What we are dealing with here is really space. For more than forty years now we have known that we are living in the epoch of space (Foucault was one of the first to tell us this in the 1960s). More often than not, this epoch of space is juxtaposed against the epoch of history that would have come earlier, which then died out little by little in the second half of the twentieth century. There can be no doubt that this century will be remembered for the suspicions it raised against history, since history was at the center of the previous century’s attention. Yet it is not enough merely to diagnose the succession and the substitution of a spatial model for a temporal one given that there are deeper and more complex reasons that account for putting forward the spatial schema (or that of spacing) in a horizon such as the present one.

The Minnesota Review: “Dialogue on the Philosophy to come” (the excerpt quoted above is from Jean-Luc Nancy), tr. by Thimothy Campbell, no. 75, Fall 2010, p. 72 (PDF: subscription may be required)

From the same issue I quoted earlier (“Koinonia without power?” July 3, 2011) comes this dialogue between Roberto Esposito and Jean-Luc Nancy. The whole discussion could be divided in six major themes: space (71-74), the link between philosophy and politics (74-79), community (79-82), ethic and ontology (82-83), technology (83-85) and body (85-87). Following are quotes taken from each of those themes.

  1. Jean-Luc Nancy continues his reflexion on the concept of space. Those ideas are actually a summary of a preface he wrote for Benoit Goetz’s book La Dislocation (editor’s website) (pp. 72-73):

    The history in which Enlightenment thinkers, Romantics, and proponents of industrial progress recognized themselves was for the most part the history of the conquest of space: the completion of the process of the colonialization, independence, and development of the Americas; territorial realignments in Europe; and immigrations that were the effect of the two preceding phenomena—all accompanied by a growing technical mastery of maritime and terrestrial distances [>p. 73] (steam, air, pistons), of electric communications either underwater or above, and of the spaces of urban and interurban circulation. In that epoch the streets, the railroads, the cables, and the cities in which we live acquired their present configuration. The surface of the planet no longer has any terrae incognitae, maps no longer contain blank spaces: Timbuktu and Lhasa, the deserts and the North and South Pole—everything has already been explored. Expeditions to far-off territories have achieved their mission and now give way to a conquest of interplanetary and interstellar space that does not have the same rhythm or meaning. This is because we are no longer dealing with uncovering the secrets of the earth but rather of coordinating the extension of transmissions in the confines of a reciprocal surveillance and the intimidations of economic and political powers [potenze].

  2. Jean-Luc Nancy again on the relation between philosophy and politics (p. 76):

    Philosophy and politics are founded together in the field of an essential withdrawing: that of the gods, that of being-together (the gods were custodians of the totality and the totality was assembled by their own gods), or, to put it better, in the withdrawal of presence. If one can define “metaphysics” as a “metaphysics of presence,” the sense given to it by Nietzsche and then by Heidegger (a definition that as such is to be attributed of course to Derrida), then we also need to understand that the “presence” of metaphysics is the effect of a relation of loss with regard to an originary or divine presence.

  3. Roberto Esposito on the idea of community (p. 82):

    We need to be ever on the lookout for every substantialist lapse of the idea and the practice of community.

  4. Esposito on the the relation between the ontological question and the question posed by ethics (p. 82):

    In other words, beginning with the coincidence without remains between world and sense and therefore with the refusal to postpone meaning to something that is not the present condition of existence itself, how is political activity thinkable?

  5. Nancy on technology, love and losses (p. 84):

    If you prefer, I am in agreement about the “finality without goals,” or a goal that one could define as a non-fulfillment similar to that of art, of eroticism, or of love: not the satisfaction, being satiated, or entropy, but the further branching out of energy, including falls and absences, suspensions and losses. A goal without a telos; can we define it that way?

  6. Those are Nancy final words, and the last words of this dialogue. As they stand here, they are indirectly related to the concept of body (p. 87):

    Yet all of us know well enough this act of debasement and of suspicion, this aristocratic contempt for the common; that is, all of us who are not part of the people [popolo], given that effectively we are not a part. As university professors, “intellectuals” etc., we surely are not a part, and yet, if we look closely, are we really exempt from banality? Do we not perhaps like bread just like everyone else, and are not we passionate about a soccer match? Perhaps we have not looked enough at this aspect of things. When all is said and done, if politics and ethics (but aesthetics as well) have a meaning, it has to do with daily life and the daily possibility for each of us—for people [gente]—to be in meaning [di essere nel senso], which is to say for all of us to take part in the exceptional, in discord, and in what is distinctive.

More entries mentioning Jean-Luc Nancy or Roberto Esposito.


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