Thursday, June 29, 2006


Gethsemane stared into Golgatha’s eyes and brushed back her black hair, which was being blown and ruffled by the breeze, and being ruffled, began to entwine Gethsemane. Soon there was black hair over everything, and no light at all. Just then, a bat flew out. A bat flew out of one of the sockets of Golgatha’s skull. Gethsemane didn’t seem to notice. I guess that’s love.

Gethsemane stared into the distance at Golgatha, who stood at the opposite end of the dusty street. The town was quiet. A shutter blew against the side of one of the unpainted buildings. Both Gethsemane and Golgotha were standing with legs apart, and arms out at their sides. Golgatha flicked open the latch on her pistol’s holster, which didn’t seem to scare Gethsemane, which impressed me, because I am sure that the movement would have provoked me to grab for my gun and draw.

Gethsemane stood at the front of the bleak classroom. The students’ heads were bowed as they were working at their desks. They were working intently, scratching at rough, blue-lined workbook paper. Everything in the room seemed dry… the air seemed dry, the blackboard was dry; Gethsemane’s eyes were dry… and hard. Golgatha was sitting in the last row. She was wearing a blue and white checkered dress. Her black hair was braided in pigtails. Her cheeks were strangely red, as if rouged, although this was not the case. She was not passing notes or twittering or disturbing her neighbors, and yet Gethsemane looked at her with disapproval, and moved in her direction in that very distinctive, disciplinary manner which in itself is a sign of a disciplinary action. Golgatha noticed. She wasn’t doing anything wrong, so there was nothing she could do or not do about it.

Golgatha and Gethsemane stood side by side on the assembly line. Just looking at the two, one could sense a kinship, a comradeship, camaraderie. A supervisor walked by. He grimaced like a bat.

Gethsemane tucked Golgatha in for the night. He stared down at her with infinite human tenderness. She looked up at him with infinite indifference. He stared down her from the limit of human emotional suffering. She looked up at him with bat-filled skull sockets. He stared down at her with the fecundity of a garden, and she stared up at him with what I can only now know as “blank.”

Society and community as relative deterritorialization…Society and community as absolute deterritorialization… Education and labor as relative deterritorialization… Education and labor as absolute deterritorialization.

"If Gherasim Luca’s speech is eminently poetic, it is because he makes stuttering an affect of language and not an affectation of speech. The entire language spins and varies in order to disengage a final block of sound, a single breath at the limit of the cry, JE T’AIME PASSIONNEMENT (‘I love you passionately’)*

Passionne nez passionnem je
Je t’ai je t’aime je
Je je jet je t’ai jetez
Je t’aime passionnem t’aime. " **

* Gilles Deleuze, « He stuttered » from Essays Critical and Clinical, translated by Daniel W. Smith and Michael A. Greco. ** Gherasim Luca’s “Passionnement,” in Le chant de la carpe ( Paris: J. Corti, 1986).

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Chick a boom, chick a boom, chick a boom, boom, boom…. Concept!

A bat flew past, dancing and darting briefly beneath the glowing exterior light attached to the telephone pole, on the edge of the mowed lawn, which was bordered by a terrible, dark forest.

I had no sensation of anything piercing, or anything malevolent. I had the sensation that for that split second, the lawn had been a stage, the light had been stage lighting, and that existence had been illuminated.

Fluttering wings made of skin flap.

So what?

How are ya? Congratulations! Bye Bye!!!!

Bat sounds: eeee…ckckckck….ckkcklclclcllslclls ehehehe.e.e..e.. chankchankchank.ckckkckckckck….eeeeeee…eeeeee….e. (I quote.)

“Zounds, wowie, zonkers, and whew!”

Is that the soundtrack of relative deterritorialization, American style?

Exclamations of pain, of fright, of wonder… involuntary breathing, gasping, moaning… bursting into song, cussing, snorting…

Is this the soundtrack of absolute deterritorialization, International style?

Absolute deterritorializations ? :

Jerking spasmodically, twitching, winking without meaning to, sprocketing arms and legs, twisting, leaning back, crossing arms in front defensively. Posturing…gyrating…swaying.

Relative deterritorializations ? :

Watching a Hollywood movie for its cultural content, its educational value…

Listening to jazz to be cool…

Doing anything to be cool…

Doing anything in order to be smart, or smarter…

Doing anything to show sensitivity…

Working on the abs…

Having sex for purposes of psychic hygiene.

Jelly Roll Morton wishing he could be Johann Sebastian Bach.

