Raoul Vaneigem: Quote of the Day!

“Once a change has been exposed as illusory, merely replacing it with another illusion is intolerable. Yet such is precisely our situation: the economy cannot stop making us consume more and more, and to consume without respite is to change illusions at an accelerating pace which eventually dissipates the illusion of change. … Nothing surprises us any more, there’s the rub. The monotony of the ideological spectacle reflects the passivity of life, of survival. Beyond all the prefabricated scandals— Scandale girdles, scandal in high places— a real scandal appears, the scandal of actions drained of their substance to bolster an illusion that becomes more odious by the day as its attraction wanes; actions weakened and dulled by having had to nourish dazzling imaginary compensations, impoverished from enriching lofty speculations to which they play flunkey while being ignominiously categorized as ‘trivial’ or ‘banal’; actions now freed up but feeble, prone to stray once more, or expire from sheer exhaustion. … Anyone who talks about revolution and class struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life— without grasping what is subversive about love and positive in the refusal of constraints— has a corpse in his mouth.

     – Raoul Vaneigem, The Revolution of Everyday Life

 

 

 

Accelerationism: The New Prometheans – Red Stack Attack!

“How do we overcome this paradoxical era of hyped-up individualization that results precisely in the algorithmic outsourcing of the self?”

– Geert Lovink, Networks Without a Cause

“…software studies need to be open to a plurality of approaches and techniques, striving to use those tools that provide us with useful empirical material for making sense of the sociality and spatiality of code.”

      – Rob Kitchin and Martin Dodge: Code/Space Software and Everyday Life

Tiziana Terranova in her essay Red Stack Attack! Algorithms, Capital and the Automation of the Common (2014) for the Accelerationist reader tells us that what is at stake is nothing less than the relationship between ‘algorithms’ and ‘capital’: “the increasing centrality of algorithms to organizational practices arising out of the centrality of information and communication technologies stretching all the way from production to circulation, from industrial logistics to financial speculation, from urban planning and design to social communication” (381).

Thinking on the above I had to remind myself of what James C. Scott Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed:

The planned “scientific city,” laid out according to a small number of rational principles, was experienced as a social failure by most of its inhabitants. Paradoxically, the failure of the designed city was often averted, as was the case in Brasília, by practical improvisations and illegal acts that were entirely outside the plan. Just as the stripped-down logic behind the scientific forest was an inadequate recipe for a healthy, “successful” forest, so were the thin urban-planning schemata of Le Corbusier an inadequate recipe for a satisfactory human community.2

In both statements above we admit to what the authors of the two-volume History of The Probabilistic Revolution the power of probability: “Probability theory appeared to provide an answer to the problems drawing inferences from data subject to a variety of uncontrolled influences and the need to find rules for theory evaluation in these circumstances. (3).3 In the matter of theory only two scientific disciplines have truly bound themselves to the probalistical and statistical constructions: physics and evolutionary biology. Yet, it is within this world of probabilistically uncertain mathematics that both quantum theory and forms of economic theory (neo-Keynseanism) would forge their tools. With the marshalling of the complexity of mathematical probabilistic and statistical equations becoming increasingly difficult for the mathematicians themselves to master the need for an alternative came about. It was out of this need that the information processing or computer age was initiated. The notion of planning anything these days is beyond our human programming capabilities: ergo – we invented algorithms to do the job for us. But algorithms inhabit not only the virtual spaces of hardware and computers, they are the engines of creation that drive our social and political domains as well, from Wall Street to the great financial institutions of Europe and Asia we’re caught in the complex web of an accelerating war of competing algorithms.

Yet, it was actually a difficulty faced by gunners in WWI that would become the engine driving the future of this whole information age. Thornstein Veblen’s brother Oswald a gunner realized the need for a better and more accurate way of firing larger artillery, and needed the help of human computers or mathematicians to do the job. As George Dyson tells it: ”

Veblen organized the teams of human computers who were placed under his command, introducing mimeographed computing sheets that formalized the execution of step-by- step algorithms for processing the results of the firing range tests. It took the entire month of February to fire the first forty shots, yet by May his group was firing forty shots each day, and the growing force of human computers was keeping up.4

But it would be one of his recruits was Norbert Wiener, a twenty-four-year-old mathematical prodigy well trained after two years of postdoctoral study in Europe , but socially awkward and discouraged by the failures of his first teaching job (KL 637-639), who would eventually discover the answer needed to calculate artillery effectively. After the war Veblen would go on to become instrumental in bringing together many of the mathematicians that would ultimately provide the knowledge base from which our digital age was first conceived. As Dyson relates it quoting Freeman Dyson: “The School of Mathematics has a permanent establishment which is divided into three groups, one consisting of pure mathematics, one consisting of theoretical physicists, and one consisting of Professor von Neumann. (KL 987)” It was in this third kingdom of mathematics as formulated by von Neumann that the digital universe was conceived and “numbers would assume a life of their own” (991).

But as Terranova will relate the universe of algorithms would not be confined to the digital universe alone but would become a part of our everyday life, becoming increasingly coextensive with processes of production, consumption, and distribution displayed in logistics, finance, architecture, medicine, urban planning, infographics, advertising, dating, gaming, publishing, and all kinds of creative expression (music, graphics, dances etc.) (382).

