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Step (Not) Beyond Marc Froment-Meurice A S A FIRST STEP, a point (not) of departure, let’s stop at the title —pas au-dela (step/not beyond).1It will probably be necessary to renounce trans-lating, passing, stepping beyond, overstepping. For if language, as Hölderlin said, is that which is most dangerous, this is indeed a dangerous passage. What does it mean to pass not only from one language to another, but across language itself, to pass through the word pas (signifying step or not), for example? There, one does not simply pass, as from one bank of a river to another, from what would be called “ signifier” to that which would be its unique and transcendent sig­ nified. This passage itself, the effacement of the signifier for the benefit of the signified that could alone “ properly” signify, does not come to pass: for example (but is it a simple example?), what does one signify in uttering the word “ being” (and it is first of all a word inscribed in a specific language, Greek)? If the signifier “ being” is incapable of signi­ fying anything—this is the original a-poria, the stop in stepping—, even though at the same time the signified seems to “ be” self-evident, all of Metaphysics rests upon an abyss. Therefore, before taking this step and passing to the signified of this “ step (not) beyond,” we will have to question the meaning of the passage itself, a regressive question that does not, however, return to anything already there, and not to a simple past. All of Heidegger’s steps could be read in this step backwards (Schritt zurück). But (walking always being a passage from one foot to the other) we must also go beyond, beyond overstepping (including the overstepping that is metaphysics) and wrong­ foot the title, hearing it with another ear, as an injunction imposing a limit: not (“pas”) beyond! To be or not to be, to step or not to step? That would be the question. However, it is not a question of metaphysics here, but of aesthetics. Is this a real “ issue” ? In my own language, I would have to answer no: pas d ’issue, not an issue/no way out, or a Holzweg. Aesthetics is a dead end that would speak the final word of a history that would speak and be, so to speak, the end of the Word. But what is aesthetics? The word, recently invented (at the end of the eighteenth century), is first of all a scholarly term translated literally Vol. XXXV, No. 3 5 L ’E sprit C réateur from the Greek. From the beginning, mimesis, the imitation of nature, but here, of a dead language, presides over its destiny. A Fremdwort, a foreign word, in it nothing is original, so that it is difficult to know to whom to restore it. It cannot be returned to the original Greek, where aistheticos (an adjective first, not a noun) has nothing to do with Baude­ laire’s Curiosités esthétiques-, for it does not particularly relate to beauty but refers rather to sense or understanding: the “aesthete” understands, has a feel for the situation, is astute and finds the right word for things. Discerning, sifting, like a sieve that separates the wheat (le froment) from the chaff, he is, in short, a critic—or a philosopher, which comes down to the same thing, depending on the point of view (and theory makes a point of the very “idea” of viewing: theorem). But as a noun designating the “ aesthetic science” (just as logic is the logikè epistemè), aesthetics is a metaphysical invention. If the word is modern, the thing itself which the name “aptly” denominates is, Heideg­ ger writes, “ as old as the consideration on art and the beautiful in West­ ern thought.” 2In order to avoid any ambiguity concerning this antiquity (which, for him, is a condition of authenticity), he adds that “ philo­ sophical consideration of the essence of art and the beautiful even begins as aesthetics” (N19). Even if the word did not exist, the thing was there; what is more, it was there as such. And it is not at...


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