From the Introduction
Generally speaking, philosophy is at fault in being divorced from life.
But let me reassure you at once. The consideration I am introducing
is linked with life in the most intimate way: it refers to sexual activity
considered now in the light of reproduction. I said that reproduction
was opposed to eroticism, but while it is true that eroticism is defined
by the mutual independence of erotic pleasure and reproduction as an
end, the fundamental meaning of reproduction is none the less the key
Reproduction implies the existence of discontinuous beings.
Beings which reproduce themselves are distinct from one another, and
those reproduced are likewise distinct from each other, just as they
are distinct from their parents. Each being is distinct from all others.
His birth, his death, the events of his life may have an interest for
others, but he alone is directly concerned in them. He is born alone.
He dies alone. Between one being and another, there is a gulf, a discontinuity.
This gulf exists, for instance, between you, listening to me, and me,
speaking to you. We are attempting to communicate, but no communication
between us can abolish our fundamental difference. If you die, it is
not my death. You and I are discontinuous beings.
But I cannot refer to this gulf which separates us without feeling that
this is not the whole truth of the matter. It is a deep gulf, and I
do not see how it can be done away with. None the less, we can experience
its dizziness together. It is vertiginous, death is hypnotising.
It is my intention to suggest that for us, discontinuous beings that
we are, death means continuity of being. Reproduction leads to the discontinuity
of beings, but brings into play their continuity; that is to say, it
is intimately linked with death. I shall endeavour to show, by discussing
reproduction and death, that death is to be identified with continuity,
and that both of these concepts are equally fascinating. This fascination
is the dominant element in eroticism.
I am about to deal with a basic disturbance, with something that turns
the established order topsy-turvy. The facts I shall take as a starting-point,
will at first seem neutral, objective, scientific and apparently indistinguishable
from other facts which no doubt do concern us, but remotely, and without
bringing to bear any factors which touch us closely. This apparent insignificance
is misleading but I shall take it first at its face value, just as if
I did not intend to let the cat out of the bag the next minute.