An Imbecile’s Guide to Zizek

“…the antiphilosopher Lacan is a condition of the renaissance of philosophy. A philosophy is possible today only if it is compatible with Lacan.”

– Alain Badiou, Manifesto for Philosophy

Somewhere between the idiot and the moron lies that strange negativity Zizek names the imbecile, a creature that knows he does not know; yet, who knows that in knowing this he knows more than he should know. He tells us that Less Than Nothing is neither a guide for the perplexed, nor a fully explicated encyclical of Hegel’s system, but is rather The Imbecile’s Guide to Hegel, adding insult to injury. Yet, if the truth be known, by a Lacanian reversal, this guide is not so much about Hegel as it is about that imbecile who is its guide and explicator: Zizek himself; or, that self-reflecting nothingness that purports to carry the name of Slavoj Zizek.

“So what does a becile know that idiots and morons don’t?” asks Zizek. He relates the fictional account of Galileo who in the moment of renouncing his greatest triumph and discovery of the truth of our Universe mutters the words “Eppur si muove” (“ And yet it moves”), after recanting before the Inquisition his theory that the Earth moves around the sun. The reality of this fiction or the fiction of this reality only underpins the truth of such a precarious movement. One that acknowledges that even if I renounce this truth to save my life from an Inquisition, that the truth as truth shall prevail. The powers that be,  those who would pretend to enforce their static model of falsehood upon us, will in themselves be the harbingers of the force of the truth they deflect and expunge,  as the truth of a future which is always moving toward us. They themselves will be forced to accept such hard truth, acknowledge that this new science has uncovered new narratives of creation, ones that go beyond their own cherished religious fictions, yet incorporate its strange forms even as it outstrips them and lays them bare to the very forces they fear: the void and the abyss of freedom.

Less Than Nothing endeavors to draw all the ontological consequences from this eppur si muove. Here is the formula at its most elementary: “moving” is the striving to reach the void, namely, “things move,” there is something instead of nothing, not because reality is in excess in comparison with mere nothing, but because reality is less than nothing. (Kindle Locations 292-295).

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Slavoj Zizek on Violence

…ugliness today is a sign and symptom of great transformations to come.

– C.G. Jung on Joyce

Contempt, it turns out, was assimilable to democracy. In fact, rather than subverting democracy, it assisted it by making generally available to the low as well as to the high a strategy of indifference in the treatment of others.

– William Ian Miller, The Anatomy of Disgust

Reading this work of Zizek, ‘Violence‘, awakens in me something old and dangerous, a realization that the power of rhetoric and the dialectic serve each other as either violent partners to an ongoing crime, or as the secret accomplices of a two-thousand year old murder and of the guilt that comes with such monstrous actions. The violence of language is at the forefront of this unique work. Zizek uses every tool at his disposal to bring philosophical speculation down into the street. He is no frigid academic whose prose, grey and analytic, distills truths that are so abstract and cold to be almost useless. No, Zizek opens up the guts of the world, spills out the grotesque humor of our dark heritage in all its disgusting glory, and offers us no absolution but the truth of our own inescapable complicity in a crime we commit daily by both our action and inaction, by our failure to solve the riddle of democracy.

According to a well-known anecdote, a German officer visited Picasso in his Paris studio during the Second World War. There he saw Guernica and, shocked at the modernist “chaos” of the painting, asked Picasso: “Did you do this?” Picasso calmly replied: “No, you did this!” Today, many a liberal, when faced with violent outbursts such as the recent looting in the suburbs of Paris, asks the few remaining leftists who still count on a radical social transformation: “Isn’t it you who did this? Is this what you want?” And we should reply, like Picasso: “No, you did this! This is the true result of your politics! (V 11)”1

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Slavoj Zizek: Description without Place

In her memoirs, Anna Akhmatova describes what happened to her when, at the height of the Stalinist purges, she was waiting in the long queue in front of the Leningrad prison to learn about her arrested son Lev:

One day somebody in the crowd identified me. Standing behind me was a young woman, with lips blue from the cold, who had of course never heard me called by name before. Now she started out of the torpor common to us all and asked me in a whisper (everyone whispered there), “Can you describe this?” And I said, “I can.” Then something like a smile passed fleetingly over what had once been her face.

The key question, of course, is what kind of description is intended here? Surely it is not a realistic description of the situation, but what Wallace Stevens called “description without place,” which is what is proper to art. This is not a description which locates its content in a historical space and time, but a description which creates, as the background of the phenomena it describes, an inexistent (virtual) space of its own, so that what appears in it is not an appearance sustained by the depth of reality behind it, but a decontextualised appearance, an appearance which fully coincides with real being. To quote Stevens again: “What it seems it is and in such seeming all things are.” Such an artistic description “is not a sign for something that lies outside its form.”  Rather, it extracts from the confused reality its own inner form in the same way that Schoenberg “extracted” the inner form of totalitarian terror. He evoked the way this terror affects subjectivity.

– Slavoj Zkizek, Violence

Deleuze’s Anti-Platonism

In the same moment that Greece gave birth to democracy (demos) it also gave birth to its greatest enemy, Plato. Plato reduced the fragmented authority of tradition to the syllabus of the Laws and Republic. Out of Plato came the new authority of Philosophy itself: its distinctions and judgments, of a supposed superior authority as one of its greatest inventions, and of its greatest triumph: the concept of  ‘transcendence’, the Idea, the metaphysics of representation, imitation, and participation.

The real world of the Idea as opposed to the apparent world of simulacra became both the tool and means for the dialectic: the art of hierarchical theory and exclusionary practices, as well as an elitism in philosophical theory and practice, aesthetics and political rule.  As Miguel de Beistegui remarks:

Platonism is a response and a solution to a problem brought about by the birth of Athenian democracy, in which, in the words of a commentator, “anyone could lay claim to anything, and could carry the day by the force of rhetoric.” Such is the reason why Platonism seeks to nip this anarchy and rebellion in the bud, by hunting down, as Plato says, simulacra and rogue images of all kinds (57).1

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If you haven’t visited Jeiphler’s Art Blog…. go now! Her work, at least for me, brings a new materialist and vitalistic dynamic. Like this painting…..

I love this one… reminds me of the great forests of the Northwest. Washington, Oregon, etc. of the Canadian bush country, the wildness… (and, that, only the bottom section). The topographic section above brought to mind images of jesters, clowns, the dance of acrobatics… a wild abandon of geometric figures and flows, quickening steps between sensual creatures arising out of immanence. The duplicity of the central line drawing reminded me of both animal and bird, a shamanistic unfolding, a mathematical entity crosswiring the world with dream and light, giving birth to replicative machinic organelles. The thread descending to the World Egg, the graph wave form below of the cosmic wave patterns of being and becoming twisted within the fabric of reality. The whole assemble awakens from a morning in early winter to spring, a transitional dance of life without us, a movement of things in their own light doing what they have always done. Thinking of Latour’s Gifford Lectures this painting reminds me of Gaia: the pulse of the earth, intertwined with the physics and ethical that we as humans must awaken to before this dance is ruined for us and all those other creatures we share this bright earth with…Michael over at Archive Fire has an excellent intro on Latour’s ‘Politics of Nature’.

