Sunday, September 07, 2008

Noology Or ”Thought Without Image”

In a recent comment Yusef sets out one of his aims as to ”take a look at an image of thought and then go to where it ruptures”. This is a promising approach, but might be more so if the ambition is rather to develop the possibility of “thought without image” in the Deleuzian sense.

Admittedly, this is a tall order for all of us, conditioned as we are by the traditional “image of thought” where thinking is representational in nature, and the only prerequisite for “thought” is an individual in possession of goodwill and “natural capacity” for this kind of mental activity. In academic philosophy, which is essentially the history of philosophy, the “image of thought” is that of a series of canonical thinkers and their ideas in some (mysterious) form of dialectics where one reacts to a previous one who is either refuted or refined. In other words a succession of commentaries or, as has been suggested: an endless story of footnotes to Plato.

Instead “thought without image” occurs most often under the impulse of a shock rather than in the excitement of a taste for thinking. And it is necessarily antagonistic towards the doxa of received wisdom and tradition. Thought should be an act of problematization and prophesy. It ought to be Nietzschean “untimely”.

Understood in this way, noology is a protest against the notion that there is a narrative development in thought. Thinking erupts when chasms open up and bats fly out (to steal a metaphor from another context!) in the sense that it is impulsive, intuitive, and non-sequential.

I would venture that this image of thought as eruptive, sudden, and rhizomatic is a much more precise and valid description than the slow causality and systematic process of the traditional academic image. Thinking is “jumping” as you write. Nietzsche’s aphorisms and impulsiveness are good examples of this.

In the Deleuzian vocabulary we are into “geophilosophy”; the superimposition of layers of thought. We must make a decision as to our orientation in relation to the vertical and horizontal axes. Should we stretch out and follow the “line of flight” on the horizontal axis or should we erect vertical axes?

In other words, this constitutes a choice between immanence and transcendence.

So, would this make "the garden of forking paths" a horizontal line of flight?

Unless, Yusef, you are referring to the famous 1941 Borges’ story "The Garden of Forking Paths” which is here:


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post, Orla.

I agree with everything you say, and I think this in particular is key,

"Thought should be an act of problematization and prophesy. It ought to be Nietzschean 'untimely'."

I have a minor quibble with this,

"In other words, this constitutes a choice between immanence and transcendence."

If we decided somewhat arbitrarily to label as immanent our horizontal axes while labeling as transcendent our vertical axes, while keeping in mind the immanence of both axes, I would go along with it. However, if we re-erect a transcendent "vertical" axis (with all the symbology of uprightness and superiority which would go along with it,)by which to "transcend" the immanent, there I will not go.


5:52 PM  
Blogger Orla Schantz said...

Thanks for your comment, Yusef.

However, if we re-erect a transcendent "vertical" axis (with all the symbology of uprightness and superiority which would go along with it,)by which to "transcend" the immanent, there I will not go.

Instinctively, I agree with you about the un-desire for verticality with the attached symbolism you refer to.

But isn't this just knee-jerk aversion to the mere metaphor of the vertical (meaning metaphysics and maybe even religion)?

Why are we (or "I") afraid of the vertical? I'm asking myself, too!

It's a fascinating question (that we have already answered by being precisely that: Vertical, for instance in talking about "The image of thought" or lack thereof).

How to avoid symbolism and the DNA of metaphor, bred into us as it is?

Why the fear of metaphysics?

Orla (wondering - a lot)

6:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't have a fear of metaphors, or even some freaky kind of dislike or disdain for them, either.

After all, it is apparent, to me at least, that they cannot be eliminated...Any attempt to "purify" language or thought of them is doomed to failure, and probably harmful.

I'm reading an essay by Gayatri Spavin in which she makes the remark, " 'The impossibility of a full undoing' is the curious definitive predication of deconstruction," and I think she's entirely right about that. I am not necessarily a deconstructionist, doing deconstruction, but I also eschew as an objective a "full undoing."

To wish to perform a "full undoing"-- this is motivated, I believe, by an ambition to totalization, even though one might think of undoing fully as being against totalizing procedures or processes.

There may be much more value to paying attention to how they are being used and how they are directing thoughts and actions than is now commonly given to them. They can mystify, they can obscure. What interests me very much is the way they often act as a "false bottom" to investigations...One sometimes buys off on them as being an explanation for something, and one stops thinking at that point, and when this happens, I believe it is all wrong.

I think what I've written above also applies both to metaphysics and transcendence.


10:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"them" and "they" in the last paragraph was meant to refer to "metaphor."


10:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I meant "second to last paragraph" above.

Her name is Gayatri Spivak.

I don't know what's wrong with me tonight.

Maybe it's because I'm stone-cold sober for a change.


10:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comment, Yusef.

Yes, I know: Like you I think and write best when I'm drunk.

Spivak is almost totally unknown to me but I would be very interested if you could make her more familiar.

What I did pick up about her sounds fascinating, like in the following which nicely adds to our recent discussion about philosophical dialogue and blogging behavior:

Spivak's usage of "responsibility" (like her dialogic understanding of "speaking,") is akin to Bakhtin's "answerability". It signifies not only the act of response which completes the transaction of speaker and listener, but also the ethical stance of making discursive room for the Other to exist. In other words, "ethics are not just a problem of knowledge but a call to a relationship". The ideal relationship is individual and intimate. This is what she means by "ethical singularity," the engagement of the Other in non-essential, non-crisis terms.

...The object of ethical action is not an object of benevolence, for here responses flow from both sides.

The ideal relation to the Other, then, is an "embrace. Such an embrace may be unrequited, as the differences and distances are too great, but if we are ever to get beyond the vicious cycle of abuse, it is essential to remain open-hearted; not to attempt to recreate the Other narcissistically, in one's own image, but generously, with care and attention.


8:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd like to read her "Critique of Postcolonial Reason." Her feelings about Kant may be similar to my own.

You may have noticed she translated "Of Grammatology."


11:10 AM  

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