“It may be more accurate to think of objectivity as a direction in which the understanding can travel. And in understanding a phenomenon like lightning, it is legitimate to go as far away as one can from a strictly human viewpoint.” - Ernest Nagel, from the essay, “What is it like to be a bat?”

Ernest Nagel is literally saying here that objectivity is a deterritorialization…. That it might be more accurate to think of objectivity as a form of deterritorialization than in terms of truth value.

“In the case of experience, on the other hand, the connection with a particular point of view seems much closer. It is difficult to understand what could be meant by the objective character of an experience, apart from the particular point of view from which its subject apprehends it. After all, what would be left of what it was like to be a bat if one removed the viewpoint of the bat?” – Ernest Nagel again, same essay.

However, I do not think that Ernest Nagel had ever considered something like this:

“ In Moby-Dick, both Ahab and the whale lose their texture as subjects in favor of ‘an infinitely proliferating patchwork’ of affects and percepts that escape their form, like the whiteness of the wall, or ‘the furrows that twist from Ahab’s brow to that of the Whale.’ ‘We attain to the percept and the affect only as to autonomous and sufficient beings that no longer owe anything to those who experience or have experienced them.’” – from Daniel W. Smith’s introduction to “Gilles Deleuze: Essays Critical and Clinical”; the Deleuze quotations from within are from “ Bartleby;or, the Formula,” and “ What is Philosophy p.168”, respectively.

We might encounter a bat’s deterritorialization with our own deterritorialization ; we might begin to find it more accurate to also think of subjectivity as a form of deterritorialization than in terms of its (lack) of truth value; and we might take a warrant to say that it will be “legitimate” to go as far away as one can with this subjective form of deterritorialization… in fact, far beyond “ a strictly human viewpoint.”

“eeee…ckckckck….ckkcklclclcllslclls ehehehe.e.e..e.. chankchankchank.ckckkckckckck….eeeeeee…eeeeee….e. ///:://eeeee . ch ch ch”

–Little Brownbat McBachmorton, speaking off the record.

That is not a viewpoint.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Hee Hee Hee Haw Haw Concept!

I was a mildly retarded janitor roaming the halls of the economics department at North Texas State University. * My name was Charlie. I swept and mopped the floors, kept the place clean in every other way , smiled wanly under the fluorescent lights, and greeted Dick Armey as warmly as I could each time he passed me in the halls.

He passed an infinite number of times, and even though our contact was minimal, the wager of our contact was not.

I swept up a bunch of dust. I called that pile of dust, “The garden of Gethsemane.”

I swept up another bunch of dust. I called that pile of dust, “Golgotha.”

I swept the two piles together and I watched the dust of the separate piles begin to commingle. I saw dust chards turn chartreuse and fold back into each other…. I was not sure what was happening…. Some of the dust chards began to turn terra cotta.

I didn’t generally like the dust I swept up in the halls.

I didn’t like the way that the finer dust in the piles I swept up would begin to spread out over the floor, no matter how carefully I pushed the piles together. Any little puff of wind might cause a dust pile to begin dispersing…. It’s more than mildly exasperating when that happens.

I’d sometimes sprinkle the piles with a little water to keep them together, but other than that, the only other thing that I could do would be to sweep it into a dust pan as soon as I could.

I don’t know whether Dick Armey was aware of my dust problems or not. I think that he wasn’t. Sometimes he would walk right through one of my piles, perhaps without even having seen that it was there. That would, I was terrified to see, cause the pile to spread all over the place. It’d go onto the walls, and sometimes, even up to the ceiling. I had to attach a feather duster to a broom handle in order to get it down from there.

The pile of dust which had resulted from sweeping together the garden of Gethsemane and Golgotha I decided to leave where it was. It was dispersing and changing and swirling and transforming and transcending and blending. I didn’t sprinkle it with water or quickly scoop it up into my dust pan. I just stared at it. I didn’t get scared by it and I didn’t get fascinated by it. I didn’t call any of the economics professors, and I didn’t call the chemistry department. I didn’t call Hazmat. I didn’t call my supervisor.

I wondered what other kind of dust pile I could sweep up to combine with this dust pile, and just what kind of dust pile I’d get then. Then I realized that I didn’t want what was happening to stop.

Dick Armey was coming out of his office. He had kind of a chalky complexion at that time, and he was sweating profusely. You know, sometimes I had the idea that he was the mildly retarded one and that I was the guy who was going to go places in the Republican party, in the Christian Coalition, and in national politics.

