The Rigor of Things: Conversations with Dan Arbib

By Dan Arbib; Jean-Luc Marion et al. | Go to book overview

I remember one revealing instance. One day, I think I was in the hypokhâgne,1 I was walking with a friend in the Luxembourg Gardens, and out of nowhere the very simple idea suddenly occurred to me that “the question of being” was not the first question but that it is raised, like a reflection—a reflection more than an effect—from a more primordial situation, which we could call, let’s say, creation. Being comes after an entirely different event; it comes as its trace, its remnant, and its deposit. Even today I still recall having seen this at that moment. I don’t think I have ever said or written this anywhere else, but assuredly from the very beginning it was that which drove me: namely, whether to be or not to be is not the first question.


Entry into Philosophy

“That” struck you, just as Rousseau had the idea of the First Discourse when he
went to see Diderot locked up in Vincennes?

Well, I didn’t fall into catalepsy, but that struck me maybe like Sartre’s tree2—I was surrounded by trees—and it was an event for me. I have always been profoundly convinced by this obscurely obvious fact. I later realized that I was conscious of it before having formulated it and even before having formed a notion of its meaning. But since then I have not stopped going back to it.

You had this intuition in the hypokhâgne. But who motivated you to strive for
the École normale supérieure? Did you come from a background that pushed you
toward such goals?

Not at all. When I entered the hypokhâgne, I didn’t even know that the preparatory class led to the École normale supérieure, rue d’Ulm. And I was

1. [Preparatory class leading to the entrance exams for the prestigious École normale supérieure, in Paris. The school’s location on the rue d’Ulm is often added to its name, as Marion does below; frequently it is simply called the École. Several important schools in Paris provide these two years of preparatory classes. The hypokhâgne is the first year of preparation, and the khâgne is the second or final year. Marion went to the Condorcet school for this course of preparatory study.]

2. [Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialist novel Nausea contains a famous passage in which the central character is struck by the gnarled roots of a tree. The passage is a turning point in the novel and in the character’s self-realization.]

-2-

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The Rigor of Things: Conversations with Dan Arbib
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword ix
  • Preface xi
  • Translator’s Note xiii
  • 1- My Path 1
  • 2- Descartes 40
  • 3- Phenomenology 71
  • 4- Theology 106
  • 5- A Matter of Method 134
  • 6- The World as It Runs—And as It Doesn’T 162
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