Frames /sing


Tag Archives: Realism

Desire/Wax Impressions of Dante’s Realism: Canto XVIII, lines 22-39 Purgatorio

 Dante’s beautiful lines which dicate the com-plexifications of cogntive judgment come to mind over the dicussion of Realism at Perverse Egalitarianism…

Vostra apprensiva da esser verace
Your perception from some real thing
tragge intenzione, e dentro a voi la spiega,
an impression takes, and in you it unfolds,
sì che l’animo ad essa volger face;
so thus the soul to turn it brings;

e se, rivolto, inver di lei si piega,
And if, so turned, toward it she molds,
quel piegare è amor, quell’è natura
that molding love, that nature ‘tis
che per piacer di novo in voi si lega.
which by pleasure fresh in you it binds.

Poi, come ‘l foco movesi in altura
Then how fire upward glides
per la sua forma ch’è nata a salire
by its form being born to climb
là dove più in sua matera dura,
t’where most within its matter it abides,

cosi l’animo preso entra in disire,
thus the soul so pressed enters in desire,
ch’è moto spiritale, e mai non posa
a spirit motion, that wilt not rest
fin che la cosa amata il fa gioire.
‘til the thing beloved makes it ‘joice.

Or ti puote apparer quant’è nascosa
Now should appear to thee how clouded
la veritate alla gente ch’avvera
be the truth with men who deem
ciascun amore in sè laudabil cosa,
every love itself a lauded thing,

però che forse appar la sua matera
perhaps because its matter seems
sempre esser buona; ma non ciascun segno
always to be good, but yet not every stamp
è buono, ancor che buona sia la cera.’
is good, even if be good the wax.’

It is really amazing, again and again, how Dante brings together still lasting philosophical issues, and then condensing in clarity them puts them into verse. (We tend to think that this makes the task all the so much harder, but has anyone thought that perhaps it makes it easier.)  If we trace the effect of the “impression” we have crystalization of a complex of inter-relations which perhaps helps us gain a foot-hold in Realism discussion.

1). Some real thing impresses itself upon us (the wax), but an impression that is in some sense “taken” by the material organization itself.

2). The impression “unfolds,” an unfolding that turns the soul (seen as passive).

3). And IF turned, she then herself does the molding, an activity which is a fresh and binding pleasure.

4). And this pleasure directs the action of the soul towards an extra-human course, towards a real coherence of things beyond/above it.

5). The movement is unresting until a state of Glorification is achieved (a passive completion, a flattening out).

6). But love itself, its very matter (which we could say is composed of the very relations between the thing loved and its turned-to pursuit), is not always “good”.

7). This intra-relation of bodily combination is ultimately judged by a discernment between which real, impressive things are ultimately good for the wax (soul) to combine with.

The result is a near Spinozist conception of knowledge and moral evil. Pleasure leads us towards self-affirmations which necessarily involve our real combinations with other real objects such that we are ever propelled toward a coherence that is extra-human. But such an epistemo-material sense of knowledge-discernment necessarily involves as well a sense in which not all combinations are in preserve of our conatus of being, something ever in transformation. In this way our appropriations of, and combination with other things (resources, techologies, beloveds) oscillate between that which will break us down (deterritorializations, as G&D call them), and that which preserve us (reterritorializations), in an expanse that is ever more incorporating and communicating. Muscially, one might say. And our value judgments, our aesthetic judgments, necessarily consist of bodily affirmations which have real ontological value, expressing real ontological relations, opening up the human domain to organizational powers beyond those of merely human Ideality.


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 Distance of Star’s Light, A Coming Memory

A Realism of Differences

In reading Wheeler’s Biosemiotic book I’ve come to struggle against Jakob von Uexküll’s highly productive concept of Umwelt (on which I hope to post soon). The concept is, in many of its forms, far too Phenomenal. We perhaps should pursue something like an Exowelt (think, exoskeleton), such that the “experiential world” includes the connective tissue of outer differences (through which further reaches are read).

Under such an approach immediate perceptions can stretch deep into a past. Imagine that much as how real differences of a star’s surface make differences within the organism of the poet (Bateson’s a difference that makes a difference notion of information), come from hundreds of years ago, stretching back like spider’s web threads, real differences in a childhood, grandmother’s garden rose also make differences in the current poet’s organism, tracing back through time, in the same kind of thread. Bodily tendrils of intimate connection. Each organism having a different Exowelt.

The Coming Medieval Scholasticism of SR

A Debate “Worth Having”

Responding to Splintering Bone Ashes prediction that there will rise up an eliminativist (materialist) branch in the Speculative Realism debate, Graham dreams of waking up in a world where the Scholastic Realism vs. Nominalism debate had been permanently revived (part of his love for irreducible tensions):

What if I could wake up every morning and the big debate was between the eliminativist and non-eliminativist wings of the post-SR landscape?

And not only “every morning” but a debate confined to the wings of a post-SR landscape. It is a wonder when a “school” of thought [σχολαστικός (scholastikos)] dreams of the ideal intellectual activity as an internal split between the wings of its own party (a desire seen in Graham’s humorous title for a new talk, “Realism Good, Materialism Bad“). Perhaps it is notable that this confessed fantasy is that Graham himself could wake up to such an endless debate, and not that “we” a community of collective thinkers could. Apart from the self-revelry aspect, we might say, yes, this debate was one worth having, in fact they had it for nearly a thousand years, so why not have it within the SR landscape. But when it becomes so intrasquad and arbitrary to SR, will it not simply exhibit the worst aspects of Scholastism, with angels on heads of pins being “count[ed] as one”?

There is one interesting part of this nouvelle Scholasticism, Graham Harman seems to find himself a bit on both sides of the traditional Realism/Nominalism divide. As an Idealist of the Aristotlean tradition he favors the “intentional objects” of reductive Nominalism, but as Old World Latourian he wants perceived wholes, any collection of objects, to be considered as Real and actorly. As such he positions himself as something of a conceptualist, but wherein all objects hold conceptions, each one a little Kantian Copernican sun (collapsing into red giants, as Graham would have it). I have yet to be able to make sense of this claim except as the most poetic of appeals: what does it mean for my bank account and rusted lawn mower to both be continuously making metaphors about the world? Huh? But one could see how happy an environment this would make for such a claim. Never mind if this position is completely cogent or coherent, let it take its place in opposition to something that is also incoherent. Let me be oriented in opposition. In my view, quite apart from Graham’s love for irreducible and tensioned pairs, when two halves of a characterization perpetuate continous dispute and even sub-divisions, there is very likely something wrong with the initial binarization itself. Fixing it does not involve taking a little from each side. The answer just isn’t found there. (As much fun as we might have looking.) Each side brings about the other. A self-perpetuation machine.

Perhaps it is better to not be so Scholastic.