Thursday, March 06, 2008

Multiplicity Enlightenment, Take II

If Enlightenment is the overcoming of totality through critique, then this belongs to the Enlightenment:

“GILLES DELEUZE (speaking to Michel Foucault): Possibly we're in the process of experiencing a new relationship between theory and practice. At one time, practice was considered an application of theory, a consequence; at other times, it bad an opposite sense and it was thought to inspire theory, to be indispensable for the creation of future theoretical forms. In any event, their relationship was understood in terms of a process of totalisation. For us, however, the question is seen in a different light. The relationships between theory and practice are far more partial and fragmentary. on one side, a theory is always local and related to a limited field, and it is applied in another sphere, more or less distant from it. The relationship which holds in the application of a theory is never one of resemblance. Moreover, from the moment a theory moves into its proper domain, it begins to encounter obstacles, walls, and blockages which require its relay by another type of discourse (it is through this other discourse that it eventually passes to a different domain). Practice is a set of relays from one theoretical point to another, and theory is a relay from one practice to another. No theory can develop without eventually encountering a wall, and practice is necessary for piercing this wall. For example, your work began in the theoretical analysis of the context of confinement, specifically with respect to the psychiatric asylum within a capitalist society in the nineteenth century. Then you became aware of the necessity for confined individuals to speak for themselves, to create a relay (it's possible, on the contrary, that your function was already that of a relay in relation to them); and this group is found in prisons -- these individuals are imprisoned. It was on this basis that You organised the information group for prisons (G.I.P.)(1), the object being to create conditions that permit the prisoners themselves to speak. It would be absolutely false to say, as the Maoist implied, that in moving to this practice you were applying your theories. This was not an application; nor was it a project for initiating reforms or an enquiry in the traditional sense. The emphasis was altogether different: a system of relays within a larger sphere, within a multiplicity of parts that are both theoretical and practical. A theorising intellectual, for us, is no longer a subject, a representing or representative consciousness. Those who act and struggle are no longer represented, either by a group or a union that appropriates the right to stand as their conscience. Who speaks and acts? It is always a multiplicity, even within the person who speaks and acts. All of us are "groupuscules."(2) Representation no longer exists; there's only action-theoretical action and practical action which serve as relays and form networks. – from

There is no “temptation to totality” in this. There is a “will-to-power” which is not egoistic. There is a “to-power” , an agency, which does not rely on subject-as-totality...

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Fast-Slow (No) Learning(S) Subject(S)

I understand Spinoza's project as a radicalization of the imperative ” Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven image” to include the very images we carry within thought and use in thought to think.

I understand Nietzsche's project as a radicalization of the critique of all philosophy before him (with the exception of Spinoza)as "human, all too human," as an obliteration of all theological traces in philosophy, and also the obliteration of all psychological and psychologizing traces in philosophy.(Nietzsche may in certain places describe himself as a psychologist, but I believe this is misunderstood if we assume he's thinks of psychology in any way similar to the way we do.)

I have come to realize I have failed to fully engage with Nietzsche's question "What is the Dionysian?" by failing to free myself from a psychologizing preconception of the Dionysian. Association of wild, irresponsible debauchery with the Dionysian -- I wonder what Nietzsche would think of that. It's almost as reckless to believe these states give insight into the Dionysian as it is to believe Nazism did.

In attempting a transfiguration of the subject-object and audience-spectacle, relationships within thinking, and also of the "theater of mind" into a "factory of mind," the disanthropomorphization of thought becomes crucially important. Austerity. Solitude. Trivialization of the emotional. Asubjectival austerity? Asubjectival solitude? Asubjectival trivialization of the emotional? The body-without-organs as the zero degree of intensity?

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Celebrating Adorno - In Spite Of Everything!

I can't resist posting this tribute to Theodor Ludwig Wiesengrund Adorno (1903-1969) as the true humanist (and pianist) philosopher of the 20th century. There is a nostalgic touch and smell to his insistence on high culture, and yet he represented a belief in the supremacy of human creativity.

I photographed this elegant and simplistic Denkmal in Frankfurt, Germany, in a small and minimalistic square. And just think of the word: "Denk" = think, "mal" = just once. In other words: Just think!

That's what he did.

Me, Me Or Miming The Meme

Thank you, Yusef, It’s my first virtual meme, too. Your meme,

"Culture has always contributed to the subduing of revolutionary as well as of barbaric instincts. Industrial culture does something more. It inculcates the conditions on which implacable life is allowed to be lived at all."

- provokes in me a desire to test its stability by letting it deconstruct. The paragraph relies so heavily on the thinking of opposites and differences. The meaning of “culture” depends on the meaning of “revolutionary”, and as Derrida would say the process is circular. The opposites relate to themselves rather than to what it purports to describe. And in this system of differences the first is invariable loaded with positive associations.

But the real villain here is INDUSTRIAL culture.

Let’s rephrase the meme,

"Revolutionary as well as barbaric instincts have always contributed to the subduing of culture. Industrial revolutionary and barbaric instincts do something more. They inculcate the conditions on which implacable life is allowed to be lived at all."

- now that’s turning Marxism against the Marxists themselves.

On to the next meme,

Vi mener alle, at det gode ved et kunstværk og ved en kunstner er bevist, hvis han griber os, ryster os. Men da måtte jo dog først vor egen godhed til at bedømme og fornemme være bevist: hvilket ikke er tilfældet”.

This is from the Danish translation of Nietzsche’s ”Human, All Too Human” (1878) section 161 which was the book next to me. OK, I’ll give you a break, here’s the English version,

“We all think that a work of art, an artist, is proved to be of high quality if it seizes hold on us and profoundly moves us. But for this to be so our own high quality in judgment and sensibility would first have to have been proved: which is not the case.”

I’ll include the rest of the passage since it’s just so relevant – here, there, and everywhere!

Who in the realm of the plastic arts has moved and enraptured more than Bernini, who has produced a mightier effect than that post-Demosthenes rhetor [Hegesias of Magnesia] who introduced the Asiatic style and caused it to predominate for two centuries? Such a predomination over entire centuries proves nothing in regard to the quality or lasting validity of a style; that is why one should never be too firm in one's faith in any artist: for such a faith is not only faith in the veracity of our sensibility but also in the infallibility of our judgment, while our judgment or sensibility, or both of them, can themselves be too coarse or too refined, exaggerated or gross. The blessings and raptures conferred by a philosophy or a religion likewise prove nothing in regard to their truth: just as little as the happiness the madman enjoys from his idée fixe proves anything in regard to its rationality.

Picture: Max Horkheimer (front left), Theodor Adorno (front right), and Jürgen Habermas (background right) in 1965 at Heidelberg.

Meme and the Slow Learner

Thanks to Fido the Yak, I've now been involved in my first internet meme. WooHoo!

The steps are:

1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five bloggers.

I'm going to modify the last step by tagging just two bloggers: Carl Sachs and Orla Schantz.

The book which happened to be nearby was The Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments, by Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno. The first three sentences after the fifth are:

"Culture has always contributed to the subduing of revolutionary as well as of barbaric instincts. Industrial culture does something more. It inculcates the conditions on which implacable life is allowed to be lived at all."

Image: “This was a young man who attempted suicide via bb gun. This exceptionally slow learner shot 4 bb's into his left nostril and one into the right before he figured out that this was extraordinarilly painful but not likely to kill him.” -- from