Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Shadows of Totalization, Part XXVI

To pry apart the concept of objectivity—this is difficult.

Among the difficulties to be surmounted is to convince oneself objectivity is a concept. Under most circumstances, I find it much more pleasant to treat objectivity tautologically: objectivity is objective. I think: somewhere, somehow-–buried deep within me-- or is it at the limit of the universe?—there is objectivity, I only need reach it. (Strangely, I do not trouble myself with the problem of whether I will know it when I've reached it.)

Objectivity is objective—not conceptual. One thinks. One can even be aware of the history of objectivity and believe this to be true—because history (even evolutionary history) can be viewed as progress towards objectivity, towards the reaching of the objective. Objectivity is out there and we as a people or a species are on our way to there. We realize ourselves as a people and species when we reach objectivity; we betray ourselves as a people (and as species?) when we turn from it.

We can and have viewed the historical Enlightenment in precisely this way: as a very important step on our species’ journey towards a realization of the objective. I think we’ve confused ourselves by doing this, however, because such a view of the historical Enlightenment is not entirely coeval with our view of the Enlightenment as the overcoming of Totalization, the reactivation of a philosophical ethos.

The one strand of the concept of objectivity which I can at present grab onto (in the hope I can make the rest of the ball of yarn unwind) is the strand of the objective as the publicly accessible. There is a terrible, fantastic, and debilitating interweaving of this notion with the previously-mentioned one of the Enlightenment as progress towards a realization of the objective: Enlightenment as progress towards publicity.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Do You Realize How Simple Desire Is?

Do you realize how simple desire is? Sleeping is a desire. Walking is a desire. Listening to music, or making music, or writing are desires. A spring, a winter is desires. Old age also is desire. Even death. Desire never needs interpreting, it is that which experiments. Then we run up against very exasperating objections. They say to us that we are returning to an old cult of pleasure, to a pleasure principle, or to the notion of the festival… (Deleuze: Dialogues p. 71)

Creating concepts, however larval, is a desire. Forming lines of flights from figures of traditional philosophy as in the associative names of the philosophical canon is a desire. “Descartes” is a rhizome, a multiplicity of territories, a concept in spe.

The history of philosophy has always been an agent of power in philosophy, and even in thought. It has played the repressor’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. (op. cit. p. 10)

Let’s look at the furballs of philosophy:

PLATO: The master of dualisms. The first computer programmer of binary thinking. 0-1. Why is he still relevant? He has never been more so. As the king to revolt against.

ARISTOTLE: The father of systems. The opponent of fluidity. That’s why he is also the generator of necessary flows and fluxes. The ultimate furball.

EPICURUS: The prophet of denial. The archetypal representative of Nietzsche’s “last man”: the bourgeois pleasure-seeking “Bürger” of small expectations.

CICERO: The modern spin-doctor: “perception is reality”. Language is a toy. And it should be. A pre-Wittgensteinean game-player.

AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO: The first Freudian: sexuality is everything and damning. God is the enemy who forces you to love him. How to escape? Really a liberator, a disciple of desire.

MONTAIGNE: “The deadliest death is the best”. Fear not. Take away the terror. Embrace daily pragmatism. The first American. Man is an animal-becoming, but an angel-becoming, too. Acceptance is the key.

HOBBES: The wolf man. The best cynic since Diogenes. Lesson: Philosophy is human and practical, defending us against metaphysics. We are doomed. Protect us against ourselves.

DESCARTES: The master of the personal pronoun first person. The prisoner of grammar. But also the linguistic revolutionary and free thinker. How do I know?

SPINOZA: The secret anarchist, lost in systems. The minority in the majority. Ethics as dogma. And thus the truly depraved hedonist.

(to be continued)

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Mathematician under the (False?) God

Thanks to Yusef for making me re-read MEDITATION and marvel at the creative reductionism of Descartes. He was in a way the pre-Enlightenment thinker a hundred years before The Enlightenment proper.

