Deleuze on Foucault and Multiplicities

And what is the conclusion to Archaeology if not an appeal to the general theory of production which must merge with revolutionary praxis, and where the acting ‘discourse’ is formed within an ‘outside’ that remains indifferent to my life and death? … None the less, the core of the notion is the constitution of a substantive in which ‘multiple’ ceases to be a predicate opposed to the One, or attributable to a subject identified as one. Multiplicity remains completely indifferent to the traditional problems, of the multiple and the one, and above all to the problem of a subject who would think through this multiplicity, give it conditions, account for its origins, and so on. There is neither one nor multiple, which would at all events entail having recourse to a consciousness that would be regulated by the one and developed by the other. There are only rare multiplicities composed of particular elements, only empty places for those who function as subjects, and cumulable, repeatable and self-preserving regularities. Multiplicity is neither axiomatic nor typlogogical, but topological. Foucault’s book represents the most decisive step yet taken in the theory-praxis of multiplicities. (14)

– Gilles Deleuze, Foucault

Isabelle Stengers: Quote of the Day!

Reclaiming is an adventure, both empirical and pragmatic, because it does not primarily mean taking back what was confiscated, but rather learning what it takes to inhabit again what was devastated.

Whatever the experience, the refrain for Whitehead became: ‘‘What are our modes of abstraction doing to us? What are they blinding us against?’’

For Whitehead, abstractions as such were never the enemy. We cannot think without abstractions: they cause us to think, they lure our feelings and affects. But our duty is to take care of our abstractions, never to bow down in front of what they are doing to us – especially when they demand that we heroically accept the sacrifices they entail, the insuperable dilemmas and contradictions in which they trap us.

– Isabelle Stengers, Experimenting with Refrains (warning: pdf)

also a thanks to DMF for turning me on to this one!

Slavoj Zizek: Quote of the Day!

“In the Marxian perspective, utopian socialism consists in the very belief that a society is possible in which the relations of exchange are universalized and production for the market predominates, but workers themselves none the less remain proprietors of their means of production and are therefore not exploited – in short, ‘utopian’ conveys a belief in the possibility of a universality without its symptom, without the point of exception functioning as its internal negation.”

– Slavoj Zizek, The Sublime Object of Ideology

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.

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

Nick Land: Quote of the Day!

The authoritarian tradition of European reason tried to pull the plug on the great voyages at exactly the point they first became interesting, which is to say: atheistic, inhuman, experimental, and dangerous. Schopenhauer – refusing the agnostic stand-off of antinomy – was the first rallying  zone for all those disgusted by the contrived peace entitled ‘the end of metaphysics’. Bataille is the most recent successor. The forces of antichrist are emerging fanged and encouraged from their scorched rat-holes in the wake of monotheistic hegemony, without the slightest attachment to the paralytic tinkerings of deconstructive undecidability. ‘An attitude which is neither military nor religious becomes insupportable in principle the moment of death’s arrival.’ The war has scarcely begun.

– Nick Land, Shamanic Nietzsche

Quote of the Day: The Blind Passenger

We are here back at the notion of den in Democritus: a “something cheaper than nothing,” a weird pre-ontological “something” which is less than nothing.

– Slavoj Zizek

Notes on Democritus

Obscurantist idealists like to vary the motif of “almost nothing”: a minimum of being which nonetheless bears witness to divinity (“ God is also present in the tiniest speck of dust …”). The materialist answer to this is the less than nothing. The first to propose this answer was Democritus, the father of Ancient Greek materialism…

The Ancient Greeks had two words for nothing, meden and ouden, which stand for two types of negation: ouden is a factual negation, something that is not but could have been; meden is, on the contrary, something that in principle cannot be. From meden we get to den not simply by negating the negation in meden, but by displacing negation, or, rather, by supplementing negation with a subtraction. That is to say, we arrive at den when we take away from meden not the whole negating prefix, but only its first two letters: meden is med’hen, the negation of hen (one): not-one. Democritus arrives at den by leaving out only me and thus creating a totally artificial word den. Den is thus not nothing without “no,” not a thing, but an othing, a something but still within the domain of nothing, like an ontological living dead, a spectral nothing-appearing-as-something. Or, as Lacan put it: “Nothing, perhaps? No— perhaps nothing, but not nothing”;  to which Cassin adds: “I would love to make him say: Pas rien, mais moins que rien (Not nothing, but less than nothing)” — den is a “blind passenger” of every ontology. As such, it is “the radical real,” and Democritus is a true materialist: “No more materialist in this matter than anyone with his senses, than me or than Marx, for example.

