SPEAKING DIFFERENTLY: AGENT SWARM PODCAST

Link to new podcast: http://agentswarmpodcast.wordpress.com/

RATIONALE: For a while now I have been getting fed up with my habitual way of expressing myself (a habit by the way that didn’t exist 2 years ago, where my decades-lasting habit was rather not to express myself at all, this was one of the reasons I created this blog in the first place) and I feel a mutation coming on. Nietzsche spoke in favor of “brief habits”, so I am trying to write differently: I ressuscitated my tumblr, I amalgamated my posts to form more synthetic articles that I published on Scribd, I filmed myself talking and uploaded the videos to youtube, but all this is inconclusive. I have decided to try out making a podcast where I can do monologues if I want, but where I will dialogue with people and hopefully get myself moving.

I have come to realise that I am not as “clear” as I thought and have sometimes been a victim of and sometimes provoked avoidable misunderstandings. Feyerabend strove for a less academic style and he recounts in his autobiography KILLING TIME how the big intellectuals picked him up, told him in a teacherly fashion where he was wrong, and then put him down again, leaving him in what to them was obscurity. When people have wanted to seem up to date and a bit daring in the philosophy of science they have tended to quote Kuhn, finding in him a “serious” reference. Yet Feyerabend is by far the more serious philosopher: broader and deeper and more thought-provoking. I feel that I have been in a similar situation of being picked up by the high-powered intellectuals, “refuted”, and put down again. However, like Feyerabend, I refuse to stay “put down”.

A “severe critic” accused me of fetishizing Feyerabend and of  being unable to say anything in my own name but hiding behind the authority of Deleuze, Feyerabend, etc. I can however talk in my own name without quoting Feyerabend as an authority, and that is when I give an argument. In reply, I argued that if counting the number of occurences of a term was an indication of level of fetishization then I was not fetishizing Feyerabend to any great extent, and that concepts trump words any day. I then claimed that if I fetishized anything it was not Feyerabend or Deleuze but “pluralism” and not just the word but the concept of pluralism. I further asserted that this was in my opinion still a bad thing and that I was trying to go beyond that (hence, for example, the podcast). That’s me talking, but I gave Feyerabend as an example of the danger and as indicating one way of trying to get out of it. I think I am allowed to give examples when I am speaking in my own name. As I am talking about pluralism at a methodological level and at a meta-methodological level I don’t have much choice in the way of examples, but the argument is mine and I have been giving it from the beginning. I also have developped this argument on my blog over 2 years and that has been one of the principal aims from its beginning, speaking in my own name, which includes speaking about authors I love.

One could accuse me of  me being “submerged” by the ideas of Deleuze, Nietzsche and Feyerabend, but I prefer to talk about being “insufflated”. This is an allusion to Klossowski as he is the reference Deleuze cites when talking about our individuality as being a process of multiple insufflation, an individuation composing with the presence of multiple breaths in us. I am no naked eyeball gaping at the world and at your words and barking out replies in some mcdonaldised fast sensory-motor circuit. This goes back to the basic critique of inductivism and of the inadequacies of, for example, John Stuart  Mill’s philosophy of science. We express ourselves in a conceptual and problematic context, insufflated by all sorts of ideas and arguments that we can only allude to by such shorthand devices as proper names, key words worked out in long arguments etc. It is interesting to note that Paul Feyerabend showed that Mill’s ON LIBERTY deconstructed the dogmatic elements of his earlier works, and so he gave in fact a Nietzschean (ie pluralist) reading of that text that was not however Nietzsche’s own reading of Mill.

