Monday, April 26, 2010

The Penumbra of the Empty, Part XXI

In the last post, I was trying to make a contrast between two kinds of motion-thought: one motion-thought I very vaguely analogized to building, while another I analogized as growth. (I am aware that I am at this point very close to Deleuze’s contrasting images of thought of trees to rhizome.)

The key difference between the two kinds of motion is that in the “building” type, all of the future motion-thought is contained in the present motion-thought. “Contained in” means that if the present motion-thought is fully characterized, all future motion-thought is known. (By fully characterized, I mean to say fully known.) In the “growth” type of motion-thought, there is change which is not contained or predictable from the present motion-thought, even if the present motion-thought is fully characterized. In other words, even if the present motion is fully known, the future motion is not fully known.

Part of the problem with using “growth” to designate the second kind of motion-thought is that we probably typically conceive of growth as the first kind of motion-thought. I say this is the way we typically conceive of growth because we speak of growth as happening “according to nature.” The assumption here is that the present-motion is somehow already fully characterized, and the future motion of the growth is somehow fully known. I’m not saying that most people think that the location of the branches of a tree can be predicted in advance of the growth of the tree from its seed, but most people do think that an oak tree will grow from an acorn and not from a fig, and that this is according to nature. My way of saying this seems a little off, but at least I think it is true that people conceive that as something is growing it is realizing its natural properties—which I see as being to conceive in terms of the first kind of thought-motion.

I want to get at this change-denying quality of “according to nature” as this is used to think nature and thought. Just as one example: to speak of “according to human nature” is almost always a way denying either the possibility or desirability of some kind of change. As I was writing above about an acorn growing naturally into an oak tree, I was realizing that of course an acorn can’t change its course and grow into anything but an oak; however, humans can now control their own evolution…This development has to change the nature of nature…This changed nature of nature would be the thought-motion I am loosely labeling as “growth.” The human change of the human has been entirely unpredictable.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Penumbra of the Empty, Part XX

Thought would build forth from the foundation in something like inevitability, as if according to plan, each level atop the foundation achieving the same stability as the foundation.

There wouldn’t be any surprises, any startling and disturbing discoveries, of faults or of unexpected strengths or resiliencies. A steady consistency, a redoubtable security.

All of the above describes thought in terms of inertial movement—what I call Totalization. Therefore, I think there are very good reasons for connecting foundationalism to Totalization.

Also, I notice the appropriateness of the “to build” or “to construct” metaphor to thought understanding itself in this way, and the inappropriateness of “to grow” or “growth” to this self understanding of thought. ( A building needs a foundation, but growing doesn’t necessarily or even usually.)

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?

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Penumbra of the Empty, Part XVIII

We have to remember that at the beginning of the epic project of separating religious from secular, dated by Carlos to the year 1648, there were no concepts for the social, the cultural, the scientific, or the economical, and in a way there was no such thing as a society (or culture, or science, or an economy.)

People didn’t get together to “socialize,” to converse, discuss the issues of the day, swap opinions, or share ideas about economic or political policy. There may have been a tremendous amount of activity, of talk, of commerce, but virtually everything would have been thought of in religious terms. There is no doubt in my mind that to begin to separate some element or region of the mind from the overarching religiousness would have been arduous and dangerous…To invent new terms from which to understand…Nearly impossible.

You can't separate what doesn't yet exist. This seems to be a key point I am trying to make.

At the beginning, there couldn’t have been discussions about beginning or needing to begin. There couldn’t have been some preliminary sketches of what would belong where. There couldn’t have been an agent of change or an intention of change, as we, the product of this monumental change, would understand these terms.