HENT DE VRIES: Good afternoon. It is my great pleasure and distinct honor to welcome this afternoon Gwenaelle Aubry to the School of Criticism and Theory for the first of her two public appearances, in addition to which she will also conduct a mini seminar this week. Dr. Aubry received her training at the École normale supérieure, rue d'Ulm, and at Trinity College, Cambridge, in England.
Having studied with remarkable scholars and teachers such as Pierre Hadot, Miles [? Bernid, ?] Philippe [? Hoffman, ?] and Jean Francois Cottin, among others, she obtained a doctorate in ancient philosophy while also passing the fearsome French academic qualifying exam, the agrégation. Dr. Aubry has lectured widely in the field of ancient philosophy, at the University of Nancy from '99 through 2002, and at the University of Paris, la Sorbonne.
And since 2002, she is a researcher at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique. More precisely, at the Centre Jean Pépin, Paris, Villejuif, which was founded in 1969 as a laboratory for the study of philosophical doctrines in late antiquity, and of Neoplatonism And which in more recent years has also specialized in the history and theory of aesthetics, as well as in the reception, translation, and transmission of ancient philosophy in early and modern Islamic thought.
In addition to being an associate of the Centre international d'etude de la philosophie francaise contemporaine, also at the École normale supérieure. She is further, an accomplished, extremely prolific, and prizewinning literary author or novelist, about which more in a moment, and much more tomorrow. As a philosopher, Dr. Aubry has translated and written extensive textual commentaries on Neoplatonist authors, such as Plotinus, Porphyry, and Proclus. Among these extensive works, I would like to highlight her [SPEAKING IN FRENCH], published by [SPEAKING IN FRENCH] in 2004.
This monumental publication is an in-depth analysis of one of Plotinus' most difficult books from the Enneads, and published in the series of distinguished translations and commentaries undertaken by and solicited by her teacher, Pierre Hadot. Pierre Hadot being the influential Hellenist, and pastristic scholar, brought by Michel Foucault, as some of you may know, to the College de France, and often credited with Foucault's later turn to the ancients and the concept of the care of the self. If somewhat in deviation of Hadot's old more philologically-driven approach to the subject, and to the sources upon which it is based.
In fact, Gwenaelle Aubry authored a wonderfully lucid analysis-- now also available in English, which I would highly recommend-- on the theme of philosophy, I quote, "Philosophy as a Way of Life and Anti-Philosophy," an essay written in homage to the work of her teacher Pierre Hadot, and sharply contrasting his overall project here-- not so much with that of Foucault, but that of Alain Badiou. Hence the discussion of the key motif of anti-philosophy.
Some other elements of Aubry's larger work of philosophical commentary on Plotinus can also be found in English in a recent essay published under the title, "Metaphysics of Soul and Self in Plotinus," that came out in translation in the Routledge Book of Neoplatonism last year. Other essays so far not translated extrapolate from here into more contemporary philosophical debates. And I think that Gwenaelle Aubry's article, [SPEAKING IN FRENCH], which was published this year in an edited volume entitled, [SPEAKING IN FRENCH], is a case in point.
And Plontinus, it should be noted-- but here we are precipitating-- it is also one of the authors who, in Gwenaelle Aubry's eyes, allows one to think and make the transition from philosophy to literature, and perhaps to do so, especially with the help of the concept of "dissent." A concept that, as she acknowledged in a recent lecture, interests her perhaps even more than the mystic topics of spiritual ascent with which the Neoplatonists are surely more often associated.
Building upon this immense philological labor of key chapters in Hellenistic thought, together with its ancient origins and archives, Dr. Aubry also authored, almost in parallel, a groundbreaking monograph-- so far not translated, alas-- under a deeply suggestive, if not to say provocative title, [SPEAKING IN FRENCH], which was published by Vrin in 2006. In this book, translated as "God without power," or "God without the power," she lays the groundwork for a radical rereading of the history of so-called ontotheology, the metaphysical doctrine that reserves one of being's main characteristics of potentiality and act, with the being considered highest, the highest being, of the name God.
This tradition, at least for most of the medievals and modern metaphysicians, seems to exhaust the realm of the thinkable and the possible. Even though, she argues, it forgets and represses, so far, not yet with these possibilities, chances and challenges that already, Aristotle's notes on metaphysics-- as she demonstrates-- had long held in store. In one word, Aubry detects and studies a consequential tradition, transition, translation, and transformation. Namely, that from Aristotle's concept of potency-- or more precisely, in, with an N, in-potency-- to that of omnipotence, which has become so dominant in early and medieval Christian theology, and everything else it influenced. And that we find so much so that we find it hard to imagine anything and anyone without, beyond, or before it.
As she notes in a forthcoming essay that she will be discussing with many among you tomorrow and Thursday, and that takes its lead from a quote from Georgio Agamban, from his book Opus Dei. And I quote, "A terminological transformation, if it expresses the change in ontology, can turn out to be just as effective and revolutionary as a material transformation." As she notes in this essay, this particular motif of the transition from potency to omnipotence can be questioned. And yet, in Aubrey's meticulous studies on the subject, this, Agamban's agenda here that she quoted, is a philologial as well as historical and analytical insight that eventually must also be turned against the very premises and conclusions of Agamban's own larger project regarding the so-called inoperativity of being, and his alternative archeology of power as well.
And we discussed some of these themes, as you may recall, during Professor Bonnie Honig's lecture last week, the week before that. I lost my sense of time here. Aubry then uncovers the distinctiveness of a dunamis and a energeia that lets Aristotle's God, the first mover, escape the historically and conceptually increasingly fruitless alternative, and opposition between the all-powerful being of the metaphysical, and much of the theological tradition on the one hand, and the powerless God of our age. The suffering God after Auschwitz, as Hans Jonas, Hannah Arendt's friend and colleague had put it. And a God, we might add, anticipated by all those gnostics and marcionites, mystics and spiritualists that did not quite make it in the history of religions, and in the history of philosophical thought.
To put it simply, Aristotle's conceptual innovation of a being in potency, and a being in act, Aubry discovered, must be radically distinguished from its much later transformation-translation into potency cum power, as well as from a metaphysical concept of action. Just as it contains an altogether different ontological model that is irreducible, one might say even indifferent, to that of efficient causality. That is to the creative all power reserved for the monotheistic god.
