glossary of philosophie non-standard, some thoughts on translation and np

Edit 6.10.14: The link to the translated page was broken thats now fixed. I’ll consider getting it into a format that can be viewed online. Smoothed out some translation. Added some commentary in the post on interesting entries.

In the name of something like rigor, I have transcribed and translated the glossary of Philosophie Non-Standard for ya’lls viewing pleasure. I attempted a word for word translation in the glossary and one that approached Laruelle’s more conversational tone in the introductory paragraph. I’m not familiar with some of the stuff on quantum mechanics. I found the Stanford Encyclopedia entry on Bohr’s theory of correspondence to be particularly useful. I’m planning to translate Laruelle’s section on philo-fiction since that will probably clear some things up for me. Laruelle’s book Introduction to Non-Marxism was released on the first so buy it, shoplift it, whatever–I saw Terence Blake argue recently that we mustn’t forget that non-Marxism is an integral adjunct to the quantum scientific side of non-philosophy and is perhaps an important counter tendency to the proliferation of religious-fictions or non-standard religions popping up.

[Here are some notable entries and a few I had difficulty with or have encountered in other non-philosophical texts without context.

Imaginary or complex number. Represented geometrically by the quarter turn or circle, it is written as the square root of -1. Non real as arithmetic numbers, there is an added sense of direction and transformation. It is equivalent phenomenally and not physically to the 1/4th spin or immanent to the Last Instance which is the imaginary component. Immanent principle or pre-undulatory of the a priori wave.

Mediated-without-mediation. In the language of causality, the effect such that it determines or under-determines in-the-last-instance its cause, thus it proceeds by a simple inversion of the causal order. Effect of a mediation where the cause or the act was under-determined by its effect thereby acting as a “Last Instance.” Status of what is real, immanent or phenomenal and whose act or mediation or given is dismissed as particulate transcendence. Immanence but indirect, immediacy but without transparency, indirect but immediate action at a distance but by the same distance. As the “non,” the “without” is not absolute but only radical, it is the unilateral fold of a generic plan or of an immanence which transcends even without reaching the state of particular transcendence (simple) which implies that it is fallen-in-immanence or may become perceptible as bifacial. Rather that the individual or the singularity opposed to the universal or mediated by this, it is indivi-duality or uni-laterality, being the generality sub-universal or the immanence which engenders of itself a simple transcendence and non double like the philosophical universal. The mediate-without-mediation is the radical immanence by superposition of reciprocal mediations or of mutual interpretations of the quantum and philosophical variables of the matrix.  It is not absolutely “without” mediation but it is without it radically or unilaterally. It is a space no longer divided between two bounds but which has become consistent or autonomous by immanence and no longer by transcendence. The mediated-without-mediation is undulatorily a mi-lieu but by its relationship to the philosophical circle it should be called a “fourth-place.”

Oraxiom. Portmanteau (axiom and oracle) which indicates, under the form of a unique conceptual particle, the superposition of the mathematical axiom and the philosophical decision. The “axioms” of non-philosophy or those who “declare” the SG [the French abbreviation for “Generic Science”] and especially the DI [abbreviation for “Last Instance”] conjugate two types of decision, one mathematical for the opening of a formal field structure, the other philosophical and arbitrary but set or the undecidable decision. The oraxiom is said of radical immanence and is underdetermined by it. Other nuances of the term, the cryptic, enigmatic, the abyssal or without-ground, the delirious, belong to philo-fiction and ought to be transformed according to the same rules. Futurality is par excellence that which is declared or performed by oraxioms.

Quarter turn (quartiel). Geometrical representation of imaginary or complex numbers denoted by the square root of -1. Membership in the before-the-first under the vectorial form of immanence and transcendence (of simple transcending), it constitutes the pre-ondulatory substance of the Last Instance, at least its material if not its material implementation. It is the genetic or pre-quantum element of undulation. Quantum physics without delay superposing the undulation completed with itself. The generic superposing of the quarter with itself in superposition with the wave. It goes back to the pre-original root and algebra capable of generically founding a quantum on only the imaginary or the complex. The quarter turn is distinct from the “quadripartite” which is a theory of the quarter as four and therefore wholly under the corpuscular horizon.

This notion of the quarter turn will require some more mathematical knowledge. A quick inquiry rendered results for the notion of a radian. But this is hardly the full picture since it also has to do with Laruelle’s somewhat Heideggerian notion of the “vectorial.” “Pre-ondulatory substance of the Last Instance” seems to indicate that it is material that retains its unilateral or unidirectional causality. “Pre-quantum element of undulation” implies that it is partially reduced material that is still subject to non-philosophical usages and procedures will still remaining philosophically potent or activated. It is not yet quantum since it has not attained the level of Laruelle’s notion of “spin” which is another component of Laruelle’s quantum philosophy I need to investigate. Whatever the case, this notion disrupts the “corpuscular horizon” which to me implies an anti-ontological usage meant to disrupt any easy materiality or correspondence implied in philosophical or mathematical language, perhaps in a manner similar to the fictionalist school of mathematics. Although, I don’t think this is reducible to an anti-platonic notion.

Vector (vectorial). Geometric modeling of specifically vectorial and not vectorielle action. Stripped of its geometrical and philosophical transcendence, the invariant vectorial change of action. The non-action of the quarter vectorial is an action not at a distance, in accordance to its term or bifacial like “phenomenological distance” of philosophy, but semi-ecstatic or by distance itself, inseparable from its phase and invested in the same object. The vector’s change of usage, subject to a regime of quantum immanence which it helps to produce, is not molecularised and/or totalized in transcendence. It is 1. a module-phase (or immanence-transcendence) machine of an other inseparability, unilateral and non bilinear, that of cut-flows (Deleuze), 2. consisting of minimal or past material of the quarter turn as an amplitude of the experience of thought and not of desiring machines, 3. it is produced by the superposition of the unifacial or non-commutable Last Instance rather than the body without organs. Vectorial machines are not perceived as being two sided in a state of belonging in general or in a “passive synthesis” module phase when they cease to be animated generically as unifacial or radically immanent machines.

I had a lot of difficulty with the last sentence. I’m going to pass this translation on to some of my Deleuze reading chums studying French to see if they can make any sense of it. This notion becomes important especially in Laruelle’s notion of photo-fiction and non-standard aesthetics. One of the reasons I like Laruelle is that, similarly but more extensively than Lacan, he expands the philosophical imaginary to more technical domains. The notion of module shift and this much more technical vocabulary regarding machines than even Deleuze offer a lot for the reader to investigate. Meanwhile, action at a distance harkens back to early theories of physics while Laruelle also preserves some Husserlian phenomenological overtones. One possible “strategy” for approaching Laruelle that would be in line with his anti-hermeneutic stance–although this seems to naturally flow from reading NP–would be to simply pause, investigate these theories and return after one understands the concept in its technical usage so they can attempt to follow Laruelle’s conceptual transformations. However, much of Laruelle’s terminology can be taken demotically, technically, and philosophically (an example of this would be a term like “archeology” in Foucault). Besides the usual problems of philosophical interpretation, this manages to both infinitize the process of reading Laruelle while giving several possible courses of action or “lines of flight” for understanding.]

But my God, translation, what an occasion for philosophy! This somewhat absurd procedure reminds me of Lacan’s question “am I qualified?” (spoiler: he’s not and I’m not, and I’m definitely cray), but I’ve hashed that out elsewhere. However, it also reminded me of an essay in The Non-Philosophy Project which if I recall plays off of the statement “I the philosopher am lying.” Authority is in short supply these days, I don’t think I’m the right man for the job, so I won’t stake my claim on being some sort of non-philosophy genius or master of French. I suppose this blog is for people who are interested in either my writing or non-philosophy or mysterious third thing, so this is for them. However, it begs the question “am I, the (non-)philosophy student, lying?” I don’t think non-philosophy should be replaced with the study and translation of non-philosophy, but at the same time I don’t think non-philosophy should be directed by a steering committee or coterie of approved academics. This blog was originally intended as a poke into cyberspace, the response has been mixed (mostly my fault), but my hope is that I can contribute some material to non-philosophy.

Originally I thought of non-philosophy as the taking the precarious position of a not-philosopher which expertly avoids stumbling over the claim “but you are still philosophizing” when it makes an argument; this would be non-philosophy where it concerns the One and the Real. I still think this is true, although obviously, hardly the full picture. Its other operation–which is dually a performance and a form of work (organization building and transmission more than writing)–is an act of “jamming” philosophy, de-conceptualizing, and shutting down the authority and sufficiency of any field to make decisions–here it is radically libertarian. In terms of its appeal and critical force non-philosophy is also radically anti-pretentious, this is perhaps its most inviting aspect since it also manages to carry a strange legitimacy on its own and without citation or reference to any tradition or even its creator; it is thus perhaps even more proletarian than Marxism (I’ll have to elaborate this further later, suffice it to say, to Laruelle’s point, it is liberated from Marxism’s unilateral causality and planifying tendencies–Anti-Badiou touches on this). (As an aside, in terms of bullshit, it is anti-bullshit while it fairly well uses what is considered in the analytic tradition to be bullshit–non-philosophy’s occasional drunken grandiosity is maybe a product of the post-structuralist fires it was forged in, I am simply in love with the fact that it can do both). Pushing into the the other Gnostic end of non-philosophy I’m reminded (and maybe precariously satisfied) that it is about unlearning. I dunno, its neat.

