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Stuart Dalton Nancy and Kant on Inoperative Communities

ABSTRACT This essay argues that Kants explanation of the purposiveness-without-a-purpose of beauty (in the third Critique) can help to make sense of Nancys theory of the inoperative community. K E Y W O R D S: Kant, Nancy, political theory, aesthetics, purposiveness

My purpose in this essay is to argue for a connection between the political theory of Jean-Luc Nancy and the aesthetic theory of Immanuel Kant. Community, in Nancys political theory, and beauty, in Kants aesthetic theory, are both experienced as non-conceptual, as (in Kants words) purposive-withouta-purpose. I will argue that by drawing on Kants aesthetics we can begin to supply some of the elements of a transcendental explanation for the inoperative community that Nancy describes. In The Inoperative Community (La communaut dsoeuvre) Jean-Luc Nancy describes his project as an attempt to articulate a certain expeCritical Horizons 1:1 February 2000 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2000

rience of community which is largely ignored:

I am trying to indicate, at its limit, an experience - not, perhaps, an experience that we have, but an experience that makes us be. To say that community has not yet been thought is to say that it tries our thinking, and that it is not an object for it . . . We must expose ourselves to what has gone unheard (linoui) in community.1

As is evident from this quotation, the problem of recognition is central to Nancys political theory. Nancys account of the inoperative community is meant to recover something unrecognised, unheard, unthought in the way that we experience community. In this essay I want to consider one aspect of this general problem of recognition that emerges in Nancys theory of inoperative communities - the more speci c problem of communal self-recognition. The question that I will pose here is this: when community is reconceived according to Nancys theory, as the unworking which resists the work of totalisation, how is such a community to recognise itself?2 Given that an inoperative community is the consequence not of a deliberate work intent upon realising a uni ed essence, but instead results from a certain resistance to totalisation on the part of singular subjects - who are not drawn together and given a unifying concept by their resistance - how is it possible for an inoperative community to become aware of its own existence? In other words, is it possible for a community that recognises the unheard experience of community (which Nancy articulates) to recognise itself as a community, or must it necessarily remain oblivious to its own reality? Nancy himself seems well aware of the fact that, in his political philosophy, the problem of creating community is replaced by the problem of recognising a community that is always already there. Consider these two excerpts from The Inoperative Community:
Community is given to us with being and as being, well in advance of all our projects, desires, and undertakings. At bottom, it is impossible for us to lose community. A society may be as little communitarian as possible; it could not happen that in the social desert there would not be, however slight, even inaccessible, some community.3 If I had to attempt to state the principle guiding the analyses in these texts,

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I might do so by saying this: community does not consist in the transcendence (nor in the transcendental) of a being supposedly immanent to community. It consists on the contrary in the immanence of a transcendence - that of nite existence as such, which is to say, of its exposition. . . . By inverting the principle stated a moment ago, we get totalitarianism. By ignoring it, we condemn the political to management and to power (and to the management of power, and to the power of management). By taking it as a rule of analysis and thought, we raise the question: how can the community without essence (the community that is neither people nor nation, neither destiny, nor generic humanity, etc.) be presented as such?4

All of these questions concerning the recognition or presentation of communities have aesthetic implications. In this essay I will argue that such questions connect the political theory of Nancy with the aesthetics of Kant. Nancy acknowledges that many past accounts of aesthetic experience have in fact been singular voices . . . speaking about community - though they did not necessarily understand themselves as such, nor were they understood as such by the political thought of the time.5 Taking a tip from this very interesting suggestion in Nancys text, I will argue that in Kants third Critique we can recognise elements of a theory of community that concern precisely the problem of recognition that Nancy has clari ed. These elements are found in Kants account of the way that beauty has purposiveness without a purpose. To make a case for this connection between Nancy and Kant I will begin in section (1) by discussing three important axes of Nancys theory of inoperative communities. These three axes concern the constitution of community in the event of exposition, the singularity of political subjects, and the task that communities have to resist their work. Then I will turn to two important ideas in Kants aesthetic theory which can be used to address the question of self-recognition that emerges in Nancys political theory. In section (2) I will analyse Kants theory of purposiveness without a purpose, and consider how it can be applied not just to beauty but also to communities. Then in section (3) I will analyse Kants theory of sensus communis and consider how it too can be understood as both an aesthetic and a political idea.

