certainty, disorder, history, intensity, number, rigor, rupture, system, value

Differently

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This creature Life, beyond all evaluations, remains an uninterpretable difference — a kind of difference which is primary with respect to a differential identity, a difference which directly induces individuation, and thereby also seduces us to imitation, to the law of identity, and the shackles of representation. Difference for itself becomes the enemy and not a single word is possible on the value of life; how can we interpret this chaosmogenetic reality, arrive at by subtraction this very truth which endlessly ruptures with the signifying systems we use to interpret the world to another? It seems to verge on a kind of heresy, a prediction of apocalypse with respect to philosophy as such: can a mathematization, an axiomatization of the real take place?

The enormous suffering which has gone into everything beautiful is a misery which not only fails to become sensible in the light of Being, but which forcibly undermines the notion that all descends from pure forms (existence from Idea; God as pure and liberating Force of truth) rather than through the violent admixture and interpenetration of wildly heterogeneous forces and bodies (existence from cruelty; God as the tortuously circular Process of differentiation.) A metaphysics from the absolute will to tragedy is an anti-moral, materialist, atheist metaphysic: the singular vision of the real in which our decisions could be dangerous (need I mention also the only one in which knowledge necessarily involves suffering and self-deception?)

Thinking is precisely this adventure which connects its desires not to an identical reality or a primary nullity, but precisely to the an-identical, the differentiality of existence. Not a kind of compromise between two poles of the idea but a war with the arbitrary division of the idea into isolated components, the body of Life into organs without bodies. “We have to learn to think differently — in order at last, perhaps very late on, to attain even more: to feel differently.” Nietzsche (Daybreak, II.103)

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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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fibonacci, form, Laplace, mathematics, nothing, number, origin, sign, value, void, zero

A Brief History of Nothing

The point about zero is that we do not need to use it in the operations of daily life. No one goes out to buy zero fish. It is in a way the most civilized of all the cardinals, and its use is only forced on us by the needs of cultivated modes of thought.

Alfred North Whitehead

Leibniz called zero “a fine and wondrous refuge of the divine spirit.” But where does the idea come from? The history of the word may afford us a clue to this mystery. We receive the English word ‘zero’ from the French zéro which comes (along with ‘cipher’) from the Italian zefiro. The latter originates in turn from the Arabic sifr (from safira = “it was empty,” a translation of the Sankskrit sunya = “void” or “un-reality.”)
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chaos, culture, freud, materiality, metaphysics, Nietzsche, resistance, society, subject-group, time, unconscious, value

Time and the Cultural Unconscious: Nietzsche and the Future

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Woman at the Window Salvador Dalí, oil on board (1925)

What do we understand to be the boundaries of our neighbor: I mean that which he as it were engraves and impresses himself into and upon us? We understand nothing of him except the change in us of which he is cause — our knowledge of him is like the hollow space which has been shaped. (Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak 118)

Stripped of its social connotations, tolerance and democracy mean only a desire to say that the external is gone, what belongs (inside) is all; and there are plenty who say it, whether or not it is true! Our existence as social subjects is socially constructed; thus what once seemed outrageous now seems trivial and preliminary. Perhaps our age, though more complex in some ways, is ultimately not so different from Nietzsche’s: for what always matters more than metaphysics is how we actually measure and compare human beings; and now, being without Gods or absolutes to function as a universal scale, where are we to turn? “Actions are never what they appear to us to be!” (Daybreak 116) Still it is always the same story: we turn away, we cannot bear the intensity of the material, we desperately grasp outside, we look beyond for a vision capable of grasping all of being at once.

Metaphysics is done not from luxury but out of dire necessity: above all, we look away from the world, we repress space (culture-space, nature-space, psychic-space): this need for specificity-within-multiplicity is the name as such, the shape of all social oppression, the very cost of ‘civilization.’ Metaphysics traces lines beyond social forms into the formless, the chaotic and subversive turbulence beneath the turgid surface of politics, the violence beneath the ideal image, the flux between the forms. All language is a struggle between times; a struggle within time to overcome time. Language is temporality posed as a challenge; it is a creative space, positive in its empty smoothness, but eerily mute, insufficient in and of itself to initiate the vibrations of a new becoming.
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Bachelard, Deleuze, image of thought, philosophy of science, problematics, psychoanalysis, unconscious, value

Bachelard and the Psychoanalysis of Affective Stereotypes

A word will suddenly reverberate in us and find too lingering an echo in cherished, old ideas; an image will light up and persuade us outright, abruptly, and all at once. In reality, a serious, weighty word, a key word, only carries everyday conviction, conviction that stems more from the linguistic past or from the naivety of primary images than from objective truth…All description nucleates in this way and collects about centres that are too bright. Unconscious thought gathers around these centres–these nuclei–and thus the mind is introverted and immobilised. —Gaston Bachelard, Formation of the Scientific Mind

In this work Bachelard theorizes a pedagogical psychoanalysis that will attempt to reinstate the sense of the problem in science and remove any unconscious valorizations that occur through the development of scientific knowledge. The sense of the problem is at the forefront of Bachelard’s project because he believes that all knowledge must be an answer to a question (24-25). Moreover, the conservative instinct takes a stunting grip on science insofar as it becomes self-satisfied with the solutions it has already established. These solutions are the same platitudes that teachers and textbooks command us to memorize. A psychoanalysis of the scientific mind is called upon when epistemological obstacles encrust knowledge that is not questioned.

In fact, this is Bachleard’s main thesis: knowledge becomes overcoded with affective images that reduce the efficacy of thought by burdening it with so many coefficients of values. This instructs us on a difference between the historian of science and the epistemologist: the former considers the errors of a previous mode of thought to still constitute facts insofar as they entail real investments and beliefs. The latter, however, proceeds to link facts to a system of ideas that can show how these errors harbor a specific power of the problematic insofar as they represent counter-thoughts. Thus Bachelard believes that truly scientific knowledge always mobilizes its forces against previous knowledge.

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