Tekhnema 3 / "A Touch of Memory" / Spring 1996

Nietzsche, Freud and the Complexity of the Human: Towards a Philosophy of Digestion

Richard Beardsworth

I - Towards

A recurrent, if immediately superficial topos in the non-specialist literature regarding the content and implications of molecular biology is the following: it is estimated that the caryotype (the particular configuration of chromosomes in a specific cell of a living organism, the particular character of the “code”) of the human species differs in its genetic material from that of apes by two percent.  Why does this topos recur in this kind of literature? Beyond the immediate conceit of a genetic comparison between the animal and the human that forces us to confront our animality (a conceit which prolongs, of course, the traumas of Copernicus and Darwin upon our anthropocentric narciss-ism, traumas that are neither simply technical nor exclusively scientific), beyond the clear ambition in certain tenets of molecular biology to reduce “life” to physico-chemical “programs,” there is the desire, so magnificently confirmed by the general theses of molecular biology during the sixties and seventies, and in its exploitation of cybernetic models of transmission, to prove the Darwinian claim that the laws governing heredity are of slight variation.  And what more conclusive testimony than the chromosomatic homology between human beings and anthropoids!  Several remarks could, perhaps, be made here concerning what lies behind the recurrence of this topos.

Firstly, when affirming, after Weismann’s turn to anti-Lamarckism in 1882 (Über die Vererbung1), the lack of relation between the germ-cells and the soma (that is, in contemporary terms, that DNA can be transmitted by RNA to proteins, but not inversely) molecular biology remains in outlook with the units of the gene and the individual.  It can accordingly treat both as the structuring, if not fundamental elements with which to work and think.  Molecular biology thereby, secondly, prevents itself, at best, from considering the complexity of human development (to start with, processes of hominization) and ends up, at worst, generalizing a specific scientific axiom and thesis into an overall outlook upon these very processes.  This generalization informs, thirdly, an intensely socially mediated project like the Human Genome Sequencing Project which—whatever the quarrels between scientists as to its constitutive possibility, relevance or ultimate function—provides a remarkable example of the marriage between science and capital after the failure of science, within the perspective of modernity, to “legitimate itself” in terms of the human.2  The example is remarkable because, after the fraying of links between science and ideology (the “Lyssenko affair” is only a particular example of a much more general problem, one of the ends of the human3), the Human Genome Project confirms links between industry, investment and research under a general ideology of the gene which is made possible because it pays little attention to what is specific about human development.  In other words, whenever one stops thinking and remembering, alliances “close up” between the sciences, capital and political government that has lost ideological direction (as is the case for all post-Enlightenment politics today, and necessarily so).  The recurrent topos of the chromosomatic homology between the human species and apes is telling in these respects: it is a particular way of symbolizing (in the psychoanalytic sense of repairing and repeating) a problem of “organ”-ization.

Now, the cynicism informing the above state of affairs is not necessarily to be refuted, certainly not in the name of a return to the human, a cloak worn, unknowingly or not, by fundamentalisms of every kind today (from religious mysticism to radical ecology).  There is nothing more unpleasant, regressive and dogmatic than being told that the last three hundred years of European history have been a mistake (however unpleasant, dogmatic and regressive, especially for non-Europeans, that history has also been): as I will argue later, political culture is a complicated process of digestion, not a gesture of excision.  What is to be thought and re-articulated (and this reflection is eminently political) is the general poverty of debate around the specificity of human “evolution” (a misnomer, as we shall see) which allows for the success of either this cynicism or the fundamentalist turn.  What this in turn presupposes (and this reflection is eminently philosophical, although the sense of “philosophical” is to be determined) is thinking appositely, that is, without repeating logics or gestures which return us to an outdated concept of the human, the specificity of humanization.  One reason for the poverty of debate in the public sphere, is not so much the lack of this last analysis in recent years, but the specific channels in which this analysis is determined and disseminated.  I will come back to this point in a moment since it is more complicated than it might at first appear (a sociological problem of “public relations”).

With the explosion of disciplines during the nineteenth century—an explosion which continues exponentially with the fields of inquiry that technical inventions open up—this lack of channels is, of course, a fate of human finitude.  We cannot inform ourselves of “everything.” And yet, one aspect of this general sense of being overwhelmed (that is, of being finite) is, in the present circumstances of knowledge, counter-effective to the kind of modesty and generosity which could accompany the multiplication of knowledges. In the knowledge that this aspect will nevertheless diminish for future generations,4 but that such change could be in part organized to have more interesting than less interesting effects, I would maintain that this unhelpful aspect is nothing less than the present schism between the humanities and the sciences.  This schism, (which reaches of course well beyond the university, affecting most, if not all, social relations today) means that debate between disciplines on the specificity of the human is not simply poor.  As the Human Genome Project suggests as such, the schism accounts in part for the philosophical and political naiveté of the relation between science, its technical apparatuses and its sources of funding.  It also accounts for the isolation and at times ressentiment of the humanities, bereft of funding and students, as well as the terms and means by which to enter into reflective dialogue with the sciences.5  If the nature of digitalization and the site of the computer are in the process of changing this, and necessarily so if one takes seriously the constitutive nature of any support system for knowledge as such, it is nevertheless important to invent, elsewhere than from within the computer, the appropriate levers for debate.  This means that recent analyses of human finitude in philosophy and the human sciences need to be articulated with the analyses of matter, energy and life in the “natural” and “artificial” sciences.  This is an inter-disciplinary adventure which will of course change in the process the very frontiers of each participant discipline.  If experimental and non-prescriptive (that is, unclear of its own frontiers and historically and politically clever regarding others’ false securities), philosophy, without repeating the humanism of its modern status as the “queen” of the humanities, can act as something like a guiding thread in this adventure.  On the condition (and here the “Kantianism” of the guiding thread is partly collapsed), therefore, that it plunges itself into what, with the partial exception of Marx, it has until recently avoided—matter.6

Before turning to the argument of the following paper, let me give a good example of the effects of this lack of articulation, one which confirms these introductory comments.  At the beginning of his important The Logic of Living Systems: A History of Heredity7 Jacob states:

Given the subtlety of its mechanisms, nervous memory is well suited to the transmission of acquired characters.  In its rigidity, that of heredity resists such transmission. The genetic program is in effect constituted through the combination of essentially invariant elements....  [Thus] the very nature of the genetic code prevents any deliberate change to the program under the effect of its action or environment.  It forbids any influence whatsoever on the message of the products of its expression.  The program cannot receive lessons from experience.8

To which Bernard Stiegler gives a fine reply in a recent article “When Saying is Doing: Technics as the Différance of All Frontiers.9 Having defined molecular biology firstly according to Jacob’s statement that “the program does not receive lessons from experience” and, secondly, according to technical actuality, which has led to the possibility of genetic surgery and came with the invention in 1978 (Werner, Smith and Nachans) of the splicing of DNA with enzymes, Stiegler writes:

Molecular biology suspends its own axiom in its very procedure.... Whilst it is clear that the discovery [of genetic splicing] is only possible because molecular biology already exists, the scientificity of which is already guaranteed by the said axiom, the latter is in fact and in principle suspended ...  [For] as soon as molecular biology makes possible a manipulation of the germen through the intervention of the hand, the program receives a lesson from experience.  The law of life is thereby purely and simply suspended....  Molecular biology, in its technical actuality, makes the exit from the laws of evolution possible, or ... only apparently; for one should in fact affirm that molecular biology reveals that the “laws of evolution” have been suspended for a very long time—at least since the invention of man, that is, of technics, and that it is no longer possible to ignore this when this suspension is gaining an actuality that is radically new.10

Stiegler’s argument is, I believe, important.  Let me put it in condensed form.11  Firstly, molecular biology is metaphysical if it disavows its own technicity: thus, at the very moment that the sciences are putting in question traditional tenets of the human—the prerogative of a discipline like philosophy which has always wished to think the singularity of the human—the predominant science of life repeats metaphysical logic when it repeats philosophy’s constitutive refusal to think the originarily ex-propriating relation between anthropos, logos  and techne.  Secondly, this disavowal affects molecular biology’s own understanding of itself, which is philosophically naive and pre-critical, if it fails to think the technical mediations that inform, from the first, its framing of what it understands as the “real,” whether it be the gene or any other constituent of life.12  Thirdly, human “evolution” radicalizes the very problem of thinking the “fixity” of laws of heredity as such given that it demands thinking the sciences and technics together.  For, human “evolution” is from the very beginning more than evolution in that the human is constitutively inseparable from technicity, departing from the “programs” of evolutionary laws from the inception of its humanity qua a technical animal—hence, the simplicity and danger of the term “evolution” for getting a handle on human specificity.  If the process of hominization is at the same time the process of technicization, then the “human” happens elsewhere than in questions of “heredity.”

