The plurivocity of utterance . . . arises from a
play which, the more richly it unfolds, the
more strictly it is bound by a hidden rule.
Owing to this rule, the play of plurivoeity
remains in a balance whose oscillation we
The Question of Being1
The argument I have tried to develop may be comprehended by the distinction between rule and principle. Every economy of presence is self-regulated, hence Heidegger’s anti-humanism. But not every economy of presence is self-regulated by one entity held to be its ultimate regulator—a principle. Hence Heidegger’s an-archism.
There is in Heidegger a peculiar fascination for ‘functioning’, for ‘cybernetics’. On one hand he deplores the fact that “everything functions: this is precisely what is uncanny.”2 And he flatly states that today philosophy has been replaced by cybernetics.3 But on the other hand he tells us that the epochs in history establish themselves by and of themselves, that to think is to correspond to a truth “already accomplished” in advance4 by the self-interpretation (Selbtsauslegung) of being, and that the economies unfold “bound by a hidden rule.” Without a form of systemic self-regulation, it would seem difficult to speak of identity and difference in history, that is, to think change. Such a fascination appears even inevitable to me from the moment one admits with Heidegger the withering away of principles while still taking care not to plead the cause of anarchy in the ordinary sense of pure and simple disorder.
At the risk of repeating here in conclusion a few points already made, I would like to show how economic self-regulation works concretely in its two loci—thinking and praxis.
I. Rules for the Direction of ‘Thinking’
The play of internal regulation, as Heidegger understands it, is most obvious in what he says of history and the modalities of presence whose concatenation according to rules of transformation (the categories) history is. But these original rules refer back to more originary rules, those of being as time, or of the event of appropriation (Ereignis). Understood as a temporal process without duration, as mere coming-about, ‘being qua being’ can indeed also be said to regulate itself. That self-regulation is less obvious—more hidden, Heidegger says—although it constitutes the very issue of phenomenology. We know what the rules are to which being conforms as Heidegger came to think of it in his last writings: they conjoin an entity that is present, the modality of its presence at a given moment, and presencing as such, i.e., as event.
How does this three-tiered play of the (temporal) difference regulate thinking by binding it (1) to epochal history, and more specifically (2) to technology, as well as—essentially—(3) to the event?
1. First rule: The understanding of being as time cannot dispense with the deconstruction of the epochs.
Throughout his writings, Heidegger raises only one question, that of the relation between being and time. “To head toward one star, only this.”5 However, the answers he brings to bear on it are several, (a) Time is the sense of being, he said first, and this answer made it necessary to investigate the characteristics of that entity we are ourselves, (b) Time is the truth of being, he said next, which necessitated an inventory of the fundamental traits of our history since the Greeks, (c) Being is event, he finally said, which was the only answer allowing him to understand being as time. Eventlike temporality was already recognized obliquely in the two earlier answers, in time as ‘ecstasis’ and as ‘epochē’. The obliquity is lifted as the event of appropriation turns out to be the condition not only of historical or destinai temporality, but of ecstatic temporality as well. Even more, Ereignis designates the phenomenological condition that has rendered possible all of the received time concepts, whether physicist, like Aristotle’s, or mentalist, like Augustine’s. The event of appropriation is being as originary time.
This trajectory generated by the Seinsfrage must be retained in its integrity. The discovery of time as event does not supersede epochal temporality any more than the latter supersedes ecstatic temporality. However, if a decisive reorientation—‘the turning’—forced itself upon Heidegger as being-in-the-world proved to have a history, the third answer (c) to the being question is linked with the second answer (b) by a particularly close affinity. The event of appropriation presupposes the work on history and cannot forego it. In this regard Heidegger even speaks of aufheben:6 the undertow toward expropriation in time as event preserves time as epochē while both cancelling and superelevating it. In other words, originary time can be reached only by deconstructing the historical orders of presence via the disjunctive moments from which they were born and in which they founder.
Deconstruction directly concerns the self-regulation of epochal economies. It is the method for uprooting the very event of phainesthai, of manifestation, from past manifest configurations of phenomena. It is the method by which the phenomenologist gathers presencing as the synchronic event—or advent—from the cultural fields of presence and their diachronie shifts. In Heidegger’s words, deconstruction is the method for stepping back from the historical modalities of presence (Anwesenheit) to presencing itself as event (Anwesen). Such a step back to the conditions can be called transcendental as long as this does not imply any ultimacy of the subject. It is not a step into the blue, however, since it is bound by the rules within history which this step itself helps bring to light. Any reading method organizes the text it is meant to open up. As deconstruction remains the key method in Heidegger, its text, the ‘history of being’, is the most apparent domain of internal regulation in this phenomenology.
When Heidegger speaks of traits, categories, or rules in the text of our history, he understands by that the systemic features that connect its epochal disposition. These are rules of conservation as much as of transformation. Insofar as the economies of presence are self-regulating, the ruptures within history are never total. Neither the transitions within metaphysics nor the turning beyond it make for anything so utterly new that the old is simply blotted out. It is true, though, that if these rules “traverse”7 history, this is to say that the originary traits of being appear in the effort of disengaging thinking from metaphysics. Hence the importance of a historical deduction of the categories of presence. It shows what happens in epochal breaks such as the arrival of modernity: a play of differences determines anew something that remains the same across the ages. But what remains the same is only a fabric of categories. This excludes any remnant of an in-itself, which would transcend becoming, as a candidate for what endures through history. The historical deduction of the categories of presence is essential not only for establishing that ‘thinking of being’ cannot outgrow the deconstruction of history, but also for insuring that ‘being’ is not conceived as something noumenal, as quasi-divine; that it is ‘one’ only formally, as a law of economic functioning. The first rule for understanding ‘being’ is to wrest from history the traits of epochal self-regulation.
2. Second rule: The three-tiered difference appears in analyzing the contemporary modality of presence, technology.
What is the given that radical phenomenology deconstructs? The arrangements among phenomena as they have had currency in the West—the economies of presence. Among these economies there is one that guides the entire enterprise of deconstruction, namely, contemporary technology. In Heidegger, the interpretations of both the Presocratics and the metaphysicians aim at illuminating that one topos which is our own. These interpretations do not in the least intend to lead us back to some Greek golden age beyond an alleged metaphysical interlude. The phenomenology of the reversals of history therefore proceeds retrospectively. The modalities of presence are unfolded from the fold where we people of the twentieth century are lodged.
