One of the nice things about the Claremont Whitehead conference was that they declared they were going to “put their metaphysics where their mouth is”. This meant that we were served locally produced vegetarian food all week. Graham was in heaven. I was, guiltily, in withdrawal. Nonetheless, I love the concept.
In light of the “Whitehead wars” over the last few days, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about what it means to put your metaphysics where your mouth is.
Aside: Clearly I’m grading right now, so I’m simultaneously finding ways to distract myself.
Now all of us, I think, treat creativity, novelty, and newness as fundamental values. It seems to me that as a consequence, both the content and the style of an ontology should embody these values. What does it mean, in other words, to write (or speak) in a way that encourages creativity. Please note, my question here is not “what does it mean to write creatively. My question is not about the content of my own writing, but about how my audience responds to that writing. A writing whose form is adequate to the content of creativity would be a writing that invites creative translation or prehension in my audience. It would be a writing that fosters creative adventures in my interlocutors, rather than merely asking them to reiterate me (not that anyone does, but you get the point).
Being the obsessive guy that I am, certain things echo in my mind over and over again for years (are others like this or am I just a broken record?). Among these things is Foucault’s offhand remark about “the microfascisms within” in his preface to Anti-Oedipus. Literally this is a little line that has haunted me for over fifteen years, creeping up on me in quiet moments, asking “have you eradicated your micro-fascisms within?” A lot of theory drives me up the wall because it’s haunted by micro-fascisms or by contradictions between form and content. Deleuze and Guattari say “create!”, yet then you get Deleuze and Guattarians that say “repeat!” Lacan, in the close of Seminar 11, says that the analyst’s love is a love of absolute difference, and then you get Lacanians that say “repeat!” (the only true Lacanian, in my view, was Guattari and perhaps Zizek). The Whiteheadians says “creativity!” and then say “repeat!”
Aside: As can be clearly seen from their last few conferences, the Claremont Whiteheadians don’t fall into this performative contradiction. They embrace novelty and creativity and are willing to become other in prehending it. It was quite impressive to see a group of thinkers whose form and content of practice was on the same page.
So what I’m asking is for a form of writing that doesn’t fall into this contradiction between form and content. Analyzing my own micro-fascisms, I’ve been able to discern some dont’s (these are practices of my own that I wish to abolish). 1) Don’t correct or claim that someone else has misinterpreted. This sets up an antagonistic relation from the outset that’s based on identity and repetition of the same. Rhetorically it sets dialog down the wrong road from the outset. 2) Don’t claim that the company you’re in dialog with is wrong (same reason as point 1). In short, don’t correct. It’s useless and polemical.
A creative writing would aim to be catalytic in the sense that it would aim to produce aleatory responses in others. It would overcome its own egocentricity enough to be okay with its own writing being deterritorialized by others in unexpected directions. It would gloss over fruitless misinterpretations, understanding that calling those misinterpretations seldom leads anywhere valuable (while it does tend to produce a lot of bitterness and animosity). It would understand that it’s own writing is like a new species that enters an ecosystem leading all sorts of other species to evolve along their own paths as they find their new ecological niches. Rather than calling out another proper name, it would just state its own positions affirmatively and for itself, without making a fight of it. Those are some initial thoughts anyway. I wish I was strong enough to write catalytically. Morton writes this way. He never worries too much over disagreement. I’m trying. Perhaps some day I’ll be strong enough not to fight too. All too often I feel like Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future when called “chicken”. I have a hard time resisting. I hate being unable to resist.