Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Will to Nothing; Enlightenment and Extinction, Part 10

Someone literally willing nothing.

With Brassier's repudiation of Heidegger and Deleuze's conceptions of time as being anthropomorphic and specifically temporal, Brassier moves onto the pure movement of time as nothing, crystallized in Nietzsche's concept of the will to power. Brassier reappraises this notion though as a will to nothing. Nietzsche's writing has been extraordinary for thinking nothingness regardless of his seeing of the will's direct object in power. The fact that his writing is still fresh today within the domain of "thinking the death of thought," is a testament to his unconscious quest for utmost honesty; honesty not as a virtue in itself, but as a compulsion of a certain organism to simply will something absolutely independent of itself. Brassier acknowledges this power found in Nietzsche's writing but tweaks it towards its absolute logical extension; that the will that wills itself can't be understood as willing power, but as willing something that is so absolutely void of substance that at most we can say that the "will wills nothing." We can fully understand this through the tenor of Nietzsche's aphorisms which makes his insistence on power as the ground of existence curious. It's not worth trying to personally analyze the reasons behind this. For one, they would be boring, and two, it takes away justice to be done to the actual sway of Nietzche's writing which is most striking about great writers rather than solidified concepts that often serve as cursory introductions to the very writing of an author that transcends those solidified concepts. This post then will be a reappraisal of the concept of the will to power rather than a reappraisal of Nietzche's writing. We will understand the absolute logical conclusion that can be drawn from the will to power into the will to nothing with the help of Brassier. Being will no longer be understood ontologically, either in it's finitude or micro-biological aspects of difference. Instead it will be understood as a pure difference that couldn't possibly signify an ontology classically understood. The questions of being then becomes a non-question because there's nothing to question. Rather, the question of being becomes the question of nothing. The substance that ontology would like to premise its thought is non-substantial. Ontology then becomes something that can preliminarily be called "non-ontology," but even this idea couldn't be understood in a dialectical distinction to ontology. It would have to be understood purely as nothing regardless of the ostensible duality that the "non" signifies within the context of "ontology" (It's here where Laruelle's concept of "unilateral duality" explained earlier by Brassier is important to understand).