That said, and here I depart from Stiegler’s specific points and rejoin my earlier comments, any generalization of the biological outlook across the social bond is politically naive and dangerous.  Naive, since, following scientists’ ability to forget their own technical mediation, ultimately their very finitude, it is not surprising if there is often little understanding in science of the relation between technics and politics.  And politically dangerous since, the laws of heredity are not the “laws” of human transmission.  If these laws are then generalized back across the social bond, made up, precisely, of the specificity of human transmission, a radical simplification of human organization is, unwittingly or not, prescribed—that is, the human, and the finitude of the human, is forgotten.

I do not wish this to be a trial of science by someone in the humanities; such a trial has no interest today except that of narcissistic defense.  My argument is rather an invitation to articulated dialogue, on the basis of the fact that the dialogue is already going on, but in an uninteresting and symptomatic way: that is, on the basis of the facts, firstly, that science returns to  metaphysics the moment that it either thinks it has superseded the logic of the humanities through its discoveries and inventions or forgets its own technical constitutivity (the two gestures are in fact one and the same); and, secondly, that the most recent work in the humanities forms, on the one hand, a radical reflection on human finitude, but which, on the other hand, needs an articulation with the technical actuality of the sciences in order to “flesh out” its conceptual strategies concerning finitude.  This artic-ulated dialogue would forge the terms of the future of political imag-ination, organizing, more interestingly than less interestingly, what could come to be understood, in an age of internationalization, digitilization and telepresence, as “the public.”


The following short paper could serve, perhaps, as one contribution to the emergence of this dialogue.13 In it I consider the question of the processes of hominization in terms of “memory” and the “spirit” of “heritage.”  I will not anticipate too much the paper’s determination of these terms: suffice it to say the following to introduce the particular direction of, and to, the writing.

What is specific to the human and to the history of the human are the development and complexity of its memories (their topics, sites, prior to any question of contents) and those of its heritage (its modes of transmission, prior to any question of what is inherited14). These memories, as we shall see, lead to an understanding of the human in terms of the “energetic.”  And yet, in distinction to the function of this term in the prevailing realities of thermodynamic, cybernetic, and physico-chemical processes, systems and organizations,15 thinking the human in terms of the energetic, as well as from the larger perspective of memory and its transmission, is to reflect upon an

organization of energy that differentiates itself from these systems of energy in terms of the complexity of its digestive system.  The former systems are predicated on a programmable direction and conversion of energy (however complex and “self-replicating” these programs are becoming) and/or on an input/output model of energy/information conversion.  Now, even if such systems’ programmaticity are from the beginning necessarily in-complete,16 an analogy between themselves and human processes is both warranted in terms of “energy,” and its organizations, and simultaneously needs to be handled prudently given the vagrant peculiarities of the human digestion of energy.  This variability of energetic organization stems from the fact that the human species is constitutively technical and sexual.  As the paper argues, it is due to the “originary technicity” and “originary sexuality” of the human that the human organization of energy is more contingent and undetermined than other natural and/or artificial organizations.  Following Nietzsche’s Will to Power the paper calls this indeterminacy “spirit.”  Beyond its metaphysical determination, which constitutes precisely a disavowal of techne and sexuality (under which I include sexual difference), spirit is the (repetition of) the originary dependence of the human, a dependence that makes it both a technical and a sexual-ized being.

In thinking human specificity in terms of originary technicity and originary sexuality, and within the overall perspective of a reflection on memory and heritage, the following paper suggests several things that can be listed in growing and successively staged importance:

——Nietzsche’s difficult reading of democracy, for many an invitation not to read Nietzsche today (that is, in an age of the precarious internationalization of democracy, of regressive forms of political identity and of an encroaching practice of eugenics), can be re-read in terms of an energetic which recasts his understanding of selection beyond the “aristocratic” framework in which it is explicitly set.

——Heidegger’s reading of Nietzsche needs to be extensively reworked, given that the technical is co-originary with the human in Nietzsche’s understanding of the energetic.  However complex Heidegger’s own reading of technics is, Heidegger misses this aspect of Nietzsche’s work in a complicated Auseinandersetzung informed by a mourning of his own Nazi associations in the thirties and forties.  Hence his attempt to purify Nietzsche’s philosophy of its “biologism” in terms of “the history of being,” a philosophical move, which, if politically sophisticated within its own terms, continues to disavow matter, remaining thereby too philosophical for the dialogue which we are looking to articulate.

——  Contemporary French philosophy’s complex engagement with the seriousness and importance of Nietzsche’s work should now be articulated with science.17  One way to begin to do this, from out of philosophy but without losing it, is through a re-reading of “life” in Nietzsche and an account of the genealogy of the physiological in Freud qua the sexual.  Together, they support the above theses on originary technicity and originary sexuality.

——  This, towards a future of imagination which is as non-phantasmatic as possible (that is, within the limits afforded by a species that, as sexual, necessarily phantasizes) and which, whilst political in reflection and gesture, is not prescriptive, thereby eschewing the intensely violent fate of critical and avant-garde politics in the last three hundred years, one, of course, “mourned” by continental philosophy in its various guises since the fifties.

——  An experimental, and socially inscribed dialogue between the modern fates of philosophy, of the humanities and of the sciences will have thereby begun in earnest—and, perhaps, with laughter.


II - Digestion in Nietzsche 

When ... Kant says: “Two things remain forever worthy of reverence [the starry heaven and the moral law] — today we should sooner say: “Digestion is more venerable.” 

Nietzsche, Will to Power, 331

It is not Voltaire’s moderate nature, inclined as it was to ordering, purifying and reconstructing, but Rousseau’s passionate follies and half-lies that called forth the optimistic spirit of the Revolution against which I cry “Ecrasez l’infâme!”  It is this spirit that has for a long time banished the spirit of the Enlightenment and of progressive evolution: let us see—each of us within himself—whether it is possible to call it back. 


Nietzsche, Human all too Human,

“A Glance at the State.”

