Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Decision; Enlightenment and Extinction, Part 6

Lacan's constipation in trying to understand the real
; 6:10 - 7:15

In the last post we ended off by saying "..we can make a good guess at where Brassier is headed; a non-correlation between between being and thought." We will understand this non-correlative thought more concretely through his elaboration of Francois Laruelle. We need to understand Brassier's theoretical acquaintance with Laruelle to fully understand the salient point of Laruelle's "non-philosophy," which will guide us to non-correlationism. There is much to gain from Laurelle's "non-philosophy" that comes across as a giant step for philosophy once fully understood. Laruelle identifies an essence of philosophy that leads him to analyze how philosophers think. Instead of coming up with a philosophical system in distinction and reference to previous philosophers, he instead analyzes how philosophers think. This analysis is a great step forward because of its originality and power. Laruelle does not rely on psychological concepts to define the philosophical thinker that tend to be turgid in description and lacking in precise rigor nor concepts of logic that would presume all the possibilities for philosophical thought. Instead, he finds one basic premise that every philosophers starts off at. What he finds is something he calls "the decision." As philosophers trying to understand something called "the real," this decision implicitly made by philosophers needs to be understood and open to bright lighting. Brassier explains Laruelle's position as such: "Every decision divides immanence between an empirical datum which it supposes as given through the a priori factum, and a transcendental immanence which it has to invoke as already given in order to guarantee the unity of a presupposed factum and a posited datum." First, lets understand the concept of "immanence." We understand immanence as a state of being within. The "real" of what is happening within is trying to be understood by philosophers. Now, a decision is made to how this immanence is to be understood. The implicit decision is a division between an outside and an inside. "The real" happens by a dialectical logic for the philosopher. This stems most notably from German idealism but find it's way into the neo-Kantianism and Phenomenology in the early 20th century. We first have an empirical datum which we only first come to know through a priori categories elaborated systematically in Kant's first Critique. We come to know this empirical datum through transcendental categories of the mind that synthesize this "hyletic data" into human conception. The unity of what is presupposed as already having to happen and what is posited by the human being naturally is a theoretical structure decided on by the philosopher. What is happening is an attempt by a philosopher at an explanation of pure causation between outside and inside. This correlation says very simply that "I can think and talk about something because something outside of myself happened to me that gave me the impulse to talk about this very thing that I'm positing, but I only know this thing to be outside of myself as I'm talking about it because I'm first able to think about it." What's privileged in this pseudo-steam of conscious statement is a synthetic causation between outside and inside; that I'm able to think only because something happened to me from outside of myself. Laruelle identifies three "distinct structural moments" which constitute this decision. First, there's an inventory of a priori's established by philosophers. These a priori conditions of experience are understood in Kant's first Critique as "transcendental categories." The most obvious one is the transcendental aesthetic that places space and time as the experiential grounds for the causal movement into concept (The Idea). Secondly, there is the "gathering-together" (synthesis) of a prioris by a single transcendental category. This synthesis is "said to be 'transcendental' then because it is supposed to exceed experience absolutely..." This transcendental synthesis then exists beyond the conditions of experience. This we can call the "correlative mechanism" that moves the conditions of experience happening to something other than itself into conceptualization (the Idea). Laruelle refers to this as the pure phenomenological Ego in Husserl's Phenomenology; "pure," meaning we have no choice that our mind synthesizes everything that is ostensibly happening outside of it. Thirdly, we have a unification of the single transcendental synthesis with the a priori categories of synthesis, meaning we see how the conditions of experience were understood through an extra-empirical mechanism of a single "gathering-together" mechanism. We make the connection (correlation) between the idea that there were things outside of ourselves that first needed to be the case and things inside of ourselves that had to be the case to make sense of what was outside of us. We remember this synthesis of rationalism and empiricism specifically in Kant's Critique when he states, "There can be no doubt that all our knowledge begins with experience...But though all our knowledge begins with experience it does not follow that it all arises out of experience." In other words, just because knowledge had a place where it first began for us, doesn't mean that this first place constitutes all of what makes knowledge necessary. For Kant, it arises out of the transcendental faculty unifying the conditions of experience. But lets keep something in mind in this analysis of Kant. Kant was specifically focused on epistemology, i.e. knowledge. So his analysis was always in reference to knowledge for us. Now, just because something happened to us where we happen to gain something called "knowledge," doesn't mean that this exteriority to ourselves is a matter of knowledge in itself. Certainly all experience can't be accounted for as a reference for us. We certainly only see experience for us, but we should also see that seeing experience for us is a relative "function" of something we happen to call "experience." The philosophers "real" is understood not through an empirical or contingent sense but through the sense that makes Ideas possible in the first place (knowledge). For the philosopher, the decision is made that reality conditions ideality without interest into how "the real constitutes itself." "The decisional complex of transcendence, immanence, and the transcendental is ultimately determined by unobjectifiable immanence which Laruelle identifies with 'the real.'"

