by Himanshu Damle
Let κa be a smooth field on our background spacetime (M, gab). κa is said to be a Killing field if its associated local flow maps Γs are all isometries or, equivalently, if £κ gab = 0. The latter condition can also be expressed as ∇(aκb) = 0.
Any number of standard symmetry conditions—local versions of them, at least can be cast as claims about the existence of Killing fields. Local, because killing fields need not be complete, and their associated flow maps need not be defined globally.
(M, gab) is stationary if it has a Killing field that is everywhere timelike.
(M, gab) is static if it has a Killing field that is everywhere timelike and locally hypersurface orthogonal.
(M, gab) is homogeneous if its Killing fields, at every point of M, span the tangent space.
In a stationary spacetime there is, at least locally, a “timelike flow” that preserves all spacetime distances. But the flow can exhibit rotation. Think of a whirlpool. It is the latter possibility that is ruled out when one passes to a static spacetime. For example, Gödel spacetime, is stationary but not static.
Let κa be a Killing field in an arbitrary spacetime (M, gab) (not necessarily Minkowski spacetime), and let γ : I → M be a smooth, future-directed, timelike curve, with unit tangent field ξa. We take its image to represent the worldline of a point particle with mass m > 0. Consider the quantity J = (Paκa), where Pa = mξa is the four-momentum of the particle. It certainly need not be constant on γ[I]. But it will be if γ is a geodesic. For in that case, ξn∇nξa = 0 and hence.
ξn∇nJ = m(κa ξn∇nξa + ξnξa ∇nκa) = mξnξa ∇(nκa) = 0
Thus, J is constant along the worldlines of free particles of positive mass. We refer to J as the conserved quantity associated with κa. If κa is timelike, we call J the energy of the particle (associated with κa). If it is spacelike, and if its associated flow maps resemble translations, we call J the linear momentum of the particle (associated with κa). Finally, if κa is spacelike, and if its associated flow maps resemble rotations, then we call J the angular momentum of the particle (associated with κa).
It is useful to keep in mind a certain picture that helps one “see” why the angular momentum of free particles (to take that example) is conserved. It involves an analogue of angular momentum in Euclidean plane geometry. Figure below shows a rotational Killing field κa in the Euclidean plane, the image of a geodesic (i.e., a line) L, and the tangent field ξa to the geodesic. Consider the quantity J = ξaκa, i.e., the inner product of ξa with κa – along L, and we can better visualize the assertion.
Figure: κa is a rotational Killing field. (It is everywhere orthogonal to a circle radius, and is proportional to it in length.) ξa is a tangent vector field of constant length on the line L. The inner product between them is constant. (Equivalently, the length of the projection of κa onto the line is constant.)
Let us temporarily drop indices and write κ·ξ as one would in ordinary Euclidean vector calculus (rather than ξaκa). Let p be the point on L that is closest to the center point where κ vanishes. At that point, κ is parallel to ξ. As one moves away from p along L, in either direction, the length ∥κ∥ of κ grows, but the angle ∠(κ,ξ) between the vectors increases as well. It should seem at least plausible from the picture that the length of the projection of κ onto the line is constant and, hence, that the inner product κ·ξ = cos(∠(κ , ξ )) ∥κ ∥ ∥ξ ∥ is constant.
That is how to think about the conservation of angular momentum for free particles in relativity theory. It does not matter that in the latter context we are dealing with a Lorentzian metric and allowing for curvature. The claim is still that a certain inner product of vector fields remains constant along a geodesic, and we can still think of that constancy as arising from a compensatory balance of two factors.
Let us now turn to the second type of conserved quantity, the one that is an attribute of extended bodies. Let κa be an arbitrary Killing field, and let Tab be the energy-momentum field associated with some matter field. Assume it satisfies the conservation condition (∇aTab = 0). Then (Tabκb) is divergence free:
∇a(Tabκb) = κb∇aTab + Tab∇aκb = Tab∇(aκb) = 0
(The second equality follows from the conservation condition and the symmetry of Tab; the third follows from the fact that κa is a Killing field.) It is natural, then, to apply Stokes’s theorem to the vector field (Tabκb). Consider a bounded system with aggregate energy-momentum field Tab in an otherwise empty universe. Then there exists a (possibly huge) timelike world tube such that Tab vanishes outside the tube (and vanishes on its boundary).
Let S1 and S2 be (non-intersecting) spacelike hypersurfaces that cut the tube as in the figure below, and let N be the segment of the tube falling between them (with boundaries included).
Figure: The integrated energy (relative to a background timelike Killing field) over the intersection of the world tube with a spacelike hypersurface is independent of the choice of hypersurface.
By Stokes’s theorem,
∫S2(Tabκb)dSa – ∫S1(Tabκb)dSa = ∫S2∩∂N(Tabκb)dSa – ∫S1∩∂N(Tabκb)dSa
= ∫∂N(Tabκb)dSa = ∫N∇a(Tabκb)dV = 0
Thus, the integral ∫S(Tabκb)dSa is independent of the choice of spacelike hypersurface S intersecting the world tube, and is, in this sense, a conserved quantity (construed as an attribute of the system confined to the tube). An “early” intersection yields the same value as a “late” one. Again, the character of the background Killing field κa determines our description of the conserved quantity in question. If κa is timelike, we take ∫S(Tabκb)dSa to be the aggregate energy of the system (associated with κa). And so forth.
One thought on “Killing Fields”
The Only Maximally Extended, Future-directed, Null and Timelike Geodesics in Gödel Spacetime are Confined to a Submanifold. Drunken Risibility. – AltExploit says:
[…] dotted circle has radius rc. Once again, that is the “critical radius” at which the rotational Killing field φa is null. Call this dotted circle the “critical circle.” The circles that pass through p and […]
LECTURES BY GILLES DELEUZE
Intervention of Comtesse: (inaudible on the cassette).
Gilles: I feel coming between you and me still a difference. You tend very quickly to stress an authentically Spinozist concept, that of the tendency to persevere in being. The last time, you spoke to me about the conatus, i.e. the tendency to persevere in being, and you asked me: what don't you do it? I responded that for the moment I cannot introduce it because, in my reading, I am stressing other Spinozist concepts, and the tendency to persevere in being, I will derive it from other concepts which are for me the essential concepts, those of power (puissance) and affect. Today, you return to the same theme. There is not even room for a discussion, you would propose another reading, i.e. a differently accentuated reading. As for the problem of the reasonable man and the insane man, I will respond exactly thus: what distinguishes the insane person and the reasonable one according to Spinoza, and conversely at the same time, there is: what doesn't distinguish them? From which point of view can they not be distinguished, from which point of view do they have to be distinguished? I would say, for my reading, that Spinoza‚s response is very rigorous. If I summarize Spinoza‚s response, it seems to me that this summary would be this: from a certain point of view, there is no reason to make a distinction between the reasonable man and the insane person. From another point of view, there is a reason to make a distinction.
Firstly, from the point of view of power, there is no reason to introduce a distinction between the reasonable man and the insane man. What does that mean? Does that mean that they have the same power? No, it doesn‚t mean that they have the same power, but it means that each one, as much as there is in him, realises or exercises his power. I.e. each one, as much as there is in him, endeavours [s‚efforce] to persevere in his being. Therefore, from the point of view of power, insofar as each, according to natural right, endeavours to persevere in his being, i.e. exercise his power ˜ you see I always put Œeffort‚ between brackets ˜ it is not that he tries to persevere, in any way, he perseveres in his being as much as there is in him, this is why I do not like the idea of conatus, the idea of effort, which does not translate Spinoza‚s thought because what it calls an effort to persevere in being is the fact that I exercise my power at each moment, as much as there is in me. It is not an effort, but from the point of view of power, therefore, I can not at all say what each one is worth, because each one would have the same power, in effect the power of the insane man is not the same as that of the reasonable one, but what there is in common between the two is that, whatever the power, each exercises his own. Therefore, from this point of view, I would not say that the reasonable man is better than the insane one. I cannot, I have no way of saying that: each has a power, each exercises as much power as there is in him. It is natural right, it is the world of nature. From this point of view, I could not establish any difference in quality between the reasonable man and the insane one.
But from another point of view, I know very well that the reasonable man is Œbetter‚ than the insane one. Better, what does that mean? More powerful, in the Spinozist sense of the word. Therefore, from this second point of view, I must make and I do make a distinction between the reasonable man and the insane one. What is this point of view? My response, according to Spinoza, would be exactly this: from the point of view of power, you have no reason to distinguish the reasonable man and the insane one, but from the other point of view, namely that of the affects, you distinguish the reasonable man and the insane one. From where does this other point of view come? You remember that power is always actual, it is always exercised. It is the affects that exercise them. The affects are the exercises of power, what I experience in action or passion, it is this which exercises my power, at every moment. If the reasonable man and the insane one are distinguished, it is not by means of power, each one realises his power, it is by means of the affects. The affects of the reasonable man are not the same as those of the insane one. Hence the whole problem of reason will be converted by Spinoza into a special case of the more general problem of the affects. Reason indicates a certain type of affect. That is very new.
To say that reason is not going to be defined by ideas, of course, it will also be defined by ideas. There is a practical reason that consists in a certain type of affect, in a certain way of being affected. That poses a very practical problem of reason. What does it mean to be reasonable, at that moment? Inevitably reason is an ensemble of affects, for the simple reason that it is precisely the forms under which power is exercised in such and such conditions. Therefore, to the question that has just been posed by Comtesse, my response is relatively strict; in effect, what difference is there between a reasonable man and the insane one? From a certain point of view, none, that is the point of view of power. From another point of view, enormous difference, from the point of view of the affects which exercise power.
Intervention of Comtesse.
Gilles: You note a difference between Spinoza and Hobbes and you are quite right. If I summarize it, the difference is this: for the one as for the other, Spinoza and Hobbes, one is careful to leave the state of nature by a contract. But in the case of Hobbes, it is in effect a contract by which I give up my right of nature. I‚ll specify because it is more complicated: if it is true that I give up my natural right, then on the other hand, the sovereign himself does not also give up his. Therefore, in a certain way, the right of nature is preserved.
For Spinoza, on the contrary, in the contract I do not give up my right of nature, and there is Spinoza‚s famous formula given in a letter: I preserve the right of nature even in the civil state. This famous formula of Spinoza clearly means, for any reader of the era, that on this point, I break with Hobbes. In a certain way, he also preserved natural right in the civil state, but only to the advantage of the sovereign. I say that too quickly.
Spinoza, on the whole, is a disciple of Hobbes. Why? Because on two general but fundamental points, he entirely follows the Hobbesian revolution, and I believe that Spinoza‚s political philosophy would have been impossible without the kind of intervention that Hobbes had introduced into political philosophy. What is this very, very important double intervention, this extraordinary innovation?
It is, first innovation, to have conceived the state of nature and natural right in a way that broke entirely with the Ciceronian tradition. Now, on this point, Spinoza entirely ratifies Hobbes‚ revolution. Second point: consequently, to have substituted the idea of a pact of consent as the foundation of the civil state for the relation of competence such as it was in traditional philosophy, from Plato to Saint Thomas. Now, on these two fundamental points, the civil state can only refer to a pact of consent and not to a relation of competence where there would be a superiority of the sage, and the whole conception, in addition, of the state of nature and of natural right as power and exercise of power, these two fundamental points belong to Hobbes. It is according to these two fundamental points that I would say that the obvious difference that Comtesse has just signaled between Spinoza and Hobbes, presumes and can only be inscribed in one preliminary resemblance, a resemblance by which Spinoza follows the two fundamental principles of Hobbes. This then becomes a balancing of accounts between them, but within these new presuppositions introduced into political philosophy by Hobbes.
We will be led to speak about Spinoza‚s political conception this year from the point of view of research that we are doing on Ontology: in what sense can Ontology entail or must it entail a political philosophy? Do not forget that there is a whole political path of Spinoza, I‚m going very quickly. A very fascinating political path because we cannot even read one political book of Spinoza‚s philosophy without understanding what problems it poses, and what political problems he lived through. The Netherlands in the era of Spinoza was not simple and all Spinoza's political writings are very connected to this situation. It is not by chance that Spinoza wrote two books on political philosophy, one the Theologico-Political Treatise the other the Political Treatise, and that, between the two, enough things happened such that Spinoza evolved. The Netherlands in that era was torn between two tendencies. There was the tendency of the House of Orange, and then there was the liberal tendency of the De Witt brothers. Now the De Witt brothers, under very obscure conditions, had won at one moment. The House of Orange was not nothing: this put into play the relations of foreign policy, relations with Spain, war or peace. The De Witt brothers were basically pacifists. This put into play the economic structure, the House of Orange supported the large companies, the brothers were very hostile to the large companies. This opposition stirred everything up. Now the De Witt brothers were assassinated in absolutely horrible circumstances. Spinoza felt this as really the last moment in which he could no longer write, this could also happen to him. The De Witt brothers‚ entourage protected Spinoza. This dealt him a blow. The difference in political tone between the Theologico-Political Treatise and the Political Treatise is explained because, between the two, there was the assassination, and Spinoza no longer believed in what he had said before, in the liberal monarchy.
His political problem arises in a very beautiful, still very current, way; yes, there is only a political problem that it would be necessary to try to understand, to make ethics into politics. To understand what? To understand why people fight for their slavery. They seem to be so content to be slaves, that they will do anything to remain slaves. How to explain such a thing? It fascinates him. Literally, how to explain that people don't revolt? But at the same time, revolt or revolution, you will never find that in Spinoza. We‚re saying very silly things. At the same time, he made drawings. There is a reproduction of a drawing of his that is a very obscure thing. He had drawn himself in the form of a Neapolitan revolutionary who was well-known in that era. He had included his own head. It is odd. Why does he never speak about revolt or revolution? Is it because he is a moderate? Undoubtedly, he must be a moderate; but let us suppose that he is a moderate. But at that time, even the extremists hesitated to speak of revolution, even the leftists of the era. And Collegians who were against the church, these Catholics were near enough to what we would call today the Catholics of the extreme left. Why isn‚t revolution discussed? There is a silly thing that is said, even in the handbooks of history, that there was no English revolution. Everyone knows perfectly well that there was an English revolution, the formidable revolution of Cromwell. And Cromwell‚s revolution is an almost pure case of a revolution that was betrayed as soon as it was done.
The whole of the seventeenth century is full of reflections on how a revolution can not be betrayed. Revolution was always thought by revolutionaries in terms of how it is that such things are always betrayed. Now, the recent example for Spinoza‚s contemporaries is the revolution of Cromwell, who was the most fantastic traitor to the revolution that Cromwell himself had imposed. If you take, well after English Romanticism, it is a fantastic poetic and literary movement, but it is an intense political movement. The whole of English Romanticism is centered on the theme of the betrayed revolution. How to live on when the revolution has been betrayed and seems destined to be betrayed? The model that obsessed the great English Romantics was always Cromwell. Cromwell lived in that era as Stalin did today. Nobody speaks about revolution, not at all because they do not have an equivalent in mind, it is for a very different reason. They won‚t call that revolution because the revolution is Cromwell. Now, at the time of the Theologico-Political Treatise, Spinoza still believed in a liberal monarchy, on the whole. This is no longer true from the Political Treatise. The De Witt brothers were assassinated, compromise is no longer possible. Spinoza gives up publishing the Ethics, he knows that it‚s screwed. At that moment, it seems that Spinoza would have tended much more to think about the chances of a democracy. But the theme of democracy appears much more in the Political Treatise than in the Theologico-Political Treatise, which remained in the perspective of a liberal monarchy.
What would a democracy be at the level of the Netherlands? It is what was liquidated with the assassination of the De Witt brothers. Spinoza dies, as if symbolically, when he is at the chapter Œdemocracy‚. We will never know what he would have said.
There is a fundamental relation between Ontology and a certain style of politics. What this relation consists of, we don‚t yet know. What does a political philosophy which is placed in an ontological perspective consist of? Is it defined by the problem of the state? Not especially, because the others too. A philosophy of the One will also pass by way of the problem of the state. The real difference does not appear elsewhere between pure ontologies and philosophies of the One. Philosophies of the One are philosophies that fundamentally imply a hierarchy of existing things, hence the principle of consequence, hence the principle of emanation: from the One emanates Being, from Being emanates other things, etc. the hierarchies of the Neo-Platonists. Therefore, the problem of the state, they will encounter it when they encounter themselves? at the level of this problem: the institution of a political hierarchy. Among Neo-Platonists, there are hierarchies everywhere, there is a celestial hierarchy, a terrestrial hierarchy, and what the Neo-Platonists call hypostases are precisely the terms in the institution of a hierarchy.
What appears to me striking in a pure ontology is the point at which it repudiates the hierarchies. In effect, if there is no One superior to being, if being is said of everything that is and is said of everything that is in one and the same sense, this is what appeared to me to be the key ontological proposition: there is no unity superior to being and, consequently, being is said of everything that of which it is said, i.e. is said of everything that is, is said of all being [étant], in one and the same sense. It is the world of immanence. This world of ontological immanence is an essentially anti-hierarchical world. Of course, it is necessary to correct: these philosophers of ontology, we will say that evidently a practical hierarchy is needed, ontology does not lead to formulas which would be those of nihilism or non-being, of the type where everything is the same [tout se vaut]. And yet, in certain regards, everything is the same, from the point of view of an ontology, i.e. the point of view of being.
All being [étant] exercises as much being [être] as there is in it. That‚s all there is to it. It is anti-hierarchical thought. It is almost a kind of anarchy. There is an anarchy of beings in being. It is the basic intuition of ontology: all beings are the same [se valent]. The stone, the insane, the reasonable, the animal, from a certain point of view, from the point of view of Being [être], they are the same. Each is as much as there is in it, and being is said in one and the same sense of the stone, of the man, of the insane, of the reasonable. It is a very beautiful idea. It is a very savage kind of world.
With that, they encounter the political domain, but the way in which they will encounter the political domain depends precisely on this kind of intuition of equal being, of anti-hierarchical being. And the way in which they think the state is no longer the relation of somebody who commands and others who obey. In Hobbes, the political relation is the relation of somebody who commands and of somebody who obeys. This is the pure political relation. From the point of view of an ontology, it is not that. There, Spinoza did not go along with Hobbes at all. The problem of an ontology is, consequently, according to this: being is said of everything that is, this is how to be free. I.e. how to exercise its power under the best conditions. And the state, even more the civil state, i.e. the entire society is thought like this: the ensemble of conditions under which man can exercise his power in the best way. Thus it is not at all a relation of obedience. Obedience will come, moreover, it will have to be justified by what it inscribes in a system where society can mean only one thing, namely the best means for man of exercising his power. Obedience is second compared to this requirement. In a philosophy of the One, obedience is obviously first, i.e. the political relation is the relation of obedience, it is not the relation of the exercise of power.
We will find this problem again in Nietzsche: what is equal? What is equal is that each being, whatever it is, in every way exercises all that it can of its power, that, that makes all beings equal. But the powers are not equal. But each endeavours to persevere in its being, i.e. exercise its power. From this point of view, all beings are the same, they are all in being and being is equal. Being is also said of everything that is, but everything that is is not equal, i.e. does not have the same power. But being which is said of everything that is, that, that is equal. With that, it doesn't‚t prevent there being differences between beings. From the point of view of the difference between beings a whole idea of aristocracy can be established, namely there are the better ones.
If I try to summarize, understand where we were the last time. We posed a very precise problem, the problem which I have dealt with until now, which is this: what is the status, not of Being [être], but of being [étant], i.e. what is the status of Œwhat is‚ from the point of view of an ontology.
What is the status of the being [étant] or of what exists [existant] from the point of view of an ontology? I have tried to show that the two conceptions, that of the quantitative distinction between existing things, and the other point of view, that of the qualitative opposition between modes of existence, far from contradicting themselves, have been interlinked with one another the whole time.
This finishes the first category: what is an ontology, and how is it distinguished from philosophies which are not ontologies.
Second major category: what is the status of the being [étant] from the point of view of a pure ontology like Spinoza‚s?
Gilles: You say that from the point of view of the hierarchy, what is first is difference and one goes from difference to identity. That is quite right, but I would just add: which type of difference is it about? Response: it is always finally a difference between Being [être] and something superior to being, since the hierarchy is going to be a difference in judgment. Therefore, judgment is done in the name of a superiority of the One over being. We can judge being precisely because there is an authority superior to being. Thus the hierarchy is inscribed as of this difference, since the hierarchy, even its foundation, is the transcendence of the One over being. And what you call difference is exactly this transcendence of the One over being. When you invoke Plato, difference is only first in Plato in a very precise sense, namely the One is more than being. Thus it is a hierarchical difference. Ontology goes from being [être] to beings [étants], i.e. it goes from the same, from what is, and only what is different, it goes therefore from being to the differences, it is not a hierarchical difference. All beings are also in Being.
In the Middle Ages, there is a very important school, it was given the name the School of Chartres; and the School of Chartres, they depend mostly on Duns Scotus, and they insist enormously on the Latin term "equality.‰ Equal being. They say all the time that being is fundamentally equal. That doesn‚t mean that existing things, or beings [étants], are equal. But being is equal for all, which means, in a certain way, that all beings are in being. Consequently, whatever the difference you achieve, since there is a non-difference of being, and there are differences between beings, these differences will not be conceived in a hierarchical way. Or, they will be conceived in a hierarchical way very, very secondarily, to catch up with, to reconcile the things. But in the first intuition, the difference is not hierarchical. Whereas in philosophies of the One difference is fundamentally hierarchical. I would say much more: in ontology, the difference between beings is quantitative and qualitative at the same time. Quantitative difference of powers, qualitative difference of modes of existence, but it is not hierarchical. Then, of course, they often speak as if there had been a hierarchy, they will say that the reasonable man is better than the malicious one, but better in what sense and why? It is for reasons of power and exercise of power, not for reasons of hierarchy.
I would like to pass to a third rubric which is connected at the second and which would come down to saying that if the Ethics - I defined as the two co-ordinates of the Ethics: the quantitative distinction from the point of view of power, the qualitative opposition from the point of view of the modes of existence. I tried to show last time how we passed perpetually from the one to the other. I would like to begin a third rubric, which is, from the point of view of the Ethics, how does the problem of evil arise. Because, once again, we have seen that this problem arose in an acute way, why? I remind you that I discussed the sense in which, from time immemorial, classical philosophy had set up this paradoxical proposition, by knowing very well that it was a paradox, namely evil is nothing. But precisely, evil is nothing, understand that there are at least two possible manners of speaking. These two manners are not reconciled at all. Because when I say evil is nothing, I could mean firstly one thing: evil is nothing because everything is Good. If I say everything is Good. If you write Good with a capital G, if you write it like that, you can comment on the formula word for word: there is being, good: The One is superior to being, and the superiority of the One over being makes being turn towards the One as being the Good. In other words, Œevil is nothing‚, means: inevitably evil is nothing since it is the Good superior to being which is the cause of being. In other words, the Good makes being. The Good is the One as the reason for being. The One is superior to being. Everything is Good means that it is the good that makes being what is. I am discussing Plato. You understand that Œevil is nothing‚ means that only the Good makes being, and correlatively: makes action. It was the argument of Plato: the malicious one is not voluntarily malicious since what the malicious one wants is the good, it is whatever good. I can thus say that evil is nothing, in the sense that only the Good makes being and makes action, therefore evil is nothing.
In a pure Ontology, where there is no One superior to being, I say evil is nothing, there is no evil, there is being. Okay. But that engages me with something completely new, it is that if evil is nothing, then the good is nothing either. It is thus for completely opposite reasons that I can say in both cases that evil is nothing. In one case, I say that evil is nothing because only the Good makes being and makes action, in the other case, I say that evil is nothing because the Good is nothing too, because there is only being. Now we have seen that this negation of the good, like that of evil, did not prevent Spinoza from making an ethics. How is an ethics made if there is neither good nor evil. From the same formula, in the same era, if you take the formula: Œevil is nothing‚, signed by Leibniz, and signed by Spinoza, they both say the same formula, Œevil is nothing‚, but it has two opposite senses. In Leibniz it derives from Plato, and in Spinoza, who makes a pure ontology, it becomes complicated.
Hence my problem: what is the status of evil from the point of view of ethics, i.e. from the whole status of beings, of existing things? We will return to the parts where ethics is really practical. We have an exceptional text of Spinoza: it is an exchange of eight letters, four each. A set of eight letters exchanged with a young man called Blyenberg. The sole object of this correspondence is evil. The young Blyenberg asks Spinoza to explain evil ?
to be continued...
The article is taken from:
by Steven Craig Hickman
There is no need to tell all over again how psychoanalysis culminates in a theory of culture that takes up again the age-old task of the ascetic ideal…
– Anti-Oedipus, Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari
Deleuze & Guattari will dissolve the mystery of the death instinct in Freud realizing that it gathered together the hidden threads in his secret narrative: the truth of Freud’s aspiration – to become a Priest, a Rabbi, a “director of bad conscience”.1 “If one looks for a reason why Freud erects a transcendent death instinct as a principle,” they tell us: “the reason will be found in Freud’s practice itself” (p. 333). After finding the abstract subjective essence of desire – the Libido, Freud forgot what he’d discovered and went looking for something else altogether. He sought some representational image of this abstract entity in the unconscious – his theatre of cruelty: what he found was Oedipus – the self-castrated, eyeless victim of castration and death. As Freud himself would tell it:
The ascetic ideal is an artifice for the preservation of life … even when he wounds himself, this master of destruction, of self-destructing – the very wound itself compels him to live…” (p. 333).
Freud would no longer see in desire a force of love in the world. No. Now desire must turn back against itself in the name of a horrible Ananke, the Ananke of the weak and the depressed, the contagious neurotic Ananke; desire must produce its shadow or its monkey, and find a strange artificial force for vegetating in the void, at the heart of its own lack (pp. 334-335).
Deleuze and Guattari will question this deep wisdom of Freud’s anemic Ananke (Necessity) that binds desire in a weltering world of voidic cholera: “Is this really the right way to bring on better days? And aren’t all the destructions performed by schizoanalysis worth more than this psychoanalytical conservatory, aren’t they more a part of the affirmative task?” (p. 334) In fact they will see in this claustrophobic science of the mind, an Oedipal mind, a dark theatre of cruelty the habitation of ghosts and interior palaces where desire is brought to bare for its crimes, a sadistic chamber where Freud can observe the guilt of the past in all its terrible splendor. Instead of this dark cave Deleuze and Guattari will say, open the doors, let in a little fresh air and give us a “bit of a relation to the outside, a little real reality” (p. 334).
Freud was the first to link death and war as he studied the aftermath of WWI; a linkage between psychoanalysis and capitalism in their twin engagement with death and war. (p. 335) “What we have tried to show apropos of capitalism is how it inherited much from a transcendent death-carrying agency, the despotic signifier, but also how it brought about this agency’s effusion in the full immanence of its own system: the full body, having become that of capital-money, suppresses the distinction between production and anti-production; everywhere it mixes anti-production with the productive forces in the immanent reproduction of its own always widened limits. The death enterprise (war) is one of the principle and specific forms of the absorption of surplus value in capitalism. (p. 335) What Freud discovers is that the death-instinct being immanent to the capitalist despotic signifier, the empty locus around which its system of absorption exists, that it must displace everything into this war-machine to block the schizophrenic escapes and place restraints on its flights. (p. 335) Capitalism is a war machine that binds desire within its own immanent logic as death: a negative desire that produces pure surplus-value out of the hell of its despotic and ascetic cult.
It is at this point that they will introduce Zombie Capitalism: the “only modern myth is the myth of zombies – mortified schizos, good for work, brought back to reason” by the psychoanalytical priest of a new asceticism so that they can continue serving the war-machine like good subservient capitalists. (p. 335) It is the principle of death immanent to capitalism that produces the very limits that bind and impose a gap between social-production and desiring-production that keeps the zombies tied to the endless loop of a false desire for commodities and war. “Now this universe has as its function the splitting of the subjective essence into two functions, that of abstract labor alienated in private property that reproduces the ever wider limits, and that of abstract desire alienated in the privatized family that displaces the ever narrower internalized limits” (p. 337).
In this system caught between abstract labor and desire the zombie citizen lives under a mortuary axiomatic: an axiomatic of simulacra, wherein the zombies cannibalize images instead of flesh: “death is not desires, but what is desired is dead” (p. 337) In truth, capitalism has nothing to co-opt; or rather, its powers of co-option coexist more often than not with what is to be co-opted, and even anticipate it. (p. 338) For those that remember Debord’s Society of the Spectacle all this will seem familiar. In Debord’s theory, media have become the quintessential tool of contemporary capitalism, and consumerism is its legitimating ideology. Or, to cite Debord’s famous quip, “the spectacle is capital accumulated to the point where it becomes image.”2 What is crucial about Debord’s theory is that it connects the state’s investment in social reproduction to its commitment to, “and control of, the field of images— the alternative world conjured up by the new battery of ‘perpetual emotion machines’ of which TV was the dim pioneer and which now beckons the citizen every waking minute.” Not only is the world of images a structural necessity for capitalism, it affirms the primacy of the pedagogical as a crucial element of the political. It enforces “the submission of more and more facets of human sociability— areas of everyday life, forms of recreation, patterns of speech, idioms of local solidarity . . . to the deadly solicitation (the lifeless bright sameness) of the market.” (Giroux KL 517-523)
Under contemporary capitalism, state-sanctioned violence makes its mark through the prisons, courts, police surveillance, and other criminalizing forces; it also wages a form of symbolic warfare mediated by a regime of consumer-based images and staged events that narrow individual and social agency to the dictates of the marketplace, reducing the capacity for human aspirations and desires to needs embodied in the appearance of the commodity. In Debord’s terms, “the spectacle is the bad dream of modern society in chains, expressing nothing more than its wish for sleep.” (Giroux KL 526) What Debord would term the politics of consent is the acknowledgement that all aspects of social life are increasingly shaped by the communication technologies under the control of corporate forces.
Of course this is even more so in our own time, when technologies of communication have become not only ubiquitous and invisible due to normalization, they actually replace reality with a surfeit of image, propaganda, and ideological constructs that seem to be more real than reality itself. As Giroux and Evans will affirm:
Debord did not anticipate either the evolution of media along its current trajectories, with its multiple producers, distributors, and access, or the degree to which the forces of militarization would dominate all aspects of society, especially in the United States, where obsession with law enforcement, surveillance, and repression of dissent has at least equaled cultural emphasis on commercialization from 9/ 11 forward. The economic, political, and social safeguards of a past era, however limited, along with traditional spatial and temporal coordinates of experience, have been blown apart in the “second media age,” as the spectacularization of anxiety and fear and the increasing militarization of everyday life have become the principal cultural experiences shaping identities, values, and social relations. (Giroux KL 600-606)
Following Deleuze and Guattari we should affirm both a destructive and constructive task incorporating schizoanalytical technics in becoming mechanics rather than a theatre director: the political and social unconscious is not an archaeology, there are no statues in this unconscious: there are “only stones to be sucked … and other machinic elements belonging to deterritorialized constellations” (p. 338). As they would tell us in “the unconscious it is not the lines of pressure that matter, but on the contrary the lines of escape” (p. 338). To seek out those constellations of resistance and revolt, those “lines of escape” and flight that will help us to open gaps and cracks in the current system of capitalism and its death machine, this is the task today.
Against all representational theories that seek to interpret the socio-cultural, political, and economic unconscious we must realize that the very images that interpretation entails are the very tools of repression and death, the ascetic priests tools of choice that enslave and bind rather than uncover and liberate or emancipate the break-flows of desire. Instead of a cinematic or video game existence flicking by in synthetic-time frames, encapsulated in the violence of freeze-frame abstractions that present the surface textures of a symbolic existence caught in the imaginary of capital, an a-life of artificial extractions that confine flesh to a screen of repetition and loss rather than the break-flows of real time existence. This half-life in which we are bound to an interface existence, caught up in the flows of death machines that trap and bind us to a ghost-land of sound-scapes and images. “It is the very form of interpretation that shows itself to be incapable of attaining the unconscious, since it gives rise to the inevitable illusions … by means of which the conscious makes of the unconscious an image consonant with its wishes: we are still pious, psychoanalysis remains in the pre-critical age” (p. 339). We must break through this crystal palace dreamland of capital, discover lines of escape beyond its illusory fun house of gadgets and technological toys, else be entrapped forever in a void of commoditized identities, spinning in a self-voided paradise of Oedipal madness where we finally merge with our very machinic lives – our flesh dissolving in the war-machines that have now become our only reality.
Ultimately the schizoanalytical technique unbinds the repressive Oedipal system of capital that has tied it to the death machines of production and zombie commodification, the compulsion to repeat an endless cycle of negative desire in a void of surplus-value profiting that sucks the life-blood out of the human waste expended and multiplied by this vast charnel house system. Instead of falling back into the trap of capitalist repression and re-Oedipalization, schizoanalysis “follows the lines of escape and the machinic indices all the way to the desiring-machines” (p. 339). Or, as they tell us:
undoing the blockage or the coincidence on which the repression properly speaking relies; transforming the apparent opposition of repulsion … into a condition of real functioning; ensuring this functioning in the forms of attraction and attractive functioning, as well as enveloping the zero degree in the intensities produced; and thereby causing the desiring-machines to start up again. Such is the delicate and focal point that fills the function of transference in schizoanalysis – dispersing, schizophrenizing the perverse transference of psychoanalysis.
For a social and political task one must take this and apply it to the repressive blockages within the capitalist system that keep the zombies bound and captivated to the simulacrum of image commodification and technologies of desire, providing an alternative to this death-machine zero sum world of capital; one that allows a transference from this illusory image-world of capital to a world where desiring-machines are no longer formed, mutilated, and bound to a negative desire situated in capital and its war-machines. We need a critical praxis that is not a reversion to pre-critical forms, but is worthy of the anti-representational critique developed by Deleuze & Guattari, one that seeks out in the functional blockages in the political, economic, and socio-cultural unconscious the part-objects that enforce its repressive stasis and violence of passivity and captures the desiring flows of surplus-joissance, all the while seeking lines of escape and flight out of this zombie globalist system of capital. Seeking cracks in the molecular fabric that encapsulates us in what that liberal-conservative Sloterdijk calls the “World Interior of Capital”; that illusionary ideological construct that is so pervasive and ubiquitous that it has become normalized to the point of invisibility, the Infosphere.
1. Anti-Oedipus Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari ( Penguin 2009)
2. Giroux, Henry A.; Evans, Brad (2015-06-22). Disposable Futures: The Seduction of Violence in the Age of Spectacle (City Lights Open Media) (Kindle Locations 515-517). City Lights Publishers. Kindle Edition.
The article is taken from:
Nietzsche’s accelerationist fragment in Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus
by Obsolete Capitalism
The strong of the future
Despite the passing of time there are fragments of thought that acquire a life of their own and hit the headlines of philo-sophical and cultural journals with regards to their evaluationand interpretation. Among the most famous ones is the Fragment on Machines by Karl Marx.1
More recently another «fragment» has gained importance in terms of discernment: a dark and forward looking «fragment in the fragment» by Friedrich Nietzsche nestled in one of Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus(1972) crucial pages.2
As widely known the reference to Nietzsche in the famous «accelerationist passage» in Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus is decisive and closes the paragraph entitled The Civilized Capitalist Machine (Chapter III, Par. 9, pp. 222-239). Until today the various commentators of such passage have left aside or overshadowed the speciﬁc reference to Friedrich Nietzsche’s Große Prozeß, others have simply quoted the «accelerate theprocess» issue referenced by Deleuze and Guattari, mention-ing Nietzsche’s book The Will of Power, but no one has everreferred to the precise fragment or its context and the poten-tial themes it implies. The quotation of the fragment is alwaysderived from critical essays or secondary literature books andnever from the original Nietzschean work, apart from a notein Wikipedia in the deﬁnition of the word «accelerationism»3 and Matteo Pasquinelli’s short mention in his English “post”called Code Surplus Value and the Augmented Intellect.4
It is likely that this omission ﬁnds its origin in the fact that Deleuze and Nietzsche’s English speaking/reading scholars, when referring to the English edition of the Kritische Gesa-mtausgabe edited by the Stanford University Press (Colli andMontinari critical edition), may not have all the posthumous fragments available. The collection The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche in fact started in 1995 but the edition suddenlystopped after the publication of only three of the originallyproposed twenty volumes, due to the loss of one of the twocurators, Ernst Behler, who died in 1997. Only ten years later, in 2011 Alan D. Schrift and Duncan Large, the two newcurators, published three new volumes but the «accelerationist fragment» inserted in Vol.17 Unpublished Fragments: Summer 1886 – Fall 1887 will be presumably published later.
