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.

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