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Here is another nice post from Dark Chemistry on Graham Harman as smasher of objects, which he opens with a fine quote from one of my articles on Artaud, Deleuze, will to nothingness and literature.

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Where would I go, if I could go, who would I be, if I could be, what would I say, if I had a voice, who says this saying it’s me? Answer simply. It’s the same old stranger as ever, for existence, of his, of ours, there’s a simple answer. It’s not with thinking he will find me, but what is he to do, living and bewildered, yes, living, say what he may.[1]

Yes, there are moments, like this moment, when I seem almost restored to the feasible. Then it goes, all goes, and I’m far again. With a far story again, I wait for me afar for my story to begin, to end, and again this voice cannot be mine. That’s where I would go, if I could go, that’s who I would be, if I could be.[2]

In Texts For Nothing the narrative voice subverts its subject’s resentment in the face of having no-identity, that is, for being incapable of changing the course of events in the way of having an identity, and prefers not to will at all, to will nothing, rather than will nothingness. Beckett reverses Nietzsche’s famous saying about man and nihilism: “man would much rather will nothingness than not will.” This is not an impoverishment of the will, rather, it is itself a will to nothing which turns Beckett’s writing into a motionless flight, a static genesis, and at the same time a movement of thought which spirals around and within nothing, in the process turning the absence of something conceivable into a neutral voice through which silence eternally speaks and engages in a non-identical relation with the world surrounding it.

In Waiting for Godot there is nothing at the centre of the subject; no one comes, no one goes, nothing takes place. That place is the side of a road where there is a barren tree, and there Vladimir and Estragon share an aloneness, an intimacy. They give the impression that they have been there for hundreds, or even thousands of years, associating by their clothes with Charlie Chaplin’s persona, “the universal vagabond.”

Vladimir: […] To all mankind they were addressed, those cries for help still ringing in our ears! But at this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or not. Let us make the most of it, before it is too late! Let us represent worthily for once the foul brood to which a cruel fate consigned us. […] But that is not the question. What are we doing here, that is the question. And we are blessed in this, that we happen to know the answer. Yes, in this immense confusion one thing alone is clear. We are waiting for Godot to come–[3]

In Waiting for Godot Beckett continues his project of purgation, or purification through reduction of life to its bare bones. According to Alain Badiou, as he puts it in his book On Beckett, to achieve this reduction of life and truth to their most naked forms, in his novels Beckett had to write thousands of pages in the way of wiping the slate clean and getting rid of the non-generic details of daily social life. To open up a space within the existing order Beckett had to unwrite the symbolic order in the way of subtracting the Symbolic from the Real. By situating Vladimir and Estragon in the middle of now-here, which he shows to be nothingness, Beckett gives voice to the Real of being, which is non-being. Beckett shows that at the centre of the subject there is a hole. The split introduced by Beckett in-between the subject and the signifier shows the subject and the signifier as constituted by a lack of a third party outside them. There is the absence of something in-between the fantasy and the social reality and the subject is this non-being constituted through and as the gap separating them. The subject is an effect of language, and yet this effect manifests itself only in the form of gaps, absences, cuts. That is, the subject manifests itself only in the form of a negativity from the perspective of the big Other. For the big Other excludes nothingness and death. The big Other wants subjects that are something within the symbolic order.

 What Alain Badiou has written about Beckett’s writing at the time of Texts for Nothing becomes relevant here.

With extraordinary lucidity, they tell us of the nothingness of the attempt in progress. They come to the realisation, not that there is nothing (Beckett will never be a nihilist), but that writing has nothing more to show for itself. These texts tell us the truth of a situation, that of Beckett at the end of the fifties: what he has written up to that point can’t go on. It is impossible to go on alternating, without any mediation whatsoever, between the neutrality of the grey black of being and the endless torture of the solipsistic cogito. Writing can no longer sustain itself by means of this alternation.[4]

It is in this context that Beckett’s Texts For Nothing, Waiting for Godot and Lacan’s theory of the subject coincide. At the root of this coincidence is a shared way of being in relation to the unconscious and death.

After being subjected to purgatory in his novels, Murphy, Watt, Moran, Molloy, Malone and Mahood are finally shown to be the embodiments of a split subject constituted by two clowns who have no role to play, their selves separate from their consciousnesses, talking to but not with one another. Vladimir and Estragon are both no one and everyone, none of the existing things and yet all that there is left.

The relationship between Vladimir and Estragon is in the form of a conversation with no centre, for both of the subjects of this conversation are constitutive of one another. The gap that separates them is the constitutive non-relation between them.  Beckett has taken almost all the measures required to concretely present the journey of being in time as being outside time. It is from Vladimir and Estragon’s perspectives that we see the nothingness outside the frozen image of two vagabonds in their immobility. It is from this gap that new thought emerges; out of this nothingness arises a generic multiplicity. Beckett stages this generic multiplicity by employing the asymmetrically dialectical encounter with the other. To do this he had to remove the character configuration and logical plot development, if not the pattern, from the scene of theatre. Reduced to their minimal needs the Beckettian characters confront the symbolic order and challenge the immutability of Cartesian discourse. Of the One, there is almost nothing left in Beckett’s work.

Man has nothing left to say and yet if he stops saying this nothingness the sublime objects will fill the unconscious and occupy a space that should remain empty. Vladimir and Estragon know that although they are not integral parts of each other they nevertheless cannot do without one another. They are doomed to share this irreconcilable and endless movement against themselves. As they speak they are moving further away from their intended meaning, and yet if they ever stopped saying words they would be immediately in touch with the Real which would be inordinately painful.

The Real of desire is a mystery even to the subject which can only be spoken around and yet never about; this nothingness at the centre of the subject should remain unoccupied for the subject to survive trauma and get free of the past. Freedom cannot be freedom if it is not experienced as a forced-choice. For freedom is the right not to choose to do something; saying, “This is not it!” And yet what is there to do but choose the least worse of all the alternatives. And rather than not will, for that would be total destruction for them, Vladimir and Estragon choose to will nothingness; as empty shells they shall remain free of the symbolic order by introducing a split between one another, within themselves, and between themselves and the social reality.

What’s at stake in Beckett’s project is finding the ways and the means of presenting a time outside time, another space, something unnamable outside the existing symbolic order. Beckett’s meaning is very fragile and it is precisely this fragility that makes a new beginning possible. Governed by the death drive the subject splits the given unities and continuities, introduces splits between the past and the present, and out of this tireless and yet exhausted activity of splitting new signs, signs of other signs, emerge.

Vladimir: […] Astride of a grave and a difficult birth. Down in the hole, lingeringly, the gravedigger puts on the forceps. We have time to grow old. The air is full of our cries. [He listens.] But habit is a great deadener. [He looks again at estragon.] At me too someone is looking, of me too someone is saying, he is sleeping, he knows nothing, let him sleep on. [Pause.] I can’t go on! [Pause.] What have I said?[5]

Pozzo: [Suddenly furious.] Have you not done tormenting me with your accursed time! It’s abominable! When! When! One day, is that not enough for you, one day like any other day, one day he went dumb, one day I went blind, one day he’ll go deaf, one day we were born, one day we shall die, in the same day, the same second, is that not enough for you? [Calmer.] They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more. [He jerks the rope.] On![6]

Only in one single instant all is lived and died. But this single instant takes a lifetime to pass. For Beckett its end comes when one confronts death. The characters in his Trilogy, Molloy, Malone, and finally the Unnamable, are all narrating their processes of deterioration, they are trying to give a voice to that time-space where it all ends and yet something other than the all of life in the symbolic order begins. Beckett writes how subject and the death-drive overlap. But he writes this event in such a way that this overlapping of the subject and the death-drive turns into a life force and splits the given unities including the Cogito. After all is said and done away with there emerges the not-all, that which remains after all is said. To say this not-all one has to expose the void within the symbolic order, to show that this void is constitutive of the symbolic order, and that without it all meaning would collapse. What happens in Beckett, therefore, is the process of self-deconstruction which shows the inconsistencies within the text and uses these inconsistencies against the intended meaning of the text. In Beckett we see that in the place of the transcendental signifier there is nothing. The subject is portrayed empty and the subject becomes a signified itself, an empty signifier, a signifier that signifies nothing but is itself signified. So where there was the transcendental signifier now there is nothing, as itself a signifier. We can see how it becomes possible to say the unconscious is a signifier, or as Lacan would say, “the unconscious is structured like language.”


[1] Samuel Beckett, Texts for Nothing (London: John Calder, 1999), 22

[2] Beckett, 24-25

[3] Samuel Beckett, “Waiting for Godot,” The Complete Dramatic Works (London: Faber and Faber, 1990), 74

[4] Alain Badiou, On Beckett, ed. and trans. Alberto Toscano and Nina Power (Manchester: Clinamen Press, 2003) 15

[5] Samuel Beckett, “Waiting for Godot,” The Complete Dramatic Works, (London: Faber and Faber, 1986), 84-5

[6] Beckett, Waiting For Godot, 83

Harold Pinter as Krapp, in Krapp's Last Tape, ...

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It is a characteristic of Beckett’s plays to give the impression that there is nothing outside the stage. In Beckett’s plays God is never allowed to die altogether, but rather God is made to be felt by the audience as his absence, as the nothingness outside the stage. Krapp’s Last Tape is a good example of this recurring presence of God as an absence in Beckett’s plays. It is very rare not to have a couple, or more than one couple in Beckett’s plays, and Krapp’s Last Tape comes especially handy as a Beckett play with a single individual in it; locked in the past and trying to figure out not only how he has become what he is, but also why he is in general. There is no concern at all with the future in Krapp’s Last Tape, unlike Endgame for instance, where Hamm and Clov, although they don’t seek salvation from misery, they at least, just like in Waiting for Godot, expect a message from without, from some unknown external source about which they know nothing as to its relation to their future. They do strive for the unattainable knowledge of the nothingness outside. It is as though all their thoughts, actions, and speeches are governed by the nothingness off the stage. Whereas in Krapp’s Last Tape there is no sign of will, rather than willing nothingness, Krapp prefers not to will at all.

The tape recorder is the projection-introjection machine in Krapp’s Last Tape. Krapp is now introjecting what he had projected over the years, likewise the tape recorder is projecting what it had introjected over the years. This change of roles between machine and man reflects a perhaps often-neglected aspect of Beckett’s work, that aspect being the ambivalence of Beckett’s relation to projection-introjection mechanisms as exemplified by the tape recorder in Krapp’s Last Tape. Krapp oscillates between rejecting the past and affirming it.

During the sixties we see Beckett’s plays getting shorter and shorter, and the subject deprived of the unity of mind and body, the conscious self and the unconscious. Beckett progressively shortens the text and moves towards theatrical, or visual expression. The characters’ experience on the stage is limited to people once able to live dramas and capable of remembering those dramas. Dispersal of the subject, disappearance of the body, the subjects reduced to bodies in jars, to a mouth, or merely a voice, are some of the characteristics of Beckett’s final period of writing. Now his characters are no more capable of doing anything other than trying to remember those days in which they could still express their thoughts and feelings on stage.[1]

At the beginning of Krapp’s Last Tape Beckett announces that it is “a late evening in the future. Krapp’s Den. Front centre a small table, facing front, i.e. across from the drawers, a wearish old man: Krapp.”[2]

Krapp is an old and lonely man. He is shown on his 69th birthday listening to tapes he had recorded on his previous birthdays. As usual he will listen to the tapes and then record his voice telling what happened throughout last year. Krapp is the analyst and the analysand at the same time. He listens to his past from his own mouth through the speakers.  The play opens with Krapp who has always lived alone, reducing his life to a few physical actions carried out in a ritualistic way. This is Krapp’s daily routine; a few meaningless actions. Sometimes Krapp goes inside and drinks, eats a few bananas, takes a few steps in his “den,” and as he says, he sleeps with the old bitch who comes around once in a while.

Krapp lives his life neither by writing his mind games as Molloy and Malone do, nor talks as Hamm and Clov do. Krapp has no memory at all. Besides, he does not construct stories for himself. His tapes are his memory. But like all the other Beckett characters engaged in a play of consciousness Krapp deconstructs his story by using the rewind, play, and f.forward buttons. All that remains is a mass of misery pieces of which are not even imperfectly remembered, a multitude of unrelated and disconnected thoughts and impressions about the past.

