ethics, learning, levinas, other

Ipseity and Illeity, or Thinking Ethics without the Other of the Other

Faceless Care

In conversation three of Ethics and Infinity, Levinas recounts the philosophical and existential implications of the il y a, the ‘there is’ or what he calls the “phenomenon of impersonal being” (48). The “there is” is many things at the same time: it is a belief, a feeling, an experience and even an affect (the source of the Judaic affect proper to one of philosophy’s “turns” in the 20th century) on one side and an ontological claim, an objective state of affairs, and even the (proto-)origin of Being and Nothingness on the other.

Continue reading

Standard
being, blanchot, ethics, event, exteriority, future, gleam, Hegel, history, infinity, judgment, levinas, peace, Politics, totality, vision

Notes on Totality and Infinity

Does objectivity, whose harshness and universal power is revealed in war, provide the unique and primordial form in which Being, when it is distinguished from image, dream and subjective abstraction, imposes itself on consciousness? Is the apprehension of an object equivalent to the very moment in which the bonds with truth are woven?

Levinas

I will not say that the disaster is absolute; on the contrary, it disorients the absolute. It comes and goes, errant disarray, and yet with the imperceptible but intense suddenness of the outside, as an irresistible or unforeseen resolve which would come to us from beyond the confines of decision.

Blanchot, The Writing of the Disaster

Levinas begins the preface to Totality and Infinity by asking whether war is not the most serious objection to the lucidity — the sanity — of ethics. For war robs our institutions and obligations of their eternity; it is the concrete suspension of the ethical. In war morality vanishes. The violence of war does not only affect us as the most real, the most palpable fact, but as the very truth of the real. Thus it is not just one of the ordeals morality lives. War renders morality derisory, rescinding its imperatives for the interim. Politics, winning at any cost, is enjoined as the very exercise of reason itself — opposing itself to morality as philosophy to naivete.

Fragments of Heraclitus are unnecessary to show that being reveals itself as war to philosophical thought. Reality rends the words that dissimulate it. War is produced as the pure experience of being, cracking the veils which covered its nudity. The ontological event of war is mobilization, a casting-into-motion of beings once anchored in identity. The trial by force is the test of the real. Yet the violence of war does not consist so much in injuring and annihilating people, but in interrupting their continuity — forcing them to play roles in which they can no longer recognize themselves.

People are made to betray not only commitments but their own substance, and made to carry out actions that destroy every possibility for action. “Not only modern war but every war employs arms that turn against those who wield them.” War produces and establishes an order from which nothing and no one can keep their distance. Nothing remains outside. War does not manifest exteriority, the other as other; it destroys the identity of the same. The vision of being glimpsed in war is “totality,” a vision-in-one which dominates Western philosophy.

Continue reading

Standard
counter-deity, Deleuze, ethics, event, infinity, light, materialism, music, Nietzsche, Plato, poetry, science, socrates, Spinoza, stoicism, theology, virus, void

Production, Division, Excess: Spinoza, Nietzsche and the Event

robert_rauschenbergs_untitled_combine_1963.jpg

The essential is never perceived in sheer multiplicity or in first impressions.

Henri de Lubac

In Nature there is nothing contingent; all things have been caused by the necessity of the divine nature to exist and produce an effect in a certain way.

Spinoza, Ethics

The wise person is free in two ways which conform to the two poles of ethics: free in the first instance because one’s soul can attain to the interiority of perfect physical causes; and again because one’s mind may enjoy very special relations established between effects in a situation of pure exteriority… The question becomes: what are these expressive relations of events?

Gilles Deleuze, Logic of Sense 169-170

It is no more desirable, if it is even possible — and there is no more absurd “if possible”! — to liberate the soul from fear than to rescue the body from suffering. Could there be a courage without cruelty, and a pure joy devoid of violence? Terror, like joy, paralyzes, breaks reason apart — it distracts with a simulation. Not the void, but the unformed, is the origin of sorcery. We admit the dimension of the terror of the inhuman appears entirely negative, a sickness — a peculiarly “human” horror of the unknown. Lygophobia. Freud called it a manifestation of separation anxiety. The demand for certainty is part of the basic text of human nature. The will to truth is thus paradoxically a kind of poesis, a creative fire driving out the darkness. At the limit of metaphysical interpretation, light signifies pure love, it rips apart the bonds of meaning, it is pure signification itself, the voice or song of the universe — and the noisy soul responding. And it is with a second and far blacker paradox that counter-signification reaches a point of critical mass, where the absolute “material” of destructive terror — brought to an unbearable intensity by a fixated or excessive gaze, by a dangerous exposure (to noise, light…) — is transformed all at once into the positive, immanent criteria for science, that is: for a dangerous and powerful thinking of the real.

Thus at the deconstructed origin of analysis we find a deferral. It is not enough to say deconstruction must be deconstructed. We must be clear: analysis breaks and we desire this specifically. It is part of the text. It’s how literature begins. In psychological terms, we are always about to discover “it” was already broken. Exactly: where it was… But if there is a productive diagram of science itself, its constitutive disjunction may be witnessed in this joyous cruelty of overturning analysis: anti-philosophy, drawing finite boundaries, inventing counter-positions. Experiment! A quantum riot, metaphysical terrorism, a billion home-made atom bombs. It’s how science begins. We know it can be done, but is it enough? There is no answer to this question. You cannot know in advance whether or not an experiment will succeed. But here there is still much for philosophy to do — not say, for even in saying, philosophy still must do.



