Manlio Sgalambro, Giorgio Agamben: On Metaphysical Suspension of Language and the Destiny of Its Inorganic Re-Absorption

Fabio Presutti in Italica, vol. 85, nn. 2-3, aprile-settembre 2008, pp. 243-272

Manlio Sgalambro’s analysis of the concept of ‘truth’ and Giorgio Agamben’s reflections on the categories of human language provide a critical intersection by means of which important aspects of Western metaphysics concerning the problem of metaphysics and language can be reconsidered.
The approach to metaphysics that these two Italian philosophers have developed has never been the object of a comparative study, and although they differ in terms of conceptual means of enquiry adopted, both thinkers represent a genuine example of critical meditation concerning the object of the oldest among human sciences. The line of argument of this article studies the concept of transcendence as informed by the idea of a double counter-transcendence. The first set of concepts which defines counter-transcendence will be found in Sgalambro’s idea of the ongoing process of destruction of the world’s inorganic matter. The latter is understood as that which counters the position of a transcendent principle of the world’s beginning and its organic manifestations. Similarly, the irreducibility of the cosmos’ inorganic events to rational laws opposes the transcendental construction of the intellect through the language as its system of knowledge. The second net of concepts defines the idea of counter-transcendence through Agamben’s analysis of the plane of semantic articulation of human dis-course, which also includes that of metaphysics, and that of a semiotic dimension of words (signs) conceived as the pure elements of language. For Agamben, any human discourse counters the forgotten reality of the semiotic plane of unconnected words. The latter, represents the pure potential of language’s transformability beyond the categorical utilisation and fixation of its terms: namely, the state of ‘infancy’ in opposition to that of ‘history’.

1) Writing in philosophy
The philosophical and theological themes of Sgalambro’s works reintroduce an attention to the concept of truth towards which, he says, man no longer feels any emotion1. Truth, in his view, has become a question of scientific assertions, more or less verifiable by logical procedures2. Whereas, for him, its content is not reducible to any alphabetical or numerical codification: “Let us suppose that the eternal truth is this: the truth is against you”3. On this ground, Sgalambro’s work unravels speculatively finally arriving at the individual, sociopolitical being’s incapacity to understand the evidence of this truth. Sgalambro’s stylistic and conceptual thought is that nowadays it is still possible to write4 philosophy as an attempt to re-establish a vision of things that avoids political anthropocentrism and the social and technical outcomes that it entails.
Philosophy, he says, is not a form of knowledge to be elaborated through a continual series of timely interpretations. The spirit of any given philosophy is unattainable by any other. The idea of a progressive historical advancement of thought threatens knowledge itself. In the Western historical representation of thought there is an erasure of the necessary inexactitude of those few moments in which and by which an intuition is given. In other words, for Sgalambro, philosophy has to be subtracted from the system of positive knowledge that has ⚠️

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