Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Shadows of Totalization, Part XIX

Descartes founds his philosophy on a self which is self-evident.

Even though I think this is a correct statement, I am forced to pause before proceeding.

1) I don’t want to pull “Descartes” into my mess, my gold-tinged fog. What’d he ever do to me that I might in turn potentially abuse him?

2) I’m not capable of doing history of philosophy. This is the thing which has troubled me: am I free not to do history of philosophy?

3) To the extent to which I am able to track down the ideas which intrigue me to their sources within the history of philosophy, I am constantly amazed by how little they resemble my more naïve apprehension of them. They are so much more beautiful than I had realized.

4) Knowing this, why would I ever wish to rely on an idea in the “immediate” form which my terse and incomplete reading of the philosophy makes it available to me?

5) I can remove the above statement from its (explicit) association with the history of philosophy by personalizing it: “I have a concept of my self wherein I understand my self as self-evident.”

6) In letting myself off the hook in this way, do I accept a bowdlerization which will deactivate further progress, or do I, in this “definite”, autonomous, "self-sufficient" form, give myself a platform from which I can go anywhere, in any way (I might choose)?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Urdoxa of Personal Pronouns

Grammar has always been the fearful guardian against the chaos of language, the general commanding the unruly troops. A system of indoctrination, created by meticulous bureaucrats in the service of the State (clergy, literati, linguistic accountants, and pedants). Grammar is not to be believed, but to be obeyed. In education when a teacher explains the rules, no information is communicated, instead orders are given. If language is water, grammar is ice.

The personal pronouns as graphic entities came relatively late in Indo-European languages, but have since reigned supreme. And along with it the subject became the Cartesian king. And the object the ambitious prince, always trying to usurp the power of the throne. However, when the first homo sapiens spied a member of a different tribe, he cried out and defined the fatal creation of The Other.

The dualism between, the attraction and enmity of the two have since bedeviled thinking, always creating destructive dichotomies. Squeezed in in the space, left open, the verb insisted on its rightful place as the doer. It meant action.

The verb also came in Harlequin clothing with many patchworks of colors. One of them threatened the subject: the infinitive. Verbs in the infinitive have the courage to challenge the hierarchical power structure. True revolutionaries! No longer is “the subject” the dictator, and no more can “the object” claim its right as heir apparent.

In fact, verbs in the infinitive are limitless becomings, blissfully ignoring the personal pronoun of the subject. Infinite-becomings have no “fathers”, only referring to an “it” of the event = it is raining - or thinking. Infinitives are too busy becoming, too action-orientated, too much process, too few (if any) products. Becomings which both await the missing subject and precede it.

Thinking in the infinitive means transcending personal pronouns. To die, to live, to love, to ponder, to do. Never-ending flux and flows.

Personal pronouns breed opposition, the dreaded cul-de-sacs of discussion which never finds its way, always losing direction and purpose. Personal pronouns demand numbers: three of them. Singular and plural. What about a fourth or more?

Grammar is Stalinistic and tolerates no insurgents or dissidents, yet this is what it needs to survive outside of the Gulag. Where Urdoxa provides “stable entities” out in the world that corresponds to distinct faculties, paradox points to the unstable character of the relationship of language and world.

Representation is exactly this: a second version: a RE of what is presented, and consequently a fraud of a fraud.

Language is always more than language. Or better, language is always more than representation. It spills over into the world, woven, as it is, into the world in order to be able to function as representation. This quilt requires paradoxes of sense and nonsense that escape the grasp of language. But personal pronouns don’t care, having secured their place in human communication. There is no escape. And so, dualisms fester like virus when they could thrive as rhizomes.

It is language which fixes the limits (the moment, for example, at which the excess begins), but it is language as well which transcends the limits and restores them to the infinite equivalence of an unlimited becoming. (Deleuze: The Logic of Sense, pps. 2-3)

PS: Take note: Nowhere in this post have personal pronouns been used. So it can be done.

PPS: Painting by Annie Lin, emerging Taiwanese artist (regrettably titled “Entre nous” = damned French personal pronouns)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Shadows of Totalization, Part XVIII

In my last post, I stated this assumption: 1) there is an unconscious. I do not thereby commit to this dualism: conscious/unconscious. How can this be so?

