Marcus Steinweg: A note on power

Writing – like all art – means having the courage to turn one’s attention to the incommensurable parts of the world. In the enlightened consciousness, there persists a mythical rest that conveys the most enlightened narrative of its blindness. Enlightenment that refuses to enlighten itself, is a repetition of “Brecht’s enlightened attitude to myth”: “The deliberate blindness to the dark sides of enlightenment, its private parts.” (8)  In other words, the insight into its blindness is part of the blind power of writing. Blindness proves to be a condition of the possibility of sight. Which is why, in a text dedicated to Nietzsche, the media theorist Friedrich Kittler can speak of the “mercy of blindness” (9) . Tiresias, the clairvoyant, was blind as we all know.

We expect the act of thinking to lead us from darkness into light. In terms of the Enlightenment this is taken for granted. It was in the 20th century that initial attempts were made to complicate this imperialism of light (a term for making things more complex is deconstruction) – whether in philosophy, art, or science. This was not to slide into the esoteric and the irrational, but to introduce a way of thinking that accommodates the blindness of the Subject with a precise concept of enlightenment, subjectivity and reason. “If there is enlightenment, then not as the establishment of a dictatorship of transparency […]” (10) , said Sloterdijk. Neither of transparency nor the lack of it, as all knowledge remains dependent on ignorance, as does transparency on the lack of transparency and meaning on its absence. “It is not enough”, says Nietzsche in one of his posthumous fragments, “that you understand in what ignorance man and beast live; you must also have and acquire the will to ignorance. You need to grasp that without this kind of ignorance life itself would be impossible, that it is a condition under which alone the living thing can preserve itself and prosper: a great firm dome of ignorance must encompass you.” (11)  The philosopher of active forgetting turns out to be an apologist for active ignorance – not to be rashly confused with a reactive irrationalism. Nietzsche is concerned about containing the naivety of religiosity with reference to reason and knowledge; he insists that knowledge is not everything, that ignorance does not oppose it, that the Subject must be willing to integrate its blind sides in an enlarged notion of itself, conveyed by the Subject’s inconsistencies, ignorance, the limits of its awareness, and by itself as the Subject of blindness. It is then that psychoanalysis steps in to deal with the concept of the Subject supplemented by the unconscious, and to deal with the attempt to describe the Subject in its openness to an entity that speaks in it while the Subject speaks and decides for it before it can appropriate its decisions.

(8) Heiner Müller, Krieg ohne Schlacht,  a.a.O., S. 205.
(9)  Friedrich Kittler, „Wie man abschafft, wovon man spricht: Der Autor von  <Ecce homo>“, in Jacques Derrida & Friedrich Kittler, Nietzsche – Politik des Eigennamens, Berlin 2000, S. 83.
(10) Peter Sloterdijk, Der Denker auf der Bühne. Nietzsches Materialismus, Frankfurt a. M. 1986, S. 10.
(11) Friedrich Nietzsche, Nachgelassene Fragmente 1884-1885, KSA 11, hrsg. von Giorgio Colli und Mazzino Montinari, München 1988, S. 228.

Complete text will be published at: Note on power.

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