“non-thetic awareness,” the definition of thetic/position, the difference between conceptual and non-conceptual knowledge

I found an essay by a fellow Jonathan Webber that explains Sartre’s use of “non-thetic awareness” in Being and Nonthingness and a number of other terms that have made their way into non-philosophical parlance by way of existentialism and phenomenology. The essay is also useful in that it makes strong correlations between this terminology and the terms “conceptual” and “non-conceptual” as they are understood in contemporary anglophone philosophy of mind. Some of this is already implicit in Laruelle’s writing but for those of us who would like to know where these terms come from this essay is quite practical and gives a straight forward presentation.

He states his thesis plainly: “I am going to argue that Sartre’s distinction between thetic and non-thetic awareness should be understood as a distinction not between representational and non-representational forms of awareness, but between conceptual and non-conceptual representational awareness if it is to play the role in bad faith that Sartre ascribes to it” (p. 6). Putting this bad faith business aside briefly to get at the definitions that interest us, Webber describes Sartre’s phenomenological account of “position” in a fashion that discloses its transcendental hangover which is preserved at the level of intentionality and thought:

To call a consciousness ‘positional’, for Sartre, is to say that ‘it transcends itself in order to reach an object’ (B&N: xxvii). The object posited in an experience is the object singled out, to which I ‘direct my attention’ (B&N: 95). Looking at a photograph of my friend Peter, for example, I may inspect the shapes and colours on the card, or I may see it as an image of Peter. Only in the former case, according to Sartre, am I seeing the photograph: it is the object posited. In the latter case I am imagining Peter: he is the object posited (PI: 17-8). The positional character of experience, for Sartre, then, is its direction on or towards some particular object, the object posited. (p. 2)

In other words. To take a “position” is to invest a level of conceptual attention/intention that recognizes objects in their identity rather than as a aggregate of parts or qualities. The term “thetic,” is meant to elaborate this conscious position-taking and recognition by including a moment of cognition in the recognition of an identity of an object or thing. Things become a little muddled here for Webber when he compares the more specific concept of “positing” as an act of classification or evaluation in Husserlian phenomenology to Sartre’s more propositional concept of positing as forming a thesis about an object. But this comparison is meant to disclose that their remains a “thetic” component in “positing” or phenomenological position. He states relatively clearly:

The thetic component of an act of consciousness, for Sartre, consists in a thesis or proposition (thèse) classifying the object posited (see B&N: 90); it is the set of ways in which the object is understood. For example: ‘In the case of the perception of the chair, there is a thesis — that is, the apprehension and affirmation of the chair as the in-itself which consciousness is not’ (B&N: 140). (ibid.)

and later:

Sartre calls the components of the thetic component of awareness ‘determinations’: determinations are the category headings that the thetic component of a consciousness classifies its object under; they are the way the object is intended. The thetic component of perceptual experience, according to Sartre, ascribes the determinations ‘present’ and ‘existent’ to its object. But the thetic character of perceptual experience is by no means restricted to this. There are, for Sartre, two further varieties of determination that can be involved in the thetic component of a perceptual experience. (p. 3)

More simply: “Perception involves, for Sartre, positing the seen object as present and existing; the thetic component of perception, that is, represents the object posited as present and existing” (p. 3). The crux of this argument that makes it interesting non-philosophically is not when he proposes that bad faith (which stems from non-thetic awareness) is the equivalent to non-conceptual thinking, this lands us back in philosophy proper, but when he proposes that non-thetic awareness and non-conceptual thinking are the same. That is to say, if we extract Sartre’s value judgment, we can begin to see something resembling Laruelle’s non-philosophical usage of non-thetic in his term “non-thetic position” (NTP).

In order to bridge the gap between Sartre’s phenomenology and anglophone philosophy of mind, Webber needs to placate Sartre’s critique of representation and demonstrate that the latter construes representation in a way that is already amenable to Sartre’s phenomenology, i.e., in a way that accounts for representation such that it includes a moment of intentionality: “To say that a mental state or event has representational content, these days, is just to say that it picks out an object or state of affairs and presents it in some way or other” (p. 6). Thus, Webber defines a concept as the following:

Anglophone philosophers distinguish two kinds of representational content: those that are composed of concepts and those that are not. A concept is an inferentially relevant constituent of a representation, and possessing a concept consists in having a set of inferentially related representations with a common constituent. Possessing the concept ‘cat’, for example, consists in possessing a set of inferentially related representations concerned with cats, such as the beliefs that cats are domestic pets, are tame, and are smaller than houses. A representation is conceptual, then, only if it is composed of concepts, which means that it stands in inferential relations to a set of other representations possessed by the same organism. A nonconceptual representation, on the other hand, does not stand in inferential relations. It can be possessed by an organism that does not possess the concepts required to express that representation. A nonconceptual representation is a representation: it specifies a possible state of affairs. But it is independent of what Wilfrid Sellars called ‘the logical space of reasons’: it cannot be inferred from other mental representations, other mental representations cannot be inferred from it, and it cannot be linguistically articulated, say in response to a question. An intention, for example, would consist in a nonconceptual representation if it consisted in a state of the brain or mind that specified a possible future state of affairs as something to be aimed for, but was independent of the logical space of reasons. (p. 6)

In other words, there cannot really such a thing as “non-representations” so the opposition non-representational/representational forms of awareness is either moot or a matter of semantic: the mind cogitates representations one way or another, but whether or not it conceptualizes them is something else. Thus when he begins to define “non-thetic awareness” as something that concerns non-conceptual knowledge we actually have something very interesting, non-conceptual or non-thetic awareness as a form of knowledge (similar to the psychoanalytic notion of savoir or non-knowledge, see also Bataille’s original conception of non-knowledge) rather than ignorance (what is starting to be called agnotology):

Why is it that non-thetic awareness allows one to report current activities but not how they are carried out? If non-thetic awareness is understood as involving nonconceptual content, then this seeming contradiction can be resolved. The awareness does not stand in the space of reasons, so one cannot form linguistically articulable beliefs on the basis of it: it allows one to be aware of what one is doing without being able to explain how it is happening. But also, nonconceptual awareness may be responsible for an action feeling appropriate or inappropriate to a conceptually formed intention: if I conceptually intend to count cigarettes, then proceed to do so, the non-thetic awareness of my activity may be an awareness of the appropriateness of my activity given the initial intention. If the initial intention is not itself conceptually structured, of course, then no linguistically articulable belief about it can be formed. (p. 7)

What this implies is a form of action and awareness (even intelligence and knowledge) that is, strictly speaking, not philosophizable because it is not given to conceptualization or language. One can count cigarettes but the act of counting is an automatic or mechanical process separate from conceptual thought: it is more at the level of an action and is thus a technical matter of how? (enumeration or identifying objects in a ordered list that are countable and using a symbolic counter to indicate every unite in the set) rather than why? while the question what? (what is counting?) is a description at worst and a complex explanation at best can never grasp or transfer the knowledge qua competence, skill or savoir faire of counting. Divorced from Sartre’s philosophical prejudices which denounce non-thetic awareness as bad faith, non-thetic awareness is an essential component of any field that grounds itself by a positive practice.

[Disclaimer: the rest of this is relatively hermeneutic and “history of philosophy-ish” so non-philosophy diehards against citation might find it somewhat against the “spirit” of non-philosophy.] Laruelle himself abandons his notion of non-thetic reflection or non-thetic position (developed in Philosophy II) in his Principles of Non-Philosophy (where he claims that it has reached its more adequate form as “transcendental cloning”). However, in Philosophy and Non-Philosophy, he considers non-thetic position or reflection to be comprised in the matrix of the philosophical decision: it is an a proiri in the quartet that comprises the initial material that offers itself to philosophical decision or chora[1] and then the respective positions taken to it in Philosophy II:

As for the types and total numbers of a prioris, they are deduced from the number of dimensions of the philosophical decision of which they are the a prioris [this is extremely unclear]. There are four of these dimensions–there will therefore be four non-thetic a prioris, including the chora which “corresponds” on its side with decision’s auto-position or auto-givenness. In philosophy, this auto-position is there from the start. Afterwards, there is scission or decision, or even transcendence  or exteriority. Then there is the dimension of position as “base,” “generality,” or even as “attribute,” dimension of position-as-universality or of being. Lastly, there is Unity, internal or external to the dyad of the preceding, the mixture itself as Unity, These invariants of philosophical decision correspond with the four a prioris deprived of the form of their philosophical unity of blend, of their entanglement in a mixture.  (Philosophy and Non-Philosophy, p. 64)

He continues: “The chora first of all; then a non-thetic or non-mixed Transcendence (without scission and without an accompanying position); a non-thetic or non-mixed Position (without the position stemming from a scission or decision; absolutely indivisible and globally given); lastly, a non-thetic or non-mixed Unity (respectively: NTT, NTP, NTU)” (ibid. p. 64-5). We can consider these positions and the philosophical “chora” to be strategies that authorize the philosophical decision (the false need to “decide” the undifferentiated and chaotic real and lend coherence to reality). The presentation of the One as chora that philosophy needs to rescue itself from has mandated much of the heroic philosophizing of figures like Badiou and Zizek. The best way to recover this quartet from Philosophy II is to consider the quartet as the mode of presentation of the One according to (the) philosophy’s Vision-in-One or its falsely asserted realism. Here “non-thetic” can be read as “actual” rather than “non-conceptual” according to philosophy’s basic persuasive procedures. The philosophical assertion of the non-thetic should be non-philosophically coded as the opposite and comprised in this quartet or the fractional matrix of the philosophical decision. The creation or indication that something is “non-thetic” in non-philosophical terms is a result of the cloning or dualysis of philosophical material, i.e., reduced to demotic language deprived of its philosophical property referring to a “given” in-itself, providing a “clearing” for the One (Being), or corresponding to a “given” element of the Real so that it is given-without-givenness; reduced to its determination-in-the-last-instance; and given a signifying infrastructure, force-(of)-thought, or non-philosophical syntax that refers to the immanent causality of the real-One.

