Thursday, May 01, 2008

“Myth is Totality” as Desire, Part IV

As an inaugurating gesture of the Enlightenment Underground, Carl confronted us with a bold, idenficatory copulative: “myth is totality.”

Myth is linked to totality: myth becomes a version of totality and totality becomes a version of myth. The copulative makes an assimilation of two very different phenomena —they become equated. Does the equating within “myth is totality” represent the creation of a concept or, on the other hand, a collapse of distinction—a leveling of difference, a blurring, a “making the same”?

Is the desire of concept creation the same as the desire for creating similarities, of making the same? (Similarities must be both created and desired.) Is the desire of the historical Enlightenment characterized by one or the other of these? To what extent does our confusion of two very different desires, if such they be, prevent us from seeing what happened in the historical Enlightenment and thus fail in making Enlightenment happen now?

We could test the veracity of “Enlightenment is the overcoming of totality through critique” by trying to determine whether the objective of the historical Enlightenment was to overcome totality.

Did the thinkers of the historical Enlightenment (Hobbes, Locke, Voltaire, Hume, Kant) conceive of totality as something which required overcoming? Surely not. Though they would not have described what they were doing in this way, these thinkers were attempting to shore up or build totalizations, not tear them down.

If the thinkers of the historical Enlightenment were not the ones who rejected totalization, which ones do? The thinkers of postmodernity. As Jean-Francois Lyotard said, “Postmodernism should wage a war on totality.”

By seeing Enlightenment in terms of an overcoming of totality, Carl saw Enlightenment as a form of postmodernism. “Myth is totality” as an element of Enlightenment overcoming identifies the Enlightenment project as the postmodern project,as if Enlightenment were postmodern in intent.

If we say “Enlightenment is the overcoming of totality through critique,” we’re postmodernists with Enlightenment pretensions. Why the Enlightenment pretensions? Why would we want them? Why would we disguise ourselves with Enlightenment masks? Is it not because we want to share in the prestige of Enlightenment rigor, precision, and effectiveness, and escape the sharply contrasting disrepute and notoriety of postmodernist thought and thinkers)?

If that’s what we want—to be associated with Enlightenment prestige—but to carry on with what is really a postmodern way of working and thinking—I find this a desire I will not affirm.


Post a Comment

<< Home