Some notes on the limit

That it should be necessary for philosophy to think the notion of the limit which, as Théodorou correctly observes, is a “significant marker of our experience of the world, collective or intimate …”, comes as the result of a series of misnomers: the limit of reason, the limit of ambition, the limit of law. Philosophy and religion have erred in several familiar ways with respect to this notion: by positing it or dialecticizing it (and thereby abrogating it completely), by folding it into infinite interiority (e.g., existentialism), or quite simply by confusing limit with something like “boundary” or with some other negative definition.

To Théodorou’s comment we should add Legendre’s insight that the primordial form of the limit is time in the dual sense of subjective time and the time of civilization (or simply “history”), which is given dramatization—in a technical sense—in Aeneas’ fated departure from Troy toward the horizon of an unknown future. This dual aspect of time helps us distinguish limit and finitude in a way that existentialism could not. And, lest we fall into familiar errors, Jullien reminds us that, against the abstraction of “universal” time, the folds of time are persistently concrete in flesh and bone, in the qualitative differences of the seasons, that life is not what happens “between beginning and end”.

Instead of an extrinsic determination—e.g., in thinking that to be limited is to be limited by something—limit is the very principle of identity. But, as we know, identity is non-coincidence. What existentialism called “ambiguity” is something like this: the structure of the limit is a double movement of in/exclusion.


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