From the standpoint of non-philosophy non-thetic reflection, position or non-thetic awareness are (im)possible: they can only be indicated by language since every description fails it and they are foreclosed to all forms of thought besides their own form of autonomous thinking even while they function as an in-Real practice undertaken as the “industry trade,” “discipline,” “art,” or even “profession” of a myriad of domains of human activity. Non-philosophy is obliged to bring out this human element of the Real-One as practicity and defend it against its auto-positional appropriation by philosophy (auto-encompassing) whereby it assists philosophy by authorizing and soliciting it and serves it as an legitimizing “auto-factualizing” auxiliary practice (whereby Badiou is a mathematician who happens to philosophize or Popper is a scientist who happens to do the same or Sartre is a revolutionary… Kristeva is a psychoanalyst… and so on and so forth). Thus, outside the diectic center of philosophy and non-philosophy and their quarrels, what presents itself as “non-thetic” or announces it as such is this savoir faire or technical competence we mentioned before: a form of skilled non-knowledge that is non-conceptual and not adequately describable in language. It is an element of the One or “in-One” and shares certain similarities with it insofar as every description of non-thetic knowledge.

[1] “Sense (of) identity of supposedly Real philosophical faith when the vision-in-One transforms it into its correlate (unilate) or gives it its sense (of) identity. The chora is the site through unilateralization that philosophy has become (as identity) by wanting to be equal to the Real (still not as transcendental unity). It is the phenomenon or given-without-givenness (of) this real hallucination. Chora designates the spatial emplacement, or better yet the receptacle, indeed the prima materia through which it ends up being confused with Chaos, thus generating the dialectic of the One and the Multiple developed from that of the One and Being. Chora is the site of a pure multiplication: after its idealist reduction, when chaos becomes sensible diversity, the chora becomes its transcendental condition as spatiality, indeed, for certain philosophers, a name for a particular mixture of the transcendental and empirical, the…feminine” (The Dictionary of Non-Philosophy, p. 6).

[non-philosophical] fragment on critique and theoreticism

[Note: this fragment is old and before I understood the significance of Laruelle’s usage of the “fractional matrix” and 2/3 vs. 3/2 terms metaphor in his description of the philosophical decision (expertly described by Ross Wolf on his website thecharnelhouse.org). I use a fraction metaphor but it is meant to demonstrate the “completeness” of the philosophical decision, which I suppose is still compatible with Laruelle’s 2/3rd 3/2nd terms insofar as they demonstrate the moment of the philosophical sleight of hand that allows them to replace themselves with the One though definitely not as clever. It was the result of a kind of spurt of non-philosophical enthusiasm weirdly directed at some of the members of the non-philosophy community (which I admit, is not wise). The essay this was apart of was a paper on Marxism and Science, which I am in the process of reconstructing and reanalyzing. A few of members of the non-philosophical community have confronted the “so what?” aspect of non-philosophy and the significance of having already “understood” that critique was dead and democratic pluralism was the way forward on philosophical terms (namely the work of Lyotard in Libidinal Economy and Feyerabend, NB: the post also deals with the difference between non-standard philosophy and non-philosophy—a distinction which I think ought to be preserved). So this is somewhat relevant in the sense that it shows that the philosophical decision is potentially alive and well among within the ranks of the philosophers of science/philosophical scientists, SR/OOO and non-philosophers (who in some sense ought to know better). Further it raises some questions about when critique and “limited” hermeneutics are “non-philosophically sanctioned,” that is to say, in line with non-philosophy’s self proscribed axioms and in accordance with its rigor.]

Critique must be a form of “disinterpretation” or “inoperatization” of theoreticism, it must be a reminder and demonstration of the undecidability and indeterminancy of the One. It must be non-philosophical and aim at the disclosure and disabling of every philosophical decision. The attitude that must be “combated” (in the style of Mao’s “Combat Liberalism”) in the Marxist field is a deadening theoreticism and set of prejudices against using the “(theoretical) tools of the oppressor.”Jeff Bowker in his article “The New Knowledge Economy and Science and Technology Policy” inadvertently gives an example of this type of theoretical prejudice:

Working infrastructures standardize both people and machines. […] In order for the large scale states of the nineteenth century to operate efficiently and effectively, the new science of statistics (of the same etymological root as the word ‘state’) was developed. People were sorted into categories, and a series of information technologies were put into place to provide an infrastructure to government work (regular ten year censuses; special tables and printers; by the end of the nineteenth century punch-card machines for faster processing of results). These standardized categories (male or female; professional; nationality etc) thus spawned their own set of technical standards (80 column sheets – later transferred to 80 column punch cards and computer screens…). They also spawned their own set of standardized people. As Alain Desrosières and Laurent Thévenot note, different categories for professional works in the French, German and British censuses led to the creation of very different social structures and government programs around them. Early in the nineteenth centuries, the differences between professionals in one country or the other did not make so much difference: by the end of the century these differences had become entrenched and reified—people became more and more like their categories.[1]

Bowker, himself a proponent of science and the quantitative par excellence (even at the expense of its human element), shows a non-committal attitude to this analysis merely citing that the creation of working infrastructure and standards transforms and creates professions and, therefore, transforms and creates new types of humans; for him, this example is raised not to comment on the effect of standards on “subjectivity” but to note that standardization introduces the issue of proprietary standards and the corresponding realities of “protocols,” “agreement,” “negotiation,” and “interfacing” in complex work infrastructures and information hierarchies. The he main question is why is it that the best standard doesn’t always win out? In other words, this historical or archeological perspective on the development of standards and working infrastructure is interesting. Standards are not something to be resisted or denounced, they are a fact. However, the tendency of the theoreticist attitude we are attempting to pin down might find significance in the etymology of “statistics” (its root “state”—a smoking gun) coupled with its creation of “human categories” and “standardized people” as evidence of the field’s biopolitical “regulative ideal” that necessarily dominates, dehumanizes, and decomplexifies human beings, i.e., an indication of the disciplines necessary evil.

Bowker represents the “sensible” wing of this type of theorizing since he does not barrel into full on theoreticism but makes space for it via his noncommittal presentation of Alain Desrosières and Laurent Thévenot’s thesis. This would be theory that is not yet theoreticism: theory in its 1/3rd form: its simple presentation of itself in the form of information, postulates, and hypotheses.[2] However, if we take Tom Athanasiou’s article “Greenwashing Agricultural Biotechnology,” we can see theoreticist use of theory in its 2/3rds form: the theoretical rejection of theory. Here, even what presents itself as sensible critique—namely the rejection of the theoreticist tendency to find “thetic” significance in the conceptualizations and metaphorical deployments of scientists to explain their science, in this instance the “reduction” of life to “information”—we find a residual theoreticism present in the implicit in his conception of today’s medical establishment:

The “potential” of a technology must be clearly distinguished from its likely applications, and science cannot be abstracted from either social context or technological form. The Human Genome Project is a fine example—it is a frightening development, but not because it reduces life to “information,” as a die-hard Rifkinite might argue. It is, rather, frightening in its promise to further increase the power and hegemony of today’s reductionist medical establishment. And this is true despite the fact that real improvements in therapy and healing, as well as some amazing science, can be expected to flow from it.[3]

The “empirical” or “policy argument” implicit in this critique that lends it its force-(of)-thought lies in the notion that medical research firms unjustly capitalize on their own discoveries when they should perhaps become a public good. The theoretical “mixture” that has taken place is the surreptitious displacement of this argument into the unconscious of the text as a given assumption rather than an argument.

Another example is Alexander Galloway’s article on “The Poverty of Philosophy: Realism and Post-Fordism.” He introduces the article with the following:

Why, within the current renaissance of research in continental philosophy, is there a coincidence between the structure of ontological systems and the structure of the most highly evolved technologies of post-Fordist capitalism? I am speaking, on the one hand, of computer networks in general and object-oriented computer languages (such as Java or C++) in particular and, on the other hand, of certain realist philosophers such as Bruno Latour, but also more pointedly Quentin Meillassoux, Graham Harman, and their associated school known as speculative realism. Why do these philosophers, when holding up a mirror to nature, see the mode of production reflected back at them? Why, in short, is there a coincidence between today’s ontologies and the software of big business? (348)[4]

Here we have theoreticist use of theory in its 3/3rds form which effectuates a “one-to-one” or decisional equivocation of one object or concept and another. It is a speculative philosophy that takes a thing’s conceptualization, description, or representation as indicative of something essential to the thing itself, a “determination” or “iteration” in empirical form of its thetic content, or indication of a structure governing its appearance. Galloway’s familiarity with Laruelle is disappointing (although here he trips up on purely materialist grounds as well) since he effectuates the mistake Laruelle accuses of certain philosophers like Badiou. He conflates or amphibolizes a decisional Vision-in-One with the One itself, i.e., effectuates a mixing of immanent and transcendental content (exploitable philosophical material that is necessarily produced by the Real’s foreclosure to thought) and the decisional equivocation of one thing’s specular Being-in-One with another’s so that they are reduced to the metaphysical order of the Same and thereby granted philosophical or thetic significance. The term Galloway uses which operationalizes and occasions his critique, of course, is anti-philosophical: he opts for the word “coincidence” so that there is but a chance resemblance or “congruity” between realist philosophies of science and certain programming languages that must be investigated. However, the assumption is that because programming languages are elements of capitalist infrastructure they are necessarily evil and that any political or scientific “ontology” that resembles them (e.g. object-oriented ontology) must potentially be “shown the door” (348). He states:

Yet such a coincidence has yet to be demonstrated, and certainly it will be my burden to show this congruity. Nevertheless if it can be demonstrated that such a congruity exists, two further questions follow, one (1) If recent realist philosophy mimics the infrastructure of contemporary capitalism, should we not show it the door based on this fact alone, the assumption being that any mere repackaging of contemporary ideology is, by definition, antiscientific and therefore suspect on epistemological grounds? And (2) even if one overlooks the epistemological shortcomings, should we not critique it on purely political grounds, the argument being that any philosophical project that seeks to ventriloquize the current industrial arrangement is, for this very reason, politically retrograde?