Say there is this dualism: subject/object. The subject is separated from the object, the object is outside the subject, and it can’t come in. In fact, the object is so separated from the subject, so outside the subject, it becomes impossible to understand how the subject can even know there is an object. (Unless representation is taken as absolute, or certain or absolutely certain, what can be known without being what needs to be explained.)

I stand back from dualism in general, this dualism of the subject/object in particular, and I’m appalled, delighted: how did such a peculiar arrangement not only come to be formed, but come to seem natural? not only come to seem natural, but necessary; necessary and irreplaceable, supreme? Natural-necessary-irreplaceable-supreme—all one thing, all the same!

What happens, though, when the subject takes itself as object?(Psychoanalysis?) Does the object come in? (Introspection?) Does the subject go out? (Expressionism?) Can the subject take itself as its own object but insist upon keeping representation as a kind of coordinate system? (Which means somehow keeping the distinction of subject-inside and object-outside, even though this distinction would seemingly be collapsed, rendered invalid, in the movement of the subject taking itself as object.)

These responses to the subject taking itself as object erode to some degree both concepts, but they also to some degree retain or conserve them. In other words, they could represent the initial stages of some process. They could represent the initial stages of some process which nevertheless is arrested at this initial stage.

Putting my cards on the table (I need to get back to work, for one thing): they give the inklings of deconstruction, and will begin a deconstruction as long as they are not settled for as products, end products, finalities. I didn’t get as far as I wanted to in answering, “How can I assume there is an unconscious without commiting to the dualism of conscious/unconscious," but I will go further when I have more time.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Shadows of Totalization, Part XVII

I make these assumptions: 1) there is an unconscious; 2) though there has been an age-old recognition of what we would call unconscious phenomena (e.g. dreams) our concept of the unconscious is radically different; 3) our concept of the unconscious is specifically rationalized, or somehow “scientificized”, deliberately, and in fact, that’s the point of our concept of the unconscious….to be a strangely hybridized formation between rational and irrational, the scientific and the artistic, between the passionate and the neutral, an intimate connection with “the body” and an observation which could be taking place next to the body, or on the opposite end of the universe, for all it would matter.

During the early charting of this territory, the researcher maintains a steely resolve to be true to observation, to go to where the data will lead. I wish to note here my absolute admiration for the courage and determination of these early explorers, but even in the beginning, their explorations are markedly peculiar. Rather than venturing into a “dark continent” (NB: though the unconscious is often depicted as a “dark continent” this depiction is “darkly continental”) the explorers don’t go beyond the end of the street—they slip into thickets in the neighborhood vacant lot, into the interstices of hedges which separate yards, up into the branches of solo trees standing in the middle of lawns, down shallow tunnels dug behind the house—in the manner of children who both play and rehearse. (Can one rehearse the role of explorer? Not the role played by one or another explorer, but of exploration?)

They venture into what I think is the obscured obvious, or the known unknown, or the obvious obscured, or the passionately disinterested, or the disinterestedly passionate, and follow animal tracks there, which lead them—nowhere? Everywhere? A new place? An old place revisited? Carefully, determinedly, loyally, meticulously, these researchers follow the trail of their data, right into the very “stuff” of care, determination, loyalty, meticulousness, and “data”—and what happens then? Does the world dissolve into an abysmal hole, do old truths stand reconfirmed, or are new spaces opened for the first time?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Shadows of Totalization, Part XVI

The blessing and damnation of this blog: to stumble through, wander around in, explore, but also rush forward in stone-headed idiocy over the ANDs we encounter: of “la gaya” AND “la scienza”, (or is it “le scienza”?) of “Enlightenment” AND “Underground”, of “consciousness” AND “unconsciousness.”

This last item, “consciousness” AND “unconscious”: we are not alone in either stumbling and bumbling around INSIDE either term, OR rushing headlong like fools through their AND—we have a great deal of company. My opinion is we have for company all of our contemporaries and most of our recently-departed benefactors, dating back to the time of Freud.

This question remains: after the discovery of the unconscious, is there philosophy?

Can there be a philosophy which utilizes, acknowledges, and affirms the unconscious—not a philosophy of the unconscious, but an unconscious philosophy? “Unconscious philosophy”—is this nutty or not? The valiant attempts to address the question are often treated as dead letter… Why? Is it because that’s the best option, the only option, or because the question is too threatening to too many people, too many interests?

