On infinite debt and circles of mutual acknowledgement

 

THE CRONY IS THE ATONAL SHADOW OF THE FRIEND

My problem is not with the friend but with the crony. The friend as conceptual persona is a positive transcendental requirement of philosophy from the beginning, as the Two is an essential component of its existence and founds philosophy’s dialogical nature. The “crony” is the debased atonal equivalent of the friend, its counterpart in the world of democratic materialism. The crony is a product of the suture of philosophy to politics that has itself been degraded to the capitalist law of the count (profit) and to the neoliberal law of free association (interests). The crony is in this sense not a subject, and conflates the active incorporation in a body of truth (immanent assemblage) with the reactive adhesion to and sharing of theoretical, sociological, collegial, and financial interests. Following a remark from Adrian Romero Farias we can say that the “crony” belongs to the logic of debt, including that of social capital, whereas the friend belongs to a logic of excess. The crony is the indebted man or woman, the friend is the transgressive one.

Note: This phenomenon is very close to what Michael Eldred analyses as the “gainful game”.

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TRANSCENDENTAL CRONYISM AS THE INTERRUPTION OF THE PHILOSOPHICAL VOYAGE

I have given a very brief analysis of the dangers of cronyism in a previous post, but I fear that my perspective was too sociological, and thus unable to illuminate the philosophical depths of the phenomenon.

First and foremost I should be read as “accusing” myself of a philosophical vice: the all too easy sliding into a transcendent overviewing subjectivity that intends to understand everything and everybody i.e. to be more conscious than everyone else. However, this stance based on seemingly good intentions translates over time into a form of bad faith and increasing unconsciousness.

Secondly, David Masten hypothesises with me that there may be something in the very conceptuality of a Continental philosopher’s project and in his vocabulary that leads to an extreme filtering of exchanges. If he abstraction of such a philosopher’s style is such that the conceptual edifice absolutely requires not only instantiation or exemplification to make it comprehensible and applicable, but further extension and “supplementation” – then a paradoxical situation is set up, of being faithful to the system by being unfaithful, but not too unfaithful.

Supplementation would then be a gesture towards translation into other philosophical idioms that in fact blocks and refuses the possibility of just such a translation. The result is conceptual confinement inside a noetic ghetto, which may or may not be implemented or concretised in an empirically existing ghetto, in-group, sect, clan, or school. Let us forget the sociological question of cronyism, it is rampant and everyone knows it. That is not the main issue for me, we live in a scarcity economy at every level, even if it is disguised as one of abundance, all that is just business as usual.

More importantly for me, there may be a transcendental cronyism in certain philosophical assemblages. Everyone has read texts by Deleuzians that are composed in large part of a litany of Deleuzian expressions that make no sense outside the particular sufficiency they invoke and stem from. Badiousism too is culpable all too often of favorising the proliferation of such transcendental cronies.

One is reminded of counterparts and of thev possibility of identity across possible worlds. The crony is my counterpart, i.e. myself, in the “atonal” world of democratic materialism. I set out on a voyage that takes me across wild waters and savage badlands, plunge into a chaos of percepts and affects, know the intoxication of conceptual ascent higher than the mountains of madness, sharing each adventue with a kaleidoscope of allies and camarades. One day I wake up surrounded and supported by nondescript friends, defending a colorless and de-vitalised territory from attempted incursions by other such groups. The grey grind of academia imprisons our dreams in meaningless tasks, stifling them slowly.

This happens to all of us, in one way or another, and it is the sign that after a much deserved rest we must set out once again. We encounter a new concept, piece of jargon, diagram or book and we have the energy to set out again, while the crony, our atonal counterpart, stays behind and does the paperwork necessary to make our voyage possible and keep it non-lethal.

Note: I am indebted to a facebook discussion with David Masten, and also with Anthony Paul Smith and Steven Shakespeare, for helping me to elucidate this phenomenon.

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“PAULINE” PLURALISM AND THE QUANTUM OVERCOMING OF RESENTMENT: a generic self-critique

An ordinary human or a collectivity is like everything else both wave and composition and emission of particles. They go through many phases in their undulations, and compose and emit heterogeneous packets of particles. We are not stable homogeneous fluxes of virtue, or of any other desirable quality or ideal state. Nor are are, thankfully, the total opposite of such a utopia. If I or anyone else has occasionally emitted the “wrong” quanta then I hope our individual and collective emissions and undulations past, present, and future swamp them in more democratic and more virtuous waves.

I am “Pauline” in the sense of Paul Feyerabend, and think that a plurality of points of view is desirable. I think philosophy is not just an academic exercise but must be applied in our ordinary lives. If “pretention” or “cronyism” or just plain spitefulness and resentment are to be found there, then they just as much philosophical vices as the framing of a simplistic and de-humanised ontology (not to mention its virulent promotion)  and must have their “suffisance” (as François Laruelle calls it, meaning both “sufficiency”, or the axiom of the standardised philosophisability of everything, and “pretention”) suspended, and must be non-philosophically disorganized and reduced to the level of quantized material, to be used in more immanent operations.

If I have been cronyistic or pretentious or spiteful then I stand condemned by my own principles and shall make amends without being forced to by extraneous summations and procedures stemming from considerations that do not allow for the superposition of all the relevant information, including that from other time frames and multiple entanglements with other quantum subjectivities. If, by any means, internal or external cronies can be converted into “chronies”, i.e. packets of non-standard conceptual and affective exchange, then I will gladly participate in such Gnostic or alchemical operations both on myself and on others.

I am a pluralist, I am vast (like everyone else) and contain multitudes of quanta of all sorts, including quanta of aggressivity and even spite. One cannot “destroy” a bad quantum but one can hope to swamp it in more benevolent undulation and emissions. I thank everyone for the cultured, civilised and sincere or playful tone of their respective quanta emitted in response to my emanations and I wish them well in their future undulations.

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THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF HARMAN: Rise of dialogue and abundance

Graham Harman’s OOO is a form of monism – in his texts Harman begins usually with a preliminary gesture of recognising the multiplicity and abundance of the world, but he rapidly reduces the multiple elements to overarching “emergent” unities that exclude other approaches to and understandings of the world  – he decalres his objects to be the “only real” objects. His philosophy is thus profoundly reductionist. Harman makes a big fuss about criticising “reductionism” (cf. also his bogus grab-all concepts of “undermining” and “overmining”), but he seems to have no idea what it is – easily winning points against straw men, then proceeding to advocate one of the worst forms of reductionism imaginable: reduction of the abundance of the world to untouchable unknowable yet intelligible “objects”.

Contrary to appearances, ontology is not primary for Harman. His real polemic is with a straw man epistemology that he calls the philosophy of human access. No important philosophy of at least the last 50 years is a philosophy of access (one has only to glance at Quine or Popper or Wittgenstein to see that), and the illusion of a revolution in thought is generated by the misuse of the notion of “access”, inflating it into a grab-all concept under which anything and everything can be subsumed. But a philosophy of non-access is still epistemological in the subjectivist sense that others have left behind, a pessimistic negative epistemology that subtracts objects from meaningful human intervention (cf. Harman’s THE QUADRUPLE OBJECT where Egypt itself is declared to be an object, albeit, strangely enough, a “non-physical” one, and so unknowable and untouchable). The ontological neutralisation of our knowledge is accompanied by a political neutralisation (as Alexander Galloway’s analyses have established). Harman’s ontology of real objects is a reductionism, the reduction of the abundance and multiplicity of the world to an a-political, an-ethical correlate to his epistemology of inaccessible objects.

OOO exhibits an astonishing epistemological naïvety, painted over by a pseudo-ontology. In contrast, Deleuze does ontology, but he is careful to include it in the context of a reflection on the “Image of Thought” that allows him to avoid traps such as Meillassoux’s dubious mathematical reductionism. I say “reductionism”, but I am compelled to add (intellectual) “conservatism”. In Meillassoux’s case, and in OOO in general, we have a seemingly ontological claim based on a covert pragmatic (yet transcendent) decision, covering up an insufficient epistemological analysis. This formula of bad epistemology masking as ontology is of course not unique to Meillassoux – he merely has the advantage of clarity, concision and elegance of style, which makes any “dismantling” that needs to be done both easier to carry out (Meillassoux is clear and concise) and a pleasure (his written style is elegant and his conceptual style is dazzling). If only the same could be said for certain of his intellectual associates.

With Feyerabend, I have argued that world of contingencies is a world of abundance and not of withdrawal. In this I am haunted by Deleuze and Guattari’s idea that resistance, or deterritorialisation comes first. This means that multiplicities or pluralities come first, before even the existence of a unitary world. Even deconstruction maintains that it can be a necessary preliminary move to privilege one term of a binary couple, the marginal resisting term. Deleuze and, I would argue, Feyerabend seem to maintain that we must give precedence to the term bearing the most plurality, the most abundance. This means that provisionally the degree of abundance contained in a philosophical theory is a criterion of its adequacy to the real. A further criterion of demarcation for evaluating the relative merits of such pluralist doctrines is in the degree of contact or interaction they authorise. Pluralism for me is on the side of abundance and interaction, as opposed to monist doctrines of withdrawal and retreat from contact.

It is not so easy to escape reductionism as one might think. Aside from the intellectual blunder of not perceiving, or not being able to think with, incommensurable gaps of meaning, there is also the ethical blunder of re-instating transcendence with the same gesture that intends to abolish it. In Meillassoux’s case, I think that he re-instates an absolute (of contingence) and thus falls back into onto-theology. We must distinguish here Meillassoux’s meta-theoretical proclamations about “going outside” and the actual functioning of his theory, which absolutises contingency.

I have repeatedly argued on this blog that correlationism is a bogus concept that trades on a confusion between a narrow conceptual sense that would best be designated idealism (or post-kantianism) and an extended notional sense that can cover anything and everything. So it manages to combine the very narrow (and negatively valued) intension of the first and the very large extension of the second (thus extending a negative aura of guilt by association with the narrow sense). I am appalled by the impoverished account of the history of philosophy that Meillassoux promotes via his bogus concept of “correlationism”. Harman repeats this historically illiterate idea that epistemology is all about access without feeling the need to cite one major, or even minor, epistemologist. Meanwhile the pluralist thinkers continue their work undeterred by such temporary misunderstandings.

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Parmenides’ Error Theory & The Role of Construal Norms in The Production of Change, Diversity, and Differentiation

terenceblake:

Very interesting article. The argument for change and diversity in terms of construal norms and paradigmatic change is very close to Mehdi Belhaj Kacem’s argument against Meillassoux and Harman, that I review here. The argument against the thesis that only what is construable exists could perhaps be reinforced by Badiou’s argument in THE SUBJECT OF CHANGE (available here) that there exist non-constructable or generic sets. The relevant section is near the end of seminar 2.

Originally posted on Sapere Aude:

Parmenides of Elea, author of a gnomic philosophical work “On Nature” in hexameter, is perhaps best identified as a monist. The metaphysical claims made in the work can be summarised as follows: There is only one, physically extended, thing. It is eternal, and unchanging. Motion, change, diversity, and differentiation are impossible. And, so, our experiences of motion, change, diversity, and differentiation are illusions. I will analyse the chief claims of Parmenides, and argue for the claim that change, difference or diversity, and differentiation are possible in the case when the norms of ‘correct’ construal undergo evolution over time.

Parmenides says of the object of knowledge, ‘…it is and…it cannotnot be’. This seems plausible. For, consider, if I know that the Ganges flows through India and Bangladesh then I don’t not know that the Ganges flows though India and Bangladesh. Parmenides thinks, whatever can be…

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LYOTARD, PLURALISME ET INCOMMENSURABILITÉ

Selon Jean-François Lyotard la philosophie postmoderne se caractérisent par la critique de l’idée d’un régime unique du langage et de la véridiction, par l’articulation d’un pluralisme de régimes sémiotiques, et par la mise en évidence de leurs incommensurabilités:

“notre rôle de penseurs est d’approfondir ce qu’il en est du langage, de critiquer l’idée plate d’information, de révéler une opacité irrémédiable au sein du langage lui-même. Celui-ci n’est pas un “instrument de communication”, c’est un archipel hautement complexe formé de domaines de phrases à régimes si différents qu’on ne peut pas traduire une phrase d’un régime … en une phrase d’un autre … Toutes les recherches des avant-gardes scientifiques, littéraires, artistiques depuis un siècle vont dans cette direction, à découvrir l’incommensurabilité des régimes de phrases entre eux… Freud, Duchamp, Bohr, Gertrude Stein, mais déjà Rabelais, Sterne, sont des postmodernes en ce qu’ils mettent I’accent sur les paradoxes, qui attestent toujours l’incommensurabilité… la philosophie française des dernières années, si elle a été postmoderne de quelque manière, c’est qu’elle a mis à travers sa réflexion sur la déconstruction de l’écriture (Derrida), sur le désordre du discours (Foucault), sur le paradoxe épistémologique (Serres), sur l’altérité (Lévinas), sur l’effet de sens par rencontre nomadique (Deleuze), c’est qu’elle a mis ainsi l’accent sur les incommensurabilités” (Lyotard, TOMBEAU DE L’INTELLECTUEL, 84-85).

