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ABSTRACT This essay argues that Kant’s explanation of the purposiveness-without-a-purpose of beauty (in the third Critique) can help to make sense of Nancy’s theory of the inoperative community. K E Y W O R D S: Kant, Nancy, political theory, aesthetics, purposiveness
My purpose in this essay is to argue for a connection between the political theory of Jean-Luc Nancy and the aesthetic theory of Immanuel Kant. Community, in Nancy’s political theory, and beauty, in Kant’s aesthetic theory, are both experienced as non-conceptual, as (in Kant’s words) purposive-withouta-purpose. I will argue that by drawing on Kant’s aesthetics we can begin to supply some of the elements of a transcendental explanation for the “inoperative community” that Nancy describes. In The Inoperative Community (La communauté désoeuvrée) Jean-Luc Nancy describes his project as an attempt to articulate a certain “expeCritical Horizons 1:1 February 2000 © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2000
rience of community” which is largely ignored:
I am trying to indicate, at its limit, an experience - not, perhaps, an experience that we have, but an experience that makes us be. To say that community has not yet been thought is to say that it tries our thinking, and that it is not an object for it . . . We must expose ourselves to what has gone unheard (l’inoui) in community.1
As is evident from this quotation, the problem of recognition is central to Nancy’s political theory. Nancy’s account of the inoperative community is meant to recover something unrecognised, unheard, unthought in the way that we experience community. In this essay I want to consider one aspect of this general problem of recognition that emerges in Nancy’s theory of inoperative communities - the more speci c problem of communal self-recognition. The question that I will pose here is this: when community is reconceived according to Nancy’s theory, as the unworking which resists the work of totalisation, how is such a community to recognise itself?2 Given that an inoperative community is the consequence not of a deliberate work intent upon realising a uni ed essence, but instead results from a certain resistance to totalisation on the part of singular subjects - who are not drawn together and given a unifying concept by their resistance - how is it possible for an inoperative community to become aware of its own existence? In other words, is it possible for a community that recognises the unheard experience of community (which Nancy articulates) to recognise itself as a community, or must it necessarily remain oblivious to its own reality? Nancy himself seems well aware of the fact that, in his political philosophy, the problem of “creating” community is replaced by the problem of recognising a community that is always already there. Consider these two excerpts from The Inoperative Community:
Community is given to us with being and as being, well in advance of all our projects, desires, and undertakings. At bottom, it is impossible for us to lose community. A society may be as little communitarian as possible; it could not happen that in the social desert there would not be, however slight, even inaccessible, some community.3 If I had to attempt to state the principle guiding the analyses in these texts,
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I might do so by saying this: community does not consist in the transcendence (nor in the transcendental) of a being supposedly immanent to community.though they did not necessarily understand themselves as such. It consists on the contrary in the immanence of a ‘transcendence’ . we get totalitarianism. . speaking about community” . (1) Nancy on the Experience of Community (a) Exposition and Finitude Nancy and Kant on Inoperative Communities · 3 1 .’ . By inverting the ‘principle’ stated a moment ago. we condemn the political to management and to power (and to the management of power. These elements are found in Kant’s account of the way that beauty has “purposiveness without a purpose.” Then I will turn to two important ideas in Kant’s aesthetic theory which can be used to address the question of self-recognition that emerges in Nancy’s political theory. By taking it as a rule of analysis and thought. of its ‘exposition.’ etc.’ neither ‘destiny. and the “task” that communities have to resist their “work.’ nor ‘generic humanity. Then in section (3) I will analyse Kant’s theory of sensus communis and consider how it too can be understood as both an aesthetic and a political idea. In this essay I will argue that such questions connect the political theory of Nancy with the aesthetics of Kant. These three axes concern the constitution of community in the “event of exposition. and consider how it can be applied not just to beauty but also to communities. .that of nite existence as such. which is to say. By ignoring it.” the “singularity” of political subjects. . Nancy acknowledges that many past accounts of aesthetic experience have in fact been “singular voices . and to the power of management).) be presented as such?4 All of these questions concerning the “recognition” or “presentation” of communities have aesthetic implications. we raise the question: how can the community without essence (the community that is neither ‘people’ nor ‘nation. I will argue that in Kant’s third Critique we can recognise elements of a theory of community that concern precisely the problem of recognition that Nancy has clari ed. . In section (2) I will analyse Kant’s theory of purposiveness without a purpose. nor were they understood as such by the political thought of the time.5 Taking a tip from this very interesting suggestion in Nancy’s text.” To make a case for this connection between Nancy and Kant I will begin in section (1) by discussing three important axes of Nancy’s theory of inoperative communities.