This said, such being in potency, or dunamai, or being in act or energei, is not therefore powerless, or merely passive either. Free from all Aristotle's God, or prime mover, on her reading, is not so much impotent, but endowed with what she calls interestingly, "A non-efficient efficacy." In sum, then, Aubry's project is nothing less than to trace the process in which quote, "The god considered to be a pure act totally without potency, came to be replaced by the God-- now with a capital G-- considered to be omnipotent, all powerful." End of quote.
And secondly, and just as importantly, Aubry claims that these differentiations allow us to rediscover what is not just Aristotle's remarkably unified ontology, well beyond the criticisms that have been leveled at him. But also one that is unique, in that it is axiolgical, as he puts it, insofar as it identifies being with the good that is departing from a known platonic separation or hierarchization between the two, between being and goodness. A separation that reigns throughout Christian dogmatics from Paul and Augustine, all the way up to Wittgenstein, to his lecture on ethics, and the conversations, notably, with Moritz Schlick that it inspired.
By the same token, in the second half of her monumental book, Gwenaelle Aubry returns to Plotinus, and distills from him a motif. Namely, of the first principle as dunamis panton-- the power of all, if you like-- that likewise inaugurates a thinking of the divine, and of being, to which the predicates of power, but also of presence, no longer apply. It should be noted that in uncovering and thus retrieving an alternative ontological model, Aubrey does not side with a Jonas, or say, with a Gianni Vattimo, or on these shores with a John Caputo or Richard Kearney, all of whom introduce a presumably post-metaphysical concept of a weak god.
On the contrary, she contrasts that original concept of God, the genesis and structure of the omnipotent, and hence, violent god, with that of a counter tradition. Namely, one that can be found in the very origins of metaphysics, from Aristotle onwards itself. And this counter tradition is that of the quote, "Singular figure of a god without power, but a god who is not therefore weak per se." End of quote. Put differently, the problem as Aubry sees it is not, or is not only, and I quote, "How a god who is simultaneously all-powerful and all-good is compatible with the existence of evil, which was the age old predicament and dilemma of all theodicy. But how omnipotence, thought in its most radical sense, excludes other divine attributes, and notably, that of goodness. And thereby leads us to posit in God himself the possible principle of evil." End of quote.
But one might ask here, could one think of the first being of pure act, such that it excludes all potency, and a [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] omnipotence, and the emotion and subservience of the good. In short, the normative deficit that this metaphysical concept entails. At the risk of being indiscreet, I would like to note-- at least for those who might find this of interest-- that these revisions of the received view of metaphysics, and the spelling out of an alternative ontological model indifferent with regard to both ontotheology and its destruction, [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] Heidegger, have already left their mark on contemporary philosophy in some of its most innovative stations.
As has been recently suggested by Graham Harman, Gwenaelle Aubry's thinking has also made an important impact on the work of her husband, Quentin Meillassoux, and his re-articulation of the problem of radical-- or as he says-- super contingency. More precisely, on his proposal of the quote, "Inexistence of God." And hands of a certain virtuality of God. A proposal, I would say, that is speculatively speaking, perhaps even more provocative and more promising than the so-called speculative realism or materialism now so often-- rightly or wrongly-- associated with his name. But that will be for another day. And we have some of these things we have discussed here before, last year, actually.
OK. Gwenaelle Aubry is the co-editor with Gilbert Romeyer-Dherby, of a collective volume entitled, [SPEAKING IN FRENCH], published by Vrin, likewise, in 2001. And with Friedrich Ildefonse of a volume on [SPEAKING IN FRENCH], published by Vrin in 2008. And last but not least, in parallel, to have produced an impressive and original philosophical oeuvre, Gwenaelle Aubry, as I already indicated, is an equally gifted literary author who has six published novels on her name, of which I will mention only just a few, as there will be ample opportunity to discuss this other half-- and no less decisive aspect-- of her career as a writer and thinker tomorrow, when she will present us with a literary reading from a work, introduced and moderated by my esteemed Johns Hopkins colleague Professor Neil Hertz.
For now then, let me only say this as a teaser for tomorrow, so to speak. As resident of the Villa Medici, d'Académie Francaise in Rome in 2005, Gwenaelle Aubry wrote a novel on the ugliness in our lives, and entitled Notre vie s'use en transfigurations, published in 2007. Following which, she also composed an ontology on the same subject. In 2009, she won the Prix Femina for her novel-- and if one can say, so fictional autobiography-- entitled, Personne, which was translated into English as No One, and published by Tin House Books in 2012.
She further authored novels such as Partages in 2012, and Lazare mon amour in 2015, which she also adapted for stage production, some of which you can watch on YouTube. Together with numerous beautifully rendered literary readings by her and, in different voices, often accompanied by musical instruments and singing performances. Finally, for France Culture, she made a radio play by adapting the Death of Virgil by Hermann Broch.
Her latest novel, Persephone 2014 will be published in January 2016. This afternoon however, Gwenaelle Aubry will talk philosophy, first and foremost. And no small amount of theology, she has promised me as well. And her title will be, "Genesis of the Violent God," which is also the title of a new monograph which she has just recently completed. Please join me in welcoming Gwenaelle Aubry.
GWENAELLE AUBRY: Thank you. Thank you very much, Hent, for those words, and for this extensive presentation and the way you circulate between the two aspects of my work. Thank you very much also indeed for your invitation and the warmth of your welcome. It's really a great honor and pleasure to be here today. I actually just arrived in Cornell, but I already had-- well, just one day ago, I already got the opportunity to appreciate the extreme human and intellectual quality of the exchanges it makes possible.
So I shall start with the quote by Georgio Agamben Hent just stated. In Opus Dei: An Archeology of Duty, Georgio Agamben writes that, I quote, "Etymological transformation, if it expresses a change in ontology, can be just as effective and revolutionary as a material transformation." It is one of these cardinal mutations that I analyzed in the book I have just finished, Genesis of a Violent God, of which I would like to present here some of the guiding questions.
This change is the one began by the evolution of the Greek term, [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH], which substitutes the modern ontology of power and action for the Aristotelian ontology of in-potency and in-act. Yet this change is inseparable from another one, just as decisive, which operates this time in the field of theology. The substitution of the omnipotent god for the Aristotelian god who is pure act without potency. In other words, this inquiry consists both in a critical genesis of the divine attribute of omnipotency, and in a genealogy of potency.
