Plotnitsky, "Thinking Singularity with Immanuel Kant and Paul de Man: Aesthetics, Epistemology, History and Politics"

Legacies of Paul de Man

Thinking Singularity with Immanuel Kant and Paul de Man:
Aesthetics, Epistemology, History and Politics

Arkady Plotnitsky, Purdue University

Text here. This essay appears in _Volume Title_, a volume of _Romantic Circles Praxis Series_, prepared exclusively for Romantic Circles (, University of Maryland.

  1. Proceeding from Immanuel Kant's third Critique, The Critique of Judgment, and Paul de Man's reading of Kant, this essay will discuss certain specific concepts, first, of singularity and, second, of the relationship between the individual and the collective, based on this concept of singularity. While emerging from Kant's analysis of aesthetics, this conceptuality entails a radical form of epistemology and, correlatively, a radical form of historicity. This conceptual and epistemological configuration, however, also translates into a political concept of community or, as I shall call it here, parliamentarity. As a result, aesthetics, epistemology, history, and politics become interconnected, and each becomes in turn conceptually refigured through these interconnections. The genealogy of the conceptuality and epistemology in question may itself be political in part, insofar as the actual practice of politics may have served, deliberately or not, as one of the models of this epistemology. On the other hand, Kant's analysis of the aesthetic expressly offers a model for this conceptuality and epistemology, or historicity, and establishes the aesthetic (in his sense) as the condition of possibility of their emergence and functioning in contexts other than the aesthetic.1 More generally, the interpenetration among these determinations—aesthetic, epistemological, historical, or political—is irreducible: once we enter any of the domains thus designated, we can bypass others only provisionally or conditionally, but not in principle. These interconnections inevitably, and ultimately uncontainably, extend to other determinations, such as ethical, or new definitions and denominations, proliferating within a given domain, for example, to different varieties and subspecies of the aesthetic. This field, however, involves not only conjunctions and interactions, but also disjunctions and heterogeneities, and cannot be seen as fully unifiable or containable by means of a synthesis, dialectical or other. Indeed, as such, it is governed in part by an epistemology analogous (although not identical) to the epistemology of singularity and of the relationships between the individual and the collective to be considered here. As de Man's reading of both Kant and Hegel makes apparent, such disjunctions often appear at the very point of an attempted synthesis. According to de Man: "We would have to conclude that Hegel's philosophy, which, like his Aesthetics, is a philosophy of history (and of aesthetics) as well as a history of philosophy (and of aesthetics)—and the Hegelian corpus indeed contains texts that bear these two symmetrical titles—is in fact an allegory of the disjunction between philosophy and history" (Aesthetic Ideology 104).2 An argument of this type would apply to Kant's philosophy as well, just as certain key points (including those linked to the problematics here considered) of de Man's reading of Kant to Hegel (AI 90). Kantian or, conversely, Hegelian, specificity remains, of course, important. My main concern here, however, is a certain fundamental underlying problematic set into operation by Kant's philosophy, especially in the third Critique, and brought out by de Man's reading of Kant.

    1. Singularity, Universality, and Freedom in the Judgment of Taste

  2. I take as my point of departure paragraph 5 of the third Critique, in "Analytic of the Beautiful," where Kant distinguishes between the agreeable or merely likable [das Angenehme], the beautiful [das Schone], and the good [das Gute]" (Critique of Judgment 52).3 The section immediately precedes and leads to Kant's "Explication of the Beautiful," as "inferred from the First Moment," that of "a Judgment of Taste, As to Its Quality," which extends from Kant's "definition of taste" as "the ability to judge the beautiful" (CJ 43n.1). "Taste," Kant infers, "is the ability to judge an object, or a way of presenting it, by means of liking or disliking devoid of all interest. The object of such a liking is called beautiful" (53). These are familiar commonplaces of the third Critique. Or rather, these statements are made into commonplaces by abstracting them from the arguments from which they are inferred as conclusions and thus depriving them of their complexity and their essentially un-commonplace-like or even idiosyncratic character. They can only be given an adequate reading if the richness of the conceptual and textual fabric of Kant's elaborations is brought to bear on Kant's argument, for example, by reaching what de Man calls "linguistic" understanding (AI 82). According to Kant:

    A judgment of taste, on the other hand [i.e. in contrast to the agreeable and the good], is merely [bloß] contemplative, i.e., it is a judgment that is indifferent to the existence of the object: it [considers] the character of the object only by holding it up to our feeling of pleasure and displeasure. Nor is this contemplation, as such, directed to concepts [as in the case of the good], for a judgment of taste is not a cognitive judgment (whether theoretical or practical) and hence is neither based on concepts, not directed to them as purposes. …
    Hence the agreeable, the beautiful, and the good designate three different relations that presentations have to the feeling of pleasure or displeasure, the feeling by reference to which we distinguish between objects [Gegenstände] or between the ways of presenting them. … We call agreeable that gratifies [was ihn vernnügt] us, beautiful that which gives us just feeling of liking [was ihn gefällt]; good what we esteem [geschätz], endorse [gebilligt], that is, for which it is possible for us to posit [setzen] an objective value. Agreeableness holds also for animals without reason; beauty only for human beings, i.e. beings who are animal and yet rational, though it is not enough that they be rational (e.g. spirits) but they must be animal as well; the good, however, holds for every rational being as such, though I cannot fully justify and explain this proposition until later. We may say that, of all these three kinds of feeling of liking [Wohlgefallens; inclination towards something], only that involved in the taste for the beautiful is disinterested and free, since we are not compelled to give our approval by any interest, whether of sense or of reason. So we might say of the term Wohlgefallen, in the three cases [Fällen] just mentioned, refers to inclination [Neiung], or to favor [Gunst], or to respect [Achtung]. For favor [Gunst] is the only free form of liking [Wohlgefallen]. Neither an object [Gegenstand] of inclination, nor one that a law of reason enjoins on us as an object of desire, leaves us the freedom to make an object of pleasure for ourselves out of something or other. All interest either presupposes a need or gives rise to one; and because interest is a determining ground for approval [Beifall], it no longer makes the judgment about the object free (CJ 52; translation modified; emphasis added.)4
  3. It is indeed tempting to read these passages at an abstracted logical level, and it has been done, often with disastrous consequences. One can easily miss both a more complex conceptual architecture and subtle textual workings of Kant's "Analytics," and, especially, the incessant reciprocity between them, such as those of the signifier "fall" in this passage and elsewhere in Kant, which I shall discuss later in this essay. It is not merely a matter of paying close attention to Kant's German, although this is obviously necessary, since rigorously no translation is possible, but only a reading determined by Kant's German but not contained by it. For example, one might prefer to read the last sentence in a more Heideggerian vein as "what stands in appearance in front of us as we are immersed in this feeling of being inclined toward it is called beautiful." Most fundamentally, however, it is a matter of reading the irreducibly idiosyncratic language and concepts of Kant's irreducibly idiosyncratic or singular philosophy. It goes without saying that the task of such a reading is not easy, and the present reading of Kant, or of de Man, too, may fail, and to some degree is bound to fail.

  4. If, however, one can refer to a number of remarkable readings of the Kantian sublime, such as those by de Man and his followers, the beautiful remains an as-yet unread enigma, especially if one speaks of reading in de Man's sense.5 It is doubtful that any rigorous reading would remove the enigmatic from either the beautiful or the sublime in Kant, and the best such a reading may hope for is to read them as enigmas. Both the beautiful and the sublime may be best seen as defined by the enigmatic character of their emergence in certain types of processes of human (individual and collective) existence. The situation may be seen as follows. At certain points and under certain conditions, such processes produce certain types of effects, such as those of the beautiful and the sublime, while themselves remaining, in their ultimate nature, inaccessible to any knowledge or even conception in any terms or concepts available to us. "Ultimate" is a crucial qualification, since intermediate levels of the overall efficacious dynamics in question may be accessible, again, in terms of certain effects of the more remote and ultimately inaccessible parts of such processes. At least, the beautiful and the sublime may need to be configured in these terms for the purposes of theorizing them, which entails what I shall call nonclassical theory, to be discussed in the next section.

  5. This type of epistemology extends Kant's epistemology, introduced in the first Critique, The Critique of Pure Reason, and developed by him in all three Critiques. It also provides arguably the most fundamental connection between them, especially through the third Critique, which offers the ultimate model for the working or at least underpinning of both pure and practical reason. The beautiful and the sublime offer the well-known parallels with respectively understanding and reason, famously invoked by Kant (CJ 98-100). These parallels, however, do not in themselves amount to the model in question, nor are they sufficient to build up this model. Rather they are made possible by virtue of this model.6

  6. While this model is essentially epistemological in nature, it also defines a certain political model, a model of community, although one might also, and more rigorously, argue that both models reciprocally define each other. For the reason to be explained below, this political model may be called parliamentary. This model, along with the reciprocity in question, is at work already in "The Analytic of the Beautiful," rather than only in Kant's analysis of the sublime, where Kant directly appeals to the idea of community and where most commentators trace the political problematic of the third Critique. Kant sets the stage with his contention that "in their logical quantity all judgments of taste are singular [enzelne] judgments" and they emerge as such within "the entire [phenomenal] sphere of each judging person" (CJ 59; translation modified). As he explains at the same juncture: "For example, I may look at a rose and make a judgment of taste by declaring it to be beautiful. But if I compare many singular [einzelne] roses and so arrive at the judgment, Roses in general are beautiful, then my judgment is no longer merely aesthetic, but is a logical judgment based on an aesthetic one" (CJ 59; emphasis added). It follows that, according to Kant, in offering an aesthetic judgment, one can say "this rose is beautiful," but one cannot, rigorously (in general we do all the time), say, in conveying as aesthetic judgment, "this is a beautiful rose." The "rose-ness" of any given rose, which is a concept, is irrelevant. Contrary to Gertrude Stein's famous tautology, in Kant's aesthetics, as a beautiful object, "a rose is not a rose, is not a rose, is not a rose … ." Most crucially, although implying a possibility of a certain repetition, a judgment of the beautiful and the object (or, in the sublime, a certain un-object) involved, are singular, each time unique, in every case. In this respect they are not unreminiscent of death, as de Man must have realized, as is apparent, for example, in his reading of Shelley's The Triumph of Life, to be discussed later in this essay. One is also reminded of Emmanuel Levinas's and Jacques Derrida's appeal to this type of singularity, including in ethical and political contexts, as in Derrida's title, "the end of the world, each time unique." In short in Kant, the universality of such a judgment rigorously pertains to the moment at which it is made, and involves some community that is actually or potentially present at this moment. This community would, at this moment, relate and might, hopefully, accept this judgement, or come to the same judgement, by involving "the entire [phenomenal] sphere of each judging person."

