Skip navigation

Tag Archives: Philosophy of Mind

Visual representation of The double-aspect the...

Image via Wikipedia

In Phenomenology of Spirit Hegel attempts to write a mythology of creation and a creation of mythology in one simultaneous movement in two opposite directions at once. Intimately implicating the process of creation in error and misrecognition, Phenomenology of Spirit is a narrative of the subject’s endless process of negotiating with the world and with itself; in this context the subject is a process of settling accounts without end.

Hegel’s first object of thought is the thought of the object itself. For the negotiation of thought with the self and the world to begin taking its course, the subject has to take its own thought as that which is the other within itself, that is, as its own object. Through this separation between the subject and the object the subject becomes capable of seeing itself through its own thought and its own thought through itself. The thought of the subject is at the same time the object of thought. Thought as the subject and the object at the same time journeys through consciousness towards the unconscious. As soon as the subject becomes conscious of its own division within itself it becomes the Unhappy Consciousness. The Unhappy Consciousness is a consciousness that is conscious of its own unconsciousness. It is not only conscious of itself as the unconscious inherent in consciousness, but is itself that consciousness in which it inheres as the unconscious. It is a consciousness that knows itself to be other than what it thinks itself to be and yet being conscious of itself as always already other than itself it is never present to itself. It is a (w)hole in its own consciousness.  

But although the Unhappy Consciousness does not have the enjoyment of this presence, it has at the same time advanced beyond pure thinking in so far as this is the abstract thinking of Stoicism which turns its back on individuality altogether, and beyond the merely unsettled thinking of Scepticism—which is in fact only individuality in the form of an unconscious contradiction and ceaseless movement. It has advanced beyond both of these; it brings and holds together pure thinking and particular individuality, but has not yet risen to that thinking where consciousness as a particular individuality is reconciled with pure thought itself. It occupies rather this intermediate position where abstract thinking is in contact with the individuality of consciousness qua individuality. The Unhappy Consciousness is this contact; it is the unity of pure thinking and individuality; also it knows itself to be this thinking individuality or pure thinking, and knows the Unchangeable itself essentially as an individuality. But what it does not know is that this its object, the Unchangeable, which it knows essentially in the form of individuality, is its own self, is itself the individuality of consciousness.[1]

The Unhappy Consciousness consists in and of two separate but contiguous parts: Stoicism and Scepticism. Knowing itself to be both and none of these at the same time, the Unhappy Consciousness turns towards the Unchangeable, of which Hegel identifies a particular manifestation appropriate to the stage of the Unhappy Consciousness. What the Unhappy Consciousness wants is to see itself as part of the Unchangeable, to realize that there is something unchangeable for itself and in itself. But the only unchangeable is the perpetually changing way of change itself and so the Unhappy Consciousness, to become the Unchangeable itself, turns against itself and changes; it becomes for and against itself, which it always already was, thus actualizing the Unchangeable which is its state of being divided against itself. Perpetually changing, it is unchangeable, and again changes itself and becomes changeable to remain unchangeable.

The middle term is self-consciousness which splits into the extremes; and each extreme is this exchanging of its own determinateness and an absolute transition into its opposite.[2]

Each self-consciousness is divided within itself. It is divided within itself, against itself and the other self-consciousness. For it to be able to actualise its self-consciousness it has to be recognized by the other self-consciousness. But the other self-consciousness is itself in the same situation. Without one another none is self-consciousness. To proceed from consciousness to self-consciousness they need the other which is always already within themselves. What they need to do is to recognize the other within themselves for them to be recognized as they are to themselves. For the self to be what it is for itself it first has to become what it is for the other, that is, one loses itself in the other within itself in order to find oneself dismembered.

Such minds, when they give themselves up to the uncontrolled ferment of {the divine} substance, imagine that, by drawing a veil over self-consciousness and surrendering understanding they become the beloved of God to whom He gives wisdom in sleep; and hence what they in fact receive, and bring to birth in their sleep, is nothing but dreams.[3]

Hegel’s is a way of writing that proceeds through sustaining the conditions for the possibility of a productive interaction between the conscious and the unconscious. His narrative process is driven by forces that Hegel himself produces out of an activity creating and sustaining a tension between the conscious and the unconscious forces within himself. Hegel never stops writing against himself. And yet this writing against himself of Hegel is at the same time his writing for himself. By writing not for the other but before the other he becomes capable of keeping an eye on himself through the eye of the other within himself. The eye of the other that keeps an eye on the eye of the self is simultaneously interior and exterior to Hegel. By being addressed to himself in such a way as to be addressed to the other Hegel’s writing becomes the fragile contact and a simultaneous separation between the self and the other.

As he puts it in his On the Genealogy of Morality, for Nietzsche, too, there are masters and slaves, which he calls active and reactive forces, but those who play the role of the masters are in fact the slaves and the slaves the masters. So what Nietzsche wants to say is that the 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.

Now I will attempt to think through the separation between Hegel and Nietzsche by imagining the way in which Nietzsche could have possibly read Hegel now. These words by Nietzsche are addressed directly to Hegel:

“Will to truth,” you who are wisest call that which impels you and fills you with lust?

A will to the thinkability of all beings: this I call your will. You want to make all being thinkable, for you doubt with well-founded suspicion that it is already thinkable. But it shall yield and bend for you. Thus your will wants it. It shall become smooth and serve the spirit as its mirror and reflection. That is your whole will, you who are wisest: a will to power—when you speak of good and evil too, and of valuations. You still want to create the world before which you can kneel: that is your ultimate hope and intoxication.[4]

Nietzsche reads Hegel in terms of the disintegration between Hegel’s actions and intentions. In a way Nietzsche implies that Hegel is the very unhappy consciousness he is trying to overcome. Hegel himself is interpreting the unhappy consciousness as a split subject whose actions and intentions do not form a coherent unity. This means that Nietzsche is trying to criticize Hegel with Hegel’s very own logic of conceptualization of the subject as split.

In both Hegel and Nietzsche the relationship between the subject and the object is problematized. In both cases the resistance to contamination by the object of thought through its introjection is not only hand in hand but also drives and is driven by the fear of being contaminated by the object. There is, however, no fear of contaminating the object through projecting onto it that which is always already introjected from it, namely that it is a narrative of the processes of projection-introjection mechanism.

As the narrative of the relationship between the subject and the object, Phenomenolgy of Spirit, against which, according to Deleuze’s reading of Nietzsche in Nietzsche and Philosophy, Nietzsche was writing, is itself written for and against itself, and is indeed a narrative of the unhappy consciousness’s difference from itself.

For Nietzsche, the subject’s creations with and through the objects surrounding him/her is driven by a movement towards self-destruction in that the subject relates to the objects it creates in a way that is against itself. An example of that at present would be in terms of the relationship between humanity and technology. If the subject is being governed by fear he/she will see technology as bad in itself, hence taking on a paranoid attitude towards technology, ignore its good uses, reject it completely, and eventually actualize what he/she was not even afraid of; death. But the opposite is equally true in that if the subject has no trace of fear within, then he/she will lose himself/herself in what he/she creates and actualize what he had no fear of.

Negativity gives birth to negativity. Negativities form an infinite chain chaining the subject to an infinite process of regress. Aggression is negative and as it multiplies itself it destroys both the object and the subject. Reactive attitudes are produced by and produce aggression. It is very easy for aggression to dominate the world and/but it is very difficult to sustain the conditions for the possibility of channelling aggression towards healthy conflict without antagonism.

