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‰ Alphonso Lingis Foreword: Why Bataille Now? Philosophy’s founding texts, in Greek antiquity, had and have for philosophy a relevance the founding texts of the scienti¤c disciplines do not have; the ultimate issues seem to have been addressed in them from the start. They were long studied with the reverence and hermeneutic sophistication that theologians devoted to Sacred Scripture. With Hegel, philosophy becomes the self-consciousness of history; since Hegel, what is demanded of philosophy is that it give an account of itself. Philosophy moves by turning back on its own texts. The meaning of any text one produces depends on the context; the state of the debate in which it intervenes depends on the prior texts it questions, repudiates, or extends. While research in the scienti¤c disciplines means assemblage of facts and testing of hypotheses, the research required of candidates seeking to enter the academic profession of philosophy means philological, hermeneutic, and critical commentary on texts recognized to exist in the canon of philosophy. Since the meaning of a philosophical text is taken to be multiple, and it multiplies further with each new historical context in which it is read once again, ever more philosophical “research” will be produced. The new information technology promises to aggravate this situation : all the texts will be instantly available on the Internet, but have yet to be assembled, situated in evolving galaxies of interpretive contexts. In this situation what Georges Bataille meant by philosophy appears singularly unassimilable. For him philosophy arises out of experience, indeed is experience. The philosophic wonder is not bent over philosophic texts, but like inquiry in the empirical and social sciences, it is turned upon the outlying environment, the physical and biological world, outer spaces. It crosses the boundaries between disciplines, holds in view what different disciplines uncover and formulate about the same complex entity, situation, or viii alphonso lingis event. For Bataille, to practice philosophy was to scrupulously attend to the empirical researches of physical and cultural anthropology, studying archaic sexual practices and ancient religions, contemporary political science and economics, and the ¤ndings of neurology, physical dynamics, and astronomy. We employ a great deal of cerebral energy in acquiring the relevant information and applying the paradigms to problems, and indeed the information age promises to force us to do so ever more. We also re¶ect on our experience . And this we consider to be really thinking. For Bataille, philosophical research on philosophical texts was philosophy only in the measure that it is tested by, and that it illuminates, the thinker’s experience. But this experience itself is of little interest if it is only the experience of an academic. Experience must go further, deeper, become more intense, must go to extremes if it is to illuminate more than what is commonly known. Bataille withdrew into rural seclusion with his tubercular debility and depression. Pushed to the depths of despair, he gave himself over to psychotropic addiction and pursued the methods of ecstasy of ancient and foreign mystics, engaged his Catholicism to the point of preparing for the priesthood, explored atheism by writing blasphemies, and explored sexuality in thousands of sexual encounters and orgies, making the brothel his temple. With extraordinary intellectual power, Bataille forged new concepts and tracked down originations, evolutions, con¶uences, and ¤nalities in outlying regions of empirical observation and experimentation and in depths of inner experience. While biology continues to conceptualize a living organism as open to its environment and driven in its displacements and initiatives by lacks and need, Bataille found in his survey of organisms from the most simple to the most complex a production of energy in excess of what the organism needs, energy that has to be discharged. In his investigations of human economic systems from those of hunter-foragers, nomads, and sedentary agricultural societies to feudal, mercantile, and industrial societies , Bataille found that even societies with the most rudimentary equipment produce luxury products, that all economic systems tend to produce excess beyond what answers to needs or even wants. The disposal of this excess production is an ever more critical problem in the measure that economies acquire more resources and more powerful technological equipment. Bataille linked the devastating wars launched by the technologically advanced societies of the twentieth century to the problem of excess production inherent to their economies. His explanations are of decisive importance today, when the received theory is that the globalized competition of overheated productive economies will force societies to be regulated by democratic...


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