Just as transcendental criticism in Kant starts from a fact, that of experience, and asks the question of its a priori conditions, so does Heidegger’s historical criticism. Its starting point is the contemporary phenomenal order, technology as the age without a beyond. The question this criticism asks about its given is not that of subjectivist philosophy: What is man? but that of ontology: What is being? Heidegger does not examine the contemporary site and its genesis in order to gain further information about man. If he asks: How did we arrive there? it is not as a historian of culture. It is rather to elucidate the complex structure of the being question itself. That question is complex, for an economy of presence—for example, technology—is not an immediate given. It is the Anwesenheit of what is anwesend, the modality of presence of what is present. Radicalized transcendental phenomenology consists in stepping back from this modality of presence toward Anwesen as such, toward the event of presencing. A second rule for thinking results from this differential self-regulation by which the present, through the modality of its presence, both hides and reveals the event of presencing.
If it is admitted that the starting point of the deconstruction is one particular economy, it becomes clearer why the ontological difference unites the three terms I have just sketched and not two (e.g. ta onta, “entities”, and to einai, “the to-be”). The middle term is that order which, following Heidegger, other authors have located in discourse and called epistēmē or discursive regularity.8 In Heidegger, the three-tiered difference is generally described as between ‘entities,’ their ‘beingness’ and ‘being’ (as a verb, as ‘to-be’). This way of formulating it, however, passes in silence over the decisive factor, time. In his last writings, he therefore characterizes beingness and being with some subtlety as two moments of ‘letting’, as “letting-be-present” and as “letting-be-present.”9 Originary time has ‘letting’ as its essence, which is to say that it remains unintelligible within any metaphysical quest for ultimate causes, grounds, or principles.
The play of self-regulation among the three terms is the complex temporal condition of everything that can become a phenomenon. It is a condition that is ultimate without being a ground. From transcendentalism Heidegger thus preserves the search for an a priori, although dissociated not only from subjectivity but also from any foundational problematic. Such a problematic is incompatible with the temporal essence of the event as a priori. The temporal condition functions as an a priori regulation without any enduring principial referent. For nothing is more tenuous than this ‘letting’, or phuein (coming to presence, presencing). The permeation of transcendental conditions with time carries finitude—together with the a priori, the other discovery of critical philosophy—to its extreme. It is not only Dasein, but being itself as time, that is finite.
3. Third rule: To think is to follow the event of presencing, without recourse to principial representations.
The responsibility traditionally incumbent on the philosopher, his true mission, consisted in securing ultimate referents or principles. Whether he analyzed substance and its attributes or consciousness and its intentional acts, he spoke as the expert on deep anchorage: an anchorage that guaranteed meaning in discourse, soundness of mind, objectivity of knowledge, value of life, if not possible redemption from infractions. Is it an overestimation of the contemporary era to read in technology the expiration of that mandate, to suspect that today the principial play lapses out of order? When Heidegger affirms “the end of philosophy,”10 what is at stake is that expiration as the principial constellations of presence lose their credibility.
The end of philosophy as grounding and building entails a task for thinking. It is to unlearn its age-old reflex, the search for invariable standards, and it is to learn doing explicitly what it has always done, that is, heed the modality in which phenomena come about in any given economy. Such unlearning requires our questioning the referents we have made hegemonic over our history since the Greeks. And such learning demands that the economic mutations, giving shape to the event, be retained as the only measure for thought.
The loci to which thinking finds itself assigned when it renounces timeless ideals are always new and always different. A third rule for thinking is, then, to submit to topological self-regulation. This task is less grandiose than the ancient mission of guaranteeing reasons. However, it is a difficult task. It goes against the fiber of our cultural fabric, against the ingrained recourse to some measure-giving first, be it ‘the cause’ or ‘the father’. The deconstruction undoes this fabric born from the pros hen relation, and the topology replaces it with a texture of ever changing unconcealment.
II. Consequences for the Direction of Life
These premises entail a few consequences for praxis. I will limit myself to indicating their points of incidence.
1. The heuristic and the determinative priority of praxis.
If in his last writings Heidegger’s starting point is a particular economy—our own—in Being and Time, it is a particular praxis, namely, everyday activities. This starting point has, among other functions, a heuristic one. It provides access to fundamental ontology. At no stage in his work is Heidegger interested in praxis as the subject matter of the ‘practical’ disciplines, ethics and politics. Asking the question ‘What is to be done?’ in the context of Being and Time—as opposed to the context of later writings—would amount to confusing the ontic with the ontological. The confusion par excellence would be to expect Seinsdenken, thinking of being, to provide principles for action as Aristotelians sought to derive the principles of moral and institutional theory from a first philosophy, or as philosophers in early modernity divided general metaphysics into branches of special metaphysics.
For Heidegger, everyday praxis serves to retrieve the more ancient question, Ti to on; What is being? Consequently, the very thrust of his new beginning was mistaken when, shortly after the publication of Being and Time, he was asked: “When will you write an ethics?”11 It was mistaken because the suggestion implied that the phenomenological traits of praxis could somehow be converted into norms, or descriptive categories into prescriptive ones.
However, 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. It is a practical a priori without which thinking—in the strong sense of complying with the fluctuating loci of presencing—lapses into impossibility. 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.
2. The political character of the economies of presence.
As mentioned before, 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.
But an economy of presence is political also in a stricter sense. This is most obvious in the retrospective reading of the epochs, beginning with technology as the last ‘mark’ of Western destiny. Enframing (Gestell), as Heidegger calls this mark or stamp, is the inescapable determination of our era. It will not do, then, to describe technology merely as the contemporary public form of presence. As a willful posture, it pushes toward domination. Retrospectively, the trend toward global mastery can be read as far back as the epochal reversal that instituted metaphysics with Plato and Aristotle. It gains momentum with the Cartesian cogito, understood as co-agitatio, ‘forcing together’. It triumphs with the Nietzschean will to power as the essence of the ‘atomic age’—philosophers are the ones who always respond most thoroughly to the phenomenal disposition that encloses them and situates them. For the deconstructionist, then, the notion of the political covers more than the mere public character of an epochal mark; but it covers less than the received notions of the political that denote the sphere of the city (opposed to that of the household), or civil society, or again a community based on the social contract. The epochal marks in Western history have been political because, more evidently at each stage, they have forced the network of things, words and actions of an age into the logic of domination.