"For Nietzsche, 'will to power' is a synonym for the world interpreted as a chaotic multiplicity of conflicting forces - 'This world is will to power- and nothing besides!' which is to say, a synonym for 'becoming,' then to think the will in its being is to think the being of becoming in its essentially dissimulatory, inherently self-differentiating 'essence' as a flux of perpetual transformation. Thus, the affirmation of recurrence marks the moment when the will comes to know that it cannot know itself in itself because its knowable aspect necessarily corresponds to nothing - since there is nothing, no aspect of the will 'in-itself', for it to correspond to or adequately represent." Lets first distinguish between an immediate understanding of the will to power and the one we want to establish as the will to nothing. An immediate understanding of the will to power would echo a Hobbesian sentiment that conveys a political characteristic. You could conjure up ideas of absolute imperialism in this concept and you wouldn't be wrong considering the recorded time of actual peace in our archived history of the world (which ranges somewhere between 0 and 32 seconds). On the other hand, one can understand the concept of the will to power on a much more personal level. One can see it very simply when one is playing a game against anyone. One is always trying to win, or quitting because they don't want to compete thinking they can't compete, which can often lead to the quitter uttering a masked humiliatory sentiment such as "I don't believe in competition." With Nietzsche, we gain a concept of the will that's devoid of all morality, or at the very least reduced to the fact that if there is a morality in the process of phenomenal power, it's an interpretation of the phenomena and not the phenomena itself. This connotation is what Brassier will want to reappropriate. Because the phenomenal world is interpreted as chaotic forces that are always in conflict with each other doesn't lead to a logical jump of saying that power guides these conflicting forces. It can certainly be interpreted that way, but it can just as easily not be interpreted that way and stay reduced to it's dissimulatory nature. The idea of conflicting forces doesn't have to be understood anthropomorphically as personal conflicts understood in the immediate conception of the will to power. Instead, conflicting forces can be understood simply as entropy; meaning different things are always happening. That this difference can be interpreted as chaotic and conflicting is for the interpretation of an interpreter, not for anything preemptively understood as "the real." If we accept that the will to power for Brassier is a synonym for 'becoming,' then the concept of the will to power transitions into the will to nothing because no substance underlies the concept. What's "self-differentiating" and always in a "flux of perpetual transformation" is something different from the connotations one thinks of when thinking of power. One is taken back to the laconic phrases of Heraclitus. But the idea of "flux" need not symbolize an end point for the power of conceptual thinking, and this is what leads Brassier in a Q and A to say that he's an idealist because he thinks highly of the power of thinking to be able to out-think itself into what it's not. So the speculative opportunity of this nihilism doesn't end in an eternal look-of-awe into something normatively understood as "the void," but into an active movement that's wholly nothing. Thinking about this wholly nothing gains speculative help from the idea of eternal recurrence elaborated by Nietzsche. Briefly, the idea of eternal recurrence is the idea that what happens will always happen again making the idea of free will a non-factor in any sort of action-being; for what will happen now will have always happened and what has always happened will eventually happen again. In this sense, any choice that one thinks they are making at their own discretion has already been made an eternity of times. The ostensible "will" of this eternal recurrence though can't be known. We can describe it but we know that we can't because the "phenomena" is not knowable, or rather, is not a matter of knowledge. We can say that something will happen again that has already happened, but this isn't recurrence in itself because there is no static identity to recurrence. As we stated above, if we accept the will to power as the will to nothing - which is synonymous with "becoming"- and this becoming we understand as inherently self-differentiating, then the will to nothing would be an eternal self-differentiation of recurrence. So then, what is it to grasp the eternal self-differentiation of recurrence? We can first grasp it very simply as difference and repetition, self-differentiation and recurrence. We can understand it as the eternal phenomena of continual differences always reoccurring. The self-differentiating nature in recurrence points to nothing that can be known because no identity can be understood with something that is inherently always in a state of difference (Derrida). If nothing can be known, and the will wills nothing, then the will can't know anything. In other words, what the will "is," is not a matter of knowledge. At the very most, we can vaguely conceptualize the will as a pure process and nothing else. Even this concept of "process" needs to be annotated with a non-dialectical character though, putting the concept of process into the original reduction of the wills direct object to nothing. No aspect of the will can "correspond to or adequately represent" anything. It's important to make clear that the matter at hand seems to be an epistemological issue. While we can say that the will is "nothing," we can also say that it's "something that happens." But this later qualification doesn't pertain to the knowledge one may think it would like to convey. When someone says that at the very most "something happens" in reference to the will, this statement is non-declarative. It's not made in order to archive a truth or establish a philosophy. It's something that's said without any substance, but nonetheless something that is said. It's important to not make this statement into a conviction or declaration. There's nothing in this statement that points to anything personal. If we allow ourselves this, the will then is non-representational, and so one would go too far in establishing the will's "movement" as one synonymous with power. We can certainly understand the idea of the will to power within our context of being (Dasein) but this doesn't always have to be the case. Whatever the will is as becoming is not symbolic, and so is henceforth nothing, epistemologically speaking. The trick is in thinking the will not as it pertains to knowledge for us, but as non-knowledge, or non-ontology, or simply as nothing. The trick again is in thinking non-thought if something called "the real" can be appropriated. This transition from the will to power to the will to nothing is in this sense exactly not an epistemological event, or rather an attempt at making it a non-epistemological event. No new knowledge is gained when the will is understood as willing nothing. If anything, knowledge is lost. With the will to power we could give an innumerable amount of examples of powers sway over the word, but the will to nothing has no examples since it's nature is always self-differentiating, and this self-differentiation doesn't signify a Heraclitean aphorism (it can, but it doesn't have to), it simply signifies nothing. At the very least, it's important to understand that self-differentiating and conflicting phenomena doesn't necessarily point to some sort of conscious or unconscious power being waged in behalf of micro-biological organisms or nothingness itself. It simply points to something that is not a matter of knowledge, and hence close to something called "the real."

The transition from the will to power to the will to nothingness is not a subtle one, but for thinking it appears subtle. The move isn't the easiest in the world because thinking something without an intentional-direct object is contrary to a metaphysics of thinking. It's something that one lets simmer after an initial understanding. Much like Laruelle's concept of unilateral duality, the more the idea simmers, the more it becomes "appropriate." Of course, a brief but close reading of Nietzsche will acquire a deeper perspective of the will as becoming, and hence as the will that wills nothing, and that eternally reoccurs. For better or worse, it's in Nietzsche's style that we can best attain this perspective and not necessarily in a scientific understanding of the will. If there were a scientific understanding of the will, it would learn from science but would appear philosophical in style. It's not as if scientists concern themselves with the will to nothingness, not yet at least (it's not a matter of discovery). But being in the work of science is something like the will willing nothing. In regards to the speculative-philosophical perspective though, it takes a certain style to conjure this perspective and there's never been anyone before or after Nietzsche to do this. To understand this, the best thing to do is let Nietzsche speak for himself: "Becoming must be explained without recourse to final intentions; becoming must appear justified at every moment (or incapable of being evaluated, which comes to the same thing); the present must not be justified in reference to the future, not the past by reference to the present. Becoming is of equivalent value at every moment; the sum of its values always remains the same; in other words, it has no value at all, for anything against which to measure it, and in relation to which the word 'value' would have meaning, is lacking. The total value of the world cannot be evaluated..." - The Will to Power. The world is a different nothing. The world is nothing different.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

An errant attempt at phase cancellation

Tom Goes to the Mayor, "Bass Fest"

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Time is the Difference; Enlightenment and Extinction, Part 9

What a difference time makes.