(1) Nancy on the Experience of Community

(a) Exposition and Finitude
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Nancy argues that the true experience of community is an experience of being-in-common or being together, but lacking a common-being. We nd ourselves together, always already in communities, but we do not nd a common essence or concept for the communities that we inhabit. This experience rests on a fundamental event, which Nancy calls the event of exposition.6 Consider two passages from the preface to The Inoperative Community which describe this event:
To be exposed means to be posed in exteriority, according to an exteriority, having to do with an outside in the very intimacy of an inside. Or again: having access to what is proper to existence, and therefore, of course, to the proper of ones own existence, only through an expropriation whose exemplary reality is that of my face always exposed to others, always turned toward an other and faced by him or her, never facing myself. This is the archi-original impossibility of Narcissus that opens straight away onto the possibility of the political.7 [C]ommunity does not consist in the transcendence (nor in the transcendental) of a being supposedly immanent to community. It consists on the contrary in the immanence of a transcendence - that of nite existence as such, which is to say, of its exposition. Exposition, precisely, is not a being that one can sup-pose (like a substance) to be in community. Community is presuppositionless: this is why it is haunted by such ambiguous ideas as foundation and sovereignty, which are at once ideas of what would be completely suppositionless and ideas of what would always be presupposed. But community cannot be presupposed. It is only exposed. 8

Nancy makes it clear in these two passages that what is ultimately exposed by the event of exposition is the fact of human nitude. Finitude is that which is proper to existence and it is revealed only through an expropriation whose exemplary reality is that of my face always exposed to others.9 Exposition is an event which exposes an even more fundamental event: the event of nite existence.10 When one confronts the face of another, one also confronts the impossibility of facing oneself - of preserving ones own interiority, comprehending ones own being. The face-to-face encounter exposes the basic ex-position of the self: the fact that I am always already outside of myself, and thus separated from the in nity of my own immanence.11 The
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reality of human nitude, Nancy argues, is what ultimately determines the true nature of communities. And he nds this reality to be rooted in the exterior position of the self, an ex-position that leaves the self exposed to its own limitations and cut off from the interior in nity that it desires. This fact of exteriority, this archi-original impossibility of Narcissus, leads directly to the political insofar as community is nothing but the sharing of nite existence.
[W]hat community reveals to me . . . is my existence outside myself. Which does not mean my existence reinvested in or by community, as if community were another subject that would sublate me (prendrait ma relve) in a dialectical or communal mode. Community does not sublate the nitude it exposes. Community itself, in sum, is nothing but this exposition. It is the community of nite beings, and as such it is itself a nite community. In other words, not a limited community as opposed to an in nite or absolute community, but a community of nitude).12

In the event of exposition both the I and the Other confront the fact of their nitude, and share that fact with each other. The face-to-face relation entails not only the revelation - the exposure - of each persons own nite existence to himself, but also the exposition or sharing of that nitude with the Other. The face-to-face relation is nothing other than what undoes (dfait), in its very principle - and at its closure or on its limit - the autarchy of absolute immanence. 13 Once the idea of individual immanence has been undone in this way, all that remains is a certain sharing of the nitude that exposition reveals, a sharing that remains nite because it cannot be completed.14 Finite existence precedes the desire for a consensus, and undermines the possibility of such a perfected form of sharing.15 Nancy calls this sharing of nitude which is constitutive of communities

being-in-common (tre-en-commun). This is to be distinguished from the idea that communities are constituted by common-being, which is the more traditional formulation. The difference that Nancy posits between these two ideas is rooted in the particularity of nite existence. Being is in no way different from existence, which is singular each time.16 Existence only occurs at the level of nite individuals. It cannot be raised up to a higher level in the form of a community. Such a community composed of being raised up
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to a higher level, of

nite-being now transformed into common-being, is nitude it exposes.

impossible because community does not sublate the

Individual, nite existence cannot be distributed in a way that renders it common, it can only be shared through the event of exposition in a way that preserves its essential particularity. Sharing is a relation that is not strictly relational.17 Consequently, Nancy says, [w]e shall say . . . that being is not common in the sense of a common property, but that it is in common.18 Being-in-common is the basic activity that is constitutive of communities in Nancys theory. We nd ourselves together, connected by the exposition of our individual nitude, but lacking a common concept for our being together. There is no one who has nothing in common, but there is no single common idea or form that binds us together and constitutes the being of the community on a level above the being of each individual member of that community.19 The sharing that constitutes community is not a communion, nor the appropriation of an object, nor a self-recognition, nor even a communication that is understood to exist between subjects.20 It is only the exposition of human nitude in a way that brings different subjects together, and establishes some connection between them, while still preserving the particularity of their existence.21 (b) Individuality and Singularity This particularity of nite existence, which is the source of Nancys conception of being-in-common, also has signi cant implications for a theory of political subjectivity. Nancy argues that the nature of the self in a political context must be rethought. In Western thought it has become traditional to regard the political subject as an individual. But individuality, according to Nancy, presupposes a lack of limits that belies the true nature of nite communities. As an individual I am closed off from all community, Nancy writes, because the individual - if an absolutely individual being could ever exist - is in nite. The limit of the individual, fundamentally, does not concern it.22 What Nancy is arguing here is that individuality is a concept that has been generated by the same tradition that conceived of community as a matter of common-being rather than being-in-common, and that this concept bears traces of the same faulty assumptions about the nature of existence. In both
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cases what this tradition has lost sight of is the particularity of existence: the fact that existence is always speci c and limited. Existence is always my existence - bracketed by my birth and my death - and it does not allow itself to be divided between my self and any other self. This fundamental particularity of existence is what all theories of individuality in the Western, liberal tradition have overlooked, leaving in their wake an unanswered question concerning the true nature of the political subject. Nancy describes this as a question concerning singularity:
[B]ehind the theme of the individual, but beyond it, lurks the question of singularity. What is a body, a face, a voice, a death, a writing - not indivisible, but singular? What is their singular necessity in the sharing that divides and that puts in communication bodies, voices, and writings in general and in totality?23

