animal, desire, ecology, individuation, mythology, psychology, Simondon

Simondon in English: “Two Lessons on Animal and Man”

It is my great delight to help announce the publication of one of the first book-length English translations available of the writings of French philosopher of technology Gilbert Simondon (1924-1989), published by Univocal. The volume is available under the title Two Lessons on Animal and Man and was translated by Drew Burk. The work is composed of a series of lectures intended for undergraduates interested in the humanities, especially philosophy, sociology and psychology.

As the translator puts it, “[f]or many, Gilbert Simondon is an unheard of landscape of philosophical inquiry. For other thinkers such as Gilles Deleuze and Bernard Stiegler his work on individuation is essential for the task of moving outside anthropocentric conceptions of identity formation and humanity’s relationship to the technical universe.” (Two Lessons on Animal and Man, Translator’s Note) I might merely add that in this text Simondon offers insights that are of vital urgency and interest, especially to those called by this aptly-designated “task.”

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automation, capitalism, control, desire, exchange, immanence

Firestorm

Bomberg, The Mud Bath

Bomberg, The Mud Bath

Twins. Capitalism is nihilism, an endless betrayal of production in favor of an infinite — imaginary — debt or Void, which implies the transcendental equivalence of all processes, their essential or characteristic meaninglessness. Indeed the hostility towards life evinced in the machinations of capitalism are strictly correlate to the heterogeneous means by which nihilism achieves its destructive victory: through a generalized deterritorialization which can barely halt before its radically external, schizophrenic limit.

Firestorm. Heidegger reminds us that despite our apparent control over the machines we create, that in fact we do not even control the desire within us which causes us to create, to use them, or to extend our control over the world through the conception and production of new machines. To this problem, indeed, there is no solution, and very likely there will never be any solutions. The mystery, the secret truth of desire, lies within the machine.

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desire, existence, history, idealism, micro-politics, morality, reality, truth

Pathways

Joel Isaacson, James Joyce (1998)
Joel Isaacson, James Joyce (1998)

War on Information. Idealism begins with the proposition that life is futurity, yet attempts to halt before the inevitable futility this produces, the cancerous desires which follow, not from “particular” notions, but precisely from the incorporation of Truth into life, that is, the incorporation of a point of ideality into the social diagrammatics of thought. A bad conscience, alienation, a nullity or ‘nihilism,’ is the necessary counterpart to this process of internalization of the infinite (or at least a “point at infinity”) into the collective machines through which the world is enunciated. Existence as the stability of identity is the absolutely firm foundation upon which all idealism has hitherto constructed its watchtowers and fortresses.

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capitalism, concept, desire, difference, event, language, parasite, problem

Noises

 

Mark Rothko

 

Non-expression. Speaking is a donation of words; but in this donation is dramatized an idea of alterity, an uncanny and infinite Power mysteriously unleashed, and this by a seemingly peaceful sharing of signs. 

Is it possible? Ten thousand years of speaking, and still we are waiting for a sign.

Problems. We owe to Deleuze the discovery that the difficulty of a problem is not simply the number of differential elements it assembles within a single ideal situation, but rather the process of problematization of an element or elements which somehow causes the contents of the problem to problematize the very situation itself. This marks  a radical becoming-social of problematics — or if you like, the becoming-event of the concept (becoming-problem.) Yet does it not seem as though this method is still profoundly Lacanian somehow, as though the real is being implicitly understood as a strange hyper-real gap between Difference and itself — mysteriously and paradoxically allowing a differentiation to differenciate itself infinitely, suspending both the emotional-organic ontology of desiring-repression as well as the mechanical logic that underlies materialism, allowing thought to move at infinite speed on a hyperplane of immanence — ripping a hole through the symbolic networks, allowing the transpiercing and reprogramming of the assemblage by the outside? The difficulty remains even if we understand the practice of militant problematization or counter-actualization to be a process of differentiating problematic or ‘insurgent’ elements of the situational social assemblage with respect to their capacity for transformation.

A certain noise is all it takes. Parasites can indeed be shaken off and immediately so; but they are chased out only by a greater noise, by the willing invitation of still more powerful parasites. –So at least there are specific cries which are anathema to a given variety of parasite: the roaring of their host-cum-predators. Of collective liberation.

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channel, Deleuze, desire, difference, habit, language, machine, memory, ontology

Words

 

 

Jargon. A word decodes by assembling: a mobile army, a mob or mass of “blocks,” segments extruded from heterogeneous flows: flows with and without codes, flows of energy and of waste, flows of debt and of money, flows of food and of goods, flows of women and children, flows of pulsing affects and flows of intricate concepts. Speaking assembles together, connects and conjoins or pervades and envelops as many radically divergent elements as possible. Language is at once unifying and fluid, both normalizing and improvised, both static and evolutionary — a system of rules neither abstract nor essentially syntactical but rather constituting a radically material and pragmatic collective assemblage.