When trying to destabilize the ontological notion of time through it's temporal existentiality, Brassier doesn't find this ontological gesture simply through the work of Heidegger, but also finds it's extension in Deleuze. Brassier confronts Deleuze specifically in his Difference and Repetition text which stands as Deleuze's most theoretical work. To compare this work to Deleuze's work with Guattarai is like comparing applies to oranges. At the very least, one is extremely difficult to understand (Difference and Repetition) while the other is much easier (e.g. Anti-Oedipus). It's the difference between reading a pure philosophical text and reading a text which is more sociological with a philosophical style. Regardless of Difference and Repetition's difficulty, it will be important to understand the basic premise of this latters text in order to fully understand the pure and empty nothingness that Brassier continually tries to convey in Enlightenment and Extinction. While Heidegger finds time as the constituting form of Dasein (or the human being), specifically in its temporal nature, Deleuze digs deeper to find time as a differentiable operation that is made up of a logical emptiness devoid of sequence, meaning time as temporality is pure difference, and not an observed and objective sequence of time. It's with this explanation that we have a preliminary understanding of the slippery difference between time and temporality. While the earlier would like to serve as the pure objective sequence of phenomenal nature, the latter would like to serve as an abstract difference that works as a sort of difference maker between anything at all. While the observation of time entails nothing else other than the fact that things are happening at different times, the observation of temporality entails a difference that constitutes not just the being of Dasein, but anything in general. Temporality as time functions specifically as the sense of difference. The emphasis on time is the unconscious observation of phasing, while the conscious emphasis of time as temporality is the recognition of time as difference. One can understand then how time as temporality serves a correlative sense since it emphasizes a difference between things, most conspicuously to us, while the pure observation of phasing seeks nothing other than what's already happening in a observation. To understand this basic premise of Difference and Repetition (that Brassier explains in order to throw the shackels off the privilege of time "de-vulgarized"), lets take a look at what Deleuze specifically states regarding time and difference.

