Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Seduction as the removal of dimensions

Thus, causation could be considered a transcendental condition of experience - a subjectivity which did not employ the concept of causation at all is (arguably) beyond the limits of our imagination. What the transcendental does not allow us to do is to jump to the claim that we live in a completely causally-determined universe - and this is precisely where Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism is of value. As far as I can tell, his point is that the number of things ‘a body can do’ (to quote Spinoza) is infinite. It’s this concept of infinity which allows Deleuze to reconcile a universe which conforms to laws with a universe which is not strongly-determined in the classical sense. Causes can be actualized through investigation, but not in a simple sense: the search for causes changes the phenomenon under investigation. This is why I read Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism in terms of deterritorialization, although Sinthome of Larval Subjects (who knows way more about Deleuze than me) has cautioned against this after reading a recent post of mine.
So blobs, ghosts, voices… To say that these things can just appear mystically out-of-nothing is not going to satisfy Deleuze, nor Christopher French. But the viral form of pure appearance posits (implicitly) as an ontological fact that there can never be such a thing as a blank piece of paper (a spot will always appear), there can never be any such thing as a completely sterile operating theatre (a contamination will always appear), there can never be any such thing as a perfect speech (a slip-of-the-tongue will always appear). In other words, there is no such thing as purity - contamination always occurs and its form is always one of pure appearance, an appearance without cause. Of course, one can always find a cause, an alibi of some sort.
Take the slip-of-the-tongue, for instance: psychoanalysis can suggest an intentionality which caused the slip. So why, on the Baudrillardian view, is this interpretative gesture the wrong step? The answer is not that the interpretation falls short of the truth but, rather, that the moment of contamination is a pure form, whilst any interpretative gesture is an attempt to reassert a pure totality (eg. a completely determined universe). Of course, Deleuze’s vitalist transcendental empiricism can respond to Baudrillard’s viral-ist notion of pure appearance: one reasserts the infinity of life itself through an interpretation which works through the materialist principles Deleuze describes in Difference and Repetition and elsewhere in his work.
Of course, Baudrillard knows it is not possible to live without the illusion of causation, just as Einstein knew it wasn’t possible to live without the illusion of free will. But just as we have rare moments of deja vu, we can experience rare moments of pure appearance also. However, Zizek misses the point completely when he writes...
What Zizek gets wrong here (if this passage is meant to be taken as a reading of Baudrillard) is that the fleeting experience of pure appearance is not a glimpse of another domain or dimension (characterized here by Zizek as ‘Eternity’). It is exactly the opposite: in his book Seduction, Baudrillard explicitly theorises the concept of seduction as the removal of dimensions. For example, the trompe-l’oeil painting seduces us, not by evoking a sublime experience of some transcendent dimension but, rather, by removing a dimension from our experience (removing a transcendental condition of experience, if you want to think of that way). When we try to step into a trompe-l’oeil (mentally or otherwise), our failure delivers us an experience of pure appearance. Of course, we can immediately abolish this pure appearance via interpretation: “oh, it’s just a visual illusion” et cetera...Foucault Is Dead March 12th, 2007 · 1 Comment

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