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A Taxomomy of Evils and the Demoness Ontology of Powers in Vitalism

In my few past posts I have begun exploring the ideo-figural aspects of the mythological figure of Zuggtmoy, a reported Demoness Queen of Fungi (seemingly drawn from the common stock of the sexualized evil of the D&D world). First I sketched out a fictional Encyclopedia entryin the style of Borges to get a feel for the mixtures of knowledges, histories, myths and reference that make up our co-ordination upon mytho-poetic reality. Then I took her more seriously, and investigated both her ontological expansionas a principle and a kind of incarnational exemplification in the unique properties of slime molds.

To follow through though, the tug of evil, itself, remained. For in her representational quality for the powers and speech of matter (M), one cannot dismiss the host of erotic, desire-imbued machinations that such a feminine modern archetype seems to carry. If such a demoness has a message to philosophy, conceptual evil is inscribed in its flesh. Below is a diaried entry on what must only be an outline of what such a con-figuration signifies…sometimes I believe it pays to think figuratively like this, as my guidepost thoughts on Achilles (and Sloterdijk) and also Antigone might show.

Demon and Law

Under the question of Zuggtomoy, fungal darkness the issue of the “demonic” necessarily must be raised, for the very subversive, if hierarchical nature of any ontological claim of thisorder appeals to a kind of intentional and performative domain. In such a view the historical understanding of literal magic and demonology proves revelatory, seen in the West primarily in the syncretism of the Hellenic and Leventine world, eventually subsumed under a mono-ideational Orthodox whole, Judeo-Chrisitan completions of local deities, mechanisms, which really must be seen as techniques. For it is in the techniques, and thus the technologies of magus traditions that at least one strong root of the scientific laboratory can be found. In a sense, demonology in its historical form expresses scientific instrumental multiplicity (subjects, laws, means and device), a multiplicity that resists the singular moniker Science.

The Demonic as a Locality of Powers and Means

When one questions the demonological, one is ultimately questioning a locality of techniques, that is until the demon (or δαίμων) becomes elevated to the status of a god wherein it starts to operate with something of a law-universal, a universal yet still constrained and specific in its manifestation, by circumstance. So as we  approach the demonic figure of Zuggtmoy (however fantastical) and work from her the possibilities of an ontological truth, we must address her in both her local, perhaps cult-like incarnation – for instance the kinds of things we might learn  from the structures of slime molds – but also potentially law-like, and therefore god-like revelations, as we might understand her domain, her sphere of actions, so as it to be a continual and constitutive plane for the very condition of our existence and agency.

Invariably as well, the subject of evil must be taken up, for ultimately and historically the homogenization of belief under any normalization of formal practice involves, or has involved, the creation of an entire sphere into which their actions can be categorically confined. Which is to say that the supra-lunar and astral projections of a hierarchy of powers that mark the syncretization of Hellenized Egypt (PGM) upon the spread of Judaism and Christianity under the crush of Roman occupation (the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem, and all the apocalyptic and liberation re-ordering of the universe that follows), wherein every demon or daimon – even ever dead person – exudes a kind of tiered capacity of force, this is disbanded in favor of  a great domain binary of Good/Evil, Heaven/Hell, Life/Death, eventually to be purified into Presence/Absence and Being/Non-Being. When one  recognizes the historiography of demonology one appreciates the ideological use of the objective binaries that end up calculating a mirror dimension, whether or not these two dimensions are ever in theory or theology ever reconcilable or made disjunctive.

The Legalism of Pure Affection

But if we are to take up evil we must do more that understand the historical struggle between local powers of belief and practice (expressed as technique), and the hegemonic orthodoxy of homogenization, one must also look at the very conceptual core of what seems to show itself in the Law alone. This is the way in which law determinations that regulate the bodily pleasures (and pains) of others in a register of normativity themselves necessarily embody a pleasure. That is, there is ever the pleasures of regulating pleasure, a sweetness of investment which is ever occluded in the very recursive (and body continuity) circuit of their circulation, the very “contentless” nature of their nature of their content, which for Kant is demarked by the absence of pathological self-interest, or reason. The subject reaches the intensive apogee of its pleasure capacity to the degree that it refuses pleasure, perhaps the greatest pleasure of all (theoretically at least).

We can see this of course in de Sade’s inversion of Kant (first exposed by Horkenheimer and Adorno in Dialectics of Enlightenment, and then by Lacan in “Kant avec Sade”), wherein ultimately the subject becomes the pure instrument of Nature by embodying as best one can the very disinterested destructive power of evil, accomplished through the buiding of bodily circuits of repetition and pleasure coursings that enact – but locally, as devices -the universal powers of Nature’s transformations: that is, the very neutral but intense for of the law itself. You can see this measured enforcement of depersonalized traverse in the in situ figure of the Red Wax sewing thread which characterizes the narrative and argumentative acme of Philosophy in the Bedroom (published the same year, 1795, as Kant’s “Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch”), wherein disease is “rationally”  and literally sewn into the very body of the mother, creating the picture of a supposed universe within the universe, a relation that ultimately shows itself as a perversity, a cruelty:

[The scene from Philosophy in the Bedroom, in which Eugenie (well-born) sews up and destroys her mother’s own womb, in a kind of even further radicalized and profane Antigone (anti-birth), if that can be imagined; not only sewing but making of the mother’s body a field of excruciating intensity, signifying the null-fruition of the act]

EUGENIE – Excellent idea! Quickly, quickly, fetch me needle and thread!… Spread your thighs, Mamma, so I can stitch you together-so that you’ll give me no more little brothers and sisters. (Madame de Saint-Ange gives Eugénie a large needle, through whose eye is threaded a heavy red waxed thread; Eugénie sews.)

EUGENIE, from time to time pricking the lips of the cunt, occasionally stabbing its interior and sometimes using her needle on her mother’s belly and mons veneris – Pay no attention to it, Mamma. I am simply testing the point…

LE CHEVALIER – The little whore wants to bleed her to death!

DOLMANCE, causing himself to be frigged by Madame de Saint-Ange, as he witnesses the operation – Ah, by God! how this extravagance stiffens me! Eugénie, multiply your stitches, so that the seam will be quite solid.

EUGENIE – I’ll take, if necessary, over two hundred of them… Chevalier, frig me while I work.

LE CHEVALIER, obeying – I’ve never seen a girl as vicious as this one!

EUGENIE, much inflamed – No invectives, Chevalier, or I’ll prick you! Confine yourself to tickling me in the correct manner. A little asshole, if you please, my friend; have you only one hand? I can seeno longer, my stitches go everywhere… Look at it I do you see how my needle wanders… to her thighs, her tits… Oh, fuck! what pleasure!…

So how do we reconcile these two aspects of evil, the historiographical understanding of demonology as local technique subsumed and normalized, and the localized device building between bodies which performs a machinic if cruel transformation (and transfiguration) of affects…of surplus?

If anything, as we grasp the possibilities of a Zuggtmonic drive in the auspice of the demonic image of Zuggtmoy herself, both the cruel inscription of affects upon bodies in evacuated regimes of formal legalism, localized historically specific machina of bodies joined, yoked, and the local power techniques that are ever under hegemonic universalization (and, it seems, binary polarization in abstraction). The Law as instantiationally and concretely cruel and effectively homogenizing.