  7. As we have seen, Kant also argues that "the favor [Gunst] is the only free feeling of liking [Wohlgefallen]." If, however, such is the case, we must—for otherwise there would be no freedom—allow that our, always singular, claim for, or offer of the possibility of, the same kind of feeling concerning a given object on the part of any other person could be just as freely rejected as it could be freely accepted.7 This must be the case, even though one has the bestowal of the highest possible favor upon an object or (as in the sublime) un-object in mind, as the German Gunst could suggest here, as it did to Heidegger in his reading of Nietzsche (vol. 1:107-14). By the same token, Gunst appears to indicate a certain randomness and uniqueness or singularity of such a feeling. In short, the condition of the possibility of sensus communis, which Kant invokes in "The Analytic of the Sublime," is also the condition of the possibility of the failure of sensus communis to emerge in any given case. I would argue that it is this essential possibility of failure of sensus communis that defines the universality of the judgment of taste concerning the beautiful, or of the judgment (which cannot be seen as that of taste in Kant's scheme) concerning the sublime, most fundamentally. The universality, or at least a sufficiently large collectivity, defining the possibility of the beautiful or the sublime, could best be seen as an assemblage of irreducible singularities, each of which emerges, enigmatically, from something that, along with the process of this emergence itself, is not subject to the law(s) defining this collectivity. As will be seen, this enigmatic emergence also entails a special form of historicity.

  8. From this perspective one might speak of a certain parliamentary model of the aesthetics and the political alike, and thus of a model for parliamentary politics, defined by Kant's conception of aesthetic judgment, and, again, reciprocally serving as a model for aesthetic judgment concerning the beautiful or the sublime. This type of reciprocity is suggested by Kant himself in a different, but related, context of human communication and sociability under laws in his appendix, "On Methodology of Taste," to "The Analytic of the Sublime" (CJ 321). The model is defined by the circumstances, just described, of a possible failure of a possible consensus or (in principle, interminable) negotiations, possibly never fully cohering, in the manner of the sublime, and sometimes with feelings similar to those in experiencing the sublime, although outright frustration is more common. In politics, the situation becomes even more complex (if this is possible) when one takes into account the broader field of judgments entertained, often simultaneously, by different individuals or parties, including political parties in their conventional sense. Teleological judgments (governed by concepts) are subject to an analogous economy, although the possibility of freedom entailed by aesthetic judgments may well be unique, and it may have been seen by Kant as unique. Leaving the earlier history aside, one could trace the significance of this dynamics from Kant's fellow critical philosophers to Jean-François Lyotard's postmodernist vision of politics and justice, and beyond, with a great many thinkers in between.8 It would also be difficult to dissociate these Kantian problematics from the political history of modernity, including as the history of parliamentarity, from the Enlightenment on.

  9. One can easily see, now, how and why aesthetic, epistemology, historicity, and politics form a complex interactive network in Kant, and, with Kant, in general. The considerations offered so far still amount mostly to a logical and a content-oriented reading. Ultimately we must analyze and understand this machinery in textual terms, including by means of what de Man calls "linguistic terms," in particular as this machinery relates to the sequence of gefallen, gefällt, Fällen, Beifall, Wohlgefallen, and so forth, or the Fall-sequence, as one might call it, for reasons to be explained later. This analysis will proceed here through de Man's reading of Kant and such figures as Schiller, Kleist, and Shelley, and aesthetic, epistemological, and political models developed by de Man on the basis of these readings. Before I undertake this analysis, however, I shall, in the next two sections, outline more formally the epistemology in question.

    2. Nonclassical Theory and Nonclassical Epistemology

  10. It may be useful to backtrack briefly to the first Critique, The Critique of Pure Reason, and to Kant's things in themselves, a decisive step on the road to nonclassical epistemology, even if, at least short of the supplementary economy of the third Critique, not quite reaching the nonclassical limit. According to Kant:

    We have no concepts of the understanding and hence no elements for the cognition of things except insofar as an intuition can be given corresponding to these concepts, consequently … we have cognition of no object as a thing in itself, but only insofar as it is an object of sensible intuition, i.e. as an appearance [phenomenon]; from which follows the limitation of all even possible speculative cognition of reason [Vernunft] to mere objects of experience. Yet the reservation must also be noted, that even if we cannot cognize [kennen] these same objects as things in themselves, we at least must be able to think [denken] [about] them as things in themselves. To cognize an object, it is required that I be able to prove its possibility (whether by the testimony of experience from its actuality or a priori through reason). But I can think whatever I like, as long as I do not contradict myself, i.e., as long as my concept is a possible thought, even if I cannot give any assurance whether or not there is a corresponding object somewhere within the sum total of all possibilities. But in order to ascribe objective validity to such a concept (real possibility, for the first sort of possibility was merely logical) something more is required. This "more," however, need not be sought in theoretical sources of cognition; it may also lie in practical ones. (115)
  11. One might illustrate Kant's point by the example of the human body, which is crucial both to Kant and to de Man's reading of Kant. When we think of our bodies as having a certain shape or organization, defined by such features as the head, the arms and the legs, and so forth, we think of it on the basis of (phenomenal) appearances. The very concept of the body is defined by this way of looking at it, possibly with inner organs, such as the heart, the liver, the brain, and so forth, added on. When, however, we think of the body as constituted by atoms or elementary particles, even if we think of the latter classically (in terms of physics or epistemology), we think of the body as a (material) thing in itself.9

  12. Kant himself proceeds next to an example of the freedom of the human soul, crucial to Kant's analysis in all three Critiques, including in the present context, given the centrality of the question of freedom in aesthetic judgment, as discussed earlier. This example is also significant insofar as it refers to mental, rather than material, things in themselves. Although one might think more readily of things in themselves as material objects (also in Kant's sense of 'noumenal object,' correlative to 'thing in itself'), for Kant the concept equally refers to mental objects and distinguishes them from appearances or phenomena, although in this case both the objects and the phenomena are mental. This view has major implications for our understanding of the nature of thinking, specifically understanding, logical or other, and reason, also in Kant's sense of Vernunft, and then for Freud's and Lacan's understanding of the unconscious as thinking.10 It may be argued that Kant, too, ultimately assigns reason and the processes responsible for our sense of freedom, for example, that of aesthetic judgment, to the unconscious, to the unknowable, if not unthinkable, regions of the mind, even if, to put it in deconstructive terms, without quite saying so or against himself, and against the history of philosophy. For philosophy has always (or just about) associated reason with consciousness and self-consciousness

  13. Nonclassical thinking moves us beyond the limits defined by Kant's conception of things in themselves in the first Critique. The case becomes more complex when we move to the third Critique, especially when our reading reaches the level of textual or linguistic understanding, as explored by de Man. While unknowable, Kant's things in themselves are still thinkable, at least at the logical-conceptual level of analysis. They are, thus, theorized as classical in the present view and may indeed be seen as defining classicality. That is, a classical theoretical account would, at least in principle, determine all of its objects, which may be called classical in turn, as knowable or, on the model of Kant's things in themselves, at least as thinkable. By contrast, the objects of nonclassical theories are configured, at least as the objects of the theory, as irreducibly unthinkable, ultimately even as objects in any conceivable sense, such as things in themselves, or as anything at all. I use the term 'object' as designating that with which a given theory concerns itself and which it may, accordingly, idealize from other entities, and possibly idealize as unknowable or inconceivable. Thus, either Kant's noumenal (things in themselves) or phenomenal objects, such as the human body (which can, again, be conceived of as either), would be 'objects' of a classical theory in the present neutral sense of 'object,' and Kant's definition of either defines them as such, at least up to a point and at a certain level of reading. By contrast, an 'object' of a nonclassical theory, say, "the human body," would be configured as unthinkable within the theory, including as "body" or as anything "human," whether such an object can or cannot be linked to a thinkable or even knowable entity outside the theory, or possibly by a different theory. This type of link would be bracketed by the nonclassical theory in question as well. Is the human body ultimately (this is, again, crucial) knowable or unknowable, thinkable or unthinkable? Do we have a rigorous theory, philosophical or scientific, to do so? These are as-yet unanswered questions, either at the level of the ultimate material constitution of the body (say, as a conglomerate of elementary particles) or at the level of our phenomenal, cum linguistic, understanding of it.

