November 2007


Nick, over at The Accursed Share, has an interesting review of Taylor’s recent book The Secular Age. Nick writes:

What Taylor proposes, however, is an alternative view – one that focuses neither on the secularization of public institutions nor on the secularization of private practices. Rather, he takes a Kantian approach and focuses on ‘the conditions of belief’ and how they have changed over history. While in the other approaches, there may still be remnants of the past that have not changed over time (e.g. swearing on a Bible before testimony, or the various religious traditions that have been retained in private), from the perspective of the conditions of belief, nothing is the same, even for the believer. The reason for this, simply put, is that even for the believer, his/her belief in the transcendent is no longer capable of being the “naïve” and certain view point it once was; instead, one’s belief is self-consciously only one viewpoint amongst many. (Of course, there were dissenters from the naïve certainty in transcendence in the past – Taylor mentions Epicureanism as a philosophy that denied the relevance of gods to human life – but it is only in our secular age that such an option has become not only widespread, but in many ways the default position.) Even among devout believers, there are times and spaces in life where they must eschew their belief and take on the perspective of the non-believer; or they must acknowledge that other perspectives are perfectly valid in themselves.

From my perspective, the really interesting point of this work, however, is that Taylor explicitly sets up the argument to examine and answer the question of “how did the alternatives become thinkable?” (25). In other words, how did the conditions of belief shift over time such that new possibilities that were previously impossible become thinkable? Moreover, Taylor notes that it is not a matter of simply removing some sort of religious blinder (as people like Dawkins would have us believe) which would then open our eyes to possibilities which were there all along. Rather, “secularity is the fruit of new inventions, newly constructed self-understandings and related practices” (22). It is the construction of these new practices and self-understandings and the construction of new conditions of belief that produce an assemblage in which new possibilities become thinkable and, indeed, naturalized. In this sense, secularization can even be seen as a revolution in thought, insofar as revolution involves making what was previously deemed impossible into the possible (and even the necessary). Finally, Taylor’s work holds interest to me insofar as he defines religion in terms of a belief in transcendence. The history of secularization, therefore, is the story of the emergence of immanence over time.

Although I’ve had mixed feelings about Taylor– though always enjoying his books –this sounds like exactly the right way of posing the question. If we take seriously the standpoint of immanence, we cannot treat such cultural shifts as the work of sovereign individuals (like Freud, Nietzsche, Marx, and Darwin) who came up with ideas of genius, but must instead ask what were the conditions under which such thinkers could be individuated in the first place, or rather what had changed socially and culturally for such possibilities to become thinkable? As Deleuze and Guattari argue in “The Postulates of Linguistics” (A Thousand Plateaus) and Kafka: Towards a Minor Literature, all enunciations are collective enunciations. To speak, in other words, is to inflect and iterate the social field within which one speaks. Or as they dramatically put it, to speak is to repeat. Consequently, we cannot see such transformations coming from sovereign individuals, but must look at broader, systematic shifts taking place in the social field. We’re still learning how to engage in this sort of analysis, though Marx and others have taught us a lot as to just what such forms of analysis look like. Along these lines, early Marx, especially, places religion at the forefront of his analysis, arguing that it is failed politics, while paying great respect to it nonetheless. The infamous Jewish Question is especially important reading in this regard for those interested in how Marx was thinking about religious alienation, whatever else its other drawbacks might be. My thanks to Nick for bringing this to my attention. I look forward to reading it after things slow down a bit.

Nick has also posted a translation of the first half of Simondon’s dissertation. For those not in the know, this is vital reading for anyone interested in understanding Deleuze. Simondon is one of the central, if not the central, influences on Deleuze’s account of intensities and individuation. This is terrific. Now if someone would just translate all of L’individuation, so I don’t have to slog through reaching for the dictionary whenever confronted with the technical scientific language. It’s a real scandal that Simondon and Maimon have not yet been translated.

