Deleuze’s Transcendental Empiricism and David Foster Wallace’s « This is Water »

I was thinking about Dreyfus & Kelly’s discussion of David Foster Wallace and their analysis of his « nihilism » in « All Things Shining » and trying to formulate what I found wrong with their presentation. Then I came across this post by Levi Bryant :

and things began to fall into place.
Dreyfus and Kelly discuss DFW’s « This is Water »

as an example of his « need to create meaning ex nihilo out of the individual » (ATS, 204). They find that this project involves a pragmatic contradiction as creating meaning ex nihilo (= ex ego) and imposing it on a situation means that anything goes, any meaning is possible but only as forced on things by the autonomous individual’s will. This is an impossible task: it would require the individual to have the inhuman strength of a solitary god, willing and creating meaning without constraints. DFW’s ideal was to become a monster of self-control (ATS, 44), a master of « exercising control over how and what you think » (ATS, 38). So the key words summing up DFW’s form of sensibility, or understanding of being are: individual, will, force, strength, control, imposition, difficult task, choice.
What seems strange to me about this interpretation is that it describes exactly the form of sensibility and possibility of life that Wallace wants to make us clearly and burningly aware of so that we can get out of it. This whole text is brimming with intensity and meaning and openness to the world outside of nihilistic clichés and stereotypes. If you haven’t read it already you should do so at once, it is an ethical text of great force.
« Force » here means « capacity to produce an affective transformation », and not the compelling power of an individual. Wallace does use those key words or their equivalents all through « This is Water », but their sense is somewhat different when considered in terms of the alternative non-ego-centered form of sensibility that Wallace is trying to sketch out and get us to adopt. This is the point that Levi’s post made clear to me. Wallace is not trying to advocate a new stance inside our current form of sensibility, hence his repeated insistence that he is not deploying didactic stories or giving edifying moral advice. That would be an intra-worldly manoeuvre. He situates himself at the meta-level so as to describe our current nihilistic form of sensibility, and also a different form of sensibility (or world, or understanding of being, or possibility of life), one where I am no longer « operating on the automatic, unconscious belief that I am the center of the world ». Wallace calls this « the so-called real world » and wants us to see that living in its terms is a real possibility but that doing so will lead us into a state of death-in-life. This is very far indeed from the « need to create meaning out of the individual’s will » (ATS, 204) that Dreyfus and Kelly find in DFW.

Cet article a été publié dans Uncategorized. Ajoutez ce permalien à vos favoris.

Votre commentaire

Entrez vos coordonnées ci-dessous ou cliquez sur une icône pour vous connecter:


Vous commentez à l’aide de votre compte Déconnexion /  Changer )

Photo Facebook

Vous commentez à l’aide de votre compte Facebook. Déconnexion /  Changer )

Connexion à %s