Fragrance of Mauve
    a new poem for Gaia and life …

dangling down

birthwise from mauve forests
  winter’s fruit

 jesters dance among the clouds

a sun flows along this thin line
  a world
    in the moment of its awakening
  silently poised

pulsing, breathing, alluring

animal or bird

  or light
 vibrancy of new life

– S.C. Hickman (2012)

Jeniphler's Art Blog

This started life as a post it… absent mindedly doodled, and i thought it looked interesting, so it got transfered adapted from a simple line drawing. The colours are muted, maybe because it is really a drawing. I am not sure. It reminds me of a heart monitor signal thing, one heart beat one breath one instant. There is a feeling intense, and then it is no more, you dont really remember the whole wave only the journey up to that point , the rest is a bit of blur, no concentrating attention no reflecting, until the moment is gone. The high is always about the journey there, the peak, the point of it. What happens after that is well, whatever the impact the effect of reaching this new point. I wonder if creating something is like this. You dont know what this new thing will bring, life beyond is…

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Kurt Vonnegut: A Homage

My country is in ruins. So I’m a fish in a poisoned fish bowl. I’m mostly just heartsick about this. There should have been hope. This should have been a great country. But we are despised all over the world now. I was hoping to build a country and add to its literature. That’s why I served in World War II, and that’s why I wrote books.

– Kurt Vonnegut, The Last Interview: And Other Conversations

Along with Stanislaw Lem, Philip K. Dick, and J.G. Ballard the fourth Musketeer in my pantheon of authors is Kurt Vonnegut who awakened me from my own long sleep in ideological Slumberville. My gang of four troubadours taught me an alternate mode of existence, they challenged me every step of the way to question everything, to trust nothing more than the truth of my own life. If Diogenes were alive today he’d have called these men friends, he would’ve known them as the creatures they are: intelligent, fierce, and full of that unique ability to care about the creatureliness of all creatures on this good earth.

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J.G. Ballard: The Fragile World

I felt strongly, and still do, that psychoanalysis and surrealism were a key to the truth about existence and the human personality, and also a key to myself.

– J. G. Ballard,  Miracles of Life

Ballard enters one’s blood like a virus that is forever replicating its noxious programs in the neuronal filaments of the mind. As a young man I came upon his stories of bleak Martian landscapes where the voice of Ballard drifts over the alien world revealing a history of past atrocities in such allusive poetic elegance that one is almost tempted to forget the dark truth it presents:

At the Martian polar caps, where the original water vapour in the atmosphere had condensed, a residue of ancient organic matter formed the top-soil, a fine sandy loess containing the fossilized spores of the giant lichens and mosses which had been the last living organisms on the planet millions of years earlier. Embedded in these spores were the crystal lattices of the viruses which had once preyed on the plants, and traces of these were carried back to Earth with the Canaveral and Caspian ballast (366).1

In such passages Ballard offers the keen eye of a scientific naturalist with the caustic yet elliptic truth of a deadly but visible underworld of viruses that will bring to the homeworld of earth not an Edenic  resurrection of ancient life forms but instead the merciless agents of its own final apocalypse. At the end of this bleak tale Bridgeman one of the few who never left earth for the great adventure looks out on a sea of black obsidian dust, the plenum of the viral infestation that has now turned the homeworld into one giant desert:

He watched the pall disappear over the sea, then looked around at the other remnants of Merril’s capsule scattered over the slopes. High in the western night, between Pegasus and Cygnus, shone the distant disc of the planet Mars, which for both himself and the dead astronaut had served for so long as a symbol of unattained ambition. The wind stirred softly through the sand, cooling this replica of the planet which lay passively around him, and at last he understood why he had come to the beach and been unable to leave it. (372)

He didn’t need to leave it, Mars had come to earth with a vengeance.

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Steven Shaviro: New Materialism and Whitehead

Whitehead’s ontological and cosmological concerns put him in connection with the speculative realists; but pragmatically, he is closer to those contemporary thinkers who have been called new materialists. Jane Bennett’s “vital materialism” and Karen Barad’s “agential realism” both seem to me to have resonances with Whitehead’s thought, even though neither of them mentions Whitehead directly (as far as I know). Donna Haraway, on the other hand, has spoken specifically about the importance of Whitehead for her ideas about companion species. None of the new materialisms are based on Whitehead’s system or his technical terms, but they share his project of reconciling phenomenal experience with natural science, without rejecting either.

– Steven Shaviro, Interview on Figure/Ground

Lauren Berlant: The Subtle Art of Cruel Optimism

Intensely political seasons spawn reveries of a different immediacy. People imagine alternative environments where authenticity trumps ideology, truths cannot be concealed, and communication feels intimate, face-to-face. In these times, even politicians imagine occupying a post-public sphere public where they might just somehow make an unmediated transmission to the body politic.

– Lauren Berlant. Cruel Optimism

A filter, after all, separates out noise from communication and, in so doing, makes communication possible. Jacques Attali and Michel Serres have both argued that there is no communication without noise, as noise interferes from within any utterance, threatening its tractability. The performance of distortion that constitutes communication therefore demands discernment, or filtering. However steadfast one’s commitment to truth, there is no avoiding the noise.

The transmission of noise performs political attachment as a sustaining intimate relation, without which great dramas of betrayal are felt and staged. In The Ethical Soundscape, Charles Hirschkind talks about the role of “maieutic listening” in constructing the intimate political publics of Egypt. There, the feeling tones of the affective soundscape produce attachments to and investments in a sense of political and social mutuality that is performed in moments of collective audition. This process involves taking on listening together as itself an of desire. The attainment of that attunement produces a sense of shared worldness, apart from whatever aim or claim the listening public might later bring to a particular political world because of what they have heard.