Throughout the play we watch the three stages of Krapp’s life. The most important stage is the one narrated by the voice of Krapp at 39. The tape he recorded at the age of 39 contemplates the tape that he had recorded at 29, and Krapp at the age of 29 contemplates the period corresponding to his youth. And all the past periods of his life are judged by Krapp at the age of 69, which is “the present.”

Krapp at the age of 29 looks down on his youth and at times mocks himself for being the way he was. He is very happy to have done with that earlier period of his life. That Krapp at the age of 39 does not remember that he used to sing shows that he does not want to remember those unhappy days of childhood and adolescence. Krapp at the age of 29 is at a stage in his life where he has to make choices and decide what to do with his life. (This is matter of laughter for Krapp at the ages of 39 and 69).

One of the most important decisions Krapp has to make is the one concerning breaking his habit of drinking and giving up alcohol. At this stage we see young Hamm from Endgame meeting Krapp. Krapp tells his story using numbers and statistical information. A numerical exactitude in his narration is clearly discernible. One other important decision that Krapp has made at 29 is about reducing the intensity of his sexual life. Perhaps that is why he broke up with Bianca. (However, Bianca’s loving gaze is remembered by Krapp even when he is 39). Krapp’s 29th year passes in search of happiness and eventual frustrations. 29 years old Krapp’s tape ends with a call to God to show himself? To this call to God Krapp at 39 (on the tape) and 69 (on the stage) laugh. According to Krapp at 39, from that miserable year there is nothing left apart from that lost lover.

In Endgame Hamm and Clov are the father and son repelled and yet attracted by one another at the same time. They can do nothing with or without one another, or they can neither do, nor not do anything with and without one another.

The stage decoration is such that considering the on-stage activity as taking place within a head is easy and helps to understand what Beckett and we with him are dealing with here. The portrait hanging on the wall is turned towards the wall and the two windows facing the external world are sufficient signs to associate the stage as the inside of a man’s head, with the spectators watching the play from behind the split open head. This is signified by the portrait of the father on the wall looking towards the wall with the nothing behind the picture turned towards the stage and the spectators. At some point in the play Clov even attempts to communicate with the spectators, he turns towards and addresses the spectators, which shows us that Beckett was trying to make this point clearer by making the audience aware of the inverted projection-introjection mechanism that they are caught in. In all his plays and novels, one way or another, Beckett achieves inverting the projection-introjection mechanism into the spotlight. And he achieves this precisely by putting under a magnifying glass the failures within the projection-introjection mechanism.

What Beckett wants to say by employing these unorthodox techniques in theatre is simple and yet sophisticated. He wants to say that to escape from the Cartesian mind-body dualism and the mechanistic view of the world associated with it one has to create an imbalance between the projecting side and the introjecting side, between apprehension and comprehension.

The creation of imbalance can take the form of either an excessive projection of the imaginary and the symbolic onto the real, or a lack of projection resulting in total introjection. In the first case the subject loses touch with the real and becomes a totally imaginary and symbolic construction, and in the second case the subject loses himself in the chaos of the real. In both cases there is a loss of gap between the Imaginary, the Symbolic, and the Real. And when the imaginary, the symbolic, and the real become one, the uncorrelation in-between them becomes impossible to be in touch with.  In Dissymetries Badiou repeatedly and recreatively points out that Beckett is not divided into two, but into three. To use Derrida’s words, “one plus one makes at least three.”


[1] Linel Abel, Metatheatre (New York: Hill and Wang), 82

[2] Samuel Beckett, “Krapp’s Last Tape,” Complete Dramatic Works (London: Faber and Faber, 1986), 215

Thus Spoke Zarathustra

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Sceptic:  For me Nietzsche is one of those who do philosophy departing from a wound, from a deep-seated internal problem… The wound is internal to Nietzsche but the source of this wound is external, so you see, he is in-between. He attacks both sides at the same time, there is a profound neither/nor relationship, an endless struggle between the life drive and the death drive in Nietzsche’s books. As for Hegel, I’m not so sure what kind of a man he was. His philosophy doesn’t seem to give me “the kicks” as you say. But to me Hegel is sobering, and that is what I require. In Kant’s books you see everything divided and subdivided into sections and subsections. And you see Kant’s idea is there in three books. I find the life philosophy-academic philosophy distinction ridiculous and luxurious for our times. It deprives us of many great philosophers. Nietzsche’s is neither academic nor life, but a kind of open philosophy; philosophy without the final judgment. Nietzsche has never said and will never have said his last word.

Stoic: Never?

Sceptic: And that there is no such last word or final judgment is itself Nietzsche’s last word and final judgment. It is with Nietzsche that we come to realize this paradoxical situation, this vicious cycle, within which we have come to be entrapped.

Stoic: But Nietzsche also makes us ask, what would be the price paid to escape from this vicious cycle?

Sceptic: That’s indeed another thing that he does. It is precisely because of these endless questions leading to one another, each question the answer of another, and this incompleteness of his philosophy is only one of the reasons that make Nietzsche attractive for many. The second is this: Nietzsche has four-five teachings, the first one is, which for me is the most important, that “knowledge is perspectival by nature.” As soon as he says this, his philosophy becomes an opening up to a new field for thought and life. Everyone can enter Nietzsche’s new space and take what they want, it is like a toolbox. There is something for Hitler in that work, something else for Bataille, for Heidegger, Freud, so you see how clear it all becomes in this context, what he means when he says on the title-page of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, “A book for no one and everyone.” You can translate this as a book for everyone who will understand but at the same time for no one, since no one can completely understand what exactly Nietzsche means. This formula is applicable to his philosophy as a (w)hole, a philosophy for none and all at the same time. And there is no (w)hole of Nietzsche’s philosophy to be comprehended as a (w)hole anyway. This attitude would reduce “Nietzsche” to its bare bones when in fact it is a very fleshy writing. It wouldn’t be fair on Nietzsche. Mine is a stance from which I try to justify Nietzsche, save him. It is the tendency of most readers of Nietzsche to be his advocate. And yet I now realize that this attitude, too, is not so true to the spirit of Nietzsche. And this is the reason why I distanced myself from Nietzsche, after witnessing what has been happening in the world for the last one hundred years, since Nietzsche’s death. You might as well read “there can be no poetry after Auschwitz,” as “there can be no philosophy after Auschwitz.” Or you at least become compelled to admit, “after Auschwitz it becomes very difficult, almost impossible to unconditionally affirm Nietzsche’s philosophy.” You might, and you should, feel the need to introduce a distance between yourself and Nietzsche.

Stoic: Another paradoxical situation emerges here, for Nietzsche is himself against himself in this respect and on this subject.

Sceptic: Yes, he is indeed.

Stoic: And this indicates a self-deconstructive reading at work, that is, you are already deconstructing your own reading as you read Nietzsche.

Sceptic: But isn’t this a natural outcome of philosophical thinking? I think Nietzsche’s grandest illusion was his excessive self-assurance, a pathological self-confidence which led him not to use his critical eye in relation to himself as much as he did in relation to others. He perspectivizes truth but he never situates himself in the nineteenth century as a priest who had been influenced by the likes of Wagner and Schopenhauer; he never comes to terms with his finitude, and so he never manages to reconcile himself to life.

Stoic: In 1889, when his passage to the other side is semi-complete he is about forty-five.

Sceptic: Yes.

Stoic: The most interesting aspect of his work is its posthumousness. He left behind a multiplicity of texts in complete silence and yet all his work, this multiplicity of texts, is itself an unceasing and singular voice at times causing nausea. When one is looking at this oeuvre one wonders what kind of a will to power is Nietzsche’s, it’s not clear, some say it should be translated as will towards power. I think will to power and will to nothingness are one and the same thing. Will towards power and being towards death are the two constituent parts of becoming what one always already is. And what use of a will to truth if it is not in the service of becoming true to one’s being. Perhaps if his work had not been interrupted by illness, he, and we with him, would have been better able to make sense of these circular movements of thought.

Sceptic: Nietzsche’s working method involves taking notes as he walked… And then revising those notes…

Stoic: …Organize those thoughts, put them in order? But it’s different when Zarathustra speaks. He wrote Thus Spoke Zarathustra locked in a room, sitting in a chair in front of a table on the mountains after his devastating Lou Andreas-Salomé experience. There is a close relation between aphorisms and steps, fragmentary writing and walking. It is the same in the case of other aphorism writers, there are flashes of insight involved, always fragmentary, little thoughts complete in themselves and yet to be formulated in relation to one another. Nietzsche’s process of thinking is itself discontinuous, fragmentary; it’s an attempt to give birth to partial objects without relation to an external idea of wholeness. As soon as something strikes him he feels as though if he doesn’t put it down immediately he never will. And since he thinks about the same thing from different perspectives through a period of time, the result is a plurality of partial objects all somehow linked to one another rather than to a whole outside them. He didn’t have time to make sense of all he thought. His thought was larger than his life. He used to write so rapidly but still his infinite speed of thought always left his writing behind.

Sceptic: If only he had lived longer and thought with less speed.

Stoic: Perhaps he could have finished the work of his life in a much more precise way. If he were able to write a second Ecce Homo at sixty years old, he could have survived his thought. But of course I’m assuming too much here.

Sceptic: Actually it is good to throw some light on where Nietzsche is coming from and where he is heading towards. It makes visible the great potential of Nietzsche’s thought; explicates the possibilities of new ways of thinking and living it has to offer.

Stoic: In a new light everything becomes other than itself.

Sceptic: Plato criticized his own concept of the Idea later in life. Perhaps if Nietzsche had lived longer he would have had a critical look at his earlier work.

Stoic: The other day I had a look at On The Genealogy of Morality as a preparation for our conversation. In it I saw Nietzsche thinking about two hundred years ahead of his time. And this prophetic stance is not very common among philosophers. Usually poets tend to tell of the future.

Sceptic: Poets do tend to have messianic expectations.

Stoic: Yes, poets too operate at messianic levels but Nietzsche is assured that what he thinks will take place in the future will actually take place; he believes in the truth of what he assumes. And worst of all, we now see that what he thought would happen is really happening. Have a look at what he says:              

What meaning would our entire being have if not this, that in us this will to truth has come to a consciousness of itself as a problem? … It is from the will to truth’s becoming conscious of itself that from now on—there is no doubt about it—morality will gradually perish: that great spectacle in a hundred acts that is reserved for Europe’s next two centuries, the most terrible, most questionable, and perhaps also most hopeful of all spectacles…[1]

He sees the rise of Nihilism. And we see him say this in Genealogy published in November 1887. It has been 117 years and we can say that his prophecy has proved to be true for the first 117 years out of 200. On this account we can bet that this truth will increasingly maintain its truth status in the remaining 83 years. Looking backwards he tells of the future. With a messianic force he writes Ecce Homo in which he proclaims himself Christ and Dionysus. What he means by that self-fashioning is that he has passed across the Nihilism, went through the will to nothingness and reached the point after the fantasy is traversed where Christ and Dionysus confront one another. But Nietzsche never says that he is the overman. Nietzsche, in Ecce Homo, fashions himself as the one who remains the man who wants to die. In Gay Science we see the theme of God’s death merging with the story of a madman wandering around with his lamp, looking for God. He distinguishes two forms of Nihilism: one is an active nihilism he associates with destruction, the other is an exhausted and passive nihilism he identifies as Buddhism.

Sceptic: Perhaps it’s true; today we know the West is turning towards the East.

Stoic: He sees not one, but two distinct futures of a Nihilist Europe. But I don’t really get what he means when he says he has himself overcome nihilism. Has he really overcome nihilism or is it just wishful thinking?

Sceptic: I don’t know whether he has or he has not overcome nihilism, but what I can say concerning why he thinks in that way is this: In a nut-shell nihilism is the absence of “where” and “why,” or “direction” and “intention.” Nietzsche is convinced that he is showing humanity a new direction towards which to head. His project of revaluing the values is itself an attempt at overcoming nihilism, but this attempt only partially overcomes nihilism, for even after all the values are devalued there remains the new values to be created out of the ruins of the old. Revaluation cannot be completed unless destruction is left behind and creation takes its course.

