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Including hard-to-find interviews and previously untranslated material, this is the first time that interviews with Lyotard have been presented as a collection. Key concepts from Lyotard's thought — the differend, the postmodern, the immaterial — are debated and discussed across different time periods, prompted by specific contexts and provocations. In addition there are debates with other thinkers, including Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida, which may be less familiar to an Anglophone audience. These debates and interviews help to contextualise Lyotard, highlighting the importance of Marx, Freud, Kant and Wittgenstein, in addition to the Jewish thought which accompanies the questions of silence, justice and presence that pervades Lyotard's thinking.

Introduction by Kiff Bamford 2. This website uses cookies to improve user experience. Within each phrase regimen, there is a certain play, since there may be ambiguities along each aspect above. Any reader of Twitter knows the problem: is this meant as irony? In the form of a question?

Who is being addressed and why? Only with continual phrases, linked to the initial phrase, does the initial ambiguity become clearer, but of course, with these newer phrases, further ambiguities may take place, since they face the same problems as the initial phrase. Nevertheless there are rules followed within phrase regimens such that certain phrases are allowable while others are not. Lyotard writes:. There are a number of phrase regimens: knowing, describing, recounting, questioning, showing, ordering. Phrases from heterogeneous regimens cannot be translated from one into the other.

They can be linked one onto the other in accordance with an end fixed by the a genre of discourse …Genres of discourse supply rules for linking together heterogeneous phrases, rules that are proper for attaining certain goals: to know, to teach, to be just, to seduce, to justify, to evaluate, to rouse emotion, to oversee. Differend , xii. This notion of linkages is important. Linking phrases, he says, is necessary but contingent in how it is done Differend , Linkages among phrases occur within genres, and these links are successful when the goals of the discourse are met: one seduces another, a question is met with an answer, or an economic exchange is performed.

Yet these rules only apply within specific genres and there are no rules for how to make links between the different genres themselves. Lyotard argues that within genres, we cannot help but make linkages, and the hope is to escape the problem of what Lyotard calls a differend, where one move makes a link from within one discourse in other to colonize, that is, silence, another.

Thus, though we cannot do anything other than make linkages among phrases and create new events, hegemonic discourses or grand narratives often want to pre-program how those links are to be made and thus control all future phrases or events Differend , As distinguished from a litigation, a differend would be a case of conflict, between at least two parties, that cannot be resolved for lack of a rule of judgement applicable to both of the arguments.

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However, applying a single rule of judgement to both in order to settle their differend as though it were merely a litigation would wrong at least one of them and both of them if neither side admits this rule. Differend , xi. Lyotard offers a number of examples of differends: the relation of colonizer and the colonized or between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, but he opens The Differend with the case of the French Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson, who claimed that the only testimony that he would accept would be that of someone who had actually been through the gas chambers.

This, of course, sets off a differend since to have seen the gas chambers in operation would be to have been its victim, and thus silences all other genres, the various linkages of communication within the genre of history, for example, that would testify to the Shoah. One set of phrases is absolutely incommunicable with the other. He argues, not always persuasively, that the Nazis were in many ways successful in destroying the means by which historians adduce historical events: they not only killed their victims and destroyed their bodies, but also the paperwork and buildings that would be evidence of their crimes.

But the task of justice, he claims, is not to let the Nazis or their modern apologists claim a relativism of different discourses. Indeed, he says, it imposes a sentiment, if not an obligation:. The silence that surrounds the phrase, Auschwitz was the extermination camp is not a state of mind, is the sign that something remains to be phrased which is not.

Differend , In other words, the Shoah leaves us silent before its void, since it does not belong to any previous political phrase regimen or means for representing it. To represent it is to misrepresent it, and hence any regime is going to leave this powerful silence always on the edge of any discourse about it. From his early work on phenomenology through Discourse, Figure , Libidinal Economy , and The Postmodern Condition , Lyotard argued that events occur always in the face of what is not presentable to a phenomenology, discourse, language game, or phrase regimen.

An event, if it occurs, is not simply unforseeable within any of these, but in fact explodes our ability to represent them within any language game or phrase regimen. The Shoah is one such event. There is no link to be found between the genre of discourse of the Apartheid South Africa and those who were silenced and violently suffered under white hegemony. There is, in these cases, no possibility for litigation, since one side has no right to claim justice within the dominant language of the political regime.

This is what a wrong would be: a damage accompanied by the lose of the means to prove the damage. This is the case if the victim is deprived of life, or all of his or her liberties, or of the freedom to make his or her ideas or opinions public, or simply the right to testify to the damage… In all of these cases, to the privation constituted by the damage there is added the impossibility of bringing it to the knowledge of others.

