Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Why only Dostoevsky and not, say, Joyce?

Williams on Dostoevsky’s Faith and Ivan’s Inquisitor
from Per Caritatem by Cynthia R. Nielsen
The church and postmodern culture blog recently posted my brief essay, “Rowan Williams on Dostoevsky’s Faith and Ivan’s Inquisitor.” [...] I highly recommend Williams’ book, Language, Faith, and Fiction: The Making of the Christian Imagination.

"As we no longer read Dostoevsky the way we did before reading Mikhail Bakhtin, so also, having read Williams, we no longer will read either Dostoevsky or Bakhtin as we once did." –Wesley A. Kort, Professor of Religion, Duke University (from Product Description)

"Such a Body We Must Create:" New Theses on Integral Micropolitics Daniel Gustav Anderson INTEGRAL REVIEW December 2008 Vol. 4, No. 2 - 123

Claims of this type, exemplified perhaps by Bakhtin’s (1984) hyperbolic enthusiasm for the religious conservative Dostoevsky and Wilber’s public endorsements of Franklin Jones (Da Free John, Adi Da) and, later, Andrew Cohen, along with books and publications by both (Cohen publishes "the only magazine asking the hard questions, slaughtering the sacred cows, and dealing with the Truth no matter what" [Wilber, 2002, p. xvii, emphasis added]), suggest that only this or that method, only this or that text or periodical or ashram, only this or that guru can yield desirable results—a difficult claim to verify.

Insisting on the exclusivity of Dostoevsky, for instance, begs the question: why only Dostoevsky and not, say, Joyce? Bakhtin shows a willingness to address this question, but never wholly resolves it, and in fairness, could not have read Ulysses at the time of writing his book on Dostoevsky. Analogously, one may ask of Wilber’s work: why an uncategorical endorsement of the claims of Franklin Jones at the expense of those of Shiv Dayal Singh, or Baha’u’llah, or Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, or Meher Baba, or any other, or not at all? 3:48 PM 6:55 PM

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

When Nietzsche died in 1900, the India of philosophy seemed to have disappeared with him from the consciousness of Europeans

OPED Friday, October 31, 2008 Art of looking the other way Francois Gautier Those who select the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize suffer from selective amnesia about India and its ancient knowledge and traditions. Hence the winner is not an Indian
In a remarkable book, L'oubli de l'Inde (Amnesia of India), French philosopher and journalist Roger-Pol Droit recounts how till the 19th century Europe's admiration for Indian philosophy and spirituality was boundless, particularly in France and Germany, both terra franca of philosophical thought. He explains how, for instance, French philosopher Pierre Sonnerat had written in the 18th century: "Ancient India gave to the world its religions and philosophies: Egypt and Greece owe India their wisdom and it is known that Pythagoras went to India to study under Brahmins, who were the most enlightened of human beings."
Or how German philosophers, such as Friedrich Schlegel, have said: "There is no language in the world, even Greek, which has the clarity and the philosophical precision of Sanskrit." Nietzsche had read the Vedas, which he admired profoundly and thought that "Buddhism and Brahmanism are a hundred times deeper and more objective than Christianity".
It was not only in the realm of philosophy that Europe admired India. American mathematician A Seindenberg wrote: "Arithmetic equations were used in the observation of the triangle by the Babylonians and the theory of contraries and of inexactitude in arithmetic methods, discovered by Hindus inspired Pythagorean mathematics".
Seventeenth century French astronomer Jean-Claude Bailly had already noticed that "the Hindu astronomic systems were much more ancient than those of the Greeks or even the Egyptians and the movement of stars which was calculated by the Hindus 4,500 years ago, does not differ from those used today by even one minute".
When Nietzsche died in August 1900, the India of philosophy, of the Vedas and spirituality seemed to have disappeared with him from the consciousness of Europeans. Since then, Europe (and the United States) believe in what Droit calls "Helleno-Centrism", that all philosophical systems started with Greece and there was nothing worth the name before the Greeks. The two main culprits for this amnesia of India in Europe, thinks Pol Droit, are the British colonisers and the Christian missionaries. How could the English, they who had come to civilise the 'heathens', admit that their culture was derived from these very savages? And how could the missionaries, they who had come to bring the 'true god' to the Pagans, acknowledge that their own religion may have been influenced by the latter, as Jesus Christ is supposed to have come to India to study Hinduism and Buddhism?
What has this got to do with the Nobel Peace Prize, you may ask? Well, first, one has to understand the minds of the Nobel Peace Prize committee members: When they award prizes, they are necessarily influenced by a Christian vision of the world. For, as most Europeans, they have been brought-up in the belief that democracy and philosophy started with Greece and that a humane civilisation began with Jesus Christ. And, of course, they have a covert -- or at best unconscious -- suspicion, if not of India at least of Hindus, who for them remain Pagans, which the missionaries of yesteryears, and unfortunately those of today too, have created in the minds of many Westerners. How can they then give Peace Prize to a Hindu? ...
In the same way the Nobel judges ignored Sri Aurobindo, India's extraordinary yogi, poet, revolutionary, and philosopher and France is yet to acknowledge that one of the great figures of the 20th century was his spiritual companion, Mira Alfassa, the 'Mother'.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Like Vico’s New Science, Finnegans Wake is divided into four large parts

The Philosophy Forum Wednesday, November 5, 2008 Vico..Joyce.Beckett.Yeats By Tony Fahey

Abstract. Although Giambattista Vico’s work made little impact during his own lifetime, decades after his death his history of philosophy has been admired and developed by, and has had a profound influence on, many subsequent writers and thinkers – amongst whom can be counted, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and William Butler Yeats. Notwithstanding this influence Vico has remained peripheral figure to the philosophical and literary canons. The ambition of this paper is to discuss and to salute the influence of the philosophy of Giambattista Vico on the works of these Irish writers...

Like Vico’s New Science, Finnegans Wake is divided into four large parts which represent the age of gods, the age of heroes, the age of men, and the period of renewal. Within these four parts are seventeen chapters, each of which corresponds to on of Vico’s ages.

Conclusion. Because of the predominance of Cartesianism during Vico’s lifetime his New Science sank, almost without a trace, until, nearly a century after his death, it was salvaged by the French thinkers, Jules Michelet and Auguste Comte. Amongst others whose work owes much to Vico are: Benedetto Croce, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Karl Marx, R. G. Collingwood, and, more recently, Salman Rushdie and A. S. Byatt. When one adds to this impressive list the names of those upon whom this paper is based, it seems puzzling that one who has contributed so much to so many remains such a peripheral figure in the Western philosophical and literary canon. Posted by tony fahey at 7:31 AM

Athens & Jerusalem Saturday, October 18, 2008 October 18th, 1699-1708: Vico's Inaugural Orations What's so special about il signor Vico?

Simply that he thought tremendously important things that hardly anyone had thought of before. The idea of spiritual progress in human history? Vico. The idea that language evolves through myth and metaphor? Vico. The idea that the poems of Homer represent the synthesis of an aristocratic poetic tradition rather than the inspiration of one man? Vico. The idea that the human mind creates its own truth rather than merely apprehending the reality outside itself? Vico again...

