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.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting post that can produce various reactions and expansions.
Let’s go with the affirmative and constructive ones (keeping in mind that there are OTHERS not so constructive!):

How to vitalize the problem of “Nietzsche poet-philosopher”?

First, we have to transcend the categorizations: poetry and philosophy and “what’s distinctive to philosophy”? What is that?

For several decades Nietzsche was derided as just that: the poet-philosopher. He was not a real philosopher in the sense that he didn’t build systems of thought.

Second, problematizing “Nietzsche poet-philosopher” is really about “the eternal return”. Becoming-Nietzsche-poet-philosopher requires the acceptance that returning is the being of that which becomes. It is the continuous return of the “state” and process and creation of becoming. In other words, “becoming-Nietzsche-poet-philosopher” is precisely NOT “pouring this new wine into old wine skins”, rather it is brewing new drinks and mixing new cocktails.

Third, becoming-Nietzsche-poet-philosopher is really about philosophy living in permanent crisis. It erupts in shocks and bursts. And it is neither old nor new.

Fourth, it is the “deconstruction” of Totalization and moving beyond. What is “unconventional” and “conventional” anyway? We have to reject what Nietzsche himself called the “formless and fluid daubs of concepts”.

Fifth, we can become “Nietzsche-poet-philosopher” by accepting wholeheartedly ”the extolling of the unconventional as mere herding mentality”

Finally, “becoming-Nietzsche-poet-philosopher” means embracing pluralism as an art of thinking and overcoming nihilism. And that didn’t stop at the end of the 19th century.

“Nietzsche poet-philosopher” as a “problem” today is old in the sense that there is no problem. Philosophy now is non-philosophy: It still exists in an institutional setting, but might as well be poetry – and intellectual hedonism.


7:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"For several decades Nietzsche was derided as just that: the poet-philosopher. He was not a real philosopher in the sense that he didn’t build systems of thought."

Nietzsche poet AND philosopher. Or,poet-philosopher = poet AND philosopher.

poet AND philosopher introduced this problematic into philosophy: the limits of the convention that a philosopher is the builder of systems becomes questionable. This exposure of an unquestioned assumption within philosophy is all by itself a remarkable philosophical achievement.

Our problem, however,is that the inequivalence of philosophy to system building is by and large nowadays conventional.


8:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nietzsche is poet-becoming, and I think not AND (!). If we want to employ literary categorizations he writes prose-poems as in the form of aphorisms which, by the way, fills most of Book III, in ”The Gay Science” - a particular art form that he himself said demanded a new kind of criticism, interpretation, and receptivity.

It is precisely when he attempts to write poetry (in its conventional shape, as in the beginning of the book) that he ceases being a poet-becoming but instead turns into a staid, systematic, and bloodless philosopher.

From Plato and Lucretius and onward philosophers have been poets not only in convention, but in using traditional poetic tricks from allegory, metaphor, personification, simile, and symbol.

In fact (on a personal note!) I have always enjoyed and considered most philosophers to be better writers than novelists. They are much more imaginative and creative than their literary brethren.

In Nietzsche’s case he was held back, hindered, blocked, when he tried conventional philosophy as in his first book ”The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music”(its original title) - always trying to escape. Indeed, trying to break loose in lines of flight is the over-arching metaphor of his philosophizing writings.

As you write, Yusef,

Poet AND philosopher introduced this problematic into philosophy: the limits of the convention that a philosopher is the builder of systems becomes questionable. This exposure of an unquestioned assumption within philosophy is all by itself a remarkable philosophical achievement.

Our problem, however, is that the inequivalence of philosophy to system building is by and large nowadays conventional.

The “remarkable philosophical achievement” of “the exposure of an unquestioned assumption within philosophy” is, I would venture, a good example of the SILENT deterritorialization that shifts and unnerves thought as an unseen and inaudible event.

Our problem is that the inequivalence of philosophy to system building is by and large nowadays conventional. is a non-problem in the sense that “convention” is just useless doxa (YES, yes, I know I have used the term previously and celebrated its overcoming) but isn’t it really as atavistically dead as Nietzsche’s poetry?


6:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, btw, didn’t we some time ago spend a lot of intellectual energy on dealing with the theme of the “desiring of one’s own repression”?

It just came back to me when reading “Deleuze. Dialogues II” (highly recommended!) p. 100 where he writes the following,

We do not therefore speak of a dualism between two kinds of “things”, but of a multiplicity of dimensions, of lines and directions in the heart of an assemblage. To the question: “How can desire desire its own repression, how can it desire its slavery?” we reply that the powers which crush desire, or which subjugate it, themselves already form part of assemblages of desire: it is sufficient for desire to follow this particular line, for it to find itself caught, like a boat under this particular wind.

Read on – and respond.


7:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Our problem is that the inequivalence of philosophy to system building is by and large nowadays conventional. is a non-problem in the sense that “convention” is just useless doxa (YES, yes, I know I have used the term previously and celebrated its overcoming) but isn’t it really as atavistically dead as Nietzsche’s poetry?"

Well, Orla, what can I say? You disparaged the tack I was taking, then introduced your own tack utilizing the notion of convention (which bore resemblance, to my mind, to the tack I had been on, which you rejected), and then when I responded to that, you tell me your tack is atavistically dead. The way I would analyze what you are doing when you do this would be along the lines of Christoffer's recent comment.


8:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, delete the last paragraph in my second comment. It just struck me when I was typing that the dichotomy of "conventional" vs. un-ditto was really dead wood. Maybe I should stop thinking out loud when writing :)


6:20 AM  
Blogger Christoffer said...

According to some philosophers writing often incurs or introduces a breach between the intention of the author to convey something, and what is actually conveyed.

In any case, asking other people to edit ones own text is not appropiate.

6:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, my two disciplinarians have spoken :-) - on what tack to take or not, and how to behave "appropriately".

Seriously though, Yusef, I really value your "ANDs" to whatever tacks I was trying to take and I certainly didn't intend to "disparage", "reject" or "declare dead" your thinking along. Let's take all this with Nietzschean "gaiety" - and take another tack!


9:42 AM  
Blogger Christoffer said...

No doubt Nietzsche, Deleuze, Levinas and other "modern" thinkers has become conventional. They have had an immense influence and effect on the whole field of humanities. Especially Foucault and Derrida. I would go so far as to say that there is no academic area inside humanities that escape this "post-structuralistic" influence. This can be demonstrated by a look at the curriculum which does not escape texts of these mentioned authors.

Clearly, they have become conventional to some extent. How far this extent goes would be interesting to examine.

9:56 AM  
Blogger Christoffer said...

The repetitive declaration of valuation of Yusef writings is suspect.

Calling the conventional for "useless doxa" borders on the stupid.

Conventions are real in the sense that they have real consequences when they are violated. A convention is interesting because at some point in time it emerged (became real) and appeared as something new.

11:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I have to remark upon is the way anything I might offer (anything I offer is quite humble but it is still something,) is pounced upon as uncreative, enslaving, old and dead--labels indiscriminately applied.

This happens even when what I am offering is what Orla has himself just previously offered as creative, liberating, new, and alive!

There's a dirty trick being played which I can't quite grasp. I think it comes down to a strategy whereby one is able to not have to confront one's own failures of creativity to the extent one constantly derides the rest of the world for not being creative! But I don't really understand why this would be reassuring.

Shrilly demand others to be creative: give me a new dance! give me! One wonders--if Orla wants a new dance and Orla is creative, why Orla doesn't go about making a new dance? Why ask anyone else to do it? Why ask me--I'm not even sure a new dance is what "we need."

What is this demand for creativity from others? Want creativity? Then you be creative. If you can. And if you can't, then you deal with it.

Or, alternatively, show me examples where your demands for creativity directed at others,or onto the world at large,or anywhere and in any way, have been creative, creative of creativity.


2:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's good that we get an open discussion of the conversation on this blog which we all appreciate and try to keep alive. I have been here more than three years and always look forward to checking it daily, and I also enjoy writing posts.

But I think we need to get past the cycle of suspicion, recrimination, and put-downs (I realize that some of my postings and comments might (or are, apparently) read as demeaning (or whatever) much to my surprise. I may be too tone deaf to get it or just too excited when writing to be aware of its effect on the reader).

But really, I'm NOT playing any "dirty tricks" or "shrilly demanding others to be creative". How could I? As I wrote in an earlier post,

I try to break away through my own Houdini acrobatics (most often unsuccessfully) to wrestle my thinking away from “rectilinear, grid-like, as in the Cartesian plane” entities.

Of course, I fail, but most of the time it's fun trying.

I don't think I pounce upon anything Yusef writes as uncreative, enslaving, old and dead--labels indiscriminately applied.

Check numerous comments and posts through the years in response to Yusef's writings!

Right here I could turn the tables and list the countless derogatory remarks about my posts (what's the latest? Ah, yes: "bordering on stupid" or "suspect" or in recent comments to my (and that was humble and fumbling on my part) post from March 1 which was interpreted as full of "sneaky tricks" and given all kinds of sinister motives with the general message: I can't philosophize as intellectually weak as I am. I might just admit it and pack up and shut up. And then there was my "waveology" post where I got practically water-boarded :)

Well, well, no reason to perpetuate this cycle that we need to get away from.

Anyway, we all seem hurt by the tone, get mad or even, and it all starts over again.

We all want to have constructive feedback and recognition. I have always wanted this, here from one of the (admittedly "new age-ish" - God how I hate that psychobabble!!) wave posts,

Or to continue this hypertext of texts (or waves creating waves) with a Deleuzian quote, ”The logic of a thinking is like a wind that pushes us in our backs, a series of gusts and tremors. As Leibniz says, you think you have safely arrived in harbor, but discovers that you are still on the open seas”.

And isn’t this what open, generous blogging should be: Tender gusts, irritating head winds, warm breezes, deadly twisters, and inviting waves? Curves instead of angles.

Now I'm not so sure about "the deadly twisters" part though :) - that was too much flourish, I guess.

Put another way: I'm currently thinking about a post on the importance of the locale of philosophy, as for instance in the role the Parisian "salon" and its ladies had for the spread of the ideas of the Enlightenment, and maybe whether blogging shouldn't be digital salons.

I'll of course post it when it's done, but I admit I also think of what I'm going to be accused of when I do. And that's not good.

I don't know if we can do it, but I'm going to try: When somebody posts a few thoughts, then take the part you feel you can run along with in a positive and supportive manner, and then leave the rest WITHOUT denigrating it.

We care about this blog. We try hard to make it thrive. Let's keep doing that.


4:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

---Ah, the AFTER-thought (interesting concept btw) when you suddenly think about what you MIGHT have said, but forgot:

When Yusef in his comment (March 2) on my post (with the picture of the stupid flowers sticking out somebody's head) started by writing,

We have on the table this characterization of thinking:

- and then went on "kill" everything I had said, I spent a couple of hours writing a parody in the style of the Moscow Trials in 1936 when Stalin performed show trials of his opponents. I had the pictures of cowed underlings in the court room with Yusef sitting at head table doling out sentences, but I decided against it. It was too much, but that's how I felt when Yusef put me on trial :-)

Another example: When Christoffer asked in today's line of posts what the effect of post-structuralism on university teaching is, which is a very interesting question worthy of much thought and which I kept thinking about, I at once stopped when his next post came, calling my previous posts "bordering on stupid".

Then your (at least mine) reaction is "Ah, too much negativity, I really don't need this!".

This has been my feeling many, many times in the past.

THAT'S what harmful to this blog. At least from my perspective.

Hey, I take my part of the blame if I unintentionally have done the same!

That's why I just love the overwhelming generosity of Deleuze - what a lovely man, as when he writes,

My ideal, when I write about an author, would be to write nothing that could cause him sadness, or if he is dead, that might make him weep in his grave

(Dialogues II, p. 88 - that's what I'm reading now :))

This is again shown in Derrida's moving (it almost made me cry) tribute to Deleuze on his death:

"I'll have to wander alone"

Could we rise to this?

Maybe not. But let's try.


PS: That doesn't mean that Deleuze isn't a closet metaphysician (spelling!!!) even if it would break his heart to be called so.

PPS: (Shameful confession) Most of my posts are composed late at night when I have had too much wine and feel (miraculously!!!) inspired. Yeah, I know: that's no excuse, and if it is: it's SO lame.

6:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you are unaware of a certain pattern in your thinking and writing, Orla. Unfortunately, it appears you are unaware of it even when it is called to your attention.

You brought "convention" into the conversation in part as a counter to "Totalization", which, if you will recall, you had harshly criticized as a topic. You appeared to think speaking of "Totalization" was deadening, stopped the flow of creativity, and was part of my attempt to freeze, isolate, etc.

Attacking "convention", on the other hand, you presented as liberating and vital. What I tried to point out is that convention and Totalization aren't as contrary as you seem to believe--I see "convention" as a subset of "Totalization", not an alternative. Whereupon you rejected "convention" altogether (as atavistically dead), which seems very strange to me. It seems strange to me because if I also reject "convention" it leaves us nowhere but somehow left with this continuing hovering demand from you that we be "positive and supportive."

To the extent I could see a relationship between "convention" and "Totalization" and could grant a role within philosophy for attacking convention, I believe I was being positive and supportive. But then it turned out that even this wasn't positive and supportive because "convention" was atavistically dead, etc.

See, it's difficult and maybe impossible to be positive and supportive when this is the dynamic of the conversation. I will stop trying to show you how this dynamic appears to me when it becomes apparent you are unable to understand what I am talking about...I'm not quite to that conclusion, however. Close to, but not quite there.


6:30 PM  
Blogger Christoffer said...

Stop drinking.

4:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A sub-problem of the la gaya scienza problem: to become intoxicated on a glass of water.


2:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL, yeah, that's good!

I remember reading that somewhere. I forget where.

Where does it come from?

It's Deleuze, isn't it?


4:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Deleuze used it, but so did William Burroughs and Henry Miller.


12:04 AM  

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