Reconstruction 11.2 (2011)

Return to Contents»

Passages to Immortality: Arakawa and Gins, Stiegler, and September 11 / Daniel Ross

Abstract: Via what matrix should the significance of September 11 be grasped? In 1994 Arakawa and Gins launched a form of thought that began by asking who or what you would be if you were parted from the ledge of a New York skyscraper. In the same year Stiegler commenced his own project, according to which the question of the "human" is the question of the articulation of the who with the what, a question which necessarily passes through a consideration of memory, and of mnemo-technical systems. This paper proposes to read Arakawa and Gins, and Stiegler, through the prism of September 11, and vice versa.

Keywords: Media, Philosophy, Television & Film

Dedicated to Shusaku Arakawa (1936–2010)

<1> When asked which theoretical matrix best measures the significance of the September 11 attacks [1] it is not uncommon to mention that paradigm known as the permanent state of exception [2]. Evidence exists in good supply, after all, of a response to September 11 predicated on rolling out an unprecedented logic of security, depending for its ways and means on the reduction of life to mere life. Evidence for this might be considered to include the declaration by Alberto Gonzales in January 2002 to the effect that the "global war on terror" gave birth to, in his words, a "new paradigm" (Gonzales, 2002) [3]. But the real spaces of this paradigm are the prisons and the camps and all those sites subject to ever more penetrating surveillance, surveillance increasingly immodest enough to cross even the borders of the human body. Furthermore, an ever more hegemonic and unaccountable military is gathering, beneath its vast umbrella, previously separate bodies dealing with what are called (in such circles) "covert operations" and "intelligence," a situation described as the "fact of life today that the Pentagon is a five-hundred-pound gorilla and the CIA director is a chimpanzee" (cited in Hersh, 2005). Yet if the descriptive power of such a paradigm has today become unquestionable, the conditions of possibility dictating its emergence are less than transparent, conditions determining the possibility or otherwise of a response to this response [4].

<2> What is going on with terrorism today, but just as certainly with the response to terrorism, is a matter of bodies and minds, the space inhabited by bodies and the space inhabited by consciousness. It is a question of violence and of the spectacle of violence – but also of that which fails to reach public consciousness. The public space of September 11 is one in which the sensation of doomed and plummeting bodies is braided "strand over strand" with memories of movies such as The Towering Inferno (1974) [5]. The places most important to understanding this public space of terrorism are, then, those articulating bodily space with the spaces of consciousness. To that end I propose reading together two systems of thought. The lack of presumable familiarity with either of these systems imposes a certain amount of summary, for which I apologize. The question posed through this reading will be whether today, compared with yesterday, the following Emersonian sentence has become less true, or more: "Our life is not so much threatened as our perception" (Emerson, 1990, p. 241).


<3> A thought experiment. Finding itself abruptly parted from the ledge of a New York skyscraper the body descends, pulled by gravity, with no visible terrain for a safe landing. The only full-scale landing possible for the body on this path will either not be registerable by it or will be one signaling and constituting it’s ceasing to exist. If in thought I enter this hurtling body, who or what would I be then? But there is no time for who, nor is there time for what. The I that is no longer an I and nothing other than an I will be nothing other than landing sites [6]. Nothing, that is, but anticipation; anticipation of the end of anticipation.

<4> Suspending things at this delicate moment, this experiment strikes us as no longer, if it ever was, simply abstract. The truth is it was not in the wake of September 11 that it was devised but rather in 1994, by Madeline Gins and Arakawa, announcing, more or less, their shift from art to architecture (although their subsequent theory and practice will nevertheless prove irreducible to the latter). But the position in which this experiment leaves us (plummeting from a New York skyscraper) today provokes memories of a collective experience, a trauma shared technologically. Is this thought experiment changed by the fact it is now necessarily conducted in relation to a televisually mediated common experience, by the fact imagined scenario has become living memory? This question opens a region in which an encounter may be played out between Arakawa and Gins on the one hand, and Bernard Stiegler on the other hand. In this encounter it will turn out to be a question of what cleaves these figures apart from each other, and what cleaves them to each other.


<5> "Landing site" is for Arakawa and Gins an absolutely fundamental concept, even if it remains tentatively posed. With it they intend describing our relation to the surrounding milieu, prior to any distinction between a physical relation and a "merely" perceptual one, and prior as well to any distinction between conscious perception and bodily perception. Landing sites are the way the world is as such apportioned out. Any awareness of a site whatsoever involves greeting it, landing on it (Gins & Arakawa, 2002, p. 5). Arakawa and Gins name three types of landing sites: perceptual, imaging and architectural, the last of which have more recently been renamed dimensionalizing landing sites.

<6> Perceptual landing sites are any direct perceiving of something, anything that registers. They may, therefore, be visual, aural, tactile, olfactory, kinaesthetic or proprioceptive. Imaging landing sites, on the other hand, are "quasi-registerings": they fill in the blanks of perception, forming thereby a continuous world (p. 12). Imaging landing sites constitute something like the world of the Husserlian natural attitude, and thus are something like what is suspended in the Husserlian epoché. Between perceptual and imaging landing sites we discover or invent the world.

<7> Architectural landing sites are described by Arakawa and Gins as probably a hybrid of perceptual and imaging landing sites, but this description ("probably a hybrid") sounds, to my ears, uncertain and fuzzy (Gins & Arakawa, 1994, p. 21; cf., Gins & Arakawa, 1997, p. 158). However this stands – and we will return to it – architectural landing sites are, according to Arakawa and Gins, the experience of anything insofar as there is dimensionality to it, that is, judgment of distance: estimation, calculation, measurement. One metaphor through which they elucidate architectural landing sites is a "hook-and-rope ensemble," a net hooking itself onto what is perceived, a Cartesian diagram flung out at the world, yet anchored to myself (Gins & Arakawa, 2002, p. 8).

<8> When explaining architectural or dimensionalizing landing sites Arakawa and Gins have almost always resorted to a statement such as the following:

The best way to get a sense of how dimensionalizing landing sites function is to think of what happens when they are missing or insufficiently arrayed. Everyone has had the experience of feeling like an idiot when stubbing her toe. The necessary dimensionalizing landing sites were not in place, depth was not inserted where it needed to be (pp. 21–2; cf., Gins & Arakawa, 1994, p. 21; cf., Gins & Arakawa, 1997, pp. 158–9).

<9> Architectural landing sites thus become noticeable when they are absent, or when they cease properly to function [7]. They are those ways of perceiving the situation, the world in which one is, that measure and calculate the world, and that depend on the world in a calculative way and, therefore, in an anticipatory way.

<10> I jog, for instance, on a running track, a smooth surface built precisely so as to make thinking about it unnecessary. I presume the running track – I count on it, that is, trust it – while engaging in an activity depending on its presence. This track, in its very being, as a handy being, refers to the idea of consistent running. But when the track fails, when I stumble or trip (say on a crack or unevenness), at that point the architectural landing sites at work announce themselves through their failure.

<11> Experience is not a passive but rather an active patchwork formed and re-formed every time I enter or re-enter a room. It is contingent, woven of direct and imagined perception, and calculated and anticipated perception (on contingency, see Gins & Arakawa, 2002, pp. xii–xiv). This is not only, nor even primarily, a matter of consciousness but, rather, "is coordinated beneath awareness" (p. 53). Landing-site dispersal is the work of the body, the engaged body. But as a coordinator of landing sites, what I mean by "body," by my body, is precisely that which is in question.


