Apoco-elliptic Thought in Modern Japanese Philosophy
Jacques Derrida1 has recently installed a tracking system alerting us to the aporetic operations of secrecy. He suggests we locate the secret as something that in its essence loves to hide and cut itself off. The Latin etymology of "secret" is secernere, signifying that which is separated, fully differentiated, and held in reserve. The French mettre en secret can be similarly decoded as being put in solitary confinement. My analysis begins with the query: Does the fact of the secret "doing time" produce for the secret a determinate essence in space as one of its effects? This would seem not to be the case, because for the secret to open itself to the exposure of transmission and iterability necessary for representation, it must of necessity lose itself. I explore the secret, in the sense of clandestine, in the work of two modern Japanese philosophers, Kuki Shuzo and Tanabe Hajime.2 In the Heideggerian register privileged by these thinkers, the existential freedom the secret must be opened to can only rob it of its clan-destinal essence.
In examining Kuki and Tanabe, I metaleptically trope this being clan-destined into being destined-for-the-clan, which is one of the readouts for the secret: the Sino-Japanese character voiced tane in Japanese means both the seed of racial/genetic stock and secret. To decrypt my thesis too soon, I'll trace the etymological determination in Japanese of the secret as clandestined. That's to say that the operational logic of clan-destination will come to determine the ethno-racial clan as possessor of its self-same secret identity and purity, cerned (set apart) from the contaminants of Others. Next, I will briefly identify how this transfer is textually mobilized - albeit contradictorily and with crucial tensions that can be read productively - in two of the major works of Japanese philosophical modernity: Kuki's 1930 text "Iki" no kôzô (The Structure of Japanese Epistemo-Erotic Style) and Tanabe's 1935-1938 text Shu no ronri (The Logic of Species).
The covert operations of the secret in these Japanese texts demand a reconfiguration of the secret as that which is not the sole possessor of an encrypted self-same national essence. Instead, following cryptological protocols, it is an essenceless essence that demands a reconfiguration of the secret as the event of a singular existence, dispossessed of any identity. Essentially lacking, the cultural vigilantes obsessed with preserving the false self-same essence of the secret and legislating its security clearance can't prevent the transformations it must undergo in its movement out of its cryptopos, the hideout misrecognized by cultural preservationists as origin and ground. In a mode similar to the movement of aletheia, (thrown/bounced out of its nightclub as lethe/hiding place by the play of Dasein's doormat), as the secret is called out of itself and thrown into the iterative play of representation, this necessitates its being open and exposed in a state of ec-static contact and communication with Otherness. This exposed openness to the Other guarantees the obliteration proper of the secret as it secures the proper obliteration of the secret. This event of exposed openness gives the secret its identity; only now however, as an identity and im-propriety that exists in a free liberation from the in-itself, an identity that only exists at the limit of its own self-overcoming as finite transcendence, as Tanabe writes in Shu no ronri. In other words, the impulsive freeness of existence is carried out of itself not as an operation of extraction undertaken by the proper essence of the existent, but as the withdrawal of the essence itself, the giving over and giving up of the proper of the in-itself to the singular transgression of existence. Read this way, singular existence can only be the loss of the preciousness of the secret as property, given up to the freedom of existence as singular cruising, now radically con-cerned in its embodiment, but liberated from and transcendent of identity as proper. The explosive force of these singular existences in their essential withdrawal from themselves as the gift of themselves to the Other, can only be misrecognized by certain cultural maintenance men as really being the essential property of a self-same identity, particularly an ethno-racial identity. It will be this looping of the force of singular entities in the event of their cruising as a destructive and revelatory (the two qualities of an apocalypse-event) self-overcoming existence, forces which will be misrecognized, fixed, and then retroctively read back as total mobilization for essential ethno-national identities - Japanese self-sameness in this case - that I will be calling "apoco-ellipsis."
Doubling and displacing this sometimes too easy deconstructive dish, even as my reading insists on tracking and hacking the codes for an ethno-national essentialism in these two philosophers, I will briefly introduce texts that will scramble these cultural preservationist readings.
These texts will here serve double duty. They open a window on the contemporary philosophical debate on singularity and finitude - notions that were advanced by these philosophers in the 1920s and 1930s (advances that arguably took "European" theory twenty and thirty years to match), even as the tension around the articulation of this thought of radical contingency (Kuki) and freedom and finitude (Tanabe) could not be sustained and fell tragically into culturalism. They also serve as a hasty introduction to my work on Japanese philosophical modernity.
Shonen Knife, Therefore. . .
Detouring back to Derrida, the dynamics of secrecy would thus turn on policing exclusivity (retroactively assigning proper identities to unleashed forces) and on maintaining the exclusivity of the secret's discriminating cut as an operation of cerning. To supplement the deconstructive reading with a psychoanalytic one, this characteristic of cutting as proper to the secret as secernere should draw attention to the intimacy of this slicing, dicing, and chopping operation with the cut of castration. Freud, of course, configures castration as the transcendental secret; the founding secret that can explain all the others. He imagines the anxious fear of castration to be the ultimate referent that all other symptoms are in debt to and are in retroactive contract with. For straight boys in particular, and at certain conjunctural moments in the gender recodings of a masculinized ethno-national formation, castration is experienced as something that "cannot really happen" but whose prospect nonetheless horrifies them. This could be configured alongside the notion of the secret as something inaccessible to the Other, but at the same time threatened by her. Boys know that their secret is properly theirs and that it can't be appropriated by the Other, yet the possibility of giving up their secret is terrifying. The infantile cry of "I have something that you don't have," uttered at some time by all propertied adolescents, is always enunciated in a nervous register revealing the possibility that the hetero boy's secret cannot be kept.
Here we can invoke the logic of fetishistic disavowal: the strong economy of fetishism would follow from the threat of castration/sexual difference and be driven by it. The little boy's "I know very well that my mother doesn't have a penis, but I act as if she does" can here be morphed into, "I know very well that my Other and I have different secrets but I'm afraid that she will rob me of mine." The fetishist needs to know that the Other doesn't know their secret but that they desire to know it. His knowledge is fairly secure in that he's pretty sure that the Other doesn't have his secret, yet he believes that he could lose it at any time. This splitting of knowledge from belief in the economy of fetishism can be read as an effect of the threat of the cut of castration and the cut of the cerning operation of the secret. The secret belief that the boy's very essence is constantly Under Siege (referencing Steven Segal's famous male panic film) overwhelms any knowledge of the objectivity of difference - sexual, cultural, and ethno-national. The knife that cerns and threatens to cut the boy's phallic power is the same knife that determines and provides that power.
(A Flock of Segals?)
In Japanese, young boy or youth is shonen, hence my play using the name of the all-women Japanese pop group Shonen Knife, who have caused not a little anxiety among male post-imperial Anglo-American music critics. Shonen Knife provides the Japanese to English readout of "boy knife," or "knifing boys" and for our rhetorical purposes here, can be morphed to "the women responsible for castrating boys." (The destinal naming of Shonen Knife has perhaps achieved its telos in the anxiety they have provoked in English speaking boy rock critics. In an interview with the British magazine Melodymaker in November 1992 Shonen Knife went tete-a-tete with a couple of Nine Inch Nails-loving boy interviewers who suggested that they were just the "latest pocket-sized Japanese accessory, a funny, throwaway novelty." The bass player for Shonen Knife, Nakatani Michie sliced back at the cocky boys saying, "If people think that, that's their problem. We have been doing Shonen Knife for 10 years. We have put in a lot of our energy. For us, Shonen Knife is no novelty."
He Who Lacks First, Lacks Last
Arnaud Levy theorizes that the secret takes up "the role of a precious good, something of the order of the private, of the personal. The secret is that which the individual possesses en propre, what is most personal and most intimate, and therefore what he doesn't want to share with the other. The disclosure of the secret and its appropriation by the Other is lived as a dispossession, as a loss often tragic and irredeemable."3 The secret is here configured as having a panicked sense of the self-same and the proper. The secret as such demands full differentiation as essential for the cerned purity of its identity formation. It would be useful here to etymologically network the secret as secernere with excrement as ex cernere. Excrement/excretion mobilizes the rejection of useless substances, poisons, and contaminants; anything designated as improper to the purity of the substance at hand. The first term "secretion" opposes itself to the second term in its concerns with the purity of noble substances, the physiologically self-same, and the racially secreted/separated as an essence. Secret/secretion is caught up in the process of conserving pure substances, and this consideration can't be performed without the simultaneous movement of activating warning systems and rejecting impure and contaminated substances through excremental cultural processes. This action of cerning must be seen as prior to the determination of where substances will fall along the digital axis of conservation/rejection and secretion/excretion.
There is a program then, in the movement of the secret's conservation and rejection, linking these conservative activities with the problematics of cultural difference and ethnocentrism. The supposed incommunicability of the secret and its essential proclivity for crypts, batcaves and hideouts, would make it ideal to present as a grounding notion for the proper of cultural difference. If an ideal cryptopos of the secret would be in language - language configured here as a system that is itself radically intransmissible and refuses all metalinguistic reductions - then the cordon sanitaire of different language systems would seem to be an ideal place to keep and preserve secrets. If transmission systems connecting and crossing languages as different as Japanese and German/English are impossible to install and in-discernible, then what better place to maintain the covert wars of the uncontaminated essence of the secret as pure linguistic difference, the secret of language as always the Other of itself?