Continue reading

Standard
algorithm, apparatus of capture, authority, biopolitics, call for papers, code, control, cybernetics, desiring machines, einstein, ethics, humanity, language, media, metaphysics, technology

Thinking Cybernetics

(Matt Dixon)

Thinking Cybernetics:
Mapping the Intersections between Metaphysics, Technology, Biopolitics

(abstract for panel)

The purpose of this panel is to gather together ideas, perspectives, and questions from a diverse variety of thinkers and disciplines relating to the theory and practice of cybernetics. Our goal is to raise a series of critical questions concerning the intersection between biopolitics, metaphysics, and technology.

While each paper is devoted to a specific author or authors and is generally focused on a particular theme or aspect of cybernetics, all of us in some way are arguing for a larger transformation of philosophical, political, social, and technological categories. There are many urgent questions posed by cybernetics; and moreover, its development has so far tended to furnish many other fields of investigation with new tools for studying new problems. As St-Exupery wrote in 1939: “The machine does not isolate man from the great problems of nature, but plunges him more deeply into them.” What does philosophy have to tell us today about our relationship to technology? What does cybernetics imply for metaphysics, ethics and epistemology — or even for the future of writing?
Continue reading

Standard
Aristotle, difference, ethics, ethnology, friendship, happiness, humanity, justice, light, Plato, Politics, science, society, spiritual evolution

Happiness or Justice? Ethics and the Politics of Friendship

No one would choose a friendless existence on condition of having all the other things in the world.

Aristotle

In poverty and other misfortunes of life, true friends are a sure refuge. The young they keep out of mischief; to the old they are a comfort and aid in their weakness, and those in the prime of life they incite to noble deeds.

A true friend is one soul in two bodies…

ibid

There is an important sense in which Aristotle’s political and ethical project is well-studied in the Platonic method of questioning and re-evaluating conventional priorities and relationships between spiritual elements. Both projects re-discover in traditional virtues a philosophical power which they express in dialogues, encapsulating critical or diagnostic re-evaluations of specific mental and social priorities. The unspoken consonance (implication) here is interesting, and merits reflection: that the old social values and relations are themselves capable of producing new procedures, contain within themselves the power or potential to radically reformulate the ‘axiomatic’ rules and relations between material and psychic agencies.

Continue reading

Standard
Aristotle, distance, equality, ethics, friendship, Greek philosophy

The Distance of the Gods : A Note on Aristotle and Friendship

In one of the more singular passages of the Nicomachean Ethics (Book VIII, Chapter 7), Aristotle makes several claims about the nature of friendship.  One of these claims is that friendship arises out of (or, we shall say, strives for) equality. Similarly, friendship has a reciprocal nature insofar as the more useful or better of the friends (a father in relation to his son) deserves more love and thus owes less, so to speak. It is in this sense that friends would strive to be equal to one another, all things considered. Yet this is to take friendship only in its ideal cases: all of our friends are particular, and thus they play a variety of different roles (which are not reducible to being useful, helpful, beneficial, etc.). On the other hand, Aristotle seems to be saying something more profound than this: he stresses that friends are good things, and this does not have to consist in them simply being good to us. They are good for us and also help to intensify and actualize the good in us. Though this is not simply a question of prepositions: Aristotle poses to us that if friends are good, and we want good for our friends, can we want our friends to be gods, insofar as this would diminish (the proportionality of) the friendship, and thus not be a good for us? Can friends be gods and goods (1159a 1-7)?

                But Aristotle rephrases himself: we want the greatest goods for our friends, but not all the greatest goods (perhaps). This is because Aristotle is not so sure that we always wish the best things for our friends—what would prevent us from wishing the best for our friends? Obviously, wishing the best for ourselves! But back to the more important question, one that does not go away so easily for all that: if our friends could be gods, or aspire to such a status, they would “surpass us most decisively in all good things” (1158b 34-35). Aristotle’s more fundamental question is: to what point can friends remain friends?

                Instead of going to the side of the negative (bad vices, bad habits, hygiene, culture, style, attitudes, etc.) as a reason for breaking off a friendship, Aristotle goes to the other extreme of virtue and excellence. At what point are friends too unequal in terms of “goodness”, insofar as they base their relationship in that quality? But if we take this as an absolute abstract social value, virtue-in-itself, then we can say that friendship will be broken when one of the friends cannot stand the embarrassment of being inferior (ressentiment), or when one of the friends is too embarrassed by the other (contempt). Neither of these two states of mind or attitudes has to be real per se—they can still have negative effects if they are believed to be real by one or the other. Or it could be more subtle: becoming a god changes the value of things, including friends. There could be a relative displacement of systems of valuation: in other words, becoming a god affects the friendship negatively when the proportionality of the love between friends (in Aristotle’s terms) is broken because the love is considered too minimal to produce a noticeable effect—or the effort required to obtain recognition from the beloved is considered “not to be worth it.” Aristotle calls this distance. Another tie to Nietzsche: there is Zarathustra’s love of the farthest as a virtue—this would befit a noble or great soul—and Aristotle’s megalopsychia. As for our friends: if they become gods or overmen, we only hope that somehow some of that increases our belief in ourselves to recreate ourselves in such a manner as to continue to compete and struggle with them, in order to further develop the dimensions of a common godhood.

Standard
Aristotle, character, classical philosophy, ethics, eudamonia, happiness, justice, law, Plato, Politics, virtue

Outline of Aristotle’s Ethics

blossoms.jpg

“We make war that we may live in peace.”
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics — 1177b (Book X, Chapter 7)

Let’s try to understand this work first through the method by which its project is assembled, the way the text functions.

In general Ta Ethika has three phases or stages of development: (a) a general, in-depth study of the “good” and the “good life”; (b) an analysis of moral virtue or excellence; and (c) an investigation into social ethics, or ethics within society.

Continue reading

Standard