animal, art, becoming, flesh, freud, guattari, human, lacan, machine, ontology, space, territory

It Means Becoming Human

But he [Lacan] did not realize the consequences of his rupture with Freudian determinism, and didn’t appropriately situate “desiring machines” — whose theory he had iniated — within incorporeal fields of virtuality. This object-subject of desire, like strange attractors in chaos theory, serves as an anchorage point with a phase space (here, a universe of reference) without ever being identical to itself, in permanent flight on a fractal line. In this respect it is not only fractal geometry that must be invoked, but fractal ontology. It is the being itself which transforms, buds, and transfigures itself. The objects of art and desire are apprehended within the existential Territories which are at the same time the body proper, the self, the maternal body, lived space, refrains of the mother tongue, familiar faces, family lore, ethnicity… No existential approach has priority over another. Thus it’s not a question of a causal infrastructure and of a superstructure representative of the psyche, or of a world separated from sublimation. The flesh of sensation and the material of the sublime are inextricably interwoven. Relationship to the other does not proceed through identification with a preexisting icon, inherent to each individual. The image is carried by a becoming other, ramified in becoming animal, becoming plant, becoming machine and, on occasion, becoming human.

Felix Guattari, Chaosmosis

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aristocracy, Christianity, evaluation, evil, good, human, judgment, life, morality, nobility, origin of language, power, psychoanalysis, question, reality, subject, the future, utility, value

Evaluating Value

Under what conditions did men invent for themselves these value judgments good and evil? And what inherent value do they have? Have they hindered or fostered human well-being up to now? Are they a sign of some emergency, of impoverishment, of an atrophying life?

Or is it the other way around—do they indicate fullness, power, a will for living, courage, confidence, the future?

Friedrich Nietzsche, Preface to the Genealogy of Morals

Why is this work a genealogy of morals? Nietzsche does not ask for the origins of good and evil as essences. Nor even does he ask for the conditions of possibility for good and evil as judgments. In fact, he proposes a third and entirely more subtle question, concerning the “conditions” under which these value judgments (“good” and “evil”) were first invented — he presumes that they were invented by human beings — and perhaps owing to this assumption, he immediately turns to question the inherent value of these value judgments themselves. To be precise, he asks what inherent value they possess — whether, for instance, they have so far hindered or fostered human beings.

We already grasp here in rough outline a critique of the metaphysics of morality — what we may perhaps call an extrusion of the irrational “core” or “substrate” of moral valuations — which seeks to question the value of morality itself. To put it briefly, this “question mark so black” asks about the worth of the “unegoistic,” the value of the pity-instinct — in short, it questions the value of ascetic values. The problem of pity is not an isolated question mark, but in fact demands a critique of moral values whose first object is to question the very value of these values. In other words, we need “a knowledge of the conditions and circumstance out of which these values grew, under which they have developed and changed” — the kind of knowledge which not only has not been available until now, but has not even been wished for.

The value of moral values has been taken as given, self-evident, beyond dispute — i.e., that “good” men are more valuable than “evil” men — but Nietzsche asks us to pause before common sense, and consider the possibility that the opposite were true: “What if in the ‘good’ there lay a symptom of regression, something like a danger, a seduction, a poison, a narcotic, something which makes the present live at the cost of the future?”

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automation, control, cybernetics, derrida, history, human, machine, metaphysics, nonhuman, system

Systems of Control: Derrida and Machines

(notes for an abstract)

If the theory of cybernetics is by itself to oust all metaphysical concepts — including the concepts of soul, of life, of value, of choice, of memory — which until recently served to separate the machine from man, it must conserve the notion of writing, trace, written mark, or grapheme, until its own historico-metaphysical character is also exposed.

[…[E]ven before being determined as human… or nonhuman, the gramme — or the grapheme — would thus name the element. An element without simplicity. An element, whether it is understood as the medium or irreducible atom, of the arche-synthesis in general, of what one must forbid oneself to define within the system of oppositions in metaphysics, of what consequently one should not even call experience in general, that is to say the origin of meaning in general.]

(Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology 9)

Norbert Weiner introduced the neologism ‘cybernetics’ — in connection with the ancient Greek root meaning ‘governance’ — to denote a new science of systems of control. Cybernetics studies real complex systems and their automatic management, but it is also a rigorous science of energetics and pure information. The most essential expression of cybernetics itself and its own working ontology can perhaps be traced to Von Neumann, who conceived of a swarm of networked machines which could also function together as a kind of generic factory, and so would be able to reproduce all of its own component elements (and hence itself.) In this image we perhaps witness a glimpse of an “adult” cybernetics — the closure of metaphysics, the end of writing, the convergence of biology and cybernetics — a “transubstantiation” of flesh into the virtual.

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affirmation, creativity, Dionysos, drives, evolution, human, libido, metaphor, morality, Nietzsche, reality, relation, truth, unconscious, will

The Genealogy of the Unconscious: Evolution, Awareness, Creativity

“What does man actually know about himself? Is he, indeed, ever able to perceive himself completely, as if laid out in a lighted display case? Does nature not conceal most things from him — even concerning his own body — in order to confine and lock him within a proud, deceptive consciousness, aloof from the coils of the bowels, the rapid flow of the blood stream, and the intricate quivering of the fibers! She threw away the key.” (On Truth and Lying in an Extra-moral Sense, Part 1)

“To calm the imagination of the invalid, so that at least he should not, as hitherto, have to suffer more from thinking about his illness than from the illness itself! –that, I think, would be something! It would be a great deal! Do you now understand our task?” (Daybreak 54)

A Simple Theory of the Unconscious?

There is no simple theory of the unconscious in Nietzsche’s work. This is because the unconscious is complex, a site for transformation and not a singular ‘object’ of analysis. The unconscious would be everything which accounts for image-object-thought associations, and therefore that by which we could explain relations between thoughts and activities. However, Nietzsche clearly recognized that we cannot simply analyze the unconscious as a thing in-itself: it was very important for him that we should not be taken in by the idea that our explanations for things are adequate expressions of an underlying reality. Because in fact there is no necessary relation between human beings and reality; rather, we artistically create the mode in which we confront and understand the world. Thus there are no longer any laws of nature for Nietzsche: “…what is a law of nature as such for us? We are not acquainted with it in itself, but only with its effects, which means in its relation to other laws of nature — which, in turn, are known to us only as sums of relations. Therefore all these relations always refer again to others and are thoroughly incomprehensible to us in their essence.” (Truth and Lying, Part 1) We cannot reach the essence of a relation except by being deceived into thinking they are simple; like the will, which we are apt to conceive as a pure simple essence of participation, an ‘inclination,’ when it fact it may be the most complex phenomena in the entire world.
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culture, difference, God, grammar, human, labor, literature, Nietzsche, Politics, power, text, theory, will to power

The Power to Will: Nietzsche and Becoming Free

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Reaching Out

The will to power is not essentially political; it aims beyond politics towards a more subtle possession. The will to power is articulated as a higher expression of the will to live, as opposed to the will to survive. It is the will to exercise power. Its primary function is to be functional, that is: dynamic, active and creative. This kind of willing indicates not a static ideal will rather an energetic, even libidinal force to overcome, to dominate one’s environment as well as to exploit and control others. Importantly, the will to power does not function as some kind of pure essence of vitality, even less an aesthetic ‘taste’ or ethical harmony.

Rather, it is struggle itself, the will to raise oneself up, out joyfully from nothingness, into higher and more rarefied regions of becoming. It is not a duty, but a desire to feel energy being actively employed; it is the surging of this power itself. It aims to transcend but is not itself therefore transcendent; rather, the will to power is material, and always more concrete, more real than we are comfortable admitting. The will to power is our desire to possess, to exploit, to dominate, to control. Hence the primary articulation of the will to power is as a singular thrust rather than a multiplicity of drives. Though clearly each will struggles against every other, ultimately every will struggles against itself, operates upon itself, upon its own form or nature in order to improve itself, to overcome.
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aesthetics, art, beauty, becoming, chaos, human, will

Aesthetics, Asymmetry and Weakness: Nietzsche and the Beautiful


Improvisation (Kandinsky)

“I owe to you the most beautiful dream of my life.”
– Nietzsche, [from a letter to Lou Salome]

I cannot help but admire Nietzsche when he writes in Twilight of the Idols that there is nothing beautiful but man. For Nietzsche, vanity is ‘the first truth of aesthetics.’ He even supplies a corollary: ugliness is precisely the ‘degeneration of the human.’ Here Nietzsche method allows us to see possibility for new forms of humanity, but he skirts dangerously close to anthropomorphisizing the entire universe as isomorphic to our social spectacle. Is beauty a vain preoccupation — or an elevation of the human to the cosmic? What is left of beauty, human or otherwise — outside of what we customarily associate with it?
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