European Philosophy – Bataille
George Bataille (1897 – 1962 CE) was the philosopher closest to the Surrealist art movement in Paris of the twenties and thirties, an outlying member as Breton, author of the Surrealist manifestos and “Pope of Surrealism”, disliked him and his understanding of what Surrealism was. Like Nietzsche, Bataille’s father went insane when he was a young boy, and he wrote of the shock to his world when his mother went with the doctor into the next room to discuss his father’s condition, and his father shouted out, “Doctor, let me know when you are done f%$@ing my wife!”.
Bataille, who was interested in Freud and attended Kojeve’s lectures on Hegel with Lacan, was fascinated with the obscene and its mystical identity with the sacred. He wrote what are very likely some of the most obscene and disturbing pornographic stories in existence, and I am including internet fan fiction as well as the rest of French literature. Bataille was fascinated with transgression and violation. The individual self is a rupture, a thrusting out from and tearing of the world, similar to Fichte’s concept of Das Ich but given a Freudian sexual twist. Bataille was talented at inventing violent and sexual metaphors, comparing self-conception and assertion of the ego to an ape erection, an orgasm, a fascist revolution, and a blood spurt from the heart of an Aztec sacrificial victim.
Nietzsche argued that the great thinker should encompass all without exclusion, subsuming all contradictions as Hegel had hoped to do with his system. Bataille believed in including and encompassing the most reviled of things in order to achieve mystical visions, much as some ancient Shamans would cut themselves to achieve ecstatic states of consciousness. In one passage, after arguing that science had overturned mythology, and so the modern mythology of science and reason would have to be overturned, Bataille compares civilization to an orgy, in which the participants bind an ape, bury it headfirst in the ground, and celebrate its death spasms. Clearly, he has the earlier passage of Zarathustra in mind, and is mocking the way that humanity wallows in decadence while celebrating itself as the superior opposite of the ape. Bataille also argued that Salvador Dali’s painting The Lugubrious Game was the most beautiful painting ever because it had succeeded in including a shit stain as beautiful.
Like Nietzsche, Bataille rejected nationalism, fascism and racism, arguing that no one should befriend a racist and that Nietzsche’s sister is possibly worse than Judas for betraying her brother’s work to the Nazis. Bataille identified fascism with an obsession with cleanliness and purity, an obsession with boundaries, exclusion, and repression of the self, the very things that Nietzsche sought to overcome and Bataille sought to encompass.
In Ecce Homo, Nietzsche wrote that he was not a man, but dynamite. Jaspers wrote that Nietzsche had dynamited the mountain, such that now we can freely construct what we wish out of the pieces. Bataille wrote that Nietzsche was a star, so in the end he had to explode, as only such a tragic end was fitting for so great an individual.