free copy of “Johnston’s Materialist Critique of Meillassoux”


Very interesting article

Originally posted on Object-Oriented Philosophy:

The PDF is available for download HERE. The article appears in the 2013 issue of Umbr(a), and is based on my presentation at the University at Buffalo when Adrian Johnston and I did a joint appearance there in October 2012.

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Levi Bryant has published a short blog post expressing his idea of psychoanalysis. He begins with a short phrase from Freud (“Freud described psychoanalysis as being among the three impossible professions”), but quickly replaces its meaning with a Lacanian equivalence between impossible and real, then goes on to spell out three senses of “real” that take us even further from the beginning sentence. Accoding to sense (1) the real is what is impossible to represent. Apart from the fact that this is trivial as even my experience of eating breakfast cereal cannot be represented, Bryant takes us even further from Freud by telling us what the ideal analyst would be like if a half-remembered quote from Lacan were adopted as norm.

The ideal is impossible, as he demonstrates  rather long-windedly, thus by his Lacanian axiom it is all the more real. Here Lacan coincides with Tertullian, credo quia absurdum, and we see the link between this very pious description of the impossible analyst and Levi Bryant’s polemic against “mysterian” religious hypotheses. For Bryant the analyst is, or should be, unknowable and she should intervene in “mysterious” or unrepresentable ways. Apart from the question of whether the analyst occupying the place of death is a useful representation of her role, we can ask if becoming a “non-person” is the best way to occupy that place.

We find in Bryant both a monist conceptual representation of the analyst (defined as occupying the place of the dead or silent partner), and a monist  quasi-empirical representation of what it would be like to occupy that role. All this takes place at the level of idealised representations derived very loosely from “representative” one-line citations from Freud and Lacan. Despite the title of Bryant’s recent book there is no cartography in his method here (and no materialism either). The empirical question could be raised of whether any of the great analysts, Lacan included, ever conformed, or even tried to conform, to this ideal. A further empirical question is to what extent is the therapeutic style described here efficacious in its own terms. A further monist aspect is the description of the therapeutic goal: the determination of the absolute difference of the analysand, a static synchronic goal despite its speculative identification with desire, a seemingly more diachronic term.

Conclusion: this text illustrates a typical defect in Bryant’s approach to psychoanalysis when compared with his more general philosophy. Professor Levi is an innovative creator of a pluralist onto-cartography, whereas Doctor Bryant is a nostalgic exponent of a monist psychoanalysis.

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On my page a little essay defending Bruno Latour’s pluralism against ill-founded accusations of relativism. It has taken off recently in terms of number of views, and is very near the 1,000 mark. My review of Graham Harman’s THE THIRD TABLE, which was my leading article before, is tailing behind now, although it too has obtained nearly 1,000 views. I think that this statistical tendency is significant, the sign of a deeper trend. The facile explanations of OOO are more and more being seen as ritual formulaic phrases that can be churned out ad infinitum, but that can never be backed up with intellectually satisfying arguments. The recent ANGELAKI issue on Laruelle is another sign that the noisy superficial simplicity of OOO is being replaced with the calm depth of pluralist thought. Anthony Paul Smith’s introduction gives a masterly reply to Harman’s “moody” review of one of Laruelle’s early works.

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I think too many blog discussions are exercises in consensual cronyism where despite the possibilities of openness very few are welcome to the discussion, and those who try are ignored or banished or scapegoated. The everyday practice of philosophy, even when it keeps up a nice appearance is full of nastiness or what Laruelle calls “harassment”:

philosophy is harassment in thought. Harassing humans with wisdom, happiness, truth, desire, care, or more banally with the critique of representation, of the text, of ideology, is this really very different from harassment by profit and productivity?” (La Lutte et l’Utopie à la fin des temps philosophiques, Paris, Kimé, 2004, p15).

I have in several places discussed the phenomenon of “cronyism” both in the blogosphere and in academia, and I think it is a real barrier to democratic exchange of thought. When I see worried discussions about MOOCs I am surprised at the presupposition that academia is some sort of utopia, when the play for recognition, power and employment leads to some rather contemptible group dynamics, as does the blogosphere.

