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Chapter I/Prologue: Representing Kairos & The Exemplary Instance Methodological & Epistemological Considerations

Rowan G. Tepper 8, March 2012

1.1. To Represent or not to Represent: Is that the question?


Philosophical writing [must] continually confront the question of representation. 1 The question of representation must indeed be confronted and the impossibility of making do without representation entirely. For, even in the least representative poetic evocation there remains the fact that even Wortsalat has as its building block words that in principle do represent objects. Moreover, the logic of total escape or opposition presupposes the binary logic of mutually exclusive alternatives, which we now know in light of quantum mechanics and subsequent developments in physics to be entirely superseded. Except in human language and quite possibly the forms of human thought. Perhaps there is way to think and to write that can resist the reduction of the infinite richness of experience that all representational-conceptual thought has as its price. A revolutionary possibility whereby experience might break through, within representations themselves, whereby experience would be, to borrow one of Blanchot's formulations, affirmed in a negation that, while opening a void and stopping time, also point[s] toward the future... a transgression: an innocent transgression. 2 Such a possibility for thought and language makes representations of experience transgress their own limits, and the surplus over representation, its sur-representational excess, would no longer represent or signify, but mark an instance of the exemplary. Of course these instances in the course of a treatise on time will be ephemeral, and representative discourse remains as an instrument of thinking, but they indicate and articulate that which is to come. It is to make use of representation as digression.3
1 Walter Benjamin, The Origin of German Tragic Drama, Trans. John Osborne (London & New York: Verso, 1988), 27. 2 Maurice Blanchot, Exemplary Acts,Political Writings: 1953-1993, Trans. Zakir Paul (New York: Fordham University Press, 2010), 98-9. 98. 3 Benjamin, Origin, 28.

1.2. Kairos & The Exemplary


During the tumultuous events of the student revolts of May 1968, an unsigned political tract appeared in the sole number of Comit, a journal attributed to the Students Movement, which had, in reality, only two contributors, of whom neither had been a student in many decades, Dionys Mascolo and Maurice Blanchot, that defined the exemplary act, an action that is such because it goes beyond itself while coming from very far away, superseding itself and in an instant, with a shattering suddenness, exploding its limits.4 When later Mascolo divulged the true authorship of the writings published in Comit, this was revealed as one of Blanchot's contributions. All exemplary acts take place in revolutionary times in an instant, they inject time itself with an irreducible heterogeneity and are, as such, moments when revolutionary possibility not only was present but was affirmed in a negation that, while opening a void and stopping time, also pointed toward the future.5 It is not at all insignificant that Blanchot reflects upon and explicates Benjamin's fifteenth thesis on history in a later segment of the Comit issue: As soon as, through the movement of forces tending toward rupture, revolution appears possible, in a possibility that is not abstract but rather historically and concretely determined, It is in these moments, at these instants, that revolution takes place. The only mode of presence of revolution is its real possibility. Then there is a state of arrest and suspension. In this suspension, society undoes itself entirely. The law collapses. Transgression occurs: for a moment, there is innocence; interrupted history. 6 Now, were this moment, instant, interruption to be thought in terms of the present, of being present, it would then be fixed and ossified in the form of an atemporal entity and reduced, in principle, to any identical and indifferent moment of chronological time (the present whether present or not as a moment inhering in the attempted atemporal representation of time). In The Writing of the Disaster we find one fragment in which this thinking of the moment of revolution is once again formulated, this time on a

4 Maurice Blanchot, Exemplary Acts,Political Writings: 1953-1993, 98-9. 5 Blanchot, Exemplary Acts,Political Writings: 1953-1993, Trans. Zakir Paul (New York: Fordham University Press, 2010), 98. 6 Maurice Blanchot, [A rupture in time: Revolution], Political Writings: 1953-1993, 100.