Home, a Heimlich Manoeuvre
Kuki Shuzo returned to Japan in 1929, after an intensely productive nine years in Europe. He studied with Heidegger in Germany for 2 years, traveled in England, and lived for years in Paris, where he introduced his French tutor - with whom he was reading Bergson - to Heideggerian phenomenology and later, in Germany, to Heidegger himself. The tutor's name was Jean-Paul Sartre. The history of European continental philosophy was forever transformed by this detour through contemporary Japanese philosophy that was already translating, criticizing, and incorporating the thinking of Heidegger, Freud, and Husserl in the early 1920's. Could this be the crucial disavowal of the incontinence of Continental philosophy itself, an instance where European theory can't hold its own?
During the last half of the 20's in Paris, Kuki began to compile notes for an aesthetic history of the Edo period in Japan (from roughly 1650 1800). Returning to Japan in 1929, Kuki spent the first year of his return finishing the manuscript for "Iki" no kôzô, finally published in 1930. What he witnessed in Tokyo after missing the decade of the 20's were the effects of a period of incredibly rapid urban transformation and industrial capitalism. This brought with it the dromomaniacal temporalities of market capitalism driven by the new urban proletariat who produced surplus value for Japanese capitalism and participated - though not as actively as the Japanese capitalists who were the beneficiaries of their surplus value - giddily in its new consumer society.
The pleasures available in this new commodity culture were being rewound and excreted at that time by cultural critics as the very sign of "Western" inauthenticity. Cultural conservatives like Kuki asked, would everything that was Japanese be swept away by the introduction of tawdry North American mass production and consumerism and go-go European finance capital? The social upheaval brought by consumer society produced as metalepsis - pressing the discourse reverse button - debates about the effects these changes had on the notion of what it was to be Japanese. Suddenly this was now configured as everything that the deterritorializing speed of capital was not: timeless, rooted to a place, concerned with ritual practices and fixed territories. The problem for cultural theorists and aestheticians like Kuki would be to discern what was essentially Japanese from the viral contaminants of a homogenizing "Westernization".4
This discerning would involve the installation of a regime of cultural immunology to police and excern the agents of "Western" capitalism. In this mode of heterocultural disavowal, the secret agents mobilized in this effort of ethnic cleansing were supported by the belief in some secret seed/kernel/genus (the Chinese character that is voiced in Japanese as both tane and shu and appears so frequently in "Iki" no kôzô and in the title of Tanabe's Shu no ronri, condenses all of these slashes) that had remained untainted by the simulacra of commodification. This pure Japanese secret, seed, and origin would magically concern itself with positivizing an arche of culture existing before the onslaught of "Western" capitalism. The establishment of this fore-structure of seed/secret/origin needed to place purification filters at leaky psychic and social borders to strain out perceived "Western" invaders; protecting against contaminants as it demonstrated the secondary and fallen nature of things Western against an archaic Japanese primacy. The necessarily supplementary nature of the West in this essentializing movement would not open "Japan" to a historically specific difference-in-relation, but would only prove the secondary, inauthentic, and simulational properties of "Western" influences/influenzas. The assignment for Japanese cultural nationalists then, was to proceed on a search and deploy mission through Japanese historical territory in search of a determinate and fixed tane/shu of Japaneseness. An ideal locus for this essentializing telos was to be found in the Edo period, when the ruling Tokugawa shogunate closed the country this is called sakoku - to most outside influence for security reasons, and kept Japan largely isolated and secerned from the world from 1620 to 1854.
The 1868 Meiji Restoration brought the emperor back to the throne and instituted a constitutional state in Japan after 260 years of rule by the Tokugawa clan. This era of Tokugawa rule is usually referred to as Edo, the old name for Tokyo, the city with the largest urban population in the world during the 18th and early 19th centuries. This Edo period was configured as a time in Japanese history distant enough to be almost entirely free of "Western" influences. This was the period immediately preceding the opening of Japan by Western military and imperial power - the North American Admiral Perry's hi-tech warships and smart-bombs being the culmination of the gunboat diplomacy in 1853. Yet Kuki claims that traces of this culture were still materially felt in the urban Japanese spaces of the 1920's. The trace of Edo period culture that Kuki was trying to claim for an essential Japaneseness was attained through the access code of a glitched Diltheyan hermeneutics. Through this code Kuki downloaded a program that had become known as iki during the Edo period, and one which he claimed was still operational in the Japanese cultural network of the 1920's.
Iki: (Mother) tongue in chic?
To paraphrase Barthes, iki is somewhat of a signifier whose brakes have gone. It primarily signifies a modality of carrying oneself in the highly erotic and densely semiotized culture of the Edo/Tokyo commercial sex districts and kabuki theaters of the late 17th and 18th centuries. The supposed practitioners of this urban chic were the geisha and the tsu. They were more like a hybrid of literati and what we might now call performance artists. Geisha were extremely well read, and were often writers and musicians themselves. Tsu means "experienced" in Japanese, and implies a discrete sense of savior-faire and a type of dandyism, but could also be read as a highly theoretical mode of code manipulation. Therefore, I think it might be useful to configure tsu as decoder, or semiotician. Kuki divides these two types of practitioners of iki strictly on gender lines (boys are tsu and women are geisha), so my reading of iki follows the Lacanian coding of the phallus: women are iki, while men have iki.
In chapter two of his book "The Intensive Structure of Iki," Kuki maintains that three elements are suggested in this single term corresponding to the Aristotelean synthesis of causes. The three elements are bitai, or coquetry, ikuji, or proud spirit, and akirame, which carries the signified of an attitude of resignation. Kuki violently puts queer bitai in the closet. He performs a crucial double erasure of both the omnipresent homoeroticism of the Edo period, and the structure of a disavowed modern homoeroticism necessary to install patriarchal homosociality through what Eve Kosoksky Sedgwick calls the constitutive binary of modernity: the homo/hetero divide. As a phobic installment of the modern Japanese heterosexual matrix, he articulates bitai as a sensual attitude that incorporates the kind of dynamic tension involved in erotic relationships exclusively between men and women. In Kuki's explanation, the proud spirit or courage expressed by the Japanese ikuji, bears some relationship to the moral Way of the samurai, bushidô.
Iki, Kuki indicates, may trace its etymological roots to the term ikuji. What Kuki does not tell us is that this ikuji also carries the secondary meaning of what could be rendered into a North American male homosocial vocabulary as "balls," or "testicles." The morality of ikuji needs to be understood here as something like a militarized, homophobic masculine ethics, almost the opposite of the historical bushidô code of samurai erotic ethics which frequently made homoerotic acts between men a requirement for upward mobility. When we add the third constituent of iki, akirame or resignation, which suggests an obedience to one's fate and a complete indifference to the terrestial concerns of money, love, and life itself, this tripartite structure of iki might be a good place to begin to sketch out not the timeless essence as secret of Japaneseness, but the historical conditions of possibility of the epistemo-erotics of modern Japanese fascism, grounded unsteadily on the shifting architectonic of a new heterosexual matrix. Kuki forebodingly reminds us in closing his discussion of resignation that, as iki is primarily a system of ethics, those who possess iki should therefore be able to abandon all things in order to maintain what they consider the highest spiritual values.5
For now, it's important to complicate my reading of iki up to this point with other aspects of the sociality of iki. For one, the habitués of the pleasure quarters in the late 17th and 18th centuries - the topoi of iki - were subverting official neo-Confucian ideology in Japan at that time and its modalities of social control. The social networks surrounding iki could be imagined provisionally as similar to urban subcultural zones resisting/displacing hegemonic cultural forms. Leslie Pincus writes that in the Japanese autonomous zones of the 17th and 18th centuries, adepts of iki "expressed the cultural autonomy of a rising mercantile and artisanal class and its resistance to a near bankrupt samurai bureaucracy" (Pincus 1991, p. 132).
While in Europe and compiling notes for "Iki" no kôzô, Kuki had also been working on his doctoral thesis. His meditations on contingency (gûzensei), begun in the early 1920's, published as an article in 1927, then published as a book in 1935, almost certainly influenced Sartre's more famous thinking on this subject. Gûzensei no Mondai (The Problematic of Contingency) is a stunning analysis of contingency from Aristotle to medieval scholasticism through Chinese and Japanese ancient and modern philosophy, although its problematic is concerned mainly with bringing out the interlacings of singularity, contingency, and monadology in Liebniz, Spinoza, and Nietzsche. He analyzes contingency in its three modalities - categorical, hypothetic, disjunctive - and in doing so he wants to lead into his claim that the ground of sociality should be an ethics based on the sense of an irreparable disjunction that contingency brings to all identity.
His discussion of categorical contingency features a celebration of Liebniz's monadology, which he uses to critique Husserl's ideal or formal singularity. Claiming that categorical contingency forces the rethinking of category as such, he wants to attempt to think each monad as an event like no other, ideally and formally impossible. "The indispensable condition of the real existence of singularity is to transcend ideal singularity" (p. 40). This type of contingency is the crime against the law of all categorizing; "It is usual that contingency is in relation to the law as its example in reverse"(hôsoku no rimen ni reigai tosite no gûzensei, p. 42). Hypothetical contingency possesses both positive and negative rationality, both however are grounded in the three Japanese signifiers for contingency; yukurinaku/unexpectedness, hashinakumo/accident - hashi means beginning or origin, and naku is a negation, so literally it is without origin or cause - and futo/indiscretion.