In Phenomenology of Spirit Hegel presents Stoics and Sceptics as the two constitutive parts of the unhappy consciousness. Now let us try and imagine a subject as defined in the subtitle. Situated in the present context, a subject as the two sides of the same coin that contained a sceptic and a stoic side at the same time would be the Nietzschean/Hegelian subject par excellence in that it would see everything in terms of a dualism, or a struggle between the forces of good and evil. In fact he would himself become the stage on which a confrontation between good and evil takes place. He would read every sign in the external world in terms of this struggle to the point of replacing the external reality with his internally constituted reality. What he introjects would be always already his own creation, which he would still consider to be what’s really going on outside, and consequently would himself become the nodal point of the conflict between the internal and the external, the psychic and the somatic.

 The sceptic exhausts the projection-introjection mechanism to the point of turning against all claims to know the truth, whereas the stoic refuses to take part in the projection-introjection mechanism. It is not that the sceptic sees evil everywhere but that he projects the evil within and onto the evil without that he has introjected from the external world in the first place. As for the stoic, he is so indifferent that he thinks there is no gap between the internal and the external worlds and so there can be no such thing as a projection-introjection mechanism that would simultaneously be the cause and the effect of a struggle between good and evil.

On one pole of this interactivity which constitutes contemporary nihilism is the reactive sceptic and on the other the indifferent stoic. Neither of these are satisfying for themselves nor satisfying in-themselves to produce reconciliation which would be called an intersubjectivity. A reactive force sees everything against itself and an indifferent force sees no point in engaging in an intercourse in the way of an interaction with a reactive sceptic who sees stoics as nihilists.  

Sceptics and stoics are, by being against one another, feeding neither themselves nor the other, but contributing to the production of otherness as negativity, hence taking part in the setting of the very vicious trap in which they find themselves against each other and out of which they both come dismembered. They are both finding themselves locked in an agonizing process, which is destroying both of them. It is impossible for one to survive without the other. Although the problem is the projection-introjection mechanism inherent in them, they are looking for the source of their maladies outside themselves. We are projecting all our bad qualities onto the others and then accusing them of being negative towards us. In turn they are giving birth to the negativity of the other, or otherness as negativity. The source of the negative within and without us is being created by us since we introject what we have projected and inversely.                                                       


[1] Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. A.V. Miller (Oxford: OUP, 1977), 130-1

[2] Hegel, 112

[3] Hegel, 6

[4] Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, from The portable Nietzsche, ed. and trans. Walter Kaufman (New York: Viking Press, 1954), 225 

Advertisements
1848 edition of American Phrenological Journal...

Image via Wikipedia

Cognitive neuroscience proposes that the quality of an external object is always already projected onto that object by the neuronal activity of the brain. What cognitive neuroscience lacks is a historical context, likewise what cultural studies lacks is an organic basis. An interaction between psychoanalysis, linguistics, philosophy, cultural studies, and cognitive neuroscience can break out of the closure of the humanities and give birth to the link which has come to be considered missing, between nature and nurture, organic and inorganic, empirical and conceptual, epistemological and ontological, transcendental and immanent, the objective and the subjective.  

Because of the dynamic and parallel nature of re-entry and because it is a process of higher-order selection, it is not easy to provide a metaphor that captures all the properties of re-entry. Try this: Imagine a peculiar (and even weird) string quartet, in which each player responds by improvisation to ideas and cues of his or her own, as well as to all kinds of sensory cues in the environment. Since there is no score, each player would provide his or her own characteristic tunes, but initially these various tunes would not be coordinated with those of the other players. Now imagine that the bodies of the players are connected to each other by myriad fine threads so that their actions and movements are rapidly conveyed back and forth through signals of changing thread tensions that act simultaneously to time each player’s actions. Signals that instantaneously connect the four players would lead to a correlation of their sounds; thus, new, more cohesive, and more integrated sounds would emerge out of the otherwise independent efforts of each player. This correlative process would alter the next action of each player, and by these means the process would be repeated but with new emergent tunes that were even more correlated. Although no conductor would instruct or coordinate the group and each player would still maintain his or her style and role, the player’s overall productions would lead to a kind of mutually coherent music that each one acting alone would not produce.[1]

The model of mind conceptualized by Gerald Edelman shows us that the mind is an embodied substance which has the ability to adapt to changes surrounding it. If we keep in mind that cinema, literature, art, and music show how the mind works at a particular moment in history, as well as the emotional state of that particular moment, it becomes clear why a mode of enquiry rather than a specific method is required for the analysis and critique of human consciousness and its relation to the environment surrounding it. In this context, the plot driven critique of the literary and filmic texts aims at distinguishing between the world of consciousness and the world of appearances. My claim is that it is only through looking at the mortal world of appearances with the eyes of an immortal consciousness that we can see that which is present as an absence in the predominant symbolic order. By looking at “what happens when” in a movie or a book as well as “how that thing happens,” I sustain the conditions of impossibility as the conditions of possibility for cont(r)action to take place and give birth to an immortal subject. Needless to say, this subject is also an object encountering and encountered by the unknown within the known, the chaos inherent in the order itself, that calls forth he who has died so many times and is yet to die again and be reborn many more times so as to live as dead again.


[1] Gerald Edelman, A Universe of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination (New York: Basic Books, 2000), 49

 

Baruch de Spinoza (1632 -1677)

Image via Wikipedia

Richard Rorty's Last "Spinoza" It occurs to me that it would be good to post this last view of Spinoza offered by Richard Rorty, a revision of an earlier papers he had written. I have not compared the two versions so I can make no claim to changes that Rorty came to,  but Rorty offered me the piece possibly still in draft form to represent his thoughts on Spinoza in the last months of his life – I did not realize he was ill. To add some reflective thoughts on this version of Spinoza … Read More

via Mitochondrial Vertigo

SPINOZA’S LEGACY, by Richard Rorty

[This is a shortened and revised version of the first of two Spinoza Lectures given at the University of Amsterdam in 1997. The longer version appeared under the title “Is it desirable to love truth?” in Richard Rorty, Truth, politics and ‘post-modernism’ (Assen: Ven Gorcum, 1997).]

If one thinks of philosophy as the love of wisdom, of wisdom as the grasp of truth, and of truth as the accurate representation of an order that exists independently of human language and human history, then may well doubt whether philosophy is possible. Important twentieth-century intellectual movements have denied the existence of such an order. I shall use the term “pragmatism” to characterize this denial, because the alternative—“post-modernism”—has been damaged by profligate overuse.

The quarrel between the pragmatists and their predecessors that has emerged over the last hundred years is something new. It gradually took shape as a result of attempts to resolve an older quarrel—the one that Plato said was between the gods and the giants (that is, between philosophers like Plato himself and materialists like Democritus). That quarrel was about what the natural order is like, not about whether there is such a thing. In what follows, I shall argue that Spinoza’s attempt to overcome Cartesian dualism is the beginning of a train of thought that eventually leads to pragmatism, and thus to the replacement of the old quarrel by a new one.

Plato believed that grasping the natural order of things can bring about blessedness–a kind of happiness of which the animals are incapable, and which results from the realization that something central to human beings is also central to the universe. Blessedness, in this sense, consists in the realization that the intrinsic nature of the universe is on our side.

