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Tag Archives: complete lies

More on the Disavowal of Badiou – The Father Who Enjoys


I see that there are others noting the revolt against (or tiring of) Badiou. Complete Lies checks in with his non-believer transformative commitments toward Badiou as a possibility, Anodyne Lite counters with Laclau, and Larval Subjects (which I only now just read), finding that Badiou does not appreciate Levi’s mandatory (though inconsistent) application of epistemological and ontological distinctions (Levi at times makes this a most important distinction but then when faced with a Spinozist criticism that the epistemological must also be ontological, tends to retreat from the category). I post a nice passage here because it points up the problem with a fundamental epistemological/ontological divide. Discussing Badiou’s examination of Hubert Robert’s Bathing Pool:

Badiou claims that every object has an intensive degree that indexes its being-there or appearing in a world. To illustrate this thesis Badiou spends a tremendous amount of time analyzing Hubert Robert’s painting Bathing Pool (above). It is here, I think, that the difficulties of Badiou’s account of objects, from a realist standpoint, become clear. Badiou asserts, for example, that the columns to the left behind the foliage have a lower degree of intensity or being-there than those in the front. He makes similar observations about the women among the pillars compared to those bathing in the foreground and the statue to the right of the pool compared to the one on the left. These sorts of claims make me want to pull my hair out in frustration and ire. Such a thesis can only be epistemological and made from the standpoint of a viewing subject because the degree to which a being is or is not is an absolute binary such that it make not one bit of difference whether or not some appears intensely to us or not. From the realist standpoint something either is or is not, it is absolutely actual.

While I certainly agree with Levi’s notion that linking a degree-of-intensity (being there) to a perceiving subject carries with it all of the human-centric difficulties of a locked in Phenomenological world, one certainly cannot follow with the hair-pulling claim that Realism demands that “the degree to which a being is or is not is an absolute binary such that it make not one bit of difference whether or not some appears intensely to us or not”. I think I follow what this sentence means, yet indeed there is a long heritage of at least a kind of Realism that is founded upon things having degrees of Being (or degrees of Intensity) apart from any observer, and these degrees of Being are not “an absolute binary”. Starting from Plotinus (at the very least), and continuing on through a variety of panpsychic thinkers that culminate in Spinoza, there is a strong sense that things exist in their own right, in degrees of Being. A thinker like Spinoza wants to tell us what we ourselves fluctuate in our degrees of Being as our power to Act fluctuates (in a register of Pleasure). This the key to resolving the epistemic/ontological boundary that Levi has so much trouble orienting himself to. Things in themselves have degrees of Being which are measured by their capacity to affect or be affected, but also, our own degree of Being is expressed via our epistemic status, our ability to affect and be affected due to the adequacy of our ideas. Epistemology is Ontology.

Indeed the pillars in the back have a lower degree of Intensity/Being. But this reflects our own degree of Being, not necessarily theirs.


The Limb-loosener of Rilke: The Torso of Dis/Integration


In my last post on the limb-loosening powers of Eros discussion flowed in two directions, over at Complete Lies, and then a bit in my comments section. The principle question is whether jouissance as an unbearable pleasure, something that would turn to pain if sustained, is the model for what the drive is. My sense is that just qualified “pleasure” is a sign of intensity beyond the limits of the system, so to speak, but that these are or can be modulated. What came to mind was Rilke’s terrific (literally) poem of Apollo’s torso that is fittingly limbless (and paralyzed). It calls to mind the Thymos (and its correspondent deinos) that burning core physiological ember that Greeks felt in their breast, and Sloterdijk’s Thymotics [written about here]. What happens beneath limbs that have been loosened:

Archaic Torso of Apollo

 We cannot know his legendary head

with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso

is still suffused with brilliance from inside,

like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,


gleams in all its power. Otherwise

the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could

a smile run through the placid hips and thighs

to that dark center where procreation flared.


Otherwise this stone would seem defaced

beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders

and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:


would not, from all the borders of itself,

burst like a star: for here there is no place

that does not see you. You must change your life.

The poem is nearly unspeakable. Commentary, like hanging cloth on marble. Yet I came across this odd animation of Rilke himself reading the poem, culled from the past of voice and photograph, uncannily brought to life with over-modern software now at the hands of memory. Talk about ghosting the poem, itself a kind of singing torso:

Wir kannten nicht sein unerhörtes Haupt,

darin die Augenäpfel reiften. Aber

sein Torso glüht noch wie ein Kandelaber,

in dem sein Schauen, nur zurückgeschraubt,


sich hält und glänzt. Sonst könnte nicht der Bug

der Brust dich blenden, und im leisen Drehen

der Lenden könnte nicht ein Lächeln gehen

zu jener Mitte, die die Zeugung trug.


Sonst stünde dieser Stein enstellt und kurz

unter der Shultern durchsichtigem Sturz

und flimmerte nicht so wie Raubtierfelle;


und brächte nicht aus allen seinen Rändern

aus wie ein Stern: denn da ist keine Stelle,

die dich nicht sieht. Du mußt dein Leben ändern.


Some alternate translations offered here.

And another animation of Rilke’s “Der Panther” by the same fellow here.

Eros/Thanatos One Drive: The Limb-Loosener of Sappho

Eros the Crawler

Reading over at Fido the Yak, “A Continuous Stream of Emerging Pattern” Fido expressed the desire to sing the praises of paralysis, invoking something of the Greek etymology of the word, loosening-beside. This called to mind Sappho’s use of a related word and concept, and I repeat hear my comment:  

I’m not sure if you have this in mind with your affinity for “paralysis,” but Sappho’s beautiful use of the word λυσιμέλης (fragment130) comes to mind; the word is often translated “limb-loosening,” used to describe the powers of the creeping, undefeatable, sweetly-bitter creature Eros, who has returned. Limb-loosening of course is what Homer uses to describe what happens upon a death-blow in battle [sleep as well], but there is a word-play here, as μέλος (limb), also can mean a “song, or strain” (melody, the song-road). The loosening is both a re/lease of limbs and song, but also a death. But even more, there is a hint of the verb μέλω, “I care, I have concern,” so the limb-loosener is also the care-loosener.

This phrase, and fragment has always haunted me every since I have read it many years back. She condenses so very much about the powers and experience of Eros in just a few compound words, in just a brief shard survived now for more than 2,500 years.

Expansion of Eros: The Loosening

The line reads thus in the Greek (I am never sure if fonts appear on all computers):

ἔρος δηὖτέ μ᾽ ὀ λυσιμέλης δόνει,

γλυκύπικρον ἀμάχανον ὄρπετον.

David A. Campbell (Loeb ed.), translates the line:

Once again limb-loosening Love makes me tremble,

the bitter-sweet, irresistable creature

I translate much more literally/experimentally:

Eros again, me of limb-loosening was shaking,

the sweetly-bitter, aidless creeper.

Aside from the nuances of association and wordplay, the word has the curious fortune of condensing a very significant question in the history of philosophy. Is there one drive, Eros, or pleasure, Joy (Spinoza). Or are there two, Pleasure and Death (Freud). I’m reminded of a recent reading over at Complete Lies, where there are musings about the nature of two drives understood as one:

What must be understood for this explication of drive is that things are continuously moved towards these impossible extremes. Does this mean that there is a fundamental dualism however? No; the drives to expansion and contraction, while seeming to have entirely different goals, achieve the same end: collapse. When a thing expands or contracts too much, that is, is taken from it’s precarious position of existence as we know it, it essentially disintegrates in the sense that is it no longer linked to other ghosts in the same way. This is the end that all things achieve at some point, their own elimination from this network we are a part of, the network of haunting and mourning. This is why both drives are ultimate death drives, as they both achieve death, in one form or another, in their drive to infinity.

I do not keep with Complete Lies’ position which is somewhat homologous with, though inverting of Empedocles’ theory of two forces (Aphrodite and Nike). But I would say that Sappho presents something of the internal forces, the ambiguities of what “loosening” means, as it can be both release and death, finding a correspondent in G&D’s (these initials should be reversed), territorialization and deterritorialization.

I think something of the apparent contradiction also exists in Spinoza’s One Drive format, as he argues that the more selfish we become, the more self-interested in power and its increase, the less of a “self” we realize that we are, finding expression in the distinct and determinative expressions of all that is beyond us. The pursuit and undestanding of love ends up with the integrative dissolution of the “self”, as a matter of perspective. Sappho gives us both, a literal Eros that crawls and creeps in such a way that the bitter, the sharpness is sweet, and our loosening helplessness beyond all device, is both a deathlike release, but also the release of a song, a melody. It shakes you, releasing you.

The Tower of Beowulf and Hauntological Architecture

Ghost Buildings and Tolkein’s Tower

Complete Lies. has a very interesting post  on the Ghost Building practices of acquaintance of his, Brian MacKay-Lyons, who retires to his Nova Scotia property to build ephemeral building, much of them constructed out of fragmented site materials, as Complete Lies would have it, out of the very bones of the site’s past. Below, one of the beautiful structures, “Ghost 6”

The philosophical conclusion drawn from these wonderful architectures is that of perpetual bone usage in the construction of our present. I have some difficulty with the prevalence  of the idea of “hautology” on the internet thesedays, as the word seems to operate as something of a meme, without coherent conceptual content (no determinative defintion, with all kinds of phenomena being grouped under its heading). And perhaps the word “ghost” can be seen as symbiont to it. And I can’t see where the idea as it is loosely used is much improved from Benjamin’s concept of the Angel of History, as Complete Lies writes:

We have impermanent structures, rooted deeply to the past, make essentially of the corpses of long lost entities, made with and in the spirit of these pasts. These are ghosts brought back. Architecture as necromancy. This shows exactly what I mean by the possibility of ghosts returning in a Spectral Realism, the idea that their bones could reassemble, perhaps not in the same way, but in the same spirit. In this way, a ghost can never achieve the perpetual peace of absolute non-existence, but is always only “almost dead.” No ghost is ever entirely here, nor are they ever entirely absent.

This being said though, the architecture brought to might one of the most spectacular scholarly essays written in the history of literary criticism, J. R. R. Tolkein’s “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics” (1936) [click here]. (Not everybody knows that Tolkein was a formidable Medievalist, and this lecture represents the turning point of modern Beowulf scholarship. But Tolkein’s vocation is not the point here. There is a wonderful paragraph that nearly opens the article that vividly points up the aspect that Complete Lies is trying to bring forth. Tolkein is taking Beowulf scholars to task for not understanding the towerly dimension of the Beowulf project. They have knocked down the text and rummaged through its old stones, realizing that  it had been build from the pieces of an older culture. They see that it is part Christian, part pagan, and are left with something like rubble, the bones of the past. What they don’t realize is that the author was building, not a house, but tower:

I think this analogy has significant address to those concerned with the hautological aspects of modern or post-modern history. The author of Beowulf indeed was a fragmentist, restacking the bones, inscripted stones, the broken pillars of an age lost or in decline, but in stacking them was not reconstructing them (there is NO compulsed mourning, but formal mourning), not harkening back on impulse, no trying put the shards in place, but rather the stacking is in the present, the building of tower, a vantage point assembled out of the remains of all that had been, that memory, making it high.

Tolkein’s metaphor is most adroit, for he draws recursively upon the final image of the poem itself, where the great funeral pyre for Beowulf is constructed (talk about ghost architecture). There, as the structure burned down from its great height, it also becomes a signal to be seen from far out at sea: 


THEN fashioned for him the folk of Geats
firm on the earth a funeral-pile,
and hung it with helmets and harness of war
and breastplates bright, as the boon he asked;
and they laid amid it the mighty chieftain,
heroes mourning their master dear.
Then on the hill that hugest of balefires
the warriors wakened. Wood-smoke rose
black over blaze, and blent was the roar
of flame with weeping (the wind was still),
till the fire had broken the frame of bones,
hot at the heart. In heavy mood
their misery moaned they, their master’s death.

Tolkein tells us that the haunting of the social forms of Beowulf are not what we thought they were, habitations. They rather were memorial heights, vantage points that we achieve when we stack the bones of the past. The invitation of course is to build, and then burn (live) our own tower.  The ghost, the haunt, is to be something that we willfully construct, the means of our standing higher, the vantage we have over our sea. I believe that the hautological, in this sense, is only our return to the originality of our past, the focus points of lasting intensity to elevate ourselves. And though it can happen in paranoic revisitations of the repressed, or the disjointed specimen collecting of a mania, a corporeal regrouping, it is at best a careful choosing of one’s ancestors with a view towards a plentitude of arched vision, the way in which we expose ourselves the forces which made up determinatively what we are.

[An Q & A with Brian MacKay-Lyons on the Ghost Lab program]