Drawing up my list for 2016 of books I’ve been putting off for too long. For the first few months I’ll shift between philosophy and poetry. Guided more and more by materialist dialectics of late I’m working through both the mathematical idealist and vitalist mystic traditions that lead up to Badiou, Zizek, Deleuze and other contemporary currents. In materialist dialectics we start with bodies and languages, and the exception between of truth. More and more the new forms of materialism as against the older metaphysical or naturalist substantialism (i.e., substantive formalism or extensiveness; dualist metaphysics) the new forms are productive of an insubstantial or inclusive appreciation of incorporeals: truth and languages being part of this materialist dialectic. It’s taken me a while to wrap my head around much of the thought concerning this new view onto materialism, ontology, etc. For years I was a typical bedrock metaphysical materialist in line with Democritus, Stoics, Epicurus/Lucretian thought up through the whole history of what is now termed democratic materialism (i.e., naturalist and scientific forms). It took some time over the past few years for my mind to change and see other possibilities.
One of my issues with Zizek is that he practices a form of dialectical materialism that I agree with in principle, but that he himself is almost too verbose and inchoate, unclarified and ambiguous in clarifying in his writings. One would like an editor to take his two recent books and apply a scalpel. He can be long winded and abstruse to the point that one loses the thread of what he is conveying. He needs compression and less verbiage. He writes as he talks which is not always a good thing. Prose unlike speech needs a stylistic grace which Zizek lacks. He is to put it mildly a ‘bull-in-the-proverbial-china-closet’ philosopher, clearing the room of everything but his own self-reflecting nothingness.
Badiou on the other hand is almost too stringent and correct in his writing. The intensity and condensed rhetoric is bound to both analytic and continental schools that appear to act as strong influences and superegos over his shoulder as he writes. It’s as if he knows the tradition within which he is writing too well. One would like him to forget a little and say it with less iron locks set down over his discourse. Yet, he has things to say that need to be said.
With Deleuze and the vitalist tradition arising from Spinoza, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Bataille, Canguilhem, Foucault, Simondan, etc., along with the addition of my readings in Nick Land and others I keep one foot in the life-worlds of force, biology, quantum mechanics, etc. One cannot have the one tradition without the other. The only enemy of both is Idealism, although not Ideas.
I’ll add more on science, poets, novels, history, sociology, etc. at a future time. I think when one draws up a reading list it’s not set in iron but rather a reminder of one’s path, a way into one’s own house…
- Alain Badiou: The Complete Being and Event (Being and Event I and II) : I’ve put these two works off for a while, dabbled at chapters here and there; yet, have not done a systematic (mis)reading – so this is my point of contact for Jan/Feb
- Slavoj Zizek: Early works – the Quartet of Essential Zizek (Sublime Ideology of the Object, The Plague of Fantasies, The Ticklish Subject, and The Fragile Absolute)
- Gilles Deleuze: The Logic of Sense, Difference and Repetition
- I’m leaving out many of the commentaries, subsidiary works on the above philosophers that will become a part of the process of reading. I seem to float around 5 – 6 books during the daily grind or reading and writing, meditating and exercise, etc. Keeping the body in movement, walking and thinking… I’ve always agreed with Nietzsche in the sense that one does one’s best thinking while walking. I keep a note pad and a small hand-held recorder on me, and music…
- Chinese Confucianism, New and Old Forms; along with Taoist and poetic texts ancient and modern. Communism seems to be subsiding in China in favor of a return to the Greater Tradition of Confucius with both normative and political overtones. We see its influence even in Western Philosophy of Brandom, Negarestani, Brassier and other philosophers. It parallels in some ways the Stoic philosophers of Greece and Rome in its realist turn in politics and governing. One would be amiss to turn a blind eye to the practical return of these ancient and powerful normative visions. They are making a come back. Traditionalists everywhere are seeking paths forward, and not all are reactionary or bound to older politics of the progressive sphere. Change has other ways and means.
- Work of Anna Akhmatova, Paul Celan, Yannis Ritsos, Nazim Hikmet, Bertolt Brecht, Cesar Vellejo, Pablo Neruda; Anne Carson, Henri Cole, Charles Bernstein, Yusef Komunyakaa, Christian Bök…
- Herman Broch – Death of Vergil
- Lawrence Durell – The Avignon Quintet
- David Mitchell – Cloud Atlas
- Karl Ove Knausgaard – My Struggle: Book 1
- Bertholt Brecht – The Complete Plays – I’ve been putting off rereading Brecht for years, but as I begin reading Badiou with his views on inaestheticism and the classical, didactic, and romantic operations and classifications we know – along with Walter Benjamin that Brecht is a formidable influence on Badiou’s didacticism and epic view onto art in its relation to philosophy. In some ways a return to Brecht and the German poet Hans Magnus Enzensberger might be a good contrast.
In one of Benjamin’s journal entries we hear him describe Brecht, saying,
For several years they have been subsumed, now under one key concept, now under another, so that non-Aristotelian logic, behaviourist theory, the new encyclopedia and the critique of ideas have, in turn, stood at the centre of his preoccupations. At present these various pursuits are converging upon the idea of a philosophical didactic poem. (Here “they” is: “the thoughts which occurred to him within the scope of epic theatre”)
Benjamin: Whilst becoming more closely concerned with the problems and methods of the proletarian class struggle, he has increasingly doubted the satirical and especially the ironic attitude as such. But to confuse these doubts, which are mostly of a practical nature, with
other, more profound ones would be to misunderstand them. The doubts at a deeper level concern the artistic and playful element in art, and above all those elements which, partially and occasionally, make art refractory to reason.
Badiou: For Brecht, art produces no truth, but is instead an elucidation – based on the supposition that the true exists – of the conditions for a courage of truth (p. 6, Inaestheticism)
This sense of having the courage of the truth, of elucidating the conditions and milieu within which a truth arises in time in dramatic tension is at the heart of his play on Galileo. Truths are not situated in some Platonic mirror land beyond, but arise immanently in time through appearance as appearance (i.e., they are dialectic and have a history, temporal and formidable, concrete universal truth rather than some absolute situated beyond time or timeless).