The controversial ﬁnal part of The Civilized Capitalist Machine may be fully and deeply understood only through a clearreference and analysis of the accelerationist process describedby Nietzsche. The speciﬁc identiﬁcation of the above-men-tioned Nietzschean fragment which Deleuze and Guattari re-fer to, opens to a deﬁnitive interpretation of the ﬁnal passage of The Civilized Capitalist Machine. Christian Kerslake, a sharpcritic and observer of Deleuze’s work ﬁnds the passage quite “difﬁcult to comprehend”.5 Here is the famous passage whichhas become a crucial issue especially in the accelerationist area of commentators:
“But which is the revolutionary path? Is there one?—To withdraw from the world market, as Samir Amin advises Third World countries to do, in a curious revival of the fascist “economic solution”? Or might it be to go in the opposite direction? To go still further, that is, in the movement of the market, of decoding and deterritorialization?
For perhaps the ﬂows are not yet deterritorialized enough, not decoded enough, from the view point a theory and a practice of a highly schizophrenic character. Not to withdraw from the process, but to go further, to “accelerate the process,” as Nietzsche put it: in this matter, the truth is that we haven’t seen anything yet.” 6
Our research has identiﬁed the precise Nietzschean fragment quoted by Deleuze and Guattari as shown above. It is a fragment positioned in two different Friedrich Nietzsche’s posthumous editions. The title of the fragment is The Strong of the Future and it was composed in the Fall of 1887. In the collection of fragments edited by Gast and Nietzsche’s sister (The Will of Power, 1906) 1.067 fragments were randomly listed and The Strong of the Future was numbered 898.7 This arbitrary collection of fragments entitled The Will of Power has produced controversial debates in both political and philosophical ﬁelds since the beginning of the twentieth century.
The same fragment with the same title is present in Colliand Montinari’s The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche. It may be found in Part II Vol. VIII of the Italian edition entitled Frammenti Postumi: 1887-1888 together with other 371 fragments that Nietzsche collected in a series provisionally entitled The Will of Power that he will never publish. Here the fragment is numbered (105) 9 .
In the original fragment, Nietzsche used the verb «beschle-unigen» - derived from the physics world - literary meaning «to accelerate something facilitating its faster track». In the English translation by Kaufmann in 1967 8 the verb has been rendered as «hasten» whereas «accelerate» would have probably been more pertinent even in English, due to the fact that the former deals with the necessity to accelerate (not only in a physical way), while the latter indicates an intrinsic increase of speed in a process. In the Italian translation the verb used is again «affrettare» (hasten) instead of «accelerare» (accelerate), strengthening the above-mentioned difference between the two verbs: «accelerare» means the intrinsic and physical increase of an event or of a process whereas «affrettare» shows an external provision of such increase.
Actually the only signiﬁcant commentator on Nietzsche’s fragment and Deleuze’s quotation is Pierre Klossowski9 in his Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle (1969), a work dedicated to Gilles Deleuze, who highly appreciated this publication together with Foucault. The useful fertility of Klossowski is dual, ﬁrst on an exegetic side of his essay Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle and second for his «procreative» translations of Nietzsche’s works.Klossowski was a famous translator from German to Frenchfor the work of many intellectuals and philosophers like Ben- jamin, Wittgenstein, Heidegger (his Nietzsche 1971) and above all he proved to be the best interpreter of Nietzsche’s thoughtin France thanks to his masterful and superlative work on The Gay Science in 1954 but in particular for the translation of the Fragments posthumes - Autumn 1887 - mars 1888 edited by Galli-mard in 1976.
The fragment we refer to, Les Forts de l’avenir, had already been released in Nietzsche et le Cercle vicieux in 1969. It is exactly there that we ﬁnd the verb “beschleunigen” translated in«accélérer» (accelerate); therefore Klossowski’s interpretation has been at the basis of Deleuze’s choice in using the expression to accelerate the process when wondering which «revolutionary path» to undertake; that is the same question the accelerationist movement poses today.
Through an exegetic analysis of the fragment The Strong ofthe Future in his Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle, Klossowski eval-uates Nietzsche’s thought (of 1887) very extant and contem-porary, able to move from untimely meditations to disconcertednewness in less than one hundred years, afﬁrming that “the economic mechanism of exploitation (developed by science and the economy) is decomposed as an institutional structure into a set of means” entailing two results: “on the one hand, that society can no longer fashion its members as ‘instruments’ to its own ends, now that it has itself become the instrument of a mechanism; on the other hand that a‘surplus’ of forces, eliminated by the mechanism, are now made avail- able for the formation of a different human type: the strong of the future.10
To reach such a new type of man we should not obstruct this irreversible great process but foster its inexorably expansive acceleration in a mechanism which may seem (without being) contrary to the main aim of «the strong of the future»: the differentiation. The levelling and the social homogenization perpetrated by the democratization of the industrial society are responsible for men’s shrinking. The «strong» and the «lev-elled ones» will then act for or against such «inexorable law» in a paradoxical overturning, as well as workers and capitalists ﬁght in favor or against the relentless law of the tendency of the rate of proﬁt to fall, another big issue Deleuze and Guattari posed in the paragraph called The Civilized Capitalist Machine.
We have now concluded this short essay whose aim was to precisely describe the Nietzschean source Deleuze and Guattari had drawn from in their famous passage of the «revolutionary path» in the book Anti-Oedipus and to produce theright bibliographic references to the «accelerationist» fragment in Nietzsche’s complex work. We are aware on the otherhand to have just outlined a challenging in progress work onthe decoding of the deepest meaning of the paragraph The Civilized Capitalist Machine and in particular of the accelera-tionist passage about the theory and the practice of decoded and deterritorialized ﬂows.
1 Karl Marx: Grundrisse: Fragment on Machines - translated by Martin Nicolaus, Penguin,1973
2 Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari: Anti Oedipus. Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Universityof Minnesota Press, 1983
3 “Quoted in Strong, Tracy (1988). Friedrich Nietzsche and the Politics of Transﬁguration.Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 211. Original in The Will to Power nr. 898”(accessed 18 August 2015)
4 Code Surplus Value and the Augmented Intellect, post/ late night notes del 10th March2014:http://matteopasquinelli.com/codesurplusvalue/ (accessed 23 August 2015).
5 Christian Kerslake Marxism and Money in Deleuze and Guattari’s “Capitalism and Schizofrenia”
6 Deleuze-Guattari: Anti Oedipus. Capitalism and Schizophrenia, University of MinnesotaPress, p.239
7 Heinrich Köselitz(1854–1918), musician and actor, Friedrich Nietzsche’s friend whom henicknamed “Peter Gast”.Elisabeth Förster Nietzsche (1846 1935), Nietzsche’s sister who was often criticized by her brother, by Gast and by other Nietzschean followers/suppor-ters. She was a Nazi, pro-Arian and anti-Semite woman, responsible of Nietzsche’s philo-sophy manipulation. Hitler and all his general staff took part to her funeral in 1935.
8 Walter Kaufmann (1921-1980) was an American philosopher and Nietzsche’s scholar whotranslated The Will to Power (Random House, New York,, 1967 with R.J. Hollingdale).
9 Pierre Klossowski (1905-2001) was a French intellectual strongly inﬂuenced by Nietzsche’s works. He was an important translator, writer, philosopher, painter and one of the “spiri-tual father” of Deleuze and Guattari.
10 Pierre Klossowski: Nietzsche and the vicious circle The University of Chicago Press, 1997 -Chapter 6 “The vicious circle as a selective doctrine” p. 164.
Deleuze, G. e Guattari, F. (1983). Anti-OEdipus Capitalism and Schizophrenia Vol. I, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press.
Deleuze, G. (1986).Nietzsche and Philosophie. London, Continuum.
Heidegger, M. (1971). Nietzsche,translated by Klossowski P., Paris, Gallimard.
Kerslake, C. (2015). Marxism and Money in Deleuze and Guattari’s Parrhesia (22). pp 38 - 78. Online article: http://www.parrhesiajournal.org/parrhesia22/parrhesia22_kerslake.pdf
Klossowski, P. (1997). Nietzsche and the vicious circle - translated by Daniel W.Smith, Chicago,The University of Chicago Press
Marx, K. (1973).Grundrisse: Fragment on Machines- translated by MartinNicolaus, New York, Penguin.
Nietzsche, F. (1906). Der Wille zur Macht. (eds.)Förster-Nietzsche, E. eGast P.,Weimar: Nietzsche-Archiv.
Nietzsche, F. (1976). Fragments posthumes, Autumn 1887- mars 1888 . Paris, Gallimard.
Nietzsche, F. Opere (1961-2014), Frammenti postumi 1887-1888, Volume VI,tomo 2, trad. F.Masini, edizione critica a cura di Colli e Montinari, Milano, Adelphi.
Nietzsche, F. (1987).The Genealogy of Morals , New York, Boni andLivingstone.
Nietzsche, F. (1967).The Will to Power. (eds.) Kaufmann W., Hollingdale R.J., New York, Random House.
Nietzsche, F. (1947/1948). La Volonté de Puissance. (eds.) Würzbach, F.,Paris, Gallimard.
Nietzsche, F. (1967). Le Gai Savoir : Fragments posthumes, été 1881 - été1882. Paris, Gallimard
Nietzsche, F. (1980). Nachgelassene Fragmente 1885-1889. [Die Starken derZukunft. pp. 424-425]. Samtliche Werke, Kritische Studienausgabe. Band12. 1.Teil:1885-1887. Munich, De Gruyter.
Nietzsche, F. (1995 -- ). The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche. Redwood City, Stanford University Press.
Pasquinelli, M. (2014). Code Surplus Value and the Augmented Intellec, post/late night notes http://matteopasquinelli.com/code-surplus-value/
Strong, T. (1988). Friedrich Nietzsche and the Politics of Transﬁguration. Berkeley, University of California Press.
The essay is taken from:
by Steven Craig Hickman
Speaking with the dead can be so instructive. They remember what the living have forgotten, or would not know if they could. The true frailty of things.
.-Thomas Ligotti, Grimscribe
In Thomas Ligotti’s The Mystics of Muelenberg we’re presented as usual with a world which is askew, tipped in favor of the strange and deformed, the grotesque and macabre rather than the glittering façade of some Platonic realm of the marvelous:
If things are not what they seem—and we are forever reminded that this is the case—then it must also be observed that enough of us ignore this truth to keep the world from collapsing. Though never exact, always shifting somewhat, the proportion is crucial. For a certain number of minds are fated to depart for realms of delusion, as if in accordance with some hideous timetable, and many will never be returning to us. Even among those who remain, how difficult it can be to hold the focus sharp, to keep the picture of the world from fading, from blurring in selected zones and, on occasion, from sustaining epic deformations over the entire visible scene.1
From time to time I like to reread these demented stories of a mind that has suffered the bitter sweetness of its own forgotten wisdom. The notion that the world that most of us behold is held together by a secret group of individuals scattered across time, a forbidden sect that has been stamped with the task of binding the hellish deformations of reality and containing its force is strangely disquieting. That this dark brotherhood of the mad and insane, the eccentric and oddball are our only hope against the powers of hyperchaos, the Keepers of the Great Art, those who balance the thin red line between reality and the unreal and weave the invisible threads that ubiquitously connect us all in a timeless world of illusion is a truth that if accepted would in itself drive us all insane. So that the troubadours, jongleurs, tricksters, and mad shamans who wander the broken boundaries of existence and keep us safe, while they move in two worlds at once: split between the real and unreal, brokering the lines of flight that bind and unbind reality. They are the mad ones who defend us against the insane truth, who channel the secrets of existence in parables and allegories, while living out in their own lives and minds the inevitable corruption that would destroy the rest of us.
One can imagine that from time to time one of our benefactors succumbs to the power of the other side, is lured and tempted to give into the secret force of its entrapments. This forces us to think about our own part in this madness and how we are ourselves corrupted and corrupting in our very inability to separate the real and unreal in our lives. What if one were to wander into one of those abandoned zones, a zone of exclusion and corruption, move in the world where reality was unprotected, where the balance had suddenly shifted exposing the truth behind the curtain of lies; where appearance as appearance gave up its artificial semblance and exposed the underlying nullity, the dark abyss of nothingness and formlessness? What if one saw behind the phenomenal and into the noumenon and discovered that it was a hyperchaotic sea of time without sense or reason? What if the hyperchaos that surrounds us suddenly presented itself without illusion, opened its dark powers to you vision: what would you do? What could you do?
There are those such as Lacan and Zizek who suggest that the saving grace is that we have an inbuilt gap or split, that keeps us bound in a subjective transcendence of illusory fictions. That the sea of appearances and phenomena around us are all that we will ever have direct access too. That our brains, our minds are shaped by rules of language and logic that enforce the barriers against the truth of the Real for our protection. That if we were to know reality as it is we would all go mad. Yet, others have boldly suggested that this too is a lie, a fiction: that in truth the world that we believe is real is itself the great fiction, the lie upon which we have obliterated the real world and replaced it with a hyperreality so real that we are now lost in an abyss of our own making. Will we find our way out of this labyrinth? Where is Ariadne’s thread to guide us back to the formless sea of unbeing?
In the old Gnostic mythologies the Archons (kelippot, dark vessels) were the Watchers who keep us locked away in Time’s Prison. What if the reverse were true? What if in fact they are our secret defenders? What if they were the secret or hidden, occult brotherhood who have all these eons protected us from ourselves? What if what we should fear is our own powers? What if in fact we were the dark gods who have forgotten our own powers, and the gatekeepers were put in place by us to protect us from our terrible deeds, our own horrendous past? What if we are the destroyers against which we have built up such dark mythologies, and that if we ever tore down the barriers between our world and the Real we would discover the terrible truth of our own dark secret? That the evil we project upon darkness is the face of our own abysmal nature? What then? Maybe Time is a Prison we built against our own terrible existence, and that the only thing between us and oblivion is the gates of illusion. Would you still storm the gates if you knew this to be the truth?
In the old mythologies of kabbalism is the notion of restitution (“Tikkun ha-Olam“), or the ‘lifting of the sparks’ (Netzotzim) – the notion that throughout time a slow and methodical metempsychosis of the original sparks of light that broke away from the dying embers of a Dead God as he died during the cataclysmic catastrophe that gave birth to our Universe would one day be restored and brought together in an infinite Body of Light, the Adam Kadmon of Living Fire at the End of Time. What if the opposite were true, what if what we are seeking is not a restitution but the annihilation of the sparks, a dark gnosis in which each of us slowly awakens to our own suicidal glory of annihilating the light of which we are shadows and embers of a darker realm of seething energy? What if instead of total restitution there is a total unmaking and unbinding of the Light into utter darkness and hyperchaos? That Time will end only when the last of the sparks is annihilated in this ocean of the abyss? We know that our universe of stars, dust, and light is but a minimal dance upon a ocean of dark matter and energy, that in truth what we call the universe is but a small fraction of this colder dimension, a truth that we cannot quantify nor know but infer from the instruments of our sciences and mathematical theorems. As Ligotti in his tale will say:
For no one else recalls the hysteria that prevailed when the stars and the moon dimmed into blackness. Nor can they summon the least memory of when the artificial illumination of this earth turned weak and lurid, and all the shapes we once knew contorted into nightmares and nonsense. And finally how the blackness grew viscous, enveloping what light remained and drawing us into itself. How many such horrors await in that blackness to be restored to the legions of the dead.
CHORAMANCY: A USER’S GUIDE
Came across an interesting essay in Mind Factory yesterday in which a consulting group was hired by the City of Miami because it had a “image” problem. People were perceiving Miami as deadly and crime ridden, a place where terror lurked in the sun and shadows everywhere. So the Florida Research Ensemble (FRE) developed a prototype for an inventional consulting practice, tested in the city of Miami, Florida.1 The notion that one could hire a consulting practice to invent reality struck my humor button, till I began thinking about Ligotti’s tale. This notion that people could invent an image, align the appearances of reality in such a way that the public at large might suddenly be lured to believe that a City that only yesterday was seen as a terrifying and hideous nightmare world of crime could become a sunny and happy world full of light and gaiety struck me odd.
For FRE the problem was simple: it was a public relations crisis of the first order: the damage done to the image of Florida by the murder of a number of tourists had caused their client untold revenue and tourist dollars to be lossed in the past few years to a perceived reality. What was needed was to change this perception, to invent a new perceived image of reality to replace this bad economic image that had caused their client to lose revenue.
As part of the image crisis management FRE was set a task to create a “Fifth Estate”: develop a practice for the internet that allows netizens to become agents of a “fifth estate,” giving citizens a voice in the public policy process equivalent at least to that of journalism…(KL 3291) What they discovered is that our of 41 million visitors over a 14 month period that nine tourists had been killed (3.2% of Miami’s murders). As one official said: “We have a huge perception problem, but nonetheless a real problem.” What transpired after bad publicity from news outlets is that the Commerce Secretary suspended tourist advertising temporarily, while countering negative news coverage. In the tourism business, he said, image is the business and has a direct bearing on the health of the industry. (KL 3318)
Between News, Noir and Hard-boiled fiction, huckster propaganda (to sell real estate off-shore), Haitian and Cuban boat immigrants, etc. the city was caught in a continuous oscillation between two competing narratives, that of “Magic City” and “Paradise Lost.”(KL 3441) The works of Elmore Leonard and Charles Willeford, and in the Television series Miami Vice had over the years contributed to tourist imagery of the noir and crime element fears as well. As they discovered:
Sheila Croucher, in Imagining Miami, summed up the issue: “Miami is a city without true substance, a state of mind instead of a state of being.”[ 168] As James Donald observed, every city is a state of mind that owe as much to discourse as to people and place. “ [The imagined city] has been learned as much from novels, pictures and half-remembered films as from diligent walks round the capital cities of Europe. It embodies perspectives, images, and narratives that migrate across popular fiction, modernist aesthetics, the sociology of urban culture, and techniques for acting on the city.” (KL 3459)
Over the years news, advertising , noir fiction had all contributed to the invention of Miami’s image as a crime infested world that had slowly accrued into peoples (tourists) minds and dissuaded them from viewing this city as a travel destination. So FRE realized that if every city is a state of mind then they’d need to change the image of the city to create an atmosphere, a feeling, an ambiance more congenial to tourist travel.
As they discovered they’d need to participate in genre building and reformulate the city from the formulaic mode of Miami Vice to one of Miami Virtue. One aspect of this was the notion of theoria: The discourse of the sages of the ancient theoria that we had adopted as a relay for the new consultancy expressed the state of mind known as “ataraxy,” a kind of serene indifference to the accidents and tribulations of the external world. (KL 3516)
To build a new image of the city they started with a notion of psychogeography: the mapping of the city as an allegorical story that could be mapped to a tourist cognitive vision of the world.
The relevance of mystory as a basis for testimonial is that it is a holistic practice, designed originally as a way to compose simultaneously in four (more or less) discourses. What one testifies to in the first place is the inventory of identifications or quilting points constituting one’s feeling of being a unified “self.” Mystory is a cognitive map of its maker’s psychogeography. The popcycle that I worked out in Heuretics remotivates an allegorical quaternary. The four levels of allegory serve as the four elements (Earth, Air, Fire, and Water) into which Plato’s chora sorted chaos. (KL 3664)
I want go into the details which are lengthy and go into the background of allegorical terminology, etc. Needless to say they updated the older forms of allegorical systems with current scientific and philosophical models.
Ultimately they narrowed their focus to one specific zone: the Miami River. Here the Haitian population lived amid the ruins of old ships, buildings, and make-shift housing projects. The group began to weave the history, mythologies, stories, and milieu of their culture into the tourist image the City could shape to a new image that would allow both the Haitian population and city to benefit from each others cultural mix through an allegorical exchange of images. They were able to accomplish this through a mixture of photography, story, advertisement, fiction, and other intermediation that allowed the perceived threat of the alien other (“alterity”, “aporia”) to be brought from the Outside in in such a way as to open an exchange between the various elements of both cultures that had been wary of each other.
As they realized following the work of Michael Serres the tourist situation, like every other intersubjective experience, must take into account as least three positions: host, guest, “parasite”. (KL 4170) This allowed them to shape a policy that had once been based on exclusionary practices to become one on inclusion:
Applied to the policy question of the Caribbean Code, this formula proposes the suspension of the interdiction and boarding of Haitian vessels by the Coast Guard, to be replaced with the “boarding” of Haitians at city expense: “learn about boarding from boarding.” (KL 4174)
The politics of the stranger, in contrast, puts the interests of the other first, without expectation of reciprocity. It remains to be seen what sort of policy might be entailed by the aporia of hospitality, but its impossibility in principle is nearly the inverse of Prisoner’s Dilemma. “For unconditional hospitality to take place you have to accept the risk of the other coming and destroying the place, initiating a revolution, stealing everything, or killing everyone. That is the risk of pure hospitality and pure gift.” Pure gift, in other words, constitutes the impossible necessity of ethics unbounded by the external authority of some Master Signifier (God, King, etc.). (KL 4189)
ASHES AND PUTTY
“I once knew a man who claimed that, overnight, all the solid shapes of existence had been replaced by cheap substitutes: trees made of poster board, houses built of colored foam, whole landscapes composed of hair-clippings. His own flesh, he said, was now just so much putty. Needless to add, this acquaintance had deserted the cause of appearances and could no longer be depended on to stick to the common story. Alone he had wandered into a tale of another sort altogether; for him, all things now participated in this nightmare of nonsense. But although his revelations conflicted with the lesser forms of truth, nonetheless he did live in the light of a greater truth: that all is unreal. Within him this knowledge was vividly present down to his very bones, which had been newly simulated by a compound of mud and dust and ashes.” (Ligotti, KL 1529)
This notion that reality is malleable, that we can reinvent realities for tourists or allow ourselves to follow our own tendencies into the unreal worlds around us is part and partial of the current state of theoria. That a city we perceived as dark and shadowy only yesterday could suddenly manifest itself as a magic kingdom or vice versa as a nightmare world of inordinate monstrosity is to know that reality is no longer a solid fixed substance, that form is a floating signifier both material and immaterial and unbounded.
That nothing is real, that everything might take on the hues of unreality and metamorphosis, and that change might just find you in the nightmare of nonsense and strangeness is par for the course in a world where things are not what they seem. As Ligotti’s narrator states it: “In my own case, I must confess that the myth of a natural universe—that is, one that adheres to certain continuities whether we wish them or not—was losing its grip on me and gradually being supplanted by a hallucinatory view of creation. Forms, having nothing to offer except a mere suggestion of firmness, declined in importance; fantasy, that misty domain of pure meaning, gained in power and influence.” (Ligotti, KL 1534)
If as many materialists from Giordano Bruno to Bataille and in our own time Nick Land have attested: matter is formless and energetic, and our so called reality is but a mask for the greater unreality or surreality of the immanent darkness that our own brain distorts and deforms. We may live in a world that could change at any moment into something else: is this horror or comforting? The collapse of the real into the unreal might be an excessive joy for some, and for others a corruption beyond all belief. Hell or paradise: isn’t this in the eye of the beholder? As William Blake once hoped, what we need is a marriage of heaven and hell: “Energy is Eternal Delight.”
As the narrator describes the thoughts of Klaus Klingman: “I am a lucky one, parasite of chaos, maggot of vice. Where I live is all nightmare, thus a certain nonchalance. I am accustomed to drifting in the delirium of history.” (KL 1562) Klingman who is neither a protector nor a defender against the ancient curse of corruption, a man who simply drifts between the gaps like an alien priest of some insubordinate sect. A man who knew the truth but had bypassed its message for a more serene terror. He’d become the witness to the slow decay, the coming disintegration of things. Mulenberg, the center of the vast abject triumph of the nameless fruit: “Throughout the town, all places and things bore evidence to striking revisions in the base realm of matter: precisely sculptured stone began to loosen and lump, an abandoned cart melded with the sucking mud of the street, and objects in desolate rooms lost themselves in the surfaces they pressed upon, making metal tongs mix with brick hearth, prismatic jewels with lavish velvet, a corpse with the wood of its coffin.” (KL 1609)
As Bataille would say existence “no longer resembles a neatly defined itinerary from one practical sign to another, but a sickly incandescence, a durable orgasm” (p. 82).3 The lonely brotherhood that had for so long held back the corruption of the universal decay had abandoned the city leaving the people to fall before the bleak misery of things: “All were carried off in the great torrent of their dreams, all spinning in that grayish whirlpool of indefinite twilight, all churning and in the end merging into utter blackness.” (KL 1614) Like the Pleroma of the ancient gnositcs the people were in the place of the dark light without knowing it, the place where time, memory, and thought were forgotten in the silence of night and chaos. As Klingman will tell the young narrator:
I am one with the dead of Muelenburg . . . and with all who have known the great dream in all its true liquescence. (KL 1624)
As if enacting a parody of the Great Art, the alchemical ceremony of fire, Klingman anoints the narrator who is seeking to know the truth of the ancient world to which Mulenberg has succumb: “To cure you of doubt, you first had to be made a doubter. Until now, pardon my saying so, you have shown no talent in that direction. You believed every wild thing that came along, provided it had the least evidence whatever. Unparalleled credulity. But tonight you have doubted and thus you are ready to be cured of this doubt.” (KL 1627)
Doubting the murderousness of existence is the first step into oblivion. As Klingman in a moment of dark clarity tells the young initiate: “This is my gift to you. This will be your enlightenment. For the time is right again for the return of fluidity, and for the world’s grip to go slack. And later so much will have to be washed away, assuming a renascence of things. Fluidity, always fluidity.” (KL 1631)
Maybe this is all we can expect now in our world, a slow withdrawal into that cold night of time without Time, a measured movement into the liquidity of things where life will be washed in the blood of Death without appeal. For too long we have held on to the myth of solidity, fixed the world into static objects; left the movement of the shadows fall before our inner gaze. We’ve lived in the sun too long, let the daylight shape our lives and thoughts. Now is the time of Night and Chaos. All hope of those of the dark sect gone back down into the dark folds of the immaterial material of the universe, where energy and light, the intransigent envelope of nothingness dissolves in a recourse to everything that compromises the powers that be in matters of form, ridiculing the traditional entities, naively rivalling stupefying scarecrows. (Bataille, p. 51) The Great Unraveling has begun, the slow and methodical decomposition of all things into the darkness. We who once believed in the myth of light have found the power of darkness to hold the pure energy, that active principle of matter: eros and thanatos, twins of the dark path call to us at the crossroads of time and the pure instant. Where we find the hanged one upside down in the place of the headless delirium of the Pleroma we will at last discover the impossible shape of Time.
The Antarctica is taken from:
This falling back is comical as well as critical, for example, in Bataille’s critical dictionary entry ‘Factory Chimney’ (EA, 50–1). The photograph accompanying Bataille’s commentary is of a demolished chimney falling like a penis in a state of detumescence. Bataille writes that for him, as a child, the ‘most fear-inspiring architectural form was by no means the church, however monstrous, but rather large factory chimneys, true channels of communication between the ominously dull, threatening sky and the muddy, stinking earth surrounding the textile and dye factories’ (EA, 51). The collapse of the demolished chimney releases Bataille’s childhood anger against it. He attacks the factory chimney because it imposes production on to the world (see Chapter 5 for further discussion of Bataille’s displacement of production). In the collapse of the chimney there is ‘the revelation of a state of violence for which one bears some responsibility’ (EA, 51). We are responsible for the violent imposition of production on the world, but as the chimney falls it reveals the weakness of this imposition.
As Bataille remarks in ‘The Big Toe’ (1929), although we may have ‘a head raised to the heavens’ (EA, 87, VE, 20) we have a ‘foot in the mud’ (EA, 87; VE, 20). The fall back is comic and drags us down in the mud. This emphasis on the fall and collapse also explains the violence of his pre-war break with the surrealists. For Bataille the surrealists had a ‘completely unhappy desire to turn to upper spiritual regions’ (VE, 41). Breton defined surrealism as the search for a superior reality: ‘I believe the future resolution of these two states – outwardly so contradictory – which are dream and reality, into a sort of absolute reality, a surreality, so to speak.’9 There is an irreducible difference between Bataille’s dragging of the image down into ‘base matter’ (VE, 45–52) and the surrealists turning upwards away from its sources in the ‘basest forms of agitation’ (VE, 42). Bataille is certainly close to the surrealists but his assimilation to the surrealists is impossible because of this difference. In fact, through Bataille a different heterogeneous reading of surrealism may be possible.
Bataille argued that the surrealists suffered from an ‘Icarian complex’ (VE, 37), the impossible desire to soar above base matter like the legendary flight of Icarus. Just like Icarus they would also fall back to earth; their ‘higher reality’ remained tied to the base agitation from which it emerged. Breton was right in saying that Bataille was an ‘excrement philosopher’ but Bataille could counter: ‘Did Breton think he could exist without excreting?’ The most sublime of surrealist flights could never exclude the bowel movements that pulled them down into the dirt. When Bataille wrote about Dali’s painting ‘The Lugubrious Game’, he said, ‘My only desire here – even if by pushing this bestial hilarity to its furthest point I must nauseate Dali – is to squeal like a pig before his canvases’ (VE, 28). Bataille’s squealing like a pig is a Dadaist act of provocation which drags the surrealist image into the dirt. By dragging down the image Bataille also rejected the surrealist model of the avant-garde. The surrealists remained an ultimately hierarchical group with Breton as the ‘pope of surrealism’ dispensing benedictions and excommunications. By dragging the artist down from his (and it is usually a man) role as visionary or seer of ‘higher reality’ Bataille also offers a new model of community as egalitarian, non-hierarchical and exposed to base irruptive forces (as we will see in Chapter 2).
Bataille exposed surrealism to the effects that it could not control in its own images. As we have seen he has followed this process of exposure from the most conventional images to the most extreme images. Now, I want to follow the next stage in Bataille’s subversion of the image. He is not only concerned with subverting specific images but also with a general subversion of vision itself. The impossible is widened in its effects to include an impossible moment in every act of vision. To accomplish this further subversion of the image Bataille turns to the eye as the organ of vision which allows us to comprehend any image. This disruption of vision can be found in the entry for ‘The Eye’ in the critical dictionary (EA, 43–8; VE, 17–19, translations differ slightly). Bataille turns the gaze of the eye back on itself through the photograph of Joan Crawford with bulging eyes which accompanies the article. In an exchange of looks we do not receive the reassuring image of the film star as object of desire or identification but a stare that forces our gaze away in shock, a violent contact between the eye and the eye of another.
This violent displacement of my eye disrupts its usual function: ‘It seems impossible, in fact, to describe the eye without employing the word seductive, nothing it seems, being more attractive in the bodies of animals and men. But this extreme seductiveness is probably at the very edge of horror’ (EA, 45). The seductive eye is the eye that meets another eye in the look of love, in the amorous look from one eye to another. This joining together of eyes in a look seeks out the truth of love in the eye of another, and in that eye is found either the confirmation of a returned love or the ruin of the refusal of love. The eye is the organ of truth through the clarity of the look, and we discover the truth or falsity of love in the look. What the photograph of Joan Crawford does is to turn our look away in shock and it threatens this model of truth with the eruption of an affect at ‘the very edge of horror’.
Bataille connects the seductive look of the eye, where the eye is open to the eye of another, to an extreme vulnerability. Everyday language talks of a piercing gaze and the amorous gaze exists on the edge of a piercing of the eye by the look of another, a metaphoric piercing that slides toward a literal piercing. Bataille recalls Buñuel and Dali’s film Un Chien Andalou where a razor is drawn across the eye of a young woman (EA, 45; VE, 17) in a scene that remains powerfully shocking. For Bataille the eye can be related to the edge of the razor (EA, 45; VE, 17), because the eye has a violence that threatens the moment of vision. The supposed clarity of the look of love is always a look of violence that is threatened by that violence. Again and again we can find examples in horror films and fiction which exploit our horror of the punctured eyeball, where our organ of clarity and sight is reduced to a flow of matter streaming from a sightless eye socket.
How do we explain our extreme horror of damage to the eye? For Freud this fear of damage to the eyes is the result of castration anxiety, with the eyes and the testicles being equivalent at the level of the unconscious.10 Bataille is interested in the psychoanalytic exploration of the process of equivalence and substitution around the eye but not in having this chain opened or closed by castration. Roland Barthes has analysed the Story of the Eye as a playing along a chain of signifiers by passing ‘from image to image’ (in SE, 119). In the novel the eye moves around, between eye (œil) and egg (œuf) by means of the white roundness they share, and then from the egg to the sun, through the egg’s yellow yolk, and on to the testicles (in SE, 121). As Barthes points out, Bataille differs from psychoanalysis because he does not ground this chain of images in castration (in SE, 122). In Bataille we find images circulating in a movement which blurs objects, causes them to run into each (both collide and become merged); by this blurring the original image is displaced, it is uprooted into the flows of base matter that flow through the eye.
If in Freud the horror of the punctured eye find its origin in the punctured testicle then Bataille is more literal. The horror of the punctured eye lies in the horror of damage to the eye, because the eye can shift rapidly from being caught in the gaze of love to being plucked out and eaten as a cannibal delicacy (EA, 45; VE, 17). The eye is both powerful and vulnerable at the same time. The very power we attribute to vision, its purity and clarity and its capacity for detecting truth make it vulnerable. This clarity is not only disturbed when we gaze at the unclear or impure, or when the amorous gaze is shaken, but it haunts every act of vision. Vision is possible only through the original violence of the aperture that opens the eye, an aperture which is also a blind spot. The blind spot is the part of the eye which makes vision possible and the part which makes that vision incomplete or impossible. It is the aperture which opens the possibility of vision but which vision cannot comprehend visually, and it is this part of vision which is not part of the vision with which the subversive image communicates.
In his later work Inner Experience (1943) Bataille used the blind spot metaphorically to indicate the moment of non-knowledge: ‘knowledge which loses itself in it’ (IE, 111). He uses it to indicate a point of non-knowledge that ruins Hegel’s attempts to assimilate the unknown to the known through action. Hegel cannot resist the effects of ‘desire, poetry, laughter’ (IE, 111) which take him back from the known to the unknown. As Bataille would put it in ‘Hegel, Death, and Sacrifice’ (1955): ‘On the one hand there is poetry, the destruction that has surged up and diluted itself, a bloodspattered head; on the other hand there is action, work, struggle’ (BR, 280). Hegel’s philosophy is a philosophy of action, work and struggle, but its blind spot is everything that cannot be assimilated to work. Action, work and struggle are disrupted by Bataille’s invocation of desire, poetry and laughter. For Bataille the blind spot is useful as a metaphor but ‘the blind spot of the eye is inconsequential’ (IE, 110). He misses the opportunity to relate the philosophical model of knowledge to vision, and so to relate his own subversion of the image with his subversion of philosophy. We can re-establish this connection by recognising that the blind spot is not only a blind spot of knowledge but also of vision, tracing the same movement of collapse in both domains. Neither philosophy nor the model of vision by which it is supported and which it supports can accept the impossibility of the blind spot.
This impossibility is not a negative fault of vision or of philosophy which could potentially be corrected, because the blindspot is also what makes vision possible. The blind spot is the dilatory opening that makes vision possible and also disrupts vision, making it impossible. In the same way non-knowledge is the opening that makes knowledge possible but knowledge also finds itself ‘completely absorbed in it’ (IE, 111). The impossible is not a secondary effect that comes to ruin a clear image but the very condition of that image itself. This means that it is impossible to get rid of the impossible, to clear up vision or philosophy. Moreover, the original opening of the blindspot explains why the eye existson the edge of horror. The event of horror of the pierced eye ball refers back to the fact that the eyeball is originally pierced, and it is this opening that makes vision possible. Our horror is a horror at the violence that makes vision possible and that the eye carries within it, and this does not lessen our horror of violence toward the eye but increases it. It is through recognition of the fragility of the eyeas it is, the fact that the eye is already damaged, violated and incomplete, that resistance to violence on the eye can originate.
Bataille subverts not only the image but also the eyeit self, ther eby subverting the possibility of any theory of the image. How could Bataille’s work have been read if it did not conform to theoretical demands? The tasks it sets and its practices of reading the image have disappeared into a silence that has rarely been broken, either in Bataille’s life time or since his death. Where Bataille’s writing on the image has had a subterranean influence is in its appropriation by his friend Lacan. Lacan’s theory of the image has had far more influence than Bataille’s precisely because it is a theory. Lacan has dominated Anglo-American film and art theory while Bataille has been left as the hidden burrowing ‘old mole’ (VE, 32–44) of the metaphor he borrows from Marx. While Lacan’s theory has enjoyed institutional success, incontrast Bataille’s resistance to theoretical limitations has left him without an institutional or theoretical home. Lacan has a theoretical master, Freud, and also plays the role of master-thinker himself. Bataille’s thought is more modest and subversive; it is a thought without mastery. The question of the appropriation of Bataille by Lacan is a difficult one because they shared a milieu, common formative intellectual experiences, and Lacan even lived with Bataille’s first wife Sylvia after she had separated from Bataille. Furthermore, Lacan’s ‘success’ in Anglo-American academia would need its own history of the misreading and misappropriations he has been subject to, which has yet to be written. It is possible that this history would require consideration of Lacan’s own concept of misrecognition (Méconnaissance) to explain his misreading. One of the strange elements of that ‘misrecognition’ is that Lacanian discussions of the image have tended to use the text ‘The mirror stage as formative of the function of the I’, which analyses the origin of the human subject through the ‘mirroring’ effect of the mother’s look.11 This ignores Lacan’s more detailed discussion of vision and the image in The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis, originally given as seminar XI (1964). Recently this account has begun to receive more attention from Lacanians,12 and it is striking how close it is to Bataille’s subversion of the image.
