File spoon-archives/blanchot.archive/blanchot_1999/blanchot.9903, message 73

Subject: RE: MB: Concepts
Date: Thu, 18 Mar 1999 00:18:00 +0000

Again in response to Leslie's further statements about concepts.  Don't   
concepts from one discourse sound paradoxical in other discourses?   
 Perhaps discourse is not the right word here.  For example Kant's   
synthetic a apriori makes no sense either for rationalism or empiricism,   
but is it not a concept.  Is not philosophy an invention of concepts?   
 Why cannot not be the case that words like other, night, neuter and   
disaster are concepts in this sense.  They only appear not to be concepts   
if one accepts that what we mean by concepts is Hegelian concepts.  Now   
it is clear that Blanchot thinks that philosophy is Hegelian, but should   
we follow him in this regard?  Again to use Deleuze as an example.  He is   
not an Hegelian, and whether rightly or wrongly, he sees much of his work   
as an attack on dialectical thinking.  And yet he is still a philosopher   
isn't he?

A few more brief reflections.  Well-heeled concepts is just ossified   
philosophy.  Proper philosophical thinking is always open to the   
incompleteness of the concept.  Is this not the difference between mere   
concepts and ideas in the Kantian sense?

One argument you have against thinking the outside as non-conceptual is   
that it is not spatial, but non spatiality cannot be the mark of   
non-conceptuality or non-philosophy, since already in Being and Time,   
Heidegger has given a phenomenological description of existential space,   
which is not thinkable in terms of inside and outside, but as time.  Is   
the outside an existential rather than a categorical expression?   
 Blanchot does have arguments against existential arguments, but why   
aren't these philosophical?

Even if I say that words are more than concepts, is this is not a   
philosophical thought?


 -----Original Message-----
From: leslie hill []
Sent: Wednesday, March 17, 1999 1:03 PM
To: blanchot
Subject: Re: MB: Concepts

At 20:08 16/03/99 +0000, you wrote:
>I' m interested why Leslie does not think words such like neuter,
>outside, or disaster are not concepts.  Is this because we have certain   

>concepts about concepts that would not permit these words to belong to   

>conceptualisation?  I feel there is something right about what Leslie
>says, and yet at the same time I worry that if we give up the concept of   

>concepts altogether that we are left with silence and mysticism.  But
>perhaps this is a false opposition of conceptual thought itself?

I had several things in mind when I made that point.

First, what Blanchot (as I read him) is seeking to address with his use   
such terms as the other night, the outside, disaster, and so on, is a
movement that (with all the appropriate precautions) can 'properly' only   
described as 'pre-conceptual'.  The other night, for instance, is that
which precedes the dialectical couple of night and day, which it makes
possible, but which it also exceeds and fissures, and to that extent   
impossible too, at least to the extent that the dialectic of night and   
claims total coverage of the phenomenal world.  (The same argument can be
made about death in Blanchot: death in Blanchot is that which makes   
and language possible but at the same time also makes them impossible.)
Something which resists conceptual formulation in this way obviously   
be a concept, even if the discourse Blanchot uses (and, more to the   
the one I'm using here) means that these various terms inevitably become
assimilated to thought as though they were concepts (and the same also
applies to the temporal register of the argument about the other night   
above.  The other night escapes temporality, but it is very hard to find   
form of words that says this without falling into the trap of the   
once more).  Though the other night, say, ends up behaving as a concept   
my discourse, it would be more accurate to treat it simply as a name:
albeit a name for that which properly (improperly) has no name and   
naming (like the name of the Most High in the novel of that name).  To
treat it as a name is to treat it as having a singularity that it cannot
have if it's to be a concept (as least in the Hegelian sense of that   
and which, like the viens, or come, in Death Sentence (about which   
has written so much), is simultaneously necessary and contingent.

Secondly, if one looks again at Blanchot's writing, it becomes clear, I
think, that words such as the other night, or disaster, etc, do not serve
as ways of analysing phenomena (which might be one of the roles of a
well-constituted concept), but as ways of responding in various singular
contexts to the irreducibility (unthinkability, even) of what is being
explored.  All these terms necessarily function in Blanchot in the   
of any properly constituted, well formed conceptual system.  Blanchot's
outside, for instance, does not belong to any properly constituted
spatiality; for instance it cannot become an inside, which is why it's   
to see it as referring to phenomenality in general.  And if one attempts   
use the term diasaster as part of a conceptual system it becomes plain   
it does not get you very far!  Moreover, Blanchot himself has always been
scrupulous about ringing the changes on such terms by shifting them   
(this is a trait he shares with Derrida).  Desoeuvrement (worklessness),
for instance, which is prominent as a key term in the 1950s, soon gives   
to absence d'oeuvre, which in turn gives way to the neutre or to   
It's obviously important to prevent these terms turning into well-heeled

Thirdly, let me just endorse William Flesch's remarks about Blanchot's
distaste for the Hegelian Begriff and all that is implicit in the   
of grasping, seizing, appropriating, and incorporating.

One final point.  It's  important to emphasise in all of this that the
relationship to the outside in Blanchot can only ever be oblique.  I can
but agree, then, that the choice between concepts or mystical silence is
already a false choice.  Silence itself is already a part of language,   
would not exist without it.  Blanchot's contention, I guess, is that
writing speaks the silence in language, and that by writing what we do is
to respond in language to that which is outside of language, which is
another way of saying (in Levinas's formulation) that every text contains
more than it is able to contain.  In other words, concepts are not all.   
they were, there would be no concepts.



Driftline Main Page


Display software: ArchTracker © Malgosia Askanas, 2000-2005