Kuki's call for an existential embodiment based in the freedom of a negated necessity is one that he claims will free singularity from its being-tied-to its proper presupposed identity. This lack of necessity eliminates all foundations and places contingency in that non-place where "Being grounds itself in nothingness", and the only form that contingency can take is one in which "nothingness impregnates being"(p. 9). What he calls the shattering of identity in contingency as the possibility of nothingness, creates an endless "experiencing the surprise of the limit condition" (genkaijotai ni oite kyogaku o keikensi, p. 258). It always keeps the "I" open to the ways in which it is always beyond its shattered identity and imbricated with the Thou in social existence. Contingency, as the ec-static intermixing of bodies without causality or origin possesses its ungrounded ground in its mutual concern for existence in a shared world. Kuki argues that the blurring of self in the Other and the experience of the shattering of identity is constitutive for a sociality grounded on the abyss of existential contingency without which humans "head toward a worldlessness that follows from a negation of contingency" (gûzensei o hiteisuru koto ni yotte mûchuron e michibiku, p. 257).
The articulation of singularity and the social in Gûzensei no Mondai is consistent in some respects with Kuki's more famous discussion of iki. Here I would just like to briefly mention that among the many character and hiragana deployments of iki, Kuki writes iki occasionally with the Chinese character for "go" followed by the verbal stem which implies movement. I have argued elsewhere that Kuki's notion of iki is an extremely contradictory one which, when read through contemporary queer theory and philosophies of singularity, can be mobilized as a call for the insistence of the historicity of erotic acts. If we read the erotic phenomenology articulated in the movement of iki together with his rich discussion of contingency we could open a reading of iki as a mode of cruising, provisionally defined as a state of embodied, indiscriminate attention to the contingency of desire. Iki read this way would be nomadically on the loose, irreparably disjunct from essence and propriety, freed from identitarian epistemologies favored by ethno-nationalism, and exposed in its jouissance to the Other. We can now read this concern for the aleatory singularity of an embodied erotics as ethics, and if it had been developed, could have produced an exciting theory of the sociality and erotics of community at the time of its production.6
His and Her-meneutics
Kuki insists from the beginning of "Iki" no kôzô that what mobilizes the text is the hermeneutic uncovering of an ethnos: "the study of iki can only be well taken up by means of a hermeneutic of ethnic being." The secret of Japaneseness can best be excavated and preserved by a hermeneutics of organicism, a methodology that will collapse the object of study with the investigating subject. And here he makes it clear that in his masculinist and heterosexist gender digital, within the cognitive mapping of his and her-meneutics, men are hermeneuts while women are forced to bear hermeneutic meaning. Kuki explains his methodological approach in the first page of the text this way: "We must begin from a given concrete datum. What is given to us directly is 'ourselves' and that which is considered to be the synthesis, the 'ethnos'" (pp. 7-8). This ethnos can be presenced through a cultural hermeneutics and the analysis of the essence of Japanese aesthetic style, or iki. As a disavowal mechanism for the male cultural philosopher undergoing the various shocks and trauma of modernist discontinuity, the methodology of hermeneutic recovery posited the seamless continuity of a self-same spiritual and racial tradition.
Claude Lefort writes in Democracy and Political Theory that "at the time society appears to be fragmented, then we see the development of the fantasy of the People-as-One, the beginnings of a quest for a substantial identity. . . for a state free from division" (Lefort 1989, p. 20). Kuki asks on the first page of the text, by way of justifying his organicist method: "If it is true that the word "iki" exists only in our national language, then its meaning must be granted a specific ethnicity. And when we address ourselves to a meaning granted a specific ethnicity, so to speak, with distinctive cultural being, what kind of methodological attitude shall we take?" (p. 7).
But cerning the seamless continuity of a self-same ethno-racial spirit and tradition - the mobilizing impulse of "Iki" no kôzô - opens this cerning to its contractual partners: concern and discern, and forces us to consider the hermeneutic enterprise irreducibly tied to the uncovering/ preserving movement of the secret. Within the "hermeneutics of ethnic being," of recovery and preservation deployed by Kuki, the movement of excerning the secret and mystery of "'Iki" no kôzô (which is often rendered in English as "Japanese aesthetic style") can only be exposed to discerning via the concern of one who shares what Kuki calls a "distinct mode of ethnic Being" within the racialized discursive regime of iki itself. Kuki's hermeneutic circle proceeds in a spiral that moves from the ethnicity of the hermeneuticist philosopher/aesthetic historian whose racial credit account permits the opening of the incommensurable regime of the Japanese language, which will then grant access to the phenomenological experience of historical (but actually outside of history and power) Japanese as practicioners of iki, whose experience provides an ontological foothold for Being-Japanese. Of course, the hermeneutic circle can be entered at any point and hence will move back toward the 1920's and 30's from the Edo period as it moves from the early fascist period back to the 17th century.
The guarantee, entry fee, and access code for this magical transmission system are, of course, race and ethnicity. Here, for the first time in the post-1868 period, Kuki employs the Japanese character compound for race and ethnicity - minzoku - as a condensation for national subject, displacing the civic and national terms. So the operation of discerning the destiny of the ethnos as nation in its clandestinal movement, and carefully excerning this essence can only be performed by one whose con-cern for the clan is purchased in a racial contract. This racial contract is then mapped onto an imperial nation readying itself for violent de-territorialization and para-genocidal practices throughout Asia, even before the Pacific War. But wait up; in my haste to leap out of the text into "History" I almost forget to reveal my program title for all of this: clandesti-nation.
Let me be a little more clear about this nomination. Thought from a racialized logic of the hermeneutic circle, that which is theorized by a Japanese philosopher/ethnic curator in the Japanese language and dealing with Japanese history must by methodological protocols be a covert operation in the secret service of clandesti-nation. The metaleptic movement that goes in reverse from clandestin-nation to destination-for-the-clan is, of course, an effect of the racialized hermeneutics practiced by Kuki, and in a different way by Tanabe Hajime. The apocalyptic effects in East Asia of this racialized hermeneutics share a program with the linking of secrecy with species as ethno-national essence. This operation is conducted through the syntagm of secrecy metonymically linked with nation or species. At other times, this operation is achieved through the metaphoric condensation of secret and species/nation in one word: the Japanese reading of shu as seed/species/type/secret/nation. Kuki employs both the metaphoric substitution, and the metonymic displacement in the first few pages of "Iki" no kôzô. I will discuss his other deployment of secrecy below. Tanabe relies on the sen(s)ational condensation of shu. What I will emphasize below in my brief discussion of both of these texts is the ways in which "Japan" as a national-cultural essence is configured as being the proprietor of a singularity that, because it can't be known by the Other, must remain a secret to/from the Other.
To return briefly to the double-bound logic of the secret via deconstructive cryptological protocols, the aporia located just above is subject to a deadly displacement in the texts under discussion. Kuki displays a keen awareness of the secret's double-bind. In many ways his text is motivated by what Derrida called in one of his lectures on the secret "a double mode of transmission: on one hand unspeakable, secret, prohibited, preserved, inaccessible or mystical, on the other hand philosophical, demonstrative, capable of being shown." Kuki in particular, but Tanabe as well, displays a productive tension in this double bind with the implicit interrogations of: How to represent a Japanese essence which by definition can't be decoded by non-Japanese? How to tell the secret of Japaneseness knowing that the essence of that secret will be betrayed in the communication of the secret of a Japanese essence? There must be a way to produce a double transmission of the secret of Japaneseness in order to, on the one hand, maintain the secret of Japaneseness for racially pure Japanese, and on the other hand, deploy the precious signifier "Japaneseness" as referent for racial superiority out of the crypt of Japan proper and drafted into the service of materializing dreams of empire in Asia.
I am provisionally employing the neologism "apoco-ellipsis" to designate the way that this problem was temporarily solved and the double-bind of secrecy was managed and put to work in the service of Japanese fascism. I will return to this new strategy of management and containment of the power and danger of the secret of Japanese cultural essentialism after a brief excursus through the texts.
Kuki Shuzo, The Manchurian Candidate
Iki" no kôzô (The Structure of "iki" is probably the least cumbersome English rendering) is composed of six chapters. In chapter one, Kuki introduces the untranslatable Japanese word minzoku to condense race, ethnicity, and Volk, all quilted by the Japanese nation. This appears to be one of the first deployments of this crucial signifier and it is mobilized here to racialize the Japanese nation. This particular signified of minzoku became very popular after the Manchurian incident staged by young Japanese fascist officers in 1931 - one year after publication of "Iki" no kôzô that marked the beginning of Japan's fifteen-year war in Asia. Kuki claims that all national essences have in their language special words that express their ethnic nature. In English these words would be spirit, intelligence, and wit. French would be characterized by chic and esprit. German would provide Geist, Noumenon and Sehnsucht. In the Japanese language, iki is such a word, and its advantage over the European languages is that iki by itself quilts the meaning of what, in English, Kuki claims one needs all the senses of "spirit", "wit," and "intelligence" in order to perform the same signifying operation. "In the Japanese language, iki possesses the remarkable singularity of this species/secret of racial shading" ("iki" to iu nihongomo kono shu/tane no minzokuteki shikisai no ichijurushi go no hitotsu de aru p. 10).
As the Chinese character that is read as either shu or tane in Japanese in the above sentence will be the focus of the last part of this essay, let me flesh out a little more what I've been arguing up to this point. I want to emphasize the ways in which shu as secret and species is specifically racialized. Within a discursive regime of shu, race is encrypted as an entity so radically singular that it can't be known by the Other. The radical singularity of shu as such prevents its disclosure to the Other and hermetically seals it in its own eugenicized orbit around itself.