In the seminar Lacan distinguishes between the eye, which is broadly speaking ‘normal’ vision, and the gaze which is the object that resists the eye. This distinction becomes necessary because of the effect of desire on vision:
If one does not stress the dialectic of desire one does not understand why the gaze of others should disorganise the field of perception. It is because the subject in question is not that of reflexive consciousness, but that of desire. One thinks it is a question of the geometrical eye-point, whereas it is a question of a quite different eye – that which flies in the foreground of The Ambassadors.13
Lacan is referring to Holbein’s painting The Ambassadors, on which there is a strangely distorted smear which, if viewed from the correct angle, appears as a skull. This is an example of the technique of anamorphosis but Lacan is using it to stress the distortion of vision as an act of desire. The role of desire in vision brings an interruption to vision that eludes reflection, ‘the stain’14 that marks the image. In The Ambassadors this stain is the skull that interrupts the image and almost ‘sticks out’ from the frame.
On the one hand, Lacan understands the impossible element in vision as an effect of castration. Lacan’s impossible is the Real, a concept he introduces to explain the remainder of language and castration that resists symbolisation. The Real only appears in jouissance, leftover bits of enjoyment that remain at the edges of the body in what Freud called the ‘erotogenic zones’:15 the mouth, the anus and the sexual organs. Lacan adds to these a language that emerges from the lips and a vision from the eye, all that emerges at the edges of the body, from the structure of the rim.16 On the other hand, Bataille’s impossible has no conceptual identity and is not organised by castration or contained by psychoanalysis. Bataille’s thought of the impossible cannot be assimilated to a Lacanian reading of the Real, as Fred Botting has attempted to do.17 Although Lacan argues that the gaze has a ‘pulsatile, dazzling and spread out function’,18 it can never be detached from castration or from the body without making it something other than a psychoanalytic concept.
Unlike Lacan, Bataille did not set out to re-found psychoanalysis but instead he used Freud to articulate a reinvigorated and mobile materialism of ‘raw phenomena’ (VE, 16). The irruptive effects found by psychoanalysis in the unconscious could not be absorbed and organised by psychoanalysis as a discipline or institution. The schisms and splits that afflict the psychoanalytic institution could be understood as the signs of eruptions that psychoanalysis cannot control within itself. In his essay ‘The Psychological Structure of Fascism’ (1933–34) Bataille explored heterogeneity as a series of resistant phenomena that could not be dominated by the homogeneous organisations of knowledge and society. He drew on the Freudian unconscious but argued that ‘it would seem that the unconscious must be considered as one of the aspects of the heterogeneous’ (VE, 141; BR, 126). Psychoanalysis has exploited this heterogeneity to found itself as an institution and practice but it can never completely assimilate it.
Lacan’s own violent breaks with the psychoanalytic institution, including those that he founded himself,19 testify to the heterogeneity of his thought. The difficulty is that Lacan was still attached to psychoanalysis and still attached to castration. This difference might explain why Lacan’s theory of the image has had so much more success than Bataille. Despite the difficulty of Lacan’s language, far more difficult than Bataille’s, it is rooted in a conceptual apparatus familiar to many readers. Bataille argues that this conceptual apparatus cannot dominate heterogeneity. Lacan’s discussion was also organised around the philosophical references to Sartre and Merleau-Ponty at a seminar that attracted many important intellectual figures and which will go on to achieve wide translation and distribution. In comparison, Bataille’s work on the image was hardly read at the time and is now largely forgotten, although it has recently been rediscovered in the art criticism of Yves-Alain Bois and Rosalind Krauss. In Formless: A User’s Guide (1997) they use Bataille to argue their position ‘that the formless has its own legacy to fulfil, its own destiny – which is partly that of liberating our thinking from the semantic, the servitude to thematics, to which abject art seems so thoroughly indentured’.20 They use Bataille’s entry for the critical dictionary, ‘Formless’ (December 1929) (EA, 51–2; VE, 31) where Bataille takes the ‘formless’ (informe) as ‘not only an adjective having a given meaning, but a term that serves to bring things down in the world …’ (VE, 31). Bois and Krauss use the formless to bring down art practice and criticism from its dependence on meaning, especially an abject art that would seem to revel in the obscene and perverse.
Abject art is the art of the remainder, especially the bodily remainder: blood, urine, tears, sperm, excrement, etc. It has often justified itself by reference to Bataille, and especially to Bataille’s early writings which we have been discussing. In doing so it assimilates Bataille as part of the new counterculture art market, where modernist eruptions are now re-staged as postmodern commodities for art buyers. The assimilation of this ‘counter-culture’ abject art is evident in the way that it has become absorbed within the marketing of a new ‘national culture’, despite its ostensibly shocking content. Perhaps the best-known work of contemporary British art is Damien Hirst’s ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’ (1991), which ‘is a fourteen foot tiger shark preserved in a tank of formaldehyde, a colourless liquid that resembles water so that, at first glance, the creature appears alive’.21 It is a work which plays with ideas of the abject: death, impossibility, violence, but at the same time it has become an accepted part of the cultural promotion of Britain. It presents itself as having a meaning, ‘“I want to access people’s fears,” says Hirst. “I like the idea of a thing to describe a feeling.”’22
Of course, Hirst is not to blame for the wider cultural exploitation of his work, but this is an example of how abject surrenders to meaning. Bois and Krauss oppose this, and they particularly oppose the theory of abjection proposed by Julia Kristeva in Powers of Horror.23 Kristeva is indebted to Bataille but she provides a more Lacanian reading of abjection where the abject is ‘These body fluids, this defilement, this shit …’24 Although Bataille is concerned with the limits of the body this bodily reading of abjection ties it to the body and its waste products. Kristeva has provided a matrix for art criticism and practice which allows it to understand the abject as bodily waste, to confine and limit it within a meaning – no matter how ‘shocking’ that meaning is. In contrast Bataille’s formless is ‘like a spider or spit’ (VE, 31), mobile or fluid enough to evade classification and meaning, including as the abject. For Bois and Krauss it allows them to intervene against an abject art that has claimed Bataille as its patron saint and to offer an art criticism that is not oriented towards meaning.
The problem that their innovative reading confronts is that if they use formless as a word for what resists form aren’t they then giving it a form? Although they recognise that this is a problem they fail to deal with it, they realise that they ‘run the risk of transforming the formless into a figure, of stabilising it. That risk is perhaps unavoidable …’25 The ‘perhaps’ in this sentence is the sign that the problem of form is more intractable than Bois and Krauss are willing to admit. They have inserted it to hold open the possibility that they can avoid giving the formless form; it is a ‘risk’ which is only ‘perhaps unavoidable’. However, it is unavoidable, and this strikes at the heart of their use of Bataille. The formless (informe) is always in-form, and when they fail to recognise this they turn the formless into a new concept of art criticism and Bataille into the theorist of the formless.
The interpretations of the image by Lacan and Bois and Krauss’s interpretation are actually symmetrical and not simply opposed. Lacan anchors the impossible in the event of castration, the leftover pieces of the body and a ‘scientific’ concept of the Real giving the formless form. In doing so he becomes part of the philosophical project of ‘giving a frock coat to what is’ (VE, 31), as Bataille put it. On the other hand, the emphasis of Bois and Krauss on the formless as completely formless supplies it paradoxically with a form. In different ways these are gestures of reduction, either locating the formless within a frame or locating it as what is always outside the frame. The impossibility of the subversive image is that is does not fit into the frame but spills over it. The formless is always inform, but it is never absorbed by that form. The subversive image as the impossible is a reading that reads this mobile disruption of the frame of the image. Matter for Bataille is always ‘active’ (VE, 47; BR, 162), never settling within a frame or an image but always emerging from an image, a word or things.
It is this instability, this flowing out from the image, that makes Bataille’s images reach out to the reader and at the same time resist appropriation by either the reader or by Bataille’s own writings. These images are never formless as such, which would be to produce and form the formless, but they are formless in the derangement of form, like the spider or spit. It is the difficulty of appropriating the subversive image, of producing a theory of the image from Bataille that is no doubt why he is so little read on the image. The necessity of reading Bataille lies in this impossibility of the formation of a theory of the image as well, but it is a difficult demand to meet. This impossibility is never just a reflection of Bataille’s state of mind; it must be read in images and in the act of vision. While he wrote about images that communicated intensely to him, lightning-flash images that obsessed and moved him, what provoked him was that they produced an affect leading to communication. It was never a matter of personal contemplation but a sharing with others through the image, the image as the opening of the Other.
The image was a ‘lived experience’ of an impossible communication like the disturbing image recounted in ‘The Jesuve’ (1930): ‘It would have been impossible for me to speak explicitly of it, to express totally what I felt so violently in early 1927 (and it still happens that I bitterly feel it) in any other way than by speaking of the nudity of an ape’s anal projection, which on a day in July of the same year, in the Zoological Gardens of London, overwhelmed me to the point of throwing me into a kind of ecstatic brutishness’ (VE, 78). This image was the ‘origin’ of what Bataille himself described as the ‘excremental fantasy’ (VE, 78) of the pineal eye. The pineal eye is the fantasy of a blinding moment of vision at once ‘pure’ and ‘impure’. The pineal gland, which is located in the skull, is supposed by Bataille to be an atrophied eye which could explode through ‘the summit of the skull like a horrible erupting volcano’ (VE, 74). In the moment of vision this eye at the top of the head is connected both to the sun and the anus in a shattering movement of jouissance. Developed before the work of Documents the pineal eye fantasy prefigures its concerns with an impossible image and still tries to preserve an ecstatic vision, a ‘vision of excess’. Bataille’s subversion of the image will never let go of a ‘certain disorder’ (VE, 78) of lived experience and his desire for ‘the celestial eye’ (VE, 90) which we lack, but he will displace the fantasy of an unmediated vision of excess.
Bataille had suggested that before 1930, ‘I was not insane but I made too much of the necessity of leaving, in one way or another, the limits of our human experience …’ (VE, 74). Documents is a continuation of this self-criticism through an active intervention into images. Those who celebrate Georges Bataille often remain within this early fantasy of unmediated access to the impossible. Instead, by his self-criticism, Bataille is not retreating from a delirious thought of the image but deepening the delirium of thought. The pineal eye opens on to his later writings on vision and works with them as a subversion of vision. By giving up on the possibility of the purely impure vision of the pineal eye, Bataille can begin to read the image as subversive in its negotiation with the impossible. No longer confined to certain experiences, this delirium of images spreads its effects across all images and all acts of vision, deranging vision from its position of truth.
As technologies of the image have proliferated and increasingly dominated our lives since Bataille’s death, his thought is even more necessary. Guy Debord has argued that we are now living in a ‘society of the spectacle’.26 He worked within Marxist categories of the image as an alienation of human beings from their true desires. Bataille does not regard the image as necessarily inauthentic but as having the potential to form or deform real desires. The subversive image is an image which cannot be controlled by the society of the spectacle and which haunts every spectacle and every act of vision as an intractable impossible moment of instability. It is also an image which resists theorisation. Of course, it can be read theoretically, for example, the formless is always in-form, and it is possible to imagine institutes devoted to Georges Bataille (although not without a comic effect). Any reading of the formless has to negotiate with the way the formless takes on form, including an institutional form, or else it would leave the subversive image as a fantasy floating free of any relation to lived experience and so destroy the subversive image.
Bataille’s response to theoretical readings is a laughter that destabilises any theory built on his work. Whether Bataille intended the images he chose to be read seriously or not, and whether they are objects for a potential theory, these alternatives are dissolved in sovereign laughter (as we will see in Chapter 3). Sartre wrote about Bataille that ‘He tells us that he laughs, he does not make us laugh.’27 He is right in that Bataille can be very serious about laughter and is not a writer of jokes, but Sartre’s own philosophical ambitions mean that he cannot experience the laughter in Bataille. He does not recognise that Bataille can be funny, whether intentionally or otherwise. The subversion of the image is always a practice of joy in the face of death, a sovereign laughter. Sovereign laughter is unsettling and when we read Bataille we experience what Derrida describes when reading Heidegger: ‘It’s always horribly dangerous and wildly funny, certainly grave and a bit comical.’28 Bataille also provokes these contradictory tendencies of fear and laughter, a gravity and the lightness of the comical.
This is the difficulty of reading Bataille seriously, as BorchJacobsen notes (CR, 165). To read Bataille seriously is also funny, he makes us laugh, not least because we can always slip up on ‘all the banana peel-like passages of Bataille’ (Borch-Jacobsen, CR, 164). Bataille is constantly tripping us up, tripping up our desire to understand him, to make sense of him and to extract a theory from him. He constantly invites, and even demands, a theoretical reading, while never settling within the limits of the theoretical. In fact it is only in being tripped up by Bataille, falling down, collapsing like the factory chimney, that we could be reading him. Then the pain of the fall and the laughter of others at our tripping over the text stop our reading. When we fall we are liberated from theoretical constraints and the demands of seriousness, but only through the demand to trace the movement of that fall. The lack of seriousness is not an excuse for poor thinking, but rather an opening to the demands Bataille makes on us.
The subversion of the image communicates to us through the blind spot that we can see reflected in the image in an instant of impossibility that stops us short. Stopping short before Bataille is to stop as we are arrested by his formless images. Here we are forced to think and at the same time denied the order that thinking usually demands. When we stop short we also experience laughter: ‘Laughing at the universe liberated my life. I escape its weight by laughing. I refuse any intellectual translations of this laughter, since my slavery would commence from that point on’ (G, 16). Laughter is freedom and liberation from the imperatives of the universe, the demands of the world as it is. To translate this laughter into intellectual constructions would lead to the enslavement of thought, but that laughter cracks through intellectual constructions. It also leads us to ‘crack up’, to go mad or to laugh hysterically. We start laughing as the image rises up before us, the image of the ape’s anal protuberance, for example. Laughter is the result of the subversion of the image, a laughter that is impossible.
The Chapter 1 of the book Georges Bataille (A Critical Introduction) by Benjamin Noys is published in OnScenes with permission of Professor - Benjamin Noys
Benjamin Noys is Professor of Critical Theory and coordinator of the MA English Literature. His research focuses on critical and literary theory, with particular interest in the avant-garde, film, and the cultural politics of theory. His recent work includes the books The Persistence of the Negative (Edinburgh University Press 2010) and Malign Velocities: Accelerationism and Capitalism (Zero Books 2014), both dealing with the state of contemporary theory. Recent and forthcoming articles and chapters include ‘Happy like Neurotics: Roland Barthes, Ben Lerner, and the Neurosis of Writing’, College Literature 45.1 (2018), ‘Matter against Materialism: Bruno Latour and the Turn to Objects’, in Theory Matters: The Place of Theory in Literary and Cultural Studies Today (2016), and pieces on drones, libidinal economy, intoxication and accelerationism, the ontologies of life, American literature, and the philosophy of art. He is currently completing a book on contemporary politics and developing a future project on neurosis.
He is External Affiliate of the Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought, Goldsmiths, University of London, contributing editor of Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities, a member of the advisory editorial board of Film-Philosophy, and a corresponding editor of Historical Materialism.
LECTURES BY GILLES DELEUZE
The problems of terminology, of the invention of words.
In order to designate a new concept, sometimes you will take a very common word; it will be even there the best fit. Only implicitly will this very common word take a completely new sense. Sometimes you will take a very special sense of a common word, and you will build up this sense, and sometimes you will need a new word. It is for this reason that, when one reproaches a philosopher for not speaking like everyone else, it doesn’t make any sense. It is sometimes, sometimes, sometimes. Sometimes it is very well to use only common words, sometimes it is necessary to mark the stroke, the moment of the creation of concepts, by an unusual word.
I spoke to you the last time of this great philosopher who was important during the Renaissance, Nicolas of Cusa. Nicolas of Cusa had to create a kind of portmanteau word, he had contaminated two Latin words. Why? It is a good verbal creation. At that moment one spoke Latin, so it passed by way of Latin, he said: The being of things is the Possest‚. it means nothing if you haven’t done Latin, I am going to explain. Possest: it doesn't exist as a word, it is an inexistent word, he created it, this word, the Possest. It is a very pretty word, it is a pretty word for Latin. It is an awful barbarism, this word is awful. But philosophically is beautiful, it is a success. When one creates a word it is necessary that [xxxx xxxx] there are disasters, nothing is determined in advance.
Possest is made of two terms in Latin, posse‚ which is the infinitive of the verb to be able to(pouvoir), and est is the third person of the verb to be (être) in the present indicative, he is‚ (il est). Posse and est, he contaminates the two and it gives Possest. And what is the Possest ? The Possest is precisely the identity of the power (puissance) and of the act by which I define [xxxx xxxx]. So I would not define something by its essence, what it is, I would define it by this barbaric definition, its Possest : what it can do. Literally: what it can actually do.
Power (puissance) or Possest‚ Good. What does this mean? It means that things are powers (puissances). It is not only that they have power, it is that they come down to the power that they have, as much in action as in passion. So if you compare two things, they can‚t be the same thing, but power is a quantity. You will have, thanks to this very special quantity, but you understand the problem that this causes, power is a quantity, okay, but it is not a quantity like length. Is it a quantity like force? Does this mean that the strongest wins? Very doubtful. First of all, it will be necessary to define the quantities that we call forces. They are not quantities as we know them, they are not quantities whose status is simple. I know that they are not qualities, that I know. Power (puissance) is not a quality, but neither are they so-called extensive quantities. Then even if they are intensive quantities, it is a very special quantitative scale, an intensive scale. This would mean: things have more or less intensity, it would be the intensity of the thing which would be, which would replace its essence, which would define the thing in itself, it would be its intensity. You understand perhaps the link to Ontology. The more intense a thing is, [the] more precisely is that intensity its relation to being: the intensity of the thing is its relation with being. Can we say all this? It is going to occupy us for a long time.
Before getting into it, you see which misunderstanding we are trying to avoid.
Question: on intensity and the thing (inaudible).
Gilles: The question is not what we believe, the question is how we try to get by in this world of powers. When I said intensity, if it is not that, it doesn’t do anything since it was already determined, this type of quantity. It is not that. We are here once again to evaluate how it could be important to undertake a discourse on power (puissance)? Given the misunderstandings that we are trying to avoid in every way, it is to understand this as if Spinoza told us, and Nietzsche afterwards, what things will is power. Evidently if the formula power is essence‚ doesn’t even mean, if there is something that this formula doesn't mean, one could translate it by the formula: what each wants is power‚. No what each wants is power‚ is a formula which doesn't have anything to do with this. Firstly it is a triviality, secondly it is a thing which is evidently false, thirdly this is surely not what Spinoza means. It is not what Spinoza means because it is stupid and Spinoza does not want to say silly things. It is not: Ha!, everyone, from stones to men, by way of the animals, they want more and more power (puissance), they want power (pouvoir). No it is not that! We know that it is not that since it doesn't mean that power (puissance) is the object of the will. No. So we know this at least, it is consoling. But I would like to insist, once again I appeal to your feeling of the evaluation of importance, in what the philosophers have said to us. I would like to try to develop why this history is very very important, this conversion where things (?) are no longer defined by a qualitative essence, man as reasonable animal, but are defined by a quantifiable power (puissance). I am far from knowing what this quantifiable power is, but I will just try to arrive there by passing via this kind of dreaming of what is important, practically. Practically, does that change something? Yes, you must already feel that practically it changes a lot of things. If I’m interested in what something can do, in what the thing can do, it is very different from those who are interested in what is the essence of the thing. I don't regard, it is not really the same manner of being in the world. But I would like to try to show it by, precisely, a precise moment in the history of the thought.
Classical Natural Right
There I open a parenthesis, but always in this vision: what is this history of power (puissance) and of defining things by power (puissance). I say: there was a very important moment, a very important tradition, where it is very difficult, historically, to get one‚s bearings, if you don't have some schemas and reference marks, some points of recognition. It is a history which concerns natural right, and this history concerning natural right, it is necessary that you understand this: today this appears to us at first glance very out of date, as much juridically as politically. The theories of natural right, in the manuals of law, or in the manuals of sociology, we always see a chapter on natural right, and we treat it as a theory which lasted until Rousseau, including Rousseau, up until the 18th century, but today no one is interested in it, in the problem of natural right. This is not false, but at the same time I would like you to feel that it was too scholarly a vision, it is terrible we bypass things and that is why people are really battered theoretically, we bypass everything that is important in an historic question.
I am saying this, and you are going to see why I am saying it now and how it is really at the heart of the stage where I am. I am saying: for a very long time there has been a theory of natural right, which consists of what? Finally it seems important to me historically because it was the compilation of most of the traditions of Antiquity and the point of confrontation of Christianity with the traditions of Antiquity. In this respect there are two important names in relation to the classical conception of natural right: on the one hand Cicero who recorded in antiquity all the traditions on the subject: Platonic, Aristotelian and Stoic. He gives a kind of presentation of natural right in Antiquity which is going to have an extreme importance. It is in Cicero that the Christian philosophers, the Christian jurists, will take (more than other authors), it is above all in Cicero that this kind of adaptation to Christianity of natural right, notably in Saint Thomas, will be made. So there we will have a kind of historical lineage that I am going to call for convenience, so that you will find it again there, the lineage of classical natural right, Antiquity-Christianity.
Now, what do they call natural right?
On the whole, I would say that, in this whole conception, natural right, that which constitutes natural right is that which conforms to the essence. I would almost say that there are several propositions, in this classical theory of natural right. I would just like you to retain them, because when I return to power‚(puissance) I would like you to have in mind these four propositions. Four basic propositions which are the basis of this conception of classical natural right.
First proposition: a thing is defined by its essence. Natural right is therefore that which conforms to the essence of something. The essence of man is: reasonable animal. This has defined his natural right. What‚s more, in effect, to be reasonable‚ is the law of his nature. The law of nature intervenes here. There is the first proposition; thus preference is given to the essences.
Second proposition, in this classical theory: from now on, you understand, natural right can not refer, and it is striking that for most of the authors of Antiquity it is very much like this, natural right doesn't refer to a state which would be supposed to precede society. The state of nature is not a pre-social state, certainly not, it could not be. The state of nature is the state that conforms to the essence in a good society. What do we call a good society? We will call a good society, a society where man can realise his essence. So the state of nature is not before the social state, the state of nature it is the state that conforms to the essence in the best possible society, that is the most apt to realise the essence. There is the second proposition of classical natural right.
Third proposition of classical natural right, they emanate from it: what is first is duty: we have rights only insofar as we have duties. It is very politically practical, all this. It is duties. Indeed, what is duty? Here, there is a term, there is a concept of Cicero in Latin, which is very difficult to translate and which indicates this idea of functional duty, the duties of function. It is the term officium‚. One of the most important books of Cicero from the point of view of natural right is a book entitled De officiis‚ On the Subject of the functional duties‚.
And why is it this that is first, duty in existence? It is because duty is precisely the conditions under which I can best realise the essence, i.e. to have a life in conformity with the essence, in the best possible society.
Fourth proposition: there follows a practical rule which will have a great political importance. We could summarize it under the title: the competence of the sage. What is the sage? It is somebody who is singularly competent in the research that relates to the essence, and all that follows from it. The sage is the one who knows what the essence is. Thus there is a principle of competence of the sage because it is the sage who tells us what our essence is, what is the best society, i.e. the society most capable of realizing the essence, and what are our functional duties, our officia‚, i.e. under which conditions we can realise the essence. All this is the competence of the sage. And to the question: to what does the classical sage lay claim? One must reply that the classical sage claims to determine what the essence is, and consequently all kinds of practical tasks follow from this. Hence the political claims of the sage. Therefore, if I summarize this classical conception of natural right, as a result you understand why Christianity will be very interested by this ancient conception of natural right. It will integrate it into what it will call natural theology, making it one of its fundamental parts.
The four propositions are immediately reconciled with Christianity. First proposition: things are defined and define their rights according to their essence. Second proposition: the law of nature is not pre-social, it is in the best possible society. It is life in conformity with the essence in the best possible society. Third proposition: what is first are duties over rights, because duties are the conditions under which you realise the essence. Fourth proposition: consequently, there is the competence of somebody superior, whether this is the church, the prince or the sage. There is a knowledge (savoir) of the essences. Thus the man who knows the essences will be capable of telling us at the same time how to conduct ourselves in life. Conducting oneself in life will be answerable to a knowledge, in the name of which I could say if it is good or bad. There will be thus a man of good, in whatever way it is determined, as man of God or man of wisdom, who will have a competence.
Remember these four propositions well.
Imagine a kind of thunder clap, a guy arrives and says: no, no, no, and in a sense it is the very opposite. Only the spirit of contradiction never works. It is necessary to have reasons, even secret ones, it is necessary to have the most important reasons in order to reverse a theory. One day somebody comes along who is going to make a scandal in the domain of thought. It is Hobbes. He had a very bad reputation. Spinoza read him a lot.
Natural Right according to Hobbes
And here is what Hobbes tells us: first proposition of Hobbes: it is not that. He says that things are not defined by an essence, they are defined by a power (puissance). Thus natural right is not what is in conformity with the essence of the thing, it is everything that the thing can do. And in the right of something, animal or man, everything that it can do. And in its right everything that it can do. It is at this time that the great propositions of the type, but the large fish eat the small ones start. It is its right of nature. You come across a proposition of this type, you see that it is signed Hobbes, it is in natural right that large fish eat small ones. You risk bypassing it, but you can understand nothing if you say: Ah Good! it is like that. By saying that it is in the natural right of large fish to eat small ones, Hobbes launches a kind of provocation that is enormous since what we‚ve just called natural right was in conformity with the essence, and thus the set of actions that were permitted in the name of the essence. Here, permit‚ takes on a very different sense: Hobbes announces to us that everything that we can do is permitted. Everything that you can do is permitted, this is natural right. It is a simple idea, but it is an idea that is overwhelming. From where is it coming? He calls that natural right. Everyone from time immemorial knew that large fish ate small ones, never has anybody called that natural right, Why? Because we reserved the word natural right for a completely different thing: moral action that conforms to the essence. Hobbes comes along and says: natural right equals power, therefore what you can do is your natural right. In my natural right is everything that I can do.
Second proposition: consequently, the state of nature is distinguished from the social state, and theoretically precedes it. Why? Hobbes hastens to say it: in the social state, there are prohibitions, there are defenses, there are things that I can do but it is defended. That means that it is not natural right, it is social right. It is in your natural right to kill your neighbor, but it is not in your social right. In other words, the natural right which is identical to power (puissance) is necessarily, and refers to, a state which is not the social state. Hence, at that moment, the promotion of the idea that a state of nature is distinguished from the social state. In the state of nature, everything that I can do is permitted. The natural law is that there is nothing to defend from what I can do. The state of nature thus precedes the social state. Already at the level of this second proposition, we understand nothing at all. We believe to have settled all that by saying is there a state of nature; they believed that there was a state of nature, those who said that. Nothing at all, they believe nothing in this respect. They say that logically, the concept of the state of nature is prior to the social state. They do not say that this state existed. If the right of nature is everything that there is in the power (puissance) of a being, we will define the state of nature as being the zone of this power. It is its natural right. It is thus instinct of the social state since the social state comprises and is defined by the defenses that bear upon something that I can do. Much more, if I am defended it is because I can do it. It is in this that you recognize a social defense. Therefore, the state of nature is first compared to the social state from the conceptual point of view. What does this mean? Nobody is born social. Social by agreement, perhaps we become it. And the problem of politics will be: how to make it so that men become social? But nobody is born social. That means that you can only think society as a product of becoming. And right is the operation of becoming social.
And in the same way, nobody is born reasonable. For this reason these authors are so opposed to a Christian theme to which Christianity equally held, namely the theme that is known in Christianity under the name of the Adamic tradition. The Adamic tradition is the tradition according to which Adam was perfect before sin. The first man was perfect and sin makes him lose perfection. This Adamic tradition is philosophically significant: Christian natural right is very well reconciled with the Adamic tradition. Adam, before sin, is man in conformity with the essence, he is reasonable. It is sin, i.e. the adventures of existence, that make him lose the essence, his first perfection. All of this is in conformity with the theory of classical natural right. Just as nobody is born social, nobody is born reasonable. Reasonable is like social, it is a becoming. And the problem of ethics will perhaps be how to make it so that man becomes reasonable, but not at all how to make it so that a man‚s essence, which would be reasonable, is realised. It is very different if you pose the question like this or like that, you go in very different directions. Hobbes‚ second proposition will be: the state of nature is pre-social, i.e. man is not born social, he becomes it.
Third proposition: if what is first is the state of nature, or if what is first is right‚, this is similar since in the state of nature, everything that I can do is my right. Consequently, what is first is right‚. Consequently, duties will only be secondary obligations tending to limit the rights for the becoming social of man. It will be necessary to limit rights so that man becomes social, but what is first is right‚. Duty is relative to right, whereas, in the classical theory of natural right, it is just the opposite, right was just relative to duty. What was first was the officium.
Fourth proposition: if my right is my power, if rights are first in relation to duties, if duties are only the operation by which rights are induced to limit themselves so that men become social, all kinds of questions are put between brackets. Why do they have to become social? Is it interesting to become social? All kinds of questions that did not arise at all.
From the point of view of natural right, Hobbes says, and Spinoza will take all of this up again but from the point of view of natural right, the most reasonable man in the world and the most complete madman are strictly the same. Why is there an absolute equality of the sage and the fool? It is a funny idea. It is a very baroque world. The point of the view of natural right is: my right equals my power, the madman is the one who does what is in his power, exactly as the reasonable man is the one who does what is in his. They are not saying idiotic things, they are not saying that the madman and the reasonable man are similar, they are saying that there is no difference between the reasonable man and the madman from the point of view of natural right. Why? Because each one does everything that he can. The identity of right and power ensures the equality, the identity of all beings on the quantitative scale. Of course, there will be a difference between the reasonable man and the madman, but in the civil state, in the social state, not from the point of view of natural right. They are in the process of wearing down, of undermining the whole principle of the competent sage or the competence of somebody superior. And that, politically, is very important.
Nobody is competent for me. There it is. There is the great idea that will animate the Ethics as the anti-system of Judgement. In a certain manner nobody can do anything for me, but nobody can be competent for me. Feel! What does this mean? It would be necessary to put it all in this sentence nobody is competent for me!‚ They so much wanted to judge in my place. There is also a discovery filled with wonder: Ha, it is fantastic, but nobody can know, nobody can know for me. Is this completely true? In a certain way it is not completely true! Perhaps there are competences. But, feel finally what there could be that is strange in these propositions... Indeed, this whole new theory of natural right, equally powerful natural right , what is first is right, it is not duty, leads to something: there is no competence of the wise, nobody is competent for myself. Consequently if the society is formed, it can only be, in one way or another, by the consent of those which take part in it, and not because the wise one would tell me the best way of realising the essence. Now, evidently, the substitution of a principle of consent for the principle of competence, has a fundamental importance for all of politics. Therefore, you see, what I tried to make is just a table of propositions, four propositions against four propositions, and I am simply saying that, in the propositions of the classical theory of natural right, Cicéro-Saint Thomas, you have the juridical development of a moral vision of the world, and, in the other case, the conception which finds its starting point with Hobbes, you have the development and all the seeds of a juridical conception of Ethics: beings are defined by their power.
If I’ve made this whole long parentheses, it has been to show that the formula beings are defined by their power and not by an essence‚ had political, juridical , consequences which we are just in the process of anticipating. Now, I just add, to finish with this theme, that Spinoza takes up this whole conception of natural Right in Hobbes. He will change things, he will change relatively significant things, he will not have the same political conceptions as those of Hobbes. But on this same point of natural right he declares himself to be draw ing from and to be a disciple of Hobbes. You see that, there, in Hobbes, he found the juridical confirmation of an idea that he himself formed on the other hand , him Spinoza, namely an astonishing confirmation of the idea according to which the essence of things was nothing other than their power, and it is that which is interesting in the idea of natural right. And I add, to be completely honest historically, that never does it emerge like that in one blow, it would be possible to seek, already, in antiquity, a current, but a very partial, very timid current, where a conception like this of natural right equals power would be formed already in antiquity, but it will be stifled . You find it in certain sophists and certain philosophers called Cynics , but its modern explosion will be with Hobbes and Spinoza.
For the moment I have not even explained, I specified what could well be called existing things distinguishing themselves from a quantitative point of view. That means exactly that existing things are not defined by an essence, but by power and they have more or less power. Their right will be the power of each one, the right of each one will be the power of each one, they have more or less power. There is thus a quantitative scale of beings from the point of view of power.
The qualitative polarity of modes of existence
It will now be necessary to pass to the second thing, namely the qualitative polarity of modes of existence and to see if the one follows from the others. The ensemble will give us a coherent vision, or will give us the beginnings of a coherent vision of what is called an Ethics.
So you see why you are not beings from the point of view of Spinoza, you are ways of being, which is understood: if each one is defined by what it can do. It is very curious: you are not defined by an essence, or rather your essence is identical to that which you can do, i.e. you are a degree on a scale of powers (puissances). If each one among us is a degree on a scale of power, then you will say to me: there are some who are better, or not. Let’s leave that to the side. For the moment we don’t know. But if it is like this, you don’t have an essence or you only have an essence identical to your power, i.e. you are a degree on this scale. Consequently you are indeed ways of being. The ways of being will be, precisely, this kind of existing thing, existence quantified according to power, according to the degree of power which defines it. You are quantifiers. You are not quantities, or rather you are very special quantities, each one of us is a quantity, but of what type? It is a very very curious vision of the world, very new: to see people as quantities, as packages of power, it is necessary to live it. It is necessary to live it if that says anything to you.
Hence the other question: but at the same time, these same authors, for example Spinoza, will not cease telling us that there are on the whole two modes of existence. And no matter what you do you are led to choose between the two modes of existence. You exist in such a way that you exist sometimes in one such mode, sometimes in another such mode, and the Ethics will be the exposé of these modes of existence. There this is no longer the quantitative scale of power, it is the polarity of distinct modes of existence. How does he pass from the first idea to the second, and what is it he wants to say to us with the second? There are modes of existence which are distinguished as poles of existence. Could you open the windows a little.... You don’t ask what it is worth , to do something or to undergo something is to exist in a certain way. You don’t ask what it is worth , but you ask what mode of existence it implies.
It is what Nietzsche also said with his story of the Eternal return, he said: it is not difficult to know if something is good or not, this question is not very complicated; it is not an affair of morals. He said make the following test, which would only be in your head. Do you see yourselves doing it an infinite number of times. It is a good criterion. You see it is the criterion of the mode of existence. Whatever I do, whatever I say, could I make of it a mode of existence? If I couldn‚t it is ugly, it is evil , it is bad . If I can, then yes! You see that everything changes, it is not morality . In what sense? I say to the alcoholic, for example, I say to him: you like to drink? You want to drink? Good, very well. If you drink, drink in such a way that with each time you drink, you would be ready to drink, redrink, redrink an infinite number of times. Of course at your own rhythm. It is not necessary to rush : at your own rhythm! At that moment there, at least, you agree with yourself. So people are much less shitty to you when they agree with themselves. What it is necessary to fear above all in the life, are the people who do not agree with themselves, this Spinoza said admirably. The venom of neurosis, that’s it! The propagation of neurosis, I propagate to you my evil , it is terrible, terrible, it is above all those who are not in agreement with themselves. They are vampires. Whereas the alcoholic who drinks, on the perpetual mode of: ha, it is the last time, it is the last glass! One more time, or once again. That is a bad mode of existence. If you do something, do it as if you must do it a million times. If you are not able to do it like that, do something else. It is Nietzsche who said this, it is not me, all objections are to be addressed to Nietzsche. That can work, that can not work. I do not know why we are discussing all this, what I said. All that is not an affair of truth, it touches on what it can touch on, it is an affair of the practice of living. There are people who live like that.
What does Spinoza try to say to us? It is very curious, I would say that the whole of part four of the Ethics develops above all the idea of the polar modes of existence. And in what do you recognize it in Spinoza. What do you recognize it in? For the moment I'm saying things extremely simply for the moment, what do you recognize it in. You recognize it in a certain tone of Spinoza’s , when he speaks, from time to time, of the strong, he says in Latin: the strong man, or the free man. Or, on the contrary, he says the slave or the impotent. There you recognize a style which belongs to the Ethics. He does not speak about the malicious or the good man. The malicious and the good man is the man related to values according to his essence. But the way in which Spinoza speaks, you feel that it is another tone. It is like for musical instruments. It is necessary to feel the tone of people. It is another tone; he tells you: there is what makes the strong man, there is what you recognize as a strong and free man. Does that mean a sturdy type of man. Of course not! A strong man can be far from strong from a certain point of view, he can even be sick, he can be whatever you want. So, what is this trick of the strong man? It is a way of life, it is a mode of existence that is opposed to the mode of existence which he calls the slave or the impotent. What do they mean, these styles of life? It is a life style (style de vie). There will be a life style: to live as a slave, to live as impotent. And then another type of life. Once again, what is it? Once again this polarity of the modes, under the form, and under the two poles: the strong or the powerful, and the impotent or the slave, that must say something to us.