Stoic: Absolutely. Nihilism is necessary for the devaluation of values, but should be left behind before revaluing the values. So nihilism is a useful tool in turning the existing order against itself but when it comes to creating the new it is nothing other than an enemy. Nietzsche’s discourse is almost a Marxist discourse without Marxist terminology. To see this aspect of Nietzsche more clearly let me give you a brief account of the master-slave relationship in Hegel and Nietzsche. For Hegel everyone is a slave and some slaves, out of a dissatisfaction with slavery, fight to death for mastery, win the fight, and through recognition by the slaves as the masters, become masters, and dominate the slaves. Dialectical process, however, does not end there and in the next stage, and “as history has shown us” in Marx’s words, since in time everything turns into its opposite, slaves eventually become masters. Whereas for Nietzsche from the beginning there are masters and slaves, which he calls active and reactive forces, but the ones who play the role of masters are in fact the slaves and the slaves the masters. So what Nietzsche wants to say is that slaves dominate the masters because of the false values upon which human life is built. Reactive forces are the slaves who occupy the master position and active forces are the masters who occupy the slave position. It is always the reactive forces who win because their reactions are contagious and it is extremely easy for them to multiply themselves and degenerate the others. The active forces, however, although they are the strong ones, are always crushed under the false value system created by the reactive forces. If Hegel is saying that everything eventually turns into its opposite and the roles are reversed only after a struggle to death, Nietzsche is saying that the roles are always already reversed and the way to set things right, rather than passing through reversing the roles, passes through a revaluation of all values on the way to a new game. How would you respond to that?

Sceptic: Well, Nietzsche looks at things otherwise. Through eternal recurrence everything is continually inverted into the spotlight and everything turns into something other than itself in time. So he comes to the conclusion that everything is so reversed that the weak wins. That’s what he sees as the outcome of nihilism. In Nietzsche’s world what everyone understands from improvement is in fact the opposite of the real meaning of improvement. Look what he says, 

One should at least be clear about the expression “be of use.” If by this one intends to express that such a system of treatment has improved man, then I will not contradict: I only add what “improve” means for me—the same as “tamed,” “weakened,” “discouraged,” “sophisticated,” “pampered,” “emasculated” (hence almost the same as injured…)[2]

Stoic: I admire him for what he achieved but at times doesn’t he become more than self-confident. I occasionally feel that he saw himself as a prophet.

Sceptic: Well, it is obvious that he suffered from a certain megalomania. No doubt he lacked self-critical eyes.

Stoic: Does he give you the feeling that he regarded himself a prophet from time to time? Could he have thought he was revealing the word of God?

Sceptic: The thinker talking through Zarathustra’s mouth has that prophetic quality. Zarathustra is himself a prophet. There are various speculations concerning Nietzsche’s entry into the realm of madness. When it occured and so on. Some say when his books are read with a clinical intent there is no trace of madness in his work. I don’t agree with this. Already in Zarathustra there is a deterioration of his thought processes. An exaggerated self-confidence appears in Ecce Homo. But to be considered a prophet is what Nietzsche dreaded most. He says it in Ecce Homo: “I have a terrible fear that one day I will be pronounced holy.”

Stoic: One still wonders whether he is the first prophet without a God, if he thought himself to be the first prophet without a God, and with this thought he went off the rails?  

Sceptic: Are you listening to what I’m saying? 

Stoic: He also sees himself as the disciple of Dionysus.

Sceptic: Have you heard what I’ve just said?

Stoic: He signed Dionysus the last letter he wrote to Strindberg.

Sceptic: And Crucified at the same time. Nietzsche’s thought is full of paradoxes. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why it is a philosophy for everyone. On any topic, on this or that subject, there is this perspective and there is that. You can choose whatever works for you and ignore the others. But that’s not what I’m really concerned with. The contradiction at the heart of Nietzsche is that his theory of eternal return and the becoming of overman cancel each other out. There are two distinct layers of time at which Nietzsche’s teaching operates. First is the linear time of history, the time in which animals live, it is a measurable time. Birth, reproduction, internalisation, metabolism, dissolution all take place in this time; it is the time of life and death. The exact opposite of this time is the circular time of the spirit. It is a time that transcends the linear time and the physical world. It is a product of man’s dissatisfaction with the physical world; a will to go beyond the physical and/or outside time. He conceived of both of these forms of time (Aeon and Chronos) and he existed in both at the same time. He was a man who knew that there is nothing outside physical time and/but who still strived to go beyond this time.

Stoic: How agonizing is that? I think it is none other than himself he is talking about when he says,

Precisely this is what the ascetic ideal means: that something was lacking, that an enormous void surrounded man—he did not know how to justify, to explain, to affirm himself: he suffered from the problem of his meaning. He suffered otherwise as well, he was for the most part a diseased animal: but the suffering itself was not his problem, rather that the answer was missing to the scream of his question: “to what end suffering?”[3]                 

All his life he tried to make sense of the inordinate measure of suffering and privation he had to endure. In vain he looked for a way of exposing “the vanity of all human wishes.” He was dissatisfied with his life and he hated himself for that. He kept resisting the Stoic within himself. But his Sceptic side was incapable of putting something other than the teachings of Socrates in the place left empty by the demolition of his Stoic side. He equally resented having remained under the shadow of Socrates. To escape from Socrates he attacked Plato’s metaphysics of presence and did this with the tools he borrowed from Heraclitus; a pre-Stoic philosopher who has deeply influenced both the Zeno of Citium, who was the founder of Stoicism, and the Zeno of Elea, who explained how it could be possible for a tortoise to pass Achilles in a race. If you look at the latter Zeno’s paradox carefully you see that what he wants to say with all his arrow business is that there can be no motion out of immobility. Yes, the arrow is at rest at every instant and the mind unites those individual instants each a picture in itself. What the eye receives is already what the mind’s synthesizing force creates. We see the arrow in motion when in fact it is, at every instant of its existence, at rest. You see where Zeno is coming from there. He is coming from Heraclitus’ idea that “one cannot step into the same river twice.” The river which is stepped into is a different river at each instant of its flow. You can see that Heraclitus is making a distinction between the flowing water and the bed in which it flows. It is Heraclitus who first splits time. So Zeno finds himself in a split time and can say that before rational thought unites time there is no movement to be perceived.

Sceptic: But this means that Zeno thinks reason creates something out of nothing, or movement out of immobility.

Stoic: And this is very similar to the foundational truth upon which Epictetus builds his therapeutic philosophy. Epictetus says that we create our history, our past, present, and future. It is up to us to change the way we perceive things, put them in a new light, see ourselves differently, and act in way which would be in harmony with nature, in accordance with reason, and for the benefit of all. Epictetus doesn’t see the care of the self as other than the care for the other, he reconciles the interior and the exterior of the subject. So knowledge is a construct of the synthesis of the internal and the external; we project what we have introjected. Between projection and introjection there is a synthetic activity that unites the internal and the external, or the psychic and the material. And a balance between the truth of what’s really going on outside and how the subject perceives this truth is a sign of health. An internally constituted external authority, the truth of universal humanist rationalism, governs the subject in harmony with nature. Listen to what nature says to you and you will know the right thing to do, truth is of nature, say the Stoics. But Plato says: “I, the truth, am speaking.” How megalomaniac is that?

Sceptic: It is quite megalomaniac indeed. And that is the Platonic side of Nietzsche, an exaggerated self-confidence.

Stoic: But with the thought of eternal return Nietzsche is shattered. He realizes how random and chaotic life is and I think his thought of eternal return is a response to his fragmentation at the time he was in Turin. The contingency of all things led him to formulate the eternal return, a circular time with no beginning or an end. In this circular time “a throw of the dice will never abolish the chance,” as Mallarmé put it. So after the nihilistic fantasies and Dionysian hallucinations are traversed the new age of bliss begins for the ones who have learned to learn from what happens to them in this life and rather than fall into the wound pass across it and affirm life as it is. Amor fati is both the driving force and the outcome of the eternal return. Everyone is born free. One who loves one’s fate whatever happens is free. It is a very Stoic thought; as long as the mind is free who cares about the body in chains. But this is not to despise the body, on the contrary, Stoics do care about their bodies; cleanliness, appetite, health, good behaviour, humour, kindness, affirmative attitude; it is a very naturalist social philosophy.

Sceptic: I didn’t know that you were so off the rails. If I understood you correctly, in eternal return there is no room for Darwinist linear evolution. Evolution is peculiar to linear time. Nietzsche is after finding a new form of progressive movement in complicity with the circular movement of time. The idea of eternal return is a very vague formulation of what he was really after. It is Bergson who came closer to saying what Nietzsche wanted to say. In his Creative Evolution Bergson investigates Zeno’s paradox and comes to the conclusion that Zeno’s idea that there can be no movement in-itself because time is infinitely divided within itself is not sufficient to theorize a practical and creative evolutionary process other than a linear progress. Bergson says that cinema achieves what Zeno thought was impossible. By creating motion pictures out of pictures at rest at every instant he introduces mind as a projection-introjection mechanism just like a camera. “But while our consciousness thus introduces succession into external things, inversely these things themselves externalise the successive moments of our inner duration in relation to one another.”[4] Bergson doesn’t differ from Zeno as much as he thinks he does, in that, it was Zeno who said mind projects what it had introjected. And this projection-introjection mechanism is a binding-splitting force at the same time. It binds the subject to the social as it splits the subject within itself, right?

Stoic: Well, almost. It is a matter of working through ways of dealing with history, with the contingency of every event and the randomness of what happens to us in time. Stoics look down on death and suffering. They say that which has happened cannot be changed in linear time, but in circular time everything can be changed in perception and then projected onto the present so as to leave behind the traumatic incident and move on towards becoming present. So, you see, you are always already present and yet this presence is always changing in relation to your past and future, and hence while you are always present you are never present, you are always a non-presence becoming present. So the way in which you relate to your past, the way in which you read your history, determines your actions at present, so why don’t you read your past in such a way as to enable yourself to become self-present. It is about creating the self so as to create itself as a perpetually renewed self-presence. It is not out of nothing that something is created, there never is nothing for the self. You can see that it is all very closely related to the thought of death in Stoics. “Let death and exile and everything that is terrible appear before your eyes every day, especially death; and you will never have anything contemptible in your thoughts or crave anything excessively.”[5] It is one of his principal doctrines always to start from sense-experience. Life is a process of breaking down and remaking the sense of experience. 

Sceptic: And after his intense sense-experiences Nietzsche dies, leaving behind words that have long ago ceased to be his. Writing is a process of transforming the sense-experience to make it visible for the others. But at the same time writing is itself a sense-experience. And in Nietzsche we very occasionally see writing about the experience of writing. There is an intense meditation on the affective quality of language in Nietzsche.   

Sceptic: But he is partly blind to what’s going on not only inside him but also outside him.

Stoic: He gets too excited about the affect of language. And together with the will to experience more of it he falls on the side of total dissolution. He pushes his thought to its limit after which there is nothing, but he goes on and in utter dismemberment he finds himself. But when he finds himself he is already dismembered and so finds that there is no self outside the social. To find that out he had to push his thought to its limit and pay the price with the loss of his mental health. Perhaps he was a bit too aggressive towards the Stoics who could have shown him a way out of his dilemma: “Remember that what is insulting is not the person who abuses you or hits you, but the judgement about them that they are insulting. So when someone irritates you be aware that what irritates you is your own belief. Most importantly, therefore, try not to be carried away by appearance, since if you once gain time and delay you will control yourself more easily.”[6] But Nietzsche was busy with struggling with Stoics for their rationality and universality.

Sceptic: Well, Nietzsche’s aim has never been to write therapeutic prescriptions for the ill. He sees this as taming. And yet this is what he is doing. With Nietzsche therapy and critical theory confront each other. “With priests everything simply becomes more dangerous, not only curatives and healing arts, but also arrogance, revenge, acuity, excess, love, lust to rule, virtue, disease; though with some fairness one could also add that it was on the soil of this essentially dangerous form of human existence, the priestly form, that man first became an interesting animal, that only here did the human soul acquire depth in a higher sense and become evil—and these are, after all, the two basic forms of the superiority of man over other creatures!…”[7]  Here he is talking about Christianity and Buddhism, but you can imagine the same criticism directed against not only Plato but also the Stoics. Nietzsche’s sees the Jews as the beginners of “the slave revolt in morality.”[8] You see, he is after an attitude to life that would be neither Jewish nor Greek. And the common ground on which both the Greek and the Jewish civilizations are built is an assumption that man is superior to other animals. It is not difficult to see where he is coming from if you remember that Christians thought Jews to be as inferior as animals. As for Buddhism, it is passive nihilism, a will to nothingness, for what is Nirvana if not a mystical union with God, with nothingness. After dissolving all these belief systems in a universal cesspool Nietzsche moves on to a revaluation of all values in the light of the Genesis in The Old Testament: “At the beginning was the word.” But what God is, for Nietzsche, is precisely this: nothingness. It doesn’t start from nothingness, it starts with language, and everything comes from language which has neither a beginning nor an end.

