Thursday, October 26, 2006

Enlightenment Haeccity

I want to treat the Enlightenment as an event, as what Deleuze and Guattari have called a ‘haeccity.’

I want to make clear that in doing so, I am not treating the Enlightenment as the collective creation of a relatively small number of European geniuses living and working in the eighteenth century. I am making what I think of as a sharp contrast with that view of what the Enlightenment is.

I also want to distinguish treating the Enlightenment as an event from thinking of it as a time of great sharpening and clarifying of themes and concepts which had existed prior in other forms, mainly religious ones, and then become desacralized, ( de-sanctified ?), and thus ‘humanized’ and made ‘practical.’

Earlier in our blog conversation, Dr. Spinoza identified several other ‘enlightenments’, and gave them dates. I have come to think of these other ‘enlightenments’ as also being haeccities, and which could also be studied as such. For some reason, though, I am really only interested in the eighteenth century Enlightenment… I think that looking at this one will be the most fruitful for CREATING the problems I want to create in the seamless and increasingly homogenized thought horizon enclosing us.

I want to challenge how much that view of the Enlightenment, wherein the changes can be seen in what I think of as epistemological terms, does much more than disguise what’s happened.

I want to look at what happened during the Enlightenment in terms of what changes… In order to look for differences. Specifically, I want to look at the changes which occur to the concept of repression, which I see as pivotal, as it serves as a general concept of power.

I believe that such differences can be mined for the purposes of concept creation, and the key to that mining is not to blur the differences into some sort of unitary or unified ur-thinking. In the transformations of the idea of repression in time, I want to hold on to the SHOCKS of these ideas of repression, and to think them through, because to do that is to create concepts, and to create concepts is now vital.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Yusef,

Thanks for a great post and the beginning of a worthy project. Let me throw out a few associations you can ignore or run with.

1: I understand the 18th century Enlightenment as a political and secularization event, but also a very moralistic one. It was also a realpolitisch powerplay against authority as repression.

2: In Deleuzian terms: the Enlightenment was (and is) a deterritorialization, of the absolute kind = a way of moving and as such has nothing to do with how fast or slow it is. Such movements are immanent, differentiated and ontologically prior to the movements of relative deterritorialization which moves towards fixity.

3: I take Deleuze's haeccity as meaning contingency (maybe of a rhizomic kind) and as such 18th century Enlightenment certainly qualifies as a haeccity.

4: In Pourparlers 1973-1990 when discussing his writing process with Guattari, Deleuze uses a wonderful metaphor, "I find it interesting that a page always leaks in all directions, but at the same time closes in about itself like an egg". Isn't that a good way of describing a concept like the continuous Enlightenment?

5: If it is now asked whether we at present live in an enlightened age, the answer
is: No, but we do live in an age of enlightenment. As things are at present, we
still have a long way to go before men as a whole can be in a position (or can
ever be put into a position) of using their own understanding confidently and
well in religious matters, without outside guidance. But we do have distinct
indications that the way is now being cleared for them to work freely in this
direction, and that the obstacles to universal enlightenment, to man's emergence
from his self-incurred immaturity, are gradually becoming fewer.

Now, that was a quote. From 1784. By Kant, of course. But also a topical comment.

The SHOCKS of repression that rattle us today come from the same fundamentalist religious forces that characterized the 18th century and to which the Enlightenment was a reaction. Even so, I think it paramount that we hold onto Kant's optimism.

All the best to you, Yusef. I look forward to following your creations,

Orla Schantz

1:30 PM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

Thanks very much for your comments, Orla. I want to come back to them.

That quote from Kant is staggering.

I better mention - In this case, I was using the word SHOCK to indicate an intensity, and that what I want to do is hold on to the intensity of these moments when transfigurations become evident.

My theory is that this intensity never truly fades... and this is a different way of looking at history than as a succession of ideas, or as a replacement of the false with the less false.

It bothered me in my last post that I came so close to saying that to be blase about events is the way to go. That's not what I meant.

10:57 AM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

"I find it interesting that a page always leaks in all directions, but at the same time closes in about itself like an egg". Isn't that a good way of describing a concept like the continuous Enlightenment?"

Was this in response to my comment about an increasingly homogenized and enclosing thought-horizon?

11:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comments, Yusef.

I agree that looking at historical transfigurations through the concept of intensity is fascinating. Please stick to that thought - this could liberate us from the usual doxa. Deleuze has good points on that. I'll try and look it up.

No, no. I was not referring to your post when quoting Deleuze's metaphor. Actually I think it delicately describes his own concept of concepts.

Maybe it also applies to "intensity"?

Orla Schantz

11:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Yusef,

As promised, I have tried to come to grips with Deleuzian INTENSITY. It is a key notion in his project and is posited between his ideas of the virtual and the actual/real (the former always gives me great difficulty). I have found some help in The Deleuze Dictionary (ed. by Adrian Parr, Edinburgh University Press, 2005) where intensity is explained in various ways, like for instance,

Intensities are not entities, they are virtual yet real events whose mode of existence is to actualize themselves in states of affairs...Placed in the context of the virtual and the actual, intensities catalyze the actualization of the virtual, generating extension, linear, successive time, extended bodies and their qualities.

The way I read it is that in the cases of Enlightenments (virtual or real) intensity is the speeding up or the cresting of multiple singularities that create extended bodies of thought. This happens all the time, but doesn't always reach full actualization or a tipping-point. I guess the intensities also invariably produce forms of assemblages or montages.

All the best,

Orla Schantz

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