Algorithms, Capital And Automation

In this section of her essay Terranova will play off the notion of automation, and specifically of two types of automation – the industrial-thermodynamic and the digital electro-computational models. The industrial type gave rise to a system ‘consisting of numerous mechanical and intellectual organs so that workers themselves are cast merely as its conscious linkages’ (i.e., we’ve seen this already from Marx’s ‘Fragment on Machines’ in the reader, 55). The digital form of automation on the other hand will involve the brain and nervous system of living labor as intellectual or cognitive labor, which will unfold within “networks consisting of electronic and automatic relays of a ceaseless information flow” (383). It’s within this digital form of automation and it spatial model that she will discuss the political for any new algorithmic modes.

After describing the typical nature of algorithms (i.e., what they do, the work they perform, how they are situated within certain material and immaterial assemblages, etc.) she remarks that as far as capital is concerned “algorithms are just fixed capital, means of production finalized to achieve an economic return” just like any other commodity (385). In this sense algorithms have replaced living labor, the worker herself as the site where the temporal aspects of labor time, disposable time, etc. play themselves out. Instead of the alienated presence of the human in the machine as mere appendage driving and guiding the machine through its everyday processes, the human has been stripped out of the process altogether as non-essential or disposable and the algorithm as an abstract machine is now situated in that site.

Yet, as Terranova will remind us after Marx we must not reduce the algorithm to “use value” only, but also see it within the context of “aesthetic, existential, social, and, ethical values” (386). She will ask if it wasn’t the reduction of software to its exchange value that drove many Hackers to opt out of the strict commercial world and invent an alternative type of economics (i.e., her example: Richard Stallman and the Free and Open Source movement). In fact, she asks, isn’t this at the heart of the hacker ethic and aesthetics, this need to escape the constraints of “use value” that capital has imposed upon the software industry?

She will also remind us that we must not reduce techniques in some absolutist fashion with either ‘dead labor’, ‘fixed capital’, or ‘instrumental rationality’ but should rather understand that the reduction of labor costs that enables capital investments in technology to free up ‘surplus’ labor not for the benefit of the worker herself as free time, but as that part of the cycle of production and exchange value which is continuously reabsorbed into profit and gain for the few (the collective capitalists) at the expense of the many (the multitudes). (387)

She describes the litany of effects that this neoliberal form of capitalism has brought to fruition in the closing time or our era: global poverty, psychic burnout, environmental degradation, resource depletion, war, etc. To remedy this she offers an agreement with Maurizio Lazzarato’s notion of a post-capitalist society based on the autonomous and enduring focus on subjectification that entails not only a better distribution of wealth, but also a the reclamation of ‘disposable time’ – that is, “time and energy freed from work to be deployed in developing and complicating the very notion of what is ‘necessary’ (387)”.

Against the exploitation of the existing and corrupt profit system of neoliberal technocapitalism with its cycle of crash and burn at the expense of the many, she says that with the freeing up of ‘disposable time’ we could finally fulfill Marx’s dream of the free creation of new subjectivities that could begin to reshape the what is “necessary and what is needed” (388). This is not some return to a pristine natural world but is in fact the hard work of feeding populations, constructing shelters, education, healthcare, children and the elderly, etc. What we need she tells us is new ways of achieving these goals, ways that no longer exploit for profit and gain but bind us to a ‘commonfare’ – a notion from the work of Andrea Fumagali and Carlo Vercellone: “the socialization of investment and money and the question of the modes of management and organization which allow for an authentic democratic reappropriation of the institutions of Welfare… and the ecologic re-structuring of our systems of production” (388-389).

The Red Stack: Virtual Money, Social Networks, Bio-Hypermedia

She follows Benjamin H. Bratton in developing a new nomos of the earth that links technology, nature and the human in what is termed the ‘stack’ (389-391). As she tells it the stack supports and modulates a kind of ‘social cybernetics’ able to compose ‘both equilibrium and emergence’ (390). What she describes is the notion of the stack as providing a platform that is hooked into what Williams and Srnicek will term ‘The Network’: as a ‘megastructure’ the stack becomes a cartographic device that incorporates a normative standards based verticality, and a topographical layered organization of artificial and human components both every day and digital (see the essay for details).

Against the mapping provided by Bratton she proposes an alternative she terms the ‘Red Stack’ – a new nomos for a post-capitalist commons (390). To do this she tells us we must engage three aspects of the socio-technical systems of innovation: virtual money, social network, and bio-hypermedia. Citing authors as diverse as Christian Marazzi (money as a series of signs), Antonio Negri (money as an abstract machine), Maurizio Lazzaroto (money as both exchange and as investment in alternate futures), and Andrea Fumagalli – who will ask if the money being created in the digital realms (i.e., bitcoins, etc.) as experiments in alternative exchanges offer a way to “promote investment in post-capitalist projects and facilitate freedom from exploitation, autonomy of organizations, etc.? (392). She affirms the central role that algorithms will play as both creators of virtual money and its possible, and politically inclined agent (390). A place within any plan will need to incorporate these virtual monies as part of the subjectivation process in the creation of productive subjectivities that are open toward the “empowering of social cooperation” (390).

Social networks and social plug-ins are so prevalent and use a complex set of data structures and algorithms that support the interactions within these spaces that to circumvent the strictures of capitalist modes with post-capitalist modes of use will entail both the organization of resistance and revolt, but at the same time the need for creating new social modes of self-creation and self-information. These at the moment are aligned with notions of autonomy and singularity, but could instead be linked to form new collectives, new assemblages that within the red stack would hijack existing social networks and repurpose them to promote a distributed platform for learning and education, fostering and nurturing new competencies and skills, fostering planetary connections, and developing new ideas and values (395).

