Monday, May 28, 2007

Heidegger's greatest single achievement is the full elaboration of finitude

Heidegger was arguably the philosopher of the twentieth century (just as Hegel was the philosopher of the nineteenth): all subsequent philosophers (starting with Rudolph Carnap) have had the define themselves by drawing a line of demarcation, a critical distance towards him. The majority do not simply reject him; rather, they maintain an ambivalent relationship with him, acknowledging his breakthrough but claiming that he was not able to follow it to the end, since he remained stuck in some metaphysical presuppositions.
For Marxists, for example, Heidegger was right, in Being and Time, to perform the turn from the exempted subject observing the world toward man as a being always-already thrown into the world, engaged in it; however, he was not able to locate human beings within the historical totality of their social practice; mutatis mutandis, the same goes for Levinas, Derrida, Rorty, some Wittgensteinians (Dreyfus), even Badiou.
Heidegger's greatest single achievement is the full elaboration of finitude, as a positive constituent of being-human--in this way, he accomplished the Kantian philosophical revolution, making it clear that finitude is the key to the transcendental dimension. A human being is always on the way toward itself, in becoming, thwarted, thrown-into a situation, primordially "passive," receptive, attuned, exposed to an overwhelming Thing; far from limiting him, this exposure is the very ground of the emergence of the universe of meaning, of the "worldliness" of man. It is only from within this finitude that entities appear to us as "intelligible," as forming part of a world, as included within a horizon of being--in short, that we take them "as" something, that they appear as something (that they appear tout court).
To put it in Kantian terms: it is because of this finitude that "intellectual intuition" is impossible, that a human being can grasp things only within a gap between their mere being-there and the mode, the "as such," of their appearance; in short, that every understanding is a contingent "projecting" of a link over a gap, not a direct apprehension. The transcendental "condition of possibility" is thus the obverse of the condition of impossibility: the very impossibility for a human being to directly intuit reality, the very failure, falling-short of the goal, in what constitutes the openness of the world, of its horizon. P. 273 The Parallax View (Short Circuits) by Slavoj Zizek3:52 PM 0 comments Sunday, May 27, 2007

Friday, May 25, 2007

Where repetition is a kind of homage to the future by respecting the past

Deleuze/Guattari: Remix Culture, Paul D. Miller Interviews Carlo Simula in Music, Theory, Album/CD/DVD Covers, Remix Culture, Interview, Hip Hop, History, DJ Culture, Criticism Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007 Trackback Image source: Dusty Groove Text source: Nettime.org and Djspooky.com November 20, 2005 The following is an interview with Carlo Simula for his book MILLESUONI. OMAGGIO A DELEUZE E GUATTARI (Cronopio Edizioni)
4) I find very interesting that in “Cinema 1-Movement and image” Deleuze talks about D.W.Griffith cinema, referring to image-action (the example he refers to in particular is “Intolerance”), and Griffith’s articulation of the narration, that offers two examples of “civilization”: (black people/white people). It almost seemed to me that your remix of “Birth of a nation”, especially when played live, originates, with the obvious differences, from Deleuze’s same critical ground… your opinion on that..
Civilization, as Freud pointed out so long ago, is about rules and boundaries but it also inspires a kind of continuous renewal. At heart, civilizations are control mechanisms - they’re psychological more than they’re physical. They are meta-tools. For me, at the moment, it seems like the West is in a serious crisis of meaning. The Enlightenment went dark in the mass mechanized warfare of the two world wars, and the shattered remains were burned in the fire of Vietnam. Pretty much nothing remains.
My music asks: how do we create new forms of meaning from these hollow ideals? We’ve moved far past Plato’s Republic into a realm where the “civic” aspects of culture as software are the new frames of reference. Software (credit card debt, individual assigned names on line, domain names, DNS routers, encryption, computer aided design that builds airplanes, routes electricity, guides DNA analysis etc etc there’s alot more but you get the point) regulates individual behavior - both on and off line - in the post industrialized world. Software for thinking: it’s an invisibly coercive concept.
I like Deleuze’s take on “Intolerance” but you have to remember that film acts as a crucial myth device for a world based on the consumption of images. I think that we need to analyze film from the viewpoint of not only what the Situationists called “psycho-geography” - a place that posits movement between radically different environments as a causal principle in the way that we organize information, but what Deleuze and Guattari posit as “deterritorialization” is essentially a kind of nomadic response to media overload - finding ways through the information data-cloud.
Griffith was essentially a propagandist for state repression - he created “cut-up” cinema as a tool to portray multiple situations - but exactly for the opposite of what Deleuze and Guattari would think about. He used it to lock down perception. They use it to open things up. Juxtapose the two, and you can see why two radically different thinkers like Sergei Eisenstein and Guy Debord liked to think of Griffith as the essence of American cinema. That’s the dj situation - origin, and destination blur: they become loops, cycles, patterns. The way to explore them is through the filter of woven meaning. Black culture has been the world’s “subconscious” for most of the last several centuries - it has been the operating system of a culture that refuses to realize that its ideals have died long ago.
The threads of the fabric of contemporary 21st century culture, the media landscape of filaments, systems, fiber optic cables, satellite transmissions, and so on - these are all rhizomatic. They are relational architectures - the move in synchronization. The meshwork needs to be polyphonic. The gears move in different cadences, but they create movement. They need to be pulled apart so that we can break the loops holding the past and present together so that the future can leak through. Perhaps this is where we break with the old situation of “black” “white” - that stuff is really dumb any way. It’s all a lot more complex than that dualism.
This is the new “operating system” I envisage when I remixed “Birth of a Nation” - the collapse of Wagner, the collapse of the Western scripts of linear progress, the renewal of a world where repetition is a kind of homage to the future by respecting the past. Paul D. Miller a.k.a. DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid Tunis, Tunisia - 11/20/05

The Badiou/Delueze/Zizek infatuation has become a sort of academic industry, if not dogma

