Historicism. Thought of the Day 79.0

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Historicism is a relativist hermeneutics, which postulates the incommensurability of historical epochs or cultural formations and therefore denies the possibility of a general history or trans-cultural universals. Best described as “a critical movement insisting on the prime importance of historical context” to the interpretation of texts, actions and institutions, historicism emerges in reaction against both philosophical rationalism and scientific theory (Paul Hamilton – Historicism). According to Paul Hamilton’s general introduction:

Anti-Enlightenment historicism develops a characteristically double focus. Firstly, it is concerned to situate any statement – philosophical, historical, aesthetic, or whatever – in its historical context. Secondly, it typically doubles back on itself to explore the extent to which any historical enterprise inevitably reflects the interests and bias of the period in which it was written … [and] it is equally suspicious of its own partisanship.

It is sometimes supposed that a strategy of socio-historical contextualisation represents the alpha and omega of materialist analysis – e.g. Jameson’s celebrated claim (Fredric Jameson – The Political Unconscious) that “always historicise” is the imperative of historical materialism. On the contrary, that although necessary, contextualisation alone is radically insufficient. This strategy of historical contextualisation, suffers from three serious defects. The historicist problematic depends upon the reduction of every phenomenal field to an immanent network of differential relations and the consequent evacuation of the category of cause from its theoretical armoury (Joan Copjec-Read My Desire: Lacan against the Historicists). It is therefore unable to theorise the hierarchy of effective causes within an overdetermined phenomenon and must necessarily reduce to a descriptive list, progressively renouncing explanation for interpretation. Secondly, lacking a theoretical explanation of the unequal factors overdetermining a phenomenon, historicism necessarily flattens the causal network surrounding its object into a homogeneous field of co-equal components. As a consequence, historicism’s description of the social structure or historical sequence gravitates in the direction of a simple totality, where everything can be directly connected to everything else. Thirdly, the self-reflexive turn to historical inscription of the researcher’s position of enunciation into the contextual field results, on these assumptions, in a gesture of relativisation that cannot stop short of relativism. The familiar performative contradictions of relativism then ensure that historicism must support itself through an explicit or implicit appeal to a neutral metalinguistic framework, which typically takes the form of a historical master narrative or essentialist conception of the social totality. The final result of the historicist turn, therefore, is that this “materialist” analysis is in actuality a form of spiritual holism.

Historicism relies upon a variant of what Althusser called “expressive causality,” which acts through “the primacy of the whole as an essence of which the parts are no more than the phenomenal expressions” (Althusser & Balibar – Reading Capital). Expressive causality postulates an essential principle whose epiphenomenal expressions are microcosms of the whole. Whether this expressive totality is social or historical is a contingent question of theoretical preference. When the social field is regarded as an expressive totality, the institutional structures of a historical epoch – economy, politics, law, culture, philosophy and so on – are viewed as externalisations of an essential principle that is manifest in the apparent complexity of these phenomena. When the historical process is considered to be an expressive totality, a historical master narrative operates to guarantee that the successive historical epochs represent the unfolding of a single essential principle. Formally speaking, the problem with expressive (also known as “organic” and “spiritual”) totalities is that they postulate a homology between all the phenomena of the social totality, so that the social practices characteristic of the distinct structural instances of the complex whole of the social formation are regarded as secretly “the same”.

Production of the Schizoid, End of Capitalism and Laruelle’s Radical Immanence. Note Quote Didactics.

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These are eclectics of the production, eclectics of the repetition, eclectics of the difference, where the fecundity of the novelty would either spring forth, or be weeded out. There is ‘schizoproduction’ prevalent in the world. This axiomatic schizoproduction is not a speech act, but discursive, in the sense that it constrains how meaning is distilled from relations, without the need for signifying, linguistic acts. Schizoproduction performs the relation. The bare minimum of schizoproduction is the gesture of transcending thought: namely, what François Laruelle calls a ‘decision’. Decision is differential, but it does not have to signify. It is the capacity to produce distinction and separation, in the most minimal, axiomatic form. Schizoproduction is capitalism turned into immanent capitalism, through a gesture of thought – sufficient thought. It is where capitalism has become a philosophy of life, in that it has a firm belief within a sufficient thought, whatever it comes in contact with. It is an expression of the real, the radical immanence as a transcending arrangement. It is a collective articulation bound up with intricate relations and management of carnal, affective, and discursive matter. The present form of capitalism is based on relationships, collaborations, and processuality, and in this is altogether different from the industrial period of modernism in the sense of subjectivity, production, governance, biopolitics and so on. In both cases, the life of a subject is valuable, since it is a substratum of potentiality and capacity, creativity and innovation; and in both cases, a subject is produced with physical, mental, cognitive and affective capacities compatible with each arrangement. Artistic practice is aligned with a shift from modern liberalism to the neoliberal dynamic position of the free agent.

