Agamben, Anna Kavan (irreparable)

Filed under: philosophy, event, difference, text, fiction — sdv @ 10:57:47 am

A passing theological moment… what will happen after the final universal judgement – will celestial bodies end ? Will animals and plants vanish into memory ? The difficulty that these questions pose themselves against is that it assumes the world was ordered to fit the dignity and habitation of humans, can it then exist after the humans leave for their transcendence. How can nature exist ? To this Anna Kavan wandering across europe really allows for a single response because you’ll remain “a stranger still” as you approach the “bright green field” having left the asylum after suffering a “scarcity of love”. The car driving across the ice, the heavy gun in his pocket. The girls, the drugs, the small bare rooms in which you can hear the birds singing in the trees. All this is marked by the fact of its being irreparable, its this which is written into Kavan’s world, her writing which engraves into things. Irreparable means those things that are consigned without remedy to their being thus, that they are precisely and only their thus (nothing is more foreign to Kavan than the pretense of being other than what one is); but irreparable also means that for them there is literally no shelter possible, that in their being thus they are absolutely exposed, absolutely abandoned. (rewritten Agamben from Irreparable p39 of the coming community)


after the Cartesian question

Filed under: culture, philosophy, event, category, difference, the political — sdv @ 03:48:23 pm

We will be able to choose the sex of our children: genetics, biochemistry, physics and the related technologies give us the necessary power, but we will be obliged to administer this power, which for moment seems to elude us , because it goes faster and father than we can see or control, beyond our desires to redirect it, our will to decide about it, our freedom to manage it. We have resolved the Cartesian question ‘How can we domninate the world?’ Will we know how to resolve the next question ‘How can we dominate our domination ? how can we master our mastery ?’ (Serres 1990).

If your philosophy isn’t thinking about the last questions it sn’t philosophy.


silicon assemblages

Filed under: philosophy, event, category, difference, text, Deleuze, the political — sdv @ 05:45:10 pm

“An assemblage is carried along by its abstract lines, when it is able to have or trace abstract lines. You know, it’s curious, today we are witnessing the revenge of silicon. Biologists have often asked themselves why life was “channeled” through carbon rather than silicon. But the life of modern machines, a genuine non-organic life, totally distinct from the organic life of carbon, is channeled through silicon. This is the sense in which we speak of a silicon-assemblage. In the most diverse fields, one has to consider the component parts of assemblages, the nature of the lines, the mode of life, the mode of utterance…” -Gilles Deleuze

This led to a discussion which identified both that ‘that carbon is not the only line to be taken into account’ (organic and non-organic life) but also to an early and incoherent consideration of the way in which a technology might be considered. So perhaps one way of looking at this is Simondon saying ‘It could be said that the technical object evolves by engendering a family; the primitive object is the forefather of this family…’

How could and should silicon chips be considered in the technological lineage of a technological evolution ? Is this useful within the context of the thinking of assemblages or is it marked by a leaning towards the increased specialization of the technological object of the computer chip, achieved not ‘…function by function but synergy by synergy’ so that as Simondon says ‘what constitutes the real system in a technical object is not the individual function but the synergetic group of functions…’ For the group of functions is not related to silicon but to the computing functions. And whilst the underlying concept of non-organic life is interesting and fascinating it cannot be right to identify it with mere silicon, because the technological function is more than this, instead with the evolving technological object. The assemblage appears small whilst at the same time hinting at a larger and more complex concept. So perhaps when Simondon says ‘a natural technical evolution…’ It’s not arguing against the silicon-assemblage but instead identifying the actual component parts.