  14. While, then, a classical theory could think or theorize the unknowable, a nonclassical theory may, at least for the purposes of the theory, configure as unknowable or even as unthinkable the entities that could in principle be thinkable or knowable, or could become such in other contexts, by means of other theories, and so forth. If such is the case, the nonclassical theory in question would, in its own context, disregard what can be thought or known about such entities. In other cases, the unknowable or unthinkable character of nonclassical objects may extend beyond the context(s) of the theory where these objects are defined as objects. A stronger claim concerning their inaccessibility would be made upon the entities idealized by the theory as its nonclassical objects, either from within the theory or even beyond it. A nonclassical theory may see its objects, as the objects of that theory, as inaccessible not only by means of this theory but also by other means, possibly by any means, even though it may allow for the existence of entities that, while idealized nonclassically by the theory in question, may be configured classically by other theories. Or it can extend its nonclassical claim by arguing that such entities are equally inaccessible by any rigorous theory.

  15. In other words, a nonclassical theory constructs a particular type of theoretical idealization, in which the ultimate objects of the theory are conceived of or idealized as ultimately inconceivable. This idealization may allow one to infer the existence of something in nature, mind, or culture that is manifest in and is, at least in part, responsible for certain knowable phenomena considered by the theory but that is irreducibly beyond anything we can experience or beyond anything we can possibly conceive of. By the same token, however, such inconceivable entities are seen as the ultimate objects ofthe theory and not as objects of nature, mind, or culture. This view actually leads to a more radical form of nonclassicality. For, whatever exists in nature, mind, or culture as responsible for the knowable phenomena considered by the theory might be beyond even this idealization and may, accordingly, prove to be something else: either something nonclassical-like or something classical-like in character, or something altogether beyond this type of scheme. (As such, it may be subject to alternative theoretical accounts.) A nonclassical theory can, thus, be defined by an epistemological double rupture, which would lead to the most radical form of nonclassicality. The first rupture is that between itself as a theory and its ultimate objects, placed beyond the reach of the theory itself or any possible conception, and, the second, between this scheme and the possible constitution of nature, mind, or culture, which defines the first rupture as a theoretical idealization.

  16. A nonclassical situation usually proceeds from a given theory, which may be demarcated either more or less determinately or more or less loosely. The nonclassical character of the theory is defined by the fact that this theory places certain objects it considers, usually the ultimate objects in question in the theory, beyond the reach of the theory or, at the limit, beyond all knowledge or any possible conception, at least, again, if these objects are considered as the objects of the theory. Such objects, which I shall call nonclassical in turn, are, accordingly, treated by the theory as unthinkable, in the literal sense of un-thinkable, as being beyond the thinking of theory, ultimately including as objects in any conceivable sense, such as, for example, that of things in themselves. It is essential that unthinkable entities are rigorously defined by means of this theory, rather than are merely postulated, and are rigorously correlated with or even derived on the basis of what is thinkable or knowable and indeed known within the field of the theory. As a result, the unthinkable is placed inside and is made, as the unthinkable, a constitutive part of this theory, rather than positioned beyond the purview of or otherwise outside the theory.11 By the same token, the presence of unthinkable objects and the fact that they are unthinkable are essential to what the theory can do in terms of knowledge, explanation, prediction, and so forth. These objects are the constitutive part of the efficacious processes responsible for what (certain effects, events, and so forth) is thinkable and knowable and indeed known by the theory, and from which the existence of the unknowable and the unthinkable involved in the theory is derived or with which it is properly correlated. A nonclassical theory, thus, does not say that one is not concerned with knowing or thinking about the nature of nonclassical objects, but that the theory, in principle, excludes, or, in the radical cases of nonclassical theorizing, precludes the possibility of knowing, saying, or thinking about the nature of such objects. All that the theory can say about such objects is that they exist or, more accurately, as the objects of the theory, relate to something that exists. This "existence" itself, however, is not conceived and may not be conceivable of in any specific form available to the theory or possibly even to our thinking.

  17. By definition, however, nonclassical theories contain classical and indeed strictly knowable strata as well, if one assumes, as I do here, that the existence of nonclassical objects and processes is not merely postulated or imagined, or even thought of, but is rigorously derived by a nonclassical argument. For such a derivation cannot be possible otherwise than on the basis of or at least in relation to something that could be and is known, and yet must also be seen as impacted by what is not and cannot be known or thought of. We know of or configure the existence of nonclassical objects and know (rather than only think) and specifically configure them as unthinkable through their effects upon the knowable, and only through these effects. Accordingly, nonclassical knowledge and thinking could only concern effects produced by nonclassical objects upon other, knowable and hence classical, objects, in contrast to the Kantian situation, as considered above, whereby we aim to think the unknowable things in themselves. In the language of Georges Bataille, who gave the nonclassical efficacious processes one of his most famous names, "un-knowledge [nonsavoir]," "it would be impossible to speak of unknowledge [nonsavoir] [for example, as "unknowledge"] as such, while we can speak of its effects." Reciprocally, however, "it would not be possible to seriously speak of unknowledge independently of its effects" (vol. 8:219).12 Hence, while always unknowable and inconceivable, in each instance these effect-producing processes may indeed be different and unique, singular, as, and reciprocally, each effect produced. The field itself of the unthinkable may be different as well depending upon the theory in which it is established, even though it is, again, always established as a field of the unthinkable. Nonclassical epistemology is the epistemology of knowable effects whose ultimate (but, again, only ultimate) efficacious processes or, one might say, history is or is configured by a given theory as irreducibly, in principle (rather than only in practice), unknowable and, furthermore, as inconceivable, without, however, assuming any mystical agency, divine or human, governing the situation. Accordingly, as understood here, nonclassical theory is essentially materialist. "In principle" is, again, a crucial qualification. For, in most classical cases, too, while it may not be possible to know such efficacious dynamics in practice, it may be possible at least to conceive of it, as a thing in itself, in principle on one model or another. It follows that, nonclassically, these efficacious dynamics cannot be seen as causal, since causality would be merely one of conceivable attributes, which cannot be assigned to the ultimate processes involved in these dynamics any more than any other attribute.

  18. While, then, the existence itself of such processes or, more accurately, of what is idealized accordingly is assumed by a given nonclassical theory, the character of these processes may be inconceivable by the theory or, for the purposes of that theory (or possibly even beyond it) in any terms that are or possibly will ever be available to us. "Existence" and "nonexistence," are, too, among these terms, as are "efficacious" or "process," along with the possibility or impossibility to "conceive" of it, or "possibility" or "impossibility," or "it" and "is," to begin with.13 These terms just listed or any other terms are not merely inadequate but are strictly inapplicable at the ultimate level, thus introducing a radical, irreducible discontinuity into any representation of these processes. The extent of this inapplicability may, again, vary depending on the scope of (the claim of) of a given nonclassical theory.

  19. As will be seen, this discontinuity is epistemologically analogous to that of de Man's allegory and irony (there are further differences between both tropes), which serve de Man in his engagement with nonclassical epistemology, taken by him to, I would argue, just about the furthest reaches of its claim. It is true that de Man often associated allegory (or irony) with discontinuity, also in juxtaposition to the continuity of the symbol. In view of the considerations just given, however, we may more properly think of this relation as neither continuous nor discontinuous, or in terms of any conceivable combination of both concepts, or, again, in any given terms. In this sense, de-Manian discontinuity is more radical "discontinuous" than discontinuity itself, that is, than any form of the discontinuous we can conceive of. De Man's emphasis on the discontinuity of allegory strategically points in this direction, away from the continuity of the symbol or of aesthetic ideology. Both continuity and discontinuity are retained at the level of "effects," and the effects of discontinuity are indeed more crucial to allegory (or irony). It must, however, be seen as an effect of a more complex efficacious machinery, which is itself neither continuous nor discontinuous, nor is, again, accessible by means of the theory developed by de Man or, it appears, according to de Man, any terms or concepts available to us, whether by means of other theories or otherwise. As a bridge to a more textually oriented discussion of nonclassicality in and via de Man's work, I shall, in the next section, introduce a model of the nonclassical epistemological situation by considering collectivities and organizations of nonclassically conceived individual elements or singularities.

    3. Organization of Singularities and the Parliament of Taste

  20. As we have seen, according to Kant, "all judgments of taste are singular [einzelne] judgments," at least "in their logical quality" (emphasis added). They are such by virtue of emerging through extraordinarily complex processes, which are not governed by concepts or possibly even by cognition in its usual sense (such as that of kennen, used by Kant in the first Critique, as cited above), but instead by a certain economy of "feeling," a very complex conception in turn. The famous de gustibus non disputantum est is a common-sense reflection of this singularity and uniqueness, and of the complexity of the constitution and emergence of the singular. How each such judgment comes about appears to be too complex to analyze or even to conceive of at the ultimate level of its constitution, at least in practice, but possibly in principle. If the latter is the case, these processes may and perhaps must be theorized nonclassically (again, at the ultimate level of their functioning). Then, how such judgments cohere into a universal consensual field or, in any event, a sufficiently large consensual field, would be at least as enigmatic or mysterious as how each such singular judgment of the beautiful or the sublime could emerge. How could we possibly agree or even negotiate our judgments of taste, and within what limits, given the irreducibly singular and irreducibly random nature of each? Or, how can we, proceeding from a singular judgment, postulate the possibility of such an agreement, which must also, indeed by virtue of the singular character of each judgment, entail the possibility of the rejection of our judgment? In a nonclassical account the enigmatic, but, again, not mystical, nature of these processes at the ultimate level of its operation would be taken as a given, at least as concerns the purview of the theory. A nonclassical account would take for granted the impossibility of theorizing the ultimate nature of such processes, in both cases, that of the history of each individual judgment and that of a collective coherence of such judgments. It would proceed instead to an analysis of effects and, through such effects, implications of these processes, possibly leaving a more complete (by classical criteria) account to a future theory.