which is to say. But community cannot be presupposed.10 When one confronts the face of another. according to an exteriority. It consists on the contrary in the immanence of a ‘transcendence’ . This is the archi-original impossibility of Narcissus that opens straight away onto the possibility of the political. The face-to-face encounter exposes the basic ex-position of the self: the fact that I am always already outside of myself. but we do not nd a common essence or concept for the communities that we inhabit. to the proper of one’s own existence. and thus separated from the in nity of my own immanence.that of nite existence as such. of course. Finitude is that which is “proper to existence” and it is revealed “only through an ‘expropriation’ whose exemplary reality is that of ‘my’ face always exposed to others. having to do with an outside in the very intimacy of an inside. It is only exposed.11 The 3 2 · Stuart Dalton . one also confronts the impossibility of facing oneself . which Nancy calls the event of “exposition. of its ‘exposition. but lacking a common-being.’ Exposition.”6 Consider two passages from the preface to The Inoperative Community which describe this event: ‘To be exposed’ means to be ‘posed’ in exteriority.”9 Exposition is an event which exposes an even more fundamental event: the event of nite existence. only through an ‘expropriation’ whose exemplary reality is that of ‘my’ face always exposed to others. never facing myself.Nancy argues that the true experience of community is an experience of “being-in-common” or being together. always already in communities.7 [C]ommunity does not consist in the transcendence (nor in the transcendental) of a being supposedly immanent to community. comprehending one’s own being. We nd ourselves together. always turned toward an other and faced by him or her. precisely.of preserving one’s own interiority. is not a ‘being’ that one can ‘sup-pose’ (like a substance) to be in community. 8 Nancy makes it clear in these two passages that what is ultimately exposed by the event of exposition is the fact of human nitude. and therefore. This experience rests on a fundamental event. which are at once ideas of what would be completely suppositionless and ideas of what would always be presupposed. Or again: having access to what is proper to existence. Community is presuppositionless: this is why it is haunted by such ambiguous ideas as foundation and sovereignty.
this “archi-original impossibility of Narcissus. In other words. is what ultimately determines the true nature of communities.14 Finite existence precedes the desire for a consensus. And he nds this reality to be rooted in the exterior position of the self. an ex-position that leaves the self exposed to its own limitations and cut off from the interior in nity that it desires. but also the exposition or sharing of that nitude with the Other. . [W]hat community reveals to me .15 Nancy calls this sharing of nitude which is constitutive of communities “being-in-common (être-en-commun).”16 Existence only occurs at the level of nite individuals. “Being is in no way different from existence.” which is the more traditional formulation.” This is to be distinguished from the idea that communities are constituted by “common-being.” 13 Once the idea of individual immanence has been undone in this way. Community itself. all that remains is a certain sharing of the nitude that exposition reveals. and undermines the possibility of such a perfected form of sharing.reality of human nitude. not a limited community as opposed to an in nite or absolute community. Nancy argues. It cannot be raised up to a higher level in the form of a community. but a community of nitude).the autarchy of absolute immanence. in sum. as if community were another subject that would sublate me (prendrait ma reléve) in a dialectical or communal mode.” leads directly to the political insofar as community is nothing but the “sharing” of nite existence. in its very principle . and “share” that fact with each other. is my existence outside myself.and at its closure or on its limit . The face-to-face relation is “nothing other than what undoes (défait).12 In the event of exposition both the I and the Other confront the fact of their nitude. Which does not mean my existence reinvested in or by community.the exposure . Such a community composed of being raised up Nancy and Kant on Inoperative Communities · 3 3 .of each person’s own nite existence to himself. is nothing but this exposition. This fact of exteriority. The face-to-face relation entails not only the revelation . . The difference that Nancy posits between these two ideas is rooted in the particularity of nite existence. and as such it is itself a nite community. Community does not sublate the nitude it exposes. a sharing that remains nite because it cannot be completed. It is the community of nite beings. which is singular each time.
21 (b) Individuality and Singularity This particularity of nite existence.”17 Consequently. “As an individual I am closed off from all community. which is the source of Nancy’s conception of being-in-common. nite existence cannot be distributed in a way that renders it common. because “the individual . fundamentally. connected by the exposition of our individual nitude. nor even a communication that is understood to exist between subjects.if an absolutely individual being could ever exist . We nd ourselves together. . .” Nancy writes. also has signi cant implications for a theory of political subjectivity.” But individuality.to a higher level. Nancy says. Sharing is a “relation” that is not strictly “relational. but lacking a common concept for our being together. according to Nancy. The limit of the individual. nor the appropriation of an object.”18 “Being-in-common” is the basic activity that is constitutive of communities in Nancy’s theory. and that this concept bears traces of the same faulty assumptions about the nature of existence. it can only be “shared” through the event of exposition in a way that preserves its essential particularity.is in nite.” impossible because “community does not sublate the Individual.19 The sharing that constitutes community “is not a communion. while still preserving the particularity of their existence. that being is not common in the sense of a common property. nor a self-recognition. In both 3 4 · Stuart Dalton . is nitude it exposes. In Western thought it has become traditional to regard the political subject as an “individual.”22 What Nancy is arguing here is that individuality is a concept that has been generated by the same tradition that conceived of community as a matter of common-being rather than being-in-common. presupposes a lack of limits that belies the true nature of nite communities.” but there is no single common idea or form that binds us together and constitutes the being of the community on a level above the being of each individual member of that community. “[w]e shall say .”20 It is only the exposition of human nitude in a way that brings different subjects together. but that it is in common. Nancy argues that the nature of the self in a political context must be rethought. There is no one who has nothing “in common. and establishes some connection between them. does not concern it. of nite-being now transformed into common-being.
