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2001: a space odyssey Achilles Alan Gabbey Antigone Antonio Negri Arne Naess Art Criticism Augustine Avatar Badiou biosemiotics Bousquet Brian Massumi Caliban Campanella Chalmers Christiaan Huygens Colerus Conjoined Semiosis Critical Theory cybernetics Dante David Graeber David Skrbina Davidson Deleuze Della Rocca Derrida Descartes Duns Scotus Epistemology Ethics Euripedes Exowelt Felix Guattari Foucault Graham Harman Greek Tragedy Guattari Heidegger Helvetica Hevelius Hockney-Falco Thesis Hume Huygens Information John Donne Kepler Kubrick L'occhiale all'occhio Latour Leibniz Letter 39 Letter to Peter Balling Literary Theory Martha Nussbaum Marx Metaphor Micrographia Milton Morality Nicola Masciandaro Nietzsche Optica Promota Ovid Painting panpsychism Parables of the Virtual Patricia Collins Philosophy Philosophy of Mind Photosynth Plato Plotinus Politics Rhetoric Rilke Robert Hooke Rorty Sappho Simulated Annealing Skepticism Slavoj Zizek Sloterdijk Specilla circularia Spinoza Spinoza's Foci St. Paul The Buttle Principle Three Varieties of Knowledge Tommaso Campanella Uncategorized Van Leeuwenhoek Vico Walter Benjamin William of Auvergne Wittgenstein Zizek zombies Zuggtmoy
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- Mitochondrial Vertigo: The New Blog
- Going Dark
- The Becoming-woman of Machine in Avatar
- The Difference Between a Description and an Explanation: Deficits in Latour
- Peking Opera and the Aesthetic Freedoms of Avatar
- Transcendence or Immanence: Cake-and-eat-it-too-ism
- From Affect to Mutuality, Openness to Rational Co-expression: Massumi to Spinoza
- Is the Medium the Message? Avatar’s Avatar
- Massumi’s Cognitive Doubling, Spinoza’s Numerical Affectivity
- Two Vectors of Avatar’s Cinematic Achievement: Affect and Space Interface
- Accursed Share
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Spinoza Primary Sources
- Ethics, Emendation, Tractatus and Letters, in Latin
- F. van den Enden website
- Hyperlinked Ethics, Emmendation, Tractatus and Letters
- Nicholas De Cusa’s “De Visione Dei”, English Translation
- Selected Letters, Elwes Translation
- Spinoza’s Complete Works, Shirley Translation
- Spinoza’s Works in Latin
- The Life of Spinoza, by Johannes Colerus (1705)
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Ode to Man
Tho’ many are the terrors, not one more terrible than man goes. This one beyond the grizzled sea in winter storming to the south He crosses, all-engulfed, cutting through, up from under swells. & of the gods She the Eldest, Earth un-withering, un-toiling, is worn down, As the Twisting Plough’s year into Twisting Plough’s year, Through the breeding of horse, he turns. & the lighthearted race of birds all-snaring he drives them & savage beasts, their clan, & of the sea, marine in kind With tightly-wound meshes spun from all-seeing is Man. Yet too, he masters by means of pastoral beast, mountain-trodding, The unruly-maned horse holding fast, ‘round the neck yoked, & the mountain’s ceaseless bull. & the voice & wind-fast thought & the passion for civic ways He has taught, so from crag’s poor court from under the ether’s hard-tossed arrows To flee, this all-crossing one. Blocked, he comes upon nothing so fated. From Hades alone escape he’ll not bring. Tho’ from sickness impossible Flight he has pondered. A skilled one, devising of arts beyond hope, Holding at times an evil, But then to the noble he crawls, honoring the laws of the Earth, & Of gods the oath so just, high-citied. Citiless is the one who with the un-beautiful dwells, boldly in grace. Never for me a hearth-mate may he have been, never equal in mind He who offers this.
Ode to Man
A BwO is made in such a way that it can be occupied, populated only by intensities. Only intensities pass and circulate. Still, the BwO is not a scene, a place, or even a support upon which something comes to pass. It has nothing to do with phantasy, there is nothing to interpret. The BwO causes intensities to pass; it produces and distributes them in a spatium that is itself intensive, lacking extension. It is not space, nor is it in space; it is matter that occupies space to a given degree—to the degree corresponding to the intensities produced. It is nonstratified, unformed, intense matter, the matrix of intensity, intensity = 0; but there is nothing negative about that zero, there are no negative or opposite intensities. Matter equals energy. Production of the real as an intensive magnitude starting at zero. That is why we treat the BwO as the full egg before the extension of the organism and the organization of the organs, before the formation of the strata; as the intense egg defined by axes and vectors, gradients and thresholds, by dynamic tendencies involving energy transformation and kinematic movements involving group displacement, by migrations: all independent of accessory forms because the organs appear and function here only as pure intensities. The organ changes when it crosses a threshold, when it changes gradient. "No organ is constant as regards either function or position, . . . sex organs sprout anywhere,... rectums open, defecate and close, . . . the entire organism changes color and consistency in split-second adjustments." The tantric egg. After all, is not Spinoza's Ethics the great book of the BwO?