Caesar with the soul of Christ

Nietzsche, Will to Power, 983

As is well-known, Nietzsche calls himself the first philosopher of life, pitching his thought against the metaphysical formation of “morality” qua “the decline of life.”  In this destruction of the values and origin of the ethical, Nietzsche sets the strength of the explicitness of the affects of life against the weakness of their affective repression.  This analysis whilst, according to its principle, perspectival and diff-erantial (or, as I will say later, economic and energetic) often leads in Nietzsche’s writings to the very logic of thinking which he wishes to exceed: identity-thinking.  For example, the destruction of morality in terms of the differantial forces of life, a field of tension, growth and struggle which actually precludes the concept of “life,” demanding the only constant of genealogical and perspectival analysis (one according to the context) can fold back into a metaphysics of power and appropriation which have led to the worst appropriations.  And let us be clear these appropriations are always possible since force is nothing but an economy of force, demanding permanent critical vigilance and care.18

It is in this metaphysical fold that Nietzsche speaks of a philosophy and politics of “selection” in which the weak are defined as those who hamper these very processes of selection.  It is here also that he speaks of Christianity as “the counter-principle [that of universal equality] to the principle of selection” (Will to Power: §246, my emphasis)19 and of democracy as “the direct inheritor of the principle of Christianity preventing its competitors from growing in power.”  It is here, in this unilateral re-evaluation of values, that Nietzsche announces the strong type, and speaks of race and of the physiological as if they were stable referents and not perspectival strategies of force.  For example, the physiological, as in the following quotation, underlies all acts of reason without itself being differentiated, thereby assuming the very qualities of ground and substance which as a function of the body it is intended to undermine.20  The Nazi use of Nietzsche will have been predicated, of course, on the metaphysical irreducibility of this physiological determination of the body.  Nietzsche writes in Will to Power:

If man is suffering or in a good mood he has no doubt that he can find the reason for it if only he looks.  So he looks for the reason.  What happens?  He takes a consequence of his condition for its cause; e.g. a work undertaken in a good mood (really undertaken because the good mood had provided the courage for it) succeeds: ecco, the work is the reason for the good mood.  In fact, the success was determined by the same thing that determined the good mood—by the happy coordination of physiological forces and systems.  (WP: §229)

Within this metaphysical fold in the Nietzsche text the principles of democracy are considered principles of ressentiment and revenge.  Equality is a physiological principle of organization of individual units which returns the energy of each unit upon itself, hollowing out the space of affective interiority (subjective guilt and responsibility) and thereby deftly allowing the weak to pull down and defeat the strong.  The innocent discharge of becoming inverts into the self-punishment of a subject.  If this is the history of the West, the politico-philosophical regime of democracy is its completion, the politics of the “last man.”  Against this decline Nietzsche promises the “aristocracy” of the overman, the very argument that also returns him to that which he wishes to exceed.

This fold in both Nietzsche’s determination of the physiological and his determination of the modality of the future of the overman necessarily returns us to a fundamental ambivalence in Nietzsche’s elaboration of strength and weakness.  I now wish to rehearse and redress this ambivalence, elaborating the question of “spirit” and the digestion of events in terms of originary technicity.  Let us do this by following up the Nietzschean promise.


At the beginning of the second essay in Genealogy of Morals, “Guilt, Bad Conscience and the Like,”21 Nietzsche remarks:

To breed an animal who may make promises [das versprechen darf]—is not this the paradoxical task that nature has set itself in the case of man?  is it not the real problem regarding man?22

This would seem an unfamiliar phrase for a destroyer of morality.  The concept of a “promise” constitutes the concept of morality, informing the very basis of Kantian ethics which is at the basis, with Rousseau’s understanding of promising in the Social Contract, of our thinking and practice of democracy, that is, of post-Enlightenment politics.  What is Nietzsche saying when he marks the specificity of the human species, in relation to other species and other processes of evolution and selection, with the trait that it is bred in such a way that it may make promises?  With what kind of breeding are we concerned, of what kind of promise are we talking?  How do these distinguish themselves from the Kultur of the democratic promise—not what democracy may promise (what is inherited in the promise: the rights of Man, etc.) but the act (factual or ideal in the Kantian sense) of promising underlying all democratic values and institutions: that of the social contract, human rights, of government according to temporal and statistical mandate.  How does it distinguish itself, in the end (through a long chain of reasoning which I cannot reconstruct here), from the promise particular to the philosophies of Kant and Rousseau?

I say this precisely when such values are under question according to contemporary processes of technical selection—be this with the increasing domination of “real time” over political institutionality (the modern state, party apparatuses and the national structures of subsidy and taxation) or with the exponential acceleration of experimentation on both organic and inorganic matter.  For, with respect to the last, this experimentation, consequent upon the amalgamation of the natural and exact sciences and technics leading to what is now called the “technosciences,” “suspends,” in Bernard Stiegler’s terms,23 the concept of the human which structures and commands the norms of our political and juridical decisions in the first place.

The most visited ethico-political exploitation of the structure of a promise comes in Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason24 as well as in his less visited, but extraordinary treatise written in 1797 Over the Conceived Right to Lie Out of Love for One’s Fellow Humans.25  It is in these texts that a promise is considered as both an example of ethical orientation and, more importantly, the example of what it is to orient oneself ethically in the first place, since there can be no ethics and no Republican politics without promising tout court.26  We recall that in the first text, the promise is used as an example to show the form of universality of the moral law.  Maxims which remain faithful to one’s interest in the moral law can only be those which imply that the object to be realized can be applied universally, can acquire, that is, “the form of law.”  As Kant says in the Critique of Practical Reason, “The legislative form, in so far as it is contained in the maxims, is the only thing which can constitute a determining ground of the will.”27  Thus it is unethical to make a deceitful promise, a promise on which one will renege, since if everyone made deceitful promises, the very concept of promise would contradict and destroy itself.  For a promise to have ethical validity in relation to the will, it must be universally valid and applicable.  Now as the later treatise confirms, this means that the promise—and hence its exemplary structure for the very thinking of universality and all its attendant concepts in the first place—connotes a relation between law and human behavior that is based on what transcends time and space. It is this relation which allows Kant to make the distinction between Recht and ethically oriented politics, as for example in “An Answer to the Question: ‘What is Enlightenment?’,” “On the Common Saying: ‘This may be true in Theory, but it does not apply in Practice’” and “Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch.”28  If I lie to the enemy of someone whom I am harboring in my house, concerning their whereabouts, be that enemy the worst fascist, my action is unethical for I have transgressed the universal formality of the obligation (the promise as law) not to lie.  There can be no exception to the universality of a principle since it is this very universality which gives them the form of law.  This universality (the form that law takes in the world) is the disavowal of the passing of time. And it immediately makes ethics unethical.29  Kant’s argument pinpoints succinctly the whole inflexibility, and necessary hypocrisy of the universal horizon of democratic law, betraying, in Nietzschean terms, its mis-recognized (in the Hegelian or Lacanian sense) “cruelty” and “ressentiment.  The above question of the promise is to be situated here, allowing for the comparison with Nietzsche’s use of the term Versprechen above.  What is at stake in both Kant and Nietzsche, as well as in the democratic promise, differences notwithstanding, is the question of time and memory.

For the genealogist, the moral law in the universality of its form constitutes the misrecognized mathematical form, not of law, but of will to power.  Its cruelty—from the Kantian perspective, its a-temporal and a-spatial validity and applicability—is the displaced symptom of its affective truth.  For Nietzsche, the universality of the promise is informed by the logic of revenge predicated on exchange relations.  I will follow him here fairly neutrally, since I am interested in where he is going rather than in the specific logic of what one could call his “destruction” of the terms of morality in terms of the finite.  In the second essay of the Genealogy of Morals, then, this logic is derived from pre-political relations of credit and debt.  The promise of the ethical contract is historically tied back to the festive severity of the threat of punishment consequent upon not paying one’s dues.  Thus the promise underlying all contracts (from the economic to the ethical) has, in Nietzsche’s eyes, little to do with what exceeds time, or rather (and this is what is of interest to me) the human transcendence of time particular to the very possibility of a promise is only possible through the intensely corporal, the affective and the finite.  Justice is not in opposition to revenge: it is a sophisticated differentiation of it.  For Nietzsche, Kant’s refusal to genealogize the law is the disavowal of becoming, of the body—typical of a neurotic.  But, like every disavowal, the affect returns in displaced form.  To return to my initial comments: the affect particular to the disavowed willful nature of the moral law, rather than discharging itself outwards, is re-organized by Kant to implode within, creating the moral feelings of moral interiority and guilt.

