Influence and infection : Georges Bataille and the fate of critique

Abstract

The thesis argues for the pertinence of the Kantian 'topography' of the mental faculties and the power of critical thought in assessing the philosophical importance of Georges Bataille' s writing. Such an argument runs counter to the received tradition of interpretation of Bataille's work, which has, given the influence of Derrida, construed these texts as works of phenomenological philosophy. The thesis shows that Derrida's interpretation must, by virtue of its exclusivity, be incorrect. Bataille is concerned with the trajectory of thought - that is with the dynamics or energetics of thought - rather than with the articulation of the logic of representation, an articulation which characterises phenomenological thinking. The thesis argues that Bataille's concern with the energetics of thought represents an extension of Kant's critical project. This relation is borne out by the new uses to which he puts the Kantian terminology of continuity, transcendence, subjectivity and communication. Rather than simply exaggerating the power of critique, which Kant countenanced as an influence on the mental processes, Bataille dissolves the critical difference and fuses the status of all thought with its energetic and thermic trajectory. For Bataille, thought is associated with the free contagions or infections of thermic communication. Thus Bataille's relation to Kojeve and Hegel is -only part of a wider move in designating the energetic nature of critique over and above its restricted and conceptual uses. Critique does not survive this definition. The thesis shows the nature of the critical project as it is articulated by Kant in the critiques of pure reason and judgement and how Bataille's major concepts come to inhabit this terrain whilst subjecting themselves and it to the dissolution which is the result of the rational groundlessness of critique. Bataille's treatment of this topography shows that it can be used to infer the attributes of a philosophy of intensities and change

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