The materialists also believe that wisdom consists in the grasping of the natural order of things, but they think that no comfort can be derived from contemplating this order. We can derive practical, utilitarian profit from grasping the natural order, but we cannot find consolation in doing so. Mechanistic materialism’s picture of the universe gives us only the sort of cold intellectual satisfaction experienced by Euclid—the kind produced by having successfully brought order to a confusing variety of apparently unrelated items. It cannot produce a sense of harmony between human aspirations and non-human things.

This quarrel was renewed in early modern philosophy when mechanistic accounts of the natural order triumphed over Aristotelian hylomorphic and teleological accounts. In this period, it is exemplified by the opposition between Hobbes and Spinoza. Both men tried to come to terms with an account of the natural order which seems to leaves no place for the kind of happiness that Plato believed human beings might come to have.

Hobbes’s solution was that human beings must use artifice to do what nature cannot do: they must construct a second, political, order, in order to become less fearful and less miserable. Politics, rather than philosophical contemplation, is our only recourse. But Spinoza thought that the new, mechaniistic, account of the natural order could be reconciled with Plato’s ambition–the attainment of blessedness through increased knowledge.

Spinoza’s way of reconciling the new explanations of the way things worked with the hope of such blessedness was to say that there were two equally valid ways of describing the universe: a description in terms of matter and a description in terms of mind. God or Nature could be viewed with equal adequacy under the attribute of extension and under the attribute of thought.

Before Spinoza, it had seemed that one had to choose sides: the gods and the giants could not both be right. If reality was simply atoms and void, then the hope of blessedness was vain. Spinoza claimed that one did not have to choose between the body and the spirit, for the two were, properly understood, one. The natural order, he suggested, is expressed in many ways, only two of which—extension and thought–we are able to grasp. The order and connection of corpuscles is the same as the order and connection of ideas. The mind knows only insofar as the body prospers, and conversely.

Spinoza’s Ethics is filled with propositions that would have struck Plato as paradoxical, as when he tells us that “The more we understand particular things, the more we understand God” (V, Prop. 24). Throughout the Ethics, Spinoza insists that the ascetics are wrong: the more active the body is, the more penetrating the mind. Bodily activity, the interaction of the body with many different things, goes hand-in-hand with the ascent of the mind toward God. Spinoza is friendlier to the body than any previous admirer of Plato. He is also friendlier to Democritus. He urges us not to be discouraged, as Socrates was, by the absence of good teleological explanations of natural events. For the more you understand about the purely mechanical order and connection of those atoms, the more your mind comes to resemble that of God.

Spinoza’s reconciliation of body and mind, matter and spirit, relies on the notion of equally valid alternative descriptions of the same reality”. But that notion contains the seeds of its own destruction. For once we allow it into philosophy, the very idea of the natural order is in danger. So, therefore, is the idea of philosophy as the quest for knowledge of what is really real.

Before Spinoza it was taken for granted that any two competing descriptions of anything could be compared in point of adequacy. The less adequate description could then be deemed a description of appearance, and the more adequate a description of reality. But as soon as one deploys the idea of equally adequate alternative descriptions, one will wonder whether it matters whether one is talking about the same reality in two equally valid vocabularies, or about two different appearances of the same underlying reality. As soon as one begins to raise that question, one begins the slide from Spinoza’s utterly knowable universe to Kant’s unknowable thing-in-itself. For if two irreconcilable descriptions can both somehow be valid, is there any reason to believe that either has anything to do with things as they are in themselves–things as undescribed?

Once one raises the latter question, one is on the brink of a slippery slope.. As soon as one stops saying, with Plato, that the body and the atoms are mere appearances of something else, and says instead that they are the universe described in one very useful way among other very useful ways, one may wonder if there is any better test of a descriptive vocabulary than its utility for human purposes. Perhaps Protagoras had a point: maybe man is the measure of all things. Why not think of descriptive vocabularies as tools rather than attempts at representational accuracy? Why not drop the question of how things are in themselves, and instead devote oneself to the question of which descriptive vocabularies get us what we want? The slide from Kant’s unknowable thing-in-itself to Nietzsche’s and William James’ pragmatism thus becomes as precipitous as the slide from Spinoza to Kant.

Pragmatists suggest that to have an order is simply to be described in a language, and that no language is any more natural–any closer to the way things really are–than any other. Any descriptive vocabulary comprehensive enough to relate lots of the things we talk about to lots of other such things is a description of an ordered universe. But once one starts thinking in terms of equally valid descriptions, the idea that nature might have a preferred self-description begins to seem merely quaint. Nature under a description will always exhibit an order. But nature undescribed in any human language? That is simply the thing-in-itself–an utterly useless notion, a philosopher’s plaything, a toy rather than a tool.

In short, the more one thinks about alternative languages for talking about nature, the less need there is to think about the nature of nature. The possibility arises that one might become blessed by contriving a new language for human beings to speak, rather than by getting in touch with something non-human. The old idea that blessedness can be obtained by getting in touch with a natural order begins to be replaced by the new idea that blessedness might be obtained by finding a new way to talk. Hobbes’ suggestion that artifice is needed to do what nature cannot do begins to sound more plausible.

This suggestion was taken up by the Romantics, who attempt to achieve blessedness by self-creation—by becoming a lamp rather than a mirror. Once one begins to think of languages as artifacts, it seems natural to supplement Hobbes’ account of the genesis of political artifacts can be supplemented by Shelley’s account of the role of the poetic imagination in intellectual and moral progress.

The effect of thinking about language is to turn the attention of philosophers away from the natural sciences. By the time of Shelley and Hegel, mathematics and physics no longer dominate the philosophical scene. The willingness to talk Galilean mechanics as a paradigmatic intellectual achievement, which was common to Hobbes and Spinoza, begins to seem quaint. For Kant had already suggested that the language of natural science should be thought of as useful for some purposes and not for others: the vocabulary deployed by Verstand has little connection with that deployed by praktische Vernunft. The description of the world in terms of atoms and the void is obviously good for technology, but useless for morality and for poetry. But technological purposes have no natural priority others. One could claim they do only by reviving the appearance-reality distinction that Spinoza’s notion of equally adequate descriptions had undermined.

****************

I have been singling out one element in Spinoza’s thought–the idea of equally valid description in different languages—and suggesting how it can be seen a turning-point in the history of philosophy. It is the point at which one begins to stop looking backward to Plato and Democritus, and starts looking forward to Romanticism, Nietzsche, and pragmatism. But looking at Spinoza’s role in the history of philosophy in this way is, of course, to neglect Spinoza’s own deepest conviction: that every apparent diversity will be resolved when one takes a larger view: that the more things are related to one another, the less problematic they become.

Spinoza thought that there is always a hidden unity to be found behind every apparent variety. The success of mathematical physics at finding simple and elegant laws confirmed a view he also expressed in theological and political terms: he urged behind the many vocabularies in which men speak of God and of the socio-political order there is a single natural order to be discerned. Every way of worshiping God, like each way of ordering society, has the same end. To believe otherwise, Spinoza thought, is to let the imagination take the place of the intellect.

