We take it that ‘posthumanism’ has become a needless rhetorical exercise despite tons of works dedicated to its elaboration and presumably its emancipatory potential vis-à-vis the most persistent threat of the day, techno-determinism. [1] That its persistence is arguably self-reflexive in the sense that it is self-correcting is a sign that it is on to something.

The notion of self has to be implicated here, regardless whether the posthuman is already aggressively disabusing self-reflexivity of its unmistakable Kantian schema, a discreet exhortation of practical reason that we must otherwise overcome in favor of a similar notion of non-self (Bataille comes to mind) whose very act of self-transgression may lead to a relative perfection of knowledge into non-knowledge [2]. But where this relative perfection gives us a glimpse of the post-human, the human as a strict correlate of knowledge, what matters (or what can lay claim to correctness as far as Nietzsche is concerned) is how the attempt to overcome the ‘human’ satisfies at least the minimum requirement of transvaluation. Whether transvaluation gestures a direction towards the ‘posthuman’ is a matter in need of clarification, at least in Nietzsche’s terms.

The bare minimum of Nietzsche’s over-all pronouncement in Genealogy, lest we forget, the focal point of the critique of the human, is at least obvious to Deleuze who transcribed the minimum as otherwise urgent, the urgency to raise the question of ‘who will undertake the critique of values’. [3] It would turn out that the question is really about pursuing a critique of the critic himself who turned out to be the ascetic—Nietzsche’s concept of overcoming is after all directed at the ascetic [4] that Kant valorised in all his Critiques. The ascetic is charged by Kant with the responsibility to critique the values of the past as they contaminate and underpin the present. The ascetic as critic is the faciality of Kant’s practical reason which is no longer that of the typical human if we can still think of the human as having all the healthy attributes in the wake of the death of God which Kant was also secretly trying to overcome (whose fulfillment, however, would need Nietzsche to explode like one of those machines [5]).

But the ascetic is the exhausted [6] face of pure reason, submitting to the moral exhortation to save at least the minimum of the human, to save the will itself, as Nietzsche puts it, struggling in the midst of the ruins of the old world. The ascetic is encouraged by the Critiques to still entertain the objective illusion that he is still a subject by any means, and therefore a subject capable of undertaking a critique of how the subject itself has been obscured, displaced or sublated as a precondition for understanding the problem of metaphysics, the progenitor of past values or those which gave us the ruins in their unimaginable proportion (offering us more wars, hunger, famine, ecological disasters, etc.).But this is not only the way past values are wreaking havoc as they are also aggressively laying out the landscapes of the future imaginary which Kant would be happy to re-imagine by means of practical reason.

In other words, Kant resurrected the subject in the person of the ascetic. It is well to note here that the humanism of Kant (which acquires its post-Kantian sense in terms of the asceticism of philosophy) is the correct target of Nietzsche’s overcoming in light of the Kantian imaginary of the kingdom of ends. What underlies this kingdom is the discreet but powerful premise that humans are somehow capable of immortality if only that they could utilize to its moral perfectibility the exhortations of practical reason. Here, Kant has abandoned pure (speculative) reason in favor of practical (moral) reason which alone can figure out a way out of the antinomies of reason (such as played out in either science or philosophy) without incurring self-contradiction, that is to say, to simply exist without the comfort of speculation, or the extrinsic principle of the Idea, a kind of poverty dear to existentialism. It is of course debatable to say that Kant anticipated the existentialist movement, but with Nietzsche prying him open on behalf of our postmodern sensibility, it is fair to say that he rather anticipated a different kind of existentialism whose silent persistence may be aptly termed as posthumanist.

It is our contention here that the posthuman is what Kant was already affirming in the wake of the first Critique. For us, this necessarily requires confronting the question ‘what is Man?’ But we are not trying to revive existentialism here whose ushering in continental philosophy was rather premature. Contemporary existentialism (or at least the movement initiated by Sartre) was rather founded on a misguided relation to Heidegger’s Being and Time. Heidegger himself avoided the problem of the singularity of Man which reached its zenith in his infamous “Letter on Humanism.”7 Heidegger’s eschewal of the question instead favoured an appropriated existentiality that is deemed capable of surpassing nihilism only because this time it is devoid of any kind of attraction for philosophy (its attraction, if at all, has to be favoured rather by the Event, an appropriation of the kind only a releasement to mystery could express [8]) to raise the question anew as Kant had already buried this concept.

And yet the question ‘what is Man?’ has never been more relevant as we are confronted today with a deluge of post-humanism/s whose Kantian roots have never been problematized to its right context and magnitude. At least Sartre attempted to raise the problem from the ground up but only to find once again that the problem is better left untouched as the question of Man, as it had been raised in existentialism, secretly followed Kant’s clue—that practical reason could save all the antinomies of reason. Sartre was very much a child of continental philosophy with its paradigmatic allegiance to reflexivity, to a celebration of apodictic (moral) freedom. This is where Nietzsche comes in, arguably the outsider vis-à-vis the tradition of continental thought.

The Eschewal of the Question

The failure to raise the question (‘What is Man?’) becomes associated with the rise of the ascetic ideal which Nietzsche connects to the Kantian legacy. The ascetic ideal, as Nietzsche declares, is the existential condition of Man in which he “would rather will nothingness than not will at all.[9] To raise the question ‘What is Man?’ is to thus problematize the nihilism, the will to will nothing, that avoiding the question begets. (The avoidance of the question ironically begets the humanism deemed as antidote to the nagging persistence of the question. If Heidegger hated the term, he was right however in pointing out its conceptual baggage. Yet, he was entirely oblivious of the real question itself. It is no surprise why Heidegger left Being and Time unfinished. The point is–it has never been the question of Being, but rather of the critic, of the ascetic vis-a-vis the death of God). Consequently, the problematization of nihilism modifies the question into the ‘who’ of the agency that can take on the task of transvaluation.

We are therefore not surprised when Kant stopped short of proposing the fourth question a propos of the three famous questions that the Critique of Pure Reason offers to its readers, namely, 1)  What can I know? 2) What I ought to do? and 3) What may I hope? [10]. All throughout this questioning the presupposition of the unity of the ‘I’ gathers the three questions in an appropriative standpoint, that is, the standpoint of Man, but where Man has to be understood notwithstanding as a product of the noumenal appropriation of practical reason concerning the pre-existence of God, freedom and immortality.  The fourth question contains a term neglected in Kant, which as Deleuze correctly intimates, is otherwise necessary to make sense of the question who will undertake the critique of values that Kant initiated but failed to provide the right agency capable of achieving the task. [11]

Is this agency the ‘posthuman’? No. The posthuman is the ascetic of Kant, the human whose exhaustion already provides the answer to the question whether nihilism can be overcome. The exhausted cannot accomplish this task. If Kant valorised the posthuman it is no surprise why. Philosophy remains hostage to Kant’s asceticism as does the ‘general intellect’, for instance, in relation to the power of Capital which can indefinitely delay the question of emancipation, the fourth question that Kant, the real avant-garde of capital, suppressed. It would otherwise require in the Deleuzian sense a counter-philosophy of joy, [12] a rejuvenation of the body from out of the territorialized landscapes of freedom, yet it is freedom that is no longer attached to an exemplary causality, such as God or the immortality of the soul, and even less to an affirmation that Capital—the most immanent causal form of nihilism—cannot be overcome.

This leads us to the radicalization of the fourth question from out of Nietzsche’s response to Kant’s questions in the Critique, that is, the question ‘who will undertake the critique of values’. Nietzsche charges this ‘who’ with the responsibility to undertake the transvaluation of values, the values that Kant resurrected from out of the ruins of traditional metaphysics while attempting to put a closure to it. In his most representative expression on this matter, Nietzsche says:

“Does one really in all seriousness still think (as the theologians deluded themselves for a while) that, for instance, Kant’s victory over the conceptual dogmas of theology (‘God’, ‘soul’, ‘freedom’, ‘immortality’) harmed [the] ideal? … What is certain is that, since Kant, all kinds of transcendentalists have once again won the day – they are liberated from the theologians: what luck! – Kant revealed to them the secret path along which they may from now on, in independence and with the greatest scientific respectability, pursue their ‘heart’s desire’.”[13]

We have never been posthuman in the same way the Kantian project of modernity, building on the efficacy of practical reason, is never meant as a forward march which arguably begets this post-human of contemporary theory, but as a regressive movement whose intention we were not allowed to suspect. The ‘post’ in the post-human is never meant as a projection, even less a trajectory for Kant lacked a conclusive assumption of time that can get away with the antinomies of reason which can yield equally true and false statements about the beginning and the lack of beginning of time. Recall that Kant dissolved the antinomies in favor of practical reason. But practical reason also lacks a projective aspect; needless to say, it is conservative, the one true virtue of modernity.

This is why we can never agree with Latour that ‘we have never been modern’.[14] Latour is discreetly defending Kant’s ascetic who in our time arguably possesses the power of reflexivity which can disabuse capitalism of its accelerating regression and hence to turn about in order to steer the course of history forward. On the contrary, we have always been modern as we have long before become ascetic whose reflexivity is never meant to raise the question of ‘who’ we have become.

The Way Forward

No doubt, capitalism or modernity has never been this-worldly. It thrives in the imaginary of the old world, its otherworldly character, whose values are the right values for its global dispensation. There lies the real faciality of nihilism—it is a nihilism that is devoid of any purpose except to delay the question of the ‘who’ in relation to the critique of values (or, in relation to the failed moment of existentialism, to suppress the real existentialism that Sartre also denied of us owing to his indebtedness to Kant, glossed over by his Nietzschean prose), and because the right agency to undertake the critique is blotted out in the picture, this nihilism has become a matter of pure willing, of practical reason. The regression of practical reason and the asceticism of philosophy today aims to silence the question, hence to deny the real threat of nihilism. Philosophy has become complicit with capital whose unmistakable goal is to deny the ultimate power of the question itself, the ‘who’ question which no longer requires philosophy and its audience, the question’s intrinsic power of the false [15] whose audience is rather flourishing beyond the walls of the asceticism of reason, beneath the locating, geo-tagging machines of capital.

The only way therefore is the way forward which requires of us that we turn about and face the real world behind us. But it is a world the posthuman will never ever choose to confront. It is a world already deep in ruins.

But already in this light, Nietzsche could not have chosen a more appropriate occasion to advocate an extreme type of garbage anthropology, the genealogy for our time, which illustrates for us that Kant’s rational anthropology has churned out a lot of cognitive post-human debris and more to pile up to the moral constitution of our psychotic age. It is indeed a stark contrast to the promise of clean and green ecology, what is promised precisely by the Critiques, the reconstruction of the ecology of the moral landscape of reason after destroying the old world along with its signature refuse – the bones of scholasticism. But against the background of climate entropy and ecological disasters, never has the question been more straightforward.

The ‘who question’ now addresses an army of sanitary workers, garbage collectors, waste disposal units, an assemblage of disaster management operatives; climate justice activists, hospice and rehab workers, and the like; peoples of deserted islands – the first victims of climate change, and the last men and women to whom the earth shall leave her place. Indeed, never has Nietzsche been much closer to the pedestrian, even more, truly prophetic of the power of the false – the power of the commons.

 

Notes

1. Excellent summaries of this issue are available at the following sites: http://darkecologies.com/2014/10/28/utopia-or-hell-the-future-as-posthuman-game-strategy/; http://deterritorialinvestigations.wordpress.com/2014/10/29/the-posthuman-and-the-information-guerrilla/. A video lecture of David Roden is available at http://syntheticzero.net/2014/10/28/how-human-will-posthumans-be-david-roden/. David Roden is the author of Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human.
2. Allan Stoekl, Bataille’s Peak: Energy, Religion and Postsustainability (Minnesota and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2007), 219, n. 10.
3. We are indebted to Deleuze with respect to the formulation of this question in his highly influential work Nietzsche and Philosophy (1983). See Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, trans. Hugh Tomlinson (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983), 88.
4. See Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals: A Polemic. By way of clarification and supplement to my last book Beyond Good and Evil, trans. Douglas Smith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 136.
5.  See Iain Hamilton Grant, ‘At the Mountains of Madness. The Demonology of the New Earth and the Politics of Becoming’, in Keith Ansell Pearson (ed.) Deleuze and Philosophy. The Difference Engineer (Routledge, London and New York), 104.
6.   See Gilles Deleuze and Anthony Uhlman, “The Exhausted,” Substance, Vol. 24, No. 3, Issue 78 (1995), 3-28.
7. See Martin Heidegger, “Letter on Humanism,” in Basic Writings of Martin Heidegger, ed. David Farrel Krell (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1993).
8. Martin Heidegger, Discourse on Thinking, trans. John M. Anderson and E. Hans Freund (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), 54.
9. Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, 136.
10.   Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Werner Pluhar (Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, 1996), 735, A820/B848.
11.   Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, 88.
12.   You may take a look at an example of this Deleuzian gesture at http://stephenvilaseca.wordpress.com/leonidas-martin/.
13.   Nietzsche, Genealogy, 130-31.
14.   Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern, trans. Catherine Porter. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1993.
15.   Deleuze, heavily influenced by Nietzsche, develops this concept of the power of the false in his book Cinema 2: Time-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta (London: Athlone Press, 2000), 121-38.

Paper prepared for the Philippine Studies Annual Conference to be held on November 12 to 14, 2014 at the National Museum of the Philippines

K to 12 and the Philippine Apocalypse

I  take it from Adorno that culture is, among others, a mode of confronting nature [or world] (2009, 146).

This definition of culture, provisional as it may seem, overlaps with that of technology being a mode of letting things occur (Heidegger 1977) largely for human purposes, yet most often with a robust kind of intervention for nature or world to speak its inner laws. (We may recall here Aristotle’s concept of logos apophantikos which means to bring to light the hidden principles of nature in its activity). This broadly suggests that culture relates to nature or world by encountering it according to a plan, a scheme, a way of letting things reveal themselves out of their own light.

Already this definition (of culture) is an instance of the antinomial, the equal weight of truth or non-truth percolating evenly into two incompatible terms, namely, encounter (with the connotation of the aleatory, of chance occurrence, or roughly, an event) and purposeful planning whose aim is to dematerialize the contingency of all actual and possible modes of occurrences; in short, to make everything calculable.

This paradox is resolved otherwise by breaking a zone of indetermination in terms of subordinating its non-sense to the axiomatic dictates of human freedom (a la Kant) acting on its own; donating, in the absence of originary sense, a secondary sense to what would have been impervious to meaning. But already the second sense is the originary point of beginning, there being no other way to begin. (Is not this second sense already an act of culture which creates and founds any sense we can conceive, including the opposite complement of culture, namely, nature? Are not the humanities at fault here by setting off these two otherwise exchangeable terms?)

Incidentally, where giving originary sense is concerned, this is also what set-theory in mathematics exactly performs—to nominate a set that is not a member of any set but which necessarily begins the whole study of sets (Badiou 2009); an infinite empty set, to the exclusion of all other sets, that is by no means conceived mathematically, rather by an act similar to that which has turned the world into a fable a la Nietzsche (1968).

Incidentally, the first myths of creation are stories of how the world is created by an originary act of giving, of the gods (always the gods) giving, until its perfection in monotheism where it is rather the One God, excluding all others, not without the violence of wiping them out, including their actual human employers, who gives the ultimate law, the only Law, the supreme sense or meaning.

And voila, the paradox is solved, by any means a leap of faith; a leap into practical reason (where Kant would have much to say). Nietzsche is not so far from Marx on this point. Marx was referring to the early priest-ideologists who created the world that we live in, not that there is no pre-given world, a world that is always already available for capture, for settlement, for dwelling, for building; a world where poetry is already in place, where love speaks a thousand words in a thousand plateaus in a thousand never-ending worlds of make-believe, rather this world would have no use to the species if it is not already transformed for human purposes. As Marx and Engels (1998) put it in The German Ideology: “Individuals have always proceeded from themselves.”

To bring home our point, this capacity of human freedom resonates strongly in Marx’s own subordination of the inherent conflict of capitalism to the one-party dictatorship of the oppressed class. The oppressed class in question here can be afforded, notwithstanding, the same characteristics as those that make culture operational, a way of breaking a paradox whose very nature as indiscernible, to quote Marx, “weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living” (Eighteenth Brumaire). To cast this nightmare, a counter-culture is summoned to carry out what is no different from an exorcising ritual—to cleanse, to purify, to purge; to level everything onto an imagined point of origination where everything begins anew.

This is the utopia of human freedom—to bend necessity, or what qualifies as the all-pervasive determinant of the indeterminate, the ineffable, the inarticulate, the uncanny, the unhomely, the Freudian unconscious, if you will; everything that melts into a paradox, so to speak, to freedom’s own self-unpacking rule. Here, we obtain a homologous network of complementary terms—axiom, freedom, fabulation. In a manner of speaking, an axis of composition whose unifying rhetoric is well-known—the destruction of the old.

Yet, as with Nietzsche, with the destruction of the real world the apparent one sets in with new possibilities on offer; a new mode of godding, of summoning a new god or gods whose goal is ultimate—to turn the world once more into a fable.

In lieu of a conclusion

With the turn of the century, we have welcomed a new mode of godding replacing the ethereal pride of the dreamland of all dreams, heaven they call it, where everyone else who gets to die gets each a big mansion (recall the movie Invention of Lying). This is the hyper-extensive realism of the infosphere commanding new ways of living or not living while still managing to live, the online-offline sway of our being-in-the-world in the present replacing Heidegger’s homely concept of being as the dance, the echo, the swaying to and fro of Being, as poetic clearing (Heidegger 1999). This is the hyper-real world which sets everything in place, in the order of quantum reality, complex algorithms, nano-machine and intelligence; in the order of the becoming-other of human who has never been human, who has always been other than human (ah, the hubris of all elitist inventions!), in an era where economies of confronting scarcity and a dying planet are giving way to precarious adaptation; in the order where capital threatens to finally erase its labor complement in the same manner that culture is overturning the independence of natural ecology. Welcome to the anthropocene.

Again, a whiff of Nietzsche: Are we looking at a new paradox in need of a new culture to break? Or do we need a break?

 

References

Adorno, Theodor. 2009. Kultur and Culture. Social Text 99 (27): 145-158.

Badiou, Alain. 2009. Logic of Worlds. Being and Event, 2. Translated by Alberto Toscano. New York and London.

Heidegger, Martin. 1997. Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays. Translated by William Lovitt. New York and London: Garland Publishing, Inc.

________. 1999. Contributions to Philosophy (From Enowning). Translated by Parvis Emad and Kenneth Maly. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. 1968. Twilight of the Idols. Translated R. J. Hollingdale. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Marx, Karl and Frederick Engels.1975. Collected Works, Volume 5. New York: International Publishers.

 

 

To begin with, I am proposing here a homology between deconstruction and the practice of Cultural Studies premised on a particular conception of culture, following Raymond Williams’s guide definition for the studies (Williams 1983: 87-93). Below is a recent re-translation by Spivak of some passages in Derrida’s famous Of Grammatology.

The movements of deconstruction do not shake up structures from the outside. They are neither possible and effective, nor can they set their aim [ajuster leur coup], except by inhabiting those structures. Inhabiting them in a certain way, because one always inhabits and all the more when one does not suspect it. Operating necessarily from the inside, borrowing all the strategic and economic resources of subversion from the old structure, borrowing them structurally, that is to say without being able to isolate their elements and atoms, the enterprise of deconstruction is always, in a certain way, swept away by [emportée par] its own work. (Spivak 2011: xxxii).

It can be argued that Cultural Studies’ conception of culture bears a striking resemblance to deconstruction’s relation to its own practice—‘swept away by its own work.’ Catherine Gallagher (1995) describes this rather positively as an ‘absence of specifics’, a proposition that also furnishes us with a reluctant opening onto a certain consistency with tradition, regarding its conception of ‘culture’:

It is this absence of specifics conjoined with a heavy investment in the idea of specifics that gives the word culture as used by cultural critics an uncanny resemblance to its much-maligned Arnoldian twin, high culture with a capital C. We may have rejected the restriction of culture to a privileged realm of ‘art’ and the belief that its value derives from transcendent human universals rather than from concrete historical circumstances; nevertheless, our use of culture and Arnold’s have more in common than is generally recognized. (Gallagher 1995: 309)

The mere mention of Derrida’s deconstruction and its relation to cultural studies is not given certain theoretical affordances here as to simply amplify the significance of deconstruction to the discipline. What I wish to convey rather is that deconstruction is what the use of ‘culture’ is all about, that is, culture as a text in itself which resists interpretation of the positive representational sort; what Heidegger would describe as presence-at-hand (Heidegger 2001), that which is rendered in and through language. Here, cultural studies’ guide definition for ‘culture’, nonetheless, is not impermeable to critique.

The basic supposition of culture as text is a product of the infiltration of psychoanalysis and its notion of the unconscious to Cultural Studies (Williams 1983: 320-23). I like to note here though that Williams himself in a number of occasions felt that the infiltration of psychoanalysis left more to be desired (Williams 1981: 167). Even so, the force of psychoanalysis is still there, and with Adorno utilizing psychoanalysis in relation to mass media, the infiltration cannot be ignored (see Adorno 1991). The unconscious qualifies, in a manner of speaking, as a dark precursor (physical or biological) that precedes language (which is readily associated with bringing things to light, thus, to illuminate). In Heideggerian terms, it is rather described as the pre-ontological horizon of intelligibility (see Heidegger 2001), that which no amount of representational language can penetrate. Nonetheless, as it is with negentropy in physics (or negating entropy), the use of language to represent a dark assemblage as the unconscious, presumably, a storehouse of forces and energy essential for life to emerge (yet also a minefield that can threaten life’s continuity), comes with the risk of provoking the return of the repressed (Freud 1965; Lacan 1988:171). Language amounts to blowing up a pristine homeostatic condition in which forces of life and death are suspended in a mutually non-active state (Schrodinger 1992). It is in this sense, taking things from here a bit fast to drive home our point, that human organization which is always already mediated by language (language co-arises with the human species) is a risky negotiation with what Freud, and later expanded by Lacan, called the death drive (see Lacan 1988: 27-92). Much to the concern of a cultural theorist like Nietzsche, for instance, it is for this reason that life bears the mark of in-security and thereof the will to negate it (see Nietzsche 1996) by means of securitizing culture. What culture amounts to, in extreme terms, is a biopolitical repression of the death drive.

In general terms, the culture that we believe we can represent in a number of helpful terms can be traced back to the beginnings of agriculture which subsequently evolved into the practice of usury and debt—the first forms of biopolitical organization for the control of population perfected in modern finance capitalism (Graeber 2011). Yet, the control of population is inscribed within the very terms of controlling life, or the deprivation of life, its enabling resources, to those who could be utilized, or made to stand as reserves (in Heidegger’s coinage [1977]) for sustaining a condition in which the maximum goal is to fend off the return of the repressed, the death drive. In the history of humankind this ‘return’ has been objectively qualified as apocalyptic, with the negative connotation accruing upon its destructive power. As a side note, I would like to propose here that the apocalyptic complex that has defined the way life has been hitherto organized is broadly anchored on agri-culture, or the manner in which the sedentarization of people’s movement since the introduction of farming and husbandry has repressed, not without certain positive features (but are now at risk of totalizing human life itself), the nomadic or exilic character of human existence whose model is the pre-primitive (vis-à-vis the ‘primitive’ as a modern ascriptor of the progress of human history), or the pre-historical, pre-sedentary mobility of the nomad.

We can also speak here, not without the risk of being misunderstood, that this character of the human can be identified as pre-cultural. Notwithstanding though, as the notion of ‘the human’ may appear to be pre-fabricated as to warrant a strong correlation between human and culture (in the ‘agreed’ sense, human and culture are synonymous), we are at the ready to extend our assumption further into a more adversarial position—that ‘we have never been human’ in the first place, hence, the questionable term ‘culture’ as coterminous with the human.

That ‘we have never been human’ is our propositional challenge to the unopposed assumption of the human that provides the context for cultural studies. Lest I provoke more criticisms than can be warranted, I must clarify that the proposition ‘we have never been human’ is not a denial of the existence of the species that has for some time now called itself, or has been accustomed to call itself ‘human’. It is rather the particular organization or investment of values to the species (which, I believe, what ‘culture is in a nutshell), in a manner that decides for it, on its behalf, that becomes our target here. For certainly, this kind of investment is neither neutral nor anonymous (see Rosaldo 1989).

A cultural critic may readily oppose us here, especially, in light of deconstructive practice that is still very much a guiding force for cultural studies. A deconstructive ‘use’ of culture for the studies certainly exhibits fluidity, never aspiring to a treatment of culture as a fossil. Yet, deconstruction cannot deconstruct what is undeniably an ontological priority for language—the human who is capable of the highest culture (animals have culture too) which language evidently represents. We can radicalize our critique of deconstruction here to as far as declaring that deconstruction’s influence on cultural studies has made the studies the epitome of the humanism of modernity—this despite the much avowed description of culture as historical and contingent, thus providing theoretical arsenals for the studies to challenge the notoriety of humanistic assumptions prevalent in the West (see Rosaldo 1989:32). The rise of post-colonial studies that complement the study of culture is a case in point. Even so, we have reached a point where post-colonial discourse has to give way to a diffluent force of time.

I am deploying the term ‘diffluent’ (or flowing away) to underscore the fact that not only are we compelled to interrogate our assumptions vis-à-vis the shifting tides of the time, its ebb and flow, but also, in the face of the withdrawal of time itself, its force and influence upon the contemporary in a manner that makes time ironically stand still. To paraphrase Heidegger, we have to learn how to be ‘in the draft’ (1993: 375), and be cast into the sea change at the same time that we are pointing towards that which withdraws. Nevertheless, the greatest challenge lies in how we can still point to time as it withdraws while appearing to be at rest; in more precise terms, the appearance of things that their capacity for change has already been saturated, leaving us with nothing to hope for.

Perhaps, this conviction is best expressed in Fredric Jameson’s words which caution us rather than wallow in defeatism: ‘It is easy to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism’ (Jameson 2003). The apocalyptic weight of history has been exhausting the political imagination of the species in such a way that the biopolitical control of life (that we mentioned earlier) has totalized the rest of the earthbound, including us. What we need here, and this is our proposal, is to untangle the humanity ‘at work’, the humanity as ‘material’ for political economy, for biopolitical control, and release this humanity to a serialization process, a de-familiarization process (to parenthesize Bahktin), or better yet a de-materialization of which the species is no stranger after all (imagine here how this once animal assemblage has leaped into consciousness). We can also mean here to de-culture the species. Yet, more than this connotation, we are talking of the nomad as a model whose never-ending quest for virtuality in the sense of resisting finality and organization has never ceased to infiltrate ‘our’ existence as a species, especial mention here is the case of nomad peoples of Southeast Asia (Scott 2009), despite the planetary securitization of culture whose first form was the concentration of life to agri-culture. It is in this sense that humanity has never been in ‘it’, in a culture; rather, most of us, if not all, are formally economized which has made us into the humans that we believe we are, at least in appearance.

And that is the precisely point: what matters for biopolitical control is the formidable appearance of culture.

References

Adorno, T (1991) Kultur and Culture. Social Text 99 (27): 145-158.
Freud, S (1965) New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, trans. Strachey, J. New York: Norton.
Gallagher, C (1995) ‘Raymond Williams and Cultural Studies.’ In: (ed) Prendergast, C (1995) Cultural Materialism: On Raymond Williams. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press.
Graeber, D (2009) Debt: The First 5,000 Years. Brooklyn, New York: Melville House.
Heidegger, Martin (1977) The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, trans. Lovitt, W. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers.
________. (1993) Basic Writings of Martin Heidegger, ed Krell, D. F. . London: Routledge.
________. (2001) Being and Time, trans. Macquarie, J and Robinson, R. Oxford: Basil, Blackwell.
Jameson, Fredric (2003) Future City. New Left Review 21: 65-79.
Lacan, J (1988) Seminar of Jacques Lacan: Book II. The Ego in Freud’s Theory in the Technique of Psychoanalysis (1954-1955), trans. Tomaselli, S. ed. Miller, J-A. New York and London: Cambridge University Press.
Nietzsche, F (1996) On the Genealogy of Morals: A Polemic. By way of clarification and supplement to my last book Beyond Good and Evil, trans. Smith, D. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Rosaldo, R (1989) Culture and Truth: The Remaking of Social Analysis. Boston: Benson.
Scott, James (200) The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.
Schrodinger, E (1992) What is Life? With Mind and Manner and Autobiographical Sketches. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Spivak, G.-C (2011) “Preface: Reading de la Grammatologie.” In: (ed.) Gaston, S, and Maclachlan, I. Reading Derrida’s Of Grammatology.. London and New York: Continuum.
Williams, R (1981) Politics and Letters: Interview with the New Left Review. New York: Verso.
________. (1983) Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society. New York: Oxford University Press.

 

My second Bookforum entry. Here Slavoj Zizek Fans and Haters

 

 

P.S. Another spell of Sophie.

While I was revisiting Marcuse last summer, I was fortunate to have extra time to accommodate a personal game of metaphysics. A certain Bruce Lee, in fact threw me a question I couldn’t resist taking on. Obviously, I am not talking of the real Bruce Lee; truth is whether there was a real one I am not sure anymore. Between TV and reality, there is only the couch. And so, with the speed of a kung fu, he asked me if I can reconcile St. Thomas with Daoism, and needless to say, I was amazed at his capacity to defamiliarize a scorching summer afternoon, as if throwing a cold water on my face. This guy is the real Bruce Lee. For an unexplainable aspect even on this part of my association game (identifying his mental (was it?) acts with Bruce Lee’s martial prowess), I rushed to my metaphysical boardroom (there’s no way I could tell how many came and who I was conjuring up to parley with) and started to prepare my answer. He was out for a KFC chicken when I got back with my answer.

The question, in other words, is: Is it possible to reconcile a philosophy that appeals to transcendence with practically a non-philosophy (strictly, where philosophy is not invoked) whose notion of transcendence, if at all, is always already given in the immanence it promotes as the practical ground of the real?

Now you are in my boardroom. Let me continue 

If we will choose to reconcile transcendence and immanence in a more general setting, we will need a third term which could structurally unite the two terms whose unity is under consideration here. The third term might be found to be intrinsic to each of the two terms though in some sense repressed, or it might be after all extrinsic to them. On the one hand, the unity of transcendence and immanence may be said to be a taken for granted fact; on the other hand, we can have a unity only if occasioned by an outside force which is neither transcendent nor immanent. The latter case is familiar to Western philosophy.

We are referring to occasionalism which invokes an external causality seeming to lack the constancy of intention to settle the disputations of immanence across the physical and spiritual dimensions of life. The famous occasionalist statement that it is not fire that burns the cotton, rather it is God can however be repaired to recast our option in favor of an external form of causality that is neither transcendent nor immanent, assuming that each position basically requires an intention. If we can demonstrate that this externality does not possess the intention intrinsic to a determinate position (transcendence or immanence), then we may have obtained the perfect recipe for unity. In other words, we need to demonstrate that the unity is not borne by any interest. But first, we need to prove that a basic form of occasionalism pervades the two determinate positions without actually being a part of either position as to warrant an accommodation of causality in the occasional form we have given to this possibility of unity. What we mean here is simple: the unity is neither taken for granted nor anticipated; rather, it comes, arrives without rhyme or reason.

First, how can it be demonstrated vis-à-vis the Thomistic notion of truth? Is there an occasional form of causality that we can identify in Thomism? Is there something of the sort comparable to an arrival of truth in Thomism caused by a lack of intention on the part of that which causes our participation in the intrinsic process of truth? A Thomist would readily dispute our initial questions here. God is not an occasionalist. He does not lack the intention as Creator. The presence of reason meanwhile guarantees that this intention is accessible (in immanence) in the form of partaking in the divine will. It is in fact reason that takes the place of the constancy of intention of God that guarantees that no occasional form of causation can ever take place. Reason therefore must constantly work. It will never run out of conditions against which it must work on behalf of God, for reason by virtue of the constancy of its intention will never finish its work until God makes His appearance. Reason will never know, nonetheless, when God will do so. This is the principle of indeterminacy that gives to God, alas, the occasional form that is discouraged by doctrinal Thomism.

In Thomism there is nothing outside the realm of rational participation in the divine will until the divine wills that reason grind to a halt (such as the case of Thomas when he stopped writing after God appeared to Him). Here, there are consequences to bear. Recall that St. Thomas insists that truth is adequation (between the intellect and the thing). The adequation holds until God wills that reason stop working. In the will of God, truth ceases to be an adequation. But no reason can divine the will of God. Reason must therefore leave it to occasionalism, to the principle of indeterminacy to explain (even so, an explanation that does not explain) why God would will Himself to make an appearance. Beyond the capability of reason to explain lies the opportunity of the occasionalist. And why would God appear to reason? Occasionalism has no answer (that is the answer) except it is in the will of God to will His appearance.

At this point, let us proceed to Daoism as quickly as we can get. In fact, it is not difficult to detect the occasionalist in the Dao. It is said that in the Dao, one lets reality come to you, one never seeks reality. The Dao is the so-called Yin/Yang, complementary forces, so to speak. Yet, this time, rather than the principle of indeterminacy that we briefly explored in Thomism, the Dao is governed by complementarity, similar to a particular strand of quantum physics developed by Niels Bohr. In naïve terms, the principle of complementarity states that there are various approaches to observing reality but one can observe reality only when other approaches are isolated to give preference to one approach. The preference for one approach does not necessarily make the other approaches invalid. The thing is it is physically impossible to do all approaches. Compare this principle to a Daoist saying: “When truth intent does not scatter, yin and yang naturally harmonise.”

From all indications, however, our comparison between the Dao and the complementarity theory of quantum physics seems to stabilise the standpoint of human observation (immanence). By human observation in quantum terms we also mean not scattering the intent of truth in Daoist terms. Here, the crucial index of comparison is intention which is immanent as against the lack of intention of transcendence (as we discussed in Thomism). In Daoism, intention is a key element in understanding reality, whereas in Thomism, intention in the final analysis gives way to the occasionalism of a more universal will. Earlier, we argued that intention should be discounted as an index of unity (of transcendence and immanence). Intention has to give way to a neutral standpoint, neither transcendent nor immanent. In the case of Daoism and quantum physics, intention is a privileged standpoint. If this is so, then, according to our scheme, the yin and yang of Daoism do not satisfy the occasionalism of truth. Occasionalism proposes that the unity of transcendence and immanence must not be borne by interest. The unifier must lack constancy of intention which the principle of complementarity does not satisfy. But, alas, quantum physics tells us that the universe is a superposition rather than a constancy of intention.

As a superposition of different subatomic particles (which makes the universe a wave if seen from a distance), the universe does not have a unified intention. Rather, it is composed of varying standpoints, each may be seen differently from the others (assuming that one particular standpoint is capable of escaping the superposition which is theoretically possible when one begins to observe reality during which time something is released from a superposition: recall here that subatomic particles behave as wave when unobserved [meaning, a kind of observation by the naked eye] and as particles when observed [meaning, with sophisticated instruments) yet side by side are indifferent to one another. Only from an outside vantage point can they be observed seemingly to be a wave functioning reality with all the appearances of unity in terms of undisturbed propagation. In other words, when observed from within reality functions as a particle which is theoretically the true dimension of the real. Here, truth means a particle observing a wave phenomenon which is nonetheless internally also a particle.

It pays to correlate this quantum reality to another saying in Daoism: “When you understand the method of bringing sense to stabilise essence/The human mentality does not arise and the mind of the Tao is complete.” The stability of essence (or depth of reality in terms of particle) is dependent on the correct method of making sense of reality as wave. In the principle of complementarity, the correct understanding of the method is not to utilize all available methods. Even so, understanding in this context requires that mentality does not assert itself or exercise its will to escape from the superposition in order to stabilise reality. By staying within the superposition, one maintains the upkeep of the universe as a wave. Daoism says: “Bathe and incubate/Do not let thoughts arise/Do no let attention scatter.” As a complement of occasionalism, Daoism teaches us to be a non-intending particle (in which one does not scatter his attention in order to be noticed) in whose quietism the universe allows to be seen as a wave, as a unity of transcendence and immanence.

Theoretically, a particle can be seen by another particle, provided that that which observes is not scattering its intent or attention, meaning, it too must not choose to observe and be observed. In other words, in quantum physics a particle cannot choose another particle to observe it. One never seeks (a wave) reality.

At this point, arguably, we have found the third term (in both Thomism and Daoism) that will unite transcendence and immanence, or the reverse complement: we have found the occasional form of unity that will unite Thomism and Daoism. On the part of the third term, the occasional unity is a quantum leap.

Conclusion

And Bruce Lee? I guess he never felt so hungry.

 

Postscript (The best part of summer)

Two welcome reliefs from ‘Bruce Lee’ courtesy of one of my all-time favorites, Sophie Hunger:

1.

2.

Notes for a Work in Progress

 

Introduction

It is known to scholars of Marcuse that his engagement with Heidegger by taking the phenomenological route laid out by Husserlian phenomenology had rekindled his waning Marxist sensibility in the wake of the totalitarian atrocities of Soviet Marxism. This essay takes a view of Marcuse’s early turn to phenomenology as providing Marcuse the perfect opportunity to develop a new theory of socialism, but failed to radicalize in the end. The crux of the matter is that he later rejected the phenomenological reduction (cf. Andrew Feenberg, Heidegger and Marcuse: The Catastrophe and Redemption of History, 2005) that had once provided him a close reading of Heidegger’s text essential in reconfiguring his socialist instinct.

We proceed, hence, with the question: If he was able to restore his Marxist sensibility through an engagement with (Husserlian) phenomenology (culminating in his appropriation of Heidegger) why would he reject the phenomenological reduction later, around the period of the publication of his second book on Hegel, Reason and Revolution? In this work, Marcuse is still reconciling Marx and Heidegger through the lenses of Heidegger charging Hegel (this time, a more serious accusation that Heidegger originally labelled against Hegel) of simply repeating what Aristotle had already said. We may speculate here, not without a basis, that Marcuse is seeking to distance Marx from the influence of Hegel who appeared to have lost originality, therefore preparing the clearing, untouched by Hegel, for the ultimate version of Heidegger-Marxismus. On both occasions, however, Marcuse would not have done anything possible for articulating Heidegger-Marxismus without the phenomenological reduction.

If our conjecture is right, Marcuse would have dispensed with Hegel whose notion of historicity (which he must have assumed Heidegger lacked, which is of course wrong; Heidegger had developed one of the most original conceptions of historicity) had given him philosophical leverage to critique orthodox Marxism (which is right). Here, Marcuse is faced with a dilemma which as one could notice started to arise with a simple shift in his thinking, that is to say, his rejection of phenomenological reduction. We think that this dilemma actually shaped his contradictory embrace of freedom as an end in itself (especially in works such Eros and Civilization and One Dimension Man) which he draws from Hegel as we will try to show in the succeeding discussions.

Confused Marxist sensibility

Marcuse had intuited something of crucial weight to Heidegger-Marxismus (though failed to radicalize, least to say, detected what it was in its determinate form) when he was apparently seeking to distance Marx from Hegel (unlikely, on Heidegger’s prodding as Heidegger was known for his aversion towards Marx and his rather little opinion of Hegel). Hegel’s notion of freedom is problematic for Marx, though you will be surprised what it actually was in Hegel that Marx saw. Marx had only intuited it yet had never developed into a full blown theory. If, again, our conjecture is right, both Marx and Marcuse failed to fully comprehend that Hegel’s notion of freedom is problematic because of its exclusive nature as desire that is resistant to a notion of end. Yet, this failure has to be qualified.

Marcuse failed in his appropriation of Hegel’s notion of freedom by taking it as a positive affirmation of hope for the future of humanity when in fact Hegel took freedom to be the desire for no end, freedom being an end in itself. Freedom has no future, plain and simple.

For his part, Marx failed to see in Hegel what he must see, that freedom is a trap he could get away with from his first attempt at breaking with Hegel’s notion of freedom, that is, a productive principle that knows no end (recall Marx’s critique of the insatiability of bourgeois economy) but eventually held by it as the trap appeared in a better disguise. We are referring here to Marx’s challenge to the production principle of Hegel that dismisses any end, that is to say, his proposition that capitalism will actually end by self-destruction. Here, we are digressing a bit into Marx who is undeniably an important influence on Marcuse.

When Marx expressed his conviction that capitalism would self-destruct by inventing a new labor, a new subjectivity, or the proletariat that would bring it to its knees, he forgot (and he forgot even his own formulation as we will see) that by having invented a new labor and a new subjectivity, which Marx called real subsumption of labor, capitalism has completely broken with the past (or so Marx thought). Capitalism needs to break with the past to deprive the vestiges of the old to disrupt the new order which could still challenge its self-determination. The proletariat who displaced the slave from the old order can therefore be viewed as particularly designed to sustain and perpetuate the new order. In this theoretical sense, capitalism has no rival within history. The bourgeoisie’s fate is sealed.

Theoretically it would follow that the real self-destruction of capitalism, or the possibility of it, was already superseded by real subsumption of labor, or the invention of labor itself, which could continue infinitely. This earlier period in the stage of capital accumulation may be referred to as the time capitalism was still expropriating the existing labor of the old world, dependent on it, the remnants of feudalism or the labor of the slave in relatively advanced form. Marx took a high risk when he discouraged communists to seize power when the mode of production or capital accumulation was still dependent on expropriation of old labor. Politically, nonetheless, that is the perfect opportunity to seize power when capitalism was actually self-destructing, unaware that the labor of the old world could combine against it. Our model is Lenin who was the first to understand the Hegelian mechanism at work in Marx. The moment capitalism surpassed this precarious stage in its history, the world would never be the same again. Once and for all, Marx, a true Hegelian, did not wish the socialist revolution to overtake capitalism. We are not saying it was deliberate on the part of Marx to deceive the communist movement. Rather, it was a simple case of a lingering Hegelianism that shaped his uncanny philosophical militancy.

With Hegel prodding him, Marx got it wrong when he declared that the proletariat is the nemesis of capitalism. The real nemesis of capitalism is the bourgeoisie itself that has perfected the production principle as desire that knows no end. But as nemesis, the bourgeoisie is the perfection of the Hegelian notion of negativity. It does not actually rival itself by opposing itself seriously. This is the rule of the negative—nothing oppositional should be actually sustained; every opposition should be restored to its negative unity. We can qualify the production principle of bourgeois economy then as self-destructive. But it is not actually self-destructing, in the Hegelian sense. Here, we cannot doubt that Marx took the logic of self-destruction (to refer to the positive self-destructing logic of capitalism) from Hegel’s (negative) dialectic. But did Marx intend to radicalize this dialectic to mean actual self-destruction? This we are no longer sure anymore. We may grant an affirmative answer to the question, yet Marx again is mistaken when he chose a wrong agency that could induct capitalism to self-destruction.

On this aspect, Marcuse intuited this new agency in his conviction that capitalism could be challenged from the outside; an agency which refuses to be governed by capitalism. He is right to our estimation. From the outside should mean also ‘not the proletariat’ as it is ingrained in the system itself. It should also be outside of the economy, an aneconomy, so to speak. Perhaps, outside of the capitalist economy, a non-capitalist economy but because it is an absurdity (a non-capitalist economy is no economy at all) let us propose rather an oxymoron, a socialist economy.

Socialism (which is a non-economy) is rather taken here by means of a political act as the economy, the economizing of what is viewed (starting in Hegel) as the foundation of the economic (the insatiability of freedom or desire). This is the kind of socialism we can assert against the Hegelian socialism of Marx. (The scope of this paper, however, dictates us that this aspect should be reserved for a separate topic). Marcuse is a socialist but his socialism due to his misplaced understanding of Hegelian notion of freedom as production is not the socialism that could have been his best theoretical contribution. Owing to this, Marcuse’s self-contradictoriness, which starts with his rejection of the phenomenological reduction, takes an even more unimaginable turn as he proceeds to elaborate his positions. When we turn to his appropriation of Freud’s alleged theory of Desire this has never been more glaring.

The Hegelian ‘Freud’ of Marcuse

In strictly Freudian terms, instincts or drives exhibit unique plasticity in the sense that they can substitute their aims for another, in a way keeping the instinct or drive alive and out of reach by death. In a manner of speaking, instincts are intelligent creatures which can manage to fall apart without actually going into pieces (and they really display some intelligence if by intelligence we can assign an aim-directed energy which involves a considerable amount of calculation). Yet, we have to be careful in equating instincts to desire. Desire is another matter for Freud.

Call it a metaphysical conatus, but Freud understood it quite differently from his fellow Jew, Spinoza. Freud was a serious reader of Schopenhauer and this basically anticipates Freud’s conception of desire vis-à-vis Hegel with whom Schopenhauer had more than a professional issue to settle. Suffice it to say that Freud understood desire according to its representations, its objectifications. Freud has no formal account of desire except when he talks of instincts and drives which point to something no analysis can reach (in the same way, Schopenhauer tells us that the closest we could divine of the will is its representations). But instincts or drives already presuppose of a source which even if science has identified it as somatic is still a qualified statement. Instincts presuppose of a source that is beyond examination for they can surely tell us that they are a product of a long evolutionary pre-history of the species that did not self-originate.

Freud started to tell us a bit of this complicated issue in evolution in his later re-examination of the psychopathology of hysteric patients. Freud observed in his patients a compulsive obsessive tendency to re-experience painful memories. He surmised (this is the controversial death instinct) that this is a sign of a larger than life force which reorients the organism back to an original state of constancy. This force remains enigmatic for Freud, a theoretical compliment of Schopenhauer’s concept of willing, bordering in esoteric Buddhism.

What we are telling here is that Desire for Freud has a more enigmatic origin than the drives whose source of excitation is somatic. Freud however has arrived at this notion of Desire on the strength of observable psychic behaviour which gives us a model of how drives are enigmatically oriented to a larger than life force, but more importantly how drives can be manipulated to orient themselves to a false end or termination in the guise of reconstructing an original state of happiness as is humanly possible. For Freud, the enigma of Desire exacts contradictory demands on our instincts (id) that we find ourselves vulnerable to manipulation without actually being aware of it (where the function of the superego is taken to excess [guilt formation] in the absence of a social relief from those contradictory demands). This leads to his recommendation that a necessary amount of repression is permissible in society to allay the turbulence especially of the ego which is tasked to balance the contradictory demands of the instincts, metaphysically, the demands of life and death.

We know that Marcuse takes this theory of the instincts quite differently from Freud (cf. Eros and Civilization). For Marcuse, banking on the unlimited potential of desire for free creation, instincts should be given leeway to express themselves freely. Marcuse’s conviction rests on his assumption, quite liberally taken from Marx, that the liberation of Man consists in reuniting Him with Nature in the unfolding of a sensuous culture (equivalent to Marx’s species-being). The conditions of possibility for such sensuous culture to be established are already available in the margins of capitalist consumerism. The task of critical theory is to extract, and here we are using Althusser’s notion of determination in the last instance, the hidden or repressed positive kernel of the present historical condition to deliver it to the satisfaction of all (by which Marcuse meant the sensuous deliverance of desire from false gratification which for Marcuse is not sensuous enough, its orientation driven to satisfying false needs).

The aim of capitalism is for gratification not to penetrate deep into the energy pool of instincts where real potentials for free creation, least to say, capacities for destroying a repressive system of gratification, are systematically kept untapped and on purpose as these instincts are being pressed upon with contradictory demands. Marcuse believes that society has long been repressive enough but also at the same time inversely creating perfect opportunities for the instincts to self-manage and self-administer thereby also empowering themselves with little opportunities they have for gratification. These potentials have already matured to take on the responsibility of transforming the social body. Marcuse is critical of Freud’s recommendation for society to repress the instincts on the grounds that Freud misunderstood their self-creating potential. Marcuse draws on Marx on this aspect. In a passage from Marx’s early writings the founder of modern communism says: “Production does not only produce man as a commodity …. Its product is the self-conscious and self-acting commodity.” (As a digression, we can glimpse in Marx the beginnings of an object-oriented ontology much in fashion in Philosophy today; cf. Graham Harman, Guerrilla Metaphysics: Phenomenology and the Carpentry of Things, 2005, although it differs in scope from Marx). In this passage it is clear that Marx understood that no matter how repressive it is the system cannot totally reduce labor into a mere commodity, an object or thing. Insofar as the commodity is a product of his labor, the commodity assumes Man’s potentiality in a new form—that which he could freely enjoy if only the system allows him so. Obviously, this is a needed corrective to Freud’s pessimistic theory of the instinct.

Back to Phenomenology

So far so good. But where did Marcuse get it all wrong? The answer lies in his wrong notion of Freud’s notion of Desire as if Freud had a formal concept of it. He in fact attributed to the instinct what he should have attributed to Desire, except that, as we are arguing, desire is absolutely anterior and ulterior to signification. Marcuse’s notion of instincts as freely creative and resistant to Ananke (necessity) misplaces Freud’s emphasis on instincts. Freud avoided the metaphysical dilemma intrinsic to Desire which explains his focus on the instincts as phenomenologically observable. We are not saying here that Marcuse misread Freud. The crux of the matter is his reading of Freud’s theory of instincts under a Hegelian lens. We recall here that Hegel viewed freedom as desire as self-production that knows no end, the void of negativity. In other words, Hegel’s notion of freedom surreptitiously seeped into his reading of Freud, in that he mistook Freud to be referring to desire when he is referring to the instincts.

Blame it rather on his Marxist sensibility. Again, we can recall here that even Marx fell into the Hegelian trap. As for Marx’s own issue with Hegel, we can reserve it for another discussion. Suffice it to say here that for us Marcuse’s problematic appropriation of Freud can be traced to his problematic relation to phenomenological reduction. Through the phenomenological reduction, he was able to renew his Marxist sensibility, but rejected it later in the attempt to strengthen this Marxist sensibility, this time purifying Marx of Hegelian influence, assuming that he was able to suspend (epoche) the actual influence of Hegel on Marx. Theoretically, this makes for a sound argument in light of the Heidegger-Marxismus where Hegel is apparently relegated to the margins if not completely silenced. But why would he need to silence Hegel? He did not actually silence Hegel, as he wrote another book on Hegel (Reason and Revolution) after his dissertation (Hegel’s Ontology and Theory of Historicity). We claim rather that he was consigning to silence something in Hegel and this is his theory of freedom (as desire that knows no end). He was able to do this—to keep Hegel’s theory of freedom under the radar of critical analysis—by also leaving no trace of the process under which Hegel’s theory of freedom was secretly smuggled into his theory of instincts. We are referring here to his rejection of the phenomenological reduction.

Postscript

Slavoj Zizek has criticized Marcuse’s appropriation of Freud along similar lines we have taken so far vis-à-vis the theory of instincts and therefore we do not intend to repeat what he has said in his admiringly comprehensive book Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism. We agree with Zizek’s critique except that Zizek did not provide us a genealogy of Marcuse’s appropriation of Freud, which to us stared with his problematic relation to phenomenology. On this aspect of Marcuse we are taking the cue from Andrew Feenberg in his book Heidegger and Marcuse: The Catastrophe and Redemption of History (2005) where he mentioned Marcuse’s problematic relation to phenomenological reduction, though, again, did not offer a deeper genealogical background for such problematic appropriation. This essay intends to broaden this cue by revisiting the path Marcuse had taken since his encounter with Heidegger until his turn to aesthetics, as briefly as it could be done here.

On the larger background, our critical analysis of Marcuse along the lines we intend to explore more is rather taken from a more invasive theory of Desire (traversing Hegel, Marx, Freud, Nietzsche and Deleuze) that we are working on for some time, preceding my interest in Marcuse. (My intended study here is to locate Marcuse within this larger background, so logically Marcuse would occupy a critical section). Marcuse is viewed by many, even within critical theory, as already dated. But they are wrong. Critical theory is in fact wrong. And if we look at the background of Critical Theory’s appropriation of Freud through Hegel (especially the early Frankfurt School), we can say that Critical Theory itself is problematic, not that it is entirely wrong.

P.S.

My thanks to Jeffrey Occay (Ph.D., University of Macquarie) for rekindling my Marcuse from my former student activism days. Attending his course was well worth braving the untold passion of a mighty Sun going amuck over my side of the world.

 

That’s a shock advertisement. And the serious side where my work “Designing the Apocalypse” alongside a review of Timothy Morton’s phenomenal Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World is mentioned by Bookforum–

 

“A showcase for rigorous and elegant writing” (the Village Voice). Founded in 1994, the print magazine is published five times a year and the website is updated daily.

“I love Bookforum, because it gives me intelligent long reviews, and, most importantly, of a range of books not covered in other journals or magazines. Sometimes I think that Bookforum, in its gently subversive way, is America’s real Book Review.”—James Wood

Bookforum is an essential antidote to complacency in the world of writing and publishing—a shot of oxygen direct to the brain.” —Jonathan Lethem

Bookforum is a force for good in the literary universe, reliably and brilliantly bringing the primary virtues (intelligence, rigor, passion, depth, knowledge of historical context, generosity of spirit) to bear on contemporary culture. I am always grateful for its reviving presence.” —George Saunders

 

  See:

Read the rest of this entry »

 

http://www.philstar.com/arts-and-culture/2014/03/24/1303853/other-levels-meaning-philosophy-articulated-literature

A little self-promotion:

Long ago the philosophers found the answers and as writers, we articulated these in enduring prose and poetry. It’s the scientists who must now provide this hope, this reality, and for the writers to record the promise and fruition of that reality.

But let us go back to the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, whose radicalization I appreciate. The University has come out with an excellent journal, the Mabini Review. Its first issue contains excellent essays by Virgilio Rivas and Kristoffer Bolanos. Its literary section deserves to be enlarged to include fiction and poetry like the excellent contribution of Dennis Aguinaldo. The review should contain more critical studies on our vernaculars and particularly our English literature to locate it in the context of world literature.

More on the humanities, too, and eventually venture into original thought so that Philippine philosophy will progress beyond the pioneering baseline studies on values by F. Landa Jocano and Leonardo Mercado. Creative thinking will then develop in the manner that German, French, even American philosophies have emerged as distinct additions to classic Western thought.

 

 
I promised to National Artist F. Sionil Jose that I would write a review of his novel Viajero which I will be posting here in three or four parts. This is my way of appreciating him for his wonderful words on my essay “Axioms of Choice” which appeared in The Mabini Review.  I guess what made the essay into his liking is its kindred treatment of an-arche which I always suspected, since my senior high school days, was the untold philosophical horizon of his many if not all of his creative works. Yet Sionil Jose’s anarchism, as he put it in a personal conversation, is the anarchism of the old. I take it as one that is akin to the anarchism of Jacques Ellul, another philosophical inspiration of mine, and James Scott whose Art of Not Being Governed is certainly a classic of ‘an-arche’ thought. In the following review, nonetheless, I tried to connect his anarchism to Deleuze and Guattari’s more contemporary treatment of rhizomes, of bodies without organs. As soon as I finished posting all the parts here, I will upload the entire review to my academia page.
______________________
–To Kafka Ortega
What do we live for but to be a happy witness to a will more powerful than ours?[i] 
In his dying moments, afflicted by an unknown disease and a more piercing malady that he hoped to find the cure for his people, Salvador Raza, Viajero’s main protagonist, uttered those words to himself yet unsure even of who he is, much more of that strange bidding that is overpowering him. Was it the numbness of his real origin? Was it the indifference of history? The limitation of the Filipino soul? By the same token, the following lines from Herman Hesse’s Narcissus and Goldmund capture Salvador’s otherwise than a psychological predicament:
How will you die when your time comes … since you have no mother? Without a mother, one cannot love. Without a mother, one cannot die.”[ii]
And yet, by its portrayal of how the time of men, and women as well, can take root in the quiet realm of the actual, in the otherwise muted gyrations of a people’s soul, Viajero (Wanderer) commands by far a true power of the false.[iii] This we say as the novel, another tour de force by National Artist F. Sionil Jose, brings the whole weight of a people’s history, a power, strangely enough, nurtured by a difficult forbearance of a happy witness, to bear upon a future to come.
But for the future to surface on the horizon of things in their making possible the experience of the time of things, including what exceeds the givenness of their time as things, as time always surprises, the future must first be witnessed. As always, to be a witness is to carry a burden. Such is how the tectonic fluidity of the novel unleashes its force—by invoking a people who do not exist yet, a people as witness to the actualization of a power to falsify the present.
This is for us the unmistakable stamp of the novel. Viajero is a modern tale of ghosts and a narrative of a people whose lives, if still fortunate to cling to life, do not matter for non-people, for the life-nullifying impersonalism of the machine of history whose evil contraption is, in all times, inimitably of the creation of the powers that be. But these lives matter for a novel about zombies. A novel about them is right to the point if it shows a people embracing life in the squalid margins of modern urban landscapes, in the fringes of countryside topography whose tectonic origins underneath its soil are consigned to the unconscious of official history. These are people deprived even of animal decency, what of the esteemed dignity of a spore in these days of genetic mutation! And yet, just as in any mundane Platonic cave, a dreamer would escape.
Such is Salvador Raza, yet a dreamer who is never attached to a dream in a manner that dreamers dream, that it is they who make dreams intelligible, plain, lucid, logical; that an object of vision must first be afflicted by a soul if it is to become an image of thought, a rhizome,[vi] but rather it was a dream that found him. Out of this inversion of dream-dreamer, vision-actor binarity, Buddy emerges as an inadvertent seed that would promise at first to grow into a new arboreal structure of a living history.
In a historical sculpture in progress, such as Viajero, this talk about trees is not a strange addition to their symbolic function: from the canopy of trees where the laid-back stream of sunlight affords a sliver of hope despite the war’s hostility—the orphaned child Badong blinded by the rays of light before emerging from a dream to another, from one’s caring hands to the next, from place to place, from one geography to a distant one, from sunlight to sunlight where nighttime shadows shift in unsinkable diurnal because the revolution must not sleep—to the wistful sunshade of extendable history, an antique shop of memories that can be relived but only in the margins of the present. The list could go on: wood materials for shipbuilders in Cavite, ballasts for Spanish war machines, cannons, etc., mighty contraptions sustaining a trans-Pacific trade.
There is something genealogical about a tree. It is not a method for the people[viii]
And yet in their place, a rhizome returns to the earth.
to be continued

Endnotes
[i] F. Sionil Jose, Viajero. A Filipino Novel (Manila, Philippines: Solidarida Publishing House, 2010).
[ii] Herman Hesse, Narcissus and Goldmund, trans. Ursule Molinaro (New York: Bantam Books, 1971).
[iii] According to Deleuze, Nietzsche speaks of the power of the false, being the other quality of will to power, as “a quality through which the whole of life and its quality is particularly affirmed and has become active” (Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, trans. Hugh Tomlinson [New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983], 185). “To affirm is not to take responsibility for, to take on the burden of what is, but to release, to set free what lives. To affirm is to unburden; not to load life with the burden of higher values, but to create new values which are those of life, which make life right and active” (Ibid.).
[iv] Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature, trans. Dana Polan (Minneapolis, London: University of Minneapolis Press, 1986), 148.
[v] Ibid.
[vi] That is to say, “stranger to any idea of genetic axis or deep structure” (Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizoprenia, trans. Brian Massumi [Minneapolis, London: University of Minneapolis Press, 1987], 12).
[vii] Ibid., 15.
[viii] Ibid., 8.
 

___________________

This paper will build on the rhizomatic intricacies of a cartography of a people in Southeast Asia in James Scott’s (2009) description of the stateless inhabitants of Zomia, arguably lawless peoples whose migration from island assemblages in the region was caused by early 20th century ‘state-making projects’, oppression and colonialism. These peoples to this day still exist in a region assembled by mountain ranges the size of Western Europe.

Escaping state-making projects and their concomitant use of war machines is the imprint of a people who in A Thousand Plateaus (1987) Deleuze and Guattari liken to abstract art: ‘Multidirectional, with neither inside nor outside, form nor background, delimiting nothing, describing no contour, passing between spots or points, filling a smooth space.’ The peoples of Zomia, nonetheless, are prone, much more in these days, to ecological catastrophe that in all likelihood Deleuze must have in mind when he speaks of the earth’s dynamic transformation in terms of ‘the general distribution of continents, the states of the seas, and lines of navigation’ (Desert Islands) which could have sparked a flurry of migrations, especially in Southeast Asia, drowned by melting polar glaciers during the Last Glacial Maximum. If the peoples of Zomia were compelled to escape what was in general the threat of war machines, how about in this age of ecological threat?

The paper will try to revisit Deleuze and Guattari’s work in cartography in order to arrive at a new post-anarchistic understanding of what is now at stake in the model of Zomia as a rhizomatic achievement of abstract machines, which to us remains a potent diagram of a people to come, especially in view of the apocalyptic threat of the new ecological order.

Keywords: abstract machine, cartography, desert islands, people to come, post-anarchism, Zomia

_______________________

Text of the abstract accepted for presentation by the organizers of the Second International Deleuze Studies Conference in Asia to be held this time in Osaka University, Japan from June 6 to June 8, 2014.This is my second international engagement on Deleuze Studies in Asia. Long live Deleuze!

I would like to begin here with a quote from Gilles Deleuze who has been a true inspiration, at least for me. Here is the quote:

“Literature consists in inventing a people who are missing” (Essays Critical and Clinical).

In many ways, these words resonate in today’s challenge for contemporary philosophy, a challenge that philosophy nonetheless cannot take without also committing itself to a certain kind of deliverance.

But what is this deliverance?

In a manner of speaking, it is deliverance from thought and an entry into the world of the non-thought where everything that is shaped by thought and language by extension falls flat. But it is also in that new world, in the empty space of thinking, of speaking and writing,  that everything can start a new process of creation, a new literature, a new consciousness of earth and ocean, which in all known histories of civilization has always been responsible for the birth of a new people.

Incidentally, the beginnings of an ever-changing humankind are always willed by mythologies, by that movement of imagination that creates a void, a vacuüm to fill in if only to separate the past from the present, and by so doing, a process of creation unfolds, ex nihilo. But it is also in this light that the movement of imagination can go wrong in which case Deleuze’s warning in Desert Islands is a compelling reminder:

At the same time, this movement of imagination is subject to those human conditions that make mythology possible. Mythology is not simply willed into existence, and the peoples of the earth quickly ensured they would no longer understand their own myths. It is at this very moment literature begins. Literature is the attempt to interpret, in an ingenious way, the myths we no longer understand, at the moment we no longer understand them, since we no longer know how to dream them or reproduce them. Literature is the competition of misinterpretations that consciousness naturally and necessarily produces on themes of the unconscious, and like every competition it has its prizes.

Here,  the unconscious  is the force behind why a people succeed or fail, the unconscious as a literary contest of misinterpreting the myths ‘we no longer understand, since we no longer know how to dream them and reproduce them.’ Incidentally, aesthetics has provided an opportunity for this literary contest to immortalize a failure; aesthetics as a misinterpretation of the unconscious force of creation.  In a manner of speaking, the way we appreciate literature as an art form, or the way we blur the distinction between imagination and reality, between its form and content, has distinguished ourselves as a people.

I am referring here to aesthetics as seen by proponents of high culture as a matter of taste and judgment, and not as a matter of pursuing a new origin and by implication of a new people’s consciousness; in the language of Deleuze, a prototype of a collective soul. This proto-consciousness is also an aesthetics but a non-standard one, averse to standard taste and judgement,  that which does not serve an exemplary causality such as standardized forms of sensibility, of taste and judgement. It is in this context where Deleuze, this time in tandem with Guattari, describe a people as a model of non-standard aesthetics in the form of abstract art:

Multidirectional, with neither inside nor outside, form nor background, delimiting nothing, describing no contour, passing between spots or points, filling a smooth space (A Thousand Plateaus)

Hence, Deleuze and Guattari refer to a people as an abstract machine. As an abstract machine a people is indiscernible to standardized and hegemonic controls of sensibility, of promoting standard taste and judement. It is also in this sense that a people is in itself a power of the false (Cinema 2), in a manner of speaking, of the falsification of aesthetics. Yet, Deleuze and Guattari were not misled into thinking that this people exist in the present. To them this people are still missing, hence, the role of literature to invent them, to summon them, and educate them of the prize of absorbing too much aesthetics in their heads in the sense we described above.

In our history as a people, we get what we deserve for our failure to dream, to reproduce and understand those myths that created us as a people. This failure is what we mean by aesthetics. And its prize has acquired a very consistent form, the consistency of our nation’s tragic betrayal.  Quoting from his essay in Philippine Star, National Artist F. Sionil Jose has this to say:

Behind this tragic failure is betrayal — we betray one another — and most of all, we betray ourselves, our ideals, our morality.

Look back: Diego Silang was betrayed. The revolution of 1896 was betrayed by the Pact of Biak-na-Bato — and earlier, Bonifacio was betrayed; and in turn, Aguinaldo was betrayed as well.

In more recent times, today, we are constantly betrayed by political charlatans. (F. Sionil Jose, History as prison, and as liberation)

This is our history as a people, a people misinterpreting the myths that created us. If this is also the history of how aesthetics has held us in submission to protocols of taste and judgement, of satisfaction and enjoyment, in the guise of today’s capitalist culture industry, it is time that we take heed of literature, still a work in progress, and its challenge to standard aesthetics.

It is time we invent ourselves as a people, as embodiment of non-standard aesthetics, as abstract machine, a people as a true work of art.

___________

Text of my welcome remarks read during the Philosophy Circle of the Philippines Panel Discussion  on the theme ‘Aesthetics, Oppression, Justice’ held at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines on February 28, 2012.

Designing the Apocalypse

February 7, 2014

Text of my short paper (for 20-minute presentation) for the De La Salle University 7th Arts Congress with the theme “Linang Kalikasan, Sining para sa Kapaligiran” in Baguio City, Philippines. See http://www.dlsu.edu.ph/conferences/arts_congress/2014/

 

I was thinking of forwarding a comment to Adam Robbert’s post at knowledge-ecology.com (Earth’s Aesthetics: Knowledge and Media Ecologies) about his concept of mapping ecology when for some reasons my mind wandered off into Guattari. Nonetheless, I find Robbert’s concept of mapping ecology reminiscent of Guattari’s cartography, though some obvious lines are drawn in Robbert’s that make his initial work considerably way above Guattari’s emphasis on decomposing oedipal desire which, though radical in its gesture, is still dependent on a residual humanistic framing as we will try to illustrate.

Well, this has been a part of the project I’m pursuing, to make sense of the anthropocene about accommodating the apocalypse as a properly post-human standpoint. Accommodation would need designing an anthropocenic apocalypse whose conceptualizations were already implied in pre-anthropocenic models (pre- in terms of before the awareness of what Morton describes as hyperobjects, or the awareness of our enormous influence on geological evolution since the last two hundred years or so). This will implicate modernist paradigms but also post-modernist paradigms as pre-anthropocenic. I am thinking of the direction of post-continental philosophy today as an ongoing foray into the anthropocenic proper in terms of formulating a model of designing the apocalypse of our time. Roughly stated, the apocalypse of our time is one whose requirement is no longer critical (or the business of critique that Kant started), finding the limit, critiquing it, and developing devices to stay within the limit, but rather a post-critical, post-cartographic engagement in terms of performing the limit that humanity has set upon itself since the advent of Enlightenment. This is somehow similar to Latour’s call to arms, to become modern which, among others, necessarily entails that we decompose the knowledge of the limit, centralized in nerve centers or ecologies of knowing and have it made available for a compositional performance (not mastery which requires control) of limit. But above all, this will entail a decomposition of the ‘subject’ that has been the most efficient operator of pre-anthropocenic models of designing the apocalypse, one of which is to protect this ‘subject’ from external danger in terms of providing a map, say, an opportunity for second creation or a serialization (which of course depends on the assumption that the earth will not betray us, a sort of vitalism).

Guattari’s mapping is particularly instructive for us as it provides us key approaches to locating the position of the subject that in Althusserian terms is always interpellated by ideology. Guattari’s schizoanalytic cartography aims to position the subject outside of the totalization of ideology (which operates on the unconscious level) and capital (a stumbling block to intensive flow of desire) by providing the subject of desire a cartography of ins and outs, circuits and flows, exits to creation and deterritorialization, which ideology and capital obstruct by stratifying, denying possibilities of second creations. For Guattari, the best model of this cartographic project is the arts or the way the arts emphasize the process of creating and not of pursuing a goal.[i] The emphasis on process raises a challenge to anthropological biases that have defined human progress since the last two centuries which celebrate goal-oriented activities at the expense of process as an autonomous molecular flow.

In light of the threat of ecological extinction, Guattari’s cartography can be extended to mapping geological possibilities of forging what Morton says of relationship with hyperobjects now poised to dominate the initial phase of what climate science describes as the sixth cycle of mass extinction. Nonetheless, schizoanalytic cartography is limited to flows of desire which are still human-oriented. If anything, geology only serves as the background of nomadic serialization of individual autonomy and its desire to deterritorialize the landscape that capitalism is fast transforming into a system vulnerable to chaos. If there is one singular lesson we can obtain from climate change it is that desire (which traverses the human and animal distribution of difference) is no longer a key object of investigation. If this is really the case, the focus now shifts into the otherwise than human, more specifically, the material vitality of non-human congregation enmeshed in networks of hyperobjects interacting as actants.

Still, Guattari’s transversal approach towards the subject’s autonomy (weaned off the Cartesian influence) provides us a model of the subject as performativity within a creative field of virtualization in which the very expression of performance constitutes its actuality. We contend that this kind of subject is amenable to human extinction just as it is already performing a kind of subjectivity as post-human in terms of allowing itself, just as any artistic subjectivity, to blend with the flows of the non-human, of objects and things populating the strata of known creation.[ii] If not by mixing herself with the flows then by “[throwing] an aesthetic dimension into the mix, causing the materials to engage with each other.”[iii] Guattari calls this subject ‘machinic’ (indeed, post-human) insofar as a machine works in a network of relationality. The ‘human’ is an appropriate description for the Cartesian (modified by Kant); a subject that suppresses relationality in the extent to which it despises the machine which cannot operate without the participation of other machines. Participation is to the machine; introspection is to the calculating subject of modernity.

This is where actor-network theory becomes an important contribution to designing the apocalypse. We are here capitalizing on the non-hierarchical emphasis of actor-network theory or its modern conception of flat ontology in which all beings are actants and as actants they differ just the same in terms of their modes of influencing one another, a process of negotiation, blending, mixing, or getting in the mix in the sense of adaptation and complimentarity.

What actor-network theory can improve in schizoanalytic cartography is its theory of the subject which is rather limited to a conception of human as undergoing changes whose cause is largely of another human making (capitalism). But climate change, though for the most part caused by human activity (anthropocene), threatens to break the causation of change by extinction. What lies at the end of the anthropocene is not human but arguably post-human. Unlike schizoanalytic cartography which still entertains the hope of another order where post-humans could thrive (Marx’s species-being), post-cartography is offering humanity a chance to flourish in an order without a world. This is different from the ordering world or the capitalist world order that Guattari is challenging.

But unlike Kant who offered humanity a way to live without a world (because ultimately the world, that which exists outside of cognition, is unknowable) by assuming a different world (the moral world) populated by values and not by objects of experience, such as Morton’s hyperobjects, post-cartography (similar to Latour’s interobjectivity) encourages us to abandon the moral world that is the kind of world that thrives in anthropological prejudices; in a nutshell, humans taking charge of objects by investing values in them because they could not speak for themselves. It is in this light that Guattari’s cartography remains within the fold of the moral by challenging a moral hegemony in terms of creating new (human) values. The post-human sense we can therefore obtain from Guattari’s cartographic project is simply ‘another-human’, presumably, better than the moral hominid. Needless to say, this is perfectly intelligible in a Kantian world. Donna Haraway offers an ethical alternative, cognizant of the Kantian trap, of “caring for entanglement, learning the art of paying attention”—a multi-critter thinking, patterned after the critter relating to its own environment.[iv]

But that is no longer the case with the anthropocene (to designate the assemblages of ecological threats). The post-human that is already this humanity is being prepared for an appropriate kind of dwelling without a world. The challenge is to make sense of being deprived of a promise of another world.  The aim is to design a better apocalypse by performing the apocalypse of our timeIn this light, designing the apocalypse of our time would mean making extinction actual, here and now.

See Adam Robbert’s post :

http://knowledge-ecology.com/2013/07/14/earth-aesthetics-knowledge-and-media-ecologies-3


[i] It is in this sense that Guattari speaks of a new aesthetic paradigm: “The aesthetic power of feeling, although equal in principle with the other powers of thinking philosophically, knowing scientifically, acting politically, seems on the verge of occupying a privileged position within the collective Assemblages of enunciation of our era” (Felix Guattari, “A New Aesthetic Paradigm,” in Chaosmosis: An Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm, trans. Paul Bains and Julian Pefanis [Bloomington and Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1995], 101).

[ii] This I think is well summarized as follows: “I am once my body proper…the build environment I inhabit… my creative ideas… and the relations between those three elements. In Guattari’s mapping of subjectivity, there is a continual interplay between content, that which is represented (an idea, a concept, a physical body, lived space and its representation or expression… (Stephen Luis Vilaseca, “Felix Guattari and urban cultural studies,” in Journal of Urban Cultural Studies, Vol. 2, 3 [2014],140)”

[iii] Ibid.,141.

[iv] Isabelle Stengers, Heather Davis and Etiiene Turpin, “Isabelle Stengers in Conversation with Heather Davis and Etienne Turpin,” in Architecture in the AnthropoceneEncounters Among Design, Deep Time, Science and Philosophy (Michigan: Open Humanities Press, 2013),179.

So long

January 5, 2014

 
Like a dream you fade.
An extra mile under your wings.
About the place there’s not much
Your poetry can tell:
There will be tourists, I suppose;
Spiders dreaming of cities
Marching behind a comet’s tail;
Ghosts from ancient ruins.
 
Only you have an extra mile.
Unlike them you knew where to bury your wings.
Yours will be a short journey.
 
 
To a poet-mentor Alfredo O. Cuenca, Jr
(April 2, 1937–December 25, 2013)

Happy new year!

December 31, 2013

To followers of this blog and to blogs that keep this blog blazing life lines may a thousand plateaus bear for you new myths of second creations, grow roots as you move along, will everything but the ascetic, and bind the loss of worlds with the promise that every newborn brings…

Substance Abuse

December 15, 2013

What a hardcore Kantian is capable of

 

In one word, freedom, this is the secret to Kant’s Copernican revolution in philosophy. We agree with this except for the uncanny side Kant made freedom to perform. For purposes of this post, I will call this ‘substance abuse.’

I.

Certainly the Copernican gesture of changing the way we look at things, a perspectival shift from ‘knowledge conforming to objects’ (arguably, the legacy of the dogmatism of Ptolemaic theory) to ‘objects conforming to cognition’ (the advent of a new science treading along a secure path) already reveals a secret—that the arbitrariness of changing the focus is not legislated by any a priori of reason. It is freedom as pure performativity which precedes the act of freely arriving at the a prioris of pure reason. Nonetheless, and in spite of appearances, freedom, even for Kant, does not possess an absolute founding character (more on this later). It is not difficult to argue here that as performance freedom is a non-intellectual value, an act that is not conceivable within the a prioris. The question that comes up immediately is whether freedom precedes the determinism of the a prioris or is revealed rather later as a consequence of applying the a prioris to objects of experience which for Kant necessitates that reason annuls itself. Simply put, the pure exercise of pure reason (intellectual or theoretical) succumbs to the unknowable which can only be approached by means of the practical use of pure reason.

As we emphasized in our earlier post, everything has to be given first to cognizability before ‘everything’ takes the form of the thinkability or transparency of appearing. Freedom as antecedent can only be revealed retroactively from the standpoint of pure reason. Yet, even as antecedent freedom has to be intrinsically cognizable which illustrates how Kant held on to the correlation between cognition and the cognizability of being as a permanent correlation. It must be cognizable; otherwise the retroactive standpoint of pure reason would fall under its own weight. Retroaction demands that the object of its examination must conform to its a priori demands. (That much can be said of how Kant defended the dogmatic procedure of knowledge without falling into dogmatism). Beyond this correlation freedom is non-existent.

But freedom exists, in fact, allowed by Kant to exist rather as a metaphysical postulate only that its certainty as knowledge is questionable from the standpoint of pure reason. Kant’s project is to investigate how such postulate could exist without legislation (of the a prioris). We learn from Kant that the key to unlocking the secret to this absurdity is a natural disposition. We are all predisposed to do metaphysics before the work of pure reason could initiate a reverse engineering. This engineering technique is cognitive and retroactive. In contrast, for a natural, that is, unlearned metaphysician, his belief in God is not achieved by any retroactive procedure, rather by simple and absolute performance. He performs God in the very act of performing his belief which makes God actual for him. Performing God is performing a natural metaphysics by non-intellectual means. In spite of appearances, however, Kant would not allow that this is an exercise of freedom on the part of the natural metaphysician for a natural metaphysician is simply ignorant of the cognizable condition on the level of reason’s practical use of the possibility of God! The level of his ignorance is such that it yields high risk of insanity which arguably treats freedom as transcendent to the givenness of limitation in which reality (or reality principle) breaks down (more on this).

Even so, insofar as the experience of God by an unlearned or pre-critical metaphysician does not need the precondition of cognizability of God for God to become an object of experience in the metaphysical sense, freedom actually precedes the a prioris of reason. He knows God exists because his belief is capable of moving him (close to Kierkegaard’s notion of subjectivity is actuality). This runs counter to the unknowability of the object of experience from the standpoint of the pure exercise of pure reason which can only allow itself to reduce an object of experience to its thinkability but not its knowability. Hence, a natural metaphysician is actually capable of knowing an object of experience by alone utilizing the practical side of pure reason. Though even at this point that he is performing something that he is not actually free to do so he is ignorant that he deploys the a prioris of reason. The poor fellow is actually predetermined. Like it or not, even an unlearned man has a prioris in his mind!

Indeed, the condition of possibility of a metaphysical postulate such as God is the annulment of the a prioris of pure reason (though, again, the poor believer is ignorant that his is an act of annulment). Someone like Kant has to tell our poor fellow that he is not actually experiencing an object of experience but simply believing he experiences the non-experienceable. But with uncanny twist, a natural metaphysician can unlearn his ignorance or his predisposition to dogmatic metaphysics if he learns the a prioris that for Kant actually condition his belief. (On hindsight, Kant himself was awakened from his dogmatic slumber).This is the kernel of what we described beforehand as substance abuse. What follows is our elaboration:

Let us administer an a priori ‘pill’ to a natural metaphysician. When the drug kicks in our guinea pig will be transported to a dimension in the past when he could see how he was not actually being himself when he was at his best self. The drug works as a liberator of ignorance. But the wonder of the pill is more than that. It actually allows the subject of the experiment an experience of the redoubtable—that with the pill he can experience freedom. This time freedom loses its metaphysical character. It becomes a permissible experience of metaphysics, a critical act. There metaphysics is liberated from natural disposition—a post-human metaphysics.

No sooner than reality barges in after the expiration of the pill another pill must be administered. Presumably this time it is the subject of the experiment asking for a much higher dose. It is precisely at this point when the subject becomes free, not anymore in the metaphysical sense, rather in the transcendental sense. The subject is now capable of explaining the possibility of metaphysics.

II.

We can also argue that this experiment also works for the Copernican revolution in philosophy initiated by Kant. The perspectival shift of the Copernican is not dictated by the a priori rather by freedom. Freedom is not an apriori but performance. We have covered this already. Nonetheless we can extend the argument.

As performance however pure reason has no concept for it. Let us say it is pure sensibility, pure affect, without which no object can be experienced (‘thoughts without contents are blind’). Kant would further his argument in terms of introducing another correlation between intuition and concept—intuitions without concepts are empty. From the latter correlation we can obtain the conception that freedom (which is the result of the intuition of time and space initially producing an awareness of boundaries and limitations in which alone freedom can operate) cannot be actually free until it is given to cognizability or to the categories of understanding. So far this is Copernican—actuality is produced by the a prioris being made to reduce objects to conforming to reason. Yet we all know that as a consequence of Kant’s Newtonian view of science objects cannot of their own making conform to cognition. Objects are inert in a Newtonian universe. Cognition must rather make objects behave according to its designs which correspond to the categories of understanding. But, realistically speaking, this is only half-Copernican.

Recall here that freedom is what allowed the perspectival shift. It is not cognition that makes objects conform to it, rather something entirely non-cognitive, practical, to say the least. As we have emphasized in the preceding section, freedom has to be cognizable first before it can penetrate human understanding. Thus, what the Copernican revolution is all about is the cognizability of freedom to allow the perspectival shift to transform our scientific view of the world. And yet freedom is not an a priori for it to be cognizable. Even as a practical value, it cannot be recognized as performativity until the a prioris are suspended—in other words, the a prioris have to be first tested. They have to be there all along, at least, for Kant.

Nonetheless, the necessary presence of the a prioris does not prove anything. They cannot be assuming the necessary had not something entirely non-cognitive allowed their necessity. For purposes of consistency, the non-cognitive that we are referring here must not be a part of pure reason (its practical side) otherwise freedom would lose its integrity as that which purely allows the perspectival shift, a change of method of acquiring knowledge (from Ptolemaic to the Copernican) precisely because it would simply be the other side of pure reason, yet the same pure reason allowing its other side to maintain its self-coherence, calling the shots. Thus, there is no point to the assumption that the change of perspective initiated by Copernicus in science (and extended to philosophy by Kant) is made possible by the pure exercise of freedom, not reason, either intellectual or practical, rather by pure willing, or the will to truth that is irreducible to cognition and the cognizability of its practical value.

But to insist that it is pure willing would entirely belie Kant’s Copernican revolution. Certainly in the sense of will to truth Kant anticipates the ascetic ideal that Nietzsche accuses him of endorsing beneath his famous exhortation to dare use the full powers of reason. In a nutshell, the ascetic (nihilistic) ideal means that with the collapse of reason (prefigured in Kant by the annulment of reason to give room for faith) only the will can provide comfort.  Yet even the will has to be suspended for it was the will in the pure sense that encouraged the will to truth (the change of perspective from Ptolemy to Copernicus and now to the ever-increasing complexity of science that corresponds to the complexity of its objects of study) that shattered the illusion of willing that truth is attainable. Nonetheless, in spite of appearances, the will itself must be saved, as Nietzsche speaks of the last resort of the ascetic (in On the Genealogy of Morals).

III.

I would like to end here with a question: Can we now say with utmost clarity (the dogmatic side of our position vis-à-vis Kant’s own) that to save the appearance of health, sanity and virtuous living, of necessity the ascetic must take substance abuse to a secure path?

A Rehearsal in Anti-correlationism

 1.   With mathematical proofs, for the first time, as Kant says, objects are made to conform to cognition. But if we pay close attention to this formulation the success of mathematics not only lies in objects being made to conform to a cognitive design but also, seemingly, in a pre-existing correlation between mind and object.  That seems to be the revolution ignited by mathematical science, a revolution that would change the intellectual landscape of Europe that was long before divided between dogmatic and skeptical persuasions. This revolution however was more than what it had been acknowledge for.

 2.   If we are to radicalize this revolution in terms of the conditions of possibility of knowledge, mathematical science discovered the critical correlation between mind and object, and for there to be something like an objective conformity to mathematical proofs this correlation must pre-exist mathematics. Naively put, take away one term in the correlation and there would be no mathematical proof. So far that makes sense. But, in spite of appearances, this correlation exhibits a metaphysical tendency. Taken to its extreme, the pre-existing correlation between mind and object guarantees a certain positive telos to our quest for certainty. It may take time to achieve certainty but it is guaranteed by the correlation. But this telos is not only applicable to the future but much more to the past. Here, we can mention a certain intelligible design or the metaphysics of a pre-ordered cosmos.

 3.   For instance, what can we make of phenomena that preceded the advent of human intelligence? Certainly, there was no correlation in this dimension of the past when humans were yet to emerge in the planet. What about the Big Bang? What about the Nebulae theory of Kant (with Laplace) when certainly there was no human in the scene? By invoking the correlation in the investigation of past phenomena, we end up with the anthropic principle—that the universe is created such that it would evolve into a situation in which physical and organic conditions are ripe for the emergence of the human species. This is obviously metaphysical in the dogmatic sense—what appeared to be independent of all experiences, which is how we define metaphysics, suddenly becomes without explication dependent on human emergence. In other words, there is no metaphysics apart from the fact that human signification forces its realization into exclusive communicable codes.

 4.   Initially, this answers the question of the possibility of metaphysics. It was there all along, but, as Althusser would put it, reified. As a human disposition it was there already but whether it can lead to any real knowledge is questionable, especially, when a metaphysician does not acknowledge his self-generating power to do metaphysics, meaning, when he otherwise believes that metaphysics is independent of the immanent conditions of reasoning that can produce metaphysics. But only metaphysics can redeem itself from its pre-critical disposition, hence, the reason Kant calls his metaphysics critical. In other words, metaphysics cannot be deployed to understand the world itself but only how our own faculties deploy themselves in understanding and judging our own acts. This makes critical metaphysics a proper ethical discipline. Put in radical terms, however, the world is unknown to a self-understanding reason, that we cannot approach the world through the categories of reason. Now, there’s the rub.

 5.    We cannot understand the world but can will a world instead that will have to be unknown to reason granting that Kant is right about the world resistant to human categories. In the final analysis, the correlation between mind and world or nature or anything outside the mind holds tight in Kant. There has to be an unknown world for there to be a cognitive activity and this world has to be willed rather than understood. Let us say, in light of contemporary problems, there has to be climate change, an ungraspable phenomenon after all by virtue of its occurrence in the world that is resistant to human signification, for there to be such response as mitigation and reduction of carbon emissions. What this formulation neglects, aside from the absurdity it conveys, is that by rendering the world unknown we deny our contribution to how this world turns out to be. We cannot know if our carbon emissions are really changing the physical laws of the planet. Does this amount to stating that we have all the reasons to deny that climate change is happening and that it is happening because of the way we have treated the world as unresponsive to human acts? The culprit in this form of climate change denial is the presupposition that humans must will a world according to how they structure their minds, and they have obviously structured their minds in such a way that the world is for the mind a potential for metaphysics to become dogmatic in terms of applying metaphysics to the world. (This prefigures the ascetic ideal that Nietzsche attributed to Kant—the subtle but dangerous denial of the world). But the consequence of not applying metaphysics to the world reveals a more dangerous tendency: the world is turned into an unresponsive hyperobject which puts the blame of climate change on the world itself by not being responsive to human abuse which could have otherwise rechanneled human inertia into to a more desirable direction. The world becomes a hyperobject in proportion to how it is blown out of proportion by giving it incredible substances and properties such as would fit the cognitive construction of a world indifferent to human values. Here, we can see the danger of Kantian correlation that puts much premium on the subject which alone can mobilize the correlation such as between mind and object.

 6.   Another problematic value we can detect in the Kantian correlation is, where there is a mind objects can be made to become part of a cognitive design which makes objects belong to nature. The reason I mention nature here has something to do with the function of mathematics to science. Through mathematics, science can naturalize objects in terms of determining them as a prioris of the mathematical mind, which is also a scientific mind. Through mathematical proofs science can make objects belong to a domain called Nature that, in spite of appearances, is constructed by man, contrary to the prevailing claim that Nature is non-constructible by man. There is a particular man invoked here, that is, the mathematical or scientific man, not man in the universal sense. But this man is also a metaphysical term in the dogmatic sense for it conceals its particularity in mathematical and scientific activity. Taking Heidegger’s cue, this is no less a metaphysics of subjectivity.

 7.   Another metaphysical value we can identify with these mathematical and scientific endeavours (as Kant understood them) has something to do with how through mathematics science constructs Nature. There is no Nature to begin with other than what science can determine of objects that conform to its idea of what constitutes Nature. Science can determine objects as prioris in a constructible domain of Nature in the sense of naturalizing them. What we obtain here is a politics of nature, or naturalizing Nature by non-natural means, not Nature, say, as wilderness or untamed. We can say this is metaphysical in the sense that we are led to believe that Nature is an objective phenomenon, totally apart from human signification or construction. In this light, there is the Heideggerian sense of concealment.

 8.   But, and this goes through the heart of Heidegger’s concept of aletheia: what gets unconcealed or really discovered in the process of scientific naturalization of objects are those objects which cannot be placed under scientific experiment guided by empirical and theoretical principles, after much scientific work is done. These unconcealed objects challenge the a prioris of scientific mind. For instance, what about objects of nature such as those produced by a mysterious leap of genetic mutation? These molecular objects are produced by sheer chance and accident. They cannot become part of the constructible design of scientific a prioris. By all means it is an Event, that is to say, it is unpredictable.  Hence, they escape the categories of understanding or the a priori principles of reason.

 9.   Most crucially, concerning the status of objects, what becomes of the debris or waste materials generated by scientific experiments, and those by technological and economic production spurred by scientific advancement? As waste or toxic materials, are they still part of the constellation of objects determined by science as belonging to Nature? When these toxic materials penetrate the earth’s crust, they are assuming the function of Nature in the sense that they are determining the laws of life on earth, but no longer Nature as it were for they are not induced by Nature understood as that which stands apart from humans capable of doing science that is capable of naturalizing Nature. Certainly, they are induced through the uncanny concept of scientific Nature extended into technological and biopolitical forms of inventing Nature to be harnessed for human ends.  Now, the question we raise for Kant—what is the reality of this Nature he is talking about when he mentions mathematics and science as determinative of objects of Nature according to certain definable a prioris?

 10. But it is more complicated than that. The necessary dualism that is invoked by science in constructing Nature from not-yet-constructible Nature, or the Alien Other that is yet to penetrate the language of science through placing this Other under scientific experiment by means of validating and nullifying a given hypothesis, becomes non-functional in the sense that the real dualism that is secretly invoked by science is to be found rather within a self-dividing act of the scientific mind. In other words, the scientific mind traverses both the constructible and the not-yet-constructible. But the not-yet-constructible is also given in advance by a constructing mind of science or what belongs to Nature not-yet. This not-yet Nature is illegitimate until science can make objects in the not-yet conform to what is intelligible based on a given set of a prioris. In the final analysis, there is no dualism between mind and Nature, or between phenomena and noumena, from the objective or non-subjective standpoint. But this standpoint is impossible. No science can occupy an external objective standpoint. There is only dualism from a strictly subjective standpoint. Hence, there are no real objects to begin with. The radical implication of which is to deny climate change, for instance. What is climate change if not the phenomenon of objects asserting they are real? That is to say, real in the sense that they cannot be tamed by the categories of reason.

Postscript

In light of our ecological crisis, this calls for a new approach to objects. But there are only real subjects, arguing from what we can radicalize of Kant. Again, back to the metaphysics of subjectivity.

These nomadic people, arguably from Austronesian descent, will know how to rebuild their lives from the ruins as had their ancestors during the Last Glacial Maximum 20,000 years ago when villages were drowned by melting polar glaciers.

My father’s town is now barely recognizable, his place of origin, a place that taught him how to swim. No one in the town was a stranger to the sea; they knew of sea monsters, strange creatures frolicking behind the sea crests, outlines on a bubbly, treacherous canvass of a moonlit Pacific that is home to pearls. Finding their ways on plateaus to create a people whose myths were those of pearls, tectonic treasures of molten memories buried deep beneath the roaring earth, these pearls inspired ferment, revolutions, music and poetry of resistance against all types of war machines of the great Atlantic dream. Shy of accepting defeat in a face-to-face combat against the natives, once, the Americans scorched the entire region, rendering the soil unfit for agriculture for decades to come. Faced with the wrath of either glaciers or hellish contraption, the natives nonetheless proved their resilience. They were nomadic.

Looking at the pictures of destruction wreaked by Yolanda, I wonder if my father would have a word to say—against imperial America, against the waves, against the looters of his town’s treasures feeding up the global rich who, with the help of native elites, then and now, continue to conspire against their remaining wealth, their bodies, surpluses of biopower that fuel the machines of global capital. Economists call these surpluses ‘domestic helpers’. Indeed, when economy has something to say about a person’s character by the intensity she can offer, it is when economy traces its genealogy in morals. Most of my relatives (who were at one point employed as OFWs) living in the region however choose to ignore the label. (I haven’t heard from them since after the devastation). It is something they are neither proud nor shameful. Nomadic bloods running in their veins, these people are ardent believers in the economy to come. For the time being let things run their course. All that is solid will soon melt into thin air.

I heard a story from a survivor of Bohol earthquake, weeks before Yolanda, that people were seeing ghostly strangers. It was not difficult to detect who is a neighbour or stranger in a town galvanized by a myth. But a stranger has a role to perform (the stranger as a performative principle)—to warn of the unpredictable. These apparitions were complemented by animal cries at night that they were mistaking for those of creatures whose existence they only learned from legends and myths—whatever cry they could make, these creatures have only been in existence in as far as people could divine an acoustic image.  Apparitions and acoustic image—both warn of the coming of the unspeakable, of the aneconomy, of the amoral, the epiphany of an ancient formerity. The myth as a leveling political imaginary.

But this time we have to arm this myth with the weapon of the speculative, a myth folded, redoubled. With a power to heal and forget—we will have to forge a new myth, create a new island, a new people, a new consciousness of earth and ocean, a new second creation.

As flood myths have always taught people of deserted islands, creating a new myth will have to be preceded by a leveling cataclysm, not to mention a new people’s consciousness — in the words of Deleuze, radical and absolute (Desert Islands). It is in this sense that a power to heal and forget can be lethal. Beware, defenders of moral economy!

A new literature is about to unfold.

Related post:

1. Estado ng Matinding Kalungkutan (http://s0metim3s.com/2013/11/11/storms/)

Against Kant, to be more precise.

Let us make a rundown of what Kant did in the eyes of Nietzsche.

I. From synthetic a priori to decisionism

The story began with Kant faulting Leibniz for assimilating metaphysics to analytic judgments, even as he criticized Hume for failing to radicalize the germinal concept of the possibility of synthetic a priori (See Sebastian Gardner, Kant and the Critique of Pure Reason [London and New York, 1999], 138).

For Kant, against Leibniz and Hume, metaphysics is an example of synthetic a priori, and more than that, it is possible as a valid form of knowledge not just what is blindly presupposed in habit. But what exactly is the status of its possibility?

Recall here that the problematic of the synthetic a priori concerns an impasse concerning which is a valid starting point, the synthetic or the analytic. The possibility of synthetic a priori must therefore exceed the synthetic-analytic distribution. Relying on Dieter Heinrich’s legendary lectures on Kant, Slavoj Zizek takes us into an adept summary of what is going on with Kant who is here facing a dilemma (the italicized words were quoted by Zizek from Heinrich):

“Kant starts with a cognitive capacity–the Self with its three features (unity, synthetic activity, emptiness) is affected by noumenal things and, through its active syntheses, organizes impressions into phenomenal reality; however, once he arrives at the ontological result of his critique of knowledge (the distinction between phenomenal reality and the noumenal world of Things-in-themselves), ‘there can be no return to the self. There is no plausible interpretation of the self as a member of one of the two worlds.” This is where practical reason comes in: the only way to return from ontology to the Self is via freedom: freedom unites the two worlds and provides for the unity or coherence of the Self–this is why Kant repeated the motto again and again, ‘subordinate everything to freedom’” (Slavoj Zizek, Less Than Nothing. Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism [London and New York: Verso, 2012], 266); also, Dieter Heinrich, Between Kant and Hegel. Lectures on German Idealism, ed. David S. Pacini [Cambridge, Massachusetts, London and England: Harvard University Press, 2003, 52).

The impossibility of returning to the self in the final analysis requires a decision: the decision arises from the impossibility of deciding, so to speak. Until the self decides it is practically a ghost but that does not necessarily mean the self loses a body. The self is still embodied but as such is also vulnerable to external appropriation. This is the vulnerability that the ascetic ideal (the subject of Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals) takes advantage of, the body-self. (We will return to this aspect later).

II. Kant’s resurrection of the ascetic ideal

Kant resurrects the ascetic ideal through – this is quite familiar now – a correlationist strategy. We will find out what the real function of correlationism is to Kant’s oft-repeated call to “subordinate everything to freedom.”

Meillasoux (2007) defines correlationism as follows: “Correlationism consists in disqualifying the claim that it is possible to consider the realms of subjectivity and objectivity independently of one another” (Quentin Meillasoux, After Finitude. An Essay on Contingency, trans. Ray Brassier [London: Continuum, 2008], 8).

What this amounts to is simple if we consider the relation between subject and object, or Man and the world whose relational form partakes of a more elementary or primary model, that is, as always a relation of sort. Relations are absolutely primary, and there are only relations – so far, this is the metaphysical kernel of correlationism. This, for a good reason, destroys the unrelational nature of the metaphysics of substance. But, having destroyed metaphysics in this sense, correlationism generates a new form of metaphysics, that is, the metaphysics of relation; psychologically put, the absolute necessity of belongingness, of a shared relationship. This has indeed a very useful therapeutic function – one is assured that he is not alone. Indeed, as Nietzsche says, nihilism has deep psychological roots. (But this is not the ultimate cause of nihilism).

Meillasoux adds: “[Ever] since Kant, to discover what divides rival philosophers is no longer to ask who has grasped the true nature of substantiality, but rather who has grasped the more originary correlation” (Ibid.). This brings us to Kant’s maxim “subordinate all to freedom.”

The trick is the exceptionalist metaphysics of a philosopher who wills himself to grasp a correlation. Hence, freedom exceeds the correlation. Kant had to set up the problem of correlation to replace the old substantialist problem only to affirm what substantialism affirmed all along (though negatively), namely, that someone or a subject wills a substance (God in old metaphysics; Man for Kant).

But still for Kant the Man-category is derivative of self-critique, that it is only by self-critique that Man as a subject can exist as subject in reality. This is where Nietzsche faulted Kant. The Kantian self-critique is ultimately a critique of pre-critical, pre-modern values (both in theology and philosophy, especially those influenced by Cartesianism). In Nietzschean terms, this is expressed by way of confronting the question head-on: Does a critique of values have a value of its own (GM, Preface 6)? Or, who will undertake the critique of morality? Here morality collapses the distinction between theology and philosophy understood as both pre-critical and still pre-modern despite Descartes.

More so, because it also concerns values, the question of the value of critique of values is no less a critique of moral economy (all morals are economic as all of economics is morality). If Man continues to be reactive (in the Nietzschean sense, as Deleuze pointed out to us in Nietzsche and Philosophy) because it remains hostage to pre-critical morality (theology and philosophy, and, economics, altogether in the Kantian sense), then what right has Man to undertake the critique? Who is this Man? What exactly must this Man have to secure the right to carry out the critique?

Nietzsche saw the answer in the ascetic ideal which is associated with a more familiar Nietzschean concept, the death of God, roughly the collapse of meaning or value of existence whose most representative proponent is the ascetic.

The ascetic is the Man of Kant, in short.  But there are at least two types of ascetic: the pre-critical ascetic (theologian, philosopher, and economist or moral economist as well) and critical ascetic (presumably one who has followed the Critiques to the last words, at the ready to subordinate the pre-critical to freedom).

Freedom is the modern Man-category that will carry out the critique of values of the pre-critical. In short, the critical ascetic is charged by Kant with the responsibility to carry out the critique.

This expresses the whole project of modernity as Nietzsche saw it, starting with Kant.

But there is always a twist.

III. Faith that is not commanded: Kant’s version of the ascetic ideal

The key to understanding this is the movement of the ascetic ideal from irrational or precritical terms of faith to “honest objective atheism” (GM, III 27). Kant could give us a lot of hints for the necessity of this transition, one of which is what follows from a subjective need to objective necessity:

“[The] principle which determines our judgement in this is the basis – subjectively indeed as a need, but simultaneously also as a means of furthering what is objectively (practically) necessary … This faith is therefore not commanded” (Immanuel Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, trans, Werner S. Pluhar [Indiana/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2002],184).

But we have never asked ourselves why the transition is in the first place necessary. (Incidentally, Kierkegaard opposed this objective transition apropos his famous maxim – ‘subjectivity is truth; subjectivity is actuality’; see Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript to the Philosophical Crumbs, ed. and trans. Alastair Hannay [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009], 288).  

For Nietzsche, the transition is caused no less by the death of God, which signals the rebirth of the ascetic ideal, the secret jouissance of the pre-critical moderns that God must die of necessity so that the true essence of the ideal can be finally expressed in absolute (modern) human terms. But the most revolutionary expression of the pre-modern jouissance lay centuries ahead.

This would be no less accomplished through conjuration that has a counterpart in sorcery – extracting a spirit from the cranium of the dead through which the dead is somehow resurrected in terms of a new object-relation (through the skull) to that which will never return as a subject-relation (the living body). Correlatively, the success of delivering faith from ignorance gives the conjurer-moralist the opportunity to restrain, to limit, even deny and suppress the vital power that by all means established the ascetic ideal even as it  negates its true source. This ideal or the spirit of revenge (against the living) prospers by refocusing the attention from heaven to earth not out of fidelity to the earth, rather out of pity for it having lost the transcendent meaning that used to support this loyalty (GM, III 27).

Having rescued faith from its precritical condition, Kant gave the ascetic ideal a new lease on life which greatly contributes to the nihilism of modern times which has come full circle in terms of obscuring the ecological background of moral reason, which to us is the ultimate desire of the ascetic – the active denial of the earth. Therefore, the economic form of humiliating earth-values is no less an ‘ascetic’ ideal (as if we haven’t stressed the point that the economist is a moralist and vice versa).

In this light, what truly radicalizes Nietzsche’s genealogical project is its ultimate presupposition, that all morals have ecological roots.

Modernity: A Perverted Genealogical Hypothesis

Before concluding, let me offer an interpretation of Latour’s own concept of ‘we have never been modern’ through Nietzsche’s genealogical prism:

“Does one really in all seriousness still think (as the theologians deluded themselves for a while) that, for instance, Kant’s victory over the conceptual dogmas of theology (‘God’, ‘soul’, ‘freedom’, ‘immortality’) harmed [the] ideal? … What is certain is that, since Kant, all kinds of transcendentalists have once again won the day – they are liberated from the theologians: what luck! – Kant revealed to them the secret path along which they may from now on, in independence and with the greatest scientific respectability, pursue their ‘heart’s desire’ (GM, III 25).

As an anti-modernist Nietzschean, I understand Latour to be proposing this – the failure of modernity, or shy of the expression, corresponds to our awareness of what is at stake in the ascetic ideal – that it must not be allowed anymore to reproduce itself as Kant did when he delivered faith from its ignorance (its precritical condition), igniting the course of the modern phenomenon of the death of God as it revived the spirit of the ascetic who would have found in Kant’s Critiques the justification for an “objective, honest atheism,” yet a justification that must remain a secret lie.  For Kant, as for the ascetic, God is an absolutely necessary concept. Interestingly, the commons must be guarded against the awareness of this hypothesis, against learning the ‘weakness of the god-postulate’ (parenthesizing Caputo), the postulate of the ascetic.

But we can also say that the modern ideal (of Kant) is absolutely illusory, which does not mean that the ascetic ideal which gives the modern ideal its most profound expression (the prototype of modern nihilism is the ascetic) has never historically occurred. Precisely, that is the point.

The ideal will always be in excess of what it can promise and will therefore not become actual in the sense that one can call it his own, or his own ‘time or age’, his ‘environment’, his ‘model’, his ‘origin’. (Age, environment, model, origin: these are the terms of Nietzsche’s genealogy [GM, Preface]). Here, we interpret excess in the sense Nietzsche speaks of “a perverted genealogical hypothesis” (GM, Preface) – the hypothesis of modernity.

“We have never been modern.” At least, our nihilism has never been irremissible. In a sense, Nietzsche credits the ascetic (though for sheer rhetorical purposes) for showing us the dangers of nihilism or the (Kantian modernist) Idea – so that, it makes sense to say, we can refuse to ‘become modern’, to become an idea. We think this is the exact kernel of Nietzsche’s fascination for the Presocratics – in his words, “the republic of geniuses from Plato to Socrates.”

Deleuze and Guattari have at least provided us an initial description of this power to negate the ascetic in their concept of rhizome, which extends Nietzsche’s concept of power to form and shape independent of the ends of truth, organization and finality, but also a power to heal and forget (to heal our contamination out of prolonged exposure to modernity; forget that we have become modern out of our inevitable relation to history). Later, Deleuze would develop this concept into that of the power of the false.

But this is another matter.

Related post:

1. Dirty Secrets: I Love the Moderns

http://larvalsubjects.wordpress.com/2013/10/23/dirty-secrets-i-love-the-moderns/

Terence Blake of terenceblake.wordpress.com makes an interesting comparison between Latour and Zizek, triggered by Adam Kotsko’s An Interview over Zizek at itself.wordpress.com. Below is my rather brief commentary on the comparative relation between Latour and Zizek.

I think in the end Latour’s conservatism will complement Zizek’s view of religion, though each differs in his approach towards what Zizek calls the Big Other (or God, if you will), if we look into how in the same manner Zizek proposes a more conservative treatment of the reality of the Oedipalized master that has died along with God (in this sense the death of God is the death of the Oedipal Father that paves the way for a more symbolic One, the master signifier). Zizek does not fully support autonomy in terms of withdrawing from the present order if we mean the present as a social symbolic that is individually or collectively localized in particular ways of appropriating the death of God, which by all means are ways also of appropriating a symbolic stand-in for the God (the Oedipal Father) that will never return. Zizek’s approach to the death of God is nothing new. Like Freud he proposes an end to mourning to give way to a more manageable melancholic attitude towards the Other by replacing that which will never return with an object-relation that serves as a stand-in, a memory simply put. In Lacan this memory is properly symbolic, hence, the social symbolic as a whole object-relation construction. It is here where Lacan’s conservatism is at its best. After a period of mourning the period of conservatism or willful recovery follows. Suffice it to say that it is in object-relations that society is enabled to survive despite the death of God.

It is important that we mention here Zizek’s criticism of Occupy movement where he repeats Lacan’s criticism of the student revolts of May 1968 by taking the Occupiers to task for their failure to create a sustainable community (sustainable in the psychoanalytic sense of preserving psychic energies that would have been otherwise utilized for more socially productive ends other than protesting). In other words, we must become aware of the logic of protest–it is simply symptomatic of our mourning for the death of God that despite the turn to object-relations is not completely appeased. Like the repressed it will find a way to reveal the cause of the symptom. Moreover, resistance or protest must be fully rationalized as to not bring the phantoms of the past back to the present (the Ur-phantom is of course the Father); instead, these phantoms must be sublated in the present such that it would no less appear that their mourning has found its proper culmination in the object-relation of the present. Here, Zizek combines the lessons of Hegel and Lacan.

But protests are also instructive if not edificatory for they sustain our relation to memory (the memory of the death of God). But just enough as to not turn us away from the reality of the everyday, or the reality of the mediation of object-relations that sustain our existence despite the lack of reason for existence. Something must remain untouched, a sacred, if you will. In this sense Latour does not withdraw from the present assuming the present is already the accomplished space of Freudo-Lacanian social symbolic that cannot anymore encourage another death. (Humanity has reached its utmost atmospheric limit in language which makes our last struggle atmospheric in nature [no less the anthropocene triggered by human intervention, for instance, in the atmosphere]). Zizek does not also withdraw from ‘this’ present assuming that the act of withdrawing is simply and nothing else but the act of pointing towards that which withdraws (Heidegger), or that which speaks of ‘end times’ (social entropy for Zizek), or that which today should allow for a cosmopolitan approach to the  maximization of what’s left of solar entropy (Stengers, Latour; Sloterdijk, but also Lovelock, Crutzen). It is language that withdraws. Or, might one also say that it is withdrawing toward the last scene of Man which is now beginning to express itself independent of human pointing?

Related posts:
1. http://itself.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/an-interview-over-zizek/ An Interview over Zizek
2. http://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/latours-enunciative-ontology-and-the-conservatism-of-values-a-deleuzian-rejoinder/
Latour’s Enunciative Ontology and the Conservatism of Values: A Deleuzean Rejoinder

Belief in a people

September 26, 2013

Over at Anarchist Without Content the following lines, from  among the post’s helpful and penetrating insights, made me seriously reflect–“Hardt and Negri do not go as far as to call Empire an abstract machine, but perhaps we should.” 

These are helpful lines on offer with the rest out there about the limitations of Hardt and Negri’s bestseller. But we should also bear in mind, if we follow Deleuze closely, that a people most consistently qualifies as an abstract machine.

In theory both state and people are capable of deterritorialization and reterritorialization though they differ in terms of the directions that these movements of immanent composition imposes on the two different modalities of abstract machine. On the one hand, the state aims at a principle of finality and organization via a skillful synchronization of these movements; on the other hand, a people can continue utilizing those movements or creative rhythms in search of never-ending virtuality.

It is a continuation of the classic contradiction between residentiality and nomadic itinerancy. But I also agree that with the changing dynamics of state determination, the residentiality aspect may no longer apply as a fixed, positive location of determination as today’s state has become more trans-residential, trans-national. Still, and all the more, when the state has transformed into a self-volatilizing power, it becomes ever more self-conscious of its power of abstraction (because it also increases the possibility of its implosion; one of the reasons why the state has to periodically sponsor a crisis, a breach of its immanent principle of organization, to deodorize or unclog its system). Hence, the urgency of challenging the concreteness of state determination from behind, via a sort of, as Anarchist Without Content puts it, non-empiricism. From behind: as the state increases its abstractive power the challenge of resisting it shifts the focus of exposition, opposition and construction from empiricality (which the state can easily evade by becoming more abstract) into the non-empiricality of resistance where the heart of state power resides, that is, in the actuality of its abstraction.

Unfortunately, we have never radicalized abstraction to such an extent that its real power as an abstract machine, a machine capable of grounding abstraction to a halt by emphasizing that real abstraction is allergic to finality and organization, hence, state determination is not abstractive enough) is utilized to its concrete oppositional force.

In a nutshell, I wish to emphasize here that the state or the trans-residential Empire has no real concrete abstractive power vis-à-vis a people as an abstract machine. As an abstract machine a people is the true force that is not extensive to any product because it first of all refuses labor as a positive production principle (a lesson from Berardi). A people has force and force only. It creates; it does not produce. In contrast to Anarchist Without Content‘s observation that “Empire operates through management and circulation, but it is not extensive with its products,” we are rather of the opinion that the Empire has products dependent on the labor that it creates by real subsumption, the labor as an organ/ization principle that it invests in a people, in principle, a body without organs. The Empire is bursting at the seams. The Empire is full because it has its products.

As a final note, I wish to state that as a creating non-producer a people can survive the implosion of the Empire. It can survive even by foraging on the waste of the Empire. By waste I mean the goods that the Empire cannot entirely carry on its own hands.

See full post of Anarchist Without Content

http://anarchistwithoutcontent.wordpress.com/2013/09/23/the-state-as-a-virtual-object-full-paper/

 

Monadology and the New Humanities

An extract of what I’ve blogged here has been accepted for presentation at the Deleuze Conference 2013 organized and sponsored by the School of Education, Murdoch University, Perth, Australia from December 9 to 11, 2013.

I just received the email announcement from the conference organizer Dr. Greg Thompson (who was also present during the First International Deleuze Studies Conference in Asia at Tamkang University, Taiwan, which I attended also for a parallel paper presentation, but never got the chance to rub elbows with).

My abstract_ Here

What the conference is about:

(From its official website)

“This conference is designed for theorists and practitioners working at the intersection of Deleuze, Guattari, Schizoanalysis and Education to share their work. We welcome papers addressing a broad range of issues relating to institutional education such as schools, universities, technical colleges and other institutions of higher education. We also welcome papers addressing the use of Deleuze, Guattari and their combined works in areas typically associated with mainstream education including pedagogy, teaching, learning, teacher education, theories of self, subjectivity, the space and time of the classroom and so on. Those working outside what may be termed mainstream education in alternative education contexts are also encouraged to participate.”

http://www.murdoch.edu.au/School-of-Education/Research/Deleuze-Conference-2013/

It is said that in the anthropocene humans are increasingly altering the geological evolution of the planet, an enormous task that would seem impossible for humans to perform by themselves, like physically moving a celestial body. However, it is not a faulty claim if we consider how, for instance, human waste has gradually altered climate cycle trapping heat energy in the atmosphere. This entrapped heat introduces disequilibrium to a closed system like the planet, thereby making it more susceptible to chaos. The geological effects of these patterns will have enormous impact on the way we view the fate of humanity in the decades to come.

If this effect eventually impacts on the heart of eating, of food availability, the nerve center of everyday existence, certainly the terms of eating will be drastically altered. The goal would be less of maintaining the collective integrity of the species in light of entropy or end times and will be more of sustaining the ‘who’ of the species. It becomes then the task of biopolitics which must cut up the subject in the way of choosing the fit, those fit to eat the last food available. In a situation like this, a revelation of last things becomes a critical barometer of freedom, or how freedom must not be put to waste, hence, the mantra of the urgency of conserving supplies, by cutting up freedom, by grafting it, to use Derrida’s words, to a desirable post-human end where the goal of a new philosophy of the subject is one of—“[Deciding] birth or death, including what is presupposed in the treatment of sperm or ovule, pregnant mothers, genetic genes, so-called bioethics or biopolitics … organ transplant, and tissue grafting.”[1]

In Derridean terms, this entails the problem of how to cut up the human subject. And yet, even technoscience, which assumes the new philosophy of the subject in the era of ‘last things’, is at a loss where precisely to cut up, perhaps, because there are too many flesh to cut up. Derrida says: “In spite of appearances, I am speaking here of very concrete and very current problems: the ethics and politics of the living. We know less than ever where to cut—either at birth or at death. And this also means that we never know, and never have known, how to cut up a subject.”[2]

Yet, it doesn’t discount the fact that the origin of humanity can be traced to the crime of cutting up, or cannibalism, if you will. The sub-ject , which formally introduced humanity into the scheme of things, began as a cut of meat, cut up from the abundance of nature, carved out from the physical void of the universe. Sub-jects cut themselves and others up, and in so doing consume energy. The entire process has been sub-jected to an economy, a colossal and now aggressively accelerating machine, a cutting industry, so that energy can be efficiently utilized until cutting goes all the way to the heart of things. It wants to cut the core, cutting to the chase. It wants to prove the wonders of cutting, that humanity, after all, is a cannibal to the last man.


[1] Jacques Derrida, “Eating Well, or, the Calculation of the Subject,” in Who Comes After the Subject, ed. Eduardo Cadava, Peter Connor, & Jean-Luc Nancy(New York and London: Routledge, 1991), 115.

[2] Ibid., 117.

 

On Power and Monadic Assemblage, Part II

What is unique in our contemporary age is that we have been used to living hybrid lives than were possible in the previous centuries, which also indicate on a much broader spectrum that large systems (presumably the source and perpetrators of alienation) are also able to penetrate our interior lives with perfect immediacy, that is to say, with less structural frictions and the contradictions they have to leap over before they could force themselves to break in. Surprisingly, this truth about systems require of us to take advantage of their hybridity. There has never been a perfect time to take advantage of this phenomenon precisely because hybridity is a weakness; it shows the vulnerability of the system even if it tries to gloss it over by speed (the acceleration of capital in today’s dispensation), and especially if it does that, assuming that the agency detects the silver lining. If there is anything more urgent to seize upon in forging a united front against the sources of alienation wherever we find them operating it is precisely this hybridity. Yet this also presupposes that any agency is a hybrid on the basic assumption that there is nothing outside the system.

That is where we can precisely locate the weakness of the system—if there is no outside to the system then the system must be utterly alone. It thrives on forcing the locks of our interior sanctuaries, mostly, the two immediate sanctuaries of the self, the family sphere and the ego sphere which qualify as substances in the sense that they require motion, externality and individuation. In contrast, the system lacks substance. It cannot live outside of itself (therefore has to pretend that it is moving relative to something outside itself) in contrast to agencies which can deceive themselves (better if it is done self-reflexively) that there is an ‘outside’ to look out for, to flee into, or an outside as providing a sense of stability whose taken-for-granted/ness constitutes its realism for them—reality as an independent dimension. (If self-deception is therefore done consciously then realism becomes the surplus of self-extension that one allows to move oneself in order to further individuate oneself in terms of creating more surpluses, more, presumably adaptable and controllable, real existences). Although Spinoza does not say something about existing in different modes simultaneously, which will correspond here to different adaptable existences, the fact that for him modes are fleeting or ‘nonessential’[1] encourages us to appropriate the modes in terms of their manageable appropriation by self-individuations.

Although Spinoza would not approve of our appropriation of his metaphysics, what can warrant a creative reconstruction of Spinoza’s teachings on substance is that if for him it is the essence of the substance to exist (in modes and attributes) then an external individuation (either fleeting or decidedly permanent) is required. In all these instances, substance requires motion. Still, we have not explained where the system comes from and what is going on in itself that makes it want to acquire substance by means of appropriating existence from agencies. Keep in mind that a system is also a hybrid, but a powerful one.

Systems have the best tendency to block the enhancement of the freedom of agency, or what in Spinoza would mean a sad power that tends to block the enhancement of power itself by dampening it and therefore dragging it towards its lowest potentiality. One can notice here that a system emerges from a certain encounter with power in terms of the encounter between and among passions which activate or dampen the intrinsic potency of power to enhance existence. (The reader may wonder where passions come from. Let us take passions as the first elements of the whole of nature as Spinoza described. Spinoza identified God with natura naturans which he described as “self-existing beings.”[2] In science, they may refer to energies, forces, etc., which have all perceptible characteristics of affectivity that we mentioned above. We are thus using the layman’s term passion to refer to the more technical language utilized in non-philosophical disciplines). A system emerges either as active or reactive. But since it is the nature of system to relate to freedom in the sense that it has to minimize its full autonomy, for a system to emerge it has to cut up something from freedom, then any system is inherently negative. And the moment it takes something it cut up from freedom as its own a system becomes a living and obviously large hybrid. What we are actually seeing here is the making of a real cyborg—any system is. (Hobbes called it the Leviathan). Counter-acting the social necessity of this cyborg—necessity in the sense that it has become a social contract—is the organic hybrid that is us who, as we mentioned above, have self-organizing capacities that can also translate into self-deceptive mechanisms, preferably reflexive.

This capacity for self-deception teeters between empowerment and dispossession, an oscillation that can prove fatal to lower life forms such as mosquitoes which cannot recognize the gap, the fissure, or the void that traverses the space between two attractors (sleep and awake), but a fluctuation that may prove life-enabling, without eliminating the precarity that attends to it, for human life forms. (In the case of mosquitoes, the oscillation between sleep and waking pattern can become permanent, involving a manipulation of the nervous system, which can leave an organism under this spell permanently awake until it dies).[3]

While lower monadic life forms (in the sense we will briefly discuss later) have the capacity for affects which help them survive, higher life forms have capabilities to rationalize the loop of time in the oscillation of subjective states, giving them better advantage for survival. While hybridity means dwelling between two (even more) subjective states the advantage of rationality in higher intelligent life forms (a product of evolutionary progress) keeps hybridity away from a state of permanent suspension or oscillation. Hybridity is an energy that can be used up; in other words, for higher intelligent life forms it can become an object of appropriation. The advantage of rationality, of course, owes a great deal to the affective potency of the neural networks of the brain—an organ that is by any standard a self-organizing system which also relates to other self-organizing systems, other organs and membrane networks found in the human body.

Unsurprisingly, the over-all affective networks generate a human body with no central executive organ. As Spinoza once remarked, “No one knows what a body can do.”[4] In process philosophy, this refers to the phenomenon of emergence—that life emerges after life after life with no governing principle. It just happens and it happens for the most part without us knowing the principles that govern the process itself. It takes care of itself. Take note that ‘principle’ can also refer to a creator, so process philosophy of this kind is also in principle resistant to the personification of creation theory. Going back to rationality, we can argue thus far that rationality is a result of an aleatory encounter—of bodies with other bodies, which in the course of the evolution of humanity has provided human civilization with an interior mechanism against the threat of large hybrid assemblages (the cyborgs we referred to earlier). For better or for worse, rationality, in all its essence a hybrid and a product of aleatory encounters, therefore its genealogy is sealed from appropriation of design, has given humanity leverage against total cyborg invasion. (Rationality, however, should not be treated as the nerve center of hybrid life. Rather, it is an efficient result of monadic affectation of different body networks forming into a powerful material assemblage. Rationality is therefore the result of the inherent drive of bodies to pursue connections that will give them better advantages for survival. If rationality no longer serves this end, bodies know what to do). Meanwhile, what we mean humanity here is what Kierkegaard had profoundly intuited: the actual subjectivity of human freedom.[5]

Here arises the comimmunology approach (or a common immunizing strategy in the face of entropy) proposed by Peter Sloterdijk.[6] In principle, hybrid agencies are much more vulnerable compared to systems, hence, the need for a ‘common immunizing’ strategy which becomes all the more pressing at a time when physical entropy implicates every living species in the planet. In contrast, hybrid approaches to change (those determined by a systematic appropriation of autonomy and potentiality of agencies for self-organization by large hybrid conglomerates) have greatly contributed to the confused modality of modern existence, leaving agent’s lives vulnerable to the different fluctuations of time. This kind of vulnerability is typical of monadic existence. Still, we cannot eliminate the fact that even as windowless (which also constitutes vulnerability) monads touch each other. And here is the importance of studying the analytic of hybridity. The sense of touch is crucial here for it generates a community of affects. Ants for instance are practically blind and yet they can build a self-sufficient colony solely by relying on the sense of touch, on affects and other relevant sensory mechanisms. In principle, ants are monads capable of immunizing themselves (collectively) against the threat of the outside world (that they cannot see!) relative to their capacity to sense danger, but also sources of negating entropy such as food which enhances their affective power to build and nourish a life-world.

Extended to human colonies, the affective lesson of ant colonies can help us realize and accept the fact that our knowledge of things is bounded, contingent, and that the only immediate knowledge we have is that of our own bodies which serve as a natural buffer against danger and entropy. Bodies are natural buffers against entropy which reveal its immediacy in affects which help rationality to express danger in an intelligible format. We can also say at this point that it is how rationality expresses its own immediacy to itself, practically with no body substance of its own. That is how it survives—by expressing its own rather inadequate affective power in terms of concepts, principles or intelligible signs which can reproduce in form the affectivity of bodies (which it lacks) in terms of the network of signifiers, signs, referents, etc. (in the sense that each word, for instance, is structurally related to other words, each word is co-constituting others, generally constituting a grammar, a syntax, etc.; in other words, language duplicates the affective networks of bodies in the actual world).

Extended to social structures, such as an academic institution, the affective power of monadic (affective) existence, what the sociologist Gabriel Tarde also describes as the tendency of monads to assemble,[7] can also refer to the self-organizing capacity of the human institution, that it has the capacity to survive even with limited resources, that a monadic existence is by the power of affects a nomad. Under present circumstances, a nomad is a hybrid agent.

What is rather the most crucial appropriation we can make here is that the threat to agencies (by cyborgs and large hybrid systems, such as corporations, state, etc.) has extended to the planetary, to a broader ecological scene. There is a certain thermodynamic principle or entropy involved here.

If entropy is a threat to ecology and ecology is impinging on the way we relate to the world, and if this also affects the way we envision the future, then a whole new but really familiar cyborg, what a Nobel Laureate describes as Gaia, is winning its war.[8] And if the central target of this entropic push of the geological, solar or cosmic economy that precedes the emergence of the human, is ‘the human’ itself, granting it is ‘central’ by the standard of creation, then rightly so ‘the human’ is losing the war, all the more when ‘the human’ continues to embrace a pre-entropic if not naïve resistance to the actual threat of chaos, disequilibrium, the sure fate of any closed system like the planet. The human that was charged of dominion of the planet in the old days was given custody of a different geological order. That order is no longer the same—it has become something entirely new which also indicates that a new approach has to be conceived, no longer of dominion, or conquest, or fundamentalism and naivety, but perhaps, of intelligent accommodation, rational acceptance or collective releasement to what is to come with the proviso that before it comes we have already immunized ourselves (as a human community that values and actualizes the terms of realizable justice) within the span of delayed entropy, what Saint Paul once described as the katechon, someone or something that will delay the second coming.[9] Energy wise, the second coming will be a spent energy of the universe coming down on us which will economize everything into a state of aneconomy where a new economy can be produced.

James Lovelock, an important climate scientist and a Nobel Prize awardee, introduced the term Gaia to refer to the self-healing process of Nature that can spell doom to our species. If Nature has a self-healing process, Lovelock argues that it can only proceed from Nature leaving its parts, the assemblages of life that it has created. In simple terms Nature will heal itself by abandoning us in terms of depletion of energy supply that sustains our species. The supply will deplete as Nature will use it up to give birth to a new geological era that may or may no longer include us. Part of the process will therefore depend on how we relate to this self-healing process. Unlike in previous aeons there are humans witnessing this event.


[1] See Edwin Curley, “Introduction,” in Spinoza Reader. Benedict Spinoza. Ethics and Other Works, ed. and trans. Edwin Curley (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1994), xxii.

[2]Ibid., xvii.

[3] See Manuel Delanda, Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy (London: Continuum, 2002), 92.

[4] This refers to Spinoza’s famous Proposition 2, Scholium, Part III of his Ethics.

[5] Søren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript to the Philosophical Crumbs, ed. and trans. Alastair Hannay (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 288.

[6] See Peter Sloterdijk, “Living Hot, Thinking Coldly: An Interview with Peter Sloterdijk by Eric Alliez,” in Cultural Politics, Vol. #, Issue 3 [2007]: 316).

[7] Gabriel Tarde, Monadology and Sociology, ed. and trans. Theo Lorenc (Melbourne; re.press, 2012) 34.

[8] See James Lovelock, Gaia. A New Look at Life on Earth (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2000).

[9] See Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political, trans. George Schwab (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1976).

If any power is an assemblage of bodies or passions, and our desire is to forge a new assemblage,  then power has to encourage participation by mutual mutation of bodies. With this, power can also help us actualize only one thing (by of course first willing only one thing) and that is the joyful passion of the monad that by nature always tends to assemble as a way of expressing its allergic nature to stasis.

And so, we need a gymnastic expression of joyful passions by first willing to exercise by of course first willing to assemble into a series of rehearsals. With repetition, rehearsals become a joyful necessity; it becomes music in the sense that the micro-fascism of drills and line formations becomes negligible. It is in rehearsals that bodies touch each other, monads in action, connecting, conjugating where the affects that get produced in the process make bodies forget about their smell, the complexion and texture of their skins, their bad breaths, etc. Monads only will one thing—to conjugate, to develop a line formation of both/and, not either/or which rather entails discrimination by demarcating boundaries. Monads are inherently democratic.

But necessity tends to terminate in boredom, and so, the key is to change the music which will affect a change of body rhythms, moods and temperament, a temporal and spatial change, a change in frequency, duration, the aesthetics of motion. The change in music is also expected to change perceptive capabilities—capabilities become differential, breaking the unilateral movement of perception in a linear way (from subject to object) in favor of whatever movement, whatever duration, whatever angle, perspective, etc., which disrupts perception. Since music can affect the body, it follows that it also affects its sense of self-coherence. Changing music is like changing the pull of gravity, or tilting the surface plane. If the ground tilts to 45 degrees, the body adapts to a different posture than it used to. With variations in grades the body becomes versatile.

Keep in mind that we are referring only to musicality. So far everything here is a rehearsal. Nature can tilt the ground someday to which bodies can respond differently in the same manner as climate change is now changing body response to diseases. Our musical rehearsal is actually a rehearsal ‘in form’ of the kind of habituation that we will have to get used to when entropy becomes stronger and stronger in time. This is crucial. The waiting for Godot is over.

With Leibniz’s principle of sufficient reason which actually forms the best case for Monadology, the days of miracle are over.[1] In a nutshell, what is the principle of sufficient reason? Owing to the nature of monads to look for the best possible connection that will enhance its existence, it suffices to say that even the laws of nature are contingent. They change as monads change. If today we have a gravity that makes us stand upright, someday we may have one that will compel us to stand in oblique formation. It only takes a super earthquake to tilt the earth’s balance. Lest we forget, human beings are not the only monads. Nature is full of nonhuman monads which can in fact tilt that balance as material, physical, and chemical elements of Nature are now forming a hostile assemblage to human habitation.

But we cannot permanently settle with musicality. We cannot dance forever. And there is the floor. In this light we need a technicity in the sense Gilbert Simondon describes it—“a practical inventive engagement.”[2] (Simondon is another figure besides Tarde who influenced Deleuze who, as a way of acknowledging, is the main theoretical influence behind our conjugational, that is to say, ‘both/and’ approach to other disciplines vis-à-vis philosophy).

If Simondon was actually describing our relations to nonhuman entities like machines or technical objects,[3] our approach would be like understanding the analytic of the floor or the ground which as with Simondon’s notion of technicity which encourages technical participation between and among objects (a hammer is not a hammer unless it is always already related to something it can be used for, say, to nail a nail, which is not what a hammer is for absolutely, hence, a hammer is also related to something beyond its known practical use which makes a hammer available even for non-utilitarian purposes, like in art installations, etc.) encourages participation between the dance and the floor or the ground. In ‘dance floor’ two words (monads) conjugate to form a meaning (an assemblage that accommodates action not only on the part of the dance, which we are taking here in its active sense, but also on the part of the floor—the floor’s molecular assemblage is affected by the movement on the surface). The key to understanding this analytic is in its non-reductionist relation. In the case of the word ‘dance floor’ the conjugation is not reducible to a pre-arranged conjugation like economy, for instance. What actually brings the ‘dance floor’ to an expression (linguistic) is an active conjugation of bodies which do not anticipate the word ‘dance floor’. Bodies encounter the floor. In turn, the floor encounters bodies. What is produced in the process is not subject to the exchange-value (between body and the floor or ground) of any pre-arranged conjugation. The encounter between these two bodies is in principle aleatory.

What are we driving at here? We mentioned about rehearsals. One of the reasons we need to change the music in rehearsals is that we can be stuck in its necessity, stuck in the sense that we may ignore the true purpose of the rehearsal (hence, the lack of inventive engagement) and that is to encourage the ground to open which would technically ‘ground’ the activity to a halt, or silence any kind of music. We can say here that the music changes because the ground remains firm. While it is true that the rehearsal makes the body versatile, as long as the ground is sturdy and dense, versality can turn into vice. This is what happens to post-modernism. The acceleration of capital compels the individual to become proficient, to learn how to dance, and dance to different tunes. As long as acceleration does not hit a highpoint versality has no other purpose than individuation and thermo-release which creates the false necessity of autonomy, of more forced hybrid expressions. For Simondon, this is an example of succumbing to adaptationism.[4] In other words, the ground must gape open to interrupt necessity.

We do not mean to invite entropy to do the work of opening the ground. We can imagine a catastrophe. Today, earthquakes are becoming stronger. Rather, we mean to invite ourselves to break our own grounds, to question even the necessity of the musical, the rehearsals as they too can turn into vices.

This is where research comes in—one looks into holes (our vulnerability to adaptationism) to see what’s happening. Is there no better way to express this kind of investigation than as another step towards immunizing ourselves against adaptation, against necessity, against the reticularity of the system, against complacency, naivety which can nurture fanaticism, especially now that necessity comes in the guise of entropy? What is ironic about entropy is that while it encourages the release of heat energy from bodies that translate to activity and the passion for individuation (such as the dancing we mentioned and the liberty of changing the music) it is also indifferent to the ground like Deleuze’s joyful typhoon.[5] As monads that express the best of their existence, typhoons are simply expressing their potencies when they pour down on human lives which, meanwhile, are stuck with necessity.


[1] Gabriel Tarde, Monadology and Sociology, ed. and trans. Theo Lorenc (Melbourne; re.press, 2012), 78.

[2] See Muriel Combes, “Afterword,” in Gilbert Simondon and the Philosophy of the Transindividual, trans. Thomas LaMarre (Cambridge, Massachusetts and London: England; MIT Press, 2013), 98.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., 101.

[5] See Leopold Lambert, The Funambulist Pamphlet. Spinoza, Vol. 3, ed. Leopold Lambert (Brooklyn, New York: The Punctum Books, 2013), 19.

A Postecological Challenge

August 22, 2013

 

What comes up after a long hiatus since after my last post is this musing on ‘end times’…

Here, I would like to speak about the epistemic gap between science and the commons, partly influenced by Bruno Latour’s science studies theory. This epistemic gap between science and the commons may thus be interpreted as a resultant phenomenon of two conflicting views on the ‘nature’ of Nature. That nature is naturalized according to how science and the commons interpret Nature attests to what Bruno Latour (Politics of Nature) describes as the politics immanent to our view of the outside. For purposes of making sense of the outside, thereof respond to its entropic limits and potentials both science and the commons desire to absorb the outside, technically an energy assemblage, into their respective symbolic universes.  Each has a symbolic universe different from the other—each has a different concept of nature. This in turn feeds on the difficulty of forging a global concept of Nature in the era of climate entropy.

One of the many serious attempts to respond to Nature’s entropic limits and potentials is the concern over food safety which we may designate here as a post-ecological concern. As a post-ecological concern, concern over food safety passes beyond the limit of ecological thinking that simply illustrates how nature is constantly revealing signs of increasing entropy into the post-ecological as a phase in ecological entropy in which any ecological concern is redirected to the quest for the good life. Food safety becomes a crucial concern in a post-ecological phase. Whereas in the ecological phase the concern is that of preparing human populations to face entropic challenges, in the post-ecological the concern is with a certain intended malice—the protection of selected populations deemed more capable to survive a total ecological onslaught (something that can also explain the aggressive spatial planning of urban and rural spaces isolating huge populations while wreaking havoc on the environment). Global social conflicts, which are mainly premised on the clamor for food security, are undoubtedly a collective critical response to this post-ecological trend. Incidentally, this post-ecological phase also coincides with the post-humanization of humanity where technology is drawing closer to developing a human crisis susceptible to a full-blown technological intervention in terms of what Ray Kurzweil describes as the event of singularity, the disembodiment of the human (which takes mass poverty as collateral) necessary to survive a post-ecological holocaust.

When we speak of food safety we speak of the right molecular assemblage essential in forming a healthy body, which explains the importance of science in the post-ecological phase. Nonetheless, as the role of science is reduced to disciplinal normativity in the ecological phase, mobilizing disparate disciplines of science to embrace a concept of global Nature, in the post-ecological phase this disciplinal normativity fails to penetrate the symbolic universe of the commons. Seemingly, the commons are stuck up in their own politics of nature in inverse proportion to the disciplinal preoccupation of science in the ecological phase. On the advent of the post-ecological, science is left extremely powerless as it is not its role to save populations which rests instead on government mandate. Unfortunately, governments are epistemically extrinsic to the role of closing the communicative gap between science and the commons essential to transform symbolic communicative spaces into a unified political mobility in response to the challenges of climate entropy. To save populations in the post-ecological phase, governments must carry out an epistemic role that can reach out to symbolic universes to unite them under a global concept of Nature. But this necessarily translates into a post-natural politics of governance, something it can only learn from science that has by then learned to transcend its pure epistemic role, which implies that it has somehow closed the gap that used to divide its discipline from the universe of the commons. Taking cue from Isabelle Stengers, who is a collaborator of Bruno Latour, we may describe this ideal event of inter-collapsing agencies as cosmopolitics. Latour for his part sticks to the term political ecology. From here, we can aim to mobilize the terms of a new political ecology in addressing the critical shift into food safety, emphasizing here that the ecological phase of concern over food security vis-à-vis the bloating of human population should remain the chief focus of global governance.

The critical shift could be reversed, assuming there is already a growing emphasis on food safety which endorses the view that not all can be saved from an ecological holocaust. The refocusing on food security addresses the premise that the shift to food safety is intrinsically selective and historically insensitive. On the one hand, selectivity is an inevitable approach in food safety as food is basically a commodity that is not independent of how market pricing works. On the other hand, the insensitivity of emphasis on food safety can be seen in how the rise of human populations is in effect condoned by the commercial food industry. The thermo-politics that works behind food production is a simple procedure: food sustains the thermal potential of the species necessary to reproduce. When this thermal heat is producing an unwanted spike in heat entrapped in the atmosphere which in turn generates human diseases, among others, the response of governments in the early post-ecological phase is to ensure food safety. While heat entropy is entrapped and is showing no signs of cooling down, food safety can only save those who can afford means to survive the ‘end times’.

In the above light, we may propose a post-natural politics of food security as a response to the post-ecological trend which essentially depends on how the epistemic gap between science and the commons can be narrowed. This entails that global governance invests in a post-ecological refocusing of democracy as a process of narrowing epistemic distances, not a democracy that still clings to pre-ecological and naïve ecological terms predominantly influenced by capital.

In my next post I wish to relate this postecological trend to post-apocalypticism, accelerationism and several other ruminations on a variety of manic ‘entrophilia’ (apologies for the neologism) which have increasingly gained traction in today’s academic discourse. Hopefully, I will not default on my promise.

Related articles on post-apocalypticism and accelerationism:

1. Deterritorial Investigations Unit

http://deterritorialinvestigations.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/

acceleration-now-or-how-we-can-stop-fearing-and-learn-to-love-chaos/

2.  Critical Fantasies

http://billrosethorn.wordpress.com/2013/08/22/technological-limitations/

3. Synthetic Zero

http://syntheticzero.net/2013/08/21/the-catastrophic-and-the-post-apocalyptic/

Deleuze in his late works, especially after his last collaboration with Guattari, was grappling with something that all those collaborations could only hint at. But we can also say, apropos his early works which I think were more substantially ecological that Deleuze had already fixed his conceptual gaze on two of his most important influences, namely, Spinoza and Nietzsche. Spinoza and Nietzsche to my mind constitute the most crucial threads of Deleuze’s philosophy. Deleuze’s masterful handling of concepts of body, affect, desires, and even the notion of refrain (that he expanded with Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus) is a creative elucidation of Spinoza’s and Nietzsche’s philosophies.

What Deleuze added to this dyadic conceptual machine (SpinozaNietzsche)—I am utilizing the mathematical dyadic operator without dots or cross between the two names such as AB—is I think the elaboration of the question of the unconscious that is correlated to the death of God, which may be rephrased here as the elaboration of the question of the strange nature of life and the persistence of life without the need for an ‘exemplary causality.’ Both Spinoza and Nietzsche also grappled with this problem. Spinoza expanded the problem of the unconscious in terms of the tireless determinism of the ultimate substance whose modes and attributes could be demonstrated, using contemporary psychoanalytic lenses, as cathexes, affects, ripples of an unknown source of force. There is no question for Spinoza that this source is Life which he preferred to assume the immanent essence of God (God is Spinoza’s line of [accomplished] becoming: God as the name that designates the accomplishment of his work as a desiring machine). For Nietzsche, it is more explicitly immanent. The source is the will which could be interpreted more immanently still in Deleuzian terms as a body without organs (BwO). The latter is correlated to the unconscious in the sense that, like the unconscious, BwO is a plane of consistency that receives intensities and flows, compositional multiplication of energy that grows as conjunctions are made. In psychoanalytic terms, this plane may also qualify into the notion of the Real, empty but is always invoked by composition (which makes it virtual in essence) in terms of grasping, reaching, and proceeding without a goal. Nietzsche’s concept of will fits into this format of the unconscious as BwO precisely in the sense of the will as ‘uneasiness’, ‘living in a state almost close to zero,’ as Deleuze describes.

And this kind of discomfort grows virtually in the sense that only the functions of its uneasiness can be detected in terms of the expressions it realizes and not some independent cause of discomfort. Its expressions can also transform the plane, the will as unconscious, into a new compositional plane (to will more) that serves as an attractor to another serialization of becoming. The aimlessness of this serialization no doubt makes the will as BwO vulnerable to be reterritorialized by a stratic machine, such as, in the case of Nietzsche, the reactive force of nihilism by conjugating desire to a goal, a finality. The finality germane to this kind of nihilism is such that it wills only itself, itself being its own object of willing, the object being a non-object precisely as willing does not presuppose anything but itself as its object, hence, its own subjectivity foreclosed to  contamination by difference and othering.

In both treatments of the unconscious, life can serve as a cushion that absorbs the conceptual shocks of the philosophers’ immanent failure to draw a map that could show not only how to enter a force field within which to compose a new line of becoming but also how to get out. Still, in A Thousand Plateaus Deleuze prefers the way-map over the psychoanalytic practice of tracing (that is never keen on trying a way out). The way-map illustrates how to deal with the unconscious, how to deal with life, or to put it within the context of the problem of vitalism, how to deal with a force field that allows you to get in but, unfortunately, does not guarantee a way out. Certainly, that is a problem that had provoked the existentialist forays of the past decades. Life is the spider that lures an unwitting victim to die freely; freely in the sense that the way out is the necessity to live out the entropic process whose principle the unsuspecting insect attests as certain and final in proportion to how it resists death.

Life as a cushion certainly applies to the insect’s problem of getting out which by the way affords it a critical experience of a limit. It is at that point where the insect, assuming its consciousness is capable of doing a Sartrean lament, acquires a capacity to approach life seemingly at its closest, in death. On the other side is life cushioning the ripples of the resistance to death by responding in a way that allows the insect to experience in discreet and analytic way, which heightens a neural response to a threshold limit essential to a radical existential awakening, the indifference of life itself. It cushions the resistance and responds coldly, triggering a serialization of futile resistance (what we can describe with Laruelle’s notion of the unilateral movement of the One unconcerned about our representations of it). Understandably, the problem of vitalism (which we have freely transposed here to a problem of how to deal with life) has, in Colebrook’s observations, ‘mobilized philosophical, theoretical and literary contretemps,’ but I should add, has also in general encouraged an understanding of Life that can benevolently accommodate the ripples of our resistance to death. We praise life for its seemingly perfect response mechanism that has ironically transformed the texture of the problem, from indifference to an opportunity to resist freely which endorses a view of the subject, to utilize Deleuze’s lingo, as a freely deterritorializing will. We must recall here that Deleuze (with Guattari) devoted the last sections of A Thousand Plateaus to an elaboration of the difference between absolute positive deterritorialization and absolute negative deterritorialization, a classic case of rehearsing a Nietzschean elucidation of the difference between active and reactive forces. If it will take time for Life to release the tension accruing upon its absorbent capacity, talking about a large closed system, such as society, or continent, or planet which have more or less measurable span relative to its entropic potential, the allure of freedom is difficult to resist, especially for the West that enjoys huge resources at its disposal to get by. Entropic management of resources is therefore the key to understanding life as a benevolent shock absorber.

Taken from a larger ecological context, the arguments and disputes about freedom are also triggered in the West by its unique political geography. What makes this political geography unique is the way the West has successfully built a protective mechanism against any releasement of tension that Life can make at any point in the entropic process. This is what the Western Enlightenment project was all about (the Orient had a remarkably different event) which was actually preceded by an already intensive prehension of a notion of Life as benevolent, quietly shaping the mood of the Western mind. This prehension, call it a Hegelian spirit, was efficiently coded by an already established political mechanism, a coding of territories and bodies, of spaces and desiring machines. Yet, the prehensive template was not ‘manna from heaven’. It was historically shaped by the preceding epoch which the present channels to a new level of stratification, without saying here that it ceases to be a spirit because its transmission was historically mediated. It remains a spirit by all means in proportion to how it would constantly instigate argument after argument—the question of the strange nature of life, as you put it, deploying Nietzsche’s shocker through Colebrook’s probing statements:

“That is, following Nietzsche we might ask what the strange nature of life is such that it posits a world other than life, a world that accuses life? At the same time, and again following Nietzsche, if such a thought of a world other than the lived is possible, what does this tell us about the living? In this second sense, vitalism returns already formed models and normative images back to their generating source, but at the same time confronts a potential for self-annihilation within generating life ‘itself’.”

The Orient had long ago responded to the question of the strange nature of life by positing what Nietzsche had sought to introduce into the Western intellectual landscape, the concept of the recurrence of the Same. Nietzsche knew the odds involved—he had to ignore how life is differently managed in the Orient and the West by postulating a notion of the Same to refer to life as a global concept. As a global concept Life foreshadows differences in culture and most especially geographical assemblages in the sense that foreshadowing is employed from the standpoint of a being capable of self-differentiation, obviously a concept foreign to the Orient precisely because it is taken for granted. For the Orient, Life not Being self-differentiates, that is to say, in a strange manner. In contrast, the self-differentiation of Being in the West is carried out in a reflexive manner. The correlations are far from neat nonetheless.

On the one hand, the strange nature of Life leaves the problematic of Being unsettled, or the problematic of responsal which necessarily situates Being into a bind. The ultimate response of the metaphysical Orient (metaphysical in the sense that Life dominates its philosophy) is to relegate Being to the transitoriness of change, to a surface plane of determination which legitimates an enfoldment dividing a horizon—between above and below. In this sense, Life becomes a territorializing machine which subordinates Being-below (or Being) to an exemplary causality, a principle that causes the fold. On the other hand, the reflexive essence of Being, the negative legacy of the Orient in the sense that Being is introduced as a problematic of determination that it (the Orient) consigned to becoming, claims an exemplary causality that efficiently operationalizes the fold from a declaration of suffering that must be overcome. What the Orient abandoned to the entropic process, Being (which indicates that Life is a dominant principle), the West salvaged in order to arrest the infinite determinism of life.

Nonetheless, the Oriental praise of Life is different from the early Western celebration of life as benevolent (which we mentioned above) seemingly so ordered as to afford Being an in-between space of individual determination out of deferred entropic time. Indeed, the very taking up of Being as an issue necessarily defers time in the sense that it introduces an obstructive flow by individualizing life, singularizing the phases of its flow, literally forcing it to express itself; by retarding life in terms of generating its double from the outside, hence, minimizing its intensity by absorbing its energy that enhances singular bodies’ performance while Life stands still this time because seemingly deprived of pure voidality, its unilateral non-affair with Being.

But when Heidegger affirms that Being, or the name that designates the logic of the ontological difference, we are fortunate to discover that the transitory character of the difference in question quietly pays homage to Life, to the Oriental praise of its mystery for which Heidegger describes the task of thinking to remain open to its releasement, to remain open to the releasement of the Orient. Unfortunately, the Orient has no excess (nihilism) to release in which case Heidegger had to simply imagine the arrival of the Orient. But first, the Orient must be deprived of its Life principle in order to arrive at Being.  Such is the logic of the conquest of the Other of the West.

But we are thinking of a new way of depriving Life of its exemplary principle.

Deleuze, through Nietzsche, would have the guts to declare the obvious. The transition of Being gives life its due. But what kind of life is that to which Being gives its due? For Deleuze, this life no longer poses the questions that used to surround its immanence, such as, how it was able to make possible a ‘world other than the lived,’ certainly a question that is permissible only in Being. This time Life is no longer benevolent, rather indifferent. It seems Being has successfully transitioned into Life, into a state of non-Being, courtesy of the post-humanist techno-nihilism of contemporary time, in which the world is more than a fable (more than what Nietzsche foretold) because it is this time devoid of human interest. In a slight departure from Deleuze’s concept of Life, we are arguing here that Being is rather overcome by the imperial hegemony of Life, life transformed into an overarching principle.

No doubt technocapitalism has pushed Being to the limits of the ontological difference by dissolving difference in favor of the non-temporal unilateralization of a global space called Life. Being has dissolved into the indifferent intentionality of biopower.

….

I hope to make it clear that this response to your question does not by any means harbour a defeatist attitude towards Being and its promise of transition if not its immanent potential to evolve without an end.  Far from surrendering Being even to the realization that climate entropy is real, that Being is at risk of transitioning into an irreversible end of difference, my position remains materialist in the sense of a historical analytic: Life is not ahistorical and absolute.  I should add: the problem of entropy has always been, since the dawn of humanity, a question of the management of difference.

From the savage to the paranoid despotic regime and to the modern post-signifying (nihilistic) regime of passion and subjectivity, the strange nature of life is to Being the familiar question of how to manage its transition, how to negotiate with change, how to make of the indefinite void that releases itself as a problematic at exactly the point when a transition is decided, when Being is decided as a proceeding, as a ritual, as a singularization to be incarnated (in the family, in society, etc.), to be lived, to be instantiated in time which enacts a break in the unilateral indifference of entropy (or space). When Man decided to have a break it was to negotiate with space, with the void by puncturing a hole on the plane of immanence, the hole as the decidability of Being itself. Space gradually ceased to be a concern of Being until Being is decided (in technocapitalism) as a pure chase, as time without a transition, the pure form of the future (that of pure space, the post-human), without looking back which is what time can offer, what Being as time can really offer.

The question for today is not whether to accelerate or decelerate (a question that serves the interest of space, of life as biopower, of admitting that nihilism is irreversible), but rather to reform our understanding of time which is of a transitory essence, which has the character of Being as a passage. To reclaim the capacity of Man as people to decide His fate according to His capacity for micro-fascistic management of entropy—to fight fire with fire.  To defy Life acting as an extraneous force. Not to reclaim an Identity but to reclaim the question of what they are, what they are capable of doing. Man-people is capable of time. Not of space, not of life, but of production. Not of output, but rather of an event that lacks in nothing. The question is how to reclaim Man-people from His needless pilgrimage into space. To reclaim His virtuality, His species-being.

Already a confused mix of universal and particular, species-being (a virtual consistent existent) is a wound incarnated in Man, a wound that also teaches him that it can heal, but only in time which means it can also not heal unless the incarnation commits itself to the numbness of space. (Biopower is all about a speedy recovery, depriving the body of the phases of singularities of experience). Deleuze remarks: ‘A wound existed before me; not a transcendence of a wound as higher actuality.’ A different outcome takes place when it is understood otherwise as an exemplary causality such that the wound can be healed by embarking into space, to numbness, by the aid of anesthesia.

But life is no healer.

(End)

Related articles:

  1. You can see Steven’s question in the comment box on this blog. (See also Claire Colebrook’s Deleuze and the Meaning of Life)

  2. Between Planes (fractalontology.wordpress.com)

  3. The Age of Speed: Accelerationism, Politics, and the Future Present (darkecologies.com)

  4. Nihilism and Groundlessness: Towards a Gaian Praxecology (footnotes2plato.com)

  5. Quote of the Day: Tiqqun on Speed and Strategy (deterritorialinvestigations.wordpress.com)

Language as site

June 23, 2013

 

A post dedicated to a friend, a fellow pilgrim, a writing machine, a former student still entrapped in the semiotic stratic machine of Heideggerian scholarship…

 

In his reading of Nietzsche, Heidegger stated at one point that the present time has transformed into a Nietzschean situation in which the will rigidifies everything into a lack of will. We understand this situation to be an effect of nihilism, the will to not will anymore.

In this light, Dasein is caught up in a situation where it confronts profound boredom, due to lack of real motivation to continue willing. Dasein confronts a time that stands still. It is however in this precise situation where Dasein can exercise its transitory character, to perform a going-between while time stands still. In Heidegger this vacant order of time is metaphysically occasioned by Nothing that nothings. If technology for Heidegger has become the new form of metaphysics, then the metaphysical occasioning of nihilism is here concretely expressed in terms of the power of technology to strip human projects off of their ‘humanly’ motivations. But this is only one side of technology. Heidegger also insists that the question concerning technology is best understood outside of the question of technology itself, that is to say, non-technologically. It is here where the question of technology is referred to the metaphysics of willing that occupied Nietzsche’s late speculations on the fate of Western society.

Before going any further, let me clarify what I mean by Dasein’s transitory character. But, perhaps, it is better to start here with the ontological difference that elsewhere Heidegger describes as having the character of a passage. Consistent with his project of fundamental ontology, the destructive retrieval of being, Heidegger argues that the difference between Being and being/s is not permanent. This is where Heidegger is at his best historical. The difference is historically arbitrary, invested with humanistic projects (human-centered). Certainly, the ontological difference is addressed to the historical character of Dasein, the human dasein that is conscious of the difference that history employs. In fact, the ontological difference is an issue only for Dasein. And because the ontological difference has Being as its central issue Being is an issue for Dasein, that is, as a being-in-the-world. The world is where the ontological difference is intensively employed by history that is itself invested with human projects.

This history has reached a point where human investments which undergird its continuity have exhausted their limits in the sense that they have been stripped of fundamental human motivations. It is certainly the case of human progress that turns against the human that inspired it all (the case of Enlightenment). The human inspiration is now sacrificed in favor of the radicalization of the human into the post-human, hence, the divestment. This is not only relevant to philosophy of technology; a number of applications of this post-human project can be detected in postmodernism which extends this logic into a defence of the multiplicity of meanings enough to establish the premise that no human is up to the task of controlling the process, distribution and production of signs (meanings). The human is in fact only an emergent entity produced by the interplay of signs above the plane of individual determination. As an emergent entity, the human is an accidental occurrence of the play of signs which follow an independent logic. The human becomes the handmaiden of semiotics.

A sensible reader of Heidegger can detect here the workings of the ontological difference. ‘Being’ is transposed into ‘Sign’, ‘being’ into the human Dasein. When Heidegger elsewhere states that Language is the house of Being, he is certainly referring to the paradox of language as a milieu of signs, of meanings which, in postmodernist lingo, is made possible by the interplay of beings in their multiplicity. Thus, language is the site of this interplay and as a site does not express anything (it only accommodates different expressions). Being is not expressed by the multiplicity of signs or meanings. Being escapes expression.

But as seemingly empty Being persists in language that does not express anything but simply locates the intentionalities of the production of signs. These intentionalities are also what we described earlier as human investments. Language therefore localizes expressions making them reducible to intentionalities. By a destructive retrieval of Being Heidegger reduces these intentionalities to a particular occasioning of Being which also exposes how Being becomes rarely understood as to its essence as fundamentally withdrawing from any human attempt to universalize it such as in terms of establishing the ontological difference between Being and being/s. But as a house of Being language can help us locate these intentionalities and expose their contingent character such as one can detect the intentionality of the builder of the house by looking into the structures of the house itself. These intentionalities often neglect the subterranean depths that escape masterly profiling by an intending gaze. 

The question of intentionality is therefore the question, àpropos the house, of what it conceals by unconcealing, deliberate or not on the part of the builder, the intensive quality of work that raised the house from the ground up. Neither the builder nor in fact the house does the unconcealment.  Life betrays the human and non-human by exposing their transitory character through a miscarriage, a breakage, through the thermal, chemical and molecular cracks that time pulls off from under its sleeve. Time unconceals by patiently accommodating the inner works of entropy. But time also conceals in the sense that it takes time (it demands itself) to reveal the dynamics of contingency and mortality. It demands the risk of getting it all wrong. It demands trial and error; it demands, this time in the language of Deleuze, physical and mental legwork. Certainly, we are no longer operating within the Husserlian concept of intention. It acquires a powerful historical form in Heidegger that Husserl lacked in the sense of historically reporting the obvious, the obvious being the negative appearance of what is concealed which is continually withdrawing from representation regardless whether one deliberately conceals or unconceals…

Heidegger strengthens Nietzsche’s appeal to humanity in the aftermath of the collapse of representational truth where only appearances truly matter–either to negate or affirm this world. To negate this world requires a will to will its dissolution. To affirm it may take two forms: 1) to embrace its negativity but short of radicalizing the gesture into opening oneself onto new plateaus of becoming, in which case the self withdraws into a brooding existential mode ala Kierkegaard, and 2) to say no to this world as a manifestation of a will to invent a new one, to say yes to the world’s decomposition, to politically will its conscious decline. 

But instead of treating it as a site language is treated in postmodernism as the very being of Being itself which means the very inescapability of language (a sign of embracing negativity). From site to spirit. From history to an oblivious sort of metaphysics, or simply metaphysics as forgetfulness of the historical character of occasioning Being such as occasioning it in language as a site, as a house. Here, the transitory character of the ontological difference becomes understood as the transitoriness of human history that will culminate in the dissolution of human history in the form of posthumanity. This is also extended to Dasein’s transitory character—Dasein will eventually give way to a being-in-the-world in a radically accomplished form. (Heidegger preferred ‘a new autochthonous form’, an expression that resists the linear progression of the transition in question). The postmodern inescapability of language, or language autonomous from human intentionalities, becomes the very expression of the posthuman. The trick is to ignore language as a site, as architecture. Language then becomes planetary or continental. In this sense language also loses its creativity, becomes stripped of its localizability.

Language ceases to be a function of coding or decoding, as well as tracing the overlaps between the two such that, as Nietzsche and Kafka exhibited in their works, all codes are mixed up in the sense of inventing new ones. And because language is a site, all the more the overlaps become a function of inventing new sites, new lines of mobilization, a new geography, new islands, a new consciousness…

 

Indeed, when language becomes planetary and continental, nihilism sets in when the motivation to invent collapses. It is undeniable that technology in its present form has radicalized the post-humanization of language and creativity. Technology has reached a planetary scale in proportion to the loss of human motivation, of local expressions and, need we say, its architecture. In the same manner, globalization is increasingly flattening the world into a universal space of expression. Certainly, it is only possible when language has lost is local expressibility. (We can therefore understand Heidegger’s suspicion of science that has developed a universal code of expression in mathematics; or why Leibniz’s dream of universal language failed, or why the tower of Babel got struck by lightning).

Technology has become the mega-house of Being. To reclaim the local essence of language is precisely to will a technology that can reclaim language as a site, as an expression, and thereof break free from the global semionihilism of our modern time; to put it in terms of the grammar of the multitude that have been challenging states and governments today (in Turkey, Brazil, and other parts of the world, more are waiting to explode), to challenge the preoccupation of today’s nihilism with all forms of posthumanity. Global protests have initiated a pattern to break the profound boredom that Heidegger detected on the tail of nihilism, on one side, an attitude that inclines towards apathy, on the other, that which leans towards a ‘demented or suicidal collapse’ (expressing it here in the language of Deleuze and Guattari). To challenge technology is to compel its codes to invent new lines of flight away and in defiance of technocapitalism. To challenge technology is to seize its speed, its intrinsic mechanism to deflect contemplation which demands a slow, discreet reflexive process, a process of time reckoning, certainly an antidote to apathy borne of a systematically induced failure to catch up with acceleration.

But also, to challenge technology is to redirect its speed to a people’s entropic trajectory. Let a new people manage what is left or what gets turned into a stockpile, a standing reserve, of human collective posterity—the biopolitical and geoinformational constituent assemblages of desiring species which is certainly no exemption from the motion of entropy and decay. A new people’s micro-fascistic management of death in the sense of intelligent Dionysian utilization of body intensities, of forces of conjunctions of flows of desires which Marx unabashedly described as the dictatorship of a people, the peasants and proletariats of his time. This promising dictatorship was long ago reterritorialized by the new capitalist system of conjugating body-intensities into machinic conglomerates of bored ambulatory zombies, undead people under the neo-liberal regime of global capitalism, paralyzed as disenabled of carrying out a going-between, of creating a space, a line of flight between boredom and fatigue. The new people will be the proletariats and peasants of our times who have also learned to renounce the reterritorializing scheme of vanguard politics—the prolets and peasants of the new conjugation of classes of desires, the non-standard prolets and -peasants of a new autochthonous class of resistance, loosely termed the precariats. (Or: what Berardi, under the influence of Heidegger and Deleuze and Guattari, would describe as the cognitariats of the post-Fordist age. Arguably, this non-standard class politics of a new class comes as a good toxicant measure of Dionysian booze, an inebriation of the sort that can divine the boundary between intelligent, smart, sensible compositional anarchy and plunging into chaos).

Technology is nothing technological as it is not only a matter of functions, extending the temporal and spatial capabilities of bodies and desiring machines, but also because it breeds poverty, alienation and estrangement. Notwithstanding their pure unmediated recognisability as local sites of experience (poverty, alienation and estrangement), they are nonetheless stripped of their capacities for expression (to code an experience away from its political indetermination, from the semiotic limbo—by political we mean the capability to act against homogeneity and finality) in proportion to how they are being made distinctly capable of indifference, reduced to minding bare necessity. Still everything partakes of the transitory, like the ontological difference.

Now, more and more are challenging the claim that Being is transiting into a stage where language will have to necessarily demolish houses, parks, buildings, and schools, convert strawberry fields, farmlands into commercial zones, business districts, enclosures of capital, etc. The ontological difference has the character of a passage precisely because ontology is not All. Life, the Deleuzian pure immanence, is the better judge. Being is not All because there is love, there is beauty. There are bodies without organs…

 

There is the silence of the lambs, the depression of dogs, the patience of termites, and the slow aging process of cells. There is nothing. There are the dark nights of the universe.

There is il y a, there is the ultimate ravisher of an ethics of transcendence that can never transcend itself for its too humanistic protestations against Heidegger. There is the Same as pre-ontic, pre-subjective Real, the entropic pre-existence of Nature as an accidental assemblage, an ecology that supplants the ethicality of the face. There is post-ethicality that reinstitutes the human into the flux of becoming where the novelty of the face-to-face encounter collapses into the Spinozan determinism of the Same that no human can reverse, because it is Justice (justice of the Same), even by becoming good for goodness sake. But only a micro-fascism of a people, neither a face nor an ethical subject, can discover the true causes of alienation, of misery and the absurd. What affords a people their contingent share of cosmic joy is their intelligent discovery of the causes behind sadness, behind the inevitability of the absurd. A Spinozist non-standard ethics of joy which Machiavelli transformed into a working ethics, an ethic of a people.

When Levinas was given by life an opportunity to speak on behalf of a missing people, he chose to sideline their body-intensities, the flow conjunctions of their nomadic desires by instead channeling jouissance to individual de-subjectivation in pursuit of justice that can only take place outside the subject, obviously an opportunity he squandered in terms of his excessive catatonic interest in the face of a European Jew. Thus, the proper counter-point to Levinas is the non-faces of Palestinian Jews, non-standard Jews (we are borrowing the sense of non-standard from Laruelle); also, the counter-point of a new geography, without walls erected by the militarist Zionist state, which will be peopled by the Palestinian Jews, by the future Christs, the futuristic war machines of a bastard race that, in Deleuze’s language, ‘ceaselessly stirs beneath dominations.’

Here, we also need to change the myth. God did not create subjects with faces, like Adam and Eve; rather He concocted a faceless people. Faces could be made and fabricated, after much legwork traversing islands and open plateaus, hills, steppes, mountains and valleys, a by-product of molecular and phylogenetic translations of migrant ambulatory bodies (the envy of zombies) mutually conjugating flows of desires to a plane of consistency where desires settled (in Freud, the release of tensions) in honour of the incredible work of peace.

There is one Cause and that is the impossible inevitability of Life. Life is inevitable because we can do nothing about It except to learn to negotiate with Nature’s entropic resources which is the absolute precondition of all ethics.

There are Levinasians and Ricoeurians, even still, hard knuckled Heideggerians, or what have you, those types you can tolerate for their ingenuous if not petty machinic parroting of wholesome words that never dance, never make love, simply because they are friends of your friends. There is Derrida who quips—friendship effracts a boring circle, this circle of the given-time of the accelerating motion of Capital.

There’s an orgy and a juju. There is a funeral parlor. There is withdrawal.

There is precinct number 9. Skipping a number is not Zeno’s greatest strength. But there are plateaus of becoming Kierkegaard would find very hard to fathom, becomings that would render a leap of faith pathetic and boring.

 

A helpful link to Zizek’s short comment on so-called ‘spontaneous self-organization’ is available at http://knowledge-ecology.com/2013/06/11/this-splendid-rant-from-slavoj-zizek/

There, the connection between ‘spontaneous self-organization and absolute deterritorialization cannot be missed. Hence, my short observation on Zizek’s salient criticism of Deleuze and Guattari.

I think this is one of the rare moments of Zizek where he truly sounds Marxist though he would wish his expressions be understood in a strictly Hegelo-Lacanian dialectics. In other words, just another misfire yet I would credit him for his criticism of spontaneous self-organization that takes the state as anathema to human freedom and autonomy. But contrary to his claim, Deleuze and Guattari, the salient targets of his critique, also allow for a certain openness to be reterritorialized by the state if only to check the tendency of abstract machines to “rival the Body without organs” at the risk of plunging into black holes, empty spaces into which voidal machines are falling in a manner that is totally blind to the lure of entropy. Deleuze and Guattari are faithful to the Marxist orientation in this sense–both submit to the necessity to reinvent the state, to protect the strata as a plane of composition in the same manner a fisherman would protect the shore. When Deleuze and Guattari argue in favor of spontaneous self-organization, we must not miss the context of their support for absolute deterritorialization, that is to say, the context within which an absolute positive form of human autonomy can be practiced. Before we identify this context let us factor in Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of absolutely but positive deterritorialized abstract machines (or a people capable of spontaneous self-organization): “There is no subject of becoming except as a deterritorialized variable of a majority; there is no medium of becoming except as a deterritorialized variable of a minority” (Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 292). 
Apropos the passage quoted above we might as well ask: what are the conditions for abstract machines to exercise positive deterritorialization vis-à-vis the problematic of engaging the majority as well as the minority (which could well be a weak variant of a majority)? The answer may be simple–there is a stratum as a generic plane of composition that allows for any kind of deterritorialization. But the strata are not independent of historical and social productions inasmuch as no deterritorialization is possible without an already or pre-existing state of production which can dominate the mode of production of a given strata. This is the case of how real capitalism emerged from a state of inadequation between relations of production and forces of production concerning how it provided capitalism with a paradigm shift. A pre-existing mode of historical and social production no longer sufficed for real capitalism–it has to subvert an old mode of labor production premised on reproducing labor-subjectivity (the subjection of labor to mere subsistence) as this subjectivity was structurally resistant to capitalism. Capitalism has to rely on a new mode of technology that can produce a new labor subjectivity, one that also allows for expressions of autonomy but strictly within a given sphere of production. This sphere of production is real capitalism itself that nonetheless digs its own grave precisely because the autonomous expression of labor is given a rare and real opportunity to subvert the sphere itself, real in the sense of the intensity of the conjugation of forces never been seen before in history. Such forms the background of the Communist Manifesto’s battle cry: “Workers of the world unite… You have nothing to lose but your chains.” The workers are the new abstract machines, a new people–deterritorialized from both the old but majority mode of production of subjectivity and the still obscure minority that is prone to homogenization by the stata. As a counter-hegemonic people, Marx knows that the workers as abstract machines are neither majority nor minority, but these machines are certainly a critical life-force of transformation yet as such exist nowhere on an existing plane of composition except as liminal subjects. They even ceased as workers in the strict sense of labor subjectivity as the new subjectivity is in principle opposed to already existing planes of composition. But eventually Marx, in his vision of a communist state, would settle for a strata reterritorialized by a formerly resistant but now triumphant subjectivity, the subjectivity of the abstract machines. As the abstract machines previously allowed for certain reterritorialization (which indicates that states or strata must themselves be protected from “demented or suicidal collapse”), even compromises with homogenizations (a case of negotiating with the contingencies of power), their eventual recourse to reterritorializing a plane of composition is no less based on the power of abstract machines to create a mythic plane of composition that has to be imagined in the sense that it can be justified as true, true in the sense that its origin is also to be justified as real, but real in the sense that it is intensively virtual. That is how a people justify their existence from liminality to an intensive desiring machine.
Certainly, as myth works behind this new constitution of a people, charismatic figures help to enact a plane of composition that is, to use Deleuze’s concept, already a second origin. I commend Zizek for rallying around the figure of Chavez, but Zizek missed the whole point. His obsession with individual figures is certainly a throwback of psychoanalysis that relies on tracing of subjects and not collectivities. It was not Chavez but the intensive spirit (recreated by a people across time, across consistent deterritorializing patterns aware of the danger of negativism, of plunging into chaos) of Simon Bolivar, himself a mythic figure of the unification of the Americas, reterritorialized by a people from the reterritorializing machine of states. (Thus, we can see here a battle of reterritorialisations of space). But charismatic figures are not the efficient causality that can win a revolution. Yes, we need to rally around them, certainly because we need to exercise fidelity (in Badiou’s beautiful formulation) to our choice as a people, our choice to pursue a second birth, perhaps, to generate a new conception of human, of god, of justice and redemption–that is to say, in the pure immanent sense. As I put it elsewhere, it is ‘a people’ that produces work from out of conjugation of forces, forces being the potential to perform a metamorphosis.

My panel session proposal has been approved by the organizers of the ISA which will hold its annual conference (2014) in Yokohama, Japan. Those interested to submit a themed proposal for presentation please check out the poster here. The panel I will be chairing in the conference is on “Religion in the Era of Climate Entropy.”

On Zizek

April 18, 2013

Zizek and the Nostalgia for Communism
What I am going to argue about may already seem a pointless remake of post-9/11 critiques. After a series of careful examinations of the phenomenon of terror, drawing on religious extremism, neoliberal capitalist democracy, and Western imperialism, such as Habermas’ and Derrida’s influential dialogue in Philosophy in a Time of Terror and Slavoj Zizek’s Welcome to the Desert of the Real, among others, any attempt to re-insert terror into the landscape of contemporary theory would seem to be reviving a topic already past its prime.
But only, I guess, if terror is an object of fashion. But certainly, terror can be revived as a specular image; an image that does not mind whether terror happens or not, or whether it happened or not. As Zizek would have it utilizing Lacan’s psychoanalytic lens, the point about the image is that it has the power to effectuate the Real. An image can either be imaginary or symbolic depending on one’s psychic maturity. All the same, an image is always attracted to the Real, like the real object of desire that cannot be had except by way of a substitute. It is the substitute that always does it for us: we desire because a substitute makes us capable of pushing our drives toward the object of desire.
Let me continue by stating that terror might have already exhausted its energy that fueled Western discourse—Western theorists are now composing theirs on themes of posthumanism, or climate entropy, arguably a new face of terror posed by Nature—still we may have missed the point that terror is always ready for an encounter and as such is the prototype of the Event.  Here, we digress into Alain Badiou to make sense of the relation of the Real to the Event. We are talking about Badiou’s description of the key feature of the twentieth century, namely, its passion for the Real (The Century, 32). Slavoj Zizek describes this aspect of Badiou’s conceptual diagram as follows:
“In contrast to the nineteenth century’s utopian and scientific projects and ideals … the twentieth century aimed at delivering the thing itself, at directly realizing the longed-for New order. The ultimate and defining moment of the twentieth century was the direct experience of the Real as opposed to everyday social reality—the Real in its extreme violence as the price to be paid for peeling off the deceptive layers of reality” (Welcome to the Desert of the Real, pp. 5-6).
We all know that for Badiou the Event is unpredictable, unlike Zizek’s notion of it about which we will discuss later. Because it is unpredictable the only recourse to make sense of the Event is to exercise fidelity to it but by way of a substitute, a substitute for the Event and its unpredictability by making it somehow predictable. In Badiou’s formulation, our fidelity to the Event or its unpredictability has to be matched by its complement in a deeply personal commitment to the impossible continuity of a choice or an act.  One must continue to be loyal to the unpredictable by becoming unpredictable which in a nutshell makes unpredictability an axiom of choice. Perhaps, we can make sense of this axiom of choice by making reference to Deleuze and Guattari who warned us in A Thousand Plateaus that chaos can chaoticize and can undo every kind of consistency. (Whether D&G made their point well about putting chaos in a little order is another matter).
In other words, there is a way to negotiate with chaos. And it is not without its global implications that during the last 19th and 20th centuries negotiating with chaos was defined by a choice between socialism and capitalism, or socialism and barbarism, whichever you prefer.
Socialism or Barbarism
In the early years of the 20th century the Bolsheviks, inspired by the publication of Marx and Engel’s Communist Manifesto, set out to establish the first socialist state in history anchored on highly centralized planning. Incidentally, it was also premised on a highly personalized regime, driving the cult of personality that energized the Soviet Union well until its fall. When the Soviet Union collapsed it seemed then that decentralization and the impersonal rule of market forces, the opposite of central and highly personalized administration of things, held the right key to negotiating with unpredictability.
But the crisis that global capitalism confronts time and again belies the assumption that history has ended in the smooth rule of capital, especially after the collapse of Eastern socialist regimes when capitalism suffered its worst financial crisis since the Depression. The financial crisis that hit the Asian economies in the 1990s, on the up again just recently which took the European economy by surprise, altogether illustrate how chaos remains untamed (because given a free rein), typical of the capitalist mantra that competition is superior to central planning, individualism to the abstract collective, chaos to rigid organization.
Nonetheless, it is not difficult to grasp how chaos can still be tamed by taking it as a principle of organization. We can make sense of how chaos organizes a space of consistency, something akin to human resource management and development paradigm typical of corporate modernity, in terms of treating chaos both as presence and absence. This is especially true in a Lacanian space of individual determination defined by the logic of substitution that we earlier mentioned. Robert Lander, a student of Lacan, summarizes this logic of substitution anchored on the experience of anxiety, arguably what every conscious human being today feels about the future under global capitalism:
“When Lacan affirms that anxiety is the only subjective way to search for the lost object, he defines a paradox. What is sought is not the object but its absence, because its present absence introduces the signifier of lack. The phallus (as the signifier of lack) changes from a metaphoric to a metonymic signifier, for the lack (as phallic signifier) moves, circulates. It is everywhere and nowhere. Everyone may bear it and, at the same time, nobody does” (Subjectivity and the Experience of the Other, 27).
Let us try to unpack this Lacanian formulation in relation to chaos. We can initially state here that negotiating with chaos or unpredictability is taken up by the subject. But bear in mind that in Lacan the subject is an invention, that is, an invention of the subject by the subject out of the fundamental lack of self of the subject itself. Thus, we can speak of the subject as a substitute for an absent reference under which it can be placed. In Badiouan formulation it is equivalent to the act of voiding the Void. In any case, the Void when voided does not cease to be voidal. It continues to be voidal through the presence of lack, the presence of a substitute for lack. In the same manner by taming it through a substitute, chaos becomes chaotic.
 And how else can we describe the chaotic other than through an organized operation that releases chaos from its absolute indifference to all forms of human signification? Before the invention of a substitute for it, chaos ‘chaoticizes’ without design. The substitution of a non-presentable presence (chaos before human signification) by a presentable absence (describing the principle of chaos through scientific or philosophical means) inaugurates the beginning of human history. In The German Ideology, Marx and Engels knew how to frame this substitution within concrete historical struggles by stating that ‘individuals have always proceeded from themselves’, not from the outside, not from the untamed outside where chaos reigns. Obviously, they were able to state this logic of substitution in concrete terms after the fact, post factum, that is, after folding the outside in the inside, which in Deleuzian terms is called ‘memory’, more correctly, historical memory, the memory of the Void.
Voiding the Void
 Throughout the course of human history, negotiating with chaos has to involve designing for human purposes how it ought to run its course. We are now properly entering the domain of human history which true to its fundamental sexual foundation has been hitherto defined by oedipal forms of asserting memory, of asserting a certain form of voidal dominance.
Again, in The German Ideology, Marx and Engels state that the first sexual division of labor inaugurates not only the beginning of the division of labor, later perfected by capitalism, but above all, the birth of History. Expressed in terms of the Lacanian concept of subject formation history can then amount to a plane of composition that is already pre-defined by a ‘genetic axis’ or an ‘overcoding structure’ in which Oedipus, or the Name-of-the-Father, the supervising agency of the division of labor, is everywhere inscribed on the plane.
The plane is self-composed by Oedipus, a plane where no exit to non-Oedipal, non-historical, non-patriarchal, non-sexist, therefore non-human consistency is possible, which also explains by the logic of difference the frequency of rebellions from within. But these rebellions are already pre-defined by Oedipus: the plane of consistency is already saturated through constant oedipal act of voiding the void, of creating a vacuum from a vacuum, that is, of creating his story, whose ultimate form is Capital.
Let us continue here by adding that with the collapse of the communist project the Oedipal agency of Capital has proclaimed absolute victory over another oedipal rival. This only illustrates that anywhere there is history there is an exacting agency always ready to prove its mettle by voiding the void relative to its capacity for totality and homogeneity whose victims are always the other of Oedipus, mother, sister, brother or son and daughter whose figures take various historical and genetic forms such as the weak, the vulnerable, the malleable, the poor, the uncultivated, the savage, the East. The larger void this oedipal agency could void the larger its voidal dominion.
 In this sense, the victory of Western capitalism over communism illustrates how aggressive its oedipal machine of voiding the Void is by totalizing all forms of voidal affirmation of existence. Yet, the defeat of the Eastern communist model has also deprived Western capitalism of an important part of its oedipal self-composition, namely, an Other to which the West gives the “privilege,” as Emile Cioran remarks in History and Utopia, “of realizing the unrealizable, of deriving power and prestige from the finest of its modern illusions” (14).
Hence, the plane of consistency composed by oedipal capitalism becomes threatened by mediocrity, banality, and loss of creative impulse, no less the mechanical life of everyday consumerist culture. We can argue here that this situation invites an opening up to an Event in the form of terror; in Freudo-Lacanian terms, the violent return of the repressed.
Whose return?
But whose return? Is it the return of communism? Or the return of the East, perhaps, exemplified by China and the threat of North Korea? Or the return of a humiliated Oedipus who wanted to repeat the process of desiring, in the same way a child longs to return to the mother’s womb, by ignoring concrete historical changes passing between him and the rest of the world, so he could play out without distraction his neurotic impulses where only his consistency is at stake, the absolute right of Oedipus to the object of his own desire, his delusion as the most important person ruling an imagined kingdom atop an oil-rich Sabah? 1. You will not be surprised to find out that it will be the same oedipal drive that would make this dreaded return.
As Zizek argues in his by now irritable treatment of the Lacanian formula for anxiety anchored on the death-drive, it is better to proceed here in a circular way for economic reasons than embrace a Nirvanic or Easterly return to pre-organic or pre-linguistic solitude of actual terror. He says in his recent work, roughly a decade after the 9/11 attack: “Nirvana as a return to pre-organic peace is a false vacuum, since it costs more (in terms of energy expenditure) than the circular movement of the drive” (Less Than Nothing, 945).
Zizek recently makes an interesting observation: “Every normality is a secondary normalization of the primordial dislocation that is the death drive, and it is only through the terrorizing experience of the utter vacuity of every positive order of normality that a space is opened up for the Event” (Ibid., 835).
The question is, “Is not the bombing of the Twin Towers an example of a ‘terrorizing experience of the utter vacuity of the positive (global) order’ in which the West claims absolute superiority after the collapse of the Eastern model?” Indeed, it has opened up a space for the Event, namely, in Zizekian terms, a return to normality. A certain normality is achieved when the return of the repressed guarantees that the Event does not fall into a trap, when it does not consciously mimic the death-drive. Instead, the death drive has to be obscured by the Event opened up by terror, by the attack on the towers, or the invasion of Sabah, in terms of transforming itself into a confused “semblance” of a void that preceded all voids” (Ticklish Subject, 154). It goes without saying that a preceding Void is the void of all Voids, which can never be voided.
The shape of today’s Marxism
This contrasts with Badiou’s formulation of the Event that attempts to go beyond oedipal capitalism by opposing the Event of Truth to the death-drive. For Zizek, there can never be a genuine passage from old to new as the Badiouan Event otherwise entails. What Zizek rather advocates is a violent enforcement of a passage: “no longer follow the pattern of an evental explosion followed by a return to normality” (“The Communist Hypothesis,” 130), something we can associate to the attacks on the Towers which gave capitalism the opportunity to stabilize itself  rather as Zizek concludes: “Out of revolt we should shamelessly pass to enforcing a new order” (Ibid.). Jamalul Kiram III must have learned so much from Zizek. 2.
Here we are seeing the shape of today’s fantastic Marxism, with a Hegelo-dialectical Lacanian twist. While he at times denounces the fetishism of capitalism, the fetishism being its obsession toward an absent presence, its fascination for chaos as a principle of finality, as when he declares that “fetishism reaches its acme precisely when the fetish itself becomes dematerialized” (Welcome to the Desert of the Real, 36) we need to emphasize the point that for whatever it is worth Zizek’s critique conceals an apologetic tone.
The exposition of the dangers of dematerializing the fetish, which can be related to the passion for the Real or the Thing itself, or the ultimate object of desire, such as Kiram’s claim to Sabah, does not for purposes of psychoanalytic education prevent terror, rather, it does the opposite by rationalizing terror as a necessary violent return of the repressed, the necessary circularity of the drives in terms of avoiding the Ur-drive, the death drive, which nonetheless must be satisfied so as not to overwhelm the subject by transforming the push toward the object into a confused and unconscious semblance of death.
What can psychoanalysis teach us across the spectrum of global hegemony and forms of resistance if, on the one hand, the oedipal capitalist system of global subject-formation accommodates terror for it serves as the ontological buffer for the positivity of its normality, and if, on the other hand, global resistance to capitalism is having difficulty escaping a predefined space of determination where exit to nonhistoricality, to a body without organs, is still fraught with dangers, especially the danger of being co-opted by the oedipal war machine, to borrow from Deleuze and Guattari? As far as Zizek is concerned, the only way is to repeat the same process that normalizes capitalism and the desire of Oedipus.
Having said these, I take it that left Lacanianism, the one exemplified by Zizek’s works, is the most promising shape of today’s Marxism, the form of communist utopia that alone can save global capitalism from diving into chaos.
Notes
1. http://veraqivas.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/gross-power-of-the-false-on-crisis-in-borneo/
2.  See Rhizomes and Consequences (‘Mapping a people to come’ available on this blog).
Related articles:
1. http://darkecologies.com/2013/04/18/zizek-on-thatcher-do-we-need-a-leftwing-demigoddess/
2. http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/politics/2013/04/simple-courage-decision-leftist-tribute-thatcher

Full paper version of my paper presentation in the First International Deleuze Studies in Asia Conference to be held at Tamkang University, Taiwan from May 31 to June 2, 2013.

 

Psychoanalysis and Its Conjurations

Charles Stivale, commenting on structuralism and psychoanalysis, once observed:
Structuralism cannot be separated from a new transcendental philosophy in which the sites prevail over whatever fills them. Father, mother, etc. are first of all sites in a structure; and if we are mortal, it is by moving into the line, by coming to a particular site, marked in the structure following this topological order of proximities (even when we do so ahead of our turn).”[1]
Deleuze and Guattari are more straightforward while giving psychoanalysis its due:
Psychoanalysis undoes them (myth and tragedy) as objective representations, and discovers in them the figures of a subjective universal libido; but it reanimates them, and promotes them as subjective representations that extend the mythic and tragic contents to infinity….Oedipus is the fallen despot—banished, deterritorialized—but a reterritorialization is engineered, using the Oedipus complex conceived of as the daddy-mommy-me of today’s everyman.”[2]
A reterritorialized existence is here correlated to the somewhat “lesser dangerous symptoms of psychosis” of today’s everyman.[3] Teresa Brennan in her work History After Lacan tersely observes: “One of the lesser symptoms of psychosis, like neurosis, is the inability to concentrate for very long, to constitute memories in a temporal sequence or to follow an argument.”[4] Seemingly, this succinctly describes the kind of subjective existence in modernity; rightly put—the “psychotic era” (as Brennan emphasized). One of the objective symptoms of this era is its fixation on subject-object schema that Deleuze and Guattari attempt to replace with the subject-concept schema or what they associate with “diagram.”
Diagram in turn is associated with “lines of flight” and “absolute deterritorialization.”[5] Diagram deterritorializes “presignifying regime”[6] or what can amount to “topological proximities” (Stivale) into which the subject comes if only to freely express its subjectification to certain “proceedings and assignations of subjects in language.”[7] “In this sense, psychoanalysis, with its mixed semiotics, fully participates in a line of subjectification.”[8] Thus echoing their critique of psychoanalytic ‘tracing’ or its topological redundancy, Deleuze and Guattari further assert, “The psychoanalyst does not have to speak anymore, the analysand assumes the burden of interpretation; as for the psychoanalyzed patient, the more he or she thinks about his or her next session, or the preceding one, the better a subject he or she is.”[9]
The psychotic era of involuntary, pretraced, presignified given strata of subjectification “carries desire to such a point of excess and unloosening that it must either annihilate itself in a black hole or change planes.”[10] When this “black hole of involuntary memory”[11] is reterritorialized as a form of pretraced memory, that is, as an organism, the subject becomes un-diagrammatically one with, in the sense of its voluntary submission (sealing the lines of flight or exits to creations), the pure untamed vitality of chaos that “undoes every consistency”[12] in the sense of impatiently “emptying [oneself] of [one’s] organs instead of looking for a point (a line of flight by means of diagramming) at which [one] could patiently and momentarily dismantle the organization of the organs we call organism.”[13]
Deleuze and Guattari unequivocally warn against this kind of subjectification that risks “[dragging itself] toward catastrophe” by “not taking precautions”:
Staying stratified—organized, signified, subjected—is not the worst that can happen; the worst that can happen is if you throw the strata into demented or suicidal collapse, which brings them back down on us heavier than ever. This is how it should be done: Lodge yourself on a stratum, experiment with the opportunities it offers, find an advantageous plane on it, find potential movements of deterritorialization, possible lines of flight, experience them, produce flow conjunctions here and there, try out continuums of intensities segment by segment….Connect, conjugate, continue…[14]
As François Zourabichvili suggests in his commentary on Deleuze, staying stratified can amount to being “coextensive with oneself” in a manner that has since Descartes takes subjectification as a reflection of “autonomous and pre-existent inner life” as well as the “external reality” it reflects in the form of reterritorialized subjectivity.[15] But if Zourabichvili later speaks of a process of becoming “when the subject is no longer coextensive with itself[16] the rhetoric changes its effects. If we can juxtapose this process of becoming to the Lacanian notion of extimacy where, in an analytic situation, “the analysand at the end of his trajectory attains the question of being,”[17] at the same time that “the analysand finds there his or her entry into … the analyst’s discourse,”[18] his or her entry into the “analytic solitude… into a breach… where he or she is supposed to remain” [19] as a consequence of the paradox of psychoanalytic practice, then it is not so difficult to see that the question of being is either one of living in a permanent liminal landscape or that which offers a way out of the landscape in terms of becoming another subject, that is, as reterritorialized in the analyst.”[20] Against the whole analytic process itself Zourabichvili offers the following words: “the subjective form is inadequate when faced with the unformedness of becoming.” [21]
The kind of reterritorialization we spoke of concerning the analyst is best described in the following observations by Pierre-Gilles Guégen, commenting on Jacques Lacan’s Seminar XVII, by relating the “question of being” to the Lacanian notion of extimacy:
From this perspective, extimacy refers to the analyst after analysis, no longer the placeholder of the Other that lacks, but as the positive remainder of the analytic operation. In other words, extimacy refers to the manner in which the analyst has been the partner of the drive.”[22]
The “analyst discourse” into which the “analysand finds his or her point of entry” after analysis is precisely where the analysand, having lost the analyst as a placeholder of the Other, is introduced not only into the question of being but also of the competence of the analyst who has pushed the analytic situation into that of a realization on the part of the analysand that the analyst is neither the Other that lacks nor does he possess the Other’s desire. The analysand is caught in a limbo after analysis but fortunately finds a point of entry, perhaps, an escape from the analytic situation which legitimates his liminal existence in the first place, into the difficult paradoxical situation of the analyst stripped of the trappings of the Other. Guégen adds:
The Analyst of the School, once appointed, sees an open door leading onto a tightrope: ‘Will he be up to the task, or will he take a false step? Will he know how to tread the path? Here, experience is of no avail, but nothing can be done without having previously benefited from the accomplishment of an analysis and from the training that follows in its wake. How will he be able to walk the tightrope? As Lacan stressed, “It is not sufficient for a duty to be self-evident for it to be fulfilled?”[23]
We can easily relate Zourabichvili’s notion of unformedness to the Lacanian psychotic era. As an “inter-assemblage” of “lines of impoverishment and fixation,” Lacan’s psychotic era describes the “closure of the assemblage” itself, what could precisely create “states of inhibitions” that can “release crossroads behaviours,” unable to procure “an opening into consistency” where, as Deleuze and Guattari originally suggest, “blackholes resonate together or inhibitions conjugate and echo each other.”[24]
[END]
NB: In our next post (which may take some time after this one as I am currently engaged in completing a number of research papers) I will relate this Deleuzean concept of resonating blackholes to OOO’s obsession with objects, units, etc. Simply put, the logic of OOO is implicated in the kind of schema (subject-object) that Deleuze and Guattari sought to overcome. Despite its emphasis on objectality, OOO is still very much a part of this schema.
Also, there are quite a number of interesting discussions on the blogosphere on, among others, to what extent psychoanalysis can be utilized to advance the logic of OOO. This post is in part a response to this aspect of psychoanalysis.
Levi Bryant’s recent post deserves a fair hearing; see http://larvalsubjects.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/questions-about-epicureanism-the-borromean-knot-again/ but also Terence Blake’s criticism of Bryant at http://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/a-quick-response-to-an-impatient-and-unruly-questioner-my-preliminary-response-to-levi-bryants-questions/ which started at R.S. Bakker’s post; see http://rsbakker.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/the-ptolemaic-restoration-object-oriented-whatevery-and-kants-copernican-revolution/ .
Meanwhile, Steven Hickman has written a number of excellent posts on psychoanalysis, particularly its Zizekean intonations, most recent is this post– http://darkecologies.com/2013/03/15/alenka-zupancic-quote-of-the-day/
Though I differ with his position on Deleuze’s relation to Lacanian psychoanalysis, I recommend Cengiz Erdem’s recent foray into psychoanalysis in relation to Deleuze. See his post: http://cengizerdem.wordpress.com/2013/01/27/melancholia-and-the-cartesian-subject/
Also check out a recent discussion of the limitations of OOO, in part, as I see it, questioning Levi Bryant’s deployment of psychoanalysis to articulate a new OOO perspective. See his post http://supposednone.wordpress.com/2013/03/17/the-failure-of-ooo/

Notes

[1] See Charles Stivale, “Appendix: ‘How Do We Recognize Structuralism’,” in The Two-Fold Thought of Deleuze and Guattari: Intersections and Animations (New York and London: The Guilford Press, 1998), 263.
[2] Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, vol. 1, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), 304.
[3] See Teresa Brennan, History After Lacan (London and New York: Routledge, 1993), 4.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 7.
[6] Ibid., 136.
[7] Ibid., 78.
[8] Ibid., 131.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid., 134.
[11] Ibid., 186.
[12] Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, What is Philosophy?, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991), 42.
[13] Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 161.
[14] Ibid.
[15] See François Zourabichvili, “Six Notes on the Percept (On the Relation Between the Critical and the Clinical),” in Deleuze: A Critical Reader, ed. Paul Patton (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Blackwell, 1996), 196.
[16] Ibid.
[17] Ibid., 200.
[18] See Piere-Gilles Guégen, “The Intimate, the Extimate and Psychoanalytic Discourse,” in Jacques Lacan and the Other Side of Psychoanalysis: Reflections on Seminar XVII, ed. Justin Clemens and Russell Grigg (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2006), 271.
[19] Ibid.
[20] Ibid.
[21] Zourabichvili, “Six Notes on the Percept,” in Deleuze: A Critical Reader, 196. Ibid., 272.
[22] Guégen, “The Intimate, the Extimate and Psychoanalytic Discourse,” in Jacques Lacan and the Other Side of Psychoanalysis: Reflections on Seminar XVII, 271.
[23] Ibid., 272.
[24] All quotes are from Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 334.

Spate of killings in North Borneo has reached a proportion when a supposed nationalist-minded Filipino is expected to take sides, invoking the spirit of a nation that has had a long history of being suppressed by colonial powers and continues to endure a new form of global colonialism courtesy of finance capital whose chief benefactor is the West. Killings that no matter how you look at the extra-genealogies that lead to this crisis (in the sense that the origins of the crisis are far from enabling our sense of historical awareness and sensitivity), or regardless of the moral infamy of invading a sovereign territory, are enough to arouse the noble passion of defending the ideals for which this country is created whose people belong to the Malay race, and yes, by the blood of her martyrs, the wisdom of her intelligentsia, the resilience of her commoners, above all, the collective imagination of ‘a people to come’ with full machinic ‘power of the false’ that once, and for all eternity, as it is incumbent upon this race to glorify the first blood it drew from the invaders, humbled the imperial truth of the Spanish Crown.

Unfortunately, at the risk of being perceived as a traitor to the ideals of this country, I must say I am one with the Malaysian people for consistently urging their government to carry out the laws of its land provided restraint is strictly observed, or to put it rather obliquely, consistent with how enemies, especially, those who do not know what they are fighting for, the kind of enemies that no sovereign country deserves, that no war machine deserves to defeat, should be treated in a time of war. The conspirators who plotted the invasion of a sovereign territory in North Borneo are not only risking a full-scale regional war but more crucially the integrity of the collective imagination of our people who have long been used to being colonized rather than the reverse. The gross miseducated act of the few, literally very few but whose nomadic power of the false is equally capable of deterritorializing the dogma of our official racial power to falsify colonialism and its war machines (as written in our history books peopled by celebrity revolutionaries most of whom belonged to the elite), now threatens to belie this collective imagination by exposing its utter confectionary nature, its invented-ness, its fabrication, the lie of all lies.

An isolated ruler in Mindanao, south of the Philippines, who declared his persona, this time we can give the affordance he needs, the true ruler of the Sulu Sultanate at a point when practically no one is contesting his position, ordered his royal army to settle in Sabah.  This part of North Borneo has since then become the center of a historical crisis, a Deleuzean case of a vital assemblage, a geographical congregation of the molecular borne of deep geological time, becoming-other than itself in the sense that it has, more than ever, since the invasion broke out, actualized a line of flight, an exit into creation. Meanwhile, the nomadic machine of this anti-oedipal modern-day penurious monarch, or more precisely, a humiliated Oedipus who has an axe to grind (he was excluded from the peace treaty between the Philippine government and Muslim insurgents in the south, and mind you, brokered by the Malaysian government!) has by the way managed to enjoy the accolades courtesy of the din of the anemic multiple, the mediatized multiple, those without blood, “those emptied and dreary bodies,”1 those of pure organism, a carelessly recombinant BwO, a body without organs, those who do not “reach the BwO and its plane of consistency by wildly destratifying” (Ibid.).

If, granting the truth of the argument courtesy of Delanda, “our bodies act upon strata through our subjectivity for an empirically objective duration, and while we can deterritorialize/destratify while we are upon them by all kinds of means, these means do not occur solely devoid of subjectivity”2, then the invaders of Sabah can destratify a part of North Borneo only by completely taking subjectivity out of the picture. If, ideally speaking, subjectivity means empirically objectified by historical duration, in this case, greatly knowledgeable of the empirical history of the sovereignty of the people of Sabah who long ago decided that they are the people of Malaysia, then the invaders can be judged to be acting “devoid of subjectivity” if not extravagantly poor in ideals.

If it is the people who decided, right or wrong but certainly informed by the power of the false, it is then when geography is decided, period. Conversely, the nomadic machine of a humiliated Oedipus wishes to radicalize the plane of consistency by invoking its absolute right to be false. But as D&G put it, the problem of desire (in this case, the Oedipal desire of a ruler for absolute obtainment of the object of desire itself, namely, the land of Sabah) is strictly correlated to “peopling, population.”3 Peter Canning identifies in the body of Deleuze and Guattari’s collaborative writings several important homologous series that describe this notion of peopling, that is, to a decisional affirmation of subjectivity, collective at best, as against the individualism of a subject that is properly devoid of subjectivity, to wit: multiple-cities swarming with “social Ideas,” of crowds and gangs, the mob, riots and assemblies, packs or bundles of intensities, emotional turning points, the variable moods of neighborhoods.”4

Interestingly, in Freudian terms, solipsism is dangerous. In strict psychoanalytic language, a voided subjectivity needs a professional advice. 

——————–

Notes

1. Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 160.

2. Charles Stivale, Two-Fold Thought of Deleuze and Guattari, 93.

3. A Thousand Plateaus, 30.

4. “Crack of Time and the Ideal Game,” in Gilles Deleuze and the Theater of Philosophy, 97. 

 

Instead of reacting to Latour’s lectures which still need time to organize themselves into a level where Latour’s positions can be objectively appraised, therefore we need to wait for the lectures to finish, I have gathered some thoughts about Latour’s unique place in contemporary speculation concerning the advent of anthropocene vis-à-vis his concept of Gaia, and decided to put them here. But I have also decided to skip a detailed comparison between the two terms, anthropocene and Gaia. Certainly, there are semantic similarities they share from which can take off a philosophical comparison, which is, nonetheless, not my aim here. My aim is rather modest, in fact, regressive. I wish to trace the background of what I think informs Latour’s stance on human autonomy.

Certainly, we owe it to Marx and the tradition of ideology critique–the awareness that human privilege is only formally or topologically universal or that humanity is a privileged creature. It is rather a concrete advantage of individuation especially those who have the means (social, political, cultural and economic capital) to transcend the local demands of life. In all known history those who have these means are responsible for creating  a paradigm of human privilege, through apparatuses of instruction, communication and circular exchange of priority knowledge, or through “the noble lie,” the lie that there are natural differences between and among humans, such that the ordering of society for purposes of achieving balance and management of entropy has to take these differences into account.

Evolutionarily wise, there is truth in natural differences. (The ‘uninformed’ lie in the noble lie goes to the ‘lie’ that can assume for itself a level of truth not to the other-than exploitative kernel of the purpose of lying, presumably noble). But possibilities for overcoming these differences in terms of their effects on individuation across the social spectrum have become rigidified. Those who have been made to consistently belong to differentiated classes (differentiated by the mechanism of identifying natural differences replicative throughout time in which, as it is the case, the differenciator is exempted from the subjectification process) are reduced to the bareness of life, deprivation and helplessness. The anthropocentric bias therefore only serves the interest of the differenciator, plain and simple. But as this bias has to be sustained in and through an economy of differences the great differentiated has to be convinced of their privilege as humans too.

Simply put, economy depends on concrete production that only the differentiated can perform. But it is never that simple. The produce, as they are circulated, exchanged and consumed by both the great differentiated and the differenciator, become understood as the labor of humanity, including the differenciator whose privilege is symbolically extended to the great differentiated. We can therefore arrive at how a certain universality is achieved—such as the idea of humanity as one—by means of an ideological procedure mediated by the commodity. If humanity is simply an effect of this procedure, certainly we can say that humanity does not exist except in and through a forcing of the indiscernible (we take cue from Badiou), that is, by non-natural and therefore arbitrary means.

But how about humanity as the irreducible dignity of every human being? Are we to say it is also a construct? Far from it. I believe that there is a universal humanity. The universalization of humanity depends on a pre-defined essence of givenness, that which is irreducible to any formal concept or forcing of the indiscernible, namely, that the human is a triumph of the impossible—that despite innumerable conditions of non-existence (not to mention its natural end in death) it rises forth as a possibility that the process of evolution could never anticipate. The human is itself a delicate parcel of life that deserves care and respect. By whom? By the other who also deserves care and respect and whose existence, whose rising forth on the plane of creation is just as accidental as you and me and anybody else. In contrast, all processes of ascribing the human the privilege of creation or the design for which its existence makes sense, in other words, all non-evolutionary thinking that elects this human as the custodian of creation and the universe, disrespect the utter contingency from which this human draws its sustaining power as well as the possibility for novelty, individuation and transcendence. These take the place of the awareness of the horror that, as we are contingently thrown into the world without rhyme or reason, our extinction is just as fairly deducible from the premise of chance.

Still, we are of the opinion that humanity must be redefined. To redefine humanitas is a process that involves a de-universalization of humanity on the level of differentiation in favor of the universalization of contingency on the level of the true universal, among other true universals whose properties lie unexplored from the depths of representation , the underworld or the subatomic, to the great Outdoors (a position similar to Meillasoux). Taking a cue from Meillasoux, a true universal is such that it possesses a knowable property. 

The result can be the democracy of beings, not the democracy of things. We disagree with the chief orientation of OOO that accords things pre-symbolic equilibrant character that generates a co-equal status between humans and non-humans on the level of pure ontology. We believe there is much to explore in the emancipatory possibilities of the symbolic, as Latour declares that we have never been modern, that is, never been symbolic in the sense of fulfilling its human character, such that it becomes too defeatist to consign the quest to be human to the un-willed anorganicity of creation. It just kills conatus on which necessary fictions like human existence depends. Needless to say, there has never been an honest appraisal of how we need this fiction.

But Derrida is a remarkable exception. Humanity needs this fiction to sustain the conatus for justice. Justice is the Derridean fiction that once consigned to the anorganicity of the conditions of its emergence robs humanity off of the will to live, not to mention, the will to love. It does not mean Derrida was unaware of the dynamics of evolution. It is simply for him taken for granted as the necessary condition of possibility of emergent things, beings, and events. The danger of consigning an effect, such as human life as we know it, to anorganicity which is pre-elected (by science and philosophy) to be the absent cause of creation lies in what Schopenhauer feared, namely, the consequent forcing of the death of willing. For his part, Nietzsche embraced the educative kernel of Schopenhauer by appropriating the emancipatory character of pessimism in terms of declaring that pessimism (the necessary awareness that existence conceals no reason or purpose) is also a will to live in the sense that it is a reaction to the reality that nothing is. The conatus lies in repeating the nothingness that reality reveals until repetition becomes a necessity that reality can no longer control. The difference is simple: it is in the interest of humans to repeat. As Laruelle would have it, the Real in contrast is unilaterally indifferent. In Badiou, somehow repetition is making destiny out of chance (in In Praise of Love). But we have never been modern in the sense that this destiny will always remain a construction, a compossibility. We have never been human because we must continually seek justice.

A new universalization of humanity can also result in cooperation in the name of the ‘noble’ of the noble lie, not its lie anymore which means the wanton use of noble lie for purposes of supremacy and control. This lie (the noble) exposes itself to be no less the power of the false (we take cue from Deleuze), or, in Nietzsche, false or fictional or willingly oblivious, yet life-enabling.

NB: For those interested in the summaries of Latour’s Gifford Lectures I recommend Terence Blake’s superb journalistic accounts of the lectures so far. See terenceblake.wordpress.com

Few words on Terence’s recent observations on Laruelle’s anti-vitalism:

I certainly doubt that Laruelle is exempted from the charge of vitalism, if not the whole of his project, then at least a few strands of his thoughts which leave his readers with the impression that like Agamben he is somehow privileging weakness as a catapult to transcendence. Just as Agamben silently accommodates a new theology, Laruelle embraces a non-theology by virtue of the intensive image of the suppressed. The heretic is certainly the closest image of this weakness who in Laruelle has a unique mission (not in the historical sense but as a bare reminder of the crimes of philosophy in general which we can argue works for Laruelle as the persecutor of difference that the heretic champions). The weakness of the heretic becomes a unique image of strength but a strength that is other-than, a future, understood in the sense of the last instance. It is a strength precisely because it possesses a promise. It possesses a promise for the heretic alone can provoke the crimes of the World against it. All this world’s strengths are used up in the persecution of the heretic. The heretic undermines the World, leaves it vulnerable to emancipation. 

Here, I take vitalism to mean a certain privileging of weakness (of the heretic), of bare life, a life that can be killed but not sacrificed for the heretic, who represents this bareness, possesses the secret whose essence is that it sustains the lie of the church. (Benjamin Noys’s critique of Laruelle’s vitalism is worth reading on this point. Check him out at academia.edu) Its presence is just as necessary to sustain the difference against which the priestly class nominates its privilege. In India, the sutras (the children of God), the untouchables are not sacrificed by the state in the sense that they are allowed to exist. We can argue here that the untouchables are the closest representation of the heretic, those who possess the secret that sustains the lie of the privilege of the few. In other words, it is the duty of the state to sustain their poverty.

Lastly, Laruelle is bound by the historicity of the image of the heretic, an image deeply entrenched in Western Christianity, which makes Future Christ Eurocentric.

Check out:

http://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2013/02/26/laruelle-against-nihilism-for-a-vitalism-of-the-lived-without-life/

The throes of Non-philosophy

February 25, 2013


Or, Why Are We Still In Mourning?

 

On whether Laruelle has to wait for Derrida or Deleuze to complete their thought-experiments before he could achieve a solid critique of philosophical sufficiency that the two represent in terms of which non-philosophy could then officially usher in the contemporary landscape of thought,  I think it is pretty clear that Laruelle pursued his project independent of them, not to mention that realistically speaking these experiments would never find completion. That is the whole point of Laruelle’s critique of the sufficiency of philosophy. It mistakes its ecstases as completed junctures, as saturated phenomena or fields of fulfillability where philosophy validates its self-prophetic visions.

Sufficiency is inherent in all philosophies. From what Laruelle has so far said of the development of his thought, it was from Marx through Althusser that he learned to develop the tenets of non-philosophy, especially, the method of dualysis and the determination-in-the-last-instance without which non-philosophy would not usher into contemporary thought. But the decisive moment of his critique comes with Deleuze announcing a break with philosophy’s circularity, or what could amount to a non-philosophical critique of philosophy. Yet in Deleuze the non-philosophical is always already the ability of philosophy to critique itself, its self-reflexivity. Philosophy’s sufficiency fully exposes itself without qualms in Deleuze (with Guattari in What is Philosophy?). There the task of philosophy is reduced to concept-making/engendering. No longer of discovering transcendence, God, or substance (since Spinoza philosophy has weaned away from uninformed theologism); no longer of grounding causality in a metaphysics beyond immanence for it is easy to see that immanence alone has the motive to think ‘transcendence’. After the mask of immanence is cast off immanence has no choice but to pursue its radical direction, to pursue its origin in transcendence but as a fold of immanence, the fold as the forgetful essence of metaphysics (of thinking transcendence). Here, the task of philosophy is defined with finality. The exposition of the lie of transcendence practically imposes the eternal embargo against causal thinking in favor of the same eternality required of thinking in terms of effects and surfaces, concepts that embody in themselves the proper motive for thinking transcendence. All the while what was lacking was a proper motive for transcendence, the motive being what is proper to transcendence, namely, a consistent exposition of the immanence of its claim that applies much to the subject that by its very finitude is prone to the excesses of immanence as immanence is practically an excess. When the motive was finally revealed, transcendence leaks out, makes itself available to all subjects. It loses its mystery. It can be practically lived. Yet all these take cue from philosophy being able to finally realize its true task.

In Derrida, deconstruction also supposes a sufficiency, a sufficient sense of history that ironically even without deconstruction is deconstructing itself in a manner of auto-poeticism. There philosophy is reduced to witnessing the deconstruction of the object-cause of history by the object itself, namely, the foldedness of immanence, its ahistorical origin because needless to say it takes a decision to begin history, to proceed from oneself as self-nomination, as Marx and Nietzsche exposed. One need not needlessly wonder how this foldedness of immanence becomes historical. Deleuze says the fold is the memory and it is memory that we live out until superseded by another institution of memory, of course, in the span of a lifetime. Beyond Deleuze, the self-folding automatism of history is reduced by Derrida into the capacity of the trace (the object) of memory as only its trace not memory in itself can be meaningfully understood (memory is a trace of the trace, etc.) to take the place of history itself. Even without deconstruction, this trace de-constructs itself by revealing its other origin, which consistent with his Heideggerianism Derrida translates into pursuing other beginnings within the margins of history.

These margins by the way already touch the dimension of the future.They lie outside the circle of Nietzsche’s eternal return. Derrida’s powerful reinterpretation of Heidegger’s Ereignis is truly revolutionary except that even this revolutionary gesture relies on a sense of completion (which also explains Heidegger’s self-referential futurity, otherwise his inability to break with the ideology of the death of God, ‘the death’ being the ultimate sufficient cause of philosophy that cannot move beyond the present whose temporal integrity relies on the infinite capacity of God to die eternally, that is, in the present). This sense of completion is guaranteed by the sufficiency of philosophy–that only philosophy can see and pursue these other beginnings, that only philosophy can take the initiative for other disciplines to take on these other beginnings.

Taken in the above light, we can tolerate the sufficiencies of Badiou, Zizek or Meillasoux and even OOO for we see in them what Derrida, sans the sufficiency that motivates his deconstruction, also see in Heidegger, that is, the pursuit of other beginnings. Even for Laruelle these pursuits are permissible for they afford non-philosophy materials for dualysis. And yes, Laruelle also relies on a sense of sufficiency, but not constitutive of non-philosophy, rather parasitic to philosophy. Sufficiency is philosophy’s own making, not of non-philosophy’s. There lies the difference. At the end of the day, Laruelle teaches us to witness all these with openness and releasement to the wonder they never fail to evoke.

Still, I have issues with non-philosophy and it is motivated, among others, by the conviction of some that Laruelle’s time has come. That his time has come only makes sense if we agree that Laruelle took Derrida and Deleuze’s works as incomplete at the time he was critiquing them. I can only wonder just exactly when can their works be completed and by whom. The way I see it is this: as long as we make non-philosophy dependent on philosophy’s completion we can never get over the throes of experiencing the death of God. I also believe this is what psychoanalysis teaches us. I cannot expand on this further for I intended this to be a short post. Other chores are beckoning. But suffice it to say that we will never cease mourning for the death of God until we allow other beginnings to redefine God, say, as an immanent Real as, for instance, in Lacan. Seemingly, in Philosophies of Difference, Laruelle takes great pain to expose Lacan’s psychoanalysis just to see to it that he agrees with Lacan, sans Lacan’s anti-philosophical (not non-philosophical) sufficiency, otherwise a philosophy biting its own tail.

________________________________________

This post is in part a response to Terence Blake. See   http://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/why-laruelle-why-now-reflections-on-some-recent-trends-in-continental-philosophy/

This is a comment on Steven Hickman’s post on J.G. Ballard; see–

http://darkecologies.com/2013/02/22/j-g-ballard-the-fragile-world/

I like the way dmfant, in one of his comments to Steven, is provoking philosophy to reflect upon on its way with “idle chatter,” or the way the practice of philosophy is itself wedged between critique and vision, between autonomy and reflexivity. I say this in light of what I see as philosophy’s spontaneous slippage into the everyday, the everyday as the very dimension that sutures rather indifferently these two obverse faces of philosophical practice (whichever strand it represents, continental or analytic), regardless whether philosophy allows such a fall into the abyss (this everyday that is foreclosed to autonomy and reflection). It is both a saving grace and an anathema to philosophy. On the one hand, it affords philosophy an automatic inclusion in reality whether it deliberately invokes it or not. On the other hand, it opposes philosophy’s obverse faces, deflects their gazes back to philosophy’s self-reflection (which guarantees its continuity). Philosophy can re-conceive those deflections in different ways as Narcissus would see different images of himself.

But the “idle chatter” that I speak of here can only make sense if upon exhausting its phenomenological signification for Heidegger we reach an awareness of a rather disquieting precondition for thinking philosophically. First, philosophy must be necessarily stung by the idleness of reality, its ultimate indifferent posture. Second, this indifference is treated as problematic. The ancient question ‘why there is being rather than nothing’ is precisely the kind of question that indifference provokes (but without interest on its part, to belabor the point). Hence, the bare form of chatter, procured by the idleness of reality. Parmenides made this point when he spoke of the goddess telling him that reason is the obverse side of opinion, that ultimately they are One and the Same.

The everyday is no less the bare form of the non-philosophical. Unfortunately, even for Laruelle, or what I have understood so far, the non-philosophical can only take its cue from the autonomy and reflexivity of philosophical practice (in Steven’s words, “the slumbers of ideology”). It becomes parasitic to philosophy. The turn to non-standard philosophy, presumably a philosophy that has managed to escape the circularity of philosophy (or ideology) by reversing the order of priority–now from non-philosophy to the philosophizability of philosophy, meaning, its reducibility to a ‘material’ where philosophy loses its integrity as ‘first’–only ascertains in a ‘less problematic manner’ the primacy of the philosophical-without-philosophy. Less problematic because, presumably, it brings forth the pure form of the philosophical as a fall, a slip into the abyss, a dive into withdrawal, mystery and fiction.

But as Freud and Lacan would interpolate here, a ‘discharge’ (a release, say, from philosophy to non-philosophy) that can take the form of ending the tensions of philosophy, as it also happens in the sexual act, is only necessary to the extent that it allows for “changing the discourse” in a cathartic release. It amounts to de-philosophizing the everyday by liberating the everyday from the everyday of pure non-philosophy–the universal site of the nameless multiple, the poor, the common, the masses. The poor is either a person or a state of things.

Unfortunately, as philosophy changes its discourse by saturating the philosophizability of the everyday, the poor is left to its pure unchanging form.  The non-philosophical to which alone the poor can approve itself is now silently appropriated by the self-changing terms of the concept-making machine of the philosophical, from standard to non-standard, from decision to heresy, from Badiou to Saint Paul-without-Badiou. Ah, the Deleuzean century!

What ghosts tell

 

Laruelle offers to describe a state of philosophy after the determination-in-the-last-instance leaves it without a life to harass, without a shadow of itself to receive the masochistic blows of its decisional intoxication: “There is no longer any relation but only an alterity of the One, which is an immanence without relation to philosophy—even though it gives or manifests philosophy while separating itself from it” (The Non-philosophy Project, 129).

Such condition of separation is necessary for non-philosophy that takes philosophy, or its death, for that matter, as its material for fiction. One can say here that philosophy has now turned into a ghost. Yet a ghost that is authentically proper to its existence. This ghost now roams the World that has ceased offering a placement to philosophical binding, of self-returning reflexivity. Philosophy needs to feel threatened by its own ghost, its alterity, its other-than, its future (needless to say, philosophy has no concept of the future), its non-philosophical trajectory that it desires to suppress even as that which it stifles responds by offering a true hospitality by taking its name (non-philosophy) as the name that dies in philosophy. For what?

The ghost, suddenly devoid of the World that it used to engender, can tell something in this respect in the manner of a philo-fiction. In the meantime–“Left to itself the World contains many specters and many simulacra and it becomes both one and the other” (Struggle and Utopia At The End Times of Philosophy, 104).

 

They must tell something or it would be totally unreasonable to believe they exist in some way. That’s the way they exist, or must exist. On the one hand, they exist on account of giving their presence a distinct voice. On the other hand, they must exist and exist they do on that account.

And that’s why ghosts exist: they must exist. In fact, we cannot freely imagine existence itself without its double, its shadow, the antinomic exteriority of existence. It is the curse of existence, if at all it can be said of human life which is already ontologically bereft.

 §

Already in mourning of a true unconditioned purpose, human life must cling to the unimaginable to sustain its troubled existence, its rather proxy existence, an essence without the full credentials of existence, a soul without a proper nourishing body. A pure soul but not the soul as a pre-existent entity, rather the pure exteriority of being. As pure exteriority a being exists without a substitutable double, without connections, without a proxy body which is what a body is to the human soul. Thus, a pure body, a perfectly essential body is a pure exteriority, an atomic structure to say the least, existing as an independent physical reality. But since, as we emphasized, human life is in mourning, the pure essential body is a thing of the past as the first gesture of creation where a certain death was already achieved, a de-naturing, displacement and separation of the pure body (the state of being as an improbable being) from an active, present being-ness in the manner of proxy existence (the birth of being in culture),engendering a living human being, by all accounts a post-atomic being, a real being that as real is unrepeatable. Indeed, life can only exist once.

Nonetheless, the price of earning a culture is the quiet, discreet dependence of being on the memory of pure exteriority. That is how it sustains its troubled existence—by nourishing the ghostly exteriority of the past to the degree that we can only exist as proxy beings, surrogate atomics mourning of metaphysical purpose.

 §

Ghosts tells us some fundamental facts about existence. We mean facts as the outward evidence of a lie, a fabrication which on account of its powerful historical character it will be difficult to tell a lie from a fact. History is presence and to that degree the absentee character of existence in the ghostly exteriority of being is either tolerated or suppressed.

On the one hand, history tolerates ghosts if only to say that here ghosts are considered a fault, a conditionality of being subject to the examination of history utilizing the categories of reason.

On the other hand, history suppresses the memory of pure exteriority due to its liberating force, but most of all its natural violence against all forms of system or regime. In any case, history does not have complete metaphysical power to suppress pure exteriority, its subaltern challenge to the interiorization of being in common existence, with respect to the ghosts’ obligatory existence even within presence, by all accounts the co-habitation of common existence as a livable structure of being and the suprasensuous within the time of being.

Ghosts tell us that only ‘they’ are real. In this regard they pose a challenge to objective realism. They demand an impossible attention by according them a presence which gratifies the ‘Real’ but in the sense of an inversion, in the sense of epistemic falsehood, of a negativist celebration of ontological grief, mourning of the ghost of Being, the chimera of pure exteriority, the pure soul.  Meanwhile, common existence subsists as an essence without the full credentials of being. Its subsistence already betrays a transcendental act of deprivation. Existence is forced to comply with unrealistic demands one of which is to render existence to presence in one’s individual capacity as a being, to outward categorial appearance, to an appearance of truth and individual integrity, in short, to-the-World that the ‘act’ has previously engendered, at the same time that it (common existence or just existence) must persist (with or without the threat of deprivation) as a being forced to imagine it has those credentials. In this sense, there is no such common existence. Existence is uncommon, strange, ghostly, suspicious across the board.

To imagine one has the credentials of existence outside the hegemony of fate, of the destiny of common existence to live a life of difficult ontology by which we mean the necessary life of conceptuality—the practical even the rational, moral, religious, and political conception of beings according to predefined essences, living according to the effectuations of the thought-world or philosophy—it will take as much lie as to imagine oneself existing as a be-ing within an embodied essence, its fullest credential, so to speak. In this sense to philosophize is already to lie.

It is to ecstatically imagine oneself as a be-ing having those credentials, a being freely conscious of itself imagining itself for-itself, hence, the heuristic value of its self-grounding in the meanings it fabricates. Add to this complication the demand of transcendental existence to render one’s being to the evidentiality of time and space but where evidence of existence escapes all forms of ontological validation. In any case, the life of a be-ing is loaned by the pure exteriority of its past, its ghost which gives/hosts its temporal ground in the sense of giving it an authority to ex-ist. But not every human being is a be-ing. It takes a decision to-be. It takes an impossible leap, from being to be-ing, from existence to ekstasis. To give oneself to this leap is to listen to the ghostly voice of freedom. Where freedom is, there the possibility of ghostly existence haunts the living. And since ‘every-where’ there is freedom, which does not mean it is essentially realized, anywhere there are ghosts. They tell of the same thing.

Once more: to ex-ist is to occupy a realizable condition of being outside the realism of the objective, hence, be-ing. It is ekstasis. It is to exist as a be-ing, a being in pursuit of the credentials of existence, seeking credence, self-respect, autonomy and dignity. A be-ing in pursuit of a true unconditioned purpose which is the goal of every human freedom.

And here is where the process makes a full turn: As unconditioned, this purpose is no longer of the world. As a goal it does not have anything to do with the present. The process is completed in a non-philosophical simplification of philosophical fictionality (unaware of its behavioral structure). But if this simplification is also other-than the self-enclosing turn then rightly so it can only be achieved out of the future, the other-than (as Laruelle would emphasize) whose character is also simplified. It has a human character but not of the world and presence, rather of the last-instance of the world and presence, which is the ghostly presence of the what is to come, Man in the last-determining-instance, what could be the purity of the post-atomic being, the promise of every immanence where nothing can ever take place “save matter,” to parody Kant.

But are we not post-atomic already since the birth of time in the World? Are we seeing a repeat performance? Philosophy, encore. It has all the same cinematic elements assembled within the World that has not aged. Philosophy has not aged. One may wonder if philosophy has a concept of the planet, for what ages is the other-than-the-World. We can ask non-philosophy of the same thing. Does non-philosophy have a concept of the planet other than a non-planet like Pluto?

Once again, this is another way to say that ghosts must exist, or we don’t exist at all. Or, what amounts to the same thing: philosophies must exist, or humans don’t exist at all.

In this short thought-piece I wish to frame the islands’ disputes in the South East Asia (my place in the planet) by invoking Deleuze’s concept of Desert Island (part of my otherwise moratorious approach to the Deleuzean century, I should say) within the context of producing myths of vital materialities as an alternative arena of conflict. An island is a geographic force that has the power to push a desert around it, its desert being the ocean around it. Yet Deleuze is quick to clarify that such power is imaginary and mythological rather than actual and geographical.

In dispute is a scattered group of islands in the China Sea which threatens to escalate into a regional war. Not without historical merits concerning the mythological status of these islands, most nation claimants resort to local myths fleshed out by cultural and economic linkages among the people of the South East, to ancient people’s literature as indisputable records of early settlements to prove cultural birthright to their soil, their flora and fauna, their river streams and lakes, etc.

Though myths are bound to cultures what is rather crucial that can arise out of the saturation of fields of rhetorical enunciation of ownership is a kind of metaculture–no longer human, but rather ecological–that weaves their local formations, and ultimately, frames the contingency of the ocean that surrounds them, a metanarrative as a myth of the formation of continents. Continents are where people live. Rightly so, literary cultures surround the islands. By radicalizing the contingency of the oceans in terms of saturating the ecological limits of literature, we can hope that the islands will stay in their vital assemblages free of hallucinations of state ownership.  It is better that way than the molar machines of war. 

(As always molar aggregations have the power to reterritorialize molecular assemblages that have freely structured themselves into virtual democracy between and among vital materialities, such as islands, in the case of a war to decide sovereignty).

I felt defenseless in a thoroughly inspiring way when I read this post:

http://darkecologies.com/2013/01/25/heidegger-poetic-dwelling-and-escaping-the-literal-minded-gnosis/

Φ

It takes me back to my former somewhat delirious fascination with Heidegger, and yet, and perhaps this is what a homecoming feels like after a long difficult attempt to mature into a self-image I always wanted to become, it touches me in a way that I felt I am killing him wrongly.

This Heidegger, the equivalent of an obsession that never has once faltered even as I take shelter in newfound theories announcing the truths of the times–truths that announce their breaks with the past, with master frames like his–despite my attempts to renounce the youth that he claimed;

Least to say, its propensity for abyssal thinking, no less its desire to mimic his voice, his enviable life of contemplation, at the expense of ignoring the disturbances of history in whose belly his name resonates in echoes of praise and contempt;

Seemingly this Heidegger–this flicker of a shadow that refuses to be outshone by anyone who takes advantage of the ‘unvoiced’ that only the dead have the right to consign to anywhere but the living tongue, just so to protect the tranquility of their unrepeatable echoes, the utter contingency of their rhythms,  the way they threw themselves into the pit of becoming without guarantee of rescue–even now wishes to see that “the greatest danger” lies behind him.

Like Zarathustra he envisions the poetic nobility of “listening to the promise,” the promise of the destining of Being without history to tamper with its path.

But, as he once rued in light of Holderlin, “Hard it is, For what dwells near the origin, to leave its place”

(from Heidegger’s translation of Holderlin’s Die Wanderung).

Φ

Of the gravest danger I can say, it is the earth like the dead leaving its place to us.

Φ

As I complete this post Jeremy Schmidt made me feel like he never wanted me to recover from Steven’s fascinating post. See

http://jeremyjschmidt.com/2013/01/25/earthmasters-clive-hamiltons-latest-on-playing-god-with-the-climate/

Vital Materialities

January 22, 2013

____________________________________
Thought pieces I wish to write about this weekend
(1) From Matthew Segall
“The Sun remained a hero undescended and unrisen; an invincible god unburdened by (e)motion of any kind; a distant, objective observer. This provides a telling analogy for the hubris of the newly empowered solar ego whose great flash of insight had lead (sic) it to forget or repress its shadow by pushing the death-rebirth mystery into unconsciousness.”
http://footnotes2plato.com/2011/10/14/the-post-copernican-odyssey-from-the-kantian-psyche-to-the-tarnasian-cosmos/
My Platonic Bataillean non-philosophy (by morotarious Deleuze) is aching to expand the above passages. There is something in them that I envy. I wish I could have written them. 
(2) From Steven Hickman
“[A] naturalist perspective onto religion – yet, not one that is reductionary, and derogatory toward religious practices; but, one that sees in these practices deep seated human needs, both ethical and political, that have bound humans and the natural world together in a material cultural matrix that we should incorporated into our philosophical spectrum rather than anathematizing if we are ever to find a path forward”
http://darkecologies.com/2013/01/20/wild-empiricism-deleuze-and-the-hermetic-turn/
Material-cultural-matrix. Acronym, M-C-M. Anyone familiar with Marx’s equation? This is it! 
(3) Miscellaneous
So as not to burden myself of additional writing tasks, I’m unloading few words about Matthew Segall’s reply to my earlier post “Hermetic Deleuze: Anesthetizing Chaos.” His words:
“I’ve given some thought to the effects of the Internet, especially blogging/vlogging, on neuro-cognitive evolution. The Global Network of Capitalized Information is fast at work relieving us of our own private subjectivity. Our very selves are being gobbled up through our MacBooks onto the corporate-owned harddrives of Twitter, FaceBook, WordPress, and Google (Google is even gobbling up our apartment buildings, the continents and the oceans, even the stars and the sky by way of their satellization of the elements into a virtual Google Earth!).” (See comments, Hermetic Deleuze: Anesthetizing Chaos)
Elsewhere I wrote:
“The moment one seeks information, visibility follows. For one is also a bit of information that others seek. By becoming visible one helps the social order increase its knowledge base for global computation in terms of mapping, mining and analyzing psycho-social coordinates necessary for systems to widen their scope, which means high return of investment. To encourage visibility and hence to increase the knowledge base, systems resort to the psycho-social dynamics of combating anonymity, reification and obscurity by providing accessible thus therapeutic platforms for coming out into the world, venues for expressibility and collective recognition, promoting the dictum that opacity is specious, that the darkness it promotes is suspiciously evil” (unpublished essay)
Global systems demand visibility, and always challenge our capacity for self-reification. Self-reification is a mode of existence which guarantees a temporary hermetic space that systems cannot penetrate. Systems aim to shatter these spaces to extract information necessary for global computation. Global computation is the arrangement of plateaus, grids, lines of flights, scales and axes transformed into codes, which in essence are mechanics to delay the fullest deleterious effects of chaos or entropy that is indifferent to human interests. But here’s the catch. Once systems successfully shattered these spaces they lost vital computational resources. In other words, system collapse is avoided by preserving the very spaces it wishes to totalize.
Is this called capitalist realism?
But we have reached a point where self-reification is challenged by the limit of computational resources, namely, the anthropocene. Self-reification is increasingly losing a cause.
Once, this technology of the self was directed at systems and human and natural aggregates–the concealment of self vis-à-vis the rise of systems.
Today while humanity’s influence over the geophysical evolution of the planet could no longer be downplayed as just another myth of the Overman, self-reification is confronting the constrained spatiality (the living planet) of the reflexive loop that once emboldened its freedom cause.
As Terence Blake would quip, “No fixed roads, no stable frameworks…”
(http://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/feyerabend-and-laruelle-2/)
Or, instead of self-reification “what is needed here is a de-organ-ization of thought.” Thus spoke David.
(http://inthesaltmine.com/fragmented-body/)
Here, the universe is rehearsing the big crunch.
This will entail transparency, once and for all. Making oneself available for the service of humanity that is facing a new entropic war. But, will systems take the bait?
Did I hear it right? Google earth?

Is time explainable as an unchanging structure or a movement that can be described in terms of change which is not without an illusory apprehension of its otherwise more inexplicable nature? Substance or vitality? Or the combination of the two? In this sense Difference and Repetition is an unfinished work for the rich nuances it leaves behind. The answer rather lies somewhere. To my mind, Nathan Widder (check out his page at academia.edu) is one of the few Deleuzeans who problematizes this aspect.

In his work on Kant Deleuze exposes how invagination becomes the undeclared premise of the Critique of Judgment. The folding of the Void is first of all a matter of taste. This explains the aesthetic precursor of any form of ontology. If Zourabichvili argues that Deleuze has no ontology, that is precisely the case why. Foucault pursues the same path with Kant in terms of his “critical ontology of the self.” But by such an act the question of time is sidelined in favor of ex nihilo folding as creative snatching of the Void/One.

Time ceases to be a structure and begins to be an act. The Void is reduced to judgments. This is already a counter-naturalistic move via the aesthetic as against the sciences which do not see that acts, foldings, invaginations of the sort that nonetheless make possible the creation of history as we know it, are strong enough to punctuate a hole in the Void. Something is missing in the picture.

For science it is a matter of describing a world devoid of subjectivity. The eliminative materialism of Brassier to which I subscribe, granting that elimination is the work of the last instance in the manner of nonphilosophy, fully cognizant of the hallucinatory material invoked by materialism. There the subject is ultimately reduced to the erotic enjoyment of knowing. One way to “eat well,” in the Derridean sense.

Though it is correct to argue that somehow science is blind to the absurdity of the model of accounting for time where subjects do not matter, for they are subjects after all, the ideal that it pursues I think remains valid. My bias for Plato is at work here. Plato who established the Greek ideal of science saw the Forms as the aggregate of not-selves. (In their very essence as inhuman anorganic threat to human ambitions of order the Platonic Forms are Chaos, otherwise stated). For Plato it is the Forms accidentally descending on the terrestrial plane not humans unpacking the Forms that made possible the creation of the world. When Plato starting in the middle dialogues took a political turn in the Republic and in the Laws, he was simply stating the obvious, that any attempt to install order will simply be offering a fodder to chaos, the Forms which can invalidate human creative assemblages by challenging their certainties. He prescribed political alternatives but with only one thing in mind. The improvement of the human order is what Chaos/Forms would want the plane of immanence to transform itself to, to be thus eaten.The naturalist pluralists of the Presocratic world already understood this. There is simply no human in their framework of accounting for the birth of the world. But Plato would wish that before the great feast comes we have made our lives quite satisfactorily, that we have eaten well, which explains his emphasis on human flourishing as succeeding philosophers would build on.

For his part, Deleuze subtly incorporates the idiom of the subject, the rhizome, in explaining the birth of creative assemblages which makes him a hesitant humanist through and through. (Badiou rather translates this subtle humanism into an “autonym for an empty idiom.”). As for Bataille, he ignored the Greek ideal of science by extracting transcendence from within the transcended, the religious. Religion for Bataille is the only source of transcendence (played by aesthetics in Deleuze). Both affirmations celebrate the power of the subject to void, unpack the Void. The tenacity of these affirmations lies in its historicality. The voiding of the Void by subjects have created a plane of immanence capable of accommodating temporalization of discovered immanence, newfound lives, at least, for an indefinite period of time (read: forgetting there ever was a void).

Nietzsche was once our best reference. The eternal recurrence of the Same is the necessity of history, a steely necessity to hold off the arrival of entropy by a process of repeating history over and over again, a refashioning enough to convince the brain it is a conscious immortal entity. Or, perhaps, Derrida with his autoimmunity where the absolute future, entropy, is held off, a messianism without messiah, rightly so because the messiah is a destroyer, through a self-negating process that simply deprives entropy of its own power to negate the species, which has its own illusory advantages.

History was once the best weapon against Chaos. But it has already reached a point where its arrival in the evolutionary scene has become irreversible. The anthropocene motions a new cycle of entropic wars, food and energy wars, biopolitical wars issuing from health, security issues, etc, which can rekindle the dreams of strong AI. The question now is are we ready to become fuller machines in order to surpass the challenge of entropy on organic life? Incidentally philosophy is now making a turn to objectality, machinicity, etc. But Deleuze has already oriented us towards embracing the steely necessity of becoming-other.

How then can we account for time? Does time descend or we ascend to time?

Between waiting for entropy to descend (“waiting for Godot” is an excellent metaphorization on the part of Beckett, and good heavens Godot hasn’t arrived yet) and hastening its arrival (the ascension that post-singularity dreams of, the notorious “evolution by other means” of Kurzweil), there is a rather difficult choice to make, to neutralize the speed of progress.

There is a middle ground between embracing religion in a post-secular age and exposing our bodies to the visibility of global computational systems which have been preparing humanity to the singularity age of non-organicity, courtesy of physical symbolic networks, smart machines and knowledge intensive goods which increasingly alter our neural capacities for self-reification against the totalizing machine of capital that always demands transparency and visibility (Metzinger’s argument).

That ground is the ground of obscurity, anonymity and self-reification.

The middle ground is the anesthetization of Chaos which will entail the dispersion of Chaos from its concentration as realizable creative assemblages in selected spaces and geographies of the world into open spaces and plateaus. This will mean sacrificing profits and reshifting of knowledge culture from centers to peripheries; from continents to islands, from oceans to river tributaries; from galaxies to planets, from Milky Way to the solar system (which will have tremendous consequences for science). This is perhaps the clue to the hermetic turn.

By anesthetizing Chaos we deprive ourselves of the knowledge of End which hopefully will suppress the drive to outsmart time by racing against time. For how else can we explain the frenzy of progress that has been responsible for the birth of the anthropocene if not for the rather undeniable fact that All will come to end. Some of us want to eat well ahead of others. Some of us would wish to take advantage of the opportunities for self-fashioning, for invagination of multiplicities that lie in wait to be enfolded into fuller subjectivities, before Godot arrives.

Should we say then that in these capital times there has to be a qualified moratorium on Deleuzean folding?

______________________

See also Steven Hickman commenting on Joshua Ramey’s recent publication, The Hermetic Deleuze: Philosophy and the Spiritual Ordeal http://darkecologies.com/2013/01/20/wild-empiricism-deleuze-and-the-hermetic-turn/ 

P.S. As I was completing this post my wordpress reader directed me to footnotes2plato asking “Is the Universe Alive?” http://footnotes2plato.com/2013/01/20/is-the-universe-alive/. I haven’t yet seen the clip that he attached to his post, but out of the blue I whispered to myself, “Yes, it is. It is coming to eat you (I mean all of us). And it wants you to eat well enough before you get eaten.”

  

When an internet activist decided to hang himself, did he hang himself out of sheet pressure of acephalous drives, impersonal rhizomes that desire no end except to replicate the Ur-drive of the great Spinozan universe? Or, did he do it because his was an act to apply the breaks on infinite becomings of germs at least on his side of existing, granting it is still right to call it existing when conatus is all there is to it?

Indeed, it can be everything until a human decides to die, quash an intense flux to live free, or run fast ahead of light.

A blasphemous inversion follows.

Nature is belched out. And back she goes to a dark precursor of any new beginning, any new chasing after germs.

She becomes artificial and death laughs like a cheerful soul.

On most occasions, still, when there is grave incapacity for suicide belching is a tough choice to make where nature is at its best, hungry for likeness.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Ride of Your Life

January 12, 2013

To prove his case, when Einstein insisted against Bergson that time is an illusion, the physicist had to extend relativity theory to the metaphysics of perception.

Perception operates on the field of phenomena, and only in such realm, where situations can exercise totalitarian influence over knowing. Rightly so, phenomenology renders perception problematic.

But all the more knowledge can thrive. Finitude heralds the joy of the infinite.

§

It is rather the best illustration of how perspectivalism culminates in pragmatism: knowledge is made possible by the absence of foundations that could have preceded it.

No doubt pragmatists are the most trained nihilists. And the rather poorly trained ones in terms of belaboring the obvious: Marx and Engels stating that individuals have always proceeded from themselves. Or, at least how they were understood by Marxist ontographers if such label is pertinent.

If it can be said that modern Marxist ontographers differ from their nihilist predecessors one can wonder if their modern graphs, grids, and charts, simply illustrate a change of tactic, from subject to object. The task is to change how history ought to proceed.

Because it is not passive, history reads along: times are changing. Period doubling, if you may. The subjects of history have taken the exact time for them to reach their original states. It will always be the case. The becoming transparent of their plasticity, their renewed objectality, their being-there, the thereness of their undecidable situations, which can challenge forth whatever is challenged enough to suffer an attraction and cause the suffering of others in the over-all machinic drill of a Spinozan universe.

By this performativity machine one can also explain the arrival of the singular time of Man. But not without capitalism investing in creativity, the production of machinic phyla, rhizomatic assemblages, or anything Deleuze could name. The desire to become-other by Capital, to end its historical differentiation in quest of Happiness, this uncanny double of Capital; to become the very replicator of life as pure immanence, chaos resistant to molar aggregations triggering the rush to replicate bodies that can suffer and bodies insufferable as well, and yes, hastening the advent of the anthropocene, the course of evolution now dominantly steered by Man.

Do we not owe these thick concentrations to Deleuze? Does Capital not owe it to him, this great prophet of creation? The Deleuzean century unlocking the secret of Capital more comprehensive than the accomplishment of Marx’s labor theory of value.

Doubtless, one had to begin as a subject, and double itself in a hazy molecular process unperceived by the naked eye—even by its host, the unwitting person of the Metzingerian ego-tunnel, or what have you—until the irreversibility of growth, its culmination in decay, can testify to the undecidable status of original statehood, namely, the void of Chaos.

Irreversibility—but Einstein denied it.

§§

Perception is the essence of this self-proceeding, an individuation of the Void in the situationism of the Event, the relativity (situation) that is perception (the impossibility of observation) itself.

Here, one decides to assume a position extrinsic to perception for reasons that are obvious to even the primitive—perception is stubborn; it chooses not to perceive itself—when this one that is also a non-one to itself in light of the impossibility of catching up with perception (the reason the modern is no better than the primitive) starts to perceive-without-perception, that is, not minding the speed by which things are returning to their original state.

Oh, yes. Did someone say ‘they withdraw’?

Perception is faster than that which perceives. It is rather always the case of belated ownership, which makes ownership suspect; of doubling, which makes singularity suspect; a period doubling as said of thermodynamics, which makes democracy, pace the Marxist, irrespective of the kind of ontography he makes, a passage and not an end in itself.

When Albert refuted Henri the physicist simply resorted to the metaphysics of perception, its situationism, which is already impossible as an event if one is to say that it is ‘there’.

It can only be in a certain location from a relative standpoint. From all available standpoints which can be infinite, it cannot be in any location. It always doubles its location to the absolute infinity of assuming a standpoint, which, simply put, must also take time.

How tiresome and boring it is to be an infinite. How unlucky for it to be so and so with time always challenging it to prove itself.

But the infinite can be such a terrific spoiler of curiosity, the most selfish of construct that has mobilized inflationary armies of truth that has only managed to create its double, the finite. The finite–no less deflationary owing to its irreversible nature.

The tug of war between the two has made possible the idea that there is time. Time is the site of this war. And this war? It has created an economy. The name for the great balancing act of time.

Take the universe as an example. There is a universe because it is in a certain location in space. One cannot simply arrive at a statement that the universe is the whole of space. The All is the end of phenomenology. The end of statement. From all available standpoints, which, again, can be infinite, the universe cannot exist today in all its modalities, past, present, future.

Today’ is an abduction of time as space, a particular status of the universe-space, which as abducted is already relative. Given the premise, there is simply no opportunity for the universe to exist as time. But as an economy it does.

This is the miracle of the Deleuzean century where everything is an actant, a body, insufferable or otherwise. An economy of exchange. A democracy through and through. A Derridean cannibalism. To eat and be eaten. The last extended orgy of the planet feeding on solar lottery.

§§§

Still, it will take time for the universe to exist from all standpoints, its wholeness reaching the singularity of perception, granting that perception, the impossibility of observation, can be saved by the Spinozan universe governed by untiring conatus.

We can wonder if this is already the gnostic precondition for Meillasoux’s kenotype. Singularity must be eternal enough to accommodate the arrival of the wholeness of the universe whose meaning is a non-meaning (because taken from all standpoints). True to form, Meillasoux’s rather gnostic indifference to the irreversibility of time in view of the impossible operation of Chaos (“Contingency is such that anything might happen, even nothing at all, so what what is remains as it is,” After Finitude, 57) supports the view that time is reversible.

Time is not an illusion. This could well be the perfect pragmatist illusion.

What Meillasoux could logically insist is that the singularity that can perceive the whole of the reversibility of time, the universe arriving with all and from all its standpoints, must have already doubled itself. To that extent he is no longer thinking of humans (no doubt, one can talk about the democracy of things, bodies, objects, quasars, and lonely chairs), rather, from among the available philosophical influences of this philosopher in the making, the Spinozan bodies that are capable of suffering eternity and causing the suffering of eternity of other bodies.

Postscript

But one cannot inhibit oneself to think that humans will be born again from their period-doubled ashes, because time is not an illusion, because it is reversible. Born-again-X’ers. But such is the democracy of things.

And such newness. Such brilliant metaphysics.

Such conflation of difference and sameness, of agreement and disagreement, of intentions and nuances, between philosophers and physicists, between impatience and impatience.

Such is democracy. Such hope, after all.

Oh, yes. But brace for a ride.

“Why do we need a “negative” word to say what is primary? (Agent Swarm)

Hobbes, Turing and the Child

A certain humanistic fatigue has of late taken measure in a nonhuman perspectival turn; an indication of what philosophy is going through which the turn to a posthuman framework has been providing a rather disputable voice. It is simply a prolepsis, I should say, which only philosophy can feel about its own doing. Laruelle is therefore right when he castigates philosophy’s auto-performativity, “its deeply ingrained fetishism (Non-Philosophy Project, 88), among others.
Philosophy confronts a vacuum after saturating, let us borrow from the lessons of arithmetic, the function and computability of its truths, which rightly so has to entertain the unpredictable. Obviously this encounter does not strictly inform a purely philosophical search for a new voice; mathematics also has its history of looking for a new voice, a new function, etc. When a perfectly consistent system, one whose propositions are said to be true, is confronted with its own incapability to prove its negations, the challenge of Entscheidungsproblem, the decision problem, is set in motion.
Hilbert was among the first few to set this problem in motion by arguing in favor of the formalism of completeness, later challenged by Gödel. Gödel became the foster child not only of mathematicians but also philosophers who had much to benefit from his incompleteness theorem (we shall see why). Badiou is the most contemporary example of this philosophical embrace of incompleteness though he would radicalize the decision problem further into the Event.We all know that Badiou relies on set theory, the most fundamental system of mathematics. We also know that in light of Gödel’s incompleteness theorem mathematics met its serious challenge–there is the ‘unsolvable” contrary to Hilbert’s claim. The solution to the decision problem lies outside mathematics. But Gödel had no alternative in mind, that is, outside mathematics, except to embrace set theory’s infinity of infinities, and its many related axioms (of continuum, etc.), which extends the life of the Entscheidungsproblem to such an extent that the undecidable strictly becomes a mathematical business. In popular terms it only confirmed the perception that mathematics was not giving up its dream of mastery. It should not however cease to be mathematics. Doing mathematics is one thing; taking mathematics as something of an incorruptible property of existence is another. Overall, the controversy that Entscheidungsproblem sparked simply raised the curtain that mathematics is not an invincible discipline. This is rather an odd case of an extra-mathematical Event catching mathematics unawares.
§
Alan Turing was able to show that the problem of Entscheidungsproblem can be solved by extra-mathematical intervention but still using the very tools of mathematics, this time on a parallel relation (similar to the dualysis of nonphilosophy when it treats philosophy as an excess material or something to that effect).
After an attempt at mechanology (the famous experiment after his namesake), Turing wrote of the incompleteness theorem of Gödel: “The argument from Gödel’s and other theorems rests essentially on the condition that the machine must not make mistakes” (“Intelligent Machinery,” in Donald Michie, Machine Intelligence, vol 5 [1970], 3 ). He adds: “if a machine is expected to be infallible, it cannot also be intelligent” (Turing ACE Report). Hence, the incompleteness theorem and other theorems are psychologically at fault. They find their measure in a familiar humanistic orientation of thought that is premised on superiority, mastery and greatness.But mathematics is not the problem, rather its orientation, certainly the affective adult orientation of mathematicians with metaphysical and religious prejudices. The same problem in orientation applies to philosophy.
§
The above example of Turing may suggest that the extra-mathematical can provide philosophy the inspiration to get around its decisional problems (in Laruellean terms), already reeling from Wittgenstein’s scathing attack which is not without its merits. Philosophy was becoming increasingly metaphysical and humanistic, and stubbornly classical in the Greco-Judaic sense. The poststructuralist and postmodern turns which arrived later as critiques of metaphysics simply recast humanism in an operational play of difference that relies on identity, its concealed metaphysical substratum.
But let me digress for a while.
Hobbes and Leibniz were at odds with one another over many issues in philosophy, but the single most controversial issue that divided their positions is the question whether God is a substance or a mind. Hobbes took the question to be asking whether the universe was intelligently designed or simply a result of random organization of things which eventually produced the Leviathan (the Substance, the artificial soul). Leibniz, for his part, took the critique of design to be simply a question whether God (who has a mind, let us not forget, according to Leibniz) allows random organization in and through the things themselves. Now let us go back to Turing.
The mathematician seemed to have favored Hobbes not only for the mechanical bias of Turing’s mathematics but also for Hobbes’ insinuation that the universe was not formed by intelligence, that is, a computable One. Leibniz took a different direction. He says: “there must be in the simple substance a plurality of conditions and relations, even though it has no parts” (Monadology). What is Leibniz saying here? He is simply stating that the incompleteness of Hobbesian cosmological framework allows for the organization of the cosmos by an act of Supreme Mind, capable of making computable absent parts or functions ready for creation (computable: ready for the sufficiency of the entire cosmos). By the simple axiom of the plurality of conditions for creation parts are forced to emerge (which are already decided to be computable in the first place) that cannot stand as parts without their relation. Hence, they have nothing else to do than to become parts! Once again, the requirement is a certain idea of infallibility. But it is more than that.
Infallibility is the tip of the problem because it is premised on the assumption of incompleteness that itself is premised on the belief that no extra-mathematical intervention is possible to show mathematics how to prove its negations. The crux of Entscheidungsproblem is the celebration of the mathematical supremacy, the pure humanist ambition of Man. To digress further, it is in this sense that Da Vinci, with his mechanics that had no ‘ends’ , which did not demand negations, is anti-humanist at heart.
So Hobbes’ Leviathan is possible only if mathematical supremacy preconditions the artificial soul to manifest itself. It is a direct insult to Hobbes who was no mathematician. But Hobbes found an ally in Turing, the gnostic at heart, the heretic mathematician, who opposed the Leibnizian design and its modern incarnations. Defending a certain idea of quasi-emergence, he proposed the ‘unorganized machines’ (Da Vinci’s mechanics without ‘ends’) which, as Turing put it, are modeled “after the nervous system” (“Intelligent Machinery”). These machines, for their wider philosophical implications, allow us to look beyond ourselves as humans. I mean as humans with individual factory warranties. We are in good condition. The infallibility of our Maker is ours by extension. Yet, there is an idea of the human that resists this ‘goodness ‘. Neither evil, nor monster.

On hindsight  although Turing proved that replication is the logic of any machine the fact that it cannot prove its negation (can life trace its origin in replication or reproduction?) without outside orientation (genes need organisms to replicate) belies the naive belief that he is in favor of strong Artificial Intelligence (AI), or the consistency of self-replication within a system foreclosed to the outside. The machine must make mistakes or it is no machine, meaning, it needs fallible (reproducible) instructions just as genes need organisms which can reproduce in order to replicate themselves. But that is not exactly our point here, though we can relish our heretic achievement so far, which may be enough to belie the flat ontologist’s claim of flatness, so to speak.
Might not our point be, replication and reproduction have to be logically separable for life to persist? Such is the heretic claim of Freeman Dyson against the prevailing view that replication writes or encodes the origin of life. By his extra-mathematical intervention, such hereticism may also be ascribed to Turing.  The point is organisms, programs, and machines must exist all at once but differentially, yet no one instance is sufficient to overwhelm the other (Dyson uses the description ‘error-tolerance’) leading to homeostasis, for replication and reproduction to be possible, for life to continue. Reproduction (organisms) and replication (machines and programs as genes) are then free to communicate and exchange, even interbreed and cross-fertilize. But this gets trickier. Dyson writes in Origins of Life:
“Error tolerance is the hallmark of natural ecological communities, of free market economies, and of open societies. I believe it must have been the primary quality of life from the very beginning. But replication and error tolerance are naturally antagonistic principles” (87).
Hence, error-tolerance must be a recent phenomenon. The source of error is simplification, or extra-mathematically put, computable enough to desire a proof of its negation, its desire to become itself uncomputable. And it certainly carries a tyrannical agenda as the genes for 3 and more eons would dictate individual organisms. “Every species is a prisoner of its genes and is compelled to develop and to behave in such a way as to maximize their (organisms) chances for survival” (Ibid., 88).
Proximally, the ‘event’ that would prove the negation of mathematical truths lies outside mathematics. Evolutionarily speaking, it is something else. Towards the end of his book, Dyson observes:
“Life by its very nature is resistant to simplification, whether on the level of single cells or ecological systems or human societies. Life could tolerate a precisely self-replicating molecular apparatus only by incorporating it into a translation system that allowed the complexity of the molecular web to be expressed in the form of software. After the transfer of complication from hardware to software, life continued to be a complicated interlocking web in which the replicators were only one component…The tyranny of the replicators was always mitigated by the more ancient cooperative structure of homeostasis that was inherent in every organism. The rule of the genes was like the government of the old Hapsburg empire: Despotismus gemildert durch Schlamperei, or “despotism tempered by sloppiness” (Ibid., 89).
Without mincing words, this government might prove to be a fallible incarnation of Hobbes’ Leviathan, the artificial soul that is most tolerant of messiness but not of simplification.
Today, simplification has taken a new form in the guise of asserting that replication is All. There is a certain ingenuity to it, a provability, a computability. Replicators do replicate almost in a linear fashion as replication is about producing exact copies of a copy. If ever replication finds disturbance such as threatens its linearity it is almost certainly because  uncomputability overwhelms its simplification.  The only advantage of replication over the fallibility of organism is that the latter is almost certainly not going to outlast replication; as Freeman’s son George put it,  it is “not so much a consequence of the origins of life as a consequence of the origins of death” (Darwin Among the Machines, 31). Nick Land is powerful in this aspect: “Because we can die.”  Also almost certainly our power to die is our advantage over replication. Reality is never flat. There is always the uncomputable. Because we can die replication’s ambition of eternity is at risk. It needs to negotiate. We have the power to offer death if replication demands permanence. Its ambition is always threatening life to follow its agenda, especially in the modern technological age. (This is our minor case against Deleuze: What kind of life is he talking about when he talks of pure immanence?)  But we have a power that is more ancient than any ancient, the “deep formerity” Levinas would add (Otherwise Than Being, 19), as shown by our success so far over the tyranny of replication. Can we not describe this success as the hereticism of death? E. Cioran would have thrown at doubters of this power these terse lines: “I strive to conceive the cosmos…without myself. Fortunately, death is here to remedy my imagination’s inadequacy” (Anathemas and Admirations, 118).
Turing is so careful to preserve the uncomputable if only for mathematics, his discipline, to save its integrity. And the uncomputable is intuition which ingenuity must always prove as valid by concealing it under the blanket of formal rules. Turing notes: “The exercise of ingenuity in mathematics consists in aiding the intuition through suitable arrangements of propositions, and perhaps geometrical figures or drawings. It is intended that when these are really well arranged the validity of the intuitive steps which are required cannot be seriously doubted” (The Essential Turing, 135).
Intelligence is a product of developmental process and it is still evolving. It is not a product of a single infallible design but of randomness, modification, and collectivity (Simondon senses it with his ‘transindividuation’ but so does Bachelard with his idea of the poetic image as transubjective, which, as I put it elsewhere, has no obligation to stay in the self). Dyson summarizes Turing’s contribution in a rather journalistic way: “All intelligence is collective. The truth that escaped Leibniz, but captured Turing, is that this intelligence—whether that of a billion neurons, a billion microprocessors, or a billion molecules forming a single cell—arises not from the unfolding of a predetermined master plan, but by the accumulation of random bits of wisdom through the power of small mistakes” (Darwin Among the Machines,72 ).
Well said.
As with Nietzsche, we are one of those machines which can explode! (Selected Letters of Friedrich Nietzsche).
§
Turing’s extra-mathematical intimations are helpful for us here in our attempt to situate the posthuman turn. We would like to measure this turn against the gnostic precondition of refusal. We mean refusal as the non-precedence of the human (with ontological warranty) in favor of the human whose impossible attitude of tolerance (we will clarify this later) allows any ‘turn’ with respect to the idea of the human autonomy (the humanist mathematical ambition) to rather expose itself as a ‘refuse’. I am grateful to Terence’s notation: the noun conceals an act, a verb, refuse; the idea is captured in ‘refuse-All’, or simply refusal. Yet, refusal is either assumed by the subject or refused again. Leibniz is the epitome of the first; the heretic the second sense. The heretic rejects the refusal of the mathematician who refuses the gnosis of mechanics, of randomness and collectivity, so to speak. The heretic exposes the refuse of the humanist, ironically, by being tolerant of doctrinal illusions. To refuse is not to Negate. As with Laruelle, “The One is tolerant of doctrines.”
Rightly so, as a refuse the ‘turn’ of the human is by default of its cosmic origin in large combinatorial processes a needless repetition. Yet, the human turn in light of a certain disabused mind regarding, again, a certain notion of uncomputability takes a form of insistence. Insistence of autonomy, computability, in mathematical terms; evolutionary wise, coveting replication. The human autonomy: Always ‘of’ the humanist who is also in all likelihood a religious, metaphysical mathematician of incompleteness, a philosopher who is more of a poet than a child (we will see why). The humanist: Always ‘of’ his (the humanist) fetishised self-image.
Meanwhile, the precedence of large combinatorial processes, the self-creation of the cosmos, at first glance may seem to support the Leibnizian design. But the cosmos is; Leibniz is not.
The cosmos is un-Leibnizian. It is without design for a design anticipates appreciation, reflection, and calculation. Rightly so, it is appreciated and received by the humanist, like Leibniz. Not by a disbelieving mathematician like Turing, but only half-heretic. Not like the child who appreciates, reflects and calculates without ‘ends’. Only a child can shatter the sufficiency of the cosmos, the complete heretic!
Who needs a Meillasoux? We need more Da Vincis and Turings.
§
Yet the child also allows the cosmos to display its comedy, its magic to which s/he offers affection in return, an emotion, a smile, a curiosity, laughter, wink, a wow, even so, indifference, all on behalf of his/her innocence. (Michel Henry ‘affectivity’ is also an important turn for the heretic with the proviso that it is a child’s world that he had in mind).
Turing observes of the child, the unorganized machine:
“Instead of trying to produce a programme to simulate the adult mind, why not rather try to produce one which simulates the child’s? (“Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” Mind 59 [1940], 456)
He adds on another occasion: “Bit by bit one would be able to allow the machine to make more and more ‘choices’ or decisions. One would eventually find it possible to program it so as to make its behavior the result of a comparatively small number of general principles. When these became sufficiently general, interference would no longer be necessary, and the machine would have ‘grown up’” (“Intelligent Machinery,” 9)
Isn’t the world organized by grown-ups? Don’t we need innocence to shatter the sufficiency of this world?
Not by the multiplication of objects, the world’s refuse—the mathematician’s and the humanist’s refuse, his refuse-All of gnosis, the mechanical, the extra-mathematical, the uncomputable that awaits recognition, concealed under the blanket of knowledge, beneath which it is patiently waiting to be known but without the passion and interest a philosopher normally invests in fathoming nothing but an image of himself, which is also the humanistic way of testing his mastery by challenging the non-mathematical to prove its negations.
Or, if you may, the refuse is the very proliferation of the non-parts of Leibnizian universe which have needlessly preoccupied the most vocal critics of ontology today. Ah! the hypocritical refusal of the humanist that it his waste after all that sustains his refuse-All. This humanist has a pledge, the pledge of the humanistic anti-humanist—to rid the world of waste. But not of his right to the refuse. It can be salvaged. Bataille has always sensed the whiff of Konigsberg. This absurd creature is dear to Sisyphus, his model of taking all the pains of humanism—Come see how I suffer for your sins, but remember me, remember me! 
Cioran is bewildered: “‘The end of humanity will come when everyone is like me,’ I declared one day in a fit I have no right to identify” (Anathemas and Admirations, 20).
This humanist also happens to condemn hereticism, dismisses its polarizing figure—the figure of Heresy.
Might his goal not also be to rid the world of plurality of conditions and relations?
Oh, you Leibniz! Why did you return? To declare that there are parts after all, that the parts were there but you refused the Leviathan? How the after-life had changed you!
We all know the Inquisitor’s next step. The banishment of the born-again Heretic.
§
To shatter the sufficiency of the world, we do not need the multiplication of the humanist refuse, rather of children, these complete heretics, the multiplication of their innocence which we can only hope will pave the way for real intelligence, the Leviathan.
The Leviathan: it is indifferent. It can change at the behest of mistakes. The artificial soul. Real sovereignty.
The refusal of infallibility, one which relies only on non-sufficiency, of children at play.
{Excerpts from an unpublished essay of mine with the title Hobbes, Turing and the Child. The essay is still in its inchoate form by academic standards. I will be posting the full version of the essay here and in my academia account the sooner I can imagine I can have the right to it]
__________________________
I’m grateful to Terence Blake (terenceblake.wordpress.com) and to Dave of inthesaltmine.wordpress.com for their previous comments on my post “Quiet Power of Actuality” of which this post is an elaboration, needless to say, an elaboration of my idea of gnosis that I still have no right, quoting Cioran, to identify as my knowledge or idea of gnosis. This reply is also inspired by Steven Hickman’s comments of darkecologies.com on my previous posts on ‘gnosis’.

See:

http://veraqivas.wordpress.com/2012/12/31/quiet-power-of-actuality/#comments

http://veraqivas.wordpress.com/2012/12/30/the-non-religious-essence-of-gnosis/#comments

Quiet Power of Actuality

December 31, 2012

To William and Terence Blake; To Steven Hickman (Noir-Realism); To Bill Benzon; To Joseph Weismann (Fractal Ontology); To Anthony Paul Smith; To speculativeheresy; To Jordan Peacock and reastudent (my online classmates at Stranger Thought); To Simple Pleasures; To inthesaltmine; To larvarsubjects (for replying to my comment); To my students; To readers; To followers (of this blog for cruising with Kafka); To Adam Kotsko (for at least misreading my words); To the Hobbesian sovereignty as an artificial soul that anticipated the internet; To Katerina Kolosova,
To Francois Laruelle
______________________________________________
My way of thanking people and technical objects for keeping thinking alive between work and duty, between being and being-more.
As the Blake I met expressed it in his provocative syntax, gnosis has always resisted totalization in the sense of falling into expert hands. It has always been the privileged knowledge of the heretic whose indifference to Life rather affords her the simplest understanding of the Real, indifferent to any kind of objectification, including this one we have achieved so far, but much more to a kind that betrays a motive to totalize, such as making it a part of official narrative.
If Deleuze has successfully historicized this great enfolding of human narrative by singularizing the flux into struggles to differ, to enfold, to measure productivity against the throw of the dice, it only shows that in the beginning DIFFERENCE has always been aimed at silencing the already quiet power of actuality. If  enfolding is to proceed at all, it must already be there, what Terence–Stiegler’s works in mind–describes as “default of origin.”
Gnosis is this default, the lived, no less the impossibility of imposing a precedence, a sign that an offer of totalization is refused. The default is a ‘non-precedence’ which simply means ‘refusal’.

Perhaps, matched only by a replicator, self-forming, auto-catalytic, the heretic is already burdened by thrownness, by gameness to metabolize. Thrownness is the probability that life is not just one but two, even more. Yet the ‘One’ is tolerant of doctrines, replication or reproduction, it doesn’t matter.

The history of a thousand plateaus, a thousand potential Folds yet to be enfolded into territories is pitted against the right knowledge that all folds are disbursements, neologisms, facsimiles,  exits to creations, all on behalf of Life, the creative process itself whose mystery started with making explicit a certain kind of refusal. Brandom may refuse this.

Yet, true knowledge is this quiet power of refusal.
Indeed, we can only infer from an immanent excess, a certain image, icon, or notion of Being; Other, or Void, all set down as plastic facsimiles of transcendence. But that already involves a double operation: 1) a gaze, 2) a return gaze, all from the position of the subject. Contentiously, it is in itself another distinct operation, this very positionality of the subject, yet not counted as such. Here, some kind of subtractive ontology is at work.
Refusal of Creation
It is always a decision on its part. As is always the case, a decision invokes the null in the last instance. Why?
Because the subject, if it desires to persist, cannot make its position totally accessible to the chaos of the Outside, which contrary to Meillasoux’s opinion does not actually destroy, rather, it really does the opposite. It creates as it throws everything into the unbreakable consistency of contingency.
The subject is the very refusal of creation, needless to say. Its positionality is its en-owning, ultimately, its right to die vis-à-vis the Void that promises life via the creative process. Incidentally, philosophy would later embrace this Void, for different reasons, as its foster child, having lost the poetic and the Open after its falling out with Heideggerianism. You are right if you recall Deleuze.
Minority principle
Let us state the definitive position of this nullity: The (sub)ject has to keep something to itself (the ‘sub’ entails that it is a minority principle), something by which it can retain its integrity despite its lack of integrity. The minority principle (we are extending Laruelle’s minority principle) is the last bastion of the self, digging in trenches to be protected from the outside. The Outside: one is free to call it the majority principle.
The subject of this null operation has continuously decided to grow in the sense of expanding its superfluity, and not just to live. To live without the benefit of excess, or the Bataillean waste, would be to accept the offer of life, of a certain totalization, or to sacrifice the gnosis to the creative redundancy of Chaos. It decides to grow even in the absence of a natural image of itself by way of othering itself into an image, already a practice of growing ‘in excess’. But as an alterity this image or excess has no obligation to stay in the subject.
The most basic alterity/image/excess would be the poetic. Without a doubt, as Bachelard says of this image, “it is transubjective” (Poetics of Space). We can take it from there that the poetic image is an alterity that, once again, has no obligation to stay.
Gnostic basis of emergence
On this limited basis alone, the immanent excess, the gnosis, first intuited by poetry, is originally non-religious, that is, by contrast, if we mean religious as an invocation of either a/cosmic God or cosmic God, both characteristically esoteric. (But this is already quite un-Durkheimian). It is rather the monotheistic God, always challenged by the pangs of solitude, that invokes an alterity. God, who else but the saddest of all solitary beings, its sadness bordering on animality–its lack of world (Heidegger).
By claiming omniscience, God also claims to have no need of alterity, no need of gnosis, which means vis-à-vis the poetic image that the image has no right to flee. Yet this very claim will turn on itself. God learns that its self-image is no less its own alterity, its possessiveness. He is His own gnosis. At this point, He believes the image chooses to stay.
By that He becomes His own claim to ownership of an image (Marx was thinking of the priest-ideologist), but also His own unlearned knowledge in His state of obliviousness to the transiency of the image, which He has to learn/remember anyhow. Alterity always demands attention. It can hold one hostage as Levinas would agree. It demands attention according to its natural tendency to withdraw, to flee; the object of the Heideggerian pointing-towards-what-withdraws is precisely this alterity.
God learns by rediscovering the very process of self-learning via the ekstatic, also as self-oblivion. As He learns He transforms all the more into delusional, but more than that. He cannot transform His positionality as the ground of History. He would not allow His hallucination to leak into the clinic, hence, His ekstasis, His standing-apart from Man/History/Knowledge, His murmuring words, His unwritten speeches, the heart of His true revelations.
For any poetic being this ground is absolutely private. I mean the poetic as the original gnostic that has its own hallucinatory history.

Once His speeches reached the immanence of the other in History, or Man, Knowledge, the gnosis that is His alterity becomes doubly removed from the immanence of the absolute ground, hence, the business of interpreting the Gospels.
Already untouched by the process of immanent/historical learning insofar as it remains a null operation where all interpretations fall flat, and by all hallucinatory rights that He grants to this ground, the gnosis starts to dictate the direction of learning/remembering via the ekstatic. In this sense exegesis is a process of remembering, on behalf of He whose words are now scarcely understood, the absolute ground that is His that has all along resisted interpretation.
We can cite Zizek’s words for all their worth: “You know why I do it? Because I’m terribly afraid that if people were to see me, to put it naively, how I really am, they would be terribly bored” (Interview with Salon).
NB: This interview has become viral. Check it out at I am not the world’s hippest philosopher! – Salon.com . But also check out a critical review of Zizek’s Less than Nothing at http://www.radicalphilosophy.com/article/more-than-everything
Learning is thus operationalized from the void, again, the gnostic precondition of knowledge. Yet this time the gnosis is dictated by the nihilism of the ekstatic, a creative territorialization of Chaos, the great triumph of Life! The poet turning into a philosopher.
The same case applies to the Hindu poet of the pre-Vedic and Vedic traditions down to Upanishads. Already driven to the excess of gnosis to the point of dyslexia in the guise of Knowledge, in the universal guise of Light, the light serving as his state of self-learning, the Hindu poet confuses his poetry with the Real that is nothing less than the simplicity of emergence. The poet is ignorant of this  simplicity that the Real (Meillasoux’s Great Outdoors) is emptying itself of light as it offers the poet a life, the same life that reaches the Hindu poet, what reaches any poetry, what has reached the language of poetry as ‘emergence’, what philosophy has turned into Reason.
In the meantime, we can state here that Deleuze’s Fold has historicized this process in terms of affirming a realist commitment to Creation. The theological Deleuze.

It is on this basis that gnosis as ‘unlearned’ knowledge does not arise as a plastic form of transcendence (a/cosmic God or God’s cosmos, both hermetic to knowledge) after the most basic operation of first-order immanence, the enowning of a position; rather, gnosis is the very operation that guarantees emergence, including that of God, and not to mention, philosophy.
In lieu of conclusion
It always takes language to capture a mystery, but since language is for the most part bound to a culture, it is always a matter of cultural transcription, not without an effective expansion of power. In this case, Christianity has been successful in operationalizing the term gnosis, either for stigmatic purposes or with a certain accommodation in mind.
Lastly, it is not at all bad to affirm that this knowledge can only be achieved via the affective (M. Henry). The affective is a good starting point on the assumption that one is restricted to a limited world. As I can infer from the phenomenological directions of Henry’s works, a limited world has certain advantages. In fact, a limited world is what originally philosophy envisioned itself to be dwelling in, a world where real friendship (philia) could flourish. A limited world is a world where the subject can most ably refuse Life. We cannot say however that it has ever proven itself successful.
Rightly so, almost everyone would agree that Life cannot be defeated.

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NB:

This is my long reply to Noir-Realism (http://darkecologies.com/). See his comments on the comment section of my post entry “Flush Thoughts: Laruelle’s Gnosticism,” http://veraqivas.wordpress.com/2012/12/28/flush-thoughts-on-laruelles-gnosticism/. Needless to say, I’m grateful to Steven’s comments.

These are quick observations. There’s an interesting exchange happening at terenceblake.wordpress.com regarding, in part, Laruelle’s possible intervention in today’s philosophical debates. See http://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2012/12/27/pluralist-critique-of-critique-vs-naive-lacanianism/#comments

I think Laruelle is also not afraid to reduce, in a nonphilosophical way, all forms of knowledge quest as gnostic in principle. Zizek is close to intuiting this same Laruellean gnosis in his parallax, and yet, due to his ambivalent commitment, his politically Lacanised non-committal to realism, his conception of the real remains otherwise committed to Kantianism which in the great Western tradition established a formalistic conception of gnosis in the sense of a problematic as outside of thought.

The gnostic requirement of knowing is not new to non-West but perhaps stranger to Western episteme, which proves problematic for it. The Oriental philosophical scriptures abound in such gnostic preconditions. This requirement is rather unproblematic for most of the Oriental scriptures from the pre-Vedic to the Vedas and to their pragmatic appropriations in Chinese philosophy. (Even the gnosis of things is relatively unproblematic for the Orient).

What the West has contributed to the exposition of the ‘unlearned’, the gnosis, is to codify it in such a way as to master the unlearned and put it to use, which formally inaugurates “the-philosophy” that incidentally Laruelle criticizes. Here, Plato is a good example of learning the gnostic requirement from non-Western scriptures that kicked off the formal philosophical preoccupation of the West, not without the political motivation to spread the new Gospel, in Laruellean terms–that everything is philosophisable. Before Laruelle thematized this use of philosophy, Boeder, a student of Heidegger who had a falling out with his master, argued that philosophy is always about the quest to establish its difference, both as a discipline in the formal sense and as a proper subject of existence, that is to say, from nonphilosophical alterities. Here, alterities roughly mean the nonphilosophical (person and conviction) that generally endorsed the doxa that all is One, with varying homological interpretations, proof of the tenacity of the Homeric culture then. To counter this Homeric doxa Plato established the Academy.

Unsurprisingly, the putting-to-use (the techne) of the unlearned, the gnosis, has justifiably conditioned the kind of Western preoccupation with truth as that which stands apart, the differential, the ecstatic, that which is cut off from thought which fair enough establishes the ‘cut’, the scission, the chora of the great Western speculation, the rush to justify that the World is really not what it seems (the non-All of the World, but also, not discounting the psychoanalytic incursions of Lacan, the non-All of the Real, the World, or the Void that seduces the philosopher to measure his existence against, or the non-All of the subject which encourages it to turn to things and objects). This already illustrates that the Western episteme is preconditioned by its own discovered immanence, its gnosis, that of the dualism of the Real. (The-philosophy is of course a Western invention, much like ”truth” is, which Aristotle successfully established by placing Plato secondary to truth, amicus Plato, sed magis amica veritas).

In the contemporary, Badiou’s Cartesianism is the finest example of stipulating the dualistic gnosis in his appropriation of belonging and inclusion in set theory. The gnostic in this appropriation is the rarity of the Event itself as the paradoxicality of belonging and inclusion informs the ambivalence and the paradoxicality of this Event, which only a mathematical subject can decide to punctuate by disengaging from a certain predictability of the situation in which the subject belongs yet is also ‘included’ in another unpresentable situation in such a way that it provokes a crisis of membership and exposes subsequently the anomaly of the situation itself.

Badiou positions this subject within a historical context where the Western episteme is greatly challenged both from within (against which Badiou re-affirms the commitment of philosophy to Truth) and from the non-West (its taken for granted alterity that is now becoming like it). It is precisely at this strange time for the West that most of its vocal thinkers today are pursuing a more sophisticated concealment of its gnosis under the pretext that previous speculations on the Real can no longer hold up or remain the same vis-a-vis the changing times, especially in the post-colonial era where the global presence of the West is increasingly becoming superfluous to the point that the West has become too everyday for its non-Western imitators (courtesy of the culture industry), too accessible for a deleuzean reterritorialization. The West has unduly exposed its gnosis, the various speculative orientations of the ‘subject’ toward the Real that Derrida summed up as ‘presence’, the tele-visibility of its operations, its kenotypes, at the risk of exposing the secret of its gnostic claim to universality, but also, and most importantly, its claim to absolute contingency.

We are liberally extrapolating this Meillasouxian concept of absolute contingency but not without a significant warranty. Meillasoux cannot represent the entire World (hence, the contingency value). This I take from Laruelle’s notion of the World as already philosophical, Western in the beginning on the level of historical representation. Still, Meillasoux typically desires vis-a-vis his predecessors (one is free to interpret it psychoanalytically) to represent that World by differentially invoking the same purity, which also means its absolute irreplaceability as a specific outcome of the throw of the dice of Time that the West has historically taken advantage of.

In the meantime, one can notice how Meillasoux takes great pain to hide the gnosis of the Real in the paradoxical manner of re-instituting the privilege of its absolute contingency (the-philosophy or the-West) against the background of its banalization, the tele-transparency of its jouissance (no longer restricted to the Master’s bedroom), at the same time making an excellent case for its reader to be convinced that the gnosis, any gnosis, all forms of gnosticism existing in the planet, is axiomatically transparent. Meillasoux panders to this paradox, referring to the trajectory of his own speculations on the meaningless sign, the kenotype:

“The new puzzle that appears before us is the following: how can a meaningless sign allow us to describe the world, without becoming again a meaningful sign, and thereby capable of referring to a world outside of it?”

(NB: Steven Hickman has a link to Meillasoux’s article bits of which I quoted above. See http://darkecologies.com/2012/12/21/meillassoux-problematique-factial-speculation/)

Where does this lead us? Certainly, to the absolute contingency of the Western gnosis, to protect it from being duplicated anew, but more than this, to the substratum of the argument of the kenotype which is familiarly Kantian, namely, the confidence that the human (no less the Western subject) will survive His own mistake of making the Real meaningful. The trick is to discourage meaning:

“Resolving one problem, we find within it yet another, which seems more difficult than that which preceded it. Such is the philosophical journey par excellence. ‘where thinking we had reached port, we are carried back into the open sea.”

One cannot help wondering if Meillasoux sincerely desires a solution. But that is not where the problem lies. In Laruellean terms this is of course the heart of the decisional structure of philosophy. As if summarizing the essence of the philosophically immanent Figures of Meillasoux, in Laruellean terms, read: DLI or simply cloning the Real (Figures however are simply deutero-absolute for Meillasoux, meaning, not the-last-instance determination of Man, rather the only absolute but secondary resolution Man can have of the Real that must not cease being meaningless, perhaps, it is simply a matter of forcing the Real to remain meaningless, the ‘transcendent’ value that Meillasoux invokes of the Real), Laruelle offers the following observation: “The One… is tolerant of any material, any particular doctrinal position whatsoever”(Non-Philosophy Project, 31).

Let’s just say, the One (Western Continental Real) is tolerant of her post-Derridean disseminatory flush. But what is it for the non-West? Shall I say, among its voyeuristic pastimes, anticipating a Laruellean end to the Greekness of its rebellion? But, given its disposition, having attained a certain level of indifference to the-philosophy and the-World, this is no longer the non-West that the-philosophy has annexed to the-World.

Perhaps a stranger-subject of the non-world.

Of Eating Well, part 2

December 26, 2012

“Why Gnosticism? And, what does this shift toward heretical religions mean in our strange philosophical times?”
(From Noir-Realism)
“Through our commemoration of Christ’s incarnation we feebly accept God’s assurance that, not anything–not our flesh nor its death–could possibly avert our onward journey to roost in God!
(From a Jesuit mentor of mine)
_____________________________
Why Gnosticism? A good question yet one that has already haunted knowledge ever since the human of the World (Laruelle’s notion of the World as always already capitalistic in the beginning) has acquired the know-how to stand-apart from ‘immanence.’ Where immanence has become indifferent to its own work, the work of occasioning immanence, be it ecstatic (Heidegger) or pathetic (M. Henry), the kenotypes that have always and ‘in all historical circumstances’ offered themselves to some sort of isolation also always take a life of their own.
Is there anything clearer, more novel in this destinal appropriation of immanence, in terms of reversibility and convertibility, other than to re-conceive a beginning? Already seductive for thought, it is in view of this becoming-plastic of the beginning that Malabou would insist rethinking our relation to our brains as the very site of historical tension between the neuron and the mental, the site of Thought as the unlikelihood of everything that we are now.
One may recall Leibniz’s attempt at universal calculus in order to resolve the crisis of communication, a crisis no less of Thought whose plasticity is next to bad karma, always enfolding belatedly. But for all the gospel of seduction it is still very much like the effect of untutored male speed on an octopus. Madame Edwarda would have asked the same of the flush of youth as of the unworldliness of the narrator of Bataille, That’s all there is to it?
§
What is seduction if not a function of alterity. The Deleuzean becoming-animal, the becoming-other of seduction itself? The becoming-flower of an absentee in Mallarmean bouquet? Perhaps, at this point we should be asking if this already signals the becoming-virtual of the future in light of the singular manifest plasticity of the kenotype, the non-type? And what of the non-type? Does it illustrate the proper expression of seduction that demands absolute futurality?
That the absolute of the future is the cold stunning vacuity of the real/death, stigmatized by Freud but glorified by Heidegger in the fullest sublimation of philosophy, would still surprise many to be too naive.
§
Notwithstanding Leibniz has become virtual in the sense of philosophical sublimation, of triumphal ignorance of persisting against the background of Desire that endows philosophy the drive and the youthful push to sublimate but not before an encounter with the feminine, the Madame Edwardas of the World, there is this other of sublimation, a human-other (compared to the sprightliness of philosophy it is infinitely old ) that points towards what withdraws, that is to say, irrespective of philosophy.
What withdraws is presentable but unpresentable as being-one, in Badiou, always being-multiple, expressing itself in the non-singularity, the proper non-expressibility, of its humanity. This must be the It, the gnosis that withdraws! But we are running the race so fast.
§
In Laruelle, it is the in-One that philosophy always without fail fails to point at whose ways, whose pointing, this in-One that is a stranger, remains irreducible to any form of ontology. At its most incorrigible fashion,  in mute derision of philosophy that makes itself unheard, all the more that philosophy seeks to silence the unheard (what philosophy is since the beginning of the World), the in-One takes to task the-philosophy and all its ‘goods’, its goodness not to mention, the normalities of the difference that the-human makes, the human as thought-word of the-World, or precisely the difference that philosophy invents for the World, the world that is nothing but its world.
§
Everything is non-differential for this humanity which explains its non-competitive spirit, but also, so much for the obvious, its malleability.
§
When Spartacus revolted against the Romans, not his enemies but simply responsible for the murder of his family, they who must likewise be murdered, the gnosis was spelled out. No philosophy was up to the task of spelling the dreaded word, the most individualistic word, the most an-archic. Spartacus was secretly giving birth to a new humanity, one-without-hope, without official direction. For the interest of the World, this hero must be killed. Agamben is right about the non-sacrificial logic of his murder–the revolt of Spartacus approaches the thin line between the code and the exposed. The code, gnosis: a seven-letter word, freedom that exposes the unilateral an-arche of the Real. The exposed: the power to die as Bataille originally intoned. Spartacus exposed the gnosis of the power of death which is the secret to defying the force of the Void to come.
The gnosis is exposed and it is not coded: Because we can die, the language of the gnosis, that which protects our existence from being protected by something more than zero, the zero-plus as the code that spells total imprisonment by the Void, yet also the zero-plus that for this eternal imprisonment to take place also spells the possibility of living an eternal life, death cannot perfectly imprison us. Death is not-All, otherwise, we must also be capable of living in eternity, an imagined logical necessity that is absolutely prohibited by the logic of absolute contingency.
Isn’t this what Meillasoux has so far asserted?
§
Because everyone can die, no one can sacrifice the code. This is the absolute of not-All, of death. Death demands that the code not be sacrificed. At least, it is an absolute demand on the human. Once the code is sacrificed (when resurrection is deemed impossible, when all Spartacuses are legitimated by laws, when individual freedom is rendered incontestable,  when murder no longer solves anything) it will be the death of the absolute, this time death takes the form of All, leaving no window for life. Absolute contingency therefore also means that death is not-All, even for the executioners, that it is simply a terminus of necessity.
§
It would seem then that the cosmos demands despite itself an other necessity, other than its own blind necessity, the absolute contingency that destroys everything, that is to say, the necessity of the illusion of life as resurrection. It is the correlation that cannot be sacrificed, to say the least.
§
One can see perfectly where all these amount to. Meillasoux is saving the necessity of this illusion against nonphilosophy, against Laruelle who like Pascal has refuted the illusion that the Real imposes a demand. On the one hand, it is simply the demand of philosophy on Meillasoux (Laruelle). On the other hand, it is nonetheless a continuation of articulating, in bizarre display of the syntax of the Real, the Pascalian thought-at-the-back.
Bertrand Ogilvie writes of Pascal:
“….Pascal suggests that we make use of the “thought from behind,” a process of elucidation which (…) progresses to the point of bringing out in return their basis…To think true, therefore, is to bring out the meaning of the false…This idea is fraught with consequences, since it leads to the discovery that every truth… is a falsehood full of meaning” (from “Truth in France,” in Keywords [Alliance of Independent Publishers: France, 2004], 1240.
Meillasoux has intuited this ‘thought’ in terms of ancestrality and arche-fossil (After Finitude), which in Pascalian terms should rightly make him a “clever one.” Ogilvie adds:
“The clever one is not a hypocrite; he does not say anything other than what he thinks. He is the one who succeeds in thinking of two things at the same time, illusion and its necessity…It is this network of illusions and conventions that goes into the making of the world (in Laruelle, hallucinations but real in-the-last-instance), making it function, through which he finds legitimacy. This legitimacy that reveals the thought at the back has nothing absolute about it. It does not have a basis by right” (Ibid., 126; parenthetical emphasis mine).
The last two propositions would certainly not fit with Meillasoux.
§
Laruelle must have Meillasoux in mind when he issued a challenge–Invent philosophy! And Pascal–he prefers really clever ones.
But that is another matter.
Postscript
See an interesting discussion on Meillasoux at http://darkecologies.com/2012/12/24/kenotype-meillasoux-and-the-meaningless-sign/

virgilio rivas:

Although I think the discussions (on podcast) still lack depth, it’s still worth listening to. Pop nihilism is certainly a symptom of what’s going on deep in our civilization. But insofar as the source of this symptom is to be found beneath, way beneath, I think Ben Woodard’s book “On an Ungrounded Earth” complements Thacker’s in many ways.

Originally posted on synthetic_zero:

From RADIO LAB A conversation with Eugene Thacker on the truth, beauty and post-goodness of pessimism (nihilism?)

Eugene Thacker is an author and associate professor at The New School in New York. Thacker is known for his writings on philosophy, media theory, music/sound studies, and writings on the horror and science fiction genres. His work is often associated with the philosophy of nihilism and pessimism. Thacker’s most recent books are the Horror of Philosophy series and After Life, and he also writes a column called “Occultural Studies.” He received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington, Seattle, and a PhD in Comparative Literature from Rutgers University.

In his ongoing series Horror of Philosophy, Thacker explores the idea of the “unthinkable world” as represented in the horror genre, in philosophies of pessimism and nihilism, and in the apophatic (“darkness”) mysticism traditions. In the first volume, In The…

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