Malfeasancio Says: May 24th, 2007 at 3:09 pm One can be anti-”Theory”, and yet hold to some progressive goals, and make use of some ideas and concepts from analytical philosophy to further those progressive goals. Thomas Kuhn, I think, is a relevant figure, at least in terms of an epistemological grounding; and Kuhn was as materialist as a 30s marxist. Verification is always an issue, however quotidian; as are probability and induction in general.
In terms of an analytically-informed political foundation, progressives could do worse than attempt to work with say Rawls’ Theory of Justice, or at least some type of reworking of Hobbesian themes; Dennett has alluded to Hobbesian themes on occasion, and really the first 20 chapter or so of Leviathan are not so distant from various Darwinian concerns (tho’ they are considered vulgar or mistaken, most leftists never bother telling anyone WHY they are mistaken, or vulgar).
The Badiou/Delueze/Zizek infatuation has become a sort of academic industry, if not dogma: european marxist intellectuals are awarded some instant credibility that Anglo-Americans are not, and much of that credibility depends on a sort of suspension of disbelief—one agrees to a certain essentialism in regards to mental entities (whether those of psychoanalysis, or metaphysics). The marxist tradition is not sacrosanct; indeed it requires a great leap of faith.
Hobbes rarely demanded any leaps of faith, or resorts to ideology or dogmatic generalizations: he argues for things, as does Locke really, though one might disagree with him. The distrust of any substantial argumentation or disputation characteristic of continental tradition (apres-Derrida at least) is quite bizarre–some argument is allowed, but only with certain assumptions (usually marxist, or psychoanalytic—)…
Steven Says: May 24th, 2007 at 3:56 pm I think traditional liberal thinkers are problematic for radical progressive thought because they are largely concerned with ideological justification for the status quo. This is less true with Locke, but certainly true with Hobbes and Rawls. Actually, I completely fail to see how Hobbes is useful to progressive thought, unless as part of a historical analysis of sovereignty and the logic of sovereign excess, which is how thinkers like Foucault and Agamben have used him. Consistent Hobbism brings you close to an extreme authoritarian position - I think that is wrong, but won’t go completely into why.
As for Rawls, as many thinkers have pointed out, he is basically attempting an ethnocentric apology for American democracy. I would also check out Mouffe’s criticism of his work - succinct and excellent from a progressive point of view. A simple problem with Rawls is this: in order for the disadvantaged to make any legitimate political claims, they have to make basically impossible empirical demonstrations that improving their lot won’t make the entire system worse.
Some critical thinkers have found resources in Locke (see James Tully), but its hard to ignore him as an apologist for slavery and a defender of property. So, one could remain committed to a mainstream liberal form of critique (more rights, more welfare, etc.), but I find that that fails to apprehend the nature of the political situation we find ourselves in and what possible ways there are to change it. I want to address concretely oppressive situations and ‘the system’ as it is presently, and so I find liberal thought only really works as an element for understanding that, but not one for articulating critique or the potential for action.
It is definitely not true that to work in the continental tradition you have to uncritically accept either marxism or pyschoanalysism, but the reality is that those are both enormous influential, especially on various forms of political critique, so you at least have to deal with them. I’m still wary of what I see as some of the authoritarian elements of psychoanalyses, but as far as articulating the mechanisms of capitalism, I find Marxian thought necessary. That does not mean I support the Marxist form of political action as it is often presented. Its also a bit tiring to hear that the only reason anyone cares about continental thinkers is because of some cultish mystique that surrounds them…
Malfeasancio Says: May 24th, 2007 at 5:33 pm As for Rawls, as many thinkers have pointed out, he is basically attempting an ethnocentric apology for American democracy
No. Many marxist ideologues have said that; in many ways, Rawls was trying to overcome some of the problems of democracy (as was Hobbes in a sense). But the ideologues rarely bother to provide any sort of detailed critique anyway: to most leftists, political philosophy is about equivalent to like aesthetics, and Hobbes and Rawls are both tres sauvvage.
The marxist critique overlooks the fact that contractualists attempt to ground an objective, economic entitlement without recourse to metaphysics (i.e. Hegelian ghosts), psychology or any sort of intuitionist givens. That said, I agree that Locke’s criticism of Hobbes’ conclusions in Leviathan are correct, and that the right to petition the govt. for grievances is fundamental, as is Due Process of all types, however quaint that seems to continentalists. I believe Hobbes felt rights were sort of superfluous, given the proper sort of objective, covenant-enforcing sovereign in place (imagine a Leviathan ‘Bot). But he also was cynical enough to realize that once the sovereign turns tyrant, society returns to a state of nature and anarchy more or less. Hobbes’s thinking in Lev. is not so far from say Nietzsche’s anti-statist ideas initially, but his conclusions are quite different.
Really contracturalists are trying to circumvent the problems of democracy, consensus, utilitarian hedonism etc., OR a non-democratic marxist–or fascist– state. Hobbes does not say the sovereign simply takes power–he argues that rational humans would serve their interests best by entrusting their covenants and contract enforcement to a sovereign ( which is not necessarily a monarch).
The discussion in the Leviathan of ethical and economic foundation is what remains interesting: the process leading up to the sovereign. Few leftists even bother with a discussion of political process, or of economic “justice”, entitlement, etc. ; Hobbes or Kropotkin or even JK Galbraith have all been replaced by the aesthetes, the theorists, the psychologists.

Jean-Luc Nancy's concept of surprise

“Underdeveloped” May 24th, 2007 A recent post over at Larval Subjects calls for a more fully developed account of agency. This is something that is frequently called for — indeed, one could have a successful career as a participant in academic seminars if one criticized literally every author for not “leaving enough room for agency” or, if they try to “leave room,” for not giving a good enough account of it. Absolutely no one does agency right, which leads me to wonder if there is something about the concept of agency that leaves it, as it were, intrinsically “underdeveloped.”
Let’s think about what we associate with the concept of agency (or free will, or subjectivity, or whatever else we call this). If we reduce it to choosing between options or weighing “reasons,” it somehow seems impoverished, but we don’t want it to be sheer arbitrarity. I think that Jean-Luc Nancy heads in the right direction in The Experience of Freedom by introducing the concept of surprise. Free agency is that which takes us by surprise. If we developed a robust account of it, it would no longer be surprising. That also seems to me to be what’s at stake in Butler’s attempt to show how interpellation misfires, etc. — that subjects, once formed, and even in the process of their formation, can do surprising things.
Sinthome, in his post and in the comment thread, seems to have a very specific idea of “materialism” in mind — he says that many accounts of agency seem to fall back on a kind of creatio ex nihilo, which true materialism cannot countenance. I wonder if this particular idea of “materialism,” however, might be front-loading things and artificially generating the problem of “where” we can locate agency. Even though modern science does not present us with a universe where such is the case, I think that when many of us think “materialism,” they think of a universe fully saturated by mechanical laws of causation.
In such a universe, there simply doesn’t seem to be “room” for agency — and so we’re caught between the impossible poles of either giving a “mechanical” account of agency (which is intrinsically contradictory) or renouncing one of the most fundamental experiences of human existence (i.e., that we are not “robots”).
Here again, Nancy’s idea of freedom as going all the way down seems to me to be a great way of getting past this impasse. In many ways, Nancy’s thought here is very similar to Whitehead’s, which of course was attempting to respond philosophically to the advent of relativity theory and quantum mechanics. If we reject the idea that the universe is saturated by mechanical laws of causation (or say that “Being is freedom,” that is, Being is surprising), the presenting problem disappears. “Agency” then becomes the particular surprising ways in which a being of a high level of complexity and self-reflexivity can and does act.
Zizek’s appropriation of the Lacanian “non-all” also heads in this direction, and he engages directly with science, such as his analysis of quantum mechanics in The Indivisible Remainder (recently reissued) and of cognitive science in Parallax View — the latter giving an impressive account of how human agency arises in the course of the evolution of consciousness.
Of course, none of these accounts can give a positive grounding for surprise or for the openness/non-saturation of the laws of causation — they all make an end run around this problem precisely by placing surprise at the foundation (this is perhaps less true in the case of Butler). It is a paradigm shift whose time has come, and seems to me to be consistently materialist — perhaps more consistently materialist, in that it does not impose the dogmatic frame of fully saturated causality on the data.
It is admittedly difficult to call Whitehead a materialist — I would be interested, however, to see how his system works if we cut away what he (unfortunately) named “God” — but both Nancy and Zizek at least profess to be materialists. There seem to be no a priori grounds for excluding them, unless the secret handshake to get into the materialist club is to implicitly believe in an outmoded model of the universe as a gigantic billiards table. Posted by Adam Filed in Butler, Whitehead, Zizek, Lacan, philosophy, Nancy, politics 2 Comments » An und für sich “Integrity through hypocrisy.”

