chapter  6
16 Pages

THE SUBLIME AND POLITICS

After the work on Kant and judgement in The Differend, Lyotard's philosophy is directed to a sophisticated political pragmatics. This is driven by the problem of how to testify to the differend, given the restriction imposed on the testimony by the relation that holds between the feeling of the sublime and Ideas of reason (such as 'Humanity is progressing'). The only way to testify is to conjure up an Idea and to dash the possibility of presenting it in an actual case. So Lyotard's work becomes practical in two ways. First, there is the selection of an Idea and a particular case apt to show its failure. Second, there is a selection of the right way to instil a feeling of the sublime, that is, both an attraction to the possibility of an actual presentation of the Idea and an aversion to the actual presentation in a given case. These practical considerations are companions to the argument I put forward in the conclusion to the previous chapter; that is, that Lyotard can never testify directly to a given differend, to a given absolute difference. His testimony must always pass through an Idea; the feelings instilled in the addressees are not directed to the actual conflict but to the necessity and failure of the Idea in actuality. The testimony to the differend disappears as a direct engagement with an irresolvable difference and moves towards an undermining of that which would resolve such differences.