Elevating Local Demons

Where does this leave us unto the cruelties of godlike elevation of demonic Zuggtmoy? What kind of transformations and seeing-throughs  are possible through her fungal if brutal consumptions at the border of death and decay? What is gained by the elevation of her local technique to a universalized though context-bound law is the capacity to see constructives as not strict inside/outside binary machines, but as material relations established with the radience that covers death and decay itself, ones that appreciate staged, cyclictic (and not categorical) transitions between individual and collective, ever within the halo of decay’s release of constitutive elements; but always with the risk that the identification with the demoness may take hold of your subjective boundary and transform you through decay, putrification and thereupon growth itself, creating new sites for radiance. Ever the risk if we are not to participate in totalitarian cognizance and its absolute pleasure economies.

Related comtemorary posts elsewhere: Naught Thought here, there and whence;  Complete Lies thence; The Whim thither; Eliminative Culinarism (6-11-09) wither.

Levi’s Sermon on the Mount: Jesus’s Words Amended

Blessed Be the…

I don’t really like writing on religious-sensitive topics, largely because the discussion that flows from them is often far from interesting (more heat, less light, as some say); but Larval Subjects has a unique interpretation of the Life and Teaching of Jesus, such that he feels Jesus challenges us let go of our Imaginary relations of wholeness, while at the same time disbanding the Symbolic order as well. (Levi is a lapsus  Lacanian, and has recourse to Lacanian concepts now and again, sometimes in unorthodox creativity, sometimes with orthodox, near bible-thumping fervor.) It is a kind of anti-Imaginary, anti-Symbolic call that would lead us all to a “strange kind of new community”:

In short, the social and political vision Christ seemed to envision was that of a form of social life beyond the Lacanian dimension of the Imaginary. The “Imaginary” here does not signify the “illusory” or “imagination”, but rather is the domain of “…wholeness, synthesis, autonomy, duality, and above all, similarity” (Dylan Evans 1996, 82). The Imaginary is the domain of self-identity, of being identical to oneself, and of social relations based on similarity. Moreover, it is the domain where we take ourselves to be masters of what we say, where we think of meaning as being defined by our intentions (psychoanalytic practice being premised on the thesis that our words and actions always say more than we intend and that meaning is bestowed by the Other, not our intentions). Lacan associates the domain of the Imaginary with that of narcissism insofar as the Ego or self-identity is produced through narcissistic identification. Most importantly, it is a realm characterized by rivalry and aggression, insofar as we see our mirror counter-parts as contesting our own identity and therefore threatening o[u]r sense of wholeness and completeness or our belief that we are master’s of ourselves and of meaning. Whenever you protest to another “but that’s not what I meant, you’re twisting my words!” you are thoroughly immersed in the domain of the imaginary.

Throughout all of his teaching and more importantly his practice, Christ can be seen as challenging this dimension of the Imaginary. He contests the domain of imaginary identification with the Other in proclaiming that “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). As Levi-Strauss demonstrated, the incest prohibition and the structure of kinship relations is a matter of the symbolic and symbolic identifications, not a matter of the danger of producing five headed children. In contesting kinship relations the point isn’t that we should follow Jesus and God above all others, but that in the name of this new community we should undergo a subjective destitution where we refuse our Imaginary tribal identifications in the symbolic order. Kinship structures are organized around the dialectic of sameness and difference, the same and the other, such that they are designed to maintain the identity of the One or the Same against the other.

Now, at the surface of it this seems like a profound observation. There is something so radical about Jesus’s message that it defies both the Imaginary and Symbolic orders of Lacan. But I am most interested in the idea that “Christ can be seen as challenging this dimension of the Imaginary”. Perhaps, but what does this mean? Levi tells us that the Imaginary dimension is where narcissism and aggression is born, where we encounter others as threatening our sense of wholeness. Do we have to be Lacanians to buy this understanding of Jesus? Further, as proof of this interpretation he cite’s Jesus’s call to hate your family members (in contrast to your love for him), a sign that Jesus is not only against the Imaginary, but also against the Symbolic order. But then he specifies, the imaginary that we are supposed to fore go, are the Imaginary “tribal identifications in the symbolic order”. Is this is the same thing as “challenging the dimension of the Imaginary” itself?

The Imagination Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink

Its hard to tell, because when I tried to get some more precision on just how Levi arrived at his conclusion I ran up against a very interesting mode of “defending” it, rather than explainingit. Rather than using the citation that Levi selected to exemplify the core of Jesus’s teachings, I suggested the rather more commonly understood distillation:

“One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (NIV, Mark 12:28-31).

And I asked, is not Jesus’s essentialization of the Law here one great mode of Imaginary identification? It seems to be broken into both an identification with God and with your neighbor. Instead of challenging the “dimension of the Imaginary” it seems that Jesus is employing it to its fullest, creating a wholeness of world and conduct. What is most odd is how Levi responded. First he says that this is just how the “figure of Jesus” speaks to him. Fair enough, but then adds in regard to the way he had selected biblical quotation,

Personally I think Scripture is a bit of a rorschach, why not make alternatives available?

Later to say, 

Why is that [my] interpretation any less valid than an interpretation that privileges one particular line in Leviticus or Revelation?

This is what I don’t get, or even appreciate. People, particularly intellectuals, spend a lot of time arguing forcefully against the kinds of inventive, almost deadly-whimsical textual games fundamentalist Christians play with their sacred scriptures, making up (finding) the message they want to hear. Levi seems, when asked to explain his interpretation, actually appeals to this unique kind of authority. Scriptural passages are inkblots to him. One can get really radical about Jesus’s message if one selects the right lines (and he does advocate something of the cut-and-paste Bible of Thomas Jefferson). His turn towards the hatred of one’s family looms large in the mutal defeat of the Imaginary and Symbolic realms. But Levi’s call is a political call, a call for a kind of strange community, and political calls are not usually made from inkblots and should be examined.

I do not deny that Jesus’s message was (and is) radical, but what I wonder about is its relationship to the dimension of the Imaginary. In a sense, the very wholeness of our Being is an imaginary process of identification, one recognizing another as oneself. And it is to this concept of wholeness that Jesus appeals.

Spinoza and Jesus: Who Would’a Thunk?

These thoughts on Imaginary relations are not idle, as for sometime I have been working through the role of the imaginary in the thinking of Spinoza, someone who has a strong reputation for arguing against imaginary relations – he relegates them to the third form of an inferior kind of knowledge (with rationality and intuition ascending above it). Spinoza’s position on the imaginary though is problematic and perhaps inconsistent. There can be no doubt though that upon close examination Spinoza actually places very important imaginary processes at the core of both sociability and the pursuit of blessedness.

The first of these I have recently discussed in other contexts and has received some attention in terms of its place in Spinoza’s political reasoning. It argues a fundamental imaginary and affective bond between my person and another person imagined to be the same:

E3, Proposition 27: If we imagine a thing like us, toward which we have had no affect, to be affected with some affect, we are thereby affected with a like affect.

The second of these is quite neglected in Spinoza studies, for it comes in the highly excelerated Fifth part of the Ethics as Spinoza intensely speeds towards the Intuition of God:

E5,Proposition 13 – The greater the number of other images which an image is associated, the more often it springs to life.

Proof: The greater the number of images which an image is associated, the more causes there are by which it can be aroused (2p18).

This proposition culminates a short sketch of imaginary powers which proceeds from the previous two:

5p12 – Images are more readily associated with those images that are related to things which we clearly and distinctly understand than they are to others.

5p11 – In proportion as a mental image is related [refertur] to more things, the more frequently does it occur – i.e., the more often it springs to life – and the more it engages the mind.