It is in this ensemble of things, words and (telic) actions that thinking ‘acts’ in a non-telic way and anticipates a possible post-technological economy not stamped primarily by institutionalized violence.
3. The withering away of epochal principles.
The practical a priori for working through generalized domination and mastery, says Heidegger, consists in ‘letting [technology] be’. What does this mean?
From the standpoint of praxis, metaphysics appears as an enterprise of legitimation. It refers the question: What is to be done? to a primary discourse, whether about being, nature, God, or a supreme judgment of reason. Because of this search for a justificatory fundament, metaphysics is a system in which representations of a ground replace one another across the ages. Heidegger enumerates a few: “Metaphysics is that historical space in which the suprasensible World, the Ideas, God, the moral Law, the authority of Reason, Progress, the Happiness of the greatest number, Culture, Civilization, lose their constructive force and become nothing.”12 These referents, which have served successively to legitimate the practical disciplines, I have called the epochal principles.
The referent that could serve in this role today would be ‘enframing’. It could indeed be added to this list of ultimate representations. But what becomes of such grounding? Since ‘enframing’ designates domination at its apogee, as effectively global, domination has only itself to legitimate itself; cybernetics, only cybernetics; the will and mechanization, only the will and mechanization. With this collapse of an ordering referent—or of the pros hen—metaphysics comes to a close. The hypothesis of closure results from the reduplication ‘will to will’ substituting itself for the difference between ‘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.
To let technology be would mean to follow the potential for bringing down representations of transcendence, a potential contained in technology itself as the culmination of the deep-fixed logic of domination. Under the hypothesis of metaphysical closure, technology appears as essentially bifrontal. Its actuality, its Janus face turned toward the past, is the most violent principial grip ever. But because it is the rationality of control fully deployed at last, it also harbors, pointing ahead, the possibility of a turning toward a non-principial mode of presencing. “Higher than actuality stands possibility.” It is this possible turning that letting-be, or ‘releasement’, prepares.
4. Poiein kata phusin.
The hypothesis of closure obliges us to understand the turning (die Kehre) as an occurrence that comes about in the twentieth century’s economy of presence. The turning in Heidegger’s thinking is, then, secondary, an echo of the turning in the contemporary arrangement of phenomena. Now if this turning, rendered possible today, completes a movement begun twenty-five centuries ago, it affects the domain of the doable as much as that of the thinkable. Furthermore, if this turning consists in an emaneipation from epochal principles, we will no longer need to invest certain among us with a special mission, that of establishing reference points legitimating praxis. There will no longer be ‘philosophers’, but perhaps there will be ‘thinkers’.
Philosophy and reason in general are in league with the epochal principies. Reason imprints, imposes, informs. Thinking, for its part, 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. Therefore in the final analysis, there is only one rule for the direction of thinking: phusis understood as the movement of emergence out of absence into presence.
What would the acting be that would prepare an economy freed from ordering principles? It would be an acting following that same rule. Heraclitus described it as poiein kata phusin, “acting according to presencing.”13 Since an ordering principle initiates and commands, since it is the archē of an epoch, such acting preparatory to a post-modern economy would be literally an-archic.
1. Granted, Heidegger can argue that the technological turn yields the potential of a transition toward an anarchic economy of presencing. But if entities and their representations have indeed lost their mensurating power—if being alone is to provide the measure—does that turn not, on the contrary, risk preparing the terrain for a regime more ‘archic’ than ever? This danger should already be empirically evident: nothing produces its contrary more surely than lofty ideas about social relations at last freed from all coercion, especially when ‘thinking’ is to function as the sole thread of Ariadne toward freedom. More fundamentally, is the very argument for an end of principial economies not fraught with danger? It is not so difficult to transform anarchy itself into an apology for totalitarianism. How could anyone fail to recognize that the disappearance of practical standards leads unerringly to the anarchy of power?
—Economic anarchy is not an anarchy of power. What I called the hypothesis of closure makes it impossible to conceive of public affairs according to the model of reference to the one, that is, according to the principial model that founds the delegation of functions and the investment of power in an ad hoc representative or titular. Economic anarchy is opposed to the anarchy of power as lawfulness is to lawlessness, as thinking is to the irrational, and as liberty is to oppression.
First, lawfulness versus lawlessness or a-nomy: an eco-nomy, as the word indicates, is a whole of laws for a dwelling, a synchronically closed set of determinants in mutual relation. It is probably safe to assume that the positive laws of nations have always quite faithfully reflected the economic laws of presencing by which those nations lived.14 The example of communal realizations mentioned earlier15 should suffice to show that anarchy does not mean anomy. When, in the few instances of direct democracy in modern history, laws arose from a deliberation renewed, as it were, every day, positive legislation most closely followed the economic constellation shifting between eras. In those rare intervals, as perhaps again today with the “turning,” laws lose their permanence. The ideal of a time that endures has sustained legislations from the Platonic republic to Condorcet’s ‘mathematizable society’ and even further to Max Weber’s ‘charismatic authority’. If what is at issue in the possible transition toward an anarchic economy is a new understanding of time, then the synchronically closed sets of determinants for dwelling are to be thought of otherwise than in solid diachronie continuity. The new understanding of dwelling requires working through (verwinden in the sense of durcharbeiten) the representations of constant presence as the temporality of the law. It is one and the same deconstruction that breaks the prestige of referents and of constancy. Under the hypothesis of closure, lawfulness can no longer be derived from one constantly present focal point, be it an entity, an order of entities such as nature, or the act of an entity, such as consciousness. Deriving it from a political leader constantly present to his people would constitute the most blatant relapse into legitimation through recourse to an entity. Once it is understood that the time continuum is the nerve of all relation to a leader and the pros hen, the very muscle of the arm with which he governs, any attempt to co-opt the concept of anarchic economy for such exceedingly ‘metaphysical’ regimes as the one in which Heidegger placed his hope for a year or so remains bound to fail. Rather, what makes the law is phuein, unstable presencing.