To reconceive the political subject according to its nitude, Nancy shifts his focus away from the individuality of the subject to the singularity of existence. He indicates that singularity is meant to designate both something less and something more than individuality. Singularity denotes whatever it is that is exposed and ex-posited in the event of exposition.
I say singularities because these are not only individuals that are at stake, as a facile description would lead one to believe. Entire collectivities, groups, powers, and discourses are exposed here, within each individual as well as among them. Singularity would designate precisely that which, each time, forms a point of exposure (exposition), traces an intersection of limits on which there is exposure.24

Nancy presents singularity as the inverse gure of Cartesian subjectivity.25 Whereas the Cartesian subject only discovers itself when it succeeds in isolating itself completely from other subjects and from the rest of the world, singularities always discover themselves vis--vis another person. A singular being appears, as nitude itself: at the end (or at the beginning), with the contact of the skin (or the heart) of another singular being, at the con nes of the same singularity that is, as such, always other, always shared, always exposed.26 For this reason Nancy argues that the singularity of the subject does not, strictly speaking, appear, as if it were a totally independent and isolated being, but rather that it can be said to compear. Singular subjects
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are always exposed together; their singularity is always manifest alongside another singularity, in a multiplicity that does not annul the particularity of existence. There is an originary sociality that connects singularities, without unifying them in an immanent communion.27 The basis for this reformulation of the political subject is described by Nancy in a passage that connects his ideas (again) to the work of Levinas:
The Self to which existence exposes is not a property subsisting before that exposition . . . (Grammatically speaking, Self - as in the French soi - is an object exactly like the re exive pronoun se with which it forms a pair, and exactly like the French word for others, autrui, which, as Levinas has pointed out, also has this particularity of being an objective case.) Soi has no nominative case, but is always declined. It is always the object or the complement of an action, an address, or an attribution . . . soi is being in the objective case, and there is no other case of being. Thats where it falls (cadere, casus), that is its essential accident (accidere).28

As this text makes clear, the key to Nancys reformulation of the subject is the face-to-face encounter to which he links the event of exposition and to which Levinas links the event of obligation. One immediate consequence of this encounter, in both cases, is a revision of the case of subjectivity. The face-to-face encounter does not reaf rm the fundamental, nominative priority of the I, nor does it draw the self into the fusion of the rst person plural. Instead, this encounter occasions the declension of the self into the accusative case: the case of one who is always already in the position of a respondent. Nancys description of the political subject is strikingly similar to what Levinas calls accusative subjectivity. 29 There is no alchemy of subjects, Nancy argues. There is an extensive/intensive dynamic on the surfaces of exposition. These surfaces are the limits upon which the self declines itself. 30 Community is not a communion that fuses the egos into an Ego or a higher We. It is the community of others.31 (c) Work and Resistance Nancy argues that the community which is composed of singular subjects has a task (tche) to perform, which must be distinguished from its work (oeuvre).32 The true experience of community has not yet been heard or felt,
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Nancy suggests, because it has been buried by a philosophical tradition which has assumed that community is a work that needs to be completed.33 The Western political tradition has generally conceived of community in terms of operativity - as a project that was waiting to be rendered operational, an essence that had not yet been realised.34 This tradition has generated many variations on the same theme: different programs for the realisation of an essence of community.35 But Nancy argues that conceiving of community in this way - in terms of the work required to bring about the essence of community - is essentially totalitarianism.36 The actual experience of community, he suggests, points us in a different direction. The true essence or principle of community is experienced as incompletion, the lack of totality.37 We experience community not as a work that one produces, but rather as an unworking (dsoeuvrement) which resists the work that communities have traditionally given themselves to do.38 This experience of community can be traced back to the more basic experience of the nitude and the particularity of existence, and to the singularity of human subjectivity which is a consequence of this:
[C]ommunity cannot arise from the domain of work. One does not produce it, one experiences or one is constituted by it as the experience of nitude . . . Community necessarily takes place in what Blanchot has called unworking (dsoeuvrement), referring to that which, before or beyond the work, withdraws from the work, and which, no longer having to do either with production or with completion, encounters interruption, fragmentation, suspension. Community is made of the interruption of singularities, or of the suspension that singular beings are. Community is not the work of singular beings, nor can it claim them as its works . . . for community is simply their being - their being suspended upon its limit. 39

