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."

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