Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A Short Note

Although I may not have made it clear in my recent musings on narcissism, I have been thinking of narcissism as a condition under which the power to propagate connections and form syntheses is restricted, minimized, or even eliminated.

I don't think that this understanding of narcissism involves psychologizing or moralizing.

I believe that I am sidestepping these forms of explanation by thinking of the condition of narcissism as a phenomenon of multiplicity: some multiplicities, for example monisms - monist multiplicities - suppress connections.... Very briefly, I can summarize this activity of suppression as being an effect of thinking and feeling within a metaphysical framework wherein all the crucial concepts, such as 'truth', require us to gaze and contemplate, but not to touch, not to interact.

Under the sway of these crucial concepts, I might, for example, exhibit my 'truth' to you, and you might exhibit your 'truth' to me, but in the clashing of our exhibitions we probably do not see, feel, or think anything we did not see, think, or feel prior to the clash. If we go on thinking that our exhibition of 'truth' is a way of interacting, ( which is precisely the self-flattering opinion we'd like to hold of such displays, so I think we will, in the absence of some thoughtfulness, continue this way,) we will continue being deluded. We will continue to have confrontations and clashes ( non-interactive confrontation! non-interactive clashes! At this point, there is no paradox for me in these formulations,) which are utterly unproductive...

Basically, I am saying that narcissism is an effect of being intersected by monist multiplicities. I don't know how convincing this thesis is, and I wouldn't mind some feedback here. ( Please!)

I have not believed that it is a good procedure to examine a psychological feature or process and then examine a social process, and then say that the psychological feature causes the social feature, or vice versa. And yet I am quite struck by just how often, here at the Enlightenment Underground, this appears to be exactly what I am trying to do. You know, in my posts, I'm not even interested in any of the many and varied mediations which are the substance of most other internet commentaries of all sorts - I almost act as if mediations don't exist. I'm worried. My present understanding of multiplicity ( which I admit may require drastic revision,) and critique of binaristic thinking ( here, binaristic thinking is involved in public-private, individual-society, psychological-social distinctions or oppositions, and mediation is what connects these binaristic opposites in one way or the other,) leads me to believe that mediation is part of the way of thinking that must be dispelled in the repetition with difference of the Enlightenment.

On the other hand, if that conclusion turns out to be false, I will have a lot of sloppy and jumpy thinking for which to apologize.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Matter of Truth, the Matter of Matter: Which Matters More? Part XIV

Does a narcissist ever stutter? Does a narcissist ever laugh?

Is it possible to have wit, a mind, without interaction with others?

Is a joke told to impress others of one’s own wit ever even one wit funny?

Is there such a thing as “non-interactive” USE?

Is the “non-interactive” ever anything but passive? ( In other words, is there “non-interactive” activity – or is “non-interactive” activity a mirage – a speaking with oneself in a private language which doesn’t exist?)

"Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent." – Ludwig Wittgenstein’s rigorous depiction from early in his career, of how one must behave after what can be spelled out within a “non-interactive” concept of truth has been spelled out. One gazes silently, passively.

Narcissus Narcissus Narcissus Narcissus Narcissus Narcissus Narcissus Narcissus Narcissus Narcissus Narcissus Narcissus Narcissus Narcissus Narcissus Narcissus Narcissus............seamless, taught repetition without difference.

“Echo, with all the other lovelorn maidens, loved Narcissus. She could follow him, but could not speak to him. How then could she make a youth who never looked at a girl pay attention to her? One day, however, it seemed her chance had come. He was calling to his companions, “Is anyone here?” and she called back in rapture, “Here-Here.” She was still hidden by the trees so that he did not see her, and he shouted, “Come!” – just what she longed to say to him. She answered joyfully, “Come!” and stepped forth from the woods with her arms outstretched. But he turned away in angry disgust. “Not so,” he said: “I will die before I give you power over me.”

