Heinrich, Caroline: In Search of the Child’s Innocence, 28.01.08

(translated from the German by Alan N. Shapiro)

Die Schaffung von Werten befindet sich im Spielplatz der Kinder”, schreibt Caroline Heinrich in diesem zum ersten Mal auf Englisch und exklusiv im AVINUS Magazin publizierten Essay. Die ausgewiesene Baudrillard-Expertin erklärt, warum die Unwissenheit der Kinder die ursprüngliche Quelle westlicher Wertvorstellungen ist.

Introit: Denial and Affirmation of Life

I begin with a quotation. „The child is innocence and forgetfulness, a new beginning, a sport, a self-propelling wheel, a first motion, a sacred Yes,“[1] writes Nietzsche in Zarathustra. The child is innocent because she starts all over again from scratch. She starts from the space of emptiness that the lion has carved out. The space of emptiness is the space that has been emptied of the values of Western thought—values that the lion has corrupted. Exposed during the process of the radical destruction of these values is the fact that they signify „nothing.“ They are based on a will to nothing, a denial of life. The metamorphosis of the lion into the child thus takes place at the moment of an „implosion into No.“ This is the moment when the will that only denies must, in the final reckoning, deny itself.

The crucial point to be grasped here is this: for the invention of radically new values to occur, it is first absolutely necessary to achieve the void of values.

I want to investigate the question of why the creation of values—based as it is on the fundamental rule of the saying-yes to life—is to be found more than anywhere else on the playing field of the child. I will divide my inquiry into six parts. First, I will underscore a critical opposition: what is the difference between the premises of Western value-production and the childish creation of values? Second, I will say something about the problem of singularities. Third, I will consider whether one can detect a Nietzschean trace of the „child’s innocence“ in Jean Baudrillard’s thought. Fourth, I will demonstrate that the playing field of the child is shaped by her perception of the pataphysical refinement of the world. Fifth, I will establish why the destructive desire towards the object is unknown to the child. Finally—enlightened by this last insight—I will briefly reflect once more upon the topic of singularity.

Western Value-Production and
Childish Value-Creation

According to Nietzsche, metaphysical Western thought is based on measuring the correlation between the value of an ethical principle and the degree of its reality.[2] The assumption is that the highest ethical value would have the greatest reality. Within this worldview, „good“ is connected with truth, reality, reason, being, order, unity, causality, and so on. „Evil“ is associated with untruth, illusion, sensuality, nothingness, disorder, multiplicity, chaos, etc.

Western morality says: the good is the true, the true is the real, and the real is substantial. The Nietzschean child replies: your truth doesn’t interest me, I know nothing of substance, and I am stumped by what you call reality. Western morality says: the good is a principle on which you should act. The Nietzschean child replies: I know no principle, I know only exceptions, and my sporting game is different every time. Morality says: this is good, do this, this is good, do this. The child objects: well, that depends (es kommt darauf an).

The Singularity

„That depends“ means: a singular constellation exists at a certain moment. At that moment, the Nietzschean child makes her judgment about „good“ and „evil.“ An example: in the old order of values, pity for the suffering of others is a value in itself. In addition to limitless hypocrisy, this leads to the condemnation of those who do not suffer, those who do not wish to suffer, and those who do not place any special value on having sympathy for their inherited environment. Against this, the pity of the Nietzschean child is expressed in the following remark by Nietzsche: „I frequently feel ‚pity‘ where there is no suffering, but rather (…) a lagging behind contrasted to what might have been.“[3] The pity of the Nietzschean child grounds the perception of the denial of becoming. It recognizes that active forces get severed from the property of affirmation by reactive forces. The pity of the Nietzschean child is not necessarily related to the real suffering or not-suffering of others. It is not a „good“ value in itself, no more than an instance of destruction would be a non-value in itself.

The ‚Child’s Innocence‘ chez Baudrillard

I come now to the question of the trace of the „child’s innocence“ in Baudrillard’s thought. It shows through in his concept of the „insurrection of singularities“ against the system of generalized exchange.

