Some Forethoughts for a Study of Body Image

An image is the trace of an external body on this lived body in its spatial and temporal situatedness. That an image is a trace implies a confusion of absence and presence, such that that the external body can be made to appear to a lesser or greater degree of presence, even if it is absent in either space or time. This presence, though perhaps its paradigm is memory (the ability to make present the past), in its confusion implies extension, above all the extension of this body to a being-with an external body. Moreover, to make such an absence present is not to bring it into being or presence but precisely to determine the trace of the external body on this lived body as itself the externality of the external body.

For Spinoza the mind is only aware of its own activity and the activity of external bodies to the degree that it is aware of the activity of its own body through the affections whereby it is affected by or affects other bodies. But the mind is not external to the body, merely being the same body considered under different attributes of substance. To what degree then can we call an external body ‘external’? For not only is the mind aware of these bodies through its own body, but, moreover, individuality is not some simplification of the ego from its corporealization but rather bodies in their externality entering into a precise relationship to which corresponds an intensive, modal singularity.

This question is not the problematization of the existence of the external world but precisely the determination of the external world and the totality of bodies and their relationships which ‘world’ properly designates as external. In order for the existence of the external world even to be put into question implies an internality whose identity cannot break out of its enchainment to itself – an identity for which alterity and externality come from the far side of exteriority.

One way to breach this question is to consider the status of images in Spinoza. For mainly we understand images as external depictions or representations of a reality that is by definition there for all. But images for Spinoza are the traces of affections of the body in the two directions of mind affecting/being affected by body and body affecting/being affected by other bodies. That is, images occur at the border – or rather at the anterior determination of a border before there are borders – of self and other. In order for an image to become ‘external’ something very strange must happen – they must be anaesthetized.

An external image – a screen, a mirror, a sky, a portrait, a poem, that is any media in any manner of aesthetic mediation – is only the trace of this body’s having been affected by an externalized affection of the body that has been purged of any corporeality. You see you seeing yourself without realizing that it is your self that sees you. Where the ‘without realization’ is determined – this is the border’s first determination. A threshold becomes a wall when a body having been extended to an ‘external’ image cannot return to itself, having been walled off in the determination of exteriority.

Is this aesthetics? When I see the wind through the trees and the wind becomes the impression of a poem, for instance, in the ineluctable enigma of the wind’s longing through me for its loss do I only see my self seeing me without recognizing that this longing is my longing, that this self seeing me sees only the impossibility of its return to me or my return to this?

The wall at the border of inside and outside is not the skin of the wind but the screen and the television sky. The extension of the body then exceeds the body’s own delimitations – and what is extended is then not the body but the body’s skin past touch to the threshold where the outside is not touched but occluded in a false totality that excludes it, the body becomes an obesity, a combustible terrain, a consumer.

For, if all images are only traces on and of a body, then the paradigmatic example of this alienating determination of the outside is the body image and the warp and the weft on which it is weaved.


some thoughts on Spinoza, suicide, anorexia, vegetarianism, Chris Kraus, and Simone Weil

Is suicide a choice? It seems that, more than life, suicide can be decided, and even life, if it is a choice, is so only as one of the many answers to the question that suicide poses. Yet, to say that suicide is a choice, that is, a decision, the enacting of a will, decisively, is to say further that death too is a possibility that can be wrenched into being.

Which death?

Listen to the last lines (though what are the last lines if a postscript follows…?) of Blanchot’s The Instant of My Death:

Comme si la mort hors de lui ne pouvait désormais que se heurter à la mort en lui. “Je suis vivant. Non, tu es mort. /// As if the death outside of me could henceforth only collide with the death inside of me. “You are alive. No, you are dead.”

Who speaks here? The voice comes from the outside where there is only death and only collision, but inside of the quotation marks there is the confusion of life and death, a you, not an I.

To say that suicide is a choice is to confuse one death for another. The death that makes me for the death I make. I am insofar as my death precedes me. I am insofar as my death recedes from my grasp. I am insofar as I make this death into an act. I am insofar as I am conscious of me disappearing.

Yet, this death I meet meets me, this death I grasp grasps me, such that, in the final instance, “I” neither kill myself nor die, since this death is not mine, for it has no relation to me. In the fnal instance, I am only consciousness disappearing, I am not, consciousness, only, disappearing. While, for Blanchot I who kill myself am not I who is killed, for the latter is an other, for Spinoza, I who am killed by myself am not I who kills, for the latter is an other.

