Rorty in my dreams (5): Autism and Dialogue

Rorty in my dreams is not easily impressed though he does try to keep up on recent trends. Once he told me:

« All this talk about blogging and philosophy is just new wine in old bottles. Lyotard got it right when he said that « one only writes in the absence of the reader » and that « vivacity » has nothing to do with « orality » in the large sense of any exchange where the partners strive to be « present » to each other, or worse don’t even have to strive. how else can you explain that someone as sociable as Babette Babich admits to writing for Facebook, knowing full well (or at least imagining) that she will not be read? She even declares:

« Facebook denizens craft their posts to ensure a response and even if they do not admit this it is clear that they are frustrated if this is not successful. For my own part, I post mostly informative, i.e., didactic posts — and ‘friends,’ so I believe, counter or filter these by simply tuning them out » (here).

That’s the whole orality versus vivacity thing again. Bloggers, Facebookers, etc. are still living on old conceptions of dialogue, and by old I mean like Thrasymachus-style old. He would have had a « lively » blog today. So when Nicholas Carr asks « Is Google Making Us Stupid?« , I think he makes some good points, but on the big question I think it is clear that we were already stupid and Google (why does he say « Google »? can’t he just say the internet?) is just helping us broadcast and receive that stupidity faster and more widely.

No, the real question should be « Is Google making us more autistic? » in the philosophical sense of « autos », of becoming what one is, of individuating. Babich points out that this autistic becoming-self, which is what the practice of writing (or thinking, or whatever) is all about, is what the internet mostly protects us from with its « safe space of friendly faces and sympathetic voices » (blasted orality again!). Here even passive-aggressive is a no-no, so Feyerabend would have gone crazy. Can you imagine that Lakatos even encouraged him to go all out and criticise him from the toes up, and promised to respond in kind, and that was their idea of fun? Each was supposed to be « making mincemeat » of the other. Alas, this was not to be, and Feyerabend found himself once again, but for different reasons than in his « conversations with illiterates », condemned to a one-sided dialogue. And I can tell you that when Deleuze theorises this kind of « one-sided dialogue » and tells us that it stems from a solitude that is richly populated because each of us « is many », that is his depression talking just as much as his joy, and you’re not going to separate them any more than he did. Deleuze was very wily and would do this « What me depressed? No way! I’m a Nietzschean ». And would then go on to talk about solitude and becoming secret and ascesis and striking a blow against stupidity and seeing the intolerable  and the shame of being a man and de-this and de-that, and being schizo, and people would think his pluralism was a big party!

No wonder that Babich can say that «  the experience of Facebook tends to be more rather than less autistic and, in a wired age, this autism may be its most subversive quality« , reminding us, as Deleuze did, that sometimes we have to privilege the breaks over the flows, even if only for the simple reason that the ego is not the autos but only the by-product of its activity, an activity of superordinate self-correction.

So we come back to Lyotard’s idea that writing is autistic, a dialogue without interlocutors, and that this is a good thing (or « subversive », Lyotard would go with that as a synonym of « good »). If  the writing is « strong » enough, or « good » enough, it will end up fabricating its interlocutors, in the writer himself or herself, and in his or her environment (« wired » or otherwise), maybe even in his or her friends. And this was Lyotard on a good day! »


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4 commentaires pour Rorty in my dreams (5): Autism and Dialogue

  1. I’m glad to read this today. Not on the day you wrote it for it was today I was thinking about how politics needs to create an audience, or as you say: « If the writing is “strong” enough, or “good” enough, it will end up fabricating its interlocutors, in the writer himself or herself, and in his or her environment (“wired” or otherwise), maybe even in his or her friends. ». i was thinking that back in the 90s Labour famously started trying to appeal to tory voters rather than persuade voters they were right. They sought their audience through focus groups etc. They won the election. But Labour lost it politics.

    With respect to Deleuze schizo and depression, when I think upon my own experience this song by the Anarcho-Punk group Citizen Fish often comes into my head:

    « Lots of them, you know there’s lots of them. There’s reasons. Everyday changes my mind like the seasons. I’m asking for answers, I’m looking in mirrors, ripples in rivers. Face just drifting away. Where’s the reasoning? Yes and No are neither good enough. Give me some of that spontaneity stuff. Blink before you think to hard. Saw your smile in a passing car. Borrowed your pen. I want write like you do. Again and again and again and again. Riots in the uniform of peace, a couple of big ones up your sleeve. Ten to Nine and it’s shut down the factory. Pull up the floorboards and build a bonfire in your head. Having a party in your head. Sniff this geezer! And got to bed! Turned off the lights, stayed up all night. Blown to bits! Shriveled up opened out and exploded. Where he usually sits. Go to it youth. Discover the truth. Don’t bottle it up, cause it is 99% proof. »

    Enjoying your Rorty dreams by the way – however as a schizo I am duty bound to point out that Rorty is a near simile to raunchy.

    all the best



    • terenceblake dit :

      I know, and he knows. I think he always knew, and that was one more irony on his spiral of individuation.
      I heard Guattari on the radio maybe 7 or 8 years ago. So it must have been an extract from some recorded interview, and I was entranced, so I didn’t think to take notes or anything. It was relatively jargon free (for him) and he talked about feeling down, depressed, but thinking about other things too, commenting that this was a typical example of the « polyvocity » of the psyche, of the fact that we are many and that we can be depressed without that taking over all the psyche and defining our being. He talked too of that feeling of depression fluctuating in intensity like all our other feelings, and that’s all I can remember. I have always retained this impression of him talking very humanly, yet somehow philosophising at the same time. The relaxed tone of voice plus the lesson in the applicability of concepts like multiplicity and intensity to our daily life, and not just to some grandiose literary or revolutionary sentiment. It was just 5 minutes of chance pleasure, but it has always stayed with me.


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