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?"

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