Differend , 5. This should not be taken to mean that linkages cannot eventually be made, that justice cannot be done in spite of a differend. But new phrases regimens will need to be invented, new gestures or ways of existing together will have to be found, to get around this incommensurability. In fact, the cause of justice means that one phrase regimen e. For Lyotard, then, the politics of the differend does not call for valuing different discourses equally or one recognizing another, since, of course, conflict occurs precisely where neither side finds meaning in the phrase regimen of the other.

Lyotard thus does not model the different phrase regimens as a marketplace of ideas, since the existence of one phrase regimen may mean the violent silencing of another. This is what gives us the ability to name the unjust. The plurality of phrase regimens is a fact, and what is unjust or wrong would be precisely using one phrase regimen to silence that of others, to introduce a localized narrative as a metanarrative that would put all others in their place and render them mute and unseen.

This set of essays, most first given as lectures, are remarkable in their literary and philosophical quality, with each indirectly, as the subtitle suggests, taking up the problem of temporality, that is, our openness to the unphraseable events given in a future worthy of the name.

Like other French thinkers of his day, Lyotard was a thoroughgoing critic of humanism and its pretension to define and thus limit what the human was to be. Under this rubric, what is dubbed the human is constrained to become more like machines in their functioning, or indeed that the machines we have built will replace us in terms of the thinking we thought integral to the human being. Against this notion of the inhuman, akin to what Lyotard years earlier had called the figural, is the inventiveness of another form of the inhuman, what would get us beyond the human of humanism and its grand narratives.

This form of the inhuman, against those who would think of Lyotard as a celebrant of the s death of man and the end of humanism, stands as a testament to the inventiveness of the human and its irreducibility to the machinic—to the point where it can transcend what we thought the human was to be.

Jean François Lyotard

As in Discourse, Figure , it is not that one form of the inhuman exists without the other: the technical and the artistic are not easily separable, and the arts survive using techniques and known grammars in order to coming into being. On his view, the postmodern is that which exists within the modern itself. In any case, computerization seeks the repetition of what exists now in modes of efficiency, while the child in the human is open to possibilities of the future, the events to come that cannot be programmed or pre-figured.

To attempt the latter, Lyotard claims throughout his later works, is an attempt to control and therefore escape time:. To think is to question everything, including thought, and question, and the process. To question requires that something happen that reason has not yet known. Inhuman , This, for Lyotard, is at the heart of all creation, which comes with the. The paintings have no allusions, no modernist story to them. In this way, the postmodern artist is modernist in the sense of seeking out what is new, not according to pre-established phrase regimens, but by exploring means for finding what cannot be articulated within any phrase regimens.

Jean François Lyotard

Art need not provide a political message, represent reality properly, or morally guide us. Rather postmodern art would be that taking place of a self-enclosed event that withstands interpretation and is irreducible, as art, to any use value. Though this led Dummett to an anti-realist position on time, following J. The future, as such, is not something that can be predicted from the present, since this would only be a present imagined into the future. In this way, from the beginning of his career to its end, Lyotard never argued that all was socially constructed, that all language games had equal validity, or that we are locked within the prison house of language.

Rather, all of his works attempt to testify to that which escapes language, though we never stop attempting to articulate this excess.


The postmodern, then, bears witness not to the fact that there are no facts, but rather that those claiming a passkey to reality merely want to make a claim for the hegemony of one phrase regimen e. Biographical Sketch 2. Lyotard implicitly contends that in realizing that a wrong,has been committed we are prompted by a spirit of justice.

Yet he argues that we cannot right this wrong by having recourse to another form of determinate judgment. What is needed is a form of judgement that conforms to the idea ofjustice, one which never can be literally represented. Yet how can judgements conform to a norm that is indeterminate? Reflective judgement can best be described in opposition to determinate judgement. The latter is a form of judgement in which one applies a pre-existing concept to determine the nature of an object. Indeterminate or reflective judge- ment is a form of judgement in which one cannot apply a pre-existing concept.

It is a form of judgement that stems from aesthetic experience and is marked by the faculty of imagination straining to create understanding. Reflective judgement is required so that the imagination can experiment and invent different ways of understanding the event23 despite, or precisely because of, the impossibility of a definitive under- standing.

It is not. He contends that both radical pluralism and radical relativism entail an a priori or transcendent stance toward judgement in which every object of judgement is treated with an equal respect. Such a stance erases differences between things by treating them as all the same. For Lyotard, politics is prescriptive in that it is directed toward just action. As justice is indeterminate, any political act is reliant upon reflective judgement, and such a judgement never leads to 21 J.

