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The Unfinished System of Nonknowledge

2004
Author:

Georges Bataille
Stuart Kendall, editor
Translated by Stuart Kendall and Kendall Michelle
Introduction by Stuart Kendall

The Unfinished System of Nonknowledge

A major work by one of the twentieth century’s most important philosophers

Edited and with an introduction by Stuart Kendall

A deft reconstruction of what Georges Bataille envisioned as a continuation of his work La Somme Athéologique, this volume brings together the writings of one of the foremost French thinkers of the twentieth century on the central topic of his oeuvre. Gathering Bataille’s most intimate writings, these essays, aphorisms, notes, and lectures on nonknowledge, sovereignty, and sacrifice clarify and extend Bataille’s radical theology, his philosophy of history, and his ecstatic method of meditation.

What The Unfinished System of Nonknowledge proper offers and which cannot be found, in any language at such high density, is a sustained meditation on non-knowing.

Philosophy in Review

A deft reconstruction of what Georges Bataille envisioned as a continuation of his work La Somme Athéologique, this volume brings together the writings of one of the foremost French thinkers of the twentieth century on the central topic of his oeuvre. Gathering Bataille’s most intimate writings, these essays, aphorisms, notes, and lectures on nonknowledge, sovereignty, and sacrifice clarify and extend Bataille’s radical theology, his philosophy of history, and his ecstatic method of meditation.

Following Bataille’s lead, as laid out in his notebooks, editor Stuart Kendall assembles the fragments that Bataille anticipated collecting for his summa. Kendall’s introduction offers a clear picture of the author’s overall project, its historical and biographical context, and the place of these works within it. The "system" that emerges from these articles, notes, and lectures is "atheology," understood as a study of the effects of nonknowledge.

At the other side of realism, Bataille’s writing in La Somme pushes language to its silent end. And yet, writing toward the ruin of language, in search of words that slip from their meanings, Bataille uses language—and the discourses of theology, philosophy, and literature—against itself to return us to ourselves, endlessly. The system against systems is in fact systematic, using systems and depending on discourses to achieve its own ends—the end of systematic thought.


The Unfinished System of Nonknowledge

A medievalist librarian by training, Georges Bataille (1897–1962) was active in the French intellectual scene from the 1920s through the 1950s. He founded the journal Critique and was a member of the Acéphale group and the Collège de Sociologie. Among his works available in English are Visions of Excess (Minnesota, 1985), Tears of Eros (1989), and Erotism (1990).


Stuart Kendall is a freelance translator who lives in Stony Brook, New York.

Michelle Kendall is a freelance translator who lives in Stony Brook, New York.

The Unfinished System of Nonknowledge

What The Unfinished System of Nonknowledge proper offers and which cannot be found, in any language at such high density, is a sustained meditation on non-knowing.

Philosophy in Review

Georges Bataille stands out as one of the most enigmatic, often misunderstood, and yet profoundly influential intellectuals of the last hundred years. This remains a valuable collection of the works of one of the most disturbing but also most important thinkers of the last hundred years. As such, it should be of real interest not only to philosophical and literary critics, but also to scholars of religion and to all others struggling to recover spiritual value in a world torn by violence and chaos.

Southern Humanities Review

Captures the main trends of Bataille’s thinking.

Journal of Religion