A Blog by Virgilio Rivas (Not the one you're looking for)


Tale of an Art Journey

“Without sprinkling it … and draws from it the virgin clue AS IF”
–Stéphane Mallarmé

“To perceive the aura of an object we look at means to invest it
with the ability to look at us in return”
—Walter Benjamin


Forcing herself to imagine a reader, she takes the task to be what designates itself as her own: an alien confrontation.
Like an aleatory material, a text, any work of art, even a nature’s conceit, all smiles in a corner of a cave wall, nothing of this will come into sharp relief until something finds its way to a second land of origin, a new home, a second canvas, a second skin: language. A refiguration, she recalled vividly, emerging from a dream. Still her eyebrows were twitching like she never had an orgasm. What impotence might it have been had she forced herself to give birth to a concept.

“… she recalled her childhood as when she used to feed the cows: grass on her outstretched little hands, and the tongues getting a kick out her fresh smelling proposals; the sticky charge, the soft burning wetness, awakening a school of butterflies around her waist, took away her innocent childhood to embrace the steamy world of the senses…”

She can never become more than her present, her fate like a text, is refractory to her own will. In her waking life, it will soon dawn upon her, with only an image to pursue, that her ‘reader’ is always already that ‘other’ who knows her secrets. Whatever she can come up with, an alibi, for instance, can only turn out to be an absurd tale. Someone has already spoken her own words. She then attempted to recall: “The sentence pours language back into the universe.”
But what if the image unfolds without sanction, pops itself up as a clue, insistently, but rather hopelessly claiming an ephemeral space, as it fails while demanding the last attention it deserves? Having previously sought the virgin clue on the pages of Mallarmé, this strange concoction of temperament was nudging her members to climb the next mountain so as to figure out how to become the figure of the stranger, the wanderer on top of a sea of fog. But “unless she lives in the aura” of it, she would never get near the mountain of her choice. Besides, she needs “strong and sturdy legs” for the entire ascent. Under the pretext of chipping in to the repertoire, the greatest illusion of self-respectability that one imbibes after drinking an opera, simmering an old tale told many times over, a poem to make up for her thousand tiny failures, she takes the image, delighted at last, as something in need of composition.
But why, why imperatively this peculiar word ‘something’—why does it always carry a burden? No sooner than the image reveals itself as a clue language stoops to an alien sovereign. She was listening to Lazar Berman at the height of his incredulity—that he would never again play Chopin’s.
Looking at Edvard Munch’s painting, she is delighted, the second time around, after confronting an aleatory word (or sometime after her panic mode dwindled into a night owl). She remembered a scene from an opera. Later, she told a friend that this scene from her dream was a word-without-a-face. Her friend was not commiserating: “Give it one last try. You said it was an owl.” What comes out is no less a familiar rehearsal: an “event of obscuring, a descent of the night, an invasion of shadow.” Not giving up on her dream to become an author (someone who labors around writing by writing ‘around’ writing, she learned from reading Barthes), she said as if offering her best answer: “You know it as when the turnpike becomes unmindful of its function, surprised of its intimacy with the highway, you get it now? It makes you drip as from an irresponsible faucet.”
Understandably, that day she lost her only true friend.
Little by little, recovering from her own loss, the image seeps in to her being—only that she knows too well; she can never be more than an outcome of a failed commitment. In the same mute language in which the face reveals the clue to ethical responsibility in which the word ceases to be an orphan, the word also becomes confrontational. She is telling me now, she recalled her mother telling her on the day of her first menstruation, that she wound up at last as a shadow of a painting, born of ectopic pregnancy. She wanted to become an athlete.
Growing up without a father at the age of 12, she struggled to become a writer, and now as a salesperson, at her age bursting at the seams, she found the courage to announce the Death of ’B’. She quickly mastered the labor of language, telling her blog subscribers, people she met on the road, in libraries, supermarkets, churches, etc. to forget Baudrillard; not wanting to imitate a book though, far from it: all the felicities for orgies assembling into a fish swarm; quasi-evangelical ministries, paeans to little joys crying out with their own virgin clues. As an accomplished ‘seller of thought’, she addresses in her dream a mammoth crowd of her own.
The crowd went up to her and to her ‘place’ under the pretext that by joining her they were helping to enable culture. She told me in one interview that she and her place were two different topologies—but each not unlike the place where a god was forced to confess his own sin; no, she scolded me right away: this is not Dostoevsky; the pontiff is nowhere to be seen in this frame, pointing an accusing finger to a stranger in robe.
What comes out of the character of the Inquisitor is an image slowly coming to maturity, and by that it should one day be able to say on her behalf, now that even her pride has been compromised by her marriage with language, that she defeated a theory. “To be among things,” like a faint lineament on a painting only the most tentative of our senses may as yet be able to see: in a word, to be invisible in a crowd of lilies, to become a veritable tool of sovereign language, to copulate with the haptic space of as yet an outcome of a dream. As with Cézanne: to experience the landscape, all the time in herself, and yet given her propensity for excess, it is as if it was the hair of her own skin grazing a drove of bovines. She never thought they could be these huge and hungry; she recalled her childhood as when she used to feed the cows: grass on her outstretched little hands, and the tongues getting a kick out her fresh smelling proposals; the sticky charge, the soft burning wetness, awakening a school of butterflies around her waist – all of these took away her innocent childhood to embrace the steamy world of the senses. There, in that same little room where finally she faded into a worm.
Some years later, I learned she committed suicide, or what I thought she did. The kind of folks who knew her believed she went up to heaven; others were as crazy as their unpolished toenails: a mysterious lady morphing into a pizza pie.
The last time I saw her was during an unscheduled meeting. I was with a research team, and after scouring the caves of Bohol—we were told that two seismic activities were detected just as when we were snaking through inside a notoriously narrow shaman’s cave—a male friend, a former activist who years since after our last mob attendance together, exchanging expletives with the police, settled with his wife in Cebu, mysteriously gave me a call. He said, ‘she’s ready for her last interview.’ Dante however remained a complete puzzle to me as when writing unfolds its own dependence on “a joke and despair,” not to mention, all of its virgin clues—as if “ruled by their own laws.”

‘To be among things like a faint lineament on a painting only the most tentative of our senses may as yet be able to see…”

I was surprised Dante knew where I was and where my mind was wandering off, between night and nothingness, between Cezanne and his doubt, or several kinds of wild weeds, between that and a thousand-tenfold buffalo horns carefully assembled in a gallery, making sure that by a certain kind of arrangement this artificial space of functions would appear as if a veritable landscape of wild plants we barely know by names was announcing the second coming: if art means not giving up living in things, an aesthetic sweatshop of bovine horns proves exactly just that: we live among the phantoms of our industrial sins looking at us in return.
I told Bartleby, co-proponent of our research, ‘this is it!’ By that time Cebu’s interior was already behind us; after a rendezvous with beer and local food, we were ferried north into an isolated island. Between the unfading memory of Chocolate Hills, and the enchanting caves of Anda, and these physical ruins, lying before me, of an old Spanish fort north of coast where Magellan was killed, there, in that narrow ephemeral space of conceit, where I can see the approaching waves, a perfect spot to erect a watch tower to alert the townspeople of Moro pirates, he glanced back at me. In front of me was a pair of eyes cavorting in disbelief. We were all worried the weather building up in the Pacific would hit the Cebu mainland. The storm would ravage instead the whole swath of Central Luzon on the week of our return to Manila. I told him we did not come here for nothing.
I reminded myself at that point that perhaps because this might be the ‘end of a theory’ it was best to offer her a poem, but no—the sooner I thought of it I felt a shiver. She was already a horror having written the best known imitation of Keats. I pointed this out to our research assistant, Jason Adams, not his real name, showing him a piece of her work, and as usual, no one would believe me. Once I embezzled my logical mind (an outcome of graduate studies) fornicating with her false, insanely professional simulation of Franz Kafka. She was all Samsa in her salesmanship, complaining against the forced sanity that life had been taxing her little room, except that she never had to morph into a bug, at least, not yet. This was her world during the first interview. Besides having imagined herself countless times as that mysterious bride in the Grecian urn, she thought of herself as a water lily.
One day she confessed to her therapist that she liked to see herself as a shadow, as if her life was not already spent thoroughly prettily among the inhabitants of its pensive landscape. But this, she clarified, only upon a mention of Monet: “You can guess it, right? Like when someone called out your name, you turned your head to the direction of the voice; what utter pensiveness you would regain afterwards—you are no different from my dog.” I asked her who would mention Monet. She replied casually, holding a book that only after the interview I would realize was written by “B”: “It is as if I had words instead of fingers.” I never felt so sad that evening. I never knew her dog’s name. That night she pointed out to me the whole area was reclaimed.
She was briefly explaining as I was belying—with the help of her own words melding with the sound of sirens filling up the entire city—the little chance she still had if she would return to her old self. She was planning her complete irreversibility. And how obsequiously sure I was that I understood her words correctly as ‘her voice’ took me the social history of the place. Recalling that last interview, I was no longer certain she was the same person I interviewed on two previous occasions. Besides, I was supposed to conduct the interview in Cebu.
The next instant, she started talking about the legend of Mang Kanor, his dalliance with giant creatures, and how he mistook a person for a monkey he nearly killed one night. It was also in light of this legend that a story about a mysterious appearance of an old ship anchored on the shores of Lamanok (the name of the island) facing the mighty sea was told in a number of versions with the legend preserving the integrity of each, like a panoply of trees sheltering the unwanted: the grass underneath.
“There’s an island called Mabini. A boatman could take all of you there. Not really isolated, but the caves—ah, you would never wish you had a home to return to!” I recalled the same lines—she must be a shaman. I began to suspect she is. Those were the same exact words I heard uttered by the lone tour guide of the Anda caves. It was logical to assume all caves in the world have their shamanistic side. But I was held in a trance whose perpetrator was rather my own mangled sense of folk wisdom.
I forgot in a while the area is a tourist destination, known for its caves and mangroves, and she is from around this place. It could be me, alone, deciding to shed my tourist credentials under the illusion that as an adventurer I was hoping to finally encounter a horde of primitive cavemen responsible for one of the earliest prehistoric hand paintings in the many caves of Anda, but now worn out by time, long after Bohol was created by a massive tectonic uplift leaving behind a litter of hill-size coral reefs, gouged out from underneath to become the sovereign dominion of a star, bleaching the hills with powerful rays as long as it cared. Like a veritable whiplash of a Pollock, nature did not cease producing: combined with melting polar glaciers and uneasiness of the tectonic plates, Bohol produced a treasure of large underground caves. A folk hero once utilized these caves to delay the ambition of an empire to subjugate every native of the island. The caves functioned as weapons of invisibility. If nature loves to hide, little people were the first to learn her secret.
After a while acting nearly as a tour guide, the shaman turned to me. She placed an egg on top of the table, making sure it stood for a while. I was not sure what she meant as she took us all to the rituals that went with an egg, even less sure of a mounting evidence in front of me. Bartleby and Jason were beginning to breathe a strange commiseration with the dark arts as they sunk in quasi-mental oblivion, allowing their own silences to exchange psychic pleasantries with the ghosts protecting the cave.

‘A standing egg means approval of the nature’s spirits and the same egg that would throw itself into relief, falling off the edge of the nature’s abyss—that will be the egg to give the sign someone has to suffer a curse.’

Whatever the issue is the same meta-kinetic justice supervenes. Seeing I did not get her side of the story, she tossed a coin, and with the usual grin, lowered her face so close to mine I immediately sensed a child in distress.
Head or tail? I chose home.
Each of us has a cave to hide in, otherwise a cave we hide from others. Recalling the events that were behind us now, one cave refused to go until recently. Rilke reminds me of its insistent character, a simile that echoes an incantation—the likeness of ‘words’ to ‘summer days’, each scarcely containing itself, like a ‘rose-interior,’ like a cave that “[overflows] and [streams] into the days…until all of summer becomes a room, a room within a dream.”
I was sinking in the shallow waters of the marine sanctuary, my feet touching the tip of my memory. The mangroves were quietly kneeling at their roots as the silent tide dearest to a night like this was starting to mingle around them. On the far side, the moon was slowly seeping out of her nightdress; her wardrobe faintly burning in a kettle; on the hither, a lone ripple was brainwashing a coral reef, steady and persevering, in exchange for a night without sin, long enough before the light finally reclaimed her place, before the little memories faded in slow, gentle death.



The story, first of a projected series, was based on a research expedition I initiated off the islands of Cebu and Bohol, two of the most earthquake and typhoon-prone areas in the whole archipelago. The research was conducted entirely during Holy Week (2015). The setting as well as the characters in this story was an outcome of Bakhtinian double-voicing, like an incantation, a mixture of reality and fiction, a tempest on a teapot; but also a punctum, an ephemeral space where images, in their fleeting moments, tiny pleasures cavorting in the wake of the death of God, overwhelm the immaculate arbitrariness of words whose secrets we were once not allowed to peer into. Benjamin and Brecht would protest if I didn’t figure them in: the distorted simile between real and fiction overlaps with Bahktin’s; Brech’t Verfremdungseffekt strikes through the text, I guess, to produce an outcome of buggery, namely, the TEXT itself. But all these are still on the way to becoming the absentee term like, once again, the text.

-to be published in The Mabini Review, 2015

Hotel Island


With a good excuse the plane finally
Caught up with the climate.
A makeup toolkit was all there is to it:
A summer wedding,
A planned vacation,
An early booking
Tainted to a fault;
A traffic jam; a radio hit,
Side glances to summer heat.

In front of the station
A famous inn mimics
A burial chamber.
As when God is dead—
‘The train carriage runs
On a diet of human silence.’
You fancied her. She said.
From a door ajar
The toilette glow
Nodded in quiet.
Each abandoned to magic.
Let’s do it. She said.

Apple on a side table,
Stoic at every glance.
Hungry at length,
He reached for his phone.

Back in the islands:
With mouths to feed
Anchovies rival her expectation:
If on a holy week a wheel turned
And nothing moved with it,
They say all the good fish
Would land on a wrong table.
Thus, they prayed: ‘Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour…’

She went for her nightdress.


Image: https://www.livescience.com

to the crescent moon


Maybe, it tells all the difference,
The sky, your classical optics,
Mine’s a tempest on a teapot.
If you dance, it will be to you a call from
Long distance mornings, the smell of pizzas,
The table of elements, but mine’s by now
Hugely deficient of numbers, of fashion, of every bit
Of fresh days to spare me the troubles of aging.
A thousand tiny deaths would not hurt,
Or maybe, just maybe, they make the difference
To save the sheen from all sorts of journeys.
Let’s say, for each bed that slips into a dream
Every bubble of froth changes into hearts,
Hearts fade into days, days into cupboards.
But until it is day, would darkness know
Someone might be dreaming his last?

Image: https://www.space.com

Contour or Abyssal: The Future Ecology of Cities


[A talk I gave during the Philosophy of the City Conference held on November 6-7, 2015 at the University of Hongkong]



In his book on Francis Bacon,[1] Gilles Deleuze echoes Nietzsche’s well-known provocation that chaos is essential to existence, and yet as Deleuze argues, and will argue in his later works, it’s also important that its cultivation is adequate enough to avoid a suicidal collapse.[2] Bacon’s art, for Deleuze, is an example of this balancing act. And yet, what characterizes this balance in Bacon is his painterly technique which renders chaos imperceptible.[3]

For Deleuze, Bacon is quite superior to Paul Cezanne, in this respect, who limits his approach towards chaos to the “analogical [extension] of geometry”[4] where lines are still perceptible, despite the predominance of color over lines in his paintings, thereby producing a kind of experience based on sensations, according to the visual lineaments of the dynamic hand of chaos. From here, I would like to extend the notion of sensation produced by art to the modern notion of the city.


The City’s Default Perception Regime

We can think of the modern city as a regime of sensations which in turn gathers into a kind of ‘default perception regime’[5] as it penetrates deep and rather expansively into the life of the city.  We are not referring to the city as the Greeks or the Romans defined it, as a political space ‘made up of citizens,’[6] rather, as Ildefons Cerda, the socialist Spanish engineer, understood the city in the modern sense. In relation to the concept of the urban that Cerda introduced into the nomenclature of urban planning, the modern city is defined as “a vast swirling ocean of persons, of things, of interest of every sort, of a thousand diverse elements.”[7]  Cerda’s theory of urbanization is described as that in which, in order “to sustain the lives of inhabitants,”[8] these so-called ‘diverse elements’ must be able to “work in permanent reciprocity and thus form a totality … uncontainable by any previous … formations such as the old walled city.”[9]

Interestingly, the kind of ‘default perception regime’ that we have in the city today is one in which Deleuze in his examination of Bacon could have likened to the visual representation of the becoming imperceptible of chaos. Here, we may single out a correlation between art and the city in the sense that the becoming imperceptible of the city resonates in Deleuze’s theory of art inspired by Bacon: “a frenetic zone in which the hand is no longer guided by the eye and is forced upon sight like another will, which appears as chance, accident,” etc.[10] But if Cerda’s urban design aims to sustain life in the city based on mobility and networks, its most Deleuzean complement perhaps is in Deleuze and Guattari‘s functional definition of a concept: “[Infinite] through its survey or its speed but finite through its movement that traces the contour of its components.”[11]  In the final analysis, the aesthetic complement of the city can only serve as a relay onto a higher kind of composition in the form of concepts.

Deleuze argues that Bacon’s technique doesn’t embrace chaos for its own sake, that he makes chaos imperceptible by “[dismantling] the optical world]” but also, as the final act, “[reinjecting that world] into the visual whole.”[12] There, the aesthetic complement is relayed onto a much higher complement in terms of conceptual composition, which Deleuze and Guattari simply describe as “consistency.”[13]

The Cybernetic City

Incidentally, the Deleuzean idea of concept as infinite survey through speed is well integrated within a practice of appropriation of bodies, and their functional relation to the social whole, peculiar to modern cities. In the following annotation of one of Deleuze’s most important concepts, the notion of complex bodies that he borrowed from Spinoza is almost tailored fit for the modern city, or at least as Cerda defined it:

A composite body … a combination of various bodies, is defined by its structure or by its internal relations …. [preserving] the body’s … relations of motion and rest and [maintaining] the body’s ability to be affected in a great number of ways.[14]

In like manner the city as a complex body preserves itself by maintaining its ability to be affected by other factors. In one of Guattari’s last works, these ‘other factors,’ in a sense also the ‘diverse elements’ in Cerda’s urban theory, would be the equivalent of the intersecting ecologies of the social, mental and environmental.[15] Altogether, the end goal is to preserve a composite body’s internal relations in order to avoid the “death sentence,”[16] a black hole,[17] which may be done, as in the case of contemporary appropriation of Cerda’s urban theory, by pursuing a kind of ecological redemption through urban planning.[18] It is in this light that Cerda, and Deleuze and Guattari share a common notion of complex bodies which complements their somewhat naturalistic concept of the modern city, and how complexity is to be cultivated to prevent collapse. Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of complex bodies in the guise of desiring-machines (which I will discuss later) are exactly the kind of bodies that can flourish within Cerda’s urban ecology, based on a naturalized concept of the ‘urban’.[19]

The naturalization of the urban is simply the urbanization of nature that is said to be immanent in nature itself.[20] Here, the idea of the ‘natural’ is meant to avert uncontrollable chaos, expressed in urban planning that doesn’t take into account this meta-principle, which authorizes instead a unity of, or reunified notion of the rural and the urban,[21] in a sense, making diverse elements work in reciprocity (as described by one commentary on Cerda’s urban theory). The urbanization of nature is directed at the countryside, but, as we have seen in Deleuze’s appropriation of Bacon, must be ‘reinjected into the visual whole,’ which means, for Cerda, to “ruralize the urban.”[22] This meta-principle of urban planning with the goal of preventing collapse is based on the idea that unhindered mobility and networking, through intelligent planning with the aid of modern technology, is essential to the consistency of human civilization.

Meanwhile, Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of complex bodies in terms of the concept of desiring-machines would almost certainly agree with Cerda’s meta-principle in which the goal is to adopt chaos without losing consistency. In describing how complex bodies can maintain consistency, Deleuze and Guattari recommend continuous “plugging into other collective machines,” [23] and if need be, “[abandon] all reference so as to retain only the conjugations and connections that constitute [the bodies’] consistency.”[24] Today, this notion of plugging machines corresponds to the global wiring of consciousness, concentrated in the megapolises, the global cities of the world. It is in this light that the so-called internet of things[25] is strictly an urban phenomenon, transforming into a huge cybernetic space where desire is on the foreground of the intermingling of cities, based on the commodification of desire and fantasy on a global scale.[26]

For purposes of my paper, we mean desire, as with Deleuze and Guattari, the idea of embracing speed, mobility and unrestricted creation but “without losing anything of the infinite.”[27] If Cerda’s meta-principle corresponds to an idea of urbanization “sprawling limitlessly across the earth,”[28] Deleuze and Guattari’s desiring-machines are enabled by producing concepts by which they mean “absolute survey of surface or volume at infinite speed.”[29] In all likelihood this is what the city has done since transforming into a cybernetic space, perhaps, best illustrated in the following reflections by a contemporary urban designer, William Mitchell (who died in 2010):

Embedded within a vast structure of nested boundaries and ramifying networks, my muscular and skeletal, physiological, and nervous systems have been artificially augmented and expanded …. My biological body meshes with the city; the city itself has become not only the domain of my networked cognitive system, but also … the spatial and material embodiment of that system.[30]

In the following section, I will briefly introduce F. W. J. Schelling’s philosophy of nature and how this contradicts the idea of consistency in the face of chaos, or the notion of a dead-end,[31] most likely to befall on modern urban spaces in light of an imminent ecological collapse.

