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"O mes amis, il n'y nul amy."
"O my friends, there is no friend."
In addressing you in this way, perhaps I have not yet said anything. Perhaps I have not even addressed myself to you.
On the two sides of a comma or a pause, the two parts of this sentence seem incompatible with each other, destined to annihilate themselves in their contradiction. And, first, I have not yet said anything in my own name. I have contented myself with quoting. Spokesman for another, I have reported his words, which belong in the first place to a foreign or even rather archaic language. I have, then, signed nothing, put nothing on my own account.
"O my friends, there is no friend." This is not merely a citation which I am reading at present; it was already the quotation by another reader of the country I come from, Montaigne; "it is a saying which," he says, "Aristotle was used to repeating."(1) In other words, I have quoted the quotation of a saying attributed to Aristotle, a saying whose origin seems to lose itself in the anonymity of time immemorial. Nonetheless, it is not one of those proverbs without an assignable origin and whose aphoristic mode rarely takes the form of an apostrophe.
This meditation on friendship should also involve, at the very same time, a study of quotation, and of the quotation of an apostrophe. What happens when one quotes an apostrophe? Later on we will connect these themes to those of the friend's name and death, of memoirs and of testaments. In the Eudemian Ethics (VII, 4, 1239 a 35--40), Aristotle inscribes friendship, knowledge, and death within the same configuration, in a constellation whose necessity gives much to think about. He begins by remarking that in friendship it is more appropriate to love than to be loved, which somewhat complicates the mutualist and, if I may say so, the reciprocalist schema that he seems to privilege elsewhere. He goes on to give a proof of this. If a friend had to choose between knowing and being known, he would choose knowing rather than being known. To make this point clear, Aristotle gives the example of what women do in Antiphon's Andromache: they put their children in the care of a nurse and love them without seeking to be loved in return. They know themselves to be loving, they know that they love and whom the love, while accepting that they are neither known nor loved in return. To want to be known or loved, Aristotle then says, is an egoistic feeling, and he concludes: "It is for this reason that we praise those who continue to love their dead ones, for they know but are not known." Friendship for one who is dead thus carries this philia to the limit of its possibility. (Is this asymmetry consistent with the law of symmetry and with other Aristotelian axioms--such as, for example, the one according to which the friend is another self who must have the feeling of his own existence, or the one according to which friendship proceeds from self-love?)
On the subject of the death of friends, of memory and of testaments, let us recall to begin with that the chain of this citation of a citation ("O my friends, there is no friend") reaches like the heritage of a boundless rumor across the philosophical literature of the West, from Aristotle to Kant, to Blanchot, from Montaigne to Nietzsche, who reverses it this way in a passage from Human, All Too Human:
Perhaps the hour of joy (die freudigere Stunde) will
also come on a day when each will say (wo er
"Freunde, es gibt keine Freunde.!" so rief der sterbende
"Feinde, es gibt keinen Feind!"--ruf ich, der lebende Tor.
"Friends, there are no friends!" cried the dying wise
"Enemies, there are no enemies!" cry I, the living
("Von den Freunden" 376: 1980, 2:263; 1986, 149)
Numerous paths are opened up by a reading of this reversing apostrophe which converts the friend into an enemy and complains, in short, about the enemy's disappearance, in any case fears it, recalls it, announces or denounces it as a catastrophe.
Later on we will situate one of these paths, the one we could more or less strictly call political. It would lead back to a tradition that, in a naturally differentiated and complicated manner, goes back at least to Hegel, and that will take a systematic form in Carl Schmitt. In truth, it is the political as such, nothing more nor less, that would no longer exist without the figure and without the determined possibility, of the enemy--that is, of an actual war. In losing the enemy, one would simply lose the political itself--and this would be the horizon of the post-world-wars. In Der Begriff des Politischen (192) Schmitt (whose relationships to Nazism on the one hand, and to Heidegger on the other, are of the greatest complexity--one would also have to mention Leo Strauss at this point) writes, for example: "The specific political distinction (die spezifische politische Unterscheidung) to which political actions and motives can be reduced is the distinction between friend and enemy (die Unterscheidung von Fretind und Feind)" (1976, 26). The distinction or the differential mark (Unterscheidung) of the political amounts to a discrimination (Unterscheidung) between friend and enemy. This Unterscheidung is not only a difference, it is a determined opposition, opposition itself. Should this opposition be effaced, and war with it, the region named "politics" would lose its boundaries or its specificity.
Schmitt draws a great many consequences from this axiom and from these definitions, notably as to a certain depoliticization as the essential risk of modern humanity (and even of humanity period, which as such knows nothing of the figure of the enemy). Schmitt claims he is reviving a tradition which was beginning to weaken. Whether one sanctions them or not, certain of his remarks ought to interest us here. I will underline two of them.