Stoic: But I think you are missing Nietzsche’s point there. For there is a pre-linguistic domain which is not nothingness, but something in between nothingness and everything that there is, that space between is the realm of partial objects which serve the purpose of relating to the world even before the language is acquired. And with this he comes back to what Zeno was saying. At the beginning there is no-motion, but that state of the being of things is not perceivable, for the mind unites partial-objects to form a sequence of events, before which there is nothing perceivable. Zeno says, movement in-itself and for itself is impossible because there can be no movement prior to the synthesis of the individual states of being at rest. But with cinema we see that motionless pictures are put one after the other in a particular sequence and when the film revolves a continuity of images, a flow of pictures is created. There is the illusion of one continuous motion of events when in fact each event is a motionless picture in itself.

Sceptic: But if it cannot be perceived how can you say that at the beginning there is nothing and immobility?

Stoic: Well, that’s not what I’m saying. There is nothing at the beginning precisely because nothing can be perceived before the beginning. You see, there is the absence of something, there is nothing as the object of perception. You have to assume that beginning itself has no beginning so that you can begin living, acting, and doing things. Otherwise how can you live with the thought of being surrounded by nothingness and death at all times? Death is where you cannot be. It is absolutely other to you, its presence signifies your absence and inversely. Perhaps we should have said there is nothing before the beginning and after the end. That fits in better with everything.

Sceptic: Yes, and with this sentence the riddle is solved to some extent; it is not a matter of beginning or ending; everything is in the middle, and nothing is before the beginning and after the end. The eternal return has neither a beginning nor an end.

Stoic: Even when you die your body is still in the process of dissolving; you dissolve into other things and become something else. It is not resurrection I’m talking about here. Nor is resurrection what Nietzsche attempted to theorize with the thought of eternal return, but a very materialist understanding of nature and its relation to man. Nietzsche never says what exactly the eternal return means but from what he says we come to a grasp of what it might mean. Let me quote Nietzsche at length. In this one of the best descriptions of what the eternal return might mean we see Zarathustra talking with a dwarf about time, the moment as a gateway to possibilities, and the passage of time.

 ‘Everything straight lies,’ murmured the dwarf disdainfully. ‘All truth is crooked, time itself is a circle.’

‘Spirit of Gravity!’ I said angrily, ‘do not treat this too lightly! Or I shall leave you squatting where you are, Lamefoot—and I have carried you high!

‘Behold this moment!’ I went on. ‘From this gateway Moment a long, eternal lane runs back: an eternity lies behind us.

‘Must not all things that can run have already run along this lane? Must not all things that can happen have already happened, been done, run past?

‘And if all things have been here before: what do you think of this moment, dwarf? Must not this gateway, too, have been here—before?

‘And are not all things bound fast together in such a way that this moment draws after it all future things? Therefore—draws itself too?

‘For all things that can run must also run once again forward along this long lane.

‘And this slow spider that creeps along in the moonlight, and this moonlight itself, and I and you at this gateway whispering together, whispering of eternal things—must we not all have been here before?

‘—and must we not return and run down that other lane out before us, down that long, terrible lane—must we not return eternally?’[9] 

You see, what renders the eternal return possible is saying yes to difference in repetition. The eternal return is Nietzsche’s grand conception which excludes all binary opposition and defies the binary logic of being and non-being. You can see that it is far away from what Diogenes Laertius was saying concerning the relationship between absence and presence. For Laertius where there is absence there can be no presence and inversely. But Nietzsche thinks that being and non-being, presence and absence are intermingled, are the two constitutive parts of becoming. One side of becoming accomplishes its movement while the other fails to accomplish its movement. So the persistence of being can only take the form of becoming. It is the becoming of being that counts as the immaculate conception of the eternal return. The eternal return is not a metaphysical concept, rather it renders possible attachment to the material world, the world as it is before turning into a fable in and through a linear narrative of history. The eternal return is a tool for interpreting the world in its infinity and finitude at the same time, and its legacy lies in its rejection of both a purely transcendental and a purely immanent interpretation of the world. When Nietzsche makes the dwarf say “everything straight lies[…] all truth is crooked, time itself is a circle,” he is pointing towards an ethical imperative, namely, that one must give free rein to the unconscious drives so that in time, as these drives are let to manifest themselves in and through language, it becomes apparent that it is ridiculous to repress them for it is repression itself that produces them; so the more one represses them the more one contributes to their strengthening. As you see what at stake here is a way of governing the self in relation to others. Eternal return is will to power and will to nothingness at the same time, it is the name of the process of becoming through which the subject becomes other than itself. This becoming other than itself of the subject is in the form of an emergence of the new out of the old, that is, realization of an already existing possibility and will towards its actualisation through this realization. So the subject assumes what it was in the past and upon this assumption builds its present as already past and yet to come. It is in this context that Foucault says genealogy is “a history of the present.”

Sceptic: Very interesting. You seem to have figured out the ways of passing across the avenues Gilles Deleuze opened in the way of explicating the meaning of eternal return and its use. Look at what he says in a passage, perhaps the most lucid articulation of Deleuze’s conception of time and its passage in Nietzsche and Philosophy:

What is the being of that which becomes, of that which neither starts nor finishes becoming? Returning is the being of that which becomes. “That everything recurs is the closest approximation of a world of becoming to world of being—high point of the meditation.” [Will to Power, 617] This problem for the meditation must be formulated in yet another way; how can the past be constituted in time? How can the present pass? The passing moment could never pass if it were not already past and yet to come—at the same time as being present. If the present did not pass of its own accord, if it had to wait for a new present in order to become past, the past in general would never be constituted in time, and this particular present would not pass. We cannot wait, the moment must be simultaneously present and past, present and yet to come, in order for it to pass (and to pass for the sake of other moments). The present must coexist with itself as past and yet to come. The synthetic relation of the moment to itself as present, past and future grounds its relation to other moments. The eternal return is thus an answer to the problem of passage. And in this sense it must not be interpreted as the return of something that is, that is “one” or the “same.” We misinterpret the expression “eternal return” if we understand it as “return of the same.”[10]

Stoic: It is true. Let me explain. With the big-bang a substance of infinite intensity begins its still ongoing process of expansion-contraction. And this process must always already be complete for it to even begin taking its course of becoming; everything happens at present and for that reason there is neither a beginning nor an end of time. The force combinations are infinitely repeated but because of its previous repetition the quality of the forces themselves change and give birth to its becoming different from itself through repetition of what it assumes itself to be in relation to time. So the subject always already is what it strives to become and yet the only way to actualise this becoming what one is is this: one has to realize that what one is striving to become is already what one is. All the configurations have to repeat themselves eternally for the return of the same to take place. But when this same returns one sees that it has never been the same but always already different from itself. When the future comes it becomes present, the subject is always at present and can never know what it would be like to exist in another present. There is nothing and the present.

Sceptic: Eternal return is the first conceptualisation of the death drive. It is not death drive but it operates the way death-drive operates, and since none of these have any existence outside their operations they are the two different forms the same content takes. The subject of the eternal return wills nothingness and this willing nothingness always returns as a will to power. You can see that Nietzsche uses this grand conception of the relationship between creation and destruction to invert destructive and reactive Nihilism into the spotlight; he turns Nihilism against itself through the thought of eternal return as the thought of becoming other than what one thinks one is. What was repressed and locked into the unconscious once turns into its opposite and becomes the order of the day in a new light and in another time. In this light time is itself the fourth dimension of space. That is how Nietzsche can see the rise of Nihilism in its material, historical conditions. We all come and keep coming from inorganic substance and will end up there. Nietzsche’s confrontation with truth was the confrontation of brain with chaos. And out of this confrontation emerges the truth of the death drive, the will to nothingness disguised as the will to truth, the internally constituted external governor of a Nihilistic Europe.

Stoic: Yes. They are in our midst and yet exterior to us. We are surrounded and governed by nothingness and death which have neither a beginning nor an end. Well, at least not for us, who are those governed by them. For when we die we are nowhere to see our dead bodies or experience death as our own. Death occurs where there is the absence of my self’s sense-experience, all the rest is a process of being towards death, dying, becoming-dead. When death finally arrives even my name ceases to be mine, or rather, it is realized that even my name has never been mine. There remains no one to carry out my life in my name once death is here.

Sceptic: Death and nothingness are interior and exterior to us at the same time. Most of us, however, keep the thought of death at bay at all times; those of us are the ones who live their lives without thinking about death, for they think, in a Spinozan fashion, that “he who is free thinks of nothing less than of death and his meditation is a wisdom not of death but of life.” This is the time of good-sense where everything is identical and everything can be substituted by something else.

Stoic: The will to power and the will to nothingness reverse the roles. We break down as we go along the way towards the completion of passing across the field of partial objects.

Sceptic: Precisely. You told me what I was trying to tell you.  And what is thought worth if it is not in the service of the present? Sacrificing the present by scarfacing yourself for the sake of a better future face is itself the worst thing that can be done to your face at all times. In vain is he/she who strives for immortality.

Stoic: Let us move on to the subjects of finitude and infinity, then. Here is a question for you: Are we finite becomings or infinite beings?

Sceptic: We might as well be neither or both of these. It’s a matter of taste depending on whether you see being alive as a process of dying or a process of living.

Stoic: I think we who are alive, or at least think we are, are infinite beings by nature, but turn into finite becomings in and through our cultures. I say we are infinite beings because infinity has no beginning or end, so it’s impossible for an infinite entity to be a becoming, only a being can be infinite, whereas a finite entity has a beginning from which its becoming starts taking its course and comes to a halt at the end. Since the concept of time is a cultural construct imposed on nature by human beings, because we see other people die, we have come to imagine that we are limited by finitude and surrounded by infinity, when in fact it is the other way around; that is, we are infinite beings and death constitutes an internal limit to our being in the world, giving birth to our idea of ourselves as finite becomings. Do you understand?

Sceptic: Yes I do. We don’t have to strive for immortality, for we are always already immortals who are incapable of realising their immortalities.

Stoic: Shall we leave it at that, then?

Sceptic: Let’s do so.

Stoic: No last words?

Sceptic: None at all.

Stoic: No worst of all words.

Sceptic: None worse than last words.

Stoic: Well then, the end to which we are all devoted shall be to raise our glasses to this worsening suffering!

Sceptic: To what end last words?

Stoic: To what end suffering?

Stoic and Sceptic: Oh, dear!  


[1] Friedrich Nietzsche, On The Genealogy of Morality, trans. Maudemarie Clark and Alan J. Swensen (Cambridge: Hackett, 1998), 117

[2] Friedrich Nietzsche, On The Genealogy of Morality, trans. Maudemarie Clark and Alan J. Swensen (Cambridge: Hackett, 1998), 103

[3] Friedrich Nietzsche, On The Genealogy of Morality, trans. Maudemarie Clark and Alan J. Swensen (Cambridge: Hackett, 1998), 117

[4] Henri Bergson, Time and Free Will, 228

[5] Epictetus, The Encheiridion: The Handbook, trans. Nicholas P. White (Cambridge: Hackett, 1983), 16

[6] Epictetus, 16

[7] Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genalogy of Morality, 15-6

[8] Nietzsche, 17

[9] Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, 178-9

[10] Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, 48

 

Cover of "The Time Machine"

Cover of The Time Machine

 

The Time Machine

The Time Machine

by H. G. Wells

The book’s protagonist is an amateur inventor or scientist living in London who is never named; he is identified simply as The Time Traveller. Having demonstrated to friends using a miniature model that time…

 

 


 

News from Nowhere

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A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

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The Panchronicon

The Panchronicon

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He Walked Around the Horses

 

 


 

Genesis

Genesis

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Was this ill-fated expedition the end of a proud, old race–or the beginning of a new one? There are strange gaps in our records of the past. We find traces of man-like things–but, suddenly, man appears, far…

 

 


 

Time and Time Again

Time and Time Again

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Key out of Time

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Golf in the Year 2000, or, What we are coming to

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A Dream of John Ball

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Project Mastodon

 

 


 

The Sleeper Awakes

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The Sleeper Awakes is H. G. Wells’s wildly imaginative story of London in the twenty-second century and the man who by accident becomes owner and master of the world. In 1897 a Victorian gentleman falls into…

 

 


 

Looking Backward

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Time Crime

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The Time Axis

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Temple Trouble

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The Man Who Came Early

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How rarely science-fiction writers succeed in creating a wholly alien culture may be judged from any adequate study of an earthly culture of a time or place which does not form part of our direct heritage. S.F’s…

 

 


 

The Day of the Boomer Dukes

The Day of the Boomer Dukes

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Just as medicine is not a science, but rather an art–a device, practised in a scientific manner, in its best manifestations–time-travel stories are not science fiction. Time-travel, however, has become acceptable…

 

 


 

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Monsters of the mind kill all in their path.