In 1976, Baudrillard wrote about the architecture of the World Trade Center—the twinness of the Towers, their binary character, their doubling of monopoly capitalism. He explained that we survive in a system where there is no longer difference and where all social spheres have become interchangeable. Marx had already grasped that „the movement of capital is without measure.“[4] Baudrillard has made it clear just how without measure the movement of capital has become — so measureless that it has abolished all referentiality. Today pay and work are completely decoupled from each other. Work and leisure time are melded together in „lifestyle design.“ We will take trade unions seriously again when they start to demand the doubling of salaries and „the right to be lazy“ for anyone who wants it.

Work no longer serves production. It serves the reproduction of designed women and designed men. We are all designed not designing. And so we shall remain—until the day comes when we finally say aloud what we all have secretly been thinking for a long time: we don’t believe in productive work, nor in growth, nor in progress, nor in the state bureaucracy of Big Brother.

Politics is dead. Edmund Stoiber [Governor of Bavaria and 2002 Chancellor candidate of the German Christian Democratic Union] said it very well recently: „Our decision-making processes are no longer competitive,“[5] he complained.

Baudrillard has shown that our society is a pornographic film studio. As in porno, it shows everything. Truer than true, realer than real, hyperreal. It produces only indifference and appearance, while at the same time hating appearance and – above all – seduction.

Baudrillard has explained why this logic of indifference—in the labor force, in the operational structures, in the networks—leads to the total surveillance of individuals and to the „impounding“ of their lives.[6] He has made us see the sadness of this society—where we are no longer allowed to flip the „off“ switch; where we are no longer asked but tested; where we are not permitted to be silent (even when we have nothing to say); where we are not allowed to break the chain of communication; where we are required to know everything about ourselves; and where we are only permitted to fall in love with someone matching our „personal description.“

Baudrillard has uncovered the negative passion and self-hatred of this society. He has exposed the suffering of a society that ensures the adventure vacation while doing away with all real adventure. Declaring every catastrophe to be a security problem, we do not feel our suffering. Substituting for real feelings, our secret admiration for the counter-violence of terrorism enters the game.

Baudrillard has shown that forces truly oppositional to the system would have to strike not on the level of political difference (a demolished arena which still exists only in the images of the system’s advertisements for itself), but on the level of the system’s indifference. Like the „I Love You“ virus, which brought entire networks to their knees, and reduced this oh so perfect system to total ridiculousness. This little coquettish love virus showed how prone to breakdown systems that aspire to perfection become.

What resists a system of generalized exchange is not those forces which assert themselves in dialectical, differential, or oppositional relation to the global system, but rather those forces which cannot be integrated or liquidated by the system: singularities. Differences that participate in the global „advertising campaign“ for the universal values of freedom, democracy and human rights are granted inclusion by the system of power. Singular radical otherness does not seek inclusion.

Here I have a doubt about Baudrillard’s position. On one side, Baudrillard writes that singularities are neither positive nor negative. They do not represent an alternative. They belong to another order. They obey no value judgment. They submit to no reality principle. But on the other side, Baudrillard sees in our cultural forms of self-hatred and bad conscience a „negative passion.“ It is a form of reacting that he calls „degraded.“[7] In an article about the strike of so-called „cultural creators,“ Baudrillard speaks of a „justified revenge against the spectacle by the spectacle-people themselves.“[8] This begs the question: what would be an „unjustified revenge“? Or: in what does the justice of the justified revenge consist?

I do not take issue with Baudrillard’s statement that singularities submit to no value judgments. The problem for me is that – and as a great fan of Baudrillard’s philosophy I hesitate to say this – he stops short of connecting the insurrection of singularities to the gathering emergence of the „child’s innocence“ as prophesied by Nietzsche. Baudrillard preserves in something of a fog this real breakout possibility for radical otherness.

A very delicate question, for example, is whether, in contrast to the „negative passion“ of our cultural self-hatred, one can comprehend terrorism as a „positive passion.“ Baudrillard’s commentary on the singular Event of September 11, 2001 suggests that viewpoint. In other words, one can infer—or make the supposition—that Baudrillard links the term „degraded“ to passivity and „not degraded“ to activity. In its open violence, 9/11 would be „activity.“ In its destructive abreaction to the system, 9/11 would nonetheless be a „positive passion.“ To a system that requires one to accept everything, to which one cannot give anything back, to which one cannot talk back, 9/11 would not be a degraded reply. It would not be a „degraded form of the impossible counter-gift,“ but on the contrary would have to be understood as a „successful symbolic exception.“

