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Jean-Luc Nancy

Jean-Luc Nancy is a French philosopher and the author of Being Singular Plural, Inoperative Community, The Sense of the World, The Experience of Freedom, and The Gravity of Thought, among many others.


"[A] brief siesta of an inquiry into slumber."

– Toby Lichtig

"Nancy traces, not an absence of subjectivity, but another formation of the I in this meditative text--part thesis and part reverie, as much a nocturne as a treatise--and guides us toward the province of Morpheus."

– Charles Shepherdson

"The book is exemplary of Nancy's practice of finite thinking-thinking without concepts, categories, and other philosophical machinery."

– Gerald L. Bruns



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The Fall of Sleep

Jean-Luc Nancy's The Fall of Sleep: A Paraphrase


1. The nature of the fall particular to the fall of sleep ("I am falling asleep") is a gathering loosening, the feeling of the loosening of feeling, the falling away of the fall. Sleep is the force that leads us into sleep. It does not transform us ("metamorphosis"), but rather it opens a space within us ("endomorphosis"), an interiority which we recognize by way of our falling into it.

2. In sleep, the boundary between self and world has faded: it is not I that sleeps, but rather something other that slips into and perfectly fits the mold of I. Night has fallen outside, perhaps; unmistakably it has fallen within the sleeper, for he has become indistinct to himself. The second fall of sleep: a fall of distinctions. The sleeper's eyes roll back, his outward gaze peers inward.

3. The thing apart from its appearance, Kant's thing-in-itself, is the condition of the sleeping self. When awake, I am myself; when asleep, I am oneself.

4. Sleep suspends the passion of exhausted lovers, their ardor momentarily -- rapturously -- forgotten. To sleep together is to sleep with all sleepers, is to sleep with the sleeping world. The difference (light) of day and the indifference (darkness) of night. Night obliterates the shadow of the sundial. The indifference (equality) of sleep.

5. Day as surface, night as substance. The sleep of God differentiated the second day from the first. The ex nihilo of the fiat lux -- the dark nothing eclipsed by light -- is inherited by sleep. An impossibly complex cinematographic machinery of dream and its own imminent fall. The dreamer who wonders whether he is dreaming, his is an awareness with no object.

6. The rhythm of falling asleep mimics the rhythm of sleep (biological) in accordance with the rhythm of night (cosmic). One must trust in sleep ("one puts mistrust to sleep"), in its guidance toward nowhere, in order to be lulled to sleep. Being rocked to sleep is a rocking between something and nothing, the same rocking of all the world's symmetries.

7. No sleep for the soul. The soul is itself the rhythm of sleep.

8. Death, a sleep without waking, without waiting. If a dead man could talk, he would say that he is sleeping; he would say, as would all sleepers, that he has joined eternity. Death: the rhythm of the infinite enters the finite. Death: when thought finally falls asleep.

9. The sleeper who fears sleeping, who fears abandoning his fear to sleep. The vision immediately preceding sleep is that of the absence of vision -- the horror of this vision may pursue the sleeper as he descends into sleep. To sleep is to see seeing itself, is to see the other side of seeing and sojourn there.

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