One generally underappreciated aspect of Vico as a thinker is his deep interest in pedagogy and the academy. Vico swam in the great intellectual currents of antiquity and those of his own age. Epicureanism, Stoicism, Skepticism (ancient and modern), Platonism (original and neo-) and Cartesianism all made a profound impact on him: he embraced them all and quarreled with them all. Vico plumbed the educational tradition of the West and synthesized it in his own terms. His ideas about the place of education in human life were passionate and profound. In his magnum opus, La Scienza Nuova he would go so far as to argue that all history was a process by which Providence had educated Man.

But for practical purposes, the best understanding of Vico's ideas of education can be found in his seven inaugural orations at the University of Naples delivered between 1699 and 1708, always on October 18th. The last of these, delivered 300 years ago today, was expanded and published separately in a pamphlet called De Nostri Temporis Studiorum Ratione, "On the Study Methods of Our Time." If you care about education, and if you have not read this work, take my advice and do so at the earliest opportunity. It has those two quintessential Viconian qualities of being astoundingly deep and startlingly ahead of its time. Posted by Alpheus at 9:21 PM Labels: , ,

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The central problem is that of locating mind with respect to the physical world

Chapter Four–On The Nature Of The Physical World In order to emphasize the analogy between Whitehead’s ideas and those of Sri Aurobindo, I will refer to Eternal Objects as determinate possibility (this is a shorthand for determinate possibilities of Existence, or Sat). ... Eric Weiss -

Thought is a further differentiation of consciousness. Thought is “consciousness of factors prescinded from their background of Fact.”62 In thought, factors that have been singled out in awareness by adjective are separated off from the other factors to which they are intrinsically related, and are thus experienced as individual. Thought accomplishes this individualization of entities by “limiting consciousness to awareness of the contrast of factors.”63 A factor which is thought about will be called an ‘entity.’ While factors are intrinsically interrelated, entities stand out with a kind of apparent self-existence.

This contrast between awareness and thought is one of the most distinctive features of a Whiteheadian approach to the analysis of Fact. Whitehead’s Empiricist predecessors, Berkeley, Locke, and Hume, were also engaged in attempting to ground human knowledge in direct experience, but they made the crucial assumption that experience consists of discrete impressions. Thus they assumed, for example, that sensory experience begins with discrete patches of various colors, discrete sensations of pressure, of temperature, and so forth, and that thought and other perceptual operations are built up by customary associations among these more primitive elements.

Whitehead grounds his philosophical reasoning in a re-examination of the field of everyday experience. He points out that discrete entities emerge in consciousness out of a background that has already been, in awareness, pre-cognitively differentiated into a system of interrelated factors. Thought emerges out of and is grounded in awareness.


integral praxis December 17, 2008 Consciousness and its Place in Nature
Consciousness and its Place in Nature By David Chalmers

Consciousness fits uneasily into our conception of the natural world. On the most common conception of nature, the natural world is the physical world. But on the most common conception of consciousness, it is not easy to see how it could be part of the physical world. So it seems that to find a place for consciousness within the natural order, we must either revise our conception of consciousness, or revise our conception of nature.

In twentieth-century philosophy, this dilemma is posed most acutely in C. D. Broad's The Mind and its Place in Nature. The phenomena of mind, for Broad, are the phenomena of consciousness. The central problem is that of locating mind with respect to the physical world. Broad's exhaustive discussion of the problem culminates in a taxonomy of seventeen different views of the mental-physical relation. On Broad's taxonomy, a view might see the mental as nonexistent ("delusive"), as reducible, as emergent, or as a basic property of a substance (a "differentiating" attribute). The physical might be seen in one of the same four ways. (The seventeenth entry arises from Broad's division of the substance/substance view according to whether one substance or two is involved.)

At the end, three views are left standing: those on which mentality is an emergent characteristic of either a physical substance or a neutral substance, where in the latter case, the physical might be either emergent or delusive. Read More: Here

Wilber’s specific debt to Hegelian thinkers (Sri Aurobindo, Gebser, Theilhard)

"Such a Body We Must Create:" New Theses on Integral Micropolitics
Daniel Gustav Anderson
INTEGRAL REVIEW December 2008 Vol. 4, No. 2
Anderson: New Theses on Integral Micropolitics

For Marx, the specific matter of religion is a survival—a functional fossil from an earlier socioeconomic order—and but a specific case of the tension he explores between private initiative and political contingency. To anticipate a later point in this thesis, Raymond Williams’ observation that one can transform one’s devotions into a functionally oppositional practice, specifically renouncing one’s will-to-capital and instead working for the benefit of the totality (p. 122), a position Williams simply proposes without elaborating, should be taken in this context. [...]

A Hegelian, for the purposes of Althusser’s argument, would look to subdue a given formation regardless of its determination from its contextualized historical specificity into Spirit—the outcome of this dialectic is assumed before the start, literally taken on faith, such that in a vulgar but real way the contradictions of race relations among late-capitalist producers are made out to be a gesture of Providence, specifically a Hegelian’s providential pen (see Thesis Seven).

Not so for the Marxist working in good faith. Althusser recognizes that the specific overdetermination of social relations in Russia, for instance, made revolution possible under Lenin, but conditions in the overdetermined totality of Wilhelm’s Germany prevented the same (p. 106). Methodologically, this means it is indeed possible to think a totality without doing necessary violence to any specific contingency, but it is also possible to botch it, to see a New Age dawning where there is none, or to ideologically foreclose a transformation that might be possible (see Thesis Seven). The terms of open-ended empirical inquiry if rigorously applied prevent this, which is why Althusser emphasizes that in Marxist method "the material life of men explains their history; their consciousness, their ideologies are then merely the phenomena of their material life" (p. 107), regardless of the gender-specific language of Althusser’s presentation. [...]

There are two transitions in any successful attempt to make something, according to Blake’s (1996) Gurdjieffian analysis. "In the one," Blake asserts, "the action of making is set free from the laws of the mechanical world from which it starts. In the other, it is made an integral part of the purposeful world in which it ends" (p. 57). Much follows from these observations on production and productivity.

In The Encyclopedia of Stupidity, which is in the last analysis an inquiry into intelligence and intelligent action, van Boxsel (2003) describes the accrued development of a culture in the same way that Blake describes the production of something useful. Culture, intelligence, and theory are "but the result of a series of more or less unsuccessful attempts to come to grips with stupidity" (van Boxsel, 2003, p. 23), where stupidity is defined first as "automatic responses" (p. 37) and second as "the talent for acting unwittingly against your own interests" (p. 29). This is the obverse of the dialectic of conditions and consciousness posited earlier, where knowledge is made (see Thesis One);78 here, accurate and useful knowledge is shown to be dialectically occluded, on one side by an inscrutable object and on the other side by an incompetent subject, both reifying each other into a repetitive, mechanical, and at best boring pattern.79

In order to accomplish anything novel, to transform something old into something new, one must work against the constraints of the mechanical regime-world, which subjects one to reification both as stupidity and as lack of control—automatic responses—to bring forth a contribution to a purposeful world for which one can be responsible, in which one really works to advance one’s best interests, which at bottom coincide with those of the socius in which one is embedded and the sum total of animated life. The subject is transformed from a produced articulation, bound to "repeat the same dull round over again,"80 subordinated to the control of another regime, to a self-directed articulation, with a degree of real (not compelled or coerced) control over itself and its activities. [...]

One conspicuous and relatively contemporary instance of theory in bad faith would be Fukuyama’s (1992) declaration that the world has come to the "end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of western liberal democracy as the final form of human government" (p. 3)—meaning that our work in the world is over, for the New Age of unfettered capital is begun85 (see Thesis Seven).

