Aesthetics of Existence

ExistenceWhen Nietzsche said that man was something that should be overcome, he was just speaking about the concept of Foucault’s care, that is, to take care of himself, to reach the superman, who must overcome the human weakness, and instead reinforce a powerful force of his intellect, power, physical and spiritual abilities. This was also an expression of care when one puts aside the idea of his own peccability, imperfection, and littleness, which has inherited from the Middle Ages, and begins the process of self-creation as more then the human being has ever been, as a superman.

Here, perhaps, we can parallel Sartre’s existentialist manifestations, where he has condemned man to freedom and the obligation of self-creation, and this is not the all, he put the responsible of creation of the society on human shoulders, that is, man is hereinafter responsible for everything that happens around him, and so it is enough to find some “one” to avoid the responsibility and self-creation and self-construction. Man is the result of Non-being- Being- Becoming project.

But who is the man? No one has yet succeeded in answering this question. In different eras, different thinkers gave different answers and characteristics, but in vain. What is the most characteristic feature of man, the most important and distinctive characteristic?

REASON. Foucault is starting discussion from the relation of reasonableness and madness. At all times the overviews on all of this are changing.

Initially, madness did not exist as it is. No one regarded the mad men/fools as abnormal people; everyone thought the God was speaking to them through him. Or, on the contrary, some manifestations of madness were observed as devious, evil, demonic manifestations. In some cultures the mad people were regarded as saints, and no one thought to suspect shaman’s visions, and delirious ideas of an ascetic were accepted as divine revelations.

Everything was changed after clinics foundations. In the 18th century, mad people were held in jail with criminals and then they were kept in hospitals. Common norms and deviations appear. It turns out that reason is a category that has no stable and distinct boundaries, so it is disputable if our reasonableness has a rational origin. There is even such a version that the brain is a “joke” of the ice age, it is a mutation, just a coincidence.

POWER. power-knowledge. Foucault observes the evolution of power in the “Discipline and Punish”. It turns out that like the category of reasonableness the category of power has also changed, evolved from the individual to the state power. From the very beginning, for example, the punishment of the perpetrator was of a private nature, there were no institutions of justice and punishment. From the Age of Enlightenment, the punishment was realized on behalf of the state, the concept of the legal institute emerged. Authority becomes more abstract and turns into state government tool. Ultimately, it is dissolved in each individual, turning each of them to the power holder in the “panopticon”.

SEX IDENTIFICATION. It seemed what else could be permanently more than a sex. However, the achievements of the 20th century came to remind us that even in this respect, we can not be sure that the sex is an unchanging reality. The subject is not constructed on his/her own sex. We removed the panel from the person and did not see anything there. It turns out that by changing language and discourse we can get absolutely another man.:

And though in all the centuries, many wise men and scholars have studied the problem of humanity, so far it does not have a universal solution. In particular, philosophical literature has many interpretations on this issue, depending on human potential, capabilities, essence and goals.

There have been cases when he was identified with the Absolute, as a result of which the philosophers should either observe this as another evidence of “the being of God” or declare “the death of God” and origin of “superman” (F. Nietzsche). In the 20th century, the true history of humanity in many ways illustrates the manifestations of ‘self-affirmiation’ of historic figures when they were looking for a superman reflaxtion in their own personality. The shorter historical experience has been summed up by Jean Paul Sartre. “Man is always a failed God, who, however, can be realized in the group as a temporary deity”[1, p. 154].

As a result, philosophers of next generation either had to declare of “death of man” (M. Foucault), or to develop “the theory of cognition without a cognising subject” (K. Popper) or to speak of the “therapeutic” significance of philosophy (Ludwig Wittgenstein).

Today Postmodernism is one of the most important aspects of philosophical mind, where a human occupies a special place. Through its vital and significant orientations, one can find a real way to understand the fundamental goals of Postmodernism. If we compare it, we can say that in the world revealed by classical science, everything related to a human is entirely excluded. This was probably observed by I. Kant. Such method schematized a man and caused social radicalism and elimination of the destructive methods of overcoming the various realities. In Postmodernism, man acquires body and will. He is the author and master of his own relationship.

In postmodernism, two main strategies including anthropogenic elements are studied. One of which gave rise to the artistic worldview (G. Bataille, J. Lacan, M. Foucault), and the second one undermined the roots of metaphysical thinking (M. Heidegger, J. Derrida, J. Kristeva). These two have changed the boundaries of human existence; within the framework of Postmodernism, man is deglorificated, he is no longer the center of the world, but he is a strayed existence. He is a bio-psycho-social being by nature, and through existence it is inter-subjective one.

During his speech in Buenos Aires on June 1, 2014, Alain Badiou, speaking of a debate on the subject’s issue, said that this is what made the whole time period. Why? Because the human being is at the same time both a living body and the creator of the concepts. The subject is a common part of the two directions. It is examined in relation of its subjective, animal, organic life, as well as its ability to think, create and abstracting abilities. This connection between the body and the idea, life and concept comes to organize French philosophy, so we can say that the French philosophy was a small battlefield in terms of subject matter. This definition was given by Kant, and in the second half of the 20th century, the central battle of philosophy would have widened around the subject.

Thus, the subject is presented as an unstable structure. However, he always wants to get out of the borders. In his research, M. Foucault relied on the philosophical views of F. Nietzsche’s (taking from him the idea of God’s death), Bataille and Blanchot (the idea of the author’s death). The main idea of his creative career was to look for a human at the moment he is absent.

Thus, Althusser defines history as a process without a subject and the subject is defined as an ideological category. Derrida, in Heidegger’s interpetation, observs the subject as a metaphysical category, and Lacan creates the subject’s concept himself if we do not refer to the central place occupied by the subject in the philosophy of Sartre or Merleau-Ponty. The first way to define the French philosophical moment would be to mention on battle taking in relation of the concept of the subject as the problem here is the main issue of the relationship between life and concept, which is nothing else than a fundamental examination of the subject’s fate.

Foucault, speaking of the “death of a human being,” first of all, was against the idea of “human production by human”. Throughout history, people have permanently changed their subjectivity, forming themselves through the unlimited number of subjectivizations that never lead to a certain “essence” of a human being. He refuses in advance to give a theory of any subject. He is interested in how the subject is placed in this or that designated form. Rejecting the apriori theory of the subject, Foucault was given the opportunity to analyze the relationship between the formation of the subject, the practice of power and the “games of truth”. The subject of Foucault is not a subset, but it is a form /shape that is not self-identified. For that reason, in relation to the subject, he does not ask “who we are”, but “how we know who we are”.

The term “subject” is used by Foucault with two meanings, both of which are related to “production.” First, an individual is produced as a subject, that is, he is kept under control and he always depends on something, second, the individual produces himself as a subject, showing “care for his own personality”. These aspects are essentially linked to each other because in both cases we are speaking about producing based on a certain knowledge which can be seen as a technology. In this case, the word is about knowledge that provides the power of the individual, the power in respect of himself, on the other side of which is the power in respect of the others.

As Deleuze says, we are speaking about being and existence of being. There are no any “dialectics” or “contradictions” between these two aspects at Foucault. The subject is produced, that is, being is designated by the contradiction of power interactions, which, in their turn, are accumulated in favor of the contradictions of the subject. For that reason, neither the subject nor the power relations produced by him can be characterized as negative. A subject is a self-generating person, that is, the existence of being is created by the care in respect of own personality, but however can not be characterized as pure positivity because it carries a denial in respect of the other person.

Thus, at Foucault the subject exists as being and the existence of being, but never as accomplished one, secondly, as Deleuze says, “the acting mind (ouvri?re) verifies being, and the discretionary mind verifies the the existence of being [2, p.75].” Of course, there is no need to divide Foucault’s creation life into “practical” and “discretionary” stages as both the first and the second co-exist in his works, respectively, as criticism and pragmatism, though praxis is noticeable in the early works of Foucault, in Binswanger’s and Heidegger’s sense, while later Foucault’s mind is inclined mostly to techne.

These two concepts of the subject are coming from Nietzsche, in whose philosophy the being or producing subject is “poor”, “humble”, in a word, he is a “slave”. The “slave” is a reactive force that affects as the denial of will. And this is called resistance to power relations, in which those relations

are designated, and at the same time, the being of the subject takes place. At Nietzsche’s the self-produced subject is “grateful,” “superficial,” personality that is he is a master, the active force, whose existence is an approving will. Let us prove once again that there is no contradiction between these two aspects, it depends on the point of view, that is, from the point of view of slave or master.

If in early works of Foucault a passive inclusion of a subject was observed as a psychiatric, medical or prison system, then in his later works the more active construction of subject through sameness practice is observed. These practices, of course, are not created by the individual himself, but he finds it in his culture. But this does not mean that the subject is not free in this context. The fact that the power is interfering with the whole social sphere means that freedom is everywhere.

The subject is a variable function at Foucault or, as Deleuze says, “an assembly of variable bywords/ statements,” [3, p. 80] derivatives from the bywords. The Subject is the place or position of the bywords, and at the same time there may be several positions for the same byword. But to understand Foucault’s subject, the most important thing is that the subject is always resisting.

When Foucault speaks about “death of the subject,” he is speaking about the Cartesian subject, which is perceived as a sovereign, independent / sovereign “thinking thing” as the owner of his own thoughts and deeds. The subject is always opposed to such thought, trying to escape from the dogma of “clear/ pure thinking”. Foucault’s subject constantly declares on his sensitivity, bravery, irrationality, and tendency to historical transformation. The subject is no longer a person, but a certain hypothetical “norm,” a template specific individuals to be adapted to. Thus, the Cartesian subject is no longer a “reality” but a virtual construction, something electronically that exists as an electromagnetic wave but is perceived as a material particle of negative charge. The subject, however, resists to this compulsion, running away to the game spheres of jokes and madness [4, p. 46-47].

Not Foucault or Deleuze are contrasted to the Cartesian scheme, but the subject itself, escaping to the subject’s non-existence. However, this resistance is not external, it occurs inside the subject. The Classical subject is also “dying” alongside the collapse of compulsion institutions of the classical era. The point is that this subject could exist as long as there was compulsion in which it was opposed to. In short, there is no compulsion, no subject.

However, this does not mean that the Philosophy no longer knows who he is talking about, the classic subject has “died,” and the existence of subject has been transformed. The phenomenology, psychoanalysis, and so on came to replace the catechism. The story is repeated with the subject, but now in another discursive space. The subject is opposed to new descriptive systems and the opposite gets another direction. Until humanity exists, it will produce new concepts of subjectivity, and any new shape of subject will start to contradict them.

The contradiction, therefore, takes place in different dimensions, as Deleuze and Guattari say, it takes place in the upland, each of which has its own configuration. The subject is essentially undestroyable. If the philosophers of Frankfurt School were speaking about a person’s superiority in the society, about his “monotony” and oppression, yet, assuming a certain prospect of liberation, Foucault does not fall into such illusions, as Dyakov noticed. Any freedom, Foucault says, is nothing else but a regular transformation of discourse. As long as we speak about (or keep silent) the subject, we always put it in the most or less rigid slabs/frames. That is why we should not hope for the ultimate liberation of the subject.

The subject is formed solely on the basis of the power discourse. An individual becomes a subject while resisting to the power, the power discourse makes him display “care in respect of his own personality”. Hence, incredible “liberation” from any type of Power would mean death for the subject, and this time, it would be final. At the same time, the situation outside the discourse is impossible as long as there is humanity, society and communication. Baudrillard said that “liberation” is possible in case of real, not in metaphysical death.

Despite this, he was in doubt, as the dead ones could become objects of power manipulation and consequently oppose them. We should remember Heidegger’s words, being mortal is a shame [5, p.288]. This impropriety of mortality is already a resistance, and thus makes a person a virtual subject of public relations and metaphysical speculations. For the complete and final “liberation”, all mankind would have to sink into the ocean, as Chopinhauser offered once [6, p. 47].

Another moment of resistance lies in the subject’s own identification. However, throughout all the history, western philosophy has sought to identify the subject with the relationships of the subject and the surrounding reality. And in all cases, the subject persists stubbornly, confronts any type of definition and essentially it is characterized by violence. In other words, we can only “tell stories” about the subject, but even in these stories we will meet the subject’s resistance.

The subject resists even on its description level, that is at the discourse level, as well as at the level of research consciousness (which also has a discourse character). Finally, it also opposes to our philosophical resistance, telling us that it exists in some way.

Thus, the subject-being resistance forms the subject. Resistance assumes a permanent deviation from the actions of the power discourse, a manifestation of marginalism. The subject like Fukon sees it is not based on either physical or social aspects. Such a subject can not be identified by

the relationship of external reality or through himself. He is constantly escaping from both one and the other. In any point where it was possible to identify the subject, he was absent. And this absence is a delicate reminder of his existence. That is, the subject is constantly shifting from one position to another. Thus, the subject of a post structuralism is presented as a “nomad”.

The case is that, where the rationalists are trying to find a thinking “I”, the subject is absent. Where “I” think, “I” do not exist. After all, there is “I” character, not “I-in-itself”. Especially, where there is thinking there is no any “I”. And where “I” hypothetically lives, there is no any thinking. That means we can not identify “I” as res cogitans. “I” is not a “thinking thing”, but rather we can refer to “I” to “cold judgment”, but this does not lead to “I-in-itself”. But if we refuse to understand “I” as one who thinks, then we will miss the possibility of recognizing subjectivity in any way at all. That one, which does not think, that is, does not express an idea in any way, remains as “thing-in- itself”, about which we can not say anything surely. We also can not say anything about the unconsciousness, because if it is really unconscious, there is no knowledge about it, and if we have some knowledge about it, it is not unconscious at all.

In the context of Foucault’s concept, for the complete perception of the concept of the subject, it is also necessary to identify what the transcendental subject is to be. But we can not speak about it at all. This is a position in which no subject exists, even though this is his place. When we talk about thinking, the subject has already left that area. Fuko does not say that the subject does not exist at all. He simply says that firstly subject is the idea which origin caused by himself and secondly, the subject is constantly moving. Foucault offers a “smooth” model of the world, in which the surface sense is not exchanged with depth essence, and since the meaning does not have roots, it constantly walks to the surface. Moreover, these meanings create the surface.

Any point that we make the object of our research the subject is not real, but virtual. This “wherever is here”, but not any clear “here it is” for its existence. This not only means that there is no subject at any point, it exists at all points simultaneously. If we deny the hope of its localization, we will be able to find her location, the topos. Fuko, however, does not give a man a rest, does not go out of his skin. He simply says that the skin itself is a man. He constantly repeats Valerie’s post-structuralistic resolution “the deepest is the skin”[6, p. 4].

Man has no depth, he has only the surface. Both all the meanings and “stories” take place on the human skin surface. More precisely, not on its surface, this is the return to the teleological/purposeful thinking, and on the skin that is the surface, which is just the man. All the meanings emerge on our surface or, in other words, we as the surface. That is, we are just the surface. There is no “ours,” there is simply a surface.

If there had not been the “other”, the resistance would not also have been, this also means the subjectivization process would not take place either. We are again returning to the idea once already mentioned that the resistance allows a person to become a subject, and he is opposed to the subject’s existence.

Deleuze said, “there is no any “I” in the depths of subjectivity, but there is an unusual combination, a certain originality, a secret code …” [7, p. 67]. Foucault shares this mind altogether. Refusing to believe in the existence of the “I” as the center of human personality, offers to consider subjectivity as a virtual space in which it can coincide with the perspective lines of meaning. The so-called “centers” of subjectivity are not only moving but also “stumble” and constantly produce. Consequently, the concept of “center” moves away from its primary meaning. We could speak about the “center” if all of its movements were in a certain field, which can be defined as a “person.”

However, all these concepts have their place outside of the bounds of their personality. As Lynn has said, “someone else speaks through me”, he talks through me and over me, but never in me. In other words, the “center” is hypothetically beyond what center we imagine it. The subject is centrifugal, that is, it has no center at all. He always becomes in all possible directions, but there is no basic direction for that being. In addition, the subject is always “happening/becoming”, but never “existent”. The last position is the “death” for the subject. That was exactly what happened to the immovable Cartesian subject.


1. Foucault M., The history of sexuality, Volume 1: An Introduction, Vintage Books Edition, March 1990.
2. Deleuze J. Nietzsche and philosophy. Trans. O. Homa. M., “Ad Marginem”, 2003.
3. Deleuze J. Foucault. Trans. E.V. Semina. M., Publishing house of humanitarian literature, 1998.
4. Dyakov AV Michel Foucault: about the “death of a man”, about freedom and the “end of philosophy”, Bulletin of history and philosophy of KSU. Series “Philosophy”, 2008, No 2.
5. Heideger M. Being and time. Trans. V. V. Bibikhina. Kharkov, 2003.
6. Cronan, Todd, Poul Valery’s Blood Meridian, or How the Reader became a writer
7. Mansfield, Nick, Subjectivity: Theories of the self from Freud to Haraway, Allen & Unwin, 2000.

Created by PhD Sahakyan H. G.

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