Jean-Luc Nancy (born July 26, 1940) is a French philosopher.
Nancy's first book, published in 1973, was Le titre de la lettre (The Title of the Letter, 1992), a reading of the work of French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, written in collaboration with Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe. Nancy is the author of works on many thinkers, including La remarque spéculative in 1973 (The Speculative Remark, 2001) on G.W.F. Hegel, Le Discours de la syncope (1976) and L’Impératif catégorique (1983) on Immanuel Kant, Ego sum (1979) on René Descartes, and Le Partage des voix (1982) on Martin Heidegger. In addition to Le titre de la lettre, Nancy collaborated with Lacoue-Labarthe on several other books and articles. Major influences include Jacques Derrida, Georges Bataille, Maurice Blanchot and Friedrich Nietzsche.
Jean-Luc Nancy graduated in philosophy in 1962 in Paris
. He taught for a short while in Colmar
before becoming an assistant at the Strasbourg Institut de Philosophie
in 1968. In 1973, he received his doctorate
with a dissertation on Kant under the supervision of Paul Ricœur
. Nancy was then promoted to Maître de conférences
at the Université des Sciences Humaines de Strasbourg
. In the 1970s and 1980s, Nancy was a guest professor at universities all over the world, from the University of California
to the Freie Universität
. He has been invited as a cultural delegate of the French Ministry of External Affairs to speak in Eastern Europe
and the United States
. In 1987, Nancy received his Docteur d'état
from the Université de Toulouse-Le-Mirail
under the supervision of Gérard Granel
and a jury including Jean-François Lyotard
and Jacques Derrida. It was published as L'expérience de la liberté
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Nancy suffered serious medical problems. He underwent a heart transplant and his recovery was made more difficult by a long-term fight with cancer. He stopped teaching and quit participating in almost all of the committees with which he was engaged, but continued to write. Many of his best known texts were published during this time. An account of his experience, L'intrus (The Intruder), was published in 2000.
Nancy is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Strasbourg.
Filmmaker Claire Denis has made at least two movies inspired by Jean-Luc Nancy and his works. Many other artists have worked with Nancy as well, such as Simon Hantaï and Soun-gui Kim. Nancy has written about the filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami and featured prominently in the film The Ister.
Les Fins de l'homme
In 1980, Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe organized a conference in Cerisy-la-Salle on Derrida and politics entitled "Les Fins de l'homme" ("The Ends of Man"). The conference solidified Derrida’s place at the forefront of contemporary philosophy, and was a place to begin an in-depth conversation between philosophy and contemporary politics. Further to their desire to rethink the political, Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe set up in the same year the Centre de Recherches Philosophiques sur la Politique
(Centre for Philosophical Research on the Political). The Centre was dedicated to pursuing philosophical rather than empirical approaches to political questions, and supported such speakers as Claude Lefort
and Jean-François Lyotard. By 1984, however, Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe were dissatisfied with the direction work at the centre was taking, and it was closed down.
During that period Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy produced several important papers, together and separately. Some of these texts appear in Les Fins de l'homme à partir du travail de Jacques Derrida: colloque de Cerisy, 23 juillet-2 août 1980 (1981), Rejouer le politique (1981), La retrait du politique (1983), and Le mythe nazi (1991, revised edition; originally published as Les méchanismes du fascisme, 1981). Many of these texts are gathered in translation in Retreating the Political (1997).
La Communauté désœuvrée
Nancy’s first book on the question of community
, La Communauté désœuvrée
(The Inoperative Community
, 1982), is perhaps his best-known work. This text is an introduction to some of the main philosophical themes Nancy continued to work with. Nancy traces the influence of the notion of community to concepts of experience
, and the individual
, and argues that it has dominated modern thought. Discarding popular notions, Nancy redefines community, asking what can it be if it is reduced neither to a collection of separate individuals, nor to a hypostasized
communal substance, e.g., fascism
. He writes that our attempt to design society
according to pre-planned definitions frequently leads to social violence and political terror
, posing the social and political question of how to proceed with the development of society with this knowledge in mind. La Communauté désœuvrée
means that community is not the result of a production, be it social, economic or even political (nationalist
) production; it is not une oeuvre
, a "work of art" ("œuvre d'art", but "art" is here understood in the sense of "artifice
La communauté inavouable (The Unavowable Community, 1988), a short work by Maurice Blanchot, was a response to Nancy’s work on community (and inspired as well by Georges Bataille, whose work on sovereignty is discussed in La communauté désoeuvrée). The dialogue between Nancy and Blanchot would continue until Blanchot's death.