– Lauren Berlant. Cruel Optimism

Public spheres are always affect worlds, worlds to which people are bound, when they are, by affective projections of a constantly negotiated common interestedness. But an intimate public is more specific. In an intimate public one senses that matters of survival are at stake and that collective mediation through narration and audition might provide some routes out of the impasse and the struggle of the present, or at least some sense that there would be recognition were the participants in the room together.” An intimate public promises the sense of being held in its penumbra. You do not need to audition for membership in it. Minimally, you need just to perform audition, to listen and to be interested in the scene’s visceral You might have been drawn to it because of a curiosity about something minor, unassociated with catastrophe, like knitting or collecting something, or having a certain kind of sexuality, only after which it became a community of support, offering tones of suffering, humor, and cheerleading. Perhaps an illness led to seeking out a community of survival tacticians. In either case, any person can contribute to an intimate public a personal story about not being defeated by what is overwhelming. More likely, though, participants take things in and sometimes circulate what they hear, captioning them with opinion or wonder. But they do not have to do anything to belong. They can be passive and lurk, deciding when to appear and disappear, and consider the freedom to come and go the exercise of sovereign freedom.1

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Franz Kafka: Before the Law – Quote of the Day!

The greatness of Kafka resides in his unique ability to present the first figure of idiocy in the guise of the second figure, as something entirely normal and conventional…

 —from Slavoj Žižek, Living In The End Times

Before the law sits a gatekeeper.  To this gatekeeper comes a man from the country who asks to gain entry into the law.  But the gatekeeper says that he cannot grant him entry at the moment.  The man thinks about it and then asks if he will be allowed to come in later on.  “It is possible,” says the gatekeeper, “but not now.”  At the moment the gate to the law stands open, as always, and the gatekeeper walks to the side, so the man bends over in order to see through the gate into the inside.  When the gatekeeper notices that, he laughs and says: “If it tempts you so much, try it in spite of my prohibition.  But take note: I am powerful. And I am only the most lowly gatekeeper.  But from room to room stand gatekeepers, each more powerful than the other.  I can’t endure even one glimpse of the third.”  The man from the country has not expected such difficulties: the law should always be accessible for everyone, he thinks, but as he now looks more closely at the gatekeeper in his fur coat, at his large pointed nose and his long, thin, black Tartar’s beard, he decides that it would be better to wait until he gets permission to go inside.  The gatekeeper gives him a stool and allows him to sit down at the side in front of the gate.  There he sits for days and years.  He makes many attempts to be let in, and he wears the gatekeeper out with his requests.  The gatekeeper often interrogates him briefly, questioning him about his homeland and many other things, but they are indifferent questions, the kind great men put, and at the end he always tells him once more that he cannot let him inside yet.  The man, who has equipped himself with many things for his journey, spends everything, no matter how valuable, to win over the gatekeeper.  The latter takes it all but, as he does so, says, “I am taking this only so that you do not think you have failed to do anything.”  During the many years the man observes the gatekeeper almost continuously.  He forgets the other gatekeepers, and this one seems to him the only obstacle for entry into the law.  He curses the unlucky circumstance, in the first years thoughtlessly and out loud, later, as he grows old, he still mumbles to himself.  He becomes childish and, since in the long years studying the gatekeeper he has come to know the fleas in his fur collar, he even asks the fleas to help him persuade the gatekeeper.  Finally his eyesight grows weak, and he does not know whether things are really darker around him or whether his eyes are merely deceiving him.  But he recognizes now in the darkness an illumination which breaks inextinguishably out of the gateway to the law.  Now he no longer has much time to live.  Before his death he gathers in his head all his experiences of the entire time up into one question which he has not yet put to the gatekeeper.  He waves to him, since he can no longer lift up his stiffening body. The gatekeeper has to bend way down to him, for the great difference has changed things to the disadvantage of the man. “What do you still want to know, then?” asks the gatekeeper. “You are insatiable.”  “Everyone strives after the law,” says the man, “so how is that in these many years no one except me has requested entry?”  The gatekeeper sees that the man is already dying and, in order to reach his diminishing sense of hearing, he shouts at him, “Here no one else can gain entry, since this entrance was assigned only to you.  I’m going now to close it.

Translation by Ian Johnston

Slavoj Zizek: The Obscene Machine – Quote of the Day!

The threat today is not passivity but pseudo-activity, the urge to “be active,” to “participate,” to mask the Nothingness of what goes on. People intervene all the time, “do something”; academics participate in meaningless “debates,” and so forth, and the truly difficult thing is to step back, to withdraw from all this. Those in power often prefer even a “critical” participation, a dialogue, to silence-just to engage us in a “dialogue,” to make sure our ominous passivity is broken.

The anxious expectation that nothing will happen, that capitalism will go on indefinitely, the desperate demand to do something, to revolutionize capitalism, is a fake. The will to revolutionary change emerges as an urge, as an “I cannot do otherwise,” or it is worthless. In the terms of Bernard Williams’s distinction between ought and must,’ an authentic revolution is by definition performed as a Must-it is not something we “ought to do,” as an ideal for which we are striving, but something we cannot but do, since we cannot do otherwise. This is why today’s Leftist worry that revolution will not occur, that global capitalism will just go on indefinitely, is false insofar as it turns revolution into a moral obligation, into something we ought to do while we fight the inertia of the capitalist present.

The deadlock of “resistance” brings us back to the topic of parallax: all is needed is a slight shift in our perspective, and all the activity of “resistance,” of bombarding those in power with impossible “subversive” (ecological, feminist, antiracist, anti-globalist …) demands, looks like an internal process of feeding the machine of power, providing the material to keep it in motion. The logic of this shift should be universalized: the split between the public Law and its obscene superego supplement confronts us with the very core of the politico-ideological parallax: the public Law and its superego supplement are not two different parts of the legal edifice, they are one and the same “content”-with a slight shift in perspective, the dignified and impersonal Law looks like an obscene machine of jouissance. Another slight shift, and the legal regulations prescribing our duties and guaranteeing our rights look like the expression of a ruthless power whose message to us, its subjects, is: “I can do whatever I want with you!” Kafka, of course, was the inimitable master of this parallax shift with regard to the edifice of legal power: “Kafka” is not so much a unique style of writing as a weird innocent new gaze upon the edifice of the Law which practices a parallax shift of perceiving a gigantic machinery of obscene jouissance in what previously looked like a dignified edifice of the legal Order.

see kafka

1. Slavoj Zizek. The Parallax View (Short Circuits) (Kindle Locations 5755-5759). Kindle Edition.

Old Bill Lee: Sultan of Sewers

The Socco Chico is the meeting place, the nerve center, the switchboard of Tangier. Practically everyone in town shows there once a day at least. Many residents of Tangier spend most of their waking hours in the Socco. On all sides you see men washed up here in hopeless, dead-end situations, waiting for job offers, acceptance checks, visas, permits that will never come. All their lives they have drifted with an unlucky current, always taking the wrong turn. Here they are. This is it. Last stop: the Socco Chico of Tangier.