  21. Collectivities of nonclassical singularities are, by definition, assemblages of singular elements such that the emergence or history of each is nonclassical, is subject to a nonclassical theory and epistemology. Under certain circumstances (such as those of the beautiful and the sublime in Kant), however, although not always (for example, not in the case of aesthetic judgments other than those of the beautiful or the sublime), some among such assemblages may allow for organized or cohering relations between their individual elements. Such circumstances may be rare. It is enough, however, that they occur sometimes, and that they do is remarkable, given that each such judgment is singular in its logical quality, that is, each follows its own logic, which, however, allows one to take the nonclassical view of the situation and use it as a nonclassical model in any given domain. Such situations disallow us to establish or possibly even conceive of the ultimate nature of the emergence of these (organized) relations, just as they do already in the case of the emergence of each individual element involved, whether, again, these belong to organized collectivities or not. Singularity may be defined by the property of manifest lawlessness of an object or an event in relation to a given law, or to law in general. Here this definition applies more specifically when this property arises in a single or point-like fashion—physical, as in the case of black holes, although the latter may have (inaccessible) inner structure; mathematical (a "singular" point of a function, or a "singular" solution of an equation); phenomenal; historical; and so forth.14 Nonclassically, then, the history of each individual judgment concerning the beautiful or the sublime would be singular and, in relation to this context, random (it may be causal in the context of this individual history), even though collectively they may cohere together into a certain pattern or be (nearly) identical to each other. These circumstances would always pertain to the case of the beautiful or the sublime, but not necessarily otherwise, in which cases we have random, rather than organized, collectivities, while the nature or history of the individual elements involved is equally nonclassical in both types of collective situations. This is why that two types of collectivities, random and organized, may result is essential to the model in question.

  22. It follows that when organization, order, or law apply in organized collectivities comprised by singularities, they apply only at the level of the effects, to the collectivities of effects, involved but not to the ultimate efficacious dynamics responsible for these effects. One could hardly be surprised to encounter random collectivities, whether governed by usual statistical laws (which are quite different from the regularities we encounter in nonclassical cases) or not. By contrast, that the irreducible randomness of individual events may cohere into an order is enigmatic or else paradoxical. One avoids the paradox, although not the enigma, by theorizing the situation in terms of nonclassical epistemology: we do not and cannot possibly know or possibly even conceive of how this is possible. On the other hand, in accordance with the nonclassical view, neither the singular and/as lawless nor, by the same token, nonclassical efficacious processes that produce them as effects (along with ordered collectivities that these singular effects comprise) is seen as something that is excluded from a given domain or a system governed by a singularized collectivity. Neither is seen as an outside or an absolute other of the system, but, joined together, as the constitutive, essential part of it and as fundamentally responsible for its constitution. In conformity with nonclassical theory, we now deal only with certain effects and certain particular configurations of effects, without addressing their (in this context noncausal) histories, which, however, allows us to theoretically handle ordered organizations of singularities. It is worth stressing that it is not merely the question of the impossibility of applying organization or law to the history of certain exceptional individual entities (elements, cases, events, effects and so forth) within a given multiplicity. The history of every individual entity that belongs to an organized collectivity of singularities is not subject to the organization and law involved, or to organization and law in general.15

  23. In some cases, each such (in its emergence) random individual entity may possess a rich structure of its own, possibly in turn governed by a nonclassical organization of singularities, as would indeed be the case in any individual judgment of the beautiful or the sublime. That "inner" structure may, furthermore, become involved in the set-up of the relationships between the individual and the collective, as is, again, the case in assessing each individual judgment of the beautiful or the sublime. The ensuing renegotiation can in turn lead to a reorganization of a given collective negotiation of such judgments, and lead to a new singularized collectivity or make one reconfigure a classical collectivity nonclassically (or, in certain cases, a nonclassical one classically). Leibniz might have spoken of monads here, which may be seen as minimal or atomic (in the original Greek sense of not divisible any further) as thinking entities, even though at least their bodies, if not their souls, may be seen as composite. The essence of monads as thinking elements or atoms in Leibniz remains crucial, however, and is especially pertinent in the present context. The concept of nonclassical organization of singularities may be seen as a critical, post-Kantian, response to or as a nonclassical rereading of Leibniz's monadology, which makes it, if one is permitted so monstrous a term, into "singularology." In contrast to Leibniz's scheme, while the nonclassical efficacious dynamics responsible for collectivities of singularities may produce effects of both types, collectively organized and individually lawless, these dynamics are, by definition, not thought and possibly cannot be thought of in terms of a single underlying governing "wholeness," in relation to which Leibniz places his monads. Nonclassical efficacious dynamics cannot be seen either as single in governing all of its effects or as multiple in the sense of allowing one to assign a specific separate efficacious dynamic to each individual effect. They must, however, be seen as irreducibly multiple in the sense that the efficacious processes involved that give rise to each individual effect are each time different. In other words, as I have indicated, the efficacious dynamics of any given effect is each time as unique, singular as, and reciprocally with, the effect it generates, and yet is, each time, also ultimately inconceivable.

  24. From the nonclassical viewpoint, then, one may offer the following understanding, possibly more radical than Kant aimed at, of Kant's argument that "in their logical quality all judgments of taste are singular [einzelne] judgments," while, at the same time, allowing for a possibility of the universality or at least sufficiently large consensus concerning the beautiful or the sublime. One can establish partial and intermediate links between such judgments and even must do so in order for them to work, even as singular judgments, but especially in the case of the consensus demanded by the beautiful and the sublime, in the cases of which Kant traces experiential (phenomenological, psychological, or social) commonalities that help the consensus. There may, however, be no possibility to theorize either the ultimate efficacious dynamics or/as history of each or, in spite of the commonalities just alluded to, quite their correlations as leading to the beautiful or the sublime. Nonclassical theory would replace "there may be no possibility" with "there is no possibility," at least from within the nonclassical framework that one could apply. On this view, the events in question are irreducibly random, or, given the ascertainable commonalities between them, each involves irreducibly random elements, which elements (rather than only the commonalities) are, nevertheless, also part of the correlations between aesthetic judgments of the beautiful or the sublime. The ultimate character of this organization of, in their separate histories, random events may be bound to be beyond our grasp.

  25. Accordingly, the primary difference between the classical and the nonclassical view of the situation would be as follows. A classical theory of a consensus shaped by and shaping aesthetic judgments, such as those of the beautiful and the sublime, would view the emergence of this consensus in terms of the phenomenological, psychological, or cultural experiential commonalities of its judgment involved. That any aesthetic judgment offering itself to a consensus, for example, as that concerning the beautiful or the sublime must be accepted freely and, hence, could be rejected just as freely, would be handled as follows. This "freedom" would be seen as determined by the phenomenological, psychological, or cultural experiential commonalities, more or less innate and more or less developed (or even enforced through ideological apparatuses of one kind or another), that is, by a certain underlying necessity. This freedom could then be analytically approached classically, even if in terms of unknowable but thinkable things in themselves, which, or the question of freedom in general, is the main subject of Kant's epistemology in the sphere of the human mind. These aspects of the situation are significant and must be taken into account by a nonclassical view of this situation as well, either as part of a nonclassical account (which inevitably involves classical strata) or by way of complementing it with a classical account. Nevertheless, a nonclassical account would see the emergence of this "consensus" as due most essentially to the inscrutable correlations of singular, random judgments, even if the latter are seen in this way only provisionally, due to the complexity of the history and the constitution of each such judgment.16 Even this would be enough to change the shape of the theory. As de Man's work suggests, however, in aesthetics and elsewhere, stronger forms of nonclassicality may be possible or become necessary.

    4. Allegory and Nonclassicality in de Man

  26. De Man's concepts of allegory and irony, and the theoretical models developed by de Man with the help of these and related conceptions may be argued to conform to the nonclassical paradigm in, I would argue, its stronger version. For the claim of nonclassical inaccessibility of the ultimate objects in question in theoretical models developed by de Man appears to extend beyond the inaccessibility by the means of these models and to place absolute limits upon the power of our knowledge and thought, or language, since the question of language plays an essential role in de Man's work. This epistemology was initially developed by de Man, as in "The Rhetoric of Temporality," primarily in the context of literary history by exploring the relationships between more nonclassically oriented allegory and irony, on the one hand, and the more classically oriented symbol, on the other. Even in this earlier work, however, but especially in his later work, this problematic extends well beyond this literary context, important as it remains throughout, while allegory becomes arguably the dominant rubric under which de Man's argumentation is developed. His formulation in "Pascal's Allegory of Persuasion" captures the nonclassical epistemology of allegory in its radical form: "the difficulty of allegory is rather that this emphatic clarity of representation does not stand in the service of something that can be represented" (AI 51). De Man does not say that this something cannot be represented by means of a given allegory; nor does his argument in the article suggest this more limited claim. Instead, he appears to refer to that which is unrepresentable by any means, at least from the viewpoint of the theory, which, as we have seen, may be an epistemologically stronger claim, making the unrepresentable in question unrepresentable even as unrepresentable, unknowable even as unknowable, unthinkable even as unthinkable, and so forth. Accordingly, one might say that the emphatic clarity of representation in allegory stands in the service of something that, while it enables allegory itself and its emphatic clarity, cannot be represented by any means.

  27. It is hardly surprising, in view of the preceding analysis, that the question of singularity and of assemblages of singularities becomes significant in de Man's analysis and especially in his reading of Kant (AI 120). This reading proceeds in part in conjunction with his readings of Kleist, juxtaposed to Schiller and his (mis)reading of Kant, and, perhaps more unexpectedly but logically, Shelley, and de Man, importantly, speaks of the "models" that he has "been developing on the basis of texts," and, one might add, a certain type of texts (AI 132).