So what I am looking for is more dialogue, what Feyerabend called an “open exchange”, where there is no dogmatic grid to guide the conversation and rob it of its transformative power. I am not looking for a “debate”.  For Deleuze the word “debate” is negatively connoted (or is it the word? maybe it’s the concept, and perhaps I have transformed things over time? But is that a bad thing? after all,we must assimilate what we read, that is to say individuate it and individuate ourselves at the same time. Deleuze proceeded in exactly this way, he metamorphosed any concepts and values he took over, or “insufflated” and was “insufflated” by. He  recognised the ontological and noetic imortance of subjectivity and singularity, of what I am calling individuation. So my answer to the accusation that Deleuze is just doing Deleuze no matter who he seems to be talking of is that this is only half-true, as Deleuze functions in terms of  what he calls”double-becoming”. Thus, because it is only half-true, only one side of a double-becoming, it is totally false, as you can’t decompose a becoming without destroying its nature). A debate does not have the sort of conceptual creativity and the fluidity outside the grids of “reflection” that he sought. In other words, debate is fetishising and Deleuze wanted to de-fetishise, as do I. My own key to reading Deleuze, and many other philosophers, is to be found in his NIETZSCHE ET LA PHILOSOPHIE, page 4: “The philosophy of Nietzsche has not been understood as long as one does not take into account his essential pluralism. And to tell the truth, pluralism, in other words empiricism, is indistinguishable from philosophy itself. Pluralism is the properly philosophical manner of thinking, invented by philosophy”. If I fetishize anything, I fetishize pluralism as I find it in Nietzsche, Feyerabend, and Deleuze. But luckily Feyerabend warns expressly against such a fetishization that he considers he was guilty of and then overcame.

Let’s consider in more detail this example of taking issue with the word “debate”. I say that Deleuze has a negative appreciation of the word. But is this invoking Deleuze’s “authority”? Not really, as I spell out what I find negative about debates, situating myself in the vague affective and conceptual atmosphere of Deleuze’s discussion of these sorts of issues. I give only a thumbnail sketch because I presuppose that people reading me must be familiar with Deleuze’s ideas on debate, or have had similar ideas themselves. Well I have shocking news: Deleuze does not say this about debate, but made some negative remarks about the conceptual basis of the interview and and elsewhere gave a negative analysis of the concept of “discussing” philosophy. Worse, nowhere does he say what I claim he says, in the sense that he does not use those particular words “conceptual creativity” and “fluidity” in relation to debate or discussion. So a critic would have a field day proving that I was erroneous and that Deleuze said no such thing. But he did, just not in those exact words. And anyone who has read even a little Deleuze with a modicum of understanding would agree that it is so. And yet I have gone out of my way to show that it is me talking and arguing all the way through, and not Deleuze at all. Very strange, isn’t it?

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12 Responses to SPEAKING DIFFERENTLY: AGENT SWARM PODCAST

  1. noir-realism says:

    I can understand your frustration. But one thing I gave up worrying about long ago is this whole complex of notions that we must have original thoughts, thoughts of our own. Such A “severe critics” accused who accuse you of fetishizing Feyerabend and of being unable to say anything in your own name but hiding behind the authority of Deleuze, Feyerabend, etc. are themselves impoverished and have no true understanding of how influence works.

    It used to be the debate in poetry between allusion or direct quote. Harold Bloom may be a little off beat when he talks about politics, but in matters of poetry and influence he is still one of the masters. He once said that the chase after original thought is doomed, for the simple reason that the great Originals were never original anyway.

    Besides being provacative he was stating the simple truth that we are all collectives, our material subjectivites are a communal and social nexus of intra-active happenings, becomings between thoughts that are not ours but are the graspings of our selective distinctions in selecting and cutting out of the communal vision our own choices, our own measure after the fact of a choosing of the tradition in which we inhabit.

    But as in all things: Do we choose the tradition or does it choose us?

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  2. Bill Benzon says:

    I never thought much about your use of Feyerabend, Terry, because it struck me as being ordinary scholarly practice. Acknowledging sources is NOT the same thing as hiding behind authorities.

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  3. dmfant says:

    looking forward to the new venture, blogging being a mixed bag at best to date in waxing philosophical, my experience has been that the best way to bridge the gap with non philosophical enthusiasts is to start with very concrete examples from our daily lives and then flesh out how these various thinkers/modes might be useful to understanding how to move the conversation/process away from the usual modes and into a new, and hopefully enhanced, of way of doing things.

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  4. noir-realism says:

    You say: Worse, nowhere does he say what I claim he says, in the sense that he does not use those particular words “conceptual creativity” and “fluidity” in relation to debate or discussion. So a critic would have a field day proving that I was erroneous and that Deleuze said no such thing. But he did, just not in those exact words. And anyone who has read even a little Deleuze with a modicum of understanding would agree that it is so.