Why successful? Because to confront a system that excludes death with the dead victim means in fact to humiliate that system. The system, for its part, has no effective answer to this death. Only the Twin Towers themselves knew the appropriate and commensurate symbolic response. Successful? Because the terrorist singularity revenges „all those singular cultures that have paid for the inauguration of the world’s only superpower with their own disappearance.“[9]

I doubt, however, that the Native Americans Big Foot [tribal chief of the more than 200 Miniconjou Lakota Sioux who were massacred in 1890 by the U.S. Seventh Cavalry] and Buddy Lamont [an Oglala Lakota killed by U.S. government forces during the 1973 siege at Wounded Knee] would have agreed to this form of revenge. „Agreed or not,“ Baudrillard would perhaps now think, „what is at stake here is a fundamental rule.“ „Of course!“ I think back. But that is precisely the problem. Baudrillard writes that, at a certain point, „the fundamental rule always wins.“ A unidirectional gift can only be answered with a „violent abreaction“ (strike, terrorism, etc.).[10] But is it not the case that Baudrillard wants, above all, to show that revenge – as a symbolic form of reversibility—confirms this fundamental rule? That he wants to make clear that neither society nor the world can bear a principle of unity?

I do not believe that the only important thing to decide is if something is a singular exception. It is not sufficient to say that singularities are decisive regardless of whether they embody our best or our worst. It is not enough to correlate the valuation of a „degraded“ or „not degraded“ form of reacting with the criterion of passive or active. I think that the valuation of singularities must take as its point of departure the meaning of the illusionary act of a Nietzschean child.

Of course, from the standpoint of the „good system,“ singularities are „evil.“ They are so radically other that they do not allow themselves be integrated into the „system of good.“ The system tries nonetheless every time to do exactly that: to integrate them, to assimilate them. „Recognition of difference“ is perhaps the most hypocritical way of achieving the elimination of the radical other. The other is „understood,“ even when she does not at all want to be understood. As far as the system is concerned, her story should be narrated as a digestible romance of identity and difference, rendered useful as an advertisement for cultural difference. Baudrillard writes about this „risibility of our altruistic ‚understanding‘.“ „For ‚We respect the fact that you are different‘ read: ‚You people who are underdeveloped would do well to hang on to this distinction because it is all you have left‘. The signs of folklore and poverty are excellent markers of difference.“[11] And futher: „nothing could be more contemptuous—or contemptible.“ The radical other is allowed to be our difference, but not to give us anything. Above all, she must not irritate us by being a non-understandable other. Consider the category of „misappropriated development aid,“ which designates the circumstance of the specified purpose of the aid getting lost. In a Mexican slum, a development aid worker broke out in tears because donated plastic container toilets, intended for the improvement of hygiene, were used by the inhabitants for chicken breeding.

The observation that, from the standpoint of the „good system,“ singularities are „evil,“ can be reverse-formulated. The „evil“ singularities are an illusionary „good,“ an obscene „good.“ They oppose themselves to a completely degenerated system. A multiplicity of singularities defends itself against the principle of unity. One can cheer the chicken breeding of the slum residents as a re-enchanting tear in the system.

But there are also less enchanting tears. Baudrillard writes: „It is intolerable for the ‚free‘ world that in a certain territory [Afghanistan], ‚democratic‘ freedoms—music, television, or even the face of wome—can be forbidden. That a country can do the exact opposite of what normally goes by the name of civilization.“[12] But is it only intolerable for those who still believe in the decaying delusional idea of universal values?

I find it intolerable that music is forbidden to be heard. I find it intolerable that the face must veil itself. But the taboo in a certain territory [France] on wearing a head scarf exemplifies the vanishing into neutrality of every value in the West, the dissolving of all the West’s values into nonpartisan nothingness. The argument for the French law is that the Muslim head scarf is a „political sign.“ Translation: the unpolitical and the neutral are the „good signs.“

Baudrillard would cite them both as insurrectional singularities against the global system. But for me there is a critical difference between the „détournement“ [diverting] of the plastic container toilets for chicken breeding practiced by the Mexican slum residents and the Taliban’s prohibition of music and faces. In the Mexican chicken breeding, I see a singularity that defends singularity in itself. In the other kind of „exception“ to global capitalist-consumerist culture, this is not the case. And it is the Nietzschean child who is at play here. Zarathustra’s First Discourse. Metamorphosis of the Third Kind. The Lion into the Child. First Contact with the Foundational Property of the Will to Power. It is the nurturing of this will that legitimates the judgment that is – at last and for the first time – able to discriminate between the denial of life and the affirmation of life. „Yes, a sacred Yes is needed, my brothers, for the sport of creation.“[13]

Why does Nietzsche choose the figure of the child? The child takes up her ground against the Old Man of Hegel who has reconciled himself with the dried-up „concrete“ of life. Hegel’s Old Man – for whom all is already said and done – À l’Ouest rien de nouveau? – is content [man muss zufrieden sein] with „this here“ reality that he has dubbed to be good and reasonable. From which he has excluded everything „unreasonable“: chance, sensuality, possibilities. Hegel writes: „In ordinary life one calls even the most dwarfed and ephemeral existence by accident a reality. But even our most common feelings confirm that a contingent existence does not merit the emphatic name of the real. Contingency is an existence that has no greater value than something that is merely possible, that might as well not be as be.“[14] The accidental— because it is merely something possible—has, for Hegel, no value. It has no „reality“ value and thus no „moral“ value. And so it goes!

For the child—in her „first motion,“ in her impossibility of being hard-wired to experiences—accident and possibility have value. Her world is the aleatory world of objects. Her reality is saturated through and through by that which—according to what Hegel thinks—does not deserve the name of the real. The world of Hegel’s Old Man is a metaphysical reality. The child’s world is post-metaphysical or pataphysical.

Pataphysics: Photography and the Child

The world in photography is the world of the child. Baudrillard writes: „The joy of taking photographs is an objective delight. Whoever has not experienced the objective rapture of the image one morning in town or desert will never in any way understand the pataphysical refinement of the world.“[15] The child understands this pataphysical refinement. Pataphysics is the condition for what Nietzsche calls the beginning of the creation of new values—the brave new world where saying yes to life will really count for the first time.

Baudrillard has reflected brilliantly on photography. How is it, he asks, that the photo—which does not exist in advance—is able to document anything? The photo is illusionary. The objects thereby illuminated at the same time announce their own disappearance. What is depicted exists no longer in this way. The photo is illusionary in its „discreet charm of a previous life.“[16] It is artificial because it seizes in interruptions the uninterrupted course of events. It freeze-frames an unrepeatable moment. It is a clipping, the snapshot of a clipping. It is unique, singular, incomparable. About its meaning it remains silent. It has no meaning. It has no reference. It has no measure. Like the world, the photo lacks nothing. Like the world, it gets along fine without us. It is what it is. Or, in reverse, the world—back-transmitting through technology and photography—is everything that metaphysical Western thought does not want to think. The world is „evil“: illusionary, unreal, meaningless, disordered, singular…

Baudrillard’s reflections on photography are themselves „evil.“ „Against the philosophy of the subject and the contemplating gaze,“ they are an „anti-philosophy of the object.“[17] In the photographic act, the subject disappears. She instead occupies the „unseen site of representation.“[18] The subject must mentally empty herself like a film negative. In her body posture, the photographer must snuggle up to the „posture of objects.“ In relation to the judgment of metaphysical philosophy—for which it is the subject who thinks the world—the relative values of subject and object get reversed. Baudrillard grasps that photography only has „sense“ at all when the „fundamental rule“ is observed: „It is the object which sees us, the object which dreams us.“[19]

„Every press on the shutter-release,“ writes Baudrillard, „which puts an end to the real presence of the object, also causes me to disappear as subject, and it’s in this reciprocal disappearance that a transfusion between the two occurs.“[20] Every press on the shutter-release sends one tumbling through the looking-glass into the „inverse“ world of the child. The child’s world is an „evil“ world. For the child, there is, in any case, no „real presence of objects.“ She knows no reality principle—“for illusion isn’t the opposite of reality.“ She is always absent from herself as subject. In the „reciprocal disappearance“[21] of „real“ object and „real“ subject, it is the child who stands fundamentally in this relationship of transfusion.

The child possesses no concept of time, duration, interval, or continuity. She lives first of all in „space.“ The world shows itself to the child in the same way that it presents itself in the photo: „discontinuous and punctual.“[22] Without orientation in time, the child lives in a transfusioning space. It is a „space“ like that which opens for the photographer in the moment of pressing the shutter-release. Continuous time—along with the subject—disappears.

