top of page

P for Philosophy

Anne-Françoise Schmid, Phillipe Petit, trans. Sylvia

from: PHILOSOPHIE, YouTube: abcpenser, 21 February 2017.

Phillipe Petit: It indeed seems that, in your work, like we sometimes say, to critique it, “Everything is philosophizable”, like with you, one could say every philosophy from Plato to, let us say, to our days can be utilized to X ends and your particularity, let us say, is that you do not exclude any, if I have understood well, you do not exclude any, so... is this a principle of equivalence? It is in relation to the letter P, in relation to your relation to philosophy, but that is not the best word. How do you attack this rock that is philosophy?


Anne-Françoise Schmid: Well, I practice philosophy without exclusion. But that is not to say that I want to take whatever philosophy and find it to be equivalent. Without exclusion supposes that there is, that I admit, that there is a de jure multiplicity of philosophies. It is not habitual for classical philosophy, classical philosophy forms lineages of philosophy… lineages of philosophy that permit anchoring and implementing philosophy within a certain context. Huh, that, that’s… A philosophy cannot do without this and I make a hypothesis with this non-exclusion: if, in lieu of having a particular lineage, I take something generic which is exactly a de jure multiplicity, that would not mean that they are equivalent, if not at the transcendental level… but from the empirical point of view, they would not be and moreover I do not think that an isolated philosophy may be applied to the real. When you… you see, you cannot take a philosophy to say, “I will do democracy”, “I will do fascism”, “I will do…”, … I will not give, as one says. Now in accelerationism, you know that there’s a tendency now, Nick land, etc., no, no. Exactly because the relation you can have with the empirical supposes layers of philosophical concepts of different philosophies. You see… you don’t simply apply a philosophical concept onto the real. Therefore, in fund, speaking of this equivalence… yes at a certain abstract or transcendental level, at the level of… a certain philosophical technique. Yes, but this technique is not the whole of philosophy. In the complete philosophical techniques, there is something more, there is a work of contraries, there is a work with the multiplicity of philosophies, there is the problem of encounters between the philosophies, and we know that these encounters are not at all of the order of equivalence. Philosophers say nothing. Spinoza and Leibniz could meet. Russel and Bergson used to go eat… in the 5th arrondissement together, neither of them would say anything. And they certainly respected each other but there is no common language, thus it’s not exactly equivalencies. There is no common language, i.e., in fund, to comprehend this, one must seek notions that are nearly in the last instance, that is, that they are undone of notions with which one immediately puts them in contact. I recently wrote a text on fidelity in memory of Pierre Raymond. It’s a book that will be published very soon by Kimé that was organized by Xavier Renou. And I chose… I wrote a text that’s called, L'obscur cogito de la fidélité [The Obscure Cogito of Fidelity — Trans.] and I try to see under which conditions one can speak of fidelity without speaking of promises, without speaking of… of…, you see. Just, what is the active notion, how can we do it? And if you will, the non-exclusion of philosophy can really help you. Like there is no readymade doctrine, I firstly make links between the concepts, this is also what I do in epistemology, I saw, I tried to find what the general hypotheses in the epistemologies were to try to undo them not to deny them but to enrich their paths… which would permit philosophy to have some contact with the sciences.


Phillipe Petit: Can you re-specify that in a perhaps more programmatic fashion? What use do you make of philosophy in your work? Still on the letter P.


Anne-Françoise Schmid: So, the use that I make of philosophy is… is to create spaces. Creating spaces that are for the philosophies but also for other things. I was very much a philosopher amongst scientists, I worked at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale at Lausanne, at INSA Lyon, at the Ecole de Mines in Paris, I was on the ground at INRA, etc. These were always milieus where I was a philosopher in another milieu. And now, I have started to live this with artists. I am now a philosopher with artists, with Benoît Maire who had done this film, with Alice Lucy Rekab, with Robin Mackay, with Patricia Reed, etc. etc. Therefore, in fund, it is not at random, my philosophical work consists of constructing spaces where there is an admiration for every philosophy. I am… in a certain way… I think that one can only create when one has a sort of admiration. I do not know if you would agree with that but once you start to despise by saying “Foucault is a little thing, it’s…”, it’s sure, we are all small and all that, it goes without saying. But when something comes to pass, it is extraordinary. And Benoît Maire, with whom I happened to write an article, says that the painter, the work of the painter is not only to have gum, purlin, to have… a brown… a special brown, a blue, all sorts of pigments. It is firstly to be the first to recognize a painting. The painting comes from the painter’s recognition. It is altogether…


Phillipe Petit: In what sense?


