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.
A situation tends to bring about the specific conditions of its overcoming. Thus advances in transportation and telecommunication technologies are slowly bringing about not only the collapse of the classical temporal and spatial interval as such, the annihilation of the discrete; but also a simultaneous collapse of classical distribution or dissemination as such, a self-destruction of the sign through optimal transmissivity, and hence finally the death of the voice along with the signal, the annihilation of the continuous. –Twin paradoxes which define and isolate our historical moment: to build channels without yet having anything meaningful to transmit, and to transmit without having any channels or destinations, or any hope of being received. A question disrupts the essence of the situation, its reality; but a greater noise can always drown it out. It may not even be heard the first time. But after long enough, there is another question, or another questioner, and then another to question him, and so on. Repetition and revolution. –Modernity is hatred of the modern. The state itself becomes noise, and hence is drowned in noise. Finally, there is only glare, pure positivity, a non-spectacle: a signal without a sign. What is it to be in excess of the state?
Psychologists — and more especially philosophers — pay little attention to the play of miniature frequently introduced into fairy tales. In the eyes of the psychologist, the writer is merely amusing himself when he creates houses that can be set on a pea. But this is a basic absurdity that places the tale on a level with the merest fantasy. And fantasy precludes the writer from entering, really, into the domain of the fantastic. Indeed he himself, when he develops his facile inventions, often quite ponderously, would appear not to believe in a psychological reality that corresponds to these miniature features. He lacks that little particle of dream which could be handed on from writer to reader. To make others believe, we must believe ourselves.
Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, “Miniature”
The tiniest things are the greatest secrets: focus in on the details, a world, an individual, truth emerges. Love is clarified silence. In the mysterious simplicity of vision, truth escapes and enters being in the very same movement — which is not split in simply two directions, but rather fractured from end to beginning into a billion microscopic fragments of light. Become a prism. What we see is not what is apparent, but rather caused by it. So stop looking — and see. Sensory reality is overwhelmingly powerful, so overwhelmingly convincing it easily tempts us into becoming its willing hostage. But it is no more real than your dreams. What makes us afraid to really trust in sense itself, the reality of our dreams and the dreaming of reality, is the invisible presence of the “enemy.” What we are generally unaware of is that this “enemy” is in fact, our most intimate friend — even a twin brother. Because there are no distinctions when anything is properly distinguished. Infinity is nothing at all, an image of thought: a paradoxical dream that everything is and can be one, and that one is and can be everything. Because we are finally no longer pinned down by the old evaluations, we are free to become anything. We have at long last conquered that ancient negation of laughter which is only now really beginning to lose its sting. We are slowly, so slowly remembering it was we who gave words their weight in the first place. We have remembered that feeling is enough to transform the world — not because it changes what the world is — but because it changes what the world can be. We have remembered that a law of celerity is needed to supplement the law of gravity. We have rediscovered the absurd truth, that the tiniest “push” is all that is required to fly. The transformation of reality is also the transformation of dreams. All that is required — is to do it. Make it shift. Go ahead, give it a try. There are no causes, no effects, only lines of acceleration producing textures — light and sound. So create, invent, experiment! And don’t forget: the future is history. Remember before.
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?”
Notes on Eros and Civilization
In Eros and Civilization, Herbert Marcuse presents Freud at the level of metaphysical psychology. That is: we find Freud engaged in overturning “conventional” metaphysics through psychoanalysis — methodically substituting pleasure and imagination for reason and logic — but paradoxically in so doing he produces a “theoretical” practice which, through its “diagnostic” methodologies and even in its “axiomatic” structure, still reflect profoundly traditional conceptions of humanity. For example, Freud analyzes the principle or essence of being (of organic life) as Eros — in contrast to the traditional understanding of being as Logos. This ontological dimension revealed in psychoanalysis is what allows Freud to interpret Eros as corresponding in a ubiquitous way to the death drive. The erotic instinct and the death drive are fused together in Freud’s interpretation in precisely the same way as the metaphysical principles of being and of non-being.
Freud interprets being in terms of Eros, repeating a formative moment in Plato’s philosophy — a conception of culture not as a repressive sublimation, but as the “free self-development of Eros.” (Marcuse notes that even in Plato this concept presents itself as an archaic-mythical remnant or “residue.”) So being strives for pleasure, which becomes an aim for organic life — human culture in particular: “The erotic impulse to combine living substance into ever larger and more durable units is the instinctual source of civilization.” (125) In short, the sex instincts are life instincts, principles of organic being: “the impulse to preserve and enrich life by mastering nature in accordance with the developing vital needs is originally an erotic impulse.” (125) The struggle for existence is not the unending struggle against death, but originally a struggle for pleasure: “culture begins with the collective implementation of this aim.” The erotic desire is organizational, super-ordinary; but it is only much later that the striving for existence itself becomes organized in order to dominate life.
In this repressive organization the erotic basis of culture is “transformed.” On this point especially, most revisions of Freudianism have meant regression: “The assumption of any special instinct begs the question, but the assumption of a special ‘mastery instinct’ does even more: it destroys the entire structure and dynamic of the ‘mental apparatus’ which Freud has built. Moreover, it obliterates the most repressive features of the performance principle by interpreting them as gratification of an instinctual need.” (219) Perhaps Lacan is guilt of this in particular: labor in general, and especially the “work” of psychoanalysis (transference,) is presented purely and simply as the chief social manifestation of the reality principle.
“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.