So Narcissus went on his cruel way, a scorner of love. But at last one of those he wounded prayed a prayer and it was answered by the gods: “May he who loves not others love himself.” The great goddess Nemesis which means righteous anger, undertook to bring this about. As Narcissus bent over a clear pool for a drink and saw there his own reflection, on the moment he fell in love with it. ‘Now I know,’
he cried, ‘what others have suffered from me, for I burn with love of my own self—and yet how can I reach that loveliness I see mirrored in the water? But I cannot leave it. Only death can set me free.’ And so it happened. He pined away, leaning perpetually over the pool, fixed in one long gaze.” – Edith Hamilton, Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes, 1942, pages 87-88.

Narcissus Narcissus Narcissus Narcissus Narcissus cannot reach that loveliness he sees mirrored in the water, but he cannot leave it, he can’t HuisClos his HuisClos.

There is no exit without DIFFERENCE. There is no such thing as DIFFERENCE without interaction, without “use.” There is no such thing as INTERACTION without OTHER. These comments are necessary parts of a multiplicity-mechanics.

Narcissus’s inability to exit from the silent gaze is not conditioned by a force imposed upon him – an interaction with a more powerful OTHER. It is self-imposed. The inability to exit is the form of SELF-IMPOSITION… The form of non-interaction.

Narcissus is NO-EXIT.

“Inez: I have your taste, my dear, because I like you so much. Look at me. No, straight. Now smile. I’m not so ugly, either. Am I not nicer than your glass?

Estelle: Oh, I don’t know. You scare me rather. My reflection in the glass never did that; of course, I knew it so well. Like something I had tamed…. I’m going to smile, and my smile will sink down into your pupils, and heaven knows what it will become.

Inez: And why shouldn’t you ‘tame’ me? [The women gaze at each other, Estelle with a sort of fearful fascination.] Listen! I want you to call me Inez. We must be great friends.

Estelle: I don’t make friends with women very easily.

Inez: Not with postal clerks, you mean? Hullo, what’s that—that nasty red spot at the bottom of your cheek? A pimple?

Estelle: A pimple? Oh, how simply foul! Where?

Inez: There…. You know the way they catch larks—with a mirror? I’m your lark-mirror, my dear, and you can’t escape me… There isn’t a pimple, not a trace of one. So what about it? Suppose the mirror started telling lies?” – Jean-Paul Sartre, No Exit, 1944, page 21.

Garcin, Estelle, and Inez each try to use the other as a mirror. The power of the other to reflect an idealized image of each is the only use they make, or attempt to make, of each other. The play ends with, “They slump onto their respective sofas. A long silence. Their laughter dies away and they gaze at each other.”

NarNOEXcissusNarNOEXcissus NarNOEXcissusNarNOEXcissus NarNOEXcissusNarNOEXcissus NarNOEXcissusNarNOEXcissus NarNOEXcissusNarNOEXcissus NarNOEXcissusNarNOEXcissusIT

"The meaning of a word is its use," Ludwig Wittgenstein says, much later in his career, at a time when he has abandoned entirely any conception of truth and meaning as non-interactive. ( I wanted to associate this with his discovery, at around this time, that the way we use words is various and diverse, but I can’t find the reference.)

WittNarcigensteinWittlessNarcigensteinGENARCISSUS.... EXITS:

"A person caught in a philosophical confusion is like a man in a room who wants to get out but doesn't know how. He tries the window but it is too high. He tries the chimney but it is too narrow. And if he would only turn around, he would see that the door has been open all the time."

Ludwig Wittgenstein, enunciating: THERE IS EXIT.

Narcissus, finding meaning and truth in interaction with OTHER, turns away from fascinating IMAGO which can’t be worked or used – he turns around, and sees that the WAY OUT has been open all the time.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Matter of Truth, the Matter of Matter: Which Matters More? Part XIII

Because I do not want this line of thought to die, I am going to stammer out another few comments about the “thought of the outside.”

If Deleuze was sincere in his positive comments about stammering, he’d have to be delighted with me – stammering is about all that I can do.

I am in a peculiar situation.