 

 


 

Doctor Who and the Empire of Glass

 

 


 

Doctor Who: Human Nature

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“On the eve of the First World War, John Smith teaches at an English public school. But is he all that he seems?”

 

 


 

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Doctor Who and the Scales of Injustice

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Chronalgia

 

 


 

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Benefactor

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We can anticipate that robots will be fiercely resented, at first, in a society that will see them as the latest—and an indestructible—widespread threat to the workers whom they will replace. The men who…


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

via ideologic

The Simon & Schuster Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs...

Image via Wikipedia

Environment and Planning D: Society and Space volume 28 issue 5 has now been published online and is available here.  Among other pieces, it includes essays by Gary Okihiro, Nicola Ansell, Graham Harman and Trevor Paglen.

via Progressive Geographies

sεrεndıpıtously dıs(rε)junctıvε . .

Image by jef safi via Flickr

 

New Translation of Laruelle's 'Biography of the Eye' Biography of the Eye by François Laruelle Originally published as “Biographie de l’oeil,” La Decision philosophique 9 (1989): 93-104. for Adolfo Fernandez Zoila “Man is this night, this empty nothingness that contains everything in its undivided simplicity…he is this night that one sees if one looks a man in the eyes.” Hegel Supplement to Hegel’s judgment concerning man A philosopher has never looked a man directly in the eyes. The philosopher is … Read More

via Fractal Ontology

a very rare picture of samuel beckett… maythemusic:  en attendant… rions un peu avec Samuel Beckett

 Principal Supervisor: Laura Cull

As Beckett scholar, Mary Bryden has noted, Gilles Deleuze’s philosophical engagement with Samuel Beckett’s work is particularly focused on his early novels and latterly with his television projects, rather than on the stage plays for which Beckett is best known to theatre scholars, such as: Waiting for Godot, Happy Days and Krapp’s Last Tape. Known for his antipathy towards spectatorship of live theatrical events, Deleuze ignores these canonical plays in favour of analyzing lesser-known works such as the novel Molloy and the television play, Quad. Correlatively, there are few examples in current scholarship – either theoretical or practical – of Deleuzian approaches to Beckett’s theatre. We would be pleased to accept proposals from suitably qualified candidates who are interested in exploring the implications of Deleuze’s philosophy – beyond his specific commentaries on Beckett – for understandings of Beckett’s theatre. In turn, the project may wish to consider how Beckett’s own theorization of his theatre practice might feedback onto understandings of Deleuze. The project may be designed to culminate in a purely written thesis or in both practical and written outcomes. To apply, please use the online ‘Studentship Application Form’ (found at http://www.northumbria.ac.uk/sd/academic/sass/sasspg/pgfeedic/) and submit to Scott Burdon at az.pgr@northumbria.ac.uk
Informal enquiries are welcome – for further details please contact Dr Ysanne Holt (ysanne.holt@northumbria.ac.uk)
Deadline for applications is Friday 29 October 2010
Interviews will be held week commencing 22 November 2010

This new collection of  challenging literary studies plays with a foundational definition of Western culture: the word become flesh. But the word become flesh is not, or no longer, a theological already-given. It is a millennial goal or telos toward which each text strives.

Both witty and immensely erudite, Jacques Rancière leads the critical reader through a maze of arrivals toward the moment, perhaps always suspended, when the word finds its flesh. That is what he, a valiant and good-humored companion to these texts, goes questing for through seven essays examining a wide variety of familiar and unfamiliar works.

A text is always a commencement, the word setting out on its excursions through the implausible vicissitudes of narrative and the bizarre phantasmagorias of imagery, Don Quixote’s unsent letter reaching us through generous Balzac, lovely Rimbaud, demonic Althusser. The word is on its way to an incarnation that always lies ahead of the writer and the reader both, in this anguished democracy of language where the word is always taking on its flesh.

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Philosophy E-books

Novalis

The Birth of Novalis: Friedrich Von Hardenberg’s Journal of 1797, With Selected Letters and Documents

Fichte Studies

Philosophical Writings

Herder

Selected Writings on Aesthetics

Another Philosophy of History and Selected Political Writings

Philosophical Writings

Heidegger

Contributions to Philosophy (From Enowning)

The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic

The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude

The Basic Problems of Phenomenology

Schelling’s Treatise on Human Freedom

The Essence of Human Freedom: An Introduction to Philosophy

The Essence of Truth: On Plato’s Parable of the Cave and the Theaetetus

Towards the Definition of Philosophy

The Hermeneutics of Facticity

Gadamer

Heidegger Memorial Lectures

Hegel’s Dialectic

Philosophical Hermeneutics


The Beginning of Knowledge

Dieter Henrich

Between Kant and Hegel

The Unity of Reason: Essays on Kant’s Philosophy

Luhmann

Love as Passion: The Codification of Intimacy

Law as a Social System

The Reality of the Mass Media

Kierkegaard

Fear and Trembling and Repetition

Either/Or I

Librophiliac Love Letter: A Compendium of Beautiful Libraries | Curious Expeditions

 

Poetry E-books

Charles Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du Mal

C.P. Cavafy, The Collected Poems (fixed)

Fernando Pessoa, A Little Larger Than the Entire Universe

Fernando Pessoa, 35 Sonnets

Ezra Pound, The Cantos

William Carlos Williams, Collected Earlier Poems

W.B. Yeats, The Collected Poems

Dante, The Divine Comedy (bilingual edition, Mandelbaum translation)

Anon., The Epic of Gilgamesh (Andrew George trans.)

T.S. Eliot, Collected Poems, 1909-1962

T.S. Eliot, The Annotated Waste Land

Federico Garcia Lorca, Selected Poems

Homer, The Iliad (Fagles trans.)

Homer, The Odyssey (Fagles trans.)

Langston Hughes, Collected Poems

John Milton, Paradise Lost (old spelling edition, ed. Barbara K. Lewalski)

Ezra Pound, The ABC of Reading

—Hugh Kenner, The Pound Era

—Carroll F. Terrell, A Companion to ‘The Cantos’ of Ezra Pound’, I

—Carroll F. Terrell, A Companion to ‘The Cantos’ of Ezra Pound’, II

Virgil, The Aeneid (Ahl trans.)

Wallace Stevens, The Collected Poems

Walt Whitman, The Portable Whitman

William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads

John Keats, Selected Letters

Georg Trakl, Poems and Prose

Charles Olson, ‘Projective Verse’

New:

Hart Crane

Collected Poems

Olson

Selected Letters

Zukofsky

“A” (119 MB)

Anthologies:

The Norton Anthology of Poetry

The Oxford Book of American Poetry

(Much thanks to Karim for all of these)

Posted by cogito

The consequences of projection of fantasies onto the Real can be clearly observed in Kerouac’s The Subterraneans, which was quite a subversive book in its time, carrying Kerouac quite high up the cultural ladder, and in Burroughsian terms “causing thousands of Levi’s sold”. 

 San Francisco, California

In The Subterraneans we see Jack Kerouac’s persona Leo oscillating between attraction to and repulsion by Mardou who is a Cherokee American. One half of Leo loves Mardou and the other half is afraid of this love. If in one chapter Leo declares his love for Mardou, in the next chapter we see him resenting her. Leo’s oscillation between the life drive and the death drive constitute a movement between negation and the transcendence of this negation. Affirmation always remains at bay for Kerouac and his character Leo. Perhaps only at the beginning of the novel he gets a bit closer to affirmation, but this affirmation is in no way an affirmation of Mardou as she is. Rather, it is the affirmation of what has happened throughout the novel, an affirmation of that which has lead to the break-up of Mardou and Leo, as if what has taken place was what actually happened, rather than a projection of Leo’s paranoid fantasy on what has actually happened. At the end of the novel it becomes clear that all that has been lived had been lived for this novel to be written, rather than for its own sake.

[…] this was my three week thought and really the energy behind or the surface one behind the creation of the Jealousy Phantasy in the Grey Guilt dream of the World Around Our Bed.)—now I saw Mardou pushing Yuri with a OH YOU and I shuddered to think something maybe was going on behind my back – felt warned too by the quick and immediate manner Yuri heard me coming and rolled off but as if guiltily as I say after some kind of goose or feel up some illegal touch of Mardou which made her purse little love loff lips at him and push at him and like kids.[1]

Upon having the dream Leo begins to see everything through the keyhole of his obsession that one day Mardou will sleep with Yuri if she hasn’t already done so. I would like to read this story with the story of Adam and Eve’s fall from Heaven to Earth in mind, or the passage from the old Earth to the new Earth. What’s at stake here is the conflict between what’s going on in Leo’s mind as to what’s going on in Mardou’s mind and what’s really going on in Mardou’s mind. There is, in reality, nothing going on in Mardou’s mind. It is Leo projecting what he read in the Bible onto Mardou’s mind, what he read in the Bible being that it was Eve who caused the fall, for it was her who tempted Adam to eat the apple. So Leo is projecting what he has introjected from the Bible. And the Bible was the representation of women in general and his mother in particular for Kerouac. The preconception in Leo’s mind that women are evil, sinful, and guilty by nature both attracts and repels Leo. This state of being caught in a movement between repulsion/attraction ties the subject with an endless chain of negative associations to his own fear of being betrayed, pushing him further towards madness and death. The final words of the book bring the end which Leo was from the beginning of the relationship more than willing to reach: separation and through writing it down reunification with the lost object. For as we know from Freud, “writing was in its origin the voice of an absent person.”

And I go home having lost her love.

And write this book.[2]

  Leo believes that he has had the dream and that if he has the dream of it the sexual intercourse in real life has either taken place or will take place in the future. Kerouac/Leo is, “at present,” writing The Subterraneans. And everything has already taken place; the sequence of events follows this way: Leo has the dream, Mardou engages in sexual intercourse with Yuri, Mardou and Leo break up, Leo continues the daydream, laughs to retain sanity in the face of this tragedy, and goes home and writes this book. In it there is no true story; and it doesn’t matter whether there is or not a true story other than the story of an unhappy consciousness running towards its death in and through a story of love, affection, resentment, guilt, and compassion, which exposes the symptoms of a life as it unceasingly wills its subject’s end.