A philosophy which proceeds forward as if it had no requirement towards the unconscious suffers a self-inflicted amputation, a truncation. It no longer deals with mind, thought—it isn’t philosophy, or maybe it is “technical” philosophy, assuming there is such a thing. On the other hand, philosophies which try to draw upon the unconscious, or even try to draw upon what we know (consciously) about the unconscious, relinquish too many of the tools of critique, the power of critique—and this also is a severe self-inflicted injury to philosophy. (Rather than an amputation, perhaps this can be likened to an ingestion of poison.)

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Shadows of Totalization, Part XV

In Orla’s post of March 1, 2009, he describes his activity in this way,

"I am not a philosopher. I don’t do philosophy. But I spend a lot of time listening in (through osmosis, diffusion, inspiration, etc) on those who are and do, trying to free my own thinking from 'the formidable school of intimidation which manufactures specialists in thought'."

Orla emphasizes that he spends a lot of time trying to free himself from “the formidable school of intimidation which manufactures specialists in thought.” The quoted phrase comes from Deleuze. Orla believes he is engaged in an activity which frees him from an intimidation and a specialization of thought (which comes to be synonymous with philosophy, apparently), in accordance with what Deleuze thinks.

But here is the full quotation by Deleuze, as given a little later in the same post,

“The history of philosophy has always been the agent of power in philosophy, and even in thought. It has played the represser’s role: how can you think without having read Plato, Descartes, Kant and Heidegger, and so-and-so’s book about them? A formidable school of intimidation which manufactures specialists in thought – but which also makes those who stay outside conform all the more to this specialism which they despise.”- Deleuze: Dialogues II, (Continuum, 2006)

The conformity of the specialist is not the only one—those who stay outside of the specialism also are forced into conformity. In other words, the nonconformists conform, they succumb to this agent of power.

This conformity is all the more frightening to me in that it is experienced as nonconformity. As Goethe said, "None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free." Trying to free one’s own thinking from “the formidable school of intimidation which manufactures specialists in thought” entangles thought all the more thoroughly and hopelessly. That Deleuze notices this and comments on it is overlooked even though Orla must have seen it—he quoted it.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Shadows of Totalization, Part XIV

We need the new—and we find our support for our “need” in the writings of a man born in the mid-1840’s who died nearly 109 years ago. What’s going on? What is this antiquity of the new we rest upon, this Doric column and classical crutch upon which we supinely extol the virtues of being upright?

While I would defend the notion Nietzsche introduced something new into philosophy, I think there’s an “old” way to take it up—to pour this new wine into old wine skins. My hunch is that the best of these “old” ways is to treat Nietzsche as a poet--of primary interest to philosophy as an aesthetician-- and then to gloss over all which could be problematic in his work as poetic excess or license. I dislike this approach for a number of reasons, but for one, why do the exponents of this view fail to see how crappy the poetry of Nietzsche is? (And the fault doesn’t lie in the translation from German.)

Nietzsche could make philosophy be poetry by destroying philosophy.(Without, however, writing good poetry.) The more delicate problem—to introduce poetry into philosophy without destroying what’s distinctive to philosophy—doesn’t appear to be recognized by those who assume poetry solves Nietzsche’s “la gaya scienza” problem.

The problem of introducing poetry into philosophy without destroying what’s distinctive to philosophy is a problem of “the pragmatics of the multiple” which we at Enlightenment Underground continue to nibble away on. At the present time, I can’t do much more than indicate this.

I do want to comment on the idea of the unconventional and its role in philosophy. I think there is a role, and this is part of what I wanted to get at in discussing Totalization—the conventional, reliance on the conventional, is part of Totalization. Thus, overcoming totalization requires some overcoming of the conventional. The problem is that it is not enough to oppose the unconventional to the conventional. Doing so fails to ask these questions: 1) does the unconventional become conventional, and if so, can a simple notion of the unconventional guide philosophical inquiry? 2) does what we call the unconventional obey conventions, and if so do we have a warrant for considering it unconventional? 3) If our unconventional obeys conventions, how do we discover this? Wouldn’t our role as philosophers be to make these discoveries of convention within the “unconventional” rather than to extol the unconventional as such? (And isn’t such a discovery a task of the utmost difficulty compared to which the extolling of the unconventional is mere herding mentality?)

Nietzsche the philosopher or Nietzsche the poet or this perennial pseudo-question of “Nietzsche: philosopher or poet?” is not only old, it has always been old, even when it was new. This question: “Nietzsche poet-philosopher” I believe is one we could vitalize. (As a problem and not as a literary, academic,historical, or philological endeavor, per se.)