L'Expérience de la liberté
Nancy's dissertation for his Docteur d'etat
looked at the works of Kant, Schelling
and Heidegger, and concentrated on their treatment of the topic of freedom
. It was published in 1988 as L'Expérience de la Liberté
(The Experience of Freedom
). Since then, Nancy has continued to concentrate on developing a reorientation of Heidegger’s work. Nancy treats freedom as a property
of the individual or collectivity, and looks for a "non-subjective" freedom which would attempt to think the existential
origin for every freedom. Nancy argues that it is necessary to think freedom in its finite being, because to think of it as the property of an infinite subject is to make any finite being a limit of freedom. The existence of the other is the necessary condition of freedom, rather than its limitation.
Le sens du monde
Nancy addresses the world
in its contemporary global configuration in other writings on freedom, justice and sovereignty. In his 1993 book Le sens du monde
(The Sense of the World
), he asks what we mean by saying that we live in one world, and how our sense of the world is changed by saying that it is situated within the world, rather than above or apart from it. To Nancy, the world, or existence
, is our ontological
responsibility, which precedes political, judicial and moral responsibility. He describes our being in the world as an exposure to a naked existence, without the possibility of support by a fundamental metaphysical order or cause. Contemporary existence no longer has recourse to a divine framework, as was the case in feudal society where the meaning and course of life was predetermined. The contingency
of our naked existence as an ontological question is the main challenge of our existence in contemporary global society.
Être singulier pluriel
In his book Être singulier pluriel
(Being Singular Plural
, 2000), Nancy tackles the question of how we can speak of a plurality of a "we" without making the "we" a singular identity. The premise of the title essay in this book is that there is no being without "being-with," that "I" does not come before "we" (i.e., Dasein
does not precede Mitsein
) and that there is no existence without co-existence. In an extension from his thoughts on freedom, community, and the sense of the world, he imagines the "being-with" as a mutual exposure to one another that preserves the freedom of the "I", and thus a community that is not subject to an exterior or pre-existent definition.
The five essays that follow the title piece continue to develop Nancy’s philosophy through discussions of sovereignty, war and technology, identity, the Gulf War and Sarajevo. Nancy’s central concern in these essays remains the "being-with", which he uses to discuss issues of psychoanalysis, politics and multiculturalism, looking at notions of "self" and "other" in current contexts.
Nancy has also written for art catalogues and international art journals, especially on contemporary art. He also writes poetry and for the theatre and has earned respect as an influential philosopher of art and culture. In his book Les Muses
published in 1994 (The Muses
, 1996), he begins with an analysis of Hegel’s thesis on the death of art. Among the essays in The Muses
is a piece on Caravaggio
, originally a lecture given at the Louvre
. In this essay, Nancy looks for a different conception of painting
where painting is not a representation
of the empirical
world, but a presentation of the world, of sense, or of existence. Nancy has published books on film
, as well as texts on the problem of representation, on the statute of literature
, on image
, and on the work of On Kawara
, Charles Baudelaire
, and Friedrich Hölderlin
Nancy's text L'intrus
formed the basis for French director Claire Denis's
film of the same name.
He has written extensively on film, including The Evidence of Film, a short work on Abbas Kiarostami.
Nancy appears in the film The Ister, based on Martin Heidegger's 1942 lectures on Friedrich Hölderlin's poem "Der Ister" (published as Hölderlin's Hymn "The Ister"). The film focuses on the relation of politics, technology and myth.
Titles in French
- La Remarque spéculative (Un bon mot de Hegel). Paris: Galilée, 1973.
- La titre de la lettre. Paris: Galilée, 1973 (with Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe).
- Le Discours de la syncope. I. Logodaedalus. Paris: Flammarion, 1975.
- L'absolu littéraire. Théorie de la littérature du romantisme allemand. Paris: Seuil, 1978 (with Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe).
- Ego sum. Paris: Flammarion, 1979.
- Les Fins de l'homme à partir du travail de Jacques Derrida: colloque de Cerisy, 23 juillet-2 août 1980. 1981 (ed., with Lacoue-Labarthe).
- Rejouer le politique. 1981 (ed., with Lacoue-Labarthe).
- Le partage des voix. Paris: Galilée, 1982.
- La retrait du politique. 1983 (ed., with Lacoue-Labarthe).
- La communauté désoeuvrée. Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1983.
- L'Impératif catégorique. Paris: Flammarion, 1983.
- L'oubli de la philosophie. Paris: Galilée, 1986.
- Des lieux divins. Mauvezin: T.E.R, 1987.
