Last modified on 2 November 2014, at 04:58

Georges Bataille

Experience is, in fever and anguish, the putting into question (to the test) of that which a man knows of being. Should he in this fever have any apprehension whatsoever, he cannot say: “I have seen God, the absolute, or the depths of the universe”; he can only say “that which I have seen eludes understanding”—and God, the absolute, the depths of the universe are nothing if they are not categories of the understanding. If I said decisively, “I have seen God,” that which I see would change. Instead of the inconceivable unknown—wildly free before me, leaving me wild and free before it—there would be a dead object and the thing of the theologian, to which the unknown would be subjugated.

Georges Bataille (10 September 18979 July 1962) was a French writer. His multifaceted work is linked to the domains of literature, anthropology, philosophy, economy, sociology and history of art. Eroticism and transgression are at the core of his writings.

QuotesEdit

  • Extreme states of being, whether individual or collective, were once purposefully motivated. Some of those purposes no longer have meaning (expiation, salvation). The well-being of communities in so longer sought through means of doubtful effectiveness, but directly, through action. Under these conditions, extreme states of being fell into the domain of the arts, and not without a certain disadvantage. Literature (fiction) took the place of what had formerly been the spiritual life; poetry (the disorder of words) that of real states of trance. Art constituted a small free domain, outside action: to gain freedom it had to renounce the real world. This is a heavy price to pay, and most writers dream of recovering a lost reality. They must then pay in another sense, by renouncing freedom.
    • The Bataille Reader (1997), p. 340

L’Expérience Intérieure (1943)Edit

Inner Experience, L. Boldt, trans. (1988)

  • Anyone wanting slyly to avoid suffering identifies with the entirety of the universe, judges each thing as if he were it. In the same way, he imagines, at bottom, that he will never die. We receive these hazy illusions like a narcotic necessary to bear life. But what happens to us when, disintoxicated, we learn what we are? Lost among babblers in a night in which we can only hate the appearance of light which comes from babbling. The self-acknowledged suffering of the disintoxicated is the subject of this book.
    • p. xxxii
  • We have in fact only two certainties in this world—that we are not everything and that we will die. To be conscious of not being everything, as one is of being mortal, is nothing. But if we are without a narcotic, an unbreathable void reveals itself. I wanted to be everything, so that falling into this void, I might summon my courage and say to myself: “I am ashamed of having wanted to be everything, for I see now that it was to sleep.” From that moment begins a singular experience. The mind moves in a strange world where anguish and ecstasy coexist.
    • p. xxxii
  • The analysis of laughter had opened to me points of contact between the fundamentals of a communal and disciplined emotional knowledge and those of discursive knowledge.
    • p. xxxiii
  • By inner experience I understand that which one usually calls mystical experience: the states of ecstasy, of rapture, at least of meditated emotion. But I am thinking less of confessional experience, to which one has had to adhere up to now, that of an experience laid bare, free of ties, even of an origin, of any confession whatever. This is why I don’t like the word mystical.
    • p. 3
  • Experience is, in fever and anguish, the putting into question (to the test) of that which a man knows of being. Should he in this fever have any apprehension whatsoever, he cannot say: “I have seen God, the absolute, or the depths of the universe”; he can only say “that which I have seen eludes understanding”—and God, the absolute, the depths of the universe are nothing if they are not categories of the understanding.

    If I said decisively, “I have seen God,” that which I see would change. Instead of the inconceivable unknown—wildly free before me, leaving me wild and free before it—there would be a dead object and the thing of the theologian, to which the unknown would be subjugated
    .
    • p. 4
  • Inner experience, unable to have principles either in dogma (a moral attitude), or in science (knowledge can be neither its goal nor its origin), or in a search of enriching states (an experimental, aesthetic attitude), it cannot have any other concern nor other goal than itself. Opening myself to inner experience, I have placed in it all value and authority. Henceforth I can have no other value, no other authority (in the realm of mind). Value and authority imply the discipline of a method, the existence of a community.
    I call experience a voyage to the end of the possible of man. Anyone may choose not to embark on this voyage, but if he does embark on it, this supposes the negation of the authorities, the existing values which limit the possible. By virtue of the fact that it is negation of other values, other authorities, experience, having a positive existence, becomes itself positively value and authority.
    Inner experience has always had objectives other than itself in which one invested value and authority. … If God, knowledge, and suppression of pain were to cease to be in my eyes convincing objectives, … would inner experience from that moment seem empty to me, henceforth impossible without justification? ...
    I received the answer [from Blanchot]: experience itself is authority.
    • p. 7
  • The advance of intelligence diminished, as a secondary consequence, the “possible” in a realm which appeared foreign to intelligence: that of inner experience.
    To say “diminished” is even to say too little. The development of intelligence leads to a drying up of life which, in return, has narrowed intelligence. It is only if I state this principle: “inner experience itself is authority” that I emerge from this impotence.
    • p. 8
  • Inner experience … is not easily accessible and, viewed from the outside by intelligence, it would even be necessary to see in it a sum of distinct operations, some intellectual, others aesthetic, yet others moral. … It is only from within, lived to the point of terror, that it appears to unify that which discursive thought must separate.
    • p. 9
  • Philosophy … finds itself to be no longer anything but the heir to a fabulous mystical theology, but missing a God and wiping the slate clean.
    • p. 9
  • The difficulty—that contestation must be done in the name of an authority—is resolved this: I contest in the name of contestation what experience itself is.
    • p. 12
  • We reach ecstasy by a contestation of knowledge. Were I to stop at ecstasy and grasp it, in the end I would define it.
    • p. 12
  • I remain in intolerable non-knowledge, which has no other way out than ecstasy itself.
    • p. 12
  • It is through an “intimate cessation of all intellectual operations” that the mind is laid bare. If nor, discourse maintains it in its little complacency. … The difference between inner experience and philosophy resides principally in this: that in experience, … what counts is no longer the statement of wind, but the wind.
    • p. 13

