Empiricism and Power

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The modern break with the authority of the past begins with critical history and the possibility of an empirical investigation into reality. A clinical eye belongs to the properly empirical, trans-historical observer — the one who is provocatively “unpersuaded” by traditional interpretations, metaphysical narratives of becoming, who is skeptical of all foundation myths. Through empirical investigation one discovers the curious historical double-articulation of religion and philosophy, i.e., spiritual or psychic forms and collective authority or wisdom. Truly historical science replaces past tradition with present custom as the proper object of study, and thus by thoughtful prediction, such an inquiry opens the possibility of a non-linear relation between history and the future.

In other words, what empiricism finally rediscovers is that the future is just as deep and infinite as the past. This symmetry is the flash-point of the unravelling of hierarchical social organizations, authority, tradition, religion, etc. In critical theory, that is to the clinical eye, all forms of social asymmetry are isomorphic, but none explain themselves, none are automatic. The past and future are neither absolute nor transcendent. What matters is the present, praxis, the transcendence of history through immediate activity. The project of critical liberation expresses itself through revolutionary social progress: (1) it undoes foundations in order to unfetter potential (singular) becomings, (2) it coordinates energy collectively to produce (new) subjectivities, and perhaps most importantly, (3) it socially plans (different) forms of society.

Empiricism annuls the logic of exchangability in order to allow the subject to awaken to itself, to constitute a world. It strives towards a phenomenology of the given, of the gift. Thus the empirical tradition is liberatory science, that is to say, a science of form, which follows a self-conscious method for creating new formations. On the one hand, the subject is distanced, with a clinical, transhuman eye. Science dehumanizes reality in order to possess, to overcome, to dominate, to control. The clinical eye “images;” it is a camera and an imagination, a project and not a theatre of cruelty. Empirical science is therefore vulnerable to teleologies, to a sort of hyper-self-referential ‘scientism’ which inverts nature into culture.

But there is really no difference: yes, empiricism is a state science of geometrizing difference, re-interpreting distinctions as topological discontinuities. But empirical science is also creative, a nomad science of experimentation, of imagination and doubt and becoming, a sorcery of the void and the abstraction of truth via imaginative induction. Science is half-real, half-imaginary, like a dream; we do not know how the rules of the game work, we must find them out by experimenting, imagining, exploring. We must struggle to become aware, to awaken to ourselves. Science is learning to trust our senses, to critically observe without shame or resentment, to dehumanize the world in order to positively intervene in the flow of events — and dominate.

The goal of science is a true description of Energy, that is to say, of Power. Social science is standing upon its head, trying to explain power in terms of social forces. We must understand social forces in terms of power, that is, pre-social energy, pre-individual fluxes. The singular force of differentiation proceeds from multiple energy sources, arranging and weaving them creatively together. Combining forces produces more than the same forces in isolation; collectivism is the lure of empirical science, some form of global consensus, a universal body of information. The dream of total surveillance is ultimately a dream of becoming invisible, to oneself and to all others; but it combines this relatively benign neurosis with a psychotic desire to be everywhere at once, to accelerate and intensify becomings beyond their limit of degeneration, ultimately the suicidal sacrifice of life for the void.

Fascism succumbs in the end to metaphysical suicide. There is beyond the joy of returning to health and self-consciousness even a certain sorrow in this. It is that we know we ought to always accelerate the destruction of imperialism, of capitalism, of fascism in every form. But we lose our ability to evaluate clinically when these formations look familiar to us, and seem benign or boring. The constantly clinical eye becomes paranoid; it possesses double-vision for every social gesture or political group; it has an evil eye for the decay and degeneration lurking beneath every rosy facade. Fortunately we do not have to choose between boredom and hyper-cynicism; this is more or less precisely the clinical illusion, the dream of radical critique: hygenic utopia. The secret fascist dream of every architect. It is critical piece of the false reality which we must overcome: a love for smooth spaces is also a love for the power of creating them, molding them, segmenting them.