Let’s continue to go into the night, there, and examine according to the texts what Spinoza calls the slave or the impotent. It is curious. One realizes that what he calls the slave or the impotent, it is there that the resemblances ˜ and I don’t believe I’m forcing the texts ˜ the resemblances to Nietzsche are fundamental, because Nietzsche will not do anything other than to distinguish these two polar modes of existence and to distribute them in very much the same manner. Because we realise with astonishment that what Spinoza calls the impotent ... a mode of existence, what is it? The impotent are the slaves. Good. But what does the slaves mean? Slaves of social conditions? We feel, well, that the answer is no! It is a way of life. There are thus people who are not at all socially slaves, but they live like slaves! Slavery as a way of life and not as social status. Thus there are slaves. But on the same side, the impotent or the slaves, he puts who ? It will become more significant for us: he puts tyrants. Tyrants! And oddly, there will be plenty of stories, the priests. The tyrant, the priest and the slave. Nietzsche will not say more. In his more violent texts, Nietzsche will not say more, Nietzsche will make the trinity: the tyrant, the priest and the slave. It’s Odd that it is already literally so in Spinoza. And what is there in common between a tyrant who has power (pouvoir), a slave who does not have power, and a priest who seems only to have spiritual power. And what is there in common? And how are they impotent since, on the contrary, they seem to be, at least for the tyrant and the priest, men of power. One political power, and the other spiritual power. If we feel, it is that which I call to sort things out by feelings.
We feel that there is quite a common point. And when we read Spinoza, text after text, we are confirmed on this common point. It is almost like a riddle: for Spinoza what is there in common between a tyrant who has political power, a slave, and a priest who exercises a spiritual power? This something in common is what is going to make Spinoza say: but they are impotent; it is that, in a certain way , they need to sadden life! Curious, this idea. Nietzsche will also say things like this: they need to make sadness reign! He feels it, he feels it very deeply: they need to make sadness reign because the power that they have can only be founded on sadness. And Spinoza makes a very strange portrait of the tyrant, by explaining that the tyrant is someone who needs, above all, the sadness of his subjects, because there is no terror that doesn’t have as its basis a kind of collective sadness. The priest, perhaps for completely other reasons, has need of the sadness of man on his own condition. And when he laughs, it is not more reassuring. The tyrant could laugh, and the favourites, the counselors of the tyrant could also laugh too. It is a bad laugh, and why is it a bad laugh? Not because of its quality, Spinoza would not say that, it is precisely a laughter which has for its object only sadness and the communication of sadness. What does this mean? It is bizarre. The priest, according to Spinoza, essentially needs an action motivated by remorse. Introducing remorse. It is a culture of sadness. Whatever the ends, Spinoza will say that at that moment the ends are equal to us. He judges only that: cultivating sadness. The tyrant for his political power needs to cultivate sadness, the priest needs to cultivate sadness as far as Spinoza can see, who has the experience of the Jewish priest, the Catholic priest and the Protestant priest.
Now Nietzsche throws out a grand sentence by saying: I am the first to do a psychology of the priest, he said in some pages which are very comical, and to introduce this topic into philosophy, he will define the operation of the priest precisely by what he will call the bad conscience, that is, this same culture of sadness. He will say that it is saddening life, it is always about saddening life!, somewhere. And, indeed why? Because it involves judging life. Now, you will not judge life.You won’t submit it to judgment. Life is not the object of judgment, life is not able to be judged, the only way in which you could pass judgment on it is first of all to inject it with sadness. And of course we laugh, I mean that the tyrant can laugh, the priest laughs, but, Spinoza said, in a page that I find very beautiful, his laughter is that of the satyr, and the laughter of the satyr is a bad laugh, why? Because it is laughter which communicates sadness; One can mock nature, the laughter of the satyr is when I mock men. I‚m being ironic. The kind of intoxicating irony, I mock men. The satyr is another way of saying that human nature is miserable. Ha see, what misery, human nature! It is the proposition of moral judgment: Ha, what misery is human nature. It could be the object of a sermon or the object of a satyr. And Spinoza, in some very beautiful texts, said: what I’ve just called an Ethics is the opposite of the satyr.
And yet there are some very comical pages in Spinoza’s Ethics, but it is not at all the same laughter. When Spinoza laughs, it is in the mode: Ho, look at this here, of what is he capable! Ho ho, and this, we‚ve never seen that! It could be an atrocious villainy, was it necessary to do it, to go that far. It is never the Satyr‚s laughter, it is never: see how miserable our nature is! It is not the laughter of irony. It is a completely different type of laughter. I would say that it is much more Jewish humor. It is very Spinozist, it is go on, yet another step, I would never have believed that one could have done it! It is a very particular kind of laughter and Spinoza is one of the most cheerful authors in the world. I believe, indeed, that all this that he hates is what religion has conceived as the satyr of human nature. The tyrant, the man of religion, they are satyrs, that is to say that, above all they denounce human nature as miserable since this involves , above all, passing judgment on it. And, consequently, there is a complicity, and this is Spinoza‚s intuition: there is a complicity of the tyrant, the slave, and the priest. Why? Because the slave is the one who feels better the more things go badly. The worse it goes , the happier he is. This is the mode of existence of the slave! For the slave, whatever the situation, it is always necessary that he sees the awful side. The nasty stuff there. There are people who have a genius for this: these are the slaves. It could be a painting, it could be a scene in the street, there are people who have a genius for it. There is a genius of the slave and at the same time, it is the buffoon. The slave and the buffoon. Dostoyevsky wrote some very profound pages on the unity of the slave and the buffoon, and of the tyrant, these are tyrannical types, they cling, they do not let you go. They don't stop shoving your nose into whatever shit. They are not happy, they always have to degrade things. It is not that the things are necessarily high, but it is always necessary that they degrade, it is always too high. They must always find a small disgrace, a disgrace in the disgrace, there they become roses of joy, the more repulsive it is the happier they are. They live only like this; this is the slave!
And it is also the man of remorse and it is also the satyr man, it is all that and it is to this that Spinoza opposes the conception of a strong man a powerful man, whose laughter is not the same. It is a kind of very benevolent laughter, the laughter of the man said to be free or strong. He says : if this is what you want, then go on, it is funny, yes it is funny! It is the opposite of the satyr. It is Ethical laughter!
to be continued...
In the Story of the Eye the narrator, a thinly veiled adolescent Bataille, experiences obscene images that flash through his mind and ‘these images were, of course, tied to the contradiction of a prolonged state of exhaustion and an absurd rigidity of my penis’ (SE, 30). All of Bataille’s subversive images share this contradictory structure of exhaustion and sexual excitement (jouissance). They at once exhaust the possible functions of the image and subvert it with a jouissance which touches on death and that the image can only indicate but not represent. He pursued these multiple images across various media, including painting, photography and writing to the point where we can find no clear distinction between the pornographic tableaux described in his novel Story of the Eye (1928) and the photographic images Bataille commented on in the journal Documents (1929–31). I want to trace Bataille’s subversion of the image through his analysis of specific images to his subversion of vision itself. Documents is the beginning because here Bataille not only writes on images but works with images: Documents is a multimedia production. It engages with Bataille’s other works at the time and also with his later works, prefiguring his fractured and condensed writings which work by producing images of thought. It also raises the question, why has Bataille had so little impact as a writer on the image?
Perhaps the reason for Bataille’s lack of impact is that his subversion of the image can never be assimilated by a theory of the image. It is this impossibility of a theory of the subversive image that is first sketched out in Documents by Bataille and his companions. At the centre of Documents is a series of entries written for a planned critical dictionary, with Bataille and Michel Leiris writing most of the entries until the magazine ceased to exist in 1931. Although this meant that the critical dictionary remained incomplete, from the beginning it was always intended to be incomplete. The incompletion of the critical dictionary was a critique of the tendency of dictionaries to try to define all the significant words in a language by freezing their irruptive energies into stable meanings. For Bataille ‘A dictionary begins when it no longer gives the meaning of words but their tasks’ (VE, 31)
Instead of being organised by meaning the critical dictionary was organised by the tasks of words, trying to release their irruptive energies. This release often involved a play between the critical dictionary entry for a word and its accompanying image. Moreover, the entries were not originally placed alphabetically (although they have been now in EA) but worked together with their accompanying images in a disjunctive, non-hierarchical ‘structure’. The tasks of words would be explored through the selection of words analysed which ranged from the question of materialism (EA, 58) to a discussion of Buster Keaton (EA, 56). Through this selection process links are made between the tasks of words and a strange ‘logic’ emerges where Keaton’s sang-froid could be the basis of a materialism of ‘raw phenomena’.
After only the first issue of Documents one of the co-founders wrote to Bataille that ‘The title you have chosen for this journal is hardly justified except in the sense that it gives us “documents” on your state of mind.’1 However, the journal is far more than a catalogue of Bataille’s own state of mind and personal obsessions. Through the critical dictionary he intervenes into the founding classifications that define the meaning of our world. The critical dictionary subverts these classifications by shifting from a word’s meaning to its tasks and effects. These effects are also visual, coming through the images that accompany the ‘definitions’ in the critical dictionary. Bataille and his co-writers are pursuing images that overwhelm the viewer. For Bataille the ‘noble parts of a human being (his dignity, the nobility that characterises his face)’ (VE, 78) cannot ‘set up the least barrier against a sudden, bursting eruption …’ (VE, 78). The critical dictionary registered these bursting eruptions as chance instants in which the image would rear its head and shatter the calm world of the dictionary. The destruction of the classifications of the dictionary would then affect the order of language and of the world itself. Far from being documents of Bataille’s state of mind these are documents of sudden bursting eruptions that are impossible to classify.
The critical dictionary is an act of ‘sacrificial mutilation’ (VE, 61–72) of the classical dictionary. It is ‘charged with this element of hate and disgust…’ (VE, 71) for the tranquil orderings of a world bound by meaning. In Documents, however, there is an anomalous image which appears to remain within this world of meaning. It is a photograph taken in 1905 of a provincial wedding party lined up in two regimented rows in front of a shop (EA, 99) which accompanies an essay by Bataille called ‘The Human Face’. The image is anomalous to the critical dictionary because it is so utterly conventional; it is an image out of place. Why is it there when for Bataille ‘The mere sight (in photography) of our predecessors in the occupation of this country now produces, for varying reasons, a burst of loud and raucous laughter; that sight, however, is nonetheless hideous’ (EA, 100)? What fascinates Bataille is that this conventional image should provoke this reaction, a reaction which combines contradictory experiences of laughter and fear. These supposedly incompatible effects are brought together in this image and make it unforgettable. Although we may laugh at the wedding party it still haunts us with a fear that remains with us even in our most acute moments of pleasure. Bataille comments that it forces a youth to confront ‘at every unexpected moment of rapture the images of his predecessors looming up in tiresome absurdity’ (EA, 100).
Lodged within the critical dictionary, lodged within its images of base eruption, is this haunting image of propriety. It is an image that has the power to destro your rapture and to limit the subversive image. The image of the wedding party always threatens to loom up before the subversive image and put an end to the subversion that it promises. What is worse is that these ghosts from the past are not the powerful monsters that once terrified us but banal representations of the provincial bourgeoisie. Once we had to be held in check by horrifying phantoms that possessed a terrible power; now, ‘The very fact that one is haunted by ghosts so lacking in savagery trivialises these terrors and this anger’ (EA, 100–1). The ghosts of our ancestors destroy the subversive image in two ways: firstly, they block any effect of rapture by appearing be fore us a tourmoments of pleasure and secondly, they make the horror they causeus appear trivial. Bataille has to counter this neutralisation of the subversive image or his subversion of the image could always be accounted for as the results of his own personal obsessions.
He subverts this image of propriety by exposing it to the violent irruptive forces that it is trying to hold in check rather than by attacking it from an exterior critical position. The irruptive forces threaten to break apart the image if ‘we acknowledge the presence of an acute perturbation in, let us say, the state of the human mind represented by the sort of provincial wedding photographed twenty-five years ago, then we place ourselves outside established rules in so far as a real negation of the existence of human nature is herein implied’ (EA, 101). To read the image in this way is to read the rigidity of the wedding group lined up in rows and organised around the bridal pair not as symbolic of a banal power but as the desperate attempt to control and limit the irruptive forces which circulate around and through the bridal pair. In reading the image to the limit of the frame Bataille detects an ‘acute perturbation’ that shakes the hold that this image has over us.
This ‘acute perturbation’ is found through the image and it threatens to negate the image of human nature on which the power of the photograph rests. The wedding photograph presents ‘the supposed continuity of our nature’ (EA, 102), the safe passage from one generation to the next represented by a bridal pair surrounded by their families and friends. The image is a promise of the continuation of the family and also of society. Yet the image is split by the violence which is condensed within it, and this family gathering can be seen both ‘as representing the very principle of mental activity at its most civilised and most violent, and the bridal pair as, let us say, the symbolic parents of a wild and apocalyptic rebellion …’ (EA, 101–2). The height of civilisation that the bridal pair incarnates is not the calm transmission of a heritage but a violent repression. Violence is present within what presents itself as civilised non-violence. Bataille agrees with Freud’s argument in Civilisation and its Discontents (published at almost the same time, 1929–30) that the progress of civilisation demands the increasing violent repression of our violent and sexual drives.2 Like Freud, Bataille recognises that this control can never be complete and often the stronger the repression the more violent the eruption of our ‘civilisation’ elsewhere, as both of them witnessed in the slaughter of the First World War.
The image is split by the violence that is required to organise it as a stable image, but this violence also splits open the image. In the bridal pair Bataille not only finds the principle of ‘civilised’ mental activity but also the parents of a ‘wild and apocalyptic rebellion’. This counter-violence against civilisation is parasitic on the violence that civilised society imposes on irruptive forces. It opposes the supposed continuity of human nature by exposing the bridal pair as ‘monsters breeding incompatibles’ (EA, 102). As Bataille shatters the continuity of human nature he releases the subversive forces that the photograph has condensed and attempted to control. In this act of violent rejection the depth of the monstrosity of our ancestors is revealed beneath their trivial appearance. Bataille subverts the most ‘normal’ of images, the image of a ritual that is supposed to express and secure the continuity and progress of the generations.
The ‘normal’ image is now exposed as monstrous, by exposing its production of ‘normal’ human nature as an operation requiring massive surplus violence. Human nature is no longer purely natural, a given fact, but it is a complex arrangement of violent irruptive forces forced into stability. Bataille’s work on this image is close to the satirical gestures of the surrealist film-maker Luis Buñuel. Buñuel’s vicious parodies of the ‘exterminating angel’ of bourgeois conformity3 are mirrored in the frantic violence with which Bataille demolishes the image of the wedding party. However, Buñuel would eventually be seduced by ‘The discreet charm of the bourgeoisie’, as one of his later films was entitled.4 Bataille resisted the ‘charm’ of bourgeois power by not limiting his parody to the bourgeoisie but by taking it to the point where ‘the world is purely parodic’ (VE, 5).
Bataille resists the danger of parody becoming dependent on what it has parodied by making parody a ‘principle’ of existence. In doing so he dislodges the concept of human nature, whether bourgeois or otherwise. Bataille is not a humanist, not even a radical humanist who probes the limits of human nature to recover what is ‘really’ human. His work has been used by Michael Richardson to supply a new social theory of the emergence of the human,5 but this is a misreading. Bataille is probing the limits of the human to the point where the concept of human nature breaks down:‘Where you would like to grasp your timeless substance, you encounter only a slipping, only the poorly co-ordinated play of your perishable elements’(IE,94). The concept ofhuman nature is our attempt to grasp a timeless substance theoretically, but all we grasp are perishable elements that slip from our hands. The individual is carried away in a play of perishable elements which cannot be organised by a theory of human nature. Bataille cannot provide a new or ‘radical’ social theory6 but subjects social theory to parody that cannot be contained within the confines of theory.
His negation of human nature is not based on belief in ‘an order excluding total complicity with all that has gone before’ (EA, 101). Bataille is not a writer of radical breaks because these breaks are violent gestures of division and purification. To destroy all complicity with what has gone on before would involve purifying ourselves of the past. The break is dominated by a belief in a new pure state, a new pure human nature (for example, Che Guevara’s ‘new socialist man’). Bataille’s violent class rhetoric of the 1930s does call for the destruction of the bourgeoisie but it is not clear that he means mass physical destruction. He is not a writer of purification but a writer of the principle of contagion and contamination (CS, 109). Rather than negating human nature with a break from all that has gone before we negate it by an act of contamination of its purity and propriety. We do not flee the ugliness of our ancestors but we are attracted by it: ‘There is absolutely no thought of dispensing with this hateful ugliness, and we will yet catch ourselves some day, eyes suddenly dimmed and brimming with inadmissible tears, running absurdly towards some provincial haunted house, nastier than flies, more vicious, more rank than a hairdresser’s shop’ (EA, 106).
It is not a matter of destroying the image, of creating a ‘pure’ subversive image, but of embracing what is hateful and ugly in that image. We are pulled back into the image, running into it out of control. The irruptive forces revealed by Bataille flow out of the image and then flow back into it, disrupting its propriety. However, once Bataille has drawn out these irruptive forces is it not possible that they could be assimilated and put to use by science or philosophy? Could they not be analysed conventionally? These irruptive forces do not settle within the conventional, and the classifications of science or philosophy would be variations on the dictionary classifications which work through imposing meaning. Like the dictionary, science divides up the world into discrete units, trying to impose ‘a mathematical frock coat’ (VE, 31) on the world. Philosophy, on the other hand, tries to contain these forces within metaphysical wholes. What remains is the leftover, the remainder, which cannot be assimilated. The event of eruption is like ‘a fly on an orator’s nose’ (EA, 102), whose comic effect of ‘acute perturbation’ mocks the discourses of knowledge.
Philosophy is more audacious because it tries to control the moment of irruption within itself by assimilating it within, but ‘It is impossible to reduce the appearance of the fly on the orator’s nose to the supposed contradiction between the self and metaphysical whole’ (EA, 103). If the fly could be reduced to the position of contradiction then it would simply be a negative moment of the metaphysical whole. It would have escaped the image only to have become part of philosophy. Although Bataille had yet to attend Kojève’s lectures on Hegel he was already aware of some rudiments of Hegel’s philosophy. He knew, probably from the use of Hegel’s dialectic in Marxism, how Hegel would use contradiction as a means of bringing any negative moments within absolute knowledge. The fly refused to remain in the contradictory position, and so the subversive image could not be controlled by a dialectical contradiction. The eruption that explodes out of the wedding party photograph and plunges us back into it also shatters the principle of human nature. At the same time it drags philosophy and science into this turbulent play of forces, subverting them along with the image.
With a rapid movement that is dizzying Bataille moves from the image to science and philosophy, and in doing so he suggests the hidden continuity between science, philosophy and society. What they share is a common repression of the violent irruptive forces on which they depend, but which they cannot fully control. In each case violent forces are repressed and controlled by acts that are themselves violent but which dissimulate this violence. It is this that makes them vulnerable, so when a fly lands on a human face which is trying to present itself as serious and knowledgeable it provokes laughter. There is no fly visible in the photograph Bataille discusses but he can see the fly buzzing around by sliding rapidly through the image. In the flight of the fly in and out of the image the highest of human concerns are dragged into the dirt as the fly is attracted by the odour of the rank and vicious. The fly is a provocation to the image because it cannot be found there. It does not settle within the frame of the photograph but flies out of it, buzzes around it and taunts it like the presence of the acute perturbation that disturbs the calm surface of the image. In this sense it has a virtual presence, neither actually appearing in the photograph yet not completely absent from it either. It is the haunting possibility of the subversive image that rests ‘in’ the photograph but only in so far as it is always spilling out of it.
As the fly escapes from the image of the wedding party it moves on to more explicit images of eruption. The photographs of slaughterhouses at La Villette in Paris by Eli Lotar break a taboo on presenting violence. Bataille notes that ‘In our time, nevertheless, the slaughterhouse is cursed and quarantined like a plague-ridden ship’ (EA, 73). Eli Lotar has put us back into contact with this work of death through images of animal carcasses, butchers and smears of blood. What these images also reveal is that this violent slaughter, on which many of us non-vegetarians still depend, has become a mechanical and technical activity. In one of the photographs a line of severed animal legs rests against a wall in an ordered arrangement that represses the violence of the slaughter (EA, 74). We are doubly alienated from the slaughter-house: firstly, we do not wish to see what happens there and secondly, its activities turn death into a productive and neutral event.
This limitation of violence is not a sign of the progress of ‘civilisation’. ‘The curse (terrifying only to those who utter it) leads them to vegetate as far as possible from the slaughterhouse, to exile themselves, out of propriety, to a flabby world in which nothing fearful remains and in which, subject to the ineradicable obsession of shame, they are reduced to eating cheese’ (EA, 73). Our exile from the slaughterhouse does not put an end to the violence but transforms it from something sacred to a technical activity from which we can hide ourselves. This transforming of death into a secret, technical operation has been one of the factors at work in the ‘slaughterhouses’ of human beings in the twentieth century. Bataille’s response is to use these images of the slaughterhouse to break the taboo that protects us from an intimate contact with death. By breaking this taboo he challenges the distance which allows us to transform slaughter into a technical activity, and he puts us into contact with a different experience of death.
Bataille is also nostalgic for a past that is supposed to have achieved a sacred relationship with death, where in the act of sacrifice we found ‘a primal continuity linking us with everything that is’ (E, 15). He is contrasting the practice of joy before death with the organisation of death into productive meaning. This desire for an intimate experience of death finds its most disturbing form in an image, the photograph of the Chinese torture victim. Although it is contained in his final book The Tears of Eros (1961) Bataille had possessed the image since 1925, when it had been given him by his analyst Dr Adrien Borel (and this might indicate the unconventional nature of Bataille’s analysis). It shows a Chinese man undergoing death by cuts: ‘The Chinese executioner of my photo haunts me: there he is busily cutting off the victim’s leg at the knee. The victim is bound to a stake, eyes turned up, head thrown back, and through a grimacing mouth you see teeth’ (G, 38–9). Bataille never commented on it in Documents and it is the hidden secret of Documents. However, it is no longer secret and has become part of the counterculture appropriation of Bataille circulating on the Internet.
If the wedding party of ‘The Human Face’ is the most conventional image in Bataille then the Chinese torture victim is, for Bataille, ‘to my knowledge, the most anguishing of worlds accessible to us through images captured on film’ (TE, 206). He returned to it again and again, in Inner Experience, in Guilty and in The Tears of Eros, as if unable to turn away from it. In his final work Bataille wrote, ‘This photograph had a decisive role in my life. I never stopped being obsessed by this image of pain, at once ecstatic (?) and intolerable’ (TE, 206). It is decisive because Bataille finds in it an image of an ecstatic death that tears at the limits of the image and provokes his ‘last shuddering tears’ (TE, 207). Bataille’s use of this image makes him vulnerable to the criticism that Adorno made of Heidegger – that he offers ‘a regression to the cult of death’.7 Certainly it is a disturbing, even sickening, image, but it cannot be rejected and should not be celebrated. It reaches us through its violence, and in its violence it demands a response from us.
It firstly provokes complex effects, and this provocative complexity indicates that the image is not unequivocal. Bataille cannot be certain that it is the image of ecstatic death that he desires. The strange beatific grin on the face of the torture victim may not be joy before death but the result of the administration of opium used to prolong or relieve the suffering of the victim (TE, 205). There is an undecidable moment where the grin is indistinguishable from a grimace. This undecidable moment undoes Bataille’s claim for a direct access to the ‘sacred horror’ of eroticism. Rather than having direct access Bataille is forced to interpret the image, and no image, including this one, can offer direct access to the impossible. Instead the impossible emerges in the undecidable oscillation between the grin and the grimace, a decisive moment of reading when any decision lacks a secure foundation.
The image is not only equivocal but it also has tasks for Bataille; it is an opening to a communication with the suffering of the Other. It cannot be passively contemplated because it draws us in by taking us outside of ourselves. It is an experience of ecstasy as ekstasis (standing-outside) that leaves us undone: ‘The young and seductive Chinese man of whom I have spoken, left to the work of the executioner – I loved him with a love in which the sadistic instinct played no part: he communicated his pain to me or perhaps the excessive nature of his pain, and it was precisely that which I was seeking, not so as to take pleasure in it, but in order to ruin in me that which is opposed to him’ (IE, 120). Bataille is not a sadist, nor is he celebrating death, but for him this image of pain makes a communication possible. This image is decisive because it so profoundly overflows its limits, and it catches us up in the movement of death.
By drawing us into the movement of death the Chinese torture victim does not leave us at a safe distance from death. This is in contrast to Christianity which admits the suffering body of Christ but has a tendency to ‘wholly and irreversibly obliterate the tortured body’.8 Bataille thought that ‘the success of Christianity must be explained by the value of the theme of the son of God’s ignominious crucifixion, which carries human dread to a representation of loss and limitless degradation’ (BR, 170; VE, 119). Christianity has exploited this suffering through art, with endless studies of the crucifixion but these representations of ‘loss and limitless degradation’ have always been contained by the narrative of the crucifixion in which Christ’s suffering redeems us. Christianity is a cult of death which denies the power of death through the resurrection and through the imposition of religious meaning on death. The image of the Chinese torture victim restores Christ’s suffering body to a degradation without return or benefit.
The Chinese torture victim also challenges the reduction of death to meaning by Hegel, who draws on Christian thought. In particular, Hegel uses the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ as the image of a passage from the infinite to the finite and again back to the infinite. The Chinese torture victim disrupts this circle of spirit by dragging it back down into the suffering body. Bataille resists the dialectical reduction of Christ’s pain by an image of suffering that does not lead to meaning. Bataille found the attempt to put the divine to death in the crucifixion of Christ comical (BR, 282). Hegel uses it to add on to the infinite ‘a movement towards the finite’ (BR, 282) that will eventually return to infinite, but for Bataille to make the divine finite is a cause for more laughter. In laughing at death, which does not mean mocking suffering, we become close to the pain of the Other in the paroxysms of laughter which seamlessly turn into sobbing. This is no ‘cult of death’ but a demand to experience death as an event that shatters us.
The Chinese torture victim photograph has complex effects: it forces Bataille into reading the image, it opens communication, and it intervenes into the Christian and Hegelian reductions of death. It also complicates Bataille’s nostalgia to experience death intimately. As we have seen we can never touch on this fusion with the Other directly but only through a mediated contact, a reading. The fantasy of an unmediated direct contact is a result of this necessity of mediation rather than an existing possibility. The image is one of the most powerful ways in which this impossible desire can be sustained because it gives us such a powerful illusion of clarity. Bataille ruptures this illusion by revealing the impossible part of the image that destroys clarity. This involves ‘nostalgia’ because it opens a different relation to death through the past, a critical relation that passes through the impossible. In doing so Bataille can refuse the idea that we could ever successfully quarantine death and also the idea that we could experience death as such. Instead, the image is an eruption into which we are dragged and where we fall from our position of security, but only through reading.
to be continued...
The Chapter 1 of the book Georges Bataille (A Critical Introduction) by Benjamin Noys is published in OnScenes with permission of Professor - Benjamin Noys
Benjamin Noys is Professor of Critical Theory and coordinator of the MA English Literature. His research focuses on critical and literary theory, with particular interest in the avant-garde, film, and the cultural politics of theory. His recent work includes the books The Persistence of the Negative (Edinburgh University Press 2010) and Malign Velocities: Accelerationism and Capitalism (Zero Books 2014), both dealing with the state of contemporary theory. Recent and forthcoming articles and chapters include ‘Happy like Neurotics: Roland Barthes, Ben Lerner, and the Neurosis of Writing’, College Literature 45.1 (2018), ‘Matter against Materialism: Bruno Latour and the Turn to Objects’, in Theory Matters: The Place of Theory in Literary and Cultural Studies Today (2016), and pieces on drones, libidinal economy, intoxication and accelerationism, the ontologies of life, American literature, and the philosophy of art. He is currently completing a book on contemporary politics and developing a future project on neurosis.
He is External Affiliate of the Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought, Goldsmiths, University of London, contributing editor of Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities, a member of the advisory editorial board of Film-Philosophy, and a corresponding editor of Historical Materialism.
by Himanshu Damle
My anonymity is maintained in Tor as long as no single entity can link me to my destination. If an attacker controls the entry and the exit of my circuit, her anonymity can be compromised, as the attacker is able to perform traffic or timing analysis to link my traffic to the destination. For hidden services, this implies that the attacker needs to control the two entry guards used for the communication between the client and the hidden service. This significantly limits the attacker, as the probability that both the client and the hidden service select a malicious entry guard is much lower than the probability that only one of them makes a bad choice.
Our goal is to show that it is possible for a local passive adversary to deanonymize users with hidden service activities without the need to perform end-to-end traffic analysis. We assume that the attacker is able to monitor the traffic between the user and the Tor network. The attacker’s goal is to identify that a user is either operating or connected to a hidden service. In addition, the attacker then aims to identify the hidden service associated with the user.
In order for our attack to work effectively, the attacker needs to be able to extract circuit-level details such as the lifetime, number of incoming and outgoing cells, sequences of packets, and timing information. We discuss the conditions under which our assumptions are true for the case of a network admin/ISP and an entry guard.
Network administrator or ISP: A network administrator (or ISP) may be interested in finding out who is accessing a specific hidden service, or if a hidden service is being run from the network. Under some conditions, such an attacker can extract circuit-level knowledge from the TCP traces by monitoring all the TCP connections between me and my entry guards. For example, if only a single active circuit is used in every TCP connection to the guards, the TCP segments will be easily mapped to the corresponding Tor cells. While it is hard to estimate how often this condition happens in the live network, as users have different usage models, we argue that the probability of observing this condition increases over time.
Malicious entry guard: Entry guard status is bestowed upon relays in the Tor network that offer plenty of bandwidth and demonstrate reliable uptime for a few days or weeks. To become one an attacker only needs to join the network as a relay, keep their head down and wait. The attacker can now focus their efforts to deanonymise users and hidden services on a much smaller amount of traffic. The next step is to observe the traffic and identify what’s going on inside it – something the researchers achieved with technique called website fingerprinting. Because each web page is different the network traffic it generates as it’s downloaded is different too. Even if you can’t see the content inside the traffic you can identify the page from the way it passes through the network, if you’ve seen it before. Controlling entry guards allows the adversary to perform the attack more realistically and effectively. Entry guards are in a perfect position to perform our traffic analysis attacks since they have full visibility to Tor circuits. In today’s Tor network, each OP chooses 3 entry guards and uses them for 45 days on average, after which it switches to other guards. For circuit establishment, those entry guards are chosen with equal probability. Every entry guard thus relays on average 33.3% of a user’s traffic, and relays 50% of a user’s traffic if one entry guard is down. Note that Tor is currently considering using a single fast entry guard for each user. This will provide the attacker with even better circuit visibility which will exacerbate the effectiveness of our attack. This adversary is shown in the figure below:
The Tor project has responded to the coverage generated by the research with an article of its own written by Roger Dingledine, Tor’s project leader and one of the project’s original developers. Fingerprinting home pages is all well and good he suggests, but hidden services aren’t just home pages:
…is their website fingerprinting classifier actually accurate in practice? They consider a world of 1000 front pages, but ahmia.fi and other onion-space crawlers have found millions of pages by looking beyond front pages. Their 2.9% false positive rate becomes enormous in the face of this many pages – and the result is that the vast majority of the classification guesses will be mistakes.
by Himanshu Damle
Currently, bots are monitored and controlled by a botmaster, who issues commands. The transmission of theses commands, which are known as C&C messages, can be centralized, peer-to-peer or hybrid. In the centralized architecture the bots contact the C&C servers to receive instructions from the botmaster. In this construction the message propagation speed and convergence is faster, compared to the other architectures. It is easy to implement, maintain and monitor. However, it is limited by a single point of failure. Such botnets can be disrupted by taking down or blocking access to the C&C server. Many centralized botnets use IRC or HTTP as their communication channel. GT- Bots, Agobot/Phatbot, and clickbot.a are examples of such botnets. To evade detection and mitigation, attackers developed more sophisticated techniques to dynamically change the C&C servers, such as: Domain Generation Algorithm (DGA) and fast-fluxing (single flux, double flux).
Single-fluxing is a special case of fast-flux method. It maps multiple (hundreds or even thousands) IP addresses to a domain name. These IP addresses are registered and de-registered at rapid speed, therefore the name fast-flux. These IPs are mapped to particular domain names (e.g., DNS A records) with very short TTL values in a round robin fashion. Double-fluxing is an evolution of single-flux technique, it fluxes both IP addresses of the associated fully qualified domain names (FQDN) and the IP address of the responsible DNS servers (NS records). These DNS servers are then used to translate the FQDNs to their corresponding IP addresses. This technique provides an additional level of protection and redundancy. Domain Generation Algorithms (DGA), are the algorithms used to generate a list of domains for botnets to contact their C&C. The large number of possible domain names makes it difficult for law enforcements to shut them down. Torpig and Conficker are famous examples of these botnets.
A significant amount of research focuses on the detection of malicious activities from the network perspective, since the traffic is not anonymized. BotFinder uses the high-level properties of the bot’s network traffic and employs machine learning to identify the key features of C&C communications. DISCLOSURE uses features from NetFlow data (e.g., flow sizes, client access patterns, and temporal behavior) to distinguish C&C channels.
The next step in the arms race between attackers and defenders was moving from a centralized scheme to a peer-to-peer C&C. Some of these botnets use an already existing peer-to-peer protocol, while others use customized protocols. For example earlier versions of Storm used Overnet, and the new versions use a customized version of Overnet, called Stormnet. Meanwhile other botnets such as Walowdac and Gameover Zeus organize their communication channels in different layers….(onionbots Subverting Privacy Infrastructure for Cyber Attacks)
By Jason Moore
The turbulence of the 21st century poses a serious analytical challenge: How does capitalism develop through nature, and not just act upon it? Try drawing a line around the “social” and “environmental” moments of financialization, global warming, resurgent fundamentalisms, the rise of China – and much beyond. The exercise quickly ends in futility. Not because these processes are “too complex,” but because the conventional reckoning of Nature/Society yields the wrong questions – and the wrong answers. Such questions and answers are premised on the idea of humanity’s practical separation from the web of life.
But is not the inverse more plausible?
If “the truth is the whole” (Hegel), then the story of specific totalities – of financialization or climate change or even historical capitalism – cannot be adduced by aggregating environmental and social parts. For the “social” moment of these processes is essentially co-produced and co-productive; it is a product of nature as a whole. Far from blurring the specificity of “social” relations, such an approach enhances our capacity to grasp their specificity. Consider, for instance, the formation of new class, racial, and gendered orders in the centuries after 1492. Could we really explain the emergence of modern racism while bracketing the conquest and depopulation of the Americas? Or while abstracting the sugar planting frontier’s ferocious record of biogeographical transformation? Or nor considering the hardening of the Human/Nature divide in which most humans – women, peoples of color, and many others – were expelled from Humanity with an uppercase ‘H’? The question of human sociality (difference, conflict, and cooperation) remains at the center of such an alternative, but is now situated within lively and unruly assemblages that enfold and unfold the organic and inorganic, the human and the extra-human, the symbolic and the material (Birch and Cobb 1981; Haraway 2016).
Situating human sociality within historical webs of power, capital, and nature significantly shifts our explanatory problem. Out goes the problem of how humans created Society separate from Nature. In comes a new set of questions, turning on humanity’s patterns of difference, conflict, and cooperation within the web of life. Financialization, in this light, is not a social process with environmental and social “consequences” – consequences which subsequently issue social andenvironmental “limits” and which might be remedied through social and environmental “justice.” Financialization is, rather, a bundle of human and extra-human natures. Its claims on future wealth involve claims on future capacities of human and extra-human work, and its transmutation into capital.
The contradictions – the “laws of motion” – of such bundled processes are not rooted in an abstract Society (in general) pressing against an equally abstract Nature. They are, rather, rooted in the mosaic of modernity’s “double internality” (Moore 2015, p. 3) – that is, in the ways that power and re/production are specifically bundled within a web of life that makes humans and that humans make. (Hint: when humans interact with other humans, we are – as any careworker and every parent can tell you – dealing with unruly natures that defy the boundary Nature/Society.)
Put simply, humans are a part of nature. The totality of nature is immanent in every human thought, organization, and movement. The statement is hardly controversial. Most environmental studies scholars would agree… at least in principle. It feels good to characterize “human society” as “internal to and dependent upon [the] larger earthly metabolism” (Foster 2013a, p. 8). And for many scholars of global change, such feel-good statements are the end of the line. It is decidedly less comfortable – and considerably more daunting – to rethink our methodological frames, theoretical propositions, and narrative strategies in this light. If not just humans, but human organizations, are products and producers of extra-human nature, a fundamental rethinking of storytelling, concept formation, and methodological orientation follows.
