Working notes on an article on examples I’m working on:

I would like to know what it means to think from the example.  In the university discourse, the example is always a particular of a universal.  It exemplifies the universal and is only of interest insofar as it exemplifies the universal.  A particular is an individual that exemplifies or embodies the features of the universal.  It is in this sense that the example becomes an ornament.  Since the universal already contains all of the essential content, pointing at a triangle does nothing more than allow the student to discern, in the flesh, a specific case of the universal.  “See here, it has three sides.”  In the university discourse, the example, as a particular, serves a dual function.  On the one hand, the particular allows the student to discern the essential features that define the essence of the universal (a triangle is a three-sided figure).  However, on the other hand, the particular only functions to illustrate the universal by way of also indicating the accidental or the non-essential.  “This triangle is made of wood.  That triangle is made of steel.  This triangle is graphite on a piece of paper.  This triangle is equilateral, while that triangle is scalene.  Despite these differences, they’re all triangles.”  The particularity of the individual lies in it embodying what is invariant in the universal despite its individuality.  The university discourse is essentially classificatory.  It aims by making sure that everything is placed in its proper box or category.  Let us never forget that there’s a place for the university discourse.

Aside:  Let us call theory done in this way imperial theory.  An imperial theory is a theory that only acknowledges cases or examples insofar as they exemplify the universal comprehension of the theory.  This was Deleuze’s criticism of Hegel and his “insipid monocentering” (the same could be said of Kierkegaard’s criticism of Hegel).  Hegel endlessly finds the same thing again and again, revealing that he is incapable of thinking the singularity of the singular.  This attitude towards the singular is already foreshadowed in his critique of sense-certainty in the open of the Phenomenology.  We wish to say that everything begins with the individual, with the “this-here”, with this specific triangle, only to discover that we can only ever speak the universal (cf. Hyppolite).  However, lest we make Hegel out to be the bad guy, we must also remember Badiou’s critique of Deleuze and the sheer monotony of his work.  Here we must raise the question of whether this critique is valid.  As Deleuze argues in DR, it might be that the singular always erases itself in its actualization or movement into extensity.  This would also be why a philosophy that begins from existence or the singular must always proceed based on an encounter.  (In this connection, it bears recalling Derrida on how the “origins” are always effaced and erased).  Another instance of imperial theory would be Luhmann, who always and everywhere finds the same thing in the phenomena he investigates.  The individual, the singular, is always erased in the name of the theory.