So I shall start by formulating what I think is the problem, or are the problems of omnipotency. And I'll even-- Hent just did it very well, but I have to sum up very briefly this previous book, Dieu sans la puissance, God Without Power, in order to reformulate those guiding questions, my guiding questions more precisely. So I just ask, this will require 10 minutes of patience from you.
So in this book, God Without Potency, Dieu sans la puissance, I proposed indeed a reading of Aristotle based on the conceptual capital of in-potency and in-act. The purpose was to follow the path opened in that Metaphysics, Epsilon 2, where [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH], so the in-potency and the in-act is counted by Aristotle as one of the primary meanings of being. In-potency and in-act, both of which are concepts invented by Aristotle, cannot be reduced to potency and action. To be sure, in classical Greek, the term dunamis can mean the capacity, force, or active potency.
However, by using the syntactic unit in dunamai, and correlating it strictly to energeia-- a term which he coined-- Aristotle created a new concept, that of in-potency. In-potency cannot be reduced either to active or to passive potency. For a given being, it names the principle of a movement oriented by actor, energeia, which is also its proper end and its proper good. Thus, through the correlation of in-potency and in-act, a model is set in place that is alternative to that of efficiency. Which, for its part, is based on the correlation of an active and passive potency.
Just as in-potency is not potency, either active or passive, so actor is not action. The act doesn't act. Conversely, it designates that for which one acts and/or moves. The telos, or the end, which is also the good. Understood in this way, and correlated according to an asymmetrical relation that postulates the priority of energeia, in-potency and in-act come to designate in Aristotle two distinct modes of being. The difference between which, however, can only be grasped in their relation. Being able to be, for act, that is, for the end and the good which are proper to each substance, this is in-potency. And this is act, being in the end and the good.
As the couple of in-potency and act cannot be reduced to that of potency and action, neither can it be reduced to that of matter and form, with which the traditional reading-- and especially the ontotheological reading of the Metaphysics often identifies it. In particular, one may be surprised that Aristotle's god, the immobile prime mover, is classically evoked by the name pure form, even though Aristotle never designates it as such.
In contrast, he does characterize it repeatedly as actor. And in addition, as such that its substance is actor, ousia energeia, which you'll see, you meet for instance in lambda six. Which, I'll say this tomorrow in the seminar. To take such an affirmation seriously, to take account of the conceptual distinction between the act and form, means providing oneself with the means to escape what Harold Cherniss called "The paradoxical doctrine of pure form." That is, the question of how Aristotle can maintain both that form doesn't exist without matter, and that separate forms exist.
A question that is reinforced by that of the principle of connection between mobile substances, made up of matter and form, and immobile substance, considered as pure form. Conversely, taking account of the repeated characterisation of the prime mover as act, allows us to recognize, in Aristotle's Metaphysics, a unitary ontology. The in-potency and the in-act which epsilon two counted as one of the main meanings of being, are the [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] in the book lambda of the Metaphysics, in lambda five, as I quote, "The principles common to all substances."
They ensure both the general validity of ontological discourse, and the real primacy of the theological principle. This letter, as pure act, is, of course, different from the substances made up of the act and in-potency. However, this difference far from being [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH], and renewing the paradox of pure form, is on the contrary, a principle of connection. Since it is this very characteristic of the principle act, being an act without potency, ousia energeia. It is this very characteristic that establishes its conditioning relationship with the other substances.
So against the spirit of the metaphysical project, the notional capital of in-potency and in-act thus founds the possibility of a [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] discourse on the different substances, while establishing their hierarchy. Yet, that's not all. Another remarkable feature of the Aristotelian ontology of in-potency and in-act, that it is indeed an [INAUDIBLE] ontology. Indeed, it postulates the identity postponed in what is in-potency, given in what is in-act, of being and the good. And a particularity of the theology it integrates as one of its parts is that in determining god as pure act, it posits him at the same time as identical with the good, and bereft of potency.
In book L4 of the Metaphysics, Aristotle defines its own project as consisting both in positing the good at the principal, and in identifying the causality that is proper to it. Once again, there is something intriguing here, if one considers that this principle positing of the good is usually considered a platonic gesture. As is well known, in book six of The Republic, Plato writes that the idea of the good is it beyond a sense, [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] by ancientness and by potency.
Precisely, however, Aristotle makes sure to dissociate the good from potency, and to identify its mode of efficacy as residing elsewhere than in dunamis, or active potency. The notion of act, and more specifically, of ousia energeia condenses the twofold Aristotelian decision. Not only does it posit the identity of being and the good within God, but it is it radically excludes potency from him. As ousia energeia, the prime mover is exempt both from active potency and from in-potency. For, says Aristotle, "That which has a potency may not act, and that which is in-potency may not be. So that being whose substances mixed with dunamis could not be the principle of eternal motion."
Although it is without potency-- I'm coming to the end of this summary-- Aristotle's God is nevertheless not in-potent. It is endowed with an efficacy that can be said to be non-efficient. This unique efficacy can be determined on the very level of ontology by means of the relation of priority of act over what is in-potency. The prime mover has effects precisely insofar as it is pure act without potency. For as such, it is the end and the good that condition the proper end and good for mobile and composite substances.
By positing God as actor, Aristotle not only identifies it with the good and dissociates it from potency. But he's able, by means of the ontological apparatus that establishes the priority of act over in-potency to determine the mode of efficacy proper to the good. Which is really, it's his metaphysical project as he announces it in Metaphysics alpha.
So it is on this basis that the two questions I formulated earlier arise. How did the omnipotent Christian God become substituted for the God of Aristotle, who is pure act without potency? How is this process inseparable from the substitution of the modern ontology of potency and action for the Aristotelian ontology of in-potency and in-act? It is thus a paradoxical genealogy that I shall attempt to bring to light here. The one which, on the basis of the same term dunamis, derives two figures of the divine, but also two thoughts of being which, as we shall see, are diametrically opposed.
One of the theses I shall defend, and which the mini seminar tomorrow and Thursday will provide the occasion to set forth and discuss at greater length is the following. The construction of the divine attribute of omnipotency goes hand in hand with a radical modification of the concept of potency, which is carried out in authors such as Duns Scotus, or Aquinas, Thomas Aquinas-- on whom I will focus more particularly tomorrow-- in an explicit and precise confrontation with Aristotle.