Next, thinking versus the irrational: the turn that may lead out of the principial epochs (a redundant phrase anyway) is solely a matter of thinking. Heidegger repeats this often. On the face of it, this praise of Denken is one of the most clearly Kantian elements in his later writings. The charge that “the sciences do not think”16 is a slightly more trenchant way of iterating Kant’s disjunction between knowing and thinking. Furthermore, in many respects thinking in Heidegger remains the agent of enlightenment—not so remote from the way Kant understood it: “To think by oneself is to seek in oneself the supreme touchstone for truth (that is, in one’s own reason); and the maxim always to think by oneself is enlightenment.”17 On what condition then will the economic principles perish? On the condition of learning to think by oneself.18 Heidegger’s phrasings are, however, more trenchant because for him thinking by oneself designates something more radical than verification in subjective reason. It means to follow expressly the event of presencing as it ceaselessly occurs anew around us. The locus of enlightenment is not the subject but an economy at one moment in history.
Lastly, freedom versus oppression: the impossibility of the latter is the very content of the hypothesis from which I have read the later Heidegger, namely, the withering away of the epochal principles. With that withering, oppression becomes an economic impossibility if it is at least admitted that the domination of man by man is only the result of the original hubris, domination of phuein by the principia. The possibility of the former, i.e., of freedom, resides in the conjunction, without that hubris, of being and thinking—of the event of appropriation and economy-wide enlightenment.
Heidegger can and, in my opinion, should be criticized for having treated the problems of so-called practical philosophy all too allusively. On a first reading, elementary distinctions seem so thoroughly lacking that one has the impression of advancing in a night where all cats are grey. And where political distinctions are lacking, the yearning for a leader is indeed not far: a leader who will make distinctions of his own kind. But once it is understood on a second reading that these problems find the beginning of their solution in an analytic of the economies of presencing (with the historical deduction of categories that is its keystone), it is no longer possible to hold that Heidegger becomes the witting or unwitting apologist for that peculiar reference to a first—the call for a leader. The analytic assigns that reference its expiration date: the technological era. The idea of a natural inequality of men, the theoretical apology for the strong individual on the basis of a belief in ‘Man’, in human nature, the idea of an elite that best incarnates that nature, the cult of certain individuals, ‘archons’ or placeholders of epochal principles—it takes a special bent for the absurd to hold that Heidegger smuggles these or other offspring of the metaphysics of degrees past critical customs without declaring them. On the contrary, he declares them. He calls them by their generic name, epochal Prägungen or Gepräge (stampings or stamps), and he relegates them under the hypothesis of closure.
The criteria that legitimate economic anarchy thus have nothing in common with those invoked by twentieth-century anarchism of power (superiority of a race, etc.), just as deconstruction has nothing in common with the metaphysical hierarchies it dislocates. Neither do these criteria resemble those used by Proudhon (the substitution of Science for the domination of man by man)19 or Bakunin (“spontaneous life,” “passion,” the “revolt of life against science”).20 The criterion in question is rather technology itself and its bifrontal essence. Economic anarchy is therefore a concept of phenomenological ontology. It has nothing to do with the ancient debate about the best form of government: the three forms traditionally judged good, monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy, and their respective perversions, tyranny, oligarchy, and anarchy. To confuse the amalgam of these three perversions—the anarchy of power—with economic anarchy is to be mistaken about the starting point, the method, and the result of the phenomenology of reversals in presencing. Its starting point is the ambivalence of the technological age, not some valuation of human types; its method consists in tracing the economies that have produced that ambivalence, not in redistributing power among human types; and its consequence is a potential for freedom in our age, not the control of one type by another.
2. You give such status to contemporary technology that it comes to close a culture. Does that not exaggerate the significance of today’s transformations? Rather, let us say that for a century Western intellectuals have run out of ideas and that from the prescriptive that it was, philosophy must henceforth remain content with being modestly descriptive. This does not entitle one to claim a dramatic break in world history, still less to advocate some sharp political discontinuity. If Heidegger inflates the Kehre to such proportions, he can only end by asking for a total change, which amounts to rendering all change impossible.
—It is true that the technological reversal is for Heidegger the most decisive in over two millennia. Its potential is therefore hardly skimmed when social scientists define it by the transition to advanced capitalism, the post-industrial era, the managerial rather than authoritarian disposition of power, post-liberalism, etc. All these traits pertain to one of the two Janus faces, the one whereby the age without a beyond, which is ours, calls in its very economy of presencing for something to stabilize its drifts. As absolute referents have lost their credit, the office of stabilizing passes over to administrative rationality. It is this rationality—which is not instrumental, as Weber would have it—that reaches its acme with the technological turn. It is the same rationality of total administration which becomes monstrous in totalitarianism. One has to see that these deliria indigenous to ‘framing’ are backlashes to the anarchism in the modality of presencing itself. The either-or that Heidegger suggests brings into play the other Janus face: we either learn how to comply with the drifts in the network of phenomenal interconnectedness, or we will witness and bring about more and more of those deliria—and truly global ones.
This is not to say that the transition beyond epochal constellations is anything extraordinary, a sharp, highly visible turnabout in public life. It consists in doing explicitly what we always do and cannot help doing: conforming to presence as it comes about, to the event of presencing—but henceforth without the fiction of some ultimate stabilizing ground. In this way the technological reversal contains the opportunity to recognize and retain what is most ordinary in life, namely, that its context is never the same. Ever since Aristotle succeeded in solving the more ancient aporias about motion, becoming and change, kinēsis (except in astral theology) has stood opposed to being. Read in terms of the question ti to on the fact of the technological turning appears to be charged with a potential that shows how Heidegger works not only through, but also against metaphysics: leading the attributive modes of presencing—in which presence is primarily the attribute of God, nature, or consciousness—to their fulfillment, that turning opens up the possibility of a withering away of these modes. Such a decline would break the Aristotelian opposition between being and becoming and would allow action to conform, not to any principial regularities, but rather to each thing’s arrival in presence, each event of presencing, as such.
This gives additional evidence that to speak of being inevitably also includes speaking not only of becoming, but furthermore of doing or acting. Action (in the strict sense of intervention in public life), just as much as thinking (in the strict sense of life of the mind), must become docile to the event of presencing—which, since the kenōsis of ideals in the Western world, it has already begun doing. The question of action, and more precisely of political intervention, enters this phenomenology from an entirely different angle than in any formal derivation—in which the middle term is ‘goal’ (telos)—of the schemes of πϱα̃ξις from the schemes of ϑεωϱία. Heidegger does not hold that either thinking or acting is intrinsically telic. That is why practical doctrines cannot follow in any way from ontological ones: the argument of derivation has lost its middle term. As stated earlier, instead of an argumentative priority, he seeks a practical one. The ensuing inversion of the transcendental status of action permits him to suggest that public praxis in an economy deprived of any epochal principle can only be anarchic. The hinge on which this inversion turns again concerns the representation of goal: it is necessary to exist ‘without why’ in order to understand presencing as itself without archē or telos, ‘without why’.
