Sunday, May 11, 2008

Myth Is Religion, Ideology, And - False

What Deleuze is creating in this quote (thanks for the reference, Yusef) is a definition of blogging which he, sadly, didn’t live to experience. He would have been appreciative of the rhizomatic nature of blogs.

“The new archivist proclaims that henceforth he will deal only with statements. He will not concern himself with what previous archivists have treated in a thousand different ways: propositions and phrases. He will ignore both the vertical hierarchy of propositions which are stacked on top of one another, and the horizontal relationship established between phrases in which each seems to respond to another. Instead he will remain mobile, skimming along in a kind of diagonal line that allows him to read what could not be apprehended before, namely statements. […] Such multiplicities have no set linguistic construction, yet they are statements.

The copulative statement: myth is totality is just that: a vain attempt to remain immobile. Nothing is immobile. Everything is becoming.

Now THAT is totalitarian, too. But within the prison of linguistics we are locked in binary thinking and simile.

What we should be engaged in is concept creation – an escape from prison.

The concept is (therefore) both absolute and relative: it is relative to its own components, to other concepts, to the plane on which it is defined, and to the problems it is supposed to resolve, but it is absolute through the condensation it carries out, the site it occupies on the plane, and the conditions it assigns to the problem. As whole it is absolute, but insofar as it is fragmentary it is relative. (D&G: What Is Philosophy?, p. 21)

This is Chaosmos like the drop into water. There can be no fixed trajectory, no anticipation fulfilled, no wish granted, but still a statement made.

Coming back to a previous quote from you, Yusef:

As Jean-Francois Lyotard said, “Postmodernism should wage a war on totality.”

Of course.

Apart from the bellicose (and moralistic) semantics here, Lyotard is right. And we will – hopefully – never return to totalitarianism.

A drop, or a tear, into the water creates rings of desire. Just as a thought or an idea builds a fragment of a whole that refuses to be absolute.

Let’s move beyond the vertical and delve into the horizontal: there is NO underground, only an ever building rhizome, no up, no down, no gravity. Only statements.

This has just been one.

Maybe it still is.

Copulation forever.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for the comment, Orla, and thanks also for the agreement.

I think, though, that for example the statement "myth is false" is also a particularly potent way of making immobility, and I want to explore these types of "making immobility" much further.


1:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good to hear from you Yusef.

"Making immobility" could be a fascinating concept to explore, especially as a counter-intuitive to the vitalism of Deleuze.

It reminds me of his axiom in A Thousand Plateaus - Be quick even when standing still

I look forward to your thoughts.


7:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone here once said that "myth is already enlightenment". Can you expand on that? Is myth enlightenment because there is a unity in every myth, which equals the attempt of science to understand nature in forms of unity, in both cases attempting to dominate nature?

8:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Myth is already enlightenment" is from Adorno and Horkheimer's book The Dialectic of Enlightenment.

I don't think Adorno and Horkheimer try to make a case about unity in myth, or unity in science, or "unity", being a form for instituting domination.

I suppose magic was an early attempt by humans to dominate nature, and perhaps there is some link between myth and magic,thus associating myth with attempts to dominate nature.

There is also some very vague sense in which magical thinking becomes scientific thinking.

Adorno and Horkheimer do try to trace how Enlightenment thinking leads to domination of nature and of other men. If myth opposes rationality and myth is simply false, then there is no possibility for dialectical progression...myth is stamped out--to the extent myth contained truths about human yearnings and the quest for human happiness, these truths are lost. And this "stamping out of myth" is in itself an act of dominating.

I've been reflecting recently on just what extent the Enlightenment thinkers did wish to stamp out religion. It is interesting these days how those who wish to re-establish the centrality of religion to modern life target Darwin, Marx, and Freud as their enemies...These men were actually somewhat fair and balanced in their assessments of religion. If you want to find someone radically opposed to religion, look at Voltaire. He advocated eradicating religion in order to eradicate an infamy.

I want to examine our relationship to the Enlightenment by using "myth" as a multiplicity rather than a theme. This will not rely on a dialectics and I think it does involve being critical of apparent unities.


11:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting point that "anonymous" raises, Is myth enlightenment because there is a unity in every myth, which equals the attempt of science to understand nature in forms of unity, in both cases attempting to dominate nature?

This opens up the whole field of narratology in relation to the "myth" of Enlightenment.

It is indeed true that our whole construction of the Enlightenment is a consequence of the ways that the elements of narrative structure our perception of both cultural artifacts and the world around us.

We like to read the story of the Enlightenment as a typical fairytale: The hero (rationality, LIGHT) conquers the enemy (superstition, DARKNESS) clearing the way to the kingdom of reason, goodwill and human rights. It's the "feel-good" happy ending of us finally coming to our senses and bestowing true dignity to us as human beings with a higher calling.