Notes on Karen Barad

What quantum physics proposes is … global instability as the basis of local stability: entities within a universe have to obey stable rules, they are part of a causal chain, but what is contingent is the very totality of this chain. Does this mean, however, that at this level of the pure potentiality of the Void, there are no differences? No: there is pure difference in the guise of the gap between two vacuums, the topic of the Higgs field.

Is not the Epicurean notion of the clinamen the first philosophical model of this structure of the double vacuum, of the idea that an entity only is insofar as it “comes too late” with regard to itself, to its own identity? In contrast to Democritus, who claimed that atoms fall straight down in empty space, Epicurus attributed to them the spontaneous tendency to deviate from their straight paths. This is why, in Lacanese, one could say that the passage from Democritus to Epicurus is the passage from the One to the surplus-object: Democritus’s atoms are “ones,” while Epicurus’s atoms are surplus-objects— no wonder that Marx’s theoretical path begins with his doctoral thesis on the difference between the philosophies of Democritus and Epicurus.

… Barad proposes a list of features opposing (“ good”) diffraction and (“ bad”) reflection: diffraction pattern versus mirror image, differences versus sameness, relationalities versus mimesis, performativity versus representationalism, entangled ontology versus separate entities, intra-action versus interaction of separate entities, phenomena versus things, attending to detailed patterns and fine-grained features versus reifying simplification, the entanglement of subject and object within a phenomenon versus the fixed opposition between the two, complex network versus binary oppositions, etc. But is not this very opposition between diffraction and reflection (or between performativity and representation) itself a rude binary opposition between truth and illusion?

…Barad repeatedly deploys the motif of the Cartesian subject as the external agent of disentangled observation, to be replaced by agential entanglement: we are part of the observed reality, the cut between subject and object is contingently enacted, and so on. But the true problem is to explain how this “false” appearance of a disentangled subject can emerge in the first place: can it really be accounted for in the terms of the agential cut within the entanglement of a phenomenon? Is it not that we have to presuppose a more radical trans-phenomenal cut as a kind of transcendental a priori that makes intra-active agential cuts possible?

[Notes on Barad’s diffraction]…duality refers to two aspects of one and the same process: diffraction is a splitting which generates what it splits into two, for there is no unity preceding the split. In other words, we should conceive diffraction not as a liberating dehiscence of the One, but as the very movement of the constitution of the One, as the disunity, the gap, which gives birth to the One. Thus radicalized, diffraction is revealed as another name for parallax, the shift of perspective needed to produce the effect of the depth of the Real, as if an object acquires the impenetrable density of the Real only when its reality reveals itself to be inconsistent: the observed X is real only insofar as it is the impossible point at which two incompatible realities overlap— now it is a wave, but if we measure it differently, it is a particle.

Complementarity in quantum physics (wave or particle) excludes any dialectical relationship, there is no mediation between the parallax gap that separates the two aspects— is this gap the non-dialectical ground of negativity? The old metaphysical problem of how to name the nameless abyss pops up here in the context of how to name the primordial gap: contradiction, antagonism, symbolic castration, parallax, diffraction, complementarity … up to difference. As Jameson hinted, perhaps one should leave this gap nameless, but what we should not abstain from is at least an interim outline of the ontology implied by such a universe.

– Slavoj Zizek,
Less Than Nothing:
Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism

Anxious Expectations: On Philosophical Anxiety

If we now pass over to consider philosophic anxiety, what fresh forms and situations are manifested by anxiety? There is much to be described here. In the first place we find a general apprehensiveness, a kind of freely floating anxiety which is ready to attach itself to any idea that is in any way suitable, which influences judgment, selects what is to be expected, and lies in wait for any opportunity that will allow it to justify itself. We call this state ‘expectant anxiety’ or ‘anxious expectation’. People who are tormented by this kind of philosophical anxiety always foresee the most frightful of all possibilities, interpret every chance event as a premonition of repetition and exploit every uncertainty in a bad sense, as differance.