forms a point of exposure (exposition). and discourses are exposed here. each time. lurks the question of singularity. powers. “A singular being appears. a face. but singular? What is their singular necessity in the sharing that divides and that puts in communication bodies. but beyond it. This fundamental particularity of existence is what all theories of “individuality” in the Western. Nancy describes this as a question concerning “singularity”: [B]ehind the theme of the individual.” as if it were a totally independent and isolated being. singularities always discover themselves vis-à-vis another person. but rather that it can be said to “compear. always exposed. Entire collectivities. traces an intersection of limits on which there is exposure.”26 For this reason Nancy argues that the singularity of the subject does not.cases what this tradition has lost sight of is the particularity of existence: the fact that existence is always speci c and limited. as such. a voice. ‘within’ each individual as well as among them. I say ‘singularities’ because these are not only individuals that are at stake. leaving in their wake an unanswered question concerning the true nature of the political subject.” “Singularity” denotes whatever it is that is exposed and ex-posited in the event of exposition. ‘Singularity’ would designate precisely that which. He indicates that “singularity” is meant to designate both something less and something more than “individuality. liberal tradition have overlooked. Nancy shifts his focus away from the “individuality” of the subject to the “singularity” of existence. as nitude itself: at the end (or at the beginning). What is a body. a death.bracketed by my birth and my death . strictly speaking. always shared. a writing . with the contact of the skin (or the heart) of another singular being.24 Nancy presents singularity as the “inverse gure” of Cartesian subjectivity. “appear.” Singular subjects Nancy and Kant on Inoperative Communities · 3 5 . as a facile description would lead one to believe. groups. Existence is always my existence . at the con nes of the same singularity that is.not indivisible.25 Whereas the Cartesian subject only discovers itself when it succeeds in isolating itself completely from other subjects and from the rest of the world.and it does not allow itself to be divided between my self and any other self. and writings in general and in totality?23 To reconceive the political subject according to its nitude. always other. voices.
as in the French soi . an address. in both cases. The face-to-face encounter does not reaf rm the fundamental. . which must be distinguished from its “work (oeuvre).” Nancy argues.” 30 Community is “not a communion that fuses the egos into an Ego or a higher We.” 29 There is no alchemy of subjects.is an object exactly like the re exive pronoun se with which it forms a pair. or an attribution . which. (Grammatically speaking. There is an “originary sociality” that connects singularities. It is always the object or the complement of an action. 3 6 · Stuart Dalton . the key to Nancy’s reformulation of the subject is the face-to-face encounter to which he links the “event of exposition” and to which Levinas links the “event of obligation.’ autrui.are always exposed together. their singularity is always manifest alongside another singularity. . nominative priority of the I. ’soi’ is being in the objective case. casus). and exactly like the French word for ‘others.”32 The true experience of community has not yet been heard or felt. but is always declined. . and there is no other case of being. is a revision of the “case” of subjectivity. That’s where it falls (cadere. “There is an extensive/intensive dynamic on the surfaces of exposition. without unifying them in an immanent communion. nor does it draw the self into the fusion of the rst person plural. in a multiplicity that does not annul the particularity of existence. . It is the community of others. These surfaces are the limits upon which the self declines itself.27 The basis for this reformulation of the political subject is described by Nancy in a passage that connects his ideas (again) to the work of Levinas: The Self to which existence exposes is not a property subsisting before that exposition .”31 (c) Work and Resistance Nancy argues that the community which is composed of singular subjects has a “task (tâche)” to perform. Self . that is its essential accident (accidere).28 As this text makes clear. Nancy’s description of the political subject is strikingly similar to what Levinas calls “accusative subjectivity.’) ‘Soi’ has no nominative case. this encounter occasions the declension of the self into the accusative case: the case of one who is always already in the position of a respondent. also has this particularity of being an ‘objective case. Instead.” One immediate consequence of this encounter. as Levinas has pointed out.
has in reality been the greatest obstacle to the thinking of community. one experiences or one is constituted by it as the experience of nitude . and to the singularity of human subjectivity which is a consequence of this: [C]ommunity cannot arise from the domain of work.”35 But Nancy argues that conceiving of community in this way . which is the community of nitude . Nancy argues that we must distinguish a “task (tâche)” of communities which is distinct from their “work (oeuvre). fragmentation.Nancy suggests.of being-in-common. an essence that had not yet been realised. encounters interruption.34 This tradition has generated many variations on the same theme: different “programs for the realisation of an essence of community.”42 This “task” is preNancy and Kant on Inoperative Communities · 3 7 . . .40 The thought of community as essence. . Community necessarily takes place in what Blanchot has called ‘unworking’ (désoeuvrement). but rather as an “unworking” (désoeuvrement) which resists the work that communities have traditionally given themselves to do. and which. before or beyond the work. One does not produce it. no longer having to do either with production or with completion.38 This experience of community can be traced back to the more basic experience of the nitude and the particularity of existence. Community is not the work of singular beings. Community is made of the interruption of singularities. has closed off the thought of real community. withdraws from the work. the lack of totality. or of the suspension that singular beings are.the project of realising their essence as community . The true “essence” or principle of community is experienced as incompletion. as common-being. points us in a different direction. referring to that which.41 Consequently.33 The Western political tradition has generally conceived of community in terms of operativity .in terms of the work required to bring about the essence of community .as a project that was waiting to be rendered operational. nor can it claim them as its works . because it has been “buried” by a philosophical tradition which has assumed that community is a work that needs to be completed.36 The actual experience of community. . suspension.37 We experience community not as a work that one produces. 39 The work that communities have given themselves to do . he suggests.their being suspended upon its limit.is “essentially” totalitarianism. for community is simply their being .