  28. Nor it is surprising that the question of history acquires a special significance at this juncture in de Man's work. De Man defines 'history' in terms of allegorical discontinuity in juxtaposition to 'temporality,' at least if the latter is seen, as it is by de Man, in terms of continuity and, hence, classically in the present sense. The discussion, and the very concept, of allegory in "Pascal's Allegory of Persuasion" is linked to this question, via the question of narrative and irony. As de Man says there: "The (ironic) pseudoknowledge of this impossibility, which pretends to order sequentially, in a narrative, what is actually the destruction of all sequence, is what we call allegory" (AI 69). This is a subtle way to look at the situation. This statement implies that allegory in de Man's sense also involves a production of a certain, perhaps pretended, classical configuration, superimposed on a nonclassical assemblage of events (either random or organized nonclassically), which cannot itself be rigorously read classically, except by way of a misprision, blindness, or pretence. The nature of this misprision, blindness, or pretence in relation to the nonclassical dynamics in question must be analyzed, in de Man specifically via the texts, such as Kleist's or Shelley's, which, in de Man's words, "analytically thematize" various aspects, classical and nonclassical, of allegory (RR 122). History in de Man's sense may be seen in terms of nonclassically singular events, as considered here, whereby we are irreducibly and, as de Man stresses, irreversibly deprived of any possibility of conceiving of how these events could be linked and, it follows, theorized as continuous with the ultimate processes responsible for their emergence. Collectively, such events may exhibit certain organizations, either sequentially or in parallel. But this organization, too, is nonclassical and, as such, disallows the possibility of establishing how the (nonclassical) correlations between such events came about. Hence, "the [ultimate] destruction of all sequence," whereby we can, with "(ironic) pseudoknowledge," at most only "pretend" to order this dynamics and this emergence "sequentially, in a narrative." By the same token, while history itself is thus seen in terms of such events, as effects, each of which "has the materiality of something that actually happens, that actually occurs," the nonclassical processes themselves responsible for these events cannot be seen in terms of history any more than in any other terms (AI 132).

  29. De Man describes this view of history most explicitly in "Kant and Schiller." He addresses, first, the irreversibility of the passage from cognitive or tropological to performative, and then invokes a trap into which he had fallen in approaching this concept of history. He says: "When I was asked the other day whether I thought of history as a priori in any sense, I had to say yes to that. Then, not knowing quite into which trap I'd fallen, or what or whether I had fallen into a trap or what's still behind it" (AI 133). "Trap" and "fall" are persistent tropes in de Man's approaches to this problematic. He explains his concept of history itself as follows:

    History, the sense of the notion of history as the historicity a priori of this type of textual model which I have been suggesting here, there history is not thought of as a progression or a regression, but thought of as an event, as an occurrence. There is history from the moment that words such as "power" and "battle" and so on emerge on the scene. At that moment things happen, there is occurrence, there is event. History is therefore not a temporal notion, it has nothing to do with temporality, but it is the emergence of the language of power out of a language of cognition. An emergence which is, however, not itself either dialectical movement or any kind of continuum that would be accessible to a cognition, however much it may be conceived of, as would be the case in a Hegelian dialectic, as a negation. (AI 133)
  30. It follows that the ultimate processes responsible for "events" are radically nonclassical: they are inaccessible, first, by means and in terms of de Man's model in question and, second, beyond this model, in terms of any available or conceivable terms, including in terms of negation of terms, concepts, and predicates. As such they would be inaccessible even as inaccessible, unrepresentable as unrepresentable, unknowable as unknowable, inconceivable as inconceivable, and so forth. Accordingly, the separation in question allows for "no mediation whatsoever," dialectical or other, as de Man further explains in the context of the historical relationships between the performative and the cognitive or the tropological, to which he applies his historical model, including as the model of irreversibility, as considered earlier. "The performative," de Man says, "is not a negation of the tropological. Between the tropological and the performative there is a separation which allows for no mediation whatsoever. But there is single-directed movement that goes from the one to the other and which is not susceptible of being represented as a [continuous or causal] temporal process. That is historical and it doesn't allow for any reinscription of history into any kind of cognition" (AI 133-34).17

  31. The material and cognitive irreversibility of this dynamics is an essential aspect of the situation. The material irreversibility is due to the fact that nonclassical processes are, by definition, irreducibly irreversible in relation to the individual events they produce as their effects, or the nonclassical correlations between such events. In "Kant and Schiller," de Man speaks of "[the] problem of the question of irreversibility, of the reversibility in the type of [nonclassical] models which I have been developing on the basis of texts. And this is linked to the question of reversibility, linked to the question of historicity" (AI 132). It is true of course that history conceived on a classical model is also irreversible in actual sequences of events or occurrences that one considers. The nonclassical irreversibility is more radical epistemologically or cognitively by virtue of the nonclassical nature of the processes responsible for the events in de Man's sense. For, while such processes are responsible for the events in question, they also, in principle, disallow one to trace back—cognitively, rather than only actually, "reverse"—a causal or continuous historical trajectory leading to these events or even to presuppose the existence of such a trajectory, in the way it would be done in classical historical or temporal models. The (nonclassical) models of such situations are, de Man argues, performative, rather than cognitive (AI 132-133). As a result, the question of historical repetition of such events takes the new dimensions as well (AI 133-34). In other words, classically, while we cannot reverse history materially, we can, at least in principle, follow its trajectory back in order to arrange the events in question "sequentially, in a narrative." Nonclassically, this is impossible, and it is this impossibility that leads to irreversible (a)cognition or allegory as "the (ironic) pseudoknowledge of this impossibility," even though the historical events may, in spite of their individual singularity, collectively exhibit certain organizations, sequential or parallel. This organization, however, is nonclassical and, as such, allows for no possibility to represent or even to conceive of, especially in continuous or causal terms (causality is itself a form of conceptual continuity), the processes responsible for this organization, and hence no classical wholeness behind it either. As other nonclassical models, these, too, necessarily involve classical elements or models at the level of effects, in accordance with the analysis given earlier.

  32. This historical model is applied by de Man to the very history of reception of the third Critique and reading (or not reading) Kant from Schiller on, specifically as the history of aesthetic ideology (AI 133-34). These applications carry certain inflections concerning the functioning (cognitive, discursive, cultural, or political) of the notion and practice of historicity and history. Similar moves and inflections are found in de Man's reading of, among others, Rousseau, Kleist and Shelley, where the history of Romanticism is also at stake. These texts are, then, read by de Man as allegories of the processes in question. The model itself is, however, very general in nature. Indeed, it may be applied to temporality (which is given a more continuous meaning at the particular juncture in question) and the rhetoric of temporality as well, as has been done by de Man himself from "The Rhetoric of Temporality" on, or aesthetics and politics, along the lines considered earlier. At the ultimate level, any event is either itself unique and singular in the nonclassical sense or, however ordinary or un-eventful it is or appears to be, is decomposable into the sum of such nonclassical events, whether nonclassically organized or not.18 In this case (the relationships between the classical and the nonclassical may take other forms), any classical organization or a classical view of each event could only be superimposed upon, and is itself an effect, of the nonclassical dynamics governing the situation.

  33. De Man makes his arguably strongest epistemological claim in the famous elaboration closing "Shelley Disfigured." He says: "The Triumph of Life warns us that, nothing, whether deed, word, thought or text, ever happens in relation, positive or negative, to anything that preceded, follows, or exists elsewhere, but only as a random event whose power, like the power of death, is due to the randomness of its occurrence" (RR 122; emphasis added). In the present terms, we may speak of the radical, irreducible singularity and discontinuity of random events, into which any given event or historical trajectory would always ultimately decompose itself, just as, to use a fitting image here, any human body will ultimately do, at least after "death." This decomposition or this death, however, begins much earlier as well, although the effects of death to which we give a particular sense in the context of what we call human existence are of course significant, including as providing a model for other conceptions of death. Life is always death, but death is not always life. As it makes allegory irreducible in any representation, phenomenalization, knowledge, and so forth, death or life-death becomes a model for or, better, an allegory, and perhaps the allegory, of the ultimate structure of every event of life. Given de Man's "definition" of allegory in his essay on Pascal, cited earlier, it would, as elsewhere in nonclassical theory, be difficult to speak of the underlying efficacious dynamics of such random events as itself random, any more than causal, or any more discontinuous than continuous, or, again, in any given or even conceivable terms. At the same time, this view leaves the space to the corresponding effects—such as (these are often parallel) those of randomness and causality or those of discontinuity and continuity, or any other we may or must need, in a way nearly all terms classical theories of the situations in question would use.