– Sigmund Freud, Introductory Lectures


Ok so I bowdlerized Freud and replaced several words: and, yet, does it sound like anyone you know?

Ok… the real quote:

If we now pass over to consider neurotic anxiety, what fresh forms and situations are manifested by anxiety? There is much to be described here. In the first place we find a general apprehensiveness, a kind of freely floating anxiety which is ready to attach itself to any idea that is in any way  suitable, which influences judgement, selects what is to be  expected, and lies in wait for any opportunity that will allow it to justify itself. We call this state ‘expectant anxiety’ or ‘anxious expectation’. People who are tormented by this kind of anxiety always foresee the most frightful of all possibilities, interpret every chance event as a premonition of evil and exploit every uncertainty in a bad sense.

– Sigmund Freud, Introductory Lectures

Quote of the Day: Emile Cioran

Fate’s Mask

However far our thought ventures, however detached it is from our interests, it still hesitates to call certain things by their names. Where our supreme terrors are concerned, the mind evades them, spares and flatters us. Thus, after so many ordeals, when “fate” reveals itself to us, our mind bids us see it as a limit, a reality beyond which any quest would be pointless. But is it really that limit, that reality, as our mind pretends? We doubt it, so suspect does our mind seem to us when it seeks to bind us here and impose a destiny upon us. We realize that there cannot be an end, and that through it is manifested another force, this one supreme. Whatever artifices and efforts our mind produces to dissimulate it, we end nonetheless by identifying it, by naming it even. Then what seemed to accumulate all the claims of reality is no longer anything but a face? A face? Not even that, but a disguise, a simple appearance used by this force to destroy us without colliding with us.

“Fate” was only a mask, as everything is a mask that is not death.

– E. M. Cioran, The Temptation To Exist

Quote of the Day: Alphonso Lingis

Material things do not just lie naked about us; they engender perspectival deformations, halos, mirages, scattering their colors in the light and casting their images on surrounding things. Living bodies rest rumbling and move rustling, striking up echoes; they push on leaving traces and stains, projecting telescoping images of themselves in the transparent air and into translucent substances, casting profiles of themselves and shadows on opaque surfaces. They do not occupy their spot in space and time, filling it to capacity. The names, the classifications, and the concepts with which we recognize them does not grip on to some inner coherence; they only skim over streams of departing images. Living bodies decompose whatever nature they were given and whatever form culture put on them, leaving in the streets and the fields the lines their fingers or feet dance, leaving their warmth in the hands of others and in the winds, their fluids on tools and chairs, their visions in the night. They abandon these fragmentary surfaces, images, mirages, shadows as they move, but these interact with other surfaces and mirages and also with eyes that are moved and shocked and delighted by them. Living bodies that can see do not for the most part look at themselves or see the images they scatter as they go, and do not turn back to gather them up.

 – Alphonso Lingis, Wonders Seen in Forsaken Places (p. 126). 

Ray Brassier as Idealist?

“…I consider myself an idealist, opposed to a materialist, as I insist on the need to preserve the relative autonomy of thinking, and the cogency and the consistency of thinking, and of conceptual rationality, precisely in order to be able to adjudicate the relationship between thinking and reality, between theory and practice, and also it’s an enabling condition for practice. In other words, if you try to fuse thought into material reality indiscriminately, I think that leads to an impotent short-circuit. So I would insist on defending the representational structures that are simply attacked… it’s a caricature of representation that’s being attacked, it’s a straw man. Representation here, and theoretical representation in particular, is a straw man.

I want to defend the imperatives of conceptualization, and even a kind of dialectics, as although I agree with what Nick says about the way in which death is a marker for real identity of matter itself, the point is that you should never confuse the symbolic marker for the thing in itself. You need a much more careful and subtle articulation of those terms–actually, between zero, one, and two–to explain the autonomy of thought and rationality and of thinking. Not to put too fine a point on it, so that you can maintain and generate a locus of rational agency. In other words, keep a space of subjectivation open that provides a prism for practical incision, a point of insertion. And that has to be done, and I think this involves re-examining the legacy of Hegel, and of Hegelianism. In other words, to maintain a kind of conceptual rationality that necessitates transformation at the level of practical existence. It requires a lot of theoretical work to do this. I would insist on the need to preserve the autonomy of rationality as something that allows you to intervene, to cut, in the continuity.