I place a very heavy theoretical weight upon this “thought of the outside.” I think it has enormous practical, ethical, and psychological consequences. I think that the “thought of the outside”, if it can be understood in some utterly material and pragmatic way, will help us find a way out of our shared maladies of narcissism, imperialism, and hegemonic policies, ( which, by the way, I see as intimately inter-related and re-enforcing.)

But – even though I place this heavy emphasis on it, it is entirely vague. I even worry that it is sheer nonsense, and that rather than providing some way out of narcissism and the rest, it is really just another pernicious symptom of " narcissism and the rest" continuing on in my own thinking.

What of this “thought of the outside”?

What if that’s just a crude spatial metaphor that acts as a kind of placeholder concept?

What if it is the resurgence, within the oeuvre of Deleuze-Guattari-Foucault, of the mystical, of the transcendental, at their most virulent, fly-bottle-baiting worst? The return of wishful and fanciful thinking, of fantasy posing as theory, of romanticism posing as realism of the highest and hardest order?

This is a terrible fear of mine – that at that point where I am most convinced that I am reaching out, most convinced that I am touching reality, I am in fact most self-entwined and self-infatuated, most mirror and navel gazing.

Then, the “thought of the outside” is the deepest and sickest manifestation of introspection. My maps aren’t maps at all – they are metaphors—metaphors serving as projection screens for the cinema of my interiority.

Leave that aside for a moment.

I want to connect the “thought of the outside” with this thought: the idea that theory is practice. As Foucault said, “theory does not express, translate, or serve to apply practice: it is practice.” If I can get away with this connection, then I can go forth and not worry that theory is a practice of totalization, being instead assured that theory is a practice of multiplying potentialities.

Lenin thought so. But so what?

Can I get away with that connection?

It matters to me that associated with William James’s philosophical differentiation culminating in his version of pragmatism was a political differentiation from a xenophobic, self-righteous, and class-based exclusionary politics unfolding and changing into his passionate and engaged involvement with the New England Anti-Imperialist League.

William James ended up thinking that theory was practice.

William James ended up with an idea of an America and a democratic political practice which wasn’t totalizing or imperialistic.

It didn’t, alas, pick up much in America.

That idea skipped like a stone, across the Atlantic, and then a good many miles inland, to Paris, where it was picked up again, by another generation, of Frenchmen.

But so what? Can any of us get away with these connections? Are they useful? Or useful only as a mirror for self-admiring cowards?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Matter of Truth, the Matter of Matter: Which Matters More? Part XII

I am trying to urge the idea that “the thought of the outside” actuates and is actuated by the thinking of pluralism: multiplicity isn’t multiplicity without the “thought of the outside,” and vice versa.

(I can only “urge” at this point, but later, I plan to do better at showing why I am “urging.”)

The comment by William James, that “the absolute has nothing, absolutely nothing, outside of itself,” is actually definitive of the absolute, and the thinking founded on the absolute, monism. The idea of something with nothing, absolutely nothing, outside of itself actuates monism, and all of the tremendous social and political apparatus that is “ monism.”

There is no strategic struggle or resistance against anything if it is impossible to conceive of absolutely anything outside of this something against which one might wish to struggle and resist: absolutisms and monisms are actuated by incapacities to conceive, and the incapacity to conceive is actuated by monism.

Monism is the process of homogenization of the perception of phenomena, normalization, blurring of contrast, distinction, individuality, and of the thinking through of difference, because there is nothing, absolutely nothing, outside of whatever it is monism conceives there is.

Absolutism may present itself as a requirement, a necessity, for thinking, but it is important to consider that absolutism may not be required at all, and that while posing as what we must have in order to think ( properly, normally, sanely, responsibly ) we are that much more bamboozled against "thinking otherwise."

The image at the top of this post is a Juan Carlos Rivas Image.

Monday, January 01, 2007

The Matter of Truth, the Matter of Matter: Which Matters More? Part XI

In order to make clear that my machinery of mapping fires on all cylinders, I need to elaborate in more detail just what kind of space these maps are mapping.