Anne-François Schmid: Because, if you want to, you can do whatever. Is it philosophy? Is it painting? Is it just friendship? Who decides, huh? What makes a painting of Mantegna’s a painting of Mantegna’s? What makes it that a philosophy of Leibniz’s is a philosophy of Leibniz’s? There… that is posed again… that is posed again each time: who? Who? In a certain way, I do not know because there are no examples of this. I don’t think that it should be done by example but, if you will, there is something in fund, the taste of philosophies, perhaps Kant was right… maybe that we can take for example… this is indeed an example, Kant’s idea of the recognition of beauty of works of art, the idea of his concept is important, perhaps that our recognition of philosophies… of the beauty of these philosophies, of their efficacy, etc. is also of the order of his concept.


Phillipe Petit: Then that makes me think, you will take it up, of a phrase by Jean-Claude Milner, but I do not even know if it is from him, but who cares? But it is in relation with what you are saying: “The best book is that which has not yet been written. The best painting is that which has not yet been painted”.


Anne-Françoise Schmid (unhappy): But there, you’re giving us… you’re giving us Hegel.


Phillipe Petit: Then does that mean—


Anne-Françoise Schmid: Well, you’re giving us Hegel? There is no need. No, there is no need, one only needs to…


Phillipe Petit: Taking up the formula again…


Anne-Françoise Schmid: Yes, then, taking up the formula again, the best book would be that which has not yet been written, that which… one always desires to write, one sees… understand the age, one has not yet written it, one turns their head. Evidently, it never comes out. Of course, there are books that come out but it never the ideal book. This can be an aide to writing, it’s possible. But what I propose is just the inverse.


Phillipe Petit: Explain that again. The inverse…


Anne-Françoise Schmid: The painter… the painter is the one that says, at the moment when they do their painting, this is the painting. They are the first to say that. For philosophy is there something equivalent? This is not simple because the recognition between philosophers is not done like in painting. Between… the history of philosophy permits the recognition of philosophies. But you, who has worked a lot to feel the philosophical and literary atmospheres, you know very well that this recognition does not happen like that because each one having their philosophy does not see the other. It is very, very difficult.


Phillipe Petit: And would you say that your work aids exactly what one may…


Anne-Françoise Schmid: In a way, if you will, what I do is to under-determine philosophy by the multiplicity of philosophies. I do not over-determine, I under-determine. This is to say that each philosophy has its importance but… but… this permits adjusting this logic of non-exclusion, this logic of conceptual combination. This idea that one can only see the empirical across superpositions of philosophical concepts of different origins or that are so heterogenous. You see, this makes up a part of my gesture.


Phillipe Petit: Still within the letter P, is there necessarily a link between this principle of non-exclusion and the manner of tackling interdisciplinarity? And…


Anne-Françoise Schmid: Yes, for sure. Simply, interdisciplinarity is a… is a… sort of intermediary, it is not the fund of things. Firstly, interdisciplinary is a practice. It is a practice which… which accounts for the slogans “you should work in interdisciplinarity”, “now, there are no disciplines”, etc. etc. So, effectively, I worked on interdisciplinarity, particularly in the field at INRA. And we finished a book, Muriel Mabrini and I, on this question. But we had translated the Interdiscipline in the generic. And in the following goal, why go from the Interdiscipline to the generic? Because the great difficulty in epistemology, truly the big one, is that practically every epistemology bears on the past, sometimes the near past. “Ah, we did this on assimilation 10 years ago, we…”, etc. But, if you will, all the language that we have in epistemology… it’s an epistemology to put forward past things and you have no epistemology to try to seize what is in the process of happening, indeed what will happen. The generic epistemology that we form together, Muriel Mambrini and I, has the subtitle Manual for Future Sciences, i.e., that we transform, we do not deny classical epistemologies, but transform them so that they can be apt to be in the field to try and see what happens otherwise than sociologically. But truly scientifically, epistemologically.