On Nietzsche (1945)Edit

  • Concern for this or that limited good can sometimes lead to the summit... But this occurs in a roundabout way. Moral ends … are distinct from any excesses they occasion. States of glory and moments of sacredness surpass results intentionally sought.
    • p. xx
  • Nothing radically changes when instead of human satisfaction, we think of the satisfaction of some heavenly being! God’s person displaces the problem and does not abolish it.
    • p. xx
  • An extreme, unconditional human yearning was expressed for the first time by Nietzsche independently of moral goals or of serving God. … Ardor that doesn’t address a dramatically articulated moral obligation is a paradox. … If we stop looking at states of ardor as simply preliminary to other and subsequent conditions grasped as beneficial, the state I propose seems a pure play of lightning, merely an empty consummation. Lacking any relation to material benefits such as power or the growth of the state (or of God or a Church or a party), this consuming can’t even be comprehended. … I’ll have to face the same difficulties as Nietzsche—putting God and the good behind him, though all ablaze with the ardor possessed by those who lay down their lives for God or the good. … I’ll admit that moral investigations that aim to surpass the good lead first of all to disorder.
    • pp. xx-xxii
  • In the helter-skelter of this book, I didn’t develop my views as theory. In fact, I even believe that efforts of that kind are tainted with ponderousness. Nietzsche wrote “with his blood,” and criticizing, or, better, experiencing him means pouring out one’s lifeblood. … It was only with my life that I wrote the Nietzsche book that I had planned.
    • pp. xxiv-xxv
  • What causes [fragmentation] if not a need to act that specializes us and limits us to the horizon of a particular activity? Even if it turns out to be for the general interest (which generally isn’t true), the activity that subordinates each of our aspects to a specific result suppresses our being as an entirety. Whoever acts substitutes a particular end for what he or she is, as a total being.
    • p. xxvi
  • I cannot exist entirely except when somehow I go beyond the stage of action. Otherwise I’m a soldier, a professional, a man of learning, not a “total human being.” The fragmentary state of humanity is basically the same as the choice of an object. When you limit your desires to possessing political power, for instance, you act and know what you have to do. … You insert your existence advantageously into time. Each of your moments becomes useful. With each moment, the possibility is given you to advance to some chosen goal, and your time becomes a march toward that goal—what’s normally called living. … Every action makes you a fragmentary existence. I hold on to my nature as an entirety only by refusing to act—or at least by denying the superiority of time, which is reserved for action.
    • p. xxvii
  • Humanity-attached-to-the-task-of-changing-the-world, which is only a single and fragmentary aspect of humanity, will itself be changed in humanity-as-entirety.
    • p. xxviii
  • Life is whole only when it isn’t subordinate to a specific object that exceeds it. In this way, the essence of entirety is freedom.
    • p. xxvii
  • Entirety exists within me as exuberance … in empty longing … in … the desire to burn with desire.
    • p. xxvii
  • It is the positive practice of freedom, not the negative struggle against particular oppression, that has lifted me above a mutilated existence.
    • p. xxvii
  • The total person is first disclosed … in areas of life that are lived frivolously.
    • p. xxix
  • Existence as entirety remains beyond any one meaning—and it is the conscious presence of humanness in the world inasmuch as this is nonmeaning, having nothing to do other than be what it is, no longer able to go beyond itself or give itself some kind of meaning through action.
    • p. xxx
  • An intention that rejects what has no meaning in fact is a rejection of the entirety of being.
    • p. xxx
  • If I give up the viewpoint of action, my perfect nakedness is revealed to me.
    • p. xxx
  • The preceding criticism … justifies the following definition of the entire human: human existence as the life of “unmotivated” celebration, celebration in all meaning of the word: laughter, dancing, orgy, the rejection of subordination, and sacrifice that scornfully puts aside any consideration of ends, property, and morality.
    • p. xxxii
  • In previous conditions, extreme states came under the jurisdiction of the arts... People substituted writing (fiction) for what was once spiritual life, poetry (chaotic words) for actual ecstasies. Art constitutes a minor free zone outside action, paying for its freedom by giving up the real world. A heavy price!
    • p. xxxii
  • [Zarathustra] never abandoned the watchword of not having any end, not serving a cause, because, as he knew, causes pluck off the wings we fly with.
    • p. xxxii
  • [Nietzsche’s doctrine of the eternal return] is what makes moments caught up in the immanence of return suddenly appear as ends. In every other system, don’t forget, these moments are viewed as means: Every moral system proclaims that “each moment of life ought to be motivated.” Return unmotivates the moment and frees life of ends.
    • p. xxxiii
  • Human entirety can only be what it is when giving up the addiction to others’ ends.
    • p. xxxiv, note
  • To choose evil is to choose freedom—“freedom, emancipation from all restraint.”
    • p. xxxiv, note
  • We can’t rely on anything. Except ourselves. Ludicrous responsibility devolves on us, overwhelms us. In every regard, right up the present, people always have relied on each other—or God.
    • p. 3

External linksEdit

Wikipedia
Wikipedia has an article about: