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Ian James: Thinking Heteropoiesis with Nancy and after History
Thinking Heteropoiesis with Nancy and after History
(p. 265 – 276)

Ian James

Thinking Heteropoiesis with Nancy and after History

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This chapter examines Nancy’s philosophy and the biological theories of Maturana, Varela, and Robert Rosen, treating them as distinct techniques of thought that attempt to think the presencing of entities, organisms, and cultural forms. Beginning with an analysis of Nancy’s thinking of time and history the chapter recasts the concept of “heteropoiesis” in a comparative reading of the biological theories presented. Heteropoiesis, thought from the placing of philosophical and biological theory alongside each other and without any assumption of an absolute identity between them, emerges as a base-line concept that opens the way for a novel naturalist and realist understanding of narrative and other fictional forms. Heteropoiesis can be used to describe the production of biological organisms and of world-forms experienced by living beings in general as well as the production of the symbolic forms of human culture. Heteropoiesis is, above all, a concept that describes coming into form in relational terms. Forms are born in and out of the “hetero-”:  the other of the relations to, but also of, an alterity or an outside, as opposed to the “auto-” of the self-organization of a closed system.

  • post-structuralism
  • ethics
  • deconstruction
  • democracy
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Ian James

Ian James completed his doctoral research on the fictional and theoretical writings of Pierre Klossowski at the University of Warwick in 1996. He is a Fellow of Downing College and Professor of Modern French Philosophy and Literature in the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of Pierre Klossowski: The Persistence of a Name (Oxford: Legenda, 2000), The Fragmentary Demand: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Jean-Luc Nancy (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006), Paul Virilio (London: Routledge, 2007), The New French Philosophy (Cambridge: Polity, 2012) and The Technique of Thought: Nancy, Laruelle, Malabou and Stiegler after Naturalism (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 2019).
Susanna Lindberg (ed.), Artemy Magun (ed.), ...: Thinking With—Jean-Luc Nancy

With this book, we would like to resume the passionate conversation that Jean-Luc Nancy was engaged in throughout his life, with philosophers and artists from all over the world. Now that he has passed away, it is not enough for us to simply reflect on his work: we would like to stay true to the stance to which his thought invites us, in a pluralistic and communal way. Jean-Luc Nancy takes up the old philosophical question of truth as a praxis of a with — understanding truth without any given measure or comparison as an articulation of a with. It is a thinking responsible for the world from within the world, a language that seeks to respond to the ongoing mutation of our civilization.


With contributions by Jean-Christophe Bailly, Rodolphe Burger, Marcia Sá Calvacante Schuback, Marcus Coelen, Alexander García Düttmann, Juan-Manuel Garrido, Martta Heikkilä, Erich Hörl, Valentin Husson, Sandrine Israel-Jost, Ian James, Apostolos Lampropoulos, Nidesh Lawtoo, Jérôme Lèbre, Susanna Lindberg, Michael Marder, Artemy Magun, Boyan Manchev, Dieter Mersch, Hélène Nancy, Jean-Luc Nancy, Aïcha Liviana Messina, Ginette Michaud, Helen Petrovsky, Jacob Rogozinski, Philipp Stoellger, Peter Szendy, Georgios Tsagdis, Marita Tatari, Gert-Jan van der Heiden, Aukje van Rooden.