justice, Plato, Politics, sameness, the Republic

On Recognition, or Why Dogs Make Great Philosophers

There are various moments in the Republic, especially in book II which we will focus on here, where justice is elusively illustrated according to those to whom justice is attributed, i.e. proceeding from types which partake in or lay claim to justice and showing by example not only the essence of justice but how it is in itself good. Now, obviously all of this is evident from the text and does not require repeating except to remind the reader, in a sense, the directionality of the arguments through which Socrates proceeds. It would also be obvious to point out how Socrates dialectically presupposes the subordination of the individual to the polis or State, which is manifested through his own “sacrifice” to Athens memorialized in the Crito and the Apology. What I would like to do here is instead to bear this in mind and stop upon a crucial passage in the text that concerns the “natural aptitudes” fitting for a guardian of the state in order to first analyze an example of this procedure from types and then, from there, to make some remarks about the general role of “philosophy” in the Republic along with the manifestation of an implicit argument of the text: namely, that philosophy is necessary for the cultivation of justice.

Let us situate ourselves, for our paths are narrow and fragmentary. After discussing the different duties which are required for the industriousness of a State, Socrates brings up the crucial question about the guardians of the state. It could be interpreted that these guardians would represent the elite elders governing the city, yet these passages do stress the physical requirements along with the necessity of fearlessness and bravery in battle (II 375). Warriors, Socrates argues, need swiftness, braveness, and spirit. Yet they must be gentle, they must be able to treat those like them with fairness. If you remember from the text earlier, Socrates makes the argument that the just man does not wish to exceed others like him. In the same sense, guardians must have a complex mixture of behaviors and instincts: they must combine fearlessness and gentleness. The example given of an animal that combines these traits is found in that of the dog.

In fact, Socrates asks, “Is not the noble youth very like a well-bred dog in respect of guarding and watching?” But, to complexify the argument, Socrates also argues that the dog is very much like a philosopher because “he distinguishes the face of a friend and of an enemy only by the criterion of knowing and not knowing” (II 376b). Before returning to this statement, we can almost sketch a syllogism with major and minor premises:

Major premise: Every noble youth is like a well-bred dog.

Minor premise: Every well-bred dog is like a philosopher.

Conclusion: Every noble youth is like a philosopher.

The cornerstone to this argument is the very nature of justice, for Socrates remarks “he who is likely to be gentle to his friends and acquaintances must by nature be a lover of wisdom.” And, not to jump ahead of ourselves, the reason why the following pages are concerned with censorship are precisely because Socrates is addressing a crucial question of breeding: how do we breed the noble youth into a well-bred dog, i.e. how do we instill justice into the youth, i.e. how do we breed the philosopher? For we are reminded after the claim that: “he who is to be a really good and noble guardian of the State will require to unite in himself philosophy and spirit and swiftness and strength.”

In other words, what makes the noble youth like a well-bred dog is the presence of philosophy instilled into the essence of his very being. This installation is what allows for the cultivation of justice precisely because justice is defined within the limits of the known and the unknown, i.e. of the like and the unlike. This leads to some startling conclusions: Greek philosophy and ethics are founded on the subordination of the Other, the Stranger, to the Same, which is to say that Greek justice is logocentrically normative or, in another sense, is too worried about the neighbor, the nearest, such that the furthest, in Nietzsche’s political sense, are precisely ignored or non-represented in terms of the situation. Where does this argument stem from?

To come full circle, the dog’s virtue is precisely in his recognition of the face of the Other in relation to that of the Same. As a crucial result, philosophy and justice come to reinforce each other on this basic principle: that the love of knowledge is the exaltation of the Same, and for philosophy to express its domination, the unlike must be rendered unto justice, which is to say that it must be made into the Same. Consequently, the Other and the Stranger are always on the other side of justice, justice always seems to slope off asymptotically upon verging with the unlike. As Laruelle would remind us, though, we are all Strangers in-the-last-instance, which means that the criterion of Sameness and Difference will not help us here if we are to think a completely human notion of justice. On the other hand, Deleuze has convincingly argued that justice does not exist, and where it does exist it must have been constructed, and hence it must have always already been jurisprudence, i.e. it must evolve according to a situation. This is why it becomes disingenuous for Socrates to not only promote the praise of the gods but also to change their very nature through the censorship of literature. Obviously, Socrates’ justice is constructed in such a way that its jurisprudence shows the inherent injustice in the system, for the freedom to know and question are denied to the common folk: what is left is the freedom to obey. Hence the freedom to know must be pre-established: one must be bred for it…

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darkness, determination, difference, form, Hegel, infinity, iteration, Lao-Tzu, light, multiplicity, Plato, purity, safety, situation

Everywhere

 

 

What is the nature of the difference between reflection and immediacy, between the orders of thought and of our inescapable exposure to light, to noise, to the proximity of another person? Between blindness and synesthesia, a word — a universe. Between the instant and the timeless, a positive indetermination which ruptures with the order of both image and essence, disrupting the fragility of duration as well as agitating the eternal time of truth — in short forcibly opening thought onto the pure multiple. 

