Nancy, Violence and the World

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  • We tend to think of violence as something that happens within the world, as something done by a thing, a being or an existent, to another thing, being or existent. But what would it mean to speak of the violence done to the world or, inversely, of the violence done by the world? Are there ways in which an existent, a being, can do violence, not to another existent, but to the world within which all such existents come to presence? Reciprocally, is there a sense in which the world itself presents itself as sort of primordial or originary violence? Of course, answering these questions, or gesturing towards the possible link between violence and world, requires that we clarify what is meant here by “world.” I want take up the question of the link between violence and world from a very specific angle: the thought of the world developed by Jean-Luc Nancy in the wake of Heidegger. This choice might at first seem somewhat arbitrary but I think that the question of violence and its relation to the world imposes itself within the economy of Nancy’s ontology in two quite striking ways. First, there is something about Nancy’s thinking of Being-with, exposition and world that seems to exclude all connections with violence. After all, for Nancy, finitude is linked not to limitation but to a generosity or liberality of Being, and the experience of freedom offers itself not in the confrontation or conflict between a plurality of existents exercising their absolute freedom but rather in an experience of the spaciosity of world.1 Such claims might lead one to attribute a certain optimism, if not even a certain naivety, to Nancy’s thought: the world, as the free space in which existents come to presence and expose themselves—or “space themselves out”—is a generous and spacious opening that can be affirmed immediately and without reserve.2 At the same time, the first impression left by Nancy’s “generosity” and “spaciosity” only makes the question of violence more urgent: Is violence to be understood merely as a purely empirical event that would leave the generosity of being or the spaciosity of the world unaffected? Part of what I want to show in this article is that such a first impression is mistaken: there is at the bottom of Nancy’s ontology a certain originary violence.

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    Article (Published)
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    Attribution-NonCommerical-NoDerivs 4.0 International
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    • Morin, M.-E. (2013). Nancy, Violence and the World. Parrhesia: A Journal of Critical Philosophy, 16, 61-72.
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