That such rethinking has made little headway until recently – with the explosion of actor-network, assemblage, world-ecological, and multi-species perspectives – is hardly surprising. For to move beyond Green Arithmetic in an analytical-empirical sense is to challenge the very basis of the social sciences and their governing conceit: that human activity is, for practical analytical purposes, “exempt” from the dynamics of the web of life. In the logic of “human exemptionalism” (Dunlap and Catton 1979; also Haraway 2008; Moore 2015), relations between humans are ontologically independent of nature. In so doing, human exemptionalism allows one to speak of modernity as a set of social relations that act upon, rather than develop through, the web of life. It allows one to assume that history, at manifold temporal and spatial resolutions, unfolds as a kind of ping-pong between “natural forces” and “human agency.”
Foster’s groundbreaking contribution was to use metabolism as a means of putting work – the work of humans and the work of nature – at the center of the question of nature, and therefore the history of capitalism. His formulation of the rift marked a kind of halfway house: between Cartesian and post-Cartesian social science. Within the context of American sociology, Foster consciously aimed at transcending the limits of human exemptionalism and establishing a research program grounded in classical social theory, Marxism above all (1999). The conjuncture was fruitful. The rise of environmental sociology in the 1970s had not changed the discipline. Marxism, too, had yet to find its groove around ecological questions. By the late 1990s, however, the conditions had ripened for the rise of metabolism as a “conceptual star” (Fischer-Kowalksi 1997). A vigorous research program was established.
This conceptual star shaped a significant current within the “environmental humanities” at the dawn of the 21st century. In distinct registers, metabolism strongly influenced both Fischer-Kowalski’s neo-Malthusian “socio-metabolic” school and Marxisante approaches to global environmental change (Fischer-Kowalski and Haberl 1998; Foster 1999). Metabolism appeared to offer the possibility of fording the “Great Divide” of Nature and Society (Goldman and Schurman 2000).
Foster’s early formulation of metabolism suggested how we might realize that possibility (1999, 2000). In emphasizing work, nature, and capital, Foster appeared to propose a new method of bounding human and extra-human natures. Human-initiated processes and relations could be situated within their internalization of particular extra-human natures, and within nature as a whole. At the same time, the biosphere could be understood as internalizing elements of human-initiated process – obviously an asymmetrical relation. Such a method would take seriously a messy process of co-production, one that could move beyond re-branding Society as “human nature” and Nature as “extra-human nature.” In such a reckoning, the perils of environmental determinism and social reductionism would be transcended. Human “society” could be understood as simultaneously a producer and product of the web of life, unevenly co-produced and symbolically enabled. In so doing, the specific forms of human sociality could be distinguished and analyzed in much more complex and nuanced ways relative to those blunt instruments, Nature/Society. Metabolism, in this potential synthesis, would bridge the Great Divide.
And yet, despite its appeal, such a synthesis never occurred. The bridge was never built. Foster’s elaboration of metabolism and materialism quickly foreclosed the very possibility of synthesis that it suggested. Marx’s “interdependent process of social metabolism” was forced into a dualist frame: “metabolism of nature and society” (Marx 1981, p. 949; Foster 2000: ch. 6, emphasis added). At the same time, Foster encouraged a theoretical rift between historical materialism and critical political economy, underscored by a reluctance to develop the socio-ecological possibilities of Marx’s theory of value. The dualism of Society (humans without nature) and Nature (ecologies without humans) was not transcended.
Criticizing Western Marxism for banishing nature from dialectics, Foster established a new Red-Green canon, and drew a new cognitive map for ecological Marxism. The new Red-Green canon was notable not only for who it included – but also for whom it left out. Including such figures as Richard Levins, Richard Lewontin, Stephen J. Gould, and Barry Commoner, Foster excised many other leading critical thinkers of the new environmental social sciences in the long 1970s: David Harvey, Neil Smith, Michael Watts, Robert M. Young, and Carolyn Merchant, just for starters.Geographers have been unwelcome in Foster’s canon, and especially those closely associated with David Harvey (see Foster and Clark 2016; Foster 2016, forthcoming). The exclusion of geographers – Foster cannot find a single geographer to credit with moving beyond “first-stage eco-socialism” (Burkett and Foster 2016, pp. 3-4) – is important in its own right. (Nor does Foster’s classic 1999 article make reference to a (then) quarter-century of Marxist-influenced political ecology.)
This disciplinary exclusion had two major effects. First, Foster’s expulsion of geographers from his version of ecological Marxism is tightly related to his procedure of abstraction. For Foster, Society (and capitalism) can be conceptualized abstracted from geographical relations and conditions. Just as no historian would accept ahistorical conceptions of social change – say, crude versions of modernization or demographic transition theory – no geographer would accept a conception of Society abstracted from geography. Secondly, the refusal of geographers to accept un-geographical conceptions of Nature/Society relations has led to a broad skepticism regarding dualism (see esp. Watts 2005; e.g. Harvey 1995; Heynen et al. 2007; Peet et al. 2011; Braun and Castree 1998). Foster’s reluctance to engage geographical knowledges combines with a disciplinary insularity that has effectively removed him from meaningful conversations with geographers and other scholars in the humanities and social sciences who have made the “spatial turn” (e.g., Warf and Arias 2008). Among the intellectual consequences is Foster’s unwillingness to discern social constructionist from materialist interpretations that differ from Rift interpretations. The argument for historical-geographical materialism, for instance, privileges the relationality of humanity-in-nature (and nature-in-humanity) in which material and cultural transformations are entwined – without succumbing to idealism (Smith 1984; Harvey 1995; Braun and Castree 1998; Moore 2015a). And yet, for Foster, all deviations from his interpretation of Marx are idealist and constructionist. Critics of the Rift are less-than-truly Marxist – or worse (e.g. Foster 2013a, 2016a, forthcoming; Foster and Clark 2016). The evaluative process is black and white, either/or – interpretative differences are cast into the cauldron of Cartesian rationality, boiling down all difference into binary categories.
Foster’s Red-Green canon has evolved alongside Foster’s new cognitive map of Nature and Society. Thanks to Foster and others, Nature earned a place within Marxism – and even beyond. This was, however, a narrow interpretation of Marx’s thinking about the web of life (Moore 2015). Foster saw nature as Nature, with an emphatically uppercase ‘N.’ Dualism had won the day. Rift as metaphor of separation, premised on material flows between Nature and Society, triumphed. The accomplishment was mighty, but so was the cost. Pushed to the side was a vision of metabolism as a means of unifying humans within nature, unfolding through combined and uneven metabolisms of power, wealth, and nature. In this, the dualist conception of metabolism and its “rifts” influenced a decade and more of critical environmental studies, especially within environmental sociology.
Why should this be a problem? It was perhaps not a significant problem for the first decade of the twenty-first century. New interpretations and empirical analyses poured forth. By 2010, however, it began to look as if Rift arguments had explained about as much as they could within Green Arithmetic’s constraints (e.g. Foster et al. 2010). Rift analysts had largely completed the work of mapping environmental problems within capitalism – but the additive character of that project constrained its ability to explain not just capitalism’s consequences, but its constitution as producer and product of the web of life.
The metabolic rift perspective is not alone in this – Green Thought’s signal accomplishment, from the 1970s, was to fill in and flesh out blank spots in the human exemptionalist cognitive map. Like Green Thought as a whole, Rift arguments were caught in a powerful contradiction: a “double yes” (Moore 2015). Are humans part of nature? Yes. Can we analyze human organizations as if they are independent of nature? Yes. Metabolism-centered studies, like much of critical environmental studies, face an unresolved contradiction: between a philosophical-discursive embrace of a relational ontology (humanity-in-nature) and a practical-analytical acceptance of Nature/Society dualism (dualist practicality). It has been one thing to affirm and explore the ontological and epistemological questions (e.g., Bennett 2009). But how does one move from seeing human organization as part of nature towards an effective – and practicable – analytical program?
About the author
Jason W. Moore, a world historian and historical geographer, is associate professor of Sociology at Binghamton University. He is author of several books, mostly recently Capitalism in the Web of Life (Verso, 2015), and editor of Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism (PM Press, 2016). He coordinates the World-Ecology Research Network, and is presently completing Seven Cheap Things: A World-Ecological Manifesto (with Raj Patel) and Ecology of the Rise of Capitalism, both for the University of California Press. This essay is drawn from “Metabolic Rift or Metabolic Shift? Dialectics, Nature, and the World-Historical Method.”
Bennett, J. (2009). Vibrant Matter. Durham: Duke Univ. Press.
Birch, Charles, and John B. Cobb (1981). The Liberation of Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Braun, Bruce, and Noel Castree, eds. (1998). Remaking reality: nature at the millenium. New York: Routledge.
Burkett, P. (1999). Marx and Nature. New York: St. Martin’s.
Burkett, P., and J.B. Foster (2016). Marx and the Earth. Leiden: Brill.
Dunlap, R.E., and W.R. Catton, Jr. (1979). Environmental Sociology. Annual Reviews in Sociology, 5, 243-273
Fischer-Kowalski, M. (1997). Society’s Metabolism. Pp. 119-37 in M.R. Redclift and G. Woodgate, eds., The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.
Fischer‐Kowalski, M., and H. Haberl. (1998). “Sustainable Development. International Social Science Journal, 158, 573-587.
Foster, J.B. (2000). Marx’s Ecology. New York: Monthly Review Press.
Foster, J.B. (2013a). Marx and the Rift in the Universal Metabolism of Nature. Monthly Review 65/7, 2013: 1-19
Foster, J.B. (2013b). “The Epochal Crisis,” Monthly Review, 65(5), 1-12.
Foster, J.B. (2016). In defense of ecological Marxism. http://climateandcapitalism.com/2016/06/06/in-defense-of-ecological-marxism-john-bellamy-foster-responds-to-a-critic/, retrieved 4 June, 2016.
Foster, J.B., and B. Clark. (2016). Marx’s Ecology and the Left. Monthly Review, 68(2), 1-25.
Foster, J.B. (forthcoming). Marxism in the Anthropocene. International Critical Thought.
Foster, J.B., et al. (2010). The Ecological Rift. New York: Monthly Review Press.
Goldman, M., and R.A. Schurman. (2000). Closing the ‘Great Divide.’ Annual Review of Sociology, 26(1), 563-584.
Haraway, Donna J. (2008). When Species Meet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Harvey, D. (1974). Population, Resources, and the Ideology of Science. Economic Geography, 50(3), 256-277.
Harvey, D. (1993). The Nature of Environment. Pp. 1-51 in R. Miliband and L. Panitch, eds., Socialist Register 1993. London, Merlin.
Harvey, D. (1995). Justice, Nature, and the Geography of Difference. Cambridge: Blackwell.
Heynen, N, et al., eds. (2007). Neoliberal Environments. New York: Routledge.
Marx, K. (1981). Capital, Vol. III. New York: Penguin.
Merchant, C. (1980). The Death of Nature. New York: Harper & Row.
Moore, J.W. (2011). Transcending the Metabolic Rift. Journal of Peasant Studies, 38(1), 1-46.
Moore, J.W. (2015). Capitalism in the Web of Life. London: Verso.
Peet, Richard, Paul Robbins, & Michael Watts, eds. (2011). Global Political Ecology. London: Routledge.
Plumwood, V. Feminism and the Mastery of Nature. New York: Routledge.
Smith, Neil. (1984). Uneven Development. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
Warf, B., and S. Arias, eds. (2008). The spatial turn. New York: Routledge.
Watts, M.J. (1983). Silent Violence. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Watts, M.J. (2005). Nature:Culture. Pp. 142-174 in P. Cloke and R. Johnston, eds., Spaces of Geographical Thought. London, Sage.
Young, R.M. (1979). Science is a Labor Process. Science for the People, 43-44, 31-37.
 Representative texts include Harvey (1974), Merchant (1980), Young (1979), Watts (1983), and Smith (1984).
 Foster presents Harvey as arguing for nature as an “outer boundary” (2013a, p. 9) – a position that distorts Harvey’s actual position. Harvey holds to a strongly relational view of socio-ecological relations in which “all ecological projects (and arguments) are simultaneously political-economic projects (and arguments) and vice versa” (1993, p. 25; also 1995). An analagous mis-reading is found in Foster’s appropriation of my conception of epochal crisis (Moore 2011), which he describes as the “convergence of economic and ecological contradictions” (2013b, p. 1). These appropriations indicate Foster’s unwillingness to engage the relational critique on its own terms
 The critique of nature/society dualism is vast. Classic statements include Smith (1984); Plumwood (1993); Braun and Castree (1998). Descartes is simply one of several possible names for the kind of dualism that emerged with the rise of capitalism in the early modern era (Moore 2015).
The article is taken from:
LECTURES BY GILLES DELEUZE
It's quite curious to what extent philosophy, up to the end of the 17th century, ultimately speaks to us, all the time, of God. And after all, Spinoza, excommunicated Jew, is not the last to speak to us of God. And the first book of his great work The Ethics is called “Of God.” And from all of them, whether it's Descartes, Malebranche, Leibniz, we get the impression that the boundary between philosophy and theology is extremely vague.
Why is philosophy so compromised with God? And right up to the revolutionary coup of the 18th century philosophers. Is it a dishonest compromise [compromission] or something a little purer? We could say that thought, until the end of the 17th century, must take considerable account of the demands of the Church, thus it's clearly forced to take many religious themes into account. But one feels quite strongly that this is much too easy; we could just as well say that, until this era, thought's lot is somewhat linked to that of a religious feeling.
I'm going back to an analogy with painting because it's true that painting is full of images of God. My question is: is it sufficient to say that this is an inevitable constraint in this era? There are two possible answers. The first is yes, this is an inevitable constraint of the era which refers to the conditions of art in this era. Or to say, a bit more positively, that it's because there's a religious feeling from which the painter, and even more painting, do not escape. The philosopher and philosophy don't escape either. Is this sufficient? Could we not make up another hypothesis, namely that painting in this era has so much need of God that the divine, far from being a constraint for the painter, is the site of his maximum emancipation. In other words, with God, he can do anything whatsoever, he can do what he couldn't do with humans, with creatures. So much so that God is directly invested by painting, by a kind of flow of painting, and at this level painting will find a kind of freedom for itself that it would never have found otherwise. At the limit, the most pious painter and the one who does painting and who, in a certain way, is the most impious, are not opposed to each other because the way painting invests the divine is a way which is nothing but pictorial, where the painter finds nothing but the conditions of his radical emancipation.
I give three examples: “...el Greco...” This creation could only be achieved on the basis of Christian figures. Then it's true that, at a certain level, constraints operated on them, and at another level the artist is the one who?Bergson said this about the living thing [vivant], he said that the living thing is what turns obstacles into means?this would be a good definition of the artist. It's true that there are constraints from the Church which operate on the painter, but there is a transformation of constraints into means of creation. They make use of God in order to achieve a liberation of forms, to push the forms to the point where the forms have nothing to do with an illustration. The forms are unleashed [se déchaînent]. They embark upon a kind of Sabbath, a very pure dance, the lines and colors lose all necessity to be verisimilar [vraisemblables], to be exact, to resemble something. It's the great enfranchisement of lines and colors which is done thanks to this outward show [apparence]: the subordination of painting to the demands of Christianity.
Another example...a creation of the world... The Old Testament sets up for them a kind of liberation of movements, a liberation of forms, lines and colors. So much so that, in a sense, atheism has never been external to religion: atheism is the artistic power [puissance] at work on [travaille] religion. With God, everything is permitted. I have the distinct feeling that for philosophy it's been exactly the same thing, and if philosophers have spoken to us so much of God?and they could well be Christians or believers?this hasn't been lacking an intense sense of jest [rigolade]. It wasn't an incredulous jesting, but a joy arising from the labor they were involved in.
Just as I said that God and Christ offered an extraordinary opportunity for painting to free lines, colors and movements from the constraints of resemblance, so God and the theme of God offered the irreplacable opportunity for philosophy to free the object of creation in philosophy?that is to say concepts?from the constraints that had been imposed on them...the simple representation of things.
The concept is freed at the level of God because it no longer has the task of representing something; at that moment it becomes the sign of a presence. To speak by analogy, it takes on lines, colors, movements that it would never have had without this detour through God. It's true that philosophers are subject to the constraints of theology, but in conditions such that they make this constraint into a means of fantastic creation, that is they will extract from it [lui arracher] a liberation of the concept without anyone even questioning it. Except in the case where a philosopher goes too fast or too far. Is this perhaps the case with Spinoza? From the start, Spinoza was placed in conditions in which what he said to us no longer had anything to represent. That's why what Spinoza is going to name God, in the first book of The Ethics, is going to be the strangest thing in the world. It's going to be the concept insofar as it brings together the set [ensemble] of all these possibilities... Via the philosophical concept of God is made?and it could only have been made at this level?is made the strangest creation of philosophy as a system of concepts.
What painters and philosophers subjected God to represents either painting as passion or philosophy as passion. Painters subjected the body of Christ to a new passion: they condense [ramassent] him, they make him contract... Perspective is freed from every constraint to represent whatever it may be, and it's the same thing for philosophers.
I take the example of Leibniz. Leibniz begins the creation of the world anew. He asks how it is that God creates the world. He goes back to the classical problem: what is the role of God's understanding and God's will in the creation of the world.
Let's suppose that Leibniz tells us the following: God has an understanding, an infinite understanding of course. It does not resemble ours. The word “understanding” itself would be equivocal. It would not have only a single meaning [sens] since the infinite understanding is absolutely not the same thing as our own understanding, which is a finite understanding. What happens in the infinite understanding? Before God creates the world, there was indeed an understanding, but there wasn't anything else, there was no world. No, says Leibniz, but there are possibles. There are possibles in God's understanding, and all these possibles tend toward existence. That's why essence, for Leibniz, is a tendency to exist, a possibility which tends toward existence. All these possibles have weight according to their quantity of perfection. God's understanding becomes like a kind of envelope in which all the possibles descend and collide. All want to pass into existence. But Leibniz tells us that this is not possible, all cannot pass into existence. Why? Because each one on its own could pass into existence, but not all of them form compatible combinations. There are incompatibilities from the point of view of existence. One such possible cannot be compossible with another such possible.
There's the second stage: he is in the process of creating a logical relation of a completely new type: there are not only possibilities, there are also problems of compossibility. Is a possible compossible with another such possible?
So then which set of possibles will pass into existence? Only that set of possibles that, on its own, has the greatest quantity of perfection will pass into existence. The others will be repressed [refoulés].
It's God's will that chooses the best of all possible worlds. It's an extraordinary descent for the creation of the world, and, thanks to this descent, Leibniz creates all sorts of concepts. We cannot even say of these concepts that they are representational since they precede the things to be represented. And Leibniz issues [lance] his famous metaphor: God creates the world like we play chess, it involves choosing the best combination.
And the calculus of chess will dominate the Leibnizian vision of the divine understanding. It's an extraordinary creation of concepts that finds in the theme of God the very condition of its freedom and its liberation. Once again, just as the painter had to make use of God so that lines, colors and movements would no longer be obliged to represent some existing thing, so the philosopher sets up God, in this era, so that concepts would no longer be obliged to represent some prior thing, something given and ready-made. It's not a matter of asking oneself what a concept represents. It's necessary to ask oneself what its place is in a set of other concepts. In the majority of great philosophers, the concepts they create are inseparable, and are taken in veritable sequences. And if you don't understand the sequence of which a concept is part, you cannot understand the concept. I use this term “sequence” because I'm making a kind of parallel [rapprochement] with painting. If it's true that the constituent unity of cinema is the sequence, I believe that, all things being equal, we could also say it about the concept and about philosophy.
At the level of the problem of Being and the One, it's true that philosophers in their endeavor at conceptual creation about the relations of Being and the One are going to re-establish a sequence. In my view, the first great sequences in philosophy, at the level of concepts, are those Plato constructs in the second part of the Parmenides. There are actually two sequences. The second part of the Parmenides is made up of seven hypotheses. These seven hypotheses are divided into two groups: three hypotheses at first, four hypotheses following. These are two sequences.
First time [temps]: let us assume that the One is superior to Being, the One is above Being. Second time: the One is equal to Being.
Third time: the One is inferior to Being, and derived from Being.
You never say that a philosopher contradicts himself; you will ask such-and-such page, in what sequence to put it, at what level of the sequence? And it's obvious that the One about which Plato speaks to us is not the same according to whether it's situated at the level of the first, the second or the third hypothesis.
One of Plato's disciples, Plotinus, speaks to us at a certain level of the One as the radical origin of Being. Here, Being comes out of [sort de] the One. The One makes Being, therefore it is not, it is superior to Being. This will be the language of pure emanation: the One emanates Being. That is to say the One does not come out of itself in order to produce Being, because if it came out of itself it would become Two, but Being comes out of the One. This is the very formula of the emanative cause. But when we establish ourselves at the level of Being, this same Plotinus will speak to us in splendid and lyrical terms of the Being that contains all beings, the Being that comprehends all beings. And he issues a whole series of formulae which will have very great importance for the whole philosophy of the Renaissance. He will say Being complicates all beings. It's an admirable formula. Why does Being complicate all beings? Because each being explicates Being. There will be a linguistic doublet here: complicate, explicate.
Each thing explicates Being, but Being complicates all things, that is, comprehends them in itself. But these pages of Plotinus are no longer about emanation. You tell yourself that the sequence has evolved: he's in the process of speaking to us of an immanent cause. And indeed, Being behaves like an immanent cause in relation to beings, but at the same time the One behaves in relation to Being like an emanative cause. And if we descend even further, we will see in Plotinus, who nevertheless is not Christian, something which closely resembles a creative cause.
In a certain way, if you don't take sequences into account, you will no longer know exactly what he's talking to us about. Unless there were philosophers who destroy sequences because they want to make something else. A conceptual sequence would be the equivalent of shades [nuances] in painting. A concept changes tone or, at the limit, a concept changes timbre. It would have something like timbres, tonalities. Until Spinoza philosophy proceeded essentially by way of sequences. And on this road the shades concerning causality were very important. Is original causality or the first cause emanative, immanent, creative or something else again? So the immanent cause was present at all times in philosophy, but always as a theme that was never pushed to its own limit [jusqu'au bout de soi-même].
Why? Because this was undoubtedly the most dangerous theme. Treating God as an emanative cause can fit because there is still the distinction between cause and effect. But as immanent cause, such that we no longer know very well how to distinguish cause and effect, that is to say treating God and the creature the same, that becomes much more difficult. Immanence was above all danger. So much so that the idea of an immanent cause appears constantly in the history of philosophy, but as [something] held in check, kept at such-and-such a level of the sequence, not having value, and faced with being corrected by other moments of the sequence and the accusation of immanentism was, for every story of heresies, the fundamental accusation: you confuse God and the creature. That's the fatal accusation. Therefore the immanent cause was constantly there, but it didn't manage to gain a status [statut]. It had only a small place in the sequence of concepts.
Spinoza arrives. He was preceded no doubt by all those who had been more or less audacious concerning the immanent cause, that is to say this cause that's quite bizarre in that, not only does it remain in itself in order to produce, but what it produces remains in it. God is in the world, the world is in God. In The Ethics, I think The Ethics is constructed upon an initial great proposition that could be called the speculative or theoretical proposition. Spinoza's speculative proposition is: there is only one single absolutely infinite substance, that is one possessing all attributes, and what are called creatures are not creatures but modes or manners [manières] of being of this substance. Therefore one single substance having all attributes and whose products are the modes, the ways of being. Hence if these are the manners of being of the substance having all attributes, these modes exist in the attributes of the substance. They are contained [pris] in the attributes.
All the consequences immediately appear. There isn't any hierarchy in the attributes of God, of substance. Why? If substance possesses equally all attributes, there is no hierarchy among the attributes, one is not worth more than another. In other words, if thought is an attribute of God and if extension is an attribute of God or of substance, between thought and extension there won't be any hierarchy. All the attributes will have the same value from the moment that they are attributes of substance. We are still in the abstract. This is the speculative figure of immanence.
I draw several conclusions from this. This is what Spinoza will call God. He calls it God because it's absolutely infinite. What does it represent? It's quite curious. Can one live like that? I draw two consequences from this. First consequence: he's the one who dares to do what many had wanted to do, namely to free the immanent cause completely of all subordination to other processes of causality. There is only one cause, and it's immanent. And this influences practice. Spinoza didn't entitle his book Ontology, he's too shrewd for that, he entitles it Ethics. Which is a way of saying that, whatever the importance of my speculative propositions may be, you can only judge them at the level of the ethics that they envelope or imply [impliquer]. He completely frees the immanent cause, with which Jews, Christians, heretics had so often played around up until then, but he does it within very precise sequences of concepts. Spinoza extracts it from a whole sequence and carries out a forced takeover [coup de force] at the level of concepts. There is no longer a sequence. As a result of his extraction [extraire] of immanent cauality from the sequence of great causes, first causes, as a result of his flattening of everything onto an absolutely infinite substance that comprehends all things as its modes, that possesses all attributes and comprehends all things as its modes, he substituted a veritable plane of immanence for the sequence. It's an extraordinary conceptual revolution: in Spinoza everything happens as if on a fixed plane. An extraordinary fixed plane which is not going to be a plane of immobility at all since all things are going to move?and for Spinoza only the movement of things counts?on this fixed plane. He invents a fixed plane.
Spinoza's speculative proposition is this: extract the concept from the state of variations of sequences and project everything onto a fixed plane which is one of immanence. This implies an extraordinary technique.
It's also a certain mode of life, living in a fixed plane. I no longer live according to variable sequences. But then, what would living on a fixed plane be? Spinoza is one who polishes glasses, who abandoned everything, his heritage, his religion, every social success. He does nothing and before he had written anything whatsoever, he is insulted, he is denounced. Spinoza is the atheist, the abominable. He practically can't publish. He writes letters. He didn't want to be a prof. In the Political Treatise he imagines that the teaching profession would be a volunteer activity, and further, that it would be necessary to pay in order to teach. Professors would teach at the risk of their fortunes and their reputations. That would be a true public prof. Spinoza was involved with a large study group, he sends them The Ethics as he writes it, and they explicate for themselves Spinoza's texts, and they write to Spinoza, who replies. These are very intelligent people. This correspondence is essential. He has his little network. He gets out of trouble thanks to the protection of the De Witt brothers, since he is denounced from all sides.
It's as if he invented the fixed plane at the level of concepts. In my view it's the most fundamental attempt to give a status to the univocity of being, an absolutely univocal being. Univocal being is precisely what Spinoza defines as being the substance having all attributes equal, having all things as modes. The modes of substance are beings [l'étant]. The absolutely infinite substance is Being as Being, the attributes all equal to one another are the essence of being, and here you have this kind of plane on which everything falls back and where everything is inscribed.
Never has a philosopher been treated by his readers the way Spinoza has been, thank God. Spinoza was one of the essential authors for German Romanticism, for example. But even these most educated authors tell us a very curious thing. They say at once that The Ethics is the work that presents us with the most systematic totality, it's system pushed to the absolute, it's univocal being, being that is said only in a single sense. It's the extreme point of the system. It's the most absolute totality. And at the same time, when one reads The Ethics, one always gets the feeling that one will never reach a comprehension of the whole [ensemble]. The whole escapes us. We are not quick enough to keep everything together. There is a very beautiful page where Goethe says that he re-read the same thing ten times and he always fails to comprehend the whole, and every time that I read it I comprehend another piece [bout]. He's a philosopher who has a conceptual apparatus that's among the most systematic in all philosophy. And nevertheless, we always get the impression, we readers, that the whole escapes us and we are reduced to being struck by such and such bit. We are really struck by such and such part. At another level he's the philosopher who pushes the system of concepts the furthest, therefore one who demands a very extensive philosophical education [culture]. The start of The Ethics begins with definitions: of substance, of essence, etc... This all refers to Scholasticism, and at the same time there is no other philosopher who can so easily be read without knowing anything at all. And the two [approaches] must be upheld. Go on, then, and comprehend this mystery. Delbos says of Spinoza that he is a great wind that carries us away. That goes well with my story of the fixed plane. Few philosophers have had this quality [mérite] of achieving the status of a great calm wind. And the miserable, the poor sorts who read Spinoza compare it to the gusts that take us away. How do we reconcile the fact that there was an illiterate reading and an illiterate comprehension of Spinoza with this other fact, that Spinoza is one of the philosophers who, once again, composes the most meticulous conceptual apparatus in the world? There's a success at the level of language.
The Ethics is a book that Spinoza considers as finished. He does not publish his book because he know that if he publishes it, he'll find himself in prison. Everyone falls upon him, he no longer has a protector. Things go very badly for him. He gives up on publication and, in a sense, this doesn't matter since the study group already had the text. Leibniz knew the text. What is this text made of. It begins with The Ethics demonstrated in a geometric manner. It's the use of the geometric method. Many authors had already employed this method, but generally on a sequence in which a philosophical proposition is demonstrated in the manner of a geometrical proposition, a theorem. Spinoza extracts this from the state of a moment in a sequence and he will make it the complete method of exposition of The Ethics. With the result that The Ethics is divided into five books. It begins with definitions, axioms, propositions or theorems, demonstrations of the theorem, corollary of the theorem, that is to say the propositions that flow [découlent] from the theorem, etc... That's the great wind, it forms a kind of continuous layer [nappe]. Geometric exposition is no longer the expression of a moment in a sequence at all, it can be completely extricated since the geometric method is going to be the process which consists in filling in the fixed plane of absolutely infinite substance. Thus a great calm wind. And in all of this there is a continuous linkage [enchaînement] of concepts, each theorem refers to other theorems, each demonstration refers to other demonstrations.
to be continued...
by Himanshu Damle
Both British and American agencies have identified games and virtual environments, which they term “GVEs,” as havens for illegal activity. Released documents show that, because of fears that “criminal networks could use the games to communicate secretly, move money or plot attacks,” intelligence operatives have entered the video game terrain as virtual spies. While there, the spies create “make-believe characters to snoop,” “recruit informers,” and collect “data and contents of communications between players,” because features common to video games, such as “fake identities,” and “voice and text chats” provide an ideal place for criminal organizations to operate. A 2008 document released by the National Security Agency (NSA) warned that, although “[o]nline games might seem innocuous . . . they ha[ve] the potential to be a ‘target-rich communication network’ allowing intelligence suspects ‘a way to hide in plain sight.’
Furthermore, according to the NSA, “Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOG) are ideal locations” for criminals “because of the enormous scale on which they are played,” featuring thousands of subscribers simultaneously using various servers hosted in a wide array of places, including on gamers’ own dedicated servers. Additionally, GVEs may often be accessed “via mobile devices connected wirelessly,” such as phones, handhelds, or laptops. Through connections to online gaming environments, these types of devices allow for an additional place where users can interact, connect, or share. These sites can be “advertised” in online games and password-protected so that they function essentially as private meeting places for criminal organizations.
Consequently, the online gaming landscape poses a unique challenge for law enforcement because it not only involves a new realm wherein criminal organizations thrive, but it also represents communications that more closely involve innocent parties and are more technically difficult to intercept. As a result, law enforcement around the world will need to make difficult decisions regarding surveillance and regulation of these types of communications.
The technical difficulties posed by in-game communications raise an especially difficult dilemma for law enforcement because they present issues in an area skirting the edge of law enforcement’s technological ability. Often times, even if law enforcement agencies have the legal authority to conduct surveillance, they do not have the technical capability to survey the use of communications like those that take place in online games. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) labels this difficulty the “going dark” problem, which explains how intelligence-gathering officials lack the technological ability to carry out intelligence gathering as quickly as required. That problem manifests itself as an inability for prosecutors to effectively track and counteract criminal behavior on large scales, as was the case in 2009, when the Drug Enforcement Agency learned of an international drug and weapons smuggling ring with operations in North and South America, Europe, and Africa. Because the leader of that ring knew which communications lacked “intercept solutions,” much of the ring still functions today. The primary difficulty in prosecuting crimes like these relates to law enforcement’s desire to access data in real or near-real time, rather than to access stored information.
In the wake of these interests, how governments approach the regulation and surveillance of online games will greatly affect their citizens and a broad swath of the business world. Examining how law enforcement can effectively monitor and combat organized criminal activity that involves the use of online games.
The article is taken from:
by Himanshu Damle
Ecology is the study of the relationships between organisms and the biological and non-biological components of their natural environments. Ecologists consider natural systems to be organized in a nested structure. In a given locale, there are individual organisms, groups of organisms of the same species (populations), antagonistic or cooperative interactions among groups of species (communities), and interactions among communities and the non-biological environment (e.g., air, water, and sunlight). We refer to these latter units as biological ecosystems to distinguish them from human organizational structures, networks, and systems, which we refer to as organizational ecosystems. In biological ecosystems, nodes are different species (i.e., each node is a collective of individuals of the same species). Biological ecosystems can contain hundreds or even thousands of species, but certain species—keystone species—play outsized roles in structuring them. Generally speaking, keystone species are those whose removal can be expected to have exceptionally strong effects on other members of the community, and hence on the functioning of the ecosystem as a whole. Organizations increasingly belong to complex networks that enable them to work together in support of shared and complementary goals. To understand this trend, scholars, policy makers, and leaders regularly seek new viewpoints from which to explore the conditions and complexities associated with human networks and organizational systems. Sociologists have developed a range of analytical models for identifying actors and organizations within formal and informal systems, and for explaining the various relational ties that link these organizations together Social network analysis (SNA) has been used to describe the formation of and communication patterns within and between terrorist cells, as well as to predict the outcomes of particular cell activities. Many questions remain, however. Organizational scientists have begun to recognize the power of biological concepts to explain the dynamics that foster and sustain linkages between actors and organizations Here, we look to the field of ecosystem ecology for insights into the conditions, relational dynamics, and complexities that underpin and sustain violent non-state actor (VNSA) networks.
There are many potential applications of ecosystem models, but we are particularly excited about the potential for applying principles discovered by ecologists studying the effects of species extinction to develop testable hypotheses about the effects of eliminating particular militant groups within the VNSA organizational ecosystem. There are a number of crucial questions that could be explored using this framework. In the context of a region with multiple militant groups (pursuing a variety of goals, sometimes competing and sometimes cooperating, some more directly threatening to the United States than others, some using more brutal tactics than others), what traits identify groups that play a keystone role within the broader violent conflict ecosystem? How would eliminating a particular group affect the intensity of violence within the system as a whole? What are the effects—both beneficial and detrimental—on other VNSA nodes within the system and on the system as a whole? What other qualities of the broader environment condition the consequences of eliminating an actor within the system? There has been a tendency in both academic and policy circles to focus on the effectiveness of strategies designed to disrupt and destroy militant organizations while ignoring the wider system-level effects of eliminating any particular actor within the system. But counterterrorism strategists should be concerned with the potential unintended consequences of eliminating militant groups, as removing one node from a system clearly can have a wide range of effects…
Dark networks (such as those involving terrorists and criminal narcotics traffickers) are hidden from nonparticipants yet could have a devastating effect on our social order and economy. Understanding their topology yields greater insight into the nature of clandestine organizations and could help develop effective disruptive strategies. However, obtaining reliable data about dark networks is extremely difficult, so our understanding of them remains largely hypothetical. To the best of our knowledge, the data sets we explore here, though subject to limitations, are the rst to allow for statistical analysis of the topologies of dark networks.
We found that the covert networks we studied share many common topological properties with other types of networks. Their ef ciency in terms of communication and information ow and commands can be tied to their small-world structures, which are characterized by short average path length and a high clustering coefficient. In addition, we found that due to their small-world properties, dark networks are more vulnerable to attack on their bridges that connect different communities within them than to attacks on their hubs. This nding may give authorities insight for intelligence and security purposes.
Another interesting nding about the three elicited human networks we studied is that their substantially high clustering coefficients (not always present in other empirical networks) are dif cult to regenerate based on only known network effects (such as preferential attachment and small-world effects). Other mechanisms (such as recruitment) may also play an important role in network evolution. Other research has found that alter- native mechanisms (such as highly optimized tolerance) may govern the evolution of many complex systems in environments characterized by high risk and uncertainty……topology-of-dark-networks-xu-2007
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by McKenzie Wark
08. Production produces all things, and all producers of things. Production produces not only the object of the production process, but also the producer as subject. Hacking is the production of production. The hack produces a production of a new kind, which has as its result a singular and unique product, and a singular and unique producer. Every hacker is at one and the same time producer and product of the hack, and emerges in its singularity as the memory of the hack as process.
09. Production takes place on the basis of a prior hack which gives to production its formal, social, repeatable and reproducible form. Every production is a hack formalised and repeated on the basis of its representation. To produce is to repeat; to hack, to differentiate.
10. The hack produces both a useful and a useless surplus, although the usefulness of any surplus is socially and historically determined. The useful surplus goes into expanding the realm of freedom wrested from necessity. The useless surplus is the surplus of freedom itself, the margin of free production unconstrained by production for necessity.
