JEAN-LUC GODARD: Le Petit Soldat (1963)


excerpts from: Being Singular Plural, by Jean-Luc Nancy, Stanford University Press, 2000, pp.10-81:

“As a consequence, gaining access to the origin, entering into meaning, comes down to exposing oneself to this truth.

What this means is that we do not gain access to the origin: access is refused by the origin’s concealing itself in its multiplicity. We do not gain access; that is, we do not penetrate the origin; we do not identify with it. More precisely, we do not identify ourselves in it or as it, but with it, in a sense that must be elucidated here and is nothing other than the meaning of originary coexistence.


The “outside” of the origin is “inside” – in an inside more interior than the extreme interior, that is, more interior than the intimacy of the world and the intimacy that belongs to each “me.” If intimacy must be defined as the extremity of coincidence with oneself, then what exceeds intimacy in inferiority is the distancing of coincidence itself. It is a coexistence of the origin “in” itself, a coexistence of origins; it is no accident that we use the word “intimacy” to designate a relation between several people more often than a relation to oneself. Our being-with, as a being-many, is not at all accidental, and it is in no way the secondary and random dispersion of a primordial essence. It forms the proper and necessary status and consistency of originary alterity as such. The plurality of beings is at the foundation [fondment] of Being.

In and of itself transcendent, the subject is born into its intimacy (“interior intimo neo”), and its intimacy wanders away from it in statu nascendi (“interfeces et urinam nascimur”). “To exist” is no longer “to be” (for itself, in itself), to-already-no-longer-be and to-not-yet-be, or even to-be-lacking, that is, to-be-in-debt-to-being. To exist is a matter of going into exile. The fact that the intimate, the absolutely proper, consists in the absolutely other is what alters the origin in itself, in a relation to itself that is “originarily plunged into mourning.” The other is in an originary relation to death and in a relation to originary death.


Proximity is the correlate of intimacy: it is the “nearest,” the “closest,” which is also to say “the most approximate” or “infinitely approximate” to me, but it is not me because it is withdrawn in itself, into the self in general. The proximity of the nearest is a minute, intimate distance and, therefore, an infinite distance whose resolution is in the Other. The nearest is that which is utterly removed, and this is why the relation to it presents itself as an imperative, as the imperative of a love, and (3) as a love that is “like the love of myself.” The love of self, here, is not egoism in the sense of preferring oneself over others (which would contradict the commandment); it is an egoism in the sense of privileging oneself, one’s own-self [le soi-propre], as a model, the imitation of which would provide the love of others. It is necessary to love one’s ownself in the other, but reciprocally, one’s own-self in me is the other of the ego. It is its hidden intimacy.


This is why it is a matter of “love”: this love is not some possible mode of relation; it designates relation itself at the heart of Being — in lieu of and in the place of Being — and designates this relation, of one to another, as the infinite relation of the same to the same as originarily other than itself. “Love” is the abyss of the self in itself; it is the “delectation” [“dilection”] or “taking care” of what originarily escapes or is lacking; it consists in taking care of this retreat and in this retreat. As a result, this love is “charity”: it is the consideration of the caritas, of the cost or the extreme, absolute, and, therefore, inestimable value of the other as other, that is, the other as the self-withdrawn-in-itself. This love speaks of the infinite cost of what is infinitely withdrawn: the incommensurability of the other. As a result, the commandment of this love lays out this incommensurability for what it is: access to the inaccessible. Yet, it is not sufficient to discredit such love as belonging to some intemperate idealism or religious hypocrisy. Rather, it is a matter of deconstructing the Christianity and sentimentality of an imperative the openly excessive and clearly exorbitant character of which must be read as a warning to us; I would even go so far as to say that it just is a warning to us. It is a matter of wondering about the “meaning” (or “desire”) of a thinking or culture that gives itself a foundation the very expression of which denotes impossibility, and of wondering how and to what extent the “madness” of this love could expose the incommensurability of the very constitution of the “self” and the “other,” of the “self” in the “other.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s