Monday, June 30, 2008

A Few Elaborations On "A Strong Pessimism"

Before returning to returning to the Eternal Return I want to elaborate a bit on the interesting concept of ”strong pessimism” that Yusef introduced via a quote from Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy,

Is pessimism inevitably a sign of decadence, warp, weakened instincts, as it was once with the ancient Hindus, as it is now with us modern Europeans? Or is there such a thing as a strong pessimism? A penchant of the mind for what is hard, terrible, evil, dubious in existence, arising from a plethora of health, plenitude of being? Could it be, perhaps, that the very feeling of superabundance created its own kind of suffering: a temerity of penetration, hankering for the enemy (the worth-while enemy) so as to prove its strength, to experience at last what it means to fear something?”

Since Nietzsche defined this as a consequence, maybe even a longing, stemming from a superabundance of health and affirmation he was not, it seems, characterizing it as negation or a reactive force, rather as a surplus of the life instinct. There doesn’t seem to be a contradiction here.

In much the same manner Deleuze’s philosophy is an absolute rejection of the powers of the negative. His theory of the event, his redefinition of the concept, and his open system of thought protects his work from nihilism.

Here’s what André Pierre Colombat writes (in Three Powers of Literature and Philosophy from A Deleuzian Century? ed. by Ian Buchanan, 1999, p. 207)

He combines the affirmative forces of Nietzscheanism with the active powers of Spinozist thought so as to strive for Rimbaud’s reinvention of life itself. Death is not characterized in a negative manner. To use a neo-Kantian and constructivist distinction, death is not considered the passive negation of life, but rather to be endorsed as the active negation of actual forms of life.

…according to Kant a distinction must be made between passive and active negations. So, for instance, if a proposition states that “A believes P,” its passive negation would be “No (A believes P),” while its active negation would be “A believes non-P”. The negative reigns over the former, but in the latter the negation appears only as the shadow of another affirmation. In a Deleuzian context, the first “passive” negation constructs a relation between being and nothingness with the difference characterized as a nonrepetition. The second “active” negation renders thinking as a battlefield of forces continually affecting each other. The “active” negation would mark only the point where two different or even opposite powers of affirmation come into contact with one another.

All of Deleuze’s work revolves around active negation and denounces the myths and illusions of representations based primarily on passive negation.

Isn’t a strong pessimism an “active” negation? And in what ways can it then be productive?

Yusef suggests that the concept exposes all that crazy happy-camper optimism as thoroughly negative, the symptom of weakened instincts par excellent.

But isn’t it also an affirmative force? Maybe, in general, we should translate "passive negations" into "active" ones.

I’m just wondering and would appreciate your thoughts.


Blogger Christoffer said...


Where we attempt to locate the arche categories of subjectivity,
objectivity, being and creature, gesture, language and thought.

I think before we can start to answer the question regarding the eternal return, we need to go back to the essentials. 3.2 million years back in time, before language even before gestures or other ways of communication.

No language, no gestures, but there were sounds: Grunting, farting, scratching noises. In the beginning there was only Pure Being.

Here we find the most incompetent of all beings, I believe Yuself referred to it as The hominid.

This being is incompetent in two fundamental ways. It may be descended from the abes, but if that is the case it seems evolution has played itself backwards resulting in something so freaky and awkward, so unnatural that it almost surely must be a mistake caused by a freaky mutation. This being "the incompetent abe" physically resembles an abe, except it has no fur, it has also lost its ability to live in trees.

This being is incompetent in another way, that it is nowhere near like a human creature and yet it is not an animal either. It lacks the inherent ability of the animal to operate and survive in its environment. It has little or no fur and as a conseqeuence it is always cold, except when it moves around which it is forced to do all the time. It has no claws that can be used to anything real, except for scratching. Where animals has developed claws in order to hunt, to kill, the incompetent abes' claws are only good for one thing: scratching its ass. This is not surprising since only two modes of behaviour govern the nature of this being: eating and shitting.