<12> The work of Arakawa and Gins (like that of Stiegler) undoes the conventional premises of humanism and yet, unlike whatever passes for anti-humanistic thought, is committed to putting the human in question, for the sake of the human, or for the sake of its future, however inhuman. Arakawa and Gins are concerned with human beings as a species, but one essentially in question, as-yet-undetermined, "puzzle creatures to ourselves" (p. xii).

<13> All species exist, in their word, tentatively. The type of organism one is determines the type of milieu one finds about oneself. Human beings are persons, yet being a person is, according to Arakawa and Gins, merely a question of observable behavior, of being accepted by others as a person. "Identity is the forest that prevents us from seeing the trees that are the landing sites" (Gins & Arakawa, 1994, p. 18). For this reason they prefer to speak of human beings as "organisms that person." The organism we are persons the world, just as a dog dogs the world or a cockroach cockroaches the world. What I see, that I am. They write: "An organism-person-environment has given birth to an organism-person-environment." Organisms emerge, born into a territory, a milieu. They find this territory and, "having found it, adjust it" (Gins & Arakawa, 2002, p. 1). But if this suggests an equivalence in difference between species, what distinguishes humans may be the architectural relation as such, even though every species has its characteristic architecture, and even though no architecture is more intimate than the snail’s shell. The challenge for architecture is, then, we might say, to find a way of taking literally, yet as an opportunity, that narcissistic wound described by Freud as the discovery that "the ego is not master in its own house" (see Freud, 1955, emphasis added).

<14> What, then, is architecture? The "architectural crisis ethics" espoused by Arakawa and Gins, to which all their thought is in the end directed, and which they assert with reference to Auschwitz and Hiroshima, depends upon their answer to this question. Architecture does not mean, for them, any kind of monumental "holding in place," although it is usually constructed according to the pretense that it is. The form of this pretense is "insufficiently procedural" architecture, comfortable architecture that presupposes identity and fails to ask much of the body (Gins & Arakawa, 2002, p. 54). In fact, however, architecture can only ever really be "a tentative constructing toward a holding in place" (p. 23; cf., pp. 46–7). Ever tentative, always toward a never attained holding in place, the "architectural body" is forever on the move, in their word, "cumulative" (p. 83).

<15> It is not so much, then, that architecture underestimates the role of the body, as much as it falsifies this role or, perhaps, falsifies the body [8]. But tentative, cumulative being-in-becoming is covered over, not only by architecture falsely presenting itself as an achieved holding in place, but just as much (and conversely) by the presupposition that our own personal architecture, our "bodies-proper," are ever in the process of failing, that is, are mortal. This presupposition means, according to Arakawa and Gins, that "much of the liveliness on this planet registers numb" (pp. xvi–xvii). Building illusions of solidity to evade contingency, shells to be populated with organisms it indifferently abandons to mortal fate, existing architecture, however comfortable, results in muted life, bedimmed life, dead life. Arakawa and Gins thereby offer a variation on the Heideggerian theme of das Man, the one or the they, but with the twist that Heidegger’s preoccupation with Dasein as the mortal being par excellence renders his thought too a species of they-thinking [9].

<16> Arakawa and Gins chose one day to write the following sentence: "We have decided not to die." They appear to see the force of this sentence as lying somewhere between illocution and perlocution, and in writing it give birth to their central thought: reversible destiny (see Gins & Arakawa, 2006, p. 174). There should be no ethical goal other than, they say, that any organism-person ought be able simply to go on indefinitely. Pursuit of such an ethic requires, firstly, awakening the sense of the architectural body and, secondly, architecture designed to achieve the reinvention of life.

<17> The lacuna represented by the classically modern architectural debate about "form and function" can only be escaped, for Arakawa and Gins, by building not on the basis of what human beings are, but on the basis of what they might become. A procedural architecture provoking awareness of landing sites will make possible the redefinition of life and, therefore, enable its reinvention. Tactically posed architecture, posing questions to the body-proper, may have the effect, perhaps over the course of millennia, of reconfiguring supposed inexorability. If the goal of immortality seems like tilting at windmills, they ask, then why not build the windmills at which to tilt and, indeed, why not build the whole world as containing windmills that tilt back "knowingly and informatively" (Gins & Arakawa, 2002, pp. xviii–xix)? It is not only, then, that the organism adjusts the milieu; the milieu, the architectural surround, may profoundly adjust what the organism becomes. Hence their modest request:

We ask only that enormous sums of money be spent on constructing the world as a tactically posed surrounding for the benefit of the body. A procedural constructing of the world will constitute a way for our species to take evolution into its own hands (p. xix).

<18> The degree to which this commitment to immortality is intended literally and seriously may be the degree to which it challenges the "defeatism" of all existing ethics, but it is also the degree to which it risks indecorousness. Stiegler’s thought, founded on rethinking mortal Dasein through the myth of Prometheus, appears equally challenged by such a theory and practice devoted to the architectural achievement of biological immortality. Or, otherwise put, he would probably find unbecoming an ethics premised on reorganizing the organic, less because it expresses a fanciful desire for eternity than because what Arakawa and Gins express as a call in fact follows unsettling genetic advances threatening to engineer some "new humanity" (see Stiegler, 1998, pp. 85–7).

<19> Nevertheless this stark opposition – between a thought devoted to immortality and a thought premised on mortality as the very human thing – remains superficial if it pre-supposes "human life" rather than posing it. It is critical to note that Arakawa and Gins are concerned with the potential immortality of the architectural body, that is, the body grasped before its separation from the milieu. Where I am, that I am. If this does not quite suffice to overcome suspicion, it at least recasts the question. And it is this same question, the question of human life, that Stiegler’s thought, too, is dedicated to posing, or, rather, that he finds posed to us by technics (p. 88).


<20> Bernard Stiegler launches his project, too, in 1994, with the first of several volumes dedicated to rethinking the relation of time and technology (Stiegler, 1998). If Jacques Derrida’s Of Grammatology first outlined the logics of the supplement and the trace then, although Stiegler is a most faithful reader of Derrida, he finds there an implied necessity for a history of the supplement and of the trace. Stiegler’s project is to write this history, a history of the technics of memory, even though, strictly speaking, the very logic implying it also renders such a history impossible, no more possible, from a deconstructive perspective, than Heidegger’s history of being, yet, equally, no less necessary (Stiegler, 2001).

<21> Stiegler elaborates three temporalities (Stiegler, 2003, pp. 155–6). The first is that of the physical universe, which is temporal in the sense of "becoming," but what comes is increasing disorder – in short, entropy. This is in a way not yet temporality at all.

<22> The beginning of "life" inaugurates the second temporality. The origin of life may well be understood as a form of very complex, asymmetrical "crystallization," that is, as a self-repeating arrangement of molecular space, and as such this origin is no doubt reducible to physical processes. It is, in other words, complicated, and the moment at which it becomes proper to speak of life in principle arbitrary. Nevertheless at some point life "gets going" and, when it does, is nothing other than the struggle against entropy, a fight against the assault of the environment. Life is, in short, negentropic. It is différance, the struggle to differ from and defer the consequences of physical entropy (Stiegler, 1998, pp. 139–40). That life is constituted as and through différance is what means it is tentative.