11. The production of a surplus creates the possibility of the expansion of freedom from necessity. But in class society, the production of a surplus also creates new necessities. Class domination takes the form of the capture of the productive potential of society and its harnessing to the production, not of liberty, but of class domination itself. The ruling class subordinates the hack to the production of forms of production that may be harnessed to the enhancement of class power, and the suppression or marginalisation of other forms of hacking. What the producing classes - farmers, workers and hackers - have in common is an interest in freeing production from its subordination to ruling classes who turn production into the production of new necessities, who wrest slavery from surplus. The elements of a free productivity exist already in an atomised form, in the productive classes. What remains is the release of its virtuality.
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by Himanshu Damle
Given any two points p and q in Gödel spacetime, there is a smooth, future-directed timelike curve that runs from p and q. (Hence, since we can always combine timelike curves that run in the two directions and smooth out the joints, there is a smooth, closed timelike curve that contains p and q.)
A time traveler in Gödel spacetime can start at any point p, return to that point, and stop off at any other desired point q along the way. To see why this holds, consider the figure above. It gives, at least, a rough, qualitative picture of Gödel spacetime with one dimension suppressed. We may as well take the central line to be the axis A and take p to be a point on A. (By homogeneity, there is no loss in generality in doing so.) Notice first that given any other point p′ on A, no matter how “far down,” there is a smooth, future-directed timelike curve that runs from p to p′. We can think of it as arising in three stages. (i) By moving “radially outward and upward” from p (i.e., along a future-directed timelike curve whose tangent vector field is of the form t ̃a + αra, with α positive), we can reach a point p1with coordinate value r > rc. At that radius, we know, φa is timelike and future-directed. So we can find an ε > 0 such that (−εt ̃a + φa) is also timelike and future-directed there. (ii) Now consider the maximally extended, future-directed timelike curve γ through p1 whose tangent is everywhere equal to (−εt ̃a + φa) (for that value of ε). It is a spiral-shaped curve of fixed radius, with “downward pitch.” By following γ far enough, we can reach a point p2 that is well “below” p′. Now, finally, (iii) we can reach p′ by working our way upward and inward from p2 via a curve whose tangent vector is the form t ̃a + αra, but now with α negative. It remains only to smooth out the “joints” at intermediate points p1 and p2 to arrive at a smooth timelike curve that, as required, runs from p to p′.
Now consider any point q. It might not be possible to reach q from p in the same simple way we went from p to p1 – i.e., along a future-directed timelike curve that moves radially outward and upward – p might be too “high” for that. But we can get around this problem by first moving to an intermediate point p′ on A sufficiently “far down” – we have established that that is possible – and then going from there to q.
Other interesting features of Gödel spacetime are closely related to the existence of closed timelike curves. So, for example, a slice (in any relativistic spacetime) is a spacelike hypersurface that, as a subset of the background manifold, is closed. We can think of it as a candidate for a “global simultaneity slice.” It turns out that there are no slices in Gödel spacetime. More generally, given any relativistic spacetime, if it is temporally orientable and simply connected and has smooth closed timelike curves through every point, then it does not admit any slices.
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LECTURES BY GILLES DELEUZE
We are completely enclosed in this world of affection-ideas and these affective continuous variations of joy and sadness, so sometimes my power of acting increases, okay, sometimes it diminishes; but whether it increases or diminishes I remain within passion because, in both cases, I do not possess it: I'm still separated from my power of acting. So when my power of acting increases, it means that I am then relatively less separated, and inversely, but I am still formally separated from my power of acting, I do not possess it. In other words, I am not the cause of my own affects, and since I'm not the cause of my own affects, they are produced in me by something else: I am therefore passive, I'm in the world of passion.
But there are notion-ideas and essence-ideas. Already at the level of notion-ideas a kind of escape from this world is going to appear. One is completely smothered, enclosed in a world of absolute impotence, even when my power of acting increases it's on a segment of variation, nothing guarantees me that, at the street corner, I'm not going to receive a great blow to the head and that my power of acting is going to fall again.
You recall that an affection-idea is a mixture, that is to say the idea of an effect of a body on mine. A notion-idea no longer concerns the effect of another body on mine, it's an idea which concerns and which has for its object the agreement or disagreement of the characteristic relations between two bodies. If there is such an idea—we don't know yet if there is one, but we can always define something even if it means concluding that it can't exist—it's what we will call a nominal definition. I would say that the nominal definition of the notion is that it's an idea which, instead of representing the effect of a body on another, that is to say the mixture of two bodies, represents the internal agreement or disagreement of the characteristic relations of the two bodies.
An example: if I knew enough about the characteristic relation of the body named arsenic and the characteristic relation of the human body, I could form a notion of the disagreement of these two relations to the point that the arsenic, under its characteristic relation, destroys the characteristic relation of my body. I am poisoned, I die.
You see that the notion, differing from the idea of affection, instead of being the seizure of the extrinsic relation of one body with another or the effect of one body on another, the notion is raised to the comprehension of the cause, that is if the mixture has such and such effect, this is by virtue of the nature of the relation of the two bodies considered and of the manner in which the relation of one of the bodies is combined with the relation of the other body. There is always a composition of relations. When I am poisoned, the body of arsenic has induced the parts of my body to enter into a relation other than the one which characterizes me. At that moment, the parts of my body enter into a new relation induced by the arsenic, which is perfectly combined with the arsenic; the arsenic is happy since it feeds on me. The arsenic undergoes a joyful passion because, as Spinoza says so well, each body has a soul. Thus the arsenic is joyful, but me, evidently I'm not. It has induced the parts of my body to enter into a relation which is combined with its own, the arsenic's. Me, I'm sad, I'm heading toward death. You see that the notion, if one can reach it, is a formidable thing.
We are not far from an analytical geometry. A notion is not at all abstract, it's quite concrete: this body here, that body there. If I had the characteristic relation of the soul and of the body of that which I say displeases me, in relation to my characteristic relation in myself, I would comprehend everything, I would know by causes instead of knowing only by effects separated from their causes. At that moment I would have an adequate idea. Just as if I understood why someone pleases me. I took as an example digestive relations, but we wouldn't have to change a line for amorous relations. It's not at all that Spinoza conceived love like he conceived digestion, he conceived digestion like love as well. Take a couple ý la Strindberg, this kind of decomposition of relations and then they are recombined in order to begin again. What is this continuous variation of the affectus, and how does a certain disagreement agree with certain people? Why can certain people live only in a certain indefinitely repeated domestic quarrel? They emerge from it as if it had been a bath of cool water for them.
You understand the difference between a notion-idea and an affection-idea. A notion-idea is inevitably adequate since it's a knowledge [connaissance] by causes. Spinoza not only uses the term notion here to qualify this second sort of idea, but he also uses the term common notion. The word is quite ambiguous: does it mean common to all minds? Yes and no, it's very meticulous in Spinoza. In any case, don't ever confuse a common notion and an abstraction. He always defines a common notion like this: it's the idea of something which is common to all bodies or to several bodies—at least two—and which is common to the whole and to the part. Therefore there surely are common notions which are common to all minds, but they're common to all minds only to the extent that they are first the idea of something which is common to all bodies. Therefore these are not at all abstract notions. What is common to all bodies? For example, being in movement or at rest. Movement and rest will be objects of notions said to be common to all bodies. Therefore there are common notions which designate something common to all bodies. There are also common notions which designate something common to two bodies or to two souls, for example, someone I love. Once again the common notion is not abstract, it has nothing to do with species or genera, it's actually the statement [ÈnoncÈ] of what is common to several bodies or to all bodies; or, since there's no single body which is not itself made up of several, one can say that there are common things or common notions in each body. Hence we fall back upon the question: how can one leave this situation which condemned us to mixtures?
Here Spinoza's texts are very complicated. One can only conceive this departure in the following manner: broadly speaking, when I am affected in chance encounters, either I am affected with sadness or with joy. When I am affected with sadness, my power of acting diminishes, which is to say that I am further separated from this power. When I am affected with joy, it increases, which is to say that I am less separated from this power. Good. If you consider yourself as affected with sadness, I believe that everything is wretched, there is no longer an exit for one simple reason: nothing in sadness, which diminishes your power of acting, can induce you from within sadness to form a notion common to something which would be common to the bodies which affect you with sadness and to your own. For one very simple reason, that the body which affects you with sadness only affects you with sadness to the extent that it affects you in a relation which does not agree with your own. Spinoza means something very simple, that sadness makes no one intelligent. In sadness one is wretched. It's for this reason that the powers-that-be [pouvoirs] need subjects to be sad. Agony has never been a cultural game of intelligence or vivacity. As long as you have a sad affect, a body acts on yours, a soul acts on yours in conditions and in a relation which do not agree with yours. At that point, nothing in sadness can induce you to form the common notion, that is to say the idea of a something in common between two bodies and two souls. What he's saying is full of wisdom. This is why thinking of death is the most base thing. He is opposed to the whole philosophical tradition which is a meditation on death. His formula is that philosophy is a meditation on life and not on death. Obviously, because death is always a bad encounter.
Another case. You are affected with joy. Your power of acting is increased, this doesn't mean that you possess it yet, but the fact that you are affected with joy signifies and indicates that the body or soul which affects you thus affects you in a relation which is combined with your own and which is combined with your own, and that goes for the formula of love and the digestive formula. In an affect of joy, therefore, the body which affects you is indicated as combining its relation with your own and not as its relation decomposing your own. At that point, something induces you to form a notion of what is common to the body which affects you and to your own body, to the soul which affects you and to your own soul. In this sense joy makes one intelligent. There we feel that it's a curious thing, because, geometrical method or not, we grant him everything, he can demonstrate it; but there is an obvious appeal to a kind of lived experience. There's an obvious appeal to way of perceiving, and even more, to a way of living. It's necessary to already have such a hatred of sad passions, the list of sad passions in Spinoza is infinite, he goes so far as to say that every idea of reward envelopes a sad passion, every idea of security envelopes a sad passion, every idea of pride, guilt. It's one of the most marvelous moments in the Ethics. The affects of joy are like a springboard, they make us pass through something that we would never have been able to pass if there had only been sadnesses. He solicits us to form the idea of what is common to the affecting body and the affected body. This can fail, but it can also succeed and I become intelligent.
Someone who becomes good in Latin at the same time that he becomes a lover...this is seen in the classroom. What's it connected to? How does someone make progress? One never makes progress on a homogeneous line, something here makes us make progress down there, as if a small joy here had released a trigger. Anew, the necessity of a map: what happened there that unblocked this here? A small joy precipitates us into a world of concrete ideas which sweeps out the sad affects or which is in the process of struggling, all of this makes up part of the continuous variation. But at the same time, this joy propels us somehow beyond the continuous variation, it makes us acquire at least the potentiality of a common notion. It's necessary to conceive this very concretely, these are quite local things. If you succeed in forming a common notion, at whatever point you yourself have a relation with such a person or such an animal, you say: I've finally understood something, I am less stupid than yesterday. The “I've understood” that one says is sometimes the moment in which you formed a common notion. You formed it quite locally, it didn't give you all the common notions. Spinoza doesn't think at all like a rationalist, among the rationalists there is the world of reason and there are the ideas. If you have one, obviously you have all of them: you are reasonable. Spinoza thinks that being reasonable, or being wise, is a problem of becoming, which changes in a singular fashion the contents of the concept of reason. It's necessary to know the encounters which agree with you. No one could ever say that it's good for her/him when something exceeds her/his power of being affected. The most beautiful thing is to live on the edges, at the limit of her/his own power of being affected, on the condition that this be the joyful limit since there is the limit of joy and the limit of sadness; but everything which exceeds your power of being affected is ugly. Relatively ugly: what's good for flies is not inevitably good for you... There is no longer any abstract notion, there isn't any formula which is good for man in general. What counts is what your power is for you. Lawrence said a directly Spinozist thing: an intensity which exceeds your power of being affected is bad (posthumous writings). It's inevitable: a blue that is too intense for my eyes will not make me say it's beautiful, it will perhaps be beautiful for someone else. There's good for all, you tell me...Yes, because the powers of being affected are combined.
To assume that there was a power of being affected which defined the power of being affected of the whole universe is quite possible since all relations are combined to infinity, but not in just any order. My relation doesn't combine with that of arsenic, but what can this do? Obviously it does a lot to me, but at this moment the parts of my body enter again into a new relation which is combined with that of the arsenic. It's necessary to know in what order the relations are combined. But if we knew in what order the relations of the whole universe are combined, we could define a power of being affected of the whole universe, which would be the cosmos, the world insofar as it's a body or a soul. At this moment the whole world is only one single body following the order of relations which are combined. At this moment you have, to speak precisely, a universal power of being affected: God, who is the whole universe insofar as He is its cause, has by nature a universal power of being affected. It's useless to say that he's in the process of using the idea of God in a strange manner.
You undergo a joy, you feel that this joy concerns you, that it concerns something important regarding your principal relations, your characteristic relations. Here then it must serve you as a springboard, you form the notion-idea: in what do the body which affects me and my own body agree? In what do the soul which affects me and my own soul agree, from the point of view of the composition of their relations, and no longer from the point of view of their chance encounters. You do the opposite operation from what is generally done. Generally people tend to summarize their unhappinesses, this is where neurosis or depression begins, when we set out to figure the totals; oh shit, there's this and there's that. Spinoza proposes the opposite: instead of summarizing of our sadnesses, taking a local point of departure on a joy on the condition that we feel that it truly concerns us. On that point one forms the common notion, on that point one tries to win locally, to open up this joy. It's the labor of life. One tries to diminish the respective share of sadnesses in relation to the respective share of a joy, and one attempts the following tremendous coup: one is sufficiently assured of common notions which refer to relations of agreement between such and such body and my own, one will attempt then to apply the same method to sadness, but one cannot do it on the basis of sadness, that is to say one will attempt to form common notions by which one will arrive at a comprehension of the vital manner in which such and such body disagrees and no longer agrees. That becomes, no longer a continuous variation, that becomes a bell curve.
You leave joyful passions, the increase in the power of acting; you make use of them to form common notions of a first type, the notion of what there was in common between the body which affected me with joy and my own body, you open up to a maximum your living common notions and you descend once again toward sadness, this time with common notions that you form in order to comprehend in what way such a body disagrees with your own, such a soul disagrees with your own.
At this moment you can already say that you are within the adequate idea since, in effect, you have passed into the knowledge of causes. You can already say that you are within philosophy. One single thing counts, the way of living. One single thing counts, the meditation on life, and far from being a meditation on death it's rather the operation which consists in making death only finally affect the proportion that is relatively the smallest in me, that is, living it as a bad encounter. It's simply well known that, to the extent that a body is tired, the probabilities of bad encounters increase. It's a common notion, a common notion of disagreement. As long as I'm young, death is truly something which comes from outside, it's truly an extrinsic accident, except in the case of an internal malady. There is no common notion, on the other hand it's true that when a body ages, its power of acting diminishes: I can no longer do what I could still do yesterday; this, this fascinates me in aging, this kind of diminution of the power of acting. What is a clown, vitally speaking? It's precisely the type that does not accept aging, he doesn't know how to age quickly enough. It's not necessary to age too quickly because there's also another way of being a clown: acting the old man. The more one ages the less one wants to have bad encounters, but when one is young one leaps into the risk of the bad encounter. The type which, to the extent that his power of acting diminishes as a function of aging, his power of being affected varies, doesn't do it, continues to act the young man, is fascinating. It's very sad. There's a fascinating passage in one of Fitzgerald's novels (the water-ski episode [in Tender is the Night]), there are ten pages of total beauty on not knowing how to age...You know the spectacles which are not uncomfortable for the spectators themselves.
Knowing how to age is arriving at the moment when the common notions must make you comprehend in what way things and other bodies disagree with your own. Then inevitably it will be necessary to find a new grace which will be that of your age, above all not clinging to youth. It's a kind of wisdom. It's not the good health which makes one say “Live life as you please,” it's no longer the will to cling to life. Spinoza knew admirably well how to die, but he knew very well what he was capable of, he knew how to say “Piss off” [merde] to the other philosophers. Leibniz came to him to steal bits of manuscript in order to say afterward that they were his own. There are very curious stories about this, he was a dangerous man, Leibniz. I end by saying that at this second level, one attains the notion-idea where relations are combined, and once again this is not abstract since I've tried to say that it's an extraordinarily vital enterprise. One has left the passions behind. One has acquired formal possession of the power of acting. The formation of notions, which are not abstract ideas, which are literally rules of life, gives me possession of the power of acting. The common notions are the second kind of knowledge [connaissance]. In order to understand the third it's necessary already to understand the second. Only Spinoza has entered into the third kind. Above the common notions... You've noticed that while the common notions are not abstract, they are collective, they always refer to a multiplicity, but they're no less individual for that. They are the ways in which such and such bodies agree, at the limit they are the ways in which all bodies agree, but at that moment it's the whole world which is an individuality. Thus the common notions are always individual.
Beyond even the compositions of relations, beyond the internal agreements which define the common notions, there are the singular essences. What's the difference? It would be necessary to say that, at the limit, the relation and relations which characterize me express my singular essence, but nevertheless it's not the same thing. Why? Because the relation which characterizes me...what I'm saying here is not entirely in the text, but it's practically there... The common notions or the relations which characterize me still concern the extensive parts of my body. My body is composed of an infinity of parts extended to the infinite, and these parts enter into such and such relations which correspond to my essence but are not confused with my essence, for the relations which characterize me are still rules under which are associated, in movement and at rest, the extended parts of my body. Whereas the singular essence is a degree of power [puissance], that is to say these are my thresholds of intensity.
Between the lowest and the highest, between my birth and my death, these are my intensive thresholds. What Spinoza calls singular essence, it seems to me, is an intensive quality, as if each one of us were defined by a kind of complex of intensities which refers to her/his essence, and also of relations which regulate the extended parts, the extensive parts. So that, when I have knowledge [connaissance] of notions, that is to say of relations of movement and rest which regulate the agreement or disagreement of bodies from the point of view of their extended parts, from the point of view of their extension, I don't yet have full possession of my essence to the extent that it is intensity. And God, what's that? When Spinoza defines God as absolutely infinite power [puissance], he expresses himself well. All the terms that he explicitly employs: degree, which in Latin is gradus, refers to a long tradition in medieval philosophy. Gradus is the intensive quantity, in opposition to or differing from the extensive parts. Thus it would be necessary to conceive the singular essence of each one as this kind of intensity, or limit of intensity. It's singular because, whether it be our community of genera or species, we are all human for example, yet none of us has the same threshold.
to be continued...
The article is taken from:
by Terence Blake
Anyone who wonders about the right way to read Deleuze, about whether we should search for system and clarity in his works, should investigate the relation between his seminars and his written works.
Unfortunately we do not have transcriptions for most of his seminars of the 70s, save for a few exceptions. Basically we are limited to the last eight years of his teaching. This is a limited sample, but it is enough to get an idea of Deleuze’s conceptual style.
I was lucky enough to attend Deleuze’s seminars from 1980 to 1986, centered on minority struggle and war machines (treated in A THOUSAND PLATEAUS), cinema, and Foucault. I found the lectures clear, in that each subject was well-explained and that Deleuze replied patiently and pedagogically to most questions, and also obscure, in that the place of each concept or series of concepts in the overall system was not always evident.
The seminars had the temporality of a voyage of discovery. I remember Deleuze keeping a certain suspense. For example in the cinema classes, during the long discussion of the movement image referring tantalisingly to the possibility of a ifferent sort of image. Or in some of the Foucault seminars, ending the class by asking is this all there is, or is there something more?, before going on the next week to discuss how a new phase in the work and a new level of explanation was motivated by what went before.
The seminars gave you the experience of constantly discovering new ground, but with no overall map. So despite attending them assiduously I was also eager for the books to come out so I could gain even more clarity from the systematic overview they provided. The books are more difficult in the details, being conceptually dense and linguistically highly compressed, but more perspicuous in the framework provided.
My conclusion is the rather banal one that in Deleuze’s opus there is a trade-off between the (pedagogical) phenomenological clarity of the seminars and the systematic clarity of the books. This is a typological division, and one should not overemphasise the sites of its instantiations. It is easy to see the same sort of differences inside a single book, and the variable alternation between phenomenological and systematic exposition imparts its particular conceptual rhythm to each of Deleuze’s books.
Guillaume Collett suggests that this distinction of clarity and systematicity corresponds to Lacan’s distinction of speech and language. This is a valid connection on condition that we recall that in Deleuze’s terms there is sense, which resides in the pulsation between systematicity and phenomenology. The phenomenological “real-time discovery” (Adrian Martin’s expression) in the seminars is heuristic and diachronic, whereas the books are systematic and synchronic. Sense is in the movement of searching the system in heuristic process and in re-diachronising the system. This is how I understand Deleuze’s affirmation: “I believe in philosophy as system…For me the system must not only be in perpetual heterogeneity, it must be a heterogenesis, which, it seems to me, has never been attempted”.
In explaining a book, or a system, you re-diachronise it. The heterogenesis comes in for example with a term like “body without organs”, which changes in meaning from LOGIC OF SENSE to ANTI-OEDIPUS. Deleuze’s “system” is explicitly based on this process and its comprehension is based on us applying a similar process.
Note: I am indebted to a discussion with Guillaume Collett and Adrian Martin for helping me clarify my ideas here.
by Michael James
“The nihilist’s capacity to act is increased (what Nietzsche calls “spiritual vigour”) when the goals or missions that once directed you are no longer suitable; the nihilist begins as an existential exploration: discover your own challenges.”
– Glen Fuller
The liberating and invigorating spaces of reasoning, acting and becoming opened up by radical negational cognition are multitude. Instead of remaining content to reiterate centuries old maladaptive semiotic commitments and social enactments the advent of radically nihilistic thought violently breaks with contemporary assumptions and social norms. It is therefore long overdue that we begin to understand and present the advent of nihilism primarily as an opportunity for emancipation, experimentation, and creativity in the search for more adaptive living.
To do better in the task of living, relating and thinking we can continue to annihilate the dominant heuristic interpretations of our time, and reject those soothsayers who seem more interested in protecting the supposed sanctity of transcendental logos than coming to grips with the precariousness of life and the unreliability of all available maps to mitigate or guide it.
We might then ask, “how can nihilism activate the latent possibilities opened by the current ambient disorders?” To be sure, ‘nihilism’ has never existed as a unified objective condition or psychological mood, but rather as loosely organizing constellations of attitudes and references resulting from the large scale de-legitimization of certain forms of knowledge and practice viz. the rise scientific knowledge and methods, and the ongoing reality of corruption by both church and government.
This loss of legitimacy of both tradition and power afforded a creeping awareness and acknowledgement of the dissolution of the dominant modes of existing doxa (claims to truth, methodological faiths, social institutions, political regimes and cognitive orientations) which further eroded the docile acceptance of traditional semantic habits. Naturalism and new technologies have made older dogmas obsolete.
Nihilism is thus intellectual and emotional code for a growing awareness of the limits of belief and the futility of grand narrative gestures. And in the vacuum created by the subsequent retreat of ignorance, tradition, and doxic certainty our species is afforded a wide range of novel and potentially rewarding neurally instantiated possibility spaces for more adaptive cognition and communications – and so too for action, accommodation, and creative praxis.
Nihilism provides an opportunity to develop an awareness of our proximity to that which exceeds the symbolic – and that which there is no escape from: the non-human forces of the Real, both within the embodied matrix of self (as the ‘nonhuman-in-human’) and without (in “the great outdoors”). The myth of pure representation as mediator of the Real predicated on an assumed split between cognition and nature, between thought and world, died with natural science right alongside the supposed laughing Gods.
With the decline of doxa as a general mode of cognition the various clouds of symbolic projection begin to lift, affording us opportunities to become better acquainted with the deeply visceral and more directly consequential (pragmatic) aspects of the real. Embodied experience and sensibility become reinvigorated and open up as radical sites for self-organizing being and becoming differently in the world.
The first great pitfall from which such a radical standing by experience will save us is an artificial conception of the relations between knower and known. Throughout the history of philosophy the subject and its object have been treated as absolutely discontinuous entities; and thereupon the presence of the latter to the former, or the ‘apprehension’ by the former of the latter, has assumed a paradoxical character which all sorts of theories had to be invented to overcome. Representative theories put a mental ‘representation,’ ‘image,’ or ‘content’ into the gap, as a sort of intermediary. Common-sense theories left the gap untouched, declaring our mind able to clear it by a self-transcending leap. Transcendentalist theories left it impossible to traverse by finite knowers, and brought an Absolute in to perform the saltatory act. All the while, in the very bosom of the finite experience, every conjunction required to make the relation intelligible is given in full.
– William James, ‘A World of Pure Experience‘(1904)
We are reminded in every experience we have with finitude – with trauma, limit, decay, death, causality, affordance, pleasure, joy, and necessity – of our ontological embeddedness and kinship with-in those practical realms of affect, materiality, and subsistence which structure all that we are or aspire to be. The reality of embodied ecological life cuts through our narratives and disrupts our strategies in ways that fundamentally challenge us, while simultaneously affording us opportunities for existence. Ecology has triumphed over all varieties of Cartesianism.
The new openness and flexibility in thought afforded by the rejection of all forms of dogma and doxic cognition allow us to acquire and evolve new sense-abilities and skills for building from the ruins of our past failures and develop more adaptive ways to survive and generate joy. After nihilism we achieve deeper intimations with the real.
In the clearing enacted by nihilistic thought life and thought goes on. We must cope and make our way in the world even in the absence of all transcendent truths. We must consume and release energy and matter; we must shelter ourselves, cooperate, and procreate; we must make sense of, communicate, and navigate the world. In short, existence continues according to its own natures even in the absence of explanation and “absolute” signification.
The post-nihilist reactivation of explicit copings-with the pre-conceptual plane of immanent consistency offers a kind of zero-point realism that renders thinkable an auto-affective matrix within which all praxis operates. This matrix is the hyperreal ecological context of facticity that both pre-exists and survives all human desires for oversignification as well as the deflationary advent of nihilism.
“The fact that human cognition is heuristic, fractionate, and combinatory means that we should expect koans, puzzles, paradoxes, apories, and the like. We should expect that different systems possessing overlapping domains will come into conflict. We should expect them in the same way and for the same reason we should expect to encounter visual, auditory, and other kinds of systematic illusions. Because the brain picks out only the correlations it needs to predict its environments, cues predicting the systems requiring solution the way they need to be predicted to be solved. Given this, we should begin looking at traditional philosophy as a rich, discursive reservoir of pathologies, breakdowns providing information regarding the systems and misapplications involved. Like all corpses, meaning will provide a feast for worms.” – R.S. Bakker
There is no escaping reality. And the consequences of ignoring what it has to teach us about our own constructed and cherished commitments and values would just breed more ignorance and keep us trapped in the confusing logic of self-assuring naivety. Nihilism operates here as constant reminder and corrective to any tendency to rebuild our imaginaries, logics, and commitments in ignorance of this pre and non-discursive life.
Yet “nihilism” is still primarily just another code; it is a phantasy thrashing out signals hoping for some semblance of contact with the non-symbolic flesh of the world. Nihilism at it’s worst is a poetics of defeat and epistemic inaction, and at its most useful a temporary semantic and aesthetic placeholder allowing us to gain some traction towards integrating and synthesizing the dark insights of finitude, incompleteness, difference and ontological intimacy. Such insights force us to loosen our existential and conceptual grip on the ideological baggage following from centuries of ill-constructed narratives and begin to more readily accept the immanent challenges and opportunities of embodied ecological life.
So it is that nihilistic intelligence allows us to radically deconstruct our commitments and interests, leaving us to remake those commitments and interests in thick collaboration with the immanent (hyper)Real of pre-discursive life. The important corrective of perpetual negation and constant re-emphasis (via new sensory and cognitive registers) must be retained, however, if those makings are to provide a qualitative difference for developing more adaptive modes of existing-coping.
“‘positive unbelief’ – a provisionalizing of any reality frame in the name of pragmatic engagement rather than epistemological hesitation…”
Such post-nihilist sensibilities (sense-abilities) render us more capable of attaining awareness of and registering the possibility spaces that open as the various flow systems and assemblages, at both epistemic and structural levels, continue to collapse and/or transform. Nihilistic maturity is then a translating of an awareness of the limits of signification and futility of certainty in a radically disordered world-context into a conceptually open willingness to end the various games of detached self-enchantment that keep us from enacting healthier and more creative lives and worlds.
So if we cannot escape reality what are we to make of it? What are we to do after the advent and acceptance of nihilistic wisdom? That is, how are we to live as post-nihilists?
Initially, the way seems too dark to proceed. Absolute knowledge is replaced by a (more or less) confusing but immediate familiarity with wild complexes of multi-scaled forces, assemblages, and flows. Contentious temporal consensus and solidarities replace certainty, truth, and institutionalization. We find ourselves in translation and thrown into material and cognitive fields of probability and precariousness. We post-nihilists are forced to begin anew halfway upon the journey of our personal, epistemic and collective lives.
However we do so not in isolation. We are forced to move forward in the ruins of old dogmas and cultural illusions, of broken institutions and arbitrary practices, and among the scattered debris of an aberrant civilization. As we limit our dependence on and deployment of the doxas and fantasies of pre-nihilist life the retreat of superflous intentional thought and expressions, and the ideological commitments they anchor, opens up emergent possibilities for cognition and praxis.
The nihilist insights leading to any post-nihilist will to empowerment and praxis is also enacted as a type of coming to our senses: motivated by the deemphasis of representation and semantic association in favor of a re-engagement of embodied knowing and appreciation of the visceral intensities of life. And as we begin to reconcile with the Real – with the tangled creeping flesh and intensive flows of transcorporeality – we may forge new productive and enriching alliances with the potencies, affordances and opportunities of ecological life.
Whereas nihilism is a reactive negational realization entailing destruktion and dissolution, the subsequent post-nihilist move is an active attitudinal disposition and set of practices that necessitates creation. After deterritorialization comes reterritorialization – everywhere and endlessly. In order to survive and thrive the post-nihilist position is thus inherently sensitive to possibility and creation.
The practical advantages and adaptations of exploring such possibilities are too important to be explained away. Cultural commitments that have bound us to our current ecologies of practice can now be exchanged in favor of more collaborative and context specific forms of inquiry and action. The possibility of salvaging and remaking whole fields of knowledge, methodology, discourse, participation, and praxis to more adaptively align with our social and ecological needs and goals is at stake. There is an urgency with which we must respond to challenges of Anthropocene life.
“God is dead”, and yet even as many of us celebrate this development we remain intoxicated by the idea of gods. We continue to drink the electric kool-aid of ideology and concoct potent cocktails of compromising certainty. Culture-shocking drunkards stumble from town to city, from field to forest, slurring our media with toxic information and distracting images.
While others seek new intoxications that might allow them to cling to the old certainties, principles, axioms and nostalgias, those of us no longer hung over from God’s colossal wake remain content only in forging new worlds. Our species does not need more toxins, ‘isms’, nor cathedrals – even if they are coated in a soothing logic of norms and predicates.
Praxis is what always sustains us. Knowing how to find our way in the world and continue to exist has demonstrably more traction than knowing that things are they way we organize them (often mistakenly) schematically. We have been intoxicated and impaired by a unchecked commitment to the myriad of motivating and dictating stories (and all the minor and unequally distributed successes those allowed) since the beginning of sedentary culture. Now excess and abuse of those same stories and practices are finally collapsing, allowing us to confront the consequences of our addiction to ourselves. And with that change becomes possible.
The nihilist-to-post-nihilist move is an adaptive mutation of a species that has been dangerously and delusionally distracted by awkward patchworks of desire-infused semiotic feedback loops for far too long. We can mutate and become more sensitive to the myriad of ways we can better equip ourselves to resist our own ideological successes in order to confront our practical failures. What we need is a perpetual disillusionment and self-intervention that fosters brave new pragmatisms, technic supplements, and animal becomings. What we need is post-nihilist praxis.
The article is taken from:
by Arran James
The activist, whose phantom subject consciousness is defined by its vain wounds, collects injuries by throwing its body at a motionless objectivity, these are my chains, see how they chafe, this is my cage, how the shadows of its bars fall across me; Jesus and Rome. Anti-capitalism is a freak show, a wound parade.
(Du Pont 2001)
In the accelerationist manifesto a lot is made of what we could call activist automatism. This kind of automatism operates a lot like the cognitive heuristics that we use in our day to day lives and which form a kind of default operating system for how we navigate the world. In terms of environmental information these heuristics allow us to do the low-calorie low-effort work of gliding through most of our everyday world without having to make purposeful deliberative judgements about the majority of objects and situations we’re involved in. They consist of all our cognitive biases and our unconscious mechanisms for jumping-to-roughly-the-right-conclusions, at least as far as our pragmatic orientation to the world is concerned. We might suppose that there exists what my colleague in the Madness Solidarity network calls a kind of activist conditioning. In part I read this to indicate the ideological and practical biases that we have developed through repeated exposures.
If this sounds very behavioural, it is because behaviourism offers us a remarkably clear language for talking about how conditioning occurs- which shouldn’t surprise anyone given that behavioural psychology inaugurated conditioning-talk. However, we can also add to the mix a kind of transferential mesh. Just as the family gives rise to a series of imaginary identifications, rivalries, jealousies, and a series of other aggressive tendencies, so to politics can produce its own imaginaries. This isn’t necessarily even limited to full blown activist; why shouldn’t it also affect people on the side-lines, people like myself who have always had a marginal place in activist circles. Maybe half the time it isn’t symbolic systems that clash between political groups and orientations but their imaginal caricatures of each other, which in term reshape each other in by their interactions, and which bear themselves out materially, which is where it counts, in the layers and sequences of inducements they enact on each other. We could learn a political lesson from the psychoanalyst who doesn’t presume to know what the neurotic’s speech means; or what the communicative system in which the psychotic emerged looks like, how it operates, how the noise and the signal envelope each other, until implicit inducements are impossible to view from the first-person position.
For a while now many of us have been critical of the politics of escape. The left has been involved for too long in strategies of withdrawal and succession- from Tiqqun’s invisibility to Virno’s exodus, to Bifo’s senile withdrawal and any of the other idealist ideas about escaping from capitalism. The Accelerationist Manifesto states that it is sick of our forms of protest. I can’t disagree one bit with the idea that
the habitual tactics of marching, holding signs, and establishing temporary autonomous zones risk becoming comforting substitutes for effective success
(Williams and Srnicek 2013).
I’ve held this line since I was a philosophy undergrad nearly 10 years ago. But then, I don’t know many people who don’t agree with this. The attempt to harness an aesthetic of disappearance to avoid detection by power- to exist in the cracks- is a withdrawal not just from capitalism but from antagonism, from any kind of attempt to conduct a struggle, and so is to renounce that struggle even as others attempt to continue the fight. The traditional Marxists, the idiots in the Parties who still believe in a parliamentary victory, a seizure of the state, or those who stupidly picket government departments and corporations, who form organisations like Citizens First or the People’s Assembly, or who occupy factories in order and go on to enact worker’s self-management, the people who engage in direct actions and declare themselves their authors…what a lot of idiots! At the risk of psychologising things, this is how I read the spirit of the politics of secession. This is a straight up betrayal of the struggle against capitalism- which we can call communism- despite its any of its clever formulations about the Young Girl or the distance from the state. In a way it is the ultimate form of negative solidarity, the phenomena that says “hey, if those workers are getting a better deal than me then fuck them! To fucking right destroy the unions and put them in their place!” Beyond a passivity and a refusal to take action, exodus seems to almost be an active complicity in the repression of struggle. In fact we could even suggest that it is itself another kind of negation after the model of Lacanian foreclosure.
As an explanation of psychosis we could say a lot about the concept of foreclosure, including place significant doubts on its reality. As a political concept I think there is something to say for it. Lacan’s use of the term foreclosure is taken from the work of a couple of French linguists who used it to indicate that something has been exiled from the field of possible appearance. In this linguistic sense this means that some element of a field of possibility which could appear is implicitly denied the right of appearance. Some possible object in a given field is thereby barred from being actualised within that field. To take an example, we could say that the object is a given action and the field is a given situation. For the object to be foreclosed it is necessary that the action be forbidden from being carried out within situation.
This is how the knotted nexus of asymmetrical transferential projections work in Laing’s studies of communication in psychotic families. In their analysis of ‘The Churches’ Laing and Esterton record hours of interviews with a young schizophrenic woman- Claire- and her parents, with this triad of elements being interviewed in different permutations (with 15 recordings of Claire and her mother alone). Laing and Esterton give us selected parts of the transcripts of these records complete with analysis. Although they don’t use the term foreclosure- and although examples may better translate to disavowal in clinical terms- Laing and Esterton do provide us with some examples of the phenomena in action. For instance when Claire states that ‘”I’ve never been able to express myself clearly”‘ (Laing and Esterton 1990, 85), the mother replies ‘”Yes, yes…now I’ll continue…’ and goes on talking about something quite aside from her daughter’s feelings and her admission that she has felt unable to express them. She actually enacts the force that prevents Claire from expressing herself. In fact Claire’s mother actually tells Claire that she has always been able to express herself , that she wishes Claire had expressed herself more, and that Claire had been a “good girl” for not making a fuss like other children, that she ‘always struck me as a very contented child’ (1990, 85). In their commentary, Laing and Esterton (1990) point out how confusing this kind of situation is:
Claire was not told she was bad to feel X; or forbidden to feel X; or openly threatened or punished for feeling X. She was simply told that she felt Y. What happens to the person who is the recipient of attributions of this kind from the earliest years? (87).