Such attributes have thus become so obvious that the concepts of ‘competence’, ‘trust’ or ‘interest’ are taken as given facts, instead of perceiving them as functions within an arrangement. It is not that neoliberal management has leveraged the world from its joints, but that it is rather capitalism as philosophy, which has produced this world, where neoliberalism is just a part of the philosophy. Therefore, the thought of the end of capitalism will always be speculative, since we may regard the world without capitalism in the same way as we may regard the world-not-for-humans, which may be a speculative one, also. From its inception, capitalism paved a one-way path to annihilation, predicated as it was on unmitigated growth, the extraction of finite resources, the exaltation of individualism over communal ties, and the maximization of profit at the expense of the environment and society. The capitalist world was, as Thurston Clarke described so bleakly, ”dominated by the concerns of trade and Realpolitik rather than by human rights and spreading democracy”; it was a ”civilization influenced by the impersonal, bottom-line values of the corporations.” Capitalist industrial civilization was built on burning the organic remains of ancient organisms, but at the cost of destroying the stable climatic conditions which supported its very construction. The thirst for fossil fuels by our globalized, high-energy economy spurred increased technological development to extract the more difficult-to-reach reserves, but this frantic grasp for what was left only served to hasten the malignant transformation of Earth into an alien world. The ruling class tried to hold things together for as long as they could by printing money, propping up markets, militarizing domestic law enforcement, and orchestrating thinly veiled resource wars in the name of fighting terrorism, but the crisis of capitalism was intertwined with the ecological crisis and could never be solved by those whose jobs and social standing depended on protecting the status quo. All the corporate PR, greenwashing, political promises, cultural myths, and anthropocentrism could not hide the harsh Malthusian reality of ecological overshoot. As crime sky-rocketed and social unrest boiled over into rioting and looting, the elite retreated behind walled fortresses secured by armed guards, but the great unwinding of industrial civilization was already well underway. This evil genie was never going back in the bottle. And thats speculative too, or not really is a nuance to be fought hard on.

The immanence of capitalism is a transcending immanence: a system, which produces a world as an arrangement, through a capitalist form of thought—the philosophy of capitalism—which is a philosophy of sufficient reason in which economy is the determination in the last instance, and not the real. We need to specifically regard that this world is not real. The world is a process, a “geopolitical fiction”. Aside from this reason, there is an unthinkable world that is not for humans. It is not the world in itself, noumena, nor is it nature, bios, but rather it is the world indifferent to and foreclosed from human thought, a foreclosed and radical immanence – the real – which is not open nor will ever be opening itself for human thought. It will forever remain void and unilaterally indifferent. The radical immanence of the real is not an exception – analogous to the miracle in theology – but rather, it is an advent of the unprecedented unknown, where the lonely hour of last instance never comes. This radical immanence does not confer with ‘the new’ or with ‘the same’ and does not transcend through thought. It is matter in absolute movement, into which philosophy or oikonomia incorporates conditions, concepts, and operations. Now, a shift in thought is possible where the determination in the last instance would no longer be economy but rather a radical immanence of the real, as philosopher François Laruelle has argued. What is given, what is radically immanent in and as philosophy, is the mode of transcendental knowledge in which it operates. To know this mode of knowledge, to know it without entering into its circle, is to practice a science of the transcendental, the “transcendental science” of non-philosophy. This science is of the transcendental, but according to Laruelle, it must also itself be transcendental – it must be a global theory of the given-ness of the real. A non- philosophical transcendental is required if philosophy as a whole, including its transcendental structure, is to be received and known as it is. François Laruelle radicalises the Marxist term of determined-in-the-last-instance reworked by Louis Althusser, for whom the last instance as a dominating force was the economy. For Laruelle, the determination-in-the-last-instance is the Real and that “everything philosophy claims to master is in-the-last-instance thinkable from the One-Real”. For Althusser, referring to Engels, the economy is the ‘determination in the last instance’ in the long run, but only concerning the other determinations by the superstructures such as traditions. Following this, the “lonely hour of the ‘last instance’ never comes”.

Organic and the Orgiastic. Cartography of Ground and Groundlessness in Deleuze and Heidegger. Thought of the Day 43.0

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In his last hermeneutical Erörterung of Leibniz, The Principle of Ground, Heidegger traces back metaphysics to its epochal destiny in the twofold or duplicity (Zwiefalt) of Being and Thought and thus follows the ground in its self-ungrounding (zugrundegehen). Since the foundation of thought is also the foundation of Being, reason and ground are not equal but belong together (zusammenhören) in the Same as the ungrounded yet historical horizon of the metaphysical destiny of Being: On the one hand we say: Being and ground: the Same. On the other hand we say: Being: the abyss (Ab-Grund). What is important is to think the univocity (Einsinnigkeit) of both Sätze, those Sätze that are no longer Sätze. In Difference and Repetition, similarly, Deleuze tells us that sufficient reason is twisted into the groundless. He confirms that the Fold (Pli) is the differenciator of difference engulfed in groundlessness, always folding, unfolding, refolding: to ground is always to bend, to curve and recurve. He thus concludes:

Sufficient reason or ground is strangely bent: on the one hand, it leans towards what it grounds, towards the forms of representation; on the other hand, it turns and plunges into a groundless beyond the ground which resists all forms and cannot be represented.

Despite the fundamental similarity of their conclusions, however, our short overview of Deleuze’s transformation of the Principle of Sufficient Reason has already indicated that his argumentation is very different from Heideggerian hermeneutics. To ground, Deleuze agrees, is always to ground representation. But we should distinguish between two kinds of representation: organic or finite representation and orgiastic or infinite representation. What unites the classicisms of Kant, Descartes and Aristotle is that representation retains organic form as its principle and the finite as its element. Here the logical principle of identity always precedes ontology, such that the ground as element of difference remains undetermined and in itself. It is only with Hegel and Leibniz that representation discovers the ground as its principle and the infinite as its element. It is precisely the Principle of Sufficient Reason that enables thought to determine difference in itself. The ground is like a single and unique total moment, simultaneously the moment of the evanescence and production of difference, of disappearance and appearance. What the attempts at rendering representation infinite reveal, therefore, is that the ground has not only an Apollinian, orderly side, but also a hidden Dionysian, orgiastic side. Representation discovers within itself the limits of the organized; tumult, restlessness and passion underneath apparent calm. It rediscovers monstrosity.

The question then is how to evaluate this ambiguity that is essential to the ground. For Heidegger, the Zwiefalt is either naively interpreted from the perspective of its concave side, following the path of the history of Western thought as the belonging together of Being and thought in a common ground; or it is meditated from its convex side, excavating it from the history of the forgetting of Being the decline of the Fold (Wegfall der Zwiefalt, Vorenthalt der Zwiefalt) as the pivotal point of the Open in its unfolding and following the path that leads from the ground to the abyss. Instead of this all or nothing approach, Deleuze takes up the question in a Nietzschean, i.e. genealogical fashion. The attempt to represent difference in itself cannot be disconnected from its malediction, i.e. the moral representation of groundlessness as a completely undifferentiated abyss. As Bergson already observed, representational reason poses the problem of the ground in terms of the alternative between order and chaos. This goes in particular for the kind of representational reason that seeks to represent the irrepresentable: Representation, especially when it becomes infinite, is imbued with a presentiment of groundlessness. Because it has become infinite in order to include difference within itself, however, it represents groundlessness as a completely undifferentiated abyss, a universal lack of difference, an indifferent black nothingness. Indeed, if Deleuze is so hostile to Hegel, it is because the latter embodies like no other the ultimate illusion inseparable from the Principle of Sufficient Reason insofar as it grounds representation, namely that groundlessness should lack differences, when in fact it swarms with them.

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Viral Load

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Even if viruses have been quarantined on a user’s system, the user is often not allowed to access the quarantined files. The ostensible reason for this high level of secrecy is the claim that open access to computer virus code would result in people writing more computer viruses – a difficult claim for an antivirus company to make given that once they themselves have a copy of a virus then machines running their antivirus software should already be protected from that virus. A more believable explanation for antivirus companies’ unwillingness to release past virus programs is that a large part of their business model is predicated upon their ability to exclusively control stockpiles of past computer virus specimens as closely guarded intellectual property.

None of this absence of archival material is helped by the fact that the concept of a computer virus is itself an ontologically ambiguous category. The majority of so-called malicious software entities that have plagued Internet users in the past few years have technically not been viruses but worms. Additionally, despite attempts to define clear nosological and epidemiological categories for computer viruses and worms, there is still no consistent system for stabilizing the terms themselves, let alone assessing their relative populations. Elizabeth Grosz commented during an interview with the editors of Found Object journal that part of the reason for the ontological ambiguity of computer viruses is that they are an application of a biological metaphor that is largely indeterminate itself. According to Grosz, we are as mystified, if not more so, by biological viruses as we are by computer viruses. Perhaps we know even more about computer viruses than we do about biological viruses! The same obscurities are there at the biological level that exists at the computer level (…)

As Grosz suggests, it is no wonder that computer viruses are so ontologically uncertain, given that their biological namesakes threaten to undermine many of the binarisms that anchor modern Western technoscience, such as distinctions between organic and inorganic, dead and living, matter and form, and sexual and asexual reproduction.

Viral Load

Theosophical Panpsychism

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Where does mind individually, and consciousness ultimately, originate? In the cosmos there is only one life, one consciousness, which masquerades under all the different forms of sentient beings. This one consciousness pierces up and down through all the states and planes of being and serves to uphold the memory, whether complete or incomplete, of each state’s experience. This suggests that our self-conscious mind is really a ray of cosmic mind. There is a mysterious vital life essence and force involved in the interaction of spirit or consciousness with matter. The cosmos has its memory and follows general pathways of formation based on previous existences, much as everything else does. Aided by memory, it somehow selects out of the infinite possibilities a new and improved imbodiment. When the first impulse emerges, we have cosmic ideation vibrating the first matter, manifesting in countless hierarchies of beings in endless gradations. Born of the one cosmic parent, monadic centers emerge as vital seeds of consciousness, as germs of its potential. They are little universes in the one universe.

Theosophy does not separate the world into organic and inorganic, for even the atoms are considered god-sparks. All beings are continuously their own creators and recorders, forming more perishable outer veils while retaining the indestructible thread-self that links all their various principles and monads through vast cycles of experience. We are monads or god-sparks currently evolving throughout the human stage. The deathless monad runs through all our imbodiments, for we have repeated many times the processes of birth and death. In fact, birth and death for most of humanity are more or less automatic, unconscious experiences as far as our everyday awareness is concerned. How do we think? We can start, for example, with desire which provides the impulse that causes the mind through will and imagination to project a stream of thoughts, which are living elemental beings. These thoughts take various forms which may result in different kinds of actions or creative results. This is another arena of responsibility, for in the astral light our thoughts circulate through other minds and affect them, but those that belong to us have our stamp and return to us again and again. So through these streams of thought we create habits of mind, which build our character and eventually our self-made destiny. The human mind is an ideator resonating with its past, selecting thoughts and making choices, anticipating and creating a pattern of unfolding. Perhaps we are reflecting in the small the operations of the divine mind which acts as the cosmic creator and architect. Some thoughts or patterns we create are limiting; others are liberating. The soul grows, and thoughts are reused and transformed by the mind, perhaps giving them a superior expression. Plato was right: with spiritual will and worthiness we can recollect the wisdom of the past and unlock the higher mind. We have the capacity of identifying with all beings, experiencing the oneness we share together in our spiritual consciousness, that continuous stream that is the indestructible thread-self. All that it was, is, or is becoming is our karma. Mind and memory are a permanent part of the reincarnating ego or human soul, and of the universe as well.

In the cosmos there are many physical, psychic, mental, and spiritual fields — self-organizing, whole, living systems. Every such field is holographic in that it contains the characteristics of every other field within itself. Rupert Sheldrake’s concepts of morphic fields and morphic resonance, for instance, are in many ways similar to some phenomena attributed to the astral light. All terrestrial entities can be considered fields belonging to our living earth, Gaia, and forming part of her constitution. The higher akasic fields resonate with every part of nature. Various happenings within the earth’s astral light are said to result in physical effects which include all natural and human phenomena, ranging from epidemics and earthquakes to wars and weather patterns. Gaia, again, is part of the fields which form the solar being and its constitution, and so on throughout the cosmos.

Like the earth, human beings each have auric fields and an astral body. The fifty trillion cells in our body, as well as the tissues and organs they form, each have their own identity and memory. Our mental and emotional fields influence every cell and atom of our being for better or worse. How we think and act affects not only humanity but Gaia as well through the astral light, the action of which is guided by active creative intelligences. For example, the automatic action of divine beings restores harmony, balancing the inner with the outer throughout nature.