"It is the empty form of time that introduces and constitutes Difference in thought; the difference on the basis of which thought thinks, as the difference between the indeterminate and determination. It is the empty form of time that distributes along both its sides an I that is fractures by the abstract line [of time], and a passive self that has emerged from the groundlessness which it contemplates. It is the empty form of time that engenders thinking in thought, for thinking only thinks with difference, orbiting around the point of ungrounding." First, we have an explanation of time as an empty form. For us to understand this, we have to think of something with no form, and in this case, we apply to our previous conception of time. Whatever one's conception of time was needs to be emptied to have no form. Time is nothing then. It's not the sequence one may have first thought it was or was initially taught. Rather, it constitutes difference in thought. What we understand here from Deleuze is time as the possibility of there being thought independent of thinking. The logic of this statement is grounded on the premise that this is thought and the formlessness of time makes a difference for thought. Thought is no longer what it is because of time. Time makes thought different. While thought was ostensibly happening without having to think anything, time engenders a difference for thought whereby it no longer simply happens without having to think. Instead, the difference of time engenders thinking into thought. Thought then no longer is in pure space, but temporalizes itself by a difference. This difference is time. Thought can no longer be thought but ends up thinking something. While thought didn't have a direct object for whatever it was, it now as a direct object in its process of now becoming thinking. It's difficult to think of what thought is without thinking. At the very most, it's being-nothing which means we can't think thought. We can't understand it as an activity of thinking because we are thinking beings as the difference from being-nothing. Attributing a character to being-nothing is on Deleuze though, and calling it something like "thought" is on us to try to understand through Difference and Repetition. Nonetheless, we are given a difference from thought by way of time. Time separates the being-nothing of thought into thinking. Deleuze further describes this distinction as the difference between the indeterminate and determination and this makes sense within the explanation of thought and thinking given above. Thought is indeterminate or simply being-nothing. Thinking on the other hand is determination in the sense that it has a direct object. We won't go so far to say that it functions in intentionality, but was can say that was it does, is give a direct object. The difference here is between saying what something does, and calling what something does, intentionality. We certainly can understand Husserl's gesture of making this leap because the arrow of what something does can be synonymized with intentionality, but this arrow is always for us, as much as thinking is for us. But if we are working past us, then we can understand the break at wanting to formalize the doing of an operation as an intentionality. So far then, we have thought as something completely indeterminate and thinking as determination. When we move forward in Deleuze with this passage, we find two characters that time distributes. One is the fractured I. What is the fractured I? What is an I that is fractured? What Deleuze means to say with the concept of the "fractured I" is the fact that the I is never unchangeable. The I will always change because of the abstract line of time. Now, we can't forget that this line of time is abstract which means we can't think of it in terms of a symbolized sequence. Instead we understand it as a difference that always happens. It's easier to understand time here simply as difference. The difference of time fractures the possibility of an I, meaning an identity. Nothing can ever be identified because abstract time as difference will not allow identity of something understood as an I. The identity of something is then never possible. Time breaks the possibility of being an identity. On the other hand, a passive self "happens" that has "emerged form the groundlessness which it contemplates." So time as difference does two things here. Firstly, it makes the possibility of the I as identity impossible since something can never be identified as the same thing. Secondly though, something called a "passive self" happens that emerges from the groundlessness of abstract time. To be more clear, for Deleuze, time engenders a fractured I, and also engenders a passive self. From this, we can understand there's a difference between an "I" and a "passive self." The passive self is an organism that is the receptor of passive phenomena which it may or may not allow to receive passive syntheses, meaning it has no choice in how "reality" happens to its own faculties. On the other hand, this phenomena that happens to to the "passive self" never is understood as an "I" because the very idea of the "passive self" is enveloped by continual phenomena because of its passivity. In other words, passivity doesn't allow for identity. Something that continually receives something passively can't stand ground and neurotically stop the passive phenomena. In the human being, it can try to, which we learned leads to the neurosis of Dasein (understood in our previous explanation of Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus). But even this attempt at a stop to the phenomena of reality which eventually gives way to any number of modern-day labels of "sicknesses" where one has "lost their mind," (meaning the "I") has been fractured by the absolute nature of abstract time. From nowhere then, time contemplates this nowhere, and from this, a "passive self" is derived, meaning something which receives nothing. The contemplation of nothing engenders passivity. We can say that an organism receives something from pure nothingness. This is the difference that time makes. The break in nothingness is the difference of time and this break constitutes something that receives nothing, but this difference mimics this nothingness and changes it into something that's other than nothing; a different nothing if you will (because time breaks thought, thinking takes places which can only think about what ever is available, that being the nothingness of thought). We can understand that how "thinking only thinks with difference, orbiting around the point of ungrounding." The key here is how thinking orbits around the point of ungrounding. Ungrounding is a "taking-apart." It's an "explanation." It's an "enlightenment." Psychoanalytically, we can call it a "want to figure out." Thinking excavates nothing that was thought. Thinking hovers around the idea of discovering something from nothing. How much can be discovered though if there's nothing to be discovered? What we understand from this preliminary question is that thinking doesn't operate off some pragmatic virtue to "truly understanding what's outside of us" for example, instead, it's "content" to simply to unground nothing for the sake of ungrounding anything at all, even if there's nothing to unground. When time creates the difference of thought in thinking, this thinking that ostensibly ungrounds nothing doesn't think in order to discover something from nothing, but wills itself for no reason. Thinking is "content" with pretending it's doing something when it's really uncovering nothing. But the action of pretending it's doing something is the operation of thinking. In this sense, its discovery of nothing is the difference from nothing. This difference that breaks thought is the essence of time. It's the difference from being-nothing; essentially to think there's something to unground in being-nothing when there's nothing to unground. It's the eternal failure of thinking in time that makes the difference. And boy, what a difference it makes. Within this context that Deleuze sets up for the reader, we can fully appreciate the existential analytic of Heidegger, specifically the being that is looking around for something to do.

For however much Deleuze's account of time as temporality digs deeper than Heidegger in understanding ontology beyond existential being, this time understood as temporality still relies on a view of time that Deleuze wishes to convey under the auspices of an ostensible first-person perspective. What's privileged for Deleuze is the fact that something called a "first person point of view" is something worth understanding, and the fact that the "person" is something worth understanding . These presumptions lead to the correlationism that Brassier is trying to move away from in order to establish the absolute de-personalized science of non-correlationism where reality happens on its own. Difference need not be simply temporal, but may be something that happens in pure objective time. To understand this though, time can't be conceived of as something happening to us. It has to be "seen" happening completely independent of being's existentiality. It's here where time becomes de-privileged for Brassier. Instead, space as something that "is" independent of time (as we observe) is something that we can preliminary call "reality." How much can this space be understood in the third person perspective though? Maybe though, all that there "is" is the third person perspective, meaning everything that is understood (thinking) comes from a place that is always and already an observation, and that the ostensible access to being via absolute "knowledge of oneself" independent of the knowledge that one is a knowledge-being (discoverer of nothing) is a hopeless wish somehow brought about by the will that wills itself for no reason. How can this happen? How can being not realize it's own operation of actively seeking to know nothing? How can it not know itself as a knowing-being that simply wills to know nothing? How can it think that it's something other than the pure operation to know nothing and not ever find anything in the process because nothing is ever possible to be found? In other words, how can an impossible end come about? It's not as if the end of knowing-being is to know that it's simply a knowing-being with no other end. It's certainly has other ends in mind whether that be "being a good person," or "trying my hardest," etc. And it's not as if one can simply reduce this phenomena down to a christian-judeo historical context because the reduction can keep going endlessly. How one finds out about these "how's" is the trick that non-correlationsm and speculative realism is trying to convey. Ultimately, I think, it's trying to defer the authority of these questions to a pure third person scientific perspective at the destruction of any other perspective. The answer is really established though. Time breaks thought into thinking which makes an "I" impossible but at the same time creates passive organisms. Take this last statement, bracket out the "I" and "organisms," and substitute them with " pure and empty form of nothing" and then ask the "how." In the next post we will explore this pure movement further with Nietzsche's concept of the will, but Brassier will re-appropriate it to a place that's truly a will that wills itself, meaning a will that wills nothing other than its own operation; it's own end without ever knowing anything understood as an "end."

