The return of the mythic II

Cassirer says that we are in a world founded on myth. Yet it seems that the foundational myth here is precisely that we are in a world. It is for this reason that, contrary to Gabriel’s claim, scientism is not opposed to myth insofar as the certainty of knowledge, as a disposition already contained in perceptual experience, is not a value added from an otherwise naïve reception of un-comprehended or un-interpreted qualia. Hegel had made this point clearly in the opening sentences of the Phenomenology and, as the first chapter shows, only in the silent preparation for the divine, tarrying with the experience of death, does consciousness encounter the disparity of the “said” and the “meant” in language. It is here that Gabriel is most certainly wrong in his contrast of Hegel and Schelling: “whereas Hegel tried to uncover the necessity of the content of mythology (of art, religion, history, etc.), Schelling insists on the necessity of the form of representation which cannot be sidestepped … There is no absolute content prior to the mythological form”. Hegel and Schelling are una voce at least on this point. We experience the meaning of language in our very being-in-the-world prior to the movement of thought which, however, is precisely the original experience that we can never recover or remember: “mythology as an attempt to overcome the amnesia of Being, as vanquishing the pure facticity of the world, relieves me of a situation in which I must acknowledge myself as an accidental divinity …” (Kolakowski).

But, if this is the case, then the strictly unthinkable unity of sense and being cannot itself have being, i.e., there is no unity of thought (or, mutatis mutandis, reflection) and being (this is the case for both Schelling and, despite Gabriel, Hegel as well)—if this were not the case, we could not explain the fact of mythology anthropologically nor philosophically—that there should be myth at all. Or, we might go even further: if language is ineliminably metaphorical, this is because the Word is the manifestation of mythology (Hegel, Barthes).

Advertisements

Signatures and styles (Characters II)

1. Traces: In unfinished sentences. In the one sentence that refuses to leave, “like a handprint on your heart”. In the voices of indirect language, nothing is left unsaid yet, for all that, mutual understanding is eminently unsatisfying. I know that you know, but that is not sufficient. When it comes to another who remains an other—who remains distant, untouchable, and who possibly may not even hear what we have to say—we can find no satiety. In the midst of the most perfect understanding available to our language—for example, in an unspoken agreement, a slight nod, the upturned corner of a lip, or even in a sigh of content—we can find ourselves under the most violent, nauseating reduction, i.e., within the unbearable solipsism of absolute immanence. In such immanence there can be no exterior, “nothing else than this”. I am alone and present with myself (a divided being); I am bound to myself, unable to escape myself: this is the burden of identity, i.e., the impossibility of not being myself, even if I am nothing more than a solitary dreamer who is deceived into believing that there are others who see and understand me.

But even if all we have is the faint recollection of those we cannot even really be sure existed for us, they always leave traces—in words and lacerations, in images and memories, and in the spaces we refuse to visit because we are only able to walk the same paths as they, following the footprints that have been left behind. We follow, simply to see them fly ahead, even if every freedom leaves a trace that cannot be forgotten.

“Out of incidents comes a “Mark!” that would not otherwise be thus; or a “Mark!” that already is, that takes little incidents as traces and examples. They point out a “less” or “more” that will have to be thought in the retelling, retold in the thinking; that isn’t right in these stories, because things aren’t right with us, or with anything.” (Bloch)

2. “The Prose of the World”: Against itself, identity is compelled to fortify its integrity against dissolution into the impersonal “it” of the simple “there is …” [il y a], i.e., to be drawn into what is unthinkable (which, we say, always remains available to us as “the last option”). But so long as there remains even the smallest trace to catch our attention and to make us pause, there will always be room for one more story, even if it should be told to no one but ourselves.

In the immediate urgency and intensity of pathetic self-presence, we are tethered to a constant battle against a fundamental contradiction contained in the bidirectionality of appearance. The infinity of (self-)expression is restrained by the exigencies of a world that appears to us as finite. We ourselves are not the source of finitude, even if we are its servants. We find our possibilities scattered amidst a world of bare objects to be consumed, shaped, and resisted; we cannot find the right words; we are obligated to work, health, sex, and religion. This is why the story, for example, is often taken to be inferior to music: the former gives expression to our all-too-human destiny while the latter offers a glimpse to what is otherwise banished from our earthly life.