The work that communities have given themselves to do - the project of realising their essence as community - has in reality been the greatest obstacle to the thinking of community.40 The thought of community as essence, as common-being, has closed off the thought of real community, which is the community of nitude - of being-in-common.41 Consequently, Nancy argues that we must distinguish a task (tche) of communities which is distinct from their work (oeuvre).42 This task is preNancy and Kant on Inoperative Communities 3 7

cisely the task of resisting the work that communities have traditionally given themselves to accomplish. Community is not a work to be done or produced but rather a gift to be renewed and communicated.43 This task of renewal and communication requires the acceptance, by each singular subject within a community, of the nitude of being and of the consequent impossibility of common-being. A community is the presentation to its members of their mortal truth (vrit mortelle) (which amounts to saying that there is no community of immortal beings: one can imagine either a society or a communion of immortal beings, but not a community).44 Communities come to be insofar as they acknowledge their nitude, and therefore resist the work of realising common-being.45 While traditional political theory continues its project of attempting to render communities operative in terms of their essence, the unworking that is actually constitutive of communities - as inoperative also continues, (though for the most part without being recognised). Nancys political theory is all about the need to recognise this unworking which is always already constitutive of community. But can inoperative communities recognise themselves? To address this problem of self-recognition that emerges in Nancys political philosophy, I will now turn to two important ideas that emerge in Kants Critique of Judgement: the idea that beauty is purposive without having a purpose and the idea that appreciation for beauty is made possible by a sensus communis that everyone shares. In each case I will rst discuss the ideas aesthetic application, and then I will consider the possibility of extending the idea into the domain of Nancys political theory. Again, my purpose in turning to Kant is to use resources in his aesthetic theory to answer some of the questions posed by Nancys political theory. In particular I will focus on Kants account of the purposiveness-without-a-purpose that characterises beauty, because it has much in common with Nancys account of the inoperative community.

(2) Kant on Purposiveness Without a Purpose

Kant presents purposiveness-without-a-purpose as the third moment of the Analytic of the Beautiful. This moment is a consequence of the unique activity of the faculties in a judgement of beauty. Whereas the feeling of the sublime is engendered by a fundamental discord between imagination and reason, the feeling of the beautiful arises when imagination and understanding nd
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themselves in basic agreement. The representation of the beautiful object by the imagination bestirs the imagination and the understanding together, and sets them both into motion. The result, Kant says, is a mental state in which imagination and understanding are in free play.46 The mind feels this play as a facilitated play, a quickening of the two faculties in a proportioned attunement.47 Consciousness of this attunement is a feeling of pleasure which comes from referring the representation to the subjects feeling of life.48 Kant argues that the playful harmony that creates such pleasure in the subject is an activity that is indeterminate but . . . nonetheless accordant.49 The play of the faculties is an activity that cannot be grasped or explained by the mind unless some predetermining conceptual purpose is supposed. This leads Kant to suggest that the beautiful form manifests purposiveness-without-apurpose (Zweckmigkeit ohne Zweck). The imagination and the understanding re ect this form when they vibrate together in harmony. The play of imagination and understanding is a structured play, though it is not structured in advance. It is a free lawfulness . . . which has also been called purposiveness-without-a-purpose.50 The form that this movement delineates points to a concept, though when we seek it out, no concept can be found.51 When we remove any empirical presuppositions and try to comprehend what is involved in all manifestations of purposiveness, we discover it to be essentially a relation of causality, the causality that a concept has with regard to its object.52 The concept of a thing is what sort of thing it is to be.53 [I]nsofar as the concept of an object also contains the basis for the objects actuality, the concept is called the things purpose.54 Purposiveness is indicative of an organisation according to lawful principles that the understanding can only comprehend by attributing it to the work of the will, which Kant de nes as the power of desire, insofar as it can be determined to act only by concepts, i.e., in conformity with the representation of a purpose.55 Thus, purposiveness is taken as a sign that an object was created by a rational agency, following the pattern provided by a rational concept. This concept is the transcendental ground of the object, the condition of its possibility in terms of both its existence and its form.56 To grasp such a transcendental condition requires that we consider not our cognition of the object, but rather the object itself as an effect that refers back to a cause - an effect that is possible only through a concept of that
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effect.57 To think purposiveness, therefore, is to think in reverse: to think from effect to cause, from the object to the concept that made it possible. It is thus a species of re ective judgement.58 In this re ective judgement the representation of the object does not provide content for the syntheses of cognition, but instead acts as an occasion for re ection that refers thought from the object itself to the concept that is the condition of its possibility. The representation of the object assumes an unusual role in this reverse movement. Insofar as it initiates the re ective regress by exhibiting the effect in the causal relation, the representation of the effect is the basis that determines the effects cause and precedes it.59 In this way the effect comes before - and in a certain sense determines - the cause in a re ective judgement of taste. This occurs because the thought of purposiveness makes use of the representation of the object not as an occasion for the projective synthesis of cognition, but rather for the regress of re ection. What differentiates the purposiveness associated with a judgement of beauty from other forms of purposiveness is the fact that its re ective movement never arrives at a concept. An effect is represented to consciousness that must have a conceptual cause, but no concept can be found, because the beautiful has no concept.60 Beauty is an objects form of purposiveness insofar as it is perceived in the object without the representation of a purpose.61 A judgement of taste is neither founded on a concept, nor addressed to one as the telos of its re ection.62 Thus, the purposiveness of the beautiful is a purposivenesswithout-a-purpose. It is the mere representation of the beautiful object that starts this re ective movement. A judgement of taste presupposes no concept but is directly connected with the representation by which the object is given (not by which it is thought).63 And what concerns a judgement of taste in this representation is only the form that it contains. The form of the beautiful that is represented, and the purposiveness that is connected with it, is the determining basis of a judgement of taste.64 Kant summarises all of this in a passage from paragraph 11:
Therefore the liking that, without a concept, we judge to be universally communicable (mitteilbar) and hence to be the basis that determines a judgement of taste, can be nothing but the subjective purposiveness in the representation of an object, without any purpose (whether objective or sub4 0 Stuart Dalton