When we refer to being we make a distnction between being and creature. This being it its multiplicity cannot be identified as males or females. They are just all the same, weirdish freaky naked abes running around beneath trees, grunting, snorting, eating whatever it can find, shitting and constantly scratching their ass. The fact that they do not have a sex and no sexual desire, makes them just pure being. It also poses a problem concerning their reproduction which is outside the scope of this text.

After awhile it becomes very clear that the defining trait of this being is twofold: its incompetence and its neediness. The less it can do, the more obvious and developed its needs become. Thats when something happen, in order to keep warm two of these beings so to speak team up, they cling together and experience something fundamental: the body heat of the other, a way to keep warm. The two entwined bodys could sustain each other with heat needed to survive. This fundamental experience developes further: if you scratch my ass, I will scratch yours. From all this ass scratching a sexual desire at one time suddenly emerges, and now sexual organs corresponding to this desire begin to develop. The incompetent abe moves from pure being to becoming a creature. Now three modes of behaviour govern the nature of this creature: eating, shitting and fucking. And yet, there still is no language .. but not for long.

The second fundamental experience at one point suddenly emerges as fire is discovered. With the ability to govern over fire, to create it and to extinct it, it was no longer nessesary to move around alot. By the warmth a fire the incompetent abe could now camp, and they could sit around the fire, and for the first time ever silence fell. The constant grunting, snorting and scratching suddenly ceased. Maybe there was a short moment of feeling akward. A new feeling undoubtly. That was probably when the first real gestures was made, the first words uttered. Thought quickly followed.

Now we can see that we have two fundamental events. We can even say that they constitute a transcendental aspect of the nature of being and creature. They both have to do with warmth: An internal warmth emanating from the other and experienced as an external source of heat. The second one a distinct artificial source of heat.

5:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Christoffer,

Thanks for your contribution. Always appreciated.

Your post is part of the first chapter of your upcoming book, right?

The whole concept of "Being" is, as you know, tricky business, but I understand (I think!) what you're trying to accomplish = the longing for a causal narrative with a beginning and a flow of events going forward.

But what if it is not a sequential series of becomings (sorry about the term I know you don't like!) but rather a life instinct passing through forms of "beings" (including the "abes" scratching their asses?)

But hey, some fucking MUST have been going on amid the eating and shitting, otherwise there wouldn't have been anyone THERE to scratch their asses :-)

Seriously though, Nietzsche has a great expression when he says we have a LUST for causality. Or should that be: linearity?

But Christoffer, am I wrong when I say that you are primarily concerned with your coming bestseller and are not (really) interested in a productive dialog on this blog?

Wishing you all the best with your project,


6:40 PM  
Blogger Christoffer said...

Orla, it is not a part of a book, it is just some wild ideas.

In my oppinion you Orla, have demonstrated an enormous lack of creativity in most of your recent posts.

I find that your writing goes absolutely nowere.

However when someone else try experiment with the philosophical genre you are quick to launch a critique. "Thinking in boxes", or in my case using a "causal narrative with a beginning and a flow of events going forward", yeah is it so bad? I believe most people do have a genuine experience of causality and linearity.

I would welcome if you would expand on your life instinct passing through forms of beings theory. I honestly would appreciate that. But it seems to me that there is nothing more to add to it. It is just what it appears to be: a very vague form of being, so vague that it almost disappears.

12:48 AM  
Blogger Christoffer said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi again, Christoffer,

Thanks for your response.

Post-structuralist thinkers have really been the agenda of this blog for the last couple of years, so you would fit right in since this is also your main focus.

We have spent quite a lot of time on Deleuze in particular, but also on others. Nietzsche has also figured quite often as has Kant, specifically his 1784 essay "What Is Enlightenment?".

Then of course there have been all kinds of digressions!

I'll ask Yusef to invite you in as a regular contributor when he gets back.

I look forward to your postings.


9:58 AM  
Blogger Christoffer said...

