At the end of Heidegger on Being and Acting: From Principles to Anarchy (286-89), Reiner Schürmann explicates four “Consequences for the Direction of Life.” This is to comment on some punctual sites in the explanation with no pretense of exhaustivity but with a view to establishing their possible productivity for infrapolitical thinking.
- Schürmann mentions a “heuristic” function in Being and Time’s concentration on “everyday activities” in view of the need to establish a “fundamental ontology.” But “there is another priority of praxis in Heidegger, which appears as early as in Being and Time and which remains operative throughout all of his work: to retrieve the being question from the point of view of time, a certain way of life is required. To understand authentic temporality, it is necessary to ‘exist authentically;’ to think being as letting phenomena be, one must oneself ‘let all things be;’ to follow the play without why of presencing, it is necessary ‘to live without why.’ Here the priority of praxis is no longer heuristic . . . According to the mainstream of the metaphysical tradition, acting follows being; for Heidegger, on the other hand, a particular kind of acting appears as the condition for understanding being as time. Here praxis determines thinking. In writings subsequent to Being and Time, it is suggested that this praxis is necessarily of a political nature” (287)
This second (non-heuristic) priority of praxis is fundamental to the infrapolitical constellation, which emphasizes it and names it “existential.” A praxis of existence—not a politics, not an ethics, certainly not a disciplinarization or institutionalization of existence—opens the way to infrapolitical reflection to the very same extent infrapolitical thought cannot be premised on anything but a specific relation to existence. Whether Heidegger himself indicated the possible political relevance of this existential understanding of praxis is probably irrelevant for infrapolitics, but it may not be irrelevant regarding the fundamental thrust of Schürmann’s interpretation. There is, in the attribution to the late Heidegger of a (reluctantly) “anarchic” political drift, an assumption I would not share: that changes in thinking, in order to be relevant, are necessarily epochal (even if, at a certain point, under the hypothesis of the closure of metaphysics, their epochal stance would mark, according to Schürmann, the end of epochality, the end of epochal history), and, as epochal, they reach and affect and shape and force the compliance of the totality of the political collectivity as such. For Schürmann “anarchy,” on his terms, is not the singular choice of a thinker but rather the offspring of the contemporary economy of presencing with which the (contemporary) thinker should comply. Anarchy would be a “nomos” at the end of principial (metaphysical) epochs. “The nomos or injunction always and everywhere determines the oikos, the abode of man” (235). There is a certain ultimate incoherence in claiming both that thinking presupposes a particular exercitium that belongs to the thinker’s singular existence and that thinking only lives through attunement with a nomic or temporal presencing that affects everyone.
- “Being can be understood as time only through its difference from history. The investigation into the concrete epochs and their regulation is what binds the later Heidegger’s phenomenology to experience. Since this is, however, not an individual’s experience, the issue of phenomenology proves to be political in a broad sense. An economy of presence is the way in which, for a given age, the totality of what becomes phenomenal arranges itself in mutual relations. Any economy is therefore necessarily public” (287)
The politicality of epochs has to do with the fact that epochs force an order of the visible (things, words, actions) into an order of domination. Principial epochs guarantee the domination of the principle as hegemonic domination (at the time of modernity subjectivism dominates hegemonically, and so forth, and it dominates all orders of existence: politically as well as philosophically or artistically, etc.) But Schürmann’s distinction between history and time prepares his affirmation of an end of epochal history that opens the visibility of presencing as non-domination. At the end of the cycle of principial epochality, where we hypothetically are (this is the closure of metaphysics), the thinker can move or prepare the way for anarchy as non-domination. But the politicality of the thinker is then either prophetic or it has the character of a historical vanguard. In both cases it appears as messianic, as it incorporates and enables a promise (the “early” correspondence of the thinker, as response to an unconcealing presencing, is a commitment to and an announcement of a general dispensation to come). Infrapolitics prefers to consider posthegemony as the deconstruction of all political legitimation, including the preparatory, anticipatory, or transitional legitimation of a purported, posthistorical economy of presencing of universal reach. Infrapolitics gives up on preparatory thinking as it refuses the distinction between history and time.
- “The hypothesis of closure results from the reduplication ‘will to will’ substituting itself for the difference ‘being and entities.’ Enframing, then, is not like any other principle. It is transcendence abolished. Total mechanization and administration are only the most striking features of this abolition and reduplication, of this loss of every epochal principle; a loss that, as Heidegger suggests, is happening before our eyes” (288).
For Schürmann technology would be “the age without a beyond” (285) that terminates the epochal cycle, the history of being. He claims that, at the end of the epochs, “originary time” resurfaces into a presencing no longer to be understood as the constant presence of the metaphysical dispensation. Responding to originary time—the worlding of the world, the thinging of the thing—is what the thinker today prepares: “to think is to follow the event of presencing, without recourse to principial representations” (286). But the withering away of epochs needs not be thought as the welcoming of an unepochal dispensation, about which we know nothing and we experience nothing others may not have also known and experienced in any of the previous transitional times. Infrapolitics is an intraepochal affirmation of “simple dwelling” in the here and now, not a “step into the blue” (284) at the abyssal end of the history of being.
- “Poein kata phusin . . . Thinking is essentially compliant with the flux of coming-to-presence, with constellations that form and undo themselves. To think is to follow the event of appropriation, to follow phuein” (289).
Schürmann proposes two master terms for such a compliance: non-attachment and releasement, both taken from Heidegger in specific reference to Meister Eckhart. There is certainly a difference between submitting to ordering principles and “acting according to presencing,” in compliance with the worlding of the world and the thinging of the thing. But who guarantees the public, collective, universal compliance with the second under the guise of the (transitional) principle that there are no principles? A second-order hegemony, in this case presumably guaranteed by the thinkers and the poets to come, is no better than the pedestrian economy of the principle. Infrapolitics prefers the suspension of compliance, not out of any fundamental suspicion towards the mysterious dispensations of the fourfold, rather out of a fundamental suspicion of its interpreters. Letting-be is infrapolitically to be thought as existential releasement for the sake of a radical attachment to the free singularity of existence.