It is through this particular economy of energy that the weak in energy destroy the strong in energy, that the weak in energy have more energetic effects than do the strong in energy.  Life, for the human species, is not a matter of energy, a matter of force, a matter of will to power—for, with and without Nietzsche, we have just seen that there is no such thing—but of the organization of energy, of the organization of force, of the organizations of wills to power (the structuring of energy which Freud will think in terms of “binding” prior to the pleasure principle).30  For, if energy is always already the difference of energies, it must be fixed, digested; and that is what “life” is about.  It is clear from the above that the Nietzsche that interests us is not one of selection in distinction to democratic organization.  It is the Nietzsche of selection when concerned both with the differentiations of energy (the moral law to the body) and with differantial economies of energy and force.  It is within these differentiations and economies that the specificity of the human (that it makes promises, that the weak are stronger than the strong, that Darwin’s thesis is misplaced: the “genetically” strongest do not necessarily survive. . . ), and thus the future of the human, are to be developed.  We can now return to consider the complexity of Nietzsche’s animal that promises.




Objection to Darwinism.  The means the weak employ to keep themselves on top have become instincts, “humanity,” “institutions”—

Nietzsche, (WP: §401)


If, for Nietzsche what distinguishes the human animal from other animal species is that it may make promises, the second chapter of the Genealogy of Morals wishes to recognize where this right comes from and how it operates.  We have just developed the former question of origin and seen how it takes us necessarily into an inscribed economy of energy without origin.  Let us turn now to the argument concerning this “how,” of more importance to us because it pursues this inscription, taking us to the  relation of this economy with technics and the “binding” of energy.

Firstly, it re-deploys both the genealogy of differentiation and the economic analysis of forces as the question of “assimilation” and “incorporation.”  This question in Nietzsche, somewhat ignored by Heidegger until the comments of What is Called Thinking? on the spirit of revenge—only then to be violently recast in terms of “being”—is that of rethinking spirit beyond the metaphysical opposition spirit / matter.31  It is the question of understanding the logic of inversion in Nietzsche (the weak invert into the strong) and, within this economy, what Nietzsche understands perspectivally as strength, in terms of an energetic model of inside and outside.  The strong amounts to a good digestive organization.  It is this that modernity has weakened (Will to Power: §71).

What, then, is a good digestive system beyond the physiological and metaphysical opposition brain-stomach?  This is the question of man’s entitlement to make promises.  It is, I believe, the question of the future of democracy.

Secondly, the argument brings the issue of technics to the center of Nietzsche’s concerns.  As we shall see in a moment this issue must already be in Nietzsche’s differantial understanding of energy.  It is crucial, in turn, to the question of the promise since, as Nietzsche shows, there could be no possibility of promising (as an act, and I stress this) without technics.

Let me pursue the argument with this second point.  Nietzsche writes in the second essay of On the Genealogy of Morals:

The animal which needs to be forgetful in which forgetting represents a force, a form of robust health, has bred in itself an opposing faculty, a memory, with the aid of which forgetfulness is abrogated in certain cases—namely in those cases where promises are made.  This involves no mere passive inability to rid oneself of an impression, no mere in-digestion through a once-pledged word with which one cannot “have done,” but an active desire not to rid oneself, a desire for the continuance of something desired once, a real memory of the will: so that between the original “I will,” “I shall do this” and the actual discharge of the will, its act, a world of strange new things, circumstances, even acts of will may be interposed without breaking this long chain of will.  But how many things this presupposes!  To ordain the future in advance in this way, man must first have learned to distinguish necessary events from chance ones, to think causally, to see and anticipate distant eventualities, as if they belonged to the present, to decide with certainty what is the goal and what the means to it, and in general to be able to calculate and compute.  Man himself must first of all have become calculable, regular, necessary, even in his own image of himself, if he is able to stand security for his own future, which is what one who promises does!... This precisely is the long story of how responsibility originated.32

For Kant, man’s transcendence of time makes of him an ethical creature. For Nietzsche, following on from what was said earlier, this transcendence is acquired through repetition and calculation, that is through practice on the body and on the “soul” as differentiations of matter.33 Nietzsche continues a moment later:

How can one create a memory for the human animal?  How can one impress something upon this partly obtuse, partly flighty mind, attuned only to the passing moment, in such a way that it will stay there?

One can well believe that the answers and methods for solving this primeval problem were not precisely gentle; perhaps indeed there was nothing more fearful and uncanny in the whole prehistory of man than his mnemotechnics.  “If something is to stay in the memory it must be burned in: only that which never ceases to hurt stays in the memory”—this is a main clause of the oldest ... psychology on earth ... All [pledges] have their origin in the instinct that realized that pain is the most powerful aid to mnemonics.34


—— The cruelty of memorizing—the very possibility of promising—is predicated on the technical.

—— The process of memorizing is, for Nietzsche, a relation between affect, technical object and mind.

In the essay “Guilt, Bad Conscience and the Like,” this process can lead either to the bad conscience of the responsibility of “Kantian” ethics and modern democracy or the masterful responsibility of the one who has the right to make promises since he can maintain himself in the face of accidents—hence its ambivalence and complexity.  In other words, memorizing leads undecidably either to the bad calculation of the moral law—the will to power disavowed under mathematical idealization—or the good calculation of the sovereign individual who takes a distance to the presence or “shock” (to bring Baudelaire and Benjamin’s understanding of trauma to mind at this point) of events such as to maintain himself in the tide of becoming.  In other words, the originary technicity of man’s relation to the passing of time—its relation to the past and its anticipation of the future crucial to the structure of the promise and the memory of one’s will—allows for the circulation and inversion of possibilities, of organization and selection as well as their “fates,” within the differantial economy of forces.  It is because of this originary technicity that, as a consequence, the weak can defeat the strong, that life for the human is transposition: that is, displacement, substitution, reversal, and/or inversion of life.  Nazism is always possible within democratic organizations of life; democracy is always “there” within fascist selections of life. 

Thus, on the one hand, Nietzsche’s physiological explication of digestive systems is desperately inadequate, allowing for the worst appropriations.  To think of the truth of spirit simply in terms of the finite body prepares for (promises) a metaphysics of selection.  The Will to Power needs to be rewritten accordingly, perhaps starting with its anti-Darwinism, in terms of originary technicity.  Such a re-writing would suggest that the struggle for life in Man cannot be thought in terms of self-preservation, since what is originary to human life is that it is always already artificial.  There is no complete logic to human life, and therefore no pro-gram, however complex, precisely because the humanization of life emerges from an originary relation to calculation, that is, its energies are bound so that it survives. And yet, in surviving, with this binding, life is, from the beginning, more than life.  Paradoxically if one wishes—although all we are doing here is pursuing the differential economy of forces elaborated earlier, but this time through the problem of binding and fixing— in being bound, the human is contingent.  Technicized, man is given over to chance.  Or again, it is because humanity must calculate and be calculable, or bind and be bound, that humanity cannot be absolutely calculated or bound.  An explicit articulation of technics with the will to power—and not à la Heidegger the reduction of the latter to the former—would articulate in turn Nietzsche’s understanding of the differantial with a democratic conception of selection qua selective organization (and not selective excision and castration typical of the resentful Nazi heritage of Nietzsche).  A technical reading of Nietzsche redeems it of its biologism and makes it more open and indeterminate: this Heidegger always failed to understand.