Phillipe Petit:  So, to try and reframe it in relation to the letter P, how does philosophy serve you to build this generic epistemology?


Anne-Françoise Schmid: Because, yes, yes, so… philosophy serves me to construct this generic epistemology because I realized, exactly with the question of non-exclusion, that the relation of one philosophy to another was never simple. If you want to go from Descartes to Leibniz or from Leibniz to Descartes, you evidently you go through mathematical means, through problems of notation, problems of mechanics, clock problems, problems of law, etc. that are all very important. Therefore, if you will, I very quickly made the hypothesis, and this organized all of my work on Poincaré as well a bit, on Russel as well, I edit… I am an editor of Russell, on this idea that the relationships that one can make between one philosophy and another is made across each of their relations to scientists. You see? Now, I have also done something like that vis-à-vis art. But that was truly of the order of… and I asked myself how, how can a philosophy make internal, therefore philosophical, the results that come from science? It is for that that I intervened at a given moment and made the notion of rhetoric, the idea of rhetoric moreover that comes back to the Ecole de Mines, we speak a lot of Baltasar Gracián’s rhetoric. Because Baltasar Gracián’s rhetoric has this particularly in relation with Fontanier’s of being able to clarify cocnepts. And therefore, it’s more interesting for an engineering school, to be capable to determine a concept, what Gracián called Agudeza, i.e., just the point… there is a normal zone and then…

            Well, two creative philosophies meet. Derrida’s words at the Collège international de philosophie, with Laruelle present, where he said, “what does Laruelle say that I haven’t already said?”. Is that not impolite? It’s a way of situating oneself as a philosopher, not as a non-philosopher. Non-philosophy is also a way of struggling against it. That’s so important, I think. And under-determining philosophies through the multiplicity of philosophies allows this to be a little freer. I cannot know everything. You, you’ve read Patočka, but I haven’t, I haven’t but I won’t say bad things about Patočka because I haven’t read him. But how do I say it? There is an attitude of opening where I know that there are philosophers. I will not close this. There is a sort of generic of the multiplicity of philosophies that also a sort of welcome. A sort of welcome within non-exclusion. Therefore, my work in philosophy is effectively to create spaces. And so, in this relation to the science, the two philosophies can meet if they go through something else. Derrida with linguistics or anthropology, etc. etc. If they go through something else; Kant with mechanics, Plato with politics, Laruelle with the quantum, etc. one can decompose philosophy each time by seeing this point that could become a point of exteriority that highlights philosophy and puts the philosophies in relation by the fact that they have, despite everything, a point of exteriority.


Phillipe Petit: This exact point, this under-determination, it impedes in some way the equivalence between being and thinking. And it impedes saying “hey, I am Spinozist”, “hey, I am Nietzschean”, there is no… So that would not mean that philosophers are toolboxes for you. No, that is not the idea, but does this under-determination that impedes the fact that there are philosophies, or one philosophy augment your work of thinking a bit or not?


Anne-Françoise Schmid: Oh, surely, it is altogether possible, of course. Of course, that does not impede the work and the contribution. I think that philosophy always continues. These philosophies can be very useful to me, even friends, huh, but I append this posture.


Phillipe Petit: Why?


Anne-Françoise Schmid:  Why? Because, in fund, I very quickly became aware that, when I write in philosophy, there are other people that write in philosophy with different hypotheses, often contrary hypotheses… And I asked myself, how to take this seriously in philosophical writing itself? Rather than doing my little thing, I asked myself, how can I take this problem seriously? Therefore, it’s always a philosophical engagement rather than the history of philosophy, I’ve done history, I’ve done philosophy. I edited Russell’s biggest scientific and political correspondence… the biggest, it’s in French, moreover Russell knew French very well. But it’s 700 pages all the same, huh, you see, it’s… it’s not a small thing. I had to read Cantor and the scientists of the time, the philosophers of the time, etc. So, I did the work of a historian, an editor, but these are scales in a way that allow to assure a way of being able to engage myself with some security. You see, it’s in philosophical concepts.

bottom of page