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Tag Archives: Badiou

Subjects Created in Truth Procedures at Prague’s Franz Kafka International Airport

Pursuing the Generic

Not only does this “news report” play upon our well-worn picture of Eastern Block Communism, it does so fused with the addictive Fox News/CNN mode of Breaking News anticipation, perhaps revealing the degree to which we are already pure Ideological subjects. What is striking is that we recognize ourselves here, not in some sci-fi sense of an alternate parallel universe, but rather this is the REAL (not to mention the relief of joyful distance that comes through as we idenitfy the literary references and can chuckle about it all like some highly literate Russian in our minds).

Of course the properly identified Subject has no such difficulty within an Airport, (along with the implicit experienced subject who is simply able to finesse the quirks of the system with a certain tacit knowledge). One moves seamlessly along the generic paths of processes with great, if somewhat banal, glee. It is the supposedly resistant Western capitalist “individual” (buisness traveler) who becomes confused, marked, externalized to their own internal.

Who/what is the Subject? The resistant kernel that cannot be processed, or the perfectly generisized lipidity of movements and identifications? False dichotomy. “Properly followed, proper protocols” and Wittgenstein’s Language Game sign-followings met with delicious irony. 

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The Pre-eventual in Badiou: Conjoined Semiosis

Nick over at The Accursed Share posts his interesting essay on the problem of the waiting for the event, “What is to be done? Alain Badiou and the Pre-eventual” . His desire to de-emphasize the event is notable, and something I have affinity for, but I simply cannot follow his reasoning one what to do prior to the eruption in the situation. We had some extensive discussion, and still I am not clear on his point (at the very least my stunted comprehension may have brought out even more of Nick’s interesting thoughts for readers).

But aside from commending the essay which is written in a clear, forth-right style, there is a passage therein that gives me to think of my argued notion of Conjoined Semiosis, as Nick writes:

“While the idea of an evental site is clear in the case of a mass movement, is it not also the case that the elements of the presented “mass” are themselves presented precisely as specific family members, specific workers, and/or specific community individuals? In other words, while the elements of an evental site are not presented from the perspec-tive of the state of the political situation, can it not be said that the ele-ments are presented in an alternative situation, such as the community situation, or the familial situation? If this is the case, then the unpre-sented elements of one situation may simultaneously be the fully counted elements of another situation. As such, what constitutes an event and evental site for one situation may be a mere continuation of the status quo for an alternative situation. Or, to put it in other words, what consti-tutes an unpredictable rupture from one perspective is simply a culmina-tion of various, determined causal paths at another level.”

Apart from the bearing of this immediately upon Badiou, it is that very real sense in which there is ever a performative count-as-one, which makes up the semiotic horizon (inside/outside) that maintains itself through an internal coherence. This horizon is extended to include other horizon bound elements, for instance as Nick suggests, families, political unions, etc. which result from the resolution of cognitive dissonances, that is eruptions (events) within the internal coherence. Regularly, at least with human beings (though I believe it can be argued all the way down to the panpsychic), one experiences the rupture of expectation of coherence, even in our moment to moment thoughts, tracing the electric line, the “hole” at the center of consciousness. And these incoherences are then regularly made coherent again through the assertion of new, ordered states of other situations, other bodies with their own semiotic horizons (we judge their source to be either ideational/affective states of other things, our own erroneous or less than coherent internal events, or events in our shared world). What is fundamental though is that these ever eruptive events occur not only outside, in the meta-coherence of our own bodies and other bodies in a shared world (that situation), but also in a way that is not locatable within one of these three domains (self, others, world). The reason for this is that our perceptual bodies, the horizon of our semiosis is necessarily extended out beyond our own bodies, such that within our performative unity there are disruptions that occur neither within, or external to us, but BOTH, as part of our conjoined semiosis with other things. It is precisely this immanence that Nick’s observation of pre-existing situations which perpetuate through an event eruption touches on, how there is ever a continuity within the eruption of the event, a material line of traction, pushing our processes of re-coherence forward.

Some of my thoughts on this matter already posted:

Conjoined Semiosis: A “Nerve Language” of Bodies

Spinoza’s Notion of Inside and Outside: What is a Passion?

Heidegger “Never says…” and Harman says…

The Ghost of Kant

Graham Harman wants us to pay very close attention to what a metaphysical thinker says, and not what his framework for thinking implies:

What sorts of relations, then, would inanimate things have amongst each other? Well, “Heidegger never says.” But does this mean we can draw no conclusions about it? After spending so much time talking about how entities are both veiled and unveiled for human Dasein, it would have been quite easy for Heidegger, if he had thought of it, to say that “even cotton is both veiled and unveiled for the fire that consumes it.” If he ever had such a notion, why wouldn’t he have said it? It would have been a wonderfully shocking statement, and he would have wanted to draw attention to such a theory. And if it’s really so compatible with his philosophy, then why do orthodox Heideggerians treat me like I have three heads whenever I say it?

The reason is simple… Heidegger works within the framework of the Kantian philosophy of human access to the world (more)…

[update: the material quoted and quoted below no longer exists as Harman deleted his entire blog wherein such discussions and comments occurred]

In this “methodological” move, it seems to me that he conflates two things. There is the very framework that a thinker is thinking in, and then there are the cares and concerns of that philosopher, the perhaps the very reasons why he is using particular assumptions and assertions. And while we do go about imagining that we as philosophers are attacking merely the “structure” of thought, quite honestly we are doing so because of the intentions that it is put to (either consciously by the philosopher, or to some quiet degree, its social effects in history).

