The Implications of Immanence: Toward a New Concept of Life

The Implications of Immanence: Toward a New Concept of Life

John D. Caputo series editor
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 192
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Implications of Immanence: Toward a New Concept of Life
    Book Description:

    The Implications of Immanence develops a philosophy of life in opposition to the notion of bio-power,which reduces the human to the question of power over what Giorgio Agamben terms bare life,mere biological existence. Breaking with all biologism or vitalism, Lawlor attends to the dispersion of death at the heart of life, in the minuscule hiatusthat divides the living present, separating lived experience from the living body and, crucially for phenomenology, inserting a blind spot into a visual field. Lawlor charts here a post-phenomenological French philosophy. What lies beyond phenomenologyis life-ism, the positive working out of the effects of the minuscule hiatusin a thinking that takes place on a plane of immanence,whose implications cannot be predicted. Life-ism means thinking life and death together, thinking death as dispersed throughout life. In carefully argued and extensively documented chapters, Lawlor sets out the surpassing of phenomenology and the advent of life-ism in Merleau-Ponty, Derrida, and Foucault, with careful attention to the writings by Husserl and Heidegger to which these thinkers refer. A philosophy of life has direct implications for present-day political and medical issues. The book takes its point of departure from the current genocide in Darfur and provides conceptual tools for intervening in such issues as the AIDS epidemic and life-support for the infirm. Indeed, the investigations contained in The Implications of Immanence are designed to help us emerge once and for all out of the epoch of bio-power.Lawlor's novel way of treating the concept of life is stimulating, original, and necessary for the social well being of our time.-Fred Evans, Duquesne UniversityThe Implications of Immanence continues the most promising, rigorous, and fruitful ongoing research project among scholars of twentieth-century philosophy. . . .A wonderful new book.-John Protevi, Louisiana State University

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4798-1
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  5. Introduction: Signs
    (pp. 1-3)

    Since Marx has become a specter,¹ the signs have become more distinct: we are able to see that we live in an epoch of bio-power.² Biopower produces endless contradictions and paradoxes. A deadly epidemic is allowed to develop in one population—the AIDS epidemic in Africa—and at the same time the life of one paralyzed individual is preserved indefinitely—the 2005 case of Terri Schiavo in the United States.³ Arab “suicide bombers” engage in a kind of autoaffection—auto-affection being the most traditional definition of life itself—that seems to result in no increase of life at all: the...

  6. 1 Verstellung (“Misplacement”) Completions of Immanence
    (pp. 4-14)

    In Derrida, there is a double necessity between an indefinite series of opposites, such as presence and absence, genesis and structure, form and content, law and arbitrariness, thought and unthought, empirical and transcendental, origin and retreat, foundation and founded, and so on. There is a necessity, for example, that genesis not be separated from structure. It seems to me that we should keep in mind that, each time we use this double “genesis and structure,” we are alluding to Jean Hyppolite. InLogic and Existence, Hyppolite equates Hegel’s “transformation of metaphysics into logic” with Nietzsche’s statement “God is dead,” and...

  7. 2 With My Hand over My Heart, Looking You Right in the Eyes, I Promise Myself to You … Reflections on Derrida’s Interpretation of Husserl
    (pp. 15-29)

    We should never forget that Foucault’sWords and Thingsis contemporaneous with Derrida’sVoice and Phenomenon. We should never overlook the similarity in the two titles, with their little “and.” What does this “and” mean? In chapter 9 ofWords and Things, “Man and His Doubles,” Foucault speaks of “a hiatus, minuscule and yet invincible, which resides in the ‘and’ ” of all doubles, such as “the empirical and the transcendental” (MC 351 / 340). Indeed, whereas in the classical epoch time became the foundation of space, in the modern epoch—that is, for Foucault, our present time—space, a...

  8. 3 “For the Creation Waits with Eager Longing for the Revelation” From the Deconstruction of Metaphysics to the Deconstruction of Christianity in Derrida
    (pp. 30-44)

    Perhaps Derrida’s most enduring contribution to philosophy, to thinking in general, is the idea of a “deconstruction of the metaphysics of presence.” Unlike that of Heidegger—with which it nevertheless has so much in common—Derrida’s deconstruction does not aim at retrieving Being,Wesen, orAnwesen. I would say that it aims at retrieving the soul, thepsyche,anima. Life is what is otherwise than being.¹ We see this aim at life as early as 1967 in the Introduction toVoice and Phenomenon, where Derrida says that “the ultra-transcendental concept of life” is the source of “all the distributions” made...

  9. 4 Eschatology and Positivism The Critique of Phenomenology in Derrida and Foucault
    (pp. 45-56)

    In his early “What Is Metaphysics?” Heidegger claims that the question expressed in the title of his essay puts the questioner—us—in question. This “putting us in question” then moves toward what Heidegger terms the completion of the transformation of man, understood as subject, into existence (Dasein).¹ This complete transformation, for Heidegger, as we know from the introduction that he added to the essay in 1949, amounts to an overcoming (Uberwindung) of metaphysics understood as Platonism or as the mere reversal of Platonism (WM 363 / 279). At this moment, I think it is still necessary to take seriously...