because it has much in common with Nancy’s account of the inoperative community.”44 Communities come to be insofar as they acknowledge their nitude. Whereas the feeling of the sublime is engendered by a fundamental discord between imagination and reason.as inoperative also continues. by each singular subject within a community. Again. of the nitude of being and of the consequent impossibility of common-being. but not a community). I will now turn to two important ideas that emerge in Kant’s Critique of Judgement: the idea that beauty is purposive without having a purpose and the idea that appreciation for beauty is made possible by a sensus communis that everyone shares. and therefore resist the work of realising common-being. In each case I will rst discuss the idea’s aesthetic application. “A community is the presentation to its members of their mortal truth (vérité mortelle) (which amounts to saying that there is no community of immortal beings: one can imagine either a society or a communion of immortal beings. and then I will consider the possibility of extending the idea into the domain of Nancy’s political theory.45 While traditional political theory continues its project of attempting to render communities operative in terms of their essence.cisely the task of resisting the “work” that communities have traditionally given themselves to accomplish. But can inoperative communities recognise themselves? To address this problem of self-recognition that emerges in Nancy’s political philosophy.”43 This task of renewal and communication requires the acceptance. Community is not “a work to be done or produced” but rather “a gift to be renewed and communicated. Nancy’s political theory is all about the need to recognise this unworking which is always already constitutive of community. the feeling of the beautiful arises when imagination and understanding nd 3 8 · Stuart Dalton . (though for the most part without being recognised). (2) Kant on Purposiveness Without a Purpose Kant presents purposiveness-without-a-purpose as the third moment of the Analytic of the Beautiful. the unworking that is actually constitutive of communities . This moment is a consequence of the unique activity of the faculties in a judgement of beauty. my purpose in turning to Kant is to use resources in his aesthetic theory to answer some of the questions posed by Nancy’s political theory. In particular I will focus on Kant’s account of the purposiveness-without-a-purpose that characterises beauty.
”49 The play of the faculties is an activity that cannot be grasped or explained by the mind unless some predetermining conceptual purpose is supposed.”53 “[I]nsofar as the concept of an object also contains the basis for the object’s actuality.”55 Thus.”47 Consciousness of this attunement is a feeling of pleasure which comes from referring the representation to the subject’s “feeling of life.”54 Purposiveness is indicative of an organisation according to lawful principles that the understanding can only comprehend by attributing it to the work of the will. . The result.” The imagination and the understanding re ect this form when they vibrate together in harmony. in conformity with the representation of a purpose. the concept is called the thing’s purpose. purposiveness is taken as a sign that an object was created by a rational agency. which has also been called purposiveness-without-a-purpose. The play of imagination and understanding is a structured play.. but rather the object itself as an effect that refers back to a cause . The representation of the beautiful object by the imagination bestirs the imagination and the understanding together. is a “mental state in which imagination and understanding are in free play. It is a “free lawfulness . nonetheless accordant. following the pattern provided by a rational concept.themselves in basic agreement. which Kant de nes as “the power of desire. though when we seek it out.” a “quickening” of the two faculties in a “proportioned attunement. i.”48 Kant argues that the playful harmony that creates such pleasure in the subject is “an activity that is indeterminate but .”46 The mind feels this play as a “facilitated play. and sets them both into motion. . we discover it to be essentially a relation of causality. the condition of its possibility in terms of both its existence and its form. insofar as it can be determined to act only by concepts. . “the causality that a concept has with regard to its object.56 To grasp such a transcendental condition requires that we consider not our cognition of the object.51 When we remove any empirical presuppositions and try to comprehend what is involved in all manifestations of purposiveness. though it is not structured in advance.”50 The form that this movement delineates “points” to a concept. This concept is the transcendental ground of the object. This leads Kant to suggest that the beautiful form manifests “purposiveness-without-apurpose (Zweckmäßigkeit ohne Zweck). no concept can be found. .”52 The concept of a thing is “what sort of thing it is to be. Kant says.e.“an effect that is possible only through a concept of that Nancy and Kant on Inoperative Communities · 3 9 .
