Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Universal which is Particular and Sensuous

The idea, for me, is to get behind the symbols. But, no! There is nothing “behind” the symbols. If I am to have any satisfaction at all, it will be found within this symbolic realm, filled as it is with pain, suffering, injustice, hardship, ugliness, and omnipresent bestiality.

But, then….Can I hope to change the symbolic realm, modify it so that it is more to my liking?

We do receive a world…It comes to us pre-packaged, and it is given. The real question is whether we want to take this world, and if not, on what grounds we could refuse it, and on what strength we could wish for something better. If we refuse this world which comes to us laden with the conventional and the dead weight of the past, with its soul-vampirism, and its threadbare thoughtlessness, is there an assurance that what we’ll build up out of our refusal will be something more and something better, that our refusal is motivated by more than ugly ressentiment and infantile regression?

I am answering these questions through my recourse to Nietzsche’s parable of the bird of prey and the tender lambs.

Now, as I’ve tried to point out, the symbols involved here are atrocious. It is nearly impossible to think in Nietzsche’s symbolic terms without thought becoming weirdly mired in the horrors of human history which are embedded: the Nazi eagle, the Christian lamb; the male attacker from heaven – Zeus’s thunder bolt—the female earth which is struck; the bird of prey as the act, the tender lamb as what is acted upon; bird of prey aggression opposed to tender lamb passivity; and so on and so forth…I wish I could catalogue all of these symbolic relationships, but perhaps they are as extensive as human culture itself.

Also, as Orla has pointed out, there is the strong conjuration of the aristocrat as the bird of prey and the hapless and pathetic peasant as the tender lamb; it intrigues me to remember that aristocrats were falconers, and in the last important hereditary aristocracy in the world, Saudi Arabia, they still are.

I have to think Nietzsche, working from within the great German philological tradition, was not unaware of what he was dredging up with this choice. I am asserting, as strongly as I am able, Nietzsche’s intent in this choice is to intervene, scramble, and in a sense destroy this symbolic order he has received—he delves into this infantile and fantasy-laden symbolic order which is CHARACTERISTIC of what the human being has been, and he smashes it wide open and thereby offers a potentiality for maturity.

My contention is that this is a sensuous maturity, a powerful knowledge, not only a symbol-receiving but a symbol-creating maturity, which re-establishes contact with the body, rather than negating such, as our enlightenment heritage has demanded, with all the dire implications for autonomy, let alone health. Sensuous maturity post-enlightenment has meant little more than sensuous renunciation; powerful knowledge is a kind of oxymoron if power has retained its political meaning; we've had symbol homogenizations - have we had any symbol creation any time recently?

Change is bodily; sundered from the body, the mind can't change anything. Vis a vis the symbolic, the mind must simply accept what's there. There is no inspiration, no conviction, just obedience to whomever or whatever has retained a connection to the body, even if that connection was made hundreds of years ago. I believe it was- the aristocrats had this connection. The aristocrats are long gone. Desire is aristocratic. Desire is long gone.


Blogger Orla Schantz said...

Thank you, Yusef, for this thoughtful post that touches on many elements of (what I read as) the virtual and the actual.

Yet, you come down on the body as a monolithic concept.

I think we need to move beyond that and consider Deleuze's BwO and its expanding connotations.

To "make oneself a body without organs," is to actively experiment with oneself to draw out and activate the virtual potentials. They are mostly activated (or "actualized") through conjunctions with other bodies or "becomings."

As I read D&G we are talking about a field of forces that is not limited by skin and flesh. Rather there are (in ATP) three kinds of BwO: cancerous, empty, and full.

The cancerous BwO is caught in a pattern of endless reproduction of the self-same pattern. The empty BwO is the BwO of Anti-Oedipus. This BwO is also "catatonic" because it is completely de-organ-ized; all flows pass through it freely, with no stopping, and no directing. Even though any form of desire can be produced on it, the empty BwO is non-productive.

The full BwO is the healthy BwO; it is productive, but not petrified in its organ-ization.

Shouldn't we become "full" becomings, as it were?

Or Yusef, aren't you just creating a new symbolism of the body that is essentially oppressive?

