I just picked up Acting Out by Bernard Stiegler. In the first of two essays, Stiegler recalls how he was “called” to philosophy while serving a five year prison sentence. However, while Stiegler continually mentions and discusses an “act” that led to his incarceration and then eventually, his philosophical “acting out,” he never really spends any time discussing his crime. Though, the blurb on the back of the book tells us that Stiegler was serving a five year sentence for armed robbery (I wonder if that helped sell some copies). The essay is a wonderfully written account of how he became a philosopher. Stiegler details his incarceration: when deprived of exteriority (and I suppose one might argue that this means one is possibly deprived of interiority as well), he put together a rigorous schedule of reading (slowly reading Mallarme every morning, working through Plato, Hegel, Husserl, Heidegger and Derrida) and writing in order to produce “signifying practices” that would allow him to (continue to) individuate while in prison. Here’s Stiegler:
I lived only in language, and uniquely in written language. I spoke only very rarely. I did not like it; I didn’t like it anymore. I had learned to love the silence through which I could listen to what always arose so long as I knew how to wait: an other voice, a soliloquy in which it was not me who was speaking, but the other me, which I called myself-an-other, the other of myself, the other that I carried in me, which I became, as if I had been weighed down with what Socrates had ascribed as the task of the maiautician (20).
Two Jehovah’s witnesses accosted me when I was walking my dog this afternoon and as they tried and tried to “hook” me with “how’s it gonna end” and “who can fix the world” I couldn’t help but think of this passage, in which Stiegler is discussing why one should continually remember the various materials that make up our “thought” or put differently, why it is one does what one does (why philosophize at all):
And unfortuanately, in the twenty five years that have passed since that epoch [his incarceration] the world has in effect revealed itself to be appalingly inhospitable, as if I found myself infront of you having returned to square one. It appeared to me, in effect, as wihtout doubt it does to many among you, that everything seems to be organized to encourage the attitude in which insignificance dominates, or even a-significance. This is what I call the organization of the loss of individuation. Now, this is full of terrifying passages to the act, in relation to which one asks if a maieutic is still possible today (32).
Fidelity, says Stiegler, is an aporia.
One cannot be faithful to the unity and the identity of what remains constant throughout the alterities of the diverse characters one will have been and played, sometimes without knowing it, without noticing it, and which results from the accidental character of existence (33).
Here, through a discussion of fidelity and infidelity to oneself, the unfaithfulness of memory and the necessity of recollection, we get a glimpse into Steigler’s main philosphical concerns, the question of time and the unity of consciousness, which leads to a renewed discussion of “matter” (which he takes up in the multi volume Technics and Time). All this aside, in this brief essay Stielger provides a rather interesting and challenging account or vision of philosophy.
Throughout, Steigler draws on Simondon’s concept of psychic and collective individuation a great deal. I wonder if given the recent translations of Stiegler by Stanford UP it will provide the impetus for some English translations of Simondon? All signs point to no. I mean, Delezue (lots of his work translated into English as well) drew on Simondon a good deal as well, but that didn’t seem to matter much. It would be more convienent for me, which is what matters, right? Didn’t I just post something about a new book series? Too bad translation isn’t really my thing. Although yesterday somone told me that there is only one Levinas book translated into Hebrew (Nine Talmudic Readings) and it was rather popular, like, er, best seller chart popular.