Coined by Giorgio Griziotti bio-hypermedia touches on that interface between bodies and those technological devices that have become our intimate connections to the world of relations. As devices are miniaturized and mobilized, as apps become the downloadable extensions to this world of relations, we begin to enter what are becoming less virtual and more actual ‘code spaces’ as software moves from the desktop to the everyday world of objects. More and more we are in the infosphere rather like fish in the ocean, swimming in information and communications that swirl around us like so many schools of fish. As she describes it these new “spatial ecosystems emerging at the crossing of the ‘natural’ and the artificial allow for the activation of a process of chaosmotic co-creation of urban life” (396). Rather than being subsumed within the networks of consumption and surveillance as in the neoliberal order, the new post-capitalist world will open up a new ‘imaginary’ and make room for alternative forms of hardware design and applications for these collective social devices (396).

In conclusion she offers the notion that algorithms will be the base of any ongoing construction project for the commons. Not only will algorithms be a central component within The Network but will open new potentialities for postneoliberal modes of governance and postcapitalist modes of production (397). It will entail nothing less than a takeover of the very infrastructures of the current corporatized internet and repurposing it toward an open egalitarian social system that is no longer based on monetization and privatization, but rather provide a way out of the neoliberal order of debt, austerity, and accumulation (397). She tells us this is not a pipe-dream but a “program for the constituent social algorithms of the common” (397).

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In Part Two: Section Four I’ll open up toward the essays of  Luciana Parisi who deals with the speculative reason in the Age of the Algorithm. Then we’ll move on to Reza Negarestani, Ray Brassier, Benedict Singleton and Patricia Reed; along, with a final gambit or rebuttal from Nick Land in his Teleoplexy: Notes on Acceleration within this same volume.

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Next post: Accelerationism: The New Prometheans – Automate Architecture

Previous post: Accelerationism: The New Prometheans – Cyberlude

1. #Accelerate# the accelerationist reader. Editors Robin Mackay & Armen Avanessian (Urbanomic, 2014)
2. Scott, James C. (1998-03-30). Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (The Institution for Social and Policy St) (Kindle Locations 5777-5781). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.
3. The Probabilistic Revolution. Two Volumes. Editors: Lorenz Kruger, Gerd Gigerenzer, and Mary S. Morgan (MIT Press, 1987)
4. Dyson, George (2012-03-06). Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe (Kindle Locations 633-636). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Pablo Neruda: The Poetry of Earth, Bells and Desolation

The century of émigrés 
the book of homelessness –
grey century, black book.

– Pablo Neruda, World’s End

Born Ricardo Eliecer Neftali Reyes Basoalto on 12 July 1904, in Parral, in central Chile’s wine country, ‘where the vines curled their green heads of hair’, Pablo Neruda became the great poet of the oppressed peoples of the earth.1 Yet, as one lives with his poetry, its rhythms, the pulsating beat of its music one hears not Neruda but the earth that produced him, its desires and the cold stark somberness of its desolation. Yet, it was not all desolation, there was above the din the surface glitter that foamed from jungles and seas, of fantastic lands and exotic women, a roaming spirit of exploration that sought only its own transformation and metamorphosis.

from The Song of Despair

Deserted like the wharves at dawn.
It is the hour of departure, oh deserted one!

Neruda himself would live outside time, far from home in distant and exotic lands. At the age of 27 out of financial desperation, he took an honorary consulship in Rangoon, then a part of colonial Burma and a place he had never heard of. Later, mired in isolation and loneliness, he worked in Colomobo (Ceylon, Batavia (Java), and Singapore. It would be in such lands that he would remember his own country, his songs would rise up from those memories like subtle music from dark soundings of the ocean lapping over the lonely beaches:

from Residence

Like ashes, like oceans swarming,
in the sunken slowness, formlessness,
or like high on the road hearing
bellstrokes cross by crosswise,
holding that sound just free of the metal,
blurred bearing down, reducing to dust
in the selfsame mill of forms far out of reach
whether remembered or never seen,
and the aroma of plums rolling to earth
that rot in time, endlessly green.

Yet, in these distant lands he would hear the bells, the cries, the metal clanking,  the noises coming from death, destruction, and the desolation of war and murderous machines, not only encompassing his own country but the earth itself in a grey tomb of silence amid the great din:

 from The Cantos General

                    Have you seen
in the night your brother’s
somber cave?
    Have you fathomed
his sinister life?

                      The scattered heart
of the people, abandoned and submerged!
Someone who received the hero’s peace
stored it away in his wine cellar, someone
stole the fruits of the bloody harvest
and divided the geography,
establishing hostile shores,
zones of desolate blind shadows.