jective), and hence the mere form of purposiveness, insofar as we are conscious of it, in the representation by which an object is given us.65

It is not dif cult to see how this idea from Kants aesthetic theory can be applied to Nancys political theory. Inoperative communities do not have a single unifying concept or purpose, and yet they do have a certain purposiveness. We experience community as an unworking that resists the work of conceptual uni cation, as a gift of incompletion that needs to be renewed and shared - communicated. Like a judgement of beauty, the recognition of community is a re ective judgement that has no recourse to a universal concept. A universal concept of community is impossible because community is created by an event that is always singular: the event of exposition wherein nite existence is shared between singular subjects. Nancy explains how the recognition of this shared nitude can create community in the form of being-in-common. In Nancys description an inoperative community has a play that cannot be xed by concepts. Kants third Critique clari es the way that we experience such communities. This experience is one of being together but lacking a common-being. In spite of the demand (which we inherit from Western political thought), to identify and apprehend a unitary essence that underlies each community, or a common concept that gives it coherence from above, we continue to experience community differently. We experience it not as the uni ed operation of a coherent system, but rather as the resistance to that very operation, the unworking that renders the sought-after system inoperative. Kants account of purposiveness without a purpose helps to explain how this experience is possible. An even better understanding of our experience of inoperative communities is available when we go on to consider Kants theory of sensus communis.

(3) Kant on Sensus Communis

In 40 of the Critique of Judgement, Kant introduces sensus communis by rst clarifying what it is not. The common sense that he is interested in, he says, is often confused with common human understanding (gemeinen Menschenverstand), or in other words, the very least that we are entitled to expect from anyone who lays claim to the name of human being. 66 This type of common sense places the emphasis on the commonality - or, in Kants words,
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the vulgarity - of certain shared assumptions about the world. It regards the communis of sensus communis as the adjective common in its nominative form: sensus communis is, therefore, the basic understanding that is common to everyone; the sense of, for example, truth, decency, or justice that we expect to nd everywhere.67 In the Prolegomena Kant explains why he is not interested in this understanding of common human understanding. Writing of Reid, Oswald, Beattie, and Priestly, who invoke common sense when they respond to Hume, Kant argues that this notion is of no real value to philosophy. Seen in a clear light, it is but an appeal to the opinion of the multitude, of whose applause the philosopher is ashamed, while the popular charlatan glories and con des in it.68 Common sense as mere popular opinion does not respond at all to Humes problem, which was the question of the origin of concepts like causation - not just the question of the need that we have for such concepts.69 To respond to that more profound, more original question, what is needed is a more critical faculty, one that is not limited by the opinions that are generally held by the present majority. Kant presents his own version of sensus communis as just such a faculty. In Kants account the sense of common sense refers not to empirical opinions, but rather to an a priori capacity to judge. And just as important as the fact that this capacity is common to everyone, is the fact that it is a capacity to discern what is common to everyone: it is not just a sense that is common, it is also a sense of the common. In Kants version of sensus communis the communis can be understood as both an adjective in the nominative case (as before), and also as a noun (commune) in the genitive case. The central feature of this expanded form of sensus communis that distinguishes it from common human understanding is the way in which it makes judgements. Kant writes that his version of common sense, is essentially distinct from the common understanding that is sometimes also called common sense (sensus communis); for the latter judges not by feeling but always by concepts.70 Sensus communis is the common ability to discern commonality by means of feeling rather than by determinate concepts. It is,
a sense shared (gemeinschaftlichen), i.e., a power to judge that in re ecting takes account (a priori), in our thought, of everyone elses way of repre4 2 Stuart Dalton

senting, in order as it were to compare our own judgement with human reason in general and thus escape the illusion that arises from the ease of mistaking subjective and private conditions for objective ones.71