less explicitly political-historical register, retaining an implicit reference to Benjamins reflections on time and history: from what comes to pass, the present is excluded. Radical change would itself come in the mode of the un-present which it causes to come, without thereby either consigning itself to the future (foreseeable or not), or withdrawing into the past (transmitted or not). 7 It is this moment, which is always now, and yet never present, in relation to our unquenchable desire both for it and that for which it serves as a transcendental, that is at the center of this work. The word kairos signifies the opening of a discontinuity in a continuum... a decisive moment that must be caught in passing, 8 while the kairic designates the mode of temporal experience to which kairos corresponds experience in which time itself is invested with desire. An experience and concept of time in the kairic mode is as much a condition of possibility for revolution, for a foreseeable future to which action must be subordinated is every bit as stultifying as the constraints of the past upon the present. That revolutionary insubordination with respect to the future itself is now possible is emblematic of a break with the political thinking and epoch of modernity. The exemplary is more precisely the singular, historically determined instance of an idea; the extreme, excessive moment of the dialectic, in which the singular can be nothing other than a repetition of the idea that makes the idea itself possible. Singular instances, exemplary instances, of one and the same idea can and must, at times stand in relationship of contradiction with regard to one another, while at the same time differ only according to their historical-material context. Every idea is originally overdetermined, insofar as the category of origin describes that which emerges from the process of becoming and disappearance9 meaning (singular/exemplary instances & ideas, e.g. the monad, are nonunivocal a 'variant' of the 'invariant,' structure of the totality. 10) The exemplary instance as the superposition of Ursprung (though in Benjaminian terms), Entstehung and Herkunft, pace Foucault's reading of Nietzsche, with the latter term understood in an expanded sense,
7 Maurice Blanchot, The Writing of the Disaster, Trans. Ann Smock (Omaha: University of Nebraska Press, 1995), 114. 8 Francoise Balibar, Philippe Bttgen, Barbara Cassin, Moment, instant, occasion, in Barbara Cassin (ed.), Vocabulaire europen des philosophies. Dictionnaire des intraduisibles. (Paris: Le Robert/Seuil, 2004) 813-818. 815. Trans. H. Jordheim, 2007. 9 Benjamin, Origin, 45. 10 Louis Althusser, On the Materialist Dialectic, For Marx, Trans. Ben Brewster (London & New York: Verso, 1996), 209.

as inclusive of both fore- and after-history: Where anachrony becomes for an instant contemporaneous (C.f. Agamben, Nudities, See Koselleck below).

1.3. Sur-Representation, Excess, Truth


Sense of Sur- in sur-representation: There is a remainder indicated by the prefix sur in 'surrealism.' What meaning can this prefix have in this materialist context? ...Poetry is the only beyond, not because it bridges 'this world' and the one 'beyond,' Above and Below. It is the beyond itself. The word does not bear testimony, rather it is itself transcendence.11 The surrealist revolt takes place against the infinite world... experienced as a system of domination and coercion, but in its breakout from this endless system of worldly coercion, it cannot invoke the guarantee of a God beyond the world. 12 The prefix sur belongs... to the schema of the surnaturel of Gnosticism and its after-effect... [the] turn from a vertical to a horizontal scheme was and is important to interpret.13 Such occurrences are, beyond a doubt, historically determined while they simultaneously challenge and disrupt historical determination, as such. If this is in fact the case, they are not merely historically determined; rather, they are over-determined, understood in nearly the same sense as the Althusserian concept. Overdetermination designates the following essential quality of contradiction: the reflection in contradiction itself of its conditions of existence. This is not a univocal 'situation.' It is not just its situation 'in principle' (the one it occupies in the hierarchy of instances in relation to the determinant instance: in society, the economy) nor just its situation 'in fact' but the relation of this situation in fact to this situation in principle... It is to say that... the organic phenomena of condensation and displacement are the very existence of the 'identity of opposites' until they produce the globally visible form of the mutation or qualitative leap that sanctions the revolutionary situation when the whole is recrystallized.14
11 12 13 14 Jacob Taubes, Notes on Surrealism, From Cult to Culture, 104. Taubes, 107. Taubes, 120. Althusser, 209, 216.

What's more: this over-determination is itself at least double. As the situation 'in principle' can only be said to exist as an idea developed in the course of time by its various exemplary repetitions, overdetermination must be understood spatio-temporally and conceptually. In the exemplary, what shall be termed a sur-representational excess arises as the idea itself instantiated simultaneously de novo and as a repetition. Excess is the essence of the sur-representational: it is by means of this surplus representation that novelty can emerge to develop and adumbrate the idea. It is also by exceeding, outstripping, the images and forms of the past that such events and such times release their emancipatory potential. The sur-representational excess, forming a constellation with its combined fore and after-history, its innumerable repetitions, would present its truth. We may more precisely define the term sur-representational excess as the individuating and determining elements and phenomena of the historical instantiation of an idea that neither arise from, nor can be reduced to concepts or archetypal figures. In other words, it designates the aleatory nature and particularity of each historical exemplar of an idea and marks the divergence between each time it is (sur)-represented. Or, more poetically, the excess is all that in the sur-representational image which evokes in us the mmoire involuntaire of an ungraspable, nonconceptual reality the true experience [Erfahrung] corresponding to the idea (memory of the immemorial). Inasmuch as sur-representations are matters of contingency and the ostensibly accidental determined minimally in terms of its spatio-temporal coordinates and, importantly, grant access to a measure of the truth inaccessible to conceptual representation, we may note for the moment in passing the structural analogy to the Benjaminian category of the Auratic, in terms of which the phenomenon, logic and significance of the sur-representational and exemplary will be further developed. Truth is in transgression, in the difference of repetition; the truth of an epoch in its manner of exceeding and violating the limits and constraints of past and place. Our truth, our origin and goal, the New, is at once what is most foreign and what is most familiar to us, it is the home we have never had the place after which we have always sought where we have always already been. We catch sight of this (home) land in the moment and movement of rupture, in crisis and dis-aster in breaking with old stars and