The market of psychic exchange is as glutted as the shops. A nightmare feeling of stasis permeates the Socco, like nothing can happen, nothing can change. Conversations disintegrate in cosmic inanity. People sit at café tables, silent and separate as stones. No other relation than physical closeness is possible. Economic laws, untouched by any human factor, evolve equations of ultimate stasis. Someday the young Spaniards in gabardine trench coats talking about soccer, the Arab guides and hustlers pitching pennies and smoking their kief pipes, the perverts sitting in front of the cafés looking over the boys, the boys parading past, the mooches and pimps and smugglers and money changers, will be frozen forever in a final, meaningless posture.

Futility seems to have gained a new dimension in the Socco. Sitting at a café table, listening to some “proposition,” I would suddenly realize that the other was telling a fairy story to a child, the child inside himself: pathetic fantasies of smuggling, of trafficking in diamonds, drugs, guns, of starting nightclubs, bowling alleys, travel agencies. Or sometimes there was nothing wrong with the idea, except it would never be put into practice—the crisp, confident voice, the decisive gestures, in shocking contrast to the dead, hopeless eyes, drooping shoulders, clothes beyond mending, now allowed to disintegrate undisturbed.

Some of these men have ability and intelligence, like Brinton, who writes obscene novels and exists on a small income. He undoubtedly has talent, but his work is hopelessly unsalable. He has intelligence, the rare ability to see relations between disparate factors, to coordinate data, but he moves through life like a phantom, never able to find the time, place and person to put anything into effect, to realize any project in terms of three-dimensional reality. He could have been a successful business executive, anthropologist, explorer, criminal, but the conjuncture of circumstances was never there. He is always too late or too early. His abilities remain larval, discarnate. He is the last of an archaic line, or the first here from another space-time way—in any case a man without context, of no place and no time.

– William S. Burroughs, Word Virus

What is there to add? Growing up in the fifties and sixties, being a rebel, loner, and wild man one drifted in and out of the madness as if it were the natural course of things. The Beats, Henry Miller, Charles Bukowski, etc. were not so much our troubadours as they were the misfit vanguard of some strange new sign of life. As if they had moved into a future that slid sideways, sidereal to our own, marked out their own nightmare paradises, bitten the fruit of other strange forbidden trees.

Scholars of the night and streets they dove into the cesspool of existence and brought back the darkness instead of the light, but this was no ordinary darkness: this was the depths of hell, a place we all live in but never knew before. Most of us live with blinkers, blinded to our own inescapable truth, the truth of our own nightmarish realizations. Never realizing that hell is paradise, a place of unbidden dreams, a realm of hope and plenty, we wander as zombies, asleep, frightened, unable to envision an escape into one of these zones of pure joy.

It took these poets of the madness, shamans of a joyous despair, to lead the way out; or, was it the way in? The Labyrinth is neither in or out, it leads nowhere; or, it leads elsewhere, toward some hidden zone of being where the nightmares live.  Men like Old Bill Lee walked before us, explored the intricacies of these dark chambers, and returned to tell us about love and the thoughts of love. We have only to follow this Philosophy of the Sewer, break out of the frozen world of our caged normalcy and begin to know and live a life that is what is

– S.C. Hickman, A Zombie’s Journal

Deleuze: Quote of the Day!

Anglo-American literature constantly shows these ruptures, these characters who create their line of flight, who create through a line of flight. Thomas Hardy, Melville, Stevenson, Virginia Woolf, Thomas Wolfe, Lawrence, Fitzgerald, Miller, Kerouac. In them everything is departure, becoming, passage, leap, daemon, relationship with the outside. They create a new Earth; but perhaps the movement of the earth is deter-ritorialization itself. American literature operates according to geographical lines: the flight towards the West, the discovery that the true East is in the West, the sense of the frontiers as something to cross, to push back, to go beyond. The becoming is geographical. There is no equivalent in France. The French are too human, too historical, too concerned with the future and the past. They spend their time in in-depth analysis. They do not know how to become, they think in terms of historical past and future.

– Deleuze, “On the Superiority of Anglo-American Literature,” Dialogues

I like what Terence is saying here… it is important! Until philosophers open up and truly engage in this new media our culture is doomed. We no longer live within the older framework of books, why not accept that fact, begin to adjust and use the democratic medium of the internet to begin healing the nations, and each other? Why do academic philosophers feel afraid to use every means they have available to open up and engage those to whom they aspire to communicate?

In fact I’ve often wondered why philosophers haven’t taken advantage of such new applications as TeamSpeak, Ventrillo (applications that allow for hundreds to listen or exchange in dialogue; hold lectures, etc.); online collaborative tools, etc. I almost think that most philosophers are too tame, to unadventurous, too grounded in the older book based world view to explore these newer technologies, much less actually use them to engage with each other or the world.

Yes, yes, I see video and you-tube, but that is passé and one-sided, we need more open collaborative dialogue. And, I hate to say it, but the young are light years ahead of such staid philosophies. Even at my age I have explored the gaming worlds of Eve Online, Lotro, Secret World, Rift, Guild Wars and used both TeamSpeak and Ventrillo to communicate with the denizens of multivalent guilds collaborating toward objectives and binding each other to friendships across thousands of miles, working with people from Russian, China, Africa, Australia, Europe, US, South America… if philosophers were as adept at this type of cooperation and engagement as these young and old gamers are we would begin to formulate some sound alternatives in this world….

I’ve often thought we need a sort of RadioLivePhilosophy blog, something like what Figure/Ground is doing but with actual live instances. Easily done with such things as Internet Radio or Podcasts:

Are collaborative sites like Zoho, Huddle, GoToMeeting, etc.


Is dialogue possible across the gap of intellectual, spiritual, and social incommensurability? Is any desire of open exchange in philosophy doomed to frustration due to the sociological determination of the conditions of academic status and communication? Do digital media change nothing in terms of the cliques and lobbies and clubs of mutual admiration that constitute much of the academic milieu as a closed society? Or can the internet favour acts of enunciation, and thus of individuation, of a new and more democratic nature?

I find the “one-sided dialogue”, a Feyerabendian concept, where one goes through the moves of a dialogue with someone who is incapable of exchange on free and equal terms (except with respected peers, selected “cronies”), in the hope of furthering the discussion of ideas and of continuing one’s own individuation and that of one’s readers, a very interesting idea, and a useful spiritual practice.

I think philosophical…

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Zizek, Badiou, Kotsko: The Revolutionary Sociopath

 We must create new symbolic forms for our collective actions. … We must find a new sun…

– Alain Badiou, Philosophy for Militants

In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life’s prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly—only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!

