How Pataphysics Opened the Way to Phenomenology

by Φ

How Jarry’s Pataphysics Opened the Way to Phenomenology
Deleuze, 1964

Major modern authors often surprise us with a thought that seems both a remark and a prophecy: metaphysics is and must be surpassed. In so far as its fate is conceived as metaphysics, philosophy makes room and must make room for other forms of thought, other forms of thinking.
This modern idea is seized on in various contexts, which dramatize it:

1.) God is dead (it would be interesting to do an anthology of all the versions of the dead God, all the dramatizations of this death [defrag]) For example, Jarry’s bicycle race. In Nietzsche alone, we could find a dozen versions, the first of which is not at all found in The Gay Science, but in the The Wanderer and HIs Shadow, in the admirable text on the death of the prison-guard. But whatever the case, the death of God for philosophy means the abolition of the cosmological distinction between two worlds, the metaphysical distinction between essence and appearance, the logical distinction between the true and the false. The death of God thus demands a new form of thought, a transmutation of values.
2.) The Human dies also (finished is the belief in the substitution of humanity for God, the belief in the Human-God who would replace God-the Human. For in changing places, nothing is changed, the old values remain in place. Nihilism must go all the way, to the end of itself, in the human being who wants to perish, the last human, the men and women of the atomic age foretold by Nietzsche.
3.) This something “other” is conceived as a force already at work in human subjectivity, but hiding in it, and also destroying it (Rimbaud’s “Something thinks me.”) The action of this force follows two paths: the path of actual history and the development of technology, and the path of poetry and the poetic creation of fantastic imaginary machines. This conception demands a new thinker (a new subject of thought, “death to the Cogito”), new concepts (a new object to be thought), and new forms of thought (which integrate to the old poetic unconscious and today’s powerful machines, e.g. Heraclitus and cybernetics).

In a certain way, this attempt to surpass metaphysics is already well known. We find it in different degrees in Nietzsche, Marx, and Heidegger. The only general name that befits it was coined by Jarry: pataphysics.