Here the position of anti-philosophy is taken up because of the philosophical equivocation materialism=(the) (essence) (of) science, a procedure which 1) signals that Galloway is at least theorizing with Marxist assumptions (least not indicated by the title of the essay), 2) that Galloway is putting himself in the position of science qua materialism, a position that is necessarily both philosophically created (i.e., a placeholder for the position of science) and grounded (materialism is scientific because of x, y, z)—this can only be done via persuasion or as an implicit assumption (proved elsewhere and used in usufruct), and 3) levelling a critique of philosophy insofar as it is the “spontaneous philosophy” of the realists and scientists, which is to say, science’s conceptualization of itself. Thus, what the realists cannot see is that they are necessarily making political decisions in favor of capitalism by their unconscious mirroring of capitalist infrastructures. This signals 4) a residual Althusserianism: the materialist critique of science, a critique which, as we said, is given “scientific” authority by virtue of philosophy.

This theoretical “knotting” of (anti-)philosophy to science qua materialism for the sake of the critique of science (insofar as it is the philosophy of science), this whole procedure, relies on a unilaterally dual conceptualization of science, which, as Laruelle notes is, 1) foreclosed to thought and 2) not reifiable in any particular text. Thus, from a non-philosophical standpoint, this procedure is illegal. Of course, the irony is that Galloway’s article is precisely meant to take up issues “concerning the validity of the theoretical writing at hand and the other concerning its political utility” (347) and “concern[s] the nature of critical thought” so that his essay confronts the “analysis of the old distinctions between object and thing, object and word, object and idea” (348). The political bankruptcy of the realist philosophies of science pales in comparison to the theoreticism that Galloway demonstrates in this instance. There is simply no indication that, for example, Bruno Latour’s philosophy and theory of actor-network analysis indicates anything about his political activity or opinions one way or another. This is armchair psychoanalysis, it purports that the decided-upon aesthetic resemblance of a philosophy to a programming language pushes us deeper into capitalist slavery, instrumental reasoning, and political quietism. This hypothesis, simply put, is silly since the sum of Bruno Latour’s writing=X, we cannot decide what it effectuates in-One or “according-to-the-Real” (perhaps understood as in the psychology of the reader and whatever other myriad effects it might produce).

This form of symptomatic criticism libidinally deploys its theoretical enthusiasm for politics, i.e., its Maoist or Schmittian desire to draw “battle lines” and separate (theoretical) friends from enemies, to lend force-(of)-thought to its critique. Its “libidinal economy” forces a “summation” (in the mathematical sense of applying operations to constants) that predetermines or decides its object’s multifarious and indeterminate effects, it fails to clone or dualize its object to reproduce the “immanence,” “difference,” or “indeterminancy” of its material, it Distances without distance to its object and it fails to appreciate it as fiction. Thus it deals with it only oral-anally, i.e., in an evaluative manner, so that it is a question of taste: Galloway prefers that his philosophies do not resemble capitalist infrastructure which causes him to despair; he is all-too quick to judge that it is somehow odious: he spits it out after a meagre bite with no appreciation for its complexity or after taste; he shits it out after only partial digestion (is it fair to “decide” Latour and index him with Graham Harmon or Quentin Meillassoux?—is this not a category mistake?). It reflects what Rancière writes about the “critical system” in The Emancipated Spectator:

Forty years ago, [the critical system] was supposed to denounce the machinery of social domination in order to equip those challenging it with new weapons. Today, it has become exactly the opposite: a disenchanted knowledge of the reign of the commodity and the spectacle, of the equivalence between everything and everything else and between everything and its own image. This post-Marxist and post-Structuralist wisdom is not content to furnish a phantasmagorical depiction of humanity completely buried beneath the rubbish of its frenzied consumption. It also depicts the law of domination as a force seizing on anything that claims to challenge it. It makes any protest a spectacle and any spectacle a commodity. It makes it an expression of futility, but also a demonstration of culpability.[5]

When this speculative tendency—this paranoid rejection of capitalist domination and whatever mirrors its evil—is coupled with the above mentioned typical “critique” of “instrumental reason” than we have a hellish brand of anti-consumerist quasi-luddite theoreticism (perhaps best exemplified by Julia Kristeva, though one strains to find this written anywhere in her oeuvre, one must hear her testify to this in English). Galloway is not the worst offender here and it is important to emphasize that this ultimately means very little, i.e., we do not assert that theoreticism leads one way or another and definitely not to concentration camps. However, what we do assert is that Galloway advertises the sufficiency of theoretical thought, i.e., a “Principle of Sufficient Theory” and a “Principle of Sufficient Thought” (PST), which attempts a conceptual encompassing of this or that by deciding it. We can also add to this list a “Principle of Sufficient Critique,” even if Galloway questions the value of critique, his solutions end up advertising historicism and materialism as solutions; thus critique becomes an occasion to advertise theory and theoreticism.

It is unclear why or how this variously humanist, materialist, philosophical or “theoretical” equivocation of technology with capitalism was generated. We can speculate that it was maybe because statistical or data-driven arguments have been made to “disprove” the utopian pretentions and economic claims of socialists or it was perhaps in part because of the introduction of the “history of science” into university curriculums or in part because of Lefebvre, Heidegger or Adorno and their thematically anti-rationalist critiques of “modernity.” In its most responsible form it was likely quantitative, concerning problems with statistical cognition, knowledge policing, “ideological” policy writing, and the manipulation and crafting of “trustworthy” facts.[6] However, in the final analysis, this has largely become the qualitative and typically “liberal arts” argument (although the “end users” of this argument are not necessarily liberals, it is truly a theoreticist argument with any number ideological mutations): one can always lie with numbers and that even when one “gets it right” they will never show the richness and complexity of the “human condition.”

It is not hard to point to specific texts like The Dialectic of Enlightenment or The One Dimensional Man and their equation of capitalist technological “instrumentality” to authoritarianism or fascism to see a reflection of the generalized Leftist suspicion of quantification. One can also point to texts like Althusser’s Philosophy and the Spontaneous Philosophy of the Scientists to see the characteristic self-awarded privilege of Marxist philosophers (by virtue of their materialism) to “critique” the institution of science.[7] The neo-Marxist field which Althusser famously waged war with is exemplary of this “Frankfurt School” position (Sartre, Merleau-Ponty); however, Althusser and Althusserianism are guilty of the worst examples of theoreticism by using the critique of the neo-Marxists to occasion their own brand of odious theoreticism.

The residual trouble this causes on the Left is that it has led to a general suspicion against quantitative methods since they are variously perceived as blunt instruments or still all-too-primitive or fraught with capitalist/bourgeoisie instrumental purposiveness that would keep their scientific potential stunted and stuck at the level of an exploitable technology. Meanwhile there are certain elements of the Left that call for a total rejection of any and all “instrumental thinking” (usually equivocated with quantitative or computational work) is bad and that deceleration is a viable and necessary form of resistance (see below).[8] The most simplistic rejection being an equivocation of the “bro culture” around STEM fields as the regulative ideal of the fields themselves.[9] Obviously this sort of “math anxiety” about the state use of statistics and its recent use of metadata for surveillance purposes is well-founded (there is also much to say about the desire to avoid the shitty bro-culture and elitism of contemporary computer science programs); however, the reaction-response is symptomatic: the numbers themselves are not evil. Meanwhile, battling one form of elitism with another seems somehow counterproductive. Mackey and Avassian’s introduction to #ACCELERATE: the accelerationist reader eloquently confronts this issue:

[…] a well-to-do liberal Left, convinced that technology equates to instrumental mastery and that capitalist economics amounts to a heap of numbers, in most cases leaves concrete technological nous and economic arguments to its adversary—something it shares with its more radical but equally technologically illiterate academic counterparts, who confront capitalism with theoretical constructs so completely at odds with its concrete workings that the most they can offer is a faith in miraculous events to come, scarcely more effectual than organic folk politics. In some quarters, a Heideggerian Gelassenheit or ‘letting be’ is called for, suggesting that the best we can hope for is to desist entirely from destructive development and attempts to subdue or control nature—an option that, needless to say, is also the prerogative of an individualised privileged spectator who is the subjective product of global capital. From critical social democrats to revolutionary Maoists, from Occupy mic checks to post-Frankfurt School mutterings, the ideological slogan goes: There must be an outside! And yet, given the real subsumption of life under capitalist relations, what is missing, precluded by reactionary obsessions with purity, humility, and sentimental attachment to the personally gratifying rituals of critique and protest and their brittle and fleeting forms of collectivity? Precisely any pragmatic criteria for the identification and selection of elements of this system that might be effective in a concrete transition to another life beyond the iniquities and impediments of capital.[10]

This “psychoanalysis” of the Left and its quietism is fairly accurate, however, what it must be supplemented with is not the politicized paranoia and consumerist enthusiasm of accelerationism (we will outline notable differences between that project and ours below) but the Freudian observation that even if one has the “right” to be paranoid, the paranoia is still a symptom even if the causes are real: a rational and less heady approach contra “schizoanalytic” and aesthetic solutions must be proposed. Further, besides the obviousness that accelerationism is an aesthetic/intellectual “disorderly retreat” that indulges in much the same quietism it denounces, it still retains a hefty amount of Marxist-Deleuzian theoretical baggage; namely the bifurcational logic that is implicit in its name: that one should accelerate the contradictions of capitalism as a way of pushing it headlong into a revolutionary crisis.