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Reaction to being a stepfather

Tom Goes to the Mayor, "Bear Traps"

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Temporal Dying and Dying in Time; Enlightenment and Extinction, Part 8

An example of the spiritualization of death in Ingmar Bergman's Seventh Seal, perfectly slighted by the
maternal figure. 5:12-6:20.

Before moving further in the concept of "the real," Brassier needs to repudiate the spiritualization of death that has become conspicuous in 20th century thought. This is in order to give credence to a real that is purely being-nothing, which means at an absolute independence from subjectivity. Brassier will want to show how Laruelle's "unilaterlization" that "lies at the heart of the diachronicity...which indexes the asymmetry of thought and being" constitutes a real time that is not temporal. We will distinguish between objective time and subjective temporality in this post. If we are to understand "the real" that happens completely on its own without reference to anything, then this will first need to be understood at the expense of temporal dying which finds its spiritualization through Heidegger. If the idea of Diachronicity is a "time" that happens completely independent of human subjectivity, then the idea of "time" itself will be something different than the explanation of "time" given by Heidegger where "time" is the "who" of subjectivity, and ultimately the "who" of Dasein, meaning "time" is absolutely the structure of Dasein, and nothing else. This circumscription of time by Heidegger that has certainly held a strong sway over philosophy in the 20th century into the 21st century has kept philosophy from looking past its veiled mystical proclivities. If this last statement holds any ground, it should point to the curious nature of certain philosophers who ignore science in its discoveries, and who rely on an idea of transcendental "pure reason" that's ostensibly able to make discoveries that ground the work of science. But how much of this ostensible "pure reason" is actual discovery and how much of it is a pretense for privileging a neo-platonic conception of the universe where there is always something beyond us, making one self-satisfied in the belief of a transcendental-invisible realm that can never be accounted for, except by pure subjectivity? This is a question for an honesty that may not be possible for Dasein. If this explanation of temporal privilege holds ground, then it will serve as an introduction to this post that will distinguish the difference between dying in time and temporal time, or between absolute death, and spiritual death. We will come to learn the basics of Heidegger's temporal dying as Dasein's utmost possibility in difference to absolute bio-physical death that happens without subjective privilege of its own possibility. For all intents and purposes, Brassier takes a sledgehammer to the temporal-subjective interpretation of death in the next passage.