A suicide between absolute activity – a voluntary death, a willed death, a last will and testament to oneself – and absolute passivity – a suicide victim, victim of whom? no one, no one at all, only the inanimate matter through which power penetrates. A suicide between.

I want to stop here for a moment, because the examples that Spinoza includes in the scholiastic demonstration of the impossibility of suicide – that i) no one can kill themselves from the necessity of their being and that ii) when one does kill oneself one must be an other to oneself without being able to cognize this otherness – are strange.

Before that strange sentence:

Or it may come about when unobservable external causes condition a man’s imagination and affect his body in such a way that the latter assumes a different nature contrary to the previously existing one, a nature whereof there can be no idea in mind.

                                                                                    : there’s Seneca and anorexia.

Only a side note on Seneca. Nowhere in Tacitus (presumably Spinoza’s source) is his death qualified as a voluntary death, the Latin formulation of suicide. Seneca remains implacable when asked if he’s contemplating suicide, his death follows from a sentence not a will. Further, Spinoza adds to the source that Seneca “chooses a lesser evil to avoid a greater,” where a greater evil than death is impossible to imagine in the framework of the affects.

Anorexia, then. Which is implicitly gendered.

There are a few ways to formulate the sexual difference of transcendence and the language used to describe it.


Genevieve Lloyd picks up on the framing of Spinoza’s conatus as only a human desire in her discussion of The Ethics in relation to its possible grounding of environemtnal ethics. One passage she focuses on is when Spinoza determines “man’s” rights over the beasts because our power or virtue is far greater than theirs. Although Spinoza doesn’t deny that animals “feel,” our natures are not compatible in essence only in power over.

Incidentally, this is why I am always wary of discussions of power – whether Nietzsche’s will to power or Spinoza’s concatenation of equivalences with power is essence is virtue, etc. – for even when someone like Deleuze tries to avoid misinterpretation by insisting that the will to power does not mean a desire to dominate, nor the desire for power, it seems to me that power is never neutral. Power is always encoded within the constraints of one who wields it.

So, while with Spinoza we can think of a shifting scale of individuality by which one could, in encouraging identification with an ecosystem, shift ecological actions away from the human as existing above an environment towards actions within an ecosystem as an ecosystem, there is still a codified hierarchy of power. A greater or less than of reality that rings radical in a theory of immanence is still recoded into an ideological dimension of power as oppression.

One of these instances in Spinoza is when he notes that “it is clear that the requirement to refrain from slaughtering beasts is founded on groundless superstition and womanish compassion rather than on sound reason.”

The insistence of “womanish compassion,” is especially revealing. Vegetarianism is not merely an ethical or political choice, but, like with the character of Yeong-hye in Han Kang’s novel The Vegetarian, it is not a choice at all. But neither is it a passivity considered as being constrained by external forces or determination. To say either choice or constraint in this case is to reduce becoming-vegetal into a masculine binary of domination.

Well, I was in a dream, and I was standing on my head … leaves were growing from my body, and roots were sprouting from my hands … so I dug down into the earth. On and on…I wanted flowers to bloom from my crotch so I spread my legs; I spread them wide…’

As Sadie Plant says of that “specular” economy (referring to Irigaray, another theorist of the vegetal), the patriarchy is an ecomony, not a construction or an order, but the exchange first and foundingly of women as commodities. Yeong-hye escapes by becoming vegetal, becoming a body with neither organs nor sex, but a substance as light as it is fed on light.

Of course this desirelessness is seen as passivity by the men in her life who are enraged by the neutrality of her existence, taking what they see as passivity as an acquiescence to their power, as an invitation to rape, to dominate, to destroy, though all of these men are disgusted by their violence, because of the silence in response to it, because her passivity is not in relation to them, which of course makes them all the more violent.

Starving is always seen as starving for attention, as if such a lack is always in reference to a refusal to be penetrated which incites rage and entices rape.

Chris Kraus rhapsodizes this in relation to the alien body and Simone Weil, among others. One of Weil’s nicknames was “the Martian.” Another was “le vierge rouge.” Kraus in one passage of Aliens and Anorexia compiles patronizing characterizations of our mystic.