Although Spinoza was less ascetic, friendlier to the body, than had previously seemed compatible with the pursuit of blessedness, he was no friendlier to the imagination, or to poetry, or to artifice, than were Plato and Savanarola at their worst. Though the human body had been redeemed by Galileo’s discoveries of how matter worked, the imagination had not. The human body is redeemed only when seen under the aspect of eternity, as a feature on the face of the whole universe. But the divine mind—the counterpart, under the attribute of thought, of the face of the material universe– has no imagination. It is literal-minded. It has no occasion to speak in metaphors. So, Spinoza thought, the less we humans use metaphors, the greater our chances of blessedness.

Spinoza’s hostility to metaphor and artifice is clearest in the Theologico-Political Treatise. In that book, he helped prepare the way for the Enlightenment’s ecumenical conviction that all religions come down to the same thing. The differences between them are merely differences in the local situations of human beings, and of the consequent differences in their imaginations. Trying to break free of fundamentalist literalism, Spinoza tries to translate Scripture from the language of the imagination into something more like the language of the intellect. He says, for example, that when the Bible tells us that God opened the windows of the heavens, all it is really saying is that it rained very hard. (TPT, p. 44) For Spinoza, metaphor has no value. Like the imagination, metaphor is something to be overcome.

Just as truth is one though unfortunately expressed in diverse metaphors, so true religion is one, though prophecies are many. “The power of prophecy”, Spinoza says, “implies not a peculiarly perfect mind, but a peculiarly vivid imagination”. (TPT, 19) Religious ceremonies are many, but blessedness is one. “Ceremonies are no aid to blessedness, but only have reference to temporal prosperity” (TPT, 70). Christ was an improvement on Moses because “he taught only universal moral precepts, and [therefore] promises a spiritual instead of a temporal reward.” (TPT, Elwes translation, 70) “The nature of natural divine law,” he says, is “universal or common to all men, for we have deduced it from universal human nature” (61), and “it does not depend on the truth of any historical narrative whatsoever.” Adam could have as good a grasp of the divine law and of human nature as we ourselves, for history has added nothing to human knowledge, other than an increased ability to gain “temporal rewards”.

Metaphor, history and diversity are firmly relegated by Spinoza to the realm of what, following Descartes, he thinks of as confused ideas. New metaphors can only heap confusion on confusion. The eternal, the true, and the clear are names for the same thing: God or Nature rightly understood, understood as a whole rather than in part. Spinoza is an utterly convinced adherent of the doctrine Kierkegaard called “Socratism”: the historical moment does not matter, for the teacher is merely an occasion. What Christ said in parables can better be said more geometrico.

Hegel said that nobody can be a philosopher who is not first a Spinozist. He meant, among other things, that nobody can take philosophy–as opposed to poetry and prophecy–seriously who does not hope to see everything converge, come together, form a systematic unity. To be a philosopher in this sense, you have to yearn for a natural order. You need to take the reality-appearance distinction, and the literal-metaphorical distinction, very seriously indeed.

Paradoxically, enough, however, it was Hegel who, following up on Vico and Herder, suggested that philosophers take historical narratives seriously. He was the first to make plausible the idea that constructing such a narrative might yield better results than proceeding more geometrico. His own narratives suggest the possibility that we can let the distinction between earlier ideas and later ideas take the place of the Cartesian distinction between the confused ideas of the imagination and the clear ideas of the intellect. This proposal was taken up by Nietzsche and Heidegger. Nietzsche’s narrative about the West’s liberation from Platonism, and Heidegger’s counter-narrative, are at the heart of their respective philosophies. If Hegel brought historical narrative into philosophy, both by precept and example, Nietzsche and Heidegger brought metaphor into it. Those two helped us break down the barriers between philosophy and poetry, and overcome Plato’s conviction that philosophy and poetry are related as the higher to the lower.

As long as languages are viewed, as they were in the seventeenth century, as alternative ways of expressing the same limited range of ideas, it will be hard to take either history or metaphor seriously. It will be easy to think that philosophy’s task is to rise above diversity and to seek simplicity of utterance. But Hegel helped us get rid of the seventeenth century’s “way of ideas” by casting doubt on the Cartesian notion of “clarity and distinctness” and the Lockean notion of “simplicity”. He was, as Wilfrid Sellars remarked, the great foe of immediacy. Yet Hegel was unable to take the step that Nietzsche and Heidegger went on to take–the step away from quasi-scientific sysematicity. From the point of view of post-¦Nietzschean thought, Hegel looks like a man with one foot in each camp: historicist enough to have become a pragmatist, yet Platonist enough to have remained a metaphysician.

One can put this latter point in Habermasian terms by saying that Hegel’s historicism almost, but not quite, enabled him to abandon subject-centered reason for communicative reason. To abandon subject-centered reason is to abandon the idea that clarity can substitute for consensus–the idea that the philosopher can circumvent the language of his or her tribe by finding a short-cut to Truth. It is to abandon the conviction that we shall recognize truth when we see it–an idea which was basic to Spinoza’s thought and which he abbreviated as the doctrine that truth is self-certifying. Spinoza claimed that a perfect and adequate idea—sigillum sui et falsi–could be seen to be such, and therefore seen to be true, simply by possessing it. (Ethics, II, Def. 4 and Prop.13)

The idea that metaphor and imagination will never be eliminated, and that moral progress is made possible by the imagination producing ever new metaphors, chimes with the idea that rationality is a matter of finding agreement among human beings, rather than of discovering which ideas are adequate to reality. For now the political problem–the problem of creating social cooperation between human beings–becomes a problem of tolerating alternative fantasies rather than of eliminating fantasy in favor of truth. The question is not how to get human beings to live in accordance with nature but of how to get them to live in the same community with people those who have very different notions about what is most important in human life.

In this respect, Habermas and Dewey are the heirs of Hobbes–of the idea that political artifice replaces philosophical contemplation as the source of a higher, specifically human, form of happiness. The thesis that the hope for objectivity is nothing more nor less than a hope for intersubjective agreement goes hand in hand with the thesis that no language is more adequate to reality than any other language. But that means giving up the distinction between clear and confused ideas. There is no room for that distinction once one gives up the correspondence theory of truth.

**********************

So far I have been suggesting a way of looking at the development of philosophical thought since Spinoza’s time. I shall conclude by turning to the question I broached at the outset: of whether a pragmatist–someone who has given up the goal of achieving an accurate representation of the natural order of things–can still love wisdom? What, if anything, can a pragmatist, mean by “loving truth”, or by “achieving wisdom”?

The difference between the pragmatists and their opponents is that between treating the capitalized noun “Truth” as an unhappily hypostatized adjective and as the name of something that deserves to be loved. On the pragmatist view, the adjective “true” is a perfectly useful tool, but the use of the noun “Truth” as the name of an object of desire is a relic of an earlier time: the time in which we believed that there was a natural order to be grasped.

I have been arguing that Spinoza’s suggestion that two vocabularies which cannot be translated into one another may nevertheless be equally valid opened the door led to pragmatism, and thus to doubt about the idea of an object called “The Truth”. But if truth not a possible object of love, then it would seem that Socrates and Spinoza were simply deceived. . That is an insufferably condescending way to describe men for whom most of us feel an instinctive and deep attraction.