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For those who have not yet come across it, I cannot recommend The Psychoanalytic Field enough. Fadi, the blog owner, is a psychoanalyst practicing in Toronto. What makes his work so interesting is the deft way in which he weaves together a number of psychoanalytic theorists with clinical practice; especially Lacan and Deleuze and Guattari. Fadi simultaneously subjects Lacan to a critique through the lens of Deleuze and Guattari and other psychoanalytic theorists, and subjects Deleuze and Guattari to critique through a clinical lens and the lens of other psychoanalysts. Although there is a wealth of interesting material on this blog, this post recently caught my attention:

My incursion into this bit of intellectual and institutional history helps me situate Anti-Oedipus not only within the psychoanalytic context but also within that of one of the most pressing concerns that have marked the twentieth century. Deleuze and Guattari were by no means impermeable to the pressures and pleasures to take sides in the experience versus abstraction debate: Einstein/Heisenberg, Freud/Lacan. One might even extend the scenario to the artistic domain and add, for instance, Picasso/Kandinsky to the list of couplets.

However, Deleuze and Guattari opted for the third possibility, the one that neither physics nor psychoanalysis had acknowledged. I am referring here to that possibility one finds in Nietzsche’s, or at least in Deleuze’s reading of Nietzsche’s, works. Indeed, Deleuze had already argued that Nietzsche’s reversal of Platonism did not consist in the privileging of experience at the expense of abstraction since Plato himself never did dismiss experience in the first place. What the Greek philosopher had actually done was to prioritise amongst the various experiences in order to distinguish between the good copies of the ideal and universal Forms from their bad and cheap imitations.

For those of you who might be a bit uncomfortable with my characterization of Lacan as a Platonist, you might want to keep in mind the practices of selection and valuation that the schemas of the Platonic Form and the Lacanian Symbolic discharge through the couplets good copy/cheap imitation and full speech/empty speech respectively.

In any case, and to return to Deleuze’s Nietzsche, a reversal of Platonism is effected only when the distinction good copy/bad copy and the system of reference upon which it is based (the Form) have been dismantled. For Nietzsche, the antithesis of the duality true world (Form) and apparent world (copy) is ostensibly the duality world and nothing (The Will to Power #567).

Read the rest here.

This, I think, is critique in the best sense of the word. For me the suggestion that Lacan, or more properly Lacanianism suffers from Platonism is apropos. I describe as Platonist or Idealist any position that posits structures as timeless essences of which things are mere copies or reflections. There are tendencies in Lacan that move in both directions. That is, it is possible to give a reading of Lacan that accords with the principles of historical materialism (specifically the thesis that all beings have a genesis in time), and to give a reading that would be strictly Platonist (and not in Badiou’s positive sense of the term). This is no small metaphysical issue, but will have profound implications for both clinical practice and for the sorts of questions the social or “critical theorist” asks.

I’ve increasingly come to feel that a number of misguided questions emerge among Lacanians that relate to his thought Platonically. This Platonism can be discerned in those approaches that treat the four discourses as eternal and unchanging structures, and which treat the name-of-the-father as an invariant and necessary cross-cultural structure for any “normal” subjectivity. At root, the four discourses are made up of four terms: objet a, the barred subject ($), the master-signifier (S1), and the signifier of the Other (S2). Based on this observation alone, we can generate not just four discourses, but a variety of different matrices that would be organized in very different way. Lacan, for instances, introduces a fifth discourse, the Discourse of the Capitalist, that would consequently have three other permutations and which would be organized in very different ways. Lacan represents this discourse as follows:

$—>S2
–….–
S1….a

This is a markedly different discourse than any of the four discourses we’ve all come to know and love, and has three additional permutations which have gone almost completely undiscussed. By my reckoning, there are actually six different possible permutations of the four terms making up any discourse, thus allowing for not four but twenty-four possible discourses or combinatorials. The point here is that these structures are far more fluid and open than is often suggested. The fact that Lacan introduced a fifth discourse is highly suggestive of the possibility that he suspected we were moving to a new cultural organization. Lacan suggests this in a number of places with regard to the four discourses, when he talks about the passing of the master.

