comments 16
death / ecology / exchange / flight / flux / force / machine / message / motion / possibility / power




The evolution of an ecology expresses itself through both gradual and violent transformations. An ecological system is indeed a continuous system of exchanges, where functions actively extract themselves from an open horizon, producing a conjunction or interface, an active occupation of space.


We exist as these spatial and energetic languages, as regular translations between them, continuously enriching the ecological circuits upon which both they and we depend. Thus we realize the impossible equality of nothing and all things, perpetual motion, the flux, the seafire at the impossible origin of motion: one in, one out.


Energy amplifies the field, weaves separate forces together. There is no cooperation, there is no war, the channel is neutral. We are messengers, a signal from within.




Is there not an angelology of energy itself? A theory of traces which finally erases itself, leaving only the land and the sky and the sea. A beach with stars. What is this signal from beyond with paradoxical demands?




Light is only a hint, a map of time, a confirmation of possibility. The perversity of desire mirrors the perversity of God, the supreme irony — the sardonic lightness which we cannot help but associate with the beyond.


A messenger, a confirmation. A third who works, better than we could have hoped — summoning from without that which could never have been, perhaps should never be: the machine, the forge, that image which burns through the lace tracings of flesh without flinching or fatigue, opening the way onto another sense of being completely: time-as-vortex, turbulent and eternal.


Already a clarity, a power, a disgust which carry their own unique dangers.


Remember this: the cautious, steady, clear path leads into stagnation. It is the cut, the line of flight veering into the wild vortex.


Corruption eating away within. Death is not even as terrifying as these openings, these hooks dripping from every surface, every letter, every face.

The Author

mostly noise and glare


  1. “Energy amplifies the field, weaves separate forces together. There is no cooperation, there is no war, the channel is neutral. We are messengers, a signal from within.”
    This has been one of the most difficult things for me to understand and return to, that there really isn’t someone at the controls, that the dynamics of power are contingent on a myriad of seemingly insignificant factors…

  2. A bit rhapsodic, in my opinion. Take that as you will — Schelling would certainly see no conflict between poetry and philosophy, though Kant would side with Plato. Insight is here rather indiscriminately mixed with obscure injunctions (“remember this”).

    Truth can be dressed in verse, however. There is no shame in good writing.

    Please forgive a small Hegelian retrospection on your post. I tend to read my own enthusiasms into things. You wrote that “we realize the impossible equality of nothing and all things, perpetual motion, the flux, the seafire at the impossible origin of motion: one in, one out.”

    Is this not the abstract identity of formal Being and Nothingness? The empty void and the equally barren plenum? The opening dialectic to Hegel’s Science of Logic seems implied, since you shift from “the impossible equality of nothing and all” to perpetual motion and flux (i.e., Becoming). It’s the Heraklitean logos, the point of a coincidence of opposites.

    Without waxing mystic, I would say to both you and Mollie (commenting on your opening sentiments) that the net neutrality (the Schellingean “indifference” of the Absolute, I would say) is achieved only by the (cosmic) equilibrium of war and cooperation, disjunction and conjunction, thanatos and eros. Both obtain without tipping the scale affirmatively or negatively. Also, the pluralism and contingency of the “myriad of insignificant factors” are at once identical with the monism and necessity of their absolution: that the dynamics are contingent implies that they are contingent upon necessary conditions, which of course regress to the unconditioned, which must be in-itself static. I hope this does not appear a pedantic reflection. I only implore you to hold up these pronouncements to the mirror.

  3. Thank you both for your insightful comments and questions!

    Mollie, the controls are indeed in your hands. You understand the problem of creativity, which is to say, the problem of madness. Not that there is an absolute identity between them — hardly — but that they simply are instances of the same kind of experimental process. We have the power to be cautious with our use of power. This restraint is already responsibility, the basis for ethics and aesthetics at once. Even and especially in times of social degeneration, artists must recognize their new responsibility — one co-extensive with that of writers, militants, analysts. Not that there is some “true” message you must communicate, simply that you must communicate the truth! The media, the channel, is neutral — this doesn’t mean we don’t have control over what passes! We must accept what does, of course — but not necessarily without struggle 🙂

    Ross, your reflections are hardly pedantic. The point here could perhaps be put this way: the identity of Being and Nothingness isn’t abstract. Rather, it’s a vortex — a turbulent flux. A torrential influx of emptiness, an outflow of pure intensities: then they are woven together. Balance, peace, an ecosystem. Not an abstract identity — but an abstract machine. A “net neutrality” is still negating the lines of flight bursting from every segment, cracking apart the network of dense equivalences. Consider the transferential continuity between events, the a-temporal resonance between breaks, communication at points of contact, or between struggles and rupture-points. As I said to Mollie, we have to recognize there is an unconscious layer where these distinctions between various fields is no longer important: the problem of madness is that of artistic creation, the problem of creation is revolution. Equilibrium is, precisely, one way of looking at it — an aspect or mode of the relationship. But the relationship has a micro-structure, an element or atomic unit — the parasite, the transistor. In-itself it is repetition: thus it is precisely not static, but a pure difference. Not dynamics, but the distinction between conjunction and disjunction, are contingent!