Benjamin ed. Lash and J. Fricdman eds , Modernity and Identity Oxford, Blackwell, Lyotard, The Dzferend, p. Introducing Lyotard. This means that all politics implies the prescription of doing something else than what is. But the prescription of doing something else than what is, is prescription itself: it is the essence of a prescription to be a statement such that it induces in its recipient an activity that will transform reality, that is, the situational context, the context of the speech act. The kind of change invoked implies the conti- nued straining of imagination to arrive at understanding - despite the impossi- bility of any total, definitive, understanding.

They prompt that faculty to invent different and new ways of understanding. The break with definitive cognitive categories becomes complete. In this manner, politics is viewed by Lyotard as evoking Durcharbeitung in contrario to Errinerung. Politics thereby exposes the living specificity of events, the revelation of their unpresentable aura.

Jean-Francois Lyotard, Libidinal Economy - PhilPapers

It offers the release of the free flow of the sublime. Taken from Reading, Introducing Lyotard, p. This mesh, whilst beautiful in the Kantian sense is, however, hermetic. It is partly achieved by a partiality for that which satisfies an appetite marked by finicky taste. It is with a certain irony that upon this very point Lyotard attacks hermeneutic theory.

Lyotard either ignores or dismisses outright what Kant expressed most clearly - that the Critique of Judgement must be seen in the light of The Critique of Pure Reason and The Critique of Practical Reason. Lyotard also rejects the fact that, for Kant, practical reason the basis of ethical judge- ment pure reason the basis of cognitive judgement and reflective judgement, are inextricably tied.

The significance of the connexion between these three critiques has profound moral implications that cannot be dismissed. Kant argues that moral agents should base their decisions on the best possible knowledge of reality. This is because the Critique of Pure Reason is concerned with the a priori principles that ground all our empirical knowledge, whilst the Critique of Practical Reason, gives an account of the apriori principles that would ground our moral conduct, and this implies that both critiques are inextricably connected to the rational we need only glance at their titles!

If, however, one accepts that Lyotard can successfully dismiss the relevance of the relation between the first two Critiques and the Third Critique, a number of other profound difficulties emerge. According to Kant, the Critique of Judgement attempts to show that there is a fundamental regulative principle that underlies the procedure of judgement.

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This principle is the purposiveness of nature. Lyotard, InstructiompaTennes Pans, Galilk, Kant, Critique ofJudgement, p. Indianapolis, Hackett, , p. Kant, Critique of Judgement. In dismissing the relevance of the purposiveness of nature, and the importance of natural objects, Lyotard portrays the experience of the sublime in the light of artistic endeavour. In their stead, Lyotard focuses his attention solely upon that aspect of the Third Criti- que in which the imagination is seen in the light of the power of experimental judgement without u priori criteria.

This is because the beautiful is characterized by harmony between the faculties of understanding and imagination, a harmony of form and content. In the seduc- tive light of the formlessness of the sublime, the harmony between form and content characteristic of the beautiful is implicitly viewed with suspicion by Lyotard. However, his perception of the sublime in the light of artistic endeavour is of interest.

If the sublime is that which is unpresentable, then the task of the artist is to evoke that which escapes presentation. This is because art was perceived as being in direct contact with nature. Such a concep- tion of art was defined in terms of imitation, as mimesis, of nature.

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For the ancients, nature embodied all that was complete. Human life, as part of nature, conformed to her laws. It is with the emergence of philosophy that a tension arises between nature and art. Lyotard, Peregrinations: Low. Xenophon, Memorabilia I, IV. Strauss and H. Not in the sense of the present, nor in the sense of what is there, but in that sense in which, on the contrary, the activity of the very minimal synthesis of the given into the very forms which are free forms properly speaking, not merely schemas is suspended.

It would be a question of a kind of, let us say, spasm or stasis. This is what a philosopher does. An intellectual is someone who helps forget differends, by advocating a given genre, whichever one it may be including the ecstasy of sacrifice , for the sake of political hegemony. Justice is thereby assured.

The phronimos, too, strives to realize justice. Since he is endowed with critical intelligence, he is able to judge that which is best for him private prudence and that which is best for men in general political prudence. Yet his critical intelligence, which is at the basis of his prudence private or political , is indeterminate. The prudent man does not rely upon a priori criteria for his judgements. This is because the philosopher is reliant upon the knowledge of the forms in making any judgement.

Instead, for the prudent man it is his critical intelligence that founds his judgements. Lyotard, The Drflerend, p.

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This is, after all, what Aristotle calls prudence. It consists in dispensing justice without models. The phronimos, exercising his prudence in being just, strives to realize the Good Life for all. Thus, he comes to be the best statesman. Lyotard appears to be strongly influenced by such a view. Both base their judgements on that which is indeterminate.