“Nancy Houston faults Weil for the denial of the body. She pities her because she never fucked, and therefore must’ve suffered from a lack of self-esteem.” … “According to Weil’s English editor/biographer, Richard Rees, she identifies the chief value of the human soul as a state of utter impersonality. And yet, as her friend-enemy Simone de Beauvoir would later argue in The Second Sex, the female self, because it is primarily defined by gender, can never be perceived impersonally.” … “In his 1991 biography of Weil, the scholar Thomas Nevin writes: “Her intellectual rigor, her relentless, never concessive way of arguing a position, her quest for the pure, worked as a mechanism for distancing herself as others might see her, as a woman.” … “In an extraordinarily patronizing introduction to Mary McCarthy’s translation of Weil’s monograph, The Iliad – A Poem of Force, Weil’s brother Ande notes that if only she had combed her hair, worn stockings and high heels, the world might have taken her more seriously.”

For Georges Bataille, who included her as a character he couldn’t fuck but whose depressive nature attracts him as a “talking-whore” in his work The Blue of Noon, writes six years after her death that her work was “immoral, trite, irrelevant, and paradoxical.”

“The bibliographic sourcebook to Weil’s work, published by UC Santa Cruz in 1992, describes her as an ‘anorexic philosopher’ who died of self-starvation at the age of 34.”

“A self-loathing and self-starving adrogyne.”

John Berger writes of her in a text called, Anti-gyne

Perversely, for Kraus all of the literature surrounding anorexia “is based on the unshakable belief that the formation of a gender-based identity is still the primary animating goal in the becoming of a person, if that person is a girl.”

Even the female psychotherapists “lead the pack in nailing down the anorexig girl as a simpering solipsitic dog: Marlene Boskind-White, Bulimarexia: ‘Anorexics have a disproportionate concern with pleasing others, particularly men, a reliance on others to validate their sense of self-worth. They have devoted their lives to fulfilling the feminine role.’ Anorexica are merely ‘starving for attention’ (Cherry O’Neill) and ‘as a group, they are manipulative and deceitful’ (Hilde Bruch).”

“No one considers that eating might be more or less than what it seems. At best, the anorexic is blocked in an infantile struggle to attain a separation from her mother. At worst, she is passive-aggressively shunning the ‘female’ state and role. At any rate, all these readings deny the possibility of a psychic-intellectual equation between a culture’s food and the entire social order. Anorexia is a malady experienced by girls and it’s still impossible to imagine girls moving outside themselves and acting through the culture. All these texts are based on the belief that a well-adjusted, boundaried sense of self is the only worthy female goal.”


Anorexia – in Greek, without desire – is the figure of a gendered transcendence. For even Spinoza’s beatitude consists of detaching one’s mind from the thought of the outside. It is not a denial of the body as much as in Spinoza it is a rearranging of affects from external determination to self-determination, just as anorexia is not a denial of the body as such but only a recoding of its masculine inscriptions, an erasure of the sexual transcription of the female body. It need to be emphasized that this is not in relation to man or his desire, it is an erasure of his desire, which is why it must be foreclosed.

I would like to say so much more – especially about Simone Weil and decreation as a transcendence that includes a gendered desire without defining it in relation to a hegemonous and neutral masculinity, but I’m now drinking by a fire.

I’ll close with the opening of Kraus’s Aliens and Anorexia:


This is Ulrike Meinhof speaking to the inhabi-

tants of Earth. You must make your death public.

On the night of May 9th 1976 in a special iso-

lation cell of the Stammheim Prison where I was

confined without sentence by order of the Chief

Prosecutor of the Federal Republic of Germany,

as co-leader of the Red Army Fraction….


As the rope was tightening around my neck,

moment of losing my mind, suddenly I lose my

perception but regained all my consciousness

and discernment. An Alien made love with me.

If it is true as certain newspapers write, that

traces of sperm were found on my dress, these

could be the traces of intercourse.

After making love, I could state that my con-

sciousness went on functioning in a new and

uninjured body.

Afterward the Alien took me to a special planet

which belongs to Andromedas. The society

there treats time and space with intensity, gen-

tleness, discipline and freedom. Over…

Compare this with the last entry in Simone Weil’s diary:

He entered my room and said: “Poor creature, you who understand nothing, who know nothing. Come with me and I will teach you things which you do not suspect.” I followed him.

He took me into a church. It was new and ugly. He led me up to the altar and said: “Kneel down.” I said: “I have not been baptised.” He said: “Fall down on your knees before this place, in love, and before the place where lies the truth.” I obeyed.

He brought me out and made me climb up to a garret. Through the open window one could see the whole city spread out, some wooden scaffolding, and the river, on which boats were being unloaded. The garret was empty, except for a table and two chairs. He bade me to be seated.

We were alone. He spoke. From time to time someone would enter, mingle in the conversation, then leave again.

