The Fable—Part II

We must refer here to Klossowski’s interpretation, which links together the play of fable and event (of the repetition of the difference between appearance and reality) and the play of fable and fatum, in which therefore the essence of the Eternal Return of the Same begins to define itself. From this commentary, we will retain especially Klossowski’s analysis of the move outside history. The six moments of Nietzsche’s text correspond to the six days required for the true world to become fable again. Similarly, the apparent world was created in six days “as the divine fable drew to a close.” History is “completed” in this inverted Genesis, which Klossowski calls the refabulization of the world: “The refabulization of the world means as well that the world departs from historical time and reenters mythical time, that is, eternity.” Klossowski remarks that only the experience of forgetting allows of such a departure. And it is clear that we must understand the precise relationship that Nietzsche’s forgetting maintains, on the one hand, with metaphysical forgetting (for example, that of the Phaedo, or of Saint Augustine’s Confessions, Books X and XI, or even that of natural consciousness in the Phenomenology of Spirit), and on the other hand, with what Heidegger designates as oblivion of being—and, finally, with what we are trying nowadays to think under the name of the unconscious. But the opposition to which one must appeal here is that of history and myth. This opposition should lead to a language that is no longer the language of truth, assuming that history is ultimately nothing other than the history of Logos.

We must therefore take up the question once more. The world has become a fable (again). Creation is canceled. This is as much as to say that God is dead, and not only the metaphysical God. Nevertheless, one can say that what was designated by the concept of being in the discourse of truth is now revealed as fictional. This discourse was itself a fable: the world becomes a fable again because it already was one; or, to be more precise, because the discourse that constituted it as such was already a fable. Fable: fabula, muthos. The discourse of truth, logos, is nothing other than muthos, that is, the very thing against which it has always claimed to constitute itself.

From the preceding opposition between appearance (fiction) and reality (truth), we move on to another opposition (muthos/logos), which is unfortunately the same. This hardly allows us to make any progress. Commenting on Nietzsche, Heidegger says, it is true, that muthos and logos are not originally opposed to each other. It remains to be seen, however, under what aegis, and how, this can be said. Here, moreover, is the text in question, which we must quote in its entirety:
Myth means the telling word. For the Greeks, to tell is to lay bare and make appear—both the appearing and that which has its essence in the appearing, its Epiphany. Mythos [sic] is what has its essence in its telling—what is apparent in the unconcealedness of its appeal.… M]ythos and logos are not, as our current historians of philosophy claim, placed into opposition by philosophy as such; on the contrary, the early Greek thinkers (Parmenides, fragment 8) are precisely the ones to use mythos and logos in the same sense. Mythos and logos becomes separated and opposed only at the point where neither mythos nor logos can keep to its original nature. In Plato’s work, this separation has already taken place. Historians and philologists, by virtue of a prejudice which modern rationalism adopted from Platonism, imagines that mythos was destroyed by logos. But nothing religious is ever destroyed by logic; it is destroyed only by the god’s withdrawal.

