The Genealogical Method

Clement Rosset sees Schopenhauer as a genealogist or genealogical philosopher which became the cornerstone of Nietzsche’s genealogical history of morality:

“The genealogical method is not analytical: it does not aim so much to dissociate the complex elements of a manifestation as to surprise, on the contrary, the secret of their symbiosis. It is resentment in morality that interests Nietzsche, not resentment as a primary cause from which the moral representations would be derived. The assertion of the moral man hides a negation: his genealogy will be, not to show the yes, then the no, but to grasp the passage in the favor of which the no expressed in yes. The ultimate design is not to seek in a hidden origin the why of a psychological manifestation, but to show how we go from one psychological level to another. Genealogical philosophy is inseparable from a thought of metamorphosis.”

-Clement Rosset: Schopenhauer, Philosophy of the Absurd

The genealogist seeks to know what is masked or repressed in thought rather than the thought itself. What does it hide in its affirmations? What is hidden under the surface in the unconscious depths of thought. In other words what is the power, modal aspects of the Will that remain unsaid, unknown in the evasions of thought. I think his critique and commentary on Schopenhauer’s impasse upon acknowledging the Will’s primacy over intellect is interesting:

“This thought of the report is entirely lacking in Schopenhauer. Between the will and the intellect there is no possible relationship: the domination of the will is such that it destroys its own dependencies and breaks, at the same time, any relationship with them. There is only one modality of the influence of the will on the intellect: its absolute determination. The will is not a complex plurality of forces, but a reservoir of common energy, a sort of “prime power” which spills indifferently in any individual creature. Schopenhauer does not push the analysis further before: the exclusive importance given to the will relegates in the inexhaustion its intellectual manifestations which, therefore, cease to interest it. Also the Schopenhauerian genealogy is, in some way, as soon as dead. After saying that the will commanded everything, including the intellect, Schopenhauer is cornered by an impasse: any phenomenon reflecting the same will, there is no reason to wonder about the particular expression of such or such , this certainly relating to an identical origin. The report of will to intelligence which reflects it appears as an undifferentiated scheme: it will never learn anything more than an equal submission to equal domination. Paradoxical consequence of the system: the will does not learn anything about intelligence. The transition from will to a particular form of intelligence is entirely drowned in the thought of the absolute primacy of the will. Also the demystification of consciousness, an essential enterprise of genealogical philosophy, is missed by Schopenhauer, precisely because the role of consciousness has been, not analyzed, but abolished, absorbed in the unequivocal influence of will. Consciousness loses all role, at the precise moment when the intuition of the primacy of the will would put Schopenhauer able to interpret this role. By reversing the terms of the report, Schopenhauer put too much zeal to subordinate intellectual functions: he made them disappear from the scene, to the point that the new power of the volitive functions, if it commands everything, no longer explains anything.”

The inability to explain anything through intelligence (conceptuality) of the Will’s workings leaves Schopenhauer’s philosophy incomplete and in the dark. His lack of phenomenological reach leaves him destitute in a framework that will always remain unknown and unknowable. Of course, for Schopenhauer the Will was manifest in our bodily functions, this was our access to the ‘Will’s” workings: the body itself is the Will’s manifestation in the world therefore the physical or physiological philosophy which is one of Nietzsche’s own goals seemed to bypass Schopenhauer altogether. In many ways Nietzsche and Freud would complete Schopenhauer rather than formulate new philosophies. At least this seems to be what Rosset implies with Nietzsche’s gemological approach, and Freud’s various defense mechanisms such as ‘repression’, ‘transference’, ‘sublimation’ etc. Most of these would come out of various aspects of Schopenhauer’s delving into both Greek and Indic philosophy.

As Bosset quoting both Schopenhauer and Nietzsche suggest the later would bring back the relationship between Will and Intellect needed to formulate the genealogical method:

“Perhaps, after me, someone will enlighten and illuminate this abyss,” concludes Schopenhauer. This someone was, as we know, Nietzsche, who restored the relationships between intelligence and the unconscious. One of the essential tasks of Nietzsche was, once recognized the primacy of the will as announced by Schopenhauer, to bring together the will and the intelligence, which Schopenhauer had too radically separated. “Schopenhauer,” writes Nietzsche, “may grant primacy to the will and add intelligence as moreover: the soul, as it is known to us today,” can no longer serve as an illustration for its thesis. It has been all immersed in intelligence … We can no longer conceive of joy, pain and desire as distinct from the intellect “(43). The abolition of any intellectual function within the operations of the will prohibit Schopenhauer the possibility of genealogical interpretation: the constitution of a particular character is abandoned at random irrational of a mysteriously specified product of identical want. “Schopenhauer,” said Nietzsche, “did not solve the problem of individuation and he knew it” (44).”