Rough Notes on John Milbank's Liberty Versus Liberalism

Filed under: philosophy, event, difference, Deleuze, the political — sdv @ 12:24:51 pm

Politics is an experimental activity as Deleuze said. As such though its clear that for any experimenter, whether they are philosopher or engineer, that if an experiment has predictable and previously known results that do not support the ideas and ideals expressed then the political experiment should be avoided. This is the case with John Milbank’s Liberality versus Liberalism a text which argues that the traditions of socialism need to be ‘put into debate with conservative anti-capitalist thematics and the traditions of classical and biblical political thought which may allow us to see the inherent restrictions of the parameters of modern social, political and economic reflection’. Unsurprisingly in this debate socialism and the associated dreams and aims of human emancipation are subsumed into the reactionary sentiments that will place human beings and all things as subservient to revamped medieval ideals, in short a fascism related to all the other fascisms we could define. One which is always intended to ‘enclose us in repressive communities’ (Kristeva) which cannot survive the increasing need for singularity. For all of the last 100 plus years, as Kristeva points out, in the light of the developments in new technologies, the knowledge of the psychic life of the individual, as well as the sexual revolution all tend in the direction of maximum singularization. But I only raise the spectre of Kristeva because she believes that the Religious Heritage has something to offer. I am much less certain.

The political experiment is the reactionary one of reinstituting monarchy, aristocracy, localism and hierarchy. Masking the fascism with the usual references to the failings of representative democracy and the problems with participatory democracy. Placing religion back into a central relationship within the ideological function of political sovereignty. Political sovereignty or domination is described by Georges Dumezil(see Mitra-Varuna and the Destiny of the King) as having two symbolic but real heads the magician-king and the jurist-priest, the despotic king and the legislator, legitimater of the system. In all cases these two poles of sovereignty stand in opposition to one another, the first implying despotic violence and the latter regulation and justification, of course they are an un-seperable dualism that together make up the social and ideological function of political sovereignty. Within our recent societies Science has supplanted religion so that scientists have functioned as jurist-priests, which in truth is better named as a jurist-scientist. A double articulation whose content and expression has been for the past few hundred years the political discourses of liberalism, but whilst we might be interested in understanding the relationships inherent in political sovereignty and consequently in the way our societies actually function. Milbank’s more mundane and reactionary aim is to accuse liberalism of failing, to supplant the unmentioned science and return the legislator role to that of Jurist-priest. To construct a genuine spiritual hierarchy founded on a religiously founded creed of generosity which would ‘bind societies together’… A concept which reverberates with memories, false and real of fascist rejections of capitalism. To do so Milbank has to ignore the real target of his rejection of liberalism which is to replace science and scientists with religion and priests. (Masculine reference intended).

Why this reactionary turn? Because mistakenly Milbank argues that the issue he is ultimately interested in correcting is that we ‘…Live under the the tyranny of an unrestricted capitalist markets’ as ‘… we have abandoned the Marxist view that this market must inevitably collapse and evolve into socialism…’ In doing so giving up any immanent and false secular historicist hope, returning to a transcendent hope which will replace the mistakenly identified failed liberalism(s). Equally then he believes that we, (that is to say everyone) have given up on the liberal idea that capitalism can be mitigated. It is rather strange that he identifies mitigation and management of capitalism as social-democratic, when historically the examples he uses for the mitigation of capitalist excess are a sequence of diverse liberal solutions to the problem of how to manage ‘capitalist accumulation’. The question here is not then one of failed socialist alternatives or failed social-democratic responses but rather of how different liberal discourses have functioned as managers of capitalism. The underlying point which Milbank fails to register and discuss because of his false labelling of Keynesian liberalism as social-democractic is that Keynesian thought and neoliberal thought are dynamic liberal solutions to the problem of how to govern western capitalist societies. Which leads him to the assumption that whilst the ‘free-market is intrinsically unjust’, equally the liberal vision of a ‘welfare-state is only a mode of resignation’. But of course the relationship between two things doesn’t follow for equally a libertarian would argue that the free-market exists to correct the intrinsic problems that exist with a liberal welfare state.

