Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Penumbra of the Empty, Part XIX


"This book first arose out of a passage in Borges, out of the laughter that shattered, as I read the passage, all the familiar landmarks of my thought--our thought, the thought that bears the stamp of our age and our geography--breaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with which we are accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing things, and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse our age-old distinction between the Same and the Other. This passage quotes a 'certain Chinese encyclopaedia' in which it is written that 'animals are divided into: (a) belonging to the Emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h)included in the present classification, (i)frenzied,(j)innumerable,(k)drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (l) et cetera, (m)having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies'. In the wonderment of this taxonomy, the thing we apprehend in one great leap, the thing that, by means of the fable, is demonstrated as the exotic charm of another system of thought, is the limitation of our own, the stark impossibility of thinking that."-- Michel Foucault, preface of The Order of Things: an Archeology of the Human Sciences

Is an active force in relation to this,

"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." Descartes, Meditation II, section 3 (1641)

It is not true that one counterbalances the other, completes the other, or resolves the other. It is also not true that one is a relativism or an acceptance of the absurdity of existence or thought while the other is not. They are not opposing. Nor is it true either is nihilistic. Both are foundational, but the former is foundational in the sense of a dice roll, the casting of dice...A Cartesian foundation of the indubitable; a Foucauldian foundation of the aleatory. Why would chance be doubtful? Why wouldn't thought rest or ride on a hazard? Is thought which takes a risk a guilty thought? Guilty of what, then?


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