Philosophical Performances in Everyday Life Situations[1]

Rüdiger H. Rimpler, Reflex e.V. Hannover (Independent Research Network)


To Paula,

as life seems like a River


01. Let’s dance: Thinking in circles

1st Circle: There is currently a spirit of optimism among the protagonists of the so-called movement ‘Performance Philosophy’.[2] Accordingly, there are manifold approaches of how to realize philosophy as performance. Such a variety of conceptual approaches cannot be reduced to a single denominator or a single definition (Cull 2014, 26). Nevertheless, such a definition would be desirable (Perinbanayagam 2014). However, as long as the field of performance philosophy is still emerging, definition-making seems to be accidental. Based on ontological or even phenomenological considerations, ‘variety’ is de facto taken as an intrinsic value (see, for instance, Cull 2014, 22, 30-31). To say it with Adorno: it is the non-identical and its power that are the supplying source of that movement and its spirit. Instead of re-negotiating the institutional boundaries between disciplines within the fields of art and science, artists and philosophers are trying to create something new in an interdisciplinary way. Thus, ‘Performance Philosophy’ may also be seen as a special kind of art-based research (see, for instance, Krasner et al 2006, Böhler et al 2013, Cull et al 2014).

This creative focus allows every conceptual attempt to be seen as a simple activity among other heterogeneous activities of sense-making by doing philosophy: coming together, speaking to each other, discussing, enjoying, listening, watching, tolerating, feeling appreciated, just to name a few, are intrinsic performative aspects of a vivid style of doing philosophy (see also Gauß and Totzke 2015, 79). That is, conceptual thinking is an activity in its own right, but no longer seen as the only sense-making activity within philosophy. Under these conditions the idea of philosophy is changing in a practical and also performative way. It is a philosophical transition that derives from the commitment of those who claim to do philosophy in a performative way, the protagonists of ‘Performance Philosophy’.

2nd Circle: Internally this transition is often characterized in the context of embodied experiences or affective meaning (see Fischer-Lichte 2008). Within the scope of this paper I understand this as a call to adopt a performative attitude towards reality. Moreover, some embodied minds may develop the individual ability to recall their philosophical thoughts and convictions at any moment in order to match them corporally and emotionally with the situation with which they were actually faced.[3] Thus, one would be ready for a serious and holistic inquiry of that which could be called ‘The Void’, ‘The Real’, or simply ‘The all-embracing presence of immanence’.[4] One’s individual ability and performative attitude are conceived as an alternative to the non-performative way of doing philosophy (that is, thinking about reality only occasionally in times of silence and contemplation).

Such an alternative possibility, which we might describe as ‘being able to recall own thoughts and philosophical convictions almost every time you want and in almost every situation you may be faced with’, seems like a promise that is both trivial and also sophisticated. It seems trivial in as much as one is prompted to perceive the profane world of everyday life in a mindful and wide-awake way.[5] In addition, one may then be aware of one’s emotions in the given situation and share the emotions of one’s contemporaries more consciously—emotions which people normally are used to fade out in everyday life. Last but not least, these perceptions may provoke new thoughts. Therefore one should learn how to simultaneously link one’s personal emotions as they arise with the thoughts recalled within or also generated by the situation itself. Thus the ‘empirical territories’ (Böhler 2014, 185 §33) when and where a thought is taking place may be grounded in the earth of individual emotions within an embodied mind. The intellectual basis of thinking, and the relation to what could be called ‘The Void’, are thereby changing as they get less unstable.[6]

3rd Circle : As the affective meaning of a single thought is dependent on a specific variety of individual emotions, there is strictly speaking neither a single method nor a universal concept that allows us to ‘learn’ how we could link our thoughts with emotions in order to articulate them adequately within a rhizomatic network of individuals.[7] Moreover, it is a question of having the necessary skills and abilities, one might say a philosophical-performative competence, which can only be acquired intrinsically and self-motivated. However, there should be a more or less methodological way to arrange external things so that they may help internally to develop the competence in question. One might call such an arrangement a performative setting beyond the stage. In order to explain this idea in more detail, it is useful to first take a look at the status quo of doing philosophy in a performative way.

02. Philosophy is in the house

Philosophy encounters performance under titles such as ‘Philosophy on Stage’ or ‘Soundcheck Philosophie’, to name but a few.[8] In this way philosophical thinking is set in motion and to some extent celebrated on a stage like a multimedia event. This is of interest insofar as philosophy-in-motion is seemingly becoming, or at least appearing, more ‘catchable’, and thereby more comprehensible. Embodied in motion on a stage through actors, dancers, artists and even thinkers, philosophy crosses institutional boundaries of universities or institutions. Philosophy in its corporal shape, so to say, steps up to the people to serve them as a connecting element, initiating a vivid mental exchange and eventually promoting feelings of mutual appreciation and closeness. Thus, the formerly so called ‘philosophia perennis’ of the One and All, of everything and nothing, is surrendering itself to temporality, not to say: vanity.

From a phenomenological and also dialectical viewpoint this can be described paradoxically: For the short while of the ongoing performance, philosophy turns into an unrepeatable event which appears to be unique for those who are participating. The precious moments when philosophy is instantaneously embodied and materially actualized at a specific place, at a specific date, on that specific stage and in that house no longer showcase any vanity nor transience. They bless those actors and participants via self-attribution, even within the same moment of the ongoing actualization, with the innocent happiness of being part of that unique and unrepeatable event. This happiness of participating in such moments, and of being part of a unique and unrepeatable event, is not only experienced as an ephemeral gift. Additionally, this experience of uniqueness and instantaneous infinity is retrospectively attributed to that which appeared to both actors and spectators in a corporal shape as philosophy. But now these precious moments and their (simple) presence are irretrievably gone. And it comes again to the eternal return of everyday life—in academic life as well as in theater business.

From a historical viewpoint this kind of philosophical transition can be characterized as an attempt to re-discover the performative aspects of doing philosophy which were buried alive during times of hostility when philosophers closed among themselves. Commemorating the dramatic composition of Plato’s dialogues (see Rokem 2010 and Puchner 2010) and the permanent entanglement of their arguments in individual concerns, habits and other circumstances of everyday life, one might say that philosophical performances are not simply trying to illustrate philosophical thoughts and notions, but also to affiliate them with coherencies closely related to life. Thus, performances contribute to the public acceptance of philosophical inquiries as long as their earnestness is not at stake or deeply undermined. They may even promote the public perception of doing philosophy as a practice that is worthy to human existence.

Nevertheless, despite all these advantages, there remains a doubt regarding the very idea of staging philosophy within the boundaries of a stage or specially constructed event. Reality differs from fiction as it possesses the ability to escalate seriously. Traditional mise-en-scènes and enactments do not possess such ability as they can only escalate in a serious sense whenever reality descends suddenly, or even necessarily, upon them. What does this mean? The first case, in which reality comes suddenly in the case of an emergency, is the worst case and thankfully happens rather rarely. The second case is foreseeable as it happens regularly and every time anew at the end of the show when the audience is applauding, the last spectator is leaving the house and the lights go out. It means that reality returns again by itself as the inevitable suspension of the initial pause which had been temporarily achieved by the stage performance.

Thus, philosophy on stage is comparable with a self-contained universe even if the boundaries between the scene and the auditorium, the transmitter and the recipient, the agiens and the patiens may oscillate during the course of a performance.[9] It only comes to reality itself either at the end of the show or by the occurrence of unforeseen events which push the boundaries of that which seems usually to be expected. Both the sudden and the necessary descent of reality upon the enactment make situations existentially grave for actors as well as for spectators.

03. Gravity beyond the scene: On reality’s capacity for escalation

In his essay ‘Staging Philosophy: Toward a Performance of Immanent Expression’ Arno Böhler takes the gravity of the situation into account by referring to the regime of passive synthesis in all’ (2014, 190 §18). According to him this passive synthesis, which he characterizes as the ‘yoking of mind and matter’ (176 §31), is taking place in a pre-reflective manner and may be seen as the bottomless root of what I call reality’s capacity for serious escalation. With reference to Spinoza and Deleuze, he contrasts this passive synthesis with the self-expression of ‘The Void’ that encloses passive synthesis as an unconscious part of itself. Thus, for Böhler, the aim of thinking should be to ‘establish a thoughtful relation toward the void within the void’ which holistically means ‘that the void immanates within itself in a self-reflective manner’ (2014, 183 §20). In this way thinking is conceptualized as the primal ability of an embodied mind to establish a relation towards the void on a ‘self-reflective conceptual level’ (2014: 193 §36).[10]

But due to the liminal and unconscious character of passive synthesis, thinking is inherently limited in its capacity to catch this intrinsic counterpart of the void. According to Böhler philosophy on stage would therefore have to ‘develop a corporeal sensibility in respect to the earthly regime of in-formed matter engaged in the performance of such an event’ (193 §36). But this is the realm of the arts, and thus an ‘alliance with the arts’ (179 §49) becomes a corrective for philosophy itself. However, for Böhler, the decisive question still seems to be how embodied minds may succeed in interrupting the automatisms of passive synthesis—automatisms and habits that notoriously predetermine our very existence. This is what he calls ‘the performance of anti-machine-like processes within the machine-like nature of passive synthesis’ (186 §37).

The questions arise of how an artist may get in touch ‘with the pre-individual sub-iectum at work in passive synthesis’ (187 §9) and how a philosopher may establish a stable relationship towards the void. Both are crucial for ‘the creation of a pause in the habitual creation of machine-like reactions’ (186 §37). Furthermore, it must be asked in which manner such a relationship has to be cultivated within a specific population and fitted for particular embodied minds so that through this relationship something new may arise as established forms are interrupted in their unfailing mechanisms of reproduction.[11]

Against this background, the process of establishing a relationship towards the void during a philosophical performance appears by itself only as a transient interruption, suspension, pause or stop in the eternal recurrence of the same. In a certain sense it is all about the sustainability of this interruption: how may we proceed with this process of interruption once the stage-event had come to its end? This is the challenge I mentioned above: reality always returns after the show is over. Reality is itself the permanent suspension of the transient interruption. This is why I think that philosophical performances should meet reality in very habitual forms—they should face everyday life, not in a ‘house’ but in real life situations. So, the notion what a philosophical performance may be is shifting again, towards a presentation of reality through reality.

With this in mind, doing philosophy in a performative way means practicing philosophy within immanence. Thus I share Böhler’s holistic assumption that a philosophy of immanence has to gather its thoughts around a notion of the Void, as a place of infinite becoming. In this context all immanent expressions become expressive forms of the Void itself. In this specific sense of self-affirmation and self-expressiveness one may speak of the Real and its expressive forms rather than of the Void. However, both are the two sides of the same coin as becoming is their unveiling truth (see Hegel [1832] 2015, 59-60). In this integrated and dialectical sense, I use the term ‘all-embracing presence’ within the scope of this paper.

04. Enter the Void – Discover the Real

One of the key components of that self-expressiveness of the Real is its event-like nature. In contrast, the counterpart of the Real, Böhler’s ‘passive synthesis’, is not only understood as a pre-reflexive and unconscious but also as a pseudo-automatic process. According to this, the event-like nature of the Real is to a certain extent neglected as passive synthesis seems to be driven by a compulsive logic. In the context of this hermetic conception, every refusal ‘to follow [the] algorithmic patterns of informed matter’ (Böhler 2014, 186 §37) would appear in itself as a machine-like anti-reaction, but this cannot be what is meant by artistic or philosophical freedom. How can an embodied mind really be free if its very being has always been pre-reflexively determined by algorithmic patterns? If ‘immanation’ is really that compulsive cycle of eternal presence, it has to be asked where the power could come from to break on through to something new that is not the result of pure passive synthesis.[12] At least in this regard the idea of passive synthesis has to be criticized.

The event-like nature of the Real is neither a mere function of pure uninformed matter nor a dialectical moment of an arbitrary will, which would be grounded in the empirical character of individual actors.[13] On the contrary, it is basically linked with a specific uncertainty which is inherent in every inductive conclusion. An uncertainty which turns out to be a certainty: ‘Things never turn out the way you think they will.’ Certainly, this truism stands for exceptionality rather than for regularities. Nevertheless, this unpredictable exceptionality is a fact that figures in real life situations as it is one of the reasons why real life situations are able to become terribly serious. The all-embracing event-like nature of the Real, and the specific unpredictability as a part of its self-expressiveness, permanently interferes with even the most ordinary forms of reproduction and unfailing routines in the process of reality. This is truly to be considered as ‘the opening to an alterity that nevertheless remains absolutely immanent’ (Böhler 2014, 172 §9).

In other words, one of these various pre-reflexive, algorithm-like patterns of passive synthesis stands obviously for the irregular uprising of deviations at unexpected times and places. At least, this seems to be one of the aspects of the alterity as cited by Böhler Another aspect is that every time we start thinking about our very being within the immanence, alterity seems to ‘happen’ within our minds as we leave the circle of habitual thinking. Almost every child leaves the boundaries of habitual thinking one day. It starts to ask philosophical questions like ‘Where do I come from?’ or ‘Why does the world exist?’ In this holistic sense, alterity is preliminarily inscribed in the human mind. This may be taken as an initial and natural ‘modulation of mind’ which is overlapped by the needs of everyday life when growing up. Keeping this alterity in mind means to be conscious that every time we start thinking about immanence we immediately start to enable a transient consciousness of the all-embracing presence of immanence.

05. The all-embracing presence of immanence

Due to the liminal character of passive synthesis, the all-embracing presence of immanence, ‘The Void’ or ‘The Real’, is permanently drifting and flees from consciousness.[14] It is not a normal object of intentionality to which we may draw our attention directly, as, for example, a cherry tree in the garden or a cup of coffee on a desk. A self-reflective relation toward the Void may only be built indirectly via a simultaneous modulation of thinking and perception. Once such a relation is transiently built, reality is revealed as a matrix[15] of the self-expressing immanence and thereby gains an intrinsic value. Paradoxically, this intrinsic value can be conceptualized only insofar as the first-person perspective of the breathing, feeling and thinking individual who is actually trying to conceptualize it is not denied. In other words, as the construction of a relation towards immanence is always linked with the embodied mind who is actually building such a relation, the specific emotions and perceptions of such an embodied mind cannot be consistently neglected within a theory of immanence. Whenever we think about the presence of immanence our first-person perspective will always be affected and cannot be consistently de-centered.