We find the “meaning” of our lives, our “own” lives, dispersed among the tenuous fragments of the world that come within our reach—in the friends and strangers who cross our paths, the books that find their way into our hands, or the motility that forms in our bodies. It is from these fragments that we assemble the secrets that we take care to measure carefully in the extent to which we trust that others at least know that they exist even if they do not know what they are. These private thoughts, however, are precisely the most visible about us because if they really are “who” we are, they give us the very form and figure by which we are seen at all. We are seen as ambiguous, which is to say we can be misunderstood and misrepresented. This does not mean, however, that we might be more “accurately” represented if only we could be seen for who we “really” are, but, on the contrary, that our very visibility precludes the transparency of our appearance. It is for this reason our silence, even if it is unintentional, reveals who we are by our refusal “to remove all doubt”. I appear in my silence, not with this or that meaning or as this or that kind of person, but as this or that, i.e., “I” become an effect of this “or”, for only when that “or” is decided do “I” appear.

This is why my possibilities are not my possibilities: we find our possibilities in lessons and auditions, in characters and role models, in greetings and surprises, and, of course, in language and in the names (by which) we are called. We must search for possibilities, of course, but so too they must offer themselves to us. This is also true of our language insofar as our prose admits only two terms in the relation (poetry require at least three)—nature and word—in which we are caught in a dizzying circulation that manifests as science, history, and literature. We are able to read the world (and to read the character of others), but so too our characters are capable of being read by being in the world. By the “cunning” of reason, in our very attempts to sketch our “own” characters, we become characters within the prose of the world.

It is for this reason that even the anonymity of a forgettable character is preferable to us than the oblivion of one who has never existed. There can still be ecstasy in the crowd, however, which is not, strictly speaking, impersonal but supra- or hyper-personal. To be “lost” in the crowd is still a mode of existence (this is why, for example, fascism is the shadow of democracy), but there is no existence for the one who is only a statistic (which is why we always struggle to give each statistic a story).

To be “lost” in the crowd is not only a negative mode of existence, however: insofar as the crowd offers a community of meaning, it functions positively as a mode of affirmation: “Yes, I agree” or “Yes, I know what you mean” or “Yes, we can”. We know, of course, that to separate ourselves from the crowd is only an initial gesture, since if the point is to be recognized as different, we are still affirmed as such by the ones who are the same.

This is why so many of the characters available to us are not only clichés but perversions (which, if they remain clichés, are perverions but not subversions). It is one thing for us to recognize the reduction of the human to the biological in the Third Reich; what does it mean for Littell’s Aue (a former SS officer) to say “So I came to think [at Auschwitz]: wasn’t the camp itself, with all the rigidity of its organization, its absurd violence, its meticulous hierarchy, just a metaphor, a reductio ad absurdum of everyday life?” This is the same character that opens his story with the words “My human brothers, let me tell you how it came to pass”. Who are these “human brothers” that, by virtue of their humanity, must have been absent for the story to need telling? Under what conditions of inhumanity (viz., of our inhumanity) does this character exist for us? What does it mean for a character such as this to exist at all? – But better to be a monstrous character than a well-functioning desiring machine.

“The whole outward visible world with all its being is a signature, or figure of the inward spiritual world … Thus everything which is generated out of the internal has its signature; the superior form, which is chief in the spirit of the working in the power, does most especially sign the body, and the other forms hang to it …” (Böhme)

3. “The Most Improbable Signature”: Though we often mistake style for the signature, we always look, for example, for the signature of the painter or we hear the unmistakable signature of the composer. When a counterfeit deceives us, when it is so good to mimic the signature of the “real”, it is precisely there that the artist’s signature is most visible: the counterfeit doubles the original and repeats, in every instance, the gesture of the original signature, which becomes a transcendental (metaphysical and temporal) presence. This is why, for example, under the “hyper-reality” of free signifiers, the contemporary problem of “identity theft” becomes so problematic: divorced from the real our signatures are autonomous and effective without us. Yet the “I” of the signature is not only “peculiar and special” (Austin’s qualifications) in its use and function but in the very mode of its being (Derrida): “My brothers, here is the story I have to tell.” The “I” here does not precede its utterance but is the “I” that has and will always have said it. We can no longer say “I am not that person anymore” and, if we had never told our story, we would never have existed. By the very same act that we leave our mark, we are surpassed by those to whom it is addressed and, in this surpassing, they leave their traces on us.

