The Power of Life: Agamben and the Coming Politics (To Imagine a Form of Life, II)

By David Kishik | Go to book overview

2 Feather-Light Rubble

Zarathustra’s Whisper

Ever since Plato witnessed his master’s last breath, philosophers have been incessantly, and sometimes obsessively, analyzing the notion of death. For some odd reason, they are less comfortable speaking about the question of life, so much so that when Nietzsche (who is usually very straightforward about this question) wanted to articulate the relationship of philosophy to life, he decided to revert to an allegory whose meaning is still shrouded in fog. Let us, then, begin with a short excursus that may help cast Agamben’s own philosophy of life in the right light.

There are two “Dancing Songs” in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. They are both presented as love songs, depicting the relationship between the protagonist and a woman named Life. This seemingly serene romance gets complicated (and interesting) when it becomes clear that Zarathustra is also involved with another woman, called Wisdom. Despite his devotion to Life, he also has a peculiar attraction to this Wisdom. “For thus matters stand among the three of us,” he avows: “Deeply I love only Life—and verily, most of all when I hate Life. But that I am well disposed towards Wisdom, and often too well, that is because she reminds me so much of Life. She has her eyes, her laugh, and even her little golden fishing rod: is it my fault that the two look so similar?”1 Zarathustra tries to offer here an explanation for his inability to remain loyal to Life. Wisdom’s allure, so he claims, is a result of her uncanny resemblance to Life. This, I will show, is more than a lame excuse. The issue becomes more evident in the next stanza, when Zarathustra summons the courage to tell Life about the other woman. Instead of being outraged, Life only “laughed sarcastically and closed her eyes,” wondering out loud about Wisdom’s true iden

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The Power of Life: Agamben and the Coming Politics (To Imagine a Form of Life, II)
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vi
  • Abbreviations of Agamben’s Major Works vii
  • Introduction - Life in Venice 1
  • 1 - Dialectic of Endarkenment 17
  • 2 - Feather-Light Rubble 45
  • 3 - Present While Absent 73
  • 4 - How to Imagine a Form of Life 99
  • Notes 121
  • Index 131
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