Thus, the liminal presence of immanence can only be holistically conceptualized and explained to a limited extent. Beyond that it may only be situationally and bodily experienced in order to describe it to another limited extent from case to case in terms of affectivity.[16] To a certain degree, this conclusion might be scientifically unsatisfying. However, it follows consequentially from the theoretical assumptions of immanence. This implies that the validity of abstract thoughts regarding the presence of immanence is limited by the empirical sensitivity of an embodied mind, and that even more than before the basic needs of this embodied mind have to be considered. One of these needs is its self-localization within a spatio-temporal framework and meaningful context. From a first-person perspective the individual localizes itself phenomenologically within a specific population within immanence, and takes this population for its cosmos. The attempt to build a stable relation towards immanence by the power of mind starts primarily with a bodily self-localization of the individual within its cosmos. Thus, immanence is showing its face in the shape of a given population at a specific place in time and space.

Against this background, the world cannot be simply compared with a stage, which might or might not be entered by professional philosophers so that they can enter into a lively dialogue to communicate their thoughts to a broader audience. The intrinsic value of reality within the all-embracing presence of immanence encourages every embodied mind to leave temporarily the daily routines that structure our world in order to experience and to think this world in a modified way. Through our doing and acting we unconsciously embody the structures on which everyday life is built. Furthermore, we have often almost lost the required feeling to stay aware of these structures as they became something like a ‘second nature’.

With this in mind it is reasonable to provide a performative impetus not only to leave the usual and exclusive forms of our habitual perception but also to experience everyday life in an investigative and wide-awake way. In an actual, lived, and situational way, we may learn to experience ourselves as embedded in social and functional frameworks and conventions. These intersubjectively mediated processes of a socially related self-experience may serve as a starting point for a holistic self-localization within the all-embracing presence of immanence. For the purpose of such a holistic self-localization, thinking may be grounded on situational emotions and impressions.

In this context, ‘to provide a performative impetus’ means that an individual is externally encouraged to adopt a performative attitude towards reality. This attitude may be characterized as a playful and experimental attitude that nevertheless involves a serious purpose. It enables the individual to achieve the required distance toward itself and toward everyday life, which is necessary for a holistic self-localization within the presence of immanence. It modifies the situational context to such a degree that the situation itself may transiently appear as virtually separated from its habitual framework. Metaphorically speaking, an individual finds herself again in the role of a background actor who tries to perceive the situation in which she is actually involved under the angle of a drifting performance. Every individual may participate in such a performance as an embodied mind who is holistically trying to localize herself within the all-embracing but permanently drifting presence of immanence. Thus, a professional qualification as an artist or a philosopher is not necessarily required to become a ‘performer’. The only condition is that the participating individuals may build manageable networks in advance that allow them to exchange and to reflect their thoughts, emotions and impressions once the performance has ended.

The dissociation of the situation from its framework is artificially initiated by the performative attitude of the individual.[17] This means a transient and intrinsically motivated modification of perception. And yet this is externally encouraged insofar as there is an external impetus—that is to say, a performative set-up to which participating individuals may agree. ‘Performative setting’ means in this context that there is an identical pre-selection of similar situations which every individual of a given network may experience within a predefined period and place in time and space. This may help to create approximately equal starting conditions within this laboratory of self-expressing immanence that we call reality. Moreover, within a manageable performance network, the participating individuals who are members of this group may adopt a kind of facilitator, who supports the individuals by finding useful performative settings and by dealing with the experiences they made during the performance.

Thus the world becomes an open stage for the self-expressing immanence, and reality starts to appear as a matrix for these expressions. But the self-awareness of this immanence would still remain fragmented in thousands and thousands of singularities if there were no communication between the individuals. In this regard networking becomes more and more meaningful as a specific form to de-fragment the self-expressions of immanence and to gain awareness of it: immanence will ‘show its face’ more clearly to a group of networking individuals than to a single one. Besides, as individuals are not the subject of a perspective ‘sub specie aeternitatis’ but ‘sub specie durationis’,[18] communication and networking among individuals not only ensures a de-fragmentation but also contributes to stabilizing the awareness of this self-expressing process. Prior ‘results’ of awareness may survive the individual existence and may be incorporated within further processes. Last but not least, the self-expressing process of immanence becomes more variable and flexible as it does not have to go back to the very beginning every time an individual embodied mind dies.

One might think that the larger the networks between the individuals would become, the more intensive would be the awareness and the significance of the individuals’ descriptions of their experiences. But this is not the case, as an increasing network size leads to an abstract decrease in the variety of thinking as it fosters the emergence of a leveling mainstream. Furthermore, it may also lead to a decrease in emotional awareness with regard to the emotions individuals are able to share with each other by reflecting together their very own experiences and thoughts. To avoid misunderstandings in this regard: it is not as important that these emotions resemble each other so much as the degree to which the experienced situations resemble each other. It depends more on the degree to which all of the networking members become aware of the specific emotions and thoughts among each other. This requires an intensive exchange of individual emotions and thoughts in the wake of a performance. One of the performative aspects of this intensive exchange is that it eventually promotes feelings of mutual appreciation and closeness within the network.

