Esposito’s Living Thought is an excellent book. My own experience of reading it was shaped by its themes of life, antagonism, and genealogy (of the origin). Esposito’s discussion of these themes also pushed me to think further along certain lines, which I try to set out below.
Absence of Origin
The predominant relation in what Esposito calls “Italian thought” is the one between history and origin. Even as history advances beyond an origin and bears a determinacy inconceivable from the point of the origin, this origin does not disappear into the past but instead becomes something inseparable from the “actuality” of history. Hence Esposito, when speaking of Vico, is able to speak of how “the origin is not dissolved in history, just as history is not reduced to time” (26). And such a logic has to do not just with Vico but also with “an element that runs through all Italian philosophy,” namely this: “At the bottom of history there lies an opaque, seminatural, historically intractable element that human beings must come to terms with the moment their gaze turns toward the future, imagining that they can liberate themselves, along with the entire past, even from the uncertain point of its provenance” (27). In other words, one of the essential skills of Italian philosophy, “distinguishing it from other traditions of thought” (27), is precisely this attentiveness to the entanglement of history and origin, doubling each other and thus undermining any pretension that would reduce one to the other.
At times, however, this relation between history and origin recedes in favor of another one, between history and life. This raises, for me, a question about the nature of the relation between these relations, or between the three terms at stake: history, origin, and life. The issue seems particularly pressing in one articulation of the second relation, where Esposito speaks of “the ontological difference between history and life” (170). How should we think of this difference? And what does it mean that this difference—however we think of it—is already cast in terms of being? Read the rest of this entry »