The sad thing is that on the internet you do not find a utopia, but the same castes and classes and cliques, the same remorseless competition, the same social stratifications as in the rest of the world. Many academics are glad to read and cite Bourdieu, or some other critical thinker, without applying it to themselves and their milieu. The personal has lots of social in it, and “social” means power relations.

My disappointment with blog and interblog philosophical discussion is that it tends to align itself on the academic status and the power relations between participants. So the much lauded democracy of publication made possible by the internet is hindered by the same blindness and hypocrisy and cynical manoeuvring that makes academic publishing not live up to its full potential.

If you wish to contribute to a discussion on a philosophical blog you should trust in advance that you are not an inferior subject, intellectually mediocre and socially insignificant, just because you are not a philosophy professor. Do not be discouraged if you do not meet the welcome and the dialogue you hoped for. Do not stop because of such empty pusillanimous positioning, because individuation trumps credentials and cronyism any day.

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SG, a sort of autistic link-machine, engaged in a verbal joust with me, but when the reply was too strong for his minuscule vocabulary, and when it put into question his substitution of attitude for thought, he just deleted my comments. SG called my blog post on Heidegger and Nazism “stupid”, which in his eyes quite suffices to “clinch” a debate, but was unable to furnish any justification except his own self-sufficient, in his eyes, “attitude”.

I replied: “Hello SG, I write lots of stupid blog posts, which one is so bad? Maybe I could “intelligentify” it. It would help if you could point me to a model of intelligence from your own writings that I could copy”. Needless to say, no such link was forthcoming, as SG is incapable of anything but his transcendent (to any discussion or even exposition that would show that he is even faintly aware of what anything at all is about) attitude, mocking anything and everything except its own sacrosanct self.

He made a pitiful self-reflexive gesture in accusing me of just wanting to defend my ego, but I replied that perhaps this was meant in the Zizekian sense where he makes fun of me for my “stupid” blog post and I challenge him, obviously in jest, to say something intelligent (which he cannot do), and so we become friends. I am sorry the shadow of my perceived Big Ego obscures my real curiosity as to his reasons for calling my blog post “stupid”. After all, I hope he liked my defence of Zizek against Chomsky, or I wonder if that is supposed to be stupid too, in terms of a private and contextual definition of stupidity that SG alone can provide, and perhaps could be required to fill out with something more than attitude. After all, sometimes “stupid” is used in certain agonistic contexts quite affectionately, e.g.” you and you’re stupid teasing, who knows when to take you seriously?” (this is, of course, an invented example).

I think that the grammar, both linguistic and conceptual, of much of what SG manages to publish in his own name is incorrect, but perhaps he consciously wants to keep his own productions ambiguous, hoping that his benevolent readers will project intelligence rather than stupidity onto his uninformed attitudinal ramblings. I felt sorry for intruding into his habitual hi-jinks, but I was curious as to his reasons (if any) for calling my post “stupid”. After all SG is an acolyte of the little that he manages to “take away” from Zizek (as if a philosopher were a conceptual pizza), and “stupid” is a technical concept developped in Zizek’s book LESS THAN NOTHING. But SG is a connaisseur of attitude and links, not of texts and concepts, so no response except infantile deletion of the adverse argument was all that he was capable of.

NOTE: I don’t usually talk about Heidegger and his relation to Nazism, as I don’t care one way or another about his philosophical reputation, but certain structural aspects of the debate on his Nazism interest me as they have potentially more general application.

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What are the characteristic features of contemporary Continental philosophy that give it its distinctive style of rationality? A year ago in response to Noam Chomsky’s demagogic and tendentious dismissal of Slavoj Zizek as “irrational”, and also in response to the publication of Zizek’s book LESS THAN NOTHING, I set out in a series of blog posts (beginning here) 16 traits typical of the rationality of Continental philosophy that the book exemplifies, from even a cursory scanning of its first pages. I list the original 16 traits here, now augmented to 20, and for further explanation one can consult the developped articles.

1) creation of concepts: one cannot set out from familiar ideas, concepts must be constructed to give us new perspectives. Zizek constructs an explicit and contextual definition of one form of stupidity, that he will go on to oppose to other forms.