This was a perplexity Nietzsche experienced. He sometimes speaks of Socrates as the sardonic iconoclast who betrayed the tragic sense of human greatness, and thus diminished us. But elsewhere he praises him as a model of intellectual honesty. Analogously, Nietzsche sometimes pays Spinoza the highest compliment he can imagine by calling him his own precursor. (Letter to Overbeck, July 30, 1881) but sometimes describes him as “a sophisticated vengeance-seeker and poison-brewer” (Beyond Good and Evil, sec. 25). In the latter mood, Nietzsche thinks of Spinoza as someone who presented his own heart’s desire as if it were the product of cold, impersonal, inquiry. (BGE 5).

Nietzsche wanted, but did not find, a way of praising the courageous daring of the lives lived by Socrates and Spinoza, while continuing to reject the rhetoric of truth-seeking both employed. The awkward position in which he was placed by his instinctive sympathy with these two figures was a symptom of his vacillation about truth. It is not easy to reconcile Nietzsche’s repeatedly proclaimed love of knowledge and truth with his perspectivism and his pragmatism. It is as easy to find passages in which Nietzsche says contradictory things about Truth as it is to find passages in which he says contradictory things about Socrates or Spinoza.

A pragmatist like myself who is also an admirer of Spinoza has to find some other reason to praise Spinoza than his God-intoxication, his overwhelming desire to emend his intellect in order to achieve union with the divine mind. The best solution to this problem, I think, is to construe the love of Truth as an attitude toward one’s fellow human beings rather than as an attitude toward something that transcends humanity and its history. Then one can praise Spinoza for his conversability rather than for his desire to transcend finitude.

When we praise a scientist or scholar for the love of Truth what we often have in mind is simply her open-mindedness: her curiosity about opinions different from their own, tolerance for the existence of such opinions, and willingness to modify their own views. When we say that someone loves truth more than self we sometimes mean simply that he or she respects his or her colleagues enough to prefer a view with which they can all, freely and peaceably, come to agree upon to the view he or she herself presently holds. Construed in this way, the love of Truth is simply conversability—a tolerant absence of fanaticism, a willingness to hear the other side.

The affection Spinoza generates in his readers is the sort we feel for someone who brings out the best in us by assuring us that there is something in what we say, that we are guilty of nothing more than premature enthusiasm. Spinoza, the critic of asceticism, does not chastise us, but instead advises us how we can more frequently experience hilaritas (an affect which, Spinoza said, cannot be in excess.). We cherish Spinoza for some or the same reasons we admire Hume, a philosopher with whose doctrines Spinoza’s have little in common. We think of them as typifying the Enlightment at its best—as enemies of fanaticism and friends of open-mindedness.

To praise Spinoza for the attitudes towards his fellow humans he shared with Hume obviously does not require that we accept a definition of truth as adequate representation of a natural order. It does not even require the Habermasian doctrine that argumentative inquiry is a quest for universal validity. The whole idea of a quasi-object which functions as the goal of a quest–either the Platonic idea of a natural order or the Habermasian idea of a set of universally valid beliefs–can be set aside if we construe the love of Truth conversability. The Platonist and Spinozist image of all things coming together in a single vision can be replaced by the image of a maximally free and rich form of human sociability. The unity of mankind, from this perspective, is not a product of human beings’ ability to share a common understanding of a natural order, but rather of their willingness to tolerate, and to try to see the best in, each others’ fantasies.

But there is still another way to construe the love of Truth. Rather than thinking of it either as the desire for the blessedness which would result from the grasp of a natural order, or as conversability, we can also construe it as a form of truthfulness–the quality of being true to oneself. Sometimes when we say that the love of Truth is a virtue we simply mean that honesty, sincerity and truth-telling are virtues. But sometimes we mean something more, as when we praise Blake or Kierkegaard for having had the courage to stick to their guns–to hold on to their central insight, the truth as they saw it, even when everybody thought they were crazy. Such courage is yet another of the virtues for which we praise Socrates, who stood by his central beliefs despite the fact that this made him almost unintelligible to his contemporaries.

Pragmatists, I would suggest, should think of the love of truth as an attempt to combine conversability with the courage to stick to one’s deepest convictions. Such a combination is not easy, but Socrates, Spinoza and Hume achieved something like it. They managed to synthesize the virtues of the virtues of the self-involved genius with those of a conversable companion and useful citizen. They thereby brought the metaphysical and strange together with the literal and familiar.

The idea that we all have a duty to love truth is, for a pragmatist, the idea that we should all aim at such a synthesis. The reason we are so inclined to hypostasize Truth, to turn the adjective “true” into a capitalized noun, is that we would like to overcome the tensions between idiosyncracy and conversability by finding a language that commensurates all languages, a master-tool which coordinates the uses of all lesser tools. We hypostatize the idea of such a language into the idea of a natural order, and we think of the adequate representation of that order as providing us with such a master-tool.

If Hegel is right that anyone must be a Spinozist if he or she is to be a philosopher, then nobody can take an interest in philosophy who has never been intrigued by the thought of such commensuration, of a master-language. One’s imagination will not be gripped either by the figure of Socrates or by that of Spinoza unless one is fascinated by the possibility of such commensuration. There are many people who are not fascinated by this possibilty, and whose imagination is not so gripped. Pragmatists think that that is not a matter for rebuke–that a lack of interest in philosophy is not a vice. In the sense in which one must be a Spinozist in order to philosophize, philosophy is not a universal human concern, nor should it be.

Not everyone has a duty to take an interest either in the quarrel between Plato and Democritus or in that between metaphysicians and pragmatists. any more than it is compulsory to care about the differences between Catholicism and Calvinism, or about those between Christians and noncChristians. As William James said, for some people Christianity is simply not a live or forced option–not something that they need think about. The same goes for philosophy.

As pragmatists see the matter, someone who has little or no interest in either religious or philosophical questions should not be told that he or she has a duty to seek answers to those questions, or a duty to justify his lack of interest to others. Before the Enlightenment we told that we also had duties to God. The Enlightenment told us that we also had duties to Reason. But pragmatists think that our only duties are to ourselves and to other human beings. Socrates, Spinoza and Hume are heroic figures because they performed both sets of duties exceptionally well.

Richard Rorty

April 25, 2006

Creatureliness and Immortality (via Speculative Humbug)

 [I now think the opinions expressed here are massively too hasty – this issue of meaning and finitude requires a lot more thought – but I’ll leave the original post up anyway.] I’ve just watched the first episode of this interview with Simon Critchley, and I thought I’d take the opportunity to note a key disagreement I have with Critchley’s position while the thoughts are still fresh. Critchley makes the point – with which I agree – that our soci … Read More

via Speculative Humbug

Excerpt from Cengiz Erdem’s Ph.D. thesis

In his Critique of Judgement, Kant distinguishes between the determinative and the reflective modes of judgement. If we keep in mind that the reflective mode of judgement reflects on particulars in such a way as to produce universals to which they can be subjected, and that the determinative mode of judgement determines a particular by subjecting it to a universal, it becomes understandable why among these two I shall be using the reflective mode which splits as it unites the subject of enunciation and the enunciated subject. But it must be kept in mind that the subject of enunciation which refers to the universal is itself a constitutive illusion, or a regulatory idea necessary for the emergence of the immortal subject as the enunciated content.