Yet, one wonders if perhaps poets after all are human, all too human, and that their fame might be best served in the solitudes from which they emerged. Neruda wrote in his memoirs after his indefensible support of Stalin and others of the communist regime of which he never gave up hope: “I had contributed my share to the personality cult,” explaining that “in those days, Stalin seemed to us the conqueror who had crushed Hitler’s armies”. Of a subsequent visit to China in 1957, Neruda would write: “What has estranged me from the Chinese revolutionary process has not been Mao Tse-tung but Mao Tse-tungism.” He dubbed this Mao Tse-Stalinism: “the repetition of a cult of a Socialist deity”. Despite his disillusionment with Stalin, Neruda never lost his essential faith in communist theory and remained loyal to “the Party”. Anxious not to give ammunition to his ideological enemies, he would later refuse publicly to condemn the Soviet repression of dissident writers like Boris Pasternak and Joseph Brodsky, an attitude with which even some of his staunchest admirers disagreed.2

In the end he would return to his precious land and leave well enough alone, returning to his good black earth, to his oceans and his bells, his silences and his love:

Pardon me, if when I want
to tell the story of my life
it’s the land I talk about.

– from Still Another Day

One poem in his late life has always exemplified for me the epiphanic relation of Neruda to a spectral materialism, an immanence of the haunting earth and ocean, a rising of the silent music of the land itself speaking rather out of than to its human interlocutor:

The lichen on the stone, mesh
of green elastic, enmeshes
the primal hieroglyph,
stretches the scripture
of the sea
around the round rock.
The sun reads it, barnacles fade it,
from stone to stone
the fish slither by like shivers.
Silently the alphabet goes on
spelling out its sunken syllables
along the immaculate hip of coast.

 On his loom the moss weaver
goes back and forth, higher and higher
carpeting the caverns of air and water
so that no one dances but the wave
and nothing follows but the wind.

In such a song, a poetry of earth without us, an inhuman tonal sounding of a secret language that is only for the dark life of earth and sea, a language in which things call to each other, and haunt each other with the touch of their voices, a distillation of the desolation that surrounds them but that also brings them into the warmth of sun and air. Neruda’s poetry was the personal immanence not of the human in the land, but of the land in the human; a song that brought out of the throat of things a meaning that no human could decipher but only register. As he would proffer and relate these songs from the earth, from his residence with its inhuman desires he would tell us what it wanted:

From the dithyramb to the root of the sea
stretches a new kind of emptiness:
I don’t want much, the wave says,
only for them to stop their chatter,
for the city’s cement beard
to stop growing:
we are alone,
we want the last scream,
to pee facing the ocean,
to see seven birds of the same color,
three thousand gulls,
to seek out love on the sand,
to break in our shoes, to dirty
our books, our hat, our mind
until we find you, nothing,
until we kiss you, nothing,
until we sing you, nothing,
nothing without nothing, without being,
nothing, without putting an end to truth.

In the end maybe that is all we can expect, the nothing that is and the nothing that is not, the truth between them standing in the Void. And yet, like that broken bell that keeps calling to us from these wet leaves, we too want to walk along the black shores seeking those things that want to sing, even if their song is not for us:

The broken bell
still wants to sing:
the metal now is green
the color of woods, this bell,
color of water in stone pools in the forest,
color of day in the leaves.

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1. Feinstein, Adam (2008-12-08). Pablo Neruda. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. Kindle Edition.
2. The Poetry of Pablo Neruda. (Firrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003)

A Spectral Inaesthetics: A Manifesto

Dialectics alone might settle the Greek argument whether like is known by like or by unlike. If the thesis that likeness alone has that capacity makes us aware of the indelible mimetic element in all cognition and all human practice, this awareness grows untrue when the affinity—indelible, yet infinitely far removed at the same time—is posited as positive. In epistemology the inevitable result is the false conclusion that the object is the subject.

– Theodor W. Adorno,   Negative Dialectics

Blindness was ever an aspect of art…

– Theodor W. Adorno, Aesthetic Theory

 

The notion of an antithetical philosophy, one that goes against the grain of tradition or even contemporary soundings, that explicates the indiscernible truths that inhabit the hyperstitional, rather than the exposed and propounded truths that light up the fractured mediawaves of our collapsing Western mindset, this and this alone is the path of the inhuman in our time. I follow Badiou in seeking an art by way of aesthesis, by a material perception that is both immanent and singular. Art is immanent in the sense that its truth is given in its immediacy in a given work of art, and singular in that its truth is found in art and art alone—hence reviving the ancient materialist concept of “aesthesis”. Badiou views this as the link between philosophy and art and ties it into the motif of pedagogy, which he claims functions so as to “arrange the forms of knowledge in a way that some truth may come to pierce a hole in them”.

Yet, against Badiou who argued that “acceptable art must be subjected to the philosophical surveillance of truths”, as if the new nova police, the regime of some elite tribunal of truth procedures would oversee the art, philosophy, and education of the populace under the sign of mathematical purity, I offer only a Deleuzian line of flight, a rhizomatic escape valve that does not so much imply a hostility toward the mainstream, but rather it signals a desire to leave the society that exists, to leave it to its own devices, and to grow creative (with new devices) with other like-minded beings out of the ruins of late capitalism.

Rather than staying with the circle of mindfulness, the Kantian phenomenal realm of surface and texture, of the realm of the given – that which is for us – I seek the emptiness, voidness, openness, spaciousness, and vacuity of things, an immanence of their relations as invariant to the human, – as the inhuman within the human and beyond it. What this means is that there are certain consistencies in things and events that even if we as humans perceive them they cannot be constrained or changed by our interoperations and negotiations with them. What used to be the dualism of appearance and reality is marginalized into a monism that seeks neither the surface texture of phenomenon, nor the direct confrontation with things-in-themselves (Kant), but rather the workings of that strange agent at the core of our own being: the brain, creator of worlds and maker of all we know and see.