For Nizan (1971), among the first to examine the problem posed by positions such as Fukuyama’s, this is the critical question: is a particular theory of use to those who oppress, or to those who seek to transform oppression into justice? This distinction in practice corresponds to that between Sein (being) and Schein (appearance):

When the philosophers discuss Mind and Ideas, Ethics and the Sovereign Good, Reason and Justice, but not the experiences, the misfortunes, the events, the ‘daily grind’ of which life consists, those who fall victim to these misfortunes, who bear the weight of these events, who undergo these experiences, who endure this daily grind—in a word, those who must endure this life—find this style of philosophizing arrogant and repugnant. (p. 14)

For Nizan, big-Being questions addressed uncritically (in this case by the positivists he critiques) can occlude real problems and by this means help prevent meaningful inquiry into apparent matters in the world of sensation and causation (see Thesis Two). Nizan’s solution is to become a theorist responsible for the subaltern, on behalf of and for the benefit of the oppressed and deluded masses, one who "will not be a dispenser of illuminations or an artificer of myths or a wizard" (p. 139) or indulge in make-believe.

Aglietta (2000) explains how this connection Nizan posits between positivist spiritual speculation and, in the last analysis, the expression of capital’s imperatives through violence was implemented historically:

The ideological institutions of capitalism absorbed intellectuals originating from all social strata; bourgeois representations of the world were constructed without resistance; the juridical principles of the state took on a sacred and eternal character. Any questioning of free enterprise was perceived as a threat to the integrity of the nation. (p. 74)

Fanon (1965) extrapolates Nizan’s critique of European idealists into the postcolonial field, presenting an intervention of his own that remains relevant (my use of "mimicry" in the present inquiry finds its origin in Fanon’s groundbreaking work).

50 It is worth remembering in this context that, according to Habermas (1994), recognizably postmetaphysical thinking arises in history as an intervention into Hegel’s positions and practices by the generation of Marx, Feuerbach, and Bruno Bauer (p. 39).

51 I provisionally claim that Wilber’s holarchy is one such Hegelian organizational principle (a spatial one), and that Aurobindian evolution is another (of chronology). Wilber’s specific debt to Hegelian thinkers (Aurobindo, Gebser, Theilhard) and Hegel himself remains an open question for future inquiry, as is the applicability of this critique of Hegel to post-Hegelian integralists such as Wilber and his claimed sources (see Anderson, 2006). In many instances, this question will produce complex answer, due to the complexity of some integral projects.

For instance, the real contribution of Sean Kelly’s integration of Hegelian dialectics and Jungian archetypes on the ground of complex holism in my view is the very useful concept of complex holism Kelly himself puts forward (Kelly, 1993)—which is to say, while Kelly’s complex holism as "dynamic complemantarity" (p. 106) may have arisen from his reflections on Hegel and Jung, its applicability may extend beyond the problems that may inhere in Hegelian and Jungian thinking, demand comparison to the ecological Marxist holism Burkett (1999) proposes, and may in part and in metaphysical diction anticipate my argument in Thesis One.

62 I am using this specifically in the sense Bhabha develops in his analysis of Fanon’s (1960) interventions into the psychology of the postcolonial situation; William Blake’s fragmentary epic The Four Zoas dramatizes a broadly analogous critique of mimicry under empire two centuries prior, and in recognizably holographic terms, presenting what must be among the first integral macropolitical theories responsive to industrial capital.

63 What I call theory in bad faith has as its program, according to Nizan (1971) (skillfully employing another "consumption" metaphor): "to gain universal acceptance for the established order by making it palatable, by conferring upon it a certain nobility, and by furnishing rationalizations for its every aspect" (p. 91). [...]

78 Merleau-Ponty (2003) presents this rather poetically: "It is true that we carry with us, in the shape of our body, an ever-present principle of absent-mindedness and bewilderment" (p. 31).

79 Svendsen (2005) offers a useful analysis of the relationship between the recurrence of boredom and the perceived need for self-realization as a condition of modernity.

80 William Blake (1982), "There is No Natural Religion [B]." Blake anticipates Nietzsche’s speculations on the eternal recurrence of the same here, but in a way that connotes not only a mathematically infinite boredom but more directly a manifold of infinite bindings, affectively in Blake (as in his poem "London") and also in later attempts to represent said recurrence by means of arithmetic, which Borges (1999, pp.14-122) and Ouspensky (2001, pp. 329-340) attempt to perform. This interpretation of eternal recurrence contrasts with Kelly (2008), which reterritorializes Nietzsche’s position into a Hegelian framework. 10:08 AM 9:33 PM 9:35 PM 8:30 AM

The three discourses would be philosophy, history and sociology

The Immanent Frame Secularism, religion, and the public sphere “What motivates human beings in their religious life?” asks Charles Taylor, in an interview with Akbar Ganji posted today at The Immanent Frame.

Now I think that this motivation is very different in different times and periods. And we might miss this point because a lot of very powerful religions today Islam, Christianity etc. are very close to each other in many respects in their driving motivations. But if you look wider at Hinduism, Buddhism, earlier forms of religion, you realize that there is just an immense difference. So that's why I say that you can't write a general history of secularization. Even writing one about the whole West is maybe too ambitious...

And I mean to talk about how I see this movement in the West, the mainline theory—I mean the theory I’m attacking—thinks there is a linear movement of secularization as modernity advances. As one progresses the other progresses. A simple functional relationship.

Now according to my underlying theory, you’d expect something different. You would expect that certain developments of modernity would in fact destabilize earlier forms of religious life. I mean for instance the idea of a monarchy embedded in the cosmos connected to God, the kind of picture of the French monarchy, that’s not going to survive certain changes in society that come with modernity. But if the human relation to religion and to God is not as shallow as the mainstream theory thinks, then what would happen in many cases is religion would be recomposed in new forms that meet the new situation. And that is in fact what I would argue has happened in the West.

So this is a much more adequate theory to understand this historical and sociological reality, but what it required is a deep understanding of the place of religion in human life. So I would claim that there’s a single discourse and it’s made up of elements that look as though they are drawn from three disciplines, but in fact they cohere together as a single discourse. The three discourses would be philosophy, history and sociology. You can’t do sociology without history, history without sociology, and you can’t do either without a proper philosophical understanding of human motivation. So the whole thing hangs together from those three sources.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Illusion of Relatedness and the Grid of Attention

Transpersonal Psychology: Defining the Past, Divining the Future
Authors: Glenn Hartelius; Mariana Caplan; Mary Anne Rardin (Show Biographies)
Affiliation: California Institute of Integral Studies,
DOI: 10.1080/08873260701274017 Publication Frequency: 4 issues per year
Published in:
The Humanistic Psychologist, Volume 35, Issue 2 April 2007 , pages 135 - 160

Retrospective analysis of definitions published over some 35 years suggests the major subject areas of the field can be summed up in three themes: beyond-ego psychology, integrative/holistic psychology, and psychology of transformation. Theme frequency analysis reveals that early emphasis on alternative states of consciousness has moderated into a broader approach to human transcendence, wholeness, and transformation. This expanded definition of transpersonal psychology suggests the field has much in common with integral psychology. As a comprehensive, historically based content summary, this tripartite definition contributes a small but vital piece to the foundation of a transpersonal vision that is spreading across the globe. While transpersonal psychology still needs to embody the inclusiveness and diversity that it represents, its vision is one of great relevance to the contemporary human condition.

