Ideological Morphology. Thought of the Day 105.1

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When applied to generic fascism, the combined concepts of ideal type and ideological morphology have profound implications for both the traditional liberal and Marxist definitions of fascism. For one thing it means that fascism is no longer defined in terms of style, for e.g. spectacular politics, uniformed paramilitary forces, the pervasive use of symbols like fasces and Swastika, or organizational structure, but in terms of ideology. Moreover, the ideology is not seen as essentially nihilistic or negative (anti-liberalism, anti-Marxism, resistance to transcendence etc.), or as the mystification and aestheticization of capitalist power. Instead, it is constructed in the positive, but not apologetic or revisionist terms of the fascists’ own diagnosis of society’s structural crisis and the remedies they propose to solve it, paying particular attention to the need to separate out the ineliminable, definitional conceptions from time- or place- specific adjacent or peripheral ones. However, for decades the state of fascist studies would have made Michael Freeden’s analysis well-nigh impossible to apply to generic fascism, because precisely what was lacking was any conventional wisdom embedded in common-sense usage of the term about what constituted the ineliminable cluster of concepts at its non-essentialist core. Despite a handful of attempts to establish its definitional constituents that combined deep comparative historiographical knowledge of the subject with a high degree of conceptual sophistication, there was a conspicuous lack of scholarly consensus over what constituted the fascist minimum. Whether there was such an entity as generic fascism even was a question to think through. Or whether Nazism’s eugenic racism and the euthanasia campaign it led to, combined with a policy of physically eliminating racial enemies that led to the systematic persecution and mass murder, was simply unique, and too exceptional to be located within the generic category was another question to think through. Both these positions suggest a naivety about the epistemological and ontological status of generic concepts most regrettable among professional intellectuals, since every generic entity is a utopian heuristic construct, not a real thing and every historically singularity is by definition unique no matter how many generic terms can be applied to it. Other common positions that implied considerable naivety were the ones that dismissed fascism’s ideology as too irrational or nihilistic to be part of the fascist minimum, or generalized about its generic traits by blending fascism and nazism.

Nihilism Now! Monsters of Energy by Keith Ansell Pearson and Diane Morgan

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Blurb: Have we had enough? But enough of what exactly? Of our mourning and melancholia? Of postmodern narcissism? Of our depressive illness and anxieties of not ‘being there’ any longer? Enough of enough! We now ask: what of the future of the human and of the future of the future? Is it now possible to produce revitalised ways of thinking and modes of existing that have digested the demand for transhuman overcomings and so are able to navi- gate new horizons of virtual becoming? Is it possible to save thought from its current degenerative and vegetative state at the hands of a smug and cosy postmodern academicism? Can we still invent new concepts?

If one follows certain influential contemporary accounts, it would appear as if the experience and question of nihilism have become passé. Is not the urgency informing the question of the `now’ of nihilism redundant and otiose? For Jean Baudrillard, for example, there is now only the simulation of a realised nihilism and little remains of a possible nihilism (a nihilism of the possible) in theory. In relation to previous forms of nihilism ± romanticism, surrealism and dadaism ± we find ourselves in an ‘insoluble position’. Our nihilism today is neither aesthetic nor political. The apocalypse is over, its time has gone and lies behind us:

The apocalypse is finished, today it is the precession of the neutral, of the forms of the neutral and of indifference. (Baudrillard)

Baudrillard goes on to make the claim, terrifying in its full import, that all that remains is a ‘fascination’ for these indifferent forms and for the operation of the system that annihilates us.

Surely, Baudrillard is being ironic when he claims that this mode of nihilism is our current ‘passion’? How can one be passionate about indifference and one’s own annihilation? As Baudrillard acknowledges, this is the nihilism of the observer and accepter. It is the nihilism of the passive nihilist who no longer aspires towards a transcendence or overcoming of the human (condition), but who simply announces and enjoys its disappearance, the spectator watching the spectacle of his own demise. History, politics, metaphysics, have all reached their terminal point, and willing nothingness appears to be the only desire of the will available to the post-modern mind:

The dialectic stage, the critical stage is empty. There is no more stage . . . The masses themselves are caught up in a gigantic process of inertia through acceleration. They are this excrescent, devouring, process that annihilates all growth and all surplus meaning. They are this circuit short- circuited by a monstrous finality. (Baudrillard)

Diane Morgan and Keith Ansell Pearson Nihilism Now Monsters of Energy

Post-Foundationalism Versus Anti-Foundationalism. Thought of the Day 58.0

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In the words of Judith Butler,

the point is not to do away with foundations, or even to champion a position which goes under the name of antifoundationalism: Both of these positions belong together as different versions of foundationalism and the sceptical problematic it engenders. Rather, the task is to interrogate what the theoretical move that establishes foundations authorizes, and what precisely it excludes or forecloses.