The philosopher’s subjectivity merged with his text

The Role of Text in the Formation of Identity: “Formative” Texts and Meta-Texts. “C” LIST: Critical and Philosophical Studies of Subjectivity as Text Joseph Kugelmass. Modernism Self-fashioning and Western Culture
Philosophy and Theory Headnote for the C List
This list comes last because it is, by far, the most parasitic on the other two. It is entitled “Critical and Philosophical Studies of Legible Subjects,” and demonstrates the almost insuperable divide between the literary project of authorship, and the philosophical/critical project of readership, whether that means deciphering literary texts in a work of criticism, or deciphering the meaning of Being or the dialectic of subjectivity. The irony, then, is that in selecting theoretical texts that complemented my other lists, I tended to select philosophers writing at or after the so-called “end of philosophy,” with their gaze fixed on the imaginative work of literature as the legitimate undoing of the philosophical tradition.
Many of the analyses that justify my selection of texts for the other two lists are indebted to the theoretical work in evidence here. My description of modernist authorship as an ambivalent response to tradition is the central theme of Harold Bloom’s two studies of poetry, The Anxiety of Influence and A Map of Misreading. The term “self-fashioning,” and the original idea for a study of modernist self-fashioning, came out of reading Stephen Greenblatt’s treatise on Renaissance Self-Fashioning. Finally, my emphasis on Rousseau, my performative accounts of authenticity, and my use of scene in the analysis of rhetorical contexts are based on Jacques Derrida’s books Of Grammatology and Writing and Difference.
The moment at which philosophy transcends itself towards literature is also the moment when philosophy re-discovers itself as capable, like literature, of doing the work of authorship and self-fashioning. Philosophy had always been a means of defining ethical and moral principles, but this was an elucidation of universal content: for example, the ethics of pleasure in Stoicism. Even when the moral law was disclosed formally, as with the intuitive apprehension of moral law in Kant, the subject was not responsible for authoring the law he apprehended and followed. This changes in the 19th Century, in large part because of Friedrich Nietzsche.
Authoring and then obeying one’s own law meant that the philosopher’s subjectivity merged with his text. To an extent it was still possible to distinguish philosophical self-fashioning, which aimed at the self-disciplined subject acting under his own law, from literary self-fashioning, which worked toward a unified sensibility through the imaginative imposition of order on perception. That said, there is an obvious connection between perception and action, and thus between the aesthetic and philosophical projects of created order. Philosophical texts by Plato and Michel de Montaigne were now read as fictions, as autobiography, and as exemplary cases of sensibility. New philosophical texts borrowed deliberately from literary genres. Nietzsche wrote the epic poem Thus Spake Zarathustra, and George Bataille incorporated lyrical accounts of personal experience into Erotism. Even texts like Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble and Lionel Trilling’s study of Matthew Arnold are conspicuously framed by autobiographical self-reflection.
Two of the most important philosophers on this list reverted to the assumption that human beings were always already texts: Martin Heidegger and Sigmund Freud. Heidegger characterized the fall from authentic, ontological being into the “ontic” as lostness, as impoverishment of sensibility. and as the denial of conscience and death. Almost immediately, he was revised or vehemently rejected by other thinkers, but his philosophical version of the modernist critique of mass culture had lasting effects. Sigmund Freud, one of the best theorists of the primacy of perception to action, believed that an individual could overcome mental illness by discovering, cathecting, and dismissing what amounted to pathological readings of the world. He wrote psychoanalytic Bildungsromans in his case studies of Dora and other patients. He also vastly expanded our ideas about communicative acts, by making repetition, silence, error, and other textual stutters available to interpretation.
Some of the texts on this list have made a material contribution to the discourses of authenticity and performativity, and the argument between these discourses, centered on the question of essence. Works on authenticity include all of Jean-Paul Sartre’s writings, Being and Time by Martin Heidegger, Trilling’s Sincerity and Authenticity, and Adorno’s book on The Jargon of Authenticity. Simone de Beauvoir and Judith Butler have both considered the issue of authenticity from the standpoint of feminism. Key studies of performativity include Michel Foucault’s History of Sexuality Volume 2, Constantin Stanislavski’s An Actor Prepares, Erving Goffman’s The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, and Richard Poirier’s book The Performing Self.
Finally, a number of these texts are critical studies that seek to understand literary texts through the self-conscious models of literary production that enabled such works. These include Bob Perelman’s work on genius, Franco Moretti’s work on the Bildungsroman, and Edmund Wilson’s exposition of Symbolism in Axel’s Castle.
In truth, the majority of these theoretical and philosophical texts are works of hindsight, creating theoretical vocabularies and analytical structures already mapped out (albeit in less systematic fashion) by the writers represented on the two other lists. They are also the most prone to disputation. Jean-Paul Sartre has suffered from Foucault and Derrida’s disdain, and Heidegger has been re-interpreted in ways that make his vocabulary of authenticity all but inaccessible to the discourse of self-fashioning. Still, because these texts are more systematic than their literary counterparts, they are more resistant to new modes of interpretation. Especially in the case of writers like Henri Bergson, John Crowe Ransom, or Sigmund Freud, who were producing theory when modernism was at its height, this list re-creates the constellation of ideas that most influenced the development of modernist literature.
TEXTS FOR THE “C” LIST

Adorno, Theodor
Minima Moralia
The Jargon of Authenticity

Bataille, Georges
Erotism

Barthes, Roland
Image-Music-Text

Bergson, Henri
Matter and Memory

Burke, Kenneth
A Rhetoric of Motives

Bloom, Harold
Maps of Misreading
The Anxiety of Influence

Butler, Judith.
Gender Trouble

De Beauvoir, Simone
The Second Sex

Deleuze and Guattari
Anti-Oedipus

Derrida, Jacques
Writing and Difference
On Grammatology

Foucault, Michel
The History of Sexuality, Vol. 2: The Use of Pleasure
Society Must Be Defended: Lectures at the College de France
“What Is An Author?”

Freud, Sigmund
The Interpretation of Dreams
Civilization and Its Discontents
Three Case Studies: Dora, An Infantile Neurosis, The “Rat-Man”

Freedman, Jonathan
Professions of Taste

Greenblatt, Stephen
Renaissance Self-Fashioning

Goffman, Erving
The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life

Hegel, G. W. F.
The Phenomenology of Spirit

Heidegger, Martin
Being and Time

Howe, Irving
Essays
God, Man, and Stalin
This Age of Conformity
T. E. Lawrence: The Problem of Heroism
Anarchy and Authority in American Literature
Black Boys and Native Sons
The Idea of the Modern
Beliefs of the Masters
The New York Intellectuals
Strangers

Jung, C. G.
Basic Writings, including selections from:
Symbols of Transformation
On the Nature of the Psyche
The Relations Between the Ego and the Unconscious
Psychological Types
Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious

Kenner, Hugh
The Pound Era

Kojeve, Alexandre
Introduction to the Reading of Hegel

Marx, Karl
Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts

Moretti, Franco
The Way of the World: The Bildungsroman in European Culture

Nehamas, Alexander
Nietzsche: Life as Literature
The Art of Living

Nietzsche, Friedrich
Beyond Good and Evil
Thus Spake Zarathustra
The Genealogy of Morals
The Birth of Tragedy
Ecce Homo

Perelman, Bob
The Trouble With Genius: Reading Pound, Joyce, Stein, and Zukofsky

Poirier, Richard
The Performing Self

Ransom, John Crowe
The World’s Body

Richards, I. A.
Principles of Criticism (esp. early sections)

Sartre, Jean-Paul
Saint Genet: Actor and Martyr
The Family Idiot: Gustave Flaubert
Being and Nothingness

Stanislavski, Constantin
An Actor Prepares

Starobinski, Jean
Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Transparency and Obstruction

