chapter  16
17 Pages

The structures of desire and the concept of the universal

WithMONIQUE DAVID-MÉNARD

The present work is a critique of the concept of universality from a variety of different perspectives. I do not, however, presume for one moment to offer any systematic replacement. When crisis rocks the foundations of a certain way of thinking, the solution is not to start issuing decrees. Moreover, the incoherence and confusion inherent in the notion of universality should perhaps prompt us to reevaluate the universalist conception of the human being, to appreciate, as we are just beginning to do, both why this particular construction is necessary and what it is about it that means it will sometimes prove illusory. In fact, as Nietzsche said in Daybreak, it is a matter of changing our way of feeling: ‘We have to change our way of judging if we are finally to be able – perhaps after a very long time – to go one better and change our way of feeling.’ By appraising some of the weak points in our use of the concept of universality, I hope to contribute to our being able to feel differently about what this concept is all about.