Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Shadows of Totalization, Part I

Rationality bears some relationship (or could these be one and the same?) to the idea of consciousness—it is as if whatever is not conscious is not rational and cannot become rational, though it may perhaps be rationalized,(Egads!)

The idea of totalization represents an objective-- a goal—of rationality, by which everything is brought into consciousness, and thus into rationality. Whatever resists the process of totalization (the process of orienting whatever exists within a framework of the conscious) can still have a place within rationality (and thus, paradoxically, within totalization, the very process which it resists) through a cordoning off into a remarkably “catch-all” dumpster, garbage can category defined as the dualistic opposite of what it is resisting. In this case, the dumpster is the the category of the irrational.

To make everything conscious--to allow nothing to lurk within the shadows of the unknown-- to catalogue everything within comprehensive databases, summonable as needed for conscious purposes--a totality of consciousness--(where there was id, now there will be ego)--to banish the shadows--to drain the swamps--seems both a noble and straightforward aim. I can't find "conscious" "reasons" to not give it my full support.

And yet—those flickering shadows cast by this wondrous luminous “totality” which consciousness and its rationality meticulously forms and organizes—those shadows against the cave wall, where the benighted affix their unenlightened gaze and waste away their hours and their days in a life not worth living—those shadows continue to exert their fascination even for the enlightened, do they not?

(“If we are asked, ‘Do we now live in an enlightened age?’ the answer is, ‘No,’ but we do live in an age of enlightenment.” -Immanuel Kant, 1784; “If we are asked, ‘Do we now live in an enlightened age?’ the answer is, ‘No,’ but we do live in an age of enlightenment.” -Yusef Asabiyah the 1st, 2008; “If we are asked, ‘Do we now live in an enlightened age?’ the answer is, ‘No,’ but we do live in an age of enlightenment.” -Yusef Asabiyah the 38th, 2884.)

Would an enlightened age be an age when the task of rationality accomplishes its goal of totalization? An age when everything has been either brought into full consciousness or is sealed, airtight, into the dumpster category—AND MOST SIGNIFICANTLY-- the attraction of the dumpster category, its power—if only of seduction—fails to elicit any desire whatsoever from anyone anywhere? In this enlightened age, does no one want to look into the shadows (through the knowledge these are "only" shadows, insubstantial,not worth the time?) or does the light of rationality burn so brightly no shadows are cast,anywhere,at any time?

If the latter, do I lament my life in an age of enlightenment rather than an enlightened age, or thank my lucky stars? If enlightenment becomes universal,is vision extended to everyone, or do we all go blind through too bright a light and no visual contrast? Is it a curse or a blessing to discover we are not totally enlightened?

3 Comments:

Blogger Carl Sachs said...

Two fast and unhelpful comments:

1) I endorse a distinction made by Joel Whitebook between "the dialogue with unreason" and "the valorization of the irrational." Reason does need an dialogue with unreason, and unreason is inexhaustible (under conditions of civilization).

2) The tight link between reason and consciousness as made here suggests a "Cartesian" conception of both. I regard that conception as fully optional, and I would like to see what happens when we set it aside.

3:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those are two fast and helpful comments.

--Yusef

3:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"1) I endorse a distinction made by Joel Whitebook between "the dialogue with unreason" and "the valorization of the irrational." Reason does need an dialogue with unreason, and unreason is inexhaustible (under conditions of civilization).

2) The tight link between reason and consciousness as made here suggests a "Cartesian" conception of both. I regard that conception as fully optional, and I would like to see what happens when we set it aside."

Among much else, what interests me is whether these two points involve an innovation of the concept or practice of rationality which would have been unknown in the age of Enlightenment. (And, as a matter of fact it is not clear to me whether to say "the practice of rationality" does not also represent an innovation unknown in the age of Enlightenment.)

I think in the age of Enlightenment, a dialogue with unreason would never have been considered...the thoughts of unreason were to be treated like lepers in our heads--cordoned off so that our contact with them would be limited to the absolute minimum possible. (Fantastically, if one has an image of thought as we do in our age.)

A heavy load toggles on the concept of totalization, I think.

If totalization was a goal of Enlightenment, whether I support that goal or not,(I do not,) I want to understand what's happened when the goal gets questioned, criticized.

I'm concerned about the way I fail to communicate what I'm after. Where do you think my problem arises?

Thanks,

Yusef

3:32 PM  

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