Perhaps it’s like this. The eternal and universal are not something that is already there, but rather are something that is produced. Here, of course, I’m dancing with Badiou. If it is true that the eternal and universal are something produced, then they are also wagers. No one can know in advance whether something will be eternal or universal. Only time will tell. This entails that both universality and eternity will perpetually face challenges. At any moment these crystals of time could fracture and shatter to pieces. I am here, above all, thinking about works of art. The eternal and universal work of art– song, painting, sculpture, prose, poem, architecture, etc. –is slippery. From the beginning, it doesn’t fit with its time. It’s irreducible and can’t be dated, even if we know its date and its origin. Often it will create strife or controversy; which is to say, discussion. There’s something about it that already exceeds its origin. It doesn’t fit with the culture of its time even while marking that time, nor can it be erased by the biography of the artist. Moreover, it can’t be reduced to a proposition. That is to say, it can’t be translated into a set of statements that would replace it. No, there’s something excessive about it that’s out of joint. It doesn’t fit with its time or author. It belongs without belonging. Yet that is not enough. Not only does it not fit with its time but it doesn’t fit with any time. It travels through time and exists in time, yet no context ever saturates it. Like a rogue planet, it disrupts whatever time it falls into and provokes thought, discussion, and affect, but always in a different way. The origin has produced something that is out of place, a shard of eternity, that travels across time without having a home even though it began somewhere. We say that context stipulates the being of a being, yet crystals of eternity escape all stipulation, instead stipulating. They are absolute orphans and for this reason, universal.
February 14, 2015
A review of Onto-Cartography by Bryan Bannon can be found here. The review is mixed, but generally positive, I think. He speaks of difficulties in individuating machines, yet as I argue, machines are individuated both by their powers and their history. I’ll have to reread OC to see if I develop this point explicitly there, but it is developed in The Democracy of Objects, here on the blog, and in published articles. At one point in the interview he makes the odd claim that “[t]he Deleuzian position on this subject is more sensible: the virtual is wholly indeterminate and is made actual in the specific relations a machine enters into. In many ways, Bryant develops his view out of what I take to be a misunderstanding of Deleuze and Guattari’s position on relationality.” Here it’s worth quoting Deleuze, “…far from being undetermined, the virtual is completely determined” (Difference and Repetition, 209). This is a central point of chapter 4 of Difference and Repetition where the concept of virtuality is most thoroughly developed.
February 12, 2015
In philosophy and theory there is always a struggle with language. While new coinings occasionally take place, the norm is rather that terms must be wrested from ordinary language and put to different uses. There is always a danger here, for the terms continue to carry the connotations of ordinary language, yet theory also attempts to sever some of those connotations and also send the terms in a new or different direction. Aristotle took the Greek word kategorein, meaning “to accuse” and gave it an entirely different inflection far from this connotation. We can imagine how perplexed his audience was and that they said things like “but those aren’t accusations!” as if ordinary language should be a guide to philosophy. Heidegger takes the German term Dasein, meaning to “exist”, and transforms it into an account of being-in-the-world. Theoretical language does not treat ordinary language as a normative authority defining proper and improper use (Wittgenstein’s shameful idea), but instead struggles with the language it is thrown into– for it must work with something –so as to liberate a concept that departs from ordinary language. If ordinary language is the house, not of being, but of doxa, then theory is, in part, a struggle against the doxa housed in ordinary language. Often theory loses in this struggle with ordinary language. Doxa has its day and swallows up the concept through a triumph of common connotations. That’s how it often goes. But there’s no other way.
So it is with the term “ecology”. Ecology is relegated to the status of a regional ontology and is therefore only of interest to philosophers and theorists who work on climate, environmental issues, nature in literature, etc. Ecology, ordinary language says, is an investigation of nature, the environment, climate, and what is green. Those theorists interested in politics, the nature of knowledge. science, art, ethics, literature, society, etc., therefore have– the thinking it goes –no need to attend to ecology. It’s outside their research area.
February 12, 2015
Materialism is paradoxical in two ways. I cite these paradoxes not to criticize materialism, but to attempt to circumscribe the material and how it differs from other orientations of thought. First, it defends the thesis that the being of being is material, the physical, and therefore other than thought, but can only do so through thought. Materialism proceeds through concepts, yet attempts to grasp that which is other than the concept. The material is that which is anterior and posterior to the concept, thought, phenomenality, affect, the lived experience of the body, and signification. It is without meaning, beyond all meaning, and certainly outside of all phenomenological givenness. There is, for example, a radical difference between the lived body (the body of phenomenological experience) and the physiological (material) body. The physiological body can, of course, affect the lived body, yet the lived body is no reliable guide to the material or physiological body.
February 10, 2015
This article by Clive Hamilton, I think, marks what is at stake in the New Materialisms and some of the Speculative Realisms. The issue is not some hackneyed attempt to champion the sciences and objectivity over meaning, but to draw attention to the material dimensions of how we dwell and live. Today, more than ever, we need to reflect on whether the tools of deconstruction, phenomenology, psychoanalysis, Marxist critical theory, and semiotics are adequate to thinking the world we dwell in and how these theoretical orientations might erase the fundamental materiality of existence. This erasure is so thorough that it’s difficult to even discern when working within these theoretical frames for, after all, one can only see what one can see, and being is here reduced to meaning. This critical reflection is not undertaken to erase these methodologies– quite the contrary –but to mark their limits, note their blindspots, and develop a theoretical frame capable of both preserving what is vital in these forms of thought and of moving beyond those limitations. This is what is at stake in the critique of correlationism. Materiality is not phenomenality, a lived experience, a meaning, nor a text– though it can affect all of these things –but something with its own dynamics and forms of power. We need a form of theory capable of thinking that and that avoids the urge to treat everything as texts, meanings, and correlates of intentions.
February 10, 2015
I will be giving a talk entitled “Machine-Oriented Architecture: Oikos and Ecology” for the Architecture Lecture Series before School of Architecture at Texas A & M on March 9th, at 5:45 PM. Machine-oriented architecture explores architecture from the standpoint of operations, acts, and movements, treating the building as an entity that functions, distributing the forces of the cosmos and creating interfaces through the formation of membranes– physical and semiotic –between the broader ecology of the outside and the ecology of the inside. Machine-oriented architecture traces the way in which, through material and semiotic operations, oikos acts on plant, animal, and human bodies, forging, as outputs, various forms of affectivity, life, and interrelations that reflect everything from the living’s relation to the cosmos, to our relations to economy, each other, gender, etc. As is so often the case with the venues where I’m asked to speak and the themes upon which I’m asked to think, I clearly am not an expert on architecture, nor even a dilettante, so hopefully my audience will find something of value in my thoughts. I’m truly honored to be given the opportunity to think on such matters, no matter how crudely I do so. Please join us if you’re able.
January 27, 2015
Despite his greatness in so many other areas, there’s a deep shame in Wittgenstein’s declaration that philosophy is what happens when language goes on holiday. Far from being a mark of shame from which philosophy should be cured, the proper response is “yes!” In philosophy, as in the sciences, mathematics, the arts, and poetry, there is an athleticism of language, an inventiveness that challenges and disrupts what the analytics call “ordinary language”. Philosophy breaks language from its moorings, sending it flying in new trajectories. In this respect, it is what Deleuze and Guattari called a “minor language” and stuttering. It’s left handed. To be sure, philosophy draws on the connotations of ordinary language, but only to send them flying in new and unheard of directions. When Plato utters “eidos” it becomes something other than mere shape. When Aristotle utters the term “category”, it becomes something other than an accusation. When Heidegger utters “Dasein” it comes to mean something other than mere “existence”. All of these connotations are drawn upon, but they become something quite different. Maybe this is why the language of philosophy is always a bit grotesque and shares a resemblance to science fiction; even before science or fiction existed. There is no criticism more shameful in philosophy than the criticism that this is not how people normally use these terms. Quite right. And in this philosophy resembles poetry– as Bertrand Russell noted –while also being a sort of mathematics or science. Philosophy is one way in which ordinary language– which is one form power takes –is made to stutter. Like the poet, but a poet that has a taste for mathematical demonstration and formalism, good philosophy strives to be tectonic with respect to the plates that compose ordinary language.