Science is a projective engagement with the real, a clinical investigation into a transactional or segmented space. Empirical involvement discovers in the interactivity of components the possibility of accelerating specific positive becomings locally, and by imagination, globally. If liberation is possible for myself, it is possible for everyone. A vacuous truth, in a sense, but one which is here intended not only to be read and spoken. It is a truth which has not yet become, which must be realized in the present: it is the liberal dream of empirical science. Freedom is not painlessness; this dream is not about religion, but precisely about recuperation, from psychic and social sickness. The most passionate desire of modern science is a better thought of health, that is, of power; it demands a truly clinical conception of strength expanding beyond the ‘normal’ and the ‘sick.’ Liberal thought understands that mutation is always critical, always reframes history — no matter how tiny the deviation. A thousand minimal acts of deviance can disrupt and overthrow even the most complex and entrenched of social mechanisms. A liberatory science is also a science of capture, an inclusion of the beyond within the calculable; by our concession this is made real in hierarchical social organizations founded on exchange. We can escape from the marketplace of ideas only by hermetic sealing our ideas off from the body of society, and even then critique, the clinical gaze, is always parasitic to some degree upon the texts/bodies it exploits. A liberated science is freed from theater, and is able to strive for greatness in thought and in deeds. A noble science, at once static and dynamic, a sensitive feedback assemblage as well as a creative imagination for bridging the inductive gaps. Imagination is transduction, the exclusion of the future by induction which exposes secret lines of flight in the present moment. Praxis is dependent upon perspective; we must be made aware in order to struggle, we need a light to see the light. Ethics is the name of the underlying social principle of differentiation, that the whole transcends the components.

The abstract One of the ethical deed cannot be isolated from a singular process of becoming, without thereby becoming false; we cannot produce a generic ethic without fascism. There can only be ethics, but ethics — ethics is an optics… We must learn to see with inhuman eyes, to act with pure clinical compassion, to think critically without fascination or parasitism. Modern science opens the way onto radical transdisciplinary convergences; we already must learn to speak many languages, we must all learn to be language-creators, too. The modern is only the idiosyncratic, the peculiar mythology of the present. But in the ley lines of the sorcerer’s tome we can read the deep secrets of the future and the past. The social must be dreamed; but only when reality truly disappears does dreaming emerge with a fresh urgency. We desire new futures to escape the dangerous present, without realizing the future we seek will exponentially exceed ours in danger and irresponsibility as well as insight and moral clarity. The first is the price we always pay for the latter; knowledge is always disillusionment. The price of freedom is choice itself; the critical must displace, the clinical must intervene. Empiricism produces a general awakening of innovation, an acceleration of institutionalization, industrialization, individualization. Revolution in the abstract is just imaginative intervention; history tells us that once people realize they have been made fools, they no longer tend to do as they are told. This is when the realization of full humanity becomes possible — at the very moment it has been transcended.

This entry was written by Joseph Weissman and published on Tuesday, October 9, 2007 at 5:13 pm. It’s filed under becoming, control, empirical, fascism, freedom, health, history, liberalism, power, Science / Mathematics / Technology, tradition, transhuman. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

One thought on “Empiricism and Power

  1. ‘It is perhaps dawning on five or six minds that physics, too, is only an interpretation and exegesis of the world (to suit us, if I may say so!) and not a world-explanation; but insofar as it is based on belief in the senses, it is regarded as more, and for a long time to come must be regarded as more–namely, as an explanation. Eyes and fingers speak in its favor, visual evidence and palpableness do, too: this strikes an age with a fundamentally plebian tastes as fascinating, persuasive, and convincing–after all, it follows instinctively the canon of truth of eternally popular sensualism. What is clear, what is “explained”? Only what can be seen and felt–every problem has to be pursued to that point. Conversely, the charm of the Platonic way of thinking, which was a noble way of thinking, consisted precisely in the resistance of sense-evidence–perhaps among men who enjoyed even stronger and more demanding senses than our contemporaries, but who knew how to get a higher triumph in remaining masters of their senses–and this by means of pale, cold, gray concept nets which they threw over the motley whirl of the senses–the mob of the senses, as Plato said. In this overcoming of the world, and interpreting of the world in the manner of Plato, there was an enjoyment different from that which the physicists of today offer us–and also the Darwinists and the anti-teleologists among the workers in physiology, with their principle of “the smallest possible force” and the greatest possible stupidity. “Where man cannot find anything to see or grasp, he has no further business” — that is certainly an imperative different from the Platonic one, but it may be the right imperative for a tough industrious race of machinists and bridge-builders of the future, who have nothing but rough work to do.

    –Nietzsche

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