<23> So long as life is unicellular, and reproduction occurs through division, it is not strictly possible to speak of particular species, in spite of the variety of unicellular life. And for the same reason it is not yet possible to speak of mortality as proper to the economy of life. Unicellular organisms may perish or be killed but, insofar as the succeeding generation is the result purely of division, death is inessential.

<24> At some point, however, in the struggle to quit the Hobbesian state of nature, the sovereignty of the single cell yields to the multicellular organism. With this step another possibility emerges: instead of the genetic immortality proper to every cell, a division becomes possible between those cells devoted to reproduction (the so-called germ cells) and those devoted to housing the germ cells (the somatic cells). Whereas the germ cells pass their genetic information onto succeeding generations through sexual reproduction, the somatic cells are strictly incapable of directly bequeathing the information contained in their DNA. The somatic cells protect the germ line but are themselves incapable of lasting reproduction: even if, within the body, cell-division continues to occur, the somatic cells cannot avoid succumbing to entropic forces. It is only when the soma is finally distinguishable from the germ that it becomes possible to speak of death as an essential aspect of biological becoming.

<25> A body, then, is an improvised means of life in its struggle against entropy, a shield against the milieu. Just as each cell has its cell wall, a porous border tentatively holding place against the outside, so too the body-proper constitutes a casing shielding the germ. As shell or shelter, the body is the germ’s architecture, the adjustment of the milieu, the construction of the world as more or less hospitable. At the same time, the plasticity of the bodily form in turn enables, through selection, the improvisation of new mechanisms for intervening in the environment – the elaboration, that is, of organs and behaviors. Among these will be the nervous system, which for the first time enables a second kind of memory, supplementing genetic memory: this second, somatic memory is a finite, non-genetic memory proper to the body of the individual and, therefore, a mortal memory (pp. 158–9; Stiegler, 2009, p. 67).

<26> The third temporality is that of human life or, as Stiegler prefers to call it, technics. Over the course of millions of years there occurs in a particular species of ape the transformation to upright posture, liberating the hand from its connection to walking and, in turn, liberating the mouth from its connection to grasping [10]. Somewhere, somehow, and unimaginably slowly, a certain species strikes the note of language, falls into the possession of tools and becomes humans [11].

<27> Just as the separation of the mortal soma from the immortal germ was a kind of exteriorization, the evolution of an outside proper to the organism, so too, when proto-humans begin to speak and use tools, another exteriorization begins, through which what is outside the body-proper is constituted as belonging to the organism. The body is extended to include elements of its milieu. What has commenced is technics: the organization of the inorganic for the sake of the organic in its perpetual struggle against disorganization.

<28> Technics inaugurates another temporality because it is the birth of a third memory: supplementing genetic memory and the memory of the nervous system, Stiegler names this "technical memory." Once the first tool is improvised, once there are things that remain and can be read, the possibility arises for passing the knowledge of such artifacts between generations. I can show a pre-existing tool to my children and, therefore, I can show them how to use it and how to make it. But even should I die, the artifact may survive, to be referred to by others. This is a third memory because it does not die with the individual, and because it involves a different kind of storage: neither the information stored in the DNA molecule, nor that stored in an individual nervous system, this third memory is stored outside. It is the "inorganic organization of memory," stored in the artifact itself and, later, in the systems of writing and then electronic storage, eventually linked to a global network (Stiegler, 1998, pp. 140–1, and p. 174).

<29> This potential for exteriorization, for inventing an outside, which is the possibility not only of tools but of language, depends, according to Stiegler, on a default of origin. Not only does the hammer refer to the hand that grasps it but, evolutionarily speaking, the hand itself is invented with reference to the axe it will need to hold [12]. The use of tools begins from a lack, a nakedness, an incapacity necessitating the invention and adoption of ever-new capacities, without end. Language, too, begins from such a lack, an incompetence necessitating its invention, an invention that, like technics, becomes an outside (pp. 164–5). Technics exposes this lack. It is the material realization of that which is not determined by biological programming, in other words, the beginning of idiomatic difference, that is, culture (p. 151). The origins of language and technics can only be thought together, as one process constituting the invention of the human as the invention of the exteriorized milieu.

<30> In other words, the human is not a who that invents a what. The human is rather what is invented and, as such, the invention of the human is the invention of the distinction between the who and the what, the invention of the distinction between interior and exterior. The exteriority of this third memory, technical memory, the fact that we therefore have access to what was already there at our birth, makes possible the sense of a past that was and was not ours, and therefore the sense of a future that does and does not end with our extinguishment. Only the preindividual milieu that our artifacts constitute makes accessible the impossible knowledge of our own mortality. Thus only when technics begins can we properly speak of anticipation. If it is only with multicellular organisms that death can be said to belong to the process of life, it is only with the human organism that we can properly say: technical life, that is, dying (p. 186).


<31> We can at this point return to the suspended experiment with which we began, according to which, plummeting from a New York skyscraper, the organism no longer has time for who or what, but only for the anticipation of potential landing sites signaling impending extinguishment. It will be recalled that Arakawa and Gins speak of architectural landing sites as probably hybrids of the other two kinds (perceptual and imaging) but that we immediately placed this judgment, too, in suspension. The understanding of the body must, according to Arakawa and Gins, include everything on which awareness "lands," yet does this not beg the question of what makes the difference between organism and milieu thinkable in the first place? But what if, thinking along Stieglerian lines, we understand landing sites as the concept dictating that the interior and the exterior must be thought in terms of what composes them, rather than in terms of what opposes them? If the human is what is invented, are we not entitled to think that architectural landing sites may be, rather than a hybrid, in fact the most necessary, the first in line, without which there is no "outside"?

<32> To illustrate the idea of landing sites Arakawa and Gins refer at length to the mathematician Karl Dahlke (Gins & Arakawa, 2002, pp. 14–20). Dahlke was able to solve a polyomino puzzle that had been around for several decades. A polyomino is like a domino tile, except that it can be more complexly shaped (for example an L-shape or T-shape), and the puzzle consists in finding whether and how a set of identical polyominos can fit together to form a rectangle.

<33> Dahlke worked by constructing from cardboard a set of polyomino tiles, which he would manipulate. Having played with these for a while, they would be set aside and he would operate instead with a wholly imaginary "large, brown board" and a set of equally imaginary "shiny, white polyominos" waiting to be placed on it (at this point it should be mentioned that Dahlke is blind). Wherever he was the board and its pieces would accompany him. This was so successful that, for example, he was able to fall asleep and, upon awakening, the pieces would be arranged on his imaginary board exactly as he had "left" them.

<34> Arakawa and Gins take this as evidence of the power of imaging landing sites, but it is the critical significance of architectural landing sites that must not be overlooked. Everything begins with physical pieces, constructed from cardboard. Even when these are discarded, they are replaced by an imaginary brown board and white pieces, pieces of a definite thickness, all of which is of course mathematically insignificant. What is being replayed in this example is the origin of geometry according to Husserl, its material origin, its origin in the invention and construction of a retentional apparatus. It is only on this material basis that a priori geometric categories will first be attained, even if, in the history of geometry, this material origin will be occluded or deemed inessential.