“Others form man; I tell of him, and portray a particular one, very ill-formed, whom I should really make very different from what he is if I had to fashion him over again. But now it is done.” (Montaigne)

4. Under the imperative of self-knowledge, the reflective consciousness always looks elsewhere. Our understanding runs the risk of being the mask behind which hide ourselves. The paradox is not simply that, to understand ourselves, we must be understood by others (in language, in communication, in archetypes, etc), nor that self-understanding requires the non-coincidence of myself to myself. The question is not one of intelligibility (how I do or do not fit); rather we have an essentially ontological question: where there is a fragment of being, there is a style of being (Merleau-Ponty); or, according to the great Plotninian insight, being is an effect of expression and not its cause. In the distance between the determinate individual and the idea of that individual there lies the expression without which existence cannot pass. It is not only the “unity of a world” that I recognize as a style but without a style nothing appears at all (which is also why the appearance of nothing is itself a style). Appearance, however, does not require a “universal” style if every appearance is itself a style.

Being and phenomenon converge in style. As Jameson observes in his earliest encounter with Sartre, “consciousness is pure, impersonal; even the feeling of having a personality is external to it, a kind of mirage … Mathieu is a consciousness at odds with the problem of freedom: impersonal and absolute, what he perceives is an ultimate reality. There is no other truth of things behind his perception unless we make the leap into a second consciousness and its truth and world, the reality of his consciousness is limited only by that of others, and there is no privileged place where these worlds finally meet and correct each other and form a single objective real world. Mathieu is his situation, his reality is a constant present developing itself; but at the same time, above that present in places we find traces of older recurrent character problems that remind us of their existence before our attention to the present sweeps them away again …” But, as we have seen with someone like Littell’s Aue, it is not the case that “the reality of the novel does not exactly coincide … with the reality of the human beings which are its subject matter”. We say, for example, that the characters of a novel are always in their situations—in which they are the heroes, the victims, and the accomplices—but they lack the possibility of reflecting on their situations, which is the task of consciousness. Yet we know that our own reality never comes under the purview of consciousness, either (at best we retain such awareness as a possibility by analogy with the unity of God’s essence and existence).

In addition to a style of being, characters have a style of life. To resist the conflation of a style to a type or a category (which has especially befallen so-called “alternative” styles such as punk, the avant-garde, etc), style must be understood not only as the inflections of a language, but the creation of new languages. What matters is not the scene of thoughts—the fields and milieux in which they appear as concepts and systems—but their style. On the one hand, a style of life manifests in a certain power of doing and acting, of creation and generation, of drawing those famous “lines of flight” of which Deleuze spoke. We might, alternatively, call a style of life what Ravisson called “habit”, which is “the infinitesimal differential, or, the dynamic fluxion from Will to Nature. Nature is the limit of the regressive movement proper to habit. Consequently, habit can be considered as a method—as the only real method—for the estimation, by a convergent infinite series, of the relation, real in itself but incommensurable in the understanding, of Nature and Will”. We must, in other words, always “find our way about” even as we already know our way about. We are simply this self-transcending nature—that creates its own differences, variations, and fractals—but what we are only appears as an identity, i.e., in time as the point where being contracts into the singularity of a unique appearance.

“[S]tyle also uses its spur as a means of protection against the terrifying, blinding, mortal threat (of that) which presents itself, which obstinately thrusts itself into view. And style thereby protects the presence, the content, the thing itself, meaning, truth—on the condition at least that it should not already be that gaping chasm which has been deflowered in the unveiling of the difference. Already, such is the name for what has been effaced or subtracted beforehand, but which nevertheless left behind a mark, a signature which is retracted in that very thing from which it is withdrawn. Withdrawn from the here and now, the here and now which must be accounted for.” (Derrida)

5. If we have survived the destruction of experience at the hands of war, the viral proliferation of information, and the sublimations of enjoyment, in its continued destitution, what we require today is not only a style of life (such as some have called philosophy), which is manifest in our appearance, but new styles of thinking that are neither mine nor yours, subjective nor objective, mythic nor logical; not Greek but perhaps, as Rachel Blau DuPlessis says, Etruscan; whose matter and form are not only words but sounds and movements; whose task is not to think itself but “to sing its other” (Desmond); whose language is the regard in which we hold each other or the promise offered to a young child; whose vessel is the justice that continues to elude this world; that can construct a world from a single tear, a note, a sentence, a gust of wind or an afternoon storm, a one-way street, or a peal of laughter.

