CARING, SINGULARITY, AND INDIVIDUATION: from a conversation with Michael Eldred

I was enrolled in Philosophy at Sydney University from 1972 to 1981, so I participated in the events that led to the formation of the Department of General Philosophy in 1974, where I taught as a tutor for 5 years (till I left for France at the end of 1981). So our paths must have crossed. You are lucky to have seen Feyerabend and attended one of his lectures. My path went via Lyotard and Deleuze to Latour, Stiegler, and Laruelle. Your idea of « learning to see what one already sees » is a good description of the path in philosophy, although I prefer Deleuze’s concept of learning to talk in one’s own name. I think they say the same thing, that philosophy is part of our individuation or else it is an alienation one must free oneself from.

Sometimes I need one formulation more than another, to bring out one aspect in a specific situation. For me migrating to a foreign country was synonymous with getting closer to the phenomena themselves, learning and becoming who I am. This is why I began this blog, to speak in my own name. I would add the term of estrangement, most often used to describe science fiction, but also capturing what I value in philosophy and psychoanalysis. There is a pulsation between alienation and estrangement, between thinking and being like the others and acknowledging and embracing the differences.

Mere scholarship has always meant too much alienation for me, not to mention that such intellectual positioning is inseparable from playing the academic game of thrones, seeking a secure institutional position by trampling on the phenomena inside and outside ourselves that do not square with such ambition.

So I have a  cracked identity. I am permanently and irremediably cracked, and my « whoness » is forever uncertain, at least to myself and a few others. Others seem to know who I am better than me, but there very insistence to show me to my identity suggests that they are dimly aware of the cracks in their knowledge.

I wrote my Honours thesis in 1975 criticising Althusser’s epistemology and ontology, at a time when not a single other dissenting voice was to be heard in the department. This got me first class honours but amounted to career hara-kiri, which I sort of knew it would, but I could not shut up about what I thought, unlike others who went on to have well-shaped careers. I was suffocating intellectually and existentially, so I moved to Paris and to what I knew would be poverty and anonymity, but also inspiration.

All along I worked on my pluralism. My first philosophical love after Nietzsche was Paul Feyerabend, and he too was cracked, or what others called “counter-suggestible”, which to me sounds like pro-singularity, something like your free play of whoness. Particularity is the synchronic or de-temporalised equivalent of singularity imprisoned in a fixed and demarcated (or closed) identity. Singularity for me goes with the diachronic, ontogenesis and individuation.

I would tend to say that the dispersion of singularities comes first, and is not the result of a splintering of a previous unity or universality, but it is hard to find words that have no connotations of monistic closure. And the dispersion, or splintering, is ontological just as much as epistemological. So non-closure, non-identity, non-One, or as Laruelle says (non-)One, are the element of freedom, without guaranteeing it. « Totally caring » is bad, meaning total control. But caring itself is good, solidary or contributive caring – the opposite of competing and mimetic desiring.

Note: the full conversation can be found here. I have published my half, slightly edited. Michael published part of his contribution on his blog, here.

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