Friday, March 06, 2009

We Need Dances That Are New!

Let us dance in myriad manners,
freedom write on our art's banners,
our science shall be gay!

(from Nietzsche’s poem “To the Mistral” (more later) from “Songs of Prince Vogelfrei”)

When discussing the merit and power of “la gaya scienza” Yusef is certainly right in squeezing the equally powerful “AND” in between the adjective and the noun, but he is tilting the balance between the two on the seesaw by loading the right side with seven “somber” (that’s one them) substantivations, thus establishing a hierarchy and betraying the “AND” which, according to the Deleuze quote, is “neither a union, nor a juxtaposition”. Maybe it is to support his argument that I have misunderstood the concept, focusing too much on the left side. He writes,
Both number one and two need to be assembled, combined in order for the concept to create the difference, the flow. Certainly if one without the other is used, something still happens, but it’s not the “la gaya scienza” thing, and it is a mistake to think it is.
I agree, of course. But my (mis)understanding doesn’t ”illustrate how something problematical becomes, through a process of homogenization, unproblematic.” (At least I didn’t intend it to be). Whether it might happen through processes of homogenization or heterogenization is not in my interpretation that important. It is rather the “dynamics of interruption”, in this case meaning: the creativity of the intermezzo in the sense of dramatic pieces of intellectual “music” between the acts of a play at court festivities. Or to press down the “scienza” side: to temper the first by the second – but on an equal footing. Can we do this? Or won't the binary machine always creep up on us?

Nietzsche’s use of “la gaya scienza” is certainly worth exploring, not only etymologically, but also historically and poetically. It is uniquely European, yet in Nietzsche’s case also spiced with a distinct American twist. It originally comes from the language of Provence in France and pertains to the new European poetry of the 12th century, which was often chanted or sung. Nietzsche's use of la gaya scienza as the subtitle of his book "Die Fröhliche Wissenschaft" seems to have been drawn in part from the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who we know Nietzsche admired. In his lecture on 'The Scholar', Emerson wrote:
"I think the peculiar office of scholars in a careful and gloomy generation is to be (as the poets were called in the Middle Ages) Professors of the Joyous Science, detectors and delineators of occult symmetries and unpublished beauties, heralds of civility, nobility, learning and wisdom; affirmers of the One Law, yet as ones who should affirm it in music or dancing."
But traditionally “la gaya scienza” derives from a Provençal expression (“gai saber”) for the technical skill required for poetry-writing. Nietzsche himself comments in “Ecce Homo” about the poems in the Appendix, saying they were,
"The songs of Prince Vogelfrei, written for the most part in Sicily, are quite emphatically reminiscent of the Provençal concept of “gaya scienza” — that unity of singer, knight, and free spirit which distinguishes the wonderful early culture of the Provençals from all equivocal cultures. The very last poem above all, "To the Mistral", an exuberant dancing song in which, if I may say so, one dances right over morality, is a perfect Provençalism.”
In a similar vein, in “Beyond Good and Evil”, he writes that,
“…love as passion—which is our European speciality—was invented by the Provençal knight-poets, those magnificent and inventive human beings of the "gai saber" to whom Europe owes so many things and almost owes itself.”
In “The Gay Science” section 33, he writes "the poet makes fun of all poets in a way that may be hard to forgive."

This suggests that poetry - especially in the “meta” sense of Nietzsche's “la gaya scienza”, the gay science that merges both the poetic and the scientific in the broadest sense (“Wissenschaft” in German means something broader, e.g. "disciplinary," just as the humanities, for example, count as the “Geisteswissenschaften”, vis-a-vis the natural sciences, the “Naturwissenschaften”) - for Nietzsche is both self-reflexive and critical. Poetry can turn on itself in a kind of critique of not simply a specific poem or poetry, but poetry as such. Or is Nietzsche playing games with us (and himself) in this constant fight against academic “decorum”? Reflecting on "Die fröhliche Wissenschaft" Heidegger emphasizes that metonymically tuned as it is in conjunction with science (Wissenschaft), the word "fröhliche", happy or gay, light or joyful, evokes Leidenschaft = PASSION. In this way, Heidegger argues, Nietzsche's passionate, joyful science can be opposed to the dusty scholarship, the grey science, of his peers.

