LEVI BRYANT FROM IDEALISM TO MATERIALISM

In line with the Deleuzian title of his new book, Levi Bryant has given an interview which recounts his passage from Doctor Levi to Professor Bryant, i.e. from idealism to materialism. He explains that formerly “I believed that the social world was entirely composed of the signifier. I endorsed Lacan’s aphorism that ‘the universe is the flower of rhetoric’. Political action thus meant action on the field of signifiers” (4). However, the practical experience obtained from playing SimCity and the theoretical experience of reading Deleuze allowed him to move towards materialism and realism: “I think Deleuze has played a key role in shifting philosophy and the world of theory away from the primacy of the signifier and textuality, to a realism that has allowed for a renewed meditation on nature and materialism that also appreciates the sciences. Deleuze showed how it was possible to do this without falling into reductive or eliminative materialism and scientism” (10). No mention is made here of Bryant’s continuing Lacanism, nor of his Zizekian reading of Lacan’s graph of sexuation to characterise immanence and transcendence, which was reiterated on his blog quite recently.

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3 Responses to LEVI BRYANT FROM IDEALISM TO MATERIALISM

  1. “the practical experience obtained from playing SimCity” <–favorite line ever.

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  2. Schwarmer says:

    Hi TP
    This is quite interesting, but I just don’t see either of you having that strong a reading of Lacan. That is, it’s not strong enough to do the work you seem to want to do with it. On the one hand, both of you identify the key to Lacan as a linguistic idealism (incorrect but evidently a widely acceptable & accepted interpretation), in order to then confront this weak idealism with Deleuzian materialism. On the other hand, you can then enter into a stuggle over whose interpretation of Deleuze is better.

    Leaving aside the rhetorical pragmatics of the magical liturgy whereby a malignant devil is repeatedly invoked only so that the holy name can dispel it to the darkness again, in no case can this be a strong interpretation of the situation from a deleuzian pov. Why? Because it’s not an encounter with real problems or the creation of concepts but a sequence of representations using proper names as puppets & and which thereby occludes both the complex heterogeneous folds of the intellectual encounter & seeks to render invisible any real line of flight. I therefore take such ‘debates’ as having almost nothing to say about Lacan at all, but which are really directed more against Deleuze – by acting as if one was his partisan, one can actually evacuate out his method to lead to such irrelevant conclusions.

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  3. terenceblake says:

    I am quite perplexed as I do not offer a reading of Lacan at all. I comment on a contradiction in Bryant’s work between his Lacanism and his materialism. I have commented elsewhere that Bryant has a very watered down reading of Lacan, who is just too weird for Bryant to handle. I have no doubt that a strong reading of Lacan is possible, and so I am doing what you take me to task for not doing: I consistently criticise Bryant for giving a weak reading of Lacan. I find a strong reading in, for example, Katerina Kolozova’s work.

    More generally, behind everything that I write is Deleuze’s work on the Image of Thought, that I put in relation to the discussion of diachronic thought that I find in Bernard Stiegler, and also to Feyerabend’s epistemology (and to his lesser known but perhaps even more important ontology). This is the source of my critique of Bryant’s texts. This synthesis is expounded more explicitly in my paper: IS ONTOLOGY MAKING US STUPID? So I think you are being a little unfair in accusing me of not having a problematic and not tracing a line of flight.

    There is no “debate” between me and Bryant. I have advanced a number of criticisms and received no reply but the occasional strawmaning of my ideas. I continue because like you I am appalled by what counts for discussion on the philosophical blogosphere. I see nobody advancing the fairly elementary criticisms that I think need to be made, so I intervene to fracture the monologue.

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