March 2007

David Gray Carlson’s A Commentary on Hegel’s Science of Logic has finally been released. Some might be familiar with Carlson’s earlier work in legal theory, deconstruction, and psychoanalysis. For me this is a very exciting event. This is the first English language commentary that discusses every transition of the Logic, and numbers 632 pages. The price is steep, but I have high hopes.

One of the things I will never understand are those who complain privately to one another, yet never speak to those in charge about what vexes them. It seems to me that there are those who believe that they can effect change in the world around them and those who do not. Nor is this an issue of being a realist. Rather, there is a very real sense in when these respective subjective positions are existential structures, perhaps “existentiales” in Heidegger’s sense of the word, or are fundamental ways of relating to the world or “shapes of consciousness” similar to what Hegel describes in the Phenomenology.

The luminous Lars of Spurious has written a compelling series of posts on writing.

A child’s questions, says Freud, give ultimately unto the marvel that anything exists at all. Perhaps it is the same with the question we want to pose a writer: how he came to write this imposing work or that, whom he admires among his contemporaries or his forebears, what books he keeps close to him – it is first of all the fact of the work that is marvellous. In the end, the gift that separates him from us is that he has written those pages, and everything else in his life that seems significant to us is so only because of his gift.

Read the rest here and here. Is it possible for Lars to become any more beautiful? I hope to write more when I’m not in the midsts of making fish tacos. Yes, yes, I know that might sound strange, but they’re really quite good.

Now that I’ve been banned by the 1.3 billion citizens of China, I’ve finally come to realize that I have a problem and am in need of treatment. After all, when you manage to upset an entire country it is necessay to take a step back, reflect on your life and actions, and take a careful look at yourself in the mirror. Are there things, perhaps, that I do to provoke such rejections and responses. As I look at my life, I notice that there’s something of a pattern here. For instance, over the last couple of days I’ve been engaged in a discussion with Foucault is Dead over Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism. At a certain point, FiD simply terminated the discussion no longer wishing to talk to me about these issues. Perhaps I could dismiss this as a minor blip on the radar, but unfortunately something similar had happened yesterday with Anthony Paul Smith in another discussion about Deleuze.

Indeed, now that I think about it, I’m coming to see that just about anyone I interact with intimately in discussion has had to endure my periodic blow ups or tantrums when I get frustrated and don’t think dialogue is going my way. This too is how things went down with China. This is a serious problem that effects my personal relationships and the future of my career, so I think I need to do something about it. Hopefully just admitting I have a problem– Thank you China! –is a step in the right direction. Yet I’m now worried, as my years in analysis haven’t seemed to touch this symptom. Indeed, I wasn’t even aware of this symptom until the China affair. Consequently, I wonder if blog readers might have recommendations. Are there medications for this sort of thing? What about electro-shock therapy or a minor lobotomy? Is there some sort of 12 Step Program that I can attend? Is there some kind of program I can enter similar to that depicted in Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange? Can anyone attest to the quality of new age therapies involving Shamens and acupuncture? I see that there’s a sea otter named The Big Calabaza that is offering free online cognitive therapy, but I’m really not sure how cognitive therapy with a sea otter would work or whether it’s effective.

I know that the best help comes from those who help themselves, but I really don’t think I can do this alone.

I have learned, through Dr. X’s Free Associations, that my blog is banned in China twice over. I don’t know whether to be proud at being such a notorious public enemy, or to weep that my bourgeois prejudices are so transparent. At the very least, I must really be getting somewhere in the world to require a country numbering in the billions to protect themselves against me.

Just some more quotations from Anti-Oedipus, no commentary.

With his general conception of microcosm-macrocosm relationships, Bergson brought about a discrete revolution that deserves further consideration. Likening the living to a microcosm is an ancient platitude. But if the living organism was thought to be similar to the world, this was attributed to the fact that it was or tended to be an isolated system, naturally closed: the comparison between microcosm and macrocosm was thus a comparison between two closed figures, one of which expressed the other and was inscribed within the other. At the beginning of Creative Evolution, Bergson completely alters the scope of the comparison by opening up both ends. If the living being resembles the world, this is true, on the contrary, insofar as it opens itself to the opening of the world; if it is a whole, this is true to the extent that the whole, of the world as of the living being, is always in the process of becoming, developing, coming into being or advancing, and inscribing itself within a temporal dimension that is irreducible and nonclosed. (AO, 95-6)

I assume these are the sorts of passages Anthony Paul Smith is picking up on in his project of reading Deleuze as an ecological thinker. Such a project is also supported by their discussion of materialist psychiatry, pages 22-35, where the nature/human distinction is collapsed in terms of production. I do, however, think this passage needs to be read alongside Deleuze and Guattari’s discussions of wholes and parts on pages 42-50, where Deleuze and Guattari fiercely critique concepts such as the One, Whole, and Totality– in short the idea of a Universe –while also arguing that wholes come to be as a part alongside the other parts.

There is always that moment I dread when, sitting on an airplane or train, someone asks me what I do for a living. “Oh, I’m a professor and a psychoanalyst.” “Really, wow, what do you teach.” Here I find myself internally cringing, my whole body tightens up. Should I say? “Well, philosophy.” “Philosophy! Tell me, what’s your philosophy? What are the major issues in philosophy today?” Right about this time I want to flee very quickly. How can I answer this question? Am I really a philosopher? I don’t really seem to belong to any discipline. For instance, when, occasionally, this blog is listed on other sites I’m invariably described as a Lacanian theorist that discusses issues pertaining to culture and politics. This always surprises me, as I take myself as primarily interested in issues in metaphysics and epistemology, and see my interests in psychoanalysis as pertaining to issues of the necessity of reconceptualizing the nature of the subject due to discoveries made in the last one hundred or so years in fields such as ethnology, anthropology, sociology, communications theory, psychoanalysis, etc. I take it that these discoveries necessitate new ways of posing very old philosophical questions and concerns.

The situation is worse in job interviews. “Tell us a bit about your research.” Suddenly I feel myself overwhelmed by anxiety and encounter what Heidegger called “being-towards-death”. My research. What is my research? Do I have an overarching project? Do I have some central idea or problem that I’m trying to work through? When I go back and look at what I’ve written in the last ten years I’m often astonished by the consistency of what I’ve thought about, by how I return to the same themes and issues over and over again. Yet when I’m “in it”, it all just seems like a chaotic and random mess. Should I tell them about the figures I’m interested in? Well that strategy isn’t so good as I tend to interpret figures a bit idiosyncratically, so if I talk about my interest in Hegel, for instance, they’ll assume that I advocate a teleological view of history, the idea of a total system of absolute knowledge, and a facile conception of dialectics organized around the infamous triad of theses, antitheses, and syntheses. If I talk about logics of antagonisms, chances are they won’t have the faintest clue as to what I’m talking about. If I talk about what I’m writing at the particular moment and what I plan to write in the near future, then they won’t see a defined project. And if I talk about my interest in Lacan they’ll assume that I’m interested in psychology, not philosophy, not seeing the significance of psychoanalysis with regard to some key philosophical concerns. So it goes.

Digby tells us what we all already knew about the so-called culture wars in the United States:

But let’s be honest here. Lawrence Kudlow and Chris Matthews can drool and grunt all they want about Bill Clinton’s phantom mistress, but if Rudy Giuliani becomes the GOP nominee it means the culture wars are as fake as William Shatner’s hair. Once people realize that, perhaps we can stop talking about how so many people are allegedly against choice, gay rights and other progressive values in this country. Clearly, they don’t care much about any of that, nor do they care about Lieberman’s nonsense about setting a good example for the children. The Christian Right supporting Rudy Giuliani proves that the culture war is nothing but a GOP scam and we can stop obsessively worrying about offending these people with our godless, fancy-pants, big-city ways.

I’ll never cease to be amazed by people who get worked up about gay marraige, homosexuality in general, violence in video games, whether or not there’s prayer in school, or whether or not Walmart says “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” and actually vote based on such issues. This comment is a gem:

The culture wars are fake. The christian right, the msm, the gop are all too clever and canny (and lazy) to stop using the term as a cudgel against us elite liberals.

When their people are gay, it doesn’t matter. When their people are lying, cheating, stealing, murdering hypocrites, it doesn’t matter. Their best and most respected have been caught red-handed doing every single thing that they supposedly stand against, and it’s never mattered to them. Ever.

Nothing matters to them but acquiring and maintaining power. And, as Digby pointed out before, purging their ranks of the ideologically impure, like a Jim Zumbo.

We’re only gonna win with numbers and accurate vote-counting. And even then, we’ll be the monsters, forcing our sinful lifestyle on their children.

So why when this is so glaringly obvious, are the “culture wars” nonetheless such an effective ideological tool for whipping people up into a frenzy? What desire is at work here such as to draw people into these sad passions and furies?

The stuff about Rudy Guiliani is juicy. Who knew he was so deliciously debauched? Read the rest here.

Jodi Dean revisits Freud’s myth of the primal father with a twist borne of contemporary animal ethnology.

Recently, I’ve heard on NPR reports of tool using chimps:

Perhaps even more intriguing, it was only the females who fashioned and used the wooden spears, Jill Pruetz and Paco Bertolani of Iowa State University reported. …

Pruetz noted that male chimps never used the spears. She believes the males use their greater strength and size to grab food and kill prey more easily, so the females must come up with other methods. …

The spear-hunting occurred when the group was foraging together, again unchimplike behavior that might produce more competition between males and females, she said.

If females were using the tools because the powerful males didn’t need to, then perhaps a revision of Freud’s myth of the primal horde’s killing of the father needs to be revised.

Read the rest here.

Infinite Thought has written a very interesting post drawing from my recent post on the materiality of communication, and moving in directions that I did not anticipate.

These ‘communities of sentiment’ that nonetheless never descend into ‘friendship for its own sake’, because, after all, what is a friend chosen in the name of a project shared before the encounter even takes place but something of an entirely different order – this is something that (the ever-poorly-named) weblogs have indeed permitted, and its effectivity continues to intrigue me immeasurably. The elective affinities of those with shared interests/disagreements, regardless of the likelihood of any ‘real’ world encounter, and the way in which these continue to substantiate themselves even in the face of a massive lack of ‘usual’ signs (what someone looks like, their manner, voice, age, sex, etc.) means that the people I continually read (allies and the other thing) have a peculiar, and incredibly distinct, degree of immediate existential reality, despite (or – my favourite phrase! – perhaps because of the intangibility of the online pseudonym, or what amounts to the same thing, the real, yet weightless ‘real’ name. ) I dream of bloggers…

Join the chimps and tigers and get the rest here.

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