– Ray Brassier, Accelerationism Backdoor Broadcasting

The City of Words

In 1940, sixteen years after Kafka’s death, Milena, the woman he had loved so dearly, was taken away by the Nazis and sent to a concentration camp. Suddenly life seemed to have become its reverse: not death, which is a conclusion, but a mad and meaningless state of brutal suffering, brought on through no discernable fault and serving no visible end. To attempt to survive this nightmare, a friend of Milena devised a method: she would resort to the books she had read long ago and unconsciously stored in her memory. Among the memorized texts was one by Maxim Gorki, “A Man Is Born.” The story tells how the narrator, a young boy, strolling one day somewhere along the shores of the Black Sea, comes upon a peasant woman shrieking in pain. The woman is pregnant; she has fled the famine of her birthplace and now, terrified and alone, she is about to give birth. In spite of her protests, the boy assists her. He bathes the newborn child in the sea, makes a fire, and prepares some tea. At the end of the story, the boy and the new mother follow a group of other peasants: with one arm, the boy supports the mother; in the other, he carries the baby. Gorki’s story became, for Milena’s friend, a sanctuary, a small safe place into which she could retreat from the daily horror. It did not lend meaning to her plight, it didn’t explain or justify it; it didn’t even offer her hope for the future. It simply existed as a point of balance, reminding her of light at a time of dark catastrophe, helping her to survive. Such, I believe, is the power of stories.

– Alberto Manguel, The City of Words

Bruno Latour: Biography of an Investigation

“In August of that year, stretched out in the sun on an island across from Gothenburg, in Sweden, I couldn’t stop running my fingers over the rough red surface of the rocks as if to find out whether Whitehead could have been right . . . Everything became clear, then: what I had discovered in Kenya, and what the principle of irreduction had hinted at obscurely. There exists a completely autonomous mode of existence that is very inadequately encompassed by the notions of nature, material world, exteriority, object. This world shares one crucial feature with all the others: the risk taken in order to keep on existing.”

“In the end, the mystery as to what these Moderns have been remains intact. What has happened to them? If it is not Nature that they have discovered through the fog of their cultures, if it is not Reason that has finally shined light into the darkness of representations, what has in fact happened? Of what are they the heirs? To answer these questions of philosophical anthropology, of regional ontology, we need a method that provides an adequate depiction of the situations to be described.”

– Bruno Latour: Biography of an Investigation (pdf)

Nick Land: Quote of the Day!

” Cultures that become critical are rapidly intoxicated by lavish metamorphic forces. Reality becomes soluble in the madness of invention, such that it seems as though critique were luring nature into our dreams. Anything is allowable eventually, as long as it is extravagant enough, and nothing that is allowable may any longer be avoided. A critique only dates in the way capital does: cunningly. Both are names for metamorphosis as such, reproduced in their own substitution.”

Nick Land, The Thirst For Annihilation

Nick Land: Quotes

“Where Descartes needed God to mediate his relations with his fellows, secular man is happy with his television set, and with all the other commodified channels of pseudocommunication with which his civilization has so thoughtfully endowed him. Such things are for his own protection of course; to filter out the terrifying threat of infection. If openness to alterity, base communication, and experimental curiosity are marks of an exuberant society, its only true gauge lies in its tendency to be decimated by sexually transmitted diseases and nihilist religion. On this basis it seems that our society, despite its own most strenuous efforts, has not yet consummated its long idealized sclerosis into impermeable atoms. The grit still exists, and it is only amongst the grit that we connect.”

          – Nick Land, The Thirst For Annihilation

Nick Land: Quotes

“Transcendental philosophy needs to be scaled, just as chaos theory needs deepening transcendentally. Between real scales there is always a difference of condition/conditioned, but this difference is only ever scalar (never polar). Unlike a Menger sponge the labyrinth cannot be expressed within a transcendent grid, since it maps an uncircumscribable terrain of immanence. Space and time find their construction ‘in’ the labyrinth, or nowhere. Scale is an irreducible difference. ”
– Nick Land, The Thirst for Annihilation