Characters

1. “What are you hiding?” – If something were truly hidden, would we even know that it were? Or, perhaps the more interesting question is on the other side: to hide something, must we know that we are hiding it? Are we always so jealous of what we hide that we need to display it for all to see or, perhaps, only for those who know us better than we know ourselves? – “Only something precious, or something terrible, is worth hiding.” – But we cannot choose the circumstances that impress themselves on us. This is, however, precisely why we must press on: because hope is not who we are but who we might be. (But the price we pay for hope is one that is not always easy to bear.)

2. Under the ideology of authenticity, clichés are to us what natal charts are to the astrologer. Just as our character is written in the stars, so too we call ourselves by what we think we are. It is not our fate that is read from our resemblance to the stars but it is this resemblance that makes us worthy of having a fate which, by definition, we cannot know until we are forced to suffer it. And just as our fate is conditioned by our character, so too our characters are conditioned by the very descriptions we use, i.e., by the way we are seen as characters and always represented in a genre.

3. There are some characters that we say we would like to be, but the more interesting question is who the characters are that we refuse to be. These are usually the ones we would like not to give a second thought. Some of these have names (Willie Loman, for example) but there are those whose names are unknown to us—the clichéd, forgettable ones: the barfly, the groupie, or even the victim.

But then we are caught in a double-bind. We cannot exactly “aspire” to the average. It’s by being beholden to the role cast by “others” that we are already a part of the crowd and the value of a life will always be buried in the enjoyment parceled in paid time off, ounces, and dollars.

But, on the other hand, any attempt to write our own character will also be confronted with another economy: our characters only have meaning insofar as they are recognizable within a genre. In other words, there will always be a general name for our characters, since any non-Adamic language contains more than proper names (“the unique one” is itself a cliché).

4. What we require, then, is not a model of authenticity but a theory of communication that is not merely linguistic but narrative: an “inter-subjective” account of language still requires subjective models (without being constructed from the latter). All this means is that just as language is originally metaphorical, so too discourse occurs as an effect of the way in which we express our characters, replete with the deceptions and ambiguities that such expression entails.

The many valences of thinking: Jameson (Notes on reading Valences of the Dialectic)

1. Philosophy has always been impressed by the strangeness of thought—that there should be such a thing in an otherwise thoughtless, irrational universe. Behind the usual invocation of the “strangeness of reality” in the usual self-characterizations of philosophy (especially in the banality “why is there something rather than nothing?” which is, more accurately, a theological and not a philosophical question), the real interest of philosophy in thought is in thought itself, whether idealist (what is thought thinking?) or materialist (how does thought think?), immanent or transcendent. In the case of the latter duality, the interest of philosophy has always been the abrogation of the unthinkable (for the transcendentalist, the unthinkable is thought “as” unthinkable). Insofar as the domain of thought is thought itself (despite the bifurcations of reflexivity), the only “strangeness of reality” to which thought is exposed occurs through the experience of alienation: that there is reality at all. For this reason, Jameson rightly charges that philosophy “is always haunted by … a set of interlocking concepts which are their own cause. This mirage is of course the afterimage of philosophy as an institution in the world, as a profession complicit with everything else in the status quo, in the fallen ontic realm of ‘what is’”.*

*It is for this reason, Jameson says, that the dialectic belongs to Theory rather than to philosophy. In an unusual slippage of terms, what Jameson really means is not Theory but, rather, praxis. As he says much earlier than the passage cited, “these unities of theory [small “t”] and practice are … distinct from the implied autonomy of the philosophical concept and cannot in any sense be completed by philosophy but only by praxis”. And in this he is surely correct.

2. What would be a thinking whose substance is the unthinkable? This question is not yet dialectical, for the unthought is in itself negative (the unthinkable is simply the unthought or the not-yet-thought) but does not, for all that, simply throw us back into thought (the thought that there is something unthought). But neither can we simply say that the unthought is the (transcendental) condition for thinking, for this returns us again to the absolutism of thought (i.e., the familiar lesson of negation as the figure of thought). The dialectic, therefore, is not another figure of thought; the dialectic is not a concept (it has no essence that can serve as the object of a definition); neither is it a method or a logic. The dialectic is in a sense a “pure signifier”.

Contradiction functions as the expression of the dialectic or, perhaps, we might say that the dialectic is expressed by the torsion of contradiction; whereas the task of conceptual purity is to deactivate contradiction and to protect the integrity of the subjective utterance against the shock of a real contradiction. Mediation, then, operates in both directions: although the result of mediations, in contradiction the subject finds itself in an essentially reactive position such that “self-knowledge is not really a knowledge of the self, but rather a consciousness of its situations, a way of gaining and keeping awareness of precisely that multiplicity of situations in which the self finds and invents itself”, i.e., amidst a complex of forms of appearance which are produced and re-produced as thought. The dialectic, then, accounts for the possibility that there is a form of thought that is not yet thought: “a speculative account of some thinking of the future which has not yet been realized … a way of grasping situations and events that does not yet exist as a collective habit because the concrete form of social life to which it corresponds has not yet come into being”.