The child lives in a space of the in-between, a space between sender and receiver—outside of spoken language and its sense. She is agile in her way of living the transfusion-relation to the world. She is in contact with the „objects“ of the world—which she does not read as signs, but rather perceives as symptoms. Intuition is her umbilical cord to the world.

The child gets on well with those objects that are „strange to themselves,“ in the region of their blurredness and trembling. She enjoys the excitement of „watching the grass grow“ and can feel what „is in the air.“ She is in touch with the pataphysical refinement of the world.

Baudrillard tells the story of the African artist [Michael Richards] who was commissioned to make a sculpture for the front plaza of the World Trade Center. The finished sculpture portrayed the artist himself drilled through by planes. He was killed in his studio on September 11, 2001 along with his sculpture.

Baudrillard speaks of an „amazing intuitive presentiment“—and understands this to be an especially delicate area of intuition.[23] The French thinker was taken to task in the U.S. media for having dared to open such a line of inquiry during the February 19, 2002 roundtable discussion at New York University [broadcast on France Culture on February 23, 2002].[24]

Commentators in the American press were so irritated by Baudrillard’s remarks linking the sculpture and the Event of which it was a precognition because they adjudicate the truthfulness or falsehood of a philosopher’s statements utilizing the measuring rod of metaphysical truth. For them, precognition can only be thought as something that „has to happen.“ Any „precog“ claim is automatically suspect because it implies stopping the future dead in its tracks, putting an end to the future’s openness, and transforming life into destiny.

But precognition can be thought in another—post-metaphysical—way. In the moment in which something analogous to the pressing of the shutter-release or the „punctum of photography“[25] brings about the graduation from the playing level of the intentional subject, the continuity of time is also halted. The reversibility of intentionality is accompanied by a reversibility of time. The player who has reached the game-level of intuition now faces the challenge of objectively backwards-running time. This mode of time, however, does not concern the future reality of the subject. On the contrary, it allows a notifying object to appear to one of its possible pasts. Intuitive inspiration or the sudden coming-to-me of a thought evidence the fact that, as Baudrillard writes, „decisions and thoughts secretly come from elsewhere.“[26] It is not about foresight, but rather about what I propose to call back-sight.

The term „foresight“ correlates with the chronological time of the intentional subject. This temporality, however (precisely at the moment of the coming-to-me of the thought from elsewhere), is absent from itself. The term „backsight“ indicates that in a singular instant the possible past of an object is grasped in a certain constellation. Whether or not an Event then transpires remains dependent upon an equally singular uncertain constellation.

The hypothesis is the following: there is backwards-running temporality—but its existence documents, explains, proves, and determines nothing. „Backsight“—because it makes known a possible having-become of things—is therefore not a presentiment that, once it comes true, can be explained as a metaphysical truth. It is much more a pataphysical truth, a truth with which „nothing“ is to be gotten.

Figure of the future creation of new values, the (Nietzschean) child dispenses with the concept of continuous time. She lives in a space of the notifying object, and in intimate contact with objects. She is permanently active in a world of backsight. It is an intuitive and delicate Existenz. Living entirely in space, the child is confronted with backwards-running time. She comes face-to-face with the potentiality of a second future, or a multiple promise of things. Back to the Future. Minority Report.

Through the photo, the world shows itself as back-transmitting, as nothing. Nothing—from the standpoint of the metaphysical reality principle, that is. It is a fascinating nothing: the „disorder of a null world,“[27] the „emptiness of a null value“ possessing a „magical self-evidence,“[28] as Baudrillard writes. The magical enchantment of seduction.

The Child Knows No Destructive
Desire Towards the Object

For the child there are no null worlds—because she knows nothing of metaphysics. Fascination through nothingness becomes fascination pure and simple. It is a small yet decisive difference. The world in the photo is an empty enchantress. For the child, the world is an overflowing enchantress. Whereas the world in the photo is a puzzling nothing, the child actually touches and feels this nothing. Whereas the world in the photo is silent, the world for the child is eloquently silent. Whereas the world in the photo is absent from itself, the child lives in the real effects of this absence (or the appearance of the „new real“). Whereas the defiance of the world in the photo resides in the world’s seductive energy, the defiance of the pact of lucidity between world and child resides in the world’s promise.