– Karl Marx, Critique of Goth Program

Why do we need revolutionary sociopaths? If the soldier is a figure who transfigures humanity, and if indeed it is through the deeds of such a being that we attain something eternal as Badiou suggests in his Philosophy for Militants, then why is it that this figure of a new heroism should be sociopathic? Zizek remarks that there is a simple reason for this: our society needs sociopaths if it is to function “normally”; only they can save it, that is, society’s rules have to be broken for the sake of society itself (126).1

Adam Kotsko admits that we need to draw a line between real-life psychopaths or sociopaths  and their fantasy portrayals to be seen on our nightly television sets or at the movies. For Kotsko the dividing line between the reality and the fantasy is one of social mastery.2 As Kotsko remarks, “The sociopath is an individual who transcends the social, who is not bound by it in any gut-level way and who can therefore use it purely as a tool” (Kindle Locations 142-145). Speaking of the dream worlds of our TV’s and movies and their impact on the modern conformist culture of our age, Kotsko remarks that what motivates the fantasy of the sociopath is the simple truth that: our society really is broken.

The question I would ask, however, is what we’re using as a point of comparison. Every social norm, it seems, even the apparently “natural” social order of the family, can be exploited for sociopathic ends or be caught up in the vicious cycle that generates and supports sociopathic behavior. This is because, as I argued in Awkwardness, there is no “natural” social order— all social norms are no more than functional guidelines that we use to help us cope with the anxiety and conflict that comes with being the fundamentally social beings that we are. Rather than coming down from heaven or being grounded in some kind of natural law (such as the biological or evolutionary imperatives that supposedly ground the family structure), our social orders are long-term strategies for dealing with each other, tools that are useful in a given time and place with no guarantee that they will last. (Kotsko, Kindle Locations 212-219).

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Neo-noir and Social Critique

Samuel Johnson in his usual moral aptness once remarked:

It may be laid down as a Position which will seldom deceive, that when a Man cannot bear his own Company there is something wrong. He must fly from himself, either because he feels a Tediousness in Life from the Equipoise of an empty Mind, which, having no Tendency to one Motion more than another but as it is impelled by some external Power, must always have recourse to foreign Objects; or he must be afraid of the Intrusion of some unpleasing Ideas, and, perhaps, is always struggling to escape from the Remembrance of a Loss, the Fear of a Calamity, or some other Thought of greater Horror.

– Samuel Johnson, Two Rambler papers (1750)

Not sure what Dr. Johnson would make of our neo-noir age, but if the work he wrote on his dear friend, the poet, Richard Savage has anything to offer it is his unflinching ability to confront harsh facts, even if those facts are in the life of one close by; the life of one’s own friend and the atrocities of the heart that betray even the best of us. I often await the historical crime writer who takes on the mantle of Dr. Johnson and Boswell as the new Sherlock Holmes of the Eighteenth Century. One could imagine Johnson and Boswell traipsing through the sordid districts of London in that delirious age of the early Enlightenment. The indefatigable moralist, conservative to a degree, driven by his gout and ill-health to maddening bouts with writing and talking to keep the dark at bay; he was yet, in his youth a more radical instigator having written certain political pamphlets against the King, The False Alarm and Taxation No Tyranny. It’s this early Johnson we’d love to see detecting crime, solving the deadliest murders of his day, and confronting the criminal acts of tyranny in all its guises.

That I love crime fiction and the subversive hijinks of neo-noir is obvious to my friends, and a debilitating epithet for my enemies derisive musings. That I bear my own company just fine is to the detriment of Dr. Johnson, yet I will agree with him that having recourse to foreign Objects is quite satisfying from the tediousness not of Life but of the ever-productive never-resting pursuits of an over-active brain that endlessly floats between philosophical speculation and familial matters. Many of today’s greatest crime writers and neo-noir fictionalists reside in foreign climes. In Sweden (Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankell) and Norway (Jo Nesbø) and Shetland Islands (Ann Cleeve) and Ireland (Ken Bruen) and Scotland (Ian Rankin) and Manchester (Ray Banks) and London (Derek Raymond) and Italy (Andrea Camilleri) and… many, many more…

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Peter Sloterdijk: Anthropotechnics and Homo immunologicus

A theologian would have had no difficulty preserving the mystery… for he can employ contradictions. But since science does not have such a recourse, it is not an exaggeration for me to say that the difficulties of a fantasy writer who sides with science are generally greater than those of a theologian who acknowledges the perfection of God….

– Stanislaw Lem, Microworlds

Robin Mackay in his introduction to Collapse III says that “Deleuze himself told us simply to use concepts ‘like a toolbox’?”1 Such a riposte typifies the most deleterious aspect of the ‘success’ currently enjoyed by Deleuze; for any precision tool must be mastered before it is ‘put to work’, and for this one must understand, in turn, its own workings and its interaction with the rest of the conceptual ‘equipment’ in hand (ibid). Yet, even more than mastering the tool itself, one must understand the use of tools, and even more one must enter into apprenticeship with a Master of the Craft in which these tools are used if one is ever to truly put these tools to work in an effective manner.

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Slavoj Zizek: On the Communist Idea

I call an ‘Idea’ an abstract totalization of the three basic elements: a truth procedure, a belonging to history, and an individual subjectivation. … an Idea is the subjectivation of an interplay between the singularity of a truth procedure and a representation of History.

– Alain Badiou, The Idea of Communism

‘Begin from the beginning…’, remarks Slavoj Zizek; yet, adds, “descend to the starting point, but with a difference.” (210)1

Those who sit on the fence will be torn to shreds by their own indecisiveness. Today we have a choice to make: What kind of future do you want? Communist or socialist? This is the question Slavoj Zizek repeats with gusto and a polemical fervor that offers no third alternative. “The only true question today is: do we endorse the predominant naturalization of capitalism, or does today’s global capitalism contain antagonisms powerful enough to prevent its indefinite reproduction?”1 At the moment there are only four such antagonisms at play in the world today according to Zizek: first the threat of ecological catastrophe; second, the inappropriateness of the notion of private property for so-called ‘intellectual property’; third, the socio-ethical implications of new techno-scientific developments (especially in biogenetics); and, finally, new forms of apartheid, new Walls and Slums around the world.(214)

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Timothy Morton: The Aesthetic Dimension

Phenomenology, then, is an essential cognitive task of confronting the threat that things pose in their very being. … After phenomenology, we can only conclude that a great deal of philosophizing is not an abstract description or dispassionate accounting, but only an intellectual defense against the threatening intimacy of things.

