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A Destructive Philosophy Author(s): Pierre Klossowski Reviewed work(s): Source: Yale French Studies, No.

35, The House of Sade (1965), pp. 61-80 Published by: Yale University Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 29/04/2012 11:10
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A Destructive Philosophy
Whenit wantsmartyrs, atheismhas only to speak; myblood is readyto flow. -La NouvelleJustine In Sade's work the uneasy conscience of the debauched libertine represents a transitional state of mind between the conscience of social man and the atheistic conscienceof the philosopher of Nature. It offersat one and the same time those negativeelementswhich Sadian thought, in its dialecticalmovement, to makes great efforts and the positiveelementswhich will make it possible to eliminate, move beyond this intermediary state of mindin order to get to the atheistic and asocial philosophy of Nature and a moral system based on the idea of Natureas perpetual motion. with The libertine's conscience maintainsa negativerelationship God on one handand withhis neighbor on the other.Both,thenotion to him. The of God and the notionofhis neighbor, are indispensable relationship withGod is negativebecause the libertine's conscience, as we findit in Sade, is not atheistic in a cold-bloodedway; rather its atheismis the resultof effervesence and therefore of resentment; his atheismis only a formof sacrilege.Only the profanation of religioussymbols is able to convincehim of his apparentatheism which is thus clearly distinguishable fromthe conscience of the atheistic forwhom sacrilegehas no significance philosopher beyondits revelation of theweaknessof theindividual who indulgesin it. At timesthe atheismwhichis affected by the libertine conscience, and the wrongwhichit projectsdoing,are meantto be provocations addressedto the absentGod as thoughscandalousprovocations were a wayof forcing thatGod to manifest his existence: If therewere a god and ifthatgod possessedpower,would he allow the virtuewhichhonorshim to be sacrificed to vice as you intendto do; would this all-powerful god allow a weak creaturelike myself who, comparedto him,is as the mitein the eye of the elephant,would he, I ask, allow this feeble creature to insulthim,scoff at him,standup to him,and offendhim as I take pleasure in doing at everymomentof the day? This kind of impunity adds to thedelight of the libertine conscience: 61

Yale French Studies the merited by his action,the greater the greater the punishment is always activated His conscience he attributes tocrime. valuewhich forhis theenergy seemsto provide indeedtheremorse by remorse; actions does not seek to commit libertine crimes. The debauched as the motion, by perpetual indifferent whichhave been rendered is Evil; thepurto commit claim.Whathe seeks atheist philosophers of his sphere of enjoysuitofEvil willbe essential to theextension butrather ment:"Whatanimates us is nottheobjectof libertinage, holdsno intertheobjectoflibertinage theidea ofevil."As a result, the itleadsto thedoing ofgreater evil.Nordoeshe exclude estunless he in thatpossibility possibility of doingevilwell;on thecontrary, Sadofthedebauched Theconscience valueofcrime. finds thewhole all the willand uses itsmoralcategories, istkeepsitsclaimon free of to do evil.The conscience a belief in itsability while maintaining notonlyapthedebauched to Sade'sdescription, libertine, according to atheism butalso has a counsinopposition pearstobe incomplete Auwefind inSaint Evil'ssakewhich with ofEvilfor ship theanalysis an ento elaborating susceptible Sucha conscience is consequently of a Supreme about the religion theology centered tiredestructive the BeingthatSaint-Fond, theonlySupreme Beingof Wickedness, to prolord, is willing and debauched libertine exemplar ofthegreat as thephito denycrime ofevilis notyetready fess.Thisreligion it as an outto admit does,butprefers motion losophy ofperpetual of God. Noris it therefutation flow from theexistence ofan infernal must that theinnocent ofJustine, inthefirst version thedogma found side It is onlytheother of theguilty. forthesalvation be sacrificed in God. In ofinjustice ofthat it exalts thenecessity existing doctrine; reason theastonished with themystery confronted ofRevelation, fact, - ifitwishes also conveys in language which to articulate thedogma thematerial of blasto substitute itssenseof scandal- is obliged fortherevealed In that wayit givesan exactexpresmatter. phemy faculty on a reasoning sionto theimpression madeby themystery on, Fromthat point which to itsownresources. has beenabandoned an itwillsee in orthodoxy when with crime and suffering, confronted party through a theory of theguilty to legitimate thecrimes attempt of expiation of theinvirtue of thesufferings basedon theexpiatory to sin attributes crime to man'sfreedom orthodoxy nocent. In reality, sufand attributes party's earned bytheinnocent theexpiatory virtue is reason account. What thescandalized party's fering to theinnocent wishes to prowhatreasonitself to orthodoxy is precisely imputing - a doctrine itsconclusions claimas itsowndoctrine though which, of seeking willhavetheappearance direction, go in a quitecontrary origin terms on thebasis of a supernatural to setup itsmeritorious be considered mancan thus Godafflicts sin.All theillswith which for 62
gustine's Confessions.

