By Jan Plug

Explores the position of language, historical past, and politics in Romantic literature and inspiration, from Kant to Yeats.

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Lyotard’s imperative calls for a reading and even a retranslation of Kant that would render that determinate relation indeterminate. According to Lyotard’s reading, Kant’s imperative says one thing but must mean another. 26 Act so that the maxim of your will can always at the same time be valid as a universal legislation. But what the categorical imperative must mean, according to Lyotard, is: Agis comme si la maxime de ta volonté puisse toujours valoir en même temps comme principe d’une législation universelle.

Rather than an internal contradiction in the very definition of philosophy, this means that the intervention signified by a philosophy in the world, what we might prematurely call the political, will be of another order than the intuitable. 8 Lyotard’s gloss is particularly revealing here, for not only does it capture the structure of symbolic substitutions, it elicits the paradox of absence that inhabits them: On dégage la forme de présentation, qui est celle du mode intuitif (le schème), du contenu intuitionable, puisqu’il est absent, et l’on place sous cette forme une autre intuition, “également empirique,” qui en somme permettrait de valider l’Idée si elle était un concept de l’entendement.

It is by no means evident, however, that Lyotard himself fully explores the implications of that rethinking, in Enthusiasm at Borders of a Lip Pt. 21 For it is in the description of the relation between philosophy and the political as more than an affinity, that point at which the political is said to be philosophy, philosophy the political, that the political acquires its peculiar power. If the fictionality of the political refused its appropriation to any politics, here that same linguistic status, just where it is intensified to express a fully symbolic interlacing, is in excess of the symbol.

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