From Mesh to Abyss

Schelling in a sense is quite opposed to a Deleuzian type of consistency that we can also see in Cerda’s theory of urbanism in relation to nature. Whatever applies as consistent for Schelling is something that approaches the meaning of the abyss, the “dark ground of nature.”[32] Schelling expresses his anti-consistency thesis as follows:

Nature is an abyss of the past. This is what is oldest in nature, the deepest of what remains if everything accidental and everything that has become is removed. This is precisely that constant tendency to restrict [being] and to place it in darkness.[33]

Schelling places the abyss at the center of philosophical dispute, describing it as the only “bold word [that] could bring on [a] crisis.”[34]  He thinks that the major tendency of philosophy since Hegel is to deny this bold word, the “dark, prophetic word, [35] the abyss, which in itself “[contains] no interpretation.”[36] Ultimately, Schelling argues, philosophical speculation only reveals the extent to which humanity is a disposable species who will always be placed in darkness by the abyss that he himself interprets. Humanity is always placed in the ungrounding of its consistency, and the planet is the very place of this ungrounding.

But how is the city in this global age that is simulating the magnitude and depth of the planet possible in this ungrounding of consistency? In Schelling’s case the city can only be tentative in the same context in which humanity is a tentative species. Iain Hamilton Grant, a Schelling scholar, expands on the notion of geology or the sense of the anterior to get at this point: “Geology isn’t simply philosophically irrelevant [to those take the human as the center of all things], but fatal to the eternity of the world, precisely because it … posits an anteriority even to the becoming of the planetary object.”[37] Thus, philosophical speculation takes by default the perception that there is no end of the world, hence, the eternal city “sprawling limitlessly across the earth.”[38]

In relation to the formation of the city, the geological play of the abyss that comes into the city’s composition on the surface is capable of revealing the non-centrality of the human, such as “long-term power outages, evacuations, containment failures, explosions, aftershocks,” [39] etc. that the ungrounding of geology produces from deep beneath.  All these are intensely transforming the city, threatening to push the city to the brink of collapse in an age of rapid geological and climatic changes. Schelling’s emphasis on the ‘bold dark, prophetic word’ – the abyss – is a good reminder that, as the city undergoes accelerating decay, it is essential that once and for all, in the observation of one contemporary urban designer, “anticipating geologic scales of force, change and effect … [must become] a common [urban] design specification?”[40]


It is of interest to note here, as we conclude, that the standard view of pre-cybernetic antiquity in dealing with a crisis, for instance, is to become the crisis itself. This is best illustrated in the metaphor of the ‘prison’ or a ‘trap’ in the sense of the ancient connotation of the many aspects of the Greek notion of apeiron:

Being without direction it cannot be crossed, is impassable, but at the same time, for those who find themselves in this place which in a sense is the opposite of organised space there is no way of ever escaping from it.[41]

Isn’t it that the modern city is a projection of ‘organized space’? What I mean here is the city is still a space from which you can escape, like the city is one place to become indiscernible, like capital mobility, stocks exchange; like a multiple subject entering new sites of composition, at the infinite speed of finance algorithms; each time a new subject, a laundering subject; repurposed, reengineered; on the whole, what consistency means in a globalized world.

But in becoming the trap itself, like the ancient apeiron, the city can save itself not in terms of reinjecting itself in the visual whole, in the manner of Bacon, for instance, hoping for some kind of ecological redemption; rather in terms of embracing the abyss in its capacity to unground the consistency of the species. Incidentally, in this light, scholars of Greek antiquity made mention of the use of the ‘net,’ pertinent as it is to the present condition of human existence in the age of cybernetics:

The net, ‘an endless mesh’ … can seize anything yet can be seized by nothing; its shape is as fluid as it can be, the most mobile and also the most baffling, that of the circle.[42]

In conclusion, I would like to think the modern city can become this very circle, like a trap from which there’s no possibility of escape. It makes sense to underscore here its resonance in the global slogan on climate change, such as ‘there’s no Planet B.’ In contrast, all modern attempts to organize the city have been in constant denial of the non-eternity of human consistency.


[1] Gilles Deleuze, Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, trans. Daniel W. Smith (London and New York: Continuum, 2003).

[2] See Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, Vol. 2: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), p. 161.

[3] Deleuze, Francis Bacon, p. 27.

[4] Ibid., p. 113; emphasis mine.

[5] I am extending the use of this concept popularized by Elizabeth Ellsworth and Jamie Kruse in an anthology of essays they co-edited. See Elizabeth Ellsworth and Jamie Kruse (eds.), Making the Geologic: Responses to Material Conditions of Contemporary Life (Brooklyn, New York: Punctum Books, 2013).

[6] See Pier Vittorio Aureli, “Intangible and Concrete: Notes on Architecture and Abstraction,” e-flux journal, 64 (2015), http://www.e-flux.com/issues/64-april-2015/. Accessed Octobe4 1, 2015.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Deleuze, Francis Bacon, p. 137.

[11] Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 21.

[12] Deleuze, Francis Bacon, p. 138; emphases mine.

[13] Deleuze and Guattari take consistency to mean “what the creation of concepts” is all about, that is, “to connect internal, inseparable components to the point of closure or saturation so that we can no longer add or withdraw a component without changing the nature of the concept; to connect the concept with another in such a way that the nature of other connections will change” (Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, trans. Hugh  Tomlinson and Graham Burchell [New York: Columbia University Press, 1994],p. 90.

[14] See Gillian Howie, Deleuze and the Aura of Expressionism (New York: Palgrave, 2002), p. 104; emphases mine.

[15] See Felix Guattari, The Three Ecologies, trans. I. Pindar and P. Sutton (London and New Brunswick, NJ: The Athlone Press, 2000).

[16] Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 110.

[17] Ibid.

[18] See Ross Exo Adams,” Natura Urbans, Natura Urbanata: Ecological urbanism, circulation and the immunization of nature,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 32 (2014): 12: 29 for the intricacies of Cerda’s theory of urbanism in light of contemporary ecological concerns.

[19] Ibid., p. 15.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid., p. 20.

[22] From the 1867 frontispiece of Ildefons Cerda’s ouvre General Theory of Urbanization. Quoted by Lion March, “Mathematics and Architecture since 1960,” in Architecture and Mathematics from Antiquity to the Future, Vol. II: The 1500s to the Future, edited by Kim Williams and Michael Ostwald (New York and London: Springer, 2015), pp. 559.

[23] Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 161

[24] Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, p. 90; emphases added.

[25] By its definition, the internet of things (IoT) is a “foundation for connecting things, sensors, actuators, and other smart technologies, thus enabling person-to-object and object-to-object communications” (See B. Scholz-Reiter, “Foreword. The Internet of Things: Threats and Opportunities of Improved Visibility,” in Architecting the Internet of Things, edited by D. Uckelman, M. Harrison and F. Michahelles [London: Springer, 2011], iv-viii).

[26] See Alain Badiou, Logics of Words: Being and Event, 2, trans. Albert Toscano (New York and London: Continuum, 2009), p. 2.

[27] Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, p. 42.

[28] Adams, “Natura Urbans, Natura Urbanata,” p. 18.

[29] Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, p. 21.

[30] William J. Mitchell, Me++: The Cyborg Self and the Networked City (Cambridge, Massachusetts, London, England: The MIT Press, 2003), p. 19.

[31] Guattari, The Three Ecologies, p. 28.

[32] F. W. J. Schelling, Philosophical Investigations into the Essence of Human Freedom, trans. J. Love and J. Schmidt (New York: State University of New York Press, 2006), p. 44.

[33] F. W. J. Schelling, The Ages of the World, trans. Jason M. Wirth (New York: State University of New York Press, 2000), p. 31.

[34] Schelling, Philosophical Investigations, p. 19.

[35] Ibid., 73.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Iain Hamilton Grant, “Mining Conditions: A Response to Harman,” in The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism, edited by Levi Bryant, Nick Srnicek and Graham Harman (Melbourne, Australia: re.press, 2011), p. 44; emphases mine.

[38] Adams, “Natura Urbans, Natura Urbanata,” p. 18.

[39] Jamie Kruse, “Power of Configuration: When Infrastructure Goes Off the Rail,” in Making the Geologic, p. 216.

[40] Ibid.; emphases mine.

[41]  See Marcel Detienne and Jean-Pierre Vernant, Cunning Intelligence in Greek Culture and Society, trans. J. Lloyd (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1991), p. 294.

[42] Ibid., p. 42.

On Cave Art, Architecture and Mimesis

Sharing is good and fun, and above all, rhizomatic. Thus, I’m sharing here excerpt of my panel presentation at the Paul Ricoeur Conference in Asia (2015). Full text can be found at https://www.academia.edu/16367802/Refiguration_of_Cave_Architectural_Consciousness_in_Ricoeurs_Mimetic_Trinity

In Memory, History and Forgetting (2004), Ricoeur talks about the concept of ‘spatial analogue’ through which he advanced a kind of hermeneutic transition “from the constructed space of architecture to the inhabited land of geography” (151). At no other time this Ricoeurian detour into “the land of geography” is at its most compelling. While’s Plato’s injunction to young philosophers to climb back to the cave after a period of emancipating from darkness would have qualified as the most representative declaration of the inevitability of cave life despite our modern pretenses, Ricoeur’s detour into geography quite surpasses the critical import of the Platonic injunction. The key is Ricoeur’s invocation of geography now challenged by all sorts of natural and man-made provocations of disaster, calamity, and catastrophe, not to mention the looming possibility of dystopia. The political metaphysics that inspired the Platonic call to return to the cave is now greatly superseded by geophilosophy in which Ricoeur lends an important voice.

It is interesting to note here that in Jose Saramago’s novel The Cave, Plato’s Cave oddly came to life, in fact, excavated beneath a high-rise condominium in Portugal. Authorities were for quite long concealing what was beneath:

[At] the bottom, there are six human corpses, tied by their legs and necks to a stone bench so that they are facing a wall. The bodies are still distinguishable as three men and three women but their eyes have completely rotted away. (Laird 2003:3).

The building tenants who discovered the excavation on their own no sooner decided to leave the place. Their reason – they felt that the rediscovery of the Platonic Cave “was somehow a call from the future” (3). And when they were leaving the place, they recalled a sign on the front façade of the building which says and with which the novel ends: “Coming soon: the opening to the public of Plato’s Cave, exclusive attraction, unique in the world, buy your entrance ticket now” (3).

By all indications, this is a prequel to what could be the event of dystopia: Plato’s Cave exhumed, by all means, a dead fiction, resurrected by the same force that buried it, namely, modernity, in the midst of the rapid urbanization of the planet that is now revealing signs of ecological collapse.

If we are looking for an alternative to the mostly capital induced crisis of our time, Ricoeur’s spatial analogue, his geophilosophy, can radicalize a critical return to ecological awareness, a return to aesthetic contemplation if not a detour from the main roads and arteries of anthropocentrism to the side roads and capillaries of the unclassifiable, the antidote to reason, the autism of cave consciousness – a return to immanent life.  And while the possibility that the sun will run out of nuclear energy to sustain our planet is still millions of years away, Gabriel Tarde’s dystopian fiction of humanity living in underground caves in the aftermath of solar death resonates in our time as we are practically heating up the whole planet, without much outside help,  through our carbon emissions. At least in Tarde’s Underground Man, the caves reassert their importance in geophilosophy which continues a line of positive appreciation of the place of the caves in human life, beginning with Joseph Michael Gandy’s 18th century vision of modern architecture based on the structural tenacity of the Fingal Cave, though certainly not the first to make a claim about the architectural significance of cave life.

In discussing the importance of the notion of place in relation to architecture, Ricoeur quotes Edward Casey quite often, and here, to radicalize its connectivity, we want to make room for a more liberal use of Casey in relation to our appropriation of Ricoeur’s concept of threefold mimesis. Ricoeur quotes Casey in Memory, History, Forgetting:

If imagination projects us out beyond ourselves while memory takes us back behind ourselves, place subtends and enfolds us, lying perpetually under and around us (in Casey 1993: xviii; Ricoeur 2004: 526-527).

To us this place is no other than the cave in relation to its geological importance today. The place such as the cave may have already been displaced by rapid urbanization as a kind of imagination peculiar to modernity, a calculative type called financial long-term gain, making us oblivious of the past of modernity – namely, its autism. In place of that place, modern built environments imitate the tenacity of the cave sans its autism, sans its play, sans its aesthetic contemplation, in favor of the rational organization of human settlement, the corporatization of social organization that penetrates into everyday life. No doubt Plato’s cave was excavated beneath a modern built environment, a real estate property that imitates the known strength of the cave, if only to expose how the cave is configured to advance the interest of artless and yet definable Western-style calculative thinking, certainly the anti-autistic science of profit-making, capitalism, or what have you.

I would like to conclude here with the third act of mimesis in Ricoeur’s mimetic trinity[i]  by making an example out of the tenants in Saramago’s novel who decided to leave their high-rise condominium upon discovering Plato’s cave. Following the act of inhabiting and then construction (construction would be the equivalent of their collective act of arranging the interior of their shared space, although not much to arrange in a condominium flat these days), the tenants’ decision to leave the place is accentuated by the hermeneutic act of reading. This is a decisive reading of the sign they saw on the front gate in which Plato’s Cave is turned into an attraction. This is to say that the whole place has turned into a veritable haven of capital. That is the third act of reading, more broadly considered, broader than its connotation in the order of narrative, as a refiguration of their individual lives under the spell of modernity that imitates the cave sans its autism and its play, its art-making, its bastard mode of building, dwelling, thinking.[ii] The tenants felt a call from the future in which all acts of mimesis – inhabiting, construction and reading – become a single collective decision, that is, to abandon capital, an exit from dystopia. That call is the call of the cave, the real cave, or as Casey notes which Ricoeur transposes onto the plane of mimesis, that which “subtends and enfolds,” that is to say, the real place – that which calls us from down “under” or what is evidently all “around us” (Casey 1993: xviii; Ricoeur 2004: 526-527).

This in the sense that that we all know and we all feel what’s coming. Or, do we?

[i] Rene Girard speaks of mimetic desire comparable to Ricoeur’s theory of mimesis. Girard’s concept of triangular desire, anchored on mimesis, follows a threefold structuration: “self, other as mediator … and the object that the self or subject desires because he or she knows, imagines, or suspects the mediator desires it” (Williams in Girard 2000:31). The reader can immediately notice here that the paper’s appropriation of mimesis is rather reflective of Girard’s than Ricoeur’s, especially in light of our focus on the object, after the use of the image is probably exhausted or undergoes a process of transference. But, as one scholar notes concerning Girard’s limitation in his theory of mimetic desire, at least in his early conception of it in which he “did not emphasize […] the reality of mimesis as a capacity and force which operates prior to cognition and representation” (31), we emphasize instead its role in preattentive or preconscious aspect of art-making, this time drawing on Ricoeur’s phenomenologically inspired concept of mimesis in relation to the hermeneutic theory of architecture.
[ii] Partial reference to Heidegger’s work “Building, Dwelling, Thinking” is intended. See Heidegger 2001:141-159.

The Net and Ancient Intelligence

In the accelerating cybernetic age of information technology infinite speed is the finite key to survival. Incidentally, this requirement of speed may be opposed to a more mundane but still relevant kind of practical (metic) intelligence, typical of the ancients (Detienne and Vernant 1991: 44), especially, in light of the pressing reality of climate change. Needless to say, the present climate crisis demands a more practical, which means to say, decelerated, albeit, measured approach to a crisis, in order to withstand, or deflect a shock effect, or live through the shock itself. (In essence this is the paradoxical reality of the anthropocene  – loving your monsters [Shellenberger and Nordhaus (eds.) 2011], at most city-monsters). Metis is somehow the standard view of pre-cybernetic antiquity in dealing with a crisis, for instance, in the form of a trap, that is to say, to become the trap itself in the sense of the ancient connotation of the many diacritical uses of the term apeiron:

Being without direction it cannot be crossed, is impassable, but at the same time, for those who find themselves in this place which in a sense is the opposite of organised space there is no way of ever escaping from it. (Detienne and Vernant 1991:291)

Incidentally, isn’t capitalism most ever-present in the city, the city that may become its trap, the city itself as ‘the opposite of organized space’? And while capitalism is mulling planetary expansion, realistically a planned exit from the city, in terms of privatizing global space program, the city still holds a promise, assuming it can transform itself into a modern-day apeiron through metis or practical intelligence, the cunning type. This means ‘repurposing’ (not in reference to #Accelerate: Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics) the pre-cybernetic intelligence, and not radicalizing its goal to re-engineer, for instance, its pseudo-multiplicities back to their supposed real immanent multiplicities (an essentialism that still lies concealed in rhizomatic ideals), hence, bending the type of intelligence dear to antiquity to a familiar modernist cause of revolution, by any means an historical type of arborescent ideal. Curiously, Detienne and Vernant also made mention of a diacritical use of ‘net’, which may prove relevant to the contemporary cybernetic age:

The net, ‘an endless mesh’ (apeiron amphiblestron) can seize anything yet can be seized by nothing; its shape is as fluid as it can be, the most mobile and also the most baffling, that of the circle. To catch something in a net can be conveyed in Greek, as is well known, by the expression ‘to encircle’, enkuklein.(42)

So, how do we entrap capitalism, perhaps the most cunning type, inside the cybernetic net, the city, without having to fall for the rhizomatic persuasion? There is no hard and fast rule. Detienne and Vernant, however, may offer an example, citing a practical approach in antiquity:

There is no difference in kind between the metis of the fox and the cuttlefish and that of the fisherman. The only way to triumph over … an adversary endowed with metis is to turn its own weapons against it: the fisherman’s ‘cloud’ is the unyielding answer to the ‘cloud’ of the cuttle-fish. It is only by himself becoming, by means of his net, a bond and a circle, by himself becoming deep night, endless aporia, an elusive shape, that the man of metis can triumph over the most cunning species in the animal world. (42-43)

This example from antiquity is quite telling – the way to catch a cunning species (the capitalism we have in mind) which is presumably much creative and innovative, especially, with technological power, not to mention the global infrastructure that relays this power on a massive scale through militarization and the media invasion of the human sensorium, all at its disposal, is to desist from creation, from extending the plateau, etc. (In the time of the ‘geologic now,’ the metaphorical use of the plateau is somehow problematic but more of this in our future post on Schelling). The way to catch a species is to become the net itself, a trap, an aporia (from poros which means passage, hence, with the negative ‘a’, inescapable, once one is caught inside the mesh); to encircle like a net, to desist from the horizontal push along a contour, to ‘restrict being’ in order to belong in darkness (a Schellingian motif with which we would like to associate the ‘repurposing’ we mentioned), to become deep as the night, deep night (more of this again in the Schelling post), hence, to be caught side by side with that cunning species called capitalism.


Detienne, M. and J.-P. Vernant. (1991). Cunning Intelligence in Greek Culture and Society, trans. J. Lloyd. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.

Mackay, R. and A. Avenessian. (2014). #Accelerate: Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics. United Kingdom: Urbanomic.

Shellenberger, M., and T. Nordhaus. (2011). Love Your Monsters: Postenvironmentalism and the Anthropocene. Breakthrough Institute: Kindle Edition.

Losing the Count: Unfortunate Modernity


When a (Christian) church desires to become a state not only does it wish to intervene in governmental affairs but also curiously covet the very place the state cannot in principle occupy, though it would seem, at the outset, that the place (or anywhere near where it does not want the state to be in) may be the place where the church stands.  Thus, quite perversely, the church desires itself. Curiously, however, the place after all may be a non-place – both church and state must leave the place untouched, unoccupied, without substance or essence, without rights, without an official address (no wonder, the separation is not binding, most of the time). As a non-place – in a parody of Agamben – that place cannot be sacrificed to the totality of juridical definition. Whether it can be killed is something we will have to resolve later. In virtue of this, the church does not know what it actually desires. It desires to become a state yet must not want to sacrifice that desire to resolution, speaking of which desire must also be forced to honor the non-place, the place of irresolution.