(from: "Nietzsche's "Gay" Science" by Babette E. Babich in "A Companion to Nietzsche", p. 97 ff) - available online here (and I might add: highly recommended):

Apart from Heidegger’s semantic tricks, however stimulating they are, is the whole concept of “la gaya scienza” also an attempt at transcending the binary machine to arrive at the pluralism of thinking.

Deleuze uses an interesting metaphor in his book “Nietzsche and Philosophy” (1962),
It is true, Nietzsche says, that philosophers today have become COMETS. But, from Lucretius to the philosophers of the 18th century we must observe these comets, follow them, if possible, rediscover their fantastic paths. The philosopher-comets knew how to make pluralism an art of thinking, a critical art. They knew how to tell men what their bad conscience and the ressentiment concealed. They knew how to oppose established powers and values, though with only the image of the free man. After Lucretius how is it still possible to ask: what use is philosophy?

It is possible to ask this because the image of the philosopher is constantly obscured. He is turned into a sage, he who is only the friend of wisdom, friend in an ambiguous sense, that is to say, an anti-sage, he who must be masked with wisdom in order to survive.
(p. 106f.)
Finally, let Nietzsche himself have the last words in his (let's admit: heavy-handed and pompous) poem “To the Mistral”,

A DANCING SONG (November, 22 1884)

Mistral wind, you rain cloud leaper,
sadness killer, heaven sweeper,
how I love you when you roar!
Were we two not generated
in one womb, predestinated
for one lot for evermore?

Here on slippery rocky traces
I dance into your embraces,
dancing as you sing and whistle:
you that, shipless, do not halt,
freedom's freest brother, vault
over raging seas, a missile.

Barely waked, I heard you calling,
stormed to where the rocks are sprawling,
to the gold wall by the sea—
when you came like swiftly dashing
river rapids, diamond-splashing,
from the peaks triumphantly.

Through the heavens' threshing basin
I could see your horses hasten,
saw the carriage you commanded,
saw your hand yourself attack
when upon the horses' back
lightning-like your scourge descended.

From your carriage of disaster
leaping to bear down yet faster,
I saw you in arrow form
vertically downward plunging,
like a golden sunbeam lunging
through the roses of the dawn.

Dance on myriad backs a season,
billows' backs and billows' treason—
we need dances that are new!
Let us dance in myriad manners,
freedom write on our art's banners,
our science shall be gay!

Let us break from every flower
one fine blossom for our power
and two leaves to wind a wreath!
Let us dance like troubadours
between holy men and whores,
between god and world beneath!

Who thinks tempests dance too quickly,
all the bandaged and the sickly,
crippled, old, and overnice,
if you fear the wind might hurt you,
honor-fools and geese of virtue—
out of our paradise!

Let us whirl the dusty hazes
right into the sick men's noses,
flush the sick brood everywhere!
Let us free the coast together
from the wilted bosoms' blether,
from the eyes that never dare!

Let us chase the shadow lovers,
world defamers, rain-cloud shovers—
let us brighten up the sky!
All free spirits' spirit, let you
and me thunder; since I met you,
like a tempest roars my joy.

And forever to attest
such great joy, take its bequest,
take this wreath with you up there!
Toss it higher, further, gladder,
storm up on the heavens' ladder,
hang it up—upon a star.

Painting: "Olive Trees in the Mistral" by David Napp 2005

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Shadows of Totalization, Part XIII

Regarding my belief Orla’s (mis)understanding of “la gaya scienza” is resulting from an error of a homogenization, I noted in the last post that “la gaya scienza” is the 1) the gay, AND 2) the scienza.

What I call a homogenization error results when the AND is allowed conceptually to drop out.

I am very struck by Deleuze’s recognition of this in Orla’s recent quotation of him,

“…the conjunction AND is neither a union, nor a juxtaposition, but the birth of stammering, the outline of a broken line which always sets off at right angles, a sort of active and creative line of flight? AND…AND…AND”-- Deleuze: Dialogues II, (Continuum, 2006)

I wonder if Deleuze would also have said that the subtraction of the AND is the death of stammering, the end or cessation of an active and creative line of flight?

The Shadows of Totalization, Part XII

“La Gaya Scienza” comes up in Orla’s last post in a way which I want to discuss further, partially because of the way it illustrates how something problematical becomes, through a process of homogenization, unproblematic.