It will not be a surprise to learn that this space is not a uniform, homogeneous, or absolutist kind of space: it is not a relative space, either.

It is a differential space, and it is mapped using differential geometr(ies).

Just what is a differential space, and to just what extent is it necessary to understand differential geometry in order to understand what is happening in this kind of space?

I want to begin exploring the nature of this kind of space and geometry by looking at a passage from William James’s “A Pluralistic Universe” which may say everything about differential space and geometry I need to say, and which I find particularly striking and beautiful in its (apparent) simplicity:

" But first of all I must parenthetically ask you to distinguish the notion of the absolute carefully from that of another object with which it is liable to become heedlessly entangled. That other object is the ‘God’ of common people in their religion, and the creator-God of orthodox christian theology. Only thoroughgoing monists or pantheists believe in the absolute. The God of our popular Christianity is but one member of a pluralistic system. He and we stand outside of each other, just as the devil, the saints, and the angels stand outside of both of us. I can hardly conceive of anything more different from the absolute than the God, say, of David or of Isaiah. That God is an essentially finite being in the cosmos, not with the cosmos in him, and indeed he has a very local habitation there, and very one-sided local and personal attachments. If it should prove probable that the absolute does not exist, it will not follow in the slightest degree that a God like that of David, Isaiah, or Jesus may not exist, or may not be the most important existence in the universe for us to acknowledge. I pray you, then, not to confound the two ideas as you listen to the criticisms I shall have to proffer. I hold to the finite God, for reasons which I shall touch on in the seventh of these lectures; but I hold that his rival and competitor – I feel almost tempted to say his enemy—the absolute, is not only forced on us by logic,but that it is an improbable hypothesis.”

“…not with the cosmos in him, and indeed he has a very local habitation there…” This amounts, I think, to a differential theology, which activates concepts of space(s) which are differential.

Thinking falters in absolutist space:

“ When John Mill said that the notion of God’s omnipotence must be given up, if God is to be kept as a religious object, he was surely accurately right; yet so prevalent is the lazy monism that idly haunts the region of God’s name, that so simple and truthful a saying was generally treated as a paradox: God, it was said, could not be finite. I believe that the only God worthy of the name must be finite, and I shall return to this point in a later lecture. […] Observe that all the irrationalities and puzzles which the absolute gives rise to, and from which the finite God remains free, are due to the fact that the absolute has nothing, absolutely nothing, outside of itself.” - James, page 65, IBID

I want to relate all of this to multiplicity, by quoting very briefly and somewhat haphazardly, these thoughts from Deleuze:

“ But we must note that in general a dualism has at least three meanings: it involves a real dualism marking an irreducible difference between two substances, as in Descartes, or between two faculties, as in Kant; or it involves a provisional stage that subsequently becomes a monism, as in Spinoza or Bergson; or else it involves a preliminary distribution operating at the heart of a pluralism. Foucault represents this last case. For if the visible and the articulable elements enter into a duel, it is to the extent that their respective forms, as forms of exteriority,dispersion or dissemination, make up two types of ‘multiplicity’, neither of which can be reduced to a unity: statements exist only in a discursive multiplicity, and visibilities in a non-discursive multiplicity. And these two multiplicities of relations between forces, a multiplicity of diffusion which no longer splits into two and is free of any dualizable form.

Discipline and Punish continually demonstrates that dualisms are molar or massive effects occurring within ‘multiplicities’. And the dualism of force, the ability to affect and be affected, is merely the index in each one of the multiplicity of forces, the multiple being of force. Syberberg once said that dividing something into two is an attempt to distribute a multiplicity which cannot be represented by a single form. But this distribution can only distinguish multiplicities from multiplicities. This is the whole of Foucault’s philosophy, which is a pragmatics of the multiple.” - from Foucault, by Deleuze, the chapter “ Strategies or the Non-stratified: the Thought of the Outside (Power)”, pages 83 and 84.