June 2016


orpheus5125For Orpheus

My daughter was sweet enough to share her flu with me, so I’m not sure I should be writing as I’m not very together cognitively at the moment.  However, these days I feel as if I have to get things down as they come; so here goes.  Recently my friend Orpheus and I have been having a discussion about reason and politics that has filled me with thought.  If I were to say that there is one inspiration that animates his thought, it would be Spinoza and his idea of adequate ideas.  Spinoza is one of my deepest and oldest philosophical attachments (I began reading him and never stopped after when I was 16; the Ethics and Tractatus were incredibly comforting and important to me in the socio-political context where I grew up), and I am deeply sympathetic to him.  In some ways, for me, the sun rises and sets with Spinoza.

I see him as something of the culmination of the radical Greek philosophical idea that not only can the world be known through reason, not only is it possible to conceive being without transcendence, but that also that the good, the ethical good, is the reason of itself and that we don’t need external sanctions for the good.  Thinking very much in the Hellenistic vein of the Epicureans and Stoics– not to mention Socrates (as opposed to Plato) and even Aristotle –the good is that which would deliver us flourishing or eudaimonia; the life that we all desire.  What is it that Socrates argues in the Apology?  He says that he couldn’t intentionally desire to corrupt the youth because all people by nature desire the good.  Why?  Because it’s good!  The problem is that we’re ignorant of the good.  The radical Greek idea which Spinoza repeats and deepens is that reason can direct us to the good and that knowledge of the good is not the result of authority or commandments, but of inquiry.  Not only does ethics become a branch of therapeutics and medicine, but we could say that just as there are advances in medical science (Foucault and Canguilhem raise all sorts of questions for me here), there are also advances in ethics…  In knowledge of how to live well.  Perhaps, most importantly, as Nussbaum argues, thought, reason, for these thinkers, has the capacity to free us of the destructive desires that animate us.  All genuine clinical practice in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis really has this as its ultimate axiom:  the symbolic has the capacity to act on the real of the jouissance of the symptom.

read on!

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382846-Third_Rock_Fire_Pit_ArtPerhaps everything changes in the nature of our philosophical questions, in the nature of the aims and ends that might animate us, when the future dies.  We need not think this extinction of the future in terms of Brassier’s crushing thought of the extinction of the universe due to heat death as the outcome of the second law of thermodynamics, for with the anthropocene the extinction of the future is here in the form of climate change and the collapse that it will bring.  Heidegger taught us that we are ek-static, that we form ourselves by projecting ourselves into a future.  The present is presenting arising from this projection before ourselves where we find ourselves now by anticipating ourselves.  Yet what happens to this ekstasis when the future becomes extinct or foreclosed?

Hitherto all philosophy has unfolded under a premise so close to us, so proximal, that it didn’t even need to be remarked, interrogated, or noticed:  the premise of a world that remains.  I read in Deleuze’s Nietzsche & Philosophy that the task of philosophy is an overcoming of infinite debt, of that frame of thought that conceives our being and being itself as that which can never be expiated, of a becoming-active of culture to produce or inaugurate a posthuman, posthistorical world.  Yet such a project only makes sense in a world that remains.  For us denizens of the anthropocene the world that remains is the remains of the world.  It is a world of burning embers, of cinders.  We live amidst the remains of the world and of a knowledge that these are the remains of the world.  How can we live in this coming darkness where, like the gods before, the future has taken flight and departed and where it seems as if we can no longer project a future before us?  Are we condemned to howling into this darkness of a future that has departed where no ekstasis is today possible?  I hope it is not as dark as all of this, but it is so very difficult for me to see the twinkling of the future, of a world that remains, today.

51i6Am7vZ9L._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_A short post as I attempt to get myself back into the habit of writing here.  I would like to get back to the place where I’m writing here daily or at least a few times a week, though I confess that I’ve become a bit jaded by online writing and what it often brings and that, in terms of time and responsibilities, my life is quite different than when I was writing frequently here.  Right now my New Centre seminar on Deleuze & Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus is reading Deleuze’s magnificent study Nietzsche & Philosophy.  The reason for this is two-fold:  First, Nietzsche & Philosophy provides the groundwork for understanding Deleuze’s particular conception of critique and, in particular, his concept of “total” and “immanent” critique, both of which will be important for the project of Anti-Oedipus.  Second, the dynamics of ressentiment, bad conscience, and the ascetic that Deleuze develops here provide an important backdrop for understanding the various paralogisms of subjectivity and desire that D&G develop in Anti-Oedipus.

It has been over 15 years since I’ve read this book and in many respects it reads like an entirely new work for me.  However, one of the things that I find striking as I read it is the apparent absence of a causal account of how these types– the man of ressentiment, the man of bad conscience, and the ascetic –come to be.  On the one hand, we get a symptomatology of these types; a description of their features, postures, attitudes, ways of reacting to the world, and behavior.  On the other hand, we get what might be called a “metapsychology” of these types, or how the dynamics of active and reactive forces function to produce these types.  In this regard– and while Deleuze would be careful to distinguish generative/genetic critical philosophies (his own) from transcendental (Kant’s) critical philosophies –Deleuze gives something of a “transcendental” account for the conditions for the possibility of the man of ressentiment, bad conscience, and the ascetic.

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identityA very nice post over at void and form.  A selection:

Pardon my leap here, but this reminded me of an important question in Afro-pessimist scholarship regarding the character of anti-blackness, the structuring principle outlined by authors such as Frank Wilderson to explain the pervasive violence enacted against black people and other persons of color in the United States and across the globe. For Afro-pessimism, enlightenment humanism was constructed by way of the enslavement and transport of Africans in the Middle Passage, and while slavery is abolished on paper, its ‘afterlife’ lives on through an anti-black libidinal economy as enacted in institutions like the prison-industrial complex, US imperialism, and neoliberal capitalism. As outlined in texts such as Jared Sexton and Steve Martinot’s “The Avant-Garde of White Supremacy,” anti-black violence operates as a “paradigm,” which is to say that violence is not isolated to “spectacular” events such as a police shooting, but is “mundane,” ongoing, and everyday. In fact, to focus on these isolated events of blatant racial injustice is to miss the bigger picture, wherein race operates as a structuring principle inhering in the very fabric of our social world, influencing where people live, what they are able to do, and what they are free to think about (for a more focused analysis of one element of this equation, see Loïc Wacquant’s excellent work on ghettoization).

James beautifully continues:

Now, the predictable rejoinder would be that this is not a case of different worlds, but merely of structural differentiation (or perhaps even mere misfortune) within the same world. Why bring in the metaphysical notion of world to explain a social or political situation? The answer is that it’s a useful analytical tool to grasp the pervasive and overarching differences in experience between groups. It’s a difference of worlds because the worlds are experienced differently. It doesn’t have to be a theological matter of this world versus heaven or hell; if we know that anti-black violence is omnipresent and ongoing, and if that violence is so significant that it alters

I would only humbly add that I don’t believe that these worlds are only experienced differently– though that is entirely true and that a key issue is that of which is visible and invisible in each world and how to render the invisible visible in another world –but also that they are materially different.  Power creates different geographies, different paths, along which people can move, reinforcing social differentiations, exclusions, segregations, and all the rest.  There is an architecture of worlds that is not simply experienced, nor symbolically structured, but also structured in the real.  There are many cities within each city and this is not only a matter of experiencing a city differently, nor discoursing and narrating the city differently, but is also a physical or material reality.  Mieville only gets it half right.  These geographies– which are simultaneously phenomenological, symbolic, and real or material –preside over categorizations, structure experience, and preside over paths along which people can move, availability of resources, relations to institutions, and many other things besides.  As Butler has argued in her most recent work, symbolic distributions and sortings of bodies aren’t only a matter of the symbolic, but also involve a differential exposure to precarity or structure vulnerabilities and openness to harm.  Drawing of the sorting between dark, dim, bright, satellites, and black hole objects I develop elsewhere, there is a core question of how this differential structuration and exposure which is dim or barely appearing between worlds can be rendered appearing so that something rogue (revolutionary) might appear reconfiguring the distribution of relations in a cartography.