To correct the underlying problem of the proposed failure of liberalism what he is suggests is that ‘Catholic social thought’ can provide a solution to the previously unresolved problem of how to manage capitalism. The central utopian proposition here is that there is no ‘pure capitalism, only degrees of this mode of production and exchange’ which allows him to propose a return to small-scale local capitalist economies (referring to Braudel for justification) which he suggests enables a localized culture of design excellence overseen and managed by the re-establishment of jurist-priests (referred to as Church, Islamic and Jewish bodies). In this he is founding his proposition on a medieval understanding of the universe, on a series of idealisms derived from Catholic Christianity, appealing to equally medieval visions of the universe from the other Indo-European monotheisms from notions of God (appealing here to St. Paul), transcendence (a monarchic vision headed by Christ and the Father; ‘monarchic liberality and objectivity’), participatory democracy (’the people are the body of the king, the king can only act through the people’), localized and universal property ownership (’…its not an accident that so few are allowed the kind of property that permits one to leave a creative mark upon the world…’) not evidently anything to do with the sheer numbers of people in the world… I do always wonder what is it about fascists, land and property.

The crucial argument which demonstrates the reactionary nature of Milbank position is the drawing together of Monarchy which remains central to the picture being offered here because he argues that mass popular movements tend to subvert the more genuine operation of local participatory democracy that is linked to the dispersal of property whether in town or countryside. The notional political sovereignty that is offered here is that of a transcendent single power which should exist to secure, uphold and intervene where necessary. But where Milbank insists of the singular it’s clear that he is in fact speaking of the political sovereignty as briefly described above the magician-king (Monarch) and the jurist-priest(Religion). The function of the rule of the One that Milbank is proposing then does not run against ‘the modern doctrinal and practical upholding of an absolute sovereign centre’ but instead merely invokes the earlier historical model. Not as he suggests an ecclesia (a word to send horrors down ones spine) consisting of ‘…a new universal polity, primarily democratic, yet also monarchic, which was invented by Christianity’ but rather a continuation and return to an older and deeply unpleasant model… unchanging and unchangeable. But it’s a phantasy founded on references to monarchy as anarchy and monarchy as liberality. Notions supported by references to a misreading of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and a related ahistorical misreading of Robin Hood which speaks of the outlaw appealing to the King in exile. The relations between the Anglo-Saxons and the imperial invaders is not discussed instead Milbank argues for ‘…the king of natural law from whose legal domain no living being can possibly be excluded. It is the natural law of fair distribution and generous assistance…’ The monarchy is referenced (magician-king) as the ‘earthly sovereign representative’ with its priestly support explicitly referenced in the terrifying name of ‘earthly’.

So we have a society encoded with and by Christian jurist-priests, what might this mean.. ‘Christianity renders all objects sacred: everything is a sign of God and his love. Moreover in Christ this is shown again, and he provides the idiom for rendering all sacred. Hence these need be no more neutral commodities just as there are no more strangers…Because we are literally one kin… one kind under Christ…’ Unchanging, fixed, defined forever by the Christian jurist-priests… armed with nuclear weapons, robotic drones and the historical knowledge of how to build and run concentration and death camps to maintain the polis… Perhaps these to will be sacramental, for in Christianity everything tells of the glory of christ and all aspects of the economy are ‘part of an economy of salvation’. If you can’t count the bodies already I worry about you. Because there are no inbuilt checks and balances in this experimental project, you can’t say to a jurist-priest as you would to a jurist-scientist ‘err sorry why exactly are you interested in gay genes?’ Milbank claims that on the basis of a fixed and changing sacramental ground that exchange of ideas , talents and goods will be constantly re-negotiated. The point of absolute difference is that Milbank believes in the necessity of ‘an agreed on hierarchy of values’ which has to be imposed. Imposed in the name of the ’super-human’. Though obviously Milbank believes that we (everyone) will once more become the reactionary souls who will bow down before the super-human representatives.

This is a strange resolution to the experimental activity he proposes…Should I mention love, sacrifice, the model of gift-exchange? ‘and the king of natural law from whose legal domain no living being can possibly be excluded…’ I think there is no need, but then perhaps you think this will protect you from the fascist desire to maintain the defined polis. Milbank thinks so, and once you have been returned to a localized property model paying tithes and taxes to support the political sovereignty function perhaps you will think so to. Interestingly the peasants didn’t think so last time as they revolted at the first opportunity and sacked the taxing monasteries just a century after Robin Hood vanished…

What can i say - rough working notes…


Noology and machine intelligence some notes

Filed under: philosophy, event, difference, Deleuze — sdv @ 05:30:36 pm

Noology: Deleuze criticized Husserl for restricting the noema to being an object of human consciousness and said that noematic predicates, for example sound between sound waves and ear, hearing is a relation divorced from a specific observer. Noology is not a study of appearances or ideas but noology, to the extent that noema are thinkables, then we are dealing with a (machinic) history of images of thought, rather than consciousness. Ideology is traditionally thought of as an image of a mind that can think only through an imposed and external structure, Noology is opposed to Ideology by Deleuze.