I have previously argued for a Spinozist advocacy of metaphor (as oxymoronic as that sounds) on the strength of this proposition: Spinoza and the Metaphoric Rise of the Imagination . Briefly, Spinoza posits a kind of imaginary path towards an intution of God which is predicated upon associated images to our clearest understanding of things. This is to say, taking the two imaginary references in hand (E3p27, E5p13), we find the Spinoza proposes that the imagination of other persons intimately seen to be “the same” as us and the creation of imaginary images (one supposes that he has in mind God) which have the greatest number of other images associated with it, puts human beings not only within the social, but also well on the track of clear and distinct knowledge which empowers the many. I would suggest that Jesus’s two commandment distillations are precisely of this Imaginary process, the love of God and the love of neighbor.

Levi “Translates” the Bible for Us

Further on in the comments section (and Levi has since posted a heavily Lacanian theory-laden treatise on Jesus which I have not read, nor likely will, given his unfortunate propensity to expound rather than communicate), Levi tells us that he “translates” the word “neighbor” as “stranger” such that Jesus’s message is “love thy stranger”. After being pressed with the problem that the Greek word is “plêsion” and strictly means “the one near you,” he retreated, telling us that his “translation” is not a philological translation at all, but something of a Heideggerian one. That is, he feels that he has come to understand the “truth” behind the word enough to change it completely.

He deleted my objections to this kind of “translating” from the comments section, but they are worth repeating here because they go directly to my claim that Jesus’s teaching and practice are not against the domain of the Imaginary, but rather gainfully employ it. What I would like to emphasize about the word “plêsion” is that this proximateness is much in keeping with what seems to be a coherent message of proximate love over abstract love. When Jesus offers the story of the Good Samaritan, it is the proximity of the “neighbor” that he is right there before us, in an encounter (and not that he is a “stranger”), that qualifies the tale. Personally I find this message of contact-lead love quite present in the figure of Jesus as he is not only physically close to those he engages with, but repeatedly defies abstractions of either class, kind or object. The imaginary processes advocated in his dissolution of the law are immediate and always in terms of vital connections based on identifications of wholeness.

Levi says that in past posts he has declared that it is unfortunate that Jesus used the word “neighbor” as if Jesus (or our approximate historical construction of him) didn’t quite know what he was saying and that the Lacanian-aided Levi has figured it out better. Perhaps though when reading the text we should pay greater attention to what actually is said, rather than creating inventive “truths” which we graft upon the text in translation.

This brings me to another thought as to the standing of the text we approach when we treat words some take as holy. If we are not going to take a distinctly religious approach, how are we to judge Levi’s claim that interpreting Jesus is like reading inkblots on paper: one can just see what one wants to see, and that’s that. During the discussion some emphasis turned to the old scholarly issue of the imagined “Q” document, something proposed to contain the “real” teachings of Jesus, while devaluing as simply projective much of the others. Personally I think it a mistake to think that at any time we are attempting to get at exactly the truth of Jesus, stripping away the extraneous. Rather, we have to understand the figure as constructed, layered through the centuries, because this very process of sedimentation is the one that brought “him” into tremendous importance. As such, the “Q” Jesus only stands in historical importance due to the “non-Q” Jesus. All the strands must be taken into hand. If we want to talk of the core “teachings and practices” of Jesus, as someone like Levi would like to, this is fair, but I think it a mistake to presume some aspects of the Gospels as NECESSARILY less vital, simply because they do not fall into the “Q” category. We do not know the oral traditions and priorities of vision which either preserved or invented these aspects, and at best Q statements must live within their non-Q contexts, within a kind of dialectic. Clearly the authors of the Gospels, no matter who we count them to be, expressed a synthesis of meanings all concordant with the supposed Q elements, and there is no authoritative way to trace out the roots of this concordance. Historical force alone, the weight of the centuries pressing down, insure that we take them together if we are to speaking meaningfully about the meanings of these texts. This is not to say that we cannot make distinctions, but our distinctions should remain observational. I do not know if the (non-Q) Good Samaritan was spoken by Jesus or not, but it remains a meaningful illustration.

Lastly, I hope that it is the text itself that we deal with most specifically when attempting to identify the meanings therein. And if Jesus had the misfortune to speak the Aramaic word which was most readily translated into “plêsion” it is only with great abuse that we venture to, in Heideggerian aplumb and Existentialist Procrustian bedmaking, “translate” it into “stranger”. It is in all likelihood, as far as we can tell, that Jesus meant “the one near” and not “stranger” (in fact the concept of “stranger” I would suggest did not exist at the time). It seems to me that like Spinoza, who has a reputation against the Imaginary Domain, Jesus’s message of proximate love and love of God, involves deep imaginary processes of identification, the lived construction of wholes, both locally built up from the nearby, and circumfrentially deploys inwards from an imagined limit.

The importance of grasping the imaginary processes invoked is exactly that suggested by Levi, that the imaginary vision of wholeness and authority of meanings, while at many time is curative and inspiring, also holds the possibilities of its shadow, the fears that the wholeness will be threatened from the “outside” under some projective external force. The sometimes, perhaps often brutal history of religious violence speaks vividly about the shadow of these imaginary divisions, but it is important to see that the imagination itself is both part of their production and their possible healing. It specifically is not that Jesus’s message is/was “challenging the imaginary dimension” but employing as fully as possible the powers of imaginary identification, very much in the same way that Spinoza proposed as well. We must recall that Spinoza was an active Collegiant associate, and one imagines likely attended quite a few bible study-like events, an image we do not regularly call to mind.

Theories of Lack and Capitalist Meaning Structures

Long title, short thought.

The reason why the theoretical affirmation of “lack” at the ontological level, even if it be the constitutive effects of an illusionary lack deemed to be necessary for language use or subjecthood, (something that can be said to have rigourously begun with Hegel), is  to be cautioned against, is that as these philosophies arise out of the reflection of the Capitalist values that pervade…the guiding purchase of THE completing object. The danger is to normalize these values of pur(chase) through the descriptive ontologies that assert lack as necessity. The attempted domestication of Capitalist-value lack through such descriptions works to entrench it as the only imaginable, part of the very grammar out of which we reason our freedoms. If I am stalwart on a Spinozist renunciation of lack, primarily in the pragmatic prescriptions for freedom, it is because only an ontological schematic which sees beyond this valuation of lack (rather than simply theorizing it into existence through an efficacy of reflection/expression), would open up the conceptual space for liberations outside of purchase, or the gritted embrace of a circulation existentialist jouissance amid desire (see how it burns).  Rather, it seems the pragmatic, constructive assemblages of affective bodies, ground-up articulations of bodies in assemblage, that seem most open to the kinds of imagined communities human beings may make possible, even at an asymptotic limit. Only by refusing the programmatic valuation of lack itself in the conceptual space we design is its surpass possible, in redescription…a redescription that only maintains its claim through performance.

This being said, I do NOT see Capitalism as an evil, or even a degredation (while acknowledging the cruelties specific to its forms), but rather the path open to community yet imagined through the increase in affects possible. Part of this possiblity is the critique of the fundamental value of (pur)chase as the engine of exchange. It is in reasoning out of one plentitude, to another plentitude that I believe such possibilities reside.

 

The Mediation of the Fall

Below I post a significant response to Larval Subjects which deals with the question of intermediator as it is theorized in various forms. Larval Subjects had difficulty reconciling my own view that he favors a mediating position for those who hold knowledge, and his own contention that he is politically committed to the opposite.