This modification of the concept of potency affects two main points. First of all, potency is clearly dissociated both from in-potency and from its necessary correlation with, and subordination to act, to be thought of as active and operational. Next, potency is tied to being. Thomas Aquinas' move is decisive here. Instead of excluding potency from divine being, as Aristotle did, Thomas designates God as the full potency of being. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH].
What is more he calls this plenitude of potency, actor. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. Thus, where pure act in Aristotle designated God as identical with the good, and exempt from potency, in Thomas it designates, conversely, the perfection of potency. We have here then a radical ontological break, from which a complete reworking of the Aristotelian concepts of potency and act precedes. I do not have time to set it forth here in details, but what I would like to emphasize is that in Thomas, the linkage, in Aquinas, the linkage between being and potency is carried out in the first being, in God. This is why the construction of the ontology of potency seems indissociable from that of the divine attribute of omnipotency.
On this basis, one must ask another question. What happens in this process to the identity Aristotle posits between God and the good? Or again, can one think of omnipotency and the good at the same time? To answer this question, we must begin by distinguishing between the concept of omnipotency and that of potency of everything. We can read of the latter in Plotinus.
Indeed, the first Plotinian principal, the one good, is already no longer pure act, but potency of everything, or in Greek, dunamis panton. In other words, Plotinus already posits potency at the principal. And this, dunamis, the dunamis panton, must indeed be understood in the sense of active potency, and not of in-potency. The one good is not the in-potency of everything. It is not the totality of potentials. For if it were, it would be accomplished only in the act which comes after it.
On the contrary, the dunamis of the one good is the potency that engenders act, which Plotinus associates with the second principle, the intellect. So it is the potency that engenders act, that engenders intellect as energeia, after it, a totality of the real. At the same time, however, in Plotinus, this potency remains subordinate to the one good. The former proceeds necessarily from the latter's perfection. And it is in its turn, at the origin of a necessary production, which is not presided over by choice or intention.
The concept of potency of everything thus designates a potency derived from the good, and which is not modified either by freedom or by will. This is the main feature that distinguishes potency of everything from omnipotency. I will call omnipotency a potency conjoined with freedom, and susceptible of being posited as exceeding the will, numbed by the good. Whereas the potency of everything, the dunamis panton of Plotinus cannot do more things than it does, and does or produces without willing or choosing, omnipotency can have the potency to do more things than it wills and does.
So it is this movement of absolutisation of potency, with regard to goodwill, that interests me primarily. Because it seems to me to be imminently problematic, in a word, because it sketches within the figure of the omnipotent God, the figure of a violent God. We can follow it along a historical line, which leads from St. Augustine to Duns Scotus. More fundamentally, however, it proceeds from a logic of excess internal to the very notion of omnipotency.
If one wishes to think of divine potency for itself, then one must exempt it from every norm, every law, logical, physical, or ethical, that is external to it and liable to limit it. One must then say that if God is truly omnipotent, God can bring it about that A and non-A are true at the same time. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] would say that. That the past did not exist, [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. Or again, just as well, that an innocent be damned. Which Duns Scotus admits.
The compatibility of the divine attribute of omnipotency with those of wisdom and goodness, therefore, seems problematic. It is not worthy that only this attribute of omnipotency called for a distinction, formulated for the first time at the beginning of the 13th century, which separates within its two figures of potency. One absolute, potentia absoluta, the other ordered, normed, or limited potentia ordinata. Absolute potency is precisely omnipotency considered for itself, without the other divine attributes. And therefore, as being capable of absurdity, chaos, or evil.
Of course, the distinction between potentia absoluta and potentia ordinata allowed for different uses and different interpretations in the Middle Ages. The split it carries out within the attribute of omnipotency-- and let us repeat, within this attribute alone. I mean, there is no such distinction for wisdom, or for goodness, of even for [INAUDIBLE] for instance. So the split carries out within the attribute of omnipotency nevertheless appears as an indication of a problem specific to this divine attribute.
So from this point, my guiding question can be reformulated as follows. Whereas the Aristotelian concept of pure act posits God as the reality of the good, how does the Christian concept of omnipotency lead to positing within god the possibility of evil? As I said, together with the paradoxical genealogy of potency, it is the vehemently problematic character of the divine attribute of omnipotency that needs to be brought to light.
Indeed, this divine attribute appears as simultaneously necessary and impossible. Necessary because it is at the basis of such essential dogmas of Christianity as creation, incarnation, or resurrection. However, although necessarily required by Christian metaphysics, the concept of omnipotency sketches an unthinkable, a kind of teratological figure of the divine. That of a force in excess beyond good and evil. But also, as we shall see later, when I shall come to its political derivations, that of sovereign arbitrariness.
To raise the problem of omnipotency is at the same time to displace the problem of theodicy. For the point here is not to question, as theodicy does, the compatibility between the existence of God posited as both omnipotent and good, and the actual reality of evil. Instead, it is to raise the somehow preliminary question of the compatibility in God of omnipotency and goodness. This approach is thus regressive in a, sense with regard to the one followed by Hans Jonas, whom Hent de Vries evoked, in the concept of God after Auschwitz.
In what he describes as, I quote, "A piece of frankly speculative theology." Hans Jonas reactivates the old question of Job, the crucial question of theocracy. "For it is possible," I quote, "to work at the concept of God even knowing that there is no proof of God." End of quote. This, then, is the concept that must be confronted with the event that bears the name of Auschwitz. What remains of God after the Shoah? After the experience of an excess of evil, but also of the non-intervention against that evil, of the being supposed to be at the same time omnipotent and good.
After that, can the traditional concept of God be maintained? According to Hans Jonas, the part of that concept that can no longer be held is exactly the conjunction of omnipotency and goodness. More precisely-- and this is a very important point-- more precisely, it is the intelligible nature of this conjunction. I quote Jonas. "Only a completely unintelligible God can be said to be absolutely good and absolutely powerful, yet tolerate the world as it is." End of quote.
Jonas, following the Jewish norm, and contrary-- as we shall see later-- too many Christian theologians, refuses to renounce the attribute of comprehensibility. In the traditional concept of God, it is neither goodness nor intelligibility that must be sacrificed, but he says, omnipotency. So my approach is somehow different, in that it consists not in asking which divine attribute must be sacrificed if one wishes to hold to both the concept of God and the reality of evil, but rather, in inquiring into a divine attribute that already posits in itself the possibility of evil in God.
