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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art, becoming, dimension, encounter, experiment, force, molecule, resonance, time, variable, vortex

Vessels

The charm of history and its enigmatic lesson consist in the fact that, from age to age, nothing changes and yet everything is completely different. (Aldous Huxley)

Through saturation an artist brings all the diverse elements of experience into a real interfusion, an affirmative disjunction. The artist opens passageways, a vessel for engendering a pure becoming. An encounter with an outside, presenting a pure force which art can only express — art as transistor, as angel. As the cruelest resistance, which dispassionately disentangles the varieties of forces of essence, cautiously (even systematically) allowing the new to break free.

Art is certainly multiple, social, plurivocal. But our harmony is also a hint — we remind each other at every turn that force is also musical, cosmic, vegetable, molecular, animal…

Greatness in art is the power of resonance, not of reflection. Communication is certainly not the point. An experiment approaches the real precisely in order to catch up, to leap behind it, to stop time. Great art harbors no secret soothing, no escape into transcendence, but real insight into an immanent transformation. The human spirit — that greatest of resistances which causes even the stars to resonate — can overcome even itself.

The dimension called “aesthetic” could perhaps be distinguished as a singular torsion in the soul, a kind of critical overcoming of an internal limit, from which emerge limitless variations. A dangerous dimension of pure becoming which has always been working, in secret, just narrowly breaking free from this abyss overflowing with thorns, diverging lines, machines, animals, molecules, stars.

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awareness, Hegel, justice, language, law, levinas, objectivity, ontology, Politics, reason, society, teaching, time, tyranny

Hegel and Universality

(by Will Godfrey)[Photograph by Will Godfrey]

In an essay Hoffmeister suggests was written in 1808 or 1809, Hegel — certainly not without some irony — identifies an important ethical connection between abstract thought and power:

Who thinks abstractly? The uneducated, not the educated. Good society does not think abstractly because it is too easy, because it is too lowly (not referring to the external status) — not from an empty affectation of nobility that would place itself above that of which it is not capable, but on account of the inward inferiority of the matter.

[G. W. F. Hegel, Who Thinks Abstractly?]

Abstract thinking sets the thinker apart from good society, for their general opinion considers it too easy, too small, too obvious, even in poor taste. As Hegel understands it, abstraction is that faculty through which we spontaneously discover nothing in the subject but an abstracted notion of his concrete behavior. The inner life, the event of being, the very actuality of the will, is subsumed beneath an objective product. Ontology precludes apology.

Judgment indeed confirms the event in its original and fundamental movement, but every human quality in us is erased by the absolute imposition of a simple meaning — the reduction of living to some finite series of directions: past-tense, third-person verbs. Thus abstract thought — which we will now recognize as something common, even inferior or “ignoble,” at least in its operation and chosen material — functions effectively as providing (social) justification for punishing, terrorizing and humiliating others: “This is abstract thinking: to see nothing in the murderer except the abstract fact that he is a murderer, and to annul all other human essence in him with this simple quality.” (ibid) Our capacity for abstract thought is what allows the army officer to beat a soldier like a dog, like an object, without any trace of empathy.

However, somewhat paradoxically, it can also be seen as that faculty whereby we become capable of transcending simple explanations for complex phenomena, and for recognizing the corruption of morality indicated by the folly of such ‘abstract’ justifications: “This woman saw that the murderer’s head was struck by the sunshine and thus was still worthy of it. She raised it from the punishment of the scaffold into the sunny grace of God, and instead of accomplishing the reconciliation with violets and sentimental vanity, saw him accepted in grace in the higher sun.” [ibid] Abstract thought may be considered then as similar to a faculty of metaphor, a kind of improvised or dancing thought which reaches the real only indirectly, as though it had to be transmitted by an “untrustworthy” third.