Its healthy lack of suspicion and embrace of technology coupled with its hatred of despair and quietism and its real desire to offer alternatives are all to be admired. One can wager that no accelerationist will ever offer a “materialist” critique of bourgeoisie science or technological instrumentality—a boon since that will save them time and energy. However, the “long march” proposed by accelerationism is no less infinite than any other Marxist ideology. Bowker’s essay on knowledge economies, however, offers an interesting solution to the traditional dilemma of “reform or revolution” proposed by Rosa Luxemburg: normalization or standardization.

[1] Jeff Bowker,“The New Knowledge Economy and Science and Technology Policy,” p. 4, available online: <http://www.eolss.net/sample-chapters/c15/e1-30-03-05.pdf&gt;.

[2] We should note that the large body of Bowker’s work is considered largely anti-theoretical (in the sense of against what presents itself as “theory” by the humanities and liberal arts).

[3] Tom Athanasiou, Greenwashing Agricultural Biotechnology,” available online: <http://www.processedworld.com/Issues/issue28/i28green_wash.html&gt;.

[4] Alexander R. Galloway, “The Poverty of Philosophy: Realism and Post-Fordism,” Critical Inquiry, Vol. 39, No. 2 (Winter 2013), pp. 347-366.

[5] Rancière, Jacques. The Emancipated Spectator. Trans. Gregory Elliott. London: Verso, 2009.

[6] There are a number of recent(ish) popular books that confront this issue. Remarkably they typically have a libertarian bent and express a “media skepticism,” e.g. How to Lie with Numbers, Stat-Spotting: A Field Guide to Identifying Dubious Data, Damned Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activists and Stat-Spotting: A Field Guide to Identifying Dubious Data—a favorite past-time of these books is debunking statistics presented by feminist activists. There are also a number of articles on mathematical literacy that make this point compellingly. Remarkably they show a huge disdain for people working in “qualitative” fields.

[7] For the Frankfurt School, although this attitude was nearly ubiquitous on the university Left, showing any enthusiasm for the instrumental or technological was to become “one dimensional” and an inhalation of the miasma of capitalism’s instrumental rationality. The moral project of the university Left has been to foster a discourse of compassion, tolerance, and an attenuation to suffering as well as an academic appreciation for personal testimony, the writing and research of traditionally marginalized histories, and the privileging of personal testimony. The more radical tendencies of this discourse—especially post Occupy Wall St.—occasionally veer into questions of violence, activism, and “what is to be done?” However, the overall sentimental and sincere quality of this discourse—even while it is incredibly outraged—seem to befuddle its “force-(of)-thought” and relegate it to a largely therapeutic discourse. Further there is a certain fetishization of emotional intelligence and creativity as both something to be preserved and protected from capitalism and a moral end it in itself that makes this brand of Leftism a largely pedagogical project and an active partisan in the heterogeneous (and perhaps largely fictional) Left wing “culture war.” The manifest brilliance of high theory ends up being the artistic production of variations on social justice platitudes, e.g. racism is bad, sexism is bad, colonialism was bad, authoritarianism is bad, and finally—the ultimate act of persuasion—capitalism is bad. Marxism has never been Leftism and has struggled ineffectually against this “tendency” in its engagement with first world social and revolutionary movements (the shift from Marx to Foucault or the more recent shift to Hardt and Negri as one’s “go-to” subversive thinker, for example). The qualitative shift from “identity politics” to “social justice” is a positive sign for Marxism and Marxists insofar as this new discourse is characteristically activist and has little signs of the university discourse and theoreticism of the former; however, where Marxists were experts at “deconstructing” and deriding the practicality and highlighting the potential theoretical “disasters” of identity politics they have utterly failed to counteract the same tendencies in their own bloc and all of these critiques have been made for the sake of advertising its own theoreticism “over and against” the alternatives. Thus, theoretically speaking, Marxism is geared for criticism rather than participation, it is unclear how a “New Marxism” will benefit from this public shift (primarily in the media and the university) on the progressive Left to a social justice oriented discourse. Hence, the difficulty that arises from making this critique is that it can so easily be done for the sake of theoreticism itself. This “anti-identitarian” discourse of “macho-socialism” or “heroic” Marxism (Žižek and Badiou) so easily becomes a conservatism in itself: it is anti-feminist, common sensical and utilitarian (when it comes to critiquing the theoreticism of “the Other”), de facto against any identity political discourse, and skeptical of any participation in “popular” social movements or mainstream political parties if they do not present a sufficiently socialist line—contemporarily an impossible requirement.

[8] “Despair seems to be the dominant sentiment of the contemporary Left, whose crisis perversely mimics its foe, consoling itself either with the minor pleasures of shrill denunciation, mediatised protest and ludic disruptions, or with the scarcely credible notion that maintaining a grim ‘critical’ vigilance on the total subsumption of human life under capital, from the safehouse of theory, or from within contemporary art’s self-congratulatory fog of ‘indeterminacy’, constitutes resistance. Hegemonic neoliberalism claims there is no alternative, and established Left political thinking, careful to desist from Enlightenment ‘grand narratives’, wary of any truck with a technological infrastructure tainted by capital, and allergic to an entire civilizational heritage that it lumps together and discards as ‘instrumental thinking’, patently fails to offer the alternative it insists must be possible, except in the form of counterfactual histories and all-too-local interventions into a decentered, globally-integrated system that is at best indifferent to them. The general reasoning is that if modernity=progress=capitalism=acceleration, then the only possible resistance amounts to deceleration, whether through a fantasy of collective organic self-sufficiency or a solo retreat into miserablism and sagacious warnings against the treacherous counterfinalities of rational thought.”

[9] See Amber Lee, “Bro Bash,” The Jacobin, available online  <https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/06/bro-bash/&gt;

[10] Mackay, Robin, and Armen Avanessian. #Accelerate#. Falmouth, United Kingdom: Urbanomic Media, 2014, p. 6.

Allen Grossman and the principle of (in)sufficient poetry

A particularly anti-philosophical friend of mine (but in an unusual manner–which I will reveal in a second) gave me a copy of Allen Grossman’s book True-Love: Essays on Poetry and Valuing which has as very aggressive anti-philosophical streak. Professor Grossman has recently died evidently, so it is an inopportune time to write such an irreverent tidbit on him. However, I feel that his book addresses the anti-philosophical aspects of non-philosophy from a literary and aesthetic perspective. I also suppose that critique is not a totally bad form of flattery since I didn’t just decide to ignore the bastard and let his death and work go totally unnoticed.

Granted, this isn’t exactly my style and I find it indulgent and inflationary. I much I prefer non-philosophy to be “assisted” by psychoanalysis, economics or the philosophy of science–harder stuff. Further, it seems apparent that the potency of non-philosophical writing and effectuations can be weakened by overuse and overexposure. I also have found that it is sometimes simply not fair to mobilize the arsenal of non-philosophy against something like poetry since no field or practice is in anyway sufficient and poetry is in someways particularly vulnerable to the critique that it isn’t “rigorous” or that it can’t “think itself.” However, I think this is a hazard of speaking from the “institution” of poetry, a gamble that Grossman clearly takes. In this regard, by “taking the helm” of poetry as its authoritative institutional representative–like Badiou does for philosophy itself–he risks and indeed actually lapses into philosophical maneuvering. His philosophical pretense, well beyond a simple defense, is to assert the authority and superiority of poetry over philosophy.

Finally, before this gets underway, it is worthwhile to admit a lack of familiarity with poetry and a recognition that poetic writing is meant to do something else entirely than philosophy, I view it as something like one of Agamben’s broken or inoperative/inoperatizing tools. Further, its lack of a specific use or “institutional” mission makes it distinct from philosophy while traversing much of the same conceptual territory, e.g. somewhere (I wonder if it was in Badiou’s Conditions, although it might actually have been my Hegel professor Alfredo Ferrarin that made this comparison or maybe Iain Hamilton Grant’s Philosophies of Nature after Schelling) someone said that Lucretius and his Nature of Things was the great precursor to philosophical materialism and tows the line between philosophy, poetry, and a kind of “science-fiction” by issuing forth arguments, explanations, and descriptions but in the form of poetic prose. I’ll develop this more as this goes on.

