Thursday, May 31, 2007

Beethoven Sonata Turd

I’m intrigued by the way that what’s called affirmation acts as a way of stifling niggling doubts and worries – acts to help one avoid critical thinking in general.

I’m also intrigued by the way that “affirmation” becomes something nearly completely free of content… One can take an attitude of “affirmation” and become willing to affirm everything and anything… from a Beethoven sonata to a hunk of floating turd.

I’m trying to understand how affirmation might be possible in conjunction with something else which I will refer to as selection.

Selection involves denial of some choices and possibilities – to affirm selection would be to affirm (some) denial. To affirm to deny – this is slippery ground, and as I have spent a lifetime slipping around on slippery ground, I really must admit that I pause and reflect and indulge the coward in me rather than rushing on in to slip around in this “to see what happens.”

But this problem of selection and affirmation is the problem of culture itself. Culture has affirmative character, as Marcuse pointed out (Later, I want to draw from Marcuse’s essay, “The Affirmative Character of Culture” – our investigation demands that we do so, I think,) but it also requires something of a critical distance, some selective power which is negative, as Adorno pointed out ( not to make it appear that if there is a disagreement between Marcuse and Adorno, it is a simple matter of the simple dilemma I am examining – affirmation versus selection.)

I am trying to understand the way Nietzsche’s concept of the will-to-power is a means to address the dual character of culture… A way of addressing the form-content duality which has haunted western philosophy from the beginning. Will-to-power isn’t a meditation on the possibility of an actualization of the brutality inherent in human nature – but a way of confronting and opening out the crucifying binarism(s) which dictates thought prior to thought.

(This opening out of thought involves power and the expression of power – but not as a power of domination.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, Yusef, for another stimulating post.

When discussing (or defining) affirmation we, of course, need the Deleuzian concept of "becoming".

Before we get to that, let's look at your use of "affirmation". I'm probably being reductionistic here, but you seem to equate it with the old hippie slogan of "letting it all hang out" = basically anarchic. As long as it is creative, life-affirming, the free flow of being, it overrides any notion of "selection", meaning any ethical hierarchy. Or it is an affirming YES to life versus the Adorno-like NAY-saying (to the absolutism of the values of Enlightenment and to the general debasement of humanistic value by present day hedonistic materialism.)

In Deleuzian ontology (as you know - maybe I'm stating the obvious here (bear with me!)) "becoming" IS the flow of "becoming-life". "Beings" are relatively stable moments in this continuous process of becoming.

Thinking IS becoming, and the obstacles to thinking "becoming" is humanism and subjectivity. Both these tendences posit some ground for becoming: either the human as the knower of a world that becomes, or a subject that underlies becoming. So, Deleuze's work is anti-humanism since it is anti-subjectivity.

Does that mean we can think "difference" between Beethoven and a turd?

Both would be events, singularities, with the flow of becoming streaming through them. The task is to think without models, axioms or grounds.

And yet, Deleuze is also a snob.

Moving away from ontology he then points to philosophy, literature, art, and science as powers of becoming (in your words, Yusef, selection).

AND "selection" also means the choice of "desiring one's own suppression", doesn't it?

PS: Nietzsche's "will-to-power" is highly moralistic and ethically hierarchical, but Deleuze prefers of course the other Nietzschean concept of the "eternal return". I. e. If each moment represents a unique confluence of forces, and if the pure flow of becoming is to move continually through states without heading towards any particular outcome, then "becoming" might be conceived as the eternal, productive return of difference.


6:23 PM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

I'm going to take this as a list of challenges... which I will accept, to the best of my ability.

"The task is to think without models, axioms or grounds."

I like this one the best.

This is no small order! ( No lambs need apply - this one calls for a bird of prey!)

9:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

True, Yusef, this is no time for lambs and sheep!

Let's go rhizomatic - and try to wrestle us free from the shackles of language games and logical armour.

Is it possible to think without creating difference? Can we abolish "OR" from our vocabulary and thinking?

I look forward to reading your attempts.


PS: For some stupid reason (Google has issued a new version of the blogging software, apparently) I can't get into the blogger dashboard for this blog, meaning I can't post, only comment. I guess one way to let me in again would be for you to invite me, as Carl did. I'm at

1:21 PM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

I'm sorry to hear that you can't post, Orla.

Have you registered with Google for a Google account? I think after you do that you'll be able to get to the dashboard again.

4:21 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home