The notion of contingent foundations, proposed by Butler as an alternative framing, could best be described as an ontological weakening of the status of foundation without doing away with foundations entirely. It is on its account, that what came to be called post-foundationalism should not be confused with anti-foundationalism. What distinguishes the former from the latter is that it does not assume the absence of any ground; what it assumes is the absence of an ultimate ground, since it is only on the basis of such absence that grounds, in the plural, are possible. The problem is therefore posed not in terms of no foundations (the logic of all- or -nothing), but in terms of contingent foundations. Hence, post-foundationalism does not stop after having assumed the absence of a final ground and so it does not turn into anti-foundationalist nihilism, existentialism or pluralism, all of which would assume the absence of any ground and would result in complete meaninglessness, absolute freedom or total autonomy. Nor does it turn into a sort of post-modern pluralism for which all meta-narratives have equally melted into air, for what is still accepted by post-foundationalism is the necessity for some grounds.

What becomes problematic as a result is not the existence of foundations (in the plural) but their ontological status – which is seen now as necessarily contingent. This shift in the analysis from the ‘actually existing’ foundations to their status – that is to say, to their conditions of possibility – can be described as a quasi-transcendental move. Although implicitly present in Spivak’s notion of a ‘perpetually rehearsed critique’ as well as in Butler’s notion of ‘interrogation’, this quasi-transcendental turn is made explicit by Ernesto Laclau who, starting from the post-foundational premise that ‘the crisis of essentialist universalism as a self-asserted ground has led our attention to the contingent grounds (in the plural) of its emergence and to the complex process of construction’, comes to the conclusion that ‘[t]his operation is, sensu stricto, transcendental: it involves a retreat from an object to its conditions of possibility’.

Agamben and the Biopolitical – Nihilistic and Thanatopolitical Expressions. Thought of the Day 56.0

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Agamben’s logic of biopolitics as the logic of the symmetry between sovereign power and the sacredness of bare life should be understood in terms of its historico-ontological destiny. Although this theme is only hinted at in Homo Sacer and the volumes that follow it, Agamben resolutely maintains that biopolitics is inherently metaphysical. If on the one hand ‘the inclusion of bare life in the political realm constitutes the original […] nucleus of sovereign power’ and ‘biopolitics is at least as old as the sovereign exception’, on the other hand, this political nexus cannot be dissociated from the epochal situation of metaphysics. Here Agamben openly displays his Heideggerian legacy; bare life, that which in history is increasingly isolated by biopolitics as Western politics, must be strictly related to ‘pure being’, that which in history is increasingly isolated by Western metaphysics:

Politics [as biopolitics] appears as the truly fundamental structure of Western metaphysics insofar as it occupies the threshold on which the relation between the living being and the logos is realized. In the ‘politicization’ of bare life – the metaphysical task par excellence – the humanity of living man is decided.

Commentators have not as yet sufficiently emphasized how biopolitics is consequently nothing else than Agamben’s name for metaphysics as nihilism. More specifically, while bare life remains for him the ‘empty and indeterminate’ concept of Western politics – which is thus as such originally nihilistic – its forgetting goes together with the progressive coming to light of what it conceals. From this perspective, nihilism will therefore correspond to the modern and especially post-modern generalisation of the state of exception: ‘the nihilism in which we are living is […] nothing other than the coming to light of […] the sovereign relation as such’. In other words, nihilism reveals the paradox of the inclusive exclusion of bare life, homo sacer, qua foundation of sovereign power, as well as the fact that sovereign power cannot recognize itself for what it is. Beyond Foucault’s biopolitical thesis according to which modernity is increasingly characterized by the way in which power directly captures life as such as its object, what interests Agamben the most is:

the decisive fact that, together with the process by which exception everywhere becomes the rule, the realm of bare life – which is originally situated at the margins of the political order – gradually begins to coincide with the political realm.

The political is thus reduced to the biopolitical: the original repression of the sovereign relation on which Western politics has always relied is now inextricably bound up with its return in the guise of a radical biopoliticisation of the political. Like nihilism, such a generalisation of the state of exception – the fact that, today, we are all virtually homines sacri – is itself a profoundly ambiguous biopolitical phenomenon. Today’s state of exception both radicalizes – qualitatively and quantitatively – the thanatopolitical expressions of sovereignty (epitomized by the nazis’ extermination of the Jews for a mere ‘capacity to be killed’ inherent in their condition as such) and finally unmasks its hidden logic.

Agamben explicitly relates to the possibility of a ‘new politics’. Conversely, a new politics is unthinkable without an in-depth engagement with the historico-ontological dimension of sacratio and the structural political ambiguity of the state of exception. Although such new politics ‘remains largely to be invented’, very early on in Homo Sacer, Agamben unhesitatingly defines it as ‘a politics no longer founded on the exceptio of bare life’. beyond the exceptionalist logic – by now self-imploded – that unites sovereignty to bare life, Agamben seems to envisage a relaional politics that would succeed in ‘constructing the link between zoe and bios’. This link between the bare life of man and his political existence would ‘heal’ the original ‘fracture’ which is at the same time precisely what causes their progressive indistinction in the generalized state of exception. Having said this, Agamben also conceives of such new politics as a non-relational relation that ‘will […] have to put the very form of relation into question, and to ask if the political fact is not perhaps thinkable beyond relation and, thus, no longer in the form of a connection’.

Meillassoux, Deleuze, and the Ordinal Relation Un-Grounding Hyper-Chaos. Thought of the Day 41.0

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As Heidegger demonstrates in Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, Kant limits the metaphysical hypostatization of the logical possibility of the absolute by subordinating the latter to a domain of real possibility circumscribed by reason’s relation to sensibility. In this way he turns the necessary temporal becoming of sensible intuition into the sufficient reason of the possible. Instead, the anti-Heideggerian thrust of Meillassoux’s intellectual intuition is that it absolutizes the a priori realm of pure logical possibility and disconnects the domain of mathematical intelligibility from sensibility. (Ray Brassier’s The Enigma of Realism: Robin Mackay – Collapse_ Philosophical Research and Development. Speculative Realism.) Hence the chaotic structure of his absolute time: Anything is possible. Whereas real possibility is bound to correlation and temporal becoming, logical possibility is bound only by non-contradiction. It is a pure or absolute possibility that points to a radical diachronicity of thinking and being: we can think of being without thought, but not of thought without being.

Deleuze clearly situates himself in the camp when he argues with Kant and Heidegger that time as pure auto-affection (folding) is the transcendental structure of thought. Whatever exists, in all its contingency, is grounded by the first two syntheses of time and ungrounded by the third, disjunctive synthesis in the implacable difference between past and future. For Deleuze, it is precisely the eternal return of the ordinal relation between what exists and what may exist that destroys necessity and guarantees contingency. As a transcendental empiricist, he thus agrees with the limitation of logical possibility to real possibility. On the one hand, he thus also agrees with Hume and Meillassoux that [r]eality is not the result of the laws which govern it. The law of entropy or degradation in thermodynamics, for example, is unveiled as nihilistic by Nietzsche s eternal return, since it is based on a transcendental illusion in which difference [of temperature] is the sufficient reason of change only to the extent that the change tends to negate difference. On the other hand, Meillassoux’s absolute capacity-to-be-other relative to the given (Quentin Meillassoux, Ray Brassier, Alain Badiou – After finitude: an essay on the necessity of contingency) falls away in the face of what is actual here and now. This is because although Meillassoux s hyper-chaos may be like time, it also contains a tendency to undermine or even reject the significance of time. Thus one may wonder with Jon Roffe (Time_and_Ground_A_Critique_of_Meillassou) how time, as the sheer possibility of any future or different state of affairs, can provide the (non-)ground for the realization of this state of affairs in actuality. The problem is less that Meillassoux’s contingency is highly improbable than that his ontology includes no account of actual processes of transformation or development. As Peter Hallward (Levi Bryant, Nick Srnicek and Graham Harman (editors) – The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism) has noted, the abstract logical possibility of change is an empty and indeterminate postulate, completely abstracted from all experience and worldly or material affairs. For this reason, the difference between Deleuze and Meillassoux seems to come down to what is more important (rather than what is more originary): the ordinal sequences of sensible intuition or the logical lack of reason.

But for Deleuze time as the creatio ex nihilo of pure possibility is not just irrelevant in relation to real processes of chaosmosis, which are both chaotic and probabilistic, molecular and molar. Rather, because it puts the Principle of Sufficient Reason as principle of difference out of real action it is either meaningless with respecting to the real or it can only have a negative or limitative function. This is why Deleuze replaces the possible/real opposition with that of virtual/actual. Whereas conditions of possibility always relate asymmetrically and hierarchically to any real situation, the virtual as sufficient reason is no less real than the actual since it is first of all its unconditioned or unformed potential of becoming-other.

Physical Congruences of Nāgārjuna’s Mūlamadhyamakakārikā, Yukti-sastikâ, śūnyatā and Pratītyasamutpāda. Note Quote

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The Middle Way of Mādhyamaka refers to the teachings of Nāgārjuna, very interesting are the implications between quantum physics and Mādhyamaka. The basic concept of reality in the philosophy of Nāgārjuna is that the fundamental reality has no firm core but consists of systems of interacting objects. According to the middle way perspective, based on the notion of emptiness, phenomena exist in a relative way, that is, they are empty of any kind of inherent and independent existence. Phenomena are regarded as dependent events existing relationally rather than permanent things, which have their own entity. Nāgārjuna middle way perspective emerges as a relational approach, based on the insight of emptiness.  śūnyatā (emptiness) is the foundation of all things, and it is the basic principle of all phenomena. The emptiness implies the negation of unchanged, fixed substance and thereby the possibility for relational existence and change. This suggests that both the ontological constitution of things and our epistemological schemes are just as relational as everything else. We are fundamentally relational internally and externally. In other words, Nāgārjuna, do not fix any ontological nature of the things:

  1. they do not arise
  2. they do not exist
  3. they are not to be found
  4. they are not
  5. and they are unreal

In short, an invitation do not decide on either existence or non-existence (nondualism). According the theory of  śūnyatā, phenomena exist in a relative state only, a kind of ’ontological relativity’. Phenomena are regarded as dependent (only in relation to something else) events rather than things which have their own inherent nature; thus the extreme of permanence is avoided.

In the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā, a tetralemma is pointed out: “Neither from itself nor from another, nor from both, nor without a cause, does anything whatever anywhere arise”. In the Yukti-sastikâ, Nāgārjuna says, “That which has arisen dependently on this and that that has not arisen substantially (svabhavatah, स्वभावतः). What has not arisen substantially, how can it literally (nama) be called ‘arisen’? […] That which originates due to a cause and does not abide without (certain) conditions but disappears when the conditions are absent, how can it be understood as ‘to exist’?”

By the notions of ‘to arise’ and ‘to exist’, Nāgārjuna does not mean the empirical existence but the substantial existence. When in many passages of Mūlamadhyamakakārikā Nāgārjuna states that things do not arise (7.29), that they do not exist (3.7, 5.8, 14.6), that they are not to be found (2.25, 9.11), that they are not (15.10), that they are unreal (13.1), then clearly this has the meaning: things do not arise substantially. They do not exist out of themselves; their independence cannot be found. They are dependent and in this sense they are substantially unreal. Nāgārjuna only rejects the idea of a substantial arising of things which bear an absolute and independent existence. He does not refute the empirical existence of things as explained in the following: “It exists implies grasping after eternity. It does not exist implies the philosophy of annihilation. Therefore, a discerning person should not decide on either existence or non-existence”. (15.10)

For Nāgārjuna, the expression ‘to exist’ has the meaning of ‘to exist substantially’. His issue is not the empirical existence of things but the conception of a permanent thing i.e. the idea of an own being, without dependence on something else. Nāgārjuna refutes the concept of independent existence which is unchangeable, eternal and existing by itself. Things do not arise out of themselves, they do not exist absolutely and are dependent. Their permanent being or existence cannot be found. The many interpretations of Nāgārjuna which claim that he is also refuting the empirical existence of objects, are making an inadmissible generalization which moves Nāgārjuna near to subjectivism, nihilism and instrumentalism. Such interpretations originate in metaphysical approaches which themselves have a difficulty in recognizing the empirical existence of the data presented. This is not at all the case with Nāgārjuna. Nāgārjuna presents the dependence of phenomena mainly in images.

Pratītyasamutpāda (Sanskrit: प्रतीत्यसमुत्पाद; Pali: पटिच्चसमुप्पाद paṭiccasamuppāda) is an indication of dependence. Dependent bodies are in an intermediate state, they are not properly separated and they are not one entity. Secondly, they rely on each other and are influenced or determined by something else. Thirdly, their behaviour is influenced by something in-between, for example a mover is attracted by gravitational force, a viewer is dependent on rays of light between his eyes and the object, a piano player’s action is determined by the fine motor skills of his fingers, an agent is dependent on his act. Pratītyasamutpāda is an indication of dependence and of something that happens between the objects. One object is bound to the other without being identical to it. The implicit interpretations of Pratītyasamutpāda, are in terms of time, structure and space.

The following citations and references illustrate the term Pratītyasamutpāda. Pratītyasamutpāda is used:

1. as Dependence in Nāgārjuna’s Hymn to the Buddha: “Dialecticians maintain that suffering is created by itself, created by (someone) else, created by both (or) without a cause, but You have stated that it is dependently born”.

2. as an intermediate state by Nāgārjuna: Objects are neither together nor separated

3. as bondage in the Hevajra Tantra: “Men are bound by the bondage of existence and are liberated by understanding the nature of existence”.

4. as an intermediate state by Roger Penrose: “Quantum entanglement is a very strange type of thing. It is somewhere between objects being separate and being in communication with each other”.

5. as something between bodies by Albert Einstein: “A courageous scientific imagination was needed to realize fully that not the behaviour of bodies, but the behaviour of something between them, that is, the field, may be essential for ordering and understanding events”.

6. as the mean between things in modern mathematics: to quote Gioberti: “The mean between two or more things, their juncture, union, transit, passage, crossing, interval, distance, bond and contact – all these are mysterious, for they are rooted in the continuum, in the infinite. The interval that runs between one idea and another, one thing and another, is infinite, and can only be surpassed by the creative act. This is why the dynamic moment and dialectic concept of the mean are no less mysterious than those of the beginning and the end. The mean is a union of two diverse and opposite things in a unity. It is an essentially dialectic concept, and involves an apparent contradiction, namely, the identity of the one and the many, of the same and the diverse. This unity is simple and composite; it is unity and synthesis and harmony. It shares in two extremes without being one or the other. It is the continuum, and therefore the infinite. Now, the infinite identically uniting contraries, clarifies the nature of the interval. In motion, in time, in space, in concepts, the discrete is easy to grasp, because it is finite. The continuum and the interval are mysterious, because they are infinite.”

Nihilism

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Brassier starts his philosophical journey by undertaking the contrast between the ‘manifest’ and the ‘scientific’ images of reality. This way, he accomplishes to undermine the reality of subjective experiences through his own brand of realism that finds its culmination in the overt skeptical view he possesses towards phenomenology. He asserts the upholding of the enlightenment legacy at all costs and admonishes the thinking creatures to pursue the enlightenment legacy right through to its ends. In a slightly apocalyptic tone to begin with, he sets his aim right when he talks about the defunct subject of philosophy and then claims “…philosophy is neither a medium of affirmation nor a source of justification, but rather the organon of extinction.” Continental philosophy has always held Materialism and Realism as hostile to each other, but for Brassier, ‘material’ only denotes a blockade thus indicating a point where thought fails. His book, ‘Nihil Unbound‘ is therefore an attempt to accolade the return to matter without assuming a pre-established harmony between the conceptual apparatus and the world. Nihilism for Brassier has nothing to do with the limitations of reason in apprehending the meaning of existence in the world nor a crisis ridden subjectivity. Nihilism is:

the unavoidable corollary of the realist conviction that there is a mind-independent reality, which despite the presumptions of human narcissism, is indifferent to our existence and oblivious to the ‘values’ and ‘meanings’ which we would drape over it in order to make it more hospitable.