Trilling, Lionel
Sincerity and Authenticity
Matthew Arnold
Essays
Hemingway and His Critics
T. S. Eliot’s Politics
The Immortality Ode
Art and Neurosis
Manners, Morals, and the Novel
Wordsworth and the Rabbis
William Dean Howells and the Roots of Modern Taste
The Poet as Hero: Keats in His Letters
The Situation of the American Intellectual at the Present Time
The Fate of Pleasure
James Joyce in His Letters
Mind in the Modern World
Art, Will, and Necessity

Weber, Max
The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

Wilson, Edmund
Axel’s Castle

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Deleuze is working in the tradition of post-Kantian idealism

Tom (Grundlegung) Says: May 24th, 2007 at 5:01 am Initially, I’m not sure how useful Davidson is in this context insofar as the dualism he is attacking is an empiricist one of conceptual scheme and intutional content that is intended to undermine a certain conception of the role of experience in judgement and knowledge-claims. This seems to be getting a different issue than the one of the relation between being and some socio-historical medium or category (history, language, etc.). The latter seems more straight-forwardly metaphysical in that it is concerned with issues such as ontology and the structuation of the world rather than the epistemological issues that Davidson seems preoccupied with. But perhaps you have in mind some way to bridge these two, or think that they collapse in to one another somehow? Tom (Grundlegung) Says: May 24th, 2007 at 5:05 am Oops… I should have refreshed before posting and lecturing you on the basics of Davidson which you set out very nicely above! My apologies, Daniel.
larvalsubjects Says: May 24th, 2007 at 5:33 am Daniel, Tom, this is all very interesting and is one of those happy convergences. One of the central themes I’m dealing with in my book on Deleuze is the opposition between concepts and intuitions. My dissertation was supervised by Andrew Cutrofello who, in turn, did his dissertation work with McDowell. Cutrofello’s central lense or interpretative frame for approaching the history of philosophy was the opposition between concepts and intuitions. In many respects, the first draft of my book was a response to the strong opposition he had drawn between these two domains (ultimately receptivity and spontaneity in Kant).
I tried to show how Deleuze is working in the tradition of post-Kantian idealism (rather than traditional empiricism as is so often claimed) vis a vis Schelling and especially Maimon, and how he formulates an account of productive intuition that undermines the distinction between epistemology and metaphysics. I would agree with Daniel that these issues extend to the social sciences as well and that this distinction has been formative of a good deal of social theory.
However, these metaphysical issues cannot even be properly formulated until the dogmas surrounding the concept/intuition couplet are “deconstructed” as a number of the epistemological problems from 17th century on (arguably as far back as Plato or a certain appropriation of Plato) are motivated by this couplet. I don’t know that I wholeheartedly endorse today what I argued in that book, but it certainly outlines the steps that have set me on my current trajectory which is deeply suspicious of those stances that privilege epistemology.

Zizek respects Deleuze only when he’s on his own Lacanian - Hegelian terms

Who’s Afraid of the Out-of-Context? Foucault Is Dead May 23rd, 2007 · 2 Comments Today I picked-up a copy of Gregg Lambert’s new book Who’s Afraid of Deleuze and Guattari? whilst browsing new philosophy titles in my local library. Lambert situates this text as a defence of Deleuze and Guattari from the now-familiar Badiouian/Zizekian critique, but also a rejection of the appropriation of Deleuze and Guattari by certain trends within cultural studies. As one of my fellow graduate students noted, a quick scan of the book’s index reveals the weakness of Lambert’s study: Badiou is mentioned on only two pages, whilst an entire chapter is devoted to Zizek’s Organs Without Bodies. Surely, my colleague declared, if one wants to engage with that particular critique of Deleuze, then Badiou (or, I would suggest, Hallward) is the one to look at, not Zizek.
However, upon reading the chapter on Zizek in Lambert’s book, I was shocked to discover that he actually manages to miss this all-too-easy target! The chapter has an extraordinary weak opening, with Lambert describing how, when he was a graduate student at Berkley in the mid-1980s, he and his colleagues were shocked by a paper delivered by the, then unknown, Slovenian with his smutty jokes and Lacanian interventions in popular culture. On the basis of Zizek’s current reputation, Lambert says this was a little like seeing The Beatles on their first trip to the US. Okay, nice story, kind of… But what exactly is the point of Lambert telling us all this? Does he really think there is a kind of kudos in having seen Zizek ‘play live’ before he hit the big time? Bloody Hell, dude, that’s pretty adolescent - a bit like when one my friends used to brag about having seen Nirvana play live before the release of Nevermind. What I find amazing about Lambert’s telling of this story is that he doesn’t relegate it to a footnote but, rather, he actually opens the chapter with it. Now, no one is saying that there exists an absolute rule which states that the first paragraph of (what is supposed to be) a philosophical argument must kick off by asserting the thesis to be defended or the problem to be addressed. But I think, as far as professional academic publishing is concerned, it’s pretty good advice. C’mon man, leave the grad school anecdotes for the smoking room!
Now you’d think that would be it as far as the lack of attention to context was concerned, but the standards slip even lower, the further you delve into the chapter. For instance, Lambert suggests that Zizek’s friends and colleagues probably advised him against publishing Organs Without Bodies, but he obviously decided against taking this “advice” and went ahead and published it anyway. So this is clearly a gesture intended to invoke the popular perception (which is perhaps even tacitly encouraged by Zizek himself) that Zizek is recklessly out-of-control. But Lambert even, apparently without any justification, dares to add another dimension to this image: Zizek is so completely out-of-control that he won’t even take advice from his friends and colleagues. (Incidentally, I wonder if Lambert occasionally does this - advise his friends and colleagues against publishing their books, that is… With colleagues like that, who needs critics?)
What’s sad about this sort of thing is that Lambert does manage to say some interesting things about Zizek, despite the fact that he claims that he and other Deleuzians literally cannot understand Organs Without Bodies at all because it is, in his view, so totally incoherent. (Okay, it’s not the most perfectly realised of Zizek’s books, but is it, as Lambert claims, literally incoherent?) The interesting aspect of Lambert’s engagement with Zizek is his suggestion that Zizek uses the existence of cyberspace (with its alleged absence of symbolic authority) in the same way that Lacan used the decline of symbolic authority in American capitalist ideology. The thrust of Lambert’s argument is that Zizek and Lacan reify these domains, whereas the social reality of cyberspace, for instance, changes in ways which Zizek fails to reflect in his writings on the topic. Okay, so I hope this wasn’t too much of a rant. And I hope I didn’t take Lambert’s ad hominems out of, well, context. Tags: zizek 2 responses so far ↓
Robert Jackson // May 23rd 2007 at 7:56 pm Organs Without Bodies is for me Zizek’s weakest book I agree, but it is in no way completey incoherent, Zizek missed a trick by not critiqueing Deleuze from a Deleuzian point of view.
Zizek respects Deleuze as a philosopher for sure, but he seems to only like him when he’s on his own Lacanian - Hegelian terms, which is why he loves Logic of Sense and Anti Oedipus is his Worst book precisely because he became “Guattari-fied”. And trying to attack Deleuze from a Hegelian perspective is like a long sighted person trying to see with short sighted glasses.
The feud between D&G and B&Z comes down to Lacan, and Lacan only. Whether you believe in repression and lack or not. If you do then subject and object exist and theres a gap, if you don’t then there is only social desire, the individual and the law are one and the same.
One interesting thing D&G have to say about that which I re-read the other day
“We fully believe that the Oedipus and repression model exists, we simply just don’t endorse it.”
Keith // May 24th 2007 at 12:49 am Interestingly enough I’m sitting with that very Zizek book at my side on account of having browsed over it again last night to find a passage I had wanted to write down having to do with, well, context…
It may be notorious for being the book aboutDeleuze that Z didn’t write, but it is certainly not incoherent. If anything is incoherent, it would be an author opening a chapther with an I-saw-him-before-you-knew-who-he-was story as a part of his argument. Obviously.

