‘ Philosophy after Friendship: Prolegomena for a “Post-War” Philosophy’: this title of the Introduction to Gregg Lambert’s incisive book already encapsulates some of its critical aims. The erasure of the ‘friend’ (φίλος) in ‘philosophy’ signals the intent to ‘cross out in order to completely work through’ (p. 2) the idea of friendship on which the classical model of philosophy rests, while the inverted commas around ‘post-war’ imply that a philosophy ‘after’ war, that is, based on the experience of war and on the postulation of an inherent conflict or malevolence even within the notion of friendship, remains to be established. The aim of the book, then, is to work through the ‘persona’ of the friend, and through the related conceptual personae of the enemy, the foreigner, the stranger, the deportee, and the people, in order to arrive at an understanding that might more adequately reflect the specificity of the contemporary era in its difference from the Greek model of philosophy, a contemporary era, that is, marked by an exhaustion induced by war and relentless commodification. Lambert’s project offers a compelling methodological coherence; he draws the notion of conceptual personae from Deleuze and Guattari’s final work, Qu’est-ce que la philosophie?, and points to the way in which the persona, whether ‘friend, stranger, nomad, exile, transient, migrant […], foreigner, enemy or barbarian’ (p. 11), is emblematic of a specific relation to territory. A further methodological authority in the book is the linguist Émile Benveniste, particularly with regard to the etymological orientation of the book’s structure. Its six central chapters work through the personae listed above, each time offering a kind of genealogy of the word in and across specific languages (French, German, Latin, and Greek), in a manner akin to Barbara Cassin’s Vocabulaire européen des philosophies: dictionnaire des intraduisibles (Paris: Seuil, 2004), but with a more strategic intention. Lambert engages as one might expect with the canonical literature on friendship in continental philosophy and political theory, thus with Plato and Kant, Derrida, Agamben, and Carl Schmitt. Indeed Schmitt’s juridical arguments concerning the basis of all politics in the opposition between the friend and the enemy constitute the non-philosophical touchstone against which Lambert tests the philosophical idealisms or hopes with which he is concerned. But the work also includes incisive considerations of lesser-known figures in French thought, such as Dionys Mascolo, with whom Deleuze engaged in a correspondence on friendship in the late 1980s, and Robert Antelme, whose L’Espèce humaine (1947) offers Lambert fruitful terrain on which to address a ‘concrete situation’ that irrevocably distorts the sense of the conceptual persona of the friend, while pointing to a universal notion of the human ‘to come’ or as a destination. These discussions mobilize a fascinatingly resonant series of questions attuned to contemporary geopolitics, and emphasize the political stakes in the genealogy, etymology, and usage of terms whose original philosophical sense has been distorted or exhausted. Readers expecting a book ‘about’ Deleuze in a limited sense will encounter instead a far wider-ranging and more distinctive work. © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for French Studies. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
French Studies – Oxford University Press
Published: Jan 1, 2018
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