  34. Such literary texts as those of Kleist, Keats, or Shelley, or such philosophical texts as those of Kant and Hegel, offer us new—nonclassical—models of singular events or hence of un-patterning, unordering, and unlawfulness, and new ways in which these relate to patterns, order, and law. But are order, organization, or coherence actually possible, given de Man's view of history, literary or other, as just outlined, or, returning to the Kantian situation considered above, in politics? Are they possible in the world, which The Triumph of Life analytically thematizes and in which we must live and die, where ultimately, "nothing [and not only certain things], whether deed, word, thought or text, ever [and not only sometimes] happens in relation, positive or negative, to anything that preceded, follows, or exists elsewhere, but only as a random event whose power, like the power of death, is due to the randomness of its occurrence"? Yes, but with a price, the price that one always pays in the epistemological economy of gains and losses of nonclassical theory. De Man does not close "Shelley Disfigured" with the randomness of death as the final warning of Shelley's poem. Instead, he adds:

    [The poem] also warns us why and how these events [and at bottom the ultimate events constitutive of any event] then have to be reintegrated in a historical and aesthetic system of recuperation that repeats itself regardless of the exposure of its fallacy. This process differs entirely from the recuperative and nihilistic allegories of historicism [or aestheticism]. If it is true and unavoidable that any reading is a monumentalization of sorts, the way in which Rousseau is read and disfigured in The Triumph of Life puts Shelley among the few readers who "guessed whose statue those fragments had composed." Reading as disfiguration, to the very extent that it resists historicism [or aestheticism] turns out to be historically more reliable than the products of historical archeology [or aesthetic ideology]. To monumentalize this observation into a method of reading would be to regress from the rigor exhibited by Shelley which is exemplary because it refuses to be generalized into a system. (RR 122-23; emphasis added)
  35. In accordance with de Man's view of history in "Kant and Schiller," considered earlier, there is a complex stratification, with interactive classical and nonclassical strata, to the historical or, interactively, aesthetico-ideological processes in question. As in de Man's reading of Kant, this multi-component and multi-level machinery is also applied to the history of reading Shelley's poem itself or, via Shelley, Romanticism. All of these are "analytically thematized" by Shelley's poem, which as a reading of (the figure of) Rousseau, among others, and the history of literature and culture, is already a history of Romanticism and reading Romanticism, a nonclassical history and, as such, is more reliable than its classical alternatives. Shelley's reading of Rousseau, especially cum de Man's reading of Shelley (or of Rousseau elsewhere in his work), thus, also transforms into a nonclassical register our understanding of biography as well, or how biography and history are related nonclassically, conjunctively or disjunctively.19 First, then, there is a nonclassical history of singular, random events, "whose power, like the power of death, is due to the randomness of its occurrence." Second, there is, under certain circumstances, a still nonclassical history of organizations of such singular events, or organization of singularities, including a historical organization of them as events. Finally, there is a history, in turn nonclassical, of "reintegrating in a historical and aesthetic system of recuperation that repeats itself regardless of the exposure of its fallacy," in a process that "differs entirely from the recuperative and nihilistic allegories of historicism." In other words, this history is also a (nonclassical) history of the nonclassical processes that give rise to classical forms of historicism as one of its effects. These effects (or other classical elements nonclassical approaches involve) sometimes lead to an ideologizing misreading of the analysis or enactment of these processes in such texts as those of Kant, Hegel, Kleist, and Shelley. It is, then, by this multileveled nonclassical process that a more reliable history, including (as is clear from the passage) in its classical sense may be achieved, and is achieved by Shelley's poem. In other words, by rigorously putting the irreducible "loss" in historical accessibility, representation, knowledge, or conception into play both a greater richness of historical representation, knowledge, or conception and a greater reliability of a "guess" become possible as well. One can of course only speak of "loss" here if one applies a classical concept of representation. For, we also gain in terms of knowledge that now becomes possible and was not possible classically. But then, as de Man's last sentence suggests, each nonclassical reading may itself be unique, singular. The lessons of such texts or of their grouping together are complicated accordingly.

  36. The allegory of the human body in the form of the fragmented statue, introduced at the outset in de Man's epigraph (courtesy of Thomas Hardy) is, again, a decisive vehicle of de Man's analysis (RR 93). The essay also alludes to the body of Romanticism, conjoined with many a dead body found in key Romantic texts, and with the disfigured dead body of Shelley himself (RR 121). I would like, in closing, to link the preceding discussion, via the question of the body, to the question of "linguistic understanding" of Kant's argument on the sublime according to de Man. This understanding brings Kant's third Critique even closer to nonclassical epistemology, at least at the textual level, if not in terms of its logical argumentation (to the degree that we separate these). This, epistemologically more radical, reach of Kant's text is suggested by de Man's reading of Kant's architectonics, via the question of the body, toward the end of "Phenomenality and Materiality in Kant."

  37. We must, de Man says, consider "our limbs," formally, "in themselves, severed from the organic unity of the body." "We must, in other words, disarticulate, mutilate the body" and hence enact "the material disarticulation not only of nature but of the body, … [which] moment marks the undoing of the aesthetic as a valid category" (AI 88-89; emphasis added). Any arrangement of such parts, phenomenological, conceptual, or linguistic is ultimately a form of allegory and is subject to its nonclassical epistemology (with inevitable and indispensable classical effects), just as is the body of a given text, history, or aesthetic field, as discussed above in the context of "Shelley Disfigured." Some of these effects can serve to construct partial and ultimately inadequate (classical) "allegories" of the materiality of the "body" in question, both that of the manifest effects or of the irreducibly inconceivable efficacious processes responsible for these effects. The initial (wherever we begin) "parts" or "limbs" are already such allegories, derived from the classical view, and hence as supplementary as the body itself. Accordingly, a more radical disarticulation and disfiguration (in either sense) of the (un)body is at stake, even at the level of manifest effects. The efficacious processes behind these effects is, again, inaccessible in any way, no more by means of disarticulation, however radical, than by means of articulation. With respect to these processes, the dismemberment and disarticulation in question (at the level of the effects) itself reflects only this inaccessibility, not the character of the processes themselves. This disarticulating dismemberment of the body will be linked to the linguistic understanding of materiality and specifically to the disarticulation of tropes, as indeed the term (figure? trope?) "disarticulation" suggests. De Man's reading of both Kant and Kleist, or, as we have seen, of Shelley, puts this machinery of disarticulation to work. In "Aesthetic Formalization: Kleist's Über das Marionettentheater," de Man, again, proceeds from Schiller:

    I know of no better image of a beautiful society than a well executed English dance, composed of many complicated figures and turns. A spectator located on the balcony observes an infinite variety of criss-crossing motions which keep decisively but arbitrarily changing directions without ever colliding with each other. Everything has been arranged in such a manner that each dancer has already vacated his position by the time the other arrives. Everything fits so skillfully, yet so spontaneously, that everyone seems to be following his own lead, without ever getting in anyone's way. Such a dance is the perfect symbol of one's own individually asserted freedom as well as of one's respect for freedom of the other. (RR 263; emphasis added)20
  38. This is, in present terms, a classical description, and as is such also a classical philosophical concept of political community. Gasché sees de Man's argumentation as a possible, or possibly impossible, alternative to this type of view. According to Gasché, "… the legacy of [de Man's] endeavors consists in attempting to think a notion of community that would not represent a higher whole of relations, whose public stature would not be grounded in a universal form of mediation, and that would escape altogether the dialectic of universality and individuality. It is a formidable task, undoubtedly, at the limit of the possible perhaps, but therefore an assignment for thinking … " (113; Gasché's ellipsis; emphasis added). I would argue that, if this task is to be approached, one way of proceeding is to relate the individual, as unique and singular, and the collective ("community") along the lines of the analysis offered here, and I would also argue that de Man travels rather further on this road than Gasché appears to suggest. The resulting conception is, by definition, non-dialectical, since it is not grounded in the synthesis in which the parts and the whole are harmonized after dialectically negating each other. But, as the preceding analysis suggests, it is more radical and complex than only this.

  39. De Man juxtaposes both Kant and Kleist, especially Kleist's nonclassical allegories (as against Schiller's "symbol" and the classical aesthetical-political ideology it entails) to Schiller's vision, and to Schiller's reading of Kant, along the aesthetic, epistemological, and political lines of singularity and nonclassicality. After a complex analysis, which has to be omitted here, de Man arrives at a dance that is very different from the "strictly-ballroom" dance of Schiller:

    We have traveled some way from the original Schiller quotation to the mechanical dance, which is also a dance of death and mutilation. The violence which existed as a latent background in the story of the ephebe and of the bear now moves into full sight. One must already have felt some resistance to the unproblematic reintegration of the puppet's limbs and articulations, suspended in dead passivity, into the continuity of the dance: "all its members (are) what they should be, dead, mere pendula, and they follow the law of pure gravity." (RR 288)
  40. The invocation of Newton's law of gravity, the paradigmatic classical physical law, is of much interest and significance here. Both the question of the classical laws of physics and, hence, the formalization of nature, are at stake. A more Newtonian Kant, against himself, makes Kleist and (it is easier after Einstein) de Man think beyond Newton, who is about to appear next. I shall return to the question of falling, physically defining gravity.21 De Man writes next:

    The passage is all the harder to assimilate since it has been preceded by the briskly told story of an English technician able to build such perfect mechanical legs that a mutilated man will be able to dance with them in Schiller-like perfection. "The circle of his motion may be restricted, but as for those available to them, he accomplishes them with an ease, elegance and gracefulness which fills any thinking mind with amazement." One is reminded of the protests of the eyeless philosopher Saunderson in Diderot's Lettre sur les aveugles when, to the deistic optimism of the Reverend Holmes, disciple of Newton, Leibniz and Clark, he opposes the sheer monstrosity of his own being, made all the more intolerable by the mathematical perfection of his highly formalized intellect: "Look at me well, Mr. Holmes, I have no eyes. ... The order (of the universe) is not so perfect that it does not allow, from time to time, for the production of monsters." The dancing invalid of Kleist's story is one more victim in a long series of mutilated bodies that attend on the progress of enlightened self-knowledge, a series that includes Wordsworth's mute country-dwellers and blind city-beggars. The point is not that the dance fails and that Schiller's idyllic description of a graceful but confined freedom is aberrant. Aesthetic education by no means fails; it succeeds all too well, to the point of hiding the violence that makes it possible. (RR 288-89)
  41. At stake, then, is the possibility of organization, aesthetic or other, under the condition of the radical singularity and deformity—monstrosity—that are manifest, materially and phenomenally, as effects. De Man further explores the economy of "the mutilated body" in his analysis of the Kantian architectonics in "Kant's Materialism" and "Phenomenality and Materiality in Kant." In a parallel gesture to his essay on Kleist (cited by him), de Man invokes Diderot's Lettre sur les sourds and les muetes in considering the allegorization of the faculties of reason and imagination in terms of both the anthropomorphized dramatic conflict and the sacrificially mutilated body. Then, he proceeds to a reading of Kant's architectonics and its self-de-architectonization in terms of a mutilated body. He writes:

    After lingering briefly over the aesthetic vision of the heaven and the seas, Kant turns for a moment to the human body: "The like is to be said of the beautiful and sublime [found] in the human body. We must not regard as determining grounds for our judgment the concept of the purposes which all our limbs serve [wozu alle seine Gliedmassen da sind] and we must not allow this unity of purpose to influence our aesthetic judgment (for it would not longer be pure)… " … We must, in short, consider our limbs, hands, toes, breasts, or what Montaigne so cheerfully referred to as "Monsieur ma partie," in themselves, severed from the organic unity of the body [or rather of our perception of this unity]. … We must, in other words, disarticulate, mutilate the body in a way that is much closer to Kleist than Winckelman, though close enough to the violent end that happened to befall both of them. (AI 88)
  42. It may be argued that de Man is here moving beyond Kant in the radical degree of disarticulation that he proposes, insofar as Kant suspends only "the unity of purpose," while de Man severs the parts from any organic unity. Indeed, a still more radical linguistic and conceptual disarticulation of such "parts" (as body parts) is at stake. De Man continues:

    … From the phenomenality of the aesthetic (which is always based on an inadequacy of the mind to its physical object, based on what is referred to, in the definition of the sublime, as the concrete representation of ideas—Darstellung der Ideen) we have moved to the pure materiality of Augenschein, of aesthetic vision. From the organic, still asserted as architectonic principle of the Critique of Pure Reason, to the phenomenological, the rational cognition of incarnate ideas, which the best part of the Kant interpretation in the nineteenth and twentieth century will single out, we have reached, in the final analysis, a materialism that, in the tradition of the reception of the third Critique, is seldom or never perceived. To appreciate the full impact of this conclusion one must remember that the entire project of the third Critique, the full investment in the aesthetic, was to achieve the articulation that would guarantee the architectonic unity of the system. If the architectonic then appears, very near the end of the analytics of the aesthetic, at the conclusion of the section on the sublime, as the material disarticulation not only of nature but of the body, then this moment marks the undoing of the aesthetic as a valid category. The critical power of a transcendental philosophy undoes the very project of such a philosophy leaving us, certainly not with an ideology—for transcendental and ideological (metaphysical) principles are part of the same system—but with a materialism that Kant's posterity has not yet began to face up to. This happens not out of lack of philosophical energy or rational power, but as a result of the very strength and consistency of this power. (AI 88-89)
  43. "The pure materiality" inherent in this "aesthetic vision," by the time it reaches this stage, would entail a radical dislocation of any possible representation at the level of the efficacious dynamics of the effects or material (or mental) marks phenomenalized by this vision, let alone any organic, systemic, symbolic, or other unity. This (nonclassical) epistemology and aesthetics or anti-aesthetics are, again, applied by de Man to the text of Kleist's essay itself, as well as to Kant's third Critique, which unexpectedly, but more logically than paradoxically, brought together. Kant's text, too, is now seen in terms of radical textual materiality, structured through "a dismemberment of language." De Man argues that "to the dismemberment of the body corresponds a dismemberment of language, as meaning-producing tropes are replaced by the fragmentation of sentences and propositions into discrete words, or the fragmentation of words into syllables or finally letters" (AI 89; emphasis added).

  44. One, thus, encounters the workings of radical materiality in de Man's sense in the textual working of Kant, or still more radically or at least more deliberately in Kleist and Shelley. This materiality, I argue, corresponds to the nonclassical efficacious dynamics of the effects in question, and the accompanying singularities, constituting and disfiguring in constituting, constituting in disfiguring—both in the body (either as the human body or whenever the signifier applies) and in the text. It would, however, be a mistake to see them as merely mirroring or mapping each other (although this happens, too, sometimes), as de Man's usage of "corresponds" here might suggest, but should not.22 Instead, the following situation obtains. As one approaches the world by way of a text or a (body of the) text by way of reading, one encounters the dismemberment or, we may say, "decoherence" of language—the irreducible and uncontrollable divergence of the meaning of figures, tropes, signifiers, and so forth, of whatever carries meaning. This decoherence, however, signals the irreducible inaccessibility of the efficacious processes that give rise to the body or the text through certain nonclassical configurations of material or phenomenal effects. Accordingly, the (nonclassically) dismembered, decohered language or representation (i.e., the configuration of the corresponding phenomenal effects) does not map or otherwise represent them any more than (classically) "coherent" language and representations do, or a reading represents a text. However, decoherent representations or allegories appear to be better suited to relate to the world and life, and whatever bodies one finds there, or to read the kind of texts in question here.

  45. In de Man, this model is developed "on the basis of [reading] texts," in other words, on the basis of (an enactment of) a decoherence of figures and tropes, or of all language, in a nonclassical text, such as Kleist's, or Shelley's, or Kant's, if in the latter case, against other forces, conceptual or textual.23 This decoherence defines the functioning of virtually all figures and tropes in these texts. They give the materiality of the signifiers a formal structure we encounter in nonclassical theory. Or rather the materiality of the signifier in de Man's sense is this structure, which then requires a very different form of formalization able to handle the organization of singularities, each of which is random if considered in terms of the history of its emergence. De Man writes:

    [W]hen, by the end of the tale, the word Fall has been overdetermined in a manner that stretches it from the theological to the dead pendulum of the puppet's limbs to the grammatical declension of nouns and pronouns (what we call, in English, the grammatical case), then any composite word that includes Fall (Beifall, Sündenfall, Rückfall or Einfall) acquires a disjunctive plurality of meaning.
    C's story of the puppets, for instance, is said to be more than a random improvisation: "die Äeusserung schien mir durch die Art, wie er sie vorbrachte, mehr als ein blosser Einfall." As we know from another narrative text of Kleist ["Über die allmähliche Verfertigung der Gedanken beim Reden"], the memorable tropes that have most success (Beifall) occur as mere random improvisation (Einfall) at the moment when the author has completely relinquished any control over his meaning and has relapsed (Zurückfall) into the extreme formalization [emphasis added], the mechanical predictability of grammatical declension (Fälle).
  46. But Fälle, of course, also means in German "trap," the trap which is the ultimate textual model of this and of all texts, the trap of an aesthetic education which inevitably confuses dismemberment of language by the power of the letter with the gracefulness of dance. This dance, regardless of whether it occurs as mirror, as imitation, as history, as the fencing match of interpretation, or in the anamorphic transformations of tropes, in the ultimate trap, as unavoidable as it is deadly. (RR 289-90)

  47. In introducing "the dismemberment of the body" in "Phenomenality and Materiality in Kant," de Man speaks of the word Glieder in Kant as "meaning members in all the senses of the word, as well as, in the compound Gliedermann, the puppet of Kleist's Marionettentheater" (AI 88). "Fall" is a decisive figure and concept in Kleist, including in defining any stability, formal—linguistic or mathematical—or physical, for example, monumental. It is curious, however, that, perhaps focusing on "The Analytics of the Sublime," de Man missed the Fall-sequence at the outset and setting up, at least at the level of linguistics understanding, of "The Analytics of the Beautiful" and thus the very concept of judgment. The initial sections, in particular, section 5, with which I began here, of the third Critique contain virtually all of these signifiers and hence entail the critical epistemology in question, although one might need Kleist and his reading of Kant (all Kleist's works are readings of Kant) to see it.

  48. On this point, one would need to undertake yet another "Romantic" rereading of Milton's attempt "to justify the ways of God to man" in Paradise Lost, which brings together, now in English, the Fall and judgment, or justice, and the modern post-Copernican world, defined by the incessant fall of planets toward the Sun. It would not be possible to address the subject here or consider the relevant physics, for example, the way gravity bends even light itself, which would bring all these figures and texts together in yet another way. These connections must be relevant to de Man's reading, even if only because from Newton, who is uncircumventable in Kant, to Einstein and beyond they changed our sense of fall or (they are ultimately the same) the world, via Kant, the creator of the first modern cosmology. One would need to reassess the passages on stars and heaven in Kant's "Analytics of the Sublime," which de Man considers in his essays. I shall only comment on the passage on, as it may be called, the galactical colossal, which refers to Kant's cosmology.24 Kant writes:

    Nature offers examples of the mathematically sublime, in mere intuition, whenever our imagination is given, not so much a larger numerical concept, as a large unity for a measure (to shorten the numerical series). A tree that we estimate by a man's height will do as a standard for [estimating the height of] a mountain. If the mountain were to be about a mile high, it can serve as the unity for the number that expresses the earth's diameter, and so makes this diameter intuitable. The earth's diameter can serve similarly for estimating the Milky Way system. And the immense multitude of such Milky Way systems, called nebulous stars, which presumably form another such system among themselves, do not lead us to expect any boundaries there. (CJ 113)
  49. While it may be imagined as the mathematically sublime in nature, this picture is not very likely to correspond to the universe on our present knowledge of it, even though Kant deserves much credit for guessing, arguably for the first time ever, that the Milky Way is merely one of many galaxies in the universe. As we see it now, this picture resembles very little the universe, whatever its ultimate geometry will prove to be, consistent with the data we have The universe, although expanding, may or may not be infinite.25 Instead, it may well prove to be ultimately inconceivable and as such to become "the unfigurable Universe," as Blanchot calls it in The Infinite Conversation: "an unfigurable Universe (a term henceforth deceptive); a Universe escaping every optical exigency and also escaping consideration of the whole—essentially non-finite, disunified, discontinuous" (350). This is a universe or un-universe that cannot ultimately be articulated as a body and, rigorously, has to be allegorized otherwise. Kant's figure can offer only a particular, if also aesthetically universal enough (and boring enough), model. By contrast, the materiality of the actual universe, as it appears to us at the moment, cannot in fact be visualizably presented universally, either as beautiful or as sublime, in part because it may not be presented at all. The sublime, in Kant, appears to correspond to a vision of that which always escapes the architectonic, geometrization, and so forth, while appearing to be available to them. We recall that, in contrast to the beautiful, this vision cannot be seen as having an object, but rather as making such an object impossible. Kant's concept of object, Gegenstand, however, and the overall economy, including political economy of the beautiful would complicate the beautiful as well, to the point of the "material vision" in question in de Man's analysis of the sublime (AI 82). Once made "more intelligible," "understanding [the materiality of the sublime] in linguistic terms" also reveals the un-architectonic un-sublime of the beautiful.