This may well be the secular or rather confused desire of religions (specifically, Christians) wishing to have their cakes and eat them too (or those at least represented by their manifest image in the churches they built in lieu of the ontological foundation that always escapes their grasp).The church desires the separation (the concept of separation of church and state is predominantly Christian in orientation) at the same time that its desire has to be sustained by the other’s desire, the state which it must in principle accuse of dishonoring the modern contract. (For its part, the state recognizes the church as a secular entity stripped of all its divine trappings). In the meantime, the accusation has to become mutual, needless to say, on the level of desire so that, and here is the wonder of all, the non-place or what instinctively and rhetorically becomes the very object sought in common in this perverse correlationism of desire, may finally acquire a legal status. On the part of the state, and as a follow up on Agamben, the non-place can now be incarcerated or killed as a last resort

On the part of the church, the non-place can be utilized to mark the ground upon which its future is to be built, albeit, a future that must under all circumstances prohibited to arrive as it threatens to become a future without a church. Here, the notion of the katechon comes to mind as this approaches the Christian notion of that which for still unknown reasons preempts the apocalypse, the final day of judgement, as a precondition for the absolute reign of God. This entails that the church must meddle on state affairs as it accuses the state of promoting the katechon – in Paul, it is suspected that the katechon is the Roman empire. In strict secular terms, it is the state. And yet, it is also of equal concern to the church that the future holds a lot of surprises. In relation to this, if there is the right agency to assume the role of the katechon it must be the church alone. In other words, the state acting as the katechon will always mishandle its role – it is not cut out for the job, not to mention that it unlawfully wrests that function away from the bounds of the sacred.

Meanwhile, let us not miss the fact that there is still the cake and the reluctant eater.

Arguably, in a post-secular age – which does not mean our age has ceased to be secular (post-secular may also connote excessive secularism to the point of losing the entire diacritical consistency of boundaries) – the church has redefined its strategy by, and this has become a patent culture of flour consumption, receiving cakes from politicians. Afterwards, it feeds the cakes to the voting machine (saves it the trouble of eating the cakes). What we thus obtain in this conflation of cakes and reluctant cake-eaters is proverbial: the cakes have gone awry. They are no longer meant to represent even the slightest sign of metaphorical use. Or perhaps, there were too many cakes to count, and alas, ‘we lose count in the process.’1

Charles Taylor partly illuminates this Nietzschean proverb: “In other words, we moderns behave as we do because we have ‘come to see’ that certain claims were false – or the negative reading, we have lost from view certain perennial truths.’2 On final count, we may have to acknowledge the unfortunate fact that today’s religion (represented by the manifest image of the church) is as modernist as our supposed discerning view of its much desirable – because modern – separation from the state. But also this is perhaps the true meaning of ‘apocalypse’ which only in modern times has flour/ished to such an extent that it has become the most covetous object or cake, if your will, of freedom – or rather the ultimate choice of bankruptcy – in comparison to its (it would seem) unwise, reckless antecedents without a goal. Here, the apocalypse is coming, at long last.


  1. Friedrich Nietzsche, “Preface,” in 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), 4.

  2. Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007), 571.

     A short post dedicated to I should say discerning student who is a member of a powerful religious bloc in the Philippines now at the center of a legal dispute with the government for abduction charges. For security reasons, I will need him to keep his cake away from the table.

#iglesianicristo #INConEDSA



Iain Hamilton Grant and his crypto-humanism

In a recent appearance, Iain Hamilton Grant deals (see the video lecture below) with the problematic or paradox of the third astronaut with respect to the origin of the universe viewed from a scientific conception of the earliest traces of the birth of the cosmos. In his discussion he mentioned the very problematic of modelling the origin of the cosmos from the most advanced deep image of the earliest universe known to humankind using the most technologically powerful telescope scouring through the vast expanse of the universe – a void by any definition. The third astronaut is used as metaphor for an effect of de-distancing – I’m using my interpretive sense of Grant’s focus in his lecture – in trying to narrow the epistemological gap between knowledge of the universal and the particular frame out of which this knowledge stakes a claim to what amounts to a false sufficiency of the existence of a unity or whole pertaining to the cosmos. This he argues by building on Plato’s notion of the non-equivalency intrinsic to the principle of non-contradiction in which any notion of unity is simply an ‘addition’ to what is out there but does not claim an equivalency in the sense of an ontological relationship.

The non-equivalency or non-sufficient relation, say, between the universal and particular is premised on a medium or context specific frame from which the universal is projected, which rather makes it plain and obvious that the particular, to use another concept of Plato (in the Timaeus), is an orphan word, a mute speech. In other words, it lacks sufficiency which explains why it is always in need of (universal) foundation. When Grant builds on this Platonic notion of non-equivalency and non-sufficiency, his Platonism throws his own interpretation of the third astronaut into sharp relief which signifies the necessity of a third kind of observer (a certain attributable role of a unifier but which in the final analysis cannot claim an absolute function of observation, an external, unbiased gaze). This necessity in fact is not new to philosophy, at least, since Plato. Recall here his argument for the necessity of the third being in Timaeus in addition to the two more familiar forms of being, namely, being (of being) and (being of) becoming. Plato describes this third kind as ‘chora’ – neither being nor becoming.

Those who are familiar with Timaeus must also be familiar with the figure of the chora – one of the chief important insights of this Platonic dialogue, rare for its lesser emphasis upon the figure of Socrates. Plato describes the chora as the third kind or the third being (‘being’ is used for lack of a better term to represent what exceeds and precedes it). The notion of the third is an inevitable trajectory in the Timaeus who, as the main character in the dialogue, cannot occupy, under all circumstances, an external, unbiased position with respect to interpreting the birth and origin of the cosmos his knowledge of which he learned from others. These ‘others’ have given away their third interpretations, otherwise contingent affirmations of the necessity to assume a relative position of transcendence with respect to knowledge, that is to say, transcendent to a specific epistemic frame expressed in situ, as an embedded thought. This notion of ideas in situ is a familiar argument of Schelling. In relation to Grant’s problematization of the third astronaut, this means that the third observer is in a place in space that claims to occupy a position extrinsic to it. And yet, any addition (or rather an interpretation that breaks a path in the familiar terrain of knowledge) to what is ‘there’ already cannot exceed its non-equivalency to ‘what is’, granting that ‘what is’ regardless of the limitation of human cognition to gain access to it is there already. Quite an unchangeable given but the notion of the given is not given in advance, ala Kant’s conceptual Schematism, but rather is borne by a force greater than necessity traditionally conceived as a limit to knowing.

In Kant, necessity would amount to a principle of regulation which somehow approaches the same level of conceptualization of necessity dealt with by Plato (in the Timaeus), that is to say, as an errant cause which, inspite of its errancy, is sufficient to supervise the direction of knowledge. But since necessity in the Platonic concept is errancy in the sense that it exceeds and precedes analytic and speculative reason at the same time, Kant’s Schematism departs from the Platonic by virtue of the exclusive necessity of practical (moral) reason. In a reversal of Plato, moral reason exceeds and precedes even the necessity of a third (errant) kind, the chora. Note that this is the favorite Kantian argument of Zizek who takes up a similar position, the position of the parallax, by virtue of the intrinsic limits of knowledge. Taken in this light, the parallax serves the interest of time or motion vis-à-vis the human gaze, albeit, in a fantastical way by virtue of the necessity of the parallactic condition of knowledge to remain relatively at rest (one must in fact force it to stand still) for something to be observed. And yet because one is always already inside knowledge, the knowing agent is left to imagine an outside, a fantasy gaze (which also affords the gaze a perverted sense of motor cognition – one example is the Copernican revolution), in the guise of a quasi-ontological support to one’s epistemic claim about the Real. All told, this psychoanalytic element of fantasy is simply a new ‘addition’ to what is there already. In other words, there is an outside, whether we like it or not, but whose determination is concurrently as errant as that which exceeds and precedes interpretation in a non-sufficient way. It may be well to emphasize that the outside is our non-sufficient relation to what we may otherwise claim as ‘external’ to thought.  Kant did not give much thought about this notion of the outside except to encapsulate it in the realm of moral freedom in which the outside is re-absorbed as sufficiency – sufficient to the realization of the kingdom of ends, needless to say, in a fantastical (obliviously sufficient) way.

When Kant says that everything should be subordinated to freedom, the function of necessity in critical reason acquires a profoundly different sense from that of Plato’s errancy. Plato did not attribute ‘teleology’ to necessity (nor did he award freedom to the future which, as an effect of freedom, remains a noumenal postulate for Kant, which means to say it is serviceable to Schematism) but insisted rather on the need to trace (anamnesis) the layers of errancy intrinsic to the contingent nature of the force that unites, in a non-equivalent way, being and becoming, present and future. Precisely as an errant causality, Plato’s notion of necessity speaks of the impossible futurity of the past that holds everything in the present, but hold it does in a non-sufficient way. This makes the ‘present’ a non-sufficient temporal horizon, let alone the knowing agent who stands on an unstable ground the overall effect of which would be something like a non-sufficient principle of the Real

What deeply interests me in Grant’s lecture is his supposedly crypto-humanist, or neo-humanist position (in Rosi Braidotti’s description; see Braidotti’s video lecture below), or rather a philosophical position that holds a monistic conception of the cosmos and reality (taking into account his Schellingian influence) on condition that what passes for as his humanist brand is non-sufficient, or to use Plato’s concept, an errant causality the sheer idealist connotation of which is tempered by Schelling’s speculative materialist notion of embedded thought. For the time being, I wish to avoid discussing the huge political cost that Grant’s monism may have to bear in relation to the political demands of critical theory (in her lecture, Braidotti has outlined this enormous cost in terms of its concrete manifestation in the way capitalism, for instance, valorises the human as the central figure of progress, history, etc.), in favor of, for lack of a better term, a deconstructive approach to the Platonic method of anamnesis. In matters of historical hermeneutics, this will lead us to Aristotle’s appropriative critique of Plato’s Timaeus which I think started the tradition of philosophical privileging (instrumentalization) of the human-category.

In the Timaeus the chora is the outcome of the failure of being and becoming (in general, the limitation of ontology) to account for the origin of the cosmos. On the one hand, being is too fixed and permanent to account for motion; on the other hand, becoming is too unwieldy for something like the being of the cosmos to be originated which presupposes of a necessary interruption of becoming, the Heraclitean flux. Whereas being refers to knowledge of what is or what exists, becoming subverts that knowledge by dissolving it. Either way the birth of the cosmos is improbable. As an important aside, this I think is where Grant’s Schellingian influence commands a philosophical strength – through the argument of the third astronaut Grants situates a non-sufficient human standpoint in a contingent, medium-specific topological context of the gaze vis-à-vis NASA’s deep image of space in its earliest known emergence after the Big Bang. He puts to question the notion of deep image as if it is uniquely separated from the image-category behind which the figure of the human lies for whom that image matters.

Comparatively, the third astronaut establishes its position as transcendent to the rhetorical first astronaut and the second astronaut which, for purposes of our discussion, is the same principle that subtends between being and becoming. Arguably, the third astronaut approximates Plato’s concept of the chora. Its image connotation is all the more proximate to it – chora is neither thing nor concept, rather an errant cause, or, in Plato’s other description, a “wanderer.” At the same time however, the third astronaut is an important context of the gaze vis-à-vis the known universe, and yet its importance is restricted to virtuality (the image is virtual, needless to say). In reply to an audience, Grant also emphasized that although technically the Third Astronaut is an unmanned telescope floating in space, its capability to send back a photo-image of the earliest universe precisely reveals the human category behind the camera. (In a related discussion of Laruelle, for instance, the photo is always a fictional category, determined in the last instance as that image of the thing that is always rhetorically sought by the photo but which nonetheless is foreclosed to the human gaze. And as it is with Laruelle, the errant human of Grant is the human determined in the last instance by Man but only because there is no getting around the thing itself except in the way of conscious admission that what one seeks in the image the image gives back in some other kind, a third kind, namely, a content. (This is quite a deviant if not a perverse approach to Laruelle vis-à-vis the notion of the Real as foreclosed, meaning it does not give back to human cognition. I would like to think here that what is sent back to the human gaze is not entirely hallucinatory, but this is another matter. As many readers of Laruelle, I am still struggling with his English translations).

To cap the discussion, the Platonic chora is an outcome of storytelling. If Plato is right, storytelling is immanently transcendent to ontology whose function is to take over, not without its patent delirium, the task of accounting for the origin of the cosmos, that is, when reason failed to demonstrate. This is of course unacceptable to Aristotle who in due course reduced the chora to the test of reason, to the illumination of the logos, the logos apophantikos, claiming instead that the delirium of the chora is what one sees if the search is not radically extended. One does not see as deeply as one should which requires a sufficient amount of light (which in turn necessitates a technological intervention) that one accommodates to supervise the search. In relation to the image of deep space, it is only under the light of the human category that the camera, the human proxy, can penetrate deeply.

Here, I would like to suggest that Grant is a crypto-humanist whose connotation however I would like to distance from Braidotti’s damning critique of all forms of humanism, quite appallingly the be all or end all argument, no matter how one puts it. Grant’s crypto-humanism in a sense overlaps with the allusion of Plato’s chora, or the bastard type, as Plato also puts in another description. But would this amount to an anachronistic argument in light of recent trends in critical theory proposing a turn to the posthuman? I don’t think so. What I think remains under-theorized is the fact that what we call human is as errant as the object (including posthumanism as an object-category of knowledge) to which it lays claim. In contrast, there’s much evidence post-humanist critical theory is deeply anachronistic in proportion to its oblivious absorption of Aristotelianism, specifically its technological conception of the logos.  

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Bipolar: Scene from a Ward

Dehydrated and willingly starving himself; his body resisting the anti-psychotic drugs. On his catheter time ticks to jarring measures. Many times he attempted to leap over to the unknown. But many times too, sadness sets in, perhaps, the only thing that’s reclaiming his heart back onto the world where he used to dream he’d be a doctor, a writer, a pilot, an equestrian, but alas, ending up being a mental painter of his own dream. It is in sadness that he allows himself a cut of the real, absorbing its apathy, its enormous silence over his past that he wished to turn to their knees and ask for his forgiveness. Then, his tears would make him a man again, and his children – in innocent awe over his lessons on sadness, on making sense of the world bearing down on their young minds, curiously, the only thing sustaining their hopes that one day their father would return home. The sooner the better. Some say, after sadness comes joy.

In sadness his memory creeps up on the surface of a still ocean– describing to me what is real to him – but staying afloat on the crest of an abruptly surging tide is struggling against a nightmare: no sooner the waves will separate my whisper to his ear from the colors of the sound only he could see. Not that happiness takes the place of sadness snatched away in the tide but rather a resounding break that forecloses any impression of sound from behind his wall. Then, he would be lost deep in his self, a changeless delirium, a maddening drive to cast away what he hears as noise persecuting him from further within. Someone must have whispered again to his ear:

Edward Munch-melancholy

“How can I forgive the world if I lose myself suddenly even before you did? Your feet knew this passage very well as many times your hands carried your weight through the lingering sands of time. It is time you are slowly losing, like my name, my age, my battle scars, even my own fears. I wish to tell you that I too am afraid that one day even my shadow would desert me. I sense it’s beginning to forget me too, accusing me of the gift of sin, plotting my own end. Then, I would fill in the shoes of those who have gone before me wandering without names, without potency, without a world that for the living it is essential they sometimes need to lose, without sound, without content.”

To Max

Image courtesy: http://www.bipolarcaregivers.org

To Max

Photo-fiction and non-standard aesthetics

Francois Laruelle describes photo-fiction as a non-standard object of philosophy,1 its standard form being aesthetics.2 According to Laruelle, philosophy through the entire tradition of representationalism3 takes for granted (to its radical fault) its non-philosophical background, reducing this background to a mere setting of  ‘objects’ for speculation. But inasmuch as “[everything] thinks, not just philosophy,”4 here ‘everything’ pertains to the background into which philosophy should melt and dissipate, that is to say, as a discipline, 5 it is time that the mereness of this background enjoys an equiprimodial status as a ‘force of thought.’ The ‘background’ in question here is the place of the non-philosophical but which according to its standard use in philosophy is made to serve as a ground (background or surface) so that its sufficiency as a philosophical figure may stand out. In the context of a figure-ground perspective, philosophy may be identified with photography, much in the sense of the correlation between the concept (figure) and the object of representation (ground) occupying opposite poles. Laruelle argues:

          Instead of treating the photo and the concept of the photo as two given and describable physical, intellectual objects or representations, we treat them as completely differently than given objects closed in on themselves. This level of reality which is no longer empirico-ideal, that liberates itself from the philosophical coupling of opposites, must render possible a new ontology and genre or genetic that is obtained in declaring that the photo and its Idea cease to place themselves at the extremes of reality, that at a certain point, they must identify with each other.

          According to Laruelle, when a photo is “capable of photographing the artistic photo itself” the result is a photo-fiction, both concept and object, material and incorporeal in the sense of what is sought by the photo (photo-fiction).7 He describes how this photo-fiction can be done, according to non-standard aesthetics:

          The style of photo-fiction is taking a photo with one’s eyes closed, on the condition that one admits they are closed, which is to say they had been open and more precisely, they are half-closed, the beatings of the eyelid by which we take excessive measure of the world and through which we master the intensity of its hallucinatory aspect: neither wide open nor automatically closing themselves as with a camera or robotic photographer.

          The question is how a photo can photograph itself while (the photo) may already be a photographed version of itself. Ideally, according to Laruelle, this should be the case but standard photo-centrism (inspired by philosophical traditions) conceals the immanent structure of the photo by projecting a real transmission when in fact any photo can only be taken with one’s eyes closed, that is to say, the Real (of the photo) is foreclosed to any form of representation. Any given artistic photo, standard or photo-fiction, is a mystic photo in the sense that despite “being open to the world, it can only imagine photography with one’s eyes closed.”

          According to Laruelle, unable to cite an example of a non-photo, the fractal artist Edward Berko comes close to a non-photographer insofar as the artist attempts at a non-philosophical conception of his art. Laruelle quotes Berko’s words about the fractalization of painting, emphasizing the irregularity and the self-same dynamics of reality: “Caught in this circular scrambling, we postulate that nothing is original.”10

          What makes Berko’s art illustrative of the kind of non-philosophy/non-photography that Laruelle endorses is his arguably “fractal practice of philosophy” and his “de-intuitivation of philosophy” through fractal painting the overall connotation of which becomes clear: the Real is foreclosed to any form of representation inasmuch as all representations are either hallucinatory or mystical.


Edward Berko (Cobalt Yellow)


Accessed from:


            In standard photography the eyes are imagined to be always open to the world, in the sense that cognition is always already in the world, open to interrogating its own presuppositions, its supposed non-fictional assumptions about the world in general, but this world does not of its own making give itself to cognizability and/or photography, rather the reverse follows: cognition or photography structuring the world as photo. Cognition can achieve this by deciding in its favor (in general, the decisionist structure of philosophy) at the expense of the ground. Arguably, insofar as philosophy (since Kant) thinks that the world has to be first given to cognition, philosophy betrays its false sense of perception – its hallucinatory form of transmuting objects into cognizability.

          In exposing the hallucinatory character of philosophical decision, non-philosophy clones philosophy in the immanentism of its self-portraiture, as a photo of its own figure. Taking this task as immanent to its nature in the sense that it is parasitic to philosophy, non-philosophy “[plays] the dummy so that it can re-enact the speech of philosophy.”11 Non-philosophy clones the immanent radicality of philosophy in the hope that philosophy will reveal its hallucinatory nature, or rather its decisionistic structure – the structure of its pathology. Unfortunately, in the same manner that non-philosophy must persist as the ground of philosophy, philosophy must be consistently hallucinatory. Arguably, a picture of absolute correlationism comes up.

          In photo-fiction, the background cognizes better than philosophy’s photograph or image of itself insofar as background-ing compared to figure-ing is less mystical but also more proximate to the real by virtue of its being cognizant of its dummy-ness as a photo-fiction, a humility that philosophy through its standard photography professes but does not practice, does not actually photograph itself. What can photograph philosophy is non-philosophy but the latter’s way of photographing the photo or the self-image of philosophy is reduced to imagining a photo-fiction of philosophy on behalf of philosophy that cannot actually photograph itself. The Real, meanwhile, is said to be indifferent to all these mystic adventures. In this sense, non-photography can only endure the mysticism of the non-photo by accommodating the untouched photo that is always rhetorically sought by photo-fiction.

         But can’t we have a conception of the Real as active, rather than absolutely indifferent? The Real is outside of thought, yet impinges on sensibility which temporally or historically demands of thought to align its principles with the Real’s actual manifestation. If it is thinkable for thought to think of the Real external to it, that which also antedates its emergence, thought owes its thinkability to sensibility that provides the clearing for an encounter (with the Real) and the thought’s self-realization of the encounter. Here, it is necessary to return to pre-Kantian concepts like Leibniz’s monads provided that we also think of monads as sensibility. We are thinking of a modified version of monads as those which touch one another yielding a network of affectations. They are blind but they are sensible. But it is not for sensibility to develop the principles of construction and organization. The rationalization of construction and organization requires complex cooperative and participatory processes between and among the bodily elements. Rationalization is therefore a democratic process that culminates in thinking.

1 See Francois Laruelle, Photo-fiction, A Non-standard Aesthetics, trans. Drew S. Burk (Minneapolis: Univocal, 2012).

2 Ibid., 13.

3 John Mullarkey and Anthony Paul Smith, “Introduction: The Non-Philosophical Inversion: Laruelle’s Knowledge Without Domination,” in John Mullarkey and Anthony Paul Smith, Laruelle and Non-Philosophy (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012), 4.