Now that we have analyzed the decision the philosopher makes when trying to understand "the real," we can bracket out this philosophical decision when trying to understand something called "the real." "By suspending the premise that decision co-constitutes the real, thought comes to realize that it can have a relation to a real instance which is neither empirically presupposed nor transcendentally posited as determining, but defined by thought as already-determined and determining for it - a 'real of the last instance' in accordance with which thought can approach the circle of transcendental synthesis from a place which is 'always-already' outside of it." We can understand what we call "the real" then not in terms of a correlation between an empirical and transcendental decision made by philosophers that always must be in reference to our possibility, but the fact that thought is already determined independent of a theoretical system that would like to account for it. It's the case that we are already thinking. Kant's system isn't needed to understand "the real." In a certain sense this a return to the Cartesian method with a specific injuction not to move into the Kantian decision. We know in the "real of the last instance" that we are thinking beings and what happened "before" this is "always-already" outside of thought's purview. We know at the very least that we are always and already thinking. But what is this "real of the last instance?" It's reality before it hits the fact that we are always-already thinking. More precisely, it's the moment we are thinking at that exact moment we are thinking (without necessarily knowing we are thinking. Again, this "real" is at a distance from epistemology). The last instance of "the real" is already a thought, but it's at a shorter distance than the system built by Kant and Hegel to establish how thought came to be. It's this division from System that allows to find something called a "real in the last instance." Still, what is happening in this "real in the last instance, if anything at all?" At the very least, we know that "the use of the modifiers 'already' and 'without' in describing the 'real of the last-instance' is effectively shorthand for 'non-decisional.'" In other words, when we understand the "the real" in terms of having no choice in what happens, we understand that we make no decision in what happens to us, nor does "the real" assume some mystical/spiritual position that already makes decisions specifically for us. Neither what we call "the real," nor what we understand as Kantian synthesizing acts of the mind make decisions. "The real" happens independent of a decision. It happens in it's own way independent of what we would philosophically understand to be a "teleological presupposition." Lets let Laruelle speak for himself here. "To the extent that philosophy exploits 'transcendence' or 'being' in a privileged and dominant manner [...] the essence of transcendence or being according to their philosophical usage is the 'auto,' that is to say, the idea of philosophy's absolute autonomy in the form of a circle, of a self-reference such as becomes apparent in the dimensions of auto-donation and auto-position." From this, we understand that Laruelle sees the decision of the philosopher as privileging concepts of "being" and "transcendence" which is the essence of philosophy. What these concepts entail is a use of the concept "auto," meaning that the concept of being for example means that something automatically happens without decision. But this is what we understood above as Laruelle's non-philosophy. We understood it as non-decisional. We must distinguish between "auto-position" and "non-auto-decision." When Laruelle understands the decision made by Kantian and post Kantian philosophy, it's in the circularity between what's given (donated) and the position taken from the donation. Heidegger for example puts us in the position of the being of Being who thinks its own finitude by the modality of temporality. We are automatically in a position in other words with Heidegger's privileged-subjectivity . The idea conveyed by Laruelle in the form of a non-decisional non-philosophy is different from being put into an automatic position of being. The idea of non-decisionality obviates the correlation between subjectivity and objectivity as a duality (dialectical logic) in the first place. While Phenomenology would lay out what automatically happens to us without us having any knowledge of it, this non-decisional non-philosophy has no idea of "something happening to us automatically." This makes sense in the context of a "real in the last instance" because we are not yet at something we can identify as "being us." As was stated above, we are at a smaller distance with the "real in the last instance" than the system being constructed for the possibility of thought by Kant and Hegel. While "auto-positional" puts us in an automatic position we cant escape ("being"), "non-decisional" doesn't make available the philosophical decision to put us in an automatic place at all.

This analysis of the philosopher's decision relative to understanding "the real" will help us with understanding what Laruelle will specifically refer to as "the real" in the next post. Bracketing out the philosopher's decision of having to see "the real" in terms of a synthesis between ostensible empirical and transcendental conditions is a giant step for thought being able to think something called "the real" without the history of philosophy weighing so heavily on it.

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