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Research in Phenomenology 39 (2009) 374–400 Research in Phenomenology Evil and the Experience of

Research in Phenomenology 39 (2009) 374–400

Research in Phenomenology

Evil and the Experience of Freedom:

Nancy on Schelling and Heidegger

Patrick Roney

Koç University, Istanbul

Abstract This essay examines Jean-Luc Nancy’s re-posing of the question of freedom in The Experience of Freedom in relation to three issues—what he calls the “thought of freedom,” the reality of evil, and the closure of metaphysics. All three elements that he discusses point directly to Heidegger’s engagement with Friedrich Schelling’s attempt to establish a system of freedom. My intervention into the discussion between these three thinkers will address several issues. The first part draws out the implications of Nancy’s argument that the thought of freedom, not the question of being as Heidegger would have it, is the ultimate matter for thinking that arises at the end of meta- physics. This in turn has important implications for Nancy’s understanding of evil. The next part confronts and criticizes Nancy’s contention that there is an “ontodicy” in Heidegger’s thought that lends a certain justification to evil. The final part aims to show how Heidegger’s engagement with Schelling and the reality of evil has to be understood within the context of the question concerning technology. This leads to a second confrontation with Nancy, who proposes a quite different interpretation of technology according to his own ontology, which he calls “being sin- gular plural,” which amounts in effect to a liberation of technology from the being-question.

Keywords Nancy, Heidegger, Schelling, freedom, evil


The objective of my essay is to determine what is at stake in the way that the work of Jean-Luc Nancy reopens the question of freedom. Nancy poses the question in the context of a threefold unity—what he calls the “thought of freedom,” the reality of evil, and the closure of metaphysics. All three elements that he discusses point directly to Heidegger’s engagement with Friedrich Schelling’s attempt in the Freiheitschrift of 1809 to establish a system of free- dom. By means of this engagement, Heidegger himself had sought a way toward the saying of the finitude of being. My intervention into the discussion

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between these three thinkers will address several issues. In the first part, I will draw out the implications of Nancy’s argument that it is the thought of free- dom that arises as the ultimate matter for thought at the end of metaphysics, not the question of being, as Heidegger would have it. This in turn has impor- tant implications for Nancy’s understanding of evil. In the next part, I will confront and criticize Nancy’s suspicion that there is an “ontodicy” in Hei- degger’s thought that lends a certain justification for evil. In the final part, my aim is to show how Heidegger’s engagement with Schelling and the reality of evil has to be understood within the context of the question concerning tech- nology. This leads to a second confrontation with Nancy, who proposes a quite different interpretation of technology according to his own ontology, which he calls “being singular plural,” which amounts in effect to a liberation of technology from the being-question. In his book The Experience of Freedom, Jean-Luc Nancy argues that there is an essential connection between freedom and evil that can be understood no longer simply as a philosophical issue but as a fact, “Henceforth, there is an experience of evil that thought can no longer ignore.” To which he then adds, “In fact, this is perhaps the major experience of all contemporary thought as the thought of freedom.” 1 One cannot but recognize a certain urgency or even an imperative in these statements. There lies in this, he claims, a “modern knowledge of evil,” different in kind from every prior knowledge, with which we contemporaries must come to terms. What, however, is the meaning of this statement, and what specifically does the “thought of freedom” refer to, and by what necessity is it linked to the experience of evil? No simple and straightfor- ward answer to this question is possible here at the start because Nancy’s claim is based on his reading of a plethora of texts, all of which in some way address what is perhaps the central issue in modern philosophy since Kant, the issue to which he gives the name “the thought of freedom” or, alternatively, although with a certain difference, the “experience of freedom.” For Nancy, the “experience of freedom” also names his own attempt at an ontology of finitude, or “being singular plural,” which should not be under- stood as an ontology in the strict sense. This is because the thought of freedom as Nancy understands its development from Kant through Schelling, to Hegel and Heidegger has produced not a completed system of reason but the oppo-

1) Jean-Luc Nancy, The Experience of Freedom, 122. Abbreviations for the English translations of Nancy’s text are as follows: EF for The Experience of Freedom; BSP for Being Singular Plural, and SW for The Sense of the World. For publication information of all works cited in this essay, see attached list of references.

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site. Idealism after Kant is shattered by the idea of freedom, thereby bringing metaphysics, whose task was to show the unity of knowledge and action, of being as such and thinking, to its ends. 2 Nancy’s essential claim is that the experience of freedom is equally the experience of the end of metaphysics and of the opening of our being singular plural. Yet he also recognizes that to address the matter in this way requires an engagement with that which the tradition of German Idealism had identified as the reality of human freedom, that is, the possibility of evil. As Schelling had argued, the reality of human freedom, which a completed Idealism as exemplified by the philosophies of Fichte and more so of Hegel cannot account for, is the decidedness for good and evil, and perhaps more originally, the decision for evil as a definite and essential possibility of human being. This then is the thought that philosophy produces when it proposes freedom alone as the principle upon which the system will be grounded, when philosophy knows itself as its own praxis, and which runs aground on this very attempt, leaving freedom as the one idea that metaphysics cannot think. My essay will attempt to pursue Nancy’s thinking at some length, and I will do so in light of several questions addressed in, and addressed to, two of his primary works, The Experience of Freedom and Being Singular Plural. If, as Nancy maintains, the task of thinking is to determine not the essence of exis- tence but the freedom of existence, then this implies that the question of free- dom takes priority over the question of being and that freedom is no longer tethered to being. What are the stakes of this shift in questioning, particularly as it pertains to the question of responsibility? Nancy’s suggestion seems to be that thinking is not primarily responsible for, and does not respond to, the abandonment of beings by Being, as in Heidegger, as much as it affirms the

2) I say “ends” in the plural for several reasons. First, as with both Heidegger and Derrida, Nancy does not understand the “end of metaphysics” to be its cessation, as if metaphysics will disappear. Nancy understands “end” in the sense of finality, that is, the “mode of execution” (l’exécution) or “accomplishment” of a being insofar as it comes to a stand as a complete, finished being. What the end or the “finishing” (la finition) of metaphysics signifies is the carrying out, the “execution” of metaphysics to the limit of its own logic, that is, “to the extremity of its own Being” (BSP 118). And it is precisely at this extremity that meaning (sens) exceeds the ends of metaphysical thinking. Beings can no longer be “finished off ” in terms of the ends that are tied to the sovereign character of Being itself. In The Sense of the World, Nancy offers essentially the same thought as a process of the subtraction of meaning from the world. The phrase, ‘the end of the world’ means that “there is no longer any assignable signification of ‘world,’ or that the ‘world’ is subtracting itself, bit by bit, from the entire regime of signification available to us” (SW 5).