The problem of individuation would become the problem that the depth psychology of Freud, Adler, Jung, Rank, and Lacan et. al. would all face.

As Rosset will attest Schopenhauer’s lack of interest in the genealogical method is rooted in his view of the Will-to-life, the irrational power at the core of our Universe which has no cause, no Reason – sufficient or otherwise:

“The philosophical purpose is not to explain the singular behavior, but to reveal the absurdity of all behavior. To serve this design, the study of uniform and blind will is more interesting than the study of its particular manifestations, which can conceal a character in its singularity. Precisely, Schopenhauer’s words are not to explain, but to denounce the explanations. The genealogy is therefore invoked only as a means, and never end. The genealogical intuition, which runs short, is only one step towards the absurd.”

  1. Rosset, Clément. Schopenhauer, philosophe de l’absurde, Paris, Presses universitaires de France, 1967, 2010

Death of the Intellectual

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been.”
― Isaac Asimov

“We’ve no use for intellectuals in this outfit. What we need is chimpanzees. Let me give you a word of advice: never say a word to us about being intelligent. We will think for you, my friend. Don’t forget it.”
― Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Journey to the End of the Night

When we look at these various eras of the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s through the lens of popular culture: music, film, pulp fiction – crime, thriller, suspense, porn, etc. all the threads that we now inhabit rise up like a mirror of our own era: the populism and backlash against the New Left and Hippie movements leading to the Reagan and Thatcher Era and the Neoliberal compromises of the Clinton Era to the Bush stupidity and on and on… in High lit we’d see this through various angles in the fictions of DeLillo, Pynchon and so many others; while we waltz through the bottom lands of Industrial Music, Punk, Hip Hop…. and on and on… our age seems to become more of a farcical replay of this whole mishmash of right-wing and false left-wing populism of the market with its imbecility of Trump and Biden as shadows on the trite screen of a bad ‘B’ rated history…

Every generation believes their living during the worst period in human history. We love to belabor the dark view like it’s some be all, end all litany of disaster, ruin, and apocalyptic finality. It isn’t. That’s a myth like any other. Instead of waking up and challenging the status quo, of course, we just sit back passively and assume we are ‘powerless’ to do anything, it’s all just too much, too big, too challenging… what can we do, we’re just working people with a job, wife, husband, kids, or just lonely fools lost in a world we did not choose, and better yet, hope we can leave very soon. So, we escape the responsibilities of this mess, blame it on leadership, economics, intellectuals, other countries, etc. till we’re blue in the face, rather than take that hard cold look into our own emptiness where we would see the problem and the answer is not them but ourselves, the stupidity of our own lives, the shame and guilt we feel for being failures.

We’re told that anti-intellectualism is hostility to and mistrust of intellect, intellectuals, and intellectualism, commonly expressed as deprecation of education and philosophy and the dismissal of art, literature, and science as impractical, politically motivated, and even contemptible human pursuits. Anti-intellectuals present themselves and are perceived as champions of common folk—populists against political and academic elitism—and tend to see educated people as a status class that dominates political discourse and higher education while being detached from the concerns of ordinary people.

As I work into Season Four of Bosch I find myself liking his character more and more… after his partner was shot by a sniper, after the partner succumbs to suspicions of Bosch playing outside the legal perimeters of the ‘Law’ to capture a criminal, and then as the partner realizes that Bosch witnessed the two men who killed the perp in his home and did nothing about it… the partner confronts him with the evidence and Bosch, being more like Ken Bruen’s Jack Taylor admits it with a dismissal, and his partner says: “That’s not you, Harry!” The asks Bosch why he was becoming more like the criminals he chased… to which Bosch replies: “Sometimes you have too. In a corrupt world where the scumbag is the norm, what are you going to do? I did what I had to do.” His partner shakes his head and says: “You once said you weren’t sure if you wanted me as a partner anymore, well I’m not sure now if I want to be yours.” And walks away… I agree with Harry the supposed rule of Law is bunk, sometimes the supposed iron-clad imposition of blind Law and Justice is ludicrous when we all know the culprit is what they are and is not going to change but only continue in their actions of hate, rage, and criminal intent. Should we take the law into our own hands? Are we becoming a ‘vigilante society’ again? Is the wild west the order of the day when for the criminals it already is? Our diminished expectations of the police and its corruption, racism, and criminalization goes hand in hand with the State’s own demise as democracy turns deadly and the populist fascism of such creatures as Trump still pervades the imaginal of right-wing and left-wing populist ignorance.