Praxis deprived of a goal or end is the concrete condition for thinking ‘being itself’ as deprived of an end. Although he renders the derivation ‘acting follows being’ non-operational, Heidegger is more explicit about the impossibility of deriving any philosophic disciplines from the thinking of being than he is about the practical abolition of teleology as the condition of that thinking of being. Anarchic praxis: this is the topos where the man Martin Heidegger undoubtedly would not so much have liked to see himself led.
3. ‘Acting without a why’: you will not escape the accusation of advocating the abolition of all practical norms. Your reverse reading of Heidegger’s texts leads you to oppose a relativism without remedy to those who consider at least Being and Time still compatible with moral formalism. If natural teleology is its target, the deconstruction leaves us with no more than mere descriptions of historical givens. “Truth on this side of the Pyrenees, error beyond . . .” (Pascal). Indirect givens perhaps, since this version of Pyrrhonism seems to describe not the mores and customs themselves, but their changing regularities. Empirical givens all the same. No transcendence, nothing but the facts and their concatenations. At the reversals of history the kaleidoscope of things is shaken, and a new configuration appears. It is doubtful that Heidegger understood the question of being that way. In sum, you confine him to what Kant might have called a cultural anthropology. Or rather, given the great case you make of modalities of exchange and the sequence of their arrangement, in a systematization of what Michel Foucault described as the order of things. Deconstruction so understood is perhaps broader, but no less positivistic, than the archeology of knowledge.
—This might be so if the deconstruction exhibited only the beginning and end of the various economic eras, only the ‘epochs’ in the sense of reversals, only the historical folds and modes of unfolding. But the inquiry does not stop there. The original origins, the beginnings that set the stage for a while, are of no particular interest except in view of the originary origin, which is the simple event of presencing as such. It is easy to show that the originary is not a historicist or positivist concept. The phenomenology of the later Heidegger is indeed descriptive in that his argument steps back from historical givens or entities to the datable rise and while of their interconnectedness, i.e., to ‘beingness’ in the sense of an epochal way of things to be. But his phenomenology is transcendental in that it seeks to reach in turn the conditions of these historical orders and breaks between them. From the original and its principles it therefore steps back to the originary; from beingness to ‘being’. The first step backward (which reveals, for example, how the Inca became the princeps of the Precolumbian empire and the decimal system its principium) is only the preamble—where one ‘goes first’—to the second step which reveals the general traits according to which being can at all be ‘principled’. Heidegger’s history of being does not stop at narrating a sequence of epochal regularities since that twofold Schritt zurück leads from the given to the modes of giving, then to the ‘there is’ that gives. Any interpretation of Heidegger that would end by paralyzing that double movement would stall his train of thought at its crucial juncture.
As for practical norms, their source is equally twofold. On one hand, material obligations, such as what were once called estate duties, have their obvious source in norms that epochal orders alone can justify (thus with the Christian conquest of Peru, llama sacrifices cease to be a duty). Material norms are legitimized by recourse to the epochal principles of the day. They are displaced—for instance, from one side of the Pyrenees to the other—as the principles gain and lose their sway. Formal norms, on the other hand, have been held to entail necessary and universal obligation inasmuch as every rational agent found himself bound by them through his natural constitution—in whatever way this may have been construed. Whether philosophers located their source in a divine intellect or in practical reason, these were the norms capable of ‘in-forming’ human conduct and of guaranteeing virtue. If, now, by ‘formal’ one wishes to address such an imprint of an intelligible ought on sensible matter, these norms depend again on the epochal principles: not on this or that particular one of them, but upon their trail from Plato onward, since they are what has brought us such distinctions as those between sensible and intelligible, matter and form. But if by ‘formal’ one wishes merely to address the set of traits according to which men have in fact acted—traits which are generalizable beyond the epochs toward a possible transition—then these traits have their source not in the original, but in the originary. They are born from the self-differentiation of presencing, which is to say that they are no longer norms but rules.
Practical anarchy, then, requires no other method than the one that has produced the categories of presencing. Their identity results from the Parmenidean formulations in Heidegger according to which ‘thinking’ and ‘presencing’—noein and phuein (einai)—are one and the same event. The formal identity of traits for thinking and norms for acting is also in keeping with what has been said above of moral evil: “If there is anything in thinking that can prevent men from doing evil, it must be some property inherent in the activity itself.”21 It follows that the categorization of Ereignis indicates at least the contours of a possible deduction of rules for action. What would the status of these practical categories be—categories which, for lack of any basis in Heidegger, I will refrain from hypothesizing? Their status would be exactly the same as that of the categories of presencing: read phenomenologically as an ensemble of regulating features that structure Western history. Their formalization would make it possible to escape moral relativism without, however, fantasizing yet again a human nature, a reason occupied by invariable laws with which to govern sensibility and instincts, and an “irrevocable morality” imposing itself on everything—as the anarchist Saurin put it,22 following Kant—through logic alone. The unity in the ‘destiny of presencing’ makes it impossible for action to follow paths significantly deviant from the fundamental prospective, retrospective and transitional traits. In this unity of transcendental formalization we hold with Kant for whom the moral law did not require a special deduction since in his Critique of Practical Reason he could presuppose the general structure of transcendental arguments.23 Furthermore, the practical incidence of the categories—of which Heidegger (against Kant, this time) says nothing, be it only to avoid any new dichotomy between theory and practice—confirms that anarchy means absence of rule, but not absence of rules.
Nor do the anarchic displacements spelled out above amount to deriving once more a praxology from an ontology. If the traits that determine action are to be won through the same method as the traits of presencing, it is because ‘thinking’ in the sense of complying with the event—in the sense of ‘thanking’—includes action. “Thinking changes the world,” “thought itself is a doing.”24 Heidegger renovates the transcendental problematic not only by dissociating it from that of the subject, but also by abolishing the methodological distinction between theoretical and practical inquiry. As ‘thinking’ is understood so broadly that it includes the way an entire culture lives and acts, subjective reason and its acts (knowing, willing, judging) can only disappear as issues within the more general investigation of the temporal difference: formal rules for knowing, willing and judging alike come to be sought on the side of presencing and its event, while material maxims for these acts appear on the side of the economies and their history.