Winter had gone; spring had not yet come. The branches of the trees lay bare, without buds, in the cold air full of sunshine.

The light of day would arise, shine forth in splendour, and fade away; then the moon and the stars would enter through the window. And then once more the dawn would come up.

At times he would fall silent, take some bread from a cupboard, and we would share it. This bread really had the taste of bread. I have never found that taste again.

He would pour out some wine for me, and some for himself—wine which tasted of the sun and of the soil upon which this city was built.

At other times we would stretch ourselves out on the floor of the garret, and sweet sleep would enfold me. Then I would wake and drink in the light of the sun.

He had promised to teach me, but he did not teach me anything. We talked about all kinds of things, in a desultory way, as do old friends.

One day he said to me: “Now go.” I fell down before him, I clasped his knees, I implored him not to drive me away. But he threw me out on the stairs. I went down unconscious of anything, my heart as in shreds. I wandered along the streets. Then I realised I had no idea where this house stood.

I have never tried to find it again. I understood that he had come for me by mistake. My place is not in that garret. It can be anywhere—in a prison cell, in one of those middle-class drawing-rooms full of knick-knacks and red plush, in the waiting-room of a station—anywhere, except in that garret.

Sometimes I cannot help trying, fearfully and remorsefully, to repeat to myself a part of what he said to me. How am I to know if I remember rightly? He is not there to tell me.

I know well that he does not love me. How could he love me? And yet deep down within me something, a particle of myself cannot help thinking, with fear and trembling, that perhaps, in spite of all, he loves me.

The editors of the diary notes that “unclassable mass of fragments follow.”

addendum to the Spanish Poet

this poet is not Borges, who wrote of his own other the poem “Borges and Myself

It’s to the other man, to Borges, that things happen. I walk along the streets of Buenos Aires, stopping now and then––perhaps out of habit––to look at the arch of an old entrance way or a grillwork gate; of Borges I get news through the mail and glimpse his name among a committee of professors or in a dictionary of biography. I have a taste for hourglasses, maps, eighteenth-century typography, the roots of words, the smell of coffee, and Stevenson’s prose; the other man shares these likes, but in a showy way that turns them into stagy mannerisms. It would be an exaggeration to say that we are on bad terms; I live, I let myself live, so that Borges can weave his tales and poems, and those tales and poems are my justification. It is not hard for me to admit that he has managed to write a few worthwhile pages, but these pages cannot save me, perhaps because what is good no longer belongs to anyone—not even the other man—but rather to speech or tradition. In any case, I am fated to become lost once and for all, and only some moment of myself will survive in the other man. Little by little, I have been surrendering everything to him, even though I have evidence of his stubborn habit of falsification and exaggerating. Spinoza held that all things try to keep on being themselves; a stone wants to be a stone and the tiger a tiger. I shall remain in Borges, not in myself (if it is so that I am someone), but I recognize myself less in his books than in those of others or than in the laborious tuning of a guitar. Years ago, I tried ridding myself of him, and I went from myths of the outlying slums of the city to games with time and infinity, but those games are now part of Borges, and I will have to turn to other things. And so, my life is a running away, and I lose everything and everything is left to oblivion or to the other man.

Which of us is writing this page I don’t know.

Borges also wrote a poem entitled Spinoza:

Las traslúcidas manos del judío
Labran en la penumbra los cristales
Y la tarde que muere es miedo y frío.
(Las tardes a las tardes son iguales.)
Las manos y el espacio de jacinto
Que palidece en el confín del Ghetto
Casi no existen para el hombre quieto
Que está soñando un claro laberinto.
No lo turba la fama, ese reflejo
De sueños en el sueño de otro espejo,
Ni el temeroso amor de las doncellas.
Libre de la metáfora y del mito
Labra un arduo cristal: el infinito
Mapa de Aquél que es todas Sus estrellas.

The Jew’s hands, translucent in the dusk,
Polish the lenses time and again.
The dying afternoon is fear, is
Cold, and all afternoons are the same.
The hands and the hyacinth-blue air
That whitens at the Ghetto edges
Do not quite exist for this silent
Man who conjures up a clear labyrinth—
Undisturbed by fame, that reflection
Of dreams in the dream of another
Mirror, nor by maidens’ timid love.
Free of metaphor and myth, he grinds
A stubborn crystal: the infinite
Map of the One who is all His stars.