As I mentioned above, if we run a search on the Japanese tane/shu, we come up with a number of signifieds. Usually deployed like the Latinate species, it can also mean mode, type, breed, clan, or seed; and it is the standard character used for seed in the Japanese language. In its tertiary meaning it has served as a signifier for secret, sometimes with the sense of playing a trick on someone or using a secret gimmick to gain power over someone by dissimulation. Here, I need to bring out the sense of racial and paternal origin and its modality of secrecy by mentioning that the Japanese word for castration also uses this character. The Chinese characters read danshu (castration) in Japanese provide the literal meaning of dan - which is to be cut-off from - and shu - which here signifies phallic power and ethno-racial paternity. We could, given this and the alternative reading of shu/tane, configure the Japanese word for castration as having a strong linguistic contract with losing one's secret, or the terror of being dispossessed of one's secret, demonstrated above to be - within a Freudian register - a threat to the life of the male fetishist himself.
In two other places in this key introductory chapter Kuki locates shu metonymically as a signifier of race. Kuki talks about shu gainen or species/secret concept on page 13, and he contrasts this with what he calls ruigainen, or genus concept. He warns that treating iki as a species/secret concept (shugainen) singularly, will not lead to the abstract universal in the genus concept. In other words, species is not a subset of genus, but contains within it its own irreducible singularity: a radical singularity that won't give up its cryptonym to any meta-species agency or genus. As Hegel would argue for a negative relation between Universal and Particular, and genus and species, Kuki seems to suggest here that the species/Particular can never be subsumed into the Universal as the Universal must pass through the Particular to be reflected back into itself. And, although a Lacanian reading of Hegel would insist on the Universal and Particular being split before and as they become negatively related, Kuki seems to want to posit a species before lack, a species that can be immune from its negative reflection into the genus or Universal. This radical and irreducible species is something like the encrypted secret.
In addition to linking shu as secret to race, Kuki employs the Chinese character read yô in Japanese. Yô means essential ingredient, gist, and secret in Japanese. It carries the signifying sense of that which is most required and essentially constituent. The Japanese character compound yôtei that Kuki uses below can signify secret and crucial point or arche. On page 12 he features this second mode of secrecy: "the secret (yôtei) to the understanding of a cultural Being is to grasp it in its living form as such and not to do injury to the concrete thing as Real." This understanding must be a secret one because it can never be epistemologically achieved, but only ethnically lived. Kuki suggests that this understanding must have an anticipatory stillness to it, a fore-structure that prepares the thing as a thing, and that this will reveal the secret understanding's contract with the concrete thing, a contract that will again prove to be racialized.
Kuki follows this with a crucial deployment of yô as secret: "The secret (yô) of erotic allure is to continuously shorten the distance between oneself and the other while never allowing that distance to be completely annihilated." Here Kuki clearly demonstrates the double bind of secrecy. The movement toward the Other must be risked, but the distance that separates and cerns Self from Other must be maintained. The management of this economy is crucial and the property of the ostensibly male self (and by implication the straight male Japanese possessor/ professor of iki) is at stake in this encounter. Risking an overreading here, Kuki seems to suggest that the key to the management of the secret is to maintain clearly the discernment from/to the Other. With the awareness that one will be drawn essentially to the Other and that the Other will disclose the self to the self, Kuki wants to preserve the integrity of this self and protect its propertied secrets. The distance can't be annihilated as this will endanger the structure of secernere that grounds the version of the subject I sketched out above. A spatialized hermeneutics built upon the dictates of a fundamental ontology - and remember that the Manchurian Incident of 1931 initiated the Japanese military's advance into southern China and jumpstarted Japan's assault on China and all of Asia - needs to solve the problem of grounding a subjectivity that is thrown into the world like a Heideggerian Frisbee toss. The problem is, of course, that this thrownness must not endanger that which can't be disturbed and awoken from its encrypted topos of pure Japaneseness. Although the self in its encounter with the Other must risk this movement of drawing near - Heidegger calls this existential movement ent-fernung, it must at all cost keep that which is most essential (yô) to it always in reserve and quarantined from the Other. Or, is it the Other who is quarantined in this cerning operation?
Tanabe Hajime and the Shu on the Other's Foot
At first glance, Tanabe Hajime's philosophical oeuvre seems diametrically opposed to Kuki Shuzo's "Iki" no kôzô, as that text is supported by hermeneutics and ontology while Tanabe's work will gradually move in the direction of dialectics, albeit a dialectics read through Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. Nevertheless, although Tanabe's mature work in the early and mid- 1930's will articulate a logistics of negativity, antagonism, and lack ostensibly opposed to the thematics of essence and organicism in Kuki's work, the traces of apoco-elliptic thought can still be glimpsed. The most readable of those traces have to do with his analytic of species/shu.
Tanabe's notion of shu began to be fleshed out with his first major book on Kant called Kanto no Mokutekiron (Kant's Theory of Teleology) published in 1924 (Tanabe Hajime 1963, volume 3). In the interim between Kant's Theory of Teleology and the publication of the essays in the famous collection Shu no ronri (The Logic of Species) from 1932 1938, the question that most concerned Tanabe was that of the possibility of the socio-historical for human subjects attempting to negotiate existential freedom within the confines of State authority.7 In excavating the problem of subjectivity whose featured operations, Tanabe argued, are negativity and antagonism, I will try to establish a deadly aporia in Tanabe's thought: although Tanabe explicitly delineated anti-foundational possibilities for human agency against the encroachments of State power by pointing to singular moments of undecidability and freedom, he betrays his philosophical commitment to these moments by positivizing them with the predicates of ethnic Japaneseness and masculine gender. But to get to that "betrayal" I want to travel by a somewhat wayward path in the forest of the academic study of modern Japanese philosophy.
Since almost everything that has been written about the so-called Kyoto School (Tanabe is considered its founder, although its main influence was his predesesor as chair of the Department of Philosophy at Kyoto University, Nishida Kitarô), including the first half of my essay above, emphasizes both its cultural essentialism and ultra-nationalism, I want to be clear from the beginning that I consider this tendency a coerced particularizing reading of Japanese intellectual history of the 1930's and 40's and one that has been undertaken by the universalizing assumptions of Area Studies of Japan by the new post-WW II hegemon, the United States. Instead of nervously insisting on Tanabe's ethno-nationalism or Buddhism (either con - in the mode of the currently popular "critique of essentialism", or pro - the standard Orientalist rendering of Asian thought) my reading of Tanabe will treat seriously his desire to configure conceptual outlines for the universalistic and pluralist logic that grounded the Japanese Empire (northeast China, Korea, Taiwan, Okinawa, Micronesia, Sakhalin, etc.) until the outbreak of the Pacific War.8 His most influential outline of this, in Shu no ronri, insists that any particular ethnic group or species (shu) constituting the Japanese empire (Korean, Chinese, Okinawan, Yamato, Ainu, etc) could participate in that Empire because the Empire represented the Hegelian universal or rui, in Japanese.
In this outline, Tanabe's theory of ethnic identity is not at all fixed, but an effect of at least two processes of negation: the first involving any singular (ko) individual's negative relation to his or her particular ethnic group. That is to say that an individual subject achieves self-consciousness through participating negatively - and by being aware of hir difference from - the particular ethnic group. In so doing, the subject participates in a higher form of universal organization called the rui, thereby establishing a form of human freedom (deciding whether to participate or not in the ethnic shu; to see if the shu fits, as it were) in the individual's negative relation to his or her ethnicity. In this way, Tanabe conceptualized the singular individual's participatory belonging to a structure of state imperialism not as a fixed positivity, but as a complicated dynamic movement of negativity and mediation shuttling back and forth between individual (ko), ethnic group (shu), and site of universal identification (rui). The first two of these positions has a horizontal (between other individuals and other ethnicities) movement of negation as well as the vertical movement up and down Tanabe's version of the Hegelian/Aristotelian ladder of singular, particular, universal. Thus, the processes of subject formation are fairly complex, and the usual intellectual-historical assignation of "Japanese" subject formation in the 1930's as one drowning in the essentialized particularity of Nihonjinron (the theory of Japanese uniqueness) must be put to the side immediately.
Tanabe attempted to construct a universal, pluralist political philosophy grounded on individual freedom. This would counter both liberalism (where Tanabe insisted the operations of negativity and mediation were disavowed) and totalitarianism (where negativity and mediation where erased). However, there were unfortunate elements of nationalism and masculinism in his philosophy that can be linked to Kuki Shuzo's essentialism in "Iki" no kôzô. In critically exposing some of these elements, I will merely be practicing what Tanabe himself insisted was the act of true "philosophical thought" (Tanabe 1963, volume 3, p. 380). As a quick preview of my critique I will suggest that in developing his complex meditations on negativity and constitutive contradiction, he configures the developing process of identificatory negativity as beginning with the violent negation of the maternal presence; a symptomaticity in his texts I call "necromaternalism." Secondly, although he does try to keep open the relation between singular, particular, and universal, it becomes clear that Japanese ethnic particularity enjoys a privileged access to universality, especially when the singular Japanese subject is male. Finally, I will critically read these two notions of gender and ethnicity together with Tanabe's elaborations of destination and teleology in order to inquire: Do all processes of subjective Bildung have the imperial State as their telos? And if so, how can one be "free" if the teleological end is given from the beginning? Furthermore, if all (male) subjects are destined for the Imperial State, and if Tanabe paved the path to this destiny with Japanese ethnic subjects in mind, is this not a clan-destination, clandestinely kept secret from other non-Japanese ethno-racial identities?