"It is the occlusion of temporality's bio-physical instantiation which inflates phenomenological death into an impossible possibility - but an impossibility which is recoded as the condition for the possibility of everything else. Yet to say that that impossibility is the ultimate condition of possibility is still to say that it never happens. Just as the transcendental conditions of representation cannot be represented, so death as quasi-transcendental condition for all happening cannot itself happen. This sophism points not so much to the un-actualizability of death as to the irreality of the phenomenological attempt to absolutize the disjunction between its possibility and its actuality. I can certainly anticipate the actuality of my own death, but the reality of the latter cannot be reduced to my anticipation of its actuality because the reality of the time of death remains incommensurable with the temporality of its anticipation." Death for Heidegger is "impossible possibility" in so far as death is 1. unable to be experienced and 2. the ground for the experience of "presence." What this means is that Dasein (human being) can never know its own death. It's not an epistemological matter. One can't possibly "know" ones death in its absolute "presence." At the same time, the foreboding of the eventual death that everyone experiences in others (not in themselves) is what makes "presence" (consciousness) possible. So while death for Heidegger cannot be understood in itself (ontically), it functions as the ground to human existence since it's something "to come." In this sense, the question of death becomes the question of dying for Heidegger. Instead of asking about death, Dasein's should ask about "dying" because this is what death actually is according to Heidegger. It's the non-present possibility that grounds existence. It's the process of always being-towards-death, and not the absolute bio-physical reality of the death instance. Being-towards-death is the absolute function of subjectivity. As a generalization of part I of Being and Time, all categories ascribed by Heidegger to Dasein are all looking-ahead which for Heidegger shows Dasein's constant (albeit unconscious) attention towards its own death as its eventual possibility. The verbiage though of the "impossible possible" still points to the fact that death is impossible. In other words, for Heidegger, it's always possible to be dying but never to die. One can always be in the Heraclitian process but one can never simply die. While death can ground Dasein, it can never actually "happen" because it's impossible. This raises the question for what exactly the word "happening" is and a cursory realization of how cloudy this concept has become through the idea of phenomenology. Like this impossibility of possibility in regards to death, the transcendental conditions of representations cannot be represented, which is to say that the transcendental conditions of death cannot "happen." Death for Heidegger then is merely a transcendental condition that forms the Dasein (human experience) and constitutes its existentiality. It's something that actually never happens. Regardless of how many people and things we know die, this actually isn't what's happening for Heidegger, but this is already assuming too much for Heidegger because he isn't interested in understanding anything beyond human possibility. But as Brassier sharply lets us know, this idea of death points "not so much to the un-actualizability of death as to the irreality of the phenomenological attempt to absolutize the disjunction between its possibility and its actuality." Because phenomenology (working within the confines of human consciousness) can’t realize the space outside of human consciousness, doesn't mean that death isn't something that actually happens. To put it more simply, just because we are self-conscious beings who can't think outside of ourselves, doesn't mean that there isn't something outside of ourselves that isn't "experienceable." Working within consciousness, we only have the "who" of Dasein (transcendentally understood as the "we") and so all reality is grounded on what we do (ontology). The premise for this phenomenological impulse is not dishonest nor necessarily presumptuous though. It simply thinks it can't know anything other than itself. But there comes a point where the phenomenological method of absolute naivetĂ© has to be understood as somewhat disingenuous, or rather, one can simply escape out of the phenomenological attitude as quickly as they came in. One can understand that another has died and isn't coming back as quickly as one can enter into a mindset that the process of dying functions as the axiom to human existence. Brassier surmises this perfectly in final passage of the quote above. We will quote it again for extra recognition: “I can certainly anticipate the actuality of my own death, but the reality of the latter cannot be reduced to my anticipation of its actuality because the reality of the time of death remains incommensurable with the temporality of its anticipation." In other words, my knowledge of my eventual death is at an absolute difference with the fact that I will die. I can know that I'm going to die. I can "anticipate" that something will happen to me called "death," but because I can't ever know this "death," doesn't mean that it doesn't happen. Because I'm limited to only being able to anticipate my absolute finitude doesn't mean that something called "death" doesn't absolutely happen to myself as a biological organism independent of my temporal-memorial consciousness. Just because I'm limited to only knowing what dying is, 1. doesn't mean that death can't happen to me from without, and 2. doesn't mean that dying and death are the same things. In fact they are very different things. If I can only think of what dying is and not of what death is, then they must be very different things. This is very easily solved when we understand that we can't have a 1st person understanding of what we call "death" but can absolutely witness a 3rd person observation of "death," while phenomenologically speaking, we can have an "ecstatic" experience of dying, but this wouldn't be a "knowing." This knowing of an "ecstatic" experience of dying would be a transcendental figuration for Dasein which for Heidegger is the ontological ground for Dasein. The transition in Heidegger's thinking into this "ecstatic" being is where modern philosophers don't realize that this shouldn't be considered a "transition of thinking." More specifically, thinking doesn't happen in ekstasis (The closest Heidegger will come is in privileging poetry as being able "to speak for experience"). Regardless of this phenomenological digression, death is a happening that is not a matter of knowing for us, but just because it's not a possibility for our experience and knowing, doesn't mean that it doesn't happen. In this sense we can understand "happening" in a much broader sense than "knowing" and "experience." At the very least, we can say that something happens absolutely independent of my knowing it to happen, even if it happens to me (from some ostensible 3rd person outside perspective). Temporality does not equal time. My anticipatory human nature that thinks in terms of a past, present, and future is at an absolute distance from the diachronicity that separates the nervous system from everything else that could ever possibly happen.

Brassier finds it necessary to destabilize this anthropomorphic idea of time from diachronic time. Philosophy rarely has a sense or appreciation of scientific time and often has the compulsion to understand it in terms of the human being. Again, this points to the compulsive correlationism assumed by philosophy; that everything outside of the human being has to be in reference to the human being, and more grotesquely in the new 21st century, that everything that we are as human beings, has to be in reference to a "larger world outside of us" (rarely does this "care" to situate the human being in the context of a larger-vaster world recognize the possibility of the larger-vaster world being able to cause volcanic explosions at will or causing meteors to smash structures to bits). This ideality of philosophy is what will lead Heidegger to point-blank call the scientific use of time "vulgar." Why is it vulgar? It's vulgar because it doesn't have any interest in human beings which for Heidegger had to be a problem for his project of fundamental ontology. Limiting the task of fundamental ontology to an existential analytic is Heidegger's work though. Ontology isn't limited to an existential analytic. We learned before in Enlightenment and Extinction of Badiou's ontology composed in the expansive problems of set-theory regardless of his eventual movement into the evental circumstance for human beings at the end of Being and Event. What is ontology not in reference to us? What is being not in reference to us? How can we think the non-dialectical logic of "unilateral duality" understood by Laruelle where anything that comes after something called "the real" has nothing to do with something we understand afterwards as something called "the real?" How can we understand duality without dialectical logic? How can we understand unilateralization without identity? Brassier asks more precise preliminary questions: "How does thought think a world without thought? Or more urgently: How does thought think the death of thinking?"