2) conceptual personas: concepts are not just given in abstract definitions, they are embedded in figures that give intuitive and imaginative content to what could otherwise remain an empty verbalism. Zizek associates his abstract definition of stupidity to various figures of the stupid person, including himself

3) analogical resonance and transversal application: concepts are not limited to one domain but are constructed to show up features occurring in a diversity of domains. Zizek uses his concept to follow analogies between an abstract definition, an everyday life situation, the biography of a famous mathematician, a famous Czech anti-war novel (published in 1923), a well-known fairy tale, and a popular humorists take on it

4) reflexivity: the commitment to immanence implies that the Continental Philosopher is not outside and judging the field of application of his concepts, he is himself subsumed under them. Zizek includes himself and his text in the domain of application of his concept of stupidity.

5) pulsation between concept and image. Often this is what is meant when one calls such texts “poetic”. In fact it is a way of pluralising the applicability of the concept without giving it universal scope. Zizek passes from abstract concepts to “illustrations” in film and literature and life-experiences and jokes, where each enriches the other in both extension and meaning.

6) beginning in the middle: positioning oneself at the outset inside the conceptual world that one is arguing for, in medias res . In LESS THAN NOTHING Zizek begins with “stupidity” defined in terms of different figures of rationality and differing positions in relation to the Big Other. His style, his defintions and his allusions presuppose the conceptual world he is elaborating in the book.

7) incommensurability: the poststructuralist philosopher typically takes the existence of incommensurable breaks as a banal and ultimately positive feaure of differences in understanding; The idea is that many philosophical differences of opinion are subtended by radically different “paradigms” or contextual rules, not all of which can be stated explicitly. Chomsky uses common sense concepts to make his claims, Zizek requires us to leap into a different set of concepts before we can even begin to recognise and to make sense of his claims.

8) typological thinking: one assembles a sort of composite image of a particular mode of thinking that one wishes to consider (Zizek’s LESS THAN NOTHING begins with a typology of the stupid: idiot, imbecile, moron)

9) cognitive posture: Continental Philosophy explores, and proposes, background rules and conditions for the conduct of thought. Deleuze calls this the “image of thought”, and claims that every philosopher proposes such an image (the typology of stupidity cited above is also a typology of cognitive postures, and Zizek situates his own thought in the highest degree of the “imbecile” posture, where it becomes thought of movement).

10) hermeneutic pluralism: Continental Philosophy supposes not just a plurality of interpretations, but of “régimes of truth” and of modes of existence. (Zizek has a concept of what Chomsky is doing, Chomsky has no such concept for Zizek’s work, and “sees nothing” in it).

11) deconstructing the question: any question or comment comes with a set background presuppositions which must be made conscious, examined, and transformed, before responding. This is one reason why Continental texts, and even dialogues, are not simply “conversations”.

12) thinking in problematics: deconstructing the question already includes constructing the subjacent problematic of the view one is responding too. But one is at the same time obliged to construct one’s own problematic. Continental Philosophy “sees” in terms of problematics, otherwise it would see nothing at all.

13) postmodernism: (in Lyotard’s sense) scepticism with respect to totalising narratives of legitimation, unified subjects of history, and with respect to the regulative ideal of convergence of the plurality of perspectives of interpreatation, and of the multiplicity of modes of existence, towards a monist final framework.

14) alterity: Continental philosophy has a place for and embraces an Other that is not on the same model as me, whose basic principles and (cognitive, affective, perceptive) postures are different

15) pluralist dialectics: Continental philosophy takes from Hegel’s dialectics the plurality of figures of consciousness and modes of being, and also the treatment of concepts as ambiguous, fluid, and in movement. Some prefer to drop the name “dialectics”, arguing, like Deleuze, that “Movement is stronger than the dialectic”. Others are content to redefine the word “dialectics” in a way that subtracts the dogmatic notions of inevitable progression and cumulative synthesis.

16) transformations of the subject: Continental philosophy does not think in terms of an already constituted subject, but of a subject that is constructed and can (and must) be transformed. This transforming subject does not fall under the critique of a supposed “correlationism” that seems to exist only in Meillassoux’s imagination.

17) anti-essentialism: Continental philosophy rejects the idea that we must confine ourselves to using only familiar language and concepts, as that amounts to enshrining a principle of meaning invariance and of stable essences, which must be discarded if progress is to be possible. This is not a wholesale advocacy of the use of “unfamiliar” language and concepts, as that would presuppose that unfamiliarity itself is a stable property, and not a relational predicate predicate containing social, geographical and temporal aspects.

18) conceptual ascent and 19) existential descent: a Continental philosopher will often take a concrete situation and extract out or extrapolate some new and very abstract concepts that they will develop in relation to other equally abstract concepts, and then apply them in a surprisingly concrete way. And they will do this over and over again in a single text. This will result in such a text being strangely both much more abstract, and so more obscure, than a comparable analytic text, and also at moments much more concrete.

20) semiotic turn: French Continental philosophy, and here I am including both structuralism and poststructuralism, underwent massively a “semiotic turn” (in the sense of Greimas’s semiotics and also of Culioli’s enunciative linguistics), whose imprint can be found in Lacan and Derrida, Deleuze and Latour, Foucault and Badiou. German “hermeneutics” was adopted but reworked from the semiotic point of view, and the hermeneutico-semiotic decomposition of competences into performances is a good definition of a general idea of deconstruction such as it can be found in all these thinkers.

Conclusion: Continental philosophy is strange and fun and also deep and moving, its proponents do not write and reason like analytic philosophers, but it can change your life.

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THERE IS MADNESS IN THIS METHOD: Commentary on a fragment from Deleuze and Guattari’s WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?

Thinking provokes general indifference. It is a dangerous exercise nevertheless. Indeed, it is only when the dangers become obvious that indifference ceases, but they often remain hidden and barely perceptible inherent in the enterprise. Precisely because the plane of immanence is prephilosophical and does not immediately take effect with concepts, it implies a sort of groping experimentation and its layout resorts to measures that are not very respectable, rational, or reasonable. These measures belong to the order of dreams, of pathological processes, esoteric experiences, drunkenness, and excess. We head for the horizon, on the plane of immanence, and we return with bloodshot eyes, yet they are the eyes of the mind. Even Descartes had his dream. To think is always to follow the witch’s flight.

The link that Deleuze and Guattari make between thinking and witchcraft takes us out of the self-contained territories of philosophy practiced as a solipsistic discipline. Witchcraft is little understood, uncanny and disturbing, it makes us wary and inspires mistrust. It puts us “on the lookout”, as Deleuze calls this state in his ABC Primer (A as in “Animal”), which is already a sorcerous state, a state that Deleuze finds more appropriate to philosophy than the conventional idea of “wonder”. Witchcraft has to do with transformation and flight, with powers and demonic forces, going against Nature as we ordinarily understand it.

“Thinking provokes general indifference”. In general, people are “indifferent” to thought. This indifference is the opposite of being on the lookout. People are blind to what is outside their stereotypes, they cannot recognize thought if it is not sanctioned by academic diplomas and status. In Deleuze’s sense of “recognition”, they only recognize officially structured and sanctioned thought. Yet thought as the object of recognition has little to do with thought as the subject of witchcraft. People are blind, but they are also uncomfortable about the “wrong” sort of thought, they may dip into it a little, but they don’t take it seriously.

We see this every day with our blogs. As noetic bloggers we practice witchcraft twice over, because writing and maintaining a blog is a magical practice too. Given all the work it takes to write, the “recognition” we may get from time to time is small recompense indeed. I practice blogging not out of narcissism, nor even to communicate, I do it because I can’t stop, just as I can’t stop reading, I’m constantly trying to transform myself and my thinking.

It is often said that people are indifferent to the dreams of others, that only the dreamer finds the story he is recounting of any interest; I have always been perplexed, even shocked, by such received wisdom. I usually find people’s dreams very interesting, even the seemingly banal ones where nothing strange or untoward happens. I like Deleuze and Guattari’s association of dreams and philosophy, for I find dreams very philosophical, and Deleuze’s philosophy very oniric. I used to (30 years ago!) express this by saying that Deleuze’s philosophical style incarnates a constant “pulsation between the conscious and the unconscious”, but though I still agree with the thought I find the vocabulary too academically “recognizable”.

People are indifferent to others’ thoughts, just as they are indifferent to an other’s dreams. Until some danger crops up, and their attitude changes. If the danger is to them, they panic and run, or at least give a wide berth. If the danger is to the dreamer or the thinker, people may find an unhealthy interest in observing al that from afar. But it is not the recognizable, “obvious”, dangers that count, recognition is for the indifferent. The dangers, the risks, are in the experimentation, the doing of things outside correct thought that are tied to getting one thinking. If you are not on the lookout you will perceive nothing: “they often remain hidden and barely perceptible”. Hidden in plain sight, if you are willing to use the eyes of the mind.