Talk of the passing of the master brings me to my next point. Today we hear a lot of hand-waving about the “decline of symbolic efficacy” and the faltering of the name-of-the-father. To my thinking, this sort of talk immediately reveals where one stands with respect to Lacan’s later work, for there Lacan directly says that “one can do without the name-of-the-father so long as one makes use of it”. That aside, the problem with this sort of talk is precisely its Platonism or essentialism. Because it treats these structures as invariant or timeless, it can only see such a faltering of the name(s)-of-the-father as a crisis, and is thereby led to talk about the “decline of symbolic efficacy” ™. However, quoting Zizek quoting Wagner– who himself engages in a lot of this sort of hand-waving… At least in The Ticklish Subject –we are cured by the spear that smote us. Arguing that the faltering of the name-of-the-father is accompanied by a decline of symbolic efficacy is to also claim that the symbolic must (essentially) be supported by the name-of-the-father. What it doesn’t allow is the possibility of alternative forms of organization that will create their own forms of subjectivity and their own sorts of symptoms. As a result of this essentialism or Platonism, we get a reactionary and pessimistic form of Lacanian psychoanalysis that even goes so far as to defend the traditional nuclear family, oppose queer lifestyles, etc., as it sees this as the only way of preserving symbolic efficacy. However, not only does Lacan historicize his claims in a number of places, but this is directly contrary to Lacan’s own theoretical praxis, which treats its concepts as fluid, open, and constantly developing in relation to case materials, shifting historical conditions, etc. What should be a dynamic thing that shifts and changes as a function of practice, instead becomes reified and crystalized, generating the wrong sorts of questions. This bleeds into the clinic as well, forcing certain forms of interpretation, and generating a lethal set of a prioris about what’s going on with the analysand that renders hearing the discourse of the analysand impossible (as the speech of the analysand becomes occluded by the theoretical anticipations of the analyst). Later Lacan, by contrast, develops a far more variagated clinic based on the Borromean Knots, that allows for a much more complex symptomology… A symptomology, incidentally, that no longer requires one to trace everything back to the Oedipus. This move was already announced, prior to the development of the Borromean Knots, when Lacan declares that the Oedipus is Freud’s myth. That is, that the Oedipus is a symptom of Freud’s in need of interpretation, not a universal structure of the unconscious. Somehow these points seem to be glossed again and again.

Structures and mathemes are wonderful things, but they lose their explanatory power when they become Platonic forms or Idealistic essences that prevent the phenomena from speaking from the phenomena. What is needed is a far more fluid, open, historicized development of psychoanalytic theory. Above all it would be worthwhile to approach the question of the matheme in terms of the anxiety experienced by the analyst, for all too often it seems that the matheme functions as a sort of defense, granting the analyst a sense of mastery that reduces the opacity of the phenomenon. Yet this reduction is also a distortion that prevents one from hearing. There can be no doubt that hearing is the most difficult thing an analyst can do. There are few things more anxiety provoking than trying to make your way about in the opaque maze of the analysand’s discourse. A yearning emerges for interpretative master-keys that would authorize one’s interpretations (given so many terrifying and distressing things can happen in an analysis as a result of one’s interpretative interventions), and that would cut through the confusing maze of the analysand’s unconscious. Yet as Lacan said, the discourse of the master is the other side of psychoanalysis.

Should I ever find the time to write another book, this is precisely the theme I’d like to work with. Far from being opponents of Lacan, I see Deleuze and Guattari as highly sympathetic to Lacan’s thought, but as providing a necessary corrective to his thought by introducing historical conditions of production into the unconscious, i.e., by “Marx-ifying” Lacan. Indeed, among all the French theorists today, I think they show the most fidelity to the letter of Marx (which makes it bizarre that they’re so often said to be anti-Marxist). It is indeed interesting that those that chirp the loudest about Marx seem to be the most remote from Marx in terms of Marx’s style of analysis. One could even go so far as to say that both Badiou and Zizek have inverted Marx, making consciousness determine the world rather than material conditions of production determining consciousness. On the other hand, Lacan introduces desire into Marx, giving us the means to account for ideological formations and the structuration of desire in and through the social field in a way that is woefully underdeveloped (though virtually present) in Marx himself. Hopefully such a work would be an intervention in both how Deleuzians tend to talk about Lacan and psychoanalysis and how Lacanians tend to talk about Deleuze and Marxism. Clearly I have a long way to go in developing all this.

At any rate, take a look at Fadi’s blog. It is well worth the time.