The Shock of Claims

So when Graham asks, it would have been quite easy for Heidegger, if he had thought of it, to say that “even cotton is both veiled and unveiled for the fire that consumes it.” If he ever had such a notion, why wouldn’t he have said it? The very plain answer is simply that Heidegger did not care about objects in this way. It likely was meaningless within his interests to point out the possibility, even if there are aspects of it buried in his approach. Perhaps it would be something like pointing out to the writers of the Declaration of Independence that “All men are created equal” implies that in their proposed country blacks should hold equal rights with whites, and the Jefferson might consider freeing his slaves. It simply wasn’t the point of the equality.

(It is notable that Graham sees as a very good reason Heidegger might have for making a philosophical claim (the one Graham has been currently making), “It would have been a wonderfully shocking statement, and he would have wanted to draw attention to such a theory.” Call me naive, but making a splash and turning heads really isn’t what drives most large scale thinkers, though I can see Graham’s love for Nietzschean style showing through here. He does not seem to consider as essential factors other than the “shock value” of an idea. And in Nietzsche’s defense, at least the Nietzschean outright methodology of shock was coupled with a metaphysical valuation of shock…said he trying to “save” Europe. For some reason the argumentative point, “Philosopher X certainly did not believe Y, for if he did he would have made the claim because it would have gotten him so much attention,” seems more self-revelatory than critical.

Evidence of Harman’s over-sensitivity to shock value can be seen in the introductory comments of his talk “Intentional Objects For Non-Humans”. There he faced the problem of how to alarm an audience of panpsychists:

Normally, a panpsychist theory would be the most shocking part of any lecture- but at a conference on “non anthropological subjectivity” like this one, listeners will already be prepared to grant subjectivity to beings such as flowers and grains of dust. The part about objects will be the more surprising of the two parts today.

Perhaps this is key to understanding the motivations behind Graham Harman’s otherwise entertaining characterizations of the world. They are meant to be surprises, and possess a kind of surprise-value. The problem with “surprise-value” is that it can either point to a radically new idea, or simple incoherence of concept, the difference to be made in explication.)

Taking this into our stride, Chris [Graham’s interolcutor] was confused by Graham’s foreclosure against extrapolations upon a thinker’s beliefs,

“I cannot tell if you’re claiming that philosopher X thinks no relations happen between inanimate objects that are isolated from humans (IOTAIFH?), that philosopher X may think they do but can’t account for them, that philosopher X may think they do and maybe could account for them but thinks they are uninteresting, that philosopher X may think they do privately but metaphysically excludes the possibility, at least implicitly, that philosopher X is more concerned with access, or what. I’d like to respond a bit about Heidegger at some point but I’ve lost a sense of what you’re claiming.” (here)

It seems that we can get closer than this and broadly say that Graham wants to be credited with an invention of the possibilities of Heideggerian thinking, and not let them be attributed to Heidegger himself. But he would also like to use in whole cloth the Heideggerian object-orientation that he does feel largely Heidegger carried out. In a sense, he wants to take Heidegger out beyond the orbit of his own human Dasein planet. We can see this in his clarification to Chris,

But here’s the simplest form of my claim…it’s not so much a matter of whether things can exist apart from humans (it’s all too easy to stave off the solipsism charge by conceding that there might be some uninteresting lump of something out there beyond us), but of whether things can relate apart from humans. And furthermore, whether this relation is taken to be ontologically of the same order as the relation between human and world. Kant and his heirs are typified above all else by putting the human/world relation at the center of the picture.

The question for me is, Heidegger is clearly in Harman’s view one of the heirs of Kant, Is Graham one of the heirs of Heidegger? He certainly methodologically puts the “human/world relation” at the center of the picture, for he works exclusively with Husserlian and Heideggerian concepts, and explicitly states that we must “think down” from “human cases”. Is he trying to keep the authenticity of traditional concepts, yet declare himself immune from their critique? He wants to be Kantian, but then excuse himself from such by projecting such “relating” onto all things (to my ear largely without any rigorous explanation).

The Question Answered

While he wants us not to think along with Badiou or Heidegger and credit them with aspectsof authorship of his own position, (he distinctly does not want any allies to his claims that would threaten their originality), he also wants us not to press too closely similiar critical attributions to his own work. He got very upset when I suggested that as an heir to binarizing Idealism and thus importing optical analogies of hiddenness, his concepts and colorful metaphors for the exotic inner world carry with them a problematic eroticization of the “sensual other”. This is a problem which is distinctly political in consequence in terms of real people in the world.  His counter-claim, “I never said that!”

One really has to acknowledge, apart from dramatized appeals to originality, that the great joy and significance in philosophy come in investigating just what philosophers “never said”. We want to uncover the implicit possibilities with the horizon of a philosopher’s thought. Part of this comes from the decided fact that philosophies arise in answer to specific questions. All the terms, concepts and illustrations are pulled into resource to address questions that pre-exist that philosophy, and in some sense work to re-frame the question as it had been previously answered. “He never said…” is often a product of “The question being answered did not require it”. But when we engage a particularly interesting philosopher, not only do we want to see if he/she answered the question that they have redescribed well, but we want to think along with them and see, imagine for ourselves, how they would then answer this other question? And while there may be a division between how would the “person” answer this question, and how would the philosophy itself answer the question, it is the latter of these two that is perhaps the more interesting.

And there is a further aspect of investigating a philosophy. We also ask, what questions is the philosophy repressing, keeping from being asked? What is being hidden by the very form of the answers given?