The last two weeks have been extremely productive for me, leading to the writing of three articles. For Identities: Journal of Gender, Politics, and Culture. I wrote an article entitled “Of Parts and Politics: Onticology and Queer Theory” that develops an onticological account of politics and the subject. For the Open Court Dungeons and Dragons anthology, I wrote an article entitled “Substantial Powers”. Due to some weird editorial decisions, this will actually turn into two articles, one entitled “Powerful Objects” that develops an account of the substance of objects as powers or capacities, and another entitled “Alliances and a Throw of the Dice” that gives an account of how compound objects are formed through linkages with objects, and an account of how chance presides over relations between objects and their actualizations. Finally, I’ve written an article entitled “The Time of the Object: Derrida, Luhmann, and the Processual Nature of Substances”, for the Metaphysics and Things collection that resulted from the Claremont Speculative Realism conference last year. This paper draws heavily on Derrida’s account of différance to give an account of the substantiality of substance as process or activity. I’d be happy to share any of these articles with anyone who asks so long as you don’t distribute them on the internet.
I’m quite pleased with all three articles and think there’s a lot of unfamiliar stuff here for readers of Larval Subjects. At any rate, over at Object-Oriented Philosophy Graham, describing his own experience with the anxiety of writing and his endless revisions of his own writing when he was younger, has said that you just need to sit down and write. I’m increasingly finding that this is true. The Lacanian and Luhmannian in me helps to understand why writing is so anxiety provoking. On the one hand, Luhmann argues that meaning is the unity of an actual articulation and all the potential articulations that could have been made. Someone says “Pynchon means x in The Crying of Lot 49” and that articulation is meaningful precisely because it resonates with all the other possible claims about this novel that could have been articulated. The reason that articulation is anxiety provoking is because 1) to articulate is to be forced to select, such that your articulation necessarily generates anxiety (as Sartre so poetically articulated in his analysis of choosing in Being and Nothingness), and, more profoundly, 2) the manner in which the other potential articulations haunt the actual selection, such that one’s selection is revealed as contingent. The trauma of meaning is that other selections were always possible, such that there’s no way to ultimately justify your selection of this choice. What you actualize in meaning will always be “leaky”.
On the other hand, from the Lacanian perspective, our anxiety arises from the belief that there is a “big Other” that knows. Lacan argued that the essence of transference consists in our belief in a “subject supposed (i.e., conjectured/believed) to know”. The psychoanalyst’s interventions can affect our unconscious because we believe that the psychoanalyst has knowledge and, in particular, knowledge of our symptom. Outside the psychoanalytic setting, this transference manifests itself in the belief in an “abstract”, indeterminate, subject that “knows”. This belief dries up all possibility of writing because 1) when we encounter objections we situate the person that objects in the place of the “subject conjectured to know”, thereby leading us to believe that our work is shit, or 2) we believe that this abstract “subject conjectured to know” already knows what we are saying and that therefore there is no point in us articulating it.
Kierkegaard and Sartre were right: unless you take a “leap of faith” or simply choose despite the absolute contingency of your decision, you will never manage to write or produce work, whether you’re a philosopher, a social scientist, a scientist, an artist, a poet, and novelist, etc. Until you can accept the contingency of your decision and follow, as Badiou might say, the logic of its unjustifiable deductive fidelity, until you overcome your belief that there is an Other that “knows” and not just others that are navigating their way through the contingency of existence, you will never write. All you can do is throw your dice, maintain deductive fidelity to your decision, value your encounters, and hope for the best. You will never please everyone because, as Luhmann observes, every decision is contingent and could have been otherwise. Some will hate it, others will be mystified, others will love it, some will be indifferent. You will never know why they respond in these various ways, nor will you ever be able to make a move that pleases and appeals to everyone. The most paralyzing thing is always the belief that we know what others desire and our belief that there is someone out there that knows. All you can do is make your cut, make your distinction, and choose. We are always looking for masters, leaders, sovereigns, and priests that we believe “know” so as to extinguish the anxiety of the contingency of our choices. What we don’t recognize is that our very act of choosing these phallic priests and kings is our choice and that, as Sartre recognized in “Existentialism is a Humanism”, a way of transferring our decision to someone else even though that choice of someone whose voice can “speak truth for us” is still a voice that we chose. The tragedy is that our very desire for a father is also the source of the extinction of our ability to speak and act. We believe they’ve already done so in our stead. You must kill your mother and father to act and write.
Next up? I have to prepare my papers for the New York events and write a preface on wilderness ontology and dark ecology for the wonderful art catalog Celina Jeffery is putting together revolving around the theme of the “preturnatural”. So I muddle through.