Thursday, December 01, 2011
In Philosophy in Review, Francesco Tampoia reviews Catherine Malabou's Plasticity at the Dusk of Writing: Dialectic, Destruction, Deconstruction.
Plasticity, from Greek plassein, means to take or receive form, to mould or to give form. As a scheme by which to think and to do philosophy, plasticity has a twofold advantage. First, it involves, between destruction and deconstruction, a sort of ‘fratricidal hand-to-hand battle of presence and the absenting of presence, the present and its withdrawal’. Second, it can signify both the achievement of presence and its deflagration, its emergence and its explosion. Thus: ‘It is therefore able to situate itself perfectly in the in-between of metaphysics and its other, playing to perfection the part of concept that is some sort of mediator or smuggler’. A bit later, Malabou emphasizes the constant semantic extensions of ‘plasticity’ (including synthetics and explosives). To be sure, plasticity comes after metaphysics and, according to Malabou, appears in many different domains of human activity.
[. . .]
In light of her plastic reading, which aspires to be a sort of metamorphosis of deconstructive reading, Heidegger’s Being and Time, with its original circulation of change, exchange and substitution, is the first example of ontological plasticity: ‘there is perhaps no reason to talk of the plasticity of Being—as if plasticity were some kind of quality—but of saying that Being is nothing but its plasticity’.

In Heidegger’s footsteps, once again, Malabou introduces the important notion of ontological economy: ‘Western thought proceeds from an initial change—exchange of Being for essence, understood as beingness (Seindheit)—which prepares its own metamorphosis and gives rise to the other change—the exchange of being for its own essence (Anwesen). This absolute ontological mutability governed by a lack of outside, is the economic space in which Heidegger’s thought unfurls’ (emphasis in original). To be sure, at the level of social and economic organization, metaphysics and capitalism could coincide. Obviously such a statement opens up a vast research project in connection with Hegel and Heidegger, provided alterity is thought without the aid of transcendence.
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