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Disingenuous Nature of Humility

Tom Goes to the Mayor, "Bear Traps"

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Introduction to the Real; Enlightenment and Extinction, Part 7

As real as it gets...really.

In the last post we learned from Brassier and Laruelle of the decision made by philosophers who make a division between something called "the real" and "the ideal" whereby empirical reality ("the real") gets moved into ideality by transcendental functions of the mind. This decision can most easily be traced to Kant's Critiques. We then bracketed this decision from the attempt to understand the real after the explanation of this decision. What then is "the real" independent of this correlation between empirical and transcendental conditions? Laruelle defines it as the "real of the last instance." We gave it a preliminary definition; "It's reality before it hits the fact that we are always-already thinking." In other words, it's whatever "is" independent of the fact that we are ideal beings. This post will be an attempt at an introduction to "the real" defined through Brassier and Laruelle. It will be an expansion of the "real of the last instance" which we elaborated on in the last post. Brassier starts this off in a distinction between objectivity and objectification. "'Objectivity' can be redefined to index the reality which subsists independently of conditions of objectification tethered to transcendental subjectivity, whether the latter be called 'Dasein' or 'Life.' What is original in Laruelle's work is in defining conditions under which thinking does not intend, reflect, or represent its object but rather mimes its unobjectifable opacity insofar as the latter is identical-in-the-last-instance with a real which is 'foreclosed' to objectification." This passage is enormously helpful in further understanding Laruelle's "real in the last instance" concept. At first Brassier distinguishes "objectivity" independent of "objectification" meaning that the real is independent of the mind taking something from something called "the real" and doing something with it. The word "objectivity" indexes reality independent of being's objectification of the former. It belongs to itself independent of all the abstractions nominated for the human being whether that be the Heideggerian concept of the being that is there, or the basic concept of an all encompassing spiritual-teleological life form enveloping the world. "The real" has nothing to do with these concepts. There must be more to "the real" though besides these gestures of de-objectification. We find this in the concept of the "real of the last instance." This real of the last instance is a place where thinking intends nothing nor does it reflect on anything. It does nothing, but it's there. It doesn't see an object for itself (like we would like to ascribe generally to the mind) and then take this object and represent it in mirror-form for us. The real in the last instance doesn't do what we think it does. Thinking as the real in the last instance "mimes its unobjectifiable opacity." Lets pause for a second to understand this. Reality is unobjectifiable and opaque. This "last instance" is not a matter of knowing anything about this last instance and hence is unobjectifiable because it's not matter of knowledge (epistemology). Thinking mimes this non-matter. It imitates what doesn't matter. It imitates what was never a problem for matter. The real in the last instance as "unobjectifiable opacity" is "foreclosed" to objectification. So whatever thinking is doing in this real in the last instance, it's not objectifying. Rather, Brassier gives us the verb of "mime" to describe the behavior of thought in this foreclosed reality. Brassier leads us to a concept of the mind that is imitating what is completely inimitable. Thus for Laruelle, "It is though we were to insist that the 'matter' of materialism should cognize itself and be capable of its own theorisation without having to pass through dialectical identity or some other philosophical apparatus designed to ensure the reversibility between the known object and the knowledge of the object." Matter happens to thought. Thought mimes the material which means absolutely nothing to us. The philosopher comes up with the idea that the mind "grabs" the material and puts it into ordered categories. This is the presumptive decision of the philosopher discussed in the last post. Thought "in the last instance" is merely something that mimes something that's unobjectifiable which is at an absolute distance from a "philosophical apparatus" that would create a dialectic between the real and ideal. Rather, there is no dialectic at all between the real and ideality. This is what is referred to as "identity without unity." "Identity without unity and duality without distinction are the hallmarks of determination-in-the-last-instance insofar as its structure is that of what Laruelle calls a 'unilateral duality.' By effectuating a unilateral duality between thought and thing, determination-in-the-last-instance manifests a non-correlational adequation between the real and ideal without re-incorporating the former within the latter, whether through the machinery of symbolic inscription or the faculty of intellectual intuition." Identity (ideality) happens to being not because of some unity to something that happened before it. Ideality was an occasional circumstance that happened that has no unity expect to itself which expresses "things." Nonetheless, we see "thing" and our "thinking" of the material thing that has no matter whatsoever. Seeing these two things though doesn't mean that there is a connection between the two. Because "thinking" sees something called "thing" that ostensibly happened to it, doesn't mean that this "thing" actually exists, nor does it mean that "thought" had anything to do with making this material into its own form. While there is certainly a duality for us in terms of making the assumption that there was a causality for our objectifying nature, this has nothing to do with the unilateral operation that happened on its own. The real is not ideal. No matter how much thinking at the very most mimes the nothing of the real, this miming has nothing to say about the real because the real by its very nature doesn't say anything. At the very most, thought comes to represent the real through symbols and even thinks itself the function that the real has to go through (absolute idealism). Thought thinks itself privy to something it can never know about. While this is a feature of thinking, this doesn't mean anything for the real. Because thought thinks it can distinguish between reality and ideality, doesn't mean that whatever is called "reality" is anything. "The real" is always at an absolute distance. The distance is so absolute that we understand Lacan's insistence in synonymizing it with "the impossible."