(Of course I differ from Deleuze in that I do not think that in thinking of Ideology we are presuming subjects and false ideas that can be demystified and the truth will emerge, indeed in the sense I use the concept Ideology it is beyond true and false, even I suspect beyond the human.)

Deleuze makes a good case that it is the idea of a proper subject, if you like a ‘we’ which prevents us from actualising our potential. Noology is not only the study of images of thought but in addition makes a claim for an historical understanding of the images of thought. This broadly speaking is the critical function of noology, which is always a constructivism, beyond this noology considers that when images of thought are created they can always be recreated, with the ideal of liberation from some images of thought being the aim. In a good noological fashion then Deleuze argues that we have failed to think truly (’well’ in my terms) because we presume an image of thought, of a thought. Thought fails to question and interrogate just what it is they think, and what it is they are thinking about. Consequently then we can see that the concept of mind, and the concept of being has been unargued, uninterrogated and an implicit restriction on our thinking. Noology then studies not only what it means for human beings, subjects to think it also requires us to imagine what thought might be beyond the human, and critically in this context what it might be if the thinker is non-human.

It is this final thought which points to why noology is an intervention into the thought that a machinic or non-human citizenship and equality is a necessary thought, it is intrinsic, almost explicit within Deleuzian thought to consider that thought is noological, beyond the human and non-human. What better starting point to avoid the anthropomorphising of being and sentience ?

From Logic of Sense via Difference and Repetition to ATP…


Trees - arboretum

Filed under: culture, philosophy, difference, animal, text — sdv @ 02:51:58 pm

The fifteen tree species in my/our arboretum:

Sweet Chestnut
English Oak
Chilean Pine (Monkey Puzzle)
Pine (2 varieties)
Evergreen (3 varieties)
Mountain Ash
Common Cherry
Californian Lilac


post and humanism (1)

Filed under: philosophy, difference, the political — sdv @ 09:46:16 pm

As might be imagined from the naming of the concept of post-humanism it is a critical concept, but one which remains trapped within the implications of the name post-humanism. It is not an affirmative, positive concept but is instead a negative position which is inscribed in the limits of the discourse. Within the concept of the post-human the negation of the humanist adversary takes place in the partial critique, the Aufhebung rather than by a deliberate forgetting of the humanist adversary. Just as atheism can be understood as a religion developed into a negative form, with the consequence that a post-secular thinker might even argue it is the modern variant form of religion and is the way in which some people manage to remain religious in the modern era, so the post-human critique makes itself the object of its object and remains within the field of the other (humanism) it critiques. The post-humanism concept remains within the partial critique of the concept it aims to transgress.

Here then we shall be considering the consequences of transgression, with the refusal of the category of transgression and implicitly for the work of thinkers like Bataille, because you either exit stage left without wasting time in a partial critique, because you want to be in a different domain than the adversary’s domain, for post-humanism this would be humanism or else you partially critique consequently always remain within the domain of humanism, really a negativity which contains nothing of the positive, nothing affirmative. This is the absence that one finds is Feuerbach and Adorno.

This is the logic that Marx explained when he said that socialism does not need atheism because atheism is positionally that of religion; it remains a critique. Equally for post-humanism what is important in the question it proposes is not its negativity but the position of the problem which remains humanism. In the movement from atheism to socialism there is not a critique but a displacement, so that new machines begin to operate which do not reference the prior problem but instead something entirely new. In this familiar terrotory then we find post-humanism which cannot leave behind its original relationship to humanism.

(Thanks to Lyoard)

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