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BADIOU, LATOUR ET LES DEUX POST-MODERNITÉS

Il n’y a que des corps et des langages, sinon qu’il y a des vérités“. Ce maxime proposé par Alain Badiou dans la préface de son livre LOGIQUES DES MONDES contient la formule du relativisme post-moderne et de son dépassement. “Il n’y a que des corps et des langages” exprime déjà une hypothèse ontologique et sous-tend une épistémologie. C’est l’axiome du matérialisme démocratique où tout se vaut, aucun point de vue n’est plus vrai qu’un autre. En tant que telle, ce n’est pas une thèse idiote, elle témoigne déjà d’un niveau d’abstraction et d’émancipation des préjugés considérable. Néanmoins, elle exprime un réductionnisme radical, hostile à l’émergence de toute exception à son régime de visibilité et de dicibilité.

Une version philosophique contemporaine du maxime tronqué serait “il n’y a que des objets”, et la seule orientation de pensée autorisée serait l’orientation objectuelle. Graham Harman, inventeur de la “philosophie orientée vers l’objet” a produit une ontologie homologue à l’ontologie du matérialisme démocratique, et a connu un certain succès parmi les artistes postmodernes à la recherche de légitimation pour leurs oeuvres dans un contexte de dé-légitimation généralisée. Leur désir de sortir du matérialisme démocratique est louable, mais la fameuse “OOO” (object-oriented ontology) ne sert qu’à les enfoncer encore plus.

La philosophie de Harman contient néanmoins une distinction entre deux types d’objets, l’objet sensuel (présent dans l’expérience humaine, mais aussi dans celle des non-humains, objet du sens commun,  des sciences et des humanités) et l’objet “réel” (invisible, inaudible, intangible, inconnaissable, insaisissable par le savoir scientifique ou humanistique). Le maxime ontologique de cette “OOO” serait “il n’y a que des objets, sinon qu’il y a des objets réels”. Mais ces objets réels ne servent aucune fonction autre que verbale dans le système harmanien, et nous distraient de l’aplatissement non seulement ontologique mais aussi épistémologique opéré par cette philosophie. Toute vérité et toute saisie de vérité sont réduits à des points de vue sans prise sur le réel, et sont confinées au seul monde sensuel.

Pourtant, il existe une autre version du postmoderne, élaboré précisément pour nous résister contre ce relativisme plat et confus. Cette autre figure de la postmodernité ne vient pas contredire la thèse “il n’y a que des corps et des langages” mais la supplémenter. Deleuze, Lyotard, Latour, Badiou présupposent un pluralisme “cosmologique” de corps et de langages, décomposables en multiplicités de forces et de leurs rapports, ou en multiples de multiples. Mais ceci n’est qu’un premier pas sur le chemin du pluralisme postmoderne. Ils reconnaissent tous, dans un deuxième temps, l’existence d’une pluralité de régimes de signes ou de véridiction incommensurables entre eux, délimitant des compréhensions de l’être et des modes d’existence irréductibles les uns aux autres.

Contre ses proclamations explicites, il faut bien dire, comme le soutient aussi John Caputo, que Bruno Latour est post-moderne, et ceci dans les deux sens de la postmodernité définis précédemment. Dans une première phase de son oeuvre, sous le signe de ANT (actor-network theory) et de son traité d’ontologie IRREDUCTIONS, il trace les réseaux multiples et les parcours pluralistes “des corps et des langages” compris comme “des acteurs et des traductions”. Ensuite (mais en fait cette idée est présente dès le début) il explore comment ses réseaux sont traversés par des régimes d’énonciation incommensurables délimitant une pluralité de modes d’existence.  Latour présente son oeuvre comme en rupture avec le postmodernisme, compris dans le sens badiousien de pensée “atone” ou de matérialisme démocratique. Ce même déni des affinités et du caractère postmoderne de son travail se trouve chez Badiou et aussi chez Deleuze. En conséquence, chaque fois que Latour déclare qu’il est “non-moderne” il faut comprendre qu’il est, doublement, “post-moderne”.

 

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