Baudrillard says that the „only profound desire“ is the desire for the (sexual) object, for that which does not need me, which can quite happily exist without me. The desire „for this alien perfection“ is at the same time the desire „to smash this alien perfection or to undress it.“[29] The child, however, lives in freedom with respect to this desire — because she is herself alien, a strange attractor. She knows no desire for radical otherness because it lives within her. For the child in the space of the notifying object, what lives in things is above all a promise. She knows no fundamental desire to destroy creatures and things which for her are swarming with possibilities. Stated in a different terminology, the child is a hostage-taker who does not kill her hostages before they have revealed the location of the buried treasure.

Whereas the world in the photo is absent, for the child the world is absently present. The „yes“ of the child—the „yes to the sport of creation“—is a response to the challenge issued by the world. It is the possibility of making something absent present. The child in all of her actions is this small picnoleptic for whom the world and the gaze do not take place. If the photograph, through the pressing on the shutter-release, takes leave of the world and detaches itself from itself, then it succeeds, as Baudrillard writes, „to capture something of this dissimilarity and this singularity“ so that „something changes insofar as the ‚real‘ world and, indeed, the reality principle itself, are concerned.“[30] And it is exactly this that the child at play „thinks.“ In her sport, the child gives something singular back. Each act of the child is a tear (ein Riss) in the reality principle.

Picture the following: a running child knocks over the hat that a beggar has laid out on the street asking for money. The day before, this same child had pressed a franc into the hand of a schoolmate’s rich father.

Considered from the viewpoint of the reality principle, the child is living „in the false.“ Only in reverse order would her actions have had any sense, would they have been reasonable. From the viewpoint of the reality principle, she is living an illusion. The child’s games have no place in the Western classification of ethical realities. For Western metaphysics, „illusionary acts“ are useless. They are „nothing.“ But from the viewpoint of the child, things are different. There is a tear in the reality principle. Maybe the child pressed a franc into the hand of the rich father because she liked his hands. Maybe, for the child, the rich father was in need of receiving a gift from someone. Maybe the child sensed that the beggar had cut himself off from doing something that he could better do. Maybe the child was reacting to some symptom of the father’s perchance impending bankruptcy. The possibilities are endless.

It is not important to determine which of these possibilities is true. It is not about seeing in the child’s games a principle that one can apply (like making the rich richer and the poor poorer!). What matters is to grasp that the child—who is without principles—“believes“ in her game. She believes in her illusionary act—an act answerable to nothing. Her sport takes off from a perception of the world that is answerable to nothing. The child always exists in a singular instant and in relation to a punctual (Roland Barthes) order of things. It is to this arrangement that she playfully—and just as instantaneously—responds. Like the world „in its ability to defy all resemblance,“[31] she acknowledges the notifying object. The child, in her illusionary act, brings to realization a possibility of absence (like the African artist working on his sculpture). Immersed in her world of „back-sighting,“ the „belief“ of the child at play consists of altering an absent constellation.

On the basis of and through the illusion, the child creatively and inventively decrees her own order of things. The Nietzschean fundamental rule of the saying-yes to life as creative will is no longer about „the secret exigency to be seen, desired and thought by the object and the world,“[32] but rather to metamorphose, defer and reverse object and world. The child’s mode of existence—seismograph of the pataphysical refinement of the world—does not allow her momentary, singular act(s) to be recuperated by the general order. Creative power based on an „illusionary act“ (paradoxically) wants no recognition as power.

Conclusion: Singularity Redux

Let me return to what I said at the beginning. Morality says: this is good, do this, this is good, do this. The Nietzschean child objects: that all depends. The creation of new values of the saying-yes to life does not always mean preservation and never destruction.[33] The component of destructive energy in the illusionary act of the Nietzschean child directs itself against those powers which persist in so punctiliously abiding by the reality principle. The negative passion will raise itself against the ruling power that one-sidedly only gives, and that knows how to receive only through its expert co-opting of the singularity of creative power.

And what about Mexican chicken breeding in plastic container toilets? The slum residents revenge the contemptuous gift insofar as they divert the gift away from its purpose. They metamorphose and reinvent it. They „make their own deal“ and reverse the gastronomical sequence: first the chickens, then the shit. Like the Nietzschean child, the Mexican slum residents are a singularity defending itself.