constellations; in this ephemeral image we are at home in time: this is our moment our kairos our chance. (Images of Truth) This image is an image of redemption if redemption is conceived as the end of alienation, and if alienation is understood as all that binds man to a nation and time, a point of near-total agreement for not only Benjamin and Blanchot, but Bataille and Bloch as well. This is what is fundamental to any genuinely radical thought or practice, as the final sentences of The Principle of Hope emphatically state: True genesis is not at the beginning but at the end, and it starts to begin only when society and existence become radical, i.e. grasp their roots. But the root of history is working, creating a human being who reshapes and overhauls the given facts. Once he has grasped himself and established what is his, without expropriation and alienation, in real democracy, there arises something which shines into the childhood of all and where no one has yet been: Home.15 If it is true that the principle of all history heretofore has been alienation (whether its manifest, historically determined face is one of dispossession, exile and eschatological expectations, or one of rootedness, nostalgia and fantasies of decadence and the autochthonous) it is our task, not only to pull the emergency brake, but to bring this history to an end, to clear a way for a new beginning, a new story, illuminated by the dawning of the New.

1.4. Methodology I: Begriffsgeschichte


It has already been established or at least intimated that the historical variations and developments of the concepts at stake in this 'treatise' are in no way mere insignificant accidental modifications, but are rather of cardinal import in developing and comprehending the obscured truth content of the concept. It is thus natural, or at least unsurprising, to draw upon the theory and methods of Begriffsgeschichte which, according to Koselleck, is capable not only of surveying the contemporary space of experience and horizon of expectation,16 also relates specifically to the contemporaneity of the noncontemporaneous that can be contained within a concept.17
15 Ernst Bloch, The Principle of Hope, Volume Three, 1375-6. 16 Koselleck, Futures Past, pg. 87. 17 Ibid, pg. 90.

Following Blanchot's reflections, etymology and historical/mythological use of terms must be qualified as only valid in the restricted context, indicative of conceptual transformations. Transformations & Discontinuities in Conceptual History that is, ruptures in the history of a form of knowledge analogous to mutations in the episteme and changed historical a prioris in Foucault. Conceptual transformations as historical events. Space of Experience / Horizon of Expectation

1.5. Methodology II: Metaphorology and Model Representations


The philosophical-critical methodology of Metaphorology, pioneered by Hans Blumenberg since the publication of Paradigmen zu einer Metaphorologie in 196018 proposes to expand the domain and conceptualmethodological apparatus of Begriffsgeschichte by exposing metaphors as foundational elements of philosophical language, 'translations' that resist being converted back into authenticity and logicality. If it could be shown that such translations, which would have to be called 'absolute metaphors' exist, then one of the essential tasks of conceptual history would be to ascertain and analyse their conceptually irredeemable expressive function.19 The existence of absolute metaphors can readily be demonstrated: one need look no further than the metaphorics of light, particularly when pertaining to truth, for the metaphorics of light cannot be translated back into concepts; analysis seeks to disclose the questions to which answers are sought and risked, questions of a presystematic nature whose intentional fullness 'provoked' the metaphors. 20 Which is to say that by definition absolute metaphors exceed any possible conceptual representation, and as such they serve as indications [that] can be found that answers to these questions have always already been given in a subterranean stratum of thought... [which] have never ceased to pervade, tincture, and structure [philosophical systems]... [as] model representations.21 By providing a point of orientation, the content of absolute metaphors determines a particular
18 19 20 21 Leaving aside several essays published in academic journals in the preceding few years. Hans Blumenberg, Paradigms for a Metaphorology, Trans. Robert Savage (Ithaca: Cornell (Signale), 2010), pg. 3. Ibid, 7. Idem.

attitude or conduct; they give structure to a world, representing the nonexperienceable, nonapprehensible totality of the real... they therefore indicate the fundamental certainties, conjectures, and judgments in relation to which the attitudes and expectations, actions and inactions, longings and disappointments, interests and indifferences, of an epoch are regulate. 22 Absolute metaphors therefore not only express a given world, but in metaphorics' pragmatic-paradigmatic function, metaphor passes into the structures of a given world, producing an entirely new world when the answers previously received (or produced) become obsolete even refuted leaving vital needs unfulfilled, for concepts and metaphors abhor a vacuum. The dualistic model is pregnant with myth,23 while dualism present or produced at the origin ought render impossible a singular, definitive conclusion. One sees dualistic models and vocabularies of time cutting across countless cultures and languages, with a conceptual-linguistic history extending far into the past, for the diremption-bifurcation of temporality first took place at, or very shortly following the dawn of historical time. The sacrifice of the sacred: The myth has a nonmythical core, just as man, in the world contains an unworldly deposit that... has no need of instruction, but only of awakening, of the removal of deception, of self-discovery.24

22 Ibid, 14. 23 Hans Blumenberg, Work on Myth, pg. 179-180. 24 Blumenberg, Work on Myth, pg. 187.