<35> No doubt you are aware of the design contest that was held for the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site, and probably just as aware that none of its contestants could afford to neglect the geometrical puzzle calculating how many millions of square feet of office space their designs would liberate. But the winner of the contest, Daniel Libeskind, also recently published an autobiography, Breaking Ground, in which he refers to the pleasure involved in a more modest project: a house designed for an artist on the island of Mallorca. This pleasure is described as the potential for a kind of awakening, but his illustration comes, surprisingly, not from his own design but from Marcel Proust’s Time Regained. Libeskind’s example is thus not the madeleine which opens the Proustian narrative but its mirror at the end, when the narrator trips, or is uncomfortably and disconcertingly unbalanced, by a paving stone slightly lower than its neighbor, provoking the recollection of an identical sensation at the baptistery of St. Marks in Venice.

<36> This is, no doubt, the operation of architectural landing sites appearing at the moment of their failure, but it is also, in Libeskind’s words, a "profoundly architectural" moment, awakening for the narrator (through a reminiscence provoked materially, so to speak) an entire world lying in wait, to which there could be no access other than through the work of this architectural default (Libeskind, 2004, pp. 221–2). This default has an effect, the production of an image, that of Venice, an imaging landing site spatially and temporally distant yet suddenly nearer than the surrounding milieu. Where I am not, there I am. And this is not only a question of pleasure, for the memories evoked by both the madeleine and the failure of the paving stones are accompanied by (and Libeskind does not mention this, even though it is the culmination of Proust’s long paragraph devoted to these reminiscences) a sense of certainty, the effect of which is, in Proust’s words, to "make death a matter of indifference" (Proust, 1981, p. 900).

<37> This author and his protagonist are habitually understood as consumed by retrospection, but this indifference to death, that moment or decision in which the narrator discovers his mortality no longer has significance for him, is not only prospective but the achievement of a kind of immortality. Provoked by reminiscence, Proust "walked on into futurity, for example into his book" (Cavell, 1988, p. 17; Cavell is talking about Thoreau), the book that will become the invention of his future, his material survival (insofar at least as there remains an ongoing possibility of finding readers). And this might constitute a clue to understanding the thought of immortality so vehemently insisted upon by Arakawa and Gins, insisted upon in the strictest ethical terms, but which they nonetheless qualify as a kind of de-sistence:

Another way to read reversible destiny – a less radical way, but for some people, we are given to understand, a perhaps less terrifying and therefore more inviting way – is as an open challenge to our species to reinvent itself and to desist from foreclosing on any possibility, even those our contemporaries judge to be impossible (Gins & Arakawa, 2002, p. xviii, emphasis added).

<38> I tend to hear in this open challenge the sense that what is progressively being lost in resignation to mortality, that is, in resignation to consequences, is the feeling for life as endless improvisation. Nevertheless the equivocality of the Proustian moment should not be underestimated. I pose as a question, for instance, whether such indifference to mortal fate was the state of mind or state of being enabling the September 11 hijackers to carry out their project. I am tempted to conclude that a precisely opposite mood was at work on that day, a state in which their own suicide, and with it the murder of many others, constituted for the hijackers the event of greatest possible significance, constituting, rather than indifference, the achievement of the greatest possible difference and, indeed, distinction. Perhaps it is better to say that somehow all these aspects are necessary (significance and insignificance, difference and indifference, each taken to their limits and yet conjoined with their opposites) for the translation of such a thought into material reality, that is, material destruction [13].


<39> This question about mortality and immortality, significance and indifference, is posed to us, then, not only by Proust but by Mohammed Atta and his collaborators. And it reaches us, greets us, not directly but via systems of technical memory, those mnemotechnical systems that include the global publishing industry and the audio-visual programming industry, as well as speech.

<40> It is perhaps not news that human signification always occurs via systems dedicated to broadcasting potential significance. This potential does not only derive from these systems, however, but from my own potential to receive, specifically from my potential to receive news, that is, from my temporality, my state of not yet being finished, being out of phase with myself, not yet fully a person. The word used by Stiegler to describe this situation, and that he adopts from Gilbert Simondon, is "individuation." I am always in the course of my individuation, not quite yet myself, ever on the way to becoming a who, and this is so because individuation is "structurally incapable of completion" (Stiegler, 2009, p. 4). The stability of any particular moment in this process of individuation is not an equilibrium in the sense of the point of lowest potential energy; it is, rather, a metastable equilibrium, a temporary stability achieved within the general milieu in which I exist, subject to destabilization and restabilization, but this always means a new restabilization [14].

<41> It is necessary, in short, to speak of three inextricably tied strands of individuation. These are, firstly, the individuation of the I, of the individual; then there is the individuation of the we, that is, of the collectivity of Is of any group, a collectivity that is nothing other than the sum of the individuals constituting it, but that is nevertheless always in the course of its own individuation; and lastly there is the individuation of the (technical) milieu, that is, all those prostheses mediating the transmission of words, sounds, images and everything significant and insignificant, including not only present communications, but all those artifacts and relics already there, constituting a preindividual milieu.

<42> Communication is both synchronic and diachronic, the articulation or composition of the synchronic with the diachronic. It is synchronic to the degree the medium exists in common, as, for example, the "rules" of grammar [15]. At the same time, however, if I speak to you, and insofar as it is possible for me to say something to you, communication is radically diachronic. It is only to the degree I am different to you, to the degree my individuation is different from yours, to the degree you have not already heard or understood what I am telling you, thus to the degree our temporalities differ, that it is possible for you to receive what I am saying as significant. And only on the basis of this possibility does it become possible, in turn, for me to exist. Stiegler: "I will only succeed in individuating myself if I succeed in making you individuate yourselves with me" (Stiegler, 2009, p. 5; see also pp. 78–9). In whom I am, there am I. But, precisely because you are individuated separately and differently from me, according to your own temporality, what you hear and understand in what I am saying is not what I hear and understand, and not what somebody else will hear and understand, nor even what any of us may hear or understand tomorrow.

<43> Now what I want to suggest, perhaps generously, is that Arakawa and Gins express something similar to this, but in relation to architecture posed as a signifying milieu. They write:

In cooperation with other organisms, not only synchronically but also in some respects diachronically, the architectural body mediates the body proper and the architectural surround, and it therefore ought to be viewed as communal (Gins & Arakawa, 2002, pp. 70–1).

<44> Allowing this suggestion, it is neither accidental nor insignificant that the tactically posed architecture advocated by Arakawa and Gins (which they frequently refer to as "closely argued built-discourse") consists of discrete, precise and repeatable elements, elements, that is, that resemble the discrete, precise and repeatable units of language and writing (p. 55). One mechanism of this procedural architecture is the provocation, by entering nearly identical rooms, of memory and reflection, just as re-reading a book provokes the potentially discomforting reflection that it is a different experience second time around (Stiegler, 1998, p. 276; Stiegler, 2003, p. 160). Occupation and architecture would constitute, then, life lived as bodily practices of reading and writing buildings, where reading and writing are nothing other than techniques for drawing on a shared past in order to cast ourselves into an anticipated if unpredictable future. For Arakawa and Gins, we might say, who are, strictly speaking, neither architects nor philosophers, the house is the language of being, that is, of becoming.