Spinoza and the Spanish Poet

I’ve been tormented recently by that Spinoza scholium about the Spanish poet, he whom, having lost his memory, Spinoza is not prepared to call the same person. It’s a strange scholium, not the least because as Montag points out, it’s one of the only loose threads in the Ethics. It’s almost as if the second Ethics (to borrow Deleuze’s topology of the project) is not an esoteric sub-terrain, which system, like the double language of Strauss’s Maimonides, can be uncovered as a secular project concealed for fear of persecution beneath words shaped to appease both the student’s simplicity and the authority’s rigid canon.

Rather, when this thread, which as we shall see has a strange course, is pulled, the whole tapestry doesn’t collapse, but, there being symptoms in the seams, what is revealed is a shadow-portrait painted over, a work of which Spinoza is not the master. Certainly the work is masterful, but while traversing the disparate perspectives of infinite substance and finite modes, the play of power leaves gaps in the cloth’s folds. Montag, asking what external forces compel Spinoza’s pen, proposes that, “[t]he product of such heterogeneous forces would necessarily be a composite, nothing more than a factitious unity whose diverse elements. while combined, are never harmonized. Indeed, what would the ‘something more’ be, if not the very supernatural/supertextual realm that Spinoza so vehemently rejects?” (27).

More than anything else I want to trace the thought of the outside in Spinoza, there where there is strictly speaking no outside, for everything is immanent to an infinite substance that envelops itself in itself, but also where everything is the outside, for everything is just a play of forces and a play of folds, ceaselessly entangled without inside.

The thread weaves through these passages:

Pr.5.III: Things are of a contrary nature, that is, unable to subsist in the same subject, to the extent that one can destroy the other.

Pr.10.III: An idea that excludes the existence of our body cannot be in our mind, but is contrary to it.

Sch.Pr.20.IV: Therefore nobody, unless he is overcome by external causes contrary to his own nature, neglects to seek his own advantage, that is, to preserve his own being. Nobody, I repeat, refuses food or kills himself from the necessity of his own nature, but from the constraint of external causes. This can take place in many ways. A man kills himself when he is compelled by another who twists the hand in which he happens to hold a sword and makes him turn the blade against his heart; or when, in obedience to a tyrant’s command, he, like Seneca, is compelled to open his veins, that is, he chooses a lesser evil to avoid a greater. Or it may come about when unobservable external causes condition a man’s imagination and affect his body in such a way that the latter assumes a different nature contrary to the previously existing one, a nature whereof there can be no idea in mind (Pr.10.III). But that a man from the necessity of his own nature should endeavor to cease to exist or to be changed into another form, is as impossible as that something should come from nothing, as anyone can see with a little thought.

Sch.Pr.39.IV: For I do not venture to deny that the human body, while retaining blood circulation and whatever else is regarded as essential to life, can nevertheless assume another nature quite different from its own. I have no reason to hold that a body does not die unless it turns into a corpse; indeed, experience seems to teach otherwise. It sometimes happens that a man undergoes such changes that I would not be prepared to say that he is the same person. I have heard tell of a certain Spanish poet who was seized with sickness, and although he recovered, he remained so unconscious of his past life that he did not believe that the stories and tragedies he had written were his own. Indeed, he might have been taken for a child in adult form if he had also forgotten his native tongue. And if this seems incredible, what are we to say about babies? A man of advanced years believes their nature to be so different from his own that he could not be persuaded that he had ever been a baby if he did not draw a parallel from other cases. But I prefer to leave these matters unresolved, so as not to afford material for the superstitious to raise new problems.

Sch.Pr.38.V: Hence we understand that point which I touched upon in Sch.Pr.39.IV and which I promised to explain in this part, namely that death is less hurtful in proportion as the mind’s clear and distinct knowledge is greater, and consequently the more the mind loves God. Again, since (Pr.27.V) from the third kind of knowledge there arises the highest possible contentment, hence it follows that the human mind can be of such a nature that that part of it that we have shown to perish with the body (Pr.21.V) is of no account compared with that part of it that survives. But I shall be dealing with this at greater length in due course.

Immediately it should be strange that there’s any talk of a ‘subject’ in Spinoza. In fact, every other use of the word is the verbal ‘being subjected to.’ Even more strange is that this proposition (Pr.5.III) is the very basis for the establishment of the universality of the conatus or our very essence in so far as we strive to persist in our being.

The argument goes like this: I cannot destroy myself. Moreover I oppose everything that can destroy me. Therefore I endeavor to persist in my being, an endeavoring which is my very essence.