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architecture, banquet, language, machine, metaphysics, Nietzsche, ontology, Politics, time, unconscious, violence, wisdom

Wandering Shadows: Reflections on Morality and Madness

In the disparity between the awareness of unreason and the awareness of madness, we have, at the end of the eighteenth century, the point of departure for a decisive movement: that by which the experience of unreason will continue, with Holderlin, Nerval, and Nietzsche, to proceed ever deeper towards the roots of time — unreason thus becoming, par excellence, the world’s contratempo — and the knowledge of madness seeking on the contrary to situate it ever more precisely within the development of nature and history. It is after this period that the time of unreason and the time of madness receive two opposing vectors: one being unconditioned returned and absolute submersion; the other, on the contrary, developing according to the chronicle of a history.

Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization 212 (“The Great Fear”)

If there is something in literature which does not allow itself to be reduced to the voice, to epos or to poetry, one cannot recapture it except by rigorously isolating the bond that links the play of form to the substance of graphic expression.

Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology 59

There is no antagonism here between a true world and an apparent one: there is only one world, and that world is false, cruel, contradictory, misleading and seductive, deprived of meaning… such a world is the true world. We need deceit in order to conquer this reality or “truth,” that is, in order to live. The fact that deceit is necessary in order to live still has to with the terrible and problematic nature of existence… This faculty by which he rapes reality with deceit, this essentially artistic faculty in man, is something he has in common with everything that exists…

Nietzsche

Preface

How do we situate the metaphysics of language? The stratification and fragmentation of the signal goes so far beyond the empirical consciousness bound to its immediacy that the difficulty of the project is comparable only to its necessity. The original direction or deflection of the word, the passing-over of the word into image, and the collapse of meaning, follow a schema with which we are familiar. It is precisely here that it is most important not to interpret directly.

The point is not about suffering, but determination. Knowledge begins in delirium. The universe begins with a conjunction, an operator of connection. Everything moving is already a machine, plugged into a world of celerities, issuing regular pulses, gradually transforming itself and its surroundings. Thus the degree of transformation is also the degree of risk to the hidden operators. “ Oh, the poor bird that felt free and now strikes the walls of this cage! Woe, when you feel homesick for the land as if it had offered more freedom — and there is no longer any land.” (Nietzsche, The Gay Science) The problem is not only that names are caught up in ascending and descending chains, an infinite series of minimal differences; the problem never was identifying the limit, and at any rate, this is precisely where our organs overtake us. Creativity is nothing more than acceleration. Have we forgotten so quickly?

Our real problem can be provisionally summarized as follows. How to situate language itself in terms of metaphysics? A phase-map is not enough. The origin of language is indiscernible from a continuous transformation, not a signal but a teaching-learning that the Greeks had innocently called mathemata. A mark and not a symbol, a map and not a trace. Saturated, simple, deep. For the unforeseen origin of the code occurs precisely on the boundary of the unacknowledgable, the imperceptible rupture at the heart of every science. The parasite thus invents learning as well: it all begins with a difference in intensity, a tiny divergence accelerating into a raging vortex. Learning is becoming imperceptible. We are therefore with Artaud, when he writes of becoming-unspecified: “The soul could be reborn; however, it is not reborn. For although eased somewhat, it feels it is still dreaming, it hasn’t yet transformed itself into that dream with which it cannot yet fully be identified.” (from “Who, in the heart…”)

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continuity, diachrony, evolution, institution, language, linearity, linguistics, logic, sign, synchrony, time

The Language Mechanism: Notes on de Saussure

A language thus has this curious and striking feature. It has no immediately perceptible entities. And yet one cannot doubt that they exist, or that the interplay of these units is what constitutes linguistic structure. That is undoubtedly a characteristic which distinguishes languages from all other semiological institutions.

Ferdinand de Saussure (Course in General Linguistics, 105)

After having investigated the physiological mechanisms of speech, Saussure turns to consider the nature of linguistic signs. In his analysis we find a clear formulation of the first principle of his “new” linguistics, namely that the sign is arbitrary.

At first glance this statement seems to suggest an argument for an evolutionary linguistics, but Saussure draws our attention to the fact that “this very same factor tends to protect a language from any attempt to change it.” (73) As a system of arbitrary signs, there is no rational basis for language; paradoxically this makes language itself “inaccessible” to reason.