Brassier asks of philosophers not to try to mend ways to suture the discordance between men and nature, either by positing the meaningfulness or purposefulness of life, as for him, nature isn’t particularly benevolent. Brassier opens the first part of the book by focusing on the disjunction between reality and thought, nature and reason and strongly contends the view of thought being transcendentally separate from nature.

As briefly mentioned above, the genesis of Brassier’s philosophy is from contrasting the ‘manifest’ and the ‘scientific’ images. The former being the conception of man as created by himself and the latter being the image of man as getting created by the ‘complex physical system’ in the words of Wilfred Sellars. Both these thinkers agree on the dominance of ‘manifest’ image controlling the way philosophy is done today, albeit in varying degrees as practiced on the continent and in the Anglo-speaking countries. The shared thinking although spanning 4 decades, does not mitigate the profound hostility they both connect with philosophers as against the ‘scientific’ image that is held culpable for robbing a person his self-intentionality. This is the point of departure for Brassier with regards to Sellars as the latter holds the primacy of the ‘manifest’ image, while unable to legitimize the ‘scientific’ image as a substantive derivation from ‘manifest’ image. Brassier is against this reductionism of the ‘Philosophical’ with regard to the ‘Scientific’. This position of anti-reductionism culled with the disjunction-ing of reason and nature is his primary import.

Schizoid{Entropy:Particle Physics :: Political:Negentropy}. Drunken Risibility

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In my philosophical and physics studies, negentropy (entropy in reverse engineered mode) was always pitted against entropy, and smuggling one notion of order and disorder into the other discipline was always a matter of convenience, rather than coming to terms with the inconvenient truth. In sum, entropy, randomness, disorder or stochasticity of the universe always increases, and alas! my dream of correlating the entropy of the astrophysics with the illusory negentropy of the political theory often finds denominations in dreams and abstruse generalisations. This has been a contention I have been flirting over with for a quite a few number of years, where the idea of capitalism is likened to a crossing the threshold as in event horizon of a black hole. I have in the past dabbled with politics and black holes and similarities, if not congruence. Somewhere, like a narcissist, I am aware of brutal sense I make, albeit in no accordance with any affiliations. Thats in accordance with turmoiling. Talking of the turmoil, its the media that makes the schizoid of me in tune with working the grassroots, protest movements, the vacuous and increasingly disillusioned left. We are living in a world of mass media which daily exposes society’s innate hypocrisy, its contradictions and the apparent failure of almost every facet of our social and political life. The young have seen their “activist” participatory democracy turn into its antithesis – nihilistic virtues, and nothing is more vicious than this. This is the extension of the practice of “murketing” to political action itself. Pop fascination with the role of social media in protest movements only strengthens this development. Sartre had said “Hell is the OTHER People”, but WE have convinced ourselves of Schizophrenia. QED.

Lyotardian Libidinal Energies.0 (Addendum)

Lyotardian Libidinal Energies

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For Lyotard, the turn away from philosophy encompassing the libidinal energy to PoMo was primarily based on his concern with the problem of representation, and with the commitment to the ontology of events. In the Libidinal Economy, Lyotard gets quite tied up in trying to resolve the problems associated with structures that harbor libidinal energies, as they tend to become hegemonic. With the investment of such hegemonic status, these structures are vulnerable to deny other libidinal intensities/energies themselves by claiming sole right to themselves as stable structures, and subsequently become nihilistic and limiting. Since, libidinal energies can exist only within structures, Lyotard fails to show a way out for liberating desire, and also does not set up a place beyond representation that would be immune to the effects of nihilism, but instead, comes up with a metaphysical system, in which both the structures and intensities are essential components for functioning libidinal economy. Nihilism of structures could only be checked by an adherence to notions of dissimulation, by considering the very libidinal energy as the event dormant with under-exploited, potentiality waiting for its release to other structures.