Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Politics of Creative Indifference

Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Politics of Creative Indifference

Article excerpt

"Indifference" is a term that often has pejorative denotations or pejorative connotations. Yet indifference has sometimes been discussed in the philosophic tradition as something other than only a fault. In ancient philosophy, there is at least debate about the significance of "things indifferent."1 Schelling conceives of God as the "absolute indifference" into which nature and human dissolve.2 The following essay will consider ways in which some more recent figures not only commend indifference of a sort but also propose that such indifference is an irrevocable basis for any credible politics.

This indifference is usually called "creative indifference." The conception of creative indifference might well have been influenced by the role of indifference in writings by Schelling, but - as will be indicated very briefly below - any influence of Schelling was possibly transmuted through consideration of Schopenhauer and especially of Nietzsche. Indifference is indeed a term used fairly prominently in eighteenth and nineteenth century German philosophy - by Schiller, Friedrich Schlegel, Hegel, Schelling, Schopenhauer, and others. The Nietzschean innovation of Salomo Friedlaender (1871-1946), whose work will be discussed shortly, was to develop the notion of creative indifference.3 This notion of creative indifference will be shown to be anticipated, and eventually echoed considerably, in writings by Walter Benjamin and very slightly developed in writings by Giorgio Agamben.

For Friedlaender, Benjamin, and Agamben, the relevant creative indifference includes indifference to discernibly extant or achievable moral-legal order. The creativity ensues from preparedness not to ignore this indifference. From attentiveness to this indifference, there emerges a readiness to have this indifferent impulse register itself ever anew creatively. Given the constant confrontation of creative indifferenee with discernibly extant or achievable morallegal order, regard for creative indifference may be considered a politics. This confrontation will be the politics that will be of principal concern below.

Friedlaender's Politics of Creative Indifference

Friedlaender will be shown simply to characterize creative indifference as the "individual" that is indivisible - independent of any properties otherwise ascribed to it. This personal nobody, this utterly impersonal person common to everyone, will be elaborated as something that Friedlaender considers an indispensible element of any credible politics. Any "politics" without regard for this indifference has, for Friedlaender, already effectively abandoned everyone and everything.

Not entirely unlike Benjamin's later developed politics of pure means (above all in "Towards the Critique of Violence" [1921], W 1, 236-52/?.-1, 179-203),4 Friedlaender's "creative indifference" concerns a "pure mediality" (reine Medialität) that is an irrevocable indifference.5 This indifference is an indivisible freedom that persists even if all else seems appropriated. It cannot be appropriated (SI xiv, 7, 199/97-98, 122-23, 307). Having already (in 1911) brusquely dismissed Schelling and Schopenhauer as violators "of things,"6 Friedlaender in Schöpferische Indifferenz (1918) expressly adapts Schopenhauer and turns, above all, to Nietzsche; Nietzsche plays a particularly strong role in Friedlaender's attempts to characterize unappropriable freedom as "will" that is "omnipotent" and "unbreakable." This "free will" is conceived as "origin" of "the creative principle" (SI xiv-xvii/98-101 ; also see: 69, 76, 96/ 1 82, 1 88-89, 208). With regard to this creative basis, Friedlaender favors Nietzsche over Schopenhauer, for Schopenhauer strikes Friedlaender as somehow stuck in a dualism of the absolute will and the this-worldly (129, 145, 187-88, 333, 425/239, 254, 295, 432). Yet Friedlaender too stresses that the creative will is not human. Friedlaender's Nietzscheanism includes an insistence that the "free will is not human; the human is only the hitherto all too human instrument of the freedom" (106/217; see too: 107/21 7-1 8). …

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