LS: “As for mediators, much of the political thought on this blog has been devoted to arguing against precisely the sort of thing you were railing against in this post (i.e., the need for priests). Of course, it would be unreasonable for me to expect you to have read two + years worth of blog entries so as to be aware of this. Although perhaps it would not be unreasonable to expect you to understand that you’re entering a discussion midstream.”

Kvond: Of course I realize I am coming in midstream on your discussion with others and yourself. But in catching my stroke in these shifting waters one cannot help but note where EXPLICIT contradiction shows itself. For instance you declare yourself as against mediators, but then profess what seems to be a rather mediating “pegagogic fantasy” in which you imagine your students to be in Plato’s Cave, a place from which you imagine yourself to free them, so to speak. This is fundamentally the role of a priest (and I mean no offense). As you wrote to me in your comments on your rationalism:

[LS wrote] “As for the pedagogical fantasy I outline, in the course of my teaching I’ve come to believe there’s a sort or maieutic that students must go through before reaching more complex things such as metaphor, rhetorical strategies, and all the rest (although in my critical thinking courses I actually begin with the analysis of rhetoric and common informal fallacies). In my view the reigning doxa of our time is relativism, such that no truths exist or are possible. Insofar as this is a doxa (Plato’s cave), the more radical gesture is to first treat of valid arguments and the possibility that truth exists, and then move in to the rhetorical dimension where all of this is problematized. If you begin with the problematized position you end up being an apologist for a “whatever goes” ideology that prevents students from ever encountering the split in their being and from confronting alternatives to their own belief systems.”

As I responded at the time, I would never see students (or anyone else) as locked within a Cave from which I meant to free them with my supra-cave knowledge (even if I am “freeing” them to their own possibilities). I think that this is one of the most interesting consequences of a Spinozist approach to thinking. Even the most apparently self-imprisoning organizations are already organizations of freedom by degree. There is no strict categorical difference between those in a Cave, and those who can go outside a Cave. In my opinion, part of respecting the discourse of others is how one frames that discourse. It strikes me that at least in respect to your “being-splitting” fantasy of pedagogy, you place yourself as a kind of mediator between your student’s current state, and the state they may be able to achieve, through your mediation. This does not mean of course that the theorizer of the mediatation is malevolent. In fact they can be benificent. But what is more important is how knowledge is positioned and liberation is conceived plays a large part on the paths taken.

I have of course to patch together themes as I read your posts, and where there are apparent contraditions form ideas as to explain them. Perhaps your thought has tensions in it: your over-arching theoretical work in the service of non-mediation and your experiences of being a mediating Lacanian clinician and analysand may pull in two directions. Or perhaps what you mean by mediation and what I mean are different things. The Cave Allegory though is a primary example of the role of the intercessor.

LS: “What I have suggested is that you have approached these issues based on the notion of error and Spinoza’s 6th axiom defining truth, and not based on what Deleuze refers to as these “richer determinations”, where certain forms of illusion are generated inevitably through thought itself. Talk of lack, I have argued, is not a simple theoretical error that fails to properly represent the relationship between a proposition and the world, but is rather a transcendental illusion generated within those subjects that experience themselves as lacking.”

Kvond: The 6th axiom you appeal to, “A true idea must agree with that which is the idea” has to be read within Spinoza’s parallel postulate and his epistemology, if one is going to make analytical sense of it. The idea of anything in the mind is of the body as it exists, and nothing else. That is its object. All our ideational moves are material moves, therefore. There are no “transcendental illusions” which become objects of our analysis. Spinoza reads our thoughts to be the thoughts of God/Substance:

“…the human mind is part of the infinite intellect of God. Therefore when we say that the human mind perceives this or that, we are saying nothing but that God, not insofar as he is infinite, in insofar as he is explained through the nature of the human mind, has this or that idea” (2p11c).

The human mind/body experiences lack, but the path out from such an experience is seeing that such thinking is only part of a larger thinking expression. This very seeing has a “stronger affect” which overpowers weaker ones. There is no mediating knowledge (or intersubjective relationship) which allows us to overcome “transcendental illusions”. The process is one of witness and experience; one simply sees the sense of it, like when an explanation of a phenomena suddenly shows how it works, what Spinoza called “seeing with the eyes of the mind”, thus drawing on the original meaning of “theory”, theôrein.

Your treatment of your “transcendental illusions” which are born of thought violates Spinoza’s fundamental Naturalism, that is his primary objection to treating things in the human world as a “kingdom within a kingdom”. You are free to do so of course, but not within a Spinozist framework. Spinoza set himself solidly against the Cartesian split between the “human world” and the natural world, and Kant finds himself on the Cartesian side.

As Della Rocca articulates in his new book on Spinoza,

“Spinoza’s problem with Cartesian and other accounts of the affects is that such a views introduce an objectionable bifurcation between human beings and the rest of reality. Here we have non-human nature which operates according to one set of laws and here we have another part of reality – human beings – which operates according to a different set of laws…” (Spinoza 2008, 5)

Now the status of the very non-Spinozist “transcedental illusions” is an interesting one. I can’t tell if you take these necessary illusions of thought as a priori or a posteriori. If a priori then indeed we have entered the Kantian realm of the scheme/content distinction, wherein the philosopher acts as priest or mediator to truth. That is, in order to have access to the proper content, one has to consult the mediator who has access to the scheme that determines the truth. As Rorty has made clear following Davidson’s critique of Kant, this scheme/content dualism is a nesting ground for political power structures. And it is for this very scheme-mastering reason that Nietzsche found the philosopher’s work so much a Will to Power that had to be acknowledged.

Now if such “transcendental illusions” are a posteriori, or simply historically contingent, really it would seem that the proper non-elitist, non-mediating approach to them would be ethnographic, and part of a praxis of empowerment. A description of said illusions, and a practice toward their dispel through the display of OTHER ways of thinking about things would be the suitable way to counter them.

 

To return to a more Spinozist approach, the illusions of lack are countered by stronger affects, that is the power of seeing the world in more constitutive ways…at least that is the way that I see it, not by undergoing a process of subjected mediation. If the Sun appears 200 ft away one encounters the power of thinking of it roughly 93,000,000 miles away. This does not mean that it ceases to appear 200 ft away, but one is able to act outside of this experience. The same goes for the illusion that this woman you love makes you sad when she ignores you. Yes, you may have that affective experience, but a deeper understanding of causes and affects will allow you to experience your relations differently. (One need not consult someone who understands that human beings have all been subject to castration when entering language and therefore are (un)naturally subjected to a kind of perpetual crisis of desire in relation to an ineffable object.)

Key to this is understanding that the resources of power and freedom are within the affective capacities of a person, as NATURAL, as connected to all the rest of nature, and not seeing human beings as “a kingdom within a kingdom”. This is the reason why one turns to “ontology” when one wants to answer modal questions. There are no humans-only (or language holders only) laws.

I think that these are not just theoretical issues, but also issues of power distribution. It is in the great history of the priest that the human-world (however it is articulated or defined) is distinguished from, and CUT OFF FROM the natural world. The priest (however well-meaning) is the one who attempts to reconnect these two in whatever ritualized way, mediating them. Anytime you find these two cut off from each other, look for the priest. The notion that the subject is cut off from the Real by its entrance into language is the myth of the Fall all over again.