There is this crucial passage in MEDITATION II, section 3 (1641) that inspires closer reading

Is there not a God, or some being, by whatever name I may designate him, who causes these thoughts to arise in my mind ? But why suppose such a being, for it may be I myself am capable of producing them? Am I, then, at least not something? But I before denied that I possessed senses or a body; I hesitate, however, for what follows from that? Am I so dependent on the body and the senses that without these I cannot exist? But I had the persuasion that there was absolutely nothing in the world, that there was no sky and no earth, neither minds nor bodies; was I not, therefore, at the same time, persuaded that I did not exist? Far from it; I assuredly existed, since I was persuaded. But there is I know not what being, who is possessed at once of the highest power and the deepest cunning, who is constantly employing all his ingenuity in deceiving me. Doubtless, then, I exist, since I am deceived; and, let him deceive me as he may, he can never bring it about that I am nothing, so long as I shall be conscious that I am something. So that it must, in fine, be maintained, all things being maturely and carefully considered, that this proposition (pronunciatum ) I am, I exist, is necessarily true each time it is expressed by me, or conceived in my mind.

First off, it is remarkable that he even questions the concept of “God” ( by whatever name I may designate him) at a time when even deists hadn’t dared to come forward. Not even that, he actually proposes that God is a projection (Feuerbach would later gain notoriety for precisely the same idea exactly two hundred years later in "Das Wesen des Christentum").

Then the startling admission that the “I” exists “because it was PERSUADED” by the objectivity of being proven wrong: the supremacy of rational discourse. The mathematician had been convinced by “scientific” proof! And the humble statement (in true Karl Popper fashion) that “I exist, since I am deceived” followed by the chest-pounding (almost Nietzschean) defiance “let him deceive me as he may, he can never bring it about that I am nothing!”

Indeed not.

And finally, going for the kill: this proposition (pronunciatum) I am, I exist, is necessarily true each time it is expressed by me, or conceived in my mind.

Now take this – God! – and the rest of mankind: I am.

Descartes was primarily a mathematician who had to labor under the metaphysics of his time, but he tried, as best he could, to stick to his guns (even though this martial imagery is hardly appropriate for this frail and sickly man who had abdicated from his decrepit body to live in his mind!)

When it is suggested that Descartes represents “the subject taking its own subjectivity as an object” there is an almost scholastic smell to it. Reductionism is ultimately about the dogma of definitions – and logic – and positivism. Is there really a problem with "the concept of objectivity”? Be it the subject or – the object?

In Descartes’s arithmetic there exists objectivity (UNDER God), however suspicious it may sound today 368 years later, but maybe he wasn’t that contingent in his time, instead rather ahead of it.

Today, debate is still raging about what THE OBJECT of philosophy is. Does it even have one?

Mathematics is out, truth is out, givenness is out, realism barely survives. What’s left?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Shadows of Totalization, Part XXV

I want to say something about the peculiar inversions, eversions, and perversions which take place when the subject takes its own subjectivity as an object.

In the manner of coughing up a fur ball, I have coughed up the following,

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

I wanted this to be a step within a progression of symmetry operations by which and through which the subject/object plane would reveal to me a little more distinctly just what bends and folds this plane can and cannot accomplish.

My tentative idea was to present Descartes, with his splendid boldness and clarity, as having manipulated the plane so that the subject is straightforwardly presented as an object to its self, as its self. The subject is an object, the subjective is the objective, the subject can serve as evidence (of what sort? What can this possibly mean?) to itself.

I’ve had a number of severe second thoughts about this, and what’s more, I confess I don’t even know what level to place these second thoughts on. So, I am kind of stuck—the second fur balls in my throat are unwilling to cough out.

I do want to make this minor move—I want to indicate the oddity and difficulty of this phrase,

"The concept of objectivity..."

I am offended by it. I don’t want no damned concept of objectivity…I want objectivity neat and clean. Except, do I ?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Shadows of Totalization, Part XXIV

I do not proffer this statement,

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

Without motivation, without reason, (without interest.)

I am on an errand: I want to say something about philosophy’s contestation (assuming there is such a contestation, or can be) of convention, Totalization.

I have to make distinctions between several Descartes: 1) a pre-private or pre-public Descartes, who has a life indistinguishable from any other human being (or hominid): he eats, he drinks, he sleeps, he shits (but does this Descartes think?) 2) a private Descartes, a member of a society or civilization, who contributes to and benefits from that society, but without changing that society (but what do the words “contribute to,” or “benefit from,” mean if there is no contribution to the change of society?) 3) a private-public Descartes—this would be the author of The Meditations, etc. The private-public Descartes has nothing to do—stands in no relation to--the Descartes of my statement, “Descartes founds his philosophy on a self which is self-evident.” 4) a public Descartes, who changes society by becoming a literal part of society per se. This is the Descartes of my statement, “Descartes founds his philosophy on a self which is self-evident.” Strangely, I am as much this Descartes as Descartes himself was…We all are.

I can make similar distinctions between levels of myself, (or of Enlightenment Underground readers,) but these couldn’t include the fourth level,( the “Descartes” or public-Descartes, 4th level.)

There is an “official version” (it is important to note this is in the singular “official version” –not the plural, as in “official version(s)”) of Descartes out there, floating around—I draw down on it in order to make an appeal to others (except I haven’t really begun my appeal yet.) I want to make something public.

Part of the problem is that “I”, of levels 1,2 and possibly of 3, attempt to form a relationship with “Descartes” of level 4. “I” cannot do so by actually reading Descartes ( in other words,by reading the works of level 3 Descartes, some of which I own and others of which are available to me both at the public library and the University library about a mile from my home.)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Shadows of Totalization, Part XXIII

We have not defined Totalization, but have thought of Totalization in a variety of ways:

1) As myth: “Myth is totality: the total and complete picture of the real. The temptation to totality. ("From Ionia to Jena," as Franz Rosenszweig puts it in his The Star of Redemption -- that is, from Parmenides to Hegel.)” – Carl Sachs, February 18, 2006

2) As reification: “Honneth argues that, properly reconceived, reification continues to be a significant phenomenon in the contemporary world and, so, a worthy object of philosophical study. In doing so he distinguishes three broad types of reification -- in a subject's relations to the objective world, to other subjects, and to himself -- and argues that all can be understood as manifestations of a single, underlying deficiency.” – Carl Sachs, March 16, 2006

3) As exclusion;

4) As death;

5) As dogmatism;

6) As metaphysics;

7) As incapacitation;

8) Unwillingness to explore, question, or experiment;

9) As reaction;

10) As neutrality;

11) As homogenization;

12) As static;

13) As a gridlock of for-against-neutral;

14) As fixedness, frozenness: “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.”—Orla Shantz, March 1, 2009

15) As closure, enclosure, square box: “What are the square boxes? They are isolated, frozen, and stopped enclosures, procrustean beds, the location of stable entities, the places where the “squares” reside, what the “squares” have made of life and the world, and of themselves. The square boxes are the lives of the living dead, of the undead, who have “fixed” the world so very, very well that they have murdered it. The square boxes are the life world of the squares,which isn't a very nice world at all. The square boxes ARE squares,who aren’t very nice people at all. They may not even be people if by people we mean living, loving, warm, curious, and thinking. Squares are people who exist by isolating, freezing, and stopping. They are bureaucrats and faceless masses, those who consume without producing, those who are incapable of creativity, insectoidal hordes munching along and impinging upon freedom and beauty, almost through malice, but mainly through blunt nothingoidal stupidity.” –Yusef Asabiyah, June 10, 2008.

16)As convention;

17) Totality as the struggle to escape Totality: “When Yusef is battling the concepts of totality and rationality he is trying to stop, isolate, and freeze the flow of emerging streams of creativity. This is understandable and true of all of us in our attempts to create patterns and stable entities. We also know that this desire is rarely qualitative, multidimensional, and inclusive. It is not “a draft, a wind, a day, an hour, a stream, a place, a battle, an illness” (Deleuze: Negotiations, 1995). But it should be.” –Orla Shantz, June 7, 2008

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Abstraction and Concept Creation, Part IV

"In an explicitly polemical essay, Answering the Question: What is Postmodernism?, Lyotard put forward a strong plea for continued artistic dissent. Cultures, he argued, need the challenge of new forms if they are not to settle into complacency, or, worse, terror.

His target here is what he calls 'realism'. Realism, he claims, reaffirms the illusion that we are able to seize hold of reality, truth, the way things 'really' are. Photography, film, and television, offering themselves as windows onto the world, delivering 'the facts', are no more than the completion of the programme of ordering visual space that began with Renaissance painting.

In 15th-century Italy, painters began to depict the world according to the rules of fixed-point perspective. As long as all the lines understood to be parallel to the ground converged at a single vanishing point, and as long as objects were shown as diminished and foreshortened accordingly, three dimensions were miraculously inscribed on a two-dimensional canvas, and the 'truth' appeared in painting. But this 'truth' was the effect of geometry; it was an illusion. On condition that the viewer stood in exactly the right position, opposite the vanishing point and at the distance, scaled for size, of the painter from the scene, and as long as the picture was viewed with one eye closed, the illusion of truth was conjured out of a very skillful fiction.


Realism, Lyotard argues, protects us from doubt. It offers us a picture of the world that we seem to know, and in the process confirms our own status as knowing subjects by reaffirming that picture as true. Things are, human beings are, and, above all, we are just as we have always supposed."--from Catherine Belsey, Poststructuralism: A Very Short Introduction,Oxford University Press, 2002, pages 100-102.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Shadows of Totalization, Part XXII

I “make” this statement,

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

I make it, author it, and yet also claim it as a translation from Descartes. Which part of Descartes does it come from? Damned if I know….The ethereal part of Descartes which mingles with my gold-tinged fogs?

I do think the statement is “correct.” I thought it was correct when I first wrote it, and then after posting it, I decided I had better see if I could find confirmation. I did a few Google searches using various combinations of search words, and satisfied myself I was not saying something about Descartes which would be considered a distortion.

What I really determined through my Google searches was that the idea Descartes said something similar to what I say he said is a standard view.

It has been a long time since I have read some Descartes, and I have never read all of Descartes. Rather than comparing my statement with what other people say Descartes said, I could attempt to independently determine whether Descartes ever said things which resemble and would support my interpretation of (translation from?) Descartes.

I’m not going to try-- I don’t believe Descartes ever said anything of the sort. I don’t think Descartes would have said,

I found my philosophy on a self which is self-evident.

Monday, April 06, 2009

The Shadows of Totalization, Part XXI

This statement,

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

Which I have authored, is a translation (I like to believe,) a faithful copy of a Cartesian something.

For reasons I am attempting to make apparent, I translate the above translation yet again,

I have a concept of my self wherein I understand my self as self-evident.
I have the idea that by making the translation refer to me rather than to Descartes, I can make the idea be what I want it to be…I don’t need to worry so much about faithfulness to Descartes.

The echoes of Descartes which are likely to be perceivable by readers of my second translation, along with any discordant tones, I dismiss as “the readers' problem.” When I find myself thereby locked in my solitary little world of woe (no one else wants to listen to my deadbeat discords) I won’t attend to this woe—for it is “extra-philosophical.”

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Shadows of Totalization, Part XX

I take this statement,

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

And translate it into this one,

I have a concept of my self wherein I understand my self as self-evident.

Rather than saying I translate the first statement into the second, perhaps it would be better to say I repeat it, with difference.

Rather than saying I believe the first statement “Descartes founds his philosophy on a self which is self-evident,” is a true statement, perhaps it would be better to say it also repeats (something), with difference.

I don’t know anything incorrect about the statement, “Descartes founds his philosophy on a self which is self-evident,” but I do know in my saying of it(in my authoring of it,) I have introduced differences from whatever it was Descartes did (say or do, in philosophy.)

Do I have any grounds for considering this difference, whatever it is, anything but a lack, (of adequacy, of completeness, of closeness of reading, of comprehension, of diligence, etc.)?