[…]still making no impression on my eager impressionable ready-to-create construct destroy and die brain – as will be seen in the great construction of jealousy which I later from a dream and for reasons of self-laceration recreated…[3]   

Now, Leo sees Mardou in bed with Yuri and obsessively believes that his dream will come true. Leo believes himself to be a clairvoyant, that he has the ability to know things prior to seeing them actually taking place before his eyes. This he has introjected from Mardou herself, who, in a Nietzschean fashion, believes, does, and says things which simultaneously repel and attract Leo. There is no linear narrative in Mardou’s story about her adventures with the subterraneans of San Francisco and Leo likes it because there remain lots of gaps for him to fill with his fantasies later on when he is writing his story. Say what she may,

I got nervous and had some kind of idea about Mike, he kept looking at me like he wanted to kill me – he has such a funny look anyway – I got out of the house and walked along and didn’t know which way to go, my mind kept turning into the several directions that I was thinking of going but my body kept walking straight along Columbus altho’ I felt the sensation of each of the directions I mentally and emotionally turned into, amazed at all the possible directions you can take with different motives that come in, like it can make you a different person – I’ve often thought of this since childhood, of suppose instead of going up Columbus as I usually did I’d turn into Filbert would something happen that at the time is insignificant enough but would be like enough to influence my whole life in the end? – What’s in store for me in the direction I don’t take? – and all that, so if this had not been such a constant preoccupation that accompanied me in my solitude which I played upon in as many different ways as possible I wouldn’t bother now except but seeing the horrible roads this pure supposing goes to it took me to frights, if I wasn’t so damned persistent –’ and so on deep into the day, a long confusing story only pieces of which and imperfectly I remember, just the mass of the misery in connective form –[4]

What, then, is this “connective form”? Who, then, is the subject of this “mass of misery pieces of which are imperfectly remembered”? There is a different way of remembering in action here, a different way of being in relation to time and language in this “imperfect remembrance” of the lived experiences. The problem with Kerouac’s writing is that he is not separating his introjected object from the projecting subject. Kerouac wants to represent Mardou as she is and yet he at the same time wants to prove that Leo was the one pulling the strings from the beginning. What Mardou is actually trying to convey is veiled by Kerouac who makes it impossible for the reader to distinguish between fiction and reality, self and other, subject and object, projected and introjected. His voice dissolves into the voice of Mardou and Mardou’s story remains unheard. Rather than unveiling, Kerouac’s writing not only veils but also manipulates the truth of the other for his abusive purposes. All his life Kerouac struggled to traverse this field of partial representations of the other, but being an innocent fascist he repeatedly fell into his own traps and failed in affirming the real as it is. If he could have loved the real as it is, he could have “delivered himself from his automatic reactions,” and thus he could have become “a body without organs.”[5]

While most of us live by the time of good sense, the Nietzschean subject is able to defy such sense and experience the creative evolution of self in exploration of a deeper memory – the virtual memory of the pure past as the event of events of the eternal return. Rather than a self-identical self, the self of the third synthesis of time is a creatively evolving self who is able to genuinely affirm life as metamorphosis.[6]

Leo chooses to become partially mad, for Mardou is the other half of his madness. The internal theatre of Leo stages a sexual intercourse between Mardou and Yuri and/but although this intercourse has not yet taken place, Leo is assured that one day it will. Leo had started plotting ways of getting rid of Mardou three weeks prior to their split. Is this will a will to end the relationship that makes Leo see this dream? In other words, is the source of this dream a will-to-nothingness-oriented-hope, a wish that Mardou will engage in sexual intercourse with Yuri and the relationship will end that way? Or is the dream based on a will-to-nothingness-oriented-fear that Mardou does not, and has never loved Leo? These questions can be asked if one wants to know what the dream means, in other words these questions are interpretation oriented questions and my aim here is not to interpret Leo’s dream and understand what it means but rather to make use of this dream in understanding why this dream matters not only for The Subterraneans, but also for twentieth century philosophy, literature, cultural and critical theory, and psychoanalysis.

 Both Oedipus and Leo see themselves as innocent victims “caught in a trap set by the God.” Fiction and reality give birth to one another in each case. In Oedipus’ case the prophecy turns into truth, in Leo’s case a dream turns into reality. Leo believes in what he sees in his dream and he sees Mardou in bed with Yuri. And his strong belief, almost an obsession, that one day Mardou will sleep with Yuri gives birth to the actualisation of this event at the end of the novel. Leo tells everyone about his dream. He tells Mardou almost every day following his dream that he is worried about the future of their relationship. Leo’s paranoid-schizoid attitude prepares the grounds for the actualization of what he was afraid of. At the end of the story, the only thing left at hand for Leo to make the best of is to write his experiences down and turn his loss into a gain in and through language. Leo is such a tragic character that in order to remain sane he has to laugh at himself by considering the “whole host and foolish illusion and entire rigmarole and madness we erect in the place of one love, in our sadness…”[7] to be a joke. When Leo learns that Mardou has actually slept with Yuri, when the truth is finally established, when fiction turns into reality, he addresses the reader:

[…]but I continue the daydream and I look into his eyes and I see suddenly the glare of a jester angel who made his presence on earth all a joke and I realize that this too with Mardou was a joke and I think, ‘Funny Angel, elevated amongst the subterraneans.’

‘Baby its up to you,’ is what she’s actually saying, ‘ about how many times you wanta see me and all that – but I want to be independent like I say.’

And I go home having lost her love.

And write this book.[8]

Cover art from the film and soundtrack editions of THE SUBTERRANEANS. Cover art from the film and soundtrack editions of  The Subterraneans 

Kerouac writes through love, but through a love that Leo is afraid of falling in. And his writing is the product of a sick desire, it is driven by a love of love, a desire to be desired. Kerouac exposes himself through Leo in such a way as to show why it is necessary to create something without becoming destructive of either the self or the other. Something that he himself doesn’t know how to do. It is an ill will that drives Kerouac towards manic-depressive, self-destructive alcoholism. His consciousness of the absence of “eternal love” in this finite life together with his immortal longing for an eternal love turn him into “a shipwreck on the shores of lust.” What Kerouac lacks in life is what is necessary to operate the war-machine in Kerouac. Love is the force that drives the war-machine and Kerouac is afraid of loving with a greater love, without projective identification. He is a paranoid love-machine because his love is in the form of a spark given birth by the struggle between the superiority and the inferiority complexes he simultaneously harbors within himself.

In the absence of a war–machine, war dominates the world. And when war dominates the world there is nothing left for one to write but that although his books are among the most important examples of a different way of being in relation to time, language, and life, Kerouac is “locked into an attenuating endgame, playing himself, with each move, further into a corner and into defeat.”[9] He, suffering inordinately from an irrecoverable loss, an irreparable deterioration of psychic and somatic health, pays a high price to render us the witnesses of his fantastic experiences.

Kerouac died in 1969 and/but long ago, in 1951, eighteen years before ceasing to exist among the living, in On the Road, he writes this:

And for just a moment I had reached the point of ecstasy that I always wanted to reach, which was the complete step across chronological time into timeless shadows, and wonderment in the bleakness of the mortal realm, and the sensation of death kicking at my heels to move on, with a phantom dogging its own heels, and myself hurrying to a plank where all the angels dove off and flew into the holy void of uncreated emptiness, the potent and inconceivable radiances shining in bright Mind Essence, innumerable lotus-lands falling open in the magic mothswarm of heaven. I could hear an indescribable seething soar which wasn’t in my ear but everywhere and had nothing to do with sounds. I realized that I had died and been reborn numberless times but just didn’t remember especially because the transition from life to death and back to life are so ghostly easy, a magical action for naught, like falling asleep and waking up again a million times, the utter casualness and deep ignorance of it. I realized it was only because of the stability of the intrinsic mind that these ripples of birth and death took place, like that action of wind on a sheet of pure, serene, mirror-like water. I felt sweet, swinging bliss, like a big shot of heroin in the mainline vein; like a gulp of wine late in the afternoon and it makes you shudder; my feet tingled. I thought I was going to die the very next moment.[10]

What Kerouac enjoys is death from pleasure, what he desires is suffering. In Kerouac’s writing there is a multiplication of the directions towards which it becomes possible for the subject to head as the subject goes along the way creating new life forces out of his Dionysiac regress. In time, however, Kerouac’s revolutionary becoming takes such a direction that his desire turns against itself turning him into a reactive force drowning in his own resentment. The Kerouac image represented by the media (newspapers, TV, radio), is in conflict with Kerouac’s image of himself, and this relation to himself of Kerouac through a media, through an external force, through a panoptic eye, locks Kerouac into the projection-introjection mechanism through which he constantly breaks and is beaten by as he beats. This operation is more than Kerouac can actively handle, and turns him into a reactive and anti-social person making him “rather will nothingness than not will,” destroying him in the process.

Conclusion

In Julio Cortazar’s short story Axolot, we read the main character realizing that the type of fish called Axolot stand still in water with no movement at all, a kind of motionless flight. With this realization the character commits himself to becoming like those fish himself. At the end of the story he sees everyone outside of himself as an Axolot fish. He has become an axolot himself. He has gone beyond the finitude of his existence. He becomes altogether immobile, merely an observer, watching people, life, opportunities, and time pass by. Eventually he becomes imperceptible. Here and now everything is continually changing towards becoming-imperceptible. Time turns something into nothing. Everything is in time only for a short period of time. Then everything disappears in a neutral light.

To have dismantled one’s self in order finally to be alone and meet the true double at the other end of the line. A clandestine passenger on a motionless voyage. To become like everybody else; but this, precisely, is a becoming only for one who knows how to be nobody, to no longer be anybody. To paint oneself gray on gray.[11]

It is the ambiguity of the relationship between the life drive and the death drive that is being manipulated by global capitalism (contemporary nihilism) today. Undecidability, absence of foundational truth procedures, loss of principles, and declarations of the end of history and the subject are all manifestations of a discursive disease which is very rapidly contaminating the relationship between humans and their own health. In a world where a normal person must have a therapist, where having a therapist is a sign of normalcy, there can be no other choice but to shake the foundations of the illusions on which the health of many generations to come depends.         

Carrying out an intervention in the course of events, introducing a split into the continuity of things requires learning how not to be produced by the image factory which captures desire in a certain order of signification mechanism so as to turn the subject into a copy of the products of the image factory, or into the object of the other’s interpretation  and identification processes. To become capable at least to subvert the codes of the capitalist axiomatics which produces desire as the desire of nothingness and death, this subject should come to a realization that he/she is already caught up in the projection-introjection mechanism. So the subject has to learn to use the projection-introjection mechanism in such a way as to sustain the conditions for the impossibility of wickedness in the form of exclusive and illusory constructions of the Real. Surviving the absence of a transcendental signified in a “time out of joint” requires learning to love the object of desire for what it is rather than for what it resembles. This is to love and live without projective identification, without paranoid reactions to the other, without possessing the other, or without confining the other within the boundaries of the self. One has to cease to be somebody and learn to become nobody so as to create a difference in and for itself and affirm this difference by affirming the difference of that which is “not I.”

Movie from the book: “The subterraneans” (1960; Dir. Ranald MacDougall) featuring Gerry Mulligan, Art Pepper, Art Farmer, André Previn and Carmen McRae on screen.

The Subterraneans- Kerouac, Pollock and Bowie from magicloaf on Vimeo.

Cengiz Erdem, The Life Death Drives (London: Lulu.com, 2009), 210 – 220.

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Kerouac'ın aşk müziği 

Jack Kerouac’ın Türkçeye yeni çevrilen romanı ‘Yeraltı Sakinleri’ bu yıl okuyacağınız aşk romanlarının en afilisi. Roman, Beat Kuşağı’nın özgürleştirici anlatım tekniklerinin ilk uygulamasını da satırlarında barındırıyor. Kerouac, en ünlü kitabı ‘Yolda’yı üç haftada, ‘Yeraltı Sakinleri’ni üç günde yazmıştı.

Kerouac’ın aşk müziği – Kaya Genç (Radikal Kitap)


[1] Jack Kerouac, The Subterraneans (Penguin: London, 2001), 69

[2] Kerouac, The Subterraneans, 93

[3] Kerouac, 39

[4] Jack Kerouac, The Subterraneans, 20

[5]Antonin Artaud, Selected Writings, ed. Susan Sontag (University of California: Berkeley, 1975), 570-1 “When you will have made him a body without organs,

then you will have delivered him from all his automatic reactions and restored him to his true freedom

then you will teach him again to dance wrong side out

as in the frenzy of dancehalls

and this wrong side out will be his real place.”

[6] Tamsin Lorraine, “Living a Time Out of Joint,” Between Deleuze and Derrida, eds. Paul Patton and John Protevi (Continuum: London and NY, 2003), 39

[7] Kerouac, The Subterraneans (Penguin: London, 2001), 77

[8] Kerouac, 93

[9] J.M. Coetzee, Youth (Secker and Warburg: London, 2002), 169

[10] Jack Kerouac, On the Road (New York: The Viking Press, 1957), 173

[11] Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, trans. Brian Massumi (University of Minnesota Press: Minnesota, 1988), 197

Cengiz Erdem, The Life Death Drives (London: Lulu.com, 2009), 210 – 220.

 The Brain: The Places in the Brain Where Space Lives | Mind & Brain | DISCOVER MagazineJames Williams teaches philosophy at the University of Dundee. He has written on French thinker Jean-François Lyotard, Lyotard: Towards a Postmodern Philosophy (Polity), Lyotard and the Political (Routledge) and with Keith Crome The Lyotard Reader and Guide (Edinburgh), on Gilles Deleuze, Gilles Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition: a Critical Introduction and Guide (Edinburgh) and The Transversal Thought of Gilles Deleuze (Clinamen) and a new defence of poststructuralism, Understanding Poststructuralism (Acumen).