We are well aware of precisely what is metaphysical here, as paradoxical it may seem. Metaphysical in what sense? As the last lines of this text attest (“nothing religious is ever destroyed by logic”), the stakes of this question are serious since it controls in fact the whole interpretation of Nietzsche. Moreover, to a certain extent, the belief in a pre-Platonic and pure Greek origin, the indictment of historians and philologists, the “mysticism” of the disappearance of the divine, and even the ennoblement of appearance as appearing; a certain veneration of presence—all of this has indeed a Nietzschean resonance. But this Nietzsche undeniably belongs to metaphysics qua metaphysics of presence. This is the Nietzsche for whom, precisely, appearance and mythos are to be rehabilitated, not the one for whom they are both abolished. Nietzsche tries indeed to state the identity of muthos and logos, but certainly not as Heidegger does. The identity that Nietzsche suspects does not in fact hide a profoundly dialecticaly identification in which logos is the truth of muthos (as true saying), but in which muthos authenticates the ontological originarity of logos, its purity prior to their separation and opposition. Muthos and logos are the same thing, but neither is more true (or more false, deceptive, fictional, etc.) than the other; they are neither true nor false, both are the same fable. The world has in effect become a fable. So therefore has what is said about it (fabula, fari), as well as what is thought about it. Being and saying, being and thinking are the same thing. The “becoming-logos” of the world in the metaphysics that is accomplished in Hegelian logic is nothing other than its “becoming-muthos,” inasmuch as truth is not opposed to anything, is not tied to anything, does not refer to anything, and as the history of the (re)constitution of truth is always at the same time the history of its corruption. For as true thought creates the appearance it requires as its only guarantee, appearance itself, by definition, continually abolishes itself (which clearly refers us to the whole problematic of origin and beginning). To abolish appearance, that is, to let appearance abolish itself, and to risk this vertigo, to thus renounce presence and refuse to repatriate it as an appearance promoted to the level of appearing or epiphany—this is doubtless the decisive “leap” attempted by Nietzsche. Not a very spectacular leap, in fact, one whose space is in any case short enough so that, on either side, the ground is ultimately (more or less) the same. There is only a brief and, so to speak, unapparent difference. It is somewhat, as in Bataille, the “experience” of a transgression: the intangible limit one exceeds and does not exceed is the limit that separates and does not separate one from unreason, from madness [l’insensé ]. It thus “begins” to be no longer a question of truth, or, if it is still necessarily a question of truth, it is no longer quite in the same way. Apparently nothing, or almost nothing, has changed. In any case, and despite what a certain Nietzschean violence allows one to think (a violence that is indispensable but doubtless falls far short of this insidious perversion), there is no radical upheaval. If the use of metaphor is inevitable here, one could say that, with thought in effect repeating itself, beginning (again), but emptily and without henceforth referring back to anything or believing that it can do so, it is as though one were “penetrating” into an unlimited space that is the same as the space one has (not) just left, but in which the ground gives way, in which the distinct opposition between shadow and light, whereby the whole adventure of aletheia is clearly produced, has been effected. Therein reigns a uniform, blinding whiteness that the eyes cannot endure.

Thus, the world is what is said about it. In its own way, metaphysics itself continues to say this—but by tailoring saying to the truth: muthos/logos. From the moment that this tailoring is undone, that saying is not a true as opposed to a fictional saying, but rather a saying pure and simple, from the moment, then, that truth is no longer transcendent, no longer a “beyond saying,” be it a negative one, there remains nothing outside of saying—and nothing, to begin with, from which saying would have begun. Neither true saying, nor the other. There is no origin and no end, but only the same, as it were eternal, fable. Tearing philosophy from mythology, the repression of mythology, and all the divisions accompanying it (opinion/science, poetry/thought, etc.), no longer mean anything. It never began. It is true that this uneasiness traverses the whole of metaphysics. But henceforth it cannot be appeased, either through violence (a certain Plato, for example) or even through deceit (the symbolism of the circle must not mislead us: in no case is the beginning the end and if the Absolute defers its manifestation, it does so indefinitely, because it is not here and never could be). In short, it is clear that the error whose history this text retraces is the occultation of a difference, but one that is not a difference of origin between truth and its other. And it is indeed—however difficult it may be to think this—the ontological difference itself that Nietzsche places in question, insofar as the thinking of this difference according to the problematic of origin is the hallmark of metaphysics: always viewed within the horizon of identity, of ontological “predominance,” difference is always missed, and what one can call the ontic reduction (Being though as beings) is always inevitable. The error, in other words, would consist in substituting another referent (truth) for the one previously crossed out (the world). One could even say that the error is substitution or transfer in general, that is, a belief in origins that even the discovery of an “originary difference” would not be able to correct. The history of an error: the history of a language, the history of language itself insofar as it has desired and willed itself as a literal language at the very moment when it functioned essentially and necessarily through figure(s). As though language, as Rousseau claimed, were initially metaphorical. But we would have to cross out this “initially,” which allows us to assume a future literality; or else adapt to metaphysics that definition of Goethe’s according to which “a poetry without figures is in itself an immense trop.” Or better yet, to avoid speaking of metaphors at all. For fable is the language with respect to which (and in which) these differences—which are not differences—no longer obtain: literal and figurative, transparency and transfer, reality and simulacrum, presence and representation, muthos and logos, logic and poetry, philosophy and literature, etc. Is such a language thinkable except as a kind of “eternal repetition” [ressassement éternel”] in the course of which the same play of the same desire and of the same disappointment would indefinitely repeat itself. Perhaps this is a way of saying the Eternal Return—unless something has already moved and the circle never entirely closes upon itself. That which has never really begun would begin forever again: INCIPIT ZARATHUSTRA. We know from the last aphorism of The Gay Science, Book IV, that, for Nietzsche, this meant: Incipit tragoedia. So: Incipit parodia.