The paragraph from WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? reminds me of Deleuze’s “Letter to a Severe Critic”, in reply to Michel Cressole’s accusation that Deleuze was not really a risk-taker, but rather a profiteer of other people’s experiments: “someone who’s always just tagged along behind, taking it easy, capitalizing upon other people’s experiments, on gays, drug-users, alcoholics, masochists, lunatics, and so on, vaguely savoring their transports and poisons without ever taking any risks” NEGOTIATIONS, 11). In his reply Deleuze distinguishes between an outer “correct” marginality based on indifference to the singularity of the other’s experiments, and a more “clandestine” and “imperceptible” marginality tied to one’s “inner journeys” and measured by one’s emotions.

(Note 1: Deleuze is usually hostile to the term “inner”, especially in the expression “inner voyage”, and on the rare occasions that he uses it favorably it is to be understood in the sense of “intensive”).

(Note 2: Unfortunately the English translation effaces this notion of marginal correctness when it translates “all that crap where everyone’s supposed to be everyone else’s guilty conscience and judge” (11). A more literal reading would be: “all that crap where everyone’s supposed to be the bad conscience and corrector of the other”).

The message in both cases is the same: to think is not so much to follow the tenure track, but the witch’s flight (and so much the better if you can do both). There is more to the life of the mind than the academy. Although there is no necessary opposition between the two, and no magic power in affirming marginality for its own sake, thinking is disreputable.

Up to now I have commented this text in a way that is perhaps too rational and too reasonable, by focusing on the explicit conceptual content; Yet the text also performs that content: it does not only speak of dreams and philosophy, but also seems to be a dream and its interpretation (and one must recall Jung’s dictum “the dream is its own interpretation”). There is a pulsation between image and concept here, that needs to be brought out.

The thinkers are unreasonable and head for the horizon. We know that in science the horizon is only relative: “What is primary in science is relative light or the relative horizon” (WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?, 42, translation modified by me to bring out the idea that the light of science is relative too, and not just the horizon). The philosopher “heads for the horizon”, that is to say “plunges into the infinite”., his or her horizon is absolute, as is the light. This movement is both physical and mental (“in this respect chaos has as much a mental as a physical existence”, 42). If we “return with bloodshot eyes” it is not only because of an excess of alcohol or of light (this is the physical side of the “unreasonable”, pathological or esoteric measures) but also because of our vision of a power that is almost too strong for us. I say “almost too strong”, because in this text the thinker comes back, only changed, with “bloodshot eyes” and with new vision and new concepts. The eyes of the mind have been opened and strained to their limits.

Both these movements (heading out to, and coming back from ,the infinite) are necessary to thinking. Heading out unreasonably, dangerously and coming back bearing the mark (bloodshot eyes, or in some cases worse) of the voyage towards (which is “inner” only in the sense of being noetic or intensive), or of the encounter with, the horizon, but bearing also the vision, the percepts and the concepts. This double movement is what gives consistency to our philosophical territory: a territory is constituted by the movement of leaving it, which also means exposing oneself to risk, and also by the movement of returning back with a new song or a new colour, a new posture, or a new scent.

Already by heading off outside we risk indifference turning into “disapproval” (42), because the danger becomes obvious. Academic philosophy is not usually very perilous , but there is the danger to one’s career and to that of one’s friends or allies. This is what Deleuze and Guattari call “obvious” danger, easily recognizable. The disapproval is redoubled when one brings back “outlandish” concepts (according to Deleuze in the ABC PRIMER “outlandish” is a good synonym for deterritorialised).

The piece describes a movement typical of philosophy, different from the extensive movement of “travel”. In the ABC PRIMER Deleuze talks about such movements and calls them “immobile voyages” or voyages in intensity:

 I feel no need to move. All the intensities that I have are immobile intensities. Intensities distribute themselves in space or in other systems that aren’t necessarily in exterior spaces. I can assure you that when I read a book that I admire, that I find beautiful, or when I hear music that I consider beautiful, I really get the feeling of passing into such states… Never could traveling inspire such emotions. So, why would I go seek emotions that don’t suit me very well, since I have more beautiful ones for myself in immobile systems, like music,
like philosophy? There is a geo-music, a geo- philosophy, I mean, they are profound countries, and these are more my countries, yes?
Parnet: Your foreign lands.
Deleuze: My very own foreign lands that I don’t find by traveling.