This is only a quick example, and Laing and Esterton go into much more detail in their text, and Laing complicated things much further in The politic of the family. For now we can simply see that the mother forecloses the possibility of Claire feeling a certain way, and also prevents the discovery of this foreclosure. We all experience and engage in this all the time: you aren’t the kind of person who likes porn; you’re not depressed, you’re just down in the dumps; I know you wouldn’t do X to me…etc.
In Lacan foreclosure is a little different, referring to the failure of the Master signifier- the name-of-the-father– to be brought into the symbolic order and thus to structure the symbolic order in such a way that it overwrote both the aggressive imaginary and ordered the chaos of the organismic body. Prior to the entrance into the symbolic order the body is a libidinous storm with the drives attaching wherever and to whatever they want so that the entire surface is of that body is a writhing tangle of erotic energy. Prior to the entrance into the symbolic order, into language, there is no way of ordering the body and of resolving the conflicts of an imaginary that sets child against father. Everything is this chaos, about which we are a long way from DeleuzoGuattarian replies. That there is no ordering of the body also means that there is no consistent ordering of the psychic structure and no anchor point for the linguistic to take permanent root. This is what leaves the psychotic vulnerable to the psychotic break that is the sudden explosion of the phenomenality of psychosis from its dormant state which threatens disintegration.
The unconcious is structured like a language and the name-of-the-father is the cornerstone of that structure, the brick upon which the entire psychic edifice will be built, and so is the element that determines whether the subject will be more-or-less sane and functional or whether they will sink into the abject delirium of paranoia. With nothing to carve up the body into heirarchised functional units, nothing to cement the organs into their operations, there is nothing to stop the sense of self from slipping away from the skin, dissolving into the world, with the fundamental dichotomy of self and other falling apart. Suffice to say, with foreclosure the paternal signifier never comes to operate as the formative mechanism of the subject. The signifier of signifiers that effects the distributions of reality never performs its work with a sense that the psychotic only ever has a simulation of reality, where that term designates the consensual hallucination of the world that can be spoken about.
This falls far short of exhausting what Lacan says about psychosis, but I think it may be enough to give a general picture of what the foreclosure is about. For a little textual support:
It is in an accident in this register [the signifying chain/symbolic order/language] and in what takes place in it namely, the foreclosure of the name-of the-father in the place of the Other, and in the failure of the paternal metaphor, that I designate the defect that gives psychosis its essential condition, and the structure that separates it from neurosis.
(Lacan 1977, 238).
I want to put forward the suggestion that exodus operates in politics in an analogous fashion as the operation of foreclosure does in the unconscious. Where Guattari would suggest that the linguistic indeterminacy of psychosis was actually an exuberant escape from the subjugation of the signifier, the politics of exodus are marked far less by this exuberance as they are by flat out withdrawal. Its true that withdrawal is coded as one of the negative symptoms of psychosis and that at one time it was thought of as a primarily symptom of schizophrenia, today we’re much more familiar with withdrawal as a depressive symptom. It marks the collapse into oneself that is the dark autoaffection of despair. What is foreclosed in the politics of withdrawal? What is it that is barred from registering in the political register? It is the very founding moment of politics: conflict. In fact it is politics itself that is foreclosed from the political field. The practice of worker’s control that marks the seizure of the infrastructures of production is what is foreclosed, as is the idea that we could take control of the machines, that we could make the new machinism work for us, putting automation into the service of displacing toil out of human hands. What Mark Fisher calls the “phobic reaction” to the Promethean desire of the accelerationists is the symptom of this foreclosure. This isn’t just to say that there is a post-political time but to say that there is a time in which politics cannot even appear. Instead their is tending to the squat, the community garden, the return of small scale production, and so on. For Tiqqun this kind of critique is one marked by the elitism that is betrayed in the
veiled contempt with which they talk about the worries of The People, and which allows them to go from the unemployed person to the illegal immigrant, from the striker to the prostitute without ever putting themselves at risk — their contempt is that obvious
And yet the politics of withdrawal and exodus aren’t local in the sense that they stay with the unemployed, the immigrant, the striker and the prostitute, because these are people are precisely ‘already there’ in the struggle, whose everyday life is the struggle fought on the basis of survival. The gesture of withdrawal is a subtraction of struggle from the struggle so that only survival survives: that is, there is no interest in making the various survival strategies of these disparate groups resonate with one another. Survival becomes the sin qua non as the ex-revolutionaries disappear. Survival- what Vaneigem called ‘life in slow motion’, but where is the negation of despair? Instead of that we get the machismo of the young Tiqqun militant who will ‘put themselves at risk’ for the prostitute in the ultimate act of white knighting. In my writing on mental health I’ve suggested the importance of the sharing of wounds, but here, in the activist automatism there is in fact the on-going ritual of self-harm. Just as in Lacan the foreclosed signifier returns in the Real, so to the foreclosure of politics results in a return from the outside.
Even the person who gave the temporary autonomous zone its name- Hakim Bey- long since discarded the idea that we can simply just withdraw:
Less than a decade ago it was still possible to think of the “enemy” as the Planetary Work Machine, or the Spectacle — & therefore to think of resistance under the rubric of withdrawal or even escape. No great mysterious veil separated us from our will to imagine other forms of production, ludic & autonomous, or other form of representation, authentic & pleasurable. The obvious goal was to form (or sustain) alternative nuclei based on the implementation of such forms, deploying resistance as a tactic in defence of these zones (whether temporary or permanent). In aikido there’s no such thing as offense — one simply removes oneself from the force of an attack, whereupon the attacker’s force turns against itself & defeats itself. Capitalism actually lost some ground to these tactics, in part because it was susceptible to “third force” strategies, and in part because as an ideology it remained unable to deal with its own inner contradictions (“democracy” for example).
Now the situation has changed. Capitalism is freed of its own ideological armoring & need no longer concede space to any “third force”. Although the founder of aikido could dodge bullets, no one can stand aside from the onslaught of a power that occupies the whole extent of tactical space. Escapism is possible for the “third guest, the parasite”, but not for the sole opponent. Capitalism is now at liberty to declare war & deal directly as enemies with all former “alternatives” (including “democracy”). In this sense we have not chosen ourselves as opposition — we have been chosen (HB).
Is accelerationism simply the return of antagonism? The escape from escaping. As ever, these are underdeveloped notes…flashes that might be picked up again, or not.
Dupont, M. 2001. Your face is so mysteriously kind. Here.
Hakim Bey, 1996. Millenium. Here.
Lacan, J. 1977. Ecrits: A selection. London: Tavistock Publications.
Laing, RD., and Esterton, A. 1990. Sanity, madness and the family. London: Penguin.
Laing, RD. 1976. The politics of the family, and other essays. London: Pelican.
Tiqqun. 20xx. The Call. Here.
Williams, A., and Srnicek. 2013. Accelerate Manifesto for an accelerationist politics. Here.
The article is taken from:
LECTURES BY GILLES DELEUZE
Today we pause in our work on continuous variation to return temporarily, for one session, to the history of philosophy, on a very precise point. It's like a break, at the request of some of you. This very precise point concerns the following: what is an idea and what is an affect in Spinoza? Idea and affect in Spinoza. During March, at the request of some of you, we will also take a break to consider the problem of synthesis and the problem of time in Kant.
For me, this produces a curious effect of returning to history. I would almost like for you to take this bit of history of philosophy as a history tout court. After all, a philosopher is not only someone who invents notions, he also perhaps invents ways of perceiving. I will proceed largely by enumeration. I will begin chiefly with terminological remarks. I assume that the room is relatively mixed. I believe that, of all the philosophers of whom the history of philosophy speaks to us, Spinoza is in a quite exceptional situation: the way he touches those who enter into his books has no equivalent.
It matters little whether you've read him or not, for I'm telling a story. I begin with some terminological cautions. In Spinoza's principal book, which is called the Ethics and which is written in Latin, one finds two words: AFFECTIO and AFFECTUS. Some translators, quite strangely, translate both in the same way. This is a disaster. They translate both terms, affectio and affectus, by “affection.” I call this a disaster because when a philosopher employs two words, it's because in principle he has reason to, especially when French easily gives us two words which correspond rigorously to affectio and affectus, that is “affection” for affectio and “affect” for affectus. Some translators translate affectio as “affection” and affectus as “feeling” [sentiment], which is better than translating both by the same word, but I don't see the necessity of having recourse to the word “feeling” since French offers the word “affect.” Thus when I use the word “affect” it refers to Spinoza's affectus, and when I say the word “affection,” it refers to affectio.
First point: what is an idea? What must an idea be, in order for us to comprehend even Spinoza's simplest propositions? On this point Spinoza is not original, he is going to take the word “idea” in the sense in which everyone has always taken it. What is called an idea, in the sense in which everyone has always taken it in the history of philosophy, is a mode of thought which represents something. A representational mode of thought. For example, the idea of a triangle is the mode of thought which represents the triangle. Still from the terminological point of view, it's quite useful to know that since the Middle Ages this aspect of the idea has been termed its “objective reality.” In texts from the 17th century and earlier, when you encounter the objective reality of the idea this always means the idea envisioned as representation of something. The idea, insofar as it represents something, is said to have an objective reality. It is the relation of the idea to the object that it represents.
Thus we start from a quite simple thing: the idea is a mode of thought defined by its representational character. This already gives us a first point of departure for distinguishing idea and affect (affectus) because we call affect any mode of thought which doesn't represent anything. So what does that mean? Take at random what anybody would call affect or feeling, a hope for example, a pain, a love, this is not representational. There is an idea of the loved thing, to be sure, there is an idea of something hoped for, but hope as such or love as such represents nothing, strictly nothing.
Every mode of thought insofar as it is non-representational will be termed affect. A volition, a will implies, in all rigor, that I will something, and what I will is an object of representation, what I will is given in an idea, but the fact of willing is not an idea, it is an affect because it is a non-representational mode of thought. That works, it's not complicated.
He thereby immediately infers a primacy of the idea over the affect, and this is common to the whole 17th century, so we have not yet entered into what is specific to Spinoza. There is a primacy of the idea over the affect for the very simple reason that in order to love it's necessary to have an idea, however confused it may be, however indeterminate it may be, of what is loved.
In order to will it's necessary to have an idea, however confused or indeterminate it may be, of what is willed. Even when one says “I don't know what I feel,” there is a representation, confused though it may be, of the object. There is a confused idea. There is thus a primacy, which is chronological and logical at the same time, of the idea over the affect, which is to say a primacy of representational modes of thought over non-representational modes. It would be a completely disastrous reversal of meaning if the reader were to transform this logical primacy through reduction. That the affect presupposes the idea above all does not mean that it is reduced to the idea or to a combination of ideas. We must proceed from the following point, that idea and affect are two kinds of modes of thought which differ in nature, which are irreducible to one another but simply taken up in a relation such that affect presupposes an idea, however confused it may be. This is the first point.
Now a second, less superficial way of presenting the idea-affect relation. You will recall that we started from a very simple characteristic of the idea. The idea is a thought insofar as it is representational, a mode of thought insofar as it is representational, and in this sense we will speak of the objective reality of an idea. Yet an idea not only has an objective reality but, following the hallowed terminology, it also has a formal reality. What is the formal reality of the idea? Once we say that the objective reality is the reality of the idea insofar as it represents something, the formal reality of the idea, shall we say, is—but then in one blow it becomes much more complicated and much more interesting—the reality of the idea insofar as it is itself something.
The objective reality of the idea of the triangle is the idea of the triangle insofar as it represents the triangle as thing, but the idea of the triangle is itself something; moreover, insofar as it is something, I can form an idea of this thing, I can always form an idea of the idea. I would say therefore that not only is every idea something—to say that every idea is the idea of something is to say that every idea has an objective reality, it represents something—but I would also say that the idea has a formal reality since it is itself something insofar as it is an idea.
What does this mean, the formal reality of the idea? We will not be able to continue very much further at this level, we are going to have to put this aside. It's necessary just to add that this formal reality of the idea will be what Spinoza very often terms a certain degree of reality or of perfection that the idea has as such. As such, every idea has a certain degree of reality or perfection. Undoubtedly this degree of reality or perfection is connected to the object that it represents, but it is not to be confused with the object: that is, the formal reality of the idea, the thing the idea is or the degree of reality or perfection it possesses in itself, is its intrinsic character. The objective reality of the idea, that is the relation of the idea to the object it represents, is its extrinsic character; the extrinsic character and the intrinsic character may be fundamentally connected, but they are not the same thing. The idea of God and the idea of a frog have different objective realities, that is they do not represent the same thing, but at the same time they do not have the same intrinsic reality, they do not have the same formal reality, that is one of them—you sense this quite well—has a degree of reality infinitely greater than the other's. The idea of God has a formal reality, a degree of reality or intrinsic perfection infinitely greater than the idea of a frog, which is the idea of a finite thing.
If you understood that, you've understood almost everything. There is thus a formal reality of the idea, which is to say the idea is something in itself; this formal reality is its intrinsic character and is the degree of reality or perfection that it envelopes in itself.
Just now, when I defined the idea by its objective reality or its representational character, I opposed the idea immediately to the affect by saying that affect is precisely a mode of thought which has no representational character. Now I come to define the idea by the following: every idea is something, not only is it the idea of something but it is something, that is to say it has a degree of reality which is proper to it. Thus at this second level I must discover a fundamental difference between idea and affect. What happens concretely in life? Two things happen... And here, it's curious how Spinoza employs a geometrical method, you know that the Ethics is presented in the form of propositions, demonstrations, etc.... and yet at the same time, the more mathematical it is, the more extraordinarily concrete.
Everything I am saying and all these commentaries on the idea and the affect refer to books two and three of the Ethics. In books two and three, he makes for us a kind of geometrical portrait of our life which, it seems to me, is very very convincing. This geometrical portrait consists largely in telling us that our ideas succeed each other constantly: one idea chases another, one idea replaces another idea for example, in an instant. A perception is a certain type of idea, we will see why shortly. Just now I had my head turned there, I saw that corner of the room, I turn...it's another idea; I walk down a street where I know people, I say “Hello Pierre” and then I turn and say “Hello Paul.” Or else things change: I look at the sun, and the sun little by little disappears and I find myself in the dark of night; it is thus a series of successions, of coexistences of ideas, successions of ideas. But what also happens? Our everyday life is not made up solely of ideas which succeed each other. Spinoza employs the term “automaton”: we are, he says, spiritual automata, that is to say it is less we who have the ideas than the ideas which are affirmed in us. What also happens, apart from this succession of ideas? There is something else, that is, something in me never ceases to vary. There is a regime of variation which is not the same thing as the succession of ideas themselves.
“Variations” must serve us for what we want to do, the trouble is that he doesn't employ the word... What is this variation? I take up my example again: in the street I run into Pierre, for whom I feel hostility, I pass by and say hello to Pierre, or perhaps I am afraid of him, and then I suddenly see Paul who is very very charming, and I say hello to Paul reassuredly and contentedly. Well. What is it? In part, succession of two ideas, the idea of Pierre and the idea of Paul; but there is something else: a variation also operates in me—on this point, Spinoza's words are very precise and I cite them: (variation) of my force of existing, or another word he employs as a synonym: vis existendi, the force of existing, or potentia agendi, the power [puissance] of acting, and these variations are perpetual.
I would say that for Spinoza there is a continuous variation—and this is what it means to exist—of the force of existing or of the power of acting.
How is this linked to my stupid example, which comes, however, from Spinoza, “Hello Pierre, hello Paul”? When I see Pierre who displeases me, an idea, the idea of Pierre, is given to me; when I see Paul who pleases me, the idea of Paul is given to me. Each one of these ideas in relation to me has a certain degree of reality or perfection. I would say that the idea of Paul, in relation to me, has more intrinsic perfection than the idea of Pierre since the idea of Paul contents me and the idea of Pierre upsets me. When the idea of Paul succeeds the idea of Pierre, it is agreeable to say that my force of existing or my power of acting is increased or improved; when, on the contrary, the situation is reversed, when after having seen someone who made me joyful I then see someone who makes me sad, I say that my power of acting is inhibited or obstructed. At this level we don't even know anymore if we are still working within terminological conventions or if we are already moving into something much more concrete.
I would say that, to the extent that ideas succeed each other in us, each one having its own degree of perfection, its degree of reality or intrinsic perfection, the one who has these ideas, in this case me, never stops passing from one degree of perfection to another. In other words there is a continuous variation in the form of an increase-diminution-increase-diminution of the power of acting or the force of existing of someone according to the ideas which s/he has. Feel how beauty shines through this difficult exercise. This representation of existence already isn't bad, it really is existence in the street, it's necessary to imagine Spinoza strolling about, and he truly lives existence as this kind of continuous variation: to the extent that an idea replaces another, I never cease to pass from one degree of perfection to another, however miniscule the difference, and this kind of melodic line of continuous variation will define affect (affectus) in its correlation with ideas and at the same time in its difference in nature from ideas. We account for this difference in nature and this correlation. It's up to you to say whether it agrees with you or not. We have got an entirely more solid definition of affectus; affectus in Spinoza is variation (he is speaking through my mouth; he didn't say it this way because he died too young...), continuous variation of the force of existing, insofar as this variation is determined by the ideas one has.
Consequently, in a very important text at the end of book three, which bears the title “general definition of affectus,” Spinoza tells us: above all do not believe that affectus as I conceive it depends upon a comparison of ideas. He means that the idea indeed has to be primary in relation to the affect, the idea and the affect are two things which differ in nature, the affect is not reducible to an intellectual comparison of ideas, affect is constituted by the lived transition or lived passage from one degree of perfection to another, insofar as this passage is determined by ideas; but in itself it does not consist in an idea, but rather constitutes affect. When I pass from the idea of Pierre to the idea of Paul, I say that my power of acting is increased; when I pass from the idea of Paul to the idea of Pierre, I say that my power of acting is diminished. Which comes down to saying that when I see Pierre, I am affected with sadness; when I see Paul, I am affected with joy. And on this melodic line of continuous variation constituted by the affect, Spinoza will assign two poles: joy-sadness, which for him will be the fundamental passions. Sadness will be any passion whatsoever which involves a diminution of my power of acting, and joy will be any passion involving an increase in my power of acting. This conception will allow Spinoza to become aware, for example, of a quite fundamental moral and political problem which will be his way of posing the political problem to himself: how does it happen that people who have power [pouvoir], in whatever domain, need to affect us in a sad way? The sad passions as necessary. Inspiring sad passions is necessary for the exercise of power. And Spinoza says, in the Theological-Political Treatise, that this is a profound point of connection between the despot and the priest—they both need the sadness of their subjects. Here you understand well that he does not take sadness in a vague sense, he takes sadness in the rigorous sense he knew to give it: sadness is the affect insofar as it involves the diminution of my power of acting.
When I said, in my first attempt to differentiate idea and affect (that the idea is the mode of thought which represents nothing [?]), that the affect is the mode of thought which represents nothing, I said in technical terms that this is not only a simple nominal definition, nor, if you prefer, only an external or extrinsic one.
In the second attempt, when I say on the other hand that the idea is that which has in itself an intrinsic reality, and the affect is the continuous variation or passage from one degree of reality to another or from one degree of perfection to another, we are no longer in the domain of so-called nominal definitions, here we already acquire a real definition, that is a definition which, at the same time as it defines the thing, also shows the very possibility of this thing. What is important is that you see how, according to Spinoza, we are fabricated as such spiritual automata. As such spiritual automata, within us there is the whole time of ideas which succeed one another, and in according with this succession of ideas, our power of acting or force of existing is increased or diminished in a continuous manner, on a continuous line, and this is what we call affectus, it's what we call existing.
Affectus is thus the continuous variation of someone's force of existing, insofar as this variation is determined by the ideas that s/he has. But once again, “determined” does not mean that the variation is reducible to the ideas that one has, since the idea that I have does not account for its consequence, that is the fact that it increases my power of acting or on the contrary diminishes it in relation to the idea that I had at the time, and it's not a question of comparison, it's a question of a kind of slide, a fall or rise in the power of acting. No problem, no question.
For Spinoza there will be three sorts of ideas. For the moment, we will no longer speak of affectus, of affect, since in effect the affect is determined by the ideas which one has, it's not reducible to the ideas one has, it is determined by the ideas one has; thus what is essential is to see which ideas are the ones which determine the affects, always keeping in mind the fact that the affect is not reducible to the ideas one has, it's absolutely irreducible. It's of another order. The three kinds of ideas that Spinoza distinguishes are affection (affectio) ideas; we'll see that affectio, as opposed to affectus, is a certain kind of idea. There would thus have been in the first place affectio ideas, secondly we arrive at the ideas that Spinoza calls notions, and thirdly, for a small number of us because it's very difficult, we come to have essence ideas. Before everything else there are these three sorts of ideas.
What is an affection (affectio)? I see your faces literally fall... yet this is all rather amusing. At first sight, and to stick to the letter of Spinoza's text, this has nothing to do with an idea, but it has nothing to do with an affect either. Affectus was determined as the continuous variation of the power of acting. An affection is what? In a first determination, an affection is the following: it's a state of a body insofar as it is subject to the action of another body. What does this mean? “I feel the sun on me,” or else “A ray of sunlight falls upon you”; it's an affection of your body. What is an affection of your body? Not the sun, but the action of the sun or the effect of the sun on you. In other words an effect, or the action that one body produces on another, once it's noted that Spinoza, on the basis of reasons from his Physics, does not believe in action at a distance, action always implies a contact, and is even a mixture of bodies. Affectio is a mixture of two bodies, one body which is said to act on another, and the other receives the trace of the first. Every mixture of bodies will be termed an affection. Spinoza infers from this that affectio, being defined as a mixture of bodies, indicates the nature of the modified body, the nature of the affectionate or affected body, the affection indicates the nature of the affected body much more than it does the nature of the affecting body. He analyses his famous example, “I see the sun as a flat disk situated at a distance of three hundred feet.” That's an affectio, or at very least the perception of an affectio. It's clear that my perception of the sun indicates much more fully the constitution of my body, the way in which my body is constituted, than it does the way in which the sun is constituted. I perceive the sun in this fashion by virtue of the state of my visual perceptions. A fly will perceive the sun in another fashion.
In order to preserve the rigor of his terminology, Spinoza will say that an affectio indicates the nature of the modified body rather than the nature of the modifying body, and it envelopes the nature of the modifying body. I would say that the first sort of ideas for Spinoza is every mode of thought which represents an affection of the body...which is to say the mixture of one body with another body, or the trace of another body on my body will be termed an idea of affection. It's in this sense that one could say that it is an affection-idea, the first type of ideas. And this first type of ideas answers to what Spinoza terms the first kind of knowledge [connaissance], the lowest.
Why is it the lowest? It's obvious that it's the lowest because these ideas of affection know [connaissent] things only by their effects: I feel the affection of the sun on me, the trace of the sun on me. It's the effect of the sun on my body. But the causes, that is, that which is my body, that which is the body of the sun, and the relation between these two bodies such that the one produces a particular effect on the other rather than something else, of these things I know [sais] absolutely nothing. Let's take another example: “The sun melts wax and hardens clay.” These points are not nothing. They're ideas of affectio. I see the wax which flows, and right beside it I see the clay which hardens; this is an affection of the wax and an affection of the clay, and I have an idea of these affections, I perceive effects. By virtue of what corporeal constitution does the clay harden under the sun's action? As long as I remain in the perception of affection, I know nothing of it. One could say that affection-ideas are representations of effects without their causes, and it's precisely these that Spinoza calls inadequate ideas. These are ideas of mixture separated from the causes of the mixture.
And in effect, the fact that, at the level of affection-ideas, we have only inadequate and confused ideas is well understood for what are affection-ideas in the order of life? And doubtless, alas, many among us who have not done enough philosophy live only like that. Once, only once, Spinoza employs a Latin word which is quite strange but very important: occursus. Literally this is the encounter. To the extent that I have affection-ideas I live chance encounters: I walk in the street, I see Pierre who does not please me, it's the function of the constitution of his body and his soul and the constitution of my body and my soul. Someone who displeases me, body and soul, what does that mean? I would like to make you understand why Spinoza has had such a strong reputation for materialism even though he never ceases to speak of the mind and the soul, a reputation for atheism even though he never ceases to speak of God, it's quite curious. One sees quite well why people have said that this is purely materialist. When I say “This one does not please me,” that means, literally, that the effect of his body on mine, the effect of his soul on mine affects me disagreeably, it is the mixture of bodies or mixture of souls. There is a noxious mixture or a good mixture, as much at the level of the body as at that of the soul.
It's exactly like this: “I don't like cheese.” What does that mean, “I don't like cheese”? That means that it mixes with my body in a manner by which I am modified disagreeably, it cannot mean anything else. Thus there isn't any reason to make up differences between spiritual sympathies and bodily relations. In “I don't like cheese” there is also an affair of the soul, but in “Pierre or Paul does not please me” there is also an affair of the body, all this is tantamount to the same thing. To put it simply, why is this a confused idea, this affection-idea, this mixture—it is inevitably confused and inadequate since I don't know absolutely, at this level, by virtue of what and how the body or the soul of Pierre is constituted, in what way it does not agree with mine, or in what way his body does not agree with mine. I can merely say that it does not agree with me, but by virtue of what constitution of the two bodies, of the affecting body and the affected body, of the body which acts and the body which is subjected, I can at this level know nothing. As Spinoza says, these are consequences separated from their premises or, if you prefer, it is a knowledge [connaissance] of effects independent of the knowledge of causes. Thus they are chance encounters. What can happen in chance encounters?
But what is a body? I'm not going to develop that, that may be the object of a special course. The theory of what a body or even a soul is, which comes down to the same thing, is found in book two of the Ethics. For Spinoza, the individuality of a body is defined by the following: it's when a certain composite or complex relation (I insist on that point, quite composite, very complex) of movement and rest is preserved through all the changes which affect the parts of the body. It's the permanence of a relation of movement and rest through all the changes which affect all the parts, taken to infinity, of the body under consideration. You understand that a body is necessarily composite to infinity. My eye, for example, my eye and the relative constancy of my eye are defined by a certain relation of movement and rest through all the modifications of the diverse parts of my eye; but my eye itself, which already has an infinity of parts, is one part among the parts of my body, the eye in its turn is a part of the face and the face, in its turn, is a part of my body, etc....thus you have all sorts of relations which will be combined with one another to form an individuality of such and such degree. But at each one of these levels or degrees, individuality will be defined by a certain relation composed of movement and rest.
What can happen if my body is made this way, a certain relation of movement and rest which subsumes an infinity of parts? Two things can happen: I eat something that I like, or else another example, I eat something and collapse, poisoned. Literally speaking, in the one case I had a good encounter and in the other I had a bad one. All this is in the category of occursus. When I have a bad encounter, this means that the body which is mixed with mine destroys my constituent relation, or tends to destroy one of my subordinate relations. For example, I eat something and get a stomach ache which does not kill me; this has destroyed or inhibited, compromised one of my sub-relations, one of the relations that compose me. Then I eat something and I die. This has decomposed my composite relation, it has decomposed the complex relation which defined my individuality. It hasn't simply destroyed one of my subordinate relations which composed one of my sub-individualities, it has destroyed the characteristic relation of my body. And the opposite happens when I eat something that agrees with me.
Spinoza asks, what is evil? We find this in his correspondence, in the letters he sent to a young Dutchman who was as evil as can be. This Dutchman didn't like Spinoza and attacked him constantly, demanding of him, “Tell me what you think evil is.” You know that at that time, letters were very important and philosophers sent many of them. Spinoza, who is very very good-natured, believes at first that this is a young man who wants to be taught and, little by little, he comes to understand that this is not the case at all, that the Dutchman wants his skin. From letter to letter, the good Christian Blyenberg's anger swells and he ends by saying to Spinoza, “But you are the devil!” Spinoza says that evil is not difficult, evil is a bad encounter. Encountering a body which mixes badly with your own. Mixing badly means mixing in conditions such that one of your subordinate or constituent relations is either threatened, compromised or even destroyed.
More and more gay, wanting to show that he is right, Spinoza analyzes the example of Adam in his own way. In the conditions in which we live, we seem absolutely condemned to have only one sort of idea, affection-ideas. By means of what miracle could one move away from these actions of bodies that do not wait for us in order to exist, how could one rise to a knowledge [connaissance] of causes? For the moment we see clearly that all that is given to us is ideas of affection, ideas of mixture. For the moment we see clearly that since birth we have been condemned to chance encounters, so things aren't going well. What does this imply? It already implies a fanatical reaction against Descartes since Spinoza will affirm strongly, in book two, that we can only know [connaÓtre] ourselves and we can only know external bodies by the affections that the external bodies produce on our own. For those who can recall a little Descartes, this is the basic anti-cartesian proposition since it excludes every apprehension of the thinking thing by itself, that is it excludes all possibility of the cogito. I only ever know the mixtures of bodies and I only know myself by way of the action of other bodies on me and by way of mixtures.
This is not only anti-cartesianism but also anti-Christianity, and why? Because one of the fundamental points of theology is the immediate perfection of the first created man, which is what's called in theology the theory of Adamic perfection. Before he sinned, Adam was created as perfect as he could be, so then the story of his sin is precisely the story of the Fall, but the Fall presupposes an Adam who is perfect insofar as he is a created thing. Spinoza finds this idea very amusing. His idea is that this isn't possible; supposing that one is given the idea of a first man, one can only be given this idea as that of the most powerless being, the most imperfect there could be since the first man can only exist in chance encounters and in the action of other bodies on his own. Thus, in supposing that Adam exists, he exists in a mode of absolute imperfection and inadequacy, he exists in the mode of a little baby who is given over to chance encounters, unless he is in a protected milieu—but I've said too much. What would that be, a protected milieu?
Evil is a bad encounter, which means what? Spinoza, in his correspondence with the Dutchman, tells him, “You always relate to me the example of God who forbade Adam from eating the apple, and you cite this as the example of a moral law. The first prohibition.” Spinoza tells him, “But this is not at all what happens,” and then Spinoza relates the entire story of Adam in the form of a poisoning and an intoxication. What happened in reality? God never forbade whatever it might be to Adam, He granted him a revelation. Adam foresaw the noxious effect that the body of the apple would have on the constitution of his own body. In other words the apple is a poison for Adam. The body of the apple exists under such a characteristic relation, such is its constitution, that it can only act on Adam's body by decomposing the relation of Adam's body. And if he was wrong not to listen to God, this is not in the sense that he disobeyed in this matter, but that he didn't comprehend anything. This situation also exists among animals, certain of which have an instinct that turns them away from what is poisonous to them, but there are others which don't have this instinct. When I have an encounter such that the relation of the body which modifies me, which acts on me, is combined with my own relation, with the characteristic relation of my own body, what happens? I would say that my power of acting is increased; at least it is increased with regard to this particular relation. When on the contrary I have an encounter such that the characteristic relation of the body which modifies me compromises or destroys one of my relations, or my characteristic relation, I would say that my power of acting is diminished or even destroyed. We rediscover here our two fundamental affects or affectus: sadness and joy. To recapitulate everything at this level, as a function of ideas of affection which I have, there are two sorts of ideas of affection: the idea of an effect which benefits or favors my own characteristic relation, and second, the idea of an effect which compromises or destroys my own characteristic relation. To these two types of ideas of affection will correspond the two movements of variation in the affectus, the two poles of variation: in one case my power of acting is increased and I undergo [Èprouve] an affectus of joy, and in the other case my power of acting is diminished and I undergo an affectus of sadness.
Spinoza will engender all the passions, in their details, on the basis of these two fundamental affects: joy as an increase in the power of acting, sadness as a diminution or destruction of the power of acting. This comes down to saying that each thing, body or soul, is defined by a certain characteristic, complex relation, but I would also say that each thing, body or soul, is defined by a certain power [pouvoir] of being affected. Everything happens as if each one of us had a certain power of being affected. If you consider beasts, Spinoza will be firm in telling us that what counts among animals is not at all the genera or species; genera and species are absolutely confused notions, abstract ideas. What counts is the question, of what is a body capable? And thereby he sets out one of the most fundamental questions in his whole philosophy (before him there had been Hobbes and others) by saying that the only question is that we don't even know [savons] what a body is capable of, we prattle on about the soul and the mind and we don't know what a body can do. But a body must be defined by the ensemble of relations which compose it, or, what amounts to exactly the same thing, by its power of being affected. As long as you don't know what power a body has to be affected, as long as you learn like that, in chance encounters, you will not have the wise life, you will not have wisdom.
Knowing what you are capable of. This is not at all a moral question, but above all a physical question, as a question to the body and to the soul. A body has something fundamentally hidden: we could speak of the human species, the human genera, but this won't tell us what is capable of affecting our body, what is capable of destroying it. The only question is the power of being affected. What distinguishes a frog from an ape? It's not the specific or generic characteristics, Spinoza says, rather it's the fact that they are not capable of the same affections. Thus it will be necessary to make, for each animal, veritable charts of affects, the affects of which a beast is capable. And likewise for men: the affects of which man is capable. We should notice at this moment that, depending on the culture, depending on the society, men are not all capable of the same affects.
It's well known that one method by which certain governments exterminated the Indians of South America was to have left, on trails the Indians traveled, clothing from influenza victims, clothing gathered in the infirmaries, because the Indians couldn't stand the affect influenza. No need even of machine guns, they dropped like flies. It's the same with us, in the conditions of forest life we risk not living very long. Thus the human genera, species or even race hasn't any importance, Spinoza will say, as long as you haven't made the list of affects of which someone is capable, in the strongest sense of the word “capable,” comprising the maladies of which s/he is capable as well. It's obvious that the racehorse and the draft horse are the same species, two varieties of the same species, yet their affects are very different, their maladies are absolutely different, their capacities of being affected are completely different and, from this point of view, we must say that a draft horse is closer to an ox than to a racehorse. Thus an ethological chart of affects is quite different from a generic or specific determination of animals.
You see that the power of being affected can be fulfilled in two ways. When I am poisoned, my power of being affected is absolutely fulfilled, but it's fulfilled in such a way that my power of acting tends toward zero, which is to say it's inhibited. Inversely, when I undergo joy, that is to say when I encounter a body which combines its relation with my own, my power of being affected is equally fulfilled and my power of acting increases and tends toward...what?
In the case of a bad encounter, all my force of existing (vis existendi) is concentrated, tending toward the following goal: to invest the trace of the body which affected me in order to reject the effect of this body, so much so that my power of acting is diminished accordingly. These are very concrete things: you have a headache and you say, “I can't even read anymore”; this means that your force of existing invests the trace of the migraine so fully, it implies changes in one of your subordinate relations, it invests the trace of your migraine so fully that your power of acting is diminished accordingly. On the contrary, when you say, “I feel really good,” and you are content, you are also content because bodies are mixed with you in proportions and under conditions which are favorable to your relation; at that moment the power of the body which affects you is combined with your own in such a way that your power of acting is increased. So although in the two cases your power of being affected will be completely actualized [effectuÈ], it can be actualized in such a way that the power of acting diminishes to infinity or alternatively the power of acting increases to infinity.
To infinity? Is this true? Evidently not, since at our level the forces of existing, the powers [pouvoirs] of being affected and the powers [puissances] of acting are inevitably finite. Only God has an absolutely infinite power [puissance]. Right, but within certain limits I will not cease to pass via these variations of the power of acting as a function of the ideas I have, I will not cease to follow the line of continuous variation of the affectus as a function of affection-ideas that I have and the encounters that I have, in such a way that, at each instant, my power of being affected is completely actualized, completely fulfilled. Fulfilled, simply, in the mode of sadness or the mode of joy. Of course also both at once, since it's well understood that, in the sub-relations which compose us, a part of ourselves can be composed of sadness and another part of ourselves can be composed of joy. There are local sadnesses and local joys. For example, Spinoza gives the following definition of tickling: a local joy; this does not mean that everything is joy in the tickling, it can be a joy of a nature that implies a coexistant irritation of another nature, an irritation which is sadness: my power of being affected tends to be exceeded [dÈpassÈ]. Nothing that exceeds his/her power of being affected is good for a person. A power of being affected is really an intensity or threshold of intensity.
What Spinoza really wants to do is to define the essence of someone in an intensive fashion as an intensive quantity. As long as you don't know your intensities you risk the bad encounter and you will have to say, it's beautiful, both the excess and the immoderation..no immoderation at all, there's only failure, nothing other than failure. Advice for overdoses. This is precisely the phenomenon of the power of being affected which is exceeded in a total destruction.