  50. This also amounts to saying that, rather than following Kant's cosmology, we might as well conceive of the universe on the Kantian model of the political, conceived on his aesthetic-epistemological model of aesthetic judgment. This model allows us to bring singularities into an assemblage or, at the human level, assembly and community, if not unity, as the effects of the unfigurable, the unrepresentable, the unknowable, the unthinkable—ultimately unfigurable even as unfigurable, unrepresentable as unrepresentable, unknowable as unknowable, unthinkable as unthinkable. It allows us to do so in spite and because of the radical limit it thus places upon our power of figuration, representation, knowledge, and thought. But it also adds to this power.


Works Cited

Blanchot, Maurice. The Infinite Conversation. Trans. Susan Hanson. Minneapolis, Minn: University of Minnesota Press, 1993.

Bataille, Georges. "Conférences sur le Non-Savoir," 5; "Conférences 1951-1953," Oeuvres Complètes, 12 vols. Paris: Gallimard, 1970-1988.

Deleuze, Gilles. Difference and Repetition. Trans. Paul Patton. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993.

---. The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque. Trans. Tom Conley. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993.

De Man, Paul. Aesthetic Ideology. Minneapolis, Minn: University of Minnesota Press, 1986.

---. Allegories of Reading: Figural Language in Rousseau, Nietzsche, Rilke, and Proust. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979.

---. "The Resistance to Theory." The Resistance to Theory. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990.

---. The Rhetoric of Romanticism. New York: Columbia University Press, 1984.

---. "The Rhetoric of Temporality," Blindness and Insight. Minneaplis, Minn: University of Minnesota Press, 1981.

Derrida, Jacques. "Economimesis." Diacritics 11, no. 3 (1981) 3-25.

---. Margins of Philosophy. Trans. Alan Bass. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982.

---. Of Grammatology. Trans. Gayatri C. Spivak. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974.

---. "Parergon." The Truth in Painting. Trans. Geoff Bennington and Ian MacLeod. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987.

Freud, Sigmund. "The Unconscious." General Psychological Theory: Papers onMetapsychology. New York: Collier, 1963.

Gasché, Rodolphe. The Idea of Form: Reading Kant’s Aesthetics. San Jose, CA.: Stanford University Press, 2002.

---. The Wild Card of Reading: On Paul de Man. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996.

Heidegger, Martin. Nietzsche: Volumes One and Two. Trans. David Farrell Krell. New York: Harper Collins, 1991.

Kant, Immanuel. The Critique of Judgment. Trans. Werner S. Pluhar. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1990.

---. The Critique of Pure Reason. Trans. Paul Geyer and Allen D. Wood. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Lacan, Jacques. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. Trans. Alan Sheridan. New York: W. W. Norton, 1981.

Lyotard, Jean-Francois. The Differend: Phrases in Dispute. Trans. Georges Van Den Abbeele. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990.

---. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Trans. Brain Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985.

Plotnitsky, Arkady. "Algebra and Allegor: Nonclassical Epistemology, Quantum Theory and the Work of Paul de Man." Material Events: Paul de Man and the Afterlife of Theory. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000.

---. The Knowable and the Unknowable: Nonclassical Theory, Modern Science, and the "Two Cultures." Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002.


1 Rodolphe Gasché, in his The Idea of Form: Reading Kant's Aesthetics. Interestingly invokes the idea of the "pre-cognitive" in context.

2 Paul de Man, Aesthetic Ideology. (This work will thereafter be cited as AI).

3 Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Judgment. (This work will thereafter be cited as CJ).

4 I translate Wohlgefallen as "feeling of liking," imperfectly but, I think, less inaccurately than Pluhar's "liking."

5 Jacques Derrida's "Parergon" and "Economimesis" come to mind as possible exceptions, but they do not strictly offer readings of the beautiful either.

6 One could also speak of the proto-cognitive or, along the lines of Gasché's discussion in The Idea of Form, of pre-cognitive processes involved in this model. The epistemological model to be developed in this article and a reading of Kant it implies are, however, different from Gasché's scheme, in part by virtue of bringing Kant and de Man together. It is peculiar that Gasché does not discuss de Man's work, which he discusses at length in his excellent The Wild Card of Reading: On Paul de Man to bear on his reading of Kant. But then, Gasché's reading of de Man, too, diverges from the one to be offered here. Gasché, however, rightly relates all three of Kant's Critiques through the epistemological problematic of the third Critique, which de Man does as well, along the lines of (nonclassical) allegorical epistemology, as discussed here.

7 One can formulate a parallel proposition for the sublime, although in the case of the sublime according to Kant there would be no corresponding object.

8 I refer, in particular, to his discussions in The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, and The Differend: Phrases in Dispute although the problematic persists throughout his work on postmodernity. Lyotard juxtaposes Kant and Hegel in this context, in my view, not altogether justifiably. By contrast, de Man cogently relates Kant and Hegel along these lines, without, however, equating them.

9 A possibly nonclassical view of the ultimate constitution of nature, such as that found in quantum theory, would not change this status of the body, since it is still thinkable, even if not knowable, in these nonclassical terms—unless we consider the body as a quantum system and thus make it nonclassically unthinkable at the ultimate level. In this case, Kant's requirements are still fulfilled at different levels of theory, insofar as concerns the logical structure of our arguments differently or our practical justifications for such arguments, including specifically that for the possibility or necessity of nonclassicality. In a different register, de Man, via his reading of Kant, approaches the nonclassical epistemology of the body and, interactively, language, by dismembering or disfiguring both. For the discussion of the nonclassical epistemology of quantum theory, I permit myself to refer to Arkady Plotnitsky, The Knowable and the Unknowable: Nonclassical Theory, Modern Science, and the "Two Cultures" and, in the context of de Man, "Algebra and Allegory: Nonclassical Epistemology, Quantum Theory and the Work of Paul de Man."

10 See, for example, Sigmund Freud, "The Unconscious," General Psychological Theory: Papers on Metapsychology and Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis.

11 The epistemology becomes classical once such exclusion takes place. This difficulty is one of Derrida's main concerns in "Economimesis."

12 This edition omits the first passage just cited, which is found in Georges Bataille, "Conférences sur le Non-Savoir."

13 On the relationships between this type of (nonclassical) epistemological situation and Heidegger's concept of Being [Sein], on the one hand, and Derrida's own epistemology, on the other, see Derrida's analysis in Of Grammatology, and Margins of Philosophy.

14 This concept of singularity has affinities (although is not equivalent) to that of Gilles Deleuze, introduced by him at the outset of Difference and Repetition and pursued throughout his work. He contrasts the "singular," as that which outside law (physical, moral, or other) and, thus, outside the general, and is subject to "repetition" in his special sense of the term, to the "particular," which is part of the general and subject to law. This scheme, including Deleuze's concept of repetition, could be related to de Man's argument to be discussed here (also via Hegel and, on repetition, Kierkegaard). Deleuze comes closest to the present conception of singularity in his analysis of a kind of phenomenology of monadological perceptions in Leibniz in The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque.

15 As I have indicated, one can also encounter situations that are mixed, that is, organized partly classically and partly nonclassically, and the present analysis could be easily adjusted to accommodate such mixed cases.

16 Under these conditions the very category of consensus becomes problematic. Although differently from the way in which Lyotard argues the case in his debate with Jürgen Habermas, from this perspective, too, the post-Enlightenment ideas and ideals of democracy and consensus may be in conflict rather than, as Habermas wants to argue, in accord with each other.

17 De Man's reading of Hegel proceeds along similar lines rather than, as is more common, strictly along the lines of a continuous model of history.

18 For this and related or similar reasons, "event" becomes a crucial concept in recent theoretical discussion in and following de Man, Deleuze, and Derrida.

19 Both de Man's and Derrida's readings of, and exchanges on, Rousseau involve these problematics as well.

20 The original passage occurs in Friedrich Schiller, On the Aesthetic Education of Man, in a Series of Letters. (Translation is modified by de Man).

21 Cf. also de Man's reading of Keats's The Fall of Hyperion in "The Resistance to Theory," The Resistance to Theory.

22 It is difficult to be certain given the complexities of the concept and the very signifier of "correspondence" in de Man. Cf. Andrzej Warminski's analysis of de Man's reading of Baudelaire's "Correspondances" in "As Poets Do It," in Cohen, et al, Material Events, cited earlier. It would also be instructive to follow de Man's earlier approach to "correspondences" of that type in "The Rhetoric of Temporality."

23 Cf. also de Man's analysis of Nietzsche and Rousseau in Allegories of Reading: Figural Language in Rousseau, Nietzsche, Rilke, and Proust and in "The Epistemology of Metaphor."

24 Derrida closes with this passage his analysis of the third Critique in "Parergon" (The Truth in Painting 147).

25 The sublime, though, is not infinite either, only almost infinite, as Derrida notes in the same section, "The Colossal," in "Parergon" (The Truth in Painting, 119-47).

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