We have seen that, at the moment of closure, action in the narrow sense turns into the practical condition for the exit beyond the epochal economies as well as for a phenomenology capable of exhibiting the road of that transgression. The inversion of roles whereby praxis ends up as a condition for philosophy is not incompatible with the formalism in question. The maxim concomitant with the ‘turning’, one that demands universal application, would then prescribe the struggle against any vestige of an epochal first—a material maxim and, as such, of course thoroughly provisional.
4. There remains the objection of idealism. These ‘epochal principles’ look very much as if they were making history, directing the lives of men, in the received phrase, behind their backs. More surprisingly still, under Heidegger’s gaze Western history since the Greeks seems to articulate itself with an intrinsic necessity. Does it not run toward the atomic age as its inescapable resolution? Whatever Heidegger’s assurances to the contrary, is he so far from systematizing a process that remains unintelligible and unreal as long as it is not ‘closed’, a process that realizes itself in the medium of history according to strict laws of progression and that places us in a privileged, panoptic, eschatological position?
—I have said how the categorial, the middle zone between the factual starting point and the question of being, makes it possible to avoid the two stumbling blocks of relativism and idealism. The issue is best broached through the temporal difference this question and the categories precisely seek to address, namely, the difference between presencing and history, or between Ereignis and Geschehen. If one speculates that full presence comes to itself in and through history, then, yes, the epochs and their end provide the framework for a panoptic system ordered by ideatable principies and in which the atomic age marks the moment of rational apotheosis. But it has been shown that the event of presencing escapes diachronic retrieval. Only economic modes of presence can be retrieved this way. The categories deconstruct access to the event, but they do not name that event itself. It is without temporal extension. The deconstruction of historical eras frees the matrix into which the event of presencing cuts synchronically, vertically. Furthermore, the reversals between economies do not concretize presencing as such. The event—the entry into mutual relations of everything that shows itself in one given moment—occurs immediately. It is what can be, and has always been, closest to us. Only the methodic access to it, the effort of wresting it from the phenomena and of introducing it into discourse, is necessarily mediate. This mediating function for the sake of a discursive retrieval is incumbent upon the categories. Strictly speaking then, these are only indirectly categories ‘of presencing’—only in the sense of an objective, not a subjective, genitive. Heidegger seeks to recapture the question of being, but ‘being itself’ resists categorization and full grasp: the event joins presencing with absencing.
It follows that the closure is not in the least an ontophany. The ‘end’ of philosophy does not designate anything like the certitude that consciousness has at last made reality rational and appropriated it through the medium of history. It is on the contrary the hubris or injustice (adikia) of epochal principles to give the illusion of full intelligibility; but they are no agents, and their culmination or eschaton in technology universalizes nothing. Nor does full presence result from their disappearance, as if their withering led the event to complete possession of itself. We have seen that in spite of the awkwardness of the vocabulary the Ereignis, ‘appropriation’, is irreducible to the metaphysics of presence. To a phenomenology whose first step is descriptive, the principles appear rather like centers of gravity around which phenomena arrange themselves for a time. That excludes all speculation about progress. Since the starting point of this phenomenology is an entirely contingent fact, and since the unities it discovers are purely categorial, its endpoint cannot be anything noumenal. If Heidegger meant it as such, he would be committing the grossest ‘undue transition’ (metabasis) from the transcendental to the transcendent. Under the name of being, he seeks the condition of any entity in its entry into the economy where it has its place—not its natural, but its historical place. That name, being, which is a verb, therefore designates the self-manifestation of an entity out of and against absence. This is why it cannot be the name of a universal. There is entry into an economy, there is manifestation, only of this or that entity (which is not to say that the entry is also thinkable only in terms of entities; on the contrary, it is thinkable only in terms of the economies). Alētheia prevails over lēthē in the multitude of what occurs: multitude of this or that entity, of these or those entities, appearing, lingering, and withdrawing. What occurs is only the visible world, the network of relations between words, things, and actions, only the shifting affinities among phenomena as the folds are unfolded by critical reversals. Neither presence and its economies nor presencing and its event can be understood as anything but tenuous. If the epochal consteilations as well as the self-manifestation on which they confer their momentary modality are always the constellations and the manifestation ‘of entities’, then to speak of presencing ‘itself’—even without asking about its groundedness in those entities—is inevitably to speak of the transient.
Presencing—Heidegger’s ‘being’—is not present. All the more is it not omnipresent. Nor is it powerful or omnipotent. Although mysterious as hiding-showing, it is nothing divine. It does not realize the theological idea. And although it may be gathered from any and every entity, from every region or economy of entities, presencing is neither the total composite of things—extended with or without limits in time and space—nor the infinitesimal, simple part composing each thing, nor the cause of all things happening in the world, nor the first and necessary ground on which they depend. It does not realize the cosmological ideas. The problem of the whole and the parts, as well as that of causes and effects, is entirely linked to the question of the constitution—finite or infinite—of the world represented as an entity. Since the inner makeup of entities is not at issue, none of these antinomic ideas bears on presencing in any way. Lastly, although there is manifestation only for man, and although the non-cosmological concept of finitude has an ‘existentialist’ and therefore ‘humanist’ origin, presencing is nothing human and still less mental. It is a matter neither of consciousness nor of the will, nor of life, nor of the mind or one of its faculties, nor of any attribute through which philosophers have characterized the human entity. It does not realize the anthropological idea. Not legitimately reducible, even covertly, to any of the three traditional ideas from which metaphysicians have construed the infinite—God, World, Man—nor to their unity in the concept, presencing does not fall under the ‘either-or’ of the finite and the infinite. Together with the representation of the ideally infinite, its contrary, that of the really finite, also becomes unworkable. It would therefore be best not to risk suggesting a contrary to finitude in connection with presencing, but to deconstruct ‘finitude’, too, and to speak instead of what occurs—precisely of the event.
These reminders of the status of the categorial and of finitude are sufficient to refute idealism. But they are not enough to refute a last possible misunderstanding, the temptation to reduce ‘being’ to ‘economy’.
