- Heidegger’s Craving Being-on-Schelling
What we call spirit exists by virtue of itself, a flame that fuels itself. However, because as something existing, it is opposed by Being, the spirit is consequently nothing but an addiction to such Being, just as the flame is addicted to matter. The most base form of the spirit is therefore an addiction, a desire, a lust.—Friedrich Schelling, Stuttgart Private Lectures
1. Just Say No
How not to speak of addiction? We know from Derrida that in talking this way we are always asking two overlapping questions, 1 both of which remind us that what is still confusedly called “addiction”—and with it, a host of related concepts ranging from “drugs” and “toxicity” to “dependence” and “simulation”—is perhaps best held open as a question or, rather, in the strange space between two questions, quite possibly more. First, an interrogative: a query that calls for a certain vigilance and responsibility when it comes to thinking about addiction, and that draws attention to the ways in which addiction is figured, the rhetorics or tropologies as well as the knowledges of addiction. Like mourning and longing, Schellingian philosophemes to which it is closely related and to which I will return in this essay, addiction is among other things a figure of understanding, to use Tilottama Rajan’s evocative phrase. 2 As a figure, so the first question goes, “addiction” deserves to be written and to be read slowly, not only for what might be called “political” reasons, which is to say, reasons having to do with the normalizing efficiency that comes of speaking the word too quickly, of claiming to know “who” the addict is as such and “what” it means to be addicted, but also because when it comes to addiction—again, like mourning and longing—we are dealing with a term that is irreducibly allegorical in nature, a term that inevitably says more than it says. One could almost say that “how not to speak of addiction” means “let us try to speak well or properly of addiction, even and especially if this means speaking properly of addiction’s multiple improprieties.” One could almost say this, if “addiction,” understood as a fundamental structure of desire that “holds valid for all possible contents of the world” [Slawney 42], were not precisely that which displaces and disorganizes firm oppositional limits between [End Page 8] propriety and impropriety, as it does between responsibility and irresponsibility, voluntarity and compulsion, delinquency and productivity, sickness and health, the very limits that the medical, juridical, and criminal discourses of addiction often seem most in the service of inscribing and enforcing. But of course the inability unequivocally to speak well (or, for that matter, unwell) of “addiction” in no way suggests that we have nothing to say about it—the collection of papers of which this one forms a small part is proof of that—and this goes to the heart of my second question, not interrogative but rhetorical in kind. “How not to speak of addiction?” also means that there is no way not to speak of it; insofar as addiction names a structure that precedes and exceeds the knowing subject (and is thus “older” than it), that subject is always “speaking” of it, as if answering and answerable to an imperious law, the law of addiction that amounts to an addiction to the law. Addiction there is: that is the strange, anonymous, and always anterior logic of craving, a craving no longer necessarily in thrall to the thought of self-possession and sobriety that Schelling scandalously evokes and explores, and that Heidegger directly pursues in his lectures on Schelling. More: where the human is, so too is “the deepest self-craving [der tiefsten Eigensucht]” [Heidegger, ST 140; 42, 244]. 3 Under these maximally habituated conditions, “how not to speak of addiction?” means that we are not unwilling but incapable of just saying no to a form of radical intoxication. Instead we find ourselves, as ourselves, whether speaking specifically about addiction or not, responding in a kind of passive affirmative to an originary craving, saying yes to addiction even when, in the name of an...