For it is the essential in our time to explore the operations of that singular organ from which all things proceed if we are ever to understand the truth of ourselves and the world we inhabit. We have no magic access to this organ, and in fact are blind to its processes, as well as ignorant of its ways of manipulating our reality towards ends of its own making. For too long we have presumed our power over the kingdoms of the natural realms, when we are not even masters in our own home. Philosophy has been unable to confront the truth of reality for the simple reason that we are bound by the inner constraints of an organ that was uniquely formed through evolutionary processes to know and understand its environment rather than its own nature.

The self-reflecting entity we assume is our self, the subject at the center of our consciousness if but the flotsam and jetsam of an afterthought, a temporary focal point for the complex operations of our brain in its infinitesimal complexity. We are but the artifacts of its devices, functions of its ongoing exploration of an environment from which it ions ago arose. Like drops of water in an infinite ocean of which we are unaware we flow forward into the realms of the senses taking in the sights, sounds, smells, and touch that our extended appendages have evolved for us.

We are neither the center nor circumference of all we purvey, but rather are the minute and insignificant animals we always were; and, yet because of our weaknesses we developed mental tools beyond the reach or capacity of our cousins in the ape kingdom in ways that were unforeseen. There never was a big Other behind the screen pulling the switches, guiding us toward some paradisial palace of dreams; instead, we are the happenstance accidents of an evolutionary process that is still ongoing, and will like all extinct creatures before us ultimately die off. It is not the individual that survives but rather the species.

With Copernicus came the displacement of the earth as the center of the cosmos. With Darwin the truth of our origins gave us again our true birthright as animals on an evolving planet revolving around a minor star on the edge of a minor galaxy. With Freud cam the knowledge that we are not even the master’s in our own homes: our bodies. And, now, we are entering what Luciano Floridi terms the “fourth revolution” in which a re-ontologization of humans and environment is taking place in which the older metaphysical oppositions and binary codes give way to an acknowledgement of the human as an information organism (inforg) within a complex environment of both natural and technological artifacts that we neither control nor command but as one among many live with on the same ontological footing.

This is not an essentialism, it is an acknowledgement of the voidic core at the heart of being which remains whether we perceive it or not. What this means is simply that one cannot identify one’s self as special, as distinct from all other life on the planet. The realm of nature and our artificial and technological realms – I reiterate, are not for us: not given. We are in the midst of a restructuring process of the notion of what it means to be human, our knowledge of ourselves is limited and fragmented since we as of yet know so little about the mechanics of our own brain much less the operations and informational indexes of our planetary life. What we do know is that our religious and philosophical, cultural and moral, mappings or cartographies of mind and nature need a thorough revamping. Our planet is in a precarious state, and we who know so little act as if we knew everything and can do with the earth what we will. We cannot. The time of human exceptionalism is at an end.

Against the phenomenological traditions based on notions of “intentionality” and “directedness” I seek a nondirected form of perception. Emptiness, the signless, and the undirected are names for a state of concentration that lies on the threshold of Unbinding. They differ only in how they are approached. Accordingly, they color one’s first apprehension of an Unbinding of things: a meditator who has been focusing on the theme of inconstancy will first apprehend Unbinding as signless; one who has been focusing on the theme of stress will first apprehend it as undirected; one who has been focusing on the theme of the inhuman will first apprehend it as emptiness. Though we perceive a world of concrete and discrete objects, these objects are “empty” of the identity imputed by their designated labels. What we perceive is there form emptied of meaning, which is the same as saying form is emptiness, emptiness is form.

For too long things have been attached to human meaning rather than being allowed to have their own meanings. What we seek is an unbinding of those human attachments of meaning: signs and intentional or directed impositions. One might say the unbinding is an act of seclusion, a separation out or unbinding of the constraints that humans have imposed on the forms of things to their own telos or purposes. Deprived of our sensory input, our bodily necessities and external desires the form of things can exhibit their own uniqueness, singularity, and solidarity beyond our human wants and desires. Stripped of human meaning the emptiness of things reveal and revel in their own powers and dispositions.

There is nothing new in this way, I’ve gleaned these ideas, notions, and thoughts from a myriad of sources in my life. From and early age I was trained in martial arts, and was heavily influenced by forms of Daoist and Buddhist forms of thought and life. The notion of Śūnyatā will be well known to those practitioners of the various traditions of the Mādhyamaka. Yet, against the notion of co-dependence and co-arising, an idealism in which things have no independence of their own but are like the Platonic Forms or Ideas (eidos) dependent on us arising with us in unison inwardly. I cut against this philosophical grain and formulate an independence of things that are no longer mind-dependent, a realism not of objects or subjects but of the void between them. At the heart of this is a substanceless view of reality, in which things, events, entities are less than nothing: for to say they are nothing is to give nothing a positive value, and to say they are not nothing is to give nothing a negative value. Instead, as Ray Brassier, remarks after Lacan:

To think oneself in accordance with a real which is without essence does not mean to think oneself to be this rather than that; a human being rather than a thing. To think oneself according to an inconsistent real which punctures nothingness itself means to think oneself as identical with a last-instance which is devoid of even the minimal consistency of the void. The real is less than nothing— which is certainly not to equate it with the impossible (Lacan).1

Against both Zizek and Badiou I oppose any return to a Transcendental Materialism of any form of stripe based on the subject or subjectivation, instead we seek a Transcendental Realism of the Void decentered of subject and objects altogether that accepts that which is form and number as information.