 The question is ultimately one of how knowledge itself is to be conceived of. It is a immanentive praxis, the exercise of freedom, in any degree, or is it fundamentally a distributive relation. That is, is it intercessed, or expansive?

[addendum: I post here as well Larval Subjects considered response to the above, which he took to be “name calling”. Hmmm. What is one to say? If one’s thought cannot be critiqued by how much one coherently follows stated principles without feeling that names are being called, well…]

Larval Subjects writes:

“In your opposition to transcendental illusions, it is clear then that you are opposed to the thought of Deleuze and Guattari on Spinozist grounds, then. Deleuze and Deleuze and Guattari do, in fact, develop a naturalistic account of transcendental illusions. I am not sure where you get the idea that I think I’m somehow free of all ideology or illusion, as there is no view from nowhere. I also find your reading of Spinoza highly peculiar as we are, after all, talking about the author of the Theologico-Politico Treatise and who saw himself as correcting mistaken views about the nature of God. At any rate, it is difficult to continue a discussion with someone who has poisoned the well by referring to you as a priest and suggesting that you have a fascist or totalitarian agenda that is elitist in nature, so I would politely ask you to cease posting on my blog as I am getting little from this discussion beyond irritation at your rather uncharitable portrayals of my positions and claims. You also seem bent on measuring everything against Spinoza as the ultimate arbiter of truth and what counts as naturalism -your riff on Della Rocca here -which interests me not in the least. Such name calling is no way to continue a discussion nor get anywhere in discussion with others and clearly calls into question your motives here. Nor has your practice of posting messages I’ve deleted on your blog reflective of a charitable or good will effort at discussion. [LS then went on to edit his response to add] I have patiently and politely attempted to outline my positions in response to your questions, yet in each case you’ve attributed the most malicious of motives and positions to me (in stark contradiction, I might add, to your remarks about mediators). When I’ve deleted your messages you’ve gone and posted on your blog that I simply couldn’t withstand your arguments and was unable to tolerate difference, when in fact it has nothing to do with your arguments- which tend to evince a very limited background with what you’re discussing -but your rude and insulting tone. Enough.”

Kvond: I can say only say that posting comments of mine which Larval Subjects has unilaterally and with no explanation deleted, over here at my weblog space seems like the only rightful thing to do. When someone attempts to control (and I do mean limit) a discussion through unilateral means, in particular the shaping the medium in which it appears, the only “good will” effort is to present one’s own censorially effaced side of the discussion. Posting my claims here, rather than letting Larval Subjects decide just what is germane and not seems to be part of the larger project of having a rightful discussion. If Larval Subjects thinks that “priest” is a dirty word (I do not at all feel this way at all, as much good has been done in the world through priests, and even their modern avatars, analysts), it would be perhaps better for him to not behave priest-like in the more historically embarassing fashion – deleting dissent. As to the notion that I have accused him of “fascist” or “totalitarian” AGENDA, well one can only chuckle, for I have said nothing of the sort, nor did it cross my mind. His (re)actions though, raises the question tho’ if he “doth protest too much”. Publishing dissenting opinions after all is a lasting method of dilectical discourse, and my posting of my dissent is nothing other than this.

I post this additional response of Larval Subjects here in part because he would like to publically express his irritation and dissatisfaction with my critique of his position, failing to use email. Because his is a public mission, a public response is in keeping.

As far as the points that he makes in the above, there are some interesting thoughts to add:

LS:In your opposition to transcendental illusions, it is clear then that you are opposed to the thought of Deleuze and Guattari on Spinozist grounds, then. Deleuze and Deleuze and Guattari do, in fact, develop a naturalistic account of transcendental illusions.

Kvond: As I said in my response, if one is going to address historically contingent “transcendental illusions” then the path to take is one of ethnography and prescriptions of praxis which empower the person or group through their experience of stronger affects, and not through any mediation of knowledge. As Larval Subjects ossilates between championing Deleuze and Guattari, and claiming that they are in need of a strong dose of either Kantian or Lacanian truths, one is never sure what to make of an appeal to their position. What I have tried to put forward is that the Lacanian and Kantian prescriptions hold within themselves theorization of a mediator (implicit or explicit), necessary for the freedom of others who do not have access to the “transcendental” scheme. One is left with the uncertainty of whether the Deleuze and Guattari onto-ethographic, praxis treatment of the transcendental illusion would survive the Kantian and Lacanian correction Larval Subjects would like to submit it to. 

LS: “I also find your reading of Spinoza highly peculiar as we are, after all, talking about the author of the Theologico-Politico Treatise and who saw himself as correcting mistaken views about the nature of God.

Kvond: The question isn’t whether Spinoza wrote as a corrector — he after all wrote on the Emendation of the Intellect — but whether he theorizes a path to freedom that  positions language using human beings on one side of a CUT, with Nature being on the other side, such that intercessors of knowledge are required to either repair the breech, or patch it up in some way or another. His Theological-Political Treatise after all is meant to liberate by given its readers hermenutical tools for how to read the Bible and the sociological authority based on it. None of this evokes a required intercessor role, nor is the human condition assumed to be a “kingdom within a kingdom”. Keys to liberation in Spinoza’s approach are through understanding exactly how this is not the case, how the ontological determines our freedoms, and how knowledge expresses real ontological change. A church official who claims to rule the people due to the authority found in Bible is NOT an unnatural thing.

LS: You also seem bent on measuring everything against Spinoza as the ultimate arbiter of truth and what counts as naturalism -your riff on Della Rocca here -which interests me not in the least.

Kvond: I can only say that I am unsure how to read Larval Subject’s own appeal to Spinoza. He seems to feel that he can invoke an axiom from the Ethics, Part I (the 6th), and not expect an analysis of what ROLE this axiom plays within Spinozist thought (perhaps this is symptomatic of his creative pick and choose method of concept synthesis from a variety of thinkers). If Larval Subjects had refrained from appealing to Spinoza, (and renounced Deleuze’s own commitment to Spinoza), then of course explaining what Spinoza meant or the kind of freedom he offered/theorized, would be at most alternatives to his own view. But because Larval Subjects feels that Spinoza’s 6th axiom is an important one, if one is to assess this one has to, as I explain, take up the entire context of such an approach to truth. The parallel postulate and Spinoza’s renunciation of a split between a human-realm and the natural realm are required if we are going to make sense of the relevance such an axiom would hold in our discussion. The “riff” that Della Rocca presents helps expose the “rift” Larval Subjects wants to open up between the human realm, and the natural realm. Spinoza is on this side of Descartes.

But because I have “poisoned the well” by suggesting that SOME of Larval Subject’s positions theorize for a necessary mediation, we may never know what may come of such a critique.

I might say that I highly recommend Larval Subject’s weblog, as it has some very articulate summations of the thought of Lacan and Deleuze (&G). There are times where the neutral voice slips into re-description wherein Deleuze and Guattari are expressed to have absorbed the critique he would like to make on their thought (i.e. they already bear the Lacanian, and it seems heavier Kantian, influences he wished they had embodied), but it is a most thoughtful weblog. What you might stand to learn from his propensity to delete critical comments, and perceive critique as personal attack, is of course up to you.