Let us go a bit further. Already medieval theology, the traditional concept of God, as Jonas says, in fact managed to conjoin omnipotency and goodness only by sacrificing comprehensibility or intelligibility. Already in Augustine, the alliance between omnipotency and goodness-- which is usually presented as unproblematic-- can in fact be maintained only at the cost of mystery. The strategy of mystery is also presenting the Thomasian concept of an incommensurable good, or in the Scottish notion of an infinite good.
In particular it comes in response to the problem of election and reprobation, and consists in saying that the allocation of grace proceeds from a choice that is arbitrary, a choice which cannot be quarantined by merit, lest divine freedom be limited. But arbitrary, but nevertheless just. Also, this justice cannot be judged. Duns Scotus was to cross one more threshold of radicality by affirming that there can be no relation of justice between the infinite, God, and the finite, creatures.
However, this strategy of mystery and incommensurability also comes as a response, like the distinction between absolute power and altered power, to the dilemma of Abelard, of Peter Abaelardus, which is formulated as follows. Either God is good, with a goodness of which an account can be given, in which case, he cannot do anything other than he does. Or else, God can do something other than what he does, and then, says, Abelard, he's either jealous or bad. Abaelardus was contained in the year 1140 by the Council of sense, of sense, chose to subordinate omnipotency to reason and goodness. God is good, and for this reason cannot do anything other than he does. This world is not only the best, but the only possible world. But Abelard was condemned.
And from this point, theologians were confronted by a two-fold constraint. How could God's goodness be preserved without limiting its potency to the actual order of the world, as Abelard did. So without ending up with a completeness, [INAUDIBLE]. How can one affirm that God can do something other than what he does? So how can one affirm that the created order is contingent without being either jealous or evil?
One solution consists in invoking precisely an incommensurable good, a mysterious reserve. One would then say that divine goodness is not exhausted in the actual world. That other worlds are therefore possible. But that this reserve is the mark, not of a jealous or evil God, but of a goodness that exceeds human comprehension and judgment. Another solution, which can already be read in Peter Lombard in the 12th century, consists in saying that God, although he is good, can do more things than he does do, in so far as the good is not the cause, but the effect of the divine choice.
This voluntarist option amounts to affirming that the good is not what is done by God, but what God does. That the good is the effect, not the cause, of the divine choice. It subordinates, this option subordinates the good to omnipotency, and no longer omnipotency to the good, as a Abelard did. This option is also found in contemporaries. For instance-- and I want to thank Hent de Vries for having quoted this as well. For instance, this option is formulated by Wittgenstein in his talks with Friedrich Waismann.
I quote Wittgenstein. "Schlick says that theological ethics contains two conceptions of the essence of the good. According to the more superficial interpretation, the good is good because God wills it. According to the deeper interpretation, God wills the good because it is good. I think," says Wittgenstein, "that the first conception is the deeper one. Good is what God orders." End of quote.
The strategy of incomprehensibility is also still defended by some in response to Hans Jonas. This is the case, for instance, of Jean-Luc Solere, in an article entitled, [SPEAKING FRENCH]. The concept of God-- no, pardon. [SPEAKING FRENCH] "The Concept of God Before Hans Jonas." To the sacrifice of the attribute of omnipotency, chosen by Jonas, Solere proposes that of comprehensibility. But Solere also proposes, referring to Augustine and Aquinas to, I quote, "Substitute for intelligibility, the attribute of wisdom, which Jonas seems to forget." End of quote.
"In so far as," I quote again, "it is this property that acts as mediator between omnipotency and goodness. But this substitution enables a retreat from the demand of intelligibility. Indeed, divine wisdom is posited as an object of knowing, but not of knowledge. As an object," says Solere in French, of "Savoir, but not of connaisssance." Ultimately, the incompatibility of this wisdom is referred, always in the Solere's article to the incommensurability of the divine good.
I quote, "The good and evil, physical or moral, which we observe, cannot be opposed to this wisdom, nor can that wisdom be measured by their standard. For if God is the good, he is incommensurable to any good which he decides in his wisdom." Finally, this option is itself assimilated by Jean-Luc Solere to the voluntarist option that makes God the source, and at the same time, the only criterion of all good. I quote, "In other words, the good is not a term independent of God, or an extrinsic criterion for appreciating his acts. From the mere fact that he himself wishes to do something, that becomes good."
We see that we have here a kind of shift from the strategy of incomprehensibility to the voluntarist strategy of indifferentiation between good and evil. Eventually, one ends up saying that all that is done by God, and even evil, is good, insofar as it is done and therefore willed by him. Goodness is then not merely subordinated to omnipotency. Engulfed by the logic of excess that is proper to the latter. Transported by this very fact to the incommensurable and to mystery, it is deprived of all intrinsic content.
These two strategies-- which are also, as you see, contemporary strategies-- of incomprehensibility of the divine good, and of indifferentiation of good and evil, are joined by a third one, which has also been reactivated in contemporary thought. That of rational theodicy. It can be read, for instance, in Richard Swinburne, in a response-- once again, explicit-- to Hans Jonas. It consists in saying that omnipotency and goodness can be reconciled without recourse to mystery. They are therefore compatible, not only among themselves, but with intelligibility.
Evil can therefore be analyzed as the component of a greater good, which is itself identifiable. With regard to the event that bears the name of Auschwitz, Swinburne doesn't hesitate to write. I quote, "The victims cannot deny that they have something to be grateful for. Indeed, in their atrocious situation, if they make the right choices, they may accede to sainthood. In this sense, the victims of Auschwitz have received a great gift from God." End of the quote by Richard Swinburne.
This strategy of reduction makes the scandal omnipotency burst forth in its full magnitude. It leads no longer to saying that one cannot judge evil, nor even that evil participates in a mysterious good. But that evil is undeniably, as Richard Swinburne says, the means of the good.
So you see that the three options which, in response to Jonas, and instead of sacrificing omnipotency as he suggests, as Jonas suggests, seek to reconcile it with goodness. The three options end up meaning either that evil itself is good, insofar as it is done by God, or else-- which ultimately amounts to the same thing-- that evil cannot be judged in so far as it participates in an excessive goodness that is inaccessible to finite reason. In both case, the scandal is only increased. Radical evil may be when, confronted with the reality of evil, one refuses to call it evil.