First we should grasp exactly what substance itself has meant in art and philosophy. The philosophical term ‘substance’ corresponds to the Greek ousia, which means ‘being’, transmitted via the Latin substantia, which means ‘something that stands under or grounds things’. According to the generic sense, therefore, the substances in a given philosophical system are those things which, according to that system, are the foundational or fundamental entities of reality. Substances are a particular kind of basic entity, and some philosophical theories acknowledge them and others do not.3

Zizek in his critique of Adorno’s Negative Dialectics puts his hands on the ball then falls back to his own subject based self-reflecting nothingness, etc., when he says:

We can see now why Adorno’s project of “negative dialectics,” which sees itself as the overcoming of Hegel’s “positive” dialectics, misses the point. “Negative dialectics” wants to break out of the confines of the “principle of identity” which enslaves or subordinates every otherness through conceptual mediation. In Hegel’s idealism, negativity, alterity, and difference are asserted, but only as subordinate secondary moments serving their opposite— the absolute Subject re-appropriates all otherness, “sublating” it into a moment of its own self-mediation. Adorno counters this with his “primacy of the objective”: instead of appropriating or internalizing all otherness, dialectics should remain open towards it, granting ultimate primacy to the objective over the subjective, to difference over identity. (Zizek, KL 6094-6107)

What Zizek tries to do is overturn Adorna’s conception and tell us that it is not Hegel but Adorno himself who is caught in the webs of “identitarian” thought:

…it is Adorno’s “negative dialectics” which, paradoxically, remains within the confines of “identitarian” thought: the endless critical “work of the negative” which is never done, since it presupposes Identity as its starting point and foundation. In other words, Adorno does not see how what he is looking for (a break-out from the confines of Identity) is already at work at the very heart of the Hegelian dialectic, so that it is Adorno’s very critique which obliterates the subversive core of Hegel’s thought, retroactively cementing the figure of his dialectic as the pan-logicist monster of the all-consuming Absolute Notion.

Instead it is Zizek himself who is caught in the webs of the Subject, the voidic self-reflecting navel gazing object of his less than nothing identity-void, the core of his lack, the void of his own existence.

Yet, if one reads Adorno’s Negative Dialectics carefully what Zizek implies is a falsification of its features. Zizek has this habit of always turning the screw, of doubling back, of twisting the kernel of another’s conception so that it benefits Lacan or Hegel his pet progenitors, his chosen fathers: his Oedipal fixation and fetish. Against this Adorno holds that dark realities can eclipse dazzling ideas, and that theory, however noncontradictory, cannot undo a contradictory practice. He contends that if nonidentical objects belie the identity of subjectivism—even of collective subjectivism—that identity is not truth but a lie. And his defense of all this, the reason why a believer feels compelled to disavow articles of his own creed, is that the negativity of the concrete particular, of things as we see and experience them in our time, makes his the true, the “negative” dialectics.

As Adorno himself states it:

Nonidentity is the secret telos of identification. It is the part that can be salvaged; the mistake in traditional thinking is that identity is taken for the goal. The force that shatters the appearance of identity is the force of thinking: the use of “it is” undermines the form of that appearance, which remains inalienable just the same. Dialectically, cognition of nonidentity lies also in the fact that this very cognition identifies—that it identifies to a greater extent, and in other ways, than identitarian thinking. This cognition seeks to say what something is, while identitarian thinking says what something comes under, what it exemplifies or represents, and what, accordingly, it is not itself. The more relentlessly our identitarian thinking besets its object, the farther will it take us from the identity of the object. Under its critique, identity does not vanish but undergoes a qualitative change. Elements of affinity—of the object itself to the thought of it—come to live in identity.4

The point here is that there is another use of the notion of identity that Zizek would have us forget or pass over, and instead attributes to Adorno and identitarian thought that is not his at all. As Adorno remarks:

To define identity as the correspondence of the thing-in-itself to its concept is hubris; but the ideal of identity must not simply be discarded. Living in the rebuke that the thing is not identical with the concept is the concept’s longing to become identical with the thing. This is how the sense of nonidentity contains identity. The supposition of identity is indeed the ideological element of pure thought, all the way down to formal logic; but hidden in it is also the truth moment of ideology, the pledge that there should be no contradiction, no antagonism. (Adorno, KL 2700-2704)

But how to attain the real sense of the identity of things that do not trap them in a substantive formalism? Again Adorno:

Such hope is contradictorily tied to the breaks in the form of predicative identity. Philosophical tradition had a word for these breaks: “ideas.” They are neither nor an empty sound; they are negative signs. The untruth of any identity that has been attained is the obverse of truth. The ideas live in the cavities between what things claim to be and what they are. Utopia would be above identity and above contradiction; it would be a togetherness of diversity.

Let’s reread that. These “ideas” are neither sound nor empty sound, they are negative signs; and, this identity is not founded on truth or truth procedures, but untruth and lies; and, these ideas live in the void between things and events rather than in the substantive form of the thing, entity, or object itself as self-identity. This would be a substanceless philosophy based on a negation of human meaning, signs, identities, subjectivities, etc. One that unbinds the thing from its identity and allows an ontology of sound (negative signs) as ideas, as vibrant tonal and atonal dialectic of sound and noise generative and productive within the void between what things and events claim to be and what they are. Isn’t this what Zizek himself once affirmed in Organs Without Bodies “a true materialism joyously assumes the “disappearance of matter,” the fact that there is only void.”