By comparing our own judgements with the possible (not actual) judgements of others, Kant argues, abstracting from the limitations that . . . attach to our own judging, it is possible to attain a thought that is active, broad, and consistent - a thought precisely that overcomes the limits of popular opinion.72 Kant argues that we must have such an ability, because otherwise we would not be able to make judgements concerning the beautiful. Such judgements always have an exemplary necessity - a necessity of the assent of everyone to a judgement that is regarded as an example of a universal rule that we are unable to state.73 Because the beautiful has no concept, only an ability to compare our judgement with the possible judgement of others on the basis of feeling can explain how judgements of taste have the subjective universality that they do in reality have. The fact that whenever we call an object beautiful, we believe we have a universal voice, and lay claim to the agreement of everyone,74 proves that there is a shared critical faculty that allows us to overcome the limitations of subjective judgements. What this critical faculty really amounts to is the ability to experience a subjective feeling in a way that is simultaneously both private and public. Because of the sensus communis that facilitates judgements of taste, we regard this underlying feeling (the feeling of pleasure on which the judgement is based) as a common (gemeinschaftliches) rather than as a private feeling.75 When we posit common sense behind judgements concerning beauty, we,
use the word sense to stand for an effect that mere re ection has on the mind, even though we then mean by sense the feeling of pleasure. We could even de ne taste as the ability to judge something that makes our feeling in a given representation universally shareable (mitteilbar) without mediation by a concept.76

Hence, sensus communis can be regarded as both a feeling and an ability. It is an ability to feel pleasure as common pleasure, as a feeling that is simultaneously public and private. Sensus communis can also be understood as the basis for recognising the purNancy and Kant on Inoperative Communities 4 3

posiveness without a purpose that characterises inoperative communities. The ability to recognise inoperative communities must be based on feeling, since there is no concept to turn to. In Nancys political philosophy we experience community like we experience beauty: in the absence of a concept. Communities, like scenes of beauty in nature and art, are gifts that we discover and appreciate not by appealing to determinate concepts, but by recognising the internal harmony of our mental faculties that is occasioned by them. And in both cases the judgements that we make are communicable, shareable (mitteilbar).77 The experience of being-in-common is shared in the same way as the aesthetic experience of beauty: by recognising the free play and free lawfulness of purposiveness without a purpose. Sensus communis is the faculty that makes this recognition possible. The Kantian version of sensus communis - an a priori capacity to judge that transcends the limits of individual subjectivity - responds to the problem concerning how inoperative communities are to recognise themselves, just as it responds to the problem that concerned Kant in the third Critique: how to explain the subjective universality of beauty. By reading the experience of community that Nancy has described through the lens of Kantian aesthetics, a more complete picture of that experience emerges. Reading community in this way allows us to recognise, on the one hand, our need to posit a unifying principle behind such an experience, and on the other hand, the fact that no such concept will be found. And it also gives us some insight into how it is possible for us to recognise the communities that we are always already a part of, in spite of the fact that we have no concept of community to which to appeal.
* Stuart Dalton is Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Hilyer College, University of Hartford, USA

* Note: Where reference is given to an English translation, the English pagination will always be listed second, preceded by the pagination from the edition in the original language. Emphasis in quotations is always the authors own, unless I have noted otherwise. Where I have modi ed an existing translation, I have signalled this with an m after the page number from that translation. In reference to Kant, all German texts are taken from Kants Gesammelte Schriften, Hrsg. von der Preu ischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin, 29 vols. Berlin: Walter de 4 4 Stuart Dalton

Gruyter, 1902-1983.

Jean-Luc Nancy. La communaut dsoeuvre, Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1986, English translation, The Inoperative Community, ed. Peter Connor. trans. Peter Connor, Lisa Garbus, Michael Holland, Simona Sawhney, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991, pp. 67-68/26. The preface to the English edition (xxxvi-xli) was written especially for that translation; the French text has not been published.

This question is also raised by Peggy Kamuf in her essay, On the Limit, Community at Loose Ends, ed., Miami Theory Collective, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991, pp. 13-18.

Nancy, The Inoperative Community, p. 87/35. Ibid., pp. xxxix-xl, my italics. Ibid., pp. 25-26/7. Nancy has continued to focus on experience in works after The Inoperative Community, such as LExperience de la libert, Paris: Galile, 1988. English translation: The Experience of Freedom, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993. Chapters 7 and 8 from that book, entitled Sharing Freedom: Equality, Fraternity, Justice, and Experience of Freedom: And Once Again of the Community, Which It Resists, show the continuity in Nancys thought from community to freedom.

Nancy, The Inoperative Community, pp. xxxvii-xxxviii. Ibid., p. xxxix. Ibid., p. xxxvii. Jean-Luc Nancy, De ltre-en-commun. La communaut dsoeuvre. Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1986. 199-234. English: Of Being-in-Common, trans. James Creech and Georges Van Den Abbeele, Community at Loose Ends, ed. Miami Theory Collective, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991. pp. 1-12, pp. 204/2.



Nancy, The Inoperative Community, pp. 50/18-19. Ibid., p. 68/26-27. Ibid., p. 19/4. Ibid., p. 86/35. Ibid., p. xl. In this part of the preface to The Inoperative Community, Nancy is clearly alluding to Habermas theory of communicative practice.






Nancy, Of Being-in-Common, p. 201/1.

Nancy and Kant on Inoperative Communities 4 5


Ibid., pp. 224-225/7-8. Ibid., p. 201/1. Nancy, The Inoperative Community, p. 105/42. Nancy here implicitly disagrees with one of the fundamental assumptions behind the recent book by Alphonso Lingis, The Community of Those Who Have Nothing in Common, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994. In this text, Lingis questions the nature of community in a way that resonates with Nancys work, but Nancy would not accept Lingis assertion that it is possible - in the absence of a common language, a common cultural heritage, a common religion, or common economic interests - for people to have nothing in common, because for Nancy being in common is rooted in something more basic than all of that: the event of exposition which occurs anytime two people come face to face.




Nancy, The Inoperative Community, p. 64/25. Nancys focus on the event of exposition as that which is fundamentally constitutive of communities, demonstrates the in uence of Levinasian ethics on his political thought. The event of exposition for Nancy is the political corollary of the event of obligation for Levinas. In both cases the event is rooted in the alterity of the other person and in the inability of a subject to remain closed within its own identity. In Levinas account of the face-to-face encounter with the Other, a subject is exposed to the fact of the otherness of the Other, (which always exceeds the ability of the I to comprehend), and is also ex-posed in its own being. Just as one cannot avoid confronting the face of the Other, so also one cannot avoid exposing oneself in that face-to-face encounter. While Levinas focuses on the ethical content of this event, and nds that the expression of the Other s face is the source of the non-cognitive obligation that is always already binding upon each one of us individually, Nancy focuses on the political content of the event, and nds that the exposition of both the self and the other that occurs whenever two subjects come face-to-face is the source of the communities that bind all of us together collectively. To my knowledge, the best analysis of the many sources that Nancy has drawn from (including Levinas), and of the generally synthetic quality of Nancys social and political philosophy, is given by David Ingram in his essay, The Retreat of the Political in the Modern Age: Jean-Luc Nancy on Totalitarianism and Community, Research in Phenomenology, no. 18, 1988, pp. 93-124. Ingram gives an excellent overview of the development of Nancys political philosophy and especially of the sources that inform it, beginning with the founding of the Centre for the Philosophical Study of the Political in 1980 under the impe-


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tus of the Cerisy conference that same year on the work of Derrida (The Ends of Man: Spinoffs from the Work of Jacques Derrida), up to the writing of The Inoperative Community and other related texts in the mid-1980s, after the dissolution of the Centre. Another good discussion of Nancys work that focuses on his activity with the Centre for the Philosophical Study of the Political is given by Simon Critchley in his The Ethics of Deconstruction: Derrida and Levinas, Oxford: Blackwell, 1992, pp. 200-219.

Nancy, The Inoperative Community, pp. 68-69/27. Ibid., p. 23/6. Nancy, Of Being-in-Common, pp. 223-224/7. Nancy, The Inoperative Community, p. 78/31. Ibid., p. 70/27-28. Ibid., p. 71/28. Nancy explicates the meaning of compearance in his essay, La comparution/the Compearance: from the Existence of Communism to the Community of Existence, trans., Tracy B. Strong, Political Theory, vol. 3, no. 20, August 1992, pp. 371-398.







Nancy, Of Being-in-Common, p. 206/3. Cf. Emmanuel Levinas, Autrement qutre ou au-del de lessence, The Hague: Nijhoff, 1974, pp. 22, 142-143. English translation, Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence, trans., Alphonso Lingis, The Hague: Nijhoff, 1981, pp. 18, 111-112.



Nancy, Of Being-in-Common, p. 208/4. Nancy, The Inoperative Community, p. 42/15. Nancys description of the singularity of the political subject parallels the notion of a singularity in contemporary physics in some interesting ways. In physics a singularity is an event which is not governed by the laws of quantum mechanics. The most famous singularity is the Big Bang which created the universe 15 billion years ago. Such events, like the singular political subjects that inhabit Nancys inoperative community, have a particularity that escapes the grasp of concepts. The precise physical analogue of the political subject for Nancy would be a naked singularity - an event that cannot be conceptualised by current physical laws but that is nevertheless in principle observable (a singularity that occurs out in the open rather than within a black hole). Recently it was proven that naked singularities could possibly exist, which forced the physicist Stephen Hawking to hand over 100 and a t-shirt to cover


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the winners nakedness in a bet that he had made. See, Malcolm W. Browne, A Bet on a Cosmic Scale, and a Concession, Sort of, New York Times, February 12, 1997, national edition, A1.

This distinction is reminiscent of Kants distinction between a task (aufgegeben) and a given (gegeben) in the solution to the rst antinomy (B 526).


Nancy, Of Being-in-Common, p. 202/1-2. Nancy, The Inoperative Community, pp. 59-60/23. Ibid., p. xxviii. Ibid., p. 16/3. Ibid., pp. 87/35, 22-23/6. Ibid., p. xxxix. Ibid., pp. 78-79/31. Ibid., pp. 15-16/3. Ibid., p. xxxviii. Ibid., p. 89/35. Ibid., p. 89/35. Ibid., p. 43/15. Ibid., p. xxxix. Immanuel Kant, Kritik der Urtheilskraft, (Ak. V), English: Critique of Judgement. trans., Werner S. Pluhar. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1987. pp. 217-218/62.















Ibid., p. 219/63-64. Dieter Henrich provides a detailed survey of the historical development of Kants theory of the harmonious play of the imagination and the understanding in his Aesthetic Judgement and the Moral Image of the World: Studies in Kant, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992, pp. 29-58.


Ibid., p. 204/44. Casey Haskins argues that, because the purposiveness of the beautiful has this facilitating effect, Kant is assigning to art an instrumental autonomy, and not the noninstrumental autonomy that has traditionally been supposed. See Kant and the Autonomy of Art, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, vol. 1, no. 47, Winter 1989, pp. 43-54.


Kant, Critique of Judgement, p. 219/63. Ibid., p. 241/92m. Mary A. McCloskey analyses the constrained freedom of the faculties in their



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play in, Kants Aesthetic, London: Macmillan Press, 1987, pp. 69-71.

Kant, Critique of Judgement, p. 220/65. Ibid., p. 227/74. Ibid., p. 180/20. Ibid., p. 220/65m. Ibid., p. 220/65. Ibid., p. 220/65. Ibid., pp. 179-181/18-20. Christel Fricke argues that judgements concerning purposiveness are re ective judgements in Explaining the Inexplicable. The Hypothesis of the Faculty of Re ective Judgement in Kants Third Critique, Nous 24, 1990, pp. 45-62. Rudolf Makkreel argues that because judgements of aesthetic purposiveness are re ective, it is possible for them to be constitutive (in terms of aesthetic pleasure and displeasure) without being dogmatic. See his Differentiating Dogmatic, Regulative, and Re ective Approaches to History in Kant, Proceedings of the Eighth International Kant Congress, Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1995, pp. 123-137.








Kant, Critique of Judgement, p. 220/65m. Ibid., p. 231/79. Ibid., p. 236/84m. Ibid., p. 209/51. Ibid., p. 230/77m. Ibid., p. 223/69. Ibid., p. 221/66m. This point about the need for aesthetic judgements to be shareable in principle is made by Rudolf Makkreel in his The Con uence of Aesthetics and Hermeneutics in Baumgarten, Meier, and Kant, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, no. 54, vol. 1, 1996, pp. 65-75, and by Hannah Ginsborg in Re ective Judgement and Taste Nous, 24, 1990, pp. 70-75, and The Role of Taste in Kants Theory of Cognition, New York: Garland, 1990, pp. 1-44.








Kant, Critique of Judgement, p. 293/160. Ibid., p. 293/159-160. Prolegomena. (Ak. IV). English: Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics that will be Able to Come Forward as Science, trans. Paul Carus, Rev. James W. Ellington, Indianapolis: Hackett, 1977, p. 259/5. Nancy and Kant on Inoperative Communities 4 9




Ibid., p. 259/4. Kant, Critique of Judgement, p. 238/87. Ibid., p. 293/160m. Ibid., pp. 294-295/160-161m. Ibid., p. 237/85. Ibid., p. 216/59-60. Ibid., p. 239/89. Ibid., p. 295/162m. Ibid., p. 221/66.









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