The Hermetic Deleuze: Anesthetizing Chaos
January 21, 2013
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.”