About a month ago, around the time that we celebrated the 35th episode of our philosophy jam-session podcast (Theorytalk), my co-host Joe decided to undertake a rigorous study of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. In response, I have—seemingly at random—threaded together a series of texts that reverberate with and spiral outward from this seminal work. Nevertheless, after the fact I realized that the texts that perhaps seem uncoordinated with this critique in fact tie it together obliquely with a text that I have been diligently working on: the translation of Gilbert Simondon’s L’individuation à la lumière des notions de forme et d’information. In the following weeks, I hope to expound upon these texts in a way that analyzes them, crystallizes them, and threads the needle connecting the concerns of Kant’s first critique with those of Simondon’s critique of hylomorphic reason. The majority of these reflections will be made available to our exclusive patrons over at our Patreon page, and these themes and refrains will be taken up, unraveled and rewoven in the conversations that Joe and I will continue to have on our weekly Theorytalk podcasts. To better orient ourselves and to highlight the texts that will be discussed, I have included here a sort of interactive bibliography along with links to these texts.
Critique of pure laughter. Laughter plays madly through the body, as though suddenly accessing another layer of reality. The shock of the abstract. A pure line is embodied in the spatiotemporal dynamisms of the laugher — which are in the same ‘order’ as that of the joke… –Laughter shakes loose the world, discovering something which doesn’t belong; that which the world hides from itself. Things hidden since the foundation of the world (Girard has a book of this title.) —The laugh opens onto virtual events: pure space and time; modalities in the flesh. Laughter perhaps even regenerates the world, in a cosmic convalescence: the strangely familiar thing-beneath-things is shaken loose. —At the feast of the gods, laughter is inextinguishable (Serres’ Hermes).
After a difficult rift expedition, the committee has recently recovered a fragment from the introduction of Programming Your Xerocomputer, a text whose very existence was once widely-disputed. A translation of “Section iii: Getting Started With Your Xerocomputer” is offered below, with associated Gamma-spectrum xenotational commands for the machine.
A few years ago, I took a graduate seminar on experimental texts at Emory University. Some of the work I have done during my studies I have put up on Fractal Ontology, but I never included this one. I will run you through the basics of the project.
First, I wanted to showcase the “consumption” of philosophical texts that I have participated in over the course of my reading. This usually entails me, pen in hand, marking and re-marking texts with underlines, brackets and marginalia. At the end of the course, alongside my own reflection in text-form, I produced an artistic artifact. Basically, I ripped out the pages from 25 of my favorite–and most marked–texts, juxtaposed them as partial objects, and grafted and glued them onto a desk chair. So, the seat and center of the chair looks something like this:
Below, I will include my experimental essay reflecting on this project and the questionnaire I had to fill out for the project. Here is the questionnaire:
Hello everyone! I would like to extend an invitation to check out what Joe and I are doing over at our new theorytalk podcast. We just released our 25th podcast and show no signs at all of slowing down any time soon. For a more complete description, you can find Joe’s earlier post on theorytalk here at Fractal Ontology, and be sure to check out our Patreon page for even more information on what we’re doing and how you can contribute financially (with your money) and creatively (with your feedback).
As an example of some of the pathbreaking avenues we are trying to breach in our attempts to vary our podcast content, check out Joe’s interview with Katerina Kolozova (episode 20). I give full credit to Joe for this episode, and I had nothing to do with it (or, if I am feeling charitable to myself, perhaps only indirectly due to my translations of Laruelle).
In the spirit of following Joe’s initiative to do something different for episode 20, we have begun discussing ways of changing up some of the formatting and thematic content in the podcasts. Since this is still something quite new for me and Joe, we are trying to diversify some of the content while continuing also to do our traditional jam-thinking sessions. This is something like taking the next step of balancing the old with the new.
Now, Joe and I have brainstormed a few different ideas for new formats for our podcasts that go beyond mere topics of episodes, and I will create a new post this weekend detailing some of these ideas to give everyone a taste of what we had in mind. We would also like to hear back from our dear readers and your ideas, comments or questions, so if you have anything in mind that you’d like to share, please feel free to comment on this post, and we can start the discussion.
Look for our next episode in the next few days, most likely Friday or Saturday!
Derrida: “Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences”
From Writing and Difference, trans. Alan Bass (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978): 278-93.
“We need to interpret interpretations more than to interpret things” (Montaigne).
Derrida refers to the history of the concept of structure and an “event” in that history (it should be noted that in this opening paragraph, Derrida himself highlights the bracketing of the term event in quotation marks to serve as a precaution). Even here, the choice of the word “event” is “loaded” with a “meaning” that structural or structuralist thought seems to preclude. Thus we would have to say this word “event” as though it were crossed out or sous rature (under erasure). And so, with these precautions and noting structuralism’s potential objections, Derrida chooses to speak of an event whose “exterior form would be that of a rupture and a redoubling” (278).
This rupture perhaps brings to mind what Althusser normally calls an “epistemic break”, insofar as Derrida notes how the concept and word “structure” are as old as the episteme of Western philosophy and intertwines deeply with the “soil of ordinary language”. In fact the word and concept of structure are metaphorically displaced by the “deepest recesses” of the episteme. Of course, Althusser attributes epistemological breaks specifically to Marx and the way in which ideological conceptions are replaced by scientific ones. Here, what concerns the notion of an “event” in the history of the “structurality of structure” is the way in which it has always already been at work and “neutralized or reduced” due to its spontaneous attribution of a center or point of presence, “a fixed origin”. The goal of attributing a fixed center to structure is in order to “limit what we might call the play of structure”. It is not to eliminate play but to limit it according to the “total form” of structure that the episteme has succeeded in warding off “the notion of a structure lacking any center”, which would represent “the unthinkable itself”. (279).