From this point, my guiding question finds yet another formulation, a last and most naked one. How does the attribute of omnipotency lead not only to posit the possibility of evil within God himself, but to maintain that evil itself is good? So we can perhaps see more clearly how this question differs from that of theodicy. The point is no longer to save God's goodness in the face of the reality of evil, but to show how the concept of omnipotency, which is nevertheless required by the fundamental dogmas of Christianism, makes the concept of goodness explode.
Omnipotency thus appears inseparately as an operator of system, mystery, and scandal. It is at the same time, a key concept of Christian metaphysics, and one of those which introduces into it from within the procedures of transcendency and mystery proper to the field of the religious. Omnipotency thus appears as the locus of a split between the ethical and the religious. It is that attribute which, because it entails a limitation, can lead to positing God as a pure excess, irreducible to any law, logical, physical, or ethical. And therefore as a possible principle of absurdity, chaos, or evil.
So I'm now coming to the second part of this talk. I would now like to see how this figure of the omnipotent God bears within it the seeds of that of the violent God. And I think it is in its theological political effects that its derivation can be clearly apprehended.
In his first political theology, published in 1922, Carl Schmitt defines sovereignty as the decision under state of exception. This eminent or pure decision is, I quote Carl Schmitt, "What reveals the authority of the state in the clearest possible way." At the same time, it manifests the paradox that is constitutive of this authority as a principle of the law that is outside the law. I quote Schmitt, "Authority demonstrates that it doesn't require a right," Recht, "in order to create law." Recht as well, in German. End of quote.
Indeed, the decision of the exceptional state breaks with juridical norms. But this doesn't mean says, Carl Schmitt, that it presides over chaos. I quote, "The state of exception is still something other than the mere anarchy or chaos. And in the juridical sense, there is still in it some order, though not a legal order." End of quote.
The paradox is thus that of an ordered breakage of the law, or, again, of a suspension of the law. It is in order to think about this break in which the state of exception consists, that Schmitt will mobilize the notion omnipotency. I quote, from "Political Theology," very famous quote, "All significant concepts of the modern theory of the state are secularized theological concepts. Not only because of their historical development, in which they were transferred from theology to the theory of the state, whereby, for instance, the omnipotent God became the omnipotent law giver. But also, because of their systematic structure, the recognition of which is necessary for sociological consideration of these concepts. The exception in jurisprudence is analogous to the miracle in theology. End of quote.
You see that the theological reference plays a twofold part in these lines. First, the element of a transfer which leads from omnipotent God to the omnipotent law giver. Next, as one of the terms of an analogy, which establishes a correspondence between the jurisprudence, theology, on one side, and the state of exception, miracle, on the other side. Also one can detect here, as [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] in rage and violence, a hesitation between the strong thesis of a derivation of juridical political sphere from the theological, and the weaker thesis of a simple structural analogy.
Nevertheless, you see that the reference to the theologoumenon of omnipotency is both explicit and precise. It refers, in the first instance, to the motif of the miracle, understood simultaneously as a breaking of the law and as a direct intervention of the principle power. At the same time, it points towards a potentia absoluta, towards absolute power, absolute potency as the principle of miracle. In its difference from potentia ordinata, as the principle of order. Or at least of the habitual.
But it also points towards a concept of absolute potency close to the one that developed by Duns Scotus, that easily defined both by immediate action, and by the ability to act outside or against the law. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH], writes Scotus in the Ordinatio. The theology of omnipotency thus intervenes in Schmitt's definition of sovereignty by decision and the state of exception as a constitutive paradigm.
Well before Carl Schmitt, however, at the dawn of the classical age, the absolute characterisation of the state already invokes it, already invokes the theology of omnipotency. The definition by Bodin of sovereignty, as, I quote, "That absolute and perpetual power vested in a commonwealth." I quote from Les Six livres de la République de Bodin. This is in book one. This definition by Bodin of sovereignty also refers to the medieval concept of potentia absoluta.
At the same time, it separates potetia absoluta from potentia ordinata. Isolated in this way, absolute potency comes to designate, in Bodin, I quote, "The power of giving law to all in general, and to each in particular." End of quote. And this is so, adds Bodin, "Without taking law from anyone superior, nor equal, nor less than oneself." Here again, then, it refers to a potency that is both freed from, and establisher of the law.
As Jean-Francois Cottin emphasizes, this inherited concept of potency goes together with a new concept of law and right. The law is no longer defined by the order it exemplifies, but by the will that decides upon it. What constitutes it formally, [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. "The law," writes Bodin, "is nothing but the command of a sovereign, making use of his power."
Law, then, is an effect, not a limit for the sovereign power. Hobbes was to accept Bodin's definition of sovereignty as absolute potency, unlimited by law or ordered potency. Sovereign power comes in Hobbes to be strictly identified with potentia absoluta. And absolute potency doesn't characterize the sovereign exception, but the very foundation of the state. And no more than by a law to which it submits, since law is that which it decides, is it limited by either potencies on which it exerts itself. For it itself proceeds, as you know, from the transfer by each citizen both of her own potency, and of her right to resistance.
Thus, you see that absolutism brings into play a potency that can be said to be archetypal in the full sense of the term. A potency that can be called at the same time principle and command. And which, once again, takes its origin from the determinant model of pontenia absoluta. Jean-Francois Cottin has shown what was in play here participated not in a, I quote, "Secularization of ecclesial or theological political doctrines." But on the contrary, in a process of, I quote, "resacralization of the state."
The theology of potency, the theologoumenon that constitute it are not merely ornamental, but they intervene as an apparatus necessary for the affirmation by the modern state of the absolute nature of its sovereignty. The notion of potentia absoluta, understood as a potency both exempt from an establisher of the law is the master piece of this apparatus, this is positive. It is mobilized, as we saw, both by Schmitt's definition of sovereignty by the decision of the state of exception, and by Bodin's and Hobbes' definition of the state.
So it is as if potentia absoluta constituted the primary legacy-- at least political-- of the theology of omnipotency. At the same time, however, it sort of condensed that theology. We have seen how Carl Schmitt invoked without further specification the omnipotent God in support of his doctrine of sovereignty. In a symmetrical gesture, Karl Barth, in 1946, warned against the omnipotent in a text that should be quoted in full here.