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abandonment that existence is—that existence is nothing else than “la liberté de cet abandon.” 3 Secondly, in what way does this shift also transform the central problem of human freedom, that of evil? In his Schelling lectures, Heidegger followed Schelling in his characterization of the malice of evil as “reversed conscien- tiousness” (umgekehrte Gewissenhaftigkeit) in which the self-contained indi- vidual will reverses the relation between existence and ground, or alternatively stated, the “insurrection of the ground’s craving, as the ground not to be one condition, but the sole condition.” 4 In his “Letter on Humanism,” Heidegger names evil as “the malice of fury,” 5 which represents an essential possibility of human Dasein, which, rather than describing the destructiveness of mere ego- tism, points to the absolutizing of the subject that comes to presence in the purest and yet most concealed way with the advent of modern technology. Thus, Heidegger elucidates the reality of evil as part of the withdrawal of Being, insofar as nihilation and the nothing belong to Being, which takes an extreme form in the power age where beings as a whole are nothing except that which is constantly available, that is, a Gestell. In stark contrast, Nancy under- stands technology as the very expression and development of our being singu- lar plural. One can locate this claim precisely in the section of his book Being Singular Plural that bears the title “Ecotechnics” (Écotechnie). Ecotechnics names the uncanny way in which modern technology and especially commu- nication technology damages, weakens, and upsets the functioning of all final- ities, on the one hand, and all sovereignties, on the other. Ecotechnics, he

3) As will be discussed at length, this issue represents the major point of confrontation between Nancy and Heidegger. Two major points regarding this confrontation will be discussed here. First, like Derrida, Nancy argues for a further deconstruction of the Being-question, a decon- struction that will yield the ultimate thought that both ends and exceeds metaphysics—freedom. Second, Nancy understands Heidegger’s Seinsgeschichte as an ontodicy, or at least the temptation to an ontodicy, which would represent the penultimate obstacle to the free-thinking of freedom. The disagreement can be formulated as the question, what if freedom exceeds Being, or alterna- tively, is Being anything other than the free opening of ek-sistence? Both points need to be examined carefully. 4) Martin Heidegger, Schelling’s Treatise on the Essence of Human Freedom, 160. Hereafter abbre- viated as ST. 5) The German phrase reads, “es [das Böse] beruht im Bösartigen des Grimmes” (Martin Hei- degger, Über den Humanismus, 51). The German word “das Grimme” can also mean rage or wrath and carries the connotation of that which is fierce. Heidegger’s usage of the word here suggests a fierce affirmation of the ‘not.’ Since this phrase appears in the context of a discussion on the nihilating essence of being, what it emphasizes is the strife-like character of the finitude of being.

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writes, “is also pure techne, the pure techne of nonsovereignty” (BSP 135). And again, in his work The Sense of the World, he writes, “the world of technology, that is, the technologized world, is not nature delivered up to rape and pil- lage,” but is, “the world becoming world,” and world in turn “is the name of a gathering or being-together that arises from art—a techne—and the sense of which is identical with the very exercise of this art” (SW 41). What is expressed here is perhaps the strongest point of his confrontation with Heidegger’s thought, and the criticism that Nancy levels against him is that what stands behind Heidegger’s question concerning technology, from which technology must be freed, is not a theodicy but an “ontodicy.” It is these two issues that will be addressed in this essay in the hopes that both the meaning of the “thought of freedom” and the way in which it deter- mines our “modern knowledge of evil” can be made clear. The issues to be taken up respectively are, first, Nancy’s contention that the thought of free- dom corresponds to the closure of metaphysics insofar as it forces us to rethink existence according to Heidegger’s notion of Dasein. Nancy will then argue that Heidegger did not go far enough in his thinking of the finitude of being- there, because he subordinated freedom to Being. Second, I will argue that Heidegger’s reading of Schelling’s attempt to address the reality of evil as the central problem of a system of freedom necessarily leads to the question con- cerning technology. I will show how both the questions concerning evil and technology converge in the idea of unconditional subjectivity. I will then trace the manner in which Nancy attempts to free τέχνη, and by implication tech- nology, from the way in which Heidegger has understood the latter out of the history of being as the completion of metaphysics. If Heidegger is right that technology brings to presence Being’s most extreme withdrawal, Nancy seeks to remove technology from this Seinsgeschichte through the notion of an ecotechnics as the very opening of existence itself. To what extent he is success- ful is not clear.

Freedom or Being?

The first task is therefore to understand how Nancy re-poses the question of freedom as the question of thinking in the epoch of the end of metaphysics. The opening chapter of The Experience of Freedom states the matter with par- ticular clarity. “Once,” he writes, “existence is no longer produced or deduced, but simply posited (this simplicity arrests all our thought), and once existence is abandoned to this positing at the same time that it is abandoned by it, we

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must think the freedom of this abandonment” (EF 9). This, he continues, is precisely the epoch-making thought that Heidegger introduced in Being and Time with the statement, “The essence of Dasein lies in its existence.” Thus, it is through and within the thought of the finitude of being that the question of freedom will be posed again in an original repetition. Nancy’s interpretation of this key statement reveals the direction of his own thinking:

Freedom can no longer be either “essential” or “existential,” but is implicated in the chias- mus of these concepts: we have to consider what makes existence, which is in its essence abandoned to freedom, free for this abandonment, offered to it, available in it. [il faut penser ce qui fait l’existence, en son essence abandonnée à une liberté, libre pour cet abandon, livrée à lui disponible.] (EF 9)

The chiasmus that Nancy speaks of is nothing else than the crossing-through of the attempt to understand existent beings as the actualization of an essence. It is thus metaphysics that Heidegger’s gesture crosses out on the basis of free- dom, insofar as freedom frees existence from its determination by essence. Existence, once abandoned by the metaphysical distinction and freed for this abandonment, emerges as sheer facticity, the that-it-is of being-in-the-world. Two important motifs are already present in this exposition of free exis- tence. On the one hand, an existence that is neither produced, deduced, deter- mined, nor grounded is also without finality and as such is a freed existence. Existence is, quite literally, the in-essential. Nancy’s conception remains within the Scholastic opposition between quidditas and haeccitas, the what-it-is and the that-it-is of a being, which he then subjects to a chiasmatic operation of a crossing-through. This has significant implications for his understanding of facticity. Nancy’s chiasmatic operation places the emphasis on singularity, and singularity is in turn understood as the factum brutum of things themselves. 6 That is, haeccity freed from the priority of quiddity yields an understanding of existence that is itself “the reason for its presence and the presence of its reason” (EF 10). Factual existence and, by extension, the beings that belong to it are thus radicalized in their “thisness.” This is the reason why his use of the term “existence abandonné” is wholly appropriate. Existence, as the name that designates the being of Dasein, is neither deduced nor can it be subsumed under a universal. This conception contrasts sharply with the way

6) Nancy goes so far as to identify freedom with the materiality of the body as freed from any kind of causality. Freedom is the “force of the thing,” in which the relation between things appears as the “difference of singularities as a difference of forces” (EF 103).

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that Heidegger understands Dasein’s facticity. Whereas Nancy emphasizes the freedom from principles, which is certainly present in Heidegger, the latter identifies the fundamental phenomenon of facticity as temporality. Dasein exists and understands itself in terms of a “today” in which Dasein is “there” for a while, directed in a concernful way toward the today in which it is absorbed. 7 The point I wish to make here is that it is not enough for Nancy to simply cross out the distinction between essence and existence; he must also think being according to the horizon of time. That is of course Heidegger’s whole project. Chiasmus may indeed point out the collapse of metaphysical

distinctions, but it does not necessarily succeed in showing singularity as a mode of presencing. The series of reversals that give an articulation to our free

existing tend to proliferate in Nancy’s text. “Freedom is a

of existence as the essence of itself” (EF 11). And again, “The fact of freedom is this de-liverance of existence from every law and from itself as law” (EF 30). There is a markedly Kantian nuance to these statements. The factuality of freedom is synonymous with its not being deduced. Nancy’s interpretation of facticity and freedom represents a significant change of emphasis. The “free thinking of freedom” is re-oriented toward the new, the giving-birth, and to the “surprise.” 8 As a result, Heidegger’s attempt to retrieve the question of being in terms of the presencing of the present is shifted, in Nancy, toward an understanding of presencing as the advent of the new. On the other hand, what Nancy wants to draw out of Heidegger and what he is at pains to criticize is any subordination of freedom to the truth of being. Such a subordination would in effect hold freedom in reserve, meaning that the free generosity of being’s disclosure, of truth—of letting beings be and belong to a world—would always be subject to a withdrawal of this same free gesture. This is Nancy’s primary objection. Disclosure, ἀλήθεια, also marks the withdrawal of Being as it reveals itself in beings, and in this withdrawal a “reserve” is created where, in effect, the truth of beings is also its untruth. 9