Determination almost annihilates multiplicity, for unlike the one with its tiny arrow, (beholden to the singular, microscopic graph of substitution) with the multiple there is only noise — no categorical tables, no certain translations. Upon multiplicities, determination (especially as network, as protocol) is the work of almost total negation, a triple erasure whose traces are then painstakingly classified: subtraction dominating the supplement, an order without order. “Science is not necessarily a matter of the one or of order, the multiple and noise are not necessarily the province of the irrational. This can be the case, but it is not always so.” (Serres, Genesis 131) So what is it to “take” pure multiplicity as an explicit object for philosophy, for science, for politics, for art? What is it to think these surging flocks of singularities, or even to produce these dense aggregates of interconnections — dreams, the sea, time? What does the ego become, once one begins to think, to think the multiple as such? 

A transistor, a becoming, open at any rate to the noise of the sea: a model of knowledge, certainly, but also of the world. At once, all at once. Thought circulates, agitates through a radical indetermination in which it finds its singular positivity (if I may be permitted to say so, its humanity or humility.) A rigorous determination of multiplicity can be found in Plato and Hegel — hidden by the divisions characterizing the form of the Good, or the Whole — no less than in the Lao-Tzu, where multiplicity is reflected through cosmic experience itself and finds continuity only though the rupture of assigned identities: “From way-making arises continuity / From continuity arises difference / From difference arises plurality / From plurality arises multiplicity.” (Lao-Tzu, Daodejing 47) Thinking turns away, escapes at once, misses the point, goes astray; it is fluttering and chaotic, in the same way the world is turbulent. Always between sleep and consciousness, word and cosmos, being and nothingness, number and letter. No figure of thought, no poem or formula, could represent the multiple — no gesture could safely reproduce it. What is the multiple but pure risk, the becoming-excluded of the third, the very involution of the “safe” observer? The one in the other, without representation; the me within the multiple, the multiple in me, all at once and without extension. No distance is great enough, exposure is inevitable, we must respond.

The essence of the generic is finitude, an infinite displacement; the meaning of finitude is noise, an infinite repetition. There is a darkness and incompleteness at the very heart of knowledge, a heresy in the most rigorous formulae, a dangerous obscurity and black magic in even the purest thought. Finitude implies iterability, proximity, futurity, in short: society, noise, time, the sea. Being coincides with a generic excess, and essentially refers beyond the situation, to a process of connection to the infinite, to an outside, to pure multiplicity. Thinking — what but a conversation, a dance for two? Being and becoming, logos and chaos, image and essence, time and light, movement and rest. Before the dance begins, and between each pose, there must be a step, a measure, a form or transformation, a pause: a resonance and reception, an order and a response, silence and exposure. 

A suppleness is needed in order to hang in-between, a certain light-hearted spark without which the dance evaporates. Yet hardness is needed in order to maintain the vulnerable posture, tense, pronate. Finitude ceaselessly iterates, rapidly alternates, suddenly disintegrates. Absolute knowledge and absolute ignorance are both impossible; the question is one of phases, degrees, angles, senses. Thought is submission and mastery, learning and teaching, power and humility at once. Mastery without mastery, submission without submission: the situation presented produces a new situation, which itself needs reiteration. How to translate the infinite, the multiple, this conversation without words, this text without image? This formlessness of the purest form, this uplifting of the veil, this pure impurity. 

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depth, disorder, dream, language, Plato, space, story, surface, theory, time

Ratio

 

Between science’s eternal youth, forever sprouting green shoots, and the crumbling timelessness of art’s old age, there may yet emerge a new, a third kind of time, a crossing between the unique and universal which could bestow a new measure. 

The dream is young, the awakening ancient. 

Between the transformation and the formula, in the middle of the two shores of language, a glittering goal which shifts along with us, a nearly-invisible position which threatens to forever slip between the stories and theories into the depths. 

Between itself and itself, the earth is always the story — the only one we can remember or tell, that is, the one we are — this dream, and this awakening.

On the surface, the two series don’t align, cracks burst throughout the volume. A map of hidden tensions is revealed. The lines don’t originate from a central point. They swerve and intersect madly, though they may sometimes seem parallel. 

It is only in the depths, where mixtures reign, that all is equilibrium — a transcendental immanence. All impossibilities are nullified by a smooth consistency of oscillation, a balance without ratio. All formulas, and none. 

Perfect peace, though it may sometimes seem chaotic. 

And between the surface and the depth, an interval, the third space: the profound Being of depth crossed with the mad beings of the surface — a plague or a prophecy? 

Even now, I still do not know. 

The law of bifurcation rules the depths of the sea, of the skies, and of time. Everything is reversible. It is a lesson found in the most ancient books, the law of the parasite, whose tiny silver thread always manages to cross the borderline. 

The least can become the greatest: everything can become nothing, and nothing — everything. 

Thus, upon the surface, reversibility gives way to the irreversible. The law of anarchy, of entropy, rules the surface — a kind of royal madness which sets about organizing chaos, even creating complexity to maximize disorder. Time itself expresses this blistering of the surface, the irreversibility of creation. 

Finally, there could be no formal law for the space in between, spoken of even less than the depths and repressed by the surface-depth system — another wisp of Plato’s ghost. Yet it would be that ratio whose reason was precisely pure love, or humility — the meaning, and perhaps the very reality of humanity.

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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

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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.



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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.

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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.

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

Outline of Aristotle’s Ethics

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“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.

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