as the ransomGod exacts beforehe allows man the rightto inflict and to be unlimitedly suffering vicious.To the extent thatGod can be viewed as the originalguiltypartywho attackedman before man could attackhim,to thatextentman has acquired the rightand the strength to attackhis neighbor. And if thisdivineaggression has been of vastproportions ithas thereby legitimized forall timethe impunity of the guilty partyand the sacrifice of the innocent. If the evils whichoverwhelm me fromthe day of my birthto the day of my death prove God's indifference to me, then I may verywell be mistakenabout what I call evil. What I characterize as evil whereI am concerned is apparently a very greatgood wherethebeingwho has brought me intotheworld is concerned.And if I receiveevil fromothers,I enjoy the right of returning evil to it, and even the facility of delivering themfirst; once I become awareof this,evil becomes good for me as it is forthe being who has createdme in his dealings withme, and I am satisfied by the evil I do to othersas God is satisfied by theevil he has done to me . . . Evil "whichis a moralbeingand nota createdbeing,an eternalbeing whichexistedbeforethe worldand whichformed and the monstrous execrablebeingwho createdso bizarrea world"can onlysustainthat world through evil, can only perpetuate it for evil, and allow other creatures to existonlyif theyare impregnated withevil: This mode whichis theverysoul of thecreatoris also thatof the creaturewho is shaped by it. It will exist even afterthe soul's demise. Everything has to be wicked, barbarous,inhuman- as your God is - and these are the vices which mustbe adoptedif one wishesto please him; not thatthereis much hope of succeedingsince that evil which always does harm,the evil whichis God's essence,could not possiblybe susceptible eitherto love or gratitude. If thisGod who is the centerof Evil and ferocity man and has natureand torments othermen torment himthroughout his existence, what reason is thereto doubt thathe acts in the same way, and perhaps even involuntarily, man and on thiswisp whichsurvives after which... is nothing otherthanevil? . . . No matter what his conductin thisworldmay be, no man can escape thisfrightful fatebecause everything whichhas been brought to life in the womb of Evil must return there.That is the law of the universe.Thus the hatefulelementsof the wicked man are absorbed into the centerof the wickednesswhich is God in orderto return and animatestillotherbeingswho will be born to similar corruption because theyare thefruit of corruption. What will happen to the good creature? 63

Yale French Studies Themanyoucallvirtuous is notgood,orifhe is goodtowards he certainly isnottowards God whois nothing you, other than Evil, who desires nothing but Evil, who seeks nothing but Evil. The manyouspeakof is simply weak,andweakness is an evil.Sucha man,sincehe is weaker thantheabsolutely . . . willsuffer vicious being, all themore. . . [But]themore manshallhavemanifested in this vicesandfailures world, the closershallhe cometo his unchanging goal which is wickedness,andthelesswillhe haveto suffer consequently when he is reunited in thehomeofwickedness which I consider to be theprime matter of theworld's formation. Thus"far from denying God as theatheist does or ofpardoning him all hiswrongs, as deists do,"the conscience ofthedebauched libertine agreesto admit God withall his vices.The existence of evilin the worldaffords himthechanceto blackmail God whomhe considers theeternal Guilty Party becausehe is theoriginal Aggressor. To accomplish this goal,thelibertine to traditional constantly has recourse moral categories as though to a pactwhich SufferGod has violated. a promissory ingbecomes notedrawn on God. The libertine conscience also needsto establish an equally negative relationship with itsneighbor: "I amhappy with theevilI do toothers as God is happy with theevilhe does to me."The libertine's enjoyment comesfrom thefactof thecontinuous this opposition between ideaandthenotion ofloveforone'sneighbor. He makesuse of this in establishing opposition histheory ofpleasure through comparison. One ofthefour debauched menin the120 Journe'es de Sodomesays:
- pleasure Onlyoneessential is missing from ourhappiness through comparison, a pleasure which can onlybe bornfrom thesight oftheunhappy, andwe see noneofthat here. breed It's at thesight ofthemanwhoisn't enjoying what I haveand whois suffering that I know thecharm ofbeing abletosay: I amhappier than he is. Wherever menareequalandwhere differences willnever do notexist, it'squitelike happiness exist; thesituation of themanwhodoesn't appreciate thepriceof until goodhealth he has beenill.

How then aretheunfortunate to be comforted? The pleasure which comesto mefrom thispleasant comparisonoftheir state with mine wouldnotexist ifI wereto comfort I would them. By withdrawing them from their misery, allowthem to tastea moment of happiness which, sinceit draws them closer to me,would remove thewhole joyofcom. .. In order difparison this to establish essential more firmly inhappiness, their ference itwould be preferable to aggravate . . condition 64

Thus the conscienceof the debauchedlibertine, thoughit turnsthem upside down,is content to remainwiththose moral categories which the atheist consciencewill condemnas structures forged by theweak. But, out of theirneed for comparisons,the strongput their own strength on trial.By makinga comparisonof his condition withthat of theunfortunate, thefortunate man makes a fatalidentification with him. In tormenting the object of his lust in orderto derivepleasure of anotherhis own fromhis suffering, and by seeingin the suffering after suffering, he will also see his own punishment. Saint-Fond, having mistreated a family of poor people outrageously, supposedlyhas himself assailed by two men whomhe has orderedto whiphim. This stagedwhipping is carriedoffso well thatthe fearwhichhe inspires in the weak becomes,in thisexhibition his own fear: "I of strength, love to make themundergo thesortof thing whichtroublesand overwhelmsmyexistence so cruelly. . ." At thisstage,his conscienceremainsrivetted to thereality of theothers; he hopes to denythatreality but only intensifies it by the love-hatred whichhe avows for others. The debauchedman remainsattachedto thevictim of his lustand to theindividuality of thatvictim whose sufferings he would like to prolong "beyondtheboundsof eternity if eternity has any." The true atheist, to the degreethathe reallyexists,attacheshimself to no oblookhe obeyshis impulses, ject; caughtin nature'sperpetual motion, ing upon othersas no more thannature'sslag. The conscienceof the debauchedlibertine cannotgiveup its all too humanaspirations; perhaps only the stoic atheistwould be capable of doing so. The libertine'sconscienceremains obsessednot onlyby his neighbor as victim, and butalso by death.He cannotgiveup thesingular hope of a future infernal lifewhichamountsto sayingthat he cannotconsentto the annihilation of his "sinning body" precisely because of his senseless desireto workout his fury on the same victim throughout eternity. In thisphase his consciencenone the less betrays a murky need for expiation- an expiationwhich, if his need could be elucidated, wouldhave no otherdirection than thatof self-liquidation, a freeing of the selfby the self.These are the positiveparticulars of his conscience.The degreeto whichhe seeksexpiation is thedegreeto which his conscience represents one of the momentsof Sade's own conin his willingness science.His need forexpiationseeks satisfaction to risketernal damnation in order,without doubt,to nourishthe sufof his victim;but his willingness ferings also implies a continued desireto share thatsuffering. Saint-Fondreveals stillanother characteristic traitof the libertine conscience:pridein his situation, scornforhis fellow man,and, finally, a hatred.mixedwithfear,of "thatvile lowlifeknownas the people." All the elementsof thishaughty attitude go hand in glove withthe exercise of humiliating debaucheries,most of which are planned 65