So what is the basic maneuver of this text? Initially, Grossman produces–with a potent literary strategy and effective critical tone–a kind of humanist non-phenomenology of poetry and literature which initially functions as a foil to philosophy. Secondarily, it is to establish poetry and poetic knowledge as a sufficient by itself in lieu of philosophy (and presumably any other “authoritarian” epistemic domain or discursive regime). I appreciate this maneuver since a deconstructionist sensibility (see p. xvi-ii on literary or deconstructionist writing) would also assert this sufficiency insofar as literature and poetry need no assistance from philosophy or hermeneutic procedures to “unearth” a (presumably univocal) signification (see also The Post Card and Derrida’s comments on how literature already analyses itself). The product of the usual philosophical procedure (its “intervention” into literature) is to convert literature into a series of philosophical propositions, maxims, or “life lessons,” which–besides being mind-numbingly inane–deprives literature of its “richness” and inevitably more mysterious aesthetic dimension. Agreed. However, why assert the superiority of literature over philosophy in this regard? Isn’t the celebrated and characteristic atmosphere of freewheeling ungrounded aesthetic play in (post)(modern) literature a product of its abandonment of any and all authority? The point of poetic and literary license, I thought, (à la the Nietzschean “affirmational” element of Derrida’s argument in “Structure, Sign, Play”  see p. 369) is to irresponsibly effectuate knowledge as a savoir faire or “worldly knowledge” without a systematic or rigorous epistemology. Rather–and the operative post-structuralist term here is “autopoetic,” it is a spontaneous generation of concepts, ontologies, and epistemologies without any notion of “ground.”

Poetry, and here Grossman is on to something, is inconsistent by its principle and not obliged to be “true” in any satisfiably philosophical sense. This Real dimension of poetry and literature grants them a relative autonomy and a provisional capacity to produce “truths” by a procedure of an iterated modeling and expansion of identifiable thematic of (arche)typical (arche- in the sense of “arche-writing“) humans, objects, terms and concepts (e.g. love insofar as it is represented by a given love poem or is thematically found in a given poem). Poems or whatever, although here we can also include any genre of writing insofar as it presents itself as “art,” effectuate a regional, provisional and highly variegated truth, which is to say, more rigorously, they produce material and have a radical immanence. This material, to the deconstructionists’ chagrin, is inevitably theoretically and philosophically exploited; to wit, universalized, sutured to planified philosophical systems, and otherwise subordinated to the “desire of the theorist” which is disingenuously presented as a “discovery.” The theorist here is a philosophical dirigiste, crony, or ideologue–the type of character who pissed off Derrida by believing they could regulate the “play of the sign.”

It is precisely here, after this relatively effective and persuasive critique, that Grossman succumbs to various unfortunate philosophical pretensions and mauvaise habitudes the foremost of which is the placement of poetic knowledge prior to philosophical knowledge as the more proper and authentic representation of truth, a maneuver which demonstrates a continued mystification and seduction by philosophy–least not indicated by his immensely tight in-text citation of all the usual suspects, i.e., Nietzsche, Kant, Hegel, etc.–since this assertion of priority is a… no the philosophical maneuver par excellence. We have here the simple replacement of poetry with philosophy in an needless competition which presents itself as a hysterically masculine epistemological dick measuring contest.

In other words, the central claim is that poetry does knowledge better… however, the force-(of)-thought behind this claim is given its inertia by a variegated and somewhat esoteric philosophical scaffolding furnished with all the usual tricks and “philosophemes,” e.g., his practice of philosophically or dialectically differentiating and opposing terms to give them a kind of formal or causal systematicity (unilateral duality) based on decisional or auto-positional presentations of philosophically or onto-poetically “over-determined” words (e.g. truth, knowledge, love, desire, and death). For example, apropos his term “true-love” he states (I’ll try to keep citation light to medium):

Within the borderlessness of the language of love, I have chosen the term “true-love,” the crossing of knowledge (truth) and acknowledgement (love), the identity of contradictories both of which are maximal terms freighted not only with explicit value but, when conjoined with the intention of the highest value. Needless to say, the identity or equality of contradictories violates possibility in a world subject to the Aristotelian Laws of Thought. Power is brought to bear in the production of the tertium quidTrue-love intends an action that somehow authorizes the valid predication of truth upon love. And this “somehow” seems to cover over a counterlogical principle such as Kierkegaard’s “either/or” (concordia discors), neither religious nor philosophical–the poetic principle. (p. 16)

The various arguments that constitute the “assembled validity” (in the sense of the aggregate modes of adducing and validating its referend as real proffered by the author that function as an assemblage which directs its signification with relative consistency) or conceptual infrastructure of this term are operatized by his tight citation but minimal explanation of poetry as a persuasive strategy. This strategy of not explaining can be effective non-philosophically; however, in this instance it is simply manipulative. We also can see a bizarre and uncharacteristic envy of style or method (it is usually the other way around) in his auto-positional presentation of textual and terminological genealogies very much in the mode of the recent(ish) post-structuralist French anti-philosophers influenced by Nietzsche. (It may be that he took for granted their claim that intra-philosophical hermeneutic practices like archaeology and deconstruction were genuinely anti-philosophical and scientific.

The insinuations of the quote on p. 16 are essentially anti-philosophical via a kind of oblique Derridean (language is boundless) or Levi-Straussian (myth also resolves contradictions) reference. However, his term “true-love” he is not content to let sit as an undecided or underdetermined anti-philosophical term. It is used in a dirigiste manner to coordinate an argument and series of specific claims about what poetry can do–what type of knowledge it provides that philosophy can’t–for the sake of asserting poetry’s sufficiency, authority, and superiority to philosophy. For instance, under the name of poetry and by its (philological? etymological?) methods, he undertakes a genealogical analysis of his concept “true-love”:

The “true-love” I am studying has two genealogies, one demotic (the love knot, like a four-leaf clover, that everyone in the sixteenth century knew how to tie), and the other an esoteric transformation of the true-love knot, commonly figured as the Seal of Soloman (pentangle). The first stems from Anglo-Saxon feudality. “True-love” is a Germanic expression “(as still in der Leibesknoten) This true-love (AS treowlufu) implies in the first instance the truth/troth of contract (both social and cosmic on the comos/polis glechnis) respecting the relationship of persons. […] This contract between unlike parties stipulating likeness (the logic of power within power) bears, like biblical covenant, upon the fundamental intelligibility of the world as personal other. […]

The second genealogy of the true-love I am studying (the Seal of Solomon, esoteric version of the true-love knot that anyone could tie) implies the love of truth (objective genitive as in philosophia), not Germanic but Greco-roman, indeed Platonic–as Foucault found it (The Use of Pleasure, part. 5, “True Love”), intending not the sufficient conditions of contract, but cognitive/amative unity with the real, that is to say, knowledge. […] In both cases, the production of value is a dependence of the sacrificial model. (pp. 33-4)

What to make of this genealogy? Grossman’s reference to his ominous sounding “ongoing studies” is for the sake of an anti-philosophical maneuver of subordinating philosophy to the exigences of “true-love” which thereby makes it available (philosophizable, decidable) as an object of “poetic” study… a study that has evidently already netted a positive gain; namely, a historical/sociological insight into the logic of symbolic exchange (extricated from the demotic [ordinary] language feudal society) which already and separately (what a coincidence!) implied an Oedipus styled privative psychoanalytic linguistic pact which, for Grossman, renders the world intelligible in accordance to an instrumental or valuational logic (the “logic of the signifier” perhaps?). This discovery by his “studies” testify to the sufficiency and authority of poetry, presumably without which we would have never gained this (profound) insight. Poetry, “without mediation” and by its “artisanal boasting,” he states on the same page, illustrates the “Horatian logic [see particularly his themes and odes] in which human value is produced by human sacrifice–no middle term.” Poetry, in other words, more simplistically and perhaps more efficiently than philosophy, can attain knowledge without a hefty formal or ontological apparatus and without succumbing to the regulatory logic it indicates as its referent–it only cleanly and aesthetically reiterates and reflects or represents its objects without ontological commitment. We can politely admit that he might have a point here in terms the effectuations of poetry which can hallucinate or insinuate this type of access by its fictive power. But Grossman admits this transitive and ontological use of poetry is impossible (see below). So how poetry can “do all this and more!” namely, retain its ludic groundless play and be a “first philosophy” is unclear. However, for this and presumably many other other excellent reasons, he proudly claims that

[T]he poet’s authority is superior to the philosopher’s precisely because the poet can assign significance to a larger range of experience than can the philosopher. The will to power is a way of pointing to highest value, and the name of that value in the twentieth century is existence. The advantage of poetic authority is the poet’s confidence with respect to appearances (Steven’s confiance au monde) or the existence of what is seen to exist. This primacy of existence-experience (a revaluation or transvaluating–Umwertung–of the phenomenal by contrast to noumenal). (p. 36).

The misstep, which is not strictly speaking an error but is a misstep insofar as it plunges us back into philosophy is not to assert that this is true, –it might be at times or regionally or for some of us however this is not a generic or generalizable truth–but rather to find any significance in it. That is to say, to use his affective preference for poetry’s confidence, the poet’s apparent “passion for the real,” and poetry’s knowledge (whatever that is), to assert, as we said, its superiority (meh) and priority (very meh) over philosophy.

Thus, he indulges in a kind of paradoxical philosophical window dressing which heroically presents poetry as 1. an “assurance” of normative realism (see also this article) and therefore 2. a kind of sociological-hermeneutic practice which functions as authoritative testimony about term x, y, or z and 3. a form of critique. The last is not so absurd, the instances of poetic critiques are numerous and even occasionally politically effective.The other two in combination with the third, however, is asking for too much of poetry and are possibly not even desirable.