Spinoza must then decisively establish the impossibility of suicide in order to identify the conatus with an individual essence. How does he do this? On the one hand he shows that, like the previous demonstration, no one can kill oneself from the necessity of their nature or the laws of their essence. But, on the other hand, when one does kill oneself, it is because of external forces. Suicide as such is impossible, while what actually takes place when “one kills oneself,” is merely the event of a death, like all other deaths, that comes from the constraints of the outside.

Yet, why does Spinoza add the qualification “Or it may come about” in order to continue, “when unobservable external causes condition a man’s imagination and affect his body in such a way that the latter assumes a different nature contrary to the previously existing one, a nature whereof there can be no idea in mind.” This reads like an unfinished thought.

Is it that when one’s body becomes contrary in essence to what it once was, this becoming-contrary is itself suicide? Or is it that one kills oneself, not from the necessity of one’s own nature, but rather this other nature is that which accomplishes the act from its own striving to be – like a virus, like a parasite that smothers its host?

When Spinoza speaks of the Spanish poet, however, it is a question of exchanging the death of life with the death in life. One’s body can become contrary in nature to what it once was, but one can neither have knowledge of the previous nature or the fact that this nature has changed. This is what it means when Spinoza qualifies the contrary nature as that, “whereof there can be no idea in the mind.” Yet, how is there still a mind? For Spinoza a mind is the idea of the body. If the body has become contrary to itself then it makes enough sense to say that, if there is an idea corresponding to its nature, it cannot be an object of thought for the mind that corresponds to its previous nature. But how can there be a mind of the previous nature if one is neither aware of the previous nature or the change therein?

This might make more sense if we present Blanchot’s analysis of the impossibility of suicide as a foil. In the section of The Space of Literature entitled “The Work and Death’ Space,” Blanchot asks the questions, “Can I die? Have I the power to die?” three times, each enunciation shifting the emphasis from ‘I’ to ‘power’ to ‘death.’

When Blanchot asks, “Can I die?” on the first instance, this question

has no force except when all the escape routes have been rejected. It is when he concentrates exclusively upon himself in the certainty of his mortal condition that man’s concern is to make death possible. It does not suffice for him that he is mortal; he understands that he has to become mortal, that he must be mortal twice over: sovereignly, extremely mortal. That is his human vocation. Death, in the human perspective, is not a given, it must be achieved. It is a task, one which we take up actively, one which becomes the source of our activity and mastery. Man dies, that is nothing. But man is, starting out from his death.

For a being that must account for their ownmost death that makes them, death becomes, in a shrewd twist of thought, an accomplishment, an act, a suicide. To make death possible is, as Kirilov in Dostoevksy’s Demons formulates it, “practically [to grant] us the right to live.” It is to find a path from one to oneself and also from one to God, to the abslute, to existence as such, in a suicide that in order to be affirmed must be carried out.  

Yet, the addition of ‘practically,’ like in much else of Kirilov’s dizzying and disorienting language, Blanchot finds moreover a shame and a fear that precisely these thoughts of God mask by giving death a face. In the second instance, then, it is a question of the power of death: Have I the power to die, or does this power not belong to death itself? Against the anonymous omnipotence of death, one becomes utterly powerless, for to meet death is always to be met by death first, just as to grasp death is to be grasped by death, such that in the third instance of the question, it is the very impossibility of death that is at stake, for it is not I that dies.

Do I myself die, or do I not rather die always other from myself, so that I would have to say that properly speaking I do not die? Can I die? Have I the power to die?

The death that I make possible in my sovereignty over myself is not the same as the death in which I cease, that impossible death which “I” do not die, for this death has no relation to me. Death doubles as does the self, which is split both in relation to itself and to death. Consciousness of disappearing severs from consciousness disappearing, the self that kills from the self that is killed, and the death that the one makes a possibility from the death into the impossibility of which the other dissolves.

The expression “I kill myself” suggests the doubling which is not taken into account. For “I” is a self in the plenitude of its action and resolution, capable of acting sovereignly upon itself, always strong enough to reach itself with its blow. And yet the one who is thus struck is no longer I, but another, so that when I kill myself, perhaps it is “I” who does the killing, but it is not done to me. Nor is it my death – the one I dealt – that I have now to die, but rather the death which I refused, which I neglected, and which is this very negligence.

Who then is the subject of suicide?

For Spinoza, when “I kill myself,” I am not the one that kills myself even though I am the one that dies. For Blanchot, when “I kill myself,” I can certainly be the one who kills, but it is not my self who is killed.