I think it may be useful to pay attention to the particular words used. The passage begins:

Thinking provokes general indifference.

This “indifference” is a sort of de-differentiated doxa, that just after the passage cited, in the same paragraph, Deleuze and Guattari call “opinion”. “Difference” is a key word for Deleuze, and we know that each intensity envelops an internal difference. So indifference means also without intensity, without affect, what Badiou calls the a-tonal world of democratic materialism. “Thinking” renders what in the French text is called “penser”, i.e. the infinitive “to think” (Note: I am not criticising the translation, but merely pointing out other conceptual latencies contained in the original French). The infinitive is associated by Deleuze and Guattari with the event. Here they are talking about the event of thinking, as a rupture with the doxa and a departure on an immobile voyage. This is echoed later when they say “We head for the horizon”. In French the text reads “On court à l’horizon”. The subject is not “we” (nous), but “one” (on), what Deleuze and Guattari call the fourth person singular, and which they propose as the impersonal subject of the event. The verb is not “head for”, a fairly neutral moving in a particular direction, but “run”. So the notion of speed, of more than normal intensity of movement, is present in the French.

It is useful to focus on the idea of movement expressed in the images and concepts of the text. For Deleuze the contemporary age is characterised by the loss of the vertical axis, with its movement of rising to  or descending from transcendence. The aim of philosophy is not only to think movement, a difficult task in itself, but to make the movement. This movement is horizontal, on a plane of immanence:

We head for the horizon, on the plane of immanence, and we return with bloodshot eyes

We can see that this is quite different from the Platonic vertical movement of climbing out of the Cavern of illusion up to the light of the Sun, and returning illuminated or blinded to some degree down into the Cavern. Running for the horizon ( a horizontal movement) and coming back with new concepts is a different sort of movement, and a different sort of thinking.

The state of “indifference” that I discussed earlier, in particular the state of indifference to thinking, is the state of servitude (in Spinozian terms). It is a state of passivity that is subjected to the “false movements” dictated by a transcendence (extrinsic values or goals, divine commands, objectivised political necessities) and which dictate a trajectory constructed out of straight lines. (Note: here I am paraphrasing Deleuze’s marvelous little book PERICLES AND VERDI). Thinking involves breaking with that servitude and passivity and becoming-active, actualising one’s powers. This is what Deleuze calls the “natural movement”, and it traces and follows the curved and zigzag lines of sorcery.

One can modify the translation of the sentence “To think is always to follow the witch’s flight”. In French this reads “Penser, c’est toujours suivre une ligne de sorcière”. Literally: “To think is always to follow a sorceress’s line”. It is useful to recall the literal translation, as one of the allusions here is to Carlos Castaneda’s initiation into sorcery. One of the degrees of the initiation was learning to “stop the world” (stop the false movement, break with the general indifference). According to Deleuze, in his comments on the cinema and elsewhere, this allows one to see the “lines of the universe” or the lines of becoming, and to pass through the wall that cuts us off from running to the horizon and actualising our powers .

Deleuze and Guattari are not proposing a new Grand Narrative here, but just one possible micro-story. Another story of movement may be more to your taste. Deleuze claims that the notion of movement has changed from that produced by the application of an external force. “All the new sports – surfing, windsurfing, hang-gliding – take the form of entering into an existing wave.There’s no longer an origin a starting point, but a sort of putting-into-orbit” (NEGOTIATIONS, 121). The movement is noetic, this is why Deleuze and Guattari talk about the “eyes of the mind”, and so finds its place in the noosphere.