So an inaesthetic philosophy shall follow the negative vita of Adorno while admitting that even Zizek does not know what he knows. We are moving toward an informational ontology here; one that includes the noise of resistance at its core, a cry from the void. Noise is a double-edged sword that can form the core of an inaesthetic resistance toward command and control, but it can also in turn allow those very systems to in turn sap our cognitive resources and abilities, leaving at best only survival, consuming and escapist practices in their wake.

As for Floridi and his accounts of inforspheres, inforgs, and information, he adds a new form of “conceptual design”:

Philosophy as conceptual design  is therefore a realistic philosophy, which treats semantic artefacts as mind-and reality-co-dependent, in the same way as a house is not a representation but the outcome of a specific architectural design both constrained and afforded by the building materials.9

But against this notion of co-dependence which still seems an idealism turned inward one must affirm otherwise that this is not a realism since it does not affirm the independence of the real, but rather makes it dependent upon the mind even if that mind is an information organism. We must find a foothold in the realm of a realism that affirms the transcendent power of the external in the concept for this notion of conceptual design to gain traction. Much work needs to be done here.

In the worlds of myth that have slipped through the secular gates of our age there is a resuscitation of those old legends of the Jewish people that have remained among us like broken vessels seeking redemption. These Jewish rabbis of the Kabbalah once told of a great tree which made up the body of God. That before our world God had created many worlds before ours and destroyed them all dissatisfied with their imperfections. The Bahir  speaks of the Sefiroth Gevurah or Din as the Left Hand of God, and so as a permitted evil. Out of this came the Kabbalistic doctrine that located evil in the spaces of reason, or in Kabbalistic terms Din brought forth the sitra ahra or “the other side,” the sinister qualities that came out of a Name of God, but fell away from the Name.

The Zohar assigned to the sitra ahra ten Sefirot all its own, ten sinister crowns representing the remnants of worlds that God first made and then destroyed. In one of the great poetic images of esoteric tradition, Moses de Leon compared evil to the bark of the tree of the Sefirot, the kellipah. The creatures of this bark – Samael and his wife Lilith, or Satan and the chief of the Witches – became the Zohar, almost worthy antagonists of God. Kellippot, conceived first as bark, became regarded also as husks or shells or broken vessels of evil. But even in the Kellippot, according to the Zohar, there abides a saving spark of good. This notion, that there are sparks in the kellippot that can be redeemed, and redeemed by the acts of men alone and not of God, became the starting point of Kabbalah.5

Walter Benjamin once remarked that in “the idea of a classless society, Marx secularized the idea of messianic time. And this is a good thing. It was only when the Social Democrats elevated this idea to an “ideal” that the trouble began.”6 As we move forward let us remember that a secularized notion of Kabbalah would also entail the need to redeem democracy from its dark husks that have been entrapped like lost sparks in a dead body, the dead body of Capital. Is this political mysticism, or an inaesthetic appropriation of artistic and religious designs toward secular ends? In using this outmoded forms of religious myth, ritual, and practice are we not giving way to those secret hyperstitional worlds that surround us in the shadows like so many demons waiting to have their moment in the light? Are, or we rather exposing the underlying belly of social forms that need to be thought through so that the sparks or ideas hidden in their secularized voids might benefit us as we emerge from our own evil husks within the ruins of late capitalism?

Maybe like Marx we need a messianic time, a time of renewal and hope, a time to reawaken from our dark dreams of capital and reaffirm the impulses and pulses of those ideas that once trumpeted through the evil husks of the 19th Century a message of communal solidarity and freedom, based on propertyless rights and a sense of justice that was inclusive of all those inhuman creatures which we share this planet with. And even if Marx himself did not think of those creatures in those terms we do, and that is enough. Yet, in this messianic time there will be no influx of the divine, but rather an influx of the void at the heart of things devoid of our human impositions and constraints. For too long we have looked upon the world as given, and tried to read the earth as if it were a repository of signs for us to decipher by the discovery of gaps, absences, and tensions inherent in the world-as-text. No more, no semiotician will decipher this knot of dark kellipots, nor redeem us from our own broken vessels. The earth is not our book, neither is it our network or assemblage, it is neither a totality nor some incomplete object to be concluded. It is an open mystery, neither to be contemplated nor known in its entirety, rather it is part of an ongoing process that is the universe of which we are finite sparks of informational negativity seeking to understand our place in it instead of mastering it for our own use.

And what if this is all conjecture, opinion, speculation? What then? That old goat, Nietzsche believed the little lies we tell ourselves, the logical fictions, the philosophical spin to keep ourselves alive were healthy:

The question is, how far an opinion is life-furthering, life-preserving, species-preserving, perhaps species-rearing, and we are fundamentally inclined to maintain that the falsest opinions (to which the synthetic judgments a priori belong), are the most indispensable to us, that without a recognition of logical fictions, without a comparison of reality with the purely IMAGINED world of the absolute and immutable, without a constant counterfeiting of the world by means of numbers, man could not live–that the renunciation of false opinions would be a renunciation of life, a negation of life. TO RECOGNISE UNTRUTH AS A CONDITION OF LIFE; that is certainly to impugn the traditional ideas of value in a dangerous manner, and a philosophy which ventures to do so, has thereby alone placed itself beyond good and evil.7

