The Other Side of Thought

There are so many passages I might have selected from Nancy’s Corpus, this dense, demystifying discourse on the body in its widest sense. I shan’t write further at this time about Nancy but will explore his antiphilosophy or nonphilosophy further.

Rock: under this body cadence of body, it turns out that our world has deployed a rhythmical world-wideness, from jazz to rap and beyond, a crowd, a proliferation, a glut, a popularity of postures, a zoned, massed, electronic skin, which, if we insist, we can certainly call noise, because in fact it is, to begin with, background noise arising where forms no longer hold sway, no longer make sense (social, common, sentimental, metaphysical)–and where, to the contrary, aesthetics will have to be reworked at the level of bodies with naked senses, deprived of reference points, disoriented, disoccidented, and where arts have to be reworked, through and through, as the technē of the creation of bodies. Yes, noise: it’s like the other side of thought, but also like the rumblings in the coils on the body.”

Jean-Luc Nancy, Corpus (trans. Richard A. Rand)

Nocturnal Existence

Given its centrality and necessity to our lives, it seems remarkable that philosophers have to a great extent ignored the phenomenon of sleep, At least one of the reasons I have suffered periodically from bouts of insomnia is that sleep seems so downright mystifying, even alarming.

There’s a chapter in Aristotle’s Parva Naturalia on sleep, Galen also writes of sleep but more in context of dreaming. Thereafter, as far as I can tell, our nocturnal existence is left to the poets and psychologists. An exception is French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy who wrote the fascinating The Fall of Sleep, which amused me for a few sleepless hours last night.

Below is an excerpt from Charlotte Mandell’s translation of The Fall of Sleep by Jean-Luc Nancy (also read by Mandell in the film also below).

I now belong only to myself, having fallen into myself and mingled with that night where everything becomes indistinct to me but more than anything myself. I mean: everything becomes more than anything myself, everything is reabsorbed into me without allowing me to distinguish me from anything. But I also mean: more than anything, I myself become indistinct. I no longer properly distinguish myself from the world or from others, from my own body or from my mind, either. For I can no longer hold anything as an object, as a perception or a thought, without this very thing making itself felt as being at the same time myself and something other than myself. A simultaneity of what is one’s own and not one’s own occurs as this distinction falls away.

There is simultaneity only in the realm of sleep. It is the great present, the co-presence of all compossibilities, even incompatible ones. Removed from the bustle of time, from the obsessions of past and future, of arising and passing away, I coincide with the world. I am reduced to my own indistinctness, which, however, still experiences itself as an “I” that goes along with its visions without, however, distinguishing itself from them.