4  Ibid., 5.

5  Ibid.

6  Laruelle, Photo-Fiction, 13-4.

7  Ibid., 14.

8  Ibid., 35.

9  Ibid.

10 Francois Laruelle, The Concept of Non-Photography, trans. Robin Mackay (United Kingdom: Urbanomic, 2012), 134, footnote 5.

11 Mullarkey and Smith, Laruelle and Non-philosophy, 5.

12 In Seduction, Baudrillard argued about photography arriving at the same view. See Jean Baudrillard, Seductions, trans. Brian Singer (Montreal, Canada: New World Perspectives, 1990).


On the Mimetic Faculty

Many times bigger than God
A critter in run-of-the-mill dress
No wider than a human head
Can have sex with the forest.
No better magic could do the trick with her,
No proverb wiser than a river.
Relieved of their origins,
Each plumage lost in raw meat
Monkeys would ape in the likeness of the stars.
With birds of prey together they cracked
The minutiae trembling of Abraham,
His words clipped to an ailing chest.
Large or small, they mimic
A hermeneutic reading: a river deposed,
Oceans chiselled to a boiling point,
Islands on war footing.
Let’s all welcome the non-bourgeois.
‘To read what was never written.’ Such reading is the most
ancient: reading before all languages, from the entrails, the
stars, or dances’ (W. Benjamin, “On the Mimetic Faculty”)

NB: Endorsement




Protected: When Kafka Died

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Goodbye, Benjamin

On the Doctrine of the Similar 

'God did not name Man.' It says now, goodbye
Benjamin, the world is needed on the other shore.
It won’t matter anymore should you be alive
Once again, relying on other people's memories,
If it stopped on the same tracks, in the same room,
By the window to the great outdoors,

On the streets your feet knew better than anyone;
How they never get tired, she wondered,
Your birthing gestures on the brink of words,
One adds in isolation,
Like the sea, reclaimed to a fault,
Your hands in hers,
Minor echoes of caves leaning on the canvas,
Little joys waiting in patience,
As long as children could keep a secret,
 So long, machine!
All these now relieved of the burdens of the unnamed. 
To Kafka

The Fact

‘Cause we’re lovers and that is a fact

Yes we’re lovers and that is that


(From my twitter feed)

Minister No More!


The people to come have arrived in Greece!

Originally posted on Yanis Varoufakis:

The referendum of 5th July will stay in history as a unique moment when a small European nation rose up against debt-bondage.

View original 219 more words

Borges on Poetry

Arte Poetica

“To see in death a dream, in sunset a golden sadness–such is poetry”

Ulay, Oh

When silence takes over
or what’s left of a scene
one decides to walk away from,
it’s hard to tell if it is the mountain
or the table that leaves the other wondering,
“We’re beaten by the hands.”

A Mystery Film

Bravely quiet, he lit a cigarette, wondering
why even those who didn’t exist had to die.
His old age would have told him everything
he wanted to know. But whose age is older than the sea?


What’s your favorite lie?

Another of Sophie’s.

There’s a point where she said in the interview, “Non-smokers are the new smokers.” Well, the whole interview is about the idea–“Irony is a difficult thing to make.” That’s much is true, practically, to any idea, I guess.  Because an idea is a difficult thing to make, one waves it away. To wave an idea away engenders culture.  In a way culture is an outcome of a decision to cease thinking. Where thinking begins, culture loses its habit. No culture ever sustains itself without interruption. But caught in this predicament, it also commands that we cede thinking to aleatory encounters.  But I’m going off on a tangent already. Here is Sophie:

Protected: Philosophy’s Humanity

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Deleuze and the Cinematization of Schelling (Modified)

In his discussion of Francis Bacon, Deleuze sets up the image of the contour as a sticking point to catastrophe threatening to submerge the whole or a landscape. The goal is to save the contour by creating a space for catastrophe to settle in, as in Bacon’s catastrophe-painting where ‘stubborn geologic lines’ are rather enabled to bring out their readiness to embrace chaos, albeit, in a controlled space such as a painting. In Schelling’s case, these geologic lines would qualify as the very ‘will of the deep,’ an ‘expression of geological potencies in practical intelligence.’ Yet this somehow inverts the function of contour in Deleuze: instead of abstract expressionism, the will of the deep signifies the transcendentalism of nature.

Nonetheless, both accounts of catastrophe may actually complement one another. If the Deleuzian contour is the place of double exchange between the limit and the refiguration of the limit to absorb catastrophe, the Schellingian abyss points to a veritable space of freedom even as the ground (or earth) is embracing the very ungrounding of the will of the deep threatening to unground freedom at a most critical stage. But while the stage is yet to absorb the full extent of geological catastrophe, contours can serve as moving images of the abyss of freedom in the sense that they problematize the relation of freedom to the ground of nature, supposedly contracting to species-extinction, in the same manner


action is problematized (in Deleuze) in a moving image such as the cinema. We can take the cinema to mean the moving image of freedom threatened by the ungrounding of the will itself facing extinction.

Contour or Abyssal: The Future Ecology of Cities

In the background of rapid geological transformation modern urban cities are aggressively simulating planetary change in ways that attempt to either refract or absorb or condense into new planes of compositions various conjunctive techniques to bear the cost of mutation. Here, conjunctive techniques are meant to emphasize what Deleuze argued about lines of continuity in the midst of a breaking point, such as a planetary mutation, a tectonic threat, or a natural disaster. Deleuze said about saving the contour in order to avoid being dragged by chaos to suicidal collapse. This may ideally translate into urban planning and management that offer exits to creation that planetary change threatens to block out by erasing traces of human encounters and the lineaments that make up a distinct cartography of a people.

But contours can be negated by underground pressures. What may suffice as bearing the cost of planetary change in this encounter with the abysmal is a redrawing of the city, not in terms of repeating a kind of rhizomorphous exit to new planes of composition, from one surface to another, rather of grounding the city deep into the earth. This much is portrayed in Gabriel Tarde’s Underground Man, a novel of fortunate catastrophe, in which caves function as new planes of composition in the wake of the death of the sun. By grounding the city deep into the earth, nature is recomposed from out of solar death into an encounter with geologic materiality, not to re-purpose the planet but to simulate the death of the city that mimics a dead planet. In the background of these models of adaptation lies the present city. Does it need recomposition or simulation of its demise? This is not to exclude the question whether the outer reaches have redemptive potentials that far outweigh the urban question—contour or abyssal?

The anthropocene or what comes down to a return to clues



In his essay “Why the rush to declare the anthropocene,” James Westcott writes (full essay here): “Copernicus displaced humans from the center of the universe: now we’re trying to put them back.” 

Obviously, there is more in this pronouncement; among others, it is essential that we locate this center: universe for astronomy or physics; text for linguistics; human culture for anthropology; name your ‘center’.

Our time is no longer friendly to Freud but his concept of condensation may perhaps help us re-locate this center, far beyond what science has offered so far. (In this light, the function of Freud I guess is the single greatest strength of Zizek’s Lacanian return to his works, especially, the death drive. This is not however an endorsement of Zizek’s Hegelian twist wedded onto the return to the drive). In fact there is already decentering at play in the unconscious. But the unconscious is a speculative concept: the decentering produces a trace of a fundamental operation whose positivity nonetheless cannot be pinned down as a measurable content, like a golden spike, for instance (in the case of proving the Holocene. See full essay of J. Westcott).

By identifying the unconscious as this liquid trace, we are presented rather with a contingent entity that is not subject to verification (unlike if it is scientific).  But it fulfills a certain expectation—if it is a scientifically unverifiable entity, it lends itself to the field of human perception, presumably, a field where the most contingent is allowed to function AS IF it contains, in the same language in which, for instance, it is ever-present in Mallarmé’s celebration of contingency, the VIRGIN CLUE. This is where arguably the Freudian concept of condensation is helpful. Take note also that the virgin clue, the as if clue is as contingent as any scientific clue (more on this later).

In the process of identifying it (as an effect of displacement), the virgin clue condenses into a trace that we can point at, such as something that is either present or absent, or perhaps a play between the two. The effect of displacement is carried over to the next—what condenses is actually already an effect, removed from the object (the effect of the object effectively assumes the place of the object) as if it lost its positivity. One may liken it to the Heideggerian draft to which we may point as if we are pointing to that which withdraws. That which withdraws is the Human, according to Heidegger. The human in this sense may also be seen (or not seen, a way of seeing obliquely) as a condensed clue of something displaced out of an anterior clue, a hominid, then a non-human, then an immanent line, then a blob, then an altogether unintelligible ‘as if’ for knowledge to pursue retroactively. It is of interest to note that the as if clue is always already taken out of a certain ecology, a swarm which may even refuse to allow a clue to isolate itself; hence, the conjectural nature of any clue. (Science would prefer to call an isolated clue as an effect of fine-tuning. This topic of ‘fine-tuning’ is the subject of another wonderful essay that appeared in Aeon magazine. See here).

To digress a bit more, the Heideggerian withdrawal of the Human is the ‘as if’ character of the transitional nature of Man. Heidegger preferred that this transition would produce Da-sein. As a virgin ‘as if’ clue, the ‘draft’ lends itself to human perception—the field where philosophy, through its speculation, can challenge science (which, according to Heidegger, ‘does not think’). It is well to emphasize here that if science does not think, it can only mean for Heidegger that it does not really think the clue. The most decisive clue for him is rather the transitional or ephemeral character of the ontological difference. 

Enter Meillassoux. I am not going to discuss in detail what he had labored to explain in his book AFTER FINITUDE (for some this rekindling of Meillassoux may raise eyebrows).* Meillassoux argued that the Copernican revolution of Kant (which emboldened the phenomenological tradition that takes perception to be the ‘clue’) simply restates the speculative flavour of the Ptolemaic paradigm, thereby one can question how radical the supposed break this revolution had really initiated. Or, as it might perforce indicate, are we actually witnessing the revenge of Ptolemy? (This ‘revenge’, a disaster in its own right, can be a candidate for a clue to the anthropocene).

This contradiction (arguably, between the epistemic effects of the Copernican and Ptolemaic paradigms, which is rather settled in Kuhn: the effective winner is of course Copernicus) is not without a conflict of media narratives. I am referring to the ‘medium’ as what suffices as a clue for both science and philosophy. For science, it is verifiable. For philosophy, it is subjective in terms of deflationary movement or descent of being into the shadow of something still unknown to it. For lack of a better term, let us assign it the name experience (not in the empirical sense).

But that is the clue—at least for phenomenology (its similarity to the ludic provocation of postmodern and postructuralist thinking is not unrelated at all)—that is to say, the virginal AS IF. We have the landscape of Cezanne as an example of experiencing the landscape itself without mediation of knowledge; or the water lilies of Monet; but also, the subconscious alterations of consciousness in Artaud’s body without organs, the messianic clue of Benjamin, the ephemeral punctum of Barthes, the Deleuzian virtuality, etc. (the sequencing is not necessarily in historical order)—all of which are not verifiable as detached clues, that is, detached from the human who experiences these alterations. Kant would have said otherwise that experience is already transcendental, meaning it is empirically so in terms of the a priori status of intuitions, namely, time and space immanent to consciousness without which experience would not be experience.

And yet within philosophy, this clue is not a single enjoining term. Starting with the Copernican revolution in philosophy exemplified by Kant (an example of science penetrating the analytic curiosity of philosophy), the clue was wasted, if Meillassoux is to be believed. The clue in the end simply revived the spirit of Ptolemaic centering. In short: the universe was decentered but displaced onto the subject as the new center (providing impetus for Kant to locate the center in morals which he believed would settle the problem of free will vis-à-vis determinism). 

The heliocentric model takes the human as a medium, albeit an active, reflexive one. In contrast, the Ptolemaic model takes the medium, the human subject, as an instrument of the divine. More so, in the Copernican, the subject is the medium that consciously interferes in the narrative, yet on many occasions hesitant to proclaim its radical immanence, which perhaps is the meaning of consciousness: always a victim of an apprehensional process which it cannot fully control, thus lending itself entirely serviceable to what Laruelle would describe as decisionality, not without its hallucinatory tendencies.**

To push a bit more, is not the Copernican recentering also a validation of the theological support to Ptolemy’s rather unstated project, that is, to interfere in the narrative of the cosmos, rather inspired by some divine sanctions, except that in the Ptolemaic the interference is supposed to be not as reflexive [the medium is simply an instrument] as the Copernican [where the medium is a sign whose arbitrariness, in the Saussurean sense, points to the metaphysical capacity of the human subject to appropriate language] in terms of conscious invention of a model that works as if it is how reality behaves independently of the model? It may be well to emphasize that Copernicus believed that his model of the cosmos is a necessary fiction. His belief may be restated into a conscious belief, a conscious interference in the manner of a hypothesis but which could only go as far as saving the appearance of a divine order (the model wedded onto a theological inspiration). Suffice it to say that this re-centering is both a displacement and a condensation. Overall, at work here in Freudian terms are the processes of the unconscious behind the ‘media narrative’ or the cosmic model of the Copernican (a linguistic model for all intents and purposes as Morton argued [cited by Westcott in his essay]).

All these narratives (Copernican and Ptolemaic) fulfill certain expectations—the expectation that narratives or models of presentation, the mediate representing of presencing supposed to be immediate in essence, cannot be transparent—each must contain in itself the very kernel of its refigurations (the likeness to Ricoeur’s concept of refiguration is accidentally broached upon here) which build themselves on the supposition that the original cannot do anything more than to hold something back. In the Ptolemaic, what is withheld is the unconscious impulse (a trace) of interference of the medium that it valued for its relationship to the divine. In the Copernican, what is withheld is the impulse of interference of the medium that it valued for its relationship to functions or necessary fictions (what save the appearance). The common ‘unconscious’ of the two is what contemporary scholars would define as the ecology of thinking (the impulse of Guattari, despite his known anti-Oedipal outburst, resonates in this Freudian conception) which predisposed these alterations of the media that each medium (a cognizable object or clue) proposed. (I am more inclined however at this point to recast it in the manner of Benjamin whose appropriation of Freud is well known: a “nonsensuous archive” where the ‘nonsensuous’ is understood not in its metaphysical or idealist sense, but rather in the simple sense of ‘distorted simile’, say, between two things that mimic each other creating a distortion, indicating a crisis on the way). Take note: there is no way each medium could have taken a thoroughly objective standpoint, or an external position from which it can see the entire ecology. It can only assume it has the actual optics necessary to see things in this magnitude.

The human capacity to interfere is already history. What we would like to underscore, apropos the anthropocene debate, is to what degree this interference has reached the threshold where the human is now actively interfering in the semiotic function of evidence distinct to geological science. But there are two clues to the human; or rather, human-clues: the human as the phenomenological clue, the as if clue, and the human as a reflexive clue. (We underscored previously that these two clues are both contingent, not to mention predisposed to the kind of alterations they propose, without saying that this predisposition is deterministic). Arguably, in light of the debate over the exact status of the anthropocene, the question becomes which clue can qualify as a valid sign for our age, or which is more likely to be taken as interfering in the most intense manner possible with the scientific process of verification. But this will have certain implications.

If it is the phenomenological as if that qualifies as a clue, we may assume it is already taken away from the human by science in the sense that it is now in its possession. Science explains away another clue in order to pinpoint this clue–the phenomenological human–as the perpetrator of the anthropocene. In a word: the integrity of subjective experience, which used to be the defining moment of will to power, has then ceased to be an index of the human at the same time that this loss is wrecking havoc in its death throes. (Nietzsche otherwise defined this as nihilism resulting from scientific or theoretic rationality). The question that comes next is–can the reflexive enterprise of science which exposes this hallucination of free will give in to what is then reduced to, at least until it is decided to be scientific, a quasi-phenomenological as if clue (the anthropocene possesses this characteristic)? In this sense the anthropocene satisfies the ‘clue’ as a crisis on the way (in the Benjaminian sense). 

The thing is there can never be an exact agreement of what the human is. (The cave paintings of Neanderthals can belie, for instance, the humanistic claim that artistic pursuit is unique only to our species). There can only be a performative agreement of what constitutes the human, which does not mean that each clue is as valid as the next one. It is in this context that a functional definition is summoned to universalize what in the first instance is simply an accidental claim, that is, accidental to being. And yet this accidentality is not a thing to be ignored for in the end it has sedimented into history that affects all of us. Science is one such and rather successful sedimentation. 

Westcott adds:

“Everything is known or knowable in the anthropocene, except the impulses that got us here and where to go next as a species.” 

The real debate is that there is an increasingly aggressive impulse (a claim by the proponents of the anthropocene to replace the Holocene). This impulse aggressively states that the ecology of things is resulting in a crisis of functionality—the human. If we missed the argument so far: are we still the same human today? The idea is that the ecology of things is drastically changing that it is only logical to assume that the human is also altering itself. Whether it is correct to say that this human alteration through the degree of its interference in the medium (in the sense we have discussed so far) is superseding the traditional function of nature (another example of a media narrative) will determine the outcome of the anthropocene debate. 

It pays to note here that the Holocene Man was a ‘maker’ (homo faber) like us. The degree of difference is however obvious–we have the kind of technology that interferes in the media narrative in an invasive manner never been seen in the history of humankind in contrast to the simplicity of Holocene there-ness, dominated by the ecology rather than, as the anthropocene proponents suggest, overpowering it (which of course will have collateral damage–the human species as the collateral itself). One may be surprised to find out that this Holocene there-ness may be the exact condition of being sufficient to Heidegger’s (rather conservative) Dasein. On hindsight, Heidegger proposed a transition from human to Dasein. Is he already suggesting that we have understood the point wrongly because the only real way forward is backward? And if science is suggesting a way forward, does it amplify Heidegger’s charge that science does not think? (This may be up to another post).

To conclude, albeit, tentatively, we can agree with Westcott’s argument that what matters is the impulse, if only the emphasis on ‘impulse’ can describe the anthropocenic. The anthropocene is the return arrival in the land of clues, and this ‘land’ is shaking, literally. One returns to the virginal clue before everything else becomes clueless. But one returns to the clue with several other clues (a democracy of clues, perhaps, this time parodying a Latourian proposition that may perhaps be already dated) allowing themselves (phenomenological and reflexive scientific clues) to be organized under a tentative clue—AS IF.

And yet, this clue has to be presupposed this time, and with Barthes here in mind, as having no longer history, or biography, gender or psychology (thus, the as if ceases to be exclusively phenomenological), if not on the way to becoming these absentee terms. The latter aspect points to the uncanny similarities between Barthes’ and Deleuze’s positions, perhaps, a distorted one, which, as any distorted simile, indicates a crisis on the way. But also perhaps more relevant, and to caricature Deleuze: save the clue, nothing is more important. (This can be treated as such–as saving the clue–in the background of condensation where any clue can stand for several associations in which no single association is privileged. But already this is a crisis: Deleuze is averse to Freudianism). Deleuze actually said—save the contour. But the contour can always be negated by underground pressures. The earth is shaking which releases rather a Schellingian clue, the abysmal.

* Part of my decision to rekindle this interest in Meillassoux is my excitement over his new book ‘Science Fiction and Extro-science Fiction’ which I hope I can have time to review in this blog.
** Laruelle’s books ‘Introduction to Non-Marxism’ and ‘General Theory of Victims’ that I have ordered online have yet to arrive, so, besides the Meillassoux book I mentioned, these will certainly demand of me to return to their earlier works, perhaps, for some clues [the perennial uses of clues!]

Until all of summer… (Remembering Rilke)

Each of us has a cave to hide in, otherwise a cave we hide from others. I once had my own; it refused to go until recently.
bohol caveRilke reminds me of its insistent character, a simile that echoes an incantation—the likeness of ‘words’ to ‘summer days’, each scarcely containing itself, like a ‘rose-interior,’ like a cave that “[overflows] and [streams] into the days … until all of summer becomes a room, a room within a dream.”[1]
I was sinking in the shallow waters of the marine sanctuary; my feet were touching the tip of my memory; the mangroves were quietly kneeling at their roots, as the silent tide, dearest to a night like this, was starting to mingle around them.
The moon is muted on the far side; on the hither side, a low tide is brainwashing the coral reefs, steady and persevering, in exchange for a night without sin, long enough before the light reclaims its place, before all the little memories bear the cost of a slow, gentle death.

[1] Rainier Maria Rilke, “Rose-Interior,” in New Poems (1908): The Other Part. A Bilingual Edition, trans.  Edward Snow (New York: North Point Press, 1987), 169.

From Urban Future (2.1)

See Steven Shaviro, my post on acceleration, and #ACCELERATE READER

at    http://www.ufblog.net/quick-links-30/

Thanks to Nick Land!

‘No more I Love You’s’: The ‘Sovereign Good’ Effect of Writing

Where to begin with: always a set of parameters.

One must lose a language to be able to write.

In his short “Lesson in Writing” (A Barthes Reader), Barthes employs two correlations crucial to understanding the text, namely,

1) the correlation between Bunraku and Brecht, all instantiated by the effect of distancing:

….on the one hand, Bunraku plays up the tension between gesture and voice: the distance is maintained to allow for what is untranslatable in discursive language;

….on the other hand, Brecht’s alienation effect, the ‘Verfremdungseffekt’: unlike the popular drama, the overall performance does not create the effect of holding the audience in trance (in Derrida, what qualifies as de-effectuation of illusion through the effect of writing [more on this later]) at the same time that it also creates, in a somewhat similar gesture by Artaud, the conditions of producing the effect of something more elemental than conscious language (the subconscious for Artaud but in Brecht would amount to making the audience emotionally involved in the performance [emotions are opposite complements of  finished or consummated concepts]), that is, in the act of ‘Gest’ (a technique of Verfremdungseffekt), or ‘gesture with attitude’; and,

2) the correlation between speech and writing which, at least, in the Barthes’ text, is employed to bring out the conditions of possibility of an unusual mutation—as he expresses more clearly in another text (The Empire of Signs): a “revolution in the propriety of symbolic systems” (3).

In all these correlations, what is consistently held problematic is the notion of totality, and although Barthes (and Brecht as well) proceeds to attack it in terms of its constitutive effect on the formulation of the spectacle in the language of dramaturgy, the illusory goal of drama to achieve closure in terms of the synthesis of all elements involved in the performance, from the characters, setting, to lighting, etc., creating the overall impression of a unified plot or emplotment (in Aristotle’s ‘Poetics’, the poetic function), its broader social and political significance is salient in his criticism of emplotment (along Brechtian lines).  The poetic function of Aristotle is realizable not only in theatre but also, with the greatest effect, in the modern consummate state of social organization and compossibility.

To set our parameters in motion, permit me at this point to bring Derrida’s critique of phonologism (logocentrism by extension) to our discussion.

What in many ways complements Barthes’ critique of a certain notion of greediness (about which we will discuss later), Derrida’s critique of phonologism exposes how, in a seemingly democratic gesture on the part of the signifier-voice, the phonic signifier creates an illusion of truth (Of Grammatology, 20). The signifier achieves this end by effacing itself in order to make itself transparent; in the process it affords the listener immediate access to the signified. The perennial model is the Socratic effect, the effect of parrhesia, truth-speaking, in a word: the Socrates who did not write.

Crucial here is the effect of self-effacement of the phonic signifier. It effaces itself as signifier, as sound which in turn creates a mental image or concept. Seemingly, a concept is a mute speech (recall a similar argument in Plato about orphan words), devoid of sound. Truth becomes speechless, blind to sound, if that can be said at all.

This blindness is a crucial indicator of truth—it is transparent as nonsensuous. Transparency supposes the absence of an outsider, an onlooker, hence, its absence as the absolute limit of perception. If the phonic signifier has emptied itself of everything it possessed, it follows from this assumption that a feedback loop is unnecessary (the signifier has become a non-reference—irretrievable as sound vanishes into air). All we have is blindness, which, among others, does not discriminate, otherwise an essential function of writing in terms of ‘spacing’ that discriminates by producing an infraction in the non-space of the phonic, differance.

In phonic signification, the absence of space also creates the illusion that there are no gaps between speeches, words or objects (not a criticism of Benjamin; Derrida shares a lot with this predecessor of his, but this is another matter), or between concepts, creating the ultimate illusion of unmediated presence.  In this context, Derrida critiques Saussurean linguistics in which the arbitrariness of the relation between signifier and signified is only possible in a situation where one blindly sees truth (seeing truth is sheer blindness) but truth in relation to what is no longer accessible (the self-effaced signifier); doubtless, metaphysical by all means: truth is inaccessible. More than anything, it appeals to a theological truth, the godding of truth, the proposition of revelation viewed from the standpoint of dogma and officialdom, vis-à-vis the act of interpretation, criticism, or, better, in Barthesian language, a ‘lover’s discourse’.

Here discourse acquires a different connotation from that of the Greek conception of logos as unmediated, unified presence.

 “To expend without end in sight, without a crisis; to practice a relation without orgasm” (A Lover’s Discourse, 73).

In other words, I will take one more detour. Barthes is doubtless the inspiration.

He takes discourse to mean ‘dis-cursus’ or—

“[Originally] the action of running here and there, comings and goings, measures taken, ‘plots and plan’: the lover, in fact, cannot keep his mind from racing, taking new measures and plotting against himself. His discourse exists only in the outburst of language, which occur at the whim of trivial, of aleatory circumstances” (A Lover’s Discourse, 3).

Discourse from the lover’s position and writing are analogous. In this analogous relation, there is no self-effacement like the phonic signifier pouring out into another to the point of exhaustion, the kind of orgasm typical of the Western injunction to exhaust oneself to achieve the unity of categories (there, one can see truth in its finished form, yet as blind seeing, one sees pornography instead). But there is a kind of orgasm much preferred by lovers in the sense of dis-cursus, that is, without the penetration typical of the aggression of sex that pornography represents:

“Language is a skin: I rub my language against the other. It is as if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of my words…. (language experiences orgasm upon touching itself)” (Ibid., 73).

In a chapter on “Dedication,” notice how Barthes positions each (discourse and writing) in a relation steeped in creative tension, roughly, what ‘language’ is, much like a situation in which lovers demand to each other the unforgivable, to be the lover and the beloved at the same time, which effectively dissolves each individual position as a lover, on the side of the lover, and as a beloved, on the side of the beloved: the redundancy is already pathetic at this point, but that is the point:

“We often notice that a writing subject does not have his writing ‘in his own image’: if you love me ‘for myself’ you do not love me for my writing (and I suffer from it). Doubtless, loving simultaneously two signifiers in the same body is too much! It doesn’t happen every day—and if it should happen, by some exception, that is Coincidence, the Sovereign Good)” (Ibid., 79).

The coincidence, this sovereign Good is language itself. But it gets even better.

Good is neither a positive term nor a negative term, rather a nominal image-figure.  In short: it is always against itself.

Barthes would tell us, on the one hand, that the lover can be “greedy for coincidence … from which all accounts are banished” (Ibid., 187)

Even supposing, on the other hand, one has to be greedy. It is necessary to ask the lover “Why do you only love me a little?”  “How do you manage to love a little?” Here the lover “[lives] under the regime of too much and not enough,” or the effect of the regime of blindness, seeing nothing to discriminate the little from enough; in other words, blindness is not blind enough. Yet it is necessary to be greedy in this sense in order to become, that is, in no time, tired of coincidences, of loving two signifiers, of body and writing, the unforgivable wish to occupy the site of language itself, in order, at last, to love the love for coincidence, which means to ask the question without crisis, perhaps, the only true question:

“Why don’t you tell me that you love me?” (Ibid.)

In Derridean fashion, this paradox without a crisis, without the illusion of being the lover and the beloved at the same time, that is, from the once elusive standpoint of greediness for coincidence, is analogous to the function of writing, which—

“Does not easily lend itself to this illusion or this lure: it wears its artificial status on its face … [It] does not give the impression of transparency…” (Sean Gaston, Reading Derrida’s Of Grammatology,” 114).

This is what the lover mourns; the loss of illusion as it undergoes an unusual, in fact, unwelcome transversal, a new image-figure; one that is not greedy enough. Isn’t a lover naturally greedy by the nature of her desire? And yet: “Isn’t the most sensitive point of this mourning,” Barthes argues, “the fact that I must lose a language—the amorous language?”

In a word, the effect of writing: “No more ‘I love you’s’” (A Lover’s Discourse, 107).

“Writing is after all, in its way, a satori (spiritual illumination): satori (the Zen occurrence) is a more or less powerful (though in no way formal) seism which causes knowledge, or the subject, to vacillate: it creates an emptiness of language. And it is also an emptiness of language which constitutes writing…” (Barthes, Empire of Signs, 4; underscoring mine)

But if one must lose a language to be able to write, it is pertinent to ask, what is a language? Barthes makes his own suggestions: a language is both a site and a regime (A Lover’s Discourse, 187). As a site, it is where “quantities are no longer perceived” and “from which all accounts are banished” (Ibid.) Accounts, quantities are of the familiar kind: measurable units, objectifiable values, signifieds into which signifiers empty themselves. Hence, a language, or any effect of writing is not also a signifier as it has become, in self-emptying, the exhausted. Devoid of desire/dis-cursus, unable to race against itself, it is the effect, the common effect, of stupid consummation, literal, non-pictorial (because the attempt is to penetrate the thing-in-itself): speculative orgasm. As a regime, it is caught in the pathetic pendulum of “too much and not enough,” desire entrapped in the illusion of becoming ‘it’, the enviable orgasm, a steady vitality—to become ‘it’ once and for all, to become the loss itself, to become the site in which loss occurs as an event, to see oneself in this self-emptying whose model is Narcissus; in Freudian idiom, the primal fantasy.

In all these variants of language, a language is the effect of making a loss; in Brechtian language—making strange, distance, alienation, Verfremdungseffekt.

A note of caution: language is not immediately perceived as either a site or a regime. One has to be a lover.

One perceives it as loss only as an outcome of writing. Writing is thus a Verfremdungseffekt, if that can be said of all writing, which attempts to make that loss through distancing; racing [dis-cursus] against the very loss as one loses a language to be able to write this loss under erasure (in Derridean fashion), making oneself estranged from the object of primal fantasy as one becomes it in as alienated manner as possible; in a similar Artaudian fashion, to become a body without organs.

Yet, in a manner more akin to the Brechtian formula, the Bunraku (here, the correlation is in effect) effectuates this alienation in a more perverse manner. There is a perverse relation to fantasy; more Freudian than Freud, that is, to exhibit this loss, self-emptiness—to exhibit language without crisis which makes us not want pornography (it isn’t pornographic enough). Insofar as Bunraku lets the audience see how the act of making strange, distance, and alienation cutting through the surface of writing (which is losing a language; performance is losing a language in a more direct sense), the Japanese art is perverse enough, but not pornographic. Insofar as it is gestural, Bunraku is, in Barthesian language, a skin; there is no appeal to depth and profundity, all the more, nothing to be ashamed of (it is in this sense that pornography, despite itself, still hides something in the same language in which it appeals to the dark, fatty, and if you will, unctuous deep). In a brief note, Barthes says something of Bunraku’s perversity as opposed to Western art (which is the model of pornography in terms of its appeal to depth and profundity), this time exposing how Oriental art, for instance, as instantiated in Bunraku’s characters, mostly transvestite,

“Does not copy the Woman but signifies her; not bogged down with the model but is detached from its signified. Femininity is presented to read, not to see; translation, not transgression…” (Empire of Signs, 53)

Translation is key to Bunraku, but it is a kind of translation from skin to skin, toe to toe, body to body, without appeal to internal organs (Artaud’s body without organs, or organs as invested truth values). As opposed to the transgressive, ejaculatory self-emptying act of phonologism, Bunraku translates losses, signifiers without signifieds to pour into. Bunraku writes loss under erasure, the signifier without crisis—loving two signifiers simultaneously (man and woman in transvestite) is unproblematic—the Sovereign Good.

Translation in the sense of writing the signifiers without crisis amounts in Bunraku to giving the phonic signifier its voice in gesture, enough to pre-empt it from becoming a finished concept, an orgasm. In opposition to that, Barthes celebrates, as instantiated in Bunraku, a kind of coitus reservatus (A Lover’s Discourse, 73).


“[What] the voice ultimately externalizes is not what it carries … but itself, its own prostitution; the signifier cunningly does nothing but turn itself inside out, like a glove” (Empire of Signs., 49).

One can go on, and on.

But like the lover in Barthes:

“I have no language left at all” (A Lover’s Discourse, 89).

‘On Interrupting Speech’

If speech is not about exposing its mortality, no speech is possible. Mortality is the key to a freer distribution and circulation of speeches. ‘Mortality’ is the condition of possibility of speech, in a word: the ‘immanence’ of language. In its entire sense, language is resistant to closure or its culmination in transcendent language where language falls like the proverbial Tower of Babel. The Tower of Babel is the figure of language falling into a state of paralysis, a failure to communicate as it aims to close the gap between speeches.

The Tower fell because speeches are resistant to totalization and technical mastery. In this light, language must remain unfinished, that speeches must be interrupted to avert the ultimate destruction. Interruption is essential to avoid an otherwise preventable disaster.

Where interruption is essential to the liveliness of speeches or their resistance to closure, ‘translation’ meanwhile secures this interruptive dynamics in terms of, as Benjamin writes, “[refraining] from wanting to communicate something.” Insofar as it is also resistant to closure as a continuing work of speech, translation “has already relieved the translator and his translation of the effort of assembling and expressing what is to be conveyed” (Walter Benjamin, “The Task of the Translator,” in Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, trans. Harry Zohn [New York: Schocken Books, 2007], 78). We may find this counter-factual claim of translation similar to the form of Adamic naming that Benjamin explores in “On Language as Such and on the Language of Man.” In Adamic language, it is assumed that language immediately communicates a ‘spiritual’ content without discursive mediation.

Benjamin allowed himself to explore this non-discursive dimension of Adamic naming on the presupposition that there is no ontological coincidence between essence and content, or between concept and essence. The ‘reflexive’ dimension of communicating an inherent meaning behind any object is here rejected in favor of communicative participation within already ‘situated’ entities or speech givens that can be directly apprehended, a kind of communicative ‘affordance’ that precedes the speaker, actor or translator, writer, poet, etc. In this sense, Adam is not alone; besides Eve, there was the environment, the ‘material community’ that Benjamin also described to be “capable of communicating to one another” as a community, in a word: “the magic of matter” (Walter Benjamin, “On Language as Such and on the Language of Man,” in Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings, trans. Edmund Jephcott [New York: Schoken Books, 1986], 321).

We mean the reflexive dimension as the familiar Cartesian subject that arrogates the sovereign terms of translation, culminating in what we previously called the closure of gaps between speeches. But then, translation presupposes of a community of speakers who themselves resist closure on behalf of speech or language. It is in this sense that translation is also a way to interrupt speeches insofar as it sustains the integrity of language as unfinished, refractory to reflexive claims, yet accommodating to spiritual, but also material, communities.

“The Wrong People” in the transposition of aesthetics and politics

The site of this transposition, Ranciere states, is the “dividing line that has been the object of [his] constant study” (The Philosopher and His Poor, 225) between a particular distribution of the sensible and the dissensus it calls for out of which a unique subject of politics emerges. Ranciere defines ‘politics’ as “an activity of reconfiguration of that which is given to the sensible” (Dissenting Words: A Conversation with Jacques Ranciere, 115). Only a subject of politics can reconfigure a particular distribution of the sensible, cognizant of the dividing line, which subverts a given perceptual criterion for the right kind of understanding the sensible. The sensible is the only access to reality and an immanent one, characterized by our distinct relation to words (and images as well) that make up the sensory field of experience.That which is given to the sensible is an outcome of a particular configuration of sensory reality which regulates social behaviour through the disciplining power of words (and images). In this sense words and images are immediately political. But the immediate political nature of words and images does not rule out the significance of nuances where the dividing line comes to light.

Nuances are political potentialities in the sense that they bring to light the truth about the sensory field, namely, as Plato once said, ‘words’ require a father to express them because they do not speak (Phaedrus, 275d5-e5). In line with his concept or notion of mute speech (parole muette), Ranciere argues that there is no structural or ontological relation between words and the uses we make of them, let alone, the relation between words and what we actually perceive (images). And yet words and images are the fabric of the social order in the sense that they bring contents to perception, or give form to experience. This is not to ignore the fact that, again, words do not speak; they are indifferent to the form and content we give and divest of them. In the final analysis, words (and images as well) put to question the immediacy or taken for granted nature of the political.

Incidentally, Ranciere’s examination of the historical progress of literature gives this concept or notion of mute speech its distinctive relation to the role of literariness in the transformation of reality. By revisiting Aristotle’s concept of Man as animal rationale, Ranciere explores the nuanced definition of Man by bringing to light the exact status of this animal as a reasoning agent, namely, its literariness, an animal “caught in the circuit of literariness that undoes the relationships between the order of words and the order of bodies that determine the place of each” (Dis-agreement: Politics and Philosophy, 27). In the field of the political, Ranciere would transpose literariness to the notion of democracy or equality, in a sense: equality is literariness. Here, literariness shares a liminal function with mute speech. Both are indifferent to a given relationship between words and bodies, or in the realm of the political, between speech acts and the material life of the community. The mark of literariness is its potentiality as a specific agent of politics to reconfigure this given relationship, a sign of its indifference to it. The agent of literature therefore has the power to reconstitute the political by examining the structural features of language—words and images—to empower individuals to transcend their given place in the social order. Individuals can transcend their place in society by imitating (my interpretation in light of my bias for Walter Benjamin) the function of parole muette, its mimetic faculty, stimulated and awakened by literariness, to become similar to the indifference of words and images.

As literature develops, the stimulation and awakening of this faculty also varies from one historical period (of understanding the sensory field) to another. Ranciere would come up with an ingenious formula—the three regimes of arts or aesthetics, in short, the three historical frames of reference for understanding the significance of literariness to the transformation of reality through the sensory field. We have to underscore here that in each supposed period of literariness, the role of mute speech also varies according to how it functions in each. In the ethical regime, mute speech breaks the division between truth and representation, reality and simulacrum, etc., by exposing the arbitrariness of the dividing line that subsists between them. But it was Plato himself who would give us the clue—truth is justified true belief (this point is not underscored by Ranciere, so I am here inserting my interpretation). Mute speech teased the unconscious out of Plato—truth is a lie, yet a noble one. But even with this admission, Plato’s words would create a new image of literariness, at the expense of ignoring Plato’s words—let us not forget that words are indifferent even to their host.

In Aristotle’s intervention the ethical regime would reconstitute the kind of mute speech that exposed Plato’s lie into one that should reveal what its true aim is—as Ranciere explained earlier, to “[undo] the relationship between the order of words and the order of bodies” (Dis-agreement, 37) in service of the new definition of Man, a rational animal whose essence lies in the “circuit of literariness,” in the interpretation of the sensible based on the undoing of Platonic literariness, the undoing of its noble lie, in favor of the ethical demand of the polis, which is practical rather than metaphysical (although this would constitute a new configuration of mute speech against Aristotle as he would assign the metaphysical to the supervision of experts, unlike Plato who suggested a number of times that metaphysics is reachable in the dream world, practically accessible to everyone). Hence, no longer the whatness of literariness as ‘justified true belief’ (in Plato), what qualifies into the ethical regime because justification requires propriety in training in dialectics, among others; rather its howness, its technique, its method, its syntax as a model for reconfiguring the social in terms of setting up new ways of speaking, doing and being. Over the old Platonic class determination, social class determines one’s place in the order of the sensible, Aristotle would prefer mastery of the syntactical or organizing power of language (he called it the ‘poetic function’) extended to the social field. (Aristotle is therefore a specific subject of politics who broke the Platonic partition of the sensible that has for a time become the dominant ‘sense’ of the political). This part of Aristotle’s intervention would represent the transition to the representative regime of arts in which the poetic function, characterized by logical reduction of time and space to give the overall effect of unity, would become the new configuration of the sensory in terms of cause-effect relations, prefiguring at the same time the rise of modern instrumental reason.

The transition to the aesthetic regime would be the complement of the emergent rise of a new parole muette. In a way the aesthetic regime would mimic the exact function of words. If words are not equal to the uses that a partition of the sensible gives and divests of them, they can become potential sites of democracy. Words are not exhausted by their intended meanings. Here, the aesthetic regime satisfies literariness in undoing established patterns of communication, referential sign-system, or “agreed system of signs” (Benjamin’s description in “On the Mimetic Faculty”), which, by their constituting and regulating power, can at the same time distribute social roles and subject positions. In the aesthetic regime, literariness can redistribute social roles and positionalities into unexpected modes of speaking, being and doing, in short, in a new partition of the sensible, albeit, this time with no telos to pursue. Literariness has no end to achieve, which compliments the indifference of words to origin, agency, purpose and direction.

What we have here is the autonomy of words which can destabilize the hierarchy of genres or aesthetic style and merit. In short: a literary suicide, the new way to imitate the radicality of mute speech, loyal to no word. As Ranciere would argue in the case of Bovary’s literary suicide, Flaubert had to kill his protagonist for confusing her everyday style with the autonomy of reality fashioned in the autonomy of words that stylizes the sensible (in the aesthetic regime, that is); her style as her way of speaking, being and doing, which amounts no less to the becoming similar of art to everyday life (or the equality the mass function of kitsch asserts of the everyday that has the right to become art), in Benjamin: the technical reproduction of art in modern times. So far this is the positive side of Ranciere’s description of the aesthetic regime–one has the license to separate the bad eggs from the good ones. In this sense the parole muette of the aesthetic regime emancipates the words from Emma Bovary whose style with words—her ‘ways’ of speaking, doing and being; in short, words are not just words—also suppresses their desire for silence by bringing their autonomous function to life, thus, bringing them to life in the style of “self-suppression of literature” (“The Politics of Literature,” 22), the equivalent of the everyday becoming art. In this context, Bovary mistakes her everyday for each word of the day.

Unfortunately, there are no right people, no right subjects of politics, people from whom, arguably, it will not make sense to emancipate words and images. There are only wrong people. Ranciere describes the wrong people as “the mode of subjectification in which the assertion of equality takes its political shape” (Dis-agreement, 39). Even supposing, Ranciere would have to mean equality as the right kind of equality, not the equality professed by Emma Bovary who must be killed so that words could be emancipated from her way of speaking, doing and being. Here, Ranciere unlocks the metaphysical secret of words. And the secret is it is better to be indifferent like words, or champion their ‘indifferent’ cause, such as to kill the Bovarys of the world (the right conviction, presumably) than be killed (no less by words). But nothing can prevent ‘Bovary’ to cry foul and here a new image of equality may “take its political shape.” There are no right as opposed to wrong people. Ranciere qualifies: “The concept of wrong is thus not linked to any theatre of victimization” (Ibid.). In the political, the cause of Bovary in this configuration is no different from the position of hard-line advocates and ideologues of the Right. “We, people of the Right, are also the wrong ones.” By becoming its first victims, the Right has become the champion of democracy .

Words, at best, in the aesthetic regime, have the final say: keep quiet. And finally I can conclude. From here, they take over like the police, with words on offer: “You have the right to remain silent.”

Too close


Whether people came to Art Fair Philippines (Ayala, Makati) to experience aesthetics cannot be judged by the sheer success of what is dubbed “The Best in Philippine Contemporary Art.” My ticket to the exhibit tells me I should be in for an experience of one of a kind that I would regret if I didn’t show up.

My most recent visit to contemporary art scene (before this one) was last year (at Manila Art Exhibit, SM Aura, Taguig City). From that one to Art Fair Philippines, it was the same experience of the politics of art collection. Both were held in malls which have fast transformed into critical sites of modern art collection. Inside the Mall, art throbs or is made to throb like a respiratory center of culture in which art moves, circulates, and distributes the sensible. The exhibit is a form of collecting cultures, and here the mall is also the site of culture where circuits of capital culminate. But it is also in this sense that the Mall renders obscure the many capillary street topologies of the ‘grey’ urban world which throb on their own but which must be necessarily overshadowed by the contemporary colours, line perspectives, etc. by a kind of directing art precepts, within a location boasting of more than thirty galleries, which the mall serves as its functionality as against the traffic of bodies in the metropolis outside.

I mentioned about the politics of art collection to which I should add a kind of aesthetics that this politics communicates using the sublime aura of art. If art scholars still continue to debate about the “communicability of the sublime,” which relies much on the ambiguity of the art-object not to mention varying degrees of taste that foregrounds aesthetic judgment, here is an example of how the sublime arguably communicates without the mediation of theory. I do not mean to defend the notion of unmediated sublime but something else entirely, without saying that I do not agree that there is a ‘sublime.’

Not all who flock to an art exhibit  have theories to color their appreciation of art objects or materials with, and I mean ‘color’ as a sign of learned appreciation. But that does not mean they cannot pretend to have and this pretension does have its purpose. As we will explain later, we may expect this color-sign to dismiss that art speaks for itself, a mute speech, a “thought that does not think” (J. Ranciere) but communicates in a way Benjamin would ascribe to ‘Adamic naming.’ (I am dropping these familiar names to zero in on our point of contention later). And as usual, one way to rationalize that art does not speak for itself is to confer a sense of ambiguity to art objects themselves.

The fact that they are ambiguous calls for a mediatized form of appreciation through which something is conveyed, supposedly unfamiliar to the object (if the object can be said to be aware) only to throw it back in circulation, and I mean the circulation of standard appreciations of art forms. (This already presupposes that what is conveyed should conform to the standard the simplest form of which is that art cannot speak for itself. Usually unrecognized as conformity, ‘conformity’ may take on many odd detours). I do not mean that objects are aware of some sort but it can be said that they convey pre-reflective or pre-analytic affordances (J. Gibson) to conscious appreciation. Consciousness is a matter of intensity and its emergent placement in the intensive assemblage of things. Objects do not possess consciousness as we do; however, they may have their own internal process of translation (to borrow a concept popularized by G. Harman) which are affordances in their own right, embedded in situated networks of relations which they do not by themselves create. All these, however, simply tell that art is not a mute speech.

One way or another, art speaks to the human in varying levels of communicability, including its mute pretext (if it does not, it is not art!) which may simply pertain to how consciousness is compartmentalized so that its analytic contents may be employed for specific purposes, purposes that are already reflexively situated within a specific constellation of signs.  In relation to the art exhibit, such form of art collection or staging of art-cultures offers a venue for this kind of analytic employment, at least for a specifically sensitive group among the ‘learned’ audience. In this sense we can allow ourselves to say that the exhibit directs the traffic of analytic employments proper to what the art-form conveys.

What about those who do not have formal color-signs and line-graphemes (to play on words referring to color and line perspectives as art terms which carry extra-artistic meanings) to appreciate an art collection? Here is where aesthetics directs its full force and which would unravel aesthetics to be of a different order yet reflexively disguised. Ranciere’s aesthetic unconscious tells us exactly what we mean—that aesthetics corresponds to “particular historical regime of thinking about art and an idea of thought according to which things of art are things of thought” (p. 5 ). What we obtain here is simple: art thinks, though mute or unconscious, pre-reflexive, pre-figurative. But, and this is our contention, insofar as we are already within a constellation of signs pre-arranged on a plane of organization or signification (best described by Deleuze and Guattari as the unconscious tracing of the semiotic machine), the aesthetic unconscious would be another complement of regimentation. In relation to the exhibit, the Mall is one particular site of this semiotic machine allowing those who do not have formal color-signs or line-graphemes to appreciate art as something that does not speak for itself (here, we are playing up the distinction between ‘mass culture’ and ‘popular culture’ where the latter connotes a more active intervention on signs vis-a-vis their enforced, pre-arranged communicability). 

That there is a non-discursive, pre-analytic treatment of art, in the final analysis, occults the view from somewhere—that the non-discursive is immanently inscribed by a reflexive placement of this spiritual or aesthetic or what have you kind of essence. This of course obscures the reality that art is a regime. Or, it tells us in the face but too close to distinguish it from what it says.  The proximity of the Mall tells all.



Benjamin, Walter, “On Language as Such and on The Language of Man,” in Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings, trans. Edmund Jephcott (New York: Schocken Books, 1986).

Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus. Capitalism and Schizophrenia, vol. 1, trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen R. Lane (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983).

Harman, Graham, The Quadruple Object (Winchester, UK and Washington, USA: Zero Books, 2010).

Gibson, James, The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception (New York and London: Psychology Press, 2015).

Ranciere, Jacques, Aesthetic Unconscious (Cambridge UK and Massachusetts, USA: Polity Press, 2009).


Homeless in Aesthetics


Reading Merleau-Ponty ‘Cezanne’s Doubt,’ one gets an impression that doubt is essential to creating a work of art, and not just a work of art in which, incidentally, and we may have to wander a bit, it may be relevant to infuse something known in physics—that any work is an outcome of how a body undergoes a certain form of displacement. The formula here is W= F x d., where W is work, F is force applied, and d. as displacement. We may take ‘art’ of which it is a work as that body displaced from some unlit region of space (or we should mean spatio-temporality, going by the most familiar description) which, in the case of physics, would be the subject of any scientific analysis to pursue whose technicality (for whatever it is worth) we may leave to science for now. For the aesthetic part of the ‘work’ we are tracing here in relation to art whose mere presence is always an evidence of something already displaced to begin with, we may take Merleau-Ponty’s description of this region as that very ‘facticity of the unreflected,”1 or in Husserl, that ‘vague morphological essence’ (described by Deleuze and Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus). 2 Or, just as I wish to inflect my own voice, here in this caesura between physics and art, I may have to describe this space, rather ingenuously, as an outlying area of thought where one can perceive, outside the mediating technique of logic, a certain form of poetic conceit, a kind of ab/presencing (the play of absence and presence) if not of the immediate evidence of ‘without light,’ ‘without illumination,’ without the usual comforts of what we may call a ‘home’.

Such home is a place where philosophy settles itself comfortably—in reflective thought. Thought is understood here to be a well-lit space, like a set piece whose assumed totality is underlined by light, color, or the texture of that invisible feeling of being magnified by the aura of the visible, which is now at risk of becoming invisible in light of our present climate crisis—the visibility of the green (understood to be the dominant light property of Nature) threatened by the overcast of the grey (or the revenge of the inhuman, the climate, by any means, which can reduce the visible to the utter chaos of unbecoming, including the subject’s gaze which anytime can be returned to its inhuman origin, to its one true grey ecology). In the case of Cezanne’s technique or non-technique set against the standard of linear perspective, it comes with the task “to modify all the other colors in the picture so that they take away from the green background its characteristics of a real color.”3

Here, it is important to note the functionality of ‘light’. Cezanne’s doubt about his own work is an important intervention on the function of light which opens up here for a purpose—one has only to associate doubt with the absence of light or certainty, just as when thought faces its own alterity, or the ‘I’ suddenly called to its own vulnerability when the other fixes her gaze on him, or calls out his name, which makes him feel naked for the first time. It is the intention of the Cartesian to prevent such calling out, such noise to infract the self-sheltering silence of solipsism, such chance encounter with the world that doubt is employed to shelter thought from the elements. Doubt guarantees the Cartesian of the movement that he so aspired, the vitality that he truly lacked by mistaking the complex procedure of doubting with the simplicity of having a body to perform a work or a task. But it is here that the first housing or settlement issue finds its most primordial form—the question where reason has to settle. Notice here that reason is that which is without its true home. It must have doubted its own capability to find a home. Reason is homeless by any definition or simply because it resorts to definition that it lacks a proper home. And yet doubt will have to undergo its own displacement from the method of the Cartesian if reason must find a home—one has to give doubt its moment to shine, its own work, its own light without the usual application of force known to it. Just like intelligence which must have a body for it to function, or a continent the cooperation of a cluster of islands, an archipelago, reason will need a force behind it. Throughout known history, we know what obviously comes next—reason will deny the power that had borne it.

From that time on since reason found its home in the comfort of a definition, Man as animal rationale, to what Husserl called the ‘crisis of European sciences,’ reason has to deny its own creative power. It has to deny that very power that could unsettle its home, drag it back to where it used to belong—to the hinterland of thought, to the inhuman dimension, to that dimension of pre-personal, pre-reflective, prescientific ghetto but alive with what Merleau-Ponty would mean by “animistic communions,”4 or Cezanne by his curious displacement of movement onto “frozen objects [hesitating] as at the beginning of the world,”5 even more, where the difficulties of creation are always that of the aliveness of groping for the first word, for language humming, homing, honouring the unsayable, or this nameless art of reason. Reason hates the nameless for it is in it that creation dwells “undivided in several minds,”6 as Merleau-Ponty would care to add, “with a claim on every possible mind like a perennial acquisition,”7 like a work of art, like a true democracy. Art is democracy where art is not “becoming a pure consciousness,”8 but rather the real act of transforming the probable (by which modern homes are transformed into utilitarian designs, courtesy of the rational scientific age) to the less probable in which democracy functions best—a free housing settlement. Free settlement is the less probable that has been assigned to the functionality of a utopia.


Cezanne might have doubted this extension of art to the liberation of squatters, gypsies, informal settlers from around the world, even of the homeless in reason, deprived of education, of enhanced perspective, let alone, nutrition.  But it is enough that we can learn from his invocation of the less probable, of the impossibility of a “landscape [thinking] itself in [us].” Merleau-Ponty describes ‘depth’ to mean “the most existential dimension,”9 devoid of the illusion of a “linear third dimension,”10 which is exactly what we mean when we extend Cezanne to the schizophrenia of art in the outskirts of the infirmary of reason.


Image: The Large Bathers. Paul Cezanne

from http://www.cgfaonlineartmuseum.com/cezanne/p-cezanne19.htm



1 See Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, trans. Donald A. Landes (London and New York: Routledge, 2012), 62.

2 See Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press 1987), 367.

3 See Maurice Merleau-Ponty, “Cezanne’s Doubt,” in The Merleau-Ponty Aesthetics Reader: Philosophy and Painting, ed. Galen A. Johnson, trans. Michael B. Smith. Northwestern University Studies in Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy (Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1993), 64.

4 Ibid., 66.


6 Ibid., 70.

7 Ibid.

8 Ibid., 74.

9 See Galen A. Johnson, “Phenomenology and Painting: ‘Cezanne’s Doubt,” in The Merleau-Ponty Aesthetics Reader, 12.

10 Ibid.



Making Love ‘Infertile’ in the Time of Abundant Fertility

[NB:  I’m scheduled to deliver a plenary talk somewhere in Central Philippines in an event organized by the Philosophical Circle of the Philippines. Below is a brief sketch of what’s on my mind or something close to ‘mind’].

This short talk will pay attention to what I think has been thoroughly neglected today, with the contemporary attention otherwise paid to one of the most dominant functions of conception, namely, its reproductive capacity. For purposes of my talk, I will borrow and expand in the course of my discussion key insights from Plato, specifically Timaeus, one of his most controversial dialogues, and from there expand these insights to their postmodern appropriation in the works of Julia Kristeva. The focus will be on Plato’s concept of chora which Kristeva would revisit in her most influential work Revolution in Poetic Language.

As a foretaste of what is to come of this talk, we can say in advance that the chora is controversial for many reasons. For one, it is resistant to any definition, or logical representation. We can also note here that Aristotle, in his critique of Plato’s fascination for the ambiguous, would reduce the indefinability of the chora to a kind of logical presence (logos apophantikos). It would seem that Plato deliberately left the concept of chora to its ambiguous state in opposition to ‘conception’ which Aristotle identified with logical reasoning. This logical reduction of chora to rational conception is not without its connection to the definition of Man as animal rationale.

Our basic contention here is that the definition of Man as animal rationale is a productive concept as opposed to the unproductive concept of Plato’s chora. The difference between the two concepts plays on many levels. For one, Plato’s chora is opposed to reproduction on the simple basis that it is opposed to production. We may also connect this to Plato’s opposition to mimesis or the production of reproduction of what is already a reproduced copy—the copy as always already reproduced by something close to what we can name as reason.

And yet, the origin of reason can be traced ultimately to what is not in the essence of reason. In Plato’s Timaeus, the origin of the cosmos, for instance, is ultimately traced to storytelling rather than to logical deduction. The world, in other words, is created by fabulation, itself a ‘force’ of [or] behind reason, not strictly reason. And as long as it is in the order of storytelling and its persuasiveness, that which originates the world is also resistant to any finality, or final causation which otherwise is the case in a logical conclusion as may be applied to cosmology (which Aristotle did).

Another controversial aspect of the concept of chora, which Kristeva would expand later in her work, is its incestual nature. In John Sallis’s contribution to the elaboration of this Platonic concept, the chora is described as the outcome of “incest between Man and his ever virginal mother.”  Its relation to incest is not in any way obscene. Freud would tell us that incest is an anthropological fact of our prehistoric past, which nonetheless continues up to our historical present, albeit, in a displaced or condensed manner. Freud is referring here to the two primary workings of the unconscious (displacement and condensation). In other words, the incestual essence of our past continues to influence our present, not because there are cases of incest in our time, rather because it continues to define us unconsciously.  For Kristeva, it influences us within the sphere of existence that may be described as pre-reflective, pre-analytic, pre-propositional, pre-logical, or pre-representational. Kristeva identifies this sphere as the body or the flesh itself as a matrix of uncategorized passions, drives and urges. Incidentally, logic (which qualifies here as the representative of society in the education of the human person) would reduce this erotic dimension to a categorically defined moral or epistemic proposition for socially productive ends.

We may argue here with Kristeva that the persistence of the chora in our body which no logic can totalize amounts to infertility in the sense we may describe of love without reproduction, not in the literal sense of opposing sexual reproduction, let alone, the incapacity to reproduce, but rather in the sense of resisting the reproduction of the social symbolic (an act not restricted to the sexually fertile or infertile) which reproduces the dominant function of conception, namely, the logical fertilization of love. We understand this logical fertilization as the opposite of the imaginative fertilization of love. The imaginative pertains to a kind of fertilization of the body, the care of the flesh, its nourishment, its education outside the bounds of biopolitics, or any form of totalization, be it conservative, reformist, progressive, or revolutionary with the end of making life programmable by representation.

Lastly, we understand the body as every-body which connects Kristeva’s project of the care of the body to the realities of the everyday where everyone is a body. If the body sustains the chora (we can say the body is incurably in love with it) despite the history of the totalization of this ‘bastard concept’ to anything other than a body full of love, we may say in conclusion that we have never been an animal rationale. It suffices to say that we continue to defy the definition in the name of love that remains unnameable.

Working Bibliography

Conford, Francis M. Plato’s Cosmology: The Timaeus of Plato, trans. with running commentary by Francis MacDonald Conford (Indiana/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Co., 1997).

Kristeva, Julia. Revolution in Poetic Language, trans. Margaret Waller (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984).

Sallis, John. Chorology. On Beginnings in Plato’s Timaeus (Bloomington and Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1999).

St. Mary, Nueva Viscaya, Philippines

February 21, 2015

Note on Poetic Metaphor

Unfortunately for professional poets (not just poets in the formal sense of the term), there is a metaphor that remains pre-reflective, pre-analytic, pre-propositional, and that is the metaphor of the everyday. The metaphor that one can readily submit to linguistics is a metaphor of the academic, the researcher, the professional poet whose metaphoric use of the metaphor is the vaporized metaphor of the everyday that has to be reduced first into a vapor for it to become an object of linguistic analysis (which I am not saying should be renamed as a science of vaporizers).

The thickness of the materiality of the metaphor of the everyday will remain the envy of the professional. As honest as a writer like Blanchot would acknowledge that writing itself (presumably, inescapably metaphoric) is just about reporting how a disaster occurs at the moment of writing, or about a certain violence that ‘writing’ does with the everyday.

And to extend Blanchot’s take here quite liberally, writing about metaphor as an object of study mutilates the metaphor of the pre-linguistic (or the pre-scientific vis-à-vis linguistics as science), which makes this analysis responsible for a certain yet unnameable crime. Surprisingly, no single writer or poet (professional I mean) has been jailed for this unspeakable crime against reality, which in fact is the Ur-sprung of all crimes. Surprisingly, we have the Law, which is full of language, intended to punish a crime that traces its roots in language.

This could be the reason why poets are banished in Plato’s Republic.  And all that without saying that Plato understood well the consequences of misinterpreting this gesture–ah, the poets in our midst!


To the extent that we cannot know with absolute certainty why evolution happened and continues to happen (a question that also places us in the equation, much along the mystery of the sex divide), to that extent also, albeit, negatively, we can account for how this question of whyness is important to be problematized.

Yet whyness is not a question that we can answer satisfactorily except in a roundabout process of howness (this makes knowledge therapeutic, as Wittgenstein would say), by a process of approximation in which language is an important functionality. Because language can simply loiter around the how of this important questioning it is always doomed to communicate painfully ever more this ‘why’. With this painful process alone, the why question ceases to be expressible in human terms, which by the way also humanizes us in a different way (there will be more poetry as this communication becomes  ever more painful, I guess) but better if it is going to be oriented, finally, towards a more fundamental awareness.

It is the awareness that we co-exist as objects with other objects in this marbled planetary parliament of things (now at the receiving end of the last assault of establishment humanism against infertility, against the happy community of cyborgs that do not reproduce the unhappy humanism of capital, of the Law of the Father, those who are irreducible to the definition of animal rationale [those who love for love’s sake?]), not as a subject privileged by language.

Why we cannot afford to retreat

I would like to begin here with a quote from one of my favorite aphoristic writers, Emile Cioran, which reads as follows:

A sudden silence in the middle of a conversation suddenly brings us back to essentials: it reveals how dearly we must pay for the invention of speech. 1

Like Franz Kafka who was a stranger to the German language, Cioran was alien to French. Both writers, however, were able to produce masterpieces which arguably ripped apart the languages of their hosts, or so it seems. In truth these languages were only refashioned in the alien cartography of their own style, mapping out those unlit terrains of thought (dianoia) that these languages sealed off for a time from ever reaching the surface, above which hangs what might be the only way into the work of truth. Truth, as Ricoeur puts it, is a certain communicability2 expressed in a manner or style by which something comes alive once again. The German and the French arguably breathed once again in the singular cases of Kafka and Cioran, each “breaking a path in the real.” 3 In Kafka, it was a singular case that summoned a new rule for German writing;4 in the case of Cioran, at least, how a dispossessed Romanian sought refuge in an alien work of truth, in a language that he confessed “is [an antipode] to his nature,” not to mention “[his] true self,”5 but helped it come alive “when [French] was in full decline… [and] the French themselves do not seem to mind.”6

In the idiom of Ricoeur, the singularities of these two great writers of our time attest to the complementarity of question and response,7 altogether thrown in their midst by a crisis.8 In both cases, the element of distance reveals a crisis is on their way, that is, from the very outset as a diasporic encounter. In a strange land they would have to suffer the banality of its speech and into whose syntax they were forced to breathe a new life, a new being; a new soul. But for any nomad, speech is one thing; legwork is another. Nomads are known in prehistory as capable of taking root wherever there is an exit to creation,9 wanderers of uncharted lands, with only the climate to stop them on their tracks, perhaps, a melting glacier, an unexpected tsunami, a volcanic eruption. Sans the threat of climate, nomads were known for assimilating themselves in the speech of their foreign hosts, but also, in due time, transform that speech as their own, thereby a new people is born.

For a nomad, the island is like a poem or narrative that with her power to refigure would metamorphose into something else but not entirely new. It is arguable to consider here the island as a work of art, with nature as architect, demiurge, so to speak. And equally arguable is the thought that a nomad may be the only authentic model of aesthetic experience whose memory has now retreated into the unconscious of modern humanity. But while we are still alive with a new climate tale about to be told in the next few decades, let us hope, with surviving human witnesses, it may still be relevant to look back and rekindle the wonder, the awe that is now becoming extinct in our species. I would like first to quote Ricoeur before I drive home to my point:

Because, in the last analysis, a painter paints to be seen, a musician writes to be heard. Something of her experience, precisely because it has been carried by a work, is going to be able to be communicated. Her naked experience as such was incommunicable; but, as soon as it can be problematized in the form of a singular question which is adequately answered in the form of a response that is singular as well, then it acquires communicability, it becomes universalizable. 10

Who would have ever thought that with his modern sensibility Ricoeur might be referring to a painter who lived and died in a cave, or a nomad whose bones now dwell among the fossils of a bygone age buried deep beneath the soil of France? In one of the greatest discoveries of human culture, a cave in Southern France astonished the world with its primitive gallery of one of the oldest known paintings, about 32,000 years ago, in the history of humankind. (The oldest in record is found in Spain in Cave Altamira which by far revealed more colourful charcoal paintings. Other more recent cave paintings by our human ancestors are found in Argentina).

Another astonishing fact deserves full attention: in the same cave in France, known as the Chauvet Cave, a footprint of an eight-year old child was found; alongside it, a footprint of a wolf.

chauvet cave bison
Resembling a vulva. Chauvet Cave painting depicting a female body and a bison head.

The cave bears testimony to what is by any measure incommunicable to us in the modern age, and with the child arguably one among the mystery painters, adding onto the strange, aesthetic experience, as this case may attest to, is not a singularity unique to a learned adult, but even to the young and prehistoric at that, not to mention here a life that was at the total mercy of nature. Alongside its anthropological purchase, the cave paintings might have also been inspired, albeit negatively, by the torments of survival and any sign of neurosis may be inferred as purely speculative. (Neurosis would have to be invented by the modern to give expression to a phenomenon unknown in medical science—pity Van Gogh that he had to endure this assault of calculation). But the paintings on the cave walls—what do they communicate to us in the here and now?

It is of interest to note that Picasso who was born in Spain (but fled to France where he died to escape the persecution of Franco) had seen Spain’s Cave Altamira’s paintings. After coming out of the cave, he was reported as saying—“After Altamira, all is decadence.” Altamira’s cave paintings formed a line of genealogical continuum with Chauvet’s and those in Argentina (at least the first two belonged to the Upper Paleolithic Period). What interests us here is that Picasso may be referring to the modern experience of aesthetics that would pale in comparison to the singularity of these prehistoric artists. Living in unimaginably harsh conditions, these artists produced works of art that would make Adorno envious, real exemplars of artistic autonomy, its distance from the real without the necessity to indulge in hibernatory aesthetics peculiar to late modernity.11

In the essay by Roger Savage, there is a critical mention of hibernatory refuge linking the negative dialectics of Adorno and Horkheimer to a kind of aesthetic experience whose distance from the real identifies, albeit paradoxically, a likely source of human emancipation.12 This so-called aesthetic distance reveals the autonomous essence of art vis-à-vis the world that is not destined for art, so to speak: “What is true in art is something nonexistent.”13 It goes to say that the world cannot tolerate the non-existent; hence, art stands in ceaseless contradiction with it, with no end in sight. Ricoeur, for his part, recovers something which Adorno buried under the shifting sands of modernity. As Savage puts it, “the retreat from the real … is the condition of a work’s power to refigure the practical field of [experience].”14 This leads me back to the cave painting which is made possible by a retreat from the real, from the rising sea level, from the tyranny of the elements.

The cave painting of a prehistoric people, unlike the negative dialectics of Adorno and Horkheimer, exemplified the world through art in order to make it liveable, instead of refracting the real in a hibernatory refuge in the darkness of an age. It is an inversion of referent, 15 in Ricoeur’s idiom, from the incommunicability of the temporal horizon of the cave painting, or rather, the inexpressible of the lived-experience of the [cave] artist,16 to the communicable singularity of survival, of a new consciousness of earth and ocean; likewise, a new myth of creation.17

icasso minotaur
One of the many sketches of the Minotaur by Picasso, arguably inspired by the bull paintings in Altamira

Make no mistake—the cave is no longer a habitat for us. But the singularity of the cave painting should live among us if only to rekindle the wonder and awe of a prehistoric people who knew ahead of us that distance from the real is not an end in itself. The exemplarity of the cave painting in many ways “makes a claim upon us in demanding a response.”18

To conclude with Savage, the claim if any of the Chauvet cave “lies at the heart of the truth of the work. The claim that a work makes opens us to the world anew.”19

And to this, I should add, in the midst of a real threat to our survival, in the advent of a new cycle of extinction,20 from whose claim upon us we cannot any longer afford to retreat.


1 Emile Cioran, Anathemas and Admirations, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Arcade Publishing, 1991), 19.
2 Paul Ricoeur, Critique and Conviction: Conversations with Francois Azouvi and Marc de Launay, trans. Kathreen Blamey (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998), 179.
3 Ibid., 174.
4 See Gilles Deleuze, Desert Islands and Other Texts (1953-1974), ed.  David Lapoujade, trans. Michael Taomina (New York: Semiotext(e), 254.
5 Cioran, Anathemas and Admirations, 256.
6 Ibid.
7 Ricoeur, “Aesthetic Experience,” in Critique, 179.
8 Paul Ricoeur, Time and Narrative, vol. 3, trans. Kathleen Blamey and David Pellauer (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1988), 162.
9 Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis and London: University of Minneapolis Press, 1987), 508.
10 Ricoeur, “Aesthetic Experience,” in Critique, 179.
11 Roger Savage, “Aesthetic Experience, Mimesis and Testimony,” Ricoeur Studies, Vol. 3 1 (2012): 177.
12 Ibid.
13 Theodor Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, trans. Robert Hullot-Kentor (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997, 131.
14 Savage, “Aesthetic Experience, Mimesis and Testimony,” 176.
15 Ibid., 181.
16 Ricoeur, “Aesthetic Experience,” in Critique, 179.
17 Deleuze, Desert Islands.13.
18 Savage, “Aesthetic Experience, Mimesis and Testimony,”182.
19 Ibid.
20 See Eliizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2014); also, Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin, The Sixth Extinction: Patterns of Life and the Future of Humankind (New York: Anchor Books, 1995).

Mga Damong Ligaw (Wild Weeds): Ecology without Nature

It may be that its inspiration is the wildness it covets; the nonconcept that pre-veils the unveiling of poets—those veiled to a fault; the rubble which sees its own disappearance in modern architecture; the weeds—the entire earth that language must first create.

Mga Damong Ligaw is arguably a testament to this silent war on space, yet attests only to what it can see. It sees only what the brave have dared to step onto. Those whose names we barely remember.

Ecology without nature is a concept that takes nature as dangerous.[2] The danger always goes to the agency that names. Before there were ever names, language “drains away into the impermanent.”[3]

As a testament to the unveiled, Oca Villamiel through his art installation mimics an idiolect unbeknownst to speech such that only with a creolized passage, a passage to speech like art, that a writer may approach what it longs to communicate. Like a writer setting out on an “idiolect … unattested anywhere else in antiquity,”[1] forcing speech to let a thousand memories set in, an artwork must compel a canvas—in the case of Villamiel’s ouvre, a rented space—to accommodate the last few days of God’s creation. But for entities like weeds, what days were there to remember? It is always the case that a creation like a work of art can only get a glimpse of what brings to it a feel for everything it lost. In this sense, every work of art stands in close proximity to extinction.

Mga Damong Ligaw may yet be its perfect witness—how naming reveals the extent to which, by setting out to claim something, desire claims the earth. In the history of names, it is always the earth. Language has always been the enemy of the planet, in itself a world-without-us, before there was ever an earth, “impersonal and anonymous.”[4]10846397_743181135756255_519365327665251057_n

But what is language to the planet? Responding to indifference, desire may still get its revenge with toxicity, rivalling the signature of the ancients with only four to look for in the table of elements: air, water, earth, fire. Toxicity, the rightful fifth and legitimately human, the signature of its proud revenge, wants the entire table condensed into its signature. But ‘what is that to Nature?[5]

What is at issue is actually not a … property of nature but the very nature of nature. The sense in which this discontinuity is an ‘essential’ one is not that nature has a fixed essence, but that nature’s lack of a fixed essence is essential to what it is.[6]

It may be the destiny of art to mimic nature but only what is discontinuous to it, what it should lose in exchange for an idiolect, perhaps, an image as in a painting. A logos for Ereignis, being for Other, a horn for a weed, a carabao for a glimpse of an inner workshop, its lack of fixed grounding on words that it must decide to navigate what lies outside the frontier. It may be the painter’s canvass, or a rented space for a miniature landscape; words draining away into the impermanent.

And yet it faces him, the artist for what he has done. He will want to have an audience if only to deflect this look in the eye, to distribute his sin. In the same manner his audience will look for his unattested ambiguity, where words are redirected to either a canvas or landscape, thereby hangs a second tale—a community of sinners participating in the virility of sin.

Even so, Mga Damong Ligaw is without the marriage of art and human purpose, without the jointure of animal to Man, without the intimacy of being to time for it seeks out what no reservedness can relive, what no being-in-the-world can dwell. It appeals to a world in ruins, if not already beyond repair. This time no more demand to alter Man from animal rationale, the cogitating kind, to the inquiring type[7] as it calls up the birth of the avenger for the uncanny, an artificial intelligence—things growing out of their own without human intervention, if not beyond any purpose that the quiet power of the possible may still convey. This is a true parliament of things.[8]

It allows us to imagine a world without us; the apocalypse, the unattested idiolect of our time.


Image courtesy:
 For recent reviews of Villamiel’s art installation, see:


[1] Allen Dwight Callahan, “The Language of the Apocalypse,” The Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 88, 4 (October 1995), 458.

[2] Timothy Morton, Ecology Without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics (Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England: Harvard University Press, 2007).

[3] Martin Heidegger, On the Grammar and the Etymology of the Word Being,” in Introduction to Metaphysics, trans. Gregory Fried and Richard Polt (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2000), 68.

[4]Eugene Thacker. In the Dust of This Planet (United Kingdom: Zero Books, 2011), 16.

[5] 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), 6.

[6] Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2007), 422, footnote 15.

[7] Martin Heidegger, Contributions to Philosophy. From Enowning, trans. Parvis Emad and Kenneth Maly (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1999), 3.

[8] Bruno Latour, “On Interobjectivity,” Mind, Culture and Activity: An International Journal, Vol. 3, 4 (1996), 228-245.

On Jose Garcia Villa’s Poem No. 7


First, a poem must be magical,

Then musical as a sea-gull.

It must be a brightness moving

And hold secret a bird’s flowering.

It must be a slender bell,

And it must hold fire as well.

It must have the wisdom of bows

And it must kneel like a rose.

It must be able to hear

The luminance of dove and deer.

It must be able to hide

What it seeks, like a bride.

And over all I would like to hover

God, smiling from the poem’s cover.



If to guess is to see, then I can only guess what the poem means.

Let us see.

Here comes a poem starting to remember itself, which, as will be in the end, has to be witnessed by god, or so it seems.

But the end of the poem may also be its beginning, or rather, the poem can navigate these temporal boundaries that no human has ever approached without losing herself in the process. Either frontier can promise pure memory where forgetting never gets a chance–but what is then to remember?

What is that to the void, deep beyond the frontier, from which nothing escapes? It is a dare that no one can make, nor even unmake for then it would take as a fact that the poem must be entirely complete in the beginning. But there would be no poem. There wouldn’t be you and me. 

Precisely for its non-human nature the poem is transversal: it is becoming-end and becoming-origin at the same time—only a poem gets closer to time like this, without dissolving itself in either of the two, without becoming-time, without becoming its slave. Tell me now if it doesn’t sound magical. Only a magic can escape the bounds of time.

Or so, we can wonder from here, should it sound like magic, the poem whose unbecoming-time within time stays afloat in the river of memories where no memory ever gets the chance to sink deep in the riverbed? Or, should it taste like magic? Which one to go with? Ear, tongue, and the proverbial seeing of poetry: “To look in the eye” in which “the Same is the eye and the eye—the matrix of speculation” (from a Non-philosopher). It is going to be a choice between the tongue and the eye, between the lips and the retina; between accommodation and seeing from a distance; between making love which gathers the senses into one bastard copula and a soft allusion to the act of pornography, ah! between ‘you and me shortening the distance’ and ‘you and me separated by an abyss’.

But I have spoken so much already. I have to mention the bride which appeared towards the poem’s end which may promptly suggest a scene from a wedding ceremony; imagine here a bride snatched away from that scene, wherever it might be; or perhaps, not a ceremony at all, this spares us the trouble of going from one place to another, for we can only see an image of a bride. All the resources of the poem were spent entirely for this bride, and what an effort!

But what of the image for which a poem surrenders its secret, its voice, its most prized asset?

The bride’s image stands here for what it is now, a photo, a word processed in speech lab, a word processor, a word for the ‘here and now.’ And to complete an ecology of the image, a still image as in a photo, a foreground must also be seen, along with the figure (the bride) and the background (the magicality that started it all like the instantaneity of the shutter that makes time stand still).

Need we say for now only a god can make time stand still? Only a god can remember? Only a god can make a poem? A non-human seizing a tiny universe from a much larger one; condensing into hallelujah, or whatever sound may seem pertinent to an instance of joyful bliss, approaching saintliness?

And then, god can smile. I see him smile. I, who is not looking.




Angel of History: A New Year’s Message

walter benjamin pic   In his Theses on the Philosophy of History Walter Benjamin made use of Paul Klee’s painting Angelus Novus or ‘Angel of History’ to present a rather uncanny image of hope blocking the tide of progress blowing from Paradise. Who might be this  helpless angel suspended in mid-air, flapping its wings in their full length with all its might, is still a mystery. What is more  surprising is that this angel is facing paradise as its back faces the future. Take note it’s a painting and the angel is facing us. And the future—the wall which we are about to hit as we continue to embrace progress.

angel of history

  As we welcome the New Year perhaps it might be time to reflect where we should be standing opposite  the  angel. I would like to great everyone then a happy new year if only to express hope that we are not about to hit the wall sooner than we can expect. Happy New Year!

The Poverty of Acceleration

We are supposed to be inside a speeding train, the train being capitalism accelerating as ever. If there is supposed to be no outside to capitalism, then we are all by necessity aboard the machine of capital. It is easy to imagine here that labor is placed inside this speeding machine. Labor, as Marx once emphasized, is the actual figure of freedom whose purpose is to free itself from necessity (capital being the actual figure of the latter). And yet, it is also easy to agree that labor has never been successful in reversing the order; it has always been capital determining it.  In a rather odd complement, for the scientific socialist that was Marx, the whole idea of communism in which labor wins the battle against capital would have to remain as such, an idea.  And here, philosophy has always been our constant companion.

Meanwhile, the Accelerationist Manifesto would have us acknowledge that labor and capital have always been complementing one another, provided that we can see through the inner workings of history.  There must be a singular approach here which is quite familiar. If history would be our guide, the approach is to assume the position of capital which has been representing history as far as it can be conceived. One has to have a comprehensive scan of what’s going on, which can only be a view from above. By analogy, one must assume the putative ‘function’ of the brain. Localism would be the equivalent of organs or bodies which have disjunctive relations to intelligence.  Organs or bodies can only produce, but not create. Creation must have a preconception of boundaries. Production is quite different—it knows no limit. It may just be the thing that’s really accelerating without end. By a familiar metaphysical route, acceleration would have us recognize the primacy of creation over production, to regularize production which seems to be the one that is more prone to excess.

What we may not be allowed to suspect is that human acceleration prefers a cognitive approach to emancipation, which brings us back to philosophy, our constant companion with respect to speculating about possibilities for production to overturn creation (perhaps, one reason philosophy is always attracted to atheism), bodies claiming the place of intelligence. But one can always find in philosophy a nagging asymmetry between thinking and bodies, conception and production, etc, which makes this constant companion of ours the most misunderstood knowledge form. And it sure has its own share of blame. Philosophy never seems to have learned from its own confusion by appealing to production which, though limitless, is limitless rather within the present. By taking production (actuality) out of time (into the future, into possibility), philosophy deprives productive bodies of their temporal life, hence, skinning these bodies alive until nothing but its ideal form (the thought that counts for a revolutionary) remains.  A philosopher is thus a revolutionary in this sense.

But today philosophy would like us to acknowledge its new name, acceleration, which may mean the fastest way to take production out of time at the same time that the possibilities for production to overturn creation are repurposed to make these possibilities realizable within the present. In acceleration, we may mistake philosophy to have learned its lesson alas. Marx was actually the first one to proclaim philosophy’s poverty by advocating for a proto-acceleration of the means of production to draw capitalism to its logical conclusion, so the Accelerationist Manifesto says. For Marx, philosophy was no solution; possibility must be tamed by the actual, production by creation, limitlessness by design. Marx relied on the working class—bodies of production—to realize this conclusion without having to turn bodies into brains, or workers into capitalists. Workers are entrusted with the historical mission to finish the design of capital by dissolving itself in labor, arguably the real capital. If production did not accelerate in Marx’s time, today, however, we have reasons to believe, so we are told, that it is accelerating, and yet, like a body it is proceeding without design, regularity and discipline. One must be ready to accept the new challenge here, which is to imagine, in the most radical way possible, how production can cease to function as bodies, how it can create itself according to design, planning and purposefulness.

Capitalism has actually done us a favor by cognitivizing production, so we need not imagine that much really. Our new task is to radicalize this cognitive direction to a position in which production becomes intelligent design. In this radical mode of imagination, production fuses with creation. It is philosophy coalescing with production by regressing to the present to repurpose its design. The key for a renewed philosophy though is to realize bodies outside of the design of capital which is not accelerating on behalf of bodies, rather on behalf of creation without bodies. Going back to acceleration, one has to imagine that bodies are the ones steering the speeding train, giving the value added impression that bodies are responsible for the speed as well as the upkeep of the train as it accelerates.

They in fact do except that these bodies do not realize, as the new Accelerationism proponents believe, that they are already creating the Outside to capital. They are unaware that they are philosophers. But let us remind ourselves here that once the Outside had been the privileged object of analysis of philosophy until capital stole that object, becoming philosophy itself. Capital is now turning the dream of production and limitlessness into creation as mastery of the Outside, the future. If Marx was a proponent of acceleration, as the manifesto would have us acknowledge, it is to his credit that philosophy must be abandoned, if the goal is to construct the future that capitalism has already foreclosed, in favor of real concrete actions. In an unlikely twist, Marx and capitalism can both sing and dance to the tune of, most familiar to Marxists though, the poverty of philosophy.  Its poverty lies in the fact that it does not want to regress, which bespeaks of its hubris, its illusion of being progressive, revolutionary, and axiomatic. What this goes down to in the last instance is that Marx knew there is no alternative to capitalism. Philosophy would never allow itself to regress to the present to change the order of things. But if capitalism can do philosophy, philosophy can become richer by all of history’s combined wealth. And indeed, it is to Marx’s credit that philosophical capitalism will be compelled to accelerate, hence, the emancipation of bodies from their lack of purpose.

Real concrete actions may thus mean changing the way philosophy has been hitherto done. This is perhaps the original contribution of the Accelerationist Manifesto. Following Marx through its timely intervention in contemporary left politics, we can now say that the object of change is not the world vis-à-vis the many interpretations that have been made about its ontological status. Rather, it is how we can do philosophy this time (through a radical unity with bodies, or rather, production, by means of which philosophy regresses to the present which it has until now consistently avoided with its characteristic obsession with possibilities, with option contracts, least to say, under the general rubric of speculative future) which must first presuppose that the world, nonetheless, must not change, if only for philosophical creation, regressing to the present from out of the future, to catch up with the world, that is to say, the actual. Apropos of the famous last thesis of Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach, our attention draws closer to its secret: Philosophy must either imitate capitalism or become capitalism itself.

In this new light, and arguably so, labor can be emancipated. It can free itself from the illusion of the future—hope, in simple terms—for the future, once a possibility, has reached a dead-end, which is its own actuality, namely, the accelerating present. This, of course, will be made possible by philosophy abandoning the future, the Outside in favor of the pragmatic concerns of the revolution. If this is what Marx meant by the poverty of philosophy, Marxists should take the gesture at its most instructive, namely, and rightly so, that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.

NB: See Joseph Weissmann on his unique take on accelerationism, certainly a critical contribution to the topic, though different from ours:


Countdown to a new humanity (?)

In a recent talk Timothy Morton (1) argues that Nature is a dangerous concept. From what I have gathered in his lecture, nonetheless, Nature is dangerous in its conceptual appeal to the universal which totalizes and is therefore reductive.  Many would settle at least in an aesthetic intuition of Nature that seemingly avoids the totalizing direction of universalization as it comfortably settles in the particular, like a coral; least to say, in a quantic indetermination of bodies of Nature (I mean bodies in the sense of a disjunctive relation to a whole as an administrable assemblage). Nature is anthropocentric—I have no objection to this—and yet, when aesthetic is invoked to appeal to Nature as quantic indetermination, seemingly to escape the subjective or sovereign standpoint,  we may lose sight of the fact that aesthetic remains a kind of intellectual intuition.

Intellectual intuition is a property of the subject, regardless whether it is questionable these days to appeal to a notion of sovereignty. Property does not equal to sovereignty. And yet when something such an inventory of reason (which Kant did) situates intellectual intuition within the history of the systems of thought in which aesthetics becomes a part of the narrative of how reason achieves a critical relation to itself intellectual intuition is made to serve something greater than itself, such as being productive of a prioris of time and space which alone could initiate a world-ing of world, which would then culminate in the anthropocentrism of the world-order, a highly probable cause of climate change, so we are told. But before this crisis, anthropocentrism has given us wars, economic exploitation, gender abuse, imperialism, etc. The list could go on. We can assume here that part of this familiar narrative of anthropocentrism and its crises is the plasticity of aesthetics (to use Malabou’s concept) made to serve something larger than intuitivity, that is, productivity (this time, Malabou’s plasticity falls short of its promise—insofar as every object is exchangeable for something, noting its lack of ontological ground, what could also be its lack of interest in itself, its readiness for co-optation, say with a dominant or sovereign ecology, is not unlikely).

So how are we to make sense of aesthetics, say, as first philosophy which, as in Harman’s position, must be thought outside of the dominance of subject orientation? Perhaps, we can reformulate the question into ‘how can we make sense of aesthetics as first philosophy without falling back on the inventory of reason that has been going on since Kant?’ Or, perhaps, Laruelle is right that philosophy has yet to realize that its business depends on endless criticism, or a critical inventory of the claims of reason.

Is there a way of doing aesthetics without treating it the way it has been hitherto treated, that is, as an inventoried passage of reason from pre-critical to its critical phase?  Didn’t Nietzsche affirm otherwise the importance of tragic consciousness as an aesthetic contemplation but not as an inventoried category of reason, rather as an affirmation of life that will always return to itself?

And yet, we can also treat the problem as historical. Aesthetics may be rethought outside of the critical inventory of reason assuming we can hold a place outside of history within which alone aesthetics may be thought. Outside of history, we may assume aesthetics can be thought outside of reason. If reason claims total determination, then a kind of indetermination may offer an opportunity for rethinking aesthetics, assuming it is worth the while to rethink it. We believe it is. Here, ‘outside of history’ may mean the challenge of indetermination (we always devalue history in our own capacity as individuals) or the challenge of absolute negation. Nietzsche may not be ready for the latter, assuming we are correct in arguing that, although it is debatable that he harbors a position in favor of vitalism he at least is not open to the possibility of the extinction of history where life can no longer return its affirmative neutrality to the existence of the historical species, that is, what has become of us. We are speaking here of actual extinction of the species.

We cannot however agree with Derrida that it is death that always interrupts this return of life to itself.  Where death is said to always interrupt, what returns is no longer life but something artificial, say, the signature of the author or his or her name. Derrida’s modus operandi is to historicize death (which is deconstructive enough) in order to interrupt life as bios (2) but where death is understood as the subject (who, as dead, returns, not life), Derrida affirms the subject in its dissimulated affirmation of life (that returns).  Life is the undeclared model of the subject who returns. And yet, the subject is the rival of life. Even so, Derrida is not doing aesthetics outside of history. Without belaboring the point, he is deconstructing history, or rather, a progressive, more advanced form of the critical inventory of reason.

Lastly, we may ask: is thinking extinction the right way to do aesthetics outside of history? If history should go extinct, are we not speaking of the extinction of reason, of conception that makes history possible, in favor of the return to the unhistorical, the uncanny (perhaps, the third kind vis-à-vis the binary opposition of being and becoming in Plato’s Timaeus, known as chora), the avenger for what historical reason has repressed?  Or, a return to myth (as in Deleuze), a second creation (as in Nietzsche, the rebirth of tragedy), a new humanity? It well to note here that Deleuze also thinks of second creation as a likely result of the “general distribution of continents, the states of the sea, and lines of navigation.” (3) Not far from an ecological apocalypse.


(1) See http://ecologywithoutnature.blogspot.com/2014/12/zooetics-video.html
(2) See http://syntheticzero.net/2014/12/23/malabous-performancepower-an-interrogation/
(3) Gilles Deleuze, Desert Islands and Other Texts (1953-1974), trans. Michael Taomina, ed. David Lapoujade (New York: Semiotext[e]), 2002, 73.

A Christmas Message

In the old days people must have observed Christmas as a time for gathering strength, mind and will to face the coming of the unknown, much of it were caused by erratic days of the year drawing to a close, with only the regularity of life, provided by uncountable traces upon which to depend their next steps for tomorrow, giving them the comfort of the uncanny, even so, a comfort to begin with.

With the invention of the new calendar we were offered presumably complete days and nights, with a room for leap years to accommodate what still need to be accounted for, affording chance its moment to shine but shine it does as it can be thought in advance; cycles of birth, and death, and perhaps rebirth, yet much still would leave us with the feeling of being surrounded by a gaping void (to borrow from Nietzsche).

Never therefore has the unpredictable become the real feeling of what is to come with the uncanny guarantee of calculable days and nights, of the regularity of time and familiarity of space, not to mention Christmas that is about to come to pass, few hours from now.

It may be well in this light that perhaps we need to regain the old consciousness of what is to come, unbounded by external principle, the objective measure of time, in the face of the unknown. Perhaps, this could bind us as one in a world that has never been our true home with all its false guarantees of happiness, and human desire rather chased by a measurable object of craving where desire ceased to be what it used to be, arousing noble passions, and more intensely, love that creates all.

And so when people say ‘happy Christmas!’ they say this in the hope that something in this world, notwithstanding, would beckon a new beginning, a new promise that this world would one day become us, no more as that from which we are alienated and estranged, or from which our desires our stolen in favor of the world where we can never fit in. But fit we do, not to mention, in the face of the impossible, through friendship and a shared feeling of vulnerability, by all means love like life, more actual than civility, more real than all the ways of the known world combined; more mysterious than death.

Happy Christmas then!

NB: See http://persistentenlightenment.wordpress.com/2014/12/22/christmas-truce/ for a critical take on the famous ‘Christmas truce’ if not for a bit of Walter Benjamin: “The past carries with it a secret index by which it is referred to redemption.”


While I can agree with Zizek that love is an encounter and that we rarely encounter the encounter in contemporary life, what I find in his proposition with Kafka, that love is an event, is shy of proposing that Latour is right, that we have never been modern, a familiar claim with which nonetheless I cannot entirely agree.

Zizek would give it the usual psychoanalytic twist: we have always been modern, we’re just not aware of it. We have always been in love, yet unaware of it most of the time. How unaware we all are of the encounter that is the event is written in the very heart of the urban world: bars, cafes, restaurants, chat rooms, busy streets, malls, motels, parks, even universities, and any place where architecture, including designs of mobile communication spaces, conspire to keep bodies at their unknowing conditions of metastability. All these at the same time that bodies are moved about, giving the illusion of free mobility, or dragged along pre-arranged spaces where even unanticipated encounters are already designed in advance. The rule is to provoke complexity in encounters, modeled on the dynamics of desire, where complexity drives innovation. No doubt, the rural is also increasingly invaded by the landscaping sensibility of modernity, on the assumption that its dullness and pastoral sickliness are indifferent to encounters—it lacks mobility and so, it would follow, blunts the excitation of desire.

One simply has to extract the event from the swirling vortices of these unwitting encounters by a process of critical retrospection, or rather, a retrieval of the encounter with the “oh my God” feeling of the event.  One has to fall, as Zizek argues, to encounter the encounter, to fall in love, to fall in the encounter, to fall the fall. To fall is to arrest the movement already giving us the experience of vertigo yet not so much as to give us the proper dose to rebel against the city, against the modern urban spirit of architecture and spatial planning which runs deep into the subterranean logic of capital accumulation. And why would we rebel if the city affords us the chance of the encounter, the chance of love, of getting into the mix, of the experience of the “oh my God, I was waiting all my life for you.”


We may wonder here how much would be lost if we reduce the urban spirit to a minimum level of excitation, to tweak its noise, its turmoil and agitation to a level approaching the loveless condition of human existence, the not-granting of the encounter or simply the event.  Zizek might have anticipated the question already when he argued that love has become rare these days—not any other day but these days—in the midst of the aggressive transformation of the urban world. And yet, it is not difficult to see where Zizek’s valorisation of encounters would lead against the background of lovelessness. The excitation of the urban world, notwithstanding, is a rich potential for the event where there is high probability that bodies fall into the happenstance of their lifetime. We need to sustain the urban world with as much encounters as we can fall into, with as much metastability as we can accomplish to accelerate the frequency of the event. Though he might not like the thought that he is an accelerationist of the encounter that we all need for enriching the human condition threatened by lovelessness, Zizek’s concept of love would lose its appeal if we won’t do our part, that is, to hasten the event, to accommodate further doses of complexity.

The key to unpack Zizek’s enigmatic proposition of the encounter is to see through his ongoing defense of the foremost ideal of modernity; in a nutshell, the ideal of falling in love. Let us not lose sight of the fact that this ideal is achievable in the urban world, at least, for him, the cosmopolitan that he is. And there is only one cosmopolis—the West.

And so Zizek would have us absorb the fact that encounters are pre-arranged in the pre-modern. I am not sure whether Zizek had an overdose of encounters that makes him careless, but he simply bungled historical details. I need not look far. Polygamy was a custom in pre-modern and -colonial times. Those East Dionysian communities so dear to Nietzsche were not strangers to love, which does not mean that they were better than the modern, until they were destroyed by European missionaries at the behest of the Atlantic war machine. I wonder whether Zizek would dismiss these by underscoring the undesirability of pre-arranged marriages of the pre-modern which no doubt there were, but the modern is certainly not the end of pre-arranged encounters. So the question would be, why assign the wider ramification of the unethicality of pre-arranged encounter, lovelessness, to the pre-modern?

kafka kollage

As a Western ideologist that he is, Zizek is a total stranger to this history. As he argues so well on Kafka with regard to his influence as a writer—that the writer, invoking Borges this time, has to invent his past, and so the figures that influenced him—Zizek had to force into existence his ‘pre-modern’ condition of Western modernity. Apropos of those pre-arranged encounters that he picked up as an object of criticism—where else is the encounter not pre-arranged by urban spatial constellation? Zizek is idealizing the hyper-modernity of the West by insisting upon the possibility of a chance encounter which is love amidst the spinning landscape of the modern urban spatiality. It is only in hyper-modernity where Zizek’s concept of love can happen. And it is precisely when hyper-modernity is falling out of encounters, the near mass extinction of encounters, or rather, the extinction of desire, that the encounter must be teased out of its unconscious.

Perhaps, that will be Kafka’s last love, his last opportunity to fall the fall, his one true, albeit, brief encounter.

NB: For the video lecture of Zizek on Kafka see Nicholas of installingorder.org at  http://installingorder.org/2014/12/12/slavoj-zizek-on-kafka-and-love/

Plato is not Platonism


This is a friendly response to darkecologies’ take on Platonism. See http://darkecologies.com/2014/12/07/the-phaedo-part-two-the-art-of-recollection/



The chief problem of reducing Plato to an idealist is the assumption rarely interrogated that Plato is Platonism. History should be our guide. Platonism is not Plato.

The point of the reductive function of any ‘ism’ is to forge an axiomatic memory as against what preceded it—axioms being the destroyer of non-sense, of indefinability and the dark precursor out of which the present emerged.  By all means, the present is the founding temporal locus of organization, or rather, a decisionistic displacement of the past onto a memory bank forged in the now. This officially becomes Platonism when, at some point after Plato, philosophy declares (the pronouncement is more evident in Heidegger) that truth cannot be had by fabulation, by storytelling (which in fact Plato did in his theory of recollection) in terms of “defining entities as entities by tracing them back in their origin to some other entities” (Heidegger, Being and Time, 26).

The Phaedo is a case in point when Socrates talked about the origin of everything, by tracing something to another, until the story reached its culmination in death—the origin of everything.  But death is not physical death; rather it is traced to an indefinable past that memory attempts to penetrate, not without the difficulties it has to bear. But the difficulty is there to keep thinking alive, to keep it away from the reductive machination of definition, finality and organization. Recollection has the sole function in Plato to sustain something irreducible; something that would linger even after the most systematic reduction of calculative thinking is done with the most sinister intent, beginning with Aristotle. In most recent forays into this irreducible, isn’t Laruelle rehearsing Plato in his concept of Man-in-man in which “Man” (in the Man-in-man) is the irreducible in the reduction of man to animal rationale? The Man-in-man is Laruelle’s generic definition in place of Aristotle’s animal rationale in which arguably man becomes human under the protection of logos apophantikos. Plato is entirely different. The logos is not to be reached by reason alone, but also by the good beyond being, which already offers us an alternative to reason, namely, fabulation. Aristotle rejected fabulation and recollection in favor of reducing the uneasiness of imagination to the categories of reason. This is the start of Platonism proper—the reduction of Plato’s intoxicating irreductions.

In short, the greatest legacy of Platonism is the refusal of storytelling. This is strictly played out in Aristotle’s critique of Plato’s Timaeus in Physics in which Aristotle rejected the former’s concept of the chora, or the third kind that actually preconditions the possibility of being and becoming out of which the physical world emerges; the chora as the errant causality, totally indefinable, something that must be left outside of the bounds of known and intelligible sense. We must not lose sight of Plato’s point that the chora as an errant cause is the whole essence of necessity itself, namely, pace Meillassoux, contingency. Here, contingency is the avenger for the irreducible.  In the Timaeus, the cosmos is created by fabulation which the chora demands as no reason can account for it. As characteristic of recollection, fabulation qualifies as the condition of possibility of creation.

So what is Platonism? Our brief answer is: It is the being of us as animal rationale that demands we must secure ourselves against the temptation to indulge in chorology. But isn’t chorology the power of the false?


Reading Spinoza’s Ethics

“Reading the Ethics is supposed to persuade us to change in some way.  We are supposed to do things differently than we did before (in particular, we’re supposed to occupy ourselves with organizing joyous encounters and with escape ideas born of the imaginary)” (Larval Subjects)



How To Throw a Principle Away

This is one paradox, the most representative I guess, in Spinoza’s system which can be resolved, without reducing his system to what we believe it actually does, by observing his system from a meta-theoretical standpoint which will need us to utilize, vis-à-vis the Ethics, a meta-ethical frame of analysis. And by that I mean bringing the Ethics into contact with individual experiences, ours I mean, which are multiply framed, most I guess do not enjoy the comfort of taking Spinoza’s concepts in mind.

Or, none of these experiences actually does. Still Spinoza’s system, regardless of its internal inconsistency vis-à-vis his over-all deterministic disposition, is a system that demands a correspondence with experiences, regardless of situations which give birth to them or bring them into light, which is what it does if we agree that Spinoza’s Ethics is a system in itself. Or, we can throw this view away if we come to an agreement that, for all its intents and purposes, Spinoza’s is not a system by any means.

Incidentally, inspite of my own issues with Kant, I take it that Kant to a great extent managed to solve a similar dilemma concerning the antinomies of reason, which were carefully resolved by objectively extending the aprioris to speculations about objects of experiences and by this Kant meant that pure reason had to annul itself. Only when it annuls itself that pure reason can extend itself to objects of experiences (previously inaccessible to pure reason). It goes without saying that in its pre-critical period, pure reason was busy the whole time dogmatically reproducing the principle of determinism, that is to say, extending itself without annulling itself at the same time. Taking Kant into mind, Spinoza’s Ethics is made possible by annulling this principle, that is to say, to give room for practical reason, the sphere in which freedom can make sense, or  throwing it away as it turned out to be incompatible with freedom. At least,  Spinoza had to suspend its efficacy vis-à-vis the aim of sustaining freedom. The sphere of practical reason is the ethical itself, needless to say. The question that confronts us now is whether Spinoza’s Ethics is actually suspending the principle of determinism.

Take note that in Kant the annulment of pure reason is not absolute. After all we are talking about ‘one cognition’, reason which is both capable of speculation and performance, pure reason and practical reason, etc. This is known as Kant’s concept of reflexivity in which reason interrogates its own assumptions. Reason is therefore doing a critical work, that is, upon itself. My own debate with Kant has something to do with the history of nihilism of which Kant was only partially aware, which makes his so-called inventory of the aprioris of reason (for classifying which ones are speculative, and which ones are practical) incomplete and therefore incapable of dealing with nihilism whose full complement was about to be witnessed by Nietzsche. This is not to say that Nietzsche completed the table of categories. Far from it. Nietzsche shifted the terrain somewhere else. But exactly, the same form of nihilism would confound Spinoza, although it was restricted to the burning issues of his day—does God still matter in the realm of freedom? Here, Spinoza is actually trying to salvage determinism in order to save the value of freedom. Freedom had to be rescued from determinism so that the latter can be saved. But how?


We need not look far. In Spinoza, God assumed the function of Reason. But he lacked the Kantian magic to parcel out reason according to its speculative and performative categories. What Spinoza missed is when to throw a principle (determinism) away. But he did actually do this except that the principle kept coming back that he had to suppress it by axiomatizing the ethical, proofing it against the contamination of the external principle whose arguable strength is that it is a decided mystery—there is God. But another principle takes the place of the one thrown away. Freedom kept coming back which could not under all circumstances assume the function of that which is tossed away. Nostalgia crept in, welcoming the first principle anew. But this time determinism has to be compatible with freedom. Whether Spinoza is prepared to embrace an atheist God is another matter. It looks as though he is.

In Kant, God is reduced to practical reason, to the ethical, a marked contrast with Spinoza where God is extended to the ethical without telling us that pure reason is already extending itself, and is doing so, from the point of view of Kant, dogmatically. It should be the reverse, the ethical, now a pure rational practical faith, extending itself to the speculative that allows itself to think of God, or that which has to be discovered here as though it is for the very first time.

Time’s Forgery of Space

As usual, it goes with the noise carrying the sweat of a crowd too impossible to mistake for angels in a cemetery, the crispness of idle talk which needs this space to become more than what they are, entrapped in the incalculable.

But where it palpitates, there it has never seen action, the onrush of time into space.

Hasn’t anyone heard of it yet? Not long ago ‘Death is beyond experience.’ A false limit whose empty lines spoke only of its quiet power, of the possible being a limit only to calculability.

But where the dead are and where no one else is, curiously said this even goes to them, alive in the stillness of nowhere, calculability gives time its unmistakable context.

Yet the story went on, defying the dead in their own in-crowding, beehive-ing suspicion.

Time is incalculable.


We are all entrapped in it, each for a living soul, the dead takes a life in living memory:

in space, a tomb, in the air, all the same enclosed in a topology

where time’s the reckoning frame, the dead  falls into place.

Night watchers  can look up in the sky as children read a few lines from Heidegger. It will be the same stillness.



Another stillness. Another inventoried time

where time sinks under its sole pretext–melancholia

a new earth. A new melancholia.

Beware of the Posthuman: The Faciality of the Ascetic

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 schemata, allegedly because there is no more self to begin with, an outcome of overcoming the self which otherwise played a crucial role in Kant’s system. Arguably, the posthuman advocates a 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.

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 understood his pronouncements 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]).

nietzsche and chaos

But the ascetic is the exhausted [6] face of pure reason, bound 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]. (Kant, however, raised the question in another work, in his lectures on Logic, but the effect is the same, as if the fourth question was never raised. In fact, according to him, the first three questions of the critique is already the question of Man). 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.

Tacloban typhoon aftermath

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.


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.

K to 12 and the Philippine Apocalypse

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. FINAL READING VERSION

Everything is culture, that is why

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?



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.





In this age of block chains, Gaia, and the savage anomalies of manifestos, let us look back at ‘ideology’ and how it continues to shape the material unconscious of theory

Originally posted on AGENT SWARM:

In his book PHARMACOLOGIE DU FRONT NATIONAL (2013) Bernard Stiegler poses an interesting question: Why did post-structuralism cease to make use of the concept of ideology? This is a good question, in that critical discussion of “ideology” did not entirely disappear, as Stiegler seems to think, but explicit use of the term “ideology” did become rare in the works of post-structuralist thinkers. Stiegler’s hypothesis is that in abandoning the term ideology they also abandonned the ideological struggle against what he calls the “ultraliberal ideology”. This interpretation seems to me to be particularly wrong-headed.

In fact in the works of these thinkers (Deleuze, Lyotard, Foucault, Derrida), while they may not make explicit use of the word “ideology”, the concept is there nonetheless but in a reconfigured problematic. For example, Foucault wanted to free both himself and us from the Althusserian idea of science, and more generally to free us of all…

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