Yale French Studies to deliver a shockto popular morality: "Onlyminds organized like ours knowhow well the humiliation imposedby certain wanton acts serves as pride's nourishment." In effect, whatthepopularor, would ofadmitting better, the bourgeois mentality be incapable either orofunderstanding is that those whoaresupposed tobe theguardians of thesocialorder should, by their voluntary degradation, challenge thatorderand, in so doing, overturn all socialvalues.But in this - even humiliation though itis only a fiction fortheSadianlibertine - there is also manifest a desire forvoluntary debasement and,in that need,an indication ofthelibertine's belief that hissuperior social himspecial Chief these is hisright position gives rights. among rights to revise thenotion ofwhatmanis. It is an experimental right, one which couldnotbe extended to thecommon runofmortals without danger. It is precisely theexercise of thisright to conduct forbidden willform experiments which, bornfrom thelibertine conscience, one of thefundamental oftheSadianconscience. commitments a in workspublished Sade's materialistic atheism, whenexpressed haslostall unpretre et un moribond, decadeafter theDialogueentre and Entheserenity characteristic ofthat pamphlet. The materialists whenthey admit matcyclopedists, whowereSades'contemporaries, terconsidered as perpetual motion to theroleof theuniversal agent of that excludes which anyneedforGod'sexistence, imply knowledge and individual thismatter thelawsgoverning mayallowfora better rational ofNature socialmorality as wellas an unlimited exploitation thearguments ofLa Mettrie, and d'Holbach byman.Still, Helvetius, an unexpected whentheycome intocontact undergo development with Sadianthought. in a stateof For Sade thesubstitution ofNature motion perpetual forGod signifies, notthearrival ofa happier erafor humanity, but onlythe beginning of tragedy thetragedy being man'sopenandconscious acceptance ofthechange. Herewe can detect theNietzschean theme which opposesto thesufferings of theina consciousness nocent which agrees to endure itsguiltbecausethe guiltis the priceof feeling alive. This is thehiddensenseof the atheism which differentiates Sade so clearly from his contemporaries. To admit matter considered as perpetual motion as theone and only in a universal is equivalent to agreeing to liveas an individual agent ofperpetual motion. state As soonas a bodyappears to havelostmotion byitspassage from called death,it the stateof lifeto whatis improperly from thatverymoment, towards tends, dissolution; yetdisis a very no solution state Thereis,therefore, great ofmotion. itnever thebodyoftheanimal is at rest; moment when dies; butbecauseit no longer forus, we believethatit no exists 66

phosed, butthey arenever is absolutely inert. Inertia impossiblefor matter matter whether is organized ornot.Weigh these truths carefully and youwillsee where lead and whata they twist they giveto human morality. Once arrived at thisobservation, of finding himself on thethreshold theunknown, his thought turning back on itself, he withdraws still further, Then scandalized bythesheer inevitability ofhisconclusions. he takesholdofhimself and accepts As a result, the hisdiscoveries. atheistic andmaterialistic speeches strike of someofhischaracters us as just so manymoments in his thought's effort to get awayfrom moralcategories; thisis whatgivesthe speeches their quitespecial dramatic in motion flavor. Matter, which is perpetually and which with on this shivers pleasure without being ableto obtain anypleasure sideofdestruction or dissolution, to be neither blind norwithseems outwill. Isn'tthere somepurpose in this universal agent? We becomethepublicat a strange where Sade insults spectacle in Nature thetraits Nature as he usedto insult of God; he discovers thatGod who created thegreatest number of menwiththeaim of them runtheriskof eternal making tortures "eventhough it would haveconformed morewith to goodness and with reasonand justice create only stones andplants rather than to shapemenwhose conduct couldonlybring endlesschastisements." But whata frightful state Nature puts us in "since disgust with life so strong inthesoul becomes that there is nota single manwhowouldwantto liveagain,evenif andI detest ture; herbecauseI know herwell.Aware ofherfrightful perienced a kindofpleasure in copying herfouldeeds.Whata contemptible andodiousbeing to makeme see thedaylight onlyinorder to haveme find in everything pleasure thatdoes harmto myfellow men. Eh quoi!I hadhardly beenborn. . . I hadhardly quitmycradle whenshe drewme towards thevery horrors whichare herdelight! barbarous hand can onlynourish evil; evil is her entertainment. Should I lovesucha mother? No; butI willimitate her,all thewhile detesting her.I shallcopyher, as shewishes, butI shallcurse herun. . ." ceasingly These are thewordsof the chemist, Almani, a character whose psychology reflects marvelously wellone of thepositions setforth in Sade's thought. Like thedebauched libertine, Almani is stillevolving within thesphere of moralcategories. Evil strikes himas beingNature's unique element, as it was theuniqueelement oftheGod who was absent to thedebauched libertine. Andthiscriminal chemist also 67
This goes beyondcorruption . . . it is an inclination, a penchant. Her I have fallenback on myself secrets, and I have felt. . . I have exsuch an offer were made on the day of his death . . . yes, I abhorna. . . metamorlonger exists at all. Bodies are transmuted