The Self System: Toward a New Understanding of the Whole Person (Part 3)
Author: D. B. Sleeth - D. B. Sleeth received an MA in humanistic and transpersonal psychology from Sonoma State University, an MA in counseling psychology from Argosy Graduate School in San Francisco, and a PhD in clinical psychology from Saybrook Graduate School in San Francisco. He currently practices family therapy with disadvantaged youth and young adults in Northern California. D.B. Sleeth lives with his wife of 11 years, both of whom are active members of Adidam, the spiritual community of the nondual spiritual master, Avatar Adi Da Samraj.
DOI: 10.1080/08873260709336696 Publication Frequency: 4 issues per year
Published in:
The Humanistic Psychologist, Volume 35, Issue 1 March 2007 , pages 45 - 66

Of all psychology concepts, perhaps none has a more lengthy history or engendered more controversy and ambiguity than that of the self. Indeed, the self has come to mean so many things that it hardly means anything at all. Consequently, there is currently no single theory integrating all the various meanings of the self concept. Therefore, the primary purpose of this article is to develop an overarching metapsychology by which all aspects of the self can be understood. To accomplish this purpose, this article engages in a hermeneutic analysis of the self as it appears in transpersonal psychology and also what could be called transcendental psychology (i.e., nondualism). In so doing, it is possible to identify two principle concepts by which the various aspects of the self can be compared and classified: the S/self and the Twin-Tiers, the presence of both a lower self and deeper Self as aspects of the individual; as well as the presence of nondual reality (i.e., God), which is described relative to two fundamental processes: the Illusion of Relatedness and the Grid of Attention.

Author: Rolf von Eckartsberg (Show Biography)
Affiliation: Duquesne University,
DOI: 10.1080/08873260701828920 Publication Frequency: 4 issues per year
Published in:
The Humanistic Psychologist, Volume 36, Issue 1 January 2008 , pages 9 - 18

Monday, December 22, 2008

The evidence of an innate intention - Providence

"Such a Body We Must Create:" New Theses on Integral Micropolitics
Daniel Gustav Anderson
INTEGRAL REVIEW December 2008 Vol. 4, No. 2

For this reason, I invite the reader to consider taking up further points of inquiry as suggested by any one line of thinking presented here. The problem at hand, the integral problem, demands this kind of conceptual precision,6 actually a greater and more scientifically rigorous precision than I personally am capable of. As such, these are new values, new to integral theory.

New values are necessarily exotic, in that they present themselves as they are relative to their new context—unfamiliar, perhaps unwelcome, perhaps uncomfortable or uncomforting. To adopt a Nietzschean trope, they are unfit for easy consumption. The usefully new is like this. At first it is puzzling and exotic, beyond the reader’s horizon,7 but through a respectful approach and repeated exposure it becomes familiar and useful in the way a handtool does when one has mastered its use.

A handtool is impersonal. It does not care about its user’s hopes or fears; mercilessly, it carries on with its task of hammering or cutting, regardless. Theory generally and new values specifically are like this also: philosophizing with a hammer,8 cutting through spiritual materialism (Trungpa, 1987), making the Body without Organs with a "very fine file" (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987, p. 160), as appropriate.9 Unlike theology, theory is not a consolation (see Thesis Seven). [...]

There is a dialectical, developmental relationship between theory and practice (see Thesis One). Theory makes practice intelligent, while the contingencies of practice—actual material conditions—inform theory. To produce theory, then, is to produce a systematic set of concepts with a definite relationship to material conditions and to a definite methodological agenda (here, comprehensive "inner" and "outer" transformation) and, therefore, to produce concepts that are explicitly contingent because they are necessarily not universal or transhistorical, any more than any other coherence such as a hammer or a cutting tool is metaphysically "real." Theory, therefore, must venture to be honest about its capacities and humble in its claims.117 By contrast, theology is traditionally taken to be a practice of explicating doctrines that are assumed to be universal and transhistorical, and that therefore transcend the material and the contingent, even as theology is understood at its roots as an epiphenomenon of natural philosophy (an interesting context for Aurobindo’s decision to express his theology in the patois of nineteenth-century natural and social science: evolution, races).118

Where theory aspires to an accurate reflection and response to material conditions, theology makes effective myths. The meaningful point of contrast here lies in practice. Where for theory meaningful practice is to change the world into a saner space, for theology meaningful practice implies an increasingly developed adherence to a premade doctrine and, concomitantly, implementation of a doctrine into the material world, thereby effecting a transformation of the world by inspiration outside of the world.119

Theory implies co-causality (theory-to-practice, practice-to-theory); theology, a one-way, top-down causality of transformation (Word-to-the-world). This reflects a difference in the means of production of concepts. Theory as I propose it here is a democratized production of values, insofar as it is a collaborative and dialogic practice, while theology can be understood as a private-property regime of production of values (see Thesis Two), insofar as the production of theology is limited to those who have appropriate institutional or traditional validity or have fashioned for themselves an independent tradition to represent, as in the case of charismatic religion. As I show in Thesis Eight, this issue of access to means of production and distribution of values is significant for the future of integral theory.

Either method, theory or theology, can be appropriate to a given situation. There is much good in competent, compassionate criticism. As I have suggested, some of what passes as criticism is clearly incompetent and lacking in compassion, and is therefore irresponsible and unacceptable (see Thesis Four), and in the last analysis, not even criticism. Similarly, much theological work is of real qualitative value, and as streams of cultural and practical transmission, must be valued. Appropriate valuation in the sense of critical consciousness is also a form of responsibility. That said, there is some measure of madness in theological projects; some are hopelessly irresponsible, and most are a mixed blessing. Theology as such is not necessarily a problem or a solution to a problem. My point in this instance is that when theology is asked to perform as if it were criticism, difficulties arise (see Theses Two, Three, and Six), counterproductive and unneeded ones. Specifically, the incorporation of certain theological positions into integral theory has caused a particular methodological problem...120

118 Augustine (1998) rejects theologies derived from cultural ("mythical") or civil life, emphasizing instead a theology derived from natural, of-the-world principles, such that theology following Augustine—the whole of European theology and its consequences—is natural philosophy spiritualized, or given cosmic, eternal significance. Theology is at its roots quite literally the Miltonic assertion of eternal Providence into material science and the justification of what a given regime takes to be the ways of God to the men subject to that regime.

119 Hobbes’s (1996) proposal for the establishment of a Christian commonwealth represents one of manyexplicit instances of this, where theology is openly described as a means of force, a means of subjective and social control. The ideological task of making these social controls into doctrines of natural science, presenting them as cosmic physical laws from above rather than as social forces, forecloses any appeal to the supernatural in the form of prophecy or dream-vision for moral or spiritual authority from below. Hobbes recognizes and addresses this threat in his hypothetical commonwealth, observing that "he thatpretends to teach men the way of so great a felicity," that is, one who claims to speak on behalf of Spirit, "pretends to govern them" (p. 288). Hobbes, then, establishes theological means to control, curb, and cage this threat to its own government, and the age of prophecy is declared closed. The relevance of vision andprophecy as a charismatic gesture is an unspoken subtext of Thesis Eight. Readers familiar with prophecy as a literary conceit will not be surprised to see that both natural-theological and prophetic gestures canand do arise in the writings of the same poet or thinker (Spenser, Milton, Blake, Yeats, Aurobindo), evenin the same sentence, in dynamic tension.