From Marx’s draft of a A Contribution to a Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right:

The ‘state formalism’ which bureaucracy is, is the ‘state as formalism’; and it is as a formalism of this kind that Hegel has described as bureaucracy. Since this ‘state formalism’ constitutes itself as an actual power and itself becomes its own material content, it goes without saying that the ‘bureaucracy’ is a web of practical illusions, or the ‘illusion of the state.’ The bureaucratic spirit is a jesuitical, theological spirit through and through. The bureaucrats are the jesuits and theologians of the state…

Since by its very nature the bureaucracy is the ‘state as formalism’, it is this also as regards its purpose. The actual purpose of the state therefore appears to bureaucracy as an objective hostile to the state. The spirit of the bureaucracy is the ‘formal state spirit.’ The bureaucracy therefore turns the ‘formal state spirit’ or the actual spiritlessness of the state into a categorical imperative. The bureaucracy takes itself to be the ultimate purpose of the state. Because the bureaucracy turns its “formal” objectives into its content, it comes into conflict everywhere with ‘real’ objectives. It is therefore obliged to pass off the form for the content and the content for the form… The bureaucracy is a circle from which no one can escape. Its hierarchy is a hierarchy of knowledge. The top entrusts the understanding of detail to the lower levels, whilst the lower levels credit the top with understanding of the general, and so all are mutually deceived.

The bureaucracy is the imaginary state alongside the real state– the spiritualism of the state. Each thing has therefore a double meaning, a real and bureaucratic meaning, just as knowledge (and also the will) is both real and bureaucratic… The bureaucracy has the state, the spiritual essence of society, in its possession, as its private property. The general spirit of the bureaucracy is the secret, the mystery, preserved within itself by the hierarchy and against the outside world by being a closed corporation. Avowed political spirit, as also political-mindedness, therefore appear to the bureaucracy as treason against its mystery. Hence, authority is the basis of its knowledge, and the deification of authority is its conviction. Within the bureaucracy itself, however, spiritualism becomes crass materialism, the materialism of passive obedience, of faith in authority, of the mechanism of fixed and formalistic behaviour, and of fixed principles, views, and traditions.

Kafka can be read as a cartogropher of these jesuitical or theological illusions. A couple more passages:

The fact is that the state issues from the multitude in their existence as members of families and as members of civil society. Speculative philosophy [Hegel’s system] expresses this fact as the idea’s deed, not as the idea of the multitude, but as the deed of a subjective idea different from the fact itself

Marx argues that the State is constituted from the multitudes, not the multitude from the State. Here there are strong resonances with Deleuze’s theory of individuation and Badiou’s ontology of multiplicities. Deleuze’s theory of individuation pertains to the process by which individuals are individuated or produced, not what allows us to distinguish one substantial individual from another. Like Badiou, identity, for Deleuze, is always a product come second, an effect, a product, a result. Identities must be constituted. Similarly, for Badiou, the Same is only ever constituted through the operation of the count-as-one. As such, these two accounts of entity provide fertile ground for an ontology of historical materialism, as historical materialism rejects any idealistic thesis of ahistorical essences– viz., an essential human nature, for instance –underlying being. We also encounter one of the major problems with Luhmann’s social systems theory here. Insofar as Luhmann places individuals outside social systems, he reproduces the optical illusion whereby the State is an entity in its own right over and above those that constitute the state. More on this in a moment. Marx makes a similar point regarding individuation a moment later in his Contribution, when he writes:

If Hegel had set out from real subjects as the bases of the state he would not have found it necessary to transform the state in a mystical fashion into a subject. “In truth, however,” says Hegel, “subjectivity exists only as subject, personality only as person.” This too is a piece of mystification. Subjectivity is a characteristic of the subject, personality a characteristic of the person. Instead of conceiving them as predicates of their subjects, Hegel gives the predicates an independent existence and subsequently transforms them in a mystical fashion into their subjects.

In short, Hegel fails to attend to the manner in which individuals are individuated or produced; or as Marx will much later put it in the Preface to his Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy,

In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure, and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness… Just as our opinion of an individual is not based on what he thinks of himself, so can we not judge of such a period of transformation by its own consciousness; on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained rather from the contradictions of material life, from the existing conflict between the social productive forces and the relations of production. No social order ever perishes before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have developed; and new, higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society itself. Therefore mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve; since, looking at the matter more closely, it will always be found that the task itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution already exist or are at least in the process of formation.

The network of production, exchange, distribution, and consumption will each produce its own specific social organizations and forms of subjectivity. For instance, production is not just the production of goods, but also requires the production of subjectivities. For instance, there is a qualitative difference between a Greek or Roman slave, a Serf, and an Industrial Laborer, such that all these forms of subjectivity must be produced or individuated. To discern this it will be necessary to analyze the network within which these forms of embodiment and affect emerge. In Grundrisse, Marx will go so far as to say that production is immediately consumption and consumption is immediately production. In this connection, he is speaking of the manner in which the body and tools are consumed in producing. However, he also alludes to how forms of art must produce their audience so that they might be “consumed”. Here, already, Marx anticipates Baudrillard’s critique in For a Critique of the Political Economy of Signs.