Those who forbid music and faces are not a self-defending singularity. They interdict the languages that are the most cryptic for them. They associate the visible with forbidden truth. They ban the „faces of seduction“ into invisibility. The Taliban are like the priest classes about whose „extreme fear of sensuality“ Nietzsche wrote, crediting them with the „[conditional] insight that it is in that domain of experience where the dominant order in its totality is threatened in the worst way.“[34] Those who prohibit music and faces inhibit the appearance of the child—whose connection with the world is based on sensual contact.

If one endeavors, with Baudrillard, to confront a thought that tries to reverse the total social order with the singular Event of September 11, 2001, one must recognize that the attackers not only destroyed the symbol of the indifference and unidirectional giving of „the world’s only superpower,“ but that they also destroyed two „unique,“ „singular,“ very beautiful skyscrapers. One must at the same time see—in this „insurrection of singularity,“ in the most apparent form of revenge, in the symbolic gift of death—the attempt to make an example of the „power over death.“ An act of statuary intimidation of those who cannot exchange their death (and who are therefore despised), of those whose death was not allowed, and of those about whose singularity was never asked.

The Nietzschean child knows no principle. Yet her fundamental rule shows through. I think that a „post-Baudrillardian“ valuation of the forms of symbolic reversibility—as in revenge or the „return match“—must be sustained by this possibility of showing through.


Translator’s Note
On pp.70-75 of the Verso Press edition of The Spirit of Terrorism and Other Essays (translated from the French by Chris Turner), Jean Baudrillard engages with the theses on the Event of September 11, 2001 of the young and extremely promising German philosopher Caroline Heinrich. Heinrich has thus far published two books in German, one of them being the major work Grundriß zu einer Philosophie der Opfer der Geschichte—“Philosophy of History from the Standpoint of the Victims“ (Vienna: Passagen Verlag, 2004). The German online-magazine AVINUS Magazin now begins the publication in English of Dr. Heinrich’s works. We start with the paper that Heinrich gave at the July 2004 conference on „Baudrillard and the Arts“ held at Peter Weibel’s „Center for Art and Media Technology“ in Karlsruhe, Germany.

This essay was published in German as „Auf der Suche nach der ‚Unschuld des Kindes’“, in: Philosophie und Kunst Jean Baudrillard: Eine Hommage zu seinem 75. Geburtstag (edited by Gente, Peter, Könches, Barbara and Weibel, Peter), Berlin: Merve Verlag, 2005.

Zum Autor

Caroline Heinrich, geboren 1972, hat Philosophie studiert und lebt in Mainz. Sie hat sich in ihren Studien intensiv mit den Theorien Baudrillards auseinandergesetzt. Ihre Monographie Grundriss zu einer Philosophie der Opfer der Geschichte (Wien 2004) gilt als Standardwerk der Philosophie der Opfer.