It is ultimate utopianism. And the story satisfies our need for narrative closure - just as science tells the same tale: We have found the solution. We have solved the riddle. Now we are better as a species. We have progressed.

Myths have the same narrative structures. So - are we just falling in love with the myths of Enlightenment and Science because they correspond to our need for meaning?


6:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another thing I appreciate about anonymous's comment is the way unity is tied to domination, perhaps as a strategy of domination.


10:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yusef:"If myth opposes rationality and myth is simply false, then there is no possibility for dialectical progression...myth is stamped out--to the extent myth contained truths about human yearnings and the quest for human happiness"

This sounds like a naive reading of Adornos work.

2:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps it is. When you read,"Myth is already Enlightenment" does it say to you, "Myth is already domination"? If so, I have to admit our reaction is very different. I've always before now seen something more cheery,along the lines of "Myth is already information." --Yusef

5:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No it does not. I proposed it in an attempt at understanding the "myth is already enlightenment" statement. If it is not domination towards nature and the nature of man, that they share. Then what is it? Is it simply the dialectical dependency towards each other, that makes the "possibility for dialectical progression" (your words).

I strongly object to that reading.

The tale (myth) of Oddyseus is in itself loaded with dialectical meaning. It does much more than represent the hopes and yearnings for man. In that tale enlightenment thinking is strongly present, but so is mythical thinking.


6:32 AM  
Blogger Christoffer said...

By the way, do you guys ever get tired of repeating the words vitality, rhizome, and becoming?

I know you like Deleuze but the continous chanting of his key concepts or themes becomes annoying.


6:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly agree with you that Odysseus represents much more than the hopes and yearnings of man, and I particularly like Adorno and Horkheimer's rich reading of the tale.

If we are using the Odyssey as our prime example of a myth, I think we need to note, as A&H do, that it is categorized as an epic, ie it is not of the same literary form as the telling of the same mythic material earlier in history. It actually organizes mythic material, and that's significant.

I think a primary point A&H make is that there is actually a lot of rationality present in the Homeric epic. So what separates myth (or at least epic) from Enlightenment is not lack of the presence of rationality.

"Enlightenment's program was the disenchantment of the world. It wanted to dispel myths, to overthrow fantasy with knowledge."


"In a period of political division into immense blocs driven by an objective tendency to collide, horror has been prolonged. The conflicts in the third world and the renewed growth of totalitarianism are not merre historical interludes any more than, according to the Dialectic, fascism was at that time. Critical thought, which does not call a halt before progress itself, requires us to take up the cause of the remnants of freedom, of tendencies toward real humanity, even though they seem powerless in the face of the great historical trend."

I can't summarize the argument of the entire book, but I don't think my earlier very simple reading was entirely off base. A&H regard the Enlightenment project as one of liberation- they regard rationality as primary in liberating mankind. They do, however, see some kind of rationality in myth, and its extirpation by the Enlightenment as fantasy or falsity or whatever, as an extirpation or loss of some degree of liberating power.


10:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"What is at issue here is not culture as a value, as understood by critics of civilization such as Huxley, Jaspers, and Ortega y Gasset, but the necessity for enlightenment to reflect on itself if humanity is not to be totally betrayed. What is at stake is not the conservation of the past but the fulfillment of past hopes. Today,however, the past is being continued as destruction of the past." -A&H

What I worry about is that in a bland repeating of such words as becoming and vitality, we convince ourselves we are achieving becoming and vitality. It's not terrible we remind ourselves of our goal here; I sympathize with your annoyance, however. --Yusef

11:01 AM  
Blogger Christoffer said...

Orla: "Let’s move beyond the vertical and delve into the horizontal: there is NO underground, only an ever building rhizome, no up, no down, no gravity. Only statements."

Orla, are you attempting to abstract the world away? In the real world where things can be seen and touched and tasted, most rhizomes actually live underground. They also have a clear orientation towards what is in the earth and what grows up from there.

When you talk about no up and down, no gravity etc. you begin to sound religious. Your writing have an aesthetic quality, but I sense that you are blowing gunpowder on celebrating a theoretical victory (at best).

12:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Christoffer,

Thanks for your comment. Yeah, I can see why you might think that I'm abstracting the world (and even gravity :-)) away.

Admittedly I got a little carried away, not to erect a new metaphysics or cathedral, but rather to clumsily express in language the suggestive and creative power of the rhizome.

You may find the Deleuzian vocabulary annoying and Yusef may be right that just by using the terms we believe we actually accomplish something intellectually, but I continue to be inspired by reading him, also aesthetically.

I'm certainly not going for any "victory", but merely trying to take part in "following the canals, rather than searching for the roots" (in Deleuze's phrase from A Thousand Plateaus.