    Right here you show forth the fine line between allusion and quote: the terms you use allude to Deleuze’s concepts, but do not directly quote them: Is this not the truth of two styles, to modes of discourse? Even as a poet I’ve seen these two tendencies throughout history. This of the opposing ideas of Loginus and Aristotle. The difference between transumption and mimesis that in every age has in your diachronic terms played itself out. Poets such as Pound and Eliot used direct quotation, while Stevens and Ashberry used allusion… Do not philosophers do the same?

    I think your use of Feyerband is totally appropriate to the context of your discourse. I read a few of your papers and do not see you hiding behind his authority. Your doing what is called for within the discursive practices of your discipline. As Foucault has shown over and over we are all bound to certain rules and guideline within the use of those practices. This is neither good nor bad, it just is the way it is. There are those that situate themselves outside of these practices, but are hardly ever known by the circle of scholars. I’ve always bucked this practice, yet find that if one is to be heard, to have a voice one walks a fine line between individual preference and social practice. Who knows the moment of differentiation between the two? What your friend who accuses you of fetishism is admiting is nothing more than his own fears of this type of paradox, not the truth about your own situation.

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  5. Callan S. says:

    Hi!
    It’s odd how credibility, not content, tends to sway arguments. If you are not from X circle, then you are picked up, told, put down. Still, if someone rocked up here in text speak, I might ignore them simply because I’d assume it would be text thinking as well, when it might be more. As much as one notices one is ignored, one probably fails to notice how many one ignores.

    Sometimes, mostly as a revenge fantasy, I like to describe my arguments as a D&D style dungeon scenario, pitching their approach as one that will get them killed in the hypothetical (though they might have alternate dungeon scenarios of their own). It atleasts under cuts the idea that authority makes right.

    Now I’ve mentioned D&D, I’ll see how my post goes ;)

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  6. antoine says:

    It´s strange indeed but as you probably know Deleuze gave a precise account – in IM and IT for instance – of how it works: it´s the famous notion of «free indirect speech» (if we want to remain polite, if not we can also mention the not least famous «enculage» ;)

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  7. monnoo says:

    hi
    I understand your concern and I don’t. Somehow it seems you are fighting an updated version of Qixotian games, updated by romanticism and modernism. The problem of influence, originality, etc. only exists if you start from the premise that you are independent, both practically=socially and metaphysically. Of course, this is “nonsense”. There is no such thing as a single brain (Sloterdijk). And language is not privately owned.
    Well, I also admit that philosophers, scientists or any expert are humans, more or less displaying passion in what the do all the day (dis-word: “identity”). A lot of social dynamics from the reptilian heritage, yet also necessary to provide personal persistence.
    Once you drop the underlying claim of independence, and even that of a starting point, embracing the logics of genesis (Deleuze) and its role in creating sense, then all your problems and concerns will vanish, I suppose.
    Good luck! :))

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    • terenceblake says:

      I agree with you and I don’t. Yes there is no such thing as a single brain, there is no private language (Wittgenstein), there is no mono-flux (Deleuze). The individual is a historical and ideological construct. But there are processes of individuation Jung, Simondon, Stiegler). Only, all individuation is co-individuation, there is both the relation to the other and the individual twist.

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      • monnoo says:

        well, there is no escape from a certain dualism, even as the Cartesian one isn’t pinpointing it appropriately, or, if it is just a particular instance of the generic dualism between the body and its (line of) flight. The challenge is to acknowledge that the modernist story of causality is only half of the story, throughout any process or becoming. Yet, the dualism remains.

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  8. terenceblake says:

    I was not aware of talking about dualism. I took your statement “there is no such thing as a single brain” as a pluralist statement. Sometimes there are two things to take into account, but that does not in itself constitute a dualism. Or if it does one would need a pluralist reading of dualisms. My problem with the severe critique was that everything I said is mine and everything is influenced by others that I honestly and earnestly cite. A line of flight is not leaving the body behind, it occurs in the body and individuates it in new ways. It also occurs in a citational field and individuates both itself and the texts and authors cited.
    I’m not sure what you mean by the “modernist story of causality” but it seems to be a philosophical story trying to universalise a perceived presupposition of science and impose it not just on other fields but also on future evolutions of science (like Bhaskar tried to do over 30 years ago). Causal reductionism is a scientistic “story” ,as you say, loosely inspired by a certain stage of science. It is not science itself and risks hindering and harming it.

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