“Toward an Ontology of Style“


Form-of-life is not something like a subject, which preexists living
and gives it substance and reality. On the contrary, it is generated in
living; it is “produced by the very one for which it is form” and for
that reason does not have any priority, either substantial or
transcendental, with respect to living. It is only a manner of being and
living, which does not in any way determine the living thing, just as
it is in no way determined by it and is nonetheless inseparable from it.1

Medieval philosophers were familiar with a term, maneries, which they traced back to the verb manere, while modern philologists, identifying it with the modern “manner,” have it derive from manus. A passage of the Book of Muhammad’s Ladder instead
suggests a different etymology. The author of this visionary work,
which must have been familiar to Dante, at a certain point witnesses an
apparition of a pen, from which “ink issued” (manabat encaustum). “And all these things,” he writes, “were done in such a manner that they seemed to have been created in that very instant” (et haec omnia tali manerie facta erant, quod simul videbantur creata fuisse).2 The etymological juxtaposition manare/maneries shows that maneries
here means “mode of welling up”: all these things emanate from the pen
in such a way that they seem to have been created in that very instant.

In this sense, form-of-life is a “manner of rising forth,” not a
being that has this or that property or quality but a being that is its
mode of being, which is its welling up and is continually generated by
its “manner” of being. (It is in this sense that one is to read the
Stoic definition of ethos as pegè biou, “rising-forth of life.”)

– Giorgio Agamben, cont’d here

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