    Thanks again! 🙂


  4. Could you tell? 🙂

    Yeah, it’s curious: Guattari’s never very far from my own research, but with a strange distance or dissonance — almost as though we’re on parallel lines, like we’d meet at infinity but never in the real world… (Maybe it’s a generational thing — I know you feel this torsion too: we are responsible for conveying his message, but also responsible for amplifying and evolving it.) Speaking of which, when are you getting the Cartographies done? 🙂

  5. Yeah, I was just commenting on the madness/artistic creation–artist/analyst/militant reference. And of course whenever we get to say ethico-aesthetic I can’t help but think of Chaosmosis, along with the search for creative modalities of subjectivity.

    Now that I’m done with the articles for the second edition of Chaosophy, I can get back to the Machinic Unconscious. But since I’m so far ahead of schedule, I’m going to start on the cartographies next week. Semiotext(e) expressed some interest in it, so I’ll probably just work on the first 12 pages of the preface and try to polish that up. But I’ll also be working on finishing up the first 7 pages of the Deleuze/Laruelle.

    As I’m reading Laruelle’s essay on Deleuze, I always get the feeling that he can critique What Is Philosophy? against Deleuze alone because….because I don’t really see much Guattari here. Just in scattered references….like the description of the plane of immanence as fractal, etc. I would really like to do some posts on this book and try to quote from the essay substantially.

    What also makes it interesting is that I believe Laruelle’s early work takes more from Guattari than Deleuze…I’m thinking particularly his Beyond the Power Principle. But then again, it would be critical to ask if Laruelle’s critique of Deleuze’s philosophy can be equally extended to Guattari? Is Guattari not enough of a philosopher for Laruelle to bother with? Isn’t this how Badiou treats the two as well? By ignoring the second term?

  6. Thank you for your thoughtful response. If I have understood you correctly (I pray my intuitions do not betray your meaning), then there are nevertheless some remaining points of contention.

    This is bound to sound more harsh than I intend. But I believe a frank exchange would be most profitable to discussion, and so I will not truncate my evaluation:

    My objection is to be found in the recent philosophies of difference in general, for in my mind they are essentially Pyrrhonian, negating everything that comes its way through difference without turning back on itself in a reflexive negation of its own negativity. Let this frame what I am about to write.

    The “transferential continuity between events” and the “communication [of force] at points of contact” indicate to me something far more than pure, repeated difference. For communication to take place, it is formally requisite that there would be the relation of what Kant called community between the various matters that would fit this metaphysic. Superficial heterogeneity aside, a common material substance must obtain in communicating objects in order for any interaction to be possible in the first place. Axiomatically speaking, contact cannot occur between two fundamentally unlike substances, which would be implied in a repeated, pure difference which admits of no determinate likeness. Unless one wants to systematically subscribe to a substance dualism (or pluralism, if one is feeling especially multidimensional), the only inference to be made from the apparent interaction of objects (contact, transference, etc.) would be that there must exist some common ground between them which allows them to mediate one another (and this ground would by necessity be homogeneously monistic). This is the insight of Spinoza, and is unavoidable apart from the position of a providentially “pre-established harmony,” which, of course, is the Leibnizian stance.

    This is from the standpoint of the whole, of course. In-itself, as you suggested, there could be difference between the parts, but only in parte. There is, of course, aesthetic (i.e., spacio-temporal) difference between objects, especially when arranged in a sequence. The divisibility of extension and protension (duration) is quite obvious, and is mathematically infinitesimal. But these are only serial infinities, and disappear in the absolute infinity of the whole (Spinoza’s Substance, Hegel’s Substance/Spirit/Idea). For both of these holistic examples, since they would be the statically unified medium in which the multiplicity of parts, modes, attributes would be dynamically mediated. But this is the medium’s relation to itself (in-itself); its relation to the mediated would naturally be its relation to another (for-another). Perhaps a point of conciliation is possible at this juncture: for 1) relatively speaking, the various media are viewed dynamically; but 2) absolutely speaking, there is only one medium, which must be viewed statically (qua unconditioned, immediate). The latter case has recourse in the history of metaphysics to the notion of an unmoved mover (God, or, as Spinoza would have it, Deus sive Natura. It would be qualitatively and not quantitatively infinite. “One and all” (hen kai pan, Ἕν καὶ Πᾶν). Consider this. Do you agree?