Larval Subjects, Redux

It seems that Larval Subjects has taken my criticism of Lacan to be too harsh, not to mention that unfairly I take him to be a Lacanian (that is an interesting combination). I post here my response to his lengthy address to me which involves direct questions because given his recent propensity to delete my comments, they should at least last here. I suppose this is how the blog-o-sphere goes:

LS: “I’m not sure why you insist on categorizing me as a Lacanian… Well I suppose I know, you happened to discover my blog during a period where I’ve been writing heavily about Lacan. I am deeply influenced by Lacan, have been through analysis, and have practiced as an analyst. I have also been very critical of Lacan in a variety of ways. However, I teach philosophy for a living.”

Kvond: (I’m going to answer this question because you have formed it as a question)…This is odd. Cannot a “Lacanian” teach philosophy for a living, or be critical of Lacan (you nearly claim Guattari to be a radical Lacanian, despite him holding a rather substantial semiotic-ontic departure from anything that Lacan put forth). My primary reason for calling you a Lacanian, insofar as I have done so, (and I am not sure if you are going to delete this response, as you have deleted three of my comments that were in some sense critical of your attachment to Lacan), is that you have appealed to your personal experience as a Lacanian clinician (if I have read you correctly), as somehow an authority on not only how one should read Lacan, but also on how Lacan pertains to social criticism (the relavance of his theories). This appeal to the authority having acted as a Lacanian, in favor of Lacanian truths, in my mind qualifies you as a Lacanian, insofar as I can tell. If this offends you, please, do not be offended.

LS: “At present I am working on a book about the intersection of Lacan and Deleuze and Guattari aimed at targeting a certain opposition set up by Zizek and Badiou and therefore hopefully intervening in debates surrounding the divide between schizoanalysis and psychoanalysis. The schizoanalytic critique of psychoanalysis will be present in that book, though certain elements of Lacanian psychoanalysis will critique aspects of how Deleuze and Guattari have been appropriated as well. Hence all the intense focus on Lacan at the moment.”

Kvond: I look forward to this work, but if you end up arguing that Guattari is nothing more than a “radicalized Lacanian” I will be disappointed in it.

LS: “Your remarks here, as evinced by the two or three comments I deleted, have gotten increasingly abusive and mocking for no apparent reason that I can see. I will be deleting subsequent comments such as this that are written in that spirit.”

Kvond: It seems you have considered my remarks “rude” “absusive” and perhaps “vulgar”. I really wonder where you find these things. You have deleted, as is your want, this post: A Response to Larval Subjects , which responds to your conflation of one-on-one experiences as a clinician, and the supposed relavance of Lacanian theories of Being in criticism of culture. Perhaps if you point out the abuse therein, we all would be better off. You have also deleted a comment of mine to parodycenter which mentions a thought by Judith Butler, and you have deleted comments on the authority of Lacan.

LS: “Having already gone through a period around August where I considered either shutting down this blog altogether or closing comments because of irritation and disgust resulting from rude and abusive people, I really have no patience for this sort of thing, nor do I really understand what motivates a person to attack someone else anonymously on a blog because they share a different theoretical orientation as if somehow it were a personal insult for others to find value in something they do not value.”

Kvond: Clearly you are responding to past events, and not to me. I have no idea how I have insulted you (and I have privately emailed you to apologize if I have done so accidentally). I am sorry that you have gone through such hard times, but quite honestly the theoretical positions that we hold are seldom very far apart. Other than what I perceive to be an over-sensitive threshold to critiques of Lacanian theory, we almost always agree.

I should say though, a blog is a public expression. Do you really want people posting who only tell you how right you are? I have found your analyses often quite insightful, but at times questions arise. At times you seem to contradict yourself. I ask questions. Perhaps others of your readers have questions too.

LS: “All the creatures populated by sad and passive forces, by ressentment; and often, ironically, among those who speak the most about affirmation, indicating perhaps a particular relationship to castration not unlike the professional body builder trying to hide that he doesn’t have it.”

Kvond: I appreciate the free diagnosis from afar. Might I take this as “abusive”? I don’t know. But powers of ressentment are fundamentally reactive powers, and you have been reacting to events that occurred long before my posts, thinking them to be part of my presence. I do not say this as a diagnosis, but simply as a point of fact.

As to my bodybuilder status, I don’t know what it is that I am supposed to “have” or “not have”. I enjoy thoughts, theory, analysis, and social commitments to justice. That is why I read, and that is why I post. I am not even the master my own discourse, let alone another’s.

LS: “On an unrelated note, I’m not sure where you get the idea that Lacan created a way of playing God.”

Kvond: You deleted this comment of mine, so really none of your readers will know what you are talking about. But if you read my comment carefully, it said more or less, “Lacan theorized on how to play God”. If you take Spinoza’s adage that one cannot in loving God expect God to love you in return you fundamentally have Lacan’s analyst role…i.e., playing God.

LS: “Additionally, Lacan’s entire practice was premised on the respect of the analysand and the analysand’s speech and absolute difference…”

Kvond: And I assume this to be the case in Lacan. But, I must say that your treatment of the difference of my speech has been most curious, if you assume such Lacanian principles.

 

Do Küsse and Bisse rhyme? Penthesilea, breaking the injunction

I am reading through Larval Subjects’ crisp recapitulations of, and comments upon, Lacan, [here and here, etc.] And a single line come to me as she/he talks about the non-totalizing effects (or capacities) of language. There is a logic of “masculine” and a “feminine” failure (incompleteness or inconsistency).

The line comes from Kleist’s incalculable play “Penthesilea”, at its lexical apex/end. As the Amazon queen Penthesilea, having lost her senses, is informed by the High Priestess that she has torn into and fed upon her unfeatable/defeated Achilles as a beast among her dogs, she explains poignantly, how this act was born from love:

— So it was a mistake. Küsse [kiss] and Bisse [bite],

They rhyme, for one who truly loves

With all her heart can easily mistake them.

(Scene twenty-four).

[So war es ein Versehen. Küsse, Bisse,/ Das reimt sich, und wer recht von Herzen liebt,/ Kann schon das eine für das andre greifen. 2981-2983]

There is much that can be written about these brief, condensed lines. Penthesilea has passed over into a kind of feminine psychosis, literalizing words (earlier she confesses to her dead Achilles, “How many a maid would say, her arms wrapped around/ Her lover’s neck: I love you, oh so much/ That if I could I’d eat you up right here…”) The words have operated as driving lexical causes, an over-literalization of their effects. Maids say “I could eat you up,” and I have. And then, secondarily how, she wishes that language itself should have had in its contingent nature the coincidence of forms what would have enacted, or more enabled the con-fusion of the two words, Küsse and Bisse, brought about by the apparent impossibility of the sexual union of Achilles and Penthesilea.

But this is not enough. We have the enunication and the acts of Penthesilea, the character, but we have also the extraordinary construction of Kleist himself, as he performs the fusion of these two words Küsse and Bisse in the writing of his play. The first question is, Has Penthesilea herself successfully trangressed Lacan’s injunciton on language? Has Penthesilea used the signifier by embodying it? Her loss of sanity suggests that she does risk the abyss of psychosis that Lacan claims lies outside of the signifier, but to risk something is not to succumb to it (her love can be read as fulfilled, having been inscribed on the Body and the signfier, expressionally). But the second, and obscured question is, Has Kleist himself, through a more subtle oscillation of “masculine” and “feminine” effects, woven a syntagmatic solution to the injunction. He has made Küsse and Bisse rhyme, in the figure of Penthesilea, and the play. 

The rescue from the kinds of paralysizing foreclosures that Lacan enacts through rather neat configurations of logic (I have always loved his mathemes) is accomplished by “artists” through, I suspect, at least two kinds of “transcendence” of the signifier, that performed by Penthesilea, the living through one’s own signification processes, inscribing your meaning upon yourself; and, by that achieved by von Kleist the author, through the affective and representational construction of the scene of lexical possibility, through witness and testament.

I prefer as well an understanding that reads language and its possibilities more deeply in terms of both affective capacities and instrumentality, the logic of which is secondary to their possibilities (pace Lacan, et al). The above example really is a consideration in terms of the injunction itself. Because I suspect that the inscriptions of the signfier, the supposed Symbolic order, is parasitic to, or at least shadow to, the lived, affective affinities that make up body-to-body, moment-to-moment epistemologies (witnessings), the seeing-through others, the extremes of Kleist’s project only mark out the outer limit of affect freedoms even amid the supposed injunctions themselves, the body to body ties that bind us being regular transports of linguistic freedoms.

Guattari’s Four Ontologies

For those who have never looked into the thought of Felix Guatarri, the nearly effaced thinker of the pair D & G, for which the name Deleuze can come to regularly stand, I post below a significant section from Gary Genosko’s admirable treatment of Guattari’s primary ideas, Felix Guattari: An Aberrant Introduction. The selection deals with the history of analytic concepts found in two cartographic, schematic grids, and their principle meanings. They are called the Four Functors, or functional domains, but I prefer to think of them, and call them The Four Ontologies, in part to indicate their necessary disjunction and modal differences, in part to necessitate their immanent reality. For those only familiar with the works of their joint authorship, you may find interesting familiar terms and concepts in new contexts. Enjoy. I read the book some time ago and the diagram still stays with me.

Guattari’s diagrams and tables of the four functors and the domains proper to each tell us a great deal about his attempts to overcome simple problems of doubling couplets (all sorts of reductive dualisms), of evoking logical or semiotic squares in a segmental quadrature of deterriotorialization (the four domains result from segmentation of the plane of consistency). In CS (cartographies schizoanalytiques, 41) Guattari wrote of the “two couples” that constituted the four categories – actual and virtual and possible and real -to which he added other couples – some familiar, like expression and content (Chs [Chaosmosis] 60) and some less familiar but with a broadly semiotic lineage. (See figures 5.1a and 5.1b.) By the time of Chs, Guattari saw the expression and content couple as a problem to be overcome because it was still too much stained by linguistics and automatic contraction that would restrict the openness of assemblages of enunciation (the detour became a dead end). His reference to the left and right hand sides of the figure further exacerbated the question of whether or not his Fourth term consituted an advance over the ingenious Threes discussed in the previous chapter since he kept adding couple upon couple. The Threes are still very much at work here. Guattari advanced by analogy with the important form-substance-matter distinction – which he profoundly modified to describe diagrammatic deterritorialization by means of sign-particles between form and matter (IM [L’Inconscient machinique] 224-5) – in relation to the Fours: just as substance is the manifestation of form in matter, existential Territories are the manifestation of incorporeal Universes and machinic Phylums in material Fluxes (CS 84, n. 1), given that substance is akin to Territory, Universes and Phylum are akin to form, and Fluxes are akin to matter (unformed). The abstract machines of the domain of Phylum are new coding of the a-signifying semiotics with a purchase on material fluxes (Flux), whereas the existential incarnation (Territory) of the incorporeal constellations (Universe) metamodel as virtual rather than actual the former relation.

However, Guattari use the example of two options of Freudian cartography as they concerned libido and the unconscious to demonstrate the core features of Figure 5.1a. On the left side, libido either pursues a deterritorialized option toward abstract matters of the possible (Phylum), or is reterritorialized into the psychogenetic stages and dualisms (Eros -Thanatos) of stratified Fluxes; on the right side, the unconscious explores deterritorialized lines of alterity that are both original and unheard-of (Universes) or takes refuge in the Territories of the repressed according to various reterritorializing maps of the mind that Freud developed over the course of his career, most pertinently, between the dream book and the “The Unconsious”, “Ego and the Id”, and “New Introductory Lecture 31”. (CS 44-7; Chs 62). Guattari was also, like Freud, mapping the unconscious. Without being reductionistic, Guattari’s cartography of the schizophrenic unconscious is situated against but in the tradition of  the Freudian metapsychology of diagramming the psychical topography and the two systems (Cs. [Pcs.] Ucs.), description of their characteristics, communications, conflicts, classifications (of instincts), and emergence of the Ego-Id-Superego – the three regions – or indeed, the Lacanian tripartite Real-Imaginary-Symbolic. Guattari took great pains to decentre his cartography from the linguistic signifier, from the many psychoanalytics dualisms (primary-secondary process); to render the domains contingent and evolutionary is relation to technology, art and science, and avoid reductive prototypes of subjectivity (CS 32ff). Whether or not he was successful will need to be carefully considered.
 
What is the Fourth Term anyway?  How many is an open Three? The diagramming of the transversal relations between heterogenous domains: material and energetic Fluxes (F); an abstract machinic Phylum (P); existential Territories (T); leaves incorporeal Universes (U) that escape the coordinates of F, P, and T (CS 74). The  Fourth term is the virtual possible and, together with the actual possible, these envelop the actual real and virtual real. Guattari linked both powerlessness and unreachable foundations with Twos; pyramidal dialectical trees with Threes, and the generation of non-prioritized, proliferating trans-entity interactions that respected the principle of autopoesis with Fours…
 
…Guattari’s model of the unconscious had three types of energetico-semiotic quantic configurations describing interentity relationship: non-separability, or synchronic compossibility (intrinsic reference); separability or diachronic complementarity involving time and becoming (extrinsic reference); and quanitification operating between non-separability and separability, but not subordinate to them (non-separability being the semiotic superstructure of separability; quantification being the pragmatic superstructure of separability). Each had their own tensors (although Lyotard used this concept to describe a singular point of libidnal intensity such as Dora’s throat against the semoitic nihilism that a sign stands for something for someone, this extra-semiotic element produced libidnal intensity through force and singularity, like a proper name, as opposed to signifying meaning through differentiation; 1993: 54-6) and because Guattari was concerned with describing inter-entity relations by means of this mathematically derived concept, it may be thought of as a generalized vector of such relations. These relations, about which more will be shortly, are constrained by those between the levels of the unconscious that Guattari presented (it is evident from Figure 5.1a that there are NOT, for example, direct connections between Fluxes and Universes and Territories and Phylums, but Guattari invented indirect links by means of synapses). So, in the first instance, one of the tensors of non-separability is Expression and Content (extrinsic reference of deterriotorialization) and the other is System and Structure (intrinsic reference of deterritorialization). Both concern deterritorialization and this axis occupies the place of both possible and real in Figure 5.1a (where possible was, infinite, irreversible, deterritorialization, far from equalibrium, shall be; and where the real was finite, reversible deterritorialization close to equalibrium shall be (CS 86)). The tensors of separation are semiotic (engendering laterally, from their point of origin, sites of entities of meaning – hence largely Territorial functions functions) and the surplus value of possibility, which  relays the site of entities of meaning and transfers them, via synapes of effect – situated  between Fluxes and Phylums – and affect – situated between Territories and Universes – to pragmatic effects and subjective affects. The tensors of quantification are synaptic: they are, as suggested, relays for the transfer of the surplus value of possibility toward the sites of entities polarized as either systematic or structural. As I indicated in Figure 5.1a, each domain has a figure in which entities are situated: Fluxes=Complexions; Phylums=Rhizomes; Territories=Cut outs; Universes=Constellations. Although Guattari preferred to diagram the domains as four parallel sub-ensembles in a topological space in order to give some depth to an otherwise two-dimensional diagram such as Figure 5.1a and its variations, the latter were commonly used.
 
