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


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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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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difference, flux, God, image, imaginary, individuation, insanity, logic, metaphysics, symmetry, void


Wild Magic of the Unbeliever (Dave Makin)

How much of our lives are caught up, inextricably, with the imaginary? A dangerous question only because it is silly, and stupid; why? Because it’s answer is both simple and impossible. For we know: none of it is imaginary, it is all real; and we also know: nothing is real, all of it is imaginary. A dangerous idea, a poisonous idea: there is contradiction at the origin. An unrest, a turbulence at the heart of being — not smooth immobility. There is origin only through explosion, individuation, hyperdifferentiation.
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atomism, birth of physics, declination, division, flux, lucretius, michel serres, turbulence, void

Notes on The Birth of Physics

Turbulent Flow

“To grasp more firmly the restless movement of all the particles of matter, remember that the whole universe has no bottom and thus no place where the ultimate particles could settle… the ultimate particles are allowed no rest anywhere in the unfathomable void; rather they are harried by incessant and various movement…” – Lucretius, On the Nature of Things (Book II, 93)


Declination in a Laminar Flow

Serres begins the first section of The Birth of Physics by showing how the clinamen (atomic swerve) has been represented as a weakness of atomic theory, as a prescientific absurdity. Why has it been able to appear this way? First, because declination is a physical absurdity (since experimentation cannot reveal its existence); second, it is a mechanical absurdity (since it is contrary to the principle of inertia and would result in perpetual motion); and finally, it is a logical absurdity (since it is introduced without justification, as being the cause of itself before being the cause of all things.) Serres writes: “The thing is so absurd and so far from our experience that the physicalist minimizes it, as if to hide it.” (4)
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badiou, distinction, event, identity, void

Identity and Division

Identity Project (Skull Lab), oil on old silkscreen frames (February / March 2006)

What is the relation between experience and identity? Clearly, a purely logical account of identity cannot lay claim to our ‘experience’ of identity, only its most formal aspects. Even an ontological account of identity, identity as collection of experiences or even identity as a pure cognitive event, would again demonstrate only the tautological function of identity (for example, agent A is that entity which experiences ‘being-agent-A’.) Like the tangled hierarchies implicit in the cogito, the ontological perspective aims to resolve at a higher position than it began: it seeks to make decisions based on a total comprehension, which is to be accomplished by a rigorous division. We say that logic studies this same schism, but algebraically rather than differentially. Yet a profound question remains silent: why is the subject missing from our experiential space? Where has identity gone?

It is to Alain Badiou’s credit that we now think the relation of a subject to an event as essentially multiple. But this same principle undermines the mathematical principle of continuity upon which we must base any ontological analysis of a ‘system’ of events. Even if we approach identity naively, as meaning a “belonging in a certain way to a certain state of affairs,” we cannot thereby functionally account for its continuity (a subject still maintaining its identity despite, even perhaps because of her transpositions, or non-continuously varying degrees-of-belonging.) We already see that we have need for a more complicated algebraic structure, one which at least allows for division into partial membership classes. The very nature of equivalence depends fundamentally on this division into ‘similar’ sets.

Furthermore, the fact that inclusion itself is already an ontological division demands further explanation. For example, an identity cannot be ‘induced’ from the situation by the simple observation (or negotiation) which decides that such-and-such belongs to the state of affairs, or does not. In reality, we cannot rigorously establish the existence of the void or the multiple from a pure induction. Rather, even induction depends on a rigorous subdivision of the One until this operation approaches its ‘vulgar’ limit (of non-accuracy, of meaning ‘nothing’.) So when we say this ‘limit’ (zero) belongs to every set, even to itself, we mean that induction (the operation-as-limit) has meaning only when the situation its observes is already understood as meaning ‘nothing.’ Hence the infallibility of the inductive process; it is already a “transductive” tautology! So ‘identity’ (as singularity) refers only to the void’s self-belonging (by subdivision into n classes of varying degrees of ‘belonging’…)

We can of course use induction to demonstrate that the endless process of the self-division of the void will “eventually” produce a pure distinction, a tautological “A is A (and not B)” which, by being so utterly commonplace, completely escapes attention. Distinction masquerades as some sort of absolute truth-event, a pure objective identity. We claim to the contrary that the void is never self-identical, that it never belongs to itself or anyone else. In fact, the power of the void is not ‘activated’ by its emptiness but rather the mathematical intuition of the operator, the one who utilizes the void in order to reconstruct a shrinking remainder of the ‘original’ existential-schematic, again only of this ‘layer’ of being. Thus, we claim that this operation of division cannot in fact account for the reciprocal yet asymmterical relation between experience and identity.

aesthetics, art, horizon, universal, void

In the end?

Perhaps the most subtle instant of artistic insight: knowing when the work is complete. Knowing a thing is done is always a decision, a superego injunction to believe, to accept; art lives precisely in this deception, that it is possible to be told what to believe, or put another way, that we can ever know what other people actually want from us. What is the terminating stroke if not precisely the final “cutting” of the art-work out of its particular mode of being into the “universal,” the work of art: a subtraction which makes whole. This point bears elaboration. From what is the sculpture subtracted? The raw materials of artistic production. From what is the work of art subtracted? From the artistic universal– and we can think this in two ways, either as the “sublime” moment of deep sensitivity to the beauty of the universe, or as the universal artistic indeal, that unabashedly subjective universal; in fact, we can also conceive of this “from-what” of the work of art as the “universe” of the painting, that non-existent/empty reality in which the inversions and distortions of the artistic presentation are finally placed into a bizarre-enough context to make sense. So the art work betrays a lack, a cut which would otherwise go unnoticed, precisely by disguising it; yet there is no lack at all. Art persists in this lie as a stain, a horizon: an untameable pulse oscillating in the deep empty void of an (otherwise) still and silent universe.