It is only in and through a position of non-mortality within and without mortal life at the same time that the exploitation of mortality can be brought into the spotlight. A critique of the exploitation of mortality inherent in particularly exemplary cultural products will be achieved through putting them in a perspective that analyzes the life death drives in such a way as to expose the exploitation of the fear of death as the driving force inherent in them. The point is that it is indeed necessary to fantasize being what one is not, in our case being non-mortal, to be able to become self-conscious of one’s self-reflexivity in the way of creating an order of signification not caught up in the rotary motion of drives locked in Klein’s projection-introjection mechanism, but rather one which breaks this vicious cycle and at least attempts to subtract death from life in a counter-act to the post-structuralist idea of life as a process of dying and death as an absent presence in the midst of life. It is only through such a subtraction of the absent presence of death within life that the productive interaction between Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism, Foucault’s bio-politics, Badiou’s theory of infinity, and Kant’s reflective mode of judgement give birth to the immortal subject as the womb of a new thought, a new life, and a new mode of being, free of the exploitation of mortality and engagingly indifferent to this mortal, all too mortal life.

The immortal subject within and without the pre-dominant symbolic order is not only the cause, but also the effect of its own alienation from mortal life. This regulatory idea of immortality, which is also a constitutive illusion, is inspired by the post-structuralist theme of becoming non-identical as we see in Deleuze and Derrida. If one could become non-identical, why would one not also become non-mortal? If one could become alienated from one’s identity, why would one not also become alienated from one’s mortality?  Why not become immortal so as to become capable of criticizing the exploitations of this mortal, all too mortal life? But what motivated me to take immortality as a virtual mode of being was Badiou’s theory of infinity which aimed at secularizing the concept of truth. Badiou’s technique of secularizing the truth is inspired by the 19th century mathematician Georg Cantor’s technique of secularizing the infinite. As Badio claims, the secularization of infinity started with Cantor who stated that there was not one, but many infinities varying in size and intensity. From then onwards it became possible to link Deleuze’s concepts of impersonal consciousness and transcendental empiricism with Badiou’s theory of infinity and Kant’s assertion that for reflective judgement to take place and turn the object into a subject a transcendental ground is necessary.  Now I can say that for me a transcendental ground is necessary only to the extent that it enables the subject to shake the foundation of its own mode of being and opens a field for immanent critique to take place. In other words, the untimely indifference of immortality is required in order to actively engage in an exposition of the exploitation of mortality in this time.

Excerpt from Cengiz Erdem’s Ph.D. thesis

1. Method

The nature of this study requires an interdisciplinary and a multi-methodological attitude which goes beyond the opposition between merely conceptual and merely empirical approaches. It is based on a mode of enquiry which takes its driving force from thought-experiments that open paths to a new field in which various perspectives interact and form an intra-subjective dimension of theoretical practice situating psychoanalysis, cognitive neuroscience, and philosophy in the context of cultural and critical theory. For the emergence of a new truth out of the old knowledge one must pose new questions concerning the workings of the human mind. In the light of the recent developments in cognitive neuroscience, for instance, especially the works of Antonio Damasio and Gerald Edelman, Freud’s concepts of the life drive and the death drive, Klein’s concepts of introjection and projective identification, and Wilfred Bion’s affirmative recreation of Klein’s theories in the way of a theory of thinking become extremely relevant for the development of a universal cultural and critical theory.

Cognitive neuroscience proposes that the quality of an external object is always already projected onto that object by the neuronal activity of the brain. What cognitive neuroscience lacks is a historical context, likewise what cultural studies lacks is an organic basis. An interaction between psychoanalysis, linguistics, philosophy, cultural studies, and cognitive neuroscience can break out of the closure of the humanities and give birth to the link which has come to be considered missing, between nature and nurture, organic and inorganic, empirical and conceptual, epistemological and ontological, transcendental and immanent, the objective and the subjective.

Because of the dynamic and parallel nature of re-entry and because it is a process of higher-order selection, it is not easy to provide a metaphor that captures all the properties of re-entry. Try this: Imagine a peculiar (and even weird) string quartet, in which each player responds by improvisation to ideas and cues of his or her own, as well as to all kinds of sensory cues in the environment. Since there is no score, each player would provide his or her own characteristic tunes, but initially these various tunes would not be coordinated with those of the other players. Now imagine that the bodies of the players are connected to each other by myriad fine threads so that their actions and movements are rapidly conveyed back and forth through signals of changing thread tensions that act simultaneously to time each player’s actions. Signals that instantaneously connect the four players would lead to a correlation of their sounds; thus, new, more cohesive, and more integrated sounds would emerge out of the otherwise independent efforts of each player. This correlative process would alter the next action of each player, and by these means the process would be repeated but with new emergent tunes that were even more correlated. Although no conductor would instruct or coordinate the group and each player would still maintain his or her style and role, the player’s overall productions would lead to a kind of mutually coherent music that each one acting alone would not produce.[1]

The model of mind conceptualized by Gerald Edelman shows us that the mind is an embodied substance which has the ability to adapt to changes surrounding it. If we keep in mind that cinema, literature, art, and music show how the mind works at a particular moment in history, as well as the emotional state of that particular moment, it becomes clear why a mode of enquiry rather than a specific method is required for the analysis and critique of human consciousness and its relation to the environment surrounding it. In this context, the plot driven critique of the literary and filmic texts aims at distinguishing between the world of consciousness and the world of appearances. My claim is that it is only through looking at the mortal world of appearances with the eyes of an immortal consciousness that we can see that which is present as an absence in the predominant symbolic order. By looking at “what happens when” in a movie or a book as well as “how that thing happens,” I sustain the conditions of impossibility as the conditions of possibility for cont(r)action to take place and give birth to an immortal subject. Needless to say, this subject is also an object encountering and encountered by the unknown within the known, the chaos inherent in the order itself, that calls forth he who has died so many times and is yet to die again and be reborn many more times so as to live as dead again. The reader might be disappointed because I will not have pursued and incorporated Edelman’s neural Darwinism and further developed the idea of a context-bound cognitive neuroscience and a matter(brain) based cultural and critical theory. The reason for this is that I discovered Edelman’s work towards the end of writing my thesis, and then  rewrote the Introduction. As a matter of fact, after this discovery the whole thesis itself could have been rewritten. Just as the Law changes its object and is in turn changed by that object, my critical apparatus, too, changes and is changed by its objects, in this case cultural products, be they filmic, literary or philosophical texts. It is such that this theoretical narrative moves on in such a way as to cut itself from its own past and unite with its own future at the same time, that is, in one simultaneous movement in two directions at once.

Hence it becomes clear why I pay attention to “what happens when” and “how that thing happens,” at the same time. For this I am indebted to Edelman who shifted the perspective of cognitive neuroscience from “how the brain makes sense,” to “when the brain makes sense.” If one reads the writings on film and literature in this thesis with the conscious naivety of their plot based critique in mind, one can sense the underlying current of humour and the erratic undertone of irony, both of which knock down the serious tone of the critique based on a linear reproduction of a circular plot – as we see in the investigation of David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive for instance.

In his Critique of Judgement, Kant distinguishes between the determinative and the reflective modes of judgement.