– Timothy Morton, Realist Magic

Peter Schwenger in his book The Tears of Things comes very close to the same central insight upon which Graham Harman has built his entire metaphysical edifice. We discover that for the most part the everyday tools that we use: hammers, rakes, pens, computers, etc., remain inconspicuous; overlooked by those of us who use such tools; noticing them, if at all, as necessities that help us get on with our own work. Yet, the paradox of this situation is that there are moments when the tool threatens us, becomes an obstacle to our enterprising projects, and it is at such moments that we suddenly awaken from our metaphysical sleep and notice these objects in a strange new light: when the hammer iron head flies free of the wooden handle, or the computer suddenly freezes, the screen goes black, then sparking and sending out small frissions of stench and smoke from the flat box that encases it; at such moments we become defensive, threatened by the power of these material objects that we no longer control, that in fact are broken and exposed, beyond our ability to know just what they are.

We also become aware that the tool is part of a larger sphere: it does not exist in and of itself, but is applied to materials in concert with other tools to make something that may then be seen in its turn as “equipment for residency” in parallel to Le Corbusier’s famous pronouncement that “a house is a machine for living in.” The full network of equipment’s interrelated assignments and intentions makes up what the subject perceives as “world.” The dynamic of this world, at whatever level, is one of care – care of the subject’s being. The business of equipment, then, is not just to build an actual house but as much as possible, and in the broadest sense, to make the subject feel at home in the state of existing.1

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Timothy Morton – Realist Magic: Objects, Ontology, Causality

The title of this book is a play on the literary genre of magic realism. Later in the twentieth century, writers such as Gabriel García Márquez developed a writing that incorporated elements of magic and paradox.

– Timothy Morton, from Realist Magic

Timothy Morton’s new work is out, Realist Magic: Objects, Ontology, Causality, which is available from Open Humanities Press,  and is online at the University of Michigan site. I haven’t had a chance to read through his work, but have enjoyed his previous books on literature and ecology. He is a standup guy and excellent writer. A member of the Speculative Realist movement in its off-shoot branch of Object-Oriented Ontology (OOO) along with Graham Harman, Ian Bogost, and Levi R. Bryant. It should be an interesting read whether your accept or reject its basic premises, and you should enjoy the rigor, energy and eloquence of its argument.

Realist Magic is an exploration of causality from the point of view of object-oriented ontology. I argue that causality is wholly an aesthetic phenomenon. Aesthetic events are not limited to interactions between humans or between humans and painted canvases or between humans and sentences in dramas. They happen when a saw bites into a fresh piece of plywood. They happen when a worm oozes out of some wet soil. They happen when a massive object emits gravity waves. When you make or study art you are not exploring some kind of candy on the surface of a machine. You are making or studying causality. The aesthetic dimension is the causal dimension.

– Timothy Morton, from the Introduction Realist Magic

Nick Land: The Sponge that absorbed God

The labyrinth is the unconscious of God, or the repressed of monotheism. … What God really was is something incompatible with anything ‘being’ at all. Real composition is not extrinsically created nature, but if this is a Spinozism, it is one in which substance itself is sacrificed to the scales. So that atheism is in the end (and end without end) an immense sponge, a mega-sponge, the dissolution of boundaries in all of its positive complexity.

– Nick Land, The Thirst for Annihilation

The darkness shines like the terror of an angel, the clipped wings trailing bloody suns through the labyrinths of time, where the consuming flames like a tortured love are inextricably linked to the death of everything. “Agony alone has the power to seduce us, and it is to our most savage torments that we most ardently cling. We know that a life that was not torched into charcoal by desire would be an unendurable insipidity” (175).1  An ancient music of howls and screams purges this deadly angel, subtracting him from the torpor of a twisted thought, melding his mind to the core heat sink of a black hole where the zero point of eternity and time fold into the labyrinthine scales.

Only those isolates who partake of this anti-logos understand the unbounded freedom of oblivion, they know that it too serves a god. The density between the stars is almost too much for such creatures, they need the silences of immanence rather than the transcendent specters of  those angelic hierarchies to absolve all those crimes of eternity. Its only in the gaps, absences, discontinuities; in the fragments, juxtapositions, and abandoned plans of feral utopias; in the flows of quantum spinal cores collapsing toward the center of an intoxicated dementia that we discover the savage gods of our blasted inheritance. In this wraith-realm the virological horrors begin. Here is Bataille’s community of the disjecta: a scattered remnant, fallen revenants of the Void. “Bataille is less an ‘interesting writer’ than a loathsome vice, and to be influenced by him is less a cultural achievement than a virological horror; far closer to the spasmodic rot of untreated syphilis than to the enrichment of an intellect” (178).

Even as you read these words the fragmented text of your own being is being annihilated moment by moment. The illusions of your habitual mind, the small repetitions of others influences, the traces of fabricated imbrications of thought that mark your psyche undo the very fibers of your own empty reflective nothingness.

“Confronting the absolute posed by our inevitable extinction, we feel brave, proud of ourselves, we permit ourselves a little indulgence, swooning in the delectations of morbidity. To face up to death is more than the others do, our haunted grimace becomes a complacent smile, we run our hands lovingly over the lichen-spattered graves.” (180)

Even the angels envy our infinity of death. “Across the aeons our mass hydro-carbon enjoys a veritable harem of souls” (180). And here you thought Life was for the living, much more the dead. Death feeds on us each second of our lives, the cells you have now do not belong to the creature you were at entry into this labyrinth. “Matter is in flight from the possibility of essence as if from an original pertinency of ontology, and life is merely the most aberrant and virological variant of this flight” (181). Adventurers in the art of death, we travel in a dimension of confusion seeking out the threads of an impossible externality. Quarantined in this compositional ghetto on the edge of a void we sift the slums of creation for signs of God’s body only to find that it is immanent to the  virological madness of our own reasoning minds. Ariadne’s threads are none other than the filaments of our own neuronal tentacles tallying the fragments of an unbounded infinity.

1. Nick Land. The Thirst for Annihilation. (Routledge 1992)

Nick Land: Mandelbrot and the gibberings of the Lobotomy Ward

Academic prose has the remarkable capacity to plunge one into a sublime dystopian nightmare…

– Nick Land, The Thirst for Annihilation

Nick Land once remarked that just one of Cioran’s casual jokes is of inestimably greater value in making contact with Nietzsche than the full corpus of Heidegger’s ponderously irrelevant Nietzsche.1 In the same light he said the Deleuze’s early work on Nietzsche was saved because he was one of the few academics who could actually think! Even Klossowski’s work was worth reading although as Land remarked it “stinks of transcendental philosophy” (155).  Otherwise, Land tells us, everything else everything else written by academics is nothing but the “mystical vacuity, the gibberings of a lobotomy ward” (155).