Speaking of aesthetics, as you mentioned, don't you think this is an important and valid pursuit when exploring concepts and engaging in philosophical musings?

Looking forward to hearing from you.

All the best,


2:41 PM  
Blogger Christoffer said...

Orla:I can see why you might think that I'm abstracting the world (and even gravity :-)) away.

More precise, you abstract away gravity and you lose the world.

I do think aesthetics is important.

I have become suspicious towards Deleuzes rhizome concept. Since it is a metaphor he employes as a surface structure, but the real rhizome that the metaphor borrows its strength from, lives underground. When Deleuze is referring to his rhizome, he is not talking about rhizomes.

12:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Christoffer,

Good to hear from you.

With all due respect I think you are engaged in "tree-thinking" (in the Deleuzian vocabulary) when trying to define the rhizome as a metaphor. It is much more than that.

Let me quote from the first chapter in A Thousand Plateaus where the rhizome is described,(pp. 24-25)

Write to the nth power, the n - 1 power, write with slogans: Make rhizomes, not roots, never plant! Don't sow, grow offshoots! Don't be one or multiple, be multiplicities! Run lines, never plot a point! Speed turns the point into a line! Be quick, even when standing still! Line of chance, line of hips, line of flight. Don't bring out the General in you! Don't have just ideas, just have an idea (Godard). Have short-term ideas. Make maps, not photos or drawings. Be the Pink Panther and your loves will be like the wasp and the orchid, the cat and the baboon. As they say about old man river:

He don't plan 'tatos
Don't plant cotton
Them that plants them is soon forgotten
But old man river he just keeps rollin' along

A rhizome has no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, inter-being, intermezzo. The tree is filiation, but the rhizome is alliance, uniquely alliance. The tree imposes the verb "to be," but the fabric of the rhizome is conjunction, "and . . . and . . . and" This conjunction carries enough force to shake and uproot the verb "to be." Where are you going? Where are you coming from? What are you heading for? These are totally useless questions.

This is really a subversive as well as a provocatively expansive concept to think within and without when applied to everything from music, The United Nations, the blogosphere to the brain and sex, the internet, plus numerous other examples.

Personally I find this enormously stimulating and valuable in hermeneutics and philosophy, as well as intellectual aesthetics.


8:38 AM  
Blogger Christoffer said...

"Where are you going? Where are you coming from? What are you heading for? These are totally useless questions."

I dont think they are useless questions. They are relevant for a critical theory.

This rhizome sounds like an advertisment for globalization.

It sounds like total freedom of movement: you can go anywhere, anytime, for any reason, unhindered. I believe this "position" becomes self limiting in a paradoxical way. It becomes much like globalization an expression of nihilism.

I also dont believe it amounts to anything real. There is always constraint in every movement. To be able to name something meaningful at all, there is linguistic and semantic constraints. I do not believe them to be a prison though.

10:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi again, Christoffer,

Thanks for your input and for bringing up the illustrative phenomenon of globalization which I think can only be approached as a rhizome and about which it would be useless to ask the questions,

Where is it going? Where is it coming from? What is it heading for?

Globalization (and we're producing it right now!) is rhizomatic by nature, flowing into new assemblages, creating montages, and knitting patchworks continuously on several "plateaus" and fields interacting with and prolonging states on several levels of communication, commerce, technology, migration and nomadology.

Where is the center, the linearity, and borders?

You introduce the ethical field, whether this isn't a form of nihilism. Deleuze would probably agree (remember the whole title of his rhizomatic book is A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia ) although I personally would disgree.

You also touch upon another good point, i.e. the constraints in every movement, linguistic, semantic and otherwise.

This is true and always an epistemological impediment, but... (I'm quoting again from ATP)

Language is "an essentially heterogeneous reality." There is no mother tongue, only a power takeover by a dominant language within a political multiplicity.

Language stabilizes around a parish, a bishopric, a capital. It forms a bulb. It evolves by subterranean stems and flows, along river valleys or train tracks; it spreads like a patch of oil.

It is always possible to break a language down into internal structural elements, an undertaking not fundamentally different from a search for roots. There is always something genealogical about a tree. It is not a method for the people. A method of the rhizome type, on the contrary, can analyze language only by decentering it onto other dimensions and other registers.

A language is never closed upon itself, except as a function of impotence.


2:24 PM  
Blogger Christoffer said...

I will close this comment thread for my part with a quote.

'The very condition of a deconstruction may be at work in the work, within the system to be deconstructed. It may already be located there, already at work. Not at the center, but in an eccentric center, in a corner whose eccentricity assures the solid concentration of the system, participating in the construction of what it, at the same time, threatens to deconstruct.'

12:23 AM  

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