Jameson’s name for such a thought is, as he had already said in Archaeologies, “Utopia”, for which he will give at least two equivalent formulations: temporally, Utopia designates the fact that the dialectic, if successful, will no longer exist but, for that reason, can never be successful (in a teleological sense); spatially, the name “Utopia” designates not a place or an ideal but “it expresses Utopian desire and invests it in a variety of unexpected and disguised, concealed, distorted ways” (hence in Archaeologies Jameson finds the figure of Utopia in science fiction, i.e., in allegories** of transformed worlds: “violent ruptures with what is breaks that destabilize our stereotypes of a future that is the same as our own present, interventions that interrupt the reproduction of the system in habit and in ideological consent and institute that fissure, however minimal and initially little more than a hairline fracture, through which another picture of the future and another system of temporality altogether might emerge”).

**This word should be understood as Benjamin would say it. Benjamin and Barthes are pervasive throughout Valences, but always by their traces.

3. Topoi: Insisting against a temporal thematization of subjectivity, Jameson argues for a spatial dialectic (the result of which must be some form of what he has called “cognitive mapping”) whose function is not to subsume the concept under the category (Aristotle, Kant), nor to preserve the consistency of relations in the absolute (Hegel), nor to reduce history to the battleground of an objective praxis (bad Marxism). The dialectic maintains the disjunction between the One and the Two through the excess of the One—not a becoming or abundance of the One but negatively as a void that maintains the gap between incommensurables: “this kind of dialectic is therefore not so much dualistic as it is revelatory of some ontological rift or gap in the world itself, or, in other words, of incommensurables in Being itself”. More than parallax (Zizek) or complementarity (Plotnitsky), what Jameson offers is the possibility of a new form of sensibility such that out of the many objective forms of appearance, new subjectivities become possible as appearances without ipso facto simply falling victim to false consciousness. For this reason, the question remains for Jameson what it had for Adorno: how is truth possible in a false world? Only if truth is that which cannot be thought. But the possibility of such an event is neither subjective—and, obviously, not a matter of will or intention—nor objective (since the real is precisely what is not true nor, strictly speaking, that which is inaccessible to thought—this is why, while the dialectic can be thought, in some sense, along the old lines of sub/object, it is best to consider “the dialectic” a pure signifier. Yet this too is not quite right, since the dialectic is not a logical principle, particularly in the legal sense that is necessarily beholden to the abstract universality of law (Jameson himself is explicit on this point). At bottom, the dialectic remains what it always has been for Jameson: an aesthetic principle—one that, if we follow his thought to its necessary conclusion, calls for the articulation of a new “transcendental aesthetic”, which, if philosophy is to have a future, must be one of its paramount tasks.

4. Why Althusser is worth fighting for: The dialectic, then, is not a principle of thought but calls for thinking: more precisely, it calls for what philosophy since Hegel (or, arguably, Plato) has always posited: the possibility of thinking something else. As Althusser famously said, “if … contradiction is to become ‘active’ in the strongest sense, to become a ruptural principle, there must be an accumulation of ‘circumstances’ and ‘currents’ …”. What we need to understand is the unfortunate word “accumulation”: not as a mere aggregation of contradictions but the topological relations of contradictions themselves (even as contradictions mark the limits of spaces), which results in the inexistence of the real—the fact that the real should appear to us as strange or perhaps even as erotically intolerable. In the face of the real, Badiou and Lacan have offered us a logic; phenomenology a method. In addition to these, what Jameson has indicated, even if he may not say this himself, is a correlative aesthetic; and for this, he remains, perhaps even more than Badiou, the greatest avatar of the dialectic today.

Vox populi: philosophy and politics

1. Those who would wonder about the political relevance of philosophy—for example, by insisting that there is such a thing as “political philosophy” or by puzzling over Marx’s eleventh thesis—decline to recognize that philosophy, properly speaking, has always been political. This necessity was not forced on it from the outside (e.g., by sophism) nor simply from the existence of doxa (philosophy is not the antidote to either of these). Rather, politics as a form of life issues a demand that philosophy ignores at its own peril on pain of its obsolescence—that its time should come to an end (without ruin and recovery, for such a task is precisely the work of the philosopher).