Only one book fulfilled this scholar of the night’s vision of an approach to Nietzsche, that was the work of Georges Bataille’s, Sur Nietzsche. Upon encountering this work Land remarked on his mounting excitement:

…no sign of scholarship or servility, prose that burns like an ember in the void, precision, profundity, exprit. The shock is almost lethal. The euphoria blazes painfully for weeks. At last! A book whose aberration is on the scale of Nietzsche’s own; a sick and lonely book. The fact that such a book could be published even dampens one’s enthusiasm for the universal eradication of the species. (156)

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Quote of the Day: Badiou on Plato and Love

Plato is quite precise in what he says about love: a seed of universality resides in the impulse towards love. The experience of love is an impulse towards something that he calls the Idea. Thus, even when I am merely admiring a beautiful body, whether I like it or not, I am in movement towards the idea of Beauty. I think – in quite different terms, naturally – along the same lines, namely that love encompasses the experience of the possible transition from the pure randomness of chance to a state that has universal value. Starting out from something that is simply an encounter, a trifle, you learn that you can experience the world on the basis of difference and not only in terms of identity. And you can even be tested and suffer in the process. In today’s world, it is generally thought that individuals only pursue their own self-interest. Love is an antidote to that. Provided it isn’t conceived only as an exchange of mutual favours, or isn’t calculated way in advance as a profitable investment, love really is a unique trust placed in chance. It takes us into key areas of the experience of what is difference and, essentially, leads to

– Alain Badiou,  In Praise of Love

Slavoj Zizek: Why a return to Plato?

This, then, is our basic philosophico-political choice (decision) today: either repeat in a materialist vein Plato’s assertion of the meta-physical dimension of “eternal Ideas,” or continue to dwell in the postmodern universe of “democratic-materialist” historicist relativism, caught in the vicious cycle of the eternal struggle with “premodern” fundamentalisms.

– Slavoj Zizek, Less than Nothing

If one wanted to find the center of Slavoj Zizek’s book, Less than Nothing, one could do no better than start at the question: “So why a return to Plato?” It is just here that he brings up the great divide in philosophy today, which he borrows from his friend Alain Badiou’s Logic of Worlds (Logiques des mondes): the opposition between “democratic materialism” and its opposite, “materialist dialectics”: the axiom which condenses the first is “There is nothing but bodies and languages …,” to which materialist dialectics adds “… with the exception of truths.”1

This need to add an immaterial element to the materialist program is central to Badiou’s gesture. His incorporation of incorporeal truths as the excess that any materialist program needs. As Zizek iterates it, as “a materialist, and in order to be thoroughly materialist, Badiou focuses on the idealist topos par excellence: how can a human animal forsake its animality and put its life in the service of a transcendent Truth? …Badiou repeats, within the materialist frame, the elementary gesture of idealist anti-reductionism: human Reason cannot be reduced to the result of evolutionary adaptation; art is not just a heightened procedure for producing sensual pleasure but a medium of Truth; and so on.”(ibid.)

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Quote of the Day: Simon Critchley

The poem of the mind in the act of finding
What will suffice.

– Wallace Stevens, On Modern Poetry

I think Stevens’s poetry allows us to recast what is arguably the fundamental concern of philosophy, namely the relation between thought and things or mind and world, the concern that becomes, in the early modern period, the basic problem of epistemology. It will be my general claim that Stevens recasts this concern in a way that lets us cast it away. Stevens’s verse shows us a way of overcoming epistemology. … I am not mining Stevens’s verse for philosophical puzzles and aperçus in pleasing poetic garb. Nothing would be more fatuous. On the contrary, I am trying to show two things: first, that Stevens’s poetry – and by implication much other poetry – contains deep, consequent and instructive philosophical insight, and second that this insight is best expressed poetically.

…Stevens’s late poems stubbornly show how the mind cannot seize hold of the ultimate nature of the reality that faces it. Reality retreats before the imagination that shapes and orders it. Poetry is therefore the experience of failure. As Stevens puts it in a famous late poem, the poet gives us ideas about the thing, not the thing itself. The insight towards which I see Stevens’s verse making its way is an acceptance of both the necessity of poetry and its limitation, the acknowledgement that things merely are and that we are things too, things endowed with imagination. Far from any otherworldly sophism, in a language free from mysticism, Stevens’s poetry can teach a certain disposition of calm, an insight into things that comes from having them in sight. Stevens can teach a thoughtfulness in the face of things and encourage a certain humility and nobility. In the face of overwhelming pressure of a reality defined by the noise of war and ever-enlarging incoherence of information, the cultivation of such a disposition might allow us, in Stevens’s words, to press back against that pressure of reality with the power of poetic imagination and keep open the precious space of reflection.

– Simon Critchley, Things Merely Are

Alain Badiou: The Ethics of Truth

It is a difficult task, for the philosopher, to pull names away from a usage that prostitutes them. Already Plato had to take all possible pains to hold his ground with the word justice, against the sophist’s quibbling and devious usage.

– Alain Badiou, Ethics

Against its misappropriation of an ethics deemed a smug nihilism, a conservative order that has proclaimed its own universal ethical dementia through economic enforcement and unbridled conquest of financial resources, Badiou martials the plaintiff case of a an impossible possible: an ethics of truths by which “every loving encounter, every scientific re-foundation, every artistic invention and every sequence of emancipatory politics” tears itself away from such nihilistic smugness.(39)1

Badiou tells us that only a particular kind of animal, the human animal, has – so far as we know, entered into that composition that composes a subject that enables the “passing of a truth along its path”(40). “This is when the human animal is convoked to be the immortal that he was not” (40). But what does Badiou mean by immortal? Badiou explicates:

An immortal: this is what the worst situations that can be inflicted upon Man show him to be, in so far as he distinguishes himself within the varied and rapacious flux of life. … So if the ‘rights of man’ exist, they are surely not rights of life against death, or rights of survival against misery. They are the rights of the Immortal, affirmed in their own right, or the rights of the Infinite, exercised over the contingency of suffering and death. The fact that in the end we all die, that only dust remains, in no way alters Man’s identity as immortal at the instant in which he affirms himself as someone who runs counter to the temptation of wanting-to-be-an-animal to which circumstances may expose him. (12)

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Wisdom’s Lover: The Philosopher and the Poet

In those eloquent passages of the Phaedrus on the divine madness of prophets, mystics, poets, and lovers, Plato’s mentor Socrates with subtle irony and elliptic elegance, his own madness notwithstanding,  once offered this advice to the poets:

If anyone comes to the gates of poetry and expects to become an adequate poet by acquiring expert knowledge of the subject without the Muses’ madness, he will fail, and his self-controlled verses will be eclipsed by the poetry of men who have been driven out of their minds. 1

(Translated by A. Nehamas and P. Woodruff)

That this divine madness was a divine gift not to be confused with physical disease the ancients knew well. As E.R. Dodds in his excellent study The Greeks and the Irrational reminds us it is not clear in what this “given” element consists; but if we consider the occasions on which the Iliad-poet himself appeals to the Muses for help, we shall see that it falls on the side of content and not of form.2