If such a reading allows in turn an opening of Nietzsche’s text to molecular biology and biogenetics without us repeating humanist-informed rejections of eugenics, it is because this reading of Nietzsche’s anti-Darwinism (again, that the forces of life can become reversed, that the weak can become the strong, that energy is always already organized, and thus techniciz-able) could allow us to deconstruct the metaphysical arguments of contemporary neo-Darwinist theories of genetic evolution which refuse a relation between the genotype and the phenotype whilst disavowing, in the same moment, the constitutive role of their own technical inventiveness.  This is where Nietzsche’s philosophy of life as a genealogy and analytic of a differantial economy of forces can help us to think a technoscience like biogenetics technically.  The political stakes are — after fascism and nazism, after the fates of Nietzsche and Heidegger, in an age of technical actuality—necessarily high.



Spirit for Nietzsche is readiness for events, preparedness for surprise and, when surprised, the ability to both parry the event (not let it overwhelm one) and interiorize it.  If spirit is always threatened by the process of calculation that is its condition of possibility—on the one hand the repression of events in pure calculation or revenge, on the other the immediate discharge of affect in total forgettingamounts to an incalculable economy between memorizing and forgetting.  This economy with, but also only through, technics marks the specificity of the human species.  It is in the sense of this “between” that we can understand the light, gay weight of Nietzsche’s comment at the end of the second essay in the Genealogy of Morals:

As the power and self-confidence of a community increase, the penal law always becomes more moderate; every weakening or imperiling of the former brings with it a restoration of the harsher forms of the latter.  The creditor always becomes more humane to the extent that he has grown richer, finally, how much injury he can endure without suffering from it becomes the actual measure of his wealth.  It is not unthinkable that a society might attain such a consciousness of power that it could allow itself the noblest luxury possible to it—letting those who harm it go unpunished.  “What are my parasites to me,” it might say. “May they live and prosper:  I am strong enough for that!”35

with which we can compare this telling fragment from Will to Power:

If anything signifies our humanization [Vermenschlichung]—a genuine and actual progress [Fortschritt]—it is the fact that we no longer require excessive oppositions, indeed no opposites at all—

— we may love the senses, we have spiritualized [vergeistigt] and made them artistic in every degree;

— we have a right [ein Recht] to all those things which were most maligned until now.  (WP: §115)



A possible future, beyond “excessive oppositions”: Caesar with the soul of Christ.

III - Digestion in Freud

Should the difference between the feelings of pleasure and unpleasure enable us to distinguish between bound and unbound processes of energy? or is the feeling of tension to be related to the absolute magnitude, or perhaps to the level, of the cathexis, while the pleasure and unpleasure series indicates a change in the magnitude of the cathexis within a given unit of time?

                          S. Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle


An epistemology and theory of psychoanalysis must take account, at its very basis, of the fact that a human subject is a theorizing being... I mean by that he theorizes himself, s’auto-théorise, or rather, if this term “theory” is off-putting, that he symbolizes himself, s’auto-symbolise. 

                          J. Laplanche, Nouveaux Fondements

                                               pour la Pychanalyse


...économie bindinale... 

                              J. Derrida, Spéculer — sur Freud


In order to call back this Voltairean “spirit of Enlightenment” and “progressive evolution,” I have suggested, with regard to the specificity of human processes of prosthetic exteriorization, an inextricable relation between energy and organization, and energy, organization and technics.  In the last section of this article, in an age when prosthetic exteriorization has become, historically, prosthetic interiorization, I will consider a crucial supplement to our re-siting of Nietzsche’s philosophy of life—and that, as the language of my comments has constantly suggested, is Freud.  For, if Nietzsche’s simplifications occur around the biological and physiological, not only is a technical reading needed of the specificity of human life, a sexual one is needed as well, and at one and the same time.36 Whatever the possible similarities between Freud and Nietzsche on the level of their affective understanding of reason and subjectivity, the easiness of the comparison should not be abused (and indeed the similarity is abused, for there is nothing ultimately more boring, since we are beyond excessive oppositions, than when both are thought in general philosophico-cultural terms of the “irrational” and the “id”).  For what Nietzsche anticipates, but, precisely, covers over when he reduces spirit unilaterally to the physiological, is an account of the unconscious development of spirit and spiritualization.

It is here that Nietzsche’s philosophy of digestion needs to be explicitly articulated with the sexual specificity of the human species together with this species’ organization and dis-organization of (sexual) energy.  As Freud maintains—although he is at times confused as to how to “symbolize” (in the psychoanalytic sense of “binding”) this aporetic movement of dis-organization—the sexual engenders, and determines the channels of human processes of memorization and transmission. It is here also that molecular biology, or rather its most socially instituted form, biogenetics, has much to learn from the human science of psychoanalysis.

In too condensed fashion, since it would demand more than an article to elaborate this clearly and convincingly, suffice it, then, to say the following with regard to thinking Freud within a philosophy of complex digestion.

Where Freud and Nietzsche’s analyses of “spirit” (for Freud, the sexual) conjoin is in their energetic model of what I will call the human “mind-body complex.37  This complex lies prior to the metaphysical oppositions between mind and body, spirit and matter, in-finite and finite, and inscribes the temporalities of memory in the nervous system of the body (which, of course, is the part of the body that is today most prosthetized).38   Hence many similarities in their logics of the affective.39 For Freud, however, the body is much further differentiated than the concept of the “physiological” allows in Nietzsche. And this differentiation is only possible, historically, due to the technique of psycho-analysis, and due to Freud’s articulation of the affective with the site of the technical: an articulation that repeats (through transference, but this is only one process of symbolization, if a crucial one for psychoanalytic practice) the originary dependence of the human baby and infant, a dependence that is the very site of technics and “displaced” affect.

I have said that psychoanalysis differentiates the body as a mind-body complex of energy prior to any conceptualization of the human in oppositional or dialectical terms (thought-processes particular to the mind qua a precipitate of this complex).  This can be seen immediately in Freud’s crucial text Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905) when he expounds that there is no identity to the sexual “drive” [Trieb].40  For, qua sexual drive, human energy has always already spiritualized itself, that is, in Freudian terms, become a quantitative amount of energy to which the sexual is attached, and which, thereby, qualitatively differentiates itself in terms of its source, object and aim.  This “transcendence” of biological law and fixity (as against the biological functions of self-preservation and reproduction) is the very possibility of variability, indeterminacy and sublimation which characterize, for Freud, the specificity of human life and history.

—— To take the source of the drive: the site of hunger is to begin with the site of a touch that erotogenizes (breast, lips, the mucous membrane, but ultimately any area of the body, together with those of nutrition and material discharge which can be excited — all are conducive to act as media through which energy is qualitatively transformed).

—— To take the object of the drive: given the sexualization of a human being from its infancy, and given that its sexuality is from the beginning undetermined, childhood sexuality is “polymorphously perverse.”  This “perversity” takes us, at the same time, beyond any normalizing tendency in Freud, or afterwards, to fix this lack of determination, be it biologically or non-biologically—sequential stages of the libido towards genital copulation (Freud, and, at worst, Abraham) or the “symbolic” of the phallus (Lacan).

—— To take the aim of the drive: this is the most difficult subject for our concerns, since it regards both the economy of energy and the “model” of energy to be used to describe human sexuality and, ultimately, the relation between technics and sexuality; for Freud, as is well known, using Fechner’s principle of constancy, the aim of the drive is discharge. But if, as Derrida has argued in “Speculations—on ‘Freud,41 and following the references to binding and repetition in Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920) there is no pleasure without differance, pure discharge being the death of the organism, a fatal trauma, then life is a tension between discharge and fixation.  This tension is always already “repeating” the originary conflict between the sexual and the binding of sexual energy.

—— The sexual is the non-identical in these three ways, which are specific to the human and engender the incalculable “nature” of its condition.  Whereas earlier, then, in our commentary of Nietzsche, the chance of the human came through technical calculability (the inseparable relation between the instances of technical object, mind and affect), here this same variability (the very possibility of the idiomatic) is further elaborated and differentiated by our understanding of the affect in terms of the sexual.  Let me stay with the questions of “source” and “object” and conclude the paper with that of “aim.”

Now, firstly, regarding the source of sexuality, we immediately fall into a chiasmus. I do not wish to go into detail concerning this chiasmus here, despite it being crucial to the articulation between Nietzsche and Freud’s writing of digestion.42  Suffice it to say that, on the one hand, Freud expands our notion of “spirit” beyond the biological by elaborating the relation between originary dependence and the sexualization of energy.  On the other hand, Freud tends to speculate upon this dependence in exclusively unilateral and finite terms, repeating the very failure of Nietzsche at the moment that his differentiation of the body as the mind-body complex takes him beyond physiology.  In other words, he uses the model of classical biology to think human specificity.  This, in three ways: 1) the biological returns in Freud’s account of human life when he compares processes of psychic differentiation to the model of the “vesicle” in Beyond the Pleasure Principle (chapter IV);  2) Freud’s theories of primary narcissism and primary masochism which accompany this biologizing tendency (the human organism is in the beginning a narcissistic spheroid that then puts out its cathexes: a theory that undermines the very idea of sexual “sources”) allows Freud to end up with a meta-biological conflict between the ego and life “drives,” on the one hand, and the death “drives,” on the other. As Laplanche argues,43 this opposition turns the sexual back into a question of reproduction (accumulating units of life: Eros...) and projects the dis-organizing nature of the sexual drive (“spirit”) into an endogenous “death drive”; and 3) the biologizing tendency, together with Freud’s realist empiricism, leads to the transmission-model of phylogenetic heritage, a theory which simplifies drastically the difficulty of thinking unconscious transmission and symbolization.

That said, let us elaborate a little further the question of the source as a way, eventually, to leave this chiasmus.  If the child is sexual, and its memory is determined sexually, for Freud, it is for two reasons.  Firstly, as a dependent being, the infant is touched and through the touch of its parents (Freud speaks mostly of the mother and her care) the child is both sexualized and sexualized according to the unconscious of its parents (that is, how they touch and give support, and how they fail to touch and give support).  As Freud says in Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, “A mother would probably be horrified if she were made aware that all her marks of affection were rousing her child’s sexual drive and preparing it for its later intensity. ... The example [of excessive affection] shows that there are ways more direct than inheritance [Vererbung] by which neurotic parents can hand their disorder on [übertragen] to their children.”44  In this “dependence on the people looking after it,45 and in the sexual nature of this dependence, the child inherits the unconscious of its parents, prior, to begin with, to any memory of the outside world and any sense of self (since the ego has not yet developed).  The early Freud calls this inheritance or heritage “trauma.”  Above and beyond Freud’s abandonment of seduction theory, we can say, with Laplanche, that the touch of the parent (an absolute past, to speak in contemporary philosophical terms)46 is both traumatic and not traumatic.  For, there is as yet no clear limit (the mechanisms of defense, crucial, when the body is “alone,” to survival) between the outside and inside, self and other for the touch to be “traumatic” to the ego: or rather, and as I will come to in a moment, inheritance of the other is traumatic after the event, nachträglich.  Although the phrase is still informed by a philosophy of the subject which Freud’s understanding of trauma puts in question, the early essay “Psychotherapy of Hysteria” describes this structure, together with the process of psychoanalytic cure that has discovered this structure, in these now well-known terms: “Pathogenic material behaves like a foreign body, and the treatment, too, works like the removal of a foreign body from the living tissue.47

This “foreign body” is in articulation with the biological development of the body, including crucially the latency period (a huge question for the specificity of hominization48).  Whilst an absolute past to the child who suffers it as repetition, this “foreign body” is equally mediated by its socio-cultural setting; this setting is, precisely, not an “environment” or “milieu” but is, from the beginning, inside the body qua the nature of the touch (the “foreign body,” the parents’ unconscious).  Now this foreign body, which, as we have just seen, is a most complex site beyond the metaphysical precipitates “inside” and “outside,” determines the idiom and temporalities of the child’s memory systems.”  Individual memory qua the mind-body complex (not just conscious memories then, but its failures, lapses, repressions, loves, actings out: the affects that accompany any representation...) is from the beginning the “repetition” of unconscious “group” psychologies.

In this sense, the body affects memory and the accumulation, organization and selection of memory that makes up the “spirit” of human organization (the organization of humans).  This determination, as I have just remarked concerning the “twofold” structure of trauma, follows the temporal logic of the future anterior (an experience that is experienced as such after the event, nachträglich).  Since the ego is a bodily ego (that is, inscribed) the ego is always in deferred relation to the libidinal development of its body.  Two rapid examples: firstly, an event that happens to the body may give pleasure at the age of four, but displeasure at the age of twelve, and, if only remembered at the age of twelve, it is initially understood retrospectively in terms of the twelve-year old body as traumatic.  The second example is typical of the logic of obsessional neurosis: a child receives an impression when very young but only understands it later, after the event, through a dream, a screen memory or an affect (Emma’s “taking fright” is the first example in The Project [1895]49), owing to his or her libidinal development.  This process of Nachträglichkeit can be extremely complex for Freud, as in the case history of the Wolfman and the collective neurosis of monotheism.50  This differantial (and here I stress the “a” of differance) understanding of memory inscribed in the body puts pay to any stable distinction between the real and the phantasmatic, between who is inherited and who inherits.  It thus complicates Nietzsche’s logic of ressentiment (the desire for causality, and subjectivity) by placing the innocence of becoming within a process of intersubjective (in the loosest sense) memorization, one which repeats the initial touch of the foreign body.51



Freud’s analyses of the neurotic and psychotic constitution of human beings qua dependent and diphasic sexual animals re-deploy Nietzsche’s differantial economy of weakness and strength as one between, but also beyond, the inside and the outside.  Their complication, in distinction to other analyses of “open” systems —thermo-dynamic, cybernetic, biological or bio-technical— lie in the fact that they follow excitation prior to the metaphysical opposition between the external and the internal: firstly, energy comes from without and within for the human species; secondly, when from within, the source of this energy comes, nevertheless, from without; and yet, thirdly, this “without” is a “foreign body” prior to the formation of the ego, that is, prior to the experience of distinctions like within and without, and, in that sense “traumatic.”  Put differently, the sexual constitutes unbound energy which, bound, gives rise to an inevitable struggle between “psychic” instances which are themselves nothing but precipitates of the body as deferred ego.  This struggle, if inevitable, is often tragic (in the Sophoclean sense that generations get confused).  The confusion, heritage, lies in the fact, irreducible for the human species, that the human body is clothed in skin which can be touched, erot(ogen)ically.

The question of an enlargened ego digesting the sexual is the question of permitting associations, within the mind-body complex, between mind, body, affect and representation, which are more fluid, or in Freudian terms, “facilitated” (see The Project, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, “Remembering, Repeating and Working-Through” [1914]52).  The mind-body complex cannot be totally fluid (passages conducting energy that are free of resistances), however, without us losing the very thing which we are looking to expand: that is, “life.”  Binding is an economy, and as Freud suggests in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, the nature of the affect, pleasure or unpleasure, depends, ultimately, on the time of its duration, the periodicity of its discharge.  Binding is an art of time, an art, however, without a subject.  Humans constitutively fall foul of this art: for, sexual-ized bodily egos, they are inscribed within biological, technical, and social times.