120 As with so much else in integral theory, this is anticipated in the work of Aurobindo Ghose. Like Milton, Aurobindo is a world-class poet and mythmaker, and a theologian to be taken seriously (and not only by the faithful); also like Milton, Aurobindo is a problematic political and cultural critic. Anderson: New Theses on Integral Micropolitics INTEGRAL REVIEW December 2008 Vol. 4, No. 252 9:35 PM

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I’m really blown away by After Finitude

Jodi Says: December 19, 2008 at 3:25 am
I apologize in advance if this is a stupid question (I’ve not been keeping up…) have you read After Finitude? I’m reading it now and am really blown away (not that I have anything interesting to say about it yet; my excuse is grading…)

larvalsubjects Says: December 19, 2008 at 4:57 am
I read AF a while back and it had a similar impact on me. I’m currently putting together an edited collection with Nick Srnicek and Graham Harman on realist and materialist trends in contemporary continental thought which will both include a piece by Meillassoux, as well as responses to his work by Nathan Brown, Peter Hallward, and Hagglund. It will also include contributions from Badiou, Zizek, Latour, Isabelle Stengers, Manuel DeLanda, Ray Brassier, Alberto Toscano, Adrian Johnston, Francoise Lauruelle, Cahterine Malabou, Ian Hamilton Grant, Nicole Pepperell, and John Protevi. While I don’t ultimately share Meillassoux’s position AF is certainly a remarkable book and a challenge to all constructivist orientations of thought.


On After Finitude: A Response to Peter Hallward
Posted on November 16, 2008 by Nick
Courtesy of Nathan Brown’s generosity, we’re pleased to offer his detailed response to Peter Hallward’s recent critical review of After Finitude (published in Radical Philosophy 152). The response ranges over the metaphysical, mathematical and socio-political aspects of Meillassoux’s work and comes highly recommended!
Undoubtedly one of the great benefits of Meillassoux’s clarity of prose and his rigorous thought is precisely its ability to spur debates such as this one (although perhaps that’s my naive faith in reason showing…). Too often continental philosophy has avoided direct debates like this (unlike analytic philosophy), but here’s hoping it continues into the future.


For this reason, After Finitude will certainly play a central role in ongoing debates on the status of philosophy, on questions pertaining to epistemology and, above all, to ontology. It will not only be an unavoidable point of reference for those working on the question of finitude, but also for those whose work deals with political theology, and the status of the religious turn of philosophy. After Finitude will certainly become an ideal corrosive against too rigid assumptions and will shake entrenched positions.
Although the book is written with clarity and consistency, it presupposes a familiarity not only with dogmatic metaphysics, post-Kantian critical philosophy, phenomenology and post-Heideggerian philosophy, but also and above all with Alain Badiou's materialist ontology, and more specifically, with his ontological re-formulation of post-Cantorean set theory, as well as his conception of the event as what exceeds the grasp of an ontology of being qua being. Contingency, Meillassoux's crucial concept, is inextricably linked to Badiou's conception of the event. Reviewed by Gabriel Riera, University of Illinois, Chicago [Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency]

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Phenomenology works a bit a posteriori, almost a bit empirically, without being beholden to the oppositions these two terms usually enter into

Why phenomenology? (part 1)
from The Joyful Knowing by Mike Johnduff

More simply put, failures in perception are precisely indicators as to the fullness of experience itself for phenomenology, because phenomenology is focused on the content of experiences not as just a general stuffing for form, but as distinct instances that have the power to make the usual working of perception take a singular detour. The most extreme way of putting this (and I do so by using all these terms less technically) would be to say that, to a degree, phenomenology allows for experiential content to make the form of its own perception.

Or, in even more plain and less burdened language: phenomenology allows for something in experience to cohere such that it generates thereby the terms of its own coherence. (This is largely because what I am describing here is simply the reduction: to take up, theoretically, a "failure" is the beginning of a suspension of the natural attitude.)

However I explain this, what's clear is that this quality makes phenomenology fall into places where more formal theories of perception just don't have anything to say--or, quite frankly, don't want to say anything. Though its aims are much more lofty (and problematic, as its goal is nothing less than the complete reappropriation of this sphere to philosophy), this often makes it work a bit a posteriori, almost a bit empirically, without being beholden to the oppositions these two terms usually enter into.

There is a story that someone came up to Sartre who was eating something like an ice cream, and told him with phenomenology he could describe the ice cream--this is what got him exited about it. For me it was very similar, though without the more militant desire to oppose this sort of everyday reality to the high philosophies. If one goes too far with this way of looking at it, one easily makes the mistake (and it is often made by those who don't know phenomenology but want to criticize it) of thinking that phenomenology is a going back to the self-evident, the common sense, the ordinary, when (see Husserl, Ideas I §32) what is at stake is the making-scientific or theoretical of the assumption of self-evidence, an estrangement that brings something like the eating of the ice cream into the theoretical. So, without this militant edge, for me, what is important is the more basic fact that phenomenology can begin to rigorously investigate as completely normal what other theories consider aberrant.

As I said, I took up interest in the body, and this was mostly because that is where a lot of these "aberrations" in perceived or experienced content took place: the double-touch, tricks of perspective due to one's bodily stance, afterimages and the structure of the eye etc. etc. But as you can see, the interest began to take the form of wondering what was special about the phenomenon that it could fall into this particular place all the time--as I said, what was special to me was the forming power of the phenomenological content, or its sort of self-generating coherence, even if it is an aberrant perception. I'll pick this up next time as it took the form of a meditation on finitude, helped by Heidegger (then on to non-phenomena, like writing).

This will lead us to another use of phenomenology, one that will emerge from what I am talking about here, which is essentially what Husserl calls "immanence," and moving towards the being of the phenomenon itself--the fact that (and this is really what "immanence" is about for Husserl) its own limit is its condition for emergence. Posted by Mike Johnduff What is written about: ,

Friday, December 12, 2008

Deleuze and Guattari enact their own “return to Freud”

The Transcendent and the Transcendental
from Larval Subjects by larvalsubjects

The great enemy of Deleuze’s thought, of course, was the transcendent. In his earliest work, this can be seen in his critique of anything resembling Platonic form or unchanging essences, but also of his critique of the self-identical subject as in the case of Descartes’ cogito.

Deleuze’s thought begins from the position that, on the one hand, all being is becoming and therefore is the result of a production or a process of individuation. In Difference and Repetition he will perpetually emphasize that individuation is not the individual insofar as individuation is the differential process by which the individual is produced. Likewise, he will staunchly oppose any position that begins from an unchanging identity whether in the form of the subject or God, as well as any position that posits invariant and ahistorical forms. Deleuze is, above all, a process philosopher.

However, the transcendental is not the transcendent. Rather, the transcendental, following Kant, refers to a set of conditions thoroughly immanent to being. While it is certainly the case that Kant is one of Deleuze’s philosophical enemies, there is nonetheless a deep Kantian inspiration or influence in Deleuze’s thought. However, Deleuze radicalizes or transforms the Kantian position in three ways...

I would argue that Deleuze and Guattari’s Deleuze’s three synthesis– the syntheses of connection, disjunction, and conjunction –constitute the beginnings of a transcendental analysis. Indeed, these syntheses Kant’s three syntheses of apprehension, reproduction, and recognition in the “A” edition of the Deduction in the Critique of Pure Reason, however, beginning from difference rather than identity.