Davidson ends up agreeing with Gadamer on a great number of issues

Daniel Says: May 24th, 2007 at 3:55 am The main text for the attack on the scheme/content dualismis “On The Very Idea Of A Conceptual Scheme.” “A Coherence Theory of Truth and Knowledge” and “A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs” are also quite good, and deal with similar topics. (Davidson himself went a bit sour on “A Coherence Theory…”, but that’s mainly because the title is so bad — as he notes in “Afterthoughts” what he discusses there is not a theory of knowledge, nor is his understanding of truth a coherence theory.)
His later stuff is a lot more interesting than any of the essays in “Actions and Events.” Even “Mental Events” looks pretty lousy compared to “Three Varieties of Knowledge” (or most of the other essays in Subjective, Intersubjective, Objective). Actually, most of his work is unimpressive next to “Three Varieties of Knowledge.”
The dualism Davidson is concerned with is that between (conceptual) scheme and (empirical) content — the idea that there is something immediately given to us (raw feels, sense data, nerve stimulation) which we then filter through our “conceptual scheme” (language, point of view, culture), and that this mediated product is what we actually are able to think about, perceive, or in general have cognitive access to (consciously or unconsciously). He makes the point that what is supposed to be “immediate” here ends up playing no normative role; “what is a reason for what” is a conceptual matter. But then it makes no sense to say that in thought we “apply” our conceptual scheme to something given, since the “given” here has no say in what we do with our scheme — it’s not the sort of thing which can have a normative function. But then there’s no sense in claiming that our “scheme” is somehow mediating between us and reality; having the world in view is an exercise of our conceptual capacities.
Davidson’s immediate target in “On The Very Idea” is Quine, but he recognizes that he’s dealing with a lot of folk: he mentions Sapir & Whorf, Kuhn, and Kant as all party to the dogma of scheme and content, as well as most of the rest of modern philosophy. I take it that something similar is at work when Continental thinkers suggest that we are somehow “trapped” inside our language, our historical epoch, etc. rather than having actual access to “Being.” Deleuze does a better job of chasing away “Cartesian ghosts” than his Continental brethren.
Fully agreed in distrusting the analytic/continental divide; I was mostly joking when I suggested it would be wrong to bring Davidson into the picture here. Davidson ends up agreeing with Gadamer on a great number of issues, though they came to their conclusions through very different routes; John McDowell has also expressed a great admiration for Gadamer. McDowell is with Brandom in trying to rehabilitate Hegel, and has done a better job of it to my mind. And of course Rorty never so much as paid lip-service to the analytic/continental divide. Even Sellars was drawing pretty heavily on Hegel; it just didn’t show up because Sellar’s Hegelianism mainly showed up in how he made use of Kant.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The two languages are not far apart

This has long been the issue on which I break with more traditional Marxists; and it is still the issue on which I tend to differ with Jodi and many of the other folks I read most avidly today in the blogosphere, as well as more generally with both Frankfurt School and psychoanalytic (e.g. Zizek) approaches.
But I note that very often, these days, when I read more traditionally “dialectical” Marxist stuff (whether Frankfurt School, or Lacanian School, or just work emphasizing political economy) I tend to just mentally translate the language of negativity, contradiction, etc., into the language of virtuality that I get from Deleuze (and that Deleuze gets from sources, like Bergson and William James, that have been considered disreputable, because too blandly and unconflictually pluralist, by most 20th century Western Marxists).
The fact that I can make this sort of translation so easily suggests to me that the two languages are not as far apart as partisans on either side have often made them out to be. (And I should add that I am equally irritated by dismissals of Delueze, like Zizek’s, that make him out to be some muddle-headed liberal pluralist or New Age prophet or Jungian archetypalist, and by the ritualistic denunciations of the old-fashioned dialectics of Marx and Marxism by thinkers, like Lazzarato, who are in fact analyzing capitalism entirely within the horizon of Marxian concepts).
There are definite commonalities. Both the Hegelian/dialectical language of negativity, and the James/Bergson/Deleuze language of virtuality, insist that all those things that are omitted by the positivist cataloguing of atomistic facts are altogether real. Both locate this reality by asserting that the “relations” between things are as real as the things themselves, and that “things” don’t exist first, but only come to be through their multiple relations. Both construct materialist (rather than idealist) accounts of these relations, of how they constitute the real, and of how they continually change (over time) the nature of what is real. Both offer similar critiques of the tradition of bourgeois thought that leads from Descartes through the British empiricists and on to 20th century scientism and post-positivism.
The advantage of Deleuze, to me, is that he offers a wider, and more complex and nuanced, notion of “relations” than the Hegelian tradition does. Now, of course the Hegelian argument is precisely that the William James and Bergson pluralist approaches substitute a blandly observed multiplicity of indifferent connections for the sharpness of antagonism and radical change (and of course the valorization of “more complex and nuanced” is itself a part of the strategy of thus neutralizing antagonism). But the Deleuzian argument — radicalizing Bergson and James and giving them an edge that perhaps they don’t possess on their own — aims to both give a fuller picture of what the system of things-as-they-are excludes, and to provide for the possibility that practice can invent methods and situations that are theoretically unforseen... This entry was posted on Monday, May 22nd, 2006 at 11:49 am and is filed under Theory. The Pinocchio Theory

Whitehead in relation to Kant

Distributed Whitehead Network Tuesday, May 16th, 2006 Thanks to the Distributed Whitehead Network, I was able to access, live, the streaming webcasts of three recent symposia on the theme of “Whitehead Today” (and simultaneously contribute to discussion via a chat room). For lack of time, I will only comment on the first symposium here.
I’ve written many times on this blog about my enthusiasm for Whitehead (especially here, here, and here). I also have an article about Whitehead in relation to Kant(warning: fairly academic in manner) (forthcoming in some anthology or other) which is available for download here. But enough self-citation; I was grateful to the Whitehead Today symposia for the way they brought me back to some of the perplexities, or unresolved issues, I have both with understanding Whitehead’s thought, and with figuring out just how he might be relevant today, both generally and (here’s the self-citation again, sorry) in my own work... This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 16th, 2006 at 11:22 pm and is filed under Books. The Pinocchio Theory