but rather for the regress of re ection.”57 To think purposiveness. is to think in reverse: to think from effect to cause. but no concept can be found.and in a certain sense determines .62 Thus. is the determining basis of a judgement of taste.”61 A judgement of taste is neither founded on a concept. the purposiveness of the beautiful is a “purposivenesswithout-a-purpose. What differentiates the purposiveness associated with a judgement of beauty from other forms of purposiveness is the fact that its re ective movement never arrives at a concept. A judgement of taste “presupposes no concept but is directly connected with the representation by which the object is given (not by which it is thought). can be nothing but the subjective purposiveness in the representation of an object. It is thus a species of re ective judgement. An effect is represented to consciousness that must have a conceptual cause. This occurs because the thought of purposiveness makes use of the representation of the object not as an occasion for the projective synthesis of cognition.effect. we judge to be universally communicable (mitteilbar) and hence to be the basis that determines a judgement of taste.the cause in a re ective judgement of taste.” It is the mere representation of the beautiful object that starts this re ective movement. The representation of the object assumes an unusual role in this reverse movement. therefore. without any purpose (whether objective or sub4 0 · Stuart Dalton . nor addressed to one as the telos of its re ection. Insofar as it initiates the re ective regress by exhibiting the effect in the causal relation.”59 In this way the effect comes before . without a concept. because the beautiful has no concept.64 Kant summarises all of this in a passage from paragraph 11: Therefore the liking that. The form of the beautiful that is represented. and the purposiveness that is connected with it.60 “Beauty is an object’s form of purposiveness insofar as it is perceived in the object without the representation of a purpose.58 In this re ective judgement the representation of the object does not provide content for the syntheses of cognition. from the object to the concept that made it possible.”63 And what concerns a judgement of taste in this representation is only the “form” that it contains. but instead acts as an occasion for re ection that refers thought from the object itself to the concept that is the condition of its possibility. “the representation of the effect is the basis that determines the effect’s cause and precedes it.
he says. This experience is one of being together but lacking a common-being. and hence the mere form of purposiveness.or. is often confused with “common human understanding (gemeinen Menschenverstand). In spite of the demand (which we inherit from Western political thought).65 It is not dif cult to see how this idea from Kant’s aesthetic theory can be applied to Nancy’s political theory. We experience community as an unworking that resists the work of conceptual uni cation.communicated.” 66 This type of common sense places the emphasis on the commonality . Inoperative communities do not have a single unifying concept or purpose. but rather as the resistance to that very operation. Nancy explains how the recognition of this shared nitude can create community in the form of being-in-common. in Kant’s words.jective). Like a judgement of beauty. Nancy and Kant on Inoperative Communities · 4 1 . An even better understanding of our experience of inoperative communities is available when we go on to consider Kant’s theory of sensus communis. insofar as we are conscious of it. the recognition of community is a re ective judgement that has no recourse to a universal concept. Kant’s account of purposiveness without a purpose helps to explain how this experience is possible. to identify and apprehend a unitary essence that underlies each community. The “common sense” that he is interested in. Kant’s third Critique clari es the way that we experience such communities.” or in other words. or a common concept that gives it coherence from above. the unworking that renders the sought-after system inoperative. (3) Kant on Sensus Communis In §40 of the Critique of Judgement. We experience it not as the uni ed operation of a coherent system. In Nancy’s description an inoperative community has a play that cannot be xed by concepts. in the representation by which an object is given us. Kant introduces sensus communis by rst clarifying what it is not. we continue to experience community differently. “the very least that we are entitled to expect from anyone who lays claim to the name of human being. A universal concept of community is impossible because community is created by an event that is always singular: the event of exposition wherein nite existence is shared between singular subjects. and yet they do have a certain purposiveness. as a gift of incompletion that needs to be renewed and shared .
67 In the Prolegomena Kant explains why he is not interested in this understanding of “common human understanding. And just as important as the fact that this capacity is common to everyone. of everyone else’s way of repre4 2 · Stuart Dalton . a sense shared (gemeinschaftlichen). It is.69 To respond to that more profound. It regards the ‘communis’ of sensus communis as the adjective ‘common’ in its nominative form: “sensus communis” is. the basic understanding that is common to everyone. truth. one that is not limited by the opinions that are generally held by the present majority. decency. it is also a sense of the common. Oswald.not just the question of the need that we have for such concepts. the sense of..the “vulgarity” . and Priestly. The central feature of this expanded form of sensus communis that distinguishes it from common human understanding is the way in which it makes judgements. who invoke “common sense” when they respond to Hume. or justice that we expect to nd everywhere. it is but an appeal to the opinion of the multitude. but rather to an a priori capacity to judge. for the latter judges not by feeling but always by concepts. In Kant’s version of sensus communis the ‘communis’ can be understood as both an adjective in the nominative case (as before). Kant argues that this notion is of no real value to philosophy. for example. Kant writes that his version of common sense. Beattie.” Writing of Reid.e. and also as a noun (commune) in the genitive case. what is needed is a more critical faculty. therefore.of certain shared assumptions about the world. more original question. in our thought. while the popular charlatan glories and con des in it. Kant presents his own version of sensus communis as just such a faculty. In Kant’s account the “sense” of common sense refers not to empirical opinions. of whose applause the philosopher is ashamed. “Seen in a clear light. which was the question of the origin of concepts like causation . i. a power to judge that in re ecting takes account (a priori).”68 Common sense as mere popular opinion does not respond at all to Hume’s problem. is the fact that it is a capacity to discern what is common to everyone: it is not just a sense that is common. “is essentially distinct from the common understanding that is sometimes also called common sense (sensus communis).”70 Sensus communis is the common ability to discern commonality by means of feeling rather than by determinate concepts.
“we believe we have a universal voice. attach to our own judging. “we regard this underlying feeling (the feeling of pleasure on which the judgement is based) as a common (gemeinschaftliches) rather than as a private feeling.”73 Because the beautiful has no concept. sensus communis can be regarded as both a feeling and an ability. We could even de ne taste as the ability to judge something that makes our feeling in a given representation universally shareable (mitteilbar) without mediation by a concept. broad. Such judgements always have an “exemplary necessity” . .a thought precisely that overcomes the limits of popular opinion. “abstracting from the limitations that . in order as it were to compare our own judgement with human reason in general and thus escape the illusion that arises from the ease of mistaking subjective and private conditions for objective ones. The fact that whenever we call an object beautiful.senting.“a necessity of the assent of everyone to a judgement that is regarded as an example of a universal rule that we are unable to state. Because of the sensus communis that facilitates judgements of taste. as a feeling that is simultaneously public and private.76 Hence. and consistent . use the word ‘sense’ to stand for an effect that mere re ection has on the mind. because otherwise we would not be able to make judgements concerning the beautiful. even though we then mean by sense the feeling of pleasure.”75 When we posit “common sense” behind judgements concerning beauty. .72 Kant argues that we must have such an ability.71 By comparing our own judgements with the possible (not actual) judgements of others. Kant argues. we.” it is possible to attain a thought that is active. What this critical faculty really amounts to is the ability to experience a subjective feeling in a way that is simultaneously both private and public. Sensus communis can also be understood as the basis for recognising the purNancy and Kant on Inoperative Communities · 4 3 . only an ability to compare our judgement with the possible judgement of others on the basis of feeling can explain how judgements of taste have the subjective universality that they do in reality have. It is an ability to feel pleasure as common pleasure. and lay claim to the agreement of everyone.”74 proves that there is a shared critical faculty that allows us to overcome the limitations of subjective judgements.
Hilyer College. but by recognising the internal harmony of our mental faculties that is occasioned by them. I have signalled this with an ‘m’ after the page number from that translation. Berlin: Walter de 4 4 · Stuart Dalton . By reading the experience of community that Nancy has described through the lens of Kantian aesthetics. The ability to recognise inoperative communities must be based on feeling. our need to posit a unifying principle behind such an experience.77 The experience of being-in-common is shared in the same way as the aesthetic experience of beauty: by recognising the “free play” and “free lawfulness” of purposiveness without a purpose. a more complete picture of that experience emerges. the fact that no such concept will be found. in spite of the fact that we have no concept of community to which to appeal. University of Hartford.an a priori capacity to judge that transcends the limits of individual subjectivity . all German texts are taken from Kant’s Gesammelte Schriften.posiveness without a purpose that characterises inoperative communities. Reading community in this way allows us to recognise. preceded by the pagination from the edition in the original language. USA Notes * Note: Where reference is given to an English translation. In reference to Kant. the English pagination will always be listed second. Communities. on the one hand. * Stuart Dalton is Assistant Professor of Philosophy. Sensus communis is the faculty that makes this recognition possible. just as it responds to the problem that concerned Kant in the third Critique: how to explain the subjective universality of beauty. and on the other hand. unless I have noted otherwise.responds to the problem concerning how inoperative communities are to recognise themselves. 29 vols. like scenes of beauty in nature and art. shareable (mitteilbar). since there is no concept to turn to. The Kantian version of sensus communis . And in both cases the judgements that we make are communicable. Emphasis in quotations is always the author’s own. And it also gives us some insight into how it is possible for us to recognise the communities that we are always already a part of. are gifts that we discover and appreciate not by appealing to determinate concepts. von der Preu ischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin. Where I have modi ed an existing translation. In Nancy’s political philosophy we experience community like we experience beauty: in the absence of a concept. Hrsg.
“Of Being-in-Common. Miami Theory Collective. 2 This question is also raised by Peggy Kamuf in her essay. trans. The Inoperative Community.. 199-234. 1902-1983. 12 13 14 15 16 Nancy. ed. Community at Loose Ends. 3 Nancy. 86/35.. La communauté désoeuvrée. p. 1986. Peter Connor. 19/4. 1991. 68/26-27. Miami Theory Collective. Nancy has continued to focus on “experience” in works after The Inoperative Community. pp. Ibid. the French text has not been published. 50/18-19. Jean-Luc Nancy.. The Inoperative Community.. Paris: Galilée. Paris: Christian Bourgois. pp. English: “Of Being-in-Common. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. entitled “Sharing Freedom: Equality. ed.” and “Experience of Freedom: And Once Again of the Community. pp. pp. 204/2. Which It Resists. Paris: Christian Bourgois. Community at Loose Ends..” La communauté désoeuvrée. pp. my italics.” show the continuity in Nancy’s thought from community to freedom. p. xxxvii-xxxviii. Nancy is clearly alluding to Habermas’ theory of communicative practice. Ibid. Ibid. xl. English translation: The Experience of Freedom. xxxix-xl.. pp. 13-18. The preface to the English edition (xxxvi-xli) was written especially for that translation. ed. p. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Ibid. Ibid. pp. Ibid. English translation. Simona Sawhney. xxxix. The Inoperative Community. pp. Ibid.” trans. 67-68/26. James Creech and Georges Van Den Abbeele.Gruyter.. 1-12. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Chapters 7 and 8 from that book.. Ibid. “On the Limit”. Justice.. p. Peter Connor. Nancy and Kant on Inoperative Communities · 4 5 . such as L’Experience de la liberté. 1991. The Inoperative Community. p. p. “De l’être-en-commun. Fraternity. 1991. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 1986. p. In this part of the preface to The Inoperative Community. 1 Jean-Luc Nancy. 87/35. Lisa Garbus. 1993. 1988.” p. 201/1. 25-26/7. 8 9 10 11 Nancy. 4 5 6 7 Nancy. Michael Holland. xxxvii.
Bloomington: Indiana University Press. “The Retreat of the Political in the Modern Age: Jean-Luc Nancy on Totalitarianism and Community. Ingram gives an excellent overview of the development of Nancy’s political philosophy and especially of the sources that inform it.. 18. Nancy focuses on the political content of the event. To my knowledge. The Community of Those Who Have Nothing in Common. Just as one cannot avoid confronting the face of the Other.in the absence of a common language.for people to have nothing “in common. In Levinas’ account of the face-to-face encounter with the Other. Nancy. 1994. p. In this text. 105/42. is given by David Ingram in his essay. 1988. a common religion. The “event of exposition” for Nancy is the political corollary of the “event of obligation” for Levinas.” Research in Phenomenology. While Levinas focuses on the ethical content of this event. In both cases the event is rooted in the alterity of the other person and in the inability of a subject to remain closed within its own identity. p. Nancy’s focus on the event of exposition as that which is fundamentally constitutive of communities. 18 19 20 Nancy. and nds that the “exposition” of both the self and the other that occurs whenever two subjects come face-to-face is the source of the communities that bind all of us together collectively. and is also ex-posed in its own being. so also one cannot avoid exposing oneself in that face-to-face encounter. 64/25.17 Ibid. 93-124. a subject is exposed to the fact of the otherness of the Other. and of the generally synthetic quality of Nancy’s social and political philosophy. or common economic interests . The Inoperative Community. pp.” because for Nancy “being in common” is rooted in something more basic than all of that: the event of exposition which occurs anytime two people come face to face.. 201/1. Ibid. pp. (which always exceeds the ability of the I to comprehend). beginning with the founding of the Centre for the Philosophical Study of the Political in 1980 under the impe- 21 4 6 · Stuart Dalton . Nancy here implicitly disagrees with one of the fundamental assumptions behind the recent book by Alphonso Lingis. The Inoperative Community. a common cultural heritage. the best analysis of the many sources that Nancy has drawn from (including Levinas). 224-225/7-8. no. and nds that the “expression” of the Other ’s face is the source of the non-cognitive obligation that is always already binding upon each one of us individually. Lingis questions the nature of community in a way that resonates with Nancy’s work. but Nancy would not accept Lingis’ assertion that it is possible . demonstrates the in uence of Levinasian ethics on his political thought. p.
no. 18. Cf.. The Inoperative Community. vol. Nancy. Tracy B.. English translation.” pp. 223-224/7. 371-398. 200-219. 23/6. 42/15. p. p. pp. Ibid. Political Theory. Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence. 208/4.” p. Such events. p. The most famous singularity is the Big Bang which created the universe 15 billion years ago. pp. Alphonso Lingis. pp.” trans. August 1992. pp. “Of Being-in-Common.. 1992.. 3.an event that cannot be conceptualised by current physical laws but that is nevertheless in principle observable (a singularity that occurs “out in the open” rather than within a black hole). Strong. “La comparution/the Compearance: from the Existence of ‘Communism’ to the Community of ‘Existence’. The Inoperative Community. Oxford: Blackwell. have a particularity that escapes the grasp of concepts. trans. 78/31. Nancy. The precise physical analogue of the political subject for Nancy would be a “naked singularity” . Autrement qu’être ou au-delà de l’essence. “Of Being-in-Common. 71/28. The Hague: Nijhoff. “Of Being-in-Common. like the singular political subjects that inhabit Nancy’s inoperative community. Another good discussion of Nancy’s work that focuses on his activity with the Centre for the Philosophical Study of the Political is given by Simon Critchley in his The Ethics of Deconstruction: Derrida and Levinas. up to the writing of The Inoperative Community and other related texts in the mid-1980s. pp. Nancy. Emmanuel Levinas. 22 Nancy. 1981. 22. Recently it was proven that naked singularities could possibly exist. Ibid. 20. 23 24 25 26 27 28 Nancy. 142-143. Nancy explicates the meaning of “compearance” in his essay.” p. The Inoperative Community.tus of the Cerisy conference that same year on the work of Derrida (“The Ends of Man: Spinoffs from the Work of Jacques Derrida”). 70/27-28. Ibid. p. 1974. which forced the physicist Stephen Hawking to hand over £100 and a t-shirt “to cover 31 Nancy and Kant on Inoperative Communities · 4 7 . 68-69/27. 29 30 Nancy. In physics a “singularity” is an event which is not governed by the laws of quantum mechanics.. p. The Hague: Nijhoff. 111-112. after the dissolution of the Centre. Nancy’s description of the singularity of the political subject parallels the notion of a “singularity” in contemporary physics in some interesting ways. 206/3.
Ibid.. Ibid. Casey Haskins argues that. 49 Kant.the winner’s nakedness” in a bet that he had made.. Ibid. Ibid. p. Ibid. Winter 1989.. 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 Ibid. Ibid.. 43-54. 241/92m.. “A Bet on a Cosmic Scale. 29-58. See “Kant and the Autonomy of Art. p. Dieter Henrich provides a detailed survey of the historical development of Kant’s theory of the harmonious play of the imagination and the understanding in his Aesthetic Judgement and the Moral Image of the World: Studies in Kant.. 78-79/31.” p. 204/44. McCloskey analyses the “constrained freedom” of the faculties in their 50 51 4 8 · Stuart Dalton . xxviii. Pluhar.. p. 1987. 33 Nancy.. pp. p. p. 43/15. Critique of Judgement. Kant is assigning to art an “instrumental autonomy. 48 Ibid. p. Nancy. Werner S. “Of Being-in-Common. Malcolm W.. xxxviii. pp. Ibid. p. xxxix. national edition.” and not the “noninstrumental autonomy” that has traditionally been supposed. xxxix. Kritik der Urtheilskraft.. English: Critique of Judgement. February 12. and a Concession.. Indianapolis: Hackett. pp. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Ibid. p. New York Times. Mary A. 22-23/6. Immanuel Kant. 15-16/3.” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. 202/1-2.. 89/35. pp. 87/35. 32 This distinction is reminiscent of Kant’s distinction between a “task (aufgegeben)” and a “given (gegeben)” in the solution to the rst antinomy (B 526). Ibid. 1992. p. 1997. Ibid. 219/63. no. 217-218/62. vol. Ibid. pp. pp. 89/35. pp. Sort of”. p. 47. p. A1.. Ibid. 16/3. Browne.. See. 59-60/23. V). because the purposiveness of the beautiful has this facilitating effect. (Ak.. 1. The Inoperative Community. p. 219/63-64. trans.
Critique of Judgement. Prolegomena. p. London: Macmillan Press. 220/65. 24. pp. Rev. 54. 227/74. 70-75.. and Re ective Approaches to History in Kant. This point about the need for aesthetic judgements to be shareable in principle is made by Rudolf Makkreel in his “The Con uence of Aesthetics and Hermeneutics in Baumgarten. Christel Fricke argues that judgements concerning purposiveness are re ective judgements in “Explaining the Inexplicable. Ibid. p.. 220/65m.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. and Kant. Ibid. 209/51.. vol. Ibid. The Hypothesis of the Faculty of Re ective Judgement in Kant’s Third Critique. 231/79. p.. p. 220/65. Nancy and Kant on Inoperative Communities · 4 9 67 68 . 65-75. pp. 123-137. 69-71. 1990. Rudolf Makkreel argues that because judgements of aesthetic purposiveness are re ective.. See his “Differentiating Dogmatic. 220/65. 259/5. Indianapolis: Hackett. 180/20. 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 Kant. Regulative. 1990. 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 Kant.” Proceedings of the Eighth International Kant Congress. 1-44. 220/65m. 236/84m. Ibid. p. New York: Garland. Ibid. English: Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics that will be Able to Come Forward as Science. p. 179-181/18-20. p. Paul Carus. 223/69. Ibid. 1995. 293/160. IV).. 1996. Ibid. pp. trans. Ibid. Ibid. and by Hannah Ginsborg in “Re ective Judgement and Taste” Nous. it is possible for them to be constitutive (in terms of aesthetic pleasure and displeasure) without being dogmatic. p. p. no. 52 Kant. 221/66m... p.. Kant’s Aesthetic.play in. 1. Ibid. p. p. 293/159-160. 230/77m. Ibid. pp. James W. 1977. 45-62. Milwaukee: Marquette University Press.” Nous 24. Meier.. pp. pp. p.. p.. p. 1990. Ibid. Ibid. and The Role of Taste in Kant’s Theory of Cognition. (Ak. Critique of Judgement. p. Critique of Judgement. pp.. 1987. Ellington.
259/4. 237/85. p. p.. Ibid. 221/66. 295/162m. Kant. p.. p. p. Ibid.. 239/89. Ibid.69 Ibid. p.. 238/87. Critique of Judgement. pp. 216/59-60. 294-295/160-161m. Ibid. Ibid... 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 5 0 · Stuart Dalton .. Ibid. p. 293/160m. Ibid. p..