The Lesser Existences

Étienne Souriau, an Aesthetics for the Virtual

2021
Author:

David Lapoujade
Translated by Erik Beranek

The Lesser Existences

On the complex aesthetics and ontology at work in Étienne Souriau’s unique oeuvre


Taking the form of a sketch or an outline, the perfection of the lesser existences lies in the incompletion with which they imbue all reality. Through discussions of modern art ranging from the dispossessed characters of Kafka and Beckett to the grids of Agnes Martin and the protographies of Oscar Muñoz, David Lapoujade leads the reader into a complex philosophical world.

In this concise but expansive exegesis of the philosophical aesthetics of Étienne Souriau, philosopher David Lapoujade provides a lucid introduction to many of the key concepts underpinning Souriau’s existential pluralism. Among the various modes of existence that populate a world, Souriau grants particular importance to virtual beings—the lesser existences. Always taking the form of a sketch or an outline, the perfection of such existences lies precisely in the incompletion with which they imbue all reality. They exist with a problematizing force, posing questions and inviting the establishment of an “art” that would make them more real. And yet, for this to happen, another existence must first see them—must be capable of hearing their appeals—and must be willing to defend their right to exist.

Through discussions of modern art ranging from the dispossessed characters of Kafka and Beckett to the grids of Agnes Martin and the protographies of Oscar Muñoz, Lapoujade leads the reader into a complex philosophical world, brimming with modal existences and animated by a unique conception of creative processes, where the philosopher as artist or artist as philosopher becomes an advocate, defending the right of certain realities to gain in existence. For Souriau, nothing is given in advance, everything is a work in the making: such is the instaurative practice that grounds his entire oeuvre.

The Lesser Existences

David Lapoujade is professor of philosophy at Université Paris 1–Sorbonne, and author of numerous books, including William James: Empiricism and Pragmatism, Aberrant Movements: The Philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, and Powers of Time: Versions of Bergson (Univocal/Minnesota, 2018).



Erik Beranek is translator of Étienne Souriau’s The Different Modes of Existence and Jacques Rancière’s Béla Tarr, the Time After and cotranslator of Intolerable: Writings from Michel Foucault and the Prisons Information Group (1970–1980), all from Minnesota.
The Lesser Existences

Contents


Abbreviations


1. One Monad Too Many?


2. Modes of Existence


3. How to See


4. Distentio animi


5. Of Instauration


6. The Dispossessed


Appendix. Art and Philosophy


Étienne Souriau


Notes