Yale French Studies believes thatthesolution to theproblem of eyilis to be evil.Sade's thought hereoffers a further attitude ofpurely human revolt, a revolt which hasno hopeother than to remain revolt. The reproach directed evenmore thanthereproach directed God,is against Nature, against to remain without answerand even without any clearly destined sinceit is addressed whoseverycorpsychic benefit, to a situation mindwhich ruption excludes any idea of justification. The atheist launched theanathema against Nature, hadwanted itseffort to render absurd thereproach which he cannot repress andwhich escapesfrom as himin spiteof himself. His conscience, though it accepts Nature ofmoral thesupreme instance, has notyetgiven up themechanism to be categories which, in his struggle against God, has been found But found useful and necessary. In God his conscience vengeance. onceGod hasbeenrejected, is undone hismaneuver bythediscovery all idea absorbs of perpetual motion. Sincethenotion of movement of annihilation thatgoes beyond a simple modification of matter's Naforms, mancan no longer reply byoutrage to whathe considers ture's outrage; manfeelshe is unavenged. Its effect in Almani's statement. We see another factor developing term in his speechonlyas a simple is to showus thatevil appears with which adequate for translating theeffect ofthenatural dynamism thescientist's itself. mind hopesto identify Whatwe see in Almani's at reconciliaresolve to copythe"fouldeeds"ofNature is an effort As his withuniversal tionwith universal order or, better, disorder. indignation expresses its astonishment, curiosity and the desireto conknow become manifest; themind tends moreand moretowards sidering itself as an integral partof Nature, which has nowbecome in natural thedomainof its investigations. pheIf minddiscovers blindand necessary nomena, notonly laws,butalso itsownpurpose - and thereby with thosenatural a coincidence of itspurpose phe- then willbelong to it as so many nomena thosephenomena sugmind must which intoreality. gestions bring "Punishments are alwaysproportionate to the crime, and crimes to theamount of information are always by proportionate possessed the guilty crimesand party:the Flood presupposes extraordinary that those crimes presuppose we possess information infinitely greater thanwhatwe really have."Theseare Joseph de Maistre's comments use is on original sin.WhatI should liketo emphasize hereforlater theideaofa crime-information a notion reprerelationship, strikingly in Sade's thought in thatof certain sented and evenmorestrikingly of his heroes. If knowledge endsup by becoming a crime, whatwe call crime must contain thekeyto knowledge. As a result, it is only further andfurther that thesphere reachbyextending ofcrime mind, - that willrecover itslostknowledge ingthose extraordinary crimes, which knowledge is infinitely greater thanwhat we possess. 68

Sade will push materialistic Possessed by such dispositions, atheism to a point whereit will be investedwiththe formof a trulytranscendental fatalism. We see an exampleofthisin theSystem of Nature set forth by the Pope in his long discussionwithJuliette. Here Sade's in orderto thought determinedly getsawayfromits humancondition attempt integration witha mythical the onlychance it cosmogony of getting thetrialwhereitstandsas much awayfrom has, apparently, accused as it was at the beginning of its efforts. In vain Sade seeks a judge who will acquit him, and does this even thoughhe has withdrawnthe judge's competence in the realmof humanmorality. of all admitsof the existenceof an originaland eternal Sade first Naturewho existsoutsidetherealmof the threekingdoms of species and of creatures[the animal,vegetable, and mineral]. "Were Nature who are the result to findherself subjectto otherlaws, the creatures of her presentlaws would no longerexist." Nature would stillexist, thoughunder different laws. "Creatures,neitherbeautifulnor good nor valuable," are the resultonly of blindlaws. Nature createsman in spite of herself;she createslaws speciallyapplicable to men and, fromthatpointon, she has no further controlover him. At the beginning ofthePope's speech,thisNatureis seen as beingentirely distinctfromman's nature;but thoughman is no longerdependenton thisoriginalNature,he still cannot escape fromthe laws whichare properly his: the laws of self-preservation and procreation.These laws, moreover, are in no way necessaryto Nature, and this is the first indication of his irrelevance within the core of the universe.He can quadruplehis species or annihilate it completely without the universe'sfeeling the slightest change.Here Sade sees Nature becoming aware of the competitor her own movement has raised up: If man multiplies his species,he is right accordingto his own lights;if he destroyshis species, he is, by the same lights, wrong;but in Nature's eyes all this is changed. If he multiplies, he is wrongbecause he takes away fromNature the honorof a new phenomenon sincetheresult of thelaws which governhim is necessarily new creatures.If those who have been issuedforth do notpropagate, Naturewill issue forth new ones and will enjoya faculty she no longerhas ... In multiplying, man,sincehe followsa law inherent onlyto him,does decided harm to the naturalphenomenawhich are withinNature's capacity. Foreseeingthe conflict, Sade modifieshis terminology to renderit moreaccuratefora description of the process he wishes to dramatize:"If creatures destroy themselves, theyare rightas far as Nature is concerned, for theythencease to make use of a received faculty, butnot of an imposedlaw, and commit Natureto thenecessityof developing one of her mostbeautiful faculties . 69