There is no logical reason we should prefer “sister” over “hermana,” and thus no grounds for argument about change. The great number of signs necessary to constitute a language (and the complex character of the linguistic system itself) also contribute to the force of collective inertia resisting linguistic innovation:

“At any time a language belongs to all its users. It is a facility unreservedly available throughout a whole community… [it] is something in which everyone participates all the time, and that is why it is constantly open to the influence of all. This key fact is by itself sufficient explain why a linguistic revolution is impossible.” (74)

A community naturally exerts a restrictive, conservative influence upon a language. Nonetheless, the passage of time also allows linguistic signs to be changed with “some rapidity” — hence both variability (diachrony) and invariability (synchrony) are characteristic of the linguistic sign. These two characteristics are “intimately connected” — a sign is only subject to change because it “continues through time.”
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alterity, being, difference, expression, harmonics, history, language, memory, post-modern, radiation, science, time, transcendence, writing

The Thought of Language

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The human being is in the most literal sense a political animal, not merely a gregarious animal, but an animal which can individuate itself only in the midst of society.

(Karl Marx, from the introduction to Grundrisse)

Between being and language there is an interval, a purified difference articulated through individuation, a difference in time or development: language is in such a way that it always is yet to be as a being. Language becomes through the production of alteration or mutation: we can and cannot formulate the sense or direction of writing — it is always in a process of developing into an exotic, immaterial, and “purified” being — or even into a different kind than “being.”

Through a coincidence of non-identicals, language plunges into becoming in order to reverse its temporal structure: pure language is tachyonic, a signal reversed in time, whose being unfolds in waves, inverting the radiation of light and noise, subverting distribution of space, producing an unusual, internal co-resonance which unfetters time (alterity) itself.

Language is radiation, interference; thus linguistics is a kind of harmonics: a science of language without phonetics, a science of noise and parasitic diagrams, which would already in some sense be reducible to a violently “purified” mathematics (the “post-modern” is but footnotes to Aristotle, a fervently anti-idealistic “clarification” of ontology.)

The analysis of linguistic structures unconsciously proceeds in (genea)logical fashion: yet should we not also seek language in its positive or generative aspect (which correlates with a larger sense of language as expressivity, productive recording,) that is also to produce new languages of pure forms, and also to invent mathematical and scientific languages; and between and underneath both to produce instructions for pure machines?

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alterity, concept, critique, ethics, infinity, language, metaphysics, morality, ontology, Politics, power, production, theory, time

Temporality and Power: The Politics of Absence

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In the relation of the human being to language, a process is reflected that extends to the relation of the human being to beings in general: The scientific knowledge has become the standard knowledge! The other: thinking, spirit of language, history, culture is still there, yet dragged along into a certain indeterminateness.

It is decisive that the consciousness was lost as to where this other belongs and of what kind must the reflection be in order to still experience it essentially.

Martin Heidegger, On the Essence of Language

One is substituted for another. The Other is already a replacement: stood in front of, signified for, stereotyped, “represented.” Always already excluded. Alterity is secrecy, criminal, “terrorist.” The other is an unsurface, continuously fragmenting, always already a mute revelation of presence-within-absence, an irruption of pure expressivity conveying without mediation the disunity constitutive of production. A signal which effaces itself, fracturing identity and imploding the non-position at the heart or essence of expression.

The degradation of the other in (through) writing, even through speaking itself and in what is before speaking, in the materiality of the saying and in the voice, already in the other’s cry of pain or even the internal distance wherein I myself become alien, become other before my own suffering and “involuntary” reactions — all these complicate an analysis into alterity, into the other nature of space. The politics of alterity, of absence, the comprehension of the place of the other, takes place outside of our dialogical place-together, outside the infinity of our interconnection. Politics operates not in but as a finite emptiness, a literal or material void which is applied to society like the one-sided edge of a surgical knife.

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