    My final point might seem somewhat arbitrary. But it is nonetheless important. This has to do with your assertion of the ecosystem’s abstract mechanism [a paraphrase from your “abstract machine”], which combines Being and Nothingness. Perhaps it’s your choice of analogy, but does this not seem to conjure images of Spinoza’s conception of God (or Nature, if you prefer)? If this notion is borrowed from Deleuze, that would of course make sense, given his reverence for Spinoza as a philosopher. However, is it not perhaps more prudent (not to mention more poetic) to conceive of nature as an organism rather than a mechanism? This would allow for its living force, its vitality. It’s quite possible I’m too influenced by Kant’s third Critique and the Jena romantics in this, but any other rendering of nature’s operation seems to me a necrophiliac metaphor. What do you think?

    As for your linkage of these concepts with artistic creation and madness, I am unclear as to your meaning. Perhaps you could reformulate this in simpler terms for me; as it stands it comes off a little vague.

    In any case, I hope this response has not been too long or tedious. It has been my intention to constrain myself to the details and implications of your initial reply to me on this thread, and I hope that I did not carry this beyond the threshold of your meaning or continued interest in dialogue on these points.

  7. Hey Ross, I really appreciate your comments lately, especially your use of German idealism. Lately, I’ve been trying to work on Fichte’s Science of Knowledge in relation to Laruelle. I was actually going to quote him here, either to raise interest or horribly confuse the subject even more. Anyway, it would be nice to chat with you sometime about Fichte and I can tell you why I think he’s important for Laruelle…but here’s the quote, it’s from his “Response to Deleuze,” which mainly concerns his last book with Guattari, What Is Philosophy?:

    “The One in question, the radical immanence through which it is defined, is not principally the One-All, whether “close” or not to Spinoza, but instead a One-without-All, and even a One-without-Being, which we call the One-in-the-last-instance in order to oppose it to the convertibility which it refuses of the One and of Being, similar to the Spinozist reversibility of the One and the All. Certain contemporary philosophers abominate the One — and with good reason. We are also included: however, on the condition of specifying that it is then a question of the One correlative, in some way which is (or in some relation that which is) of the multiple and convertible, to an inversion, whether close or not, with Being. Because the One prevails over Being or the Multiple, or the Multiple over the One, or because they alternately prevail over one another, these are clearly possible solutions which must be explored, but this is entirely not our problem. A real critique of immanence according to Deleuze is now possible; and among other possibilities, it can be made to the benefit of a form of immanence still more radical, excluding all transcendence outside of it: not only theological objects and entities, but also the ultimate form of transcendence, self-position or survey [survol], the fold or doublet, etc. The One-in-the-last-instance is the true suspension of this One-All and, in a general way, of all reciprocity, in other words, of all relation without possible exception, essentially “without relation” to Being.”

    I was going to go to Difference and Repetition and Simondon via Kant…but this quote just fit so perfectly.

    I honestly don’t mean this to skirt the topic, just to enter it from the side.


  8. Taylor —

    Thank you for your kind praise. I would love to discuss Fichte’s Science of Knowledge or any other part of his philosophical corpus with you. He’s one of truly unappreciated (or at least underappreciated) geniuses of all times; I practically worship the man. I’m unfamiliar with Laruelle, but can assure you that I am quite curious to learn more. To trade compliments, I can also tell you that I enjoyed your blog posts on Adorno. I’m a big fan, and have made his works a study of mine as well.

    Unfortunately, I haven’t the time now to respond to the quote you cited from Laruelle. It looks promising, however, and hope to be able to consider it over the next few hours.


  9. Dear Ross,

    Great! I’m glad to hear you are interested in Fichte. We can discuss the Laruelle later, but to let you know, what Laruelle claims to be doing is modeled after Fichte’s three primary propositions. Over the summer, Joe Justin and I decided to read Hegel’s Phenomenology, and as a detour I’ve been wandering through Fichte, Schelling and Kant. What most interests me is their take on Spinoza, at least the first two, insofar as they claim he is dogmatic, yet they still wish to do a Spinozism without overstepping their transcendental boundaries. I know this is all very vague, but in many instances Hegel does come closest to giving Spinozism a transcendental yet ontological turn. I guess that’s where I’m at now with my studies: what does it mean when Kant wants to talk not about how things are but how they appear? A very simple start, but one that I feel begins to set the framework for the frenzy of idealistic research around this time. I had been looking at your blog recently, but I just haven’t had the time to formulate a response. I was quite happy to see someone else out there tackling these very same issues in such depth. You know, although I am not too keen on his other writings when he interprets other books or philosophers, Heidegger’s lectures on Hegel’s Phenomenology are actually very good, especially the first half which is mainly devoted to the first three sections of the book (excepting the preface and introduction) sense-certainty, perception, and force, which, honestly for me, are the most difficult. Other than that, I’ve been trying to read Hyppolite’s Genesis and Structure along with Kojeve’s lectures to gain a better appreciation of Hegel’s impact on 20th century French thought. I’ll try to make a better connection between Laruelle and Fichte in a post soon so we can continue a dialogue.

  10. Taylor —

    To begin with the quote from Laruelle:

    While I’m not sure if what he’s saying is absolutely pertinent to my criticisms of Joseph’s post (not that appeals can’t/won’t be made), his explanation of the difference between the Deleuzian (is this the proper nomenclature?) “One-without-All” and the Spinozist/Romantic/Hegelian “One-and-All” is clearly important to keep in mind. It would indeed be presumptuous to conflate their meaning with respect to this concept (“the One”). However, I feel as though I cannot offer a judgment as to the tenability of the Deleuzian notion without greater familiarity with the conceptual apparatus in which it appears, the lines of argument he pursues, etc. Regardless, I am intrigued by this Laruelle fellow. He seems an astute enough reader with just the critical impatience (“this is entirely not our problem”) that I like in a writer. And his Fichtean references recommend him favorably, to say the least.

    So, while the quote might be relevant to the points I made with regard to “Warning,” I would in any case like to hear Joseph’s thoughts on the matter. I hope this does not seem a dismissal — rather, a request.

    Concerning Fichte et alia:

    Your instinct in looking to Kant, Fichte, and Schelling was entirely correct. Supplementary primary material should be sought in the Greeks, Spinoza, Leibniz, and F.H. Jacobi and Schleiermacher; good secondary sources include Dieter Henrich’s celebrated Between Kant and Hegel as well as Fred Beiser’s books on the subject. Hegel (and particularly the Phenomenology and the Science of Logic are practically unintelligible apart from a familiarity with the philosophical exigencies involved in their writings. I agree that Heidegger’s interpretation of Hegel is rather refreshing in its clarity and lack of overt bias (which can hardly be said for his reading of Nietzsche or the Eleatics, for example). His book on Schelling’s Philosophical Investigations into the Essence of Human Freedom (truly one of the greatest texts in the history of philosophy) is also extremely helpful. Kojève and Hyppolite are also excellent readers; I would highly recommend Adorno’s Three Studies as well.

    I must say I am terribly excited to hear of others embarking down this road! I have a self-described “orthodox Kantian” for a roommate who followed me some way, and left appreciating the post-Kantians while rejecting their return to “dogmatic” metaphysical claims ahd “speculations.” In contrast, my mind has been warped (sublated) permanently, and I have converted (with some important reservations) to Hegelianism. I suppose that’s a bit transparent, and I should probably not show all my cards from the outset, but I feel that I owe it to you in case you might suspect me of indoctrinating you.

    I am glad to hear you’ve taken an interest in some of the same things I’ve been dealing with of late on my blog. We must exchange notes(/thoughts/objections/competing interpretations). I’d be happy to elucidate any of the points I’ve been trying to make. A flair for the poetic is certainly at work in my writing (hence my respect for Joseph’s style, so long as it is not all pyrotechnics), so it would not be surprising if some of the concepts are rendered without the greatest discursive clarity. The opportunity for clever wordplay and musicality of their sound sometimes runs away with me. Anyhow, don’t feel squeamish about responding to anything in posts I’ve made. I am surely out of my depth in some of the matters that Joseph and you are writing about, but this cannot stave off my academic curiosity.

    Your judgment about Hegel’s idealistic (spiritualistic) Spinozism wholeheartedly corresponds to my own, though I would say that the Schelling of the Identitatsphilosophie could give him a run for his money. The idealists were interested in overcoming the architectonic dualisms of the Critical (Kantian) philosophy: between appearances (phenomena) and things-in-themselves (noumena), theory and practice, etc. Following Reinhold, they wanted to ground his insights into a consistently monistic, systematic form that could explain the possibility of interaction between subjective Spirit and objective Nature, ultimately breaking down all supposed differences through to the Absolute. Spinoza’s system, as the most consistent monistic philosophy of that day (perhaps still), was taken as a model to be followed in this pursuit.

    Kant’s distinction between appearances and things-in-themselves is the foundation of his Critical philosophy. I highly recommend you read his three Critiques, no matter how daunting or how inconvenient it might seem at this point in your studies. His insights are invaluable, even if they turn out to be wrongheaded in some cases (this is my opinion). Here is the standard epistemological narrative to Kant’s project:

    Trying to save the “queen of the sciences” (metaphysics) from the empiricist assaults by Hume (who famously debunked the dogmatic/rationalist formula of causation), Kant asserts that the categories of metaphysics are not to be found inhering in the objects of the world, but rather in our apprehension of those objects. Our cognitions of objects tell us not so much about how the objects are in-themselves, but rather how they appear to us. The material content (“the manifold of intuition”) is “given” to our sensibility (via the “Transcendental Aesthetic” of space and time), and subsequently filtered through the metaphysico-logical categories of our understanding. Kant’s assertion was that these formally structured our experience of objects in the world, and that all we could ever confidently (objectively) know were the appearance of objects to us, though these held universally. He further claimed that when we attempt to abstract from objects of possible experience (as in psychology/pneumatology, cosmology, and theology), and claim these properties to exist in things as they are in-themselves, our determinations get lost in contradictions (paralogisms, antinomies, dialectic, etc.).

    Sounds reasonable enough, right? Yes, well, Kant’s claims were roundly condemned by critics and skeptics of his day. Salomon Maimon (an excellent and oft-neglected figure of the Jewish Enlightenment), Aenesidemus (alias Schulze), and Freidrich Jacobi all rejected Kant’s postulate of an unknowable thing-in-itself. Don’t give us your Ding-an-Sich bogeyman, they said. You cannot infer the existence of something outside of empirical appearances if you claim to reach this conclusion through experiences. This remains controversial. Karl Ameriks, for example, still revisits this tired old debate. For your purposes it is enough to know that the German Idealists all rejected this phantom “thing-in-itself.”

    I hope this has been helpful. Dreadfully long, true, but perhaps thorough.


  11. Joseph —

    Returning, if I may, from the tangential asides to which I have (fortunately) strayed with Taylor, I am still interested in the possibility of continuing dialogue on the issues raised in the seventh comment (my second) to this post. It is possible that Taylor, in his quotation of Laruelle, offered us the key to clearing up any remaining confusion I might have. But I am unsure of this, and, in any case, would like to hear your thoughts on the matters under discussion.

    Though it might well be bad form to submit such a request for a second time, my reason for doing so is that I suspected that it might seem as if, in the topical detours I subsequently was engaged with, I had lost interest in your response to my criticisms. Since nothing could be further from the truth, I am hereby repeating my request.

    My interest is not to nitpick at phrases or find an excuse to take offense at your claims. It might well be that we are working with different assumptions or that I have misjudged your intended meaning, in which case we would be talking past one another. I do not suspect you of some sort of sleight of hand or anything of the like; instead, it is my belief that, through careful maieutic, we might both better ascertain the implications of your assertions. It would greatly sadden me if this exchange was to be forgotten, cut short, as it were. My politeness, I assure you, is not a bit insincere. I only hope the demand for further explanation of your meaning on these matters is not met with annoyance on your part, for this is not my purpose.

    And so, if you remain interested in this dialogue, I direct you to the seventh comment under this post.


  12. Ross,

    Whether it is, as you say, from a Pyrhhonic skepticism of the “grand style” of metaphysics, or simply from an inborn distaste for the standpoint of the Whole, philosophers of difference have indeed attempted a sort of “coup” of philosophy itself — starting with Kant, I suppose, but already we’re also talking about Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Deleuze, Derrida… — whose consequences we are only beginning to measure. In its own way these writings express an-other (metaphysical) desire, which affirms a divergence from the radical singularity of the philosophical decision. To make thought infinite — is this to make philosophy transcendent or to make philosophy immanent? It seems to me that “secularizing” spirituality is the project of modernity, its plan of immanence, which is perhaps not simply a mad fancy. It is even the most dangerous, most exciting, and most costly work — a work which intersects all diagrams, all systems, all evaluations. A singular project nonetheless, even a personal one — a cautious descent into the depths, where all mixtures become again possible. A new body for a new earth: Levinas calls it fecundity, Deleuze calls it the Open. So in a way this problem of madness — of “beginning” and “ending” metaphysics — is an experiment, in the same way that revolution (in the political sense) is an experiment, or that creation (in the artistic sense) is an experiment.

    Here’s the question. Philosophers create concepts, but what kind of labor, what kind of becoming is this? “Which” is philosophy? Which conditions and situations allow it, are allowed by it? Which does it open, and how does it impregnate? Which infinity does its labors achieve, and how? If it is perhaps an infinite thought — or an infinite speed, an infinite intensity for thought — how is it achieved and what does it make possible?

    Thanks again for this wonderful discussion! Sorry for the brevity of this response, I’ve been working a lot on a new game. I’m more than happy to continue this conversation for as long as you like.


  13. Joseph —

    I am fully aware of the recent developments you describe in philosophy regarding the “coup” undertaken by the philosophers of difference. It was not my intention to callously write off the value of their endeavor or the seriousness of their criticisms. In fact, I deeply respect the contributions to modern philosophical discourse made by Heidegger and Wittgenstein. Derrida is no less deserving of credit for the “opening” of new spaces for dialogue, ambivalent though I may be to his conclusions (these are, of course, quite difficult to identify amidst his rhetorical distanciations). The jury is still out on Deleuze, pending a more detailed study of his works. His appreciation of Spinoza and Kant, along with his role in renewing interest in Bergson do suggest that to me that I will enjoy his thought. But this is a quite superficial anticipation. In fact, I might ask you outright: are there any works by Deleuze in particular that you would recommend I begin with? Any helpful background reading that might assist in my comprehension? I figure that Taylor and yourself would be good sources of advice in this, given your engagement with his (Deleuze’s) work.