5. Heidegger’s starting point and the question he puts to it—that is, the fact of technology and the Seinsfrage—may indeed be instructive concerning today’s cultural situation in the West. But at what a price! You have certainly said that the sole issue Heidegger continually addressed was that of being. It is however all too obvious that the word ‘being’ is one you would rather avoid. Your stress on the ‘economies’ ends by altering that very issue. It substitutes the problematic clarity of a one-dimensional concept for a Heideggerian depth—as charged with ambiguities and obscurities as that depth may be. As far as we know, economies of presence have not prompted any battle of the giants, any gigantomachy. Your genealogy obfuscates once again the question intially raised by Parmenides and Aristotle. Instead of helping to overcome the forgottenness of being you aggravate it.
—‘Economy of presence’ translates Heidegger’s noun Anwesenheit and ‘presencing’ his verb Anwesen. The first is a set-concept, the second, an event-concept. Their difference is already contained in the duality of Heidegger’s starting point and the question he puts to it. Phrasing that difference in terms of epochal economies allows one to bring out certain traits that other words, too, may connote—but not as well. Positively, the concept of economy makes it possible to retrieve what some Presocratics and Aristotle hinted at concerning being: the difference and the a priori. Negatively, it shows being’s non-human and its mobile, non-stable character.
Difference. The economic order in which things are arranged at any given moment is by definition transitory. Since these orders are discoverable and definable only in relation to epochs, they come and go. Something present receives a function and a place in them which vary epochally. For example, an entity such as an academic institution is present in the economy of an age in one way when it is situated at the intersection of a State bureaucracy, ideological and political pressure groups, public funds, and national as well as individual prestige. Such an institution betrays another function and place, it is present in another way, when campus buildings bear the names of the banker Mellon, of Rockwell armaments, Carnegie steel, and Westing-house electronics. The first mode of presence is that of today’s European universities, the second, that of many American universities. A third mode of presence would be the medieval, for instance, in which the university was phenomenally located at the intersection of a migrant clergy, rural over-population and poverty, the authority of one text and a dead language, and the promotion of a single doctrine. These are just so many economies or modalities of presence which differ from the entity they situate.
In the difference between entities and their beingness, ‘being itself’ does not appear yet. Moreover, if the history this difference helps uncover is indeed one of givens, it is a history of given strategies rather than of hard data. The strategies—soft facts, because indissociable from interpretation—have dates, which are those of the disjunctive moments that open and close their viability. But the later Heidegger’s starting point for the question of being is not an entity. It is the predominance of a certain strategy today, and in that sense a fact, for which he seeks the condition in the phenomenon of entry into presence: an ever-new entry, whatever the historical arrangement may be into which it cuts. To speak of economies is not to substitute structure for being but to set apart three levels in phenomena: entitative, strategic, eventlike. This answer to the being-question, the three-tiered temporal difference, is not then a one-dimensional concept without depth.
To understand the difference in terms of the economies clearly does not amount either to reissuing the ancient distinction between ti and hoti, or essence and existence, as if modality of presence answered the question: quid sit? what is it? and the event of presencing, the question: an sit? is it? Economy does not add quiddity to event. If in itself the event that is phusis were deprived of all economic-historical quality, if it were neutral in that sense and stood in need of composition, then what Heidegger calls “the entry into the event” could not put an end to epochal history, nor could action become kata phusin, compliant with the event. The turning—the transition toward an economy whose nomos is only phuein—would lapse into absurdity, and the emancipation of the aletheiological constellations from principial rule, into impossibility. If the event designated the mere fact or act of being, Heidegger’s decisive contribution to philosophy—namely, the understanding of being as time—would be done for. As developed earlier, he sought to reach that understanding first through ecstatic, then through historical-destinal temporality; but only the ‘event’ allowed him to answer the question: “What leads us to name time and being together?”25 Only the ‘there is’—literally, ‘it gives’—allows for addressing time together with being. To speak of the temporality of being is therefore not to speak of the essence of an existent. The giving of the given, the simple ‘there is’, differs from the economies, but this difference is irreducible to that of ti-hoti, or was-dass. The originary duality cannot be a matter of composition. In discussing Parmenides and the noun-verb distinction contained in the participle, then again in analyzing the ontological difference, and lastly in connection with ‘thing and world’, each time it has appeared that retrieving an originary duality is rather a matter of thinking the identity of the non-identical. All the more is the event, although inseparable from the economies, both irreducible to and uncompoundable with them.
The a priori. The concept of economy of presencing repeats the a priori while dissociating it from cognitive issues. It had remained linked to these issues since its two births in antiquity and at the beginning of modernity. Its first birth occurred with Plato. In order to know that two wooden planks or two stones are of equal shape, we must possess a foreknowledge of what equality and identity are. Where does such preliminary knowledge come from (Phaedo)? Or again, where does knowledge of mathematical or geometrical principles come from so that simple maieutic questioning can make us discover it in ourselves (Meno)? Plato answers with the double speculative doctrine of the ideas and of recollection. The second birth of the a priori occurs with Kant. In order for us to know that, for example, all change follows the law of causation, we must produce in ourselves the concept of causality even before observing this or that incident of change. The judgment that links such an observed incident to its cause and categorizes it as an effect expresses a complex, synthetic knowledge. This knowing necessarily precedes experience, but it cannot be obtained by simple analysis of either the concept ‘cause’ or the concept ‘change’. Such a judgment is not analytic, yet it is conceptual. It is not empirical, it is not generated from repeated experience, yet it amplifies our knowledge. The a priori results here not from a speculative but a critical construct of structures and their functions in subjectivity. From that apparatus arises a group of forms and notions whose pure conjunction renders these judgments possible. In Kant as in Plato, the a priori serves to give an account of how we can at all obtain universal and necessary knowledge. In antiquity as well as modernity, the a priori rests furthermore on the distinction—which it both justifies and bridges—between the sensible and the intelligible.
