In this essay, I start from Foucault's last text, his "Life: Experience and Science." Speaking of Canguilhem, Foucault makes a distinction between "le vécu" (lived-experience) and "le vivant" (the living). I then examine this difference between "le vécu" (lived-experience) and "le vivant" (the living); that is, I examine the different logics, we might say, of immanence that each concept implies. To do this, I reconstruct the "critique" that Foucault presents of the concept of vécu in the ninth chapter of The Order of Things (Les Mots et les choses): "Man and His Doubles." I try to show how this critique applies to the early Merleau-Ponty, the Merleau-Ponty of the Phenomenology of Perception. Then, I construct the positive logic of Foucault's relation of immanence by means of another text, which is contemporaneous with Les Mots et les choses: This is not a Pipe. The critique of the concept of vécu is based on the fact that the relationship in vécu is a mixture (un mélange) that closes "un écart infime." Conversely, Foucault's conception of the relationship in "le vivant" is one that dissociates and keeps "l'écart infime" open. At the end, I suggest, through three "landmarks," how Foucault's critique might be applied to the later Merleau-Ponty. This essay is Part I of a trilogy on Merleau-Ponty and Foucault. Part II concerns Merleau-Ponty's "mixturism," while Part III concerns "the blind spot" in Foucault. These three texts complete the work necessary to open the problem of memory and life.
The most basic idea behind this essay is the reversal of Platonism in which the difference between the real world and this world (of appearance) becomes blurred. The reversal results in time being conceived as without beginning and without end. In other words, the blurred world is equivalent to what Husserl calls temporalization (immanence, life). According to Husserl, the structure of temporalization implies the limit between temporal phases cannot be determined. Therefore, the limit cannot be closed, and the temporal phases necessarily pass into one another and contaminate one another. Since the limit between the phases cannot be closed, the limit is always violated. Temporalization (absolute consciousness, as Husserl would say) therefore involves irreducible violence. The question is: how to react to this fundamental violence? If one reacts by attempting to repress the violence completely (peace), that reaction seems to be worse than the original violence, the worst violence; it would amount to the complete elimination of life. The reaction of letting the violence be, while still violent, seems to be less violent than the complete repression reaction.
In Derrida's last book (posthumously published in 2006), L'animal que donc je suis, there is a kind of refrain: “il ne suffit pas de …” (it is not sufficient or enough to . . . ). Derrida utters this refrain in relation to all the discourses on animality and animal suffering found in the Western philosophical tradition. None of these discourses are sufficient. This last book revolves then around the idea of an insufficient (not enough) response. The idea of an insufficient response is not restricted to the problem of animal suffering; it extends to what we must call, following Derrida, “the problem of the worst.” The worst is the end, in the sense of total violence or total suicide: apocalypse. In this essay, I have tried to construct the beginnings of a more sufficient response that urges us to move toward the least amount of violence towards all living beings, while recognizing nevertheless that even this response is not sufficient. The more sufficient response is based on Derrida's transformation of the concept of waiting into being late found in Aporias. This transformation is at the heart of Derrida's thought of the messianic. We are so late in relation to the problem of the apocalypse that we can no longer wait for someone else to come and save us. We are so late that we—there's no one else coming—must take action now.