It is the fact

7) References here are to Heidegger, Ontology—The Hermeneutics of Facticity, 24–26. 8) “Freedom surprises—or rather, because freedom is not the subject of an action, freedom sur- prises itself ” (EF 115). Nancy wants to make of freedom the originary temporalization of time. What freedom offers us is the surprise of the present that is subject to no finality. 9) Concerning ἀλήθεια and the withdrawal of Being, what Heidegger actually writes in The Anaximander Fragment is the following: “Being thereby holds to its truth and keeps to itself. This keeping to itself is the way it reveals itself early on” (Martin Heidegger, Early Greek Thinking, 26; hereafter EGT ). He calls this Being’s “luminous keeping to itself in the truth of its essence.” Nancy’s tendency is to interpret Being’s keeping to itself as a holding back, as if Being held itself in reserve in the manner of a fund that waits for its maturity date. Whether Heidegger thinks the

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Already in Being and Time and throughout the whole of Heidegger’s work, Nancy finds a certain equivocation over the relation of truth to freedom, where he sometimes suggests that the truth of being holds priority, other times that freedom grounds Dasein (a ground that Nancy certainly recognizes as an Abgrund, to be sure). Of the several senses of freedom Heidegger employs, the most important early ones can be summarized as follows. First, the freedom of Dasein is to be free for its ownmost possibility of being, that is, its being- towards-death. Since death can never become present as an ‘end’ in the sense of an accomplished finality, death renders our being profoundly incomplete, other, and inessential. 10 Second, freedom is also equated with the transcen- dence of Dasein; the thrown-projection of itself into possibilities for being takes place in the free projection of an understanding of Being, and thus the meaning of Being rests upon the Abgrund of freedom. 11 Third, the proper factuality of freedom occurs as the necessity for Dasein to be its own essence, that it must take over resolutely in the face of its own Abgrund. 12 According to Nancy, these three moments could have led Heidegger to a more profound thinking of freedom, but unfortunately they did not. His contention is that Heidegger sacrificed the question of freedom in favor of the question of being, and as a result, he did not think sufficiently beyond the metaphysical determi- nation of freedom as idea. “Heidegger,” Nancy writes, “so little attended to the proper force of the word ‘freedom’—which is, in sum, the force of a resistance to the Concept or Idea or Freedom—that he used it until the end without retaining any of this force, or at least without any longer articulating any real notion of it” (EF 35). Even so, two important points result. First, these three

truth of Being in this way is far from clear however. Heidegger speaks of the truth of Being as a gathering that clears and preserves (verwahren). This however, can only be accomplished “within the openedness of Da-Sein” (EGT 36). The correctness of his interpretation aside, Nancy’s aim is to think Being as an expenditure without reserve, which would mean in effect a crossing-out of Being as the work of freedom. 10) Heidegger speaks of a “freedom towards death—a freedom which has been released from the Illusions of the ‘they,’ and which is factical, certain of itself, and anxious” (Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, 311; hereafter BT ). 11) This is expressed most clearly in Heidegger’s lecture course published as The Essence of Human Freedom: “The letting be encountered of being in each and every mode of manifestness, is only possible where freedom exists. Freedom is the condition of the possibility of the manifestness of the being of beings, of the understanding of being” (Martin Heidegger, 205). 12) The one notion of freedom absent here, which unfortunately Nancy did not address at any length is Gelassenheit. See the work of Reiner Schürmann, Heidegger on Being and Acting: From Principles to Anarchy for a discussion of the consequences of this oversight among a great many interpreters of Heidegger’s work.

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senses indicate that freedom is the proper foundation for Dasein, yet freedom founds Dasein upon an abyss. Second, the necessity for Dasein to be its

essence, its truth, has its origin in the nothing. That is to say, ‘necessity’ is founded not upon the apriority of Being, but upon the null ground of Dasein’s being-there. 13 Thus, Nancy maintains that the priority of freedom in being- there, in existence, comes to presence in the pure that there is of disclosure:

a free space opens up in which beings are dis-closed and to which Dasein is

ex-posed. Freedom gives Dasein the freedom for ex-posure, and Dasein is nothing but this being-exposed-outside-of-itself. What Nancy is trying to draw attention to are two possibilities, each com- prising one side of the equivocation. If the truth of Being takes precedence

over the freedom of being, then the result is the construction of an “ontodicy”:

As it reveals itself in beings, Being withdraws, its holds itself back in reserve, and renders the proper destiny of our history as the errancy of Being. The errancy of Being as it completes its history, as technology, might then lead to

a retrieval of the originary force of Being. If, on the other hand, the freedom

of being takes precedence, then there is in disclosure no reserve, no withdrawal or not-granting of Being. Freedom gives existence, abandons us, ex-poses us each time, singularly, without reserve. However, if Nancy seeks to re-pose the question of freedom for the sake of removing the final barriers to an ontology of finitude, which is what being singular plural intends to be, then he must likewise transform the central problem on which the metaphysics of freedom reaches and at the same time exceeds its “ends,” namely, the elucidation of evil as the essential possibility of human freedom. Anticipating the results to follow on this particular subject, Nancy reads Heidegger’s lecture course of 1936 on Schelling’s treatise on free- dom as what should or at least could have been the completion of Heidegger’s inquiries into the freedom of Dasein. But rather than presenting freedom as the “archi-foundation” of Dasein, Heidegger abandoned both Schelling’s philosophy and the project. With regard to the meaning of evil, Heidegger developed it in two senses. First, evil is a way of man’s being free as revolt against his own abyssal ground. 14 In terms of his later thought, evil bespeaks the refusal of the very opening of the world and the letting be of beings.

13) Concerning Dasein’s “nullity of Being-a-basis,” Heidegger writes, “The nullity we have in mind belongs to Dasein’s Being-free for its existentiell possibilities” (BT 331). 14) One must keep in mind Schelling’s description of the ground as Regellos, which is variously translated as ‘unruly’ or ‘anarchic’ and which Schelling characterizes as the “incomprehensible base of reality” and as the “indivisible remainder,” a phrase of out which Slavoj Žižek made a great deal of hay.