After majoring in science for most of his undergraduate career at Tokyo Imperial University, Tanabe switched to philosophy. In 1913 he got his first academic job teaching philosophy in the mathematics department at Tôhoku University in Sendai. By 1918 he was invited to teach in the famous philosophy department of Kyoto University by Nishida Kitarô, where he gradually became the center of the so-called Kyôto-ha or Kyoto school of philosophy. From 1922 to 1924 he studied abroad in Berlin and in Freiburg under Edmund Husserl, where he also met and made friends with the luminaries of continental thought, including Karl Jaspers and Martin Heidegger. When he returned to Kyoto in 1924, he published a short book in commemoration of Kant's 200th birthday. In my view, Tanabe's notion of species (shu) began to be articulated first in Kant's Theory of Teleology, although the main thrust of this text is Tanabe's bold reading of the formalism of Kant's Critique of Judgement. A reading begun in 1920 in Japan and then developed in 1922 in Europe, it in many ways anticipates the deployment of Kant that turned out to be so crucial for Heidegger's work in Being and Time (1926) and Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics (1930). In Kant's Theory of Teleology, Tanabe's main concern is to force a reading of praxis into the Critique of Judgement. He does this by transcoding both the First Critique's concern with epistemology and the Second Critique's concern with moral practice and desire onto the Third Critique, to bring out what is epistemologically and practically at stake in Kant's discussion of the two kinds of judgement: constitutive and reflective. Finally, Tanabe's major contribution in this reading of Kant is to insist on judgement's relation to what he calls jikaku awasemetekisei, his designation for a radically anti-foundational subjective teleology or self-conscious purposiveness. This is a strange nomination, because the purposive subject in this text is actually both the subject of and subjected to a purposeless purposiveness. The teleological destination of this ungrounded subject is not a teleology as such, but something much more like a finite transcendence,9 where the temporality of transcendence will deposit the subject as a finite being way short of hir telic destination. Instead of the Kantian moral law that is interjected into a subjective interior, he wanted to ground this jikaku awasemetekisei (self-conscious purposiveness) not inside the self but outside the self in the telos of a void of nothingness with no telos. The subjective consciousness of this telos of no telos - an a-teleology that is both in nature and in human consciousness - will motivate and pull the self in its temporal projection into an infinite void, and thus open the subject onto what Tanabe calls its "freedom" - jiyû no hatten.
Kant employs the notion of teleology or purposiveness (Zweckmässigkeit) in the First Introduction to the Critique of Judgement, and this is where Tanabe performs most of his analytic work. Kant introduces teleology initially to characterize the meaning that reflective judgement must grant to nature as the foundation for the system of empirical laws. Kant seems to mean that the system of nature itself is its own teleology, a type of auto-telos. Kant defines telos or purpose (Zweck) as a concept of an object that "contains the ground of the actuality of this object" (Kant 1987, p. 392) and finality or teleology as "the agreement of a thing with that constitution of things which is only possible according to ends" (ibid. 393). Nature is teleological because of its systematicity, but that systematicity only becomes operational as it is projected by a subject who has the luxury of the "adaptation of nature to our cognitive faculties" that are simply "presupposed a priori by judgement" (ibid.). Nature is also teleological because it obeys the law of Newtonian causality. As the projection of teleology by the faculty of a judgement that is reflective - over and against the criterion for objects that are constituted by concepts from the faculty of the understanding, which must obey the law of causality - Tanabe claims that this kind of teleology/purposiveness is a higher kind of purposiveness. This is the teleology that concerns him:
Before, nature as simply the 'plan of nature' was recognized as being overtaken by its telos, now humans come into a teleological place that recognizes a nature that limits the realization of the mission of understanding. In other words, without the Gods of metaphysics, from the point of view of humans as ethical subjects, the purposiveness of the totality of given nature is a thing that is discovered. (Tanabe, 1963, volume 3, p. 18)
That is to say, it is the purposiveness operational in nature as 'the plan of nature' that will be displaced to make room for the discovery of purposiveness by a free subject who is thrown into a world, and who in some sense takes up its "mission" (shimei) of purposeless purposiveness. Tanabe wants to reroute the direction of this 'teleology that overtakes' as a teleology that overtakes the subject as it is overtaken by hir.
Tanabe draws out the distinction in Kant between aesthetic formal purposiveness and the formal purposiveness of nature to clear up the different modalities of teleology in nature and in self-conscious purposiveness:
In the a priori formal purposiveness of nature as logical purposiveness, with the form, meaning is given to that which relates to the act of cognition that achieves the unity of the object, in relation to the logical unity of the constitution of the object of cognition, and is inclusive of conceptual rules. This is a different mode from aesthetic formal purposiveness, which does not systematize the object as a thing. (p. 14)
Here, I want to briefly explore the difference between constitutive and reflective judgement in Kant, a distinction crucial for Tanabe's reading and my reading of him here. Constitutive judgement is the determination made when the given universal rule or law subsumes some particular underneath it. In constitutive judgement the faculty of judgement subsumes particulars under (universal) concepts circuited to it by the faculty of understanding. The process of determinate judgement only has the capacity to apply a priori concepts given to it by the understanding to appropriate particulars by obeying the rigid rules of reason. But every once in a while, a delinquent and obstinate particular is given to be judged and the understanding cannot access a universal to fit it. This can only be a job for reflective judgement, which reflects on a given representation attempting to create a potential concept for the heretofore unsubsumable particular. In this way it acts as an interface between a particular object and a subject of cognition and this is how Tanabe and Kant will want to talk about the judgement related to aesthetic feeling. Nevertheless, reflective judgment also has the ability to excite all the faculties in the search for an appropriate concept for a particular object. Operational in this mode, the faculty of reflective judgement can incite a frenzied harmony between the imagination and the understanding, a harmony that can be pleasurable in itself. Tanabe writes that:
In aesthetic formal purposiveness, understanding, through mere conceptual power, gets its wake-up call. Although reflective judgement, as aesthetic formal purposiveness, arrives at the limit of providing meaning for the universal laws of subjective action, its proper operation is to rule conceptual power without concepts. (p. 19)
To return to my argument, aesthetic formal purposiveness, (the privileged mode of reflective judgement) operates without rules and does not posit ends in objects but, as Tanabe quotes Kant "always in the subject and in fact in the subject's mere capacity for reflection" (ibid. 18). Tanabe claims that these different modes of the formal purposiveness of nature (he calls this mode the narrow sense of teleology) and aesthetic formal purposiveness (the broad sense of teleology) have the capacity for reflective judgement: "nevertheless, both these relate to the subject as one" (p. 19). Tanabe forces a reading of Kant that suggests that the only reason for assigning teleology to nature is for the subject's own telos of systematicity. When he begins to talk later in the text about ethics as pure will grounded in the now overheated faculty of reflective judgement, teleology begins to amount to the ability of any particular to be subsumed by the obsessive creativity of reflection. And because these particulars are always contingent and their subsumption an activity that is local and renewed each time, they will not be taken up into universals. It is this sense of a radical contingency and locality that Tanabe will want to emphasize later in his discussion of ethics as the praxis of contingently reflective judgement.
For my own purposiveness here, I want to bring out the sense of this kind of particular which can't be subsumed by a universal, a particular that is radically unknowable by the operational codes of the Kantian program of reason. As contingent particular, or as what Tanabe calls a "limit without a concept", because it can't be fully subsumed by reason, it acts as sort of 'objet petit a' which drives the whole systematicity of judgment. And with the privileging of this faculty of judgement by both Tanabe and Kant, it operates as an irreducible gap in reason itself, a negating capability or gap that will prevent reason from ever knowing itself.
This sense of limits without concepts, in my reading, does not imply a subjectivist metaphysics of will, but rather something that could be configured as different, and this is what I think Tanabe means by the "finitude of self-consciousness." As a self-consciousness that stops at the knowable thereby delimiting reason's precinct (moreover, realizing through negativity what it is not), this grounds action in a finite transcendence thrown into the indeterminacy of the particular and the micro. Moreover, the sense of finitude that both respects the local as it willfully disrespects the operations of reason that frame the conditions of the local in its contingent particularity, necessitates operations of chance and indeterminacy that are foreclosed from metaphysical systems fixated solely on universality.
Of course, this philosophy of indeterminacy is full of dangers as well as new opportunities. Reflective judgement itself is only what Kant weirdly calls a "presupposition" that can only be applied in certain cases with an extreme sense of uncertainty. And the prize software of reflective judgement itself - the theory of the judgement of taste - turns out to be indeterminate in its applicability to particular operations of aesthetic reflection. The force of reflective judgement is that it provides no a priori concepts of reason but only offers particular goals, goals without any a priori readout for their materialization. As an anti-foundationalist, Tanabe finds this omnipresent indeterminacy philosophically and ethically enabling. He calls this indeterminacy both experience and will (ishi): a will that although it is not rational is cognitive, and one that accompanies embodied experience as a mode of being-in-the-world. These particular experiences have a temporal priority and then as ruins, offer themselves to reflection for consciousness. Tanabe references Kant claiming that "Kant called intelligible accidentalness - that accidentalness to the extent that it is completely accidental - experience" (p. 26). As the uncaused cause of this chance, Tanabe emphasized that "will exists at the root of reflective judgment. Through an ungrounded self, reflection returns to the self again, and is what discovers the self under the system of a concrete moral will." Therefore, he theorizes will as always out ahead of the body and in some sense looking back at the body like the Lacanian retrovisé, a second looking that is constitutive in ways the first looking can't be. "Will, to say it differently, is transferred into the object abandoning the self" (p. 65). Furthermore, he emphasizes will's purposiveness as its purposiveless purpose: "Through purposiveness as the so-called law of accident, will rationalizes the unity of those laws of experience" (p. 29).
