Inner Experience (SUNY series, Intersections: Philosophy and Critical Theory) Paperback – 1 Sep 2014
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English readers will now be able to appreciate what many consider Bataille s finest work, undoubtedly one of the outstanding texts of modern French writing, just as they will be able to fill a major gap in the history of post-structuralist thought. Whereas Bataille may be the acknowledged forefather of such figures as Barthes, Foucault, and Derrida, this centrality is often not appreciated by American admirers of the latter. Michele Richman, University of Pennsylvania
I consider the publication in English of Inner Experience to be of great importance and long overdue. It is only recently that many have come to recognize Bataille s profound influence on a number of the most important contemporary French thinkers such as Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, and Kristeva an influence much more important than that of existentialists such as Sartre or Camus. Allan Stoekl, Yale University
We receive these hazy illusions like a narcotic necessary to bear life. But what happens to us when, disintoxicated, we learn what we are? Lost among babblers in a night in which we can only hate the appearance of light which comes from babbling. The self-acknowledged suffering of the disintoxicated is the subject of this book. Georges Bataille, from the Preface"
"English readers will now be able to appreciate what many consider Bataille's finest work, undoubtedly one of the outstanding texts of modern French writing, just as they will be able to fill a major gap in the history of post-structuralist thought. Whereas Bataille may be the acknowledged forefather of such figures as Barthes, Foucault, and Derrida, this centrality is often not appreciated by American admirers of the latter." -- Michele Richman, University of Pennsylvania
About the Author
Georges Bataille (1897–1962), a medievalist librarian by training, founded the College of Sociology and the secret society Acéphale. He was equally famous for his contributions to French literature, art criticism, anthropology, philosophy, and theology. Bane of theologians, existentialists, and surrealists during his lifetime, he became an essential reference for the poststructuralist generation of French intellectuals, including Roland Barthes, Jean Baudrillard, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida.
Stuart Kendall is a writer, editor, and translator working at the intersections of modern and contemporary art and design, critical theory, poetics, and theology. He is the author of the critical biography Georges Bataille and the editor and translator of four other books by Bataille, including Guilty, also published by SUNY Press.
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Which is funny, because "Inner Experience", one of Bataille's most influential and most important works, begins with a repudiation of mysticism. Shortly, Bataille here explores that what he calls Experience, settled within a range of terms like "non-knowledge", "communication", "rapture", "anguish", absence", "night", but largely over-capping, "ecstacy".
Essentially, Experience is the absolvement of the I, an abyss where nothing 'is', produced by the tension between our conflicting desires to become everything and to retain our autonomy. This Experience once was made possible in sacrifice or feudal war, where man came in touch with violence, excess, and death. However, since religion and the state have gone into decline this Experience has become more and more Inner instead of collective.
Bataille explores where this Experience still lingers - in the festival, eroticism, sickness, art, war, financial spilling, violence, etc. But "Inner Experience" cannot be called easily accessible. Do not expect a schematic disposition of Experience, or a structured thesis with arguments and a conclusion. Rather, Bataille shows the elusiveness and the impossibility of describing Experience by accounts of boredom, dissatisfaction with his book, by contradicting his own words, and by riddling it with autobiographical data.
Thus, it is more in style of his example Friedrich Nietzsche in his attempts to show that 'communication' is incommunicable save through Experience by writing in a playful way, playing with words which meanings are shifting and re-locating themselves. Therefore this is a book that will not be 'understood' on its first reading, but will be understood differently again and again upon subsequent readings.
Readers unfamiliar with Bataille would do good to also obtain his "On Nietzsche", which has several useful appendixes on "Inner Experience" (both are parts of his "Summa Atheologia") and both clarify one another. Also Denis Holier's study "Against Architecture: the Writings of Georges Bataille" is a helpful text regarding Bataille's diverse ideas that have kept being in flux to the end of his life.
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Essentially, as I've understood him, Heidegger interprets Dasein (Being-there) as "Project". Dasein can only be understood in the context of the meaningful activity that it involves itself with/finds itself absorbed in ="Project", as in a project that one/an individual "works on". Bataille, through a sustained exploration of "Project", shows how "Project" itself can be understood to be a kind of negation of the intensity of being. As I've read Bataille, the crucial thing is to find a way to approach intolerability. To "be" (for Bataille) means to "be intense", and to "be intense" means to "approach intolerabiliy". Instead of looking for an "Equipmental Totality" (Heidegger) to plug intolerable experiences into, we instead let them overpower us.
I'd also like to emphasize that engagement with Heidegger is just a small part of Bataille's thought, and that there is nowhere better to become acquainted with Bataille than "Inner Experience".
So, it seems to me that he is saying that to accept one's insufficiency without trying to change it, without working to improve oneself, or to raise oneself, and so on, is the hatred of salvation. As such, he is implying that salvation is something that we are all inclined to seek, in a sense which is not really differentiated from the religious sense of salvation.
Bataille saw it as positive to become satiated and thereby gain the means from the idea of salvation to save oneself, since investing in transcendence alone robs us of our sovereignty as individuals: he preferred the formula: "The fall from grace is everlasting". This is the position of those who do not have contempt for the reality of the here and now, but one has to attempt the summit in order to appreciate the satiety of the decline.
The book, "Inner Experience", was compiled post-humously from notes Bataille kept with the intention of putting into book form. Nonetheless, "Inner Experience" is very comprehensive and essential to understanding Bataille's philosophies of base materialism, expenditure, the sacred and the need to transgress the limits of experience.
Recommended reading by Bataille: "Story of the Eye", "Documents", and "Visions of Excess" a collection of essays (edited by Allan Stoeckl). Also, to learn more about Bataille, look up "Against Architecture: The Writings of Georges Bataille", by Dennis Hollier
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