Responding to my post on mediation and stupidity, N.Pepperell of Rough Theory writes,

I think the reason for my sort of lightening flash reaction to the text is that – again, solely in terms of the internal logic of this small collection of sentences – the problem of immediacy is here posed as a problem of how sense perception is inadequate or works to confuse us: the taste of the wheat gives us no clues; if we attend only to the evidence of our senses, then, it is plausible – if also criticisable – that we should not stumble across the various social mediations that have led to the production of this wheat, have carried it to our tables, have caused us to perceive it as something to be used for food rather than for some other purpose, etc. Tacitly, the properly critical perspective here lies in focussing our attention, not on the abstracted physical properties of the thing that we are consuming, but on the complex network of social relationships that has enabled this sense perception to take place. Marx is cited unproblematically as the inspiration for this insight.

N.Pepperell is responding to this quote from Deleuze and Guattari:

Let us remember once again one of Marx’s caveats: we cannot tell from the mere taste of wheat who grew it; the product gives us no hint as to the system and the relations of production. The product appears to be all the more specific, incredibly specific and readily describable, the more closely the theoretician relates it to ideal forms of causation, comprehension, or expression, rather than to the real process of production on which it depends. (AO, 24)

I don’t have a lot to say in response to this take on immediacy, but I wanted to clear up an apparent confusion. Sense-perception is certainly a form of immediacy, but a focus on sense-perception is not what I take away from this passage. Rather, I take it that immediacy is a way of relating to objects and concepts that 1) detaches them from their history of becoming, and 2) detaches them from the network of relations through which they derive their sense. The murderer reduced to a murderer would be an example of immediacy, though certainly I cannot perceive the quality of being a murderer through my five senses or sense-intuition. Being-a-murderer rather is a form of what Husserl referred to as categorical intuition. Nonetheless, there is a way of relating to murderer as abstract immediacy and another way of relating to a murder in terms of the mediations out of which he arises. Similarly, being-a-teacher is not something that can be perceived through the five senses, but we can relate to teachers in terms of immediacy. More strikingly yet, I cannot perceive a number, say 10, but I can relate to it in terms of immediacy or mediation.

Hegel’s Science of Logic gives ample evidence of this fluidity of the “immediate”. Each subsequent moment of the Logic begins by treating a particular category as “immediate”, even though each moment after the beginning– “being pure being” –is quite complex, containing a number of mediations. Being-a-teacher is internally an exceedingly complex form of objectivity, but can nonetheless be taken as an immediate when subtracted from its relations.

It had not occured to me to focus on the element of sense-perception in the wheat passage from Deleuze and Guattari; perhaps by virtue of being aware of the context in which they were citing it and by virtue of knowing just how sensitive Deleuze and Guattari are to the social and cultural dimension of experience. What I found striking in the passage was simply the dimension of background or production. As for the questions of what the conditions are for critical subjectivity, I have, as yet, no set and defined answers. I’m busily trying to construct any critical edifice at all and trying to theorize common phenomena that I encounter in the world around me– common platitudes I encounter in the writing of my students, poor administrative policies, and disasterous political decisions –so these questions strike me as roadblocks or obstructions to that sort of work. Decontextualization seems to be a common thread linking these forms of thought. How does the critic come to see this? Shrug. I don’t know. While I fully acknowledge that such a subjectivity too must result from a process of individuation and be riddled with mediations, the more pressing question strikes me as that of what we can do about it and how we can organize forms of thought and praxis that are more sensitive to the dimension of mediation, avoiding the catastrophes that objectifying thought seem to generate by virtue of subtracting phenomena from their networks of relations. Lacan spent his entire career thinking about the formation of analysts and wondered whether or not a single analyst has ever existed. I believe this is a healthy attitude towards critique as well: has a critic ever existed?

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