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The Necessity of Contingency Remarks on Linkage1 Plinio Walder Prado, Jr. I N THIS PRESENT AGE, “ what is given to thinking to think is not some deeply hidden underlying meaning, but rather something lying near, that which lies nearest, which, because it is only this, we have therefore constantly already passed over.” 2 The “ something” which Heidegger is speaking of, here, is the nihil, das Nichts, the Nothing. One could perhaps understand the thought of Jean-François Lyotard as a sus­ tained attempt to think, precisely, this “ gift” of the Nothing; a gift which only gives itself in and through failure. This is true whether this thought is concerned with thinking politics, the contemporary arts, or Being—or indeed, the “ going-beyond” of thought itself (that of Heideg­ ger) which is nevertheless concerned with thinking the going-beyond, the forgetting inscribed in all thinking.3 The Differend attempts to approach the question of the Nothing from the perspective of an ontology of sentences (phrases). Indeed, what could be closer (and therefore further, Wittgenstein would say) than a sentence...? From this perspective, the Nothing is thought as the silence or abyss which opens up between the sentence which has taken place and the one which is to arrive; indeed, at the extreme, as the threat that nothing will arrive: “ silence not as a sentence in abeyance, but as a non­ sentence, a non-what [non-quoi]” (D, p. 75). Thought as the with­ drawal, not of the sentence this time, but of its taking-place, of its “ pre­ sentation,” this Nothing is inscribed in the very constitution of tem­ porality. For if time is a category of being (das Seiende, l’étant)—or, in the language of The Differend, if “ time takes place with the before/ after implied in the universes of sentences” —then the giving of time itself (or: “the presentation,” the “that something takes place” ) is not of the order of being, but rather of the question of Being and non-Being. This is to say that the presentation, as “ occurrence,” does not present itself. As Lyotard puts it, “ ‘[a]s such,’ as the what [quoi], it [the sen­ tence] is not in time” (D, p. 75). Or “ Being is not” (D, p. 77). “ How does one link up (one sentence to another)?” This question, which gives rise to the differend and commands The Differend, pro­ 90 Sp r i n g 1991 P ra do ceeds, precisely, from this Nothing, from this “ abyss of non-Being which opens up between sentences” (D, p. 66). Given this “ ontological void” (PM, p. 69), which leaves open and indeterminate the way to link up on the occasion of each sentence, the book attempts to show not only that “ the linking of one sentence onto another is problematic,” but also that “ this problem is the problem of politics” (D, p. 11). It is well known that the question “ How to link up?” has become the issue par excellence of the writing of the arts since the debacle of literary genres and their precipitation into indetermination. Such writing will not concern us from this perspective, however, but rather from the perspec­ tive of the authority which it exercises on philosophical thought itself. More precisely, we will ask the question of how it is that the thought of Lyotard, which simultaneously places and displaces itself under the authority of the question of contingency,4of the Being of non-Being, and which attempts to think “ what happens,” to listen to the event—how it is, then, that this thought comes to meet that of Wittgenstein, to the point, even, of being guided by it. For, is not the thought of Wittgen­ stein—or that of the “ second” Wittgenstein at least—preoccupied with a philosophy of rules, if not of the regularity, of the normativity itself of rules? Is not Wittgenstein’s philosophy, in the end, an anthropology— one which packs philosophy off with such resolution—grounding itself, ultimately, on an institutional state of affairs? Several commentators of Wittgenstein have believed this to be the case and continue to believe so. In the light of these interpretations of Wittgenstein, how, then, can one render the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
pp. 90-106
Launched on MUSE
2017-07-05
Open Access
No
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