The Body (of) the Stranger

François Laruelle, trans. Sylvia

from: « Le corps (de) l'Etranger comme corps subjectif en-dernière-ins­tance et organon de l'Ego », Théorie des Etrangers, Paris: Kimé, 1995, pp. 155-8

            We have chosen to no longer define “man” in the manner of a metaphysical entity and with a philosophical argumentation. This leans on empirical givens that it continuously idealizes (the unitary concept). Among these givens, and this definition, the body-form is certainly fundamental and oscillates between the object body and the proper body. There is no philosophy or Human Science that does not search for a unitary concept of man as body, where the idealized body—image, form, overflown [survolé] or contemplated concept—seems to exhaust the whole of human reality. It cannot be a question of proceeding thus in a science of humans and of once more interiorizing the imaginary paradigm of man as transcendent “body” that one both objectifies and subjectifies—or any other partition [partage]—according to proportions that are variable but defined each time. Let us nevertheless suppose that we still define the specific essence of man, the sphere of Being or the Stranger, by the “body” so as to give a body to the Stranger. On the one hand, the non-positional and non-donational Ego is not itself this body but rather the cause of the body, its subjectivity-of-last-instance. The sphere of the body (of) the Stranger is, so to speak, derealized. On the other hand, of this transcendental body, real-in-last-instance only, there will be no unitary concept, blending empirical givens (of which the “object-body” form) and their idealization within a mixed [mixte], but a non-auto-positional and non-auto-donational objective essence specified and determined by variable cognitions [connaissances] produced about it.

            What we will call, us too, the body of man will therefore not be a physiological, anatomic, social, economic, etc., moreover idealized, entity; an entity that is regional and finally identifiable on the basis of empirical givens. But a universal apriorico-transcendental, supra-regional structure independent of every empirical given, be it natural or biological, but the cognizance of which would depend on these givens according to a relation defined as “occasional”.

            The hypothesis must therefore be changed: in lieu of thinking the body from itself, by autoposition of empirical givens, of attributing it a refold or retreat [repli] onto itself and a sufficiency—a Principle of sufficient body—that reestablishes philosophy in its rights, one will infer (as the Stranger) from the real cause, from the human-Ego-of-last-instance, even if it means determining it next in terms of its cognizance. This is the only means to tear the “totality” of the human from the metaphysical soul/body hierarchy, which phenomenology (Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger) did not know how to really renounce like a poisoned heritage, and of which one knows that it turns around or inverses at will from Descartes to Nietzsche. And to reestablish it within the Ego which gives its radical subjectivity to this body (of) the Stranger, a body that is “objective” but not itself an object.

            It is therefore through the body—understood without doubt in its transcendental and not ontological sense—as determined-in-last-instance by the Ego—that we exist completely as Stranger. Universal, non-political (in the sense in which we understand this “non”) democracy, if it would be a human democracy through and through rather than a supplementary abstraction or a political generality, one of the universals of “political science”, should be able to furnish an absolutely subjective, albeit in-last-instance only, concept of the Stranger or its body, and firstly reconcile these two determinations by tearing the one from biology, the other from politics or history. The identity-in-Ego of the body and being-Stranger is only paradoxical for philosophical distributions of reality, but is comprehended from the point of view of a universal science of humans, of which we see that it altogether exceeds, by its generality of a scientific type, the famous Nietzschean “disciplines” and the production of the modern body by the machines of micro-politics. These remain held within the partition of domination or Authority, within this spirit of hierarchy from which philosophy will not have spared man.

            A certain number of antinomies and amphibologies of the judgement of corporeity are dissolved. The philosophical interpretations of the body are disposed according to a spectrum of which the extreme poles are evidently the invariants of the “subject” and the “object” inscribed within Being qua autoposition. Sometimes the objective character prevails, but as mundane or precisely as object-body (amphibology of objectivity and the object); sometimes the subjective character, but precisely as subject-body (amphibology of the subjective-of-last-instance and the “subject”). In the two cases, transcendence refolded onto itself, auto-positional, is not only the universal element of the body, but its reality (amphibology of the real and the objective). It is only the concept of the cause as absolutely subjective and non-auto-positional last-instance that can prevent this philosophical drowning for the body. Another amphibology should evidently also be dissolved: that of the ideal or unreal body and its biologico-social determinations, of the specular model of the body in general. The immanent phenomenon of the body is not reduced to the proper body but no more is it to the immanent Ego: one requires the reserve of the last-instance that changes the concept. The heterogeneity of the body lived-in-One and its transcendent determinations, “subjective” as much as “objective”, can be affirmed on the basis of the immanent Ego, that assures it its uncreated character, non-produced or non-constituted, and consequently its emergence in relation to what arises rather from its biologico-psychological conditions of existence. This universal body forms a dimension that is not only meta-physical but indeed meta-biological that precedes its specific content or its conditions of existence to which the Human Sciences attach themselves. “Meta-biological” nevertheless cannot mean that it transcends these latter conditions from them or that it “overcomes” them by passing beyond themselves, but that it only overcomes them because it constitutes an autonomous order of non-auto-positional objectivity and universality that in a way comes in front of or before these empirical conditions by parting from the Ego where it takes root; an a priori order that is however not obtained by a process of abstraction.

            The body in its essence is indeed the Stranger, but outside of every Platonic ascesis: it is the Stranger alone that we may be, the only manner in which we exist. No rejection of the body by the soul; at most the heretical affect of the absolute autonomy of the Ego and the relative autonomy of the body as the Stranger that we also are and that assures our relation to the World. The Stranger that we are justifies the World and guards this relation. It is them, rather than the Ego, that records the existence of the World and its conditional or occasional signification for the Ego. Here is finally the true signification of the Stranger: the Stranger is the solution to the problem of the I insofar as it acts through it on History and Society, on their external limits, i.e., posed by science, or insofar as they maintain a theoretico-pragmatic relation and no longer one of practical violence with them. The Stranger is in a way the transcendental organon of the Ego, its possible acting.

            How to concretely comprehend the body now that we have ceased to pose it as first, the first body of philosophical anthropology even when it seems to want to render the soul dominant? How to know or cognize it rather, know the Stranger exactly inasmuch as it is no longer first in this sense, but indeed second albeit autonomous in relation to the Ego? It remains to give a positive content to the body as existing-Other, having defined it till the present especially in relation to philosophy.