Endnoten    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Nietzsche, Friedrich: Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for Everyone and No One (translated with an Introduction by R.J. Hollingdale, originally published in German in 1883-5), London: Penguin Books, 1969; p.55.
  2. Nietzsche, Friedrich: “Nachgelassene Fragmente 1887-9”, in: Sämtliche Werke: kritische Studienausgabe in 15 Bänden (KSA) (edited by Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari), 13:281.
  3. Nietzsche, Friedrich: “Nachgelassene Fragmente 1884-5”, in: KSA, 11:17. translation Alan N. Shapiro.
  4. Marx, Karl: Das Kapital 1. Berlin: Dietz, 1966; p.159. translation ANS.
  5. ARD: “Tagesschau” [German Channel One Evening News]; July 8, 2004.
  6. Baudrillard, Jean: L’Échange symbolique et la mort (”Symbolic Exchange and Death”). Paris: Gallimard, 1976.
  7. Baudrillard, Jean: “Der Terror und die Gegengabe” (”Terror and the Counter-Gift”), in: Le Monde diplomatique, supplement to TAZ (German leftist daily newspaper); November 15, 2002; p.56.
  8. Baudrillard, Jean: “Kultur ist überflüssig” (”Culture is Superfluous”), in: Frankfurter Rundschau (German liberal daily newspaper); July 26, 2003.
  9. Baudrillard, Jean: “Der Terror und die Gegengabe.”
  10. Baudrillard, Jean: “Der Terror und die Gegengabe.”
  11. Baudrillard, Jean: The Transparency of Evil: Essays on Extreme Phenomena (translated by James Benedict, originally published in French in 1990), London: Verso, 1993; p.132.
  12. Baudrillard, Jean: “Der Terror und die Gegengabe.”
  13. Nietzsche, Friedrich: Thus Spoke Zarathustra; p.55.
  14. Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich: Enzyklopädie der philosophischen Wissenschaften 1. Werke. Volume 8 (edited by Eva Moldenhauer and Karl Markus Michel), Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1986; p.48. translation ANS.
  15. Baudrillard, Jean: “For Illusion Isn’t The Opposite of Reality”, in: Fotografien, Photographies, Photographs, 1985-1998 (edited by Peter Weibel, translation from the French uncredited), Graz: Hatje Cantz Publishers, 1999; p.129.
  16. Baudrillard, Jean: “For Illusion Isn’t The Opposite of Reality”; p.134.
  17. Baudrillard, Jean: “For Illusion Isn’t The Opposite of Reality”; p.132.
  18. Baudrillard, Jean: “For Illusion Isn’t The Opposite of Reality”; p.133.
  19. Baudrillard, Jean: “For Illusion Isn’t The Opposite of Reality”; p.142.
  20. Baudrillard, Jean: “It is the Object Which Thinks Us…”, in: Fotografien, Photographies, Photographs, 1985-1998 (edited by Peter Weibel, translation from the French uncredited), Graz: Hatje Cantz Publishers, 1999; pp.147-8.
  21. Baudrillard, Jean: “It is the Object Which Thinks Us…”; p.147.
  22. Baudrillard, Jean: “For Illusion Isn’t The Opposite of Reality”; p.133 (translation from the French modified by ANS).
  23. Baudrillard, Jean: “Requiem für die Twin Towers”, in: Gente, Peter, Paris, Heidi and Weinmann, Martin (eds.): Short Cuts: Jean Baudrillard. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2003; p.108.
  24. Chris Turner’s Verso Press English translation of “Requiem for the Twin Towers” (in: The Spirit of Terrorism and Other Essays) does not include Baudrillard’s recounting and analysis of the African artist sculpture story. The published English text was translated from a typescript version that Jean Baudrillard faxed directly from Paris to his superb English translator. The version of “Requiem pour les Twin Towers” that includes the African artist sculpture story was a rewritten text that appeared later in French in the book Power Inferno (Paris: Galilée: 2002). Thanks to Chris Turner for explaining this to me. The German Suhrkamp-published text to which Caroline Heinrich refers was translated from the French Power Inferno version. The passage was also discussed at the February 19, 2003 debate at the “Maison des cultures du monde” in Paris entitled “Pourquoi la guerre?” at which Jean Baudrillard, Jacques Derrida, and the journalist Alain Gresh were the principal participants. Baudrillard comments further on Michael Richards’ sculpture on p.117 of The Intelligence of Evil or the Lucidity Pact (translated by Chris Turner, originally published in French in 2004), New York: Berg, 2005, where the towering thinker also discusses a second artwork that bit the dust under the collapsed towers: the bronze technocrat by J. Seward Johnson.
  25. Barthes, Roland: Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (translated by Richard Howard, originally published in French in 1980), New York: Hill and Wang, 1981.
  26. Baudrillard, Jean: “It is the Object Which Thinks Us…”; (I am at present unable to find the page number of this quotation — ANS).
  27. Baudrillard, Jean: “For Illusion Isn’t The Opposite of Reality”; p.135 (translation from the French modified by ANS).
  28. Baudrillard, Jean: “For Illusion Isn’t The Opposite of Reality”; p.136.
  29. Baudrillard, Jean: “For Illusion Isn’t The Opposite of Reality”; p.132 (translation from the French modified by ANS).
  30. Baudrillard, Jean: “It is the Object Which Thinks Us…”; p.133.
  31. Baudrillard, Jean: “It is the Object Which Thinks Us…”; p.138.
  32. Baudrillard, Jean: “It is the Object Which Thinks Us…”; p.145.
  33. Therefore a principle of absolute nonviolence would be rejected.
  34. Nietzsche, Friedrich: “Nachgelassene Fragmente 1887-9”, in: KSA, 13:384. translation ANS.