Exscription

A Fragment

2019-06-14

… The otherwise that is given within the totalized and totalizing world-machine can be described with a term coined by Jean-Luc Nancy: exscription. Nancy employs this term to read the nullity (the thrownness, projection, or no-thingness) of Heidegger’s Dasein: being-in-the-world as the being that is always already ahead of itself, that “always understands itself … in terms of its possibility to be itself or not to be itself,” but is not merely itself in the manner of an object, of an objective, self-identical presence.1 Nancy writes:

The “fact” that there is being—or some being, or even beings … is what provokes all possible meanings, this is the very place of meaning, but it has no meaning [always generating, never possessing]. To write, and to read, is to be exposed, to expose oneself, to this not-having (to this non-knowledge) and thus to “exscription” … writing’s opening, within itself, to itself, to its own inscription as the infinite discharge of meaning.2

Temporality, meaning, is no thing to be grasped, does not exist in the manner of thingliness at all. As we “inscrib[e] significations” we “exscribe the presence of what withdraws from all significations, being itself … the nakedness of existence.”3 Temporality as the meaning of being is “a jouissance so absolute that it arrives at its own joy only by losing itself in it, spilling into it, so absolute that it presents itself as the absent heart (the absence that beats like a heart) of presence.”4 Exscription is the movement by which being “discharges itself, unburdens itself, empties itself of itself,” a kenotic movement that is itself “the heart of things.”5 This is to say that the fundamental movement of being is a kind of writing, a writing as opening within and to its own movement, a movement which, to be clear, we can call by the name of time.6 The inscriptive work that constitutes our everyday labour (the structure of the workshop as significance) always points back to an exscriptive “cry that is not heard,” a cry that is always before each and every signifying project: the resonant hum of time, the sheer silence calling each and every innerworldy being into its own.7

This otherwise does not yet give us a politics, no plan for concrete counteraction against the world-machine. Such a politics is now, for me, something to be performed in (as) its writing, a task for my hands as much as for my mind. This work is necessary, but it is a labour in a different mode from that with which I am familiar. “[L]ife, passion, matter”—these are left for me.8 These will be my politics.

I retreat, I withdraw, leaving no “assembled body of work made communicable, interpretable,” but only “the stumbling insistence … of an inscription of finitude,” an inscription that always exscribes that which withdraws, that which hides, that which has always already come before, the “unemployable, unexploitable, unintelligible, ungroundable being of being-in-the-world,” the “surprise and freedom of being in exscription”9—this infinitely joyous, perfectly common existence.


Notes

  1. Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. Joan Stambaugh, rev. Dennis J. Schmidt (New York: State University of New York Press, 2010), 11. 

  2. Jean-Luc Nancy, The Birth to Presence, trans. Brian Holmes, et al. (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1993), 338-9. 

  3. Nancy, The Birth to Presence, 339. 

  4. Nancy, The Birth to Presence, 339. 

  5. Nancy, The Birth to Presence, 339. 

  6. An act—that is, naming—which, if we are to follow Nancy, always calls itself into question by virtue of the self-exceeding, self-emptying quality of what is

  7. Nancy, The Birth to Presence, 339. 

  8. Nancy, The Birth to Presence, 339. 

  9. Nancy, The Birth to Presence, 338-39.