9 General Introduction

stipulates serious responsibilities. A professional philosopher does his duty by using reasonings to excavate a knowledge concealed in each of us, a knowledge against which the darts of doubt strike and bend back as against a rock. The only condition for his expertise securing unanimity is that he tell us in plain language what we already know, but only obscurely, since we speak in common nouns. And this unanimity will have the air of a thing that goes without saying. More over, whoever believes that this mission has become obsolete today is helplessly deluding himself. Both the political left and right contrarily arrogate to themselves the task. The right, positing heteronomous authorities anchored in the past (“great books” in the manner of Leo Strauss,13 institutions), strives for a rehabilitation of natural teleology. A certain left, positing future authorities that emanate from autonomy (for example, a community emancipated from communicative distortions), strives to validate arguments for the Letzbegründung, for precisely those ultimate foundations. The mission of these professionals is still to maximize the fantasmic work of everyday language. They pro mote the koinon to the level of a normative instance* capable of consoling the soul and consolidating the city.14

How is one to describe the result of this maximization, the ultimate “human addition” to phenomena? It makes an immortal halo of peace shine on them, according to a citation from Aristotle; literally a universal peace, turning phenomena toward the one. It works to focus them. It centers lines of force—strategies of speaking, lifeʼs inner dependencies—on a steady focal point. It imposes a standard meaning of being. Therefore it is impossible to describe it in the way that one describes a being; it is rather a matter of showing the mode of operation of such an epochally varying point to which all phenomena must be related if they are to have a meaning. It names, as the term for normative relations, the ultimate “reality” that makes the given singulars conceivable and in which their singularity is engulfed. It imposes on them an arch-violence. Arch-, because what is posited could not be an ultimate unless it subsumed under itself every thing that may become a phenomenon; violence, be cause it bans from the philosophical confines all bearers of proper nouns (“Solon” and “Moses” are not definable, no more than are the objects of demonstratives such as “this” and “that”; the class in which we arrange them, however, is definable—in the present instance, “legislators”). In Platonic terms, in order for the various hypotheses of knowledge to have the force of regional principles, an anhypothesis must ground them which is not regional nor, in its turn, grounded.

The denaturation by subsumption thus inflicted on phenomena requires a very careful retracing. It is a denaturation in which an ultimate singular found to be the case is transmuted into an instance of a completely other ultimate universal. This “other,” this alterity without a common noun—that is what is at stake in the doctrine of principles that is re-examined on the basis of the analytic of ultimates.

The term “subsumption” implies sub mission to some archic figure, a figure that conditions but is itself unconditioned, one which may not be subsumed or submitted to a still more archic thesis; it is an an-archic figure. Does this word, in its received

* The French instance has many of the same senses as does the English ‘instanceʼ: ‘example,ʼ ‘representative,ʼ and ‘instanceʼ as well as the temporal sense of ‘moment.ʼ However, it also has the sense of ‘authority.ʼ Several of these meanings are often simultaneously at play in Schürmannʼs text, especially when predicated with normative or dernière (‘ultimateʼ).

Reiner Schürmann - Broken Hegemonies