Tanabe insists throughout the text on the primacy of will as the motor of reflective judgment. In his anti-foundational system, reason can be nothing but faith as he says more than once. He claims that the only methodological thesis for his system can be "the object of will projected into the world of cognition. In knowledge lies belief" (ibid.). But in his emphasis on pure will and his admonitions to trust in this projected will (he even goes so far as to claim on page 30 that "Nature's formal purposiveness is nothing but the object of belief projected into the world of knowledge.") he unfortunately begins to fill in the pure form of will with some contents. These unsubsumables won't be able to resist particularization for much longer.
At the end of his text Tanabe starts to provide a conceptual schema to figure these particulars, in the meantime partly stripping them of their contingency. Here as well, he begins to configure the deadly metonymy of the pure will of self-conscious purposiveness (read, destination) as ethno-nation or clan-destination:
The content of morals must possess an individuality that relies on the presence of the subject. Individuality can only come into existence as a particularity within the totality of a background. As the heading for the teleology of the country that forms the creation of individual character, the actions of the subject in each instant are determined such that the totality of nature forms one teleological system (p. 66, my emphasis).
His insistence on a universal law that is culturally and nationally determinate of the individual intensifies as he writes, "The law is precisely an individualized law. If culture provides a ground for this kind of ethics, this law is individualized, and the universal that is recognized in that is also a synthetic universal and this is strangely never satisfied" (p. 67).
What could be the content of this Universal, a Universal that is insatiable and always hungry, a Universal that now seems to trump the unsubsumed particular that had seemed to ground a radically promising ethical system in Tanabe's reading just until the end? The devouring Universal that never seems to consume its fill of Particulars comes to be positivized with the contents of the nation. On the next to last page of the book he comes as close to de-particularizing the specific group as he would in this 1924 text:
If you make it so there exists in the erecting of a culture that creates new meaning over and above nature (such as achieving the telos of country that forms character as its final purpose - the content of ethics, like a precious gem, from the position of self-conscious purposiveness) there is no doubt that its content should not be individualism or subjectivism, such as that presumed from the contents of the Critique of Practical Reason, as Kant's ethical theory sketches this out. (p. 69)
From Kant to Hegel
If not individualism or subjectivism, then what? To answer the question, we need to move onto his next major work, a long study of Hegel published in 1931, and then look briefly at his most popular work published in 1932 and reprinted many times after that, Tetsugaku tsûron (The Elements of Philosophy). In these texts, the immediate precursors to his central work Shu no ronri, Tanabe's concern will be to transcode the Kantian problematic articulated above onto more properly Hegelian (and at times, Aristotelian) architecture. As I will show below, the aporetic tension in his Kant book - between particular/individual and universal - will be granted a fundamental role in establishing Tanabe's system of negativity and mediation in his turn to Hegel. His critique of the drawbacks of constitutive judgement in Kant led him into an emphasis on reflective judgement. As I tried to show above, reflective judgement involves a process of what Tanabe would come to call negation after he began his serious study of Hegelian and Greek dialectics from 1926.
His mature theory of "absolute mediation" (zettai baikai) will involve a complex process of negation, whereby the subject will need to realize (became self-conscious of) his10 Otherness first to different phenomena in the world, and then to his particular culture. Only through this negativity of Othering can there be distinction (as well as mediation) between the Aristotelian/Hegelian logical categories of individual subject (ko), particular ethnic species (shu), and universal genus (rui). By first realizing his difference from phenomena (those not capturable by reason and requiring the process of reflective judgement) and then his difference from his own ethnic group, the subject can become self-conscious. As Tanabe hinted at in the Kant book, this process is a desiring one, where "grounded in will, reflexive judgement moves out from the subject as an ungrounded self towards the unknowable, and returns to the self again. This movement is what produces the subject under a system of universality" (p. 27). This statement clearly anticipates Tanabe's mature consideration of dialectics and negativity in his work of the early 1930's.
Although several scholars and translators of Tanabe emphasize his movement "from Kant to Hegel", Tanabe states clearly in his l931Hegel book that despite "the slogan from Kant forward to Hegel, I want to move as well from 'Hegel back to Kant'" (Tanabe 1963, volume 3, p. 134). This suspicion of any "going beyond Kant" carries a double critique: first of dialectical development (he warns his readers over and over about the falseness of the Hegelian "cunning of reason," which "strips individual freedom from Hegel's thought", p. 286). Second he warns that the split modern subject developed in Kant (empirico-transcendental) should be held onto and incorporated into modern dialectical theory. This new modern dialectical theory would not be the "idealist dialectic" (kannen benshôhô) of Hegel, nor the subjectivist dialectic of Fichte and Schelling, but his very own "absolute dialectic" (zettai benshôhô) based on "absolute negativity" and "absolute mediation." Tanabe considered the main problem in Hegel to be his overturning of Kant's "Copernican revolution" and consequent recentering of the subject of transcendental knowledge/Spirit as the Christian God.
Tanabe considered the split between empirical and transcendental egos in Kant quite crucial and, while faithful to his true dialectical reasoning (whose achievement will be realized only when "the unification of Kant and Marx will be required", p. 233) thought that Kant's recognition of the finite character of reason and the absolute separation of the noumena and phenomena should be respected. Although constitutive judgement is grounded by the operations of reason, reflective judgement is necessary when reason (the empirical ego) becomes incapable of properly designating (noumenal) objects in the world. Since Kant considered reason to be driven by the desire for absolute knowledge, his recognition of the finite character of reason (and likewise, his recognition of the limitations of constitutive judgement) lead him to acknowledge the basic limitations of reason. According to Tanabe, this acknowledgement left open possibilities for other kinds of logics grounded not in reason but in aesthetics, religion, morality, etc.
Although Tanabe greatly admired this gap in Kant, he wanted to go further and "critique the critique of reason" (p. 136) by creating an "absolute critique." Dialectics was the system best suited for absolute critique because it was based on contradiction and negativity. The movement of dialectical negativity and sublation would for Tanabe "guarantee the independence of the object opposed to the self, at the same time as mediating the object that is antagonistic to the self" (p. 97). Tanabe wrote that Hegel provided a schema where "the absolute difference between phenomena and noumena" could be preserved and overcome "contradictorily". This "contradictory unity" (p. 98) and "oppositional harmony" between subject and object (the awareness of the object negated as 'other' to the self, then this particular negation itself negated by the universality of dialectical law, producing at once both subjective individuality in and for-itself, and universality) solved the "problem" of the limits of reason in Kant. But it did this by locating the site and destination of the unification of contradictory opposites "above" their material contact in the universal (rui).
Tanabe develops his argument about Hegel's dialectic in a long discussion of the history of dialectical thought beginning with Aristotle's materialist critique of Plato. Tanabe thought that Aristotle's materialism could help ground the tendency toward abstract idealism in Hegel. As Aristotelian logic is divided into the genus, species, and individual, Tanabe maps this classical tripartite schema onto Hegel's formula in the Phenomenology of Spirit. He does because he perceives that although there is "no Other in Aristotle, but not enough matter in Hegel" (Tanabe, 1963, volume 3, Hegel's Philosophy and the Dialectic [Hegeru tetsugaku to benshôshô]). The introduction of the Hegelian constitutive contradiction between Self/Other into classical materialist dialectics will make Tanabe's theory of "total dialectic" just about complete. But first, he has to factor in Marx's inversion of Hegel, because "in its complex analysis of the dialectical unity of matter and idea, we have to recognize that Marx's reading is correct" (p. 229). Although most critics have been quick to dismiss Marx's influence on Tanabe, I just want to pause here to elaborate on his reading of Marx and Aristotle before I move on to conclude with a discussion of his masterpiece Shu no ronri.
Tanabe was quick to point out what were for him the obvious drawbacks of historical materialism - the eliding of the role of subjective agency, and the reliance on historical laws of development. However, the crucial role of Marx in his initial speculation on the absolute dialectic and logistics of species in his book on Hegel and then in his popular introduction to world philosophy Elements of Philosophy (1932) is easy to see. For the problem of how to configure the contradictory relation between transcendental reason and the noumenal Other to reason (a subject/object variant unsatisfactorily resolved in Kant), without falling into the idealist sublation of subject/object and thesis/antithesis he registered in Hegel, was solved in the early Marx. It's there that he learned to apply both the overlooked operation of reflective judgement as a movement of praxis that contradictorily joins the judging subject and uncertain object in his reading of Kant, and his positive reading of dialectical movement in Hegel, to his immediate concerns with thinking social subjectivity and embodied freedom.
I need to be brief and concise here in introducing the early Marx's reading of species being (Gattungswesen). In the first of the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts Marx writes that "Man is a species-being (Gattungswesen) not only in the sense that he makes the community (his own as well as those of other things) his object both practically and theoretically, but also (and this is simply another expression for the same thing) in the sense that he treats himself as the present, living species, as a universal and consequently free being" (Marx 1964, p. 126). Now what is interesting about this passage is the absolute break with Aristotle's essentialist notion of species as unchanging and invariant. Against Aristotle (and Hegel, but in an altogether different way), Marx asserts that human being is a species not because it belongs passively to a classificatory and biological category, but rather because it actively takes its own (and other) species as an object to be necessarily transformed. What is new about the mutual alienation and mutual imbrication of subject and species is the theory of praxis which is read by Marx both against the quietism of Aristotle and the subjectivism of Feuerbach (a critique that Tanabe seems to draw on heavily in his Philosophy of Hegel). In the socio-historical act of human transformation with and against one's particular social system all three elements (individual- ko, particular species - shu, and genus - rui) are transformed.
Although Tanabe is unequivocal in his celebration of the Theses on Feuerbach (Tanabe 1963, Tetsugaku tsûron, volume 3, p. 492-493), he doesn't cite Marx's text at any length. Even at this early period at the beginning of total mobilization in Japan, it was not advisable to acknowledge one's indebtedness to Marx. Nevertheless, both the Elements of Philosophy and his Hegel book state emphatically that the early Marx solved the problems vis-a-vis human freedom, species-being, and dialectics that had arisen in Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, and Nishida. First, it is in the Theses on Feuerbach that the conception of praxis is made central11 and it is there that Marx differentiates himself from Aristotle and Feuerbach:
the human essence is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In its reality it is the ensemble of human relations. (Marx, 1977, p. 157)
Marx asserts that species-being is linked with the entire structure of social existence as a totality, and as something that is made by human individuals in collectivities, this structure is intrinsically subject to historical transformation. As I will indicate briefly below, the Theses on Feuerbach seems to anticipate the most important advances in Tanabe's Shu no ronri: the notion of the dynamic link of (and mutual negative relation between) individual, species, and universal; the definition of the ontological structure of humans in terms of its essential transformability and historicity; and the insistence that all social life is a material effect of human acts of negativity. Although Tanabe was trying to get at some of these notions through new and innovative readings of the philosophical tradition, more than any of these original readings (on par with the so-called "destructions" of the philosophical tradition undertaken by Tanabe's acquaintance Martin Heidegger at the same time), his major work seems dramatically presaged in the early Marx.
From Marx to Hegel
Tanabe began this mature theorization of species in his Hegel book of 1931, but his complete recasting of the Hegelian/Aristotelian sense of the species didn't materialize until his first essays of the Shu no ronri collection published contemporaneous with his Elements of Philosophy.
Shu no ronri carries on the elaboration of the notion of species that was first introduced in Hegel's Philosophy and the Dialectic. It is in the former collection of essays where he achieves a complete recasting of the Aristotelian/Hegelian understanding of the concept of species. Shu no ronri (The Logic of Species) establishes species as something completely different from a creature's physiological belonging to a particular biological classification. This sense of a biological classification of an individual into his or her particular group involves no elements of subjective action; action that is necessary for self-consciousness in the modern dialectical rendering of consciousness. Tanabe is clear that self-consciousness (jikaku) has little to do with the biological fact of life, being rather a complex process of negation, othering, and mediation:
Self-consciousness has nothing to do with brute experience; rather it has to do with mediation. . . Likewise, through being negated, brute life (sei) attains the level of self-consciousness. (Tanabe 1963, volume 6, Shu no ronri, p. 185)
Tanabe here is arguing against the corporatist notion of society whereby a single individual is subsumed under a particular group, as that group is subsumed under an organic whole. Because organic society lacks negativity and mediation between individual, group, and totality, it is impossible for this kind of system to be dynamic and to be historical. In place of a harmonious continuity Tanabe inserts antagonism, gaps, and undecidability. He writes that:
Social totality can't be seen as a harmonious accumulation of parts, but rather as a complex system of mediation where the individual (ko) maintains a productive antagonism towards the species (shu), and the species (shu) maintains a productive antagonism towards the whole (rui), whereby each part is also part of some other part; i.e. species does not have its own principal as predication. Instead, it is a hybrid mix (kongômono) that exists only through antagonistic relation with some other (tasha ni yoru). (p. 62)
This is to say that the crucial function of species is to guarantee that any society will not be sutured into an organic whole, but must be constituted vertically and horizontally through the mediating negativity of species. Instead of a static relation of classificatory binaries, species (shu) operates as a productive enabling tension that provides dialectical dynamism to socio-cultural systems. Vertically, the individual needs to self-consciously perceive its difference to (in other words, negate) their species, which at the same time needs to maintain a homogenous social cohesion brought about by the negation of each individuality. Here on the side of the subject, Tanabe was insistent that for self-consciousness grounded in individual freedom it was essential that the subject experience a discontinuity with/from species. Although the rules and customs of a particular species are "normatively" experienced by the individual as ideologically given and unquestioned (very similar to the operation of constitutive judgement that Tanabe located in Kant, where the subject blindly and passively applies rules of reason to certain experiences and objects), for the subject to attain self-consciousness there has to be a moment when it experiences a gap "spacing" itself from the species. At this moment, species is experienced as "other" (like in Tanabe's discussion of reflective judgement in Kant above, where the unknowability of an object different from the self retroactively produces free human will and judgement) and given not as something continuous with the subject, but as something antagonistic to and in conflict with it. Here, Tanabe emphasizes that for there to be a sense of subjective difference from species, the individual's immediacy with respect to its species must be broken. When it is broken, species becomes cognized antagonistically by a subject as something intent on restricting the subject's freedom and individuality.
Here, we can register two moments: the first is the factical, immediate, not-yet-self-conscious belonging to a particular species, and the second is the mediated negation of that belonging. What's important is that when the immediate relation of the subject with species is negated and a spacing/gap is produced (which creates both a relation of interdependence and a distinct independence for both subject and species), the subject appeals to a site of universality to receive codes both about the ways in which to negate species and to configure the differences between these three things. In the first essay of Shu no ronri, Tanabe spells this out through a discussion of Heidegger's text Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics (1929), a book that was intended to be the concluding section to Being and Time (1926). In this essay called "Zushiki 'jikan' kara, zushiki sekai e" ("From Schema of Time to Schema of World"), he sympathetically critiques Heidegger's emphasis on the temporal (jikan) nature of the transcendental imagination12 and replaces it with "world" (sekai). Although for the most part Tanabe relies here on his original critical reading of the philosophical tradition's deployment of genus (rui), species (shu), and singular thing (kotai), he insists at the same time, in a Kantian mode, that there is never a sutured closure between the species configured as irrational intuition and the rational understanding of an individual (kotai). There is always a gap between these two things. The gap that structures that relation is only given contingent meaning in the world through an appeal that transcends this individual/particular-species conflict into the universal site of meaning production (rui) that Tanabe suggests is homologous with the transcendental imagination in Kant. Though this universal place is non-subjective, it provides the individual with the contents for a re-charged imagination. Tanabe is clear that the contents of this place are given by the universal (rui) and "worldly" (sekai) Imperial State. Later in the text, Tanabe argues that there is a relation of negativity between the individual (kotai) and the pre-individual collectivity (shu). Again, the individual only arises as a result of its negation of the group, and the group is re-generated and re-produced by this negation and its simultaneous negation of the individual (Tanabe, Shu no ronri, pp. 25-28).
Individual and particular social structures are constituted and de-constituted horizontally as well. In this way, movements of negation and mediation among individuals, species-groups, and universal genuses will necessarily clash with other subjects and groups. Nevertheless, this incessant antagonism, violence, and mediation will in the end be mediated by the universal. As Shu no ronri was a text explicitly concerned with rationalizing Japan's colonial-imperialism, "universality" always means that enjoyed by the Japanese Imperial State. Tanabe's notion of "absolute mediation" (zettai baikai) signifies both this unsuturable process of negativity and antagonism existing vertically between the individual, species-group, and universal; horizontally between different individuals and groups; and the characteristic of the universal (Japanese Imperial State) to mediate absolutely all these movements of negativity and antagonism.
In later essays in Shu no ronri that discuss Marx, Heidegger, and Hegel, Tanabe wanted to redirect the ground of human action away from logic and metaphysics and situate it in the existential freedom of socio-historical praxis. In his book on Kant he focused on the undecidability and contingency of reflective judgement and in The Philosophy of Hegel he concentrated on the dialectical movement of negation and mediation. In Shu no ronri he focuses on Marx and Heidegger before realizing his original theory of subjective sociality in essays three, four, and five. With his reading of Heidegger, he began to think about subjectivity as thrown (Geworfenheit) into the future. In other words the givenness of human existence in its species (shu) must be negated as the subject is projected by time (and thrown in space in Tanabe's recasting) into an undecidable future, where the individual subject takes it upon himself to bring about something new. And through his reading of Marx advanced in his Tetsugaku tsûron (Elements of Philosophy) he stressed the way socio-historial praxis rides on negativity and antagonism.
While continuing his reading of the fundamental elements of individual existential freedom in Shu no ronri, Tanabe wanted as well to produce a conceptual frame that could situate many different species capable of co-existing under a shared site of universality. It is impossible to deny that for the purposes of Japanese imperial policy, Tanabe produced a stunning theorization of pluralism without falling into either liberalism or totalitarianism. Needless to say, there are many problems that necessarily arose by assigning Japanese imperial contents to the site of universality. In theory, any of the ethnicities in the Empire (Taiwanese, Korean, Yamato, Ainu, Pacific Island, Okinawan, etc.) could appeal equally to the site of imperial universality. However, the Heideggerian Geworfenheit seemed destined for a particular Japanese ethnicity; a secret or clandestination that took away the dynamic negativity in the case of particular and universal for ethno-Japaneseness. In other words, despite all the energy Tanabe expended in de-constructing and keeping undecidable the teleological destination of human praxis, this ended up clandestined for ethno-Japanese, secreted and cut-off from other ethnicities in the Empire. In Tanabe's essays published just after Shu no ronri the emphasis on contingent and undecidable Geworfenheit became marginalized in favor of a fixed destination of the nation-state; albeit a destination clandestined to and kept secret from other ethnicities. For example in a 1939 essay called the "Logic of Nation-State Being" (Kokkateki sonzai no ronri) he writes:
In the act of self-negativity that offers the self up as a sacrifice for the nation-state, paradoxically, the self is affirmed. At this time, because the nation-state demands that the self be sacrificed for it, it harbors the source for the individual self's life, and therefore, this sacrifice doesn't have the sense of being for some vague Other at all. It is just the opposite of this; it is about restoring the self to its true self (to be found only in the state). Owing to this process, self-negation transforms paradoxically into self-affirmation and the totality becomes unified with the self. The autonomy and freedom of an ungrounded ethics is not abolished when all is destined for the nation and subordinated to its decree, but rather is made possible by this destination and decree. (Tanabe, 1963, volume 7, p. 41. Emphasis mine)
Pierre Boutang, in his Ontologie du Secret, locates the linguistic logic that grounds secrecy in an operation with three irreducible acts: 1. maintaining the separation of the secret; 2. articulating its revelation; and 3. displacing the separation. The temporal order of these three acts can be reversed. For instance, the performativity of 2. will retroactively materialize 1., thus showing 3. to be an act that logically precedes the operations of 1. and 2. For the act of separation that installs the secret - ostensibly a moment of sovereign mastery - proves to be an act haunted by the event of a previous repetition: the singular force of a prior separation displaced and misrecognized. If 1. (maintaining the separation of the secret) is the originary instantiation that grants the secret a fully differentiated sovereignty, the proof of this sovereignty can only be claimed retroactively in the mirror of the Other to whom the male subject signifies the existence of its secret already constituted. The male controlling the dissemination of the secret's declaration of "I know something that you don't know," can only be authenticated as a moment of originary mastery (1.) as the articulation of its revelation (2.) which can only be a dispossessive giving up and misrecognized displacement (3.) of the pseudo-originary secernere/separation of the secret as such.
Jean-Luc Nancy (1990) brings this out in his discussion of ellipsis as what he nominates as a "system" that exposes the "origin as not being an origin." The systematicity of the ellipsis is such that it always gives over and exposes the Other in a movement that returns with a difference to the Self, a Self never sovereign and separate. The ellipsis is this inextricability of the "retreat/retracing" of the Other into the exposed Self, and it is temporally before the movement of the Self into the world. For our purposes here, Nancy implies that the disavowal of the system of ellipsis will produce a blockage and stockpiling, an accumulation whose attempts at maintaining separation and articulation of "I have something that you don't have" will "explode." The secret of sovereign essence is tightened and stockpiled by the refusal of a potential of communication with the Other, and an insistence on full differentiation from the Other. The tension of this refusal will grow and accumulate as the refusal is sustained. The secret's economy of withholding, accumulating, and tightening finally demands discharge. This is the apocalypse of the secret; apocalypse in the Greek sense that gives us the meaning of both revelation and destruction.
This moment of apocalypse can be read two ways. It can destroy the essence of the secret and the secret of essence as it reveals the operation of the secret to be only the singular existence of the irrupting flash of a one-time event. This would open onto Nancy's system of ellipsis that prevents the installation of an origin as sovereign separation as it denies the contents of the secret (Japanese essence). Or, the terrifying pleasure of its singular burst of revelation can make the curator of the secret retroactively recall the sovereign superiority of the separation of Self and Other and assign the force of its singular event to proper identities in a hermeneutic recovery operation. These identities are at the moment of apocalyptic irruption retroactively quilted as the worthy possessors of the secrets' terrible revelation and destructive power. And in this second mode of apoco-elliptical management, the system of ellipsis necessitates a surplus or lack that reminds us that no secret can fill its promises in revealing itself. Therefore, the cycle of the secret as a proper identity can begin its managed destruction again, and the system of ellipsis of apoco-elliptic Japan would come to work this deathly cycle in China and through all of East and South Asia.
In Kuki Shuzo's text, the paradigm text of Japanese ethno-national essentialism, the operations of secret and species work clearly in this second mode. Contingent socio-historical events are miraculously transcoded as being the proper of Japanese ethnic subjects, and the irruptive force of the events are retroactively quilted as the worthy possessors of the secrets' terrible revelation and destructive power. Although Tanabe Hajime's work in the early and mid - 1930's will articulate a logistics of negativity, antagonism, and lack at first glance opposed to the thematics of essence and organicism in Kuki's work - the traces of apoco-elliptic thinking can be registered. In Tanabe's early analytic of species/shu, will is metonymically linked with species as nation and then read together with a gluttonous Univerality. At the end of his Kant book, the devouring Universal comes to be positivized with the particularized contents of the nation.
In Shu no ronri, the operations of negativity and antagonism end up becoming modes of extracting species from its cryptopos. In so doing, the undecidability of species as secret becomes positivized with the contents of a particularized ethnicity. Therefore, in his 1939 essay called the "Logic of Nation-State Being" cited above, written as an epilogue to and a continuation of his thoughts in Shu no ronri, Tanabe redirects all the secret contingency of the event towards an "all (that) is destined for the nation and subordinated to its decree". The movement of species as clan, and species as clan-destination, operates here with a chilling clarity.
I need to thank Naoki Sakai, Katsuhiko Endo, Jacques Derrida, Diane Nelson, Scott Mobley, Sandra Buckley, Tom Lamarre, William Haver, Joshua Young, Jacqueline Orr, Ian Balfour, and Andrew Haas for discussing different aspects of this paper with me. Beng-Choo Lim is the phonocentric presence - techno-mediated - behind my labored reading of Tanabe and I kneel down and give thanks to her acoustic mirror every day. Thanks to Katsuhiko for what must have been the first public performance of Tanabe in Collegetown Ithaca on a Friday night. Being-able-to-respond- properly to them is of course - within the ethical protocols that have gone down in deconstructive theory recently - my own singular situation. All translations from the Japanese and French are my own unless otherwise indicated.
1 This work originated as a paper for Jacques Derrida in his spring 1992 graduate seminar at UC Irvine, called "Ethics Of Responsibility" although irresponsibly not turned in until summer 1993. In published form see his "Donner la mort" in L'ethique du don: Jacques Derrida et la pensee du don (Paris: Metailie-Transition,1992), and "Comment ne pas parler: Denegations," in Psyche: Inventions de l'autre (Paris: Galilee,1987).
2 All translations unless otherwise noted are by author.
3 "Evaluation etymologique et semantique du mot 'secret'", Nouvelle Revue de Psychanalyse, Numero 14, Automne 1976, p. 118.
4 The transferential relation between home (Heimlich) and not-home (the uncanny or Unheimlich) was stunningly dramatized on North American television sets in 1991 when then-president George Bush discovered, on his last trip to Japan with the Detroit CEO's (in a political embarassment that may have been the crucial factor in his defeat to Bill Clinton), that what was undigestible seemed to overdetermine everything about his Japanese visit. Bush ruined a very important formal dinner with the Japanese Prime Minister and Heads of State by vomiting violently all over the dinner table. Rumors had it that Bush was in rough shape until a Heimlich manoeuvre rid the uncanny and strange Japanese food from his body. A Heimlich maneuver may have saved the former president's life but the maneuvering of the Un-heimlich of the uncanny Japan that can say no to U.S. schoolyard bullying, may have been the foreign undigestible that Bush couldn't upchuck, no matter how sophisticated the Heimlich
5 Luce Irigaray frequently articulates the relation between the (straight) masculinist psycho-social investment in the death drive and the fear of women. In her recasting of Lacan, the ascendancy of the death drive is partially an effect of a disavowed castration and projection of this disavowal onto Woman. See Irigaray, Le Temps de la difference: pour une revolution pacifique. (l989) Paris: Librairie Generale Francaise.
6 Giorgio Agamben suggests "What the state cannot tolerate in any way; that singularities form a community without affirming an identity, that humans co-belong without any representable condition of belonging. For the State, therefore, what is important is never the singularity as such, but only its inclusion in some identity, whatever identity (but the possibility of the whatever itself being taken up without an identity is a threat the State cannot come to terms with.)" The Coming Community, p.86
7 Judith Butler nominates a similar problem of the possibilities of human agency in constrictive symbolic systems "enabling constraints." See her Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex" (New York: Routledge, 1993).
8 On this see Sakai, 1995, 1997, 1999 for the work that inspired me to think about Tanabe within the framework of pluralism and universalism. 9 On finite transcendence see Jean-Luc Nancy The Experience of Freedom (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993).
10 I replace the transgendered pronoun "hir" with the pronoun gendered masculine here because the subject of negativity will become explicitly gendered beginning with his work on Hegel.
11 For an excellent short introduction to Marx's notion of praxis and freedom see Etienne Balibar, The Philosophy of Marx (London: Verso, 1995).
12 Although Heidegger names this process differently, calling it "horizonal schema" in The Basic Problems of Phenomenology (1927) and "transcendental schemata" in Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics (1929), he insists that the imagination must be understood as containing both of the functions described above. Beginning with Being and Time (1926), imagination will cease to have solely a synthetic function in the service of the understanding. Trying to correct the metaphysical bias of Kant's emphasis on reason and the understanding, Heidegger will give understanding the independent function as outlining the conditions (or horizon) within the nothing which allows entities to come forward and be present in a "scene" of Being. The "ec-static" (un-fixed) nature of the imagination determines in advance all the different combinations of synthesizing operations of the understanding. But because the power and praxis of the imagination precedes the function of sending the information "disclosed" in the scene of transcendence back to the understanding of the subject, Heidegger emphasizes the futurity of the imagination and links it to original temporality.
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