Apropos the first he states:

Realism because the poetic principle restates appearance, confident that there is something real that is like what is experienced. Normative because the poem is always built upon a double system of signifiers. To put it another way, the poem is always a discourse of one kind (existence discourse) about or intending and deferring a discourse of another kind (a true-love discourse). (p. 36).

There is something obscure here. “Double system of signifiers” could refer to Saussure’s notion of “double articulation” and the dual nature of the sign (comprised of signifier and signified); a structure which allows for a system of signs to emerge from both elements of the sign (whereby the signified functions as a signifier in its own system of signs–this composition causes the famed instability of the sign via the proliferation of its syntagmatic or associative relations of its component parts). I address this in my not objectively bad essay on Saussure’s economic metaphor. How this in any way normative is uncertain since any regulating or normative principle produced by la langue or a system of signs is totally provisional and arbitrary by its disruptive syntagmatic/synchronic and diachronic movement. Meanwhile to distance this “system” as a manifest or “existence” discourse on the side of realism that “intends and defers” another unconscious or “deferred” discourse on the side of normativity (true-love discourse) is somewhat arbitrary: here we have the classical philosophical distancing of appearance from essence. How normative realism is not within in the scope of generic philosophy or is a challenger to philosophy in general is not developed by Grossman. Suffice it to say, the claim that poetry might assist normative realism is not unfounded, however, this does nothing to grant poetry its own sufficiency or authority over any other field or practice.

In regards to 2, he states:

[I]f I am to affirm poetic text as a context authoritative in the matter of “true-love,” than I must concern myself with the authority of poetry as witness to the term in question. In brief, “true-love” or the infallible discovery of the unmistakable object of love–the truth of love and also the love of truth–is among the recurrent idealization of civilization. It is also a very constant subject of poetry and mingles itself with the most fundamental questions of relationship, representation, intentional consciousness, and valuation. (p. 20)

and later:

All representations of true-love are interrogative because true-love arises at crisis of social knowledge (cf. Plotinus), which ironically specify the difference between heresy and orthodoxy (i.e. between the truth of the particular and the truth and the truth of the general, child and parent, knowing and not knowing)–difference that always involves a betrayal. One such historical crisis was the English Reformation to which twentieth-century poetic modernism owes the structure of its discourse–consciousness as revision (cf. “repentance” in Crane’s “Legend”) and the de-commodification of the highest value. The authority of true-love, as of poetry is always […] a generative contingency–both origin and consequent presence–of institutions that true-love founds and that then bear it as an alien logic across time. (Indeed, it cannot be stressed too emphatically that neither love nor poetry are, strictly speaking, institutions.) Institutions such as church, state, nature, law, two-factored logic, et cetera, supply the historical object of value that true-love (subject) consciousness intends. (p. 24-5)

I believe here that poetry–insofar as it is useful in the usual respectable manner–can give an insight into history by reflecting (within reason) relatively generalizable sentiments about certain material conditions or events. To denounce the use of poetry in this regard is to denounce the study of history via texts, which I do not think is prudent. Indeed, the philological, historical materialist and archaeological use of texts to gain sociological insights about certain time periods I do not view as a bankrupt process insofar as it admits its own insufficiency and makes sufficient use of “assistant” methods like political economic, forensic and statistical analysis. Non-philosophically, the use of poetry for a philo-fiction or uchronic writing in the name of Laruelle’s non-philosophical rumblings and effectuations could be seen as a desirable. Indeed, I think that Grossman is effectively producing an anti-philosophical philo-fiction (in a “not non-philosophical” and somewhat pejorative sense) that insinuates various philosophies that exhibit a “passion for the real,” e.g. any sort of non or only partially discursive realism/materialism or, in its best form, object oriented ontology and speculative realism.

Indeed, it is necessary to note several places where Grossman expresses what I consider anti-philosophy boarding on non-philosophical thought. In part VIII he proffers a number of somewhat attractive ideas.

It is evident that poetry share with all speech that is language-like an incompetence with respect to consummatory states of experience. All indicators of temporality–including the present tense–signify distance from the origin of experience. (p. 34).

The imperatives therefore of love (both to the search for true-love experience and its deferral) confront the poet with complex requirements of contradictory kinds–the fundamental transgressive logic that finds the future of the poet’s work (definitive of its structure–true-love) in problematic relation to any outcome that can be rationally chosen in the light of and defensible meaning of love or of truth. (p. 35)

The claim I wish to make is that the structures in which poetry is realized as poems are authoritative, and recognized as such by philosophers (hence the “quarrel”) precisely because they preserve and affirm logically contradictory propositions, by contrast to the structures in which philosophy is realized as text subject to the constraints of logic (the Aristotelian Laws of Thought) known to be necessary but without truth. (pp. 35-6)

Finally, he says rather simply that poetry does not reach to the real (p. 34). These illustrate what might be called a “Principle of (In)sufficient Poetry.” It will take some time to translate some of this into non-philosophical parlance and this I view as not a particularly fruitful project. However, some “translations” and “conjugations” of Grossman’s concepts come to mind.

  1. the “underdetermination” of love or “true-love” from a rigorous term into an occasion for poetry.
  2. the divestment of the humanist or “moral” economy of poetry as a practice of the representation and “archiving” of the world.
  3. the re-characterization of poetry and its “terms” as a form of unitary “onto-fiction,” not-philosophical testimony, or archival text into a holographically onto-vectorial and non-decided “artifact” or “fossil” (not quite Meillessoux’s arche-fossil since it is coextensive with human existence but which serves a similar purpose) which can furnish non-philosophy with partially “cloned” or “dualized” material.
  4. this poetic material would then function as an “art-thought” or “art-fiction” (apropos Laruelle’s book Photo-fiction, non-standard aesthetics), i.e., an occasion, an instance of conceptual modeling, world-building, experimentation, and a contingent Vision-in-One which can be mobilized for a multitude of non-philosophical effectuations.
  5. giving Grossman’s conception of “truth without mediation” a more Deleuzian “radial immanence” flare might also serve to undo some of its philosophical aspirations.
  6. moving poetry closer to the side of art and away from philosophy or esoteric philosophical pretentions (Grossman’s moral economy of poetics and its burden of just poetic representation).
  7. just ditching normative realism and giving Grossman’s principle of (in)sufficient poetry a more non-philosophical anti-humanist characterisation. I think here deconstruction, especially the kind espoused by Derrida in Dissemination, is a useful assistant.

I’ll expand this as I think of more ideas.

struggle and utopia, (null-)politics, the Spaßguerilla

The purpose of these posts is to reclaim and restart the discourse I was developing around a series of topics that bear on the question of Marxism’s status as a science, its usefulness and competence as a social and economic theory, and how one practically goes about living as a Marxist so that they can actually achieve a victory here and there for the proletariat. I just finished Laruelle’s Struggle and Utopia at the End of Philosophy. To be frank, the closing sections on rebellion and gnosticism are shocking since they seem to adopt some of the vocabulary of the label of the back of a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s magic soaps. Case in point is his discussion of Angel’s, heretics, transcendent rebels, the “all-crime,” and his usual discourse on the One in the context of an elaborate gnostic philo-fiction. I loaned the book to a friend who has some knowledge of Gnosticism and listened to Anthony Paul Smith’s discourse on this book and Future Christ: a lesson in heresyAs always, Writing Capital’s notes were useful, however, I have found that there is an uncharacteristic lack of Laruelle’s clarity (which for me just comes from his repetitive treatment of the same concepts); his conceptions of positive and negative utopia, mastery, overmastery, struggle, and victory and how he characterizes the role of his various philosophical personalities of his Angels, Rebels, and Heretics are obscured by typically French coked out theory writing (what I called at one point going “full-Baudrillard”). There is a dialogue taking place and a series of references that I am not familiar with although Anthony Paul Smith does disclose some important links to Meister Eckhardt and Hesychasm. Much of the proletarian and Marxist themes make sense (rebellion and struggle) but the themes of Gnosis, inspiration, and affectation simply seem to get in the way. I want to write something about how these terms interface and are defined but it will be necessarily hermeneutic. Finding an appropriate way of confronting them non-philosophically is certainly a question, considering the field’s prejudice against citation.

The “take away” for me–to use some unfortunate corporate vocabulary–was that the non-philosophical political imaginary, relative to concepts of extreme social transformation and resistance or revolution, needs to be divorced from the usual Marxist philosophical themes of necessity, possibility, and impossibility. Rather, if I am not abusing the text, non-philosophical political philo-fiction ought to be rephrased in terms of struggle and victory in a sort of non-neurotic “undulatory” or provisional acceptance of the positions offered by Nietzsche and Marx which allows for mastery without fetishizing it and allows for struggle without romanticizing it. This is not necessarily the creation of “reasonable” political goals for small scale social transformation but a matter of humanistically or “humaneistically” outlining and perspectivising political goals in a way that divorces them from (neurotic) philosophical categories such as contingency or necessity. This is to say, it deconceptualizes and deontologizes them so that one can engage them “futurally” as a matter of practical struggle or simple work for a concrete victory in the form of a positive utopia. The foremost example of this might be the ONPHI, which Laruelle cites as a possible positive utopia in the middle section of the book.

Positive Utopia could possible be the “actual” or “in-Real” creation of an institution such as the ONPHI. There are obvious allusions to the creation of the original psychoanalytic circles and communist parties. These allusions suggest that the “practical exigencies” of building an organization are an conditioning supplement to utopian thought (since it becomes “thought-according-to-the Real” of the immanent requirements of the institution or organization you are trying to build). I think the term “mission” adequately communicates the interface between a negative and positive utopia with an organization functioning as the superposition between the two terms. Note the surprisingly barren statutes of the ONPHI, which are mostly concerned with paying dues and governance as if it were a militant union; the non-philosophers have built from nothing an organization which reflects, enacts, and disseminates their ideals whereas Marxist theorists must always hunt for a party or politician (with which they will always be dissatisfied) that partially represents them to furnish them with their philosophical material (note Žižek’s ambiguous simultaneous support and criticism of political strongmen like Hugo Chavez and Alexis Tsipras).

There are obvious differences between an organization like the ONPHI, unions and left-wing political parties that make the success of the ONPHI seem less grand but I think a similar pluralist organization of left-wing intellectuals is necessary state-side, especially in light of their recent persecution regarding issues like the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Further, the ambiguous official (non-)position of the non-philosophers towards “capitalism” (although, I cringe to use the term so generally) makes them an unlikely target for institutional repression. Non-philosophy remains very much a university discourse despite its proletarian sympathies and admiration for the defunct project of the New-Left.

This middle section is fascinating because it tows the line between asserting disciplinary standards for (non-philosophical) rigor without attempting to create any sort of orthodoxy. It is a difficult balancing act since it is clear that Laruelle wants to retain the pluralism of non-philosophy while ratifying “progressive” tendencies and defending it from becoming “non-religious” influences. He dedicates a fair amount of time chasing away the specter of Deleuze.

In context, the final section seems to be in violation of all of Laruelle’s rules for rigorous philo-fiction (since it is fairly unrestrained in its use of synthetic, literary and otherwise “enabling” philosophical vocabulary rather than the typical non-philosophical procedure of disabling “disoperationalizing” or “deconceptualizing” philosophical thought). I don’t know what to make of this except that I can recall some sections from Future Christ which create provisos for this type of “unrestrained” style. I still haven’t finished Future Christ so perhaps my vision of the “triptych” he is constructing is incomplete while the “boundaries” remain undefined.

A second issue concerning Realpolitiks or what Writing Capital calls “null-politics“–I’ve taken to sometimes writing it “(null-)politics” to indicate that the null or Real dimension of politics is always comprised in politics–comes to mind. I define this as “politics-according-to-the-Real” that is best “rationalized” or “processed” theoretically as “politics-according-to-the-model” particularly an econometric, game theoretical or rational choice theory model evaluated by axiomatized but non-decisional or provisional ethical “principles” i.e., a preference “determined-in-the-last-instance” by the minimal requirements human life (humaneity-in-the-last-insance) or for “bioethical” equilibrium or optimal conditions for social reproduction and utility maximizing outcomes. Scanning his tumblr, I came across the term “psychometrics” which I want to integrate into the philo-fiction I’m developing on null-politics. Combined with biometrics (not in the sense of surveillance but the study of human traits) it might create a kind of “good” anthropocentrism which would offer an alternative to the somewhat unfortunate vocabulary of care for “the poor” in non-philosophy (which is perhaps, as Ranciere notes in his book The Philosopher and his Poor, both a specific tendency of French theory but a larger trend in philosophy in general, for a good example, see Jacques Fradin’s theory of non-economics or Writing Capital’s English translation of his lexicon and the end of Katerina Kolozova’s article on non-Marxism.

This second issue concerns the figure of the Rebel who resembles the idea of a theoretical “Spaßguerilla” I created in my hectic essay on (null-)politics. The ludic and daemoniacal aspects of the Angel (who Laruelle attributes a kind of Platonic mania to) are preserved in the “fun guerilla’s” irreverent and deconstructive play while they undertake a rather dire political struggle with brutal practicality. The negative, “transcendent” and performative dimensions of this concept, its force-(of)-thought, are conjugated relative to positive political goals and practices while admitting to a kind of absurdity and insufficiency through (effective guerrilla) political action staged as performance art. I think the idea of the Spaßguerilla and the 2nd of June Movement (2JM) represent the most progressive tendencies of the extreme left at that time in the sense that they perfectly embodied the ludic ideology of the Situationalist International and the revolutionary commitment of the Red Army Faction. In their statement announcing their disbandment, we can see a kind of humorless submission to the “long march.” The military defeat of the group by the West German government coupled with their absorption into an orthodox tendency (the R.A.F.) counts as a two fold defeat since it collapses the political imaginary of the Marxist “negative utopia” into interminable struggle (really, how viable was the military defeat of West Germany by a small guerrilla group?) while it destroys an “actually existing” positive and, by all accounts, sufficiently heretical organization. Simply put, the group could have had a different future and their disbandment foreclosed a realm of political possibilities.

The anarchic manifesto of 2JM promised an alternative anti-authoritarian way of life of which they provided brief glimpses via their amusing and artistic guerrilla actions (such as their distributing muffins during a bank robbery). At least here there are possibilities for little victories since one of their “effectuations” was to advertise the freedom of the sponti scene and lifestyle as a real alternative to capitalism, as untenable as it was, it provided an attractive alternative to a rather monotonous [capitalist] reality of endless work and delegated leisure. Imaging possibilities for functional positive utopias, non-consumerist alternative lifestyles, a viable popular political movement, a viable political party that expresses these ideals, and then intersections between all these elements so that resistance can become social transformation should be preserved for anyone mildly sympathetic to the original project of the Left, new and old. The discovery of an effective and terminable form of struggle, i.e., that accomplishes the desired transformations with discrete “little” victories and terminates in mastery, which does not lead to directionless political violence or suicide (which somewhat coincide) should be the goal of the non-philosophical Rebel.

Between left-wing nostalgia and Gnostic mysticism, I don’t know which is worse. However, in the final analysis, both effectuate the same expansion of the political imaginary by furnishing the reader with some non-standard figures, symbols and identifications to play around with. In my opinion, this sort of queering of the usual conceptual/theoretical infrastructure for the sake of providing the reader of non-philosophy with a utopian political imaginary is a bonne action since non-philosophy otherwise considers capitalism “idempotent” and there is a sort of dirth of originality, anti-utopianism, and even nihilism among non-philosophers (although for the sake of rigor it is apparent why this is preferable). I think non-utopian socialism (especially if that “non-” is conjugated according to non-philosophical precepts) could also serve to assist non-philosophy in this regard as a form of humaneistic “policy writing.”

More on this later… I found an essay by Badiou on the Cultural Revolution and a critique of his communist hypothesis that I want to read next to Laruelle’s Struggle and Utopia. However, for now I am mulling over all of Writing Capital’s posts on econometrics.

thoughts and notes on what this site is for

I just got back from Middlebury College’s famed immersion program for French and I can now safely say that I am solidly between “poor” and “mediocre” at French. (Which is to say, I can say things with decent French pronounciation wrong 2 times before landing on the correct conjugation and phrasing on the 3rd. Sup).

I’m effectively colonized by France but I’ve been out of theory land for 6 weeks so this will be a catching up exercise.

I have to say, I have a reaffirmed respect for anyone who can pick up actual skills (such as linguistic, musical or mathematic competencies) rapidly. Sometimes theory is a crutch for intellectual competence. This was evident at my program: I and a bunch of other “theory kids” had a lot of difficulty vs. “normal people.”

Of note was that I met Ta-Nehisi Coates the author of “The Case for Reperations” in the Atlantic. He is an immensely charismatic and humble guy and an inspiration. I don’t know if people know this but learning French at Middlebury is a near traumatic experience and he was an inspiration. He had a short discourse on Jacques Brel and fear which was in the simple French we were all speaking but was rather moving. At the end of the session he said he would not immediately be writing on Furgeson but it looks like he already has a short article on it.

On “what will go in this dumb website” in detail, I have a few plans.

  1. books I’m reading and their notes/commentary
  2. outlines, ideas and miscellenia for projects I’m planning (hopefully none of them are thesis length)
  3. resources for these projects (so that people who are interested can follow my work or work on it themselves following some of my sources)
  4. links to news articles I find interesting
  5. links to scholarly and academic articles

My inspiration right now is linguisticcapital who I highly recommend you follow and read closely. (I’ve also had some exchange with him over some embarassingly raw essays I wrote on Marxism and science. He was immensely supportive and made me not want to kill myself over theory. Seriously). I hope he makes himself more vocal on wordpress and tumblr because he is formidable and a nice guy, although he appears to have a policy of giving the silent treatment if things get too “theoretical.”

I want a page of psychoanalytic resources similar to his page on Laruelle’s non-philosophy. This exists already on lacan.com but Josephena Ayerza is 1. a little nuts and 2. has decided to organize the website quite shittily. (NB: She interviewed me for an internship once and it was a little shocking. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job. Her index of exclusive lectures by Lacan and JAM would be the first thing I organize. Her loss).

Thematically this website will be aimed at “non-conceptual” theory which is something I’ll try to elaborate later. Stylistically this website will be “anti-intellectual” and perhaps overly genuine which is something my art friends hate but they can come here and complain if they hate it so much. Practically, this website will at least allow me to comment on real intellectuals’ blogs with wordpress (the platform of choice for non-philosophers).

More to come…

///under construction///

I’m in the process of updating this site to “professionalize” my “personal brand,” get involved more in the non-philosophical and psychoanalytic internet communities and create something more rigorous than my tumblr.

Coming soon:

  1. projects page
  2. thesis notes
  3. academic articles I’m reading
  4. papers I’m trying to get published
  5. repository of sources