He was the one who talked about cleaning things up, but I was the one who handled a broom. I wasn’t the one who had people complaining about my work or catching me telling a self-serving lie. I was a janitor, not an economics professor, but maybe a janitor who remains mute knows more than an economics professor who uses a mute janitor to make a complex economic argument.

I could see that Armey was going to tromp right through my Golgotha pile.

He was giving me a weak grin, and I knew that he was expecting me to give him my usual life-affirming, brave wave which meant so much to him, but I was too horrified.

Man, there was so much pain in that Gethsemane pile… so much silent struggle!

And in that other pile – bleached bones and skulls!

I’m not sure, but maybe Armey did see the pile… I couldn’t believe it… he was going to walk through them intentionally. He was drawn, attracted by it …he appeared to be delighted… he was going to kick at it.

I saw the souls of his feet come down as he jumped on top.

Poof! I was gone.

* This is a true lie, or maybe just a lie which is being repeated in the interests of the truth. To get the real lie story, google up using “Armey janitor Charlie minimum wage.”

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Betcha By Golly Wow Concept!

I smashed the nature-culture vase, and I did it irresponsibly.

I did it without a thought - I swept it from its pedestal, and when it hit the floor, it broke to pieces. It wasn’t very stable up there on the pedestal – maybe I didn’t even need to touch it to break it – maybe it was starting to topple when I went over towards it and the vibration of my footsteps already made it sway. I need to lose weight – I’ve been getting “too heavy.” (Especially here at the Enlightenment Underground… it’s these cream-filled doughnuts that I’ve been filling the place up with…. When I cook those sorts of things, I always end up eating more than half of them myself.) I could have broken it by jumping up and down… that would have been a better strategy… the break would then have been irresponsible, but better yet, without culpability ( perhaps, arguably.)

What was odd was that I had gone to the museum where the nature-culture vase was on display in order to admire such things - I wanted to stand before it and absorb its beauty and maybe have some of its greatness rub off on me… I wanted to acquire some of that greatness, that beauty, to get some of those properties into and then out through, myself.

I didn’t want to interact with the damned vase – I wanted to look at it. Then turn around and leave, but having only looked, leaving everything intact, for other viewers to also come in and inspect and (enjoy.)

I was reading the museum brochure on my way to the display room. I always do that. I was reading the brochure when I entered the room, and I continued to read to the end of the description of the vase for some time before I looked up and studied the vase for myself. Why? What was I conditioning myself for? Do I want to make sure that I see what others have seen? Do I trust their observations more than I would trust my own? Then why even bother looking for myself at all?

What the heck is “the given”?

“It is a mistake to think that the painter works on a white surface. The figurative belief follows from this mistake. If the painter were before a white surface, he could reproduce on it an external object functioning as a model, but such is not the case. The painter has many things in his head, or around him, or in his studio. Now everything he has in his head or around him is already in the canvas, more or less virtually, more or less actually, before he begins his work. They are all present in the canvas as so many images, actual or virtual, so that the painter does not have to cover a blank surface but would have to empty it out, clear it, clean it. He does not paint in order to reproduce on the canvas an object functioning as a model; he paints on images that are already there, in order to produce a canvas whose functioning will reverse the relations between model and copy. In short, what we have to define are all these ‘givens’ that are on the canvas before the painter’s work begins, and determine, among these givens, which are obstacles, which are helps, or even the effects of a preparatory work.” – Gilles Deleuze, Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation.

The brochure didn’t say that what the sight of the vase provoked was above all else an urge to smash it. In the historical section of the essay on the vase, there was a bit about why the vase had cracks - barbarian hordes from Mongolia had smashed it hundreds of years ago… I had the distinct impression that these barbarian hordes didn’t even recognize the vase as an object, let alone a valuable one.

What did I expect to come out from amidst all those terra cotta chards that were lying around in the room? New vases exactly replicating the old nature-culture vase I had just pulverized, only smaller versions? Did I hope to get to the emptiness within? Did I think that I would find a greater holiness within the relic? Did I wish to liberate an inherent continuity which had been disrupted by the vases separation of inner and outer? I couldn’t interpret my own actions, but I had to live with their consequences… I got the heck out of there. I’d made an outlaw of myself… Oops.

“ The deeper philosophical question concerns the conditions that make possible this production of new modes of existence, that is, the ontological principle of Life as a nonorganic and impersonal power. We have seen the two aspects of this active power of Life: on the one hand, it is a power of abstraction capable of producing elements that are in themselves asignifying, acosmic, asubjective, anorganic, agrammatical, and asyntactic (singularities and events, affects and percepts, intensities and becomings) and placing them in a state of continuous variation; on the other hand, it is a power of invention capable of creating ever new relations between these differential or genetic elements ( syntheses of singularities, blocks of becomings, continuums of intensitites.)” – Daniel Smith, from the introduction to Gilles Deleuze: Essays Critical and Clinical.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Remarks on Dewey

A few days ago I finished reading John Dewey's Experience and Nature (1st ed. 1925; 2nd ed. 1929). I started reading it in a reading group last year, but upheavals and dislocations intervened.

Richard J. Bernstein (New School) remarked that Dewey is very good at showing us how to prevent a useful distinction from becoming a useless dichotomy. (Within a pragmatist orientation, the criteria for "useful" and "useless" are made with reference to what enables one to make more connections between concepts and to enrich and enlarge the application of intelligence to situations.)

Bernstein's remark holds true of Dewey's magnum opus, and it's helpful to bear this in mind while working through this lovely and demanding text. E&N confronts the reader with two difficulties. The first is stylistic: although Dewey is not so turgid a stylist as the Teutonic Titans (Kant et al.), neither does his argumentation have (or aspire to) the clarity and rigor prized by "analytic" philosophers. The second is an over-abundance of interesting things to talk about, and one may well wonder if Dewey's discussions ever get beyond the superficial. In the course of E&N, Dewey canvasses the following dichotomies: metaphysics vs. science, science vs. art, art vs. metaphysics, nature vs. mind, nature vs. experience. Throughout, Dewey tries to show that all dichotomies are illusory; continuity is everywhere.

Central to this project are two distinctions: event and object, and mediate and immediate. The former distinction is metaphysical. "Events" are what's going on whether one knows it or not. This is a process ontology; on this point Dewey invites comparison not only with William James but also with Nietzsche, Bergson, Whitehead, and Deleuze. By contrast, "objects" are "events with meaning": a set of events that are associated together as a unity because they matter to some agent (not necessarily a human mind). The event/object distinction allows Dewey to accomodate the broadly Kantian insight into how the cognitive apparatus actively enters into the construction of experience, but without signing off on transcendental idealism (the ideality of space and time).

The distinction between mediation and immediacy, taken from Hegel, is used phenomenologically; it allows Dewey to describe the rhythms of lived experience. (Granted, this is perhaps also how Hegel used it, but Dewey's phenomenology is less intellectualist and disembodied than Hegel's.) This distinction allows Dewey to distinguish between one's immediate enjoyment or use of an object and the reflection on how that object might be improved in order to further human ends and interests. (It also allows Dewey to distinguish between immediately having ends and interests, to be satisfied or frustrated, and reflecting on what ends and interests one should or might have.)

I should note, parenthetically, that Experience and Nature might be read as a naturalistic and somatically aware re-writing of Phenomenology of Spirit. But I don't want to go much further with that thought until I've played with it some more. I'm almost tempted to call it a "phenomenology of anti-spirit," except that Adorno used that phrase to describe Capital, and Adorno's use of the phrase is more apt.

The distinction between mediation and immediacy gives Dewey the tools to move in an un-Kantian (and very Hegelian) direction. Kant insists on establishing the borders of possible experience. That is, Kant attempts to show us that there are definite limits to any possible experience, and that these borders can be determined precisely. In doing so, Kant will also have shown us that there are certain concepts which cannot be satisfied by any object of possible experience: the transcendental ideas (God, free will, immortality).

Where Dewey parts company from Kant (and from the entire neo-Kantian tradition, including logical empiricism and phenomenology) is in his insistence that both experience and nature are "open." There are no boundaries to either the real or the experiencable. Dewey's concept of nature is not the closed and mechanistic universe of Newton and Laplace, but the open and creative universe of Emerson and Bergson. (Darwin, however, is also a strong influence.) The rhythm of mediation and immediacy is one in which some attained enjoyment is the springboard for further reflection, which in turn culminates in some new enjoyment . . . ad infinitum. No boundaries, no limits. (And how very American!)

(It is also worth noting that, because Dewey's nature is the nature of Emerson, James, and Bergson, and not the nature of Newton and Laplace, he does not need to establish a place for human freedom and agency outside of nature as whole, as Kant does.)

