance from its own taking a distance.”…