Yale FrenchStudies
of the species is no longerconsideredto be a law Multiplication whichthe creaturecannotget away from;it is only a faculty which competes withNature'soriginal faculty. More and more,as thespeech getsmoredeeplyinto its description of the conflict, Nature,first admitted as a forceobeyingblind laws, reveals herselfas havingpurpose: she is creativeevolution.Sade says openly that man, in propagating or by not destroying binds Natureto the secondary himself, laws of thespecies and deprives her of her greatest potential. Nature, if she thereby finds herself thefirst slave to her own laws, seems only more aware of it and manifests witheven greater impetuousness the desireto break the chainsof her laws: Doesn't she show us to whatextent our multiplication disturbs her . . . how much she would like once more to escape by destroying our procreative ability. . . doesn't she prove this to us by the afflictions withwhichshe ceaselesslyoverwhelms us, by thedivisionsand dissensions she sows in our midst... by this tendency towardsmurderwithwhich she inspiresus at everyinstant . . . Consequently, those murders whichour laws punishso rigorously, thosemurders whichwe assume to be thegreatest outrage whichone can do to Nature,not only, as you can see, do her no wrongbut cannot do her wrong; rathertheybecome useful to her outlook since we see her imitating themso oftenand since it is certainthatshe does so only because she hopes for the total annihilation of the creaturesshe has issued forthin order the betterto enjoy her faculty of creatingnew ones. The greatestscoundrelon earth,the abominableand ferociousand barbarousmurderer is thusonlythe organof her laws . . . only the motivepower of her wishes,and the surestagent of her caprices. In thesepages we see the dimensions of the path whichSadian man has traversed fromhis theologyof a Being supremein its wickedness to thisconception of Nature. We saw him at first acceptingthe existenceof God in orderto declare God guiltyand to take advantage of God's everlasting guilt;laterwe saw him confusing this God with a no less ferociousNature, but still keeping himselfon the side of moral categories.But the satanizationof Nature was only preparing for the liquidationof moral categories.The conceptionof a Nature which aspires to recaptureher highestpotentialsignifies in effect the dehumanization of-Sade's thought-a dehumanization whichnow takes on the formof a singularmetaphysics. If Sade, in contradistinction to what he habituallyaffirms, now goes so far as to consider man entirelydistinctfrom Nature, it is primarily in orderto emphasizebettera profound lack of harmony betweenthe notionof the humanbeing and the notionof the universe.Eager to reclaimhis own rights, he is also eager to explain that the extent 70

must be measured in direct to that ofNature's efforts proportion lack ofharmony. In Sade's attempt we might also see hiswillto separate himself from manby imposing on himself thecategorical imperative of all thatis of a cosmicsituation which demands theannihilation Sade is trying human. Without doubt, what todo is declare hisseparaa Nature tion which is theslaveofherownlaws-and to do so from without Nature's knowing aboutit. But though Nature, as it is said elsewhere in theSystemof Pope Pius VI, usesthismeansto recover herpowers, herwork in making populations perish from time to time from illness, cataclysms, wars, and discord, or from crimes of scoundrels, actually works onlyto theprofit of thatsecondary nature of the threekingdoms whichare ruledby the'laws of a perpetual criminals or great Even wereshe to sendout great metempsychosis. she wouldonly plaguescapableof annihilating thethree kingdoms, commit another impotent act. To bringabouttheir disappearance, wouldhaveto destory Nature herself totally, and she does nothave thatkindof mastery. attain Thusthescoundrel's murders notonly helpNature goals she wouldotherwise never fulfil butalso aid thelawswhich I say thekingdoms received alongwith their initial impetus. of at their first impetus in order to facilitate understanding andsince Nature wasreally no creation there mysystem; since and lastsas long is eternal, theimpetus is given perpetually as there were are beings. The impetus wouldendwhenthere imno morecreatures and at thatpointwouldfavorother butNature wouldbe thosedesired petuses which by nature; willonlyarrive at thatpointwhenthere is a totaldestrucof tionof the goal towards whichcrimes tend.The result thissituation is thata criminal who might be able to overwhelm thethree kingdoms all at once by annihilating them and their who productive faculties wouldbe the individual had bestserved Nature. . . A too perfect harmony wouldhave evenmoredrawbacks thandisifwar,discord, order; andcrimes wereto be banished from theearth, the mindof the threekingdoms, turned to the greatest violence, would then destroy all theother lawsofNature. The heavenly bodieswouldall stop, theinfluences wouldbe suspended becauseof the unbalancing dominion of one of them;there wouldno longer be either the force of gravity or of motion, Thus it is thatthe crimes of men,disturbing the powerof the threekingdoms prevent thatpowerfrom arriving at a pointof dominance and maintain thatperfect in theuniverse equilibrium which Horacecalledrerumcon71