Deleuze and Guattari argue as much in A Thousand Plateaus, suggesting the reason for the coextensivity of collective assemblages with language systems, and even with “language as a whole,” is this very fact that these assemblages express a complex pragmatic — a group of transformations which produce the very condition of possibility of language:

“… if the collective assemblage is in each instance coexistensive with the linguistic system considered, and to language as a whole, it is because it expresses the set of incorporeal transformations that effectuate the condition of possibility of language and utilize the elements of the linguistic system…The language-function thus defined is neither information nor communicational; it has to do neither with signifying information nor with intersubjective communication. And it is useless to abstract a significance outside information, or a subjectivity outside communication. For the subjectification proceedings and movement of significance relate to regimes of signs, or collective assemblages. The language-function is the transmission of order-words, and order-words relate to assemblages, just as assemblages relate to the incorporeal transformations constituting the variables of the function. Linguistics is nothing without a pragmatics (semiotic or political) to define the effectuation of the condition of possibility of language and the usage of linguistic elements.”  (Deleuze and Guattari)

 Not language’s “essence” but language’s praxis involves the complex syntactical disjunction of these wildly-varying elements; speaking is not (effectively) tracing-enunciating an ideal form by rote or metempsychotic memory. Pascal notes in Pensées 556: “Languages are ciphers in which letters are not changed into letters, but words into words, so that an unknown language may be deciphered.” It is true that speaking not only defers to but deciphers an ancient and mysterious writing. 

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desire, flux, globalism, guattari, machine, materialism, Politics

Guattari

 

guattari1981_3

 

On Guattari. The first ecosopher has arisen — but how to read his writings? There is not a single answer, everyone disagrees. To read Guattari without Deleuze seems like violence to the polyphonous fury of their mutually-authored works; yet to read Deleuze and Guattari seems like according primacy to the philosopher, to the authority of philosophy over psychoanalysis — asserting the traditional prerogative of philosophy over science, with the usual absent-minded condescension, a perverse kind of triumphant naivete. Our new ecosopher shrinks into the background of the literary uproar he is unleashing.

 

The strange power of Guattari’s writings is such that his works are less collections than whirlwinds, less toolboxes than roaring vortexes one is apt to be drawn violently towards: to study Guattari is neither a coincidence nor an accident (for an English academic) but rather a symptom, even a political symptom. Perhaps simply an indication of the self-destructive desire inherent to global capitalism in which the dissemination  of essentially “anti-capitalist” literature is not simply allowed but in fact widely promoted — the faint glimmer of global Renaissance. But I think Guattari might remind us of something else.

 

Political struggle is more than a linguistic struggle, a struggle with texts and pure concepts. It is of course involved with these things, but even more than these signifying systems, political resistance connects with the a-signifying as well, an order of reality more primordial than human meaning, where the distinctions imposed upon reality by our signifying regimes are rendered irrelevant and secondary. Where the cosmos as a process of production becomes perceptible, where the inhuman asignifying order of reality emerges, we may perhaps catch a glimpse of the future dreamed by our first ecosopher.

 

To have to emphasize that the asignifying isn’t the insignificant, but the non-signifying, we realize that already, we have hit the white wall. Misunderstanding is a symptom both of the origin and the impossibility of meaning. The gap between us here is not simply an aspect of the mobile wall of obstacles Guattari has prepared for his students, but already of the even more intransigent obstacles of history, society, economy — in short, the entire political “problem” of desire. A history of desire is difficult yet not impossible, but it does not begin by asking what desire is, pretending some kind of perfect and external objective viewpoint.

 

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desire, diagram, future, language, life, machine, ontology, outside, philosophy, thinking

Implosion

Philosophy begins in aporia, with a paradox or inconsistent consensus. Thus, the most ancient metaphysical figure, which we also recognize as the most simple, the shadow of the parasite upon the unconscious: a thought which denies and provokes, which produces a paradox through its utterance, through its very way of existing. Precisely, then: a prohibition which prohibits its paradox from being thought. The most ancient trope of philosophy begins and ends with this “must,” which exceeds its limit, and so cannot “seriously” be interpreted as a prohibition. But now what does this injunction become? It functions as a portent — a premonition: do not think this now, but perhaps some day. Thus a portent in the precise sense that the paradox prohibits itself from being resolved, and so remains inextricably open, ex-posed to an outside of thought — to a possible future. A denial of the impossible — which follows as a necessary consequence of the possible. Thus the prohibition is not a “discipline” of mind but a rigorous passivity or vulnerability which allows the compulsion of a result, even against the heart’s own desires. Hence the labor, and danger, of thought.

The prohibition barring the very Thought is a portent in the literal sense that it proclaims the immanent Reality it simultaneously denies. The world is swept away and transfigured, merely by a breath, a word, a thought: the originary paradox of becoming, already giving birth to both those of language and being, of discourse and discipline. The philosopher’s stone is only an implosion; to philosophize is to make legible this indecipherable transformation, to reveal this uncanny origin of writing, and to uncover the divergent roots of sensation and signification: in short philosophy’s task today is to crack itself open… Philosophy is a vulnerability, not a power but precisely a humility before thought, a restrained reason which is finally capable of inventing a way out of the black hole, of engendering immanent becomings… We are only beginning to diagram this machine. Philosophy sometimes realizes itself to be one with its result, and poses the question of its foundational prohibition in rigorous terms as the force of a concept: this “strange” energy attending the donation of signs. We may well ask: why are we continually returning, or rediscovering this result, this symptom? Reality itself become symptom; of what origin is this “hidden” glare, this resonance, this infinite inter-mediation, this fold?

An odd but simple paradox which is immediately the production of an entire system of mixtures, a complex and diversely-constituted assemblage, rigorously but madly constructed — axiomatic and diagrammatic by turns. A machinic immanence, where we had thought to discover life; and a new humanity, where we had “only” thought to invent machines. We are moving outwards from the middle of language, turning towards an outside. The essence of language is not this journey but the sound of pure silence, the tension of the saying without a “said,” which indicates a unique vulnerability before truth: the sincerity or truthfulness which is the very donation of the sign itself; thus beyond essence or before being, this giving without a given, this ambiguity.

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