06. Plunge into life and get wired

According to Julian Klein, emotions are more relevant than thoughts with regard to what we perceive as ‘real’ or even serious (see Klein 2010c, 78). Thus, emotions are not only closely linked with our physical body but they are also rooted more deeply in our immediate presence than our thoughts. In order to learn how to emotionally perceive reality for a specific period as a matrix for self-expressing immanence, it is fundamental to avoid indifference to everyday life situations. We may experimentally learn to adopt a playful and serious attitude at once. This attitude would help us to distance ourselves from our immediate desires for a specific duration, in order to experience the very typical situations of everyday life out of this distance in a wide-awake way and to relive these experiences consciously within a manageable network.[19]

Within this context the meaning of adopting a performative attitude is comparable with that which Klein describes as an ‘artistic mode of perception’ and as ‘artistic experience’:

There are many reasons to define the artistic (rather than the purely aesthetic) mode of perception on the level of the framing. In the artistic mode of perception, having an artistic experience means simultaneously finding yourself outside of a framework while still being inside that framework. [...] If the framework more or less continues ‘all the way through us,’ we are capable of feeling that. Erika Fischer-Lichte calls this a liminal state, a “betwixt and between.” [...] The artistic way of seeing the world encompasses an awareness that we find ourselves in a reality outside of that which we regard as the content of our perception. (Klein 2010a, 132-133)

Thus, becoming aware of the presence of immanence acquires a new meaning. Paradoxically, it means that we may first have to gain emotional distance before we are able to plunge into everyday life more consciously and sensitively. This distance, taken as an intentionally modified perception, may enable the participants of a philosophical performance within everyday life to observe themselves from the outside while entering a situation as planned within the performative setting. From the holistic perspective of immanence, we find ourselves ‘outside of a framework while still being inside that framework’. From within reality as a matrix for the self-expressions of immanence, we ‘find ourselves in a reality outside of that which we regard as the content of our perception’ (2010a, 132-133). Participants may even ‘become aware of how it feels to enter the framework’ (Klein 2010a: 133) of the situation and how this framework is constituted not only by social conventions and common convictions, but even by one’s own habits.

As mentioned above, everyone may localize one’s own position under the angle of reality as a matrix in order to enter into a holistic relation towards the all-embracing presence of immanence. This holistic self-localization may be characterized as an attempt of ‘seeking one’s proper place within a cosmos in relation to all others’ (Böhler 2014, 187 §30). In this sense everybody among us is a performer of one’s own reality, so to speak, be it consciously or unconsciously, deliberately or unintentionally. To detect and to feel the roles that we incorporate unconsciously through our habits, and that we may play within specific frameworks, is one side of a holistic performance within everyday life. The other side is to consciously perceive reality in a wide-awake way, so that we may re-discover it from a new point of view. Finally, as a third step, we may re-live all these impressions with members of the performance network who may share similar experiences as they participated in the same performance respectively performative setting. This last step opens up the opportunity that the connected individuals relate the results of their self-localization to each other, and thereby become once again more self-aware of their own role within reality with regard to the ultimate frame within all frames, the all-embracing presence of immanence. This sounds like a philosophy of spiritual mindfulness,[20] but it is one of the consequences of a holistic philosophy that tries to take immanence as a whole into account. Phenomenologically speaking, reality loses its functional context as a matrix for the self-expressing immanence and melts into pure presence to the degree that we actually become aware of the role we play and the frame we share within a given situation. Beyond the unconsciousness of our embodied routines and habits, reality re-starts to become ‘really real’, so to speak, as if we wake up by plunging intentionally into everyday life.

07. Final sprint

Considering that reality compares to a matrix for the self-expressing immanence there cannot be another stage than the world itself which is the appropriate place to do such philosophical performances. Against this, theatre stages become, figuratively speaking, a ‘panic room’ or ‘safe haven’ for restless minds who wander around the abandoned vastness of the Void.[21] The world itself becomes, so to speak, something like a stage for the actualization of the performance and the former spectators become performers. The performance thus gives itself its own 'territory' at a specific place and date. Place, date and duration have to be predetermined by the performative set-up, to which the members of a performance network may agree.

However, as they are often based on simple habits and conventions, everyday life situations incorporate such pre-reflexive patterns and automatisms to a high degree. These situations may more easily show us the relevant frames by modifying our perceptions into a performative or artificial perception. In this regard Klein argues in favor of a floating transfiguration of our habitual perception into an artificial mode whenever the frame of a given situation is coming to consciousness and we suddenly start to feel it: ‘If a portion of our awareness, however, is still watching the framework from the outside, it is precisely this that forms the artistic part of our perspective; the point at which we see ourselves as being within a second framework is always the point at which we observe ourselves from the outside and thus from an artistic perspective’ (Klein 2010a, 133). So the moment we start to feel the frame is at once the moment our perception had already been transfigured. As such, it remains unclear whether there could be deliberate mechanisms by which such a transfiguring process could be initialized. As long as this transfiguration seems to happen unintentionally, it is unclear if there was a real modification of our perception that had been initialized intrinsically by our own intention. With this in mind, the question is not so much how to mix up theater with reality to such a degree that the spectator starts to feel the figural frame(s) within a situation that had been intentionally performed by actors. Instead, it is more about how a real situation without designated actors and spectators may turn out by itself to show its actual frame(s). This is the reason why individuals might intentionally involve themselves in everyday life situations by following a performative setting.[22]

How might everyday life situations by themselves show the frames and perceptual habits they are based upon? A first step may be to mentally dissociate these situations from their basic frameworks and treat them as if they were material objects. Dissociated from their basic frameworks these situations may appear as objets trouvés.[23] Thus, we have to intentionally modify our perception towards a reification of the situation. This seems to conflict with the idea of perceiving the situation in a wide-awake way. However, out of this reifying distance one may be more easily ready to observe the ongoing situation in which one is actually involved. Normally, we involve ourselves in everyday life situations to satisfy our needs, such as ‘buying bread in a bakery’, ‘fueling a car at a petrol station’, or ‘buying a ticket at a ticket office’. These situations are different from exceptional events, such as an annual shareholders’ meeting, which is obviously orchestrated with a lot of props (vs. Klein 2010c, 82-83).

By contrast, it is not so easy to make standard situations show the frames and patterns we automatically share once we have entered such a situation. It may be helpful to be well-prepared in advance and to develop some leading questions which we might ask ourselves during the situation. With regard to the example ‘buying bread in a bakery’, one of the leading questions could be the following: What am I really doing when I go to a bakery, open the door, and am greeted by somebody with a question such as ‘What would you like?’ Obviously the meaning of the word ‘really’ in this question is changing enormously in relation to all of the experiences an individual would have made before in one’s life. Nevertheless, it may initiate the first step towards a holistic self-awareness of the individual while being in the ongoing situation. Further questions could be the following: ‘What am I feeling during this situation?’, ‘How far am I aware of myself, of the salesperson, of other clients and finally of the situation itself?’ Last but not least: ‘How can I localize myself within reality while I am still standing in this bakery, making experiences, re-living my emotions and thinking about this situation in total?’ The confrontation of oneself with ordinary situations in everyday life by following a performative setting aims to support oneself by localizing one’s position within one’s reality. Perhaps the situation may be experienced, at least in a transient way, such that all the frames and patterns are made perceptible and lose their significance for a while. In a metaphorical sense, this would be the moment when one’s reality would melt into the all-embracing presence of immanence. However, this is another matter. Thus, the inquiry in philosophical performances within everyday life has to be continued.


[1] I would like to thank my friends and the people of Reflex e.V. Hannover who encouraged me to write this paper. Gerhard Stamer, Giso Westing and Ignaz Steiger gave important impulses. Beyond that, Ignaz Steiger supported me with the translation. Thanks also to Eve Katsouraki and Theron Schmidt who contributed helpful reading and revision tips. Moreover, Brian Eno’s Ambient 1: Music for Airports (1978) was inspiring to me. If you have the chance, you may listen to it while reading this paper.

[2] See the various groups and activities of the same-named research network:

[3] Regarding the need for a basic consideration of bodily-affective states within philosophical thinking and doing ( leiblich-affektive Zustände) see Böhler (2013), especially 232-234.

[4] Instead of ‘The void’ or ‘The Real’, I will even use the term ‘The all-embracing presence of immanence’ as it seems to me, that this term is more flexible to denote a holistic perspective on the whole of being beyond predefined ontology. This whole of being is appearing in different aspects. ‘The void’ means to me, that the whole of being is situationally experienced rather in its negativity. ‘The Real’ means to me, that the whole of being is situationally experienced rather in its immediate and pure affirmative manifestation. On the idealistic dialectic between being, void, becoming and existence see Hegel ([1832] 2015), and also Iber (1999, 119-190).

[5] On mindful attention in an artistic and performative context, see especially Grimm (2012).

[6] This may also be one of the intentions of Heidegger’s talk on prevailing moods. See, for instance, Kenaan and Ferber (2011). Regarding the problem of establishing a stable relation towards the void see Böhler (2014, 182-184, §§20-27). On the problem of grounding in the context of Performance Philosophy see Puchner (2014).

[7] A pragmatic approach to create rhizomatic networks all over the world may be seen by the aims of Glen Brauer (2014) who promotes philosophy among embodied minds who are no professional philosophers.

[8] See, for instance, Tanzquartier Wien and Arno Böhler (2015), Soundcheck Philosophie (2016) and Die Denkerei (2014).

[9] On the idea of oscillation in this context see, for example, Fischer-Lichte (2012, 20ff), and, in a wider sense with reference to Spinoza’s ontological concept of natura naturans and natura naturata, Böhler (2014, 172 §4),

[10] By contrast, in the essay, ‘The Gymnastics of Thought: Elsa Gindler’s Networks of Knowledge’, Katja Rothe (2014) fosters a concept of ‘self-exploration’ (206) that is linked with a ‘situated, collective knowledge’ (210). This knowledge is always generated by a network of individuals who understand ‘thought as a collective, implicit, non-verbal, habitual and somatic process’ (208), which is ‘not articulated by language alone’ (209).

[11] ‘New’ in this context is not normative but descriptive, and I use it phenomenologically as an attribute, not to denote a value or criteria. For example, ‘new’ in the history of philosophy is what phenomenologically appears when the circle of machine-like reactions is broken: the ‘mechanical reproduction of the established form’ by doing philosophy means to generate specific or to vary existing concepts of the world and/or of philosophical thinking itself. So, generating concepts can be taken by itself as the established form through which philosophical thinking reproduces and justifies itself: doing philosophy means thinking, and thinking means generating concepts (theoria). By contrast, the understanding of the doing of philosophy in a wider sense—as a kind of cultural practice that is not only limited to thinking and generating concepts—is ‘new’ to all of those who still try to reproduce philosophy in its established form by generating concepts. Recognizing holistically the performative aspects of philosophical thinking as essential parts of doing philosophy turns out to be philosophically relevant as former justifications of the established form have become critical since the era of (Post-) Modernism. The idea of ‘newness’ derives in this context from an interruption in the former field of philosophical history. The concept of interruption in history is a theme of Michel Foucault’s Les mot et les choses ([1966] 1970).

[12] Within the predetermination of passive synthesis by algorithmic patterns every suspension of this logic will lead to new experiences for those who are accomplishing this suspension, as the results of this suspension will not match with the former patterns of passive synthesis.

[13] Regarding the dichotomy between ‘essential will’ and ‘arbitrary will’, see Tönnies ([1887] 2001).

[14] With a view to Heidegger’s Being and Time in this regard see Oberthür (2002).

[15] For the description of reality as a matrix in relation to performances see, for example, Wagner et al. (2008).

[16] On ‘situated knowledge’ see, for example, Rothe (2014, 209).

[17] On ‘Framework’ and ‘frames’ see Goffman 1974. On applied frame analysis within the context of theater and performance studies see especially Klein (2010a, 132-133; 2010b 3; 2010c, 81).

[18] On this term in the context of Performance Philosophy see Goulish and Cull (2009).

[19] Katja Rothe reclaims a similar attitude for the work of Elsa Gindler by characterizing her research procedure as ‘asertain[ing] what befalls you when trying out’ (Rothe 2014, 206). There are a few correlations between Rothes’ epistemological characterization of Gindler’s rhythmic gymnastics and the idea of performative settings as explained in this essay (see 201, 206-210). It will be productive to follow this trace in a further essay.

[20] On the relation between performance philosophy and spirituality in the context of Asian traditions see Böhler et al. (2015).

[21] This argument is only applicable on the traditional idea of theater which presupposes a clear distinction between the spectator and the actor, the stage and the outside-world. On theaters as ‘save havens’, see Julian Klein’s framework orientated concept of artistic experience:

Mostly we have multiple frameworks available that interfere with one another. For this reason, we are often especially thankful for stable frameworks that define conventions. [...] Refuges are stable, highly redundant frameworks that have cultivated conventions of representation. In terms of art, concert halls, museums, theaters, movie theaters and books provide such safe havens. [...] Artistic action likes refuges; on the one hand, wherever conventions are established, they allow themselves to be creatively used, served, avoided, expanded, and demolished. On the other hand, there is a consistent tendency for frameworks within refuges to become so stable that they no longer allow themselves to be moved or reshaped. [...] As a result, we only either enter or exit, and they no longer provoke us to enter the artistic mode. [...] However, if every new event (including complex processes such as Shakespeare pieces) is just one more redundant confirmation of a meaning already known – that is to say, if we begin to know what the things are and stop asking about their possible frameworks and meanings because we already understand everything – that then marks the end of art. (Klein 2010a, 134–135)

[22] The workshop “Getting Bread” (Hanover, 30 July 2016) may give an example for an object oriented application of this performative approach. See

[23] On this issue see especially Will Daddario’s essay “Doing Life is That Which We Must Think” (2015).

Works Cited

Böhler, Arno, Adam Loughnane and Graham Parkes. 2015. “Performing Philosophy in Asian Traditions.” Performance Philosophy, 1: 133–147.

Böhler, Arno, Christian Herzog and Alice Pechriggl, eds. 2013. Korporale Performanz. Zur bedeutungsgenerierenden Dimension des Leibes. Bielefeld: Transcript.

Böhler, Arno. 2014. “Staging Philosophy: Toward a Performance of Immanent Expression.” In Encounters in Performance Philosophy, edited by Laura Cull and Alice Lagaay, 171-196. Basingstoke UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

———. 2013. “Philosophie ALS künstlerische Darstellung.” InKorporale Performanz. Zur bedeutungsgenerierenden Dimension des Leibes, edited by Arno Böhler, Christian Herzog and Alice Pechriggl, 227-241. Bielefeld: Transcript.

Brauer, Glen. 2014. Philosophy Dinners website. Accessed November 28, 2015.

Cull, Laura, and Alice Lagaay, eds. 2014. Encounters in Performance Philosophy. Basingstoke UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Cull, Laura. 2014. “Performance Philosophy – Staging a New Field.” In Encounters in Performance Philosophy, edited by Laura Cull and Alice Lagaay, 15-38. Basingstoke UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Daddario, Will. 2015. “Doing Life Is That Which We Must Think.” Performance Philosophy, 1: 168–174.

Die Denkerei. 2015. “Amt für Arbeit an unlösbaren Problemen und Maßnahmen der hohen Hand.” Accessed November 28, 2015.

Fischer-Lichte, Erika. 2012. Performativität. Eine Einführung. Bielefeld: transcript Verlag.

———. 2008. The Transformative Power of Performance: A New Aesthetics. Translated by Saskya Iris Jain. New York: Routledge.

Gauß, Eva Maria, and Rainer Totzke. 2015. “On Performative Philosophy – 10 impulses for discussion from [soundcheck philosophie].” Translated by Boris Wysseuk. Performance Philosophy 1: 74–94.

Grimm, Erica. 2012. “The aesthetics of attentiveness: A philosophy for artists and educators.” PhD diss., Simon Fraser University. Accessed November 28, 2015.

Goffman, Erving. 1974. Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience. London: Harper and Row.

Goulish, Matthew, and Laura Cull. 2009. “sub specie durationis.” In Deleuze and Performance, edited by Laura Cull, 126-146. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Eno, Brian. 1978. Ambient 1. Music for airports. Polydor Records.

Foucault, Michel. (1966) 1970. The Order of Things. New York: Pantheon Books.

Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich. (1832) 2015. “Book one: the doctrine of being. Chapter 1: Being.” In Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel: The Science of Logic, edited and translated by George di Giovanni, 59–82. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Iber, Christian. 1999. Chapter Subjektivität, Vernunft und ihre Kritik: Prager Vorlesungen über den Deutschen Idealismus. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.

Kenaan, Hagi and Ilit Ferber. 2011. “Introduction. Moods and Philosophy.” In Philosophy's Moods: The Affective Grounds of Thinking, edited by Hagi Kenaan and Ilit Ferber, 3–12. Contributions to Phenomenology 63. Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag.

Klein, Julian. 2010a. “The Other Side of the Frame. Artistic Experience as Felt Framing: Fundamental Principles of an Artistic Theory of Relativity.” In Habitus in Habitat II - Other Sides of Cognition, edited by Sabine Flach and Jan Söffner, 121-137. Bern: Verlag Peter Lang.

———. 2010b. “What is artistic research?“ originally published in German under the title “Was ist künstlerische Forschung?” Gegenworte 23: 24–28. Accessed November 28, 2015.

———. 2010c. “Emotionstheater? Anmerkungen zum Spielgefühl.” Forum Modernes Theater, 25 (1): 77–91.

Krasner, David and David Saltz, eds. 2006. Staging Philosophy: Intersections of Theater, Performance, and Philosophy. Michigan: University of Michigan Press.

Oberthür, Johannes. 2002. Seinsentzug und Zeiterfahrung - Die Bedeutung der Zeit für die Entzugskonzeption in Heideggers Denken. Würzburg: Königshausen und Neumann.

Perinbanayagam, Robert Sidharthan. 2014. “Performance Philosophy – Definition.” Robert Perinbanayagam’s Discussion, December 29. Accessed November 28, 2015.‌performance-philosophy-defi‌‌nition?‌commentId=‌‌6528949%3AComment%3A26546

Performance Philosophy. 2015. “A research network for the field of Performance Philosophy.” Accessed November 28.

Puchner, Martin. 2014. “The Problem of the Ground: Martin Heidegger and Site-Specific Performance.” In Encounters in Performance Philosophy, edited by Laura Cull and Alice Lagaay, 65-86. Basingstoke UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

———. 2010. The Drama of Ideas: Platonic Provocations in Theater and Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rokem, Freddie. 2010. Philosophers and Thespians: Thinking Performance. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Rothe, Katja. 2014. “The Gymnastics of Thought: Elsa Gindler’s Networks of Knowledge.” In Encounters in Performance Philosophy, edited by Laura Cull and Alice Lagaay, 197–219. Basingstoke UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Soundcheck Philosophie. 2016. “[ soundcheck philosophie ] #4: MACHT_DENKEN.” Accessed November 28, 2015.

Tanzquartier Wien and Arno Böhler. 2015. “SCORES N°10 // Philosophy On Stage #4 Artist Philosophers - Nietzsche et cetera.” Accessed November 28, 2015.

Tönnies, Ferdinand. (1887) 2001. Community and Civil Society. Translated by Margaret Hollis. Edited by Jose Harris. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wagner, Meike, and Wolf-Dieter Ernst, eds. 2008. Performing the Matrix: Mediating Cultural Performances. Munich: Epodium.



Rüdiger H. Rimpler is an independent researcher in philosophy at Reflex e.V. Hannover, Germany. He holds a PhD in philosophy from the Freie Universität Berlin and is author of Prozessualität und Performativität in Heidegger’s "Beiträgen zur Philosophie" (Ergon, 2008). He is currently working on the practical impacts of a concept which fosters Philosophy as Performance (

Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.