So I quote Karl Barth. "We observe that it is extremely tempting for the mind to consider power in itself as a sacred domain, are the ultimate truths and the key to the mystery of being. Perhaps you will recall how, when Hitler used to speak about God, he called him 'The Almighty.' But this is not the almighty who is God. We cannot understand, from the standpoint of a supreme concept of power, who God is. And the man who calls the Almighty God, misses God in the most terrible way. For the almighty is bad, the as power in itself is bad. The almighty means chaos, evil, the devil. We could not better describe and define the devil than by trying to think this idea of a self-based, free, sovereign ability." End of quote, this is by Karl Barth, [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH], Dogmatics in Outline.
So the potency, yes, power, which Karl Barth is talking about here, this potency which frees chaos and calls upon the devil, is not potentia absoluta, but, he says, power in itself. It is potency considered as being all by itself, the, as Barth said, key to the mystery of being. And isolated from the divine, from the other divine attributes. Of course, this process of separation is what presides over the concept of absolute potency. Yet we have seen how it was already engaged by the very concept of omnipotency, insofar as it calls upon unlimitedness. And thereby enters into conflict with the attributes of wisdom and goodness.
So the primacy of the reference to potentia absoluta in the theological political tradition, far from concealing the theology of omnipotency, or taking a partial sample from it, seems on the contrary, to manifest its logic. At the same time, it concentrates this logic around the problem of the relation to the law, or more precisely, around the question of sovereignty as outlaw principle of the law.
The question then arises of the extent to which this political figure of potency merges with that of violence. But also, and at the same time, to what extent violence is already inscribed within the theology of omnipotency. In its first moment, this question thus was formulated by Jacques Derrida in Force of Law, Force de loi, echoing Benjamin's Zur Kritik der Gewalt. As Derrida emphasizes at the outset, in German, Gewalt means as much violence as legitimate power, authority, public force.
This indeterminacy birthed the problem within it. I quote Derrida, "How to distinguish between the force of law of a legitimate power and the allegedly originary violence that must have established this authority, and that could not itself have authorized itself by any interior legitimacy. So that in this initial moment, it is neither legal nor illegal-- as others would quickly say, neither just nor unjust." End of quote.
In Zur Kritik der Gewalt, Benjamin exhibits this intrinsic relation of violence to law, which unfolds in two functions-- the violence that forms the law, and the violence that conserves law. Derrida echoes him, echoes Benjamin by means of a passage from Pascal in which one reads the expression-- itself borrowed from Montaigne-- the following expression, "Mystical foundation of authority."
This formulation indicates that, I quote Derrida, Force de loi, toujours, Force of Law, that "The very emergency of justice and law, the instituting, founding and justifying moment of of law implies a performative force. That is to say, always an interpretative force, and a call to faith." End of quote. Violence, therefore, doesn't intervene mean merely as the force of law-- that is to say the power which enforces or applies law-- but as a coup de force. The English translation doesn't translate coup de force. I don't know would be the exact English equivalent for it. Apparently the translator just renounced. Power grab, I don't know. Well, maybe we can discuss this later. Anyway, let's say it's a coup de force.
Violence, therefore, doesn't intervene merely as a force of law, but as a coup de force, the power which institutes law. All law, all justice, are ultimately based on a decision, I quote Derrida again, "The operation that amounts to founding, inaugurating, justifying law, to making law, would consist in a coup de force of a performative and thence interpretative violence that in itself is neither just nor injustice. And that no justice, and no earlier and previously founding law, no pre-existing foundation could by definition warranty or contradict or invalidate."
So for Benjamin, as for Derrida, the potency that founds the low bears the name of violence. It is that coup de force that establishes justice and law without having been previously subject to them. But as I've tried to show, this violence is already inscribed within the theology of omnipotency. In the very distinction posited by Benjamin between violence that founds and violence that conserves the law, one that re-encounters one of the possible interpretations of the distinction between potentia absoluta and potentia ordinata. Which makes the former the potency of all possible orders, and the latter, that of the actual order.
The violent moment of establishment of the law would be situated more precisely at the very articulation of absolute potency and ordered potency, on the threshold that separates and connects them. That is at the point where absolute potency decides on the other that ordered potency will preserve. The theology of omnipotency thus bears a principled thought of violence, which is political derivations both manifest and cause to vary in different figures, which can, moreover, be combined.
First, that of the coup de force. Of the decision, if not arbitrary, at least not normed, that establishes law and/or order. Second, that of violation, or of the breaking or overthrowing of existing order and law. And finally, that of the monopoly of potency, and it's exercise. But as I've tried to show as well, you see that this derivation of violence from omnipotency finds its ultimate roots in a certain precise concept of potency, as immediate, not normed efficiency.
This concept of potency is elaborated conjointly with that of omnipotency, according to an ontological labor that both separates it from its Aristotelian source, and links it to that of being. In other words, the theological political apparatus of which the divine attribute of omnipotency is the key element, the theological political apparatus is based on the precise ontological apparatus.
And it must be stressed, this apparatus implies a radical break from the Aristotelian ontology of dunamis and energeia. By referring, as is often done, the couple of potency and action to that of in-potency and act-- or else, by considering them as equivalent-- one fails to see that the former was constructed against the latter. And that in-potency is irreducible to potency, as is act to action. One forgets that more generally, Aristotelian ontology bears a model distinct from that of efficiency, as well as a thought of being, and a thought of the divine that dissociates them both from potency.
At this point, and I shall finish with this. My investigation crosses paths very closely with certain cardinal points in the philosophical project of Giorgio Agamben. So I would like, in conclusion, to identify both these crossings and these bifurcations. As you may know, a fundamental feature of the archaeological and the ontological project of Agamben, of his project of archeology of ontology, resides precisely in the deactivation of the Aristotelian apparatus of potency and act. The goal for Agamben is to think of a potency that is not exhausted in activity, or in the act to which it is assigned. A potency which is, therefore, inoperative.
