Monday, August 27, 2007

Language comes to function in place of the Kantian categories and intuition in figures such as Wittgenstein, Lyotard, Derrida, Levi-Strauss, etc.

larvalsubjects Says: August 24, 2007 at 4:45 pm
I’m still unsure as to where I come down on all of these issues. My own thought is heavily indebted to thinkers that fall under the so-called linguistic turn or what might be referred to as “transcendental linguisticism” (i.e., language comes to function in place of the Kantian categories and intuition in figures such as Wittgenstein, Lyotard, Derrida, Levi-Strauss, etc.), and I find it difficult to think outside of the linguistic turn or not to be haunted by the arguments of the linguistic turn.
The point is clearly not one of rejecting language, but of calling into question its hegemonic status among postmodern, post-structuralist, and Anglo-American ordinary language philosophers with regard to all other conditions. Language is clearly important but there’s a significant question as to whether language is the primary condition to which all other things must be subordinated. Deleuze and Guattari, in What is Philosophy?, for instance, show how philosophy, science, and art always unfold in a “subtractive” relation to language, carving out something else from within language (where language here might be thought as Wittgenstein-Lyotard’s “language games”), that can no longer be reduced to language. Lacan, I think, is different from the postmoderns and makes an uncomfortable bedfellow with thinkers of the linguistic turn. The Symbolic is, of course, very important for Lacan– especially in his work during the fifties –but it’s important to recall that for Lacan there are three orders: the symbolic, the imaginary, and the real. From the sixties on, Lacan begins to focus on the primacy of the real. In addition to the real as the impossible and trauma, Lacan also thinks of mathematics as the real. Under this view, Lacan argues, like Badiou, that maths fall outside of language or the symbolic.
I found the Guattari passage interesting mostly because of how closely it resembles a number of arguments advanced by Badiou with regard to the linguistic turn. Badiou’s portrayal of Deleuze and Guattari (especially Guattari) has not been very flattering, and has tended to be characterized by rhetorical low blows rather than genuine arguments (especially with Zizek), and yet here we find Guattari denouncing the very things Badiou is militating against and defending large-scale forms of engagement. In recent years we’ve had a series of perplexing texts written by Badiousians on Deleuze: Badiou’s The Clamor of Being, Zizek’s Organs Without Bodies, and Hallward’s Out of this World. Each of these books, while possessing their own virtues, have also been significant misreadings and distoritions of Deleuze’s thought. One wonders why those in the Badiou camp have felt the need to target Deleuze specifically, when arguably Deleuze’s thought provides such powerful tools for the Marxist attempting to think through the phenomena of late capital. The more I’ve worked on Badiou– initially I was extremely enthusiastic about his work, experiencing it as a breath of fresh air where thought had once again become possible and allowing us to finally depart from the pious discourses of neo-phenomenology and deconstruction –the more my enthusiasm has cooled as his ontology and onto-logy (Logiques des mondes) is, to my thinking, tremendously underdetermined, providing us with little in the way of tools for analyzing contemporary situations. There seems to be something of a symptom at work here in these critiques of Deleuze, like the disavowel of a ghostly question that insists in the thought of these thinkers without being directly articulated...
larvalsubjects Says: August 24, 2007 at 5:28 pm
To my knowledge, Deleuze and Guattari never mention “language games” in what is philosophy. They do, however, show how each of these activities does something very specific with language that is no longer continuous with ordinary or dominant language. I was treating “ordinary language” and “language games” as being synonyms, which is probably a bad move on my part.
larvalsubjects Says: August 25, 2007 at 2:33 am
Badiou addresses this shift in philosophy in his book Manifesto for Philosophy. He doesn’t, as far as I can tell, draw a distinction between philosophies following from the linguistic turn (Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Lyotard, etc), and pious discourses pertaining to the sacred. In many instances, those who have followed the linguistic turn end up in this place (for instance, Derrida’s late work). In any event, Badiou takes it (rightly, I think), that philosophy has abdicated itself when it follows this path or ends up in a pious crypto-theology suitable to the needs of priests, despots, and demagogues– immanence, which is philosophy’s vocation since Thales’ declaration that the world is sufficient to itself, requiring no mythological explanation or transcendent beyond, always rejecting any sort of obfuscatory and hypnotic sacred, “beyond”, “Real” (a highly non-Lacanian usage of the term, I would say) or pious “humble task” in the sense you’re using the term.

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