Third birth: even before handling a tool, examining a chemical compound, addressing others, we already understand that tools, objects, and others do not solicit the same type of behavior from us, that their modes of being are not the same. Being and Time analyzes the structure that makes such a pre-understanding of the regions of being possible. That pre-understanding is no longer a cognitive one. The first prejudice, the systematic precedence of knowing over all other activities, is thereby broken. Pre-understanding is now operative first and essentially in everyday comportment, which it diversifies according to regions and thus determines. With that focus on ordinary gestures falls, too, the separation between the sensible and the intelligible—the other unexamined assumption in all previous metaphysical investigations of the a priori. Later on, Heidegger discovers that pre-understanding has a history, that it articulates itself variously from one reversal to the next. In deconstructing the strategies of interaction, i.e., the epochal a priori that is an economy, the condition appears that in turn renders an epoch’s pre-understanding possible: the event of presencing. The concept of economy therefore dissociates the a priori from any construct of intelligibles, whether one that constitutes a separate world or a subjective faculty. The analytic of economies locates the a priori neither beyond the visible realm in subsistent ideas nor underneath it in abiding concepts of the understanding. What determines a priori all relations among entities is their arrangement as it results from a crisis in history; the evanescent layout which is truth as alētheia; the mode of interaction in a given constellation of presence and absence—in short, an economy of presence. In Plato the a priori is a power of anamnesis and its condition, the separation between the two worlds; in Kant it is a power of synthesis and its condition, the separation between the two stems of knowledge. In Heidegger the a priori is economic and its condition no longer any separation, but the temporal difference between economy and event.
Just like its ancient and modern forebears, the phenomenological a priori is nothing in itself. An economy is only appearance, the fabric of relations according to which the ingredients of an era coalesce—not as givens for consciousness, but by acting systemically on one another. The concept of economy is crucial in order to exclude, with no appeal possible, not only any one-dimensional denotation of being in Heidegger, but also the lingering noumenal connotations whose seductive charms on many commentators, particularly in the United States, seem irresistible.
In his last public address, Heidegger assigned himself the task, already quoted, of “thinking being without regard for its groundedness in entities.”26 The temporal difference, hinging as it does on the economies and their categories, in no way contradicts that assignment. To understand being—event, phuein, presencing—via its economic traits is not to understand it in terms of any groundedness in entities, but in terms of beingness which, as a set of conditioning historical loci, ‘grounds’ nothing. If it should be objected that with “the entry into the event” “the history of being comes to its close”27—that with the discovery of the eventlike character of presencing the detour through the historical economies is no longer viable—the answer has to be that what draws to a close is epochal history. In the midst of what may be the technological turn, the requirement for thinking being as groundless remains, then, an anarchic economy.
This is, however, a requirement that has only indirectly to do with man.
Anti-humanism. Heidegger’s equating metaphysics with humanism remains incomprehensible without the mediating concept of economy or some equivalent—mediating between the entity ‘man’ and the non-entity or no-thing ‘being’. Man is the ordering principle whose representation has governed the modalities of presence ever since the Socratic turn, although representation as the mechanism of his ordering power was to become evident only later along the road. For a long period, that rule of man as well as that master device, representation, were able to remain hidden behind other shapes, notably those of a supreme entity whose attainment was the goal of Greek paideia as well as of the medieval itinerarium mentis. That rule and that device come unmasked with the modern cogito and triumph with the ‘will to will’ in the technological age. One should therefore not feel alarmed at risking the truism that man has been the epochal principle of all Western philosophy and civilization.
In a first sense, then, anti-humanism is a polemic stance which faces up to principial regimes so as to hasten their downfall and ‘carry to term’ a non-principial economy. Not that the methodic denial of man’s master posture, for instance in the areas of today’s social sciences in which antihumanism was coined as a term, suffices to produce such a liberation. The theoretical turn away from anthropocentrism is only one condition for the possible thinking (being as time) of a possibility (anarchic economy). But one acts and thinks through possibilities, and no other concept suggests a radical, although perhaps inconspicuous, economic mutation as precisely as the concept of anti-humanism.
The polemic stance is however only the consequence, whether or not acknowledged by those social scientists, of the two possibilities mentioned. They are intertwined. If anti-humanism turns into a viable path for thinking, it does so by virtue of an economy whose turn that thinking echoes or responds to. The contours of the anarchic order of things which is today a possibility have been traced by the categories of transition. They do not delineate a safer dwelling for man, one in which everything beautiful and noble that men have created in history finally will be protected and preserved; but they do draft the end of the modes of presencing in which one referent reigns supreme. The ambivalence of technology—both climax and fulfillment of anthropocentrism, its fulfillment because its climax—therefore announces, at least to the gaze of deconstructive phenomenology, the destitution of man, the legislator of presence, that is, of man as representor. To say that metaphysics is essentially humanistic is to say that, with growing determination through the ages, representation is what confers on things their meaning, their place, their being. All that is or can be is there for representational man. The no longer polemic, but economic, concept of anti-humanism already subverts this distribution—which is inseverably theoretical and practical—by the master’s hand. The possible shift in presencing would make masterly handling an awkward move.
The economic concept of anti-humanism takes root, however, in yet another one due to which the senses of anti-humanism come to parallel those of the three-tiered temporal difference. Indeed, presencing as an event is nothing human. To say a thing arrives in its world is not to say that man’s initiative brings it there. On the contrary, as ‘mortal’, he is to be counted among the systemic constituents—gods/mortals/sky/earth or, following a different cut, things/words/actions—that come forth from absence. This is obviously neither to say that man is the author of nothing, that his ancient titles of demiurge through the goodness of the Demiurge, and of creator through the grace of the Creator, are ‘false’. The categories of transition seek to retain something of phenomena that belongs to another problematic and that has nothing to do with human ‘creativity’, either by sustaining or contradicting it. The event is non-human, as time is in Presocratic phuesthai.
The polemic concept of anti-humanism, in social theory as well as in thinking, is conditioned by the economic concept and this, in turn, by the eventlike. Perhaps the term ‘anti-humanism’ should be reserved for the first of these three, while the second should be spoken of as negation of anthropocentrism, and the third as a-humanism.
Motility. It will be recalled that the economies, since they assign each thing its site or world, can be called ‘poetic’, or better, ‘poietic’. They order the topoi, the places, where each phenomenon is what it is. Action, too, is to be understood in this topological sense. The universal and necessary conditions for action reside in the constellations as they come about and undo themselves. That literal sense of ‘poetic’, according to René Char, tells us what we are: “In your essence you are incessantly a poet.”28 In the age of transition—René Char would say: at the “ford”—this making, this poiēsis of modes in presencing, turns and becomes irreducible to any archic figure. To the question, What is to be done? the poet responds with another question: “Why should this ford of philosophy be a single stone?”29 In the age of closure, economic poiein becomes multiple, mobile. As such, it precedes action and determines it: “Poetry no longer punctuates action; it moves ahead of action to show it the motile path.”30