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

There’s now a huge public interest in popular philosophy

Another think coming By Mark Vernon
FT Home > Arts & weekend > Magazine Published: May 11 2007
The last great British philosopher who linked experience and thought - and wrote about it in an accessible way - was Bertrand Russell. But by the 1950s the connection had broken. A new mood about philosophy took hold: it should be more rigorous. These philosophers called their philosophy ”analytic philosophy” - to underline the belief that philosophy’s proper subject material is not the personal but, rather, logic and propositions. Many students entering universities in the English-speaking world between the 1950s and 1970s would have felt the disconnection between the personal and the philosophical was obvious, right and permanent.
Now the mood seems to be shifting, slowly, mainly because high-profile academics working in the strongholds of English analytic philosophy want their discipline to become engaged again. ”Philosophy has become far too professionalised,” says Sir Anthony Kenny, a former Master of Balliol College, Oxford, and one of Britain’s most distinguished living philosophers.
He laments that much of the work done in philosophy departments today is inaccessible to other philosophers, let alone the public at large. In some subjects, such as physics, such complexity is unavoidable since the ”raw material” of the subject takes years to master. ”But philosophers don’t have information that is unavailable to others. In philosophy the best of it should be available to all. It is for this reason that I admire Russell, even if I don’t always agree with him, because of the way he could write serious philosophy that was readable to a wide public,” Kenny says.
The author and philosopher A.C. Grayling believes philosophy itself risks becoming impoverished when it doesn’t care about its wider application. ”Spending time contributing to the public conversation is a kind of duty. And philosophical ideas and perspectives become impoverished when there is a lack of it,” Professor Grayling observes. ”Ten years ago when I started writing for a popular audience, it was looked down upon. Now this does not happen. We are recovering a sense of philosophy as taking part in a popular debate.”
There’s now a huge public interest in popular philosophy, with Alain de Botton the best-known author in this genre. He covers issues such as friendship, desire, death and children, but has a profound ambivalence towards contemporary philosophy. ”Around 2000, when I wrote a book on philosophy [The Consolations of Philosophy], the academics became hysterical that I was an interloper on their hallowed ground,” he says. ”Philosophy is largely owned by the academy and defined by its interests. These interests tend to be narrow and the way one is allowed to write in academia almost guarantees that no more than a handful of people will bother to investigate subjects. That’s why philosophy is largely irrelevant in this country. However, there is clearly a great appetite among people to know what philosophy is. My own feeling is that this curiosity is generally abused.”
Havi Carel, senior lecturer in philosophy at the University of the West of England, goes beyond the war of words to show how great thinkers can make a real improvement to modern lives. She has LAM disease, an incurable lung condition. When she was diagnosed, it was a brutal shock. However, reading the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus and the German thinker Martin Heidegger - who sought to address the ancient questions afresh - she found new strength.
”Philosophy gave me the capacity to reflect not just emotionally but rationally on my illness,” Dr Carel says. It enabled her to take a broader perspective on her feelings of anger and envy, lessening their destructiveness. Epicurus taught his followers not to be afraid of death, since death is non-existence, that is, absolutely nothing. He also pursued things that produce happiness, such as friendship and small pleasures.
Carel says: ”The good news is that although we are shackled by some objective features of life, such as our health, we can choose to focus on these other good things. It is not only me who has realised that much of what worries us is, in fact, trivial and meaningless. Both philosophy and being ill enable you to apply this insight to your own life.” Mark Vernon is an honorary research fellow at Birkbeck College, London and author of ”Science, Religion and the Meaning of Life” (Palgrave Macmillan).

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Deleuze’s reading of Nietzsche restores the philosophical power by excavating a coherent metaphysics

Life is Production: On Deleuze’s Vitalism II May 5th, 2007 (Part three will be coming tomorrow. It was simply too long to be split into just two parts.)
The virtual and the actual are both real and we must think them in order to understand the mechanism of difference and the mechanism of creation. Deleuze’s Bergsonian vitalism is an attempt to understand these two mechanisms, for he sees evolution as taking place from virtuals to actuals – ‘Evolution is actualization, actualization is creation.’ This is the thesis that he advances against two misconceptions in evolutionary theory: interpreting biological or living evolution in terms of the “possible” that is actualized or interpreting it in terms of pure actuals. The first misconception is found in traditional theories of vitalism, here named “preformism”, where the real is merely an image of a possible telos. Deleuze tell us that ‘contrary to preformism, evolutionism will always have the merit of reminding us that life is production, creation of differences.’ This insight, while valuable, comes against the problem of the nature and cause of these differences. Against the view that the vital differences or variations (the process of the élan vital) are purely accidental Deleuze offers three objections: 1) if these variations are due to chance they would remain external, or “indifferent”, to each other, 2) this externality would mean they could not logically be anything but associated or added to one another, and 3) their indifference would mean they would not even have the means to enter into these relations of association or addition. This all leads to the final conclusion that ‘The mistake of evolutionism is, thus, to conceive of vital variations as so many actual determination that should then combine on a single line.’
This is where Deleuze makes clear what a ‘philosophy of life’ would appear as. It should be noted that the German for philosophy of life [lebensphilosophie] is often translated as vitalism. When Deleuze gives us the three Bergsonian requirements for a ‘philosophy of life’ he is explicating the shape of his own vitalistic thought: 1) the vital difference is an internal difference, in accord with the way it is experienced and thought and only in this way are they not accidental, 2) these variations do not constitute an associate or additive relationship, but enter into relationships of dissociation or divistion, and 3) by virtue of the former two these variations involve a virtuality that is actualized according to the lines of divergence; ‘so that evolution does not move from one actual term to another actual term in a homogeneous unilinear series, but from a virtual term to the heterogeneous terms that actualize it along a ramified series.’ These three requirements are interconnected by their emphasis on difference, divergence, and heterogeneity. But this heterogeneity comes from the reality of the virtual or the way the divergent lines belong to a single Time, coexist in a Unity, are enclosed in a Simplicity, form parts of a Whole – in other words the actualization of these divergent lines are held together in the virtuality of a ‘gigantic memory, a universal cone in which everything coexists with itself, except for the differences of level.’ The actuals present differences in degree, or fundamental opposition between plant, animal, and man that leads one to see only deteriorations.
However when one experiences the movement that produces them one sees the virtuality actualized in the actuals, or the creative act of life itself. Life is not purely virtual; life as movement arrests itself in the material form that it creates. The living being turns on itself and closes itself as an actual. This isn’t a negation of the virtual, for life cannot be otherwise if the Whole or All-One [Tout] is only virtual it has to divide itself by being acted out as actual – ‘[The Whole] cannot assemble its atual parts that remains external to each other: The Whole is never “given.”’ Though this leads to individual closures, we must also be delighted, in the name of creativity, that the Whole is not given. For if the Whole were given, once and for all, the mistakes of mechanism and finalism would be true – life would be only determination. So against traditional vitalism Deleuze posits that there is no “goal” to life, even if there is finality due to the fact that life does operate without directions. The consequence of the élan vital is that these differences do not pre-exist ready-made, but are ‘created “along with” the act that runs through them.’ In this way life is in principle memory, consciousness, and freedom, but ‘in principle’ means virtually. Bergson argued that it is in humanity that life actually comes to power as memory, consciousness, and freedom. In the sense that the élan vital finally actualizes successfully the virtuality of life humanity can be said to be the “purpose” of evolution. ‘It could be said that in man, and only in man, the actual becomes adequate to the virtual.’ However, this conception of ‘man’ is complicated in Deleuze’s later work on Nietzsche and Foucault and his thinking of the Overman. Below I argue that this thinking of the Overman is the ethical and political import of Deleuze’s vitalistic philosophy.
Deleuze’s reading of Nietzsche restores the philosophical power of Nietzsche’s thought by excavating a coherent metaphysics. Nietzsche’s philosophy is a challenge to the optimism in Bergson’s confidence that in humanity the actual becomes adequate to the virtual. Deleuze seems to accept in large part Nietzsche’s genealogy of marls and follows Nietzsche in thinking that life at one time was not in need of redemption and furthermore that life was ultimately just and innocent. However, through the “cunning of priests and slaves” the dual ideas of guilt and debt are introduced, causing ressentiment to arise and make life heavy. Life is then subjugated to the dialectic, or more clearly, subjugated to history as a line of past events that lead to the present and determine the future. This creates societies that do not want to be overcome, that see themselves and their laws as the final end of history and who can no longer imagine or think of anything superior than themselves. Nature, the site where life plays out, is striving to go beyond humanity as he who is guilty to past debts, to a person who make promises to the future, but humanity as becoming-reactive strives against such nature. This is essentially in line with Deleuze’s reading of Bergson, except at the level of society instead of species. Effectively, since humanity creates societies and is constituted as a society, humanity has, in its current condition, failed to make the actual adequate to the virtual. Posted by Anthony Paul Smith Filed in vitalism, Deleuze 2 Comments »