I deleted my other comment because I regretted it since I did not want to put you down too much, Orla.

Post-structuralism is a popular name of the philosophical tradition that I work with. The two most notable philosophers belonging to this tradition is Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault. Maybe also Deleuze. Nietzsche and Heidegger were heavy influences. So what is post-structuralism? It is a collection of theories that has become quite popular not only in philosophy but in most areas of the
science of humanities.

It is very important to realise that they are not a rejection of the idea of causality, linearity, or fixed concepts. However they are not a traditional substantiality thinking either.

Orla, It seems to me that you may have misunderstood post-structuralism believing that it rejects the idea of causality, of fixed concepts, of sequentiality etc.

It is possible and in fact nessesary to think with these themes but without reverting back to a classic metaphysical way of thinking.

10:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now, really, Christoffer, LOL! You deleted a post because you “did not want to put me down too much”.

Well, well! During the last month or so you have called me “a broken record”, who “corrupts this blog”, who shows “an enormous lack of creativity”, whose “writing goes absolutely nowhere”, who “hasn’t read Nietzsche”, who “has become a nuisance” plus a lot of other endearing remarks I have forgotten.

Anyway, this is my last comment on all this ad hominem stuff. It’s a waste of time.

Let’s move on to more interesting topics :-)

All the best to you, Christoffer.


12:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A hominid wouldn't be able to refer to Nietzsche or any other cultural landmark,guidepost, or orienting feature, and yet a hominid would be able to become. (We know a hominid would be able to become because here we are, what hominids became.)

Would it be that because of our historical position we require technologies, devices, cultural references, etc. in order to become,(even though a hominid in its historical position didn't,) or are these, for us, crutches, which prevent us from making the effort, (because we lean on them too much to move well)?

I tried out the hominid theme to try to formulate these questions more clearly. It may be that relying on anything which a hominid didn't have available impedes becoming rather than aiding it.

It might seem I'm contradicting myself -- a hominid didn't muse on rationality and totality, either. I think we can muse on anything we might wish to muse on-Nietzsche, rationality, totality, or whatever.

But...I don't know. I'm posting this anyway.


8:30 PM  
Blogger Christoffer said...

The hominoid is a kind of being which may be pure being since it is beyond or before any kind of representation.

Even sexual desire. Which may or may not be a kind of representation. In my essay it clearly is.

So any kind of becoming from this pure being, is a movement away from this pure being and into the land of representation so to speak.

This representation is a gesture that may be vocal, bodily or otherwise. What I want to investigate is the almost "mystic" relation between representation as gesture and the world.

Gesture (language) is a representation in that it reveals the world in some way among paritcipants, rather than communicating some mental state/image/thought between minds.

What do you mean "impedes becoming"? Becoming what?

I sense there might be some fundamental differing in philosophical interest between us. Maybe they reflect differences in the philosophy of Derrida and Heidegger vs. Deleuze.

Deleuze longs for a becoming that is beyond representation. I think Heidegger would repsond that such a being would be the foundation of being, and that there is no such thing. That would be the position of Derrida for sure.

12:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"What do you mean 'impedes becoming'? Becoming what?"

I think there must be some kind of thwarting of becoming, or stifling or diverting of it, or else becoming could never be problematic, which I believe becoming is, per necessity.

"Becoming what?" You've got me on that one. A cheap way out for me is to say that becoming and quiddity (whatness) are incompatible and incommensurable, and therefore I don't need to answer what becomes. Becoming becomes more becoming. I do think there is a cheapness to this response and I'm going to refuse it.


2:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I refuse it because it answers no problematic (of which I am now aware.) That's what cheapness consists of in these matters...There's an answer but no question (or problem.)


2:10 AM  
Blogger Christoffer said...

Maybe becoming is problematic because you dont know what to become.

If there is movement, by necessity there must be a direction as well. Unless you vibrate.

Perhaps you just value becoming for its own sake: it does not matter what direction you take as long as you keep moving.