Returning to Contributions to a Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Marx goes on to remark that,

Democracy is the truth of monarchy; monarchy is not the truth of democracy. Monarchy is necessarily democracy inconsistent with itself; the monarchial element is not an inconsistency in the democracy. Monarchy cannot be understood in its own terms; democracy can. In democracy none of the elements attains a significance other than what is proper to it. Each is in actual fact only an element of the whole demos [people]. In monarchy one part determines the character of the whole. The entire constitution has to adapt itself to this fixed point. Democracy is the genus Constitution. Monarchy is one species, and a poor one at that. Democracy is content and form. Monarchy is supposed to be only a form, but it falsifies the content.

In monarchy the whole, the people, is subsumed under one of its particular modes of being, the political constitution. In democracy the constitution itself appears only as one determination, that is, the self-determination of the people. In monarchy we have the people of the constitution; in democracy the constitution of the people. Democracy is the solved riddle of all constitutions. Here, not merely implicitly and in essence but existing in reality, the constitution is constantly brought back to its actual basis, the actual human being, the actual people, and established as the peoples own work. The constitution appreas as what it is, a free product of man.

In this passage Marx plays brilliantly on the two senses of the signifier “constitution”. On the one hand, constitution, of course, refers to a political document. Yet on the other hand, “constitution” is a verb signifying “to constitute”, “make”, or “produce”. In constitution we make, set up, or establish a structure. Marx is here drawing on Feuerbach’s critique of religion and applying it to Hegel’s political philosophy. If democracy is the “truth” of monarchy, then this is because that which is veiled in monarchy becomes clear in democracy. Monarchy is premised on an optical illusion in which the monarch rules by virtue of power that flows directly from his being. However, the monarch only has power as a monarch insofar as he is recognized as a monarch. It is the multitudes– in this case multitudes that have been counted or individuated as subjects –that recognize the monarch as a monarch. Yet these subjects experience themselves as subjected and do not recognize that the power of the monarch issues from them. By contrast, in democracy, this optical effect disappears and the multitudes constitute themselves through themselves or their own action.

I realize all of these thoughts are very scattered and disjointed, but I thought I would throw them up here anyway. It seems to me that Marx’s remarks here are an important reminder of the aims of any sort of revolutionary practice. Increasingly, in works of political theory and about the blogosphere, we have heard heroic flirtations with strong State forms as necessary for political intervention. This comes especially from the Zizek camp. We have also heard dismissals of certain forms of politics surrounding feminisms, queer movements, various minority movements, etc., as if the principles of historical materialism have been entirely forgotten, i.e., that while we should engage in ruthless critique we must nonetheless ask why these political forms are emerging in precisely these circumstances and what truly revolutionary potentials they might contain. The Marx of Contributions to a Critique of Hegel, of course, is the humanist Marx, well preceding the Marx of Grundrisse and Capital. Nonetheless, it seems to me that this conception of multitudes, of the demos, remains. The question is how it might be thought. I would cautiously suggest that we have never seen democracy.

My apologies for not posting anything lately. I have nearly completed the copy-editing for Difference and Givenness, though I still have a ways to go with the index. I think God punishes academics in Hell by punishing them with indexing. On a more positive note, upon rereading, I am extremely pleased with the book. Hopefully I won’t be the only one.

The Theory Reading Group at Cornell University invites submissions for its
fourth annual interdisciplinary spring conference

The Substance of Thought: Critical and Pre-Critical

featuring keynote speakers Simon Critchley (The New School for Social
Research) and Alberto Toscano (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Cornell University
Ithaca, New York
April 10th-12th, 2008
http://www.arts.cornell.edu/trg/conf2008.html

The last few decades have witnessed a struggle within continental
philosophy between those thinkers who accept Immanuel Kant’s “Copernican
Revolution” and those who refuse critical philosophy in favor of a
“classical” metaphysics that, in the words of Alain Badiou, “considers the
Kantian indictment of metaphysics…as null and void.” This conference will
consider the conflict between “critical” and “classical” or metaphysical
strains in contemporary thought. Has critical philosophy run its course,
as Badiou suggests? Or has Kant’s critical turn determined the horizon of
all future philosophical work? Or is there an alternative path?

