Might not universality be . . . our own foreignness?
Beyond the ordeal of the Revolution, the Enlightenment’s moral universalism discovered its masterly discourse in Kant’s reasoned longing for universal peace. In contrapuntal fashion, the Romantic inversion, the emergence of German nationalism and most particularly Herder’s notion of Volksgeist, but especially the Hegelian Negativity – which at the same time restored and systematized, unleashed and bound the power of the Other, against and within the consciousness of the Same – might be thought of as stages on the way to the “Copernican revolution” that the discovery of the Freudian unconscious amounted to. My point here will not be to follow that philosophical journey and trace Freud’s indebtedness to the course that preceded him. Hence, from the tremendous Hegelian continent that gave the impetus to and completed the thought of the Other, I shall retain only what pertains to the intrinsic foreignness in culture, which Hegel brilliantly expanded starting from Diderot.1 Nevertheless, so as better to point out the political and ethical impact of the Freudian breakthrough, or rather to outline an area where that impact might be thought out by others, by those who are foreign to the present book, inasmuch as the following pages are meant to be prospective, fragmentary, “subjective,” more than demonstrative or didactic – I shall draw a tentative line going from Kant to Herder and Freud. With Freud indeed, foreignness, an uncanny one, creeps into the tranquility of reason itself, and, without being restricted to madness, beauty, or faith anymore than to ethnicity or race, irrigates our very speaking-being, estranged by other logics, including the heterogeneity of biology . . . Henceforth, we know that we are foreigners to ourselves, and it is with the help of that sole support that we can attempt to live with others.