Moreover, where Kant’s syntheses pertain to operations of the mind, Deleuze and Guattari’s three syntheses belong to being as such. It is on the ground of these distinctions that Deleuze and Guattari are able to unfold their critique in the five paralogisms, for each of these paralogisms pertains to an illicit tracing of the transcendental from the empirical, where fully actualized objects are projected back into the machinic unconscious as forms. Deleuze and Guattari, by contrast, will show how desiring-machines only operate on partial objects, not fully formed persons, thereby undercutting a number of claims from orthodox psychoanalysis.

In this regard, Deleuze and Guattari enact their own “return to Freud”, though one which certainly transforms Freud. As Freud had argued, the unconscious knows no negation, contradiction, opposition, or objects, but instead only knows connections and productions. This was the surprising result he had already attained in his early unpublished Project essay, where the functioning of the primary process becomes unmoored from any sort of representational realism or instinctual and natural relation to sexuality. Yet somehow all of this falls apart with the introduction of the Oedipus where, instead of relating to partial objects and flows, the primary attachment becomes an attachment to fully formed objects (the father, mother, brother, sister, etc.).

Nonetheless, Deleuze and Guattari do not give much in the way of an analysis of just how these paralogisms are possible from the standpoint of active and affirmative desire. Here we would need to look to Nietzsche and Philosophy, as well as, I believe, the work of Lacan. We can thus think of the relationship between schizoanalysis and Lacanian psychoanalysis as being like two sides of a severed egg. The latter explores the domain of the actual and all of its illusions, coupled with their genesis and strategies for escaping these sad passions premised on an installed lack and castration (for Lacan it was always a question of moving beyond these things as I argue in my post on the Borromean knots), whereas Deleuze and Guattari explore the productive realm of the unconscious and its desiring-machines perpetually manufacturing the real.

Intersection of aesthetics and political theory; a clear ethical imperative: to create the new

Deleuze, Guattari and the Production of the New (Continuum Studies in Continental Philosophy) (Hardcover)by Simon O'sullivan (Editor), Stephen Zepke (Editor)
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Product Description
This is an exciting new collection of essays exploring the relevance of Deleuze and Guattari's work in contemporary aesthetics and political theory.Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari have arguably gone further than anyone in contemporary philosophy in affirming a philosophy of creation, one that both establishes and encourages a clear ethical imperative: to create the new.

In this remarkable undertaking, these two thinkers have created a fresh engagement of thought with the world. This important collection of essays attempts to explore and extend the creative rupture that Deleuze and Guattari produce in the "Capitalism and Schizophrenia" project.

The essays in this volume, all by leading thinkers and theorists, extend Deleuze and Guattari's project by offering creative experiments in constructing new communities - of ideas and objects, experiences and collectives - that cohere around the interaction of philosophy, the arts and the political realm. "Deleuze, Guattari and the Production of the New" produces new perspectives on Deleuze and Guattari's work by emphasising its relevance to the contemporary intersection of aesthetics and political theory, thereby exploring a pressing contemporary problem: the production of the new.

About the Author Simon O'Sullivan is Lecturer in Art History/ Visual Culture at Goldsmiths College, University of London, UK. He is the author of Art Encounters Deleuze and Guattari: Thought Beyond Representation (Palgrave, 2005). Stephen Zepke is an independent researcher living in Vienna, Austria. He is the author of Art as Abstract Machine: Ontology and Aesthetics in Deleuze and Guattari (Routledge, 2005)


Copyright, again from The Pinocchio Theory by Steven Shaviro

Ray Brassier, Nihil Unbound ($84.95 list, $61.16 from Amazon)
Nicholas Thorburn, Deleuze, Marx, and Politics ($170, or a Kindle electronic edition for $115)
Alberto Toscano, Theatre of Production: Philosophy and Individuation between Kant and Deleuze ($89.95)

Difference and Givenness: Deleuze's Transcendental Empiricism and the Ontology of Immanence (Topics in Historical Philosophy) by Levi R. Bryant (Paperback - April 2, 2008) Buy new: $34.95 $31.45 10 Used & new from $31.42

Science is unable to motivate us or move us in the way that religion can

Part IV: Alyosha and Zarathustra on Com-passion and a Genuine Embodied Life
from Per Caritatem by Cynthia R. Nielsen

Perhaps the reason is, as Nietzsche says in Human All Too Human (#251, “Signs of a Higher and Lower Culture”), because science is unable to motivate us or move us in the way that religion can. In the same section from Human All Too Human, Nietzsche speaks of the “two-chambers of the brain,” bringing to our attention the “downside” of living in predominantly scientific, materialistic (philosophically speaking) age. Scientists, for example, have cast so many doubts on the claims of religion and metaphysics, yet what Nietzsche himself seems to suggest is that which makes us human is tied to religious and even traditional metaphysical claims (e.g., claims about the soul and God).

Consequently, we must develop a “two-chambered brain,” one chamber that allows us to embrace and experience religion, and another that can come to terms with the truths of science and philosophy of the materialist strain. In other words, as Nietzsche sees things, religion gives us passion and drives us forward. Science, in contrast, is unable to provide this kind of drive, as its role it to regulate the passions and discern truth from error. So “truth” in this context, or to use the conscientious man’s term, “honesty,” viz., that which is “hard, strict, narrow, cruel, and inexorable,”[4] lies in science, not in religion and (traditional) metaphysics. Nonetheless, even though he himself has given up on ancient religion (e.g. Judaism, Christianity) and metaphysics, Nietzsche is willing to admit that if all we have is this scientific “truth” and strict, cruel honesty, then something essential to human beings has been lost.

As he says throughout Human All Too Human, the kind of truth science gives is a “humble truth.” Consequently, it cannot satisfy our deepest longings. As a result, we require a dual-chambered brain in which at least one side, the religion and metaphysics side, gives us what we need to carry on. With these things in mind, we may interpret the conscientious man’s statement, “where my honesty ceases, I am blind, and I also want to be blind. But where I want to know, I also want to be honest-that is, hard, strict, narrow, cruel, and inexorable,” as another variation on Nietzsche’s theme of our divided psyche.[5]

The peculiar and problematic role of English as a creative medium

Reflections on Literature, Criticism and Theory Essays in Honour of Professor Prafulla C. Kar
Edited by: Sura P. Rath, Kailash C. Baral & D.Venkat rao ISBN: 81-85753-62-8 Year of Pub: 2004 Price: Rs. 550.00
The Book: This volume offers reflections on literary creativity, critical practice and engagement with theory in India and abroad. It critiques and revaluates culture and society in relation to their close imbrications with literature.
The Editors: Sura P. Rath is Professor of English at the Central Washington University in Ellensburg, U.S.A. Kailash C. Baral is Director, North-East Campus, Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages at Shillong; D.Venkat Rao is Professor at the School of Critical Humanities, Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages, Hyderabad.