We are interested in analyzing the contemporary division between thinkers
who prescribe a return to the pre-critical metaphysics of, for example,
Spinoza, Leibniz, or Lucretius, and those who continue to take up various
trajectories of Kant’s critical legacy. The former camp might include
Deleuze and Badiou as well as Negri and Althusser, while the latter might
include Adorno, Benjamin, Heidegger, and Derrida. We particularly wish to
encourage work that takes a stand on the conflict between the two camps,
as well as work that considers the implications of the conflict for the
arts and social sciences. The wide range of our inquiry includes
interrogations of the nature of critique, the fate of aesthetics, the
privilege accorded to immanence or transcendence, and the status of
materialism.

Suggested paper topics include (but are not limited to):

– transcendence and immanence
– Derrida and Deleuze
– negation and affirmation
– finite and infinite
– the rebirth of rationalism
– aesthetic ideologies
– quasi-, ultra-, immanent-transcendental
– the Althusserian legacy
– the one and the multiple
– the persistence of the dialectic
– the fate of aesthetics
– the return to Kant
– the future of the linguistic turn
– the question of critique
– futures of Marxism
– philosophies of experience
– univocity, equivocity
– the limits of representation
– the historical a priori
– the genesis of subjectivity
– the possibility of materialism
– affects, passions
– the role of the negative
– the new philosophy of science
– political ontology
– the return of nature philosophy
– radical Spinoza
– rhetoric and philosophy

The deadline for submission of 250-word paper abstracts for 20-minute
presentations is February 1, 2008. Please include your name, e-mail
address, and phone number. Please email abstracts to theory@cornell.edu.
Notices of acceptance will be sent no later than February 15, 2008. For
more information about the Theory Reading Group, visit
http://www.arts.cornell.edu/trg.

The final proofs for Difference and Givenness arrived today. It is exhilarating to finally see over five years of work coming to completion, all so nicely laid out on crisp clean pages. The next two weeks will consist of frenetically proofing the final draft and pulling together an index. Despite the excitement of it all, I am also terrified. My thoughts on Deleuze have evolved and change over time, yet here I am now, inscribed in this text. I also feel that I am at something of an existential crossroads here. So long as I have lived in anonymity, I have been free to range across the most contradictory thoughts. I could simultaneously embrace Deleuze, Lacan, Badiou, Hegel, Marx, Plato, Lucretius, various phenomenologists, and many others besides. Now I shall have to find some way to put all these things together in one space. Or perhaps this is the wrong way of thinking about the issue. Perhaps philosophy should be conceived as a pastiche or patchwork.

holb-ambas-largefrontal.jpg

Shahar Ozeri of Perverse Egalitarianism has written a very interesting post responding to my diary Language and Passivity, and Paco’s diary Is Philosophy Irrelevant?

This question really, at least for me, cuts to the heart of the problem. For one, the traditional idea of liberal education is to foster a critical consciousness. Yet, if Paco is correct about the decline of the broader structure of the University–from a marketplace of ideas to a bottom line minded business–the university simply reflects the broader culture, which is largely anti-intellectual, disapproves of critique and as a whole tends to reward social status not talent. One thing is certain: many of our students simply refuse to think things through, or think, in the most Heidegarrian sense. I don’t know how to produce such a critical consciousness in my students either, other than trying over and over to point it out. This is interesting, one of the more odd things that my students could just not wrap their minds around was the emotive use of language, that it’s not necessarily mere emotion.

Anyway, all of this has gotten me thinking about two figures I haven’t thought about in quite some time: the (under-rated) Roland Barthes and (always interesting) Louis Althusser, who both point to this very phenomenon of the passivity of language I think.

Unfortunately, I am far too exhausted this evening to comment at length, but I did want to throw out a couple of thoughts for future development. I do not know whether this situation is unique to our age. Following Lacan, I am inclined to think that ignorance is one of the three passions… That we have a passion for ignorance. Thus, while I am sympathetic to the thesis that the decline of print culture and the rise of the spectacle has also had a developmental impact on the nature of our cognitive structures, I suspect that by and large things were not much better in the past. I’ll get to this in a moment.

Read on
(more…)

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