Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Pause, Disruption, And Trauma of Thought

Yusef’s stimulating despair (yes, the adjective fits the noun!) of the project of this blog and its fixation on the Enlightenment, and especially the Underground version of it, leads to the whole question of why Kant’s thinking in the late 18th century is so captivating.

Sapere aude is not only powerful in its insistence on rationality, but also in its emancipatory, revolutionary potential. It is the rallying cry of reason versus superstition, of man versus gods, of agency versus passivity, of hope versus fatalism.

And yet the 'the courage to use your own reason!' also automatically means the use of that faculty to undermine that very statement and its philosophy of the implied sacrosanct subject.

That in itself is an affirmation of the validity of the motto of the Enlightenment.

Indeed, the very problematization of Sapere aude proves its veracity and usefulness.

That’s why Yusef’s despair is “stimulating”, since it provokes fresh thinking. And as Deleuze pointed out, following Bergson’s example, the pause between action and reaction is what constitutes the human as a particularly complex brain-body assemblage. This pause allows a certain amount of freedom and the possibility for a more creative response to the world. Put differently, today it is important to change speed (intensity) to slow down sometimes, and even to remain still.

The pause does not mean tranquility, but often its opposite. As Deleuze also often argued, thought is not a natural disposition, but requires a disruptive encounter that engenders thinking within thought. The rest of the time we are simply stimulus-response machines governed by the model of recognition or the familiar.

Lacan (always overdramatic!) states that thought requires a trauma, an encounter with something missing from its place, the failure of something to be where one expects it.

So, “The Enlightenment Underground” is not where we expect it to be. Great! Let’s disrupt it.

Old Immanuel would have appreciated that.

But the question remains: Can we talk about the courage to use one’s reason today without sounding ridiculously metaphysical?

Can we even use the singular first person or the plural ditto?

What is the “I” or the “we”?

Or is the “I” “we”?

Does the subject have a present or a future?


Anonymous Yusef said...

Thank you very much, Orla.

I think there is great promise in what you suggest here.

6:08 PM  

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