The rejection of fixed boundaries to experience or to nature brings Dewey into conversation both other process ontologists (as noted above) and with philosophers such as Wittgenstein and Adorno, who denied the possibility of standing outside our social practices in order to locate the determinate boundaries between sense and nonsense -- or even between catastrophe and redemption. Such distinctions can only be made from within our practices -- from within our lives.

Faith in Futurity

In Marx and in Nietzsche -- though this is more pronounced in
Nietzsche -- I find a faith in the future that enables them to
imagine the possibility of a different form of life. Thus,
without giving into the temptation to define or describe what
this different form of life will be like, they nevertheless affirm the
possibility -- as the "negative" or "inverse" of the critique
of actuality (of capitalism, of nihilism).

It is the cracks or tensions within the actual that
permit them to imagine a different possibility. But the
possibility also remains at the level of imagination -- it does
not rise to the level of conceptualization. The conceptual
realm is merely critical. On the other hand, one needs
assurances that the imagined, the possible, is rational and not
mere fantasy.

In Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud accuses communists
-- who are, after all, among the 'discontents' referred to in the
title -- of fantasy, the regression to a pre-Oedipal stage. There's a
lot of mileage to be gotten out of reading Anti-Oedipus as a
prolegomenon or preparation for a post-oedipal subjectivity --
if that's possible.

I think that it is; unfortunately, the deterioration of traditional
(authoritarian) family structures and the deterioration of the ego
seems to be a "post-oedipal" subjectivity, and if that's right, then
the post-oedipal subject is all the more vulnerable to direct
manipulation by market forces and the logic of exchange.

If one wanted to read Dialectic of Enlightenment and
Anti-Oedipus in conjunction (as I do), one might need to see
these two very different responses to Freud (and Marx, and Nietzsche)
as engaged in a conversation about the decline of oedipal subjectivity.

This decline points the way to both a reversion or regression
to pre-oedipal subjectivity ("the last man") and to a genuinely
post-oedipal subjectivity ("the Uebermensch").

Secular Transcendence

Much of what I appreciate and admire in Marx and Nietzsche -- and to some extent this may also be present in Freud -- is what I want to call a "secular transcendence." (Perhaps even a profane transcendence.)

In the work of Benjamin and Adorno, this is elaborated into a philosophy of redemption that nevertheless dispenses with any revelation or sacred law.

In the work of Deleuze and Foucault, this is elaborated into an ontology of becoming which illuminates possible modes of subjectivization which can be actualized in acts of resistance and transformation.

In order to develop the project of a wholly secular transcendence, these thinkers made use of a remarkable array of different traditions, theories, and vocabularies (Hegelian idealism, phenomenology, neo-Kantianism, Jewish theology, modern art, sociology, psychoanalysis, etc.).

But in doing so, they've given us something truly amazing -- an amazing gift. A new way of thinking differently "in order, at long last, to feel differently" (Nietzsche).

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Theory,Practice,Praxis, and Concept Creation

"That's exactly what I'm seeking from "pragmatism" -- and there are hints of it here and there in James and Dewey (I haven't read Peirce yet) -- a pluralist and fallibilistic approach to both theory and practice." - Dr. Spinoza

Does anyone here see an interesting resolution of theory and practice, not necessarily in what has been called praxis ( or even "praxiological",I'm not too sure,) but in what I am calling concept creation?

We're on two different tracks of thought in the blog right now, Dr. Spinoza, and I'm comfortable with that ( if you are,) but I'm feeling a bit insecure because of the lack of communication and feedback between us.

The desire for a "fallibilistic" approach -( interesting word, that,) - I feel that is met in a particular and particularly satisfying way by the concept of concept creation.

We wouldn't say that a painting or a poem or a piece of music was either fallible or infallible.

We wouldn't want to apply to any artistic effort whatever epistemological framework it is that these words reference.

Mort: " That painting is very fallible!"
Snerd: " No, it's infallible!"

This sort of thing would be ridiculous, ( and I doubt that it happens very often.)

What I am looking for, and I believe we really need, is a kind of philosophical practice where there is to all intents and purposes nothing but what is comparable to artistic production.

That this philosophical practice would so resemble artistic production would not mean that philosophy would reduce to art, or become indistinguishable from it.

What it would do, I think, is to make philosophical practice much more distinguishable from religious practice.

Let what the priests and popes do be spoken of in terms of the fallibilistic or infallibilistic.
Let our theory and practice, combined in the form of concept creation, enrich and enliven the life world in the way of art, music, and poetry.

We may have a new image of thought which will facilitate this; we may have as yet left its potentiality virtually untapped.