At the same time however, Agamben identifies in Aristotle himself a possible path towards such deactivation. In the affirmation of Metaphysics theta nine, that, I quote, I quote Aristotle, "Every potency is in-potency of the same, and with regard to the same." [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. We need to speak Greek at the moment out of solidarity. And also I quote the Greek, because, actually, Agamben, he did the Greek text in a strange way. But we shall discuss system this in the seminar. I mean, he really reads this is in a strange way. Anyway.
So in this affirmation of Metaphysics theta nine, Agamben translates in the following way-- "Every potency is in-potency of the same, and with regard to the same." Agamben thus reads another figure of potency which is no longer potency for an act or a work, but potency not to do. It is this inoperative potency, paradoxically inscribed within it, that allows the deactivation of the Aristotelian apparatus, and beyond it, the ontology of a operativity that derives from it.
This potency not to do, the potency of Bartleby, of Melville's Bartleby-- or just as much, the potency of the Shabbat-- is not impotency. Quite the contrary, it is that potency which instead of passing into act without a remainder, conserves itself as potency within the act itself, and can therefore open itself up to other acts, other ends than those to which it is assigned. Agamben calls this principle, by virtue of which potency becomes the potency of its own potency, use [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH].
As such, use mustn't be thought as a knowledge or as a faculty, but as a form of life that is, I quote Agamben, "A life whose singular modes, acts, and processes are never mere facts, but always and above all, the possibility of life. Always and above all, potency." I quote this from Agamben's last book, [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH], copy which has not been translated yet into French, nor into English. And which is actually the-- well, he announces as the last volume of the series of the, almost like a-- it has just been published in Italy, some months ago. So I mainly, I mean, I mainly quote here from [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH].
So the form of life, the form of life as just defined here, is thus a contrary of bare life, by which Agamben designates the correlate of sovereignty and the state of exception. A correlation that defines for him the originary structure of Western politics, the ontology of destituting potency, and the ethics from which it is in this indissociable must therefore enable the deactivation of yet another double machine. Not only the ontological one of potency and act, but the juridical, political one that articulates constituting power and constituted power, violence, and law, [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. Double machine, which is already at work in the distinction between absolute potency and ordered potency.
This, as Agamben emphasizes, is already the articulation aimed at by Benjamin in Zer Kritik der Gewalt by trying, through the notion of divine violence, to define violence that is freed from the law, and else also a potency that is not captured and re-judicialized in the constituting power, constituted power apparatus, or just as much in the apparatus of decision exception on one side, norm on the other side. Yet, destituting potency for Agamben is not a destructive potency. It is a potency that deactivates, or renders inoperative terms which are contained in the Greek word [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] utilized by Saint Paul to express the relation of the messiah to the law, and which he himself derives from the Greek [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. That's to say, inoperative, not at work, inactive.
Messianism thus inverts the Aristotelian potency-- the Aristotelian relation, sorry. of potency to act, by connecting potency no longer with act, energeia, but with its contrary, argia. In the same way, destituting potency comes to interrupt the relation between the conceptual couples and constitutive pulls of these machines-- ontological, theological, or political-- whose workings are exhibited by archaeological labor.
In so doing, it liberates what these machines captures. It frees itself as a potency open to new uses, that no biological, or social assignation determines. I quote Agamben, I quote [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] again. "A potency available for this singular absence of work that we are accustomed to call politics or art. And it is in this that the supreme good consists, which mankind, according to the philosopher, can hope for. A joy born of the fact that mankind contemplates itself in its own potency of action." End of quote.
End of quote. And this is also with this quotation from Spinoza, from the Ethics, "That [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] ends," and with it, as I said, the sequenced work of [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. So one can see to what extent it is traversed by the duality of potency and act, and by the concern to undo it. What Agamben does, that he substitutes the dunamis-energeia connection by another connection. Which is that between the potency not to do on one part, and the argia, the absence of work on the other part. The argia, that absence of work in which alone the work of human beings can consist, in that it alone opens them up to a potency exempt from all assignation.
Now, says Agamben, as he does with the potency not to do, Aristotle fittingly opens the door to a thought of argia, in order then to refuse it, and close potency back upon energeia. I shall come back to this tomorrow in the seminar. I just want to finish on this point.
So Agamben, as you saw, Agamben thus identifies in Aristotle the indication of another dispositive than the one that correlates dunamis and energeia. And it is this alternative dispositive that Agamben turns against Aristotelian metaphysics and ethics, and against that, which, on the basis of them, makes the whole of Western metaphysics a gigantic machine for capturing potency and fixing it in structures of power and subjection.
The work I have carried out here-- and which of course is very far from having the amplitude of Agamben's undertaking-- thus meets with the latter on this point. What is it in the Aristotelian metaphysics of dunamis and energeia that makes possible another thought of potency? Yet it also differs from that undertaking in that far from seeing it in the ontology of the in-potency and the in-act, [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH], governing the model of efficiency and operativity, we have, conversely, recognized a completely different model in it.
Is it in the theology of omnipotency, and in the ontology that is articulated with it, that we have identified the field of elaboration, of modern thought of potency-- at the same time as the principle of some of its political transpositions. And we have seen how the condition of this elaboration was a radical break with the ontology of the in-potency and the in-act. It remains to be seen what of the latter can be saved, what deactivations and/or reactivations it allows.
Of the Aristotelian dispositive-- that would be really my last words-- I had, in God Without Potency, wished to point out not the indication of a thought of potency not to do, and of argia, which Agamben emphasizes. But rather, the central character, foundational for the whole of Aristotelian ontology, of the couple of in-potency and in-act. Let us repeat, the latter bears within it a thought of potency that distinguishes it both from efficiency, and from impotency, weakness. And collectively, the idea of a God who is neither weak nor omnipotent.
Thus, the Aristotelian ontology of in-potency and in-act perhaps opens yet another pass to explore, quickly covered by the ontology which was substituted for it, of potency and action. It invites us to think, by means of the in-potency, to think of the real possibility inscribed in every being, of imminent completions, of the plain truth that is fleeting, to be sure, but is given here and now, and is capable, until death, of renewing itself. And this movement, which, without exhausting itself in them, goes from act to act, traverses fleeting, but full perfections. It thinks it as well, as attention toward a God who is exempt from force, and posited at the end. Thank you very much for your patience.
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Gwenaëlle Aubry, researcher at Centre Jean Pe´pin (CNRS-Paris Villejuif), spoke at Cornell on July 7, 2015, as part of the School of Criticism and Theory public lecture series.