All the best

6:04 PM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

I want to make "full" use of your comment, so if my reply is hasty or ill-conceived, please forgive.

I'm taking sides in the idealism vs materialism debate - completely on the side of materialism.

But then the question is, what is materialism and is it even possible to "fully" distinguish materialism from idealism in the first place?

I'm trying to offer some criteria for making that distinction, and that it be able to use multiplicity-thinking is one of the utmost importance for knowing materialism from idealism. I'm therefore very sorry that doesn't come through very powerfully.

I'm not trying to create a new symbolism of the body. What I'm interested in here is a sort of ongoing and immediate and investment of the body (as desire, libido desire) into the symbolic. This is something different from the idea that the symbolic can be participated in only through obedience, renunciation, or ascetic practices, so I don't think it is essentially oppressive, or at all. I'd like to hear why and under what circumstances it would be.

7:09 PM  
Blogger Orla Schantz said...

Thank you for your response Yusef. I appreciate your thinking.

Let me try to react, first by accepting your idealism - materialism dichotomy (which I tend to be suspicious of, but that's another whole discussion :-)).

You are "completely on the side of materialism", even if you have doubts whether that's possible. I think you are right in the latter.

But you want to "create a new symbolism of the body" elevating desire, libido desire into the symbolic.

I guess this is where I have reservations and why I wrote about how you run the risk of creating a symbolism of the body that is essentially oppressive.

Oppressive in the sense that you are mythologizing "desire" (or transporting it into the metaphysical realm) and thus reducing the subject to an (well) object.

Is desire, libido, the bird of prey? Or is it, as Deleuze referred to in Anti-Oedipus, a new religion like psychoanalysis.

Or is "desire" to be understood as synonymous with Nietzschean "will to power"?

I don't know if this makes sense. But I'm trying to build on, affirm, and continue your line of thinking.

All the best,


5:21 PM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

Thanks for the comment, Orla, and the opportunity to clarify.

You said,

" But you want to 'create a new symbolism of the body' elevating desire, libido desire into the symbolic."

I don't want to create a new symbolism of the body; I don't want to elevate desire into the symbolic, if "elevate" retains any of the word's metaphoric meanings of the past ( which reinforce the notion that the desire is subterranean,dark, and lowly.) I want to make the symbolic porous and permeable and malleable to the energies and powers of desire.

I titled this post "a universal which is sensuous and particular." In the history of thought since the enlightenment, the "universal" is found in knowledge. Knowledge is encapsulated in the symbolic. But I think that the universal is desire. I don't know if this is too great a leap to be comprehendable, but the whole issue of autonomy hinges on whether desire can directly invest the symbolic.

7:58 PM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

"Is desire, libido, the bird of prey? Or is it, as Deleuze referred to in Anti-Oedipus, a new religion like psychoanalysis.

Or is "desire" to be understood as synonymous with Nietzschean "will to power"?"

I am using the bird of prey as if it were the symbol of desire. The lambs don't have the attribute of desire in Nietzsche's parable. They aren't concerned with doing what they can do, what they desire to do; they are concerned with convincing the bird of prey that it is evil for doing what it can do, what it desires to do.

It is important, though, not to confuse desire with will-to-power. See, the lambs do have a will-to-power, just as the bird of prey does. It is however, a reactive will-to-power.

12:03 PM  
Blogger Orla Schantz said...

Thank you, Yusef, for the clarification.

Equating desire with will-to-power is from Anti-Oedipus as I seem to remember without having the quotes to back it up. Be that as it may, it could be even more fascinating - as you propose - to push aside or do away with "knowledge" as the universal and replacing it with "desire".

This is a quivering crack in the earth suddenly opening with bats flocking up from the dark ( - and the bird of prey hovering above? -).


But we need your definition of "desire", Yusef. How do you conceptualize it?


5:54 PM  
Anonymous John said...

Speaking of the sensuous please check out these related references.


2:21 AM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

There are many ways of speaking of the sensuous, aren't there?

I checked out some of your references, and thanks.

I am relieved to learn you aren't a spammer.

6:00 PM  

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