<45> Because it constitutes a third memory technics creates its own necessity and rhythm. The development of one tool makes possible if not inevitable the development of another, each handy in relation to yet another, this functional interdependence eventually constituting what Stiegler calls a "technical system" (Stiegler, 2003, p. 163). Such systems metastabilize, that is, they are relatively stable, but this equally means relatively unstable, an instability that sometimes reaches the point of crisis. Crisis here means that the system ceases to function adequately, provoking a disadjustment on the way to a new phase. And this dynamic process of adjustment and disadjustment at the same time does not fail to affect the individual and collective individuations occurring through it.

<46> Now this process, which initially took place according to a rhythm of millions of years, has accelerated, and this acceleration greatly intensified from the time of the industrial revolution, culminating in our contemporary situation, which may be characterized, according to Stiegler, as one of permanent innovation in which disadjustment attains a limit (Stiegler, 2009, p. 42). And what is also new is the simultaneous accessibility of millions of consciousnesses via the mnemotechnical systems of the global marketplace, making possible the synchronization of the experience of all these consciousnesses [16].

<47> The upshot of this is that individual and collective individuation is today decisively threatened. Individuation is diachronic, that is, a kind of movement, my movement in relation to yours, but if we are all constantly exposed to identical audio-visual programs at the same time, if I thus tend to move increasingly in step with everyone else, then this in fact tends toward a point at which it ceases to be movement. And when this synchronization reaches a certain intensity, and when it is systematically and systemically tied to consumption, that is, to creating the endless desire to take up new products, then we are entitled to speak of hyper-synchronization.

<48> What we are threatened with is a catastrophic decomposition of the I and the we, the destruction of my and our potential for existence. The we becomes tendentially a they as each I is dissolved into all the others. What then reigns is that suffering accompanying the becoming-inhospitable of the milieu in general, a suffering describable as the growing doubtfulness of individual and collective life. Life has been abandoned by and to the world or, we may as well say, to mere life. But on the other hand this doubtfulness or abandonment engenders an array of hyper-diachronizations, violent passages to the act, desperate attempts to exist, conducted against and in the face of this loss of movement, of which the suicidal and homicidal September 11 attacks and even more, I suggest, today’s "new paradigm," with its fantastic and paranoid internal and external wars, are exemplary.

<49> It is, then, of the greatest possible significance that September 11 played live on television to a global audience of millions, becoming thereby a global memory and a perfect illustration of today’s synchronization of consciousness. But on the other hand September 11 punctuated that state and destabilized collective certainties, constituting in fact an American or even planetary stumbling, a stubbed toe, an unbalancing and uncomfortable failure of architectural landing sites causing the American we to feel vulnerable, the reverberations of which have not failed to find their own momentum. These reverberations have not been limited to the wars launched and marketed as a result of September 11, with their massive but remotely controlled and largely invisible (that is, unrecorded) production of death, but have included as well all those counter-responses that, like the September 11 attacks themselves, are the deliberate antithesis of this murder by remote control. Decapitations, for example, the images of which are recorded and broadcast without delay (if usually in edited form) into the homes and minds of millions via satellite, are on the one hand the most up-to-date, the most technological of acts, and on the other hand, and deliberately, the most primitively embodied: a provocative reversion to a more explicit relation between body-proper and technics, the technics of the sword or the knife, what Derrida called a "new archaic violence" (Derrida, 2002, p. 88).


<50> I have elsewhere suggested that torture is a milieu, an exteriorized and twisted language, a synchronic and diachronic process operating between torturer and victim, in which both are equally important if not equals (Ross, 2004, pp. 164–73; Ross, 2005; and esp. Ross, 2007b). It is a language or technics written on the body but engaging awareness in a total way that, insofar as it is traumatic, inevitably leaves scars. And I have further suggested that today’s wars of religion, conducted in the name of or against (but either way as a result of) today’s disadjusted state, can be understood, among other ways, through the prism afforded by recognizing that the intellectual progenitors of Osama Bin Laden (that is, Sayyid Qutb and Ayman al-Zawahiri) were both tortured, and that this had a radicalizing and crystallizing impact on their individuation and their fundamentalism. Today’s wars of religion, which like all wars are technical wars, can be understood as the continuation of that tortured and torturing dialogue between fundamentalists and infidels, bound to one another by the most intimate and secret communications, and by the global systems and networks broadcasting details of their respective and violent passages to the act.

<51> What I have not previously emphasized, however, is that this torture was prison torture, conducted within the facilities in which each spent so much time, raising the question what difference such an architectural surround makes. Rather than pursuing their cases further, however, I want in the final section to recollect that prison was also a constituting and catalyzing experience for many others, including Bernard Stiegler, who became a philosopher during his five years in French jails. Without these years in prison Stiegler, who did not complete high school, would not have become a philosopher. He explains this in his remarkable published address, Passer à l’acte (in Stiegler, 2009), the title of which refers both to the act that led him to prison, and to the passage, in prison, that conducted him to philosophy.


<52> There is no longer time to describe everything in that lecture bearing upon the imprisoned body. The first thing to say is that for Stiegler prison was nothing other than the suspension of the world or, in other words, a form of life enacting the phenomenological epoché (Stiegler, 2009, p. 22). Deprived of the world, of the exterior milieu, of the everyday architectural surround, Stiegler could turn only to the interior milieu, to what is sometimes called the inner life. But what he proceeded to learn from this inward turn is that "the world is all outside: it has no inside" (Emerson, 1990, p. 251). No interior milieu remained for Stiegler, except through that which remained of the exterior: remained, but reduced to an absolute minimum, in the form of memory (Stiegler, 2009, pp. 17–18).

<53> Speaking of the simultaneous births of the personal interior and the domestic interior, Walter Benjamin wrote:

The interior was not only the private citizen’s universe, it was also his casing. Living means leaving traces. In the interior, these were stressed (Benjamin, 1973, p. 169).

<54> My individuation takes place through all my encounters and all those traces left, through all the landing sites I greet, all those that support me, and all I leave in my wake, as a snail leaves behind it the evidence of its journey [17]. Stiegler’s cell was his casing, lending stress to all those traces from which he was suddenly distanced, and yet with which he found himself more intimate than ever before.

<55> Stanley Cavell glosses Benjamin in this way:

Traces relate the human body’s dinting of the world back to this particular body, but how do we relate this body to what has dinted it (Cavell, 2005, p. 247)?

<56> Stiegler’s response to his dinting by incarceration was to develop a practice, a discipline, dedicated to recovering and reconstituting the world. His means of production (or rather re-production) was a systematic practice of reading and writing, and thus for Stiegler, walled in, the written word was indeed "the choicest of relics" [18]. But what ought not be forgotten is that this practice was also possible because the city, the law, had not completely abandoned its prisoners, insofar as within this architectural surround there remained a prison library, that is, books awaiting readers (Stiegler, 2009, pp. 20–3) [19].

<57> Stiegler’s reconstructed world relied, therefore, on hypomneses, books, those technical and artificial means for the preservation of memory Plato condemns in Phaedrus. Phaedrus is concerned firstly with establishing that the soul, as what is self-moving, is immortal, and that the sojourn of a soul in a body is equivalent to incarceration, being imprisoned in what is not self-moving, and which decays, and is therefore mortal (Plato, 1961, 245c and 250c). But for Plato the situation of writing mirrors that of the soul in its bodily prison: writing is the incarceration and therefore the destruction of living memory, the very institution of forgetting, a dead simulacrum of the immortal life of living speech (276a; Stiegler, 2009, pp. 15–16). For Stiegler, on the other hand, who does not forget that Plato was also an author, the lesson and the virtue of prison was the recognition that writing, books, or more generally artifacts, are the very means of memory, that the inside is constituted from the outside, and that at the heart of the interior there is only another outside. Stiegler expresses this in the following way:

I am essentially my outside, which is something spatial, and that inevitably means also hypomnesically already-there; but it is therefore also – and immediately – temporal, since it is constituted in the already, and memorially. In this remainder that in prison cannot cease, even when there is apparently no longer anything else – that is, when time no longer seems to flow – space appeared to me, however, to constitute time or, rather, to reconstitute it, in a kind of originary après-coup (Stiegler, 2009, p. 30).

