10 Aug 2010

The Identity of Difference. Citations from Hölderlin, Essays and Letters on Theory, on the topic of split self-hood

[The following are citations from Hölderlin, Essays and Letters on Theory. They are meant as preparation for a look at his Remarks on Oedipus and on Antigone, which we will examine later. My notes outside the citations are given in brackets.]

The Identity of Difference
Citations from Hölderlin, Essays and Letters on Theory, on the topic of split self-hood

On the Law of Freedom:

[The following might help elaborate Deleuze's notion of the anarchy of the Kantian faculties, seen especially in sublime experiences.]

There is a natural state of the imagination which has in common the lawlessness with that anarchy of representations organized by the intellect, to be sure, yet which, with respect to the law by which, with respect to the law by which it is organized, need to be distinguished from intellect.

By this natural state of imagination, by this lawlessness, I mean a moral one; by this law, [I mean] the law of freedom. There, the imagination is considered in and of itself, here in conjunction with the faculty of desire.

In that anarchy of representations where the imagination is considered theoretically, a unity of the manifold, an ordering of perceptions was indeed possible yet accidental. [33b; V,211]

Judgment and Being:

[This material discusses how expressions of identity, such as 'I am I', theoretically take both I's as subjects, but when executed in our lives, self-identifications involve us considering ourselves on the one hand as subject but then on the other hand as object.]

Judgment. in the highest and strictest sense, is the original separation of object and subject which are most deeply united in intellectual intuition, that separation through which alone object and subject become possible, the arche-separation. In the concept of separation, there lies already the concept of the reciprocity of object and subject and the necessary presupposition of a whole of which object and subject form the parts. “I am I” is the most fitting example for this concept of arche-separation as theoretical separation, for in the practical arche-separation it [the “I”] opposes the non-I, not itself. [37b, V,216, boldface mine]

[Being is not the same as identity. Our own personal being is not to be found in an identical relation between ourself as subject and as object. From a Deleuzean point of view, perhaps, our personal being instead is to be found in our internal difference, taken in one sense as the internal split between ourselves as self-thought (subject) and us as self-felt (object). We might further distinguish this from something more like a Merleau-Pontyian perspective. Instead of us being both subject and object, or being something pre-subjective and pre-objective, we rather are constituted (at least in part) by the differences communicated between our subjective and objective sides.]

Being--Yet this Being must not be confused with identity. If I say: I am I, the subject (“I”) and the object | (“I”) are not united in such a way that no separation could be performed without violating the essence of what is to be separated; on the contrary, the I is only possible by means of this separation of the I from the I. [37-38; V,216-217] How can I say: “I”! without self-consciousness? Yet how is self-consciousness possible? In opposing myself to myself, separating myself from myself, yet in recognizing myself as the same in the opposed regardless of this separation. Yet to what extent as the same? I can, I must ask in this manner; for in another respect it [the “I”] is opposed to itself. Hence identity is not a union of object and subject which simply occurred, hence identity is not = to absolute Being. [38a, V,217, boldface mine]


[The following sentence might be interesting to compare to Deleuze's idea of intensity intensifying as it falls to zero. However, the quote would then be taken out of context and serve only as a poetic formulation.]

One can fall upward just as well as downward. [45d; IV,233]

The Ground for "Empedocles":

[Deleuze will look at how Hölderlin says Sophocles' Oedipus brings the character to a pure state of interiority.]

The tragic odes begin in the highest fire; the pure spirit, the pure inwardness has transcendent its border, it has not sufficiently moderated those connections of life which are necessary and which, as it is, already strive for contact, and which are excessively inclined to do so due to the wholly inward mood, [that is] consciousness, reflection, or physical sensuousness; and thus, through the excess of inwardness, there has originated a discord which the tragic ode figures forth right at the outset in order to depict the pure. [p.50ab; IV,149]

[To elaborate on Deleuze's notion of disorganization, especially in terms of the anarchy of the Kantian faculties and the disorder of the Body without Organs, we might compare it with Hölderlin's distinction between organic and aorgic. Here we quote also from the editor's commentary]

Precisely because he expresses the deepest inwardness, the tragic poet denies altogether his individuality, his subjectivity, and thus also the object present to him; he conveys them into a foreign personality, into a foreign objectivity [52c; IV, 151]

The more organic, artistic man is the blossom of nature, the more aorgic [ft.3] nature, when it is sensed purely, by the purely organized, purely and uniquely form man, affords him the feeling of perfection. However, this life exists only in sentiment and not for knowledge. If it is to be known, then it must be present itself by separating itself in the excess of inwardness where the opposed principles interchange so that the organic, which surrendered itself too much to nature, and which forgot its essence and consciousness, transcends into the extreme of autonomous activity and art and reflection, where nature, at least in its effects on reflective man, transcends into the extreme of the aorgic, the incomprehensible, the non-sensuous, the unlimited, until through the progression of the opposed reciprocal effects the two originally unity [principles] meet again as in the beginning, only that nature has become more organic through the forming, cultivating man, through the formgiving drives and forces as such, whereas man has become more aorgic, universal, infinite. [53b.c; IV,152-153].
[From footnote 3, to the word 'aorgic']
The translation of Hölderlin's distinction between organisch and aorgisch and the translation of aorgisch as “organic” requires some explanation. Hölderlin’s distinction must be understood in the context of Swabian Pietism and the energetically inspired concept of nature of German Romanticism. Unlike Schelling’s distinction between organisch and anorganisch, Hölderlin’s “organic” implies not a natural organism or the like, but designates the organized, reflected principle of the spirit and of art. Similarly, the term aorgisch, subsequently translated as “aorgic,” does not refer to the merely lifeless but designates, in the course of this translation, the unreflexive, unrepresented, disorganizing manifestation of nature. [p.168a.b]

Friedrich. Essays and Letters on Theory. Thomas Pfau, trans & ed. Albany NY: SUNY Press, 1988.

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