  10. 5 Un écart infime (Part I) Foucault’s Critique of the Concept of Lived-Experience (Vécu)
    (pp. 57-69)

    In 1984, at the end of his life, Foucault revised the introduction he had written in 1978 for the English translation of Georges Canguilhem’sThe Normal and the Pathological. Foucault gave no title to the original introduction, but in 1984 he gave it the simple title “Life: Experience and Science.”¹ Here, Foucault tried to show that Canguilhem “wants to re-discover … what of the concept isin life” (VES 773—74 / 475; Foucault’s emphasis). For Canguilhem, but also for Foucault himself, we must think that the concept is immanentindans—life.² What is at issue in immanence is...

  11. 6 Un écart infime (Part II) Merleau-Ponty’s “Mixturism”
    (pp. 70-86)

    Today, “immanence” and “transcendence” present a lot of problems. In 1959, Rudolf Boehm published an essay in which he claimed that these terms are already ambiguous in Husserl’s work as early as 1907.¹ But perhaps we can impose some conceptual rigor on them. Let us say that immanence is opposed to the transcendent, meaning that the thought of immanence is the thought of life, while the thought of the transcendent refers to the old metaphysics, especially the two-world structure of Platonism. We can then distinguish within the concept of immanence two ways of being an anti-Platonist. On the one hand,...

  12. 7 Noli me tangere A Fragment on Vision in Merleau-Ponty
    (pp. 87-90)

    It is obvious that, inThe Birth of the Clinic, Foucault’s use of the phrase “visible and invisible” alludes to Merleau-Ponty. If someone knows anything about Merleau-Ponty, that person knows his description of the touching-touched relation. Yet it seems to me that one must always recall that Merleau-Ponty’s final published work is “Eye and Mind,” not “Hand and Mind.” Merleau-Ponty’—and here again Foucault is quite close to Merleau-Ponty’—is a philosopher of vision. To demonstrate this point, let me bring forward two short quotes from Merleau-Ponty’s unfinishedThe Visible and the Invisible. First, in chapter 2, Merleau-Ponty says, “To...

  13. 8 Un écart infime (Part III) The Blind Spot in Foucault
    (pp. 91-106)

    All of Merleau-Ponty’s thought consists in a mixturism. The eye, vision, in Merleau-Ponty mixes together passivity and activity. Yet passivity, in Merleau-Ponty, seems to amount to a sort of blindness. Indeed, in two working notes toThe Visible and the Invisible(from May 1960), Merleau-Ponty speaks of apunctum caecum, a “blind point” (VI 300–301 / 247–48). If we think quickly of Foucault’s analysis ofLas Meninas, with whichWords and Thingsopens and where we are heading in this essay, we see that it, too, concerns a “blind point.” Merleau-Ponty’s thought, therefore, seems very close to that...

  14. 9 “This Is What We Must Not Do” The Question of Death in Merleau-Ponty
    (pp. 107-121)

    What is a suicide bomber? In essence, the death of a suicide bomber is no different from any other suicide; the action is inconceivable without auto-affection. Indeed, as with all suicides, the auto-affection in which the suicide bomber engages is contradictory: he affects himself in order to end all his own auto-affection, all his own affectivity in general. Yet what distinguishes the suicide bomber from other suicides is that his actions end the lives of many others. The increase in destruction makes the contradiction more severe, even more paradoxical, at least for us in the West. In the East, the...

  15. 10 Metaphysics and Powerlessness An Introduction to the Concept of Life-ism
    (pp. 122-142)

    Contemporary politics finds itself, as Foucault showed in his 1976The History of Sexuality, Volume I, within a regime ofbio-power.¹ This regime, on the one hand, allows a deadly epidemic to develop in one population—I am thinking of the AIDS epidemic in Africa—while on the other it allows the life of one paralyzed individual to be preserved almost indefinitely, as in the 2005 case of Terri Schiavo in the United States.² It seems to me that we can understand this contradiction between a population and an individual only by means of a renewal of the concept of...

  16. Conclusion: The Followers
    (pp. 143-146)

    Thanks to the signs, we see more distinctly—and distinctness does not necessarily exclude obscurity—that we live in an epoch of biopower. The will to the preservation and enhancement of life dominates in the West because the second world of ideas, the Platonic “sun,” has set. The division, as in the divided line, has collapsed. Anti-Platonism, which is the negation of the difference between the two worlds, is the most dangerous form of metaphysics. It is the reduction of everything to a kind of “actualism,” or, to use a term popular in analytic philosophy today, to a kind of...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 147-194)
  18. Index
    (pp. 195-200)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 201-204)