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Durham University

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Publication details for Dr Gerald Moore

Moore, Gerald (2013). Embers of the Sublime: Sacrifice and the Sensation of Existence. The Senses and Society 8(1): 37-49.

Author(s) from Durham


In The Inner Touch: Archaeology of a Sensation (2007), Daniel Heller-Roazen traces the history of what one might call a feeling of being alive, before drawing attention to twentieth-century philosophers' fascination with an apparent dimming of vitality. The work of Jean-Luc Nancy offers something of an exception to this, since what Nancy has called the “withdrawal of the gods” exposes us to an end of sensation that also renews it, by revealing “sense” to consist in our “sublime” and joyful exposure to nothing. In his reworking of the Kantian sublime, Nancy diagnoses sacrifice, in particular, as a disenchanting relic of metaphysics, which contaminates and attenuates any prospective encounter with our sublime finitude. But there is a crucial ambiguity over what this reworking entails. Nancy seems to imply the prospect of increasingly coming into contact with a sublime “évanouissement du sensible,” a fading away of the sensible encountered at the limits of experience. In saying this, he comes into contact with what Bernard Stiegler has described as a “catastrophe du sensible”—a vitiation of affect that is anything but sublime, and which, following the mass-murderer Richard Durn, he identifies with “the loss of the feeling of existing [la perte du sentiment d'exister].”