Ode to Man
But human power is extremely limited, and is infinitely surpassed by the power of external causes; we have not, therefore, an absolute power of shaping to our use those things which are without us. Nevertheless, we shall bear with an equal mind all that happens to us in contravention to the claims of our own advantage, so long as we are conscious, that we have done our duty, and that the power which we possess is not sufficient to enable us to protect ourselves completely; remembering that we are a part of universal nature, and that we follow her order. If we have a clear and distinct understanding of this, that part of our nature which is defined by intelligence, in other words the better part of ourselves, will assuredly acquiesce in what befalls us, and in such acquiescence will endeavour to persist. For, in so far as we are intelligent beings, we cannot desire anything save that which is necessary, nor yield absolute acquiescence to anything, save to that which is true: wherefore, in so far as we have a right understanding of these things, the endeavour of the better part of ourselves is in harmony with the order of nature as a whole.
These shorter, critical posts of yours are a lot of fun. I like them.
Thanks Dan. I know my long-winded twistings are a bit tedious (truly, probably for me too). Good to know that some other form is working.
This is something I’ve wondered about also, more recently in light of anthropology’s narrative concerning the flowering of capitalism: for anthropologists, “capitalism” happens just about anywhere that agriculture is happening. Farmers have to take their wares to the marketplace. This creates a barebones capitalist economy, and the beginnings of economic stratification the way we experience it today.
Of course, what most Marxists call Capitalism big-C happens a little later than early agrarian markets do, and capitalist societies are usually identified as coming into being alongside globalization post-merchantilism. But I think it’s interesting to take the anthropologists lead on this… capitalism has been around for much, much longer than most Marxists think it has, and it’s never been an organized conspiracy perpetrated by a few Illuminati… I mean, agents. I wonder if Gruber would have something to say about this…
Yes, Graber would be interesting on this. I do think that there was a particular phenomenon, or experiment in the early Dutch Republic, partly brought on by the coincidence that Royal power had been vacated, and there was a chance that Republican solutions could at least for a time be tried. And that this corresponded to a definite change in the distribution of wealth towards a merchant class certainly had strong commerical/political consequences. There is a remarkable story, I forget which royal from England but one of them, had to travel to Amsterdam and into the Jewish ghetto in order to sell her jewels to finance the war. The idea that royalty had to mix with a people that just a few decades earlier were being tortured systematically by the Spanish Inquistion was a remarkable reversal, a note that “things done changed”. If you look into the intense melting pot of Dutch society in these years, Capitalism and relative democracy were certainly flexing new social forms in the context of Lutheran reform. But this aside, I certain agree that the notnion of “Capitalism’s agents” is almost pure fantasy, I supppose of the kind that makes people feel like they are “part of something”, that they themselves are important social actors.
And yes, the notion that Capitalism started “here” at this time or another seems pretty silly too. There was a flowering of some kind in the Dutch Republic, but it would be wrong to simply characterize it as a flower of Capitalism alone.
Just happened to finish David Graeber’s August MUTE article, today, “Debt: The first five thousand years”, where he argues that we have cycled between “commodity money” (gold and silver – dominant during times of conquest in order to pay the soldiers) and “virtual money”, which reached its previous height in the Middle Ages (“Religions began to take over the market systems”) and has returned in the current age of floating exchange rates.
Yes, I recall David on this, and I believe he has something of this in his new book (he shared a chapter with me not to long ago and it was very thought provoking, I assume it was for the new book). What is interesting about debt is the way that it operates as not only a leverage for future expectation (insurance), but also a psychological deficit. I should read the Graber article, which I haven’t.
I like this critique of vicarious agency very much. I don’t think there’s a problem with saying that there were certain agendas that assembled into a more comprehensive and regularized set of practices that at a certain scale are conveniently labeled ‘capitalism’. But to then read this convenience back into history and turn capitalism into a something that made itself happen by using human actors is weird.
Incidentally Marx himself did not make this mistake. Of course markets and local credit systems existed from the dawn of agriculture. The argument is that these economic forms were mixed with and restrained by all sorts of other economic and social relations until the modern period, for a variety of reasons, when they became pervasive and dominant. So the anthropologists are right, but miss the point.
For me the problem with the account has to do with whether capitalist relations have sufficiently pervaded and dominated all other relations to provide the last-analysis traction that’s imputed to them.
Carl: “For me the problem with the account has to do with whether capitalist relations have sufficiently pervaded and dominated all other relations to provide the last-analysis traction that’s imputed to them.”
Kvond: Whatever in the world would be the standard, or the measure of such a domination? In fact the idea that any one kind of relation would dominate all relations is kinda silly.
Agreed! I don’t see what an adequate metric would look like either, so that’s why I see a problem with the account. Or rather, the metrics exist in the theory but they’re circular. Call capitalism an encompassing dominative economic/political/social/cultural system, identify target of analysis as economic/political/social/cultural, ascribe its dynamics to capitalism, lather-rinse-repeat.
Yet silly as this is, all default theories(tm) work this way: there’s one Big Cause (gods, God, Fate, Fortune, Spirit, Will, Capitalism, the International Masonic Conspiracy) in relation to which all others are dependent or residual. I wonder if we’re ready to stop being religious this way.
Carl: “Yet silly as this is, all default theories(tm) work this way: there’s one Big Cause (gods, God, Fate, Fortune, Spirit, Will, Capitalism, the International Masonic Conspiracy) in relation to which all others are dependent or residual.”
Kvond: And why in the world would this be the “default” theory? The point is to take a perspective that gives an analysis ground as neutral as possible (so that differences that make a difference can be noted). The “BIGness” of the cause is simply the equilibrium against which change is measured. So a “Masonic Conspiracy” or the “Dominance of Capitalism” is a very different concept than “the world is made of, and an expression of matter, information and energy” (for instance). What makes the latter more interesting is that it provides a ground for OTHER descriptions, while the former leads to a lot of hunting for evidence of the very somewhat paranoic assumption.
Kvond, from the rhetorical flourishes it feels like you’re working real hard to get me to be advocating the thing I’m describing as a common and pernicious syndrome in others. We’ve generally been simpatico about the value of other descriptions, no?
Why is God a default theory? Why is Fate a default theory? Because they do some work that way, especially by grounding a worldview preconceptually. It’s a premise masquerading as a conclusion, a matter of faith, which is why default theories are so difficult to knock out by pointing at the superiority of other descriptions. For Marxists of the kind Marx famously said he was not, the ‘dominance of Capitalism’ works like that, and we’ve been seeing it pop up in just this way across our little corner of the blogosphere as the economic downturn encourages the marxoids to crawl out from under their damp, dysphoric rocks and declare the world theirs.
So to your question “why in the world would this be the ‘default theory'” the answer is, for the same reasons people ever get religion. If the point is to take a neutral perspective, which I pursue as a noble but unlikely goal, then the usual questions about how to deprogram the religious come up next.
Carl: “Why is God a default theory? Why is Fate a default theory? Because they do some work that way, especially by grounding a worldview preconceptually. It’s a premise masquerading as a conclusion, a matter of faith, which is why default theories are so difficult to knock out by pointing at the superiority of other descriptions. For Marxists of the kind Marx famously said he was not, the ‘dominance of Capitalism’ works like that, and we’ve been seeing it pop up in just this way across our little corner of the blogosphere as the economic downturn encourages the marxoids to crawl out from under their damp, dysphoric rocks and declare the world theirs.”
Kvond: I feel like we are being simple minded about people’s thinking about the world. Yes, in imaginary ways, in imaginary relations, some people think about God or Fate in the same way that some people thinking about the Domninance of Capitalism (hence “revolutionaries” feeling they have to over throw the “gods” in some kind of prometheian style), premise/conclusion, there are to me many ways of relating to default theories that do not operate like this. There are ways of relating to even concepts of Fate and God, not as a conclusion, but as a kind of operation. Science’s materialism and abstract cause/laws works something like this as well.
For me the distinction, lies somewhere in the imaginary relations you point out, but also in the way that the assumption grounds, as an object of belief, the valuations we make on other things (valuations we assume to be correct). In this way, K-punkists might look at the world searching it through a lens that sees only “agents” of world orders, identifying with other “agents” of the coming revolution. While a more neutral, less phantasmic ground is needed.
But I still am at pains to equate these imaginary relations with some sort of “theory”. There is something to it, but K-punk doesn’t even seem to have a “theory” of world agents, just a fantasy.
This being said, just the notion of a “dominant” relation, under Marxist colors, itself strikes me as rather skewed. Dominant as to what? As I brought up on Shaviro’s blog, it is not Capitalism that is not so pervasive as monetary debt exchange. But I have no idea how this would be decided as “dominating” other relations.