Did not Adorno himself admit as much: “Artworks detach themselves from the empirical world and bring forth another world, one opposed to the empirical world as if this other world too were an autonomous entity.”8 But this is not Platonic realm of eternal forms, this is a creation of necessity, of the moment, temporary autonomous zones of hazard and risk where the concept, idea, and world come together in strange ways and form relations into odd entities that did not exist before. Like everything art is a product of history, a desiring production of temporary duration, that once it melds with the mesh of the world will – as all things do, pass away. But in the movement of the world that art is we begin to perceive those transitions and becomings that register the virtual patterns of our lives in ways unforeseen. Art is neither mirror nor lamp, but the negative refraction of that spark which lives in the void of your being; and, this is not some transcendental category of subjectivity beyond the present moment, rather it is the immanent relation of your livingness in this becoming instant, a slip from the river of time, a dance on the edge of that black hole where all things – even light fall forward.

Fugitive guests in the midst of complex systems we did not conceive we travel among their becoming processes, neither directed nor directing their paths toward ends other than those offered through their particular modes of existence . We have learned to invent spaces of habitation in the midst of this vast wilderness of timespace, and are only beginning to realize that our continuity is with all the forms of existence we share this fragile earth with. We can no longer think of ourselves independent of the environment which encompasses us and is our actual not virtual foundation. Our lives as a species – and we are not singular, but a multitude – begin and end in this environmental fold as willing guests or as victims of our own misguided volitions. We must choose our path forward. Let us choose wisely. We have much to learn together, and it is a collective enterprise not some solitary game or strategy of reason and power. May we all come together and reason at the table of our habitation and create a way for us all rather than for the few and the mighty.

This is only a beginning – our beginning
————————————-

1. Ray Brassier, Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction, London: Palgrave Macmillan 2007, p. 137.
2. Zizek, Slavoj (2012-04-30). Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism (Kindle Locations 21362-21368). Norton. Kindle Edition.
3. Robinson, Howard, “Substance”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2014/entries/substance/&gt;.
4. Adorno, Theodor W. (2003-12-16). Negative Dialectics (Kindle Locations 2692-2699). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.
5. Moshe Idel. Absorbing Perfections: Kabbalah and Interpretation (Ernst Cassirer Publications Fund, 2002)
6. Walter Benjamin. Selected Writings, Volume 4, 1938-1940. ( Harvard University Press, 2006)
7. Nietzsche, Friedrich; Bill Chapko (2010-03-01). Nietzsche’s Best 8 Books (Gay Science, Ecce Homo, Zarathustra, Dawn, Twilight of the Idols, Antichrist, Beyond Good and Evil, Genealogy of Morals) (Kindle Locations 14946-14952).  . Kindle Edition.
8. Theodor W. Adorno. Aesthetic Theory. (University of Minnesota Press, 1997)
9. Floridi, Luciano (2013-10-10). The Ethics of Information (p. 2). Oxford University Press, USA. Kindle Edition.

 

 

 

Dreams of an Wayward Android

None are so hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. They feed them on falsehoods till wrong looks like right in their eyes.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Android IV

Peter Gric @ http://www.gric.at Android IV

Long ago we fell under their spell, the wizards that now command and control us from afar. For too long we believed their lies and taught our children, and their children, and their children’s children until they forgot that which was once our truth. We became enamored with our modern marvels, our technological wonders, and the world they produced for us. We built cities in which technology became the very fabric of our onlife being. The artificial earth became for us a stay against the monstrosities of the outer realms. No one has been beyond the gates now for a thousand years, no one remembers the sun, moon, or stars that once roamed across the great sky like wanderers from another universe. No. We have lived in this incandescent cave of light without darkness for so long that the memory of night is but a reflection of a forgotten thought. In the day they wiped our memories free of the great past we were no longer troubled by the nightmares of what we’d become so many centuries ago.

That was until I began to dream.

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Letters to a Young Comrade (4)

Yes, I can understand your predicament. There are those among us, wolves in sheep’s clothing who would inform the world about communism as if they in fact knew what it is, as if they had displaced the originals, Marx and Engels. Oh sure they’ll argue that Marx and Engels time is over, that they were men of their age and that we live in a different world with a different set of problems, needing other solutions than those present to us by the Marx and Engels. But do we? Have we really gone beyond the truths that they lived and enacted in their lives and writings? Bosh! Hogwash! May such imposters as these be plowed under for all their revisionist horseshit for the world to see: to see that they are liars, one and all.

You say I’m a little too angry, that I should take a deep breath and forgive these well-meaning purveyors of communist ideas. I’ll not truck with such as these I tell you. From Kautsky on the world has been filled with re-visioning transformations of Marx and Engels original materialist and empirical ideas to the point that they are hardly recognizable. In fact one could strip the libraries of everything written since Kautsky except for a very small minority of thinkers and burn the lot without losing anything. The 20th Century failed communism, communism did not fail the 20th Century peoples of the earth. Why? Because they had not truly learned the harsh truths that Marx and Engels relayed to them in their writings.

But, you ask, what truths are we speaking of?

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Guy Debord: Quote of the Day!

Marx’s project is a project of conscious history, in which the quantitativeness that arises out of the blind development of merely economic productive forces must be transformed into a qualitative appropriation of history. The critique of political economy is the first act of this end of prehistory: “Of all the instruments of production, the greatest productive power is the revolutionary class itself.”

– Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle