assemblage, channel, communication, diagram, forgetting, form, intensity, language, media, memory, multiplicity, parasite, Plato, signal, Thought, wisdom, writing

The Horizon of Language

If men learn this [writing], it will implant forgetfulness in their souls; they will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks.

What you have discovered is a recipe not for memory, but for reminder.

And it is no true wisdom that you offer your disciples, but only its semblance, for by telling them of many things without teaching them you will make them seem to know much, while for the most part they know nothing, and as men filled, not with wisdom, but with the conceit of wisdom, they will be a burden to their fellows.

Plato, Phaedrus 275a-b

If we speak language, then it is at least equally true that our languages speak us — even up to that extreme sense wherein language becomes actual, corporeal — and so the horizons of language and of writing cannot be the same as the limits of thought. Yet there is a single abstract machine underlying both thought and language.

Language is neither a channel, a signal, nor a noise. For if language is a channel, then language channels us — it becomes a closed loop, thought = language = being. The result: only intensive realities, only qualities — we’ve isolated the durational aspect of being, a consequence of self-transformation or self-affection.

On the other hand, if language is born from pure noise, it situates itself within us, finds somewhere between and inside us to become a station… Noise clears, but does not disclose, or does so only darkly, ambiguously.

Language transmits us — what does this mean? Nothing more than that language is not a medium, not communication — but a relational attitude to the world, a turning towards an immanent and essential reality.

Perhaps we can trace the otherworldly intensity of language to its pre-supposition — and (continual) recommencement — in (a) social relation itself, the face to face?

What is language but encountering a world where things are both being and being-as-somethings? — but this ontic-ontological distinction collapses, since it is equivalent to a logical substitution, engendering an alien or viral parasitism within knowledge as such.

Yet we cannot simply abandon this provisional division. It has, perhaps, an auto-immunitary function — a sure sign of an underlying machinic (or “unconscious”) intelligence. In some important sense, writing begins precisely a kind of careful self-analysis, which could be formulated approximately: a transcendence towards the Graphic of the graphic through the graphic.

So this is what a philosophy of language seeks to do with expressivity as such, with the essence of language. Not only to elucidate it, to classify it phenomenologically, to illustrate its grounding and ungrounding role in social reality — but in fact to actually explore new territories — that is, to write. For our shame, we write for the world.

But in our hearts we write for ourselves, and ourselves alone. It takes a deeply conservative mindset to conflate style with justice (Aristotle: equalizing the unequal)… Yet lurking beneath there is a tacit revolution in this “gut reaction.” The brilliant origin of a science.

Writing is acting, it is more real than the changing social reality — which it expresses only metaphorically, that is, misleadingly. The recurrent problem (with writing, language, art) is that, on the contrary, it’s too real — the metaphors become reality, we escape from ourselves to the exterior, into the glorious rapture of song (also the harmony of equations…)

This is the mischief, the confusion of real and illusionary, which Plato detects at the heart of poetry — it is his understanding of the “reason” for the ancient war between the philosophers and the poets. Is there a scientific disqualification of writing in the Republic?

Science is already inscribed within writing, but would in some way attempt to do without (as though it were a harmful drug) the affect of the writing — the excessive affection inspired by poetry is precisely Plato’s problem with it, it’s evocativeness which leads people out of themselves, ultimately into weakness, decadence, destruction.

Plato is afraid of a pure difference, the passage of becoming which initiates us, guides us in differentiating, connecting to more complex assemblages. The forms are more material than the metaphors Plato is fighting — the hallucinatory anti-Forms on the edges of Forms, constantly mutating and interconnecting, tracing territories and escape-routes, lines of death and of flight…

Writing is therefore strategic. Does it begin with war machines or with the state? Writing is economy, a city-state, a mathematics. The originary marks: are they counting or writing? A sign so primitive this distinction is still implicit.

So what about this production of writing? Is there no reconciliation between the mystical and the logical?

Surely the production of writing is about open systems of bodies, differential relations between atomic elements, intensive forces, operative and “stylistic” modulations of space or time: in short, a generic assembly, the molecular production of a complex assemblage, with many dimensions and speeds and forces encoded within it. In general, molecular multiplicity is synonymous with revolutions in any practice, social transformations along every dimension of production, every aspect of an assemblage.

The point is to contest the paranoid logic of signification: to overturn ‘power centers’ in language or expression itself, to open up virtual and hallucinatory possibilities anywhere and everywhere.

Map their regimes of power onto new dimensions: show the hidden structural fluxes, gaps, vulnerabilities, escape-routes. It’s always already dramatized.

So: show us, don’t tell us!

Write because you’re sick to death of stories.

Write despite and even because there is a world already overfull of noisy significance.

Write because in every possible relation — there waits upon us to discover an uneasy balance — between primordial responses (absences) and divine secrecy (celerity.)

Language is the house of being — because of an enframing which allows disclosure, a clearing which provides a background for distinction. What is invariant but this gesture of capturing, as though magically, an event in a representation, a process in an Idea?

What varies is segmentarity, really only what kind of connections an assemblage allows between elements, what relations elements are capable of assembling between themselves.

Language is a stage, a setting-into-play of more primordial forms, a delicate (altruistic-parasitic) balance — a thin, glittering line we have experienced before chasing the essence of expression itself.

Always ask: are these circles still concentric?

Is there still a sign, still a self in the center?

Mimic the arrangement, form lateral connections, slowly introduce chaotic and parasitic transformations.

Writing is not action nor reaction, but a counteraction… It is first of all a drug, before the distinction of poison or medicine — an agent of transformation, a pure vector.

What is the essence of writing? Insofar as writing is language, extensive writing is an instruction, or an element of a list of instructions. Intensive writing (which qualifies the quantitative structures of distinctions) are structural diagrams, already in some sense a machine.

Writing is not a prosthetic but a real and independent function along with its interdependent or interindividual aspect — and so it is already an assemblage, a multiplicity of assemblages, assembling novel multiplicities within itself.


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