A thing is nothing other than the difference between that
which is in this thing and that in which this thing is. Unless one
guarantees this double sense, there are no thinkable things. Every
reductionist who claims to deduce that which this or that thing is
from that which composes this or that thing only succeeds in dissolving
the very thing that they claim to account for. We attempt
to accomplish the exact opposite of this: to guarantee things as
invaluable differences embedded in the distribution channels of
being of the world. To complete our task, we set out to discover
the meaning which circulates among things, between that which
composes them and that which they compose, inside or outside us,
with or without us.
This meaning that we call for, and that thought seeks, is not
salvation. It is not the possibility of holding onto the essential,
necessary, or genuine self after the end of life, or in our damaged
Some ways of thinking seek salvation. Here we seek to redeem
nothing: not the soul, not personhood, not the body, not thought,
not a community, not the proletariat. A thing among things, this
treatise attempts to save neither me nor you; between things there
is no salvation whatsoever.
The meaning we seek is not reducible to a mere signification,
a language game, a body of practices, or a normative system.
Whoever calls for a semiotic meaning of things or a return to the
description of their signification, to the ways in which we name or
make use of things, or to our linguistic, social, or cultural practices
will be disappointed. The promise of thought is not kept. I seek a
meaning of things outside us, and I have returned to what takes
place between us.
Salvation is the hope of situating oneself outside things (escaping
annihilation, death, oblivion, inauthenticity, alienation, reification).
Signification is the disappointment of never managing
to abstract things from the relations that we maintain with them.
Salvation situates us outside of things, while signification precludes
things from being situated outside of us.
I do not wish for the salvation of my soul, my body, human
beings, my ideas, or my individuality. I do not ask for the (linguistic,
cultural, historic) signification of things – our way of referring
ourselves to them, of constructing their significance, of using them,
of exchanging them, of making them significant among us, for us,
and by us. No, I simply search for a meaning of things, whether
this is the meaning of me, of you, or of a piece of black slate.
In truth, this meaning – neither completely existential nor
completely semiotic – is simply the possibility of passing from one
thing to the other. It is the possibility and necessity of never being
reduced to a thing that would be nothing else, that would be in
nothing else, and that would not exist in and by itself – whether
one calls that matter, nature, history, society, God, or an individual.
As if one could reduce the black slate to being nothing
but a material thing or a natural thing or a social thing. As if one
could then consider matter, nature, or society as things outside
appearances, absolute, remaining in themselves. This ghost of
‘compactness’, which will be the adversary of our whole adventure
of thought, will only disappear on one condition: for each thing to
make sense, it must have two senses. Nature or history as things
contain many things (first sense), but they are contained by things
other than themselves (second sense).