The ideology of persuasion; or: Gaps (after Adorno) (6 JUL 2007)

“The injunction to practice intellectual honesty usually amounts to a sabotage of thought. … This demand not only invokes the liberal fiction of the universal communicability of each and every thought and so inhibits their objectively appropriate expression, but is also wrong itself as a principle of representation. For the value of a thought is measured by its distance from the continuity of the familiar [the Whole].” (Minima Moralia) Knowledge, Adorno continues, proceeds from what he calls experience, but what in other terms might be called the machine of desire—of beliefs, inclinations, lacerations, joys, and love.

The existence of discursive and logical structures is not teleological. The purpose of these structures is not consensus (Einverstandes)—not even Rawls’ “overlapping consensus”, which itself is a symptom of the problem to which Lévinas draws us: democracy cannot be totality or homology. Democracy, radical democracy, is instead dissensus (Näsström). Rawls wants to preserve plurality; better: we must create multiplicity. Discourse is multivalence. “Discourse” is not the communication of ideas but is nothing other than the life of ideas (Mill). What, ultimately, we need is to be attuned not to the “pleasure of the text” (Barthes) but to the life of a text.

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The myth of the everyday (1 JUL 2007)

Can there be a writing that speaks to/about the everyday? Does this not presuppose a certain ideology of the everyday or, worse, of generic communication? Perhaps this is the error of structuralism: meaning is not combinatory, compositional, or generative. Meaning is not a function of the historicity of language but is in the effect of the saying: of each saying. There is both a unique saying amidst the history of the said. What we have is multiple worlds/spaces of articulation.

But: the “ethics” of discourse thus becomes nothing other than violence or the imposition of a state.

Fragments IIa (2 JUL 2007)

1. Can philosophy “communicate” with others? The question is badly put. The point is not for philosophy to “teach” or “communicate” anything to, e.g., science. Philosophy does not “inform” or even “critique” science. Philosophy opens science. Yet is not philosophy also a deductive, axiomatic structure (i.e., a totality)? Can philosophy thus open itself? Is this not the ethical imperative of reflection (as a colleague of mine says)? Has not this reflection and this opening onto thinking (the thinking of the infinite) been at the heart of philosophy since Socrates? Socratic philosophy has never been, primarily, about “critiquing” or “negating” or even “changing” the world. Philosophy has always been positive, creative of new worlds, other worlds (“otherworldly resonances”).

2. If philosophy is the presentation of what happens or what does not happen, the relevant difference between philosophy and art is that art is precisely irrelevant to what does or does not happen.

3. If I say “Plato” should be treated as a big text composed of his (individual) texts, and thus that Platonic philosophy is fidelity to his concepts—this is a descriptive-normative conception of philosophy. A philosophy that treats the text otherwise can certainly do so, but is this not a naïve philosophy, since the former is the condition of possibility for the latter (naïve) philosophy?

And yet, we face again the problem of the limit: naïveté can never be revealed to itself.

Fragments II (22 JUN 2007)

1. Towards a definition of philosophy: The measure of a philosophy is its explanatory power. We ask, for example, if an ethics is either descriptive or possible in experience. Or: philosophy is precisely a critique of experience, in which case it is still theoretical—Adorno’s philosophy must show what is not the case (mimesis). Art, on the other hand, is what is able to be other without being theoretical. Philosophy is always theoretical, even when it is otherwise.

So, perhaps, the definition of philosophy is always posterior. Philosophy is constituted by its effect and not its intention. All definitions, descriptions, objects, subjects, and identities, for example, are effects. What we have is an ontology (both the method and the content) of events.

2. Negation is a zero-sum game. Difference, on the other hand, is “positive” in the sense of a non-zero result. But already there is a conceptual problem…

Social space (23 JUN 2007)

Functionalism can’t be right—people, talent, and power fall through the cracks all the time (so too Bauman has traced humanity’s “wasted lives”). And yet we can describe the “complexity of cooperation” and map at least one dimension of social space.

Crises (10 JUN 2007)

1. The ideology of philosophy: The philosopher, it is said, is one who can simply “sit and think” about philosophical (read: human) problems—i.e., logic and reason are universally, essentially human. Is this not the hidden metaphysics of post-metaphysics that implicates not only the legislating subject of the Enlightenment but also, unfortunately, the counter-Enlightenment (Hobbes, Montaigne, Pascal, Rousseau)?

2. Yet we can only counter (oppose) something within a genus (Aristotle). Therefore, can one be willing to relinquish the name of philosophy? What else, then, does one do? Theory? Critique? The question is not only, a la Deleuze, what is the image of thought, but what is the name of thought?

3. What is most severely and desperately lacking today, if we are ever to move beyond a metaphysics (of the essence) of man, is a philosophy of nature.

4. The fundamental tension: Taoist silence (Tao) and mind (yi). It is not a matter of choosing between them but in the difference between them without hypostasizing this difference into an essence. What is a philosophy of nothingness (wu-wei)?