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Schelling’s “living God” may explain the origin of the individual being, but not its essence, not its being-free. When this groundlessness of the ground is refused, when the human being wills the pure craving of the ground as his own and seeks to make himself the sole ground and basis of his own existence, then this effects the de-formation of the essence of Dasein. Dasein says “no” to its existence as grounded in God and says “yes” to the act of separation by which the human becomes what it is, a Scheidung so radical as to reverse the relation of ground and existence. However, since for Heidegger this “no” is a possibil- ity that emerges from the errancy of being—that is to say, from the fact that in this disclosure/withdrawal the nothing and nihilation occur essentially in being—then it appears as if evil is justified according to the destiny of being, and that Dasein’s resoluteness for its own proper being is established through evil (EF 131). Such, according to Nancy, are the consequences of an ontodicy that will make its presence felt right up through the question concerning technology, where the advent of technology is thought in relation to the oblivion of being. Nancy’s tentative rejoinder to this occurs in three statements that, while dis- placing any metaphysical or moral interpretations of good and evil, reinter- prets the reality of evil as the supreme danger that consists, paradoxically, of the free refusal of the freedom of existing: one must affirm 1) that evil is strictly unjustifiable, and the ontodical tendency in Heidegger is in danger of justifying the unjustifiable, 2) that evil is positive wickedness in the Kantian sense of a maxim of the will, of ruining the possibility of the good for its own sake, and 3) that in its actual incarnation as the mass disposal of all singulari- ties in terms of peoples, things, and worlds, evil is strictly unbearable and unpardonable (EF 123). Nancy’s view here is not without its problems. First, to call evil unjustifi- able, unbearable, and unpardonable, while at the same time accepting that evil is a positive possibility of existence, appears contradictory. If evil names the possibility of refusing existence, then it is hard to see how this represents any- thing except a pure negativity. Evil would simply be a ‘no.’ Second, Nancy’s tentative questioning style vis-à-vis Heidegger, not to mention the equally tentative charge of “ontodicy,” is so much so that one is left to wonder pre- cisely what it is he attributes to Heidegger. What is most troubling here is how these questions result in an innuendo. “Is it possible,” Nancy asks, “to say that the thinking of being, at least as Heidegger was able to announce it, has escaped the profound logic and tonality of the idealism of freedom, according to which freedom ‘for good and for evil’ is first established and can only be established through evil, and must therefore, whether it wants to or not, in one

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way or another justify evil

“to what extent, in spite of everything and everyone, did Heidegger silently justify Auschwitz?” Is Nancy charging Heidegger with historicism? Nancy appears to be confus- ing two issues here. Heidegger’s reading of Schelling certainly does affirm evil as a positive possibility of Dasein, and not just that, but as a possibility that belongs to the innermost essence of Dasein. However, to suggest that this ontology of evil serves as a justification for Heidegger’s ethical decisions regard- ing this historical event is simply unfounded. Despite everything, it seems as if Nancy denies the ontological dimension of evil, which understands evil from out of the discord in being, and opts instead for a moral interpretation in which decision or praxis plays the primary role: “The thinking of existence cannot think free decision without having actually decided for its own exis- tence and not for its ruin” (EF 136). What emerges from Nancy’s discussion is an interpretation of evil that pro- duces a quite different result. Before pursuing that, however, it is important to address the question of whether there is an ontodicy in Heidegger in a more direct way by examining certain aspects of Heidegger’s reading of Schelling. The substance of my argument here is that Heidegger’s way of thinking evil according to the history of being succeeds first of all in showing that evil has an ontological basis such that there is a reality of evil and, second, that there is a direct and clear linkage of the reality of evil with the essence of technology. By contrast, Nancy’s way once again turns evil into something negative, and furthermore and in a certain way, freedom and τέχνη are brought into a posi- tive relation in which the work of freedom consists of releasing the body from its spiritual chains and freeing it as a play of forces—in short, a technical inter- pretation of the body. In one of the concluding remarks of his lectures on Schelling, Heidegger summarizes the results of his interrogation of the reality of evil, in relation to Schelling’s quest for a system of philosophy, with the remark that “because evil comes from the ground, the ground, however belongs to the essence of beings, evil is posited in principle with the Being of beings,” which implies that “where beings as a whole are projected in the jointure of Being, where system is thought, evil is included and implicated” (ST 160). The term Fug or “join- ture” refers to being as unifying, that is, to the difference-in-unity of Being and beings. Heidegger’s point is that the reality of evil belongs just as surely to the truth of being and that there is no way to cast evil out of the realm of being. That, of course, was Schelling’s major point. In what sense however does evil belong to the truth of being? If an ontodicy were at all present, it

.?” ( EF 131; italics mine). To which he then adds,

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would mean that the history of being would be conceived of as a series of necessary stages leading up to the final, happy, full unfolding of being itself. What Heidegger does say is that the truth of being “depends on the history of be-ing [Seyn], whether be-ing gifts or refuses itself and this truth and thus first of all actually conveys into its history what is of abground [das Abgründige].” 15 The point that Heidegger is making is that part of being’s essential sway is that it refuses itself, but that this refusal does not remain at an infinite distance but may in fact be always what is nearest to us in the disclosure of beings. Hei- degger does not prophesize anything about what is to come other than to maintain that thinking can open up a place where that refusal may disclose itself. In the “Letter on Humanism,” Heidegger offers yet a further explana- tion as to why evil must be thought in relation to the truth of being rather than ethically. If the refusal of being, or what he refers to in that text as the “nihilating in being,” belongs essentially to being, then evil “can essentially occur in being only insofar as being itself is in strife.” 16 These statements cor- respond to what Heidegger in his lecture course remarked concerning the finitude of being, namely, that “strife is the basic law and basic power of being,” and that, “the essence of all Being is finitude and only what exists finitely has the privilege and the pain of standing in Being as such and experiencing what is true as beings” (ST 162). This point must be emphasized: the strife of being is the very stamp of the finitude of being. If being offers itself as a refusal, it is not so that it will postpone its appearance to a later date. The strife is primor- dial, and that is but one reason why I find Nancy’s suggestion of a ontodical tendency in Heidegger rather unfounded, not to say confusing. With these comments in mind it is now possible to see how Heidegger reads Schelling’s presentation of the reality of evil according to the truth of being. Recalling Heidegger’s remark quoted earlier that “evil is the insurrec- tion of the ground’s craving, as the ground not to be one condition, but the sole condition,” there are two critical conclusions Heidegger draws from this. First, it places the possibility of the system, the self-knowing unity of Being and beings, into question. If, as Schelling maintains, will is primordial being, then evil presents the most extreme opposition to the unification of beings. Evil is disjointure. Second, evil consists of a self-affirmation insofar as it strives to present itself to itself unconditionally. The link to the essence of technology lies here. Self-affirmation as self-presentation is effectively re-presentation. Representation is in turn the manner in which the subject as will wills itself

15) Martin Heidegger, Contributions to Philosophy (From Enowning), 64. 16) Martin Heidegger, “Letter on Humanism,” trans. Frank Capuzzi, in Pathmarks, 272.

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unconditionally. As beings present themselves to themselves, “in this presentation [they] represent, and representing, strive for themselves. (Ge-Stell )” (ST 171). Gestell is the precise term that Heidegger employed to name the essence of technology. What is thus named as the reality of evil in Schelling corresponds to the insurrectional will of the individual not only to will its own essence but to claim the whole of beings for itself. “All existence demands a condition so that it may become real, namely personal, existence,” writes Schelling. “Man never gains control over the condition, although in evil he strives to do so.” 17 Man is thus the tragedy of his own demand for the unconditional. What is named as the essence of technology, on the other hand, is also a claim; it is the claim placed upon man to render all beings including himself as constantly present, that which is always available as a standing-reserve. The absolute and unconditional subject is not man himself; it is rather the claim placed upon man to respond to a certain mode of presencing that is characterized as a “challenging.” That is the truth of being to which technology belongs. “We now name that challenging claim which gathers man thither to order the self- revealing of the standing-reserve: ‘Ge-stell ’ ” (QT 19). Returning now to Nancy’s discussion of evil one may ask, why does Nancy eschew this interpretation? Let me restate the reason: if human freedom is a decidedness for good and evil, if they belong together as part of the primordial strife in being, then this would implicate Heidegger’s thought of being in a justification of evil. The notion of a “discord” collapses the separation between the “malice of fury” and of “grace,” 18 which threatens the distinction between good and evil with indifference. This he finds unacceptable because “the unbearable and the unjustifiable have not ceased” (EF 135). Nancy’s seeming dread before the strife of being can thus be explained as an attempt to make room for decision. It is freedom as a praxis that Nancy desires, where the decidedness for good and evil is only in the realm of possibility, whereas according to the decision for existence that must always already be there, there is only a decision for good or evil. Freedom in its act is “not the united and indifferent unleashing of good and evil, but in and through itself good or bad decision” (EF 136). To summarize the previous discussion, when interpreted within the horizon of the truth of Being, evil manifests itself as the primordial will of the subject in its becoming absolute. This absolutizing of the subject comes to presence in

17) F. W. J. Schelling, Philosophical Investigations into the Nature of Human Freedom , 62. 18) Nancy uses the terms fureur and grâce, which I assume are translations of das Grimme and das Heil, which can also mean the holy and also the healing.