The demonization of the other from the Bush era of 9/11 to our own Biden moment has only gathered momentum. The schizophrenia of capitalism and its culture under the Deleuzian mode has only furthered its claims as we study the American collective which is divided into extreme modes of left and right ideologies so at odds that fantasy and the fantasmatic Real pervade every aspect of our culture in film, literature, and media. We are all schizo’s now roaming the in-between zones of some fragmented and fractured world of mind and flesh where the pessimist’s credo: “Somethin is not right with the World.” is not just a matter or everday truth but a part of the very problem that cannot be answered with our current philosophical conceptuality. We’re drifting closer and closer to that abyss where silence and madness seem like bedfellows in a desolation that only a dark angels laughter can encompass.

Besides my reading of pulp noir and crime novels from the 40s, 50s, and 60s, I’ve begun reading Dennis Cooper, Kathy Acker, Michel Houellebecq and others at random. There’s also a great little work on the Punk Era by Richard Cabut, Punk Is Dead which I’m loving. Let’s face it there’s this whole subterranean underground world of low-lit that seems to lay there in our hellish landscapes that most of the young people today hardly even register on the blank screens of their distempered minds. As the Fordist factories were dismantled and the drift of rust settled in with its desolation of lives, families, and the future these musicians and angry young men and women would turn their violence into displays of self-destruction against the harsh realities of late capitalist bullshit. Anyone who lived through that era knows what Cabut means when he says,

“Early fans and writers offer explorations of this blank zone inhabited by a Blank Generation — a term I use in the way Richard Hell originally intended: a void to be filled by whatever might be conjured and created.”

His novel Looking for a Kiss takes you into that blank world whereas one reviewer put it “drugs, sex, angst, boredom and madness” were the dark interlude of that era’s rage against the night. The whole era’s rage was against the malaise of our capitalist culture as it was falling apart into the Rust Belt nightmare of decay and ruins all over the globe, along with the whole notion that anything could be saved. No. It had to be destroyed and something new brought out into the tabula rasa of our blank generation. Obviously, we all know where that ended… sadly. Here in the USA the stagflation of the 70s turned to the brutal world of Reaganomics with its loss of jobs, break up of unions, the fall of the labor movements, the ruins of the dead cities of the Rust Belt from Detroit to Philadelphia to New Jersey to… on and on… people out of work and out of luck would turn to the acid worlds of escape and rage.

The rise in the 90s with the cyberpunk era of networks and the glitz of the internet hacking culture, etc. would only be a pipe dream of freedom rather than a political arena for the new man. No. We churned it down into war and economics again with all the false flag slogans of mass-destruction, terrorism, and death from the sky worlds of political fantasy that bore us into a bankrupt world we’re still blankly gazing into. Nietzsche was wrong, if you stare long enough into the abyss it will not stare back, no… all that will stare back is your own abyssal terror and inaction. Nothing more. You sit there gazing at the ruins of your life and world and feel this pull but nothing moves you, nothing can. You are just a set of eyes pondering the cyberworlds of some matrix game that seems to forever play out in your mind like a bad dream of someone else’s life, not your own. But that’s the problem you are no one and nothing. How did you ever think you’d be otherwise? Of course, that’s the big lie your handed by all the political pessimists: your powerless to change yourself, your world, your dreams… bullshit. Those lies are the lies of fuckwits who only want to control you, make you so passive and dependent you’ll do whatever they ask. Are you going to sit there and take it?

Howard Beale a fictional character from the 1976 film Network says what we still think today:

“Well, I’m not going to leave you alone,” he says, raising his voice, his eyes searing now. “I want you to get mad.” I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot. I don’t want you to write to your congressman, because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to say, “I’m a human being, goddamnit! My life has value!” So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out, and yell:

“I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

That’s of course the populist take, the man in the street, the mass man who doesn’t have the background in thought: philosophy, political theory, history, literature… whatever… just the regular joe on the street full of hot air watching our world slowly fall apart under the stupidity of leadership run amuck in its own sheer lunacy. We as intellectuals look at this man in the street and yawn like we know any better. But do we? With all our posthuman knowledge, with all the de-anthropizing philosophy, all the intricate political and social theory — what have we done to answer this madness? Nothing. We talk, and talk, and talk some more… lecture upon lecture … conference after conference… but has that got a dam thing to do with “doing” – with action, change and moving these anti-intellectuals into men and women and youth who might actually make a difference, might begin to invent a new world rather than continuously raging at the one they feel powerless to change? No. We continue our little intellectual games in a vacuum like they matter to anyone but ourselves. The intellectual left is dead, long live the … blah blah blah…