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Every story needs a villain

Joseph Kugelmass Says: May 5th, 2007 at 1:19 am Ironically, if there is a Derridean trace nestled in the Deleuzian system, it is probably in the concept of the “possible” rather than anywhere else. Deleuze’s writing is astonishingly free from absence or lack, unless one were to unsympathetically read such things into his plenitude and states of differentiation. That puts him at odds with Derrida.
Still, since the possible has to remain an entirely “open” category, and cannot be verbalized or cognized at all without passing over into virtuality, it does resemble the originary trace: it is the condition of possibility for the virtual, but it is also erased by what it engenders, and is displaced to “elsewhere.”
I’m curious about the relationship between determination/negation here, which divides and reorganizes the existent real by introducing discontinuities, and creation pure and simple, which makes somewhere where nothing was before. Another way of putting this is to ask by what medium the virtual passes into an actual; one assumes that the actual must have some kind of materiality if it is to surpass the subject towards any sort of shared experience. How does Deleuze deal with Hegel’s theories of the Master/Slave dialectic, and how does he deal with Hegel’s theories about determinate being?
Anthony Paul Smith Says: May 5th, 2007 at 2:39 am ‘Still, since the possible has to remain an entirely “open” category, and cannot be verbalized or cognized at all without passing over into virtuality, it does resemble the originary trace: it is the condition of possibility for the virtual, but it is also erased by what it engenders, and is displaced to “elsewhere.”’
I don’t know if this is quite what the possible is, at least not in his book on Bergson. Granted, this particular essay is limited because, as I say in the first paragraph, I’m looking at the way he writes through other figures first. My MA will deal with Difference and Repetition where he starts to write more explicitly in his own voice. Though, I think it is important to take him at his word with regard to his works on other philosophers. These are his kind of co-creations.
Anyway, the possible, doesn’t seem to be an open category at all. If anything the concept of the possible produces the mistake of thinking that the Whole is “given”. There is a Whole but only a virtual Whole - so an ideal Whole, real but not actual, ideal without being abstract. This is the critique of the negative (which, incidentally, Merleau-Ponty also uses in his criticisms of Husserl and, to a greater degree, Sartre), because the Whole as possible is already given, determined, and the only way anything can become real and actual is by limiting the possible.
Now I think, and this might be a contentious reading, that dividing up and reorganizing the existent real, or more accurately the virtual Whole, is a meontic operation. It’s not replacing something for nothing, but there is no nothing as such. When you insert the nothing into Deleuze’s philosophy, and at points when he does, I think it becomes rather incoherent in this way. I don’t know that I understand the question of ‘the medium’. The virtual and the actual are two parts of the real, so reality itself is the medium. Of course it is material, but it is also memory, it is also dark matter, dark energy, food webs, or all sorts of other things that challenge our understanding of what matter actually means.
I don’t know enough or have enough interest to know much about Deleuze’s relationship with him. He does have criticisms in his Nietzsche book, but they are Nietzsche’s. There is an interview with him in the Desert Islands text where he says in response to a question about why he hates Hegel so much, “Every story needs a villain.” So, I’ve always just taken Hegel to be a personae for Deleuze to work against, rather than a figure he is producing a study thereof. One other tangential remark on this, in Anti-Oedipus they make the claim that there is no longer any human master, only two orders of slaves. Ask Sinthome, that guy gets into this part of Deleuze studies and he seems to know what the hell he is talking about with it too.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Now suddenly there is no need to make reference to personal gods that regulate nature, but rather nature is auto-regulative

Take the example of Thales from philosophy. Thales exists within a social field where the world is explained through myth. Want to know why it thunders? Tell a story about Zeus. Want to know why there are olive trees? Tell a story about Daphne. The social field is saturated by this form of explanation and this form of explanation is experienced as being obviously correct. So how does a man like Thales occur? What is it that led Thales to turn away from mythology and transcendence– however imperfectly –and suddenly have the idea that perhaps the world can be explained immanently? For, make no mistake, this is exactly what Thales sets out to do when he says “all is water”.
Now suddenly there is no need to make reference to personal gods that regulate nature, but rather nature is auto-regulative, containing its own principles that we can investigate to understand the multiplicity of phenomena about us. It’s a poor beginning, but a beginning nonetheless. Here it would seem that an unprecedented possibility has appeared in Thales’ socio-historical setting. How did Thales develop the vision to even begin to see something such as this as a possibility? In Heideggarian terms, this constitutes a split in the being-in-the-world of Thales’ time. It will be recalled that for Heidegger the worldhood of the world is characterized as a system of relations defining a field of possibilities of the pragmatic sort. We draw from this field of possibilities as the background upon which all our practical engagements with the world unfold. How, then, does a new possibility such as this suddenly manifest itself in the world. How is it possible to see the world otherwise?
The deadlock or paradox is patent. On the one hand, a commitment to immanence entails that we’re all embedded in socio-material-historical contexts that prevent any appeal to transcendence in the form of a subject that is somehow able to step out of its embedded context whether through the sheer power of reason or some grasping of universal and eternal Platonic forms. On the other hand, these breaks do occur. Suddenly it becomes possible to conceive a possibility that was before entirely absent from the situation. It is this issue that theorists such as Deleuze, Lacan, Badiou, and Zizek, among others, have sought to theorize.
For instance, the question for Lacan is the question of how a break with the organizing fantasy might become possible, how it might become possible to see otherwise than through the fractal-like interpretive grid of the fundamental fantasy that pulls everything into its orbit like a mathematical function monotonously producing the same structural output for a series of intergers (2x… 2, 4, 6, 8…). If, then, change is to be theorized– and we know ruptures take place, so it must be theorized –then this theorization must unfold from within immanence in such a way as to forbid any treatment of the critic as transcendent to the constraints of the situation (self-reflexivity). Difference and Givenness Levi Bryant

Thursday, May 03, 2007

“Post-metaphysics” is simply delusional

Greg Desilet Says: May 2nd, 2007 at 2:39 pm This view of Buddhism, Loy’s view of Nagarjuna, is problematic from a Derridean point of view. For Derrida there is no form of consciousness or awareness that may count as being outside the structure of the trace. This is consistent with his insistence that there is no escape from metaphysics. Forms of transcendentalism that seek to go beyond metaphysics into a “post-metaphysics” are simply delusional because in one way or another they only re-inscribe all the problems of traditional metaphysics or return us to the structure of the trace from another direction.
And in the type of Buddhism expressed above there also seems to be, from a Derridean (and also neo-Nietzschean) vantage point and critique, an implicit depreciation of life, as the phenomenal/existential realm of daily lived experience. That is, there is an implicit depreciation of the life of “commonsense reality” because any metaphysics associated with that reality “makes me suffer.” For Derrida, a world or consciousness in which there is no suffering is a world and consciousness beyond any form of life or existence whatever. Everything we see in the “commonsense” kosmos such as flux, movement, change, energy, force, creation, destruction, etc. is made possible by difference (differance)—and entails suffering and also makes life possible. Why find fault with this and the metaphysics that affirms it? Instead, why not affirm “this world” and negotiate a life in it with a metaphysics that does not turn from it as if it were not worthy because of its potential for suffering?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Subjective destitution isn’t sufficient so long as one continues to think of an all seeing eye or a god figure