In this necessary failure there is the chance of binding in such a way that there is more facilitation than less facilitation, more interesting energetic effects than less interesting energetic effects, more of a future than less of a future.  And this binding would contrast with the defensive fixations of repression, of symbol-formations like the “phallus,” or, indeed, of those, technically mediated, like the “gene.”


A possible future:  Caesar with the soul of Christ.


1  A. Weismann, Über die Vererbung, Jena: G. Fischer, 1883.

2  To use the terminology and thinking of Jean-François Lyotard The Postmodern Condition, trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984. Compare J.-F. Lyotard, The Inhuman: Reflections on Time, trans. Geoffrey Bennington and Rachel Bowlby, Cambridge: Polity Press, 1991.

3  Compare J. Derrida, “Ends of Man” in J. Derrida, Margins of Philosophy (trans. Alan Bass, Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1982, pp. 109-136): a text immediately concerned with the relations between philosophy and the human sciences, but whose theses on the ends of man have application, necessarily, to the present relation between science, the state and industry.

4  And necessarily so with, most importantly, the gathering of all kinds of knowledge onto one support system through digitilization (a momentous affair which already makes spatially defined institutions of education and research partly redundant and will change the nature of what we understand by a discipline), and, less substantially but as equally as important, wide-public access to computers with large memories, and international networks of information, retrieving, archiving and debate.  That a thinking of time and space, of inscription, is thereby made all the more important is one of the major theses of this paper.

5  This seems to me one reason, among many of probably greater interest, for the current vogue in Anglo-American institutions of higher education for “Cultural Studies.”  At present, although things are beginning to change above and beyond the initial (and historically understandable) phantasms of the relation between culture and science, it is as if many people have not wanted to think the intricate relations between technics, culture and the sciences—a subject of course which ultimately concerns the “ontological” status of the fictional and the imaginary in human society in the coming years, about which Cultural Studies could have much to say.

6  The logic of this specific argument, which is complex since it is neither materialist nor empiricist and concerns the major modern and contemporary constellations of continental philosophy, is made in my forthcoming Derrida and the Political, London: Routledge, 1996, specifically Chapter II (on Kant, Hegel and Derrida) and the Conclusion.

7  François Jacob, La Logique du vivant: une histoire de l’hérédité, Paris: Gallimard, 1970. Eng. trans. by Betty E. Spillmann, The Logic of Living Systems: A History of Heredity , London:  Allen Lane, 1974.

8  Ibid., p. 11.

9 “Quand faire c’est dire: de la technique comme différance de toute frontière” in J. Derrida et al., Le Passage  des  frontières, Paris: Gallimard, 1994, pp. 271-296.

10 Ibid., p. 272.

11 See B. Stiegler La Technique et le temps. Tome 1: La faute d’Epiméthée, Paris: Galilée, 1994 (Technics and Time. Volume 1: the Fault of Epimetheus, trans. Richard Beardsworth and George Collins, Stanford University Press) and his recent La Technique et le temps. Tome 2: La désorientation, Paris: Galilée, 1996, a substantial elaboration of the “politics of memory.”

12 Compare on this, and at greater length, H. Caygill’s article in this issue “Drafts for a Metaphysics of the Gene,” and A. Plotnitsky’s “Complementarity, Idealization, and the Limits of Classical Conceptions of Reality” in The South Atlantic Quarterly, 94:2, Spring 1995, pp. 527-570, which tackles this problem in relation to quantum mechanics.  On these questions, from the perspective of literature and interdisciplinarity, see David Wills, Prosthesis, Stanford University Press, 1995. 

13 The paper was delivered in slightly shorter form at the annual conference of the British Nietzsche Society at the University of Hertfordshire, September, 1995. My thanks to Keith Ansell-Pearson and David Owen for their careful responses to details of the paper and to Howard Caygill for his encouragement of the direction of the paper as a whole.

14 What is inherited, what is still thought of in terms of the “values” of “tradition” (“The Western tradition”, “the philosophical tradition,” “Europe’s past,” etc.) is, in the end, not the question.  Hence, and rightly so, the humanities no longer make it their prerogative to defend universally what is inherited, but to investigate both the form in which processes are hypostatized and, concomitantly, the differences between the contents of traditions.  And hence, in turn, the interest in the last thirty years in the very question of “difference.”

15 Even if they are becoming part and parcel of the imagination of science (and importantly so), science fictional accounts of these systems is another matter, the interest of which I will discuss elsewhere.

16 And the most interesting aspects of science are to be found in this in-completeness.

17 Lyotard’s The Postmodern Condition (too quickly taken up into postmodern cultural studies during the eighties) is a text to be reconsidered and elaborated upon in this context.

18 These comments are indebted to the analysis of force in J. Derrida’s “Force and Signification” and “Freud and the Scene of Writing” in Writing  and  Difference, London: Routledge, 1990 [1978], pp. 3-30 and pp. 196-231.  On the explicit “political” implications of the economy of forces, see Otobiographies: l’enseignement de Nietzsche et la politique du nom propre, Paris: Galilée, 1982, and compare my interview with Jacques Derrida, “Nietzsche and the Machine” in Journal of Nietzsche Studies, 7, Spring 1994, pp. 7-66.  This paper may be seen, among other things, as an attempt to bring the implications of Derrida’s thinking of “economy” into relation with politico-philosophical reflection, since Hegel, on the mediating specificity of the human. What is of issue is, perhaps, how to deconstruct the infinite/finite opposition—within and out of logic, or with and through that which resists logic as such, but which is not the radical other of logic.

19 All references to F. Nietzsche, The Will to Power, trans. by Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale, New York: Vintage Books, 1968. Wherever the German is alluded to, references to F. Nietzsche, Gesammelte Werke, Musarionausgabe, VIII, Der Wille zur Macht, München:  Musarion Verlag, 1926.

20 It is this concept (the body) which we will wish to differentiate and re-spiritualize (in the sense alluded to above, not in the Heideggerian sense) through Freud.

21 F. Nietzsche, Zur Genealogie der Moral, Oxford: Blackwell, 1972, p. 39. Eng. translation by Walter Kaufmann, On the Genealogy of Morals, New York: Vintage Books, 1989, p. 57.

22 Ibid., p. 56.  I am grateful to David Owen for insisting to me on the original German in comparison to Kaufmann’s translation: “To breed an animal who has the right to make promises....” The sense of “dürfen” here covers such formulations as “can,” “may,” “is entitled to,” but Nietzsche avoids the term “Recht.” As I argue, however, this is nevertheless a strange phrase for a thinker of selection: to interpret it is crucial for an understanding of the complexity of, and differentiations within, Nietzschean energetics.

23 B. Stiegler, “Quand faire c’est dire: de la technique comme différance de toute frontière,” op. cit.

24 I. Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, trans. Lewis White Beck, New York: Macmillan, 1956.

25 I. Kant, “Über ein vermeintes Recht aus Menschenliebe zu lügen” in Immanuel Kant Werkausgabe, Band VIII, Frankfurt am Main:  Suhrkamp, 1977, pp. 637-643.

26 Jacques Derrida reflects on the absolute radicality informing the structure of the promise in his profound “Foi et savoir. Les deux sources de la ‘religion’ aux limites de la simple raison” in La Religion, sous la direction de Jacques Derrida et Gianni Vattimo, Paris: Seuil, 1996. I have traced the implications of Derrida’s understanding of this structure in my Derrida and the Political, op. cit., pitching the importance of Derrida’s thinking of the political in its terms.

27 Critique of Practical Reason, p. 51.

28 All in I. Kant, Political Writings, ed. Hans Reiss, trans. by H. B. Nisbet, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992 [1970].