Yale French Studies cordiadiscors. Crimeis therefore necessary to the world; andthemost useful crimes arethose which create thegreatest disturbance: a refusal to propagate anddestruction . . . these are examples ofcrimes essential to Nature . . . [Yet] enough crimes willnever be committed on thisearthto satiate Nature's burning thirst forthem. Sade soars directly into myth. The philosophy of his century no longer suffices once it becomes a question of resolving theproblem raisedby cruelty. As we have just seen,he wouldlike to integrate cruelty intoa universal system where it wouldbe brought to itspure stateby recovering its cosmicfunction. Henceforth, passions-from thesimple passions to thecomplicated ones-have a transcendental inbeing obedient ifmanbelieves himself significance: he is satisfying to them, he is in reality onlysatisfying an aspiration which goesbeyondhisperson. That murderer thathe believes he is destroying; he thinks is absorbing. This is sometimes the starting pointof his remorse. Let us bring himcomplete tranquillity on thatscore; andifthesystem I havejustdeveloped which is notyetwithin his grasp, let us proveto himby factsvisible to his eye that he hasnoteventhehonor ofdestroying, that theannihilationofwhich causes he boastswhen he is healthy and which himto tremble whenhe is ill,is thoroughly null,and thatit is impossible in his enterprise. to achieve anysuccess which Let us fora moment compare theprinciple of lifeand death, will determine of destruction, Sade's new position on the problem withFreud'sdeathinstinct. Freud,opposing thisinstinct to thatof Eros-the lifeinstinct-uses the two notions as the basis forhis ontological theory. WhileFreud onlyenvisages life at the organic level,Sade-much morethe metaphysician despite appearances to the contrary-admits of no difference between life at the organic andinorganic all considerations which level;he detaches himself from relate to thespecies and to thesocialmilieu in order to offer a single principle: is no other The principle of lifein all beings thanthedeath we receive themboth at principle; themboth and nourish the same time.At thatmoment we call death,everything to dissolve; appears we believethisbecauseof theexcessive which in this difference which ofmatter is then visible portion it no longer seemsalive. But thisdeathis onlyimaginary; and has no reality. existsonlyfiguratively Matter, deprived it with which endowed of themoresubtle of fhatter portion is notthereby all it does is change motion, destroyed; form, 72

become corrupt,and that is already a proof of the motion it conserves.It nourishes the earth,fertilizes it, and helps in the regeneration of the otherkingdoms as well as in its own. life we There is, in the end, no difference betweenthe first receiveand thissecond lifewe call death;forthe first is made from the matterformedin the woman's womb while the second follows the same process: matteris renovatedand reorganized in the earth'sentrails. . . The originalcreation is an example of this: these laws producetheirfirst progeny through a processof exhaustion; theyproduce otherprogeny onlythrough destruction. In the first instance, matteris corrupted;in the second,it is putrefied. In both processeswe see the onlycauses of thisimmensity of successivecreations; they of exhaustionand anniare nothing but the initialprinciples hilation. Corruption, putrefaction, dissolution, exhaustion,and annihilation: these are aspects of life'sphenomenawhichwill have a meaningfor Sade thatis as moral as it is physical.Only motionis real; creatures are nothing but motion'schangingphases. There is a tempationto make a verycautiouscomparison betweenthisconception of perpetual motion and the Hindu doctrineof Samsara. Nature's aspirationto in orderto recoveran unconditioned statewould escape fromherself seem to be a dreammuchlike thatproposedby the notionof Nirvana -at least to the extentthata Westernman has a capacityfor such dreams.Sade, rather thansetting offon thepath whichSchopenhauer was to follow:theacceptsearchedfor,thrashes out theone Nietzsche ance of Samsara,the eternalreturn of thesame thing. Sadian man-having accepted the notion of a Nature which is no more shrewdin wickednessthan the Supreme Being, no more voracious thantheMinotaur,but rather enslavedfromthe start by her own laws and the first amongtheuniverse's victims will arriveat a pointwherehe considers himself a microcosm of Nature,suffering, like Nature,from his own activity. That activity, rather thanallowing Natureto achieve her highest potential, allows her only to create,to destroy, to create anew, along withher creatures, in a cycle which provesher impotence. The Pope's "System"showsus two competing forces: Nature's aspirationto recoverher highestpotential, and the principleof the life and death of the threekingdomswhich is the principle of perpetual motionbringing about successivecreations.In reality, the phenomenaare the same. Perpetualmotionis blind,but the aspirationto escape fromthe laws of thismotionby destruction and crimedoes no more than show our awarenessof motion'srole. Sadian man will discoverhis own conflict in thisdualismand perhaps catch glimpses of a finalsolution.The problemof the cycliccreation 73

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anddestruction posedbyNature is notmuch from theprobdifferent lem of thereality of others as it appearsto his conscience. Just as creates forherself Nature obstacles Sadianman byherwillto create, creates his neighbor out of a willto create himself. He seemsto do this outof a needto destroy theother. Yet he had onceaspired to a with this break hisaspiration towards necessity; through innocence he had admitted theexistence of others and given them reality. Stillhe remained saddled with thenecessity ofdestroying; andsince he wished to prolong the existence of others, he becameguilty at thatvery moment because he had decided to prolong theothers' existence only in order to destroy them. Like Nature, which alwaysand simultaneitshighest Sadianmanfaces ously aspires to and renounces potential, thequestion of whether to he can renounce others and be prepared destroy.
If comparison with theunfortunate a comparison which remains - presupposes indispensable ifthelibertine is to know happiness the existence ofhisneighbor, thefirst stepto be taken in thedirection of a renaturalization ofcruelty will be to deny thereality ofhisneighbor and to rid the notion of neighbor In implying of its meaning. the thepleasure neighbor's existence, ofcomparison implies evil.Love of neighbor, thechimera which haunted Sade,is converted bythelibertineconscience intoa love-hatred of theneighbor. Here thelibertine forlove-hatred makes a mistake, ofhisneighbor, it helpsliquiwhile oftheother, hisownreality. datethereality liquidates How can Sadianmanevergiveup his object, is theother, which and accept destruction in all itspurity, as he must do ifhe is faithful to hisidea ofa Nature freed from theneedofcreating? To do so, he must notjusttheother, butalso hisindividual as renounce, condition a self. In apparently solipsistic terms, a quantity of statements madeby Sade'scharacters whoseconclusions imply a doctrine are thoroughly theguiseofa Nature opposed. Under aspiring to itshighest potential, thedoctrine takesabsolute and sovereign desire as itsprinciple. But in thenameof thisprinciple, it establishes between theselfand the a negative other reciprocity:

The falseideaswhich we haveofthecreatures whosurround us are stillthe sourceof an infinite number of judgements whose moral basisis erroneous. We forge chimerical duties for ourselves whereour relations withthesecreatures are contocerned, havesimilar duties simply because they think they wards us. If we havethestrength to renounce all that we exfrom ourduties willbe immediately pect others, towards them when annihilated. creatures after What, all, are all theearth's a single measured And by what one of our desires? against 74

I deprive leastofmydesires right should in order myself ofthe to me and whoholdsno to pleasea creature whois nothing forme. . . interest whatsoever Oncetheother is nothing, forhim, notonlyam I no longer anything butI amnothing where my ownconscience is concerned, anditmakes little difference whether theconscience is stillmine.For if I break withtheother on themorallevel,I shallalso have broken, on the I can fall levelofexistence, with what I properly am.At anymoment tothemercy oftheother methesamesort ofstatement whowilloffer as myown: Let us havethestrength all thatwe expect to renounce from others. The wageris pragmatic. thiskindof Yet, evenbefore statement is made,thereflective process which leads to it has gone much further in itsinvestigations. The moralnihilism which tendsto suppress awareness of oneself no fewer on thelevelofacts, butwhich andtheother contraimplies dictions on Sade's part,appears of his hereas thelast consequence to denying theexistatheism. himself In effect Sade couldnotlimit enceofa personal and whois responsible God,theprinciple ofa self whois theguarantor also ofSade'sownselfhood andprivacy; he must attack him.Just as we sawhimattacking theprinciple oftheconservationand propagation of thespecies, we see himnow making an issueofthenormative principle ofindividuation in order to givefree and abhe has described: scopeto theerosive forces theperversions theindividual of a normalities which indicate within theemergence sensitive polymorphism by whichconscious individuation has been with within individuals. Butfarfrom satisfied deaccomplished being scribing thoseabnormalities, he lends themthe eloquenceof his spokesmen whorefute the existence ofa God,guarantor ofthenorms, toplead, inorder inthelanguage ofthose very norms, thecauseofthe abnormalities theybear. Now the supposedabnormalities are abnormalities only to thedegree that they areexpressed inthis language - thelanguage of a conscience which is unableto takeaccount of their positive content, that is, ofthepositive polymorphism which, in a negative and in accordance with manner Sade's rationalistic terminology, remains tributary. Herewe aretouching on thesingular relationship between Sade andreason, on theconstant interaction between theabnormal andon thecontradiction andthought, between reason's effort to enunciate universals evenas it pleads- and in pleading offersan extreme of reasonreduced example to its own exclusively - theveryspecialcause of abnormality. terms But we are at the sametime on theadventure touching of a conscience and are seeing itsmisunderstandings anditssnares to meditate onceitbegins on the of thoseforces meaning which are hostile to individuation. Whatit doesis invert those forces so that they maybe transformed intowhat 75

Yale French Studies theagent mostneedsin order to his speech. to givecredibility Sade elucidates this misunderstanding without reallyresolving it; and, through his spokesmen, he disguises the snares it contains and thus provides theSadianconscience withsomeelasticity. The dose of cruelty with which nature has moreor less furnished each individual is no morethantheother side of desire with which in the everyone identifies himself, as though he wereits onlyagent, moment ofinitial awareness oftheself. For at that point theimpulse to cruelty endangers himwith destruction justas he endangers others. The manwhoasks: whatare all theearth's whenmeascreatures uredagainst theleastofmydesires? is already thevictim ofthemisunderstanding, the plaything of an impulse whichraisesquestions aboutitself. He is individuated buthe resents his individuation. The impulse ofdesire canlenditsabsolute character to theindividual who, as hispartofthebargain, lendshislanguage to desire which has no language. Languageborrows desire'sviolencebecause violenceis intheindividual scarce whosuffers as much from itslackas he would liketo see theother suffer. The result is that heturns against theother thechallenge which had beendirected against him:Let us have the to renounce strength whatwe expect from others. The formula permits a rupture which compensates hisrhetorical solipsism bybringing backintoquestion hisawareness ofhimself. With this as hisofdeparture, to find an outlet Sade attempts point forthenecessity to destroy by a negation of destruction; his concept of a Nature whodestroys herownworks now identifies destruction with thepurity ofdesire. Thisis theproposal contained in his theory of apathy whosetherapeutic the value is in its capacity to provoke renunciation of theother's reality, butas a consequence, of hisown reality too. The practise ofapathy, as itis suggested bySade's characters, presupposed thatwhatwe call soul,conscience, sensitivity, heart, are only miscellaneous structures brought aboutbya concentration ofthe samedriving forces. Underpressure from of others, theworld these forces can transform thefaculties intointimidating butjust influences; as readily, from ourowninner when under pressure can drives, they become in either subsersive influences; their reaction instance, is immediate. Whatremains constant is thefactthat ourowninner forces intimidate us atthevery moment that they makeinsurgents outofus. Blotoutyour in everything soul . . . try to find that pleasure alarms your heart; arrive . . . at theperfection ofthis quickly brand in apathy a wholecrowd ofstoicism; youwilldiscover ofnewpleasures in a wayquitedifferent which are delectable in the sourceof yourfatal from thoseyou think are found 76