Dejan, this would be the point of Zizek’s reading, yes. The problem is that we would have to reject any discussion of miracles or resurrection in order for this thesis to hold, else Christ is not really a man. You’ve suggested a couple of times now that Christianity is a form of belief that’s premised on traversing the fantasy and related concepts. In a previous comment on another post you focused on subjective destitution. However, while this is certainly an important element, subjective destitution isn’t sufficient so long as one continues to think of an all seeing eye or a god figure. I think that so long as one continues to maintain a belief in that voice that responds to prayer the Lacanian requirement hasn’t been met. This would hold for your comments about hell as well. It is not recognition of one’s own limitation that’s important here, but rather the castration of the Other that’s central. larvalsubjects said this on May 2nd, 2007 at 6:59 am
There is, incidentally, a good deal more to the concept of objet a than the “grass is greener on the other side”. This confuses object a as cause of desire with objet a as object or aim of desire. I’ve written a good deal about this here on this blog so I won’t repeat it here. But objet a is not the idea of the object that would complete me, nor is it even an object that I desire. A good example of this is Freud’s case of the young female homosexual that jumps on the train tracks when her father stares at her with contempt when seeing her with the prostitute. She jumps because she’s lost the cause of her desire, the gaze. But this gaze is not the object of her desire. The prostitute is. When that gaze collapses she ceases, in her psychic economy, to be a subject. We tend to be pretty clear as to what the object of our desire is and this is part of the problem. What we’re unclear of is the point from which we desire or the cause of our desire. This is why the analyst occupies the position of objet a in the discourse of the analyst. The analyst occupies the blind-spot, the remainder, what the psychic economy excludes to constitute itself as a subject. Far more needs to be said about this. larvalsubjects said this on May 2nd, 2007 at 7:07 am
A point that can’t be repeated enough is that the fantasy is a fantasy about the completness of the Other, not the subject. There’s plenty to attest to the fact that the subject is more than happy to take incompleteness on himself. For instance, many cultures historically have taken unusual events such as the appearance of comets as signs that they have done something wrong. The real trauma is the idea that the Other doesn’t know, is castrated, is divided. This is what I was objecting to. You were placing the fantasy on the side of the subjects lack, not on the side of the Other. You do this with your remarks on resurrection to. These are not the issues from a psychoanalytic perspective.
I wasn’t speaking of the resurrection of followers, but the resurrection of Christ. Does Orthodox Christianity believe that Christ was resurrected, that he turned water into wine, that the Red Sea was parted, etc? Miracles are treated as evidence for religious belief. Each religion has its miracles. For instance, Daphne turning into an olive tree in Greek mythology. larvalsubjects said this on May 2nd, 2007 at 8:02 am
Or to put it somewhat differently and simplistically, what you seem to be saying is that the Other (in this case, the Other as God) has the answer. But you know very well that the final hurdle to be jumped in analysis– the hurdle that must be jumped for an analysis to be complete –is the belief that the Other (in the analytic context, the analyst) has the answer or has some special knowledge. You keep placing everything on the side of the subject in your remarks. But the real issue is on the side of the Other and the subject’s belief that the Other has some secret or answer or is an all knowing gaze. It is in this regard that analytic praxis is inconsistent with what you’re asserting. If there is a subjective destitution that accompanies the traversal of the fantasy, then this is because in traversing the fantasy the Other as “keeper of the secret” collapses and disappears from the subjective economy and is therefore no longer a project place from which the subject can guarantee its identity.
Once again, Descartes’ third meditation is relevant here. Descartes there argues that the very existence of the cogitio in time is dependent on God. Ergo, if God ceases to be the cogito ceases to be. Treating Descartes discussion of God as a fetish or what Hume calls a “dressed up superstition in nice linguistic finery” (a tramp is still a tramp when dressed in a tuxedo), we can nonetheless say there’s a psychological structure at work here. The dissipation of belief in the Other is thus accompanied by the guarantee of the subject’s identity. If belief in the orderliness and lawlikeness of social institutions collapses (or God), then the subject no longer has the symbolic guarantee through which s/he maintained and understood his identity. It may be that I’m simply reading you incorrectly, though all your remarks are on the subject side of the equation. The point not to be forgotten is that the subject is in and through the locus of the Other. larvalsubjects said this on May 2nd, 2007 at 8:18 am
To suggest that the linguistic structuration of the subject is “magical” is a gross comparison to a miracle and sloppy thinking. An individual is perpetually changing. So how does it maintain identity through time? The signifier serves this function. The eleven o’clock train is always the eleven o’clock train regardless of whether it comes at eleven ten or ten fifty. Moreover, it is still the eleven o’clock train if it is materially or physically an entirely different train than it was yesterday. This is by virtue of the signifier that names the train as belonging to that slot. There’s nothing magical about this. Similarly, the naming of the individual and the individuals institution into the symbolic gives it a persistence and identity in time despite the fact that it’s thoughts and body are perpetually changing. For instance, the parents of that child behave towards it as the same subject even though it has changed dramatically from one day to the next in both behavior and thoughts. Again, the signifier.
Now, you’re welcome to argue that there are shortcomings in Lacan’s understanding of language and the inferences he makes from these claims; but it is both dishonest and sloppy to suggest that claiming language structures the subject is identical to being resurrected from the dead which violates every known law of nature. The former still admits of causal and physical explainations, whereas the latter do not. These physical and causal explanations may be mistaken, at which point we’d search about for another account of the subject, but they don’t resort to a denial of causality. larvalsubjects said this on May 2nd, 2007 at 8:28 am
Next you’ll be telling me that there’s no more reason to believe in evolution than creationism. Your arguments here are identical. You religious folk are a hoot in the lengths you’ll go in distorting things to try making your case. larvalsubjects said this on May 2nd, 2007 at 8:42 am
So in your theology God doesn’t have perfect knowledge? I’m perfectly happy to accept the thesis that Jesus was a perfectly ordinary man that was a Lacanian analysis before his time so long as the resurrection thesis or all the tall tales are dropped and are treated by embellishments of subsequented well meaning followers that sought to embellish his image so as to underline his importance. Under this reading, Jesus would be no different than Socrates. Of course, the wise person would do well to stick to Socrates as the gullible are so quick to believe the tall tales about Jesus where Socrates’ good name isn’t similarly soiled by such tabloid magician stories. larvalsubjects said this on May 2nd, 2007 at 8:49 am

No familiarity with the Frankfurt School or critical theory

Critical Individuations May 2, 2007 • For those interested in some of the issues I’ve been discussing with respect to individuation here at Larval Subjects, I wanted to draw attention to a terrific new blog, Grundlegung. Grundlegung addresses– far more adequately –a number of the issues of self-reflexivity and historicization that I’ve been gropingly attempting to approach with my own theoretical tools (I suspect that many of my difficulties are exacerbated by having next to no familiarity with the Frankfurt School or critical theory, though apparently my thought falls somehow in this trajectory of thought). Not only is Grundlegung a beautiful writer, but he is also developing an exceptionally exciting conceptual trajectory...Throw him some love and poke around his blog a bit. Like N.Pepperell and Joseph Kugelmass, he’s one I’d like to see continue writing so I can steal his ideas! ~ by larvalsubjects on May 2, 2007. Difference and Givenness Levi Bryant