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modern technology, which marks at the same time being’s most extreme with- drawal. Das Gestell, Heidegger’s term for the essence of technology, drives out every other mode of presencing, letting beings be only insofar as they fit into the standing reserve, and as such, expresses the supreme danger of nihilation that belongs essentially to being. Being nihilates, that is to say, it not only withdraws but in withdrawing renders beings themselves null. 19 On the other hand, when interpreted according to the freedom of exis- tence, evil appears as the hatred, the free refusal of existence as such, and as the hatred of singular plural being. This hatred shows itself as the re-assertion of an essence, which has been crossed through and crossed out, in the form of an identity that turns the singular into the uniformity of a mass, and from there, consigns it to a mass grave. Existence is reabsorbed into essence. Nancy’s pre- cise formulation is “freedom’s self-hatred,” which is then gathered into the statement, “Evil is in the existent as its innermost possibility of refusing exis- tence.” (le mal est dans l’existant comme sa plus possibilité de refus de l’exis- tence. 20 This notion of a free refusal repeats, in a way, Kant’s maxim of wickedness as a possibility for the will and thus marks a turn back to the con- ception of human being that emerges from Kant’s elucidation of pure practical reason—that is, of praxis. There is another quite notable difference in the two conceptions. Evil for Nancy is in fact reactionary. It signifies a reversion to an earlier state of affairs that has since been deconstructed. Apparently, the reality of evil cannot be admitted into Nancy’s thought. For Heidegger, evil expresses an affirmation of unconditional subjectivity by means of which the whole of beings are brought under control and disposed of. There is nothing reactionary about evil. It is a positive possibility that arises out of the discord of being.

19) This can be seen in Heidegger’s claim that technology is a mode of revealing that sets upon nature in the sense of challenging it to yield itself up to become a standing reserve (Bestand ). “Thus when man, investigating, observing, ensnares nature as an area of his own conceiving, he has already been claimed by a way of revealing that challenges him to approach nature as an object of research, until even the object disappears into the objectlessness of standing-reserve” (see Martin Heidegger, “The Question Concerning Technology,” in The Question Concerning Technology and other Essays, 19; hereafter QT ). Thus for example, a mountain appears as part of the standing-reserve—the coal that can be extracted from it—or it does not appear; it is null. 20) Jean-Luc Nancy, L’expérience de la liberté, 167; EF 129.

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The Character of Nonbeing: Evil and Nihilism

In order to clarify the difference between the two interpretations even further, it is useful to return once again to Heidegger’s engagement with Schelling’s work. In his lecture course of 1936, Heidegger presents two provocative issues. First, he suggests that the problem of evil shatters the project of German Ideal- ism, leaving no more possibility for a system of freedom; and second, Hei- degger himself interrupts his investigation, finding the way toward a more primordial thinking of freedom blocked even in Schelling. 21 Two points deserve mention however. First, in order to escape from the often tedious debate as to whether pantheism is a form of determinism that denies freedom, Schelling had argued that if one leaves behind the merely mechanical notion in favor of a “living God,” then it is possible to see that there is something in God that is not God himself. In other words, even though God as the pure primal ground is absolute and above every opposition, the living God is nonetheless capable of negating itself as ground, and thus of restricting itself in order to give birth to itself as a self. That is to say, God emerges from its ground to become a self that both stands within it and yet exists relatively independent of it. Second, it is only with this conception of a living God that the traditional ontotheological concept of evil, which is almost always relegated either to a lack in being or to nonbeing, can be overcome. In both cases, the issue is the being of nonbeing. God as ground is the selfless, dark, unruly (regellos) One that yearns to give birth to itself and thus to bring its ground into existence as a self that stands in the open. Through this con- ception Schelling has effectively displaced the distinction between essence and existence. The ground remains dark; it emerges as a self that appears; but this self is not the determination of some pre-existing essence, for only in relation to the existent self does the ground truly become a ground. God becomes, and becomes something other than what was originally there—an individual self whose forms of individuation proceed through definite stages, beginning with nature and reaching its highest and purest self-revealing in Man, who, as dis- tinct from God, possesses the Word or the Logos that reveals him most clearly. Only through logos can God be revealed, but logos can occur only in the crea- ture that is most independent of the primal ground, namely, Man. The unity of an individual being is thus expressed through the craving of the ground to emerge into being, to reveal itself as something that is in unity

21) Of this Nancy writes, “We are the inheritors of this interruption” (De cette interruption, nous sommes tributaires) (Expérience de la liberté, 33).

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with and yet relatively independent from, the ground—an individual, self- contained being. The relation between the two is named by Schelling as a particular form of primal willing or ‘longing,’ Sehnsucht, which involves a double movement of striving away from oneself or spreading oneself out, and yet through this negation, returning back to oneself. According to Heidegger, the unity of ground and existence described by Schelling represents nothing less than the ‘jointure of being’ in which the difference of the individual, self- contained being in its belonging together with Being is given an articulation. However, it is with this jointure that Schelling is also able to show evil as an inner possibility of being. That is to say, evil has an ontological ground where the “conditions for the possibility of God revealing himself as a self” are the conditions for the specific capacity in man for good and evil. Why man? Because he is the one in whom the Word that both reveals and separates becomes fully articulate. Man is therefore the one who holds the principle of separation in himself, standing opposite of God in both love and strife so that God can reveal himself. Man is thus effectively articulate will, and as such, Schelling has consistently developed the thought of freedom from Kant to Fichte that posits the essence of man as his own act. This means, however, that man possesses the capacity to raise the principle of separation to the level of a maxim and will himself as an individual being absolutely. Yet in separating himself from the ground, man returns back to the ground: he acts according to blind will, or Sehnsucht, and in effect strives to make himself his own ground. This explains the ontological sense of egotism which, as Schelling writes, is a decision man has already made in the eternal beginning of his emergence:

“man from eternity took his stand in egotism and selfishness [Eigenheit und Selbstsucht]; and all who are born are born with the dark principle of evil attached to them” (PI, 66). And further, “Only an evil which attaches to us by our own act, but does so from birth, can therefore be designated as radical evil” (PI 67). Of the many implications of Schelling’s presentation of the facticity of human freedom as the ontological necessity behind man’s decision for evil, the following deserve mention in this context. Insofar as man is motivated by

Selbstsucht, man strives to become absolute in the literal sense of dissolving all bonds, including and most importantly the one that binds him to the ground. Evil thus acquires not a moral but a tragic dimension. The more he decides for his own actuality, the more man destroys the unity of ground and existence, and the more needful he becomes. “Man never gains control over the condi-

tion even though in evil he strives to do so

hood can never be raised to complete actuality.” Thus does Schelling speak of

hence his personality and self-

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“the sadness which adheres to all finite life” (PI 79). This is the greatness, and the catastrophe of evil. What Schelling has done is to show how the absoluti- zation of the subject in the movement of the will willing itself to be an indi- vidual represents radical evil as a positive possibility of human Dasein. This in turn reveals something else no less uncanny: the reality of evil is undeniable, yet for the very reason that the willing of one’s self can never attain complete actuality, evil is left somewhere poised between being and nonbeing, never acquiring the status of being. This forces Schelling to consider more carefully what it means for something not to have being: “This [evil] clearly persuades us that there would be something mediate between what is and nothing, namely, what is not and also should not be, but which still endeavors to be.” This need for a third, mediating concept between being and nothing, “what is not and should not be, but which still endeavors to be,” is none other than evil. “Evil is an inner lie and lacks all true Being. And yet evil is and it shows a terrible actuality, not as something that truly has being but as that which by nature has being in endeavoring to be.” 22 Schelling names this type of actuality as a sickness, a contagion, a false life that does not exist outside ‘true actuality’ but lies concealed in it. Thus a terrible paradox erupts at the heart of human being where the subject that wills itself to be absolute and thus to be the ground of being is deprived of the same at the very moment that it seeks to elevate itself to the status of a being. The absolute subject sacrifices everything to making itself actual only to exile itself further and further out of the unity of being. One can perhaps understand from this why Heidegger was so attracted to Schelling’s work on human freedom, for even though Schelling never did see how this primordial discord or splitting in being could lead towards a notion of finite being, 23 mutatis mutandis Heidegger sees the unfolding of nihilism in the same way, an unfolding that leads us back to the appearance of the thought of freedom from out of the crossing-through of the concepts essence and existence. In Heidegger’s discussion of the themes of nihilism, technology, and the end of metaphysics in the letter published as “On the Question of Being” (Über die Linie), addressed to Ernst Jünger, Heidegger asks, how can we

22) F. W. J. Schelling, Th e Ages of the World , 48. 23) Of particular importance here would be the way in which Heidegger understands Logos as the gathering-together of an originary strife in being, that is as Ereignis. Logos divides as it unites, such that Being is never a whole. How this might affect Nancy’s reading of Heidegger and his charge of “ontodicy” would require extensive discussion.

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venture a definition of the line that would mark the limit of nihilism so that we might be able to cure ourselves of this illness that afflicts us? 24 Such a line would be critical in the sense that it would draw a border that would distin- guish what comes before from what comes after and would envision a beyond- the-line that could be overstepped. But nihilism, Heidegger maintains, is not of this nature. There is no before and after of nihilism, because it is not a being and cannot become an object of a representation. As a nonbeing that yet is, nihilism lives an uncanny existence within the epoch of the metaphysics of the subject (the subject in the sense of the very power of bringing all beings and being itself into the sphere of repre- sentation). Heidegger’s response to Jünger reads thus:

What if the language of metaphysics and metaphysics itself, whether it is that of the living god or of the dead god, in fact constituted, as metaphysics, that limit which prevents a transition over the line, i.e. the overcoming of nihilism? If this were the case, would not crossing the line then necessarily have to become a transformation of our saying and demand a transformed relation to the essence of language? 25

Because we remain entangled in the language of metaphysics, which thinks beings as beings such that they are placed before us with the assurance that their being is already revealed, nihilism and the end of metaphysics tend to ‘dissemble’ their essence; consequently, the encounter that is supposed to be taking place is in fact not happening at all. One may very well experience beings as null or without value, but never the question of the relation of being and nothing. By tracing this connection between the reality of human freedom as the decision for evil and nihilism, the respective positions of Heidegger and Nancy concerning Nichtigkeit, the nihilating essence of being, can be made clearer. Of course, the two positions do not stand opposed, for Nancy almost always remains very close to Heidegger’s thinking and always again in an attempt to think what is unthought, which is never the same as what is lacking. Following Heidegger, if metaphysics comes to completion in the pro-position of the absolute subject, which Schelling had expressly identified as the positive deci- sion for evil, and if this “evil” comes to presence in modernity as nihilism, the uncanny guest who stands at the door, then what speaks out of the essence of

24) It is notable how Jünger seems to approach Schelling’s conception of evil as a contagion when the former considers nihilism as a “cancer-causing agent.” 25) Martin Heidegger, “On the Question of Being,” in Pathmarks, 306; hereafter QB.

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nihilism is more than just the abandonment of beings by Being; it is a process that is impossible to formulate in the language of metaphysics, namely, that nothing is happening to being. “Wie ist es mit dem Sein?” asks Heidegger. “Mit dem Sein ist es nichts.” 26 Insofar as metaphysics demands the transpar- ency of beings, this not only remains unthinkable, but metaphysics is itself implicated in the process of their nihilation: beings are or they are not, but the ‘not’ remains nugatory, and nihilism is taken to be a sickness, an ‘evil’ to be overcome. In response, Heidegger crosses out being, for neither being nor nothing “is”—Schelling rightly identified this as a profound discord in which the human being turns away from the ground of being and also that the pos- sibility of turning away already belongs to the essence of human freedom. The difference however is that for Heidegger the task is not to overcome nihilism by a decision for being, if such a thing were even possible, but to turn towards and pay heed to being’s oblivion, to the nihilation that belongs to being. His most telling comment to Jünger, regarding the line that might separate a con- summated nihilism from its overcoming, is to re-think where the human being stands in relation to the line: “The human being not only stands within the critical zone of the line. He himself is this zone and thus the line” (QB 311). Dasein is thus the space of this “in-between,” the site of a crossing-out in which nihilism unfolds as part of its destiny. Here, within the line, within the crossing-out where Dasein hangs in sus- pension, Nancy endeavors to take Heidegger’s thinking in another direction, one that would free his thought from an orientation towards the ‘destining’ of being. Rather than paying heed to the abandonment of being, he claims that it is necessary to think the freedom of this abandonment. That is to say, if nothing is happening to being, then it is not being as such but freedom that is responsible for this. What is this becoming-nothing if not the freedom of existing? Freedom frees existence from being, and alternatively, freedom gives being as the pure “ex-position” of singular beings who are nothing but their ex-posure to one another. Whether there is such an ontodicy in Heidegger is something I have already addressed. What is important here is to point out some of the implications of this shift in Nancy towards the priority of freedom over being, a shift that seems much more Kantian in orientation.

26) Martin Heidegger, “The Word of Nietzsche: ‘God is Dead,’ ” 104. The original German sen- tence is contained in a footnote, see Heidegger, “Nietzsches Wort ‘Gott ist Tot,’ ” in Holzwege, 259.

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The first consequence would be the collapse of the ontological difference. It

is no exaggeration to say that, for Nancy, Being as the withdrawing ground

and the difference between Being and beings ceases to be of significance. This is amply stated in his definition of being singular plural, “The plurality of beings is at the foundation of Being” (BSP 12). It is freedom that gives being

and does so in the plural, as plural being, that is, as Mitsein. Yet it is already erroneous to refer this to the “as” of understanding, for there is no “as”—free- dom gives without withdrawing its reserves into a difference. It gives; being in the plural is given. Such is the facticity of freedom of which nothing more can be said, since freedom for both Kant and Nancy is neither deduced nor pro- duced. And with the displacement of the ontological difference come other consequences, the first of which would be the radical transformation of the problem of evil. The line that has been traced from the ontological grounding of evil in Schelling to nihilism, where it is a question of the nothing that befalls being and to which human being belongs, even unto the laying bare of Dasein’s being in its own most possibility as Being-towards-death, cannot remain the same. Evil comes to mean the hatred of existence as such, which is

a free possibility of the singular being but only as directed against its own

being-exposed, as the hatred of the exteriority into which the singular being

is thrown, the hatred of partage. One puts into play the refusal of relation:

the singular being chooses itself as the One-All who reduces being-with-one- another into absolute proximity, or one decides for the One-Me in which being-with-others is placed at an absolute distance. “Evil is only found,” Nancy

writes, “in an operation that fulfills the with” (qui comble l’avec) (“fulfills” in the sense of completes, finishes off ). “In either case, murder is on the horizon, that is, death as the operative negativity of the One” (BSP 92). The absolute subjectivity that Heidegger identified as the consummation of metaphysics as nihilism is thus translated into a refusal of existing. Nancy’s thought moves like a shadow across that of Heidegger, undertaking what seems at times to be

a massive translation process. However, once evil has been displaced from the

ontological, one has to wonder whether or not this “innermost possibility of refusal” by the singular being resonates with certain political overtones. It would seem as if evil is once again a matter of decision, and that the decision itself is voluntaristic: either one chooses to react against the freeing of existence from its various determinations by a principle or essence, or else one affirms it. Where is the necessity for this decision of abandoned existence against its own abandonment? Or is there any necessity at all? And if there is not, does that mean that evil can be avoided?

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Liberated Technology

One further consequence of this shift concerns the consummation of τέχνη as modern technology. Rather than an unleashing of absolute subjectivity that dissembles its own essence and covers over the oblivion into which being is cast, technology, for Nancy, holds a promise and is in fact nothing less than the praxis of being singular plural—of the freeing of existence for existing. What needs to be addressed further here, however, is the way in which this revaluation of the sense of τέχνη is a direct result of his re-reading of Mitsein and, by extension, of community. One can see from the opening pages of Being Singular Plural that the shortcomings of the existential analytic of Mit- sein in Being and Time represent Nancy’s point of departure. In addition to what has already been mentioned concerning the priority of the truth of being over the freedom of being, where does the shortcoming in the analysis of Mit- sein lie? To Heidegger’s statement that Dasein’s understanding of Being already implies the understanding of others, Nancy responds,

But this surely does not say enough. The understanding of Being is nothing other than an understanding of others, which means, in every sense, understanding others through one could say even more simply that Being is communication. (BSP 27–28)

This shift from the word ‘implies’ to ‘nothing other than’ is one whose signifi- cance cannot be underestimated. For Heidegger, Mitsein is co-primordial with In-der-Welt-sein. For Nancy, Mitsein is primordial In-der-Welt-sein. In a man- ner of utterance that Nancy uses again and again—“il n’y a pas d’autre sens

que one can see that the question of the meaning of Being and of the ontological difference has been crossed out and translated into the sheer facticity of being- with: being presences according to the structure of the “rien queit “is” nothing but a plurality of contacts and distances, nothing but a plurality of origins in which it is others who, singularly each time, give me, the one who is always already ex-posed, the sense of the world. Within this transformed ontology of Mitsein, τέχνη acquires a much different sense. How close, and yet how far, Nancy moves from Heidegger’s question concerning technology becomes evident in the section entitled “Ecotechnics,” in which the advent of technology is explicitly linked with the disappearance of sovereignty, which forms yet another casualty—a happy one at that—of the ontology of Mitsein. For sovereignty would be that very point where existence is “taken back up into essence” in the form of the sovereign,

le sens de la circulation” or the “sommes nous rien

terre et homme? ”—

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and thus that point of the free refusal of existence, whereas technology empties sovereignty out and thus—dare one use the word?—authentically frees existing and lets “la liberté de cet abandon” happen. “What is called technology,”

Nancy writes, is “the techne of finitude or spacing

finite existence in all its brilliance and violence” (BSP 140). He even goes on to describe technology without sovereignty, ecotechnics, as the revolutionary essence of τέχνη (BSP 141). Ecotechnics, the new name for the essence of technology and art! At times Nancy seems closer to a Marxist position, with certain qualifications. How- ever, it would be unfair to identify Nancy with a happy consciousness of tech- nicism. It is evident that with ecotechnics, Nancy is calling for an il-limited technology that as such would be no longer merely the technical but praxis, that is, the free giving of existence without reserve in which “we” are “nothing but” the ever expanding plurality of singulars who participate in the web of communication. As the exhibitio of being-with-one-another, the “revolu- tionary essence” of τέχνη illimits the Western as well, ex-posing it not as the universal but as plural singularities that are now offered to, and which touch other, singular plurals and, thus, other origins of (the) world. In other words, ecotechnics would be the process whereby the West is freed from its sover- eignty. Such may be the hope, anyhow. But for Nancy to anticipate such an event as a possibility would mean that the exhibition of communication would itself have to be freed from the limits of the mode of presentation characteris- tic of the absolute subject, namely, representation. Such would be this revolu- tionary hope, growing like a flower out of the loam of the earth when the heaven and earth of the ontological difference have collapsed and there is noth- ing but the fertile earth,

techne as the existence of

it is less important to respond to the question of the meaning of Being

attention to the fact of its exhibition. If “communication” is for us, today, such an affair

then it is because something is exposed or laid bare. In fact, what is exposed is the bare and

“content”-less web of “communication”

than it is to pay

the bare web of the com-. (BSP 28)

In response to this revolutionary hope and its relation to Nancy’s deconstruc- tion of Heideggerian Mitsein, I should like to venture a few questions. Nancy claims that what ecotechnics as the illimitation of τέχνη offers is not the sense of the world but the possibility of world as sense. But what is the other of τέχνη? Φύσις obviously, which, when translated as “nature” in the sense of the self-originating, marks the inception of metaphysics. In Aristotle’s work, it

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represents a distinction between two types of causality, and it marks that point when the event of presencing is translated into causation: that which has come forth into presence out of itself or and that which has its origin in another principle outside of itself, i.e., in know-how. 27 Τέχνη is thus understood as a supplement to φύσις in the sense that, to take the famous example of Aristotle, the doctor cannot apply the know-how of a cure unless the body is capable of regaining its health. The ἀρχή is health; the cure only helps the body’s becom- ing-healthy. Or another example, when a house is constructed according to the builder’s idea, it comes to a stand. However, the house never stands from out of itself but on a foundation, the earth. It is a construction, which signifies for Aristotle that the house can never place itself back into its ἀρχή. 28 One must keep in mind however that this is already on the way toward a causal understanding of presencing in the sense that what predominates is an under- standing of being as fabrication. 29 Within this difference and as the name for Being, φύσις signifies coming to a stand out of its own ἀρχή in the completion of its end, its ἐντελέχια. In Being Singular Plural and The Sense of the World, Nancy inflects this sense of the word into a more Kantian register (particularly in his aesthetics, the Cri- tique of Judgment, where beauty refers to reason’s auto-presentation), arguing that φύσις appears as a figure of self-presentation insofar as it is self-engender- ing without the aid of any other principle, including knowledge, which is then usurped by τέχνη such that eventually the relation is reversed: nature as origin becomes the ens creatum of the deus artifex, the perfect artificer that is God. But for that very reason φύσις marks a “natural nature” that, for Nancy, has never taken place. It is merely enclosed within a limit whose confines are always already subject to illimitation, always ex-posed, and the name for its illimitation is τέχνη. Technology thus unworks and illimits “nature,” allowing nature to communicate—and by this no metaphor is meant. As φύσις, nature moves and remains in itself, never communicating with an outside but always returning back to its beginning so as to blossom forth yet again. Τέχνη , by

27) The description here summarizes a few of the important points that Heidegger makes in “On the Essence and Concept of Φύσις in Aristotle’s Physics B, 1,” in Pathmarks, especially 188–89. It must be stressed that one of Heidegger’s main objectives is to show that the notion of causality is derivative and that what is originally thought in the Greek word Φύσις is “emerging into presencing.” Cf. 191. 28) Ibid., 197–98. 29) Reiner Schürmann rightly remarks that Heidegger’s attitude toward Aristotle is ambiguous, because of the turn toward a notion of nature as another form of causality that exists alongside the knowing fabrication of beings by man. See his Heidegger on Being and Acting, 85–86.

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contrast, is a φύσις disseminated both from its ἀρχή and for its becoming world. The world of technology is a world precisely because it is the praxis of Mitsein. 30 This first thing to notice about Nancy’s attempt is that he interprets φύσις even more decisively as a form of causality. Therefore, he remains within the metaphysical dichotomy that he has apparently set up for purposes of deconstruction. Whereas he may have deconstructed the opposition between them, this does not mean that the idea of causality has been displaced. One wonders whether, despite everything, τέχνη remains a kind of knowing-pro- duction towards an end. In this case, however, the end would be the place that the being assumes in the network of communication that forms the reality of our being singular plural. Second, there is the risk of a re-instatement of the subjectivity of the subject that τέχνη reappears within and as a result of the immanence of being singular plural. Heidegger had also traced this same movement of the increasing auton- omy, until it finally reveals itself as machination, the idea that everything can be made and is made insofar as it is re-presented and, as such, made accessible to calculation. Φύσις, the self-showing of Being, withdraws, and all beings now reveal themselves as τέχνη or they do not reveal themselves at all. That there is a presencing and withdrawal here is, in a way, confirmed by Nancy’s own thesis that Being is now “nothing but” communication. Beings them- selves—the stones, fishes, fibers, dough, world, nature, history, humans— show themselves according to the new as-structure of the “nothing but,” and for that very reason, beings no longer present themselves as arising out of the already concealed essence of φύσις. For whatever promise this opens up for our being-with-one-another, it also marks the danger and the risk that is given decisive expression in the following statement by Heidegger from his lecture on Aristotle’s Φύσις,

Sometimes it seems as if modern humanity is rushing headlong toward this goal of produc- ing itself technologically. If humanity achieves this, it will have exploded itself, i.e. its essence

30) “Phusis and nature were figures of self-presentation” (SW 41). And it is precisely because they are figures of self-presentation that they are unable to bring thought to the limit, whereas techne “withdraws from presentation the values of ‘self’ (on the side of the origin) and ‘presence’ (on the side of the end)” (ibid.). Techne in that sense would be the ex-position or the desoeuvrement of phusis. The logic of the distinction thus seems clear: whatever takes the self as an origin closes in upon itself and is thus unable to speak to the pluralization of the world, whereas techne breaks the confines of phusis and is thus always already on the way toward the plural opening of world.

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qua subjectivity, into thin air, into a region where the absolutely meaningless is valued as the one and only “meaning” and where preserving this value appears as the human “domina- tion” of the globe. Subjectivity is not overcome but merely tranquilized. 31

Any attempt to make a caricature of this statement, explaining it away as Heidegger’s horror before the evils of modern technology is worse than erro- neous; it is thoughtless. Heidegger’s statement raises the question of the sub- jectivity of the subject, of the ground or ὑποκείμενον of the subject, and asks what happens to the meaning of our being-there when modern humanity sets as its project the production of its own ὑποκείμενον. If such a thing were even possible, and it is far from certain that it is, what will have happened is that human beings will have produced themselves as ungrounded—not abgegrün- det but, if you will, ungegründet, the extreme forgetfulness of the withdrawal of being. What then will health and sickness, birth and death come to mean if not mere signs to which no understanding corresponds, and for that reason will perpetually border on the meaningless? Admittedly, the fear of such a prospect maintains a certain relation to metaphysics and to the understanding of ‘meaning’ as the projection of an essence upon the ontic realm. Nonethe- less, Heidegger’s statement would, I submit, necessitate a re-reading of the bold maneuver by which Nancy opens Being Singular Plural concerning the essence of meaning that, in the crossing-out of any such foundation, trans- forms that essence into a performative sharing where foundations are always local and in the process of taking place, in-finite-ly. As a concluding note, and with the required caveats, I return once again to Schelling’s elucidation of the reality of human freedom and ask to what extent the promise of the revolutionary τέχνη invoked by Nancy participates in the decision for evil—not wholly, but perhaps at the level of a certain contamina- tion of which he is not sufficiently mindful. If the individual takes its stand in self-will, the will to be its own ground and to be its ground absolutely, then the problem of evil reinscribes itself into techno-logic, with the same tragic result: the self that wills its complete actuality is the self that produces its own orphanage. Are we are the inheritors of that orphanage? And is the freedom of our abandonment all that is left to us when not even the traces of Being come to presence with the predominance of modern technology?

31) Heidegger, “On the Essence and Concept of Φύσις in Aristotle’s Physics B, 1,” 197.

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BT Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (New York: Harper and Row, 1962) BSP Jean-Luc Nancy, Being Singular Plural, trans. Robert Richardson and Anne O’Byrne (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000) EF Jean-Luc Nancy, The Experience of Freedom, trans. Bridget McDonald

(Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993) EGT Martin Heidegger, Early Greek Thinking, trans. David Krell and Frank Capuzzi (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1975) PI F. W. J. Schelling, Philosophical Inquiries into the Nature of Human Freedom, trans. James Gutman (LaSalle: Open Court Publishing, 1992)

Martin Heidegger, “On the Question of Being,” trans. William

McNeill, in Pathmarks, ed. William McNeill (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967), 291–322 QT Martin Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, trans. William Lovitt (New York: Harper Colophon, 1977) ST Martin Heidegger, Schelling’s Treatise on the Essence of Human Freedom, trans. Joan Stambaugh (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1985) SW Jean-Luc Nancy, The Sense of the World, trans. Jeffrey Librett (Minne- apolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997)


Works Cited

Heidegger, Martin. Contributions to Philosophy (From Enowning). Translated by Parvis Emad and Kenneth Maly. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999. ———. The Essence of Human Freedom. Translated by Ted Sandler. London: Continuum,


———. Holzwege. Frankfurt a.M.: Vittorio Klostermann, 2003. ———. Pathmarks. Edited by William McNeill (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967). ———. “Letter on ‘Humanism.’” Translated by Frank Capuzzi, 239–76. In Pathmarks. ———. “On the Essence and Concept of Φύσις in Aristotle’s Physics B, 1.” Translated by Thomas Sheehan, 183–231. In Pathmarks. ———. Ontology—The Hermeneutics of Facticity. Translated by John Van Buren Bloomington:

Indiana University Press, 1999. ———. “The Word of Nietzsche, ‘God is Dead,’” 53–112. In The Question ConcerningTechnol- ogy and other Essays. ———. Schellings Abhandlung Über das Wesen der Menschlichen Freiheit (1809). Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1971. ———. Über den Humanismus. Frankfurt: Vittorio Klostermann, 2000. Nancy, Jean-Luc. L’expérience de la liberté. Paris: Editions Galilée, 1988.

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———. Être singulier pluriel. Paris: Editions Galilée, 1996. Schelling, F. W. J. Th e Ages of the World . Translated by Jason Wirth. Albany: SUNY Press, 2000. ———. Über das Wesen der menschlichen Freiheit. Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag, 1997. Schürmann, Reiner. Heidegger on Being and Acting: From Principles to Anarchy. Translated by Christine-Marie Gros in collaboration with the author. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990.