Pragmatics & Becoming-Greek

Levi Bryant has a post inciting us to quit hermeneutic nostalgia over the supposed superior inventiveness of the Greeks and its mourning for the loss of the Greek event. For him, our contemporary time is characterized not by the nihilist condition of the loss of meaning and intensity, but by an increase of novelty and inventiveness. He refuses to endorse the narrative of decline that we see at work in ALL THINGS SHINING. To convince us of the contrary he asks us to « pay attention » to the multiplication of invention in the domains of  mathematics, the sciences, the arts, philophy and literature. The proper mood is not nostalgia and regret, but pride and affirmation. The goal is not to « bring back » the shining things, but to be attentive to the shinings that are already present or being produced.

Mood and concept are closely linked. To dispel one we often have to deconstruct the other. “The Greeks” is a false unity, a concept that belongs to the dogmatic image of thought. The idea of the “Greek miracle” cuts them off geographically and chronologically from the multiplicity of sources, influences, encounters, exchanges, and rivalries. This creates an image of their inventiveness as stemming from some absolute break and absolute beginning, such that the Greeks become incommensurable with what went on before and elsewhere. This poses the novelty and inventiveness of the Greeks as some impossible to attain norm. There seems to be no way that we can ever make such a leap again, so we are reduced to just adding footnotes to Plato.
“Incommensurability”, however, is not the final word. Beneath the hermeneutic incommensurabilities lie the pragmatic encounters and exchanges. “The philosphers have always been something else, they were born of something else”, claim Deleuze and Parnet (DIALOGUES II, page 74, Michel Onfray develops the same idea for the Greeks:
“Protagoras the docker, Socrates the sculptor, Diogenes the assistant banker, Pyrrho the painter, Aristippus the teacher … are not professionals of the profession in the postmodern fashion”.
This “something else” is not just another profession, but also another site, the outside with its freedom from the semantic police and the hermeneutic priesthood. The forum and the agora allowed philosphers to address and discuss with anyone, as does the blogosphere today.
Hermeneutic novelty is often the construct of the retrospective projection of striated structures onto the past. Pragmatic novelty is far more ambiguous and fluid, tied to the intensive encounter rather than the regulated exchange. This is why Lyotard too sees no difference between the ancient Greeks and us, in terms of the withdrawal of Being and the loss of inventiveness:
“Nothing has withdrawn, we have not “forgotten” anything; the ancient Greeks, Heraclitus the in-between of faith and knowledge, are no more originary than Janis Joplin.”

Cet article a été publié dans All Things Shining - the book. Ajoutez ce permalien à vos favoris.

8 commentaires pour Pragmatics & Becoming-Greek

  1. Torn Halves dit :

    Perhaps making novelty the criterion loads the dice against the Greeks. And perhaps those of us who look back to the Greeks (or rather to the Athenians of a very brief period) look for and find other things – things like the predominance of a debate about ends that prevents a fetishism of means. And with that in mind, with a lot of modern inventiveness the appropriate response is not pride and affirmation but perplexity about the lack of thought (and complete lack of debate) regarding the ends that the newly invented tools serve – about the kind of world that they help to bring into being.


  2. terenceblake dit :

    Whatever criterion you use, inventiveness or reflexiveness, you come up against the two perspectives (amongst others):
    1) there is a decline from the clasical Greeks up to now
    2) no decline, just incommensurability.
    I hesitate. I sometimes see different epochs as embodying incommensurable understandings, with no superiority in either direction. Sometimes I feel, with Feyerabend and Dreyfus and Kelly, that the Homeric Greeks had an understanding and experience that was more open, and that continued only marginally up to now, where it is gaining ground again, in a transformed expression and embodiment. Dreyfus and Kelly called it a « polytheism of moods » and a pluralism of understandings of being. Bruno Latour talks of a pluralism of modes of existence. I tend to think that the modernist perspective of progress got it wrong. But the narrative of decline may just be its inverted shadow.


    • Torn Halves dit :

      How about: neither progress nor decline nor incommensurability (insofar as the latter implies a sort of mute otherness), but instead a vision of a unity with which we can get a perspective on our own fragmentariness? A unity evident in Pericles’s funeral oration, for instance, where he describes « the singular spectacle of daring and deliberation, each carried to its highest point, and both united in the same persons » – a unity here of thought and action in sharp contrast to the contemporary alientation of people like yourself from the modern equivalent of the Athenian struggles. Our thinking – our deliberation – will contribute nothing. It will mean nothing. It will go on in a historical vacuum. Surely, in a sense, we must become more Athenian, if that means reuniting the spheres of thought and action, which must surely involve moving something like philosophy back to the centre to dethrone the technocrats and the despots.


  3. terenceblake dit :

    I think our situation is irreducibly pluralist, so I don’t really want philosophy at the center, although I think it should be more important than it is now. Incommensurability is a tricky idea, but I don’t think it implies incommunicability, and still less muteness, but rather awareness of the fact that others are not following our criteria badly, but often applying very different criteria. Pragmatically exchange goes on, even if semantically and methodologically incommensurability exists. We need the « metapoietic » skills to exchange without univocal translation and equivalence. More Athenian, yes, to undo the hermetic boundaries separating thought and action. But also more Homeric to realise that all is assemblages, including our « selves », and that thinking is assembling too.


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