29 For the details of both these arguments as well as the necessary relation between the two, see, again, my Derrida and the Political,  Chapter II, “The Political Limit of Logic and the Promise of Democracy: Kant, Hegel, Derrida.”  Derrida’s Glas, frequently poorly read, is the text that establishes these links most profoundly (see J. Derrida, Glas, Paris: Denial/Gonthier, 1981, 2 vols.  Eng. trans. John P. Leavey, Jr, and Richard Rand, Glas, Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1986).

30 S. Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920), Pelican Freud Library, 11, pp. 306-7.

31 M. Heidegger, What is Called Thinking?, trans. J. Glenn Gray, New York: Harper and Row, 1968, pp. 93-94.  As with several similar elaborations in the Nietzsche lectures, the comments on overcoming revenge are, of course, around time. That in doing so Heidegger misses the non-metaphysical relation in Nietzsche’s thinking between force, time and technics is more than telling in the context of his wish to distinguish himself, philosophically and politically, from “Nietzsche.”

32 On the Genealogy of Morals, p. 58.

33 On the question of the technical constitution of temporalization and exactitude, I refer the reader again to Bernard Stiegler’s Technics and Time. Volume 1: The Fault of Epimetheus, op. cit.  It is here that Stiegler’s thesis on “epiphylogenesis” and “tertiary memory” are important for a recasting of Nietzschean energetics.  Since Stiegler’s enclosed article in this issue of Tekhnema, “Persephone, Oedipus, Epimetheus,” enters amply into these questions, I will not take up the terms here, although I will briefly refer to the latter article in relation to Freud’s understanding of memory and memorization.

34 On the Genealogy of Morals, pp. 60-1, my emphasis.

35 On the Genealogy of Morals, p. 72.

36 As I will argue, however, the place of the biological is also by no means clear in Freud.

37 In the terms of The Ego and the Id (1923): “The ego is first and foremost a bodily ego; it is not merely a surface entity, but is itself the [mental] projection of [the] surface [of the body],” Pelican Freud Library, 11, p. 364.  The term “mind-body complex” marks, obviously, the collapse of the opposition between mind and body into a “complex” which  precedes and supersedes this opposition; but the term also holds to the differential relation between the mind and the body (a relation so important to Freud’s theory of Nachträglichkeit), thereby remaining faithful to the importance of the body qua a receptacle of meaning and memory in Freud’s work.  It is this latter aspect that Deleuze and Guattari underestimate when recasting the unconscious exclusively in terms of the flux and intensities of the primary processes (G. Deleuze and F. Guattari, Anti-Oedipus,  trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen R. Lane, London: Athlone, 1984 [1973], and G. Deleuze and F. Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus,  trans. Brian Massumi, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993).  By pushing for a transcendental unconscious which constantly overflows the fixations of the Oedipus complex, Deleuze and Guattari return the unconscious to a disembodied flow of partial objects.  As a result, they lose the inscription of the body and enter a metaphysics of energy. 

38 Here is perhaps a point to note that, despite the internal force and evident importance of Stiegler’s “Epimethean” reading of Freud in the  enclosed “Persephone, Oedipus, Epimetheus,” the article does not address the question of the “sexual” nor the particularity of its “supports” (to start with, skin).  In its very negotiations with the Freudian text, the article nevertheless calls out for sustained reflection on the way to relate originary technicity with originary sexuality.  Since psychoanalysis is one of the most important bridges between the humanities and the sciences, the stakes, as Stiegler is clearly aware in tackling Freud at this juncture, are more than important.  A careful re-reading of Lacan is needed in this context as well, given, on the one hand, Lacan’s understanding of the “philosophical” importance of Freud’s discoveries, and, on the other, but in contrast, his underestimation of Freudian energetics—the very perspective that allows for the most interesting and focused dialogue to be articulated, as Jean-François Lyotard—departing from Deleuze and Guattari— has sensed for some time (see J.-F. Lyotard, Libidinal Economy, trans. Iain Hamilton Grant, London: Athlone, 1993 and The Inhuman, op. cit.).

39 Lacan’s linguisticism together with the concomitant desire to “decenter” classical and modern concepts of subjectivity, encourages him, curiously for someone concerned with primary processes, the mechanism of repression and psychic conflict, to play down the vagaries of affect in human symbolization and reduce the question of binding to the “signifier” and metaphor.  On this, see Jean Laplanche, Problématiques, IV, Bibliothèque de la Psychanalyse, Presses Universitaires de France, 1981 within which is reproduced the important article with Serge Leclaire “L’Inconscient: une étude psychanalytique” of 1961. 

40 S. Freud, “Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality” in On Sexuality, Pelican Freud Library, 7, most importantly for my purposes, pp. 45-59, p. 98 and pp. 138-140.  “Drei Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheorie” in Sexualleben,  Studienausgabe V,  Frankfurt am Main:  S. Fischer,  1989.

41 J. Derrida, “Spéculer—sur ‘Freud’” in La Carte postale, Paris: Flammarion, 1980, 275-438, English trans. by Ian McLeod, “Speculations—on ‘Freud’” in Oxford Literary Review, 3, 2, 1978, pp. 78-97. 

42 I refer the reader to the writings of Jean Laplanche who since the sixties has been preoccupied with the ramifications of this chiasmus in the Freudian text.  See especially his most recent Le Fourvoiement biologisant de la sexualité chez Freud, Paris: Les empêcheurs de penser en rond, 1993.

43 Le Fourvoiement biologisant de la sexualité chez Freud.

44 On Sexuality, p. 146.  Sexualleben, p. 127.

45 Ibid.

46 Compare the first part of Heidegger  and the “jews,” trans. Andreas Michel and Mark S. Roberts, Minnesota: Minnesota University Press, 1988. In his use of Freud in this text (that of the touch and infantile body), Lyotard does not analyze, however, the way in which the touch returns as the constant “failure” of mediation.  If he did, he would be kinder to Hegel, and the question of the relation between philosophy and its absolute past would have to be re-organized.

47 S. Freud, “Psychotherapy of Hysteria” in Studies of Hysteria (Pelican Freud Library, 3), p. 376, my emphasis.

48 The human unlike any other species of life is diphasic, that is its body stops sexually developing at the age of five and resumes development at puberty.  The specificity of human development depends, for Freud, on this diphasic staging of “ontogenetic” and “phylogenetic” development. Following Stiegler’s critique of phylogenesis in terms of “epiphylogenesis” (the transindividual and transgenerational transmission of memory through technical objects, “life through means other than life”) in “Persephone, Oedipus, Epimetheus,” we would suggest that the diphasic specificity of the human species, momentous, of course, in terms of the specificity of human memory and symbol-formation since it is during latency that secondary repression sets in, is to be thought through the technical specificity of the processes of hominization — a clear place of historical articulation between originary technicity and originary sexuality in parallel with my trans-historical thesis of originary dependence.

49 S. Freud, The Project for a Scientific Psychology, in Standard Edition, volume 1, (pp. 281-397), pp. 352-3.

50 In the context of my argument, here, rather than seeing in monotheism the phylogenetic heritage of the  disavowal of the murder of the father (the biologizing tendency in the Freud who has abandoned the theory of seduction), I would  interpret it in terms of the unconscious transmission of the touch of others.  Since this touch is necessarily mediated, religion is, obviously, a crucial site in which to explore the articulations between memory and the immemorial, or rather, between sociality, technicity, and sexuality and the failure of their determinations.

51 Intersubjective in the loosest sense, since we are here talking of a “dialogue” between unconsciouses, the predominant trait of which, for both child and adult, is, in Kleinian terms, “the partial object.”

52 S. Freud, “Remembering, Repeating and Working-Through” in Standard  Edition, volume 12, pp. 145-156.