We have a couple different concepts happening here. We have "determination-in-the-last-instance" along with "unilateral duality." To be more specific, "determination-in-the-last-instance" is "unilateral duality." We have to be careful in describing this because of how easy it is to present a correlative sense to the process that is trying to be described. Fortunately, Brassier is very careful in his logic and words when describing this process. "Unilateralization is foreclosed to reflection: it can only be effectuated non-thetically, that is to say, non-auto-positionally. Being-nothing does not distinguish itself from being; it is not is not the real which causes thought, but rather objectifying transcendence. Thus determination-in-the-last-instance requires objectifying transcendence even as it modifies it." The unilateral process that happens to the occasioned subject is not open to reflection. Thought can't reflect on the unilateral process because it was never remembering anything in the process. It didn't exist as a "mind" (we will see the phenomenological function of memory in the next chapter with Brasser's account of Deleuze's Difference and Repetition.). Unilateralization doesn't happen from a "position." We are in a "position" as beings but reality is never in a position precisely because it's not beings. If we allow Heidegger to call being the being that is there, then we understand ourselves as positional beings. We are always somewhere looking around for something to do. This is our absolute limits. Reality though is not in a position where it's somewhere looking around for something to do. It's form isn't the form of the occasional Dasein. This is what Brassier means when he says "being-nothing does not distinguish itself from being." Reality knows nothing of us and we know nothing of it precisely because knowledge is not a matter for reality and is a matter for us. The salient point to be understood is that if we want to encounter whatever is ostensibly called "the real," it can't come from the classical sense of "who we are," meaning the positional-being well-elaborated by Heidegger in Book 1 of Being and Time. Reality doesn't matter. At the very least, when encountering "the real," it doesn't come from a position and obviously doesn't take a position. As was stated above, it's unilateral and we can further understand this by understanding that it's absolutely affirmative. It doesn't listen to anyone nor does it respond to anyone consciously. It happens on its own without the habit of memory getting in the way (the minds differentiation from reality comes fundamentally from memory and memory alone which we will go into in a future post). "The real" is not pacifistic, nor literally and figuratively understanding. It's totalitarian. We can infer micro-biological reactions in the process of unilateralization but these reactions wouldn't be dialectical and would only be our observations of the real of the unilateral. A question abounds. What is the real (as unilateral) under the guise of observation? More specifically what is the real to consciousness which is no longer dialectical? How much can "the real" still be understood even when the logic of "unilateral duality" usurps dialectical logic? At the very least, we understand that it's transcendence that causes thought, not what we call "material reality." Thought happens to itself. "Reality" doesn't cause thinking. Curiously though, "for thinking to effectuate the foreclosure of its real cause, it must be occasioned by its ideal cause." In other words, the only way we can know that we can't know about "reality" is by the transcendence of thought "letting us know" that we can't know anything called "the real" that we nonetheless ask about. Ideality provides the foundation for our asking of questions that are not a matter of the question-answer dialectic. At the same time though, sense is in thought. We have the sense to understand that while ideality has opened up the possibility of the foreclosure of "the real," we have enough sense to not keep asking questions about something called "the real," but instead to follow "the real" in its unilateral process without asking questions. In this sense, thought opens us to "the real" to be exactly what it's not; a miming dialectical representation of what we call "the real." This doesn't mean that we are in some sort of Hegelian circularity between the real and the ideal where thought would realize itself as what it's not. Instead no distinction is being made in what we call "the real" which happens to be "the real." "The real" doesn't stop for an answer nor listen to what "everyone has to say." It moves on without distinction from what the memory distinguishes as the past. Memory will serve as the difference to "the real." It will serve as the sole difference to "the real" which complicates thinking's being able to think unilateralization because it always remembers something from the past which makes it stop and reflect. The problem and explanation of memory will come in one of the next two posts.