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Critique of Heidegger*

GEORGES BATAILLE

Translated by Stefanos Geroulanos

(1)
Appendix1
Critique of Heidegger
(Critique of a philosophy of fascism)

(2)
The Critique of Martin Heidegger
(Critique of a Philosophy of Fascism)

— Love. the fact of chance2


the existence of one and of the other
how the being isolated by love is nevertheless rejected,
don’t
talk about at each moment in the orbit the system of the general
Freud tear [déchirement] of being (further on, we will discuss how
the various tears of being connect back to each other)

* Translated from Bataille’s original manuscript, located in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France
(BNF), Georges Bataille Archive, 4.XXVI–bis. Enumeration on the left (in italics) is the standard pagi-
nation by the BNF. Partial pagination on the upper right is Bataille’s, as are the cross-outs. The words
in brackets are either illegible or have been added to the translation to improve its readability. Small
lettering to the left is my rendition of Bataille’s marginalia.
1. It is not clear what text “Critique of Heidegger” was marked as an appendix to.
2. Bataille elaborates on chance in Sur Nietzsche (Paris: Gallimard, 1945); trans. On Nietzsche (New
York: Paragon House, 1992), which was originally subtitled “Volonté de chance.” Chance is usually ren-
dered here as “chance,” as Bataille is not treating “luck.”

OCTOBER 117, Summer 2006, pp. 25–34. © 2006 October Magazine, Ltd. and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
26 OCTOBER

— The world of homogeneity and the exit necessity of exit [sortie].


Bad will stands in the way of the description of homogeneity.3
Put it off for later. The aspiration to something
wholly other is stronger than the need to justify the will
to flee. Nevertheless we will describe homogeneity later,
once we have distinguished between intention and homogeneity.4

— The consciousness of degradation

— Effectuation of the exit


Distinguish What happens when life frees itself from degradation.
between
intuition Not only anxiety, but also tumult, and the impression
and of being torn. The I am there: the region of the I am there where
homogeneity existence takes place (in the existential sense).5 This region protects
from a determination or an intention. Nevertheless, this fact

(3)
distinguishes itself from intention of the, because it conflicts with itself
[elle se discord] when achieving intentional form. Yet it cannot exist
without intention. It The ego is thus only revealed by intention, albeit too
much—and in its development, it is further revealed by the critique of
the intentionality of the ego, by the support [supportation] of improbability,
by a betrayal of all intentionality.6

3. For Bataille’s 1930s conception of homogeneity, see his essays in “Dossier hétérologique,” Oeuvres
complètes II: Ecrits posthumes 1922–1940 (Paris: Gallimard, 1970), pp. 165–202; “The Psychological
Structure of Fascism,” in Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927–1939, ed. Allan Stoekl (Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press, 1985); and “Fascism in France,” in Rebecca Comay, ed., “Bataille:
Writings from the 1930s,” Alphabet City 4/5, pp. 50–54. See also Rodolphe Gasché, “The Heterological
Almanac,” in Leslie Anne Boldt-Irons, ed., On Bataille: Critical Essays (Buffalo: State University of New
York Press, 1995), pp. 157–208.
4. When Bataille refers to intention, it is likely that he is thinking of Husserl’s intentionality, though
his discussion hardly allows us to assume a definitive or close appropriation. See Edmund Husserl,
Ideen I (Husserliana III) (The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1976); trans. Ideas I (The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1982),
§§84, 146; and the second of Husserl's Cartesianische Meditationen (Husserliana I) (The Hague: M.
Nijhoff, 1973); trans. Cartesian Meditations (The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1960), §§12–22.
5. Given that “existentiel” would be the proper spelling for an unphilosophical adjective to exis-
tence, Bataille is probably referring to Heidegger’s distinction between existenziell [in English: existen-
tiell] and existenzial [in English: existential], where the first points toward existence as a lived experi-
ence of Being and the latter toward a philosophical delineation of existence. See Martin Heidegger,
Sein und Zeit (1927; Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1993), §4, p. 12; trans. Being and Time (New York: Harper and
Row, 1962), p. 33.
6. As is the case with Bataille’s texts elsewhere (notably Inner Experience), le moi cannot be exactly
translated into English as “the ego,” or “the self.” It is important to understand that this term refers to
an “I” that is as individualized as it is unformed—and that this is unique to each individual. I have thus
translated it (with all the problems carried over in this translation) as the ego, without involving in this
description a Freudian scheme, which would radically alter the picture. It is worth noting that le moi
Critique of Heidegger 27

— Society
write briefly, saying that it could be shown that society
is torn between authority and anarchy. Disappearance of the being
of societies with democracy. . . . ? . . . Subversion. (all that is to be said on
fascism and Russia must be said next.)
Being outside: what the ego exists for.
Impossibility of existing for oneself— which amounts to saying: dying
(heideggerian transcendence)
Critique of society
Critique of God
Principle of the existence of the ego for intentionality
Plane of intentionality in the world of science
(indifference of the limit where science represses intention)
Science and its natural disarray matter little: there is the outside
of me that the ego demands so as to live in the sense of dying.

(4)
Phrases chain themselves to one another
with their feeble power.

But what is the force that


They describe, they measure the world, but the world
passes through, like water liquid through one’s fingers.
Why attempt new enchainments
to summon, one more time, the a world that
escapes from itself ?

Still It is as with every


question to which one only responds
by a stroke of luck [chance]. I have wanted the
world to escape me, I have wanted to escape from the

corresponds to Husserl’s “pure ego” unaffected by reduction, which Husserl was reluctant to turn into
an object of inquiry until his later works. See the “Fourth Meditation,” in Cartesian Meditations,
§§30–41. Bataille accepts the significance of an ipse prior to reduction, but is unwilling to accept that
this is a pure ego or transcendental consciousness pure and simple. See also Jean-Paul Sartre’s use of
“the me” in “La Transcendance de l'ego,” in Recherches philosophiques 6 (1936–37), pp. 85–123; repub-
lished in book form (Paris: Vrin, 1965), and trans. The Transcendence of the Ego (New York: Hill and
Wang, 1991).
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(5)
world. In the moment when I write, I breathe
with all my strength, and I breathe free. Free
to love Free in the world of
submission, free that however demands where
my submission is nevertheless required, but how
can could [being] free have here any meaning
other than happy?

Happiness or unhappiness? I could not be


My freedom, my strength is only chance, scandalous chance
happiness fortune that will escape me,
to the extent that, as soon as its enjoyment ends, I will
fear it, to the extent that I will feel I have to justify it.

(6) 1.
I.

How, starting from shared habitual life when it appears as a prison—


what cannot fail something that inevitably happens, at some point or other, and
the reasons for which, the conditions behind whose occurrence we do not yet
need to become more clearly conscious of—how the confined spirit
human life escapes from the series from the net of of
adherences that limits its agitation under the implacable empire
of misery, of mud, of the cold, and
of hunger: this is what I’d like to express
today, not only for the other but for
me, thus not only to clarify but to burn.
From From the immediate [immédiate] life that presents itself is imposed
on me first of all as money, acquired, to be acquired, or expended in
proportion to measurable acts, I could not retain do not retain
here more than the imprint as I can the form,
Critique of Heidegger 29

(7) 2.
which is to say the equivalence, established between things, acts,
products, and signs of various things, acts, and
various products.7 In This general form
is where the ego that I am inscribes itself in between in species
and genres as a
juridical, physiological zoological or juridical or military
equivalence. The ego is no longer anything more than a
function of a given system, according to
circumstances and even only temporary inclinations,
but which maintaining not guards a constant fixed character:
its significance it would be of little importance meaning that, without
the sanction that results from the constant
menace of misery, the system itself would be deprived of
all importance.
However, in the state where the void of social existence is
meant to conform to this Thus the demands and the wear of quotidian,
material life
that takes place, in effect, in the region I inhabit where I dwell today
But without ever being, they collide with the no less durable presence
of the ego the obstinacy of an ego

(8) 3.
that retakes obscurely retakes
However, in the state where on principle the void of
social existence is presupposed as conforming to (as takes
place, in effect fact, in the region where I live), the exigency
of materal life that postulates the ego like of
a dossier equivalence, throws itself at the sly obstinacy of the
profound formless ego that does not clearly know itself as such
but which in obscurely senses itself to be but in—and
to be threatened by death—in the disorder of an inexplicable night.

7. See Bataille’s “La notion de dépense,” in Oeuvres complètes I: Premiers écrits 1922–1940 (Paris:
Gallimard, 1968), pp. 302–20; first published in La Critique sociale 7 (1933) and translated as “The
Notion of Expenditure,” in Visions of Excess, pp. 116–29.
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Of the From the bottom of this disorder, indefinitely, nature human life,
vaguely reaching consciousness, responds to
to the exigency of life material activity by its consciousness
of illusion of the illusory character of all systems
constructed on originating from an exigency as narrow. linked to immediate
activity.
Unfortunately,
it seems
Self-consciousness. Even before wholly justifying
a recourse becoming wholly and clearly

(9) 4.
The exit of human existence out Thus, out of the circle of
banal realities immediate things, entangled in each other,
factories, ateliers, rooms, offices,
laboratories, teaching classrooms, with
the determined limited functions that each such place implies
for each person, the exit from human existence
cannot actually have takes place
necessarily on the in the order of
becoming self-conscious.
Insofar as It is because A lusterless [atone] employee,
whether he so be or not sometimes in a clear
but most often in an obscure region of his life
consciousness, follows, without the power of detaching himself,
no longer the course of his employment and the reality arranged around him
in by the sheer fact process of employment, but instead this need to be,
which nothing from outside can supply, which opposes him distinguishes him

(10) 5.
only scarcely more vaguely from all that is can be the world
than the condemned distinguishes himself from the law
that condemns him, from judges, the guillotine,
of the executioners.
In the practice of life, this somber strange
perspective, troubled by numerous interferences, has few chances of
subsisting
Critique of Heidegger 31

longer than a fugitive instant being translated


into whatever a manifest attitude.
It is troubled Yet, efficacious or not, whether the reaction is it is
out of the efficacious or fugitive reaction of the most trampled of
men reduced to a function that by
the most existed lusterless [atone] of men reduced to a function,
that the human escape
through which human destiny delivers itself from a
from enslavement incorporation in the system of work
must direct itself be elaborated.

(11) 6.
II.

The behavior of the man searching to deliver liberate


himself from the world—from the sad sick world of work, of obligation
of his work—of the world differs necessarily as a result of
circumstances of place or time, that is to say
as a result of the structure of the society he
finds himself in. That is why the present state of this
structure in civilized advanced countries as a whole
must be enunciated as the premise fundamental given of all possible
endeavors. It follows that this enunciation, even in a brief form that no
appreciable difficulty will oppose
It is easy to see that, in general all Aristocratic or religious constructions,
that granted themselves a meaning but did not respond
directly to the principle of utility, are on the path to disappearing:
more and more, the organized forces

(12) 7.
that transform each man into a function impose themselves as the ultimate
reality.
Overall, the old values are no longer tolerated except
in the state of ruin and powerless play. They
still encumber and even dominate the an
existence that has barely been asserted, but but they
tie direct themselves [se bornent] more and more to the
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vague and fugitive formations of free individuals.


Far from being conjured up by the single voice of
numerous peoples, God is no more
God, as a violence surging from the single voice
of numerous peoples, God is dead and
His; he survives as nothing more than the illusory
games of the ego and, the pale excrescences [excroissances] of the ego
that are no more than ego. The authority
And if the nations presence and the reality of
nations still imposes itself on the mass of those

(13) 8.
who compose them, nations themselves have ceased to be the
radiant signs they used to be of glory, pride, or bursting buoyancy,
Next,
and have thus become before all strangely impoverished through
the attempt
at a remedy: menaces of constraint, collective catastrophe, and unhappiness: scarcely
science distinct from the industrial and financial enterprises that . . . they again
cover over.

(14)
III.

Once it has been expressed as a new historical fact,


the intrusion of the ego requires that one distance oneself from
leftover approximations, so as to attempt to accede to a Cartesian rigor.

(15)
In intention, the ego progressively loses its ego individual character
and finds itself carried to a universal value
that makes it escape from the strictly ego form of the ego. It is, nonetheless,
only through intention that the formless ego becomes
self-consciousness. Thus the ego is a transient fact, not only as a result of its
chance birth and its approaching death, but also because
the process that determines it is also the one that
exhausts it. It is impossible to even reach
Critique of Heidegger 33

a clear distinction between determination and


exhaustion. The determined ego is, by the sheer fact
of determination, an exhausted ego.

(16)
Certainly, this is a new form a totally
other form a totally other way of being
that is proposed to existence, and thus one should not
be surprised that from the beginning, even out of this new
fermentation that enters the world and that the
world had not up to now yet imagined made possible
the first accents are the most
acid that are of an almost insurmountable acidity. And of one of
the most apparent most nauseating banal vulgarity,
even more so even in the eyes of for in the eyes of those who,
turn themselves away keep away
because they lack for want of sufficient physical force
to face up, must turn themselves away.
What is happening—and it matters little whether this
be in fiction or in the real course of
things—what is happening, which may be flashy
fascinating but also may be of no consequence, carries

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a sum that with it no more than a revolt against
a system of intentions according to which that in turn
demands with that such a revolt does not occur. It is also
of immense interest that for vulgar practical no less banal reasons
of convenience this cannot become the point of departure
for any new intention, even a subversive one.
Some years ago, paraphrasing Sade’s Philosophy
in the Bedroom the title of a work by Sade,8
I formed the imagined design for, undertook wanted
to write, in my own turn, a long licentious novel
that I called (I took full responsibility for my
ostentatiousness and bad taste) Philosophy in the Shit.

8. D.A.F. de Sade, Philosophy in the Bedroom, in Marquis de Sade, Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom,
and Other Writings (New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1990).
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(18)
If intentionality holds the meaning of life,
this is only to the extent that it must be maintained in order to
maintain the very phenomenon of life as this last has
materially tied itself to the services of intentionality. Moreover,
the whole question concerns the meaning of the word
service: is intention the means or the
end? Which does not say that, in cases where
intention is still concrete it must there would be advantage,
it must be assigned to just about any
service, in fact it would be spontan is never
assigned to the service of being except through the intermediary
of homogeneous formations—and
thus there is only a decadence of being.

(19)
Every man that confounds the sentiment of
his value with his
If a man has a sense of his
value, which he relates to another,
established value, if he relates himself to
the place he occupies on one of the miserable
ladders of power, then by so doing he rejects himself
outside of being and places himself among those who
rejects his existence in the mass of
squandered existence, that is brought about in fact but
only as existence that has been produced in fact
but has not attained the form where it ceases
producing itself in relation to other things.

(20)
How to distinguish between a being that comprehends
takes the value of an end, and intentionality.