If the universal (the rule, the principle, the law) is given, the judgement that subsumes the particular under it… is determinative. If, however, only the particular for which the universal is to be found is given, judgement is merely reflective.[2]

If we keep in mind that the reflective mode of judgement reflects on particulars in such a way as to produce universals to which they can be subjected, and that the determinative mode of judgement determines a particular by subjecting it to a universal, it becomes understandable why among these two I shall be using the reflective mode which splits as it unites the subject of enunciation and the enunciated subject. But it must be kept in mind that the subject of enunciation which refers to the universal is itself a constitutive illusion, or a regulatory idea necessary for the emergence of the immortal subject as the enunciated content. It is only in and through a position of non-mortality within and without mortal life at the same time that the exploitation of mortality can be brought into the spotlight. A critique of the exploitation of mortality inherent in particularly exemplary cultural products will be achieved through putting them in a perspective that analyzes the life death drives in such a way as to expose the exploitation of the fear of death as the driving force inherent in them. The point is that it is indeed necessary to fantasize being what one is not, in our case being non-mortal, to be able to become self-conscious of one’s self-reflexivity in the way of creating an order of signification not caught up in the rotary motion of drives locked in Klein’s projection-introjection mechanism,  but rather one which breaks this vicious cycle and at least attempts to subtract death from life in a counter-act to the post-structuralist idea of life as a process of dying and death as an absent presence in the midst of life. It is only through such a subtraction of the absent presence of death within life that the productive interaction between Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism, Foucault’s bio-politics, Badiou’s theory of infinity, and Kant’s reflective mode of judgement give birth to the immortal subject as the womb of a new thought, a new life, and a new mode of being, free of the exploitation of mortality and engagingly indifferent to this mortal, all too mortal life.

Let us imagine a subject who finds himself in a certain situation which appears to have no escape route; a situation which nails him to a painful existence and brings him closer to extinction with every move he makes. What he needs is Bion’s theory of creative process and the emergence of new thought from within the dominant projection-introjection mechanism. In his Theory of Thinking Bion says that dismantling is as important in creative process as integration, that is, introjection and splitting are as necessary as projective identification and unification. Bion pays special attention to the process of introjection and projective identification and recreates Klein’s paranoid-schizoid position as a way of showing that it has two forms; one is healthy and the other is pathological. For Klein it was only with the attainment of the depressive position that the formless experience was given a form, the thoughts were invested with symbolic meanings. Bion sees introjection and projective identification as the two separate but contiguous halves and the paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions as the complementary parts of one another in the creative process. Now, if, following Bion, we think about Klein’s introjection and projective identification in the context of Derrida’s technique of deconstructive reading, we see that deconstruction is a mobile and dynamic mode of critique which moves between fragmentation and integration of the meaning of a text. Although deconstruction, as practised by Derrida himself, adapts itself to the internal dynamics of the text as the object of critique, it still lacks the affirmative and immanent fluidity which is necessary to open up holes, or passages, through which a new truth in touch with the requirements of the present situation can slip. This is because Derrida’s practice of deconstruction is still a negating activity and a transcendence oriented practice, which remains within the confines of the antagonistic relationship between the life drive and the death drive. To become affirmative, deconstructive practice needs to produce and incorporate its own difference from itself, that is, it has to become immanent to itself and the text it interprets.

As a mode of thinking, deconstruction attempts to erase the gap between the life drive and the death drive, but always fails, and this failure eternally confines deconstructive practice to the domain of antagonism between the life drive and the death drive. And if we keep in mind that deconstruction as a mode of thinking has become the dominant way of being creative we can understand why a critique of deconstruction is a critique of contemporary culture.

In this thesis I try to expose the workings of the deconstructive practice in certain works of art, literature, and cinema, which, consciously or unconsciously, exploit the ambiguity of the relationship between the life drive and the death drive, hence oppressing the one or the other. Needless to say this oppression of the one or the other necessarily exploits the one or the other, for oppression of the one requires exploitation of the other. As a consequence of this dynamic inherent in contemporary nihilistic culture projected onto the subject, the reader/spectator is removed out into the transcendental world of unconscious drives, leading to an illusory sense of omniscience on behalf of the reader/spectator.

The difference between deconstruction and affirmative recreation is that in the former an interaction between the destruction of a structure based on metaphysics of presence and creation of an opening, production of a void within the meaning of the text based on logocentrism is at work, whereas what is at work in the latter is a simultaneous dismantling of meaning, opening up of a void in the context of the text, and sustenance of the conditions for the possibility of the meaning’s flow in and through this void and out into the outside of the dominant context.[3] Derrida’s well known proposition that “there is nothing outside the text” is not the basic assumption of affirmative recreation; quite the contrary, a hole is opened within the context, and the meaning of the text flows through this hole. The meaning of the text is made to move on progressively, not just left without any foundations on which to stand and consequently fall. Deconstruction is concerned with exposing the rigidity and the solidity of rigid structures and solid constructions as is clear from its name. In a nutshell this is what Derrida’s self-reflexive reading strategy called deconstruction does: the socially and historically constructed and generally accepted dominant meaning of the text is explicated. And then this meaning is shown to be self-contradictory through the opening of a gap between what the author intended to say and what he has actually said. In affirmative recreation what’s at stake is a melting of the meaning and its continuous reshaping like a sculpture. The text is turned from a solid state into something like lava or clay and kept hot for further and perpetual reshaping, not into another completed sculpture. For me sculptures are products of an attempt to freeze life and/but a frozen life is no different from death.    

 2. To What End Last Words? To What End Suffering…

Throughout this thesis I have tried to develop a mode of critique in and through which nothing is excluded and/or determined. This reflective mode of critique itself enabled me to situate myself in the middle of the reflective and the determinative modes of judgment. The critical mode employed in this thesis is still context-bound to a certain extent, and yet it tries to restrictively dissociate itself from the predetermined context, rather than freely associate within it. A new field is opened, the conditions are created for the possibility of a decision beyond the Law of Militarist Capitalism and the Welfare State driven by and driving the exploitation of mortality on a massive scale. There is this transcendental field that requires a non-mortal mode of being in the world, neither for nor against it, but indifferent to it in such a way as to turn its own alienation from mortality into its driving force in its attempt to demolish the faculty of finite judgment and create the conditions of possibility out of the conditions of impossibility for an infinite judgment to take place beyond the subject/object of a Law that is mortal, all too mortal.

A truth comes into being through those subjects who maintain a resilient fidelity to the consequences of an event that took place in a situation but not of it. Fidelity, the commitment to truth, amounts to something like a disinterested enthusiasm, absorption in a compelling task or cause, a sense of elation, of being caught up in something that transcends all petty, private or material concerns.[4]

The immortal subject within and without the pre-dominant symbolic order is not only the cause, but also the effect of its own alienation from mortal life. This regulatory idea of immortality, which is also a constitutive illusion, is inspired by the post-structuralist theme of becoming non-identical as we see in Deleuze and Derrida. If one could become non-identical, why would one not also become non-mortal? If one could become alienated from one’s identity, why would one not also become alienated from one’s mortality?  Why not become immortal so as to become capable of criticizing the exploitations of this mortal, all too mortal life? But what motivated me to take immortality as a virtual mode of being was Badiou’s theory of infinity which aimed at secularizing the concept of truth. Badiou’s technique of secularizing the truth is inspired by the 19th century mathematician Georg Cantor’s technique of secularizing the infinite. As Badio claims, the secularization of infinity started with Cantor who stated that there was not one, but many infinities varying in size and intensity. From then onwards it became possible to link Deleuze’s concepts of impersonal consciousness and transcendental empiricism with Badiou’s theory of infinity and Kant’s assertion that for reflective judgement to take place and turn the object into a subject a transcendental ground is necessary.  Now I can say that for me a transcendental ground is necessary only to the extent that it enables the subject to shake the foundation of its own mode of being and opens a field for immanent critique to take place. In other words, the untimely indifference of immortality is required in order to actively engage in an exposition of the exploitation of mortality in this time.