    Despite my confidence in the earnestness with which the philosophers of difference approach their critical (mayhap skeptical) project, I nevertheless have my doubts as to the defensibility of some of their claims. Žižek’s rebuttal (see For They Know Not What They Do: Enjoyment as a Political Factor) of Rodolphe Gasché’s Derridean reading of Hegel et al. in his The Tain of the Mirror: Derrida and the Philosophy of Reflection lays bare the shortcomings and untenability of such objections. Gasché occasionally surprised me in this work with an insight or succinct formulation, but for the most part I was unconvinced. I know I am here referring you to an outside source, and that I should not measure a thinker’s quality by the output of his epigones. This is, of course, only a point of departure for what I am trying to say; perhaps it might serve as an illustration that some of the postmodernist/post-structuralist claims to have “settled the hash” of holistic/totalitarian philosophies are unfounded. I suspect that many of those who announce the death of philosophy (along with other apocalyptic proclamations concerning the end of metaphysics and the inauguration of a “post-metaphysical” age — a veritable New Jerusalem) have fancied themselves its gravediggers too hastily; how surprised they might be when they arrive and see that the stone which covered the entrance to the cave has been rolled back, and that metaphysics’ ostensible “death” has been greatly exaggerated.

    As Kant so plainly recognized in his criticism of dogmatic metaphysics (i.e., The Critique of Pure Reason), metaphysical speculation would survive even a barbarism which swept away all the other sciences of mankind. Heidegger, in his essay/lecture on “What is Metaphysics?” came to much the same conclusion, asserting that metaphysics would persist so long as death and negativity defines human experience, a condition (mortality) from which I cannot see us extricated for some time.

    (My tone smacks of polemic. I apologize. The metaphors leapt forth from the material itself and quite overpowered me. Who am I to resist?)

    I agree with your diagnosis of the secularization of spirituality as endemic to modernity. Hegel arrived at this insight as early as 1803, with his collaboration with Schelling in Faith and Knowledge. The cultural alienation of man, the abyssal night of the Spirit, our “transcendental homelessness” (to borrow a phrase from the young Lukács used in his Theory of the Novel) — these are all symptomatic of the modern age. Equally symptomatic, I would say, are attempts to reverse or avoid this process by resorting to spiritualist ecstasies and mysticism. Rapt in its euphoric throes, even brilliant thinkers like Benjamin, Adorno, and Levinas (whom I revere for their restoration of apophatic theology) have succumbed to escapist eschatologies and one-sidedly nihilistic programs (two characteristics Scholem acutely recognized as inextricably linked with mysticism). In this, they are notably prefigured by Jacobi, whose bitter critiques of modernity’s totalizing, desacralizing reifications were always accompanied by nostalgic pleas for a return to immediacy. But for all their protestations and critical distanciations, is not the dialectic of myth and enlightenment noticed by Adorno, Horkheimer, and a host of others remarkably similar to Hegel’s critique of enlightenment in the Phenomenology?

    My point here (reached in rather roundabout fashion) is that philosophy has given itself in recent times, as you say, to a “plan of immanence” mimetically repeats the standard occult/hesychast gesture of trying to make the transcendent immanent. In this it promises a window into the divine, a gateway from which one can get away from the stifling profanity of the world, from the sterility of “all diagrams, all systems, all evaluations” (I presume this implies Hegel, among others). This holds in spite of any physicalist/materialist pretensions these philosophies might adopt, dressing their concepts in homey wisdom and other false familiarities, even false intimacies. On this point I even feel that Hegel’s conservative identification of the real with the ideal is too close to these modern philosophies of immanence (of which his is certainly the progenitor, regardless of their repeated disavowals of panlogism). The domestication (making-immanent) of the alien (transcendent) is doubtless premature: it cannot be simply asserted, providing easy respite and consolation for the lazy. It might the Marxist (or Left Hegelian?) in me, but the eleventh thesis on Feuerbach comes to mind.

    Allow me a brief excursus into what Freud called “lay analysis” for a moment. The twentieth-century protestation against totalizing systems seems to me to stem from a deep-seated anxiety of being reduced “to a paragraph in a system” (Kierkegaard’s oft-quoted objection to Hegel). Many feel that the apparently impersonal nature of the great nineteenth-century systems threatens to swallow their individuality, their particularity “whole.” (I will refrain from thoroughly excoriating facile individualisms, multiculturalisms, and other deformities owing to the politics of identity). Critics of these systems moreover exhibit the paranoia that totalizing philosophy leads to totalitarian politics, and so they stubbornly assert the priority of the particular and the different, the other. In a frantic attempt to dissociate themselves from the all-encompassing logic of the system (whether Spinoza’s or Hegel’s), they refuse to acknowledge that the difference they assert is unintelligible apart from its negative ancillary (likeness or sameness) and recognize the dialectical/antinomical unity which would inevitably carry them down the path of absolution.

    Far from its caricature as an unyielding logical edifice, imposing its strictures on those who wish to enter, dialectical thought is consummate in its flexibility and dynamism. And so Levinas’ metaphor of fecundity and Heidegger’s Open of the clearing are not precluded from it.

    How does philosophy open (erotic metaphors abound) and how does it impregnate, as you say? By conception. Just as the child is conceived in the “black infinity of the womb,” so are thoughts conceived in the “emptiness of ignorance” — this, I say, is the universal impetus to philosophize. Its labors are maternal, and unfold from what Schelling called “the sovereign mother of knowledge.” From her labor the infinity of thought is birthed. Herein lies the key to Socrates notion of eros in the “Symposium.” Philosophy is eroticism, not only discourse but intercourse.

    I believe this is not some happy coincidence of language. It is, in any case, quite general and perhaps a bit overwrought. Now, while I by no means wish to hypostatize metaphysical categories into something more rigid than they are (I am a dialectician, after all), I still feel as though you have not adequately addressed the specific points I made in relation to your post, especially regarding monism, mediation, and the interplay of stasis and ecstasy (dynamism). These appear in paragraphs four, five, and six of the post to which I referred you. I do not wish to sound annoyed or impatient; nothing could be further from the truth. I realize, as you stated, that your response was quite brief and constrained by other obligations (don’t we all have something better to do than blog). But I am truly interested in coming to a common understanding with you on these points and am grateful that you are also interested in continuing our discussion. Please continue!

  14. Ross,

    Thanks for your continued patience! I’ve been busy, and you must also consider the time necessary to digest your insightful comments. I apologize for not answering your points more directly in my previous response. I’d definitely like to talk more about your first question concerning immanence and singularity. I’m thinking this is more or less the paradox where you’re coming from: why is it that unless we affirm dualism, we must affirm monism — or that if we affirm monism, we cannot affirm pluralism? The real issue becomes whether there is a decision which leads us out of this binary neurosis. I think there is — and you seem to be onto it — which is by affirming the transcendental equivalence of monism and pluralism. It’s a useful cognitive dissonance, which hopefully helps us navigate the subtleties of the hypothesis on the real. So what does immanence produce, how is it produced?

    To my mind, multiplicity indicates the passage not to a dimension infinitely beyond-being, but is precisely a “break-down” into the finite, as the possibility for a concrete and revolutionary connection of desire to the real — innovation, a breakthrough, something unprecedented in the order of the world. For a moment, the matrix disappears. It re-asserts itself, to be sure, but the transformation cannot be undone. Better one hundred repeated failures than docile indifference. What we struggle against is language itself, the ever-present possibility lapsing into a false state of consciousness. To finally realize that there are no “true” states of consciousness, that the process is itself regulated by desire — that the innermost heart of desire is connective, machinic. This is perhaps why the question of vitalism-mechanism always strikes me as somewhat incidental. To become-conscious is perhaps the intimacy and universality of becoming-philosopher — his singular pretension upon the invisible, and even his pretension to singularity.

    The excessive quality of desire is perhaps already metaphysical. Consciousness is necessarily intentional, whether or not these intentions, and the psychic ecologies — or machines — regulating them, are themselves observable. Hence, rather than conceiving desire as measuring conditions against an absolute limit — or essentially structured by lack and castration — could we not conceive it in its outward movement, that is, perhaps more diagnostically, and to catch desire in its affective and intensive generation, as a surplus of psychic and social energy? As a leak, a positive flux, possibly capable of sweeping up all the social and psychic part-objects — and so therefore “always already” a threat to dominant social ecology? –Not because this desire, this feeling is universal; on the contrary, because it lives as pure singularity, a real connection to the outside, capable therefore of anything — as a singular but microscopic subcomponent of an unlimited germinal flux.

    (Again, sorry for the delay and narrowness of this response; there’s a lot we could work with here, and I’m trying to find some more common ground. Let me know what you’re thinking, and if I’m hitting anywhere close.)


  15. Joe,

    No worries! Our dialogue needs not abide by any strict schedule. That I know you will respond in due time keeps me from undue impatience.

    I think the first paragraph in your latest response cut directly to a central issue of mine with regard to pluralisms and philosophies of difference. In the interest of clarity, I will attempt to be as straightforward as I can in outlining the basis of my claims.

    First of all, I must classify my suppositions as belonging to the monistic “logic of the One,” or henology. This contrasts it fundamentally from its old Aristotelian adversary, the “logic of Being,” or ontology.

    Henological metaphysics can be explained as follows: The One is held as primary in both idealist philosophies like Platonism, Leibnizianism, Hegelianism and materialist philosophies like Stoicism, Spinozism (neo-Stoicism), and Marxism. In both cases, the One is taken to be substantial (i.e., homogeneous and persistent), and all distinctions within its unity are taken to be modal and accidental (i.e., heterogenous and subsistent). Corresponding to its idealist and materialist forms, the One is considered in its simplicity to be either an idea or matter. The multiplicity of objects which mediate one another (the All) in such henologies is composed by the unity of this simple and all encompassing substance, which alone would be immediate.

    Two proofs could be offered in support of such a metaphysical model. The negative proof is most rational, however, since the positive would have to rely on a rather mystical and unconvincing (Fichtean/Schellingian) “intellectual intuition.”

