Philosophy as performance

1. “Be no one’s disciple”—should we be surprised that Nietzsche, Marion, and Deleuze have all said this? But is this not an impossible imperative? Are we to respond to this imperative qua imperative? But, if so, do we not thereby violate it?

The impossibility of this statement, however, is not the reason we have failed to meet it, for then we would have had to understand what it would mean. If we had indeed understood it, we would not be faced as we are by the figure of the sycophant. The sycophant is to the disciple what the sophist has been to the philosopher: he is the one for whom the master has set the agenda. The task of the philosopher is to give the “Hegelian reading” of anyone or anything else, or to demonstrate that Althusser says it better than Foucault.

2. It has often been said that the discipline of philosophy is masturbatory—the ideology of philosophy according to which philosophy is itself the unconditioned (with which it competes with myth to seek) at best leaves the rest of the world alone and, at worst, banishes it from its domain (as body, as material, as phenomena, as science, etc). The philosopher needs no scientific knowledge to condemn science as techne, for example, since scientific knowledge qua science is “empirical”.

Yet this is not quite right. Philosophy is masturbatory insofar as it is narcissistic. Narcissus’ sexuality requires dislocation for him to be the object of his own desire. In philosophy this takes the form of the bibliography.

3. What, then, is the alternative? Are we faced with an impossible imperative? We do impossible things all the time, however: we love another, we move beyond the death of a parent, we make a promise, we overlook an offense to our pride. What does it take to do these things? It is precisely what is required to perform the image of thought.


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