We find ourselves, however, in a form of life that requires a new philosophy. However we might wish to designate our form of life, what is at stake is not the claim of “the part that has no part” in the systematic exclusion from what is properly political from politics. Under the ideology of a sham liberalism (a sham because it does not exist), whose proponents have never been more vociferous in their affirmation of deliberative democracy, what we witness in politics today is not only the inexistence of certain political subjects but the unintelligibility of their demands. This inexistence, which is more damning than simple non-existence, binds them to existence only in the mode of being declared, by fiat, not to exist. What is at stake in the fight for justice includes the sense of that justice, for justice is self-compelling to the ones who have ears to hear and, as such, cannot be the end of politics. The ellipsis preceding the phrase “and justice for all” defers justice indefinitely, which can indeed come too late for the ones who never see it.

When a politics operates under a systematic principle of exclusion under the principle of universality (e.g., protecting the “basic building blocks of society”), what is required for the construction of the political (subject) is a new thought. Philosophy is not politics nor does philosophy give a sense to politics—that is the work of the political subject. Philosophy consists in the creation of new thoughts or, more precisely, in new possibilities for thinking. This is, for example, what Gödel would endorse in Husserl: “[phenomenology] is … a procedure or technique that should produce in us a new state of consciousness in which we describe in detail the basic concepts we use in our thought, or grasp other basic concepts hitherto unknown to us”. But, as we know, reflexivity in the phenomenological method does not merely “leave thought as it is” but, Gödel says, moves us toward a “higher” state of consciousness (ein höherer Bewußtseinszustand), just as we witness the development of a child. This is, of course, what he said in his famous incompleteness theorem: that thought will always have an exterior to its own (reflective) determinations. Whatever name we might give to this procedure (phenomenology, dialectics, etc), only when thought can come to recognize its own inexistence* can we begin to think what for us now is impossible. Such is the political task of philosophy.

*We might be tempted to say that thought should be “woken” (Kant, Lévinas, etc) except that we might wonder why thought should not be allowed to dream (Bergson, Bachelard).

2. Philosophy, therefore, does not begin from but moves toward the everyday and consists in the construction and subsequent deconstruction of the everyday. We know, of course, that there are levels of sense (for example, there is “common sense” but there is also eidetic intuition), but the topography of thought is not hierarchical. The word “sedimentation” is misleading if for no other reason than that thought does not consist of strata but of fields and their relations (which are given by transcendental logic). To give an account of “the everyday” is to give an account of conditions, i.e., the conditions for thought itself. Conditions, however, are causes, which is why thought operates under the hypothesis of universal determinism (which implies logical monism**). There is no “everyday” until it is identified under a matrix of conditions, just as we cannot be ignorant until we are aware of our ignorance. “Common sense” has no sense until it is constituted, just as thought is not thought until it is thought (this must be what Kant meant when he spoke of freedom from our “self-imposed immaturity and servitude”). The dialectical faith is that in moving toward consistency, thought will always encounter its impossibility. It remains to be seen how we will handle this limit; so far, our responses to these situations have not been encouraging.

**The either/or should not be understood as a binary operation (which is obviously true in the syntax of disjunction in logic) but as a categorical one: a sort of synecdoche for the category (not “either/or” but, rather, either/or/or/or/or …).

Life without being

Despite everything Bergson did for philosophy, he made an unfortunate mistake by nominating the logic of difference the “élan vital”, which was quickly misunderstood as another name for being. Rather, all the great vitalists (Spinoza and Leibniz come to mind) understood that logical monism (what Driesch calls the “monism of order”) was neither a metaphysical monism nor beholden to the usual problematic of necessity/contingency. If vitalism is to be a philosophy of freedom—of the “unforeseeable creation of novelty”—then it must be understood as a critical philosophy according to which what had been known as metaphysical questions are at bottom questions of sense (which, of course, is a question of time). Spirit, as Scheler says, “has its own nature and autonomy, but lacks an original energy of its own” as a series (Scheler says “group”) of pure intentions. It is only thus conceived that a philosophy of spirit can be deduced (dialectically?) from a philosophy of nature without succumbing to the identity of thought and being. If vitalism is to have a future, it must come to see that there are only specific relations (special metaphysics) and no relations “in” the absolute (general metaphysics):”organization in general is … nothing else but a diminished and as it were condensed picture of the universe” (Schelling), i.e, as a phenomenon.