GIORGIO AGAMBEN — Angels and Demons

M.C.Escher Angels and Demons

Giorgio Agamben — August 4, 2022, my translation from Italian, the original is on Quodlibet.

The speeches one hears so often today about the end of history and the beginning of a post-human and post-historical age all forget the simple fact that man is always in the process of becoming human and thus also of ceasing to be human and, as it were, dying as a human.

The claim of a reached animality or achieved humanity of Man at the end of history fails to account for this inherent incompleteness of human being. Similar considerations apply to discourses on the death of God. Just as Man is always in the process of becoming human or ceasing to be human, so too God’s becoming divine is always in progress and never accomplished once and for all. It is in this sense that Pascal’s phrase about Christ in agony until the end of time should be understood. In agony — that is, according to the etymon, in struggle or in conflict with his own divinity — and for this reason never dead, but always as it were dying to himself. The only meaning of human history is in this incessant agony, and the talk about the end of history seems to ignore the fact — also self-evident — that history is always in the act of ending.

Hence the late Hölderlin’s insistence on half-gods and figures that are nearly divine or more than human. History is made up of beings already divine and those not yet divine, already human and not yet human: that is, there is a “half-history” just as there are half-gods and quasi-humans. That is why the only keys to interpreting history are angelo-logy and demono-logy, that allow us to see history— as the Fathers and Paul himself had done, when he calls the powers and governments of this world “angels” (or “demons”) — as a relentless struggle between less than gods and more — or less — than men. And if we can say anything about our present condition, it is that in the last two years we have seen with unprecedented clarity the demons fiercely at work in history and the not-yet-demons follow them blindly in their vain attempt to cast out the angels forever — those angels who, after all, before their infinite fall in history, they themselves once were.

August 4, 2022
Giorgio Agamben



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Lena Bloch

Lena Bloch

Background in psychology of learning, literature, philosophy, math.