The idea of poetic knowledge coming as a reliable gift of the Muses is central to poetry – as Dodds reminds us, for in an age which possessed no written documents, where should first-hand evidence be found? Just as the truth about the future would be attained only if man were in touch with a knowledge wider than his own, so the truth about the past could be preserved only on a like condition. Its human repositories, the poets, had (like the seers) their technical resources, their professional training; but vision of the past, like insight into the future, remained a mysterious faculty, only partially under its owner’s control, and dependent in the last resort on divine grace. By that grace poet and seer alike enjoyed a knowledge denied to other men. Dodds mentions that it is recent scholars who have emphasized that it is to Democritus, rather than to Plato, that we must assign the credit of having introduced into literary theory this conception of the poet as a man set apart from common humanity by an abnormal inner experience, and of poetry as a revelation apart from reason and above reason. Maybe this is another reason Plato hated Democritus and never even mentioned that great progenitor of materialism. *(Kindle Locations 1606-1609)

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Alain Badiou: Toward a Supreme Fiction

The problem of young people in poor neighbourhoods or cités is the problem of the absence of a fiction. It has nothing to do with a social problem. The problem is the lack of a great fiction as support for a great belief.

– Alain Badiou, Philosophy for Militants

Begin, ephebe, by perceiving the idea
Of this invention, this invented world,
The inconceivable idea of the sun.

– Wallace Stevens, Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction

Alain Badiou encourages us, welcomes us to join him in seeking the, as Stevens once said, “the final belief” a supreme fiction that can sustain us through these troubling times. And not only sustain us but give us hope and truth, for truth is itself – as we have known since Lacan, truth itself is in a structure of fiction. The process of truth is also the process of a new fiction.(77)1

The difficulty lies in the fact that we must find a great fiction without possessing a proper name for it.(78) Or as Stevens so eloquently put it in poetry:

Without a name and nothing to be desired
If only imagined but imagined well….

Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction

Badiou would move us to be unafraid even as atheists to resume the long dialogue between mathematics and religion:

On this point modern mathematics rejoins classical theology. You probably know the famous text of Saint Paul in Romans 7. The direct correlation between law and desire appears here under the name of sin: ‘If it had not been for the law, I should not have known sin. I should not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said you shall not covet.’ Sin is that dimension of desire that finds its object beyond and after the prescription by the law. Finally, this means finding the object that is without name.(70)

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Alain Badiou: The Soldier as Metaphor

Today, this configuration is in a state of total crisis. One of the symptoms of this crisis is the return of the old traditions and the seeming resurrection of old dead gods.

– Alain Badiou, Philosophy for Militants

Is this it? Is this our problem: a return of the old sacrificial gods that bespeak a disjunction between the human and the inhuman?  And not an integration of the inhuman into a new sequence of the historical existence of humanity. “Within our own humanity, we must come to terms with the obscure, violent, and – at the same time – luminous and peaceful element of inhumanity within the human element itself” (41).1 Are the rights of humans also as Badiou suggests the ‘rights of the infinite’ (Lyotard)? He reminds us that humans are irreducible to ‘animality’, that the inhuman is a creative potential, the element which does not yet exist but must become. “Humanity as a natural totality does not exist, since humanity is identical to the local victories that it obtains over its immanent element of inhumanity.”(42)

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Alain Badiou: The Politics of Hope

I am perfectly in agreement with the statement that philosophy depends on certain nonphilosophical domains, which I have proposed to call the ‘conditions’ of philosophy.

 –  Alain Badiou,  Philosophy for Militants

The nonphilosophical domains upon which philosophy depends for Badiou are science, art, politics and love. In science his work depends on a new “concept of the infinite”; in politics on new forms of “revolutionary politics”; in art, the poetry of Mallarmé, Rimbaud, Pessoa, Mandelstam or Wallace Stevens, on the prose of Samuel Beckett; and, finally, on love the context of psychoanalysis and the questions of sexuation and gender that have emerged in our time. (3) 1 And, he offers, we must accept that philosophy always comes in the aftermath of such nonphilosophical domains, is a second rate affair at best.(3)

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Cengiz Erdem of Senselogi once again continues his glance at the oppositional positions within our moment of philosophy. From Plato through Badiou, Zizek, Brassier he gathers the threads that shift us between being and non-being, trauma and the immanence of eternity!


In my previous post I’ve attempted to trace, clarify and briefly define certain positions and oppositions within the philosophical field today. It is my conviction that at the root of philosophical enquiry lies a series of dialectical relationships between affirmation and negation, transcendence and immanence, reality in-itself and reality for-us, finitude and infinity, being and non-being.

In this post I will take it upon myself to further elaborate on these oppositions in the way of establishing my own position surrounding the void that splits as it unites transcendental empiricism and transcendental materialism.

Now, we know that according to Plato time doesn’t really exist and that it is merely a representation of the Real, an image of eternity beyond life as we live it. Needless to say temporality is the transcendental condition of human finitude, it is the truth of mortality that produces human subjects as beings in time. The change…

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Alain Badiou: The Apprenticeship to Signs

It will forever be the case that we must endure our thoughts for as long as the night lasts. … Among such nocturnal thoughts, none is probably more worrying for us today than those that are tied to the political condition.

– Alain Badiou, Philosophy for Miltants

Confronting the inevitable apathy at the heart of leftist political struggle around the world Zizek asks:

What are we to do in such depressive times when dreams seem to fade away? Is the only choice we have between the nostalgic-narcissistic remembrance of sublime moments of enthusiasm and the cynical-realist explanation of why these attempts to change the situation inevitably had to fail? 1

Zizek suggests that these small explosions of emancipatory politics that have thrust themselves to the surface of our world are actually subliminal fragments from the utopic future. Our dystopian times should be exposed to a divinatory hermeneutics that allows these strange signs to be read as the distorted (sometimes even perverted) fragments of a utopian future that lies dormant in the present as its hidden potential. But what is this hidden potential? How can we release it into the world, bring about such emancipatory energy to transform our world? What kind of world would that entail? Does philosophy have an answer?

Badiou tells us that the future of philosophy “lies in its past”.2 He sees two tendencies within philosophy: the power of the Academy and the power of the Militant. The academic philosopher is the great transmitter of knowledge and tradition; while the militant is the confrontational antagonist of all knowledge and academic pretensions who offers the challenge of both individual and social change. As Badiou emphasizes the Militant philosophy corrupts; that is to say:

To corrupt here means to teach the possibility of refusing all blind submission to established opinions. To corrupt means to give the youth certain means to change their opinion with regard to social norms, to substitute debate and rational critique for imitation and approval, and even, if the question is a matter of principle, to substitute revolt for obedience. (10)

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