Frames /sing


2/n: The ESSENTIAL binary of all Philosophical Discussion

I want to repeat a comment I added over at Naught Thought on the subject of what makes Dark Vitalism “dark”. I think Complete Lies was doubtfully querying about what the adjective adds. Its fair to ask.

It occurs to me to add that I have heard it said that if there is any TRUE binary, it is the binary of Being/Not-Being on the one hand, and Polyvocality on the other: perhaps symbolized as 2/n. In otherwords, the very idea that there are two (some fundamental two whatever their name), and that there are the many (all of which are to be investigated). In my mind what makes Vitalism Dark would be the decided attempt to position one’s vitalism on the “dark” side of this binary, within polyocality. Here, “dark” is not only representively dark, as in dark vs. light (with all the cultural powers and pitfalls of being on the lesser half), but also dark as in, non-binarious in its explanations.

I believe I found this thought when reading the excellent (really excellent) Volatile Bodies by Elizabeth Grosz, though certainly the idea of it is plentiful.

What is interesting about this essential binary which places binarization itself on one half, and multiplicity expression on the other is that it makes something of a good short hand for measuring out other positions. It seems to drive a hard line through most of Idealist thought which privileges and focuses itself upon the “2” as a producer of the “n”, while what Deleuze calls the Distaff tradition focuses on the “n” as underpinning any illusion or clarity of the “2”. And one might even say that a taxonomy of 2 vs. n elements might be made of any fundamental onto-epistemic assumptions of a prospective philosophical position. How invested is it in the “2” (and its multiplications)?  How are 2-elements handled, what place are they given? We can see as well how the 2 directs itself away from the physical world and a naturalized account of the world, and towards the traditional philosophical transcendent preoccupation, while the “n” seems to both engage in a kind of material poeticism, but one amenable to the sciences, maths and sociology (which describes structures of the n quite well).

The Spinoza Equation

Also of note of such an essential dichtomy for me is that it shows something of the uniqueness of Spinoza’s position, as he threw off the reportedly first and dominant “2” in modern philosophy, Descartes Mind/Body. He preserved it in an interesting way, as part of a conceptual dualism which itself was part of an infinity of attribute expressions, making a philosophy that might be signified as (1)/2*/n. His (1)/2*/n allows for investigation and embrace of the “n” (modal, concrete expression), but does so within a unity and really an affective unity (a strength of his philosophy which directs any pragmatic project of freedom towards n itself), though in aymptotic fashion.

It seems to me that any “dark” vitalism, or dark panpsychism (which is an even more compelling term), is one that embraces the “n” half of the binary in some very strong conceptual and really dynamic sort of way. Its one that reads the n as the very material of the theory. And part of the shrugging off the primacy of the “2” is realizing the non-ontological status of the negation.

14 responses to “2/n: The ESSENTIAL binary of all Philosophical Discussion

  1. Amarilla June 16, 2009 at 11:28 am

    I very much appreciate your equation, I was just wondering what the forward slash in Frames/sing signifies so now I may have found some clues.

    I’m compelled by Deleuze’s Distaff and your use of skein, which I came across somewhere, and also pulled into the deep waters of trying to measure convergences between 2/n with Nagarjuna’s tetralemma.

    Also wondering if Dark Vitalism might promise a way out of the dead end of being/non being or true/not true binary engagement, wherein it becomes more appealing and acceptable to ride one’s subjectivity.

    • kvond June 16, 2009 at 5:46 pm


      Yes, I think that most philosophical moves toward “n” focus are attempts to not fall into the dead-ends of binary engagment, probably in the Europian West starting with Augustine’s wish to avoid the dualism of Manichism, and drawing on Plotinus’s degree of Being conception to do so. I like that thought of “riding one’s subjectivity”.

    • kvond June 16, 2009 at 5:47 pm

      p.s. yes, I never really thought about the strict meaning of the forward slash, but you seem to have hit upon something. There is a certain homology going on here.

      • Amarilla June 17, 2009 at 8:26 am

        Forgot to mention, I enjoy the photosomatoglyph you include here as toothsome commentary on Aaron Koblin’s flight patterns.

  2. Alexei June 16, 2009 at 11:48 am

    Just wanted to poke my nose in here and ask a really dumb question: all of this discussion revolves around Schelling, right? You know, his ‘dark ground’ of being — God and the rotary motion of the drives — which, strictly speaking, is not. That’s the idea driving this discussion, no?

    • kvond June 16, 2009 at 5:50 pm


      Yes, I suspect that this all really starts with Schelling in some regard, thought I entered into the thinking at Naught Thought who seems to have his own take on Dark Vitalism. Schelling of course was an Idealist (and oxomoronically, also a Spinozist). And as an Idealist qualifies under a “2” thinker, which at least in my very short book would mean not a Dark Vitalist.

  3. James June 17, 2009 at 3:00 am


    It seems that the following fallacy is common in the tradition of German idealism: equating the ‘object’ with the set of all possible worlds, and then defining the ‘subject’ as a sort of impossible object, which is distinct from this set. From this point of view, the error is not in positing binaries, since nature instantiates all possible binaries, and I see nothing especially dubious, metaphysically speaking, about the idea of dualisms as such. Rather, as I see it, the error is in positing contradictions, such as ‘impossible object’, or ‘paraconsistent subject’. But maybe this can be avoided by treating the subject as just another contingent expression of the infinite and the finite. Would this also, however, remove some of the motivation for reducing epistemology to “material poeticism”?


  4. kvond June 17, 2009 at 7:59 am

    Yes, dichtomization seems endemic to thinking itself, but implied in “binary” is the sense of “irreducible binary” wich can lead to what you mean by “contradition”. Moving away from essential opposition tends to put us in the world of taxonomies and processes. But I think it is more than this. It is fair to say that the concept of contradition drives much of “2” thinking, but there is also a kind of pictorial metaphor that capatures philosophies of the “2”. If we are to say Presence and Absence governs many philosophies, treating them as non-contradictions, but as part of Differance, as for instance Derrida does, does not take us out of the Philosophy of the 2. To the contray, one is still in a preoccupation still caught in the spell of the 2. It is for this reason that I find Heidegger’s thought also far too “2” driven.

    I certainly like your resolution of the subject, but I don’t see how making the subject “another contingent expression of the infinite and the finite” reduces the material poeticism. This seems rather poetic and material in its own right (and I don’t find poetic materialism all that bad (thinking of Deleuze and G&D (Anodyne lite reminds me of my thought that the intials should be reversed).

  5. kvond June 17, 2009 at 1:36 pm


    Thanks for the good comments on the photo choice.

  6. James June 21, 2009 at 10:35 am


    An irreducible binary holds between two terms which have nothing in common. It is the sort of thing Spinoza had in mind at the beginning of the Ethics, and denying it forms part of his manner of generating ontological consistency. So that is one way of thinking about contradiction, as you say. Instead of thinking of the relation between the 1 and the 2, with Spinoza we get in between the 0 and the 1.

    I would not say the concept of contradiction, so much as just contradictions per se, drive much of 2 thinking. I have never found the pictorial metaphor of Presence and Absence to be particularly precise or profound. Ditto for Heidegger and Derrida. Most philosophies which retain the mystical (Wittgenstein’s Tractatus is a little more to my tastes here) also retain irreducible binaries, and are thus incompatible with Spinozism.

    I haven’t thought enough about material poeticism to know whether I like it or not, but I am at least not presently committed to “reducing” it, but only to de-totalizing it. As for your suggestion that my solution was itself poetic and material, this depends on how you characterize these terms. Obviously a single sentence description of my solution is going to be evocative and suggestive, and in that sense poetic. And if you mean “material” in an a priori sense, where it is equivalent to “being” or “something”, then clearly I have very little room to disagree with you. But I suspect you had something more substantive in mind here. In any case, note that I distinguish, I think more strongly than Spinoza does, between necessity and contingency. I offer two different epistemologies here, whereas he at least seems to offer only one. The first is an account of our knowledge of necessity, which is a modal monster built on a version of Descartes’ cogito. It is something like what Meillassoux is doing in his book. If I had to guess I’d say it doesn’t resemble what you would typically classify as material poeticism.


  7. James June 22, 2009 at 11:04 am


    Thanks for this. I wasn’t aware Pruss had done work on Spinoza. I take the problem of the attributes to be distinct from what interests me most in Spinoza’s system, and am a little more skeptical that it can be salvaged for contemporary use. But perhaps we can’t cut things up so neatly, and the issue remains interesting regardless.

  8. kvond July 5, 2009 at 7:59 pm


    I strongly suspect that you have read this due to your past interest in Deleuze’s Difference and R. and your current interest in Spinoza, but why not forward the title:

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