1. Without proposing any equivalence or symmetry for the friend, the opposing term of the Unterscheidung, Schmitt considers that the enemy has always been taken to be "public." The concept of a private enemy would have no meaning. One has a feeling that the very sphere of the public emerges with the figure of the enemy:
One may or may not share these hopes and pedagogic
ideals. But, rationally speaking, it cannot be denied that
nations continue to group themselves according to the
friend and enemy antithesis, that the distinction still
remains actual today, and that this is an ever present
possibility for every people existing in the political
The enemy is not merely any competitor or just
any partner of a conflict in general. He is also not the
private adversary whom one hates. An enemy exists
only when, at least potentially, one fighting collectivity
of people confronts a similar collectivity. The enemy is
solely the public enemy, because everything that has a
relationship to such a collectivity of men, particularly
to a whole nation, becomes public by virtue of such a
relationship. The enemy is hostis, not inimicus in the
broader sense; polemios, and not ekhthros. As German
and other languages do not distinguish between the
private and political enemy, many misconceptions and
falsifications are possible. The often quoted "Love your
enemies" (Matt. 5.44; Luke 6:27) reads "diligite inimicos
vestros," agapate tous ekhthrous, and not diligite hostes
vestros. No mention is made of the political enemy.
Never in the thousand-year struggle between Christians
and Muslims did it occur to a Christian to surrender
rather than defend Europe out of love toward
the Saracens or Turks. The enemy in the political sense
need not be hated personally, and in the private sphere
only does it make sense to love one's enemy, i.e., one's
adversary. (1976, 28-29)
2. The modern definition of the enemy goes back to Hegel, but modern philosophers already have a tendency to avoid it--just as they avoid the political, in fact, insofar as it is linked to a certain concept and a certain practice of war:
Hegel also offers the first polemically political definition
of the bourgeois. The bourgeois is an individual
who does not want to leave the apolitical, riskless, private
sphere. He rests in the possession of his private
property, and under the justification of his possessive
individualism he acts as an individual against the totality.
He is a man who finds his compensation for his
political nullity in the fruits of freedom and enrichment
and above all in the total security of its use. Consequently
he wants to be spared bravery and exempted
from the danger of a violent death.(2) Hegel has also
advanced a definition of the enemy which in general
has been evaded by modern political philosophers: it
is ethical difference (not in the sense of morality, but
within the perspective of absolute life in the eternal
being of the people), the foreigner negated in its living
totality. [. . .] The question is how long the spirit of
Hegel has actually resided in Berlin. In any event, the
new political tendency which dominated Prussia after
1840 preferred to avail itself of a conservative philosophy
of state, especially one furnished by Friedrich
Julius Stahl, whereas Hegel wandered to Moscow via
Karl Marx and Lenin. His dialectical method became
established there and found its concrete expression in
a new concrete-enemy concept, namely that of the international
class enemy, and transformed itself, the dialectical
method, and everything else, legality and illegality,
the state, even the compromise with the enemy,
into a weapon of this battle. The actuality of Hegel is
very much alive in Georg Lukacs.(3) (1976, 62-63, my
When Nietzsche writes, "Enemies, there are no enemies! cry I, the living madman," this reversing apostrophe, this cat'apostrophe thus marks the modern--and anti-modern--landscape included between Hegel and Schmitt, understood and determined as such by Hegel and Schmitt. Nietzsche, or the "living madman," could mean, among many other equally enigmatic things, that there is no more politics, no more great politics." In order to complain about it rather than to rejoice in it.
But we have decided not to set out on this path for the moment. We will encounter Schmitt again a little later in the vicinity of Heidegger--the vicinity, that is to say, both proximity and distance, difference and affinity. Let us for the moment turn rather to the side of the friend. Schmitt has indeed been reproached for having made the enemy and not the friend the "properly positive conceptual criterion (das eigentliche positive Begriffsmerkmal)" in the definition of the political. In his preface to the 1963 edition, Schmitt replies by invoking the privilege that negation must maintain in a dialectical determination of the "life of law" and of the "theory of law.(4) He responds, in short: I insist on the enemy rather than on the friend because if I had to, as you invite me, begin with the friend, it would require me to offer a preliminary definition of it, and that would not be possible except by reference to the opposing term, the enemy. We must begin from this oppositional negativity, and hence from hostility, to gain access to the political. In a word, hostility is required by definition, by the very definition of definition. By the dialecticity or the diacriticity which thus do not go without the possibility of war.
So let us return to Nietzsche's cat'apostrophe, from another point of view.
If something is converted or inverted in these two apostrophes, it is perhaps not in the content of the utterances, that is, the reversal of friendship into enmity, which perhaps leaves things intact, but rather in the modalities of the utterance. Substituted for the quotation in the past (so rief) of an exclamation attributed to a dying wise man (der sterbende Weise) is the quotation or rather the performative utterance of a present exclamation (ruf ich), for which a first person answers, introducing himself, precisely, as a living madman (ruf ich, der lebende Tor).
In what way does Nietzsche here reverse a Greek tradition of philia ? In what way will he denounce, in a context which will later be that of Zarathustra, the Christian mutation which prefers the neighbor to the Greek friend? Let us note at the start that the citational rumor appears not to have begun but to have found the simulacrum of its inauguration (but what would be the origin of a rumor?) with Diogenes Laertius. He does not quote Aristotle himself, but rather cites the Memorabilia of Favorinus, in the chapter on Aristotle in his Lives, Teachings, and Sayings of Famous Philosophers.
After having described the "tenor" of Aristotle's testament, Diogenes Laertius tells of the "beautiful sayings" of the philosopher. One of them answers the question "What is a friend?" with: "A single soul and two bodies." Further on, instead of directly quoting the sentence written by Aristotle, Diogenes Laertius prefers to quote Favorinus' Memorabilia which itself quotes Aristotle's words. In …