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.

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