<58> Space speaks to us here about time. Time in prison does not flow (the daily routine does not vary) yet something of the greatest significance one day turns out to be utterly insignificant the next. The lesson learned is thus that significance comes only from myself, but from myself-as-other, that is, myself as constituted through the other, through the outside: that is, through my recollections of the outside. Thus significance always corresponds to "an expectation of my memory" (p. 28) [20].

<59> Incarceration turns out to be, then, like Dahlke’s blindness, capable of surprises, and even of constituting a virtue. What seemed an utterly insufficiently procedural architecture did not fail to generate its own singular procedures: Stiegler’s invented discipline. Walled in, this may not quite have been Paradise, yet, gaining "freedom," that is, upon his release, something may well have been lost. If so, however, something was also lastingly gained: specifically, Stiegler’s discovery that "the philosophical vocation, if there is one, gives itself, as in Proust, in the future anterior of an après-coup, as endurance of the après-coup" (p. 12). That is, as a reminiscence, but a reminiscence devoted to an expectation, an anticipation, of a future.

<60> For Stiegler, just as for Arakawa and Gins, the outside is irreducible. But whereas for the latter this defines an imperative to construct architecture that before anything else signifies directly to the body, for Stiegler, imprisoned, this exterior meant memories and writing grasped as the constitutive ingredients of consciousness, even bodily consciousness [21]. On the other hand Stiegler cannot simply be cleaved from Arakawa and Gins along the axis mortal-immortal. His precise point of disagreement with Heidegger is, despite initial appearances, the understanding of Dasein as nothing but mortal. It is technical memory that first awakens the impossible anticipation of mortality that defines Dasein, but this very fact is what also means my life cannot only be defined according to the mortality of my body. Stiegler is thus absolutely concerned, and first of all, with "the problem of immortality," that is, with recognizing that, as he writes, "my whole life is dedicated to or overdetermined by that which comes after-my-death, which is also to say by the births to come" (Stiegler, 2003, p. 161).

<61> According to Benjamin’s narrative, the domestication of the interior (that site embodying life grasped as traces left) brought with it the invention of detective fiction, devoted to these traces. And for Stiegler, too, the practice of his invented discipline was, in prison, partially a matter of detective work, in which the critical question was how he could have fallen so out of love with the world as to permit engaging in passages to the act of crime, that is, passages leading inevitably to incarceration (Stiegler, 2009, pp. 28–9). This is the question of the possibility of insignificance, and of how it becomes possible to foreclose on the world, that is, on the future.

<62> There is no shortage of reasons today for losing faith in the future, not the least significant of which are ecological, but others equally significant are existential. When physical, entropic temporality is confounded with the temporality of human life, that is, technics, this denies the future and turns the entire world into a prison. It is the end of the future. This confounding of temporalities is visible everywhere one sees that insecurity and suffering leading in some cases to lives of quiet desperation but, in others, to inquietly desperate passages to the act of violence, whether by individuals, groups, nations or willing coalitions.

<63> In contrast, if not quite in opposition, one must affirm the future is more important, more existent, than the past. But a negentropic future finds possibility only through the work of imagination and anticipation, only through a projected expectation of my memory, an expectation "which may or may not be satisfied by the world," and thus one that always takes place through participation in the fictive [22]. And this implies that affirming the future or, rather, re-affirming it, does not make it any less risky, nor less threatened, nor less tentative, nor even less fictional. Immortality may now be cast in the form of a definition, that is, hopefully, a tentative synchrony: it means nothing other than the possibility and the necessity of maintaining, even to the verge of childishness or craziness, that struggle to reinvent and reconstruct the fiction of a future, without which everything loses significance.

<64> If immortality is thus figured as the revival of the desire and potential to exist, and presuming this rules out martyrdom (if not necessarily sacrifice), are we to seek pathways to immortality only in architectural or philosophical practice? Why not elsewhere, say for instance in dance, which is also a discipline and a technique, as well as a temporal object existing only in the course of its duration? Could it be found in dancing grasped as "facing the music" (here again citing Cavell recalling Fred Astaire), dancing "as a response to the life of inexorable consequences, which turn out to be the consequences of desperate pleasures" (Cavell, 1995, p. 28) [23]?

<65> Wherever one prefers to wager one’s faith, however, the first site requiring approach today must surely be that puzzling place, comprehensible as a monumental experiment in life lived as improvisation, or as a land of desperate pleasures, or as a landscape of prisons, or as a "mythological locale" – call this place "America" (see Cavell, 1981, p. 57). It was already observed decades ago, during another interminable war, that, of all the countries in the world, and paradoxically, it is America that most of all "feels mortal," that is, unsure of its existence [24]. Uncertainty and insecurity become an insatiable need for love as proof of existence, but this with one twist can transform itself into a need for, and the passage to the act of, war. Is America lovable? Could a change of consciousness (it’s or ours) make it so? Might this even be the struggle confronting us? "So phenomenology becomes politics" (Cavell, 1976, p. 346). That is, first in line among the questions in need of posing today is still that of America’s existence, the open challenge asking whether there, in the perpetually new world of America, immortality finds promise, or only eclipse, which is to say its demise.


[1] This paper was presented as a keynote address at the conference entitled "The Politics of Space in the Age of Terrorism" at RMIT University on July 1, 2005. Preceding the address was a five-minute excerpt from 9/11 (2002), an excerpt commencing with a voiceover stating, "When the second plane hit, that’s when you could see fear." Scenes of firefighters in the lobby of the World Trade Center followed, milling around and listening to the sound of bodies hitting the ground outside the building. The excerpt culminated with a bystander outside the burning World Trade Center, exclaiming, "It's like something out of The Towering Inferno, like a movie!" Please note that the author has chosen not to make any significant changes here to the paper as presented six years ago, other than the dedication, and the addition of a few more-recent references.

[2] I have done so myself in, for example, Violent Democracy, where I write, explicitly enough (Ross, 2004, p. 148): "The true meaning of the War on Terror is that the sovereign, the president, has made the decision to implement the state of exception as the norm." There is a sense in which, then, what follows is a reckoning with myself, or, hopefully, an expression of movement.

[3] This memorandum was written when Gonzales was Counsel to the White House, dated 25 January 2002 (and see also, Mayer, 2005).