I don’t know if it is worth mentioning that in this time we are all slaves and yet some slaves dominate the others. Where time goes no one knows. There are necessary illusions in this life, some for life, some not. Both the extreme belief in civilized progress and barbaric regress are good for nothing. These two are now in the process of being left behind. A third possibility of developmental process is emerging in the form of a becoming-reconciled which is based on the recognition of the otherness of the other as it is, that is, prior to the additions and the subtractions imposed upon the self and the other, nature and culture, life and death. For a non-normative and progressive universality to work it is necessary for the participants to become capable of making distinctions between their natures and cultures, their cliniques and critiques. It is a matter of realizing that theory and practice are always already reconciled and yet the only way to actualise this reconciliation passes through carrying it out and across by introducing a split between the subject of statement (the enunciated) and the subject of enunciation.

It is indeed true that sometimes it takes a long journey to get there, where one eventually got at, and realise that one is other than one thinks itself to be. Apparently the numbers indeed start with zero and continue with two, but it takes time to realise this actuality and become capable of actualising this reality. Perhaps we should indeed know that absolute reconciliation is impossible and yet still strive to reconcile ourselves as much as we can to all the living and the dead.  

 Cengiz Erdem, The Life Death Drives (Lulu: London, 2009)


[1] Gerald Edelman,  A Universe of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination (New York: Basic Books,  2000), 49 

[2] Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment, trans. James Creed Meredith (London: Wilder Publications, 2008), 13

[3] It is important to note that here context signifies the dominant projection-introjection mechanism. To go outside this projection-introjection mechanism requires what Bion calls “the binocular vision.” Binocular vision means that the subject is still within the dominant context and yet he is also in touch with another mode of being which he is able to project onto the present and future. Binocular vision is the first step towards creating a new situation out of the present situation. Wilfred Bion,  A Theory of Thinking, Second Thoughts, (London: Karnac Books, 1984).

[4] Peter Hallward, “Introduction” in Alain Badiou, Ethics (London: Verso, 2002), x

  Bibliography

Adorno, Theodor and Horkheimer, Max. Dialectic of Enlightenment, trans. John Cumming (New York: Continuum, 1972)

Badiou, Alan. Deleuze: The Clamour of Being, trans. Louise Burchill (Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota, 2000)

Badiou, Alan. Dissymetries: On Beckett, eds. Alberto Toscano and Nina Power (Manchester: Clinamen Press, 2003)

Badiou, Alan. Infinite Thought, trans. and eds. Oliver Feltham and Justin Clemens (London: Continuum, 2005)

Bass, Alan. The Trauma of Eros (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000)

Benjamin, Walter. Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zohn (Glasgow: Fontana Press, 1973)

Bion, Wilfred. Second Thoughts: Selected Papers on Psychoanalysis (London: Karnac, 1967)

Bion, Wifred. Learning From Experience (London: Karnac, 1962)
 
Blanchot, Maurice. The Infinite Conversation, trans. Susan Hanson (Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota, 1993)

Burgoyne, Bernard and Sullivan, Marry (eds.) The Klein-Lacan Dialogues (London: Rebus Press, 1997)

Butler, Judith. Psychic Life of Power (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997)

Copjec, Joan Karen. Apparatus and Umbra: A Feminist Critique of Film Theory   (Michigan: Dissertation Information Service, Microfilms International, 1986)

Copjec, Joan. (ed.) Radical Evil (London: Verso, 1996)

Deleuze, Gilles. Nietzsche and Philosophy, transl. Hugh Tomlinson (London: Continuum, 1983)

Deleuze, Gilles. Pure Immanence: A life, transl, Anne Boyman (New York: Zone Books, 2001)

Deleuze, Gilles. The Logic of Sense, transl. Mark Lester (London: Athlone, 1990)

Derrida, Jacques. Writing and Difference, trans. Alan Bass (London: Routledge, 2002)

Derrida, Jacques. Specters of Marx, trans. Peggy Kamuf (London: Routledge, 1994)

Donzelot, Jacques. The Policing of Families, trans. Robert Hurley (London: Hutchinson, 1980)

Elliot, Anthony and Frosh, Stephen (eds.) Psychoanalysis in Contexts: Paths Between Theory and Modern Culture (London: Routledge, 1995)

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

Field, Nathan. Breakdown and Breakthrough: Psychoanalysis in a new dimension
(London: Routledge, 1996)

Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Pantheon Books, 1977)

Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and Its Discontents, and Other Works, trans. ed. James Strachey (London: Penguin, 1985)

Freud, Sigmund. On Metapsychology, trans. James Strachey, ed. Angela Richards (London: Penguin, 1984)

Freud, Sigmund. Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, trans. James Strachey, ed. Angela Richards (London: Penguin, 1976)

Hallward, Peter. Out of This World: Deleuze and the Philosophy of Creation (London: Verso, 2006)

Hamilton, Victoria. Narcissus and Oedipus: The Children of Psychoanalysis (London: Routledge, 1982)

Hegel. Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. A.V. Miller (Oxford: OUP, 1977)

Klein, Melanie. The Psychoanalysis of Children, trans. Alix Strachey (London: The Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psychoanalysis, 1975)

Klossowski, Pierre. Nietzsche and The Vicious Cycle, trans. Daniel W. Smith (London: Athlone, 1997)

Kristeva, Julia. Melanie Klein, trans. Ross Guberman (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001)

Lacan, Jacques. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Alan Sheridan (London: Hogarth Press, 1977)

Lacan, Jacques. Ecrits: A Selection, trans. Alan Sheridan (London: The Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psychoanalysis, 1977)

Laplanche, Jean. Life and Death in Psychoanalysis, trans. Jeffrey Mehlam (Baltimore and London: John Hopkins, 1976)

Lawson, Hilary. Reflexivity: The post-modern predicament (London: Hutchinson, 1985)

Lecercle, Jean-Jacques. Philosophy through the Looking-Glass: Language, non-sense, desire (London: Hutchinson,1985)

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

Nietzsche, Friedrich. On The Genealogy of Morality, transl. Maudemarie Clark and Alan J. Swensen  (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1998)

Poster, Mark. Foucault, Marxism and History (Oxford: Blackwell, 1984)

Riley, Denise. The Words of Selves (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000)

Riley, Denise. Impersonal Passion: Language as Affect (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2005)

Sanchez-Pardo, Esther. Cultures of the Death Drive: Melanie Klein and Modernist Melencholia (London and Durham: Duke University Press, 2003

Winnicott, Donald. Playing and Reality, (London: Tavistock, 1971)

Žižek, Slavoj. The Ticklish Subject (London: Verso, 1999)

Žižek, Slavoj. The Fragile Absolute (London: Verso, 2000)

Žižek, Slavoj. Organs Without Bodies: On Deleuze and Consequences (New York and London: Routledge, 2004)

Zupancic, Alenka. Ethics of The Real: Kant, Lacan (London: Verso, 2000)
 

(c) CengizErdem, 2009.

%d bloggers like this: