VE — Georges Bataille, Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927–1939
SS — William Pawlett, Georges Bataille: The Sacred and Society
TA — Nick Land, The Thirst for Annihilation: Georges Bataille and Virulent Nihilism (an essay in atheistic religion)
ON — Georges Bataille, On Nietzsche
E — Georges Bataille, Eroticism: Death and Sensuality
ALONE and Bataillean Ontology
Bataille on “The Insufficiency of Beings”
“MEN ACT IN ORDER TO BE” (VE 171).
Bataille sees action as being spurred not by avoiding death (negative sense of action) but rather by “a tragic and incessant combat for a satisfaction that is almost beyond reach” (VE 171) (positive sense of action).
Bataille doesn’t see being (being for Bataille seems to mean ‘to be’) as a constant but something that is sometimes achieved, and even then being is unequal and the intensity is relative.
Bataille follows Hegel in saying that the master-slave dialectic is the first movement (of consciousness(?)). Bataille says,
“In the very firstwhere the force that the master has at his disposal puts the slave at his mercy, the master deprives the slave of a part of his being. Much later, in return, the ‘existence’ of the master is impoverished to the extent that it distances itself from the material elements of life. The slave enriches his being to the extent that he enslaves these elements by the work to which his impotence condemns him” (VE 171).
To further, Bataille sees the movement of the master-slave dialectic to be the very movement that traps beings within the world of project (“the world of specialized functions” (VE 172).
When we enter the world of project, we become insufficient (and discontinuous(?)) beings, we become “a part of being” (VE 172). The world of project is a world that degrades being.
Bataille then goes on to say, “‘Being increases in the tumultuous agitation of a life that knows no limits” (VE 172). Being, therefore, increases in sovereignty, or in other words, we become less a part of being and more a whole (continuous(?)) being as we exceed and escape the world of project through sovereignty, limit experiences, inner experiences, etc.
Bataille radically declares that “At the basis of human life there exists a principle of insufficiency” (VE 172). Bataille explains that when one is ALONE (in isolation), one will see “others as incapable or unworthy of ‘being’” (VE 172) (so, they see themself as the master(?)).
“men discover their solitude in empty night” (VE 172).
Bataille and “The Composite Character of Beings and the Impossibility of Fixing Existence in Any Given Ipse”
Firstly, let’s clarify on what Bataille means when he uses the term ‘Ipse’. “Bataille uses the Latin term Ipse for this ‘deeper’ even ‘truer’ sense of self” (SS 117).
“Being in fact is found NOWHERE” (VE 173).
The latter quote from Bataille can be read, and is read, by many to mean that Bataille believes in being over becoming, but I would posit something else. Now I would agree with the latter notion that Bataille is positing becoming over being if it weren’t for the word ‘NOWHERE’ being in all caps. Why is this important? Well, in The Accursed Share Volume III: Sovereignty, Bataille says, “Sovereignty is NOTHING” (256). Earlier in this essay I said that “Being, therefore, increases in sovereignty,” and I think that because sovereignty is NOTHING, and being is found in sovereignty, then being is NOWHERE, because one cannot find NOTHING (then again, this may be a misreading).
“A siphonophore can be dissolved to the level of its cells and still recompose itself, but dissolution below this level annihilates it” (TA 171).
“A Man is only a paricle inserted in unstable and entangled wholes” (VE 174).
“every isolable element of the universe always appears as a particle that can enter into composition with a whole that transcends it. Being is only found as a whole composed of particles whose relative autonomy is maintained” (VE 174).
Land gives a concrete for Bataille’s point: society. Society is a group of individuals who are always transcended by the whole i.e. a society cannot be made up of “individuals possessing a greater ontological density than its own” (TA 173).
Bataille and “The Structure of the Labyrinth”
Bataille just gives more concretes of his latter description: cities within empires are transcended by empire.
“Each particular being delegates to the group of those situated at the center of the multitudes thee task of realizing the inherent totality [emphasis mine] of ‘being’” (VE 175).
Bataille and “The Modalities of Composition and Decomposition of Being”
Bataille sees that individual beings and the individual beings’ composition of being “empties elements of the greatest part of their being, and this benefits the center… if the attraction of a certain center is stronger than that of a neighboring center, the second center then goes into decline” (VE 176). This is how beings are decomposed and then re-composed (or at least this is my (miss-?)interpretation of what Bataille is saying).
“Being can complete itself and attain the menacing gradeur of imperative totality” (VE 176).
“The relative insufficiency of peripheral existences is absolute insufficiency in total existence” (VE 176–177).
Bataille and “The Monster in the Night of the Labyrinth”
“Being attains the blinding flash in tragic annihilation” (VE 177).
“Laughter is thus assumed by the totality of being” (VE 177). “In this totality is the desire to laugh that I mentioned” (ON 10).
The Fragmentation of Being
“But what does fragmentation mean, or, better, what causes it, if not the need to act that specializes and limits us to the horizon of a given activity?” (ON 9).
Within the world of project our being is fragmented. The immance of each moment is negated by our subordination to teleology.
“I cannot exist totally without surpassing the stage of action in some way” (ON 9).
“Every action makes a man a fragmentary being” (ON 9).
Discontinuous Beings and (Erotic) Fusion
Beings are born alone, they die alone… (E 12).
“Between one being and another, there is a gulf, a discontinuity” (E 12).
Continuity is found when I communicate with the totality in sovereign and erotic moments (?).
The fusion of two beings in their deadly movements of eroticism is a point of ontological continuity. Moments of eroticism are sovereign moments.
“The whole business of eroticism is to strike to the inmost core of the living being, so that the heart stands still” (E 17).
“The final aim of eroticism is fusion, all barriers gone” (E 129).
ALONE at night
Every night I look out the window and see the beauty of the 1 AM sky.
What does it mean to appreciate something so much that you don’t remark, “you don’t know how good it was until it was gone”?
What does it mean to reminisce?
I make progress and then it is undone in one quick movement, one shattering slash, it returns to zero.
Why is life so Bataillean? Why do I lose myself in happiness, anguish, frustration, ecstasy? Why am I separated? Why do I long after the object of (erotic) desire?
I’ve felt different since then. Forgetting is something I wish could be done. Not even in silence do I escape myself?
Emotion, I trust it no more.