under one law, through a withdrawal toward the other. The tragic condition inserts one into a constituted phenomenality, and yet it wrenches one from this through an undeniable (but hubristically denied) allegiance to an other. With regard to an analytic of ultimates, an analogous conflict works upon principles. Their conditions will prove to be as irremediably in congruous, for the singular pull toward my death re moves once and for all thetic reason from the coercive lights of the universal. The excess of a nocturnal knowledge in day light, which defined the tragic hero (Oedipus, blinded, “has perhaps an eye too many. . . . To live is death, and death also is a life”2), has become our own excess. We owe it to the kenosis, to the emptying out of normative representations. As we know, tragedy opens after disasters have already oc curred, and nothing is left to be shown but the conditions that precipitated them. In Greece such a knowledge historically preceded all doctrines of principles, and it is still necessary for us to retain it as the knowledge of a transgressive counter-strategy at work in every strategy that legislates simply. The ultimate is not simple; at the origin of everyday experience we know—though only dimly—disparate functions. There is no reconciliation between the ultimates of the universalizing impulse and the singularizing withdrawal. It will be a matter of examining how, from under the most solid normative constructions, the tragic pierces through. Pathei mathos, “to suffer is to understand.”3 How does this singularization that is suffered torment a posited sovereign?

The historical investigation therefore will only make sense if through it one fathoms tragic being.

“There, that mountain! There, that cloud! What in them is ‘realʼ? Merely eliminate from them the fantasm of any human addition, you sober ones! If only you could!”
—F. Nietzsche4

To eliminate the fantasm so as to leave nothing but “there, that mountain, there, that cloud,” seems impossible to us. In the following analyses I take Nietzsche literally; for us the “real” would slip away along with the fantasm. What, then, is at stake in the fantasmic “addition” and in every sobering elimination? Could it be life?

These analyses are first of all his tor i cal. They take up a debate, more than a century old, concerning epochs and the thresholds that separate them. But rather than constructing the ages and their transitions—moments of objective Spirit, constellations of the veiling and unveiling of being, epistemological apparatuses of knowledge/power—I thought it useful to read the languages that Western philosophy has spoken since its birth. At their best, philosophers have made an effort not to be carried away by the fad of the day that passes for common sense; no thought, however, has ever resisted being carried away by its own language. Far from mastering a language, concepts live on it; they are born of words. Hasnʼt each of our historical idioms al ways instituted its own fantasmic reality? I have asked myself which have been, concretely, those human additions of which Nietzsche speaks. Might they al ways come down to a certain organization of nouns linked in one way or another to the predominant languages? Would “reality” then exist in a Greek, a Latin, a modern vernacular? And might it be this by giving birth to the centuries that spoke those languages and relied upon common nouns as if upon courts of ultimate authority that are essentially self-evident? It will be necessary, if such questions merit consideration, to define epochs by means of the fantasmic organization instituted by a language.

Reiner Schürmann - Broken Hegemonies