In my last post, I tried to explain we needed a practice of philosophy which was a “la gaya scienza” practice, but at the same time, rigorous and critical. My explanation bothered me a great deal, because I don’t think the “la gaya scienza” concept requires this supplement of rigor and criticism I was giving it—rigor and criticism are already implicit in Nietzsche’s idea. I believe Orla’s misunderstanding of “la gaya scienza” comes about at the moments when he wishes to forget about that.

In “la gaya scienza” there is: 1) the gay, (the joyful, the Dionysian,the involved, the passionate, and the philosopher as “troubadour, singer, knight (and maiden?), and free spirit,” as Orla points out,) but also, 2) the science, (the somber, the sober, the appraising, the detached, the observant, the rigorous, the critical.) Both number one and two need to be assembled,combined, in order for the concept to create the difference, the flow. Certainly if one without the other is used, something still happens, but it’s not the “la gaya scienza” thing, and it is a mistake to think it is. But doing one without the other while believing it encompasses both is a bigger and more serious error, the error of a homogenization, (which is all I can say about this important matter at this point in time.)

I’m glad we’re returning to the “la gaya scienza” problem more explicitly—it is, I think, the true founding and motivating problem of the blog. I emphasize the difficulty of the problem: it started the blog but also nearly destroyed it…We wanted to play with ideas, but discovered we didn’t know how. We might have, upon making this discovery, abandoned the inspiring notion of playfulness by writing book reports, movie reviews, and comments on current events, convincing ourselves this was indeed play and inspiring, or—we could have written a bunch of mixed-up,inebriated crap and tried to keep ourselves from being conscious it was crap, instead seeing it as joyful(another way of self-delusion regarding the absence of joy.) Which I admit, is largely what I have done. My hope is that if I can remember the real problem (the "la gaya scienza" problem) to which this crap can refer as so many failed experiments, the effort and the cost of embarrassment will not be entirely lost.

Monday, March 02, 2009

The Shadows of Totalization, Part XI

We have on the table this characterization of thinking:

“Isn’t this exactly what thinking should be: A Disturbance? Of conventionally used images. The Dynamics of Creative Interruption […]Curves instead of angles.”

As we begin to evaluate and criticize this characterization, we get this disavowal,

“I am not a philosopher. I don’t do philosophy, but I spend a lot of time listening in (through osmosis, diffusion, inspiration, etc) on those who are and do, trying to free my own thinking from “the formidable school of intimidation which manufactures specialists in thought”.

It is easier and safer to deny one is a philosopher who philosophizes than it is to admit one is a philosopher, but a bad one, who philosophizes, but poorly. Of course the one who does so still wishes to arrogate unto himself the ability to do what is in my opinion the primary and most important power of philosophy: to free thinking. Wouldn’t it be much cleaner and honest to say one doesn’t do philosophy well and therefore has the weakest ideas how to free thinking, and then subject to criticism the candidates of weakness,sickness? One cannot move on in any other manner--

One can use an assortment of sneaky tricks to hide one’s inability to move or free thought, and this is a good one,

I tend to look at philosophy as literature in the Nietzschean sense of "la gaya scienza", and to read philosophers as troubadours, singers, knights, and free spirits.

However, it is only partially true that this one tends to look at philosophy as literature in the Nietzschean sense of “la gaya scienza.” What is also partially true is that this one demands thinking to overcome doxa, ‘conventionally used images’, common sense, good sense, and all the rest of ‘the stuff’ which stuffs up empty mental spaces.

The difficult problem-- and if we fail to recognize it we may as well consign ourselves to the retard bin-- is to find a way to look at philosophy as la gaya scienza(as this one understands gaya scienza, but I think this one misunderstands the term) and as rigorous and critical. This will involve not allowing oneself to shift from viewing philosophy as la gaya scienza when one finds that convenient, over to philosophy as rigorous and critical when that’s convenient, and vice versa, and so on and so forth, ad infinitum.

If only all free spirits were free spirits! But they are, alas, most frequently not. Most frequently, and especially nowadays,they are the most enslaved. The sprightly song these troubadours sing is usually either a dirge or the work song of a chain gang. Their only hope would be to submit this freedom of theirs to a relentless criticism--they are generally free of that desire, however.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Dynamics of Interruption, Part V

I tend to look at philosophy as literature in the Nietzschean sense of "la gaya scienza", and to read philosophers as troubadours, singers, knights, and free spirits. They entertain our mental playfulness, make us sing along, erect systems only to leave them (often too long) after they have atrophied into ruins, and search for new territories and tongues.