- L'expérience de la liberté. Paris: Galilée, 1988.
- Une Pensée finie. Paris: Galilée, 1990.
- Le poids d'une pensée. Québec: Le griffon d'argile, 1991.
- Le mythe nazi. La tour d'Aigues: L'Aube, 1991 (with Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, revised edition; originally published as Les méchanismes du fascisme, 1981).
- La comparution (politique à venir). Paris: Bourgois, 1991 (with Jean-Chrisophe Bailly).
- Corpus. Paris: Métailié, 1992.
- Le sens du monde. Paris: Galilée, 1993.
- Les Muses. Paris: Galilée, 1994.
- Être singulier pluriel. Paris: Galilée, 1996.
- Hegel. L'inquiétude du négatif. Paris: Hachette, 1997.
- L'Intrus. Paris: Galilée, 2000.
- Le regard du portrait. Paris: Galilée, 2000.
- La pensée dérobée. Paris: Galilée, 2001.
- The evidence of film. Bruxelles: Yves Gevaert, 2001.
- La création du monde ou la mondialisation. Paris: Galilée, 2002.
- Nus sommes. La peau des images. Paris: Klincksieck, 2003 (with Federico Ferrari).
- Noli me tangere. Paris: Bayard, 2003.
- La déclosion (Déconstruction du christianisme 1). Paris: Galilée, 2005.
- Iconographie de l'auteur. Paris: Galilée, 2005 (with Federico Ferrari).
- Tombe de sommeil. Paris: Galilée, 2007.
- Juste impossible. Paris: Bayard, 2007.
- A plus d'un titre: Jacques Derrida. Paris: Galilée, 2007.
- Verite de la democratie. Paris: Galilée, 2008.
- The Literary Absolute: The Theory of Literature in German Romanticism. With Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe. Albany: SUNY Press, 1988.
- The Inoperative Community. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991.
- The Title of the Letter: A Reading of Lacan. With Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe. Albany: SUNY Press, 1992.
- The Birth to Presence. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993.
- The Experience of Freedom. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993.
- The Muses. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996.
- The Gravity of Thought. New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1997.
- Retreating the Political. With Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe; edited by Simon Sparks. London: Routledge, 1997.
- The Sense of the World. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998.
- Being Singular Plural. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000.
- The Speculative Remark: One of Hegel's Bons Mots. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001.
- Hegel: The Restlessness of the Negative. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002.
- A Finite Thinking. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003
- The Ground of the Image. New York: Fordham University Press, 2005.
- Multiple Arts (The Muses II). Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006.
- The Creation of the World or Globalization. Albany: SUNY Press, 2007.
- Listening. New York: Fordham University Press, 2007.
- The Discourse of the Syncope: Logodaedalus. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007.
- Dis-Enclosure: The Deconstruction of Christianity. New York: Fordham University Press, 2008.
- Philosophical Chronicles (Perspectives in Continental Philosophy). New York: Fordham University Press, 2008.
- Noli Me Tangere: On the Raising of the Body. New York: Fordham University Press, 2008.
- Corpus. New York: Fordham University Press, 2008.
- Derrida, Jacques. On Touching, Jean-Luc Nancy. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005.
- Hutchens, B.C. Jean-Luc Nancy and The Future of Philosophy. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2005.
- James, Ian. The Fragmentary Demand: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Jean-Luc Nancy. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006.
- Kamuf, Peggy, ed. On the Work of Jean-Luc Nancy: A Special Issue of Paragraph. Nov. 1992
- Sparks, Simon, ed. On Jean-Luc Nancy: The Sense of Philosophy. London: Routledge, 1997.
- Guibal, Francis and Jean-Clet Martin, ed. Sens en tous sens. Autour des travaux de Jean-Luc Nancy. Paris: Galilée, 2004.
- At the Heart: of Jean-Luc Nancy. A Special Issue of The New Centennial Review, Vol. 2, no.3, Fall 2002.
- Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry
- Faculty profile at the European Graduate School, includes bibliography, quotations, and video clips.
- Between Story and Truth, by Nancy.
- To the Exhausting Nude... On Jacques Damez, by Nancy.
- The real outside is "at the heart" of the inside, 2007 interview with Nancy.
- The Technique of the Present, lecture given by Nancy in January 1997 at the Nouveau Musée during the exposition of On Kawara's work.
- Review of The Sense of the World, by David Patrick.
- Review of La Déclosion: Déconstruction du christianisme, 1
- Review of "Au ciel et sur la terre. Petite conférence sur « Dieu »", by Elie During.