Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Truth of Extinction; Enlightenment and Extinction, Conclusion


Freud's concept of the death-drive found in Beyond the Pleasure Principle can be said to have a philosophical analogy in the concept of the "will to know." This death-drive that we elaborated on with the help of Brassier in the last post showed us the curious nature of the human being that mentally repeats it's traumatic events in order to muster the anxiety required to buffer the shock of any future traumatic event. While Freud's reasoning in Beyond the Pleasure Principle made this phenomena less curious, it still seemed strange for any organism to constantly relive a state of anxiety regardless of any possible shock that may occur in the future (notice how futural time here plays the pivotal role in creating anxiety. It's here where Heidegger as a psycho-theorist works best rather than a philosophical critic that makes claims like "science does not think" for example). Beyond the patient, the philosopher can be said to reappropriate the death-drive in their incessant drive to know. From this, we can understand that the will to know is a drive to death. We will come to understand this in the conclusion of Enlightenment and Extinction. This is important because Brassier isn't grounding the enlightenment of extinction simply on the solar catastrophe he refers to in Lyotard's account of the suns incineration, but on the mental phenomena of the repetition of trauma, and it's philosophical analog in the drive to know. In this sense, I think it would be erroneous to classify him simply as a "nominalist." He has engaged in the theoretical constructs of Dasein rigorously while also engaging in the scientific-material conditions of the universe. This engagement is rigorously sincere to me. This sincerity will lead us to faithfully understand Enlightenment and Extinction. Lets then try to understand as faithfully as possible the analog of the death-drive in the will to know. Much beyond the responsibility to the author is an opportunity for discovery. The only thing holding one back from taking this opportunity is the fear of extinction.

" is precisely the extinction of meaning that clears the way for the intelligibility of extinction. Senselessness and purposelessness are not merely privative; they represent a gain in intelligibility. The cancellation of sense, purpose, and possibility marks the point at which the 'horror' concomitant with the impossibility of either being or not-being become intelligible. Thus, if everything is dead already, this is not only because extinction disables those possibilities which were taken to be constitutive of life and existence, but also because the will to know is driven by the traumatic reality of extinction, and strives to become equal to the trauma of the in-itself whose trace it bears." This explanation of the lack of purpose for being is at a distance from the commonly understood classical existentialism. One isn't simply "left with nothing" because extinction is absolute. On the other hand, one is precisely "left with nothing" because of extinction. The import for Brassier is not to take on a state of consternation, or apathy because of this extinction (notice the taking on which I hope to distinguish from an enlightenment of extinction where nothing personally is being taken on) . Being "left with nothing" need not be existentially symbolized. This existential symbolization is certainly a possibility but one that is relative to symbolic being. Instead, this "gain in intelligibility" that occurs with the enlightenment of extinction does not have to be understood as an affirmation of being's existence, nor an ethical impulse for political freedom. Simply put, the enlightenment can occur completely independent of the subject that it happens to. The concept of "horror" is specifically quoted by Brassier in order to reapporpraite what was once understood as horror into a non-existential connotation. What was at once horrific is now simply understood (thereby losing its "horrific" element). This move past the ontology of being towards a "pure" epistemology loses it's horrific element then. Horror happens to the ontologically invested. Again, this is one possibility; the possibility of an epistemological ontology. Extinction then disables what we can understand as "vital ontology." What was once to be taken as constitutive of life (Aristotelian: growth, or Heideggerian: temporal dying, for example) is now understood through the enlightenment of extinction. We understood this in the last post through Freud's discovery of the death-drive and Brassier's appropriation of the death-drive in cosmological repetition. This enlightenment of extinction is specifically epistemological though, meaning a matter of knowledge. In this sense, it wouldn't be inaccurate to see Brassier as an idealist because of his thinking that thought can come to understand extinction. This idealism is simply not ontologically invested. This thinking, this will to know is always a reduction. Every attempt to know is an attempt to "get at the bottom of things," and when it appears that there is ostensibly nothing more to discover, this sense of "horror" (existentially understood) finds that the will to know was a will to get at nothing. The act of incessant reduction simply discovers itself as an operation of incessant reduction to discover nothing. This nothing is specifically understood philosophically as the "in itself." The will to nothing forms a trace of the "in itself" that's nothing other than its own drive. The philosophically understood "in itself" then is the trace of nothing as the recognition of its own drive to know. But this "in itself" need not be understood philosophically, meaning unitarily in order to establish a "sufficient philosophy." The will to know can simply borrow verbiage from philosophy and use it tyrannically. It would be tyrannical in the sense that it need not feel the compulsion to reference the historical inception of the concept. In this sense, the "in itself" understood non-philosophically could be called historically irresponsible from the philosophical perspective. It's here where the "pure" epistemological break with ontology simply doesn't recognize the classical gestures of philosophy, philosophical gestures that we can say are historically ethical. The use of a concept without reference to its historical inception is closer to what is called "the real," because an expression happens without the ethical responsibility towards history. In this sense, what is called "the real" happens every time something is stated without reference to context or pretext (It's with this in mind that it's not so odd to see how ethical of a thinker Derrida was, broadly speaking). The trace then of the "in itself" is not an ethical drive, but a tyrannical drive to know itself as its own drive. In the drive to know nothing ("in itself"), concepts are used and disregarded at will.

"In becoming equal to it, philosophy achieves a binding of extinction, through which the will to know is finally rendered commensurate with the in-itself. This binding coincides with the objectification of thinking understood as the adequation without correspondence between the objective reality of extinction and the subjective knowledge of the trauma to which it gives rise. It is this adequation that constitutes the truth of extinction. But to acknowledge this truth, the subject of philosophy must also recognize that he or she is already dead, and that philosophy is neither a medium of affirmation nor a source of justification, but rather the organon of extinction." The death-drive as the will to know for Brassier becomes equal to what is understood as the "in-itself." When seeking something called the "in-itself" what is found is the will to know. This understanding of the will to know is without end because it seeks nothing. It seeks nothing in the sense that it incessant reduces "substances," and in doing so finds something that is epistemically nothing. Thinking then is understood as the "reality of extinction," and the "subjective knowledge of trauma" experienced by a subject without any correspondence between "reality," and "subjectivity;" in other words, without causality between "reality" and "subjectivity." The will to know resembles extinction, and is experienced traumatically by the subject. There is no experience of extinction, and there is an experience of trauma. Subjective trauma and the reality of extinction are absolutely different, but thinking is understood by both concepts. When one acknowledges this truth, one must acknowledge that their thinking is a trace of nothing. In this sense, one is passively in death. In the act of knowing, one is already dead, because the drive to know is knowing nothing. Death is the knowing of the nothing that already happens. If philosophy is the will to know, it's not the static affirmation of something, nor the justification a subjective trauma it may experience. It's the "organon of extinction." We can say that it's "death as text," or "the textual form of death." What we learn here is that while death may have different forms, this has nothing to do with the absolute reality of extinction, not only on physical-material grounds, but on the grounds of what is called "subjectivity." What is called "subjectivity" is not alive but always dead. Because nothing takes on a different form, in this case of what's called "subjectivity," doesn't mean that it's not driven towards its own extinction. What we can say then is that there are different forms in which death always happens, none of which are alive if they are always grounded in death. Death has different ways of happening and repeating itself. It's these different ways of happening and repeating itself that are open to speculation. The question is: how are different forms always dying? Every question put forth to philosophy then is always a will to know nothing. This text of the drive to know nothing is philosophy. Within nothing, discoveries are always made with no end in sight. These discoveries with no end in sight don't have to take on the possibility of "existential conundrums," and/or "political consequences" for example. If the will to know is always the will to know nothing, then there are no "existential conundrums" because there is no meaning to be desired in the will to know. But what if a form of nothing doesn't follow its own drive? If Dasein as a form of nothing stops driving to know, then what is happening? How is it? How does a form stop its extinctive drive. It's crucial to allow these questions to happen without any pejorative adjectives in its questions. If one is faithful towards their own drive, there will be no room for the personality that would allow for the pejorative disposition. In other words, the death-drive is without ideology. As a preliminary question, it can be asked: "How does control happen to the extinctive drive?" How does the drive break? Maybe more pointedly, does the drive take a break, and if so, how does it take a break.

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