Rethinking Indian English Literature Edited by: U. M. Nanavati, Prafulla C. Kar
Indian Ode to the West Wind Studies in Literary Encounters, Sisir Kumar Das

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Theory After Derrida: Essays in Critical Praxis - Editors: Kailash Baral and R. Radhakrishnan Theory After Derrida: Essays in Critical Praxis
Editors: Kailash Baral and R. Radhakrishnan, Routledge, New Delhi
Book Release function: 21 December 2008, 11.30 am
Forum on Contemporary Theory - 11th International Conference
Theme: "Democracy in Our Time: The Past and Future of the Enlightenment"
18 – 21 December, 2008: Venue: Diamond Hotel, Varanasi
The eleventh International Conference of the Forum on Contemporary Theory will be held in Varanasi from the 18th to 21st December, 2008 in collaboration with the Department of English, Banaras Hindu University.

To some extent, the hope is to take stock of our understanding of democracy as it has been theorized in the last many decades, but the larger aspiration of this conference is to go from there to address the subject of democracy from a number of angles that tend not to surface in any conspicuous way in routine discussions of the subject.

On the face of it, there is some reason to be skeptical about whether standard liberal democratic theory in the orthodox tradition of the Enlightenment has the resources to cope with the remarkable developments in politics and culture since the rise of identity politics, the pervasive and persistent impress of religion in politics, the unrestrained and unilateral actions of the only superpower remaining in the world, the manifestly undemocratic tendencies within polities around the world, and the rampant and rapacious sway of finance capital and corporate impunity which brooks no constraint upon itself. Liberal democratic doctrine has been salutary in stressing human rights and freedoms and democratic procedures but to a considerable extent these are formal rather than substantive claims and the question to investigate is the extent to which its theories have the conceptual ingredients to make these claims more substantive.

This conference seeks to diagnose these limitations and think towards deeper and more philosophical answers to the questions that liberal theory has hitherto addressed merely on the surface. We would like to ask what forms of disenchantment ordinary people have experienced, perhaps even from as long ago as the late seventeenth century when conceptions of nature and matter began to be conceived in terms that made a society geared to profit and private gain the central goals of human flourishing. How does such a diagnosis explain some of the rise of identity politics and the deeply felt conservative religiosity of recent times in many parts of the world? How and why does the liberal and progressive contempt towards such a politics and religiosity betray an undemocratic attitude? How can we find secular forms of enchantment for our own times and in doing so develop traditions of the more radical elements of the Enlightenment which were very early on thwarted by liberal orthodoxies?

How does that tradition of the radical Enlightenment grow historically out of remarkable antecedents in social thought and literature and philosophy ranging from the unorthodox philosophical and political ideas of seventeenth century radical sects as well as scientific dissenters in England, to Spinoza, to the Romanticism of Blake and Shelley and some of the German Idealists and work its way through one strand in the so-called early Marx (though we believe this was a strand in all of Marx's writing and the distinction between early and late Marx is an invention of Althusser's) as well as the various anarchist philosophies of Bakunin and others right down to the critical theories of the Frankfurt school and the libertarian humanism of a figure like Chomsky; and even more important for our seminar, what affinities does it have with bhakti and sufi traditions in India and, as has been suggested in some recent writing, what affinities does this tradition in the West going back to the seventeenth century radical sectaries in England have to the local forms of a rooted radical philosophical politics and political morality in Gandhi?

Quite apart from this intellectual history of the subject, one specific issue that we would like to fasten on in the context of this critical scrutiny and effort at expansion of Enlightenment ideas is this: liberal theory has functioned within a framework of the orthodox Enlightenment in which the values of liberty (autonomy) and equality find themselves in a tension that seems to have no end. That framework does not obviously seem to have the conceptual resources to bring the tension to any satisfying resolution. So, one large intellectual effort on the part of the conference will therefore be to try and identify the philosophical resources to say that there is no way to understand the value of equality without seeing it as essential to autonomy itself, that is to say essential to self-realization and therefore to an unalienated life, a life without the disenchantment we have lived with in our social lives for so long. Without these philosophical resources, for example, Isaiah Berlin's anxieties about the notion of 'positive liberty' seem both natural and justified leaving no plausible notion of liberty or freedom that is not negative, formal or procedural. But our question is: might we rethink the frameworks of the orthodox enlightenment's thinking about liberty towards a more substantial notion of democracy in which such anxieties as Berlin's do not emerge as natural and compulsory.

The conference should like to first formulate some of these large questions briefly raised in this short proposal in more detail and with more break down, and then make a preliminary honorable stab at answering them in some detail. We will proceed both historically and analytically towards these intellectual goals, inviting philosophers, historians, literary scholars and social scientists with broad interests in situating political themes in the theory of value, mind, and culture.

For further information any of the following may be contacted:
Prafulla C. Kar
Director, Centre for Contemporary Theory, Baroda
0265-6622512; 0265-2338067 Email:
Akeel Bilgrami
Johnsonian Professor of Philosophy, Department of Philosophy
And Committee on Global Thought
And Director, Heyman Centre for the Humanities
Columbia University
2960 Broadway, Mail Code 5730
New York NY 10027; Tel: 212 854 1277, Fax: 212 662 7289
P. K. Pandeya
Professor and Head
Department of English
Banaras Hindu University
Varanasi 221005
Tel: (0542) 2410941

Friday, December 05, 2008

Desire is productive, affirmative, and perpetually mobile

Schizoanalysis avec Psychoanalysis: UPDATED
from Larval Subjects. by larvalsubjects

If, as Deleuze and Guattari rightly argue, desire is productive, affirmative, and perpetually mobile, how does it come to occur that desiring-machines come to experience themselves as subjects, experience themselves as lacking, experience themselves as castrated, and yearn for a master? I’ve read Anti-Oedipus up and down and I simply can’t, for the life of me, find an answer to this question. The closest we get is something that sounds as if it is blaming theorists that discuss lack, castration, and the self-identical subject for these things. However, if

1) we can theorize Oedipal assemblages, and

2) we can give an account of how lack is manufactured or produced within affirmative and connective desire,

then we can begin to build such an account and develop strategies for undermining this structure. The mistake, which is all too common among Deleuzians, lies in thinking that the illusions of lack and negation do not nonetheless have real effects and consequences. No doubt this mistake arises from a failure to read Kant on the topic of transcendental illusions.

I Cite on Zizek and The New Republic Hit Piece
from Larval Subjects by larvalsubjects

Jodi Dean weighs in on The New Republic discussion:
First, I don’t think the best way to read Zizek is as an ironist (contra Sinthome). I think it’s important to read him as literally as possible, recognizing the breadth of his examples and illustrations. Another way to put it: when Zizek uses an obscene illustration, he means the obscenity as an obscenity. Part of the challenge of current conditions is the difficulty in finding something really obscene and having it be recognized. [Read the rest here.]

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The masculine side is the logic of the transcendent, the feminine side is the side of the immanent

Deleuze and Guattari avec Lacan from Larval Subjects by larvalsubjects
Guattari’s schizoanalysis is a radicalization of psychoanalysis in the sense that Hegel is a radicalization of Kant or Spinoza is a radicalization of Descartes... I would argue that there are at least eight Lacanian claims or concepts that were indispensable to Guattari’s own radicalization of psychoanalysis and the formation of schizoanalysis.

