Jean-François Lyotard

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The body might be considered the hardware of the complex technical device that is human thought.

Jean-François Lyotard (10 August 192421 April 1998) was a French philosopher and literary theorist.

Quotes[edit]

Thought Without a Body? (1994)[edit]

as translated by B. Boone and L. Hildreth, printed in Materialities of Communication (1994)
  • While we talk, the sun is getting older. It will explode in 4.5 billion years. ... In comparison everything else seems insignificant. Wars, conflicts, political tension, shifts in opinion, philosophical debates, even passions—everything’s dead already if this infinite reserve from which you now draw energy to defer answers, if in short thought as a quest, dies out with the sun. ... The inevitable explosion to come, the one that’s always forgotten in your intellectual ploys, can be seen in a certain way as coming before the fact to render these ploys ... futile. ... In 4.5 billions years there will arrive the demise of your phenomenology and your utopian politics, and there’ll be no one there to toll the death knell or hear it. It will be too late to understand that your passionate, endless questioning always depended on a “life of the mind.” ... Thought borrows a horizon and orientation, the limitless limit and the end without end it assumes, from the corporeal, sensory, emotional and cognitive experience of a quite sophisticated but definitely earthly existence. With the disappearance of the earth, thought will have stopped—leaving that disappearance absolutely unthought of. ... The death of the sun is a death of mind. ... There’s no sublation or deferral if nothing survives. ... The sun, our earth, and your thought will have been no more than a spasmodic state of energy, an instant of established order, a smile on the surface of matter in a remote corner of the cosmos. ... Human death is included in the life of the mind. Solar death implies an irreparably exclusive disjunction between death and thought: if there’s death, then there’s no thought.
    • pp. 286-289
  • Matter asks no questions, expects no answers of us. It ignores us. It made us the way it makes all bodies—by chance and according to its laws.
    • p. 289
  • The body might be considered the hardware of the complex technical device that is human thought.
    • p. 291
  • Philosophy is possible only because the material ensemble called “man” is endowed with very sophisticated software. But also, this software, human language, is dependent on the condition of the hardware. Now: the hardware will be consumed in the solar explosion, taking philosophical thought with it (along with all other thought) as it goes up in flames. So the problem of the technological sciences can be states as follows: how can we provide this software with a hardware that is independent of the conditions of life on earth? That is: how can we make thought without a body possible?
    • p. 291
  • In the discussion we had last year at Siegen, in this regard, emphasis was put on the sort of emptiness that has to be obtained from mind and body by a Japanese warrior-artist when doing calligraphy, by an actor when acting: the kind of suspension of ordinary intentions of mind associated with habitus, or arrangements of the body. It’s at this cost, said Glenn and Andreas, ... that a brush encounters the “right” shapes, that a voice and a theatrical gesture are endowed with the “right” tone and look. The soliciting of emptiness, this evacuation—very much the opposite of overweening, selective identificatory activity—doesn’t take place without some suffering. ... The body and mind have to be free of burdens for grace to touch us.
    • p. 296
  • There’s a necessity for physical experience and a recourse to exemplary cases of bodily ascesis to understand and make understood a type of emptying of the mind, an emptying that is required if the mind is to think. This obviously has nothing to do with tabula rasa, with what Descartes (vainly) wanted to be a starting from scratch on the part of knowing thought.
    • p. 296

External links[edit]

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