[4] For a more elaborate treatment of the conditions of possibility dictating the permanent state of exception, see for instance the following (Ross, 2005, p. 83): "The violence of democracy can then be summarized: the foundation of democracy always and necessarily involves an appeal to a universal (the democratic as such), yet this foundation and this appeal are both themselves necessarily idiomatic (this democracy here and now). The ‘state of exception’ is first of all the founding fiction conjoining the infinite thought of an infinite democracy to the finitude of democratic singularity. Democracy thus inevitably contains a tension which is spaced out and played out in the practice and process of politics. But why does the possibility of this tension between the universal and the idiomatic arise? It arises because the universal and the idiomatic are, beyond an opposition, possibilities distributed by the fact of communicability. They are ‘characterizations’ of significance as such, and this ‘productive tension’ stems from the fact that the difference between the universal and the singular is constituted through their relation. Thus the ‘state of exception,’ whether as founding fiction or as resort, depends on the technical means of communication and memory, which is to say, upon the conditions of perception or experience." For a more general critique of Agamben, see my review of Agamben’s Profanations (Ross, 2008).

[5] "Memories of movies are strand over strand with memories of my life" (Cavell, 1979b, p. xix). The role of Stanley Cavell throughout what follows is intended as something like an undercurrent, hopefully increasingly felt.

[6] See Gins & Arakawa, 1994, p. 18. This thought experiment repeats the very experiment inaugurating modern science – Galileo’s investigation into the properties of falling bodies from, for instance, the Tower of Pisa – but with one modification, the coincidence of subject with object, of scientist with apparatus, of the who with the what. But with this modification we exit scientific method properly speaking, at least insofar as it has always relied on the separability of subject and object or, as Bernard Stiegler puts it, insofar as "science is born with the suspension of handling: it constitutes a ‘withdrawal of the hand’" (Stiegler, 1998, p. 266).

[7] There is, then, an analogy between architectural landing sites and the Heideggerian concept of equipment, or an analogy with the relation between the two types of awareness proper to equipment, that is, handiness and objective presence. Equipment means those objects, those things, which are "just there," already there, before they are there as present-to-hand. A hammer is there, handy, we do not notice it, but it has being in the form of being handy, and it is only when the hammer is not there, or when it fails, that the "thingness" of the hammer, its objective presence, comes into appearance (Heidegger, 1996, § 15).

[8] This may be compared with Cavell, who cites Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, "Other people cannot be said to learn of my sensations only from my behavior—for I cannot be said to learn of them. I have them" (Wittgenstein, 1953, § 246), and offers this commentary: "His idea, I might say, is that this philosophical use of ‘only’ – that all but unnoticeable word in his apparently trivial claim about what cannot be said ... is not merely a sign that we, say, underestimate the role of the body and its behavior, but that we falsify it, I might even say, falsify the body: in philosophizing we turn the body into as it were an impenetrable integument" (Cavell, 1988, p. 163). I am, then, suggesting that Arakawa and Gins find architecture guilty of something similar to what Cavell reads as Wittgenstein’s accusation against philosophy.

[9] For Stiegler on the other hand, the they, today, will be, more than anything else, that state brought about by the mass synchronization of consciousness, a synchronization (that is also a conditioning) produced by all those techniques for fabricating the desire to take up the new, that is, for organizing consumption, that is, production. Heidegger’s philosophical error, leading to a catastrophic political adventure, is, according to Stiegler, the failure sufficiently to distinguish the we from the they, that is, the failure to distinguish the temporality of the we from the temporality of the they. This relates to Heidegger’s "turn" from the existential analytic to the history of being (that is, from the I to the we), which Heidegger never adequately articulated together (due to his failure to grasp the temporality or the technics of the milieu as such, that is, of individual and collective individuation). And, as Stiegler notes, given the fact that this political adventure consisted in being swept into the National Socialist they, what is also demonstrated by the "case" of Heidegger is that to condemn the they is not necessarily to immunize oneself against succumbing to it (see Stiegler, 2009, pp. 60–2 and pp. 80–1; Stiegler, 2003, p. 162).

[10] See André Leroi-Gourhan, 1993, pp. 25–6. Stiegler leans heavily on Leroi-Gourhan’s work, in spite or because of his deconstruction of the latter’s palaeo-anthropology.

[11] This way of putting the matter weaves Gregory of Nyssa together with Stanley Cavell (see Cavell, 2005, p. 186). The statement from Gregory of Nyssa, from "Treatise on the Creation of Man," is cited approvingly by Leroi-Gourhan (1993, p. 25): "So it was thanks to the manner in which our bodies are organized that our mind, like a musician, struck the note of language within us and we became capable of speech. This privilege would surely never have been ours if our lips had been required to perform the onerous and difficult task of procuring nourishment for our bodies. But our hands took over that task, releasing our mouths for the service of speech." On Cavell’s Philosophy the Day after Tomorrow, see Ross, 2006.

[12] It is equally the case that the human brain evolves or is invented in the course of discovering all those adaptations, all those applications, that the hand and the face learn through the long history of the development of language and technics. It is thus now generally accepted that erect posture, the liberation of hand and face, occurred or at least began prior to the massive expansion of the brain. See Leroi-Gourhan, 1993, p. 26.

[13] And it is with this thought in mind that we can reflect as well, and as an aside, on Libeskind’s statement in relation to his inaugural project in Berlin, that is, the Jewish Museum, a statement that follows Kafka this time, to the effect that the most dangerous line is the one three centimeters above your foot, "the line you stumble on," and about which Libeskind comments: "I take this as a technique" (Libeskind, 1992, p. 97).

[14] On metastability, see Simondon, 1992, esp. pp. 301–2. On disadjustment as provoking individual and collective individuation, see Stiegler, 2003, p. 163.

[15] This is a kind of synchronic idealization, for language too is always in the course of its individuation, that is, tentative. Language, as such, does not exist, but it consists to the degree that I can use it and you can understand me.

[16] This is the central theme of "To Love, to Love Me, to Love Us: From September 11 to April 21," in Stiegler, 2003. See also Stiegler, 2011.

[17] See Stiegler, 2009, p. 19: "Because if we are constituted by retentions that remain within us in the absence of the world, these retentions produce protentions that are desires for actions, actual forms of being-in-the-world. I had found the way to suspend these protentions, because I had transferred them to my unceasing effort to consider the element while being myself maintained outside of it – through fabricating that other element which was in the process of becoming ‘my philosophy,’ a pure fabric of hypomneses, of which I daily deposited traces on paper, like a snail sliming along a wall."

[18] Thoreau, 1966, p. 69: "A written word is the choicest of relics. It is something at once more intimate with us and more universal than any other work of art."

[19] Whereas those progenitors of Al Qaeda who were tortured in prison most likely had, at the time, a reading list limited to one book, perhaps by choice, and to the memorization of which they most likely devoted themselves.

[20] And as he also says, "consciousness is essentially memory (of the past), itself inscribed in imagination (of the future)" (Stiegler, 2009, p. 69).

[21] Although Stiegler appears, in contrast to Arakawa and Gins, to be preoccupied with consciousness and the milieus of consciousness, rather than with the body, he too has not failed to speak of "the consciousness of our body" as the condition of consciousness as such (Stiegler, 2009, p. 63).

[22] Cavell, 1979a, p. 189: "To ask for a general explanation for the generality of language would be like asking for an explanation of why children acquiring language take what is said to them as consequential, as expressing intention, as projecting expectations which may or may not be satisfied by the world." Cf., Stiegler, 2009, pp. 42–3 and pp. 47–8.

[23] Elsewhere I have more or less asked whether cinema might offer yet another answer to this question (Ross, 2007a).