    This negative proof does rely on some basic postulates which must be assumed as axiomatic. Of course one might object to these axioms, in which case no proof may be attempted. The crucial proposition for such a negative proof goes something like this:

    P1: Two fundamentally (substantially) unlike objects cannot directly act upon one another with effect.

    For example, only material objects can act upon one another. Two colliding objects which are conceptually distinct (say a car and a person) can only effect each other if they share a common substantial basis (matter, in this case). The “transferential continuity [of force]” between them operates on the level of this shared substance. The matter in the car acts upon the body with equal material/energetic (the same thing, as Einstein showed) force as the body acts upon the car (the equipollence of action and reaction in the community of force).

    If one wishes to claim that unlike substances exercise any interactive connection between each other, they must on this account appeal to some outside authority which allows for a correlation of these substances. The reason this undermines dualism can be shown from its intrinsic necessity. For instance, Descartes, who conceived of a substance dualism between body and mind (i.e., the world of the real and the ideal), had to posit the intervention of a transcendent, harmonizing guarantor (God) in order to say that our ideas of things can correspond to real things in the world. That is to say, res cogitans can only relate to res extensa by appealing to a Being (the Being of beings) for which the ideal is immediately real, thought immediately action (according to the Augustinian conception). Likewise, Leibniz had to posit God’s prior resolution to create a pre-established harmony between the ideal and the real in order for the sensible to be rendered intelligible.

    Dualism (and pluralism, as I will show) thus succumbs to monism because even in cases where it maintains the existence of two unlike substances, it must appeal to a unitary (i.e., monistic) principle or entity (God) which allows the two substances to interact. A more consistent dualism would have to assert that the two substances never interact, are mutually exclusive, and therefore bear no relation to one another. This is the Manichaean position.

    This is why I stated that it is impossible to hold the strictly pluralistic position that the multiplicity of objects are purely different from each other and still have any continuity or interactive potential with one another. In order to mediate one another, there must exist a shared medium by which the mediation can take place.

    An infinite regress would take care of the rest. For if one asserts the existence of multiple media, which legally govern the interaction of mediated objects (i.e., wholly different and independent laws of interaction), then each one of these would comprise completely separate universes or dimensions, without relation to the other media which cover their own objects. Hence my “multidimensional” comment. One can still be consistent at this point, but only if you are willing to maintain that these spheres of mediation bear no relation to one another (in which case it is difficult to say how we could be aware of this, since we would logically have to belong to one or another of these universes and would thus have no way of cognizing the objects or even the existence of wholly separate/unrelated universes). Finally, taking each sphere to be independently complete/perfect or “infinite in its kind” gives rise to a contradiction, because they would only be relatively infinite. To conceive of separated or divided infinities is patently absurd, since in this case none of these would be truly infinite (i.e., unbounded).

    This is of course Spinoza’s argument. If any of the logical connections seem vague or untenable, I would be happy to clarify it. If you are already acquainted with this argument, I apologize for giving you yet another rehashing of it.

    I think you hit on my point precisely when you considered “affirming the transcendental equivalence of monism and pluralism.” The metaphysics of this proposition are exactly right. Relatively speaking, with regard to the mediated status of the multiplicity of objects, our conception would be pluralistic. Absolutely speaking, with regard to the immediate status of the unitary medium underlying these mediated objects, our conception would be monistic. At the transcendental level, thus, the Multiple would be the composition of the simple (the One), while the One would be the simplicity of the composite. From the standpoint of the universal One, everything is immanent. From the standpoints of particular individuals belonging to the Multiple, anything which would go beyond what is contained in its finitude would naturally be transcendent. Utlimately, then, this was the ground for my assertion that even different objects must partake in some common identity which allows them to be apparently mediated by each other.

    I would like to end my response to your thoughtful reply at this point, limiting its scope mainly to the issues discussed in your first paragraph. Passingly, I would actually agree with you that any “true” state of consciousness is impossible, since a consciousness which would recognize the truth qua absolute immanent identity would already be post-conscious (since consciousness must always be “consciousness of something other than itself”). Also, as you stated in your second paragraph, the desire for connection, inasmuch as it indicates a lack or feeling of “castration,” what Kant would dub the “demand of Reason,” is the desire for unity and connectedness of all things. This seems to me less machinic (I think I am simply confused by this metaphor) than erotic (though this distinction might be only incidental, as you say). Unconsciously erotic drives and desires would thus regulate our demand for singularity, and reason would indeed be the slave of the passions, as Hume contended. This might be an indissoluble point between our two conceptions, Joe, but I can of course see the logic in your interpretation. I will close on this point.


    P.S. – I’ve been reading over and pondering the strange non-Spinozistic and non-relational One of Laruelle’s henology. Taylor sent me some of his translations. I’m not sure exactly what to make of Laruelle’s position on this point. But I have posted some preliminary notes on my blog in response to his Principles which you might find interesting.

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