As for the metamodel’s contraints, there are restrictions on direct tensorial relations that I have already mentioned (but which the synaptics mediate); tensorial relations are subject to dyssynchrony;and the levels, corresponding to the three configurations governing inter-entity relations but based upon order of presupposition: Level 1 has no presuppositions; Level 2 presupposes Level 1 (semiotic); Level 3 presupposes Levels 1 and 2 (pragmatic and subjective). Guattari’s work is not very far removed in spirit from what Freud and Lacan did in their diagnosis and algorithms. Freud even went so far as to compensate for weakness in his diagrams, asking his audiences to make mental corrections. Constraints include how the id relates to the external world only via the ego, the specification of certain types of entities (cathetic intensities that are mobile or not), and topographic relations of semiological algorithms defined by two cumbersome structures (metaphor and metonymy), etc. Despite Guattari’s warnings abou the profound modification of psychoanalysis, he continually introduced codings that suggested precisely the diminishment of such modifications. For example, the fourfold segmentation of domains on the plane of consistency is based on two arguments:
 
      1. for discursivity, an ontological argument: if there is a given (donne/), there is a giving (donnant);
            – unity, discontinuous divisions of Territories and constellations of Universes (giving);
            – plural, continuous, fusional complexions of Fluxes and rhizomes of Phylums (given);
      2. for deterritorialization, a cosmological argument: two domains of intrinsic reference without immediate intersection yield a GIVEN corresponding to an intrinsic, systematic reference and a GIVING corresponding to an intrinsic structural reference;
            -finite, reversable, deterritorialization referenced around a point of equilibrium;
            -infinite, irreversable deterritorialization referenced far from a point of equilibrium
 
The problem is that giving-given corresponds to expression-content as does structure-system, on top of which Guattari develops his division of the unconscious into three levels reflecting the later topography of Freud’s ego-id-super-ego model, a primary, secondary, and tertiary unconsciousness, each with their own tensors. Remember the pairings that pile up in the two-dimensional Figures 5.1a and 5.1b, with their expansions, are worked by processual cycles (Figure 5.2 [not included here]) which seem to lack real depth. Guattari struggled with representing the four domains (CS 80).
 
      Level 1. Primary Unconscious
      Level of Intrinsic Reference: Systems and Structures
      Reversible Tensors:
      (a)   systematic referent, on the side of the given between sites of entities of Flux and those of Phylums (left side of Figure 5.1a) (i.e., systems that articulate material and energetic Fluxes on abstract machinic rhizomes);
      (b)   structural referent, on the side of giving, between between sites of Territorial entities and incorporeal Universes (right side of Figure 5.1a) (i.e., a musical structure that crystalizes rhythms, melodies of incorporeal Universes; a biscuit that conjures an incorporeal Universe of another time and place but, through globalization, becomes available everywhere, leads to the Universe’s implosion, and the existential Territories of subjectivity become ambivalent about their own taste)
 
SUMMARY: F=complexion; P=rhizome; T=cut out; U=constellation.
 
      Level 2. Secondary Unconscious
      Level of Extrinsic Reference: Semiotic Tensors
      Irreversible Tensors of:
      (a) persistence, vectorized from Systems to Structures (from given to giving):
            – sensible tensors virtualizing sensible contents within existential Territories (i.e., cutting out from diverse Fluxes a refrain of territorialization in an ethological assemblage, as in the Stagemaker’s upturned leaves on its display ground selected from the Flux of leaves);
            – noematic tensors virtualizing the noematic contents within Universes (i.e., smile of the Cheshire cat, unlocalizable as a point in space);
      (b) tensors of transistency, vectorized from structures to systems (giving to given):
            – diagrammatic tensors actualizing diagrams in Fluxes (i.e., a machine-readable magnetic strip of a bank card that, in conjunction with a personal identification number, provides access to an account);
            – machinic tensors actualizing abstract propositional expressions of rhizomic Phylums (i.e., the incorporeal faciality of Christ projected on machinic capitalist Phylums, already traversing spaces before being deployed; already always there).
 
SUMMARY: F-T=sensible; T-F=Diagrammatic; P-U-noematic; U-P-machinic.
 
      Level 3. Tertiary Unconscious
      Persistence and Transistency: Pragmatic (between F and P) and Subjective (between T and U) Synapes
      (adjusting the three configurations of non-separation, separation and quantification in different ways on earlier Levels: on L1, in the presentifcation of the backwards-looking potentialities of Systems and Structures; on L2, forward looking surplus value of possibility of semiotic concatenations)
      (a) Bivalent synapes result from the conjunction of two afferent tensors of consistency – F and P – effect of extrinsic coding (i.e., perception without foundation, hallucination) and T and U – affect of extrinsic ordination (i.e., a “real impression” of a dream).
      
      (b) Trivalent synapes result from the conjunction of two afferent tensors and one efferent tensor resulting in:
            — Consistency F – closed systems effect (i.e., closed cybernetic loop);
            — Consistency P – open systemic effect (i.e., micro-social systems upon which family therapy strives to intervene);
            — Consistency T – closed structural affect (i.e., function of the mature Freudian topography);
            — Consistency U – open structural affect (i.e., becoming vegetable, child, animal).
 
      (c) Tetravalent synapes either associate effects of extrinsic coding (consistency F and P) with open and closed systemic synapes or affects of extrinsic ordination (consistency T and U) with open and closed structural synapes:
            – pragmatic synapse (between F and P): an affect is virtualized when an assemblage is polarized by a relation of persistence emanating from pragmatic to subjective;
            – subjective synapse (between T and U): an effect is actualized when an assemblage is polarized by a relation of transistence emanating from subjective to pragmatic (hence, a play of virtual persistence implosion and actual transistence expansion without destroying the two poles of effect and affect).
 
SUMMARY: F-P=open systemic effect; P-Fclosed system effect; T-U-open structural affect; U-T=closed stuctural affect. (Note: summary based on correction to Table 3, CS 91); see also the tensors and entities mapped in CS 83.)

Slavoj Žižek: A “Human” Example

If any are unfamiliar (and we must assume that some are not swept up in the Academio-acculturation of a protesting Self) or simply have lost track of him under some characterization, I encourage those who have a love of philosophy to consider the “human” example of Slavoj Zizek, a Lacanian philosopher and sociologist.

A wonderful documentary that focuses not only on his ideas, but his extraordinary personage.

A recent, September 9th lecture given in Oregon, on the nature of politeness.

Or, this prospective examination of the film Children of Men.

Zizeks early books definitely made an impression on me, opening the door to Lacanian thinking and cultural analysis, the melding of philosophy to the matters of social concern. I remember attending one of his lectures a decade ago and asking a question on Israel whose premise horrified him. What I suggest is that more than the ultimate validity of his synthesis of Hegel, Kant and Lacan, which can be of interest, it is his lived experience of the significance of philosophy that perhaps gives its most compelling argument for its relevance. As much as Zizek is at pains to not be “human” just like all of “us”, subsumed in the ideology of normalcy, it really is the affective example of his experience of alienation and his thought-out articulation in response to it which allows us to embrace his very sincerity of project, if not his conclusions.

If there were any intellectual I would like to sit down to dinner with, it would be this man.