[24] See Cavell, 1976, pp. 344–6: "It has gone on for a long time, it is maddened now, the love it has had it has squandered too often, its young no longer naturally feel it; its past is in its streets, ungrateful for the fact that a hundred years ago it tore itself apart in order not to be divided; half of it believes the war it is now fighting is taking place twenty-five years ago, when it was still young and it was right that it was opposing tyranny. People say it is isolationist, but so obviously it is not isolationist: since it asserted its existence in a war of secession and asserted its identity in a war against secession it has never been able to bear its separateness. Union is what it wanted. And it has never felt that union has been achieved. Hence its terror of dissent, which does not threaten its power but its integrity. So it is killing itself and killing another country in order not to admit its helplessness in the face of suffering, in order not to acknowledge its separateness. So it does not know what its true helplessness is. People say it is imperialist and colonialist, but it knows that it wants nothing more. It was told, as if in a prophecy, that no country is evil which is not imperialist or colonialist. So it turns toward tyranny, to prove its virtue. It is the anti-Marxist country, in which production and possession are unreal and consciousness of appreciation and of its promise is the only value. The Yankee is as unpractical as the Cavalier, his action as metaphysical as his greatest literature. Yet what needs doing, could he see his and his world’s true need, he could do, no one else so capable of it or so ready for it. He could. It’s a free country. But it will take a change of consciousness. So phenomenology becomes politics." On the way in which Cavell’s remarks, made in the context of the internal and external convolutions wrought upon America by the Vietnam War, have gained interest and appreciated in value in recent years, cf., Conant, 2005, esp. pp. 68–74. And I myself returned to this quotation at length in Ross, "From Philosophical Cinema to Cinematic Politics," delivered at Duke University (unpublished, 2007).

Works Cited

Benjamin, Walter (1973). Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism. Trans. Harry Zohn. London & New York: Verso.

Cavell, Stanley (1976). Must We Mean What We Say? A Book of Essays. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, updated edition.

Cavell, Stanley (1979a). The Claim of Reason: Wittgenstein, Skepticism, Morality, and Tragedy. Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press.

Cavell, Stanley (1979b). The World Viewed: Reflections on the Ontology of Film. Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England: Harvard University Press, enlarged edition.

Cavell, Stanley (1981). Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage. Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England: Harvard University Press.

Cavell, Stanley (1988). In Quest of the Ordinary: Lines of Skepticism and Romanticism. Chicago, Illinois & London, England: University of Chicago Press.

Cavell, Stanley (1995). "The Thought of Movies." Philosophy and Film. Ed. Cynthia E. Freeland & Thomas E. Warternberg. New York & London: Routledge.

Cavell, Stanley (2005). Philosophy the Day after Tomorrow. Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England: Harvard University Press.

Conant, James (2005). "Cavell and the Concept of America." Contending with Stanley Cavell. Ed. Russell B. Goodman. New York: Oxford University Press.

Derrida, Jacques (2002). "Faith and Knowledge: The Two Sources of ‘Religion’ at the Limits of Reason Alone." Trans. Samuel Weber. Acts of Religion. New York & London: Routledge.

Emerson, Ralph Waldo (1990). "Experience." Essays: First and Second Series. New York: Vintage Books.

Freud, Sigmund (1955). "A Difficulty in the Path of Psycho-Analysis." The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Volume 17. Trans. & ed. James Strachey. London: Hogarth Press.

Gins, Madeline, & Arakawa (1994). Architecture: Sites of Reversible Destiny (Architectural Experiments After Auschwitz-Hiroshima). London: Academy Editions.

Gins, Madeline, & Arakawa (1997). We Have Decided Not to Die/Reversible Destiny. New York: Guggenheim Museum.

Gins, Madeline, & Arakawa (2002). Architectural Body. Tuscaloosa, Alabama & London, England: University of Alabama Press.

Gins, Madeline, & Arakawa (2006). Making Dying Illegal: Architecture Against Death: Original to the 21st Century. Berkeley: Roof Books.

Gonzales, Alberto (2002, January 25). "Alberto Gonzales Torture Memo." Retrieved on May 8, 2011, from:

Heidegger, Martin (1996). Being and Time. Trans. Joan Stambaugh. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Hersh, Seymour M. (2005, January 24). "The Coming Wars." New Yorker. Retrieved on May 8, 2011, from:

Leroi-Gourhan, André (1993). Gesture and Speech. Trans. Anna Bostock Berger. Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England: MIT Press.

Libeskind, Daniel (1992). "Discussion." Research in Phenomenology, 22: 95–102.

Libeskind, Daniel (2004). Breaking Ground: Adventures in Life and Architecture. New York: Riverhead Books.

Mayer, Jane (2005, February 14). "Outsourcing Torture." New Yorker. Retrieved on May 8, 2011, from:

9/11 (2002). Dir. Jules Naudet, Gedeon Naudet & James Hanlon. CBS.

Plato (1961). Phaedrus. Trans. R. Hackforth. The Collected Dialogues. Ed. Edith Hamilton & Huntington Cairns. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Proust, Marcel (1981). Remembrance of Things Past, Volume 3. Trans. C. K. Moncrieff, Terence Kilmartin & Andreas Mayor. London: Penguin Books.

Ross, Daniel (2004). Violent Democracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ross, Daniel (2005). "Traumas of the Image." theory@buffalo, 10: 81–102.

Ross, Daniel (2006). "Review of Stanley Cavell, Philosophy the Day after Tomorrow." Screening the Past, 19: Retrieved on May 8, 2011, from:

Ross, Daniel (2007a). "The Cinematic Condition of the Politico-Philosophical Future." Scan, 4:2. Retrieved on May 8, 2011, from:

Ross, Daniel (2007b). "Politics, Terror, and Traumatypical Imagery." Trauma, History, Philosophy. Ed. Matthew Sharpe, Murray Noonan & Jason Freddi. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Ross, Daniel (2008). "Review of Giorgio Agamben, Profanations." Screening the Past, 23. Retrieved on May 8, 2011, from:

Simondon, Gilbert (1992). "The Genesis of the Individual." Trans. Mark Cohen & Sanford Kwinter. Incorporations. Ed. Jonathan Crary & Sanford Kwinter. New York: Urzone.

Stiegler, Bernard (1998). Technics and Time, 1: The Fault of Epimetheus. Trans. Richard Beardsworth & George Collins. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Stiegler, Bernard (2001). "Deconstruction and Technology: Fidelity at the Limits of Deconstruction and the Prosthesis of Faith." Jacques Derrida and the Humanities: A Critical Reader. Ed. Tom Cohen. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Stiegler, Bernard (2003). "Technics of Decision: An Interview." Angelaki, 8: 151–68.

Stiegler, Bernard (2009). Acting Out. Trans. David Barison, Daniel Ross & Patrick Crogan. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Stiegler, Bernard (2011). The Decadence of Industrial Democracies: Disbelief and Discredit, 1. Trans. Daniel Ross & Suzanne Arnold. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Thoreau, Henry David (1966). Walden. In Walden and Civil Disobedience. New York: W. W. Norton.

The Towering Inferno (1974). Dir. John Guillermin. Twentieth Century Fox/Warner Brothers.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1953). Philosophical Investigations. Trans. G. E. M. Anscombe. Oxford: Blackwell.


Return to Top»

ISSN: 1547-4348. All material contained within this site is copyrighted by the identified author. If no author is identified in relation to content, that content is © Reconstruction, 2002-2010.