The “bad” verticality is the move away from the Earth, or Gaia, considered as a Platonic Cavern of Illusion, but other forms of verticality that do not involve transcendence would be acceptable. It would be a mistake to conclude that verticality is an essence to be isolated and universally proscribed. The text talks about running to the horizon AND coming back, so it contains a notion of gravity as attraction, one could almost call it “horizontal gravity”. Deleuze and Guattari are in favour of multiple dimensions, what they call “n minus one” dimensions. What is subtracted is not necessarily verticality in a literal sense but rather verticality as transcendence, a dimension dominating all the others, in whatever direction. The transcendental sphere is no totalised Sloterdijkian “macro-sphere”, it is a plurality of multi-dimensioned micro-spheres. If one looks at the various movements described in LOGIC OF SENSE, in A THOUSAND PLATEAUS, and also in the CINEMA books one finds many descriptions of intensities as rising and falling, so intensive verticality is acceptable for Deleuze and Guattari.

Postscript on OOO

Much of what Deleuze and Guattari say about the threats to philosophy can be applied to schools and movements that came after their demise. An interesting example can be found in Deleuze’s ABC PRIMER, where he talks about Wittgensteinians. One can  replace linguistic analysis with OOO to bring out the contemporary relevance:

 For me, it’s a philosophical catastrophe. lt’s the very example of a “school”, it’s a regression of all philosophy, a massive regression. The OOO matter is quite sad. They imposed a system of terror in which, under the pretext of doing something new, it’s poverty instituted in all grandeur… There isn’t a word to describe this danger, but this danger is one that recurs, it’s not the first time that it has happened. lt’s serious, especially since OOOxians are mean and destructive. So if they win, there could be an assassination of philosophy. They are assassins of philosophy.

It is important to realise that Graham Harman’s object-oriented philosophy does not just articulate a personal point of view, but rather expresses something essential in the contemporary philosophical context. For those who are wary of this thought, or those who just reject it outright, I do not think it is enough to say that its recent success, the fact that it has been adopted with enthusiasm in a diversity of venues, can be explained in terms of lack. There are those that claim that OOO is hailed as a mighty leap forward merely because it holds a flattering mirror up to certain discontented intellectual minorities, those in search of philosophical aura and validation for their practices: a motley crew of disgruntled militants of French Theory, conceptually inexperienced artists, philosophically uncultivated novelists, and ambitious computocrats. It succeeds by reassuring them that they have always been philosophising, even when they didn’t yet know it. This is no doubt true, but the phenomenon goes deeper than that. Harman’s OOO expounds in perhaps its purest form an image of thought that is a transcendental condition for philosophical thinking in the contemporary context, whether we adopt or reject his system of the world. His metaphysical promotion of the existence of a transcendental field of withdrawn indifferent objects captures an intuition that we all may become aware of in moments of fatigue or intellectual disorientation, the often implicit but ever necessary background of ontological stupidity that shadows all our thoughts.

The key to understanding OOO’s master stroke is in the first sentence of our fragment: “Thinking provokes general indifference”. The OOO episteme integrates this “indifference” into thinking itself, as one of its transcendental conditions (methodological moment) and to ontologise it as the very nature of the real (ontological moment). This is the origin of what Graham Harman calls “naiveté” at the beginning of THE QUADRUPLE OBJECT, a naiveté that just happens to agree with Harman (as against Wittgenstein or Whitehead or Latour) on the rather technical question of the composition of the world: the world divides into objects – and not into facts (Wittgenstein) or events (Whitehead) or into actors (Latour). Such naiveté is in fact a highly constructed conceptual persona, rather than a return to a pre-theoretical conclusion from goggling and gawking at the world.

This indifference to thought is interior to thought itself, as the impervious wall of stupid indifferent objects that blocks our path to the horizon. Deleuze and Guattari tell us repeatedly that we cannot trace a plane of immanence without at the same time recreating a plane of transcendence and illusion. This is the danger inherent to his own thought of the indifferent multiple that led Badiou to edify his doctrine of the event. Harman himself does not waver, does not try to palliate his ontology, but openly declares its nihilistic condition: time is unreal.

Deleuze and Guattari emphasise that “Transcendence enters as soon as movement of the infinite is stopped” (WIP?, 47). This is the key point where Harman and a disciple such as Bryant part company. To establish the transcendental field as transcendent abstraction one must affirm complete (or “strong”) withdrawal, in reciprocal correlation with the absence of temporal relations: “all that is necessary is for movement to be stopped” (47).

The corollary is present in the fragment itself – to get rid of transcendence, as far as possible, all that is necessary is to enter into the real movements that continue to exist, despite the blockade of indifference.

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