1) The critique of the unified ego or subject.
One of the main themes throughout Anti-Oedipus is the critique of the molar and paranoid pole of desire. One primary form this takes is the idea of a unified self or subject. Clearly, one of the motives for this critique is the aggressivity that accompanies unified identity or the unified self. It seems that the more we strive to maintain ourselves, the more aggressive towards otherness we become. On the one hand, this is because of the manner in which this unity obstructs the pulsation of the drives. On the other hand, this is due to the nature of specular identification which turns to rivalry with the semblable or alter. This critique comes directly out of Lacan’s account of the Imaginary and the mirror stage.
2) The critique of the idea of totality or wholes.
Another central theme of Anti-Oedipus is the critique of all wholes or totalities as both paranoid and molar structures. From one end of his work to the other, Lacan is perpetually demonstrating the ruin of any and all totalities and how the pursuit of totality generates antagonism and fascist tendencies.
3) The critique of Oedipus.
It is assumed that if one falls under the label “psychoanalysis”, one must be an advocate of the Oedipus. Throughout his work, Lacan not only complicates the Oedipus– through his forays into ethnography and the focus of his work on psychosis rather than neurosis –but also critiques the Oedipus. In many respects it could be said that for Lacan, unlike Freud, the Oedipus is not central to Lacan’s theoretical edifice at all. More importantly, in one respect the ultimate aim of analysis is to move beyond the neurotic’s fantasy of the Oedipus. Where Freud constantly defended the father, Lacan constantly emphasizes the failure of the father and the manner in which the father functions as a veil in neurosis for something else. Where Freud constantly defended the father as the ground of social order, Lacan perpetually showed the deadlocks this particular formation created in the social sphere. In Deleuze-speak, Lacan buggered Freud in his return to Freud.
4) The critique of unified drives.
The ego-psychologists or orthodox psychoanalysts had argued that there are stages through which the drives develop and that a healthy subject is one in which the drives become unified around a single object. Thus, for example, part of neurosis for the orthodox psychoanalyst would consist in the subject becoming fixated at one stage. For example, the subject might become fixated on the anal drive. A healthy subject, by contrast, would be a subject in which all the drives were unified. For the male subject this would culminate in the phallus, while for the female subject this would culminate in the acceptance of vaginal intercourse. Lacan demonstrated that the drives are in and of themselves partial, without forming a global and integrated totality. They each go in their own directions, as it were. This conception of the drives would be crucial for Guattari’s understanding of desiring-machines and their endless process of synthesis and lack of unity.
5) Mobile desire and productive desire.
Deleuze and Guattari are famous for arguing that desire is mobile and productive, that it doesn’t want anything, that it represents nothing, and that the unconscious is a factory. This concept of desire is already central to the Lacanian concept of desire. First, Lacan characterizes desire as an endless metonymy or displacement that “desires to desire” or to keep desiring, without any object functioning as the ultimate object of that desire. Second, in his account of fantasy as well as metaphor, Lacan emphasizes the productivity or creative nature of desire. Finally, third, Lacan shows how the unconscious is not a theatre, but a series of endless signifying substitutions producing effects of sense or meaning and even objects themselves (cf. Seminar 5: The Formations of the Unconscious). Deleuze and Guattari will radicalize this thesis, extending the field of desire well beyond language, while still remaining deeply indebted to this Lacanian principle.
6) The social unconscious.
Perhaps one of Lacan’s most significant contributions is the idea of the social or cultural nature of the unconscious. Insofar as the unconscious is a product of our introduction into language, it is not a private or personal sphere like a sack in the mind, but is social and cultural through and through. Indeed, he goes so far as to argue that the effects of some unconscious processes can only be seen in the case of the third generation as in the case of psychosis where the foreclosure of the name-of-the-father’s effects aren’t encountered until the third generation. “The Seminar on the Purloined Letter” would be another example of the social unconscious, insofar as the various positions of the people in the story are interrelated through social structure, not private experiences of the mind. Guattari significantly deepens and radicalizes this idea in his work at La Borde, developing a far broader account of transference and the unconscious that ranges across everything from the architecture of clinics, the roles of patients and staff, activities, etc. However, it’s notable that Lacan’s understanding of the unconscious as social in nature already extends it far beyond the domain of the private family that makes up the object of critique in the second chapter of Anti-Oedipus.

7) The symbolic or semiotic nature of the unconscious.
The tendency among orthodox psychoanalysis was to biologize and personalize the unconscious. Lacan’s great contribution was to discern the role of language or the signifier in the unconscious. Guattari rightly radicalizes this notion of the unconscious, developing a far more complex and elaborate account of the semiotic.
8) Sexuation
In A Thousand Plateaus (1980), Deleuze and Guattari constantly emphasize the necessity of passing through the stage of “becoming-woman”. A lot of ink has been spilled over this and there’s been a great deal of difficulty understanding just what they might be claiming. This claim cannot be understood outside Lacan’s account of sexuation in Seminar 20: Encore (1972). There it will be noted that the masculine side of the graph of sexuation is a highly formalized version of the Oedipus, in addition to being the side that aims at totalization and identity in the social field. The feminine side of the graph of sexuation, by contrast, is premised on the logic of the “not-all” and the absence of anything like totality. Where the masculine side is the logic of the transcendent, the feminine side is the side of the immanent.
The common critique of Lacan one hears from Deleuzians is that Lacan focuses too much on lack and castration. It seems to me that this is a confusion of levels of analysis. If Lacan talks of lack and castration then this is because neurotics perpetually talk about lack and castration. But the aim of analysis in the final instance is to move beyond this. This is impossible to do in the absence of conceptual tools that articulate just how these structures of subjectivity emerge and how we come to experience ourselves as lacking in a universe where there is no lack. It seems to me that Deleuzians are mistaken in treating Lacanian thought as the enemy.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Individuation and avataric link

Toscano Review in New JCRT from An und für sich by Anthony Paul Smith

There is a new issue of JCRT that appears to be clearing house of all their extra reviews. Included among them is my review of Alberto Toscano’s Theatre of Production: Individuation Between Kant and Deleuze. It is a favorable review of a very learned and interesting book that I think could open some really interesting lines of inquiry for other philosophers. Also see the review of Philip Goodchild’s Theology of Money by sometime-commenter Clayton Crockett. I think it captures the book rather well and hopefully it will convince you to buy the book (though that will largely depend on it coming out in America).

Dec 2, 2008 Floating Upstream Along the Ancient Celestial Trail
from One Cosmos by Gagdad Bob
Continuing with UF's riff on the Gospel of John, he says that it appeals to the human soul to shift its ground of intelligence from the created to the creative through a union of sun and moon...

UF singles out several thinkers whom he believes approached or achieved this fusion of faith and intelligence, including Origen, Denys, Aquinas, Jacob Boehme, Berdayev, and Teilhard de Chardin. He also has a lot of praise for Bergson, with whom I again have only a general familiarity. But he includes an extended passage from Bergson that well captures what we are discussing here. He makes reference to the circularity of mere logic, and the need to break out of this closed world:

"If we had never seen a man swim, we might say that swimming is an impossible thing, in as much as, to learn to swim, we must begin by holding ourselves up in water and, consequently, already know how to swim. Reasoning, in fact, always nails us down to the solid ground."

The Avataric Work: Towards the Intermediate Race
from Mirror of Tomorrow by RY Deshpande

However, in this article we shall briefly try to look into some of the aspects of the yogic work carried out by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, the work having progressed in formulating a link between Man the Mental Being and the Supramental Race, the Intermediate Race. We shall take as reference point the visit of the heavenly sage Narad to Aswapati as we have in the Book of Fate of Savitri, where certain aspects of it could be contextually discerned. The Book is rich in matters of avataric biographical details and provides the necessary framework to appreciate the issues that are deeply involved in the process...