sensitivity. On the basis of my errors,I have established principles; sincethattime,I have knownfelicity. inHow does this intimidating or this insurrectional insurrection, timidation, workits way in us? By imageswhich,seen beforewe act, inciteus eitherto act or to suffer acts, and also by images of acts which, already committed, come back to us and rekindlethe conscience; the consciencetheyrekindleis, of course,thatfaculty as it has been reconstructed by dormantdrives: and on On one side thereis the impossibility of reparations, the otherthe impossibility of figuring out which we should have the greater repentance for. Conscience growsdizzy and is so silentas to make us capable of extending crimebeyond the limitsof life.This condition indicatesthatconsciencehas a veryspecial qualitywhencomparedwiththeothermoods of the soul: it can annihilateitselfbecause its operationshave been amplified. Yet elsewhere Sade observesthatthesame is trueof sensitivity: "Any confirms extensionof it leads to its annihilation." That observation him in his beliefthatthe same drivesare at workin both structures, working either to intimidate or to subvert. Thus our awarenessof ourself and of othersis the most fragileand the most transparent of us by creating fear or functions. As soon as our impulsesintimidate remorse, either on thebasis of imagesof actionsperformed or actions stillto be undertaken, we mustsubstitute acts of any kindeach time the imagesseem on the vergeof becomingsubstitutes for acts or a hindrance to our performing them.Thus Juliette is encouraged to do in cold blood thesame things which,done in frenzy, are capable of making us remorseful. By doing thiswe deal from strength each timevirtue showsher head again, and thishabit of molesting her in a positiveway,at the moment whena certain calm in the senses seems to make her reappearancepossible and desirable,is one of the surestways of annihilating her forever. Use this secret,it is infallible; as soon as a mo- and mentof calm producesvirtue in the guise of remorse thatis always the guise she uses in orderto recapture us as soon as thathappens,immediately do the thing you were thinking about withregret ... How can this practiseof apathy become a viable method for the achievement of "voluptuoustoughness"? Nothingwould seem more in Sade than thisbreak withotherswhenthe resultof contradictory the aboltionof our duties towardsothersand theirconsequentex77

Yale French Studies and constantly our sensitivity clearly by is translated clusionfrom actswhich violence, needtheother actswhich, becauseof their and ofmyself. oftheother thereality bytheir very nature reestablish for anything forme,and ifI am nothing If theother is no longer since,in effect, they theother, how can theseacts be performed on a nothing? wouldturn outto be theactsofa nothing andthe bymyreality In order that this nothing never againbe filled or ofrethrough thepresence either ofenjoyment reality oftheother, I run the ofactswhich I must inan endless reiteration morse, disappear the reality danger of regretting because,whentheyare suspended, of theother itself on me once again.I also runtheriskof imposes them me. The theybring becauseof theenjoyment overestimating or riskis there onceI takecredit forthatenjoyment or thatregret, onceI givecredit forit to theother whomaybe itssource. whohas not type of theperverse libertine Saint-Fond, theperfect forhis fellow men,fails feeling got beyondthe stageof negative in his fidelity to this necessity by allowinghis victimas much is intimidated In effect, his conscience reality as he allowshimself. his viconlythiscan explain hiswishto pursue byits' ownimpulses; His selfeternity. throughout tim- alwaysthe same victim to have of theawareness in terms he continues awareness functions a self-awarein moments of suffering, of his victim's self-awareness in the delights an accomplice of the ness whichmakesthevictim torturer. of similar actswhich Whatis thepurpose behind thisreiteration understood of apathy? Sade clearly is dictated by themoralattitude whenhe was unableto resolve thedifficulty evenin thosemoments thedilemma: withtheother which negative contact the enjoyment quite as muchas remorse. procures forme shouldbe anticipated and thetwo are hereis onlytheother sideof enjoyment, Remorse ofbehavior different forms sources inthesame which havetheir only by thatenjoyment drives. Henceforth acts shouldnotbe informed "victim," but qualities of a single which is procured bytheparticular suchacts.And in which provokes only bythenegation oftheobject of destruction may validatea negation orderthatthisreiteration - to a point - thenumber it is emptied itself where of all content objectsbecomeof of reiterated of sacrificed acts and the quantity quantidepreciates thevalueofobjects; capital importance. Quantity Thusthemoral prinandthat oftheother. tyundermines myreality in thedrives, provokes thegreatest disturbance cipleofapathy, which tried to create a coincidence an equally strong ofthedisturbance with If the thepurity of thedisturbance. wariness designed to guarantee is to render habitof apathy theindividual capableof doingin cold bloodactswhich whendone in a mowouldhavebrought remorse of frenzy, a similar ment forvice;withthe process couldbe found 78

resultthatvirtuewould neverhave a chance to make us remorseful. "In virtue'sname you will no longerconceive of repenting, because you will have grownaccustomedto doing evil in answerto virtue's her reappearance and in orderto do evil no longeryou wouldprevent from ever appearing. . . " Could this be the solutionto the dialecticaldrama visible in the Sadian conscience?The answer depends on an answer to a more difficult question: Can theconscienceof Sadian man accept any solution?To get beyond the notionof evil, whichis always conditioned by the degree of realityhe accords to others,we have seen Sadian man carrythe exaltationof the ego to its height;yet the heightof this exaltationwas supposed to be found in apathywhere the ego abolished itselfsimultaneously withthe other,whereenjoyment disidentified associated itselffromdestruction, and where destruction itself withdesirein its pure form.In thisway, the Sadian conscience reproduces in itsown operations theperpetual motionof naturewhich The only createsbut which,in creating, sets up obstaclesforherself. her way she recoversher liberty, even momentarily, is by destroying ownworks. (This essay, which appears here in slightly reduced form, was published as one of the prefacesto the Cercle du Livre precieuxedition of Les 120 Journe'es de Sodome. Grateful acknowledgement is made fortheright to translate and reproduce.)


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edition ofJustine.

fromthe 1884 Liseux VirtuebetweenLust and Irreligion, engraving BeineckeRare Book and Manuscript Library,Yale