 Mark Thwaite: You have written books on Lyotard, Deleuze and now you add three other poststructuralist thinkers (Derrida, Foucault and Kristeva) to your list – before we get into the detail of your books, what is it that draws you to these thinkers?

James Williams: I was drawn to Lyotard’s ultra-realist political sensitivity, not in the grim conservative sense of realist, but in the sense of refusing any misplaced idealism about structures and systems. I like the way he seeks out gaps in those structures through their dependence on desire. His ability to connect those gaps to notions of justice is important to me. Deleuze is a vital metaphysician; in future years it will be commonplace to utter lines like “Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Kant, Marx, Deleuze …” He opens life on to a realm of conditions and potentials that resist modern day naturalism (the reduction of life to the findings of the natural sciences defined in a very limited way) whilst remaining free of dogmatic mysticism. Derrida is a wonderful teacher. He expands our capacity to read between and across lines and texts. I like Kristeva’s combination of literary and psychoanalytical thought. She shows that an engagement with the role of deep processes in the psyche allows us to understand the revolutionary power of literature. As for Foucault, I have a soft spot for the complexity and balance of his style, its measure and cadence; it adds pleasure to the necessity of his understanding of the power of interlaced historical processes in contemporary lives.

MT: Your first book was on Jean-François Lyotard. Lyotard strikes me as a thinker often cited as the writer who defined postmodernism (in The Postmodern Condition), but not as a philosopher whose work has had a great impact beyond this. What is is that you see in Lyotard’s work that is so important?

JW: Lyotard was one of the best essayists of his time. A modern day Diderot, rather than a pure professional philosopher. So his work on the postmodern must be seen as a brilliant idea among many. It must also be seen in its aesthetic and polemical settings. Lyotard’s works are creative provocations with deep philosophical, political and artistic backgrounds. His work on the postmodern is often misread as a defence of postmodernity (an epoch) when it fact it is a plea for postmodern works that defy epochs by retaining a disruptive extra-historical power. Postmodern works remind us of the limits of the rational or irrational consensus that emerges and defines a slice of history. They are therefore outside such time-slices and have a negative power, ‘here are the limits of reason’, and a positive power, ‘here is an event that we must find new ways of doing justice to’. The notion of impact is a suspicious one in this context and I prefer to think in terms of the untimely: ‘That is to say, for as long as that for which it is time, and which the present time has more need of than ever, continues to count as untimely – I mean: telling the truth’ (Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations, 55). There are many current works inspired by Lyotard’s truths, for example, Margret Grebowicz’s Gender after Lyotard (SUNY, forthcoming), Geoffrey Bennington‘s Late Lyotard and Simon Malpas’s Lyotard (Routledge). Keith Crome and myself have a new critical edition of Lyotard’s works out this month! (The Lyotard Reader and Guide, EUP).

MT: Your Understanding Poststructuralism will, inevitably, be sold as an introductory text to students, but I thought it much better than many introductory texts (important though I think many of these gateway books can be). One of your concerns would seem to be that some analytic/traditional philosophers have not bothered to rise to the challenge of poststructuralist thought, but have condemned it tout court and without care. Why do you think that is?

JW: I like Bourdieu’s sociological methodology for answering this kind of question. For example, in his Homo Academicus, he traces the patterns of training and background for French academics. A similar work could be done for contemporary philosophers (where they trained, with which supervisors, their views of the importance of reason and common sense, whether they view themselves and thrive as specialists or generalists, their attitudes to science, religion and the arts). It would be scurrilous to offer answers independent of such a survey in addition to an extensive study of the statements made on continental philosophers. I am interested in raising critical questions that intersect with analytic ones in order to show that poststructuralist thinkers have some of the most original and powerful, in the sense of liberating, answers to traditional problems. Sometimes, the answer is that the problem is a false one. This can lead to some shock and misunderstanding, often based on the most sketchy reading and perhaps some concealed political and emotional motivations. I’d be happy to have shown that this need not be the case.

MT: What do you make of the ethical/religious turn in thinkers like Derrida? Was it inevitable?

JW: Nothing is inevitable, because even if things are causally determined, the meaning of what occurs exceeds facts or states of affairs. That’s why the same event is very different if we know it is to happen, rather than if it surprises us – hence the rich possibilities in literature for scenes where a death is foreseen (I often return to Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold, even if it was unsettling to read of its origin in true events in his recent beautiful memoirs Living to tell the tale). When we use the term ‘turn’ in philosophy it imparts meaning and weight to what is turned to, but this is always controversial, none more so than when it imposes linearity on to works with much more complex twists in time. For me, Derrida is primarily a great political interpreter of the philosophical tradition – and he never turned – for others, he is an ethical thinker. It is a mark of his importance that this will remain a rich source of debate.

MT: A number of the big beasts of poststructuralism are dead now. Theory’s time has, perhaps, passed. Who in contemporary thought should we be watching out for: Agamben, Badiou, Negri, Virilio, Zizek!?

JW: The philosophy I work on avoids these kind of predictions, except when they are uttered ironically. They encourage a nostalgic view that deflates the present. They also run counter to the view of events as shaped in retrospect and as always retaining an openness to future transformations (theory will return, but not as we know it). They also reflect the consumerist and fashion-led approach that turns us into onlookers rather than makers (see Guy Debord’s not-to-be-missed Comments on the Society of the Spectacle or his original Society of the Spectacle). Don’t look to others: What drives you and disgusts you? Work on them, but without fixing and representing them… Not easy, but definitely good for life.

MT: Lyotard’s libidinal economics – like Deleuze & Guattari’s politics of desire – seem to me to have dated more heavily than other postmodernisms, perhaps because they seem so tied to the jouissance of ’68 … or am I being unfair?

JW: There is a beautiful treatment of this kind of problem in Charles Péguy’s great book Clio. Péguy describes history as two intersecting cones: as we look into the future the cone widens and there are always more judges and actors, a bigger potential audience, but equally when they look back there are ever more worthy protagonists around us in the past. Our future audience turns out to have a choice among a much greater range of scenarios than we expected. So the interlocking cones of history grow wider backwards and forwards, and both cones expand through time. This leads to a set of interesting paradoxes. We care about future judgements, but we necessarily matter less and less in the future. Yet when we look back at needy actors just like us, we see them amongst many others. We crave significance, but remove it from others to make space for our own, as they do to us. One of the biggest problems is whether this should be cause for melancholy, or for a release from the burdens of destiny (Péguy’s moods alternate between despair and glory). If it is the latter – and, after all, it is up to us – then Lyotard’s desire will keep returning, but never as a dominating legacy.

MT: In the critical responses to your books, have you learned anything that would make you want to reassess or finesse your arguments? Have you been happy with the responses to your work?

JW: Readers’ responses to manuscripts, commissioned by academic presses, are the most important critical response to books and articles received by academics; they are almost never seen by others. A bad response means no publication, no publication can mean no job. Luckily, I have had many helpful responses that have much improved my books. It is luck because readers and reviewers can often be less well-qualified than the original author or have an opposed agenda (‘this book about guinea pigs should have been about elephants’. There is very little kudos in reading and reviewing, so they are done out of duty, enjoyment in judging others, lust for power, or necessity (junior academics find it hard to get early publications and hence often work through reviews; they are also in need of the tiny sums paid for reading: ‘we offer you £50 worth of our books for a 3 page report on this 400 page manuscript’). I like the way some modern reviewers are trying to re-invigorate the form by turning reviews into more creative pieces, where judgement and categorisation play less prominent roles. A good reviewer jumps off from a work, rather than jumps on it (obviously Nietzscheans do not have regrets, but were I to have any, one would be to have flattened rather than lifted works).

MT: You have a new book about Deleuze coming from Clinamen in March (The Transversal Thought of Gilles Deleuze) – can you tell me a little about it? Will this be building on the arguments in your Gilles Deleuze’s “Difference and Repetition”: A Critical Introduction and Guide?

JW: Clinamen is one of a dwindling number of independent specialist philosophical presses resisting the commercial logic of ‘many introductory primers and few, mainly historical, classics’. Bill Ross, the editor, pays genuine care to his authors and books. My book argues that Deleuze sought to construct a metaphysics, a world-view, with the greatest potential for openness, that is, with the fewest basic exclusions and identifications. A metaphysics that says that humans or nature or God, identified in a certain fixed way, are prior and best is terribly violent and narrow. However, even contemporary forms of empirical scientific naturalism can be narrow, due to the metaphysical presuppositions of their methods: forms of abstraction and generalisation, for instance. My book shows the detail of Deleuze’s arguments in relation to other key thinkers. I trace Deleuze’s work on transcendental conditions in Kant; his ethical thought based around expression, through Levinas; his engagement with science, through Bachelard; his work on reciprocal determination, in Whitehead; his distance from the possible, through Lewis; his radical opposition to the use of common sense, through Harman; and his revolutionary politics, in Negri and Lyotard. The book could have been called Deleuze, Life and Philosophy, but The Transversal Thought of Gilles Deleuze: Encounters and Influences is much less hubristic (the value of a good editor).

MT: What are you working on now?

JW: I’m working on another book-length reading of a work by Deleuze (The Logic of Sense). This book develops his idea of the radical connection of all things and people through the intense sensations that can run through them. He deduces a surface of sense connecting impersonal neutral events to individual singular actual ones, for example, in the way a single battle brings together many different actors, but from myriad perspectives and through multiple emotions and attachments. This notion of the event, as a connecting process prior and constitutive of fleeting identities, has very interesting ramifications for the ways we see life. So I am working on a long-term project of a new philosophy of the event inspired by Deleuze and by Whitehead.

MT: What is the best book you have read recently? Who is your favourite writer/what is your favourite book?

JW: I do not really have favourite writers and books. There are writers that accompany different moods and moments very well (Goytisolo, McEwan, Faulkner, Franquin, Goscinny, Uderzo, Chatwin, Sollers, Barthes, Greene, Borgès, Morris, Nietzsche, Foucault, Golding, Proulx, Waugh, Sempé) but which ones, when and where is unpredictable, sometimes they work, sometimes they do not. When they work they connect a moment to others by making them different; a single fixed and cherished favourite could not really do that – like a jester always telling the same joke to lesser effect. Off with his head.

MT: Has the internet changed the way that you read and write?

JW: I can’t remember a time before the internet. The latest surfing speeds and remote file and email access allow an academic to be almost anywhere in the world and ‘at work’. This ends the old dichotomy of, either, working on a single well-crafted piece next to a hot stove in slippers, or, sitting in a fusty university office teaching and administrating. My only worry with this passing is that it can increase a somewhat typical academic jealousy and paranoia (What are they doing? Why aren’t they reading me? Who is planning my downfall? Do I care?) Less in-the-flesh contact involves a loss of social skills and an increase in lonely self-analysis. It goes without saying that poststructuralists like me never ever suffer from this, and don’t you ever say the contrary, because I will find out.

MT: Anything else you’d like to say?

JW: Thanks for interviewing me. A serendipitous remedy for the above electronic social alienation lies in setting up a network of valued internet sites – something like an archipelago of cultured writing amidst a sea of dross. ReadySteadyBook (and its linked blogs) are pleasant and hospitable islands!

MT: Thanks so much for your time James – all the very best.

RSB-ROBOT
Copyright © 2002-2010 http://www.readysteadybook.com.

Mark Thwaite (13/02/2006)

 
alice, white rabbit, the hole and many doors

 

(via dubmode, fakefuneral)

Zamanın uçurumundan ve ötesindeki karanlıktan başka ne görüyorsunuz? – William Shakespeare

Kanlı bir yumurta sarısı. Bir çarşafa yayılan yanmış bir delik. Herkesi açmakla tehdit eden öfkeli bir gül. – May Svvenson

Dipsiz bir uçurumun içine baktığınız zaman, o da sizin içinize bakar. – Friedrich Nietzsche

Baktıkça bakıyorsunuz kendinize, Yetişir! Bu da hiç konuşmayan adam yapıyor sizi. – Edip Cansever

Yazmak mutsuzluğun nedeni değil, sonucudur. – Montaigne

Mutsuzluk dünyanın en komik şeyidir. – Beckett

İşler daha kötüye gidemeyecek hale gelince daha iyiye gitmeye başlar. – Kafka

Ben sahiden Rosie’yim, Ve ben Gerçek Rosie’yim, Bana inansanız iyi olur, Ben çok çok önemliyim. – Maurice Sendak

Bir deliyle başedebilmek için normal rolü yapmanız gerekir. – Herman Hesse

Gülün dikene katlanması onu güzel kokulu yaptı. – Mevlana

Her gün yeniden doğmalı. – Yunus Emre

 Zeno: Filozofun Bir Ölümlü Olarak Portresi – “Zeno” Kimdir, Kim’(ler)in Hikâyesidir?

Zeno -Filozofun Bir Ölümlü Olarak PortresiCengiz Erdem Cinius Yayınları İçe dönük infilâklardan medet uman garip bir düşünme biçiminin girdaplarında boğulan bireyin kendi yarattığı lâbirentte kayboluşunun ve çözümü sevgide bulmak suretiyle yeniden doğuşunun öyküsü…  Elindeki bu kitap hayatı kilitlenmiş bir adamın kendini içinde bulduğu ruhsal ve fiziksel durumlara karşı giriştiği amansız mücadeleyi anlatıyor sevgili okur.Kendini içinde bulduğu anlamsız rutinin pençesinde kıvranan bir akademisyen olan Zeno kendisine bir komplo kurulduğundan emindir. Çevresinde gelişen her olayı kendi kafasında kurduğu komplo teorilerinin süzgecinden geçtikten sonra gören bu kurban-kahraman adeta bir hiç kimse haline gelmiştir. Birbiri ardına yayınladığı kitaplar onu gittikçe daha yalnızlaştırmış. adeta şeffaf bir duvar örmüştür çevresine. Aşkta başarısız olduğu ve hayatta istediği noktadan çok uzakta olduğu için gittikçe nefretle dolmaya başlar Zeno çevresine karşı. Psikoz zuhur etmiş, kahramanımız paranoyak senaryolarla doldurmaya çalışmaktadır hayatındaki boşluğu. O kadar önemsiz hissetmektedir ki Zeno kendisini, ölmek isteyecek noktaya gelmiştir artık. Bu senaryolar ona kendisini önemli hissetirmekte ve ölümü uzak tutmaktadır hayatından. Yayın Yılı: 2007144 sayfa12,5x19,5 cmISBN:9944126816İLGİLİ KONULAR:Links > New Book-Fantezi Makinesinde Hakikat Sızıntısı 

Zeno -Filozofun Bir Ölümlü Olarak Portresi
Cengiz Erdem
Cinius Yayınları 

İçe dönük infilâklardan medet uman garip bir düşünme biçiminin girdaplarında boğulan bireyin kendi yarattığı lâbirentte kayboluşunun ve çözümü sevgide bulmak suretiyle yeniden doğuşunun öyküsü…

Cengiz Erdem

With Dead Ringers (1988) Cronenberg shows the consequences of an attempt to get rid of the space between the me and the not me. The illusory absence of difference between Mantle twins Beverly and Elliot is their own creation. They identify with one another so much that they think they are one split soul living one life in two different bodies. When they are discussing the deteriorating condition of Beverly, Claire says to Elliot that he shouldn’t identify with Beverly, distance himself from him, and live his own life separate from Beverly. In response to Claire’s suggestion Elliot says, “But the drugs he takes are running in my veins.” Beverly and Elliot are twice split. They are not only split from their mother by birth, but also from one another. They are divided within and against themselves. Let us start from the beginning to make more sense of what happens in Dead Ringers.
Right at the beginning of the film we see Beverly and Elliot, in childhood, talking about the difference between the copulation of fish and humans. One of them suggests that fish are able to reproduce without having sex, and that if humans were living under the water they wouldn’t need to have sex to copulate. They would simply internalise the water through which they would copulate. At the prospect of copulation without touching, the other twin responds by saying, “I like the idea.” The next scene shows Beverly and Elliot approaching a girl and asking her if she wanted to have sex with them in a bathtub as an experiment. They are aggressively rejected and accused of talking dirty.
From the very beginning Beverly and Elliot see science as a means to attain sex objects and sex objects as means to carry out their scientific projects. A further hint at their tendency to see the female body as something to be experimented upon is given in the following scene where they are seen operating on a plastic doll pinned down on the table. This is their play. For them the object of desire is at the same time the object of science, and science is a form of play. Their diagnosis concerning the patient is intra ovular surgery.
From the year 1954 we shift to the year 1967. Beverly and Elliot are in the faculty of medicine in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We see them applying their surgical instrument, their own invention, on a cadaver in the autopsy room. In stark contrast to the professor’s negative attitude towards their radical new instrument, the next scene shows Elliot receiving a gold plate model of their instrument as a prize for their contribution to gynaecology. At home Beverly is working on their future contributions to the field.
The differences between Beverly and Elliot become more obvious with the entry of Claire to their life. Beverly comes to understand that he is different from his brother through his different way of being in relation to Claire. While Elliot sees Claire as merely an object of play (sex and science), rather than as another person, Beverly is more affectionate and wants to sincerely engage in a profound interaction with Claire. And yet Claire’s sexual identity, that is, her masochistic tendency to occupy a passive and submissive position in the relationship makes it impossible for Beverly to escape from the double bind situation he finds himself in. The whole film is a narrative of how one falls into a double bind situation and why it is impossible to escape from this double bind without having to die.
In Dead Ringers the Mantle twins are locked in the mirror stage. Death emerges as the only way to escape from this entrapment in an endlessly self-perpetuating process of projective identification. Their minoritarian nature, having been born identical twins, leads them to study the womb as the monster that gave birth to them. The Mantle twins’ fascination with deformed wombs, and the instruments they invent to act upon those deformations reflect their deviant relation to birth, motherhood, and sexuality.

At the culmination of the historical effort of a society to refuse to recognize that it has any function other than the utilitarian one, and in the anxiety of the individual confronting the ‘concentrational’ form of the social bond that seems to arise to crown this effort, existentialism must be judged by the explanations it gives of the subjective impasses that have indeed resulted from it; a freedom that is never more authentic than when it is within the walls of a prison; a demand for commitment, expressing the impotence of a pure consciousness to master any situation; a voyeuristic-sadistic idealization of the sexual relation; a personality that realizes itself only in suicide; a consciousness of the other than can be satisfied only by Hegelian murder.[1]

In the relationship between Beverly and Elliot, the other consciousness is at the same time the consciousness of the self. Beverly and Elliot think that they are the same and yet different from one another at the same time. An impossible situation is situated in the context of gynaecology and the psychic life of a male gynaecologist’s relation to a female patient is used to show what happens when art-sex-science become one. The “voyeuristic-sadistic idealization of sexual relation” Lacan is talking about is precisely the Mantle twins’ relation to the female body and sex. Because they see themselves as a deviation from the norm, they see their mother as the birth giver of an abnormality. Their fascination with the ill-formed female body thus gains a significance in terms of their relation to their mother and birth.

The very existence of imagination means that you can posit an existence different from the one you’re living. If you are trying to create a repressive society in which people will submit to whatever you give them, then the very fact of them being able to imagine something else—not necessarily better, just different—is a threat. So even on that very simple level, imagination is dangerous. If you accept, at least to some extent, the Freudian dictum that civilization is repression, then imagination—and an unrepressed creativity—is dangerous to civilization. But it’s a complex formula; imagination is also an innate part of civilization. If you destroy it, you might also destroy civilization.[2]

Cronenberg is a much more Freudian director than he would dare to admit.

Writing was in its origin the voice of an absent person; and the dwelling-house was a substitute for the mother’s womb, the first lodging, for which in all likelihood man still longs, and in which he was safe and felt at ease.[3]

Freud says that reality and fantasy, external and internal, the self and the world, the psychic and the material are in conflict and that this conflict is always experienced as pain. To compensate for the pain of this fragmentary existence man writes and tries to form a unity which he believes to have once been present and after which he is destined to strive. In Freud’s vision the subject is always in pursuit of an unattainable sense of wholeness, what he calls the “oceanic feeling.” And yet, Freud says, the subject can turn this negative situation into a positive one by creating works of art and literature in the way of producing at-one-ment with the world, although for Freud, this at-one-ment is impossible to attain, and if literature has any therapeutic effect at all, it is only to the extent of turning indescribable misery into ordinary unhappiness. Freud says, “the substitutive satisfactions, as offered by art, are illusions in contrast with reality, but they are none the less psychically effective, thanks to the role which phan
tasy has assumed in mental life.”[4]
Freud’s idea that imagination in general and writing in particular is a desperate attempt to return to the womb, to the state of being before birth, is clearly manifest in Dead Ringers. In the womb Beverly/Elliot was one and their choice of profession is a sign of their striving for that long lost oneness within themselves, with each other, and with their mother. What Freud, in Civilization and Its Discontents, calls the “oceanic feeling,” that is, the security of existence within the womb, tied to the mother with the umbilical cord, and swimming in the placental waters in foetal shape without the danger of drowning, is what the Mantle twins are striving for. According to Cronenberg they wish they were fish. Cronenberg sees barbaric regress as an inevitable consequence of progress.

This gives us our indication for therapeutic procedure – to afford opportunity for formless experience, and for creative impulses, motor and sensory, which are the stuff of playing. And on the basis of playing is built the whole of man’s experiential existence. No longer are we either introvert or extrovert. We experience life in the area of transitional phenomena, in the exciting interweave of subjectivity and objective observation, and in an area that is intermediate between the inner reality of the individual and the shared reality of the world that is external to individuals.[5]

Freud’s and Winnicott’s methods of therapy are based on the pursuit of a lacking sense of unity of self and the world. This form of therapeutic procedure forces the subject to ego formation, normalization, and submissiveness to the existing order of meaning. Freud considers the state of being in harmony with the world as the sign of health and development of the capacity to repress the drives and making sharp distinctions between the internal and external worlds, and between the conscious and the unconscious mind as a sign of progress. Although Winnicott, like Freud, assumes that there is an originary split between the internal and the external worlds, he at the same time differs from Freud in that his therapeutic process involves some kind of a journey that the therapist takes with the patient. In this kind of therapeutic relationship the therapist engages in a spontaneous interaction through playing with the rules of the game itself. In this process the role of the therapist is to render the patient capable of learning to play. In turn the therapist himself learns to relate to the patient through a kind of unconscious communication.
What we have both in the Mantle twins and Freud and Winnicott then, is a will to transcend the material world through material tools. Mantle twins’ aim is to go beyond the material world and unite with one another in a dimension where the psychic and the material, the self and the other become one. The surgical instruments Beverly invents after Claire goes away for two weeks, are parallel to his mental deterioration. As he turns against himself, so do the surgical instruments turn into weapons against the patients. The sharp and pointed instruments represent Beverly’s regressive movement towards aggressive barbarism. The Mantle Retractor is replaced by objects to dig into the body. These instruments are a result of Beverly’s attempt to externalise the illusory space created by loss of the object of love. By digging holes he thinks he will have restored himself. The instruments he creates eventually turn against him and his brother, destroying both in the process.
It is a recurrent theme of Cronenberg films that what the subject himself created turns against the subject and becomes the very cause of the subject’s death. In Videodrome (1982) for instance we see Max, the victim of a video program which is inserted into the subject’s body and possessed, the subject acts unconsciously in the service of the monstrous forces behind the screen. All Videodrome tapes do is to bring out what’s already in the subject. That is, make the subject’s unconscious fantasies appear on the surface of the screen. In other words it turns the subject into a projection-introjection mechanism. At the end of the movie we see Max’s hand turning into the gun he was holding. He is seeing himself on the screen killing himself, and in the next scene he is killing himself in front of the screen onto which he had already projected the scenario of his own death. He introjects what he himself projects, and what he projects is already an effect of what he had introjected. What we have here is a deconstruction of the relationship between the screen and the mirror. Not only the screen is a mirror, but also the mirror is a screen. The Videodrome tapes are the partial-objects which, when united through the subject’s body, take over the body and manifest themselves in the actions of the subject. The subject becomes, in a way, an object of violence against itself and others.

[1] Jacques Lacan, Écrits: A Selection, trans. Alan Sheridan (London: The Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psychoanalysis, 1977), 7
[2] David Cronenberg, Croneberg on Cronenberg, ed. Chris Rodley (London; Faber and Faber, 191992), 169
[3] Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, trans. James Strachey (London: Penguin, 1985), 279
[4] Sigmund Freud, Civilisation and Its Discontents, 262
[5] Donald Winnicott, Playing and Reality, (London: Tavistock, 1971), 64

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