I am not a philosopher. I don’t do philosophy.

But I spend a lot of time listening in (through osmosis, diffusion, inspiration, etc) on those who are and do, trying to free my own thinking from “the formidable school of intimidation which manufactures specialists in thought”.

When Yusef asks,

Did you intend to recommend disturbances be thought of as curves, and if so, why? (Also, how?) Was the point that our image of thought is angular, and if so, what does that mean, exactly? Rectilinear, grid-like, as in the Cartesian plane? Do you think the Cartesian plane--the image of this we have from school--conditions our image of thought? Is that what you wish us to avoid?

I would continue this line of thought by expanding on what to avoid or break away from through my own Houdini acrobatics (most often unsuccessfully) to wrestle my thinking away from “rectilinear, grid-like, as in the Cartesian plane” entities. I try to think in “curves”, not “angles” (= in the sense of positivism and structuralism.) The metaphors of “curves” or “waves” are probably too trite, but they are meant to convey an attempt at liberation from “fixed images of thought” as traditionally used. When describing these escapes it’s difficult not to bathe in “new age” concepts like “flows”, “affirmation”, “process”, “creation”, etc. But trying to thaw up frozen ways of thinking demands enormous discipline and continuous struggle. Often I fail miserably. And yet the joyful striving beckons, intellectually and aesthetically.

I don’t really care where the voices in my head come from (insert psychiatric joke here!), how they connect, how they stammer, what are quotes, assimilations, copies or originals - or both. The whole collage is of course rhizomatic, filled with in-betweens, dynamic interruptions, and noisy pauses.

In this spirit, here’s a montage of utterances the author of which could be Deleuze, myself, both or neither. Have I adopted them, been adopted or orphaned by them? However, the text is us. (thanks Derrida!)

”The history of philosophy has always been the agent of power in philosophy, and even in thought. It has played the represser’s role: how can you think without having read Plato, Descartes, Kant and Heidegger, and so-and-so’s book about them? A formidable school of intimidation which manufactures specialists in thought – but which also makes those who stay outside conform all the more to this specialism which they despise.

An image of thought called philosophy has been formed historically and it effectively stops people from thinking.

Philosophy’s relationship with the State is not solely due to the fact that recently most philosophers have been “public professors”…The relationship goes further back. For thought borrows its properly philosophical image from the state as beautiful, substantial or subjective interiority. It invents a properly spiritual State, as an absolute State, which is by no means a dream, since it operates effectively in the mind. Hence the importance of notions such as universality, method, question and answer, judgment, or recognition, of just correct, always correct ideas…

Philosophy is shot through with the project of becoming the official language of a Pure State…Everything which belongs to a thought without image – nomadism, the war-machine, becomings, nuptials against nature, capture and thefts, interregnums, minor languages or stammering of language, etc – is crushed and denounced as a nuisance…

The art of constructing a problem is very important: you invent a problem. Problem-position before finding a solution. None of this happens in an interview, a conversation, a discussion. Even reflection, whether it is alone, or between two or more, is not enough. Above all, not reflection. Objections are even worse. Every time someone puts an objection to me, I want to say: “OK, OK, let’s go on to something else.” Objections have never contributed anything. It’s the same when I am asked a general question. The aim is not to answer questions, it’s to get out, to get out of it. Many people think that it is only by going back over the question that it’s possible to get out of it…

But getting out never happens. Movement always happens behind the thinker’s back, or in the moment he blinks. Getting out is already achieved, or else it never will be…During the time while you turn in circles among questions, there are becomings which are silently at work, which are almost imperceptible…

Whatever the tone, the process of question and answer is made to nourish dualisms…There is always a binary machine which governs the distribution of roles and which means that all the answers must go through preformed questions, since the questions are already worked out on the basis of the answers assumed to be probable according to the dominant meanings…

…the conjunction AND is neither a union, nor a juxtaposition, but the birth of stammering, the outline of a broken line which always sets off at right angles, a sort of active and creative line of flight? AND…AND…AND

(Deleuze: Dialogues II, pages 1-15 in no particular order (Continuum, 2006)
Picture: Rob Day 'Illustration for 'Don't Tell a Soul' 1998, Indianapolis Art Center, Indianapolis, Indiana. – I like the Nietzschean mustache (from his younger days). I'm not so sure about the flower-bed in the skull, though. More here.