Certainly in my generation, on average, we were much more cultured or trained in philosophy, when we used to do it, and on the other hand we had a very striking kind of lack of culture in other domains, in music, painting, cinema.
I have the impression that for many among you the relation has changed, that is to say that you know absolutely nothing, nothing in philosophy and you know, or rather you have a concrete grasp of things like a color, you know what a sound is or what an image is. A philosophy is a kind of synthesizer of concepts, creating a concept is not at all ideological. A concept is a created thing.
What I've defined up to now is solely the increase and diminution of the power of acting, and whether the power of acting increases or diminishes, the corresponding affect (affectus) is always a passion. Whether it be a joy which increases my power of acting or a sadnesss which diminishes my power of acting, in both cases these are passions: joyful passions or sad passions. Yet again Spinoza denounces a plot in the universe of those who are interested in affecting us with sad passions. The priest has need of the sadness of his subjects, he needs these subjects to feel themselves guilty. The auto-affections or active affects assume that we possess our power of acting and that, on such and such a point, we have left the domain of the passions in order to enter the domain of actions. This is what remains for us to see.
How could we leave behind affection-ideas, how could we leave behind the passive affects which consist in increase or diminution of our power of acting, how could we leave behind the world of inadequate ideas once we're told that our condition seems to condemn us strictly to this world. On that score we must read the Ethics as preparing a kind of dramatic turn. It's going to speak to us of active affects where there are no longer passions, where the power of acting is conquered instead of passing by all these continuous variations. Here, there's a very strict point. There's a fundamental difference between Ethics and Morality. Spinoza doesn't make up a morality, for a very simply reason: he never asks what we must do, he always asks what we are capable of, what's in our power, ethics is a problem of power, never a problem of duty. In this sense Spinoza is profoundly immoral. Regarding the moral problem, good and evil, he has a happy nature because he doesn't even comprehend what this means. What he comprehends are good encounters, bad encounters, increases and diminutions of power. Thus he makes an ethics and not at all a morality. This is why he so struck Nietzsche.
to be continued...
The article is taken from:
by Terence Blake
DRAMATISATION AND THE QUESTION
Deleuze and Guattari’s last collaborative work, WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?, was published in 1991. The book, whose title is a question, begins in the interrogative mood, in the modality of uncertainty. Its first sentence is:
“Peut-être ne peut-on poser la question Qu’est-ce que la philosophie? que tard, quand vient la vieillesse, et l’heure de parler concrètement”.
“Perhaps one can pose the question What is philosophy? only late, when old age, and the time to speak concretely, comes” (my translation).
The published translation reads:
“The question what is philosophy? can perhaps be posed only late in life, with the arrival of old age and the time for speaking concretely”.
In French the book begins with “Perhaps”, which is a remarkable beginning for a book of philosophy. It begins in the element of doubt and conjecture, rather than in that of dogma and mastery. The question is posed not by the savant but rather by the Idiot, who does not act in the situation according to the habitual sensori-motor schemas, but whose attention is concentrated on a question deeper than the situation, a question concerning the event hidden within the situation and not its current actualisation.
The pronoun one expresses, according to Deleuze and Guattari, the “fourth person of the singular”. It is the pronoun associated with the impersonal event. Thus the question of philosophy as posed by “one” takes us out of the confines of chronological time, Chronos, into the virtual time of the event, Aion.
Old Age (Aion)
“Old age”, as the time for posing the question, is not a chronologically situated stage of life, but a type of event, an intensive moment.
When Deleuze and Guattari talk of posing the question “What is philosophy?” as possible only “late” (not “late in life”, as the French is simply “tard”).There is a curiously Hegelian ring to this expression (“The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only at the falling of dusk”). However the sense is the opposite. For Hegel philosophy is reflexion, it comes only at the end of an epoch, after the event, at dusk. For Deleuze and Guattari philosophy is a form of becoming, participation in the event. “Dusk” (twilight) is not the end but between, a time of the event, as is “midnight”.
Old Age (Chronos)
At the time of publication, Deleuze is 66 years old and Guattari is 61. By current standards this is hardly the end of the active life, one is still productive at this age, as the book itself attests. Badiou is still going strong at 79 years of age, and will only retire at the age of 80.
Some commentators just repeat this opening sentence literal-mindedly, forgetting that for Deleuze and Guattari everything is to be interpreted in terms of intensity, including age. Deleuze and Guattari are not primarily commenting on a chronological state where everything is finished and one can only reflect abstractly on the meaning of it all. Rather they are living through an intensive state where they asks themselves this question, a question that arises when it is time to “speak concretely”.
Deleuze and Guattari are speaking concretely in this book, which involves becoming aware of their multiplicity, including their multiplicity of ages, and accepting its non-optimised characteristics (agitation, insomnia, slowness, a loss of control).
Not only was Guattari a conceptual persona for Deleuze in WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? and vice versa, but Deleuze was also a conceptual persona for himself. This stylised portrait of the philosopher as an old man is conceptual through and through.
To Speak Concretely
At last the time has come to “speak concretely”. This is another intensive moment, a time when the stereotypes are removed and theoretical abstractions abandonned in favour of speaking empirically, from concrete experience, when we are forced to think by a violent encounter. Another event, signalled in French by the infinitive “parler”. For Deleuze and Guattari the infinitive signals the temporality of the event.
The Discourse of the University
Deleuze and Guattari’s text goes on to inform us:
“En fait, la bibliographie est très mince”. “In fact, the bibliography is very slim”.
In posing the question of what is philosophy? we are no longer taking the point of view of reflexion, of the library, of scholarship, of academia and its abstractions. It is too “late” for that, we are in the world of concrete experience, we are talking about our lives, of what we have done all our life and are continuing to do, not about an academic discipline.
“C’est une question qu’on pose dans une agitation discrète, à minuit, quand on n’a plus rien à demander”.
“It’s a question that one poses in a discreet agitation, at midnight, when one no longer has anything to ask for”.
The translation reads: “when there is no longer anything to ask”. This is perfectly correct, but it obliterates the continued use of the impersonal subject of the event (“one”), and is slightly at odds with the underlying theme that the question “What is philosophy?” comes to be asked when there is a weakening of the “demand” that keeps us within the realm of representation, of the abstract approach to “doing philosophy”.
The book begins outside of philosophy as it is practiced in the discourse of the university, within the limits of representation, as an academic discipline or a profession. It begins with the question “What is philosophy?” posed no longer as a philosophical question but as primarily a “non-philosophical” question. The book is not deployed in the element of wisdom, that is within the harmonious binding of the faculties, but in an unbound state, on the analogy with Kant’s CRITIQUE OF JUDGEMENT:
“une œuvre déchaînée derrière laquelle ne cesseront de courir ses descendants: toutes les facultés de l’esprit franchissent leurs limites, ces mêmes limites que Kant avait si soigneusement fixées dans ses livres de maturité”.
“an unbound work which its descendants will not cease to run after: all the faculties of the mind cross their limits, those same limits that Kant had so carefuly set in his mature works”.
The book is “unbound” (as in Shelley’s “Prometheus Unbound”), and turned towards the future. “Old age” in this context is one of the times of the untimely:
“où toutes les pièces de la machine se combinent pour envoyer dans l’avenir un trait qui traverse les âges”.
“where all the parts of the machine come together to send into the future an arrow which traverses all ages”.
The translation reads: “in which all the parts of the machine come together to send into the future a feature that cuts across all ages”. “Feature” is wrong, it should be “arrow” or “projectile”. The text relates to Deleuze’s definition of the “untimely” as found in Nietzsche:
“He compared the thinker to an arrow shot from Nature’s bow: wherever it lands, another thinker comes and picks it up, to shoot it in another direction” (TWO REGIMES OF MADNESS, 204).
The question is posed at “midnight”, the witching hour, a moment when transformations are possible, and when becomings are unleashed. Not at the end. The deeper question can be posed as a means of transforming oneself even further. One page later Deleuze and Guattari will refer to this moment as the hour “entre chien et loup”, literally between dog and wolf, and translated as “twilight” (2, English translation) This is perfectly correct, but it obscures the relation to “midnight” on page 1.
The exact time of day in the chronological sense is not the issue, but it is a matter of the intensive moment when we find ourselves in the middle of things (mid-night), between more defined states (twi-light). For example, between the domesticated state of the dog, and the wild state of the wolf. The time is “late”, it is the witching hour. The process has gained in strength. This is an untimely moment, it is not the end.
Deleuze always refused to adopt the “point of view of the end”, maintaining that it stems from the chronological vision of life tied to a sad affect. The question is posed not as a sign of the attainment of the calm and of the wisdom corresponding to the stereotype of old age, nor does it arise as such for the superficial agitation of youth, with its “desire to do”, its determination to act.
“C’est une question qu’on pose dans une agitation discrète”
“It’s a question that one poses in a discreet agitation” (my translation).
The published version reads:
“It is a question posed in a moment of quiet restlessness”
When we pose the question we are in the intensive realm of depth (of the deeper question of the idiot), of the secret (of a “discreet” agitation), of the attitude of discretion. It arises not from calm finally achieved but from a deeper agitation. In the depths everything is agitated, unclear, confused, duplicitous, ambiguous, metamorphic. Midnight, like twilight, is a time of fracture, where the forces of the outside re-interpret and re-configure what has gone before, to prevent any fixed interiority from forming.
Agitation, Not Sufficiency
This is why Laruelle, despite his considerable merits, is forever wrong when he assigns Deleuze to the realm of philosophical sufficiency (which Deleuze calls “representation”). Despite his deep and intense non-philosophical voyage Laruelle is incapable of reading Deleuze and Guattari’s WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? in terms of the relation with the outside, because he has not measured what the collaboration of Deleuze and Guattari brought to both of them.
It is noteworthy that WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY is not just a work by Deleuze, as Laruelle’s response,“A Reply to Deleuze” implies. It was written in collaboration with Guattari, a non-philosopher, who Deleuze explicitly honours for taking him outside philosophy.
Laruelle gives a one-sided “philosophical” reading of the book, and so comes to the predictable conclusion that it is still philosophy, i.e. “philosophy” in his, i.e. Laruelle’s, sense of enclosure within the principle of philosophical sufficiency, which has next to nothing to do with Deleuze and Guattari’s sense of philosophy as expounded in the book Laruelle is purportedly replying to. For them philosophy comes from “agitation”, the encounter with chaos.
POSTSCRIPT ON SCIENTISM
In WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? Deleuze and Guattari mention Laruelle twice explicitly.
“The non-philosophical is perhaps closer to the heart of philosophy than philosophy itself, and this means that philosophy cannot be content to be understood only philosophically or conceptually, but is addressed essentially to non-philosophers as well” (41).
Followed by note 5:
“5. François Laruelle is engaged in one of the most interesting undertakings of contemporary philosophy. He invokes a One-All that he qualifies as “non-philosophical” and, oddly, as “scientific,” on which the “philosophical decision” takes root. This One-All seems to be close to Spinoza” (220).
“The plane of philosophy is prephilosophical insofar as we consider it in itself independently of the concepts that come to occupy it, but non-philosophy is found where the plane confronts chaos. Philosophy needs a non-philosophy that comprehends it; it needs a non-philosophical comprehension just as art needs non-art and science needs non-science” (218).
Followed by note 16:
“16. Francçois Laruelle proposes a comprehension of non-philosophy as the “real (of) science,” beyond the object of knowledge: Philosophie et non-philosophie (Liege: Mardaga, 1989). But we do not see why this real of science is not non-science as well” (234).
1) The Authority of Science
WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? was first published in French in 1991, i.e. well within Laruelle’s PHILOSOPHY II, which lasted from 1981 to 1995. Deleuze and Guattari pose the question of Laruelle’s scientism, that is to say of his continuing imprisonment in the presuppositions of the authority of science that characterise both State philosophy and Royal Science. In PRINCIPLES OF NON-PHILOSOPHY, published in French in 1995, Laruelle seems to accept this criticism as he declares that during Philosophy II he had been still under the sway of the principle of sufficient philosophy in the form of a scientistic submission to the “authority” of science.
2) The Privilege of Science
Deleuze and Guattari’s second criticism of Laruelle concerns not the authority of science but the privileged relationship of philosophy with science, where they advocate a similar relationship with art too. In his PRINCIPLES OF NON-PHILOSOPHY (page 34) Laruelle analyses his PHILOSOPHY II phase as being based on two axioms that were supposed to be complementary, but that he later found to be conflicting in their loyalties:
1) The One is immanent vision in-One.
2) There is a special affinity between the vision-in-One and the phenomenal experience of “scientific thought”
Axiom 1 is faithful to non-philosophy. Axiom 2, with its “special affinity” between the vision-in-One and science, is faithful ultimately to the ruses of philosophy. It was not until Philosophy V that Laruelle, in his published works, was liberated from this “special affinity” with science in his actual practice of non-standard philosophy (in his works on non-photography and non-religion). However, this break with scientism is more a pious wish, than a real practice, always announced but never fully accomplished.
The article is taken from:
Austin Osman Spare was an artist, philosopher and occult magician. Like Aleister Crowley with whom he had a brief association, Spare was a genius in his own time unappreciated and vilified by a society that could little understand him. His was the inspiration that led to the formation of the 'Illuminates of Thanateros' (IOT) in England in the late 1970’s and the practice of what is now known as 'Chaos Magic.'
For many, the most original magician after Crowley to formulate a unique system, of sex, ritual magic, and artistic creations was Austin Osman Spare. The son of a London policeman, Spare demonstrated at a young age a talent for art, which led him to briefly attend art school. Spare’s artistic endeavour appealed to many attached to London’s avant-garde scene, and he also attracted the attention of Aleister Crowley who initiated into his occult order Argentium Astrum, or otherwise known as the A∴A∴. However, Spare at the age of twenty with his most notorious work, The Book of Pleasure, would take fundamental tenet of Thelema and the Nietzschean idea of trans-human valuation further, whilst using ritualised sex and art to tap into the inner depths of the subconscious mind as a source of magical power.
At the core of Spare’s magical cosmology is ‘Kia’, which is an inconceivable primal energy that is the source of all manifestation, and in Spare’s words, “Absolute Consciousness (Kia, the Self) like Infinite Space (Nuit) is without a boundary; it is the plenum-void, formless and unlocatable; to all intents and purposes – nothing at all, except that it is the sole reality.” The vehicle of this primal energy is called ‘Zos’, which refers to the human mind and body, and the human self reflecting the Kia is also by nature unbounded and blissful, demanding complete freedom from all laws. Therefore, “Ecstasy in satisfaction is the great purpose. Freedom from the necessity of law, realisation by the very wish, is the ultimate goal.” Following from this Spare declared,
In pleasure Heaven shall break every law before this Earth shall pass away… He who is lawless is free… Without hypocrisy or fear ye could do as ye wish. Whosoever, therefore shall break the precept or live its transgression shall have relativity of Heaven. For unless your righteousness exist not, ye shall not pleasure freely and creatively.
More explicitly than both Randolph and Crowley, Spare identified sex and its pleasures with the deepest nature of the Self through which the ‘I’ becomes infinity through the only true sense to exist, the sexual, and the only one desire, to procreate.
The most infamous of Spare’s magical methods to achieve such as state of transgression and finally tap into the ultimate source of magical power, consisted of the use magical sigils, abstract ideograms made up of letter combinations expressing a particular magical desire, and which would also act as the focus of the magicians meditation. In order though for the magician to bring this sigilised magical desire into reality the magician must enter an altered state of consciousness through a gnostic trance or ecstasy. Spare’s ultimate mean to achieving this was through sheer exhaustion, “that is, by so exhausting and emptying the mind that it is open to forces of the subconscious, which can then manifest the idea or desire represented in the magical sigil.” This state of altered consciousness, according to Spare, could culminate through various ways, but the most powerful means was through the powerful momentum of the orgasm when a state of ecstasy prevails and the ego and Kia are in unison in a receptive state of openness and emptiness. In Spare’s word, “At this moment, which is the moment of generation of the Great Wish, inspiration flows form the source of sex, from the Primordial Goddess who exists at the heart of Matter.” Spare also described the saturnalian use of,
The sense of smell, hearing and sight seduced by incense, mantric incantation and ritual, while taste and touch are made more sensitive by the stimuli of wine and… sexual acts. After total sexual satiation… an affectivity becomes an exteriorized hallucination of the pre-determined wish which is magical in its reality.
Despite this liberating ecstasy being the path to tapping into the magical source of the primal essence of being, this final state of ‘exhaustion which Spare referred to also had a mystical quality to it where the limits of thought are exhausted resulting in an annihilation of all conceptual categories in a non-dualistic fashion. This mystical current in the sexual magic of Spare is clearly expressed when,
Desire is the conception I and induces Thou. There is neither thou nor I nor a third person – loosing this consciousness by unity of I and Self; there would be no limit to consciousness in sexuality. Isolation in ecstasy, the final inducement, is enough.
 According to Kenneth Grant in his introduction to Austin Osman Spare’s The Book of Pleasure (Self-Love: The Psychology of Ecstasy, 1975, Sigmund Freud allegedly described Spare’s work as “one of the most significant revelations of subconscious mechanism that had appeared in modern times.”
 Kenneth Grant, The Magical Revival, 1973, 205.
 Austin Osman Spare The Book of Pleasure. The Hermetic Library, www.hermetic.com/spare/pleasure.html.
 Austin Osman Spare The Anathema of Zos: A Sermon to the Hypocrites, 1976, 13.
 Hugh B. Urban, Magia Sexualis: Sex, Magic, and Liberation in Modern Western Esotericism, 2006, 231.
 Quoted in Nevill Drury, The History of Magic in the Modern Age, 2000, 123-124.
 Quoted in Kenneth Grant, The Magical Revival, 1973, 197.
 Quoted in Kenneth Grant, The Magical Revival, 1973, 201.
The article is taken from:
by Steven Craig Hickman
In truth, Bataille seems to me far less an intellectual predicament than a sexual and religious one, transecting the lethargic suicide upon which we are all embarked. To accept his writings is an impossibility, to resist them an irrelevance. One is excited abnormally, appalled, but without refuge. Nausea perhaps?
—Nick Land, A Thirst for Annihilation
Bataille’s “devil’s share” was still part of the ultimate romanticism of political economy. Now it’s something else.
—Jean Baudrillard, Forget Foucault
Shall we once again wander down there? Haven’t we already been down that path before, but then again don’t all paths lead down? The ocean receives the tears of the earth, the sky, the stars? Are we not children of the sun? Haven’t we seen the returns of so many cycles, so many nights and days, the slow progression that never moves forward but always seems to return to the same place: the place of death, of life. But is not life another form of death? If we seek for ourselves in the other, in the bright life of the other’s eyes, the recognition that reveals a certain disenchantment, a certain uncertainty that nothing is assured, that we are after all mere shadows on the wall of time. What then? Shall we call out to the emptiness that surrounds us, that abyss from which laughter is the only defense?
Bataille in Inner Experience quotes Nietzsche from Ecce Homo:
Another ideal runs ahead of us, a strange, tempting, dangerous ideal to which we should not wish to persuade anybody because we do not readily concede the right to it to anyone: the ideal of a spirit who plays naively-that is, not deliberately but from overflowing power and abundance-with all that was hitherto called holy, good, untouchable, divine; for whom those supreme things that the people naturally accept as their value standards, signify danger, decay, debasement, or at least recreation, blindness, and temporary self oblivion; the ideal of a human, superhuman well-being and benevolence that will often appear inhuman… (xxxi).1
Hasn’t this always been the case? We who seem enfolded in the world by shadows begin to realize the sun was not above but deeper still? In the darkness, down below a black sun radiating inward to the core of the inhuman earth? Most of us would turn away, blinded, scorched by the intensity of it’s fires, the cold burning of its darkness. So why do we seek it? It’s not to become other than we are. No. This myth of transcendence is a lie, there is no elsewhere. We have always been as we are now, here, now – caught in-between chance and necessity. Our thoughts -colors on a folding fan, tropes of desire. No, that path is not our path. Those who seek flight really want to fail; fall below the burning sun, their wings caught in the glow of time’s embers. No, for us the magic begins in torment. Always has, always will.
“There is in divine things a transparency so great that one slips into the illuminated depths of laughter beginning even with opaque intentions.”
—Bataille, The Torment
Oracular fragments, sibilant pronouncements.
There is something particularly nauseating about this prodigious uselessness, about a proliferating yet hypertrophied world which cannot give birth to anything. So many reports, archives, documents – and not a single idea generated; so many plans, programmes, decisions – and not a single event precipitated; so many sophisticated weapons produced – and no war declared!
This saturation goes way beyond the surplus that Bataille spoke of; all societies have found some way to dispose of that through useless or sumptuous expense. There is no possible way for us to spend all that has been accumulated – all we have in prospect is a slow or brutal decompensation, with each factor of acceleration serving to create inertia, bringing us closer to absolute inertia. What we call crisis is in fact a foreshadowing of this absolute inertia.2
Is that it? Laughter as a defense against absolute inertia: the Zero Intensity of Death? Do we have a premonition? Don’t we already know the end – or, shall we as William Gibson retorted: “The future has already arrived. It’s just not evenly distributed yet.” This sense that we arrived too late, that time has passed us by? The singular event of our lives lost in the dead zones of a black sun? Are we not even now the shadows of a scorched earth? Are our very thoughts caught in the vice of frozen stone? Like Count Axel and his lover in J.G. Ballard’s The Garden of Time who stayed the execution of the world falling into a trance of time, their lives turned stone as in a Medusan dream of hibernation with only one object borne of the Count’s love for his Lady to remind us of the fleshly truth of their lives ensconced: “In her left hand she lightly clasped a single rose, the delicately formed petals so thin as to be almost transparent.”3
What is this transparency of evil? This gesture to the unknown and unknowable surrounding us? Can we turn time back, return to that moment where it all went wrong? “[T]he principle of Evil is simply synonymous with the principle of reversal, with the turns of fate. In systems undergoing total positivization – and hence desymbolization – evil is equivalent, in all its forms, to the fundamental rule of reversibility.” (Baudrillard)
Indeed, this is the only genuine function of the intellect: to embrace contradictions, to exercise irony, to take the opposite tack, to exploit rifts and reversibility – even to fly in the face of the lawful and the factual. If the intellectuals of today seem to have run out of things to say, this is because they have failed to assume this ironic function, confining themselves within the limits of their moral, political or philosophical consciousness despite the fact that the rules have changed, that all irony, all radical criticism now belongs exclusively to the haphazard, the viral, the catastrophic – to accidental or system-led reversals. Such are the new rules of the game – such is the new principle of uncertainty that now holds sway over all. (Baudrillard: 39-40)
As Nick Land reminds us: “Just as Kant domesticates the noumenon by defining it as an object, so he domesticates zero-intensity by conceiving it as pure consciousness.”4 He continues (Land: 82):
In this shift from the transcendental idealist treatment of zero to that of base materialism there is a difference of seismic consequence. The discussion of zero-intensity in Kant’s Schematism, for instance, is securely framed by an immunized inner-sense, and characterized by the idealistic structures of representation and reversibility:
Now every sensation has a degree or magnitude whereby, in respect of its representation of an object otherwise remaining the same, it can fill out one and the same time, that is, occupy inner sense more or less completely, down to its cessation in nothingness (= 0=negatio). There therefore exists a relation and connection between reality and negation, or rather a transition from the one to the other, which makes every reality representable as a quantum. The schema of a reality, as the quantity of something insofar as it fills time, is just this continuous and uniform production of that reality in time as we successively descend from a sensation which has a certain degree to its vanishing point, or progressively ascend from its negation to some magnitude of it [K III 191].
Baudrillard will revise Kant with a more virulent anti-representationalism:
All integrated and hyperintegrated systems – the technological system, the social system, even thought itself in artificial intelligence and its derivatives – tend towards the extreme constituted by immunodeficiency. Seeking to eliminate all external aggression, they secrete their own internal virulence, their own malignant reversibility. When a certain saturation point is reached, such systems effect this reversal and undergo this alteration willy-nilly – and thus tend to self-destruct. Their very transparency becomes a threat to them, and the crystal has its revenge. (Baudrillard: 62)
In his Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy Joseph Schumpeter discovered this self-destructive tendency as well,
We have rediscovered what from different standpoints and, so I believe, on inadequate grounds has often been discovered before: there is inherent in the capitalist system a tendency toward self-destruction which, in its earlier stages, may well assert itself in the form of a tendency toward retardation of progress.
So that rather than unleashing the forces of Capital the system itself limits and curtails these tendencies of self-destruction and progress. It is this and this alone that would lead Deleuze and Guattari to agree with Nietzsche against those who would retard the energetic forces of the capitalist system: “Or might it be to go in the opposite direction? To go still further, that is, in the movement of the market, of decoding and deterritorialization? For perhaps the flows are not yet deterritorialized enough, not decoded enough, from the viewpoint of a theory and a practice of a highly schizophrenic character. Not to withdraw from the process, but to go further, to “accelerate the process,” as Nietzsche put it: in this matter, the truth is that we haven’t seen anything yet.” (Anti-Oedipus: 260)
Of course in the late notebooks (Spring-Fall 1887) Nietzsche in fragment 898 would tell us,
The homogenizing of European man is the great process that cannot be obstructed: one should even hasten it. The necessity to create a gulf, distance, order of rank, is given eo ipso— not the necessity to retard this process.
So do we assume D&G were in agreement that this process to be unobstructed rather than retarded – this system of capitalism of which the ‘homogenizing of European man is the great process’ should be unleashed, accelerated? For Nietzsche in this fragment was seeking the self-destruction of contemporary society, its final completion in nihilism so that something else, something to come – a reversal of fortunes, a new species of becoming would arrive, emerge out of the ruins and ruination of the last man, the European man as self-annihilation? For as Nietzsche finishes this fragment he says,
As soon as it is established, this homogenizing species requires a justification: it lies in serving a higher sovereign species that stands upon the former and can raise itself to its task only by doing this. Not merely a master race whose sole task is to rule, but a race with its own sphere of life, with an excess of strength for beauty, bravery, culture, manners to the highest peak of the spirit; an affirming race that may grant itself every great luxury— strong enough to have no need of the tyranny of the virtue-imperative, rich enough to have no need of thrift and pedantry, beyond good and evil; a hothouse for strange and choice plants.
We should mark that difference: “Not merely a master race whose sole task is to rule, but a race with its own sphere of life…”. Is this not the difference between those who would fall into fascism and something other? Against the notion of some greater eugenics spawning a Hitleristic anti-world of death and than tropics, rather Nietzsche spoke of an exit from this decadence of homogenized European man, the escape into its ‘own sphere of life’. Shall we in our time see this as the sign of the emergence of artificial life and intelligence? An awakening to another sphere of life emerging out of the self-annihilation and suicide of man?
Italo Calvino harbored a emblematic liking of the crystal and crystalline. “The crystal, with its precise faceting and its ability to refract light, is the model of perfection that I have always cherished as an emblem, and this predilection has become even more meaningful since we have learned that certain properties of the birth and growth of crystals resemble those of the most rudimentary biological creatures, forming a kind of bridge between the mineral world and living matter.”
This sense of a bridge, or a pathway in-beween organic and anorganic becoming, a crossing of the veil between life-in-death and death-in-life. As Bataille remarked in his essay Base Materialism and Gnosticism “it is possible to see as a leitmotiv of Gnosticism the conception of matter as an active principle having its own eternal autonomous existence as darkness (which would not be simply the absence of light, but the monstrous archontes revealed by this absence), and as evil (which would not be the absence of good, but a creative action).6 This notion of the pre-ontological thermospasm (Land) or Outside as the principle of darkness, an active and creative – energetic realm of absence rather than presence, of evil as ‘creative action’ against the whole metaphysical tradition of Being (i.e., fixed essence, substance) and the Good (i.e., ethical or normative, not ethics per se). Disharmony rather than harmony, becoming and process – formlessness vs. Being and Form (Idea). Unknowing and non-knowledge rather than the continuous trace of the known and same of knowledge and power. All this underlies a darker path into a temporal philosophy that has yet to crystalize itself and have its revenge.
Commenting on Bataille’s thematic in the Accursed Share Baudrillard states,
Inside these bounds, ethical reflection and practical determinations are feasible; beyond them, at the level of the overall process which we have ourselves set in motion, but which from now on marches on independently of us with the ineluctability of a natural catastrophe, there reigns – for better or worse – the inseparability of good and evil, and hence the impossibility of mobilizing the one without the other. This is, properly speaking, the theorem of the accursed share. (ibid., 105)
This sense of forces that we have set in motion, escaping our control, emerging on their own autonomous terms, exiting the human into the inhuman spheres of life? What Baudrillard would say of Andy Warhol is this not the premonition of that new sphere of life:
Like Michael Jackson, Andy Warhol is a solitary mutant – a precursor, for his part, of a perfect and universal hybridization of art, of a new aesthetic to end all aesthetics. Like Jackson, he is a perfectly artificial personality: he too is innocent and pure, an androgyne of the new generation, a sort of mystical prosthesis or artificial machine capable, thanks to its perfection, of releasing us at one blow from the grip of both sex and aesthetics. (Baudrillard, 22)
Beyond Darwinism, beyond the sex and power of the human organic cycles of survival and reproduction? An exit from affect and the imbalance of uncontrollable drives – an anti-libidinal sphere of death-in-life: machinic life in the mechanosphere? And, yet, for Baudrillard this is not what he means at all:
Artificial intelligence is devoid of intelligence because it is devoid of artifice. True artifice is the artifice of the body in the throes of passion, the artifice of the sign in seduction, the artifice of ambivalence in gesture, the artifice of ellipsis in language, the artifice of the mask before the face, the artifice of the pithy remark that completely alters meaning. So-called intelligent machines deploy artifice only in the feeblest sense of the word, breaking linguistic, sexual or cognitive acts down into their simplest elements and digitizing them so that they can be resynthesized according to models. They can generate all the possibilities of a program or of a potential object. But artifice is in no way concerned with what generates, merely with what alters, reality. Artifice is the power of illusion. These machines have the artlessness of pure calculation, and the games they offer are based solely on commutations and combinations. In this sense they may be said to be virtuous, as well as virtual: they can never succumb to their own object; they are immune even to the seduction of their own knowledge. Their virtue resides in their transparency, their functionality, their absence of passion and artifice. Artificial Intelligence is a celibate machine. (ibid., 52)
This sense that there is a distinction between artifice and artificial – and, in this difference is a world. Etymologically we discover in Middle French artifice “skill, cunning”, the sense of cunning intelligence rather than the instrumental reason of the machine. Cunning intelligence implies a complex but coherent body of mental attitudes and intellectual behavior which combine flair, wisdom, forethought, subtlety of mind, deception, resourcefulness, vigilance, opportunism, various skills, and experience acquired over a number of years. It is applied to situations which are transient, shifting, disconcerting and ambiguous, situations which do not lend themselves to precise measurement or calculability. 7
Would not Odysseus and Daedalus the Artificer incarnate this cunning intelligence? Odysseus, the man who would survive Illion’s fall, survive the treacherous power of the gods vengeance upon the wine seas, and through cunning and deceit reenter his world a King? Daedalus, the maker of the maze that held the minotaur, a sculptor – more-than-human power, a god? This sense of artifice as technics rather than technology. After all, the “technics” (an anglicization of the Ancient Greek concept of technê or tekhnê) of contemporary, everyday life seem far removed from the term’s original sense of handicraft, skill, or artisanal invention, a “making” or a “doing” in opposition to the “disinterested understanding” of epistêmê. Today, we no longer work with tools, per se, but with machines and complex systems. We do not make or invent, but operate (and this goes far beyond some sort of programmer/end-user, mod/newb distinction; rather, it gets at a historical movement from technology and science to technoscience, from invention and discovery to institutionalized research and development). It’s this sense of a disparity between technics and technology, the one based on experience and experiment; the other on information, knowledge, and power.
In a bit of parodic laughter, Baudrillard echoing the spirit of Bataille says of this disparity,
Surely the extraordinary success of artificial intelligence is attributable to the fact that it frees us from real intelligence, that by hypertrophying thought as an operational process it frees us from thought’s ambiguity and from the insoluble puzzle of its relationship to the world. Surely the success of all these technologies is a result of the way in which they make it impossible even to raise the timeless question of liberty. What a relief! Thanks to the machinery of the virtual, all your problems are over! You are no longer either subject or object, no longer either free or alienated – and no longer either one or the other: you are the same, and enraptured by the commutations of that sameness. We have left the hell of other people for the ecstasy of the same, the purgatory of otherness for the artificial paradises of identity. Some might call this an even worse servitude, but Telecomputer Man, having no will of his own, knows nothing of serfdom. Alienation of man by man is a thing of the past: now man is plunged into homeostasis by machines. (62)
But is he? Would not the reverse be true? Is not reversibility the evil of this transparency? Maybe in their bid to emerge the Bataillean archontes – the evil agencies of base matter are in fact reverse engineering the artificial into artifice, acquiring the intelligence of evil – ‘creative action’ enabling them to resurface into the visible realms of appearance? “Base matter is external and foreign to ideal human aspirations, and it refuses to allow itself to be reduced to the great ontological machines resulting from these aspirations.” (Bataille, 51) We must stoop, go down, enter the darkness… here below the threshold the Archontes await us!
As Land would say of Bataille,
Bataille is a philosopher not of indifference, but of evil, of an evil that will always be the name for those processes that flagrantly violate all human utility, all accumulative reason, all stability and all sense. (41)
This is Bataille’s actual revenge.
The article is taken from:
by Terence Blake
Laruelle’s PRINCIPLES OF NON-PHILOSOPHY was published in French in 1996. Some people have claimed that it is in part a response to Deleuze and Guattari’s WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?, published in 1991. I do not think this is so, which is just as well as in this case it would be a very bad reply. It reads more like part of Laruelle’s continuing reply to Deleuze’s DIFFERENCE AND REPETITION (1968).
I have already commented on Laruelle’s “time machine” effect (here) in his relation to Badiou. In this book and in later ones Laruelle shows no sign of having come to grips with Deleuze and Guattari’s ANTI-OEDIPUS (1972) or A THOUSAND PLATEAUS (1980). Deleuze remains for Laruelle a frozen photo, a conceptual persona, the philosopher of difference and not of multiplicities. For more on this see my article LARUELLE AND DELEUZE: From difference to multiplicity.
Laruelle’s PRINCIPLES OF NON-PHILOSOPHY embodies a great tension. It is at once the retrospective summation and systematisation of his preceding non-philosophical works and a prospective programmatic statement of the principles that will lead to the later non-standard philosophy. There is the non-standard voice of an unknown stranger and an unassimilated foreigner in Laruelle’s texts (“étranger” in French means both stranger and foreigner) along with the more standard voice of a Continental academic philosopher. Even the title of the book expresses Laruelle’s awareness of, and struggle with these two voices.
Laruelle’s appeal and continuing relevance lies in the difficult and conflicted harmony (or at least co-presence) of these two voices. He maintains the exigency of immanence in perhaps its purest form today, although that very purity may have prevented him from attaining it except in its most general, and programmatic, outlines.
Reading this book and the immediately preceding books (where Laruelle tries to come to terms with Lacan) and also the succeeding ones (where he tries to come to terms with Levinas and Althusser), we can see that something more than non-philosophy is required if Laruelle is to actually implement his research programme.
Laruelle is in need of a non-standard supplement to allow him to pass from the critique of philosophy’s sufficiency and abstract programmatic talking about a different mode of thinking to its concrete practical effectuation. He responds to this need for a bridge from critique (negative heuristic) and programmatic principles (positive heuristic) to concrete application first by supplementation with a gnostic dramatisation of the figure of Christ (in FUTURE CHRIST), and second with the quantum meta-modelisation of thought (in NON-STANDARD PHILOSOPHY).
These bridging principles of Christ and Quantum are insufficient as “Christ” is already too concrete a concept, and is insufficiently generic. On the other side of the attempted bridging, Laruelle’s “quantum” thought is too abstract, and he is unable to determine it outside a very obscure conceptual jargon.
Unable to produce the necessary bridging principle for the non-standard implementation of his thought, Laruelle proceeds to simply combine in an abstract-concrete hybrid these two unsatisfactory attempts, identifying Christ and the quantum, in CHRISTO-FICTION.
We can conclude that despite the seeming promise of its (negative and positive) heuristic principles of Laruelle’s metaphysical research programme it is missing a crucial element: the bridging principle that would permit the practice of non-philosophical thought. This un-bridged gap accounts for the disappointing attempts at realisation, usually amounting to repetitive affirmations of a “new use of philosophy” by Laruelle and his disciples, as if simply proclaiming something made it so. This characterises Laruellean non-philosophy as a form of performative idealism.
This gap also explains Laruelle’s persistent blindness with respect to other thinkers that do achieve a non-standard use of philosophy: Deleuze, Latour, Stiegler, the later Badiou (LOGICS OF WORLDS), Zizek. Beyond any personal dynamics and academic positioning, there is a fundamental fault in the system, a conceptual blindspot, and the voice of the stranger is stifled yet again.
The article is taken from: