I’ve picked up Dennett’s Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, and Dawkin’s The God Delusion, out of curiosity about the rhetoric of these texts. What interests me about these works isn’t the sophistication of their arguments, but rather the fact that they’re directed towards a popular audience and are designed to have an impact on popular debates here in the United States. That is, books like this strike me as trying to put an option on the table within the field of popular discourse that isn’t currently there and I’m interested in seeing how this rhetoric functions to do that. In this regard, I certainly don’t share the biologism or scientism of these thinkers, nor am I looking to these works for a scholarly discussion of religious metaphysics versus other ontologies.

The very first paragraph of Dennett’s book caught my eye as it is something that’s come up here at Larval Subjects in my discussions with Orla from time to time. There Dennett writes,

Let me begin with an obvious fact: I am an American author, and this book is addressed in the first place to American readers. I shared drafts of this book with many readers, and most of my non-American readers found this fact not just obvious but distracting– even objectionable in some cases. Couldn’t I make the book less provincial and outlook? Shouldn’t I strive, as a philosopher, for the most universal target audience I could muster? No. Not in this case, and my non-American readers should consider what they can learn about the situation in America from what they find in this book. More compelling to me than the reaction of my non-American readers was the fact that so few of my American readers had any inkling of this bias– or, if they did, they didn’t object. That is a pattern to ponder. It is commonly observed– both in America and abroad –that America is strikingly different from other First World nations in its attitudes to religion, and this book is, among other things, a sounding device intended to measure the depths of those difference. I decided I had to express the emphases found here if I was to have any hope of reaching my intended audience: the curious and conscientious citizens of my native land– as many as possible, not just the academics. (xiii)

It seems to me that if we accept something like Deleuze’s account of individuation and immanence, then we are necessarily led to think in terms of situations or constellations that are geographically local, and that think the constitution of a phenomenon in terms of the context in which it emerges. I don’t know that philosophy has ever thought “geographically” in this way or just how one might go about thinking geographically. Rather, space seems to be something that is perpetually subtracted from the generalizing and totalizing urges of philosophical speculation in ways that are perhaps even more profound than the way in which phenomena are detemporalized.

There have been stabs in the direction of “geophilosophy”. Foucault’s archaeologies and geneaologies are both very situated in how they analyze formations of thought and the bodies that accompany them in terms of their geographical site of emergence. There’s something tremendously irritating in the way Foucault’s analysis of the penal system or the discourse of madness is then generalized as if it can be taken to apply anywhere. For instance, shouldn’t someone write a geneaology of the DSM-IV and how it has functioned in the United States? A geophilosophy would thus be an ecophilosophy, rejecting any sort of generalization for a phenomenon but examining the manner in which it is a technology or way of life deeply wedded to a certain field of singularities or relations. Over at Rough Theory I’ve made a few stabs trying to articulate just what this would be in terms of assemblages and constellations, but I’m still far from being clear as to how to precisely articulate what I’m trying to get at.

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