burn_the_witch_avatarIt took me a long time to understand what Deleuze and Guattari were on about with their rhapsodic tributes to the logic of the “and”, though perhaps I had always thought in these terms.  It turns out that it’s very difficult to think in terms of the “and”, even if they might seem to be simple conjunctions.  For whatever reason we like the logic of or.  We see this all over the place in the world of theory.  Social reality is structured by language/signs or by things or by the minds and beliefs of individuals or by the way in which evolutionary history has structured our psychology.  Either… or… or… or.  With the logic of the or, wackiness ensues.  We get a war of all against all as they assert their favored term as the ground of everything else.  “It’s language!”  “No it’s things!”  “No it’s the beliefs of individuals.”  “Burn the witch!”  “It’s lived experience!”  “No, it’s neurology!”  “No, it’s ideology without a subject!”  “Kill the heretic!”

real-estate-clock-frozen-paradigmThe logic of the or is substantialist, essentialist, and practices ontological apartheid.  It understands positions as being like oil and water, essentially incapable of mixing.  It is substantialist in the sense that it wants univocal identities without any contamination.  Or encounters and as a threat to its identity and its ability to master the world that it seeks to comprehend.  One of the peculiar features of or logic is its atemporality.  Consider an academic conference.  Jane Bennett gets up and gives a talk.  At one point in her talk, Bennett speaks favorably of research that shows the impact of omega-3 fatty acids on attention, cognition, and affect.  She then proceeds to talk about the phenomenological experience of birds as described by Uexkull, and further on does a linguistic and semiotic analysis of a journalistic article discussing Hurricane Sandy.  During her entire talk, a gentleman of the Lacano-Derridean persuasion, clothed all in black and leather with a streak of blue in his hair and multiple piercings and tattoos as grown darker and darker in his seat, sighing and fidgeting the entire time.  Across the way, a woman of the Merleau-Pontyian phenomenological persuasion, wearing a “witchy” skirt and fabulous boots has been glaring scowling.

read on!

bbimagesEnthusiastic applause following Bennett’s warm, earnest, and brilliant talk.  The Q&A session arrives.  Hands shoot up, but our Lacano-Derridean and Merleau-Pontyian pipe up before the moderator has a chance to call on anyone.  “So basically you’re telling us that we should abandon textual, semiotic, and phenomenological analysis in the name of a scientistic discourse premised on the bio-political, naively realist, and neoliberal practices of biology and neurology?  Aren’t you worried that you’re reinforcing the most oppressive forces of the world today, opening the door to an administered instrumental rationality leading to eugenics such as we saw in the old psychiatric institutions, and supporting gulags and concentration camps?”  Bennett looks at them perplexed and is flummoxed.  “But I also gave phenomenological analyses of various different fields of experience and engaged in a semio-linguistic analysis of a text.”  Her interlocutors look back steadfastly, unimpressed.  “But you are calling for the reduction of everything to biology, aren’t you?  Isn’t that what you were saying about omega-3 fatty acids?”  The discussion continues with Bennett pointing out that not even biology holds these determinist positions, with a discussion of how there’s an inmixing of experience, biology, the broader natural world, and the cultural world; yet everything is frozen in time, around this point here she spoke of omega-3 fatty acids.  In the logic of the or there is never an also, only ever an either.  We see this often in the reception of texts as well.  Forgetting that everything cannot be said at once because texts and discourses must unfold in time, the champion of the or castigates a textual vignette for not talking about this other thing.  Disjunctive logics are therefore territorial.  They are about policing their boundaries, ensuring that their central axioms are never questioned, and approach their theoretical others as a priori instances of being duped or deluded.  The Lacanian, for example, begins from the a priori premise that any suggestion that omega-3 fatty acids could play a role in the presence or absence of aggression is inherently mistaken because we all know that aggression is a phenomenon of the Imaginary and how it’s structured arising out of the mirror stage.  The theorist that suggests otherwise just hasn’t seen the truth of the Imaginary.  I know this because I’ve been in high priest or border guard of territorial boundary guarding on occasion.

wine_grapesIt’s hard to think the and.  The and is not this or that, but is what transpires between this and that.  For example, in the becoming of a wine, this between is neither the grape nor the soil, but what transpires between the grape and the soil as the grape develops.  The grape is transformed as a result of soil and climate conditions that year, and soil and climate conditions are transformed as well.  The hardest thing to think, really, is this between of the and.  In the world of theory, when we think according to the logic of and, it’s not a question of suggesting that, for example, we should adopt either the neurological or the phenomenological or the semiotic.  Rather, it is a question of thinking what transpires between these domains when they exist– as they do –in conjunction with one another.  It is a question of thinking how the biological, physical, and neurological transforms our understanding of the phenomenological and semiotic, but also how the phenomenological transforms the physical and semiotic, and how the semiotic transforms the biological and the phenomenology.  None of these domains is left unchanged through their encounter with one another because whenever a conjunction occurs, something passes between that sets all the terms in becoming such that some of their elements have to be abandoned, others added, and the general problematic as a whole is transformed.

The Lacanian that encounters neurology does not simply abandon her Lacanianism, but she also can’t dogmatically retain all elements of her Lacanianism as she did before.  Elements of Lacanianism transform neurology (for there is no Other or dimension of the Other in neurology and the Lacanian knows all about the Other), while elements of neurology transform Lacanianism.  Likewise, the phenomenologist that encounters semiology can no longer have the simple faith in intuition and lived experience that he had before, because he has now learned of the anonymous play of the signifier and the subject (there’s no resemblance between the Lacanian subject and the phenomenological subject), and the manner in which the signifier transforms the given.  However, semiology is not left unchanged by its encounter with phenomenology either.  A logic of the and in the world of theory is not a logic of choice where one must choose positions to the detriment of others, but is rather a logic of becoming, where all of the diverse strains of theory are led to internal transformations as a result of what transpires between them or their encounter with one another.  And so powerful is the logic of the and, that it is even capable of becoming in response to the logic of the or.  In other words, conjunctive logics are capable of saying “and also or!”