By humonoid optics (view) this could only be explained two ways: either because you are cold, you have to move, or movement by necessity by flight, you have to move to escape something.

I have no desire to partake in this compulsory way of thinking becoming. I would invite you to sit down by the fire instead.

3:55 AM  
Blogger Christoffer said...

Becoming vs. whatness translates well into the genesis vs. structure problem that runs through most of the 20th century philosophy.

What does Derrida have to say about this "must not structure have a genesis, and must not the origin, the point of genesis, be already structured, in order to be the genesis of something?"

It is much like the pair of words Descent and Descend.

4:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But isn’t it[happy camper optimism] also an affirmative force? Maybe, in general, we should translate "passive negations" into "active" ones."-Orla, from his commentary.

We can make anything we want be an affirmative force. We have been able to do this because so far in the conversation we have too often used the term affirmation as an empty generalization which we have allowed ourselves to fill up with any content we wished. This has pushed much of our commentary into the category of naive subjectivism.

I thought your return to return offered a rare opportunity for us to go further and deeper into the matter, and so I see this one as a step backwards.

But allow me to look at your idea that maybe happy camper optimism is an affirmative force. Maybe happy camper optimism invovles or includes some forces which are affirmative forces and we can somehow creatively select out these affirmative forces to further our project of becoming active (aka our "repetition with difference" of the Enlightenment, or the creation of a multiplicity Enlightenment.) A separating of the wheat of happy camper optimism from the chaff? Is this what you want us to do?

However, if we do so,(select the "good" from the "bad" from within this optimism) we have to do better than selecting out those forces within "happy camper optimism" which we happen to LIKE. If we do that, we remain in naive subjectivism, within the realm of opinion, with vapid, vague, and rather stupid results.

Eternal return doesn't mean to "really,really,really,really LIKE" something so it will return. Affirmation isn't to "really,really,really LIKE" everything. (Or parts of everything which we happen to select out from the rest.)

Thanks for the posts and the rest. I very much appreciate your work and involvement.


12:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think these ideas of Colombat which you have presented to us touch very closely upon the works of Deleuze.

I have the book edited by Buchanan you mentioned, and I have enjoyed it very much. However, there is a great deal in it which, while apparently sympathetic to Deleuze, comes at him from angles which are actually deeply antagonistic to his philosophy. I would almost say these essays are all the more valuable for that reason...Valuable to me because I get a more acute idea of why these approaches don't work very well in understanding Deleuze.... I would not present them as examples of Deleuze utilized or comprehended.


12:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"What does Derrida have to say about this "must not structure have a genesis, and must not the origin, the point of genesis, be already structured, in order to be the genesis of something?""--christoffer.

I want to challenge you to see in this a problem rather than a solution.

As Derrida in at least a few cases directly equates structure with permanent being, what he presents in this partial quote is more of a paradox than anything else.

(Unwinding any of this may very well be the task of several years...)


1:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to add that the move from the theme of the Enlightenment, no matter how idiosyncratically we had handled it, to affirmation, and from affirmation to its substantiation via Eternal Return, is something spectacularly loony and improbable and eccentric-- which I do nevertheless wholeheartedly endorse and affirm!


1:17 PM  
Blogger Christoffer said...

Yusef, it is not a paradox if you are willing to accept that any kind of being even pure being or "permanent being" as you say, is always and already structured in some way. In other words, that it is already a multiplicity with an order of some kind. You could say that it is pure history, if only history by habbit was not prone to be understood as eliminating the difference "in the end" (Hegel).

I created a blog of my own, you guys are always welcome there. It is called enlightenmentdeconstruction.

1:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recall Deleuze saying that though he liked and admired Derrida's work, he felt it had very little to do with what he was doing.

Seeing that statement was all the more puzzling to me as I have seen some very great contemporary philosophers who have constructively read Deleuze as a Derridean.

I think it is great you have started a blog of your own, and I will be visiting it often. I'm going to treat it as a co-blog.


1:36 PM  

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